“It’s OK. I understand.” Will’s voice sounded well rehearsed. As a counselor, she dealt with a lot of young adults striking it out in the “real world” for the first time.
“Let’s start from the beginning. Why were you asked to leave your biology class?” she asked.
Susan chose her words carefully. “I called Professor Lens an idiot, and that sparked a debate that landed me here talking to you.”
“Why did you call him an idiot?” Will asked.
“He labeled me as a transgender. Therefore, I labeled him as an idiot.” A smile caressed her lips, signaling satisfaction in her action.
“Why do you suppose he labeled you as such?” She paused. “Or better asked, what was the foundation of his accusation?”
“His deduction came from a questionnaire we had to fill out. We had to list our likes and dislikes. It was from this list that he concluded I was transgender.” Susan’s face blushed with aggravation.
“I see. If you don’t mind me asking, what did you list on the questionnaire.” Will placed her pen down, giving Susan full attention.
“My likes were sports, hunting, and fishing. My dislikes were formal events, reading romance novels, and the Cowboys.”
“Given the short list, I can see how he came to his conclusion.” Will paused. “However, it doesn’t justify his accusation. I can see that he embarrassed you in front of your peers. I will have a talk with him on that matter.”
Susan’s shoulders relaxed in relief. “Thank you.” Feeling regretful for making a scene she continued. “I just get tired of being labeled as a lesbian, transgender, or a tomboy.” Looking at her sneakers. “I was raise by my father, had three older brothers, and we lived near Smithville, in the country. At any rate, I’m me. I have my likes and dislikes. It doesn’t give anyone the right to label me. I am not one genre.” Looking up at her counselor, “Is it so hard to comprehend that labeling is wrong?
Will smiled softly. “I understand exactly what you are saying. Maybe someday, we’ll understand that error; just not today.”
One could eloquently state that Charles was no romantic. The well established 45-year-old district sales manager shined in the aspect of providing for his beloved family. With a concrete dedication, he held fast to a work-eat-sleep routine. Amidst his well-balanced life a problem stewed.
He and Dianne married in their mid-twenties and, like all well planned out families, they had two girls four years apart; making college preparations easier. Truth be known, both were accidents, but that another quaint story for another rainy day. Having the gift for gab, Charles excelled as a sales representative and with time he progressively gained his current position, stepping on the shoulders of his coworkers.
A clear view of his misguided perspective laid the foundation of his skewed reality. For you see, although he wasn’t the most honest, nor virtuous man, he did have righteous intentions. This is what’s brings us to our ambiguous hero’s current situation; standing perplexed as he desperately searched for the right anniversary card.
Seeing that Charles was not having the best of times, a sales representative inquired “May I help you?”
Looking over his reading glasses, he politely smiled. “Perhaps.” A quick glimpse at the card in hand allowed him finish his read. “I’m looking for the perfect 20th anniversary card.”
“Oh how sweet!” she exclaimed. “We do carry a wide variety of cards that suits that very occasion.”
Placing the card back on the shelf, his chin pointed towards more cards as he peered for more prospects. “Do you have one that says ‘Thanks for understanding’?”
Not clear on his statement she point towards a set of cards. “These are our ‘Thanks for being so caring’ cards.”
His lip pouted in discontent. “No. It needs to say ‘Thanks for understanding’. I’m a little off schedule, as one may put it.”
“Oh I see. Are we talking a day or two late?” she asked.
Turning his attention to the sales rep he quickly muttered. “Nope. It was last year.”
Stunned and speechless the lady pick up a card and handed it to him.
Opening it, he found it to be blank inside.
“Wait, there aren’t any words in this one. I need a card, with words, right now.” Charles demanded
With raised eye brows and an honest look, the rep replied, “Sir, there are no words.”
Lightening illuminated the room as Kevin began to count,
“One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand…”
A roll of thunder signaled the approaching storm. The ten-year old boy wasn’t as afraid of storms as he use to be. However, lightning always brought an eery view to his room. Perhaps it was the split second revelation followed by the sudden darkness that led to his overactive imagination. Was that shadow my coat or a dark creature? He was certain that it was his jacket hanging in the closet. He clearly remembered hanging it there.
Another flash of lightning revealed his jacket was indeed hanging there next to an unknown shadow that seemed to be staring at him. All features were hidden, but he was certain something was standing in his closet. The thunder crackled as the creature moved, ever so slightly. It moved! I saw it move. There is something in my closet and it just moved. Focusing his attention to the closet he could hear the creature breathing. But, what is it? Kevin slowly slid out of his bed and slipped across the carpet; taking care not to make a sound.
The creature appeared to be short like a goblin. No identifying features were revealed as Kevin got close. Holding his breath he got within inches of it. He could still hear it’s rapid shallow breathing. There’s no such thing as monsters. If there are, I’m about to catch my first one. Raising his hand towards its head he slowly began to exhale.
“Kevin.” a small voice called out.
A fear struck him as the creature seized his hand with its cold pale fingers. Lightening struck illuminating its screaming face. Kevin’s scream was eclipsed by the explosion of thunder. His backwards leap pulled the creature from the closet. The two fell to the floor as fear gripped them both. Before Kevin could move his unknown fiend wrapped it thin arms around him.
“I’m scared.” his sister whispered.
A flood of revelation brought an onslaught of relief to Kevin. Realizing it was his little sister the whole time, he hugged her back.
“It’s OK. That lightening was scary.”
Reaching up, he pulled his pillow from his bed for them to share and covered up with the blanket she brought from her room. The two slept on the floor as the storm passed over. Every now and then his sister would jerk from the thunder, and he would comfort her. He knew this was all part of being a big brother, even if she did scare the living daylight out of him.
Five a.m. came quick for Chris. It wasn’t a late night with the boys, or an argument with his wife that brought the morning on so quick. No, he was just worn out from his new carpentry job. Setting in his favorite chair, he realized he had fallen asleep with his work boots on. A small quilt covered him; a sure sign his wife took care of him.
Slowly making his way to the kitchen his body ached. Every joint popped like a bowl of milk and rice-crispies. Setting at the kitchen table, he untied his boots and kicked them off. Pulling his socks off too, he placed his feet on the cold hardwood floor. The cool flat surface brought relief as he made his way to the coffeepot. First the a precise measurement of grounds, then a pot full of water was added. As the first drip of coffee fell, Chris began to stretch. How could he be this young and feel this old? His hands still felt tight from gripping a hammer all day. Hand cramps were a sign of learning. Gotta let the hammer do the work. He told himself as he stretched his fingers out. The morning fog cleared from his thoughts as he stood there watching the pot fill. I could be getting ready for the day.
A quick shower and fresh clothes helped him face the morning. Moving with more ease, he poured his first cup. Not sure if it was his youth, inexperience or the excitement of learning a new trade, but he was actually excited to go to work. His career choice was the foundation he was building his life on.
Life didn’t come with instructions. It came with those before us showing what works and what doesn’t. Like Chris, we have all stepped out with uncertainty. But our youthful vigor perpetuated us all to achieve our greatness. As our work kicks back with pain, we are reminded five a.m. comes quick for us all.
The engine raced as adrenaline rushed through Levi’s veins. Tires screamed in horror, fighting to hang onto the morning asphalt of each corner. Machine and man danced around each chicane resembling two familiar lovers, knowing each other’s moves. This was not loved; this was passion. Cresting at the last hill, three miles of straight road filled his eyes. With ears tuned to each signature shift point, Levi was pulled deeper into his seat. The speedometer’s needle slowly made it’s way past 150mph. At the end of the straightaway, a hairpin corner waited patiently. Nerves tingles as a 20mph sign flew by in a blur beckoning him to slow down. Was this stupidity or just craziness? Whichever, he knew he was coming in too hot. This is where experience and reflexes demanded perfection. One hesitation, or one miscalculation could send car and driver to an early grave. Like four permanent markers, the wide tires marked the pavement in a howling pain. Levi’s body was pushed to the side making it difficult to move. Knuckles turned white, fighting to stay in control. The car careened sideways around the corner. A downward shift and the sound of an accelerating engine shot Levi out of the hairpin. A quick glimpse at the side mirror revealed no space between the tire marks and the unforgiving grass-line. Once again he escaped death’s clutches. However, an old oak stood six feet from the line, baring scars from the many drivers it had caught; a sacred reminder of past mistakes made with confidence. Such is life through the eyes of Levi and why he loved to dance around the corners.
When the consolidating cool air is upon me. I will ban with others, and bring the storm. Winds, thunder, and lightening will join in our crusade. Within this war we wage, I will fall. Plummeting at a chaotic rate, the winds of change will rip at the fabric of my soul. Though I’ll fight to stay together, fragments will be lost. Others around me will fall with me with no Calvary in sight. We are all fighting the same fight, but we are so individual.
A catastrophic amount of myself will be lost within the realm of my descending impact. I will only be a fraction of what I was. Yet, my days of demise are not upon me. For as the sun rises and brings the heat of the day, I too shall rise far above this earth, only to wage another storm.
Brandon’s neck feverishly burnt from the constant rebutting from his wife. He remained collected as she explained why they “needed” a seventy pound yearling pup. Her adamant argument hinged around them rescuing this dog. The words “Yes, but…” met every point he was trying to make.
“We can afford to feed a dog of this size. We are literally one medical accident away from bankruptcy.” He stated. The truth of his statement hit him hard. He was working overtime just to make ends meet. If he got injured and couldn’t go to work, they would loose everything. Why can’t she get that through her thick skull/ Why must she always want to complicate things
“Yes, but we need to rescue him. The lady at the pet store said that they had too many dogs and without people willing to rescue them they be terminated at a young age.” Brittany volleyed back.
Asking to ensure he heard her correctly, “So this lady stated that the pet store couldn’t afford to take care of him?” He wanted to wait for a reply but the next question jumped out of his mouth. “If they can’t afford it, what makes you think we can, Brittany?”
“Yes, but they were going to kill him. I couldn’t just walk away.”
“Yes! Yes you could, but you let someone tug on your heart and now we have another bill. Thank you! Thank you for adding to our debt.” The screen door slammed as he finished his sentence.
“At least I have a heart!” was heard as he walked towards to woods. He needed to get out of there fast. He wanted to walk, move, or think. Arguing only made things worse. A walk in the forest would calm him down.
A cool autumn breeze blew as leaves crunched under his feet. All he could think about it that dog. He and Brittany were young and freshly married. They had a one year old daughter and planned on having one more child. He was a carpenter. The work was hard and the pay tight, but he was good at his job. Within another three years he would have enough time in to start bidding on foreman jobs. He kicked around that idea as he reached his small pond, but his attention turned towards their finance.
Walking around it’s edge he began to think about their expenses. There was room for improvement. For starters, he could take lunch in. He was spending $10-$15 per day. That could save them two hundred dollars a month just by doing that. A few more cut backs on his part and he was saving $500 per month. That’s two car payments. He thought to himself.
After taking a slow walk around the pond he began to head back to the trailer house. Perhaps they could “rescue” that pup. He knew how much it would mean to Brittany. He wished she had talked to him about it. Not for permission, but to let him front load him on her intension. Walking in and seeing this oversized horse of a dog leaping around the living room was a sensory overload that he was not prepared for. All he could see was another group of bills to pay. His emotions got the best of him.
As he left the forest and entered the field he began to think of Mr. Williams who kept inquiring about renting his field to grow his crop. Brandon smiled. I’ll just have Mr. Williams pay for that dog.
“Have a nice walk.” Brittany asked.
“Yeah.” his voice was low and hesitant. He knew the was in the wrong and she was about to let him know.
“Good. We’re still keeping the dog.” She informed him.
“Yeah, I know.” he conceded. “Look, I’m sorry for flying off and losing my temper. It’s just that after working all day and coming home to that horse bouncing around… well… It hit me wrong. I wasn’t prepared for that.” after voicing his point he watch her stern expression.
“I can see that.” and she began to walk towards the back door. Brandon took a step only to have a finger pointing in his face. “The next time you want to question my heart you should ask yourself why I have it to you. It’s my heart and I’ll do with it as I please.” seeing the seriousness in Brandon’s face she knew her point was made.
“Yes, ma’am.” Brandon smiled.
The two embraced each other. Neither new what storms were ahead, but they had each other, and that was enough. Moments like this afforded them the opportunity to grow together and live in unity. Two young lovers were bent to make it through this carousel of life as they held onto each other, vowing to never let go.
A moment of anxiety swept over Chris as he returned from getting a cup of coffee. It was Friday night and he had the next two days to rebuild his engine. Problem was, he had never built an engine before. Being an avid watcher of tune up shows, reading automotive articles, and having some mechanical sense led him to believe he could dismantle and rebuild his dying engine. Actually getting in and busting knuckles is a world different than reading an article.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be as stressful, but so much depended on getting it right. This was his only ride to work, bills were coming due, and Michelle, his wife, had her appointments next week. He had to get it completed in two days. For now, it was late at night, and morning would come quick. So Chris opted for a cup of coffee to help calm his nerves.
Morning came quick, and he was in the garage before the sun was up. The engine was out, mounted to the stand, and stripped down to the block. As he cleaned and inspected the block he recollected on all of the small engines he had torn apart and rebuilt. It’s just like rebuilding and small engine, except it’s bigger, and a four-stroke engine, and more complicated. All I have to do is take my time and put each piece back as I took them off.
Chris marveled at how smooth the cylinder walls were. This was indeed a good block to rebuild. Piece by piece he started to add the components from the rebuild kit. His dad’s voice echoed in his head. Make sure you use new hardware. The old ones are trashed. He could have saved money by reusing the old hardware, but as Chris mounted each piece he understood why it was important to have a fresh set.
By noon the bottom half of the engine was built. Michelle poked her head out only to let him know his lunch was ready. Everything was going as plan. He should have this engine in and running by night fall. As he washed the grease from his hands, he smiled. Michelle never once complained about him wanting to rebuild the engine. She trusted him. His heart sank a little. That’s another reason he cannot fail. She’s depending on him.
At the table Michelle asked how everything was going, and Chris gave her a full update on the progress and his expectations on completion.
“I’m sure you’ll have it done.” she said encouragingly. “You’re good with your hands.”
Two sandwiches and a glass of water later, Chris was back out building the top of the engine. Like an oversized puzzle each piece fell into place. Slow and steady, he made sure not to skip any steps in the assembly process. Looking at the completed engine Chris couldn’t believe he was done so soon. There was plenty of day light left.
After taking a small break to get some water, Chris had the engine on the hoist and slowly lowered it into the truck. After mating it to the transmission, he began to connect the wires, hoses, and lines. He couldn’t help but feel good. It was all coming together; literally. As the fluids were added he kept checking the oil plug. It was the one thing that he was worried about missing. He heard horror stories of people forgetting to install it only to have their garage floor covered in oil. An oil stain on a concrete floor is not a badge any grease monkey wants to wear.
The moment of truth had arrived. Did he do everything correctly? With the carburetor primed, Chris turned the ignition. Spitting and sputtering the engine began to fight. Then with a huge backfire, Chris watched as a huge flame shot out of the carb. What was that? Why isn’t it starting? With the hood still off, Chris climbed onto the engine and began to comb over everything. All lines were connected, wire harnesses were in their appropriate spots, and hoses were all clamped. The engine appeared as it did before he took it out, except cleaner. Aggravation began to set in. Daylight was starting to fade and he still had no clue as to why his engine refused to start. Attempt after attempt only led to more sputtering and fireballs.
“It’s getting late babe.” Michelle announced.
Defeated, Chris knew she was right. He had raised enough noise for one night. He was thankful his neighbors didn’t complain to the cops about the gunshot backfiring episodes. The garage door closed and the lights were turned off signaling the end of a day that had so much promise for victory but delivered defeat.
With a fresh head Chris sipped his coffee and stared at his engine. Michelle stood next to him mimicking his stance.
“It’s in the distributor. It’s has to be.” Chris stated out loud in an effort to solidify his thinking.
“What does it distribute?” Michelle innocently asked.
The question struck him as odd but Chris went with it. Perhaps having her ask simple questions he could find his mistake.
“It provides power to each spark plug.” He kept his answer simple as possible.
“Oh is it pointed in the right direction?” She asked not knowing what that meant. She remembered hearing something like that while watching one of his shows with him.
Chris chuckled. “Pointed in the right direction? What does that even mean? It’s round. There isn’t a point on it.”
Sticking to her statement she blankly volleyed back. “Oh, so I can just place the distributor in and it will work?”
“No, you have to set the timing.” He quickly retorted.
“How do you know where the front is. It’s round after all.” She smiled as she enjoyed the fact she sounded like the car guys on TV.
Chris stopped. His face had a serious look to it. “That’s it! Babe you’re a genius.” He stopped to recalculate his thoughts. “I think.”
Climbing onto the engine he pulled the distributor out and rotated it 180 degrees. Quickly he reconnected and tighten everything down. Jumping into the driver seat he turned the ignition. An air of relief fell over Chris as the engine roared to life. It needed some fine tuning but the dilemma was over, thanks to his wife.
Running over, he gave her a big hug. “How’d you know what was wrong?”
“I didn’t. I just said blah blah blah like those guys on TV did. You figured out what I was trying to say.”
Standing there with his wife was one of the most accomplished feelings Chris had ever felt. The truck was back on the road and bills were back to being paid. And it all happened over a simple chat with coffee.
The teenager moto,”I HATE YOU!”. was followed by the ritual door slam. Benjamin raised his eyebrows and smiled as he shook his head at Susan, his wife. A week earlier, they received a letter in the mail concerning Isaac’s attitude towards his classmates. Upon further inquiring at the school Benjamin learnt his son recently started isolating himself from his peers. Although this was unusual behavior for Isaac, Benjamin knew that this was not an unusual behavior for a high school teenager. “You wouldn’t understand.” was the only answer received after confronting his son about the letter.
Seeing her husband at his wits end, she decided to try her hand at the situation.
“May I come in?”
After a low acknowledgement, Susan stepped in with a tray of milk and cookies.
A heavy sigh accompanied his rolling eyes. “Mom, I’m not eight years old. You don’t have to bring me cookies and milk when you want to talk.”
“You’re assumption is so cute.” she remarked. Setting down she took a sip of milk. “We received a letter from the school, and that has us concerned. As parents, we tried to provide the best for our children. We also allow room for growth and try not to smother our children with too much affection or concern. Now, if you could explain, in more detail than you gave your father, what is going on, I would appreciate that.”
“Finish that phrase and I’ll make sure that you wish you never knew those words existed.”
Isaac looked up. He had never heard his mother talk in such manner. Although she was a petite 5′ 4″ woman, there was a sternness in her soprano voice that made his spine crawl. Her poise was calm, but Isaac could sense that she was ready to unleash an assault. Neither parents had raised their hands in an abusive manner, and it had been years since he received his last spanking. No, this was different, he could tell that he was on the threshold of a new type of punishment. Whatever it was he knew that he could take it. All he had to do was wake up, go to school, and come home. As long as he kept his life simple, they couldn’t take anything away.
He didn’t have a phone, didn’t have a car, he didn’t even hang out with friends after school. He enjoyed coming home, doing his homework, then reading. Fiction, non-fiction, self-help, classics, and new age, he had a wide variety of books he loved to read. He looked up at his mother, who was setting there in silence, nibbling away at a cookie. The books, she is after my books! Realizing his position in the conversation Isaac changed his course.
“I’m not isolating myself. I just like the quiet. I can think clearer when there’s not fifty people trying to talk to me at once.” He watch for any expression on her face that would revealed her acceptance.
Taking another bite of cookie Susan began to talk “See.” cookie crumb sprayed from her lips. “You do know other phrases.”
“Rude!” Isaac exclaimed.
“Yes.” she agreed as she stood up. “Think of it as a visual metaphor on how you have been acting towards your father.” Grabbing her tray she started to exit. “He’s going to finish this conversation with you.”
Isaac sat there in disbelief. She wasn’t listening. She was baiting him for a different comment. Benjamin walked in with a box.
“Are you ready to talk about school.”
Habitually the words escaped Isaac’s mouth, “You wouldn’t understand.”
“I figured as much. Your mother gave me instructions to take your books if you said that exact phrase.”
“But it’s Friday. What am I suppose to read over the weekend?”
“Take that question up with your mother. You don’t want to talk about what’s bothering you… fine… but at least let us know you’re ok.” Picking up the loaded box Benjamin turned around. “I’d explain it more clearly, but you wouldn’t understand.”
Setting the box on the counter, a rant and slam was heard from down the hall.
“You know he gets that from you.” Benjamin stated.
“Yea, I suppose. It wasn’t until my books were taken away, that I started talking to my parents. Everything that I thought they had done wrong as parents has turned out to be not-so-bad.” she smiled at her husband. “There’s no instructions for raising kids, but there are memories of what worked for me.”
Patience is not always an easy task. In a world where everything is instantly done we find ourselves hating to wait. Even a five minute delay in a text message response can feel like an eternity. We want and we want it now. But have we ever stopped to think if we need it now. Looking back at my younger days I can see that I wasted a lot of time, energy, and money on things that I did not need. The things I wanted ended up costing me more than I needed to spend. I have past most of those items onto others that had similar wants. I have learnt that want is a bottomless pit. I can get everything that I need but I will always want more. We all have had to learn this lesson. We have disciplined ourselves to focus more on our needs, and save for future needs. The worse thing that we can do for ourselves is blur the line between the two. We should never need what we want. We should never need those $200 stilettos. Nor should we ever need a two seater Maserati. We do need shoes and if public transportation is not available we will need a vehicle. But discernment needs to be applied. We need to have a clear picture of our needs and wants, and they need to be separate. I do treat myself to somethings I want every now and then, but not often. This is one key to my happiness. 🙂