Griffin Grunge – A Pink Lady Project

I’m Pink Lady Apple Yeggs and my friend Deviled Yeggs suggested that I record each project that I set up in the hopes of reforming the people who continue to work for Lily the Pink Enterprises.  If for no other reason, it would show how God is at work.

I have not written any restoration project reports in some time, not since my second in command that I was about to promote to company president took a one-year leave of absence to travel around the world with a husband that I had no idea was her husband. …  By the way, we will not hear from them for some time, I think.  They are in Africa.

But Gwen Quinn’s absence means that I am behind in my paperwork.  Case in point, the report that follows mostly occurred on Christmas Eve and I am just getting around to writing about it.  If I do not get a detail perfectly correct, please forgive me.

As you may know from the Deviled Yeggs report, Cannot Cancel Christmas, my brother-in-law arrested the man who attempted to murder my son and then the District Attorney thought it a grand idea to have me give this man and his family a free place to stay until he was back on his feet.  Let those little bits of information soak in for a few seconds.  Some might think that I would refuse, but since Boaz had forgiven him, did I have a choice?

Add to that moral battle that I faced in that Griffin Grunge arrived with an ankle bracelet to track his movements and a sullen attitude that would test the patience of a saint.  He may have simply been tired, hungry, and scared, but he projected anger and combativeness.  I wanted neither of those qualities on the Lily the Pink grounds.  After all, we had an extension of Middle School for Sophie and her friends.  We had a nursery and preschool for the children of the mission families that we house.  And I did not need an insane archer finding a hiding place in the greenhouse and shooting arrows at people.

But I trusted my son’s judgment of character, but only after I interviewed him before he was allowed to reunite with his family.  His wife and little girls were fed, given new clothing, a pink jumpsuit for his wife and what little clothing we could scramble together at the last minute for the little girls.  We had plenty of onesies for the newborn boy.  And Jochebed, being across the hall in the Hill’s apartment, volunteered to do some of the nursing until Mrs. Grunge’s strength was restored.  Esther was starting to be weaned, just in time for a lady who had been a wet nurse for years to take on a new “client.”

With the family being taken care of and overcome with gratitude at our hospitality, a little delay in the reunion would not be that bad, and I needed my personal reassurance.  I had run Lily the Pink Enterprises mostly on my gut feeling and prayer and the support of Gwen.  One of those was temporarily gone.  So, my gut had to be satisfied.

Sandy Beech, my head of security, escorted Griffin Grunge into my office.  I had still not moved my office from the dining room.  I occupied a small corner with this huge dining room table dominating most of the room.  When we had staff meetings, no one noticed my desk in the corner.

Sandy wanted to stay.  I think she did not feel comfortable with being a watchdog over the man who had just tried to kill her boyfriend.  I dismissed her.  I wanted a personal one-on-one with the would-be assassin.  He was already a killer, but he had only killed a reindeer, posthumously named “Rudolph.”

“Mr. Grunge, before I reunite you with your family, I need to be reassured that you will behave while you are here.  To do that, you have to make eye contact with me and answer my questions.  Do you understand?”

Grunge slowly looked up.  He was still angry. “Why should I answer your questions? I am no criminal.  You are.  Just because the mayor and the D.A. like you, doesn’t mean I have to.”

I replied, “You will answer my questions because I am opening one of my properties to you and your family, free of charge, at least for the time being, subject to the mission rules downtown.  I feel that I have the right to protect my employees and the people who live here.  I am sure you could understand that.”

He interrupted, “You mean the prostitutes that live here.”

“What my employees did under the previous management and the others that I have rescued since then is none of your concern.  That was in the past.” I paused, looking him in the eye, although he averted his gaze, uncomfortable, nervous, hiding something.  “As for me being a criminal, I was born into a crime family.  My father was Red Delicious Apple’s enforcer.  He went to prison for killing a few people.  I had barely made it into my teens by then and we had only moved to this neighborhood a year before.  I had no idea what my father did until the trial.  Red Delicious, Uncle Delly to me and my cousins, was this jolly man that sort of adopted me as his favorite niece.  By this time, I knew what he did for a living, but he was family.  I wanted none of his business.  I got the silly idea that since my name was ‘Apple,’ I should make apple cider, and I asked Uncle Delly for the venture capital.  He just laughed.  A few days before I was to graduate high school, my mother abandoned me.  She escaped the crime family and moved to Florida, leaving me this property.  Uncle Delly hired a companion, Gwen Quinn, to help with the housework.  I was barely eighteen and this was a big house.  Gwen and I started experimenting with apple cider recipes and we invented what is now called Lily the Pink, a hard apple cider.  Odd, at the time I first tasted it, I was underage.”

“I had an affair about that time and got pregnant.  Uncle Delly found out that I was sleeping around and one of my cousins suggested to him that this property could be turned into a brothel.  Since I wanted nothing to do with the criminal end of things, Uncle Delly gave me a proposal that I accepted.  I would become the accountant for the Rotten Apples, and he would remove the car chopping enterprise in the warehouse, which is behind the house here, and turn it into a cider house.  In return, my cousin, Baldwyn, ran the brothel, but I was advertised as being the madam.  Each employee worked for me parttime and for Baldwyn parttime.  Soon after Uncle Delly set this up, he went to prison for killing some of the people who gave evidence against my father.  The fellow that arrested you sent Uncle Delly to prison.  And Baldwyn developed a sense of ownership over me, not allowing me to leave the house.  It took over twenty years before an incident brought Detective Deviled Yeggs back to my front door.  I set up a brothel raid that ended the brothel here, got many of my cousins sent to prison, got the mayor arrested for murder, and gave me and the women who worked here a chance to start over with a new life.  Yes, these women used to be prostitutes, but if you called them that now or treated them that way, they would slap you.  We believe in forgiveness here.  We believe in fresh starts and repentance.  And it is becoming more and more true that we believe in Jesus here, not all, but the numbers are growing.”

For emphasis I slapped the top of the desk with both hands.  “Now, I have told you the truth of my criminal past, but I am not the one with an ankle bracelet.  Did you grow up in a crime family?  Were you trapped against your will?  Did you have to take you newborn son to the monastery to protect him from a life of crime?  Just what possessed you to try to kill the mayor of this town?”

Grunge huffed, “Like I told the detective, I didn’t want to kill him.  Rudolph was dead and I killed him.  My family needed something to eat.  I just wanted Santa to not give out presents this year.  That way, my girls wouldn’t be too disappointed, since nobody got presents.  Listen, I was a good kid, grew up in a good low-income family.  We don’t got nothing, but my wife and I love each other.  I was a good employee for Mobility Tech.  I designed some of the gadgets to help people with mobility issues safe, or I redesigned it to make it safer or easier to maintain.  I worked on making improvements to the product line.  And then they kicked me to the curb.  Star employee one month and unemployed the next.  Just so the company president could get his big bonus and show the stock holders that he made a profit.  Within two months, we were homeless, one extra mouth the feed, penniless, hungry, and living under a bridge.  All I need is a job where I can do some drafting and design and I will make all this right.  I didn’t mean to shoot an arrow at the mayor to kill him.  I just got caught up in the madness that has overtaken my family.”

I sighed, “But you did.  Do you think that the mayor did not have family?  He could have a mother.  He could have a girlfriend.  What would they think about what you did?”

Grunge shrugged, “If I was the mayor’s mother, I might not stop until his killer was brought to justice or I killed him with my bare hands.  I would be like a mama bear if anyone came after my family.  I would fight to the death.  Now, if the girlfriend was serious about their relationship, I might have the same reaction.  But really, I am not this violent guy.  I just want to get back to making engineering drawings and creating things.  All this killing and thinking about killing is making me feel sick.”

“Mr. Grunge, your daughters are four and two.  You could have come up with a story about how Santa could not find you under the bridge and he would come back later.  I’m thinking that I agree with the district attorney.  You had a moment of temporary insanity.  Your family is fed.  We have a big party after our Christmas Eve Vespers service.  There is a vespers service every night here, but this one is special.  When you get to your apartment afterwards, you will find that someone has visited every room while we were worshipping God.  I want to introduce you to a few people.  You will need counseling.  I will introduce you to a good Christian counselor tonight and she works at the mission downtown.  The service will be free for you while you are under the umbrella of the mission.

The door suddenly opened, and Sandy Beech walked in.  “Pink, vespers is about to start and you were supposed to do the prayer.  This is the big Christmas Eve Bash and we don’t want to keep the children waiting.”

“Sandy, I am sure that you have met Griffin Grunge.”  I turned to Mr. Grunge.  “Sandy is our head of security and it will be part of her responsibilities to make sure you do not take a run for it.  She will also escort you to the D. A. office after the holidays.”  I turned back to Sandy. “Have Boaz tell some stories about his unusual childhood.  I will be there shortly.  And where is the family of Mr. Grunge?”

Sandy said that they were right up on the front row.  Jochebed was with them, ready to nurse the baby.  With that, Sandy was on her way to the greenhouse where everyone was gathered.

“Okay, Mr. Grunge, I guess our meet and greet time can wait until tomorrow or the next day, since tomorrow is Christmas.  I want you to meet Zuzka and Jim Kaiser.  You might meet them tonight, but we need it to be a formal setting.”

I continued, “I wanted you to take a tour.  Your bracelet is set so that you can go anywhere in the Lily the Pink complex without setting off an alarm, except for maybe the extended apartment buildings.  Your apartment is in the main building.  We renovated one floor to handle nothing but families.  Let’s go through the den and out into the greenhouse, but most of the employees call it the jungle.  To the right is the apartment building and just past there is the bakery.  To the left is the cider house.  Straight ahead past the swimming pool and the beach volleyball court, there is the carbon recovery system and the water treatment plant.  The new sewer system is going to be built between the bakery and a series of apartment buildings, but those are outside the umbrella of the greenhouse.  You might set off an alarm on your ankle bracelet going past the sewer plant construction area.  When Zuzka dreams up something and our ragtag collection of supervisors approves it, she has a way of getting things moving.  Of course, Jim Kaiser, our engineer, does not like the idea of a Christmas shutdown so much.  He uses the down time to do maintenance projects that have been postponed due to production requirements.  But even he is off today and tomorrow.  Even with the cider house shut down, you can smell a little apple and cinnamon in the air.  They have been cleaning the vats.”

Griffin Grunge grumbled, “Looks like the rich showing off to me.  All this is so unnecessary.”

I smiled, “I disagree.  This started going up when we started having families from the mission staying here.  This allows them to dream.  They live here rent free until they get a job here.  Then some of their pay is held back as rent, depending on how much their pay is.  No one could get an apartment for my top price anywhere in Tracy, but the apartments are not available for the general public.  I am trying to give back and level the playing field at the same time.  Maybe one of these children will become president of the United States someday, maybe one of yours.”

At this point we walked between two large tree trunks that were really hot water tanks in disguise.  The scene in front of us was that of a huge gathering.  The beach volleyball court was covered with interlocking panels so that chairs could be set up.  The bleachers were full with families and the Grunge family was on the front row listening to the mayor talk about Christmas in the monastery.

Griffin Grunge mumbled, “Hunh?”  He must have remembered me mentioning the monastery earlier, but he still had not made the connection.

When Boaz saw us approach, he quickly ended his story.  “And now that we are all here, except for Jim Kaiser’s vat cleaning crew that did not finish by their deadline, I have an announcement before the vespers service starts.  Sandy?  Will you join me?”  Sandy arose to the stage. “I want my family here to be the first to know.  Sandy has graciously agreed to marry me.  We might even arrange with Otto and Zuzka for a double wedding, similar to the one this past June.”  There was a roar of cheers and well-wishes from everyone in the crowd.  Boaz and Sandy embraced and kissed.  I looked at Griffin Grunge and he looked as white as a sheet.  The lady responsible with always knowing where he was happened to be the fiancée of the man he tried to kill.

Boaz then gathered his composure.  “And now to give our brief vespers message tonight, and one that was cobbled together at the last minute, I would like to welcome my mother, CEO of Lily the Pink Enterprises, Pink Lady Apple Yeggs.”  Again, the crowd erupted in applause.

Griffin Grunge looked at me in fear, “You tricked me!”  Before he could say more, his wife took him by the arm and led him to his chair, front row, center.  But I could tell his knees were wobbly.

I bowed my head in a silent prayer for a few seconds.  The rustling of paper and the noise of hundreds of soft whispers died down to silence.

I started, “This is our first Christmas as a totally free enterprise here at Lily the Pink.  Last Christmas we were being oppressed by members of a criminal organization.  I want this to be our first annual  organized Christmas celebration.  Christ came into the world in the flesh to live among us.  He experienced what we experience.  He laughed; He cried; He suffered, He died.  But He rose again.  He died carrying our sin so that we might be free.  But that freedom does not come with no cost.  It is free in that no one can buy it, but we must commit our lives to Jesus.  Can I have Rev. C.S.L. read Matthew 6:5-15 please?”

The good reverend got up and read those words from the Sermon on the Mount about prayer.  As he read the prayer, everyone said it with him.

I stood back at the podium, pulpit for the moment.  “Jesus taught His lesson by explaining the wrong way to pray, then giving an example prayer, and then giving the right attitude in which to pray.  If we do not forgive others, how could we ever expect God to forgive us?”  I paused, a little too long.  The rustling began.  We would have to get more comfortable bleachers before next year.  “This afternoon, my beloved son, not God’s beloved Son, Jesus, but Boaz, mayor of Tracy, duly elected after taking the office on an interim basis nearly a year ago…  My son was attacked by someone with a bow and arrow.  The assassin thought that if he could stop the announcement that Santa Claus was on his way, Christmas would be cancelled, or at least postponed.  Jim Wednesday, I owe you a hug, one for each day for the rest of my life.  You tipping the bow saved my son’s life.  When I heard what had happened and that Boaz came away without a scratch, I wanted to kill the archer.”  There were a few gasps in the crowd.  Grunge groaned and looked at the floor.  “But the more my anger burned, the more these words repeated in my mind.  For me to be forgiven, and I have much in which to be forgiven, I had to forgive those who have hurt me.  And all you mothers know that if someone hurts your child, you hurt.”

“I struggled, but the teachings of Jesus were more important than any type of revenge.” I turned to Griffin Grunge.  “Mr. Grunge, will you look me in the eyes?”  His wife nudged him, and he looked at me.  I saw tears in his eyes.  “Mr. Grunge, Griffin, I forgive you.  I expect that you will not do that again, but I forgive you.  And as you kept saying to the police and then to me, if you only had a job, this nightmare will be over.  You have a place to live.  Your wife has a parttime job and we may make it full time.”  Grunge looked at his wife with a puzzled look.  She nodded with excitement.  Greta Grunge was an RN, and my RN crew worked twelve hour shifts to cover 24/7 at the cider house.  Then when someone scraped a knee at the apartments, they left the cider house uncovered.  And when someone took vacation or was sick, it meant a lot of overtime for everyone else.  The nurses gladly agreed for at least parttime help.  I had to get Tommie Tat, my comptroller, to crunch the numbers when Greta felt healthy enough to work full time.  But with Grunge having a little good news, could he handle more?  “And my next announcement is pending a couple of interviews.  Mr. Grunge, I am tentatively offering you a job as a draftsman, designer at Lily the Pink.  What you see before you is a miracle.  Zuzka kept dreaming and the mechanical engineering department at T.R.U.S.T. kept pumping out drawings and designing this structure and getting everything fabricated and constructed.  I expect a few master’s degree theses to go before the boards based on what has been done here.  This type of construction should take years, but not with my dynamo for a project manager.  She has spent a lot of my profits for the past ten years.”  There was a little polite laughter in the crowd.

“I was also accused today of building a rich person’s fantasy here, but I have done this so that the folks from the mission will have a nice place to live and have their children grow up with hope of a better life.  Let’s get good grades in school first.  Then, let’s talk about scholarships.  While Zuzka’s dreams are of an efficient operation for Lily the Pink that is environmentally friendly and energy efficient, my dream is found in the children sitting here before me.  And thinking of the children, Zuzka has a children’s message.  Since there are so many children here tonight, I want only the Grunge girls to come forward.  They will represent everyone.”

Zuzka sat in a chair in the center of the stage in traditional Latvian attire.  Come Grace and Gretchen.” The two little girls stepped onto the stage and ran to be next to her.  Grunge was confused that they did not show any stranger danger syndrome.  Greta nodded.  Zuzka must have spent time with them beforehand.  “You may think this is a costume, but this is Latvian clothing that we wear to show we are Latvians.  But near Christmas is the winter solstice.  That is the shortest day in the year.  An old pagan custom in Latvia is that we dress like mummers.  We dress in costumes and beg the pagan gods to return the sun.  Well, we know that almighty God created the sun, and we have four seasons.  Just as soon as we reach the winter solstice, the days slowly start to get longer.  But in Latvian tradition, the mummers come to a house in costume and bless the house, and then they get food in return.  It is kind of like Trick or Treat.  But do you want to see one of the costumes?  Many women dress with parts of trees as their hats.”  Rota and Irusya, Zuzka’s unmarried Latvian friends, appeared with a cone made of birchbark.  They placed it on Zuzka’s head.  Zuzka stood up.  Zuzka is well over six feet tall, and the hat was easily four feet tall.  The Grunge girls giggled.  Zuzka said, “This is silly!  I can’t go into a house and bless it, when I am too tall to fit?”

She sat back down.  Rota and Irusya took the birchbark hat off.  “But because Latvian winters can be very cold, we often use fur masks.  The mummers might look like an animal.  Maybe a wolf!”  Stasya, Zuzka’s married Latvian friend, and Jim Kaiser, her husband, appeared with some items of fur.  Zuzka put on fur gloves and the fur mask.  Other than an oversized opening for the eyes, she looked like a wolf.  I heard Griffin Grunge say, “Here comes the bloodcurdling scream from Gretchen.”  But there was no scream.  Instead, a heart-warming belly laugh.

Zuzka asked the girls to come in close.  “Do you want to pray with me to bless this house?”  They nodded.  “Grace, whatever I say, you repeat it.”  Grace nodded, then Zuzka said two or three words at a time, and everyone in the crowd responded along with Grace.  “Dear Lord, bless this house.  Bring your Holy Spirit to guide us, strengthen us, and for those who do not know you, to save us.  Make this house a house of Love, a house of Hope, a house of Joy, and a house where we always glorify You, oh Lord. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.”

The kids went back to their parents, still giggling.  Greta looked at her husband and said softly, “We have never been to church since we were not much older than Grace, but I love it here.  I do not want to ever miss a vespers service, and they say that they have buses here to take people to church on Sunday.  Please, Griff, for me and the children?”  He was still shaken by everything that had happened.  He nodded.  I was thinking that Zuzka’s “mummer” blessing was working already.

We sang Christmas Carols, ending with Silent Night!  Then Rev. C.S.L. returned to the front.  “This is a little irregular, but Pink Lady wanted to serve communion for all who profess faith in Jesus Christ.  For bread, Scrambled and Otto have baked some unleavened bread.  We will have everyone form four lines.  Two on either side, one for those in the volleyball court and one for those in the stands.  Hopefully this works out.  We will use intinction, where you tear off a piece of bread and then dip it in the wine.  I understand that the wine was made here also.  Not cider, but wine.”  He then explained what happened during the Lord’s Supper and he prayed.  He had Glyce and Deviled Yeggs, both elders in the church though they were not on the session at the time, and he enlisted two of the ruling elders from the church to come with him.  It was a wonderful part of the service.  The pastor ended with a benediction.

As everyone went to the swimming pool, which was closed for the night, but open for refreshments fresh from the bakery, I listened in on the Grunge conversation.  Griff wanted to know about the Hills and especially Jochebed, since Jochebed had held little Grayson Grunge throughout the service.  Greta explained how Jochebed, Resurrection, and Esther had survived raids who were targeting Christians.  Tyler Hill had promised to get them to the USA and take care of them.  About that time, Zuzka came up, picked up Gretchen, the two-year-old, and spun her around over her head.  With Zuzka being nearly a head taller than everyone else, Gretchen giggled as she could look down on everyone.

Through it all, Griff Grunge was stiff and aloof.  Finally Greta asked, “What’s wrong, Griff?”

He replied, “Last night and this afternoon, I nearly ruined everything.  I just cannot make sense of any of this.  It is what we wanted, but I feel that I do not deserve it.”

Greta Grunge shook her head, “Don’t think too hard, dear.  Maybe it’s Christian love that we never experienced before, or it’s another Christmas miracle.”  They embraced.  It looked like he was starting to loosen up a bit.

Then a boy who had gone to his family’s apartment to go to the bathroom returned.  “Come on, everybody!  Santa came while we were at the service!  We hit the mother load!”

Sandy screamed, “Hold it! Hold it! In an orderly fashion.  We do not want a stampede!”

Jim Kaiser whispered in my ear, “The vat cleaning crew were finished three days ago, but they came back tonight to make noise so no one heard the delivery trucks unloading everything.”

With tears in my eyes, “Yes, Jim, another Christmas miracle.”

Within the next few weeks, Griffin Grunge became a productive member of our staff, working for Jim Kaiser directly, but he had a creative way of taking some of Zuzka’s wild dreams and creating something practical.  And Resurrection and Esther became best friends of Grace and Gretchen.  The four were inseparable.

Credits

I got the ideas of Latvian mummers from a couple of websites that spoke of odd Christmas traditions around the world.

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