safe 3

This is the third installment in the safe series of posts.

…..

The coins were strangely warm against her cold flesh.  She continued to smile and said, “Thank you.”  The man wasn’t listening.  He had already walked away after dropping the change into her cupped hands.  She gave thanks anyway.  She always did.  Her gratefulness was not contingent on him.  She didn’t need to know why they gave and she didn’t need them to know that she was thankful.

She moved the coins to her pocket and went back to rubbing her hands together.  The cold wind bit harshly that morning.  Even standing in the sun she was having trouble staying warm.  Soon she would need to seek shelter but she didn’t want to go in too soon.  She didn’t like hiding so early in the day.  It might set a precedent.  She didn’t need any more excuses to stay separated from society.  The further she got the harder it would be to return one day.  Though, she already wasn’t sure if she even wanted to return.

She’d lived on the streets for so long they had become the only home she remembered.  In the back of her mind, in thoughts she kept pushed away for several reasons, she had a vague notion of roofs and tables, refrigerators and heaters, warm sunlight filtering through glass panes and wind kept at bay behind shutters.  These were abstracts, though.  She didn’t know if she actually missed any of those things or if they would just be nice from time to time.  She could find the equivalent when they were absolutely needed.

Another patron left the store, pushing a cart overloaded with groceries, food she could live on for months.  She smiled and the woman avoided eye contact but then stopped and turned around.  After fishing through her purse the woman came up with some coins.  She cupped her hands and said “Thank you.”  The woman said, “You’re welcome,” but had already turned and the words were nearly lost on the wind.  A moment later, the woman and her stuffed cart were lost from view among the sea of giant cars.

A howl erupted from the parking lot, the wind whipping around tires in gusts and gales.  She shivered as the blast tore at her hands.  Not yet.  Not yet time to slip away.  Soon, though.  She would need to get out of the wind and cold soon or she would risk getting sick and all the money she had gathered that day would be spent on medicine instead of a meal.

She added the coins to her meagre collection and let her hands stay hidden.  The thin fabric of her worn pants did little to protect her hands from the cold but shivering tended to turn more people away.  That was a lesson she had learned her first winter on the streets.  If she looked miserable people avoided her more.  It seemed counter intuitive but people so often are.

The wind eased back and the sun returned to full strength for a moment.  The doors slid open and another customer pushed their cart out.  She smiled at them but they pretended not to see her standing there.  She kept right on smiling.  Their disinterest had no bearing on her hope.

stand

The world is on fire…

It isn’t the kind of fire you can grab a bucket and lend a hand.  It can’t be fought with traditional measures.  It isn’t the kind of fire that will burn itself out.  Its fuel is endless.

So what are we to do?

The world is on fire…

Who is to blame?  Who can we point the finger at?  Who is at fault for this madness, this tragedy, this unending pain and grief and blood, this shit storm?

It doesn’t matter.

The world is on fire…

I get it.  I’m angry too.  It’s a helpless rage and without a solution to pour my emotion into, casting blame becomes an easy fallback. It’s better than doing nothing.

And yet it amounts to the same thing.

The world is on fire…

We need to stop these worthless games, the name calling, the political jockeying, the finger pointing, the bickering and blithering rhetoric that gets us nowhere, that gets the people consumed in this fire nowhere but six feet under.  We need to form a line, hand in hand, arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder, and stand together before the flames.  Buckets won’t work.  Shovels won’t work.  Water won’t work.  It has to be us.  We have to risk it all together.

Will that stop its advance?

The world is on fire…

Yesterday it claimed some lives.  It does so most days.  Today my helpless rage has turned to sadness.  The streets lined with warriors, people who maybe don’t even realize that just showing up made them so, and tempered my angst with hope.  Some people get it, whether they realize it or not.  They are already out there, standing shoulder to shoulder.

We should join them on the streets, on the sidewalks, on the overpasses.  We should be out there every day, not just days where a hero is lost.  We should do more even if we think our actions won’t amount to change, even if they won’t.  We should be out there because it is our solidarity, our decision to raise our voices as one, to shout and sing and cry louder than the roar of the flames, that stands the best chance of winning not just this day but all the days of our future, all the days of children’s’ future.

I’m not preaching at you.  I’m yelling at myself.  I need to do more than sit behind this keyboard and type away my emotions.  I need to get up and walk out there and be part of the line I think we need to form.  How can I ask you do something I am not doing myself?

The world is on fire…

The world is on fire…

The world is on fire.

fade or journey

The topmost layer of paint had begun to fade and underneath the outline of long forgotten words took shape.  They had been buried, hidden in an attempt to wipe them away but time, wind, rain, friction, stripped away the covering to expose them again.  They weren’t quite readable yet and perhaps never would be but they were there all the same.

Such it is with most things in our lives.  Try as we might to hide our pasts, the truth remains just below the surface, beneath the flimsy walls we raise to protect ourselves and those around us from our missteps.  Eventually, the walls will chip, wear thin, and splinter, and the memories hidden beneath will be exposed.

Some walls are stronger, some are weaker, and all are prone to the same ravages of time.  We are only human after all.  We cannot attain perfection.

That doesn’t mean we should wear our past on our sleeves, chips of pride and patches of past sins.  We don’t need to revel in the mistakes that have been made.  Rather we should embrace the lessons that were learned because of those mistakes and we should look for the same in others.  Do not judge those who have fallen.  We have all fallen.  Applaud those who stand up and learn to place their steps more carefully.  Lend a steadying hand to those who try.

Or we can just keep stumbling around, with our fraying layers attempting the impossible…

In all honesty, I have no idea how we got here.  This started as a post about the neglected aesthetics of my office.  It was a red curb in desperate need of paint and beneath the red I could see the outline of words that had been written on top of a previous coat.  Noticing that helped me notice other things here and there that were in need of a fresh coat, a minor patch, some stucco, a complete overhaul…

And then I started typing, and as is so often the case, the words took their own journey.

change is coming

The leaves whispered restlessly outside his window, disturbing the peacefulness of his slumber, and he propped open an eye with an askance glare for their daring intrusion.  The dream had already slipped from his grasp except for the distinct impression that it had been good.  The hour was still too early to see the leaves or even the branches they hung from and he closed his eye again with a disappointed sigh.  Dawn would not arrive for at least two hours but he had little hope of reclaiming the interrupted dream, “What are you going on about now?”

Though they continued to converse in hushed tones, the trees did not answer.  He attempted to push their murmurings and his own curiosity about what had set them astir away by rolling away from the window and throwing an arm over his head.  It was futile and he knew it.  After a quick count of ten, he rose to a sitting position and turned back toward the window to see if his eyes could perceive anything of value from the darkness beyond.

No wind accompanied the rustling of the branches so either a creature was clambering about the giant oak or the tree was truly talking to its wooden brethren.  Either was possible but the level of noise made it more likely that he was eavesdropping on the forest.  There was more than one tree in motion.

Finding his feet, he stepped to the window and leaned against the sill.  Crisp air greeted him.  His eyes continued to adjust but weren’t yet of much use.  His ears remained attentive, and with his mind now fully awake, he confirmed it was more than one tree quivering.  The sound was haunting and beautiful at the same time.

Just as dawn hinted at its coming arrival by warming the eastern horizon, the conversation came to an abrupt halt.  The trees returned to their stoic silence and he was left wondering what was so important the forest had needed to spring into action in the middle of the night.  It didn’t take much thought to come to a likely conclusion.  “Change,” he spoke to the morning.  “Change is coming.”

He had felt a tingling itch in his mind for several days.  Something was amiss in his hidden world and soon the cause would reveal itself.  Unhurried by the threat, or promise, of the coming days, he stayed at the window to watch the day unfurl.  The light stretched from the mountains at the edge of his vision to the tops of the trees that had pulled him from his slumber.  The sky spoke its own salutations in vibrant blue hues.  He sighed with contentment at the wonder of it all.

…..

A question from Matticus:  Having recently published The Erratic Sun, I was feeling some pressure (though that isn’t quite the right word) to write something new… something of my own to publish.  I sat down and this came out.  What do you think?  Is it done, as is?  Or, is this just the start that I should turn into a full novel and publish?

 

run while you still can

It was supposed to have been a fun weekend excursion into the mountains with some friends.  Jerry.  Carla.  Derek.  An easy pass.  A beautiful lake.  Clean water and the possibility of fishing in the outlet stream.  It was supposed to be a chance to relax and let go of the cares and concerns of the preceding week.

The stream, laughing at me, paralleled the trail a foot off the worn path.  The moon, full and pale, helped me guide my feet as I scrambled down the valley.  The weak beam from my headlamp bounced around as I jerked my head left and right.  I couldn’t afford to catch my foot on a rock and tumble.  I couldn’t afford to slow down.  It was getting closer.

A howl followed my footfalls and the hairs on my arms and neck rose for the second time that night.  My heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest, pounding out a discordant rhythm with my heavy steps.  My lungs were on fire as I sucked in ragged breaths to continue to fuel my flight.  I was nearing my end.  I knew it.  It knew it.

Another howl, playful, joyous in its pursuit, erupted behind me.  How had it made up so much ground?  I couldn’t afford to turn and look for it.  I might fall.  I might not want to see how close it was.  I urged my legs to move faster and somehow they managed to oblige.

I could no longer hear the creak.  I was moving too fast, too loud, the only sounds I could hear were those of my flight: blood in my ears, air sucked in and blown back out through my cracked lips, my boots scrambling for purchase on the loose rocky trail.  I cataloged these sounds and then pushed them aside.  I needed to hear what else was out there.

The shuffling snort of a creature, on my heels.  The pitiful whine of a hungry animal, licking its lips as it prepares to pounce.  The rapid beat of soft padded paws, churning the pine needle strewn soil, with the occasional scrape of a long sharp nail on stone.  I heard all of it.

Low hanging branches whipped at my face as I sped passed them.  I felt the sting and lash and the flow of blood as more than one welt was raised and ripped free.  I couldn’t duck, I couldn’t try to push aside the branches, I couldn’t slow down.  The wounds oozed, pouring blood down my forehead, through my eyes, dripping from my nose, and cheeks, and chin.  i was aware of it, but none of it hurt.

I heard the snap of tooth on tooth and felt the pull at my jeans as its jaws reached out for my flesh.  The denim tore free, but I was, luckily, unscathed and somehow manged to keep my feet.  My momentary elation at temporarily avoiding the creature was crushed by the low throaty growl as it expressed its ire at having missed me.  The playfulness of its pursuit was gone and only business remained.  The business of food.  The business of survival.

I lost sight of the trail as the moon slid behind the towering canyon walls.  It no longer mattered.  My energy was gone.  My whole body screamed at me to give it up, only my mind was unwilling to acquiesce.  It was very aware that surrender was not an option.  There was no better luck next time, no valiant first attempt – you’ll get them next time, no participation award.

Somehow my feet managed to stay on the trail.  Somehow my mind coaxed my body into continuing on.  Another snap and searing pain shot up from my heel, a flame coursing through my body and radiating out the top of ears.  I didn’t have the energy to think about what that would mean.  I hadn’t fallen.  My feet were still moving.  I was surviving for another minute.

The moon broke free of whatever crag it had been hiding behind and flooded the valley with light again.  With the taste of my blood fresh in its mouth, the beast turned its snout to the heavens and let loose a roaring howl of triumph.  The sheer pleasure in its voice caused me to falter and I went sprawling into the dirt and mud at the edge of the creek.  There wasn’t a single part of me that didn’t hurt.

I could hear it shuffling closer.  I could feel its breath on the back of my neck.  I thought about screaming but the fall had knocked the breath from my body.  I closed my eyes and hoped the end would come quickly.

The grunts and snorts were replaced by Jerry’s voice, “I told you we shouldn’t go camping when there was a full moon.”

Fine.  Whatever.  Lesson learned, whatever good it would do me.  But, really, who would have ever expected Jerry was a werewolf.  I clenched my jaw and waited for the stab of pain that would signal the onset of his feast, and the pain never came.

I cracked my right eye and gazed up at his hideous form, all shaggy hair, sharp claws, and long jutting snout.  He smiled down at me, all teeth, pointed and drooling, “Next month we’ll be able to go running together when the moon is full.”

I didn’t immediately understand, but the following month when I changed, we did go running and it was a blast.

But, never forget to be mindful of who you invite backpacking.  Your friends cannot be trusted.  Perhaps more importantly, be mindful of when you venture into the wild.  The next time you hear that call that doesn’t quite sound like a coyote singing to the moon it may be Jerry and I sniffing out your trail and then it will be your turn to run, or join us.