Once upon a time there was a star.

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Once upon a time there was a star. This star lived right next to the moon.

The star looked at the big round moon and felt small. His light wasn’t as bright as the moon, or as big. He felt that compared to the moon, his light was meaningless and useless. He thought, “There’s no point in shining, it doesn’t make any difference with the bright moon in the sky.” So he stopped shining. A dark spot appeared in the sky where he used to be, but it seemed like no one even noticed.

Then, one night, a little girl came to see him.

“Star,” she said “why did you stop shining?”

“Because I’ll never be as bright and big as the moon,” said the star. “So there doesn’t seem to be any point to shine at all”

“But the moon leaves us sometimes,” she said. “He gets smaller and smaller until he fades away, making it too dark. I’m afraid of the dark, and you help keep me from getting scared when the moon is away.”

The star looked across the sky and sure enough, the moon was smaller than the night before and didn’t shine as bright.

“You make me feel safe,” she said.

The star didn’t think anyone noticed that he had stopped shining. He thought about it for a few moments, and then turned on his light.

The little girl clapped her hands with delight.

“Thank you for telling me that you liked my light,” said the star.

“You’re welcome,” said the girl.

It was all lies.

it was all lies

It was all lies. She knew it was even before she spoke it. The truth would ruin her, and the company. But that was the problem, wasn’t it? In sweeping these things under the rug, they come in to contact with other nasty events causing an accumulation that was on the verge of breaking out of its containment. One more scandal and it would blow up, taking her with it. And THEN what would happen to the value of the stock.

The most important thing was to keep the stockholders happy. All things bowed to that one directive. Keep the stock value as high as possible with a cannibalistic balance sheet that resulted in eliminating anything that didn’t show a high return on investment.

She cleared her throat again, and tapped the papers on the podium to give the signal that she was ready to speak. She was hoping that they wouldn’t be too vicious today, not like they had been in the past. Yes, there were serious issues, but there was nothing she could do about it now. They just had to keep moving forward and let the media frenzy pass, as it always did.

“Good morning everyone,” she began. The scrum quieted down and a couple cameras clicked. “I’m here to make a clear statement and I won’t be answering any questions.” She pushed the firmness into her voice, but she knew they would badger her anyway. She just gave herself the excuse to walk rudely away from their questions.

“The allegations against Mr. Stevenson are completely false. Terry Pratchet was employed by this company, but Mr. Stevenson never had sexual relations with her,” Her gaze flickered slightly, as he truth tried to escape. She held onto it firmly. “nor was he involved in any way with her death. This is the only public statement that will be made regarding this issue. Please direct any further questions to our lawyers. Good day.” She pushed away from the podium without looking at anyone. She heard the cameras click and the shouted questions but she refused to turn around. Only when she was safe inside the building did she realize her hands had been shaking the entire time.

When it was time to go, she hesitated.

when it was time to go

When it was time to go, she hesitated. The party was winding down, and the guests had dwindled down to only 4 remaining. All were engaged with the host and hostess, transforming the event from a boisterous ‘shin-dig’ to an intimate affair. It was time to go, but there was lingering desire in the air.

She stood on the exterior of the group and waited for a break in the conversation. After a few moments, it became clear that though they knew she was there, waiting, they didn’t acknowledge her at all. She waited a little longer, hoping that social politeness would kick in and someone would at least let her say goodnight. No one turned. Finally there was a pause and she found her moment.

“Hey Greg, I just wanted to say goodnight…” she trailed off. He turned his shoulders toward her, not breaking his contact from the group.

“Oh, you’re leaving?” he said with patronizing concern. “Well, thanks for coming.” He opened his arms to hug her. She knew it was more patronizing, more of a gesture of making fun of her unreciprocated emotional attachment to him, but she was so desperate for his affection that she took it anyway. A small victory for her endless pining.

She hugged him, very carefully and specifically matching his pressure and duration. She was desperate, but she didn’t want to lay herself too bare and give them reason to ridicule her even more.

Oh, but the elation at this moment of embrace! The feel of his body next to hers, the soft pressure of his arms around her, the smell of clean that cut through everything. His head turned far away, exposing the caramel skin of his shoulder and neck like prey exposed to a vampires kiss. She noted a small freckle on the nape of his neck and had to summon every single once of her strength not to kiss it. How horrible that would be! To have his disdain and disinterest materialized into a moment of clear rejection. It would close the door of possibility completely.

It was a waiting game. Her patience was fueled by the ocean of her desire. He was a boulder a top of thin column of sandstone, as gentle wave after wave, slowly eroded his aloof rejection. Eventually, the moving water always wins. Sometimes the column was made of stronger stuff, sometimes it only took one drink to make it crumble, but she always had the patience to wait. And in the waiting, the gentle lick of her waves against the stone wore away more and more. Until finally, in one glorious moment, the boulder would fall into her. A huge, heavy, thunderous beast, pushing aside all that she was, before becoming completely engulfed by her. Once he fell, he belonged to her always.

So she waited.

She didn’t like the look of him,

She didn_t like the look of him

She didn’t like the look of him, but what was she supposed to say? He was going to buy her a drink, and she really needed a drink after what Tony put her through. So, she disregarded her intuition (which was right for once), and let him buy her a drink. It didn’t mean that she had to put out or anything. Besides, at 65 most people wanted her to put it back in.

“Thanks for the drink,” she said. He just stared. She took a large sip of her gin and tonic. “This really hits the spot.”

He was transfixed.

“Yeah,” she went on, “My old man, Tony, he was busting my chops tonight, saying that I couldn’t go out without making him some dinner. But I told him his dinner was already in the oven, and he had forgot on account of him having a problem with his memory.”

The stranger never moved.

“So I tells him where he can find it, and then I grabbed the baseball bat and knocked him around the head a bit, just to make sure what I’d said got through to him this time. I’m not going to risk him getting back up again to sweet talk me into sleeping with him.” Her eyes went a little crossed. “I says, hey, I’m a married woman and you know what he said? I have no idea because I wasn’t listening anymore. I was down the street for the pub even before he thought to mention the d-word. Truth is, I don’t want to get a divorce. There ain’t no one in the world that’ll put up with me the way Tony does. Don’t get me wrong, he ain’t no angel. You have no idea what kind of shit him and his gang are into these days. I keep telling him if he doesn’t watch it, he’s going to turn out deader than all the creepy stuffed animals in his office. He knows a guy that does taxidermy and this guy regularly needs friends in the highway patrol, so now and then they ‘trade’ services. Particularly when this guy is up for review by the state parole board. He always wants Tony to be doing favors for him. But what does Tony get in return? A couple stuffed woodchucks and a deer made out of sticks and rabbit skin. Tony calls it ‘art’ but it doesn’t look like anything I’ve seen. I’m more into the classics myself, the kind you see at a regular museum. Stuff with Elvis and Jesus and shit. But to each his own, I guess. I never did think that Tony was all that bright to begin with. But he thinks he’s all that. Typical male ego. You can domesticate the lot, but they’ll always end up throwing it all away in a pissing contest. Right now, he’s in a contest with his younger brother. Tony won’t admit it, but he’s loosing the argument.”

She stopped to take a hit off her drink and that’s when the stranger finally spoke.

“It sounds like you’ve had a hard time of it,” he said smooth as silk.

“Hard time of what?” She was wondering why they kept turning up the TV. Wasn’t it loud enough already? Besides, who watches that crap anymore?

“Well, with this Tony fellow,” he continued. “It sounds like he doesn’t appreciate all the things you do for him, how much you need him.”

“Ain’t that the truth!” She tilted her head back and finished of her drink. Damn that TV was loud, and her mouth felt soft and swollen.

“What you need is a vacation,” she heard him say and nodded in agreement, except once she started, she couldn’t seem to stop nodding. After a moment she laughed at herself. A sloppy, drunk laugh. Which was odd because she’d only had the one drink. Must be good stuff.

“Vacation!” she yelled and the bartender shot her a disinterested frown. The stranger put some bills on the bar and then put his arm around her to help her off the stool.

“Let’s take a vacation, right now!” He said with almost unconstrained excitement, as he lead her out of the bar into the dark night.

They found her two days later, wandering on the railroad tracks, naked as a jay bird and mumbling something about a vacation.

The first time I saw her…

The first time I saw her she was seven years old. Warm and radiant with youth as children are, awkward puberty and teenage years a long way off. I was walking in front of her house, when out of the blue, she came charging around from behind the house imploring that I should help her rescue her unicorn which had gotten itself caught up a tree. Since I was early, and didn’t need to be at my appointment for a few hours, I decided it might be fun to engage in some childhood play for a while. After all, I’d never seen a unicorn.

She grabbed my hand and dragged me to the back yard.

“There he is mister! Can you get him down?” she asked.

I looked up and started to chuckle in spite of myself. There, tucked safely in the crook of a tree, was a large tabby cat with a horn tied around its head. The cat clearly wanted to stay where it was, as it did not enjoy the game that his mistress was currently playing.

“Can you see him? He’s magic!”

I found my way out.

“Nope, I can’t see him my dear,” I fibbed, an attempt to save the cat further embarrassment. “Where did you say he was?”

“There, right there!” She pointed emphatically.

I smiled and stifled another chuckle at her exuberance.

I bent down to her level “I’m sorry, sweetie. I just don’t see your magic unicorn –“

“You there! Charlotte get away from him!” The mother came blustering like a momma bear out of the back door.

I took several steps back and waited until the mother addressed me. I’d had a mother, too, and when mothers were in that sort of mood, the best thing to do is to wait until they ask you to speak.

“What do you think you’re doing back here?” she shouted

Very calmly, I replied “The child simply asked me to rescue her unicorn from the tree, and I was here to render assistance.”

“Unicorn?” He faced contorted “What unicorn?”

I pointed up into the tree

“That unicorn.”

She looked up and her face melted into a smile. She chuckled a bit and turned back to Charlotte.

“You know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers! Now why are you tormenting that poor cat! You know he doesn’t like the games you play. How did you get that horn on his head anyway?”

I tipped my hat and started to walk away.

“Wait, I’m sorry,” she called after me. “My name is Virginia Clement. This is my daughter Charlotte.”

Now it was Charlotte’s turn to have a face contorted in anger.   She wanted that cat!

“I’m sorry she disturbed you – she just has an overactive imagination! Hyperactive, even.”

“No, no apologies are necessary. I was happy to play along!”

“Well, anyways, I’m sorry.”

“That’s very kind, but I do need to be on my way.”

“Alright.”

Ms. Clement followed me around to the front yard. Suddenly, she blurted out

“Mr. Clement, my husband works a lot. I’m alone her with Charlotte most days.”

I nodded and reached the sidewalk. I turned to go and she blurted again.

“Would you like to come in for some coffee or peach pie? I just made it.” She worried her hands on her apron. “Only, I don’t get very much company and it would be nice to talk to an adult for a while.”

I felt sorry for her, so lonely with such a precocious child.

“Maybe some other time, I really must be going.”

“All right,” she said, dejected. But quickly gathered herself again, “Please feel free to come by anytime. I have all sorts of baked goods, and I make a great cup of coffee!”

I nodded and continued on down the sidewalk, not giving the incident another thought. 20 years later, as I looked at Charlotte snuggled in the pillows across the great big bed, it still amazes me how that first meeting set up the chain of events that lead us to the moment here and now.

 

 

 

Yesterday

It was yesterday. It was always yesterday. Nothing ever changed. No matter how many days came between them, it was always yesterday that everything happened. Eternally yesterday.

He slid his hand over his face, trying to wipe away the sleep. His hand came across the coarseness of his chin. “I should shave,” he thought. A knee jerk reaction to a totally innocent gesture. But there was no need to shave, was there? Not anymore.

He stared at the ceiling wondering how long he could stay in bed. He wanted to count the ceiling tiles and then fall back asleep but thought better of it. He had his fill of nightmares last night and needed to create new memories to block out the old.

He sat up and looked around the sparse room, as he did every time he woke, looking over all the ancillary objects with an experienced eye. Yes, a crack in the vase, and there – streaks on the window glass. These flaws were telltale signs that he was back in the real world, outside of the dream one in which he seemed to spend most of his time. It was in the useless, random details that he found solace. The silly, extemporaneous details that the computer would always leave out. They communicated a sense of firmness, of being grounded, in the present and in control, outside of any other world or time in which they wanted him to be.

He walked slowly to the bathroom to begin his waking ritual. He still took a shower whenever he could. His body might not be real, but he enjoyed the feeling of showering. It was like meditation before the day. It made him feel almost human again.

There was no need for food, so there was no breakfast. Sometimes he missed the smell of bacon in the morning so much he would start to drool – not a recommended activity according to the owners manual. No bacon, no coffee, no dry crusty toast. Hell, he’d even settle for moldy toast at this point but solid food was the trade off for the Kraftpack. He thought at the time that he wouldn’t miss eating. All the inconvenience of it, not to mention the waste elimination and then disposal. He felt sure that it was only one less thing to worry about. Besides, the Kraftpack provided him with a balanced nutritional intake throughout the day, along with regular inoculations and steroids to help fight off any errant infection. He was much healthier with the pack. But he still missed the bacon.

 

 

 

The phone rang and she looked at the caller ID

The phone rang and she looked at the caller ID. It was her sister, and since she called so rarely, Cheryl decided this time to answer it.

“Hey – “

She was cut off by a deep, guttural wailing on the other end of the line.

“What?! What happened?”

The wailing continued for just a moment, then Carla caught her breath. All she could say was “Steve…”

She didn’t need to go any further.

“No, no!” screamed Cheryl. “No! No!” She threw the phone across the room. She wasn’t going to let the tears come, because it wasn’t true. Whatever was on the other end of the line wasn’t true. Her brother was fine, there was nothing wrong. They were very close, and that closeness protected him from any harm. She decided that it was fact and picked up the phone. She pressed the red button and disconnected herself from the call.

By then Cheryl’s husband came into the room. “What? What happened?”

“Nothing.” Her laugh was like tin.

“Why were you yelling? And why did you throw your phone?”

She ignored the first question. “Oh, no, it just slipped.”

She could tell that he knew she was lying, but he slowly decided not to challenge her on it.

The phone rang again and he could see the picture of Carla, smiling and happy, come up on the screen. Cheryl sent the call to voice mail.

“Was that your sister?” he asked

“Oh, yeah,” she tried to sound casual, but came off as trying to sound casual. She didn’t care. “She just wanted to talk about something.”

“What was it?”

“Oh, nothing important.” She started to walk away, thereby ending the conversation.

He stared at her as she walked away, clearly trying to assess her emotional state. He didn’t believe her, and she let her feigned apathy fill the void of his unasked questions.

Moments later, his phone rang, and she knew without looking that it was Carla, hunting Cheryl down, determined to break through and deliver her heart wrenching news.

“I’m gonna…”

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My whole life has been “I’m gonna”. “I’m gonna be a great artist, I’m gonna be a great animator” and recently “I’m gonna be a writer”. But I’ve lacked the follow through. The actual work involved to be all these things I thought I should be. I thought that all these wonderful things would just happen to me, and now I’m disappointed that they haven’t.

Like everyone else, I just want to be good at something. I figured my “true calling” would be reveled in something I tried and was great at from the first stroke. I don’t know about you, but nothing like that has appeared in my life.

But is it too late? I’m not in my 20’s anymore. I have physical limitations that weren’t there before, things that are detrimental to a visual career. That’s why I’m interested in writing.

I’ve always loved to write.

Lately, I’ve been writing letters to friends and family in long hand through regular “snail mail”. I know it’s fun to get a letter from someone, and it’s fun for me to write them, so it’s a win win. The content is usually whatever pops into my head (kind of like this). I don’t edit while I’m writing, I just let it flow from the pen. Of course, the spelling is atrocious (I knew how to spell that!).

I also keep a journal, of course, which I write in everyday, often twice a day – once in the morning and once before bed. The content is the same as my letters – just whatever comes into my mind at the moment.

Finally, I have several “100 Letters” projects completed. A letter almost everyday to a family member. But these letters don’t get sent. The point is to have something to give to Charlotte when she gets older that shows my relationships with my family members – her family members. I want to leave these letters as little treasures for her to find.

So, I’ve already started on the road of creating the right habits to become a writer. Now all I have to do is walk that road with purpose and intent if I want to get from ‘I’m gonna’ to ‘I am’.