The large trunk was old but roomy and neither the dark interior, nor the peeling wallpaper from years gone by bothered him at all. He was rather, fascinated. How could he know that once he’d crawled inside and let the lid fall, the latch would trip and he’d be stuck? He was only seven, for goodness sake.
He screamed as the dog howled, growled, and snarled, biting the corners of the trunk in response to his shrieking. An hour later they found him, asleep in a puddle of his own pee. He never went near the trunk again, and from that day forward whenever he passed the master suite and saw it, he moved away quickly and shuddered a little inside.
My sister recently showed me pictures from a family gathering.
A family that was mine, but not mine.
I was in the picture, appearing to be maybe three years old.
Unaware of what would follow.
It made me sad. For all we’ve lost, for what might have been, for that disconnect that never healed itself; partly my fault, partly theirs.
This song reminded me of it.
Love the people in your lives. They need it, but so do you!!
Sweltering heat and that blasted Nordic skin of hers had sent her searching for cover indoors. No one wanted to hang with a girl who had a burnt nose. Plus, she didn’t want to spend the next two days wincing every time a piece of clothing touched her blistered chest. Let them walk around in this pressure cooker weather, she was staying put in the cool and sheltered cellar of the VFW.
She saw him across the room. Saw him saunter over to the water fountain. Realized he had a child in tow. “Another parent, living hand to mouth and unwilling or unable to buy his kid a soda pop,” she said to her girlfriend.
“Higher!” the little boy coaxed, “I can’t reach the water, lift me higher.”
The man in the purple shirt with the wind-swept hair was holding the boy so that his toes dangled a few inches above the floor; trying to position him correctly so that he could refresh himself with a few drop of the cool water flowing from the fountain hooked to the wall.
“Don’t let go of my balloon!” the boy said.
“Okay, Okay,” was his reply. The juxtaposition of the boy in his arms and the balloon in his hand was funny enough, but when the fountain sprayed water all over the front of him, Maybe could hold her laughter no longer.
He glanced across the room. Saw her. Saw her smile and heard her laughter, but it was her freckles that caught his attention. Her freckles and that fearless giggle of hers. He made a gesture with his head, shifting wet hair out of the way so that he could get a better look.
She was sitting on the counter, legs dangling, jeans short, halter covering breasts that swung bra-free. He liked what he saw, and now that the child he’d had squirmed free, He planned to take a drink of his own before making his way to her side of the room.
“Today’s my birthday,” he said, when he’d reached her.
“Your birthday, hunh? That’s original.”
“It is!” he protested.
“On the fourth of July.” she answered flatly, giving him one of those looks that says, I don’t believe you, but I don’t believe you in a cute and saucy way.
“I’m serious. Today is my birthday.”
“And how old are you today?” Maybe asked.
He was moving in on her. Anxious to touch her bare legs. She could tell. She crossed them at the ankles, leaving a space between her knees where he might penetrate her force field, should he have the guts to try it. They talked for a few minutes, flirting recklessly, before he said, “How about a birthday kiss?”
“So that’s the kind of girl you think I am?” she asked. She was totally that kind of girl, and he would soon discover it, but she didn’t want to appear cheap. Not at first.
Her girlfriend made an excuse and left the cellar space for the fairground’s midway a story above them. “I’ll catch ya on the fly,” were the last words she spoke, before being swallowed up by the blazing sun shining in from outside the VFW door.
“Go! Move stealthily through the city, marking everyone who was embarrassed on behalf of the King today. Every soul not insulted and apologetic for the way the King was handled, let him meet his fate.”
The being did as he was directed, and when he was done he returned to the Master.
“Have they been so marked? Young and old? Male and female? Street walker and CEO? Drunkard and sober companion? Have they been marked with my insignia, as was commanded?”
“They have,” the being replied.
“Was the number great?” the king asked.
“No. It was small,” said the being, “just as you predicted.” Even still, those marked were blessed for they were saved from what was to come.
The skies turned inky black as his minions headed out, the ground beneath their feet rumbling. Before the slaughter began, animals throughout the city shrieked. Plants of the field withered and dropped their heads of grain or bloom to the ground below, afraid to look upon the destruction about to occur. An eerie shimmer was cast across the horizon, as women everywhere began to bawl. Some cried tears of sorrow, others of repentance, but it was too late. The offense had been committed, and the decision made. No turning back.
No turning back, and so it was done.
The beings, for they were many now, found every sniveling liar, every wanton thief, every rapist and beater of women, and all those who victimized others and marginalized the poor. They found every hidden scoundrel and prideful miscreant and every mouth that prophesied falsely, and they silenced them all. The purge diminished the population within the boundary walls by two-thirds.
In the aftermath, bodies lay strewn along rose-covered pathways. The fragrance of peonies could not cancel out the stench of blood pools filling the streets. Those who were dying suffered intensely now, but many more had already been dispatched to the world beyond this realm.
His anger subsided, the beings put away their swords and scabbards. They lay down hammers and scythes. They sang a mournful song as they went along, for brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, families had perished today. Deservedly dead as they were the beings mourned them, for they’d been kinsmen. To their chagrin the king’s men felt a sympathy they knew was not deserved. No one spoke a word of it.
Deservedly, they’d died. That was the narrative, and no one dared say otherwise.
She knew something had to be said. Had to be done. Something had to happen to shake up the sameness with which she met each day. She was bored. She was disinterested. She was going to find herself in trouble soon, if she didn’t first find something purposeful to do with her life. That’s when she’d read the words from that classic book, My Utmost for His Highest.
“If you do not break the moorings, God will have to break them by a storm and send you out. Launch all on God, go out on the great swelling tide of His purpose, and you will get your eyes open (June 8 reading).”
“What was she missing?” she wondered. “What tide? What swelling? What purpose? What was she missing?”
Blurry vision. Pain. Someone was talking, but she couldn’t answer. Couldn’t think. Sounds. All around her, motion. She was being questioned, but by whom?
Moments passed. How many? Who could tell?
Touching. Hands moving over her body, attempting to find broken bones. Consciousness, then sleep again. A sharp pinch, or was it a poke? Metal sliding under skin.
Hands, again. Hands moving slowly, while consciousness tried again. Clothes ripping, or torn, or shredded…
“Can you move? Do you feel any pain? Can you tell us your name?”
Questions swirling around like bats in fog. Hard. Hard to understand. Harder, still, to respond. She couldn’t.
Black again, then light rising. “How long? How long had it been?”
White rectangle on black. Stiff. So close, but her arms wouldn’t rise to the occasion. Prayers? Tears? Family? Angels?!
A warm sensation came over her, enveloped her. She slept once more.