The sound of the door closing brought me out of the world of numbers I had entrenched myself in. Not the sound itself, but the particular tone. When your life slips into a steady rhythm and the harmonies blend perfectly, it is easy to notice a single missed note. Although the door did not have the force of a slam, something about its dull note seemed off.
I slid my chair away from my desk and got my head through my office door just in time to see the bottom of my son’s feet disappearing up the stairs.
A familiar, “Yeah?” came floating down from somewhere above. Again, something seemed off. A note slightly off key. I couldn’t say which one, only that I heard something that shouldn’t have been.
The words hit me like a sucker punch. My hands found my knees as I struggled for air that had come so easily just a moment before.
Thirty-four young girls stood lined up against a bus with black letters that had faded into blurred lines. A few stared at their worn shoes. I was thankful for that because I could not bear one more set of eyes on me. The rest watched me with desperation and guilt, wanting so badly to be chosen, but knowing what that would mean for the ones who were not. My soul seemed to collapse under weight of the choices before me.
I turned to the Mr. Diacov who stared at me in an effort to avoid the silent pleas from the girls. Black buttons struggled to hold his grey suit together around the bulge of his stomach. The dark circles under his green eyes nearly matched his coal-black shaggy hair and the stubble that covered his chin.
“Please.” I begged. “There must be something we can do. The home can hold more than…” (more…)
Jenna barely heard the rough clicks of Sam’s key in the door over the gentle hiss of the water as she washed the vegetables. A quick sigh escaped from her mouth. As much as she loved her husband, after work he tended to be a bit grumpy. The fresh stack of bills that lay on the counter would only make it worse. She turned off the water and began to wipe her hands when she saw him come into their tiny apartment, turning to close the door and lock it behind him.
Jenna grinned at the sight of him. He had an unassuming cuteness about him. When she had first seen him at their church she never would have pictured them together. He had shaggy brown hair, hazel eyes, and an average frame that could easily be lost in a crowd, but he was smart enough to know that those were not his strength.
The first time Sam had approached her it was simple and quick. He introduced himself and came off as shy. Each time they spoke after that he emerged from of his shell a little more. It did not take long for Jenna to see his heart and know that it was more beautiful than any other she knew. He had a rare combination of a sweet spirit and powerful intellect. Sam could make you feel like the most wonderful person in the world or like you didn’t exist. He knew the power of words and just how to use them.
It looked like a normal letter from the middle school Max would be attending in the fall, but as I read a hollow rattle rolled through the page from the shaking of my hands. I dropped it on table, grabbed my keys and fled. This is my default action in the face of tragedy. I first learned this when I was about Max’s age.
We were driving to a cabin on the Lake of the Ozarks. An army of trees with shades of green that Crayola could never hope to box surrounded the road on both sides. Two yellow dotted lines marked the way to a perfect weekend. Just me, my dad, and a lake full of fish. I stared over the high dashboard looking for the sign that would mark our turnoff. This would begin our game of who can spot the water first.
A flash of movement was all I saw before the impact jerked me forward. My dad told me to stay, but I was so drawn to the front of our station wagon that I barely heard his words.
Tears streamed down his reddened cheeks as he sat holding his knees against his chest as tightly as his little arms could manage.
“I hate being little!”
Andy’s father plopped down next to him and thought about what to say while resisting the urge to rub the wavy locks of blonde hair that seemed to always look perfect no matter how messy his clothes were at the end of the day.
“I think I’m supposed to tell you how great being six years old is, but to be honest I bet it kind of sucks sometimes.”
Andy’s head shot up to look into his father’s before delivering a very serious reprimand.
Valerie Michaels hoped that March 7th, 2045 would be a special day. And even though it was her eleventh birthday, she would always remember it for another reason.
The ceiling in her room began to illuminate as the soft sounds of classical music signaled that it was time to get up. Her step-mom would be in soon to help her. Until then she stretched and listened to the music drift down like snow upon her. A smile crept across her face as she recognized the soft song. It would only be the first of many surprises from her father. Christine opened the door just as a cello finished the last “Happy birthday to you.” (more…)
Growing up in Hollywood was not as glamorous as it sounds, but the education is unmatched in all the country. In class I was taught geometry, history, and biology, but on the way home I learned how to recognize drug dealers and whores. I could spot a hopeful actor or actress from across a restaurant by the script they kept folded in their back pocket. My friend Dickson and I never finished at the top of our class in school, but outside those walls we felt like Einstein and some other smart guy like Einstein.
My family moved to Hollywood when I was still in diapers because my dad was an actor. He mostly did plays, but wanted to be in the movies. He was always talking in weird voices and pretending he was other people. Sometimes he would let me play along with him. We were knights and spies and astronauts. No matter what adventure we shared it always ended with a tickle fight and lots of laughter. After a while we didn’t pretend anymore. He said it was because I was getting older now and it was time for me to grow up. Luckily I got a new best friend right around the same time.
A light snow began drifting down through the headlights as we drove to the house. Nicole reached over from the passenger seat captured my hand to hold in hers. I couldn’t help but smile. Snow always put her in the mood to snuggle.
The smooth baritone of Bing Crosby serenaded us all the way into my parent’s driveway. She probably didn’t notice it, but her hand squeezed mine a little tighter when we arrived. I knew she was nervous, but mentioning it would only get me punched in the arm. Truth be told, I was a little nervous too. But not for my own sake.
Mother’s intuition was not needed to see that something was wrong. After the dishes had been cleared from dinner Jimmy remained at the table with his chin in his hands.
“I’m never gonna do anything great” he mumbled.
Myra dried her hands and walked over to sit next to her troubled twelve year old. She wanted so badly to ruffle his messy brown hair like she had done when he was younger, but knew it would only arouse his ire.
“Why do you say that? I think you’re great right now.”
He let his hands drop and cocked his head to the side. “You only think that because you’re my mom.” (more…)