The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild
Published 11:42 am Thursday, September 10, 2020
By Julie Terry Cartner
“Whatcha digging for?” the red-haired, freckle-faced boy asked me.
“Dunno,” my succinct reply, as I continued digging, sifting the fine sand between my fingers.
“You could dig a lot faster if you didn’t do that,” he said, motioning to my fingers, splayed, sand cascading through them like a blonde waterfall. He was all about speed and depth; I, with a different agenda, not so much.
“Yup,” my reply.
He took on an argumentative tone, I’m sure, to my nearly non-responses, not knowing, not understanding that as the youngest of four, I had kowtowed to my place in the hierarchy. Fully knowing, fully understanding nobody was interested in hearing what I had to say, in self-preservation, I said little, volunteered nothing, replying in monosyllables whenever possible. “C’mon,” he wheedled, half exasperated, half angry, his gap-toothed smile working its way through my defenses. “Why are you doing that?” he asked, indicating my sifted-sand pile.
“Because,” I replied, searching his face to ensure he really wanted to hear what I had to say. “Why do you want to know?” I asked.
“I just do,” the stubborn reply, then looking for trust in my face, he added, “I’m an only child; nobody wants to talk to me.”
Coming to a tentative affirmation, I continued, “because,” indicating the pale blue bucket beside me, “you never know what you’ll find.”
Respecting the unspoken boundaries only kids understand, he asked if he could look. Secretly proud to share my treasures, I acquiesced. As he peered inside, I knew what he would find: two old buttons, a quarter, dime and three pennies, a couple of sand fleas and the prize, a silver and turquoise pendant.
His eyes widening into a Wow, he started to reach into the bucket, but then, hesitating, he asked for and received my okay. The sand fleas, attempting to hide in the sand and seawater I had added to the bucket, skittered across his hand as he reached for the pendant, one stubby finger tracing the intricate design, culminating on the turquoise center. “Magic?” he questioned, earning my eight-year-old approval.
“Think so,” I agreed, “just haven’t figured out how it works.”
Reaching forward, I explained. “I tried the button,” pushing down on the turquoise, “and I spun the dial,” demonstrating by gently twirling the hammered silver designs. “Nothing happened,” spinning them to the right and the left. “I guess it’s a pattern,” I added, giving a few spins to the right and left and carefully pushing the center jewel.
“Prob’ly,” he agreed. “Can I try?” Handing over my treasure, I watched approvingly as he handled the pendant as carefully as I had.
As the afternoon progressed, we tried favorite and lucky numbers, concocted stories and schemes, only limited by our imaginations, just awaiting the moment a hole would appear in the sky and we would enter a new dimension. As we made our guesses and attempts, we talked, discussing toys and games, our families. I shared my life as the youngest; he told of the loneliness of being an only child. We talked about our schools, the best foods and prettiest colors. We discussed our favorite television shows, agreeing on Superman and The Mickey Mouse Club, and established nothing was cooler than Clark Kent turning into Superman.
The afternoon waned. We swam, body surfed through foaming waves, and explored underwater realms. We took turns riding a surf board. We tried again to unveil the mystery of the pendant. The day ended, he going to his home, I to mine, mystery unsolved. We agreed to meet the next day, same time, same place. We did, more often than not, for the next seven years.
It was much later that I truly understood the magic the pendant held. It was a treasure, just not the one we thought. There was no secret code, no portal to another world. What we found was much more important. A shy youngest child and an only child formed a friendship that day, a kinship far more valuable than the hammered silver and turquoise pendant.
Catch Me if You Can
By Gaye Hoots
I worked in psychiatric nursing for most of my career and heard many stories that I will never forget, but one that has stayed in my memory was told to me at a teaching seminar. The speaker introduced himself and held up an oil painting that an adolescent had done in an art therapy class. It was reminiscent of Van Gogh to me. Pain and confusion swirled onto the canvas along with the dark green and black oils. I felt a sadness for the person who painted the picture. Usually I am optimistic, but this did not have promise.
The speaker stated he had worked with this youth for several months and was challenged in his attempts to reach the young man. His history included arson and escape from several facilities, and he was currently housed on the third floor of a maximum-security building. As a therapist the speaker was frustrated in his efforts to establish trust with his patient. He believed him to be very intelligent but never gained his trust.
The patient managed to escape that building and start a small fire, which was his signature. He left his painting behind, and his therapist kept it. It had haunted him, and he said he took it to every presentation he did for many years. No trace was ever found of the young man.
Fifteen years later he introduced the painting to a group of psychologists he was speaking to in Canada. He told them it was his most haunting failure. When he finished his presentation and answered follow-up questions, a tall, thin, bearded, doctor of psychology asked to speak with him.
“That is my painting,” he stated. He described how he had escaped the maximum-security facility and subsequent facilities after that. He had attempted to free himself from his past by studying psychology as his way of trying to heal himself. He had succeeded as much as any ever do and had a thriving practice in adolescent psychiatry in Canada.
He told his former therapist to keep his painting, and he continued to open each presentation with the painting and this story.
By Marie Craig
In the mid-80s, my mother, my son, David, and I drove from our home in Columbia, South Carolina, to Davie County to attend a cousin’s wedding. We found the little church easily and enjoyed being with family members as we celebrated this special event. It was a beautiful autumn day full of joy.
I drove our almost-new small station wagon that occasionally had some foul fumes. We had tried in vain to get this problem solved. But the car was dependable. After the wedding, I drove our car back down I-77 to go home. My mother was in front, and David was in the back seat. He decided to take a nap and lay down across the seat. Instead of facing forward, he had his face near the juncture of the seat and the back. He was able to lengthen the seat belt and sleep in this manner. Teenagers are good at improvising.
My mother and I talked quietly to avoid disturbing him. When we were about 20 miles north of Columbia, the car suddenly sputtered and died. I was in the right lane and just drifted onto the paved shoulder. I know nothing about how a car works, but did get out and raise the hood in a universal appeal for help. I went back to tell Ray to come help me, but couldn’t wake him up. About that time, a car pulled over in front of me. A man came back and offered to help. I told him that the car just died suddenly. He looked under the hood and said, “You’re missing a spark plug.” He looked toward the front of the motor, and there was the spark plug that had jumped out. It was on a very narrow ledge with a piece of metal at a right angle measuring only about one-fourth of an inch. That tiny area had caught the spark plug.
The hero-helper said, “I have a spark plug wrench in my car. I can put that back in for you.” And so he did. He also told me that he would follow me the rest of the way to make sure the car kept going.
I finally got David awake, and then got goosebumps when I analyzed what had just happened. My son was breathing those noxious fumes coming up into the seat, and a spark plug jumped out to save his life. An angel stopped to repair our car. A tiny metal angle had caught the spark plug so that we could continue on.
We were soon home, rejoicing all the way for the miracle we had experienced.
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