Elmer’s World

Elmer locked the padlock on the rusted door of his 1983 Chevy Impala and stealthy placed the keys in his pocket.  He then turned to enter the local coffee shop, Bernie’s Coffee Pot.  Inside was a small, but warm space.  Elmer hiked-up his blue sweat pants up over his white t-shirt and walked up to the counter.  Bernie, a short and heavy middle-aged man with large glasses and a shiny head, greeted him cheerily.  “Hello Elmer,” said Bernie, “how are you today?”

“Well, I’m only okay,” replied Elmer with his nasally voice.  “My stomach is upset, and it kept me up half the night yesterday.”

“Oh, well that’s too bad.  What can I get you to drink?”

“Well I think I want a cup of hot black coffee, although I don’t like to drink hot coffee in the morning, because it makes me sweat under my armpits,” replied Elmer has he scratched the top of his bald head.

“One cup of coffee.  Have a good one,” said Bernie as he stood on his tip-toes to hand the tall Elmer his cup of morning armpit sweat.  Elmer walked out through the glass door and passed a suspicious looking man entering the shop.  This man wore a leather jacket and had spiked black hair.  Elmer rushed to the side of his padlocked car to make sure nothing of his had been touched.  Thank goodness his car was safe.  Elmer reached into his pocket to pull out the key when, to his chagrin, they were not there.  They must have fallen out of his sweat pants pocket when he took his wallet out to pay for his coffee.  Urgh, he did not what to go into the shop while that young hooligan was there, but it looked like that was what he was going to have to do.  As Elmer turned to go back into the shop he saw the black haired gangster walk over, lock the door and close the blind.  Elmer knew it, these youngsters aren’t to be trusted.  Now what was he supposed to do?


-What do you think should happen next in Elmer’s World? Leave a comment. 

The Life That Never Was Part III

Kayla was not a particularly beautiful girl; she was average looking.  She had long light brown hair and hazel eyes which were much too large for her heart-shaped face.  Her frame was small and slight, and overall, she was the kind of girl who tended to blend in with everyone else.  But she had a loving heart, and she reached out to me during this difficult time of losing my brother.  Kayla was a very strong Christian, and she shared with me the hope of the gospel.  Oddly enough I found comfort there, and I began attending church more regularly.  Up to that point in my life, I was someone who only went to church on Christmas and Easter.  Needless to say, my understanding of God was minimal.  But as my friendship with Kayla grew stronger, I gained an understanding of God, both His mercy and His justice.  When I lost my brother, through my grief, I gained truth, faith, and understanding.  I still wanted the same things.  I wanted to play soccer, I wanted to be a doctor, but now I wanted them for different reasons.  My desire was to use my talents for the glory of God.

That same year I graduated high school.  I got accepted at the University of North Carolina.  I was going to study pre-med.  I also got a scholarship to play soccer there.  So after a tumultuous year, I packed up my bags and headed to college, ready to start my life.  I enjoyed my time at college.  I studied hard, played lots of soccer, and was still able to make a lot of friends.  Additionally, I was able to get involved with some on-campus ministries, and I kept in touch with Kayla back home.  College was enjoyable.  I even liked my field of study, but I missed my family, and when the year was over, I was ready to spend my summer at home.  However, things didn’t quite go as planned.

That summer I went home and spent a few weeks with my family.  Kayla told me she was going on a mission’s trip to India with a group from church.  She told me all about it and invited me to go along.  I had a little money saved up, and after a time of thought and prayer, I decided this trip might be a good experience.  So after spending about two weeks with my family, I left home to spend two weeks in India.

My trip to India was a formative experience in my life.  We spent time, a lot of time, with the poorer people of India, bringing food, fresh water, and, of course, the gospel.  Not being able to speak their language, we found it hard to communicate, but we managed, and there was one man in the group that spoke Hindi.  We also spent a few days at the Bhogpur Children’s Home.  Kayla had a real gift for mission work.  She was able to really communicate with people and touch them, despite the language barrier.  I found out that missions were her passion, and she was learning to speak Hindi so that one day she could come back to India and work more permanently at the children’s home.  Spending time there, with the lower class people of India, I saw that there was a great need for doctors and medical resources in India.  I began to think of the difference just one doctor could make, and suddenly, my studies took on a whole new meaning.

I went back to school, year after year, working with a new zeal.  I was no longer learning medicine for myself.  I was learning it for the poor children in India.  Kayla and I learned Hindi together, working with the man from church, who spoke it fluently.  My life was taking shape; I knew what I wanted.  There was direction and I was happy.  God had taken much, given much, and I knew he expected much.  He had taken my brother from me.  He had given me a friendship with Kayla, a relationship with Him, and the opportunity for a great education.  I knew He intended for me to be a good doctor and to use my skills to help those in need. I had just finished my first year of medical school at New York University.  I was part of a select group of students, taking a three-year medical course.  Things were going well, the curriculum was rigorous, but finishing a year early was going to make it worthwhile.

When I had the chance to visit home, I spent most of my time with Kayla.  I loved my family and tried to be with them, but it was hard.  I was so involved in church, medicine, and going to India.  My family loved me and supported me, but they didn’t understand what I believed.  Though I talked and talked to my family about God and my faith, none of them accepted that faith as their own.  This made our relationship difficult.  Yet, I hoped and prayed that one day they could know God the way I had come to know Him.

Everything in my life after graduation seemed to fall into place fell into place.  Kayla and I set off for India.  We were completely happy and ready to start our lives.  As I sat next to Kayla on the plane, half-asleep, I thanked God for everything He’d given me.  Suddenly the plane jerked.

I felt excruciating pain.  Like I was being sucked out of a small space.  Then I hit something hard with a thump.  There were needles pricking me and tubes coming from my arms.  I was alive, but barely.  Then I felt as if my limbs were being torn from my body.  Everything went dark.

***

            Conrad took his last breath.  The amazing life that he could have lived was taken from him as he was sucked from his mother’s womb.

The Life That Never Was Part II

“Oh Conrad,” said Principal Higgs, regaining control of herself, “you aren’t here because you’ve been bad. You’re here because there is something that you are quite good at –soccer. The middle school soccer coach has seen you play at recess, and he says you have great potential. He wanted me to talk to you and your parents about your being on the soccer team. What do you think?”
“You mean actually getting to play on a real team, in real games?!” I asked excitedly. “Oh, I would love to play soccer; will I really get to?”
“Of course you will. That is if your parents want you to,” said the principal looking at my parents. “Conrad’s grades are excellent, and he has a lot of potential, both athletically and academically. If he worked hard and stayed focused, there’s no reason he shouldn’t do just fine.” My parents exchanged a knowing look with one another.
“We have faith in Conrad,” began Dad, “if he wants to play soccer we won’t stop him. But he knows we expect the best grades from him. If his soccer gets in the way of school, he’ll have to quit. It’s up to you Conrad. You can be on the team if you want, but your school work had better not suffer.”
“ I want to be on the team! I want to be on the team!” I implored. “I promise I’ll work hard; my grades will be better than they were this year. Oh, I want to play soccer!”
“Well then, you have your answer don’t you?” said Mom.
I worked hard as promised. All through middle school I played soccer, and I got straight A’s on my report card. It was in 8th grade that I realized science was a class that was really easy, and really fun. Just like soccer was my favorite sport, science was my favorite class, and I excelled at it. In high school things got harder. I continued to play soccer, but I ended up getting Bs in classes like literature and history. All the other classes I could usually get As in. Science remained my favorite class, and when I had the chance I took all the advanced science classes I could. When senior year came, I knew what I waned to do. I wanted to be a doctor. Things were going well. I was happy; my life felt full, then disaster struck.
I was the oldest child in my family, with a younger brother and a baby sister. They were full of life, always running, laughing, and playing. I loved being with them. One day my sister came home from school not feeling well. She had a fever, so my mom gave her some Advil and sent her to bed. The next morning she wasn’t feeling any better, and my brother was feeling sick too. My mom assumed it was just a bug and made them stay in bed for the next two days, but they weren’t getting any better. On the third day, she took them to the doctor, who told them it was just a cold and they had to sweat it out. We found out too late that the doctor was horribly wrong. After a full week of high fevers and sore throats, my mom decided to take my brother and sister to a different doctor. This doctor recommended we go to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. When he examined my siblings, he saw that what they had was much more serious than just a regular cold. Upon further examination, he realized they had viral pneumonia, but it had been allowed to fester, untreated for a full week. In spite of this, the doctor believed it to be highly treatable, given that my brother and sister both had strong immune systems. He was a little bit more worried about my sister because she was only eight years old, and she had been experiencing the symptoms longer than my brother. He was wrong. He should have been more worried about my brother. What the doctor didn’t realize was that my little brother had asthma, which made his lung tissue more vulnerable to infection. The infection never reached my sister’s lungs, and with time and rest she got better. My brother was not so fortunate, and although the doctor’s did all they could, it was too little too late. My 11 year old brother died because he had been misdiagnosed. My family was devastated, but there was nothing we could do. From that day forward, I vowed that I would become the best doctor I possibly could, so that mistakes like that would never be made again. I never wanted any family to have to experience the pain that my family did, when we lost my brother. But I was very blessed even during this difficult time, by a dear friendship. This friendship saved me.(to be continued)

The Life That Never Was Part I

I can hear voices, as I lay curled in a ball.  They sounds soft and muddled, the sound waves are traveling through a wall of water.  It reminds me of what I imagine a fish would sound like, if fish could talk.  There is the familiar voice of my mother saying, “but he could live with muscular dystrophy.”  A man’s voice replies, “yes, but the pregnancy and the birth would be dangerous, you both could die.  And what kind of life would your baby live, enslaved to a disease?”  the conversation continued, but I was getting too tired to listen.  It was time for my nap.  I slipped into a dream, my favorite kind of dream.  This was the kind of dream where I was looking back on the life I wish I had lived, rather than the one where I was looking forward to the life I hoped to live.

I grew up in a nice suburban neighborhood.  There were a lot of kids my age to play with.  It was always fun being one of the five year olds who gave their mother a heart attack by running into the middle of the road during a heated game of tag.  However, as we got older, we gained a small amount of wisdom.  By the age of 8, we learned to never let our mothers see the way we played, because otherwise they would be sure to spoil our fun.  There was a small tree line right in between my house and a large open field.  That is where all the boys would go to play tackle football.  Sometimes we played soccer too, and although it’s not traditional to tackle your opponents, we usually managed to break tradition.

As I grew bigger and stronger, my passion for sports became more pronounced.  I began to realize that I was capable of winning most of the games at recess, as well as the small competitions the neighborhood boys had at home.  Soccer was one of my favorite games, because I was the best at it.  I was quick, accurate, and I had stamina.  I was at the end of my fifth grade year of school when my parents got a phone call that could bring my dreams into perdition.  The school wanted to meet with my parents and I.

My heart was pounding, my mind racing as we walked into the principal’s office.  I wasn’t the most well behaved kid in the class, but I always did what I was told.  I got good grades, there was no reason I should be in so much trouble that the school needed to meet with my parents.

“Mr. and Mrs. Chesterton, thank you so much for meeting with me.  Please have a seat,” said Principal Higgs, to my parents, in her sweetest tone.  She was a woman in her mid-forties.  She still looked young, though there were hints of age on her forehead and around her eyes.  Although she was a firm woman, with high expectations, she was not strictly authoritarian.  She had a sense of humor, which was traced in the lines around her mouth.  The students thought her  fair and, for the most part, kind, but her firm brown eyes could open a doorway to punishment that would strike fear into the heart of any fifth grade boy.  She fixed those eyes upon me now, but they did not flash with justice and anger, they shown with excitement and perhaps even pride.  “How are you Conrad?” she asked.

“Well, I’m alright,” I replied, “but I’m a little confused.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, I don’t know what I did wrong.  I wasn’t so bad this year that you had to have my parents come here, was I?  I never tried to be.  I really wanted to be a good boy.  Mr. Krest is a nice teacher.  He likes soccer, and sometimes he would take us outside on nice days and let us play a little longer.  I wanted to be really good for him, cause he did that.  I tried real, real hard!  I even told the other boys to be good too, but I didn’t tell the girls, cause well girls just don’t appreciate playing soccer outside like the boys do.  But the girls didn’t usually cause trouble anyways, so I didn’t have to tell them to be good.  They just were.”  I said all this quickly and passionately.  I’d been building up to it all day.  I didn’t know what I had done wrong, but I just wanted to clear the air by affirming my innocence as soon as possible.  Principal Higgs smiled broadly when I began my speech, and by the end she could no longer contain herself, and she laughed, not unkindly, as I spoke.  I looked around me and saw that both of my parents were laughing as well.  Now I was thoroughly confused. (To Be Continued)

Duke

Caught up in a dream, I’m taken back in time.  I am young and agile, the king of the wild.  The grass is green, the trees are full, and flowers bloom.  I turn to a nearby tree and stretch up against it, digging my claws into its thick, rough bark.  Then slowly I sink back down to the ground, leaving ten clean cuts in the tree.  My claws now sharpened, I turn my eyes to the wide-open field in front of me.  There I see a rabbit basking in the sun, slowly I zero in.  My tail swishes back and forth as I put myself in position to lunge.  I leap forward and am awakened from my dream.

I am no longer three years old, but sixteen.  My bones ache, and I have only the most minuscule amount of agility.  I live inside king of a palace not of the wild.  My claws are gone, but I do not miss them.  I no longer need them here in the lap of luxury.  I know that when I wish to eat there is always fresh food and water, and if there is none I can simply have one of my humans to procure it for me.

You wouldn’t know it to look at them, but these humans are actually quite useful.  I think every pet should adopt an owner.  They feed me when I tell them to, they clean for me, and they give me attention when I desire to have it.  Living in the wild, I did not understand or appreciate these things; but being older and wiser, I have learned the usefulness of the attention of these creatures.  I have learned in time that, although they are sometimes difficult, people can be worked with.  There is no need to harm them, you must merely correct their bad behavior and point them in the right direction.  I am even beginning to feel something, which might resemble affection towards my humans.  I often now grace them with my presence by sleeping in their bed at night.  It is a good life . . . .

Four years later I am now twenty, and have next to no agility.  My senses of smell, hearing, and sight are greatly diminished.  Sometimes I feel lost and confused; my memory is no longer what it once was.  My body is weak.  Sometimes it is too hard for me to make the trip downstairs to use my litter box.  The first time I had an accident my humans responded in anger and frustration, now they worry.  They see that I am not the menacing hunter I used to be.  I do not like that they are both physically and emotionally hurt by my aging. Last night as I lay in bed grooming myself there was another incident.  I kept licking and chewing on my fur, but felt nothing.  Then suddenly my human awakened with a look of pain on her face; she set me on the floor.  The next morning there was a dark, apple-sized bruise on her arm that I did not remember seeing the night before.  As I looked at her, I thought back to the grooming incident.  Is it possible I was grooming the wrong coat?  Suddenly a feeling I have only ever heard about, but have never personally experienced, overwhelmed me . . .guilt.

Slowly I feel myself deteriorating in both body and mind.  I know the end is not far.  Yet, I do not fear the inevitable end and I refuse to run and hide.  I intend to meet death head on.  There are many things I will miss.  I will miss: eating salmon flavored pate, being brushed and petted, licking my humans head at night, purring to sooth her, all those special moments that make a pet’s life worth living.  Many pets feel that animals cannot have a really deep relationship with humans, because we animals do not have souls.  Therefore, they think our emotions must somehow be inferior.  Anyone who believes this is a fool.  The truth is: I have experienced a deep, one may even say spiritual, connection with my human.  It is true that this connection will be severed when I depart.  That is a sad reality of life.  Yet, there is comfort in the fact that I have left my mark on these people, and they have left their mark on me.

Why?

“Why do you have to go to college if all you want to do is write?  Like can’t you just be a writer?”  She smiled as she heard this question yet again, but on the inside she grimaced.

“I don’t know,” she thought. “Why do you have to go to college if all you want to be is a scientist?  Like can’t you just do experiments, isn’t that what science is all about anyways?”  Though she longed to say this she couldn’t.  She merely smiled and went with the patented, “well I want to learn to be a better writer.  I care about understanding the art and doing it well.”

“Oh, yeah sure,” they looked at her with an expression that clearly showed they did not understand.  She knew she could not make them understand.  All she could do was smile, nod, and carry on.  She also did not understand.  Why did people always ask her this?  Why was she the one that always heard, “oh, writing?  What exactly to you want to do with that?”

“I want to do the same thing everyone else does: learn and work,” she’d think to herself.  Nevertheless she let the condescension come and all she would say is, “I’ll take any job that let’s me work with literature.”  Someday, when she found her courage, she would look them in the eyes and say, “I want to do what everyone else has the chance to do.  I want to study my field, learn my field, and then get a job in my field.”  Then she would just walk away.

 

The Burden

Last week you got a little taste of my poetry.  This week your going to get to sample one of my short stories.

The Burden

            Rose sat in the kitchen enjoying a rare moment of peace.  Her mother slept soundly upstairs and Rose was left alone.  She looked out of the window and was overjoyed by what she saw.  It was a robin.  Finally, spring had arrived!  The dreary winter had dragged on and on, but, at last, spring!  Rose felt a fleeting moment of joy as she watched the little red-breasted robin.  It hopped around on the ground digging for materials with which to build its new summer home.  A blade of grass, no, not strong enough.  A leaf, that is the wrong shape.  A stick, too big and heavy.  A twig, perfect!  Rose unknowingly allowed a small smile to creep on to her face.  It was the first minuscule amount of happiness that she had felt in a year.  But, to Rose, that year had been the longest she’d ever known; it seemed to encompass her whole life.  Her brother, Tommy, had been called up to war.  Rose and her mother had been left alone, to fend for themselves, since her father . . .

Knock, Knock, Knock.  Rose jumped; she was startled out of her tranquil world.  She wasn’t expecting visitors today.  She went to the door and opened it.  There stood a soldier.  She didn’t think she’d ever seen him before, although she might not have remembered him if she had.  She received many visits from unknown soldiers these days.  Most of them were on furlough and had no place to go; all they knew was they wanted to get out of camp.  Often they were in need of a meal and a place to sleep.  Initially Rose turned them away.  What else could she do?  She was alone.  But as time passed, and more and more came, Rose both lost and gained her gumption. She started cautiously sharing her meals with a few of them.  Gradually she decided to set up places in the living room for them to sleep.  These were men serving their country, Rose didn’t have the heart to turn them away.  She thought of her brother at a camp somewhere, looking for a place of refuge.  Maybe somewhere, some other kind-hearted lady would provide Tommy with the small comforts of home that Rose tried to give to these visiting soldiers.   However, this particular soldier did not act as if he was looking for a place to stay.  Maybe he only needed directions.  Still Rose was intrigued.

Although he was tall, and his uniform fit him well, he was not particularly handsome.  His hair and eyes were both a dull shade of brown, and he had no especially defining facial features.  As Rose examined him she realized that his demeanor was different from that of the lost soldiers who usually came to the door asking for directions or a place to stay.  This particular soldier seemed to be on a mission and acted as though meeting Rose at the door was one of the final steps of that mission.

“I have a telegram for Mrs. Richardson,” said the soldier to Rose.  Rose’s head began to flood with thoughts, mostly fears, of what the telegram contained.  In the midst of war, telegrams never brought good news.

“I’m Miss Richardson.  I’m afraid my mother is unable to come to the door right now, but I’ll see that she gets this,” Rose responded, taking the telegram gingerly from the soldier, as if it would explode right there in her hands.

“Will do.  Have a nice day, Miss,” he said with an air of completion.  Rose looked at the deadly envelope she held in her hand, then she shook her self.  What was wrong with her?  It didn’t have to contain bad news.  Still, Rose could not help thinking of her younger brother Tommy.  He was out fighting in the thick of it all.  Oh, how she longed and feared to open the telegram.  But it wasn’t for her.  It was for her mother.  Then it dawned on Rose.  What if the telegram did contain the news that she feared?  What if her brother had been killed?  Her mother was very ill and weak.  This kind of news could mean the worst for her.  Rose’s mother had not been fully well since her father died last year.  Additionally, her mother had come down with pneumonia several weeks ago; and, although the doctor had done everything he could for her, she just kept getting worse and worse.  Rose did not believe that she was going to get better.  It was likely that she had only held on this long so that she could see her little boy come marching home.  Oh, if only Rose’s father were here.  He would know just what to do.  He had been a coal miner, but was killed when the cave he was working in unexpectedly collapsed.  Only about half the men had survived.  What was Rose to do?  Should she open the telegram? What was right? What was wrong?  Enough!  She opened it.

 

THE SECRETARY OF WAR DESIRES ME TO EXPRESS HIS DEEP

REGRET THAT YOUR SON FIRST LIEUTENANT TIMOTHY H

RICHARDSON DIED WHILE PERFORMING HIS DUTIES IN THE

SERVICE OF HIS COUNTRY HIS BODY WILL BE SENT TO YOU

AS SOON AS WE ARE ABLE TO MAKE ARRANGEMENTS.

J A ULIO GENERAL

Rose took a step back.  She was trying not to cry.  Although she was more than half expecting this news, it was still a hard blow.  Just then, Rose heard her mother calling, “Rose?  Rose dear?  Could you come upstairs for a moment?  I need your help.”  Rose headed upstairs.  She was so preoccupied with the news about Tommy that she didn’t notice how strained her mother’s voice sounded.  Rose walked into her mother’s room.  There she lay, wide-eyed, pale, with cold sweat beads all across her forehead.  “Rose dear, could you please hand me that glass of water?” gasped her mother.

“Mother, can’t you reach it?” asked a now very concerned Rose.

“I’m just too weak. Please Rose, I’m terribly thirsty.”

“Of course, here you are mother,” handing the glass to her mother.

“Could you help me lift my head, I just feel so, so……”

“Mother? Mother?!”

Rose rushed to her mother’s side, lifting her head to help her drink.  After she finally got her head up, her mother drank and drank, until the glass was completely drained.  “Would you like some more?” asked Rose.  “No, no thank you Rose. Just sit here with me for a bit.”

“Mother you’re so much worse.  I think I should call the doctor.”

“No. Rose, I don’t think there’s anything the doctor can do for me.  Please, just sit.  I want to talk to you.”

“Alright mother, if that’s what you want,” said Rose.  But she was thinking about her brother as she answered her mother.  Should she tell her mother?  Rose knew this could be her last chance, but did she really want to make her mother’s last moments so unhappy and filled with pain?

“Rose dear,” said her mother reaching out her hand to stroke Rose’s long dark hair.  “I wanted to tell you how proud I am of you.  You are so strong; the way you’ve stuck by me these last couple weeks.  I love you so much.  I wish your brother was here so I could tell him the same.  I tried to wait for him, but I just can’t.  So, Rose, I must ask one last thing of you my brave girl.  Please wait for your brother, Rose.  Tell him how much I love him.  How much I love you both.”

“Mother, there is something I must tell you about Tommy.  Mother? Mother!”

Her mother’s eyes had rolled back, and her head had dropped.  She was gasping for air and holding Rose’s hand in a crushing grip.  She couldn’t breath!  What was Rose to do?  She needed to think, but she didn’t have time.  She had to act now.  Then suddenly her mother’s grip loosened and, although she was propped up on her pillow, she began to slump forward.  Rose looked at her mother, shook her, and called her name, but there was no response.  As the reality of what had just happened hit Rose, the weight of all the hardships she had suffered seemed to crush her very soul.  Rose cried and cried until she had no more tears.  When she had finally finished, she began to think about what she was to do.

Rose had to take care of her mother and make arrangements for a funeral.  Her mother would want to be buried in the backyard with Papa, and then it dawned on her.  She was alone, completely alone.  Her father, mother, and younger brother were all dead.  Where was she to go?  She had no one to turn to.  What was she to do?  Rose was completely lost.  She wasn’t strong the way her brother was.  Her brother . . . she had never told her mother about Tommy.  Her mother had died thinking that Tommy and Rose had each other, that they wouldn’t be alone.  She wanted Tommy to know how proud of him she was and how much she loved him.  Rose was supposed to tell him that, but it was too late.   It was too late for everything.  The weight of Rose’s guilt came bearing down upon her.  She now found new tears to shed.  These came from deep inside her heavy heart.