Story A Day for May, Day 29

day29

Bonfire

The flames leapt after Kate tossed her grandfather’s notebooks onto them. The brittle moleskin covers crackled. The pages curled and rose in blossoms of ash.

And like that, the words were gone.

“So free!” shouted Celeste. “So free.”

“You did it,” said Trey.

And it was what he wanted, wasn’t it? For he’d told her in the dream that the moleskins weren’t for sharing.

But she felt that he was gone. It wasn’t the first time ash had carried loss.

“They weren’t his words,” said Celeste. “They were the illness’s.”

“Had you read them?” Kate asked.

She hadn’t. But she knew of them. She knew the years of their composition.

They sat by the fire, watching the flames.

“‘And bright’,” said Trey, reciting one of her grandfather’s poems, not one of the love poems written only for him, but one from the spiral-bound notepads, one headed for publication.

“‘Bright until we see no more
For light and eyes can only mix
so much
until the light passes beyond.'”

“‘And when that happens,'” recited Kate.

“‘We find the hollow
where everything lies:
Silence and sound
And the movement
within stillness.

“‘And that is where we are. We are.'”

A log settled into embers and the sparks flew. Each settled into quiet thoughts.

“What is better,” asked Celeste at last, “for love to be expressed or mute?”

“But love is never mute,” said Trey, “for that lightning is always there.”

“And what is love for?” Kate asked. “Isn’t that what it comes down to?”

In the silence that followed her question, Kate thought that love was the stones along the path, marking the way. The notebooks, the box of poems, the spiral-bound, all the words were love, even those written when the way was lost.

Inside of Kate, the embers burned, slowly, steadily. Maybe Grandfather would come again in a dream, or maybe not. It hardly mattered, for he was in all of this–in every ember, every wave of warmth, and in this moment, he would always be here.

Trey spoke, “But I am glad for the poems, Kate the Young Elder, though I hardly needed them to know what we shared.”

“Did you know he loved you, then?” asked Celeste, for the circle of light from the fire drew them into a space where secrets could be shared.

“Oh, yes!” said Trey. “Like Plato and Socrates! What a gift! To be loved. I was made bold.”

“He asked me to tell someone,” said Kate, “if I ever love them. That was one of his last requests. But I don’t think I love that way. I love… like the moon.”

“Shining on all?” asked Celeste.

“Shining on all.”

Can you walk up to anyone, a stranger on the corner, who tilts her head so that the sunlight catches the slope of her cheek, and tell her that you love her? Can you say to the woman, whose dress smells like stale chips, whose ankles are crusted in dirt and dried skin, whose broad gums hold a single molar, and who laughs with loud fire–can you say to her, “I love you?” And what of the clouds and the sky? The seagulls? The sparrows? What of the water in the creek, the mud on the banks, the spinning galaxies? When love flows through you, with a warmth that burns on, and you spin with the stars, one cell, one tiny, shining cell, alive, alert, ablaze, can you turn to the cell beside you, and say, “I love you?”

And who is mad now, when love is the light that shines through your eyes?

“Yes,” said Trey, after the crack of an exploding log and the shower of sparks. “Yes, the moon loves, too, and she tells us every day.”

The words were gone now, burned, risen in ash, and in the silence, Katy-Moon knew that she had completed her grandfather’s wish.

She turned to Trey, she turned to Celeste: “I love you,” she said.

“We love you, too, Katy-Moon.”


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Prompt for May 29: “Write the story that you’ve been hungering to write,” from StoryADay.org.
shortstorymonth320x320

Lighthouse: Home, Again

home01

It was late when we got home. I’d texted Sept when we pulled into the bus station, and he was waiting by the gate when we arrived.

Baliyu daschavendru,” he said to Santi.

Squeegee,” she replied. She said more to him in Vingihoplo. I recognized the word yobaska–uncomfortable.

home02

“She says you’re tired,” Sept said to me, “tense. Would you like a shoulder rub?”

home03

I melted into the warmth of his hands. Santi laughed.

home04

MoSeptemus lsuravensiku-lsuravensiku MoMal!” she laughed.

“What did she say?” I asked.

“She says we love each other!”

“No, really?” I feigned surprise.

home05

Byusoklo! Byosoklo!” she chanted.

“She says we should kiss,” Sept said.

home06

I obliged, picking up Sept’s hand, and kissing it, as if we were actors in Santi’s own private play.

home07

I was being dramatic, but Sept was earnest. I could feel warmth and sweetness flowing from him, and Santi seemed to bathe in the happiness.

home08

“Ritu called,” Sept said. “She thinks she’ll be detained in Willow Springs for a while, so we should just hang tight.”

I wanted to tell Sept all about what had happened, with the riot, the bullying of the kids, and strange effect of Santi’s music, but I didn’t want to talk about it in front of Santi. It could wait.

home09

Santi began asking Sept all sorts of questions. With the language barrier, I’d hardly heard her speak at all, and I’d developed the impression that she was largely nonverbal. But she was a chatterbox when with someone who could understand her.

home10

I left the two of them to become friends and headed up to the porch. As I walked away, I caught a few words, byukoda, mobizaabgotojo–“sweet home,” “dear caregiver.”

home11

Sept explained that, here, she could show her true form, if she desired. It was her choice.

home12

I glanced back to see her, a moonbeam in the flowers.

home13

I stood on the porch, petting Mojo, who was beside himself that I’d come home, and watched the two of them talk.

Sept told me later that he was telling her that it was possible to make a home here on this planet. She’d asked if the planet herself would welcome her, being from someplace so far away.

home14

He said he asked her how she felt about that, inside, when she was very quiet and when she listened to the planet’s whispers.

Kihukoda! E koda-daschavendru kihu!” she replied. Sept provided the literal translation: “Planet home. I’m home-welcome planet.”

home15

“She said that sometimes you have to travel far away to find your home again,” Sept said.

home16

My heart broke that night while I watched her eating supper in our kitchen. We’d been given a few extra days, with Ritu being detained, but soon she’d come to take Santi to a new home, a more permanent home. It would be good for Santi, I was sure, to be someplace where she’d be safe and well-cared for. But I was in no way ready to part with her.

home18

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Lighthouse: Magic

travel129

Santi sat before the platter of veggie burgers I’d grilled up at Rachel’s.

“Why doesn’t she eat?” I asked Rachel.

Yo paya, yo jisu. ‘No sing, no eat.’ She thinks she needs to play for her supper.”

“But you’ve explained that’s no longer the case?” I asked.

“Only a million times!” laughed Rachel. “When she’s hungry enough, when no one’s looking, she’ll sneak a bite.”

I thought I’d try to convince her she could eat without performing.

“You’re not a servant anymore, Santi,” I explained. She looked at me as if she comprehended.

travel131

“You’re free! Doxni! You’re safe! Sanghi!”

Yo doxni, yo sanghi,” she said, very quietly. “Squeegee. Payazi?”

“All right! Sing!” I replied. “Then we’ll feast on veggie burgers!”

travel130

She sang very softly, with her mouth barely open, and I couldn’t tell if she sang in words or simply sounds and syllables, and slowly I felt a channel of energy, or maybe it was light–in particle and wave–flowing down from the sky, entering my body through the crown, and coursing through me.

“What is this?” I asked her. I had never felt music enter me so fully.

Ontsi molsuravensiku,” she said. Made of love. No wonder her music was considered subversive.

After Santi finished eating, I was ready to head back to the cabin. I figured, if we walked quickly and didn’t get lost, we’d get back before dark.

But Rachel wouldn’t hear of it.

“You have to stay here tonight,” she said. “And for as long as it takes. You cannot leave with the child until you’ve bonded. It’s not safe otherwise. She needs that to be able to travel with you.”

travel127

I resisted. Frankly, I was afraid to bond with this strange, magical child. I had already started to fall in love with her, and I feared that if we truly bonded, I wouldn’t be able to separate with her when Ritu found her a permanent home.

But Rachel convinced me that this child needed connection, if she was going to go with me. She’d be lost otherwise, and I had the impression that Rachel did not mean this metaphorically.

travel128

I didn’t know what to say to her that first night. My Vingihoplo was so poor that I wasn’t able to express much, and she hadn’t yet learned any of our language. So, instead, I simply talked, without worrying whether she understood or not. I told her all about Sept, about the crash, about brave Situ who rescued the 144 pagotogo, about Sebastion, Octy, Mop, and the new baby. I told her about meeting Sept and falling in love and pledging ourselves to each other. I told her about how, now, his cause was my cause, and how I would do anything for him, his family, and Xirra.

She brightened when she heard Xirra’s name. “MoXirra!” she said, meaning that she loved her like a mother.

“MoSanti,” I said, for by then, I loved this child.

Rachel wanted us to stay another day, but I felt it imperative that we get home before the weekend. The Anti-Alien Coalition had posted on social media that they were planning protests that weekend, and I wanted us to be safe at home before they started.

The next morning, we left for the cabin. Rachel had packed us a lunch and snacks, and that turned out to be a good thing, for walking with a small child went much more slowly than walking alone.

We arrived after sunset.

Santi was so tired she fell asleep on the sofa while I fixed soup and sandwiches for supper.

travel109

She ate without singing this time, looking at me with a conspiratorial smile. I took this as a sign that she was beginning to trust me, that she identified me as something other than her mistress or owner.

“You can take off your disguise when you’re inside,” I told her.

travel111

She didn’t understand.

“The second skin?” I said. “Refijotu pi?”

travel112

I mimed pealing off my skin.

“Show your real self, if you want,” I said. “Yada baska.”

travel114

She looked at me a long time. Something about her eyes melted me. She looked like she had seen so much, horrors and joys and terrors and beauty and wonder. She looked like she had lost and gained and lost again.

Sanghi,” I said. “MoSanti.”

travel110

Wa!” she shouted. “Baska! Sanghi!

travel113

Then she stepped out of her disguise-skin.

She was moon blue, like Sept, with ears like his.

Falazi Mallory,” she said.

“I know you, too,” I said.

travel125

“We have a big trip tomorrow,” I told her. “You’ll wear your disguise, refijotu pi, when we travel, OK? But then once we get home, you don’t need it anymore.”

travel122

Gotukoda mokiya?” she asked.

I remembered that gotukoda meant “home,” but I’d forgotten what mokiya meant.

travel123

She showed me. She closed her eyes, and I closed mine, and then she sang, and waves of happy love tickled me until I laughed, and when she sang, it felt just like home.

travel124

Wa,” I said. “Gotukoda mokiya. Our home is happy.”

We were sleepy. I tucked her into bed, singing her a song my grandmother used to sing me, “Mares-eat-oats, and does-eat-oats, and little-lambs-eat-ivy, a kid’ll-eat-ivy, too, wouldn’t you?”

She sang back, first simply, “Marezeedotes, and dozeedotes, and liddlelamzeedivy, a kiddleetdivytoo, woodnyoo!”

Then, in a sleepy, happy voice, she began improvising on the tune and the lyrics, and by the time she fell asleep, still softly singing, “dunyoo,” she had invented something worthy of Bach.

I woke in the middle of the night. Her bed was empty.

My heart raced into my throat, and I ran outside. There at the edge of the forest, having remembered to slide back into her second skin, she stood before three colored lights.

travel108

I can’t tell you what they were. They weren’t insects. It wasn’t phosphorescence. It wasn’t some optical trick.

Maybe they were fairies.

travel107

All I know is that the magic in this world was drawn to this magical girl.

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Septemus 62

Oops!

SeptOops04

I was reading Octy a bedtime story when we heard them singing.

“Hear that, Octy?”

“Mommy song!”he said.

“Is your mom singing, too?”

“Think so,” he answered.

Oh, boy! Get ready, Pops! He was out working on the rocket, and I knew they were coming to pick him up!

SeptOops01

I’m glad Pops likes spending time with our folks. Even if he never understands what they say, I think he gets it. He describes the feeling as a heaviness pressing down on his brain.

“That’s downloading,” I told him.

He said he understood that, but what he doesn’t know is how to make sense of what he’s downloaded, after he’s downloaded it.

“I can tell there’s information there,” he says,”But I just don’t know how to process it.”

Sometimes, I can help. I can pick up some of the bits and bytes from him and sort and sift them until suddenly, I know something that I didn’t know before.

I figure maybe our folks want to give him more practice. Either that, or they just really like spending time with him.

SeptOops02

I glanced out the window to see the ship take off.  How I love that big eye looking down on us!

Octy had already fallen asleep.  I watched the ship rise. It’s funny–I’ve never even wondered why they don’t take me. I guess–when they come, it feels natural. It always feels right. If they wanted me, they’d pick me up. But they want Pops. So up he goes!

SeptOops03

I hope he remembers something of what they tell him. He always asks me, “What do you think they said?” But how am I to know?

While Octy slept, and I waited for Pops to return, I sang to all my brothers and sisters–it feels so good to be doing that again:

The big eye came
and took my pops.

That’s OK,
he likes space-hops!

If your ma goes, or your dad
Just be happy
At all the fun
that’ll be had!

SeptOops05

He was gone half the night. I waited up. I didn’t know how he’d be feeling when he returned. Maybe we’d have another little sibling, though I sort of hoped not–at least not this time. Octy is still very young, and Pops doesn’t yet seem completely recovered from the whole having-a-baby thing.

I hoped they were telling him more about the rebellion so that he’d be able to clue me in as to what I’m supposed to do. I’m feeling too old to just be going to school, singing silly songs to the pagotogo. I should be doing something!

I keep waiting for orders, and every time Pops has contact with them, I think he’ll be able to let me know what they are.

Or maybe, he’d need to talk. He always seems mildly confused when he returns.

Whatever it would be, I wanted to be awake when he got back, just in case I could help.

SeptOops06

He came home happy, but he went right to bed.

“Not now, son,” he said. “Everything’s OK. I’m not pregnant. But I really just need to sleep, OK?”

I understand. He had a lot to process, and sleep’s the best way to do that.

“Sleep well, Pops,” I said. “Do your best to figure it out, OK? Maybe there’s a message for me? Or for Octy?”

He nodded and tumbled into bed. He was asleep immediately. I kept checking on him, making sure he was all right. He slept soundly, and he seemed comfortable enough.

The munchkin was up before Pops was, so I got him a snack and sat with him.

“Mommy?” he asked. “Where’s Mommy?”

SeptOops07

I felt a dark lonely wind swirling deep within him.

“Did you think Mommy was coming?”

“She here. Where?”

I tuned into him, and I could feel a tendril of love. No words were attached. The only data was love. The wind died down. He breathed deeply.

“It’ll be OK,” I didn’t know what else to say.

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Septemus 50

Septeen1401

Dear son,

The fog is starting to lift, and I remember everything.

Xirra, she’s the one I spent most of the time with, had asked me, “Do you want to remember, or forget?”

“Remember!” I said. “I want to remember everything.”

And I do.

Septeen1402

They all greeted me, all twelve.

“Do you know the history of abductions?” they asked.

I didn’t. Do you? They told me everything. Abductions, not just of people of our planet, but from many planets, have been going on for generations, for centuries. The intentions haven’t been benevolent, traditionally. They’ve been mercenary.

Women were used to provide gene samples–through swabs of skin or locks of hair, mostly, so that they never knew–and the genes were spliced to create new stock.

Males were forcibly, without consent, impregnated. Most of the time, the experience was so traumatic, that the men ended up returning the child to the home planet soon after birth, and these children provided the slave labor that created the wealth of the Mainstreamers.

It’s a practice that the rebels abhor, just as much as they abhor the treatment of bizoobi.

“This is why we fight,” said Xirra. “We cannot support a culture, a society, an economy that rests on rape, slavery, and murder.”

Gotukoda in’i EO!” They all shouted.

“We want to do things another way,” Xirra said. We weren’t on the ship during this conversation–I remember this now. We were–where were we? We were someplace dark, with glowing plants. Someplace purple, with ultraviolet light. It felt like the inside of a flower.

“We are safe here,” Xirra told me. She led me to an inner room. We sat on large plants, purple, soft, like giant mushrooms, only clearly, they were not a fungus. They smelled like cotton candy.

“We want to do things differently,” she said. “That is what we are all about. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

I nodded. So much information, emotional as well as historical, was passing telepathically that I felt that I knew much more than had been said. It was difficult to find words to talk, processing all that was coming in.

She took my hand. “We have been feeling the bonds within your home,” she said. “We know something of love. Do you know, for us, the love of family, of father and pagoto, mother and pagoto, the love that makes a gotukoda–a home–is as close to sacred as anything we know?”

Again, I nodded. I could believe it. It’s sacred to me, too, I tried to say, though I could only think it.

“We want to do things differently,” she said again. “Do you?”

I knew then what she meant.

Septeen1403

I found my voice. “Yes,” I said. “I want this very much.”

It was beautiful, son. It was everything that the creation of a new life should be.

Septeen1404

You are such a romantic at heart, with your crushes and your Big Loves. I know that you have wondered about me and why I have never had much to do with any of that.

I haven’t felt I’ve been missing out. I’ve had no interest. Why should I bother with something that I’m simply uninterested in, especially when that bother could lead to misunderstanding, broken hearts, and misery?

But now I know. There is something in a touch, an exchange, a breath of love that creates a new life–this is more than romance. This is love. This is what makes a family.

What Xirra and I shared during that exchange, I hope you share that with someone sometime!

The way I feel inside–the petals of the blue rose open, and what’s inside? More petals, more opening, on and on, until the edge of me dissolves and the edge of her dissolves and the rose keeps blooming, on and again.

This is what creates a new life.

Septeen1405

I am going to be a father, again.

Septeen1406

When Xirra led me out to the main room, we weren’t bashful. There was nothing secret, nothing shameful, everything sacred.

The others were sitting around low round tables, sipping tart, sweet tea that smelled like green apples, though it was deep red. They made room for us, and without talking, we sat with them.

They all began to sing then, only not out loud: inside, the way you sing to your pagotogo. I could hear them. Xirra looked at me, and I began to sing with them.

Septeen1407

What gift have I been given? I am in awe.

How is it that I came to be your father? What have you taught me? So much! You have taught me love and more. And now. This experience. This is something that I never thought that I would experience. Me, solitary me. I am solitary no more. I am surrounded with gotugo. We are all kin. I never knew this. But now I do.

Septeen1408

I’m going to have a baby!

Septeen1410

I’m going to have a baby, and this new life is the result of the most amazing, reality-altering experience I have ever had. This new life is the result of love.

Septeen1409

You are going to be an amazing big brother.

And I am…

steeped in gratitude,

Your pops

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Author’s note: Sebastion came back from his “abduction” (it felt more like a “visitation”) knowing that he was pregnant. He had all the nooboo-related thought bubbles since he arrived back home.

Forgotten Art: Norman – Newt 4

A reply to: A letter from Newt

newt406

Hey, Newt.

Ugh. You can’t tell from my keystrokes that the tips of my ears are bright red, can you?

Don’t worry. I waited to write. I wanted to make sure I got my cool back. Wouldn’t want you to know I was embarrassed out of my skin.

Dude! Where did you grow up? Antarctica? Didn’t you watch the Lambastic Legends of Llamacorns when you were a kid?

A Llamacorn, my friend, is a cross between a unicorn and a llama, and the vintage Llolicorn edition issues are special and very rare.

newt405

You have no idea how sought-after Llamacorn action figures are today. I’m talking triple–sometimes even quadruple-digits. Those things are keen, especially the Lollicorn editions.

Look ’em up online. And if you happen to notice the gold and blue one for sale anywhere, let me know. I need it to round out my collection.

newt404

That’s something Ira and I have in common. We both collect antique toys. Though she happens to prefer Mistress Mew-Meow.

Stop, Newt. Don’t even go there. It’s not what you’re thinking.

newt411

Ok. Now my ears are red again.

What was I even going to write?

Oh, yeah. My homework. Well. I blew it. Failed the course. It’s not for lack of effort. It just hasn’t been right yet.

Ira came over right after I got your letter. I was ready to do just what you instructed: “When you’re sitting next to her, yawn and let your arm stay around her shoulders.”

The thing is, she sits next to me, but not next to me. I’m in the love seat. She’s in the chair. Adjacent. Next, but not next.

newt403

She’s my best friend, man. I don’t want to blow it with her. Besides, once we get talking, I have so much fun, I forget about everything else.

Still. I gotta admit. She makes me feel… you know. Like, very much so.

newt401

We did almost have a moment the other day. We were playing Party Frenzy on the console. Somehow, our arms got tangled up. Like interlaced. Like linked. Arm-in-arm. I was so into the game, I sort of didn’t notice. I just felt kinda warm on one side.

“Um, Norm?” Ira said. “My arm? I can’t get my guy to the dance floor!”

We were on the dance floor level of the game.

newt412

I apologized and let her go.

I’m kind of not worried, though. I think I’m going to have plenty of opportunities to get close to her.

newt410

You see, I kind of asked her to move in.

Now, don’t go yelling at me about being too fast! Or putting the cart before the horse. Actually. I guess I put the horse in the barn before I even got the cart out. Or. Whatever. Don’t go there.

The thing is, she needed a place.

I asked her one day, “So we always meet up here. Let’s go to your place one day! How about tomorrow?”

“There’s just one thing,” she said. “I don’t have a place.”

newt409

Turns out, she’d been staying in some shelter, all this time. That’s why she always wore the same black outfit. That’s why her shoes are these old canvas worn-out things. Here I am, one of the guys with the most resources in town, and my best friend, the person I care most about, is half a step away from being homeless, living in a shelter for women and children.

Oh, yeah. Did I mention? She’s got a kid. A cute, spunky little girl named Aaradhya.

newt413

Well, they don’t live in a shelter anymore.

That’s right. I asked them to move in.

newt408

So, maybe I haven’t made my move yet, but Ira made her move–she moved right in with me!

I tell you, Newt. I’m starting to understand your feelings about being a family man. I may not yet have even gotten to first base with Ira, but she’s made it to home with me already: literally and figuratively. She’s sharing my home, and she’s planted herself right smack square in the hearth of my heart.

I never thought I had it in me to love this deep.

And I haven’t even yet started to tell you about my new sorta, kinda, maybe-one-day daughter.

newt407

I owe it all to you, man. I never would’ve had the guts to ask her to move in if you hadn’t inspired me to speak up for what matters. If I didn’t know how much a guy like you could have a soft spot for family and a good woman he loved, I probably would have let her go right on living there in the shelter and wished her well. Maybe I would have written the shelter a check from “an anonymous benefactor” and designated the funds for her. But it wouldn’t have brought near the joy that opening my home has.

Thanks, man. I only hope that you get to regain some of the happiness you lost. I owe you, big time.

Your flunking student, who’s learning more than you can know…

Norm

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Shift 47: Celebrate

celebrate01

I graduated.

The next morning, I went for a long run on the treadmill. With every pace, I thought of Tracy and how she gave me the gift of form. I’m not running like a hungry, scrawny teenager anymore. I’m running like a miler on the USM track team.

After the run, I prepared breakfast for everybody at YOTO. I knew it was one of the last meals I’d be preparing as a resident. But I promised Marquis and Luiza, who’ll be around for another year or so, that I’ll come back on weekends when I’ve got a chance and make pancakes for breakfast and tofu tacos for lunch.

celebrate02

Deon threw a party for all the YOTO kids and staff.

He said he wanted to celebrate all of us–those who were graduating and those who had another year or two to go.

celebrate03

I was alone in the kitchen while I was pouring lemonade for everyone, and I listened to the voices and the laughter from the living room.

I don’t know when I’ve heard such happiness. I felt a feeling like family, and it felt so amazing I had to soak in it.

celebrate04

When I brought the tray of lemonade out to everyone, I found Aadhya standing alone.

“You feeling OK?” I asked her. She’d been having dizzy spells and headaches. Her acupuncturist said he thought it was nothing serious–low sodium levels, that’s all. But she seemed to be looking sad and thoughtful more than usual.

celebrate05

She shook her head, took a deep breath, and smiled.

“Of course I’m OK!” she replied. “It just hits me sometimes, all these life shifts. You’ll move out so soon, dear one! I can’t help but feel a little sad with all this joy and pride I feel, too.”

celebrate06

I promised, for the millionth time, that I’d keep in touch. San Myshuno is still only separated from YOTO by a short ride on the RT. I’ll be over so often! I keep telling myself, and Aadhya, too, that I’m not leaving. Moving out doesn’t mean leaving.

But of course, it’s a change. That we can’t deny.

I took my guitar out to the porch. Karim was talking to a friend of his.

celebrate07

Pretty soon, Luiza,  Adriene, Clara’s husband, and Emiliano joined us.

They were listening to me play. I made up a song, taking snatches of other tunes I’d heard here and there, and stitching them together the best I could to make something whole.

celebrate08

I played my best.

Marquis and Nadja came out to listen. Britney was there, too. Every note I played blended with what came before, and I tried to put all the feelings of life into that song.

At that moment, I wasn’t alone. None of us were.

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Then earlier tonight was my Mentors’ Dinner. Every graduating YOTO kid has one. The kid invites the six adults who’ve helped the most–the ones that, if it weren’t for them, there’d be no graduation.

Of course Deon was the first on my list. I invited Ted, too, but he was in the back country. Aadhya came, and Britney, and Clara Bjergsen, and Nancy Landgraab. I mostly invited Nancy because I felt a sort of connection to her, after we went through that grief experience together. She always tells me that I really helped her. I don’t think I did–but I think that by her saying that, she helped me. I started seeing myself as someone strong who can help other people, thanks to her. And I’ve got a feeling this is a good way for me to see myself.

We held the dinner at the fancy restaurant I like across from YOTO. I’m sort of addicted to their stuffed bamboo rolls.

After we ate, the waiter brought out a birthday cake.

“What is this?” I asked. “My birthday’s not for a month and a half!”

Deon shook his head. “I knew you’d think it was silly.”

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Clara said, “There’s nothing silly about it! It’s your re-birth day! And we’re all celebrating!”

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Britney spun the noise-makers, and Aadhya began to sing the happy birthday song, and I felt so many tears behind my smiles. No one has sung that song for me in four years.  She even sung my gran’s version, “¡Feliz cumpleaños!”

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We danced after cake.

While I was dancing with Clara and Deon, I didn’t feel like a kid anymore.

I felt like I was taking my place with them.

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I made it. I had so much help. And I had to rely so much on my own self. And that combination of help and self makes me feel like I can sail through any storm, and, if I’m really lucky, maybe I’ll be able to pass it forward someday, too, just like Deon did for me.

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The party ended.

I took the RT to San Myshuno, the whole time, feeling with my fingers the outline of the key in my pocket. My own key to my own place.

And now, here I am on the balcony of the flat I’m sharing with the violinist in San Myshuno, looking out over the world as the east begins to signal that dawn is coming soon, and I’m ready for the rest of my life to start.

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Author’s note: This is the end of “Shift.” Thank you so much to all of you who read along. This story turned out to be meaningful to me–I’m not sure why, but I’m grateful that it was. And I’m grateful, too, to all of you who shared it with me. Thank you for reading, and thank you for your comments. May you, too, find that the combination of Help and Self allows you to accomplish great things, even if those great things are simply moving with grace through the shift of life.

Three Rivers 28.1

Twenty-eighth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

AN: Nash Downing and his daughters, Nathalie and Ruby, are another beautiful game-generated family. They live in a gorgeous home by Pronterus in Willow Creek.

28. No one suspects his hidden power

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Nash Downing knew from childhood that the thread of his life would be snipped abruptly while he was young. He nearly died in college, when he contracted a staph infection after scraping his shin on a moldy board. He survived, though the infection reached his liver and turned his eyes yellow.

A year later, returning from a party late one night, he rode his bike alongside a tall embankment. He saw two headlights bearing down on him, with no room for him to swerve, and then it went black.

It was over. He had no idea how long he was in the blackness. He felt a gentle hand on each shoulder, spreading warmth like the sun.

He was on his bike again, with the car nowhere in sight. It was still night, still dark, and he was on his bike, riding home. He couldn’t piece together what had happened; he didn’t know to feel gratitude. The severance was that complete. When he pulled his bike into the garage, he remembered he was returning from a party. But who he’d met or what he’d done was lost.

He looked in the mirror: his sclera were white again.

After that point, memories of his early youth felt distant, like events that had happened to a character in a novel. His existing relationships, even with family members, lost their relevance. Friendships faded. Nothing old seemed real.

When he met Claire, he felt the first semblance of connection since that night. Her hands felt warm when she touched him.

His life fell into place when they married. They had a daughter and adopted her niece, who’d been orphaned as an infant.

When the girls were ten, Claire died of cancer.

“You’ll still be able to talk to me,” Claire told him on her deathbed. “And I’ll answer. I’ll be with you always, and watching over the girls. I’ll help you with your angel work.”

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He didn’t know what she meant. She must be delirious, right? But now it was six years later, and she was with him always. They spoke often. Though it was hard to admit to himself, he was beginning to understand his truth.

His work was simple and rewarding, as long as he didn’t expect anything reciprocal or personal. He was a friend to others, and few were friends to him. He helped others, and few stepped up to help him, except for his wife, who, good to her word, was with him always. Through her, angels spoke, and so, he was never alone. Even in his loneliest hours, he was surrounded by love.

His work, which he called “angeling,” was often as simple as grilling a meal at the park so the hungry could eat.

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Sometimes, no words were needed. Companionship was often enough and brought peace to the lonely or confused.

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He had learned, through time, to listen before marking a job complete. Sometimes, the instructions said to do more.

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On an afternoon when he shared a meal with Sebastian Rhine, who’d been camping out at Oasis Springs National Park, he was told to reach out.

“Talk to him,” he heard. “He is not right, at the moment, but talk to him, and he will be.”

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“Living like a lily, are you?” He asked Sebastian.

“Like a lily of the field?” Sebastian asked.

“Exactly.”

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“But a lily of the field has her needs met,” said Sebastian. “And me. I’ve been forgotten. By God and everybody.”

“Not so,” said Nash. “What did you want today, huh, brother?”

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“Food,” Sebastian said. “I was so hungry. I just had an old burger yesterday. That was all. And a coke. I drank water from the faucet, but I was hungry.”

“And now?”

“I’m full! And can I take the other potatoes with me?”

“You can!” Nash said.

“I wanted someone to talk to, too,” said Sebastian.

“A friend?” asked Nash.

“Yeah! A friend.”

“You have one now,” said Nash. He gave his card to Sebastian. “You can call or drop by anytime. You need a friend? You’ve got one, brother.”

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Sebastian pointed at Alec Dolan, who was approaching the picnic area.

“There’s my other friend,” said Sebastian. “He’s the guy who’s getting me free Wi-Fi.”

“What do you need with free Wi-Fi?” Nash asked.

“Don’t know,” said Sebastian. “Do you got a device? I don’t got a device. Do I need Wi-Fi? I need a shower.”

“There’s a free shower in that brick building over there,” Nash said.

“Sebastian!” said Alec. “Have you registered to vote yet? How is the day, Nash, mon ami?”

“Sun’s shining,” Nash said. “People are being fed. Can’t get much better than that.”

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Alec couldn’t linger. “Alors! Get out the vote,” he said, as he walked towards the park center, where he was scheduled to speak at a rally.

Nash had a few more stops that day. He often didn’t know what he’d be asked to do, but he could feel when his work for the day was complete, and when there was more. Today, he felt there was a little bit more.

He walked through a neighborhood in Oasis Springs and ran into Rachael Stanley.

“I took your advice!” she said. “I bought the expensive paints! I even bought caseins! Oh, they smell like milk. And they spread like butter!”

“And the paintings?” he asked.

“They–they feel like me!” she said. “Thank you, Nash.”

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He felt a little high when she left. Thanks were few and far between. Often, when he did his work right, he’d lose connection with the person, once the job was done. And sometimes, he’d receive curses, rather than thanks, even when he’d done what had needed to be done. But this was something rare: a thank you, and every indication that the connection would remain.

“You look happy!” said a young woman who was walking past.

“It’s a beautiful day,” he said.

And she smiled, too, a genuine smile.

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When he had the sidewalk to himself, he felt his wings unfurl. He only let them out when he was alone and when his happiness was so great that he needed to feel his power stretch and breathe.

It was getting dark when he arrived home. His daughter Ruby had grilled a plate of fruit, and Nathalie, having just finished her homework, was coming out to join them for the evening meal.

These were the true angels, he thought.

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He never spoke to them about his truth, his work, his conversations with Claire and the other angels. These are not things one talks about.

He wondered, sometimes, if Claire spoke with them. He knew the angels did, for his daughters, they were goodness through and through.

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They didn’t seem to share his task of helping those strangers who crossed paths. The girls had the task of helping each other and helping him.

The universe is taut with invisible lines. If you listen, you can hear angel voices speeding through them. If you look, you might catch a flicker of light. It’s thought. It’s feeling. It’s a whisper of love that travels the line, lighting it up like gossamer in sunlight. It’s here. It’s gone. But the message remains. Listen. Look. We are never alone.

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