Posted in Storytime

The Storms: A Short Story

The rain was hitting the windshield forcefully as she gripped the steering wheel. It was nothing but a small, midnight storm, but the rain was unforgiving as she sped down the empty freeway.

She reached over and cranked the radio up, hoping that it would at least drown out some of the noise. She could feel her heart beating furiously in her chest as she gagged down the remnants of the McDonalds fries creeping up her throat.

Storms were always scary to her, no matter how small they may have seemed. The fear brewed in her chest and it always felt like an elephant was sitting on her lungs.

It has been this way ever since she could remember. As a child, she would cuddle with her stuffed animals at night as the storms would thunder across the sky. The rain would drown out all other noise of the house, terrifying her that monsters could creep up without her noticing. The lightning would crack and she would jolt, gripping her animals closer. Everyone in the house would be fast asleep oblivious to what was going on outside, but her little eyes would remain wide open.

A sudden splash of water from a passing car takes her back to the present. All she wanted was to get to him, but the only way there was though the storm.

She softly hummed to herself and separated her mind from the situation, letting her thoughts unwillingly settle on the past again.

Her life had always been a series of ups and downs, with the down being significantly debilitating. Her mental state always seemed to be in crisis mode with sirens constantly ringing in her ears warning of the trouble to come. Sometimes it swept her so close to the edge she didn’t know if she could take anymore. But from every time she would find her way, usually in the form of a lesson being learned the hard way.

She learned quite quickly that not everybody is going to like you. Not that the bullying she suffered bothered her really, but rather when she learned a friendship was toxic and nothing more than a mental game to them. She wanted to hate those people for what they did to her, but hate was never something that she possessed for another human being. She saw that each person had their own battles to face, whether it was wanting to be popular, needing a punching bag, wanting to be smarter, or being jealous of what you had.

She always forgave them. Not because she was weak, but strong enough to know that not one single human being in existence is perfect. Which some of them falsely believed in their own perfection with every word they spoke.

She would remove the toxicity of those so-called “friends” from her life like the venom from a snakebite, but it would always leave scars that never perfectly healed.

But on one occasion, she let a perfect friendship go for the stereotypical reasoning of friends becoming more than friends, then both watching it crash and burn in a fiery glory. But now she sees it more like the birth of a star than destruction because both have grown a little from it and distanced themselves so it is nothing but a mere blip of light in the night sky.

He would cross her mind every now and then. But never did she feel hate for him. Just fear that when she sees him again, she’ll fall right back to where she was before. The girl that fell for a boy she could never have. He’ll always have this little place in her heart, one that sometimes aches, but still remembers all the good they had going, whether it was as friends, or more than that.

The familiar signs on the road gave her a sense of comfort as she pulled off the freeway. When resting at the red light, the rain seemed to hold back a bit, lightly tapping on her windshield.

When she pulled up on the dark driveway, the rain had all but gone and only the sound of light rumbles echoed in the distance.

She leapt from her car, flying to the front door where he was waiting with that ever-glowing smile and his barking sidekick by his feet. She ran, arms outstretched, until she collided with him, nearly knocking him over.

When she embraced him, it was a beautiful feeling. She nestled her head into the crook of his neck and breathed him in. She ran her hand again the cotton of his shirt as she felt him wrap his arms around her waist. Not a word would be said between them, but a lot was said by the way they held each other there in that moment.

“I’m sorry you had to drive through that, babe. Don’t worry, the storm’s almost gone,” he says, pulling his head back and looking into her glistening eyes.

She smiled, and again rested her head against his shoulder.

A sense of peace washed over her, because for the first time in a long time, she knew she wouldn’t have to face the storms alone.

 

 

 

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Posted in Storytime

“The Spot”

The wind whipped through the open car windows as I sped up the car. The rusted stoplight was the only thing between me and the park and for once, it was actually green. As I pulled into the lot and threw the car into park. I sat for a few moments in silence, listening. Under the rumble of the engine, I heard kids near the jungle gym yelling and laughing, skateboards thumping over the sidewalk cracks, car doors slamming, and drones buzzing in the air.

Even though it was lively, it wasn’t anything but an ordinary park with a jungle gym, a baseball field, and soccer fields scattered about. For a Monday night, it was pretty packed though. Most likely due to the hint of a long overdue spring day in the air.

I turned the engine off, got out of the car, and began my short little walk to “the spot”. “The spot” being the end of a rickety bleacher on the farthest baseball field. It’s nestled along the edge of the trees and brush that separated the park from the golf course. It must have been my lucky day for when I rounded the corner, “the spot” was clear of the bustling crowds.

The bleacher creaked as I climbed to the top row and plopped down, letting my feet dangle beneath me. I craned my neck back to the sky and closed my eyes. Letting the warmth of the evening sun spill over me.

I remembered the first time I found “the spot”. I was in middle school and just had a fight with my parents and I needed to cool down a bit. I jumped on my bike and made my way through the winding bike paths at max speed. Letting the anger course through my blood and pour into my feet as they furiously peddled the bike forward. I went as far as the path would let me and right at the end of it was the old bleacher at the last baseball field.

The path unceremoniously cut off right before the brush and I came to a screeching halt. I tossed my bike into the grass, huffing and puffing until I calmed down enough to sit down on the bleachers. When I leaned back and looked towards the sky, the sun peaked out from under a cloud and the sun’s rays filled my eyes. I closed them and felt the rush of warmth across my already heated face, but yet it felt so soothing.

The anger used to boil inside of me like a pot on the stove, and with just one wrong move, I would erupt. It used to be the way I dealt with the world when I felt it collapsing in on me. My mind tended to swallow me up in the thoughts of imperfections, germs, and not living up to the expectations put upon me. In my mind, I lived in a world that I had no place in. A square peg in a round hole.

I always compared my soul to that of a hot air balloon. How rare they fly across the sky these days, but it always seemed to fit. The hot air is produced by the flame and collected in the balloon which makes it push upwards towards the sky. The warm air trying desperately to escape from the constraints of the fabric, but never does. That’s like my soul, trapped in a body with nowhere to go. I can feel it pushing and shoving inside of me in desperation until all I can do is scream.

But in that spot. On that little rusted bench, leaning back into the sunlight. I no longer feel the struggle of being trapped in a body and world that doesn’t understand that my imperfect soul is the pearl of my being. That I do not pretend to be perfect, but try my best to do right. That I am kind by nature, but refuse to walk on eggshells for those who do not understand the reality of being a human being. That I am happy, but sometimes have those moments of sadness.

The sun’s ray’s melt into my skin and comfort the agitated ambiance inside. Like a little reminder that happiness can be hard to find sometimes, but is always there, lying in the crevasses of life. Like the sun on your face, the smell of fresh air, the soft rustle of trees in the breeze, the taste of crisp, cold water, and watching a child score their very first soccer goal.

Those little moments while sitting in “the spot” always brought me back and reminded me that the goal of life is not to become happy, but to choose to be happy. Even if the only source of your happiness that day is the rusted old stoplight was, for once, green upon your arrival and your favorite spot was open. Happiness is a choice. So pull out that saw and hammer and start building that square hole for your square peg soul, because the world isn’t going to do it for you.

Posted in Storytime

Used: A Short Story

The morning air was frigid, sending chills up my spine as I briskly walked to the train stop. I could feel my nose and ears turning red in anger towards the freezing wind, but eventually they settled after I stopped underneath the heating lamp. Several other frozen figures waited anxiously for the train to make its appearance around the corner.

I closed my eyes and hung my head back to feel the warmth of the lamp on my face. It was soothing. Footsteps rustled and bags shifted as the unmistakable sound of a train horn made its way to the platform. We all filtered into the train doors as soon as they opened, reveling in the sudden warmth of the train.

I sat next to the same lady as I always did at 6:07 AM in the morning. She was small in stature with brown hair wisped into a bob. She never looked up from her game of solitaire on her phone as I placed myself beside her. She was clutching her usual silver travel mug in her lap and the scent of Folgers’s and too much powder Coffee Mate surrounded me once again.

The light rail lurched forward, sending a few unsuspecting “train surfers” tumbling forward. It feels like some sort of unsaid standard that if you want to look cool when riding the light rail, one must not utilize the handrails. That is, until you almost biff it. Then it is recommended to avoid further humiliation.

The shadows of lampposts fly by creating short spurts of interrupted sunlight. As it flashes across my face, I catch a glimpse of a young man’s jacket. It wasn’t hard to spot, being it was bright red. But I couldn’t help but notice the slight cracks in the leather. They appeared to be concentrated around his shoulders, indicating a heavy use of a backpack of sorts. The others were in the middle of his chest, where it bends when he sits down.

But the strangest thing about it, was that this jacket was incredibly well worn, but definitely not by that young man. I could tell by the way the jacket puffed out on his shoulders and was stretched around the bottom of the jacket. Like somebody much larger and older than him originally wore this jacket.

My imagination took hold and I wondered if it was a son wearing the jacket of his father. Or a brother wearing the jacket of his older brother. Or the grandson wearing the jacket of his grandfather. A jacket that has been used and abused.

Used and abused. My thoughts immediately shifted. I wish they would stop doing that, taking a mind of their own and remembering things I would rather leave in the past. But I can’t help it. Nobody really can. When I’m alone with my thoughts on a 25 minute trip to work on a quiet train, it becomes nearly impossible to resist.

I wonder if he actually cared. Or did he just use his loving words to fill the blanks of a relationship he knew wouldn’t last. But I knew from my better judgment that he most certainly didn’t care in the least. I was just the crazy one that fell too hard too fast. But I would rather be the “crazy one” than the one that used another person for their own self-confidence and abused the relationship. How could a person lie like that to another person? How could somebody tell you to your face that you’re special and then dump you like yesterday’s garbage?

But I guess that’s why I moved on and found somebody else. Somebody who looked at the red leather jacket of my heart and saw something so used, so bent, so tattered, but still saw its worth. Still decided that it meant something to them and that’s why they will hold on to it for years to come.

Because of their love for possibly a father, a brother, a grandfather, and, in this case, a girl whose heart had been broken.

Because that somebody saw her heart as a used red leather jacket. It will still keep you warm from the blistering winds. It will still cost you a few bucks at a thrift store. It will still remind you of the good times or the bad. And it will still stand out amongst a crowded train at 6:07 AM.

However, the red leather jacket, like my heart, will always remain “used”.

But maybe this time, not abused as well.

Posted in Storytime

Love and Happiness: A Short Story

“Don’t you be giving me that judging look,” Eleanor sat crossed-legged on her bed in her Star Wars pajamas. She was memorizing the lyrics to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody while spooning cookies and cream ice cream straight from the container into her mouth.

Rudy, her pug and best confidant, was curled up on the corner of her queen sized mattress, giving her an unenthusiastic glare. Eleanor set the ice cream aside and cleared her throat.

“Mamaaaaaaa just killed a man.” Eleanor stood up on her bed, Rudy didn’t even flinch. “Put a gun against his head, pulled my…the…his…trigger now he’s gone…dead.”

Eleanor let out a loud sigh and plopped back down on the bed.

“I thought I had it this time, Rudy. I really did.”

Rudy groaned.

“Oh, don’t be giving me that sass. It was a good effort,” Eleanor said, “besides, I’m pretty sure Ashley won’t mind if I don’t get every word right tonight. It was her idea to go to karaoke in the first place.”

Eleanor flopped to her back, tracing her finger along the patches of the quilt she was laying on.

“I don’t even know why she wants to go out tonight. I mean, I get it that she broke up with Graham and wants to get wasted to forget about it, but seriously, when has that ever worked?”

She rolled her head to the side to glace at Rudy, he hadn’t moved an inch, but was still looking towards her in a listening fashion.

“The last time this happened with her and Will’s tragic end to their romantic two week fling, I had to literally carry her out of Zeke’s Pub on my shoulder while she sang ‘Sweet Caroline’. When the Uber showed up, she laid down on the sidewalk and refused to get up because the ‘gravity was pushing her down’. I mean, I guess it wasn’t as bad as when David ended their two month love affair. She stood on the bar, belting Shakira. But when the ‘hips’ part came, she slipped and landed on my mojito glass.” Eleanor paused, “at least the nurse was pretty cute at the hospital that night.”

“Babe,” Devon called.

“I’m up here with Rudy,” Eleanor yelled.

Rudy shuffled on the bed and scrambled down his little bed stairs. Devon came into the room and was greeted with snorting and slobbery kisses.

“It’s good to see you too Rudy. How’s my favorite little man, huh?” he looked up to the ice cream container on the nightstand, “dibs.”

“No way! That one’s mine, go get your own.”

Devon lunged for the ice cream, but Eleanor snatched the spoon away. He tackled her to the bed, reaching for the spoon, but Rudy had other plans as she snatched it from her hand and ran for it.

“Rudy, you little shit, get back here!” Devon laughed.

“Oh well. He deserves it. I was telling him about Ashley’s newest heartbreak remedy she’s come up with. Karaoke.”

“Oh boy. I can already hear ‘Dancing Queen’ over the loudspeakers. When are we going?”

“In a couple hours. I was just waiting for my favorite nurse to get home.”

“Well I’m hoping that you’re talking about this nurse,” Devon said as he gestured to himself.

“Of course. Who else?” Eleanor smirked.

“We just have to make sure she stays off the bar this time. Wouldn’t want to end up at the hospital again and you meet another nurse to ask on a date.”

Eleanor laughed, “Alright, sounds like a plan.”

“Let’s go get the spoon from Rudy before he buries it in the backyard,” Devon got up off the bed and helped Eleanor to her feet.

“You know, we could always stay in tonight. Hannah said that she was going and would make sure Ash got home okay,” Eleanor said.

“So you’re asking whether or not I would like to stay here with you in our nice cozy apartment or go out to a dingy, smelly bar and listen to drunk people sing overdone 80’s tunes?”

“Basically.”

“I love you so much. How did I manage to land a girl like you?” Devon laughed.

Eleanor could only smile back. Because she knew that both of them had been through hell and high water to get to where they are now. The broken hearts, the frustrating days at work, the pressure for perfection. But now, as she’s bouncing on her mattress in her PJ’s, belting out the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody with Devon, she couldn’t help but be thankful for the happiness she always kept through it all. Because she never gave up hope, and never gave up the happiness she knew she deserved.

Even if that meant ending the night digging up the backyard with Devon, looking for the spoon Rudy buried.

 

“Do not set aside your happiness. Do not wait to be happy in the future. The best time to be happy is always now.” ― Roy T. Bennett

 

Posted in Storytime

If Life Came with Instructions: Part I

I’ve often heard the joke, “you couldn’t handle me even if I came with instructions” when referring to relationships. But while I was waiting in line at the local coffee shop, I couldn’t help but think of the phrase as being used to describe other things. For example, when it starts to rain out of nowhere even though the weather app said it wouldn’t for the whole day, I can imagine the rain as a person sitting there laughing at the fact that if weather had instructions, it would probably still rain out of nowhere.

But then I thought about life in general. What kind of person would life be like? I began to imagine Life as a sassy grandma sitting on a front porch, leaning over close to your face as she points her gangling finger at you and bellows “YOU COULDN’T HANDLE ME EVEN IF I CAME WITH INSTRUCTIONS YA LITTLE PIECE OF SH…”, you get the point.

I may not be an expert at this whole “life” thing (is anybody really), but I thought I’d share a few steps to take to live a life even Life herself would be jealous of.

Step 1: Know that the rules that follow may or may not work, the world doesn’t like to give you a heads up when it flips itself upside down (essentially, “results may vary”)

Step 2: Happiness is never going to be and never will be a singular destination. You’ve got to learn to be happy along the way and enjoy every second of life you are given in this world.

Step 3: It’s okay to not be okay. Nobody’s perfect, so it’s completely fine to say that you’re not okay and take some time to heal yourself. Our humanity can be a gift or a curse, no matter the circumstance.

Step 4: Don’t eat the yellow snow.

Step 5: When driving, there’s a little device called a “blinker” and it should be utilized at all times. Trust me. It can save you from a dent…or two.

Step 6: Follow the “Golden Rule”. Treat others the way that you would want to be treated. So basically, don’t be an a**hole.

Step 7: Karma really is a b**ch.

Step 8: If you really think about it, we are all going to die one day. So, treat every day as if it’s your last, you never know when your time on earth will come to an end.

Step 9: Never judge a book by its cover (they could be the next bestseller 😊)

Step 10: If you’ve got a crush, tell them. It’s easier to mend a broken heart from rejection than a broken/exhausted heart from months or years of waiting for the “right moment”. This one is a hard one. I know because I’ve experience it more times than I can count. But from all the heartache that I’ve had, I’ve learned that it’s easier to bounce back from someone saying “no” than never knowing and continuing on for years waiting for a miracle that isn’t going to happen.

Step 11: Enjoy being single. (For example, I’m writing this in sweatpants and eating pizza that I had delivered to my door just for myself…why?…because I can, that’s why. I also get to enjoy a giant cozy bed all by myself and I can hog all the covers I want.)

Step 12: Remember this quote:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Rob Siltanen

*mic drop*

Step Infinity: Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual or rules. All you got is what others teach in life lessons. Listen to them. It’s better than learning the hard way. Trust me.

 

To be Continued…

Posted in Storytime

The Things We Aren’t Supposed to Talk About: Act II

He pushed the pencil to the end of the desk, making a clear path in the grit that covered it. I need to clean this s*** he thought.

He returned to the pad of paper sitting in front of him:

She was like a soft summer rain. Beautiful in every way. Her laugh could brighten my day. We would sit by the fire, swapping stories like we did as kids, her arms tangled in mine.

Tahir could hear those familiar footsteps trotting down the hall at full speed. He quickly whipped open the drawer by his right knee and threw the pad of paper into it, slamming it shut just before the footsteps reached the door.

“Tahir! What’s up, man?” Derek said as he peeked around the corner of the office door. He pushed his wiry frame against the doorway, leaning in like a curious dog, tail wagging and everything.

“Uh, not much. Just trying to write my short story for this week’s column.”

“Oh, come on. You know that’s not what I’m talking about.”

“I really don’t know what you mean, Derek.”

“The cutie at the front desk with the brown eyes, what you wrote about last night on your blog.”

Tahir stared, confused.

Derek tried again, “Short black hair, orange spring dress, beautifully tanned skin…”

“Ah, yeah, that one. Um, it was a story Derek. We never really talked at all.” Tahir said.

Tahir remembered her as he walked into the office this morning. She was a beauty, and he was in love. She had short black hair that hung straight, framing her caramel colored skin. Her eyes were like uneaten chocolate candies sitting on white porcelain plates, fringed with long dark eyelashes that curled to meet her thin brows. Her lips. Her lips is what took his breath away. They were a plush, soft baby pink that when it crept into a smile, they looked supernatural in beauty. The peach silk dress she wore flowed over her body like water, highlighting every curve with vigor.

She was beautiful in every way.

Derek interrupted Tahir’s thoughts, “What? So she’s up for grabs? Dude, I call dibs now.”

“Derek, you can’t!”

“Unless you want me to tell her you like her.”

Tahir sighed, “Don’t just…I got a lot of work to do, Derek. Send in Julia, I need to speak with her.”

Derek huffed, “Fine. But if she says no to you, she’s all mine.”

“Deal” Tahir muttered.

Geez, he’s annoying. It’s not a competition…but if he asks her first, I’m gonna punch his smug little smile right off of his boney face.

“Tahir, you asked for me?” Julia stood in the doorway, gripping a stuffed manila envelope.

She wasn’t anything that beheld much beauty. Her skin was pale, making her gawky in appearance. She had dull hair the shade of a fat-free chocolate and dark beady eyes hidden beneath large purple frames. Her cheeks had a rosy glow, but would be considered too pudgy by any fashion magazine. Her sweater was a bright pink that covered her overused, grey muscle shirt. Her muffin top was highlighted by the flowing khaki’s she wore almost every day, but she was so used to sucking it in, no one could barely notice anymore.

“Ah, Julia, yes. I wanted to ask you how your trip to Ireland was.”

“Oh” Julia hesitated to answer, surprised Tahir remembered, “It was good! I had a lot of fun. It was really beautiful there with the green and rolling hills. I would recommend it the next time you feel like traveling.”

“Awesome, sounds like you had a great time. We’re glad to have you back.”

“Thanks, I’m glad to be back.”

A moment of silence followed, Julia fiddled with the corner of the envelope she was holding while Tahir stared at his empty screen.

“Tahir…I…um…was wondering. Did you…um…want to go…” Before Julia could finish her sentence, Derek flew into the doorway like a hawk and shrieked,

“Dude! Do you know that gorgeous, blonde receptionist you like?

“What about it?” Tahir asked.

“I asked her on a date, and she said yes. Boo yah!” Derek said as he sprinted down the hall towards his office.

“WHAT THE F*** DEREK! Geez, what a prick. I even told him that I really liked that girl. She was the prettiest I had ever seen.” Tahir looked to his window. “I’m never going to find another girl that that.”

“Yeah. Sure. I guess there’s not enough pretty girls to go around.” Julia said.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Tahir said, surprised at the lack of emotion in Julia’s usually peppy voice.

“Nothing,” Julia took two hard steps forward and tossed the envelope she was holding in her hands. It landed heavily on his desk with a thud, sending dust flying up into the air. Before he could get out another word, Julia was gone.

Tahir immediately stood up and lurched for the door. He grabbed the frame of the doorway and used it to gain momentum towards her office. He counted three doors before forcefully turning the knob on the fourth and pushing it open.

Julia sat at her desk, she didn’t even look up when he came in.

“Julia. What’s wrong?”

“Go away, Tahir.”

“Julia, listen. I didn’t mean to say that you’re not, you know, pretty. I mean…”

“Seriously. You think I’m shallow enough to be upset that you don’t think I’m pretty?”

“Julia!”

“Tahir, I like you.” Julia’s eyes looked straight into his soul as those words spilled from her thin lips.

“I’ve always liked you, Tahir. You’re smart, creative, and kind. I help you with drafts, grammar, spelling, and copying. I go out of my way to help you because I know that you would do the same for me. I like the way the one piece of hair always sticks up on the top of your head, no matter how much hair gel you put in it. I like the way you use your words to describe beautiful people and the love you hope to find. I like the way your awkwardly laugh whenever you’re with people you’re not too familiar with and so much more,” Julia sighed,

“But your view of love is as clear as dust.”

Tahir was stunned. His jaw nearly hit the floor.

“Julia…why didn’t you tell me?”

She paused her typing and moved her hands to her lap, spinning slightly in her chair to reveal her eyes glossy with tears.

“Because. I will never look like them or be like them, Tahir, the girls you always seem to write about. I hate thunderstorms, I can’t stand the bugs outside. I wear clothes for comfort. I’m not skinny. My hair doesn’t effortlessly flow down my back. I don’t wear glasses for fun, I wear them to see things. Dresses make me uncomfortable, and I would rather sleep 30 more minutes than put on a full face of make-up.” She paused and looked down at her hands in her lap.

“Plus, we aren’t supposed to talk about this kind of thing. If we like someone we have to keep it hidden like buried treasure. Because no one wants to take the chance. No one wants to get hurt. Please, just go away, Tahir. I’m already embarrassed enough as it is.”

“Julia, I’m…”

“Just, go.”

Tahir slowly backed up to the hallway and could barely feel his legs propelling him forward on his way back to his office. When Tahir got back to his desk. He sat there in some sort of trance. Here he was, thinking he was unlovable only to be loved by the last person he would expect it from.

He picked up the pencil on the edge of his desk and pulled his notepad out of his drawer. He looked at what he wrote earlier. Within seconds he ripped it from the bind, crumpled it up, and pushed the dust filling his desk to the side with it.

Then, he began to write:

Title: The things we never say to each other

“I like you” she said, her glistening brown eyes looking up at me…

Posted in Storytime

Have You Ever Tried to Fly? : A Short Story

Astronauts ready? Begin countdown. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4…

I remember it so clearly now:

The sun was creeping along the tattered deck. When it reached the tip of my gangly fingers I hopped down the stairs and laid flat on the warm crabgrass by the edge of the farmhouse. I watched the clouds inch by across the blue sky and geese flying in formation overhead, honking as if they were mocking me. There they were, flying high in the sky while my little body lay adjacent to the ground. Stuck.

“What’d ya doing Mei?”

“Nothing, Gran, just looking at the sky”

“At what? Ain’t nothin’ up there but air and birds.”

“I know” I said. I rolled over to my stomach and locked onto her old, faded brown eyes, “I was just thinking that it would be nice to fly like the birds.”

Gran plopped onto her rocker on the deck, “Who says ya can’t?”

“Uh…science.”

“Yah don’t know unless ya try. So, have you ever even tried to fly?”

“Gran, I can’t fly! I’m a person and I don’t have wings!”

“Superman ain’t got no wings from the looks of it and he flies ‘round like a gnat everywhere and stuff…”

“But he’s Superman.”

“And you is a little girl, Captain Obvious”

I rolled my eyes and flopped my back against the ground. I could hear Gran mumbled choice words behind me as she creaked her rocker back and forth in rhythm. Her crackled voice pierced the silence of the late afternoon,

“Instead of just lying there ‘n doing nothing, why don’t you go on and get the mail for me.”

“Fine.”

I let out a huge sigh, lifted myself up off the ground, and started down the long drive. Her mailbox was so far away that it took someone at least 40 minutes just to walk there and back. However, I enjoyed running to make it go by faster and release some pent up energy I stored like a winter squirrel, as Gran would say.

With the farmhouse out of sight, I began with a slow jog. Then it picked up to a slow run. When I was fully running down the gravel drive, I suddenly remembered what Gran said about flying. I guess she was right that I never really tried to fly at all. But that was about to change.

I picked up to full speed ahead and ran as fast as I could down the gravel driveway. My feet pounded the ground with each step and my hair flipped around in the wind. I kept running until I could barely feel my feet anymore and I launched my little body into the air with all my strength.

As soon as my feet left the ground, a sense of excitement rose in my gut and for a moment, I was flying. Soaring above the gravel road like a drunk goose. My arms were flailing in the air and my shout of excitement sounded like honk, but it was quickly deflated as the ground smacked a sense of reality back into me.

For a good minute, I let the fact that I just attempted to fly like a bird and failed, unsurprisingly, sink in for a minute. I eventually rose from the ground and assessed the damage. Bleeding, dirty, and shredded clothing. She’s gonna kill me.

It was near sundown by the time I finally limped my way back to the house, with one letter tucked under my arm. However, she didn’t say a word as I came in looking like I was tossed into a blender. She simply put her hand on my shoulder and led me to the hallway cupboard to retrieve her mini first-aid kit.

I was sitting atop the kitchen counter and Gran was on her knees tending to my wounds. As she slowly peeled the backing off each plastic bandage and placed then on my cuts, a smile began to cautiously make its way to the corner of her lips.

“What?”

“Nothin’.”

“Yeah right! Why you smiling like that?”

“‘Cause, I thought for sure you were gonna fly.” She let out a short snort before she burst into a fit of giggles.

“I did, though!”

“Ya did?”

“It didn’t last that long, but I did!”

She calmed down and wiped the back of her hand against her glistening forehead. She leaned back on her heels and let out a deep sigh.

“I’m glad you did, honey. It’s tough fightin’ gravity like that”

“Huh?”

“Gravity. The thing that’s keeping those scrawny legs of yours planted to the ground.”

I had almost completely forgotten about gravity. All of those physics lectures in class started to flood into my memory. Mr. Montgomery mumbling as he fussed around with the Bill Nye VHS. The classic theme song pouring out of the television and my classmates lips. It was there I had remembered I learned about Space. Where people float rather than sink to the ground.

Gran interrupted my thoughts as she clipped the first aid kit shut. I hopped off the counter, looking more like a patched quilt than a person, and made my way back to the porch. I sat down on the stairs which Gran settled into her creaky rocker. She flipped through a few pages of a book and eventually settled on a starting point.

As we sat there in silence, my eyes never leaving the disappearing horizon, I thought long and hard about my little stunt earlier. When the sun became nothing but an orange glow on the horizon, I turned to Gran,

“Gran, I’m gonna try to fly farther tomorrow.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Alright.”

Another moment of silence passed.

“And even further the next day. I’m not gonna stop” I said.

“Good. Ya know where to find the first-aid kit.”

 

Right here in my pocket…Thanks Gran.

…3, 2, 1, Lift Off.

Posted in Storytime

Why Spiderman?

In lieu of the new Spiderman movie coming out soon, I decided to give a little story explaining why Spiderman is my favorite superhero.

You’ve all probably heard me say that for at least 5 straight Halloweens, I dressed up as Spiderman. Yes, this little dorky girl dressed up as Spiderman and I loved every second of it. What kid doesn’t want to be a superhero?

But when I was a kid, Spiderman was more to me than just a superhero. He was someone that helped me learn to love myself a little more every day and it all started the first Halloween I dressed up as Spiderman.

I remember that the weather was freezing with a forecast of snow (typical Minnesota for ya) and my mother wasn’t about to let my sister and I outside without a coat. So, that night I dressed as “The Abominable Spiderman” and ran around fully costumed yet covered by a purple winter jacket. The only part of the costume truly visible was the mask that I was wearing.

My sister and I ran from house to house with a collection of neighborhood kids gathering candy like crazy. However, there was this one particular house I ran up to that was handing out little princess key chains and Hot Wheels cars (Ah, the good ole days). My sister got there first (dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz) and received a keychain. The others followed and received their respective items. But when my turn came along, the lady reached into her black, plastic caldron and placed a bright blue car into my pumpkin bucket, “Here you go, dude. I love the costume!”

I was only able to be taken aback for a few seconds for my sister yelled at me to hurry up. I quickly bounced down the steps and ran across the lawn to the next house where she was waiting. I thought, did that really just happen?

When I got home that night. I held that little car in my fingers, running the tires along the palm of my hand and first thought, I can’t believe she thought I was a boy. Then a large grin crept across my face, that’s the first time I didn’t have to ask for the “boy toy”. I thought about all the trips to McDonalds and my mom having to ask for one girl toy and one boy toy, even though she was standing there with two little girls. Honestly, if I wasn’t so hyped up on sugar in that moment, I would have cried.

To some, it may have just been a simple misidentification because of the mask. But isn’t that what Spiderman is known for? Being a dorky little boy whose always made fun of but then puts on the Spiderman costume and he becomes something else entirely, a super hero.

So every time during my youth that I put on that costume, I become someone else. My own superhero. A superhero with the power to hide their identity so people didn’t judge me by the way that I looked or for the gender that I identified as.

Especially when I was younger, people would always feel the need to tell me their harsh opinions on what I needed to change to “fit in” better. For example:

  • “You should wear your hair down, it makes you look more feminine and professional.”
  • “You should get contacts. That way you can see better and won’t have to wear your glasses.”
  • “You need to start wearing clothes that flatter you instead of those baggy ones.”
  • “You need to start wearing make-up to help with your acne.”

And so on…

But all of that went away for one single night wearing one single Spiderman costume.

So, now that I’m older and starting to use the “#adulting” phrase more often, I still think back to why my answer is “Spiderman” when asked who my favorite superhero is. And no matter how cheesy it sounds, Spiderman will always be my favorite superhero because he taught me that even though the world may treat you like an outsider, you have so much more potential then you realize.

To sum it up, just because the world thinks you’re nothing but a weirdo, it doesn’t mean you’re not still a superhero.

Who’s your favorite superhero? Why? Let me know in the comments below.

Posted in Storytime

A Tree Growing in Winter

The soft crunch of the snow beneath my worn-out boots filled the quiet morning street with life. I watched snow flick off the tip of my boots as I marched across a sea of white. I exhaled and my breath became one with the cold in a burst of fog before thinning into nothing. But before long, my puffs of air disappeared altogether as the warmth of my inner pith faded.

I reached the lone stop sign near what I believed to be the end of the street and I climbed up on the snow drift beside it. Even though I knew fully well that not a single car would cross my path. I planted my feet into the solid ice shell covering the last snowfall and began my long wait.

To keep warm I kept my limbs moving and practiced my greeting.

“Good morning! How ya doing…no, to easy” I muttered.

“Oh, I got it! What about, ‘Hey! You excited for school’…nah too dorky.”

But my practice was cut short as the trudging and scraping of familiar boots interrupted my thoughts.

“What’s up?” he called.

“Hey…” before I could get another word out, he exclaimed, “Why the heck are you standing in the drift? Your feet are gonna be soaked ya know. Geez, your always such goodie-two-shoes, just get on the street.”

He motioned for me to stand next to him on the lightly frosted street, but I just looked down at the snow that was up to my knees. To be honest, my feet didn’t feel cold at all. They were safely cocooned beneath me and I felt no reason to move.

“Suit yourself…” He scoffed.

As we waited in silence, him attending to his precious Tamagotchi, I gently removed my hat from the perspiring crown of my head and nestled it in the canopy of my jacket. The cool air brushed through my hair and whisked it about my head. The fluttering strands danced along with the breeze keeping my mind occupied on pushing it away from my eyes until the bus arrived.

Right on time, as usual, the bright yellow bus appeared in the distance. Shining in dew, it roared to a stop in front of us. I shuffled out of the drift and climbed on. When it took off, I watched the world pass in a white blur until we arrived at school.

The classroom felt the same as it had always felt, a cold and empty space where others seemed to flourish and I fell short. They would fervently raise their hands whenever a question was asked. They would zip through math problems and scurry about in gym. I guess you could say I didn’t have enough energy to keep up.

Even in music class I couldn’t keep up with the beat of the song. I would move my lips to the songs, but never actually make any sound. I was as quiet as the morning snow, but down to the very roots of my being I was trying my best.

I worked harder than most of the students, focusing on how to best adapt my weaknesses. I was the bud that never blossomed at the right moment. Not at the same time when all the other students were being nurtured and cared for. When I finally understood something, it was a long past thought to the others and my accomplishments were flat lined by their taunting blades.

But on this particular day, something amazing happened. Not just any normal kind of amazing like when a child takes its first steps, or when someone catches a Hail Mary in a football game. No, it was more than that.

It was during a typical third grade English lesson discussing the basics of figurative language. My teacher asked us all to write a simile, using the words “like” or “as”. I watched as all the other students scribbled out one idea to the next. They shouted them to friends across the room in excitement proclaiming their brilliance. The car was as fast as a cheetah, the man was as tall as a skyscraper, and the train roared like a lion to name a few.

I sat there puzzled for a few moments. All of those ideas sounded perfect, but they all sounded so plain. Something that had been written before. I stared across the room for inspiration and found myself looking out of the teal-framed window. It wasn’t much of a view though because the thick branches of a tree filled the frame. The thick bark was bare as it held a part of the morning snowfall on its limbs. It cast a billowing, patterned shadow into the classroom as sun broke through the clouds.

After some contemplation, I jotted down a line on my notebook and tore it out to turn it in. But then the dreaded sentence came from my teacher’s lips as she told the class that we would be reading them aloud.

I froze in fear. There was no time to practice and I couldn’t just mouth the words of the poem. My thoughts swirled as each student spoke their sentence and a roar of claps spread across the room. When it came my turn, I gingerly stood up from the safety of my chair and fell into the spotlight.

My fingers gripped the piece of paper as my heart began to practically beat out of my chest. It’s paced beating a cold reminder of the time that was ticking by as I stood in front of all their cheeky expressions. I glanced over to my teacher and she gave me a soft smile and a quick nod of approval to begin. My lips parted, but no sound emerged. I was frozen with fear as the pressure of the eager eyes around me intensified. I drew in a short breath before I slowly and painfully moved my lips and tongue to form the words I had written down,

“The moon rose slowly like a tree growing in winter.”

I quickly sat back down into the comfort of my seat and held my little hand to my chest as if it would quiet the sound of the rhythmic pounding of my heart. When I finally gathered the courage to look at my teacher, she was standing in awe.

There was not a sound among them, not a single hand clap. I felt ashamed because I knew that it was too different. It was probably wrong and I would have to be put down gently by the teacher, again.

But then, the miracle happened. My teacher ecstatically jumped from her chair and exclaimed, “This is exactly what I’m talking about. That was amazing! I’m…I’m in shock…” She trailed off as she smiled at me with bright eyes glowing in pride.

She began to clap and the rest of my pupils followed as the sound of their hands rustled the silence out of the classroom. I felt a warmth spread across my cheeks as I blushed.

I never had thought it possible that being different could feel so good.

That night, as I lay in my loft bed tracing shapes on the popcorn ceiling, I couldn’t help but wonder if a tree really does grow in winter. Or if the moon really rises or simply appears to as it circles the earth. My finger caught a few loose pieces of the popcorn and they fell onto my blanket.

I picked one up and analyzed all of the rough edges and uneven white paint distribution. I rolled it between my index finger and thumb and imagined it as a little snowflake. A snowflake that fell millions and millions of miles only to be stopped from hitting the ground by my thin little fingers.

I then flicked it to the floor of my room, rolled over, and snuggled into the warmth of my sheets. Before I drifted to sleep, I imagined a forest covered in white snow and in the middle of this forest full of tall yet bare trees, there was a little tree, barely a couple feet tall, flourishing with bright green leaves.

Huh, I guess some of them really do grow in winter.