Daily Prompt: Life Line | Foreshadowing Flight

When Henry told me he was dying and I needed to come immediately I paused and thought what dying truly meant to him. Was his heart really pumping the last few volumes of thick blood through his veins before exploding into a mass of useless tissue? I didn’t believe it for a minute.  Henry and I have been on a rocky road for years now and I was sure this was some ploy to get him back in my good graces. Death was an awful term to throw around.

I only plan to stay in Cleveland one day, maybe two max. Missing work during tax season was a big no-no at my firm and this sudden family emergency seem skeptical to the partners that counted on me. I planned to barrel through files during the three hour flight and down time at the hospital while Henry was in surgery. 

A bouquet of lavender and vanilla whirls into my vicinity at the same time a pale, petite woman plops into the seat next me. She was smartly dressed in a white, crisp cotton blouse accented with a Gucci scarf, pleated khaki capri’s and bejeweled sandals. Her blonde bob was pushed away from her face by a delicate headband that appeared to be made of intertwined rope. She gave me a warm smile as she placed her bag under her chair.  

“I so hate to fly”, she says “if only there was an easier way to go somewhere far, far away without defying gravity, right?” 

I nod, grin then return to answering emails on my BlackBerry before the air crew make me shut it off.

“It’s so lovely here in Los Angeles, I hear that it may snow in Cleveland tonight. Oh what a terrible time to say goodbye to someone you clearly never understood. The beginning of winter makes death so much harder.”

I drop my phone in my lap and peer at the stranger next me. “I’m so sorry for your soon to be loss Miss, my condolences.” 

“My loss? Oh no dear you are the one I am grieving for. Are you not going to Cleveland to say goodbye to your brother?”

How could she know my brother is sick? Or what the hell I am doing? She just sat next to me a minute ago…

“I should apologize, I try not to blurt these things out so suddenly, I know it makes people uncomfortable. You are struggling, yes? This is not a scheme to get money out of you, he is mortally sick and will die.”

“Lady, you don’t know me or my family. You just sat down next me, we have never met before. I have no idea where you are getting this bullshit story… do you always surprise bomb people this way?”

“Unfortunately yes, I have a problem filtering my thoughts when they are so strong.  I tend to blurt them out before they get tangled with the other voices in my head.  I did not mean to upset you, I will remain quiet the rest of the flight.”

And, she did.  She crocheted the entire time while I simmered over her comments. I couldn’t concentrate on my work and day dreamed out the window about Henry and I when we were kids making snow angels in the back yard.

The plane landed on a fresh sprinkling of new snow and I hurriedly packed my bag and waited eagerly to depart the plane and rush to the hospital.  She then turned to me, with tears in her eyes.

“Do not think this was a wasted journey, he knew you loved him.” She said, rose and proceeded to walk down the aisle using her yarn as a tissue. 

I slumped back into my seat knowing she was right. I had ignored the text messages that had been flooding my phone since we landed, knowing they were bad news.

“Ma’am, are you okay?” the stewardess asks me, I was last person on the plane.

 “Yes, sorry” I say exiting with my head dropped to the ground below me. I couldn’t look up for fear that I would collapse and sob uncontrollably in the gate tunnel. 

Emerging out into stale air and Cinnabun smell of the terminal I see the lady from the plane speaking to another bewildered person. Hopefully she had better news for them then she did for me. 




Day 17 Prompt: iTunes

Song: Girl Don’t Go Away Mad (Motley Crew) – Don’t judge!

Josie threw the last Corona mug at the wall and the glass shards missed my head by an inch. These arguments have been daily for two months now and I was completely done with them.  Josie didn’t understand if I didn’t practice, I didn’t write, the guys and I would never get a record deal.  The gigs at dive bars playing covers only placates the twelve hour a day drinkers and lonely business folks looking to escape. If I sing “Living on a Prayer” one more time I might explode.

Josie is my high school sweetheart, the homecoming queen, head cheerleader.  Our junior year she broke up with Jim “Buddy” Lang, the big football star because he was, in her own words, a dumb ass who only remembers football drills. She wanted someone with emotions, who was arty and would serenade “Heaven” from Warrant to her nightly.

She found me sitting on the bleachers strumming my guitar and humming one of the many songs I wrote that was going to be the next epic hit. My dark hair was tucked behind my ears and laid flat against the back of my favorite Anthrax tee shirt. She sat behind me, mesmerized by the passionate lyrics about sun tanning and halter tops. I glanced over my shoulder at her and that look was our first I love You moment.

We lived the teenage dream, ran away from our small town the day after graduation and moved to Los Angeles. Rented a studio apartment in North Hollywood where she worked at the greek fast food restaurant downstairs and I was a bus boy slash dishwasher for a small Italian café on Sunset. I made friends who were also aspiring musicians and we started jamming together late nights in an abandoned warehouse we found off of Las Palmas Blvd. Josie took pictures during day and wrote poems about each of them after her shifts. I promised her that one of her shots would be the cover of my first album that would go double platinum and make us rich.

The bills piled up, two pregnancy scares happened and today we dislike each other more than love. Josie wants to move back home, make up with her family and have me work at the local warehouse packing automobile parts for shipment.  I wasn’t leaving LA, no way. The band and I were so close to getting a show at the Troubador playing our own music, making our own fans. Why did she want to ruin everything?

“I’m leaving Glenn, my dad and I talked, he wired me money to bus it back home.” She stated, slouching on the beat up futon dropping her head into her scratched up hands.

“Okay, when?”

“That’s all you have to say, when?”

“I’m not leaving Josie, this is what I want, I love it here.” I sit down beside her draping my arm over her shoulders, rubbing my hand up and down her arm.

“So, this it?” she sobs, shaking. I pull her towards me and kiss the top of her head.

“Yeah, I think it is. Look, I’ll help you pack and drive you to the bus station…”

“Wow, you really want me gone, huh?” she proclaims in sarcastic ready for round two mode.

“No, I want you happy. This isn’t doing it, I’m not doing it. I’m sick of fighting, trashing the apartment in a brawl over me staying out three minutes after your curfew. What’s going to happen when I start to tour, have all night recording sessions? You will hate me and I don’t want that.”

“I don’t either, and I don’t want you to hate me. I have loved you for so long Glenn, but this whole thing feels like torture. I’m taking the 3:30pm bus back home. I already packed, you can have everything that is here. I need a fresh start, I want out of LA, I want… peace. I don’t want you to drive me, let’s just say bye here.” She pauses, rolling her eyes to the ceiling. “I guess I was kinda hoping you would join me, you know?”

“Yeah, I know. I’m going to miss you Josie Winter,” I gingerly cup her face in my hands ”the first love of my life, apple of my eye.  I will never forget you.” I hug her close, tears drizzling down my cheek crossing the corner of my mouth, the salty sensation burning my tongue.

“I will miss you too Glenn. Become a big star and make me proud.” She says pulling away, rising and picking up the duffel bag I failed to notice sitting by the door.

She gives me a slight wave and leaves. The hardest part was letting go, the easiest part was the relief of it being over. 

Assisted Living

Occasionally my grandmother will wrinkle her nose and wave her rippled hand in front of her face in disgust. You would think this is a common reaction to scratchy bed linens, yellowed window drapes and the sterile metal tray that holds her salisbury steak, instant mashed potatoes and corn that she was supposed to eat for supper that evening.  I always assumed it was the catheter and rinsed out bed pan that still held the odor from her morning meal.

But none of these things seemed to bother her. She was aware that this was, unfortunately, to be her life going forward and she accepted the fact that age deterioration pretty much puts you back to square one. It was a hard road for her though. She fought not to use a walker when she was sixty-seven and her hip gave out on her for good. She argued stanchly with the girl at the DMV when they refused to re-new her driver’s license when she was seventy-two.  And she gave up and moved to assisted living when we found her watering her front lawn in just her bra and undies, waving at the multiple cars passing by honking.  She thought I was my aunt that day, and my father her brother.  She told my father over and over what a disgrace my aunt was (elbowing towards me) to her and my grandfather and that they vowed never to speak to her again.

Sundial Homes had two living styles for senior citizens to choose from, hospital room shared with another senior or assisted living on your own. My grandmother was placed in a small apartment like room that resembled a dorm except it had a tiny kitchenette and area for a loveseat and chair. She seemed to like her new home and commented to my invisible grandfather how lovely her china cabinet looked in the in corner next to his recliner.  No one was allowed to sit in my grandfather’s recliner because she feared he would be crushed to death. I was nervous leaving her alone talking to my grandfather’s ghost but father reassured me that this was best place for her and the staff would make sure she took her pills, got out to shop and sight see and most importantly, not get hurt.

Assisted living lasted approximately six months. The charge nurse called at 2:00am one night to tell my father that my grandmother snuck out her room and was seated on a barstool in the lobby having a conversation with nobody and was threatening bodily harm to the staff that approached her. Oh, she was also nude from the waist down.  They advised him that they subdued her with a shot of Chlorpromazine and that she was now asleep in her bed, but that he would need to come down in the morning to discuss her future arrangements.

Today she clicks away on her bed remote, raising the headrest up and down, looking for the Home Shopping Network on the television and scrunching her nose as if a parade of horses just walked down the hall. I asked if her roommate’s snoring was bothering her. She called me Jen (my name is Claire and no one in our family is Jen or Jennifer) and said that the garden reeked and something rancid was growing where her beautiful tea roses should be. I told her there were no flowers around and maybe if she ate it would help get rid of the stench.  Then she told me to leave her alone, that as much as she hated the rotten smell it was something she dealt with now daily; the pruning , re-planting and removing the patch completely will never get rid of the loneliness she felt with my grandfather so far away. She made me promise to plant tulips soon since they will be needed in the weeks ahead.


Brilliant Life

A single ebony feather floats gently next to the brilliant crow that just collided with the window in my office.  He is convulsing about, trying to stand, and prolonging the pain before the inevitable happens. The glass door barely budges but I pull furiously on the handle. The doors sighs a distressful moan, its heft grinding the rail it slides upon only opening three quarters of the way to let me out.

It was around two-fifteen the day we met and I was finishing the tenth revision of a contract involving government discounts and warranty guarantees.  Hauling myself up out of my chair, I shut my office door and walk over to my balcony to open the sliding door for a bit of fresh air. I struggle with the sticky door until it opens and proceed onto the red brick balcony to enjoy the sun on my face and bask in the aroma of Sweet Peas growing on the ground below. 

His call was distant at first, two long utterances waiting for a reply.  I scanned the pine trees surrounding my side of the building but no bird was to be found. Then I hear him again, this time to my left, much closer. I peer into the dense needles and see him balancing on a thin bare branch.  He gazes at me, waiting for me to respond. 

I ask “Do you need something?” 

He expanded his wings like a geisha’s fan and rose up elegantly, then swooped down and perched himself on a woody limb in front of me.  He speaks again, strong and vibrant this time.

Bending to rest my arms on the balcony rail, I inquire to him “Are you hungry?” 

He caws calmly this time, penetrating my skull with beady eyes understanding my loneliness in this uptight place. He continues this game for a few moments but then is startled by the sound of his kin.  With great power he shoots through the tree, pine needles scattering in all directions, to join the radiant dark brood. I lose sight of him as he blends into the kite shape form and glides away with his flock.

The next day I was consumed with a power point presentation that was growing pages by the hour. Pie charts and scorecards were merging together and I was struggling to focus on each individual slide and their placement in the overall deck.  I drop my head on my desk in defeat when his two long caws pull me out of my funk.  I bounce up quickly closing my door to the work world, berate the sliding door until it opens and step outside to greet him.  This time he is already on the limb in front of my balcony, bobbing up down like he is on a pogo stick. I beam at him and his incredible beauty.

He croons at me this time, soothing my discouragement and unhappiness.  I sway gingerly; close my eyes and dream of wide green field of vibrant tulips eclipsed by a crystal blue sky.  I’m running madly through the flowers, my arms tearing off their buds while the crow dances in circles overhead. Once again our time is ended by his flock who call to him to join them in flight.  I wave after him already missing his calming song.

The following afternoon my boss interrupts us with red line changes, apologizing for distributing my break. He had his deadlines and I re-arrange my schedule for them, even my time with my new friend. The beautiful creature didn’t seem to mind scratching the railing, marking his territory before he leaves.

Each day after that he always shows up around two-clock and I join him to have a mental break.  He now stoically stands on my balcony rail and caws incessantly not letting me get a word in edge wise. I like that he can share his problems with me, even if I don’t understand. I listen, nod when he pauses and grin when I think he is making a joke. 

After three days I decided to bring snacks to our meeting; three Wheat Thins for him and a bag of plain M&M’s for me. At first he was frightened by my gesture, flapping around, spinning in circles. Then he snapped up the food in one bite.

“What will you do tomorrow when I am not here?” I ask placing the final Wheat Thin in front of him. 

Snatching it, he zoomed off to right towards the grey clouds that were hiding the clear sky behind them.  He didn’t fly with his clan this time; he chose to be a loner for our final date that week.

Saturday I tried to convince my husband to come with me to the office to meet my fine feathered friend. “Mike, remember the crow I told you about that visited me at work this week, would you maybe want to meet him this afternoon?”

“What?” he asked bewildered, “Are you nuts? Why would I go see some bird? There are a few in front of the house right now, why don’t you talk to them?”

“It’s not the same, what if he is looking for me today? I don’t want him to think I abandoned him.” I stutter, wringing my hands and wiping them against my thighs.

“It’s a bird, who cares. I’m watching the game, you can go and if you want.” He states and settles into his recliner, remote in hand watching the pre-game warm ups.

“Thanks for making me feel dumb, at least he enjoys my company and listens to me. Enjoy the Angel game, I hope they lose by ten.”

He rises, lightly grabs my wrist and pulls me into an embrace. “Honey, you want to go and talk to a crow, you are my little bird whisperer.” He pecks my mouth while hugging me again.

“Stop it, you are mocking me.” I say struggling to get out of his grasp.

“Ok, I will go with you to meet the bird if we can stop at Buffalo Wild Wings after to finish watching the game”

“The kids have piano at three; we wouldn’t have time to do both.” I say sadly realizing this was a bad idea.

“What about tomorrow?” He says stroking my hair and nibbling on my ear.

“No, we have brunch plans with your parents.” I say leaning my head back further as he ventures down my neck.

“I would prefer to meet the bird.” He sighs just as he reaches my collar bone.

“Okay you two, gross! Can’t you wait until tonight?” my older daughter scowls bouncing down the stairs. “What’s for lunch mom?”

“Go Angels” I whisper in his ear, breaking from his arms to finish the rest of weekend with my family.

When Monday rolls around I am worried my afternoon break companion will stand me up.   I have been missing for two days and maybe he found someone else to keep company. The closer it gets to our time, the more I gnaw at my cuticles and pull wispy stray hairs from my head.  Today, if he shows, we will be splitting a blueberry muffin I purchased with my lunch in the work cafeteria.  

I swivel around in my chair, stopping every rotation to look out at the tree that faces my window. He is just late I tell myself with every turn.  Finally on turn fifty two, I see the familiar black wingspan that lands gracefully on the rail.  He caws twice wishing me a pleasant hello. I jump up, grab the muffin and join him on the balcony, relieved he is back again.

“How are you my friend? Did you have a good weekend? I hope you like blueberry muffins because that is our treat today.”

I tear the muffin in two, mushing his piece to crumbs and trickle it on to the brick for him to eat.

“I was going to come see you this weekend but got tied up at home.” I tell him. “I hope you didn’t come here looking for me.”

He continues to nibble at the crumbs only briefly looking up at me a couple times.

“I have had the usual crappy day, contracts that make no sense, presentations that are far too long.  I try to give my opinion but no one ever listens. If I don’t understand the document why would our clients, right? Anyways, I’m glad you are here.” I say smiling at him, wanting to pat his pinball size head.

The rest of the week we saw each other daily, but I felt he was off a little.  His usual exuberance is now sluggish and quiet.  He barely sings, releasing a caw or two at most.  I cut back on the snacks thinking I was maybe making him sick with people food. Now I only give him one Wheat Thin, but he munches on it until it is gone. He is going through a molt, may be that is making him uncomfortable and irritable.

But today everything changed. I kneel down to the poor thing, hushing him, hoping he will relax and accept death peacefully. His beak is cracked forming a triangle gap that his tongue quivers in and out of. It’s not clear if one his lean legs are broken since his left wing cannot upright him. His pen point eyes reflect suffering and fear of what’s to come.

His final breath consists of a sorrowful caw knowing he will never soar with his flock again. I lean on my legs and rock softly back and forth, sobbing at the sight of the now lifeless bird. I glance into my office and see co-workers gawking at me, some laughing; they do not understand my grief. 

Glowering, I stand throwing my hands up and yell “Get out!”

I sit back down and hum quietly at him, my way of giving him a funereal; saying good bye to my friend who seemed interested in my work plight, liked to share a bite and would soothe me with his songs; the crow that will never be brilliant again.

You’re so hot!

“You are so hot, you wanna go out?” The final line written on a torn piece of college ruled stationary. “April” written in neon pink ink, a miniature heart perfectly placed over the “I”, smiley face with a wink concluding the most terrifying note I have ever read. I fold the crumbled piece of paper and mix it amongst the pass due notices and local advertisements strewn all over the side hutch in the kitchen., I lean over the marble island hyperventilating, trying to process what I just read. I tear through the open satchel looking for glimpses of the blinding pink scribble to add more vigor to my pulsing anxiety attack.

Algebra equations, Cornel Notes and school announcements make up the rest of the paperwork shoved in the folds of his battered binder. That note was placed innocently in his bag; I never would have seen it except it floated to the ground when he threw the open backpack at me on the way to his room. I glance back at the hutch, wanting to read the words again, “You are so hot.” How is a twelve year old hot? I can’t, he can’t, HE IS NOT HOT!

The thunder of steps overtakes the house like a herd of pronghorn antelope. The stairs creak with the heft of his size seven Van black slip on shoes. “Mom, I need my backpack” He screams increasing my paranoia. I reply back eagerly, “Great, you are going to do your homework, right?”

Dumping the bag out, he rummages through the contents like a colony of ants at a picnic. “Can I help?” I meekly urge while he examines every piece of spiral bound torn paper. “Nope, I found it! It’s the new online code for Black Ops 2.”

The contents of the backpack are left covering the island as he scampers back upstairs. I glance over at the hutch again knowing the neon pink note will be lost to him forever. 

Last memory woes

My mother has a knack for bad timing and irrational rage over the silliest things. I was sitting in a meeting at work, doodling cartoon faces on my notepad while the person presenting, who I do not remember, went on and on about who knows what when the text flashed across my  iPhone.

“Did you get my request?”

I glanced down at the note and clicked it off thinking I can respond to her at lunch. I had no idea what she was talking about and since she just sent a text it couldn’t be that urgent. That’s when my phone started to vibrate the same time I was called on to answer a question for the group.  I declined the call hoping there wasn’t an emergency and went with the rest of the meeting.

Arriving at my desk I saw I had three missed calls and a voice mail waiting. Oh shit, there is something wrong, I should have excused myself and took my mom’s call. I bypassed the messages and called my mom directly praying she wasn’t stuck somewhere with a flat tire or no money.

“Mom, what’s up? Everything okay?”

“No Tracy, it is not, why haven’t you answered me?”

“I was in a meeting, I’m sorry…”

“I needed your help, I can’t believe you blew off my call.  Forget it, your brother and sister helped me it doesn’t matter.”

“Mom, what did you need?”

“Nothing, I have to go.” Click, dial tone.

Great, what is going?  I need to listen to those voice mails to see if they can help me rectify the damage I caused.  I immediately dial one and listen intently.

“Tracy, I need you to log into Facebook and send me a new life on Candy Crush. I’m stuck on level 187 but think I have figured out how to break it. I have already spent $10 on more lives and don’t want to spend more than that.  Please send it ASAP.  Love you, Mom”

What? Candy Crush? She’s pissed at me over not sending her a life on Candy Crush?