Lost and Found (Fiction)

06-30 Ocean Sunset

“When did you know you were lost?” he asked.

Rochelle gazed into the golden-hued waves, tinted by the sun which had just dipped below the horizon. “I simply woke up one day and didn’t know who I was anymore.”

The man who’d introduced himself as ‘Jason’ gave her a sideways glance.

Silence disrupted her trance. “Oh, you meant here, in Ensenada, didn’t you?” She let out a nervous giggle, hopeful the approaching evening disguised her blush. “Turns out I need to brush up on my Spanish. I went izquierda when I should have gone derecha, I guess.”

He laughed. “I’ve lived here for two years and I still get lost.”

“Where did you live before that?”

“Cornville, Arizona.”

“It’s not too far from Sedona, if I remember correctly.” She exhaled a wistful sigh that would’ve betrayed her angst, had he known her better. “I’m glad we met and you knew how to get to this beach. The sunset was beautiful.”

“Estero Beach can be touristy, but it’s a nice place.”

Her gaze drifted to the rhythmic surf. The scents of fish tacos and her new friend’s after shave hung in the periphery of her consciousness; the pull not strong enough to break the oceanic trance. Each wave tumbled onto the sand and slipped back out to the Pacific, only to stretch farther onto shore the next time. She felt as if she could rediscover her soul if she searched the foam soaking into the sand carefully enough.

“Have you found yourself?”

“Excuse me?”

“You said you didn’t know who you were. If you can’t find yourself in a Mexican sunset, I don’t know where else to look.”

Rochelle pulled her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. “I’m figuring out how to close the gap between the person I left behind and who I want to be.” She glanced at the man beside her, surprised his gaze rested on her rather than the surf. The attention made her a little uneasy. “So what brought you to Ensenada?”

“I wanted to lose myself.”

She furrowed her brow while contemplating the irony of their situations. “Why?”

He traced a finger in the sand, making an incoherent doodle. “I kind of messed up my life and needed a new start.”

“Ah, there’s the story. ”

“Not really.”

“Had to be love or money.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

“Every conflict known to man can be tied to those two things.”

“What about Hitler’s occupation of Nazi Germany? That wasn’t a conflict driven by love.”

“Actually, it was,” she said, pointing her index finger toward the darkening sky. “It was his love of the master race that drove him to commit atrocities against the rest of society.”

“Conflict didn’t bring me here.”

Rochelle rolled her eyes. “People don’t usually run to another country if life is perfect.”

“So what’s your story?

“My story?”

He laughed. “Repeating the question to stall for an answer is the oldest trick in the book.”

“I suppose you could say it was love gone wrong.”

“I enjoy a good jilted lover story.”

She shook her head. “If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.” She smiled to take the edge off her words.

“So you came here alone?”

She nodded. “I needed to get away on my schedule.”

He inched toward her, closing the appropriate gap between them.

She edged away, plagued by another flicker of uncertainty. “I’d better get back to my hotel.”

“Which hotel?

“I appreciate your kindness, but I have to go.” Rochelle reached for her sandals.

Jason held her wrist. “It can be a dangerous place at night.”

His ominous tone prickled the hairs on the back of her neck. She broke his grip. “I can handle myself.” She scrambled to her feet and jogged toward the main road, urged on by the sound of his footfalls closing in behind her.

He hooked his elbow around her neck. “I robbed an armored truck and killed the driver,” he said in her ear. “America’s Most Wanted couldn’t even find me.”

She clawed his arm, panicked memories triggering her fight response. She shoved him off balance and fell on top of him, knocking the air from his lungs. She straddled his body, his arms pinned beneath her.

His eyes bulged when her fingers encircled his neck.

“I killed a man with my bare hands.” She leaned forward, her thumbs collapsing his airway. “I can hide another body.”

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This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is just shy of the limit) and (1) use “When did you know you were lost?” he asked. as the first sentence AND (2) make some reference to the photo prompt given on the Speakeasy site (I didn’t post it here.)

The last couple weeks, I did love stories, but this week, I decided to bring twisted back.  Ah, feels like I’m home, haha 🙂

The challenge is open to anyone, so if you’re inspired, adventurous, or just curious, click the badge below to check it out!

Start-Up – The (Sugar) Highs and Lows

For months, we have gathered, sorted, stacked and organized – all in preparation for The Big Day.  The day arrived, and I’m happy to tell you that we survived our weekend community garage sale.  {Heaves a big sigh of relief}

My kids were looking forward to the big day, too.  They wanted to test their skills as budding entrepreneurs by selling lemonade and doughnuts.  My older son planned it all out – he would do the lemonade and my younger son would sell the doughnuts.

“How much will you charge?” I asked them

“25 cents each,” my older son said.

“Will that cover your expenses and give you a profit?”

He gave me a blank stare.

Yes, we had some work to do, but it’s the fun kind of work – so unlike cleaning the bathroom and mopping floors, which I detest.  (This is an obvious statement to anyone who has ever been to my house.  Since most of you have not (to my knowledge) been to my house, consider yourselves lucky to have been spared the trauma.)

My older son made a list of expenses (cost of lemonade, ice, cups, doughnuts, etc.)  He figured out the cost per doughnut, and I explained that he would have to charge more than that to make a profit.  I explained profit as the money they got to keep, so he decided to charge $1 each for a doughnut and cup of lemonade.

I wanted to stay out of their business, but I wanted them to have a little business.  “Well, $1 each would turn a nice profit.” I said.  “Would you pay that price?”

“No.  It’s too much money.”  He paused.  “How about 50 cents?”

Now, schooled in price setting and profit margin, it was time to tackle advertising.  He made a sign with their prices and even drew pictures.  I gave him one piece of advice:  don’t badger potential customers; ask once and say thank you even if they decline.  The advice I gave to my younger son?  Don’t touch the doughnuts with your fingers – use a napkin.

They learned that a start-up takes planning and money.  They experienced the kindness of strangers, as some donated but didn’t take anything.  They discovered that sometimes debt can be forgiven (and parents aren’t always mean.)

They lost money in this venture, but the learning experience was priceless.  Besides, “eating the loss” was easy when washed down with some lemonade 🙂

Boys were excited to have "losses"

Matthew 6:12 – Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors.

Philippians 2:4 – Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Penny For Your Thoughts; Quarter For A Beer

Our first night in New Orleans, my friend and I went to a nearby café for a bite to eat.  We were nervous about walking around an unfamiliar city after dark, but we were hungry enough to venture out anyway.

On the way back to our hotel, maybe half a block away, a man asked me for money.  I thought about how my wallet was wedged into the tiny purse I use for travelling and worried that pulling it out could invite a robbery.  So I lied and said I didn’t have any.

“You look like that and tell me you don’t have any money?”  His angry voice shouted after me as we continued walking.

I wasn’t sure what about my look made him think I had money.  Perhaps it was just the fact that all my sale-priced store-brand clothing was clean?  Still, I cringed because the man saw my lie.

When we got to our hotel room, I pulled my wallet out of my purse and dumped the change onto the desk.  I decided I wouldn’t let myself be in that position again.  At home, our area is free from poverty and homelessness.  If people are struggling, it is hidden behind their manicured yards and cars financed with 84-month loans.

Before we left the hotel each day, I shoved all my coins in my right jeans pocket.  When I made purchases throughout the day, I refilled my pocket with change and a few dollar bills.

We met a man with a dog named Charlie (oddly enough, the man didn’t give his own name.)  We visited with the panhandler and his dog for several minutes before we continued on our way.

We paused and listened to a guitar player, a jazz ensemble, and enjoyed the rhymes of “Bongo Man” as he played the drums and made up hilarious rhymes about passersby.  Here’s one he did for us:

"Bongo Man" earning tips one laugh at a time

And this lovely lady

You’re so kind,

You helped save my behind.

Now I can take my wife to dine,

And get some peace of mind.

I’m the Bongo Man

Some people say I’m crazy

But I work hard, and I ain’t lazy;

Some people say I’m a louse

But I would never rob your house-

Or your car…

(You people park too far)

He was flipping a different kind of bird...but isn't the Macaw lovely??

We paused to look at human statues – people painted silver and gold that held their poses without so much as a muscle spasm.  We watched street artists with their easels set up on sidewalks paint canvases while people gathered around.  I encountered a homeless man behind me in line at the convenience store wishing to purchase a can of beer, but worried he might be a bit short.

So many people were looking for money (with varying degrees of creativity).  Some may shake their heads and call me a fool for giving them money.  Maybe I am.  They could be exaggerating their need for money…they could have nice houses and a closet full of new clothes…they could be off to buy booze – or worse, drugs.  On the other hand, they could have a family to support…they could be saving coins for their next meal…they might need money for medical care.

I don’t need to know.

As for the man who needed help buying his beer?  Sure, I would personally opt to buy a food item rather than alcohol.  But then again, maybe an afternoon beer buzz is just what this man needed in that moment to make a less-than-perfect life shine for a little while.

Maybe beer was this man’s chocolate.  Shouldn’t we all be able to have a taste once in a while?

~~~God’s “2 Cents” on the subject~~~

Luke 6:20-21 “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours in the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”

Deuteronomy 15:7 “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.”

Matthew 5:42 “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Outside the Shadow of Doubt

A paper detailing what is acceptable and unacceptable work attire hangs on the bulletin board in our lunchroom at work.  On one hand, it’s hilarious that they have to state that flip flops and lounge pants are not proper work attire.  At the same time, it’s a bit frightening because this means someone has shown up to work wearing those things before.

The last piece of advice on the dress code page is the statement:  “If in doubt, don’t wear it out.”

Just last week, I debated about wearing my bustier and ultra-short mini skirt.  Good thing that reminder was there, or I might have worn it anyway.

Sometimes I have doubts about my life.  Not what I wear to work – my conservative dress ensures that I’m not eyed like chocolate cake at a salad bar.  I’m like cucumbers; unless you’re looking for me, I blend in with my surroundings.  Still, there are times I wonder:  Can I grow beyond my faults?  Am I using my life to honor God?

Using the wisdom of our dress code policy, if in doubt, I should change from the inside out.

My doubt is not unlike the rich ruler (Luke 18:18-30).  He asked Jesus how he could have eternal life.  The ruler knew the commandments, but he must have doubted that was enough or he wouldn’t have asked Jesus the question in the first place.  When Jesus suggested the ruler give his material things away and follow Him, the man was sad.  He didn’t think he could do it.

“What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27).

Jesus’ response also applies to my own doubts.  Maybe I can’t move past my faults on my own, but with Jesus’ help, I can.  Jesus can guide my life so that it honors him, even if I don’t have the strength to steer myself.

Do you have doubts about choices or your life’s direction?  How do you move past doubt?  Have you ever worn a bustier to work?  (I had to ask…)