Penned Inn

by Damon Piletz

The house tucked back

So you’d never

See its entirety unless

You were on the towpath

Which was exactly where

She was trying to drop

Those last twenty-five she’d

Been feverishly struggling to lose

After the divorce, her children

All successful in their own rights

And states far away

Her ex was now retired living with

Her – his claim of new found

Happiness drove her walk faster

To where her feet were shifting in

And out on the hard sandy surface

With a slight give

He had left behind expensive

Binoculars that bounced off

Her chest as her pace was

Driven and focused on the straight

Ahead

Trying to ignore the

Peripheral past

The towpaths lie for miles ahead

Of her to which she had no

Plans or end point to

Her mission; motivated among

The mundane, she kept on truckin’

Thinking that stopping was failure

Her gait slowed upon the startled

Movement

Of a rare crane lifting off its

Motioned awkward flight

She puffed her chest to bounce

The binoculars into her hands

Affixing them to her eyes, stopping

All in one motion as if

She had practiced this for years

Standing entirely silent as the

Thin frame of sleek gray ease

Landed in a pond that

Framed the front yard

Of the house that she had passed

Several years’ worth of times

As she climbed the social work

Ladder

Yet knew it not.

The enormous bird landed

Gracefully in the cat-o-nine

Tails in the south end

Both of her lenses focused

On the entire bird inspecting

Each facet, she smiled in awe

She remained hushed

Besetting all of her current cares far

From her current location

The clarity of the crane in her lenses

Caused her to take in the whole

Pictured event

Such a breath- taking incident

The scenery intrigued her

She started to scan the whole

Property panoramically

She felt convicted as she was

On that slippery slope of

Admiring was trickling into

Eavesdropping

The house held the ability

To be admirable as the land

That held it was vast for the region

Its second floor held large bay windows

Like smiling teeth

Larger than anyone’s you’ve ever seen

A far cry from the cape she

Crampily occupied since the papers

Were signed

I shouldn’t be spying on these people

They must want their privacy or

They wouldn’t be purposely hovering

On the far end

Of their serene property.

Peppered with a wide variety of

Trees, shrubs and bushes. Much

Green, little color.

Her state pension was a delight

But didn’t allow her to support

Her zeal to be a green thumb

I am just looking in reverence, not

To be a busy body

Plus it intentionally built

Across the street and the entire

Canal was between

Nobody could see anyways

In the wider-than-normal bay window

Appeared to be almost looking like a

Picket fence, It almost gave the illusion

That there was an outdoor fence indoors

She put her binoculars down on her chest

Looked around the landscape again

And then

It dawned on her

Something wasn't right

She put the binocular glass right up to

Her cornea so that she could

See perfectly

To see if it were real or not

Why would a fence be inside of a house?

It was a natural wood color

Hadn’t been painted

She could see it was indeed

A picket fence

In the upstairs bedroom of this house

The swooping crane

That was taking off from the pond

Was a distant second her

New-found interest

Now she was enamored by the

Rough-looking contrasting fence

Inside

In reality the railing

Looks smooth each picket looked almost

Rounded off

She started to question

If her eyes were failing

Like the rest of her life

Playfully, she, laughed at herself

And kept looking around the yard

With her binoculars

Glassing the landscape

Admiring all the different shrubs

Slowly decided to take her thinking

Move it off the house and back onto the path

Where she was walking

She did one last scan of the house

The crane, the pond and the greenery

She stopped again at the bay window

Something had been added

To the picket indoor fencing,

A round circle that appeared

Where she hadn’t seen it before

She presumed no one was home

There was no movement during her full scan

A movement only a human

It could be

That appeared up behind the

Second floor fence

Doing a double take

She swung her whole body

Around facing the house again

Lifting her binoculars to see more

There was indeed an oval

Shadowy figure in the room

Standing behind the fence

In Fact, the fence pickets almost

Reached the top of the window

She hadn't noticed that before

She didn't really know the dimensions of it

On the pickets were two hands

A head peering between the slats.

Vexed and second guessing

Her vision, reality and her

Lists of possible conspiracies

I wonder if they can see me from here?

Her breath fogged up the lenses

I hope not, because I'm not spying on them.

She said out loud lying to herself

The head continued moving back and forth

In motion

Almost to music

Weaving back and forth

Behind the picket fence

She didn't know what to make of it

Body looked like an adult or

Grown man acting as a child.

Curiosity overcame her

She returned to her vehicle

Parked against the guardrail

That framed the south of the canal

She positioned so she

Could see the figure

As it continued to move

Left to right

Right to left

Left to right

In a steady streaming motion

With its hands

Clutching the pickets

The details of the face

Could be made out much easier

Even from the naked eye from

Where she was sitting

She brought her with binoculars

Up to her eyes to see even closer

Her snooping was now slowly transforming into

Worry and collusions

That zipped

Through her mind bouncing

Off each side of her left and

Right side of her brain

Her logic was in an all out

Bout with her emotions

Why was an adult looking man

Acting like a child behind a

Picket fence inside of a house?

After she formed that thought

A hand came down in front of the fence

A third hand and shut the shade immediately

Hastily

Rushing over to the second window

Pull the shade down hurriedly

As if they knew she was watching

Her binoculars fell to the floor

From the force of her taking off so quickly to

Get out of there.

She clipped along, as the

Scenery blurred her fringe

Speeding home

She fled

More quickly

Than her middle-aged body

Had ever fled

That her fear and agony would have been

Left back at the point it all

Hit her.

Her “what-ifs” were piling

Up, like a sluggish worker backed up on

An assembly line; they were

Forming so quickly that her

Fears were birthing

And multiplying their own

Terrors like litters of rabbits

She didn’t know where to put

Them all

Her cognition was becoming

Too thin.

Ok … Ok, just write down

Only what I saw

What IF they saw me?

My license plate …

Her dread was mortaring

Cinderblocks around her

Who should I tell?

Why did I have to look?

It was just a crane.

There was nothing that took

Precedence over worrying

About the events that

Had just taken place

She hadn’t been affected

By anything like this in some time

Even getting served with divorce papers

At her office, hadn’t altered her

Like this

This tiny bit of sand

Became a mature pearl in elapsed time

She collected her loose ends, and

Called the police

They told her that they would

Send an investigator to her house

In the morning

-She slept not-

Her storytelling abilities

Infused emotion and

Gave the investigator a

Feeling of intrigue

This certainly was something

Different than the humdrum

Stolen bicycle or garage

That was broken into

His interest piqued as

He thought of the positive press

He would get in the shadow

Of the commonplace of police

Brutality that had been

Spraying the news with blue blood

He felt her feelings

This was a far cry from the

Usual blotter fodder that

Made the Suburban News

Or the Penny Saver

He took real notes

Like he was a rookie again

He pulled out the driveway

Going directly to the house

***

“Let it go, mom.

It has been days and you

Need to move on

And readjust your realities.”

Her son’s sparse phone call

And quick text

Conversations weren’t helpful

The moments in between

The thoughts of the man

And the picket fence

Was increasing in length

As the crane sighting

Was fading away

Her conspiracy theory

Became the exact headline

That evening on the local news

GROWN MAN FOUND LIVING IN AN ADULT-SIZED PLAYPEN

It all started there

Then the wick sizzled through that port town

She watched as they broadcasted

Live

The parents

Hanging their heads

In handcuffed shame

They spoke not a word

Not even “No Comment”

That allowed too much churning

To swirl the partial truths

With all that was simply unknown

From an embittered divorcee

To a local hero flashing

The hoopla was all about

Her discovery

Her instinctual genius

Her steel nerves to make

This notion not a premonition

But ammunition to save

This poor soul

But what about the

Man behind the fence

Well, who else to

Rehabilitate him but

She

She who

She who saved

His life

From the fenced in atrocities

She went from the

Swooping heroine

To a permanent plan

To foster him parentally

Even though they were

Around the same age,

How could this work?

When ethics

Are framed by the

Media, then anything

Can go in any

Direction

The media had heard

Of stowaways,

Abuse was commonplace,

Stolen and held for years

Was getting run-of-the-mill,

But nothing quite like

This to the mass media

Was a refreshingly new

Tragedy – set apart

And would stand out

Among all the other

Headlines

A new spin to an

Age-old issue

Just a different setting,

The plot similar

Isolation was intrigue

To the outside world

Extroverted and thirsty

For more fuel to keep

The catalyst of

Gossip idling

At high RPMs

“Mother Teresa” they

Deemed her

Seems like the next

Logical step, she

Agreed with their plan

She stated surrounded

The mic’ed up world

Earful reporters were

Famished needing to be

Fed with a long lasting

Story of hope that

Reeked of a happy ending

They certainly had a

One-of-a-kind,

“The Hiker Hero”

Oh, the headlines

And labels stretched

Across the globe now

Bringing a validation

To her lost identity

And one she had never

Been labeled

Granted rights

By the biased court judge

(Looking for his minute of fame),

He was now hers

It was high priority and the

Justice system worked quickly.

Supervising the man

Behind the picket

Fence – fenced in

Jailed innocence

Never committing a crime

Ever

Just being

She cried each time she

Thought about it this

Way in her tired mind

He was now free

Man

Psychiatric tests

Revealed he had

Some intelligences

And could be

Rehabbed

The media wanted

To document the

Retired social worker

Coming Out of Retirement to Take Her Work Home

If she were working she’d

Retire instantly to

Be with him, to make

Him world-worthy,

Walking their quaint

Town’s sidewalks by

Christmas!

His matted hair woven

With salt and pepper

And resembled a less-than

Upright young man

And turning the corner

With less than

Half of his to

Actually live free

She was now the

Gatekeeper eager to

Get him to freedom

A modern day Harriet Tubman

To the world

He’s never been introduced

To, as first

Impressions are crucial

She made her house

Welcoming for her new

Guest, the “project,”

The chosen one to

Turn this man’s life

Around by granting him

His first life

Not reborn but

Finally born

Knowing his embryotic

Stage of development

Would be quick and

He could at last

Get on with a

Hope of quality

When they brought him

He was quiet

Constantly looking around

As if the air were

Supposed to bring him

A scent of a familiarity

But why wouldn’t he

Focus on the woman

Who rescued him

From his terrible parents

He didn’t possess the

Gratification she had

Hoped nor the jubilant

Praise the papers had

Vehemently projected

His eyes shifted with

Darting swings

Not stopping enough to

Focus, scanning in a

Constant swooping motion

She immediately fell onto

Her tendencies

He must have a severe

Case of some deficit

She had a book

And career full of labels

She started sticking on

Him like Post-it notes

I think he has “this”

So let’s try this and that

But all of her DSMV’s

Was turning this man

From his hum-drum state

And start to lurch

Over the days she

Was getting nowhere

His mannerisms and

Existences weren't the

Bobbling, joyful head

She saw in the pen

Behind the bay window

Don’t hide or

Look away, I

Am here to help

You remember who

I am and what

I did

I saved you from

That evil

She said almost

As if she were trying

To shake a dead

Person to life

She was scrunching

Her wrinkles when

Mentioning his

Parents and the pen

Almost as if she

were reminding him of

The first half of his

Existence

You’re free now!

Be happy!

Her smile and jubilance

Didn’t transfer to him

It was like

Delivering the punch line

To what you think is a

Hilarious joke, only to see

Confused faces

Her audience was

Nonresponsive at best

In fact, it was reversing

To where he was starting

To act as if she were

Trying to hurt him

She had spent every

Moment fighting to get him

Legally and her frustrations

And second guessing

Were filling up

All the empty space

That once had

Surrounded her daily

Life; walks on the canal

Down freedom’s path

Weren’t an option

Because of what she

Had gotten herself

Into

Her leisurely strolls

Were over

If I fail, it will be bigger news than the news of me saving him.

Taking him under

My wings was putting

Me into a new jail

That made a divorce feel

Like a vacation.

Vacation which I will

Never have again

I can’t do this, screaming aloud

I can’t

As her car door

Slammed she sped away

Parking off the road

In a wooded dead end

So nobody would

See her

With her face

Buried deep into

Her steering wheel

And the tears that

Glistened on the leather

Trim.

They’ll put him away

Forever

I am

His only non-institutionalized

Help and hope

I know I am and I

Have been appointed

By God to be his

Angel on earth

Her self-fulfilling

Prophesy was becoming

Tarnished as she

Realized she had left

Him alone, alarmed

She sped back home

Being only gone

For minutes

Her front garden was

Torn up

Fresh earth where

Her fenced in herb garden

Was no more

The protective barrier

She put up to guard

Against the droves

Of Western New York

Deer and woodchucks

Now gone

Why would someone steal

An old wood fence

She sprinted inside seeing

A trail of dirt

Leading to the living room

Window

He looked up from

Within his inner

Cell.

It all hit her

And was driven

Like those fence posts

Piercing her norms

Her beliefs,

Her textbook –

Institutionalized answer

To the misbehavior equation,

Her concrete explanation

And reasoning of defiance

Painted in thick black

And white,

Her assuming the role

Of hero

Her goals of making him

Like all the others

All those cases she

Failed at, scrolled in

Front of her eyes like

A stock ticker

Faces she won’t forget

Her face they don’t

Want to remember

The dawn-on of that

Her successes were

Only the few that would

Conform.

Her tunnel vision was

Slowly opening up

Like the end of a

Water slide

Nearing her big splash

She laid eyes on him

Looking beyond the surface

Looking deeper past the

Behavior

Past her pet peeves that

She had been trained to be

Annoyed at to fill out

Endless paperwork over

Stepping over her wall

That she had always

Built thinking she was

More apt at life than

Her endless list

Of “less-thans”

The epiphany of truth

Was sliding into her

Like a needle, a sedative

She had ordered at the

Drop of a hat

Her degrees of separation were

Counting down like a

Rocket launch.

It takes a while to

Slowly creep down

From 100 years to the

Moment

Now, the teeter totter

Was a right angle of

See-sawing

Seeing directly across

At him. She saw him

Now. He was the only

One that could open

Her eyes enough to stare

Deeply at his

True,

Human-self

He recognized this,

He knew

He must have as he

Smiled

Brightly

As he patted the

Pickets like a long

Lost love reuniting

After separation,

Like war.

He knew.

She obviously hadn’t

For years.

His eyes weren’t the

Gateway to an empty

Container like she had

Quickly thought.

This was filled with differing

Preoccupations

But still they had

All the common grounds

Fear

Happiness

Joy

Confusion

Their Venn Diagrams

Had much more

Overlap than she

Was understanding

In her programmed

Brain.

He, the one without

A name or direction

In life,

Without a life

Like hers

Like others

Knew contentment

She, who was in the world,

Was less happy than he,

He was happier inside the

Pen

Than she was in the

World

The very world she

Was clawing tooth and

Nail to make him

A part of

The part he wanted

Nothing to do with,

His world was real

And she saw it now.

He smiled,

Which was, in his

Language, inviting

Her to be a part

Of his world.

Something he had

Never done

Before.

She joined him,

In

The

Pen.

About the Author

Damon Piletz

Website

Damon Piletz is a gifted education teacher, professor and writer. Born and raised in New Hampshire, he received his MEd and Bachelors from Roberts Wesleyan College and his Administration Certification at the State University of New York. After a six year career in the criminal justice field, Damon decided it was time for a change and entered the elementary classroom. Equipped with a wide range of experiences, he uses them to teach students from kindergarten to college. Damon lives in rural, western New York with his wife and three children. His first book is The Kenny Cartwright Chronicles Book 1: Featuring Recently Declassified Documents (Volume 1).