Day 6 in my novel-in-a-month effort

Chapter 6: Homeland

 The Secretary shall establish a federally funded research and development center to be known as the “Homeland Security Institute” (in this section referred to as the “Institute”). The duties of the Institute shall be determined by the Secretary, and may include the following:

(4) Identification of instances when common standards and protocols could improve the interoperability and effective utilization of tools developed for field operators and first responders.

—Title 6, United States Code, Domestic Security, Science and Technology in Support of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Institute

In finding one’s life mission, a few dimensions must align, or else the seeker is on a fool’s errand.

The mission requires an almost cruelly difficult intersection of place, time and openness to opportunity. That requirement dooms most human beings to toil at work they dislike, in relationships that hurt, and with their truest interests, intentions and abilities hidden from themselves. They may be hidden behind layers of doubt, discouragement and ignorance. They may be cemented in like Grand Canyon sediment, or they may lie temptingly close to the surface, separated from recognition by a thin layer of the soil of self knowledge. And all of it can be and often is impenetrable to the majority of people.

Ted Castro had already had a glimmer of recognition that week in the lobby of Dedrick, Duckworth, Castro & Paine. That gave him the chance to peer more clearly into the goals of his own life mission.

But he suspected that, like Saul on the road to Tarsus, his being knocked off the mule was only his first step in a longer journey. And could the next step be taken at the Arizona State Fair? Something – a memory – told him it could.

For Ted Castro, that next step could be taken on the north end of the Fair’s Exhibition Hall. He was drawn there by his wife Sylvia. More particularly, by the memory of the handiwork his wife had done for decades, and that had been displayed in this hall.

Before Sylvia’s death five years ago, she had created the most intricate birdhouses her husband had ever seen. The powers that be at the 4-H usually agreed, resulting in years’ worth of blue ribbons for the artistic carpenter.

Ted hadn’t been back to the Fair since Sylvia died. Truth be told, he was not entirely whether sure why he had steered his car west rather than north at the end of the work day today. And as he strolled into the Fair grounds, probably the only attendee in a pin striped suit, his misgivings increased even more.

Walking through the animal barns as soon as he entered did much to calm his nerves. He had been raised in rural Arizona, near many family farms. The cows, pigs and even the pigeons communicated to him that he was on the right path. He chuckled at the farm display indicating that “Goats = Fun” right next to a poster describing how to cook goat for your family’s table. He guessed that fun is all about whether you sit around the dining table, or on it. As he turned to leave the barn, a black goat’s brown eyes met his, and he was more positive than ever that he was in the right place tonight.

Strolling the midway, he knew that he looked as overdressed as Daddy Warbucks, but he decided that wouldn’t stop him from enjoying a corn dog. Young children who didn’t blink an eye at the most outrageous parade of humanity that night stopped in their tracks to stare at him, mustard on his chin and on his silk tie. He smiled and waved, and the kids hurried off.

So calm was he amid the hubbub that it took him awhile to understand that he was looking at someone he knew. As he walked south from the midway, he suddenly thought he recognized his newest partner, Sarah Fujii. She was with some young girls, and they all looked like they were having a great time.

As he recalled, Sarah had called the office today saying she was sick. Good for her, he thought to himself with a smile. Taking your kids to the Fair should always come before time at the office.

The last thing Ted wanted to do was interrupt Sarah and her kids. So he hurried off, confident he hadn’t been seen.

Which took him directly into the Exhibition Hall. He supposed that his feet knew from the beginning where he would end up, and yet he was still surprised.

Like an automaton, he walked directly to the cases that had once held Sylvia’s bird houses. To his surprise, they now displayed lace tablecloths. But a perambulation of the hall quickly located what he sought.

The woodworking section had always been one of his favorites, and now he remembered why. The artists’ choice of simple and straightforward subjects—bird houses, house numbers and the like—masked a complexity of skill that amazed anyone who took the time to look. He had expected to be disappointed in the showing now that Sylvia’s work was no longer there, but he was still dumbstruck.

Not long after, though, Ted realized that he had looked over all the work, and still wasn’t sure why he had come.

He turned to leave, but another aisle caught his eye. He walked over, and saw in the display cases miniature mockups of houses and house interiors. Immediately, he was transfixed.

There were Tudors, and Brooklyn brownstones. There were pueblos, and log cabins, and castles. He gazed at doll houses and dog houses, all created in painstaking detail. There was even a vintage teardrop RV trailer, doors open and rigged for a camping trip. In all the works, furniture and furnishings had been created from scratch by the same artists and were made visible by false backs to the homes, and the most developed even were wired with electricity, and contained lighting appropriate to the period they represented.

He was amazed. But one thing that Ted Castro didn’t see was a representation of a modern home. That was a shame, he thought, for a detail oriented artist could work great magic on the beauty that is a more contemporary abode.

And then he recalled that Sylvia had left behind all of her equipment, in perfect working order, right there in their Paradise Valley home. He smiled, understanding why he had come this year to the Arizona State Fair. 

CHAPTER 7 is next.