Daily Journey Journal #246: fences

From January 28, 2015

Piece by piece, my grandfather used to say. That’s the way to patch a hole, fill the gaps.

His thick fingers moved deftly, twisting together frayed wires, tacking in pieces of wood. Bit by bit, we moved down the miles of fences.

With the hot sun overhead and the dust blowing off the dirt road, all I could wonder is that he spent so much time talking about those damn fences. I didn’t see the point. At seven I’d made it clear that there was no way I was going to be a rancher and live my life by fences and cattle, dirt roads and manual labor. I didn’t want to have to worry about the state of the fences or put so much importance on the way to fix them.

All those summers and I never realized that those lessons weren’t about the fences.

They were about life.

Each post a person. Each wire, each slat of wood the events and ties that hold us together.

In these last years, whenever I stopped in to visit, he talked about the fences and I realized that one by one my posts were falling to the ground, uprooted from the earth. The wires binding them stretched and snapped. He was telling me what I didn’t want to see. The snow and wind had taken their toll. I let them batter my fence and tear it down. He was telling me this in the kindest way possible: by talking about those fences we’d repaired when I was a child.

You were my last standing post, Grandpa, and the wire between us was so strong, so steady until the end. So many of us here were lucky to be your posts. So many of us are at a loss of how to keep going without your constant wisdom, your gentle kindness, but Grandpa, I know what to do. You said it yourself.

It’s time to repair the fence.

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Daily Journey Journal #171: powerful socks

From November 14, 2014

“My toes are just so cold,” Abe said, coming into the kitchen, his hair still damp from his morning shower. “Even the shower won’t thaw them out.”

Rachel looked up from the newspaper and smiled. “I keep telling you,” she said, popping a foot up off the ground so Abe could see it. “You need a pair of these! Fluffy purple socks!”

Rachel had been on about the purple socks for weeks since her sister had given then to her. Knuckles, their hound dog, looked at the socks longingly.

Abe sighed and poured Cheerios into his bowl. The cold snap freezing town seemed to be lasting longer than a snap rightfully should, Abe thought. If it’d just get above zero, he’d be fine.

Two weeks later and the extreme cold hadn’t let up. The weathermen were declaring it the coldest winter in twenty years. Abe’s toes were utterly frozen, no matter what he did. Even snuggled into bed they remained icy points on the end of his body. Rachel, who’d worn the purple fluffy socks none-stop, continued to tout their virtues anytime Abe mentioned his frosty toes.

Ten days before Christmas Abe entered the kitchen to find Rachel sobbing. Her feet were bare, pale and slightly blue. In her hands she clutched something purple. In the corner, Knuckles was looking rather forlorn. Bits of purple fluff were scattered around his bed. It took Abe a moment to put the scene together.

The purple socks were gone.

“I’ve called everywhere,” Rachel cried. “The socks are sold out at every single store in town.”

Now Abe, he couldn’t quite believe that and each night after work he began to prowl the aisles of every store in their small town. Christmas crept closer and he began to get desperate. Rachel’s toes were a shade of purple and a smile hadn’t graced her face sine the death of the socks.

On Christmas Eve, in despair, he approached one of the store clerks at Clothing, Etc.

“Please, I’m looking for purple socks,” Abe said, feeling slightly foolish. “Fluffy ones.”

The clerk shook his head. “We sold out of those about a month ago,” he said.

Abe thought he might cry then. There was nothing else in the world that Rachel wanted, nothing else that would make her smile through the long months of winter.

“We do have a new sock though,” the clerk said. “Fuzzy pig socks. Haven’t quite taken off like those purple ones, but they’re warm. See?”

He lifted his pant leg to reveal a pair of cheddar-cheese-yellow and wine-purple socks.

“And this is the best part.” The clerk pulled off his shoe.

On the toe of the sock was a little pig face, complete with cherry-red dimples and pop up purple ears.

“Ernie! Put your shoes on,” the manager said as she passed them. “That isn’t professional.”

“I’m trying to help this gentleman,” the clerk, Ernie, said in protest, but he put on his shoe. “So, what do you think?” he said to Abe.

Abe shook his head. “I need those purple ones.”

“There are just as good,” Ernie said. “Take my word on that. Here, why don’t you try them and if they don’t meet your needs, bring them back.”

“They’re for my wife,” Abe said.

“How do you think I ended up wearing them?” Ernie winked. “I’ll throw in an extra pair, for you.”

“Oh, that isn’t really necessary,” Abe said.

“Trust me,” Ernie said, handing Abe the bag with the socks.

Later that night after Rachel was asleep, Abe got up to wrap the socks and stick them under the tree. His toes were so cold they felt as it they might just snap off. He slipped on his slippers, but they did little to fix the problem.

Abe pulled the two pairs of socks from the shopping bag and began to measure the wrapping paper. The little piggy faces seemed to be smiling at him knowingly, urging his to let go of his reservations. Some things, like toes, were more important than manliness, the said.

Abe sighed and started at the socks. “Oh, what the heck,” he said and reached for a pair of the piggies.

With boots on, no one would ever know.

Daily Journey Journal #118: dreams almost forgotten

His deep voice filled the room, leaking into the hallway and under doors. It swelled, hitting a high note before falling, down, down, down in an elegance only he could hear. His students, they looked on with dismayed faces. How could this man be their teacher, they wondered.

He looked at their faces then down at the book, his voice drifting to silence. Those looks, they were why he was running an English school. If good for nothing else, at least his voice could keep them awake, he reassured his dying dream.

At least he could keep them awake.

Daily Journey Journal #113: cow tipping and toothbrushes

Hospitals always give me the creeps. They’re too clean like, if ya know what I mean. Somethin’ unnatural about that. And the smell… I’m thinkin’ about all this when the pretty nurse at the ER desk looks over at me.

“What are you in here for tonight?” she asks.

The waiting room is empty ‘cept for me.

“Waitin’ for my buddy,” I say.

“What happened to him?”

“Well, there’s a long story ’bout that,” I say, “but, I won’t take up yer time with the nitty gritty details. I’ll give ya the quick ‘n’ dirty version.”

She smiles and continues workin’ on the papers on the desk.

“So me and my buddy, Tyler’s his name, we were out at his daddy’s barn mucking it out and drinkin’ a couple of buds. We’re gettin’ ready to get outta this town, ya see, and we were talkin’ ’bout the future and movin’ away from cow country. Well, after a bit, Tyler stuck his shovel in the muck and leaned up against the barn wall, takin’ a break.

“Now, there’s somethin’ ya should know ’bout Tyler. He ain’t super crazy ’bout hygiene, showerin’ as much as the rest of us, but Tyler, he sure loves brushin’ his teeth. Whips out his toothbrush any chance he gets. Well, he leaned up against that barn wall, took out his toothbrush and brushed for a few seconds then looked at me all funny like.

“‘Have an regrets ’bout leavin’?’ he said.

“‘No,’ I said. ‘You?’

“Well, Tyler, he smiled then and put his toothbrush in his back pocket then said, ‘Well, ain’t never been cow tippin’ and seein’ as I grew up here, I shoulda done that.’

“We decided that cow tippin’ sounded better then muckin’ out the barn just then, so we started walkin’ out to the pasture. Tyler’s daddy woulda killed us if he found out, sayin’ that cow tippin’ ain’t nothin’ but damagin’ a good profit, but he wasn’t ’round.

“So, we hopped the fence into the pasture and picked out the cow for tippin’. She was last summer’s calf, smaller than the rest of ’em so we figured we’d be able to tip her. She was sleepin’, her cud just hangin’ there in her mouth. So, we got a runnin’ start and SLAM, we hit her broadside, but damn, she didn’t move a inch. He eyes sure flew open though and she chopped that cud and we knew we were in trouble, so we started runnin’.

“I was ahead of Tyler, runnin’ for all I was worth. The cow, she was snortin’ and stompin’ on our heals. I jumped and cleared the fence and Tyler was cursin’ behind me. He was almost to the fence when his toothbrush fell out of his pocket. Well, the idiot, he stopped dead in his tracks and turned around to get it, and that cow, she ran him flat over. Smashed him up pretty good.”

“The cow attacked him?” the nurse said.

“Yup. He woulda been fine if he’d left that damn toothbrush.”

“He got trampled by a cow, all for a toothbrush?” she said.

“Yup,” I said. “Tyler just loves brushin’ his teeth.”

“A toothbrush.” the nurse shook her head.

“A toothbrush.” I said, laughin’. It’ll be a great story outta cow country.

Daily Journey Journal #112: mosquito feast

Ah, the darkness of night. So calming. Mmmm.  Maybe just rest here…Wait, what’s that smell?

Oh, it’s heavenly. Mmmmm. The most delicious smell.  I simply must taste it. Yes, just a small bite. Mmmmm. And another. Goodness, should slow the pace.

Ok, ok. Rest a minute. Don’t want a stomachache.

Maybe just one more bite? Mmmm.

Mmmm.

Mmmm.

Oops. That turned into more than a bite. Mmmm.

Rest again. So full! Maybe that should be all for now. It’s late, time to just head out the…one more bite and then out the door. Mmmmmmm.

Ok, three more bites. Whew. So full now. Could practically burst. Rest now. Couldn’t move if…

SMACK!

Steve looked down at his hand with satisfaction.

“Got it,” he said and grabbed a tissue, then climbed back in bed.

 

Daily Journey Journal #107: familiar strangers

“Excuse me. Sorry to intrude, but your name wouldn’t happen to be Priscella, would it?”

Ela set down her book and smiled up at the elderly man standing next to her table.

“I sure am,” she said.

The man’s face shed its mask of apprehension, the well-worn wrinkles lifting his cheeks into a smile.

“You are exactly how they described you to me,” he said, his words beginning to bump into one another in his happiness.

Ela laughed. “You aren’t a thing like they described you to me,” she said. “But I kind of like that.”

The man tipped back his head, his deep laughter filling the small nook where the table sat in the window.

“I like you already,” he said. “May I sit?”

“I don’t see why not,” Ela said, shifting her purse from the chair to her lap.

The man sat down and they smiled at one another for a moment. His eyes were bright, filled with wonder at the sight of her face.

“Shall I place our order?” Ela asked, sensing that he would be content to stare at her all afternoon.

He blinked. “You haven’t even asked what I like yet.”

“I know your type.” Ela winked. “Straight up black coffee. No cream. No sugar.”

His laughter surrounded them again and he nodded his agreement.

Discreetly, Ela pulled her phone from her bag as she got up.

“Back in a jiffy,” she said.

She waited until she was out of sight from the table then placed the call.

“He’s here,” she said. “He found me.”

“Oh, thank heavens.”

“Everything is fine,” Ela said. “Relax now or you’ll give yourself a heart attack.”

“Can’t do that. Worrying, always worrying. Thank God he recognizes your face still. Don’t know what we’d do otherwise.”

“Gram,” Ela said gently. “It’s not my face he recognizes. It’s your face he sees.”

The line grew silent except from the soft, deep breathing that comes with quiet tears.

“You aren’t lost to him yet, Gram,” Ela said. “I’ll bring him back to you, don’t worry.”

 

Daily Journey Journal #92: whispers on the wind

Come with me now.

The call comes as whispers on the wind. I look out the window at the moonlit night.

Walk with me now.

I pull on my shoes and take the path to the woods, the breeze whispering in my ears, caressing my face, pulling me away.

Pine needles crunch beneath my worn shoes. An owl hoots overhead, looking for its dinner in the tall grass rustling next to me. Most nights the woods send shivers up my spine and through my body. Most nights I do not dare come here at dark, but I know tonight that I am safe. I will not stumble and fall.  It is not really the wind that calls to me and that is what carries me from home. Those whispers are the call I have been waiting for all these years.

Come with me now.

I follow the trees until they fall away at the lake. The moon is reflected on its surface, a perfect silvery circle.  Carefully, I step on the stones out to the boulder just off shore. It is from here that I scattered the ashes, many years ago now.

Too many years ago.

I am here, I whisper.

And I wait. The wind weaves in through the knit in my sweater, chilling my skin ever so slightly. It closes my eyes, whispering words I do not understand until I know that the time has come. I open my eyes.

There he is, waiting for me, as he promised. From the ashes he has come at last, my husband, to take me to our new home.