Gone Someday

The Boat Builder’s Escape

Matt stuck the small painted boat under his t-shirt so no one could see it and ran the five blocks to the 20th Street bridge. He was hoping Mom wouldn’t happen to come looking for him. He knew he’d get a good smack upside the head if she didn’t find him busy with the job she’d given him.

Seeing no one else around, the eight-year-old boy hurried to the middle and the bridge and pulled out the boat he’d made. He looked down at the stream not far below. Spring flood waters had swelled the narrow river and were hurrying it along to the forks where it would join another a hundred miles away.

He took a last look at the boat he’d made. Okay, it was nothing special, but he’d shaped and painted it himself. He’d screwed a metal plate on the bottom to keep it right-side up and painted a sailor on the deck. Now he gazed soberly at the little sailor’s face. “I can’t go off and see the world, but you can.” He held the boat over the rail of the bridge and dropped it into the water. As he watched the current carry it away, he murmured, “I can’t run away, but you can.”

He turned around and trudged back home, hoping there might be something in the house to eat.

He slipped into the kitchen quietly so his mother wouldn’t hear him and opened a few cupboard doors, looking for some cereal or a piece of bread to ease his hunger pangs. He was peering into the fridge when his mother suddenly grabbed his arm in a painful grip and yanked him away.

“There you are, you lazy little brat. Where’ve you been? You were supposed to clean up the garage and when I looked you were nowhere to be seen. And where did those paint cans come from? Have you been messing around with paint? All I need for you to get your clothes all splattered.”

“I’m starving, Mom. Just let me grab something to eat and I’ll go clean up.”

She gave him a good shake. “I’ll starve you, you empty-headed little loafer!” She threw him against the side door. “Now get back out there and Do something!”

boy-in-small-boatMatt’s eyes filled with tears as he walked back to the garage. The pain deep inside threatened to choke him. But then he thought of his little boat and smiled. It had gotten away. Someday he would, too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Since the Daily Press prompt for today is someday, I thought I’d repost this small fiction story. It was originally posted October 29, 2016

Prairie Fire!

Mary Boos was working in the garden that afternoon and stopped to rest as a warm wind blew across the yard. Right about that time one of the little girls said, “Mama, look at that big cloud.”

Mary turned to see where he daughter was pointing. Her eyes widened as she saw the white and grey clouds of smoke billowing up from the fields a few miles from their small farm. Plumes rose in the air and were swallowed in the vast prairie sky.

“Oh no. That’s a fire – and a big one!” she exclaimed as she scanned the horizon.

For an instant her thoughts tumbled between fear and confusion. She and the girls were home alone; her husband Mike had taken the oxen that morning and gone to Ernfold, their nearest town, for supplies. What could she do to save the children? And would the fire catch Mike en route, too?

Like all grassland homesteaders Mike had plowed a fireguard around their farm, but that was a wide line of fire and the wind was blowing it straight towards them. She surveyed the plowed ring around their farmyard and noticed with alarm that the grass on both sides of the fireguard was knee-high and dried from the summer sun. Excellent fuel to receive blowing sparks and flare up. Something had to be done — that narrow strip of bare earth would never protect their yard.

She screamed for her oldest daughter. “Annie. Come!” Then she thought, how foolish. What could either of them do. A wave of hopelessness washed over her. She thought her children, and of Mike. How would he feel to come home and find them all burned to ashes? There had to be something she could do!

In a moment Annie’s head appeared in the door. “Fire!” Mary shouted and Annie looked where her mother was pointing. “It’s still a few miles away, but we have to work fast,” Mary said as she grabbed her toddler and headed for the house.

“God, help us,” she cried as she ran into the one-room cabin. She shouted an order to her second oldest daughter. “Mary, you stay with these little ones. Annie, we have to do something. Molly and Christina, you stay right here with Mary and you all pray that God will help us save the farm.”

“Won’t the fireguard protect us?” Mary asked.

“A fire that size could easily set this side burning, too, with all this dry grass around.”

“But what can we do, Mama? Shall we get buckets of water?”

Mary had no answer. They could hardly battle an inferno like this. Frantically she looked around, all the while praying for some answer.

Her eyes fell on the little tin matchbox holder tacked on the wall beside the stove. A plan popped into her mind. “Come, Annie,” she ordered, grabbing the match holder.

Mary led the way and the two of them ran straight toward the fire. They crossed the fireguard and ran into the thick grass that crackled on their skirts as they ran. They ran half a mile from home, then Margaret stopped and turned to Annie.

“Take handfuls of matches and go that way; I’ll go this way. Light them and throw them into the grass.”

They both turned to face their farm buildings and tossed lighted matches, ran a few yards and tossed more. Little flames burst out here and there. The wind fanned these; soon the grass was ablaze with tongues of fire racing on the breeze toward their fireguard.

The mother and daughter made a wide arc of flames until their match supply was used up, then they ran back toward the house. When they got to the fireguard, Margaret turned and saw the prairie blacken where their fires had already burned the grass. Song birds, abandoning their nests to the flames, rose up here and there. Rabbits, fleeing the fire, dashed across their farmyard.

The small fires they’d ignited reached the fireguard and burned themselves out. Mary and Annie beat out any flames starting from sparks that blew into the yard. At last the weary mother and daughter headed back to the house. They’d done what they could; now they’d gather the children and pray for divine protection.

Mike was hauling a load of fence posts back from town when he realized the danger he was in. Thankfully he was not far from a slough. It took no effort to get the oxen headed toward the water as they felt the heat from those crackling flames. They pulled the wagon into the middle of the slough, sat down and waited while the fire flowed around them, sizzling at the water’s edges.

Mike thought of his family at home. Would they have had any chance to escape? Had his fireguard actually held this inferno at bay around his farmyard? Sitting there soaked with slough water, he berated himself for not making it twice as wide. Would everything he held dear him be ashes when he finally got there?

Once the charred earth was cool enough to travel on he headed toward his farm, his heart heavy with dread. But then he saw a miracle: in the midst of the blackened prairie there were his farm buildings still standing. The earth was black right up to the plowed strip of fireguard, but the buildings on the other side were as he’d left them this morning. Incredible. Thank God!

When he got to the house his family rushed out to meet him and the girls told him how their mother’s quick thinking had saved their lives and the farm. Her little fires had burned away all the fuel so the main fire had nothing to feed on. It had to go around them.

The facts of this incident were written by Emma, one of the younger Boos daughters, in the book From Prairie Sod to Golden Grain 1904-1974, a history of people of Ernfold and Community.

Word Press Daily prompt word: Flames

Story reblogged from Dec 5, 2013

Back in the Saddle Again

Hi Everyone!

As you will know if you visit my main site, Christine’s Collection, I started chemo-therapy in April to treat my leukemia. I had my last treatment Sept 9th, almost two months ago. My oncologist is quite pleased at how I responded to the treatment; they feel there are almost no cancerous lymphocytes left and I should have about five years before they build up and become a serious problem again.

So many things fall behind when you aren’t feeling well. then when life starts to return to normal you tray to catch up on the house-cleaning and other pressing stuff. So I’ve left this blog inactive, but it’s time to get back to writing and posting here. Actually I have done a few fiction tales on my main blog and will re-post them here in case you don’t follow Christine’s Collection.

Another thing that’s stimulated my urge to write fiction is sitting in on Jerry Jenkins’ writing classes. Last month my husband joined the Jerry Jenkins Writing Guild and we’ve both been watching the webinars on how to produce quality writing. I’ve learned a lot from his “How to Become A Ferocious Self-Editor” sessions. “Ferocious” is the perfect description as he puts some writer’s first page through his Manuscript Repair and Revision.

Anyway, a few days ago I did an exercise for The Write Practice, then posted it on Christine Composes. You can read it here: Metaphors — Prose & Haiku

Wishing everyone a lovely week. For those of us who live in free countries, let’s not forget on Nov 11th to pause a moment and give thanks for the peace we enjoy and the personal freedoms we have. No, life isn’t perfect, but folks of past generations have sacrificed so much — even their lives — so we can have it this good.

A Dark and Stormy Night (2)

Part Two

Royal peered out the window, barely able to see between the rivulets of water running down the pane. “Maybe it’s someone lost in the storm? Or now that he’s out of town, he can’t see to go on.”

“But whoever would start out in a night like this?”

“Maybe it’s thieves who just robbed a bank and need a place to hide out,” said Bluette.

“Just the thing we need to hear,” Mother said in a sharp, reproving tone.

A white zigzag arced across the heavens. “It’s a two-tone,” Bluette announced. “Light body, dark top.”

Royal had gotten a good look, too. “It’s a ‘56 Olds 88 — you can tell by the grille. It has one of those new Rocket V 8 engines,” he said with a superior air. He poked his sister. “Light and dark! You don’t know anything about cars.”

Bluette stuck her tongue out. “It’s cream with a tropical green roof, just like Uncle Nolan’s car. Who cares about engines? I do hope it’s them.”

“Yes,” Mother exclaimed with delight as the vehicle came to a halt near the front door. “It is Uncle Nolans.” She hurried to the door with the children right behind her.

The passengers spilled out of the car and dashed for the sheltering porch. Mother flung the door open. “Come in, come in!” she urged. “What brings you out in this storm?”

“Oh, just thought it would be a good time to pop in for a visit,” Uncle Nolan said as he peeled off his wet coat. “With the lights flickering off and on, we thought the electricity might go out altogether and things would get chilly at our place. Then, of course, we thought of you folks with your nice warm fireplace and decided that’s where we’d rather be if we have to sit in the dark.”

“I hope you don’t mind us coming over,” Aunt Stacey added. “I thought with Tom gone you might appreciate a little company on this miserable night anyway.”

“Oh, yes, we do!” Royal said as he helped hang their jackets over the kitchen chairs to dry.

Mother gave everyone a big hug, even Uncle Nolan. “Your timing is perfect,” she said. “Someone was just speculating that the house would be struck by lightening,” Mother gave Bluette a meaningful look, “while someone else was predicting a tornado would blow us half way across the country. You folks can help put paid to such gloomy thoughts.”

“My word! Well, I must say some thoughts like that were bouncing around at our house, too,” Aunt Stacey admitted, glancing at her own children. “So maybe we can cheer each other up.”

“We should make hot chocolate for everybody,” Bluette suggested.

“Yeah, and popcorn, too,” Azure added. She looked at her cousin Caroline, who nodded enthusiastically.

“That’s a great idea,” Mother said. “But, Royal, you need to bring in some more wood in case the power does go off.”

Royal grabbed a flashlight from the shelf beside the stove and turned to his cousin Michael. “Want to help me split some kindling and bring in the wood?”

“Sure, let’s get at it,” his teenage cousin replied.

“I’m so glad you came,” Bluette said to her cousin Darlene, who was the same age as her.“You’ve saved me from a really tough slog,” she added as the girls wandered back into the living room.

“Like what?” Darlene asked.

“Mom was just saying I had to write a letter to Great Aunt Opal thanking her for the handkerchiefs she sent. Did you get some for your birthday, too?” She rolled her eyes. “It’s hard to write some gushy ‘Thank you’ for a gift you’ll never use.”

“You know, Bleet, I found a really good use for Aunt Opal’s hankies. I use them for bookmarks.”

Bluette stared at her. “Bookmarks?”

“Yeah. I fold them up and iron them so they’re really flat and use them to mark my place. That way I don’t have to leave books cracked open like this.” She pointed to the book Bluette had left on the arm of the chair. “Then I can write and tell Aunt Opal that I’ve found her handkerchiefs ‘really useful.’ And everybody’s happy.”

“You know, that’s not such a bad idea.” Not being as neat and organized as Darlene, she’d have never thought of it herself. “At least it’ll give me something to say when I write her.”

She picked her book off the arm of the chair. “I’m really glad you all came over. Have you ever read Wuthering Heights?”

“Yes. Isn’t Heathcliffe a heartless brute!”

Soon Michael and Royal were carrying in armloads of firewood, Uncle Nolan was stoking the fire and the aroma of hot chocolate was scenting the air. Before long the corn was popped and everyone was sitting around by the fireside enjoying the visit even if the lights were apt to go off at any moment.

“Hey, everybody. Wouldn’t it be neat if the electricity did go off and we get to sit here in the dark?” Royal asked in between mouthfuls of popcorn. He grinned at Michael.“That’d make the evening just perfect.”

A Vintage Year — Book Review

Last week I received a free copy of A Vintage Year by Kate Preston, with the promise that I’d review it and give my honest opinion of this book. So here it is:

Through the main character, former tennis star Harris Tucker, the reader gets a look at the immoral, self-centered world of a celebrity athlete. He’s portrayed as a careless playboy pursuing the pleasures of the flesh— seemingly well indulged in this by many attractive women. But as the story opens he botches an important game and his politically-aspiring mother, disgraced by his fiasco on the tennis court, disowns him. Then his accountant and best friend shuts off his allowance until he learns to curb his wild spending.

In Laura Bollier the reader sees the struggles of a young divorcee tackling both the hard work and planning necessary to keep the family’s grape-growing business solvent and the parenting responsibilities of a single mother. On a dare she offers Harris a week of work, an action that gets her some flak from her family. He may be clueless, but he’s desperate enough to stick it out.

If you are familiar with vineyards, and especially wine production in CA, you will find those details more interesting than I did. I felt the book slowed down in the middle as the writer took time to describe regional vine culture and wine festivals.

I found the story is well told, the plot believable, the characters well fleshed out. Most of the story moved along well. However, the relationship between Harris and Laura is a long, drawn out affair more off than on. And I did feel Harris’s mother’s “Wicked Witch of the West” role was sometimes overplayed. It’s a totally secular story; there are no religious references in it at all.

It seems the editor and writer got tired partway through the book. It could use one more editorial polishing, especially the last third. Language got a little coarser in the tense spots toward the end, too. There are typos, missing words, wrong verb tenses and such that an editor should have caught.

In places the personal pronouns are confusing; in a few spots the POV switches abruptly from one character to another, sometimes in the middle of a paragraph, and the reader is left to guess where exactly the break comes. There were places where the writer “showed” us but then told us anyway — and places where we were just told. Over all it was an interesting story.

Susan, Lady of Leisure #1

HER LAST DAY

“Now don’t you be in here with sunstroke next week!” Lynn, the head nurse winked as she waggled her finger at Susan. She cut a piece of the celebratory cake, dropped it onto a paper plate, and handed it to Susan. “Here’s the biggest piece for our guest of honor.”

“Best of luck, girl. You’ll be a lady of leisure now,” said Ethel, another ward nurse. “I’m sure looking forward to joining you – but I’ve got ten more years to go,” she added with a sigh.

“Well, I’m cheating to retire at 55, but with the inheritance from my Uncle James adding a bit to my pension, why shouldn’t I?” Susan admired the neatly formed icing rose on her piece of cake and shoved it to the side of her plate to keep as a souvenir of this party.

Nurse Karen balanced her plate of cake in one hand and patted Susan’s shoulder with the other. “You just enjoy your retirement years. You’ve earned it. And just think: no cranky old ladies hollering ‘Nurse! I need a bedpan.’ Lucky you!”

“I prescribe sunny southern climates all winter for the next twenty years,” said one of the Residents as he shook Susan’s hand.

“That sounds great! But I probably can’t afford that lifestyle if I’m not working 8-5 every day.” Susan chuckled at the mental picture of herself basking in the sun at the Riviera. With her fair complexion, plus being rather pale from years of working indoors, she might look like a boiled lobster if she spent too much time in the sun right off the bat.

Susan’s daughter Rhoda, who had taken time off to join the celebration, told the group, “Mom may not be doing the South Seas every winter, but she’s bought a neat little bungalow in a small southern village right on the coast close to Bournemouth.”

“Good for her,” Nurse Amanda cheered. “When can I come for a visit.” Everyone laughed.

“Will you be renting out a spare room for guests?” Nurse Collin asked in a teasing tone. “My wife would love a weekend down at the coast. Stuck here in Aylesbury all our lives, never toured southern England yet.”

Susan looked around the staff’s lunch room at the coworkers, dear to her heart, who’d come to say farewell. She smiled at the “Happy Days Ahead!” banner someone had tacked on one wall. In spite of the joyful occasion, which marked the end of running back and forth along this ward, she felt tears prick her eyes.

Yes, she’d had her holidays and some hobbies that kept her busy, but the past twenty-five years of her life had been devoted to this place. She’d gone back to nursing to support herself and her two children after Harvey’s death and the work had been a lifeline for her in more ways than one. What would she do now?

Susan made up her mind right there: she would not become a lonely old widow. As she nibbled at her cake her mind started flipping through the possibilities — all the dreams she’d had, some of which she might now be able to fulfill. She chuckled. If she got too bored she could always enroll in university.

Stella, another nurse a few years younger than Susan, wrapped an arm around her and gave her a gentle squeeze. “We’ll miss you. You’ve been so good with the patients. You’ve definitely earned your day of rest, Susan. Put your feet up. Read some good books.”

Susan waved her hand upwards. “I sure will. The sky’s the limit!”

At the end of the party Susan circled around the lunch room one last time, gave everyone a hug and left them with a promise to follow the prescribed course of treatment: total rest. Together with her daughter she walked down the hall and pushed the elevator button, dabbing at a few lingering tears.

“This is so sweet,” she said to Rhoda. “Last time on this elevator. Freedom!” They got off by the staff exit and Susan walked out that door for the last time.

To Be Continued…

FULL HOUSE–Book Report

FULL HOUSE
© 2012 by Maeve Binchy

This book is classed as a “Quick Read” and it was. I picked it up at the library last week and read it in one evening. It was also a delightful tale, the story of Dee & Liam, whose adult children still live at home and are totally at ease in the old nest. The young folks are totally focused on their own personal problems and take it for granted Mom look after all their physical needs: the cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.

Then Dee & Liam face a financial and emotional crash and Dee realizes this system can’t go on. But now, how to go about re-educating their offspring after years of “training” them to be careless and self-centered? A rebellion is in order here.

I think this story could be a great eye-opener for teenagers and young adults living at home as well as for parents of teens and young adults.

Back cover blurb:
Rosie moved out when she got married, but it didn’t work out, so now she is back with her parents. Helen is a teacher and doesn’t earn enough for a place of her own. Anthony writes songs and is just waiting for the day when someone will pay him for them. Until then, all three are happy at home. It doesn’t cost them anything and surely their parents like having a full house?

Then there is a crisis and Dee decides things have to change for the whole family…whether they like it or not.

Sometimes You Hit A Homer

Gord and I had just finished shooing a few last gawkers away from the crash site when a car pulled into the driveway and a young woman got out and walked toward us, an inquisitive look on her face.

Gord rolled his eyes heavenward. “Whenever there’s a crime everyone and his pup wants to see the blood,” he grumbled.

I winked at my fellow officer. “I don’t see any pup. Just a nice looking lady.”

“Well, you deal with her, Mike. Tell her, ‘Sorry. No bodies today’.” He turned to talk with the tow truck driver and the two of them walked away.

As I watched the woman coming toward me, I guessed her to be in her late-twenties. Not pretty, exactly, but neat. Sandy blond hair fastened behind her head with a clip. Her outfit, a soft green skirt and matching flowered top, coordinated nicely.

Amanda always liked color-coordinated outfits. A twinge of grief hit me. Poets probably call this feeling “bittersweet.” Sweet memory; bitter grief. Co-ordinated sentiments?

This lady didn’t look like your usual crime-scene spectator. Did she have some business here? Neighbors had told us the owners were away on vacation so perhaps this was some friend or relative checking up on things.

She watched the tow truck driver haul away the car the young hoods had totaled, then she turned to me. “What happened, Officer?”

“We’re still investigating, ma’am, but it appears a couple of teen boys held up a gas station and tore off when police tried to stop them. They lost control making a turn, spun out, and hit this garage.”

She frowned. “I hope they weren’t killed!”

“No, just stunned a bit. They ran when our officers got here, but they’re in custody now.”

“Well, I’m sorry they crashed, but at least they’ll get the chance to think it over.”

“Yeah. Probably for six months or so.” I noticed her different accent. Out of state. “And what brings you here this morning, ma’am?”

“My friend asked me to meet her here. I wonder if she knows about this? She didn’t say anything when I talked to her earlier.”

“Your friend?”

“Brianne Rancourt. She’s been house-sitting for these folks while they’re on holidays.”

“Ah. We’ll need to talk to her.”

“We planned to meet here, check on the place, then do lunch. Shall I call her, sir?” She turned her huge peepers on me — nice denim blue ones — and my pulse did a quick double blip.

I took a deep breath. “Uh… Just give me her number and I’ll get the investigating officer to contact her.” I grabbed my notebook and she rattled off the pertinent info, then waited as I relayed it to headquarters.

She eyed the damage. “Brianne will be so shocked. She’s been house-sitting here for the past two weeks and never had any trouble. I feel sorry for the owners, coming home to this.”

Her tone, soft and gentle now, reminded me of the folks at my wife’s funeral. They’d give me a hug or pat me on the shoulder as they filed past, murmuring, “I’m so sorry, Mike.” Or they’d look at my kids and say, “This is so sad!”

I jerked my mind back to the present. “How long have you known Ms Rancourt?”

“Only ten days, actually. My Aunt lives here in Houston. She had a bad fall and broke her hip, so I took time off work and drove down from Great Falls to help her out. I met Brianne at the hospital; her aunt’s on the same ward.”

“Great Falls, Montana? Ah! That explains your accent.”

Her eyes sparkled. “Actually, we don’t have an accent. It’s you Texans that talk funny.” I chuckled at the way she drawled this last sentence.

I flipped to a new page in my notebook. “I should take down your name and number as well, ma’am.”

Her eyebrows lifted. “Really? But it’s purely coincidence that I’m here now, sir.”

I put on my best stern-cop frown, avoiding those curious blue eyes. “Perhaps we’ll need to contact you for some reason.”

“Okay. I’m Shannon Ryan. As I said, I live in Great Falls. Age thirty-one — in case you need that, too.” I couldn’t miss the hint of teasing in her voice.

I grinned. “I admire your honesty, ma’am. Most women I know stop at twenty-nine.” That made her smile.

Amanda had always joked that she was going to quit counting birthdays when she hit thirty. I’d laughed and told her I’d just have to grow old all by myself then. Those words came back to haunt me now. We never dreamed she wouldn’t live to see thirty; we never foresaw a fatal aneurysm snatching her away from me and the kids.

I focused on my notebook. “Married or single?” Police records didn’t require that, but hey. We can do things different here in Texas, right?

“I’m a widow.”

That got my attention. “I’m sorry to hear that. For long?”

She sighed. “It’s been ten years for me. And Brianne was widowed two years ago. I guess that’s why we hit it off so well when we met. We can commiserate.”

My brain did the math. “You must have been married real young then?”

“Yeah. I was seventeen when we got married; Brad was eighteen. Young and foolish, folks said, but we were very much in love. He was killed in a car accident on his way home from work one night. Four sweet years — far too short.” She blinked back some tears.

I nodded sympathetically. “I hear you, ma’am. I lost my wife four months ago. Feels like our time together was far too short, too.”

“My condolences,” she murmured. “Those first few months alone are a long, hard walk.”

“You’ve never remarried? Not currently, uh, involved?” Man, you’re nervy, Mike, I chided myself. But I had to ask.

“No.” She hesitated a moment. “I was engaged briefly three years ago, but that really blew up in my face. I run a daycare and it turned out he had an agenda. An ‘unnatural interest’ in children. I’ll admit a few red flags did pop up, but I so much wanted a home and family of my own that I reasoned them away.”

“The snake!” I spat the word out, thinking of my own innocent kids.

“Yeah. How could I have not seen it? And the scandal when he was arrested really sank me. Headlines like: ‘Day care operator’s fiancé arrested for trafficking in kiddie porn’ and ‘Police investigate pedophile’s involvement with day care owner.’ I’d never left him alone with any of the kids in my care — I testified to that in court — but my business was toast. I had to sell my house and start up elsewhere.”

I gritted my teeth. “I know what I’d like to do with someone like that!”

“So I’m sure you can understand why I try not to think about marriage anymore. I’m scared to hope again for fear it’ll be ‘Three strikes, you’re out’.” She smiled then, but the tears made her eyes glisten.

She shook her head and fixed her eyes on the garage. “Anyway, this isn’t all about me, so I’d better get on my way.” She turned and walked toward her car.

Should I just let her go? Something about this lady impressed me. She’d been through the mill and could still smile. I could use someone like that in my life — someone who’d understand.

A nagging voice piped up. It’s too soon to get involved, Mike. Just drop it!

Yeah, too soon. Yet I was so lonely! The emptiness had set in as soon as the last relative left. Every day my house felt empty: the loving greetings, the noisy meals together, the hugs and kisses were all gone. Every night my bed felt lonelier.

What will people think? They’ll say you didn’t love Amanda much if you find someone else so soon.

Stuff it, I retorted. I need someone. The kids need a mother. I’ve prayed God would send me someone who’ll love my kids. And if this is my someone, I’m not letting her walk away.

“Shannon, wait…” I called. She stopped and turned around.

“I’ve been thinking — since you’re down here alone and don’t know the city, perhaps you might, uh, like an unofficial police escort? Maybe for some shopping or sightseeing? And there are some really neat cruises in the Gulf you might want to take in while you’re here.”

She was quiet for a moment. Wrestling with her own nagging voices, most likely.

“Don’t give up on finding love,” I encouraged her. “After all, not everybody strikes out. Sometimes you hit a homer on the third swing.”

Something seemed to click and her face broke into a beautiful smile. “You know,” she said, “a police escort might not be such a bad idea. Might save me from some other slippery snakes. Yeah, I’d like to look around this town more, with a little help. Since you’re offering.”

Her smile seemed to bring the sunshine into my world again. I held out my hand. “My name’s Mike Andrews, by the way. And I have a five-year-old and a two-year-old who’d be glad to spend time with someone who likes children.”

She reached out and shook my hand. “Pleased to meet you, Mike. And I do like children. In fact I always wanted house full.”

I gave her my biggest smile. “I’m with you on that one.”

Troy’s Wake-Up Call

WHAM!

As a reward for our recent hard work, our sales team had chosen to spend a few days at a resort renowned for its golf greens. I was coming in with my small plane and everything was A-okay.  Visibility was great; the tarmac stretched out invitingly; my landing gear was unfolding as it should.

It would have been a perfect landing — if only those crazy birds had stayed put.

In my descent I could see the fairway on my left farther up. I also took note of the winding stream below as I brought my small plane down, focused on the strip of asphalt ahead. I never saw the two birds they say rose up from the river below. I only felt a violent jerk as something hit the prop and I lost control.

I vaguely recall a tumbling, falling sensation, the far-off wail of sirens. I remember thinking at one point, Guess my buddies will have to play without me, ‘cause I won’t be making it to the fairway today.

I woke up flat out on a bed, hearing blimps and bleeps from machines and soft voices. Definitely hospital sounds. I tried to open my eyes or turn my head, but my body was like stone. I couldn’t stay awake.

I came to later, hearing familiar voices right near my bed. My wife, Lacey, my mom and dad. They were murmuring, talking about the crash of a small plane, a bird in the prop. Bit by bit the memory came back to me.  I tried to make some noise. I tried moving my hand, my foot — anything to let them know I was awake — but my body wouldn’t co-operate. I couldn’t even tell that I even had arms or legs. Maybe I didn’t? That thought scared the living daylights out of me. But I couldn’t open my eyes to check.

HOW LONG?

“How long do you think it will be until he comes out of this, doctor?” I could hear the fear in Lacey’s voice.

Another voice, professional, yet kind. “We can never be sure. A lot of patients with similar injuries come to within a week or two. Some don’t.”

NO! I don’t want to lie here another week or two, I want to get up, move around. Then his last words buzzed around in my brain, torturing me. Some don’t. Ever.

“When he does come to again, what are the chances that Troy will live a normal life?” Dad’s voice. Always the optimist, he wouldn’t take ‘never’ for an answer.

“That’s impossible to determine until he wakes up and we assess how much neurological damage has been done.”

Hours passed — or was it days? I came to many times and tried to move, but it was like someone had set me in concrete. What I wouldn’t give to at least say a few words, find out what was going on! When the doctor was in the room I tried my hardest to scream, but not even a squeak came out.

I lived for the visits of my family. Lacey brought Kyle and Tianna. They were full of questions. Lacey explained, “Daddy’s in a coma. It’s like he’s asleep. But maybe he can hear us, so talk to him.”

Poor kids. They didn’t understand, but they tried. Kyle told me about school. Tianna told me about the new girl on our street. Their voices were like a lifesaver to a drowning sailor. If only I could communicate just how much those visits meant to me.

I made a vow. When I come out of this, I’m going to tell them every day how sweet their voices sound.

Even the medical people brightened my dark world. How I wish I could tell them that! I knew from the few comments the nurses made right by my bed that they were moving me, washing me, but I felt nothing. Much as I hated to be so helpless, their snatches of gossip as they worked with me reassured me that I was still in the land of the living.

SECOND CHANCES

Then came that marvelous day when my eyes opened.

If you only knew what it’s like to live in grey shadows for days — or was it even weeks? — and then one day be able to see light and color and people. Wonderful is far too small a word; it’s like saying the Grand Canyon is large. And to see the faces of Lacey, the kids, my parents, standing around me with great big grins. To see the hope shining in their eyes.

The only thing that it was the day I took my first step. It was the first step of my new life as a husband, a father, a son. Thank God for second chances!

The Castle of Blood

Once Upon A Time…

Trembling with every step, I made my way down the dim corridor of the castle. I knew what was ahead and I dreaded it, but one of the noble princes of our land had commanded me to appear there and I could not escape my fate.

At the end of the hall a woman waited, grasping in her bony fingers a long rubber band. I shuddered as I advanced toward her. She wanted my blood.

Where, oh, where, can my fairy godmother be staying these days? Why does she not swoop down to rescue me from this ordeal?

For me there has been no reprieve from this long corridor and this constant bloodletting. Oh, so many times I had to present myself to this woman with the sinister smile. So many times she reached out and took hold of my arm, drawing me into her room. So many times — yet it was never enough. All too soon she wanted yet more.

I cringed as she punctured my vein, laughing all the while. She would take my blood and spin it, twirl it, torture it. Would she love to do the same with my body, I wonder? Thankfully, permission has not been granted her to torture my flesh — and she is not allowed to pierce my jugular vein. So I have escaped with my life.

She drained enough blood to fill three pots, relishing the bright red tone. Then she released me and I fled that terrible enclave. Outside the castle door my knight in shining armor waited to carry me off to his mansion, where I might recover until the next summons comes and they want yet more of my precious blood.

As we walked back to our carriage, we heard a sound like a bull frog and turned to see what odd creature was lurking nearby. At last our eyes located the source of this unearthly sound: up in a pine tree beside the castle a raven peered down at us. No doubt he was disappointed there was no flesh for him to feast on.

My reply to today’s WordPress prompt isn’t quite a fairy tale, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.