Always A Race Horse

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
-Mark Twain

Savannah was beginning to feel the gloom of her surroundings. Only a week ago she was living on a preschool playground with lots of friends. That was until the gang member kidnapped her as part of his initiation. Only no ransom would be demanded. It was over—everyone laughed at how clever he’d been.

Life in the “cave,” as they called the long since abandoned building, was depressing. They came there in the evening to do drugs and put out their cigarettes on her. They strutted around displaying various acts of bravado fueled by lots of liquid courage. Then, the grand crescendo, smashing their bottles against the back wall. Mostly they got into fights with each other and tagged the walls.

She missed the playground with its lush trees and laughing children. The children had called her the Race Horse. It made her feel invincible. Obviously, there was more to being invincible, Savannah decided. She had to keep believing that was still who she was, even if nothing else around her indicated that.

As she looked around at the graffiti, she began to appreciate some of it as being quite artistic. Some with very vibrant colors and 3D effects. But the messages all of it sent were the same, some more blunt than others. Hatred, fear, despair, jealousy, insecurity, lots of anger, blame, hopelessness and no love for themselves or the world. Some she didn’t understand at all. Surely they had once been just like the children at the preschool. Full of joy, excitement and the wonder of life. Somewhere they had gotten abandoned, or worse—just like the building they gravitated to. Here they were, all of them together. They had found each other, like magnets, drawn to one another. All wanting from the others what they couldn’t give themselves—unconditional love. She felt compassion for all of them. The garbage smelled.

If she closed her eyes, she could imagine herself back on the playground. She could hear peals of laughter as the kids bantered over whose turn it was to ride the Race Horse. She imagined herself, a white Arabian horse, galloping on the beach, kicking up sand in the ocean air. She did not have to be her environment. Savannah realized she was the same inside, no matter where she was. She was still the Race Horse, because that’s what made her happiest.

The night stretched into the wee hours. It degenerated into gunfire into the desert sky as they all moved outside to shoot beer bottles. A typical raucous night with her new family. All had gone quiet as the gang dissipated, going their separate ways. A few hours later, Savannah heard a large vehicle just outside. Its headlights shining into the little windowless hole in the wall. It was very early morning, still dark. Something was up.

Three men with hard hats and flashlights entered the cave. Three beams of light painted the walls every which way.
“We might be able to salvage the bricks and resell them,” the tallest one said, looking around. “This will come down pretty fast, and I do think we could get something for the bricks. The paint might even make them sell better to some ‘artsy fartsy’ people.” They laughed.

Savannah felt panic shoot through her as she realized they were talking about tearing down the building! Just when she didn’t think her life could get more challenging, it did.
“Hey, check this out! Pretty cool—I’m going to take it home for the kids and clean it up,” the youngest one said. It took Savannah a minute before she realized she had been saved. “Help me get her on the truck, will you?”

Savannah felt herself being hoisted up and out into the dizzying fresh air. She gulped fresh air deeply, breathing out, ahhh… no garbage. They set her down on the bed of the truck and secured her with straps so she would be safe. Yes, they knew how to take care of a Race Horse, she giggled to herself. She sat in the back of the truck for another hour as they surveyed the rest of the building. She grew anxious waiting. Finally they all came out and piled into the truck.
After a bumpy ride, they stopped abruptly and the engine went quiet. A cloud of dust from the dirt road enveloped her. She couldn’t see a thing but she could hear.

“Daddy, Daddy, Daddy! Is that a horse? Is that for us?”
Several young voices were all talking excitedly over each other. As the dust settled, she could see three young girls and one quiet, overwhelmed little boy. Eyes transfixed on Savannah. They all gathered around as the men lifted her down off the truck and carried her to the garage.

Savannah sat there in the garage for the rest of the day with an occasional visit from one of the children. That evening they watched their Daddy as he carefully cleaned the dust off Savannah. He filled her cigarette holes with putty. He sanded and applied matching white paint to the wounds. Just for fun, he grabbed some tar paper and crafted little blinders for the side of each eye. One little girl said in hushed amazement, “Daddy, she looks just like a race horse!”
Savannah knew she was home.

                                                                                      Be as you wish to seem. – Socrates

The Forever Coma Bomb

“We can no longer believe the media’s message of fear. Fear is an unconscious response that creates more negativity. Challenges and difficulties are a natural part of life, but when we meet challenges with negativity, we create more suffering for ourselves.”
-Eckart Tolle

Taffy was addicted. A 24/7 news cycle kept her informed of all the horrors of daily life. She thought being informed and ready—just in case disaster struck close to home—was the way to go. She always got a kick out of the college students who couldn’t identify a photo of the Vice President. She didn’t want to be ignorant like them. She knew every candidate who would, could, or might run for President. She knew every political gaffe and every conspiracy theory. She thought it gave her the ability to hold intelligent conversations with her friends. Even though they found the news depressing. Sometimes they disagreed and got into a fight.

Then there was the barrage of pharmaceutical commercials. While disturbing and often unclear as to what the ailment was, she was so grateful to be informed. She had a whole list of things wrong with her. She didn’t even realize it until she saw the commercial for the cure. She had to ask her doctor, to see if the drugs “were right for her,” as the commercials advised. Taffy was actually afraid to find out.

She had mountains of survival food that wouldn’t spoil for 30 years. She had triple padlocked doors and bars on her windows. She lived in a state of fear for all that had not happened, but might…

One morning she sat down with her morning coffee and punched the remote for the news. Nothing happened. The screen was blank, except for a faint, bluish light. It illuminated the ghostly logo of the news channel burned into the screen. Nada. Zip. She was sure it was a terrorist attack. She sat—feeling she had prepared for this moment—yet she had no idea what to do.

As she sipped her coffee in silence, she listened for explosions or the sound of choppers flying overhead. She knew some indication of mayhem would soon reveal itself. Crickets. The silence was eerie in what it didn’t say. She could hear the power was still on; that was good. She wouldn’t have to figure out how to use the generator she’d bought for just such an occasion. She wanted to know what was going on, but she was afraid to leave home. Marauding bands of intruders might try to steal her provisions.

The not knowing and silence became unbearable. Did the world end? Did some terrorist organization commandeer a fleet of drones? Maybe they dropped a hi-tech “Forever Coma Bomb” on every major city in the world? Was the world gone? Taffy started to cry at the horror of it all. Thoughts rushed through her mind, each more terrifying than the previous one. The world has ended.

The sound of the children’s laughter derailed her train of thought. Taffy listened in indignant amazement. A dog barked playfully. The rumble and squeak of child-sized vehicles filled the silence as they drove up and down her driveway. All the sounds competing. Barking, laughter, rumble and squeak. Totally inappropriate sounds. Taffy was in shock. How can they play when the world has ended? Suddenly, nothing made sense.

The television sparked to life, and Taffy’s attention was drawn to the image of a beautiful blonde woman. Somehow she managed to smile while talking in a hushed voice of phony concern. A flood had swept away 28 very expensive homes in another state. The good news was that there were no fatalities. Then she introduced an expert to discuss what it would be like to suffer death by flood. Such a myriad of ways it could happen, all dreadful.

Taffy wasn’t interested. She wanted to understand what had just happened to her. Nothing, she concluded had just happened. She could not stop a flood or a Forever Coma Bomb dropped by a drone. A website for donating to the flood victims popped up on the screen. She wrote it down to send a donation and turned off the TV.

Taffy sat in her epiphany. She saw with crystal clarity how she had been sucked into the misery of events she had no control over. The fear of what might happen, but usually doesn’t. Every day, 24/7. As each fear gets old, it’s replaced by a new one. It had made her feel a part of something bigger than herself, and at the same time…isolated. The Pleasure Police were always on duty. And all to sell anti-depressants. It had robbed her of her love for life. Her life—and she wanted it back. One day they might get it right…but in all the years she’d watched, they hadn’t yet.

Sounds of pure glee penetrated her walls. She wanted to feel the children’s innocence and imagination—their love for life. That love of life was all that mattered. Love. She didn’t have to prepare for love. It required no special shoes. It was always there—she just needed to be open to it. She pondered how she had gotten to this point. She had been blinded by fear. A fear that was never finished scaring her. It was all an illusion that had no benefit other than to make money for the news channels. Ads for products to help with the cure of ailments. Ailments mostly brought on by being consumed with fear.

So there she sat. Everything was exactly as it had been when she got up that morning. Nothing had changed, except that her coffee was now cold. Yet her entire world had changed. She heard the birds outside for the first time. She felt compassion for what she had gotten herself into. So subliminally being lulled into thinking she was doing the right thing. How many others like her were there? As the feeling spread through her, she felt a rightness—a truth in her realization. She thought, What if everyone could feel this way, all the time? What if we could love life—and ourselves—as is, instead of lopsided with fear? We’d have compassion and love for one another, finding joy in our differences. Together we’d make the game of life a fearless playground! There would be no need for 24/7 news. There would be so little anyone wanted to buy.

Ha! Fat chance. A wholly, unrealistic thought. So instead she decided she would just practice it in her world. She’d continue to have compassion for all the nasty things that happen. That is the duality of life. But she’d also see the gifts, beauty and magnificence that can come of all that happens. She would love life like never before. Maybe just watch the news once every two weeks, for an hour? She dumped out the rest of her coffee and headed for the beach.

Castle Of Love

“I love to see a young girl go out and grab life by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.”
-Maya Angelou

Sophia watched as he kicked over the spire she had just carefully crafted for her sand castle of love. Bradley was getting her back for telling him he wasn’t doing it the way she wanted it to be done. He’d asked if she would teach him to build by letting him help her. Then, as soon as he got a shovel in his hand, he was directing the whole project without a clue on how to do it.
“I wish I could push you off a cliff!” Bradley said. He folded his arms and stuck out his bottom lip.
“I’m firing you from my Castle of Love Club,” Sophia said glumly. She watched as Bradley threw down his shovel and trundled down the beach, his pants full of sand and falling down. She found the whole thing ironic.

Sophia resolved to build her castle of love by herself to herself. Dressed in her pink party dress now wet and covered with sand, she got to work. She worked tirelessly, hoping to finish it before the tide came in. As she went for more water to fill her bucket she began to worry that the tide would wash it away before she could finish. If only she hadn’t wasted so much time trying to train Bradley…but everything happens for a reason, she supposed. Poor Bradley, she thought. He just didn’t get it. Maybe someday he will build his own castle of love.

As the water inched up the beach, she found herself deeper and deeper. At first she didn’t believe she saw what she saw. She dismissed it as a sort of choppy water shadow. But then there was no mistaking it. It was a big, slick bald head, with whiskers and dark soulful eyes, looking right at her. Sophia’s first reaction was to scream.
“Please, don’t be frightened! I’m so sorry; there is no other way to come up for air other than to just pop up!”
Sophia shook her head in agreement, not taking her eyes off the seal.
“Hey, nice castle. My name is Lilo. Yours?”
“Thanks Lilo. I’m Sophia. I’m sorry for screaming.”
“Can I help you finish this before the tide comes in? You will need to train me, but I’m a good student.”
Sophia took a few minutes to show Lilo what he needed to do, and placed Bradley’s little blue shovel in his mouth. He proved to be invaluable and had such a supportive attitude. He worked fast and was able to pat down the sand quickly with his strong foreflippers. They had built a magnificent castle of love—it was even more beautiful than she’d imagined it.

Lilo was so excited to be involved in the project that he wanted to do it again. They agreed to meet again, and again, and again. Within a short time, they were a team. Hotels advertised them as a “must see” attraction. Soon beach walkers came from all around to see the amazing castles built by Sophia and Lilo. They threw money in their little red bucket which she’d then split, buying fish for Lilo with his half.

The two built castles daily for the tourists to enjoy, and they grew very close. Each inspired the other to try new and more imaginative challenges. Sophia felt her life was very full, and she cherished her friendship with Lilo. Lilo was very protective of Sophia and once chased Bradley down the beach. Bradley discovered them one day building the most ambitious castle yet. It had motes and a drawbridge, and was very, very tall. Bradley told them the castle was ugly and they would die dumb from building dumb, ugly castles. That was enough for Lilo, who barked while chasing after Bradley as he cried in fear, running down the beach, and peeing his pants.

Sophia lay in an almost overflowing bath of bubbles. It had been a particularly profitable day. She thought about how determined she had been to build her castle of love, by herself. Not until then did she attract others who were supportive and wanted to help.

So, for now, young Sophia found it was easier to train a seal to help build her castle of love, than it was to train a boy.

Arabian Dreams

"I've come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that's as unique as a fingerprint- and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the Universe to lead you." -Oprah Winfrey

“I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint- and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the Universe to lead you.”
-Oprah Winfrey

She felt the ice cream melting through her mane. The little boy incessantly kicked her ribs and shouted, “Giddy-up stupid!” Another child pulled on her tail repeatedly with a sticky, blue candy hand.
Tourists.
The Arabian Dreams Ranch was a tourist trap. A miserable life. Walking in the hot sun, carrying overweight, beer-soaked tourists and their screaming, unruly children. Seven days a week. Piper was far from her dream life, a life of meaning.

One evening, after all the tourists had returned to their hotels, Piper did as she usually did. She watched the ranch hand shut things down. She watched as he swigged his beer covertly from a brown bag, getting a jump on the Friday night festivities. She watched him drop his keys in the dirt as he was going to lock the gate. As he picked up his keys, his cell phone rang and he quickly broke into a smile. He spoke in a very suggestive and lovie-dovie tone with the person calling. Piper looked on as he anxiously headed off to his truck. He tossed the empty beer and bag into the truck bed, got in barely closing the door, and drove off. He’d left the gate unlocked.

It didn’t take Piper long to realize she had an opportunity. She wandered over to the gate, nudged it with her nose until she could fit through. She ran like she had 20 zombie tourist children chasing her. Freedom was sweet. She ran into the woods where she would have some cover from being seen.

Piper spent the night under a big, twisted tree near a stream. In the morning, once the sun was on the stream, she waded into the water. She washed all the sticky mess from her mane and tail, and she felt rejuvenated with excitement for her future. She knew deep down it would have to lead to her dream—a meaningful life. She followed the stream the better part of the day. Until it flowed under a wall of jagged rocks and into the ocean. As she hiked the treacherous rocks, doubt that she could continue crept into her thoughts. She worried as she stared at a huge hole in the rocks where the waves crashed through with enormous power. She admitted to herself she was trapped. Piper wondered if looking for a life of meaning wasn’t possibly the most stupid thing she’d ever done.

She closed her eyes and let the powerful spray cool her down, as she slowly started to panic. “What am I going to do? How will I ever get out of here?” She was exhausted, and talking to herself seemed a logical next step. She closed her eyes. An unusual flapping sound made her open them. She marveled at what must have been a five-foot wingspan, belonging to a most exotic looking bird.

“You look very forlorn. Can I help? By the way, I’m Lourdes.” She circled around Piper and waited.
“I’m afraid I’m lost and worse yet, trapped. I don’t know how to get out of here. The sea and rocks are too rough for me now, and I don’t know where to go.” Piper babbled on in her exhaustion, telling Lourdes all about the Arabian Dreams nightmare. She told her how she was looking for a life of meaning. Lourdes listened patiently, occasionally nodding understandingly. Piper watched Lourdes take a spiral path upwards, then widen her circle back down to where Piper was stuck.

“No worries. Follow me. But it’s going to get harder before it gets easier…”
Piper followed Lourdes, one step at a time over the uneven, slick terrain. She did a slight backtrack over the rocks, taking a sharp turn and going down to the left. Finally, she hovered over a narrow opening, a cave in the rocks. “I’ll wait for you on the other end. Be careful!” The giant wings effortlessly lifted her up, and Lourdes was gone.

Piper struggled to fit herself through the narrow opening. She walked over the smoother but slippery rocks inside the cave. The damp smell filled her nostrils as she could hear the muffled crashing of the relentless sea. She was very focused as she slowly navigated her way through the darkness. It seemed like it would never end, until finally, she could see light. She stayed focused on the light, and as she exited the cave she found herself on a sandy beach. A choppy shoreline lapped at her hooves. There was Lourdes circling around, waiting for her.

“I can’t begin to thank you enough, I don’t know what …” Piper quit talking as she watched Lourdes fly away. She swooped up and went high into the sky and was gone. Piper looked out over the beach at the small structures dotting the shoreline. She spotted a very pale little girl with a scarf on her head. She was walking towards her. She was carrying something. A woman all dressed in green followed behind, carrying their shoes. Piper’s gut told her to stay put. As the little girl approached, Piper could see she had a plastic bag with slices of apples and carrot sticks. As she reached Piper, she attempted to gently pet Piper’s neck. But the woman shouted to her, warning her not to touch the horse. She ignored her and opened the bag, giving Piper a carrot stick. Piper forgot how hungry she was and happily accepted. The little girl seemed to not have much energy. When the woman reached them, she told the girl to rest on a nearby rock. Piper followed the apples and carrots to the rock. The girl smiled at her as she pushed another carrot stick to her muzzle.

“I bet the other kids would like to pet her too. She seems nice. Maybe we can keep her!” said the girl.
“I’m sure she belongs to someone who is missing her. She’s so pretty,” said the woman.
Piper continued to eat from the girls palm as she giggled and kept a steady stream of carrots and apples coming. Piper thought this was the sweetest child in the world. The woman stroked Piper’s neck as she told the girl they needed to get back to the hospital. She agreed to take her back and said they would take care of her while they tried to find the owner.

Piper followed them up the beach to the building. There were several children sitting outside on the patio, also wearing scarves. They all smiled at once, and rushed onto the beach to see the horse.

As the weeks went on Piper gave rides to the sick children and made them laugh. They adored her, and she loved making them happy. The woman was unable to get any response on her efforts to find the owner of Piper. After two months, she finally gave up. Much to Piper’s relief.

One evening as Piper was watching the sun set over the ocean, she thought about the significant events in her life. About how she had gotten her sense of adventure and courage from the herd of wild horses she ran with. That was before getting separated and ending up at Arabian Dreams. She thought about how her life had tracked in a way she never could have imagined. She needed to be captured and have the horrible experiences with the tourists. While both were dreadful experiences, now she was grateful for them. She would not have known how to give rides to the sick kids. As she connected the dots of her life, she realized how everything led to her ultimate happiness, a meaningful life.

And Lourdes…she showed up out of nowhere to help, with eerily perfect timing. Perhaps she was somehow being prepped for this by something larger than herself? She wondered.

Synco-Pal

“All discarded lovers should be given a second chance, but with somebody else.”
-Mae West

“Everyone has guides,” the old man told Phoebe. “I see three standing behind you; a man and two women. Can you tell me the man’s name?”

Phoebe was not sure why she always attracted these types. Perhaps she had a face that begged to be talked to, if you were living on the ragged edge of reality. She tried to ignore him as she waited for her pizza. He had to be in his eighties, with dyed black hair and food stains on his shirt.
“The name?” he persisted.
“Bart,” she blurted out, recalling the famous phrase, “I’m Bart Simpson, who the Hell are you?”
Maybe that would satisfy him. She turned slightly away from him. She hoped he could read body language as well as he did the ethers. He shook his inky hair.
“Nope. It’s longer than that.”
Where is my pizza? she thought.
“Bartholomew,” she said in exasperation.
“Yes! That’s it! You must Google him.”

With that, he turned and walked out the door—no pizza, no food, nothing.
Phoebe arrived home with her pizza and set it on the counter. She no longer felt like eating. The fluttering in her stomach had become a regular thing since turning in her last robot, Troy. It was her third. She’d hoped that Troy would be “The One.”

The government, in all their wisdom, had decided there were too many single women. And they were not good for the economy—they didn’t spend enough money. Two years had passed since the deadline for all women over the age of 28 to be paired with a mate. If they were not in a committed relationship they would be required to enroll in the Synco-Pal program, or pay a penalty.

Trillions of tax dollars were used to develop the perfect male companion robot for single women. Over the probationary four months he would learn and synchronize with all her likes and dislikes. Together, as a couple “in love,” they would spend more and help the economy. Since the Synco-Pals had no visible means of support, the women had to support them. One of the Synco-Pal’s key features was that he demanded expensive gifts to promote “happiness.” If gift demands were ignored, a report would be transmitted via the Synco-Pal to the agency overseeing the Synco-Pal program. The woman would be fined in the amount of the gift not purchased.

Phoebe’s Synco-Pals kept malfunctioning. They were fun and complimentary, attentive and sweet…up until they moved in with her. Quickly, they would become critical, intimidating, messy, demanding and argumentative. He would start to devalue her with insults about her physical appearance, intelligence and capabilities. His demand for expensive gifts would go well beyond extravagant. Once the gift was purchased and given, he would quickly become dissatisfied with it, thereby requiring a new gift. After six months all traces of love, compassion and empathy had vanished. They became just plain mean and sullen. All three had been exactly the same; Troy was the last. She had nicknamed him Syco-Pal.

Having lost faith, she opted to take advantage of the grace period of two months after a “Turn In.” Phoebe decided she was going to do some research. Certainly she couldn’t be the only one experiencing devastating software glitches.

Phoebe interviewed other women, including one who actually worked for Synco-Pal. Her findings were disturbing. One in twenty five Synco-Pals had the all-encompassing software glitch she had experienced. It was a factory defect, with no upgrade. One in five had a glitch that made them difficult and annoying to be around, also no upgrade. There were millions of them out there. She was emotionally exhausted, financially devastated, and felt she had tried to be “a patriot.”

She found the odds as bad as the human relationships. They ended in divorce 50% of the time. Was being “in love”—and fitting into what society and the economy marketed to—worth it?
She felt manipulated. Why wasn’t her contribution to the economy and society good enough? Perhaps the government spent too much? They certainly had on Synco-Pal. If they didn’t waste so much, they would not need so much from her.

With two weeks of grace left, Phoebe was surfing the web, continuing her research. She remembered the old man from the pizza place and decided to Google “Bartholomew, guide.” She had no idea what a guide was—some woo-woo thing most certainly. A woman in New Mexico claimed to channel this Bartholomew character. Phoebe was entering the twilight zone. She ordered the book. She read the book only to discover it was full of thoughts and concepts familiar to her on some level. Yet she had never seen or heard them anywhere in her life. There was a shift in her consciousness as the information made complete sense to her. There was love, and there was love.

The “love” that society embraced, encouraged, and marketed to was actually nothing more than attraction. It was conditional—not all abiding. Behave a certain way, and you will be loved. Quit, and you will no longer be loved. Attraction/repulsion. Like magnets. The thoughts are not always loving. Phoebe was quite familiar with that emotional roller coaster. It comes with lessons to learn. About love. What you believe you lack, you find in the other person. You are attracted, fall “in love” with what you believe you lack—and what you believe will make you whole. Then you act certain ways, hoping to prevent a loss of that “love” or that sense of wholeness. It was that whole, “You complete me” thing. Phoebe thought many would deny this is true, protesting theirs is “true love.” But there are always conditions to being with another person.

Hmm…That’s a lot of power and responsibility I give to someone, Phoebe thought. So if I look to them for my happiness, and they are not happy…I will have to wait for them to be happy before I can be happy. Well, that’s messed up.

The other “love” was all-abiding. Unconditional. All your “good” traits and all your “undesirable” traits would be loved equally, as what makes you whole. They complete you. A perfect specimen of humanity. And here’s the kicker: this love is attained by you loving and accepting yourself, exactly as you are. No conditions. Ever. You just agree to love yourself, always, as a part of everything and everyone. As a result, you feel love and compassion for everyone else. Love yourself for wanting to change and grow—all the time, with no restrictions. It never goes stale.

The fluttering in Phoebe’s stomach stirred as she realized she’d been sold a bill of goods about life that was not in her best interest for a long and happy life. She also noticed Syco-Pals were not included in this ticket to nirvana—it was an inside job. They function by sucking stimuli from the outside world; they’re empty inside. If everything and everyone has a purpose, why Synco-Pals? She concluded that who better to force you to love yourself than someone who makes you feel bad and inferior about being you? Someone who fills your life with chaos and stress, lies, fear and manipulation? Yes, that must be their purpose. That said, they’re mean and she was through.

As she sorted her thoughts, her stomach fluttered something fierce. She mentally surveyed her life like a hawk flying over her personal landscape. Life was pretty much the same as it had always been. But she had changed, seeing it all from a different perspective.

Phoebe grabbed her car keys, hoping some fresh air would settle the now unbearable fluttering. After driving for a while, she pulled into a parking garage. She got out to stretch her legs and climbed up on the ledge, breathing in deeply. Little by little, all the seeds of change she had planted was each in itself a metamorphosis. Each growing stronger on its own, watered with her commitment and love. As the cocoons were shed, she burst forth in flight.

Phoebe flew away to a beautiful new life. She decided paying the “single woman penalty” was a better deal.

Hey everyone, go to Dan’s site and play “Add a line.”  Hurry, I have a feeling it’s going to get way out of hand…

I added: As Gina’s anxiety and fear mounted withing her chest, everything in her told her to get as far away as she can, and NOW!  She turned and ran for the stairs, but they were nowhere to be found…

Your turn!

http://danalatorre.com/2015/10/30/3158/comment-page-1/#comment-3065

Hearing Without Listening

"I need to listen well so that I hear what is not said." -Thuli Madonsela

“I need to listen well so that I hear what is not said.”
-Thuli Madonsela

Her captor looked on as Annabel became more and more fatigued from her struggle. He laughed and looked at one of his eight watches.
“I can wait.” He grinned.
Annabel saw her mistake so clearly now. He lured her in by appealing to her desire, milkweed. The promise of revealing a secret location where milkweed grew so huge and lush, it was like a forest. He’d lied.

He’d kept telling her to come closer, he couldn’t hear her. Raised to be polite and agreeable, Annabel found herself impossibly stuck now in his web of lies.
After so much useless struggle, she stopped struggling. “Why didn’t I listen to my gut? I knew it sounded too good to be true. If I ever get out of here, I will teach the flock to trust their intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, that’s enough—don’t hang around to figure out why.”  She was chattering aloud, nervously. He smirked and laughed some more, rubbing several legs together. She looked around at her surroundings and took it all in. So this is where it ends, she thought.

To blame him for her predicament was useless. He was just doing all he knows how to do. He really was quite good at it, she admitted—he told her exactly what she wanted to hear. A small part of her prepared to die.

Movement. Out of the corner of her eye, a huge rat blinked at her.
“I can reach you from here,” he said, very matter-of-fact. “I can detach the tethers that hold you in place and destroy the web, but why should I?”

Annabel was shocked at his bluntness as well as his callous attitude. “Uh, because it would make you feel good to be of service to another living being?” she replied, with a hint of sarcasm. She decided to take the friendly route.

“I’m Annabel. What do you like to be called?”
“Sam. But I have never actually helped anybody. I like to figure out ways that I could, but I don’t,” he said, scratching his belly and leaning on the roof gutter.
Annabel seized the moment. “Oh, you need to carry it a step further! Nothing feels as good as helping someone out of a jam. I would be so grateful—and please, I don’t have much time.”

“Stay out of this, you ugly rodent!” said the spider.
Sam took offense at being called a rodent. “I’m not afraid of you, Sedgwick! Your deceitful conning and pretentious nature are legendary around here!”
The spider watched as Sam took a swoop through three strands of web, partially freeing Annabel.
“Apologize,” demanded Sam, as he poised an arm over more of the web that held the now very excited Annabel. She struggled to free herself as Sedgwick said, “Never apologize. It’s a sign of weakness. How you deal with my insults doesn’t concern me—you’re hypersensitive. I am doing what I do.”

“As am I.” Sam took another swoop through the remaining strands of web that still held Annabel.
Annabel flapped awkwardly as she freed herself. Filled with the joy of freedom once again, she fluttered over to Sam and kissed the top of his head. “Thank you! Bless you, Sam—and may good fortune soon come your way for your random act of kindness!”

He smiled as he watched her flutter away and thought that it did feel good to help someone so beautiful out of a jam. He turned his attention back to Sedgwick. Sitting, all legs crossed, very angry, not as bold, in the center of his partially-destroyed, now empty empire. Gently tugging on a strand of web, Sam slowly reeled in the spider, like a fish on a line.

“She was mine, rodent! You had no business interfering with my affairs. I lured her by offering what I knew she desired—what’s wrong with…” On and on Sedgwick’s tirade went, up until Sam opened his mouth wide and ate him.

Annabel never could have imagined such a wildly orchestrated outcome to her seemingly hopeless predicament. She realized that she not only had to hear her little inner voice, but listen to it as well.

Can I Help? Wait, Never Mind

"If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing." -Margaret Thatcher

“If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.”
-Margaret Thatcher

Norma had scheduled herself to be in three places at once again. She couldn’t say no. She was afraid nobody would like her—or worse yet get mad and think she was selfish or uncaring. But this time it was worse, so much worse.

She’d tried on the headgear she was to wear as a chaperone for her nephew’s comic book party. Now it was impossibly stuck on her head. But first, she was trying on the dress to wear to the cocktail party her boss expected her to attend. Now it had a jammed zipper that wouldn’t budge. Somehow between those two events she was supposed to take her neighbor’s daughter to ride the ponies. At the stable, an hour away.

She was dizzy with stress and terrified of disappointing anyone and everyone. She didn’t want to get a reputation for not being dependable. She started to feel disconnected from everything, sort of a floating sensation. Something had just snapped.

She left the house with no plan, leaving the front door wide open as she wandered down the quiet street. It was late afternoon when she poked her metal clad head in the door of the restaurant. Too early, good, no maitre d’ on duty to greet her yet. A flight of stairs to the right caught her attention. She navigated the climb awkwardly in one cowboy boot and one sexy, ostrich feather slide. She scanned the empty room feeling like R2D2 in drag, and plopped down at the first table. Warm, salty frustration spilled involuntarily down her cheeks. Her life was out of control—one steaming, hot mess.

Why did she always say yes? It was like the word “no” wasn’t in her vocabulary. Saying yes is what a loving and compassionate person does for others, right? She was not that bothered by the fact that she never really felt like others appreciated her efforts. That wasn’t the point. What was the point? She just never felt she could do enough. She felt guilty, even when she helped.

Norma continued her muffled rant to the Universe until she noticed her outstretched, gesticulating hand, warmly being licked. She maneuvered her head to look down and met the very understanding face of a Dalmatian sporting a red scarf.
“How do you do?” said the dog.
Norma sat in stunned silence. Surely this was not happening. A talking dog? Seriously? Finally Norma decided to participate in the surreal moment—what did she have to lose?
“What’s your name?”
“Helen Dalmatian,” she replied.
“Perfect. I’m Norma.”
“You know, Norma, I’ve been listening to you for the last five minutes, weeping, ranting, raving, flailing your arms about. Lots of anger really. I’d like to give you some advice if you would permit me to.”
“Go for it,” said Norma, somewhat amused.
“Well, a life of love and compassion does not mean you take on the burdens of others. Those are their burdens, their life—just as yours has your burdens. You are not to interfere with their burdens. Those are where their life lessons come from; how else will they learn if you take them away? They will eventually be seen as a gift for them. At least, that is how it is supposed to go…but you know, everyone has free will. Your challenge Norma, is to love yourself, faults and all. It’s part of being a human—it makes you whole. Next, embrace every traveler you meet on your path with love and compassion for their unique perspective and challenges. Just accept them, regardless. You don’t know what their story is. You can agree or disagree, help or choose not to—but only with their load, not their burden. Love yourself for whatever choice you make, regardless of how they react—that’s their choice. Radiate love from within yourself for them and their situation. Inspire them. If someone is capable of doing something for themselves, let them. But always radiate love for them, like a dog.”

Norma pondered the advice. It would make life so much easier if she didn’t have to please everyone to be a good person. She could love others without pleasing them—what a concept!
“By the way, very cool dress, Norma!”

After discerning Norma had no treats on her, Helen Dalmatian padded softly down the staircase.

An intermittent beeping woke Norma as her faithful companion, Cleo, a three-year-old pharaoh hound, was incessantly licking her hand.
“Wow, I don’t even have a nephew,” Norma said.