Story 1- Hug Me, Kiss Me

Hug Me, Kiss Me

 

As the months passed, I became more and more appreciative.  I was lucky, really lucky. It may sound silly, but I’m being honest.  I’m a married man, and coming home to my wife is the greatest thing ever—it’s the something . . . the someone.   

 

For years, I feared making a commitment to her. I wanted things to be perfect for the one person on planet Earth I love most, but my life wasn’t in order the way I wanted it to be when we finally did get married.  In fact, things were pretty far from the way I had imagined them.        

 

My wife’s name is Gigi.  Without question, she is the best thing that ever happened to me.  For men who still believe that the male gender is the superior gender, consider rethinking this belief.    

 

***

I walked into my home, and I heard a “hello.”  Gigi was in the bedroom working on her computer.  Her voice made me smile.  As I heard her walk towards the door to greet me, my eyes watered.  At one point, I had been afraid of marriage.  After all, more than half of my family, including many distant relatives, had been married and divorced.  Statistically, the odds of me having a successful marriage were not high, but I can’t imagine life without Gigi.  I love her very much.                        

 

She turned the corner and reached to give me a hug and a kiss.  After we embraced, I looked at her and smiled.  I’m home… I’m home!… I’m home!  The tears started flowing again.      

 

I’m one of the helpless romantics that tears up quickly. My wife saw my tears. “What’s wrong?”               

 

“I’m home.  You’re my wife.  You are my life.  Nothing is wrong.  Everything is perfect.”     

 

I am often more emotional than Gigi.  I think she is getting used to it, but she still makes comments.  In our home, we call this our role reversal. I like it this way.  

 

“You cry over nothing,” she said.       

 

Each day when I arrive home, this emotional feeling comes over me more and more, and I bathe in it.  Sometimes I like it when Gigi is not home because the emotions still come.  Whether she is physically there or not, she is still there.       

 

***

 

Sometimes, after it hits me how lucky I am, I wonder: How do single men do it, especially single men in their fifties and beyond? I know I couldn’t.      

 

I remember when I was young. I prayed that God would send me the perfect wife, and He did.  I married later in life then most of my friends, but now that we are together, it is hard to believe just how many years have passed. Occasionally I try to imagine what my life would be like if Gigi were not part of it, but as I play out these scenarios, they get boring quickly. On some occasions, life brings a little drama to remind me of how important my wife is to me.        

 

***   

Not long ago, an event happened that I will never forget.  I was with my wife in China, preparing for a trip to America to celebrate Christmas with my American family. Because of scheduling conflicts, I had not celebrated this holiday with them in a few years. I had previously decided that nothing was going to stop me from going this time.  Nothing.  

 

A few days after I had purchased my plane ticket, Gigi got sick.  Her sickness wasn’t life threatening, but it did require her to go to the hospital for daily treatments, for a period of weeks.  I had a problem: My mind was set on leaving, knowing Gigi’s friends and family would help her, but my heart was set on staying.      

 

As the date of departure grew nearer, I got very worried. I was not seeing her condition improve. The struggle between my heart and my mind turned into panic attacks.  She was struggling with a facial muscle condition called Bell’s Palsy. Part of her face could hold a smile and part could not. The most important person in the world to me was suffering and needed me, even though she said she didn’t.    

 

When she first got sick, I asked her if she wanted me to stay, fully expecting her to say, “Yes.“  Instead, her response was “Go. Spend time with your mom in America.  I will be fine.”    

 

For those who are not familiar with this condition, Gigi’s treatment included acupuncture.  The doctor literally stabbed her face, arms, and hands with a large and sharp needle.  When he finished, her hands often could not grip her purse, and she had a difficult time putting her coat on.  It looked so painful, but she said it only hurt for a short while.  I had several jobs when we went to the hospital, but my favorites were carrying her purse and helping her get dressed.    

 

As I lay in bed a couple of days before my plane was scheduled to leave, I couldn’t sleep.  All I thought about was how much I wanted to be with Gigi.  The emotion hadn’t caught up with me yet, but I felt it coming.  At this point, I didn’t care what she said.  I was going to stay with her, even if she told me to leave.  It was my job, my right, to stay with her.   

 

I marched into the bedroom and gained eye contact with her.     

 

“I am not going anywhere.  I’m staying with you.”       

 

“. . . but what about your plans for America? Christmas?”     

 

“I don’t care.  I want to be with you.  I love you, and I want to spend the holiday with you.”      

 

She didn’t yell at me or tell me I was making the wrong choice like she had a week before.  Instead, she smiled, got out of bed, and gave me a hug.   

 

“Thank you.”  She paused, preparing to change the topic.  “Are you ready to go to the hospital with me?” 

 

“Yes, every day.  I will do whatever you need me to do.” 

 

Damn, was I happy!  I made the woman I love smile.  That was the greatest Christmas present she could have given me. 

 

As perfect as that moment was, I knew I had a couple of calls to make.  This is when the real emotion took over.  I called my mother and, when I heard her voice, I choked up.  She could tell something was wrong.  

 

“Hi, Mom.”  

 

“What’s wrong?”  

 

“Gigi.  She’s sick.”  I wanted to say more, but that’s when the tears starting coming.  Mom didn’t say much.  There wasn’t much to say.  

 

After tearing up for a few seconds, I gave more details. “Her facial muscles aren’t working quite right.  It’s affecting her smile, and I need to be with her because she must go to hospital every day for needles.  We don’t know how many days or weeks it will take . . .” 

 

The call ended soon after.  Mom had assured me she would update the others.  

 

That was the most memorable Christmas I ever had.  I was so happy that I had stayed with her.  It was the perfect Christmas.   

***    

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Story 2 – Farm Boy

 

Farm Boy

 

**** 

An angel  

 

All I remember was laying in the hospital bed and seeing four nurses in white watching over me. I knew my wife Nancy was near, but I don’t know how I knew it. My body felt like it was floating, but I didn’t know where it (or I) was going.  I had been warned by a few locals about my surgeon and his reputation.  His diagnosis was I needed a gallbladder operation. Being that I wasn’t a drinker and had no history of any organ trouble, none of this made sense. Why I agreed to the operation is also a mystery to me.  For the first time in my life, I knew I was ready to fight because I wasn’t ready to die.  I wanted to grow old with Nancy and be there for my two daughters.   

 

More on this later. 

 

****  

When I first met Nancy, it was love at first sight.  I think when people saw us, we looked like the odd couple. I’m 6-foot-5, and my wife is 5-foot-4. I was a hulky farm boy.  Now I’m a hulky farm man. Nancy was a cute city girl. After we met, we couldn’t stay away from each other.   

 

Our second date was one of the more memorable experiences of our dating life because at this point we had already tuned into each other’s personality, especially our sense of humor. I was one of those boys who knew what I wanted in a wife early on. 

 

I also had enough street smarts to know a few stereotypes people have of farm boys. This meant pretending to be a little naive.  I love doing this because it keeps people guessing.  

 

****

The Cemetery Flowers 

 

So one day I was heading towards Nancy’s house. It was our second official date. I wanted to make a good impression on her mom, but I was also a prankster. I had found a beautiful collection of flowers from the farm, picked ‘em right out of our garden.  When I showed up at Nancy’s house, I kind of changed the story of where and how I had found the bouquet.  Her mother greeted me, so I knew there was no better time to launch into the story.           

 

“Good to see you Dean. And I noticed you brought a beautiful bouquet of flowers!”   

 

“Yeah, I really lucked out.”    

 

“How so?”     

 

“Well, I felt a little bad that I forgot to grab a bunch at this nice little flower shop near my home, but as I was walking towards your house, somebody had laid flowers down on a stone.  There were a whole bunch of ‘em, um . . . I mean stones, but only two or three of ‘em had flowers like these.”  I pointed at the bouquet. “So I had a quick look around to see which bunch was the nicest . . . wanting Nancy to have the best . . . The stones where the flowers lay were a little strange. They had writing on ‘em.  Stuff like “In memory of . . .  so and so!” Words like that.   

 

Her mouth dropped. She acted like I had just made a pact with the Devil.  

 

“But Dean, that was a cemetery, and those flowers were gifts to the dead from their family and other loved ones.  Ya can’t just go taking those kinds of flowers.  That’s grave robbing!”    

 

I couldn’t help it—a smile snuck out. She hadn’t yet figured out that I was pulling her leg, but then Nancy walked in.  

 

“Oh Mom, stop getting worked up. Dean knows better than that. He was just playing a game.”  

 

I knew, sooner or later, I would have to own up to the truth, so it was fun watching my future wife take the lead.  

 

****   

 

As I look back on my life, things did improve between my mother-in-law and me. She began realizing how the stereotype of a poor and naive farm boy did not fit my personality, and that I was a bit smarter than she had initially thought.  Nancy had picked up on it, so our relationship took off.   

 

Our life has been filled with blessings.  I feel fortunate because Nancy and I got along really well from the start.  I know many friends whose marriages had one rough spot after another. Nancy and I have had a few tough times, but all in all, we’ve had less than most people.  

 

When it came to raising our two girls, Nancy was the friend and I was the discipliner. But over the years, she taught me a lesson or two about understanding my girls. Growing up, I was the oldest of an all-boy farm household. Fact is, when you consider my high testosterone family, I did understand young women better than most of the boys my age who had a similar background.   

 

However, in the early years of our marriage, I missed many cues. One of those lessons came when my oldest, Alicia, was about four or five years old.  We lived out in the country on a farm.  One day she came to me and asked me if she could set up a lemonade stand. Two scenarios came to my mind within seconds of her request.  

 

My first thought was how heartbroken Alicia would be when she didn’t make any money. Our driveway is about sixty feet.  We don’t have too many neighbors nearby, but the occasional car will drive by.  So I whispered to myself, “Who in the hell is going to stop to buy a glass or two of lemonade out here?”   

 

The next scenario was a little scary. What if the wrong person, some sicko, drove up?  Alicia was about 3-foot-5 and as cute as could be.  I then whispered to myself, “So she goes out to the road, a stranger drives up, and grabs her.”   

 

I hope I don’t sound too paranoid, but that is where my imagination took me.  I didn’t like it, so I didn’t give it more thought.  

 

“No.” 

 

That was my final decision, and boy, did I feel terrible about it a few minutes later.  It was such a simple thing, yet it has haunted me through the years. Thankfully, Alicia says she doesn’t remember it. So how could I have done things differently?  This is where Nancy comes in.  She got me in touch with my nurturing side. It took years, but I’ve learned from her. 

 

Some years later, I re-imagined the lemonade stand story.   

 

****  

“Hi, Dad.” 

 

“Yeah, Alicia?”

 

“I want to do a lemonade stand.”  

 

“OK.  Now, you know you gotta do some planning right?” 

 

“What do you mean?” 

 

“Well, I will have a talk with your mother. Today is Wednesday, so let’s aim it for Friday. Good?” 

 

She smiled and walked away happy.   

 

Different ending, right? 

 

As soon as she walked out of that room, I got busy.  I called Nancy and all my relatives and friends and got them into action.  I was ready to orchestrate the perfect lemonade stand day for my little girl.  Not only would she sell a lot of drinks, but dammit, she would be safe.   

 

Unfortunately, what I just described never happened. But I wished it had.  I considered it years later, but I just couldn’t think of how to bring it up to Alicia.  

****   

 

I believe today that I could’ve worked on my nurturing side a little more. During the first ten years or so of our family life, it was probably 90/10. I was the parent who disciplined, and I was proud of it. Today, it’s probably 75/25. As I often tell Nancy, “You can be a pushover, honey.”  She laughs when I say this to her because she wouldn’t change our parenting roles for any reason.  I do hope I’ve swayed her a little in my direction, but honestly, I know she swayed me more.  

 

****  

Back to the hospital.  

 

Before I went under from the anesthesia, I remember feeling Nancy holding my hand. As far as I know, she never left my side when things started to go wrong. There I was, in really bad shape, fully aware that I could die.   

 

One of the witnesses said that the surgeon literally ran out of the hospital after he botched my surgery. Although the timeline is only a guess, I started my ascent towards God soon after my doctor exited the building. 

 

I had been taught in church, if I ever found myself in a near-death experience and I knew it wasn’t my time to die, I should call on the name of Jesus.  I have always had a strong foundation in my faith in God and a strong belief in Jesus as the Son of God, so calling out to Him was the natural thing to do.   

 

“Jesus, Jesus.” I said it twice, if you can trust my recall in my almost dead state.  As soon as I spoke these words, I saw the nurses arrive and I heard Nancy’s voice. Peace came over me, and I knew things were going to be OK.    

 

Later when I awoke, I described what had happened, including calling on Jesus and seeing the nurses surround my bed. Nancy told me she had been there the whole time, along with friends from church, like our pastor.  However, no one who had been in that room saw the four nurses, nor did they see me floating above the mattress.      

 

Although I will never know what happened, one thing is for sure. Nancy was there in that hospital room.  She is always there for me; we have always been there for each other.     

 

****   

This brings me to my next memory. About three years ago, our daughter Melissa had reached age fifteen. In Michigan, we all know what this means: drivers education.  As I lay in that hospital bed about five years before, I knew I didn’t want to go and see God yet because I had my fatherly duties to do, and this was one of them.   

 

I believe that God did help me out at the hospital because helping Nancy raise our daughters has been a highlight of my life. 

 

**** 

I wanted Melissa to take the next big step, the milestone towards being a young adult.  I had just purchased a new Ford Taurus. It wasn’t more than a few months old. It had its shine and its smell. I loved that car and was proud that my girl was going to learn how to drive in a classy, brand new car. 

 

I ignored the fact that she had repeated, or more accurately, continuously protested, “I’m not ready yet, Dad!”   

 

I didn’t care because I knew that sometimes my girls needed a little push, and this was simply one of those times.  She needed to be a bit braver, so it was my job to push her.  To me, driving is a life-skill. It is comparable to walking or going to the bathroom. Since she had mastered those two skills years ago, I was sure that she was ready to handle this next lesson. 

 

So we got in the car together. She plopped into the driver’s seat, and I plopped in the passenger seat. To this day, I will never forget the lesson I learned regarding why all drivers education cars should be equipped with one of those passenger-side brake pedals.  It really would have helped me that day.    

 

I also forgot how easy it is for a new driver to forget that there is a difference between the brake and gas pedal, especially when the new driver starts to panic. Anyway, she put the car into the gear called R. In her mind, R meant Ride. So she placed the car in R, hit the gas pedal, and moved swiftly into a head-on collision with a very large garbage can.   

 

Thud.  

 

Miraculously, we got the car back in park. After making sure she was stationary and she was OK, I went to have a look at what she had hit and the damage to the car.  The car’s trunk took on a new shape, kind of like a V.  My brand new Taurus would never be the same, and my daughter and wife now hated me.  

 

I don’t know if it was the noise of Melissa screaming or the sound of the car crashing, but either way, Nancy marched out, yelling at me until she had time to grab her girl and rescue her from her terrible father. Once she knew Melissa was fine, Nancy continued to yell at me. 

 

“Dean, Melissa said she wasn’t ready, and you just had to go and push. This is what you get for that!”  

 

I knew if I pointed at the damage done to the car, I’d be sleeping on the sofa, so I shut up and nodded.  The damage was about $5,000, but I don’t think I ever mentioned this to Nancy. 

 

As I stood there taking the verbal beating, I saw a small smirk flash on Nancy face, but only for a second. For some strange reason, the memory of lying in that hospital bed came to me.  I believe God did send me his healing angels that day in the hospital.  He knew I wanted to be the best dad I could be, and He didn’t let me down.   

 

Truth is Nancy could have yelled at me for another five minutes, and Melissa could have continued to cry. It wouldn’t have mattered.  I just stood there and enjoyed being with two of the people that I love most in this world.  I often wonder what Alicia would have said had she been there.  I’m guessing she would have taken the side of her sister.  If she had, it wouldn’t have bothered me one bit. The girls are close and trust each other.  What more can a father ask for?

 

What can I say. I’m a proud papa.    

 

****  

Because of the roles Nancy and I have played with our kids through the years, there were times when I did want to be the nurturer. The car incident was one of them.  My pushy nature did usher in an uncomfortable moment now and then. When things need to get done, I’m the drill sergeant.   

 

Having the honor of being surrounded by these three wonderful ladies for the last twenty years has made me a very content husband and father. I often do think back to growing up on a farm with all boys. As a father of two girls, life has kind of reversed itself, and I love it. I’m a ladies’ man now, and I like it.   

 

Friends of mine often tell me how jealous they are of me. The girls have turned out great, and Nancy and I have always had a wonderful relationship. The only advice I can give to other men is if you ever feel like you and your wife are not in agreement on major issues, such as how to manage your money or raise your children (having lemonade stands), either start listening to your wife (agreeing with her) or just don’t get married.    

 

We have never had marriage counseling, and we never put on any show for each other. We met, became genuine best friends, and have been living together happily. Nancy is beautiful, inside and out.  I have a down-to-earth, beautiful, and loving wife. And I thank the Lord for her every day.  

 

 

 

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Story 3 – Married Late

Married Late

(Why I Love You)

 

Recently I had the chance to look back upon my life and think about the people that I am so thankful to, the people who have made my life wonderful.  Although many made my list, this story is about the two ladies in my life that I met in my thirties, my wife Terri and daughter Lindsay.  This story is a work in progress, after all, as I’m still alive, learning, and doing well. Choosing where to start this story was easy.  It started with when I was preparing to meet Terri. The ending was chosen because I am heading into the unknown confidently.        

 

Soon after I met Terri, about three months, I knew she was the one for me. I married at a later age than most of my friends, age thirty-six.  I hadn’t dated much, so as I started my journey towards finding that special someone, I did my due diligence. This included putting out ads in singles magazines and making my list of what I wanted and did not want in a wife.   

 

My profile had a short list of important items.  At the top was I didn’t want a woman with a kid. I was also upfront on the first date that I am an atheist.     

 

Terri had been married previously and had a son, Adam. Ironically, I will probably never know why, when I typed up my profile for one particular singles magazine, I forgot to include that I wanted a girlfriend who didn’t have children.      

 

On our first date, Terri was upfront about her religious beliefs. She was a born again Christian. However, the connection between us was instant, so me being an atheist didn’t turn her off. It didn’t take long before I both wanted and needed her.  As an intuitive person who knows how to nurture, she picked up on how I was feeling and responded beautifully.      

 

One of my fondest memories of that first date was when I made an ass of myself by taking a tumble. It was November, so the snow and ice were covering everything. As I lay on the ground, not sure if I should laugh or cry, she leaned in and kissed me. It was quick, but the kiss did its job.  I thought, I like that!  

 

Because we both felt the connection, I met her son Adam within the first week. He was nine years old at the time. The meeting went well, so I decided to keep it to myself that I didn’t want a kid.  

 

As the days passed, I saw my new habits forming. One of my favorites was waiting for her at my home, like a teenage boy who was nervously excited to go on his first date. One day I realized that I kept staring out the window, waiting for her car to pull up.  This was when it hit me; her kindness and beauty were affecting me.     

 

***    

It didn’t take long, however, before tragedy struck. I will always treasure this memory because of how it toughened me up.  

 

I arrived at her home one afternoon expecting a common, pleasant evening. Instead, she had left me a note that she had gone to the hospital. I got nervous. Although her condition was not life-threatening, I felt a panic attack come on because I kept having a flashback of my sister’s death. She died half a dozen years earlier. We were close, so her death upset me.  I had experienced people die in my life since my sister’s death, so I was not able to understand at that time why I was overacting about Terri. 

 

Later, it all made sense. There I was. I had finally found my soul mate. We had only been dating about three months, but I was getting hooked.  She was in the hospital, and she needed me to be with her. I got dizzy. After feeling weak in the knees, I took a seat. As the time passed, each time I tried to get into the car, I felt the shakes and a cold sweat come over me. I became angry with myself, so much so that my condition worsened. The final result was I fell asleep from exhaustion. 

 

Although the details have escaped me, I remember waking up in her bed alone, in the middle of the night. As I went for a walk towards the kitchen, I saw her sleeping on the sofa in the living room, so I knew I was in trouble. Either I had to give the real reason for my bizarre behavior or risk losing Terri. 

 

For the first time since the death of my sister, I was able to talk about how my sister’s death had affected me. Before and after our talk, Terri yelled at me for not going to the hospital. However, it was difficult for her to remain angry because she realized how important she had become to me. As I shared this with Terri, her eyes watered. It was then that I knew she understood.  I loved my sister dearly, so placing such value in Terri was a bonding moment for us.   

 

Imagine that. Being yelled at from the woman who I was falling madly in love with cured my anxiety; disappointing her was not an option.   

 

I know I am cured because I have been to the hospital many times, including many trips when Lindsay was born, but more on that later.  

 

****     

After we got married, we began to plan for a baby. I took comfort that she had been through this before. There is a movie called Back to School.  It was a famous movie in 1986.  One of my favorite lines is “Remember, the best part about having children is making em.” So we got busy practicing to make one, a daughter.  We practiced regularly and not only in the bedroom. One of my favorite places to get comfy was the hot tub on our back patio. My best friend had become my lover, and I knew this would be important as we raised our child together. 

 

I had felt disappointed that it took me until age thirty-six to marry, but I knew others who had married earlier and divorced. So waiting this long to find the woman I would want to stay with for life, well, the wait wasn’t too terrible after all.  I married for companionship, not for sex or on a romantic whim.  Maybe this is why we are still together years later and going strong.  

 

*** 

Once Terri conceived, I felt a strong confidence about my up-and-coming duties. Though it was a family event, I kept saying to myself, “My daughter.” Crazy as it may sound, the word my had special energy to it.  The months passed quickly because I often felt like I was in a euphoric state. My thoughts often drifted. People saw it and commented. I was going to be a dad in my late thirties.  

 

We experienced a few challenges along the way that shook my confidence, but as long as I shared my concerns with her, since we were in this together, the fears lost their hold.  The first was when we discovered that Lindsay would be a premie-baby, or pre-mature.  Although it was all guess work, we figured she’d come into the world a week or so before Thanksgiving.     

 

My next challenge was watching her birth and knowing she couldn’t go home with us any time soon. She had a condition called Rh disease and this meant she had to stay in a special ward at the hospital for an unknown number of days.  With Thanksgiving so close, this hurt. 

 

Adam was very helpful at this stage in the game. At age thirteen, he was maturing quickly and becoming a friend and helper to me, his stepdad. When I made comments about this to him, he gave me that look that said “of course I should be helping you.” I didn’t feel the right to require him to take this role. Instead, he had the desire to be this person.   

 

We visited Lindsay every day, but we couldn’t stay overnight. I was losing sleep, weight, and hope. Deep down I  knew she would survive and come home, but I wanted her home for Thanksgiving, so as that special Thursday approached, I noticed Terri talking to herself more.  Later I discovered she had been praying.  Since she was a born-again Christian and I was an atheist, I didn’t want to admit that I was happy someone was praying. And if God was going to listen to a prayer request or two, I figured Terri was the right person to be doing the asking.   

 

The day before Thanksgiving arrived, the news came that we could take Lindsay home. By this point, I was no longer calling Lindsay my daughter.  I was calling her our daughter.  We have a Thanksgiving family photo of the four of us. Every time I look at it I smile. Terri and I look so exhausted in that picture that it is the best reminder of why we were so thankful for that special Thanksgiving gift.  

 

I was ready to tend to my daddy duties, but I wanted to do more watching first. I told Terri this, but she tried a really bad line on me: “I’m kind of new at this too.”  Adam was thirteen, and he had turned out well. He really loves and trusts his mother.  I figured, if Terri did it so well with Adam, I was willing to trust her with teaching me how to be a great parent to Lindsay. So I watched Terry.  All I needed to do was watch her and learn. . .and I loved watching her.  

 

***   

The years passed with relative ease.  I know, as a parent I shouldn’t say that, but it’s true. We had a surprise here and there, but Terri and I were in agreement on the major issues, so Adam and Lindsay knew if they asked one of us a question, the other parent would have the same answer.  The truth is if I wasn’t sure, I told them to go and ask their mother. I didn’t care what her answer was. I was confident it would be the best answer for our children.  She’s a smarty. 

 

*** 

I now have a confession to make. We kind of liked the Waltons. Yes, this has a point.   

 

When Lindsay was about three, I was helping with potty training.  One important rule we had as parents was allowing our children to have self-expression, as long as it wasn’t vulgar.  So there I was watching my daughter sit proudly and task-focused on the toilet.  She was the type who liked to speak her mind and it was time for me to get a nickname from her.  

 

Lindsay had heard the name “John Boy.” I hadn’t paid too much attention to how often we heard or spoke this name at home.  I also can’t remember the first time that I called her “Lindsay girl,” but I’m guessing it was inspired from the show The Waltons. 

 

Since she was in a playful mood, a common occurrence, she decided to start playing with words and sounds that she liked. I got into the game with her.  As I listened, I figured out where she was going. 

 

“Daddy.”  

 

“Yes Lindsay Girl.”

 

“I have a name for you.” She smiled while I held my breath. “Daddy Boy Poop.”

 

I didn’t know what to say, but I felt a smirk sneak on my face. 

 

“Daddy Boy Poop.”  She repeated it again.  

 

As the days or perhaps weeks passed, she decided it was too long, so she shortened it to “Poopy.”     

 

Although I would have preferred another name, my Lindsay Girl had a way of doing things that I found hard to object to. 

 

If I was making a list of terms of endearment, Daddy Boy Poop and Poopy would make my list. At times I cringed when she said them, but now ten years later, I can’t help it, I miss hearing these silly names, from time to time.   

 

Our names for each other have changed through the years, but if you take a guess or two, it’s easy to speculate about why that name really stayed with me as easy to remember.  

 

****  

 

****  

As Lindsay grew older, our relationship got better.  But I must admit, there have been days when I was a pushover.  Even in recent years, she always knows just what to say.  Although I have learned to say “No” much of the time when she makes requests that I should simply ignore, on occasion I joyfully concede.

 

We were home and she wanted to eat something. She didn’t know what, so she decided it was my problem to solve.    

 

“Daddy, could you get me something to eat?”

 

“Lindsay, I’m not your slave.”   

 

She paused for a second and smiled at me. “Yeah, you kind of are.” 

 

I just laughed out loud, got up, and headed for the kitchen. I don’t remember what I got her to eat, but I remember that I enjoyed that moment. 

 

If there is one characteristic I want to engrain in my daughter, it is that I will always be there for her. Although I usually say no to such requests, it is one of the more humorous recent memories of how she knows that Terri and I love her very much.  I am privileged to be that kind of dad.      

 

****  

From my bachelor days to my married-with-children days, life has changed so much and for the better.  It is hard for me to imagine what life could have been like had I not made the mistake of forgetting to reject the love of my life by mentioning the part about “no kid.”   

 

I didn’t want to be a stepfather, but now I can’t imagine my family being any different or better. Of the people who know both Adam’s real father and me, they all said that I had been a better friend and provider for Adam.  The funny part is I never thought too much about it when those events happened. It was common sense to me how to be a friend and provider, especially after Terri got me tuned in.       

 

The kid, Adam, is now grown up and married with a son. Lindsay is thirteen years old and ready to take on her teen years like a champion. I’ve heard enough stories through the years of how the teenage years are a struggle for many, but so far I’ve seen no major red flags.    

 

Lindsay and Adam are good friends, so they talk a lot. And I know that Adam has put in a good word for me many times during his chats with his sister.  They love each other and trust each other.   

 

Terri and I have had more than a few talks about how well our children get along.  When I shared with Lindsay about the panic attacks and how mom was there for me, Lindsay confirmed that she knows she is never alone.

 

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Story 4 – Never Alone

Never Alone

 

 

Prelude 

 

This is my story of learning how to communicate my true feelings to my wife.  Since that special day, I realize that I was never alone.     

 

****  

As a Chinese man, I was taught many good traditional values about family, marriage, and children, but I had one struggle in my life that could have destroyed everything.  My marriage and my relationship with my daughter used to be a bittersweet story. Now it is much better.    

 

I’ll never forget what it was like to sit with my friend, who was also a family therapist. His name is Daniel.  I am fortunate because I didn’t need to pay hourly therapy fees. Instead, we spent time together as friends and colleagues. When I visited with Daniel, often my daughter was with me. After more than one year of building our friendship, I prompted a conversation that changed my life for the better.

 

This is my story. 

 

****  

While having a meal with Daniel, Hanna also had accompanied me. She is a joy. She always has been and always will be. However, she is also a very active child, never wanting to sit still.  Her behavior was frustrating me because I wanted to have a talk with Daniel about a topic that I had been afraid to mention before. I didn’t know how to start, so I spoke whatever words came.  

 

“So, what do you think of my family?” As I spoke, I felt my nerves jump.  

 

“My friend, you have a lovely family. Your daughter could not be more adorable, and you are such a good father.”  

 

I smiled, knowing that wasn’t really what I wanted to talk about. I wanted him to be more honest. Though what he had said was true, there was more to say.    

 

“Thank you for your kind words. However, I want you to tell me the good and the not-so-good.” My heart sunk. I was happy I had said this, but I knew he had thoughts about how I could improve my relationship with my wife and daughter. 

 

While our conversation was progressing, Hanna was nearby, pulling on my arm, over and over, to remind me that she wanted to go home.  This was often the case when she accompanied me while I visited my friends.  She had been taught good manners, but she was filled with energy, so she was often restless.   

 

When we regained eye contact, Daniel spoke. “OK, so what you are really asking me is . . . what you can do to make things better at home. Right?’”  

 

“Yes.”     

 

“OK. Fair enough. Can I ask you a question?”     

 

“Of course, but be kind.”  We laughed.   

 

“Your daughter told me that your relationship with your wife is strained, can you tell me about that?”    

 

I was startled by his question. “What do you mean?  She has said little or nothing to you. In fact, you know that her English level is low.” 

 

“. . . but her body language is very good—its more revealing. So again, is the relationship between you and your wife strained?”     

 

I nodded yes, feeling both uncomfortable that this secret had been revealed and happy that I might be able to put into words the very frustrations I had been feeling.  Before this day, I had never been able to express to others how I had felt in my heart. I knew this was my chance, and I knew I wouldn’t have to explain much of my life story to my friend Daniel. For he already understood.  

 

He continued. “OK. So, I am going to ask you a question. All I want is a yes or a no.  Can we agree?”  

 

My courage grew. I knew I was ready because my heartbeat was speeding up.

 

“OK.”  

 

“Good. Did your wife get pregnant with your daughter before you were married?”  

 

“Yes. How did you know?” I sort of remembered telling him this, but it was a while ago. 

 

“I thought you had made a comment about it before. Next question.”  He was ready.  “On a scale from 1 to 5, how do you rate your marriage today?”     

 

“A 3 or 2.5.”  I broke eye contact with him as I said this. I wanted the number to be higher, but my response was honest.    

 

“OK. So, are you ready to raise that number to a confident 3 or perhaps a 4?” 

 

“Yes!” My confidence surprised me. 

 

“Did you ever have a talk with your wife about how important she is to you?” 

 

“Huh?” A second after I made this sound, I was surprised with myself. We had had many good conversations in the past, my wife and I, but I knew I had hidden special details in my heart that I had not said to her but had really wanted to say.  “Yes. But there are a few details—tell me your ideas.”

 

“Good answer. How would you like to have a memorable experience tonight or tomorrow? An experience of starting to achieve at least a strong 3 or 3.5 in your marriage?”    

 

My eyes stared at an unknown target in the room. My stomach tightened. He had invited me into the place that I wanted to be, but going forward meant I would need to take a step or two, and after I followed his advice, my life would change.  I felt the need to end the conversation at this point.  I couldn’t help thinking that I wanted to stop my daughter’s restless behavior, and I was just given the invitation. However, I would need to put the invitation on hold. Soon, we would continue our chat in a different setting.  

 

****   

A few days later, we were sitting at Daniel’s house on his balcony, immersed in conversation. This time my daughter was not with me. I was happy because I needed to focus.  I bit of guilt came to me as I thought about my daughter’s absence, but I shrugged it off. What was most important to me now was my relationship with my wife. Once that improved, everything else would follow.      

 

“Our last conversation was so refreshing . . . I really want to talk about Susan again with you.”

 

“So, what number do you want your marriage to be?”    

 

“I want to go to at least a 4.” My words were spoken shyly.  “I’m feeling a bit . . . strange now.”  

 

“Good Sam.”      

 

“I am feeling a bit unhappy with . . . myself.”  

 

“That’s fine. And it’ll pass soon. The good news is these feelings have a wonderful purpose. They will guide you to a place where they will turn into joy, real happiness. Are you ready?”  

 

I was ready. I knew what he was saying was true. 

 

“OK, what do I need to do?”  

 

“Tonight, when you go home and you and your wife have a few minutes of together time, you only need to tell her one thing.”   

 

I stopped breathing, but I was still able to speak. “You mean tell her—?”  I paused.

 

“Yes.  Do not spend time preparing your speech. Speeches never work well because, when you really get into the emotions, you will forget the speech and speak from the heart anyway. All you need to do is keep your mind on the topic or subject matter.”   

 

“So do you mean . . . I am not sure what the subject matter is!”  I hadn’t been able to put it into words, but I knew, with a little help, I would be able to find the words. 

 

Daniel noticed my mind had gone blank. “Yes you do, you know. But allow me to put it into words for you. You have felt resentful towards your wife because she often leaves you to take care of your daughter, and so you feel like a single parent because these are the behavior patterns you’ve both adopted to avoid the root of the pain. Unconsciously, she has never felt connected to you as a husband, only as a lover and father of her child. She felt used, even though she was a consensual partner when she became pregnant. When she sees you and her daughter together, she has mixed feelings.”

 

“That hurts!”  

 

“Of course. But you have the power to heal it.”    

 

I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I just listened.  I felt a deep-down joy because I was finally hearing what I had been feeling for so long.     

 

“Sam, all you need to do is go and tell her, in your own words, by letting your heart guide you, that you will do whatever is necessary to take your relationship to the place you both have wanted it since the day the negative feelings about being bad people and bad parents began to guide you.  Your daughter has also picked up on it emotionally, but her ability to communicate it into words is—it’s a little too much to ask of her at this time.” 

 

“Yes. So do I need to remember when and where that started?” 

 

“No. This is not about remembering a specific date in the past. It’s much easier.  Instead, all you need to do is tell her the truth—that she is very important to you and always has been.”  

 

My eyes watered. My face turned bright red. I was starting to feel what I had been wanting to feel for so long. I really did, deep down, love my wife, but I had never actually told her this, in this way.  I felt choked up, so I took a few seconds. 

 

“So no long speech is needed?”      

 

“Sam, most often saying a lot is not good. If my guess is right, she has been waiting for you to take your place in her life as her best friend and husband, not just lover and baby maker.”   

 

After these words, I knew Daniel was right. I didn’t need a memorized speech, only to stay on topic, and that would be easy. The conversation shifted, and I stayed another 40 minutes, knowing my life was going to change when I got home. Every few minutes, I glanced at my watch. I really wanted to time the evening well. I had to guess the time she would arrive home  and how long it would take for her to settle in. It was now all about the timing.  As the minutes passed, so slowly, I continued to repeat the topic in my mind:     

 

[It’s time for a change, honey.  I want to hear your thoughts about how we can improve our marriage and family life. But first I want you to know that I am so happy you are my wife and I could not be happier with our daughter . . .]   

 

Each time I got to this ending, it seemed like I had said enough. I only hoped she would agree.  

 

The trip home took a long time.  Once I walked in the door, I was pleased because my timing was good.  Susan had already arrived, and she was finishing a task in the kitchen.  I knew there wouldn’t be the perfect moment.  Instead, I would need to create the special moment. Since our kitchen was small, I leaned on the door without entering, trying to act relaxed.    

 

At first, she looked at me and smiled. Then she took a second look. I was just standing there, looking at her with a big smile on my face.  My behavior was a bit unusual, and I knew she noticed it.   

 

“Hi.”  I spoke first.    

 

“Hi.”

 

She gave me that look that says, “Why are you acting that way?” 

 

“What?” I made a nervous laugh. 

 

Her eyes returned to cleaning a pot.  She knew I was behaving different, but she wasn’t about to guess why.

 

It was my turn. “I’ve been thinking about our family.”     

 

She looked up at me, offering her full attention. 

 

“Well, I think we need to bring some changes, and it can start with me.” 

 

“OK.” I heard skepticism in her voice. 

 

At that moment, my mind went blank. I knew what I wanted to say, about one minute earlier, but my thoughts vanished.    

 

She looked at me again, waiting for me to speak. 

 

OK, I’ll admit it. I had practiced more than one speech on my way home, but none came. I only remembered two of the things Daniel had said to me during our talk: “Focus on one idea, and don’t try to give a memorized speech.” 

 

“I just want to say that I think our relationship is . . . well, it needs improving. So I want to take the first step.”

 

She smiled, still offering her attention.  By this time, she had finished cleaning. She changed her stance and looked at me with her arms crossed, covering her chest.  This meant her guard was up. She was ready to listen, but she couldn’t imagine that I would have anything important to say. 

 

As I found out in the weeks and months to come, she had often made subtle comments to me in the past, but I didn’t catch them because I had been so busy doing all the things that I thought would make things better. She had given me cues, and I had missed them. 

 

“Thanks for your attention.” I cleared my throat.  “I just want to tell you that marrying you was the best choice I ever made. I often feel like maybe you think we married because of Hanna.  But even if something happened to her, God forbid, or if she had never been born, I would still have chosen you as my wife.”   

 

I had finally said it. I wanted to add a lot of other details. But I had said it.  She stared at me. No words came. I was sure I saw tears come to her eyes.

 

Finally, she spoke.     

 

“Oh. Um, . . . what made you think to say this?”   

 

Daniel was right. The words did just flow.    

 

“Because I know I never told you this. But I have wondered what you might think, so . . .” 

 

“Well, that’s good. I mean, I have wondered at times—“ she stopped. 

 

“We can discuss it much more later. I don’t have a long speech.  I only want to tell you that am I happy we are together, as a family.”   

 

Susan exhaled and leaned into me with a hug and kiss.  That night as we climbed into bed, I felt a new joy. There was freedom in how we talked, laughed, and held each other.  Although the words were few, I felt that my life had just changed for the better. The rest of the details of that evening are just between her and me.   

 

Hanna was in her room. She had quietly finished her homework and was also slowly drifting into a night of rest.  The whole house was quiet and filled with peace.  It hadn’t felt this way in a long time.   

 

Although my journey has not ended here, it was a big first step.  

**** 

 

 

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Story 5 – Heavenly Made, & Happily Together

 

 

Heavenly Made, and Happily Together

 

Prelude  

 

“Love is not a word we Chinese people usually talk about openly, instead, we save it until a very big moment. I think that right time to share some stories of my love is here. “

Anonymous

 

****   

I am sitting in my home. It’s been almost four years since we had the wedding party. My wife Elaine is playing with our daughter, Eva, who is three. I try to convince myself that I’m not the romantic type, but watching these two lovely ladies has taken me down memory lane. I keep feeling thankful for all I have as I watch them, quietly. The best part is I don’t even think they know I am watching.   

 

I lounge back into my chair and close my eyes, and perhaps a minute passes. Then I feel someone tickling my nose.  

 

“Hehehe,” I know that giggle.   

 

I open my eyes and sit up.    

 

“Hehehe.” Whenever Eva laughs, she has the cutest smile too.  

 

“Hi.” 

 

“Hi ba.”  

 

She jumps into my lap and lies her head on my chest.

 

The end, almost. . .

 

The evening began with me watching her and it ended with her watching me.  

 

I never had the courage to ask her or her mother if they noticed that I had been watching them earlier, but Eva wanted to make sure her daddy didn’t feel left out.   

 

****    

Before I met my wife, I had hoped that when I did meet her, whoever she might be, it would start as a friendship without the need for me to be overly romantic. To this day, I’m still not sure how I am so fortunate because it worked out this way with, what seems to have been, so little planning.   

 

For a man to love his wife and daughter is natural. But for a man to watch how his life has changed for the better because of his family is some a little more special. I believe this because I know that not all of the men I’ve known through the years are as fortunate as me.  

 

When I first met Elaine, the connection happened quickly. I wasn’t looking for a wife at the time, not even a girlfriend, but I couldn’t help feeling that maybe it was my time. After all, from the day we met to the day we knew the friendship was special was less than one week.  

 

One of the most memorable moments during our first week together was when we traveled to Beijing together from a smaller city called Hangzhou. We were on a business trip for work. In all, I was traveling with 12 colleagues. As the train was making its way northbound, an all night trip that took about 12 hours, as I laid restless in my cot, I was startled when a quilt from the bunk above, slipped past me, and landed on the floor.  Without thinking, I returned it, not knowing my simple act of kindness would be the birth of a beautiful friendship.   

 

It was dark, so Elaine wasn’t sure who had done this. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but the next morning she inquired regarding who had helped her. Her level of thankfulness was a little more than what I had expected, for she pealed me an apple for breakfast.  I don’t remember the last time a woman who I had just met did such a thing for me, so I took notice.   

 

I always thought she was beautiful, but in China beautiful women are everywhere. Her act of kindness is what got my attention, and the fact that she was very smart also impressed me. 

 

From the time we arrived for training in Beijing to our ride back to Hangzhou, the friendship grew. I was a young man in his early 20’s who wasn’t looking for romance or a wife. But there was something special about her, so I just couldn’t say no. Spending time with her became a priority. 

 

The realization that we were falling in love took hold as the months passed because we went out of our way to meet up. If we were separated by geography,  I never hesitated to take a two or three hour bus ride, one way, so I could spend the afternoon with her. 

 

Before we were officially married, however, we experienced a rough spot or two.  The one that always makes me smile was when we had had an argument. I had to make it right, and I wanted surprise on my side. After the argument was over, she sent me messages and tried to call me, but I refused to reply.  I figured the only way I could pull this off was by pretending to be a bit rude. Although my heart would race each time she sent me a message or tried to call, I stayed with my plan. 

 

When the evening arrived and the moon was shining, I snuck out to her dormitory. I wasn’t even sure if she would answer my call, but she did.  That’s when my heart really started to race. Next, I told her to look out of the window at the beautiful sky. She was intrigued by the unusual suggestion enough to honor my plea. As she opened her window and gazed out, I saw her but she didn’t see me.  I was hoping she would enjoy the night sky and the glowing moon before I revealed myself.  She did.  At last, I told her to look down. She did, quickly, but all she noticed was a strange man standing on the ground below, holding a bouquet of flowers.  I will never forget the look on her face—her joy. I had pulled off a nice surprise. 

 

After she finished her graduate studies, we both knew what was next.  I had been thinking of different ways to arrange the proposal, so we could make our marriage official.  But Elaine took the lead.  She made the proposal, I accepted, and the next day we stood at the government office in our hometown, smiling for our pictures as they designed our certificate booklet.   

 

Unlike you see in the movies, I never knelt and officially proposed. Neither did she. However, one day I will make it up to her, and then we will laugh about that informal day when she asked me to be her husband.    

 

When our wedding party day arrived, I was more than proud to show off to all my friends and family my wife.  To me, that day wasn’t the day she became my wife. Instead, it was her day to be my bride in front of a group of those dearest to us.  I kept saying to myself and others “This is my bride.” 

 

I noticed a new excitement in my life within that first year after the wedding. I started leaving work earlier than I had in the past, wanting to get home. Elaine had become pregnant about five months after the wedding party, and I knew I wanted to be there.   

 

Eva’s birth and life have changed me. I can understand why people often describe their experience of watching the birth process as being a miracle.  I knew from the day that I met Elaine that she was a nurturer, someone who knew how to tune into the needs of others. Her natural tendency to serve was one of the reasons I was attracted to her. So watching Elaine in her mothering role has been one of the greatest ongoing experiences in my life.     

 

Many people have heard of the One-child policy in China. It has its benefits. One of those is the availability of grandparents.  Without asking, both of our parents were happy to help out with child care. We all were there when Eva took her first few steps and when she was able to speak full sentences, both milestones happened within the first two years.  At each event, Elaine’s yearning to be home with her daughter grew stronger, so when Eva was two and a half, Elaine made the transition from part-time mom to full-time mom.     

 

Eva is now five. My desire to leave work early and be with my family has never grown old, and knowing Elaine and Eva are together each day, always leaves a smile on my face.   

 

Every now and then, I think of how Elaine kind of proposed to me and how I felt bad that I hadn’t been more romantic on that occasion, so I’ve decided to prepare a surprise.  I know I did well with the bouquet of flowers in the moonlight at her dormitory, but I’m going to top that because I love making these memories with her.    

 

Eva has learned to be part of the memory making.  Now that she is five, she often expresses her love for us in her own adorable way. 

 

“Hi Eva.” 

 

“Hi daddy.” 

 

“Eva, who do you love more, mom or dad?”

 

She always replies quickly, “Both mom and dad.”    

 

My life has turned out beautifully.  I married the perfect woman for me and she gave me a healthy, lovely, and smart daughter.  I couldn’t have asked for more.    

****  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Story 6 – Don’t Jump

 

Don’t Jump

 

Prelude

 

Life always brings good and bad times.  When standing near a cliff, one person thinks, “If I jump, maybe it will stop the pain.” But on another day, that same person thinks, “The glory of God!”  This story is about both. 

 

****  

 

My family life is most important to me now. It wasn’t always this way. As a young man, the rules about how to be a good family man were never clear, so when we started having children, my life became unpredictable and painful.  I was the discipliner in my family, but since my wife, Debra, and I did not agree on some of the rules, I confused the kids when I enforced them.  Debra was the one who kept everyone sane. If nothing else, this is a thank you letter to her. 

 

I did a lot of things right, but in this letter I want to share how Debra and my daughter, Coco, had a wonderful affect on me.  In fairness, much of my present happiness stems from the lessons they taught me over the years. These lessons humbled me to better appreciate other people’s pain.  

 

Debra and I have three children. Two of our children, Carl, Jr. and Coco, came from our marriage. One of the children, Mathew, came from Debra’s earlier relationship. Debra is my better-half.  It took me years of marriage to really appreciate her, and now I know she is what matters most to me.  This story is about the great job she did raising our daughter. It took me years to put it all together, but when I look back now, I know that my daughter is an unspeakable joy to me because of Debra’s efforts.    

 

My upbringing was filled with a void. Debra had a similar one. Our attraction to each other was not surprising.  We mutually accepted we would do our best while allowing three children to live with us. We were in a common place; many other families were and are in a similar situation. Since raising children is one of the most difficult tasks on this planet, I just wish there was more universal agreement on what the rules are.  Maybe that way, I could have followed them.    

 

Debra was the nurturer; I was the discipliner.  We both had a different idea of how to do these jobs, and this often led to disagreements. When I felt there was lack of clarity on how to do my job, I marched forward trying to convince myself to do my God-given duty with confidence and firmness.  If I yelled too loud or was a bit mean, the kids went back to their mom for a hug.  I would have been happy to offer them a hug, but they didn’t tend to ask me for it.    

 

Debra is an angel, my angel.  I think she sometimes questions why I use this word, but let me fill you in. We both have our vices. We like to have a smoke. A sip of wine is also nice, and when we do, we laugh at every joke, especially the dirty ones. I like to call her an angel because, although she’s not perfect, Debra has never been one to judge.  Instead, she is very good at seeing the world through the eyes of others. She can see a person’s pain, and she is always ready to offer encouragement.  We both strive to be nurturers, but sometimes I judge and yell. Debra does not; I call Debra my angel.  

 

I have learned more from Debra than I realize. I don’t know who thought up the theory that our wives are supposed to take their orders from us men, but I can tell you it’s not true for me. It took me many years to understand that in the midst of all the mistakes I made, my wife had been quietly and patiently steering the ship.     

 

As a man who worked in a blue-collar environment, a common topic at work was how we as men viewed women or girls.   We often bragged about the women we were sleeping with and how good we were at finding these lovely trophies. During these years of boasting, I noticed an interesting trend. As my colleagues bragged, their stories often sounded a little too familiar—like they were being borrowed from a Hollywood movie script.       

 

As a father, I wasn’t sure if I wanted my boys to come to me with questions like: “Why is it so important for us to want to sleep with women?” or “Dad, tell us about all the sex you had when you were younger.”  As I later learned, my sexual history was part of the reason I felt the gulf between my family and me.      

 

The disconnect between Coco and me started when she was about age 12 or 13, about the time her body began to take shape. Many fathers go through this. Our daughters really are a mirror-image of our wives. One day I was working in my backyard and noticed Coco step out on the pool deck.  She was no longer a cute little girl; she was becoming a young woman. During her single digit years, she was cute. Now she had changed, and so did my life, always and forever. To be clear, nothing inappropriate happened between us, but I didn’t have the connection with her that I had with my sons.  

 

Since I had done a good job of sexualizing women years before, watching my daughter grow into a breathtakingly beautiful young woman unconsciously put a strain on me. I could no longer bounce her on my knee or play games with her.  The relationship we had shared was gone. A new relationship had to be forged, but I didn’t know how to do it or whom to ask. I couldn’t ask Debra and admit I didn’t know much about this topic.  I was a man. I was supposed to have all the answers. I wanted to keep this facade alive, as painful as it was.    

 

A few of my friends told me how to build a better relationship with Coco, but I didn’t really listen. Intuitively, I knew if I listened to their advice, I would have to change. The prospect of changing was too daunting; I was supposed to be in control.  I was the man of the household and was supposed to know what to do.  

 

Ha!         

 

As Coco entered her teen years and summer came, she asked me to build a small pond in the back yard and put a few fish in it. A simple request.  It was her way of saying, “Dad, let’s spend more time together, or something like that.”            

 

At once a wave of brilliance flowed over me. I agreed to the project and got busy. The more time I put into it, the more Coco’s smile faded.  Her simple request had backfired, and she felt rejected. At that time, I did not realize that my behavior was fueling her rebellion. I had only one goal with this project; the pond was my way to tell her “I love you.” To me, this was the best way to communicate that to her. I always was a big doer and not a talker.       

 

What she had wanted was a small pond that would allow us to work together, and when it was finished, to sit near it, play with the fish, and have great talks.  Perfect father-daughter time.      

 

I put all my energy into the pond, and it was a great success.  As people came to my home and admired my work, I stood and nodded at the compliments and often made comments that I had built it for Coco. Most of the time, when I said this, she was not in the conversation and nowhere in sight. I don’t know if she even knew how I bragged about my love for her.        

 

One or two years passed, and the pond became too much work and too expensive. We took it apart. Around the same time, Coco began to date a guy, a local young thug. I often whispered the name Thug, but I don’t remember if I used this word when I spoke with others, at least not in the beginning. No one in our family was happy about him or the situation.  On more than one occasion, I expressed to Coco my clear dissatisfaction about her thug. By this time, she had tuned me out. The girl I loved so dearly was now actively ignoring me, her father—the man of the household. This really angered me. I thought what disrespect!   

 

One of my greatest fears was now upon me. Coco had developed into a beautiful young woman and was getting the attention of many of the boys, but I was the last one from whom she wanted to take advice.  Demanding that she obey my orders was even less effective. I noticed a couple of young men that seemed better than the rest, but she liked the guy that I didn’t like, the thug. At this time I could not see the bigger picture—or wouldn’t.  I took offense, and let her know it. I know what you are thinking: “How could you have been so stupid?”

 

When men disconnect from the people they most love they often fall into a deep depression. This is what happened to me.  A family friend who is a therapist had many talks with me. As the years passed, I learned to better tune into my thoughts.  

 

He said my depression began when my family, especially Coco, became a burden instead of the source of my joy and happiness. Because I had not allowed myself to express to the people I love most how important they are, they withdrew from me. 

 

Just to be clear, I did communicate to them in my own way.  I spent a lot of time at home, so I was often available.  The kids knew that I wasn’t running around with other women, but Coco wanted my time and my ear.  She wanted to tell me what was bothering her and get my advice.  I just didn’t tune into this. 

 

As my friend and I had conversations about this over the years, I began understand. Debra reminded me that Coco had begged me for my attention during her early teens, but I lacked the confidence I needed to offer her what she really wanted. She wanted to be close friends with me, her dad.    

 

Deep down, Coco resented this lack of closeness, and it caused a bit of a gulf between her and her mother.  When children realize they don’t feel they can talk openly with one parent, that child may begin to trust both parents less.  In Coco’s case, she trusted her mother, but only to a degree. She wanted more from both of us, but when I turned her away, she withdrew from both of us.              

 

My poor fathering skills were affecting my family, and two of the people that I loved most didn’t want to talk to me. Alone in my family room hoping no one would ask me what I was thinking about, I wanted to find the magic that would make our family life better.  I figured it was my responsibility, as the man and head of the household, to start solving problems. I was proud of myself.  I wasn’t the world’s best reader, but I did spend time reading self-help books, the Bible, and Bible commentaries.  I read a lot of good advice, but I still felt paralyzed when I tried to use it. It felt unnatural to tell the people that I love how I really felt about them.  Crazy, huh?  

 

The day in the back of my mind that I feared most arrived.  I remember sitting in my chair doing my readings and feeling pleased with myself. Then the news came:  Coco was pregnant! To make matters worse, the father was the thug. I felt as though she had just kicked me in the stomach with all her might.

 

How dare she? I remember thinking, I am secretly spending my time trying to solve our family problems and now my daughter has to go and cause another problem!  I was furious.        

 

I didn’t know it at the time, but my granddaughter, Jenny, was to become one of the greatest blessings of my life. My precious granddaughter would offer me the chance to be, so to speak, born again.  After Jenny was born, something remarkable happened. Joy returned to our home. Secretly, I called her a miracle because she was what our family needed.     

 

Although Jenny’s father is not involved in our lives anymore, Coco met a man named Tom, who happily stepped into the fathering role.  I liked him from the start, but now we love and appreciate him all the more.   

 

Coco grew into her mothering role, and the pressure for me to be a better father vanished. She had my attention now, and so did her daughter. I became the full-time sitter when Coco went to work, and it was an honor. The time I spent with my granddaughter brought back memories of what I had done right with my daughter when she was young. I had learned a lot, and I knew I had been given a second chance.  

 

I am now in my fifties and am enjoying the relationship that I have with my wife and daughter. This has made my life very fulfilling.  I am not Jenny’s disciplinarian; that is her mother’s job.  I am my granddaughter’s nurturer and buddy.  My relationship with Coco has changed; now I am her fan. I am the proud father and husband who is able to watch my daughter be a great mother and see how Debra has influenced her in so many ways. It is the perfect avenue by which to fall in love with my wife and daughter, all over again.  

 

Sometimes we sit down and talk about Coco’s roles as a mother and my teacher.  I’ve never been so humbled and so happy at the same time.  She will always be my daughter, but now she is much more.     

 

On many recent occasions, I have noticed Coco and Debra talking to each other in a whisper.  As I have watched this happen, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon. Coco continues to improve as a mother, and my ability to love her has naturally flourished.   

 

The only regret I have is that she and I didn’t communicate well as father and daughter many years earlier. I am confident, however, that we will have many greats talks in the days and years ahead.      

 

When we accepted our new roles, I feared Coco might remind me of the many mistakes I had made. I need not have been afraid. When we sit down now, she doesn’t bring this subject up. Instead, she reminds me how great I am with her daughter. 

 

I can’t help thinking about all the ways Debra has been working behind the scenes. She has always been and always will be the one I love most.  Coco is growing to be her mother’s daughter. They both continue to contribute to making our family life a blessing.  The depression and confusion is gone.  I am a humbled, happy and joy-filled man.

 

****   

The Loving Critique 

 

I agreed to take this walk down memory lane because I wanted to see where and how I had grown.  When Debra offered a critique, I blushed…     

 

Carl has a big heart and is mostly a softy, so we call him “papa.”  He is everyone’s go to guy when someone needs something fixed, whether it’s emotional or a job for a handyman. He can fix anything that breaks in your home or your car.   

 

If you get into trouble, even with the police, you can count on papa for help. As he comes to your rescue, he will probably lecture you about how to avoid making the same silly mistake again. Although you may cringe at the time, it’s worth it.     

 

But mostly, he has learned to tune into our children, and I feel so much more connected to him.  He loves to cook for me and tell me how beautiful I am, inside and out. Although I don’t always believe him, I know the compliments come from his heart.  

****   

Published By


Admin

Story 7 – She’s Mine

 

She’s Mine

 

Prelude 

 

I often call myself a Pacifist Marine. I joined the Marine Corp to avoid the draft because I knew I couldn’t kill another human and didn’t want to be on the front lines. It worked. After a short time in active duty, I was still collecting benefits without causing any real harm. I think the government liked having me because I had a hell of a temper — I almost killed someone who lived in my community during my teen years — but more on that topic later.  

 

The best part is I had made up my mind who I would marry during my teens. Today, at age seventy-something, after a divorce and a lot of fuss about nothing, she is mine again.                                                                                     

****

 

As I mentioned earlier, I am seventy-something now, so I have had a few years to figure out who I am. It’s all clear to me, and I like it.  I’ve also been called an agnostic Christian, with emphasis on the agnostic part.  I believe there is a God, but I never had a religious experience that gave me a strong connection to the Almighty.  One day, I’m guessing, many years ago, I decided that if God wanted my attention, He or She was more than able to send me a sign. I found my purpose when I became a father. 

 

I’ve never thought of my life as miraculous — perhaps a little loony, but whose life isn’t?  Based on the lack of direction and parenting my father gave me, I turned out fine. No regrets.  My father was the son of a World War One father. Like me, my father wanted a good father figure but never got one.  

 

However, I didn’t want to blame my father for my failures, so I got busy making my own way. I am the product of my choices, and I am proud of those choices. My children and I turned out well.  

 

The two people who are closest to me are my ex-wife, Janet, and my daughter, Amy.  Janet’s nickname is Gypsy.  This name fits her well because she has always been a free-spirited girl who wanted nothing more than to flee the bad circumstances of her childhood and experience independence and love.      

 

We met at about age five. She was my neighbor, the girl next door.       

****  

 

I had my first official date with her when I was thirteen, the Sadie Hawkins Dance. We were already in love when she asked me to the dance.  I knew we would get married, but we had to endure a little hardship first.    

 

One of my first memories of hardship happened around age fifteen. Janet’s father was giving her a hard time across the street. I could hear them yelling at each other, out in front of their home. This made me angry.  I loved that girl and knew she hadn’t done anything wrong. Instead, her father was drunk and acting stupid. Knowing I would one day marry her, I got involved. Yeah, it got bad, but the police arrived before I had a chance to kill him or at least hurt him really badly. Ironically, her father, the man who became my father-in-law, respects me today in part because of that incident. I guess my father-in-law figured that if I was willing to put myself at risk to protect his daughter then I must be a pretty standup guy. Threatening to kick his ass and kill him, or whatever words I used during that crazy evening, had made a good impression on this man! He died years ago, but I think back on those years often and feel sorry for him. Like so many men of that era, he had lost his way. 

 

After that event, it was a waiting game until Janet and I were ready to leave the prisons we called our homes.  Although there were other tense moments along the way, when I turned nineteen, I popped the question that Janet had been waiting for.  We got our wedding certificate, and said goodbye to our parents. Our upbringing taught us to take nothing for granted, so we worked hard, many hours, saved every spare penny, and began planning for our first child. 

 

Although we were now living under the same roof, it still didn’t feel like a family yet.  I didn’t mind being home, but I loved working, so I worked a lot of hours. I’m not sure when it dawned on me that we got married to get away from our crazy fathers. Also, we are both the same age, so I wasn’t robbin’ the cradle.       

 

The family planning seemed easy enough, before the children started coming. Our initial plan was for five boys, but when our first born was a daughter, Amy, the all-boy scenario kind of died, thankfully. From the day of Amy’s birth, a part of me changed. I happily gave up the dream of being a rough and tough father to five boys and embraced the joy of being a nurturer to the most beautiful creature that I had ever seen.    

 

Like it was yesterday, I can remember the feeling of becoming a family.  The most magical part was I fell deeply in love with both my daughter and my wife on the same day.  Although there are probably a few reasons why this event was special, the one that sticks out in my mind is Janet became the mother of my first born.  For the first time since I had been born, I understood what it meant to be part of family.  And I cherished the role of being my daughter’s protector and provider. I knew she would be the love of my life, no matter what.  

 

You probably noticed earlier that I called Janet my ex-wife. That wasn’t a typo. Although we married at an early age, we had twenty-six great years before we divorced. After the divorce, we have remained best friends. To this day, I feel closest to my daughter Amy, but Janet is my best friend and first love — strange but true. No matter what, even after our divorce, I knew I could never hate Janet. From the earliest days, she was the one who offered me companionship. 

 

 I had made a couple of vows to myself during my teens years and when I started my family.  The first one was I would not let drugs or alcohol destroy my family the way my father and Janet’s father had allowed them to.  Second, I wanted to be a good dad. Amy made that easy.   

 

Three years later, our second child, Danny, was born, and then another three years passed and Brian was born.  With plenty of money in the bank, a big beautiful house, three lovely children, Janet and I sailed through the next fifteen years or so.  

 

We had been married for more than twenty years when the gypsy part of Janet went on the hunt. The same happened with her three sisters.  Our family life was good, but Janet wanted to experience a few things beyond the dream life we were now living. She had met a man who was saying the right things and giving her special attention.   

 

At the same time that she started to see another man, Richard, I had a freak industrial accident.  It left me in the hospital for four months. I had broken my pelvis, back, neck, legs, arms, and elbow.  I made a promise to myself at that time:  Either I was going to fully recover or die trying. 

 

I did fully recover from my injuries.   

 

After our divorce, Janet got married again, years later.  But both of us remained emotionally and geographically close to our children. This meant we did see each other regularly.  I never stopped loving Janet, nor did I regret having children with her.  I understood why she did what she did, the divorce and all. She even admitted to me what a big mistake cheating on me had been.  She told me with about one year into her second marriage.   

****   

 

Now that many years have passed, I realize how my life is coming full circle. Janet just finalized her second divorce, and we are dating again.  I probably had something to do with this because we had started seeing each other again. Old habits are hard to break!  While I was on a date with her, I felt a tinge of guilt because we were spending the afternoon together, going for a walk in our small town, our hometown, when we saw her almost ex-husband drive by us.  He didn’t see us, but we saw him.  For a fleeting moment, I felt bad — it passed quickly.  Instead of feeling guilty, I reminded myself of a simple truth: I am allowed to love who I want, when I want, as long as they consent, and I don’t hurt others. My wife and daughter taught me this lesson in the beginning, and it has made my life wonderful.  

 

I know Janet’s almost second ex-husband very well. He’s a good guy.  Divorced or not, we all gather for holidays with all our children every year.  The kids have two dads and one mom.  We all see this as normal. I think it’s wonderful. Forgiveness runs in our family as a deep tradition.  There must be a God or Creator, so I am thankful to Him or Her for the people in my life.        

 

Janet always has been and always will be a good mother to our children and my best friend. And although she made the mistake of leaving me after twenty + years of marriage, I am gladly taking her back.  I don’t know if we will get another marriage certificate, but paper or no paper, she is my best friend, and I have every intention of enjoying having her in my life for as many years as we have left.    

 

Our children Amy, Danny, and Brian all feel the same.   

****   

 

 

 

Published By


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World-Plex – The Room – Chapter 1

The Room – Chapter 1

 

Two small newborns, Sandra and William, rocked and swayed from side to side in their beds. The room they occupied was white from floor to ceiling and void of any fixtures. A mechanical arm reached down holding a bottle and fed each in turn. Somewhere off in the distance voices could be heard conversing in the kind of topics one would normally hear on a radio.

 

Time went on and by the age of two, the children were transported to a playpen in a nearby room. Here, they had various toys that kept them amused. A short time later the two children were introduced to a screen that displayed real and animated visuals accompanied by various sounds and voices. Most commonly, objects were shown in the centre of the screen and were usually surrounded by a black or white backdrop. It wasn’t long before the children began to speak short sentences: mimicking the voices they heard.

 

Soon after, ‘Grey’, entered into their lives.

 

Grey was a ‘voice’ that spoke to them personally and could be heard from the screen and hidden speakers placed around the room.

 

This voice became their virtual father. As the children grew, they came to know him not only as their father but also as their teacher and companion.

Years passed and during this time Grey nurtured and fostered their intellectual faculties through virtual games and conversation.

 

The two children turned into young adults and from this time they began to experience events which turned their lives upside down.

Sandra and William lived in a small home made up of five rooms. This place, their home, was the only place that they had ever known. They did not have any knowledge of what was outside the walls that surrounded them.

 

As frightening as that might sound to the ordinary person, this was not a phenomenal fact in two adolescent’s eyes lives. William and Sandra grew up surrounded by only white walls, however, they were not frightened by what they did not know.

Their home was quite large, and it gave the pair a lot of room to move around. The structure contained a sleeping quarters, a dining room, a hygiene area where they bathed and washed, and various study areas. The structure also provided them with food, water, reading materials and stationary, all of which were shuttled to wall compartments via pipes in the walls.

 

The kitchen contained an open steel wall compartment to which food was delivered throughout the day. Whenever a delivery was made the pair were alerted by the sound of Grey’s voice. Just as items were shuttled into the structure, disposables were also shuttled out via a suction pipe located outside the pantry to the left. 

 

Entertainment and study activities were conducted via a large screen located in each room. Never a dull moment went by due to the endless pictographs, illustrations and descriptive dialogues given by Grey. It was from these screens via ‘Grey’ that they learnt speaking, reading, writing and listening skills along with other subjects such as maths and chemistry. The pair also had access to a hand-held screen and a pen which they could write on and erase. Study was their favourite pastime because of the challenging tasks they were able to engage in as part of their formal education.

‘Grey’ which they only knew as a ‘voice’, spoke to them via speakers built into the walls. This was their main point of contact and communicative stimulus. This voice helped teach them how to communicate and gave them certain facts and ideas to ponder. Grey could be heard in any room and was able to engage in conversation about any topic. It was Grey, who provided their education and was also their friend and counsellor, though he wasn’t very skilled at the latter.

Neither of them knew their exact ages, though they had been told that they were above 18 and turning into adults. Although these ideas were not important in any social sense, they felt happy that they had formally achieved some level of maturity. Time was also set not by the sun nor by any other natural indications of time. Instead, it was set by a computerised clock and by an illumination lighting system which automatically dimmed the lighting within the structure: indicating when certain times came about.

Heating and cooling were also automated to give the pair a sense of different weather periods. The purpose of this was to break up periods of monotony associated with sensations, for example, a constant temperature or level of illumination.

As the children grew older, they began to wonder about the things that they couldn’t explain. They had questions such as; “What lay outside these walls?” “Where did their food come from? Where did they themselves come from?” These were just a few of the questions that often crossed their minds and were only to ignore some of them during game and study times with Grey. Thus, Grey tried to keep them occupied as much as possible.

 

Sandra and William sat on the floor in the study area one morning whilst passing each other pieces of paper which they were drawing on. Both were drawing imaginary images of people and animals. Grey suggested they do this for mental stimulation, but on this particular evening, both seemed to be in a mode of deep thought, as they concentrated on their drawings.

 

‘Grey?’

‘Yes, Sandra?’

‘Why are we here?’ Sandra questioned.

Grey’s voice was mostly humble and friendly, and he always tried to sound reassuring. ‘That’s an age-old question that no one has ever been able to find the answer to,’ Grey responded.

 

Sandra looked up at the screen trying to imagine Grey’s face.
‘Grey?’

‘Yes, William?’

‘Why am ‘I’ here?’ he stressed.

There was a pause as Grey considered the appropriate answer.

‘Perhaps there is no adequate answer to that question.’

 

Grey’s voice was sombre and yet resolute.

Sandra’s dark red hair draped around her shoulders as she sat with her legs crossed passing cards to William. She gazed up at the large blank screen with her bright blue eyes fixated on its centre.

‘William,’ she said with a soft voice.

‘Yes, Sandra.’

‘I don’t think Grey likes us anymore.’ she said, grinning indicating that she was joking.

‘Grey has never liked us,’ he said while raising his eyebrows. ‘He never answers our questions properly,’ he said also grinning. During the night, all the lights were dimmed but were never completely turned off unless requested. As one walked around at night, the lights would illuminate brighter in each of the rooms that they passed through. All these functions were automatic and managed by Grey. To make a request they either could just call out to Grey as if he were in the same room. That night after William fell asleep Sandra got up and went to the main room.

‘Grey,’ Sandra called.

‘Yes, Sandra.’

‘I’m here again.’

‘Yes, Sandra I know.’

Sandra stood in the centre of the room, staring at the large black screen on the wall. ‘I wish you had a face.’

‘Me too,’ Grey responded cheerfully.

Sandra chuckled.

 
‘I love you, Grey.’ The lights dimmed.

‘I know Sandra. I never expected it.’

 

Sandra often visited the main room after William was sleeping to tell Grey that she loved him. She found peace in this routine, although she didn’t know why. She had no idea why she felt that she loved him, or what the meaning of love really was. All she knew is that it made her feel secure deciding to feel that way.

‘What about William, Sandra? Won’t he be unhappy if you don’t love him?’ Grey asked her.

Sandra often thought about William, but she was so used to his presence that he had become more of a close friend than someone to love. She wanted someone or something else. Grey was that something and someone. Unfortunately, he was just a voice.

 

‘William. He is a….’she started but couldn’t find the right words.

‘What about children? You know about this Sandra. Without children how will you replace yourself after you are gone?’

‘He is a good friend, a brother.’

‘No!’ Grey said in a loud voice. ‘He is not your brother.’

Sandra had never heard Grey raise his voice and was quite frightened.

‘Maybe I should sleep,’ she said stepping back slowly. William might wake up.’

 

Sandra left and went back to the sleeping room. She stood at the door watching William sleep. He was a slender boy, much taller than her. His brown hair was short and curly, and his eyes were Hazel Green.

 
‘I’m sorry William,’ Sandra whispered. ‘I do not love you because I know there must be someone else out there somewhere,’ she said gazing at the ceiling as if trying to look past its white exterior.

 

Sandra went back to her bed and rested as she lay awake looking up at the blank white ceiling. ‘There must be a way out of this place,’ she whispered.

Although she had never been told of an outside world, logic told her that their supplies must come from another place. She and William both knew that this was an obvious reality that they had actively ignored.

 

Sandra craved igniting her curiosity and experiencing what couldn’t be seen. Although William felt this same urge he was a little more content, and a lot more afraid.

The next morning William awoke before Sandra. ‘I bet she was awake after I slept,’ he said to himself out loud.

William rose up out of his bed and walked into the food area.

‘Bacon, eggs and…chicken for Sandra, she doesn’t like bacon as much as me.

 
‘Very well William,’ Grey responded. Within minutes, two hot meals arrived on a tray from a compartment in the wall.

‘You know what I want before I order it,’ William noted while gazing down at the steaming hot meal in front of him. The counter was long and at the end of it there was a drink machine, from which, almost any beverage imaginable could be produced.

‘Today I think I will have lemon tea. William hesitated, ‘cold lemon tea. And for Sandra, milk. She is looking a bit thin.’

 

Grey was amused by Williams’s comment about Sandra since she was sleeping and unable to take note of it.

‘Your thoughts seem to be centred on Sandra these days,’ Grey commented.

‘Besides study what else is there to centre my thoughts on?’ William asked swiftly.

‘What do you want most of all in your life, William?’ Grey responded calmly.

‘To eat my breakfast in peace, Grey.’ William replied in an agitated tone.

William wished nothing more but to enjoy the simple moments and breakfast was one of them. Unfortunately, there were more important issues he cared about, issues that pressed upon his mind.

 

‘As you wish William. Remember this William. I’m here to help you.’

‘Perhaps my existence has been a waste of life’, William said as he gazed in deep thought looking his breakfast.

 

‘And if so’, he continued, ‘how could it be made not a waste.’

 

William often pondered over these ideas from time to time.

 

‘At least I have my friend Sandra.’ This thought was often his only salvation when he couldn’t come up with alternatives.

As the day went on Sandra and William became tired from their study activities and decided to rest in the main room. In the centre of the main room, two lounges faced each other.

 

This was not always the case, as furniture could be transported from below the surface to above the surface and vice versa. The furniture was designed this way to save space when required.

 

Despite their small living area, many ‘out of sight’ furniture and objects occupied the rooms including exercise equipment which allowed Sandra and William adequate opportunity to maintain their physical health.

 
As the two sat on the lounges across from each other, Sandra peered across at William who was staring longingly at the main screen which was frozen blank as if waiting for something to appear on it.

 
William’s attention span was limited and rarely paid attention to anything besides direct input. Sandra, on the other hand, was often lost in her own thoughts trying to imagine things she had never seen. It was this spirit of inquiry that kept her asking questions.

 

‘William,’ Sandra called as she looked at his perfectly chiselled chin. ‘We have so little. I wish there were more.’ Sandra’s voice was solemn: she lowered her eyes and then hung her head down.

 

Sandra wore a white night gown with long white socks. The gown was partially see-through making the outline of her undergarments visible. William wore a simple white shirt, brown shorts and a pair of black lace-up shoes.

 

William turned away from the screen and momentarily stared at Sandra with a blank expression. His eyes then began to wander through her night gown. To his knowledge, this was the first time she had worn such a garment.

 

William looked away trying to hide the fact that he was observing her body.

 

The temperature grew suddenly warm but neither seemed to notice.

 

‘Life is simple Sandra. Right now, nothing is a surprise.’ William commented. Once again, he was staring at the screen.

‘But…what about…out there?’

‘Out there?’ William tried to make eye contact. ‘We have everything we need here. We are…safe. Out there…we don’t know.’

‘But aren’t you curious?’

‘I’m curious as to whether or not I will have food, water and air.’ William said as he shrugged his shoulders.

 

Sandra let out a not uncommon sigh. This was another moment where she had no answers and little to offer in response. Deprived emotionally as well as physically, she felt numb to the core. The physical feelings were natural she thought, however, she couldn’t match them with her desires.

 

William, although not deprived mentally, felt the same way physically. However difficult it was, he often pushed sexual thoughts aside: he did with most other complex thoughts, often to keep life simple and harmonious.

 
Sandra, however, wanted more. She refused to accept that her whole life would be spent inside a dwelling where she could never experience anything else. The idea of an outside world was never discussed with them.

 

Although references were made to objects that they had never seen or touched, the whole idea that objects actually existed this space was ignored. This was a strange reality they lived, and one Sandra found difficult to cope with.

Grey thought it was time to intervene. ‘Are you two ok? Perhaps we could play a game.’

 

Sandra stood up and turned her head towards the main screen, to which Grey’s voice stemmed from.

‘I think our whole…existence is a game! Who are we?’ Sandra’s words were loud and augmented with emotion.

‘I’m not sure I understand your questions, Sandra,’ Grey was expressing his usual calm self.

 

‘You have not explained this!’ she threw her hands around the room.

‘Again, I’m not sure I understand correctly. Are you referring to the question of why we are here?’

William shook his head and chuckled. ‘That is a question I never ask. It’s too confusing.’

Sandra turned to William and gave him a painful stare and then shrugged in desperation.

‘I’m not talking about why we are alive. I’m talking about why we are here in this’, she began to stammer, ‘place you call our home.’ She paused momentarily. ‘Obviously, there is something out there,’ she said pointing up towards the ceiling.

There was a moment of silence. ‘You often play dumb,’ Sandra accused Grey. ‘We deserve an answer.’

They always suspected that there was more to their world, however, they had never confronted Grey with this issue in such an intense way.

 
The silence continued.

 

Sandra shook her head and shrugged once more.

 

‘We are trapped here, aren’t we? We can never leave. This will be our whole life. One big waste.’ She said angrily and then stormed out of the main room and into the bedroom.

She lay on her bed and wept. This was perhaps the first time she had ever cried.

 

‘See what you have done Grey? You have made her unhappy. You should just tell us about the happy space outside this place. Even just let us out. I hate to see her unhappy.’

‘I too,’ Grey said sorrowfully. A moment of stiff silence past as William pondered his life.

‘Grey?’

‘Yes, William?’

‘Life is not the same these days.’

‘Yes, I know.’

‘Why is that?’ Williams’s eyes sparkled with curiosity as he stared directly at the centre of the screen.

‘Let me show you something. This is a film about life from start to finish. It shows you how people are made and what happens after they are born until they are old and eventually pass away.’

‘Is this film just for me?’

‘You can watch first William. Perhaps you can pass this knowledge on to Sandra, or she can watch the film later. Either way, it will be fine.’

The film began, and William sat and watched intently. It was narrated by a deep resonant father like voice; a voice that put William at ease.

 

There were a mixture of voices and animated images describing the cycle of life, including the act of conception. To some degree, it resembled the kind of sex-education film that might be shown to teenagers. Although Sandra and William were well past teenage years, they were still very unfamiliar with the concepts related to relationships and sex.

Williams’s eyes were wide as he watched intently. He had never heard or seen such things in graphic detail. As he sat there the lights dimmed and William felt he was in a world of his own. Of course, he knew Grey was there in the background observing him but as he watched he imagined that he was there all by himself seeing things that only he could witness.

‘William, what are you doing?’ Sandra called from the doorway.

William didn’t want to miss any of the film and so ignored her. Sandra had been secretly listening and watching from the hallway. She entered the main room and sat across from William on the lounge and watched the film in silence.

 

Towards the end, they became a little depressed by the description of the last phase of the human cycle, not because of its eventuality but because death was one more of those unexplained concepts that was suddenly introduced into their mind. The end of the film came, and the lights returned to their normal brightness.

‘That film showed us some things we really hadn’t considered,’ Sandra commented. ‘But’, she paused momentarily. ‘I have an important question.’

‘Yes, Sandra. What is it?’ Grey asked.

‘If we do this for you, what will become of the child’s life?

‘This is not for me,’ Grey sounded offended.

‘Yes, it is. It is all for you. Perhaps because you cannot have a child, you want us to have one for you.’

 

‘You do not know me, Sandra,’ Grey retorted.

‘That’s right there are lots we don’t know’, Sandra said calmly.

William stirred in his seat trying to shake himself out of his state of hypnosis.

 

‘Grey. Life is so simple. Why must it get complicated?’

 
‘There are things you must come to accept even if you do not understand them.’

William shook his head in irritation. ‘This is not right. I am happy. I do not need these strange feelings. I already knew some of what was on that film.’

 
Grey responded. ‘I knew you would subconsciously figure out the concepts of procreation, but now you have fully realised it; I think you should mature and do what comes naturally; Natural to humans.’

William shook his head once more, this time in anger. ‘I’m going to bed. I just want normality.’ He stormed off and slammed the door behind him.

Sandra and Grey remained in silence.

‘I feel I have failed with William. He doesn’t seem to have the courage and maturity I hoped for.’

‘How can we mature? We cannot understand any of this.’

‘Perhaps you are right and perhaps I should have waited longer before I pushed for this, but I knew that…’

 

Sandra stood up in front of the screen with her hands on her hips. ‘Why did you stop? What do you know?’

Grey refrained from answering, which made Sandra even more annoyed.

 
‘You know something about humans because you know there are others, somewhere else; Perhaps others who procreate earlier.’

‘You are very intelligent Sandra.’

Sandra stared at the screen with an expression of frustration and anger. She turned and left the room.

Later, that evening Sandra was lying down in bed while William was sitting at his desk reading. Sandra’s thoughts had been racing around in her head for hours pondering over the countless possibilities that could exist in her world but that she had never experienced.

‘William,’ Sandra called from bed.

‘Yes, Sandra,’ William replied while turning to look at her. His voice was calm and relaxed. In a way, he was glad that he had experienced something unusual in his life and his experience watching the film was certainly unusual.

‘I don’t want to be forced into things just because Grey wants me to.’

‘I don’t want to have a child either Sandra. Not in this life.’

William was happy with his life but also very frustrated with the challenges that his emotions and desires presented to him. He felt the best way to deal with this was to simply say no to them.

‘William, this is not about wanting or not wanting a child. This is about the choice of whom we should have children with and why.’

That sentence sounded very profound and strange at the same time to William for it was quite evident to him that he was the only one who she could possibly have children with. William’s eyes were wide with inquisitiveness as he pondered her words and expressions.

‘I know what you are thinking but there must be others, there must be a whole world out there that we don’t know about.’ Sandra tried to choose her words carefully.

Sandra continued. ‘This is not about I loving you or you loving me. There must be more to this existence than us.’

Those words scared William. He knew that she would never be content. It was clear that she would never fully accept him, and that left a hole in his heart.

‘What about you, William? You can withstand this life, but are you happy?’

William reflected on his life and the lack of expectations that came with it. He knew that he could accept Sandra and that would make life easier, especially concerning his desires but was that enough? Sadly, yes, but he had to agree that he wished there were more.

 

‘I’m a little happy,’ he paused briefly, ‘and a little bored. I guess if there was more to this,’ he waved his hands around the room, ‘I could be happier.’

‘See!’ Sandra exclaimed with excitement. Finally, William was thinking about the endless possibilities of life.

‘But what can we do about this?’ he asked waving his hands around once more.

Sandra’s eyes were wide with curiosity as she tried to imagine the outside world. A moment passed as they both stared aimlessly in thought, ‘We need to escape,’ she finally said with a cold stare. ‘Grey won’t let us go.’

This idea had been on her mind for a while, but this was the first time she had spoken of it. She knew Grey would be listening but there was no other way of telling William without Grey knowing her thoughts.

‘Grey hasn’t even said if there is an outside world.’

‘There must be William. He always goes quiet whenever I speak about the possibility. I know he is hiding a lot from us. We are probably some kind of experiment.’ Sandra was picturing a great expanse of colours in her mind. Flashes of white light would scatter over the horizon of endless blooming shadows of green, blue and grey.

 

William looked down at the white floor beneath him in thought. ‘As I said before. We don’t know what’s out there. What if we can’t look after ourselves?’ He looked over at Sandra. ‘Here we get fed and clothed, and we never have to worry.’

‘This is not life William.’ Sandra’s eyes began to fill with tears. She turned to her side and closed her eyes. ‘I will think on this. Good night.’

William didn’t sleep well that night. Many thoughts rolled around in his head as he tried to come to terms with his life. On the one hand, he considered Sandra’s dissatisfaction with life. On the other, he had conflicted thoughts concerning his desires.

 

‘Is contentment enough?’ ‘Am I content?’.

 

Contentment was a necessary part of life he thought but perhaps this was something someone had to convince themselves of. Could he convince himself that he was content, but Sandra could not?

 
As he pondered these thoughts, it occurred to him as well that Sandra was serious about leaving. This worried him. Would he try to escape with her out of fear of being alone? And if they left what would become of them? These thoughts went back and forth and still there no answers. Eventually, in the mid hours of the night, he managed to fall asleep.

 

The night passed along, and Sandra began to dream. Dressed in blue, her favourite colour, she stood in a hallway with a bright red rose in her hands that glowed bright as a flame. Her hair was woven into an intricate plait and placed around her right shoulder and her high heels were covered with white and silver patterns of interconnected flowers.

 

The image was serene and felt somehow static in time and yet there was an endless feeling of joy that ran through her veins. The air was chillingly cool, but she knew that warmth was only a moment away. She waited for her groom but knew not who it was. She was hopeful but did not know what she hoped for.

 

‘I’m sorry,’ a voice came from above. ‘Why,’ she answered.

 

‘I have taken so long,’ the voice replied.

 

A tear ran down Sandra’s face as she realised the dream was about to end.

‘Wake up!’ William was shaking Sandra. ‘You’re making noises in your sleep again!’

Her eyes opened, and tears ran down her cheek.

‘Crying?’

 

Feeling confused and frustrated he made his way to the main room and clapped his hands for the lounges to rise. As they rose he jumped on one of them and dug his head into the fabric.

Sandra lay in bed with her eyes wide open. She could remember her dream with such detail.

 

She was waiting for her perfect partner: a man she had never met. Although she was led to believe that man could never exist she felt the knowledge of this man had entered her sub consciousness from the outside.

 

These were joyful thoughts. Thoughts that she now wanted to extend with her imagination. It was this that kept her happy enough to focus on sleep. Eventually, she drifted off in a world of mystery and excitement.

The hours passed and out of habit, William woke at his usual time. This time, however, there was complete darkness. He checked his wrist watch for the time and surely enough it was 7 o’clock.

‘Lights on,’ he called. The lights remained off.

‘Grey! Turn the lights on!’ William ordered. There was no response.

 

‘How unusual,’ William thought.

The room was in complete darkness.

‘Sandra! Sandra! I can’t see.’ William called.

Sandra rolled around in her bed. She heard the last part of what he said and opened her eyes.

‘Tell Grey to turn them on,’ she said and then yawned.

‘I did but he hasn’t responded. I think he doesn’t like your idea of escaping.’

Sandra sat up in bed. ‘So, the lights are off, and he can’t see us. We have lived here long enough to know where things are.’

 
William was worried. This confirmed his fears about escaping.

‘I told you, Sandra.’

‘Told me what?’

‘Escaping was a bad idea. No one to look after us. No one to feed us.’

 

Sandra expected such comments. She knew William was not strong willed.

‘If I want to escape I will,’ Sandra asserted fearlessly. ‘Lights or no lights!’

‘But before you go maybe you should try to eat something. A last meal.’

Sandra shook her head and laughed quietly.

‘I’m going into the kitchen to see if I can get some breakfast,’ William announced with an air of defiance.

 

William didn’t need to see to be able to locate where things were. He knew this place inside and out and was confident he could roam around freely without any light to guide him.

William stood up out of bed and stretched his arms. ‘I can find the kitchen.’

‘I believe you, William,’ Sandra commented with sincerity.

‘I just wonder if Grey is mad at us.’

‘He definitely is or at least he is mad at me.

William stammered to his feet. The air was warm, which was unusual. Normally, the temperature was cool during their waking hours. As his eyes adjusted he began to make out the shape of the bedroom. He could see the outline the bed Sandra was lying on.

He could make out the position of the door and he knew roughly how many steps it would take to get there. He began taking small steps and then bigger ones until he eventually felt the wall come into contact with his hands. Soon he could feel the handle of the door and knew with great precision where he was in relation to the bedroom, the hallway outside, as well at the kitchen across from him to his right. He now moved with confidence and entered the kitchen.

 

Although the lights were still off completely his eyes had adjusted, and he could now see the outline of all the major objects in the room. It was almost clear to him as if there was illumination in the room.

‘Grey? I’m sorry for her. She has little understanding of how much we mean to you but regardless she wants to leave. Perhaps you could forgive her?’

 

William thought he had better find a way to make peace with Grey. He knew he was angry but there was no answer, and the silence grew chill. William stood and waited for Grey to respond.

 

A few minutes turned into at least 10 minutes, and William began to feel anxious. Perhaps Grey was somehow gone. ‘What if he is dead somehow?’ This thought sent a chill through Williams’s body.

‘I’m sorry Grey!’ William shouted. His voice was almost shrill with fear.

Sandra called out from the doorway of the kitchen, ‘William?’

‘Sandra, are you ok?’

 

‘Yes, William. Are you ok? What are you doing?’

‘I don’t know. I wish there was light. I just want Grey to come back to us. I feel he has left us forever.’

‘I don’t think so.’

There was a flash as the lights flickered momentarily above them and during that brief moment, a ray of hope shone through Williams’s chest but then suddenly sunk deep into his belly.

‘Grey is upset and so I am,’ William announced gloomily.

‘Oh William,’ Sandra said with a sigh.

William decided to walk and find his way around by feeling for the objects around him. He no longer cared about bumping into things in front of him. After all, he knew this place well. It was the only place he had ever known.

Sandra heard footsteps and then the sound of a thump. ‘What are you doing William?’

‘I’m looking for Grey and something to eat. There must be something in here to eat.’

 

Sandra began walking without caution.

From the corner of the kitchen room, a spark of light appeared and then a flash.

‘What was that?’ Sandra asked in a hushed voice.

‘A flash of light!’ William replied also in a hushed voice. ‘It is gone now!’ he added.

From the midpoint of the kitchen area on the left side, another flash of light struck and quickly faded. William suspected it was near the food dispensing pipe in the wall and moved closer towards it.

‘Over here Sandra!’ Over here!’ The food pipe where we get our food. It’s coming from there!’

 
Sandra felt along the wall on the right side until she reached a point where she suspected was opposite to the pipe.

 
William was directly in front of her crouched down. He lifted up the cover of the pipe and a bright light shone from it. The diameter of the pipe was now larger than they had previously known it to be, large enough for an adult to crawl through.

 

‘This is not how I remembered it’ William noted, now in a normal tone and volume. ‘I guess Grey must have enlarged it.’

‘For us to leave’ Sandra said in a solemn tone.

‘I don’t want to go Sandra. I will stay’.

‘William.’ Sandra said and then paused. ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’

A loud echo rose from the floor followed by a single word spoken in a booming deep resonant voice of male unknown to them. ‘Go!’

‘That’s not Grey!’ William screamed out.

 
‘Go William!’

William was still kneeling on the floor in front of the food pipe.

‘Grey!’ he cried.

‘Grey was never real William!’, The deep voice boomed back at him.

 

‘What have you done with him?’ William screamed back. Tears came to his eyes, and his chest was heaving.

 

The kitchen became a little brighter and Sandra stood behind William and watched him weep. Grey was like their father, and suddenly they had been told he wasn’t real.

‘William. It’s time to go. Leave this place behind.’

‘No! You go!’ William stood up and moved aside. He turned and looked at Sandra’s face. He was still crying.

‘William. I can’t go alone.’

William wiped his eyes and looked around. ‘I’m not strong Sandra.’

‘Oh, William.’ Sandra also started to cry. She moved forward and grabbed his hand. ‘I can’t stay, and I can’t go without you. Maybe we can come back one day and say hi to Grey. Or maybe there will be others out there. Real people William!’

William looked around at the only place he had ever known.

‘William. I love you.’

He turned to the food pipe. By now, he had stopped crying. ‘Take clothes and food. We will need them.’

 

A smile came to Sandra’s face.

‘This could be a big mistake, Sandra. What if there is no food out there? What if… there are bad things?’

‘Food comes to us and bad…well I don’t know, but it’s a risk I want to take. This is not living.’

Sandra held both of his hand tightly. ‘We will have each other William. That’s all that matters’.

All the rooms shined a little brighter. William and Sandra gathered as many things as they could and placed them into pillow cases.

Both stood at the face of the food pipe. ‘It’s time to go William.’

William nodded.

‘I’ll go first William.’ He nodded again.

 

She climbed up into the food storage area and laid on her stomach. She then started to squirm and crawl with a pillow filled with clothes and food items. William followed. Both were crawling down the pipe but after a few meters, William stopped and looked back.

‘Bye Grey. I’m going to miss you.’

 

 

 

Published By


Admin

World-Plex – The Waste Disposal – Chapter 2

The Waste Disposal – Chapter 2

 

The sun shone down hard in the waste disposal site of east-central Australia where Roger was working. He was sitting in his new recycling vehicle with his communications headset on.

 

His vehicle resembled a huge insect with a disproportionate body shape consisting of a large backside and a smaller frontend. Two massive wheels protruded outwards from the tail end and two smaller wheels were located at the front section. The body of the car was a wide rounded capsule-like shape that had a glass covering.

 

Roger was not alone, however. Stephen who was a co-worker sat across from Roger in a similar vehicle. He was a technician who was sent out with Roger to help him understand the World-Plex technology, and how it was integrated with the council’s new recycling scheme. Using their vehicle’s communications application, they could speak to each other and give each other feedback.

 

Stephen was in his mid-20’s and in the prime of his life. He was youthful, strong, energetic, and most of all, intelligent. Regardless of everything in favour, Stephen was a troubled young man. He knew what his purpose was in life, but he often questioned himself out loud: though never in public and especially when his mic was on.

 

‘What am I doing here?’ he often asked himself. It was one of those age-old mysteries that no one could answer, not even approximate. Perhaps he was out here by chance: a trickle of atoms that fell in all the right places, or perhaps, in the wrong places.

 

‘Wow! This is great!’ Roger exclaimed.

‘What’s Great? Your new toy or these mountains of Rubbish?’

 

‘Not this rubbish, stupid,’ Roger retorted.

 

The waste around them was mainly a combination of faded grey and white. More than 200 years of consumer junk left to rot. The giant mountains of useless broken and unwanted goods were somewhat of a reminder of the throwaway society the world had become.

 

‘This toy is great because it will get rid of all this rubbish’ Roger said, as he was smiling from his vehicle.

 

Roger was 19 and energetic, but he hadn’t nearly as much experience or knowledge as Stephen about the work that they were doing.

 

‘There were a lot of things they could have done before it got to this point.’ Stephen commented while shaking his head, looking around at the crushed cubes of garbage that surrounded them, along with the trails of makeshift roads.

 

‘You are happy because you have a new toy. Now all you need to do is learn how to use it. Just remember you’re not here to play. You’re here to work.’

‘I know,’ Roger replied. ‘And I will. I just want to make the best out of this new assignment. After all, Waste Management isn’t exactly the best job someone could have.

 

‘What do you mean?’ Stephen looked around in his vehicle smiling. ‘You’re outdoors, and you’re cleaning up the environment. Soon none of this will be here.’ Stephen chuckled. ‘What more could you ask for?’ Although Stephens’s words signalled enthusiasm his tone was stagnant with sarcasm.

‘You’re right. I’m lucky, and not just because of this new toy!’ The both of them laughed at that and began moving their vehicles.

 

Stephen lead Roger to the new facility located to the north of the waste disposal site and explained the ins and outs of the assignment along the way.

 

Soon he would leave his co-worker here alone to finish the tasks required and upon completion Roger was due to return to the mines. This was an exciting time in both their lives however as their work was part of a world changing project called the ‘World–Plex’, the building of a structure for the entire earth’s populace to live.

 

For years, waste built up as a result of an inflated stimulus economy. To compensate for this enormous waste of resources, a new economy was gradually being introduced referred to as a ‘no-market’ economy. The World-Plex structure was going to be the ultimate driver of this new system. In this new complex where the entire world’s populace was to live, resources would be acquired by an automated workforce.

 

All resources would be developed from either waste or resources found deep below the surface of the Earth and allocated according to a set limit for each individual. Limits varied depending on work required by individuals but there would be no need to promote consumption for the sake of profit seeking. No one would ‘do without’ because the machines in the Plex would provide for the people.

 
The two drove their vehicles through various makeshift roads until Stephen signalled for Roger to stop. The two were faced a 500 metres tall tower of compacted rubbish. The stack resembled a dull grey miniature skyscraper interspersed with blues, greens and reds that sparkled in front a picture perfect heavenly blue sky.

 

‘What a magnificent sight’, commented Roger.

 
‘This lot came from Saudi Arabia. They are big suppliers of plastics. I had this one specifically marked for you to scan. The job is simple, but it requires practice.’ Stephen’s tone indicated that he no longer was in ‘joking mode’.

 

His duties to the Plex came first before fun. Roger was young, and Stephen’s job was to ensure Roger took this work seriously. Any mistakes could be very costly to both Stephen and Roger’s future, and more importantly to the project.

 

Roger initiated a digital screen which came up in front of him inside his vehicle’s front windscreen. This screen contained all the co-ordinates and information he needed to execute his work activities. He lined up his vehicle with the tower and began the scanning process. To his left of his window, a folder appeared which Stephen had just created and sent to him.

 
‘This should take a few minutes, so while it scans I want you to manually look over the contents inside that new folder on your dashboard. You should become familiar with the contents and make recommendations and notes regarding your vehicle’s assessments.’

‘So, I should look for patterns in properties?’ Roger asked as he touched the air in front him to access the folder.

 

‘Correct. Every so often you will be asked to make a report outlining your activities.’

 

‘Why can’t the computer do this for me?’

Stephen shook his head, and Roger could see this. By now, the scan was approximately 50%.

‘You need to know your rubbish! Its questions like that, that could get you fired!’

 

‘I’m sorry,’ Roger was now making notes with his virtual scribble pad.

‘Remember you have a mental scribble pad also. Press auto + shift + M,’ Stephen said trying to sound calm.

 

‘Let me ask you a question. What would you rather? Working in an odour-free scanner vehicle or living in a waste field on a slab of concrete?’

Roger didn’t answer because he knew it was a rhetorical question.

‘I thought so.’ The scan was almost complete.

Off to the north in an underground secluded structure, five kilometres past the garbage zone, a man sat tapping his pen as he scanned pages of information from his screen.

 

The man was dressed in a white button up shirt and black trousers; the usual attire suited to government employee managers. Sitting on a comfortable lounge facing a round table he manoeuvred a controller ball with his left hand and slid his right hand around a large keypad that was embedded into his desk. This computer was accompanied by six identical computers which circled around it.

The door opened and a woman in a long black dress who looked to be in her 20’s followed. She was 6 feet tall with long brown hair and was extremely slim. Her wide eyes were bright blue and her cheeks round and high.

 

‘Today we have a new member in training,’ the young-looking woman said in a deep voice that signalled she was older than she looked.

‘Serena.’ The man said in a low voice. ‘Good of you to join me.’

Serena sat down and turned on her screen. ‘According to this, the World-Plex will be completed within one year. That’s quite a change from the three-year predicament two weeks ago.’

‘Borgus’ boy is down there you know?’

 

‘Borgus.’ She muttered in an unimpressed tone. ‘The Head planner. Yes. He doesn’t mind giving his son work.’

‘Keeps him busy and he’s reliable. Anyway…’ he paused. ‘That report is based on an untested operation.’

 

‘Go on…’ Serena instructed without taking her gaze from her screen.

 

‘Borgus has new plans, hence the new approximated time frame.’

 

Serena shook her head because she has no knowledge of this.

 

He continued. ‘All those left behind. Homeless Souls. Left to die out their last days in the sun,’ he said in a cold voice, ‘That’s our new workforce.’ His expression was frozen and yet somewhere behind his dead wrinkles, an ever so slight grin was hidden away.

 

‘I see. And this workforce, are they going to receive education and become functional beings in the world? Do we really want that?’ Her eyes and expression were void of any emotion.

 
The two stared in silence for a few moments and Serena tilted her head towards her computer screen and started to check again for recent reports.

 

‘Well, it was their past generations who engaged in reckless consumption which resulted in well…” The man paused with a disgusted grin and then continued, ‘the waste we now oversee.’ He let out a deep sigh ‘they’ll have to be the ones to clean it up I guess.’

 

Serena widened her eyes and gave him a deep stare. ‘Mitchell, why can’t we just use machines?’ A few intellectual men and woman operating sophisticated machines to build us our Plex. Wouldn’t that make more sense?’

 

As she finished her sentence, a notice came up on both of their screens: ‘Formal visit rescheduled. No notice required. One minute till commencement.’

 

The door opened and three burley men in grey uniforms entered. Behind them, there was a tall heavy-set man in a business suit. The man’s hair was short and resembled someone of Chinese descent.

 

He clenched his fingers in front of him as he strode in.

Serena and Mitch quickly stood up and nodded.

 

‘I know you weren’t expecting me.’ He turned and nodded to the three men who had escorted him.

 

The three men nodded back and then quickly left the room.

 

Mitchell quickly made his way over to a chair on the other side of them and slid it out from under the table. ‘Please have a seat,’ Mitchel said stiffly and bowed.

 

‘Oh, stop that!’ I don’t have time for formality. ‘

 

Mitchell chuckled nervously, ‘Yes, of course’.

 

The tall man sat down and began massaging his left brow as he looked down in thought.

 

Mitchell quickly went to his chair and waited for the man to start. 

 

‘Ok. So here it is. Borgus. What do you think of him?’ The heavy-set man asked while clenching his hands together in front of him.

 

Serena and Mitchell glanced at each other momentarily as they tried to form an answer in their minds.

 

‘I trust him.’ Mitchell said in a stilted high-pitched voice, ‘but…’.

 

‘But what? The heavy-set man glared at him.

 

Mitchell opened his mouth to respond, but he was slow to make an utterance.

 

‘I also trust him.’ Serena’s voice was calm and direct. ‘But I’m not sure his plans are feasible’.

 

‘But you trust him?’

 

Serena wasn’t afraid or nervous around authority and shrugged her shoulders. ‘If we are wrong, then so be it. We don’t have time to monitor others we have no control over. Isn’t that…what’s his name’s job?’

 

‘Gary?’ Mitchell answered.

 

‘Gary? The heavy-set man asked with an emotionless frozen stare. Gary is an odd fellow but dedicated to our little project no doubt… but I’m asking what you think.’

 

Serena turned to Mitchell and then made eye contact with the heavy-set man who was gazing at her longingly.

 

‘You are mind probing Chen Ming, but that’s necessary. I don’t know anything about him.’ She paused for a second. ‘Neither does Mitchell.’

 

‘Mind probing is efficient’ Chen Ming retorted.

 

‘But not one hundred percent accurate. It only picks up general disposition and mood.’

 

‘You know a lot about it,’ Mr Chen grinned. ‘I suggest you read over the various updates. Perhaps now it is not perfect, but we will reach perfection.’

 

‘I see’ the woman said blandly.

 

‘Then it’s over. Thank you for your time and to you too Mitchell. Continue your duties.’

 

The heavy-set man’s tone suggested that his earlier demeanour was simply a charade. He no longer appeared to be someone in command but rather someone sent to carry out an exercise.

 

Serena gave Mitchell a direct stare while placing her hand over her terminal controller. ‘It’s time to add to our priority sheets. Add Borgus and his son. Those above have some doubt. However small that doubt may be, they have acted on it due to the priority of this project.’

 

Mitchell was nervously accessing his controller and making notes via his keyboard.

 

‘You really do act like them, don’t you? Serena asked.

 

‘Like who,’ Mitchell’s eyes were wide with a hint of fear.

 

‘Humans.’

‘I grew up with them, you know.’

 

‘Yes, well, let’s have silence and focus. We can talk about other general topics later.’

 

Mitchell didn’t respond and instead focused on his screen.

 

Meanwhile, off in the distance, Stephen and Roger continued their processing of the waste which consumed their paths. Mountains of waste that seemed to never end but beyond it was promised a World-Plex so magnificent and all consuming.

Published By


Admin

World-Plex – Slab City – Chapter 3

Slab City – Chapter 3

 

A grid of cement slabs sparkled in the crisp sunlight along a roaring ocean of dead water. Men and woman laid on their individual concrete resting places and their children who mainly wore old ripped t-shirts and shorts could be seen crouching next to their mothers.

 

The concrete living spaces were rectangular and rested longwise against the ocean. Each slab was the same length and width regardless of the size of the person allotted to it and all who were granted a slab were allowed to lie in the hot sun until their last days.

 

This settlement of poor was often visited by council charity workers who would walk around attending to those in desperate need of food. Some were visited by ordinary people, who wanted to help, but their good will was often not enough as most were not expected to survive longer than a few years.

 

The once sandy paradise, now a cement shore, was often met with poisonous dead fish from the polluted water which surrounded it. This was the new, and perhaps the last, welfare scheme introduced for the disadvantaged.

 

Unlike the days of bath towels and umbrellas, today the concrete slabs were home to thousands of unfortunates who could barely gather the strength to stand. These were known as the ‘slabbers’ who occupied ‘slab city’, a new name, given to an old beach.

 

‘Do you know what day it is?’ A tall gangly looking fellow asked a slabber lying on a slab of concrete. Gary was 6ft tall and wore a plain green shirt and black jeans. His nose was long and pointed and he always seemed to hold a constant grin. This was no doubt helped along by his thin wide lips and high cheek bones  

 

Borgus accompanied him. He was of a stocky build and stood at 5ft and 8 inches. He had a short black beard and moustache and his eyes were blue. Borgus was wearing his typical government attire, which was a grey button up shirt and black tie, grey trousers and black shoes. Unlike Gary, ‘Borgus’ tried to maintain a professional look wherever he went.

 

The two walked through the grid of cement, stepping around people, being mindful not to disturb those who were sleeping.

 

Borgus looked down at a frail man sitting with his head between his knees on a sunbathed concrete slab. The man’s hair was long and grey and had a moustache which was brown and curly and poked from the sides. His skin was wrinkled, and his eyes were closed.

 

‘Borgus,’ Gary said with a strained voice. ‘They refuse to communicate with us.’

 

‘Of course, you idiot’ Borgus said calmly. ‘Wouldn’t you find it hard to talk if you were starving and in their condition?’

 

‘I suppose I would,’ Gary replied soberly.

 

Borgus put his hand into one pocket and returned with what looked like a dispenser of some sort. He pressed the top of it and from it he retrieved a large grey pill.

 

‘Here,’ Borgus said to the man crouched in front of him. He bent down and lifted the man’s head up by his grey hair and pulled his head back.

 

‘Open your mouth,’ Borgus ordered. The man’s eyes rolled to the back of his head, and his jaw fell open. Borgus threw the pill down his throat and rubbed the man’s throat like an animal forced to take medicine.

 

‘Now, what?’ Gary snickered.

 

He let go of the man’s hair and the man dropped to the ground.

 

‘Just wait,’ Borgus said looking down at the man who by now was beginning to tremble. Within moments, the frail man rose up, and although he was swaying from side to side, he stood tall and alert.

 

‘Now all he needs is a good meal and a wash and he’ll be ready to go,’ Borgus said grinning.

 

‘What’s your name?’ Gary asked abruptly.

 

The man stretched his arms high above his head and took in a deep breath showing the outline of his ribs as he did so.

 

‘My name’s Dave I think,’ the man was staring up high above him almost falling backwards.

 

Gary shook his head. ‘So, these are our technicians?’

 

‘Listen Gary. The Plex has to be up and running by late December this year and in the middle of a scorching summer. If we are to accomplish such a task, we’d better utilise every resource possible.’

 

‘I suppose council has always given us a surplus of labour.’ Gary sighed and scratched his brow.

 

‘And we do want our beaches back I suppose. We can’t leave them here forever. They never seem to die quick enough.’

 

Gary paused for a moment and then sighed. ‘We’ll never have this to ourselves.’ He looked across the slab laden beach and within moments a large smirk crept upon his wide lips. ‘However, what a better way to clean up these beaches than to get them working on the Plex.’

 

Borgus looked at the now alert man who was staggering to and fro. ‘The Plex is for all Gary. Even these lying on sweltering hot graves.’

 

‘Well….,’ Gary began. ‘Now’s not the time for philosophy. If this is your solution, then it’s your job on the line. I’m just along for the ride because I was told to do that.’

 

Borgus shook his head. ‘Come. We’ll inform the collectors.’

 

Gary Nodded.

 

The two walked away from the concrete grid as silky grey water splashed from behind them off in the distance. For those living near to the shore of the beach, life was only temporary and was usually reserved for the old and extremely weak.

 

Surrounding the grid, a high black wall separated the ‘slabbers’ from the rest of the world. Its length encircled the entire beach front with netting dug deep into the ocean floor to prevent any unauthorised entry or exit from either side.

 

To vacate the slab vicinity, one had to make their way to a simple door marked only by an ordinary handle. The two men approached the door and Gary grabbed the handle turning it ever so slightly before stepping back.

 

The pair waited and within moments, the door swung open and a man outfitted in armour and holding a large futuristic rifle ushered them through to the other side.

 

The once flourishing city of apartments and retail outlets was now an industrial zone made up of tall towers covering the skyline shooting out orange and yellow gases from their tops.

 

Borgus reached into a pocket and pulled out a small black device. He lifted it above his head and pressed a hidden button on the front of the device and then placed the device back into his pocket.

 

A few moments later a strong breeze brushed past and the pair looked up. Above, an oval-shaped black disk could be seen hovering.

 

‘Get ready,’ Borgus said. The two closed their eyes and braced themselves.

 

The breeze became stronger and seconds later a light shone down in the form of beam and covered Borgus and Gary in a stream of bright yellow light. The pair then began to levitate slowly and then paused a metre above the ground: their bodies bobbing up and down and side to side gently.

 

A loud vibrating noise could be heard from above and the two began levitating upwards again, this time at a slightly faster pace. Within a few minutes, the pair had been drawn into the shimmering black disk and without a pause, the disk rose higher above and skirted off to the north.

 

Inside the disk, the pair was taken to a small room with a single arched door. Seconds went by and the door slid up uncovering a large room with a long table and business-like armchairs, one on each side and a chair with its back facing them to the centre behind it.

 

Borgus entered first, then Gary shuffled behind him.

 

‘Why do you follow directly behind like an officer of the law following his superior?’ a voice came from behind the chair.

 

Gary swallowed hard and made his way to Borgus’ right side.

 

After moments of silence, Borgus cleared his throat. ‘You need an update of some kind I’m guessing.’

 

‘Yes. The voices hear good things and bad things.’

 

‘Yes,’ Borgus replied calmly.

 

‘Can you guess what those good things are?’

 

‘Yes, I can.’

 

‘Well…?’ The voice’s tone was deep and authoritative and yet calm.

 

‘You are in good hands. The project will go as planned,’ Borgus uttered with his hands behind his back.

Gary had been fidgeting and feeling uncomfortable.

 

‘And Gary, can you guess what the bad might be?’

 

Again, Gary swallowed hard. He looked down and then back up. ‘The time.’ His lips were dry, and his voice was hoarse.

 

‘Time?’

 

‘Yes. The time taken to build the structure is being tested. But I’m sure it will be completed according to schedule and…’

 

‘Of course, it will,’ Borgus interrupted.

 

‘Gary is worried my strategy won’t work because it involves utilising every possible lower-class human resource.’

 

‘The coastal dwellers?’

 

‘Yes. We couldn’t possibly hope to mobilise the higher classes, instead cleaning up our forgotten beaches will be simpler and less noticeable.’

 

‘I like it.’ The voice chuckled in a grim manner. ‘The good we’ve been hearing has been confirmed. ‘It’s you Borgus, the voice recommended you, and he was right.’

 

Gary pursed his lips and was clearly agitated by the praise Borgus was receiving.

 

‘This isn’t the time for childish jealously. Why did you bring him along?’

 

‘He’s good company. His less than perfect nature keeps me human.’

 

‘Excellent! Now go and keep up the good work!’ The chair turned and appeared empty. The room became darker and Borgus and Gary knew it was time to leave.

 

They walked back and entered the small room they had come from. The floor beneath them began to shimmer and a bright light came from below. Again, they closed their eyes and braced themselves, this time for extraction from the disk.

 

Moments passed, and they began to levitate downwards to a grassland area below surrounded by a high wall covered in green vines. To the right of them, there was a single-story white building with a footpath leading to the entrance. The two were gently led to the ground directly in front of the path, and then the disk skirted upwards and out of sight.

 

Borgus looked up stared at the endless blue sky. It was warm without a cloud in sight. He took a deep breath and then let out a deep sigh.

 

‘Back to work ay?’ Borgus commented.

 

‘I hope this plan of yours works for both our sake.’

 

‘It will Gary. Go back to your privacy checking. Sit in your office and leave the real work to me.’

 

‘You…!’ Gary’s eyes were ablaze with hatred, and his browed was slightly distorted. ‘Oh, I can’t be bothered,’ he spattered and the two began to pace slowly towards a white door with silver handles which was the entry point to their offices.

 

 

Slab City: Works in Progress

 

Only hours had passed before recruitment had begun. Black vans pulled up behind the coastal walls that kept the poor locked up behind the industrial complex. A number of doors opened, and armed men strolled in.

 

The process began.

 

The energy elixir that Borgus had used to bring a weary slabber to his feet hours before, was being administered to the thousands of concrete beach dwellers.

 

Crowds of hungry people, once docile and bathing on their concrete homes, were now up and alert and ready for induction.

 

Droves of slab dwellers were taken into vans outside the walls and taken to a facility where they were processed: cleaned and given nutrition.

 

Following phase 1 began the next stage: training. Since the slabbers were uneducated and not trained in processing data most were taught to mimic the actions of trainers who would demonstrate the operation of work stations.

 

Information seminars were broadcast on large screens in cinema like rooms. Although the work required was simple and repetitive, workers were encouraged to talk as a way of stimulating cognition.

 

Within a small dark office inside one of the various training halls, a man named Reece Warder sat at his desk typing up reports for higher-ups in governments. Most of his reports ended up in the hands of Borgus whose job was to oversee the entirety of the operation.

 

Reece was a simple man whose obedience was outstanding; however, he knew very little about what went on around him. On many occasions, Borgus, who sensed his lack of awareness, would scream at him over the phone in frustration.

 

The phone rang.

 

Borgus: ‘How far along are we now?’

 

Reece: ‘Well it ah…’

 

Borgus: ‘How many numbers do we have on the project? Are there infrastructures being built as we speak? It’s been four hours and no formal reports on actual progress. I want to see physical changes in the Plex appearing on my screen. What do you do all day?’

 

Reece: ‘Yes, we have progress. However, I’m told little. People here, those people from the beaches, they don’t catch on well. It’s hard to coordinate them. They cause trouble.’

 

Borgus: ‘Stop blabbering. I’ll have to go down there myself and do a formal report.’

 

Reece: ‘I’ll check the system for any reports that may have come through.’

 

Borgus: ‘YOU NEED to go outside your office and query your operation managers. Not WAIT around for them to inform you.’

 

Reece: ‘Umm, yes.’ His voice began to tremble. ‘I’m still waiting on more information…and my data pad hasn’t arrived yet…I’m sorry.’

 

Borgus: ‘Stop.’ Borgus cut him off and went silent.

 

Reece: ‘Sir…’  

 

There was another pause as Borgus breathed heavily over the phone.

 

Borgus: ‘WHAT ARE YOU doing down there?! If you don’t get me some progress reports of any worth to me by 7 YOU will join the slab dwellers!’

Borgus hung up.

 

Clearly, Borgus was beginning to feel the pressure of the deadline building up and felt the weight of the world on his shoulders.

 

‘I’ll have to go down there,’ he whispered to himself.

 

Borgus was in his office in front of his screen. There was a knock at the door. Without waiting for a reply Gary let himself and sat down.

‘So Borgus. What now. Your operation is failing.’

 

Borgus grinned but didn’t respond.

 

‘Seems your staff aren’t performing well.’

 

‘Including yourself?’ Borgus asked.

‘It wasn’t my idea.’

 

‘And what was your idea?’

At that moment, there was another knock at the door.

 

A woman in a suit and tie with long black hair entered. She was slim and firm.

 

‘Sir, we have a request for you to visit the training centre. Apparently, a man by the name of Andrews has requested a visit from you concerning the project.’

 

‘Andrews huh? Yes, we appointed him head trainer in bio circuitry. Why doesn’t he just file a report?’

 

‘He received a complaint from head of operations and insisted he give you a visual report.’

 

Borgus nodded and then turned to Gary.

 

‘Coming?’ Gary nodded.

 

The training centre was a black dome situated in the heart of the city’s industrial complex.

 

After being escorted into the main entrance room of the facility they were met by a tall slender man with short blond hair. He wore a black uniform with a badge on the left of his chest.

‘Sir,’ He shook Borgus’ hand.

 

Borgus nodded.

 

‘Sir,’ Gary nodded.

 

‘Andrews. How are you?’ Borgus asked.

 

‘Reece is a twit!’ Andrews spat. ‘He knows nothing. We don’t have time for reporting. He needs to come down here and evaluate.’

 

Borgus was shaking his head and then laughed. ‘I basically told him the same thing. So, do we still need him?’

 

Andrews shook his head slightly, and Gary pulled out a small notebook from his pocket and made a note of firing Reece.

 

‘What are you writing that down?’ Gary asked.

 

‘Never mind.’

 

‘Come. Let’s visit the bio circuitry lab. The reason I asked you down here was to assure you that at least my section is going well and to suggest that you find someone better than that Reece

 

Borgus and Gary both nodded and the three of them followed Andrews to a nearby elevator.

‘This is the bio circuitry manufacturing plant.’

 

The three were standing in a large dark room. Across from them, there was an incomplete wall made up of black bricks with blue wires embedded on the exterior. In the centre of the room, at the front, there was a long table that resembled a conveyer belt.

 

Here both men and woman stood to one side assembling bricks identical to that of the wall. On the other side of the belt stood a massive television screen showing a man dressed in a black cloak giving instructions.

 

‘So, what’s going on here?’ Borgus asked looking at the screen and then back at the workers.

 

‘Why are they building that wall?’ Gary asked.

 

Andrews chuckled, ‘Let me explain.’

 

Borgus nodded.

 

‘These dwellers are assembling bricks that will line the inside of walls of the mega-Plex. The wires are sensors. These sensors will record all kinds of information about what happens within the structure.’

‘What kinds of information?’ Gary asked scratching his left cheek.

 

‘Gary is in charge of privacy. This is right up his ally.’

 

‘I see.’ Andrews was a reliable worker, the only problem, however, was that he was specialised in one field. Ideally, Borgus would have him as a right-hand man except for this fact. Today, a new operations manager would have to be chosen.

 

‘Andrews?’

 

‘Yes, Sir.’

 

‘Who would recommend taking Reese’s command?’

 

Andrews straightened up and scratched at his chin. It wasn’t often that a higher-up asked him such a question.

 

‘I’d have to run through the list of personnel here, but I think I know someone who might be up for the job.’

 

‘Yes? And who might that be?’ Gary asked.

 

‘There’s a young man by the name of Ryan. He is new but motivated. Went well in communication technology and is currently in SNTS College.

 

SNTS stands for social networking technology systems.

 

‘Well if you think he is cut out for such a project as this get him here and ready for work. Now, this spy brick business you have going here. Tell me more.’ Borgus was clearly in high spirits feeling more confident about the project.

 

‘Ah, yes.’ Andrews pointed in the direction of the workers. ‘There they are working on sensor systems that are embedded into the walls. They can sense temperature, conversations and even smell.’

 

‘Like flies on a wall.’

 

‘Except even smarter.’

 

‘But…’

 

‘Yes?’ Borgus raised up him tip toes momentarily and raised an eyebrow.

 

‘These are just the physical components. They will be installed but will not be fully functional for at least two months to come. There’s a whole range of reasons…’

 

‘Never mind explaining,’ Borgus cut him off. ‘I trust your judgement. Now, all we need to do now is get that young chap in here, so we can have better efficiency.’

 

‘I agree,’ Gary added. ‘But bricks? The structure will be the largest in the world’s history. Will bricks be the main material used to line the inner walls?’

 

‘No of course not, Steel, concrete, and whatever we can get our hands on.’

 

The three of them talked together and then entered another room where men woman and children were sitting at tables.

 

‘This is where the workers come to rest and engage in talk.’

 

‘Why?’ Gary asked.

 

‘Because they are human Gary,’ Borgus gave him a serious stare.

 

‘Yes, these people are not well socialised. Making them slaves instantly won’t work. We need to help them feel at home.’

 

‘I see.’ Grey responded morosely

 

‘Come to my office,’ Andrews said pointing to a window in the far-right corner situated one level above a lift.

 

‘Your office is here in the lunch room?’ Gary asked looking around disgusted.

 

‘It’s good for morale. Come I will pour you a Pro-Vite. I’m sure you need a pick-up.’

 

Borgus pulled at his collar and sucked in his stomach and then let out a deep breath. ‘Yes, I’ve been running around all day. Let’s go.’

 

The three went into the lift and into Andrew’s office. Inside, there were five brown leather armchairs that surrounded a large workstation.

 

‘So, this is yours? Comfy.’ Gary was jealous.

 

‘I like my simple chair and computer desk. I don’t like to be annoyed by others,’ Borgus said glancing at Gary.

Andrews chuckled. ‘This is convenient, considering the work we are doing here. Often I’ll have heads of other departments join me for a conference.’

 

Andrews picked up a phone sitting behind him on a long counter that could be seen from downstairs.

 

‘Mary, could you please come here and introduce yourself? One minute? Fine. Oh, and bring me an update sheet.’ There was a slight pause.

 

‘So, have you submitted them?’ A pained look came across his face.

 

‘I see.’ Andrews paused and then sighed deeply.

 

‘Well do what you can. Don’t bother coming in. Deliver the reports manually.’

 

Borgus and Gary noticed the muffled sound coming from the other end had become noticeably louder.

 

‘No choice Mary. I can’t argue about this or maybe you will find yourself walking into the unguarded.’

 

Gary smirked, ‘Ruthless, I like it’.

There was a long silence before Andrews abruptly ended the call. ‘Something wrong?’ Borgus asked.

 

With some agitation, Andrews scratched at his forehead while nodding. He then sat down and pressed a large round silver device next to his screen. This was the computers control button as well as the directional device. All three screens turned on and displayed the words ‘World-Plex’ in large round black font.

 

‘I think it’s time to accelerate the firing of Reece Warder. This machine that we have created has come to a slow because we don’t have efficient information sharing.’

 

Andrews was tapping on the embedded keyboard in front of him as he said this.

 

‘Gary, do me a favour, will you?’ Borgus asked with a stern expression that could almost be mistaken for a sly grin.

 

‘Yes?’ Gary’s eyebrows were raised.

 

‘Bring me, Reece, immediately. He has to be informed about the unguarded’.

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