Dallas

Periodically I run a short story of mine here. Most of those pass by unobtrusively, a few likes, rarely a comment. I think it’s because most of my stories are parables that contain too damn much “Shatarian flossofy” that spoils the entertainment value. The odd time though, I can contain my exuberance and just tell a story.  Maybe this is such an odd time. Enjoy anyway.  Thanks for reading.
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Dallas was a week from her 15th birthday when she disappeared. I am her older brother by almost 2 years. My name is Greg, or for some, Gregory, 3rd oldest of five siblings. Home is Hope, a small town at the eastern end of the Fraser Valley, if you will. The house is in an older subdivision on the way to Kawkawa lake. Not much ever happens in Hope and Dallas’ disappearance created quite a stir for the next year, until nothing was discovered or found and like so many, Dallas’ fate entered the missing persons’ growing police files.
Needless to say, the family was not the same after that. Mom was disconsolate but adamant that Dallas was just “lost” as she put it, that nothing had happened to her. She managed to communicate this feeling to me and upon graduating from Hope Secondary, I decided to go in search of Dallas.
There wasn’t much to go by, but I knew Dallas intimately – we were more than siblings, we were close friends, and I knew a lot of things about Dallas that she had not shared with any one else. I knew that she was restless, not close to anyone and tired of being “mom’s girl” at home. Dallas had grown wings prematurely and wanted to try them out. She had talked to me about leaving home many times but it was always something in the future, when she was “of age” so to speak. But youth is fed by impatience and Dallas added impetuosity to the volatile mix. Hope and home were much too constricting for someone like her. I could remember her flashing dark brown eyes and black pony tail swinging back and forth when she entered into an argument about something she felt deeply about, and Dallas felt deeply about everything.
So, with only mom knowing my plans, and a little over 2 years since Dallas had gone missing; with some money from an uncle’s inheritance, I set out on my private search for her.
I went west, to the city and port of Vancouver. After settling down I focused on doing research on teens running away from home. I did a lot of work to create a working pattern. I rented cheap accommodations where I set up my notebook and bluetooth mini printer. I transcribed my notes from the day’s search into computer files and printed pictures of Dallas to put on posts, bulletin boards or to pass around. I got to know a few city police detectives on missing kids detail and everyday was a new learning experience. I won’t bore you with the endless false leads, and the sick people trying to cash-in on leading me to Dallas. I learned to smell them out pretty quickly. And all the while, I discovered the dark heart of a modern megalopolis.
Having made my peace with the reality of the city I knew that anything was possible. I interacted with prostitutes, pimps and massage parlours, any sort of place or business that might provide a haven for underage female runaways. I didn’t think Dallas would go that route but desperation narrows choices. On the other side, I frequented movie sets where a young girl’s ID might not be checked too closely when an extra was needed in a hurry. I checked the Internet for ads and agencies that placed babysitters or nannies.
It was a strange time. The more I came up blank, the more convinced I became that I was on Dallas’ trail and would find her.
I dreamt about her sometimes, and every dream showed me this: that she was not only all right, but had found herself and was happy with her new life. Sometimes I met her in a restaurant where she waitressed, or in a rich household where she worked as a nanny. There was always that mischievous look in her eyes, the twinkling that said, “I have a secret and I won’t tell you what it is until and unless you discover it for yourself.” Then she would laugh and the dream would end.

I emailed or texted mom fairly regularly, skipping many details but reassuring her that I was not only still looking, but increasingly sure that I would find Dallas and that she would be well. Often I would get a simple reply: “Thank you, Gregory, thank you. – Mom”
It occurred to me, after over a year, and a third of my funds gone, to combine my search with some practical course on private investigating and journalism. Within a few months I felt confident that I had enough horse sense and street smarts to try working. I answered an ad from a family looking for their disappeared son. I visited the people and explained what I was doing in Vancouver and convinced them that I knew enough to be of value to them. We settled on a fee and I added 14 year old “William” to my search query, creating a new set of patterns. Not surprising (to me) I found William with a group of Lost Boys downtown, trying to earn some money washing windshields at intersections.
Once I was sure of him, I waited for a chance and approached him as casually as I knew how, offering him a small amount of money if he would run an errand for me. He was hungry and broke and completed the errand in record time. Before I paid him, I told him his name and asked him if he ever thought about returning home.

“You a f…king cop?” he snarled and almost bolted from the outdoor table I had chosen for the exchange. I gently but firmly put my hand on his arm.
“Oh, don’t be stupid, Will. A cop wouldn’t ask you to run an errand. I wanted you to have that to think about before I talked to you.”
“So what’s the deal? Why do you care who I am or what I do?”
“Should be obvious – I’m a private investigator hired to find you, and I found you. I can have you home within the hour… if you’ll let me. Hey, it’s no skin off my nose if you run, I get paid regardless. I report that I found you, the location, and that you took off. Doesn’t sound too smart to me, though. Whatever caused you to run in the first place couldn’t have been that serious, and it’s been 6 months. I think it’s time for you to go home, finish school, then think about leaving with your head high this time, with a job or a degree at least. You’re not a poor homeless kid, William. You’re a spoiled Yuppie brat who may just have learned a valuable lesson now. You can take advantage of that. You know what gets you the farthest in life? Self-discipline. You can do it to wash windshields, surely you can do it to a greater end than that.”
So I returned a subdued William to his grateful parents. And I found other jobs; learned to collaborate with some of the undercover cops and my life slowly changed, but my purpose remained steadfastly the same: to find Dallas. Another year went by and I figured most would have given up by now. But something was inextricably linked in my mind: Dallas and the City. Dallas and I. All three of us were drawing together, I could sense this.
The City, as ugly and frightening as it had appeared at first, was definitely growing on me. I saw her gross sins and could forgive many of them. I interacted with her victims, the rich and the poor, and found out many didn’t mind being victims and I learned to accept that. And I wrote all of that down in my notes and began to feed some of my impressions to the borderline underground press that proliferated in the City. I deliberately used my real name to sign my articles and made sure it appeared frequently. I made a couple of “appearances” on radio talk shows about my work on the street, and what I had learned in interaction with the “Wendy’s” and the “Lost Boys,” as I called the runaways; their pimps, employers, lovers, and mentors.
And as I somehow knew it would, it happened: I found Dallas. She did investigating for a couple of Internet news blogs between other jobs, and she saw my name on an article, found the radio program on the Internet and contacted me by email. My heart soared as old Chief Dan George would have said. We chose to meet in a Starbucks, neutral grounds. I was there early because I wanted to watch her walk in; wondering how much she’d changed; if I would recognize her.
I had no trouble recognizing her face. Her hair was longer, no longer in a pony tail but allowed to flow freely thick over her shoulders. She appeared a bit taller, slimmer certainly, and much older. She wore a brown fake leather jacket and a short blue skirt and knee-length high heeled black boots. But that dark brown-eyed twinkle was as bright as ever.
“Dallas!” I couldn’t help calling as she looked over the crowd and line-ups. She saw me and smiled. It was still that special smile she used on me when we were “kids” it seemed so long ago. She came over, hugged me and went to get an espresso. I watched her, the poise, the certainty, the assurance. I should not have been surprised, but I was regardless. I couldn’t help but remember that she had not yet turned 15 when she left home and Hope to find herself. And I though it uncanny how right both mom and I had been about her. Except that she was never lost: she had her own map, her own destination and her own destiny to fulfill. And as I watched that young woman interacting with the guy behind the counter, I realized what her mind had told her, those eventful years ago: “It’s time Dallas. Leave – now, or forfeit your purpose. They will take you, when you come of age; when you have graduated, or earned a degree, and they will file you, pigeon-hole you, and you will become the living dead, just like your parents, your teachers, the adults you see on TV and meet in the stores. They will make you fit in. You’ll get married, get a house and stuff, have kids, part-time brain dead job, and walk the treadmill until you die. Walk away now, Dallas. You can do it.”
And, she had.
We didn’t talk very long that morning. I was on a case and she had reports to file, so we decided to meet at my place. Hers she said, was a bit crowded; she lived with two other women, one of whom was her lover – for the time being – she added with that twinkle. “Neither one of us is ready to settle, and I don’t think I want a serious relationship, at least not for a long time.”
She came to my place and having settled my case that afternoon and gotten paid, I got the goodies and wine and we talked, basically all through the night. And although the question was burning on my tongue, I never asked her why she hadn’t contacted mom, nor whether she would now. It didn’t seem appropriate and besides, she was the one asking the questions.
“OK, so I can see mom would try to put you up to this, but why did you come looking for me, Greg? Why didn’t you just let it go? Huh? She got up abruptly from the chair, sending it flying ass over tea kettle, turned, grabbed it and threw it back on its feet. She turned her back to me and talked: “I’ll tell you why you came to find me. You didn’t believe that I was lost. I became an opportunity for you, didn’t I. An excuse to leave also. Romance, excitement, feelings, emotions, so many things that tend to get bottled up in a small town stuck against a mountain and a river, things that can be let loose and expressed in countless ways, good and bad, here in the metro. You wanted what I had discovered. And you wanted to find me to prove to yourself that you had found it too. You followed me, not to find me, though that was your intent, but to find yourself. You were the one who was lost, Gregory. You were never going to find yourself in Hope, or in whatever institution you ended up working for. You sensed it, and you found my map in your mind, where I left you a copy. So, have you found yourself, Greg?”
She turned just as abruptly, leaned down with both hands flat on the small table and literally stared into my soul. She smiled thinly and sat down to sip some more wine. She waited for my answer.
“You are right, Dallas. The commitment, the gallantry, the chivalry, call it whatever you will, that was the cover story. The underlying motive was romance. I would do something different, and I had you to light my way. And Dallas?”
“Yes?”
“What a light you turned out to be!” She smiled again, and her eyes were wet, as were mine. We finished the wine and I called a taxi to take her home. We hugged once more just before she got in the car. She picked up the dragging edge of the long trench coat she was wearing and I closed the door, watching her disappear in the early morning mist and smog.
And the City stood surrounding us, neither smiling nor frowning, withholding comment and judgment.

28 thoughts on “Dallas

  1. franklparker

    A good one, Sha. Even included your name (miss typed for she). Trust my eagle eyes to spot these things.
    Seriously, a good tale well told. I am tempted to ask why “finding one’s self” is more important than contributing in some small way to the well being of others. That would be a mistake for the story has a sequel in the reader’s imagination: Dallas and Greg have a future in which they may learn other lessons, including the answer to my question.

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    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Frank. Yeah I had picked up on that typo after I hit the publish button so went back and corrected but by then as you know, the original was indeed “published”. You ask a very difficult to answer question. Why is finding one’s self more important than contributing in some small way to the well being of others. I hope you realize that the two are not mutually exclusive. That’s something I asked myself decades ago: did I see myself as being a function of the system or as someone having a purpose? Until I faced that question, I had most certainly been a function. I did “stuff” for others certainly, some one-on-one even, but it was duty-driven and the environmental and political work – toughest gigs I ever did – was fear driven because I really saw how our consumerist society was destroying our living world. We were riding on a time bomb and I had kids of my own to think about. Then I changed my thinking. I “found myself” through self empowerment and began working with a purpose in mind. Then helping or reaching out made sense. It was no longer a question of winning, or gaining, or even surviving but of being there doing what was right without obsessing about it all. So I developed this philosophy, that to be effective I had to have a clear purpose for my life; I had to learn detachment from emotional bonds and I had to constantly remind myself as I got older that I was on an infinite path. Thus I “found myself” too, if somewhat later in life than Dallas and her brother Gregory.

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      1. wolfess

        “Why is finding one’s self more important than contributing in some small way to the well being of others.”
        It is my belief that we can’t really help others until we truly know ourselves/ until we have found ourselves — much like being unable to respect others unless we have a healthy dose of self-respect.

        **I realize it has taken me far too long to check out this story, but sometimes life gets in the way — even when one is older than dirt. 🤔

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      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        Thanks for your comment here, Wolfess. Good that there is no time limit factor on responding to blog posts! You answer it well, and quote: “It is my belief that we can’t really help others until we truly know ourselves/ until we have found ourselves — much like being unable to respect others unless we have a healthy dose of self-respect.” The one serious problem with achieving that is, once you’re there you can no longer validate or help or respect any aspect of the collective. And now we’ve become the enemy of the state.

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  2. jim-

    I really like this. It’s amazing when we’re kids we just don’t share the urgency of our sibling relationships. I remember my brother leaving home at 15 (I was 13 then) and my mother was simply beside herself. I had no concern at all even though we were best friends and closest in age. He too, could only express who he was away from parental pressure and expectations. It took me a bit longer. Well done. Kudos for not telling her what she should do. She was already doing it.

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    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Jim. There was a time, I remember it well, when we were not just allowed, but expected, to grow up and declare our independence as soon as we were ready. At 14 I effectively ran the family farm. No big trick, when you’re raised in a system you should know how it functions! “Kids” went in the bush, in the mines, the trades, the offices, in other people’s homes as maids, servants. They learned the ropes quickly because they had been trained, not to “know” but to LEARN. Then Big Brother declared that was wrong. So “kids” were turned into slaves of the State and kept in mind prisons called schools until they got so institutionalized and denatured they came out of there as uneducated, inexperienced, dysfunctional zombie caricatures of humanity. But they make good slaves, good tax payers, good consumers so what else matters? Good thing it’s breaking down, at least in the west.

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  3. George F.

    Great story. Was the name of the town really Hope? (Of all things?”) Her description of her future…ending with “and walk the treadmill until you die.” made my hair tingle. I hope, after her journey, she did better.

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    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      On the subject of writing, particularly short stories, I like using local settings whenever possible. Here, let me show you: type 45741 Berkeley Ave, Chilliwack, B.C., Canada on your Google map app. That will show you my house (some years ago – still has the old roof and my Dutch dormer wasn’t built yet and the van looks a lot newer than it does now!) then as you pull back, you will see the valley. Hope is at the east end – 35 miles from Chilliwack and Vancouver is at the west end, 100 miles from Chilliwack. There’s the town of Langley in there where I do quite a bit of L/Scape work – hence why I often joke about working for the CIA! As you can see, Dallas didn’t have to travel far to “get lost.” She would have used the regular bus service – they don’t ask questions if you can pay!

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    2. Sha'Tara Post author

      Getting back to your comment, Dallas (me in many ways) was born old – hah! – and was able to see the trap early enough to escape it. “Knowing of the existence of a trap is the first step in avoiding it.” (Frank Herbert – Dune) “I always think everything is a trap, that’s why I’m still alive.” (Prince Humperdink – Princess Bride) When it came to the System, I was never a believer hence why I fought it all my life and will continue to do so until it is defeated. As to Dallas, I think the story indicates that she is of the few who are aware that life does not consist in knowing but in learning. You know those people who want to argue about what is truth, what isn’t? They’re the “knowers” – not the “learners.” Stuck in the rut of belief, determined to prove themselves right and anyone who disagrees with them, wrong. I didn’t invent the saying but I’ve used it many a time: keeping an open mind doesn’t mean your brain is going to fall out. The “learner” knows exactly what “believe all things, believe in nothing” means.

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  4. Hyperion

    A captivating story Sha’Tara. Your writing is always so well composed and a flowing read which makes getting absorbed into the depth of it easy for me. There are so many Dallas and Greg’s out there. This could have been my own story too. I was determined to chart my own course and a week after graduating high school, I broke my mother’s heart and left home. I wouldn’t change anything except finding a way not to break my mother’s heart. I barely had a chance to grow up before she died. I did not seek self destruction in pathetic debaucery or drugs, I accomplished things few men ever see much less master. There is no sin in finding one’s path which can lead to anywhere in the world. I never stepped on another human being to get ahead. I never cheated anyone or stole anything for any reason. I had a job as a pot washer in a city hotel run by organized crime. The fifth floor was a brothel of high class prostitutes that served the entertainment industry, government leaders, and wealthy industrialists. It was my job to take food and supplies to them. They treated me better than anyone else I had ever met. What a strange thing it was to discover the tools of moral turpitude to be the kindest and most grateful people I would meet. I’ll never forget going up one night to find the entire band of a famous 70’s Rock band with the ladies and they were also generous while partaking of the sacrament. Lessons not opinions charted my life and it was good.

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    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thanks for that engrossing snapshot into your private life, Daniel. I won’t let it seduce me into sharing mine… oh boy. Work also, but with different twists. “Lessons, not opinions charted my life” – well said.

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      1. Hyperion

        This comment definitely got a big smile out of me. I fought it bravely, but you win – I smiled. I always tell people not to tell me anything they aren’t supposed to. I’ve outrun my past enough to look back and relate my experiences to others without shame or grief. It wasn’t always that way. There are things about everyone that is better left unsaid. But also in everyone, there is a magnificent story that pushes the boundaries of every emotion and every character and every value humans are capable of experiencing.

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      2. Hyperion

        In my many character studies of the past, I was deeply interested in conversing with the older generations and hearing their views of how life was for them in their youth. I found a determination and level of acceptance in all of them. It helped me during my own personal challenges. Now, I’m off to read your story.

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      3. Sha'Tara Post author

        You got lucky with your “old timers” there. The French Canadians I was raised with in northern Alberta (Canada) were not at all forthcoming about their lives in Quebec and the Maritime Provinces. I suppose they were all somewhat like refugees and their memories just post WWII were probably better left behind. New land, new way of life hopefully would mean new opportunities (sometimes even for the better) for these people; for all of us. In the fifteen years I lived there, we all experienced a total social revolution. The kind of farming we had been born into was disappearing, just like your coal mining. I could only let go by moving away again, to here, on the edge of a giant megalopolis, watching the end of civilization unfold. So, cheer up, eh?

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      4. Hyperion

        Ah! Finally it dawns on me. I thought you lived in some pristine mountain paradise and I was jealous. Leaving on the edge of a megalopolis explains everything. It’s everywhere now, that social decay that just tarnishes everything that is bright and good in the world. I’m lucky to live in a diverse population with plenty of decent caring people of means and the poor have all the work they want unless unable to work. Of course, we are all at home now and no reports of home robberies or closed store break ins. We have had a few wives beat their husbands for things like watching TV, farting, making messes in the house, and snoring instead of doing chores they had always put off because of work. It seems living together 24/7 is more stressful than work schedules.

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      5. Sha'Tara Post author

        The simplest, most accurate way to put it is, people are a blight on this world. If one were to write a motto for an Earthian it would be “I have all the rights to defecate wherever and however I choose and there is no law that says I must clean up after myself. So fuck off.”

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      6. Hyperion

        Um, that sounded very west coast American which influences east coast America to follow suit. I’m thinking as the herd gets bigger we have that million sized herd of wildebeest covering the land with poo and the alligators and lions are just too few to make a difference. Has that fillosofy entrenched itself in megalopolis Canada as well?

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      7. Sha'Tara Post author

        Oh yes it has! To give you an idea, from my observation there are just as many Trump supporters above the 49th parallel as below it. After all, as the Peace Arch State park sign says, Americans and Canadians are “Children of a Common Mother.” Obviously she was quite “common” and got around! She should have had less kids and spent more time raising them properly. At least, training them to go potty.

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      8. Hyperion

        Waaa haaaa haaaa! This cracked me up Sha’Tara. Brilliant observation is the greatest comedy sometimes. I guess back in the day, slow bears and pigeon toed squaws were easy prey for Sasquatch, which I suspect is a hardy Neanderthal/Bear breed.

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      1. Hyperion

        Bro, you never served as a runner for high class call girls? For a 17 year old it was a job of a lifetime. I got more love than money and I never regretted my choices. I got stories. Behind my little isolated pot washing station was the linen closet for all the clean table cloths and napkins. I was paid to act as a look out during dangerous liaisons in the closet. You’ll be very disappointed to learn, I did not think this was a good trajectory for me and After true mastery of the art of pot washing, I moved on.

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