Thursday, April 23, 2020

Quest: Charise

It took Miguel four days to find Charise.

She wasn’t in the trailer park. The couple who lived in the unit thought she had moved to Brighton, five miles to the east.

Miguel didn’t just go dashing off to Brighton. Forewarned is for-armed. He had almost been scooped up by a Livingston County impress gang the last time he had been in there.

He reached out to his cousin Howard.

Howard managed an apartment complex before Ebola. After Ebola, he was a low-level maintenance man in one of the complexes where survivors were swept into a pile.

Miguel didn’t have any illusions about the strength of family ties. Miguel buried most of the “funds” had had been carrying to execute the mission. As long as Miguel didn’t ask Howie for much and paid his own way, Howard would make a modest effort to help Miguel.

A safe place to sleep at night was not a trivial contribution.

Miguel got a job at one of the big pizza joints in Brighton. They kept records of everybody who ordered pizza. Miguel brought the “no-pay” orders home to Howie who was more than happy to scam some free food. In fact, Miguel suspected that Howie called in a couple of orders a night to random addresses. Of course the addresses refused to pay for the pizza, making them “no-pays”.

Miguel found one Charise in Brighton. In the middle of the evening he rang her doorbell. Everybody answers the door for the pizza guy.

She looked exactly like Ozzie’s description: 5’-8”, 160 pounds, 4” ‘fro, topaz colored, almond colored eyes.

“We didn’t order a pizza” she said. Her voice was a warm contralto delivered in the slow, thoughtful cadences of a person raised where thought was habitually expended before speaking.

“I know” Miguel said. “Ozzie ordered it.”

Charise did a double-take. “Is this a prank?” she demanded.

“Nope. He paid” Miguel said, playing it straight. “He also asked me to deliver a letter.”

He handed over the extra-large, Philly cheese-steak (garlic crust) pizza and the letter.

“I will be back tomorrow about this time for your answer” Miguel said.

Miguel was counting on the fact that an extra-large, Philly was about three-times the cost of the typical “medium” cheese pizza that was their high-runner. People play all kinds of weird mind-games. But most people aren’t going to pay serious money on a guess...a guess that happened to be her very, most favorite pizza in the world.

Charise gave Miguel a piercing glance and accepted the pizza...and letter.

Ozzie had handwritten the letter in his sprawling, open script. He explained that he had been a prisoner-of-war but had been able to work his way into a position of responsibility and was now in a place where he could care for her.

Charise gave Miguel an envelop the next evening. “Please return that to my husband” Charise said. “And thank-you for your efforts.


The next Sunday, Charise dressed up in her Sunday-go-to-Church finest. She also took her young niece and nephew. She hired a cab and they rode to Gregory, Michigan to attend the community church there.

Two decades earlier, it might have been scandalous...a single black woman with a couple of children in tow attending a revival in Wonderbread-White, rural Michigan. That was then. This was now. The small congregation was tickled to have new blood show up, especially somebody who took the time to put their best foot forward.

If anybody had followed her, their attention would have wandered over the course of the four-hour service and the meal afterward. As it happened, nobody had bothered to follow her. She was a nobody from nowhere.

Miguel was waiting for her when the services ended. He had very carefully cased the joint and determined that they were not under surveillance.

Charise slipped off her high-heels and put on a pair of tennis shoes. Together, the four of them walked the mile-and-a-half to the site of the demolished bridge that used to span the West Branch of the Red Cedar river. A temporary rope bridge had been stretched across the frigid water. Ozzie was waiting on the other side.


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