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That Brand New Baby Smell…

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Mmmmmmmm. It’s like new car scent blended with cozy, fleecy blankets all rolled up in a warm, gooey cinnamon bun.

Anticipation is a magnificent thing. 

Anticipation of a Christmas work bonus… anticipation of a new baby… anticipation of a warm, fun, beach vacation… anticipation of the first splotch of ketchup on your steaming french fries… anticipation of a meeting with your probation officer. I don’t know. Anticipation.

For a few years now, I’ve been seeking out and lovingly caressing 12-string guitars to add to my happy family of stringed instruments… my current family constellation is two 6-string guitars, banjo, violin, mandolin, Peruvian charango.

Now this week I finally brought a brand new baby 12-string home. Her name is Taylor… and she’s beautiful.

taylor-356

My very first set of strings was a small brown ukulele I unwrapped on my 11th Christmas. Tiny Tim (not the Dicken’s character) was popular on the Ed Sullivan Show at the time and I learned Tiptoe Through The Tulips – his signature song – before midnight announced Boxing Day’s arrival.

I’ve been strung up on stringed instruments ever since. It’s kinda my TWANG!

With my new pre-teen passion for music, I saved dimes, quarters and dollar bills from my Hamilton Spectator paper route and purchased an electric guitar and a small amp. It was simply gorgeous.

I took some lessons from a local long-haired R&B rock and roller. He taught me some bar chords and I got hooked on the drug of harmony.

I loved playing that guitar and emulating my big brother Gord’s rock band (Sands of Time?) that played songs like Otis Redding’s Dock of the Bay, the Surfaris’ Wipeout, the Box Tops’ The Letter and that super-cool sixties guitar song, Eric Burden and the Animals’ House of the Rising Sonthere is a house in New Orleans

In Grade 7 I played the Bee Gees rock ballad I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You at my middle school’s talent show. There was a sad poignancy in its lyric I liked. I figured I was a pop star and when little pixie Anne Pekaruk smiled at me afterwards and said I was really good, I might have come close to my first spontaneous orgasm.

Over the years I’ve added to my string collection.

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Maybe the World’s Most Perfect Instrument?

I borrowed my sister Betty’s classical guitar during my poverty-prone college years. My teenage head was filled with grandiose visions of becoming an Elton John rock star. I wrote bad songs while learning a bit about fingerpicking styles from a girlfriend who dumped me for another “John Denver”-like guitar player.

The guitar was my solace during romantic break-ups, a diversion from studying for lab exams, and laid-back exhaustion-relaxer after 1 am McDonalds’ shifts.

After starting my first lab job, my brother Gord and I both bought banjos as a brotherly bonding experience.

In the Arctic chills of Yellowknife my buddy Jimmy sold (well, almost gave) me my first acoustic 6-string that I still own and play, a Yamaha FG-160. The strings are hard on the fingertips, but it has a nice tone to it. The Yamaha is a workhorse that holds its tuning well which is really important to someone like me who suffers the fingernails-scraping-the-blackboard sensation when he hears even a slightly out-of-tune instrument or voice. It’s a curse my friends.

For many years in the decades after I married and had kids and jobs, playing guitar or any music was left largely unloved at the bottom of the laundry pile of priority. I picked up the Yamaha occasionally and picked out my favourite Bruce Cockburn, John Denver and James Taylor songs.

The kids grew up and left for university. I looked in the mirror and saw wrinkles from happy laughter and sorrowed frowns, open lakes of shiny skin where dark, thick hair used to blossom. Elton John came out as gay and Otis Redding was dead.

music-reborn

The time to return to music was now or never.

Years were slipping by like summer days at the beach and if I let time and effort go by unseen or appreciated, well, why let regret get any sort of foothold?

My next new friend was a Martin guitar…DX1AE.

From my teen years I had harboured dreams of one day owning a Martin. What the hell is a Martin you ask?  Martin is a revered name in the guitar world.

If you watch many of the great guitar players and popular artists, the Martin manufacturer’s signature can be spotted on the headstock of the instrument. It loosely correlates to a Steinway grand piano, a Stradivarius violin. Martin denotes quality and rich sound.

I fell in love with Martin and have been strumming his soft strings for a few years now. He joins me onstage for Open Mics and the few other events where I play and… he tries to make me sound better than I truly am. Good friends are like that, they build you up.

And this brings me full life circle to this week and my long anticipated purchase of a 12-string guitar. She’s a Taylor 356ce with sensual curvaceous lines, comfortable to hold and melt into. Her strings feel soft under my fingertips, so soft when compared to many other 12-strings.

There is a full richness, an orchestral resonance to the 6 sets of double strings of a 12-string guitar.

Try listening to the Eagles’ introduction to Hotel California, or  Supertramp’s Give A Little Bit, or The Byrds or Gordon Lightfoot or the Beatles… close your eyes and there’s 12-string heaven ringing in your ears.

There’s a touch of surrendered sadness knowing my years of anticipation are over, a light mourning for a cherished friend. Anticipation is such a delicious part of our slender existence.

My job now is to retrain and transform my anticipation.

Anticipation is –at its heart –  about goals and moving forward. I thrive on the carrot of anticipation and making something – a birth, something tangible or ethereal- where nothing previously existed.

Taylor and I will be spending a fair bit of time together in the coming weeks, months, and hopefully years. It will be a friendship to remember.

It’s time to get back to play.

……………..

PS. Below is a short guitar piece (not played on a 12-string) that I want to share with you. Tommy Emmanuelle is my current “Bromance” when it comes to guitar mastery. I hope you enjoy his richly harmonic heart-swelling song, ANGELINA, as much as I do.

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Don’t write what you know, write what fascinates you… and 21 more brilliant things I’ve Learned…

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22 Things I’ve Learned Since I Began Blogging…

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After writing 236 blog posts, I figure I’ve learned one or two things along this joyous journey, some about writing a blog and a few others about living a fuller life.

I’ll share a few of these with you and then you can add on the hundred or more that you figure I should have learned, right?

  1. Creativity isn’t a noun, it’s a verb. Treat your creative force as an action to be developed and actively teased into the open. The creative spark isn’t something that’s given to us like a Christmas gift, wrapped in neat bows and ribbons and cantookles and sneedles. One form of Boot Camp works the body muscle … another form involves the inner imagination muscle.
  2. Writer’s block is a fiction story. Persistence in writing something… anything… blasts away block walls like sugar infusions beat back the Marathon runner’s WALL. I’m a perpetual work in progress and really need to heed this lesson in my songwriting.
  3. I write about the fabric I know mostly, but I also try to write about stuff that is new to me so that I can learn while I write. Constantly learning anew gifts us deeper breaths and enthusiastic heartbeats.
  4. Polls cannot be relied on as truth. People lie and hide their occult souls from pollsters.
  5. We’ll never know the full capacity of our brain and its power to reason and formulate idea sex. There is no human mystery greater than the inner intricacy that lies between our ears (the second greatest mystery is the bewildering and seductive complexity that lies between our legs! We’ll never understand that one either)
  6. Beautiful music is a loving muse that brings forth beautifully elegant words in writing. Listening to music I love invites novel metaphors and descriptive adjectives that lie hidden in the forest.
  7. Listening to the real message in what people say is far more interesting than the obvious, surface stuff. Writing is all about observing deeply and closely, whether in a person’s spoken words or in the moody cloud layers bear-hugging the November hillsides or the serpentine striations in the bark of a Ponderosa Pine tree.
  8. It’s far better to Yoda try and fail than to fail to try in fear of what might go wrong. Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds should have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly;…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” 
  9. The 1,000 hour or the 10,000 hour rule of practice really does pay dividends. I’m a lazy sort who like to gloss over the hard stuff. Both my writing and my guitar playing are significantly improved with consistent day-in-day-out concentrated effort. I wish I had taken this concept to heart while studying piano as a kid. So, how lazy am I? I began this blog post with the idea that I’d write 33 things I’ve learned. That’s how lazy!
  10. Women are generally much better managers of important stuff like families and organizations and governments. Testosterone is a bombastic nuclear weapon in a 21st century world, a world that performs better with more resilient pillow fights and fewer knife brawls.
  11. None of us really understands anyone else‘s difficulties or challenges until we’ve shared their experiences. “Never criticize a man until you’ve walked in his moccasins.”
  12. Leave the ambiguous, uncertain words out of writing. Either state an opinion or don’t. I’m pretty sure this is usually important or … just maybe it’s not. Wrong. 
  13. Children thrive on stories. Adults are much the same. This goes to the heart of the writing concept “Show, Don’t Tell“. People are far more intrigued by a point illustrated through an anecdote or story than they are by being told directly. We all love stories. When I gaze at a canvas of visual art, I look for the story the painting tells me. Stories are our comfort food.
  14. Pancakes are the perfect breakfast food. Hot, fragrant, mobile-if-necessary, sweet or savoury, all 4 (5 if you count chocolate as I do) food groups in a perfect circular package of yumminess.
  15. Blog titles that include the word “sex” or a sex-related term will ALWAYS get more readership. It’s too easy really. It’s like answering poll questions. We don’t reveal the true nature of our hormonally bawdy thoughts publically, but privately, the carnal rivers never stop flowing.
  16. The stocks I sell today are the ones guaranteed to double in share price in a week or two. This goes along in tandem with the dollar rising or falling sharply in reverse harmony to what I’ve predicted when someone asks me for advice in making a financial decision. Be warned: If I boldly predict one thing, run full out in the other direction. Take that to the bank!
  17. The terms MAN and WOMAN cover a broadly huge scope of gender identity. Our world is a nuanced place and masculinity and femininity are part of the 50 shades domain. Every aspect of gender identity deserves to be respected.
  18. Life is far too short to hang out in the company of compulsive negativity and naysayers. Keep the smilers and positives at your side and the sun will always be warming your insides like hot chocolate.
  19. Fiction books are amazing things. I used to be very pragmatic and believed I could only learn from non-fiction. WRONG! Quality fiction (like 50 Shades of Grey… NOT!) informs us about history, humanity, ourselves, in a constellation of ways we don’t always understand. See point #13.
  20. The older you get, the faster time flows past. I began my formative period with a thick mane of 70’s style dark hair where days passed as if in a horse-drawn surrey… that’s transformed itself into a follicularly challenged salt-and-pepper-fringe-on-the-top Ferrari Formula One racing car. Where the hell is the brake on this aging sucker?
  21. Write in very short paragraphs. People are intimidated by reading long diatribes of information in huge long chunks. Break it up so that it is far less fearsome to the sight. In today’s world, folks listen to musical songs that tend to last 3-5 minutes, not 20 minute symphonies . We absorb in small chunks. It’s who we are in 2016.
  22.  Everybody has a story. Good and bad. Everybody. That person who’s life looks so perfect. The one with the big house or the one who pushes a wobbly grocery cart down the street. They’ve got a story. Everyone needs compassion in some form. Everyone has compassion to give.

rich-and-poor

My Cameo as a Bully

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bully

Just once in my life I wanted to be the bully.

I’ve been thinking about bullies and bullying this past week. I’ll let you guess why.

I “accelerated” (Zoom Zoom) around Grade 3 in school.

A few others kids and I, over a period of three years, accelerated our learning pace and ended up in Grade 7 instead of Grade 6 (I guess you could call this skipping a grade).

I’m pretty sure the reason they pushed me forward was because I was the last remnant of 5 Green family kids… all previous 4 of my siblings were academically bright and skipped ahead (my oldest brother, the REALLY smart one, skipped 2 grades… CRAZY!).

They probably got lazy and didn’t even test me figuring there must have been a few intelligence genes lingering at the end of the blood line. Fooled them…

Because I was younger than most of my peers, I was smaller and less physically developed throughout my school career.

This occasionally led to bullying activities where I was the victim. Not serious stuff, but I ran home scared on more than one occasion, watching in my rearview mirror for the big kid with the big fists (and the wee little dick) who wanted to take me down.

Bullying wasn’t ever discussed in school.

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A fight would break out in the schoolyard… excited kids formed a tight circle around the gladiator bully and his weak victim as the ugly pummelling took place.

A few minutes later one of the reluctant teachers would wander out into the playground or field and break through the circle of kids enjoying the blood fest, too late to prevent the broken nose or lip dripping crimson blood, sending both the bully and his quarry to visit the principal.

The punishment for the bully couldn’t have been very severe because it always seemed to be the same few that were repeat offenders.

I wasn’t afraid of the beating part (not true, who likes pain? and blood?).

I was more afraid of the humiliation and what the cute girls in their pigtails, white tights and plaid skirts would think of me once I’d bled all over the place… or worse still…. cried. “Oh God, please don’t let me cry“. I couldn’t handle that gruesome shame, that embarrassment.

I enjoyed and was pretty good at sports and most days you’d find me and my friends playing road hockey or baseball or football in the field across from my house in front of Glen Echo School. I may have been small but I held my own with a ball or a puck.

One day, after years of being intermittently picked on and bullied I was feeling frustrated and wanted to know the amazing feeling that surely existed on the other side of the fence.

I hungered to feel the power of superiority and strength the bully stroked and caressed like a tender lover.

That day, on that football field, Paul Robinson was my poor chosen victim.

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Before we even started the game of touch football, I knew I’d take him on. I had a plan.

Paul was a year younger than me and smaller than me and weaker than me.

He was perfect bully material. I figured this all out because I was so smart and had “accelerated”.

I would wait for him to do something – anything really – that might be interpreted as remotely dirty or offensive in his play against me.

Me and the boys threw the ball and ran up and down the field and huddled like pro players and were having a great time until… until… Paul was guarding me once as I ran out to catch the ball thrown by the quarterback.

I dug in and felt solid traction in the thick grass underneath my feet.

I knew my assigned pattern and veered right to make myself clear for the catch.

Paul bumped me. A gentle bump but clearly a bump. I decided it was a “dirty” bump.

My lucky moment had arrived, my plan could be enacted, and I pounced like a raging tiger. The feeling of young boy aggression hormones flooded my system.

I acted offended, angry about the transgression, and pushed him.

Fairly feebly, Paul responded angrily back.

It was now patently obvious in my little mind that moral justification for a “fight” was present.

The scrap was on.

Honestly, I made/make a terrible bully.

I had seen enough schoolyard skirmishes to know that boxer-style full knuckle punches bring on blood and excitement for the surrounding group. Blood is key. The fight is as much for the spectators as it is for the combatants. Maybe more so.

Nope, the best I could muster in my trumped-up anger was to slap him on the face. No pugnacious knuckles, no spewing blood.

Over and over I moved in and slapped him. His cheeks and face grew redder and redder, akin to the silly “pink bellies” we would playfully inflict on our friends as a measure of our manhood.

The blood match probably only lasted a minute at most but I felt a momentary sense of glorious triumph, control, domination… and then… frankly, some personal humiliation as Paul finally came to cherry-faced tears.

This wasn’t what I expected.

The wonderfully brawny feelings of manly power and victory I had anticipated surging mightily, melted away like April snows.

Disgust replaced triumph. Self loathing replaced elation. Revulsion replaced satisfaction.

I’d crossed over to the other side and had my bully moment.

It felt harsh inside, as cruel as the moment I killed a sparrow with my pellet rifle and the sensation was more heartbroken than heart-lifting.

I quickly learned a lesson that lives on for me.

Sometimes it’s important for the oppressor to live in the shoes of the oppressed, and vice versa.

This past week of cross-border politicking has left me confused, vexed, and worried but hesitantly… cautiously… hopeful that somehow the current “bully of the moment” will find his AHA moment. Even at this late stage of life.

That somehow the enormous, heady power bestowed on him will be tempered by reason and respect and concern for the weaker opponent.

That somehow the mini life-lesson I learned on the football field at the age of 12 or 13 years of age will be understood and willed to the surface like it was for George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life.

It’s never too late to shed the bully inside. I hope.

bully-free

 

 

Who Has Scene the Crime…

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  • A blood-soaked, savage murder scene

  • a furiously jolting bank robbery

  • a drug deal in progress…

crime-scene

.

“My father and I went into witness protection when I was just a little girl.

We changed our appearances as much as possible (hair, clothing styles, he grew a beard, etc).  We moved across the country to a nice house pushed back against the Great Smoky Mountains. He never told me why we had to do it, but I never asked.

I trusted him.” *

(*excerpted from a Reddit story published Aug. 14, 2014)

………………

IT was terrifying and soul jolting… it happened in a mere second. You were a bystander, a spectator to bad people doing bad things.

Bad people with no compunction about doing bad things to you if you go public and merely share what you saw.

The vision of uninvited violence… a supremely surreal activity that came unbidden, unfairly, unwanted, into your life.

The sight of what you stumbled upon is ingrained in your head and lives with you as a constant companion in your nightly sleep, a rebellious house visitor who laughs in your face and refuses to leave even though you adamantly refuse to feed them or change the bed linens.

Inside your head, their footsteps creep the back hallways, a look on their face that you can’t erase or escape no matter how hard you try.

The witness protection program…

Like winning a big lottery prize, witness protection drags you unwittingly to a fork in the road you never anticipated.

A curse? A blessing? Or both?

……………..

“When I turned 16, however, I thought it was time that I finally found out why we were forced into this new life.

He told me that when I was very young there was a nice family that lived across the street from us; a mother, a father, and a beautiful little girl.

One late night, when the streets were empty and the beds full, a man came to their house and killed them. The mother and the father were hanged in the living room, and the little girl was left dead on the couch, bloody and bruised.

He continued on and told me that he just so happened to be awake the night of the murder.

He watched from his bedroom window as the man drove away. Once the cops arrived, he told them all the information he could: type of car, license plate number, even which direction he went. The policemen assured him that the man was very dangerous. They asked my father if there was any chance he was spotted peeking through the curtains, but my father was unsure. The officers encouraged us to flee town and go under witness protection to be extra cautious. My father wanted no trouble, so he obliged.

Two nights later he loaded up the truck with everything that would fit and drove us to the other side of the country.”

“Dad,” I said, “what happened to my mother?”

His eyes dropped and he slouched back in his chair. When he looked up, his eyes had a warm, soft tone. “When you were a young girl,” he said, “your mother was taken from us in a car accident.” His face hardened a little. His soft look was gone. 

“What was her name?”

He leaned back and rubbed his face. We sat in silence for several minutes. I didn’t think he was going to answer. “Karen,” he said, finally, “her name was Karen. And she was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen…”

I couldn’t stop my mind from racing. So much information was processing, and so many thoughts were coming and going. I wished I could remember my mother. There was so much more I wanted to know…”

…………….

law-and-order

OVER the years, I’ve vegged out on TV crime shows and seen regular accounts of witnesses who testified or provided information to authorities.

They became “reborn”, sent away in some time and space machine to become someone they didn’t know yet… themselves but somehow not themselves.

You see an unspeakable act of criminality and now your life is forever changed, brutally raped by someone else’s action that you happened to innocently observe.

Maybe there’s a romance to it. Maybe.

Many of us think about the notion of a second chance. A new life. An escape from life’s sometimes nastier, unhappy moments.

…………….

“As I lay awake, sleep was nowhere in sight. I thought of any way to link myself to my mother, to learn anything else about her. I got an idea. I remembered the old boxes in the basement that had sat untouched since we moved to our new home…

As I navigated my way around the boxes, a small one in the very back corner caught my eye. I pulled it out and noticed it had a label on it. It read:

FAMILY

Jackpot. I ripped the lid off and peered inside. My excitement died when I noticed there were no pictures, just several newspaper clippings. 

I picked up the top one. It was an article from the Obituaries on August 23rd, 2002. It took me only a few seconds to recognize the face – it was my mother. As I read along, tears began forming in my eyes. I thought I was going to burst into tears until I got to one section that confused me. It said:

Karen is survived by her mother [NAME]; father [NAME]; brother [NAME] and sister [NAME]; and husband Jack.

Where was my name? My father’s was in there, how could they have forgotten her daughter? I laid the article to the side and picked up another. The title read:

FAMILY SLAIN IN GRUESOME MURDERS

It didn’t take long for me to realize this was the article about the family that had lived directly in front of us. I began to read.

Last night, on August 24th, 2002, a mother and father, Lyle and Helen [NAME], were strung up by the neck in their living room. Their daughter, Lindsey, was found dead on the couch, bruised and bloody.

I stopped reading…. I tossed it aside and picked up another.

It was from August 23rd, 2002. It read:

WOMAN AND CHILD KILLED BY DRUNK DRIVER 

Yesterday, Thursday, August 22nd, 2002, a mother and her daughter were killed in an automobile accident. They were identified to be Karen and Katherine [NAME]. They were struck head-on by a drunk driver who was believed to be–

The article cut off. My head was spinning. I didn’t understand. Why does the article say I was killed with my mother? I felt angry, but I didn’t know who to be angry at.

I laid it aside and picked up another one. This one was from August 26th, 2002. The title read:

DNA TEST SHOWS MISTAKE IN FAMILY MURDER

As I began to read, I heard the basement door click open; my dad was awake. I hurriedly crammed everything back into the box and stuffed it back into its corner. As soon as I got to my feet and turned around he arrived at the basement floor. I was surprised to see a nervous look on his face instead of an angry one. 

“I’m sor–“

“Don’t apologize,” he said. “I haven’t been completely honest with you. Come upstairs.”

I was surprised at the calm tone in his voice. I rushed up the stairs and sat on the couch. He sat beside me and took my hand.

“Dad,” I said before he could speak, “why does that article say I was killed in the wreck with mom? I don’t under–“

“I will explain.” His face turned pale and his voice nearly left him. I could tell he was stressed.

“I’m sorry,” I started, “we don’t ha–“

“Yes. Yes, we do. You deserve to know,” he said. He took a deep breath before he spoke again. “Your mother was killed around the same time as the murders across the street.” His eyes began to water. 

“I faked your death.” He was crying now.

I felt so terrible, but so confused. I know it was hard for him to talk about, but the burning desire to know the truth kept me quiet.

He wiped his eyes and began again. “I faked your death in case that man came after me. I didn’t want him to know about you. I didn’t want you to get hurt.” 

“Okay, dad. I understand.” I let go of his hand. Something wasn’t right. “I’m going to bed now, okay?” I told him I loved him and quickly went to my room and locked the door before he could stop me.”

…………….

in-the-mist

HOW strange would it be to begin anew, re-birthed as an adult, an adult already brimming over with experiences and impressions, memories of loves, memories of disgusts, memories of people and things that would now cease to exist until our dying breath?

Your witnessing story told aloud in a brightly lit police station or an open courtroom means the price of good citizenship is your one way ticket to a whole new world.

A ticket to a world where “you” no longer exist. A world where fear of discovery lies around every corner.

………………

“He lied to me. I knew he lied to me because my mother was killed before the murders. How would he know we would need protection?

I grabbed my laptop and sat on my bed. I searched “Karen [NAME] car accident, 2002.” I clicked the first link. It looked to be the same newspaper clipping that I had just read downstairs, except this one wasn’t cut off. I found my place and continued reading. 

struck head-on by a drunk driver who was believed to be Lyle [NAME]

My heart stopped. Everything clicked. The neighbor. He was the drunk driver. He was the one who killed my mother. My father faked my death because he knew that the family across the street was going to be murdered. He knew because he was the one who murdered them.

He didn’t want anyone coming after me for revenge.

I searched my father’s name and clicked the first link. It looked like a wanted poster.

JACK [NAME] WANTED FOR FIRST DEGREE MURDER AND CHILD ABDUCTION

My heart sank to my stomach. All of my muscles tightened. I didn’t understand the abduction part, but I was growing too angry to think. My eyes swelled with tears. I couldn’t believe the monster my father was.

It hurt my heart to accept it. I didn’t want it to be true, but I couldn’t deny it. I felt so terribly for the parents, but even more for the little girl. I searched “Lyle, Helen, and Lindsey [NAME] murders” and clicked the first link. The first thing I saw was

WARNING – GRAPHIC PHOTOS

I scrolled to the first picture. It was straight from the crime scene. Lyle and Helen were hanging by their neck in the living room. I felt like I was going to puke.

I didn’t want to see the next picture. I scrolled anyway. All of my nausea, anger, and sadness was immediately replaced with confusion when I saw it. I looked at the little girl curled up on the couch. What bothered me most was not the blood or the bruises. 

I couldn’t believe what I saw. I had to call the police. As I grabbed my cell phone I heard a loud knock on the door.

“Katherine,” my dad was yelling. “Open the door. We need to talk.”

Fear struck my body and I began to shake. He knows. He knows that I found out the truth. I ran to my bathroom and dialed 911. I told them I was in danger. I told them Jack [NAME] was in the house and I was in danger.

I had to play it off. I had to act like I didn’t know until the cops got here. I hid the phone in the medicine cabinet and walked into my room. I wiped my eyes and tried to look as normal as possible.

“One second, dad,” I yelled. It made me sick calling him that.

I walked timidly to the door and opened it. He looked angry and nervous. He was pouring with sweat. I could smell liquor on his breath.

“Sorry, I was in the bathroom,” I said.

His drunk eyes locked to mine. Neither of us said a word. I could feel my eyes beginning to water. I was truly terrified.

He stared at me for several more seconds. It felt like hours. No matter how scared I was, my eyes never left his. His were evil, the eyes of a killer. Without saying another word, he turned around and stumbled to his room. I slammed my door and locked it. “

……………..

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SURPRISES.

There are lovely surprises that fill us with joy. A pygmy owl sitting calmly perched on a pine branch as we walk by. A job offer at double the salary. A cheap bottle of Gewurtztraminer wine that tastes better than a $100 bottle.

Then there are unexpected nasty, scary, gut-searing surprises that arise from the cold earth like an eerie corpse, a reality nightmare.

Do I have the inner strength to be a witness under threat of bodily harm or worse? I don’t know the answer. What if they threatened someone I love? That would kill me. Sophie’s Choice.

A new life. A life with new vistas and choices.

Maybe I’d grow my hair long and have a man bun and stand around in malls playing life-size chess games all day.

Or shave off what little hair I do have and become a zen-style monk and not speak to anyone for days at a time.

Or just wake up one morning and start walking like the old man in The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, seeking out inner peace and something unknown.

But more probably, I’d recreate my life in its current mould but with a new name and carry on doing what I’m doing because I like writing and running and playing guitar and travelling and chopping and dicing in soup kitchens. For adventure, maybe I’d get my glider’s licence. Maybe.

……………..

“I walked to my laptop to look at the picture one more time. I stared at the little girl curled up on the couch.”

The cops showed up ten minutes later, kicked his door down and arrested him. 

As they ushered him away in handcuffs, his eyes met mine one more time. I knew it would be the last time I had to look into the eyes of the man who killed my parents.”