Acceptance

Acceptance is a good word. For starters, it has two kind of “c” sounds, a delicious “p” and a lovely ticking “t.” It’s a fun word to say. I accept the fact that not everyone agrees with me about the deliciousness of words – for which I must, again, thank Fry, S. J. – and so I’ll elaborate beyond the mere clicks of tongue and lips together. “Acceptance” is a good word because it has good connotations. It sounds positive in every respect:

We talk about accepting someone for who they are – accepting their faults or quirks, their weaknesses and passions. We talk about feeling acceptance from others – becoming comfortable with people, being who we feel we really are with them, shucking off the shells we build around ourselves to guard our hearts from strangers. Children are taught to accept others who are different than themselves, to ignore skin-color and race, cultural barriers or freckles.

“Acceptance” also brings to my mind the feeling of my stomach leaping upwards in a sweet rush when I find out that I’ve passed a test to get into a program, or gotten a big envelope from a college. It means being good enough, proving myself both to others and to the inner-critic.

But “acceptance” can also be a horribly sad word. When someone dies, we need to learn to accept their passing – not necessarily for anyone, but merely because there’s no choice. Life can’t go on unless we accept the death of a loved one. Even if we fight it, life has a knack of getting in the way and forcing us into realizing that we’ve accepted the horrible truth that someone we love will never hug us again, never smile at us, never blink or speak or cry. It’s natural, though, to accept this. If we wouldn’t, we’d go mad with grief at every death, every breakup, every parting.

And yet, there’s a part of me that rages at the acceptance, that feels as if it’s an insult to myself and my emotions. A part of me wants to scream out from the rooftops and subject the neighborhood to the keening sounds I hear only in my mind. A part of me wishes to give up entirely, to lie in bed and never rise from it. But that part is stuffed down, hushed up, quieted, because life goes on whether I want it to or not.

Eavesdropping

The owl sat on its regular midnight perch, on the beam that hung between the garage door and the overhanging roof. It was quite roomy there, and she liked having its nest so close by, in the very corner, where there was space right inside the corner of the roof.

She was just about to hoot softly and then fly out to catch little rodents by the tail when she was interrupted mid-hoot by a pair of loud voices that erupted in the middle of the driveway in front of her.

“You did NOT just say that!”

“What? You think you’re the only one allowed to be mean? I know how to be mean too, you know.”

“I’m not mean, you jerk-wad! How can you even say that to me?”

“‘Cause it’s true! You’re stuck up and mean, and you know what? I can stand it when you do it to me, but not when you start ragging on my best friends, too. They don’t get to see you like I do, so they don’t get that it’s just how you are.”

“Oh, what, so because they don’t get to see me naked then they don’t know the real me? Are you suggesting they all come over and we have a big party together?”

“WHAT? When did I ever say that? Where the hell is your head, Angela?”

“And what’s all this about you being okay with me being mean to you, anyway? I’m not mean to you!”

The owl in the eaves of the house cocked her head. The voices changed tones. The whiny, female-smelling one sounded muffled, and the deep-voiced male-smelling one made cooing noises that reminded the owl of the noises she made over her eggs.

“I love you, but don’t you see that you’re going to isolate me from everyone else if you keep behaving like a stuck up bitch with them? I’m not saying you ARE one. I’m just saying you act like it, honey.”

“B-b-but your friends make me nervous, and ever since we moved to this stupid city it’s been all about your friends, and don’t you think I miss mine to bits? It’s not like you were super nice to them or anything…”

“I made an effort and you know it. It was hard when they kept sizing me up with their eyes, checking if I was hot enough for they angelic Angela.”

“Well, they were protective of me. What can I do? All your friends want to do is talk to you. It’s like I’m just a painting on the wall in the room. They stare at me sometimes and then go right back to talking to you about the Diamondbacks or the Razorbacks or whatever that team is called.”

“If you stopped acting like an ice princess, and if you stopped being so cold, maybe they’ll be nicer to you, hmm? They don’t always talk about sports, you know.”

The owl, getting bored with the human jabber and the ensuing wet noises as they did that strange thing humans do with their mouths, decided to get going. She spread her wings and leaped from the eaves, wings spreading out to her sides. She dove and then flew upwards, scanning the neighborhood for some delicious little critters to snap in her beak.

“Wow, did you see that?”

“An owl! I’ve never seen one before! Oh my gosh, that’s amazing!”

“What a beauty, hmm?”

“Yeah, so beautiful…”

Maggie

Maggie’s face was compassionate as she looked at the girl sitting across from her on the plastic chair that’s universal to every doctor’s office. Her face crinkled in a slightly pained smile as the girl spoke. She noticed a glimmer of tears in the girl’s eyes and felt wetness begin to form in her own. She spoke in a soft voice that quivered with emotion and tried to convince the girl that her words were true.

Maggie’s hair was black and short, girlishly cut in a way that framed her bespectacled face nicely. She had the lines of wisdom on her face, testimony to a lifetime of experiences, both good and bad. She couldn’t help herself – when the girl rose to go, she clasped her hand for a moment, looked at her intently and beseeched her to come back if she needed anything.

The girl, Maggie knew, wouldn’t have it easy. There was no way that the following days would be easy, and Maggie knew with even more assurance that the coming months and years wouldn’t be easy too. Still, she thought she saw an echo of her own will to survive in the girl’s eyes, a small glimmer of the fighter buried in her. Maggie hoped she would be okay.

As the girl left the office, Maggie sat down heavily in the cheap swiveling chair in front of the tiny desk, barely large enough to hold the computer screen and the keyboard. A moment later, a curly woman with heavily made up eyes and bright red lipstick poked her head around the door, which had been left ajar.

“Ready for your next client, Maggie?” she asked, in a harsh, bored voice. Maggie raised her head, sighed, and nodded, taking the chart the woman was proffering at her. She gather her emotions and put a smile back on her face. As another girl walked through the door, she became all business again.

“Yes,” she said. “How can I help you?”

Trance

It is night. I am alone. I am in my car. The time is 1:23 AM. My car is dark blue and no doubt looks black in the darkness of the night. There are no roadside lamps on this stretch of highway. I am utterly, completely and undoubtedly alone. The road stretches in front of my car. It seems to go on forever. I cannot see the end of it. All I see is the few feet in front of my car, where my headlights shine on the black asphalt and the white lines drawn on it, passing me by one by one.

My vision blurs as I try to count the white lines passing by on my right. One. Two. Three. Four. But no, they’re going to fast to count. I’m going to fast to count them. The speedometer shows me I’m going too fast. I slow down.

The radio in my car isn’t working. Way out here there is only a fizzle and crackle from any of the stations. My CD player is broken. The only noise I can hear is the sound of fast wheels on cold asphalt, and the sound of my own breathing. In and out. In and out.

The highway is taking me from one home to another. One home, the one I left, is broken, destroyed, a-shambles emotionally. My mouth curves into a wry grin before I can stop myself; after the confrontation tonight, it is a-shambles also physically. Not my problem anymore. I glance back, suddenly worried, but my suitcase is still in the back seat, holding every possession I own. The home I am going to is an old home, a half-remembered home, a home where I don’t know if I will be welcomed. The smile disappears. I was a disappointment. Surely I will not be welcomed. But there is no other place to go.

I jerk. I look at the clock on the dashboard. It is 3:44 AM. I cannot remember the last hour and a half. I’ve heard of this before. It’s called road-trance. Your body drives without you having to pay attention. Your mind sleeps and your body works on its own. Figures. That’s what the last four years of my life have been like, after all. Damn it all to hell. I keep driving. Maybe there will be something worthy at home. My old home, or rather, my renewed home.

Victoria’s Secret [Part I]

Victoria stood at the window of her big corner office and gazed out at the view. It was days like these that made working in an office like this worth it – the sky was full of white, fluffy clouds that changed shape constantly, and the city gleamed in the rays of sunlight coming through the gaps between the clouds. A crow flew perilously close to the window and Victoria marveled at the way the bird stretched its wings and glided on the wind, seemingly without effort. She closed her eyes and imagined what it would be like to be that crow, free to fly on the currents and soar through the sky. The crow gave a loud caw and jerked Victoria out of her daydream.

She sighed, turned her back on the window, and picked up the cup of tea on her desk. Gulping some, she choked and spit it back out into the cup – it was stone cold. She sat down heavily in the big leather office chair that came with the big corner office and glanced at the open notebook on the desk. It was her daily planner, full of ink blots and cross-outs and arrows pointing to other dates and times. Being head of department was no easy job, Victoria had found out, and the useless secretary she had been given was more interested in fighting with his girlfriend on the phone than in doing his job, so Victoria found herself needing to check and double check all her appointments. Not to mention, of course, the constant changes caused to her schedule just because of last minute things that tended to crop up in the department.

Shaking her head to clear the haze that was settling over her, Victoria got up and pushed open the door to her office.

“Patrick!” she snapped. “I’m going out to lunch. Please make sure to answer the calls I get in the meantime, all right? And I beg of you,” she added as an afterthought, “to write them down and not try to remember them. That’s how I missed Michelle’s message yesterday.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” grinned the twenty-something year old. He looked like he could have been an underwear model, with his blond hair, blue eyes and the muscles bulging under his slightly too sheer white button-down shirt. Victoria had almost laughed outright when she’d first seen him, a few weeks ago when she’d started her new and improved position. Talk about a blast from the past, she’d thought then, as she tried to keep a straight face. Ever since, she’d felt a strange mixture of humor and exasperation towards him. The one person who didn’t seem to think of her as The Big Scary Boss was also the same person she needed most to help her out on a day to day basis, and his lack of fear or respect towards her or the office as a whole wasn’t helping his job performance.

“I mean it, Patrick,” Victoria yelled back over her shoulder as she walked down the corridor towards the elevators. “No forgotten messages, okay?”

“Totally, Ma’am!” he answered in his surfer-dude voice.

Better make it a quick lunch, then, thought Victoria as she heard the unmistakable sound of Patrick’s cellphone go off and the subsequent beginning of an argument with his girlfriend. She pressed the elevator’s DOWN button a few times impatiently, knowing it wouldn’t make it come any faster. There’s another annoying thing about working up in one of these big, cold offices – the damn elevators never seem to come all the way up here.

The elevator finally arrived with a loud “ding-ding” and Victoria entered, nodding politely to the man and woman already in there. The doors shuddered to a close after her and the elevator began to descend. All of a sudden, with an ominous thump and a disturbing creak, the elevator stopped jarringly and the lights abruptly went off.

The three in the elevator simultaneously cursed.

Wet-War

Clifford had drawn his gun. Things were bad if he’d reached that point: he hated drawing his gun unless it was absolutely necessary. Guns meant needing to aim. Guns could slip out of his grasp if he was distracted. The grenades attached to his belt were his most preferred weapon, but he’d run out of the lot of them. He knew he’d been hasty and he cursed himself for a fool. He should have known better than to waste the grenades all at once.

There was no going back now, however. Clifford crept down the alleyway he was in. There was a tall wooden fence on one side of him and red bricks belonging to the big building next to him on the other side. Approaching from the alleyway, he thought to himself, could be a good move or a bad one. Hopefully, the one he was hunting wouldn’t think to ambush him quietly from the rear. Clifford was sure his nemesis hadn’t seen him enter the alleyway in the first place, and so he believed that the possibility of being surprised wasn’t a probable one. This calmed him, and he held tightly onto his gun as he tried to make as little noise as possible.

This was the final showdown between him and his enemy. It had to be. The two of them had been fighting this war for years, and it had gotten the both of them in some serious trouble in their lives. They had agreed that this was the last fight they would have. Clifford fingered the scar on his lip and remembered how he’d gotten it the last time he’d come face to face in a struggle with the enemy. He hoped to avoid such injuries this time around. It wasn’t easy explaining to the authorities how he’d come by his scratches and bruises.

Suddenly, a wild yell split the still summer air. Clifford registered a shadow moving quickly towards him around the corner of the building. He burst out of the alleyway, and without pausing to aim carefully, squeezed the trigger on his gun. He felt, in the same instant, a grenade burst at his feet and he slipped and fell, still trying as hard as he could to keep the gun steady.

“Clifford! Jasper!” Another yell, the familiar sound of the authorities, broke through the fighters concentration. A woman, Authority herself, burst out of the red-brick house. She placed her hands on her hips and looked down her nose. “I told the both of you that today is NOT the day for one of your water wars! We have company for dinner, and I need you both inside, now.

“Aw, but Mom!” Clifford whined. “We were just getting started!”

“If you were just getting started, why are there burst water-balloons all over the backyard?” His mother shot him a look that could have frozen stone. “Inside, I said. I mean it.”

Clifford looked at his nemesis, his brother Jasper, and sighed. “This isn’t over,” he muttered. Jasper grinned, good-natured, and answered “We could have kept going if you hadn’t wasted all your water balloons right at first – then Mom wouldn’t have noticed a thing.” With an evil gleam of humor in his eyes, he skipped into the house behind his mother.

Clifford shouldered his big water-gun [it had three tanks that could be loaded!] and followed Jasper into the house. At least, he thought, I didn’t fall and split my lip this time. Mom being mad is better than three stitches at the hospital.

A [Stupid] Tale of Two Cats

Once upon a time, there were two cats. The two cats were great friends, and knew each other from the time they were both kittens and were rescued from the street by a nice woman named Debbie. The cats, though generally very friendly, had a recurring argument that they could never resolve: they couldn’t agree which of them had the sillier name.

The one called Shraga would often say “listen to the way my name sounds – it’s so dumb! Shra-ga. SHRA-GA. Just dumb!”

The one called Spartacus would answer “you think that’s dumb? Listen to my nicknames – Sparty, Sparticle, Particle, Spartoosh. All so silly!”

Despite their argument, they usually managed to play well together and enjoy the life they led in the small apartment with the two girly-girls they lived with. The two girly-girls, one older and one younger, both doted on them and spent many hours of the day using odd sounding high-pitched voices when they spoke to them. They would squeal and sigh, but the two cats were content as long as those sounds were followed by the rattle of the box of especially yummy food-treats.

And so the two cats lived in harmony, with only one or two scartchy fights a day, and they were always sure to act very cute around their two girly-girl humans so that they would never need to live hungry on the street again.