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January 2019 Writers Challenge

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  • 17 Jan 2019 5:49 PM
    Reply # 7007560 on 6982533
    Gloria A. Loftin

    “Sunset of a Half-Life”

    The year I was 16 my life was supposed to be the most wonderful year of my life.  I would finally get my drivers license. Freedom!

    At school we all wore bell-bottom jeans, wide at the ankles, lower on the hips, Bass penny loafer with a penny stuck between the rims, tight cropped top with a heart necklace at the V-neck of the top, walking around like Twiggy, the high fashion model of the time.

    We all seemed to be experts at the flip, teased hair held up by a can of hairspray or cut pixie short, parting our hair in the middle no matter where it fell naturally, big hair, weird hair, spray colored hair.

    As we walked down the high school corridors, there was a flood of guys with buzz cuts; the football players, or long locks; the hippies just waiting to be touched. Gold chains dancing on their hairless chests. Aviator sunglasses held back the piercing blue, brown and green color of their eyes. They had traded in their Timex’s for leather banded wristwatches, which they kept in their drawers at night because the ticking kept them up.

    We listened to KCMO, Classic Hits 24-7. It was the only radio station out of Kansas City, Kansas. We all stayed up late listening to Wolf Man Jack or our local DJs Mad Dog Murphy and Pioneer Sue McKade. 

    I would always hear my friends talking about their Saturday nights, as we headed up over the hills to the new mall, Metcalf South. We never to stop and take in the “golden sunset.”  We just wanted to have fun. We would watch movies at the Shawnee Mission drive-in, fill ourselves with Coke and candy, and complain about the lousy speakers; but I don’t know why, we never watched the movies, we just roamed the aisles with our friends. It was our playground.

    After the movies we would go into the small town of Shawnee and stop at the local pizza parlor; The Pick, buying up pizza slices that you could not eat until you blotted it down with a couple of napkins, or a hamburger from Back Yard Burgers, loaded with onions and chili, or ice cream from Zarda’s Brothers, on Midland Drive.

    We would end up the night at the only teenage club in the Kansas City area; Switchblade, owned by the most dangerous guy I had ever seen. Some say he was a Hell’s Angel, but no one ever asked him. It was a forbidden place for most of us and we thought we were so daring going there, we would smoke and drink any smuggled liquor we could get the bums on Manchester in Kansas City, Missouri to buy for us. We dressed like the hookers on 12th Street and occasionally sneaked outside to smoke a joint someone had managed to bring in.

    The next school day, if I made it at all I would pretend to read a book on the campus green listening to what the others had done on Saturday night. I would revel in the exploits of the football players Saturday’s spent partying with stolen alcohol from their parents and chasing girls that were playing hard to get. They would laugh and talk about the girls they had managed to talk into going to Tomahawk Lake, and out of their panties. It was the middle of nowhere but was the only place to take a girl if you ran out of money. At night the dew on the grass combined with the cheap buzz of the stolen alcohol made it perfect for whatever came next.

    Although I reflected on this life, I wanted but would never have and nurses would look at me with pity, and I hated them for it.  I could hear them in the hall outside my hospital door while they called me “poor baby, poor child.” They would tell each other that everyone was rooting for me to pull through but my that everyone has their time and this was not mine.

     I realized that my time would never come and I had to live through the stories I had made up of the life I wanted so badly, the life I so readily clung to did not happen to me. But then the drugs would take hold, and I could taste the onions and chili on the hamburger, the ice cold of my strawberry ice cream and the burn on my tongue from the pizza. 

    I felt the night air on my heated face as we walked along on those hot sultry Kansas summer nights. I would laugh at who could make up the best lie about our anonymous sex lives. I would pretend I was one of the lucky girls taken to Tomahawk Lake, and the handsome boy of my choice would lay me carefully down on the soft dew-laden grass and make love to me and tell me I was the only one for him.

    The drugs are beautiful because when I woke up I was not sure right away that these wonderful things had not happened to me as I was throwing up and my mom holding my head and washing it down with a towel that she never managed to keep cold enough to rinse away the rancid smell of my sweat. I wanted to suggest to her thousands of time to put ice in the water, but the events got more and more blurry as the day progressed and I would just forget or never care.

    I was never sure of anything, but that death was coming for me, and I would never have the life I craved so much.  

    I close my eyes and hear sobbing. It did not mean anything to me, I shut it out.

    I am on a two-lane highway heading for a "blazing sunset." I was finally free.

     

     


  • 17 Jan 2019 6:02 PM
    Reply # 7007584 on 6989719
    Anonymous
    Gloria A. Gould-Loftin wrote:

    Sunsets

    Do you ever wonder just how many sunsets we are granted in our lifetime? 

     William looked out over the slate green sea.  Day after day the heat and humidity of the Southern Pacific Ocean sun beat down on the sailors like the molten fires from hell.

    The only respite from the relentless heat was when the sunset. But who saw that when you were constantly watching for Japanese subs that roamed the sea looking for easy prey?   Sleek and gray like shark skin, but much deadlier.

      How much longer can this war go on? he asked himself as he reminisced about the past.

    William had 6,120 sunsets before he joined the Navy in 1941.  Sunsets wasted on chasing girls and drinking moonshine stolen from the locals. College took up most of his time until he met the "one". The beautiful Elizabeth. Raven brown hair, blue eyes as deep and radiant as the stars in the sky, Cherry red lips that begged to be kissed under the old oak tree at the college. Little did he know that his world would be changed forever by the winds of war.

    Battle stations!  a voice rang out from the bridge, shocking William out of his day dream. "Japanese sub sighted off the port bow!" 

    Alarms went off on every deck of the battleship.  Men rushed to their stations in a cacophony of noise. Voices raised in excitement and fear. Only the newest sailors found excitement in the heat of battle. This would be pulled out of them in their first battle like a phantom thrust into your soul until nothing was left but dread and sorrow.

    The day news came of the attack on the Indianapolis that left only 310 men alive from the 1,196 that had been on her fostered rage and sorrow by all who fought this war.

    Four days the men on the Indianapolis waited in the shark-infested hellish sea before rescue.  William and his shipmates had only been 2 miles from her when she was cut into three pieces by the deadly torpedoes of the Japanese Navy.  886 men lost their last sunset

    This was the day that William's life changed forever. He vowed, that if he ever got back to Elizabeth, he would savor every moment that life had to offer.

    Eventually, the war ended and William walked with Douglas McArthur at the surrender of Japan.  The brash young man and the seasoned, much-decorated hero of the Pacific. I doubt that McArthur ever noticed the young man by his side, but William still told the story with pride to any who would listen.

    When he got home he married the beautiful Elizabeth. He vowed that no child of his would ever have to face what he faced in the Pacific.  They would never miss the glorious sunsets in their lives.

    He took every day as it came and lived life to the fullest. William was granted 32,760 sunsets in this life.

    May we all be as lucky as my wonderful father.



  • 19 Jan 2019 9:09 AM
    Reply # 7009929 on 6982533

    Gloria,

    You should publish an anthology with the sunset theme. Your “Sunset of a Half-Life” is a poignant portrayal of teenage angst. Enjoyed the read.  


    Last modified: 19 Jan 2019 1:58 PM | Michael Worthington
  • 19 Jan 2019 11:37 AM
    Reply # 7010034 on 6982533
    W. Oliver Barkley

     

    The Long Road Home

    “HEAVEN BOUND”

     I met a man the other day, broke down along life’s roadside. In an effort to reach his destination it appeared he’d set out without the essentials required to carry him along the way.

    He was an ol’ man, looked to be eighty, maybe more. He wore a straggly beard, shabbily clad clothes, and his posture was bent, tilting toward the ground.

    Passing him by I wondered if he needed help, I knew he needed help. But I felt that my destination in life was more important than the ol’ man’s, so I continued on down “The long road home,” until an unction within beckoned me to turn back. I debated with that unction for several miles, and after losing that debate; I gave heed and turned around.    

    When I pulled up next to the ol’ man, he smiled, and then said. “Son, as you passed me by I knew you

    would return, because The Lord always provides.” It was at that moment I realized I’d almost overlooked a child of God in pursuit of my personal desire to succeed.

    Seeing him struggle to get in, I got out lending him a helping hand. Then we begin our journey together as he shared with me his life story that was filled with wisdom and nuggets of truths I’ll never forget.

    He told of his faith in God, and how he’d faithfully serve the Kingdom because God sacrificed his only begotten Son to free mankind from Satan, sin, sickness and eternal death.

    He went on to explain how Christ was nailed to the cross, pierced in his side, and how his shed blood on Calvary’s hill washed, cleansed, redeemed and paid the price for our sins.

    He said as Christ hung on the cross, he was really standing in the gap. His outstretched arms formed a bridge so that mankind could find the way back into right fellowship with our Heavenly Father.

    He reminded me that, living Jesus loved us, dying he saved us, buried he carried our sins away. Rising he justified us, freed us forever, and one day he’s coming back in the twinkling of an eye for a church

    without spot or wrinkle. Now, the ol’ man said before pausing, “Our Lord Jesus is sitting on the right hand of God interceding on your behalf.”

    I’ve heard the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ preached many times, and truly I believe in his death, burial and resurrection, it is where my faith is rooted and grounded. But hearing that ol’ man share his message, along with being in his presence, somehow he gave me a new revelation of all that God has done for us through and by way of being faithful and true to his Word.

    We traveled in silence for the next eight or ten miles when abruptly the ol’ man pointed, and then asked, “Son, do you see that tree up there?”

    I was still in deep thought so I acknowledged yes by shaking my head up and down.

    “Well that is where I want to get off” he informed me.

    Slowing my speed to grant his request, I looked around seeing nothing, no house, not even a road that

    appeared as though it would lead to a house, nothing that resembled the presence of life other than the tree. I became concerned and asked if he was sure.

    “There will be fine” he assured me.

    There’s nothing out there, why are you getting off there? Where are you going?  I asked.

    Smiling he answered “That’s my stop, I’m Heaven Bound.”

    Bewildered as to what he meant, still I pulled up adjacent to the tree where he jumped out with the energy of a teenager.  “Thanks for the lift my son,” he said, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto the Lord.” He twinkled his eye, and then closed the door.

    Hesitantly, I drove away trying to discern the reason for our strange encounter. Looking back in my rearview mirror, I saw where the tree stood, there was an image of an ol’ Rugged Cross, but no sign of the ol’ man, he had completely disappeared.

    Still bewildered by our strange encounter, for some strange reason I recalled my mother telling me when I was a child, “Oliver” she said, “Always be careful how you treat strangers, because you may be entertaining angels.”

    I pondered that thought for a while, and then turned my heart toward heaven thanking God for Christ Jesus who laid down his life for us, for my mother and her words of wisdom, and also for that ol’ man, or should I say, That Angelic Being whom he’d (God) allowed to cross the path of my life.

    Turning my attention back to “The long road home,” suddenly it dawned on methat maybe the ol’ man was an Angelic Being sent by God to remind me of all that Christ Jesus had done for us, and self-preservation is not the first law of life, but others preservation is.

    Immediately I pulled to the side of the road and while sitting there in deep thought starring out into the beauty and wonders of God’s hands that decorated the colorful western skies, The Holy Ghost brought back to my remembrance St John 13:34. “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”

    Experiencing a gentle peace within, I smiled feeling renewed in my spirit and resolved; “I should be more like Christ Jesus as I journey through life – more loving and concerned about the welfare of others.

     “Thank you Lord Jesus” I mumbled. And then, continued my journey down what had become “The road to new beginnings” in my life, yet, feeling as though I was taking “Just a lovely drive at sunset.”    

                                                                                                                                     W. Oliver Barkley

                                                                                                                                     Dream-A-Vision Designs

  • 19 Jan 2019 1:58 PM
    Reply # 7010199 on 6982533

    Oliver,

    I enjoyed reading your devotional that skillfully wove a lesson around the visual prompt. Well done, thou good and faithful servant.


    Last modified: 20 Jan 2019 6:04 AM | Michael Worthington
  • 29 Jan 2019 5:03 PM
    Reply # 7135896 on 6982533
    Deborah H. Doolittle

     Circuitous Route

    She’d seen this stretch of road before:  one long, dark line of highway cutting through the landscape.  Going down this long lonesome road gave her a serious case of déjà vu.  Something kept tugging at her memory.  She had rolled the window down, just like this time, with a warm breeze blowing through her hair. Just like this time.  The smell of ploughed-over dirt was overwhelming, too.  In the shimmering distance, the sun, red as a caramelized onion, hovered over the horizon.  Just like now.   Snatches of old rock and roll songs resurfaced from the static of her radio.  Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” was particularly clear.  She wondered if it were because she knew the words.

    She dropped the visor, feeling that ominous sensation of familiarity all over again, squinting into the light.  The steering wheel was slick within her grip.  Suddenly breaking out in a nervous sweat, she had this odd feeling that something was about to happen, but there was nothing exceptional in this flat countryside.  There was only this long highway, edged by recently mowed shoulders and wide open fields.  No trees, no cluster of farm buildings off to the right or left.  Just fields, with something green and growing in them.  Soybeans?  Cotton?   Not corn.  She knew what that looked like.

    She hadn’t been thinking about the road.  Not that time.  It was funny how she could almost drive as if on autopilot.  After a trip, she would think back and realize that she could not recall one stop light or stop sign where she had actually stopped.  There were no traffic lights here.  No intersections as far as she could see.  So, why did she keep taking her foot off the gas pedal?  Why did she want to jam her foot down on the brake?

    A voice broke through the static of the radio.  “I think she’s waking,” a familiar voice said.    But how familiar?  DJ in the morning familiar?  Some of those DJs carried on the most curious conversations.   

    She reached over to switch the radio off, but must have changed stations.  A loud, deafening noise assaulted her ears.  She could not even recognize it as music.  More like a blaring car horn, like the ones she heard while stuck in traffic outside LAX.  Or the forlorn cry a freight train makes, only this one was up close and personal.  She looked up and saw that she had swerved into the other lane.

    “She’s dreaming,” Dora, the shift nurse, said, checking the patient’s vital signs. 

    “She was just picking up some pizzas,” the husband said, forlornly.  “We live too far from town for delivery,” Ron added as explanation.  He was starting to sound like a broken record. The whole time he talked, he never took his eyes off his wife’s face.  “See that?” he said.  “She’s opening her eyes!”

    “Yes, sir,” Dora said.  “She’s moving her eyes.  She’s in the REM dream state, called REM for rapid eye movement.”  Dora smiled.  “She’s dreaming.” 

    Ron nodded. He had grayed visibly since Dora had worked this shift three days ago.  More haggard, too.  She walked around the edge of the hospital bed, past the beeping monitors and the cords that connected them to the patient, and placed her hand lightly over his hand—the one that was clenching his wife’s hand, as if he were never going to let go.  She gave a light squeeze.

    “Will she wake up soon?” Ron asked, glancing briefly in her direction.  They had not yet made eye contact, and this was her fourth shift.  Three days on, three days off, like clockwork.  That meant the woman had been here at least a week. 

    “That’s hard to say,” Dora replied, studying the patient and trying to see the woman as her husband saw her.  Her face was still mottled with bruises, though some were yellowing with age.  It still looked like she wore a raccoon mask across her eyes.  Her head was swathed in gauze.  A few wisps of blonde hair leaked through the bandages.  Brain injuries were the worse.  “The doctor is on his rounds and should be checking on your wife—“

    “Lisa,” the man said, abruptly.  “Her name is Lisa.”

    “The doctor will be here soon,” Dora finished.

    The man did not look up.

    The sun was still hanging above the horizon, which was spinning about in a way that did not look natural.  The sun, though, held her attention:  bumping into the ground like a helium balloon bumping into a ceiling.  She felt as if she were flying.  Part of her was still stuck inside the car; she could hear the rattling of loose engine parts. Part of her was gliding down that long straightaway of highway.  The radio scratched out another song from the seventies.  She heard Don Henley’s voice.  Saw that shimmering light.  An approaching car? 

    Then she heard the word “pizza.”  In Ron’s voice.  Her husband!  How’d he get on the radio?  That was what she was doing:  driving into town to pick up a pizza. She usually went the other way, but there had been a huge combine trudging down the shorter route into town.  She had turned unto this detour instead.  The breeze coming in from the window lifted her hair from her neck, which was hot and sweaty.  The rattling engine noise settled down to a purr, and she felt the steering wheel vibrate a little in her hands.

    The sun had settled back down to its low position on the horizon, big and bloated.  It cast an orange-tinged glow unto the fields, warming everything up in its last light.  This trip seemed to be taking longer than it should.

    “Wake up!” that same familiar voice coughed from the radio.  Rod Stewart singing “Maggie May”?   She reached over to adjust the knobs.  She’d like to hear the entire song.  She looked up, saw she had swerved, and turned into the sound of semi-truck coming out of nowhere.  

    THE END


  • 30 Jan 2019 12:35 PM
    Reply # 7137394 on 6982533
    Sherri Hollister (Administrator)

    Gloria, Oliver and Deborah it’s amazing to see how different stories can develop from the same picture. I enjoyed reading them all and hope you will continue to share your talent with us. 

  • 31 Jan 2019 4:04 PM
    Reply # 7139781 on 6982533
    Gloria A. Gould-Loftin

    The Long Road Home

    Michael had traveled across the country in his big rig from the west coast to the east coast to get his daughter Cindy’s present.  He kept looking down at the three-year-old golden retriever pup named Digger that was going to change everything for his little girl.  As he chased the sun from one coast to the other, he thought about how hard her life had been from birth.  Born with no legs below the knee she had endured pain from the day she was born with always a bright and happy smile for wall she met. 

    Cindy never let her disability contain her.  She started crawling at four months and pulled herself up on the coffee table at eight months.  She tried to walk, but couldn’t.  She seemed puzzled at that, but she never gave up trying.

    Michael and his wife Rhiannon knew that life would be hard for their little girl but never treated her any different than any other toddler.  It was hard for Rhiannon when she took her to the park and the other kids stared at her. Other mothers looked at her with pity in their eyes. She wanted to scream at them that her daughter did not need their pity, but support.

    Cindy, four was going to get prosthetics for both legs before Michael could get home.  He wanted to be there but felt that she deserved this animal for a companion.  He had been looking for a companion guide dog for the last two years and when he got Digger’s picture, he knew he had found the right dog for his baby girl. 

    Digger himself was a rescue dog who was very sick and would have been put to sleep if not for the wonderful people at the ASPCA who took him in and trained him to be a service dog. He was kind and gentle from the start, willing to please and showed the right stuff to be a companion animal.

    As they traveled back across the country, he stopped numerous times and always Digger was the light that drew people to him at every stop.

    Cindy called every day her father was on the road and asked him when he would be home.  Her mom told Michael that Cindy was in a lot of pain from the new legs, but like the trooper, she never complained. She just wanted to see her dad.

    The night before he got home, he called Cindy and told her he had a special present for her since he had been gone so long. She tried to wheedle out of her dad what it was, but Michael told her to be patient, which is hard for any child.

    When Michael pulled into the driveway there was Cindy waiting on the porch for him. He opened the truck door and Digger came running out and right up to Cindy.  She let out a happy scream and buried her face in Digger’s hair.  From that moment on they were inseparable.

    Cindy has had many bad days and good days with Digger always at her side. He is her protector and friend. A great combination in a companion animal. Digger never hurries her up but always keeps pace with her.

    Now all the kids at the park want to play and touch Digger.  He lets them but always reminds them with a gentle tug that he is Cindy’s and always will be.

    ********

              Rescue animal make the best companion dogs. They are eager to please and only want to help the ones that are lucky enough to get them.  These dogs are lifelong companions and a part of the family.  So, if you see a person with a companion animal you know that they are some of the warmest and luckiest people on earth!


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