The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 10:38 am Tuesday, June 6, 2023

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By Julie Terry Cartner

She didn’t know when, or even how, it started. All she knew was sometimes the pain was more than she could bear. Deep breaths, intended to calm, to soothe the beast within, instead, jabbed her like dark daggers, seeking to disembowel her deepest fears, her inexplicable despair. Other times, the pain was more of an ache, the dullest hint of pain gradually blooming across her body like poison ivy, insidiously creeping from limb to limb until the misery overtook her entire being, and her head ached so badly, her neck could no longer support it.

And yet, she could remember better times, although the happy memories grew harder and harder to capture, dissolving like mist through her fingers, as time marched by. But she could remember the beauty, the innocence, of hot summer days, playing on her swing set, running through the sprinklers, laughing with her friends, and lying on her back on dark summer nights counting the stars and feeling at peace with the world. Where had that joy gone? What had happened?

She’d tried self-medication, using alcohol to dull the pain. It helped at first, until it didn’t, and then she’d had to increase her intake until her alcohol abuse was as harmful as the depression. Like many before, she’d started with beer, easily accessed from the corner market, the store clerk careless with checking IDs, more interested in making a sale than risking confrontations.

When beer, or wine, no longer worked, she’d moved on to the hard stuff, the procurement more expensive. With shame, she remembered the $20s she’d lifted from her mom’s pocketbook, randomly enough that her mom would think she’d just forgotten she’d spent more than she had. Her shame grew when she realized those purloined bills had been earmarked for food and other necessities for the family.

A vicious cycle, shame and guilt added to her pain, making alcohol anesthesia even more necessary to alleviate her pain.

Even more challenging, she was underage, and, with ID checks being far more stringent at ABC stores, she’d had to rely on the age-old system of favors, getting others to buy the alcohol for her. She reached the point that she’d do anything to get her fix, be it alcohol or drugs; it really didn’t matter to her.

Interventions, shouting matches, anger spewing, blame cast; she’d cut so many ties, burned so many bridges.

Labels, all accurate, but yet, not the whole picture. High school dropout, homeless, alcoholic, druggie; she didn’t think she could descend any lower. She learned that she could.

Sometimes she glimpsed the girl inside, the bright-eyed child who’d loved playing school, teaching the intricacies of ABC’s to button-eyed teddy bears, and curly haired dolls. She’d been that kid who had actually enjoyed playing with her friends’ little brothers and sisters. She’d loved children; their inquisitiveness enchanting her. She had known she’d be a teacher one day.

So, looking at the drug-laced candies she’d been assigned to hand out to guileless children laughing on the playground, she’d loathed herself with a hatred stronger than her need. Who was she?

Deep inside herself, she knew she’d hit rock bottom. She’d rather die than lead innocent children down her personal pathway of hell. She was done.

Breaking the beer bottle she gripped in her hand, she pressed the jagged edge to her wrist. As blood welled up through the gash, she sobbed, “I don’t want this.” As the blood gurgled through her fingers trying to staunch the flow, the smallest kernel of strength flitted through her brain. Fumbling for her phone, she pushed the numbers, even as blackness threatened.

“9-11. What’s your emergency?” a disembodied voice asked.

“I need help,” she managed to say right before darkness overtook her.

May is mental health awareness month.

“Nearly one-third of people with major depression also have an alcohol problem. Often the depression comes first….[however] Drinking will only make depression worse. People who are depressed and drink too much have more frequent and severe episodes of depression and are more likely to think about suicide.” [Watson, Stephanie. (and medically reviewed by Jennifer Casarella, MD) “Alcohol and Depression.” WebMD.]

Mocksville Courthouses

By Marie Craig

Squint real hard the next time you are in Mocksville on the square, use your imagination, and you might catch a glimpse of the old courthouse that sat right in the middle of the square.  It was a two-story building that measured forty-five feet by forty feet.  It was built about 1837, right after Davie County was formed from the northern part of the too-large Rowan County.  The jail was also built that year.  Together, they cost $11,312.  The main entrance of this first courthouse faced north.  There’s a legend about a renegade man who rode his horse through the courthouse, and upon being fined, he said to charge him double because it was so much fun that he was going to do it again.

     After the next courthouse was built in 1909, the first one served several purposes.  In 1912, there was a library in two rooms on the first floor.  Three years later, ladies turned it into a community building.  They painted and remodeled to have public restrooms for women and children coming into town to shop.  Then they built a stage upstairs so that programs and concerts could take place for the public.  Silent movies were shown with live piano background music.  Articles in the newspapers invited singers on Sunday afternoons to come for sing-alongs using Christian Harmony songbooks.  This was one type of shape note music that many people learned in Singing Schools at churches.  It was unaccompanied.  Words of the songs described realistic scenes and descriptive phrases such as “The cedars of Lebanon bow at His feet” and “There is a Happy Land.”

Another use for the old courthouse was because there was a fire in the top of the new courthouse on 28 February 1916.  Offices had to be moved back into the old building temporarily until repairs were completed.

In 1922, there were differing opinions about the first courthouse.  Some men and women wanted to keep it, but those wanting a paved road to go straight through the center of town had opposing views.  At three in the morning in 1922, workmen started dismantling it quickly so that it would be too destroyed to be salvaged.  It was razed, but the curved roads around the old courthouse remain, a reminder of the first courthouse.


Ebbs and Flows, Ends and Beginnings

By Denise Bell

The end of a school year has always been one of my favorite times of year. As a child growing up, it was the beginning of long summer days spent running in the neighborhood, Kool aid stands, picnics in the park and sleep outs in tents made from blankets pinned to a clothesline in the back yard. As the close of each school year passed each year, so did some of the monumental events of growing up. Finding independence, getting a job, learning to drive, and graduating high school.

As I grow older, I seem to find myself reflecting on how meaningful this time of year can be in one’s life. Particularly this year as my grandson is graduating from high school. He is not my first grandchild to experience this rite of passage. It was a great joy for me to see my first granddaughter walk across the stage in 2018. My second granddaughter had the misfortune of being in the graduating class of 2020; however, her walk across the parking lot was even more wonderful because of the challenges this class had to face. Now my grandson, my number one (and only) grandson is crossing this final milestone of youth into adulthood.

As it does for all, his graduation from elementary school to middle school marked an end to his adolescence and the beginning of his teenage years. This ending to his high school years is another beginning for him. A beginning that comes with it a great promise of the future, all things possible, things to be experienced and achieved.

What I wish for this beautiful boy is that he allows himself the luxury of experiencing the ebbs and flows of his life. Savor the flows when life is easy as warm summer breeze, gently moving around you. Try to live life in the present, making the greatest memories. Memories you carry with you. Of beautiful sunrises and sunsets shared with people you love and places that are meaningful. When life ebbs, when we struggle, it is not comfortable. Experience that and fight to get a grasp on what is important. Learn from it and grow. Take it from me, sometimes it takes a bit longer for a lesson to reveal itself. But it is always gratifying when we recognize that we have in fact learned.

     Grandson, you have been the man in my life for nearly eighteen years. You have been my Bear, my stormtrooper, my camping buddy, my handy man, my movie date, and so much more. This new beginning is your blank canvas. It is endless. Go paint your own landscape, full of vibrant colors and details. I cannot wait to see what you make of it all!

ongratulations! To my grandson, Carey, and to the Class of 2023.

Feel Good Stories

By Gaye Hoots

My story is about 6-year-old twins I know and love. A year ago, they were on a church playground enjoying their rambunctious play when a mother and 5-year-old son approached. The mother explained that they were from out of state visiting their in-laws, and she wanted her son to get some outdoor playtime. He was an only child and tended to be shy; she was trying to encourage him to play with others because he would be starting kindergarten, and she wanted the transition to be smooth. Unexpectedly he dropped her hand and joined the twins in an hour of happy playtime.

Fast forward a year, and as the twin’s mom picked them up from an outdoor camp that they loved, a woman asked if their mom remembered her. She was the mom of the boy from the playground. She explained that they had recently moved to the area and shared that her son had developed encephalitis. This serious medical condition prevented him from starting school shortly after their visit last year. It had required frequent treatments, and she had home-schooled him.

This year at home and the medical problems had increased his dependence on her and his shyness around other kids. Then they moved to where he knew no one except family, primarily adults. She wanted him to meet other kids and willingly play with them, so she inquired and was given the name of the nature camp. When they came for a tour and exited the car, he dropped her hand, ran to a girl, hugged her, and held her face while talking. This completely surprised his mom, but when she saw the second red-haired girl approach him, she recognized the twins from last year. He was thrilled to be able to attend the camp with his friends from last year.

Another story was related to me by a friend. While he was shopping, a teenage employee insisted on taking his groceries to the car as he left the store. He prepared to give a tip and was impressed that the boy was working hard to earn it. The boy spotted a Shriner’s emblem on the vehicle and asked if he was a Shriner. The Shiners were on an adjoining highway collecting money in sight of the parking lot. The boy refused a tip and insisted on giving five dollars for him to take to the collection site.

He said his younger brother required heart surgery that his family could not afford and that the Shriners paid for it, saving his brother’s life. Once employed, he contributed every time he passed a collection point. “They gave my brother back to us,” he stated.

There are many stories of kindness and ministry around us; I wish those were what we heard on the news and read in the headlines each day instead of the distressing items called news that we see there. It would change the world for all of us.