Dying

2.  You find out that you will die in five years or less. How do you find this out?  What do you do with those last five years? (Andrew Kinder, 1000 Awesome Writing Prompts)

 

We ArE coMinG fOr You.  yOu HavE fiVe YeaRs leFt to liVe.  ThEN youR DeBt is DuE.

 

I reread the magazine letter clipped note again.  I found it on my door four years earlier.  I knew who it was from, I knew why it was there, and I knew without a doubt in one year, I would be dead.  When I first got the note, I didn’t believe it.  They couldn’t have found me.  We made a deal, but then I hid, changed my name, my looks, moved across the world.  I hid the note for a long time from my wife.  She wouldn’t understand the deal, or the death sentence.  She would be devastated.  Last year I told her.

I woke up, took out the note and set it on the bed.  I went to make coffee and bring her a cup to help get through the conversation we were about to have.  She was awake when I returned, but hadn’t seen the note. It had fallen to the floor.  It was my chance to just let it go, to die in two years and have her find out and mourn for me the way most widows do.  The burden was too much.  I needed to tell someone.  Picking the note off the floor, I handed it to her.  

“What’s this?” she said, her smile fading as she read it.  

“What is this?  Is this some kind of joke?”  I took her hand, and started talking.  I was amazed at the pace I used to explain everything.  When I was finished, tears rolled down her cheeks, and she asked the one question I knew she needed to know, but I didn’t want to answer.

“How long ago did you receive this letter? You are too calm for it have been today.  Please don’t tell me it was five years ago.”  

“No,” I said, “It was three.  I have two more years.”  

We spent the rest of the morning in bed.  Her asking me questions, me being completely honest about my past, and the dogs snoring.  Around noon, I dozed off.  When I awoke, she was gone.  For a moment I thought she left me and was gone for good, but then I heard bustling downstairs and her voice as she chastised the dogs for barking.  

I got myself ready for the day, and went downstairs.  Across our table where maps, and travel books, her computer had  thirty-two tabs open to different hotels and cities.  

“What is this?” I asked.  

“You have two years right?” she said

“Can we not talk about this anymore?”

“You have two years?”

I nodded.

“Then that simply ruins all the plans I had for traveling together when we retire, because you will be gone by then.  So I have decided that we will spend the next two years in retirement, and when you are gone and I have mourned you, I will go back to work.  I’ve already checked the retirement accounts, we have enough sitting in our life insurance.  We can do it. We can travel wherever we want.” She said.

“What if I want to stay here and just see you?”

“Cheesy. I will allot time for us to relax at home.”  She proceeded to tell me her list of places to visit over the next two years.  She asked if there was anywhere I wanted to add.  I told her no.  Then came what I was waiting for:

“In exactly two years we will be in Tokyo.  Amidst millions of other people.  They will just have to wait until we get home for you to pay your debt. Or maybe they will just give up and leave you alone.”

“That’s not how it works, sweetie.  If that’s what all this is about, I appreciate it, but no matter where I am,  two years from today they will get what they are owed.”

She sighed, more tears flowed.

“Well,” she said at least, “get the checkbook, this is too much for me to organize without a professional’s assistance. We are going to the travel agent.”

A year has past since that day.  Right now we are on some private tropical beach in the Pacific.  There are others on the island, but this beach hut and white sand shore we have completely to ourselves.  She made me promise never to reminder her how much time was left, but to pretend that this two year vacation is infinite.  She even went as far as to plan – although not book – trips after the two year mark to make it seem real.  

Maybe she thinks it is real.  Maybe it is what she needs to wake up and not cry, but I know she sometimes does.  Whatever the next year holds, in one year I will be home – I made her promise to have us at home – and then, I will be gone and she will be free.

-M.R. Gavin

The Vessel

The Vessel: Write about a ship or other vehicle that can take you somewhere different from where you are now. (365 Creative Writing Prompts)

Colorful paper hangs on the walls highlighting the things I have tried to embed in my students over the course of the year.  My desk is cluttered with papers needing grading, broken pencils, and drawings given to me by my students.  While I want to feel enlightened, positive and smiling like the posters on the classroom wall, I feel far more like my desk – drowning in clutter and monotony.  

Any teacher will tell you the challenges of teaching, the  work at home, the pressure of standardized tests, the behaviors of students, but I want to tell you the secret wish of teachers – or at least of myself.  To leave.  To get up from behind the piles of grading and planning, to be staring at a room full of faces that aren’t listening, to drop the white board marker or chalk in hand and to walk out.  

Now under normal circumstances, I would never even consider doing this, despite my wish.  Students may be a pain, but I am committed to my job.  I chose it after all.  But this is not a story of normal circumstances.  This is a story  of the day things changed, of the day my wish came true and I left.

The morning started as normal, students shuffling in, grabbing a breakfast bag, talking loudly across the classroom, while I walked around and chatted with them.  After eating, we moved right along and began vocabulary.  Coincidentally, one of our words was “wanderlust.”  We discussed its meaning and where we might go.  Many of my students have never left the city.  With that their concept of the world and all its possibilities are limited.  Some said they would want to travel “downtown,” other expressed interest in New York City, Atlanta, and Disney World.  One student said he would want to travel to Japan.  

Lanae asked, “Where would you want to go?”  

The question caught me off guard, although it shouldn’t have, my students always almost ask me the same questions they are encouraged to ponder.

“Well,” I replied, “there are so many places I haven’t been or seen, I would want to travel everywhere.  All across the United States, all across the world.  There are so many things I would be interested in seeing and learning about.  It would probably make me a better teacher.”

The students considered this, and we moved on to our next word.  The day continued uneventful.  We read our novel, The World According to Humphrey, the students went to gym, and to lunch.  

After lunch the day started to get weird.  When I picked my students up, I was angry.  Three of them had been throwing food, which is a big deal and were in a lot of trouble.  Someone else had one of their snacks stolen and we couldn’t figure out who did it.  The rest of the class was talkative, amplified by all the things that had happened at lunch.  It gave lots of fuel for conversations, arguments, and accusations.  Nonetheless, we tried to continue with our day.  While the lesson progressed I glanced out the window regularly.  What had been a beautiful spring day was becoming overcast.  Rain was almost a guarantee, meaning no outdoor recess – the highlight of the day.  There was a lot of noise in the hall.  Students, feet, grumbling.  All of the sudden the sound turned into more of a rushing of wind.  I could see the trees blowing outside, but that did not explain the blowing coming from the hallway.  The whooshing got louder.  Even my students began to notice the change.  Some anxiously looked out the windows.  Several tried to get out of their seats to look out the door.

The howling wind slowed, but a sloshing sound took over, a trickle of water started coming through the door.  I looked into the hallway, but in front of the normal brick and locker covered walls, was several feet of water and a large pirate esque boat.  I blink.  My jaw dropped.  

Edward said, “What’s going on?”  

“I don’t know,” I replied.  

I felt a pull toward the ship.  An urge to open the door and leave.  I always wanted to, didn’t I?  Was this my opportunity?  I had to take it, but I paused.  Where would it go? Why was there no announcements?  Why was there no administration in the hall?Despite my questions, the ship tugged at my body and soul, my hand tightened on the door knob.  I turned to face my class with a smile.  

“Line up silently.  We are going on a field trip.”  

I don’t know what made me line them.  Perhaps it was faith in something amazing happening.  Perhaps it was momentary insanity.  Perhaps it was the feeling of responsibility that came with being a teacher.  

The students at the front of the line could now see what made my jaw drop.  There eyes were wide with wonder and awe; some were shocked with disbelief.  But each of them trusting me.  

I said, “Something magical is happening.  I don’t know exactly what it is, but I think it is important that we embrace this opportunity.  It could be scary; it might be a little dangerous.  You must listen and follow my directions no matter what.  If you don’t want to participate, I will send you to the other second grade.”  

No one protested.  The class was quietest they had been in days.  

“Ready?”  

“Yes!” Some shouted.  

I turned the knob and pushed the door open.  It didn’t resist despite the water.  

A voice yelled from the ship, “A’HOY!  Are you looking for adventure?”  

Edward shouted back, “Are you a pirate?!”  “Come aboard and find out,” he offered.  A plank emerged from the side of the boat and stopped at our door.  I boarded and counted each student as they followed.  

The man appeared in front of us, at the wheel of the boat.  He had a white sailor’s cap and a blue pea coat.  

“You don’t look like a pirate,” sighed Edward.  

“No,” said the man, “but I can show you anything in the world on this ship.  We can sail across oceans, fly over mountains, float into space.  That must be a fair bit better than sitting in a boring classroom.  Where shall we go first?”

A myriad of answers was flown from my students, but the man looked at me.  

“We want to see everything.  How much time do we have?”  

“I can get you everyday.”  

“Then let’s get started.”  

He smiled and the wind began to howl. The student held onto the polished wood railings, the white sails billowed in the wind, and suddenly we were flying over America. Perhaps I could escape and be a good teacher at the same time.  Only time will tell.

-M.R. Gavin

Unrequited Love

Unrequited love: How do you feel when you love someone who does not love you back? (365 Creative Writing Prompts)

Unrequited love it the topic of many stories, novels, and poems from all periods of writing.  Fortunately, I don’t think I have ever felt that way.  The man I love has loved me for just as long; prior to that my loves were real, but also shared.  Anything prior was a childhood crush, and I honestly don’t remember those feelings – I was too busy playing and reading to care.  Below is my attempt at a description for unrequited love.

I stared at him from across the room.  Sitting with me were my girlfriends, chatting, snacking, and drinking.  They were all fortunate enough to have someone special in their lives, but I still searched for mine.  Sure, there had been flings.  A date here, an overnight guest there, but nothing lasting.  Nothing like the loves – or even one night stands – I read about or saw in the movies.  I desperately searched for a man who made my heart race every time I glanced at him, but stopped my heart every time he looked at me; for a gentleman with class, a strong man who could protect, a working man who could provide, a humble man who would support.  And of course be gorgeous.  

This was that guy.  Tall, dark, handsome, just as they say.  We worked together, but didn’t interact much.  But from our coworkers weekly happy hours, I had learned enough about him to be completely smitten.  He was the perfect combination of modest, but confident, hints of self deprecating humor, an adorable, but goofy smile.  He was well over 6 feet tall, with an athletic build, little bit of stubble on his chin, and dark hair.  

From across the room, I watched him sitting at the bar as I did every week. He and another coworker downed some beer and cheered when their team scored.  I wondered who his favorite team was; knowing that could help me start a conversation.  My friends were chuckling, I joined in too late and made it awkward.  But, my mind was elsewhere: imagining a life with him, pretending to be married, to have children, and then to grow old and gray.   

Suddenly, he turned in my direction; he looked right at me.  My heart stopped, but he wasn’t looking at me – he was looking through me.  A tall, blond bombshell with cleavage twice the amount of mine walked past me and straight to him.  Instead of an increased heart rate, my heart dropped.  I turned to look at my friend across from me – praying that it looked like I had been watching the game and returned to my conversation.  I looked at the window, saw my reflection and faded smile.  He welcomed the blonde with a passionate kiss and ordered her a  drink.  He had the most gorgeous smile and pearly white teeth.  He had no clue who I was, or that I was head over heels for him.  He had someone – someone of model proportions.  I felt myself slipping into ice cold water, everything slowing down, my head spinning.  If he only would talk to me, he would realize how perfect we could be.  He would leave the blonde for me, but I would never have the guts to go up to him.  So here I sit frozen, until the next fling and distraction comes along.

-M.R. Gavin

 

“Enlighten Me”

Elixir (The Daily Post)

On the morning of his birth, The Creator pulled him off the highest shelf in a room with a mirage of shelves and cases in every direction.  As The Creator gentle wrapped his hands around him, he whispered, “Today is your day, my love. Burn bright, choose wisely, and when you return, enlighten me.”

He walked the glimmer into a hall of a million doors, carefully turned a crystal knob embellished with gold, and entered a perfectly square room.  The room, lined with cluttered shelves on each of the four walls, had a solitary wooden table in the center.  The table was empty, until The Creator set the bulb he held in his hand in its center.  He looked at The Creator knowing that today would be his birthday, but unaware of what would happen next.  The Creator chuckled, “Ask me what you will, child, but know I have other children to set on their way.”

Looking up at his creator in awe, he had a million questions.  Ones he had thought of during his infinite span on the highest shelf; dozens more arrived on their walk from the shelf to this tiny room.  “I believe I will be born today, but I have never heard of this room.  What am I to do here?  Wait?”

“This space is far more than a waiting room.  Here is were you will build your personal elixir before entering life.  As you can see the shelves are full.  Take what you believe is important and will provide you with a good life.”

“Why did you say ‘when you return, enlighten me’?  I am but the spark of a man.  What could I possibly return with which you do not already have or know?”

“While I am The Creator, I do not create the life experiences you are about to have.  You do that, in part, through the elixir you create.  Although my shelves seem full, there is always room for more vital life components.  You shall see.”

He glanced around the walls eyeing the most unusual assortment of items, wondering what there could possibly be to add.  Even as he thought it, a new object appeared before his eyes: a black rectangle that began ringing, dinging, and vibrating  intensely.  Turning back to The Creator, he found he was nearly to the door.

“That is all we have time for now.  Child, have a safe journey, choose your elixir wisely.  When satisfied, bath in it and you will be awoken to a new life.”  With that, The Creator slipped out of the same door they entered, returning to get a new glimmer ready for her birthday.

Completely alone for the first time, since the start of the universe, he floated around the room examining the items that could make up his elixir and searching for a bowl to contain it.  As he floated around a bowl appeared – large enough for him to swim in.  He quickly found essence of love, and immediately picked it up.  Even among  the infinite sparks like himself, love was known to be a binding factor in life.  Without it he would forget the love of The Creator and would never find or give love in his soon-to-be life.

Other than love, he knew little else of the world he was about to enter.  He wandered around contemplating what else to use.  During his endless days on the shelf he had imagined himself in a million ways, but he tried to remember the key elements of each.  He selected a hammer for power and tossed into the bowl, a barbell for strength, glasses for intelligence, clasped hands for friendship.  He picked up a trumpet for musicality, gold for wealth, and a pillow for comfort.  Avoiding anything remotely negative, he built his elixir into a beautiful mixture of goodness and items which he hoped would guided him in life.

When it was complete, it swirled golden in its bowl with a shimmering, silver mist hovering above it.  Taking one last float around the room, he was quite satisfied with his life’s elixir, and shouted a “Thank you!” to The Creator as he dived into the bowl head first ready for the life he had been given.  The Creator watched all this, as he watched every glimmer, with a knowing grin playing on his lips.

The spark was born into the world, grew, became intelligent, strong, wealthy, and powerful.  He knew love and warmly gave it to those around him, who loved him in return.  He lead a comfortable life, but like all lives do, one day after many years, it ended.  He had forgotten about the mixing room, the hall of million doors, the room with endless shelves, but as his life ended he began to remember.

“…and when you return enlighten me,” he heard being whispered.  It was his turn to teach The Creator, to add to the mixing rooms.  Opening his eyes, he found himself sitting across from The Creator, just two old men of more or less equal build looking at one another as old friends.

“Creator,” he sighed, “It is good to see you again.”

“My child, I saw you everyday,” The Creator chuckled, “what a wonderful life you had!”

“Indeed it was.”

“And what will you enlighten me with now that it is passed, so others may include it in their elixir?”  The Creator continue, always straight to the point.

“I believe, sir, that my life was good, and pleasant, and full.  But with my money, and power, and strength, I was constantly on the go, moving endlessly, working endlessly, never stopping.  Yes, I had love, but sometimes I would hear others talk of things, simple things: a walk, a rose, the rain, a book, the wind, and although I knew of these things I never noticed them – never had the time to.  I would like you to consider adding a pause button to each mixing room, to allow sparks to be whatever they desire in life, but to ensure they take moments to pause and enjoy the small things.  I certainly would have liked that in my elixir.”

The Creator nodded and smiled, as the men’s eyes met again, a pause button appeared in the millions of mixing rooms where glimmers created their own life’s elixir.

Childhood

1. Describe an important item from your childhood.  Why was it important and where is it now?   (Ryan Andrew Kinder, 1,000 Awesome Writing Prompts)

The single most important material item from my childhood would have to be my teddy bear.  While my response is not very unique, my teddy bear certainly was.

I was three years old, Christmas was approaching and for the first time, I was really starting to understand what Christmas meant – Santa, presents, cookies.  As most parents do, mine asked me, “What do you want Santa to bring you?”  Consistently, I replied, “I want a yellow teddy bear that jingles!”  In my head, I imagined a large fluffy yellow bear – about half the size of my three year old self – that had a jingle bell sound whenever he moved. Perhaps I was being difficult and testing the truth of Santa, maybe I was combining some of my favorite things: Winnie the Pooh and music.  Whatever was behind my desire, I knew with certainty it would be under the tree on Christmas.

Needless to say, Santa came through.  I opened a pastel yellow teddy bear – slightly smaller than I imagined – with the softest fur  I had ever touched, and a jingle sound from its belly.  He stayed under my arm all day.  Getting ready for bed, my dad turned to ask me what my teddy bear would be named.  I looked at him, looked at my bear, and said the first thing that came to mind, Bear Bear; the least creative name ever bestowed.

Bear Bear became my go to.  When I was sad, he got squeezed and covered in tears; when I was scared, I’d crawl under the covers clutching him in my arms.  I could not sleep without him for years.  He was at the top of my emergency run away list; if there was a fire, he was the first item I would grab.  Bear Bear went on every weekend trip to Grams’, every vacation, and even went to college with me.

He is currently in my guest room, where he matches perfectly with the yellow and gray decor. Unfortunately, he is tucked into a drawer because I have two dogs who love to shred things.  His fur is not nearly as soft, having been washed dozens of times.  He sometimes has a more grey than yellow appearance.  Nonetheless, even 22 years after opening him, I still find him when I am upset and don’t want to talk to anyone, or when I am homesick.

What is an important item from your childhood?  Do you still have it?  I would love to hear about it!

-M.R. Gavin