Renegade Writers Guild

Published 10:11 am Thursday, March 2, 2017

“Hiking Anniversary”

By N.R. Tucker

It started as a way to get back in shape after surgery, but 71 hikes later it has turned into much more. A year ago, on 2/18/2016, my adult daughter and I took our first hike on a trail in North Carolina. At first, I huffed and puffed after two miles on paved trails at places like Tanglewood in Clemmons and the Bog Garden in Greensboro. Eventually, we grabbed backpacks and real hiking shoes and found a couple of well-marked, well maintained, primitive hiking trails in the mountains. Now we think nothing of a six-mile, half-day hike over trails listed as strenuous.

We’ve hiked a decent portion of the Mountain To Sea (MTS) trail in western North Carolina and have plans to hit part of that trail on the coast. When it comes to the Appalachian Trail (AT), portions of it are in the hiking bucket list, but I have no plans to do the entire trek, though my daughter has expressed an interest. We live in a state with diverse climates, and all are worthy of exploration. We’ve explored more of the Blue Ridge Mountains than I ever thought I would. Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock are also wonderful day trips, especially during the week. We’ve hiked through rain and snow flurries, but the worst weather for me will always be the heat and humidity in August. I’m especially grateful I found a homemade bug spray that keeps the biting critters away. Bug spray is a necessity, especially when hiking near the water.

We both carry full daypacks, even on short mountain trails. After all, if either of us sustains an injury, the emergency gear will be lifesaving. We never underestimate the power of nature. Instead, we prepare ourselves and enjoy nature to the fullest. On these hikes, I experience the beauty of our new home state and learn a little more about its history. When we pass the remains of someone’s home from long ago, I can’t help but think of how hard travel between homes – much less towns – was in days gone by.

Sitting on a rock, eating a bit of jerky, with red-tailed hawks flying below us before they swoop up and glide overhead, is a sight I will never forget. The deer that watched as we took photos of her and her fawn, the sight and sound of songbirds in the trees, the turtles basking on a rock in the middle of the river, and even a snake warming itself on the trail, are wonderful memories. We’ve even met a few interesting humans while hiking. And let’s not forget the refreshing streams, rivers, and waterfalls that are so abundant in this area.

While hiking, we solve the problems of the world and address plot holes of stories I’m working on. As one of my beta readers, she is an excellent sounding board. Sometimes we hike in silence, listening to nature, and enjoying the peace and quiet. And sometimes we hike while I huff and puff, leaning on my walking stick because the trail is steep and my knee objects.

I enjoy the views from the top of a ridge, but I feel most at peace in the woods, surrounded by nature, walking a trail. As we start our second year of hikes, I find myself optimistic about my life. After all, it’s the journey, not the destination, and North Carolina offers marvelous journeys.

“Riding Shotgun”

By Linda Barnette

One of the things that John and I enjoy doing is playing the cheap slot machines at the Harrah’s Casino in Cherokee. As you age, you have to give up old hobbies and get new ones, so we go there several times a year, and it’s always fun. On a hot July day 5 years ago, our visit took an interesting turn or two.

I didn’t quite know what was going on when the lights on my machine started flashing and people started gathering behind my chair. Eventually, however, a worker came over to my machine to pay me the amount of money that I had won. It was a few hundred dollars, which I was so excited about. I usually lose my $20, but I had a lucky spin that day. We left shortly after that and decided to stop for a Coke at one of the fast food places down the road. I went inside, got the drinks, and started to pay for them when I realized that my wallet was missing. We frantically turned around and went back to Harrah’s. I rushed over to the security guard and told him what had happened. He called the people in Lost and Found, and some good soul had found my wallet and turned it in! I simply could not believe my good fortune.

On the way down the mountain it rained off and on as it often does in the summer, but suddenly the sky opened, and rain poured down hard enough that we could not see much at all. We could see well enough to realize that the car in front of us on the highway had hit the car in front of him and caused it to turn sideways in the road. We would have hit that car going 60 mph but for John’s quick thinking and equally quick reflexes. He pulled over into the left lane next to an 18-wheeler whose driver realized what was going on and moved over just far enough for us to squeeze through the space between the truck and the wrecked car. At that point I started to cry and cried uncontrollably for about 30 minutes or so, obviously because I had been sure we were going to die. I had never reacted that way before, and it was scary. Of course, we thanked God for letting us live and gave Him all praise and glory. He was riding shotgun with us that day!

A Heart of Steel, an excerpt

“The Final Straw”

By Stephanie Dean

Steele knew she had made a big mistake the day she allowed her husband to move back home. She relished the peace after David moved out and had used her time wisely.  The couple had been separated for 2 months, and while he was gone, Steele had been hired for her first, full-time, day shift position as a nurse in charge.  For the first time in years, Steele began to visualize her dream of living a life without abuse. Single. Independent. Without a husband. She began to mentally prepare for her departure from the marriage but didn’t move fast enough.     

For no reason other than to thwart her fortuitous plans, David began to phone Steele after learning she had landed a good job. David begged to come home and try again.He tempted her with the option of being a stay at home mom if they could put their marriage back together. David would have loved nothing more than to have kept Steele completely dependent on him. While Steele had interest in salvaging her marriage for the sake of their child, the prospect of living independently took precedence over feeling trapped with her abusive husband. She allowed David to come home, but doubted the sincerity of his promises.Steele moved forward with her plan and prepared to start her new job.

After David returned to their house, Steele couldn’t recover her feelings, and deep down inside, she knew the marriage was over. Any feeling of love had been destroyed little by little over time by the abuse. The issue wasn’t a question of whether the marriage would end but how soon. If only to prove to herself she gave the marriage another try, Steele equipped herself with patience and resolved herself to being temporarily reunited. She waited for the final straw which was enevitable. The straw that surely came and broke any remaining tie to the marriage.

On Wednesday nights during the summer, Steele’s son Daniel always spent the night with her mother. David and his older brother Steve cut their grandmother’s grass, and in exchange,  Momma Faye, as they called her, cooked dinner for her grandsons. The boy’s wives, Steele and Debbie met their husbands at Momma Faye’s house at 5 pm, and following dinner, the girls cleaned up dishes while the boys mowed. One Wednesday, just three days after David moved back in their house, he failed to call or show up for dinner at Momma Fayes. Steele helped her brother in law mow the grass.

Early Thursday morning around 3, Steele heard David unlock the back door of the house. He turned the overhead light on, stumbled into the bedroom and shut the door behind him.

“Where have you been?” asked Steele as she got out of bed.

Crying with voice escalating, she yelled, “You promised me things would be different.”

She moved towards the bedroom door. David lunged at her, pushing her up against the back of the door.

“Why? You in a hurry for me to leave again? You already found a new man?”

He slapped her a few times across the face.

“No, I haven’t, get your hands off me,” Steele screamed, trying to open the door.

With the palm of David’s hand pressed firmly on the door, her exit was blocked as Steele couldn’t budge it.  Then, with one hand on each side of her head, David attempted to twist her neck, but he was drunk and clumsy.  Steele mustered all her strength, lifted one knee and kicked him away from her. With a twist of the knob, she opened the bedroom door and ran. Steele grabbed her car keys off the kitchen counter, made it to her car and backed out of the driveway.  As she drove away one final time, she never once looked back through the rearview mirror.