Saturday, October 29, 2016

A New Story: I Will


Toward the end of the day, Marsha stopped at Julie’s cubical and knocked.  Julie turned around and saw Marsha standing there with a knowing look on her face.  Instantly feeling embarrassed, Julie said, “Oh, hey Marsha.” 

Marsha ushered herself into the cubicle and close to Julie.  She pause a moment then asked with a hushed voice, “Are you ok?”

Julie noted a condescending tone and didn’t want to deal with it.  She decided to make the whole episode insignificant.  “It wasn’t a big deal.  Just something went down the wrong pipe, that’s all.”

“You must have been mortified.”

“Why would I be mortified?”

“Darlin’, I’ve seen the way you look at him and I’ve heard he likes you and…”

“Oh Marsha, please!”

“Don’t you ‘Oh Marsha, please’ me.  I know what I see and trust my eyes.  You like this boy.”

Julie’s mind raced.  In a split second, she thought “How dare she!  He is cute and his lips are so kissable.  She caught me.  How did she catch me?  What do I say?”  Then she answered, “Well, yes, I do think he is handsome, don’t you?”  That should get her to shut up.

“I think he is a good looking young man but, land sakes, I’m old enough to be his mother.  A few more years and I could be his grandmother.”

“How old are you?”

“A lady never discusses her age.”

Hoping to get the subject completely changed, Julie remarked, “Well, I don’t know how old you are but if Marcus could be your son, you look great for your age.”

Marsha said with a sweet smile, “What a nice thing to say!”  Then with a no-nonsense look added, “But let’s not change the subject.  We are talking about you and Marcus.”

Julie cursed under her breath.  Marsha spoke for five minutes straight about Marcus and how Julie could catch him.  Julie studied this women with hair pulled tightly into a bun and was trying to understand her motivation.  Marsha truly didn’t look old and was relatively fit.  She had what her grandmother called “saddle bags” on her hips and was in the beginning stages of a double chin but Julie would never consider her fat.  Was she being genuine?  Was she a matchmaker or a busy body?  Or both?  Like many from the older generation in the office, she would congregate with ladies of the “29 Club” and talk and sip coffee and gossip at regular times each day.  They were called the “29 Club” because they never admitted their age; only that they were, “29 and holding.” 

When Marsha finished, she said, “If you need anything, you just come see ol’ Marsha, ya hear?” 

Having already decided to never ask for her help, Julie sweetly replied, “Thank you, Marsha.  I will.” 

Friday, October 28, 2016

A New Story

Julie glanced up from her salad to the computer monitor.  Still shoving forkfuls into her mouth she calculated she had 3 minutes until Marcus would arrive.  Of course, she could stop eating and slip away to see him but she was starving.  Why did she start the diet this week?  She could be eating the lasagna Judy brought in today.  Still, trimming up a little more to impress the new guy couldn’t hurt.


Marcus was a new employee working in the department across the hall.  She happened to see him the week before during a stop in the common break room.  Julie started talking with Marsha, who works in Marcus’s department, when he walked in.  If love at first sight exists, Julie experienced it.  Marsha saw the look in Julie’s eye and considered not introducing Julie to Marcus but when he greeted Marsha by name as he approached a vending machine, she felt the situation required her to offer an introduction.  Smiling, Marcus stuck out his hand to Julie as she introduced him.  Julie felt a tingle of electricity in her hand the moment she clasped his.  His smile was infectious.  Her hand felt his the remainder of the day.


Marcus seemed to go to the break room at the same time each day, and Julie wanted to be there before he arrived and make it seem as though she was leaving.  She already had seen him the previous two days but she didn’t want to appear obvious.  Stuffing in one last fork full of limp romaine and arugula, Julie locked her computer and headed for the break room.  She chewed as she walked.  Her heart rate increased and her face flushed ever so slightly at the thought of being close to Marcus.  She was about to swallow when she turned the corner and saw Marcus walking toward her with a Snickers bar in his hand.


Julie gasped at their near collision causing the greens she planned to swallow to get stuck in her voice box.  Immediately, her body reacted by coughing up the foreign objects.  Her face reddened as the coughing intensified.  Julie bent over and jerked violently as she hacked away.  Since this was clearly no minor tickle in her throat, Marcus placed a hand on her shoulder and asked, “Are you ok?”


Somewhat embarrassed but more concerned with exhuming the remaining bits of salad, Julie nodded in affirmation and gave a thumbs up.  A coworker, Kathy, walked over with a cone shaped paper cup filled with water.  Julie grasped it in both hand and tilted her head back and let a mouthful cascade in.  Slowly, she swallowed and rinsed the remnants away.  A few more coughs came from deep within her chest as Julie walked toward the water cooler and refilled the cup.  Once she believed the emergency was over, she looked at Marcus and Kathy and croaked, “Thank you.”


Kathy asked, “Are you sure you’re ok?”


“I’m pretty sure I’ll survive the choking, maybe not the embarrassment.” 


Marcus and Kathy looked at one another and smiled.  Marcus added, “Well, you’ve given us our excitement for the day.  It will be hard to go back to boring numbers now.”  With that, he patted her shoulder and added as he walked away.  “I’m glad you’re ok.” 


Then Julie returned to her desk.  She felt like a total idiot.  Her mind raced with thoughts:  You want to impress the handsome new guy?  Oh, you impressed him alright.  He’ll never forget you.  You’re the one who hacked and coughed up a lung in front of him.  He’s probably laughing his ass off right now. 
Dejected, Julie unlocked her computer and saw she had 4 new emails.  She opened Outlook and at that instant, she received another one.  It was from Marcus.  The subject line was titled, “I really am glad your ok”  A smile broke out on her face.  She clicked on the email but there was no content, only the subject line.  She felt a little better.  He didn’t say he thought she was beautiful but at least he cared.  That should mean something, shouldn’t it? 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

You Across the Bridge

Once we had a bond
I enjoyed you
You enjoyed me
Now I see you across the bridge
 
Smile, laugh, cry
Nothing broke us
Then the day came
When I saw you
Across the bridge
 
You’ve run away
With a different crowd
What have I done?
Why did you go?
I see you across the bridge
 
Have I offended?
I apologize
Did I go too far?
I will refrain
Will you forgive?
 
I see the match
And smell the flame
Smoke burns my eyes
Through the tears I see
You across the bridge
 
Time moves on
I see our past
It makes me smile
Though my friend is
You across the chasm
 
(C) Duane Windell Phillips
October 27, 2016

Friday, October 21, 2016

Now

Our youth is affected by those around us
For better or worse we are a product of those days
And nights
Some never know love or care
Some are lavished in excess
 
We carry the baggage
Affecting our vision
Tainting our understanding
Causing future fear
Making us forget
Now
 
Regardless of the lies whispered from behind
Irrespective of misconceptions for tomorrow,
What we think we know,
The things we think we believe
All we have is now
 
Work through the mazes of your mind
Cast off what hinders you
Now is the time
This moment sandwiched between the past and future
This is your time
Now


Duane Windell Phillips
(C) October 2016



Sunday, October 16, 2016

Joy


Three year old Bobby Lundquist was excited.  As soon as he was released from his car seat, he jumped to the ground and hopped about and took in the sights.  The park was magnificent.  The playground had a multitude of things to climb upon and under.  Quickly, his mother grabbed his hand and held him tightly.  He pulled on the sudden intrusion that threatened to squelch his exuberance.  He couldn’t break free.  Mom had him.
 
He complained, “Mommy, I wanna play.”
 
“I know and you will.  Just wait a minute.”
 
He always heard that phrase.  He didn’t fully understand how long a minute lasted.  He only knew it took forever.  Once dad got everything out of the trunk of the car, the family headed to the playground.  The sounds of other children screaming with delight urged Bobby forward.  Pulling his mother who was smiling at his energy, Bobby’s mind raced with thoughts of fun.  How he wanted to play and run with the other children!  Just as he was about to step onto the edge of the playground, his hand was released. 
 
He was free to take in all his heart could desire.  He ran to the ladder leading to the slide.  A little boy was above him beaming from ear to ear as he glanced down.  Bobby shouted something unintelligible upward but the boy understood this language.  It was called fun.  For the next 30 minutes the two new friends ran and chased each other while also climbing over and under bars and slides and swings. 
 
Suddenly Bobby felt it.  He stopped and grabbed his crotch and ran to his father.  Seeing the universal sign for, “I gotta pee!” the two ran for the nearest toilet.  Dad was happy his son was out of the habit of simply whipping it out whenever the need arose.  If only he would stop waiting until he had to do the “Potty Dance” before he noticed the call of nature.
 
An hour later it was time to eat.  Bobby had things to do and did not want to eat.  His new friend called out to Bobby as he walked with his parents to a picnic table, “Just eat two bites and come back.”  Kneeling on the bench, Bobby took the first bite of his two bites when the flavor of the warm fried chicken reminded him of his hunger.  His parents knew he was hungry since he wasted no time munching bite after bite.  Once his stomach was satisfied and thirst quenched, Bobby jumped down intending to return to his friend.  Then he heard his mother’s voice, “Hold on a minute.”
 
Suddenly, he felt her hands pulling him to her.  She pulled out wipes and began cleaning his hands and face.  For little boys, getting your hands washed was one thing.  Why did moms want to scrub skin off a boy’s face?  They kept wiping and scrubbing.  It was torture. 
 
Once the cleaning was complete, Bobby raced to where he last saw his friend.  He wasn’t there.  Bobby then darted from spot to spot searching for his friend.  He saw him eating at a picnic table and felt dejected.  When he spotted dad walking toward him, he felt a big smile come to his face.  Mom was cleaning up the picnic table.  That meant he and dad could play.  Dad, using his big scary voice, let out a roar.  Bobby smiled and roared back at him.  Upon hearing Bobby’s roar, dad recoiled in mock fear.  Bobby stalked forward toward his prey, hands lifted and curled like claws.  When Bobby got close enough, dad sprung forward, snatched his son and lifted him to the air.  The boy squealed with delight. 
 
Dad said, “I’m still hungry.  Little boy sandwiches are just what I need.”  Then he pulled Bobby close and pretended to nibble his arms, legs, and neck.  Each spot tickled the boy and he squirmed and laughed uncontrollably.  He loved when his parents did this to him even though dad’s beard felt scratchy on his tender skin.  So it went for a few more minutes until mom arrived.  It was time to leave.  
 
Bobby had thoroughly enjoyed his time at the park.  It couldn’t end now.  A great sadness erupted within him and spilled out tears down his cheeks.  He felt anger the happy moments were being taken away.  He wailed as his father carried him to the car.  Dad softly said, “It’s ok buddy.  We’ll come back.”
 
About 30 minutes into the ride home, Bobby was fast asleep.  Dad looked at him from the rear view mirror and he smiled.  Whispering to his spouse, he said, “Look at him.”  She turned and smiled.  “He’s a little angel, our little bundle of joy.”

Saturday, October 15, 2016

El Rey

Claudia Gonzalez was celebrating her 85th birthday.  The widow lived alone in a retirement trailer park in Palmetto, FL but she was a former undocumented immigrant from a small town near Puebla, Mexico.  The second daughter and middle child of a poor but hard working father, she knew poverty.  She remembered what it was like to go to bed hungry.  In spite of the toil her father did in the fields each day, she believed there was more. 

She was married 8 days after her quinceaƱera, 15th birthday celebration, to a man 8 years older than her, Ernesto.  At the time, Claudia believed Ernesto would provide her the life she wanted.  She had no lofty dreams.  She simply wanted a safe, secure home, four children (two boys and two girls) and to never go to sleep with hunger pains again.  

As the mariachis moved from table to table at her birthday celebration, they played many traditional songs.  On this night, her heart swelled.  Many friends and loved ones filled the hall.  Each of them held a special place in her heart.  She felt like the Virgin Mary after the shepherds visited her blessed baby.  She treasured these things and people in her heart.

Hernan and Vilma, her son and daughter, began planning this night more than a year before the date.  After many trips to Mexico to visit family, they understood the lives they could have had.  No one asks to be born into poverty with no opportunities.  As teenagers,  Hernan and Vilma first visited the small farm where their grandparents lived.  By this time, Ernesto and Claudia had taken advantage of the deal President Ronald Regan made for illegal aliens living in the United States of America.  Gaining citizenship, the family was free to travel Mexico and back. 

When the mariachi band reached a table where Claudia was visiting with old friends, she requested they play the favorite song of her husband, El Rey (The King).  As the music began, memories flooded her soul.  She saw the day they decided to leave, the anger of her father, the heartbreak of parting with that wedge between them, hardships of travel and making a life in a country with a strange and difficult language and three miscarriages.  She remember at each celebration, Ernesto would request the mariachi band play El Rey. 

Perhaps it was this refrain that made him want to listen to it, his moment to stand defiantly against the odds:

With money
And without money
I always do
What I want
And my word
Is the law

I do not have
Throne or queen
no one
I understand that
But I'm still the king

Claudia never knew and never asked him why he loved this song.  She only knew she loved it because he did.  They suffered many hardships in life but in the moment of this party, she knew she was blessed.  All of Ernesto’s and Claudia’s siblings eventually moved to the US.  All of their children were hard working and respected members of society.  She had four grandchildren, two boys and two girls.  Though she still mourned her husband, she long ago learned to live in the present.  God had given her the dreams of her heart and so much more.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Facing Death


The Rider: Final

After the morning feeding, the Owner walked up to Runner and asked, “Have I done something wrong?”  Runner quickly replied, “No, everything is fine.”  The Owner smiled and asked, “Will you walk with me for a moment?”  The sun was shining brightly just as it did in the dream.  Runner gazed out at The Land Beyond and his heart burned within him.  The Owner looked directly into Runner’s eyes and asked, “Do you want to run free again?” 
 
Runner quickly said no and turned away as tears began to well up in his eyes.  He didn’t understand why he was crying only that there was a great sadness in his heart.  He felt so much emotion and mere words could never explain it.  The Owner simply said, “Let’s go for a ride.” and turned to get the saddlery.
 
Runner stood too nervous to move as the Owner dressed him for the ride.  He looked anxiously about him when the Owner mounted him and prodded him to start moving.  Step, step, step, he began to walk.  As the horse had feared, he was being led to the gap in the fence.  The other horses gave him looks of contempt as they rode by.  When they reached the edge of The Land Beyond Runner shut his eyes.  He wanted to protest.  He wanted to stop.  He wanted to fight but he just couldn’t.  His eyes were tightly closed for a few more steps when he heard one of the other horses shout, “Don’t bother coming back!”  He started to speak in his own defense when felt a swift kick in the ribs.  Startled, he began to run.

He ran and ran with tears streaming down his face.  He was unsure of how he felt.  He wanted to savor all that he was feeling but was afraid that it was wrong.  Was this what he was looking for?  He felt whole, free, and a little bit at peace.  Horse and rider galloped off into the distance.

The euphoria of freedom faded as fatigue began to wear on him.  He slowed down to a trot and finally to a walk when the Owner began to speak.  “This is the way it is supposed to be.  You have the world to roam and explore and I will guide you.  Unlike before when you didn’t know what was best, I will shepherd you to the best water holes and grazing land.  It won’t be hit or miss.
 
Runner asked, “Why is there a gap in the fence?”
 
“Long ago, some horses put the fence but I took it down.  The horses rebuilt it again and I tore it down again.  It was a continuous cycle that ended when I made the fence with a missing section.  I continue to ensure the section missing remains.  Whenever one of them is ready, they can ride out.  The fence represents their stubbornness and unwillingness to live where they belong.”
 
Runner remembered his dream and felt a wave of emotion wash over him.  Runner murmured to himself, “I can run in the Valley of Dreams and The Land Beyond.”  The Owner smiled and nodded.

He was free.  The world was once again his to explore, but now he had someone to take care of him.  The world is not so much of an evil place as it is a lost place in need of someone to care for it.  With a heartfelt cry of exaltation the horse ran off to find his old friends and introduce them to the Owner.  The Owner felt Runner’s rapture and rejoiced with him.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

A smile, a touch, a kiss

A smile, a touch, a kiss
It’s you I want to hold
I want you next to me
May I be so bold?
 
My dearest angel mine
You’ve given me your heart
My consuming meditation
I want it all, not part
 
I gaze upon your visage
And always see your form
Imprinted in my mind
Forever keeps me warm
 
Oh my love, you always stir my soul
Every curve and contour soft
Fills me to the full
Of loving memories oft
 
No beauty hidden in shadows
Your magnificence shines bright
A heart filled with caring
You make the world seem right
 
(C) October 2, 2016
Duane Windell Phillips


The Rider: Part III

Several months later something strange happened.  The Owner mounted one of the colts to ride him.  The colt was nervous and scared.  His eyes darted this way and that searching the disgusted faces of the horses that would even look at him.  Finally, one of the mares yelled, “Don’t let the Owner do that to you.”  The Owner led the colt to the missing section of fence.  Only then, at the edge of the corral, did the colt begin to fight.  He started to buck and jump and twist and turn.  The Owner held on valiantly and after a courageous effort, seemed to give up and was thrown off.  The colt quickly ran to the other side of the corral. 

Runner was shocked at what he saw.  However, his bewilderment did not stem from the Owner trying to lead the colt out of the corral.  Instead, why did the Owner try to ride him at all?  If the Owner was so good to them, why didn’t he let the Owner ride him?  Hadn’t the Owner promised to take care all of them in all circumstances?  Runner went to Saint to speak about his questions.  Saint was outraged. 
 
“The Land Beyond is off limits.  Don’t you realize that you will be turning your back on everything you hold dear?  The Valley of Dreams is heaven on earth and you can’t live here and the Land Beyond.  It’s one or the other.  Do you want to go back to your old way of life?”
 
Runner shook his head. 
 
“Then I suggest that you study harder.” 
 
Runner nodded his head in acceptance and plodded off.

That night Runner dreamed of the days when he was on his own.  He dreamed of running as fast as he could from one hill to the next.  In his vision, the sun shone brightly and the grass was so green.  In his mind’s eye, it was as if he were out running as he once did but still had the care of the Owner.  This didn’t make sense.  His mind began to rationally ponder this and caused him to wake up.  He looked upon the vision with bewilderment.  It felt so good to run but now he couldn’t run because of the confines of the corral. 

He thought of his name, Runner.  “I haven’t run in years.  What a joke!  My name is Runner but I don’t run.   All of the other horses have names that say something about who they are.  If only the Owner hadn’t made the fence, that stupid fence.  I’m stuck inside this stupid, lousy fence.  I may as well be in a prison with walls a hundred feet tall topped with barbed wire.  Once I was free but now I’m trapped.”  Runner felt controlled by the Owner.  He began to resent the Owner. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Rider: Part II


It was a day of rejoicing.  Runner had found a home.  The others equines quickly told Runner of the dangers of venturing outside the fence.  They called it the Land Beyond.  Runner glanced out at the Land Beyond and knew he didn’t want to go back to that harsh country again.  He turned to speak to the horse showing him around and asked about the section of missing fence.  When asking he noted the other horses stayed far from the gaping hole.

“This was no accident.  The Owner built it that way.”

Runner looked closer and noticed that there had been no holes dug for posts.  It was actually constructed that way. 

"Why would the Owner do such an odd thing?  He is such a kind, considerate man.”

“We don’t understand all that the Owner does but we trust him completely.   We don’t ask too many questions.  After all, we are only horses and he is human.”

Runner nodded his understanding.  He learned most of the horses had their names changed after the Owner took them in.  Runner wanted his named changed but was having difficulty deciding on a new name.  Saint said that his name should stay the same to remind him of the life he once led.  Runner agreed because there was so much that he wanted to leave behind.  He believed only by remembering what he used to be could he remain the new being he now was.

Runner was taught all that the other mares and stallions knew.  He too found the Owner to be a truly wonderful man.  All of their needs were provided.  They were fed the best of everything and cleaned and brushed daily.  Three times each week they would gather and relate stories of how the owner had brought them in and changed their lives.

After a few years, Runner began to notice emptiness in his heart.  He wouldn’t quite describe it as that but it was the best way to understand it.  He simply knew of something bothering him.  He longed for something that was missing but he had no idea what it was.  He privately spoke to Saint about his feelings.  Saint told him, “You need to spend more time talking about how wonderful the Owner is and stay as far away from the fence opening as possible.”  He did as he was told and became the best at all he did. 

The Rider: Part I


There once was a stately horse that ran wild and free.  His name was Runner.  All areas were his to romp and roam and he explored all that he could see.  He was master of his destiny and no one ruled him.  He ran like the wind from hill to valley to boast his importance to the world.  He was always ready to challenge anyone to see who was fastest or who could jump the highest.  He was the leader and he made certain that the world knew this. 

He loved to stand at a distance and mock the horses in the corral in the Valley of Dreams.  The Valley of Dreams was a splendid valley where a magnificent river flowed and the ground had an abundance of grass to graze.  Everyone liked to go to the Valley of Dreams because there was enough water and grazing land for everyone in the world.  There was a barn, farm house and a large corral in the Valley of Dreams.

At this farm there was a wonderful man called the Owner.  The Owner would take in any horse that came to him.  No matter what they did before or what they looked like he loved and cared for them.  Runner knew he needed no one to care for him.  Runner thought all the horses in the care of the Owner were idiots.

The barn was superb but the fence where they lived was not complete.  A whole section was missing but not one of them had ever tried to leave.  Runner thought that only a bunch of morons would willingly stay cooped up when they could easily leave and run free.  He would mock them saying, “What is the matter with you guys?  Don’t you know that real life is out here? Can’t you find the door?”  Some of the horses would give him looks of contempt.  Others would ignore him or simply shake their heads and go about their business.

Time wore on and he noticed restlessness deep in his soul.  No matter where he went or what he did his heartache still found him.  He no longer took comfort in proving he was the best or the fastest.  He began to wish for something else out of life but he couldn’t think of what it could be. 

His coat was worn and shabby and his mane was knotted.  He was caked with mud from head to hoof.  He began to notice his way of life was exacting a toll.  He no longer taunted the corralled horses but began to study them to see what it was that made them so peaceful.  He noticed how their master cared for them.  Their coats were always brushed and shiny.  Their bodies testified of the abundance of feed and water they had.   He mused to himself they didn’t have a care in the world.  “What am I missing?” he wondered. 

Day after day Runner would make path a little closer to the corral.  Each day he took note of the magnificent stable and the peacefulness of the horses.  One day the Owner saw Runner and waved and asked him to come and stay.  At this Runner ran away as fast as he could.  Once he was out of the man’s sight he stopped.  He then wondered why he ran away like he was scared.  “What is happening to me?  I used to be brave and strong but now I run away from a man that is trying to be nice.”

There was one white horse with dark eyes that always seemed nice.  He would smile at Runner whenever he was near the corral.  By eavesdropping Runner found out the white horse’s name was Saint.  Saint was one of the leaders.  Everyone looked up to him.  Gladness radiated from him.  He had a kind spirit and genuinely cared for everyone.

One day Runner listened as Saint gathered the other horses together and asked them to tell what the Owner had done for them.  One by one they began to speak.  Runner was astonished at what he heard.  The man who waved to him was the Owner.  The Owner was indeed a wonderful man.  Runner heard story after story of changed lives, better relationships, added meaning to their lives.  Runner’s heart burned inside him.  “Oh, if I could feel like that.  I wish had meaning in my life.” 

The empty horse gathered himself together and discreetly walked toward Saint and asked what he could do.  Saint brought his seeking friend to the Owner.  The Owner instantly embraced the lost one as his own.  The Owner cleaned Runner’s coat and mane and healed his wounds.  Runner finally felt at rest.  

A Time of Need

The last time he saw his mom, Paul spoke the words he had to say.   He recognized her discomfort as she shifted on the bed and redirected he...