Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Shoebox

In the back room of Helen Redleif’s nineteen fifties craftsman bungalow was a narrow linen closet. Thirty-four years’ worth of neatly folded beach towels, bath towels and wash clothes were stacked floor to ceiling, like a terry cloth filing cabinet.  On the top self, inconspicuously buried beneath an old pink towel was a shoe box sealed tight with aging yellow masking tape. Helen thought she had destroyed the little orange box years ago, after all, who needs evidence like that laying around? But nonetheless the box was there, on the self, undisturbed and forgotten. 

Helen’s daughter, Heather, drove sixteen hours over two days and through a severe thunderstorm to help her mother transition to a care facility where a woman her age would be more comfortable with others in her age group.  At least that’s how Heather explained it.  The reality was Heather saw her mother as slight and weak.  Where some might characterize Helen as eccentric and free-spirited, Heather thought her mother was silly, with a head full of nonsensical ideologies.  Heather wished her mother was more like her, level-headed and unwilling to take shit from the world. Her childhood was shaped by watching her mother fail over and over.  Helen amassed four failed marriages and dozens of broken noses and black eyes before Heather was out of grade school and still her mother kept falling for the same old paper-heart promises.  She knew by the time she entered high school her mother had a ‘type’ and she would have none of it.  

Heather loved her mother, she loved her more than anything.  Heather decided early on she could not watch her mother continue to fall in love and fail.  Her goal was to get as far away as possible.  It was her only chance to save her own sanity.  Heather worked tirelessly through high school.  She didn’t make time for silly teenage pomp and circumstance.  She was determined to break the cycle her mother started.  She wanted to get into a top ranked university and get far away from her mother’s madness, and that is exactly what she did. 

Helen was a victim in Heathers eyes.  She fell head first into every bad situation.  Her mother’s first husband, Heather’s father or sperm donor as Heather referred to him, was Helen’s first and truest love. However, unfortunately for Helen, she was not his truest or only love, if he ever really loved her at all.  They had met and things happened quickly.  Soon Helen found herself very pregnant and barely out of high school.  Plans began to circulate about a wedding and a house with pretty white shutters and a matching picket fence.  Helen’s head was so caught up in the fairytale she couldn’t believe her eyes when she walked in on her beloved with her best friend’s legs wrapped around his head.  Her world crumbled.  As quickly as it started she was left alone, penniless, and about to deliver.

For Heather, those first few years, home was a little portion of her grandparent’s basement.  Heather and Helen lived virtually out of sight. Despite it being the late seventies, a young, unwed mother was source of sinful shame for a hardworking, God-fearing couple of Midwesterners like Helens parents. They were rarely seen in public with their daughter and grandchild, except for Sunday’s.  Helen was expected to attend church services and baptize her child if she was to live in their house. They ate together and prayed together, but seldom did they speak beyond what was necessary. The subject of her father was never discussed under that roof and certainly never in front of her grandfather.  Heather saw the man who helped create her once when she was twelve.  By chance she and her mother were traveling though Pittsburgh and they happened to be in the same diner at the same time.  He sat with another woman and three young boys.  He stared across the room at them.  Heather remembered seeing her mother wave slightly at the man. She turned to see whom it was her mother was waving to so far from home.  Heather remembered locking eyes with him and knew instantly who he was.  Her mother said nothing to her until they were on the road again.  Heather watched the scenery pass out the passenger side of the old Oldsmobile station wagon. “The man, back there,” her mother paused, “was your father.” She finished matter-of-factly.  Heather stayed staring at the world passing by.  “I figured.” She replied and neither spoke of it again. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

The White Crayon

Little plastic barrettes pinned her sandy brown ringlets back from her face.  Molded bows, one violet and one pink, clipped just above her ears, was enough to keep the hair from falling.  She carried a small collection of coloring books and box of crayons out the front door and laid them gently on the concrete.  It was morning and the soft smoky grey walkway was still cool.  She could smell the moisture in the soil of the flowerbed edged along the walk from the front door landing to the driveway.  The pinkness of her cheeks was radiant in the morning sun.  She smiled to herself as knelt innocently, arranging her collection of books in front of her. 

She opened one of the books and turned each page, carefully examining each image.  The thick black line work of each image begged to her for color and life.   She turned the page, stopped, and stared at a colorless happy sun.  Beneath the sun was the outline of a bird standing on a tree branch with its head cocked upward.  Music notes dance from the bird’s beak.  This, she thought, would be fun to color.

Her little fingers pried open the box of crayons, spilling them on the concrete. She hadn’t noticed the white crayon rolling away, coming to rest in the expansion joint.  Its greyish white paper camouflaged the crayon in the shallow groove.  She picked up the blue crayon and began to trace inside of the little bird.  She sang softly to herself as she worked.  Her hushed tune was barely a whisper, only heard by the little bird and the smiling sun.  She was only four but had an artful eye for detail.  Steady and slow she traced each image in the color of her choosing.  Then, meticulously, she would fill the space with smooth, even color.  She was careful not to allow the crayon to pass over the thick black outlines.

Everything about that morning was perfect.  But that morning was a long time ago.  That morning in the sun light, coloring and singing to herself, was the last best memory she had of her childhood.  She sat at the foot of the bed with her feet dangling.  She traced little invisible circles with her toe.  It’s funny, she thought, the way memory works, like ripples returning over still water.   

Apartment 228

We hadn’t noticed the dark red stain in the middle of the living room carpet when we moved in.  We didn’t notice it, because it wasn’t there.  A lot of the strange events that happened in that apartment went unseen or unnoticed, at least at first.  Life was good back then, Amber and I were two young lovers and the world was ours.  We enjoyed having someone to come home to after long days at work.  We were still getting used to each other when the little oddities began to happen.  Occasionally a kitchen cabinet or the refrigerator would be left open.  Full gallons of milk could sometimes be found warm and spoiling, left open in the pantry.  At first I believed it was Amber being absent minded, or forgetful, or even lazy.  Amber had a condition.  The side effects of her medication often left her confused and sometimes incoherent.  It wasn’t a stretch of the imagination by any means to believe she would confuse a pantry for a refrigerator, especially when she was on her meds.   There were other times when I must have gotten a little too drunk or she must have gotten a little too stoned.  We would usually laugh it off.   These odd occurrences always seemed odd but not necessarily unexplainable.  In hindsight, the open fridge and cabinet doors were not laughable misguided or misplaced happenstance, but rather, warnings.  It wasn’t until the apparition of the cat that we finally began to take the warnings for what they truly were. 

The dimming light of the evening was filtered through the partially open vertical blinds hung over the arcadia door to the balcony.  The dinette was set for a quiet dinner of spaghetti noodles and pasta sauce.  We worked opposite schedules but we made an attempt to have dinner together a few times each week.  We had just began to eat when we heard a soft mew coming from the bathroom.  We looked at each other with our forks loaded with noodles.  I watched her eyes shift from me to the hallway behind me.  Her eyes widened and the color drained from her face.  The fork in her hand, suspended mid-bite, began to tremble uncontrollably.    My heart leapt into a rhythm I had never felt before.  I slowly turned my head toward the hallway.  She and I watched as cat peaked its head out from inside the bathroom.  It looked at us.  Its skull was exposed on the right half of its head.  It was bloody and what fur remained was matted and wet looking.   It let out another soft mew before arching its back, rubbing its body along the doorjamb and slinking into full view.  We watched as it strolled across the hall and into our bedroom out of sight.  The cat’s movements were unmistakable.  We didn’t own a pet and a cat had no business in our apartment, let alone a one with a bloody skull.  I turned to Amber.  Her face was white and her eye were wide and dilated.  I asked if she had seen what I had seen.  She slowly and silently nodded yes.  I stood up and hurried to the room.     

The Enigma

Looking around us you can see this is not the environment one would wish for themselves.  I can remember a great many things but as a matter of time and significance I shall focus only that which matters most to my life and this story.  I am stuck between two parallel worlds.  One world is the world I wish to be in.  The other, is the world I want to get away from.  I am in a constant state of flux.  Right now my life is in a delicate balance.  Too much or too little in any direction will make the whole thing topple, crushing me beneath it.  I take accountability for the things I have done, and I have done plenty.  I am not so vein to not recognize my failures, and I have failed plenty.  I am only a person, simple and ordinary.  I am a human capable of only that which is humanly.  I can tell you my story as best I can, but only in the manner of which you will know it to be. 

These shackles are meant to bind me.  I am sedated to keep me in a state of blissful solace.  Though little do they know I am here of my own volition and I will leave anytime I wish.  I am only a person, simple and ordinary, though you may think otherwise.  I cannot be contained.  Neither brick, nor mortar, nor steel can hold me.  I am a danger they said to both God and country.  I am an enigma they said and I cannot be allowed to be free.   I have chosen you to hear my story because someone should bare witness when I leave and give them this testimonial.  I have chosen you because you won’t try to stop me.

I am only a person, simple and ordinary, but I am not like you.  I am a human capable of only that which is humanly as long as you understand that the human capacity reaches far beyond what you know it to be.  I can shape your reality and I can twist your mind.  If I wish it, it will be done.  I am not alone in my abilities, though I no longer play by the rules.  That is why I am here chained and bound and constantly watched.   They watch me as I have watched you.  That is how you have come to find yourself in that chair.  I told them to bring you. They had no choice but to comply, because I made them comply.  Similarly, you had no choice but to come, because I had already made the choice for you.  Your thoughts are not wholly your own.  I can influence a great many things.  One simple thought and I can turn the wheels of fate in your favor or I can open a sequence of events that can ruin you.  Allow me to demonstrate for you, do you see the two lieutenants in the in the observation room behind me? Good.  In ten seconds time, a sergeant will open the door and all three men will leave in a hurry, leaving only the monitors to record our session.  There, you see, just as I described.  I am not a psychic, I do not need to be.  Free will is a philosophy that humans can express personal choice, free of divine influence.  This, however, is not entirely accurate.  I can influence and change anything I choose.  Allow me to demonstrate again.  Please watch you pen, as I make the ink flow freely from the ball-point tip and float before you in an anti-gravitational state.  What you see now is my ability to bend physics and the physical world to my will.  You can recognize the work you see before you floating in perfect script is the Magna Carte, in its entirety.  It is there because I wish it to be there, you have witnessed this because I have allowed you to witness this.  No, I am sorry, this is not a trick.  This is only but a tiny sample of my ability.  No, it is not a miracle either, there is nothing miraculous about me, for I am only a person, simple and ordinary.   I was born into this world with this ability and it will die with me as well.  But just as others before me, too, had my abilities others, too, will come after.

Others like me have always shared this world.  History has called us Fates, prophets, shamans, gurus, wizards, soothsayers, and more.  We are not gods, nor do we claim to be. We are born into this world with a knowledge deeply engrained in us.  Those like me have lives that span eons.  Time is but a unit of measure, concocted by men, and we manipulate it as easily as I had manipulated the ink from your pen.  We are not immortal. Our lives are not without end, though for us, death is a choice.  We have shaped this world in millions of subtle ways.  It is not uncommon for those like me who grow tired of this life to gift mankind with an advancing knowledge.  But because of so many like you, those gifts are bastardized and abused.  And it is up to us to fix your mistakes.  There are not many left like me.  Too many like me have grown tired of those like you.  As we expire, the deep knowledge we possess expires with us.  We are the balance keepers.  We can no longer keep pace with the reckless abandon of mankind.  When we are gone, you will destroy yourselves.  I tell you this as my gift to you.  I, too, am growing tired of this world.  My testament is a warning.  I am only a human, simple and ordinary.  I have taken to showing you the extraordinary in an effort to spare you the tragedy of what will come.  

Mankind has lost sight of the fact that it exists because of this world, not in spite of it.  Your race is drawn to power and destruction.  The power to destroy is meaningless without the influence to rebuild.  Mankind is not inherently good, it is inherently evil.  It is we who guild you to build with the ashes of that which came before.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Hitchhiker

           The clouds began to brake, slowly drifting apart like algae on a pond.  The broken edges glowed pale blue, back lit by a full but hidden moon.  Their heaviness produced a misting rain, which at times became intermittently heavy, washing the dirt and grime from the quiet stretch of highway.  State highway 15 is a narrow two-lane bypass between Ellingsburg and Camronton.  The road twists up and over a hilly, mountainous terrain of deep forest.  Tall ponderosas and great wild oaks stand as giant sentries in the dark and rain.  A military style gunny sack rests next to a small silhouette seated by the highway.     

            The figure sits wrapped in a thin parka, hugging its knees with its chin sunk deep into its chest.  The mist collects and beads down the yellow plastic parka, like condensation off a Coke bottle.  Hours pass and the clouds shift and move over the lone figure.  The rain continues to fall but the loner is motionless.  Rain water collects in shallow streams along roadway snaking past the loner’s size eight boots pressed firmly in the mud.  The clouds brake momentarily, exposing a brilliant white moon.  The figure lifts its face to the pale light.  A pre-teen boy’s swollen and teary eyes reflect the painful night sky. 
           The wind shifts and the watchful moon is gone again.  A rumbling rises from down the hill, a low rumbling that rolls like thunder up the mountain pass.  The Boy’s small frame stands up.  He turns to face the darkness down the road.  He recognizes the rumble as the throaty growl of a diesel engine.  He can see, in the night, the faint glow a headlights some distance away.  The gaze of the yellow lights casts golden highlights on the trees below.  The boy gathers his bag and extends his arm and thumb toward the road.  He edges himself onto the blacktop highway as the lights of a tractor trailer come around the bend several hundred yards down the road.  The boy is determined to not let the only sign of life, on this ghostly night, pass him by. 

            The rig growls as the air brakes snort and hiss.  The tires slowly claw their way onto the rough shoulder of the narrow highway.  The rig stops a few feet short of the boy, who stands unflinching to the beast before him.  His arm and thumb still extended.  His head still lowered, cowled beneath the yellow plastic parka.  The drizzling rain streaks softly through the bright beams emitted from the trucks headlamps. 

            “You jus’ gonna stand there in the cold an’ wet? Or you gonna get in cab?”  A voice came from the truck.  The boy still stood.

            “You wanna ride, donch’a? I ain’t got all night.” The voice calls out again from the darkness behind the light.  The boy steps slowly to the passenger side of the rig.  The door opens and the dome light inside the cab reveals a large man on the opposite side of the cab.  The sleeves of his denim shirt were rolled to his elbows exposing a tattoo of a Valkyrie on the battle fields of Valhalla.  The man’s long stringy hair was tied back beneath a bandanna depicting the American flag.  His intensely dark eyes rested like black pearls in white oyster meat and his long black beard bounced as he spoke.    

            “You sure picked a helluva night to travel son. Whatcha doin’ out in these woods all by yer lonesome anyhow?”

            The boy tosses the duffel on the floor board and climbs into the rig.  The bench seat was covered in a colorful wool blanket. The boy props his muddy boots on his green canvas bag and folds his hands between his knees. 

            “Where ya headin' son?” The man’s voice was gritty and rough, echoing in the night like a John Deere rolling down a gravel country mile.  “You don’t speak much do ya, son? You gotta name, boy?”  The boy doesn’t speak. 

            “How ‘bout I just call you ‘Little Bear’? Huh? You like that, Little Bear?” The man reaches over and slides the hood back off the boy’s head.  “Why don’t ya let me get a look atcha?” The man rested his arm across the seat back and stroked the boy’s hair.  The boy doesn’t move.

            “Hell, son, there’s bird shit on this rig older ‘an you, but that’s alright, you are a good lookin’ boy.  I bet you from Camronton.  Ain’t nothin’ in Camronton but whores and junkies. How ‘bout we find out which one are you?” The man removes a small towel from his lap, exposing his genitals.  The boy doesn’t look.

            The man stops stroking the boy’s hair and reaches behind the seat.  He produces a silver Magnum revolver and presses it to the boy’s head. 

            “Perhaps you didn’t hear me proper.  Now, you get o’er here and give this hog a tug before I cover this highway with yer brains.”  The man’s roared loudly. The boy slid slowly toward the man.

            “That’s a good boy, Little Bear, come to papa.”  The man relaxed his arm again across the seat back.  The revolver loosely grasped, pointing toward the passenger door.  The boy was closed enough to the man to smell his pungent odor.  He turned toward the man and watched him take in a deep breath,  lean his head back, and close his eyes. 

            The boy carefully reaches unnoticed to his size eight boots.  Still watching the man, he came up quickly, shoving a twelve inch buck knife through the soft meat under the man’s jaw.  The boy came with such force the tip of the wide blade pushed through the top of the man’s skull from the inside.  The man’s eyes pop open and the gun fires, blowing out the passenger side widow.  The man’s screams drown in a muffled, wet gargle. His black pearl eyes roll in their saltwater beds, unaware of what has happened.  The boy watches and smiles, as the man’s body convulses.  The boy pulls the knife from the man’s face and plunges it hard into his chest, slicing his heart in two.  Blood pours from under the man’s chin and mouth.  The boy reaches over and opens the driver side door.  He pushes the man’s heavy body onto the wet roadway.  The body hits with a thud, still twitching.  The black eyes seem to look upward to the boy.

            The boy looks down to the man’s body as the blood pools around it in the rain, “My name is Azrael. I’ve been waiting for you,” the boy says, “and you have been judged.”  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Anywhere but Here (part 5)

            The room was dark and I tried desperately to hold on to the dream as it faded from my mind.  It had been so long since I lost my family that I no longer knew if my dreams were recalled memories or desperate wishes for something, anything, that resembled my old life.  I missed the feeling I got when my daughter hugged me.  I longed to have the opportunity to see my son smile one last time.  I would give my life to look into my wife’s green eyes and feel her heart beat in her lips as we kissed.  But all I had was a fading dream and a hospital bed. 

            The room was still dark when the nurse came in.  Blue florescent light flooded the room from the hall when she entered. I watched one dark shadow march along the tile followed by another.  The nurse pulled back the curtain.

            “I am glad to see you’re awake, Mr. Mullhaney.” The night nurse was a middle-aged black woman with short cropped hair.  She walked to the monitor beside the bed and began looking at the jagged line printout that stretched from a small box printer below the monitor onto the floor. 

            “What’s going on?” I asked, my eyes still readjusting to the blue light.

            “A bus accident,” her voice was emotionless. “They needed all the room in the ER they could get. They moved you to this ward for overnight observation.”

            “I don’t really understand, why would they keep me for overnight observation for cuts and bruises?”

            “You had head injury Mr. Mullhaney, they wanted to rule out a concussion.”

            “If they thought I had a concussion why did they let me sleep?”

            “That’s actually a misconception, patients who may exhibit signs of a mild head trauma often fall asleep.  It is common to let them sleep but wake them and assess their symptoms at regular intervals.  But you have nothing to worry about, your CAT scan came back negative.” She said looking over a manila chart.

            “I had a Cat scan?” I propped myself up on my elbows.


            “Was I awake? I don’t remember that.”

            “Yes, don’t worry, short term memory loss is common with head trauma.  Like I said, your scan was negative, you’re probably experiencing some temporary memory lapses but that should soon subside”

            “When will that be?”

            “A few more hours, try to get some rest.”

            “Nurse? One more question.”


            “Who came in the room with you?”

            “Excuse me?” the nurse looked back up from the chart.

            “I saw two shadows cross the floor, but only you came around the curtain. Who followed you in here?”

            “Mr. Mullhaney, I am not sure what you…” the nurse began but was interrupted.  A man in a dark suit stepped from around the curtain

            “It’s ok,” the man spoke to the nurse, “I will handle it from here.  Will you excuse us for a moment?” the nurse nodded to the man’s request and turned to exit the room.  Blue light flooded in once more and the door swung closed.  I was alone with the man. 

            I looked at the man’s shape in the darkened room.  A green light on the heart monitor beside the bed began to flash and beep.  My heart rate was elevating rapidly.

            “Do you know anything about Lie Detectors, Mr. Mullhaney?” The man in the suit stepped closer. “They measure physiological changes in a person’s body, specifically, physiological changes that occur when a person lies.  Someone who has been extensively trained to read lie detectors could easily read such information from something otherwise unrelated to lie detecting.  Something like the subtle changes in a person’s breathing patterns, the way a person’s eyes dilate in different light, or even something like a heart rate monitor could easily convey information to a trained professional.”  The man spoke slowly and began to look at the print out beneath the monitor.

            “Who are you?” I asked

            “Try to relax, introductions aren’t necessary at this point.  We know who you are and the time has come to ask you to help us.” The man took a seat in the plush arm chair beside the bed.  He moved the monitor next to the chair. “But first I need to ask you a few questions.  It’s important that you relax and answer me with complete honesty.” The man in the dark suit stood up and reached into his sport coat.  He pulled out a syringe and began prepping it.

            “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!” I began to panic.  The beeping of the monitor jumped to an erratic pace. I tried to reach for the man but found I was strapped to the bed.  Thick bindings were strapped snuggly around my waist and ankles. Despite my efforts, I was unable to move.

            “Are you familiar with Sodium Pentothal?” the man asked.

            “Yeah, it’s one of the drugs used for lethal injections.”

            “That is correct, but believe me Mr. Mullhaney, you are far more valuable to us alive.  More specifically, Sodium Pentothal is an anesthetic. During the 1950’s it was found to be a fairly effective truth serum.  But Sodium Pentothal was not infallible.  During the cold war the formula for a reliable truth serum was perfected, based on Sodium Pentothal.  The final formula is highly classified and is known only as ‘Item 419’. I am giving you a small dose of 419.  This will help you relax and ensure your absolute honesty.”  His voice was calm and monotone.  “419 is extremely potent.  Please, sit back and relax.”

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Anywhere but Here (part 4)

     I waited a longtime behind the emergency room curtain.  An orderly brought a bed and I transferred from the wheelchair to lie down.  The curtain remained drawn and the officer remained posted like a sentry.  I waited a long time for the detective to come.  I drifted off to sleep and began to dream. 

     The light broke through window and the Sunday morning daylight tracked across the bed.  Lisa slept beside me, tucked tight under the comforter attempting to stave off morning for a few more precious hours of sleep.  I laid there watching the tiny specs of dust float through the light of morning.  The bedroom door slowly widened and the faint sound of small footsteps crept gingerly across the carpet. 

     “Daddy?”  My daughter Kimberly’s small voice reached out to me. “Are you up, daddy?” She moved to see if my eyes were open.  They were.

     “Good morning, Honey.” I whispered, careful not to wake Lisa. Kimberly’s blonde hair glowed in the light. 

     “Daddy, when will the baby come?” Her eyes were bright and inquisitive. 

     “Not for another few months.”  I said.  She crawled up the bed between her mother and me.  I rolled onto my back and Kimberly nestled into the crux of my arm. 

     “Then I’ll have a little brother?”

     “That’s right.”

     “And I will be a big sister?”

     “Yep, are you excited to be a big sister? I said


     “That is a very big responsibility, are you sure you can handle it?”

     “Daddy, of course I can be a big sister, I am already bigger than the baby, it only makes sense.” Kimberly sounded so confident.  A familiar giggle came from inside the covers beside us.  We looked over to see Lisa looking back at us with a warm smile.

     “Mommy! You’re awake!” Kimberly bounced to her knees. Her pink nightgown cascaded around her tiny feet folded underneath her. “Happy Mother’s day, Mommy.”

     “Thank you, baby.”  Lisa’s face beamed as she emerged from her plush cotton cocoon. Her green eyes glowed in the rich yellow light that now filled the room.  Her red hair and flawless skin radiated an unparalleled youthfulness.  I had known her all my life and still I marveled at her beauty.   “Happy Mother’s day, Beautiful.” I said leaning in and kissing her. 

     “Thank you, lover.  I couldn’t have done it with you.”  She joked.

     “Thanks, but today is your day, what would you like for breakfast?”

     “hmm, let me think.” Her voice became low and sultry.  Her hand found its way through the sheets and glided softly over my inner thigh as she spoke.  She moved her hand in slow motion rubbing higher with every pass.  “Pancakes, eggs, and bacon.” Her voice quickly transformed back and hand unexpectedly pulled away as she quickly rose from the bed.  My jaw dropped in disbelief.

     “You are an evil woman, and a terrible tease.”

     “I know,” she smirked back, “and you love ever bit of it.  Besides what did you think was going to happen? Our daughter is still in the room.”  She scooped up Kimberly into her arms.

     “You need to be careful lifting like that, you are pregnant.” I cautioned.

     “Thank you, Dr. Oz for that news flash, but I’m barely half-way through my second tri-mester.  Don’t worry so much, Handsome, I’ve done this before.”  She said nuzzling the neck of our first born in her arms.  Kimberly giggled wildly at the extra attention.  Her sassy reassurance made me smile. 

     “C’mon Honey, Daddy’s going to make us pancakes.” Lisa turned to exit our bedroom.

     “Yea! Pancakes! Mommy, guess what? I made you something for Mother’s day.”

     “You did? I can’t wait to see it” The conversation between mother and daughter trailed off as the two disappeared into another part of the house. 

     I relaxed back down and folded my hands behind my head staring up at the ceiling.  I smiled and thought for a few more minutes at the utopia my life had becoming.  I never imaged that I, of all people, would have such a beautiful life, that the awkward boy that existed on the fringes of adolescent social circles would be married to someone so amazingly charming.  My thoughts were interrupted by a pair of voices calling to me from beyond the bedroom door.

     “DAD-DY, PAN-CAKES, WE ARE HUN-GRY!” The voices sang in unison. 

     “OH-KAY, I AM COM-ING” I sang back.  I stepped from the bedroom into the greatroom. “But, first things first.”  I walked toward Lisa and Kimberly seated together on the sofa.  From behind my back I presented Lisa with a small, black, rectangular box carefully tied with a purple ribbon.  Lisa bounced up with childish excitement, folding her knees beneath her the same way Kimberly had moments before on our bed. 

     “I love presents, and the ribbon is purple, my favorite color.”  She took the box and untied the purple bow.  She lifted the box top.  Her eyes popped open “Oh, Riordan, It’s absolutely gorgeous.” She gasped, timidly lifting the diamond and emerald tennis bracelet from its white cotton bed inside the rectangular box.  “I love it!”  I reach over and fastened the clasp around her wrist.  She raised up on her knees and kissed me hard.  She relaxed back slightly and looked into my eyes. “I love you.” she said.

     “I love you, too, beautiful. Happy Mother’s day.”  I replied.  Lisa sat back.  Her arm out stretched.  She stared smiling at the bracelet, dazzled by her new jewelry.   

     “Are you going to help me make Mommy’s pancakes, Kimmy?”

     “Yep” Kimberly jumped into my arms and we made our way to the Kitchen.

     My daughter and I prepped breakfast and Lisa exited the greatroom to shower before breakfast.  Kimberly quickly became tired of mixing pancake batter and scrambling eggs and redirected her attention to her toys and storybooks.  I continued with breakfast.  Soon, the eggs were finished and fluffy.  The bacon was fried and crisp.  I began the pancakes.  The skillet sizzled as the cold semi-liquidous batter made contact with hot metal.  Silently from behind, Lisa’s dainty, slender hands wrapped around my bare chest from underneath my arms. She tucked tightly against my back resting her head sideways between my shoulder blades.  Her still wet hair was cool against my skin.  I could smell her lavender and chamomile bodywash above the buttermilk pancakes and bacon. 

     “I love my bracelet.” She whispered hugging me tight.  She moved her left hand over my stomach and her right hand deep inside the waist band of my blue plaid, flannel sleep pants, tenderly caressing me. “I want to make it up to you for teasing you so horribly this morning and to properly thank you for my gift.”

     “What about our daughter?” I teased, removing the golden brown cake from the skillet.  I turned around to face her.  She was tightly wrapped in a bath towel.  Her breast cleavage swelled above the damp terry cloth.  She sweetly pouted her lips, looking at me with large doe-y eyes.  

     “Kim is playing quietly in her room.”  Lisa rationalized.

     “I don’t want to burn breakfast, and I still have all this batter to fry up and…”

     “Riordan Matthew Mullhaney,” Lisa protested, “You will follow me to that bedroom and make love to me right now. It’s Mother’s day and as the mother of your children, I demand it.”

     “Okay, okay, if I must,” I playfully gave in to her demands “you are the boss.” I reached back and turned off the burner.  Lisa turned and led me by the hand into the bedroom, proudly strutting like a peahen.

     The dreamy memory of that day faded as I awakened in the hospital bed.  I was no longer in the emergency room.  I had been moved to a room on one of the wards.  The room was mostly dark. I hit the nurse call button on the bed and waited for someone to answer.