Summer Romance Dreams

It began like a million days before it. Blue sky dotted with wispy clouds. Slight breeze: just enough to tickle your cheeks. A chill in the air, but soon to be gone as the sun warms the earth.

But it wasn’t an ordinary day for Thomas. He had just graduated from high school, so no early alarm, no classes, no plans.

After breakfast he headed out to meet up with Saul, his best friend of many years.

Saul had something that Thomas had always dreamt of having: magic.

Saul wasn’t a showy magician like you’d see on television. He couldn’t levitate people or saw them in half or escape from a gazillion locks before drowning in a pool of water.

He could, however, predict the future, which came in handy when dating or gambling on which of their favorite teams would win. Today they were doing both.

Thomas had fancied Marisal for years, practically drooling over her long brown hair and curvy body. Saul was secretly in love with Janice, a brilliant brunette who had outscored them both on the ACTs.

The problem is that Marisal’s family only permitted her dating boys with some degree of magic, which ruled out Thomas. Thomas, with Saul’s help, planned on convincing her parents that, by association, he was an ideal candidate.

Saul’s problem was that Janice controlled various types of magic, from elementals to wizardly powers, such as altering substances and making things disappear. Her magic was way beyond Saul’s, which meant that they had never been in the same class, starting from preschool, since her skills had emerged at birth while his took time to reveal itself.

Sitting before Saul’s computer, the boys scanned which of the local baseball teams was at home. Fortunately, because of the easier commute from Fremont, the Oakland A’s were playing the Houston Astros. The Astros were sure to win, meaning that Saul wouldn’t even have to use his magic when making a prediction. He would need it, however, to convince Janice’s parents to let her go to the game with him.

“Okay,” said Thomas, “so how can you help me?”

“Well, let’s do a search,” Saul said as he typed in appropriate words.

Up popped links that seemed promising. The first one they chose suggested flowers of the non-magical kind, a box of chocolates and a good book. “I can do all that,” Thomas said, “but somehow I don’t think that will make a difference.”

The next link said to buy an amulet that promised love at first sight. “Let’s do that,” Thomas said. “Where do we get one?”

“Easy,” said Saul. “Mieve’s shop on Mowry. She carries a variety of magic items.”

The boys took off walking as neither owned a car. Along the way they spotted a kite flying over Jason’s house, no string attached. “That’s cool,” Thomas said. “I wish I could do something like that.”

“No use dreaming of what you don’t have. Concentrate on what you’re going to ask Mieve for and how you can use it on Marisal.”

Mieve’s shop was nestled into a cormer of a strip mall just past the intersection of Cedar and Mowry. Neon lights blinked off and on, advertising a variety of potions and spells. Thomas’s attention was called to one appropriately titled, Call me Honey. “That’s what I want!”

“Don’t decide before you talk to Meave,” Saul said as he opened the door.

Three walls were lined with shelves full of vials, tubes and bottles. The labels were both colorful and intriguing. While Saul moved to the romance section, Thomas scoured them all, picking up one item after another, putting most back, but tucking the rest in the crook of his arm.

“Stop! Those things can be dangerous in the hands of a non-magical person,” Saul said. “In fact, even a skilled user can wreak havoc with just one of those if he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Put them back.”

Thomas put one back, but carried the rest tightly against his body, shielding them from his friend’s view.

Meave appeared dressed in t-shirt and jeans. Her hair was closely cropped, hugging her scalp in a tightly curled hood. “What do you boys want?”

Saul nodded toward his friend. “He has no talents, but he wants to woo someone who does. And her parents only approve of magical boyfriends. Can you help?”

She tapped her fingers against her chin, her eyes scanning her shelves. “Well, I’m not supposed to do this, but you seem like nice kids. I’ll only sell a potion if you agree to supervise.”

Saul nodded and Thomas smiled.

She sauntered over to the romance section and pulled down three different vials. “This one adds sparkle to the user, making him appear more attractive.” She held up a blue liquid, saying, “This sends out a signal that designed to attract a target, but it often reigns in the wrong person.” She handed Saul the last vial, which was filled with smoke. “And this one is to be opened only in the presence of the target. It is the strongest, and therefore the most dangerous.”

“Can we take them all?” Thomas asked.

Meave carried them back behind the counter. She closed her eyes as she stood silent. “I see unexpected results if you use all simultaneously. Therefore I can’t legally sell all three to you.” She put the third one on the shelf behind her. “Only two. Only these two, but you still cannot use them at the same time. Do you want them anyway?”

Thomas nodded. After purchasing the potions, the boys returned to Saul’s house. They opened both packages so as to read the instructions.

The one which would work on Thomas said he’d have to sprinkle it liberally on his face five minutes before encountering the person he wanted to woo. “I can do that,” he said. “Easy.”

The blue vial had to be opened in the presence of the target, within about three-five feet. “That’s going to be tricky,” Saul said. “How do you plan on getting near Marisal?”

“Let’s just go over there. When she opens the door, I’ll uncork the vial and wave it under her nose.”

“Where will I be?”

“Nowhere near.  I don’t want her to fall in love with you.”

The boys meandered down Smith Street, past a park and elementary school. Marisal’s house was at the corner of Allendale. It was easy to spot, primarily because of the gigantic plants in the front yard, all improved by Marisal’s mother’s gardening talent.

Thomas opened the first vial just as he stepped up to the door. He knocked. Footsteps. He held the blue vial up before his face, ready to pop the cork. The door opened. Thomas released the potion, then gasped.

Marisal’s face did not fill the doorway. Her brother Nathan stood there, all six feet of him, broad shoulders completely filling the doorway.

“Look who’s here,” Nathan said as his eyes slowly opened wider and wider. “You’re looking awesome,” he said with a wink.

“Marisal,” Thomas said as he took four steps back. “Is she here?”

Nathan leaned against the doorframe, one hip suggestively thrust forward. “No, but I am. Want to come in?”

Thomas turned and ran down the sidewalk, putting as much distance as possible between him and the house. Saul caught up with him in front of the school. “So, what happened?”

“Nathan. Nathan happened, that’s what.”

Saul laughed a deep, throaty bellow. “So he’s in love with you?”

Thomas threw both vials into bushed in the park. ‘This stuff is crap.”

“Okay, so let’s work on my problem. How do I convince Janice’s parents that I’ve got powerful enough magic?”

Thomas shrugged. “Just be yourself.”

They crossed Smith Street and headed north toward a fairly new complex of condos. They found Building C, then climbed to the third floor. “Only talented families live here,” Saul said. “Be careful. Don’t touch anything. Not even the handrail. Everything will be protected. It could be dangerous for you.”

Saul rang the bell at Suite 307. Janice answered. “Hi,” she said as a smile brightened her face. “Come on in.”

The boys found seats in the front room. Janice sat in between, slightly closer to Saul. “Thirsty?” she asked.

“Sure,” the boys said in unison.

Janice snapped her fingers and two glasses of cola appeared on the coffee table before them. Saul leaned forward and indicated that Thomas was not to touch, but not in time.

Carelessly ignoring his friend’s command, Thomas tipped the glass to his lips and took a huge gulp. Immediately he began twitching from head to toe. His body stiffened, throwing his head over the back of the couch.

“What happened?” Janice shrieked.

Saul hustled to his friend’s side, cradling his head. “He has no talents! He’s been poisoned.”

“Didn’t you warn him?”

“Of course. I saw this happening, so I told him not to touch anything.”

“What do we do?” Janice said.

“Do you stock any antidotes?”

Janice went down the hall. After a few minutes she returned carrying a small brown bottle. “I think this might work.”

Saul held it in his free hand, closed his eyes, and began humming a low-pitched sound. He nodded, opened his eyes, and told Janice to pour some down Thomas’ throat. As soon as the tiniest drop touched his friend’s tongue, the tremors stopped. The next drop unfroze Thomas’s body, collapsing him into the couch. The last drop eased his breathing.

“He’s going to be okay,” Saul said as he handed the bottle back to Janice.

“Thank goodness you knew what to do! Wait till I tell my parents. You’re amazing.”

Saul blushed as he returned to his seat, Janice tucked against his side. He slowly put his left arm over her shoulders. She leaned her head against his and planted a kiss on his throat.

“So,” she said, “what are you doing this afternoon?”

“How’d you like to go to a ballgame?”

“Who’s going to win?”

“Astros. But the As will hit three homeruns and two doubles. It will be close.”

With that, Janice left a note for her parents. Before they walked out the door, they lifted Thomas’s legs in order to make him more comfortable. Saul gave his friend a thumb’s up as they closed the door behind them.

 

 

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A Precious Cat

Today a friend shared an interesting story.

Out for a walk, she spotted an orange cat sleeping on the sidewalk. She had never seen this cat before, but thought it was strange behavior.

What cat sleeps like that?

She approached the cat, speaking softly to it, but it did not react.

My friend continued on her walk, never stopping thinking about the cat.

When she neared her home, the cat had moved. It was now lying in the street. It did not appear to be injured, but my friend believed it was probably ill.

She approached the cat, determined to rescue it. Just as she was about to touch it, it hissed at her.

The only thing she could think to do was knock on doors.

Eventually she found someone who thought the cat might be hers. The woman picked up the cat and put it in a carrier. She took it to the vet where X-rays and blood work was done. The vet found nothing despite the fact that something was obviously wrong. Six hundred dollars poorer, the woman returned home.

Just as the woman opened her front door, her cat appeared! She had taken an unknown cat to the vet.

My friend offered to post a notice on the neighborhood blog. She got the woman‘s contact information, composed the notice, then called the woman back to confirm.

The woman was distraught. The cat had just died!

Imagine the range of emotions that the woman had experienced. Everything from worry, fear and then relief when it was not her pet.

My friend felt quite guilty for involving a total stranger in the story. She would have taken care of the cat herself if she wasn’t afraid of being scratched.

Instead, because of her actions, a neighbor had spent a huge sum on a cat that was not hers, all the while terrified that it was her dear pet.

The moral of the story is not clear. Do you get involved or walk away?

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Norway explored

For the past several days my husband and I have been exploring parts of Norway with a tour group.

We have seen marvelous things and been impressed with the majesty of craggy mountains, immense fjords and beautifully maintained historic buildings.

We traveled by coach, train and ferry. We stayed in a variety of hotels. Some were located in the heart of big cities while others had stunning views of fjords.

I am glad we came.

Visiting Norway has been a dream of mine for years. Now I will forever carry with me memories of all I have seen and done.

The areas that impressed me the most were the spectacular mountains ringing deep fjords. Imagine climbing up the sides of humongous mountains by switchback roads with one hairpin turn after another. At the top you look out on endless mountains, deep fjords and rushing waterfalls.

I have enjoyed every minute.

I hope that someday you will have a similar experience.

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Away From Home

In my last post I mentioned that I love traveling.

I am currently on a journey throughout Scandinavia and having a wonderful time.

We began our overseas trip with three nights in Amsterdam. What a beautiful city! Cobblestone streets. Bicycles everywhere. In fact, the cyclists believe they own the city, so we had to constantly look left and right.

We saw many interesting sights. Historic buildings. Canals. Good food.

Then off to Denmark. Rolling hills. Cobblestone streets. Old buildings.

One of the things that strikes me is the history. The US has historic places, but nothing like you see when you go overseas.

My journey is not yet over. We are currently on our way to Norway. I am looking forward to seeing fjords and stunning views.

The only downside is that they are experiencing a heatwave!

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The Travel Bug

I love to travel! It’s fun to visit relatives. Spend time talking and doing things together.

We have been lucky over the years to be able to see many places. Yosemite. Yellowstone. Lessen. Sequoia Kings Canyon. Crater Lake. Grand Canyon. Mt. Rushmore.

Several Year’s ago we went on a whirlwind tour around Europe. Then a few years later to the British Isles.

We cruised to Alaska with family (two times!). We also cruised from NYC to Nova Scotia and around the Hawaiian Islands.

One thing I realize as we are embarking on a trip to Amsterdam and Scandinavia is that I am getting older and the intrigue is wearing thin.

While I loved visiting family, I also love being home. When I am gone I miss my cat and birds. I worry about them. I wonder if they are lonely and if they are getting enough to eat.

Traveling is fun, but there is nothing that compares to home.

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A Trying Situation

Jennifer wanted nothing more than to have one good friend. Someone she could rely on to be there for her. Someone who cared for her like no one else.

The problem was that she was the most unpopular kid in school. Dressed in too big jumpers, hand-me-down white blouses and oxford saddle shoes, she was a pariah. Her long hair was always in pigtails or braids, carefully done up by her mother, but not the popular style among girls her age.

How do you make friends when you are so radically different from everyone else? Jennifer didn’t know.

During recess and lunch, Jennifer followed the popular girls around closely enough that she could hear what they talked about. It was gossip, pure and simple. They made fun of everyone that wasn’t them. They laughed at things the teacher said or did. They chaffed at the teasing of boys, yet encouraged them by their suggestive saunters and shortened shirts.

Jennifer knew that she was often the butt of the snide comments, and this hurt, but yet she still wanted to be part of that group.

At home she practiced the walk. She begged and begged for a haircut until her mom relented and let it be shortened to shoulder length. She brushed her hair every night until it shone. In the morning she brushed it again, making sure there were no tangles, twists or poking out strands.

She convinced her dad to let her get new shoes that weren’t oxfords. It took a lot of work, but boy, did she feel happy when he relented! She saved her weekly allowance until she had enough to buy new shoes. It was May by the time her dad drove her to the store, but it didn’t matter. She finally had shoes like all the other girls wore.

There was nothing she could do about the jumpers and blouses. New ones cost too much, plus the year was almost over and she’d need replacements for eighth grade anyway.

Was it enough? Jennifer hoped so. When she walked on the campus in her new shoes with her new hair, she squared her shoulders and smiled at the first popular girl she saw.

The girl snubbed her. It was subtle, true. The girl, Marissa, looked at Jennifer, smirked, then turned and walked away. Not the greeting Jennifer was hoping for.

Tears came to her eyes, which she hastily wiped away before entering the classroom.

Yes, everyone saw her shorter, more stylish hair. She was sure that they also noticed her more modern shoes. But her clothes were still someone else’s. Her jumper was faded and baggy and her blouse off-white with a pixie collar than no one else wore.

Jennifer skulked to her desk and slid onto her seat, her shoulders drooping.

How to be accepted? She didn’t know.

During recess she went into the bathroom. Fortunately none of the popular girls were there. That quickly changed, however.

Jennifer recognized Susan’s voice first. “Did you see Jennifer’s hair? Not in braids or pigtails.”

“Yeah,” another girl said. “I couldn’t believe that she’d cut off her hair.”

“I loved her long hair,” Susan said. “No she looks more like a boy with that horse-face of hers.”

The other girl snorted. “Come on, she’s not that bad looking. She’s fat, but not too fat.”

“What boy would want to date her? Name one.”

The girls were silent for a moment. “Peter Strauss.”

Chuckles filled the room. “He’s just as fat and ugly,” Susan said. “They’d make a great pair.”

Water gushed from the faucets. Paper towels were ripped from the dispenser, the door opened and shut. Only then did Jennifer emerge. She stood before the mirror and checked out her face. Was she ugly? She didn’t think so. True, her cheeks were a bit puffy. She had a dimple when she smiled. Her eyebrows were thick, but not bushy.

She tossed her hair back and tried to picture a boy with the same cut. No names came to mind until she thought of Peter. His hair was long, shoulder length, like hers. Brown like hers. Straight like hers.

She imagined him standing next to her in front of the mirror. He would be taller, his shoulders broader, his neck thicker, but he was also overweight. He stuttered, while she did not. He spoke in a whisper only when forced to respond by the teacher. Jennifer also spoke in a whisper but she did it because she was easily embarrassed.

“Oh, well,” she said as she shrugged and exited the restroom.

Once outside Jennifer looked for the popular girls. They were clustered together near the teacher lunchroom, their usual place. Jennifer thought about walking over there, but then she spotted Peter leaning against the wall outside their classroom.

“Hi,” she said. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing,” he said. “What about you?”

Jennifer shrugged. “Hey, what’s your favorite TV show?”

“American Idol. I like to imagine that it’s me up there.”

“Do you sing?”

“Yeah, but only at home. And at church. What about you?”

Jennifer smiled. “Same with me. I have a radio in my room. I keep it tuned to 97.3 because I like the music they play.”

“That’s my favorite station. Want to come over sometime and we can listen together?”

Jennifer thought about the ramifications. If she palled around with Peter she didn’t stand a chance of ever being friends with the popular girls. On the other hand, there was a real good possibility that she’d never fit in with them anyway. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

“How about tomorrow after school? My mom could pick you up.”

“Let’s say Friday. That’ll give me time to ask my parents and get permission. One thing I know is that they’ll want to talk to your parents before then.”

Peter pulled a crumpled paper out of his pants pocket and a pencil from his shirt pocket. He wrote something and then handed the paper to Jennifer. “That’s my number. Write yours at the bottom and tear it off. I’ll ask my mom to call this afternoon.”

When the bell rang, Jennifer was smiling. She had a friend! Her first real friend. Someone who wanted her to come over to his house and hang out. Granted it wasn’t one of the people she’d dreamt of having for a friend, but Peter was a loner like her. Together they’d make an awesome pair.

And that’s all that mattered.

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Bashfulness Explained

I was a socially awkward child. There was a reason for it.

When you’ve been scolded for speaking in the presence of visitors, when you’ve been made fun of and teased mercilessly, you learn that no one cares what you feel about a given subject. When you are never asked which flavor of ice cream you prefer or what cereal you’d like, you realize that your preferences have no import within the family.

I was the invisible child. I appeared when it was demanded, but only in body. My mouth only opened when I was forced into speaking. It was a rough way to grow up.

By the time I was five, being invisible had become my salvation. It kept me safe from punishment for saying or doing the wrong thing. It also made me miserable. I was an unhappy child whose self-esteem was nonexistent.

For some reason that I’ll never understand, my parents decided to enroll me in Kindergarten. At that time K was not required, and so it cost money, of which my parents had very little.

It quickly became apparent that I was academically behind my peers. I could not name all of the colors, did not know shapes, knew no letters of the alphabet and could not write numbers. While this lack of knowledge placed me far beyond my classmates, and I recognized my ignorance even at that young age, it also placed me at a disadvantage whenever it became time to work with others, either on schoolwork or on the playground.

My teacher thought that I was just shy and that I’d overcome it. She was wrong.

Day after day I sat silent in my assigned chair. I did not speak when the teacher asked me a question. If cornered, I could manage a whisper, but only a word or two. Just enough to respond.

On the playground I was a loner. I loved to swing, but I refused to stand in line to have a turn. Instead I played in the sand, by myself, day after day. Even after a storm when the sand was damp, that’s where I’d be.

When Kindergarten ended, I knew a lot of things. I had learned colors, shapes, numbers and letters. I could hold a pencil correctly and write my name, the alphabet and numbers. I could draw shapes and color within the lines. But I could not speak and I had no friends.

It was a terrible way to begin one’s academic career.

As I grew older, I understood what was required to get the grades my parents expected, so I did all the things that my teachers demanded. I still sat silent, however, even when called upon to respond. No matter how hard I tried, I could not muster the strength to squeak. It was embarrassing.

Things improved somewhat in junior high. By then I had developed a voice, but it was a quiet one. I still had no friends. I could not approach someone and initiate conversations and had a hard time participating even when I had something to offer.

In high school I made one friend. She was a loner like me. Somehow we found each other. Together we could speak. It was an awesome feeling.

I don’t remember her name, but I do remember the hours we spent walking her neighborhood talking about all kinds of things.

For me, it was a revelation. Someone cared what I thought and really wanted to know and understand my opinions!

Can you understand how liberating that was?

By the time I enrolled in college I had overcome much of the paralyzing fear I had of speaking out in class. I could raise my hand and answer in front of others, as long as the class was small. I could voice an opinion. I could find others like me.

I’d like to report that I am no longer shy, but that is not true.

I am comfortable with those who know me, but uncomfortable in groups of people who do not. This makes it challenging when I go to conferences and workshops. I am with ten to fifteen total strangers who are going to critique my writing and I am expected to critique theirs. It’s painfully hard.

In a crowd of “family” which includes people who I either don’t know or barely know, I find a corner in which to plop down and hide there.

People who have known me for a long time don’t believe that I am shy. Around them I am confident that they truly want to know what I think, and so I can relax and be me. I love being with those friends as they recognize that I am a person of worth.

If only I had felt this growing up. Imagine how different I might have turned out!

 

 

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