The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 2:22 pm Tuesday, September 12, 2023

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Road Trips – Homecoming

By Denise Bell

    The word “homecoming” can invoke thoughts of many things. Thoughts of fall, presenting us with a beautiful display of brilliant colors painted across the landscape. Bright lights on a Friday night, the roar of fans and a football game. Memories of a school dance the following night, high school students dressed to impress. But homecoming also invokes thoughts of family, reuniting with those we love.

My most recent road trip was a trip home to Michigan over Labor Day. My grandson had recently graduated from high school, I went “home” for his graduation party. Since I only recently moved away, the idea of coming home was not defined the same way as it is now. I no longer have a home to settle into after the long drive from North Carolina. I must now arrange to stay with my daughter and her family. Figuring out where I will sleep amidst my daughter, her husband and my four grandchildren plus dog is challenging but the grandchildren are happy to sleep on air mattresses in order have me there with them. I have a long list of friends I want to visit, places I want to eat as well as a bit of sightseeing around town just to see what has changed since I lived there.

As I near the place of my birth, Detroit, I am greeted by the outlines of the city. They are shining before me as the sun is setting, welcoming me back. I am thrilled to get my first glimpse of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, the new bridge to Canada. The two towers gleaming, one off the Canadian side, one off the U.S. side, not yet connecting. I arrived after rush hour and had a chance to soak in the landmarks, places I loved and have missed.

The dog is the most excited when I arrive at the house. He can hardly contain himself and happily follows me around the house as I am greeted by my grandchildren.  My grandchildren have a list of things they want to do with me.  Our time has become “quality time.”  We had already grown out of sleepovers when I moved away. When I lived just a few blocks away, they stopped visiting me here and there on occasion but most times it was just fleeting moments together at birthday parties and family dinners. But now they want to fill all the moments I am there, spending time together, watching TV shows snuggled together with the dog at my feet. Going to the movies together, shopping, etc. All the while, laughing and giggling about funny things from days spent together in the years past.

This heartfelt welcome, the joy that we are all so genuinely filled with, this reunion with loved ones warms my heart. Our time together was filled with love and celebration. I now know the feeling of this kind of “homecoming.”  As I am heading out of town, the cityscape in my rearview mirror, I am excited to be returning home to the other half of my family in North Carolina and a different “homecoming” soon to be had.

Paul’s Advice

By Marie Craig

This year in Sunday School we are studying the New Testament.  In preparing the scripture assignment for the next session, I read from First Corinthians.  Paul wrote letters to encourage the people in Corinth and to give them advice.  Some of the verses are a little abstract, and others pertain to traditions of that time which aren’t practiced today.  I kept reading and found the following.

In chapter 10, verse 12, I related to this: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

That sounded like good advice as I remembered standing on a stool trying to reach something.  I thought of others who have pushed the limits in what they should have been doing and have broken their arms or legs because of reaching a little too far and then falling.

Even though this is a good application of Paul’s advice, I imagine this was not what Paul had in mind.  I feel sure he was telling his people to be persistent in believing and practicing their new religion and to treat their neighbors with respect and love.

As we all strive to become better people and stay the course, it is easy to forget our purpose and to lose sight of our good goals.  Diligence needs to accompany any worthy challenge.  Some folks joke about how quickly they lose their zeal with New Year’s Resolutions.

Being a graphic learner, instead of abstract, I find that I persevere better if I write things down and then do something like a check off list.  Marking every day on a calendar for accomplishing goals, such as walking, exercising, phoning sick and needy persons, avoiding addictions such as alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and harmful drugs, practicing music, cleaning house, and landscaping will be helpful.

Perhaps, too, he was including the advice that sometimes you’re not doing as well as you think.  If you have a smug feeling that you’re perfect, you’re probably not.  Humility is such an important trait.  Questioning yourself to see if you’re doing your best might be an interpretation of this verse.  I heard a quote once, “Everybody’s vulnerable.”  There’s not a time when a person, business, or government is perfect.  Life is a series of questioning yourself and seeing if there’s more improvement to be made.


By Julie Terry Cartner

So, this is what it feels like to fly, he thought, as he careened through the air below the bridge. It’s so beautiful. He opened his eyes to the blue skies, the powder white clouds, and the buffet of autumnal hues heralding the early months of fall. You might be able to put paintbrush to canvas and re-create this scene, he thought, but nothing can surpass or even equal the sublime beauty of nature. Because colors were not just the colors on a palate, they were alive. In constant motion with the vagrancies of the breeze ruffling through the leaves and swirling through the clouds, the rays of sunshine kept the trees, the leaves, the earth itself changing in a continual kaleidoscope of colors.

And with that, as if he were seeing nature’s beauty for the first time, he finally saw creation for the wonder it was. Great, he thought, now that it’s all but over, now I see what I have been missing. Suddenly, ironically, he wanted to live more than he wanted his next breath.

He’d said his good-byes. He’d left notes for his family then walked out the door. When they came home that afternoon, there would be nobody to see, no gruesome image for them to carry in their brains forever. Despite the ache in his heart and the muddle in his brain, he’d wanted to spare them that. Never, never would he have wanted his mom, dad, or sister to go in his room and find him.

He’d messed up. He’d made bad friends and worse decisions. He hadn’t wanted to be in that group who had no respect for the law, for personal property, and the sanctity of life. But he’d gotten caught up and then gotten too deep. This seemed to be the only way out, though of course he could see the irony in his sanctity of life thoughts when he was hurtling towards the end of his. They’d robbed that store. The owner had died. It mattered not that it was a heart attack and not a bullet that ended his life, they were still responsible. He knew the police would be at his door soon. He had no doubts cameras had documented the actions of the group. It didn’t even matter that he hadn’t done anything. The very fact that he’d done nothing to stop the attack made him culpable.

He couldn’t bear to see the shame in his parents’ eyes, and so he’d taken the easy way out. As he’d stepped off the bridge, he’d whispered his final good-bye. In mere seconds it would be over. And now, now that it was too late to stop his actions or change the outcome, as he absorbed the beauty around him, he regretted his choice with every fiber of his being. Life, good or bad, was to be lived, cherished, and protected. Family was a gift of infinite love. If given a second chance, he’d do things differently.

But it was too late. Even as he thought those thoughts, his feet broke the surface of the river, and he plummeted down, down, down into its depths. He didn’t hear the screams for help from his baby sister who had followed him. He didn’t see the motorboat that raced to him. He didn’t feel the desperate hands that swam through the water searching for the white of the T shirt he was wearing. He didn’t feel the chest compressions urgently beseeching his body to stay alive. He certainly didn’t feel the cool clean air entering his lungs, but all those things happened.

When he awakened in the ICU, he felt the cool, crisp sheets and smelled the antiseptics. He heard the soft squeaks of the nurse’s shoes as she checked his stats. Most importantly, he saw the love on the faces of his family, and he knew, he knew he’d been given a second chance.

*September is National Suicide Prevention Month. #BeThe1To is the 988 message which helps spread the word about actions we can all take to prevent suicide. “Research shows people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks after them in a caring way. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal ideation.”

Murder in a Small Town

By Gaye Hoots

I now live in the small coastal town of Oriental, where it is smaller and quieter than Advance, where safety seems assured.

A few weeks this illusion was shattered by a murder a few miles from my home. There is a beautiful equestrian farm with a barn that rivals the fancier houses here. It always catches my eye when I pass by. We drove by a few weeks ago. and the barn had burned.

I followed the local news and saw that someone locally had been charged with the murder of the older caretaker who lived in an apartment over the stable. A few weeks later, my girls were attending a festival in Oriental and heard the story of the murder.

A young girl was pointed out and identified as the girlfriend of the murderer. On the day of the murder, she and the man charged were drinking in a local bar, and their behavior aroused suspicions as they were also using other substances. The female was described as scantily dressed and “all over him.” They were observed by a friend of the man’s wife, whose family owned the barn.

The wife was well known for all the equestrian awards she won, displayed on the barn’s lower level. When informed of her husband’s whereabouts and behavior, she drove to the bar and confronted her husband. This scene would equal any of the drama on TV. I heard her husband became enraged and either returned to their home or confronted his wife and children somewhere. He struck his wife and possibly one of the children, then had the girlfriend drive him to the barn. He sought revenge by setting the barn on fire to destroy all her trophies. Whether he was aware of the presence of the caretaker is unclear, but as a family member, he must have known of the living arrangements. The barn burned, and the caretaker lost his life.

The local gossip was that the man charged came from a wealthy family with a history of minor scrapes, which money had helped smooth over. His use of alcohol, poor judgment, and temper tantrum has cost him his family and probably his freedom. It cost the tenant his life.

The news has some version of this story every day. A student, enraged over a poor grade, kills his instructor. A drunk man starts a fight at a bar or attacks his wife. If fired, someone returns to the workplace and kills the person who fired them: and their co-workers. As a retired mental health nurse, I know of a growing population of users and untreated people with mental health issues, poor judgment, and lack of control.

Screening and treatment should start in preschool. No screening is given to new parents; many babies leave the hospital with parents who cannot qualify to get a dog from the pound. When years of mental or emotional abuse go untreated, the results are often disastrous. Mental illness does not justify actions or absolve responsibility, but recognition could save many innocent lives and the life of the person responsible as well.

Recent news in Advance describes a local murder that falls into this category. The man charged had a history of violence. Many of the murders are committed by felons with a record that is a definite red flag. Those released usually have no treatment while incarcerated and little if any, chance of getting a job that allows them to support themselves. This is a dangerous combination. The present overcrowding in prisons makes it a more likely scenario.

Please stay aware of the people you are in contact with in every area of your life. Be kind and slow to anger, engage in arguments, road rage, etc., and avoid large crowds where alcohol rules. Late-night crowds have the potential to be dangerous. Err on the side of caution and teach your kids to as well.

There are many ways funds for mental health assessment and screening could improve lives, but in my experience, the trend is decreased availability and funding. I believe the bigger the town,  workplace,  school, and crowd, the more enormous the potential is for violence.