A Moment in Paradise

Paradise is where you find it.

Kim walked down the dark, deserted street of the little mountain town. At 10 pm. the sidewalks rolled up, except for a couple of bars that carried a pub menu to look respectable. Nobody glanced in her direction as she ambled down the street. Kim looked down and scowled at her worn, tight jeans, and faded college t-shirt that told everyone she was just another dropout.

Kim stopped for a moment and forced herself to smile. Life was not all that bad. After all, Doreen had given her a part-time job at the tourist information center. Alice had given her a room in exchange for maintenance on the house. A glow in the sky coming from the next town over caught her eye.

She winced at the thought of the college town nearby. Self-absorbed professors strutted around like royalty. They would stroll down the sidewalks looking down their noses at the locals. The townspeople appreciated their business but scowled as the elitists left their stores. The sleepy college village was now segregated between those with PhDs and those who built the town.

These same professors would talk class after class about the oppressed, and examples of injustice weren’t hard to find on campus. Kim’s roommate slept with a professor just to get an ‘A.’ The roommate had no concerns for his wife and children, nor the fact he was sleeping with other students. Kim had grown tired of the hypocrisy. If these were the people she would spend her life working around, she preferred to walk away.

It only took a ten-mile drive to find her new world. People here welcomed everyone, even the college dropouts that meandered through town. Fashionable cars driven by stylish people would park next to old rusty pickup trucks. Vehicles that coughed and smoked would start up next to high dollar imports. Nobody minded. Everyone was equal, and everyone smiled and waved to one another.

Kim leaned against a light pole and looked towards the local bar and restaurant. Patrons filled the patio on this late summer night. The owner, Patricia, walked back from a table and spied Kim. She smiled and waved. Kim smiled, waved back, and rested her head against the pole. She was not sure where she would end up, but for now, she would stay in paradise.

A Deadly Struggle

Sometimes we are called to fight for our lives.

Darren felt the blackness begin to give way to gray. Pain shot through his skull. His lips felt sticky as he opened his mouth. The metallic taste of blood touched his tongue. His world started coming into focus, and then pain shot up through his body. Darren sucked in his breath, and everything rushed into view.

Headlights blinded him, and he turned his head. A body laid on the ground with a cell phone next to its open palm.

His chest tightened, and he whispered, “Deborah.”

He looked around, and his world started to spin. Darren slowed his movements. To his horror, Deborah’s head hung limply against her shoulder, and her body rested bleeding against the doorframe. Deborah’s eyes stared blankly at the broken windshield.

He tried to reach for her, but his arm would not move. He looked down and saw a bone sticking out past his elbow. Darren stared and wondered why it didn’t hurt.

He looked back at Deborah and then to the crinkled ceiling near his head. Tears started to stream down his cheeks. “Take me, please! Don’t take her, take me.”

Blue and red lights began to light up the car. Someone walked up and looked inside. Darren pleaded, “Please help Deborah. I’ll be okay.”

The man standing outside yelled towards the red flashing lights, “Hey, this guy has multiple compound fractures, and his legs appear crushed under the dash! The woman is unresponsive.”

A female medic yanked on the passenger door, but it would not budge. The policeman and EMT yanked and pulled. The door finally gave way with a screech. Another medic appeared, and they both gently lifted Deborah out of the car and laid her on the ground. They checked her vitals and began to administer CPR. Darren prayed.

A policeman brought a blanket and placed it on top of Darren. Tears began to flow down Darren’s face. Two Firemen walked up and began discussing where they would put the jaws of life to rip the car’s cockpit open and free him.

One of the medics with Deborah hollered, “I have a pulse!”

Could it be true? Darren looked towards the activity around Deborah. Oxygen was over her mouth, and an IV needle was being taped off.

The female EMT looked in Darren’s direction, “She’s stabilizing. I think she’ll be alright, sir. Why don’t we take care of you now?”

Darren laid his head back against the seat and quietly thanked God for saving Deborah.

Suddenly, a fiery pain ran up his body, and he gasped for air. The agony he had been blocking came rushing in like a flood. Someone stuck a needle in his arm. The pain started to retreat, and Darren felt himself smile as he drifted off to sleep.

Alone

It is not good to be alone.

Ahmed walked through the steel and glass canyon. He shivered, and his chest tightened as the cold afternoon breeze cut through his blazer. Ahmed distanced himself from the mass of humanity crossing the street.

Two blocks later, he arrived at the familiar breezeway and hurried to an unoccupied table in the empty plaza. Ahmed closed his eyes and let the sun warm his cold face. A chair slid from the other side of the table, and a dank smell wafted in the air. Ahmed opened his eyes. Before him sat a man in dirty clothes, and a threadbare overcoat. The stranger smiled and stuck out his crusty hand.

“Hi, people call me George. Sorry if I disturbed you. I just needed to sit a spell.”

Ahmed kept his cold hands in his pockets. “I don’t want to offend you, but there are lots of other tables.”

George pulled back his hand, “I see.”

Ahmed felt his face flush and quickly interjected, “It’s nothing personal, I came here to be alone for a few minutes.”

George nodded and said, “Isn’t that a coincidence, I used to come here seeking solitude myself.”

“But not today.”

“I do as I please. Look, I used to look miserable like you. I bet it’s your job and maybe the family.” George held up his hand, “No, you don’t have to answer, I can see it in your face. Well, I got tired of everything, too, and I left it all behind. Now I live free and do what I want.”

Ahmed leaned forward, “Did you have a family?”

George stared blankly up into the sky. “I used to. The pressures at my job and home; I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. So, I quit work and walked out. My wife filed for divorce after I didn’t come back home. It took the papers a while to find me.”

George’s hollow eyes looked into Ahmed’s, “I have to admit, I do miss the kids. Eventually, my wife remarried, so the girls got a new dad.” George shrugged, “Nobody seems to miss me.”

“I’m not sure I want to walk out on everyone and everything.”

George waved him off, “Give it time, you will.”

Ahmed stood up, “I appreciate the visit. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll head back to work.”

“That’s the spirit. Before you go, any chance you can give a fella a couple of bucks for his advice?”

Ahmed pulled out a twenty and handed it to George. They shook hands, and Ahmed left, determined never to return.

Voices in The Breeze

Life and death can happen in a whisper or a scream.

My few friends call me Owen. Names are such weak attempts to identify who we are. We are nothing more than souls to be discovered and then gone. Forever lost back to the earth.

I had a close friend once. His name no longer matters. We used to hike among the rocks and mountains on the edges of the Mojave Desert. On one fateful day, we were trekking along a dusty forgotten path as was our custom. Dust rose from the ground with each footfall or occasional gust of wind. We had long since given up any effort to stay clean. Even in late September, the sun’s heat baked our skin mercilessly. Hot and dirty, we were thrilled to find the long lost ghost town nestled between the rocky cliffs of a small pass. We sat down in front of a dilapidated schoolhouse and gave our tired bodies a rest.

The warm water from our canteens soothed our parched throats. Scanning around the small town, I was the first to notice the dark opening in the hillside. On closer inspection, the dark entrance opened to a manmade tunnel. The old mine meant refreshing air. We would have to listen for rattlesnakes, but if we were careful, we might find something to occupy us until the day had cooled and we could return to our camping spot.

My friend and I walked quickly to the mine’s entrance. All we could think about was the chilled air waiting inside. I paused for a moment at the mine’s entrance. Only the wind could be heard blowing through the tunnel. We allowed our eyes to adjust, and our skin enjoyed the cool
breeze rushing towards the opening. We each chose a side of the shaft and pushed our backs against the wall. The sun provided a pale hue to light our way. We could make out rocks on the floor and the changing shadows deeper inside. We began stepping along the wall and had gone in at least 200 feet when I spied the end of the tunnel and could tell it turned in two directions.

In anticipation of what lay beyond we quickened our pace. Two steps later, the world changed. I heard my friend scream. I could barely make out the horror on his face as he fell down the black hole in the floor. His screams
seemed to go on forever until they quietly faded away. I cautiously stepped closer towards the dark hole in the floor yelled his name again and again, but he never answered. I picked up a nearby rock and dropped it down the shaft, but I never heard it hit bottom. My fingers desperately dug through my backpack, hoping to find anything that could help. My fist gripped a forgotten penlight, and I turned it on and dropped it into the void. The light disappeared into the darkness.

I yelled one last time before rushing headlong out of the mine and down the hot, dusty road towards our campsite. Three hours later, I stumbled into what had been our sanctuary. I dove into my tent, grabbed my cell phone, and called for help. The ranger station knew the location; we had not been the first visitors in this part of the desert. The ranger’s truck finally rolled into my campsite after an eternity. One Ranger coldly informed me that my friend had fallen into a bottomless pit. None of the rescue ropes or spotlights had been successful in finding the bottom. His partner told me that locals had quit counting the mine’s victims long ago. I argued about the lack of warning signs, and the rangers scolded me for not using proper equipment.

Now I sit here alone at the black, chilly mine entrance. All hope of rescue is gone, and my friend is lost forever inside the earth. I will never forget his screams riding upon the cold, dank winds inside.