Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Day for Thanks

I was. I am. And with Divine Providence, I may yet be.

And so I am Thankful.

I pass along my best wishes to you and yours this day and every day.

Happy Thanksgiving America

Friday, November 18, 2011

Write On Edge: Road Trip Challenge

In the Write On Edge Red Writing Hood challenge this week, gives us 300 words to tell the tale of a road trip.

The phrase "road trip" can conjure several memories for a person. Remember the time we crossed the States just to see a band perform in Chicago? Or when Cousin June went to Washington, DC to give a senator a piece of her mind, only to get lost in Detroit? As it is with most journeys, the destination isn't necessarily as important as the experience.

For this challenge, I wanted to break away from the idea that only automobiles can go on a road trip or the roads themselves must be paved with asphalt. I give you one of many dark moments from the history books.

A Trail of Many Sorrows

The wind, thick with the tell-tale scent of snow, rattled the trees at the edge of the muddy road. Patience shivered despite her cocoon of coverlets as she huddled with her sisters in the cramped space at the back of the schooner. I can walk faster than these oxen can pull this wagon, she thought indignantly, hating her father for forcing their move from Boston, and her beloved Johnny.

The wagon pitched unpredictably, making it difficult to sit still. Patience shifted again to a more comfortable position, only to become dislodged moments later. “Ow,” the middle sister cried. “You hit me.”

“S-Sorry Bertha,” she replied through chattering teeth.

Charity, usually silent, hushed them unexpectedly. “Listen,” she said, leaning forward to see around the canvas. “Do you hear that?”

Patience joined her, eyes and ears straining, Countless voices haunted the air with a familiar hymn. Through the trees she spied men, women, and children, treading defenseless against the bitter cold. Union soldiers with rifles drove them like cattle to the slaughter. “Mr. Jeremiah,” she turned to their scout as he rode his own horse alongside their train, “Who are those poor souls?”

His grim look did not change, “Cherokee, Miss Patience. They’re being relocated to Indian Territory by executive order.”

She gulped as a soldier horsewhipped a boy into submission, “Surely there is a more Christian way of handling the situation.”

His response was slow to come. “Best you not think on them.” He urged his mount forward, ending their conversation.

She watched the Cherokee for a time, disquiet. Their lament tormented her soul, banishing Johnny and Boston from her selfish thoughts. They had even less choice than she, and still they sang. “God keep you strong,” she prayed, hoping it would help. The snow was on its way.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Write On Edge Conversation Challenge

Write on Edge:  for Red Writing Hood challenged in 300 words or less:

Using surroundings, body language, visual cues and blocking, in addition to the spoken words, show us who they are and what their relationship is without coming out and telling us!

I'm offering the following: Snake-Charming

She lit a cigarette and sucked a long drag before reaching up to pull the toggle for the ceiling fan. It emitted a high-pitched squeal as the blades wobbled loosely in their orbit around the dying sun of a light-bulb. She didn’t care about the smoke drifting from her nostrils into my face. “Comfortable?” she asked, condescendingly.

“Mrs. Davies, I really should be leaving,” I said, gripping the straps of my purse with uncertainty. My leg started bouncing like a jackhammer.

“I know, Pet. We have to wait for my husband.” A smile slithered onto her face, baring the lipstick smear on her fangs. “He’s the one with”

I wanted to bolt. I needed my money though, so I remained in the fifties-era plastic and chrome kitchen chair trying not to focus on the second-hand danger of the vent-less room or the annoying whop-whop-squee of the ceiling fan. Seconds crawled by like years and the swirl of the cigarette smoke was dangerously hypnotic.

The phone rang; the shrill noise cutting through the stuffy silence. She answered it immediately, “Hello?” Her features flashed darkly before she turned away, the tired telephone cord wrapping about her waist like a snake coiling about its mother. “Honey, do not lie to me. Working late is not an excuse for you anymore.” Her whisper was harsh.

I glanced into the living room, knowing the door to freedom was mere steps away. Mr. Davies always worked late. He came home in the mornings however, after Mrs. Davies left. Sometimes brought home companionship. I kept my mouth shut. I was only there for his invalid mother.

“You think I don’t know!” the snake hissed. “The damned caregiver Brad!”

The mistress wasn't me but I no longer cared. I ran.

In Memoriam...

November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

America is because they were. We must not forget. For so long as we remember, their sacrifices shall never have been in vain.

When my buddy Omar went through boot camp, we exchanged letters often, he more faithful than I. When I ran out of humdrum daily life to discuss, I'd write tales my dad told me of his navy days or I'd share examples of my creative writing passion, usually a quick poem or story with a patriotic theme. I shared the tale below with him once, and he informed me that his CO reread the letter to his fellow marines. I have since polished it, and I would like to offer this today in remembrance of those who serve so that I can write.

The Last Casualty

Ah, the days of wine and roses. We had joy and song, even though the air was thick with ash and death. We celebrated every second we could, for no other reason than we had survived another hour. That was plenty of excuse for a pair of soft lips surrounding a gentle smile, with a lyrical voice and an angelic face, or a pint shared with our brothers at a rare cafe along our route. Bitter, but oh so sweet the recollections are that flood my senses.

It never occurred to us that we could lose the battle, you see. We didn’t have the luxury of that choice. For the sake of the world we could not fail our mission. The fears we had were more immediate in nature than losing. Would the sniper fire claim the life of my platoon brother next to me? Or worse yet, would that round have my name on it? These were the fears we faced every minute, but never expressed aloud. There wasn’t time. We were there to do a job, nothing more.

We were called a lot of names in those days. Heroes, warmongers, soldiers of freedom, cannon fodder….every name true in reflection. None of those names mattered though. We were brothers, young, and full of piss and vinegar. We were saving the world from itself. We believed we would change the course of history, and we did. Although, I imagine this future is not what we expected the present would become.

How we all came to pass that way will be forever argued among scholars who did not have to fight for every square inch of space in mud and acrid smoke with gas masks and bayonets. It is perhaps easier for them, those who wear suits in corner offices, drink lattes, and squander the freedoms they forget they have. Or perhaps they do understand and I judge them too harshly? I knew once the impulsiveness and eagerness of youth. It was idealism, after all, that led me to the lowlands to fight. Now those suits see in my face the old man I have become, and not the soldier battle-scarred and terrified of the night. Nightmares plague me incessantly, returning me to the age when cousin was pitted against cousin, and the whole world was consumed in angry flames. My men at least were honored and loved. Those who eventually followed us were spit upon by treasonous speaking do-gooders who have no right to judge. They didn’t bleed while the best of men died, listening to the horrific screaming of the injured. They could turn down the volume or change the channel.

Fear not, my band of brothers. Your memories I have kept faithfully. Those who have not may hold their manhood cheap, for they are not men, and I pity them.

This field in France lays fallow among a few scattered patches of red poppies, dancing happily in the summer breezes, and a few mass grave markers, standing stoic as testimony to Mankind’s darkest hours. A fitting end perhaps, to the stories that will remain unheard of glories that would never be. Here, among the trenches and the barbed wire, I lost my innocence as did the countless I fought alongside. The man I became was born from this ground, once scorched by fire and saturated with blood from the sacrifices of thousands of boys and a belief that the war would end all war. Knowing now what I didn’t know then, I still would not choose a different path, changing any of the events that touched my life. The trenches are gone, vanished beneath the protective blanket of earth. By the grace of God, no one will soon remember they ever existed. May we be lost forever among dry pages of history text books that collect dust on the shelves in school libraries.

If I had regret, it would be only that it was I who walked away from the trenches when so many more deserving men did not. Little Joey Petrelli, “Micky” Donnelly, Sean Wyatt, Corporal Watersone, Sergeant Brady, were a mere few of those that I would gladly have traded places with. Those men should have had my mundane civilian afterlife. I can only hope for their glory, not mine, that I fought the good fight, and lived out the remainder of my days to the fullest. I hope that will be all the tribute they need, for it’s all the tribute of any value I have to give.

I have made this difficult trip to say goodbye to the boy I once was, the boy I lost here. I am in my final hours, so my doctor tells me, and I am ready to join my fallen brethren, my beloved parents, and my dearest heart, and all those who went before me. Weep not for me, for I am happy to make this journey. My bones are weary and I wish to sleep.

This field is silent. I hold my breath to listen to the absense of machine gun fire, though I hear it still. I am the last man standing who remembers. When I fall, no echo of the past will sound. Nature has reclaimed the common clay beneath my feet.Like a mother's gentle caress, peace has kissed this valley and cleansed it of its sin. The smell of fear and the stench of death have not lingered here. The songs we sang, the women we wooed, the laughter we shared, the stories we made up are long since forgotten. The sun is warm and brings me comfort. I will lay me down here among the poppies and watch the clouds roll past until I can see the heavens part and angels bid me welcome.

To you, who have found me, know that I am content, and I am where I wish to be. In my pack is the compass I used to bring me here, both times, a small pocket knife used often to open ration tins,, and a picture faded to yellow bearing the faces of those who I hope are waiting for me to take my place among them. I have nothing else to leave you except Hope. I hope you will never seek the path that will lead you here to this end, in one of many forgotten fields. However, should the trenches find you and should you be faced with the loss of all your tomorrows, do not hesitate to fight for the sake of your brother, celebrate all the tiny moments you can, loose upon your enemy all the fury of hell, and may God’s Grace bring you safely home.


Friday, November 4, 2011

8pm and all's well!

Taking some time out of my NaNoWriMo to participate in Write On Edge challenge: 8:00 am or pm, in less than 200 words. 

In addition to that challenge, I'm traveling in the passenger seat along the I-15 towards San Diego in the pouring rain, and attempting to complete this challenge on my smart phone. 

Grandfather's Clock:

     I'm alone in the house tonight, listening to the distinct tick-tick of my grandfather's old clock. I hold my breath in anticipation, poised for the top of the hour. I still feel the excitement of my childhood; the summers we spent in the shadow of Mt. Shasta at Grandfather's redwood home. Suddenly the brassy sound of Westminister Chimes echoes in the empty house "Ding dong ding dong!" it announces.I count the chimes...Six. Seven. Eight. I exhale as peace descends again. The perfect hour...