Whisper 1.37

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One afternoon, in early spring, the sun comes out. The valley is brighter than I’ve ever seen it. I hear geese honking and I look up to see a V flying west. I remember that afternoon back in college, a whole lifetime ago, when a flock of geese flew in formation through a rainbow. That was a moment when I felt connected to everything and life fell together for me. Remembering that moment, reflecting on how much life I’ve lived in between then and now, it all comes together again. I feel, just for this very moment, in step with destiny.

When I come inside, Bobobo marches through the bedroom. He leaves a trail of flowers, but he has a scowl on his face.

“What’s wrong, little sprout?” I ask him.

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“I want Dino Croc!” he says.

I follow him into the living room where he grabs his crocodile dinosaur toy and tackles it in a squeeze of a hug.

“Baby!” he says.

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Later, I find him playing with blocks at the activity table.

“Green!” he squeals, rolling the green block between his palms. “Green, green, only every green!”

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When he plays the xylophone, I notice that he mostly hits the green note. Every time he does, he laughs and calls out “Green!” But on the rare occasions that he hits red or blue, he says, “No! Bad red! Bad blue!”

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That afternoon, while Zoey watches Marigold finish her homework, Bobobo plays with the peg box toy. Once again, he favors the green blocks.

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While we’re reading, I point out all the colors. “Look, it’s a red cat. There’s an orange house. See the pink flower?”

“Stupid,” he says. “Green is best.”

“What do you like about green?” I ask.

“Plant!” he replies.

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In the morning, we see that the snow has melted overnight. It’s raining, and the air smells fresh. After Marigold goes to school, Bobobo and I take a trip to the bookstore. He laughs at the rain. “Grow! Grow!” he giggles.

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“Look!” I say. “There’s Arkvoodle’s space ship!”

“Arkvoodle green!” says Bobobo. “Arkvoodle is good.”

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“Mom,” Marigold says while she’s working out. “I think my brother is obsessed.”

“You mean with green things?” I ask.

“Yeah,” she says. “He’s nuts.”

“It’s normal for smart children to have strong interests and preferences,” I say. “Do you remember how you felt about Lamber?”

“But that’s different!” she says. “Lamber is a lamb! Lambs are cool! What’s so good about green?”

“Plants!” says Bobobo.

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We laugh.

“OK, Sprout,” says Marigold. “You’ve got a point there! And just to show I agree, I’m doing my homework outside. In the garden. With the plants. Because, you know, plants are smart.”

“Yup,” he says. “Grow smart, green!”

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It’s the night of Spring Prom. After Marigold finishes her homework, she puts Bobobo to sleep.

“I’ve got to go out, little brother,” I hear her say, “so you be good for our mom, OK?”

Marigold has started looking out for me, helping out more around the house and encouraging me not to work too hard.

“I’m not decrepit,” I protest.

“No,” she replies, “but you’re ancient. And I want you to become even ancienter.”

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She grumbles when the limo pulls up. “I really did petition for a Prius after last prom,” she says. “I’ll be riding the bike back again when it’s over.”

“Call me when it’s done. And we’re expecting snow again, so ride safe!”

“OK, Mom,” she says.

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The baby’s asleep, Marigold is out, and Dante comes.

“How’s your day, sweet?” he asks.

“Good,” I say, “and even better now.”

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We talk about the weather. It’s snowing again.

He looks at me with tender concern.

“What’s wrong?” he asks. “Are you tired?”

I know that I can’t cheat fate, and that there’s a timing to everything, but I admit that I’ve got a special wish.

“Bobobo and Marigold, I want them to be able to stay kids as long as they can. I’m worried that if I leave soon, they’ll have to grow up and they won’t get real childhoods. I’m getting old, Dante.”

“You’re right that fate has its own calendar,” Dante says. “I never expected to go when I did. I can’t say that I regret it, though, when I think about what’s come to pass. With you, and everything, here at your home.”

“Our home,” I say.

“Our home.” When we finish talking, he takes out the trash and looks around to see if there’s anything else that needs doing.

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Bobobo wakes.

“Story!” he shouts from his crib.

“Which one?” I ask.

“Giants!” he says.

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Marigold calls as we finish the Giant book.

“I’m on my way home!” she says.

“It’s icy!” I say. “Ride safe!”

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We’re on the alphabet book when she comes home.

“How was the dance?” I ask.

“Same old,” she says. “Chet ignored me, I got rejected for a dance, I got in a fight, I got voted Prom Queen. Everybody looked really great all dressed up, though!”

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We look at her prom photo.

“You look like some kind of kung fu Prom Queen,” I say.

Everybody was kung fu dancing!” she sings.

“Magic Sissy!” says Bobobo. We look again and agree. She does look like a sorceress casting a spell.

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The children are asleep when I wake early the next morning. The ground is blanketed in snow, and the mountains to the south begin to glow with the sun’s rosy light. It’s dawn, on a snowy spring morning. I feel young inside, the same way I did when I was a child, and I feel hopeful. Every shard of hope brings a slice of pain–what if the hope doesn’t hold?

But as I gaze over the valley, in the silence of the predawn moments, peace descends, and it’s a peace that stills the chatter of hope and its promises, leaving behind something more real: acceptance. Fate is greater than the boldest hope. And in this long life, I’ve learned that fate, or destiny, or that-what-is, when met with acceptance, leads to the mystery which contains the seed of joy. Let it be, whatever it will be.

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Three Rivers 1.1

This short story is the first entry of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers.

  1. Clouds from the Pacific blow over the desert

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When Hank Merril got out of rehab, all he had to do was show up: show up for meetings, show up for work. But he didn’t want to show up. He wanted to be left alone.

They’d saved his spot for him at the science lab where he’d worked as a technician, but he didn’t want to go back. He couldn’t stand to face them after what had happened during his last few months there, that spiral down that had led him to get checked into Bright Days Recovery Center.

His caseworker helped him secure a rental and a job in a new town where he didn’t know anybody. Until he went to his first meeting, that is.

“So, then,” said his sponsor, “this is like a new start.”

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Hank didn’t like Johnny at first. All those shiny slogans: First things first. One day at a time. Easy does it. Keep the plug in the jug.

“It’s not easy for any of us,” Johnny said. “Life’s not easy. But then, it’s not always hard, either. And sometimes, when it’s easy, that’s when it’s the hardest.”

Hank chuckled. Maybe Johnny got it.

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“I’ll make you a deal,” Hank said. “I’ll show up. I’ll work the program. I won’t expect to be happy, and I’ll learn how to tolerate boredom. And in exchange, you think maybe I could get a little time alone, now and then?”

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“You know we don’t make deals,” Johnny said. “You got my number.”

When Hank showed up for his first shift as an orderly at Valley Hospital, he thought maybe it won’t be so bad. The lobby was empty, save for one of the doctors on duty and the receptionist.

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He just about lost it during his orientation, though.

“This is where we keep the prescription drugs,” Melody, the receptionist, said, showing him a locked door. “Only doctors and nurses have access, so, you know, you won’t need to…”

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By the end of the tour, Melody was joking with him. She led him back to the break room.

“It’s usually pretty quiet here,” she said. “This is where I escape to when it gets to be too much and I just need a minute to find my head. I’ll leave you here. You can start your duties after you’ve had your break.”

When she left the room, a wave of calm blew in. He listened to the song over the speaker: Neil Sedaka. That was ole-timey. It felt good, though.

He liked the neutral colors, too. Calm.

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Don’t get too happy, he told himself. Pleasure was a sharp knife–too intense and it just kicked in, and he had to have it.

Nothing too good–the chocolate pastry was just stale enough to work. Easy does it. First things first.

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The day was long and he was tired when he got home. He’d done it. The first day of thousands. One day at a time.

Maybe he should go to a meeting.

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He took a shower instead. Every slogan he’d told himself that day made him feel dirty.

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Show up. He washed it away.

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Work it. He let the water caress him.

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A new start. He felt warmth reach deep inside him.

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Hope was a dangerous thing: it broke his resolve. It made him soft. He wouldn’t hope. He’d just be there, in the downpour of the moment, suspended between pleasure and pain, hope and despair, slogans and truth. A razor ran between two poles, and he was gonna walk it.

He was gonna make it, right?

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