Dust

It was a hot summer evening and Lacy contemplated the setting sun from her perch by the window.  The dust shifted slightly as the wind blew.  She hadn’t seen rain for so long, she wondered if it would ever come back again.  The desolate landscape, empty buildings – sometimes they would get to her.

A portable Walkman CD player sat beside her and she picked it up and walked to the stacks of music – she looked through the stacks of CDs and finally found the one she wanted.  “Klemperer Beethoven Symphony No. 9 Choral” were printed on the front cover of the CD. She popped it into the Walkman – her walkman, really – and went back to looking out the window.  Night was coming on fast and with it, tendrils of sleep began to mingle with Lacy’s thoughts as she drifted off to sleep.

***

Lacy jolted awake.  She heard a ping as something hit the window beside her head.  She looked out quickly, surveying the street.  Her eyes locked on a boy, not much older than herself, who was getting ready to throw another rock at the window.  She backed away from the window and moved towards the large glass doors, yelling as she exited.

“Hey, stop throwing rocks at the window!”

The boy looked at her and a rock flew from his grasp, hitting her in the head. The impact knocked her back and, sitting down, she felt a trickle of blood make its way down her forehead and nose, until it reached her lips.  The metallic taste made its way to her mouth, and a surge of nausea came over her.  She had to work hard to steady herself, especially when she noticed that the boy was advancing on her.

She started to get up to walk inside, but the boy’s words stopped her.

“I’m sorry for hitting you in the head.”

She looked at him.

“Well, why did you do it?”

“I don’t know.  I guess I didn’t know what to expect.  I was a bit scared, I guess.”

“Why?”

“It’s been a while since I’ve seen anybody.  I mean, after … ”

He stopped there.  He didn’t need to explain it – she already knew what he was talking about.  The memories remained with her.  In actuality, it wasn’t really a sudden collapse.  It wasn’t just one thing that happened, but rather a multitude.  The US had become a militant nation, a virulent strain of HIV that began infecting people by the millions and with people dying left and right, it wasn’t long before the revolution took hold.  But then, it was too late.  The already collapsing economy imploded, and amidst the blood and violence, very few remained alive.  And those that did knew how to protect themselves.  Lacy remembered her parents vaguely – remembered the privileged lives they’d had before everything fell apart.  She remembered ice cream and trips to the beach.  But now that was all behind her.  Dust and heat was all that was left.

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Reality TV Show

“On tonight’s special edition of ‘Surprise,Surprise’, contestants will have to wade through a pit of dangerous, poisonous scorpions to retrieve the blue flag in the center of the pit.  To win, the contestant must retrieve the flag and return to the starting area.”

Freddy watched intently, excitedly as the contestants were revealed.  Using his intense powers of perception, he concluded that the rugged brunette Brigette would win.  He was rarely wrong.

“Joanna Somers!  Come on up.”

Joanna, a petite blond, stepped up to the starting area.

“So, Joanna, what’s your strategy?”

The blond trembled and looked around.  “I … I don’t think you can really have a strategy for walking through a pit full of scorpions.  Just do it quickly.”

“Mmhmm…  So what’s your plan?”

Joanna’s face became bright red and she refused to respond.

The announcer started the countdown, “On your mark, get set, go…”

A shrill whistle blew on the last word and Joanna climbed the steps into the pit of scorpions.  The camera followed her, taking shots at different angles to show the scorpions climbing on her arms and pinching her.  She squirmed and started falling into the pit well before she reached the blue flag.  Her body became covered in scorpions.

Suddenly, 3 people in protective suits arrived on the scene with a gurney.  They quickly and deftly opened a side door to the pit and pulled Joanna out, laying her on the gurney and wheeling her out.  One of her exposed legs was black and blue.

“Well, too bad Joanna couldn’t make it.  I guess we’ll have to go on to our next contestant.”

The next few followed a similar fate, jumping in and getting stung and bitten by the scorpions.  Freddy watched with horror and fascination.

Soon, it was Brigette’s turn to go through the harrowing obstacle.  A look of determination adorned her face as she awaiting the signal to begin.

Freddy became more excited than he had been before.  He thought, for a moment, that his breathing pattern matched that of Brigette’s.   He could feel adrenaline rushing through his body as the whistle sounded.

Brigette jumped into the pit.  Freddy felt a pinch on his leg.  And the another and the another.  They hurt.

While Brigette made her way to the flag, Freddy looked down at his leg and noticed bit marks.  Soon enough, nickel sized red spots appeared all over his legs, and they began to turn black and blue.

He looked at the TV, unable to take his eyes away from it, as Brigette reached the blue flag, her skin unmarred.  The announcer looked on in surprise as well.

“Remarkably, Brigette has not even been scratched by the scorpions.  What is this miraculous happening?  How has she been able to do this?  Look at her stride back to the starting area without a scratch on her.”

The announcer practically threw the microphone in her face as she descended the stairs, “How does it feel to get out of there completely unscathed?”

“It feels great.  I don’t know how it was done, but I would like to say thanks to Freddy, for his unwavering support.”

Freddy’s glazed, dead eyes stared at the screen.

Life Ends

It is with a heavy heart that I write this post.  To be quite honest, it’s been a pretty rough few weeks.  I normally wouldn’t even write something so personal here, but I need to get it out and share.  In the past two weeks, I have had news of two deaths of close relatives.  First was my biological father, who passed due to a massive heart attack.  And just last Saturday, my grandfather, who was ill with cancer, also exited this world.

I haven’t really mourned, or had time to.  My life is hard as a single parent, and keeping it “together” is something I normally do very well.  But these two deaths in such a short period of time have left me a bit raw.

Of these two men, I was closest to my grandfather.  As a young girl and just recently adopted, my adopted mother decided to move us across country to Virginia where her family lived.  So we drove from Montana to Virginia in our red Jeep Cherokee, to a new home and a new family far away from what my sister and I had previously known.  Moving can be scary, especially when becoming accustomed to new people and this was no different.  Upon arriving to our new home, I remember how the room selection process went, with my sister automatically claiming the first room she saw as hers.  Coincidentally, I ended up getting the larger of the two rooms meant for us. 

I don’t really remember that first meeting with my new grandmother and grandfather, but I can tell you that they both filled my childhood with much happiness.  I remember all of the funny Halloween costumes that my grandfather wore, like the year he dressed up as a ballerina.  And the time he dressed up as Dracula and jumped out of a closet, surprising my sister.  I remember going over to their house and playing checkers.  Or the few times that my sister and I purposefully missed the bus so that my grandfather could drive us to school.  Although they acted as our grandparents, to me they were so much more than that. 

He was that type of person, somewhat larger than life.  I only remember him ever being mad once, and I don’t even remember the details.  As I grew up, our relationship changed, as all relationships do.  We both shared a love of science and it was through him that I learned about the stars – he even built his own telescope!  Although he may not have known it then, he was in a sense a surrogate father, one of a few that I have had over the years.  It’s difficult not to look up to someone like him.  He was one of the most caring people I’ve ever met, and his presence was always one which inspired happiness and laughter and just an all around feeling of comfort.  He always inspired me and was supportive of my dreams and goals.  For him, I was an intelligent person, someone who was worthy of love and acceptance.  When I heard of his passing recently, it was difficult not to think about all of the things I should have done or could have done with him.   

My father, on the other hand, was someone I barely knew.  You may laugh at this, but I found him through Facebook.  I was speaking with my biological mother on the phone one day when I asked her about him and was able to find a Facebook profile that matched the information she gave me. 

Our first telephone conversation was odd – was this really my father?  Another unknown had entered my life.  While he gushed about how he had missed me and had been trying to find me, doubts were raised in my mind.  I found it hard to believe, but I decided that for better or for worse, this must be my father.  He wanted me to go visit him in Dallas, but I was never able to get the money together to go out there.  We rarely spoke by phone, but some of that may have been due to some very serious issues I was dealing with myself – caught up in bouts of anxiety and depression and having been recently diagnosed with PTSD, I find it not at all surprising that my energy stores were depleted.  I just didn’t have the energy to devote to anything – every day was a new battle that left me weary.  No situation is ever perfect and I just wish I had been able to get to know him better before he passed.

Moving Day – Writing 101, Day 18

It was a hot day in July when Mrs. Pauley was finally evicted from her apartment.  I remember my mother telling me, in whispers, that her husband had recently died and why didn’t her sons help her pay for the apartment, seven should be able to come up with the money to help out their old, ailing mother.  Apparently not.  3 months had passed since her husband died from a heart attack, and nobody helped her out. 

I sat on the stoop of my house, headphones on, walkman in hand, listening to New Kids on the Block.  The headphones weren’t that comfortable and although I’d asked my parents for a new pair for Christmas, they’d just told me to deal with it and be happy with what I already had.

The police arrived just when my favorite song, What’cha Gonna Do About It, came on.  I watched as the landlord gestured angrily at the apartment and then at the police.  The police went into the house, she rented the upstairs.  When the police brought her out, she was wearing a bath robe and slippers, her thin legs nothing like what I remembered them being, strong tree trunks.  She looked like a walking corpse.

I took my headphones off so I could hear what they were saying.

“Ma’am, we know you’ve recently lost your husband and we’ll help you out as much as we can.  Please come with us.”

“But… my china!  My photos!  I can’t!  Don’t you see!  It’s unfair!”

She wailed.  I felt sorry for her.  The police were being as nice to her as they could be.  Mr. Lufton, the landlord, just stood to the side in his suit, not looking at her.  I’d always thought he was evil, but today he looked even more so than normal.

“I’ve lived here for 40 years and never missed a month’s rent!”  she yelled, looking at Mr. Lufton, “Charles practically paid for this house!  How can you do this?”

She wailed, and fell to her knees.  The policeman tried to pick her up, but she resisted.

At that moment, my mom came out the front door and started towards the police.  The way she walked – head held up high, long, confident strides – showed she meant business.  I looked on as she quietly spoke with the police officers.  Mrs. Pauley looked up, her tears still flowing, but the miserable look upon her face disappearing little by little.  I wondered what my mom was doing.

She walked over to Mrs. Pauley and helped her get up and led her to our house.

Mom looked at me, “Nick, Mrs. Pauley is going to be staying in the guest room for a few days while we help her figure everything out.”

The police left and so did the landlord, looking frustrated.  I later found out that my dad helped her pay the rent that she owed on the apartment and also get her a pension that had been left for her by her husband.  My mom whispered to me that women should always know these things and that, thanks to the Women’s Rights Movement, women now had more control over their lives than ever and thankfully dad was able to help her out and how could her sons not be present in such a moment and it was our responsibility as citizens of the world to help out those in need, especially old women like Mrs. Pauley.

A Study of Fear – Writing 101, Day 17

Fear.  It’s something that we are all familiar with, something that lies in the depths of each of our souls, waiting for the best moment and …. BOOM!  Here it is – hands shaking, skin tingling, face flushing.  Going down in a glass elevator, reaching the top of the Empire State building, public speaking, germs are everywhere, new job interview, never knowing, knowing it all and wishing you didn’t, getting fired, seeing your ex unexpectedly, the lights go out, the boogie man, ants, tarantulas, insects crawling across you at night, seeing a ghost, seeing the Devil, seeing God, seeing an angel, going to the principals office…

I look in the mirror and realize that the only thing to fear is my own imagination!

 

In Your Eyes – Writing 101, Day 9

The old woman sat on the bench, knitting a red sweater. She was given to doing charity work and, due to retirement, now found herself with more time than ever to continue with what she considered to be her contribution to a better world. This particular sweater was special to her – her granddaughter, Claudia, had been wearing a similar red sweater the last time she saw her. Remembrance caused a tear to fall from her frail eyes – she had learned that losing a loved one was never easy, but when they were so young and full of hope it was even more difficult. She took her glasses off for a moment to wipe her eyes and, upon putting them back on, spotted a couple walking up the trail towards her. The old woman had seen the young lady before on many occasions, although this was the first time she’d seen the man. She wondered why he was crying, but the look on his face said enough – heartbreak.

The man, his name is John, was looking at Sandra, his girlfriend. He was an anxious ball of energy. Tears streamed from his eyes.  His thoughts raced from one thing to the next, never staying on one subject for any particular amount of time.  How could this happen?  To him? To her? Why?Whywhywhywhy… It all seemed like too much at once.  He wasn’t sure how he’d break the news to his family or how he’d deal with it.  He looked up momentarily, his red eyes on the old woman sitting on the bend.  How dare she share in this moment he thought, before bowing his head and shuffling on, Sandra’s hand

Sandra seemed to be faring slightly better.  An angelic gleam surrounded her as she held John’s hand.

“I was a bit surprised as well John, but I just found out myself,” she said to him.

“Sandra, I’m just taken by surprise.  We were always so careful.”

“I know, but there’s nothing we can do about it now.”

“Well, yes there is!” he exclaimed.

Sandra knew it would come to this and she already had a speech prepared.  At the last moment, it failed her, so she responded quietly yet firmly.

“No.”

Bucket List

Recently, in a conversation with my son, he asked me what was on my bucket list (no doubt inspired by my friend who shared hers with him). I got to thinking and decided that it was high time I made one. I mean, at one point I made a list of all the things I wanted to do before my 30th birthday, but as that day looms ever closer, I haven’t met any of them that I can think of.  So, here’s my bucket list, (the incomplete one.)

  1. Publish a novel.
  2. Go skydiving
  3. Take a cross country road trip
  4. Live abroad for at least a year
  5. Get my doctorate
  6. Learn a new musical instrument
  7. Play trumpet in a salsa band
  8. Join a jazz band
  9. Take a ride in a hot air balloon
  10. Go snorkeling (and finally conquer my fear of the ocean all at once)
  11. Learn a 3rd and 4th language (3rd language already in progress…)
  12. Learn how to cook dishes from as many countries as possible.

These are really just a few of the things I’d really like to do. But a bucket list doesn’t really encompass non-tactile goals, in my opinion. I think of these as long term goals more than anything – not really items one puts on a bucket list because they’re never really finished. Like finally having inner peace. Or coming to terms with the fact that the world and the people in it will never meet my own lofty ideas of what they should be. Even I have trouble meeting my own criteria for what I should be.

One reason that I haven’t made a bucket list in the past is that it also feels somewhat limiting.  My goals for myself may change in the near future, and why limit myself to just this list?

So now, I’m going to make a list of things I HAVE accomplished:

  1. I have a son.
  2. I have a job
  3. I graduated with an MA in Spanish Literature
  4. I’ve mastered a second language
  5. I’ve visited Mexico
  6. I’ve written lots of short stories
  7. I made my own Halloween costume last year (with almost no previous experience with a sewing machine)
  8. I installed a radio in my car with minimal male assistance (I stripped some screws…)
  9. I learned how to cook Mexican food (authentic)
  10. I’ve read the whole Wheel of Time series.
  11. I started a blog.

I realize more and more that I’m really focused on the future and sometimes, for this reason, I forget the past.  I have forgotten the past.  I’m the first person in my family to graduate from college with a graduate degree.  I think that’s pretty amazing in and of itself.  Sometimes it’s nice to remind myself what I have overcome – this realization helps me to push forward and strive for the best for myself in the future.