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A Healthy Salary

This past week I became horribly ill all of a sudden with no warnings or reason whatsoever. Against my own better judgment I got my shift covered last Thursday and I stayed home in bed. I thought to myself "This isn't so bad. I'll take one day off, go back on Friday, have two days off to get better, and be right as rain by Monday." I wish that had been the case.

Where I am employed as the boss, our work weeks begin on Thursdays and end on Wednesdays due to the payroll system. When I took Thursday off and went in to work anyway on Friday, I never dreamed that I wouldn't be well by Monday. I'm hardly ever sick at all, and to be sick longer than three days for me is nearly unheard of. That has a lot to do with my excellent attendance record at nearly every job I've had since I was 16 years old - with the exception of leaving one job twice for a week each time to attend funerals when I was 24 years old.

At one time I worked an average of 60 hours a week as a salaried employee. I didn't mind the hours really - it was a labor of love. Besides, I had nothing else to do except write in my blog, play with the cats and sleep 5 hours a night if I was lucky. Others thought I was leading by example, showing others that I would work every bit as hard as they did to make sure the job got done. I was always 'hands on' and even when I had my wrist in a brace I could be found moving very solid, very heavy metal furniture with my employees. Finally I was told after one particularly grueling week of being at work by 4 in the morning, that I needed to stop working so much. I felt like I was cheating the system over the next several days when I actually left at the time I was scheduled to be off. For the next several weeks, though I claimed to only be working 40 hours a week on the hourly sheets, I actually averaged about 50 - still less than I had been working. Still, I'm a salaried employee, so even if I stated that I worked more than 40 hours in a week it wouldn't make any difference. Besides, it is common knowledge I put in more than the required time.

I got sick a week ago yesterday, on September 21st with a nasty cough. The cough got a bit worse the following day, but my throat wasn't hurting so severely anymore and my voice had returned. I saw it as a sign that whatever bug I had come across would be gone by the 23rd. I woke up on the 23rd I was worse than ever. I called someone in to cover my shift, though I nearly forced myself to head in to work anyway. I knew there was just no way I could make that hour drive to work and stay for an entire 8 hour shift. I had even told everyone that if I was feeling better, I would be in to relieve whomever took my shift and let them go home early. Unfortunately that didn't happen.

By the time Friday rolled around I was feeling slightly better. I struggled to get up, wet my hair into place, and crawled into my work clothes. The drive to work was grueling, but I made it anyway.

As I walked down the hall towards my office, one of my Employees saw me and stated "Wow, are you OK?"

"I'm here, that's a start," I replied. Then, realizing I still had my sun glasses on, I took them off. They're an unusually large pair of sun glasses. My mother once said they looked like Dialysis glasses they were so big. As I slid them off over my nose, the same employee gasped. I figured I must look rather pale. In reality my face looked hollow and sunken in I discovered as I walked into the office and took a look into the mirror there. I looked like the walking dead. My voice was croaky and shallow. A good friend of mine told me I sounded like the dead. My employees told me that I should go home, and some even volunteered to work my shift for me. I refused. I decided that I was better than I had been the day before, and I could stick it out.

It was possibly the worst mistake I've made this year.

By the end of the night I was so bad that I wouldn't tell anyone I nearly passed out. Instead I stumbled to my car in delirium and somehow managed to drive home. I briefly remember opening my eyes and realizing that I was laying on the street beside my car with the car door wide open, my foot still in the floor boards. I had managed to pull up in front of my apartment I remember, and I had even parked properly and set the e-brake. How I ended up in the street like that I may never know.

Saturday and Sunday were spent in complete misery. I was far worse than I was willing to tell anyone. I've never been sick while on my own before. There was always a roommate or someone to help take care of me. I had to face it on my own this time, and with less than $3 in the bank to get me by until my next paycheck in October, there wasn't much hope for it other than to wait it out on the couch or in the bed. Surely, I thought to myself, I will be just fine by Monday.

I missed the Open Enrollment day at work for health insurance, so I had and have none. I also don't have dental, life, vision or any other kind of insurance my company offers because I missed the date by one day. Rules are rules, they're in place for a reason. I've always been a firm believer of that myself. It was my own fault I missed the date. I can't blame it on anyone but me, no matter what my work load was like at the time.

I currently live pay check to pay check, as do more than 70% of Americans in the US today. Though for the majority of citizens, they live check to check so they can drive a BMW or a Mercedes. I live check to check so I can eat and have a place to live. I've stated myself before that the rich don't stay rich by spending what they have, but the poor do because of that precise action.

No matter how hungry I am, I find that if I'm always just a little bit hungry I'm more alert. Living alone as a single female for the first time in my entire life, I've learned to stay alert. Often that means going to bed hungry. I'm faster to wake up, less lethargic in the mornings, and constantly ready to go in the event of an earthquake or home invasion. Being a little hungry not only helps me to stay alert though, it also aids in my denial of self-pity. The truth of the matter is, while I tell that previous story to myself in order to make myself feel better about it, slowly but surely, little by little, I'm starving myself because I don't have the money to eat sometimes. Other times I over eat because I've not had a filling meal in weeks.

In today's age, the fact that I'm a "boss" with 12 employees working under me and earning a salary that equals what a teacher made back when I was in High School and I'm barely able to survive is ridiculous. But the worst part is that I have two more mouths to feed who depend on me very much to survive. When I am at my weakest moment, when I have nothing left to give, Oliver and Sprite get the last bite within my home. Some people see that as stupid and ridiculous in its own - but when a mother starves so that her child may eat, that's noble and self-sacrificing. Let people (a.k.a. my parents) pass judgment all they want on this action. I don't care to be seen as noble and self-sacrificing. It doesn't matter to me. I made a commitment to these two pets to always take care of them, and I can't let them down. Who else will feed them if I can't? Some would argue that since they're animals they have the survival instinct - throw them out and they'll make it on their own. To them I argue back that these are domesticated animals who have been fed their entire lives, since birth. Try taking a Panda born in captivity and hand fed its whole life and throw it out into the jungle. What do YOU think would happen?

By Monday I was no better than I had been Friday night. Standing up was a chore, and yet I drug myself out to the car and once more drove all the way back to work. I stumbled down the hall toward the office and slumped into my chair once inside. I felt worse than I could ever remember, and my cough had developed a deep rattle to it. I began to spit up blood sometime between Friday and Monday, and that hadn't stopped yet either. In fact, it had gotten worse. My complexion was pale and gray. People around me urged me to go to the doctors, but when I'm living hand to mouth the way I have been for over a year now, a doctors bill is something to FEAR with no insurance. I refused to go. I got worse and worse. Finally, in spite of everything, I left early and went home. I couldn't take it anymore. I knew I wouldn't get paid for those hours, but the more I rested, the more likely it would be that I would be well by the following day.

That's right - you read that right. I don't get paid for 40 hours if I'm not at work for 40 hours, no matter what kind of time I've put in previously. After my many weeks of 50 and 60 hours on average, they held no sway on my being ill. What made it worse was that I ended up having to get the next day covered as well. I could barely move by the time I got home on Monday.

I looked into the mirror and didn't know myself. My eyes were hollow, lifeless, dull spots in my face, dark as coal and surrounded by more luggage than Southwest Airlines baggage claim. My cheek bones protruded more than I had ever seen them before, the gray and ashen color to my face accentuating them into the look of a rotting corpse. My lips were pale and chapped, splitting and bleeding with every little move. I looked like death itself. I looked like I was inches away from that first handful of dirt being dropped on my coffin. I needed to go to the doctor.

I was scared to the point of tears. Hot, salty, feverish tears stung my cracked and bleeding lips as I thought about having to go. It wasn't the doctor I feared. It wasn't needles or shots or medicines that scared me. Here I posted the other day about being afraid of having people forget I ever existed - I got a harsh lesson just after writing that. There was something else I feared even more.

I would either end up being hospitalized with thousands upon thousands of doctors bills wracked up, once more destroying my credit the way it did when I was 20 years old and had a cyst, or I would go to the doctors and pay hundreds upon hundreds to get well and not be able to pay my rent.

Though the one sounded less evil than the other, please keep in mind that I wasn't well and therefore wasn't thinking clearly at the moment. All I kept saying to myself was that I couldn't go to the doctor because I wouldn't have a home. If I can't pay my rent, I won't have a place to go back to. I would end up living with two cats in a two-seater convertible in over 100 degree weather. That just wasn't an option.

I have no more sick days at work. My paycheck will already be short by two and a half days out of a total of 5, and that will be on the check that goes towards my rent on November 1st. I've also spent the rent money due on Friday, on going to the Doctors.

Diagnosis - PNEUMONIA.

The fact that I'm working this hard and trying my absolute best to do everything I can for my company and for the place in which I work seems to hold little to no sway with doctors. They could care less about how hard a person works or what kind of money they earn, as long as they get their share from you in the end. According to the State of California, I make 'too much money' to qualify for any free services, including free clinics or medications.

I couldn't afford to have yet ANOTHER day away from work, shorting myself on even more funds that I will be desperately needing. I went to the doctor yesterday, and today I went to work like I'm fine, though it's obvious I'm not. I'm still coughing, though it's not blood anymore. I'm still sick, though it's not contagious. I have a headache and my eyes are sunken in still, but not like they were. Makeup can cover most of that. I have medications now that I can't afford to pay for. I'm still sore and I'm hurting, but in the end, what difference is there between sitting at home like this and sitting at work in the same condition?

I'll tell you the difference there. My office at work is Air Conditioned. My home, my car, nothing else of mine has air. I suffered through this entire California summer (thank goodness it's been a mild one up until recently) without air of any kind in 90 and 100 degree temperatures, in a small apartment on the up stairs level with a black roof and only one window with no air conditioner. This entire time I've been at home sick, the cats have been sluggish, barely moving and shuffling from the coolest spot on the floor to the next, when their body heats it up too much. They pant, they drink more water than I've ever seen them drink, and they refuse to move.

If only for the air, I'm glad to have been back to work today. I can't wait for the fall weather to come. I feel bad for the cats.

I am a selfish fool

To be misunderstood by those I love and those I would hope love me in return must be my greatest fear.

I've talked in the past of being afraid of glass elevators. When asked if I was afraid for my life shortly after an assault with a deadly weapon, my answer was "I'm not afraid of much of anything, Sir" and I meant it to the core of my being. I had known that I was in danger, and I knew for the briefest of moments that it could kill me, but fear never entered my mind.

I fear being misunderstood, and in that fear I strive to explain myself to the world to the best of my abilities through my constant ramblings for all to read. Yet, somehow I fail even at that. It doesn't serve to help others to understand me - only to be more confused by me. Those I love are those who are the most confused.

Tonight as I write this, I know that the one person in the world I wish to read it will in the end be denied of that by their own hand.

I've lived through pain and fear. I've had a life that was at times very easy, and at others, anything but. I've lost so much through my travels, and yet I've always maintained my pride and dignity. I refuse to allow anyone to make me into a joke, and I've fought against that my entire life. I've fought against fear, pain and heartache. The time has come when I can no longer fight.

I'm tired. I can not continue to argue a case that in my mind is so clear, when to others it remains as the sea after a storm.

I've rambled, I've shared and I've washed my sorrows into every piece of writing I've shared throughout the last several years, and yet even when I try still harder to be understood, I fail. I am but a hollow shell of what I thought I would accomplish in taking on the task of this project. Not only have I not managed to help others to understand who I am and have been, but I've failed to find who I am meant to be.

None of us know what the future may hold. It's a dark, empty cave that we can either fill with light, or hide within its depths. My art has failed me. My life has failed me. My writing has failed me. I have failed me.

Of all the things on this Earth I would ask for, there is only one thing that comes to mind when asked. All I could ever ask for, all I've ever wanted, was to be remembered and loved.

This blog, this project I have taken on, has been a selfish endeavor of my wanting desperately to be remembered, to hope beyond hope to be loved.

I will not stop this project until I have reached my goal of creating the full 365 stories I've set out to write within a years time, only because I committed myself to doing it. Once this project is done, may I set down my pen and never touch it for a single word from my heart again.





The Dance

When I first moved to Utah, I didnt have many friends. I was very lonely, actually. I remember my parents thinking it would be good for me to go to the school dance only days after I started attending T.H. Bell. I really didnt want to go, since I knew I would be going alone but they had spent a lot of money on the dress I wore to my 6th grade graduation in California, and I knew I wouldnt get too many other chances to wear it. So, I donned the party dress and climbed into the back of my moms car. I remember looking down at my shoes on the way to the dance and paying close attention the grain of the fabric on the satin slippers. My dress was the color of the Caribbean, a pale blue gown with lace covering it from neck to knees. I loved that dress. It was the first elegant dress I'd ever owned. I felt like a princess in it.

We got to the school before the dance was to start, so I was one of the first people inside. Im usually always early for things, this night was to be no exception. I found a seat over near the door and fashioned myself as ladylike as possible on the metal surface. I felt the cold bite at me through the thin dress. Again, I began to look at my shoes, noticing exactly in what direction the patters were going.

People started filing into the gym. The seats around the edge of the floor didnt fill, however. Instead, everyone seemed to be forming into collective groups and milling about in big clusters on the floor. It began to sink in these kids had always grown up together. They werent military brats like me. They hadnt turned moving into a hobby. They had always grown up here. The people talking out there had probably known one another their entire lives, or close to it. I crossed my hands in my lap and stiffened my back.

Most of the night I could have been found there on that metal chair. Im not sure what I was waiting for, other than the end of the night so my mother could come pick me up. Still, there I sat, quiet and lonely, watching everyone having a good time. I fidgeted with the turquoise flower ring on my hand, twisting it round and round my finger. When I looked back up at the party, there was a boy standing in front of me. At first, I thought I might be in his way. Why else would he be standing in front of me and looking what seemed like directly at me?

"My friend wants to dance with you."

"Huh?" I stared back at him, dumbfounded.

"My friend wants to dance with you. Will you dance with him?"

"Uuuhhhhh, sure!"

I got to my feet, and in the most ladylike manor I could manage, I walked up to the young blonde boy who wanted to dance with me and tried to introduce myself to him. All that came out was another uuuuhhhh

The blonde boy put his hands on either side of my waist, and I gingerly put my own hands on each of his shoulders. We danced for a bit before either of us spoke.

"Whats your name?"

"Amanda. You?"

"Jesse."

That was about the extent of our dialogue at the moment. After the song ended, I floated back to my seat. The dance was over. I turned to find Jesse to ask what classes he had and if we could maybe talk sometime while in school. He was already gone.

I asked around the school for him for months before finally finding out his last name. It took another month to find out he was a year older than myself in school. Yet another month later, I was told by a new friend I had just made that Jesse went to another school all together! I was devastated.

It was less than a month after that when I was standing face to face with Jesse in the halls at school.

"Hi." I started.

"Hi."

"Ummm I wanted to say thank you."

"For what?"

"For dancing with me." I smiled my biggest, most proud smile I could, showing every one of my very crooked teeth.

"Um, sure."

"Whats your last name?"

"Vaughn."

"Oh. Ok. See you around."

That was it. That was about the whole conversation we had that day. That conversation led me to reach out and find Jesse again once I reached High School. I did find him, and a wonderful relationship blossomed. We were very close for a long time. We would skip school together with other friends and just hang out for entire days. One of my fondest memories was the time we all piled into a car and flipped a coin to decide which roads to take, right or left; heads or tails. We would even go bowling with our friends sometimes. It never failed, we always had a good time.

Eventually Jesse ended up taking me to Jr. Prom with him when I was only a Sophomore (squishmore, as my brother would say) I wish I still had the picture my mother took of me in my white dress before the dance - unfortunately it was in my scrap book, in the Uhaul. I also cary with me a fond memory of going with him, Dustin, and Shannonn to Marie Calendars, where none of us would touch the peel-and-eat shrimp out of embarrassment. I never told Jesse that it was my most favorite food in the world! I just didnt want to be messy in front of him. To this day I cant eat peel-and-eat shrimp without thinking about Jesse.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jesse, you've been a dear friend to me all these years. I won't begin to pretend that I deserve your friendship, but I will always be grateful for it. I know you've read this story before, but what could be more fitting than to share this on the anniversary of your birth?

Happy Birthday, Jesse.



Riding Lessons

There were days I used to sit out in the middle of the field, watching the horses graze around me. Sometimes one of them would get an urge and take off across the lawn with their heads high, tails flagged out behind them. It was the most beautiful sight I've ever seen. I would sit in awe of those majestic creatures. Once in a great while, during my time on that glorious Horse Farm, some amazing animal would bring a solitary tear to my eye.

I got the job at the farm all those years ago by lying. I think they knew I lied about it too, but they could see in my eyes how badly I wanted to work at Cadron Creek Arabians. I'd always had a passion for horses, since my toddler days playing with My Little Pony toys, all the way through my teen years when I kept all but the first Pony I ever had, Windy.

Mom grew up with horses. I heard stories of them my whole life. I grew obsessed with their grace and beauty, their size and stamina. When my friends and I played games together where we had to be a wild creature, I always wanted to be the horse. Louise and Kathy told me I couldn't though, because horses weren't wild. Try as I might, I couldn't convince them that Mustangs still existed in Arizona and Nevada. They just wouldn't listen.


I read books like "Misty of Chincoteague" and "Stormy" and all the Black Stallion series. My favorite book in that series was "Black Stallion and Flame" and had it up until the uhaul was stolen. It's the one of the series with the least human interaction. It's basically all about the horses. I couldn't bring myself to read Black Beauty more than once, because of the hardships the poor thing had to endure. My most favorite book in childhood was by Bill Wallace, called "Beauty", plain and simple. I never cried harder at a book, and that includes "Where the Red Fern Grows" or even "Old Yeller", two of the best 'tissue box' stories known to man. I must have read "Beauty" at least a hundred times.

Mom had a friend out on her mail route when I was a teen named Jerry. He was a kind gentleman who had two horses, Bo and Jack. Somehow they got on the subject of horses one day and my mother mentioned how much I loved them and had only ever been on a horse once in my life, not including every pony on every pony ride at every fair I had ever been to. That kind man, without even knowing me, invited me to go riding.

Bo was a Quarter Horse. Most people don't know where the name comes from. I myself thought it meant they were a quarter of some important breed and everything else was so mixed up that all the other portions were less than a quarter of what they were. I remember how Jerry laughed at me when I told him that. It turned out a Quarter Horse got it's name because if they are allowed to run, to REALLY run, they will hit their stride and go as hard and as fast as they can go for a quarter of a mile. I never forgot that.

Jack was a half Clydesdale, half Quarter Horse - which meant not only was he fast, but he was HUGE. Jack was much older than Bo, so Jerry figured he was an easier ride for me. Bo was only two years old and still had a lot of 'vinegar' in him, Jerry said. He was a spirited animal, and at times even Jerry had a hard time handling him. As I approached the two horses, I started to realize just how big they were. I was immediately intimidated. Jerry was the man I can accredit with my ability to bluff - to put on a brave face when I'm afraid of what it is I'm walking into. He told me the horses could tell if I was afraid and it would make them afraid, so I had to pretend. I got really good at it over the years.


When Jerry boosted me up into Jack's saddle, my legs poked out on either side like antennas on a roof top. His belly was as round and hard as a barrel - but I was overjoyed. I couldn't help but to reach over and pet the gorgeous creature, feeling the heat and moisture from sweat under the base of his mane. His caramel body and white stockings looked even more graceful from this new vantage point.

Jerry threw his leg over Bo and the two of us rode through the pasture, Jerry telling me and showing me how to handle the horse. After a couple of times going over for riding lessons, Jerry had me ride the barrel course. By the end of that day I couldn't believe what he was telling my mother in the other room as I washed up.

"She's got some talent, Beth. She rode those barrels today like she was born to do it. I bet if she did it enough she could compete in next year's rodeo." Mom didn't believe that though. I could see it in her face.

Eventually Jerry had us go out of the pasture in the back. He lead the way across the street towards the field on the other side. Jerry and I rode side by side as people driving past watched us go. My head was held as high as a show horse. People were watching ME ride a horse. Without warning, both horses lurched into the air.

We soared for what felt like ages, but looking back on it now it couldn't have even been a full second. The landing on the other side of the gutter ditch nearly jarred me loose, but I held on to Jack's huge neck and good old Jack did exactly what Jerry had expected him to do - stop dead in his tracks. As soon as the reigns slipped from my fingers, that was Jack's cue to hold his position and wait for his rider to give a command. It was as if someone had installed breaks on the old boy. Jack was a great horse.

Bo was stark black with a white blaze and three white stockings. He had an unusual habit of eating apricots in a most unusual way. He would pick them straight from the tree when they grew out far enough for him to reach. Then he would swish them around in his mouth a moment or two before finally spitting the pit out of the corner of his mouth like an old man with chewing tobacco, and chomp down on the apricot until he was satisfied he had chewed it enough. Then he would swallow with what almost looked like a smile and reach for another. Mom and I would laugh forever of his apricot antics.

Jerry had enough confidence in my skills as a 'natural born rider' as he liked to call me that eventually he let me ride Bo. He taught me how to saddle the horses and I got so good at it I could saddle my horse faster than Jerry could. Then I'd reach over and help him buckle the girth strap. He wasn't as young as he once was. Bending over was hard on his back, he said. I wish he had told me what was really going on - but he didn't want to worry me at all. He loved me every bit as much as I had grown to love him. He was the Grandfather or Uncle I never got a chance to grow up around. I adored Jerry.

I would take Bo around the barrels once or twice and have a great time. Sometimes Jerry would get tired, or he'd start coughing a bit and have to go inside. He always kept handkerchiefs in his pocket, just like a true gentleman from one of my old movies. I always loved that about Jerry. Even when he was filthy dirty from riding all day in the dirt of the field, he had a clean white lined handkerchief in his pocket. There came a day I noticed it wasn't so dazzling white though. I saw a spot of red on it.

"Jerry, you bleeding?"

"I'm ok, Honey. You go on ahead and ride Bo a bit longer. I think Jack and I are just too old for staying out all day long. We need a rest. I'll come back out to check on you in a bit." Then, to cover the question I had asked, he complained about a tooth he knew had been wanting to come out for a while, that it was his gums bleeding a bit.

I got daring with Bo one day. I had always been curious about the Quarter Horse name. I wanted to know how fast the beauty could run - so I let him have his head.

I was riding through the field on my way back to the barrels when I got the bright idea. I figured the field was about a quarter of a mile long, surely long enough to let Bo feel his legs a bit. I loosened my grip on the reigns and kicked him. He started, but held back. It was as though he was in disbelief. Nobody had given him permission to run in so long that he wasn't sure what to do with it. I kicked him again, and that was all it took.

Bo took off with fire. He bolted, his first few strides surging under me like the joints attaching the wheels of a freight train. His back legs coiled while his front sprang forth. In an easy three strides, he was already going faster than I had ever seen him go.

His mane whipped me in the face. It stung, but I felt alive. I didn't feel the pain of it, I felt the force and power behind every movement he made. I felt myself stand up a little in the stirrups and lean in towards his neck. The wind whipped my eyes and brought tears streaming past my temples. I squinted hard, trying to see where we were going and not wanting to pull back on Bo's reigns even an ounce. We bounded and rocketed towards the far end of the field - and when I squinted enough I realized the far end of the field wasn't actually that far away.

Desperately I grabbed at the reigns and began to pull Bo to the left and tried to slow him a bit. Bo wouldn't hear of it though, he kept right on going. He hadn't been allowed to run for so long, he wasn't about to be told he couldn't then. He barreled straight toward the fence on the far end and somewhere in the distance I heard a scream. I think to this day it was me.

Bo turned within inches of the fence it seemed, my body nearly flying off at such high speeds and flying over the top of the railing. Some miracle kept me hanging on though, and we kept barreling through the field.

By the time I got Bo back under control we had gone all the way back down the length of the field again, right back to where we had started from. Jerry was outside watching me - perhaps he had heard me scream.

It's not like in the Black Stallion though - people don't see that love as something they can't control, but rather something dangerous and deadly. In the end I wasn't holding a piece of the Black Stallion's mane in my hand, the world praising me for a wonderful ride and winning the international horse races, but rather with me being scolded the whole way home by my mother for doing what I had done and taking Bo to top speed when he and I were both so new to riding.

Jerry died of cancer a few years later. In order to pay for his hospital bills along that scary, long road of fighting the inevitable, Jerry had to sell his home, his saddles, and yes, even Jack and Bo. I never saw any of them again after that fateful ride I took on that black stallion Jerry called Bo. I wasn't told Jerry had died until after the funeral. I cried like a baby.

I didn't cry because he sold Jack and Bo, because I knew Jerry enough to know he wouldn't let them go to just anybody. They had good homes. I cried because the one person in the world I felt understood me and the life long passion I had for horses didn't have that in return during his final days. I would have given anything in the world to be there for Jerry, especially when he sold his boys. I knew better than anyone how much he loved those horses - they weren't animals to him. They were family. I just hope he knew that I was his family too.




I've cried tonight telling this story. I never properly grieved over Jerry. It's been more than a decade and a half now, and every time I see a horse run with it's head held high, it's tail flagging behind it, I still think of Jerry. I can't help it. Jerry was a good man.



Faint First, Dance Later

Mom even thought me a new dress for the dance - it was the first dance I had ever been asked to attend with a boy. We were still living in Victorville, so I couldn't have been much older than about 10 or 11, still a string bean, a tom boy, a bully and a rough neck. I wanted to be pretty though, I always had wanted to be pretty. Instead, I was teased for having too many freckles, a stick figure, being as skinny as a May pole, having buck teeth and a nose more sloped than a ski resorts best run. I was known for dressing like a Nun, with high neck lines, nothing above the knee and Saddle Oxford shoes instead of actual dress shoes. Mom had finally gotten me some REAL dress shoes for this dance.

I stood there in the bathroom. I had been so excited all day. Tommy down the street had asked me to go to the dance with him the day before and I couldn't wait to get ready. Mom had all of her curlers out, and just this one time, even brought out her makeup kit. Other than playing dress up with Tina, I wasn't allowed to wear make up for anything.

The curlers were wound up in my hair, the heat warming my scalp more than what I was ever accustomed to. She was applying blue eye shadow to my lids in that 1980's style, though it must have been 1991 by then, surely. She even gave me a tiny smudge of brown eye liner across the top lid lash line. Then a little hot pink blush, light pink lip stick, and I was a pint size Madonna in hair rollers and a bath robe.

Mom started taking the curlers out of my hair one by one. With each one she lifted, I started to feel a strange sensation taking over me. My legs grew heavy and my eye lids seemed to match the weight increase. I wobbled and grabbed the sink in front of me to steady myself. Mom didn't notice. She continued pulling rollers out.

My eyes crossed and went out of focus for a second. Still I stood there, gripping the sink. Suddenly I grew severely hot to the point of sweating. I let go of the sink with one hand to wipe the sweat from my brow and swayed again.

"Manda, are you ok?" Mom asked me.

"Yeah," I lied. "I just need to sit down."

She had me sit on the lid of the toilet as she continued to pull the rollers out of my mousy gray and radiant red mixture hair. The waves bounced and swayed around my shoulders and I ran my fingers gently over them in awe. I always wanted pretty hair. Long, wavy hair like the hair of Veronica Lake always seemed to catch my eye. I called it "Princess Hair" because all the princesses in fairy tales had hair like that, even Rapunzel. Her's was just longer than the rest.

Mom spritzed the latest wave with hair spray and started on another roller. As she began to pull it out of my long locks, my head began to roll with her motions. My eyes crossed, I lost complete focus, and I slumped over on the toilet.

I don't think I passed out, but I'm not sure exactly how I got into my Mom's bed. I was wearing a night gown and was tucked in, my luxurious waves framing my face like a prematurely gray Sleeping Beauty. All that time and effort on my hair had gone to waste.

"Mom, can I still go to the dance?" Mom laughed a little.

"No, Honey - you almost fainted. You're sick. You've got a fever. You need to stay in bed."

"But Tommy's expecting me!" I wailed. I couldn't stand up my first dance date ever! All the girls at school said it was bad Karma to do something like that and any girl who ever did wouldn't ever have a happy school dance ever again. I also really liked Tommy. I didn't want to hurt his feelings. I started to cry a little, the blue eye shadow rubbing off onto my mothers pillow case.

The doorbell rang and Mom when down to see who it could be. I heard voices talking, and when she returned she had a huge smile on her face.

"Manda, that was Tommy's dad. Tommy has a really nasty migrane headache and cant make it to the dance tonight."

"Really?"

"Really."

I snuggled deep into the pillow and let the fever take my body into a deep sleep. The curse wouldn't affect me if Tommy was ill too, I thought. I won't have bad Karma after all.

That's what I thought.

Snowy



Once more, this is an absolutely 100% true story, though it sounds like something only found in story books. This is about my love for a strange dog I knew but once upon a time.



My Great Dane and I wandered through the desert one day when suddenly she paused in the middle of a jaunty stride. Her ears perked up and she stood at full alert, sniffing the air. Deep in her throat she let out a warning growl. I could read her growls very well. It wasn't a "look out, you're in danger" kind of growl, but more of a "caution, there's something over there and I cant figure it out yet" growl.

Two kids came running up from behind me carrying large rocks and clods of dirt. They hurled them through the air and I watched as the rock bounced harmlessly off of the ground and rolled under a sage brush. The dirt clod hit near the rock and exploded, showering everything within 10 feet with dirt. Something suddenly moved.

A large cloud white dog took off in the opposite direction. Due to a slope in the ground I hadn't been able to see it laying down. The fur made the dog looks massive, probably far more massive than it actually was. Lady took a step forward and I held fast to her leash. She was always very well trained, and when she felt the tense grip I had on her, she angled her body slightly to stand between me and the fleeing dog.

I was intrigued.

"How long has that dog been out here," I asked Matthew, who turned out to be the kid that threw the dirt clod.

"Oh I've been seeing him for weeks," Matthew explained bitterly. "He keeps coming up to the house and eating all the cat's food."

"Oh no! Is your cat ok?"

"Yeah, the stupid dog and cat sleep together now. Whiskers just sits there and LETS him eat all the food."

What could be so bad about a dog that didn't hate cats? This dog, living out in the wild, had broken the boundaries in the unwritten Animal Kingdom and bedded down with its ancient mortal enemy. Yet these kids threw rocks at him.

"Why did you chase him away then," I asked, puzzled.

"'Cause Mom says he's got diseases and he's wild. She said if he bites us he'll give us rabies."

Appalled at the way the creature had been treated, I decided then and there to do something about it. That very second I turned around and marched straight back home with Lady. I put her back in the patio and grabbed a hand full of dog food. Then I marched straight back out to where I had seen the large white hair ball and let the food trickle slowly through my fingers onto the ground there. I made sure to touch as much of it as I could, leaving my scent on the pieces of food.

I waited for hours, sitting at least 75 yards from the spot I had last seen the mystery dog, but it didn't return.

The next day I went back to the same spot and the food was gone. Matthew reported that the dog had come to the house and curled up with Whiskers again, but the cat food wasn't gone like it usually was. I didn't tell him what I had done. I went home, grabbed another hand full of food and went back. I did the same thing again, touching each piece as much as possible as it slipped through my fingers, and then waited about 75 yards away.

I was about to give up when I saw the white head pop up over a hill in the distance. He sniffed the air and began to wander closer. Slowly he inched his way along the hills. Suddenly he froze. His ears perked up and he sniffed in my direction. The food was between us, though. The food was enough to keep the snow white dog moving. As he got closer, he became obviously more afraid. About 10 yards from the food, he got down on his belly and crawled to the food, ready to bolt like lightening if needed.

I had my legs crossed and one slipped. My foot hit the dirt and the dog was gone before I saw which direction it ran off in. I knew he wouldn't be coming back that night, so finally I went home.

The third day I got more dog food and walked back to the same place. Off in the distance I saw the snow white animal watching me. I put the food on the ground and went back to my usual spot. Slowly, ever slowly, at a snails pace the dog approached the food. He ate every bite with me sitting there, his watchful eye never leaving me for a second. When the food was gone, he ran away.

I got into a stick sword fight the next day and was grounded for punching Matthew in the face, so I couldn't feed the mystery dog that night. The following night when I went back with the food, there stood the snow white dog sniffing the ground as though expecting me at any moment. He backed off about 50 yards when he saw me approaching and stood there in wait. I put the food on the ground and walked away, not as far as usual. Slowly, with that ever watchful eye, the dog made his way back over to the food.

His brilliant, blazing blue eyes pierced right through me as he ate. He looked like one of the dogs from the movie White Fang, like a snow dog. Other than his blue eyes, he would have been lost in a snow bank though. I smiled to myself. He was so snowy white.

This time when the snowy dog finished eating he headed towards Matthews house instead of back out into the desert. As he approached, I saw a sight I've never again seen. A small black cat began jogging out into the desert to meet the snow dog half way. The two then walked side by side to Matthews back yard where they curled up behind the wood shed for the night.

I continued this pattern every day, gaining more and more trust from the dog as I went. Finally I was able to pet Snowy while he ate, but never for long. Eventually, after months of working with him, he would curl up with his one butt cheek on my leg like he was trying to sit on my lap, or he would lay next to me and put the top portion of his body over my legs. He got used to smelling my Great Dane on me, and she got used to his scent too. Eventually I began taking her out to play with this Snowy dog, not realizing how dangerous that could be if he didn't have all of his shots.


Snowy and I grew close. We bonded over that time until finally he would let me inspect his body beneath his fur. His skin was riddled with scars, some deep and red still, others healed over with severe puckers and folds. A portion of his nose had been ripped clean off, one of his ears had been pierced multiple times, and two toes on his back right foot were missing. One long scar looked like someone had split his scull open with a baseball bat. The dog had obviously been abused.

I would spend hours out in the desert with Snowy. He would be every bit as protective of me as Lady was. He warned me of danger, chased off the rattle snakes and trusted me with his life. I repaid him by not being around the day the Dog Catcher set out traps specifically to catch Snowy.

When I heard him cry out, there was no doubt in my mind what voice it came from. I ran in the direction I heard it coming from and found a large dog trap on a hill behind my house. Poor Snowy had been caught, snared when he went inside to collect a steak bone someone had left within it. It took me 20 minutes, but I finally got it open. Snowy took off into the desert and I didn't see him for another week. When I did finally see him again, I thought it would be the last time ever.

I heard that familiar cry, that anguished scream. I knew where he was and I knew exactly what had happened. My brilliant Snowy had another lapse in judgment and was caught inside another cage. I ran up the hill as fast as my legs could carry me - but stopped short. There was a man from Animal Control, collecting the cage. Snowy was growling horrendously through the bars with his ears flat back against his head, threatening to bite the mans head off if he came any nearer. As soon as Snowy saw me, his ears relaxed and his lip uncurled a bit. The Animal Control guy took a step back and looked at me.

"This your dog, Kid?" I couldn't lie.

"No, but I take care of him."

"This dog's been living out in the desert for 3 years, wild as anything. How is it you say you take care of him?"


"Sir, I've been with Snowy for the past 8 months now." I had brought Snowy a blanket in the winter. I had Rachel and Rona help dig a hole in the desert for him to hide from the wind in the fall. In the spring I built a shelter so he could escape the rains. "He's as much my dog as the ones my parents know about."

"Your parents don't know about this dog?"

"No, they'd never let me keep him."

"Absolutely not! He's a wild beast! See?" He reached toward the cage and Snowy lunged with an open mouth and deep growling bark that echoed off of the hills and houses. His teeth made contact with the cage. Simultaneously, one of Snowy's teeth went flying through the air, the Animal Control guy fell on his butt and the cage door strained, on the verge of popping open. Had he gotten free, I had no doubt Snowy would have done whatever he could to kill the man.

"You're scaring him!" I shrieked at the man.

"Kid, I don't think you know what you're talking about. He's wild! Nobody on this planet could get near him!"

"You're wrong! I can," I said defiantly. I walked straight up to the cage. Snowy's mouth was bleeding from where the tooth had dislodged. With an open mouth the Animal Control man watched me reach my hand into the cage, lift Snowy's now relaxed lip and inspect his gums. "You'll be fine, Snowy. I promise, you'll be ok." Slack jawed, the Animal Control man stared at me a long time.

"You say his name is Snowy," he asked.

"Yeah, and if you're nice to him, he'll be nice to you. He's been hurt before and he doesn't trust people now. He thinks that if you're afraid of him, there is a reason you are, like you're going to do something bad to him. Come over a minute, let Snowy smell your hand." It seemed like such a simple, innocent thing to do now that I look back on it. I had assumed at 10 years old that the Animal Control guy didn't know that he was supposed to let a dog smell his hand. Snowy began to flatten his ears and I spoke softly.

"It's ok Boy, he's not gonna hurt you. I'm right here, I'm not going anywhere." Snowy sniffed through the bars, glanced up at me with his dazzling blue eyes, and licked the strangers hand once.

I said goodbye to Snowy. There was nothing I could do to help him. I prayed he would be good and get adopted from the pound, but I knew that he really was a wild animal. He didn't trust humans anymore. He had good reasons left as permanent marks all over his body. Who would want a dog that was all scared up and didn't trust people - other than me? Snowy would have to be put down.

I bid Snowy a long farewell, wishing like mad I could wrap my arms around his neck just one more time. My eyes welled with tears as the Animal Control vehicle drove away. By the time he was out of sight, I couldn't contain it anymore. I wept.











I would walk through the desert on occasion after that and just think about Snowy for a while. I could almost hear his bark off in the distance, or see his white furry head pop up over the distant hill. I missed that dog, even while walking my own. Whiskers would often wander out into the desert looking for Snowy too. Not long after he disappeared, Whiskers died. They couldn't figure out why or what had happened. I knew what it was, Whiskers died of a broken heart.

I was just coming to the spot I had first seen Snowy a full two years before and thinking about how long it had taken for me to gain his trust when I heard a far off noise. A familiar "Yip! Howl!" sent my back into shivers down my spine. I spun on my heels and squinted. I couldn't see anything at all.

Suddenly, from out of nowhere bounded that familiar white face, leaping with joy and excitement. He was dragging a leash behind him as he flew across the ground, barely touching the dirt as he went. He ran straight to me, jumped from a good 6 feet away and landed right in the middle of my chest. I was instantly knocked back about 3 feet, where I landed safely on my butt, 2 inches from a cactus.

"Snowy!" I cried out. I hugged him hard, holding him as tightly as I could. He licked my face and hands, pushing me down into the dirt and laying on top of me. In the middle of the tongue bath, he froze. His head turned, and I saw what it was he had been running from. A young man and woman were jogging through the desert, searching for their dog - their dog named Jack. They called out the name over and over.

The tag on Snowy's brand new leather collar caught the light just then and I saw the name on it; Jack.

I sat up and took Snowy's leash. He followed like a well trained guard dog, pacing my every step, nearly prancing with excitement.

"Is Snowy your dog now," I asked.

"Jack is ours, yes. He seems to be so well behaved with you," the man explained. "Is he your dog?"

"No, but at one time I was his person."

"Well it looks to me like you still are," he said.

"I took care of Snowy for a while abut a year ago. I didn't think I would ever see him again."

"We adopted Jack from the pound about a year ago, I think. He had scars all over his body and was missing a tooth and some toes."

"Yeah, two toes on the back foot," I said, absentmindedly. I was on my knees petting Snowy. I really thought I'd never see him again.

"Well we have to get him home," the stranger said. Snowy was obviously not afraid of the man, as he reached down to take the leash from my hand. I scratched Snowy another moment or two before kissing him on the nose and saying goodbye properly.

As the family walked away, the stranger turned and asked me something I never expected.

"What did you say his name was?"

"Snowy. I called him Snowy."

"Well, I think Snowy liked seeing you today."

Flaming Gorge

The inner tube was flung out over the wake of our own boat with a wild jerking movement and I went skittering across the surface of the lake. Another boat passed, and suddenly I was caught between two boat wakes. The other wave shoved me back into ours, which launched me forward again, and the next thing I knew I was flying through the air, a trapeze artist without a trapeze.

The inner tube stopped going up at around 6 feet high, but I continued to launch from the forward momentum of my own weight. My mother later estimated I stopped going up at around 9 feet in the air before coming straight down again. The inner tube bounced merrily away as my dad circled the boat back around to come pick me up.

"Wanna go again," he shouted to me.

"Bob," I could see my mother saying to him, "she's got to be exhausted."

"YEAH!!" I wiggled and flopped down into the center of the tube. "But this time, go faster!"

I hadn't had that much fun in the water since I had been white water rafting through the Grand Canyon.


Flaming Gorge was a beautiful place. Several Air Force families had decided to get together for a camping trip that weekend and we put together a caravan of a half dozen tents and a camper. We spent a full day driving there it felt like, and by the time we arrived I was hot and sweaty. I couldn't wait to get in the cool water of the infamous Flaming Gorge.

My family had a boat. Chris Brown's family had jet skis, though I hadn't yet taken my wild ride on the one belonging to my mom's work friend, Dale. With everyone going, and the camp site by the beach reserved, it was bound to be a good trip. Besides that, Chris Brown was cute! His parents were friends with my parents, and just like me he often got drug along on the adventures whether he liked it or not. The difference was that I always loved adventure, especially with my crazy parents.

Dad steered the boat around taking me for another good ride before guiding the boat over towards the docks. He couldn't loose me again, and my neck was starting to hurt from the whiplash I earned on the last loop. I jumped onto the docks to help tie off the boat. We didn't have the boat for too long, but long enough to know what I was doing. I trotted about like a pro.

It was time for the next group to head out with Dad at the wheel. I was starving hungry, so I headed back to the camp ground to see if I could get a bite to eat. Surely someone was roasting hot dogs by then. A few white clouds rolled over the canyon walls as I walked towards the tents and camper.

The Coleman stove was out on the picnic table under an awning and Chris' mother was lighting it. When she saw me coming, she grabbed her towel and started to dash for the boat. She hadn't had a turn yet and really wanted to go. Chris didn't feel like it, so he held back. Secretly I was glad.

There were two other girls at the camp site. One of them had been in the boat with me when I made my daring launch into mid air. When she saw that, she decided instantly there was no way my father was going to get her in the tube. She went ashore when I did, never touching the water even with her littlest toe while on the boat. All three of us had an unspoken challenge to win Chris for ourselves. Girls are devious.

We stood around warming our hands for a bit, hoping the hot dogs would defrost enough to cook them properly over the stove on sticks. They were so frozen solid we couldn't pierce them with the wooden skewers we had. As we stood there waiting, I could hear my fathers boat driving off in the distance, bouncing over waves and making his passengers squeal with delight. A strange shift in the wind came over the camp sight just then.

Clouds from out of nowhere rolled in, blowing hard from the east following a bird in flight with speed and swiftness. A chill took hold of the air, icy hands reaching down from nowhere and cooling our wet bodies to the core. I shivered openly. Everything around us grew dark.

One girl decided to go put on some dry clothes and dashed for her tent. The rest of us ran for the motor-home not far away. We got inside just as the rain began pelting down from above, stinging our bare arms and legs in the last few strides. We huddled inside by the window, waiting for the missing girl to exit her tent.

Lightening struck not far away. Boats all over the lake started to race towards the shore. Suddenly I was worried about my Father. A bolt struck again, this time in the middle of the water down below. The entire canyon lit up like fire. For a brief second we could see the valley of trees and boat docks below us. With another flash of lightening, a large oak split wide open and splashed into the lake. Some of the boat docks ripped loose and began to float away. Signs bent over and young trees splintered like match sticks.

Hail started pummeling down. At first we didn't know what it was, but the noise on the top of the camper was deafening. We had to shout to be heard. Lightening cracked all around and sparked off of the lake like fireworks on Independence Day. Snap after snap they resounded, echoing off of the canyon walls. The sky grew darker by the second except where the lightening would provide a brief glimpse of the Hell growing up around us.


"Where's Cassidy," one of the adults asked. An unusually loud "crash!" tore open the side window on the camper and we all screamed. A chunk of ice the size of a tennis ball bounced away and landed on the ground not far away. We peeked around the corner towards the tent the missing girl had run toward. The tent had all but collapsed, barely standing on one side still. It was obvious by the pressure being exerted on one side that the girl was still inside. "Someone needs to go get her!"


I grabbed a towel and threw it over my shoulders. I was still wearing a swimming suit and a pair of shorts, my feet were bare. Chris handed me his flip flops and I slid into them. Then one of the adults opened the door and I took off through the storm at a mad dash for the tent.

"Cassidy," I screamed on my way, "open the tent, I'm coming in!" The front flap unzipped and I dove inside the tent. "We have to get you out of here," I said to her.

"But I can't! I'm scared!" Cassidy was obviously a few years younger than I was but stood easily a good 6 inches taller than me. I threw the towel over her head, grabbed her arm, and yanked with all my might. She tumbled out of the tent in a heap, my pulling on her arm the entire time. She gasped at the size of the hail, now falling all around us in chunks big enough to kill a grown man. With urgency, we dashed back to the camper and I shoved her inside by her butt. She scrambled to get out of the way - I was coming in right behind her. I leaped over her and the door slammed shut behind us. Large purple bruises remained on my arms for weeks after that. Cassidy and I both had welts on our heads from the hail bouncing off of the towel with such force it nearly caused us both to end up with concussions.

We waited out the storm and once we were convinced it had gone past, we emerged into brilliant, blinding sunshine. The boats still on the water docked for the day, including my family. Dad was fine, the lightening had hit within mere feet of them though and his ears were hurting pretty badly. Chris' mother threw up on the boat from the churning and rocking, but nobody was able to get out of the boat safely during the storm.

We tried to start the Coleman stove again, since the wind had blown it out even under the tarp. The tarp itself had blown loose, and while the adults tried to tie it all back together, Chris and I undertook the project of starting the Coleman. Cassidy huddled inside the camper, watching us from a distance. The ground was covered in balls of ice, from pea sized to soft ball sized. All of us had to be careful where we stepped so that we didn't roll right off our feet. Finally Cassidy ventured out.

The wind was still picking up in tiny gusts. The tarp wasn't easy for the adults to tie over our heads. Cassidy was having a hard time pulling the chunks of ice off of her tent, which had completely collapsed. When she finally did, setting it back up took the help of two more kids and another adult. The wind pulled my hair in front of my eyes.

Chris lit a match and sheltered it with his hand. The wind immediately blew it out. He lit another, and again the air had other ideas. He lit a third and I watched as the flame wavered to the right and finally snuffed. Smoke plumed upward. It was obvious Chris was getting frustrated. He lit yet another match and I tried to help shelter it from the wind. As we stood there trying to keep it burning, I watched the flame dance and lick at the atmosphere around us. The air was heavy with moisture. The clouds billowed and blew and the sun was slowly slipping away once more. This time as the match blew out, I watched closely.

"Chris, we have to get back inside."

"What? Why?"

"The wind is blowing the other way."

"What?"

"The storm is coming back."

At hearing that, every head turned to look at me. Could it be that I was right? Fear showed in their eyes, but I began jogging over to the camper. I grabbed Cassidy by the arm and urged her to go with me. We jumped inside just as the rain started pelting the rest of our group. It side swiped and whipped around at them, blowing across the field in the exact opposite direction from which it had fallen before. The dents and dings all over the camper began to bounce pea sized hail out of their curves and I watched as they flew sporadically off into nothing.

Lighting flashed on the lake again. A couple of screams sounded from a camp site near by. Everyone from the group began running for the camper again and I stood back with the door open. The last one in was Chris.

"How did you know it was coming back," one of the adults asked me.

"Because the fire blew out."

"What?" I was getting tired of the 'w' questions.

"When we lit the match, the flame blew out the wrong direction."

The storm went on for several more minutes before finally clearing much the way it did before. I poked my head out of the camper and, like a mystic telling a fortune, I openly and boldly predicted the storm would not return that day. I grabbed the matches from Chris and went to light the Coleman stove. The wind died, the sun emerged and the water calmed on the lake. What remained was the most beautiful Utah sunset I had ever seen.


That night after the adults had climbed into their sleeping bags, us kids remained by the camp fire roasting marshmallows and talking about the day's events. Chris chose the lawn chair closest to me. When we all grew tired of eating the sticky treats and licking our fingers clean, our gaze wandered to the stars.

We talked about the constellations for a while. Orion was always the easiest to spot. But around Orion, and indeed all throughout his body, were stars I had never seen before in my life. They were beautiful, like little tiny diamond chips catching light in just the right way. They lit up the blanket above us, millions upon millions of little white dots looking down on us from somewhere out in the vast universe.

It has been a strange day when all was said and done. One moment I had been flying through the air, and another yet I was running from hail stones nearly the size of my own head. The kids had all banded together during that storm though, completely forgetting our friendly rivalry over wanting to gain the companionship of Chris.


As I pointed out Cassiopeia in the sky above, Chris reached over and took my hand. We sat there in silence for a long time that night. I couldn't help but notice the looks on the other girls faces. It wasn't often I won anything as a kid.


Creative Writing

Chapter 1

He sat out on his patio, looking out into the stars. He had come so far in his life. There was so much he had done to get to where he was. He’s loved and lost so many on the road to finding himself. “It was worth the struggle,” he thought to himself. It was worth the time he spent alone. It was worth every tear he shed over the loss, gain, and changes he’d endured. Now he was ready for a quiet life. He’d faced his demons, he fought them down. He was the victor of the struggle against the evil inside.

He was different. He knew this. He always had been. Some people understood him, while others didn’t. He once knew a woman who understood him better than anyone, but because of his stubborn pride and wounded heart, he turned her away. She would have loved him for the rest of his life, and though he knows it now, he didn’t want to admit it then.

She was enchanting! Maggie was like something straight from one of the classic films. She was beautiful and charming with grace and class far beyond that of most modern women. In fact, more than once she paid her bills by working on an acting or modeling job. Her brilliant, long chestnut hair was a sharp contrast to her vivid light blue eyes, lively and wild. Her lips were constantly in a perfect pucker, and Oliver remembered kissing them fondly. Maggie had a figure that most women would have to work their whole lives to obtain, though she admitted to having never worked out a day in her life.

She was everything a man could have ever wanted, including him. More than once she had been told that she was the perfect woman. It’s not every day that a man finds a woman with such class and grace who can also enjoy the fine qualities of a good Single Malt Scotch and a fine cigar on Poker night with the boys. She drove a black convertible sports car, loved the older classics, and adored motorcycles. She was an avid target shooter and played football with the boys. She wore jeans most of the time, but she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen when in a dress and heels.

Oliver thought back fondly to the night she drove out to see him. It was late, he had just gotten in from a long day at work and was ready for a little company. When she walked in, he remembered seeing that long black rain coat and the high heeled black boots standing there in the door way. The light from inside lit up her face. There was a devilish smile in her eyes and he could see that she was up to something mischievous.

“Hi!” he reached in and kissed her. “Umm… Maggie? Do you have anything on under that coat?”

“Well,” she smiled. “Yeah…” she slid it off her shoulders ever so slowly, “But not much.” The coat dropped to the floor revealing a lace corset with thigh high stockings attached with small elastic straps at the bottom of the corset. Maggie looked at him closely, the smile on her own shy face broadening into a deep, wonderful, sweet grin.

His friends all seemed to approve of Maggie when they met her, and one even had the audacity to tell him one night that she thought Maggie was ‘the one’ for him. Yet he held back. He wasn’t sure why.

He was a confirmed bachelor, and he liked it that way. He didn’t want to have to report home to someone, or be expected at a certain time. He wanted to be able to come and go as he pleased, just as he had been doing for so many. He couldn’t do that if he were to commit to anyone. He felt that would be disrespecting her in some way, and he cared about her too much to disrespect her like that. What a silly reason to let such an amazing woman go, he thought to himself.

He remembered the day he let her go. It wasn’t that he told her that he wouldn’t see her again, or that he wasn’t going to call. He just... didn’t.

He sat another moment or two in silence. Finally, he turned and looked over at his window. The lamp was on inside, and he could see the phone on the table next to it. Just beyond that was the foot of the bed, where she would often sit and watch the moon rise over the hill at night. Often he would turn and see her sitting there, watching the sky outside, her chestnut hair falling over her shoulders in thick waves. He would think to himself that she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. She’d always blush when he told her that.

“She’s probably already forgotten about me by now,” he thought quietly. “She was so beautiful. There’s bound to be men knocking down her door trying to take her out.” He hadn’t seen or talked to Maggie in several months now. He missed her. He still thought about her often. He closed his eyes a second and saw the moonlight on her hair and reflecting in her beautiful blue eyes. He did love her. He wasn’t willing to admit to it before, but he had fallen in love with her long ago, back when they first met. His eyes, now moist with fresh tears, flickered open again. He cleared his throat.

His gaze fell back onto the phone by the lamp.

“Maybe it’s not too late.”

The Uahul

"It's gone," he said.

"What's gone?"

"The uHaul," he smiled.

"What? You're kidding, right?" I laughed.

"No, just keep going."

He sounded serious, but he had a way of pulling jokes on me. Oliver sat in my lap as I drove down the two levels of the parking structure and onto the street. I had left his carrier in the back of the jeep, but he usually rode pretty well in my lap.

I drove around the corner and saw the jeep in plain view. The familiar white and orange box on wheels that had been behind it wasn't anywhere to be seen. It was Las Vegas - why would David Blaine pull such a magnificent hoax on a poor girl like me?

On the ground, about where the back of the uHaul had sat, was a broken lock. I told David to call the police, we needed to file a report. I stood there in disbelief as David walked around every corner within a quarter mile, wondering if it would be just around the next corner. It was nowhere. Finally, he called the police department.


Poor Oliver had been sitting in the drivers seat of my car in Las Vegas on June 14th in the middle of the afternoon. He was getting far too hot and had begun panting, a rare thing for a cat. I told David I was going to go park in the shade for a minute while we waited for the police to show up.

I pulled into the secluded space in the back of the structure just across the street. It was shaded and cool, but I could still see where David was. By then the local Security forces came out to talk with him. I sat there in the drivers seat, petting my Oliver, thanking my lucky stars I still had him. I rolled down the window, turned off the car, put Oliver in the passenger seat and crossed my arms over the steering wheel. Without warning, suddenly I burst into screaming sobs, echoing off of the parking structure walls. I threw my forehead onto my arms and shook as I screamed out in agony. Blinded by tears, I screamed with intense pain until I felt like I couldn't breathe anymore. My shoulders slumped and my spirit shattered. I collapsed over the wheel of my car, defeated for the first time in my stubborn life.

It was everything I had ever owned.
Everything but Oliver was gone from my life forever.








Written June 16th of 2009

I stopped in Vegas for the night. It's a long drive from Ogden UT to Los Angeles. We parked the Jeep and trailer where the Security lady told us to. We never gave it a second thought. The next morning, I thought he was kidding when he suddenly smirked and told me in a calm voice "Someone stole the uhaul." I laughed at him and asked "What? You're kidding. Good one."

They took the whole uhaul trailer. I have no clothes, no shoes, nothing. No blanket, no childhood pictures. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing but my cat, my health and my life. There are those times it hurts, but I know i will be fine. Every step i take leads me further down the road to starting over.

All the money I made waitressing is gone. I didn't have a Bank of America near me in Utah, so I just held on to my money. It was in a hidden pouch in one of my handbags inside a box, stuffed under some of my favorite little black dresses. They're gone... all gone... and so is the money.

At times, I cant help but cry. Little things trigger it really, like remembering the clover pill box my grandfather carried in his pocket. When he died, it was the only thing I wanted, and it was exactly what I got. It's gone forever now, lost with the jewelry my mother gave me when my son was born. All the photos I had of him, and even my childhood stuffed animals, pictures and momentos are all gone. I don't have the purple quartz my friend Kathy Vandervoort gave me in the 4th grade. I held on to it for so many years. I'll never see my baby blanket again, or the quilt that my mom's mother made for my birthday one year.

Forget about the Louis Vuitton bags and Prada shades for a while... those things dont matter when you realize everything you ever owned is gone. The things that matter most are the things that meant nothing to anyone but you. I lost multiple thousands of dollars in posessions. I'm left with empty hands and empty pockets, but all I can think of is my grandmothers pink blanket.




Oi!

I've got a great voice. It's no secret that when I speak, people usually snap to attention. I have a command presence to accompany it. When it comes to public speaking, I'm a natural. I always have been. So it's no surprise when I try to get the attention of a dozen or so giggling teenage girls acting silly, they all pay attention in no time.


Rarely do I have to raise my voice at anyone for any reason. Having raised my voice a few times in the past, the people who have ever heard it know not to stand to close to me when I do it for fear of going deaf. One simple word at a louder-than-usual volume and anyone within 100 yards will turn to look. That one word, you may be asking, is "OI!" that's it, plain and simple. I got that from Jodie's mom.


My first day on the job more than two years ago now in the Security industry, my boss was explaining things in detail to me. It happened to be the day I met Chandler, who would later have a great influence over my life in general and inspired the quote I live by, "There are no excuses, there are only solutions."


Rob, my new boss, took me out after my brief encouter with the tap dancing Grizzly bear named Chandler. Kids were everywhere, screaming and throwing things, play fighting, real fighting, making messes and chasing adults away from the shopping center. He was explaining to me how people who worked for him were to handle situations like that when one of the kids flicked a spoon full of ice cream right on his pant leg. It slowly slimed its way free and plopped on the toe of his boot.


"Sit down," he told the kid. "I want you to call your Mom and Dad right now, Young Man. You're going home." I was impressed by Rob until the kid started to talk back.


"You can't tell me what to do. My dad's a lawyer."


"Oh? Well then let me talk to your dad. Go ahead and call him, we'll get it all straightened out."


"No, I'm not giving you his number. You'd just lie to him." The boy dialed a number on his cell phone and talked to his mom on the other end.


Rob noticed another disturbance just around the corner from where we were standing and he started to walk in that direction in order to investigate. As he did, the boy he had told to sit down decided he was going to stand up and talk with his friends again. It was still my first day on the job, so I was almost too nervous to say anything. Instead, I choked down the nervousness and spoke up a little more than I had planned to.


"My boss told you to SIT DOWN!" I barked at the boy.


His eyes grew wide, he leaned back, he bent his knees and he sat down perfectly silently with his hands folded neatly in his lap. Not a peep escaped his mouth the rest of the time I stood there.


Rob turned around and walked towards me. I had a hard time figuring out whos eyes were bigger, Robs or the boys.


"I think you're going to be just fine here," he said to me. He looked around for a minute. Not a single one of the kids were talking. A few of them walked away, a few went into the closest store, and any remaining kids sat down quietly to talk amongst themselves. Rob beamed at me with pride.


"You just Fog Horned them right up!"


The nickname stuck for a while and everyone on the crew called me Fog, or Fog Horn. Nobody dared call me Horn - they knew I'd fog horn their ears for trying.




Diagonally Parked in a Parallel Universe

Freeways scared me.

Cars would go whipping
past, so close I thought they would take my hand off if I hung it out of the window. I don't know when the fear began, but I didn't drive on freeways in years once I finally got my drivers license. I went through 4 cars before finally getting on the freeway, and that
time was completely by accident.

I got my drivers license at 19 years old. I was already married by then. The written test was a cinch, I passed it with flying colors. Even the driving test was easy. I lived in a very small town at the time with a population of 163 people. When I finally moved away from that town they took a can of paint to the old wooden sign, painted over the 3 and replaced it with a 2. Well, it's a joke, but it's almost the truth. To take the driving test, I had to go to the next largest town with a population big enough to have a Sheriff's station and one driving instructor. That town, the biggest one close by, had a population of 6,000 people.

The driving test consisted of very few things. The instructor walked out to my own car with me. I unlocked the doors and took my place in the drivers seat. Backing out of the space was simple, and even putting the car into drive was a cinch. I pulled out from the Sheriff's station (that's where the driving instructor was based out of - it really was a small town) and onto the main street. He had me go to the first stop sign and come to a complete stop. I drove to the next. I drove to the next, and upon his instruction to turn left, turned on my blinker. I drove to the next stop sign, turned another left, drove two more blocks and pulled back into the same space I had backed out of in the first place. He checked me off of his list, walked back inside with me and handed me a slip of paper that simply said "Pass" on it. Then I had to go to the next biggest town with a population of 20,000 people, (and that was huge to me) to get a drivers license from the DMV.

Because of the extent of the driving test and the area where I lived, parallel parking wasn't necessary. I never got tested, and in all honesty there really wasn't anywhere to practice. I didn't learn how to parallel park for many years.

I often make jokes about the reason I own small convertibles is because they are easier to parallel park. Well, I'm willing to admit that this isn't just a joke, it's actually the truth. I can see everything around me if I have the top down on a convertible, and I have an extra 2 feet to work with in a standard parking space for parallel parking that way.

I drove only in those small towns for several years. When I did have to go into the city of Little Rock, the freeways were so empty that I wouldn't fear them. I just drove slowly in the far right lane. People would go flying past me, but I was ok with that. The drive on the freeways were never faster than 55mph, or 60 for the speeders, and I was never on them for very long at all. Everything else was back country roads or stop signs in my small town. The town with a population of 6,000 actually had one traffic light in it.


For my last year and a half in Arkansas I had a lot of very serious health issues and I didn't drive at all. I didn't have a car and R.W. drove me anywhere I needed to go. When I was well and I needed to go somewhere, I would walk or ask R.W. for a ride. By the time I moved to California in December of 2002, I had all but forgotten how to drive.

It was several months before I got a car once finally in California. When I did, it was a 1965 Mustang, cherry red. Oh, how I loved that car!! I would drive it everywhere. The clutch was so tight that hardly anyone else on the face of the earth could figure it out. It was a 3 speed stick shift, roared with the voice of a lion and turned heads everywhere I went. I took a plush gray blanket to lay over the black back seat, topped it with a couple of Mustang printed pillows and turned it into a show piece in the inside.

I drove all over the place in that car, but hardly dared go more than 10 miles from home for fear of loosing my way home. I couldn't parallel park the thing because it was too long, so I would sometimes have to drive for blocks to find a spot. Once or twice I was able to parallel park without backing up and driving forward a minimum of 20 times, and I was so proud of myself!

I had a friend that lived in Long Beach for a while, and one night I decided to drive over for a short visit. I took surface streets anytime I went over. The Los Angeles freeways still scared the daylights out of me. People would fly along at over 100 mph and get mad at anyone doing the speed limit. I had never driven on a Los Angeles freeway yet and didn't plan to, ever. I knew someday I would have to tackle the challenge, but I really didn't want to face the reality.

On my way home from my friends house that night, the street I was driving on was shut down for a shooting. A detour had been set up, and as I made the right hand turn I panicked. What if I couldn't find my way home? I drove the way I was guided to by the signs, hoping they would lead me back to the main road I had been on. Suddenly another reason to panic set in. I saw a sign that informed me I was entering the onramp for the 405 Freeway. At that point, it was too late. I didn't have a choice.

I goosed my poor little Mustang to get it up to speed, and just as I entered the slow lane a car came whipping out around me on the left, swerving wildly. They blared their horn at me, flipped me off and flew on past. My knuckles were white from my grip. Another car swerved and blared at me. Yet another car drove directly around me and slammed on their brakes right in front of me. I had to swerve to avoid hitting them, which caused yet another car to swerve around me.

Somehow in that storm of headlights and white knuckles, I survived the freeway and exited miles away from where I wanted to be. After another hour and a half more than originally estimated, I found my way to familiar streets and found my way home.I suddenly found myself in the center lane of the freeway, terrified out of my mind in the pitch black of night with cars going twice my own speed on either side of me. Headlights zoomed all over the road, this way and that, coming so close to my bumper on occasion that I braced for impact. I saw a freeway exit and floored the gas. I got over as quickly as I could, and just about the time I was going to exit, a car suddenly cut me off, causing me to swerve away from the exit as they took the off ramp themselves.


It was another couple of years before I got back on another LA freeway.

I've been in Los Angeles now for nearly 9 years. It's the longest I've ever lived in one city in my entire life. At this point, I drive the freeways like I was born an LAlien. They don't frighten me, but on occasion they frustrate me. I grew up in Los Angeles. I was just a kid when I got here, but Los Angeles became my home, and a big influence in my personality and upbringing.

I'll always have a place in my heart for the whole of Los Angeles - but I'll never forget the 405 freeway.

Sometimes I still feel like I'm diagonally parked in a parallel universe, but I know where I really fit in.