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.
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.
“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter or opportunity.”
The slogan by Euripides was splashed across the front of her daughter’s t-shirt. As per usual, the tee was two sizes too small. Not only did her heavy bosoms stretch the fabric to its limits, but they also created a sort of oblong divot in the ruffled panels stretching between the two points. The effect emphasized the generous gift God had given. The neckline was obscene, even by 1970’s standards, which was saying a lot. She imagined the slits in the back of the shirt were made by dragging a bare razor blade across the fabric panel as it was stretched over the back of their outdated toilet. She’d seen slash marks on the toilet seat cover the other day and wondered aloud, “What the what??”
Whatever way those slits had gotten on that tee, they exposed a Victoria’s Secret bra underneath that was having a tough time holding up under the strain. “What must that thing have cost her, fifty bucks? And where’d that money come from?” her mother wondered. She hoped she’d purchased it, and not just walked out in a moment when the clerk was otherwise occupied.
The girl chewed her gum, cracking and popping it with each downward stroke of her jowly jaw.
“I’m telling you, he’s creepy,” she said. “Every time I get near ‘im, he wants to give me a hug. Did you see him pet my head at the picnic? Like I’m some dog… No crap, he was petting the back of my head!!! She shivered a little shiver. “I swear, I can almost hear him lickin’ his lips as he moves in to take a squeeze. Ugh…Sleaze!”
The girl pulled at shorts that appeared painted onto her skin. Chubby legs labored under the pressure, as she squirmed out of the bench seat at her favorite eatery and tried to get comfortable with denim riding up her cheeks.
“This too shall pass,” her mother murmured to herself, “this, too, shall pass.” In the meantime, she’d keep her trap shut and her opinions to herself. Like the therapist always said, she needed to pick her battles wisely. An opportunity would come along, just like the t-shirt advertised, and then she’d speak her truth. Until then she’d be praying, a lot.