Hidden Treasures


Sometimes the thing we’re looking for is right where we are. Hope you enjoy this story.

Hidden Treasures

Julie Perkins’ crisp November morning started before sunrise, while nosy neighbors still slept and streets weren’t snarled in traffic. Other than a few boxes stacked near the door of her studio apartment, the room was bare. Julie sold the furniture and anything that didn’t have strings attached to her heart when she received the certified letter informing her of her father’s passing.

With a loud grunt, she hoisted a box of rejected screenplay manuscripts and spiral bound notebooks and carried them to the `65 Mustang that would take her back to Missouri, provided the tires didn’t go flat and the transmission held up. “Shit,” she moaned when she realized her car key was in her hip pocket. She tried to balance the overstuffed container on the bumper with one hand. The minute she popped the trunk, a gust of wind sent papers flying out into the street. “Crap,” she cursed and dropped the box into the trunk.

By the time everything was retrieved and the final boxes were loaded, sweat dripped down Julie’s neck. Now hot and exhausted, she rolled down the windows, put the car in gear and took off.  Screw this town. I wish I’d never come here. Tears stung with the acknowledgment.

As an only child, Julie swore Hollywood whispered her name in dreams. She envisioned walking on stage to receive an award for best screenplay. She wanted fame and fortune. She wanted to be somebody special. Growing up in the rural Ozark Mountains didn’t afford those opportunities. Julie’s mother, gone since she was twelve, would have understood. She took Julie to the matinee every time a new movie came out.

Her dad, on the other hand, fumed and cussed at Julie, calling her a fool for chasing an elusive dream. “Everything you need is right here,” he’d insisted. The more he talked, the more relentless she was to prove him wrong. Julie never forgot his hurtful words the morning she decided to go. ‘If you leave, don’t come crawling back.’ Too proud to admit defeat, she never returned. Spirit-broken and alone, the need to return to her childhood home tugged at her heart.

The man standing by the stoplight went unnoticed by Julie until he reached into the car and snatched her purse from the passenger seat. “Nooo!” she screamed. He took off down an alley with Julie following close behind in her car. “Stop!” The thief ducked between two buildings and disappeared. What the hell am I going to do now?

Julie circled back around determined to find her belongings. Surely the man would dispose of her purse quickly. A trash bin caught her eye and she threw the car in park, leaving it idle while she dug into the nasty metal container. “Got it.” Pleased with her find, she brushed off her jeans and straightened her blouse, just in time to see her car drive off. “Son of a bitch!”

The sun glared overhead as she stomped her way to the nearest police substation. In her furor, she hadn’t noticed the reporter standing within ear distance and armed with a camera. “Don’t you dare,” Julie protested in vain. The headlines would read, Free-Lance Writer Robbed Twice in One Day. The black mascara streaming down her tear-stained face was just the type of photo the sleazy magazine loved to print and not the kind of fame Julie imagined.

“Just doing my job, trying to make a dime. You know how it is.”

She plopped down on a park bench, distraught and homeless. On the following day, the police recovered Julie’s stolen car. Wanting no more delays, she dropped the charges against the teenage joyrider, withdrew the last of her money from the bank and with the warm California sun to her back, she headed east.

November winds had stripped the trees of their leaves, still the rolling Missouri hills brought nostalgia and a sense of peace that had escaped Julie for many years. She’d cherished the memories of picking fresh vegetables from the garden and the endless hours in the kitchen helping to snap the beans, shuck the corn and fry the chicken in preparation of the next meal.  When the sun went down, Dad would come in from tending the fields and give her a big hug.

As the Bloomsdale exit came into view, Julie noticed the addition of a large truck stop. Bet all the farmers love that. She wound her way through the back roads, past quaint little towns, and across low water bridges, in giddy anticipation of seeing the two-story home that held so many treasured memories. She hummed to the music on her radio as the miles clicked away.

The euphoric mood imploded when the house came into view. Abandoned for years, the deteriorating home mourned for attention. Not a window pane survived the solitude. The roof barely provided shelter for intrusive squirrels. Even the front door succumbed to the gravity of its unattended wounds.

“Oh my God,” Julie moaned as she shook her head in despair. The words echoed across the barren yard. Gone, the prized rose garden her mother tended to as if it were an innocent child. Gone, the field that once bore acres of corn, now overgrown with weeds. Gone, the man who protected it all. Puddles filled Julie’s eyes and she blinked to clear them. In the distance, an image appeared. Frozen in disbelief, she watched the man walk toward the house. “Dad?”

“Good, you’re finally home. Follow me.” His firm command, a faint whisper in the wind, wrapped around her and caused a shudder.

Still in command. That’s my dad. Julie smiled to herself. She reached out to touch him just as he disappeared and was met with the hard surface of the wood siding. “Dad?” Julie stepped toward the front of the house peeking through the collection of spider webs, brushing them aside as she stepped through the opening. Her father stood near the bedroom he’d shared with her mother.

“Should have given this to you sooner. Your mother wanted you to have it. I think it’s what you’ve been looking for.”

At the foot of the bed was a slat of wood, slightly ajar. She bent down and dusted off the area before removing the board. With both hands, she wiggled the old cigar box from the snug hiding place. “What is this, Dad?” She glanced up just as her father faded from view. “Dad! Don’t go!” Julie clutched the box close to her chest and hurried outside. Her father was gone. Julie collapsed to the ground sobbing.

***

Dr. James Howell escorted Julie to the front row of the theatre just as the lights flickered, indicating the play was about to begin. She glanced at her handsome date and smiled. Who would have thought I’d be here tonight? The journey had taken her thousands of mile and years of struggle, but the rewards exceeded her greatest expectations.

Her father had been right. The treasure she sought had been there all along. Had he shared it sooner, he might have celebrated with her. Inside the box had been a love story like none she had ever read. The handwritten journals provided Julie with the foundation for an award-winning screenplay and more. She’d never expected to find a family member.

The search to find her brother, placed for adoption years before Julie had been born, had taken longer than writing the screenplay but had been worth it.

Jimmy touched Julie’s hand and whispered, “I’m so glad you found me. We’re finally home.”

“Me too. Finally Home. I thought it was the perfect title for a play.”

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Daily Post – Fight or Flight Black Cloud Theory Part II


Here’s the rest of my heart thumping weekend.

By my third cup of java, the August sun began to peek through the blinds.  The plan for the morning was outlined in my mind.  I would surprise my husband by mowing the lawn, then take Laura to her swim lessons at the Boys and Girls Club.  I waited until eight-thirty a.m. to drag the mower out from the shed.  It took a few attempts of priming the bulb and pulling the cord, but I was finally able to start the push mower.  I was quite proud of myself.

I had trimmed a mere twenty feet of grass before I found the discreet copper water line that was buried below the tall blades of grass.  In seconds, I thought I had been transported to Yellowstone National Park as I watched a magnificent geyser erupt in front of me.  I stood dumfounded, unable to move.  From shock to frantic, I tried to remember where the shutoff valve might be.  My husband had shown me the one in the house, but that would not help me outside.  I visualized the man poking his rod down into a hole each month as he read the meter and it dawned on me that it was below ground.  I looked around and spotted the deep, spider-filled opening which was barely visible through the overgrown weeds.

I dropped down to my knees, reached in and tried to find the handle.  There was nothing but webs.  The only way to reach the meter was to lay flat on the ground.  I sprawled out, face first, and reached my arm into the hole as far as I could, trying not to think about the crawling creatures that would soon attach themselves to my skin.  There was no handle.  I jumped to my feet and dashed inside to call for help.

“Bill, I need your help now!”  I shouted into the phone.

“Who is this?” Bill Kramer, the trailer court manager, replied.

I could have said it was the crazy, dumb blond from down the street, but instead I identified myself and gave a brief explanation of my crisis.  Bill agreed to come to my rescue.  When he arrived, he took one look at me and burst into laughter.  There I stood, saturated from head to toe with grass clippings clinging to most of my body.  He proceeded to take his wrench and stop Old Faithful as if it was another daily routine.  I thanked him, knowing I would never again be able to have a conversation with him that did not involve my humiliating call.

There was just enough time for a shower and change of clothes before taking Laura to her swim lessons.  An hour of watching her thrash about in the water with her friends would help me relax, I told myself optimistically.  I found a place on the stadium-type bench and tucked my daughter’s shoes and towel and my purse in the space underneath.

I offered a hand to the young mother who came up behind me as she struggled to unload a large diaper bag, purse, towel and an infant in a pumpkin seat.  We chatted a little about her newborn.  She related that she was stressed about the weather report and thunderheads she had seen building on the horizon.  I assured her we were safe inside the sturdy concrete building.

After a short while, she could no longer ignore her concerns and decided to get her daughter from the pool and leave.  I kept an eye on her sleeping baby as she dried off her daughter and gathered all her bags.  Once she had everything balanced over her shoulder or under an arm, she picked up the pumpkin seat and left.

About thirty minutes into the lesson, I reached down to get a piece of gum from my purse.  My hand grasped anxiously from side to side, but couldn’t feel anything that remotely resembled a purse.  I stood up and looked underneath the bench.  Laura’s shoes and a towel were the only things on the floor.  My purse, oh my God!  My purse is gone.

Panic sank in as I remembered my husband was out of town and no one else had keys to my car or house.  I dashed to the check-in desk seeking help.  My voice was quivering as I tried to get someone’s attention, but the staff was too distracted by the impending storm that blackened the skies overhead.

Just as I thought I would burst into tears, the young woman who had sat next to me came rushing through the door with my purse in hand.

“I’m so sorry!  I grabbed your purse when I left.  I didn’t realize until I got home that I had it.  I left the kids with my husband and hurried back as fast as I could.”

Overwhelmed with gratitude, I thanked her and headed back to the bench to once again get my blood pressure under control.  The moment my derriere hit the bench, a large clap of thunder shook the building and all the lights went out.  Fifty blood-curling renditions of “MOM!” were shouted from the pool.  A staff person tried to announce the emergency instructions, but could barely be heard above the shrill screams.  The only back up lights available were BIC cigarette lighters held by a few shaking hands.

One by one, the children were removed from the water and returned to their anxious parents.  With Laura by my side and my car keys securely in hand, we sat briefly waiting for the storm to pass.  The thought of going to the trailer and riding out the storm was ruled out.  I never felt safe there in bad weather even when my husband was there to calm my fears.  Instead, I thought it would be a good time to visit Mom in Florissant.

The skies cleared as Laura and I made the drive to Mom’s house.  Mom put on a fresh pot of coffee while Laura and my youngest sister watched television.  Mom and I retreated to the breezeway as I narrated a brief version of my nightmare weekend.  It was great to finally relax in a secure environment.  Of course, it was just a façade.

I took another sip of coffee and my eyes caught a glimpse of something outside. I studied the blacktop driveway.  It was parallel to the side street and could hold about four cars comfortably if you pulled in close, perpendicular to the fence.  Hadn’t the car been almost touching the fence?  An alarm was going off in my head.   My white Ford Pinto was inching slowly backwards toward the street.  I bolted from my chair, sending the coffee flying everywhere, and dashed down the dozen steps to the bottom landing.  I flung open the screen door and headed for the car.  I was berating myself all the way.  How could I have forgotten to put it in park?  Imagine my surprise when I whipped open the driver’s door and found my little girl scrunched down on the floor board of the passenger side!

Once again my heart felt like I had been in a marathon race.  Thank goodness the side street had little traffic and was relatively flat.   I was able to apply the break and stop the car before it made it into the street.  Laura knew she was in trouble, but I knew if I opened my mouth, she would get all the frustrations of the day.  Instead, I buckled her in the car seat and pushed the car back into its spot.  Mom was standing at the steps by then, so I asked her to keep an eye on Laura while I retrieved my purse and keys from upstairs.  I was going home to lock myself away for the rest of the day.

The ride home was uneventful, thank goodness.  As I unlocked the door to the trailer, I heard the phone ringing.  “How’s it going?” my husband asked on the other end.

“Just fine,” I lied.

 

Is it Really Quicksand????


Have you ever been mired in quicksand?

I remember the day I made my First Communion in the Catholic Church. I have a picture of myself in a white, frilly dress, wearing a veil and shiny patent leather shoes.  It was supposed to be a day that I would remember as a beginning of a new era in my life.

We went to visit my grandmother who lived next to a large field that led to a playground.  I begged my parents to let me walk with my brothers to the playground, promising not to get dirty or ruin my dress and shoes.  We had gone there before without any incident and I reassured mom and dad I could do it without any problem.  They finally relented and the three of us ran off to have some fun.

About half way to our destination, I became mired in quicksand, at least that is what my brothers called it.  I sank down to my knees in something muddy and deep.  The more I fought it, the worse it got.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not get out of the muck.

My brothers ran off to summon my father.  I still remember the feeling of desperation while I was immobile and alone.  The tears streamed down my cheeks as I stood in the middle of an open field embarrassed and wanting to disappear before my dad arrived.

My pain was not from the sting of the spanking I received for my mud-packed shoes, socks and dress.  It wasn’t from the cold water as dad hosed me off.  The look of anger and frustration on my parents face would have been enough, but I can still see my grandmother who wept at the sight of me.   It was the disappointment of not keeping my promise and for ending a special event on such a sour note.

Like many others, I dove into November by challenging myself to complete my second novel (50,000 words) in 30 days (NANOWRIMO).  I zoomed through the first 25,000 words and my novel came to an end.  I went back and tried to find places to add more words, but the story line was complete.

I got mired in quicksand.  I couldn’t move forward.  I pulled and tugged and wanted to cry when I realized I would not be successful in completing the NANOWRIMO challenge.  I stopped writing anything.

For the past 7 days, I have sat hopelessly in front of my laptop glaring at the computer screen.  I felt much like the five year old girl who could not move an inch without sinking further into the mud.  I could not seem to pull myself out.  I failed to live up to a commitment I made, one that probably means little to anyone except me, but feels much the same as.

Then I remembered, I’m not that five year old little girl and I’m not in quicksand.  Writing is more than a thirty day commitment.  I’ve printed out my manuscript and read it.  It needs work, but it is a beginning and today is a new day, worthy of a new beginning.

To all my fellow writers who think they are mired in quicksand, it’s probably not quicksand that is holding you back.  Write.  You’ll feel better soon!

Seasonal Thoughts


My Old Friend

You were my friend, you beckoned me

You listened to my pain

You caught my tears, you dried them up

You were my shelter in the rain

Not even once did you turn away

Nor secret did you tell

You listened to my tender thoughts

You knew me oh, so well

The thought of you would comfort me

When we were far away

I’d close my eyes and you’d be there

In your arms I longed to stay

Too young to know our time would end

We’d part our ways too soon

Now cherished memories are all I have

Beneath the harvest moon.

From the Boughs of a Cradle


Poetry flows freely from my pen onto yellow pads, yet it seldom finds its voice at the keyboard.  Perhaps that makes sense since it’s difficult to walk leisurely through the woods while pecking away on a laptop.  My appreciation for the stimulation that Mother Nature provides began as a small child while wondering the hill of the Missouri Ozarks.  My love of poetry can be attributed to Robert Frost.

Mr. Frost shared the same love for God’s creations that I do.  He created his own footprints in The Road Not Taken and he touched the hollows of my soul through poems such as Bereft.  I felt a kindred connection to his need to share melancholy thoughts in the form of poems.

While I cannot compare my writings to such a master of the art, I share with you a poem that formed from my futile thoughts one evening after watching the local news.

From the Boughs of a Cradle

From the boughs of a cradle, much like you and me

So dependent on others, so innocent and free

He grinned with a smile that would capture your heart

No clue that his world would soon fall apart

Left alone once too often; forced to grow up too fast

The pleasures that warmed him were soon part of his past

The drugs and the booze became his whole life

Such a sense of abandon, such continuous strife

From street gangs to prison, he followed the path

Consumed by his anger, his hatred, his wrath

Now death by injection, the sentence he waits

So hopeless and helpless behind steel gates

The cradle is empty, the smile worn away

No family or friends to protect him today

 Will his soul die before us as inevitable fate

Or will a spirit embrace him?  Is it ever too late?

 

By Diane How

Burden or Blessing


Burden or Blessing

It’s easy to know Him when our troubles are few

To find hope in a sunrise when each dawn breaks new

To feel all His glory and have faith in His word

So easy to know Him when not facing the sword

But when troubles surround you and take hold of your heart

When the struggles with reason drive you further apart

Know that He loves you, for this He has shown

The miracles performed were for the weak and the worn

The blind man had vision; the lame He made walk

The deaf-mute who trusted could suddenly talk

To the least of our brothers He’s provided the best

Just give Him your troubles; He’ll do all the rest

And rejoice in the moment when you feel that great weight

It’s a sign that He’s near you and delivering your fate

For He’ll never abandon or forsake one in need

He hears your requests in the prayers that you plead

by Diane M How