Change of Perspective
Thomas Calabrese — Average rents rose 14 percent in 2021, to $1,877 a month, with cities like Austin, New York and Miami notching increases of as much as 40 percent, and Americans can expect rents to rise by another 10 percent in 2022. San Diego County is one of the most expensive places to live in California, surpassing San Francisco when you factor in gas prices, utilities and food.
Marine Corps First Sergeant Larry Beaumont had purchased a two-bedroom, two-bath condominium with his wife, Barbara in 2014 while he was stationed at Camp Pendleton. He had several deployments and the separations had a detrimental effect on the marriage. When Barbara met Robert Mitchell a successful petroleum engineer, at 24 Hour Fitness she began spending time with him. Things got serious between the two and Barbara asked for a divorce. Larry knew that his wife had not been happy for a while so he agreed. The divorce was quick and amiable. Barbara didn’t ask for much, “I don’t need much, I’ll take my personal belongings and you can have the rest.”
Soon afterwards. Robert Mitchell was offered a supervisory position in the Gulf of Mexico. Before she left for Galveston, Texas, Barbara met with Larry to say her final farewell. “Stay safe,” and held her emotions in check.
Larry was not bitter and harbored no resentment. There was enough blame to go around. “Good luck and I hope you find happiness.”
One last embrace and they disappeared from each other’s life.
First Sergeant Larry Beaumont retained a property management company to take care of his condo when he was transferred to Camp Lejeune. Five years later, Larry was now back at Camp Pendleton. This would be his last duty station before retiring. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to remain in California or sell his condo for a significant profit and move back to his hometown of Reno, Nevada when he separated from the Corps.
There is an old saying ‘life is what happens while you’re making other plans.’ Larry applied and was offered a lucrative job with Haliburton Industries working as a security contractor in the Middle East. It had a significant signing bonus if he agreed to a two-year contract. Larry did not want to go through the hassle of packing up his belongings and selling his residence before leaving. He also didn’t want to rent it to strangers or leave it vacant. An idea came to him so Larry decided that it wouldn’t hurt to ask his friend, Sergeant Clint McCord about a mutually beneficial agreement. “You’re getting out in a few months…made any plans?”
Clint rubbed his chin, “I’ll probably go to junior college and get a job…nothing too exciting.”
“I’ve got this place and thought you might be interested.”
“How much are you asking?” Clint asked.
“I haven’t thought about that, but if I’m sure we can work something out if you like it.” Larry said.
The condo was located in the Ranch Del Oro area of Oceanside. The second floor deck overlooked Palisades Park. The interior was tastefully furnished, the handiwork of Larry’s wife. Larry showed Clint the second bedroom with the private bath. “This would be your room, do you like it?” Larry asked. “I’ll keep my room so I’ll have a place to stay when I’m back in country, but otherwise the place is yours.”
“It’s really nice, but I don’t think I can afford it. In this market, you can probably rent this room for 1200 and the whole place for 25 or 26…maybe even more” Clint said.
“You weren’t listening, I don’t want to give up my room and I don’t want somebody I don’t trust living here. How ‘bout 750 and you pay your own utilities.” Larry pushed the issue. “Look buddy, I’ve got a lot of things on my plate to take care of so I need an answer like right now…yes or no.”
“My answer is absolutely affirmative!” Clint said appreciatively.
Clint moved in and quickly got situated. Two weeks later, he drove Larry to the San Diego Airport to catch his flight to Dubai. Larry reminded his friend, “I’ll see when I see you.”
Clint replied, “Have a safe trip and I’ll take care of things while you’re gone.”
“I know you will.”
Clint continued to receive his basic allowance for off base housing until the time that he left the Marine Corps. He enrolled at Mira Costa Junior College and obtained a part-time job loading trucks at the Coca-Cola bottling plant on Oceanside Ranch Road.
Things were going according to plan for the former Marine. Nothing too exciting just a steady routine that he easily fell into. In the early morning hours, Clint would prepare a fruit smoothie, a couple slices of lightly buttered wheat toast and sit on the deck. When the skies were clear and the sun came up from behind the horizon it cast a soft orange hue over the landscape. The mountain ranges on Camp Pendleton could be seen to the north. It was serene, beautiful and tranquil and Clint couldn’t think of a better way to start the day.
Larry had a telescope in the living room and sometimes Clint would use it to scan the area or look up at the stars at night. On the other side of the park was a wooded area and on this one particular morning at about 6AM, Clint looked through the telescope and noticed something moving around in the thick brush. He stay focused on the site, not knowing what it was. Less than a minute passed before he saw an individual wearing a hoodie and carrying a military pack exit the area. He disappeared down a hillside trail that led to the transit station on Oceanside Boulevard.
Over the next week, Clint made it a point to look at the same area at the same time. The individual was very punctual about their departure, always sure to leave the area before it got too light and early morning dog walkers and joggers began arriving. It soon became a routine for Clint to look for the homeless individual and his curiosity increased proportionally.
Finally on a warm Sunday morning Clint decided to take a run and just by deliberate coincidence, he passed by the wooded area and stopped by the narrow trail that the homeless person usually exited. He looked at his watch, it was the right time. Was it possible that he left early?
Clint bent down to tie his shoe and when he stood up, he was standing face to face with a woman about his same age. They made brief eye contact and then she scurried away without saying a word. For the rest of the day, Clint could not get the vision of that woman with the bright blue eyes out of his mind. He knew one thing for certain, he had to find her again. After finishing his English class at Mira Costa he decided to take a scouting patrol down the trail.
He had not gone hiking since he left the Corps and the wooded area brought back some fond and some unpleasant memories of his time as an infantryman ‘humping through the bush’ (hiking in various terrains). The homeless encampment was fairly well organized and located behind the Sprinter Commuter train maintenance facility.
The young woman looked up, opened her tent flap and commented. “You couldn’t let it go, could you?”
Clint smiled. “What can I say…you made an impression.”
“Pull up a hunk of ground.” The woman offered. “We keep things informal around here.”
Clint sat cross-legged on the dirt. Neither spoke for several seconds until the woman finally asked. “Now what?”
“Let’s keep it simple, I’m Clint McCord and your name is?”
“Jane, Joan, Jennifer, Smith, Jones or Brown…they are interchangeable.” The woman said.
Clint noticed the USMC lettering on the pack, “How about if I call you Maura…short for Marine.”
“I’ll answer to that.”
Clint stood up and said, “Maybe we can have lunch sometime?”
“Don’t make me your charity…don’t need it…don’t want it,” Maura said firmly.
“Never entered my mind for a second.” Clint walked off.
The young Marine felt a connection to the woman and he couldn’t help but be curious on how this attractive young woman ended up homeless. However he wasn’t going to ask. He didn’t want to appear too eager, so he waited three days before going back to the homeless encampment.
Maura smiled, “I thought that I scared you off.”
“Fear is a good thing, it sharpens the reflexes.” Clint replied.
Clint quipped. “Like a carbon bladed combat knife. Are you free for lunch?”
Maura looked over to another campsite and called out. “Hey Bill, am I free for lunch?”
An elderly man with a long gray beard pulled a piece of paper from his ragged jacket and looked at it and joked. “You have a morning appointment with Governor Grafton Loathsome, but you’re free afterward.”
“Looks like I’m available, but not free.” Maura said.
“A difference with a distinction?” Clint asked.
“Don’t worry, I’m the cheapest date you’ll ever have.”
Clint suggested. “I get out of class about 1330 hours. I’ll meet you in the park at 1400.”
“I’ll be at Planet Fitness on Oceanside Boulevard …see you there.”
After class Clint drove to the fitness center and Maura came out looking fresh and clean and a person would never be able to tell that she was homeless. She explained. “I’m a member and clean up here every day after I work out.”
“You’re an enigma wrapped inside a mystery.”
Maura answered. “Let’s keep it that way for the time being.”
The unusual couple had a pleasant lunch at the Oceanside Broiler, located at the harbor and began seeing each other at various times. They stayed in the moment and succeeded for the most part at not being too inquisitive.
Finally out of nowhere and without any encouragement while eating at Enzo’s Barbecue, Maura explained how she ended up as a homeless person. “I was a Marine Corps Captain working on a special intelligence team. We intercepted encrypted information that some members of our government were collaborating with Russia on the invasion of the Ukraine.”
“I’m surprised, but not shocked.” Clint said. “What did you do?”
“Followed standard protocol…passed it up the chain of command. Didn’t hear anything for a few days. I had a doctor’s appointment so I wasn’t with my team when it happened.”
“What was that?” Clint asked.
“They were killed…all except for Alexander Bradley. When I got back, he was lying mortally wounded under a desk having been shot five times. He was a minute away from death, but Alex lived long enough to tell me that a hit team had tortured and interrogated them. They were desperate to find out if we had told anybody about the conspiracy. His last words were. “Run…they knew you weren’t here and they’re coming for you. I probably should have left directly from there, but I had nothing to be taking a road trip with. I had no clothes, not much money and I didn’t know how much time I had, but I thought it was worth the risk”
“Let me guess…you had to go home first?”
Maura explained, “One of the things you learn early while working in intelligence is to always be prepared for all contingencies. I had a ‘go bag’ ready and a few thousand in cash hidden in the back of my closet. I wish I had time to mourn my comrades, but survival was my first priority. As I was leaving, I saw a car drive up and two men get out. I could see their weapons so I was prepared when they entered and shot both in the back of the head. I knew I had to go dark and the best way to do that was to become homeless until I could figure out a plan. For the record, I’m still working on that plan. Later on, I went on the dark web and saw that a five million dollar reward had been posted…dead or alive for me. If you’re looking for some extra money, I just gave you an easy way to make it.”
Clint reacted like Maura thought he would and responded with a casual shrug, “I’m independently wealthy, got more money than I use right now, but thanks. I’ve a counter offer that you might find interesting.”
Clint showed Maura the condo and she asked. “Is this yours?”
“Just renting, you can have my room and I’ll take the living room. I would let you have the other bedroom, but I told the owner that I wouldn’t use it.”
“And you’re not the kind of man to never break his word.” Maura said.
“Never is a strong word…a high bar. Let’s just say that I try.”
Over the next month, the war in the Ukraine raged on. Even though they were vastly outnumbered, thousands of Ukrainians had taken up arms to defend their homeland from the invaders. These valiant warriors were willing to fight to the death and many did.
Larry Beaumont returned from the Middle East and he sat down with Maura and Clint. She explained in detail what happened to her and Clint asked for his fellow Marine’s input. “What do you think?”
“First of all, thank you for your service. I’m putting together a team to assist in the evacuation of Americans trapped behind Russian lines. I can get you a fake set of identification from my contacts if you’re interested.” Larry offered.
“Sign me up.” Maura leaped at the offer, “It would be nice to pro-active for a change.”
Clint interjected. “Don’t leave me out.”
Working with Project Dynamo, a non-profit group from Florida, the trio helped to evacuate hundreds of stranded Americans. After a fierce firefight with some Russian special operators, Gil Richards, a Navy Seal who assisted with evacuations in Afghanistan shook his head in amazement. “I didn’t think I’d be doing this again so quickly after the mess in Kabul.”
Maura responded, “When it comes to government bureaucrats making atrocious mistakes, this has become my philosophy; always expect the worse and you’ll never be disappointed.”
Three months later, a group of corrupt Americans were meeting with some Russia Oligarchs in Warsaw, Poland in an out of the way restaurant. Three armed and masked individuals quietly entered through the back door. They opened fire on these members of the global cabal and disappeared into the darkness.
Four days later and back in Oceanside. Clint, Maura and Larry were sitting on the deck of the condo. Clint commented. “I never get tired of The Park View.”
Maura sipped on her smoothie, “Nothing like a peaceful morning to help with a change of perspective. Even if it is only temporary, I’ll take what I can get nowadays.”
Larry smiled in anticipation, “Enjoy it while you can …there’s still a lot of bad actors on both sides that need a dirt nap and we’re just the three to give it to them!”
– Work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance
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