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The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

If Only

By Julie Terry Cartner

The sign stating Turn Headlights On was the only indication that something was going to happen. Always the rule follower, I immediately did as instructed. A split second later I was pitched into a darkness so extreme the headlights barely pierced the gloom surrounding me. Hands gripping the steering wheel, I had no choice but to proceed as cars surrounded me on this busy highway. Or were they? Suddenly noticing the absence of noise and lack of headlights, my logical brain warred with what my instincts were telling me. Had nobody else seen the sign? Had they seen the sign and refused to comply? Was I surrounded by speeding cars driving sans headlights?

I thought, no; impossibly, I seemed to be alone. My brain scrambled for a logical answer when there seemed to be none. Slowly, I reduced the pressure on the accelerator, intending to ease my car to a stop, but nothing changed. I was still moving. Or was I? How could I tell when I had been deprived of sight and sound? I tapped the brake; it seemed to do nothing.

And then the voice came through the radio, the radio that I had not turned on. Relax, it said, You are safe. You are not in control. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. With seemingly no other choice, I decided to try to follow the instructions. Leaning back against the seat, I closed my eyes and focused on my senses. Slowly I began to hear music, sweet, gentle, flowing. I felt a cool breeze against my face. I felt the car turn as it rumbled down another road and then another. Slowly the blackness turned a bit lighter, and then a bit more.

Through the misty gray light I saw flowers of all shapes and colors and smelled some of my favorite scents – lilacs and honeysuckle and my all time favorite, the blossoms of the linden tree. Colorful songbirds warbled in the bushes and trees and flitted to and fro through a sky now turning brighter, pinks and orange hues vied with a serene blue while the sun pierced its way across the horizon.

Slowly the car slid to a stop as I reached my destination. Frothy blue and white waves beckoned me from my favorite beach. Rocky outcroppings, pebbles and boulders challenged me to run and leap from rock to rock. I knew when I dove through the icy water I would find hidden rocks encrusted with mussels, starfish and an underwater jungle of kelp and other seaweeds. My mom would be sitting on her beach chair and my sister would be sifting through pebbles looking for beach glass.

Unhesitatingly, I opened my car door and joined my family. Without looking, I knew my childish body would be covered in a blue and white tank suit. I could feel the warm sun kissing my skin and the rolling pebbles under my sun-browned bare feet. If for only a few minutes in my imagination, I was home. Logic defied, I would enjoy my trip down memory lane.

Hooked to the Wall

By Marie Craig

I can remember when my family finally got a telephone.  Not many people can say that.  In our little town, it was ok to go to a neighbor’s house and “borrow” their phone.  But, it was a fun time when we had our own black, sturdy phone that sat on a little table in the corner of the living room.  Our phone number was 5425.  That’s all.  No prefix or area code.  It was a complicated process to phone long distance and expensive to our frugal minds.  Most distance calls were only emergencies or bad news.  There was also a party line.  So, you lifted the receiver quietly to see if somebody else was talking.  Unscrupulous people would listen in to others’ conversations, but that was taboo in my house.

If you had a call, you had to go to the phone and stay within 3 feet of it to use it.  You were literally hooked to the wall.  If you had to search for information, you had to lay the phone down and hurry to find the calendar, or book, or catalog.  Sometime later, you could get a longer line between the phone and the receiver.  Some of them were coiled and would get terribly tangled.  I had one in my kitchen that allowed me to multi-task and stir the food on the stove.

Pay phones were a special blessing back then.  I have my dad’s wallet and looked through it to see his special items.  The wallet had a tiny pocket that would hold a dime so that you could use a pay phone.  It was a silver dime, so I swapped it for a current one.  When have you seen a pay phone recently?

I have a photograph of me with our first cordless phone.  It had an antenna that you could pull out for more clarity.  In this photo, I am standing in our garden, behind the house beside the creek, and I am wearing the holster I made for it.  I sewed vinyl (Naugahyde) into a pocket.  At the top, I put two slits that a belt threaded into.  I wore this in the house, at the garden, and across the street at the neighbors.’  Everybody laughed at me and asked if I was armed with a pistol.  But it was so handy.  I saw this photo the other day, dark brown hair (natural) with teased height and enormous round glasses.  Seeing this photograph brought back lots of memories of that time period.  Analyzing and savoring old pictures has been a joy to me during this isolation.  It’s made me grateful for my great blessings.

All this description seems alien to the current freedom we enjoy with our smartphones.  It’s a miracle that so many improvements have happened so quickly.  Our current phones probably need to be renamed because they do so many other things so well.  It’s an age of speed, convenience, and versatility.  It’s wonderful not to be hooked to the wall now.

The Sea is Calling

By Gaye Hoots

The first home I remember was situated on a bluff overlooking the Yadkin River. I have had an ongoing love affair with water views all my life. Grandpa’s farm had small streams and branches with tadpoles, minnows, and crawfish that I liked to explore. I loved the river and was fascinated with the fish baskets Grandpa wove from splits and set in the river to trap fish for our meals. The Marchmont farm also had beautiful river views, especially from the tower.

About 25 years ago, I bought a small efficiency condo at Atlantic Beach and have owned a condo in that area and enjoyed the views and ocean there for many years. There is a sense of contentment I experience there with the water that soothes my soul.

Five years ago, I sold my oceanfront condo at Indian Beach and bought the Hartman house in Advance, where I grew up. Oceanfront property was becoming expensive to maintain, and I felt I needed to spend more time with family. That was the right decision as it gave me more time with Alex, the granddaughter I lost to a drug overdose within 24 hours of the time she returned to Advance from a treatment facility.

My great-granddaughter, who was 10 years old, is now 14 years old and starting Davie County High School. My twins will be 4 years old in December, sisters to Alex whom they never knew. My whole family loves the ocean, and I miss it. COVID has changed vacation plans, but we have managed to rent a house in Oriental, the sailboat capital of North Carolina, for three weeks out of the last three months, and take much of our family.

These trips have made me aware of how much I miss the water, so I started looking at properties there. Most were out of my price range, but I have a condo under contract. It has a rental contract for a year, so the move is not imminent, but I am looking forward to spending time there.

The pull of water is a strong one for me. The relaxing rhythm of the water, the bright blue of a clear day and moody blue of an overcast day lure me.  It is a place that I feel at peace and can clear my head of the unnecessary hum and buzz of our current environment. It has a healing effect, and I am content to sit and watch the water and birds.

When the twins are there, it is a joy to watch their wide-eyed wonder at the water and the creatures it holds and attracts. They are drawn to the water as well and love splashing in it. We take food and get groceries there, and seldom eat meals out.

There are hurdles to jump before the condo deal closes, but I am excited about it and hope the time goes quickly. I am looking forward to the views and getting my toes back in the water.