The Ghost of Alma Matterson
Chapter 2: [Ctrl-Esc]

Alma and friends had exciting plans for the day. Just last week, Alma found a small secluded swimming hole on Choctaw creek. It was a paradise. There was a small sandy beach, and a tire hanging from a rope tied to a branch of a towering oak reaching across the water.

I know it is a naughty, but the members of the Free Body club were not only thinking of swimming. They thought of swimming in the its rawest form, just like Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer might have done on the mighty Mississippi River.

No-one knew where Alma had found his copy of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The book was not in the school library. It was not in the public library. The local bookstore did not carry any works from the author. There were no references to Mark Twain in the encyclopedia or other literary reviews. 

Mark Twain encouraged willfulness, and used prejudicial reference to African Americans, among many other transgressions. It was deemed most prudent to simply not include the name or works within the programs. Yet, through some unknown means, Alma showed up at the club with the collected works of Samuel Clemens, and began to teach his own willful lessons on boyhood in a free America. Lessons that included this ill conceived plan to skip Sunday school, and to spend a Spring day skinny dipping at the local swimming hole. 

They were all upset that Mary couldn't come along. Tad thought it would be much more interesting to see Mary in the buff than either Martin or Alma. Unfortunately, Reverend Thomas needed Mary at church that afternoon. Could he have known their plans?

Martin was just plain nervous about the whole affair. He knew that bad things happened to people who did wrong. Why, just last year, Mitch Bentley's older brother Jake smoked a marijuana cigarette. He went crazy, stole his parents' money, and beat up his girlfriend. Jake was an okay guy before then. He had a really nice girlfriend--Buffy. Because Jake smoked a marijuana cigarette, Buffy went to the hospital, and the Bentleys had to move out of their home into the trailer park.

Life was full of such lessons. Martin remembered when he threw a stone at the abandoned mill on Choctaw creek road. As he turned around, the road gave beneath him. He fell, and got a large cut on his hand from a shard of glass. Reverend Thomas lecture was clear. The glass was on the road because kids broke the windows of the mill. Life always punished  transgressions. Martin felt comfortable seeking the center.

Tad was still healing from his skateboard accident. Alma was the only one nonplussed by the adventure. Alma might be the boy genius in class, but he never learned his life's lessons. Alma had two sprained ankles, a twisted wrist and a rather nasty contusion on his elbow before his father finally took a saw to his skateboard, cut it into pieces and tossed the remainders of the infernal device in the fire place.

That was Alma in a nutshell. He liked to push to the edges. He wanted to see what he could learn. He wanted to go skinny dipping because he read about it in a book. 

Martin objected, but caved into the pressure. Things were changing. Johnny went away. Martin could only think of things getting worse, just like Buffy, Jake and the Bentley's. The club acted too freely for life's approval...and life bites back with a vengeance. His only solace was that Mary was safe.


Alma stood at the top of Mill Ridge overlooking to the gulch. The scene looked different from the last time he stood there. The river seemed to have fewer curves today. It was something that Alma had wandered about. Things always looked different each time he saw them. Trees would lose or gain a foot in height. The river would bend in different directions. The landmarks were all different.

He looked up and down the creek, but could not find the swimming hole. These subtle changes in scenery always made him wary. 

To fnd the swimming hole, he remembered, he had to activate the creek object. Two of the attributes of the river were water flow and depth. He needed to find the maximum of depth and minimum of flow:

#sql {
SELECT Max(ro.depthCnt), Min(ro.flow)
  FROM RiverObj ro
 WHERE ro.riverName = 'Chotaw'
   and locat = 'Padua'};

His mind flowed through the twists and turns of the current. It circulated through eddies, and bounced along the banks of the stream. He could feel the water moving past rock objects, and felt the tale tell sings of the fish objects wiggling their way through time.

Alma thought fondly of the day he went fishing with his dad. He found that he could attach fish to a hook if he thought about them in the correct way. Alma caught over 50 fish in the first two hours. Char, his sister, wanted nothing to do with the slimy things. When he coaxed Char into casting her first line, Alma attached a gigantic cat fish to the hook. The fish was almost as big as Char. When she pulled the fish from the water it was a scream.

Alma could feel the fish getting bigger and the stream deeper. The hole would be just around the corner: "There, he announced."

"I don't see it, Alma."

Alma placed a hand on Martin's shoulder and pointed: "There, do you see where my finger is pointing?"

"I don't see it."

"It's by the big oak. Do you see the oak?"

"I still don't see it."

Alma activated the tree object and made it sway. "Do you see it now?"

"Just green shapes."

"No Martin, don't just look at the scene, you have to query the trees."

Martin closed his eyes and concentrated on the forest and stream. It was a trick Alma had taught him. Sometimes you had to activate an object before you could see it. You had to set focus, and then...yes, he could start making out the individual trees along the bank of the creek. They were still mostly non-descript green things. Concentrating harder...and, of them was moving. He could feel the rustling of the leaves. On one of the branches he could feel was a rope object. The rope object held a tire object. "I found it!"

"Drill down deeper."

Martin concentrated on the tree. It was an oak. It was 12 meters high. He could feel the branches. "There is a blue jay in the tree!"

"Drill down deeper."

Martin could now feel the sap moving in the branches. The sap brought water and nutrients slowly  up the trunk of the tree, through the branches, twigs and to the leaves. "There are 52,.. no 64,367 leaves in the tree!"

"Last time I was here, there were 73,128 leaves. The rope was one inch longer and the and the bank two inches higher."

"Do you think there was that much erosion in one week?"

Alma looked doubtful.

*There are no records of Alma breaking windows at the mill. However, in examining the database, I found that, one of the windows switched to the broken state with no apparent cause. I also discovered a mysterious gap in the e-mail sequence on that same day.

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