The story

Unrequited


There are days I hope you have your back to me, so you don’t notice when I forget not to stare.

There are days I hope you notice.

If he didn’t know by now, he would never know, she told herself firmly. He just… didn’t think of her that way. And she was okay with that, she had to be. She would rather live in a world where he was oblivious than a world where they never talked.

She forced herself to ignore the pang that sent through her.

Romance novels made it seem so easy… there was an instant connection, and an equal attraction; love just… happened.

What do you do when it only happens on one side, though?

She was far too sensible to be a tragic heroine; suicide held little appeal, and was a bit too melodramatic, anyway. On the other hand… she wasn’t quite sensible enough to let him go. No matter how much she tried to squelch the desire for something more than friendship, it just… lingered, popping up at horribly inopportune moments.

Some days I’m doing life, and I am just fine, and then you smile, and I turn to mush inside. I didn’t realize what it meant to have your stomach turn inside out before.

Some days you say the most horrible things, and even when they burn through me, I still love you.

He often turned up at her job, which was horribly unkind of him. Hair flying, wild-eyed, he made it difficult to get work done both as an obstruction and a distraction.

She loved him for it.

Some days I haven’t heard from you in ages, and you just turn up and continue a conversation like I should remember what we were talking about all that time ago.

She would be whatever he needed, even when nothing came of it, when she was alone with her cats in her flat and old and grey.

She could bear it, for him.

There are days that I pretend not to know what you’re talking about, you know. So that you can explain it to me. I’m more intelligent than you think.

I just know how much you love explaining.

She could bear anything, for him.

Even giving him up.

~~~~~~~

Inspired by the relationship between Molly Hooper and Sherlock Holmes, on the BBC show Sherlock.

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A Ghost Story, Part 1


The man sits on the porch, rocking. He is old; his hair is grizzled, and his face wrinkled. A young boy clambers onto his lap.

“Grandpa, how did you get that scar?”

The man looks at his wrist. Fainter now than it once was, you can still see the shadow of a hand clasped around it.

“A ghost gave it to me.”

“There’s no such thing as ghosts, Grandpa.”

It was…   oh, ’bout round my eleventh birthday when we moved to Tennessee. I remember the day we moved into the new house. It had a nice little wrap-around porch, and when I jumped up the steps they creaked and groaned, as though they had never felt the weight of a boy. I scurried through all the rooms, laughing my fool young head off. A new house was nothing but an adventure. I jumped on every creaky board, tested every rocker–except one. The last one was occupied.

I didn’t know who she was–that woman on the porch. She was just sitting there, rocking, so I went up to her bold as brass and said, “This is my house now. What’re you doing here?” She turned her face towards me, and I shuddered; it was a mighty lonesome face, all full of angry wrinkles. After staring at me for what felt like hours, she finally said, “You can stay for a while, I guess. Don’t you go bothering me, though; I’m waiting for my Luke.”

“Who’s Luke?” I asked, but she just stared through me.

I didn’t like her much. She didn’t bother me none, though, so I let her be. It seemed like she was always there, sitting on the porch, rocking. I couldn’t figure out why she seemed to like our porch so much, but I was young, and old folks were a mystery to me.

My room was right above her spot on the porch. I remember laying there in bed, just listening, and hearing the creak of her rocker all through the night. She never stopped rocking–all night and all day, just rocking, watching the horizon.

She was a sad old lady; never saw her smile, nor laugh, nor even look hopeful. She just–watched. It sort of sucked the joy out of my days, too. I’d go out to kick a ball around, or climb a tree, or what have you, and she’d just sit there, a-rocking. I could feel her eyes, watching me, always watching—and the ball just seemed to deflate, and the tree was too short to get any fun out of climbing it.

~

I remember the day I figured out that no-one could see her but me. It was harvest-time; the big oak tree outside my window was starting to lose its leaves. Our next door neighbors–we called them ‘next door’ on account of the fact that their house was the closest to ours, just over the hill and not quite to town–had come over with some squash and apples, and the grown-ups were all in the house talking about something or other. Their son, Tom, and I decided to play outside. I remember he had brought his brand-new baseball bat, and we were taking turns pitching and hitting, but I kept getting distracted. The old lady frowned at me a lot that day, see, and I kept looking up at her, just sitting on the porch, rocking and watching. Tom finally gave up on trying to get me to toss the ball back, and said “What’re you watching the porch for, anyways?” Well, I told him ’bout the old lady, and how she never stopped rocking, and I’ll never forget what he said to me. He looked me dead in the eye, all scornful-like, and said, “There ain’t no old lady up there!”

That was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard; not see her? How could he not see her? She was right there—

But then I remembered my parents ignoring her when they were painting the house—and the strange way they smiled when I mentioned her at the table, as if I were a little kid. And it struck me—I was the only one who could see her.

I ran.

I spent the rest of that day hiding in the hayfield; the warmth and light and golden hay seemed like a rejection of that old lady, who only ever sat, and rocked, and watched. When it finally got dark, I knew I had to go back in; my dad would tan my hide for being out so late as it was. I was powerfully afraid of walking past that old lady to get into the house, though. I approached slowly, cautious.

The rocker was empty.

Somehow, that was more terrifying than anything else that could have happened. I fled, blindly, sprinting for that front door. I couldn’t stop, couldn’t look back, she was back there–

And I slammed the door behind me, all out of breath. I ’bout cried tears of joy when my dad laid into me; he was real; he was alive; he was safe.

But when I got up to my room, I heard her. She was still there; still rocking. I slept not a wink that night. Nor the next. Nor the next after that. The incessant rocking–I knew she was out there, waiting. Watching.

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Out of the Ashes


He wondered what burning roses smelled like.

The rhythmic thumping of the washing machine precluded silence in his small apartment. Perversely, he felt satisfaction in that.

He was being melodramatic enough already.

Besides, he couldn’t afford to buy roses just to burn them. It would be completely maudlin, and he had better things to spend his money on than an idiotic act of symbolism.

Not to mention the consequences if his landlord found out.

The letter still sat silently on the table, unread. It was undeniably hers, from the neat, elegant script to the faint smell of roses that wafted off of it.

He wanted to tear it up, crumple the pages, make it not be so that she would come back. Instead, he found himself folding it neatly and slipping it into the box where he had kept all her other letters, from the early ones in crayon childish scrawl to the elegant ones on sophisticated stationery. They had grown up together, and they were going to spend the rest of their lives together.

Until today.

Did you waste a lifetime?

They had such plans… he was going to be a doctor; they were going to Ecuador. They were going to be married. All gone.

He felt rage war with grief inside of him, and squelched them both by retrieving the vacuum and beginning to clean.

….

The box of letters still sat open. Without the distraction of her, he quietly and quickly finished his medical degree and graduated. He was moderately successful, working in a suburb of a large city. The apartment was bigger now, but not by much. Too much space reminded him of how alone he was.

He still wondered about burning roses, but convinced himself that he was past that.

The box still sat open, though. He never looked at it, never acknowledged it was there, but every time he moved it somehow ended up sitting on a shelf or table.

How long will you wait for someone who will never come?

…..

It was fall when he met the woman. Quiet, reserved, nothing like her. Where she was flame, this woman was water. All unbidden, she flowed through his life, soothing the pain of his first love, quieting the aches. She never demanded he tell her about the box of letters, never looked through them, she was simply there to hold and comfort him.

But still the box sat open.

…..

The day they brought their first child home, he knew it was time. While the houseful of fluttering women was occupied with the child, he took the box and escaped.

He only stopped once.

When he got to the park, he took out the box and extracted the last letter. With trembling hands, he read what she had written to him for the last time. It no longer hurt as much as he had thought it would. With shaky breath, he folded it back up and replaced it in the box. He set it on the grill and carefully set it on fire. At last, he place a dozen roses on top, and watched till the pyre was nothing but a heap of ashes. He returned home to his wife and child, and at last he knew the smell of burning roses.

It was the smell of a new beginning.

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From Tower to Garden


From the Tower–1

There is a man who works in the garden. I can see him from my window. He is obviously good at gardening; the roses have been flourishing this year.

I wonder if he’s happy.

From the Garden–1

There is a girl who sits in the window of the tower. She’s pretty; she looks peaceful. Sometimes she reads a book.

I wonder what her life is like, up there. I wonder what she does. Whatever it is, she looks happy.

I’m glad.

From the Tower–2

He sings to the flowers sometimes. I don’t think he knows I can hear him. I catch bits of the songs–about the rain, about coming home, about life. About women.

I wonder, is he in love? I should like to be in love. He seems very happy.

I wonder if he even knows I exist. It seems wrong, at times, for me to just watch him without his permission, to listen to his songs.

I can’t help but wonder, though: what is life like for him, outside the tower? Is he free? Does he have a family? Does he have his own garden at home?

So many questions. I wish I could ask him.

From the Garden–2

She was watching me. She was definitely watching me.

It’s odd–for some reason, I had thought I was invisible. Maybe I have been singing too loud. I should quiet down.

From the Tower–3

He stopped singing.

The world seems a little bit greyer.

From the Garden–3

She’s stopped sitting in the window. Is she okay? Did something happen?

The roses seem to have lost some of their color. Maybe I should sing to them again.

I hope she’s okay.

From the Tower–4

He started singing again!!!!!!

From the Garden–4

She came back! I am glad. The roses are doing better, too.

This was a good day.

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Just a snippet


I was clearing up some space amongst my files, and found this piece of an attempt at writing an allegory. I remember that I wrote it because I was trying to see what I could do with the idea of a train as grace. It’s definitely not my best writing.

Take it as you will.

And I dreamt that I stood upon a great plain, and there were many people, great and small, and some of them walked in many directions. And I spoke to one of them, asking why they walked, and where they were going. And he said, “This plain is destined for destruction, and great fire shall consume everything. Therefore, some of us attempt to escape.”

And I perceived men who shone like the sun who went through the crowds, and some followed them. Whereupon I went unto one of the men and asked, “How can I be rescued from this great calamity? For I am sore afraid and wish to be saved.”

Whereupon the man said to me, “Come with me, and I shall take you to the train sent by the king to take people from the plain of destruction.”

Immediately I followed him, and as we walked I inquired of him as to the nature of the king.

That’s all I have. I am not sure where I was planning on going with this. I do remember that I got stuck trying to figure out the effects of predestination, and what the story said about certain doctrines that I had not questioned yet. It was obviously inspired by The Pilgrim’s Progress.

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Kindled – 1


They said of him, “His light went out.”

No-one was supposed to ask where–like all things related to death, it was taboo.

Of course, taboos were made to be broken.

“Where did his light go, mommy?” The child’s voice pierced through all the low murmuring, bringing red to the cheeks of his mother as every eye turned inexorably in their direction.

“Well, Thomas,” she stuttered, trying to avoid making eye contact with the judgmental mourners, “we don’t talk about that, okay? We’re supposed to be being respectful and quiet. Can you be quiet?”

“But I want to know!” The childish pout and the sincere curiosity did nothing to soften the faux pas; the undertone of voices turned sharp, bitter.

“We don’t know!” she hissed finally, trying to deflect the glares. “It just did. Now be quiet!”

Though his voice was silenced, his mind continued working away at the problem. He never asked his mother the question again; the embarrassing incident at the wake fell to the back of her mind. Thomas went elsewhere to find the answers. Continue reading

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Intro


So I’ve been writing a story. I’m sure you are all very shocked. The introduction, I thought, was worth sharing. So here it is:

 

Adventuring is a messy business.

Adventurers are liable to meet all sorts of nasty ends, from being beheaded, to thrown into pits of fire, to being devoured by snakes, to losing their loved ones.

No-one with any sort of sense goes on adventures, and if they find themselves in one, they remove themselves post-haste, going back to their normal, nondescript, boring lives.

Of course, not everyone has that sort of sense. Every once in a while, there is the sort of person who seems to fall into adventures, and never has the sense to get out. Sometimes, you can spot those types. They have an extra sort of twinkle in their eye, or they notice things most people don’t see, or they carry a stack of books with dragons on the covers, or they wear clothes that just don’t quite seem, well… normal.

If you are smart, you will avoid these people. They, and those who associate with them, are liable to end up all sorts of places, and to meet all sorts of people, that normal, sensible people don’t want to meet.

You should also avoid books like this. They usually lead to becoming one of those people.

In fact, if you have any sense, you will put down this book and go find a nice, nondescript, boring newspaper.

Of course, if you are one of those hare-brained fools who go looking for adventure, that is quite another story.

……………….

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This Is a Hard Teaching


“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Matthew 5:17

Do you love your neighbor?

Not in the abstract sense. Look out your door, and across the way, or right next to you. The person who lives closest to you.

Your roommate. The unbelievably annoying one, who comes in at all hours and leaves trash lying around, who smells a little tipsy sometimes. Who hates you.

Or next door. The guy who is subtly–or not-so-subtly–judging your lawn and your house, and you, all of which have been found wanting. Even though he pays someone to do his lawn, and is probably rich, and has no idea who you are. That guy.

The woman next to you in church. She’s sleazy. You can smell the stench of her perfume. It gags you. In your head, the verse floats before your mind: “Not the braiding of hair, or the putting on of jewelry, but a gentle and quiet spirit…” She leans over and whispers to you during the sermon, with a sort of conspirator’s air that makes you ill. That woman.

The workers at the construction site. The ones who can barely speak English. You’re sure that they are not here legally. Those men.

Do you love your neighbor?

Not in the nebulous, affection way. Not in the, “I’m supposed to love him, so I do, but I definitely don’t like him” way.

With the hard, cold, burning charity that wants the best for the beloved–in everything. The love that lays down its life–not once, but every day. The selfless, clean, pure, love that strips away pretence and strikes us at the core. The love that every opportunity chooses the beloved’s good first. The love of God, who is a consuming fire.

The kind of love that terrifies us.

Do you love your neighbor?

You may have thought of at least one person whom you love like that. Maybe two. A close friend. A child. A spouse.

And even that really isn’t enough. It’s only a pale reflection of the real thing.

But your neighbor?

The Law commanded us to love our neighbor. We often are able to fool ourselves into thinking that we do.

But Jesus commanded us to love our enemy.

So, I ask:

Do you love your enemy?

Those who beat you, bruised you, humiliated you?

The friend who stabbed you in the back?

The man who crushed you, just because he could?

The woman who assassinated your reputation?

The men who attacked your country, destroyed your safety, threw your world into confusion?

The murderers? The thieves? The destroyers of beauty and innocence?

Even as I write, people I consider my enemies come to mind. Each time, I back away, saying, “Yes, but–”

But what?

No one could be a greater traitor than I. We are all enemies of God, condemned, murderers.

Do you love your enemy?

Do you even love your neighbor?

I know I don’t.

“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
John 6:60

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The Dangers of Allowing your Child to Read the Classics


It’s just one book.

She probably won’t even like it. Aren’t the classics boring?

It’s just a phase. He’ll outgrow it.

They aren’t addictive…

These justifications, and more, have often led unwary parents to let their children read a seemingly innocuous book, such as The Odyssey, Don Quixote, or The Pilgrim’s Progress.

DO NOT BE DECEIVED! Allowing your child to read just one classic may not seem like such a big deal, but it is the gateway to horrors unspeakable, such as: questioned assumptions, logophilia, thoughtfulness, and painful questions that may not have answers. It can cause your child to devour classics with ever-growing voracity until they eventually become an avid reader, an amateur poet, a budding novelist, or, worst of all, a lit major.

A literature major.

You’ve seen them. Talking about Dante in hushed circles, reading in public rather than socializing, infecting the minds of the children with stories… At all costs, keep your children away from them.

If you hope for your child to have any sort of normality, keep him or her far away from the classics.

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Reflections on the Progressives and US History Class


English: "Glassworks. Midnight. Location:...

Image via Wikipedia

PREFACE TO THIS ENTIRE POST:

I go to a strongly conservative Christian liberal arts college. This post reflects that.

………

“Don’t miss the forest for the trees.”

But the forest is made of trees. A country is made of people, individuals, humans, stories, lives.

The accusation that our classmates don’t care about people isn’t entirely true; the problem is that they forget the people in pursuit of the ideas. The ideas are beneficial to people; they may even honestly say that they are working for people, but the main thing is the idea. The Greatest good. The best society.

So they miss the people. And they appear uncaring. Because they don’t even think about it.

They say that regulations are making it difficult for people now. That the consequences are not acceptable.

Look at her.

They refuse to see the children. They are willfully blind because they don’t want to be confused in their ideals. They have decided who is good, and who is bad, and they cannot bear to think otherwise.

The Progressives were bad. They gave us the result of overregulation.

But they also gave us edible food, and took children out of danger, and made medicines safer. And our classmates sit here taking advantage of that and condemn the progressives for the inefficiencies we have to put up with.

America is always good. It gives us democracy.

But it also bullies small countries, and kills innocent children, and sanctions sin. And our classmates sit here in the midst of this blood on our hands and refuse to see it.

They stare into the eyes of wounded children and refuse them refuge.

I’m scared.

………

It’s no wonder we are accused of callousness. It’s not callousness so much as a refusal to allow our humanity to color our logic. We are humans. We are beings of both logic and emotion. We cannot operate only on the basis of one. Pure logic would lead us to a Darwinistic winner-take-all scenario. Pure emotion would lead us to a cradle-like mother state.

Our classmates have chosen logic over emotion, and I can understand the lure of that choice. It doesn’t hurt. It gives you the safety of always being in the right. You don’t have to care, because everything is absolute and personal responsibility means you don’t have to worry about others; they can take care of themselves. And maybe they have a point; there are places that government doesn’t need to go. But right now, they are safe inside of a box of logic, and they can’t realize that people are messy and that there is no such thing as a perfect solution.

They are reacting to the overwhelming emotion of our culture. I’m not excusing them. They have gone too far. But they are reacting, not reasoning.

In our world, emotion is king of the day, and it gives a different sort of comfort. Not the comfort of a box, but the comfort of a pillow–smothering and soft, till you realize you can’t breath. You can do one nice thing, and it will make you happy. And nothing will change. You can care and look like a nice person, and think you’re a nice person, and it will all be nice. But nothing will change. You can pass laws that make everything seem nice. But people won’t change.

You have to love the people. You have to have a plan. You must be both logical and emotional, to love with your mind and your heart, and with your strength you must carry it out.

You have to see the forest. But you can’t forget the trees.

You have to lead the country. But you have to love the people.

When we reach the point that we say, “It is expedient that one die for the many,” we have lost.

Caiaphas said that. Jesus said, “I lay my own life down.”

We cannot lay others’ lives down for them. We can only lay down our own.

God have mercy on us all.

Companion songs:

“Do You Want To Know,” Josh Wilson.

“Asleep In The Light,” Keith Green.

“Through the Eye,” Michael Card.

“Go to the Hungry Ones,” Keith Green.

“Heal Our Land,” Michael Card.

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