Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Week 14 - Dumpster Diving

His wife had misplaced her new iPod that he had bought her for Christmas last year. He asked if she had looked in the cushions of the chair. She told him it wasn't there. He asked her if she had looked in the bedroom. She told him it wasn't there either. “What about your purse,” he asked. “I already checked there,” she told him, exasperated. She said she thought she dropped it into the trash. He was about to ask if she had looked there as well when he realized he had brought the trash out to the dumpster.

He could not believe what he was doing. The things that his wife had him do sometimes. He drove over and proceeded rummage through the dumpster, removing every bag and ripping them open. This went on for some time and with each bag, the mess became larger and larger. “This is revolting,” he thought as little bits of food stuck to his arms and hands. As someone with a mild case of OCD, he wanted so badly to wipe the grime and filth off of himself, but he knew that he would merely get dirty all over again, so he pierced a new bag and plunged in.

Suddenly, a car drove up and a man got out to ask for directions; and here he was standing amidst a strewn pile of trash and debris, looking like a lunatic. He told him how to get to wherever it was that he was going and the man went on his way, probably wondering if he could trust a guy who probably looked homeless, and apparently, very interested in that dumpster.

Just when he thought things couldn't get worse, he got a phone call. He took his phone out with his goop covered hands and answered with a frustrated, “What?”

“Jim,” his wife said on the other line.

“Yes dear.”

“I found it.”

Relieved, but furious at the same time he asked, “Where was it?”

“Just like you said,” she responded with a lovingly tone. “It was in my purse, way down at the bottom.”

The pastor just shook his head. Frustrated, but knowing this would make a great story to tell, he began to throw the mounds of trash back where it came from.

“How can I fit this into Sunday's message?”

Week 14 - The Blank Ticket

On a white table in the center of bright white room there lies a small piece of card paper. On it is what appears to be the likeness of a plane ticket. It says of its face, ALL EXPENSES PAID. Observing the entirety of the ticket, however, there is no note as to where this ticket is for. No destination. It is blank like the bright white room.

A pencil lies on the white able next to the ticket. Maybe to fill in the blank and complete the mystery. But what to write? Where to?

England? The rolling green countryside with its magnificent towering castles and quaint, tightly woven villages with clothesline strung up between the 200 year old homes. And its amazing rugged coastlines that harken to an age when the Royal Navy dominated the waves of the earth. Or London with its unlimited attractions including the Crown Jewels and Buckingham Palace. That would be nice, but England is too posh and western. It has to be more exotic.

The white pencil erases England from the ticket.

Italy? Much more exotic. A different language and culture, different food, and very different history. A more ancient land blanketed with ruins and fortresses. Roman cities and roads two thousand years old can still be seen and touched. From Venice to Milan, the choices are literally endless. And then there is Rome. The things you read about standing right in front of you, a breathing incarnation of early western civilization contained within a single city. Yet even Rome, the once greatest city on earth, in all its glory, still lacks that certain qualcosa di speciale.

The white pencil erases Italy from the ticket.

Isreal? A hotbed for violence and unrest, and yet a beacon that summons millions to its borders to offer patronage and receive spiritual renewal. A tiny stretch of the most historically saturated soil in the world. Its culture entirely different from the west its food even more unique, this land of divided religions has seen more wars and bloodshed than maybe anywhere else. Even so, it is a land where one man, two thousand years ago, sparked a flame that grew into a roaring inferno that shattered Rome and Uprooted England, and transformed the whole of the earth and its people. The very ground where his feet once trod, are waiting. The home to the world's largest religion; a country and its capital of Jerusalem; the bedrock of history itself. A singular, soul invigorating experience of culture, history, and religious pilgrimage all united onto one line of a single blank ticket.

The white pencil lays still on the white table, the blank ticket now missing. The white room empty.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Prompt 66 - Carnival Lights

Laughter breaks through the noise of the carnival. The brightly lit rides spin and twirl in colors of yellow and red as the faces of the children riding them turn a little green. I can smell popcorn being popped and cotton candy being spun. There are people all around my friends and I as we stand there in front of the shooting parlor, the operator heckling us to no effect.

I catch a glimpse of a girl I danced with merely one night before. The lights on the ride dim and the laughter stops. The rides halt and the man in the shooting parlor, finally quiet. I cannot smell. I cannot hear. I can only see her, smiling, looking at me with a look that could melt stone.

One crazy little thought. The first one of its kind to pop into my head. “Ask her out,” a little voice says through my ear. I start to perspire just a little as that one, unbelievable thought bounces around in my head like it was the only thing there. My hands start to tremor as my heart rate spikes. I miraculously muster the intestinal fortitude to take one step in her direction. That one step is followed by another, and then another.

Suddenly I am standing there holding her hand. Unable to recall even asking the question, though it is clear I did, I walk back to my friends with her hand shooting heat up my arm and into my chest. It pulsates throughout my body, slowing time down to a crawl. “Is this what drugs feel like?”

The lights begin to glow again and the laughter returns. The rides begin to twirl once more and the man in the shooting parlor is now louder than he ever was before. I walk hand in hand with her through the carnival that is now brighter than it ever was before. I am happier than I ever was before.

Prompt 65 - His Clues Are His Creations

How can you know a man you never met? Read about him? Ask his friends? Details about a mans life are easy to come by. But to truly know someone, to not only know the details about them, but know how they see themselves, is something entirely different. Men, unlike women, don't readily open the doors and let you into their world. They are often reclusive and mysterious in their emotions, keeping to themselves and rarely showing their true selves. A man gives clues however. And these clues are the secret to knowing who he truly is, no matter how small.

I didn't really know my great grandfather Sweet. He was my mother's grandfather and lived in Blue Hill for much of his life, if not all of it, on a dozen acre piece of property out on the secluded Parker Point. For the few years that he and I were alive on this earth together, I remember visiting his house and seeing all of his creations. Clues. There were all kinds of fun and fascinating things to look at and play with. As a child, visiting grandparents, let alone great grandparents, can often be boring, and smelly. But not grandfather Sweet's. I specifically remember a zig-zagging wooden trough that carried marbles from the top where you dropped them to the bottom where they shot out across the floor. Him and his wife lived a simple, early twentieth century lifestyle that was quite independent and self sustaining. A garden with many different vegetables. Clue. A few animals; some pets and others for harvest and eating. Clue. And a large barn full of wood and tools. Clue.

His wife passed a few years before he did. So often is it that a man or women advanced in years dies a short time after their spouse. Very much unlike my grandmother, who lived decades after her husband, and my mother's father, had passed. They all left behind their property to my mother and her sisters, and that included the myriad trinkets and tools that my great grandfather Sweet had made so long ago.

We made our way into the old, snow covered barn and uncovered much of the tossed wood and furniture that great grandfather Sweet had crafted. My family had come together for Christmas, this year without great grandfather Sweat. On every inch of the ancient looking gray walls hung interesting odds and ends. The dusty, old windows let in little light. Wooden dolls, tables and chairs, armoires, animal carvings, oil paintings, and even instruments. Racks and drawers full of chisels and saws. Metal parts and pieces everywhere. Larger machines like band saws and drills. It was akin to a very disheveled Santa's workshop.

Clues as to who he really was were everywhere.

It was clear that he valued hard work. It was part of life; waking up early and getting a little grease on your clothes. He owned nothing but blue jeans and overalls. And all the tons of lumber that lay ripped on the floor of his workshop had been hewn by him. He was independent. He grew his own food and made his own furniture; not wanting to rely on others, but to be a real man who provided and sustained his family, come what may. He was creative. He wanted to contribute something to the world he lived in. The piles of art and toys were evidence enough of that. He loved his family. Many of his artwork and carvings were made for his children. Owls, bears, the forests. He carved all kinds of things they could play with and enjoy. And now they were in my hands.

I have in my home many of those same clues that sat dusty and dark in his barn. A bureau. Just as fine as any you might find in a store, yet so much more personal, his name burned into its drawers. A chest. Large with brass fittings like the ones you see on the back of stage coaches. My TV now sits on its tattered lid. A violin. One of dozens he expertly crafted. I still cant play a lick, but know that great grand father sweet made it makes me want to learn more than ever. A tiny little nativity set, hand carved and natural. The little baby Jesus, much like myself when I used to visit the home of great grandfather Sweet, a man I now know well.

Prompt 63 - Snow Day

A giant somersault from the top of a rickety dresser. The expanse of a childhood caught away in the air of a single moment, frozen. Snow falls heavily outdoors, freezing to the bottom of the windows; no school. An imaginary crowd of thousands surround the queen sized bed that acts as our ring. I can hear them cheering as I float through air. The smell of pancakes and syrup filters down the hallway and through the door. My brother lays on the bed, bracing himself for impact in a pair of hand-me-down pajamas that are a little too tight. As I spin in the air, the bed floating into view I am unaware that moments like these don't linger. They are not frozen for all time. Circumstances change, people change. And I would not always be the big brother that I once was, only pretending to hit in a make believe wrestling match. Trust is lost far more easily than it is gained, and I've lost more than my share. Yet rebuild it I must. You only get one family, and as I fall to the bed, time unfrozen, I crush mine beneath a massive, flying elbow drop. My mother hollers unconvincingly down the hall to “cut it out and come eat.” We rush to the kitchen, warm in our home on a snow day.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Week 13 - Daydreaming

I have this certain proclivity of biting my nails when I am thinking. I only ever realize that my nails and cuticles are worn down to the nub until after my brain stops chugging along like a locomotive barreling towards a cliff. And this happens all the time. I daydream while at work. I daydream while at play. I daydream while I eat. I daydream in the bathroom especially (it is known as the thinking room for a reason). I am always dreaming.

Mindlessness is not my forte. In fact it is impossible. While at work, I don't just do, I think about what I am doing. I think about how I am doing it. Can I do this better? Could I be doing something else? Should I be doing something else? Do I want to spend the rest of my life doing this here, or do I want more than this?

Many people I have worked with barely think beyond the day thy woke up in. Only a few think a year ahead. Fewer still think decades beyond their current place in time. Most of the people I have worked with about sleeping with as many girls or boys they can instead of finding that one girl or boy that can give them what they are really looking for. They think about how they don't get paid enough, griping and complaining, instead of working to get a raise or plotting how they can get a better job.

Many of the people I have worked with think about how to get back at people who have wronged them instead of thinking of ways to help others and forgetting the past, allowing the control that hate has on their lives to break away. A few who think far ahead think of going to school, choosing a profession that with gross them a pretty penny, instead of choosing a profession that might fulfill them; “Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life.”

I confess that I have thought some of these same things, but I mostly think of who I want to be when I am old. How do I want to be remembered when I am gone. In the history of the world, few people are written about. Even fewer are truly remembered; taught about in school; history channel specials made about them. Will I be one of those people? Likely not. But living a life striving to be better certainly has other benefits. A life mostly free of conflict. Many friends and few enemies. A great memory for your posterity. A reward in eternity from a happy God.

I am a daydreamer, there is no way around it. Does it make me better than those around me who think of fickle and fleeting desires? Certainly not. But it does mean I am in serious need of a manicure.

Prompt 57 - Summer Vacation

Waking up at 10am with bedhead and in desperate need of a shower that last nights skateboard excursion helped bring about due to the hours of skating across town, tearing up the streets and having the time of our lives free to do as we please, go where we please; and do it all free of homework, tests, and often, fortunately or unfortunately, all without parental supervision to let us know that it was all quite dangerous and potentially adverse to our health; bumping into drunks and the homeless unaware if they were sane and realizing all too often they they were not as they asked to climb onto one of our boards and glide down the street just as one would expect a drunk to do, almost killing themselves while we stood nervously and laughed about leaving the house at 11pm to skate after eating so late; most likely pizza and a bottle of soda; imperfect fuel for a perfect day going out into the woods and playing guns, building forts; grass stains and mud on our faces, letting our imaginations not only run wild, but giving them a form and structure as we assembled our battlegrounds in the forests and fought tirelessly to take the next hill and explore uncharted territory, occasionally stumbling onto private property, or city property; all very exciting and dangerous to a bunch of stupid kids spending their summer day inviting friends over to play video games; cereal and milk in unending supply; TV's and consoles scattered throughout the house along with pillows and blankets, tangled wires and sore muscles, shouts of laughter filling every room, every space a memory and every person a story of a day waking up at 10am with bedhead and in desperate need of a shower.