The Day I Almost Killed My Brother

High School was wretched. I had very few friends. I was the girl in the hallway whose books were knocked from her hands. I shudder when I drive past my old school, and intend to burn any notice I receive for a Class Reunion. One of the bright spots in my HS years, was that I rarely rode the bus. God blessed me with a beautiful junker of a car. It passed from my sister to me, and made my days a bit easier. When my brother reached the same campus as me, he received the added benefit of this, since he then rode with me to school. He was a bookworm, a proclivity I completely understand, and used the precious half hour ride to add book after book to his pile of conquests.

Here is where my story really begins.

I was lonely after long days of loneliness (redundant explanation perhaps but true) and longed to engage in uplifting conversation. My brother is three years younger than me, and has always been a precocious fellow. I would hop into the car, buckle up, and promptly begin to chatter. His occasional grunts deceived me into thinking I was listened to, and I blathered on, wagging my chin like an idiot. The day I finally realized he wasn’t listening, I was a little miffed. I dropped back into silence and watched the tedious scenery roll by my windows. He barely noticed the difference and continued to contentedly turn pages.

We left school at the same time. We went home the same route. September to June. Twice a day. The scenery got boring, until one element of the view caught my eye and gave me a source of entertainment.

A boy, probably a year or two younger than me, got off his school bus at the corner and walked down the street to his house. He had a mop of curly brown hair, often wore a red flannel shirt, and nodded his head rhythmically up and down as he walked. I noticed it once. I noticed it twice. I started looking for headphones, or some sign that he heard something I didn’t. Apparently not, it must have been a tick. I’m not judging. My eyes twitch violently when I eat something sour.

He gave me weeks of silent analysis and mental study. Why nod? How nod? Was he a drummer? Was he humming too? What was his name? Which house was his? On and on and on… None of this madness would have continued if my brother had spared me those thirty minutes for conversation! None! Especially not what happened next…

I have a strange sense of humor. Few people understand it. Sometimes I’m not sure I understand it myself. But I began to concoct stories about this boy and tell them to my might-as-well-have-been-deaf brother.

The boy’s name was Josh. He and I were in love. We wrote beautiful letters to one another. He was a musician and a poet. We shared our first kiss in yonder field. We carved our initials in the knotted bark of that tree. Ah! Rapture! Bliss! The unparalleled heavenly taste of his lips against mine! I told my brother a new story about this boy every day for about a week. All went unheard. One day I went a step too far.

We came upon the turn. There was his bus. It stopped. He stepped down and began his nod accompanied stroll down the street.

“There he is Michael,” I sighed. “Look at those gorgeous locks. Tonight I shall run my fingers through them.” I looked at my brother. Who knows where he was. I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel. “You don’t believe I know him do you?” Silence. “I do and today I’ll prove it to you! Today I will wave at my beloved and he will blow me a kiss, then you will know all I speak to you is true!”

I took the turn slowly, positioned myself, one hand on the wheel, one lifted to wave at my unsuspecting victim. I locked my eyes on him, slowed to a crawl, and waved vigorously, my face plastered with feigned rapture. He looked up at me. His eyes widened in surprise. My brother screamed.

“RACHEL!!!!!!!!!”

This was neither a scream of affirmation, nor of wonderment that all my stories were true. No. It was a scream of utter terror.

If you don’t believe in God, if you don’t believe in miracles, you are about to hear a tale of mine.

My brother looked up from his book. He NEVER looked up from his book. That day he did, just in time to warn me that I was gliding on a direct course for a tree on the side of the road. Apparently the perpetual diagonal line I walk on is a defect in my brain. The one handed grasp on my wheel was gently gliding us off the road, unbeknownst to me.

I screamed, swerved, and slammed on my breaks. My brother and I sat for a moment or two in silence, learning once again how to properly breathe.

“What the heck were you doing?” Michael asked.

I shook my head in silence. I removed my foot from the break and we rolled on towards home. I glanced in my review mirror. The boy stood still in the middle of the road, his head gently nodding.

I never saw him again, but I often think of him. I wonder if he ever thinks of me. The girl that nearly ran into a tree just to look in his eyes and wave her hand at him.

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Sonnet: John 14:1-6

Let not your heart be troubled God reminds,
Our life is hid with Jesus Christ on high.
So brethren let us shake the ties that bind,
Us fast onto things that can’t satisfy.
Our tears and sufferings may drag us low,
And make us feel devoid of hope or song,
But Jesus left us here a while to go,
Prepare the perfect home for which we long.
Let’s hold onto this hope though comes the rain.
Our Savior’s hands will soon remove our tears.
The mem’ries of our trials won’t remain,
Just joy and bliss through endless, endless, years.
So put on joy for trials will not stay,
And live for Christ until this blessed day.

© Rachel Svendsen 2014

About Your…

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Arms…
Warm, firm, perfect-
ly suited to fit
around my body; to
hold me.

Hands…
Strong, soft, gentle
touch from the palms
pressed to mine and
squeezing.

Fingers…
White, smooth, loving
touch sends sparks through
my skin. Blood turns
To fire.

Eyes…
Deep, warm, smiling,
sweet; Holds my gaze,
for all my earth-
ly days.

© Rachel Svendsen 2014

Nighttime Revels

It was about 2 a.m. That’s my standard wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night time. I usually have to pee and spend about twenty minutes trying to ignore the urge so I can get back to sleep. It obviously doesn’t work and I end up getting up.

I hung my feet over the side until they reached the carpet and slowly sat erect. My head was still fuzzy and sleep filled. My husband was still fuzzy and sleep filled (actually he just snored on, unaware of my movement).  I stepped out into the hallway, which was oddly darker than usual.  I often leave a light on somewhere so that I don’t sustain serious injury during my nighttime revels. Apparently I hadn’t. I had my iPhone in my hand, so I tapped the screen for a little light as I tottered towards the bathroom. I heard something move. I stopped. All my senses were immediately alert and my brain clear from the fog of sleep.

“Timmy?” I murmured. He’s a heavy sleeper, so my soft frightened whimper would by no means rouse him. I didn’t really want to wake him. He works hard and deserves his rest. It was nothing anyway. Just the wind…right?

I took another step towards the bathroom. I peeked my head inside. My trembling hand reached for the light switch. The shades clattered. Shook. I jumped back towards the bedroom.

“Timmy!” I called. This time I was not muttering half hearted calls for his assistance. “Timmy get up there is something in the bathroom.”

Snort. Grumble. Mutter. Stir. “Whhaaat?” His response made it clear he was not awake. We sometimes have whole conversations while he is still in a state of half consciousness. I needed him awake now.

“Timmy get up!” I pleaded. “There is something in the bathroom and it’s freaking me out!”

Stir. Mutter. Groan. He sat up though, and his eyes were open. My valiant protector was awake. I swallowed and ventured towards the bathroom again. His words glided to me from behind, through a yawn, “What’s wrong babe?”

My heart beat in my throat. I flicked on my iPhone’s flashlight. Blue tinted light flooded the dark hallway. I stepped forward and directed the stream at the bathroom window.

Something leapt from behind the shade. It was about the size of a DVD case, unfortunately this DVD case had at least four more legs than you usually find attached to the average plastic container. I say at least four because it looked like it could have had eight, or was that a tail trailing behind it? It hit the toilet lid with a sickening thud and dropped to the floor, then flew across the tile, onto the hallway carpet, towards my feet, like it was pursued by Wile E. Coyote.

I screamed. I state the fact simply, but words would fail me to describe the horror and panic that billowed through my veins. I stumbled back towards my bedroom and the black thing surged on to take refuge in my husband’s “office” which is really no more than the family dump heap for things that don’t have a home.

“What’s happening?” and the like erupted from the bed behind me in the timbre of my husband’s voice. I barely had time to recover from my panic, and consider the horrors of seeking out the ghastly thing in that room-of-requirement/room-of-hidden-things-esque mess when I sat up in bed.

“Rachel are you okay?” My husband’s arms were wrapped around me. I was breathing hard and I was frightened and I was…still in bed?

“It was just a dream,” he murmured. His warm hands pulled my trembling form down beside him. He pressed his lips to my forehead and tucked me in.

He was asleep again, almost instantaneously. He’s actually calmed me from nightmares in his sleep. I have them so frequently that it became a reflex for him after about 3 months of marriage. I laid in bed, eyes wide open unable to sleep. You see…I had a problem…

I had to pee…and it was dark in the hallway…

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A Second Goodbye

She ducked behind the display. Perhaps he hadn’t seen her. She felt him move towards her before she saw him. She picked up an item on the self and examined the price tag on its base. He spoke her name. It was a question. Could it really be her? His voice was all too familiar. She braced herself and turned around to look him full in the eye.

“Oh my gosh it is you!” he said. He raked a hand through his hair and looked her over. “Wow. I’d never have imagined meeting you here.”

Or anywhere… she mentally sighed.

“How’ve you been. You look great!”

“You too,” she mumbled. It was the right thing to say, but was it a lie? What she wanted to say was, “You look exactly the same.” He was smiling. Words were rolling out of his mouth. Falling from his lips. His lips. The same lips that had stolen her first kiss. The same lips that had…

He was so easy, carefree. How could he be so calm? How long had it been?

“Wow, how long has it been?” he echoed. She blushed at the absurd fear he could read her mind. “Five years right?”

“At least,” she muttered. They had been standing there several minutes. The greeting was over. Next was the horrific part.

“What have you been up to?” he asked. Perhaps he could read her mind…

“Oh this and that,” she said. He smiled.

“That’s appropriately vague,” he teased. The same smile touched his mouth. The same glint brightened in his eyes. The same sense of humor colored his words. “You here with someone?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “I’m on business. Just passing through. In fact I’ve got a meeting to run to so I should go.”

“Ah.” The knowing look in his eye. The little smirk. They knew each other too well. Three years pouring yourself, heart, soul, and body, into one person can leave little room for secrets.

“It was good to see you again,” he said. That awkward moment of saying goodbye. Do we shake hands? That seems odd and formal for two people who’ve…who’ve…known so much of each other.

He did it. He put his arms around her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She managed to close her hands gingerly around his back. She could smell his aftershave. He hadn’t changed that either.

“Take care.”

“You too,” she mumbled back.

He was gone. It was over. The moment she had been dreading in her dreams ever since they said their first goodbye. She’d rehearsed for this meeting, aloud of all maddening things. She watched her face in the mirror, planned all she would say, and how she would behave.  Those rehearsals had been useless.  She could see them fluttering out the window with her script, each page separated and dropped lazily to the ground.

She was shaking. She went to the register and purchased the item in her hand. She didn’t see what it was until they slid it into the blue plastic bag. A paperweight? It looked like there was an insect incased in it. Gross! What was she going to do with that?

Useless memento in hand, she walked out the door. She looked both ways along the busy city sidewalk. She was looking for him. She always looked for him. Now that she knew he hadn’t changed his haircut, and still wore that same jacket, she would wonder if every look alike she spied walking away from her was him. Before now she could tell herself it wasn’t. Now…

She was walking. Where was she going? Back to the hotel she guessed. People brushed past her. Strangers. But somewhere in that mass of unknown faces, somewhere in that city…her first love. Her first kiss. Her first…everything. Shared memories and moments connected two moving bodies, two beating hearts, in this hurried mass of humanity.

He was gone again. Maybe they would run into each other tomorrow. Maybe five or ten years from now… or maybe never. That was their second goodbye. She thought the first would be their last. She’d hoped it was the last, but she made the right decision then just as now.

Hadn’t she?

© Rachel Svendsen 2014

What Good is a Roll without Butter?

My mother’s despaired moan came from the backseat. “They forgot the butter for my roll.”

“No?” my grandmother gasped in horror.

“Yes!” She dropped it back into the paper bag from which it came. “What good is a roll without butter?” she mumbled.

I was driving. There was a lovely lilting rhythm to my mother’s words. My brain quickly composed a little ditty. I silently willed it to stay in my sieve-like brain until we made our next stop, at which point, I pulled out my handy-dandy-notebook and wrote the captured words out before they broke free like stallions into the wild frontiers of forgotten memories. (The wild, fresh smell of the grass and allurement of so many companions must be the draw.)

What good is a roll without butter,
Or marmalade on it to smother?
It’s just useless bread,
And better off dead.
What good is a roll without butter?

I recited my creation to my mother. She nodded vigorously. “You tell them!” she concurred.
Next step in the process, text my goofy creation to some appreciative party. This is usually one of two people, my husband, who was currently working and would be unable to chuckle for hours, or my brother-in-law, who usually responds within an hour on the average day.

My brother-in-law and I have an odd relationship. He is quickly becoming my closest friend. I can’t quite put a finger on when this started, it probably had something to do with our mutual obsession with literature, but we text nearly every day and I often find myself literally laughing out loud at our incomprehensible conversations.

I typed out my limerick-ish poem and sent it off into text-land. My mother and I deposited my Grandmother at home then trotted off to the gym. I was reading Mere Christianity on the incumbent bike when my iPhone made the Perry the Platypus sound. That means an incoming text. Instead of the expected “HAHA” or emote con, I received the following response.

In response I must say that a butter less roll,
May yet still be used as an onion soup bowl.
Take a knife and a spoon and scoop out a large hole.
Add soup and eat up, for it’s good for your soul!

I burst out laughing. The truth was I should have been anticipating something like this. Pleased as punch, I composed the proper response.

What good is a beach without sand,
A soft place for your butt to land?
For if it were rocks,
‘Twould ruin your socks!
What good is a beach without sand?

My day rolled forward. Hours later I looked at my phone to see the following answer.

A sandless beach, I think you will find,
Can be lots of fun if there’s rocks to be climbed!
You can stand on the top looking out to the sea,
Solid rock at your feet, spread your arms! You are free!

I burst into peals of laughter. My husband insisted on knowing what happened. I shared the conversation with my beloved then began to beat my head for another question.
“What good is a feast without food?” my husband offered. I snapped my fingers at his brilliance and typed into my phone.

What good is a feast without food?
You’ll have to agree that it’s rude.
The guests would be mad,
And that would be bad.
What good is a feast without food?

My response came a while later.

Man shall not live by bread alone.
They could sit in a circle, play telephone.
Let fellowship take the place of the yeast.
Friendship will out at an un-fooded feast.

This was his best one yet. I dangled one more before his eyes.

What good is a day without sun?
I don’t think it would be much fun.
For I need sun to tan,
Or I won’t get a man.
What good is a day without sun?

My response came about 12 hours later.

What could be better than a sunless day?
With books and tea, inside you can stay!
And as for your tan, you’ve already got a man
And he will love you either way.

I smiled.

Me: You’re hilarious by the way.
Jon: Thank you :p

I love my brother in law. 🙂

© Rachel Svendsen 2014

Pen and Paper

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Pen and paper help me,
For I am at a loss.
The world around me seems so hateful,
Spiteful, angry, lost, ungrateful.
Help me to convey,
The things that I can never say.

Words so often fail me.
My voice runs out of sound.
The others all can talk around me.
Their flowing words so often drown me.
Help me now to speak,
For my mouth is far too weak.

I write until it soothes me,
This soft and subtle art.
My heart heals when my feelings leak,
And bleed onto an empty sheet.
Help me to express,
My aching hurt and loneliness.

I must fold my paper,
And turn back towards the world.
I know I can run back inside,
To vent my worry, cry, and hide.
The sky is overcast.
I’ll write until the storm has passed.

© Rachel Svendsen 2014