Monday, October 5, 2015

Do you believe in ghosts? I do.

It’s not like I attend séances trying to visit past relatives or old loves.  I do not go chasing after them or watch TV shows about ghosts.  Mine are incidental encounters. 
I believe in ghosts because I believe in the hereafter.  And because I believe that there is better than the right here, I think the ghosts we do encounter have a reason to make themselves known in this realm.
I have no explanation why they want to visit with me but I wish they would do it in the daytime, but that is never the case.  My ghostly visits have always been at night.
Everyone in my family thinks I am afraid of the dark.  Not so.  I am fine with the dark.  It’s the night that scares me, and I have my grandmother and my dad to thank for that.
My grandmother raised us and she kept us in line with the whole array of Mexican folklore about the llorona (pronounced yorona), the Cucui (the boogieman), the Diablo, and an assortment of other scary stories.  When we got older (and properly scared straight), she confessed that Mexican moms tell those stories to help keep naughty kids in line without having to resort to punishment each time.
My two sisters and I loved when our father tucked us into bed each night.  To keep him near us for a while longer, we would beg him to tell us a story.  Some of the tales came from his mother and some he made up on the spot.  None of them ever ended happy.  After scaring us to pieces, he would tickle us, make us laugh, and bless us before planting another kiss on our foreheads.
By then I was afraid of the night and along with that, I was afraid of the dark.
In my grandmother and dad’s defense, their retelling of Mexican spooky stories was no different than how the original fairy tales were formed.  Almost all of the modern fairy tales once had scary and sad endings.  Their original versions were not necessarily for children.  They were not G-rated or the sanitized and Disney editions we learn today. They were intended to moralize or scare or scandalize the reader.  
Because I am afraid of the nighttime (ergo the dark), I totally understand my grandchildren’s need for a nightlight.  While everyone else dismisses their need to keep a night on in their bedrooms, I provide them with an excuse when they sleep over at my house.  I plug in “safety” lights or leave a closet door cracked open a bit with the light on, just in case they need to get up and use the bathroom.
They are in a new place and we don’t want them to stub a toe, do we?
(Whisper) Besides I have never encountered a ghost on nights I left a light on in my bedroom.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Three Novembers

I got this idea recently when I discovered all my old journals that I kept for years and years.  What if I wrote a novel in three parts?  Each one about the same person but in different years. Each showing how much her life has changed in a short span of time. Here is a sample of what her journal entries would look like.
*     *     *     *     *
He told her the management was sacrificing their holiday so the hourly workers could spend Thanksgiving with their families. Knowing her husband well, she demanded to know who else had volunteered for this assignment.  
He ticked off four names on his hand.  A familiar one was couched in between the second and the fourth.
Here was the real reason he was “working” on a holiday.
When she asked why a single female would give up precious time with her three children when there were so many others who could take her place, he snarled at his wife, accusing her of always thinking the worst. She had only asked a simple question, yet he had responded with guilt.
Just like your mother, he added, jealous and needy. She retreated.  He always knew how to make her cower.  
*     *     *     *     *
She walked out of the medical building and tried to get to her car before breaking down but the moment she breathed in the crisp autumn air, the wall she had built around herself crumbled. Her keening cries scared a young boy and his mother who walked passed her in the parking lot. After two months of numerous invasive tests, she was cancer free. 
She wiped her face, located her car, and rushed to it before she cried again. She sighed deeply and smiled.  There was a bounce to her step.
She was not the weakling her ex-husband had once made her believe. She had faced the judge alone when it came to the divorce and she had done the same when she discovered her illness.   
Tomorrow was Thanksgiving Day, and she had a casserole to make before she visited with her family.  Now that she had only good news to share, she would tell them her story.

*     *     *     *     *
Little work would be done in the office for the rest of the afternoon so everyone stood around and talked about the upcoming four-day holiday.    
Some would entertain in their homes and others were traveling across the country to visit family or to enjoy a short vacation.    
I’m heading over to my parents, said a recently divorced single.  My mother makes the best prime rib. 
A couple of my buds are coming over to my apartment, said another, bragging in a loud voice.  We’re going to eat Chinese and watch one football game after another.
No one asked her plans. She had been divorced now for several years, and her kids would be spending Thanksgiving with their father and his girlfriend.  When the kids hesitated, she reminded them they would be back on Saturday.  They would be gone only three days.
That was one good thing about the divorce – it forced her ex-husband to spend time with his children whether it fit into his and his girlfriend’s plans or not.  If he tried to weasel out of it, the onus was on him.
What are your plans? Her friend’s breath caressed her ear and she turned to smile up at him.  She told him about spending Thanksgiving dinner with her crazy family.
Take me with you, he said. My kids are with their mother and I have nowhere else I want to be.

Her smile widened. She could already picture her sisters’ faces when she drove up with her famous yam casserole, and a tall, good-looking date for Thanksgiving Dinner.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

My P.E. Course from Hell

In college I took two dance classes and a swimming course for my P.E. requirements, but for my final class one of my girlfriends decided our group should take a camping class together. Our final was a three-day camping “survival” course on the banks of the Guadalupe River; it would be a free, idyllic vacation.
During the semester we learned how to start a fire with only two sticks.  We waxed and waterproofed our tents.  We learned basic first aid and sanitary practices.  We prepared for “living in the wild” in the back lot of the campus by an open field.
On our survival weekend it down poured and stormed for three days straight.  Since it was our “final,” we could not postpone it for later.
Once we got to our destination, we unloaded our cars and no one was allowed to go back for anything.  The first thing we did was to scout an area, clear it of debris, and hunt for dry wood.  We covered the wood with plastic tarps to shelter it from the storm, then we set up our tents.  By then, most everything and everyone was sopping wet.
We ate hot dogs and hamburgers in bread so soggy it disintegrated in our hands. Our hair hung on our shoulders like rags, and the girls who never went anywhere without full makeup, gave up trying by the end of the first day.  Contacts were discarded for bifocals and Cher-like hairdos went up into pony tails.  
Probably the worst was getting used to the outdoor potty we rigged in a secluded copse of trees.  We laughed about it during class, but this was the real deal. We tried to do our business during daylight hours because no one wanted to go in the woods at night with only a flashlight for protection.
Everyone was assigned duties and mine was to take a two-hour watch at night. We were to keep the camp fire lit and to make sure no one or thing invaded our campsite while the others slept. My watch was from 2 am until four am, so for three nights I sat out in the rain while lightning danced all around me.  I could not shelter under a tree because of the lightning and I was supposed to stay alert and move among the tents.  On all three nights, I saw movement in the trees but when I reported it to our teacher leaders, they said it was just my imagination.
On our last day as we broke camp, an older man and a group of boy dressed in scout uniforms visited our camp. We learned that this group of boys were part of a troupe camped nearby.  They had been sneaking over to spy on us at night, hoping an unsuspecting college girl would need to use the bathroom. Their scout leader said they would all be reprimanded once they got home, and then he dragged them out in front of us and made them apologize.
We all passed the class with A’s, and my girlfriends and I laughed at our three-day “vacation,” except for two friends who never forgave the rest of us for forcing them into this class. In retrospect I think it was because one had to give up her makeup and we saw what she looked like without it, and the other one used the camp potty at night and was probably one of the few who exposed her backside to naughty boy scouts.
Me? I don’t remember many of the classes I took in college, but I certainly remember that one

Monday, September 14, 2015

Move Over Clark Kent

I love how Superman rips off his Clark Kent duds and shows off his mighty chest, not even bothering to hide his identity, and doing it in plain view of all Metropolis.  In the old movies he had to find a phone booth; in modern day he just moves at the speed of light and no one notices him change from one moment to the next. They are too busy looking at their cell phones.
That’s us. Clark Kent’s.  Heroes, you and me.  
We all have an inner persona that few people ever suspect. On the outside, we slouch around in our yoga pants, bargain bifocals, and worn out gym shoes, but come the moment of need and we all have that special something hidden inside of us that no one else can offer the world.
Why edify a superhero when we are the real deal?
We are single parents working hard to raise well balanced children, and I do not mean just single moms making do but single dads as well.  We are two-parent families raising kids in a modern society that laughs at our attempts to discipline and educate our kids.  We are those who jump into action when action, no matter how horrendous, has to be taken.  We are those who overcome our dysfunctional upbringings to change the course of our lives despite the circumstances. 
Heroism is everywhere but it is never easy.  We all have our Kryptonite, but we beat the odds every, single day.  We don’t need to rip off our Clark Kent duds to do what needs to be done and we do not expect any accolades.

          We don’t have to be more powerful than a locomotive, faster than a speeding bullet, or be able to leap tall buildings.  We just have to do what has to get done and do it honorably and with integrity.  We need to look inside ourselves and find that special something that makes each of us a superhero.  

Monday, September 7, 2015

Fifty-Word Contest Entries

Several years ago, I entered several “stories” in a fast fiction contest.  They had to tell a story but could only be fifty words long. Here are two of my favorites.  

“He cried because I dumped him; said he lost everything because of me. “  The woman laughed into her drink, stood up, and staggered toward the exit before falling dead to the floor.
The female bartender washed the poison from the woman’s glass. “That’s for my ex-husband and my kids.”  

High school, junior year, I sat between two, very handsome, senior football players while we watched the 16 mm film on the male reproductive system.  Our Biology II teacher walked around the darkened classroom, monitoring our attention.  Meanwhile we all laughed that he hadn’t noticed his front fly was unzipped.