The Best Birthday Ever – DP Challenge


Max sat in the porch swing of his farm house south of Nashville in the early evening hours of a hot summer day.  He had just celebrated his seventy fifth birthday and decided he needed a break from the festivities of supper and opening presents and children begging to open them for him and, of course, from him letting them.

He heard the screen door around the corner of the wrap-around porch open and close with a slam.  Figuring a small child was going to come running around the corner he pulled back his outstretched legs not wanting to trip the little hooligan.  But instead his wife, Annie, of forty years came by and sat down next to him silently and then let out a big sigh.

“I haven’t cooked a supper like that in I can’t remember how long.  You better have appreciated it, mister!” She let out a chuckle and patted his knee affectionatly.

“You know I appreciate everything you do, dear,” Max said truthfully.

“I know you do,” she said with a smile.  “And you had better do the same for me when turn seventy five!”

They both laughed and he put his arm around her, while she laid her head on his shoulder, much the same way they had done before they were even married.  Things hadn’t changed much in their relationship except that they grew to love each other more each year.  He knew it sounded cliche whenever someone asked him about it, but he honestly believed that each birthday and each anniversary when he reflected on his life, he found that he loved his wife more each time.  Nobody asked him about his children or grandchildren, but he loved them more each year also.

He heard the screen door once again and a moment later a little girl of five years old came around the corner and beamed at the sight of grandma and grandpa.

“Well hello, Little Miss!”  Emily, their only granddaughter walked up to them as Max stopped their easy, relaxing swing.

“Hi papa,” she said in her sweet angelic southern accent. “Hi, grandma.”

Max picked her up and put her on the swing between him and Annie and started rocking the swing once again.  The sun made its way below the trees in front of them casting an orange glow over the horses in the field and, up close, the fireflies could be seen sending out their mating calls. Frogs and crickets could be heard croaking and chirping their songs to each other.  Without realizing it, Max sighed a completly relaxed and contented sigh.  Everything was perfect just as it was right in this moment. He again put his arm on the back of the swing and gently traced circles and figure eights around the back of Annie’s neck which used to send goosebumps up her arms way back when.  He did it without thinking about it now.

He had had many such perfect moments in his life as he reflected on it.  The moment after he proposed to Annie and she tearfully accepted.  The moment he sat on this very porch swing with her after they bought this house.  The moment each of his two children were born and the moment he first held each of his five grandchildren.  They were all perfect moments at the time.  But this one, this moment seemed to top them all.

The moment was interrupted by the sweet voice of Emiliy.  “Papa,” she inquired.

“Yes, sweetie.”

“Tell me about when you and grandma were little like me.”

Max looked at Annie with a smile.  “Well, cupcake, I grew up in the city in the north and Grandma grew up in the country in the South.  And nobody thought we would make it!”  Emily giggled with all the enthusiasm of a five year old which swelled Max and Annie’s hearts so full of joy they could hardly contain themselves.

“A Yankee and a Rebel,” she exclaimed, having heard them recall Annie’s parents declaration, and giggled once again.  They all heartily laughed at that and when they eventually settled down, the frogs and crickets once again dominated the conversation as the sun fell further and further behind the trees.

“Papa,” she asked again.  “Will boys ever like me?”

“Little Miss, what are you thinking about boys for at your age?”

“Well, there’s this boy, Tommy and I like him.  But he picks on me and calls me names.  Mamma said that’s because he likes me, but it sure don’t seem like it.”

“Well, let me tell you something about little boys, honey.  When they’re young like you are, they tend do mean things to the girls they like because they think they’re not supposed to like little girls.  But when you get older, they’ll like you plenty.  They’ll even want to kiss you!”

“Not Tommy.  He won’t want to.”

“Yes, even Tommy will want to.”  He thought about the girls he had crushes on when he was young.  He could remember their names, but he couldn’t picture their faces anymore.  Amy, Jennifer, and Jessica.  It was so long ago and yet he could remember feeling like he was strange for actually liking them.  How much a young boy’s perspective changes in the few short years from adolecence to the teenage years.

“And then when you’re a little older than Bubba, boys will start to ask you out on dates.  And your mamma and daddy will want to meet them to make sure they are good enough for you.  And of course they won’t be good enough for you beacuse you’re a perfect little angel aren’t you?” He poked her in the belly and she scruched up and laughed till little tears came streaming out of her eyes.

“And then you’ll go to college and you’ll meet a boy there and you’ll eventually fall in love and get married.”

“Like you and Grandma?”

“Yep.  Just like me and Grandma.  And you’ll have kids just like me and Grandma had your mamma and your Uncle Henry.”  This seemed to satisfy her curiosity for the moment as she didn’t ask any further questions.  They continued to gently swing as the sun finally set below the horizon.  Something in the distance set the horses running which made Emily sit up and watch them.  When they finally settled down and continued their grazing, she sat back, and leaned against Annie who held her close, while Max held his arm around Annie completing the circle of protection.

Max thought of when he was a young man chasing the college girls all around.  His prioties had been, girls, booze, sleep and school.  In that order.  When his own parents had threatened to make him pay for the school he was failing out of, he changed his priorities.  School and girls shared the first priority while booze was a close third.  But school won out and he graduated, moving to Nashville for a job.  His focus went to money first, then girls and booze following a close second and third.  And finally he met Annie.  The proverbial friend of a friend.  His first priority immediately switched to her.  He couldn’t get her out of his mind no matter how hard he tried.  Getting her was his focus, his drive.

When he finally got her he didn’t want to let her go and she didn’t want him to either.  They were married and shortly thereafter they had their daughter.  His perspective again shifted to providing for his new family.  Protecting his daughter and wife became first priority.  Then their son came.  He could hardly believe that he had a family and responsibilities that five or six years previous would have seemed like a joke to him.

My how some things change and yet how some things never change.  He recalled how he felt about Annie when he first met her and how that hadn’t changed in over forty years.  He recalled how he felt when his children were born and how that hadn’t really changed throughout the years.  And he thought of his priorities before Annie and how it changed yearly, almost monthly, sometimes.

Max heard the porch door open again and his daughter came around the corner.  “There y’all are!  We were wondering where the man of the hour and all his ladies went!”

Max stood up and hugged his daughter and smiled.  “Now I have all my ladies.” He positioned her and motioned for her to sit in the swing with her own daughter and her mother.  He leaned on the porch railing and thought for a moment as he gazed upon three generations of those whom he loved more than his own life and determined that this moment topped the one he had five minutes ago.

This moment, with so many others, would be ingrained in his memory until he took his last breath.  He hoped it wouldn’t be for a long time yet to come, but if he died tonight, he would die the happiest man on earth.  He had lived a storied life with all his adventures and conquests, but it was those in front of him now, and all those in his house that made his life worth living.  His family was the most precious thing he could have, and from the time it began, it had provided the perspective he needed to enjoy and experience life as he knew it was meant to be experienced.

As darkness enveloped them, and the frogs and crickets grew louder, they headed back into the house for cake and ice cream.  Emily was first to go back in, followed by her mother.  Max held his wife Annie back and put his hands on her waist and she put her arms around his neck and his kissed her.  As they looked into each other’s eyes reliving forty years in just a second, they both heard two of their younger grandsons.  “Ewwwwww,” they exclaimed simultaneously.  They smiled, held back a laugh, and walked in the house, hand in hand, both knowing their grandson’s priorities would change soon enough.



Brady’s Silence (explicit)

The Challenge
There are multiple ways of interacting with silence: purposefully leaving something unsaid, breaking the silence around a topic, or, quite simply, getting tongue-tied. For this week’s challenge, we want you to take the theme of silence and explore it in your own way.

The summer of 1956 was a most memorable summer for young Brady Holt.  Brady was a precocious ten year old from Peru, Indiana and he was out of his element in the balmy, sticky, humid climate of southern Alabama.

Rarely had Brady been outside of his tiny hometown except a few times for a wedding or a funeral or something he didn’t really care about in Indianapolis, just an hour or so to the south.  Brady wanted to go places to see them, not to attend stuffy formal events and be cooped up all day long inside.  He had the typical mind of a ten year old boy that wanted adventure in the exotic places of the world like the Wild West tracking down Geronimo or perhaps the deserts of Egypt making his way to see the Great Pyramids.

It was with this spirit that he could hardly contain himself when his father announced one day that the family was going to Pensacola, Florida to visit his relatives.  It was going to be the adventure of a lifetime for Brady.  He’d meet cousins his own age for the first time.  He’d be near the ocean!  Well, as near to the ocean as he’d ever been anyway, and the Gulf of Mexico seemed just as big as the ocean when you were in its presence.

So the tiny family of three, Brady and his father and mother, packed the car and headed south along US route 31which ran straight through the middle of Peru through ninety percent of the trip to Pensacola.  It was early evening on the second day of the journey when the family stopped for gasoline and dinner in the small town of McKenzie, Alabama about a half hour north of the Florida state line.

They stopped at Floyd’s Station and Brady’s dad told the man to fill it up, check the oil and top off the radiator.  He said they’d be back in a little bit after grabbing some supper at the diner across the street.

Brady reluctantly held his mother’s hand as they crossed the street, protesting the whole time that he wasn’t a child and he could cross the street himself.  In the end his mother won and only let go of his hand once they walked into the diner.

It didn’t seem like anything new to Brady, but he was excited nonetheless.  Elvis’ new hit Heartbreak Hotel played incessantly on the jukebox and the smell of hamburgers and fries wasn’t new to him either.  But it still held a mystique to young Brady because it was in a far off place called Alabama.  He knew more of this state because of baseball than what he learned in school.  The extent of his knowledge was that Willie Mays and Hank Aaron were from Alabama and the capitol was Montgomery.  And he had heard plenty about Montgomery and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lately with the bus boycotts going on.

Brady had heard about it from the evening news he sometimes listened to on the radio with his dad and he sometimes heard a passing comment his dad made to his mother while reading the newspaper.  He often wondered why the “negro’s” would boycott the busses and why they were treated differently than regular people.  He sometimes tried to ask his dad about it, but he rarely gave him a satisfactory answer stating that “they” were just different and these laws were there to protect them because white southerners weren’t ready for integration yet.  Brady never got an answer as to why the white people weren’t ready for integration or how black people were different than white people.  To him, the only difference was the color of their skin.  But then again, in a small rural area of central Indiana, Brady had actually never seen a black person in the flesh.

Brady went to the counter where there was an extra seat.  He sat down claiming his stake at the “bar” and begged his dad to let him sit there.  He agreed and he and Brady’s mom sat down at a nearby booth.

Brady noticed the waitress take a plate from the window that the cooks would put orders on a ring the bell and thought she was the prettiest woman he’d ever seen.  Her chestnut hair fell in loose curls over her shoulders and she had the biggest brown eyes he’d ever seen.  She walked over to him and smiled.

“Hi there, sweet pea,” she said in the most beautiful southern belle accent this ten year old boy had ever heard.  “What’ll it be?”

“Um, hi,” Brady stammered.  “Can I have a plain cheeseburger and some French fries,” he asked.  He heard his father clear his throat somewhere behind him and Brady added, “Please?”

The perky high school senior smiled, “You sure can, honey.  You want anything to drink like a Coke or a Dr. Pepper?”

“I’ll have a Coke,” he said.  “Please,” he added before his father could clear his throat again.

Brady looked around again, soaking in this new experience so he could tell all his friends about it when he got home.  How he had visited Alabama and went to the same diner that Willie Mays might have gone to!  Even sat in the same chair!

Brady hadn’t realized that the Jim Crow laws would have prevented Willie Mays from ever sitting right where he was sitting.  Even now that he was in the big leagues, Brady would never have known that Willie Mays probably wouldn’t even be able to get a Coke from a place like this.  But he would soon learn.

The waitress brought his cheeseburger and French fries over and a chocolate milkshake over and set them down in front of Brady.  “I made this milkshake by accident, honey, and didn’t want it to go to waste.  Do you like chocolate milkshakes?”

“Yes, ma’am!  Gee, thank you!”  Brady took the cheeseburger in his hands and took an unhealthy fist size bite out it and chewed with the biggest grin on his face.  He was really here.  Far away from home and everything he was used to.  In the morning he’d be at the ocean and going on adventures with his cousins.  He swallowed and sucked for a second on the straw in his thick chocolate milkshake that was melting fast in the evening heat of the deep south.

He heard the slam of a screen door in the back but paid it no mind as a Patti Page record started to play on the jukebox.  He took another bite of his cheeseburger and turned his head to a commotion he barely perceived in his young impressionable mind.  What he saw made his eyes widen and he swallowed his half chewed cheeseburger hard.

By the back door of the diner was the door to the kitchen and there stood a wiry black man who was just about as old as the pretty young waitress that had just served Brady.  He looked frightened as two big and burly farm boys flanked him.  Brady could hear one of them talking to the black man but he couldn’t hear what he was saying.  He strained, but try as he might, he couldn’t hear what was being said.  The black man kept looking down at the ground but wouldn’t say a word.

Suddenly, the farm boy closest to the door took hold of the kid and shoved him up against the wall.  Then he threw him into the main dining room and the kid fell right at Brady’s feet.  Brady looked at the terrified kid’s eyes and didn’t know what to do.  He had never seen a real fight before and had never seen a real black person before.  This was all new, but it seemed so very wrong to young Brady.  What had he done?  He was just standing there as far as Brady knew.  Why had they pushed him against the wall and then shoved him down?

Brady held his gaze and started to do the thing he felt like he should.  He got off his stool and held his hand out to help the kid up, but a strong hand lifted him up and put him back on the stool.  He had no idea what had just happened, he kept looking at the terror in the black kid’s eyes.

“What’re you lookin’ at nigger,” one of the farm boys yelled.  “You lookin’ at Cindy?  That’s my girl, nigger!  You lookin’ at my girl?”

“No sir,” the kid stammered and shuffled backwards on his hands as the farm boys approached him.  He stumbled and fell on his rear, his feet trying to gain traction to keep pushing himself backwards.  He was nervous as all eyes were on him and he didn’t know how to get out of this mess he had somehow found himself in.  “Please, sir.  I jus wanted a Coke.  I’m jus passin’ through, sir.  I don’t want no trouble.”

“’I don’t want no trouble suh’,” one farm boy mocked.  “Well you got trouble, boy.  This here diner don’t serve no niggers.  Never has, never will.”

“I am sorry,” the kid managed and finally was able to stand up.  He turned around and was ready to high tail it out the front door when one of the farm boys pushed him from behind and the kid went crashing through the screen door, getting tangled in the metal mesh of the screen and tumbling again to the hard concrete sidewalk.

Brady turned back to the counter and noticed the smug look on the pretty waitresses face and all of a sudden, she didn’t look so pretty to him anymore.  He took another bite of his cheeseburger and went to the booth where his parents were and sat down next to his mother.

“Dad,” he asked.  “What did that kid do wrong?”

His dad looked at him and said, “Not now, son.  We’ll talk about it later.”  He leaned over and looked past the booth and out towards the front door and didn’t see the kid or the two farm boys.  “You done with your dinner?  We have another hour or so until we get to Uncle Kevin’s house and I don’t want to get in too late.”

“Yeah,” Brady answered.  “I guess I’m finished.”

He got up and his mother followed and Brady’s father went to the counter and handed the pretty waitress that wasn’t so pretty anymore a bill and some change for the meal.

When they left the doorless diner, they had walked only a few feet when they heard more commotion across the street nearby the gas station they were headed to.  Brady ran across the deserted street without looking and stood on the curb not able to take his eyes away from the horror of what he was watching.

There stood the black kid, being held up by one of the farm boys.  The other, the one whose girl was the waitress, was punching the kid in the gut and giving hooks that Brady thought Joe Lewis would throw, to the kid’s jaws.  With one hook, Brady saw a spray of red and something white come flying out of his mouth.

Brady wanted to yell at them to stop.  That the kid said he only wanted a Coke and that was it.  He didn’t want any trouble so stop beating him up.  But nothing would come out of his mouth.  He took a step forward and tried again.  He opened his mouth but nothing would come out.

His father had stepped up behind him and tried to steer him towards the car, but he shrugged him off.  He knew this was wrong and yet how could he stop this?  What could he do as a mere ten year old kid?  Tears started streaming down his cheeks and he looked up at his dad, pleading with him to stop this.  He couldn’t do anything, but his dad could.  He was an adult.  Hadn’t he always said to go to an adult if something bad happened or he had trouble with an older boy at school?  His dad looked at him sympathetically and said, “Come on.”

He once more tried to steer him toward the car and once more Brady shrugged him off.  More defiantly this time since his dad seemed to not want to help.  He turned and saw the kid crumpled on the ground and the farm boy that was holding him got his two cents in by kicking him full in the gut before the two of them walked away.

Brady took another few steps forward, as if he wanted to help the kid, but didn’t know what to do or how to help.  He could hear the kid coughing and groaning and could see the blood on his clothes and around his mouth in the cold light of the street lamp.

Brady wiped tears from his eyes as the kid staggered to stand up.  He stood there for a brief second and looked up at Brady and for the second time their eyes met.  He gave Brady such a haunting look that it would never leave his mind for the rest of his life.  It was a look that said, “You’ve just been shown only a little bit of what my people have had to go through and are going through now.  Don’t just stand there next time.  Don’t just stand there in silence and watch.  I’m no different than you except the color of my skin.”

The kid staggered and stumbled back to some house or some car from where he came.  Only when he disappeared around the corner did Brady turn around and slowly walk to the car.  In that moment in young Brady’s life, he resolved to never again be silent.


The Valentine

Vince couldn’t concentrate all day long. He wanted to go home and see his girlfriend Olivia and surprise her for Valentine’s Day. Their relationship had been rocky for the last several months, but it wasn’t anything he thought they couldn’t work through.

The whole week he was thinking about what he could do to show her just how much he loved her. He wanted to do something special on Valentine’s Day for her and try to patch things up. He knew he had work to do in order for their relationship to heal and to progress, and he was up to the task. He loved this woman and wanted to be with her forever.

Vince thought of all kinds of things. Simple things and elaborate things. Things that would be expensive and things that were cheap. He tossed around a romantic weekend getaway and he tossed around dinner and a movie. What he settled on was simple, elegant, and romantic. And he knew she would love it. The minute he decided what he was going to do it was half past nine and he put his plan into motion. He still couldn’t concentrate on work.


Olivia sat at her desk in her cubicle and sighed. Three in the afternoon and still no flowers from Vince. He really didn’t love her. He knew she was a sucker for holiday’s and she had dropped him hints about Valentine’s Day coming up. She resolved in her mind that if she didn’t get flowers or chocolates or even just a note or phone call on Valentine’s Day, she would leave him. She didn’t want to, she loved him, but she couldn’t go on like this for the rest of her life. Trying to change certain things to make him happy while he never did anything to try to make her happy. What kind of relationship was that? So when her afternoon break came at three o’clock and there were no flowers, chocolates, notes or phone calls from him, she went from depressed to angry. She thought of all the things she had given up because of him. The big promotion at work that meant they’d have to move, the weekends with her girlfriends, and as much as she hated to admit it, she’d do it again if she just knew how he felt.

Olivia had tried, for the three years they had been serious, to get him to open up more to her. She wanted him to let go of the fear and stigma of men talking about their feelings. She knew it would help him. But he never really “got” it. He would come home upset about something and be so cold to her and she’d gently prod to get him to let it out and instead of talking, he’d explode. Those nights usually ended up in an argument and Olivia crying herself to sleep on the sofa wanting to get out of the unhappy relationship but not wanting to leave this man she loved.

She had worked up the courage all day long for the inevitable, had made arrangements with her best friend to stay with her at her apartment until she could find a place of her own and figured she would go home, tell him she was leaving him, pack a few essentials and leave. She would worry about getting the rest of her stuff later. It was 3:30 now. Time to leave work. She would have forty-five more minutes on the commute home to figure out what she would say to him.


Vince put the finishing touches on the home-made card and set it on the dining room table in front of the bouquet of lilies he had bought when he left work. There was a dozen roses on her nightstand in the bedroom too. He went into the kitchen to check on the dinner he was making to make sure everything was done and hot and ready for when she got home. He heard the garage door open and was so nervous. He was so excited to see her.

Olivia walked in and looked so sad. His heart skipped a beat as he saw her look so sad. What was wrong? What happened? Her face turned from sadness to confusion as she looked at the dining room table already set for dinner and she smelled the Italian food cooking with wafts of garlic and oregano finding their way to her from the kitchen. She saw the flowers and the card on the table and her own heart skipped a beat as she looked at Vince.

“Hey, baby,” he said quietly. “Look, I know I’ve been a jerk these past couple months and I know I haven’t exactly been the best guy in the world before that either. But I love you. I can’t describe it so I let other people say how much I love you. It’s in the card.” He walked to the table and picked up the card and handed it to her. She looked at it as he handed it to her and then took it. Before she looked at it, she looked up at him. She looked in his eyes and flushed. She looked down, paused for a few seconds and then opened the card.

Dear Liv,
I love you. But that’s not enough to explain how I feel. It’s much more. You know I’m not good with showing feelings, or talking about things, but from today on, I will try. I love you more than anything.

She put the card down on the table and sniffled as a tear rolled down her cheek. She looked up and he wasn’t there. He appeared in the corner of her eye from the living room and music filled the air from their surround sound stereo system. It was a breezy bossa nova type song and then she heard Tony Bennet start to sing. Vince opened his arms in the traditional dancing pose and she walked over to him and put her hand on his shoulder and took his other hand in hers and they started dancing.

“Hold me close and hold me fast,” Tony crooned. “This magic spell you cast, this is la vie en rose. When you kiss me heaven sighs, and though I close my eyes, I see la vie en rose.”

Olivia closed her teary eyes and rested her head on his chest. He brought her hand in towards them both and the arm around her waist brought her in closer and held her tightly.

“When you press me to your heart, I’m in a world apart, a world where roses bloom, and when you speak, angels sing from above, every day words, seem to turn into love songs. Give your heart and soul to me, and life will always be la vie en rose.”

Cliffhanger – Part 1 (DP Challenge)

Sam woke up on a bright sunny, yet chilly November morning. The warmth from under the covers was reason enough to not get out of bed. His pregnant wife, who was sleeping soundly next to him, was the perfect reason not to get out of bed.

Sam rolled over to face his wife, Sara, and gazed upon her. She glowed even when she was asleep. These were the perfect moments that he lived for. Just to look at her.

He reached over to stroke her hair and moved a lock behind her ear and then ran his finger down her cheek to her chin. She stirred and smiled before opening her eyes and looking at Sam.

“Good morning, beautiful.” Sam said with a smile.

“Morning, honey,” she answered. “What’s for breakfast?”

“Whatever you and junior want,” Sam said with a smile.

“Bacon. I would like some bacon. And an egg.”

“You stay right here. I’ll be back in a few minutes with bacon and an egg.”

Sam got up and went to make his wife breakfast. He heard his cell phone ring a special ringtone. He froze and the blood drained from his face. He went to his phone and looked at the display. It read Unavailable. The phone rang for the fourth time and he answered it, but no one said a word on either end.

“Hello,” he stammered.

“Mr. Smith?” The voice was soft and inviting. She had a sweet southern accent and the image of a short, beautiful woman with wavy flowing auburn hair came to his mind.

“No, I think you have a wrong number.”

“Is this 848-5083,” asked the voice sweetly.

“No, it’s 848-5038,” came the automatic reply.

“Silly me! I’m so sorry to disturb you.” The line went dead and he stood there with the phone still pressed to his ear. A million questions went through his mind all at once overloading his circuits. He began to tremble and dropped the iPhone to the ground causing the glass to splinter just as if it was a windshield that was hit with a bullet.

What did they want him to do? Why now after seven years of silence? He trained nonstop for two years for this and waited for seven. What the hell is going on?

He went back into the bedroom and looked at his wife who was just beginning to maneuver out of bed. Sam started to get dressed and didn’t say anything.

“Honey, what’s wrong? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost!”

“I, uh, it was the office. I’m so sorry but I have to go in for a little bit.”

“But Sam, it’s Sunday morning! They never call on a weekend.”

“I’m sorry babe. They just said it was urgent.” He avoided eye contact with her. He hated to lie to her, he was never good at it and she could always see through it. But lie he did, and she didn’t seem to notice.

He finished getting dressed and went to the side of the bed where she silently sat and gave her a kiss on her forehead and then knelt beside her.

“I’ll give you a call when I can. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to make your own bacon and eggs this morning.” He smiled, lifted her pajama top over her swollen belly and kissed it before he left without saying goodbye or I love you.


Sam sat on the park bench overlooking a pond with the city skyline as the backdrop. It was still chilly out and he took a sip of steaming coffee while he waited. He impatiently looked at his watch for the third time in as many minutes. Every jogger, every dog walker, every person that walked past him caused the pit in his stomach to be a little deeper. What could they possibly want now?

“Hello, David,” a male voice said behind him. He began to turn and thought better of it. “How’ve you been?” An older man walked around the bench and sat down beside Sam. Sam didn’t say a word.

“You never were one for unnecessary talk, were you?” When Sam didn’t speak the man laughed. “Right. Well, I’m sure you’re wondering why you’ve been called here. After all, seven years four months and nineteen days is a long time to go without hearing from your employer. The truth is, we didn’t need you until now. We have a job for you. You’re not going to like it, but if you don’t do it we’ll do it for you and it will not be pretty and you’ll be included in the contract. I wanted to get that out of the way right off the bat. Are we clear?”

Sam paused and considered his options which weren’t many. “Clear,” he said quietly.

“Good,” said the man jovially. “I don’t need to remind you why you volunteered for this job do I?” He emphasized the word “volunteered”.

“No sir.”

“Good,” he said in the same jovial tone as before. “All you need to know is this contract is high priority. An enemy of the state that has eluded us for years who we just found three days ago. This is a terrorist that has bombed clinics, refugee camps, cafes, hospitals, you name it, they’ve bombed it.

“She joined al Qaeda as a special operative in 1999 in Lebanon. Her two brothers were a captain and a major in the Lebanese army and deserted to join the terrorist group with her. They aided the men that attacked New York in 2001. She’s pretty important if al Qaeda allowed a woman to be in the inner circle.”

Sam sat there and listened not knowing what else to do. He had trained for this. To be a sleeper agent. To do one job and then disappear. To help his country in its time of need. To do his patriotic duty. He knew he received paychecks from the government, but they went to a secured bank account that he would get the information to only after the job, whatever and whenever it was, was done.

The man reached under his coat in the special breast pocket and pulled out a large envelope. It was paper-thin and sealed. He handed it to Sam, who paused before he took it.

“I’m going to need more information if I’m going to find and kill this terrorist.” He couldn’t believe he was saying this. He never willingly hurt anyone in his life let alone killed them. But he was caught up in the patriotic fervor of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and signed up for this knowing full well what it entailed. But that was eight years ago. He was a different man eight years ago. He had a wife now, and a baby on the way. He had two other people to think about now. He wasn’t on his own with no family to answer to like he was back then.

“There’s a photograph in there, David, of the contract. That’s all you’ll need. On the back of photograph is an address. When the contract is filled, you will go to that address and ask for John Carter. You will be shown into a room with a safe deposit box. In that safe deposit box will be the bank account information which will be your paycheck and a key to another safe deposit box. Further instructions will be in that box.”

The man got up and started to walk away as if nothing had ever happened.

“Sir,” Sam called out to him. The man stopped and turned around to face him. “I don’t mean to question your judgement or the agency’s judgement, but am I really capable of filling a contract on such a dangerous terrorist?”

“David,” the man said as he took a few steps closer to the bench, “We conducted an extensive background check on you eight years ago. We know your background. When we found out about this terrorist, we went back seven years ago and tracked your every move up until last Thursday. You signed a contract with the government of the United States of America. You will fill this contract and you will fill it gladly because it will protect future citizens of this country. You will then drop of the face of the planet. Sam will cease to exist just as David has ceased to exist. You will grow old and bounce your grandkids on your knee and will not be able to tell them of how you saved them from the terror and horrors that children all over the world suffer through every day. You won’t be able to tell them that. But you will be able to talk to them and bounce them on your knee. That is reason enough for you fill this contract. Your physical life will continue on even though Sam’s will not. You will be monitored periodically for the rest of your life. You won’t know if the nice lady next to you in the checkout line at the grocery store is an agent or not. You will not know if your child’s little league coach is our agent or not. You will not know. But as long as Sam ceases to exist, you will not have a problem. You are capable of doing this. We wouldn’t have assigned it to you if we didn’t think so.”

With that the man turned on his heels and walked away. Sam sat there for a minute which seemed like an eternity holding the envelope in his hands. He turned it over and slid his finger under the sealed flap and ripped it open. He felt inside and pulled the photograph out. He looked at it and his heart stopped beating for a fraction of a second. The picture caused his breathing to stagger and he felt as if he was punched in the gut. He was looking at a fifteen year old photograph of his wife.

To be continued…

The Lavender Flowers

Remy passed through the cemetery at twilight on a brisk November evening.  The sky along the horizon looking out to the vast Pacific Ocean was a rich tapestry of reds and oranges.  The sky directly above was a brilliant shade of lavender which gave way to the deep, rich blues that faded to black over the eastern horizon.

Remy looked up and through the lavender in the sky, the first of the stars were beginning to twinkle.  He saw Abigail’s star, lazily hanging over the Pacific following the sun.  Her star was actually Venus, the planet named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty.  How appropriate, he thought, that Abbey’s star was the planet Venus.

Remy remembered the first time he ever set eyes on Abigail.  They were on a cruise from Le Harve, France to Portsmouth, England, and finally to New York City.  It was the third day after leaving Portsmouth he was ambling on the deck early in the morning when he saw Abbey watching the sun rise leaning on the railing.  Being the consummate Frenchman, he thought quick on his feet and grabbed the nearest set of flowers he could find, three-day old lavender blossoms that were beginning to wilt in salty ocean air.

“Pardonnez-moi, mademoiselle,” he said softly not trying to startle her.  Abbey jumped anyway and put her hand to her heart.

“Oh my, you gave me a scare!” Abbey giggled.

“For you,” Remy said in his seductive French accent holding up the flowers to her. “I am sorry they appear to be old but, you see, this was the best they had out here.” He waved his hand over the vast ocean before them and handed her the bouquet of flowers.  Remy saw the twinkle in her eye when she looked up at him while smelling the lavender blossoms.  In that moment, he knew he would marry her.  Years later, she would confess to him that she too knew in that very same moment she would marry him.

“They’re beautiful.  Thank you.” She involuntarily shivered, partly from the chill in the air and partly from the effect Remy had on her.  She turned around and watched the sun peek its face above the horizon.  Remy took his jacket off and put it over her shoulders.  She could smell his cologne and she closed her eyes and leaned back into him.  After a few moments like this together they began to talk and walk which would last for hours that day.  One of the first things they talked about was the ‘morning star’, which Abbey refered to as hers.  He explained it was Venus and that sometimes it was seen in the west as the ‘evening star’.

They were very nearly together every moment the rest of the trip to New York under the watchful, albeit very tired eye of her tutor, who also served as guardian on her grand tour of Europe.

Determined to make a name for himself and to win Abbey’s family over, he made a small fortune for himself with some shrewd, if not shady, business deals in New York.  He would not let Abbey’s father think he was to marry her for her money.  Abbey’s father was a gold speculator and had also made a small fortune mining for gold.  He established other businesses and ventures and was very well-known and respected in the whole of Northern California even before Abbey was born.

Remy smiled fondly at the memories he had of Abbey and the life they built together.  He smelled the fresh bouquet in his hands and looked up to Abbey’s star with a tear in his eye.  “I love you more than anything, ma chère,” he said in his still thick French accent.  He put the flowers on her grave, said a silent prayer and walked away.  He strolled for a little bit enjoying the solitude, but still wishing his Abbey was walking beside him.  He left the cemetery and vanished under the gated archway on Evergreen Street amid the noise and bustle of Santa Cruz in the early 21st century.


Shortly before Abbey’s 50th birthday in 1919, she would succumb to the ravages of the Spanish flu epidemic.  It left Remy heartbroken, and every year he would put lavender flowers on her memorial headstone in Evergreen cemetary on their wedding anniversary.  Remy was buried beside his beloved wife in 1935.

Every year, people will find bruised and wilted lavender blossoms on Abigail’s grave.  The legend says that Remy’s ghost still puts the flowers on the grave on their wedding anniversary and the flowers wilt and age because they pass from their world to ours.  Nobody has ever seen the ghost or any fresh flowers and, therefore, nobody really knows the true story of The Lavender Flowers.

The Soundtrack of My Life

This week’s challenge is to pick a song and write about how it changed your life.  Or a musician, band or composer or lyrics or something musical and how it changed, inspired, or moved you. 

For me this is an impossibility.  Music truly is the soundtrack of my life.  So many moments in my life have music tied to them.  Corny music, serious music, happy music, weird music, rock, classical, country, blues, oldies, movie soundtracks…it’s all shaped me in some way. 

If I want to think of my very young childhood, I can listen to Hey Good Lookin’ or You Are My Sunshine and think of my mother singing to me.  If I hear the song In The Summertime by Mungo Jerry I’m taken back to my freshman year of high school and my first serious girlfriend.  Lazy Mary takes me back to Aunt Mary and Uncle Phil’s house for big Saturday afternoon Italian meals.  Alan Parson’s Sirius takes me back to the early 1990s when I watched the Bulls with my dad.  Just the beginning two notes of Just A Little by Liberty X brings back the gut wrenching memories of my first real heartbreak.  The name “John Williams” reminds me of my years in my high school concert band.  Even More Blues But My Abcessed Tooth Is Fine Now Thanks takes me back to high school jazz band and winning second place in the Augustana Jazz Festival my junior year.  Blues Before Sunrise, Rhapsody in Blue, Zorba the Greek, L-O-V-E, Wanted, Theme From Batman….the list goes on and on.  All of these songs take me back to a moment in time.

So you see, Daily Post, I can’t just pick one…well, maybe I could…LMFAO!!!