Last night I had three dreams that I vividly remember. An unusual event, for sure, and one that makes be think someone or something is trying to tell me something. Read below then tell me what you think:
Dream one: I was in a car moving through an abandoned city. I sat with a few friends and none other than Al Pacino was driving. One of my friends suddenly shouted out, “there it is.” When I looked to what she was pointing at, I saw a little red sedan. The very same I’d owned for ten years, more than ten years ago. My two oldest children were babies when I’d bought the car and I don’t think I’ve thought of it more than once or twice in many years. Pacino pulled up along side and told me I should drive my own car. I got into the little red Hyundai and started out of the dark and abandoned parking lot.
Dream 2: I woke up surrounded by soft white light. The comforter, sheets, walls, floor, drapery, flowers, even the adjacent rooms were all white on white. It was so lovely and calm as I stretched. I didn’t want the good feelings to end and snuggled into the warmth of the bedding to enjoy the moment. But then I saw movement. From the bed I peered through the open door into the adjacent room. I was scared at first, but as the smoky colored cat with white mittens sauntered into the room, I was pleased. I’d bought the cat for my two older daughters when they were young and just before having their two younger siblings. They’d rather unimaginatively named the cat Smoky and remembering made me chuckle. So did the way the cat jumped onto the bed and attacked as I moved my foot back and forth under the covers.
Dream 3: Like the others, this dream started out pleasantly enough. My husband I were riding bicycles down the road I grew up on. The day was bright and crisp and the leaves on the trees that lined the country road were yellow, red, and orange. As we approached the house I’d lived in as a child, and the hill we intended to ride up, dark clouds moved in. I looked up to see King Kong standing on the top of the hill. He plucked a telephone pole out of the ground like a child would a daisy. I began to wonder why we were still peddling toward the hill. Then Kong swung the pole like a bat, smashing the road between my husband and me, just missing us. I was knocked off the road and landed in a ditch. That was when I woke up.
All morning I’ve been nagged by the idea that something from the past, something that I might even believe to be quite harmless and familiar, will come between my husband and me. Leave your impression in comments. I’d love to hear them.
Huh? Where am I going?
Well, that depends wholly on where I’ve already been. To be less ambiguous, my failures, achievements, remunerations, and realizations, as well as how I affect others, my loved ones, and the world we all live in has influenced my goals, desires, and perceived purpose. What my life has taught and brought is collateral, the leverage I use to balance not just my day, but my past, present, and future. It is a holistic view that mirrors the reason I believe a degree in Alternative Medicine and Herbology will lead me where I am going next.
When I was a small child my grandmother, Mémère, would hold my face in her warm, soft hands and look deep into my eyes. “You’ve got an old soul trapped in there, mes petits-épic. Best listen well when she speaks to you.” Mémère spoke French and called us all by pet names. I didn’t need to know what the words meant, simply felt loved whenever she said them. When I saw the depth of love and meaning in her eyes, I decided that was the kind of grandmother I wanted to be. It didn’t matter that I was only four thinking those kind of thoughts… I was an old soul.
I was in my twenties before I learned she had been calling me her little porcupine. I was not offended since by then I’d come to appreciate my prickly defenses, knew I had survived more than one attack because of them. Too bad my father’s funeral had to be what triggered the memories of my beloved grandmother. She died before I was five. The repression of my Mémère, and the special bond we’d formed were brought to the surface because of a need to suppress the ambivalent emotions I suffered at burying the abusive, philandering, alcoholic that was my father. Ironically, the ambivalence regarding my father stemmed from the fact that he’d remerged as a helpmate and confidant, even moving in to help me care for my children after my husband proved to be as much of a troublemaker as he’d been in his youth. But Dad was attempting to make amends, and whether it was selfish or not, did not matter. His efforts were earnest, his remorse sincere, and though my desire to forgive him certainly included some form of projection, at that point I was still mouring the loss of my estranged husband, I am glad I did, eventually. Some things are just best kept in childproof containers and not shared until they have been translated into non-toxic formulas. My father called the process, forgiveness. I call it survival of the fittest, and that taught me how to be creative.
As an artist, poet, and author, I am gratefully capable of sublimation. My art reflects the perfect beauty I wish for my children and the world, whereas my prose illustrates the tortures and horrors I know humanity is capable of. Writing suspense thrillers is my way of venting revulsion and disdain for the predation and injustice in this world. So, it’s been a long time since I’ve thought of my father’s and first-husband’s abuse and abandonment as anything less than a blessing in disguise, though I will say calling my youth a childhood would be something of an oxymoron. I grew up faster than most. Let’s blame that ‘old soul’.
Been there . . . done that, is something of a joke around my house. How much I’ve experienced, the range and variety of things I’ve done in my life, often surprises people. How much I haven’t seen and what I don’t yet know, surprises me. Fortunately, I am blessed with an insatiable curiosity that melds quite well with an undiagnosed case of hyperactivity. It took years, and more than a few wrong turns, to figure out how to blend the above with the sometimes less than accommodating ‘old soul’. When I was young, that unrelenting sense of responsibility was something my brothers and sisters, and even a few wrinkly aunts, used to call “so annoying”. Today my husband and children refer to it as “she never stops.” I am just thrilled to think I’ve got another forty or more years to keep trying to figure it all out.
This passion for living, loving, doing, knowing, and growing, might be a reaction formation because of a mother who suffered a heart-attack at forty-nine.
“A blessing in disguise!” I said. It led to the discovery of a congenital condition, completely treatable with the application of a pace-maker. She’s got another chance!” I cried.
She saw things differently.
Mom has since survived (notice I did not say lived) almost thirty years . . . utterly certain she is going to die at any minute. Her willingness to give-up instilled in me a determination to stride past my own health concerns and take full advantage of second chances. And that has brought to me the greatest joys of my life: my soul mate, two more wonderful children, and a contentment with myself and my life I’d of never experienced had I given up.
Sometimes I am so sated and fulfilled I overflow. My granddaughter once asked me, “Mem’s why do you cry when I hug you. It doesn’t hurt.” She was three and apparently wise beyond her years…another old soul. The worry in her expression made me cry some more.
In her round, still amazed-by-life eyes, I saw her mother—the girl I’d raised into a woman capable of teaching her children empathy, compassion, insight, and love. I saw my past, my purpose, my destiny, and then the nature of things. And there it was . . . nature . . . so close to nurture.
Not really. Nature has been the only constant throughout my life. I trust the woods, am at home on the ledge of a mountain or at the bottom of the sea. I connect with the soil, the wind, and the life beyond the asphalt path. I find balance and normalcy in the rhythms of the breeze, the song of summer cicada, the day-to-day growth of a bean vine or flowering of the basil plant. I trust what I see, feel with my heart, and follow my instincts. I know using my talents, nurturing instincts, nature, and the understanding of balance in natural systems, whether I am rationalizing or not, will help me continue to teach, inspire, and aspire. If I get the chance to help others along the way, then I’ll be doubley blessed.
Now I’ve realized, as my youngest children come to an age when my daily pruning and watering is no longer needed, never mind appreciated, I had to figure out how to fill those empty moments with something equally rewarding. Needless to say, being a cashier at Walmart or a waitress at Olive Garden (not that I’m knocking those noble professions) wasn’t going to cut the mustard. I began to envision my own spa/greenhouse/gallery/studio. (Am I projecting again?) I know it sounds complicated but that’s par for the course. The details would need another six pages and the eastern side of a small mountain. And still, none of this even comes close to explaining the how’s and why’s I dream of being President some day. (Not)
In time, we learn to recognize ourselves in the mirror
In time, we appreciate the past that makes us who we became
In time, we possess the straight backbone but crooked smile of experience
and in time, we love ourselves the way we should have when we were young.
Henry sat in the garden at Trois Couronnes, closed his edition of The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces and sipped his coffee. He was happy he’d finally convinced his mother to bring Alice, his precious daisy, to Switzerland. It was peaceful in the spring, especially there in Vevey. The valley town supported many fine shops to delight and distract the ladies, while there was still ample opportunity fo r quiet reflection. He hoped it would help his little sister get over her foolishness, without delay, though he had to admit her antics had always been great fodder for the characters in his stories. She was a victim of her confines, like the crazy Vevey wind that ran in circles around town. It was fun to watch, but there was something desperate in its search to be beyond the great alps, and now that he thought about that, he was pleased William had decided to come along. It baffled Henry, how his brother had come to think his wondrous insight would be best served in the sciences rather than the arts, but it wasn’t for him to say. Besides, family was a great distraction, especially while he waited to hear from his editor regarding Watch and Ward. Henry so hoped to have it published by next year.
“Oh, dear. Here they come,” Mary, his wife suddenly whispered as she folded the napkin from her lap and placed it beside her teacup. “I’m so sorry darling, but I am really too tired to meet your family this evening. Please tell them I will see them in the morning.” Mary smiled demurely and waited for Henry to help her with her chair.
Henry patted her hand. “Of course, Dear. You go. It is rather late to expect you to be available for company.” Then he stood, helped Mary from her seat and watched his lovely wife walk away. Bustles of navy blue satin harmonized with the evening breeze as she went.
When Henry’s brother, sister, mother, and an odd little man with severe eyebrows and a pinch of a mustache spotted him, instant smiles warmed his heart. The way they all waved and quickened their pace made him want to turn and catch up with Mary. Instead, he buttoned the top button of his suit jacket, pulled at each stiff white cuff covering his wrists then took a deep breath and faced them.
Alice rushed toward him, tossing her beaded purse on the table where it knocked over Mary’s tea and soiled the white cloth. She seemed not to notice as she threw her arms around Henry’s neck. “Oh, darling brother, your daisy is here.”
“I’ve missed you.” Henry, aware of the gazes that fell upon them, gently took her by the waist and settled her an arm’s length away. “But dear Sister, the question is . . . how are you?” He righted the fallen cup as he spoke, noticing she did not seem so fresh and full of spring as a daisy anymore.
Alice flushed and snapped open a fan. It was made of black heirloom lace with onyx ribs. The combination of black roses and equally colorless satin brocade day-dress trimmed in the same lace gave her a widow’s heir. “Utterly, utterly fine, now that we are here with you.”
He didn’t believe her.
She deftly closed the fan then snaked an arm beneath both her brother’s arms. “I do love my two oldest brothers . . . so very much. I miss the constant doting.” “It is good
to see you, Henry. You look to be fairing well,” William said.
“Yes, yes.” Mrs. James leaned in to offer Henry a cheek. “So good to see you, Henry. I have missed you. And wonder why you choose to live so far away?”
Henry scanned the eyes watching them. “Good to see you too, Mother.” He pressed his cheek against hers for a moment then released himself from his sister’s hold. Henry flipped the tails of his jacket as he took his seat. “But, please, sit down.” He hoped whispering would send the proper message. “It’s late, many of the guests have already gone to bed for the evenings . . .including my own
wife. So let us catch up without so much ado. Shall we?”
Alice dropped into the chair beside him and tisked. “Still a snob, I see, Henry. Clearly your years in Europe have not improved your opinion of our lowly American family.” She vigorously fanned herself.
Henry noticed William gently centering a chair beneath his mother before taking his own seat. He wished he’d been so thoughtful.
William then pointed to the small dark haired escort who bowed upon the introduction. “This is Master Eugenio Constantine. Our tour guide.”
Like a good butler, Eugenio made himself scarcely noticeable, though Henry did catch him ogling Alice a time or two.
A group of young men, not much more than Alice’s age, climbed into the garden through the hedges on the street side. They were clearly drunk, loud, and giddy. Henry frowned.
Alice straightened, amplifying the curves of her breast as she turned all her attentions toward the group of men. “Ah, they sound American. I should go introduce myself. ” She
looked at Henry with her large green eyes and grinned. “It would be polite.”
Henry tried not to scowl but it was too late. “No. It would not be polite. It would be flirting.”
“Henry!” Mrs. James covered her mouth in shock.
Henry cleared his throat then said, “She needs guidance, Mother.”
Alice either pretended she did not hear or chose to ignore him. She parted her lips and stood. “I do believe I remember one of them from the boat, Mother. He will surely remember me.” Alice turned and headed for the boisterous group of men.
“Needs guidance? According to who?” William’s eyes flashed.
“I believe−” Henry tried to respond but was interrupted.
William stood and shoved his index fingers into the pockets of his vest then stared down at Henry as he spoke. “That’s the last thing she needs, little broth−”
“Hey now. I’m only fifteen months younger than−”
“But your perspective has been skewed, Henry. You spend too much time reading those damn classics.” William tapped a finger on the cover of the book Henry had been reading when they arrived. “Your ideas on what is right and what is wrong have been sterilized by a perspective that strangles your free-will. Or perhaps . . . if is your wife, she who refuses to spend time with ravel such as we Americans.”
“What?” Henry shook his head. “What the devil is he talking about, Mother?”
“Oh, I think William has been spending a little too much time with his friends at Harvard. They call themselves the Metaphysical Club, or some such nonsense. They’ve convinced him that there is no such thing as truth.”
“That’s right, Mother. Because truth is solely dependent upon the person who uses it. It belongs only to the purpose for which it is used. It is variable according to perception and experience. Case in point . . .Henry’s truth here is that Alice’s social tenacity, openness, her readiness to experience a relationship with a man that goes beyond social norms verging on stoic and indifferent, is somehow elicit. I believe that stems from his choice to surround himself with the past, to live here in Europe, confine his perspective and reduce his experience. I, on the other hand, choose to broaden my view, leave myself open to the idea that what I believe is not the truth, that it is only my truth as her brother that says Alice should not want to experience an elicit love that fulfils her needs to be loved. I mean, I certainly want to find a woman who might challenge me intellectually . . .” William picked up the empty teacup. “Not just sit and sip from empty cups like pretty porcelain dolls at a tea party.”
“You are as crazy as your sister.” Henry huffed and moved to stand.
William placed a hand on his shoulder and gently eased Henry back into his seat. “No, Henry. For once you are going to listen to what I have to say.”
Henry looked and saw Alice with her arm around one of the inebriated men. She laughed too loudly and with her free hand held her dress up above her ankles. He suddenly didn’t care who was watching. He slid Williams hand off his shoulder as if discarding a rather putrid particle of debris. He stood and yelled, “I do not care to hear why you American’s chose to ignore the rules of society. They are the only things that keep us from such ugly scenes as this.” He shot his chin toward Alice. “I do, however, care about my sister, and wish to help her see how such frivolity will eventually harm her circumstance.” He turned to collect Alice before heading upstairs.
William chased after them, “But, wait−”
Henry dragged Alice upstairs and did not speak to William the rest of that summer. By the end of the season Alice had recovered her sensibilities and the James family, except for him, had returned to the United States. Henry used many of the experiences from their time together in a story he would not publish until his sister died. He entitled it Daisy Miller because the experience had helped him ground out many of the issues that estranged he and his brother. In the end, understanding his brother’s beliefs and philosophies had made him a better writer, and Henry’s refusal to hear Williams argument was the inspiration for William’s most famous work, The Meaning of Truth.
Currently, the world considers me neither remarkable nor important and my mother will, undoubtedly, scold me for being so vain as to think anybody would be interested in my story, however (as my English professor cringes) . . . everybody has something to say. The desire to be heard is just one of many lines of meridian that make up the human condition, and I was not much more than four when I came to appreciate the diverse set of tools humans use to express themselves.
The epiphany occurred not long after an event that shaped my very first memory. I was upside-down on a lawn-swing where my brother and I had set out on a mission. “Let’s rock the play-set until if flips,” I’d suggested. It didn’t matter that our father had secured each of the four legs with heavy cement boots. We were certain they’d give way, and I’d made it my job to be watching the moment they did.
Herb was older; by only ten months. He was bigger by nearly a foot. He did not like the way I always seemed to be teetering on the edge of disaster. I can still hear him hollering, “Laurie, stop. Sit up. Do it right!”
But I wasn’t afraid of him.
Deep down, we didn’t really want that purple candy-striped play set to go crashing down the hill, especially with us on it. Stonewalls bordered our property, and the hill wasn’t just any hill. We lived on the steepest, most gravelly hill in the whole valley town. Our hill was part of a family; grandparent to a myriad of fat aunts and stocky uncles I would later come to know as the Northern Appalachia Mountains. Back then the big blue-green shadows just were, and not nearly as fascinating as the crack in Dad’s attempt at a sense of security.
So, I scooted forward. My legs did not touch the floor of the two-sided swing. I curled my little fingers around the lip of the seat. That would hold me. Bent in half and upside-down, I watched the play set’s metal legs buck. I saw the first tiny crack and how it spread. I heard the concrete to my right crackle and spit. Turning my head, I witnessed a fracture branch off into a hundred different directions. Then the metal leg began to rise from its hole. Focused on my impending doom, I stretched. Every backswing slid my bottom closer to the seat’s edge. Before long, the last purple swirl on the leg was exposed. We were down to bare metal. Desperate to keep watch, I leaned my shoulders through the gap.
“Higher, Herby. Higher!”
I sensed his feet pressing against the slant. He’s a good big brother.
Then my body went upside right. I was sent through the gap. The swing sped away. I landed on my back. My breath shot out. The swing paused. When it came back I tried to scream.
My brother blinked by. The world closed in on me. I shut my eyes. Everything went dark. I smelled cut grass. Pine needles.
For a single instant I saw the forest. Purple flickered. The outline of my brother flashed. Then the sun burnt my eyes.
I flipped onto my stomach and scrambled to my feet, even while a dark shadow darkened the ground before me. But the upswing was over. My chance to escape gone. The swing caught me from behind. I was thrown to the ground. My chin landed first. My jaw snapped shut. My tongue . . . between my teeth.
When I tried to stand my Mary-Jane’s slipped. The grass was wet and stained. I tasted dirty pennies. Blood drenched the was-white yoke of my sailor dress. I tried to scream, cry, moan: I couldn’t. The buzzing in my brain was so loud I wouldn’t have heard it anyway.
I don’t remember much after that, not until the pain in my empty tummy was worse than the pain in my mouth. Trying to tell my mother I was hungry was useless. The stitches that encased my tongue felt more like old fishing net, complete with hooks and dried scales sticking to the threads. Writing was out of the question; I was only four. With a blue Crayola, I tried drawing the glass of juice and peanut butter and banana sandwich I would have given my last cat’s-eye marble to have. But I was only four.
Being so young did have its advantages. For three long months those horrible black laces cut and pinched and pulled the soft flesh of my mouth. It hurt to eat, drink, talk, cry, and even moan. I was forced to find new ways to communicate. Communication being a fairly recent development, there was plenty of time for experimenting.
It didn’t take long to learn my tongue was only a tool, one of many, and before another year passed, I had vowed to master every possible mode, means, and medium of expression. As a child, I allowed the challenge to inspire me. Today the same kind of enthusiasm motivates the process, and now I can confidently tell you, I am grateful for every tool I process, including my tongue, and will never go hungry again.
I walked into an apartment with many rooms. It was in an older building, with thick wainscoting, wooden frames, and grimy windows that looked out onto a city I did not recognize. There were old brick tenements and brownstones all around. Beyond that the trees were not seen, shorter than the buildings, and the sky was empty and gray. The apartment felt gloomy and lifeless even as I followed a lively woman, whom I did not know, away from the foyer. I was not at all concerned, until she disappeared, leaving me and my husband in a strange unfurnished room. Around us were barrels, boxes, and containers of every sort. The walls were stacked, and the floor was littered with them. The barrels held an array of nuts while the others, big, and small, and in-between, were filled with colorful candies. There were Pixie-Stix and Twix, gumdrops and jelly beans, even Mary-Janes and M&Ms and wax lips. Stranger still was the one wall with inlaid shelves, made from the same wood that framed everything else in the apartment. There, sheets and blankets, all still in their transparent vinyl packaging, were lined neatly end-to-end and arranged in stripes of red, white, and blue.
I was thrilled, and amazed by the display, wanted to find my two children to show them. But just then my father came into the room, entering from a door opposite the one my husband and I came through. I turned to introduce them and found that my husband was gone. Where did he go?
But my father was thin and frail, the way I remembered him looking just before he died of cancer. My heart sank.
“Yes, I’m still sick,” my father said in his gravely smokers voice, “but I’m still here because of this.”
At first I thought he was indicating the nuts and candies but then realized he was directing me into another room, a living room. He then pointed to the nearest of the five large windows that lined a curved wall.
“You see.” His tone was stern, like when I was a child and had not cleaned the countertops correctly.
My eyes followed the length of his arm and down the knobby knuckles of his long finger. I did as he commanded and focused on what was on the other side of the glass, on a landscape of soot covered rooftops and the empty atmosphere that filled the horizon. Except now the sky was not empty and at first I could not understand what I was seeing. It didn’t make sense.
In the distance red spots swarmed like bees. But as they came closer I could not believe was I saw. Millions of red toy airplanes, biplanes, and jets, all with white propellers whirling and buzzing. So many, they blocked out the gray. I watched, mesmerized as they zoomed here and there, each one clearly intent on finding its designated target. Once ascertained, the airplane bobbed and hovered, buzzing like a hornet in front of that person. My concern grew as I saw one after the other track down and torment their mark. It stopping everyone from doing whatever it was they were doing before. I swung my head to look at my father, to question him, but he was gone.
I’d not noticed the woman who sat in a rocking chair centered in that crescent shaped room. Her legs were bent and pressed against her chest, her feet sharing the seat with her bottom. She hung her head over her knees and the frown she wore dug deep lines into her forehead and around her downturned mouth. She was angry and mumbling to herself. “I’m not doing it. I’m not going to do it anymore.”
While keeping an eye on what was going on outside, I knelt beside the rocker and said, “Do what?”
“When is Marissa going to get here? She said she was going to take care of him. She said she was going to do it. I can’t anymore.”
“Marissa?” I looked around the room, wishing my niece was there, that anybody I knew would show up. But even my husband had disappeared, and I had no idea where my kids where. My anxiety began to escalate. “Where is my father?”
She was surly and mumbled as she stood then dragged her feet along the way. We passed through the room with the barrels and linens and I couldn’t help but ask, “What is all this for?”
“That’s what keeps him alive. And he likes clean sheets. Every day clean sheets.” Her nose crinkled and eyes turned to slits. “But I hate him. And I’m not going to do it anymore.”
The woman stopped in front of a heavy wooden door. She didn’t knock before turning the brass knob. The door swung wide. The room beyond was dark, with only a single bed and a window that faced the brick building next door. The daylight between the buildings was blocked out. I knew it was the clutter of toy planes. The sound from their propellers vibrated the walls, glass, the whole building. Tiny plumes of dust, drywall, or mortar shook free. I watched an ashy stream spill from a thin crack in the ceiling. It landed on the hardwood floor a few inches from the bed, creating a tiny tell-tale pile.
I stepped into the room not realizing my father was lying in the bed. He was so thin and the comforter so thick it obscured his form. He stirred as I approached, tried to sit up and smile but failed. His face went slack with exhaustion.
Today’s sheets are blue, I thought. The rich color only enhanced his drought, made his skin match the sky. And I began to feel sorry for him. I’d never felt sorry for him before. Then I felt guilty. The closer I got to where he laid the more I sensed his pain. And the guiltier I felt. When I finally reached him he lifted his hand. I thought he was reaching out to me.
He pointed out the window instead. “Have you seen yet, Laurie? Have you seen what’s coming?” His voice was weak and distant but there was no misunderstanding.
I headed for the window.
A buzzing filled my ears as one of the toys streaked past. I stepped closer and pressed my nose to the glass. I just knew the airplane was searching for me. I looked up and down the alley, hearing it but unable to see it. That was when I noticed how the weather had changed. The trees were bending, swept by a heavy wind that carried debris. Before I could marvel at its strength, how it toppled trashcans and flung their lids, the gale was setting off alarms and shuffling the vehicles that lined the alley and streets. The buzzing was soon drowned by the roar of an approaching storm. Panic filled my stomach with wiggling worms and my intestines burned. My chest began to tighten. Looking at my father I tried to yell but my breath was too short. My voice couldn’t make it over the mounting sounds of the gale.
“Where is it, Dad. What does it mean?” I tried again, but it was useless. And the bed was empty.
Concerned for my husband and children I turned back to the window, one last look before going in search of them. The airplane, my red buzzing invader, had spotted me. From the other side of the glass it weaved and bobbed and feigned an attack. I did not start. I knew there would be no escaping it. I also noticed that the wind had become a bulldozer, everything in its path was being plowed into an enormous heap. Pushed by the storm, it seemed the entire city was rolling and tumbling toward me.
I spun on my heels and ran out of the apartment. I found my husband halfway down the stairs. He grabbed my hand and ran with me. I tried to explain what was happening but had no breath. Besides, I figured he’d understand as soon as he saw what was happening. Together we bolted down the last flight of stairs. We found ourselves in a basement garage. The double wide bay doors open. Tires, fan belts, and tools already being tossed and toppled.
“Mac! Savanah!” I called out.
We found Savanah hanging on to the pulley ropes that moved the huge bay door up and down. We ran to be with her.
“Where’s your brother?”
She pointed out the door.
He was about three hundred yards down the alley . His arms where punching, swinging and blocking as he ran. He ducked and dodge debris, fighting to make it to us.
Crying, and desperate, I watched until noticing the wind. It was solid and strong and moved like water now. It toppled everything then carried it in a wave. The tumbling tsunami was a giant, and still growing, but not near as big as the stampede of elephants coming behind it. Strange beings rode the enormous elephants, driving them faster and harder. These creatures were not from our world.
That was when knew I was dreaming. But it didn’t matter.
“Run!” I screamed, wishing there was more I could do to help my son.
There wasn’t and I knew it. He was stronger than me. But when Mac finally reached us, my husband and I wrapped our arms around him. We used our bodies to cover both children. Then we turned our backs to the storm. The cinderblock walls offered some shelter. But was it enough? I dared to look. The elephants roared. The tsunami advanced. I knew we were at war.
Then my little red airplane found me.
The oaks along Main Street gave up the last of their crimson and rust decor to the winter winds . . . just yesterday, but Aspen won’t abide bare branches. While store-keeps redo their window displays the town’s custodians, dressed in matching denim coveralls and red caps, are already busy wrapping each tree in twinkle lights. The push of cold air fills the sky with the dusky colors of winter but I am warmed by the walk and my flannel lined parka that still smells like the cedar closet I pulled it from.
I stop and wave to Mr. Barber through the window. He owns the first shop from the corner. His wife Sarah, one of my favorite local artists, painted the most beautiful rendition of St. Nicholas on the front window. She also adorned the red and white spiraling pole with holly. It looks very much like the holiday candy and tempts me to go in for a haircut—even though I do not need one. Good conversation and the best homemade hot-cocoa . . . ever, are hard to resist, especially when the warm and creamy aroma swirls around me as another smiling customer opens the door.
A few bricks away Goldberg hands out free Dreidels to the kids that hang around his pharmacy after school. Yesterday it was a mesh bags of golden foil covered chocolate coins. I know tomorrow, and for the next six days he’ll present another something or other. He’s been doing it since I was a kid. Walking past I nod hello, remembering how, last week, I’d watched a couple of out-of-town hooligans try to snag a box of Hershey bars off his candy shelf. When they looked up, realized they were caught with their hand in the cookie jar, the old man just winked and whispered “just ask next time”. I decide to fill my prescriptions with him instead of the discount store a couple blocks away, even though my insurance won’t cover it.
Across the street Dr. Karenga has his usual seven lanterns hanging from his awning. The dusky sky brightens their glow. Funny how I don’t notice them until this time of year, I think. Each is painted with one of the seven Nguzo Saba, symbols of life’s responsibilities celebrated in Kwanza—and that the Dr. lives by all year long. My favorite is the Ujima. Not just because it is an X-marks-the-spot, fitting because he’s the best chiropractor in town, but it has four circles off each corner signifying the unification of community while asserting that one’s problem is everyone’s problem. Whenever I see it, which has been at least once a week since arthritis settled into my spine, I feel hopeful, though Karenga’s seemingly absentminded way of only charging me for every other visit might have more to do with it.
After seeing to the kink in my sciatica I cross the street again. The Yakitori is the only Japanese restaurant in town, but happens to be the best place to eat . . . period. Chou and his wife are like ninja-cook-server-entrepreneur warriors, able to be in three places at once, and always with a smile on. When I open the ornate wood carved door soy and honey and the sea greet me just before Chou darts from behind a screen that separates the foyer from the hot hibachi flames. He bows and I’m again amazed at how no hurry-up-I’m-busy-here infects his poise. I return the greeting, remembering not to curve my spine or neck but to bend from the hips. As we walk to my usual table I ask him how he and Eri, his wife, celebrated Rohatsu this year. He tells me of their ten days of enlightenment while I eat and Eri serves me green tea.
“To warm the rest of your day,” she whispers around a perfect eight-tooth smile.
The nearly clear broth smells greener than it tastes and reminds me to stop at the farmer’s market on the way home. There I find Vinod Pranav and his wife, Bhadra playing dice at the small table behind the checkout. It was really nothing more than a large wooden conduit spool on its side, where tangy smells of cardamom, cinnamon, and coriander mix with the fragrant bushels of Macintosh and makes me think of Thanksgiving.
“Dhanteras?” I inquire, placing an armful of winter squash and small tin of fresh ground turmeric on the make-shift counter.
“Homage to Shiva,” Bhadra replies in a quiet elegant voice.
She boxes my purchase while Vinod scratches out a receipt with the same kind of short pencil I remember seeing at the miniature-golf. “Care to take your chances? A dollar in,” he says.
I gathered the dice and gave them a shake. Vinod nods and I toss them while saying, “Only two days until you light the sky, then.”
“Yes, we are looking forward to it.” Vinod winks at my two-three facing dice. His smile is genuine and bright against his chocolate colored skin, a blessing you just can’t walk away from without returning.
I pull three dollars from my wallet—two to pay for the squash and spice and a third for the privilege of honoring their god. “It’s always spectacular. I know the whole town appreciates it.”
He waves his hand and says “No, No. I keep tab. Come to your shop when you’ve helped yourself enough to pay for the winter tires my Bhadra will need soon.” He pressed his palms in blessing bowed his head. “May Shiva grant you prosperity in all you do.”
I nod, collect my parcels, but then take in the blend of fresh and natural smells that fill the tiny and simple market. It feels like good medicine. “Thank you,” I say to the young couple before leaving. “See you in two days.”
On my way home I cross the grass courtyard at the intersection of Main, Center Street and Prosper. It is where the town will meet to watch the Pranav’s fireworks display. Frampton’s fresh baked pumpkin pies and orange-cranberry muffins haunt the tiny square, parading right beside the smell of fresh roasted coffee coming from McMillan’s Books and Brew. Just then, the street lamps and twinkle lights on the eighty foot evergreen centered on the lawn come on. They illuminate the life sized nativity scene facing me.
Sarah salutes with the tip of her brush but immediately returns her attentions to the touch-up she is making to one of the three kings. Everybody in town thinks that one looks just like Vinod, and as I see it again I have to agree. Every year Sarah makes sure the statue’s smile is always as bright as the man’s and his ornate silver box is full of fresh aromatic spices. Another one of the three kings’ looks remarkably like Chou carrying a golden Buddha, his present to the newborn babe. The third is a perfect match for Doc with one hand poised over an elaborately decorated drum—I half expect to hear the rhythmic pat-a-tat-tat.
Mary seems slight and frail kneeling beside the babe, while a tall and bearded Joseph stands beside her. By the light of a wooden menorah he illuminates the child for the approaching kings, and a Star of David shines down on them all from atop the evergreen. I stop and look at the unmoving gathering for a long time. Realizing my gratitude is as staid and perfect as the symbol—I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
Hero’s are back . . . big time. Batman, Spiderman, Iron Man, The Green Hornet. Were bound to see more of our old favorites, but isn’t it time for something new? Nobody has seen a hero quite like Gabriel Shameus, or the rest of the unlikely champions who, in my suspense thriller Chiliasm Diaries, glean there powers from none other than God himself. Gabriel, a dispirited physicist, decides to use the time machine he developed for the Defense Department to undo the mistakes he’s made. He discovers God’s plan instead.
Gabriel’s story is the first in a proposed series of thrillers told in the Gospel tradition. Gabe’s destiny is to bring Jesus into the 21st Century . . . before all hell breaks loose, and the DOD is not too happy about it.
In a world where the lack of faith breeds kings, the second coming of Christ must happen through the advent of science. But would you know if God was speaking to you? And what will the world do when it realizes Revelations does not tell of an unspeakable future but describes our self destructive past? Will Christ, and Gabe, and their rag-tag team of unlikely heroes be able to prevent another two thousand years of greed, darkness, and self-destruction?
How far will the Devil go to hang on to his control?
Does Gabe ever get to resurrect his own son?
Oil is killing more than our Earth’s ecology . . .
Penance and Prey is a thriller about Julia Macintyre, a brilliant ecologist who’s often dreamt about saving the planet. She is snared in the same deadly web of corporate espionage and global politics she believes behind her father’s mysterious death. Jack Macintyre’s secret prototype could eliminate dependency on fossil fuels, but oil-bloc contracts control international economics. Fighting over them is what caused World War II.
Now the earth is on the brink, global economics are at stake, and the oil-bloc contracts up for renewal.
Jack’s only true ally, Crown Prince Tayib Fahd Khalid, returns to the US with the miraculous Macintyre machine and Jack’s plan to eliminate the threat of World War III while restoring the planet’s ecological balance. He and Julia must deliver the prototype to the UN at the International Trades Committee Summit being held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
But will ENCROWN, the bankrupt energies technology corporations and their hired mercenaries find the blueprints and destroy the prototype before Julia and the prince see her father’s plans through?
How far will Vice President Colby go to stop Julia and the prince . . . and anyone else who stands between him and his desire to rule the world?
After all she’s been through, can Julia really believe in happily ever after . . . dare to fall in love with a prince?