Archive for January, 2012

Time Where Art Thou?

As the sands through the hourglass, so these are the days of my life! Yes, my life was a drama or rather a combination drama/comedy.

     My sister Bev had called me this morning crying hysterically. It seemed she’d planned a very lavish Thanksgiving soiree (that’s what she called it, anyway), but the kitchen help she’d booked had never shown up. They had the dates mixed up and so had booked another party for the same day.

     I’d driven as fast as I could, without getting a ticket, from Oswego to Madison; no easy task let me tell you! I felt like a super heroine running to the rescue…once again. I drove into her long driveway, turned the engine off and hit the pavement running. The front door was locked and no amount of pounding got any results. I ran around to the back door and with dramatic flair flung it open and stopped in shock. It looked like a flour bomb had gone off in the kitchen. It seemed that the flour brigade had known exactly where to set the bombs, because I swear to you there didn’t appear to be a clean spot anywhere and right in the middle of the floor in the fetal position was Bev. Floury tears mixed with mascara made tracks down her face and she looked so pitiful.

     Okay, I know it was unforgivable and time was running out, but I laughed until I cried. It took a good 15 minutes or so to get myself under control, so I could ask what the menu was. Finally, between my sister’s sobs and hiccups, I managed to get an idea of what she wanted. I shooed her out of the kitchen and got to work.

     I didn’t bother cleaning up first; I didn’t have the time. I pulled the turkey and the ham out of the fridge, washed the turkey and left it covered in a towel to absorb the excess moisture and made a glaze for the ham. I let the glaze sit for a few minutes and made the stuffing for the turkey and quickly chopped walnuts, onions, apples and celery and combined it all. Darned if I didn’t have that turkey stuffed in a flash and in the lower wall oven. I turned and and made my way to the ham, collecting all the ingredients for the pecan and apple pies, the pumpkin flan and the rolls. I brushed the glaze on it and stuffed that porker in the other oven.

     After a 5 minute breather I started an assembly line and instead of beating each of the ingredients for each recipe separately, I threw them all in at once and beat them at the same time, except for the pecans of course; that was a real time saver. Of course I kept stopping to look around, shake my head and giggle just a teeny bit. I finally had everything in the ovens and six timers going with sticky notes to indicate what each one was for.

     I relaxed for a full 10 minutes, before I started making the dough for the hors d’oeuvres and put the ingredients for the champagne punch in the chiller. I started peeling russet potatoes for the vichyssoise my sister loved (I never could understand why they had to give cold potato soup such a strange name). I put the leeks and onion in butter over low heat and finished dicing the potatoes and assembling the rest of the ingredients, before placing the wine she’d chosen in the wine fridge. I finished assembling the pastries and put them in the refrigerator to wait for an empty oven.

     I took a much-needed deep, cleansing breath and thoughts of disposing of my sister and hiding her body flitted through my mind, but I knew I didn’t have the time for that. I turned around and caught sight of my reflection in the microwave door; it was not a pretty sight! There was flour all over my face and I realized that I’d been kicking up flour with every step I took.

     I finally had time to clean so I hauled Bev back in the kitchen, stuck the vacuum in her hands and made her vacuum every inch of that huge kitchen. She kept crying and muttering under her breath, “There’s not enough time” but, I pretty much ignored her and rolled my eyes.

     I wiped down the walls, cabinets and counters and by the time that was done, the pies and rolls were done and the flan was ready for it’s 2 hour visit with the fridge and it was time to put the pastries in the oven and baste the turkey and ham.

     Finally, I sat my sister down and fixed two sandwiches with fresh sliced roast beef, cucumber, avocado and bacon on a French roll with homemade sauce and served it with fat free potato chips on the side and a big tall glass of Lily style Peach tea.

     I looked around and sighed with relief, everything was sparkling clean and I could have eaten off the floor. We started giggling like teenagers and ran into the laundry room, throwing our clothes into the washer and taking turns in the shower. I was done in plenty of time to remove the pastries from the oven and baste the turkey and ham yet again.

     I took a leisurely walk into the living room and found floury footprints all the way up the staircase. I quickly took the hand vac and cleaned all that up and started setting the table for the twenty invited guests, as well as the sideboard for the hors d’oeuvres and set out fluted goblets for the punch and wine. Once all that was done, I was back in the kitchen to baste the ham and turkey one last time and got to work on steaming the fresh asparagus and prepared the ingredients for the hollandaise sauce. I took a few minutes and put everything that needed to be kept warm in the warming drawers and proudly surveyed all my hard work. I must admit to being quite proud of myself, but I kept thinking there was something I’d forgotten.

     I was done; finally I was done!! I felt like I could stand at the top of a mountain and scream it out at the top of my lungs. Yeah, I was truly hyped. I’d done everything and still had three hours to spare, but wasn’t there something I’d forgotten? I was sure it would come to me before too long.

     I hummed one of my favorite songs and finished washing up anything that I’d used. All of a sudden, I had a feeling of impending doom and heard my sister behind me clearing her throat, gulping and clearing her throat again. Slowly I turned step by step (okay that was a Stooges thing); I turned and faced her and saw the grimace on her face. I swallowed and asked, “Now what Bev?”

     “Lily? Umm, what day is this?” she asked. For a minute there I thought she’d lost her memory and didn’t know what was going on. This was Bev, anything was possible with her.

     “It’s Wednesday, remember?” I asked gently. The grimace got worse, her eyes teared up and she said very quietly, “My party’s tomorrow.”

     I thought the fixed smile on my face would split it in two. I grabbed a huge sticky note, wrote down what had to be done to keep most of the food in an edible condition for her party tomorrow and what time to take the ham and turkey out. I looked around until I found the ugliest roll of duct tape I could find, grabbed a huge bit of it, put it on that note, grabbed my purse, shoes and clean clothes and ignored her walking behind me blubbering her head off the entire time. I got to the back door, turned to her (she was still right behind me) and taped that big sticky note with duct tape right on her forehead and walked out the door.

     I hit the pavement running, jumped in my car, revved up my engine and I was gone! I still felt like there was something I’d forgotten, but I was way too upset to remember what.

     Anyway, I muttered to myself all the way out of Madison and I made myself a promise; I was never going to forgive or help my sister ever again and the next time she came by my house I was going to stick a potato in her tail pipe…the potatoes!!

     Well, I’d made myself a promise and I wasn’t about to break it. Okay just one last time I promised myself, as I wearily turned the car into the nearest grocers to pick up more ingredients and cleaning supplies.

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I previously posted this in November 2011 on my other blog for: http://bluebellbooks.blogspot.com/2011/11/short-story-slam-week-15.html

My Last Texas Summer

     I love Illinois. I love all its seasons, but I love the summer most of all. I like sitting on my front porch or even upstairs at my desk with the window wide open so I can hear all of the living going on outside. I can hear the kids screaming their pleasure as their parents turn the hose on them, and the ice cream man with that song that drives me totally nuts as he screeches around the corner. “La cucaracha, la cucaracha ya no quiere …” The rest of it fades out as he tears down the street doing 70 in a 30 mile zone. I can hear the neighborhood kids knocking at the front door. They want my 17-year-old son to go out and play the guitar for them. The kids start shouting for a song and I listen with pride and pleasure as Nick’s deep baritone blends in with the children’s voices and drifts upwards to heaven like a prayer. There’s so much energy, so much life going on that I can’t help but remember when I was that age and able to take pleasure in the simplest of things. Oh to be an innocent six year old again, and laying in the tall grass beneath the Texas sun.
                                                *****
     We lived in a little Texas town called Petersburg. My daddy was the only Hispanic pastor in town. Actually he was the only one this town had ever had. So, in appreciation the men of the congregation built us a house right next to the little white church on the dead end of Waco St. It was a little house, but because it was filled with lots of laughter and love we never noticed the size. The house had been built on two acres of grassy land, and in full view of the railroad track. We had so much space to run and play and so many colors to experience. This was the summer I finally came into existence; the summer I finally started to notice the world around me.
     The grass was a rich gentle green, and the bright butter-yellow sun worked right along with the grass to make every day of that summer shine forever in my memory. You could hear the horses and the cows on the other side of the railroad track. And on occasion, you’d hear the far away drone of someone’s tractor.
     Petersburg had a huge population of 625 people. We’d grown so much that they had to add another three rooms to the L-shaped school. I thought it must surely be the biggest school in all the world since it now housed between 200 and 300 kids. Among them, los Arellano. I don’t think Pancho Villa School and Petersburg knew what hit it when the Arellano clan moved in.
     My brothers always made me promise to wait for them after school. But on this particular day of days, I wasn’t in the mood. Not only was this the last day before summer vacation, but I’d also be turning six years old in a few weeks. I’d just gotten through the hardest year of my life and had made it through kindergarten. I rushed home from school without waiting for my brothers and my sisters. They’d probably be looking for my body on the railroad tracks real soon or maybe like me they were off enjoying themselves. It really didn’t matter to me. I was just too excited. School was over for the summer, and I didn’t want to waste any time. I wanted to sit in the grass and look up into the sky and just relax. My first year of school had just about done me in. Nobody’d ever told me there would be so much cutting and coloring to do in kindergarten. I figured I was due for a rest.
     The only good thing about going to school had been walking on the railroad tracks every morning and afternoon. It hadn’t much hurt either that my brothers had always stopped at the shearing shed behind the school on the way home every afternoon. I always managed to make my brothers, Steve and Albert, feel guilty. So, they’d let me tag along. Steve was 13 years old, with a head of curly, wild, dark brown hair and even darker eyes. He was the spittin’ image of my daddy. He was full of “piss and vinegar,” so Grandma said, and told the greatest stories. I never had to worry if Momma and Daddy were too tired to tell me a story. I could always count on Steve. We usually snuck into the shearing shed after school and we’d climb up high on the bleachers and he’d sit me on his lap and proceed to make up some of the wildest stories I’d ever heard. I never quite knew whether or not to believe the story about the mean dog on the railroad track with a hat on its head and smoking a cigar, or if he’d even seen la Llorona crying on the railroad tracks three Halloweens ago, covered in the blood of her children. Either way, he always had the knack of telling one mean story.
     My 11-year-old brother, Albert, would sit as far away from the flying fleece and smell as he could get. He didn’t want to get his suit messed up. He considered himself the intellectual of the two and for some reason he thought that meant he had to wear a suit every day. As always, he looked the perfect gentleman with his blue suit and his white dress shirt tucked neatly into his pants. His hair, as usual, was parted on the left and slicked back, though it didn’t usually stay that way for long. He’d probably used lots of Momma’s Dippity Do that morning. He had some big, chocolate brown, innocent eyes that made you think he was such a good kid. You’d never know by looking at him that he’d encouraged my brother Steve to hang from the power cables by the church last week, and to swing until they’d managed to turn off all the lights in town. Boy, that had been some night. Daddy, the deacons, and the rest of the church members had chased them until the boys had found a place to hide. You’d of thought that being PK’s (Preacher’s Kids) would have kept them out of trouble. Nothin’ doin.’
     Now my sister Mitzy had turned 15 in February. After her quinceañera, she’d turned boy crazy. She preferred to spend time with her friends discussing clothes and boys. My sister Abbey was 9 and an all out tomboy. She had a favorite pair of jeans, a cowboy hat, and some old play guns that she wore day after day. Her hair was always clean, but it was so curly and out of control that you could barely find her little face underneath all the wild bushy hair. Steve and Albert had nicknamed her Tumbleweed because with all that hair she reminded them of those huge tumbleweeds that blew down the streets during a Texas sandstorm. Momma was lucky if she could get her to sit down long enough to get her hair brushed. Poor Momma despaired of ever getting her to look and act like a lady since Abbey had already asked for boots and guns for her birthday in July. Momma, in desperation, bribed poor Mitzy into dragging Abbey along with her everyday after school when she met her friends at the corner soda shop across from the school.
     On a regular day, we’d all do our thing and kill some time until we knew Momma and Daddy were on the way home from church. Then, my brother Steve would pick me up, throw me over his shoulder and run like nobody’s business. We almost always managed to make it home on time. And on the days we were late, they always blamed me. But that was okay because I never got in trouble. To this day I still don’t know how Steve expected to make it home on time, as the church was right next door to the house.
     Today though, was a different kind of day. I didn’t want to hear Steve tell stories or listen to Mitzy talk about boys. And I certainly didn’t want to play cowboys and Indians with Abbey (She usually killed me three minutes into the game). I just wanted to be by myself and enjoy the sounds and smells that made up our little corner of Texas. There was nothing better than lying in the sweet tall grass and watching the dragonflies with the sun shining rainbows through their wings. The grass smelled so good, and I could hear the bees as they buzzed around me. I watched the grass sway from side to side in the light breeze, and I swayed right along with it losing track of time as I sat making bracelets and headbands out of dandelions and braiding long stalks of grass until Momma finally found me in the grass; kissing the top of my head, she made me go in for supper.
     It must have been around eight o’clock that night before we were able to get outside to play again. The sky was so clear and beautiful that we didn’t need any streetlights. Then again, we didn’t have any yet because of the Steve and Albert fiasco. We’d been gathering old nails every day after supper for the last week because we knew the train would be passing through town tonight. The Navarro boys had been out pulling nails from walls, and their grandmother’s porch swing. They just hoped nothing would fall apart or they would get grounded again for the third time that month. They’d brought with them a group of about thirteen kids and together we’d all raided grandpa Navarro’s pop supply. Now all we had to do was wait for the train.
     Around 9:30 Abbey came screaming up to the front porch that the train was coming. We could hear it whistling at us, but Abbey was louder as she jumped up and down in excitement. We ran to the railroad tracks and laid our nails down, ran and hid behind the bushes at the foot of the gate. After the train was gone we raced back to the tracks and started picking up the little swords that the train had made out of the nails. We played until it was time to go to bed. Summer had officially started and I planned to enjoy it.
     The summer of my sixth birthday ended quite suddenly when my daddy announced we were being transferred by the Southern Baptist Convention to Levelland, Texas. I remember trying to hide in the grass so they couldn’t take me away, but there was nowhere I could hide. We lived in Levelland for three years before we moved out to Illinois, but summer has never been the same since.
                                                  *****
     Momma and Daddy are gone now. My brothers and sisters have all married or moved into their own homes. And when I look around, I’m reminded that the open spaces, colors and smells that I associated with that Texas summer are gone forever. Then all of a sudden I hear the laughter of a child, the smell of freshly mowed grass and the strumming of my son’s guitar. My heart knows that an Illinois summer is just beginning, and I’m not about to miss a bit of it.
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I posted this previously on my other blog in June of 2011. Hope you enjoy reading it!

Garden of Laughs

  Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew

 

I walked along the path looking at all the beautiful red, purple and pink flowers. It was beautiful here; so serene and I felt like I was in my own little world. I took a deep, deep breath and thought about the last time I’d walked this path with my sister a couple of years ago.

I started laughing my head off; one of those deep belly-rolling laughs that once started you can’t seem to stop. People were giving me a look that said, ‘Steer clear of that weirdo.’

********

My sister was visiting from out of town and because I loved this place so much I brought her here. I forgot how clumsy she was and started off on a brisk walk expecting her to keep up with me. I’d been walking for maybe half an hour and realized that I couldn’t hear her voice anymore. I looked back and low and behold she wasn’t there.

I ran back to the entrance and when she wasn’t there waiting for me, I followed the same paths as before, calling out her name as I went, “Mel! Mel, where are you?”

Finally towards the center of the park I heard giggling, hiccupping and groaning. The flowerbeds towards the center were raised a bit and I finally found a way to look over the edge and there on her back in a puddle of mud lay Mel.

“Oh for goodness sakes! What happened? Why didn’t you call out to me when you first fell Melly!!” I put my hand out to help her up and she didn’t give me the chance to pull, she pulled instead. With a shriek, I went face down into the mud and just lay there for a bit, blowing mud bubbles. I finally managed to back up on my knees and sit, spitting out mud the whole time. I tried to glare at Mel, but it’s kind of hard to glare when your glasses are full of mud and other stuff. Pulling my glasses off I tried to wipe them off with muddy fingers, which didn’t really help a heck of a whole bunch!

“Melly, how’d you end up in here?”

“I bent over to smell the flowers and some little kids were running past and bumped into me. I couldn’t move out of the way and fell into and over the flowerbeds. I’m sorry!”

“Oh no! Please don’t tell me you damaged the flowers!” I shrieked again.

“Don’t worry, I made sure I fell really softly, okay?” she said sarcastically.

We looked at each other and started laughing like hyenas. We’re both asthmatic, so you can imagine how we sounded. I knew we had to find a way out without climbing over the flowers and after looking around at the beautiful pop of color of the flowers I noticed that there were tools back here. I knew the garden’s caretakers didn’t climb over the flowerbeds to get to their tools and after looking a few minutes I found a small door.

Helping my sister up we walked out with our heads held high or tried to anyway. We finished our walk, holding on to each other and laughing the entire time. On the drive home she looked at me and said, “That was a beautiful garden. Let’s do that again sometime.” She was so serious, but it was kind of hard to take her seriously when her hair was dried and sticking up with mud and twigs all over it. We started laughing again and didn’t stop until we got home.

********

I looked at my watch; I had an hour to kill before I had to pick Mel up at the bus station. I thought I better enjoy the garden before I brought her back here tomorrow. With a little snort, I started laughing again.

 

This story was written for Imaginary Garden with Real Toads picture prompt. Thanks for the opportunity! http://withrealtoads.blogspot.com/

Of Blood and Twilight

I’d been running for the last hour. That’s what I did when I was stressed, I ran and usually by the time I was done I was exhausted and whatever had been bothering me had been resolved or at least I had a plan in place to deal with whatever ailed me. This latest problem would have been easy to handle if it was only mine. I could have ignored it the way I always ignored anything that got to be too much for me. And here I’d thought this nightmare had only been mine.
I was soaked, my face drenched in sweat and my tank top and long shorts not much better. I took the towel from around my neck and patted myself as dry as possible before I headed to Patty’s Healthy Foods Pub on York St.
I ordered myself a Chicken Salad with bean and alfalfa sprouts with lite Italian dressing on the side and one tilapia taco cooked in lemon with pico de gallo garnish and a huge glass of sugarless mango peach tea. This run had not helped at all and I needed to calm down. I pulled my iPod Nano out of my back pocket and listened to some soothing music as I ate my lunch.
I watched several children playing in the kid’s corner. They were so carefree and I was slightly envious. I turned at the flash of red coming in the front door. The little girl was chuckling as she and her mother, who obviously had been playing dress up, walked in. “Mommy!” she squealed as she jumped away from her, “no more thtrawbewwieth on my thtomach!” They were both dressed in red with matching shoes and they were wearing tons of gaudy necklaces around their necks, plastic bracelets on their wrists and gigantic plastic rings. “Lithen mommy, you have to owder the tea and thome cookieth kay? I got my baby teapot hewe,” she patted the little vinyl case at her side, “and thome mowe cookieth that gwandma made and we can have a tea pawty over thewe, kay? And pleathe don’t fowget the chicken.” She skipped off to play in the corner with the other children.
The young mother went up to order tea, cookies and grilled chicken tenders and grinned when she saw me looking at her. “I love playing dress up with my baby,” she laughed, “It’s so much fun.”
Smiling back, “She a lucky little girl to have a mom like you.” I looked at her red dress and sat back to finish my lunch and I wondered where the other red dress had gone. Was someone else wearing it and did they think it was beautiful? They’d never know the tears that had been shed in that dress.
********************
Three months ago, I’d gotten to the point that I felt safe enough to move out on my own. I’d searched until I’d found an apartment with high security and one that mom and dad approved of and two days later I’d had the keys. I’d just finished unpacking the rest of the boxes and putting all my pictures up on the walls and had finally positioned my multicolored jewel and earth tone rug right in the middle of my living room just the way I wanted it. I’d designed this rug myself and the chocolate brown, taupe, gold, burnt orange, burgundy and blood red overlapping circles all outlined in black had me standing back and sighing in satisfaction as I looked around at my chocolate sectional with dark red and gold throws. The telephone had started ringing and I’d groaned in exasperation, because I just knew it had to be mom calling me for the fifteenth time reminding me not to forget to eat.
My mouth fell open in surprise as I listened to the voice on the other end of the phone. This was quite an unexpected phone call from my brother Nate who hadn’t voluntarily spoken to me in thirteen years. He rambled on for a while and then out of the blue asked me to pray for him, “I’m finally getting some help with my drinking problem. All the guys from work got together and helped me clean the house out. Man, you should have seen how they turned it upside down and inside out to make sure that I’d gotten rid of all the booze, you know?” He was quiet for a while, “Cessy, I really need prayer, because I know I can’t do this on my own.” He finished with, “I promise I’ll never again do what I did at Christmas. I don’t know what came over me, but I swear I didn’t mean to hit you.”
I’d been silent for most of the time he’d been talking and I’ll admit I was teed off. I had given only my parents, my sister Lucy and my little brother Freddie my new phone number when I’d moved, with the instructions that they were not to give my number out to anyone without first speaking to me. “Why are you calling me Nate?” I’d asked. He’d barely been civil to me for the last thirteen years and most that time he’d spent taunting or mocking me. By the age of sixteen I’d become accustomed to the complete disrespect he showed me. After repeated warnings, which he’d ignored, mom and dad had finally asked him to leave.
“I just thought you’d like to know that’s all,” he’d said quietly.
“Okay. I’ll be praying for you. I’ll put in a prayer request at church. It always helps to have more than one person praying, right?” There was an awkward uncomfortable silence. “Well um, Cessy thank you for listening, even though you didn’t have to,” he said before hanging up. I stood there with the busy signal buzzing in my ear for a long time.
He hadn’t called me again during these three months. I don’t what I’d expected, but maybe I’d hoped that we could somehow get whatever was bothering him out in the open. I knew that if he was in a program the twelve steps would eventually bring him back to me anyway, so I’d just left it alone. I knew he’d call when he was ready.
Quite unexpectedly Nate had called me last night and told me he didn’t know whether he’d be able to keep from drinking. He said the nightmares were coming back and he didn’t know if he could face them without the alcohol. He began to cry and kept saying, “I’m so sorry sis, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me!” I could hear him sobbing as he’d dropped the phone.
I didn’t know what to say, I hadn’t realized this was the burden he’d been carrying all these years. All I could do was listen so I’d sat on the floor and held the phone to my ear until the sobbing had stopped, “You’re still there, aren’t you sis? I’m sorry. Go to bed and I’ll talk to you later.” After a long pause, “I do love you, you know.” I’d heard the crying start again before he’d gently hung the phone up.
********************
I took another swallow of my mango peach tea and decided I needed something stronger, so I ordered a regular coffee. I added some vanilla nut creamer and two Truvia to it. I sat and stared out the window and wondered what I was supposed to do. I’d prayed last night after Nate’s phone call and I knew that somehow, someway God would tell me what to do. I put the volume up on my iPod and heard God’s answer in the song that came up next.

The Lord is My Shepherd
Jeremy Riddle

Verse 1
Let the pain in my life
Find it’s healing in Your eyes
Every hurt, every loss
Pull me closer to Your heart

Let the wind and the waves
Bring a new, courage and a faith
I’m singing out, singing out…

Chorus
The Lord is my Shepherd and I want for nothing
You lead me to water for You know I’m thirsting
And I, am only satisfied by You

Verse 2
Every day, I make a choice
To be led, only by Your voice
To be bold and unafraid
Knowing I am covered,
I am safe

For even now, in my need
You are proving yet again to me
You are there, You are there
Always there

Chorus

I took a deep breath as the song ended and quickly swallowed the rest of my coffee. It was time for the crying to stop and to put all these memories and pain behind me, behind us once and for all. I called Nate and asked him to meet me at the park under my tree.
********************
At seven thirty that evening, Nate and I met face to face after seven months, under the praying tree. I looked over at Old man Edwards’ house expecting him to be sitting on his porch, but remembered with sadness that he’d passed away last year. I looked at Nate, but before I could speak he began quickly, “Don’t say anything sis. Let me talk first, because I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get it out otherwise!” He went back into my personal nightmare and the memories came tumbling down on me.
********************
I always waited until the sun had started to go down before I went to the park two blocks over to sit and sing under the praying tree. I’d called it that because it looked as if the lowest branches were reaching up to heaven in supplication. For some reason that old tree had always brought me comfort and I would sit under it and watch the birds fly around their nests and listen to them talk about how their day had gone. I’d listen to the crickets or the katydids as they chirped and once in a while if I was lucky I’d hear a cicada sing a love song. The cicada’s song had always been so soothing.
What I loved most about sitting under that tree was watching the sun go down. It was so beautiful, the tanzanite blue of the sky higher up and the light and deep orange shades below it that finally turned midnight blue as the sun dipped below the horizon. It had always felt like God was putting on a display of colors just for me.
Old man Edwards always came out and sat on his porch at the same time every night and would keep an eye on me until I went home. “Nice evening hey girlie?” he’d greet me. “Yeppers, sure is,” I’d respond, then we’d both laugh.
My visits to the tree had always been relaxed, happy and peaceful, but that changed when dad’s friend came to stay. After that my visits took on an air of desperation and I no longer relaxed or took time to enjoy the sky and the sounds. I came to the tree to escape and plead.

Dad’s best friend, Eric Sullivan, had moved in with us two months before my tenth birthday. Dad told us that he’d offered him the use of the extra bedroom for the fourteen months before he was deployed. It had all seemed good at the time, but barely a week later I’d become very uncomfortable around him and had complained to my dad that Uncle Eric, as he wanted to be called, was always touching me or pulling my hair. Dad had said that Eric was just friendly and I was way too sensitive. He had mom talk to me about being friendlier and more understanding. They’d ignored my fears and things had gone on as before.
My fear had become reality on mom and dad’s anniversary. Uncle Eric had volunteered to keep an eye on us so that they could go out and have a nice time. “Hey the kids and I will play games and watch movies and we’ll keep each other company until you get home. So where are you going? Somewhere nice I hope,” he’d laughed as he’d rubbed my shoulders.
Dad had decided to take mom to Naperville to this nice little restaurant that had just opened. “They have dancing too, so we’ll be out late. Please make sure the kids brush their teeth and are in bed by 9:30 Eric. Thank you for giving us this evening.”
I’d been scared, but I had been sure that if I could just make it to 9:30 I could get in my room and lock the door and everything would be just fine. At 9:15, I’d made my way to the bathroom, quickly brushed my teeth and hurried to my bedroom. With shaking fingers I’d locked my door and turned the light off and froze, “What a bad little girl. Did you think I didn’t know what you were thinking?”
I’d fought so hard, but nothing had worked. He’d hurt me and later as he was pulling his pants on he’d said, “Before you think of telling your mom and dad, don’t. They’ll just say it was your fault and that you were asking for it. You’re bad and they’ll be so ashamed of you, but go for it if you want,” he’d laughed as he unlocked my door and walked out. Out in the hall I’d heard him talking to Nate and I’d just laid there. I hurt so badly and I was afraid to move, but I got up and walked on rubbery legs to the bathroom and climbed in the tub. I scrubbed my skin raw, but the smell wouldn’t go away; I bent over the side and threw up. After my bath I’d walked back to my room and took all the bedding off the bed. I put the comforter and pillowcases down the laundry chute, but the sheets I hid in a bag in my closet. I knew mom and dad would be so ashamed of me and I didn’t want to disappoint them.
The next day mom and dad raved about the wonderful time they’d had and how grateful they were for such a wonderful friend like Eric. “Hey did you guys have a good time last night?” mom asked us. Before either Nate or I could answer Uncle Eric had said, “Oh it was an awesome time and one I’d like to repeat, if you don’t mind?” I shuddered with fear and my pale face had mom asking if I was okay.
Remembering Uncle Eric’s warning, “I’m not feeling very well, can I please lay down on your bed, mom?” I asked.
“Of course honey. Let me grab the thermometer so I can check your temperature, okay?”

The following eight months were a horrific nightmare for me. I endured a full out attack against my body, mind and emotions.
I began wetting my bed and would wake up crying in the middle of the night. I couldn’t eat and started losing weight rapidly and mom began to threaten me with hospitalization if I didn’t eat. I stopped doing my homework and withdrew into myself. My grades started dropping and after the third phone call from the school about my behavior dad tried talking to me and made the mistake of putting his hands on my shoulders. I panicked and pushed him away and when he tried to put his arms around me I started screaming and ran to my room. I didn’t feel safe anywhere and I finally crawled into my closet and pulled the door shut. I woke up in a corner at the back of the closet covered in clothes. I guess I’d pulled them down when I’d come in here to hide. I crawled out and found Uncle Eric sitting on my bed with a beautiful red dress lying across the foot. “I brought you a present. Here try it on.” He said he’d talked to mom and dad and told them that we’d gotten very close and he was certain I’d open up to him. Dad had been upset and willing to try anything. “They said they were going to pick up Nate and then hit the grocery store to buy you that yogurt that you like and then they’ll pick up the pizza they asked me to order for them. I barely ordered it right now so we have some time to spend together.” He pulled the dress across his legs “Do you like the dress?” he asked. I just stared back at him; I wanted to be anywhere but here right now. “I asked you a question! Do you like the dress? Answer me!” he’d barked at me.
I was shaking and I finally nodded my head. “Good, good. Now put it on,” he’d commanded. I put the dress on and he made me walk around the room to show it off; he’d pushed me down on the floor and he hurt me again. An eternity later we heard the car come in the driveway. “At least they didn’t get here any earlier or they would have disturbed us.” He’d pulled himself upright, “I’ll tell your parents that some kid at school hurt your feelings and that you’re feeling better now and fell asleep. You can eat your pizza in the morning.”
I sat on my bed crying. I was so broken and nobody could see it. I had to talk to God, but I couldn’t do it here in this room, in this house. I opened up my bedroom window and stepped out unto the tree and climbed down and hugging myself I walked to the park. Old Mr. Edwards came out to greet me, but I didn’t respond. All of a sudden I felt an unbelievable exhaustion come over me and I stumbled, then fell as I passed the park bench. I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk the rest of the way to the tree, so I crawled. I remember begging God to stop Uncle Eric from hurting me anymore; I begged Him to just let me die. I sat in front of that tree and rocked back and forth wanting the same comfort and peace I’d felt before and I remember screaming. I hadn’t noticed Nate hiding in the trees and he hadn’t noticed mom and dad behind him.
I wrapped my arms around the tree, the bark ripping into the flesh of my arms and hands and I wept. I could hear Mr. Edwards saying, “It’s gonna be okay girlie. Come on let go of the tree. Your mama’s here to take you home.”
I woke up the next day in mom and dad’s bedroom. Dad was sleeping sitting up in his red leather chair by the bed his fists bloody; mom was sleeping with her head on my pillow. I quietly got out of bed and went into the kitchen to fix some toast. It seemed to be the only thing that I could keep down. I heard a sound behind me and froze. “It’s okay honey, it’s only me. He’s gone. He left last night and he won’t be coming back. I promise,” said dad.

I refused to talk about it to anyone at first, but I never stopped talking to God. I hadn’t been back to the tree since that day. I no longer felt any pleasure in my visits there. My parents had begun counseling with the pastor of my church, Pastor Norman. He hadn’t given up on me and had finally talked me into counseling and together my parents and I had started to climb out of the dark valley we’d been in for so long. We were finally healing. Occasionally I could shake hands with men and look at red dresses without getting violently sick. Eventually I even started to visit my tree again and once again I was enjoying my old pleasures; the sky, the setting sun and the cicada’s love song.
Four years ago, I’d come to the tree where Jesus was crucified and I’d given my life to Him and although the journey had been a long one I’d gotten to a place in the road where I could finally forgive.
********************
Nate was still talking when I came back from remembering. I could see the anger and hatred on his face as he talked about Uncle Eric.
He’d told Nate that mom and dad would hate him for not protecting me and so Nate had kept quiet for the next eight months until Uncle Eric had been shipped out early.
When he’d been killed 6 months before he was due to be shipped home Nate, then 18, had gone out and gotten stinking drunk because he was so thankful, then he’d gotten drunk again for being such an unfeeling monster.
“I knew what was going on and I never told mom and dad about it just so I could protect myself. I’m sorry!” The tears started flowing down his face and he scrubbed at his face with his sleeve, “I really didn’t think they’d believe me, but I couldn’t take the guilt so I started putting all the blame on you. I kept telling myself that maybe Uncle Eric was right when he said you were flirting with him. I ignored the fact that you were only ten years old.”
His cheeks were flushed, his eyes swollen and he was crying like someone who’d just lost a loved one. He kept stopping because of the shuddering sobs and the lump in his throat.
“The last night Uncle Eric was here, I knew he’d hurt you really bad. I could hear you crying, but I didn’t do anything. Later I heard you opening your window and I was afraid that you were going to do something dumb and I opened the door to your room and watched you disappear out the window.”
Nate had followed me to the park and had watched as I had stumbled and fallen and then crawled the last few feet to my tree. He’d watched as I rocked back and forth in the red dress that Uncle Eric had forced me to wear. He’d listened to my cries and my pleas to God, “Please God don’t let Uncle Eric hurt me anymore. Take me home now. I wanna go home!”
He’d seen old man Edwards run towards me and he’d taken off and gone to a friend’s house. He’d tried to fight his guilt at not doing anything, but unfortunately his subconscious hadn’t let him get away with it and he’d started having nightmares. “I’m still having the same nightmare sis. I’m behind that big evergreen at the edge of the park and I can see you so clearly. You’re always in the same red dress under the tree and you’re crying and screaming and then the dress turns into blood and it starts to run off of you, but you’re still covered with it. It looks like you’re in some kind of invisible container and it starts to fill up with you right in the middle of it, but you don’t even try to get out. You look up and stare at me; you just stare and you’re still crying, but now I can’t hear you and pretty soon you disappear under all the blood.” He’d woken himself up screaming several times and in an effort to escape the nightmares he’d started drinking. First he’d started with beer and when that hadn’t been enough he’d looked for whatever was strongest and would knock him out the quickest.
I sat there quietly and looked at him, “I’ve known all along that you knew Nate,” I whispered, tears running down my face, “but I never blamed you.” He looked at me in disbelief. “Nate he manipulated both of us. I didn’t tell mom and dad either, because he said they’d be ashamed of me. He kept telling me I was bad and I believed him.”

I finally told Nate about the ongoing counseling I was going through along with mom and dad and how I’d finally come to like myself again. “I’m not afraid to look in the mirror anymore and it took me a while, but I stopped blaming myself, because I know it wasn’t my fault. And I don’t hate anymore Nate. I’m free,” a laugh of relief escaped me.
“But he got away with what he did to you!” he wept.
“No, he didn’t,” I replied and told him about dad’s bloody fists. Dad and mom had followed him to the park and had heard everything. He had taken off and hadn’t seen mom along with old Mr. Edwards rushing to me; dad in a rage had gone back to the house and beaten Eric until his fists were bloody and had thrown him out of the house.
“Nate it’s time to let it go. He’s gone and you’re still letting him win. Please don’t let him.” I reached out hesitantly and heaved a sigh of relief when nothing happened. “You have to forgive him and yourself. That’s only way to start living again.” There was always room in our counseling sessions for another, so I invited him to join us.
I looked up at the beauty of the sky and sighed. I knew it was going to be tough going, but the first step was to bring him to the cross and let Jesus do the rest.

 

This is a story that I just posted for Bluebell Books: Short Story Slam Week 19. The characters are fictional, but unfortunately it does have some elements of truth. Throughout the story however, you will notice that in spite of the turmoil Cessy is going through she knows that God is always with her. My advice to you; never stop talking to God.

http://elizena-lovingmycreator.blogspot.com/2012/01/of-blood-and-twilight.html

Of Colors Bright and Clear

            Image Credit: http://chance-of-sunshine.blogspot.com/2011/09/umbrella-season.html

I’d woken up a little off balance today and had almost fallen a couple of times before heading off to work. I read all the little Post-It notes that my mom and brother Marcus had put on my dash and out of habit I checked to make sure that I’d placed my umbrella under the seat before taking off. I drove carefully, as I always did, keeping an eye and an ear on my Tam-Tam.
*****
Three years ago after my last car incident my oldest brother Beto, instead of berating me, had presented me with a gift. “Here hermana (sister), she’ll take good care of you, I promise.” I was kind of leery wondering what he was trying to pull on me this time (he was known for his practical jokes). The top of the box had a label that said, ‘Hi I’m Tam-Tam, take good care of me and I’ll take good care of you.’ For just a minute I thought he’d given me a trick snake that would jump out at me when I opened the box. Opening the box cautiously, I discovered he’d bought me a Tom-Tom. “Why Tam-Tam?” I asked.
“Well it’s like this hermana, I don’t know why they called it a Tom-Tom since guys can’t follow directions and won’t admit to being lost, plus it has a woman’s voice. My Ruthie, is the one that always gets us to where we’re going. I think they should have named this after a woman. So I renamed her for you. She’ll make sure you get to where you have to go, okay?” I looked at him with teary eyes and had to swallow a few times to get past the lump in my throat, before I could finally manage to say, “Thank you.” He coughed a few times, “Darn, I think I got cat hair in my eye. I’ve got to wash my eyes out.” He’d taken off and hidden in the bathroom for a while.
*****
I got to work with an hour to spare so I prepared coffee for everyone to enjoy when they got in and then I got right to work. I worked hard (I really love my job) and made sure that all my outgoing and incoming mail was in the right cubbies. Sometimes even now, I still got turned around so my friends at the office would label everything backwards and forwards for me. They made certain that there was no way I wouldn’t be able to understand what needed doing every day. This job and the wonderful friends I’d made here had been lifesavers. During the course of a typical morning, there was always a helpful hand here and there making sure I got to the right place.
Today I was feeling brave and at lunchtime I decided to take a walk and made sure that I had my lucky charm and my cell phone with me and I was off to enjoy a nice brisk walk. I’d been walking for about fifteen minutes (I’d only stumbled once) and decided this was enough for today and turned to go back the way I’d come. I looked around at my surroundings and realized that once again, I had no idea where I was. I knew better than to take off in any direction, so I just leaned up against the restaurant window behind me, pulled out my cell phone and calmly called my best friend and coworker and let her know where I was. I pulled my lucky charm out of my handbag and opened it up. Rico, the owner of the restaurant came out to keep me company until Chiva showed up. Rico was my big brother Beto’s best friend from childhood and always came out to watch me walk.
“Hey want a caramel, praline or French Vanilla coffee and a roasted tomato and onion wheat bagel with cream cheese while we wait?” he asked.
“That would be great! Thanks to this, now I won’t have time to eat my lunch when I get back,” I said.
“What the heck girl, you did great today! You came further this week than last week,” he said with a huge grin. “I know what, how’s about as a celebration I mix the caramel, praline and French Vanilla together and add tons of whipped cream and lots of chocolate sprinkles?
“Now that my friend is a celebration. Bring it on!!” I laughed quite pleased with myself on realizing that I had done better this week than last. We sat and enjoyed watching people walk, run or jog past and I tried, once again, to pay for my coffee and bagel and once again, he refused. “Fine! Next time I’ll get lost somewhere else.” He just laughed.
Chiva arrived her cheeks red and her eyes sparkling with laughter. “I love that umbrella of yours. No matter where you are I’ll always be able to find you. Hey Rico while I’m here I need to place an order. The boss wants me to buy coffee and bagels for everyone. Sofie, if you ate already you can just take yours home for later, okay? You know Geoff doesn’t take no for an answer!”
We made it back to the office with 20 minutes to spare and the rest of the day passed by in a whirl, with a couple of stumbles from me. By 3:30 p.m. I was more than ready to go home. I was tired, but my mom and my sister had been insisting on coming over tonight to spend time with me and I needed to get home and clean before they arrived. There wasn’t much to do, but I wanted to do it by myself. I knew that by the end of the night whatever wasn’t labeled would be. I stopped off at Corkie’s Food Mart and stopped off at Nietzel’s Gas & Auto Shop to fill up before heading wearily home.
I parked my little Volkswagen Beetle coup in the driveway and climbed the stairs to my back porch. I opened up the door and walked into my kitchen and felt like it was welcoming me home. I placed my umbrella on its special hook by my back door and I was ready to clean.
I love my kitchen. The walls are Ralph Lauren’s Wicker Rocker yellow with bright white trim where the walls meet the ceiling and around the doors. Dark and medium wood hues bring richness to what might otherwise have been boring and give the yellow of the walls a flowing elegance. I’ve mixed and matched dark chocolate wood and mahogany, with a slightly lighter oak. Here and there on the walls black metal and wood combine to bring an elemental beauty to picture frames, a letter holder and of course my dark oak clock, that sits happily in its scrolled black metal base. The chairs pulled up to the island match, dark oak with black scrolled metal; a comfortable, homey kitchen that whispers, ‘spend time with me,’ beautiful, peaceful, softly modern. I spend ninety percent of my time in here; cooking, working at my laptop, talking on the phone and entertaining friends and family. I don’t know why, but every time I walk in the kitchen I feel safe and then I get a burst of energy and begin cooking and baking until I’m too tired to do much of anything else. It helps that everything is labeled for me. Yeah, good times, good times!
I’d just finished cleaning when mom called to tell me not to cook anything. She knew me so well! I’d been prepared to cook enough for an army. I’m a Mexican woman, THAT’S WHAT I DO! She asked me to wait another forty minutes or so and I didn’t just want to sit on my hind end and do nothing, so I started baking (hey, she said no cooking, right?). I made a pecan pie for my mom and chocolate praline brownies for my sister Dorie (their favorites) and had just removed the brownies from the oven when the front doorbell rang. The Three Blind Mice song rang merrily from my little doorbell and I opened the door to a huge frown on my mom’s face.
“What did I tell you about changing that tune? I don’t like it and I don’t think it’s funny!” I ignored what she said, since I was looking at the trail of people behind her. My entire family was here, along with my best friend Chiva, my boss Geoff, Rico and several others.
With “surprise” and “congratulations!!” coming from everybody they all poured in. You would have thought the kids would have been noisier, but some of the adults were being being more so. My brothers, Beto and Marco, were punching each other and their wives were pulling them apart and laughing. Dorie was scolding her husband Teo for throwing rice at me “It’s a surprise party poop head, not a wedding!!”
They’d stopped off at SDC for a bucket of grilled chicken (my favorite) and then by Pizza Paradise for an extra large, crust your way, Anything Goes Pizza (and I mean anything!!). Chiva had made her awesome polvorones (Mexican Melt in Your Mouth Cookies) and my sisters–in–law had made frijoles (beans), tortillas, arroz (rice), guacamole, and pico de gallo. This was a feast and I didn’t even know why! The guys brought in case after case of soft drinks, water and juice. Rico apparently thought the amount of food that had been brought wasn’t enough, because he fired up my grill and put some steaks and sausages on. There was so much food that I knew we’d probably still be eating through next month.
“Um mom? This is really nice and all. I mean it’s awesome really, but what are we celebrating?” I asked.
“Sofia today makes one year that you’ve lived on your own. You’ve done so well and we’re so proud of you,” she said. “We wanted to celebrate with you!”
I made an excuse and went and hid in the bathroom for a little bit (the favorite crying space of the Delgado’s). As I exited the crying room, I could hear big brother Beto making everyone regret that he was there. I could hear laughter, groans of disgust and threats of dismemberment over his dumb jokes. He isn’t as bad as he sounds, I promise! After all he had given me Tam-Tam!
We got to the cake stage and Rico brought out a Tres Leches cake that he’d made (by the way, if you’ve never tried Tres Leches cake you should, it’s awesome!!). He’d made a little sugar house that actually looked like my mine and he’d even made a replica of my little car and put it in the driveway with a ‘1 Year’ candle on the front lawn. Everybody ooh’d and ahh’d.
Dad called for a canto de celebración (celebratory song) and out came the guitar, tambourine and harmonica as they sang ‘Las Mañanitas’ for me; their voices lifting and harmonizing, as they thanked God for His blessing me. I thanked Him as well for my wonderful friends and family.
Teo, Dorie’s husband, called for silence then turned the TV off and asked our brother and pastor, Beto (yep, the obnoxious one), to pray for God’s blessings not just on me, but the entire family. I was so grateful and I had to share, hopefully if even a little, what I felt for His having blessed me and I closed my eyes and began to sing:

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believ’d!

Thro’ many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.
Amazing Grace Verses 1–3: John Newton (1725-1807) • African American communities orally passed down verse 4, which was not written by Newton.

We sang and everyone started thanking God in song. Here and there you’d hear a high contrast or contralto, a masculine bass or tenor just worshiping and I felt a wonderful peace and joy in the midst of all these wonderful people.
Around 8:30 p.m. my brothers decided it was time to play the games they’d brought with them. We played Basta and Bingo for prizes Dorie and Roxy, Marcus’ wife, had been gathering for the last few months. We played Hangman next and at the guys insistence we split up into men versus the women. The women won in spite of the men’s trash talking; their punishment was to grill steaks for us on Sunday. Dorie had brought her favorite Marx Brothers movie A Night at the Opera and we spent the next hour and a half watching it.
It’s a good thing that the next day was Saturday, because Mom didn’t want the evening to end yet and had brought several photo albums with her; all black and white pictures. She would pass each picture around and comment on what had been happening in each. She got to one of me at eleven and her eyes filled with tears. “You know, when you were a toddler we thought it was cute when you’d walk and you’d fall or run into things. We thought it was normal. Then the older you got, we discovered we couldn’t go to big stores or walk around downtown or where there were lots of people, because all of a sudden we’d hear your terrified screams. Friends told us that you were probably putting on an act for attention and we listened. We’re so, so sorry honey!” Dad hugged her.
She looked at my umbrella sitting in my bag, next to me on the sofa. I’d automatically put it back in the bag to carry with me when everyone had entered the house. “You don’t know how grateful I am for that yellow gag umbrella, wings and all!” she said with a smile. “Honey, did you ever find out who gave you that umbrella for your twelfth birthday?” she asked.
“No one ever admitted to it. It was on the back porch in a bright yellow bag and all it said was ‘Happy birthday Sofia. From your guardian angel.’ I like to think that God sent it to me to give me courage. I never thought I’d ever have days where I wasn’t afraid. Or be able to move out on my own or drive a car or even follow cooking directions. But every time I look at it, I know that if I’ve at least tried, I’ve already succeeded. I know it’s not just the umbrella it’s all of you too, but that umbrella came right when I needed courage. I remember closing my eyes night after night and asking God to send me an angel because I was scared. I kept getting lost, I’d fall down and get all shaky and because I couldn’t tie my own shoes the kids at school would make fun of me. Two weeks before my birthday I was diagnosed and at the same time the umbrella arrived. Might be a coincidence, but I say ‘There are no coincidences with God.’”
“Sofie,” Dorie asked softly, “do you remember when you turned sixteen and we all went to Crystal Woods Zoo and everyone was upset because you wouldn’t leave that dumb yellow gag umbrella behind? Mom and dad kept telling you it wasn’t going to rain and you insisted on taking it. You said it was better to be safe than sorry and you took it anyway.”
“Yeah, of course I remember, silly.”
“We were getting ready to put the homemade leash on you that mom made and you told her you weren’t a kid anymore and that you most certainly weren’t a dog and refused to put it on. Dad looked at you and sighed and told you to stay close to us. We did pretty well too, for the first 4 hours we were there. It was time for lunch and on the way to the restaurant we passed that little flower stand on the corner of Monkey Lane and Spider Rd. and you saw the yellow daisies and insisted on using your allowance to buy a big armful. You were skipping and humming and for just a minute we forgot.” She gulped, “I was so scared when I turned around and I realized you were gone. I couldn’t find my baby sister and I started crying. Okay, I got hysterical! We all panicked and started looking for you everywhere. We had to report it to the zoo and tell them that you had Dyspraxia. There were so many people there and all we could think was that you had to be really scared. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, the sky got dark gray and it started to rain and thunder.”
“What I remember,” continued dad, “was that I was shaking so hard and blaming myself for not having tied you to me. We searched and started to panic even more when all those umbrellas started to open up and we couldn’t see faces. There were so many different colored umbrellas, big and small. My heart was beating fast and hard and your mom was holding my hand and praying. Your brothers and Rico were really mad that we hadn’t forcibly put the leash on you and Chiva was crying. We were passing by the dolphin exhibit and everyone was calling out your name and all of a sudden we saw it; a huge bright yellow umbrella with angel wings and it looked like the sun in the middle of all those other umbrellas. You were still holding the daisies and you were smiling and said, ‘I was wondering how long it would take you to find me.’”
“I have never, ever been so happy to see a bright yellow, gag umbrella in my life,” mom said. “After that no matter where you were going I always made sure you had that umbrella with you. I sent it with you to all your classes, bought you your first huge bag to put it in. I knew you were right about that leash and that, that umbrella was better. It made it easy for us to find you and for some reason once you had it you never panicked again. You’d open it up and sit wherever you were and we always found you.”
“I’ll admit it was hard mom. It took a while for the kids at school to accept my disability, but they did and whenever we had to leave the classroom for any reason, they made sure I had my umbrella. My family, friends and this umbrella gave me the courage to learn how to drive, to get a job and to buy my own house. It’s always going to be hard, but I’ve learned I can do anything if I set my mind to it.”

It was twelve thirty and everyone had finally gone home. They’d cleaned everything up and at my insistence had taken the leftovers home. It was time for bed and because I was exhausted I knew that tonight I’d sleep really well. I reached out to turn off the lights and my hand brushed my umbrella. I smiled and stroked the wooden handle and humming Amazing Grace I turned off the lights and went to bed.

******
Mexican Melt in Your Mouth Cookies (Polvorones)

Ingredients:
½ lb butter (8 oz.),                            1 c. granulated sugar,
½ c. confectioners’ sugar,                   2 eggs,
4 c. all-purpose flour (sifted),               1 tsp baking powder,
½ tsp. salt,                                       1 tbsp. brandy (optional),

For sprinkling: Mix ½ c. sugar, 2 tbsp. cinnamon.

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375°. Cream butter with the 2 sugars until very light and creamy.
2. Add eggs, one at a time, beat well after each addition.
3. Combine baking powder, salt and flour. Mix thoroughly, and then add to cream mixture in thirds.
4. Finally and only if you want, add the brandy.
5. Roll out on floured board about ¼ inch thick, then cut with cookie cutters. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake for about 12 minutes, until light gold in color. Sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon mixture while still hot. Store in airtight container and give as gifts.

*******

This is actually a story I just posted on my other blog for Bluebell Books: Short Story Slam. Week 18.

It was a lot of fun to write. I’d actually started writing it along a different vein, but all of a sudden I swear that my character
became very upset and refused to move anymore until I changed the story.
After I’d started to rewrite it, I realized that she’d taken me into a totally different direction that kind of hit close to home, as I have a friend with Dyspraxia. I hope that as you read this you’ll perhaps find yourselves as blessed as I have been. God’s blessings!

http://bluebellbooks.blogspot.com/2012/01/short-story-slam-week-18.html

Why not stop by and read what some of these awesome writers have posted? You’ll really enjoy reading them!

Are You Still in the Belly of the Fish?

Image credit: hlmorris.com

 

     I’ve always loved the story of Jonah and the fish (Jonah 1). My imagination has always been quite vivid and as a child when this story was being told to me I could quite clearly see the inside of that big fish. I imagined that if I put my hand out I could feel the cold, wet sliminess of the fish’s stomach. I would close my eyes and I knew just how dark, how frightening, how alone Jonah felt in that big belly. I would pretend to scream and I swear I could hear the echo of my voice inside that belly. Problem is, I just never connected Jonah’s story with me and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I finally made a personal connection to what Jonah had gone through. I had to find myself in that cold, dark place before I could begin to understand how Jonah had felt. I tried to put God on hold for my convenience and discovered what it was like to feel alone and afraid.

     Jonah had turned his back on God and for some reason he thought he could run far away and escape his calling ( For God’s gifts and His calling are irrevocable. Romans 11:29). Does that sound familiar? Yeah, it should! As Christians we are all of us called into God’s service. His call to service is different for each of us. Some of us have been called to be evangelists, teachers, and preachers (It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be preachers and teachers,… Ephesians 4:11), but there are so many other different ways to serve Him (There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6) and each service is important. Any and all gifts that you have can be used to serve Him (We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Romans 12:6-8). Can you play a guitar or sing? Do you work well with teens, children or babies? Perhaps, if you’re strange like me, you enjoy paperwork and answering telephones. Whatever talent or gift you have can be used for His service (Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10).

     We’ve all been called and we must all respond. Some have gladly said, “Yes Lord, here I am. Send me!” While others, like Jonah have said, “Yeah right, I don’t think so!”, and have run in the opposite direction of His will, and still others have responded with, “Yes God, but you‘re gonna have to wait until I have some time to spare.” And like Jonah they will discover that a life without God and Christ in it will be like it was in the belly of that big fish. Cold, dark, and lonely.

     The awesome thing is that God is the God of second chances and although it may take us a while to finally get it right we can turn around and head back towards God’s will. It can be done. I should know.

     Right now I have to say “thank you” to those that have responded with joy to God’s calling in their lives and on their hearts. My brother Albert, who serves as pastor of Sent By Ravens. Jamin and his wife, Katie who serve as youth leaders, Baritt who’s worship leader, Debbie who is in charge of a myriad of things and the many others who serve in the music ministry, missions planning, prayer ministry, collecting tithes, bringing treats on Sundays, carrying equipment into and then later back out of the rented space we’re meeting in now and those that offer their homes for prayer meetings during the week. There are way too many to name, but needless to say their service has blessed our church mightily.

     Now it’s your turn. Let God know that you’re available. Stand tall and tell Him, “Here I am Lord, send me!” (Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I am, send me!” Isaiah 6:8), and prepare yourself as you begin the most amazing, exciting adventure of your life. I’m not saying that it’s going to be an easy, smooth ride, but oh will it be worth every second!

Don’t you think it’s time for that big, old fish to spit you back up into the light of God’s love?

How has God called you to serve? How will you respond to His call?

 

God’s blessings to all of you,

Elizena (Alice) R. Arellano