Out for Publication... but here's the beginning of the story...
I shivered despite the sunlight that filtered through the canopy of the trees. I was stretched out on a limb as wide as my waist, my feet crossed at the ankles as if I sat on a chaise instead of in the crook of a tree fifteen feet above a trampled path running through the wood. I had sat in this spot so many times in the last two years that the bark was smooth both under me and behind my back. A book filled with Shakespeare’s sonnets lay open on my lap but I wasn’t really reading. I had memorized most of the lyrical text some time ago and instead, I was enjoying the sound of the breeze as it shook the limbs around me and created a swishing symphony in the shadows of the leaves that shushed against each other.
Up here, I could swear the songs of the birds were crisper, their calls louder and lasting longer, perhaps amplified by the hardness of the branches instead of swallowed up by foliage, but it was probably just my imagination at work. My imagination often got me into trouble though at this height, there were few tribulations that concerned me. Falling asleep and plummeting to the ground below was about the worst that could happen and sleeping at this time was the furthest thought from my mind.
I checked my watch. Two minutes. Timeliness was next to godliness in my book. Not the book in my lap, but the book of my life, and I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. The hum of a motorcycle at least a full mile away reached my ears and I smiled. Right on time.
I could picture each turn and hillock through the woods by the drop and whine of the engine and I could smell the sweet scent of gasoline as it roared to a stop below my tree. The driver, dressed in padded clothing and a shiny black helmet, switched off the motor and it immediately started to cool off and tick.
He leaned back against the tree and reached into his shirt, extracting a book. I couldn’t read what it was but I knew it wouldn’t matter. He always read aloud and he always explained why he was going to read whatever he had on his agenda. Today was no exception.
“Hi, Lee-Lee. How was your day?”
I wished for the millionth time that my name was Leah. I wished he was asking me. I would have bared my soul to him. I would have told him how I thought about him all day, how I lost patience watching the hands on the clock at school, how I ran through the woods so that I would be here in time to watch him shake his hair out when he took his helmet off as he was doing right now.
“I’m fine, Matthew.” I whispered so softly not even the wind would hear.
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Out for Publication... but here's the beginning of the story...
“Hand me that hammer.”
My father’s outstretched hand waited patiently for me to hunt around under scraps of wood and bits of paper. I liked the weight of the hammer. Solid. Heavy. A force to be reckoned with. Just like my father.
I turned it around and held it by the claw. In one smooth motion, my father grabbed the handle, tapped the nail once to set it, then drove it home with a single swing. I watched with awe as he repeated the process over and over again until the subfloor was laid. Sweat flew from his brow the last couple of swings and when the last nail went in, he paused long enough for a long drink of his beer.
“Get me another one.” I jumped, surprised by the growl in his voice, and ran to the kitchen.
“Whatcha doing, Bug?” Ma turned from the counter when I opened the fridge and stared at me. Her face was flushed and flour covered her apron. She had been making pies all day for the festival the next day and the kitchen was stifling because we didn’t have air conditioning.
“Getting a beer.”
She frowned. “Take him a glass of water.”
“You sure?” I asked. She looked in the fridge. There was one beer left in the case.
“Tell him it’s all gone.”
I didn’t want to tell him the beer was all gone and I stood there staring at the beer so long it started to bead up with condensation. She reached around me and took it.
“Shut that door. Everything’s going to spoil.”
I shut the door and almost cried when she twisted the cap off.
“Ma,” I whispered, “Just let me take it to him. Don’t dump it out.”
A bitter smile found the corner of her lips. There was no more arguing with Ma than there was arguing with Pa. Where he was swift in doling out justice, she was resolute in taking punishment. She didn’t have any fear of him. The beads of sweat ran together as she upended it, a sour yeasty odor filling the air already heavy with the sticky sweet smell of berries.
“Take him a glass of water.”
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Despite the exorbitant price of going to the movies and having a big family, we still all go once in a great while. Even the 16-year old, which means we really should be celebrating since those days are numbered. I know this because I already lost one to his need to stretch his wings.
I once jokingly said to a man (while I was a bit drunk) who told me his children had all moved to different parts of the country, that his children must not love him very much to move so far away. Really, it's pretty amazing that children can be raised so well that they have no fear in spreading their wings to fly off and start their own families. Biting comments are a big reason why I've limited my intake. I become a toxic stranger with no filter. And now, my comeuppance... Karma at its finest.
The commercials come on and I put my phone in my pocket, then get it back out and set it to Silent. I'd like to say I hate hearing phones during the movie, but in reality, I never hear anyone else's. I tend to get laser-like focus during a movie (and my husband is fond of saying it is a million times worse when I'm reading a book). Only a completely obnoxious ring tone during a sensitive scene is obvious to me. Or my own tones screaming out. I cringe if I forget to turn my phone off and it makes any noise.
The movie comes on ten minutes later and we’ve already demolished our popcorn. Someone needs to go get refills on our two buckets being shared between the whole family. Give me a break. We get small drinks for everyone and a couple of buckets of popcorn and drop fifty bucks. I’m not going to feel back about sharing. My husband volunteers after everyone else whispers, “Not it.” Including the guy sitting behind us. He must be a comic.
The opening scene is exactly what you’d expect from a super hero exploding carnage loud action-packed fast-paced typical same as every other one comic book trans theatre experience. From its characters with perfect bodies and even more perfect timing of slap-dashery antics to its out of this world never before seen super technology, there is nothing in this movie that I can relate to. Nothing that resembles my life of 8 – 5 desk job, practice-shuffling taxi service, and evening head chef/waitress/bottle washer position.
But I guess that's why we're here.
I take my husband’s hand and sit back. Holding hands is one of the many "little" things we still do as a couple to make that connection. You know, the one that says, "I still like you and I still want to be with you after all these years. I still want to touch you and be in love like a teenager." We also cook together on the weekends, snuggle during the holidays on the couch in front of our families despite their delicious discomfort, and kiss on the lips every chance we get while our children pretend to vomit.
It doesn’t take me long to tune out all the action noise chaos action shooting explosion action explosion chaos action explosion and get lost in my own thoughts.
I had spent the previous day at my cousin’s for her wedding shower. She’s one of those wholesome earthy people full of love and compassion. All the time. Literally. I’ve never seen her unhappy. Somehow she has transcended this life of must do’s and must have’s and must be’s and just is. She has a beautiful dog, is about to marry an amazing man who cherishes the ground she walks on, and is completely satisfied. She should write a book. And tell the rest of us how to accomplish it. I hope her secret, when she finally shares it, isn’t, “Don’t have children.” That would be a tragedy. I’ve become quite attached to mine. They’d be hard to give up at this point.
I’ve found that people such as my cousin collect like-minded people around them in the same way heavier pebbles rise to the top in a bucket of sand when you softly shake it, and my cousin is no exception. Her shower was filled with lovely women with extraordinarily kind hearts. They talked about the good energy in the room and I swear, I know what they were talking about. It was a beautiful sunny day outside and we were in a gorgeous home with floor to ceiling windows and pieces of art that accentuated the sun and made everything feel cozy and warm. It was…lovely.
When my cousin introduced everyone, she not only provided names, she provided key pieces of information. I was her cousin on her mom’s side, we grew up together and spent hours and hours playing together at our grandparents’ home. Another woman was her best friend. Another the woman who’s beautiful home we were in. Two others were palm readers.
That’s right, I said palm readers. And the first chance I got, I asked one of them if she would be willing to look at mine and tell me what she saw. I had never had my palm read, or been to a fortuneteller, or even played with a Ouija board. Well, I take that back. I did play with a Ouija board once with another cousin. It seemed like a bunch of hooey and that was that. Great concept, failure to produce. Not unlike this movie.
The palm reader immediately complied with a sparkle in her eye, delighted that I had asked. I can tell you, I was relieved because I don’t really have any idea what the protocol is for having a palm read. She didn’t ask for money afterwards and she seemed genuinely pleased to accept the challenge so I held out my hand.
Read Part 2.