Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Heart Wins

The day outside was bright and sunny, with a gentle breeze blowing from the south. In his mind, though, it was dark and dreary, with a gale raging.

Shame rained upon him. He realized that the lawyer had talked him into going a step beyond what his heart would allow. If only he had realized that sooner.

He picked up the phone. His wife would be at work, but her lover would be home. The lover answered.

"It's Andy," he began.


He called back. The lover answered with a torrent of profanity. He waited.

"I'd like to meet you for lunch," Andy offered.


"I'd like to meet you for lunch."

A sigh.

The lover asked, "Why?"

"Because I think we can work things out before the court date."

"The kids?"

"Yeah," he answered.

He waited outside the restaurant. He watched his wife's lover enter. He told his hands to quit gripping the steering wheel so tightly.

He felt timid, embraced by fear. But that was okay. He felt that way because sometimes the right path was the difficult one.

He found the table, sat across the from the lover, and offered his hand. Warily, Julie took his.

"Andy, how could you of all people make an issue of our orientation?"

He thought about his change of heart on the gay marriage issue years before, and about those letters to the editor he'd written. He thought about his friends Greg and Walter, dead for several years now at the hands of two synagogue-burning, gay-hating brothers.

"You're right,"Andy said. "And that's why I'm not fighting you for the kids anymore."

Julie's jaw dropped. "You're serious?"

"Yes." Then, "Would you mind if we skipped lunch?"

"No," answered Julie.

He stood to leave. "I'll have my lawyer contact yours."

He was several steps from the door when she caught up with him.

"Andy, wait!"

He turned. She offered an embrace. He took it.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"No," he answered, "but I will be."


Prompted by yesterday's Three Word Wednesday. The words are dreary, embrace, and timid.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Three Word Wednesday: Fixing Things for the Greater Good

Prompted by today's Three Word Wednesday. The words are efficient, optimize, and treacherous.

He reflected on how the ignorant and uninformed would consider his actions treacherous, immoral, ruthless. They just didn't know how life worked.

He hadn't made efficient use of his time that day; he knew he could have wrapped things up in much shorter order. But the man had once been his friend. He'd taken the wrong road, though, and evolved into a busybody shit stirrer who'd shown contempt for the status quo. Those letters to the editor were bad enough, but he hadn't been satified with that. He was a regular problem at city council and county supervisor meetings, and next week, a local radio station would interview him.

It was time to get the shit-stirrer out of the way.

Still, he felt a pang of remorse when he saw his former friend walk into the women's shelter with another piece of his hand-made furniture. The guy was good in many ways, true, but he was getting in the way. He'd become another one of those troublesome citizens who insisted on promoting the truth over what was right.

The fixer got out of his car, with the tool under his jacket. He opened the trunk, and stuck the small bag of powder under the spare. He loved older cars; they made his life easier. He closed the trunk, and smoothed the previous year's tag over the present one. It was always wise to take steps to optimize results.

He watched his former friend drive away, and followed him down the busy boulevard. The guy inside the P.D. passed him, and gave a curt nod.

It was done. He thought for a moment about the man's wife and kids, but shoved those thoughts from his mind.

He felt at peace, after a time. It was good to be a man who made things work.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Love and Ground Rush

I'm late with last week's Three Word Wednesday post, but here it is. The words are bicker, nervous, and trajectory.

She awoke to the feeling of a pillow soaked with tears. Oh my God, what a dream. He was there, and he'd said such wonderful things. He'd told her how much he loved her, how he was blessed to be married to her, and about how she was the most passionate woman he'd ever known. He finished by saying, "Thank you, and please find happiness again."

She put her feet to the floor. The sun would soon rise. Bo the bear dog looked at her from his corner. She looked at his brown face, which really did look more like that of a bear than the Lab-and-something the folks at the pound had claimed.

"What? It was just a stupid dream."

Ben had only been gone a week, and Bo had hardly moved. But he moved now. He walked to her feet, and looked into her eyes.

"It was just a dream, Bo," she said again.

A Stellar Jay lit upon the bedroom windowsill. He looked at her too. They were doing a tag-team on her heart. She motioned at the jay with her hand. "Shoo." The jay would have none of it. He looked at her, insisting. Bo the bear dog looked at her, not backing down.

She smiled, and the tears flowed again.

"Okay," she said to Bo and the jay. "Okay."

Ben had been nervous while driving to Minden that day. He thought for a moment about turning around and going home. But the draw of joining the big boys at the soaring center beckoned him, and steeled his resolve. It would be his first try at mountain wave flying in a glider, and he'd dreamed of this day for years.

He thought about how Sylvia would react if he showed up at home earlier than expected. She'd see it as an opportunity to go to work on him again, to convince him to give up flying those airplanes without engines. She'd tell him to take up golf or tennis or skeet shooting like normal people.

He continued driving toward Minden. He wasn't about to give up his dream, and he wasn't in the mood to bicker with Sylvia.

Don, his instructor, sat down in the classroom with him. He told Ben about the time he'd entered a mountain wave so rough that he'd been turned upside down, nearly colliding with the tow plane. They met with the tow pilot, and briefed more on emergency procedures. Ben was reminded of the glider pilot's mantra: Keep the slack out of the tow line.

They launched in the Grob 103 sailplane for their hoped-for encounter with a mountain wave. They caught a gentle one; Minden was known for that. Then came the rotor, and it was not gentle.

But after he rode through the first wave of terror and shock that came with what happened, he knew that the mountain wave rotor hadn't done it.

"Something hit us," he thought. He felt surprised that he barely felt the cold of the rarefied air.

It had happened at 24,000 feet. They were climbing at an exhilarating rate when the bang happened, and he found himself falling, the oxygen mask still attached to his face. He looked for Don, or Don's body, but saw nothing of him. He saw no parts of the sailplane, either, and thought that strange, even as he plummeted to what would almost certainly be his death.

He wasn't just giving up, though. If he could alter his downward trajectory to something with a more horizontal component, he might land on the snowy, northern face of the ridgeline ahead. The mountain face was steep, and if he hit the slope just right, it was possible that he'd live. It had happened.

At the same time, he'd accepted that it was very, very likely that he would die.

The terror and shock had largely left him, but now, as he plummeted toward the ground, he felt overpowered with remorse. The last words he'd said to Sylvia had been cross ones; he hadn't even kissed her goodbye before leaving the house.

He thought about the time they'd met. It was at her cousin's wedding reception, and he was quickly smitten with the half-Irish, half-Mexican girl with the flaming red hair. The problem was that he was drunk as hell, and he'd made a first-class ass out of himself. He realized that when her father interceded and not-too-gently suggested that he go sit at his own table. Ben was drunk, but not so drunk that he couldn't remember that her father had been a Golden Gloves boxer.

He'd felt fed up with her temper leaving that morning, but now, with the clarity given by doom, he grasped that her temper was just one part of her passion. My God, that woman was so passionate that it scared him, and not just when she was mad. Even a kiss on the cheek from her was so utterly passionate, so utterly there.

He'd been one lucky man. He'd always known that, but he wished he could have believed it half as fully as he believed it now.

He saw the beginning of ground rush, and knew that he didn't have much time left, even in his present mental state. Time would only slow so much, even when a guy was about to die. He saw that his effort to change his trajectory was futile, and that he would land in a narrow valley between ridgelines.

His last thought was, "Please let me tell her how I feel."


Bo the bear dog woke in the middle of the night. He looked at the woman, and exhaled with relief. There was no moaning, no thrashing about. Her face looked peaceful, and he felt no turbulence about her. She'd exited the path to hating life, at least for now.

He felt so sorry for people. They could do so much with their big brains and their thumbs, but there was so much about life and the after that escaped them. What would they do without dogs?

Bo drifted back to a blissful sleep, the kind of sleep enjoyed by a dog with a mission.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Three Word Wednesday: Framed

The words from today's Three Word Wednesday are cryptic, flash, and malign.


“Your wife should back off,” my friend Bill said.


“Because my cousin with the P.D. says so.”

That’s all I got from Bill. His warning seemed cryptic then, but not now.

The flash of a camera assaults me. Walking toward the courthouse, I spot the reporter with a life mission to malign me.

My storm is coming.