Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Life in Photographs- Part 2

A Life in Photographs-Part 2

(Fun with Dick and Jane-2)


     Dick watched the police cruiser drive down the dirt driveway away from the cabin.  Jane stared straight ahead, and didn’t turn to look back at Dick.  Sitting on the log, Dick sat transfixed until the car moved beyond sight.  Since he had already given his statement to the police, Dick was free to leave.  He stood and said goodbye to Jane’s parents. 
     As he moved slowly to his car, his head felt dizzy, prompting him to pause in his steps.  After several minutes he arrived at his car.  Dick fumbled in his pocket for his keys, confused as to why he couldn’t fish them out.  Eventually he did succeed in pulling them out, and then endeavored to shoot the target of the key hole in the door.
     He sat in his car.  His head continued dizzy.  Dick grabbed onto the steering wheel.  He glanced back at the cabin door, and found no one there.  Everyone had left, and the cabin returned to its normal deserted state.  He thought, “What am I doing here…and how did she…I can’t believe that…wow, I can’t even complete a thought.” 
     Dick looked back at the cabin and wondered, “What if Jane somehow got away from them…is that possible…she did escape once…maybe I’d better…but where?”  A frightening thought came charging into his mind.  Dick turned his head back towards the dirt road and searched for any signs of a car, or even someone on foot.  There was none.
     “So what do I do now,” he wondered?  Minutes passed before he formed a clear thought, and the thought was merely to leave.  Fear surged through his veins.  He had to get out of there.  It mattered little where he went.  He started his car and drove away.
     Dick pulled out his cell phone and dialed.  He hung up abruptly before his sister answered the phone.  “Oh yeah, I left Nell there for the whole weekend, and it’s still only Friday night.  I guess there’s no need to call Julie…well, maybe I should let her know…no, probably that’s not a good idea,” he thought.
     The car seemed to drive itself, as Dick had no conscious thought about where he was going.  He didn’t know where to go.  The car parked itself at Sparky’s Sports Bar.  Dick stared at the sign as though trying to discern a foreign language.  And then his mind cleared, and he laughed and said, “Of course I brought myself here.”  Dick walked up to the end of the bar and took a seat.  Phil, the usual Friday night bartender was on duty.  Phil nodded at Dick and drew him a draft, and set it down in front of Dick.   
     “Thanks Phil.”  Phil smiled and went back to washing glasses.
     Dick stared into his glass, as though he tried to figure out a puzzle.  His head spun less, but he continued to be disoriented.  Tiring of studying his beer, Dick surveyed the bar.  On the same wall as the television were dozens of photographs.  He felt drawn to the photographs.  Picking up his beer, Dick approached the photograph wall.  He came across the picture of dad.  Dad stood with the whole baseball team, wearing his blue baseball shirt with “Sparky’s” printed across the chest.  The caption read, “Metropolitan Area League Champions.”  Below the team picture is a smaller one.  Dick crouches down to get a closer look.  In the second photo Dad smiles from ear to ear, with one arm around Dick and the other arm around Julie.  Dad wears his hat backwards.  Julie, Dick’s younger sister, smiles impishly.
     “Oh my goodness, I must have been about six, and Julie about four in this pic,” says Dick.  He smiles as a memory is stirred.

     I had my own room.  My bunk beds were decorated with athletes in various poses.  I sometimes tried to imitate the poses.  I would imagine winning football games, or driving in the winning run in a baseball game, or serving an ace to win a tennis match.  Mom and dad installed bunk beds in my room because my baby brother would share my room when he was old enough.  For now he slept in a little bassinette in my parent’s room.  I didn’t want to share my room with the baby.  He cried often.
     I chose the bottom bed.  It seemed more like a fort from the bottom, and especially when I hung blankets from the top bed.  From my window I could see the swimming pool in the front yard.  At first I wondered why the pool was in the front.  I thought they were supposed to be in the back yard.  But somebody ripped us off.  Our back yard was barely big enough for a Jacuzzi.  It couldn’t have been more than ten paces wide.  There’s no way we could have fit a pool in the back, so I guess it had to be in the front yard.  When we first moved in I told dad that somebody tricked him, and sold him a house with no backyard.  Dad laughed.
     Julie’s room was next door.  I could sometimes hear her talking to her dolls.  At least I imagine they were her dolls, unless she had one of those pretend friends.  Some of my friends had a pretend friend, but I didn’t.  I thought they were acting strange when they talked to someone who wasn’t there.  But they told me the pretend friend really was there, I just didn’t have the x-ray eyes to see them.  I always smiled when they said this, as if I knew the secret; but I didn’t.
     One day we sat on Julie’s bed and played with our troll dolls.  I liked the one with blue hair best.  Julie liked the one with green hair.  We danced our dolls on the bed.  We brushed their hair and put them in pony tails.  After we fixed up their hair we decided to have a tea party.  Tea parties were one of our favorite things to do.  We set the table for the four tea partiers, the two troll dolls and the two others.  The two others were in case we had any guests come to the party.  You never know who might show up, and you want to be prepared.
     Mother opened the door and said, “Okay children, it’s time for dinner.  Come wash your hands.”  Mother turned to leave, and then stepped back into the doorway.  She said, “So what are you doing?”  We stole a quick glance at one another.  Julie’s eyes grew large, and her face became scarlet. 
     Mother took one look at us and noted the empty chairs at our tea party, and her nose scrunched up into a frown.  She said, “Are you pretending to play with your imaginary friends again?”  I looked at Julie and covered my mouth with my hands to suppress a laugh.  Julie got that funny sideways look on her face like she was trying not to laugh.  And then mother said, “Oh children, my silly, silly children.  Do you still believe in them?”  Mother didn’t wait for an answer, but instead said with a wave of her hand, “It’s time for dinner.  Come to the table.”  Mother left and Julie and I breathed out deeply.
     Julie and I always tried to hide our games from mother.  She got angry with us when she saw us playing certain games, although I’m not sure which ones.  Sometimes she just seemed angry that we were playing at all.  We never knew what would be okay on a given day.  We had to watch mother and see.  On some days it was okay to play.  On some days it was best to not be in the same room as mother.  Most days were a mix of both.  We watched to see what kind of mood we’d find mother in.  I would be relieved whenever she seemed happy.  I got afraid when she seemed mad.  Other days she just lay in bed all day.  I liked those days, because mother left us alone.  We could play any game we wanted.

     We put our troll dolls back in their beds, which were shoe boxes that we’d decorated like a bedroom.  We washed up at the sink in the kitchen.  As we dried our hands on the towels hanging on the oven door mother said, “Children, I don’t want you pretending to see imaginary people anymore.  It’s crazy, and if any of the neighbors overheard you, what would they think of me?  Of course they would conclude that I’m an unfit mother raising children that are crazy.  What else could they conclude from your bizarre gibberish and pretend people?”
     I began to protest by saying, “But mother, we aren’t…”  I stopped myself when I saw the look on her face. 
     “Dick, you know how I feel about your fanciful friends.  We both know they don’t exist, and you don’t want to test me on this.  I won’t tolerate my children appearing to be crazy to the neighbors.  You know how people talk.  I can just imagine the whole town talking about my two mentally ill children.”
     I glanced at Julie, who made a zipping of her lip motion towards me.  Julie needn’t have zipped her lip, I knew better than to say anything else at this point.  I merely said, “Okay mom.”  And Julie said, “Okay mommy.”  Mother liked being called mommy.
     Julie and I set the table with forks, napkins and glasses.  Mother served sliced cheese, hot dogs with ketchup and lima beans.  I was delighted to see the hot dogs and cheese, but I was not happy to see the lima beans, and we didn’t want to eat them.  I hid a groan when I saw the awful beans.  Julie put her hand over her mouth to prevent anything objectionable from sneaking out. 
     When mother wasn’t looking, I hid some of my beans inside my napkin.  The few beans that I ate were done in my secret procedure.  I put a bit of cherry jello in my mouth, then stuffed a few beans in, and followed it with another bite of jello.  The jello almost completely covered the horrible lima bean taste, but not quite.  I asked mother for more jello.  I stopped eating lima beans when I ran out of jello for the second time.  I didn’t risk asking mother for thirds. 
     Julie hid most of her beans underneath the rim of her plate.  When mother picked up the plates, she immediately saw the lima beans on the placemat.  Mother stopped in her tracks.  “Now Julie, you disappoint me.  I thought you were a good girl who ate all of her vegetables.  And even more importantly, I’m very disappointed that you’re trying to hide things from mommy, and there’s not a reason to.  Simply eat your delicious vegetables and then you can go play.”
     “But I don’t like stupid lima beans.  They taste yucky.  They remind me of that one time I ate some paper, except that the paper tasted a little better,” said Julie.
     “Now Julie, you know you’re being silly.  These lima beans are so good for you, and they do taste good.  Don’t tell lies to mommy.  You know we haven’t raised you to tell lies.  Only bad girls lie, and I’m sure you don’t want to be a bad girl.  And did you know that some children in Mexico eat food out of trash cans.  You can’t imagine how much better these beans taste.  So simply eat up your lima beans quickly and be done with it.”  Julie made a face while mother wasn’t looking.  Mother picked up my plate, and I quickly grabbed my napkin, containing most of my lima beans.  I stood up and walked swiftly to the sink and threw away my napkin in the trash under the sink.  Then I sat back down.  I threw a sideways glance at mother, hoping she wouldn’t check the trash.  She didn’t.  I think she was distracted with Julie.  Mother set Julie’s plate back down, scooped up the discarded beans and replaced them on the plate.  Mother went back to washing the dishes.
     I leaned over towards Julie and whispered for her to hurry up and eat her beans, so we could go play.  She whispered back, “But that’s not fair!  You didn’t have to eat yours, so I don’t want to eat mine.”
     “Now children, there’ll be no telling secrets in this family.  Dick, you mind your own business.  And Julie, you hurry and eat your beans.  And you won’t be leaving this table until you eat all of your beans,” said Mother.
     “Do I have to eat all of them?  I don’t want to eat all of them.  They’re so gross.”
Mother walked back to the table and counted the beans on Julie’s plate.  “There are only seventeen of them.  That isn’t too many to eat.  Now be a good girl and eat them before I lose my patience with you,” said Mother.
     “Seventeen!  But that’s so many!  Can’t I just eat five of them?”
     “Now I am beginning to lose my patience with you.  You will not leave this table until all seventeen of those beans are gone.  Do I make myself clear, young lady?”
     “Yes mommy,” said Julie with lowered eyes and voice. 
     Mother finished putting the last of the dishes into the dishwasher and put her hands on her hips.  Mother looked at Julie’s plate, and saw that all the beans were still there.  She glared at Julie and said, “Now I don’t care if you have to spend the whole night at that table!  You will not leave until every last one of those beans is gone.”  Julie turned her head away and rolled her eyes, while saying, “Yes mommy.”
     Mother took several steps towards Julie and pointed a finger at her, “Now you listen here young lady.  I won’t have any daughter of mine rolling her eyes at me.  I won’t tolerate that kind of disrespect.  And if your father was any kind of man, he’d back me up on this.  And do you realize there are starving children in Africa that would die to have those seventeen lima beans?  Now, you will do as I say, and eat every last one of them.  Do I make myself clear?”
     Julie stared at her lap, and almost inaudibly said, “Yes mommy.”
     “What?  I didn’t hear you.  What did you say?”
     Julie spoke louder, “Yes mommy.”
     “You know Julie, maybe you’re telling me that there’s something wrong with my food.  That maybe my food isn’t good enough for you.  Or maybe you’re saying that my cooking isn’t good enough for you.  Is that it?  Is that what you’re telling me?”
     “No mommy, I’m not saying that!  Please don’t get mad!  I promise I’ll eat my food right away.”
     “Now that’s better.  And I’m not mad.  I don’t get mad,” said Mother.
     “Yes mommy,” said Julie.
     “Now don’t torture yourself, just eat the beans and be done with it,” said mother as she left the kitchen.

     As soon as Mother left Julie began to cry.  She began sobbing quietly, yet sobbing so strongly that she couldn’t eat.  I got worried and said to her, “Julie, stop crying!  Stop crying so you can eat your food.  She’ll be back soon, and you don’t want her to get madder.  You know what happens when she gets really mad.  Please stop crying and eat your food!”
     “I can’t stop!  I’m trying, but I don’t know if I can stop and eat them all before she gets back,” said Julie between sobs.
     “Okay, don’t worry.  I’ll help you eat them.  Come on hurry, let’s eat them together,” I said as I stole a quick look towards the door to make sure mother wasn’t watching. 
     “But don’t let her see you helping me eat them.  She’ll be so mad if she sees you helping me eat them,” said Julie.
     “Don’t worry, I won’t let her see.”  So together we stuffed the beans in our mouths.  They tasted awful.  By this time they were freezing cold and stiff from sitting out so long.  I didn’t have any jello left to hide the taste.  I could barely gag them down.  I had to push down an impulse to gag several times.  I drank two full glasses of water in order to wash them down my throat.  I found that if I chewed them five times, I could wash the remnant down with enough water.
     With beans in my mouth I said to Julie, “I’m sure glad we don’t live in Africa or Mexico…I can barely stand to eat dinner in America.”
     “I know,” said Julie with a laugh.
     Several minutes later we both shoveled the last of them into our mouths.  My back was turned to the door.  I glanced at Julie and a look of horror emerged on her face.  Julie quickly turned her horror into a beatific smile.  I looked into the glass window behind Julie, and saw the reason.  Mother stood in the doorway watching us.  Panic surged through my veins.  I redoubled my efforts to chew as fast as I could.  My panic increased as I watched mother’s reflection become closer and closer to us. 
     Mother stopped behind me and said, “Well, I see that you’ve finally minded me and ate all of your beans, Julie.”  And then turning to me she said, “And why is your back to me?  Are you hiding something from me?”
     I quickly swallowed the last of the lima beans and looked up at mother, doing my best to plaster a convincing smile on my face.  “No mommy, I’m not hiding anything.”  Mother glared at me for a moment, and then turned to go.  As she walked away she said, “You know I don’t tolerate lies in this family.  I’ll be extremely disappointed if you’re keeping secrets.”
     Julie and I breathed great sighs of relief.  We ran back to Julie’s room, and resumed the play that dinner had interrupted.  We played happily for another hour.

    Dad opened the door and said, “Okay kids, it’s time for bed.”  He still wore his uniform from the game that day.  Dad’s team won the softball league championship, and he was very pleased with himself.  He took a step into the room and then dad’s smile melted away.  He paused for a moment and looked down the hallway before saying, “You know, your mother tries her best to raise you with good manners…I don’t like how…well, I don’t want you to get in trouble with your mother.  If you’d just eat the food she puts before you, it would avoid…it would avoid lots of unpleasantness.  Do you understand?”
     In truth, we didn’t understand exactly what he meant.  It didn’t make sense why we had to eat vegetables just because the kids in Africa and Mexico were starving.  But we did know that he wanted us to mind mother so we wouldn’t get into trouble.  I said, “Yes daddy, but sometimes it’s hard to mind mommy.”
     Father smiled knowingly and said, “Yes son, I know it can be difficult, but let’s all do our best to not upset your mother.  You know how she gets when she’s upset.”
     Julie and I responded in unison, “Okay daddy.”
     “Oh my, how cute you both look.”   Father came into our room from the doorway and laughed.  He pulled down the old Polaroid from the hallway shelf and said, “Turn this way and look, kids.”  And then mother walked down the hall and father turned to her and said, “Oh dear, would you mind taking a picture of me and the kids?”
     “But then I won’t be in it,” said mother.
     “Oh, uh, maybe we could…”
     “Oh well, I’ll do it this time,” said mother.  Just before mother snapped the picture, I reached up and turned daddy’s hat backwards.  And then mother took the picture of the three of us.
    
     “And that is this picture,” I said as I touched the picture on the wall of Sparky’s.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Storylines

For 2012 I will be writing short stories.  I've decided to change the way I'm blogging, and am switching to a story format.  I plan to write stories that carry a message.  I will post follow up stories each month as long as a story has life.  And when a story has run its course, I'll start a new one.  I welcome your comments and reactions.

This first story was inspired by an idea I got from reading something that Stephen King wrote.  It's called:


Fun with Dick and Jane- Part 1

     Dick heaves a sigh of relief as he walks down the steps to his car.  He puts the keys in the door and pauses.  He looks up at the house and through the window sees his daughter playing with the other kids.  His eyes dart to the side yard on the left, and then the right side of the house.  Dick smiles and tells himself, “I’m just being paranoid, Nell’s fine.”  He climbs in the car, brushes his hair back with his hand, and drives towards the freeway.
     The steering wheel feels strange in his hand.  Dick glances down at his hands, and laughs at himself when he sees his white knuckles protruding.  He tries to relax them and pops in a classical CD.  Classical music relaxes Dick more than anything else.  Dick forces himself to take several deeps breaths, yet he keeps checking the rear-view mirror.
     The familiar freeway sign brings him out of his thoughts.  He drives off the freeway off-ramp and turns into the seldom used two lane road and heads up the mountain.  His hands loosen on the steering wheel, and then his thoughts return to Nell.  “I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to relax any.  Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea,” Dick says aloud.
     Dick pulls up to his father’s cabin and parks in the dirt.  He digs out his cell phone to check for messages, and frowns.  No cell service.  As he opens the door to Dad’s cabin he suddenly tenses.  Something doesn’t feel right.  “Come on, you’re just jumpy.  Don’t be a nut case,” he thinks. He tosses his bag on the couch and looks around.  Everything is just as he remembers it- well worn furniture, large stone fire place, open wood beam ceiling, 1960s d├ęcor, and musty smell.  Dick flicks on the T.V. and heads to the kitchen.  He opens the fridge and grabs one of the beers and says, “Maybe just one to relax me before I hit the sack.”
     He sits down to watch a re-run of Leave it to Beaver, and smiles as he recognizes the episode.  He grew up watching the show every day.  Dick finishes off the last of his beer, and then a news break interrupts.  A smiling blond with perfect hair comes on with matching pink blouse and lip stick.

“Breaking news developing at this hour- three women escaped Metropolitan Mental Hospital this afternoon after a fight broke out with two of the guards.  One male guard was killed, while a female guard has been admitted to the Twin City ER in fair condition.  The male guard was killed with a knife that appears to have come from the cafeteria.  The female guard sustained a head injury from some kind of blunt object, yet the details are unknown at this time.  Fortunately, two of the inmates have been rounded up by local police, but the third woman remains at large.  The identities of the women are not being released at this time.  This is Sonia Barton, Eye-Witness News.  Now back to you, Tom.”

Dick sits transfixed to the screen.  He crumples the beer can in his tightening grip, startling himself.  Then it comes to him.  Dick turns his head back to the door, where a pair of kelly green, Converse All-Stars sits next to the door.  He hears a muffled laugh.
     His mind screams to get the hell out of there, but his legs won’t respond.  The stairs creak with slow groans.  Dick grabs his legs, digging his nails into his skin, yet they refuse to move.  The stairs go silent.  A gentle hand makes its way through his hair, moving back and forth.
     “Dickie knows his Jane well.  That’s right, your Jane never goes anywhere without her lucky shoes.”
     Dick feels Jane’s strong fingers moves across his neck, stopping over his carotid artery.  Dick’s blood runs cold.  “Oh God, not this again,” he says.
     “Now I’m sure Jane doesn’t need to remind Dickie of what happens when he’s not a cooperative boy, cause Dickie’s going to be a good boy.  But, just in case Dickie decides to be a bad boy, Jane brought her lucky knife.”     
     “Where is it,” asks Dick. 
     Jane laughs, “Now that’s the Dickie I know, always wanting proof for everything.”  Jane pulls the knife from her pocket and waves it in front of his eyes.  “Now, Jane wants Dickie to get up and follow Jane upstairs.  Jane’s gotta surprise for Dickie.”
     Dread fires through his veins like lightening through a tree.  Dick picks up his cell phone as he stands and walks upstairs, noticing that Jane’s firm hands remain on his neck.  He glances down at his cell phone- still no service.  He turns his head to look, but Jane’s hand immediately covers his eyes.  “No fair looking yet.  It won’t be as much fun if it’s not a surprise,” said Jane.  Dick obeys.  When he reaches the top of the stairs he stops.
     “Come now Dickie, Dickie knows Jane wants him to go to the bathroom.”
     For the first time he notices the sound of running water.  He opens the cracked door of the bathroom to find the water running over the side of the tub.  “It’s time for little Dickie’s bath, so be a good boy and get into the bath.  Jane wants to take good care of Dickie and make Dickie all clean.”

     At first Dick had liked Jane’s maternal instincts.  He met her at the high school youth group at church.  Jane was a group leader, being five years older than Dick.  Dick didn’t mind that Jane stood two inches taller, especially since she kept herself rail thin.  However, after the wedding her figure began to change.  By the end of their second year of marriage she outweighed Dick by twenty-five pounds.
     She had taken an immediate interest in Dick, which he lapped up.  Dick had never felt special before.  Jane arranged to have Dick placed in her small group.  It all started with Jane staying after church to listen to Dick talk about his trouble at home.  He and his father fought most days.  The fights never came to blows, but the words thrown back and forth were the kind you don’t forget.
     Dick’s mother traveled three weeks out of every month.  She’d successfully worked her way up from promotion to promotion until becoming the VP of sales, which meant she traveled throughout her region to meet with staff.  As an only child, this meant Dick and Father essentially lived alone.
     Soon Jane had Dick sit on her lap while he told of his troubles.  She would run her hands through his hair and rub his back.  Dick never wondered much why none of the other kids were invited to stay after.  He just figured he was special.  He didn’t know how right he was.  Things soon progressed beyond youth group night.  After two weeks Jane invited Dick to move in with her.  He’d never experienced such an attentive girlfriend, and immediately agreed.  When he arrived with his one canvas, Army surplus bag, Dick couldn’t believe how Jane had fixed up the closet.  Jane had built wooden shelves into her closet.  Not only were the shelves well constructed and freshly painted, but they contained brand new underwear- white tee shirts, white briefs and white socks.  After getting over being stunned, Dick told Jane that he wore boxer shorts.  She smile and said “Not any more.  From now on you’ll only clad yourself with the purity of bleached briefs.”
     Dick opened his mouth to retort, but changed his mind when he saw the look on her face.  He shrugged his shoulders and unpacked.  When he went to use the bathroom, a white towel and matching hand towel awaited him on the rack.  The towels were monogrammed with his initials. 
          They only dated for a couple months before getting engaged.  One night they were sipping beer while they ate pizza at their apartment.  After they’d put away a slice or two, Jane’s face grew into a wide grin.  When Dick asked her why she smiled so, Jane told Dick to look underneath the white plastic ring that keeps the pizza from sticking to the top of the pizza box.  Puzzled, he gazed at her questioningly. Jane grabbed the plastic ring and promptly put it into his hand.  Dick turned the ring upside down and found an engagement ring taped to it.  It was a small solitaire.  Jane said, “I decided to save you the trouble of having to pick me out a ring, so I borrowed your VISA and bought myself a ring.  Wasn’t that thoughtful of me?”  Before Dick could find the words to respond Jane continued, “So hurry and ask me!”
     “Ask you what,” said Dick?
     “Now don’t be dull Dickie.  Ask me!”
     “You mean…to marry me?”
     “Of course, silly,” said Jane.  “I know you want to.”  Dick turned the ring over in his hand, trying to gather two coherent thoughts to put together.  He failed to do so and Jane interrupted his slow moving cogitations.
     “Come on silly, ask me!”
     “But I don’t…”  But Dick stopped when a look of terror mixed with rage distorted Jane’s features. 

     The early years of marriage seemed ideal.  Dick couldn’t have asked for a more attentive wife.  Jane insisted on him coming straight home after work and making dinner six nights per week.  On Sundays they ate with Jane’s parents.  Dick loved coming home to Jane’s meals, and didn’t mind the Sunday dinners, although they seemed a little strange.
     After two years of this ritual, Dick tired of the routine and suggested they go out to dinner.  By Jane’s reaction, Dick wondered if she thought he’d asked for a divorce.  Dick had ducked just in time to avoid the pan flying at his head.  He whipped his head around to see a dent in the wall.
     “Now Dickie doesn’t want to upset Jane, does he?  Mommy’s sorry Dickie made Mommy toss that little ball at Dickie.  I’m just so glad no one was hurt.  Jane’s got a wonderful dinner of tossed salad and blood-red lamb planned.  Would Dickie be a good boy and hand me that butter knife?” 
     “Did you say ‘Mommy’,” asked Dick?
     “Oh, did I say that, how silly of me,” said Jane.

     The next night Dick called home to say he’d be late for dinner, saying he had to get something out before he left work.  Dick took Jane’s silence on the phone for acquiescence.  On his way home from the bar with the guys, Dick called home and left a message on the answering machine that he was in route.  Jane always answered the phone on the second ring.  Since it was after nine o’clock, Dick figured Jane must be in bed. 
     Dick opened the front door, took off his coat and hung it on the hook.  He turned towards the stairs, and then everything went dark.  He woke the next morning in his bed.  His head throbbed and he felt a bump when he investigated, “How in the hell did I get that?”  Jane was not in bed.  Dick got up and stepped into the shower.  The warm water helped ease the pain in his head.
     Jane stood over the stove when Dick made his way downstairs.  The bacon and eggs smelled terrific.  His coffee already sat on the table in front of his perfect place setting. 
     “I must of fallen coming up the stairs last night.  Did you hear anything,” Dick asked? 
     “Oh, don’t be silly! Dickie didn’t fall.  Sometimes mothers have to discipline boys when they’re bad.” 
     “Discipline?  What are you talking about,” asked Dick? 
     “There’s no need to talk about all that nastiness, Jane knows Dickie’s sorry and won’t do it again.” 
     “Won’t do what again?  Wait a minute, are you saying you hit me,” Dick asked?    
     “Come now Dickie, don’t play dumb with Jane.  Dickie might of been a bad boy, but Dickie’s not a dumb boy.” 
     “What are you talking about?  You’re not my mother,” Dick said! 
     “Of course I’m your Mommy!  I may be young, but I’m not going to let anything happen to you again, cause bad things happen when boys don’t come right home.  And don’t call me ‘mother.’  It sounds like you hate me,” said Jane. 
     “What in the hell are you talking about?  Nothing happened to me, and you sure as hell ain’t my mommy, or my mother.  Are you going loony on me?”  Jane turned and pointed her knife at him.  “Don’t you ever call me loony!  You hear me?  I won’t have nobody call me that after what they said about Mother.” 
     “Your mother?  She seems totally sane to me.”  Jane looked back with a strange expression, and then turned away.  She put his breakfast on the table and left the room.

     Jane never seemed the same to Dick after that morning.  She flew into a rage whenever he tried to resist her favorite way to spend an evening together, which began with giving him a bath.  Some nights Dick did resist, and the fights became worse and worse.  After the police interrupted for the 7th time, Dick decided to file for divorce.  Each time he gave his statement to the police about the cuts and bruises on his body he grew more embarrassed.  Maybe he imagined it, but the officers seemed to roll their eyes.  Dick probably couldn’t have left Jane if the guys at the office hadn’t pushed so hard.

     Dick shuts off the bath water.  He didn’t mind letting Jane bath him so much, it’s what she likes to do after that he dreads.  He takes his clothes off, careful to put his phone inside his pants, and steps into the bath.  He looks up at Jane, whose beaming from ear to ear.  She wears the skin tight kelly green sailor suit with pig tails and matching bows in her hair.  Dick feels nauseous.  “Oh God, not that again,” said Dick.
     “Don’t you curse at me, Dickie!  I expect Dickie to treat Mommy with the respect she deserves.  After all, everything I do is for you, you know.”  Dick nods.  Jane pulls out a sponge and washes Dick from head to toe.
     “Okay Dickie, you’re all clean.  It’s time to come to Mommy.”  Jane holds out an open towel to him.  He allows her to dry him.  Dick glances back and forth between Jane and the open bedroom door across the hall.  He tries to appear casual, yet fears what might be waiting for him there.  “Okay Dickie, let’s go get you dressed.  When Jane turns her back, Dick grabs his pants.
     Dick thinks of making a break for the front door.  Before he decides, Jane turns around and puts her hands on her hips.  “Now Dickie isn’t thinking of not minding Mommy is he?”  Dick shakes his head and follows her into the bedroom.  On the made bed lies a matching kelly green dress.  Dick groans inaudibly.
     Jane turns and claps her hands together.  “Okay Dicey, put on your dress and we’ll play.  Dick drops his phone on the carpet, quickly kicking it just under the bed.  Excitement races through him as he sees the service bars.  He puts on the dress and kelly green shoes and sits at the vanity.  Jane picks up the red wig and sets it in place on Dick’s head.  She braids the hair into pig tales, and then ties on the matching bows.  Jane kneels and applies make-up to Dick’s face, just like hers.  “Okay perfect, now we can play.  Who shall we pretend to be today,” says Jane?
     “I’m not in the mood to play this game.”  Jane whacks Dick across the face with the back of her hand.  “I’m sorry Dicey, but you made me do that to you.  I don’t want to hurt you.  Don’t make me do that again.  Of course you want to play with me.  That’s what sisters do together.” 
     “Oh God,” says Dick. 
     Jane grabs her knife and slashes across Dick’s face.  “Stop it!  I said to not make me do that to you, Dicey.  Jane cries as she says, “I want us to play like nice sisters!  What if something ever happens to you?”
     “So what’s going to happen to me,” asks Dick? 
     “Nothing!  I won’t let nothing happen to you!” 
     “Okay, okay, I get it.  Can I have a Kleenex for my face,” asks Dick? 
     “Okay, so who do you want to be, today,” asks Jane? 
     Dick reaches for a tissue and wipes the blood on his face.  Seeing that he’s still bleeding, he holds the tissue to his face.  “Um, I don’t know, why don’t you pick someone,” says Dick. 
     “Okay, we’re going to be police detectives that catch bad people that take little girls away.  I’ve been tracking a case of a kidnapped girl for fourteen years now, and we’re about to close in on the bad men who took her.  We got ‘em pinned inside their bathroom, and we’re going to burst in and kill ‘em.” 
     “Can’t we just arrest ‘em,” asks Dick? 
     “No!  That’s too good for this kind!  We kill ‘em!”  Jane picks up her knife and crouches behind the bed.  She peers around the corner of the bed at the shut bathroom door.  “Okay Dicey, I’ll go in first and you cover me.”
Dick goes down on all fours and in one motion opens his cell phone.  “Alright, I’m ready,” Dick says.  Dick notes that Jane still focuses on the bathroom, and dials 911.      

     “Okay, here I go,” whispers Jane.  Jane lunges at the bathroom and yells, “It’s alright, I’ve got ‘em, I’ve got ‘em.”  “Now wait, the worst of ‘em’s still loose,” says Jane.  Jane grabs Dick and rips the wig and dress off him and shouts, “you were trying to hide your identity, you bad man.  I got you now, you evil child kidnapper!”
     Jane pins Dick down, brandishing her knife above his chest.  Dick’s stunned.  “Who the hell am I now,” he yells. 
     “Don’t try and trick me, you bastard!  You took her fourteen years ago, and now I’m getting her back!  Where do you have her hidden- in the basement?”
     “Jane, it’s me- I’m Dick!  Don’t do it, I’m Dick!” 
     Jane’s eyes narrow and dart back and forth.  “No you’re not.  You can’t fool Jane.  I know an evil kidnapper when I see one.  You tell me where she is, and if she’s alright, I just might let you live, but either way you’re gonna get hurt.”  Dick wrenches one hand free and grabs the hand holding the knife.  Jane pulls her hand out of his grasp, and slashes him across the arm.  Searing pain rushes through his left arm.
     “I’m giving you one last chance to tell me where she is before I send you to the devil.”      Dick shuts his eyes as panic washes over him.  “I don’t know where she is! I’m not the kidnapper! I’m Dick!”
     Jane grits her teeth as she reels back her knife, and plunges it into Dick.  Dick twists in her grip as the knife descends.  The door bursts open and strong arms overpower Jane, pulling her off Dick.

     Dick sits on the log in front of the cabin, while the paramedic attends to his arm.  Jane’s parents stand nearby.  All three look up as police and paramedics in concert load Jane into the back of the police cruiser.  Both hands are covered in bandages, with handcuffs binding them together.  “Damn, if I hadn’t turned like that, I’d be going home in a bag,” says Dick. 
     “Thank God for that,” says Jane’s father. 
     “What happened upstairs,” asks Dick?
     Jane’s parents exchange looks.  Her father nods and her mother asks, “You know who Dickie was, don’t you?” 
     “No.  I’ve asked her a thousand times why she calls me ‘Dickie’ sometimes, but she always said, ‘you know’.” 
     The mother nods, “Jane had a relationship towards the end of high school.  They never married, but Jane ended up with a son.  His name was ‘Dickie’.”  The mother pulls a cigarette out of her purse, lights up and takes a long drag.  She continues, “One day when Dickie was five, Jane dropped him off at his friends to swim in their pool.  Well, after she finished her shopping she went back to pick him up, and found an ambulance at the house.  The paramedics were giving him CPR when she ran into the backyard; but it was too late.”
     “Oh God…So who’s Dicey,” says Dick?
     Tears flow down the mother’s face, and she turns away.  The father says, “Jane had a sister.  Dicey was a year younger.  That green dress and shoes, those were Dicey’s favorites.  It was during sixth grade, and they stopped at a friend’s on the way home from school.  After a while Jane wanted to come home, but Dicey wasn’t ready.  So, Jane left her there and came home by herself…  Dicey never came home.” 
     “Oh my God.”
     Then a middle-aged man wearing a blazer and carrying a brief case walked up and shook hands with Jane’s father.  “Nice to see you, Dr. Hanson,” said Jane’s father. 
     Dr. Hanson nods and says, “I thought we had her stabilized on medications, but you never know in these cases.”
     “What cases,” asked Dick?
     “You must be her husband,” says Dr. Hanson, offering his hand.  “People that suffer trauma continue to relive the trauma as though it were happening today…unless they are willing to do the hard work of processing the trauma.  Much to my disappointment, Jane would only accept medications from me…maybe she’ll be ready to address her trauma now.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December Post

"I think we all have a little voice inside us that will guide us...if we shut out all the noise and clutter from our lives and listen to that voice, it will tell us the right thing to do."  Christopher Reeve


For Christians this time of year finds us between two holidays. We have just finished remembering Thanksgiving, and are about to celebrate the advent- the coming of God into the world and our lives. Perhaps we have it backwards when we are thankful & then enters God. Or perhaps we have it right. Maybe something about being grateful opens our hearts to God's involvement. I've noticed that there is something about remembering what I'm thankful for that brings a good feeling to my heart.  Maybe being thankful is also a way of expressing trust in God, and making space in my heart for Him to further His work on me.


One way to think of God entering our lives is as Christopher Reeve suggests.  That God is a "little voice" inside us that we may or may not listen to.  It's easier for me to just react impulsively and without reflection.  I'm aware of several things that I do that keeps me from hearing that little voice.  When I'm continuously busy or caught up in task I don't hear too well.  I also don't hear well when I'm afraid.  For me, fear seems to muffle the little voice.  However, I find that it works out better for me when I pause and listen to the voice within.  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November Post

"Many seek advice, few profit from it."  Publius Syrus (42 BC)

All of us ask advice, looking for the magic bullet that will save us, or help us find the right solution for our problem.  For me helpful advice is the kind that directs me to look within first.

I remember telling a friend I wanted to confront a family member about an issue.  I was angry and wanted to give  it to them, and good.  When I asked my friend about it, she asked me what I hoped would come of me confronting this person.  As I pondered my motivation, I realized that my true intention was for this person to feel bad and to change.  I didn't like admitting this, but it was true.  When I acknowledged this to my friend, she asked me if I thought that was likely.  Was this family member likely to be open to my feedback and change?  It didn't take long for me to realize this was unlikely.  Upon further reflection I decided not to confront.  I'm thankful that I took my friend's advice and took an honest look in the mirror at my motivation before acting.  If I'd acted without thought, I probably would have merely hurt my family member and frustrated myself.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

October Post

"It isn't that they can't see the solution.  It is that they can't see the problem."  GK Chesterton

We tend to focus quickly on the solution, having barely paused to consider the problem.  Few of us spend too much time pondering the problem.  I find that patient reflection on myself yields me knowing myself better, and leaves me more able to find the natural solution.

I can think of many times I've impulsively jumped to a quick response, only to later regret that I hadn't stopped to allow some space to ponder.  I remember one time I was standing in line for lunch at a fast-food restaurant.  It seemed to be taking forever for the 5 or 6 people in front of me to move.  I looked around to see who was setting up a campsite at the front of the line.  A young guy in his 20s was at the front of the line.  I rolled my eyes and went back to tapping my foot in line.  Several minutes later I looked up to see the same young guy at the front of the line.  Exasperated, I decided to say something to move things along.  Just as I took a deep breath to bark at this guy, something inside me told me to hold off.  I let out my breath without speaking, and a moment later the young guy finished his transaction and turned towards me to leave.  By the look on his face, he was mentally retarded.  My impatience melted away.  I thanked God I hadn't said anything stupid, as I would have felt like a jerk if I had barked at this retarded man, probably doing the best he could.

I believe we allow the still, small voice of God within us the best chance of being heard when we stop and reflect on a problem, quieting our minds long enough to hear from within.

Monday, September 5, 2011

September Post

"To thine own self be true." William Shakespeare

I believe Shakespeare meant that we are to be true to our own interests first, and to help others second.

I find wisdom in the old playwright's words. Continually givung to others without giving to ourselves is a recipe for resentment. I believe the most generous of us take good care of themselves.

For me, to be true to thyself carries an additional meaning, having to do with finding and being grounded in our genuine self. It's so tempting to live mostly to gain or keep other's approval, or avoid criticism. Some of this is probably okay, but I believe a steady diet of this disconnects us from our true being.

Now some of you are thinking that I'm proposing a selfish way of living- but quite the contrary. It's my observation that the most selfish people are the least aware of themselves. And the most generous are the truest amongst us.

To live true to thyself I believe has something to do with living connected to your genuine self, and being aware of your desires, loves and hates. I don't know of a surer anchor to tether one's life than this. I think many of us fail to find satisfying lives because we fail to find work and relationships that support and further our true selves.

I recently got together with friends, and someone I hadn't met before joined us. As the evening went on I found myself with nothing to say. I was tempted to say something anyways, as I was concerned about what she might think of me. Fortunately, I caught myself and held my tongue, allowing myself to be quiet when I had nothing to say.

So be what you are! And if you're successful others might say about you, "what you see is what you get."

Friday, August 5, 2011

August Posting

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."  William Shakespeare

We naturally think of those who frustrate us as "bad", and those who give to us as "good".  It is the most basic way of categorizing our experiences.  I believe some of that is okay, especially when we do this briefly in the moment.  However, I think we get ourselves in trouble when we make the people we're frustrated by into "bad" people in our minds; that is, making them into fairly permanently "bad" people.  The problem is that we create and hold onto resentments when we do this, not letting people off the hook.  There are certain people in my life that are easy for me to think of as "bad", and I have to keep an eye on this.

I believe what we resent in others, we resent in ourselves.  And what we forgive in others, we forgive in ourselves.  This always works both ways.  So forgiveness, letting people off the hook, really is a kindness to ourselves. If you want to feel forgiven, if you want to let go of guilt, then take a look at what's literally holding you back.

So you might take a look in the mirror and see what resentments you're holding onto, what people you think of as "bad", and what this might be costing you in peace of mind.