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No One Calls at 11 P.m.

 

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by
Lynn. P. Penner

The dreaded phone call had been worrisome yet never materialized. My husband drives a  transport truck for a living, and naturally he is in the face of danger every time he closes that cab door and starts hauling. On the  highways he risks his life, as do others, and I have an ear toward the phone for him and a prayer on my breath. No wife wants the dreaded phone call.

He went to a music jam this particular night on a farm, Saturday May 26th, 2019. He learned to play his bass and felt excited to jam. I wished him well and looked forward to bingeing on Netflix and falling asleep in front of the TV.

 Later, I never felt sleepy at all. Highly unusual not to see my environment and Grey’s Anatomy through hooded lids and fuzzy focus. For reasons unbeknownst to myself,  I went upstairs to use the washroom though I had one downstairs.

The landline rang. Uh oh. No one calls at 11 p.m.

“Hello, Lynn? You don’t know me, I’m Wayne, but I know your husband. Bill’s okay, but he’s been hurt bad, real bad chunk from his head. An ambulance is on the way, he’s talking, he’s okay.”

Wayne’s frenzied speech didn’t sound okay.

My chest felt heavy with the weight of my heart. I said, I’d go directly to the hospital and hung up after thanking Wayne for calling me. I felt the echoes of thumping and the swishes of anxiety bleeding gushes in my ears, and my hands were unsteady. With the phone call barely finished, I ordered a taxi—then felt my chest get heavier yet as I never asked which hospital. He could have been closer to London (Ont.) than St. Thomas. With that thought bang, bang, banning in my head, I stumbled outside to wait anyway, my mind reeling with thoughts of what could have happened to my husband, and hoping I headed in the right direction when I told the cabbie to head to St. Thomas Elgin General. I never thought to call back and ask Wayne which hospital.

Upon my arrival, triage confirmed he had arrived. I felt impatient waiting to be told I could go join my husband. My frustration built asking permission repeatedly to join him and being told he was not in a room. I had to wait. My cell rang, my husband.

I didn’t wait  for him to greet me. “Luvy? My God, are you okay?”

“I’m in the hospital, Kitty. Hurt myself.”

“I know, I’m here too!”

“You are? What happened to you?”

“No, no— I’m waiting for triage to let me in. I’ll see you soon, don’t worry, I’m here!” 

Still, they said I had to wait. I did wait. I waited for a someone to go in or come out of those locked double doors then I looked left, right, like I was stealing the last cookie—and zipped through like a ninja and sprinted down the hall. Hearing voices, I stepped into the room Bill had just arrived in. Six medical staff were with him. The lights were incredibly bright. I could smell blood, see it, lots of it down his left side, pooled on the floor. They had him sitting. The six zipped with purpose; they moved like ballerinas, sure of when to glide and when to spin, and where to stop. I slipped in between spins and made myself small in a corner chair and called out to Billy assuring him I would stay.

One of the doctors asked, “Are you okay about blood?

“I binge on Grey’s Anatomy, I’m okay, yes.”

“Within the wound is a hole and a puddle of blood. You’re not a fainter?”

“Nope,” I shook my head. “I’m Good.”

“C’mon here then and have a look at this.”

The wound was a scalping of an area about three inches square. Skip the remainder of this paragraph if you’re a fainter:  No hair, no scalp, but ragged, scooped out flesh made enough blood made a puddle splash on the floor when mixture of six medical staff rushed back and forth through it. This within the scalped area, an inch deep hole, about half an inch wide. A puddle of blood pooled in it. Like a watermelon after a deep spoon-sized chunk—that raw, that soft.  I was not sickened by the wound or excess blood, I only prayed Billy would get through the procedure without fainting or feeling hysterical. I knew I’d hold up. I am a rock during crisis, I thank God for that trait. Strange rectangular hole. I’ll never forget it.

I said, “Yup, it’s pretty pool-y in there.” They laughed, likely because they were relieved it didn’t make me pale, still only one patient to deal with. I went back to the chair and tucked my feet in and said no more except to reassure my hubby I would be right there. At certain points I could grab his hand and give a squeeze.

Stitches and stables were used to fix his remaining scalp back in place. Under the Twilight Zone anesthetic, Ketamine and Propofol, he felt nothing, and hilarious yet strange, he talked like a British celebrity, Kieth Richards. The accent as well as the slang terms they use, I kid you not. He kept cracking jokes, laughing, and letting the staff do what needed to be done. Humour; prayers answered. They put him back together as well as they could, then took him for a CT scan. Anyway, we hailed a cab at 5 a.m. to go home, relieved as his cognitive abilities were intact.

My hubby had a thing to say about the fall. He walked in the dark after being directed to pee “over there” on the farmland. He looked at his watch feeling it was time to go home. At that very moment he tumbled into an old loading dock, said he remembered falling and thinking  this would throw a wrench into his night. He laid on his side only a fraction of a second when he heard a strong voice, which was not really a voice, hard to explain. The ‘voice’ firmly told him he had to get up and go to find the people. It was so profound he got up right away and stumbled to the people who sat him down and put pressure on his scalp, asking him questions to see how alert he was or was not. Of course he was terrified as he had felt the blood gush down his side when he got up from the fall.

He tells me or anyone the same exact thing about being told to get up. Furthermore, he had no pain either. I suppose since he said that voice which was not discerned to be male or female could have been an angel. Even the fall itself didn’t break his neck and kill him or leave him crippled.  This is a miracle to me. I’m fascinated every time he tells me all this.

Just before the sun came up we stood together and waited for a cab. He talked clearly, and now without the British accent during anesthetic.

The following day I had the Care Partners nurses teach me the procedure of dressing his wound. I’m a quick study for these kinds of things. Going forward, I’d care for my husband alone, dressing his wound and checking for signs of infection day by day. At first, from certain angles, it literally looked like a bite out of an apple. I never told him that.

Everything had to be entirely sterile. Yurek Pharmacy supplied everything  needed. The kits were generous with more supplies than I imagined I’d need.

I studied this deep wound with enthusiasm—I’d have the honour of watching it heal. The snap of sterile gloves, the metallic clinks of tools I needed spread out on a paper sterile field, became common sounds.

Sympathy for a man who had had a full head of hair convinced me to make it happen—hair growth. I have enough faith—like a whole mustard tree, never mind the seed, so I asked Jesus’ favour for my husband’s wound to heal fully, hair and all. Although the plastic surgeon and ER doctor had told him hair wouldn’t come in past the outer area, and the deep wound would take at least two months to fill in level with his remaining scalp, I stood in faith.

I must mention, on May 28, two days after the accident, I took off the gauze turban thing to discover a clear gel-like substance had filled in the wound level with the rest of his scalp! It fascinated me! Two days! Two months? Phssst! I told my husband, “You won’t believe it, but it’s healed level with this gel type substance! Billy, every cell knows its job and this is going to heal well and it won’t take long. Something is going to happen in this gel-like stuff filling in the scooped out area!”

“Is this normal? What’s happening? Is it okay?” He wanted to know. I assured him I had never seen such a thing, but it looked amazing.

I inspected it closely, careful not to touch it with my gloved fingers or the dressing I had prepared. Something happened, I felt shocked at what I saw, and I assumed it was good. Could a healing prayer be answered so fast? Really? All I had said was, Jesus, we need help for this to heal, thanks, I trust you.

Meanwhile, The plastic surgeon had told Billy he would heal, but it would take a month with a skin graft, and two months without it. He would not approach looking normal in any less than two months—if it healed well. But my husband didn’t want more procedures, he opted to let it go naturally. And so it was. As it healed from inside out, stitch knots appeared! I used stitch removing scissors and eventually stitches were all pulled and removed. I admit that was fun for me. I guess I should have went for the medical field.

Not long after, teeny hair-like wisps were forming inside of it. It took me a minute… veins! They looked like tiny streets with feathery narrow roads forming off them. Their red colour meant oxygen flowed! Later, the plastic surgeon felt pleased by the progress, told him to leave off dressings and cover the wound with antibiotic ointment. Billy mended substantially day by day.

By July, many veins had completed themselves, and there were blue ones pink ones and red ones, some which grew into arteries. And this took place in a month, not two or more. Man, God is a healer, not a hurter. Ya just gotta ask. 

By the end of July the gel had turned flesh colour all through. I peered through a magnifying glass. I had to know, I had to see so I could tell my husband what I suspected. I saw thousands, it seems, of needle-like holes! Some holes formed and waited for hair, other holes held the beginning of hair all through, not only the outer edges where the plastic surgeon said he’d recover hair!

I told him, “I knew it! Ask and you shall receive! It’s hair and it’s coming in everywhere!”

“I won’t be able to see it—I wanna see!” he said.

Unfortunately, the angle of the wound proved too hard to see in a mirror.

“Gimme your finger, and lightly touch this,” I said. I aimed his index finger and he felt the growth. He felt taken aback, but elated. We did this often as more hair grew.

August lent itself to growing hair. His hair came in curly, not too much different than the rest, just thinner. What looked like a large bite out of his head, entirely visible with ragged edges, has grown back neatly as if nothing happened.

I involved myself so heavily into making sure everything  was sterile, wrapping dressings so they wouldn’t fall off, and reassuring my husband my faith would aid in healing, I didn’t take daily pictures for progress. In September we marvelled at the hair, the whole healing—the miracle of faith at work.

But his isn’t the biggest miracle. Watch this! In the hospital the night of his fall, they put hi through a CT scan. Results showed a “spot” on his brain. An MRI needed to be done to identify it. When the MRI results in late April, 2020 showed he had a tumour mass encasing his pituitary glad, a surgery date would be set; however Coronavirus hit before this could be booked. Wait for it….

We we told there were eight others needing brain surgeries before Bill could be helped. It ended up to be the most tense time of waiting as his eyesight was in jeopardy. The medical team warned him to go to the hospital immediately if a severe headache erupted, or if his eyesight changed even a bit. Great tension surrounded this. I kept reminding myself Jesus wouldn’t let him sink, after all, if it weren’t for the fall, no one would’ve even known of this beast in his brain. Mustard tree faith, I had to keep calm for my husband.

We took the wait a day at a time with hopes he wouldn’t lose his vision or have a debilitating headache calling for emergency measures when operating rooms were closed for the most part.

I talked to the Healer, asked him to please make everything all right, and thanking or the healing so far. Day by day….

Watch this! Monday June 22nd, 2020 at 8 a.m, the phone rang. On the other side of the receiver she identified herself and asked if Bill would like surgery the next day. She said they were just beginning to open up and his name came up. Did I say they had originally told us August or September? I never questioned how Bill skipped to the top, because I know nothing is impossible with God. Surgery dates, incredibly fast healing of the scalp wound, all of it. I called Bill at work, and phoned back to say yes, we’ll be there at 6 a,m. as requested.

Dropping Billy off in London at University Hospital and having to leave him  and drive back to St. Thomas hurt, but seriously, three months ahead of time? Wow! I couldn’t be there with our daughter to see him wake. I did all right waiting for the surgeon to call and tell me Billy made it through. I paced a lot, I prayed a lot. Then about four hours later the call came. I pressed the receiver to my ear so hard hoping to hear good news. And it was!

Here’s the other thing. The first MRI showed the mass to be in a difficult spot. It was said he’s have to go back for more surgeries to keep cutting it as it grew. But the MRI shortly before the  surgery looked much different! The mass somehow became in a good place and the doctor felt  the team could get all of it, no problem. They went through his nasal cavity to extract it.

The doctor revealed to me they got all the mass they could see and felt the he was  was clear with no complications which were risky and scary: a possibility an main artery could have been lanced, he could have lost his vision instantly. Success! How great is that?

However, understandably, by June 30th, Billy became disheartened alone in his room save for a nurse’s check up visit and a doctors report, he sunk down. I couldn’t cheer him. It was impossible. Well, by this time all our Facebook peeps are praying, sending good vibes, and caring tremendously, so something happened because I posted, “Billy needs help.”

My hubby phoned me to say a nurse practitioner who looked exactly like Seth Rogan, an actor whom he likes very much, had come into his room and greeted him with “How’s it going, buddy?” So Bill told  him how he felt the staff take care of his illness, but not him and he felt awfully homesick. The man explained to him what the tests meant, and why it would be dangerous to let him go in said condition. Healing was being done, but even miracles are not always instant. Then Billy asked who sent him in. The man said it had been no one, he just felt to go to Bill’s room. I do not believe in coincidences. After all, what are the chances of this lookalike helper after I posted Bill needed help and peeps prayed?

All is well. He came home in God’s time, not mine, not Billy’s. Also, he came home with no more bone spur in his nose. He had assumed a deviated septum, and had difficulty breathing from that side. All gone. I’ve noticed over the years of my faith that God always does multiple things with what we think is only one thing to be done. It’s just how He works. Being thankful for everything gets prayers answered, so I will keep on telling God thanks. And I think Bill must be one of those apples in God’s eye, ‘cause he sure got taken care of.

Thanks for reading.

 

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“Do You Trust Me”

 

1977

 

“DO YOU TRUST ME?”
Year 1977

I whispered hoarsely, “If you’re really there, I need to know—and I need to now now!”  

As a 14-year-old entangled in multifaceted abuse from early in my life, I spoke my plea and sat in my bed during the dark hours that should have fostered my sleep. No sleep. Instead, the gloominess permeated me like caffeine. The silence of the house seemed deafening and it amplified my worrisome thoughts of the ever-present turmoil within my family. There had to be a conductor of my life, a powerful, all-knowing one to rescue me or at least help me through. I cried saying I felt empty of maternal love, confused by the rejection, and if it weren’t for my  caring dad, I’d look for a way out. Already, only  in adolescents, I had emptied out and depression held me by my waist like a Boa constrictor.  I wiped hot tears and waited to see if God was real or a mythology, a story. Then in a moment, I found myself somewhere else. I don’t remember going there, I was just there. (Like how a ring of light mysteriously surrounded only me at age four.)

I cannot explain how I ended up where I did that night, directly after my desperate utterance, but it seemed somewhat dream-like; however, I am sure to this day that I was not dreaming about the peculiar hollow, misty grey area in which I stood in awe. It looked to me like a small globe, and nothing existed that I could see. Just a grey atmosphere, like the colour of a rainy day, and misty ground. No people, no sounds, no fanfare, nothing. No sunshine, no moon above, no twinkling stars. It was neither hot nor cold. Everywhere I looked, the same. I walked tentatively not knowing why I ended up there.

There appeared a man in front of me, his back to me, but I saw him only from mid-calf down. I knew I saw a man because his legs and feet were masculine-looking. A linen cloth garment flowed with his movement of walking, and sandals dressed his feet. He reached behind himself, his hand out to me. Compelled to follow, I walked close behind him. His huge-to-me hand reached for mine as he continued to walk forward. In the surreal atmosphere of swirling mist, with no one and nothing but myself and him in this unearthly grey space, I felt highest reverence and didn’t join hands because I wasn’t sure I was worthy, although, now, I wish I had. He spoke to me but I cannot recall his words, just the sound of his clear, firm, yet gentle voice. A voice free of any imperfections. Clear, strong, authoritative, and no chance one word could be confused with another. A kind voice, a reassuring voice. I still remember it well.

***

Meagre sunlight was beginning to dispel the shadowy corners in my room as I gently became aware of myself in my own bed near 6 a.m.; I was confused as to whether I’d been dreaming, or if something supernatural had occurred. Something I knew I’d keep to myself, and did for years. I told this story eventually. I have been encouraged to write it. 

The man I had followed had said something important to me. I still wish I could recall. I have researched this since and feel surprised to know the great majority of others do not remember words in their encounters, either. 

 I believed it was Jesus who’d extended his hand and wanted me to follow him.     

At 6 a.m. on that morning, a Saturday in July of 1977, the rural area near London, Ontario was hushed; parents and sister still asleep. I had no idea why I heard Him tell me to get up and dress in romping clothes, yet, although I didn’t see Him, I recognized His serene, reassuringly distinctive voice immediately and did as I was told.   

Tormented and dispirited by hostile issues at home, I barely coped with the tremendous challenge at the sensitive age of fourteen. During early girlhood I had been taken to church perhaps only two times. Yet from a New Testament I’d received while in grade eight from a friend, I’d been digesting savoury soul food teachings about faith, hope, love, trust—all the writings that seemed to be of word smiths. 

In the same gentle fashion I’d been awakened at 6 a.m., and purposefully led to walk to the Thames river behind our property where I often retreated, then was instructed by His voice, which came from behind me, to embark upon crossing the Thames River. I did not turn to see Him, because I didn’t need to. Was He there physically? I don’t know, and it has never mattered. 

The recently constructed bridge, on Highway 100, which was not yet open to traffic, would serve as the common sense route I wanted to cross by, yet He directed me to actually wade across the river itself.   

I hesitated standing at the riverbank as I enjoyed open water—but from a distance. I responded with, “What? In?  You know I can’t! Moving water scares me!”  

Still from behind me, with immeasurable patience He asked, “Do you trust me?”

I knit my brow and stepped back saying, “Yeah, but….”

Again, with patience, He asked, “Do you trust me?”

I imagined the river to be deeper than I was tall. I wanted to trust Him, however, I didn’t know what to expect. I said, “I do trust you, but look, it’s a lumpy river! People drown in rivers!” 

A final, third time, He gently repeated, “Do you trust me?”

Either I trusted Him or I didn’t. There couldn’t be a maybe. Yes or no. Reading from my bible for the past year, and the surreal experience I had in the night, I realized trusting Him was the most important thing I needed to do. This seemed crazy, but in I stepped in.

The water tickled my ankles then my shins. Halfway across the unpolished river, a dent in its bed caused the water to flow around my mid-thighs. I was panicked, but He was silent. Being in the middle of troubled water, I had no choice but to trust my safety, my life, to His care. I had to continue, and I did.  

July brought dry weather.  The river section was not much more than an over-glorified, babbling brook, halfway being the deepest.  

Both relieved and amazed, I marvelled at my triumph over fear, and the advantage of trusting despite fear. I looked back. I actually made it to the other side. Wow!
I sat on the long grass and poured my heart out. Not a soul heard me on the bank of the river. Only the one who encouraged me. Jesus listened, he answered.            

Although I only heard His voice in my thoughts at this point, our intimate morning visit was notably extraordinary, but I needed to go home or I’d have to explain where I was and why so early on a Saturday morning—and the reason I was wet.  I asked Jesus, “Do I have to cross through the water again?”

With lighthearted humour in his clear, easygoing voice, He announced, “You can use the bridge.”  

There I stood, momentarily speechless, blinking, wet and dirty… and loved. 

Jesus. The sweetly patient, playful trust instructor. Amused by His sense of humour, I looked to my initially intended bridge route with a smirk and attested, “Oh—so you’re a funny guy.”  

I think He thought this scene was cute; the look on my young face upon discovering the benefits of simple trust and doing as He said, as well as His human aspect of humour. It acted as an immense reassurance to realize just how well Jesus understood me, and I perceived Him as my father, my friend, and mostly my Divine Big Brother.

On the bridge going home, He tenderly delivered an additional important message  that seventh day and month of 1977. He told me to acknowledge Him in all my ways and He would set my path straight.

In all honesty, I didn’t fully grasp the spiritual principals that particular day, or for years, but I continuously pondered each aspect of the cozy encounter. 

I certainly understand now. My worst fears are expansive burdens when I try to carry them alone; if I agree with God’s ways, I’m protected. And most significantly, I must trust Him, no matter my perspective. Follow His lead, that’s all I have to do.  So I mentioned my mother would be angry at may wet, dirty clothes. He told me where to put my clothes and He’d take care of it, and He did. After I left my clothes in the bath tub, I later saw her washing them, not a word about it. No scorning, no questions. Haha, it’s true, nothing is impossible with God.

Several years later, feeling uncertain in my adult life, I walked with no intention on the main strip of my small city. Prompted to go into a store I hadn’t investigated, the Christian book store, I hoofed it right to a bookmark stand. I found my name. Apparently, “Lynn” means babbling brook, and the scripture under that: Proverbs: 3: 6… His “Acknowledge Me” advice.  

I must always remember to trust Him through the troubled waters of life. Big brothers are great; a Divine Big Brother is the true definition of amazing.

I had kept this to myself for so long, as instructed. It’s time to tell now. Some may say I suffered insanity and this experience—my hallucination, but I remember clearly, in my weakest moments, His strength is most evident. The blessing I received that day comes back to me any time I have trouble trusting Jesus. I still wonder, though, if that river crossing was also a baptism. What I do know for sure is this encounter changed the direction of my life. More happened after this river crossing, and it’s time to tell that also.

Join me next time.  Thanks for reading.

Lynn~

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The Unexplained, Miraculous Happenings & Healing INTRODUCTION

© Lynn P. Penner 2020
Book Cover 2 copy

Introduction:

In the days after this introduction, I’ll begin to post my main accounts one or two at a time, depending on the length, the experiences that had the most impact on me and sometimes those around me. However, to introduce this series, I’ll give a brief account of the early on experiences.

If you’re a believer in Christ, I hope all I share will strengthen your belief. If you are not a believer, I have no proper religious words to share with you. I don’t know the terms as I was not churched as a kid, and didn’t investigate churches until adulthood. I have only my humble, honest way to express miraculous fragments of my life, and as a result, my relationship with my Divine Big Brother, Jesus.

At St. Joesph’s Hospital in London, Ontario, my delivery into the world did not go smooth and safe. I came too early, I turned and became stuck in the birth cannel. So I came feet first, and quite ill with lung issues; my death seemed inevitable at only five feeble pounds. My life’s purpose must be of value despite a priest who didn’t pray for me because he knew I would die anyway. Shame on him for making such assumptions. I lived, obviously. I wasn’t told anything more about my brush with death in 1963, but I remember well I suffered asthma in my early childhood years. I thought each attack would kill me while I gasped. I took allergy shots weekly, and laid in hospital beds to recover from asthma attacks. Birth was hard; life was hard.

In 1967, standing in the kitchen, I told my mother I wanted to go home. She told me I was home, but I disagreed saying, “It isn’t straight down here.” So if this means I remembered a better place with balance, I suppose souls are above before they come below to earth to live. I really wish I could remember ‘up there’. My long term memory is outstanding, but my short term memory needs a greasing or something. I remember back as far as year and a half old, memories confirmed by my parents. In other words, all these recalled  accounts in each experience I tell of are accurate, never embellished upon. Memories of these instances are foremost in my mind. Yet I can’t remember what I made for supper last night, and I can’t even get it together to take my shopping list with me. So longterm is all I have, really, and it’s loaded.

Later in 1967, I remember visiting my grandparents in a city far away from home. My mother and grandmother took me out in the night to get something from the store. I have a specific memory of a bright light, a huge band of light surrounding me like a puffed ring. My mother and grandmother, frantic, kept shouting at me to not move, but I kept turning round and round, marvelling at it, its power and the feeling of peace. I felt more afraid of their panicked voices than the ring of light that had no beginning and no end. I remember its brightness in the dark night. I do not remember thunder or rain, but the pavement reflected it, so the ground must have been wet, or the light shone so bright it reflected itself on the pavement. I didn’t know what being surrounded by light meant then, and I really can’t say I know now either. But I do know when it stopped it just vanished. I felt quite interested in this light ring, and I felt comfortable that it had surrounded me, and I felt special it surrounded only me. I still recall that night at age four like it happened yesterday, and it still doesn’t alarm me. The feeling of empowerment wasn’t like pride, as I know it to be today, no, it seemed more like energy from above, the balance I craved. It’s hard to describe, but being sick most of the time with asthma and related malaise, the light brought a feeling of wellness in many aspects. Even as a little kid I had these thoughts.

I have recovered entirely from asthma, not a trace of it holds me prisoner now. I had moments as a kid struggling to breathe, but it became easier in time to play like the others, go for a bicycle ride in the summer heat, and to be in a dusty room and not relapse. Feathers and dust were my allergens to cause asthma. Never do I recall having an asthma attack without someone to help me get home, even friends smaller than me were able to carry me home.

In 1973 I rushed in my sleepy fog to catch a school bus across the hardly ever busy country road. Boarding the bus, all eyes of the others, including the driver, stared at me with absolute astonishment. Some of them spoke up cutting each other off to tell me they thought I should be dead as they saw a white speeding car had passed the bus hit me. School buses didn’t have precautions as they do now, they had only flashing lights. Completely unaware, shocked myself, I sat and talked about this with some kids who insisted I got hit. It looked that way, but God spared me, likely sending an angel to push me or the car within away within inches of harm. I truly have no recollection of that car. I never saw it. (Strangely, two more white vehicles had nearly killed me later in life.)

In 1974 my mother had gone to see my grandmother. The day before her scheduled return, my dad asked my sister and I to scrub the floors while he did other work to bring the house up to standards upon her arrival home. Dad warned me to not pick up the plugged in extension cord which was in plugged in a difficult spot behind heavy furniture. I scrubbed away and got into a rhythm. Forgetting the warning, kneeling in water, my bare hands wet, I tossed the extension cord out of my way a few times. The next time I got electrocuted. One side of me went numb for a couple of hours, but my heart didn’t take a hit, neither did my hair get frizzy. I did take a pretty zappy jolt, though. It’s either clever or ironic it’s called a shock.

My second jolting buzz came in 1975. My dad had me helping him in the basement. He needed me to plug in a cord as he couldn’t reach from his position, and the machine he held, the on/off button had broken. We had had a flood and a puddle filled a hollow in the wooden stair. On my knees in the water, I reached around. I couldn’t see the outlet so I kind of poked a few times. My long baby fingernail slid in like the cord tine should have. Bam! Zapped again! But I ended up fine, just shaken and weak. And surprised it did’t kill me.

I find it interesting I survived experiences with electricity surrounding as light or entering me from power cords. Is this why I’ve been called feisty, a live wire, and other names referring to my lit up personality traits? Bad pun, sorry.

 Lastly, in the summer of 1977 something remarkable took place, and that account will highlight my journey of The Unexplained, Miraculous Happenings and Healing. I kept this to myself for many, many years. When I’ve fussed over final edits, “Do You Trust me?” will be up next. (I’m my own editor on this project.) Thanks for reading my introduction.

~Lynn

 

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STEALTH MATTERS

STEALTH MATTERS
Lynn P. Penner

Some things turn out well and pay off. That’s not true for every plan.

In my mind I called on my brother for a solution, but in my gut I heard nothing. No response perhaps is a response. A yes, perhaps. I can’t say I waited a minute, barely thirty seconds. Anyway, I moved on and assumed then my scheme was sound.

In my car I cranked forth the A/C and suffocated while I manually rolled down the driver and passenger windows. The sun bounced off the concrete driveway, aiming itself like lasers in my eyes despite sunglasses, and heated me further. Using an elastic I found in the footwell, I yanked my hair back and shoved it best I could into the turns of the elastic, leaving hasty lumps, a crooked ponytail, and damp escaped strands hanging loose. I could’ve cared, but it felt like 312 degrees F for fatal. Out the door right after coffee, my make-up from yesterday had worsened with perspiration. I knew, but had a plan to fulfill, and sunglasses almost covered my needless pride. Seatbelt, put ‘er in drive and I went to find my beloved purchase. Still no word from my brother via my gut feeling. Sometimes I just have to trust myself.

Home Hardware had the  whole city in it, I swear. Patience I’d developed over the years dissolved into a furrowed brow and words under my breath that ought not be in my vocabulary—but the woman stood with her cart in front of me gazing at the home decor.  I fake cleared my throat. I couldn’t go left, I couldn’t go right. Finally, like a civilized human, I said, “Scuse me, I need to get by.” I inched my cart forward like a revving race car.

“What?” She blinked a few quick ones, frowning and pulling her face into her neck. “Go around!” She gestured to the narrow spaces beside her. She jutted her chin at me, big eyed and arrogant.
I sucked air in and counted to two, pressing my lips together. “I’ll bump you if I try to go around.”
“I dare you, she says.”

I took off my sunglasses to ask if she was serious, then remembered I looked like I just woke without washing my face, so I put them back on and passed a hand over my lumpy hair. I’ve noticed I’m treated better when I look put together. But her reaction to me is her’s to work out. I turned away shoving the cart in a three point turn and dealt with the store throng and found my purchasable item. It stood tall and shiny, labeled as I hoped.

Patiently, I waited for the dark night. I knew I had to take the lives of those who thought nothing of putting holes in our shed, leaving sawdust shamelessly. Armed with the tall can of Raid, I started across the yard, stepping kind of on my toes as if the sleeping fuzzies wouldn’t hear me. I breathed hard. My mouth dried out. My heart put a pulse in my throat. A weed brushed my leg and I yelped, bending to brush it off of me frantically. Closer, closer. I felt my heart bang-bang-banging, but still, no indication in my gut I should stop. Why was my brother so quiet? He gave me tons of instruction when I rode that tandem bike with him at age fourteen. And lots of other times. Now, pushing sixty, no word. Nada. Nothin’.

The shed stood soundless; no monsters zoomed at me relentlessly. None threatened me like they do in the daylight. Ew, they were in there nests in there. Ew, I had to do something about this. And ew! I hated to kill anything except spiders, because spiders are ferocious beasts with too many spindly legs to chase me. I inspected all sides of the shed, on my toes, of course. Stealth matters.

I sprayed nooks and crannies of the shed, paying close attention to the many perfectly round entry and exit holes, inside and out, smelling the scent of Raid. Carpenter bees. They’re so huge and fuzzy, I doubt birds’ beaks can even open wide enough to eat them. So glad they weren’t coming out.

Then, I lived the most freaky, creepy and surreal experience I’ve ever had, ever.

At first I thought I heard a duck in my neighbour’s yard. That sound changed to a horrid gnawing-type sound. Dark wrapped its cloak around me, as did the sound. Goosebumps encased me. I then heard whining, then hard-core buzzing of countless wings. By the streetlights’ meagre glow, I saw bees emerging from their holes—wiggling out, frantic and poisoned. I wanted to leave, but I couldn’t, wouldn’t… too curious to see what was happening. Two fell to the ground. At the sight of three more I dropped the Raid and ran like hell. I heard their wings carrying them alongside me. Me, the nest threat. There were many. I betcha I went from the shed to the house in two strides, not too old and pudgy to run—I hardly recall landing on the deck. I leaned against the door, catching my breath, repeating, let me live. I was weirded out, way out—worse than killing the ugly black, fuzzy, jumping spider with cushion thrusts earlier.

I can’t forget the sound of them dying inside the wood. It’s like they’re screaming for help. Ew!

In the living room sat my brother. He’s quiet on his feet, I didn’t know he was home. I wished he had gone out there with the Raid, because he’s more qualified to make life and death decisions. I brushed back my hair and wiped my sweaty forehead. I said, “I called for you. I killed bees and I’m sorry. Where were you?”

“Why did you not wait for help?”

“I did! You never answered me. Why do you let me wait like that?”

“Some things you will do. You would not have listened to sound advice, you were too intent on your plan. You waited only three seconds. I will never interfere with your free will. But you must learn to wait on me.”

“Are you mad?”

He stood and let the short story I asked him to read slip to the couch. “No.” He headed to the kitchen and beckoned me to follow with his arm behind him, hand out.

I followed, still complaining. “If I wasn’t so ‘intent on my plan’ would you have said something? That was a pretty intense experience.”

In the kitchen he glanced out the window. It reminded him. Jesus laughed covering his mouth as not be rude. He bent, his body vibrating then stood again, his face a healthy pink under his olive complexion. Sorry, but you can see from my angle this is humorous. If you watched yourself in a sitcom, you would laugh. Out there on your toes trying to sneak. Losing composure when an innocent weed tickled you.” His teeth flashed and he laughed some hardy quacks. “Then you ran back here like I’ve never seen you run since you were a child.” He wiped his eyes. “I will make coffee. Coffee helps everything.”

I stared at him. I shook my head and put a hand on my hip. I asked, “So you watched? I didn’t even know you were here. You watched me be terrorized and you didn’t come help. They eat wood and they came after me. Nice, Jesus. Thanks.” I tried my best to suppress a grin. It is just his way, it’s hard to stay annoyed.

He laughed again. “You did not die, but you created a good cause for laughter.” He smiled and I finally laughed with him. “Hire a professional,” he said. “They will direct them away. Carpenter bees have hydro poles and logs and trees to build nests in. They, like all creatures, have been provided for.” He messed my hair with his solid fingers and turned to make coffee. Coffee helps everything. This is true.

Afterward, Jesus offered to edit my story, I accepted and we called it a night. He shoved his sneakers on, wiggling his feet so he didn’t have to untie them an said he loved me, and before leaving to his own place, he asked me to get the story off the couch.

I watched him go, his is long legs taking strides of leisure, my pages flapping at his side.

In a few days, I did call the pest guys, and you know what? They said exactly the same thing about where the bees ought to nest, and that our dwellings take a lot of damage if they aren’t dealt with. Oh, huh. Okay, good. So now, what about beastly spiders?

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The Golden Sand Kids

     

THE GOLDEN SAND KIDS by Lynn P. Penner

 

MISSING

We are the children,

curious…

We are the children

 who roam…

We are the children

our parents seek,

in the enchanted 

Golden Zone….

L. P. P

The fresh morning air clung to little Grace. Wearing her hiking boots and her bright yellow shorts and T-shirt, she danced beside the family car. She took off her pink hat and flapped it on her legs, then started jumping. She counted to three and called to her parents to hurry. Her curly, coppery-red locks bounced with her movement. Bursting with excitement, little Grace called to her parents again.

“Gracie, put your hat on and keep it on,” her mom said. Her dad loaded their lunch and snacks into the car and they got on their way.

For her parents, the entire outfit of bright yellow would make Grace easier to find if she managed to slip away to investigate the wooded pond area by herself.  You see, the green-eyed little girl had a knack for disappearing quietly. 

Furthermore, it seemed that no kid loved to hike through the woods and ponds more than seven-year-old Grace. She was four years old when her parents began taking her to hike at a place called Golden Edges, named so because golden sand surrounded the edges of ponds which were to the east of the forest.

Golden Edges was unusual. One side was beautiful and the other unpleasant.  

On the nice side several ponds were shallow, ranging from three to five feet deep were a haven for feathered guests, turtles, fish and other water-loving creatures. But most important to little Grace, there were frogs. All kinds of little creatures could be seen if the hikers watched quietly for them. Rabbits and chipmunks were seen the most. It was an enchanted place. The wooded area displayed wild grapevines which grew in tangly shapes, and there were some trees with gnarled bark faces that begged Grace’s imagination.

    The unpleasant side was not a part of the hiking location. Gracie’s parents never took her to the that side. The unpleasant side of Golden Edges had fields of long grass which were difficult to hike through. Snakes lived there. It had fewer ponds. However, one pond was estimated to be approximately 20 feet deep with an abrupt drop off its golden sand edges. There were a few unfortunate drownings in the deep pond. Within Golden Edges this dangerous pond was known as The Golden Zone. Wise hikers stayed away from The Golden Zone.

On the nice side, dry sticks crunched and snapped beneath the feet of Gracie and her parents as they hiked through the paths leading to the shallow ponds.  Felled trees could be climbed over, or, if you were small like Gracie, scooted under.  

Golden Edges was her favourite place to hike. The air smelled rich and pure with the scent of moss, earth, water, dried sticks and leaves, and old dead, decaying trees. Beams of graceful sunlight lit up patches of the voluminous greenery. The path led to a trail of dense earth. Grace hurried along the trail, excited to reach the ponds where they would catch frogs and watch for fish swimming in the life-filled water. It was nearly impossible to slow down a little girl who could travel through the woods like a gazelle. Her feet thudded rhythmically, firmly.

Her dad called to her, “Gracie… Grace!  Safety in numbers, remember? And put your hat back on.”  

She didn’t look back but regretfully slowed to a fast walk. Her parents quickened their pace to catch up to with her.

Her mom had spotted two chipmunks chasing each other around a fat old maple tree.

“Shhhh,” her mom said, “Look, Gracie, stop and look over there!”   

Impatient Gracie stood still.    

Her dad bent to coax the little critters over with a piece of bread from his pocket and asked his daughter, “Aren’t they cute?”  

Gracie was much more interested in frogs. She stepped back quietly a couple of feet. The chipmunks were making their way over to the bread they smelled. With the tip of her tongue pressed on her upper lip, Grace took a few more steps away, anxious to continue along the trail. The rustling sounds made by the two approaching rodents masked the vague sounds of Grace slipping away behind her parents’ backs.  

Mistakenly heading towards the unpleasant side, Grace roamed off to find the frogs….

***

It only took half a minute for Gracie’s parents to notice her absence—half a minute too long. Her parents called to her and immediately started to search together rather than breaking up.

The little girl could’ve been anywhere in Golden Edges. She was quick and agile. Unstoppable.   

They took the trail to the west of them. If Gracie had taken that trail, she would have ended up at the shallow ponds where her parents had always taken her.  

Gracie’s quick pace and choice of the wrong direction lead her to the wild areas of The Golden Zone. Struggling to hike fast enough to play with frogs, she kept going. 

She stood staring at the unfamiliar pond. Long growth blew in the breeze and tickled the far side of the green surface of the deep water. Buzzing and silent insects flew, zigzagging in the thick morning air. A dark-green leaf swirled elegantly on the calm water.  A long, pointed, crooked tree branch growing out of a gnarled tree at the edge of the pond, creaked softly.  Birds chirped in the distance. A small fish jumped causing a bloop noise. A crooked tree branch creaked with eerie loneliness. Otherwise, the dampened silence was deafening.  

Several minutes passed and little Gracie still did not recognize anything in the quiet, strange surroundings as her worried-looking eyes searched for the familiar small ponds with the frogs.

Another fish jumped out of the water and slipped back in with one of the many zigzagging insects it captured for its morning meal. The crooked, pointy tree branch creaked again.  

Gracie felt a terrible aloneness. Furrowing her brow, she looked back at the path which brought her to the melancholy, strange place of silence. Standing by the deep pond, looking as far as she could see over the long growth, she hoped to see her parents, but only a snake made hardly a sound slithering through the grass.  

She didn’t see her parents coming, but Gracie noticed an iridescent dragonfly. It flew towards her and hovered like magic in front of her. She reached for it. It zipped to the pond, landing at the wet, mucky edge.

“Oh! Aren’t you pretty!” She started toward the resting dragonfly. Abruptly, she jerked down to scratch mosquito bites on her leg. Two more dragonflies came.  Their colours were different, but they were just as pretty.   

Deep within herself, Gracie was aware of the warning given. Danger! Go back! Go back the way you came. Go back….

She focused on the shiny, iridescent wings of the insects. She assumed there would be no danger if she looked with her eyes and not her hands. She crept to the pond’s edge and squatted, wrapping her arms around her knees. Fragments of golden sand glistened in the sunlight. She leaned precariously forward, admiring the golden sand and colourful dragonflies. The waffled soles of her little hiking boots filled quickly with the wet, slippery mud. She slid some. Wind milling her arms didn’t restore her balance, but thrust her forward. The dragonflies flew away as Gracie splashed into the deep pond. She clawed frantically at the slippery edge, gasping, then she inhaled the turbid water.     

Her pink hat floating on the water gave a solitary indication of Gracie’s visit to The Golden Zone. 

Under water, Gracie could hear her own panicked heartbeat. Then… everything went black. 

Down, down, down.

When Gracie opened her eyes on the sandy floor of the pond, four interested children were there to greet her. Wind blew against them.    

“Let us help her up. She is confused,” suggested the oldest of the children.  The 16-year-old stood tall, a very old-fashioned-looking teenager. Her brown hair was pinned up tightly away from plain, but kind face.  She wore a spotless, long white dress—like an angel. The wind tugged at the teen’s dress like a sheet on a clothes line. She smiled at Gracie, who now stood among them, her feet on golden sand. The teen put her arm gently around Gracie’s shoulder as the wind dissipated.  When she asked Gracie questions, her voice echoed slightly.

“Are you feeling-g well now-ow?  What is your given name-ame?”   

Grace scanned her new surroundings, her brow knit together and she nervously fidgeted with her fingers. She stood in a space the size of an enormous room. No water filled the space but, the air was a translucent light-green. She blinked and looked down at herself. She still wore her yellow clothes. Finally, looking back at the odd teen, she answered, also echoing a slight way.

“It’s Grace-ce. My parents-s call me Gracie-ee. Who’re you-oo? Is this heaven-en?”

The slight echo had finally gone away when the odd teen spoke again saying, “No Gracie, you are in The Golden Zone. I am Jahaziela.”  

Scrunching up her nose, Gracie remarked, “That’s a funny name.”  

“It is an ancient name.” Jahaziela pointed to each of the children. “Here are, Kimberly, Jason and William.”   

Jason, the-10-year-boy with buck teeth and short blonde hair spoke up, “Are you scared? Don’t be. Jahaziela takes care of us.” He held a kite by his side.  

Kimberly nodded and reached down pulling her socks back up to her knees.  Kimberly, a cute black girl with many braids and colourful animal-shaped barrettes in her hair, smiled sticking the end of her tongue in the space of a missing tooth.

“We’re safe here Gracie,” Kimberly said. “I was playing before you got here.  I’m eight. Wanna play with me?” She clutched a deflated orange balloon.

“Thanks, Kimberly, but I’d rather go see my mommy and daddy.”

“Oh—you can call me Kimmy. Do they know you’re here?”

“I dunno,” answered Gracie. “We were gonna catch frogs. The dumb chipmunks were running around a tree and my parents wanted to see them first.”  Grace crossed her arms over her chest and looked down. “Hey!” Gracie said pointing, “I saw this kind of sand at the edge of the pond! It’s gold!”

William teased Grace, “Noooo—It’s purple!  You’re colour blind—ha-ha-ha-ha!”

Jason, who was 12, shouted, “Shut your face up, William!” Jason was protective of small children, and himself. He continued, “You’ll scare her!”  

William had hit 14 years old.  His voice was deep and his principles were shallow. His hair was long and his patience was short. 

“YOU shut up J-boy.  It’s you who’s scared.  Chicken-bawk bawk!”  

Jason threw his kite down and approached William saying, “Your gonna cause an,” he hesitated a second then said, “alteration!” He held his fists up to William’s face.

Willaim leaned into Jason and yelled, “The word is altercation, stupid kid!” 

“Your a bully, nobody likes you,” accused Jason.

“Enough, gentlemen.” Jahaziela stepped between them. “You shall not be here long. Make your time pleasant.” Jason shot William a nasty glance and William shot Jason a rude gesture.  Jahaziela stayed between them until they went their separate ways.  

Gracie was concerned with herself and asked, “Will I be here long? How come my mommy and daddy aren’t here to pick me up? Are they gonna catch frogs without me?” 

Jahaziela approached Gracie and gently took her young, soft hands into her own eternal, angelic hands. 

“Gracie, be not afraid.”  Jahaziela let go of one of Gracie’s hands and pointed to a whirling spot at the ceiling’s edge of their space. “See there?”

“Uh huh.”

“That is the edge of the pond’s surface. When it is time, you may be pulled up to safety. It was from there you came down.”  Jahaziela then pointed to a circular, shimmering bright area in a wall of the large space. “See there?”

“Yeah…?”

“That is the entrance to the heaven you spoke of upon your arrival. It is necessary at times for children to enter the light. Children are not in The Golden Zone for the time it seems to them. It is but the length of a dream.”

SPLASH! The ceiling rocked creating a wind in their space.  The underside of a large yellow dog was seen as it paddled from one end of the pond and back again.

Jason laughed with delight, echoing, as his kite bounced and soared in the wind created by the splash. The dog clawed at the side of the deep pond and crawled out.  

Something disk-like, the size of a dinner plate softly descended to the floor of the pond near Kimmy. She picked it up, smiling.  The wind had subsided, but her voice echoed slightly again when she said, “Gracie-ee, come play with me now-ow.  I have stuff to show to you-oo!”  Kimmy waved a faded-blue frisbee with numerous holes and chewed spots in it.  

Gracie pushed her coppery locks away from her face and giggled. The echoing ceased again.

Kimmy took a number of steps then held up other items from her stash. A dirty old baseball then a bicycle tire. A rusty bicycle was mostly buried in the golden sand. 

Grumpy William groaned, “You’re nuts, Kimmy. And dumb.”  

Jason, even though only 12 and small for his age, watched… he would fight William if he tried to bother the small children.  

Kimmy hurled an insult right back at William, “So? You’re Willie the whiner!”   

Jason nodded and chuckled, and again, Jahaziela reminded the golden sand kids to make their time pleasant.   

William was miserable because he was secretly frightened. He didn’t have much time in The Golden Zone. He was young but his heart was weak. A hereditary condition. Golden Edges, particularly The Golden Zone, was his quiet place to be alone and think.  Falling into the cold pond while walking its edge caused his heart distress. Jahaziela knew about William’s condition.

Grace joined Kimmy. They took turns holding the tire up, tossing the baseball through it. They were making their time pleasant. Jason tried to keep his kite up.  William wasn’t ashamed to lie down and made a sand angel, even though he was 14 years old.

The weird air in their space rapidly warmed a few degrees. Jahaziela immediately went and stood near the swirling bright spot in the wall.  

A waterless current developed. William was tugged gently but with purpose towards the swirling in the wall. Tiny bits of floating debris were amplified in the translucent, light-green air. Gracie, Kimmy and Jason focussed their attention on William. Wordlessly they watched as the bright spot pulsated. As William neared the brightness, his frightened expression dispersed and he closed his eyes.  Jahaziela’s dress floated about her in a ghostly manner as she guided him and said some words in an ancient language the interested kids couldn’t understand.  William smiled peacefully and began entering with smoothness into the swirling light on the wall. Thousands of beautiful voices, like the golden sand kids had never heard before, sang a harmonious song of welcoming for William. He was not afraid, and he did not look grumpy anymore. The splendid singing faded away gently as William finished his journey into the light of love which was so strong everyone in The Golden Zone felt it cling to them. Thick love.

***

Gracie’s parents desperately called to her, while help was on the way. Thank goodness for cell phones. They had searched the small ponds area feverishly. No little footprints. No pink hat. Nothing.  

The sun looked ominous submerging behind the dark clouds coming in quickly from the west. A stiff breeze lifted and tossed a discarded paper coffee cup.  Gracie’s mom, Elaine, worried, saying, “Please don’t storm, oh please, no!”    

“She took the left trail,” Elaine guessed, “I’m sure she must have! I’ll go…”

“No! Elaine! We’ll go together. We should find her together.” Gracie’s dad, Bruce, grabbed his wife’s hand and pulled her to him. “We have to handle this. We have to. We’re a team.”  

Faint, distant voices were heard. Rescue dogs barked. 

Hope.

The trained canines led the search and rescue unit to Bruce and Elaine. The team, wearing reflective orange vests, asked questions regarding Gracie’s description and said it would be helpful to have something of hers. Their preference was for an item she had worn.

“I think her hair brush is in the car. That’s all I have. She wanted her hair down this morning before we left.” Elaine remembered keeping the elastic, still on her wrist. She pulled it off. Crying she asked, “Will this do?” 

The two canines sniffed the elastic, then Elaine, and the elastic again. They sniffed the air and indicated their readiness to search.  

A drop of cool rain splashed on Bruce’s nose. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Two more cool rain drops spattered….

***

Jahaziela joined the three remaining golden sand kids.

Kimmy asked, “Is William coming back, Jahaziela?”

“Kimmy, as I told Gracie, children are not in The Golden Zone for the time it seems to them. It is but the length of a dream. The time for William here, is finished.” He is now surrounded by love’s light, you must not be fearful.”  

Wide-eyed, Kimmy nodded. The kids sat on the golden sand and talked about what they saw and heard for what seemed like a long time.

“Jahaziela?  I feel very sleepy”, Grace announced, “I never feel sleepy till bedtime.”

“Rest, Gracie. Rest down here with me.” Grace lay on her side and closed her eyes. Jahaziela caressed her face and whispered, ”I wish you much joy in life.”  Grace  drifted off immediately, and rising to the surface of the pond, she dreamed.

In her dream she was running through the woods carrying frogs. Instead of croaking, they barked.  A man in her dream ran after her and caught her yellow T-shirt, pulling on her. He lifted her up, up, up. He hollered out—“We found her!”  

A strong dream wind thrust a tree branch repeatedly, five times against her chest then a giant owl burped, casting warm air in her mouth.  

A different voice shouted—“Got her!” A turtle snapped the back of her hand. A snake wrapped itself tightly around her other upper arm….
***

The rain came down light and steady. Thunder rumbled again, closer than before while the canines led the team to The Golden Zone, barking the announcement of their find. The pink hat was still floating on the deep pond.  And Grace was within reach at the edge, water rippling gently around her.

Her dream had played out reality.

A member of the search and rescue team hollered, “WE FOUND HER!”

Not a moment was wasted pulling Grace up, up, up and out. Golden sand trickled out with water from Grace’s yellow clothes. Paramedics counted to five, thrusting her chest, and breathed into her mouth. They did it again. An IV needle poked her hand.

With relief, “GOT HER,” was declared.  A blood pressure cuff was pumped tightly around her other upper arm. Forty feet away, Gracie’s parents saw the rescue.

Along the trails and pathways, fat rain fell as the search and rescue team brought Gracie out on a back board to the waiting ambulance. Too nervous to drive, Bruce and Elaine gratefully accepted a ride with a concerned police officer to the hospital.

The greatly skilled doctors at the hospital finished examining Gracie. They came to the fretting couple explaining that an air pocket may have helped in saving Grace’s life, as well as the very short time she was under water. They finally permitted her parents to see her.

The reunion was very emotional for Gracie’s parents.  

Gracie had an extraordinary adventure she wanted to share, but she was too exhausted. Before she drifted off again she whispered something to her parents.

“Jahaziela lives… in… the pond…  She took… care of me…” Then she snuggled into the warm, fuzzy blanket, safe and sound with her parents by her side and she fell asleep.  

Perplexed, her mommy and daddy looked to each other and asked, “Who?”

SAFE

We are the children, 

curious.

But we are the children 

who won’t roam away,

because we know that curious 

can fool us, 

like it did to Gracie, 

she’s so blessed to be okay.

L. P. P.

 

       

 

  

   

 

   

 

       

     

  

 

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The Golden Sand Kids

THE GOLDEN SAND KIDS by Lynn P. Penner

GOLDEN SAND KIDS

MISSING

We are the children,

curious…

We are the children

 who roam…

We are the children

our parents seek,

in the enchanted 

Golden Zone….

L. P. P

The fresh morning air clung to little Grace. Wearing her hiking boots and her bright yellow shorts and T-shirt, she danced beside the family car. She took off her pink hat and flapped it on her legs, then started jumping. She counted to three and called to her parents to hurry. Her curly, coppery-red locks bounced with her movement. Bursting with excitement, little Grace called to her parents again.

“Gracie, put your hat on and keep it on,” her mom said. Her dad loaded their lunch and snacks into the car and they got on their way.

For her parents, the entire outfit of bright yellow would make Grace easier to find if she managed to slip away to investigate the wooded pond area by herself.  You see, the green-eyed little girl had a knack for disappearing quietly. 

Furthermore, it seemed that no kid loved to hike through the woods and ponds more than seven-year-old Grace. She was four years old when her parents began taking her to hike at a place called Golden Edges, named so because golden sand surrounded the edges of ponds which were to the east of the forest.

Golden Edges was unusual. One side was beautiful and the other unpleasant.  

On the nice side several ponds were shallow, ranging from three to five feet deep were a haven for feathered guests, turtles, fish and other water-loving creatures. But most important to little Grace, there were frogs. All kinds of little creatures could be seen if the hikers watched quietly for them. Rabbits and chipmunks were seen the most. It was an enchanted place. The wooded area displayed wild grapevines which grew in tangly shapes, and there were some trees with gnarled bark faces that begged Grace’s imagination.

The unpleasant side was not a part of the hiking location. Gracie’s parents never took her to the that side. The unpleasant side of Golden Edges had fields of long grass which were difficult to hike through. Snakes lived there. It had fewer ponds. However, one pond was estimated to be approximately 20 feet deep with an abrupt drop off its golden sand edges. There were a few unfortunate drownings in the deep pond. Within Golden Edges this dangerous pond was known as The Golden Zone. Wise hikers stayed away from The Golden Zone.

On the nice side, dry sticks crunched and snapped beneath the feet of Gracie and her parents as they hiked through the paths leading to the shallow ponds.  Felled trees could be climbed over, or, if you were small like Gracie, scooted under.  

Golden Edges was her favourite place to hike. The air smelled rich and pure with the scent of moss, earth, water, dried sticks and leaves, and old dead, decaying trees. Beams of graceful sunlight lit up patches of the voluminous greenery. The path led to a trail of dense earth. Grace hurried along the trail, excited to reach the ponds where they would catch frogs and watch for fish swimming in the life-filled water. It was nearly impossible to slow down a little girl who could travel through the woods like a gazelle. Her feet thudded rhythmically, firmly.

Her dad called to her, “Gracie… Grace!  Safety in numbers, remember? And put your hat back on.”  

She didn’t look back but regretfully slowed to a fast walk. Her parents quickened their pace to catch up to with her.

Her mom had spotted two chipmunks chasing each other around a fat old maple tree.

“Shhhh,” her mom said, “Look, Gracie, stop and look over there!”   

Impatient Gracie stood still.    

Her dad bent to coax the little critters over with a piece of bread from his pocket and asked his daughter, “Aren’t they cute?”  

Gracie was much more interested in frogs. She stepped back quietly a couple of feet. The chipmunks were making their way over to the bread they smelled. With the tip of her tongue pressed on her upper lip, Grace took a few more steps away, anxious to continue along the trail. The rustling sounds made by the two approaching rodents masked the vague sounds of Grace slipping away behind her parents’ backs.  

Mistakenly heading towards the unpleasant side, Grace roamed off to find the frogs….

***

It only took half a minute for Gracie’s parents to notice her absence—half a minute too long. Her parents called to her and immediately started to search together rather than breaking up.

The little girl could’ve been anywhere in Golden Edges. She was quick and agile. Unstoppable.   

They took the trail to the west of them. If Gracie had taken that trail, she would have ended up at the shallow ponds where her parents had always taken her.  

Gracie’s quick pace and choice of the wrong direction lead her to the wild areas of The Golden Zone. Struggling to hike fast enough to play with frogs, she kept going. 

She stood staring at the unfamiliar pond. Long growth blew in the breeze and tickled the far side of the green surface of the deep water. Buzzing and silent insects flew, zigzagging in the thick morning air. A dark-green leaf swirled elegantly on the calm water.  A long, pointed, crooked tree branch growing out of a gnarled tree at the edge of the pond, creaked softly.  Birds chirped in the distance. A small fish jumped causing a bloop noise. A crooked tree branch creaked with eerie loneliness. Otherwise, the dampened silence was deafening.  

Several minutes passed and little Gracie still did not recognize anything in the quiet, strange surroundings as her worried-looking eyes searched for the familiar small ponds with the frogs.

Another fish jumped out of the water and slipped back in with one of the many zigzagging insects it captured for its morning meal. The crooked, pointy tree branch creaked again.  

Gracie felt a terrible aloneness. Furrowing her brow, she looked back at the path which brought her to the melancholy, strange place of silence. Standing by the deep pond, looking as far as she could see over the long growth, she hoped to see her parents, but only a snake made hardly a sound slithering through the grass.  

She didn’t see her parents coming, but Gracie noticed an iridescent dragonfly. It flew towards her and hovered like magic in front of her. She reached for it. It zipped to the pond, landing at the wet, mucky edge.

“Oh! Aren’t you pretty!” She started toward the resting dragonfly. Abruptly, she jerked down to scratch mosquito bites on her leg. Two more dragonflies came.  Their colours were different, but they were just as pretty.   

Deep within herself, Gracie was aware of the warning given. Danger! Go back! Go back the way you came. Go back….

She focused on the shiny, iridescent wings of the insects. She assumed there would be no danger if she looked with her eyes and not her hands. She crept to the pond’s edge and squatted, wrapping her arms around her knees. Fragments of golden sand glistened in the sunlight. She leaned precariously forward, admiring the golden sand and colourful dragonflies. The waffled soles of her little hiking boots filled quickly with the wet, slippery mud. She slid some. Wind milling her arms didn’t restore her balance, but thrust her forward. The dragonflies flew away as Gracie splashed into the deep pond. She clawed frantically at the slippery edge, gasping, then she inhaled the turbid water.     

Her pink hat floating on the water gave a solitary indication of Gracie’s visit to The Golden Zone. 

Under water, Gracie could hear her own panicked heartbeat. Then… everything went black. 

Down, down, down.

When Gracie opened her eyes on the sandy floor of the pond, four interested children were there to greet her. Wind blew against them.    

“Let us help her up. She is confused,” suggested the oldest of the children.  The 16-year-old stood tall, a very old-fashioned-looking teenager. Her brown hair was pinned up tightly away from plain, but kind face.  She wore a spotless, long white dress—like an angel. The wind tugged at the teen’s dress like a sheet on a clothes line. She smiled at Gracie, who now stood among them, her feet on golden sand. The teen put her arm gently around Gracie’s shoulder as the wind dissipated.  When she asked Gracie questions, her voice echoed slightly.

“Are you feeling-g well now-ow?  What is your given name-ame?”   

Grace scanned her new surroundings, her brow knit together and she nervously fidgeted with her fingers. She stood in a space the size of an enormous room. No water filled the space but, the air was a translucent light-green. She blinked and looked down at herself. She still wore her yellow clothes. Finally, looking back at the odd teen, she answered, also echoing a slight way.

“It’s Grace-ce. My parents-s call me Gracie-ee. Who’re you-oo? Is this heaven-en?”

The slight echo had finally gone away when the odd teen spoke again saying, “No Gracie, you are in The Golden Zone. I am Jahaziela.”  

Scrunching up her nose, Gracie remarked, “That’s a funny name.”  

“It is an ancient name.” Jahaziela pointed to each of the children. “Here are, Kimberly, Jason and William.”   

Jason, the-10-year-boy with buck teeth and short blonde hair spoke up, “Are you scared? Don’t be. Jahaziela takes care of us.” He held a kite by his side.  

Kimberly nodded and reached down pulling her socks back up to her knees.  Kimberly, a cute black girl with many braids and colourful animal-shaped barrettes in her hair, smiled sticking the end of her tongue in the space of a missing tooth.

“We’re safe here Gracie,” Kimberly said. “I was playing before you got here.  I’m eight. Wanna play with me?” She clutched a deflated orange balloon.

“Thanks, Kimberly, but I’d rather go see my mommy and daddy.”

“Oh—you can call me Kimmy. Do they know you’re here?”

“I dunno,” answered Gracie. “We were gonna catch frogs. The dumb chipmunks were running around a tree and my parents wanted to see them first.”  Grace crossed her arms over her chest and looked down. “Hey!” Gracie said pointing, “I saw this kind of sand at the edge of the pond! It’s gold!”

William teased Grace, “Noooo—It’s purple!  You’re colour blind—ha-ha-ha-ha!”

Jason, who was 12, shouted, “Shut your face up, William!” Jason was protective of small children, and himself. He continued, “You’ll scare her!”  

William had hit 14 years old.  His voice was deep and his principles were shallow. His hair was long and his patience was short. 

“YOU shut up J-boy.  It’s you who’s scared.  Chicken-bawk bawk!”  

Jason threw his kite down and approached William saying, “Your gonna cause an,” he hesitated a second then said, “alteration!” He held his fists up to William’s face.

Willaim leaned into Jason and yelled, “The word is altercation, stupid kid!” 

“Your a bully, nobody likes you,” accused Jason.

“Enough, gentlemen.” Jahaziela stepped between them. “You shall not be here long. Make your time pleasant.” Jason shot William a nasty glance and William shot Jason a rude gesture.  Jahaziela stayed between them until they went their separate ways.  

Gracie was concerned with herself and asked, “Will I be here long? How come my mommy and daddy aren’t here to pick me up? Are they gonna catch frogs without me?” 

Jahaziela approached Gracie and gently took her young, soft hands into her own eternal, angelic hands. 

“Gracie, be not afraid.”  Jahaziela let go of one of Gracie’s hands and pointed to a whirling spot at the ceiling’s edge of their space. “See there?”

“Uh huh.”

“That is the edge of the pond’s surface. When it is time, you may be pulled up to safety. It was from there you came down.”  Jahaziela then pointed to a circular, shimmering bright area in a wall of the large space. “See there?”

“Yeah…?”

“That is the entrance to the heaven you spoke of upon your arrival. It is necessary at times for children to enter the light. Children are not in The Golden Zone for the time it seems to them. It is but the length of a dream.”

SPLASH! The ceiling rocked creating a wind in their space.  The underside of a large yellow dog was seen as it paddled from one end of the pond and back again.

Jason laughed with delight, echoing, as his kite bounced and soared in the wind created by the splash. The dog clawed at the side of the deep pond and crawled out.  

Something disk-like, the size of a dinner plate softly descended to the floor of the pond near Kimmy. She picked it up, smiling.  The wind had subsided, but her voice echoed slightly again when she said, “Gracie-ee, come play with me now-ow.  I have stuff to show to you-oo!”  Kimmy waved a faded-blue frisbee with numerous holes and chewed spots in it.  

Gracie pushed her coppery locks away from her face and giggled. The echoing ceased again.

Kimmy took a number of steps then held up other items from her stash. A dirty old baseball then a bicycle tire. A rusty bicycle was mostly buried in the golden sand. 

Grumpy William groaned, “You’re nuts, Kimmy. And dumb.”  

Jason, even though only 12 and small for his age, watched… he would fight William if he tried to bother the small children.  

Kimmy hurled an insult right back at William, “So? You’re Willie the whiner!”   

Jason nodded and chuckled, and again, Jahaziela reminded the golden sand kids to make their time pleasant.   

William was miserable because he was secretly frightened. He didn’t have much time in The Golden Zone. He was young but his heart was weak. A hereditary condition. Golden Edges, particularly The Golden Zone, was his quiet place to be alone and think.  Falling into the cold pond while walking its edge caused his heart distress. Jahaziela knew about William’s condition.

Grace joined Kimmy. They took turns holding the tire up, tossing the baseball through it. They were making their time pleasant. Jason tried to keep his kite up.  William wasn’t ashamed to lie down and made a sand angel, even though he was 14 years old.

The weird air in their space rapidly warmed a few degrees. Jahaziela immediately went and stood near the swirling bright spot in the wall.  

A waterless current developed. William was tugged gently but with purpose towards the swirling in the wall. Tiny bits of floating debris were amplified in the translucent, light-green air. Gracie, Kimmy and Jason focussed their attention on William. Wordlessly they watched as the bright spot pulsated. As William neared the brightness, his frightened expression dispersed and he closed his eyes.  Jahaziela’s dress floated about her in a ghostly manner as she guided him and said some words in an ancient language the interested kids couldn’t understand.  William smiled peacefully and began entering with smoothness into the swirling light on the wall. Thousands of beautiful voices, like the golden sand kids had never heard before, sang a harmonious song of welcoming for William. He was not afraid, and he did not look grumpy anymore. The splendid singing faded away gently as William finished his journey into the light of love which was so strong everyone in The Golden Zone felt it cling to them. Thick love.

***

Gracie’s parents desperately called to her, while help was on the way. Thank goodness for cell phones. They had searched the small ponds area feverishly. No little footprints. No pink hat. Nothing.  

The sun looked ominous submerging behind the dark clouds coming in quickly from the west. A stiff breeze lifted and tossed a discarded paper coffee cup.  Gracie’s mom, Elaine, worried, saying, “Please don’t storm, oh please, no!”    

“She took the left trail,” Elaine guessed, “I’m sure she must have! I’ll go…”

“No! Elaine! We’ll go together. We should find her together.” Gracie’s dad, Bruce, grabbed his wife’s hand and pulled her to him. “We have to handle this. We have to. We’re a team.”  

Faint, distant voices were heard. Rescue dogs barked. 

Hope.

The trained canines led the search and rescue unit to Bruce and Elaine. The team, wearing reflective orange vests, asked questions regarding Gracie’s description and said it would be helpful to have something of hers. Their preference was for an item she had worn.

“I think her hair brush is in the car. That’s all I have. She wanted her hair down this morning before we left.” Elaine remembered keeping the elastic, still on her wrist. She pulled it off. Crying she asked, “Will this do?” 

The two canines sniffed the elastic, then Elaine, and the elastic again. They sniffed the air and indicated their readiness to search.  

A drop of cool rain splashed on Bruce’s nose. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Two more cool rain drops spattered….

***

Jahaziela joined the three remaining golden sand kids.

Kimmy asked, “Is William coming back, Jahaziela?”

“Kimmy, as I told Gracie, children are not in The Golden Zone for the time it seems to them. It is but the length of a dream. The time for William here, is finished.” He is now surrounded by love’s light, you must not be fearful.”  

Wide-eyed, Kimmy nodded. The kids sat on the golden sand and talked about what they saw and heard for what seemed like a long time.

“Jahaziela?  I feel very sleepy”, Grace announced, “I never feel sleepy till bedtime.”

“Rest, Gracie. Rest down here with me.” Grace lay on her side and closed her eyes. Jahaziela caressed her face and whispered, ”I wish you much joy in life.”  Grace  drifted off immediately, and rising to the surface of the pond, she dreamed.

In her dream she was running through the woods carrying frogs. Instead of croaking, they barked.  A man in her dream ran after her and caught her yellow T-shirt, pulling on her. He lifted her up, up, up. He hollered out—“We found her!”  

A strong dream wind thrust a tree branch repeatedly, five times against her chest then a giant owl burped, casting warm air in her mouth.  

A different voice shouted—“Got her!” A turtle snapped the back of her hand. A snake wrapped itself tightly around her other upper arm….
***

The rain came down light and steady. Thunder rumbled again, closer than before while the canines led the team to The Golden Zone, barking the announcement of their find. The pink hat was still floating on the deep pond.  And Grace was within reach at the edge, water rippling gently around her.

Her dream had played out reality.

A member of the search and rescue team hollered, “WE FOUND HER!”

Not a moment was wasted pulling Grace up, up, up and out. Golden sand trickled out with water from Grace’s yellow clothes. Paramedics counted to five, thrusting her chest, and breathed into her mouth. They did it again. An IV needle poked her hand.

With relief, “GOT HER,” was declared.  A blood pressure cuff was pumped tightly around her other upper arm. Forty feet away, Gracie’s parents saw the rescue.

Along the trails and pathways, fat rain fell as the search and rescue team brought Gracie out on a back board to the waiting ambulance. Too nervous to drive, Bruce and Elaine gratefully accepted a ride with a concerned police officer to the hospital.

The greatly skilled doctors at the hospital finished examining Gracie. They came to the fretting couple explaining that an air pocket may have helped in saving Grace’s life, as well as the very short time she was under water. They finally permitted her parents to see her.

The reunion was very emotional for Gracie’s parents.  

Gracie had an extraordinary adventure she wanted to share, but she was too exhausted. Before she drifted off again she whispered something to her parents.

“Jahaziela lives… in… the pond…  She took… care of me…” Then she snuggled into the warm, fuzzy blanket, safe and sound with her parents by her side and she fell asleep.  

Perplexed, her mommy and daddy looked to each other and asked, “Who?”

SAFE

We are the children, 

curious.

But we are the children 

who won’t roam away,

because we know that curious 

can fool us, 

like it did to Gracie, 

she’s so blessed to be okay.

L. P. P.

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Teen for Brains

Based on a true story
by Lynn P. Penner ©2004

 

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 Teens have cravings for adventure and secrecy; country life never disappointed us.

The sky shifted from a pale summer blue to deeper hues of mauve and purple and crimson. I shoved my sneakers on then left to join the five other River Road teens to enter into the late evening where crickets made songs and warm air leftover from the day made me want summer forever. A small flashlight in my denim hip pocket rubbed against me.

The parent-forbidden storm sewers connected to the highway construction near our homes. In the day, the construction happened close enough to hear and see the heavy equipment which would forever change our environment. At night, no workers guarded it; we could sneak behind our parents’ backs and confront the dare of hide and seek in the country night  inside the spooky tubular cement mazes of underground storm sewer passages.

We met on time across the street behind a clump of trees where we discussed not getting caught for trespassing, and by our parents who seemed to have a network between them for reporting out shenanigans. Kevin always stood with his feet shoulder width apart. A brave stance. I had a hand on my hip, and Darcy thought it looked bossy. Kelly always made ready to to take care of scraps and wounds, and she told us so. Anything could happen down there. Frank came off as a tough guy, but he had to be one of the most compassionate guy I knew. He took me home on his bike that preceding winter when I couldn’t feel my feet. Teresa, my sister, usually takes a lot, but not that evening. She listened for a change. We made plans to go under, but agreed if it got dramatic, we’d head out and go home. Darkness under the moon gave us each a grey shape, and we headed off together, grass swishing under out feet and fragments of conversation.

No one ever carried a flashlight through the confusing underground turns and cut offs. We took flashlights for the trip down to guide us across the pitch black field, but we left them outside the entrance to our funhouse. The bowels of blackness to travel were the thrill, the threat, the dare. We River Road teens felt scared and vulnerable crouched in the dark, scurrying through the cold, damp darkness, but none of us ranging from ages thirteen to fifteen ever admitted it. 

 Rumour had it that the construction area still had a worker. On Sundays, on holidays, at night, forever. A young worker could never finish his task. Allegedly crushed to death, and ever-present—forever in despair, the rumour insisted he had rage.  

 We were in deep that night when someone lost their sense of direction. A common mishap. Kevin made up a code for it. Every five seconds the lost kid would yelp in a certain pitch until our collective efforts found the yelper. This time was different though. The yelping sounded frantic and came out as cries. Our splashes through the stagnant stinking water echoed, sounding like clapping water hands in our sequestered underground play world.

Listening for each others’ splashes, hunched and moving through dark tunnels, we found the yelper. Darcy’s face looked hideously distorted, all scrunched up and big-eyed under the moonlit vent. He pressed against the curved wall, face shiny from the tears he couldn’t wipe away fast enough. Through hysterical sobs, he tried to communicate to us, pointing frantically beyond himself farther into the dark tubular cement grave of the so-called crushed worker. Darcy stammered on his word, “Ga-roo-haa-ra!” We were sure he’d seen the mist-like worker who allegedly haunted the construction site, we agreed. If we could see, our faces would’ve glowed a terrified white. Swallowing became hard, I wanted to cry, Teresa said she wanted to find the ghost, Kelly’s silence made it eerie, and Kevin told Darcy he needed the stop blubbering, and Frank said to we should go.

However, after consoling Darcy’s emotional state with much patience, not to mention our courage, we learned otherwise. He claimed to have been bitten by a rat. As far as we knew, there were no rats among us down there as it was too new, not enough food to support them. Releasing our tension, our laughter bounced along the chambers of the cement maze. Everything that shouldn’t be funny, is, when you have teen for brains. We called it a night. We couldn’t risk having him complain to his parents. That was one of the last times we went down under. The construction of the highway progressed too fast, and frankly, we lost our nerve. Also, we never found out what bit Darcy.

We had other ways to pass our summer of 1976.

Our other entertainment included taking frequent trips to an apple orchard via the dizzying heights of the lengthy train trestle. It proved a risky mission. We decided if a train should come, we could hang from the underside then crawl back up. Trotting across always caused anxiety. We encouraged each other not to look down, but to hurry up. The smell of diesel fuel and creosol mixed with sweet country air found a place to reside in my mind while trotting along with all my senses fighting for first place. And long distant mourns of the train’s whistle panicked all of us. Our underside hanging didn’t occur to us. We ran screaming TRAIN as if we needed the warning. Still distant, the chugging. Spent and out of breath, looking back, we jumped to the yellow grasses and thanked God nobody got killed. The roar a few good feet away, Kelly, Darcy, Teresa, Frank, Kevin and I watched the cargo go in a string behind the massive engine. Then we were over it and on our way.    

Once in the orchard, we scraped ourselves on the rough branches of various types of apple trees, climbing up to the biggest, ripened fruit. We stuffed our tucked-in, tie-dyed and rock T-shirts—and each others’ with too much fruit and headed home the long way as we couldn’t be guaranteed our balance on the trestle, especially with our 1970s bell-bottomed jeans flapping around our legs.

The scoffed apples tasted sweet and juicy, and bees thought so too, but mostly they got wasted as we couldn’t bring the stolen goods home.

If we weren’t down under ghost hunting, or crossing trestles to pinch fruit, our screeches and laughter filled the neighbouring barn that a couple three of us visited occasionally. A thick, coarse rope carried us from one deep end to the other, over the concrete floor below. Teresa, my sister, collided with the wall one day. It was nothing like a cartoon either. Teresa didn’t hesitate in mid- air, and she did hurt herself. Kelly and I opened a bail of hay for her to rest in.  

Teresa had to lie to our parents to explain all the scratches on her arms and legs. I backed her up further explaining that we’d  hopped a fence running from a dog. We were “barking up the wrong tree” as I had no scratches to validate the erroneous story.

So, the barn was off limits… but the sand hills weren’t. Down about a hundred feet, we could clearly see a portion of the road. Kelly and I were chased the day we hit a windshield with one of the many crab apples we whipped at cars from our perch atop the sand hills. We ran like hell. “Hell” followed us right to my house on foot, where my Mom covered for us, saying she had no kids and he should keep looking. The thrill was active and invigorating, until the announcement of my month long grounding squelched it.

Living on River Road, we all got grounded a lot over the years. Our parents were guiding us; we understood right from wrong. We just didn’t think we were anything but immortal as teens, and I’d probably do it all again, given the ‘immortal’ chance, and a head stuffed with teen for brains.  

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Be Free

by Lynn P. Penner

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His leg seemed independent of him, as if he were pushing an old-fashioned sewing machine treadle, full tilt. The wall clock’s sluggish, silent tic toward the final minute of the school day seemed to pause like a slow, dangling drip from a faucet. In the same second the bell finally rang, he’d made it halfway out the door.   

Garret Vernon, just sixteen, was quite fed up with the pale-coloured walls, the scent of books, other students, lunches, and the poor quality, nasal accent of announcements. The school year had barely begun and it seemed to him the years invested in arriving into grade eleven took up his entire life. To continue high school, graduate, and continue with college seemed to be a forever effort. He wasn’t even sure at this point in his life what college courses he wanted or needed. Garret didn’t know what he wanted from his future.

He was sure, however, he was old enough, smart enough and even good-looking enough to drop out of boring high school, experience an exemption from the mandate of a diploma, and find a job based on his own virtue.

His parents kept a container of petty-expense money in their bedroom. A flimsy lock held it. From this money his parents paid him a mediocre allowance for contributing to house cleaning and maintaining the seasonal chore routines outside. Garrett knew they expected he’d earn his way and encouraged him to find a part-time job as well to increase his income for personal extras. The box sat locked, yet he understood his parents were confident that he’d never steal.  

 Working to support the mortgage, bills, food, their two new cars, entertainment expenses, and the year round vacation cottage, Garret’s parents generally left the house by 8:00 a.m. for ten to twelve hours. They trusted their son to attend school on time daily.

On a frosty November morning, Garret breached the trust pact.  

He had made furtive plans a week earlier with a guy from another class to meet for what they dubbed, “a freedom day,” and it would end in time to return home when school let out.  

After his parents left that morning for work, he called his school and declared himself absent for the day. He lied saying he was ill and assured the secretary he’d bring a note the next day. His smile insidious, he hung up.  

He used a bobby pin to disengage the lock on his parents’ petty cash box. He emptied the cash out and closed the lock. He absolved himself of guilt by deciding that he’d merely taken an advance on a few weeks of chore pay.

Garret left his house wearing stylish clothes, and in the deep pocket of his new leather jacket, was the money he told Dan that he could get—no problem. His plan was to meet 15-year-old Dan on main street, hang out, buy whatever food they wanted and maybe go to see the latest movie.  

He waited on the bustling street for forty-five minutes before deciding Dan wouldn’t be showing up for the freedom day they had planned a week earlier.  

 “Too bad for you,” Garrett mused aloud, “You don’t know what you’re missin’.”  Then he thought, You’re stuck in school—what a pinhead!

 He strutted along the life-filled street alone, watching people scurry and hearing traffic, thinking about where he’d go and what he’d do. Steam rose from a manhole, clearing it of frost. He hunched his shoulders against the gusting wind.   

A gurgling cough disrupted his thoughts. A destitute old man in a stained coat who was checking wrappers in the trash for food put something in his mouth. Garrett was rattled. He had never been so close to a real homeless person. He was appalled at the trash plunging. He stared at the castaway with disgust and disdain.  

The pitiful old man looked up in dismay. Coughing he sprayed spittle and food bits into his thick beard, and said, “ Hey, rich kid, do ya got any change?”

 Garrett felt put upon, and answered, lying, with a firm, “No,” telling the old man that he reeked.

 The bedraggled man laughed revealing grey, unhealthy teeth. “I know, but I don’t got me no place with a sink. I ain’t learnt any schoolin’ to work.  My home’s the streets.”

Garrett glanced at the litter strewn, dank alley nearby then back to the beggar.

Aged and deprived, the man eyed the youth up and down. Coughing, he cast his lonesome gaze to his own half covered feet. Then he looked the youth straight in the face and shaking his head with earnest effort he asked, “Whatcha doin’ outa school kid?” He shuffled closer to Garret. His face contorted into a grimace with angry-looking, deep creases on his forehead between his narrowed eyes and he shouted,  “WAS YA WISHIN’ FOR SOME EASY LIFE?” The man scratched at his neck with his filthy yellow, overgrown fingernails, one eye squeezed shut, and demanded to know, “Do ya come from a home with soap and water? When ya HUNGER, don’t ya EAT? Are ya dressed for the weather—GOT WHOLE SHOES ON YER FEET? ” Standing there, with a slight hunch, he shivered, clutching an empty hamburger wrapper in his fist. He shook his finger at Garret then began stomping his half-shoed feet and glared like a lunatic, shouting, “YOU AIN’T SO SMART AS YA THINK—HOOKY PLAYER!”  

A wretched odour was stirred up by the old man’s vigorous movement. Garret could not remember ever smelling anything so foul in his sixteen years of life.  He backed away from beggar, afraid the distraught old man intended to hurt him.  He pivoted on his expensive new sports shoes and bolted. He ran against the wind.

Phlegm-filled advise from the inarticulate soul followed after Garrett like a piercing ear ache. 

“Careful whatcha wish for, lad!  Ya don’t never wanna to be like me…them teachers is tellin’ ya more than ya think—they’s teachin’ ya how ta be FREE!”

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Handy Insight

 

 

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by Lynn P. Penner

He called her at 6:45 that September evening, before the short trip home from his job. Inside her cell phone, his voice sounded amused, venturesome.
       She knew that tone well. His proposals for adventures came from the boy within. Her shoulders rose a touch as her smile created dimples. She turned down the radio and leaned with her back to the counter.
       “Would you be interested in a night ride on Tater? It’s the last heat wave of the year,” he said. “I know you’re nervous about riding in the dark, but have some faith in me. Try it at least once. I thought we could go to our spot. Wanna?” 

       Weary from driving a rig all day, the transporting of goods was his job, the highway traffic, his nightmare. While he dodged accidents, she had worked on meeting a deadline for an article. This chance to glide in freedom under the canopy of twinkling diamonds promised to be therapy—for both of them.
       “If you don’t wear invisible black, I’ll think about it. But it makes me nervous. I value my bones.”

       “Your little pink bones are perfectly safe with me. I’ll have you home for bedtime.” He made his loud kissy noise.      
       She took the cell off her face, grinning, and jiggled her finger in her ear. “That’s deafening,” she chuckled. She looked to the ceiling, closed her eyes and nodded. “All right—yeah. Let’s do it. It’s crazy warm out! Are you on your way home?”
       “Yep. Fuelling the beast first, though. I’ll be home in about thirty.”
       While he traveled home, she slid on jeans, a long sleeved T for the inevitable cool pockets of air in road dips she’d feel on Tater, and pushed up her sleeves. She transferred her identification, emergency contact card, and keys into her bike purse. Her fingers touched her misplaced lipstick. In the bathroom, she threw a coral-coloured kiss to the mirror, then twisted her hair into two long braids, inspecting grey strands. She plucked a gauzy, sequinned scarf from the door hook. Kitty believed its erratic movement would make them more visible, and on day rides it seemed to. Ready to go, she fretted as her clear safety glasses had broken. She’d need necessary eye protection for gravel bits and bugs. Sunglasses would dim the stars, they’d never do. Besides, only a singer from 1984 wears sunglasses at night. Kitty sang the chorus of the song, made a sandwich, and waited with a magazine, eating at the counter.

       Tom arrived home, hugged her, patted her bottom, and presented her with safety glasses he’d taken from a box for drivers at work, then left to change clothes.

       She felt loved—the smallest gift was the biggest thrill when she knew he had thought of her. It was endearing that he remembered she’d broken the arm off her glasses cleaning paint off them.

       Tom’s light grey T-shirt had a dark food stain. His wife pointed at it, wrinkled her nose, shook her head. He reasoned it wasn’t black attire and left it on.

***      

With the city lights and traffic behind them, into the night they escaped their day with the familiar rumble of the shiny machine taking them into the smooth and heated night air. In her mind, the tree lined roads to Port Bruce seemed endless yet not long enough. The air clung to their skin like warm pudding. Tater’s trio of lights lit a portion of the night they entered while quickly leaving darkness to swirl the ambiance of fallen, scented leaves in Tater’s wake.

       Tom leaned back slightly and turned his cheek to the left, still keeping his eyes alert for deer. Kitty leaned forward to hear him.

       “Smell the lake? Isn’t it phenomenal at night? I needed this after today. Thanks for humouring me and coming. Just past this curvy road and we’ll be there, honey.” 

       Kitty held the grips and leaned with the gentle curves.

       Tom reached back and patted her outer thigh. She squeezed his hips with her knees; a habitual riding hug.

       “I do smell it—I smell everything! I’m glad you talked me into this.” She smiled with her lips deliberately pressed together. A motorcycle passenger needs only to taste a bug once. Air pockets became cooler. Kitty pulled down her sleeves and slid her arms around her husband’s ribs for the sharp curves ahead. Their helmets were bumping as he slowed, jerking a little to pull to the roadside. Tom eased Tater down an incline, over gravel and onto the grass.  

       They left their helmets on the bike and took off their boots and socks. Hand in hand, guided by the merger lunar glow, careful of sharp sticks, they made their way down through soft, cool sand, scratchy wild grass, and around scattered, immense rocks.
       The lake was dark and deep-looking beyond imagination. The crescent moon, a burnt-orange, lit up a narrow swath of the water making it seem more ominous; far reaching yet so enveloping. Kitty shivered. Despite the thought of a bottomless lake, she briefly considered what it’d be like to slip in and float, but never did share that thought as she knew Tom would probably encourage her to drop clothes with him and face the dare of that spooky adventure. They sat atop the run-down picnic table in the midst of the unmaintained beach area, denim knees together. They talked about nothing in particular, keenly aware of waves softly slapping the shore with the crickets’ September farewell symphony on grassier land above. She snuggled her face into his neck, and he gathered her in. They relished their motorcycle named Tater, and the fact that they had each other to have and to hold long after their wedding vows. The blanketing sky, the countless twinkles, and the scent of the lake cocooned them. Until the September evening, the natural little beach served as a peaceful destination on day trips.

       A crispy rustling of fallen leaves and swish of wild grass intruded on their shared reverie. Considering the feeble reach of the crescent moonlight, it was too dark to see what or who had joined them nearby. They untangled themselves from their embrace. Tom moved to stand. Kitty pulled him back down. Tense and wide-eyed, they breathed through their mouths and stared in the direction of the rustling. A large shadow-like shape moved and leaves rustled again. Twigs snapped. A sapling bent. The shape didn’t come closer but shook the sapling. It made no vocal utterance. Tom started to whisper and Kitty clamped her hand on his mouth. He pulled at her hand and she released him. 

       He was the man, the protector. He had to do something. He sat bolt upright.
       “Hey! Who’s there?” Tom’s chest felt heavy, his voice weak.
       “Oh, hello there!” The voice was somewhat frail. “Who’s that, it’s dark, doncha know.” More rustling. Then it sounded like hands patting cloth, like heavy pants. Clink.

       Tom stood in front of his wife, reached back to guard her. 

       The man-shape clicked his flashlight and aimed it at himself. Shadows elongated his face, made his grey beard and hair look too bushy, and exaggerated his loose, weathered skin.
       Tom squinted. “What the hell are you doing out here? You scared the intestines out of us!”
       The man-shape kicked at something by the tree and said, “I fish at night. Got my line tangled in the little tree. Perch run here.” He bent, poised the beam and pulled the line free, releasing the sapling.  

       “At night? That’s a little weird. Why right here? It’s shallow. And September!” Tom looked back at Kitty. She’d slid over to see who the shape was.

       “I’ve been coming here for years at night. It’s deeper than you think. Water’s warm still. ” He leaned on his fishing pole, ducking the hook. “I could ask the same of you two youngsters.” He pointed the beam above them, illuminated them somewhat.

       “We came on a bike.” He glanced at the moon. “It’s a romantic night. It was, anyway,” Tom blurted.

       The man-shape pinched his beard, twisted the end. He said, “Perch was scared off by ya. I suppose I oughta shove off then. My name is Andy, anyhow. ‘Handy Andy’ they call me. I see things, doncha know.”

       Kitty and Tom glanced at each other. Kitty nodded in the fisher’s direction and said, “I see things, too. I see us getting outta here.” She stood and the man-shape cast his beam on them. Tom stiffened. Kitty shielded her eyes.  
       The peculiar man asked, “Do you believe in coincidences, or that things happen for a reason? Do you think people cross paths, or just meet random?” He trained the light in front of them, down by the sand and wild grass.

       Kitty and Tom didn’t respond. Their brows were furrowed with curiosity mixed with trepidation. The haze from the flashlight became eerie. They wished they had their own flashlight, but part of the adventure was to brave the dark, trusting one another for support. It was meant to amuse. Their flashlight stayed in a saddlebag on Tater.
       “You folks been married plenty years. I see grown kids ’n little grandkids. Your kid took a bad path. It’s been hard on you both. But heck, enjoy midlife. Mister, you fear being left alone in old age. Missus, you fear dying without finishing somethin’. Stop me when I’m wrong.”
       A glance at each other said What the hell? Nonetheless, the couple didn’t interrupt.
       Andy waited a beat then continued. “In life we strive to reach a goal, Missus. You’ll reach it. Steady work ain’t for wastin’. Mister, you’re only as old and alone as you let yer thoughts think. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my seventy-eight years, it’s don’t fear nothin’. It’s the devil’s tool. Take life a day at a time. Yesterday’s late, and tomorrow ain’t here. Just love each other. Love covers over wrongs. Love feeds ya, stores up energy for beatin’ squabbles.” He laughed knowingly, revealed his white teeth. False teeth. Nice teeth. Friendly frame surrounding them. “Love reaches them little hidden crannies of doubt.” He patted his heart. 

       Kitty softened. “Thank you, Handy Andy, sir. We needed that. Love’s unpredictable sometimes.” Her cheeks rounded. It’s getting late, though. We have an hour’s ride. Would you guide us out with that flashlight?”

       Although goosebumps pricked the back of his neck, Tom also thanked Andy. He took Kitty’s hand, and by the light of the husky man’s flashlight, they put on their footwear then bid him good-bye at Tater.      
       On the way home, when traffic cleared, she lifted her arms shoulder height, fingers pressed together, directing the thick warm air under her palms. “I’m flyiiiiiiing!” She giggled and lifted her face adjusting her helmet a little to see past the peak to watch the diamonds sparkle on black velvet. She looked to the east to marvel at the rich moon slice. She glanced to the road periodically for oncoming traffic. She thanked God for every car that passed by safely, inhaled the night air and smiled at her husband’s short, curly ponytail whipping around in the wind.       
       He took the curves like a pro. Tater smoothly shifted gears, and home became closer. It was likely the last night ride of the year; the last of the flying, and the most romantic ride they’d shared. A wise elder told them about life, about love, yet she forgot to ask if he had a love of his own.

       They stood in their driveway, Tater standing proud beside them, tic-tic-ticking as he cooled down. Each with a helmet under their arm and safety glasses in hand, he pulled her close, cupped her chin, and kissed her coral-coloured lips with generous love. 

       She felt that familiar tickle in her soul, the one that driveway kisses always made surface. 

       The balmy September evening, Tater, the feeling of marital security, and peace, filled their beings with grace and gratitude. And ‘Handy’ insight.

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THE DAISY PLUCKER

No one there to stare at me, no one there to hear me, or talk to me. That’s all I wanted. The grocery store offered silence. I hid in a deep shelf, pushing bulk bundles of tissue to make room, and I took a family-sized bag of puffed cheesy sticks with me.
       A half hour after closing; no one noticed me.
       I shoved the dry treat sticks in my mouth, savouring, knowing all about the toxins my friend told me about, and I couldn’t have cared less. Life at age fourteen sucked. I had grown tired of trying to keep up to school and home chores, school bullies, a never satisfied mother, and steady disappointments. I wanted to be left alone. I needed to cry. Everything I’d tried lately failed. No matter how patient, I waited and waited and waited more. Certain things I looked forward to never came my way. I felt indignant. I would have made a great class president.
       I crouched under the shelf above me, I binged on the snack in the dim lighting. Angry, I wiped at hot tears. I pulled the bottom of my sundress up and wiped my weepy nose on it. The bag crinkled, I crunched.
       I stopped reaching into the near-empty bag to listen. It sounded like squeaky footfalls coming up my way. Steadily, the squeaks seemed to be purposely gaining on my hideaway. I held my breath, didn’t move one cheesy-stick-eating muscle.
      My stealthiness proved useless, just like my life. Men’s white sports shoes squeaked in front of where I crouched. Skinny jeans on long legs. I bent sideways, craning to peek up, although I was reasonably sure who stood there. A light-blue T-shirt with a print of wispy clouds and a phrase: The Sky’s the Limit. I pushed my breath out, putting my hand on my forehead, shaking my head in slight movements. My big brother. Should have known he’d show up. He always knows when I feel dispirited.
       Bending to greet me, he grinned. “What are you hiding from?” A lock of his curly hair fell over one eye. He tucked it behind his ear.
       “Myself mostly. I want be alone. Just me and my dark thoughts.” I crossed my legs Indian style, pushing my dress in the hollow with curled fists.
       He studied my eyes. “Come out, let’s talk.”
       “Nothing to be said.”
       “Oh, but there is. You’re creating a downward negativity spiral.”
       I spread my hands and paralleled them, motioning like a stamping machine. “That’s because I need a break from my stupid life! I need adventure. I need success. Fun. Cheesy sticks.”
      He nodded once. “And exercise.” He gestured to the corner of my mouth by tapping his.
       With the back of my hand I wiped off orange crumbs. Then tears, thinking I left orange pigment high on my cheek.
       “Come out. I have something to show you.”
       “What? What could possibly be of use? I’m passed help!”
       He reached in offering his thick hand. I had nothing but hiding to lose, so I took it.
He pulled me out and dusted me off. Reaching in my hideaway, he grabbed the near- empty cheesy stick bag. We walked, me hustling to keep up to long strides built in to his six-foot frame. He stopped at the deserted till and put the crumpled bag on the belt with cash to cover it. He motioned for me to follow stretching his arm out, his hand beckoning to me from behind him. At the front doors he turned to be sure I followed, then he led me to see what he’d brought with him.     
      He gestured with his outstretched arm, palm up, presenting the surprise. “I rented it for us,” he said. His white teeth flashed as his one eyebrow popped up.
       Shaking my head and rolling my eyes, I smiled, because I could never resist this animated twinkle of his. I eyed the tandem bicycle. It was my favourite colour. Purple. It looked new with shiny handlebar sets, a mirror on each side, and full fenders. A Schwinn, the real deal. I reacted with a surprised kind of grin, looked at my brother and asked, “We’re riding this?”
       “It’s gonna be an adventure. And much needed exercise,” he added. “You get on and I’ll hop on the back.”
       Big eyed, I uttered, “No, you drive. I’ll help power foot it.”
       “It’s your adventure. I’ll be right behind you. C’mon,” he coaxed, “I’ll guide you the whole way. Trust me.”
       “But you’re a better driver. I’m lousy at steering in tight spots. You know that. This isn’t a regular bicycle. What if I wreck it?”
      He turned and put his forehead on the brick wall, closed his eyes and breathed deeply. Shifting his eyes to me he finally said, “This is part of the adventure. Hop on. We’ll avoid traffic. Do you trust me?”
       I didn’t answer him.
      “Do-o-o-o. Yo-o-o-u. Trust. Me-e-e?”
Reluctantly I boarded the plush seat. It met my height perfectly. I gripped the handles and wiggled to test the bicycle’s stability.
       My brother stretched his long leg to merely step over and situate himself on the back seat. He directed me to a bike path. It was easier than I thought, but looking through the mirror, his knees were too high, nearly bashing on the handlebars. He continued with me anyway, his awkwardly bent legs pumping like denim pistons.
     The scenery was pretty and fragranced with morning glories which trailed along a log barrier. Lots of trees, pine needle beds under evergreens, and ground cover flowers overflowing the dirt path. I navigated around them with my tongue out to the side of my upper lip, white knuckled, gripping. I wobbled and yelped, kept going. The bicycle route continued out of my sight. There was an open meadow to the right. I could smell the sweet meadow scent I loved but could never identify. I started toward it.
       “I suggest we stay on this path. Trust me,” he said firmly. “Hey—no—don’t leave the path!”
       I didn’t listen. I had a better idea, and regretted it soon. The meadow proved awful. Long grass threatened to catch in the spokes, and it was too late. I banged through the ruts, bee-covered clover, and leftover hay-like grass from the preceding year. My molars click-click-clicked. My dress flapped. Through the mirror, my brother was bouncing with each bump. His feet were up, legs freestyle at his sides.
       “Veer to the left, lean into the curve—go left.” He sounded calm, but authoritative.
       I went at it hard but stayed going straight, because I didn’t think I could make the tight turn without dumping us. Wild daisies lit up an area and I couldn’t slow down. Right into the daisies, got tangled. I uprooted a few of them and bowled right through with daisies and wild grass caught in the spokes.
       My brother instructed me again, telling me to go to the right this time. He should have driven this thing—he wouldn’t believe I’d mess it up. I glanced in the mirror. He had something in his hands, saying something. He’d tucked his legs up somehow keeping them in front of him. The mirror vibrated and I looked ahead to the right. I veered, but too late. A slope, good for tobogganing in the winter, loomed straight ahead—it was our path!
       My brother leaned into the turn, but it remained up to me. I had to control this rig.
       “Slow it down and stop. We can turn around and go back,” he suggested.
       I’d lost my mind. I couldn’t slow it down, because I felt caught up in the drama. Again I looked in the mirror. He still held something. It looked like a wilted daisy. He said something I couldn’t quite hear. Something about me and not. The slope was becoming harsh now, no time to turn back. From behind me, more instruction. Looking in the mirror, I saw he still fooled with that dead daisy. He did not look concerned. He looked how he always does in a crisis: confident.
       “You’ll do fine to turn away and slow down. Lean into it.”
       I wasn’t fine—and why does he still hold that rumpled flower? I strained to listen and watch him in the mirror for a second. He was plucking petals and saying, “She trusts me… she trusts me not.”
       “What
are you doing? We’re gonna crash, and you’re talking to a dead daisy!”
     
She trusts me, she trusts me not,filtered through the fast flowing air.
      
Over we went. Sky-ground-sky-ground-sky-ground—old grass smelled like wet hay and snails. I spit a out clump of inhaled hair. I yanked my dress off my face shoving it down to cover my underpants. My knee killed me, and there was blood. The bicycle wheel dug into my bare leg. It hurt, but I had to push it off and look for my brother. I winced and squeezed my eyes shut. Something disturbed the grass around me. I heard heavy breathing over my face. I opened my eyes and there he was on his knees with a loving smirk. His arms were crossed, his hair was in his face. His cheek was scratched above his short beard.
       “Maybe trusting me would have been better?” He pushed his curly hair away from his face, tucking it behind his ears. He sat and took my leg in his hands. He gently straightened and bent it and told me my knee wasn’t broken. No surprise, really, he had a bandage in his back pocket. He’s always prepared for everything. It’s weird, but a good weird. He spit on my knee, wiped blood away with two fingers, and covered the wound. I licked my thumb, reached up and wiped at his scratch, apologizing.
       “You’re fine,” he reassured, “the bike is fine, too.” He pushed on the front fender. It clicked. “I’ll lose the damage deposit, but it’s okay to ride.” My brother picked up the bike and brushed daisies, grass, and dirt clumps from it. “C’mon.” He adjusted the seat height, steadied the bike and mounted the driver’s seat. “I’ll take you through the path I wanted you to see then I’ll take you to my place. I have Greek cookies and Turkish coffee. I have until tonight to return the bike. We still need to talk. You should have come to me when you started feeling glum.” He leaned so I could get on the back and stated, “Work that knee, it’ll help it from becoming too stiff.”
       Jesus the daisy plucker. The ever loving brother I will learn to trust someday. Probably today.

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