The Hawk Has Landed


(My girls have been teaching me about “Flash Fiction” or stories of extreme brevity, usually 1000 words or less. Here we go.)

Falconry-the sport of nobles.

Falconry-the sport of nobles.

In another life, Louisa had been a falconer. Now, as leader of the village, falconry was a collaborative effort, left largely to the young and energetic. Still, from time to time, Louisa would canter out to the village green with Desmond, her favorite peregrine on her leather glove. Desmond was an unusually good hunter, and the pair would often return with several rabbits in her game bag.

Today was a beautiful day for a hunt. Louisa rubbed her hand over her neck and cheek, feeling the ropy scars of past battles. No matter, pretty faces were for silly women, she thought as she cantered off.

Louise loved the feel of the wind in her dreadlocks, and the creak of the leather saddle as her horse picked up speed. Desmond took wing, and Louisa could look up and see him keeping pace above. They cantered through the forest and toward the field, and suddenly, Desmond streaked to the ground.

“A catch? So soon? Let’s see! ” Louisa brought a tidbit of dried meat out of her bag and whistled. Desmond rose from the deep grass, dragging a meaty rabbit in his angular claws. Louisa stopped to appreciate the spare beauty of the bird. He had broken the rabbit’s neck cleanly and quickly.

“Brilliant! “Louisa whooped. Desmond dropped the rabbit and Louisa nabbed it mid air. Desmond’s black head glistened in the morning sun as he settled on her glove.

“Desmond, my love, let’s see what else the King of Heaven has in store for us today.” The pair continued the trot to the grassy glen.

Lists, lists, things to do, people to look out for, children to lead, mouths to feed. Louisa’s head slowly began to clear of all of these things as she concentrated on the moment at hand. She and Desmond made their way over to a fallen tree, and dismounted into a patch of fragrant greenery.

“Aha! Wild mint! The ladies and old men will thank me for this remedy.” She smiled inwardly. Louisa had no desire for more childbearing, but the younger women looked to her for guidance, and wild mint soothed female problems of all sorts. Good for the stomachs of cranky old men, too. She began to gather.

Desmond sidestepped up to her shoulder, and clung to her dreadlocks with one brightly colored claw. He was large for a male, most hunters of his breed were smaller than the females.But Desmond was nearly as large as his female counterpart.

Desmond and Louisa

Desmond and Louisa

The hissing was upon them almost before Louisa knew it. A whoosh, a sudden chill in the air, and a violent churning around them. Desmond squawked and flapped, both claws digging into Louisa’s scarred neck. She dropped to the ground instinctually. She cast her arms into the air, in a ‘Fly’ gesture that Desmond usually responded to. They rolled on the ground together, Desmond narrowly taking wing before Louisa accidentally crushed him.

What in the name of the King of Heaven was going on? Louisa rolled onto her back and looked skyward. An enormous black bird, the likes of which she had never seen, was pursuing her falcon. Desmond was an excellent climber and flew higher, higher to get away from his pursuer. The foreign bird was black with an enormous wingspan, so black that he looked like a moving hole in the sky, a tear in the fabric of the beautiful blue sky day.

Louisa bounded to her feet, frantic. What to do? She reached into her boot and withdrew her favorite dagger and turned to throw. A quick judgement told her that they were too far away, so she rummaged in her saddle bags for a throwing star. Quickly, she pulled out two of the deadly rounded pieces of metal and sent them into the air. One of them missed the black bird narrowly, and the other disappeared, as if swallowed into nothingness.

Suddenly another voice started speaking nearby. Louisa couldn’t understand the words, but somehow she felt as though she should know them. Familiar, somehow.

A powerful male voice uttered the words sotto voce, over and over. Louisa kept her eyes on the birds, it was easy to lose a falcon.

“Rex caeli! Rex caeli! Indulgentia! Auferte malum! Auferte malum!   The voice took on a pleading note. The birds drew closer, suddenly another, larger falcon came to the aid of Desmond. First one, then another, then a third. They swarmed the black bird, streaking, diving, clawing. Desmond folded his wings and made a straight dive to the earth, pulling up at the last possible moment, and winged his way to Louisa. She heaved a sigh, and turned toward the voice.

“What did you say? What happened?” she demanded. She looked in the sky again, the three beautiful falcons had disappeared, and the huge black bird was a spot in the distance.

The owner of the voice was a graying, muscular man with an erect bearing. He stood his ground, and looked at Louisa straight on, undeterred by her battle scarred face.

“King of heaven, show mercy. Banish the evil one. ” He turned away, and walked toward his own mount, tethered not far away.

Unexpected aid

Unexpected aid

“Wait!” Louisa whispered.  The Evil one?

 “Wait!” Her voice rose.  “Are you a servant of the Most High too?” Her voice rose again.

The man turned. A peregrine of identical size landed and settled on his own glove.

“Yes. I am. They call me Hawk.”

Sabbatical in a Teacup: Day Seventeen. Grenada, Alhambra, and the ghost of Garcia Lorca. Angels, part Four


The Moorish palaces of Alhambra is over a thousand years old. It stands on the top of a hill here in Granada, and is a series of Islamic palaces built for the last Muslim Emirs of Spain. Several hundred years later the Catholic monarchs overran the place, and then it was allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries.

Alhambra

Alhambra

Islamic poets, artists and architects don’t spend a great deal of time on outward appearances, so the inner courtyards, gardens, and facades are really remarkable. Christians could take a lesson from the analogy of inner beauty, come to think of it.

The outside of the Alhambra is kind of boring. But inside?

Gardens constructed for contemplation.

Water everywhere.

Water everywhere.Picture Moorish princesses  dreaming here.Poetry inscribed on the walls to think about.

Rooms with veined windows for the sunlight to gently illuminate.

IMG_0430

It was as if we had traveled backwards in time several months in the calendar. Gardens grew everywhere. We even found roses in bloom.

IMG_0447

The palaces are set high on a hill, with views of the city from all directions. It was spectacular to watch the sun set. 

Yet, there is something eerie about the city of Grenada, and the deserted walkways of the Alhambra.

Perhaps echos of a magnificent civilization that is no more? Perhaps the impermanence of things? Garcia Lorca was shot here in the bloody Spanish Civil war here in the 1930s.

Arguably one of Spain’s most important poets and playwrights, Lorca’s murder in 1936 is matter of controversy here as recently as 2009.

At this road, I am anxious to leave Granada, as it is sad and haunted. Looking for the life of Spain, we walked many narrow alleyways to get away from the larger shops and cafeterias. Here we found Mr. Cortez.

Sr. Cortez, holding my new wooden tea tray, with it's precise Moorish geometric wooden tilework.

Sr. Cortez, holding my new wooden tea tray, with it’s precise Moorish geometric wooden tilework.

He and his son run this tiny little woodshop that makes these wonderful patterned applique wooden boxes, trays and tables. They have a single part time employee, and it was difficult to walk around the stacks of well-crafted inventory.

I watched Faith and the Senor have an animated conversation in Spanish, and the life of the city began to glow again. Grenada is to be found here, in the tiny alleyways and lined faces of Sr. Cortez. Garcia Lorca haunts the libraries and universities, and the history is bloody and sad. But the life if the city is where it usually is to be found, in the faces of it’s people.

 

Chapter Seven: The Coffehouse Angel.

Mom had died earlier that morning. By that time, she needed round the clock care, and thank God she had the foresight to store the funds for such an event.About two oclock that morning, her “awake” care provider heard her make a noise. Not a cough, not a murmur, sort of a noise in her throat. She threw off the lap cover and got off the couch to investigate.

“Carolyn? Are you all right?” April was a gentle soul. She was a widow herself, with several children in their twenties. Truly a unique personality to provide such a service.

“Carolyn? Can you hear me?” She gently tugged on Mom’s nightgown. Mom’s face was still. April ran to the phone and dialed 911. Four and a half minutes later the blazing lights and fire breathing emergency vehicles descended in the driveway. They loaded Mom onto a gurney, oxygen strapped to her face.

The men blazed their way to Saint Marks, a local hospital, where Mom was rushed to through the ER without triage.

Brother John made the terrible phone call.

“Louisa, come to Saint Mark’s. Mom has had a massive stroke” It was three oclock in the morning.

The hollow feeling in my gut reappeared. . This was just to familiar. My sister had made the same same telephone call just eighteen months ago.

“Louisa, Are you awake?Are you understanding what I am saying?”

It was about three thirty by then.

John’s voice broke. “Get in the car now. Mom is on a ventilator, and the doctor’s don’t seem to think there’s much point in doing that, but she can stay on it forever if we want. “ John was openly sobbing now. It’s a terrible thing to hear your brother’s heart break.

I informed the children of what was going on. Thanks be to God they were old enough to stay by themselves.

I gathered them all in my room.

“Children, Nana said for years that she  never wanted anyone to see her when she’s died. She has very likely died now. I am going to the hospital to see her, and I don’t want you to come. “

The girls burst into tears. David Junior sat on the bed, stoic. So sad to have seen so much loss in just eighteen years.

The lonely night was snowy. The road hard, unforgiving. I drove on autopilot.

Nana? Dead? Who would parent me? Who’s the grownup now? Who did I get to go to for support?

Nana was one of a handful of people I knew without a doubt was on my side all the time. Even when I was wrong, I was right. Nana was crochety, opinionated, crabby and full of love for her family from her thinning hair to her arthritic ankles.

I passed a nearby Starbucks.

A ghost of a migraine was forming around my temples. Shit. A migraine. The last thing I needed.

Caffeine! That would help. I pulled in to the store. Thank God it was one of those twenty four hour ones.

I pulled open the door, squinting against the harsh lighting. A bright, cheery barista greeted me. Hundreds of times I had been here, never seen her.

“Hi! What can I I get started for you? “ My gosh, what a greeting so late at night. Or early in the morning. Whatever.

“Grande chai tea, skim milk, steamed extra hot, no water or foam. “

“Great!”She gave me a dazzling smile. “And how’s your day going?”

My day? How’s my day? What to say.  It was four thirty in the morning. Which day?

The truth always works.

“My mother died today.” I could feel my face start to crumple.

The barista stopped what she was doing. Her face took on an unusual glow.

She walked around the counter and put her hands on my shoulders and gave me another beatific smile.“I’m here to tell you something. May I give you a hug? “

“Yes.”

“I ‘m here to tell you that you are loved very much”.

For a moment, I wept, comforted on the shoulder of a stranger.

I got my drink, got in the car and continued the lonely drive. Peace started to creep into my soul.

Merry Christmas From Granada! Angels, Part 3.


Snow Angel

Snow Angel (Photo credit: Atelier Teee)

We visit the Alhambra today and the ancient Plaza Nuevo. I’ll show you what I mean later, but Christmas ‘getting’ is everywhere. How about some Chrismas ‘giving’ to start your day? Thanks so much for the positive notes. It makes me happy to think fellow Visitors get a little joy out of these things, Much love,

V

Chapter 6: Joseph and the New Shoes 

Angel 013

Angel 013 (Photo credit: Juliett-Foxtrott)

 Night had come, and another shift at the college was about to start. The kids were in bed. Mark and Mary were three and five, and Taylor was probably still up, working on something from the office.

 I backed the ATV out of it’s shed and steered it around the grounds. This part of the college was often called the “Mushroom”  because of it’s funny looking dome that overarched the entryways. Still, I found the grounds to be beautiful.

I gathered my things, and strapped on my belt. Gloves, pliers, hammer, screwdriver, plastic bags, other assorted tools to keep this place looking good.

It never occurred to me to be embarrassed about my job, it gave me a chance to think. But things weren’t going well between Taylor and me. She was a research physician, and what she saw in the likes of me, was still a mystery, even after seven years of marriage.

I ran a small music shop for my ‘real job’, my partner and I gave guitar  and keyboard lessons to all comers. In this economy though, music lessons were a discretionary item, to be sure. The flow of students had dropped by nearly eighty percent since the recession began. Who could blame them, really? I mean, if you can’t put food on the table, how can you pay for your kid to learn to play Dad’s old Stratocaster?

It was only because Taylor’s job was steady that we stayed afloat at all. I fought off guilt about that, men are supposed to be the provider and all that. I had taken this custodial job at the  college to contribute more to my self esteem than the family budget.

But Mark and Mary? I wouldn’t trade the time I have with them for the world. Taylor’s first pregnancy had caught us both off guard. We should have known better. Both of us were in our twenties, and had just been careless. Surprise!

So the Catholic in me did the right thing, and proposed. I had never had a regular girlfriend, just a string of meaningless partners. I guess that makes me bad or something. I don’t know, I just hoped God was nice enough to let me off the hook. I didn’t mean to be a user, but it’s exhausting to please everyone, and proposing to Taylor seemed to be a relief.

Too bad it didn’t work out that way. At five foot eight and barely a hundred forty, I never felt like much, and being married didn’t change that.

“Joseph? He’s the little one. Don’t pick him, he’s weak.”

“Girly-boy Joseph? Look at his curly hair! He’s so little! He’s a girl!”

Taunts from schoolmates got so repetitive as to be trite.

“Joey? He just hasn’t gotten his growth spurt. I’m sure he’ll be big and strong some day.” My mother still said that, and at thirty five, I had gotten tired of correcting her.

Years of jokes about my size had gotten under my skin. Secretly, I started to work out, to ride my bike to the shop, and lift the weights I stored in my closet. I was stronger than most people thought.

Had to be, for this job. I filled a five gallon drum with water and hefted it through a wrought iron gate to the children’s garden.

The college had a child care center for it’s students and staff, and a lovely garden that I got to maintain.

“Joseph? Mr. Joseph? Is that you? A hissing through the children’s garden caught my ear.

I couldn’t quite make it out. After ten steady years in this business, I was a little afraid I was losing my hearing.

A small dark figure darted out from behind the flower wagon.

“Mr. Joseph!”

“Tommy! What are you doing here? It must be near midnight! “

Tommy ‘hung out’ quite often at the college.The food was subsidized and no one bother him.

“Please don’t send me home, Mr. Joseph. Dad got drunk and threw me out again. He says I bin dealin’, and that’s just not true! He found some glass in my brother’s room, and Jeremy said it was mine! It just ain’t so! “

The teenager’s teeth gleamed in the starless night. I could barely make him out. His coffee colored face radiated anxiety.

“Well , shit ,Tommy. Sorry. Shoot. Now how would meth get into you brother’s room unless you put it there? You’re the one in high school. What’s Jeremy? Fourteen?”

“How the hell should I know where he got it? “ Tommy’s voice rose to a whine.

“But I know that stuff. We have meth monkeys all over school, with their rotten teeth and twitchy attitudes. Skinny as poles, too. I ain’ t no meth monkey.”

I believed him. Something about his demeanor seemed to ordinary, too sixteen and squirrelly to be drug induced. I walked with him over to the sodium lights in the parking lot.

“You can’t stay here, Tommy. Where are you gonna go in the morning?” Tommy shifted on the pavement, as if it were burning his feet.

I looked down, aghast.

“Tommy! Your feet! What the hell happened to your feet? “

Tommy was small for his age, too. He had the feet of a twelve year old boy, and they were cut and bleeding.

“Have your shoes gone missing?”

“Naw. Dad got the baseball bat. I know when he gets the baseball bat I  better get the hell outta there right quick. “

I sat down, frustrated. What a thing to do to a kid. All the rotten decisions, all the missed opportunities in my life, one thing I was proud of. Two actually, and they were both at home tucked in their beds.

“Get in the car, Tommy.”

Taylor and I would have words, I’m sure. Money was always tight. But there are some things you just can’t let go.

“Anyone you can stay with tonight, Tommy? “ We pulled into the nearby Target.

“Yaw, my cousin lives down the street. She told me any time my dad gets going to come and stay with her an’ her kids. I can go there.”

“Ok, let’s go shopping.”

The Target was still open. Tommy and I trotted to the boys aisle, and slid down the polished tile floors. I used to love to do that when I was a kid, and had on slippery shoes.

One hour and seventy dollars later, Tommy and I walked out of the store, with two brand new pairs of shoes, size seven. Athletic shoes, because what sixteen year old can be on the b-ball courts without good shoes, and ‘fancy shoes’ for school. Just a pair of Dockers, but he promised he would wear them, especially on band days. Tommy loved the trumpet as much as I loved the guitar.

We got back into the car, chattering like children.

“Gotta girlfriend, Tommy?”

“Phht. Not me, Mr. Joseph. Look at me, I’m ugly. It’s easier for me to look mean. That way no one messes with me. What’re your babies doing? “

The boy directed me to a scarier part of town. The houses were run down, and closer together.

“Mark and Mary? Oh, They’re awesome. Growing so fast.”

“Just a little further, Mr. Joseph. Can I use your phone? “ He called a number, said “yeah” a bunch of times, and gave it back to me.

“She says it’s fine. She says you’re the best, and a real angel.”

“Look! There she is now!” A middle aged black woman with wirey grey hair came down the steps, pulling a terrycloth wrapper behind her. She tied the wrap around her, and opened her arms to Tommy before he even got out of the car.

Tommy opened the door and leapt out of the car, before I could bring it to a full stop.

He looked over his shoulder as he ran to the welcoming figure.

“Thank you Mr. Joseph! You’re the best! A real Angel from Heaven!”

Sabbatical in a Teacup: Day Fifteen. On Eze, Nice and Unrequited Love. Angels, Part 2


Living in fifteenth century Eze village must have been hard. It’s a medieval village outside of Nice, about a twenty minute drive toward Monaco. the ruins stand overlooking the sea, next to the Fragonard perfumery. It’s all hewn rock, and the top is like a aerie overlooking the sea.

We walked up to the top of the village, and were treated to this.

The exotic garden at the top of Eze. Filled with ruins, wonderful plants and statuary.

The exotic garden at the top of Eze. Filled with ruins, wonderful plants and statuary.

WHAT a gorgeous place to live. Standing on these rough hewn rocks, the wind in our hair, you wonder about things. It’s all so much smaller than what we have now. The doors in the ancient village are barely five feet, the rooms, which are now shops, of course, tiny little spaces hacked out of rock. Or, enclosed spaces with uneven bricks mortared together against the elements.

But where would you get your water? And imagine hustling up and down all those steps to the baker, the winemaker, or the tanner. Narrow stone corridors everywhere. Now, it’s a stop for Spanish cruise ships. An interesting evolution.

We climbed and climbed, and  got the fun of this. A good place to keep an eye on the bad guys, all the way up here.

The mediterranean from the top of Eze village.

The mediterranean from the top of Eze village.

Keeping the bad guys away from the fortified top of Eze.

Keeping the bad guys away from the fortified top of Eze.

Fragonard is at the foot of Eze, and was fascinating. It’s a lot smaller of a perfumerie than I would have thought, and they employ one single perfumer who works all of two hours a day. The job specs for this position are kind of incredible. This man spent three years training his nose, and can distinguish between several thousand fragrances. After a seven year apprenticeship, he can be a perfumer. He can never, ever smoke, drink alcohol or eat spicy food. Forever. AND his nose is insured for a million dollars. Can you imagine?

We spent hours just doing this.

We spent hours just doing thiUS dollars. Can you imagine? Such commitment!

Part of this sabbatical is also for these children. My goal here is to help them built an experience base, and a comfort with the world.

Such a vast amount of space!

Such a vast amount of space!

It’s hilarious to watch mountain children interact with the ocean. Quote of the day: “Mom, I know this makes me sound stupid, but the ocean is so BIG!”

Nice was a very mixed bag. People ask me if the French are as obnoxious as their reputation, and after barely a week, I like to reserve judgement. However, last night all three of our tour bikes were stolen. They were bolted securely to the railing outside the hotel. We went to dinner , and then made to bring them into the building. All three of the bolts were cut, and sitting on the ground where the bikes were, mockingly. The owner of the bike shop? “I told you to bring them in after dark!” And how would we have gotten home? Hmm, methinks obnoxious stereotypes might have some basis in reality. Thank heaven for insurance.

Thieves in Nice notwithstanding, it was a pleasant stay. The ocean always seems to evoke thought, at least in this mountain dweller.

It also still cracks me up to see the neurons blazing new pathways like this:

The perfect stone is here somewhere.

The perfect stone is here somewhere.

just sitting and gazing.

After a day like today, a movie was in order. Rachael had just finished Anna Karenina, the Tolstoy doorstop. Really, those of you who like Tolstoy, realize that what King Solomon said was true. There is nothing new under the sun. Anna is a  tale of  brainless, obsessive love that ultimately ends in self destruction. Stephanie Meyer was wise not to kill off Bella in the Twilight series, she would not have sold as many copies. But Twilight is a Tolstoy ripoff, and Tolstoy no doubt was friends with Romeo and Juliet. 

Obsessive and unrequited love doesn’t do it for me any more. This part of the trip has been strangely challenging. It’s funny, after two years, I would have thought that the grief of losing a husband would be a chapter now, but it is not so. As I walked through the flower market, and took the kids down a Christmas street, a little achy part of my heart reminded me that yes, it would have been better if Chris were here.

I wrote about it to a friend of mine. Catherine is familiar with loss, this is what she said.

” …wouldn’t we want our loved ones to keep a little token of us in their hearts should the roles have been reversed? Be patient with yourself. You’ll find your feet again, and Chris will have left behind a little legacy in that you will be little more empathetic for others who are going through the same thing. Don’t fight it those sad moments when you think of him. Embrace the fact that he deserved to have someone grieve for him  here on earth.”  

It’s a lovely thought, and true. Were I the one gone, I would want my loved ones to think of me. Not be stuck, or paralysed, just to think of me, and wish I were there. Perhaps he is, somehow.

Lest we end on a completely morose note, here is another chapter of Angels Among Us, fellow Visitors. It is Christmas, after all, the season to give. I hope you enjoy it.

Much love,

V

Chapter Ten: Layaway Angels Christmas-layaway-1

It was a late night, and I was tired. It had been a long day at work, and dance was just killing my feet. My private coaching time had gone well, but I had never done Quickstep. I was looking forward to it, but it was difficult at eight oclock at night after a long day. Thirty minutes into the lesson I just gave up.

I motioned to my coach. “I’m sorry,Scott, I’ve got to give it up. Long day.”

Scott, ever the understanding coach, sent me home with a warm hug.

“It’s OK! We’ll see you Tuesday! “He went back to teaching the class.

I changed out of my dance shoes and was about to leave when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

“Victoria! Victoria! Are you leaving? “ One of my favorite dance partners wanted my attention.

 

“Yes, Randy, I’ve had enough. How long are you staying?”

“Oh, probably for everything. Listen, I was wondering, do you want to go with me to the Mercury Café next week? Thursday is tango night!”

I thought about it for a fraction of a second. Rick was built like a whippet, and enough older than me that he didn’t mind being called a hippy.

But he was an excellent dancer, and made me laugh.

“Randy, that sounds like a lovely invitation! Let me give you my card with my number on the back, and you send me the details.”

“Great! Sounds great! “ Randy went back to quickstep.

Two days later I got an email from Randy. We met later that week and had peanut skewers at Tokyo Joes. Randy was funny, and kept me on my toes, verbally.

We went to the Merc and took over a table.

‘Say, Randy. What do you say. I’m a Christian, right? And we believe in tithing. So I’ve got some extra money in my tithe budget. It’s getting near Christmas, and one thing my husband and I used to love to do was to be ‘Layaway Angels.”

“Layaway Angels?” Randy’s Jersey accent always made me smile. I’ve never heard of such a thing!”

“Check it out. This is how it works. I brought three hundred dollars in small bills. Let’s dance for a while, and then before we go home, let’s find the nastiest, dirtiest K-mart in the area. I don’t know this area much, so can you find one? “

“I think so. Then what? “

“Well, you have to find a clerk that will let you do this, because some people get squirrelly about privacy. But, the idea is, you find a clerk in the layaway department who will tell you who has stuff on layaway for small children. It’s getting close to Christmas, so you know if someone has 75$ worth of toys and kid clothes on layaway, and pays like ten dollars a week on it, it’s probably for Christmas. So we go in, and pay the balance, and ‘poof!’ someone thinks they’ve been visited by an angel! Heh, it’s really fun.”

Randy looked at me like I’d lost my mind.

“You do that? Give perfectly good money to someone you’ll never even see?”

“Well sure, Randy! Don’t you ever give anything away? You told me yourself about going to volunteer at the Denver Rescue Mission and the Denver Hospice. How is that any different?”

“Well, it’s money, for one thing. But that’s kind of cute! No, I’m not a Christian, but that sounds like fun. Your money though, right? I didn’t bring any more than I needed tonight, and besides, I’m not sure that’s my cup of tea.”

“Hehheh, It’s OK, Rick. I used to do it with my husband before he died, and since then I’ve just lost the heart for it. But Christians are supposed to help each other, and it really gives me a lot of joy. So, are we on?”

“You bet.”

Randy  and I spent the next two hours dancing to the music at the Mercury Café. It had been ages since I had been there, and I didn’t recognize a soul. Rick introduced me around, the consummate gentleman, ponytail and all.

When the crowd started to thin, Rick and I gave each other a knowing nod. Soon, we were on the road into some of the less affluent parts of Denver.

We found a K mart in the Five Points area. It was past midnight.

“Gah, this is it, Randy. Call me a Nervous Nellie, but I’m glad you’re with me! “

We walked through the flickering light of the sodium lamps and entered the store.

“Ok, “ Randy’s gravelly Jersey voice rasped. “Maybe customer service?”

“Heheh, I think so. “

We went to the back of the store and explained what we wanted to do to one of the clerks behind the counter. She was a tired looking teenager, and blew her bubblegum in our general direction.

“Huh. A coupla do gooders, huh? I guess so.” She went to a different computer.

“Let’s see. Here’s one with a ‘Tickle me Elmo’, a size thirty six month overalls, a pack of socks the same size, and a little dress. Total, 87. 58 , total paid so far, 25 dollars, balance 62.58$. “

I turned to Rick. “Perfect! Let’s do it. “ I counted out the bills.

“Next? “ The clerk seemed surprised. What a pity.

“Ok,” she seemed to be warming to the task. “Here’s one. Matchbox car set, with six matchbox cars and four sets of tracks. Size four overalls, size four tennis shoes, baseball cap. Total, 72.33, total paid, thirty dollars over four weeks. Balance remaining, forty two dollars and thirty three cents. “

Randy chimed in. “Matchbox! I loved matchbox! I used to play with that very same set with my son when he was a kid. This is fun!”

I was delighted that Randy shared the same sense of joy in giving that I had. We continued for a few more minutes until the balance of the money was spent.

Chattering like bluejays, we left the store and Randy walked me to my care.

“Thanks! That was more than what I bargained for, but a lot of fun! “

We exchanged a warm hug, and promised to see each other next Thursday at Scott’s next practice party. I grinned all the way home, happy to recruit another member into the party of angels.

 

Sabbatical in a Teacup: Day Thirteen. Angels Among Us – Introduction and First Presentation


  • Good evening from the French Riveria, friends. We had a wonderful trip to the medieval town and gardens of Eze, and toured the Fragonard parfumerie beneath. I am working on some lovely pictures for your enjoyment, because we truly had a nice time, and including you folks makes me happy.

But, part of my ‘bucket list’ for Sabbatical in a Teacup was to fiish my National Novel Writing Month book, and it is done. What a relief!

Here’s a little background though, because I’m actually a terrible cheat and poseur. The goal for NaNoWriMo participants is to crank out a 50,000 word novel in the space of one single month.

I’ll let you in on  a little secret: Big goals scare the hell out of me. I cut it in half.

50,000 words is around 200 pages, or a normal novel. I figured if I could crank out 25,000 words in a comprehensible story, I’d be doing pretty well. So I did. A little more, actually, not quite 26,000. It’s about a hundred and fifteen pages.

So here’s a chapter. The premise is based on Psalm 91:11, the verse where God promises to “give his angels charge concerning you”, and the Skillet song I referred to in a post a few weeks ago. (Looking for Angels -Skillet, 2008, I think)

Now, since Chris died, angels have been a source of interest to me. I do believe they exist in the spiritual realm, heck, I think there’s a lot more going on in the spiritual realm then most people, even Christians, care to acknowledge.

But I also think that angels can manifest in a more concrete form, mainly you and me. This first chapter is lightweight, and actually happened. You have to get the visual here, to truly get the magnificence of the action. So read along, if you will, and picture with me.

Angel Babies

Baby Cuddler Wanted

Baby Cuddler Wanted

 

Larissa was only nine months old. She had just mastered the ability to sit up, and was reaching nicely with her hands for objects. She cried when Mom left the room, and smiled and stretched out her arms when Mom or Dad  came back.Erica was only a month younger. Their mothers were friends, college buddies, even. They had been pregnant together, given each other baby showers, even took vacations together.

Now, their baby girls were in the same preschool together, sharing the same schedule, and the same nursery.I was their teacher, if you can call it that. I had spent nearly nineteen years in a pediatric oncology wing, and that was way more than most. Finally, I had had enough of watching the smallest victims of this terrible scourge of childhood cancer.

Infant development had always fascinated me though. So when the local preschool advertised a ‘Baby Cuddler Wanted,’ I jumped at the chance.I didn’t need the money. Larry and I had plenty of pension cash every month, but I was beginning to get a little bored. But gonzo twelve hour shifts as a charge nurse? I think not.

Today was an easy day, and I sat both of the girls down in the fine motor play area. It was soft, lined with pillows, special seats to hold developing infants, and baskets of toys appropriate for little hands to dig through.

The “Bumbo” seat was a special, molded chair for infants like Erica. Shaped roughly like an inverted bowl, the idea was to sit the infant in a deep, pliable well, to support the developing stabilizer muscles. This left the hands free for reaching and grasping.

I sat Erica in the Bumbo, and placed Larissa a short distance away. A large part of my job with these children was watching. I used my professional eye to document these kids’ activities during the day, and gleaned a lot simply by watching how these children interacted with each other.

Erica started to cry. Larissa turned her head and noticed. Larissa looked at me, as if to ask “Aren’t you going to do anything about this state of affairs?”

I smiled encouragingly at Larissa. Aha! The green giraffe!

Erica loved that stuffed green giraffe. She loved to sleep with it, wave it around, gnaw on it, and now, couldn’t quite reach it.

She strained from her Bumbo seat. Strained and strained, but couldn’t quite figure out how to tilt her torso just a little bit to give herself the extra bit of reach.

Larissa watched this with interest. She rolled over to her side, and using her newly learned crawl, started to crawl over to Erica. Slowly, slowly, she inched her way over to her friend.

I leaned over to pick up  the green giraffe and give it to Erica, but something stopped me. Just wait a minute.

Larissa continued her determined crawl as Erica’s crying escalated.

Just give her the giraffe, part of me said. She can’t reach it yet!

Larissa finally reached the giraffe. Laboriously, as if telling every part of her tiny body what to do, she sat up next to the toy. Carefully, she picked up the green giraffe with both hands. Erica got even more angry. Larissa had her precious toy!

Larissa got a good grip on the neck of the stuffed animal, and very deliberately, handed it to Erica.

Erica’s cries stopped as if by a switch. Here eyes widened and she smiled at Larissa, and made happy cooing sounds. She grabbed the prized giraffe, and stuffed it in her mouth.

Larissa smiled next to her friend, and put her hand on the seat, as if satisfied. Mission accomplished.

(PS, My devoted readers, please don’t send me any Bumbo recall notices. I know, and I use them on the floor, and only around pillows, and with the strap. It’s all good. ) 

So there we are. Part of a series of loosely woven episodes. Mostly true, some explainable, like this one, some not so much.

Thanks SO much for getting to the bottom of this. Do me a favor then, if you liked the writing of this, would you hit the “like” button? I’d like to know what you think.  Authors can never tell if their own work is dreck, or pretty interesting. Thanks!

Look forward to hearing from you.

Eze and Nice are next.

Much love,

Victoria

Fallen Warriors, Part Two


My grief support group improved last week, thanks for asking. I got a chance to tell a bit of our story, and actually, it was kind of good to let it sort itself out in my mind for a week. Listening to the other cancer spouses tell their story from beginning to end was just so traumatic.

It occurred to me that so many aspects of Chris’s cancer were so trite as to be almost banal.  ‘Strong, healthy spouse experiences unusual pains, goes to family doctor,surgeon, oncologist, radiologist, hospice specialist, mortician.’ Good grief. It’s just so awful. And infuriating. We can spend billions of dollars on things like Cash for Clunkers and not know the symptoms of common cancers like the one that took Chris?

Well, enough ranting. Let’s see if I can make this next part interesting for you. PG,though, so be warned.

I stalked off the hillock with my brain buzzing with activity. My blonde dreads flew behind me as my organizational plans gelled.

Pen the animals and safeguard the children. Stockpile the food and dig for water.

Inventory the weapons, get a census of able bodied men and women warriors. Plan, plan, plan. The battle would be upon us, and I would not be caught unaware. I leapt into action.

My partner climbed the ridge to survey the distance. The advancing horde was rapidly approaching. It was as if an undulating darkness was spreading over the land.

He ran down the ridge, barking orders as he passed each situation.

“Lara! Bring me my lance. Kris, food, quickly. Mick, hide the horses, and take care of them.”

He looked at me. “I am depending on you. This is going to come to a battle like King David did with the Philistine in the old scrolls.” I remembered the story, passed down from scribe to scribe. But that was a myth, wasn’t it?

“How do you know?”

“The Captain told me. His orders are directly from the Prince. You are to support me, but the battle will rise or fall among us, and only here. “

No. How can this be true? Never.

“You are to start with the children. Go and pray, help them safeguard their own hearts and wear their armor solidly. Next, get the warriors together. We need to talk to all of them.”

I gathered the children together. Their faces were so beautiful, I could hardly bear it. Bravery, ignorance, naked fear, all of them on the faces of our flock.

“He’s going to have to fight this alone, but we will be with him at every place we can.” Heads nodded.

“We’ll find the things that give him strength. We will give him all the weapons we can find. Like the fathers of old, if his arms get tired, we will hold them up.”

More nodding. “But he’ll be okay?” One of the younglings, in a trembling voice.

“He could be. People have been. That’s what we’ll ask the Prince for.” We got on our knees and held hands. We pleaded with the Prince to save our leader, and to lead us away from the encroaching darkness.

Something hovered at the outside boundaries of my hearing. I strained, trying to make it out. Cursing, growling, repulsive retching growing slowly nearer.

My partner appeared before me. “Come with me to the narrow way, we can hide there for a minute and talk.”

We crouched against a granite passageway that lead to a grassy meadow and a stream. There was only one way in, a perfect spot to safeguard the food animals. Or be cornered and die.

“I am going to run out to meet them, I’ve eaten, and all of my weapons are sharp. You brief the rest of the company about what is going on, and then run behind me to catch up. Don’t you forget to prepare before you come.”

I looked at his face, scarred with so many years of effort. I had grown to love every one.

I hugged him fiercely across his broadly muscled chest, and turned to bound across the scree to the waiting company.

“People, the hordes are advancing.  This is indeed the day of battle. He has been told that he is going to have to fight this alone, but that isn’t exactly the case. This is what I think we have to do.

Alex, organize transport. We may have to relocate in a hurry. Abi, if we have to leave, make sure the enemy can’t find a trace of us.  Beck, don’t lose a child and make sure we have enough for them to eat at all times. Drew…”

“Drew. Walk with me.”  Some said Drew had a special connection with the Prince himself. It seemed like Drew had an answer for everything. Drew was a gentle, diminutive figure, and masked a fierce devotion to our cause.

Tears threatened to cascade down my face as I spoke to Drew. Rage rapidly boiled up to take it’s place.

“What the hell is going on? How can the Prince let this happen? After all these years, decades even of devoted service, and he leads us into an unwinnable battle?  Is He like David and Uriah in the old stories? A traitor who serves his own strategy and leaves his followers to die pointlessly? What is going on?”

Thanks again for listening, gang. I really appreciate it.

Much love,

 

V



Fallen Warriors


Last night at my grief support group was terrible. I have so much respect for the facilitators of these things, really, they study bereaved adults and children, get degrees in these areas, put together groups with the sole intention of helping.

The goal last night was the context of storytelling. Losing a loved one is a watershed event in anyone’s life (you think?) and the idea was to put the loss in the context of your loved ones life. To tell the story from whatever point you chose, and to end with the loss, like closing a book.

Everyone got a chance to tell their story, and the time ran out before it was my turn. Juvenile offense aside (Hey! That’s not fair! I didn’t get a turn!), it was just terrible to listen to everyone elses’s traumatic events, and have mine simmering under the surface.

I am also not entirely sure it was helpful. Chris’s cancer journey was a relatively small segment of an otherwise amazing life. Those last few days are traumatic for everyone, and for me, resulted in a genuine case of PTSD. Most of you, my good friends, know that I learn best visually.   The vision of my best friend waking me up out of a sound sleep, aspirating on the contents of his stomach, and being too weak to turn to head, is something I need to forget. Brain chemicals are powerful, and I woke up in a state of panic.  I woke to find my body turning his to the side so he wouldn’t choke.

I jolted awake to that for several months after Chris died.  Enough.

Better to remember what we really were together, even in a fantastical context.

How about this?

My partner and I always had an overdeveloped sense of justice. We had been through many ugly battles, and lost more than our share of warriors. Any cause, any weakling that needed a strong hand, and we were there, ready to aid.

Some of our company called us foolish, even silly. But we knew there would be time to pay in  hell, so we led our company to victory in the name of our captain, and won more times than not.

The day of evil had arrived and we had been called on by our captain to do everything we could to stand. The battle was very likely already lost.

I tied my long dredlocks  back with a leather strip, and cinched my helmet.  I strapped on my sword, ready for battle. The enemy was bloody, brutal and mean. I ran my gloved  hand down the notches on my sheath, secretly glorying in the number of my kills.

I could feel the fury building in my chest, aching to get the chance to withdraw the sword of the spirit, and unleash it’s powerful sharpness.

“Peace, Sister.” My partner was always the steadier one. The breastplate of righteousness was firmly in place across his broad chest. His leather boots were closely fitted, and worn soft with the miles of journeying. His hands were large and calloused, marked with years fighting. But also years of gentle work, farming, animal husbandry, and romping in the fields with children.

“Where is your shield? You can’t do anything without it!” He was right, as usual. I unstrapped my shield from the side of my horse, and slung it across my back. The weight of my sword slapped against it.

“You know the enemy has the best archers. Look at it.” The burn marks and chars were obvious. I had used that shield to extinguish many deadly arrows over the years we had fought together.

“Let’s get the rest of the company and dig in. It’s going to be a long fight.”

I circled the rest around a hollow in the rocky scree that stretched around the base of the mountain. We set up camp, sleeping areas, food and animal stations.

My partner motioned for a private word on the top of the hillock.

“Listen. You can hear the enemy in the distance”

I cocked my head. I was known for my keen hearing, and the scrabbling, snarling hordes were indeed advancing.

“I have gotten word from the captain. Many of us are not going to live to see sunrise, maybe even me.” A spasm of fear gripped my gut.

“Surely not. You’ve led us so long and so well! We can’t lose you! We’d fall apart! The Captain must send reinforcements!”

“The Captain will do as he pleases. He’s given us everything we need to succeed. I trust you with my life, but you have to listen to the battle plan.”

My knees threatened to buckle as he talked. We were going to be overrun. There were too many of them, and to few of us. How could the captain send us into a battle like this, that was so lopsided? What could he possibly expect us to do?

Well, that’s enough for today. Thanks for listening to a junior-high writing exercise.  See you next time!

V

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13

13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.