Posted in Short Story

Pumpkin Snatchers

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Halloween is a special holiday. It’s a day allowing kids, and even adults, to become anything they want for a night. Halloween is the only day that allows people to delve into the darkest part of their soul and display it on the outside. A day where people do not have to hide their sense of humor. Halloween has always been my favorite holiday until this year. This year I am angry because some asshole is destroying all the pumpkins in the neighborhood. My house, this Halloween morning, was finally hit. There is almost nothing left of my pumpkin, and even the Big Brown bats and crows are acting disturbed.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Mr. Wilson has been my neighbor for 17 years. He never had kids. His wife died two years after their wedding day, and he never re-married. He loves kids though, and his house has always been a favorite to go to for the trick-or-treaters. He buys lots of candy, and he always has a few regular-sized candy bars hidden in the snack-size treat bowl. Those who get the large bars scream with excitement and make the other kids jealous. Yes – his house has always added joy to my favorite holiday – but this year was looking to be different.

Mr. Wilson was on his sidewalk looking toward his house. His old and ratty LA Dodgers hat was held in his hand while scratching the over-sized bald spot on the top of his head. He did not look cheery at all. Instead my favorite old man was visibly upset.

“Good morning Mr. Wilson. Is everything okay?” I asked.

“Good morning Tim. No – it certainly is not. I spent hours carving that 20 pound pumpkin – and I woke up this morning to almost nothing left of it. Someone destroyed it, and left me only a small piece to remind me of my hard work! Who would do that?”

I could feel my forehead frown as I searched for the proper reply. “That is terrible! I will help carve another one. I purchased 2 pumpkins and only carved one so far. Can I bring it over and we will work together on it?”

“Maybe later. I was going to buy my candy today, but now I am not so sure I am doing that either.”

He walked off clearly annoyed. I knew better than to press the issue further.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

“Tim, are you home?” my wife called out while walking through the door.

“Yes. How was work?” I asked while walking through the door of our basement.

“Work was fine, but two more houses have had their pumpkins destroyed. Angela and Rodney had the same thing happen as Mr. Wilson. Some kids must think they are being funny, but I am starting to wonder if there is any point to us having our pumpkins out.”

“I am way ahead of you. I knew about Rodney – that happened yesterday. Eight houses have now been hit and they seem to be working their way down the neighborhood. So I moved our pumpkins to the back yard. The small one even fit on the fence of the garden. I will put them out Halloween night for the kids to see.”

“I am starting to re-think my pumpkin costume for this year. I don’t want anyone taking me.”

“I would never let that happen” I said while kissing her neck.

Kathy smiled and walked upstairs to change out of her work clothes.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017. Morning

Several neighbors brought their pumpkins into their garages after 10 houses were plagued by the pumpkin thief. I left mine outback, and besides our bulldog, Beast, lifting his leg on one, they were in perfect condition.

Living near Castlewood Canyon in Colorado has always given Halloween a better atmosphere than I had when we lived in Salina, Kansas. Bats and crows are common to see here, and what better way to set the mood for Halloween then to have these mammals and birds decorating the sky? But even they have been acting different this month. Are they watching the pumpkin snatchers? I couldn’t help but wonder.

Putting on gloves, thanks to my dog, I went to get the pumpkins from the backyard. Mr. Wilson never took me up on carving the second one, and he didn’t replace the one destroyed either. I did hear he caved and bought candy, but rumor was the selection would be different this year. He was clearly still upset.

Two neighbors replaced their pumpkins only to have those destroyed and taken too. The neighborhood was less cheery thanks to the pumpkin snatchers. I was hoping the mood would change in time for kids to come knocking on doors for treats.

When I walked out to my backyard I could not believe what I saw. The pumpkin on my deck was destroyed. I couldn’t help but laugh knowing the snatchers had dog urine on their hands. My laugh quickly turned to unbelief when I looked at the pumpkin on my garden fence. Not only was it half gone, but I caught the pumpkin thief red-handed! He was eating the pumpkin, and he was completely content with me watching his destruction!

“Well, that is not the asshole I was expecting” I said allowed. Just then my wife came outside and started laughing. She took a picture of the thief with her phone.

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“Let’s go tell the neighbors and restore the cheer in this neighborhood” she said.

While I never imagined a squirrel would be the pumpkin snatcher – I also wondered how many were part of the destruction. After all – hundreds of pounds of pumpkin had been consumed. Maybe that is why the bats and crows were acting funny. The squirrels must be taking over their neighborhood!

Posted in Short Story

A Little Hope

Train

I tried. Not once. Not twice. More than I am capable of counting really. Why? Hope. The promise of hope. I thought I had it, and maybe I do, but I don’t have hope in you. Maybe I lost hope when I started thinking about it, what it should be, or where it wasn’t. My investigation – my thinking – made me wonder who or what was to blame for losing it. I am alone, so there is only one person to point the finger to, but I can’t even do that, even if I hate you most.

The mirror laughs now at the ugliness of a reflection. The torment never goes away. This person who stole my life, and wears this clueless look on her face at all times, is always there. Her eyes – they are dark now and cynical. Her brown hair is as lifeless as her eyes. Weight loss only highlights the negatives as age and time are no longer covered. So, I cover the mirror with a towel just to make her go away. It’s the only way she exists you know. This ghostly shell of a person roaming around the living. Well – Not in my house! I tried, remember? She just wouldn’t learn so banishing her is the only way. Occasionally a reflection in a window gives me a glimpse of her, but I am quick to look away. I refuse to give her life elsewhere. Be gone! Please be gone.


“Hope? Are you okay?” A voice jolts me back to reality.

“Sssory Grace. My mind was blank for a moment. I am having one of those days I guess.” I tried to laugh off my embarrassment while feeling annoyed she was there.

“No worries! We all have those days” she offered while holding open the library door. I found her smile and niceness irritating.

Grace was always graceful. Annoyingly graceful. She never left anyone the fool even when a fool was needed for the story. She was nice to everybody. It’s hard to feel special that way. I guess it beats being the one person she isn’t graceful to. Her bright red hair, naturally rosy cheeks, bright blue eyes and bubbly personality prove life can be inside a person. Can I have an ounce of your grace please? Surely that would make me a more tolerant person.

I left Grace and started looking around in the library. The building was beautiful from floor to ceiling, but the bookshelves had seen better days. The shelves used to be full of books, but now space was more obvious. Are we forgetting to read books you can hold now? You lose half the experience reading stories on a screen. Newspapers and new books will eventually be reduced to candle scents for us to have the smells at all. Somehow vanilla and lavender are the top candle scents to buy, but like anything else, it will change – eventually.


Destiny was watching me as I looked for a book to read. Her eyes were sure and unforgiving. She didn’t break her stare when you looked back at her either. She wanted you to know she was watching you. But why? Its irritating.

Distracted by Destiny I didn’t realize I had moved to a section of books I would never read. They were all business and self-help books. These are the books that belong on a screen! No need to own or hold one of these guys. Rolling my eyes I looked up only to find Destiny was no longer watching me. I guess she doesn’t like these books either. Only me. Lucky me.

Looking back at the shelf my eyes found a small book titled “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson. M.D. I guess the good doctor wrote something too long for an article, and too short for a real-sized book, so he stuffed in a child-sized book instead. Curiosity, and not wanting to change aisles only to find Destiny watching me, made choosing to read the book my only option. I found it funny that it was much easier to find a chair to sit and read in this section. Go figure!

Well, it started with 2 mice and 2 little people with the names of Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw who were searching for cheese. Seriously! I don’t understand how is this book not in the children’s section? It was a short read but long too because it made me think about things I didn’t want to think about. One page said “When you stop being afraid, you feel good!” It made me think about covering the mirror with a towel to keep “her” away. I didn’t think I feared her. Now I am wondering if I do.

“Sometimes losing something to change means also gaining something better from change.” Okay – this line is absolute crap and clearly makes this book belong in the fairytale section. I lost my parents when I was 17. That was a change. You want to know what came from it? Nothing better I can assure you. Just years of misery followed that change as it left a young girl very lost.

I finished the book and chuckled a little when I noticed Destiny was watching me put the book away. I guess curiosity gets the best of her too. She should read this book. That will take care of that! Walking toward her I decided to end the staring contest with conversation.

“I guess I am too interesting for you to find a book to read yourself?”

“What are you talking about? I look for inspiration here just like everyone else.”

“Come on. I saw you watching me until I got to the boring book section. You should read what I was reading – it will make you laugh and want to bang your head against the wall at the same time.”

Destiny shook her head slowly and said “I was just doing my job.”

She looked at me with disappointment when I clearly didn’t get her point. She walked away and didn’t look back. I should feel happy about her not needing to watch me but it bothered me instead. What the hell was wrong with me? And why was that stupid book still in my head? I haven’t lost my cheese. Life – sure! But not the need to hunt for cheese.

The library was starting to feel like the twilight zone and I needed to get out. My one safe place made me feel out of place. What else could go wrong?


I left the library with nowhere to go, and I didn’t want to go back home where “she” was lurking. I needed to get a book, but the little people stole that idea.

I decided to take the light rail train downtown and watch people roaming around the 16th Street Mall. I will be the watcher for once. It will keep my mind off of my own lack of life anyway.

Boarding the train at the Parker Station I was surprised to find the train was full. 10:15a on a Wednesday should have offered a practically empty train. I could only find one empty seat and it was next to an interesting young woman. She had beautiful straight black hair, olive toned skin and no makeup that I could see. She was dressed in a dress that looked like something a mom would make for a young girl pattern wise. It had bright orange and yellow sunflowers against a stiffer white material. She smiled while I was looking at her and motioned for me to take the seat.

“Thank you” I said. “I was surprised to see the train so full. Is there an event happening somewhere that I don’t know about?”

“I’m not sure. I’m just going to work but I never work at the same place, so I didn’t know if this was a normal crowd or not. My name is Hayati. What’s yours?”

“That’s an interesting name.”

“It comes from my Indian heritage. Its meaning is Life Presence.”

She spoke with kindness and in a soft whisper which was weird. I was at ease and super uncomfortable all at the same time. Her quiet voice was somehow perfectly clear in the crowded car. I guess the twilight zone is following me!

“My name is Hope” I finally offered. “My parents were comedians.”

My sarcasm confused her and she was quiet after and just stared out the window. I wanted to run away. Her presence made me feel out of place even if she was the one who looked it. I wished I was more like her even if I didn’t know what that would mean. Stupid thoughts – go away!

We reached 16th and California Station quickly which helped to end the uncomfortable silence that had monopolized the trip. I was disappointed to see she was also getting off here. Stepping off the train I decided to break the silence. I was on a role with that today.

“Do you work on the strip?”

“Sometimes. I work all over but today I was assigned here.”

“So, what is it you do exactly?”

“It’s hard to explain. I help people I guess you could say. I would like to walk around with you for a while. Would that be okay?”

“Are you thinking I’m the one who needs help?” I asked feeling a bit offended.

“I was just looking for company” she replied reassuringly.

“Ummm sure. Okay then. I didn’t have anywhere particular to go. I just wanted to come watch people for a while.”

“Why?” she asked with genuine curiosity.

“Long story short – I couldn’t find a book in the library today.”

She smiled like she understood and we just started walking. The universe was offering a very strange day. Is there a full moon bringing all these strange women into my life? What was I doing to deserve their company?

“Why did you say your parents were comedians?”

Her question startled my thoughts. “Oh, just because of my name. They weren’t really comedians. They named me Hope and that is the one thing missing from most of my life. I try to laugh about it until I remember I am the joke – and then suddenly its less funny.”

“I see. I’m sorry you feel that way. I don’t feel hopeless around you if that helps.”

We kept walking but I could tell by her face she had more to say. She did seem to enjoy watching the people down here too. The 16th Street Mall is an interesting place. People range from business professionals, casual workers, hot dog stand owners, aspiring artists and many homeless. I wondered if she would want to have a hot dog with me. She doesn’t look like the type to purposely eat one though. Instead I found an open bench close to a young girl playing guitar and decided it would be a good place to take a rest.

“What do you want to happen in your life? What trust is missing?” she finally asked.

“Those are some odd questions, Hayati. Did I mention anything about missing trust?”

“You said you have no hope in your life. I am just trying to understand why.”

“I don’t think about what I want anymore. It just leads to disappointment. I am 32 years old and the only consistent thing in my life is I keep getting older without purpose. I don’t have hope because I don’t have a purpose and that bothers me a lot. When I come down here I enjoy watching people because I see both people with purpose and people who are lost. It’s nice to know I am not alone, but I wonder why some have hope and others don’t. Life is unforgiving for some I guess.”

“So who has purpose here? Those wearing a suit or nice tennis shoes? The hopeless are the homeless? What do you see exactly?”

“It doesn’t take a suit to have purpose. It doesn’t take not having a home to be hopeless. It takes knowing where you want to be and the ability to smile. The smile is hope and knowing where to go is purpose. Some are homeless here but playing an instrument with passion. They are not hopeless – just lost. I have a home but no purpose or hope. The face tells all you know.”

“Okay. Interesting. Do you have faith?”

“Faith?” I laughed. “Faith and hope tend to go hand-in-hand you know?”

She nodded in agreement.

” No, I don’t. My life was stolen and broken when I was 17. I have had 15 straight years of stumbling and disappointment. So, no, I don’t have faith because it takes hope to have it.”
“Hope – I am sorry you lost so much years ago. Life gives you choices, but it also gives you things that are not your choice. Somehow people have to navigate the barriers to reach what they were looking for. It sounds like the barriers stopped your navigation, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.”

She paused and I debated screaming at her.
“My time is almost up, but I have a gift to give you before I leave” she said while pulling a small book out of a large pocket in her dress.

“The Energy Bus?” I asked confused.

“Yes. I think you should read it. If you find it helpful give it to someone else. Just give it a try. You did say you were looking for a book earlier, and maybe you didn’t find one because I had the one you were supposed to read.”

“So your job is to judge strangers and then give books to them?” I asked while wondering if my face was as red as it felt.

“My job is to be present. I am not judging you. I am just present in the moment you shared, and then I trust things happen exactly as they should. Just like you getting on that train, and the only seat available was the one next to me. I do have to go now. Enjoy the book!”

She walked away and I was confused. I wanted to throw it in the trash because this nice women just judged the crap out of my life, and she didn’t even know me. She also acted like she cared about someone she didn’t know, and that was a new experience for me. I didn’t throw it away even with the urge to do so. It was the first gift I had been given in many years, and I figured if I can read about mice and cheese… I can read a book about an energy bus too. Maybe it will help me write a story about living in the twilight zone.


I got home and started reading The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon. I had to admit the first chapter made me laugh. The bus driver’s name was Joy and she was full of happiness and energy. She was the last thing George wanted that day, and her name being Joy irritated him further. It made me think of Grace and Destiny and how their names mirroring their presence annoyed me. Hayati’s name and meeting her was okay. Her name means Life Presence, but it isn’t as flagrant as Grace, Destiny, or dare I say – Hope. I am happy that I don’t have a Joy in my life though. That just might send me over the edge as I am not strong enough to handle that one!

“God keeps breaking your heart until it opens” is a quote from the book that got me. What if your heart breaks until it’s just broken? Then what? Demons and ugliness followed my brokenness. Now my sanity was being tested further by my day today. Why did Hayati give this book to me? Luck of the draw? Or curse?

I forced myself to finish the book since it is the first gift I have been given in a long time. The book is almost 160 pages, but the pages are small so it didn’t take long to read. I was disappointed with myself for reading it when it was over. What a waste of time. There are 10 rules taught in the book, and number 10 was “Have fun and enjoy the ride.” Right! I am not sure when I last enjoyed anything. I guess that makes me the energy stealing person the book talked about. But how would Hayati know that? Why would Destiny keep watching me until I found Who Moved My Cheese? Why is Grace always there when I am the least Graceful? Why is my name the very thing that was stolen from me life?

“The heart acts as an emotional conductor with an energy field that can be detected 5 to 10 feet away” was another quote from the book. Maybe that is why Hayati gave me the book. I am radiating negativity and misery. But I didn’t put it there! Shouldn’t that matter?

*knock, knock, knock*

What the hell? No one ever knocks on my door? Walking softly toward the door I found no one on the other side from the peep hole. I had no choice but to open the door and check, but all that was on the other side was a small box on the ground with a note taped on the top.

You have been missing this for some time now… and I think you are ready to have it back. I am returning it in better shape than the day you let it go.

No signature and no soul around to know who could have dropped it off. Peeling away the brown paper wrapping I found a plain wooden box inside. Opening the box I found a heart shaped crystal that looked just like the one my mother gave to me years before she died. It broke into many pieces the day her and my dad died in a car accident, and I threw it away when that happened. Now somehow, someway, it was put together again in two solid pieces. The heart laid open, side by side, in the box.


The next day I went back to the library. Grace was eating in the café and Destiny was standing at the stairs on the second floor. Both had their eyes on me the second I walked through the door. Both smiled and nodded in my direction. I returned the smile which was a different response for me.

“Hello Hope! Back again to find what you didn’t find yesterday?”

“Hi Grace. No. Not Exactly. I came to talk to you and Destiny.”

Grace turned toward the stairs and motioned for Destiny to come down.

“You look better today, Hope. I’m sorry if I bothered you yesterday.”

“You did bother me but only because I didn’t understand your purpose. I think I get it now. That is what I wanted to talk to the two of you about.”

Both waited for me to continue…

“Thank You! Yesterday was an odd day, but now I know it was exactly as it should have been. Grace – you brought me back to reality but in the nicest way possible which lead me to Destiny. Destiny – you watching me helped me find a very strange book. It turned out it’s a great book once you get the point of it. That book opened me up just enough, even if I didn’t realize it at the time, to meeting Hayati. She was a kind lady I met on the train yesterday. Somehow she knew to join me downtown and gave me a new book to read called The Energy Bus. A book that made me feel resentful, but after getting my heart back yesterday, is now a book I know I needed to read. You fulfilled your purpose and my life was the benefit. I just cannot thank you enough.”

“That’s great!” Grace said.

“An now you have filled yours” Destiny replied.

“What purpose is that?” I asked confused.

“You gave us Hope” they offered in unison.

I smiled. I could feel it. I was proud of it. I just need to hold onto it this time so that I can share what these 3 ladies did for me. I guess I could write a small book. After all . . . they seem to work wonders!

Posted in Short Story

Feeling Proud – Instead of just Down

My Garden

What a spring and summer this has been! I have been unemployed since 3/24/17. I can’t believe 4 months have passed by already. Unemployment has been an extremely difficult situation for me. Finances are certainly an issue, but the effect on my self esteem has been most severe. To my credit – I haven’t just sat around thinking about how bad things are. I have kept busy. The thing that has kept me most busy is my garden, and oh my goodness – am I proud of my garden.

Watching nature work has kept my spirits up. Well – bugs have ticked me off a few times. Especially when it comes to my green beans. But – I have endured and learned – and as a result I am feeling quite proud of my determination and work. My family has supported my ups and downs, as well my excitement for anything and everything that has happened with the garden. While my trials are tough – the blessings of everything and everyone in my life are far greater.

We planted lavender in our front yard years ago to attract bees. The plant did not do very well until this year. Watching the honey bees flock to it is a daily pick-me-up. Watching them work in the garden is fun too. Because of the bees we have had a lot of squash already (both zucchini and crookneck). We have lots of cucumbers starting – they look like cute little gherkins right now.

Honey Bee and Lavender

The squash plants are starting to latch onto the plastic fence my husband put up inside the wood fence. He did this to keep the rabbits out, but now it has a new benefit. I went to pick through the plants yesterday -but there was a long branch I couldn’t move, and I was amazed to see it had little vines that had wrapped around the fencing to climb. It made my day!

Latching on

I really need a job. I really want a job. My self esteem could really use a job. Until that blessing comes – the blessings of my garden and my family are getting me through. Love is incredible that way!

Posted in Short Story, Uncategorized

Picking Up Pieces

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The faded blue summer sky highlighted the heat for Amanda’s friends and her to play in today. Hide and seek, running through sprinklers and drinking from the hose would be a part of their play time. Only children appreciate carefree days like this. Amanda loved to play outside. Each year her light blonde hair would turn almost white by summer’s end. Her four friends of similar age and an equal mix of boys and girls helped her enjoy summer days.

Before Amanda I had never noticed how present the sound of silence was even with noises of children playing outside. The silence was often shattered by the ominous sounds of police and ambulance sirens and my daughter’s reaction to them. The sirens would startle Amanda every time. She would drop to her knees, cover her ears with her hands, and scream and cry with a similar eerie sound of the sirens that excited her fears.

Dan and I adopted Amanda when she was almost two-years-old. Her mother and father were killed in a car accident and she was the only survivor. Amanda’s paternal family was limited, and while we kept her paternal grandparents in her life, they too were stolen from her life before she was four years old. She doesn’t seem to have much of a memory of them now, but we keep photos of them and her parents in a collage-type frame on her bedroom wall. Her family didn’t leave her life voluntarily, so Dan and I decided keeping their memory close to her was the right thing to do. She doesn’t ask questions about the pictures, and we haven’t talked much about them so far. Life has a way of helping you know when to do something, and Dan and I were waiting for the prompting.

“Mom!” her voice startled me while lost in thought.

“Yes. What?” I responded as calmly as possible.

“Can we all have a popsicle? It’s hot outside.” She asked with an excitement I admired.

“Of course. Trash, and I mean all trash, better make it to the trash when you are done.”

“Okay.” She ran out the door to give the good news to her friends.

Dan and I always keep a stash of popsicles in the freezer in the garage for Amanda and her friends. It is a cheap treat and helps keep Amanda and her friends close to home. Dan threatens to quit buying them often because he is always cleaning up the trash they leave behind. Someday they will learn. I hope.

“I see my words fell on deaf ears again, Megan.” Dan says in a playful tone while coming in from the garage.

“I will check on them in a few, and make sure they put their trash in the trash” I assured him.

“Don’t forget to look behind the bushes. They are great at hiding it there.”

The twinkle in his eyes always made my heart melt. I wish he could have passed those eyes onto a child for us to have together, but God had a different plan for us. Amanda was our plan, and what a wonderful blessing she was to our family.

“I need to go into the office for a bit. Are you okay to watch the kids? After I check on the trash of course.”

“That’s fine. I talked to Seth’s dad a moment ago and his wife did the same thing. Stuck him at home with the kids that is.”

“I am so glad the men of today can handle the responsibility” I teased.

“Very funny” he said while kissing me goodbye.

His truck was blocking my car in the garage, so I guess I’ll be driving that today. It is silver, with chrome trim, and in perfect condition. The truck is five years old, and with the exception of the body style, looks brand new. I always worried damage would happen when I was driving it. I hated having that responsibility.

“Amanda” I yelled. Did you guys throw your trash away?”

“I think so” she replied.

“Then why do I see wrappers and sticks on the porch?”

“Sorry Mrs. Helton! I will do it right now” Johanna offered to save her friend.

I watch Johanna scurry to keep her friend out of trouble. Her hair was black, straight and as long as Amanda’s. They were best friends and I could see their friendship lasting a lifetime. Just as I started the truck sirens in the distance sounded. I looked towards my daughter as she was quickly paralyzed with fear. Suddenly she ran into the back of the garage, cowered to her knees and started screaming. I shut off the truck and ran to be with her.

“Amanda Honey. It’s okay. Those sounds won’t hurt you” I said while wrapping her in my arms and rocking her calmly.

Just then Dan came running into the garage, and her friends stood at the garage opening. They all looked confused and concerned just like the other times this had happened. The noise kept getting louder, so we knew they were going to stop close to our home.

“Hey princess…. it’s okay” Dan offered while rubbing her back.

As luck would have it the emergency vehicles came to the house across from ours. Amanda’s eyes had a new and elevated fear that her voice could have never matched. We watched patiently as men jumped out of their vehicles to get inside our neighbors home.

“Henry is in trouble so these guys are just here to help” I said to Amanda.

Amanda’s friends slowly inched closer to her while watching the paramedics and police scramble outside. We all watched in silence except for Amanda’s cries. She had never spoken when the sirens made her scream, and when the sounds ended, life simply resumed as it had before. But not this time. This was too close for life to go on once the sounds were over.

After what seemed like forever, but really only six minutes, we watched the paramedics bring our older neighbor, Henry, out of his house while secured on a stretcher. They were talking to him, but we couldn’t hear anything they were saying.

“Amanda” I said softly. “Let’s move closer to our driveway so you can see he is okay.”

I picked her up while I stood to walk out of the garage. Dan and her friends followed my lead. We were all worried about Henry so getting closer seemed to be the right thing to do. After putting Henry in the ambulance, and shutting the doors, my daughter’s voice finally found life.

“He is dead?” she asked through sobs.

“No princess” Dan said. “he is just sick somehow and they are here to help him.”

The lights came back on for the ambulance and quickly drove away.

“He will never come back.” Amanda said.

“Of course he will” I said.

“That’s not what that truck does! They leave and never come back!” Amanda yelled while squirming out of my arms and running inside.

“Sorry guys. Come back in a couple of hours. She just needs some alone time with this happening today” Dan told her friends. They all left quietly with their heads down.

Dan and I walked inside and up the stairs to Amanda’s room. As expected, she was in her room, with her purple comforter pulled over her head. Quiet sniffles let us know she was still really upset. We reached her bed and I half-balanced myself on the limited available space on the side of her twin bed. Dan stood beside me.

“Amanda” I said softly.

“What” she asked while sucking snot through her nose.

“Let’s talk about what just happened outside, okay?”

Her comforter tossed in the air abruptly, and she sat up with attitude in her arms while continuing to push the covers for her bed away.

“Tell us what you are feeling so we can help you” Dan said.

“He is never coming back!” she yelled again.

“Amanda, I have been in an ambulance before and I am still here. Just because you get help doesn’t mean you don’t come back” I offered.

“Well, maybe you weren’t in the one I just saw.” Her eyes showed a defiance to the comfort I tried to offer.

“No, but an ambulance comes when there is an emergency. If you need more help they take you to the hospital, and when you are better you get to come home” I said.

“That’s a lie!” she screamed.

“Let me try” Dan offered while signaling he wanted to sit down. Reluctantly I got up.

“Hi princess. I want you to try to listen to me, okay?”

Amanda nodded in response. Admittedly I was annoyed she seemed more willing to listen to him.

“A long time ago, before you were even two-years-old, you were in a serious car accident with these people.” Dan took the frame of pictures off of her wall and pointed to Amanda’s mom and dad.

“Do you remember who they are?” Dan asked.

“Yes, you guys said they were my family first” she answered through a shaky voice from crying.

“Yes. See, this woman is your birth mom. And this guy is your birth dad. Kind of like Mom and I now, but you came from these two people. A truck, a big truck, hit the car you and your first family were riding in. It was a really bad accident.” Dan paused to allow what he was telling her to sink in. I then moved to sit at the foot of her bed so she could see me too.

“The truck hit the front of the car and you were in the back seat. Someone called 911 and the police and ambulances came to where your family was at. Your mom and dad were taken away in a different ambulance than you were taken in. But all of you were transported to the hospital from the accident.”

Amanda sat quietly as though she was living the details he was giving her. Almost like there was a new memory sparked inside of her.

“The doctors tried really hard at the hospital to save your mom and dad. Unfortunately the accident was really bad, and their injuries couldn’t be fixed. Your first mom and dad died that day, but they really didn’t want to leave you. We believe they worked with God in Heaven to help us find each other.”

“I don’t understand” Amanda finally said.

“Your mom and I adopted you because your mom and dad had to go to Heaven. People can raise children whose parents had to leave and it’s called adoption. Megan and I couldn’t have children together, but we were lucky to find you when you needed a family. You went away in an ambulance and you are still here. Megan went into an ambulance when she had a scary diabetic attack once, but she got better and came home too.”

“Amanda, I am so sorry your first parents had to go away.” I said.

Amanda looked down at the pictures and said “I barely remember them. I am not sure that I do.”
“You were really young. But, you do remember that day. Somewhere deep inside you remember, and that is why you get so scared when you hear sirens. They bring back the fear and confusion you suffered the day of your accident” I answered.

“This is a lot of information we are giving you, but we wanted you to have this truth so you can understand what is happening later on” Dan said.

“We love you so much. If you have any questions you just need to ask them. Today, tomorrow – whenever. Okay?” I said.

Amanda nodded and wiped her eyes and nose with the tissues Dan handed her.

“So I have two moms and two dads?” she asked.

“Yes” we replied in unison.

“Are you okay?” Dan asked.

“Ya. I guess I am okay” she answered.

“Do you want me to see if we can find Henry at the hospital? So you can see he is okay?” I asked.

“He is not coming home” she said flatly.

Dan and I both sat confused about what to say next.

“I know that look. I don’t know why. I know that look. He was sad as he said goodbye to me with his eyes. Maybe my other mom and dad had that look?”

“Sweetie, from what we know about what happened… you would not have seen them on the stretcher or going into the ambulance” Dan said.

“I just know that look. Can I go play now?” Amanda asked.

“Of course.” I said. Dan and I were both surprised by the abrupt ending to the conversation.

Amanda was quick to run down the stairs and out the door. Her friends came back over quickly and they enjoyed the rest of their summer day. I never went into the office. Instead we grilled burgers and hotdogs, and tried to make the hours as happy as possible. Amanda seemed okay. I was amazed how so much drama could be tabled by a child. If only adults could keep that craft in their older years.

That night, while I was brushing my teeth, Amanda came into the bathroom and sat on the toilet seat lid. After wiping my mouth I turned to look at her.

“I dream about them. I didn’t know who they were. I had their picture so I thought that is where they came from. In my dreams.” She said.

I smiled. “Are you okay?”
“I guess I am happy to know who they are. I remember a little I think. I think I remember her looking at me in the car. I remember that look. Her eyes. I always thought it was a dream.”

“Well, it might be a bit of both. Our minds are funny that way.”

“Maybe” she said while hopping off the lid. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight” I smiled while she walked away.

After Dan fell asleep I got up to read the articles and information we had about her family and the accident. I hadn’t noticed a line on the police report until reading it now. “The little girl was very confused, but not confused at the same time. Only 22 months old and she said “mom and dad said goodbye.”

I dropped the papers and cupped by hands around my mouth. I started to cry. This poor little girl I thought.

The next day Henry’s son was at the house. Dan and I went out to ask him about Henry, and hoping Amanda was wrong. Amanda was close behind us.

“Hi. We watched what happened yesterday. Is Henry okay?” I asked while expecting the worst.

“He is doing better and inside resting now. Is this little girl Amanda?” he asked.

“Yes” I replied confused.

“My dad asked to talk to her if I saw her. Is she okay to go inside now?”

I looked down at Amanda and she was already walking toward Henry’s front door.

“It’s open” he said. “He is on the couch just inside the door.”

Amanda walked in and somehow Dan and I knew we were supposed to wait outside for her. Inside, Amanda walked slowly toward the couch where Henry was waiting to see her.

“Hi” she said quietly.

“Well Hi to you too. Sit. I won’t break” Henry replied.

“Are you better now?” Amanda asked while sitting.

“I am thanks to you” Henry offered angelically.

“Me?”

“Yep. Thanks to you I had one more job to do” Henry said. “Your family in Heaven needed you to see sirens weren’t a bad thing. They love you and wanted me to tell you that. They are sorry they couldn’t come back after the sirens.”
Amanda started to cry. Finally she offered “Thank you. I am glad you are doing better. I was worried yesterday.”

“Me too” he replied while Amanda was walking out the door to see us.

Our daughter told us what happened with Henry. It only served to warm our souls to learn Henry died that night peacefully in his sleep. Thank God he had the energy for that one last job to do. Thank God her parents are still by her side too.

 

 

Posted in Short Story, Uncategorized

Saving Grace

jesus-always

The light pouring through the basement window was bright but altered through the dirt stuck to the glass. Noise from the outside was as clear inside as it was outside. Life was failing to be blocked from the darkness I was seeking.

Failure is too often the best friend of my choices. I tried dying my hair to block my premature grey from showing, but I was left with dry and brittle hair instead. I tried going to school, and while I earned a degree, I didn’t acquire the knowledge to do anything with it. Then there was my marriage. We had an incredible love affair, but changing it to a committed relationship was the end to the hot beginning we enjoyed. Our divorce was final on January 3, 2017 but the relationship ended one month after we married on May 6, 2016. I couldn’t take the promises in life anymore. I couldn’t be blinded by hope either. I was a failure, and the movement of life outside seemed to mock my reality.

My name is August Rain Thomas. The only natural part of my name is the last name of my father. My mother’s idea to name me after nature doomed me from the start. I know she loved my name, but she didn’t have to live with it! I never took my husband’s last name. I felt the last name of Lander would only bring further banter from people for my “earthly name.” Maybe my decision to keep my name escalated the demise of our marriage? Or maybe this was like the rest of my life; a start with an inevitable ending.

When we separated I moved into my friend, Jesse’s, basement. He has tried to make me see that life isn’t the tragedy I live, and while his ignorance is sweet – it isn’t right. I thought he had given up trying to reach me until I got home from court today. He had a gift wrapped for me on my metal desk. The note attached to the gift said:
“August rain cools the hottest of days, and helps life we need to grow. Here is hoping you can find your benefit to this world once again.” J.

I slowly unwrapped the shiny silver wrapping paper wondering what benefit was waiting for me. It was a small box from Amazon under the paper, and when I opened the box, a small book was waiting for me inside. It was Jesus Always by Sarah Young. 365 devotions.

He has got to be joking. Really? Jesse knows how I feel about religions and their teachings, but he still found this an appropriate gift to give me? My irritation and confusion was growing when I heard the slow creek of the basement door being opened.

“Safe to come down?” Jesse asked sheepishly.

“What the hell is this?” I asked.

Jesse held his hands in the air while walking down the 8 stairs. “August, I know your heart is going through a tough time. I also know you would never choose to read this book on your own. Believe it or not – I am not trying to push any beliefs I might have on you.”

“Well, you need to take a class on how not to push because clearly life hasn’t taught you that lesson yet!” I noticed I was trying to sound more angry than I was.

“I know it can seem that way. In reality, I really want you to find your own answers before the next chapter of your life starts. If He isn’t real you will only confirm that. Or you might find the purpose that has been lost in your trials. If this doesn’t help I will take the gift back. No questions. No debates will follow your giving it back either. Promise.”
“Jesse – thank you for trying to help. You are such a good friend, so to be fair I will read a page or two. Just be ready to find a new home for it.”

“Fair enough” he said while putting his hands back in the air to surrender.

Jesse left and I held onto this purple soft-cushioned book he bought for me.

“What the hell was he thinking?” I whispered.

I ate a snack for dinner and laid on the old metal futon I was using for a bed. It creaked with every movement, and the mattress hardly softened the metal bars it rested on. It wasn’t much but it was mine. It wasn’t nice enough for anyone else to want, and I felt comfort knowing it was something only a fire could rob me of. My bed fit my life so there was hardly any use for complaining about it.

I debated to myself whether to open the book at all. I finally opened it but only because my parents taught me the annoying fact that “it’s the thought that counts.”

I skipped past the introduction and started on the “January” page. It only stated a scripture summary referencing Psalm 119:105 NLT.

“Oh darn, and I don’t have a bible to look that up” I said allowed jokingly. But then I saw another book on my end table I didn’t put there. Sure enough! It was a bible.

“You thought of everything didn’t you Jesse?” I offered while rolling my eyes.

I read the first four devotions; January 1st – January 4th.

Lesson 1: Do not dwell on the past. “Right, like I would do that.”
Lesson 2: I am your joy! “Which is why I am so happy, right?”
Lesson 3: Be still, and know that I am God. “I have always moved a lot I guess.”
Lesson 4: Find joy in Me, for I am your strength.

Each day (or lesson) had a summary of the author’s thoughts based on scriptures listed on the bottom of each page. I read four pages and looked up the scriptures on each page. Already I had done more than I committed to, so he can’t be angry, right?

My parents tried to teach me God is real, but my beliefs never matched theirs, so the teachings ended there. I appreciated Jesse caring about me enough to try to share something good with me. I suddenly realized how much that meant to me. He was a good friend with a good heart.

I noticed I felt a comfort inside of me that I had not felt in many years. I think it was because Jesse made me feel not so alone. I quickly opened the book back up to see the lesson for tomorrow.
Lesson 5: Let my consolation – my comfort – bring Joy to your soul.

“Okay Jesse. I will read for another day or two.”

Posted in Short Story, Uncategorized

The Little Things

squirrel

I took a few days off from work. It was forced really. Leadership made the announcement that we had to have our PTO time down to 40 hours or less by April 1st, and any time over 40 hours would be forfeited. Well, I am not giving anything back I have earned, so 220 hours have to be taken between now and then.

I had a good week. I just took it off. I didn’t go anywhere. I didn’t give myself any projects. I did some painting on a ceramic house, wrote my story for The Weekly Knob last week, and just relaxed. I cannot think of a time in my adult life I have done this, but my brain feels wonderful having the break.

Today is my last day off until the week of Thanksgiving. I am taking that week too. Tee Hee. Unfortunately I am feeling a little under the weather today. My sinuses are painful, but I hope my body fights off whatever is trying to attack me.

Sitting around at home I decided to put some nuts out in our tree planter outside. They were unsalted peanuts that needed to be used. Well… the picture is my bright spot of the day. Within minutes a mother squirrel was in the planter and eating the nuts. I know she was hungry because she was eating them all, and I didn’t see her bury anything for later. I know she is a mom because her nipples were all very swollen and protruding notably.

Watching her warmed my heart. It felt good to be part of something needed by an animal that was not mine to take care of. I do not think you should make a habit of feeding the wild, but anytime you can find a way to not waste food, I think feeding it to someone or something that needs it is smarter than nothing at all.

If you can – take a break! A real break! Not a trip that requires planning and stress. Not a new project that you didn’t have time to do before. I mean a real brain break. The only stressful thing I did was watch the Bronco game last night. What an ass kicking!! Anyway, my mind feels years younger! Until I go back to work tomorrow anyway.

 

Posted in Short Story

Windmill Parable

Windmills

Two men suffer accidents on the same day, but separate places and times. Both are hospitalized with doctors advising family members they are in critical condition. Both men have limited chance for survival.

Michael is a white male who has lived 43 years. Will is a black male who has lived 39 years. Both men suffer prejudice against each other’s race. Both men are spreading their feelings about black people and white people to their children and friends. Both men suffer the same hatred in their hearts.

With their bodies deteriorating their souls travel to Heaven. Both men walk upon a field of windmills planted throughout the grass. Both men finally see each other and are both angered and confused. Before a word could be spoke by either man the voice of God rang out with authority.

“Michael. William. Welcome to your first glimpse of Heaven. You must silence your thoughts to process the view. I ask you do that now.”

“Why are we here? This is not what I expected Heaven to be like.” Michael offered with utter confusion.

“And why is there only two of us? I thought Heaven was full with people’s souls.” William added while equally confused.

“All good questions to which you must find the answers. I have a task for the two of you. You have limited time to complete it or your soul will be unable to connect back to your mortal body. You must open your mind and ears to my instruction to be successful. Are you ready?”

Both men nodded and were ready for the task.

“Michael. William. What do you see?”

“A field with windmills.” William offered with Michael nodding in agreement.

“Very good. Now you must look deeper. What is the same about the windmills? Because time is short I will give you two answers that are not correct. It is not that they are windmills, and it is not that they are different colors and patterns. It is not that they are all alike by being different.”

Both men stared at the windmills trying to figure out what God was looking for. Both traveled from windmill to windmill looking for the answer while staying in the opposite direction of each other. Finally, William started to notice something that was kind of the same, but because not exactly the same, he avoided speaking out.

“William – I can hear your thoughts without you speaking them. Please share so that Michael has the benefit also.” God said while breaking the silence of their concentration.

“Well – it isn’t the same amount, or the same shape, or in the same place, but… Each windmill has a trace of gold within its colors. Some have more than others.” William offered with highlighted uncertainty that he was right.

“I noticed that too, but I am not sure what it means.” Michael said.

“It only took you an hour to speak, but you both had the idea 52 minutes ago. All that wasted time because you failed to work together on the answer. What a foolish way to spend your time when I told you your time was limited. Don’t make that mistake again!” God offered.

Both men shook with fear because the voice of God was so unfriendly.

“Now, what does the gold mean?” God asked.

Both men stared silent and confused.

“Well!! TALK AND FIGURE IT OUT!” God’s frustration thundered throughout the Heavens.

“I think the gold means that they are worth a lot of money.” William offered.

“Do you really think Heaven cares about financial worth!?” Michael retorted in response to William’s foolish idea.

“Wasting valuable time, fools! I will give you a hint. The windmills represents and are powered by the souls of your family and friends. The very people by your bedside waiting for you to wake up!”

“Okay. Okay. Why is one pure yellow and gold, and the others with less gold and varying colors?” Michael asked.

“Maybe the gold represents life and the different colors and textures are their experiences.” William offered in response.

“The yellow and gold windmill is the soul of your unborn child, William.” God offered to help guide their thinking.

“Okay, so maybe the yellow and gold represent purity, but then why would there be so little in everyone else? There is more than one child in this field.” Michael responded.

“Maybe the gold is their value?” William offered.

“You are getting close!” God offered.

“Okay. So what is the same is that each windmill has value.” Michael offered as the answer.

“Correct! So what does that mean if these are powered by the souls of your family?”

“They all have value.” William offered with some sarcasm because now they were just repeating themselves.

“Correct William. You are both correct. Now you must answer this next question for your soul to return home…” God said while allowing their minds to ready for the next task.

“Okay.” They said in unison. “What is it?”

“If you were on the same field with your family and friends at the same time as the other man’s family and friends… would you see the gold then?”

Both men dropped to the ground from the question because they both knew the answer was NO.

“Don’t be the fool leading other fools another day. Be the leader showing other people the gold.”

Both men woke in their hospital beds at the same time. While both had the lesson burning inside of their souls – their minds lacked the memory of where it came from. Both men promised to change in light of the second chance.

In Heaven, God’s angel, John, had thoughts to share from the experience.

“If only we could change the way Democrats and Republicans see each other.” John said.

“I tried that once. Bush and Clinton excepted their differences and became friends, but their fellow fools could not learn from their example. So I decided to work my magic on a cause with more promise, and I hope these men do not disappoint me.” God replied.

“So do I.” John replied.

Posted in Fiction, Short Story

Addicted to Pain

I have been successful for the last 10 days, 11 hours and 13 minutes. I have found the secret to slowing time down, and it is counting the minutes of your success daily. I am noticing sounds my mind learned to ignore. I have never noticed the clicking noise my clock in the living room makes as it meticulously counts every second of my minute achievements. I now know how often my fridge runs, and how often my neighbor leaves in his car that sounds like it praying for death. I catch all the sounds now – the sounds of my success from my demented sobriety.

I fear sleep. I fear the inability to consciously count minutes that add to my current streak. I am now a professional at braiding my long auburn hair, which is annoying because fewer minutes escape the clock now, and I have to fill the time with additional tasks. This is all so maddening to me. While other people pray for time to slow down – my knees ache from praying for time to speed up. The irony is I am almost out of time. I will strike again.

I am addicted but to something far more damaging than heroine or alcohol. People who think marijuana is harmless – Good For You! I am addicted to pain. I enjoy watching other people feel torturous pain. I comb ads, bars and websites carefully to cull the good men from the bad. I prefer men who expect me to throw myself on my back, legs spread high in the air, in anticipation of the exaggerated girth between their legs. I resent men who are so ignorant from ego that they lump me into the same pool the slut before me convinced them was real. The look on their face when I bring them home, and they understand my true intention is priceless. I am addicted to watching their minds fry like an egg in a hot frying pan, and their eyes tear from the sight of the experience and the realization they will not get laid tonight. Just thinking about it ignites my puerile behavior and my need to do it again.

Tom is a lawyer I zeroed in on when using Match.com. He clearly believes his profession is a gift to women, and he advertises his wealth standing in front of his new mustang in his profile picture. He chose the color white for his car – clearly not a dare devil.

After an expensive meal and two glasses of Dom Perignon for dessert, I invited him to my place to enjoy one of my favorite things. He was eager to accept the invite – after all my hands played carefully with his inner thighs throughout our meal. I have a feeling this experience will be better than Sebastian the doctor two weeks prior. That was fun!

We walked inside my townhouse and I offered him to get comfortable in the living room on my large black leather couch. He complimented the stone wall and fireplace on the adjacent wall while I fetched him a beer like a good host.

“Would you like to watch a movie?” I asked softly while cuddling into him on the couch.

“Absolutely!” He replied while his legs twitched in anticipation and his arm stiffening to avoid the urge to grab and adjust.

I started the movie and it only took three minutes for the collision of reality and horror to rest on his face. I find it amusing that three minutes is all it takes for all of my victims. Of course the experience never gets old for me.

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Spongebob Squarepants!

I begin wiggling with excitement and anticipation like a giddy school girl as the song plays to begin the movie.

After five minutes their dry mouth, caused by the inability to close their mouth while reeling from the shock, manages to force the same question no matter the guy…

“Is… Is this some kind of joke?” Tom sputtered forcefully.

“What? No! I told you at dinner that I wanted to share my favorite thing with you! Do you not like it?”

And that, ladies, is how you get a rich man to buy you a nice meal and expect nothing in return!