#MidweekMusings 1×08 : Lowlife

The wolf lead Kelly into the clearing, where the woman was standing. She wore one of Frank’s shirts, Kelly recognized it. The woman saw the wolf, saw Kelly, and looked terrified. “Jessica sent me. It’s OK. It’s alright.” The wolf stretched out on the ground, his tail wagged.

Kelly looked around, her eyes searched the trees, the brush. Nothing. No sign of Frank. “Frank brought you here, didn’t he.”

The woman nodded.

“Is he still here?”

She shook her head.

“Damn!”

The woman looked terrified, and Kelly could understand that. She’d been used the same way. By a group of six men. She’d thought it would never end. The things they’d done to her. She fought, she cried, she screamed, she tried. But one against six. She lost. They used her. They beat her.

She knelt on the ground, held out a bag of nuts and berries, and a container of water. “These are for you.”

Frank watched from the trees. He hadn’t expected Kelly to show up. One of the others, yes, but not Kelly. He wanted to step out of hiding. Hug her. Ask how things were at the village. Ask how Valerie was.

The wolf yipped, leaped to its feet, and raced into the trees. “Frack!” Frank silently cursed. It raced to Frank’s side, and yipped and ran in circles. “Frack!”

Kelly saw the wolf race into the trees, saw it yipping at a tree, running in circles. “Frank?”

The wolf bounced around, “Yip! Yip! Yip!”

Kelly raced into the trees.

There was nothing to do but step out of hiding. Frank gave up. “Hi.”

Kelly plowed into him, nearly knocked him over, “FRANK!” She wrapped her arms around his neck, and hugged him like she would never let him go. “Thank, God!”

“Hi, Kelly.”

She grabbed his hand, and hauled him back to the clearing, where the woman waited. The wolf parked beside the woman, then nuzzled her ankle. The woman smiled.

“I see you rescued someone.”

Frank said nothing.

“Was she alone?”

He shook his head.

Frank hated to see sadness in Kelly’s eyes. “Oh.”

“A trap. She was bait.”

Kelly placed a hand on the woman’s shoulder, “Oh, you poor dear.”

“He…” She tried to speak.

“How many were there?” Kelly knew, it was several. She knew, with Frank, it didn’t matter. None of them would have walked away.

“Seven.”

“Where?”

He shook his head. “Not saying.”

“Valerie cries every night.” She didn’t let go of his hand, “Every night, Frank.”

There was no answer. No response.

“What happened? Tell me, Frank. What happened?”

“Take her to the village.” He started to walk away.

The wolf cut him off. It whined, and stayed in his way, no matter where he turned. Kelly grabbed his hand again, and the woman grabbed his other hand. Neither would let go. “Please.”

He wanted to run. To get the hell out of there, and never come back. But, Kelly’d said, “Please.”

“I can’t.” He squeezed both their hands. “I can’t.” He shook his head.

“Why, Frank? Why?”

For the first time since he’d saved her, the woman spoke, “Broken.”

Kelly stared at him. “Broken?” She looked in his eyes. Frank wanted to look away, but found he couldn’t. “Broken?” She held his hand tightly, as if he might run if she let go. “Frank?”

“You said it’s safe. With Jessica.” She wouldn’t let go of his hand. “I’m afraid.”

No one spoke for a while. The only sounds were the leaves in the breeze through the trees, a soft, quiet rustle.

“I don’t belong.” Frank finally spoke. “Not there. You build things. Have hope.” He tried to look at Kelly, but couldn’t. “All I do is kill things.”

The woman shook her head.

Kelly embraced him again. “Please. At least visit. One night.”

He needed to say something. Anything. “How is Valerie?”

“I’m not going to tell you.” Kelly wouldn’t let go. She held him like he’d vanish if she did. “You’ll have to come check on her.”

He didn’t move, just stood there. She swore he’d stopped breathing. “There’s a heart in you, Frank.” She pressed her head to his chest, “I can hear it beating.” She smiled at him. “And you saved her.” She nodded at the woman. “You could have walked away. Left her to die. But you didn’t.”

The woman whispered, “I’m afraid.” Frank saw the fear in her eyes. She knew him. Knew he wouldn’t hurt her.

“See, Frank? See? I felt your heart move when she spoke. I did. You’re not evil, Frank. You’re not. You save people. Like me. Like her.” She looked in his eyes again, “You still have a heart.”

The woman whispered, “Don’t leave me alone.”

Frank sank to his knees. He couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think. Valerie held him, wouldn’t let him go. “You brought her this far. Won’t you take her the rest of the way. Just to make sure she’s safe?” She pressed her cheek against his, “Please? I know your heart. It’s still alive.”

Frank cried. He held Kelly, and wept.

And the woman whispered, “Broken.” She knelt beside them both, “Take me where it’s safe.”

Where it was safe. Where broken, wounded people, like Kelly, Gina, and the others went to heal. Safe, where the woman who’d lost everything a few days ago could start over. Maybe learn to smile again.

And maybe the ache in his chest would finally start to fade.

“Take me where it’s safe.”

915 Words
@LurchMunster


For week 1×08 of #MidweekMusings, a flash fiction adventure hosted by #FlashMobWrites (Ruth Long and Cara Michaels). Please, go read all the stories for this week’s prompt.

Remember The Magic

I wrote these words last night, after I got home. I wrote them for a friend. The math told me I needed to share these words with her. And being who I am, I did. She wrote back, a brief little note, and said I should share these words with everyone.

Well, this afternoon, I just got home. And the math told me second friend could use a note from me. So, I’m sharing what I wrote last night. I’ve modified it as little as possible to keep names out of it. Otherwise, this is what I shared with a wounded friend last night.

Just because that’s what’s friends do in the world that ought to be.

Mark.


IMG_2796Oh, dear.

My friend. You make me wish I could give you a big hug, and take you on a long outing at the Botanical Garden. I’d do it. In a heartbeat.

I am not “physically” disabled. I have a 100% functional body. I can walk most people into the ground. Even at my age. I can hold a camera still long enough to take pictures at 35X optical zoom without a tripod. I can mow my own lawn. I can stand on my feet all day at Geek Squad.

I am, however, “disabled.” There are parts of life I simply don’t understand. I’ve told my doc, it’s like I’m deaf. It’s like I can’t hear that part of life that is “social”. I’ve explained to people, “It’s not that I do anything special. It’s not that I’m caring. Or tender. Or any of that stuff. It’s that I don’t have the social constraints most people have. So, for me, it’s all “math”. It’s all observation, and appropriate response. If I’m hurting, don’t I want attention, and help? Or at least someone to say, “I know.” So if someone I see is hurting, what’s the appropriate thing for me to do?”

And somehow, this gets people to call me, “caring, kind, and tender-hearted.”

I’ve told my Doc, “Isn’t this how things are supposed to be?”

So, when I see you write about how you are still getting used to your disabilities, and the reality that you can’t do certain things, my heart tells me I should take time, and say, “Hi!” and make sure you’re OK.

I have never, in this life, been understood. I’m married to a wonderful lady. I’ll never change that. I love her too much. But there are many “features” of me she does not understand. In her words, “I’ve grown used to them.”

One thing I’ve learned in the past 3 years. One truth that’s been hammered into me over, and over, and over.

People are blind to life. They are. Every morning, driving to work, they don’t see the flowers growing by the side of the road. They don’t see the clouds in the sky, or the way the sun reflects off of them. They don’t see the rays of sunlight shining through the clouds. They don’t see the birds flying just above the trees. They don’t see that occasional deer in the field.

They are blind. They don’t see the gifts we are all given, every day. Every day.

They never stop, walking across the parking lot at work, to feel the breeze flowing through their fingers. To feel the sun on their faces. To hear the birds singing, or the leaves of the trees rustling as the breeze passes through them.

They are blind.

They never walk through the flowers of the Botanical Garden. Without time constraints. Taking however long it takes. They don’t stop, and watch the butterflies. They never watch the bees moving from one flower to the next, pollinating the trees. They never watch the ducks, or geese, as they lazily swim around on the lakes.

They are blind.

Did you know, if you really try, if you sit quietly, close your eyes, and just listen, and you keep listening long enough, you can hear yourself breathe. I do that all the time. Did you know, if you practice, and you learn to listen to the things your body tells you, you can feel your own pulse. Your own heartbeat.

I know these things. I see them every day. I know the magic that is life. The magic of watching a 5-year-old cat sleep on your lap. Of watching the clouds as they slowly move, and change, in the sky. Of watching the neighbors dog chase a butterfly, not wanting to catch it, or kill it. Just wanting to chase it, and play with it. Of watching a wild rabbit carefully pick the best weeds growing in the yard, and eat them. Of watching a baby bunny grow through summer, becoming a rabbit able to survive on its own. Of watching a momma duck lead her tiny little ducklings to a lake.

I know the magic of seeing Camellia trees in full bloom in January, in the snow. When people tell me, “It’s cold. And there’s nothing out there to see.”

I know the magic of stretching out on my sofa, with the window curtains pulled aside, and the sun shining through them, on to me. Of taking a nap in that sunshine.

The magic is there. Every day. All I have to do is stop. And look. I don’t have to look for it. All I have to do is look around. It’s there. Everywhere.

People are blind. They can’t see that. They don’t know the magic’s there. They think I’m crazy. Or strange. Or broken in some way.

I’m not.

If I were there, I’d give you a great big hug. Then, even if I had to sit you in a wheelchair, and carry a 2 liter bottle of water with me, I’d take you on a long walk through the roses, the butterflies, and the flower gardens at the botanical garden. I’d stop any time you wanted. I’d let you look all you wanted. I’d let you feel the sun. The breeze.

I’d just appreciate the gift you are, my friend.

We are all different. We are all unique.

Smile, you. That’s the greatest gift of all. The gift of a smile.

There Are Days I Forget

There are days I forget.
Days I get lost.
Days like today.
When I feel empty.
When I feel wounded.
When I feel drained.
When I feel all wrong.

There are days I forget
Now.
Here.
This moment in time.
This place.
When I remember everything.
When I can’t find my way
Out of my past.
Out of what’s already done.

Other times
I get lost other ways.
Worrying about too many things
That haven’t happened.
That are not happening.
That may never be.
Lost in wondering about a future
That I can’t possibly know.
That I can’t possibly see.

And I can feel my jaw clinch.
And my pulse begin to race.
I can feel my anger build.
Fueled by all my fears.
And all the experiences
Of my life.

The seeds of self-doubt
Sewn so many years ago.
When everyone I knew
Told me I couldn’t be
Me.
Told me I had to be
Them.

It’s on days like this,
When I’m so lost.
So confused.
Remembering my past.
And worrying about things
That haven’t happened,
And may never be.

It’s on days like this
I have to sit down.
And stop.
And breath.
And close my eyes.
And remember.

Now.
This heartbeat.
This breath.

They taught me long ago
The air is invisible.
You can’t feel it.
You can’t see it.
How can you know it’s there?

Like so many things
I was taught
In the life that was,
What I learned
Was all a lie.

For I know
As I sit here on my own.
And I close my eyes.
And simply breathe.

I know.

I can feel the very air
All around me.

I can hold out my hands.
Spread my fingers out.
And I can feel the air
As it flows across my palms.
And between the fingers
Of my hands.

How can anyone believe
The air isn’t really there?
When you can touch it.
When you can feel it.
Everywhere.

So I sit,
Silent and alone.
On the sofa
In my home.
And I close my eyes.
And breathe.
Just breathe.
And feel.
Everything my body feels.

And it only takes a few heartbeats
For my body to remind me
Of the truth.

All I have,
And all I am.
I now.

In this breath.
In this heartbeat.

And there is nothing else.

There is no past.
It’s gone.
It’s done.
No one anywhere
Can go back and fix
Anything that’s happened
Already.

No one anywhere
Can even fix what happened
In the last heartbeat.
In the last breath.

There is no future.
Because it hasn’t happened yet.
And while it’s possible
To extrapolate,
And project,
The events that might happen,
Based on what’s happened
In the past.

But there’s no way
To guarantee
What will happen
In your next heartbeat.

So I sit here.
And I breathe.
And I remember.
Now.
This breath.
This heartbeat.

I sit here
And remember
Me.

#55WordChallenge, Week 47 – The Fence, Part 5

A standard guardian base of two brick buildings was on the village’s southern end. The buildings’ windows were broken. Something was wrong. I searched each building. Eight dead guardians were inside. Their guns had been fired. They died fighting something. Outside, I found tracks through the grass. I drew my gun, and followed them.


This is the 5th part of the serial story I’m working on for Lisa McCourt Hollar‘s weekly #55WordChallenge flash fiction challenge. Please, go read all the other entries in the challenge this week. I find it amazing what gifted writers can say in just 55 words.

#55WordChallenge : Weeks 43 – 46, The Fence, Parts 1 through 4

[Author’s Note : I’ve been putting together a serial for Lisa McCourt Hollar‘s #55WordChallenge. The following are the first four parts of the serial, and the #55WordChallenge prompts I wrote in response to. I have to admit, I’m having fun trying to keep the story going week to week.]

Part 1 – 01/24/2013

The fence marked the edge or our world. I walked along the fence, rifle ready. Nothing had come through the fence in years, but once, things had. We’d survived, standing against the chaos that engulfed the world when the fossil fuels ran out. Since then, we guarded the fence, the edge of our world.

Part 2 – 01/30/2013

As I walked along the fence one morning, I came to one of the gates, and checked its lock. The lock was broken. The chain it held the gate shut with hung loosely. Something had come in. I secured the gate with a new lock, then headed to the nearest village to sound the alarm.

 

 

 

 

Part 3 – 02/06/2013

When I reached the village, it was dark, the street lights were on. I entered quietly, hiding in the shadows, looking for signs of life. I jumped when the breeze blew the clothes on a clothes line.The church was empty, as were all the homes and shops. All I saw was my own shadow.

Part 4 – 02/13/2013

I made my way to the church, hoping I’d find someone. Its door opened silently. Its interior was lit only by moonlight. Everything was gone. No pews. No crosses. No altar. Just a very old book, sitting on a table. I opened it, and flipped through. It was written in the Ancient’s language.

 

Disciplined? Me?

There it was.
A note from her.
“You’re so disciplined!”
It started.

And I laughed.
Me?
Disciplined?
Since when?

But I thought a while.
I do that, you know.
Think.
It’s how I figure out
This world I never made.

I remembered as I thought.
All the times I’ve heard those words.
Through the decades of life
I’ve been blessed with.

And I finally understood.
It all fell into place.
Another puzzle piece
Made sense.

I would like to say
I’m not disciplined at all.
But I suppose I am
In my own way.

See.
There’s just so much
Other people
Just don’t know.

Let me ask about
Your kitchen sink.
Are there any dirty dishes,
Pots and pans,
And empty cans
In it?
How long have they been there?
Since this morning?
Since last week?
Will the kitchen sink be empty
When your day ends,
And you go to sleep?

Mine won’t.
It almost never is.
I have fits keeping up
With the dishes.

I try.
Gods, how I try.
And sometimes,
I get on a roll,
And get them done
Every morning.
For a week.

And then…
Well…
Things just don’t work out.
And I end up
With dishes in the sink.
Sometimes for several days.
Before I get around
To them.

When was the last time you swept
Your kitchen floor?
Last night?
This morning?
Hell,
Even once a week?

You know.
I can’t remember when
I last swept mine.
It’s been a while.
It’s something
That just slips my mind.

But I get to it
Every now and then.
When my feet tell me,
“I’m not walking in there
Again!”

Thursday was trash-day
In my neighborhood.
Put the trash bin out
By the curb.
And when the truck comes by
It all just goes away.

I’m mostly good at that.
I collect it up
And get it out.
Almost every Thursday.
But.
Every now and then.
I just hose that up.
I get the bin to the curb.
Just before the truck arrives.

And everything inside the house
Collects in the bin
For a whole week.

Silly me.

Then there’s laundry.
Oceans of it.
I’m betting you
Almost never
Run out of socks.
Or pants.
Or under-ware.
Unlike me.
I run out frequently.
Seems I just can’t keep up
With the laundry to be washed.

I end up with it
Piled mountain high
In the hallway downstairs.
Washing it all
At one time.

Even though I know
It would be easier
To wash and fold it
As I go.

Do you vacuum your carpets?
I’m not saying that I don’t.
I mean,
Just this week,
I cleaned the one in the Family room
Right up.
Vacuumed that sucker
Twice.

First time I’ve cleaned it
In two months…

Oh, yeah.
I’m disciplined.

I used to think
This was all bad.
I was such a failure.
Because everyone knows
You do those things
To take care of your home.
And your family.

And I felt like
I was broken.
As if something was wrong.
When I couldn’t keep up
Every day,
And every week,
With the things
Everyone else gets done.

But I’ve learned.

I’m not good at those things.
They’re hard for me to do.
It takes time.
It takes effort.
It’s hard work.
Other things I do
Are simple for me.

And that piece of the puzzle
That just fell into place?
That’s exactly what it says.
I do things
That I can do.
That I like to do.
That make me feel OK.
That make me feel good.

And then I do the things
I have to do.

Isn’t that what you do too?

It makes people feel good,
I suppose,
To have the perfect home.
Where not one single dish
Sits in the kitchen sink.
And you could eat an egg
Off the kitchen floor.

Some people,
I suppose,
Like the idea
Of the carpets being clean.
So you can’t even see
A single cat hair
Anywhere
On them.

And some people
Seem to like
That the laundry’s always clean.
That everything’s all folded,
Put away in drawers,
Or hung up in a closet.

I’ve even known some people
That collect the trash
Through their whole house
Ever single night.
And put it in the trash bin
Before they go to bed.

And I’m OK with that.
But that’s not me.

To me,
They’re disciplined.
And I’m a wild man.
With no rules.
And no discipline at all.

Me?
Disciplined?
Really?

Not one single bit
More than you.

I’m just different.
That’s all.

I’m Not Broken

Overwhelmed.
That’s a good word.
Very descriptive
Of how I feel
So very often.

Like now.

I keep telling myself
I’m not broken.
I’m not defective.
I’m not a failure.

I’m just different.

I keep reminding myself
There are others like me
Out there.
In the world.
That I’m really
Not alone.

And sometimes,
Despite everything.
Everything I’ve learned.
Everything I’ve experienced.
Everything I’ve been through.
I still feel
Broken.
Wrong.
Defective.

So, here I am.
Sitting at my desk.
Staring at the display.
Reading posts on facebook.
Reading tweets on twitter.
And oceans of flash fiction
Challenge entries.

I’ve tried explaining this
To my lady.
At least a billion times.
I’m not sure she understands.
But at least she knows.
What every day is like
For me.

Have you ever sat at a table,
In a restaurant,
With a group of people
You work with?
One of those lunch out things.
Someone’s leaving.
Someone’s getting older.
Someone’s getting married.
Yeah.
A lunch like one of those.

I bet you didn’t sit there
Praying to God above
You had any clue at all
About what was going on.
Wishing you could understand
How people could so easily
Talk to each other.
Moving from one conversation
To another.

I bet you didn’t sit there
Trying to figure out
How the person next to you
Knew when to smile.
Knew when to laugh.
Knew when to shut up
And be quiet.

I bet you didn’t sit there
Feeling like a failure.
Because every time you look around
Everyone but you
Is talking,
And having fun.
Telling stories.
Telling jokes.

And you don’t have a clue
How they know to do
The things they do.

It’s like I missed something
When I was growing up.
Like I never learned
A certain set of skills.
And now,
I’m stuck.
And never will.
No matter how hard,
Or how long
I try.

I was too stupid
To learn.
And now,
I’ll always feel that way
When I’m in a group.

I bet you don’t feel that way,
Do you.

I’ve left people behind
Many times before.
Because I couldn’t bridge the gap
Between myself and them.
Because I couldn’t understand
All the things they took for granted.
All the things they knew
Every body knows.

All the things they tell me
I’m supposed to know,
That I don’t even know
Are there.

I find myself feeling
Even now,
That I should burn
More bridges down.
Un-follow everyone on Twitter.
Un-friend every friend on Facebook.
To keep them safe from me.
So I won’t hurt them
When I do something,
When I say something,
I don’t know
I shouldn’t.

I find myself terrified,
Once more,
At the thought
Of being told,
“You can’t be that way.”
“You can’t do that.”
“You can’t say that.”
“What’s wrong with you.”
Once more.
Like I’ve been told
So many times before.

And always when I ask
That one word question,
“Why?”
I get the same answers,
“Because.”
“How can you not know?”
“Everyone knows why.”
“Quit playing games.”
“Grow up.”

No one understands
That I don’t know.
I really don’t.

And have you noticed
No one ever can explain?
No one ever answers
That single question,
“Why?”

I used to think
I was broken.
Defective in some way.
Because I never could fit in.
But I’ve learned otherwise.
I’ve learned the truth of me.
And others like me.
Living in a world
We never made.

In my case
It’s all caused
By my Autism Spectrum Disorder.
And I find it downright funny
That it’s been named
A disorder.

Kind of like saying
That a V8 car engine
Is an anomaly.

It’s not a disorder to me.
It’s just the way things are.
The way that I was born.
I’m just wired
A little differently.
That’s all.

There’s nothing wrong with me.
I’m just different.
As I’m supposed to be.

And I’ve learned.
When I get that feeling
That I should block out
Everyone.
To keep them safe from me.
I’m just feeling tired.
And overwhelmed.
By the time and effort
That it takes me
Just to keep up with
People around me.

And all I really need
Is to give myself some time
To step through all the things
That have me overwhelmed.
And process them.
And when that’s done
I know.

I don’t have to leave.
I don’t have to run.
I don’t have to burn
Any bridges down.

I just have to let the people
That I know,
The people that know me,
Know that sometimes
I just have to take a break
To catch up to everything.

That I’m not like them.
That it’s hard for  me
To keep up with
More than a few people
At one time.

And keeping up
Just overwhelms me
From time to time.

And once I take that break
Then I’ll be OK.

Until the next time
I get overwhelmed.

It’s a cycle
That will never end.
I know.

But that doesn’t mean
That it won’t change with time.
As I learn to let the people
Around me know.

I’m not broken.
And I’m not going away.
That I really can
Be the way I am.
And they’ll just have to accept
That every now and then
I get overwhelmed.
And just have to stop,
And take a break.

I’m not broken.
I’m just different.
OK.

Now,
About that break.