#FlashMobWrites 1×43 : Legend & Legacy

I was there, watching, when the woman’s mother verified the body was her daughter, missing for twenty-three days. I was there to see her hands shake, hear her voice whisper, “Yes,” and see the loss in her eyes.

A mother should not see her daughter’s remains on a cold, unfeeling, sterile steel table. A mother should see her daughter grow, get married, start a family.

All I could do was watch. I didn’t have to be there, and according to all the procedures of the Armor Corps, I wasn’t supposed to be there. Nothing was to be personal, everything was to be objective. But, I never followed the rules, which was how I got things done. How I knew what to do, what needed to be done. I was still human.

And I watched Mrs. Theresa Whitson stand beside that cold, hard table, as she looked at what was left of her only child.

I knew from the DNA results, who the victim was. I knew from a records check, how old she was, where she’d worked, what church she’d attended on Sundays, where she’d lived. I’d visited that church, visited her workplace, found her car, visited her apartment. I told myself I was looking for anything to help track down who’d murdered her, and that was partly true. It was also true, as I searched, I became more determined to keep my promise to her soul.

I would find those responsible.

I remembered another woman from years before. When I was… Different. When I was… Normal. I remembered how she died. How my heart broke in half when she did. It broke in half, and never healed. Then the pieces died. All that was left were scars. I’ve got scars that can’t be. Scars where my heart once was.

No one should have to feel their heart break that way. No one should have to feel their heart die, and leave them nothing but a shell. And empty, dead soul.

I knew Mrs. Theresa Whitson’s heart died in those moments she stood beside that table. I felt it happen. And I couldn’t stop it.

But I could tear the hearts from those who’d caused such pain. And I would. I would find them.

And not even God could help them when I did.

384 Words

I wrote a second story for #FlashMobWrites 1×43, hosted by Ruth Long and Cara Michaels.  Please, go read all the stories for #FlashMobWrites 1×43. You might find something you like. But if you don’t read them, how will you ever know?


#RaceTheDate #3 : A Clip From My NaNoWriMo Work In Progress

“It don’t do us any good to be killin’ each other.”

Tommy looked around the room. It had taken a lot of work and time to get this meeting put together. He had the leaders from all the gangs in the south side of the city in one room. They’d all agreed to meet.

Everyone cheered, “Yeah! Yeah!”

“We get the leaders together, and make a board of directors, like they did in them businesses, and schools.” He paused while the idea sank in. “And we let the board settle our fights for us, so we don’t kill each other.”

The gang leaders spent all day arguing about how to make it work. Each leader wanted it to work to his advantage. No one wanted to give up being in charge. Tommy understood that. “As long as it ain’t an issue that causes us to fight, we do what we want. No one tells anyone what to do. We just have the council when we’re having fights with each other.”

They worked up a bunch of rules, and conditions. An old guy from the community college, wrote down all the rules on a big sheet of paper, so everyone could see them. Guys from other groups copied it all down, so everyone had a copy of the rules.

It was the first step in his plan. Tommy thought it went well. Organizing the gangs into a single, functional unit. It was a risky game. But if it worked out, he’d end up with lots of power. And could do anything he wanted. Take anything he wanted. And get rid of anyone in his way.

And what he wanted was to own the city.

@283 Words
Lurch Munster

I wrote this for Cara Michaels‘ #RaceTheDate #3. It’s a little clip from the NaNoWriMo story I am working on Hope you like it. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #RaceTheDate. They are good reading.

She Doesn’t Know

I took a chance.
I admit that.
I deliberately broke the rules.
Me, the married guy,
Choosing to sit with her,
The divorced woman.

Everybody knows,
You don’t do that.

I took a chance
To show a friend
How I felt.
What I felt.
About her.
I deliberately broke the rules.
I knew it then.
I understood the risk.

I’ve never been
Much of one
For the rules of life
I see people following.
I suppose it’s because
I’ve seen how those rules
Rip out a person’s heart,
And burn their soul
To ash.

Then I broke one more rule
On that Sunday morning.
I actually put my hand
On one of hers.

I’d say I walked her to her car.
Because that’s what I did.
But I can always claim
I had no real choice.
Her car was between
The church’s doors,
And mine.

There are those that would declare
I knew what I was doing
When I parked where I did.

I can only shake my head.
And wonder.
Will any of them learn?
Will any of them ever change?
Will any of them
Begin to grow again?
Or are they done?

And I know
From the way my heart aches,
And the tears of my soul,
I know.
They never will.
They’re done.
They’re where they want to be.
They’re where they’re safe.
Where they’re secure.

And there,
They choose to stay.

It saddens me to know
She’s that same way.

Unable to acknowledge
What her heart tells her.
She lets no one in.
No one close.
To protect herself.
From pain.

I can understand that.
I really can.
I’ve been hurt myself,
Time and time again.

But that’s all it is.
And pain.
Like when you make that mistake
At the oven now and then
And stand there staring
At your bright red fingertips
As the blisters grow on them

It happens.

Even the best fall
Every now and then.
Like the time the favorite
For the gold medal
At the Olympics
Never reached the end
Of the race
He was in.

It happens.

I know how badly
She’s been hurt
By events in life.
The one that left her
On her own.
With their daughter.
She raised their child
On her own.

The way people talk
About those women.
You know the kind I mean.
The divorced ones.
Looking for another man.
The ones that might just settle
For a fling.

People are so ready
To believe
Lies and gossip are the truth
When they don’t understand

It was on the day
She spoke those words to me.
Told me she had an image
She had to maintain.
So people wouldn’t see things
The wrong way.
Wouldn’t say things about her
Behind her back.

She had a reputation
To uphold.

In a church.

Of all things.

It was on that day
I knew.
My days there
Were nearly through.
And the time had come
For me to stand
And walk away.

For I will not live my life
Of what the blind,
The ignorant,
The ones afraid of life,
Will say.

Will I get hurt again?
Hell, yes.
I will.
It’s part of life.
Like love,
And laughter,
And pain.

You aren’t alive
If you can’t be hurt.
You’re simply hiding.
In a cave.
In a box.
In a little space.
Where all there is to life
Is what’s around you,
What’s in your room.

So you live isolated.
Hidden from the world.
But safe.

The saddest part of all
To me?

She doesn’t know
She lives that way.
No one in those rooms,
Hiding where it’s safe,
Knows at all.

Because nothing they’re afraid of
Gets within those walls.
Nothing can ever change.

I turned and walked away.
Never to return
To that church.
To her world.

But to this day.
And through my life.
If she should ever call,
And ask for any help from me
At all.

I’ll find a way.

Because to me,
She was
And is
My friend.
And my friend
She always will be.

Even thought
She doesn’t know.

No One There But Me

I’m afraid of being alone.
With myself and no one else.
When there’s no one to talk with.
Except for me.

But I’m learning.

I’ll have completed
The next step of my journey
When I can spend time
With no one but me.
And being alone
Doesn’t hurt me
Any more.

When I’ve learned
How to appreciate me.
The things I like.
The things I feel.
I know right now
I don’t.
At least not all that much.

I have a lot of fears
Of being alone.
If having to face me.
Having to deal with me.
Openly and honestly.

I have a lot of things
I have to change.
Things I have to relearn.
Rules I have to break.
And when those rules are broken,
I have to sweep away
Their remains.
Not let them be rebuilt.

There are so many things
I’ve got go change.
But they all come down
To the same thing.

I have to learn
Not to hate myself.
Not to be afraid of me.

That I’m not defined
By how many people I know.
By how many friends I have.
By how well I get paid.
By how big my house is.
By how nice my car is.

None of those things matter,
In the end.
When you get down to it
What matters most of all
Is learning
To live with myself.

And that’s what I’m working on
Right now.
In this journey
That began
Two years ago.

I’ve come so very far
In only 24 months.
How far, you might ask.

Far enough to know
And understand
I have to learn
To live
With me.

So that on afternoons like this.
When I’m at home.
With only me.

I won’t hide from myself.
I won’t find endless things
To kill off time with.
So that I won’t feel
Like everything’s wrong.

So that I’ll be content
To be alone.

With no one there
But me.

Living In That Box

I remember words from August of 2010.
Words spoken by a friend.
As he tried so very hard
To explain to me
How things were,
And why people behaved
The way they did.

“They’re private people, Mark.
They don’t show what they’re feeling.
They don’t talk about such things.
They just do their work.”

I didn’t understand his words.
They left me confused
And lost.
Without a shred of understanding
Of how people are.
Of how they behave.

I remember words from September of 2010.
Spoken by another friend.
He knew what would happen to me.
He saw it coming.
Tried to warn me.

“I know working here sucks.
But you have to behave.
Be like they want you to be.
‘Cause they’ll get rid of you.
Doesn’t matter how good you are.
If you don’t fit in.
They’ll get rid of you.”

I didn’t understand his words.
They made no sense to me.
Fit in.
How could people be
Someone they are not?

I remember words I spoke
To her.
The Lenten Rose.
On the last day I worked
In the job
I used to have.

October 6th.

“They’re all broken,
Aren’t they?
Every one of them.”

I remember how she smiled.
I remember how she nodded.
Was all she said.

I never returned
To that land of work.

I remember words
My boss spoke to me.
When he expressed his frustration
In dealing with me.
It was his way of saying
That I had to learn
To live inside the box.

“But you can’t be that way,

I could have tried to say something.
To explain to him.
That I can’t be any other way.
That I can’t fit
Back in that box.

But I knew
He wouldn’t understand.
So I didn’t try.
I let him believe
What he wanted to.
‘Cause I knew
All he saw
Was inside the bounds
Of that box.
And in his eyes
There is not other way
To be.

I remember several months.
In 2011.
Starting with May 1st,
And Ending in October.

I tried to go to church.
I did.
I tried to find a place
Where I could fit in.
Where I could feel
Like I belonged.

At that church I found
An old friend.
One I hadn’t seen in decades.
It was great to see her
Once again.

But as time went by
I ran into the same thing
I’d run into
In the land of work.

I did things differently.
Reacted differently.
Felt differently.
About almost everything.
About the word of God.
About the way things are.
About how people
Should behave.

And I saw once again,
How very broken deep inside
Almost everyone there was.

This time I didn’t wait
To be pushed away.
This time
I walked away
All on my own.

I’ve written many times
Since then.
About how I pray for them.
The people I once knew.
I’ve spoken with my doctor
Week after week.
For months on end.
About what I see
When I think of them.

They live inside a box.
A single box.
That defines how life
Should be.
And never step outside that box.
For any reason.

It’s very much as if
Outside the box is where
All the monsters live.
And if you leave the box
You’ll get eaten.
You’ll be some monsters

And I’m outside their box.
Outside their way of life.
I see things differently.
Which bothers them
A lot.

So here I am
Outside their box.
Wishing they could understand
How I care for them.
How I wish them well.
How I wish they would wake up and see
The scares upon their hearts.
The chains upon their souls.

But I know.
I’ve learned.
Through time.
And pain.
They don’t see things
As I do.

To them.
I’m wrong.
I’m dangerous.
I’m a spawn of Satan,
Don’t you know.

Their world is all there is.
And that works for them.
And in their world,
Inside that box.
Everything’s OK.
There’s nothing wrong
With them.

They don’t even understand,
And they don’t see at all.
How broken and afraid
They really are.

All they know is
That they have to stay
Inside the box.
Where it’s safe.

How I pray for them.

I will never fit
Inside the box
That they live in.
I will never be
Like them.
Never do things
In their way.

But I won’t judge
A single soul
That lives inside the box.
How could I?
When just two years ago
I lived inside the box
With them?
And just like them
I didn’t know,
And couldn’t see
How hurt and broken
I’d become.

Living in that box.

But I woke up.
Came back to life.
And stepped outside the box.

Now that I can see
The way things are
Inside that box.
I know this simple truth.
There is nothing I want.
Nothing left for me.
No reason at all
For me to stay

Living in that box.

I’m free.

And I like being that way.

The Gift Of Something Real

I didn’t ask. I reached across the space between the two of us, and I took her hand in mine. And then I turned, and walked toward the door. Pulling her along. I’d heard enough. I’d seen enough. Hell, anyone with eyes could see the pain that she was in. And yet, everyone in the room acted as if nothing was wrong. As if she was OK.

To me, sometimes, it’s like people are broken in some way. Like they’re blind, and just can’t see what’s there. Right in front of them. I couldn’t help but see the hurt within her eyes. I couldn’t help but see the way her lips pressed together too tightly. I couldn’t help but see the way she kept looking at the floor. As if trying to keep anyone from seeing her. As if hiding something.

And everyone acted like they didn’t notice, and didn’t see, the hurt that I couldn’t help but see. I’d had enough of that. Enough of that social game, where people lie to each other, and pretend that everything’s OK. She’d told me half a million times about how she wasn’t going to give in to self-pity, and throw a pity party. And while that’s commendable, and I agree with that completely, that doesn’t mean you ignore that you are hurt. And, damn-it. That’s what she was doing. And that’s what everyone else was doing too.

I decided I’d have enough. That I wasn’t going to play that game. That stupid social game of self-denial. Of self-abuse. And I wasn’t going to let her hurt alone. Because the simple truth is that no one really wants to do that. Hell, who wants to live alone? Who wants to have friends that are only friends when everything’s OK? Who want’s to have friends that are never there when you need them. And why does everyone pretend that’s OK? That it’s OK to say to someone, “If you need something from me, just ask,” or “If there’s anything I can do, let me know,” when both you and the person you say it to know you’re lying. What good does that do?

So there I was. Holding her hand. Pulling her toward the door, out of the room, then out of the building. “Where are you dragging me?” She asked that endlessly. And I kept saying, “I should have done this long ago.” And “You’ll find out soon enough.”

I took her outside. And looked around a second. Until I spotted a small, landscaped garden, with a tree in it. And a bit of grass. And a bench people could sit on. And I pulled her toward that. “I’ve had enough. You need this,” I explained, as I pulled her along behind me.

I stopped at the garden. There were snapdragon flowers there. In full bloom. Yellow, orange, white and red. The flowers were a shocking splash of color against the stark color of the building and its parking lot, and sidewalks. All black, and gray, and silver. Chrome, and steel, and glass. And in the midst of all that professional styling, and color, there they were. Those snapdragon flowers. Sticking out like some guy in a tie died t-shirt in a business meeting.

She needed to see them. And I knew that. “Look. Flowers.” That’s all I said. And I did not let go of her hand. I wasn’t letting her continue lying. Nope. I was going to make sure she saw those flowers. Saw that they were real. Saw that they were beautiful. Saw the gift they were from life. Because I knew she ignored them. And she did exactly what I knew she would.

“So? Flowers? What do they have to do with anything?”

That’s when I looked straight into her eyes, “I know you’re hurt. Don’t lie to me about that. I can see it. It’s there. In your eyes.” Yeah. I knew I wasn’t supposed to say that. But hell, I wasn’t supposed to have grabbed her hand, and hauled her outside to see the flowers in the first place. Sometimes, you know. You just have to take the rules people follow and lock them up in a desk drawer for a bit. And do what needs to be done. What should be done. “I love the flowers. Sometimes, I think they’re the only sane thing, the only real thing around here.”

All I had to do was get her to look at them. For just a moment. And I knew that would lead to her looking at them more. “I like the yellow ones the most, I think.” And that worked. She looked at the flowers.

“The yellow ones are OK. But the orange ones look better.”

It was about that point that I realized I was still holding her hand. So I let it go. “Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that. I mean. I didn’t mean to…” And I put my hands in my pockets. It was an unwritten rule that I’d broken, and I knew that. And so did she. And she knew too that I had deliberately tossed that rule out the window, and taken her hand anyway.

I stood there. And just looked at the flowers for a bit. At their colors. The way they look so delicate. So soft. So fleeting. There for just a few days. And then gone. “I like flowers.” It was a true statement. I wasn’t lying.

And she was looking at the flowers. So, I crouched down, and let my fingers feel the grass. She watched. And actually smiled. “It’s OK.” That’s all she said. I didn’t have to say anything. And neither did she. She sat down on the bench. And looked at the flowers a bit. Then closed her eyes. And after a moment, she smiled. “Thank you.”

That was real. That was the truth. All she’d needed was a moment. And someone to spend some time with her. And acknowledge that she was hurt. That she needed just a moment. Just a bit of time. To close her eyes. And remember what’s real in this world. And what’s fake. Remember what matters, and what doesn’t.

I just smiled. I didn’t say a word. There was no need. After another minute or so, I finally spoke, “I’ll stay right here, and keep you company, for as long as you wish. And when you’re ready, then we’ll go back.”

She’d stopped trying to hide the hurt from me. She didn’t cry. But she did tell me that sometimes it was really hard. That life was really hard. So I sat down on the bench next to her. And we just looked at the flowers for a little while. And as we sat there, I watched the hurt in her eyes fade. That’s when she told me what was wrong. That she was feeling very lonely. That her husband was on deployment, and would be gone for another 8 months. And it was hard. She missed him so much. But she had to carry on. Every day.

I found myself wishing I had some way to tell her that I understood. That it was OK to hurt. That hurt was a part of life. That missing someone you love was a part of life. And that the feelings she had of being alone, and of things being hard, were OK. I wished I had a way to show her how transient feelings are. That they come and go. That they explode to life. And that they fade away. That they are not permanent. And are nothing to be afraid of.

“I like the flowers. I wish they would be in bloom for longer. They add such color to the world. And then, they’re gone.” That’s all I could think of to say. As we sat there on that bench, looking at the snapdragons, I finally asked her, “Why do people lie?”

“What do you mean?” It was an honest question she asked. So I gave her an honest answer.

“Well… Why do people sign sympathy cards for people they don’t even really know? Why do people say things like get well soon when they don’t really care if you get well or not? Why do people just look at you while he’s gone, and tell you that you’ll get over it, and then pretend that you don’t miss him?” I looked at her eyes again. “Why do people lie?”

She tried to explain it to me. That it was a social behavior. That it was the appropriate thing to do. To let people know that things would be OK. To give them the feeling that everyone cared, and was concerned.

We sat there, on that bench, and talked about that social behavior for a while. Me asking questions, and trying to understand. And her trying to explain. And that’s when she finally realized that I could ask the questions I asked because I really didn’t understand. “I know it’s a lie. What they say to me. The way everyone pretends that everything is OK. But it helps me, I think. To have people around me that behave as if nothing’s wrong. As if nothing’s different.”

We talked a bit more. And then we went back inside. Back to work. She was much better. I knew that. And she acted like she was better. She smiled more. And seemed more relaxed. And there was less hurt in her eyes.

Yeah, I know what I did broke the rules of social behavior. And I guess I’m able to break those rules because to me, they’re just rules. Like the rules of a board game. Like a Monopoly game. All documented somewhere. And everyone agrees to play by them, and follow them. But I know that to a lot of people, those rules are real. And they can’t imagine doing anything outside those rules. And that me stepping outside those rules sometimes disturbs people. A lot.

But I knew too that on that day, she needed a friend to step outside the rules. And give her a moment of honesty. So that she would know that someone knew. And really, honestly cared. And really, honestly was a friend that would help her, if she ever asked for help. That she’d needed something more than just a social behavior pattern. That she’d needed something real. In a land of professional, grown-up behavior. In a world where feelings have no place.

She’d needed to know that it’s OK to feel. And sometimes, you just have to break the rules, and do what you know you should.

Lines Upon The Sand

In the space
Between the two of us.
There is a field of sand.

As I look across that sand
I can see you.
Standing over there.
And the only thing at all
Between the two of us
Is sand.

Like the sand on the beach.
Or the sand of the desert.

The wind even blows away
The footprints others made
In that sand.
The footprints I have made myself.

As I look back
Along the path I’ve walked
On this endless sand.
I can’t tell you
Where I came from.
That trail vanished
So very long ago.

All that I can say is,
“I came from over there,

I would walk right up to you.
Offer you some water
From the canteen I have with me.
Ask you how you are.
If you are OK.
If you need a place to rest.
Time to catch your breath.
Before you start once more
On your journey
Across the sea of sand.

But I know not too.
I’ve learned.
To you,
The sand is not the same
As it is to me.
For you see things
Drawn in the sand.
That aren’t there
For me to see.

Where I see smooth sand,
And nothing more
Between the two of us.
You see lines
Drawn upon the sand.

And each line has a rule
Written on a sign
That tells you the meaning
Of the line
Each sign is for.

How to live.
How to talk.
How to behave.
Around another human being.
What to say
And how to say it.
When to smile
And when to frown.
And when to offer help.

There are even lines
Drawn in that sand
That tell you not to get to close
To the people you meet
As you walk along.

For people
Come and go.

And still more lines
That let you know
Who’s a friend.
And who is not.
Who you can talk with.
And who you should avoid.
What’s age appropriate.
What to say in a group.

Lines for everything.
Each of them a rule.
That guide you
In your walk
Along the sand.

I’ve seen so many others
On this sand.
Since I started walking on it
Oh, so many years ago.

And I’ve always wondered
Why everyone I saw
Was walking precisely
Toward the same point
On the horizon.

That point there.
I’m sure that you can see it.

In my curiosity,
I decided I’d walk that way too.
Just to see
What the heck was there.

I found it funny
As I walked along,
How many people
Talked with me.
So long as I stayed
On the path
That they were on.

It was to me as if
I was staying between the lines
I knew they all could see.
Lines that are invisible
To me.

I learned to walk along.
Keeping pace with everyone.
Walking with them
Toward the spot on the horizon
They were all walking toward.

But as I walked along
With everyone.
I couldn’t help but notice
That all there ever was
Was just more sand.
As far as I could see.

After a time
Walking on the sand,
I ran out of water.
And I learned,
When I did,
That no one would share
Their water
With me.

“There’s plenty of water here
For everyone.
Get your own.”
That’s what they said to me.
That I had to find
Water of my own.
In an ocean of sand
That reached as far as I could see
In all directions.

I had no choice.
I had to find water.
I had to drink.
Or die of thirst.

So I turned
And started walking here and there
To find water.
Any water.
Any where.

And when I did.
Everyone abandoned me.
“You’ve broken all the rules.
Crossed all the lines.
You can’t do that.
If you do,
Our peaceful,
Ordered lives
Will be consumed
By the chaos
That no lines upon the sand,
And no rules,
Would lead to.

I have wandered alone
Across the sea of sand
Since that day.
When I had no choice at all
But to strike out
On my own
To find water
To drink.

It saddens me greatly
When I think of all the people
That I’ve met.
That I’ve known.
Whose path I have crossed.
As I walk along the sand.
On a path
All my own.

It saddens me greatly
To know the truth
Of where they’re going.

There’s no water there.
There’s only sand.
Sand that goes on forever.
That leads
No where.

It saddens me to know
That they see these lines
Upon the sand.
And that they follow them.
That they let these lines
Tell the how to live.
And how to be.
That these lines
Are what make them

For I know the truth
About the sand.
I’ve seen it
With my own two eyes.
I’ve touched it
With the fingers
Of my hands.

There are no lines
Upon the sand.
And the path that I see
Walking on each day
As I wander my own way
Out here on the sand.

Is a path I know
Leads nowhere.
I know
There’s no water there.

There is only sand.

But in my wanderings,
Every now and then
I come across
A tiny oasis.

A brilliant splash of green.
Surrounded by the sand.
Where I can stay for a few days.
And let my body rest.
Where I can collect
More water for the walk
That I am forever on.
Where I can restock
My supply of nuts and berries.

Before it’s time for me once more
To step back on the sand.
And wander off.
Until I find the next oasis
That I know is there.

In almost any direction
Other than the one
That lies there
On the horizon.
Where everyone
That sees the lines
Upon the sand
Is walking.

Lines upon the sand
That are invisible
To me.