Hiding

Gerald ran up the concrete walkway to his childhood home. He hadn’t been there in years. In any other circumstance, he was sure his family would have been thrilled to see him. But he couldn’t let himself care about that tonight.

Tonight, he was in hiding.

He fumbled around nervously for his keys. His shaking hands couldn’t quell the monstrous rattle of metal as he attempted unlocking the door. He looked back behind him. No one seemed to be following, but his uneasiness grew. They seemed to have given up the chase very quickly.

After several tries, Gerald finally opened the front door and stumbled inside. It was pitch black. Everyone was likely in bed. He’d have to be extra quiet so as not to wake them.

Once his eyes adjusted to the room, he made his way to the kitchen, hoping a beer would calm his nerves. He opened the refrigerator and grabbed a Budweiser. He closed the door and jumped; his sister was standing behind it.

“You scared me half to death, Rachel!” he exclaimed. “How did you move so quietly?”

She ignored the question. “Gerald! I haven’t seen you in so long!” She leapt forward and grabbed him in a big hug.

Gerald returned the hug as best he could while still being nervous. “It’s good to see you too, Rach. But please keep your voice down.”

Rachel looked up at him. “Why? You know Mom and Dad will want to see you, no matter what time of night it is.”

Gerald frantically grabbed her shoulders. “Please keep it down. Don’t wake them up. I’m just here to catch my breath, grab a couple things from my bedroom, and leave again. This isn’t a random visit.”

Rachel grew worried. She snuck a glance at the clock. 2:07 AM. “Yeah, it’s a little late for a random visit anyway. Why are you here?”

“I told you. I just need to grab a couple things from my room.”

“What kind of things?”

Gerald stammered. “D-does it really m-matter?” He wished she hadn’t discovered him in the first place. The last thing he wanted to do was get his family roped into something they would never understand.

Rachel looked at him quizzically. “Kind of. I mean, we haven’t seen you for years, or heard from you in a few months. Then out of nowhere you decide to show up at two in the morning and you don’t even want to see us? What are you grabbing from your room?”

Gerald looked at his sister. He had always felt a stronger connection to her than to anyone else in his family. If anyone could understand, it was her. “I… uh…”

“Well?” She put her hands on her hips.

He took a sip of his beer and tried to collect his thoughts. “Well, Rachel… There are some things you don’t know about me.”

She raised her eyebrows. “I bet. You’ve been a mystery man for so long. You didn’t even have that beard when I saw you last.”

“Well, I’ve done a lot in these past few years that I’m not so proud of. And, well…”

Rachel waited for the end of that sentence. “Well?”

Gerald gulped. “I, uh… I’m in hiding.”

“Hiding?”

“Yes.”

“Hiding from what?”

Gerald lowered his voice even further. “A group of terrible men. They want to kill me.”

Rachel gasped. “Why? Why would they want to kill you?”

Gerald paused. This was the moment of truth. He was not entirely sure why he was confessing, but once he did, there was no going back. “Because, I killed their leader.”

The weight of those words hung heavy in the air. Gerald knew his little sister’s opinion of him would be forever changed. She was now related to a murderer. He looked to her for a reaction. Her eyes suddenly darted behind him, captured by a small movement.

The sound of someone cocking a gun echoed in the kitchen and Gerald knew he was in trouble. They were still following him after all.

“Hands in the air!” the gun-wielder shouted. Gerald obeyed. “Turn around slowly!”

Gerald took several baby steps until he was face-to-face with his assailant. Nothing in his shady past could have prepared him for what he saw. “Dad?”

His father stared back at him, his gun aimed directly at his son’s nose. “No son of mine drinks Budweiser!”

Gerald was confused. He looked at his hand in the air, still clutching the can. “What do you mean? I got it from your refrigerator!”

Without warning, his dad thrust a well-aimed foot into the center of Gerald’s chest, knocking him back into the opposing cabinet. He landed with a hard thud, knocking the wind out of him as the cabinet splintered across the linoleum.

“Gerald, we are a Miller Lite family!” He fired a warning shot at his son’s ear. “At only 96 calories a can, you can drink full-bodied flavor with no guilt.”

Rachel reached into the refrigerator, grabbed a can of Miller Lite, and chucked it at her gasping brother. “Throw that bathwater aside and drink a man’s beer!”

Between heaves of pain, Gerald managed to open the can. He tossed back a swig of his family’s favorite beverage and tried his best to smile. The spikes of wood from the cabinet he lay in continued cutting up his torso, but even he couldn’t deny he had tasted the best thing to ever touch his tongue. “I can’t believe I’ve ever tried anything else!” he said with strained breath.

***

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Your Memories Grow With You

I walked into that coffee shop as the same man I’d always thought I was. I left as someone I did not recognize. Surely that’s the way life was meant to be lived, but I could not decide if I wanted to accept that. Really, it just left me with a sense of emptiness…

 
Here’s the thing: Julia and I met about seven years ago in an after school Foreign Film Club. I knew nothing about foreign films and was just looking to get an extracurricular credit. She knew a lot about them and was hoping to learn more. I was the obvious interloper of our bunch, and I seriously considered leaving for some other easy credit… But then I met her.

 
She was beautiful… Inside and out. We started learning about each other… She said she wanted to be a lawyer to most people, to appease her parents, but she really wanted to get into graphic design. I wanted to write for a living. She had a deep passion for caring for the planet and for appreciating diverse cultures. I… had a fleeting interest in those things as well. She battled depression and crushing high expectations. I never truly explored the emotion of “sad.”

 
It was clear she was way out of my league.

 
So we grew close to each other in Foreign Film Club. For reasons not fully known to even her, she opened herself up to me, when her life had been closed to everyone else. I bumbled along in regurgitation of opinions and worldviews I’d only heard and never taken the time to consider for myself. Somehow, that didn’t seem to faze her. We grew close.

 
It was the first time I thought that maybe… Just maybe… This is what love feels like.

 
We grew apart after graduation. I went to a no-name community college, and she went to dazzling NYU. And we lost contact with each other…

 
Until two hours ago. I ran into her at the coffee shop.

 
We were amazed at seeing each other again and sat down to recount the last seven years of events with each other. Laughter punctuated our thoughts as we connected in an impossibly strange and familiar way. And yet…

 
And yet…

 
And yet…

 
I could not shake this feeling that something was off. Something was different…
Is this what love feels like?

 
For the past seven years, every so often, her stunning face would float into my consciousness and I’d wonder how she was doing and what goals she’d been achieving. I never forgot her. But I never thought I’d be sitting across from her again. And now that I had, she was exactly as I remembered.

 
After thinking back to our conversations years prior, I made the startling discovery that… It was I that changed.

 
I was no longer the awkward teenager searching for meaning and purpose… I was a carefree man whose come-what-may attitude and fence-sitter lifestyle grew shamed of his former self. And until now, I would have thought that was a good thing. Change is inevitable, so if one has to do so, it should be towards a better outcome. And I felt that I’d reached a better outcome, with more growth on the way.

 
But did this matter to Julia? The truth is, I don’t know if she felt the same way about me.

We left that coffee shop with a “we-should-do-this-again” sort of vague plan that usually fizzles out to nothing and I could not help but feel a pang of sadness as we parted.

Change is inevitable, but you don’t usually know that you’re doing it. The question remains to be answered: Can you reclaim the magic your memories hold? Or is it destined to be lost as your memories grow with you?

Waiting

Some ruminations of the day.

***

Sometimes I wonder what I’m waiting for.

“Just wait until middle school!”

“Just wait until high school!”

“Just wait until college!”

“Just wait until T H E  R E A L  W O R L D.”

Am I there yet?

 

I wonder when that perfect set of events will happen that makes me the man I’m supposed to be. I know I’m not that man now. But will I ever be? In waiting and waiting and waiting, am I saving the world from who I am now? Or am I saving myself from the world? Or am I, more probably, awash in delusion?

 

I wonder if the wait is required. Because if Jesus says, “Come as you are,” shouldn’t we all? But we don’t. So I wait, awash in delusion.

 

In college, I met the most beautiful girl in the world. Everything she did was an extension of love and I knew immediately I wanted to be a part of her life. Such beauty threw my own verve in sharp relief. I saw she had reached T H E  R E A L  W O R L D while I accepted my setting instead. So I waited.

 

I wonder how time moves in our perceptions. In age, it speeds. In waiting, it crawls. These two can happen in simultaneous waves. And these years since have been an agitated mix.

 

I wonder why I wait. The man I’m supposed to be isn’t waiting. The most beautiful girl in the world isn’t waiting.

 

It’s time for action, not waiting.

 

Come as you are.

Retro

I was going through a box of things from my childhood my parents have collected throughout the years, and I came across some short stories I had written. I’d like to reproduce a couple of them here. These are selections from a book called, The Bubblegum Factory and Other Stories! Unfortunately, there is no year written on it, so I’m not sure how old I was when I wrote these, but if my faulty memory serves me correct (and the calculation in the first story), I was either in first or second grade. All spelling, grammatical, and punctuation mistakes have been faithfully transcribed. Here goes:

America

Once upon a time we were all british. Bunches of people wanted to be American. We had a war. All the people that wanted to be an American hoped they wold win. The flag had 13 stars and 13 stripes. America won the war. Right now America is 225 years old. The flag has 50 stars, but still only 13 stripes.

***

The Lonely Penguin
Chapter 1

Once opon a time there was a lonely penguin. It was sad. It wanted a friend. It looked all over the antartic. It caught a cold. Then one day the penguin fairy gave them a baby penguin. It grew fast. Then it wanted a friend too. Then one of them said do you want to be my friend? OK the other one said. They lived happily ever after.

By Joey Hall.

***

Bubba and the Bubble Gum Factory
Chapter 1

Once upon a time there was a bubble gum factory. It sold bubble gum. One day it didn’t work. Everyone was sad.

Mary tried to fix it with her pliers but it didn’t work. All the people cried

. Then one day Bubba made a machine that could fix everything. I found the problem he said. I found it Someone stuck a tool in it. Who did it?

By Joey Hall.

***

Bubba and the Bubble Gum Factory
Chapter 2

Once upon a time there was a mystery. It was from the bubble gum factory.

We were trying to figure out who put the tool in the factory. It seemed like we looked all around the world. Then we saw him. It was a robber. We sent him to jail.

By Joey Hall

***

I suppose we all have to start somewhere…

Watermark (Part 2)

Author’s Note: I’m very humbled to have had a great response to part one of Watermark. I have had several people compliment me and ask me if there would be a continuation, which is a crazy feeling. I had no idea people were even reading my blurbs. But thanks to the power of a good cliffhanger, you’ve asked for more, so I present that here. I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

***

“The doctor will see you now.”

I followed the nurse through the hallway to the room I was in last week. Every step was slower, matching the sense of doom growing in my heart. There was nothing to indicate on the surface that this place was anything less than what it pretended it was, but I had my suspicions. I needed answers.

I sat in the chair as the doctor came into the room.

“Ah, Mr. Delavigne! It’s good to see you again. In need of another fifty bucks?” He chuckled slightly.

It was here that I should have said something clever, or simply called him out. What’s the real motive of your experiment, you chuckling psychopath? But instead, I said something that surprised even myself.

“Yes sir. In need of another research volunteer?”

He smiled. “I certainly am. And it’s good to see that you’ve come back. I believe that we played a rock song for you last time. ‘Show Me How to Live’ by Audioslave, if I’m not mistaken. Does that sound right?”

I had no idea. I just nodded, not wanting to appear unfamiliar with popular culture. Also, I genuinely couldn’t remember.

“Well, I think we may switch things up for you this time. We’ll go with a classical piece. I’m thinking Beethoven.”

He kept waving his clipboard as he gestured in time with his words. I tried to catch a glimpse of something pertinent, but the only thing I could make out for sure was the largest word at the top: DELAVIGNE.

“That sounds alright,” I lied. I didn’t really care for classical music either.

He left to go to the observation room as several men came in, going through the usual song and dance of attaching electrodes from various instruments to different parts of my body. There was a part of me that thought if I wanted answers, I should have been more direct with the doctor, but another part of me liked the thrill of this sort of espionage. Certainly, I had no idea what I was doing, or even if I would be able to gather any information this way. However, the main answer I wanted was why my hand was twitching. When it was twitching, I sensed I was in danger. But I was safe in my apartment the whole time. If I got home after the experiment with another twitching hand, I surmised, then I could blame this so-called research facility and demand answers next time. But if I didn’t, then it could have just been anything really. A lack of certain chemicals in the brain can cause all sorts of strange behavior.

When the song ended, the electrodes were removed, the check was received, and I headed home to await my destiny.

And that’s the last thing I remember.