The Power of Words

Kevin sat at his desk, grading the essays that his students had written that day. While he loved teaching, there were days and times when he hated his students. Maybe not hated. But greatly disliked. Today was one of them.

Paper after paper was filled with grammatical errors that an elementary student should have mastered. These were college prep seniors. They all should be able to construct a basic sentence that made sense. Take a position on a topic that was logically presented and defended. But not this year’s bunch. It was as if they had all skipped language instruction as little kids and jumped straight into his version of hell. How were they going to succeed in college next year? Kevin imagined all of them dropping out and slinging burgers at the local fast food shops.

He couldn’t give them all failing grades. He wanted to. But Kevin knew that not only would his students protest, but so would the parents. He sat back and imagined the angry hordes storming the principal’s office, demanding his termination. Or, in absence of that, regraded papers. The principal would most likely call Kevin in for a talk. Then demand changed grades.

That’s when he heard the popping sounds that reminded him of the interminable explosions of fireworks that rocked his normally quiet neighborhood in the weeks preceding the Fourth of July. Kevin cocked his ear to one side and looked toward his classroom door. The noise seemed to be Just outside in the hallway.

What was the protocol that he was supposed to follow? Kevin knew he shouldn’t open the door to look into the hallway. He was supposed to lock it. Turn off the lights. Go to the furthest spot away from the door. So what did he do? Kevin picked up his key and tiptoed to the door. Listened. Nothing out there, or so he thought. Just as he started to insert the key, the door was jerked out of his hand. Two students tumbled in. A boy and a girl.

“There’s a shooter out there,” the boy said. “I saw him. He’s coming this way. We’ve got to hide.” He grabbed the girl’s hand and pulled her to the front of the classroom. They ducked behind Kevin’s desk and scrambled underneath.

Kevin watched them, eyes open wide. He just violated one of the most basic precepts of an intruder drill. He was not to let anyone in the room. Not even random students seeking refuge. After all, the way things were going, these two kids might be the shooters themselves. Can’t change that now. The damage was done, as the saying goes. So Kevin put his key in the lock. Started to turn it.

Once again, the door was pulled out of his grasp. Thinking it was another random student seeking refuge, Kevin automatically stepped aside. Almost in a welcoming way.

He saw the gun first. Knowing nothing about guns, Kevin couldn’t say whether it was a hunting rifle or an automatic weapon of some kind. It had a long, shiny grey barrel that pointed right at his chest. “Stand back, old man,” the holder of the gun said.

Kevin took several steps back, his hand still extended as if to lock the door. He felt his body go rigid as panic set in. He couldn’t think of what to say or do other than comply, so he moved back another few steps. “Please don’t shoot,” he said in a shaky voice.

“Shut up,” the man said as he closed the door behind him. The man leaned against the opaque window in the door as if he could see through it. He couldn’t. It was that cloudy. But it didn’t stop the man from trying.

Kevin moved to his desk and was about to sit in his chair when he saw the feet of the two kids sticking out from underneath. He leaned against the white board, hands holding the tray that at one time, before everything was modernized, held chalk. As if that was what he had planned all along. Kevin thought he heard shouting out in the hall, but he was too far away from the door to know for sure. He hoped it was the police.

Kevin, for the first time, really looked at the man. He had a bandanna tied around the lower part of his face, concealing his mouth and chin. His hair was gone. Just a shadow of what must have been brown hair remained. His ears stuck out like wings. Large ears. Elephant ears. Narrow head. The incongruity tickled Kevin and he had to stifle a chuckle. The man was like a comic-book creature. All he needed was a clown’s outfit.

There was nothing special about the man’s clothing that screamed terrorist. Gray hoodie that could be zippered, but wasn’t. Jeans, slightly faded around the knees, but not baggy. White ankle-high tennis shoes. He looked like the hundreds of students who roamed the halls. In fact, if it weren’t for the mask and the gun, he would have blended in perfectly.

The man turned and pointed the gun at Kevin. “Get down on the floor,” he said as he moved into the room. His eyes scanned from one side to the other. “Are you alone?”

“Yes,” Kevin said as he sank to the floor.

“You’re lying.”

“No, I’m not.” The girl let out a moan that Kevin hoped the man did not hear.

The man strode toward the desk. “Who’s that? Who made that noise?”

The girl tried tucking her legs further under the desk, but was only able to move them a fraction of an inch.

When the man came even with Kevin, he growled. “Get out from under there,” he shouted, “or I’ll shoot.”

Kevin nodded toward the boy and girl, encouraging them to come out. That might not have been the right thing for him to do, but what other options were there?

The girl emerged first. Tears streaked her cheeks and her long hair was disheveled. Her white t-shirt was damp under her chin, like she had been crying for some time. She scooted as close to Kevin as she could.

“Is there someone else under there?” The man stared at the girl. Her eyes flicked momentarily at the boy, then up to the man’s face. It was just enough of a tell that the man knew. He fired a shot at the underside of the desk. Not really aiming at anything. More of a warning. Or an instruction.

The boy slid out and sat next to the girl. He grabbed her hand and held it tightly in his.

Kevin knew then why the kids had been in the hall. Making out. Getting in a few last minutes kisses and gropes before being too late for class.

“Keep quiet,” the man said, “or I kill you all.”

Kevin was glad that the kids didn’t say anything. He didn’t doubt that the man would shoot. After all, he had heard shots when he was sitting at his desk. Even so, he glanced in the direction of the kids, willing them to be silent.

The boy was clean cut. Neatly combed blond hair. Shirt with a collar and khaki slacks. He reminded Kevin of one of his former students, a kid named Jonathan who had earned a scholarship to Princeton. Jonathan had been a bit of a geek. Into computers. But this kid looked like more of an athlete. Cross country maybe. Long and lanky. Muscular thighs. Narrow shoulders.

“Where’s your tape?” the man said.

“What?” Kevin asked.

“Your tape. Get it out and wrap it around their hands and ankles.” The man rolled Kevin’s chair over a few feet and sat down heavily. As if exhausted from running.

“It’s in the cabinet, over there,” Kevin said as he looked at the opposite wall. “Can I go get it?”

The man nodded. The nozzle of the gun pointed at Kevin. “No funny stuff. Just get the tape and come back.”

Kevin got to his feet and slowly went to the cabinet. He quickly found the masking tape and turned around.

“Not that kind of tape,” the man said. “That’s useless. Duct tape. Find that.”

“I don’t have any,” Kevin said. “This is it. The only tape I’ve got.”

“It will have to do,” the man said. “Hurry up. I don’t have a lot of time left.”

Kevin did as instructed. He bound the two kids up. Hands behind the back and ankles pointing forward. Then the man put down his gun and wrapped the tape around Kevin as well. When finished, he picked up his gun and sat back on the chair. He sighed.

“What’s your name?” Kevin asked the girl.


“Jose,” said the boy.

“Shut up,” the man yelled. He squirmed nervously on the chair. Almost like he had to use the restroom.

Kevin smiled at the two kids. He felt sorry for them. It wasn’t fair that this guy had barged into their lives. Stolen their childhoods in an ill-thought act.

But what could Kevin do about it? He was not a strong man himself. Never worked out. Probably couldn’t bench press much of anything, let alone take on a hefty guy brandishing a gun. Kevin looked out at his classroom. Orderly rows of desks, that earlier had been occupied by students who thought they were brilliant. God’s gift to education. Now there was only random pieces of paper on the floor and dust motes floating in the air.

“What’s your plan?” Kevin asked the man. “You can’t hide in here forever.”

The man rubbed his hand over his scalp. “I don’t know, man. I don’t know.”

“You could let us go. We haven’t done anything to you. We’re nothing to you but baggage.”

The man rocked back and forth, back and forth. His hands shook and perspiration broke out on his forehead.

“Eventually the cops will come in here,” Kevin said. “When they see your gun, they’ll shoot. Is that what you want?”

The man shook his head. “Naw, man. I don’t want to die.”

“Did you hurt anyone?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Then the cops will go easy on you. Think about it. Just put down your gun and walk out of here.”

The man looked at Kevin as if seeing him for the first time. “Do I know you?”

“Maybe,” Kevin said. “Did you go here?”

“Yeah. A few years ago. I graduated and everything, but can’t get a job.”

“So why are you here?”

“I got mad. It’s all Mr. Granderson’s fault.”

“Why?” Kevin asked.

“He was supposed to teach me welding so I could work in my uncle’s shop. I tried, but never got it.”

Kevin thought about this. He had heard that Granderson was a lazy, incompetent teacher. That he didn’t each anything. Put on movies every day. His students never did well when they went on to ROP classes. Admin had tried firing him, but Granderson had been around too many years. Now all they could hope for was that Granderson would retire.

“How would shooting him make things better?” Kevin asked.

The man shrugged. “I guess it wouldn’t, but now I’m stuck. The cops will come in here, see the gun, and kill me.”

“Not if I take the gun. Not if I open the door and walk you out.”

The man’s eyes rolled up to the ceiling. “You’d do that for me?”


“Why? You don’t know me.”

“Maybe not, but I’ve known kids like you. Never got a fair shot at life. Single parent, probably your mom. She came home late. Usually you were in bed by the time she got there, so you raised yourself.”

The man nodded. “Yeah. She’s a good mom.”

“Think about her, then. How she would feel if she saw you right now.”

“Oh, man, she’d be mad.”

Kevin sat quietly, letting the man think about things for a bit. When the man stood up, Kevin leaned away and ducked his head without thinking about the kids next to him. “What are you doing?”

The man placed the gun on Kevin’s desk, then leaned over and unwrapped the tape from Kevin’s ankles and wrists. “You’re going to walk me out, like you said.”

Kevin smiled encouragingly. He stood and shook out his arms. “Okay. Let’s take it easy. I’ll go first. Open the door slowly and look out in the hall. You stay back.” When the man nodded in agreement, Kevin walked to the door. He opened it a crack and saw SWAT police in the hall. “Don’t shoot me,” Kevin said. “The guy’s in here. He’s put his gun down and is coming out.”

The police held their guns high and nodded in agreement.

Kevin opened the door wider and stepped into the hall. The man followed, hands held high. Within seconds the police had him restrained. One of them came into the classroom and picked up the gun. He quickly checked the teenagers and then left.

Kevin gently closed the door and breathed a sigh of relief. He removed the tape form the kids and helped them stand. “You’re okay,” he said. “It’s safe to leave now.”

“You’re brave,” Jose said. “Thanks for saving us.”

“Yeah,” Marissa said. “I thought he was going to kill us.”

“Go on, now,” Kevin said. He watched as they walked hand-in-hand out the door. He sat down at his deck and thought about the papers he still had to grade. “No way. I’m going home.” Kevin packed up his briefcase, picked up his lunch bag and walked out the door. He felt proud of himself. Just like he told his students to do, he had used his words. And it had worked.

Dreams of Glory

“Look. Let’s get real here.” Jackson stepped out from the baby grand piano. “Do you really want to do well in the competition, or not?”

Twenty pairs of feet shuffled nervously. Someone giggled softly. Several people cleared their throats as if getting ready to cough.

Paul, a lanky young man, swept his right hand in the direction of the choir. “You just gave us this music last week. We never even went over it once. What do you expect? If it’s perfection, you’re not going to get it.”

Jackson looked down at his hands which were hanging loosely by his side. He shook his head slightly. “I expected you to practice on your own. To have gone through the piece several times. To be familiar with the music.” Jackson raised his eyes and looked at each member thoughtfully. “Did any of you do that?”

Samantha, a pretty redhead, and Marcos, a stocky baritone raised their hands tentatively.

“Is that it?” Jackson planted his hands on his hips and stared aggressively at the rest of the choir members. “Only two of you? What’s wrong with you people?”

“Calm down,” Paul said. “The competition is weeks away. Be patient with us. Work with us. Teach us.”

Jackson turned and walked down the main aisle of the church, his shoulders slumped. He smoothed back his already neatly combed hair and sighed. He looked up toward the ceiling as if seeking divine intervention.

Paul stepped before the choir with a pleading look on his face. “Listen. We’re good. The best. We want this, right?” His eyes made contact with each of the members standing before him. “We can do it. Not just be good, but good enough to win.” He leaned forward slightly and smiled. “We’ve got to want this and put in the effort. Each of us.”

Marcos nodded. “You know Paul’s right. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve dreamed about this. Being on a big stage. Singing before a panel of judges. Going up against other choirs. Winning the whole thing.”

“Me, too,” Samantha said. “I realize that not all of you can sing a piece without hearing it first. That’s okay. We’ll work together, help each other. What do you say?”

Everyone smiled and nodded.

Samantha turned toward Jackson. “Please come back. Give us another chance. We’ll get it right the next time. And if not, then the time after that.”

Jackson walked back down the aisle. His eyes glittered as if filled with tears. He nodded. Spread his arms out as it enfolding the members into his body. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, that’s what I wanted to hear. This has to be something you’ve wanted so badly your teeth hurt just thinking about it. A dream you’ve held tight.” He paced back and forth, his arms waving passionately as he spoke. “I believe you can win this thing, but only if you stop dreaming and start performing. You’ve got the talent to win the recording contract. Be stars.”

Jackson sat on the piano bench and placed his fingers over the keys. “Shall we give it one more try?”

Twenty heads nodded and twenty faces smiled. When they sang, they were perfectly in tune. Their voices filled the church with angelic harmony.

Changing the Bed

Mindlessly, I pulled the pillows off the bed
Thinking about what my husband had just said
About feeling adrift in a world gone mad
Fighting over things that folks once had had

Pillowcases not so gently tossed aside,
My mind roamed to all those soldiers who had died
Fighting against the wind in lands far away
Laundry on a line, too tightly bound to stray

The plaid coverlet dumped carelessly on the floor
Landed, with aplomb, blocking the bedroom door
So many paved paths deadlocked by tragedy
Murdered teens drowning in the filth of the city

Layer by layer I stripped my place of rest
As if preparing for a traveling guest
Who’d put alterations in my troubled brain
Inspiring change, much like a runaway train

It came to me, then, the trouble we are in
Referred back to when the world began to spin
Dirt drifted down, quickly tarnishing the soil
Sturdy stains from which all men would recoil

Yet, like drawn to the fire of a brand new day
Cleansing ideas floated in with the sway
Influencing hearts to always seek the truth
Strive to avoid the repulsively uncouth

Gathering the detritus of my hard work
I realized that there is one mammoth perk
When assembled together, my bed will please
Only then did I relax: my mind at ease

The Learned One

“You must be watchful,” Jimere said. His long, gray hair fell over his shoulders as he stood. “The Spirits love to surprise. Especially that one, Elodia.” With a trembling right hand, he pointed to a small potted plant near the doorway. “Elodia sends her scent to entice the unwary, and then paralyzes the body and the mind with the slightest taste.”

“Elodia’ll also give you a nasty rash if you don’t handle it carefully, but it’s the best thing for healing deep cuts when made into a poultice,” said fourteen-year-old Bitina. “Tell me something that I don’t already know. Maybe about that herb over there,” she said as she pointed to a tidy bundle of brown hanging from the rafters. “I want to know everything about healing, just like you do.” She crossed her arms over her budding breasts and glowered at her teacher.

“Time may be running out for your studies because your trial day is coming up, and if you don’t pass the test…”

“I’ll not get to be a healer. I know all this, Jimere,” Bitina said. She walked over to the working area and picked up a pestle. “Show me how to grind Kashere. I want to brew a tea to ease my grandma’s pain.”

“Yes, yes. In all good time.” Jimere lovingly ran his fingers along a row of clay pots on a shelf just above his head. He picked one up and looked inside. “Ah, Dulio. What is this good for?”

“I know,” shouted Renji as he rushed to his teacher’s side. “It takes the fight out of one who is possessed.”

“Right, my apt pupil.” Jimere ruffled the boy’s curly brown hair. “You’re the smartest eight-year old in the class.”

“I’m the only eight year old.” Renji’s shoulders squared with pride. He beamed at his sister, feeding the one-upmanship that marked their relationship.

“You said I was the smartest,” snarled Bitina. “Besides, I asked about Kashere. Please, Jimere, show me how to make the tea! Grandma’s fingers and toes ache so bad she can’t sleep.”

“Patience, dear one.” Jimere limped over to his work stool, leaning heavily on his cane. “Since you are also the smartest, tell me, Bitina, what Rodden looks like, and what it’s good for.”

“If I show you, will you answer my question?”

“Yes, yes. Of course.”

Bitina strode passed Jimere, her eyes scanning the shelved herbs. She pulled down a tied-together bunch with small, curly leaves. “This is Rodden. When someone is weak with fever, you take one leaf, crush it with a pestle, and then sprinkle it into a cup of boiling water. The sick one is to drink slowly, one sip at a time. If the fever does not go down in an hour, strengthen the dose and repeat.”

“So, you do listen and remember. That is good. That is very good. Now, go get the Kashere jar.” Jimere’s body suddenly began trembling and his face turned the color of old ashes. His eyes rolled back, he fell off the stool, and collapsed to the floor.

“Renji, watch his head,” Bitina said. “Make sure it doesn’t bang against anything.”

“I know what to do. Quit treating me like I’m stupid,” the boy said as he knelt by his teacher’s head. “It’s okay. It’s okay,” he intoned as he stroked Jimere’s arms.

Bitina knelt by the old man’s side, and counted the seconds as the tremors continued. “Twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one. This is bad, Renji.”

Instead of easing in intensity, as they usually did with time, the seizures seemed to get stronger and stronger.

“It’s never been this bad before,” Bitina said as tears poured down her pallid cheeks.

“Should I go get Lynnaia? She might be able to help,” Renji said.

Bitina nodded. Despite her years of training with the learned one, she felt incompetent in this situation. Jimere’s seizures usually went away quickly and then he was walking and talking normally, as if nothing had happened. She did not know what to do to help him, and so she simply sat and held his hand.

While Bitina kept watch, Renji ran down to the lake. Everyone in the village knew Lynnaia as the spiritual advisor, but she had also studied under Jimere when a young child. Going for her was a logical choice.

As time passed, and Renji did not return, and Jimere’s condition did not improve, Bitina knew that she had to do something. Her eyes flew about the room. What magic can I blend to make the seizures stop? She scanned the various plants growing in pots all along Jimere’s walls. Talluse. No, that’s to cure shyness. Denoy. Maybe. It can cure depression. I know! Altair. It’s good for all sorts of illnesses.

Bitina ran over to a cactus-like plant growing in the darkest corner of the room. She broke off a one-inch piece of leaf and carried it over to Jimere’s worktable. The defender. Yes, that will do. And I’ll add in a tad of Dulio, to ward off the darkness.

The girl put a pot of water over the warm fire. In the mortar, she crushed together the two herbs, working with the swiftness of a practiced healer. When the water boiled heartily, Bitina poured some into Jimere’s favorite mug. After carefully scraping the herbal mixture into the mug, she stirred.

What’s taking Renji so long? Lynnaia’s house isn’t that far away. Even if they crawled all the way back, they should have been here by now. Anger at her brother’s slowness would not help, and so Bitina tested the medicine to see if it was ready.

Jimere’s seizures had eased in intensity, but had not stopped completely. His mouth hung open as if to scream, and his back arched like a cat’s.

Bitina slowly knelt, being careful not to spill even one drop of the remedy. “Jimere,” she said. “I’m going to put some liquid in your mouth. When I do, swallow. It’ll help.” Bitina tipped the mug until a few drops fell into her teacher’s opened mouth. She didn’t see him swallow, but the medicine didn’t come back out, either. So she dripped in some more, and then still more.

The seizures slowly lost more and more power, making Bitina feel confident that her concoction was the right mixture. After she had managed to get the entire cupful into Jimere, his body noticeably relaxed.

She sat back on her knees and smiled. He’ll sleep the rest of the day now. She walked over to Jimere’s sleeping corner and got down two of his fluffiest furs. She carried them to where he slept. She spread one out next to Jimere, and then rolled his limp body over and over. When he was more or less in the middle, she stopped pushing. Then she covered him with the other fur.

After watching to make sure that he was out of danger, Bitina stood. Smiling with pride, she cleaned up the cooking area, humming a tune of thanksgiving. Renji should have been here ages ago. He probably found a frog and forgot all about Jimere. Wait until I see him!
Bitina wiped her hands on a clean towel, and then strode to the door. She looked toward the lake, hoping to see Renji and Lynnaia. There was no one near Garnock’s stall, one of the busiest shops in the village. No cluster of old women around the cooperative cooking pots. In fact, she could see no one milling about no matter in which direction she looked. This disturbed her, but she couldn’t just leave Jimere unless he was out of danger.

After checking on her teacher one last time, Bitina stepped into the street and headed toward home. As Bitina passed one house after another, she noticed no smoke coming out of chimneys, no noisy boys throwing rocks into the lake, and no men crafting weapons in the work area. A prickling sensation arose along the back of her neck. I’m being watched, she thought as she spun around. No, no one’s there.

She headed toward Lynnaia’s house, thinking she’d find Renji inside, eating peppermint candy. When she stepped on the old woman’s porch, Bitina noticed that there were no candles lit. Where’d she go?

Bitina took off, running past Jeca’s unkempt house, expecting to find her messing about in the dirt along the road. She wasn’t there, and she never goes anywhere.

Not knowing what else to do, Bitina headed toward the meetinghouse. There was almost always someone there, most likely another healer.

She ran as fast as she could up a small hill, leaping over rocks and fallen logs that were in the path. Bitina took a leap across a small stream, landing securely on the opposite side.
She ran and ran, and even though her side ached, Bitina ran some more. When she entered the meadow of the meetinghouse, she stopped to wipe the streams of sweat from her eyes. There was no smoke rising from the chimney, which was weird as that fire was always lit. If no one is here, then where could everyone be?

Terrified that some unimaginable evil had happened while she was tending to Jimere, she sped to the entrance door, hastily bowed the requisite number of times, and then lifted the latch. The door didn’t move. Bitina tugged again, leaning back on her heels and using all her weight as leverage. The door slowly opened, revealing total darkness inside.

A comforting breeze washed over Bitina as she stepped inside. She slipped off her shoes according to custom, and then pulled back the heavy curtain that lead to the worship room.

There was no glow in the fire pit, something that Bitina had never seen her entire life.
She shivered. First Jimere’s sickness, then Renji’s disappearance, the whole town empty and now the missing fire. It frightened her so much, that she stood frozen.
When something tickled the back of her arms, Bitina turned, terrified of what she’d see. But there was nothing that she could make out in the darkness.

Suddenly, from a corner of the room, beads rattled.

“Who’s there?” Bitina took a step forward, even though only silence greeted her shaking knees. “Is someone there? Please, speak to me,” She called out. Despite her best efforts to be brave, tears streamed down her face.

“The Spirits have chosen you,” a nearby voice called out. “Step into the heart of the darkness.”

“Who are you?” Bitina stayed close to the door, prepared to run away.

“Do not be afraid, for you are among fellow travelers,” a high-pitched voice intoned. “Step into the heart of the darkness.”

Bitina reached forward with both hands, and while waving them about, took ten tiny steps. “I’m in the center, I think.”

“Close your eyes and pray the prayer of hope,” the high-pitched voice commanded.

“Spirits of night and day, come to me today,” Bitina said. “Lead me far away to where my center lay. Bless me, bless me I pray.”

Sparkling lights suddenly erupted, filling the room with blinding color. Blinking rapidly, Bitina watched the display as awareness slowly came to her. She knew that this was how the crossing over ceremony began and so was no longer afraid.

With a loud swoosh, the fireplace burst into flame and strong arms wrapped around her chest, holding her firm.

“My child, do not fear,” the tender voice of Jimere whispered in her right ear. “You are to be named shaman. No longer are you apprentice.”

“But you were asleep when I left,” Bitina said.

“I know, I know. Thank goodness I taught you well. I was afraid that you would accidentally poison me. If I had not healed, you would have failed the test.”

“The test? That was my test?” A smile of pride lit Bitina’s face. “If I hadn’t thought of the right medicines, you might have died!”

“No, no. Lynnaia was right outside looking in through a window. If anything had gone wrong, she would have come in and taken over.”

“But, Jimere, how did she know to be there?” Bitina’s eyes got huge when she realized what had happened. Jimere had taken one of his own medicines, simply to trigger the seizures. “Why did you do that?”

“You had to pass the healing test. It’s the way that it’s always done. Now, look around. We are here to celebrate your special day.”

Bitina did as told. She recognized the people gathered around the fire. Renji stood with her parents. Lynnaia was next to Kitchell, and Alywin and Mercel stood together, holding hands. More and more faces became visible as Bitina’s eyes adjusted to the light.

Jimere chanted the crossing over song with pride in her voice. Soon everyone joined in, including Bitina. As expected, she fell to her knees and placed her hands on the soft dirt floor. Bowed, she gave thanks for all the time spent with the learned one, for her parents who had allowed her to study, to her brother Renji for helping her practice, and especially to the spirits, who guided her constantly. This was a truly special day.