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Halloween Sunday

The Queen Mary Chapter

In 2006 I had a photo shoot onboard the Queen Mary, permanently docked in the Long Beach harbor. The first night was spent having a glorious time exploring the entire ship, taking photos is strange and unusual areas and reading the ghost stories posted all over the ship. Several times we would stop for a photo or two only to be bombarded by cameras and tourists. People would think I was someone famous with the way I was dressed and the professional photographer following me around. It's likely that there are more photos out there taken by total strangers than ever were taken by real photographers.

It was around 2am when we made our way up to the sun deck. The photographer and I were both smokers at the time. We sat down at a quiet table for a short break. My feet were killing me because we had been walking around all day and I had on 5 inch stilettos. I kicked off my shoes, grabbed my small point-and-shoot camera and fiddled with it a moment. The lighting on the ship was absolutely beautiful, and I couldn't help taking a photo of the deck. I set the camera on the table as we sat talking and pressed the button. The empty decks echoed our voices. It was almost as though we were the only two living souls on Earth that night. I then turned the camera around in the other direction and took another photo. It wasn't until sometime afterward that I started looking closer at the pictures still in the camera. What I discovered then sent chills down my spine.

Towards the bow - Sun Deck

Close up of that same photo.

Sun Deck, 2am towards the stern.

Close up, light enhanced, but not manipulated in any other way.

Yes, I managed to capture some rather frightening images that weekend, but by far I think this next one is the worst.

The guide on the ship told a story about a little girl who would often wander down the hallway and tug at the sleeve of an unsuspecting stranger. She would cry and say she couldn't find her mother. Then, when the guest would turn to look for any adults nearby, the child would vanish without a sound. She was seen down one particular hallway each time. I was merely trying to get a long shot of the hallway before me over the heads of the other people in the tour group... what came out was incredible! I still dont understand how this happened. Everything was in complete blur except the illuminated shape on the other side of the kids head. Nobody saw anything. The glowing shape in the lower left corner was NOT there when I took the picture. I did not use a flash.

This image is raw from the camera. There was no photo manipulation done. Photoshop was NOT USED!

Here she is, face to face with a young man on the Queen Mary. Trace the edges of her hair down to the puffed sleeve elbow of her dress. She even shows up on the other side of his neck, discounting any "flash" possibilities. He is holding a camera, but you can tell by the strap on his hand that it is a VIDEO camera and it was not equipped with a 'flash' but rather a very small onboard camera light not capable of the effect shown.

Happy Halloween, Everyone.

Don't eat bad candy,
Stay away from haunted houses,
Ignore the 'bump in the night' behind you,
Be sure to check under your beds tonight,
and have a safe and happy Halloween.

Halloween Sunday

There are a few things that are so closely associated with Halloween that not a year goes by we can't escape seeing or hearing about them. My favorite decorations are always the skulls and black cats, witches that look like they've flown into a tree, and the ever-present sheet-ghosts, somehow always reminding me of Charlie Brown.

We've all spent some time as kids telling Ghost Stories, either around a camp fire or at a sleep over, trying to scare our friends. Nobody ever really believes the childhood tales, and there's usually a punch line that makes everyone laugh and breaks the tension. Some people have their own 'ghost stories' that they would love to share, but are afraid people will look at them like they are completely insane. Often people find that when they share these stories, others are more eager to share their own experiences in the end.

I am one of the people who don't often tell my ghost stories for fear of being looked at like a lunatic. This year, that's all going to change thanks to the "365" project. I don't have a single story that I will intentionally hide from this blog or you, my readers. Here, and for this project, I tell all. That includes Ghost Stories that I have personally experienced.

Each year on Halloween I'm reminded of one memory in particular. I can't help it. We were living in Victorville at the time and I was dressed up as a Witch yet again. I was headed out for the usual collection of candy when my mother told us to look up in the sky. It happened to be a full moon that night. As the moon crested Bell Mountain, it came in a scarlet wave. The thin clouds near by gave an eerie glow to the slopes angling away from the moon.

I told my mother it looked like a chocolate sundae with whipped topping, the moon being the cherry on top. I told her I would never forget what the moon looked like that night and how it lit up the sky, a beacon of dread casting eerie shadows on that memorable Halloween night. She told me that 'never' was a long time, and she didn't believe I'd remember it even the following year. Well, here it is more than two decades later and I still remember that eerie moon in the sky, the cherry on the Halloween sundae. Here it is, Halloween once more, and a Sunday at that. How could I not remember that night?

Every kid has heard the stories about a Haunted House, and usually there's one in every neighborhood that all the kids 'dare' one another to go up to. We certainly had those houses around when I was growing up, and every time we moved there was a new one to find. The local kids always knew how to scare us, telling us stories about kids that went in and never came back out, the old lady with long red fingernails inside, the spooky noises and dark cellars; there was never a shortage anywhere we ever lived. But I never knew anyone who actually lived in a haunted house - until I moved into one myself.

Ghost stories were fun to read as a kid. They were the most popular item I would check out from the library other than Greek Mythology. When I broke my foot in 3 places I got to volunteer in the "Special Needs" class instead of going to Gym class. I read ghost stories to the kids in that class for Halloween that year. They hung on the edge of their seats with anticipation all the way until the end of class. I loved that effect. That's when I first realized I loved to tell a good story as much as I liked to write them.


When we first moved to Utah, we loved the new house. It was the first time we had lived anywhere off of the military base as far back as I could remember. My parents bought their own home, and to this day (last I heard) that's where they still live. Mom always talked about moving closer to her mother to help take care of her, but since she's passed on now, I don't think those plans have any real meaning anymore.

It was a big, beautiful home with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a two car garage, a family room, a separate laundry room, a living room and a huge back yard. To my dad the biggest selling point was the automotive shop all the way in the back. He always loved working on old cars. We had two peach trees, two walnut trees, raspberries in the very back next to the shop and more room than we knew what to do with.

The house looked small from the front, but that appearance was quite deceptive. It was, by far, the largest house in the neighborhood as far as I could tell. The man who originally built it had somewhere around 9 children, and when he could afford it he decided to build his dream house. They lived there for a number of years until all of the kids (but one) grew up and moved away. When my parents went to look at it, they instantly fell in love. It was a split-level home with all of its original shag carpeting downstairs, and access to the back door was gained by walking through the laundry room, but with a few minor changes, the place would be perfect. They decided to buy it.

My most favorite place to be in those early days was out back, since my room often had mysterious cold spots and strange drafts going through it, even when the windows were closed. The yard was huge and I could roll in the grass to my hearts content without worrying about rattlesnakes. I worked with the dogs and eventually had them so well trained all I had to do was snap my fingers and give a hand command. Both of them learned quickly with all the time I was spending with them. I also learned a lot about them and learned how to read their body language better than anyone in the family. Cookie was amazing with the way she would communicate. I always knew what she wanted or what she was thinking somehow. Later on, this became very handy.

Things were fine for a while. Life went on as usual. It was a couple of months before things started to go 'bump' in the night. Dad was renovating the bathroom or the laundry room, I forget which. The projects in the house were never ending. He would blast Olivia Newton John or Crystal Gayle all day every day. When the music shut off mysteriously, he didn't pay any attention. He would go back into the family room and turn the CD player back on, hit play, and go back to work.

The television upstairs started to act up one day. Back then, the televisions would have double digit numbers on the bottom similar to those found on an alarm clock, constantly displaying the channel the TV was on in a small display window on the lower left hand side of the TV, just under the screen itself. The numbers were always in bright red and impossible to miss.

I was sitting at the table working on some homework when the TV switched on. Nobody was around, so I figured it was my brother pulling a practical joke on me. I didn't pay much attention, but instead grabbed the remote control and hit the power button. Rather than the TV switching off, it suddenly roared to life with some news broadcast about the weather. I jumped and dropped the remote. While I fumbled for it, my Mom came out of her room asking what all the noise was. Finally I switched the TV off and explained it to her.

"I was just doing my homework when the TV came on and I tried to turn it off. I must have changed the channel instead."

"How could the TV come on by itself?"

"I don't know, but it did." She was convinced I was making the whole thing up.

"What channel was it on?" It dawned on me just then that the channel indicator wasn't lit up.

"It wasn't on a channel, but I saw a face." She looked at me like I had two heads. "It was, Mom! I swear it was! At first it was all static-ey like snow. Then a face came up behind the static. It looked like a fat old bald man talking. I couldn't hear anything he was saying, but he was talking." Her expression didn't change.

"Get your homework done," she said, pointing at my pen I had dropped on the floor.

Things went along normally for a while. Mom would misplace her keys and we'd find them on a windowsill or behind the cookbook stand. Dad would swear he left his iced tea glass on the table only to find it in the sink filled with soap and water. My brother would be missing baseball cards and blame me. Even I would fall victim to the "not me" monster.

The next time the TV went off, it sent chills up and down my spine. There was the face, vivid and clear, but hiding behind the static reception on the TV. The channel lights weren't lit up, but the old bald man was still talking. This time I paid closer attention to him. He had white ruffles at his throat and a black jacket over the top. His face was very round, his forehead creased with age. He had rosy cheeks, like a clean shaven Santa, but he had so much anger in his eyes. Finally I grew too frightened to see it anymore. I couldn't find the remote, so I jumped up to turn the TV on and then back off again, just as before. Again, the TV blared to life and my mother came out of her sewing room to see what I had done. I switched it off.

"Manda, I was just watching that TV a little while ago and I had turned the volume really low when the phone rang. You can't tell me that the same thing happened again." She set her needle and thread down on the table.

"But it did!" I defended myself as best I could. "Mom, it wasn't me! I saw that face again."

"Manda, stop making things up. This is silly. You'd do anything to get out of doing your homework." She turned to walk back to her sewing and remembered that she had set down her needle. When she went to pick it up, it wasn't there. She looked at me, told me to give it back to her, and I stared at her completely dumbfounded.

"I didn't take it."

"Just stop it." She began searching through my school things for the needle, but didn't find it anywhere. Finally she located it. "I didn't realize I set it down over here," she said as she picked it up in front of the television set. She hadn't even been close to the TV since she walked in. She also failed to notice the pattern the thread had been spread into. It was a perfect spiral.

She walked back to her sewing room, and I decided to lay on the living room floor to finish my work for the night, away from the television set.

Things went on as normal yet again. The television didn't play anymore tricks on me for a while, and it wasn't until the following year anything happened with it at all. I was sitting downstairs reading when I heard a loud blast of noise. Thinking something was wrong, I went running up to find my mother standing in front of that old television with the remote in her hand, her face as white as bed sheets.

"Ha!" I shouted, jolting her attention away from the TV screen. "You saw it finally, huh?"

"That was really weird," she said, acting as though it was no big deal. She was a brave woman, and always had been, but I knew it had rocked her very core. "I thought the TV had come on by itself while I was cooking dinner. I wanted to changed the channel, but it wouldn't change, so I tried to turn the TV off and it came on instead."

"I knew it! It's not just me! What did he look like, Mom?"

"It was a chunky old bald guy like you said. He was talking, but I couldn't hear him. I thought it was the news." As she spoke, I watched the hair on her arm begin to rise and stand on end. She jerked her arm and threw the remote down on the table like it had shocked her with a good jolt of electricity. "Manda," she said to me, looking quite worried, "that was really strange."

"I told you I saw it, Mom! I told you!"

"We saw something, I suppose." She turned to walk back into the kitchen. "I don't know what it was yet. Has to be an electrical short in the TV or something."

The TV continued to spook my mother and myself, but nobody else ever saw it. It seemed each time the old man decided to talk to us again, my dog would always sit up and watch the TV just before it came to life. It got to where I knew from her just when to expect it. Sometimes, if she was close enough, I would call my mother to come watch it with us. We would try to read the old mans lips, but there was too much static. We couldn't tell what he was saying, and he never had a voice. Even the static didn't have any sound. It was an eerie blanket of silence.

"Maybe he's some dead guy trying to talk to us," Mom said to me one day, trying to scare me.

"Mom, we might as well call it what it is. It's a ghost. He moves things around in the house. I walk through cold spots upstairs in the middle of the afternoon, in the SUMMER. I get these feelings like someone is watching me sometimes when I'm home alone. I once felt someone's hand on my shoulder when I nearly fell down the stairs."

"You never told me any of this," she said. "Did the hand on your shoulder push you?"

"No, it stopped me from falling." I knew as I said it that it was a lie, but I didn't want to scare my Mother more than I already had. I didn't mean to tell her so much.

"I've had weird things happen to me, too."

"Like what?"

"You know how I always stack the dishes in the dish drainer like a puzzle? They never fall down, right?"

"Right." My mother was the worlds greatest dish-stacker. Even her mother thought that. She had a reputation in the family for it. An entire Thanksgiving dinner's worth of dishes could be fit into one dish drainer, packed higher than the cabinets and towering over three feet, never a single one would shift or fall over.

"The other day I put the dishes in the dish drainer, and they weren't even piled high. I turned around to put the potatoes on the stove to boil and suddenly the whole dish drainer, dishes and all, slammed onto the floor. Nearly gave me a heart attack. I screamed and your Dad came running. I didn't know what to tell him, so I just told him that I must have knocked them over on accident."

"And what did he say?"


We stared at one another a long moment. Finally we started telling each other all about the bizarre things we had both experienced.

She had walked through the living room one day and saw one of my dog's rubber balls suddenly roll across the thickly carpeted floor on its own; both of the dogs were out in the back yard at the time.

One day she folded the laundry and went to fetch the basket to carry them in. While she was gone those few seconds, somehow the clothes went from being neatly folded on the couch to being spread across the floor, over to the fireplace, not even remotely folded. She had thought it was the dogs until she realized that they were, yet again, both outside.

She had experienced the same things I had, walking through cold spots in the middle of the summer or smelling fire down the hall and racing to the kitchen only to discover everything was fine. I'd experienced that one day when I was downstairs, but mine was far worse.

It was in the middle of the night. I was thirsty, but I didn't want simple tap water. I wanted a drink of milk. It always helped me to sleep better. My room couldn't have been farther from the kitchen if I had been sleeping in dad's car shop out back. Slowly I crept out of bed. Cookie wasn't supposed to be inside at night, but I usually smuggled her into my room anyway. She began to growl very softly as I reached for the door handle, but she wasn't looking at me. She was looking directly at the foot of my bed. Chills ran up and down my spine. A chill came over my room and I could see my own breath in a fog before me. I grabbed the door handle and turned. Even the door handle seemed to chill under my touch. It went from a normal metallic touch to suddenly freezing.

I walked out of my room slowly and closed the door so Cookie didn't follow me. The last thing I needed was for her to be discovered and get into trouble for having her with me and for sneaking out of bed. I went to the kitchen, grabbed a glass from the dish drainer, filled it half way with milk, drank it down, and rinsed out my glass. Then I set the empty glass back into the dish drainer and went back to my room.

My foot barely left the last step when the smell reached my nostrils. It was the unmistakable smell of fire, of burning wood and ash. The neighbors often burned garbage in their fireplace (gross, but true) but it was a different smell. It was the smell of peeling paint and burning hair. I heard my dog whimper and saw her paw sticking out from under my door. She cried desperately, scratching wildly at the door. She tried to get out, but I had closed her in. I ran towards the smell of the fire and grabbed my door handle. This time, instead of freezing cold, my door handle was burning hot. I flung the door open and expected to see a singed dog and burning room. Cookie jumped up into my arms and shook violently. Inside the room was normal. The smell of smoke faded immediately, the temperature returned to normal, and I went to sleep on the couch. That night, Cookie didn't mind sleeping outside.

We lived in the house with the 'thing' we called "Mr. Anderson" after the original owner of the house in peace for a while. Things would still move, but the foggy breath and burning smells stopped for a long time. Sometimes we would walk through the house and get the faint smell of flowers with none in the house and all the windows closed. Mom was allergic to perfumes or scented candles, so we never found an explanation for the smell. A breeze would flutter through without a source once in a while. Dad always thought we were crazy, and my brother actually agreed with him. Cookie and Shadow would warn us when something funky was about to happen usually, and we got so used to the TV acting up that we would just reach over and hit the power button twice whenever it started. Things returned to almost normal.

When I broke my foot in 3 places I ended up sleeping in the bedroom closest to the kitchen for convenience. It was always the coldest room in the house, and I missed having Cookie to keep my hands warm as I slept. The cast was big and bulky, and I had to sleep with my foot propped up on pillows. That's never an easy thing to do for someone who sleeps on their stomach. I often woke up with the pillows on the floor and my foot throbbing.

As I slept in that room for the second night, the chills took hold of me until I was shaking violently. I huddled under the blankets for warmth, pulling them over my head so my breath would warm my hands. My toes stung with the biting cold as they protruded from the open end of the cast. I felt like someone had brushed against my exposed toes, but they were so cold I couldn't be sure. I pulled the covers back from my head and looked, only to discover nobody else was in my room. I resumed my position under the blankets, shivering madly.

Suddenly the foot of the bed lifted from the ground. I slid towards the headboard of the solid oak frame. Startled, I didn't have time to do anything but yank the covers back from my face before the bed suddenly slammed to the floor of the bedroom again. I bounced and jolted in the bed, screaming louder than a wild cat. I cried openly, shaking harder from fear than from cold. The resounding "boom" of the bed striking the ground with such force could be heard all over the house.

Within seconds, my mother and father were at my door. Dad came at me in an accusatory tone asking what I had done, but my mother knew from the look on my face what had happened.

"What did you do," my father shouted. "We're trying to sleep, Young Lady!"

Hysterically I babbled and cried, my words coming out incoherently in a jumbled mess. I couldn't seem to spit it out. Only two brief seconds of my speech made a full and complete sentence.

"Someone picked up the end of my bed!!"

I was more terrified in that instant than any time before or after. It was far more frightening than almost falling from a roller coaster to me. Mom told Dad to go back to bed, she would take care of me. As he turned and walked back into their room, my Mother sat on the edge of my bed and I caught a glimpse of my brother out in the hall. The noise had even woken him up; otherwise nearly impossible to do.

"Was it Mr. Anderson?" She looked at me and touched my forearm gently.

"I guess so," I said.

"Did you see him?"

"No," I admitted. I was privately glad I hadn't. "I think I felt him though."

"Felt him? How?"

"Just before it happened I felt something on my toes," I gestured towards my cast. "I peeked to look, but I didn't see anything. I was really cold. I don't know if it was him I felt or if it was just my toes tingling because they were cold."

"What was the noise? What happened?"

"Someone picked up the end of my bed and then slammed it down again. Mom, my foot hurts." I buried my face in her arm and cried big, fat tears. I was embarrassed and frightened, a horrible combination. Mom ran her hand over my hair until I fell asleep again. The next day I went back to my own room. To this day I try not to go into that room if I can help it. I still get the chills up and down my spine.

Once more things were quiet for a while. It seemed every time something REALLY bizarre happened, things calmed down for a bit. That was as bizarre as had happened to anyone in the house up until that point. Things were so calm for so long that eventually Mom and I began to worry. Even then, things remained quiet at home. Finally, it was all but forgotten. Nothing truly strange or scary had happened for over a year.

I was 15 years old and my parents were still nervous about leaving me home alone for any length of time. They had been invited on a hunting trip with some of my Dad's buddies from work, but they didn't want to go unless my brother promised to stay home with me. He agreed, but my brother and I always had a code. We knew we were the mice, and the cats were going away for the weekend.

I sat upstairs on the couch in the living room, where Mom and Dad never let me sit when they were home. My brother had left the hour before in his patch work quilt pick up truck filled with rust holes to pick up some of his friends. They had decided to go cruising for 'babes' that night, and I told him not to worry, I would be fine.

Cookie and I sat watching Country Music Television for a while after flipping through channels and discovering nothing fun or of any importance was on. Lari White was singing her big hit of the 90's "That's My Baby" and I was watching the music video for the first time. I heard a rather odd sound on the stairs behind me and Cookie perked up, so I hit the mute button on the TV to listen. I heard it again. It was a distinctive groan on the stairs, just behind where I sat. I froze in place, not daring to move. The hair on Cookie's back began to stand up on end all the way down to the base of her tail. Her ears perked up and her teeth shined as she pulled back her lips in a silent snarl. I waited, thinking it was just the house settling. Dad said that sometimes older houses make strange noises. I'd never seen Cookie react like that before. She looked around and climbed silently into my lap, never dropping her attention from the stairwell. Finally she stood on her hind legs and peeped over the back of the couch. She sat there staring into nothing for a long moment, the hair on her back beginning to relax a bit.

Just as I was beginning to relax with her, the hair on her back bristled again. Within a split second from her very low, very deep growl I heard a huge pile of cardboard boxes in the closet beneath the stairs fall over, tumbling with a large, loud crash of breaking glass, crunching wood and distinctive cardboard muffling bumps against the door.

Without a sound I grabbed Cookie and headed for the back door of the house. As silently as I possibly could, I opened the back door and crept down the wooden steps outside. Shadow was huddled up on the back porch at the bottom and I nearly stepped on his black body in the darkness of night. With bare feet, I nimbly flew over him with Cookie still in my arms. I snatched him up in my other arm and took off for the side gate.

With both dogs under each arm, I raced for the neighbors house. Someone had broken into the house and I needed to call the Police!

I set both of the dogs down on Stephanie Popham's porch and knocked as loudly as possible. Patiently I waited several minutes. No lights were on and I didn't hear anything in the house. After a few more tries, I ran to Robbie's house across the street, both dogs following right at my heels. Shadow only looked confused, while Cotton had a look of urgency to her face that matched my own. I pounded on Robbie's door, but again there was no answer and all the lights were out. Finally I turned to the spooky house in the neighborhood. The people next door lived in what I thought looked like the quintessential Haunted House, complete with live black cats, spider webs on everything, and a cauldron on the front porch. They avoided daylight and neighbors at all costs. I swallowed hard. The dogs waited in the yard. I knocked lightly at first and got no answer. I thought about what it would mean walking back into the house and coming face to face with a burglar, or even worse, a rapist. I turned back and knocked harder. Nothing. Desperation nearly made pound the door down. After sitting on their porch for a long moment, waiting for any sign of life down my street, I finally grew nerves of steel, or worried my remaining brain cells loose. I picked myself up and marched straight back to the gate. I walked through it, told both of my dogs to sit and stay, and marched right back over to the back door of the house. I crept silently up the steps, cracked the door a bit to look around, and tip-toed straight to the phone near the back door. I picked it up, dialed 911 and walked straight back to the door with it. Then I sat down on the back porch, tethered to the house by a coiled leash, and listened to the phone ring.

"9-1-1, what is the nature of your emergency?"

"I think there's someone in my house and I'm home alone," I whispered.

"You'll have to speak up, I can't hear you."

"I said," I strained my voice and slowed down a bit, but still didn't speak up, "I'm home alone and I think there's someone in my house."

"Someone broke into your house?"

"I think so."

"Where are they now?"

"They were downstairs when I tried to run to the neighbors."

"Where are you right now?"

"I'm upstairs." At that point I started to cry. "None of the neighbors were home so I had to come back home to use the phone."

"Ok, do you know where he is right now?"


"But he was downstairs when you went to find a neighbor?"

"Yes ma'am."

"Are you safe right now?"

"I think so."

"Stay on the phone with me until you hear the police, ok?"

"Ok. I see lights. I think they're here." The beautiful sound of sirens reached my ears. I was never so happy to hear police cars in the middle of the night.

"Ok, I just heard from them, that's them. Go ahead and meet them now if you can."

I left the phone hanging in the door and took off down the stairs. I grabbed both dogs as they sat in place where I left them near the gate. I ran, still barefoot, around to the front and met the Officers at the door.

They didn't discover a single cardboard box or broken item in the house. By the time my parents heard about the story, they were more than angry at my brother for leaving me home alone, and my father was upset at me for calling the police and getting scared for what he called "no reason." Mom completely understood. She was only upset at my brother.

They still live in that house, but the strangest thing that happens these days would be missing keys or an over turned glass in the sink. Mom said it was all revolved around me, like the spook of the house didn't like me.

Here's a little Halloween Bonus for you guys!
Just click here!

Revenge on Miller

I told a story once on my blog about how I got revenge on a kid for giving another girl a ring on Valentines day. I was in the 5th grade at the time. At the end of that story, I stated that I never sought revenge again. I would have to admit here and now that I blocked out this moment in time from my memory when I made that statement and would like to retract it now. I did seek revenge once more, and it's something I've regretted every day I take a breath.

After the Miller Miles, after I spent my time in Phoenix with Jodie and her family (story not yet written but will be next), after I went home, life returned to normal. I had nothing in my room. I had one change of clothes, I was forced to take medications I knew I didn't need. I went back to school as usual and was told every day that if I didn't come home after school, I would end up being put into Juvenile Detention. It was about the only threat they could make that still scared me. They had found my weakness.

I was so angry at Byron for having abandoned us on the side of the road. I had trusted him with my life and he just left us there. He made sure he was ok by going to his father, but in the end, the rest of us had nowhere to go. It was pure luck that I happened to know someone in the area and had a place I could go to. Without the kind people I knew in my childhood, I would have ended up on the streets, or worse. He never even pretended to care. When he got back to school and I ran into him in the hallway one day, he didn't even say he was sorry. Nothing. He didn't even smile at me. He ignored me like he didn't even know who I was.

I was outraged.

Byron got another girlfriend soon after the school year started. She had at one time been a close friend to me, but thanks to Byron sharing false stories with her, she never spoke to me again. I grew more and more angry. He spread rumors about me in every class I had through people he barely knew. Pretty soon, my head was about to burst. One day I was running across the street to catch the bus before it took off and Byron happened to be driving by. Instead of ignoring me or staying at the speed limit and in his own lane, Byron swerved directly at me and sped up. I ran harder as I watched him through the windshield shifting gears in his car. He lowered his chin and looked at me with a stare of pure evil. I stopped dead in my tracks and spun on my heels. I got out of the way of his car barely in time, and the drivers side rear view mirror clipped the back of my arm. The force spun me around completely.

The bus went on, oblivious to what had just happened in their blind spot. The driver of a truck pulled over to check on me.

"Are you OK?" The voice sounded familiar. "You need to call the cops." I looked up to discover Steve, my childhood crush, sitting behind the wheel of the truck.

"No, I'm fine." He smiled that old familiar smile.

"Hop in, I'll give you a ride." It was a well kept secret on my part that my parents wouldn't let me get a ride home with anyone, especially anyone my age. It had something to do with my mother having a wild ride in the back of a pick up as a teenager and thinking she was going to die. While all of my friends were carpooling to school or driving themselves, I was still stuck riding the bus since I wasn't allowed to do either. Still, I had missed the bus because of Byron and I didn't want to end up in Juvenile Detention because of it, so I climbed into Steve's truck.

It was a big, broad old 1963 Chevy pick up truck in a rust and off-white color. The rust wasn't actually paint though, but Steve couldn't have been more proud of that thing. He had even changed the transmission himself the month before, he said. I hadn't seen him in a while and there was a lot of catching up to do. We talked the whole way to my house. Before I knew what we were doing, he pulled up into my driveway.

I jumped out, still chattering away like a chipmunk. I told him all about my adventure over the summer and why it was Byron had tried to run me over. Steve was going 90 to nothing right along with me when my mother walked out of the house.

"Young lady, get in the house right now." Whenever she called me Young Lady, I knew I was in trouble. I trudged towards the door with her holding it open. She shewed Steve off like a fly, something I'd never seen her do to Steve before. He had always been a welcome addition to the family. "What have I told you about taking rides from people," she said, loud enough for Steve to hear.

Steve found me a couple of days later. There were a few things he still wanted to get straight about Byron. He wanted as many details as I was willing to give him, and I didn't spare anything. He agreed that Jason was disgusting and Bryon "wasn't a man" for not taking better care of his sister. He was so disgusted in the end that he told me under no uncertain terms that he and his 'friends' would take care of Byron. He said I wouldn't have to worry about Byron trying to hit me with his car ever again.

My parents went out for dinner one night and Steve came by to pick me up. Before I knew it, we had pulled into the driveway of one of his friends. We jumped out of the truck and Steve told me to get into the back of a small 4 door car. I did as instructed.

A big guy by the name of Martin Davis got into the drivers seat, and his brother Hub, even bigger, got into the back with me. Both of them looked as big as linebackers on a pro football team. Both wore snakeskin boots and ball caps. Both looked like guys I wouldn't want to run into wandering down a dark alley.

We made another stop on our way out to Clearfield. One more guy climbed into the back seat, nearly as big as Hub Davis. I was squashed up against the door and felt like a mafia squealer being taken for a ride. Something in the world wasn't right. I wasn't scared, but yet I was. Tension was heavy in the air. Nobody said a word.

When we pulled up in front of Stephanie's old house, I knew life was about to get really complicated. The last time I had seen the place was early in the morning the day we started the long drive to Arizona. The guy next to Hub got out and went to knock on the door. I watched out of the tinted window as much to my amazement, Byron emerged from the house. The guy put his arm around Byron and started walking him towards the car, both laughing and smiling the whole way. They acted like old buddies. Astounded, embarrassed and finally worried, I tried to slide down into the floorboards of the car. Hub pulled me back up.

"No you don't," he said. "You have no reason to hide. You're here to see this."

I sat back up, and Hub told me to squeeze over a bit. There was nowhere for me to go, but I tried. I ended up sitting on my hip, my butt up against the door. Hub scooted over next to me. The door opened and the strange guy with Byron grabbed him by the back of the neck. He pushed his head down towards the car door, and at first Byron had a pleasant smile on his face.

Byron's face went from a smile to an astonished look of fear. He looked at Hub and then at me. His face melted, his eyes popped and he started muttering 'no, no, no' to nobody in particular. He tried to back out, but the force behind him was too great. Hub reached forward and grabbed Byron's shirt. As he pulled Byron into the car, the guy behind him pushed. Byron ended up sprawled over Hub's lap, looking me in the eyes. The fear behind them was unmistakable. I was more than certain that it was the same look I had in my eyes when he nearly hit me with his car.

The stranger got back into the car, lifting Byron's legs enough to fit under them. He slammed the door shut behind him and Martin drove calmly away from the run down little house. Nobody came outside to see what was going on. Nobody stopped us. Nobody questioned us. I prayed they would.

"Is this him," Hub asked Steve.

"Yeah, that's him."

"You sure?" His deep voice was masterful and deadly. It sent shivers to my soul.

"Yeah." Steve turned around in his seat to get a good look. "That's him."

"I don't even know you," Byron wailed.

"Shut up," Martin said from the drivers seat.

"Yeah, you ain't here to talk," Hub finished.

The stranger spoke then. "Byron, we believe you owe this young lady an apology," he said sternly, but with a slight smile.

"Sorry," Byron said out of obvious fear.

"That's not good enough," he said. Suddenly things went from bad to ugly. The stranger, the person Byron seemed to know when they met at the door, suddenly swung wildly at Byron's face. His fist landed squarely on Byron's jaw and he instantly pulled back and swung again. I screamed and turned my face towards the window, closing my eyes. Hub grabbed my head and turned it back towards Byron's face.

"You're going to watch this," he said to me.

"I'm sorry!" Byron screamed out, his voice reaching octaves I didn't know were possible. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm SORRY!" He began to cry deep, sobbing tears. His sobs began to get in the way of his words. The swings came again and again, more brutal with every swing.

Martin kept driving and turned calmly into a back alleyway. Steve turned in his seat and began swinging then too. I used to beat Steve up in a fun way at school when we were just 12 years old. I couldn't picture him ever hurting anyone. He was always so sweet. Suddenly he was a monster.

Steve and the stranger continued punching Byron until he couldn't do anything but curl up and cry. I felt bad for Byron. I wanted to help him, but there was nothing I could do. I cried right along side him. Finally Hub spoke up.

"That's enough," he said. For a moment I was relieved, but Hub wasn't done. "It's my turn."

Steve and the stranger stopped. Hub looked down at Byron and smiled and evil, wicked smile. I turned my head and covered my ears with my hands.

From there I've blocked out the memory. I only remember Martin pulling over and the door of the car swinging open. The stranger stood up and grabbed Byron by the feet. With one mighty tug, there was one less person in the car. Byron landed on his face and hands, but that wasn't the end of it. The stranger drug him across the ground by his feet. Finally, in the middle of a mud puddle, he released Byron's feet and they fell with a splash into the water. The stranger knelt down and spoke to Byron as calmly as a teacher giving a homework assignment.

"You'll never talk to her again. You'll never look at her again. If you go anywhere near her ever again, they will never find your body." He smiled. "Clear?"

"Yeah," Byron said.

"Same goes if you ever say a word about any of this to anyone."

The stranger got back into the car and I watched as Byron got to his feet and ran as hard as he could as Martin put the car in drive and we pulled slowly away.

The guys laughed the entire way back to my street. As I got out of the car and headed toward the house, I heard them laughing and talking about the entire incident. I had a serious night of rethinking the direction my life was taking that night. It wasn't my parents I needed to get away from, but rather the corruption, danger and insanity of everyone around me. I needed to get out of that life, and there was no way out but to get away from it all. That was when I decided I would be going back to Arizona and making a life for myself anywhere but Utah.

The cops came by the house a few days later. Fear gripped my guts.

"Manda," my mom said as I walked up to the house, "the police have some questions for you."

"Yes Sir?" I asked in my most polite manner. My heart was racing and I knew exactly what it was about.

"We had a strange complaint the other day. Do you know someone named Byron Miller?"

"Yes I do. Or, rather, I did."

"Do you know about what happened to him?" My mind raced. I knew a lot about Byron. I knew more about what happened to him than I wanted to, and I really wished it never happened in the first place. At that second, more than anything I wished I could turn back time and never tell Steve about anything.

"I know his Dad sent him home again from Arizona. Is that what you mean?"

"No, I'm talking about Friday night."

"Byron and I don't talk anymore. He even has a new girlfriend now. What happened to him?"

"He was beaten up pretty badly. He's got a few broken bones and needed some stitches. He's still in the hospital."

"Oh my gosh! Is he ok?!"

"He'll be fine." He looked closely at my eyes. "Do you know anything about it?"

"No! Oh no, I hope he's ok. Which hospital?"

"He's at Ogden Memorial. You're sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure. We don't get along anymore, but I wouldn't want to ever hurt him." That part was the truth.

"Someone said he tried to hit you with his car the other day. Is that true?"

"Well, yeah, but I think he just didn't see me."

"Ok." He looked at me another moment. "Byron told us that you were there when it happened."

"He said that?!"

"Yeah. You're sure you don't know anything about it?"

"Positive, Sir. I hope you find the guys that did it to him though."

The officer then turned back to my mother, who stood just out of hearing range on the porch. He tipped his hat to her, bid her a good afternoon, and left.

"He tried to hit you with his car?" Mom looked concerned.

"Yeah, but it's no big deal."

"When was that?"

"It was the day Steve gave me a ride home. I missed the bus because of Byron and I didn't want to get in trouble so he gave me a ride."

"You didn't hurt Byron, did you?"

"NO!" I lied.

"Ok." She paused a moment. "Why didn't you tell me that was why Steve gave you a ride home?"

"Because you wouldn't have believed me."

"Probably not."

I've lived with the regret of that day every day of my life, each time it's brought back to my conscious thoughts. I wished I could have changed things. Byron had more than broken bones and stitches. He had internal bleeding and some major trauma to his core. He was in the hospital for two weeks. When he got out, he changed schools and I never saw him again.

I also never talked to Steve or any of his 'friends' ever again.

The story you just read was true, the names of people were changed in order to protect myself more than them. It's a chapter of my life I'm not proud of, and a story that only the people in the car that night ever knew until now. I swore to never tell anyone, and this story didn't exist even in my original book. I have managed to contact Steve again, and he's a completely different person. He left Utah and moved to Wyoming where he finally found the father figure he desperately needed. He finished off his teen years working on a horse ranch earning his keep and learning respect for all living things. He now drives a truck cross country.

The Miller Miles

The Miller Miles


We hit Phoenix and the heat was nearly too much to handle while still buried among all the junk in the hatch back of the car. It had been a long journey to get down to our destination. Part of me wondered if we would ever make it at all, especially with all the strange characters we met along the way. It took us a week to finally get to where we had originally set out for.

A nasty surprise waited for us when we pulled up to the slum area Byron's father lived in. He was standing outside waiting for us to pull up.

"Who are all these people," his Dad asked. "Never mind that. You and your sister get into the house." He glared at Jason and myself. Jason cowered in fear. He stood frozen in place, not sure of what to do or say. It was the first time I had seen Jason not be in complete control since the journey began. Suddenly it became clear - he was nothing but a bully, and we were all younger than he was and therefore easier to push around. Jason was terrified of an adult male. Somehow I suspected abuse.

"I don't know where you came from, and I don't really care, but you aren't staying here. Both of you, get lost."

"But," I started, wanting more than anything to tell him about Stephanie. She needed him. "What's going to happen to Byron and Stephanie?"

"That's none of your concern, but if you must know I'm going to send them back where they came from... without the car." He said he would put them both on a bus home the next day. He also forbid me from saying goodbye to either one.

I sat on the curb and cried. Desperately I wracked my brain. That was what I had originally wanted, to get to Phoenix and part ways with those crazy people before they did something stupid, like hold up a liquor store. Jason turned and began to cry as well. I held back my tears, realizing that Stephanie might be able to see me. I needed to be strong for her. I stood up, marched straight towards Byron's father and asked him if I could just use the phone.

"Yeah," he said, softening a bit. "Do you need the phone book?"

"Yes please." Jason looked around at me, hopeful. One look from me was all it took. He knew that he wouldn't ever see my face again. He hung his head and cried again, all hope was lost.

"You need money for a taxi," the father asked me.

"No thank you, Sir." I thumbed through the pages of the phone book and held the cordless phone in my hand. My finger traced the names on the "C" page until I found the one I was looking for. There, in the middle of the page, was the one I wanted. I dialed the phone.


"Hi, um... is this Mike?"

"Yeah, who's this?"

"It's Amanda, Bob and Beth's kid."

"Well hi there!" Mike had always been warm and friendly. He was like an uncle to us kids when we lived in Victorville together. His step-daughter Jodie had been like a sister to me. I had even helped them move. It was a shot in the dark and pure hope that they hadn't moved. It looked like my luck was holding out. I didn't know another living soul in Arizona except an Aunt who's last name I didn't remember. "How have you been? Did you want to talk to Jodie?"

"Mike, I actually need to talk to you."

I spilled a good portion of my story to him over the phone and then asked if he would come and get me. Without hesitation, he said he would. I gave the address to him as Byron's father gave it to me, and we hung up. Within an hour, I saw the friendly, familiar face. His wife Julie was quite upset with me though, rightfully so.

That was the end of the miles I spent with Byron Miller.

Rumor had it that Stephanie ended up staying with her father after it was discovered that she was actually pregnant. For a long time there was no definitive answer as to who the father was, but later on it was discovered that it was actually her Step-Fathers child she carried to term. Stephanie kept my garnet ring.

Byron went back to his Grandparents and I saw him once or twice in school. He ended up dropping out and getting a job mowing lawns. I lost track of him after one night filled with revenge and hatred that I regret to this very day. That will be shared in one of my following stories.

Nobody in Utah heard from or saw Jason ever again. To some degree, I'm not even sure Jason was his real name.

The story is far from over at this point, but this was the end of the Miller Miles in my life. The next series of events would later lead to my finally leaving home for good.

Stay tuned.

The Miller Miles

The Miller Miles


The boys got in the car and drove off the next day, leaving Stephanie and myself in the cold motel room, not really sure what to say to one another. I knew I wouldn't be sticking around with these idiots once they got me to Phoenix, but something about Stephanie cried out for help. I wanted to take care of her. I wanted to help her. If I abandoned her as soon as I found a way to Phoenix, I'd be no better than the two guys I had grown to dislike so much.

"Hey Manda," she said to me a couple of hours into watching cartoons like any normal 13 year old kid, "what do I do if I'm pregnant?"

"We just have to hope the guys get a job so they can take care of us. If you get pregnant, you'll have to go home. We can't take you to the hospital because they would want to know where your parents are."

"I think I might be pregnant," she admitted.

"But didn't you just meet Jason? How could you be pregnant this quickly?"

"It's not his."

"WHAT?!" I was clearly and openly astonished. How could it not be Jason's kid? She was just a little girl! There was a lot about the Miller family I never really knew and didn't need to know about.

"It's my step-dads."

"Your step-dad raped you?"

"No," she said as calmly as possible. "I wanted to know what it was like to have sex so I got naked and walked into their room one night."

"Does your mother know?!"

"She was there." It was a plain statement, as though she didn't believe it was at all unusual.

I was trying my best not to throw up. I couldn't imagine anything so disgusting or vile in all my life. I thought my parents were horrible, and here was this poor, twisted little girl who thought she had a normal life. No matter what happened to all of us, I needed to take care of her. She needed someone she could trust in her life.

The boys came back with what they thought was good news that afternoon. Stephanie and I had been talking for hours and the TV had been switched off. By the time the guys walked in, both of us had shared practically our life stories with one another and both of us had cried our hearts out. We bonded as closely as sisters in those hours in the lonely, cold hotel room. The boys didn't even notice.

"We might have a job," Byron blurted out. Both she and I turned to stare at him.

"Yeah," Jason said. "We talked to one guy and he told us to come back tomorrow to talk to the boss. I might be breaking in horses by Friday." Doubt lingered in his voice though, and all I could do was hope he was wrong. Stephanie and I needed to get her to her father. He would be able to take care of her better than anyone else, or so I had hoped. She and I had both finally agreed on that just before the boys came in.

They went back the next day and didn't return right away. Either they had good news and had started working right away (though I imagined them to be cleaning out stalls rather than breaking horses) or they were driving around looking for another job. After a couple of hours I got my answer.

"We aren't going to find anything," Byron said, completely defeated. Stephanie and I hadn't eaten all day. The last can of Chili was long gone and nothing remained in the Frito's bag after I let her have the few remaining crumbs. I pretended not to be hungry for her sake. "I think we should go to Phoenix," he finished.

"But won't Dad get in trouble?" Stephanie and I had rehearsed for this moment. She did outstandingly.

"It's better than starving to death in here," Jason said. My stomach growled in agreement. Both of the guys had extremely negative attitudes all of a sudden. They began packing everything that second. Stephanie and I pretended to protest, but just enough to not raise their suspicions. That was exactly what we had wanted, and what Stephanie needed. We all piled up and we hit the road once more.

Creative Writing

Audrey trudged up the two flights of stairs to her apartment that night completely exhausted. Her arms were piled high with mail, and she felt as though she would drop it up each step along the way. Clinging tightly to the loose envelopes, she dug into her purse for the keys to the door. Just as she pulled them out, the envelopes flew out of her clenched hands and scattered across the front deck, leaving a long trail of unopened mail along the pathway. She shoved the door open and stared scooping the post up into her purse.

She struggled in the door, dropped the piles of mail off onto the table, and headed straight for the bedroom. A faint ‘ding’ sounded in the distance and she hesitated. She didn’t want to have to deal with emails now. She’d had to put up with them all day long! Still, she knew that there was a chance it could be important. She dug the phone out of the pocket of her jacket and turned it on while she was thinking about it. Then she went over and wiggled the mouse to get rid of the screen saver on the computer. The email was as she suspected – an urgent one.

Two minutes into the reply of the email, her mobile phone rang.


The voice on the other end was of a work contact on the East Coast. Paul was in a panic about something and needed her help. The other phone rang and she put Paul on hold to answer it. Within minutes, she had both headsets to both phones up to both ears, and her hands pecking away at the keys. Feverishly typing, answering questions, and coming up with a few of her own for the callers, Audrey started to feel the strain of the day. She’d been on the computer all day! The sun had set, the neighbors had finished cooking dinner from the smell in the neighborhood, and the little kids were heading to bed. It was around 8:30 at night when finally she closed the lid to the computer and hung up the phones.
Instantly the pressures and stresses of the day melted off like ice in the hot sun. Audrey was relaxed and smiling again. She got up to go fetch a glass of water for herself and set the phone down on the table top. On her way out past the bed, she stubbed her toe so hard that the whole bed shook! Audrey yelled out in frustration and went down to her knees. She immediately stood up, said a few expletives, and limped on into the kitchen.

She poured a glass of water and in the process accidentally spilled a bit on the floor. When she looked down to see where it had landed and how much she needed to wipe up, she saw something that caught her eye. There was a red spot on the floor. It looked like blood! Next to it was another. And another just beyond that. Finally she looked down at her foot. Her small toe was covered in blood.

Amused, she grabbed at a paper towel and started to mop up the blood on her foot, then the drops on the floor. She wasn’t thinking about her toe hurting since she so often stubbed it on something random. She was always telling people that she was the biggest klutz she had ever known.

It wasn’t until she sat down to inspect the damage that it started to sink in that perhaps she had done more harm than she thought. She found that her toe was not only swelling up, but it had a nasty gash on the underside of it and there was an odd lump on the outside of her foot. Suddenly it started to sink in that she might have broken her toe!

On further inspection, she saw that the nasty gash wasn’t just a deep wound. It was bleeding pretty bad, but she could still see deep enough into the wound to know it went to the bone, most likely. She had split her foot wide open! The odd lump, she started to guess, was probably the bone, snapped in two and poking at the skin.

The peroxide didn’t even hurt as much as she remembered it hurting when she was a kid. It’s just fizzled and foamed up a bit, but that was about all it did. Then she wrapped it up in a soft cloth and put some ice on it to stop the swelling. It was already about twice its normal size.

The strain of the day was starting to wear at Audrey finally and sleep was starting to force its way into her eyes. The pain was starting to subside after taking a couple of mild pain killers, and she was finally ready for bed. She doubted even the throbbing would keep her up at this point. She propped a couple of pillows up under her foot, placed the bag of ice back over her toe, and settled in for a long night.

Somehow Audrey managed to sleep through the night. She awoke in the morning to the sound of birds chirping outside her window. The early morning streets were quiet, since most of the people had already rushed off to work. It was a good feeling, getting to sleep in an extra half an hour. The doctors office would be open in a bit, so she did need to climb out of bed now.

The pillows propped up under her foot were in disarray, but they had done their job. Her foot wasn’t throbbing at the moment, and the cloth she had wrapped around the end of her foot had stayed in place all through the night as well. She’d never had a more uncomfortable sleeping position before. The only thing she could figure was that the glass of scotch she gulped down just before the peroxide hit her open wound was what helped her rest. Still, she was tired. The pain had haunted her dreams and left her feeling almost as tired when she woke up as she did before heading to bed. Audrey was certain she was moaning in her sleep.

She stood up and immediately sat back down under the pain. She couldn’t believe how incredibly sore her foot was! Carefully, Audrey unwrapped the cloth around her foot to inspect the damage. The bleeding had apparently never stopped all night and the cloth was stained with fresh red blood. A nasty bruise had started to form around the outside of her foot, surrounding the injured toe. Dried blood was caked in between her last two toes and all around the swollen knuckle of her small toe. She sighed and stood up again. Audrey wrapped her injury up in a fresh cloth and then stuck the entire appendage inside the largest sock she could find. Unfortunately it was bright red, not exactly discrete. Then she put on a long skirt since she couldn’t imagine pulling her usual jeans on over her injury. The tank top and sweater were next, and then she was out the door. She wasn’t looking forward to driving like this.

She made her way down the two flights of stairs carefully, clutching tightly to the banister the whole way. She knew several people who would have been happy to drop everything they were doing to take her to the hospital, but she was too independent for that. Besides, it was going to be the first time she had ever gone to the doctor’s office alone. For someone so independent, it was about time that happened!

Pressing down on the clutch with her injured foot was pure torture! She wanted to cry out in pain, but instead bit her lip, put her car in gear, and backed out of her parking spot. Then she pressed in the clutch again, gritted her teeth, and shifted into first gear.

By the time she made it to the doctor’s office, Audrey was a pro at using nothing but her big toe on the clutch. The bright red sock was keeping her open wound safe and dry. When she walked into the lobby of the office though, suddenly she felt incredibly self-conscious. Everyone seemed to be staring directly at her bright red sock.

Audrey being Audrey decided to make the best of the situation. She limped up to the nurse at the counter and gave her the biggest smile she could.

“Hi. I don’t have an appointment, but I’m damaged and need to be fixed.” The nurse smiled at her.

“What seems to be the trouble?”

“I think I broke my toe.” The nurse suddenly looked horrified. She signed Audrey in to the waiting list, and within ten minutes called her into the back. Audrey didn’t know why she was getting the star treatment, but she certainly wasn’t going to complain.

The nurse took her blood pressure as usual, asked her approximately what she weighed since she couldn’t stand on the scale, and then had her go into the X-ray room. They ran a scan of three shots in order to see the bones in her toe at every angle, and then led her into a private room.

The nurse told Audrey that she would go and inform the doctor that she was there, and Audrey settled in for the customary long wait. The nurse had left the door open, so there was plenty to watch and see while she waited.

A tall blonde man in a blue floral print shirt walked up to the nurses station. He glanced around and saw Audrey sitting there, then went back to the nurses. Suddenly, it was as though something had registered in his mind, he turned to look at Audrey again. He smiled at her, and as any lady would, she smiled back and nodded.

After a minute, he finished up what he was saying to the nurses and came over to see Audrey. He stood in the doorway a moment.

“Hi there. I’m sorry, but I’m normally not this rude.”

“Rude? What do you mean?” Audrey put on her best innocent face. She knew exactly what he meant. She had caught him staring!

“Well, normally I don’t stare at someone so hard, but you have the most beautiful hair, and gorgeous eyes. I could stare at them all day.” He smiled a most charming smile at Audrey. Audrey blushed a bit and smiled back. The man then turned around and put on a white lab coat.

The Doctor was in!!!

October 1 2009

Simple flashback - I wrote this on October 1st of last year. I won't likely forget this day anytime soon.


I wasn't feeling well the other day (not sick, just internal issues) and y boss told me to go home, he would pay me anyway. I didn't want them to rack up overtime for someone else because of me so I stuck it out. I guess that spoke volumes of my work ethic and now they are more determined than ever to keep me around. It's a great feeling. Finally, a job and boss that believes in me. Yay!

Well, I ended up getting worse during the day. By the time I got home I was walking around the house like Quasimodo. I went to the Emergency Room last night... turned out it was my kidneys. I have such a severe infection that it's spread throughout my body making it hard to swallow and, at times, even breathe. They said I should be in EXCRUTIATING pain, unable to walk, much less drive myself to the ER. They said there was no way I had worked the past two days on my feet like this and the Doc said I had to be lying about it. I guess I've got a high tolerance for pain. The guy was blown away when he asked what I had been taking for the pain and I said nothing. "Not even Aspirin?" Obviously he hadn't read my file... I'm allergic to aspirin. But I hadn't even taken Tylenol. I'm practically choking on the stuff now, forcing it down my throat as quickly as I can because it just got so intense I couldn't take it anymore. If I have a high tolerance for pain and feel like this NOW, I don't ever want to know what it's like to be someone else and be at this stage. For that matter, I don't ever want to revisit this pain in my own skin.

I took 800 mg of Ibuprofen last night and it made me nearly delirious. I said something to a friend of mine over the phone about wanting a body pillow with a face on it so I wouldn't be so lonely while I was sick. I'm wondering where that came from, though I clearly remember saying it and thinking it was a perfectly normal thing to say. I was most adamant about it having a face.

I guess it goes without saying that I took the day off work today... but I plan on going back tomorrow. The ER doc gave me some Sulfur based antibiotics... I'm also allergic to penicillin. I truly hope that does the trick, because my roommate is moving his wife in and I have to be out by then. I'm screwed and can't save up money for rent. I also think that there's been some sort of confusion about rent. I paid $500 last WEEK and was told by him that it was for last MONTH. So that means I owe another $500 THIS week. Sounds to me like I'm getting screwed over - especially if they need me to save up so that I can move out soon. I can't even find a place I can afford, much less save up for a deposit.

The doctor said I need to see a specialist and get some blood work done. I don't know how much that's going to cost for a girl without medical insurance yet. Another 23 days and I will have insurance, but if there IS something seriously wrong with me, it will be seen as a pre-existing condition if I go in now. When I do get it, my insurance wont take care of a pre-existing problem. I can't afford to screw up my credit again the way I did for a life-and-death cyst many years ago. I'm still recovering from the credit issues there.

So, I'm in bed for the day, searching for any comfortable position I can get, and finding that to be an unreasonable and unrealistic mission.

The moral of the story here - it doesn't matter how much water and cranberry juice you drink (those are my two favorite drinks in the whole world) you can still develop MAJOR kidney problems. The kidneys and other internal organs are things ya really don't want to mess around with. If you've got pains and you know it's not just a sore muscle - GO TO THE DOCTOR....

Montezuma's Revenge

Through a Google Search, I've discovered that Montezuma's Revenge is either Travelers Diarrhea or an Indiana Jones video game. Well, my story of Montezuma's Revenge is neither, but could possibly be the inspiration for both. It's also listed as a Bluegrass music group, a 24 hour ultra-endurance mountain bike wilderness race, and Wikipedia states that the term comes from...
Moctezuma (c. 1466 – June 1520), also known by a number of variant spellings including Montezuma, Moteuczoma, Motecuhzoma and referred to in full by early Nahuatl texts as Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin and similar, was the ninth tlatoani or ruler of Tenochtitlan, reigning from 1502 to 1520. It was during Moctezuma's reign that the episode known as the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire began.

Well wherever the term came from, it's Hell on wheels.

Knotts Berry Farm was the first place in the world I ever tried Chili Cheese Fries, now a staple in my weekly diet it seems. Mom had never heard of them before we moved to California, so we decided to try them out when we saw them on the menu. They were wonderful!! We ate every last bite. Shortly afterward, any fond memories I may have had of Knotts Berry Farm were quickly wiped out with the simple motions of one very nasty roller coaster and the harness that failed to do its job.

We all hear the horror stories around the world about something going wrong on a roller coaster. Some kid falls out of a Ferris wheel because he's screwing around, another teen gets his arm ripped off because he didn't listen when they said to keep hands and arms inside the car at all times. It happens. That's a fact. But we never think it will happen to someone we know, or to someone we're riding with, or even worse, to us.

Montezuma's Revenge, or at least the one I'm talking about, is a roller coaster at Knott's Berry Farm. We went there back when I was about 8 or 9 years old, so it was in the late 80's, about the time we first moved to California. Mom liked the looks of it, and I was still young enough to not be afraid of anything but Lima Beans, which I still don't like. She wanted to go on the ride, and she wanted me to go with her. Instantly I agreed.

It looked simple enough. It had a loop in the middle and two dead ends on either side. We watched as the roller coaster would back up one of the dead ends, then get a fast start at the loop. It would go up and over the loop, all the way to the other dead end, and then stop. It would then go backwards through the loop, all the way back to the first dead end, then coast back to its starting position. It even paused a little in the center of the loop. It looked like a lot of fun to us. We got in line and couldn't wait to get on board.

We climbed on and took our seats. Clearly I remember my mother being to my left. We were both so excited. The harnesses came down over us and locked in place. The coaster started to back up. My heart was racing. I was thrilled to be going on such an adventure ride with my own mother. There was a lot of room in my harness, but I didn't think much of it. I was always a really skinny kid. I met the height requirements, so they let me on. That was all that mattered.

The coaster backed up to the dead end and we hung there in silence waiting for it to release. I grabbed the handles on the outside of my harness, waiting for that weightless, silent release of the coaster surging forward. I looked at Mom by poking my head out of my harness and looking around at her. She grinned ear to ear. Suddenly the world began to move forward in slow motion.

The coaster released and I hung in mid-air for a moment, weightless and excited. It raced past the platform of waiting riders and reached for the sky. It flipped over and slowed down just at the top of the loop. All of this happened in seconds, but it felt like an eternity to me. Suddenly I started to slide in my seat. I looked up and saw the ground below us from my upside down position. I slid further, grabbing at my harness with every ounce of strength I could, screaming out for my mother to help me as I felt my shoulders slide right between the shoulder pieces of the harness. There was nothing holding me in but my weak childhood forearms. I remember screaming bloody murder for my Mom to help. She turned and looked at me. She knew from my voice instantly that something was wrong. She reached over for me and pulled with all her might. She's a terribly strong woman when angry or filled with adrenaline.

My body slid back between the shoulder harness pieces, though my butt was still far from the seat of the coaster. I brought my arms back inside the harness and pushed up on the shoulder pieces with every ounce of strength I had, though I still could feel myself sliding. The coaster moved forward again and I slammed forward into the harness on the way down. It screamed past the platform on its way to the other dead end, my mother screaming as loudly as we could for them to stop the ride. They didn't hear us.

We flew upward toward the other dead end, my mother openly praying to God to save her only daughter. I don't know if she remembers doing that. I remember her crying out and holding on to me, screaming as loud as she could "God, please save my child," as I clutched her with all my might. She never loosened her grip on me for even a second. In vain, she screamed out to stop the ride again and again. Tears streamed down both of our faces as I sat there in horror, knowing what was coming. As that weightless feeling came over us again, there were no smiles between us this time. There was nothing but pure horror written over both of our faces as we plunged backwards towards what could have easily been my death.

I've never had much upper body strength, even when I was in the best shape of my life. I've never been able to do a pull up, and to this day I don't know where my strength came from. I braced my knees under the bottom of the harness as we plummeted back towards the Earth. By the time we screamed bloody murder to stop the ride past the waiting crowds, I had braced my arms inside the harness, pushing hard on the shoulder catch to hold my body to the seat. I hunched over and gripped the heels of my feet under the tiny lip of the seat I was on. Mom grabbed my shoulder as much as she could and pushed down with every bit of strength she could manage.

We screamed backward up into the loop, slowing just as before near the top. Then the coaster came to a complete stop once more. Silence filled the air around us. My back began to slide down the seat.

My ankles throbbed from gripping the seat under me so tightly on the very small lip I could hook them to. Mom couldn't get a good grip on me and had to let go. She grabbed my shirt instead and pulled towards her with all her might. She screamed at me to hold on. My arms didn't have the strength they needed to keep me inside the harness. My legs slipped and my knees were no longer braced against the bottom of the harness. I began to slide more. My shoulders reached the harness and started to slip through. I bent at the waist, dangling my legs in front of me over the shoulder harness. I hung like a rag doll upside down in a roller coaster I was supposed to be tall enough to ride. My body swung, a pendulum in the breeze, any second capable of finding death.

"HANG ON, MANDA!" My mothers words echoed in my ears every time I saw a roller coaster for years after that. I hung on for dear life.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the coaster started to move again. My body slammed to the back of the seat and slid slowly down the hard plastic surface. My feet let gravity take them to the floor once again. Mom didn't loosen her grip on my shirt, but I was OK with that.

We reached the dead end behind us at long last, and Montezuma's Revenge coasted to the bottom. I was weak from fear and could barely stand up to get out, while my mother was so pumped up with adrenaline that she practically dragged me out of the coaster and towards the ride operator. She screamed and yelled in his face, though I have no idea what she said. That could have been the relief in me blocking out whatever she was saying, but something tells me he really didn't understand her words either. She was completely hysterical, screaming and crying.

She told me later on that the second I shouted out to her, she got an instant migraine. It was instinctive for her to grab on to me, knowing something was wrong. She and I both thought I was going to die that day. As far as we know, nothing was done with the harnesses on that ride for several years, until a teen in the 90's slipped through the harness and died.

For years I was terrified of roller coasters. Then it became coasters that went upside down. Eventually I got over that and have only been afraid of slow moving heights, like a Glass Elevator, or the slow incline of a roller coaster in the beginning. Now that I remember the story of Montezuma's Revenge clearly, I believe this is and always has been the source of my Glass Elevator fear.

Shoplifting Days

Just a little while ago I wrote a blog about the trends of Shoplifting being on the rise. That was originally going to be a story of my own childhood, brought to memory by a recent experience with catching shoplifters up to no good. Though I can't go into detail about that short story for good reason, I can tell another story about Shoplifting.

My brother and I once walked into a store with nothing but a gallon size freezer bag full of pennies. Well, there were maybe 3 nickels in there as well, but it was mostly pennies. We'd been saving them for something special after my Mom one a bunch of pennies from a slot machine in Wendover, Nevada one night. We shopped and shopped, trying to find something to spend our pennies on. Finally, we agreed and decided on a hammock, priced at $4 even. We figured we could have hours of fun with it, so we carried it up to the register where the unsuspecting cashier rang it up. When we produced our bag of pennies, I wish I had been looking at his face.

We stood there for a good 30 minutes counting out 400 pennies to pay for our prize. There were more than that in the bag by far, but the cashier was so disgusted with us that he called the Manager out. Then we had another set of hands helping us count the pennies, completely disgusted with us kids. "Next time you have to take them to the bank and cash them in," the Manager said to us. "It's free to do it."

It turned out it wasn't actually free at the only bank we had access to. Our remaining pennies would have to be carried off of the military base we lived on and taken to another bank in order to get the full value of the pennies we proudly carried home with our hammock that day. Money was a rare thing for us kids, we weren't about to cash it all in and end up loosing any of it.

Mom was amazed when we came home with the nylon hammock. Dad helped us set it up on two of the trees out front and we spent hours playing in it. We would hold it closed over us and take turns flipping one another over inside it. We screamed and giggled like wild heathens for hours. We had the best time! We played with that hammock for hours.

The next day we asked if we could have some chips. Mom asked us how much the hammock cost us, and while puzzled as to why she would ask, we told her the cost.

"There were more than $4 worth of pennies in that bag. Why don't you walk down to the store and get something for yourselves. Then you can get what you like!" While it was a kind thing for her to say and quite a generous offer, we hadn't cashed in our pennies yet. "They'll take your pennies," she said, confident in the economy's ever growing need for pennies. (Insert sarcastic grin here). We marched right back down to the store, bag in hand.

We found what we wanted and walked up to the cashier with our heavy bag of pennies and set them on the counter. The chips we picked up were around fifty cents a bag, so we thought for sure that since we were being practical they would take our pennies. The cashier, the same one from the day before, scowled at us.

"My manager said you can't pay with pennies anymore."

"But it's all we have," my brother tried to explain.

"Sorry." The cashier turned his back on us in a huff and pretended to be busy doing something else. We had walked a full mile to get that bag of chips with our own mothers reassurance that they would take our pennies, and here the jerk just turned his back on us.

"I'll go put these back," my brother said, and I followed right behind him. We got back to the chip isle, and rather than put the chips back he put them inside his jacket. He handed me a bag and told me to do the same thing.

"But that's stealing," I said innocently.

"I've done it before. It's no big deal."

Reluctantly, and full of private fear, I put the bag inside my jacket. Then we turned with pennies in hand and walked out of the store.

Years before I had gotten caught stealing a pack of gum. I was around 4 years old at the time I think, and though I knew better and clearly remember the incident, my mother thought I didn't know what I had done and needed to fix it. I remember asking her if I could have the gum and she said no. Then I picked up the pack and stuck it in my pocket later. When she found me blowing bubbles that afternoon, she asked where I got the gum from and I told her. I was brutally honest. "I took them from the store" I told her. She marched me right back to the store and made me hand the pack of gum to the lady cashier and tell her I was sorry that I stole. I was so incredibly embarrassed. And yet, here I was around 4 years later doing the same thing all over again.

Mom didn't find out that time, but the guilt lived on within me. I knew what I had done was wrong. I knew we had the money to pay for the chips, and the cashier wouldn't take it. We should have just left them in the store and forgotten the whole thing. We didn't want to cash in our pennies and have to pay for it to be done, so in the end they went into an old coffee can to await the day they would become dollars.

I never stole anything again. I learned humility the first time and conscience the second time. There won't ever be a third time, though more than once I've nearly starved to death for lack of money and too much honor to steal.