The Past Self
The selfishness and ignorance of inexperience
At living in a universe of individuals
Does mutilate my memories of juvinility.
Maturity of consciousness breeds humiliation
Of reactions and responses, and in retrospection,
One ambition keeps repressing the demoralizing:
To vow to keep moving forward.
A walking, talking garden gnome and his pet dog go on exciting adventures in space.
A Close Call
Lungs aching, head reeling, strength failing, my greatest threat only three paces behind, I fall forward across the finish line.
Who can see what tomorrow holds, hear the truth of tales untold, breathe as tranquil drafts console, savor forever the triumphed goal, or feel the trench of another's soul?
A Dog, a Hat, and a Wheelbarrow
The hat's off the board due to a collision with the dice. It's back on now: one, two, three, four, five spaces ahead, and that's one of the railroads SOLD. Connecticut, Baltic, and States Avenues go next; now the wheelbarrow's on chance ... what's that? Back three spaces? Oh, income tax. Not off to a great start.
Bouncing dice, racing players, two times around the board, and half the properties are SOLD. The hat coerces the wheelbarrow into giving up its railroad, and the dog has the first monopoly: Atlantic Avenue, Ventor Avenue, and Marvin Gardens. There goes Boardwalk, a great asset to the hat which seems to be establishing a great inventory, but there go some houses up over on the dog's Ventor Avenue and Marven Gardens. The wheelbarrow has both utilities now, but those have never really been much of a game changer.
Money's being passed around the board at an impressive rate, the players' stacks growing and shrinking, growing and shrinking.
Everything comes to a sudden stop.
Ten minutes later the action continues with crumbs tumbling down to the board with the dice as the bills and deeds are gradually covered with an oily, glistening sheen. New construction, mortgages, bartering, and then the wheelburrow is out, falling to its fate on none other than the railroad it sold to the hat hours before.
The dog chases the hat around the board again, the hat is in and out of jail, and the money goes back and forth. Around and around. Back and forth.
Around and around.
And then the pieces are still.
The deeds and the bills sit frozen in place, and the dice read "5" and "2," one resting near the "M" of "Monopoly," and the other resting right on the Monopoly-man's tophat.
After nearly a week, after dust begins to settle with the crums on the board, the game is violently disturbed, turned on its side as the dog, the hat, the wheelbarrow, the houses and hotels, the dice, and the crumbs tumble into the box. The hard-earned cash is sorted, the deeds are stacked into one pile and rubber-banded, and the game is packed away to the top shelf of the coat closet where it will sit until the players forget how long it really takes to finish a game of Monopoly.
A North American Blizzard
While passing by a river, I saw, through swirling snow which was gathered on the icy banks and disappered into the rushing rapids at the river's center, a man which looked like my father. I say "looked like" because there was something wrong about the face; the eyes were too small and dark, and the beard covered too much of his cheeks. But, crazed from the cold, I didn't give it much thought until later, and by then it was too late.
He led me to a cave on the bank of the river where we were joined by phantasms of my mother and sister. They encouraged me to lay down and rest, and I foolishly complied. When I awoke, I discovered that the cave now harbored four otters: the three devious Kushtaka which had lured me there, and myself.
The Lives We Live
An angel. That's the first thing they called her when they all gathered around after the nurse had placed her in her mother's arms. The family had filed into the hospital room, and her grandmother said: "What a perfect little angel."
"We're naming her Cheyenne," her mother said.
"Well you have a beautiful life ahead of you, Cheyenne," her grandmother said to the tiny pruney face framed in pink cotton. "You couldn't have been born into a better family."
The 2018 Chevy Impala glided into the driveway and Cheyenne jumped out of the back onto the smooth blacktop.
"Love you, Chey, see you later," said her mother before putting the car into reverse and whizzing away.
Chey trudged up the steps of the brightly decorated colonial-style house and let herself in. A ShihTzu came careening around the corner, its feet sliding all over the wood floor, and it jumped at her hands barking like there was no tomorrow.
"Is that you, Cheyenne?" came her grandmother's voice from the kitchen. "Your mother's running a little late this morning, isn't she?'
Chey ignored the question and sat down on a nearby sofa, pulled "A Wrinkle in Time" out of her backpack, and began reading. Her grandmother came to the doorway a few minutes later and hovered there until Chey felt she had to acknowledge her presence.
She stood leaning against the doorframe with a hand on her hip.
"You're just going to ignore me, then? After everything I've done for you?"
Chey just stared back blankly.
"What's this book you're reading anyway?" she asked, striding over and plucking it out of her hands. Chey huffed in frustration as she watched the pages close, losing her place. Her bookmark was still resting on top of Hurley, the dog, who'd curled up next to her and fallen asleep.
"Why are you wasting your time on this when you could be studying?" her grandmother said, casting the book onto the couch.
"It's summer break," Chey said, confused.
"You should be studying ahead for next year while all of the other kids are wasting their time on fantasy stories. That's how you get ahead Cheyenne, and I want to see you succeed."
Chey just looked down at her hands.
"I'm going to have a talk with your mother when she gets back," her grandmother said, storming back into the kitchen.
She didn't get the chance to that day, however, because Chey's mother simply pulled into the driveway and honked a couple of times when she came to pick her up.
Chey's heart raced as she stood in front of the mirror and smoothed the whispy hair back from her face with one more application of hairspray. For as much fun as the rest of the night was going to be, nothing would beat the moment when she walked out of her bedroom door and down the stairs - the geeky Hermione Granger turned to the drop-dead gorgeous prom queen. And Kirk would be there to see it.
"Are you coming, Chey?" her mom called. "You've kept him waiting 15 minutes now."
Of course she had. It built up the anticipation of the moment. Taking a deep breath, she grabbed her Michael Kors purse and opened the door. She had a clear view down to the foyer where Kirk stood at attention, smiling up at her. To his left, her dad had his arm around her mom and they were both beaming.
"Sorry for the wait," Chey said.
"It was worth it," said Kirk.
He kept staring at her as her parents took some pictures and wished them a fun, safe night and reminded them of their curfew which were pushing back 1/2 hour from the usual time because of the special occasion. They were just about to walk out to the car, when Chey's grandmother pulled up.
"You look beautiful, Cheyenne!" she said, walking over to them. "I'm so glad I made it here in time to see you. And who's this young man?"
"This is Kirk," she said, then tried to urge him over towards the car. He, not knowing what to do and wanting to be polite, wasn't so quick to move.
"Well, Kirk, I'm Cheyenne's grandmother, so I have to ask what your intentions are with my granddaughter."
"Come on, grandma," said Chey. "We're just going to prom together. It's not a big deal."
"No, I have a right to know," she said, the pronounced wrinkles between her eyebrows and below the corners of her mouth deepening.
"I'll tell you more about it some other time," said Chey, grabbing Kirk's arm and dragging him away to the car.
When they were inside and the doors were closed, Kirk looked over at her with a puzzled expression.
"What was that all about?" he asked.
Chey sighed and leaned her head against the headrest.
"Just my grandmother being nosy and opinionated again. You can start driving now. The sooner we're out of here the better."
"Are you alright?" asked Jim.
Chey looked up from the table, startled out of her musings. "Oh, yes, I'm fine."
"Just thinking about your grandmother?"
"Yes, well, I was just thinking about how I didn't cry at her funeral. I haven't cried all week, actually. Does that make me a terrible person?"
He laughed. "I've been feeling guilty about how much of a relief it was when we found out she'd passed. Especially after hearing more stories about her life."
"Yeah, I didn't know about the poverty she'd grown up in. It's no wonder she wanted all of this for me," she said, gesturing vaguely around their perfect little suburban home.
"What is it that you want?" asked Jim.
"I've been thinking about that a lot the past few days," said Chey. "I didn't realize how much of an influence she had without me even knowing it."
"I've been trying to tell you," Jim said. "She's had her nose in our business since the first time she met me."
"Yes, you and every other guy I ever dated," said Chey. She sighed. "I'm just so far into my career already. What about student loans? What about all of time and investment I've made?"
"If none of that were an issue, if you could do absolutely anything you wanted to, what would you do?"
Chey paused. "Honestly, I don't want to wait any longer to start a family. And ..."
"I know it's ridiculous, but I want to try being a writer."
Jim nodded like he'd already known.
"Then let's spend some time over the next few weeks figuring out how to make that happen."
Did they know how much time she'd spent on that manuscript: how many late nights she'd labored over the project after the kids were in bed, drafting, editing, and researching?
As she scanned over the publishing house rejection letter, she felt like screaming. Her family had sacrificed so much for this a crazy dream of hers - they'd downgraded houses, neighborhoods, cars, clothes, spending habits - all so that they could live off of Jim's income. She thought of the life her kids were missing out on because of her selfish decision to leave a thriving career and live in a fantasy world where she actually had a chance at becoming a successful author.
But then she remembered her own childhood: summers spent with her grandmother and school years spent with tutors because her parents were too busy to help with homework. It wasn't an entirely selfish decision; it had allowed her to spend much more time with her kids and she was happy with that.
But what about her writing? Was it really that terrible that no one would publish it? She put her face in her hands and sobbed, trying to remember the reason she'd wanted to write in the first place - the wonder she felt when a story could whisk her away to another world and the bravery of heroes that she found so inspiring. Where was that inspiration now? When her grandmother had died, she'd just gone straight from trying to please her to trying to please publishers. A new resolve filled her and she looked around the counter for her laptop. She opened up a new document and started writing, channeling all of her emotions and experiences into characters that came alive like no characters she'd ever written about before. It didn't matter any more whether or not the story was ever published; it would be beautiful, and it would be something she could be proud of.
When Chey's children and grandchildren, friends and fans all gathered to celebrate her life after her passing at 97 years old, people not only talked about her powerful writing, but about the brave, kind sort of person she'd become as well.
As her granddaughter said, standing tearfully at the microphone: "She inspired so many people to think intentionally about where their lives were headed: whether they liked the direction or were acting out of obligation to themselves or someone else. She was watching out for us when we weren't even watching out for ourselvse - like an angel."
Nearly a Stranger
I catch a glimpse of someone as I'm walking through the city streets. It's someone I once knew well, but she's now looking worse for wear, and her eyes carry the weight of trials I'll never understand. I pull my gaze from the reflection in the window and walk on.
Just a Dollar
When I opened my eyes this morning, something felt weird. I sat up and looked around for the reason - my Hello Kitty bedspread had wrapped itself into a tight wad overnight like it always did, toys and clothes were strewn all over the floor, and I could hear mom in the kitchen downstairs making breakfast. Just a typical Saturday morning by the looks of it. It wasn't until I took a drink from the cup on my bedstand that it hit me: the water went gushing past my tender upper gum through the gap in my teeth, and it was so startling, I almost choked to death. Then I could harldy contain my excitement because my room had been visited by the tooth fairy, and I felt like I was sitting in the presence of residual greatness.
With my heart pounding and head spinning, I lifted my pillow wondering what sort of magical gift I had received. What I found, however, was no sparkling golden coin from another world; it was just an everyday dollar. It wasn't even a nice, new dollar, it was dogeared and wanted to stand up in a "V" shape like the bills that came out of my dad's wallet.
I stuffed the dollar into my bank and scanned the room one last time for anything sparkling before trudging downstairs and flopping into one of the chairs at the table.
"Good morning," my mom said. "Did the tooth fairy visit you last night?"
"More like the tooth recycling service," I said. "I got a dollar, but there was nothing magical about it."
My mom laughed. "Were you expecting something else?"
Of course I had been. A fairy had visited my room last night. I just shrugged and looked down at the table.
"Well, maybe she'll bring you something else next time," she said. "Maybe she'll leave some fairy dust in your room. Would you like that?"
I nodded and picked at the scrambled eggs she'd just set in front of me.
"Except how will she know to leave it? And how did she even get a dollar into my room? It's probably bigger than she is."
"Magic?" my mom suggested.
It seemed like a reasonable explanation, but the whole experience was still strange and disappointing. I'm not going to say I don't believe in fairies (because we all know the consequences of that), but I now consider myself a skeptic and am working hard at loosening my next tooth to find out what happens when she visits again.