Rite of Passage (Fiction)

Photo by JF @ Pursuit of Happiness
Photo by JF @ Pursuit of Happiness

The two boys crouched behind overgrown shrubs.

“This is stupid,” Turner whispered to his best friend.  “I can’t feel my legs anymore.”

“If it’s so stupid, why are you here?” Seth kept his gaze on the old house.

Turner didn’t say anything.  Instead, he shifted his weight to his other knee and stifled a groan when an ankle popped.  He thought about why he was there.  Mostly, he wanted to keep Seth from trumpeting down the school hallways that he was chicken.  “Maybe we should head back home.  It’s getting late.”  He glanced up at the moon, wishing the sun hadn’t surrendered to the shadows.

Seth snorted.  “You’re still afraid of the dark!”

“Am not!”

“Just like camp last year when you couldn’t sleep without a nightlight.”

“Shut up.  I was twelve.”

“If it’s not the dark, then you must be afraid of ghosts, or vampires.  Or whatever it is.”

Turner hesitated.  “That stuff’s not for real.”  He didn’t know if he believed in the existence of spirits or vampires, but he didn’t really want to find out.  “How do you know the house is abandoned?”

“Duh.  Have you ever seen anyone around?”

“Well, no, but that doesn’t mean anything.”

“Hey, is the video going?”

Turner glanced at his phone.  “Yeah, but I don’t see why.”

Seth rolled his eyes.  “I’m telling you, something funny is going on.”  He pointed to the railing, a patchwork of peeling sea foam colored paint and rust.  “She glides down the hill toward the lake almost every night.”

“That doesn’t make sense.” Turner scrunched up his face in confusion.

“Supernatural phenomena rarely make sense.”

Turner burst into laughter.  “You’re a doof!”

“Shhhh!”  Seth frowned.  “You’ll scare her away.”

“I think she’d scare us more than–” Turner stopped talking when he felt something grip his shoulder.  He turned to Seth and saw the same wide-eyed look he imagined he wore.

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Filling In The (Generation) Gap

Recently, there was a gun scare at my son’s middle school.  Thankfully, the report of a man with a semi-automatic weapon on campus ended up not being a threat.

That afternoon, his backpack hit the floor and I asked, “How was your day?”

Shoulder shrug.  “Fine.”

“I heard there was a lock-down at your school.”

Another shoulder shrug.

“Well, were you scared?”

“Figured it was another drill.”

“You didn’t think an hour was long for a drill?”

Yet another shoulder shrug.

“Where do you go when you’re in lock-down?”

This time I got an irritated sigh; a step up from the shoulder shrug.  “We sat under our desks.  What did you do when you were in school?” (Said in his snarky ‘you’re-an-idiot-please-tell-me-I’m-adopted’ tone.)

I paused.  “We didn’t have lock-down.”

This realization spotlighted the gap between our generations.

Yep, this is me... in all my 70s glory!
Yep, this is me… in all my 70s glory!

Back in my day (now that doesn’t make me sound old, now does it?) I remember “stranger danger” as the big threat.  Some pervert offering candy or asking us to help find a lost dog was something our parents feared.  Now we hear about home invasions where someone breaks into the house and takes a child while the parents are home.  Oh, and it’s often not a stranger.

We didn’t have cell phones or the internet (now I REALLY sound old!) but we were able to leave bullies behind when we left school grounds.  These days, meanness has taken to social media where it stalks victims 24/7.

All this got me wondering if school shootings really happen more frequently, or if more media coverage makes it seem that way.  Google led me to Wikipedia, where I found a lengthy list of US school shootings dating back to 1760.  (We’ve come a long way from Dewey Decimal System-filed card catalogs.)

I scanned the list and made a list of shootings that have occurred on elementary, middle and high school campuses since the 1970s, when I began attending school.  In my counts, I didn’t include suicides at school or teachers/adults shot by students or exes.

1970s= 9 shootings

1980s= 18 shootings

1990s= 19 shootings (interestingly enough, sixteen of these incidents occurred BEFORE Columbine)

2000s= 18 shootings

So far in the 2010s, there are 19 shootings.  This is disturbing, especially since we aren’t even halfway through the decade.

I worry about my childrens’ future, but I have to laugh because each generation laments the next generation’s journey to Hell in a hand basket.   The dangers seem more pervasive from one generation to the next.

Maybe there’s something to that.  Maybe each generation can rightfully lay claim to owning the “good ‘ol days.”

02-20 80s-couch

Then again, I believe there’s always room for improvement.

Lucy – Speakeasy #144

I gaze into her soulful brown eyes and I’m transported to 1975; a year that defined the boy I was, and the man I wasn’t ready to be.

We sprawled on the grass, Lucy and me, our heads touching.  I raked my fingers through her shiny black hair.  I rambled on about my dreams, hopes and aspirations.  The kiss on my cheek and her head nuzzled into me fooled me into believing her wish had been for me to chase my dreams.

Now, it occurs to me that I never asked Lucy what she wanted.

I’d teased her about kaleidoscope eyes and pondered the feasibility of looking glass ties.  It made sense back in the haze; the same one everyone else lived in.  Inseparable since sixth grade, I left Lucy in June, five days after graduation.  I kissed her goodbye and promised to visit.  Weeks turned into months, months into years.  I saw her only a few times.  I was a coward and Lucy reminded me of my own mortality. 

Some things can’t be undone.  Lucy didn’t wait around for me. 

She licks my cheek, startling me into the present.

My wife says Lucy is a mid-life crisis.  If that’s the case, like everything else, I’m a little late.  It’s taken me thirty-eight years, but I aim to learn from my past mistake.  She says it’s creepy to name a dog after a beloved pet, but I argue it’s no different than naming our children in honor of dead relatives.

“Ready to go to the park, girl?”

She wags her tail and leads me to the leash drawer.  I clip the rhinestone-adorned leash to her collar.  I check my laces, slip the buds into my ears, and power on my iPod.  A grin slides across my face when “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” plays.  I remember my first Lucy- this was our song all those years ago.

Some things can’t be forgotten.

“Come on, Lucy!”  I say as I step off the porch and break into a trot.  She flanks me with ease.  Her ten-month-old shoulder muscles ripple, reminding me of her namesake yet again.

I think it’s a sign.

I believe Lucy has forgiven me, and now I need to do the same.


This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly prompt which is to write a piece in 750 words or less including (1) the sentence “Some things can’t be forgotten” anywhere, and (2) some kind of reference to the Elton John song, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

Thank you to everyone who read and enjoyed my story last week (32nd Day) enough to vote for it – it came in first place in the popular vote.  What a lovely surprise!

This challenge is open to anyone, and the more the merrier. If you’re interested in giving it a try, click the badge below to check out the complete guidelines.




Between The Cracks

The bowl lay overturned on the floor, a rough crack running down one side.  Michael turned away because it reminded him too much of himself:  broken and useless, but held together by some unknown force.

Before Nina left, she’d given him a cell phone.  She said, “Michael, call me if you need anything.”  He took the phone but didn’t believe she’d actually come.  Past experience told him people looked but didn’t see.  After his fourth mom punched his face during a drunken tirade, he’d written down the new words he hadn’t already heard so he could look them up later.  Then, not trusting his voice, he sent a text message to Nina:  I don’t like it here.

While his “mom” snored on the couch, wine bottle tipped on the side table, he rolled the frosty pink lip gloss between his thumb and index finger.  Maybe she was right; he’d be a prettier girl.  He unscrewed the cap and swabbed the shimmering pink across his lips.  It felt weird, but not all that unpleasant.  Next, he smeared the plum eye shadow on his lids, just like what he’d seen his moms before do.  He sucked his cheeks in and dusted pink powder on them.  He turned his head from side to side, studying his reflection.  I’m not a pretty girl, either.  Michael dropped to the floor and cried.

At eight years old, he didn’t have the best concept of time, but some time later, the doorbell rang.  His height prevented him from looking through the peep hole, so he unlatched the three locks and flung the door open.

“Nina!” On impulse, he hurled himself into her arms.

“Oh, Michael, what happened?” She stooped down and caressed his swollen cheek with her fingers.

He shrugged.  “Same as the others, I guess.”

She took his hand and led him into the house.  She paused in front of sleeping mom and snapped a few pictures.  She also took pictures of the empty pizza boxes and soda cans on the floor.  She dropped the phone in her purse and pulled him into the bathroom.  She soaked a washcloth in warm water, and then gently scrubbed his face.  Her touch was the kindest he’d ever known.

“There.  Now you’re a handsome boy.”  She smiled at him.

“Nina, don’t leave me!”  He threw his arms around her and soaked her shoulder with more tears.

“Come on,” she whispered.

In the car, she made a phone call.  Michael couldn’t help but overhear.  “Tracy, it’s Nina.  Yeah.  Well, I’m taking him with me.  When I get home, I’ll email the pictures.”  There was a pause.  “I know, but maybe I can change one person’s world.”

*****     *****     *****

Michael sat in the front row, squeezing a wad of damp tissues.   Many twenty-one-year-old men would stoically bury their tears, but he cried without shame.  He hurt and didn’t care if the world knew it.  His girlfriend slid her arm into the crook of his elbow and squeezed.  He appreciated her support, but couldn’t meet her gaze.

Numbed, Michael couldn’t focus his attention on what others said.  He might lose the little composure he had.  His head jerked when he heard his name.  It was his turn to speak.  He trudged to the front of the church.  He guessed there were at least three hundred people there.

“Nina Wharton was a truly beautiful person.  She saved my life.  When I was eight, I had already drifted through three foster homes after my birth mother died of a drug overdose.”

Michael paused so the lump in his throat could dislodge.  “She was more than a social worker to me- she was the mom I wished God had given me in the first place.”

He turned away from the mic and blew his nose.  “I remember when she rescued me from the last home.  Her boss warned her that she couldn’t change the world.  Nina responded that maybe she could change one person’s world.”

New tears streamed down his cheeks.  “She did just that.  Today, I say goodbye to my guardian angel- my mom.  I will never forget her.”  He leaned over the casket and stroked her cheek with his fingers.  “I love you.”

He hoped he’d one day feel whole again.  In the meantime, Michael found comfort in the chorus of tears that fell in time with his own pain.


This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly prompt, which is to write a response in 750 words or less, and:  1) Use the following as the first sentence:  “The bowl lay overturned on the floor, a rough crack running down one side.”; and 2) make some reference to the photo prompt, which pictured some cosmetics.  If you want to give it a shot, click the badge below to view the guidelines, then come back Tuesday to add a link to your posted response!



Locks close things in; keep other things out.  I didn’t know it until last night, but locks can resurrect memories and even be something passed down to the next generation.

The lock pictured above is the combination lock that I used in junior high school P.E.  I don’t know which is more frightening:  the fact I still have the lock, or that I remember the combination.  (This is odd, considering I can’t remember anything unless it’s written on a Post-It note.)

Many of my school memories are filled with embarrassment, anxiety and self-consciousness.  P.E. was the worst.  “Dressing out” in my gym clothes was only the beginning.

Oh, how can P.E. embarrass me?

Let me count the ways…

There’s softball and archery,

Basketball, soccer and weights.

Volleyball and rope climbing,

Square dancing before the holidays…

When my son came home and said he needed a lock for his gym locker (his first year to get a locker), I remembered my old lock.  I found it in a desk drawer a few days ago and almost dropped in our Goodwill donation box.  For some reason, I didn’t.

This lock symbolized a time of self-loathing and obsessing over everything I couldn’t do well.  Giving it to my son allowed me to let go; literally and figuratively.

Do you have anything you’ve kept but didn’t know why?  Was P.E. a time for you to show off your athletic prowess, or creative skills (while dreaming up the perfect sick excuse?)