#ThursThreads Week 411 : Do I Know You?

I recognized her the moment my eyes spotted her. How could I ever forget her? She had triggered the greatest set of changes in my life. I had been normal. Thirty years of a career, depended on, recognized for my talents. Life was calm and quiet. Then she showed up, and it all came apart.

“Sweet Jesus!” was my first thought, followed by “I should not have come here.”

I noticed a hint of recognition on her face when she spotted me. At that point, I knew it was time to deal with the last vestiges of what had been. To finally end her story in my life.

It had been ten years. I’d had to start life over in so many ways. New job, new friends, new everything. Years of psychotherapy and multiple day panic attacks, wondering if I’d ever recover, if I’d ever become functional in life again.

She had known me before all that, when I was the guy with the 30 year career, and a knack for fixing problems in everyone else’s programs.

I wasn’t that guy anymore. I’d never be that guy again.

Eventually she made her way over, “Do I know you?”

“Yes, Robin, you do.”

“Steve?”

I nodded, “You knew who I was 10 years ago. You don’t know me now.”

She smiled that smile that had wrecked so much havoc in my life. “Perhaps, finally, it’s time to meet you again.”

All I could think was, “Frack…”

243 Words
@mysoulstears


It’s Week 411 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. And more words in whatever it is that’s writing itself have turned up. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read. And there are some great writers who show up every week.

Grandfather Was A Murderer.

I was there when they released my grandfather from jail, a place he’d been for forty years, a place where many told me he belonged, and that he should die there for what he’d done. But I never agreed with them. I knew full well what he’d done, and I always wondered, if more had done the same, would the pandemic have ended the same way, or would our world be a different, a better place.

My parents told me of the pandemic, a time we don’t speak of these days. We call it, “That time.” We don’t study it in history. We don’t explain all the mass graveyards. We don’t explain the power of the corporations. We don’t explain anything that happened during that time.

But, my grandfather knew, and he’d told me in his letters. It was why I was there to pick him up the day they let him out. It was why I went against my parents wishes, against the wishes of my church family, against the wishes of my company. My grandfather knew what happened during that time.

As I waited for him to come through the gates, into the free world, my mind read the story once again, of how he was arrested, and how he was charged with murder, along with too many of his peers.

It was the time of COVID-19, in the year 2020 of the calendar. My grandfather was a young man, happily married to my grandmother, with a daughter, who would one day become my mother. Grandfather was a doctor, at the hospital in town.

At first, everything made some sort of sense, he explained. The states had ordered people to stay at home, businesses to shut down, to slow the spread of COVID-19. His words resonated with me, “They waited too long. It was already here.”

New York City, he wrote, is where it caught fire, where it struck down thousands. Seeing the virus strike New York, our state did the sensible thing, and locked down. Grandfather told me of the grocery stores running out of so many things, paper products especially, but also pork, and milk, and yeast, and anything that could be used as a cleaning agent.

He wrote of social distancing, with people having to stand in line to get into stores, and having to stand apart, separated by six feet or more. Of people having to wear face masks, so their breathing didn’t spread the virus as far as it could have.

Then, he spoke of the price everyone paid. The loss of employment. The businesses that failed. That had to fire everyone, and would never be able to reopen. Of people, staying in their homes, until they lost their minds, and their ability to reason.

Until they started gathering in large groups of hundreds, and thousands, and marching through towns, and cities, and demanding they be allowed to return to work, to keep their businesses, and their employees, and to make money so they could keep their homes, their cars, their possessions. The worst of them, Grandfather wrote, were the ones who believed it was a government plot to enslave all of us. To take away our freedoms, and rights. As a doctor, he knew those people had spread the virus like they were pouring syrup on toast.

Turned out my Grandfather was right. Less than a month after the protests had started, the virus went off like a firebomb in one neighborhood after another, all over the country. Tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands got ill, all at the same time. The hospitals couldn’t cope. They rapidly turned into places people went to die.

That’s how my grandfather was arrested, and charged with murder.

One of the leaders of the protests in his city came to the hospital one day. A man, of course, made famous from leading protesters to reopen the town, so everyone could have their freedoms back. A man whose words were well known, and found on a plaque at the police station. “We’re taking back our freedom! This is a war, and in wars, people die! People will die, but that’s the price of war! We’re taking back our freedom!”

That man showed up at the hospital with COVID-19. He wasn’t asymptomatic. He was having trouble breathing, his lips were turning blue, he was not going to make it. My grandfather knew this the instant he saw him. The man was going to die. Grandfather had seen dozens of people die from COVID-19. He knew. He knew what the symptoms were. He knew when it was hopeless.

And that’s how my grandfather got arrested.

The court records tell the story too. So do the video records from the hospital. I have seen them hundreds of times. My parents don’t know I’ve seen them. Those video records have been banned, locked away. But it is the age of information, isn’t it. And if you dig hard enough, in the right places, you find things. Like the video of that man, in the emergency room, screaming about being sick, and demanding to be taken care of.

He screamed, and choked, and coughed, and got in everyone’s way. Until my grandfather intervened, and confronted him.

In that video the man pointed his finger at grandfather, “You! You’re a doctor! I’m sick! Fix me!”

My grandfather’s answer was calm, almost quiet. I can hear his words, “You’re the one who caused all this.” He’d waved his hands around the room. “You’re the one who pushed everyone back to work. Who ignored the truth, in the name of money.”

The man wouldn’t hear it. He screamed at my grandfather, “Fix me! I’m sick! You’re a doctor! It’s your job!”

“My job is to save lives.” Grandfather looked around the emergency room in the video, then looked at that man. “I can save countless lives, if I let you die.”

Grandfather had walked away. The rest of the hospital staff ignored the entire event for hours, until the man collapsed on the floor, gasping for breath. Then, they gathered him up like just another victim of the disease.

And that’s how my Grandfather wound up in jail, convicted of murder. No one speaks of it. No one knows how many people died because of the actions of that one man my grandfather let the virus consume. No one speaks of how the world is a better place because of how many like that man died when the virus burned through their population.

The only thing you can find in the history books these days is that in 2020, and for a couple of years after that, it was a dark time, that changed everything. A dark time when millions died. Other than that, no one mentions what happened. No one speaks of the pandemic that changed everything.

I remembered how my Grandfather was arrested, and jailed, for doing the right thing. For saving countless lives, by letting one person die.

I guess that makes me as guilty of murder as my grandfather, doesn’t it.

Sunday, 26 April 2020
Mark.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2020/04/24 (Week 154)

I stood in the field, looking at that ancient tree. Figured that thing must be at least 1000 years old. One hell of a lot older than the country. That tree had been there when the American Indians ran things, and likely even before that.

“God willing, and with a little luck, here’s hoping us humans don’t cut you down, and turn you into firewood, or pencils, or anything else.”

I’d frequently stared at that tree, and wondered what all it had seen in its life. Certainly, it had seen the rise and fall of more than one civilization made by us humans.

“I’m betting you’ve been around long enough to learn how to not repeat history.” I sighed, and placed a hand on that tree’s trunk. “Unlike us stupid humans. We only live so long. And then we die, and take all our experience, and knowledge with us, and our children repeat the same mistakes we made, endlessly.”

There was a breeze from the south east. A hot, sticky, human breeze, the kind you get in the summer. Those breezes had gotten hotter, and stickier, in my lifetime. Still resting a hand on that tree, “We’re killing everything, you know. And pretending we’re not.”

It was true. We were destroying everything. In search of money, power, wealth, material possessions. Everyone had to have a mansion, with half a dozen rooms they never set foot in. And a three row SUV, or a truck that could haul 20 or 30 bags of concrete, even though not one bag of concrete ever got put in the truck’s bed.

It was sad, what we’d done to the world God gave us. And the tree had seen us do all of it. It had been around when the breeze from the south east had been cool, and refreshing, and pulled up the clean air from the Gulf. Not anymore. We’d fixed that. It was not a hot, sticky, steam bath that floated in off the Gulf, and forced everyone inside into their air conditioned homes.

“And all we can fight about, all we can argue over, is politics, and who is right, the Left or the Right.” I sat down next to the tree, in the hot sticky breeze. “Doesn’t matter if both sides are wrong, as long as the side I’m on wins, that’s how we fight.” I wondered if the tree understood anything I was saying. “We get so busy fighting, so twisted around ourselves, we forget everything we’ve learned. We forget everything at all. Except keeping what we have. And getting more of what we want.”

Sometimes, I wished that tree could talk, and tell me what it had seen, what it knew.

“Maybe you’ll still be here when this is over, and we’ve killed everything, including ourselves.”

465 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 154 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can learn about Miranda’s challenge here. The stories people share for the weekly challenge are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. Please go read them all.

 

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2020/04/08 (Week 150)

“It’s just a statue, you know that, right?”

Yes, I knew. “Of King Arthur, yes, I know.”

“Are you done staring at it, then?”

“No.”

She glared at me, her frustration, and confusion crystal clear, and broadcast to the world.

“I can’t explain, you know.” I tried to offer words, to let her know the statue spoke to the haunted parts of me. About the missing parts of me. I could not find the words.

“Fine! Stare all you want! I’m leaving!”

Maybe I was supposed to follow her, apologizing profusely, for wrecking her day, and getting side tracked, and not paying proper attention to her. But, she had no idea what standing me in front of that King Arthur statue had done. She could not see the inside of my eyelids. The memories of dreams running amok in my soul.

Just like she couldn’t see the parts of me that were gone. Gone forever. Never to be found again.

King Arthur stood there, and I stood, looking at him, wishing the ache in my soul, the exhaustion in my heart, would stop. Knowing whoever had created the statue knew the truth, and had the same dreams.

I’d told her a thousand times, “There are parts of me missing. Not wounded. Not scarred. Missing. Don’t get too close, you might fall into one of the missing parts, and vanish.” Of course, she didn’t understand, hell, who would? Who could?

Perhaps King Arthur, standing there, with his own missing parts.

It was the demons. Not the demons you think of. Nothing from a book. Nothing from the Bible. Nothing from the movies, or the stories of exorcisms, or haunting places. I knew that wasn’t what demons really were. That’s what people wanted them to be, because it made them obvious, easier to understand, easier to deal with.

But, I knew Arthur knew. “We are our own demons, aren’t we.” The lies we tell ourselves. The things we see, but pretend don’t exist. The carefully crafted images of who we are that we want others to think are real.

Too many nights, I’d seen that, seen the demons, in my dreams. Sometimes, it was me, driving a car, at full speed, into a building full of people. It was always a place I had to be someone I wasn’t. A place I had to lie.

Other times, it was me, burning bridges between me, and other people. Carefully pouring gas on the structure, then lighting it, then watching it burn, knowing there were people I no longer had to lie to. Knowing they could no longer lie to me.

And the dream where I stood on the beach, in the darkness of a moonless night, and cut my own heart out with a sword, so I didn’t have to feel anything, ever. So I could be what life demanded I be. Another of the walking dead.

I stared at Arthur, missing so many parts. Half his torso was gone. His heart gone with it. Just like mine. Missing. And I couldn’t even remember when I lost it. Or why.

I let her leave. Because I knew, no matter how I tried, no matter which words I used, I could never explain to her the things I could not do, could not feel, could no longer be, because of the missing parts of me.

561 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 150 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can learn about Miranda’s challenge here. The stories people share for the weekly challenge are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. Please go read them all.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2020_04_01 (Week 148)

My mother was too old to be in the forest behind her house, but she’d insisted. “There’s something you need to see.” I’d tried to talk her into staying in the house, to tell me where to look, or to let me put her in her wheelchair, and push her where she wanted to go. She was stubborn, and wouldn’t hear of that. “I promised I’d show you.”

It had been slow going. She’d had to stop several times to rest, and catch her breath. But, always, she was stubborn, and answered any concerns I had for her with, “I promised I’d show you.”

Eventually, we came to a small clearing, beneath a canopy of leaves. “Here we are.” Mother smiled, and patted me on the shoulder, “Here we are.”

It wasn’t anywhere special. I thought it looked like a half dozen small clearings under the trees we’d already seen. Until Mother pointed at something. “There.” It was a park bench. And old, wooden one, covered in mosses, and partially rotten. “There.”

She wobbled over to it, and sat down. “This is where I promised I’d show you.”

“This?”

“And before you say anything, a picture wouldn’t work, because I promised him I’d show you.”

“Who did you promise, and show me what?”

“Your father. I promised him.”

She hadn’t spoken of him since he’d passed nearly a decade ago. If anything, she’d carried on like she’d never been married, and never had anyone to miss. “Life goes on.” That’s what she told me.

“Dad?”

“Yes.” She leaned back against the wood. I worried it might collapse under her weight. “Don’t worry. He built this well. It’ll be here another hundred years.”

“Dad wanted you to show me something? Something here?”

“No. He didn’t want me to show you something. He wanted me to show you this place.”

“I don’t understand.”

“That’s what he said. ‘Mary, he’ll tell you he doesn’t understand. You’ll have to explain it. And show it to him. So.” She patted the space on the bench next to her. “Have a seat.”

What else could I do? I frowned, and sat down. Mother chuckled, “That’s just like you. No time for anything. Not even time to breathe.” She took a deep breath, “Humor an old woman, and sit still for a bit, while I talk.”

She sang instead. Amazing Grace. I hadn’t heard that song in years, but I knew the words. She’d always sang it, every Sunday.

Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
T’was blind but now I see

Mother stopped there. “Just sit, and listen to this old woman.”

She didn’t say a word. I waited for her to talk, but she didn’t. Just before I asked her if she was going to say anything, she cut me off, “I said listen.”

It took a while, but eventually I began to notice sounds. Leaves on trees rustling when the wind blew through them. A couple of birds singing, somewhere. Mother smiled at me. “Just listen.”

I waited, and watched Mother, and listened. I watched as she fell asleep on that bench. I listened to her breathe, to know she was still alive. I listened to my own breath. I’d forgotten what it sounded like. I listened to the trees. To the forest.

I didn’t notice when she woke. I was watching the sunlight patterns on the ground, where the sun peeked through the canopy. It changed all the time, every time the wind blew, and the leaves shifted. I noticed the sound of the wind always happened before the pattern changed. Then, I realized I was listening for the wind, just to see the pattern change.

“I promised him I’d show you.” Mother smiled. “Promised him I’d remind you of all that really mattered.”

I helped her to her feet, and we started home. “He’ll be happy now. Now, when I see him, I can tell him your heart is still alive. That there’s still hope you might learn how to live.”

I didn’t say a word on the walk back, but Mother knew. Somehow, she knew. My father had been right. I’d forgotten what it meant to be alive.

710 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 148 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can learn about Miranda’s challenge here. The stories people share for the weekly challenge are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. Please go read them all.