"This is a story about an elderly widow who loses her home during a home invasion, but gains something far greater."—David
She was taped to her high-backed chair at the dining room table. There, in front of the bay window, beside her husband’s military portrait over the mantelpiece. Scattered on the floor was the Sunday newspaper she had just walked up the lane. Lying next to the paper was her cane and her Audubon calendar. She put everything on her calendar. The little white boxes were filled with her meticulous print. She included the weather, when her boys drove home, when she visited the cemetery.
She was beginning to lose sensation of her right hand now. They had wrapped the tape tighter on this. It had been the first one. She didn’t recall them taping it. When she had opened the back door, carrying the paper, they had been behind it, waiting. Then she heard the explosion. Later, she had opened her eyes, as if from sleep, to the sound of panting behind her.
Now, the tall one was already upstairs, in her bedroom. She could hear the sound of telephones being torn from the walls and smashed. Of lamps falling to the floor. Of her dresser drawers being thrown open. The other one, the shorter one, was standing beside her. He wore a stocking over his face, with three holes. He had kind, gentle eyes.
When his partner disappeared upstairs with the gun, he put his hand lightly on her shoulder. He wore thin white rubber gloves. The medical kind.
"You believe in Jesus?" he said. "You believe he is the Savior?"
She tried to look around again. Behind, her Labrador retriever was lying on the kitchen floor eyes open, legs quivering, blood pouring from his mouth.
Dan is the author of "Roots".
I never thought I’d go back.
Not to a Homecoming. Not to a class reunion. Not for any reason.
When my aging parents moved out of that god-forsaken town ten years ago —with its closed down businesses, its pot-holed roads, its homes with boarded windows, its yards with rusted out Buicks and Mercury’s and Chevy’s and Fords, its redneck inhabitants who never cracked a book, nor read a poem, nor seen a play; who thought a good salad consisted of two ingredients: iceberg lettuce and French dressing from a plastic bottle—I honestly never thought I would go back again. In fact, the mere thought of doing so—of driving that stretch of open fields to the outskirts of town, where the most hideous sign “welcomes” incomers like a prostitute welcomes a customer—practically nauseated me.
I spent an inordinate amount of time in my childhood and adolescent years dreaming of getting the hell out of the town of Laxton, Iowa—away from the blue collars and the red necks; the bingo and beer and bowling alley; the cigarette-stained ceilings and teeth; the hair curlers and bandanas and belt buckles and 4-H Fairs. I fantasized about literally being thousands of miles away, far enough so that its long tentacles could not pull me back to that cesspool like it had so many others. Far enough away so that I could treat it as if it didn’t exist; actually, as if it never existed.
I was doing chores in the flower bed of my yard in Austin when I got the message on my voice mail asking me to go back to that mind-numbing town.
I’m hardly ever where I am. Right now I’m standing on the far side of the fountain, away from the church, and through the misty sprays of water I’m watching Lionel getting ready to hustle coin from the people about to come down the steps. But this isn’t where I am. I’m at the graveyard looking for stones with my name on them; I’m hiding behind the couch in our old house, listening to our parents arguing about who loves Lionel and I more; I’m at the playground, sleeping inside the slide.
The thing is, if I really was in any of those places I’d be wishing I was where I am right now. I don’t know. It’s hard to feel like you’re where you’re supposed to be.
Standing at the bottom of the steps, Lionel is rubbing his eyes to make them red and watery, just like we practiced, and he starts shivering, too, which is something new. Pretty soon the church bell begins chiming that melody that always makes me homesick, and after a minute the people start rushing out of the church like the place is on fire.
As I tapped out the word forward on the first line, I knew that I had begun a new journey in my life. I call it a journey as in journey of discovery as opposed to all the other things that it could be called because it a going to be a trip
In the old daze (*) the navigator would direct the road party pilot ever “forward” as opposed to anyone accepting as proper directions, the use of the word straight. (Straight meaning someone who was not a freak, as in the term long haired hippie freak Nowadays, the term has a totally new connotation, as we all know.
When I think of those times, I feel particularly lucky to have been born when I was and to have seen the fast times that technology inspired in the post 1950s world. Yes, lucky. Lucky to have survived amidst all the various changes in American culture to be able to relate the wandering recollections contained within these pages.
I’ve decided right from the beginning of this project that I would try to avoid offending anyone in particular while at the same time protect my own interests by not using most people’s real name. (I will call this practice, “Rule No. 1”) As a matter of fact, now is probably the best time to admit that characters may possibly be combined to throw off any individuals who might consider that I am referringto them in particular. I will though, as a matter of personal ethics, keep the first person narrative restricted to my own experiences as I can best recall them.
Jill is the author of "If and Only If".
Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.