Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Foot of the Tree

   Pitter patter.
   Pitter patter.
   Pitter patter.
               The sound of the rain falling on my jacket.
               I run to the place where he waits for me. He’s soaking up this rain to help him grow.
               Clomp, clomp, clomp; my dress feels so heavy on my thighs. The cold drips stick to my bangs, gathering as they finally let go and stream down my pink cheeks.
               The pavement pushes back underneath my feet, daring me to land again. I push back, running towards him. I go as fast as I can. It’s gray outside. Not a happy gray, either.
               The sky stares down at me, its angry eyebrows shooting down sparks in the distance. It cries on me. It cries on everybody.
               Heartford Cemetery.
               I see the sign coming towards me and I stop. He lies in front of that tree. He’s waiting for me.
               I gather up my dress and run towards him, my ruffled socks sloshing in my shoes, but I don’t care.
               My legs slow as I come closer to him, where he’s waiting for me.
               I walk on the damp grass, and stop in front of the big patch of soil, where he’s lying.
               “Daddy,” I whisper, “I’m here. Did you miss me, daddy?”
               He won’t talk to me. Or maybe he is, but I can’t hear him from underneath the ground.
               “Daddy, I said I’m here. I miss you. Come home, now.”
               I lay down next to the muddy square of soil as my hair tangles into the ground. The coldness of the ground makes me shiver. My dress becomes one with the mud, and I put my ear as close to him as possible.
               “Mommy will hate me if you tell her I’m here. Don’t tell her, daddy, please don’t.”
               I can’t hear him. I dig my glittered fingernails into the soil and grab a handful of mud, slopping it behind me. It smells earthy and kind of like Christmas trees.
               “Daddy!” I yell into the small hole.
               I dig deeper and deeper, crying for my daddy. He won’t answer me. I know he can hear me, though.
               I hear muffled cries in the distance. They’re high pitched and drawn out. They come into focus.
“Annie!” It’s a familiar voice.
               “Baby, its mommy!”
               I stare down into the hole and yell, “I thought you wouldn’t tell mommy! You’re a liar!”
               The red truck flashes its lights at the tree, where Annie lays, screaming at her father.
               The car door slams, her mother grasping her hand over her mouth.
               “Oh Annie,” she sobs, “Oh, baby.”
               She stumbles to the ground and trembles for Annie, grabbing her and slowly moving the hood of her jacket from her face. She holds her close to her chest, squeezing onto her thin, blonde hair.
               “I know, baby I know,” she sobs, squeezing her tightly.
               They lay at the foot of the tree, digging up the mud that’ll never make daddy alive again.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Final Destination

  “Come on,” he finally said out loud, “let’s go.”
   He let out a hefty sigh and gripped the steering wheel until his knuckles fainted white. His leathery cheeks turned maroon and he scratched the side of his head.
   “I don’t have all day, guy.”
               The sedan in front of him flashed its brake lights.
               “Good Lord, not again!”
               He stomped on his brakes, and then swerved to the right of the sedan, attempting to pass. The right lane was disappearing into the left. His voice became louder as he talked into the windshield, swerving back to the left.
               “A one lane road behind you? God, help me!”

               “Get off my butt,” he murmured, glancing up into his rearview mirror every few seconds.
               He tapped the brake pedal again, trying to get the guy behind him to slow down.
               “I’m going the speed limit. It’s forty miles per hour. You are speeding. I will not speed. I won’t do it,” he said to the rearview mirror.
               He raised his eyebrows and shook his head, letting out a small sigh. His thin arm lifted up to fix his collar.
               “I hate driving.”

               “I can play your game buddy,” he yelled, “Oh, I can play it!”
               He sped up his car until it was merely feet behind the sedan. The long, empty road lay before them.
               “How’s it feel? How’s it feel to have a car right up your butt, huh?”
               He flipped on the air conditioning, wiping the sweat from his forehead.
               A flash of red filled his vision. The brake lights, again.
               “Oh my God,” he screamed, slamming on his brakes, “Drive faster!”
               Shaking the steering wheel, his knuckles turned white as milk, his cheeks red as fresh blood.
               The road came to an end, and they both turned right. The sedan came to its destination, arriving at the gas station on the right, its close gas pumps making it hard to shimmy around the small parking lot. The car turned in behind him.

               “You’re kidding. We are both coming to the same place? Well, this is awkward,” they said to their steering wheels.
               He sat in his sedan, looking at his trembling fingers.
               “Please don’t be someone I know, please don’t be someone I know.”
               His fragile fingers opened his door, slowly, and he made sure to keep his eyes glued on the gas pump. Without notice, his curious eyes glanced toward the car next door as the door opened and the man stepped out.
               “Pastor Paul?” he leaned forward, peeking around the corner of the gas pump.
               The name caused the man to glance up, eyebrows rising in shock, his body rocking back and forth.
               “Father Pete?”

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Saturday Night Ride

              “Man, that guy is good. No way I’ll ever beat him.”
               My coach looked like I’d punched him in the solar plexus. “Blake, I don’t ever wanna hear those words come outta that mouth again, boy. You can beat anyone. No matter how much bigger they are than you.”

            It was the Big Ten Conference Championship Tournament, nearing the end of a long season.
We made our way to the top of the bleachers. I sat. Headphones in, eyes closed—focused. That's how we did it.
They called out the weight classes one at a time. The mats filled up, four matches at a time.
It smelt like a shoe store-- sweat drenched head gear, wrestling shoes worn one too many times, sweaty high school boys in spandex.
Even with headphones in, I still heard the whistles and buzzers on the time clock.
Weight class 103. 112. 119. 125. 130. 135. 140. 145. 152. 160. 171.
It’s my turn.
           “Mat 4. Bo Carter,” I held my breath, “versus Blake Dunn.”
Crap. My heart started to race.
I lost to him every time. I’d never win, and I knew it. I didn’t even care, really. He was so much bigger than me; you could see the veins on his chest popping off his skin under the dull lights in the gym. He could wear a paper sack and you could still see his biceps. Bo was the king cobra in a mass of garden snakes. The strange thing was, this time, I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t have a care in the world about what was about to happen. I’d lose, he’d win, what’s new.
I stretched on the mat as my coach gave me a pep talk. I adjusted my head gear with the stench of dirty socks, cringing as it touched my face. I looked over at Bo. He was a bull. Red face, staring at the mat. His eyes creased as he jumped up and down slapping his hands on his chest setting his foot on the line across from mine. A bull ready to attack a matador.  I was in a court room and I had to face the judge. One last time.
               This would be over quickly.
               I stood with my right foot on the line, ready for my cue.
               The whistle blew.
               “Here we go,” I thought.
               We tied up. He pulled me toward him. I pulled back.
               He tried to pull me in, and it was hard to resist. It felt like someone had tied a rope around my waist and there were five guys on the other end pulling me.
               But I resisted.
               I resisted as his arms grabbed around my waist and he tried to pull me in closer to his body so he could pick me up and slam me down. I kept my hips out and my balance was on point. We were dancing until we danced out of the circle.
               The whistle blew.
               The referee was laughing and I let out a laugh of my own, but Bo… Bo didn’t laugh.
               We got back up to the line.
               The whistle blew.
               I got hold of his arm and neck to do a hip toss. I grabbed his upper body and flipped it over my shoulder.
               Bam. His body slammed the mat. Three points for me.
               He worked back to his knees and then to his feet again. He shot in on me for a takedown but I sprawled, kicking my legs back to avoid it. We were out of the circle again.
               The whistle blew.
               We got back up to the line.
               The whistle blew.
               We tied up. My hand on his sweaty neck, his hand on mine, we pushed and pulled trying to do the same maneuver at the same time. We shot at the same time and bumped heads. The sound resonated in my head, bouncing back and forth between each ear. I could feel the blood dripping from my nose; I could taste my salty sweat and the rigid iron in my mouth. I grabbed his arms and pushed into him as his back fell to the mat. I grabbed his head and his arm and wrapped his legs up like a ribbon on a Christmas gift. I had him in a Saturday Night Ride.
             It was like slow motion. The ref lay down next to us.
            My coaches went wild, jumping up and down.
            He waved his arm once.
He waved his arm twice.
He waved his arm for the third and final time.
He smacked the mat.
I won.
Blood gushed from my nose as I stood up. The ref grabbed my arm and raised it to the sky in victory.
I held out my hand to Bo, but he wouldn’t shake it. He walked off the mat.
I felt the urge to cry I was so happy. I ran to my coaches and hugged them, and remembered what they told me, “You can beat anyone. No matter how much bigger they are than you.”

I went back to the bleachers, tapping my feet on the creaking wood, waiting for my next match. If I won that, then I'd wrestle for first place. 
They called my name to the mat. 
Blake Dunn vs. Bryce Pence.
This would be easy. I beat him earlier in the season in 27 seconds. Flat. 
The whistle blew. He snapped me down like a mouse trap. 
Sixteen seconds later, it was over-- my whole season.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The End of the World

I haven’t written anything in a while.
I realize this.
 I also realize that my creativity level has decreased by about 50% since the wedding planning started. I’ve thought of some cool story ideas and things to write about, but what I really want to write about is the dream I had a few nights ago. I gave the big dramatic story to Daniel, and he kind of listened, but I don’t think he really listened. It was one of those complacent nodding’s of the head with some “yeah’s” and “mhm’s” strategically thrown in. You know, the kind of treatment you give your coworker during a lunch shift when they start talking to you about their New Year’s party.
Either way, I think my dream is really important. If this were a movie, you’d see me—okay a tall girl with curly brown hair—lying in bed on her right side with her Kindle a few inches from her face. She’s snuggled up in a white comforter that sheds feathers everywhere as she reads a book about heaven. In the third paragraph, her eyes are heavy and she turns off her Kindle, and bam she’s asleep. Enter the white, cloudy-edged border.
Okay, that was kind of a false alarm. This isn’t actually part of the dream. Imagine a director’s cut version or something in the bonus features. That’s what this is. You know how sometimes in dreams, you’re in a place that makes no sense? Well, that’s what happened. I could easily change it to something that makes sense and you’d never know, but I am willing to stumble around this barrier to earn your trust. Okay, back to my dream.
I’m in a classroom. My high school religion teacher is pacing back and forth. The walls are all glass and we’re smack-dab in the middle of a neighborhood. Despite the windows, it’s dim in the room. Daniel sits two rows in front of me to the left. Most of the seats are empty.
I hear the teacher’s rumbling voice give us instructions that bounce off the walls, but none of us are listening. We are all giggling at Daniel as he sticks his foot out as far as he can to trip the teacher as he paces. The paces stop and the deep, rumbling voice comes to a halt as the teacher stands before his foot, looking over his thick belly.
“Now what exactly are you trying to do, Daniel,” he rumbles.
I giggle and Daniel catches it. He starts giggling, trying to come up with a response.
But then the building starts shaking. I hear someone scream from behind me, “I think the world is ending!”
My chest is pounding and those words resonate in my head.
The world is ending.
I hear my few classmates yelling, but none of them move. They stay in their seats, screaming about the end of the world. Daniel disappears into a side room, and I run down the stairs. I catch my balance on the cold railing as the stairs shake beneath me.
My car sits on the side of the road and I open the door as quickly as I can. I have to get home.
My keys sit in the passenger seat next to me and I fumble them into the car. The tires screech as I take off, heading down the long road that leads to the interstate turnoff. I hear the ground giving up; I hear her scream bouncing off the walls of the hollow classroom. The world is ending.
The sky is dark and the leaves start falling off the trees. My heart rushes and there is an explosion in the distance. Something so huge, something so real, that my breath stops. A black explosion that looks like a fatal bomb mixed with the biggest tornado you can imagine. It doesn’t come from the sky. It comes from beneath the Earth.
My mind leaves my body and I let my hands off the steering wheel. A white band of light forms around the explosion, reaching up to touch the tips of the sky. My body is shaking and my vision blurs with tears. Tears of joy or tears or sadness? I don’t know. I realize that it doesn’t matter if I drive this car. I’m going up there. I’m going to follow the light. Before my car veers off into a ditch, everything becomes white and I can no longer see. A smile runs across my face, because I know who’s behind that white band of light. And then I’m gone.
I must’ve been gone for only a few seconds, but within those seconds all I could think in the white mass of light was all the things I’d done wrong. More like all the things I didn’t do right. What could I have done different? How many more people could I have helped? Why did I spend so much time doing absolutely nothing? Why am I so selfish?
And then I realized, before a second could even force its way past. Nothing mattered. My job, my education, my money, my things. None of it mattered. Because here I am now, and I’m not on Earth. I’m going to heaven. I know that’s where I’m going, and nothing matters.
And then I’m here. I’m in heaven. I don’t open my eyes to see anything and I don’t want to. My mind is so happy and so comforted in this place. I feel warm. And then I realize what this overwhelming feeling is that takes over my entire body.
I open my eyes to a beautiful woman that stands next to me, leading me around. I see masses of people. I don’t look past them to see what wondrous things this place has, because I can’t stop looking at their faces. More importantly, the faces that are missing. I stare at the beautiful woman.
“Where is Daniel?”
Her mouth twitches, “He didn’t make it, dear.”
My eyes water and my throat closes.
“What about my family? My sister,” I cry.
“She didn’t make it either.”
I stare at the woman and say the words I’ll never forget, “If they aren’t here, I’d rather be in hell.”
She smiles and says, “I think you’ll like it there.”

Now there’s more to my dream. I end up jumping off the cliff of heaven and landing back on Earth. It’s a mess of fire and smoke, but I make my way to Daniel who’s lying down in a room of the school. I hug him and drag him with me to find my family. But I woke up. And I’m really glad I did, because there wasn’t anywhere for us to go. And I was crying in my sleep.
Normally I forget my dreams. And if I do remember them, they’re a jumble of nonsense. But this dream—it stood out to me. It taught me some valuable lessons that I’m never going to forget. I’m not gonna lie though, it still bothers me that the woman said I’d like it in hell.