Ever My Intention

Samantha Keller just wanted to find a toothbrush. That’s all she asked out of life. Not an unreasonable request. Not considering the fact that she had just bitten into a luscious, though thoroughly deceptive, apple from her neighbor’s tree, which had seconds before had been home to a fat worm. Her frantic attempt at brushing her teeth in a hurry resulted in the toothbrush flipping between her fingers and landing in the toilet.

Hovering in front of the bathroom closet, patting the shelf just above her eye level where she always put the extras, availed nothing but sticky fingers. An empty cough syrup bottle lay like a forgotten soldier on a battlefield before red goo seepage and a decidedly sick-pink cotton ball offering testimony of other clumsy encounters.

Life really shouldn’t be this hard.

“Oh, to heck with it.” She turned to the sink, popped open the mouthwash, did a complete rinse, and considered herself lucky.

She peered into the mirror and saw her mom’s face. Though her hair sported the salt and pepper look of a middle-aged woman who can’t decide if she’s a new 40 or an old 50, the trapped expression of her mother riveted her gaze to the glass. “Ba-ba-ba…” Like a nursery rhyme never finished, Mom couldn’t get her words out, though her eyes pleaded for understanding.

Samantha yanked herself away and refocused. She tromped down the hall to the kitchen and stared at the bowl brimful of beautiful apples. “Tricked me once but not twice.” She snatched the paring knife off the counter.

The phone rang. She checked. A local number.

She answered with all the confidence of a homeowner in good standing, whose neighborhood friends might check on her once in a blue moon. “Hello?”

“As a residential customer, we would like you to answer a few simple—”

Slapping the end button, Samantha frowned. She had answered four scam calls through the week and vowed to let it ring forevermore. If someone wanted to actually talk with her, they’d leave a message, right? Why on Earth did she keep falling for the latest in life’s tricks?

Reaching for the knife, the phone rang again. With a shrug, she insisted on outwitting the maniacal scammers who poured out their lives in demolishing humanity’s trust in the phone system.

It stopped ringing.

She plucked an apple from the mound and made the first cut.

The phone rang again.

Completely against her will, Samantha glanced at the glowing screen and recognized the number. Her sister in Wisconsin. Blanch and her husband ran a dairy farm south of the city and made a decent living while raising the cutest set of twins God ever created.

Rolling every ounce of ill humor off her shoulders and sliding onto a stool, she leaned against the counter and let the apple and the knife fall from her fingers. “Hey, Blanch! I was just thinking of you while—”

A sob choked the line.

Samantha lifted the phone from her ear and stared at it. Had she lost the connection? Another scammer copying her sister’s number?

Sobbing tumbled into crashing thunder. A wail screeched over four hundred miles and smacked Samantha in the face.

“Oh, God, Blanch! What—?”

“She’s dead! I can’t believe it!”

Agony shivered over Samantha as tears sprang to her eyes. “Dead? Who?”

“Mom! She died during the night. I stopped by early to give her some homemade cookies and fresh apples off our tree, but when the nurse went to check on her…” Sobbing rampaged over a cliff.

Tired truisms sprang to Samantha’s lips. It’s better this way…a blessed relief…Mom would want us to live on…to celebrate her life without the all the horrific dementia…

But no words came.

They weren’t truly true. Not yet anyway.

As tears meandered down her cheeks, her husband Elliott wandered into the room. He frowned at her tears, bent low, and took her hand.

She listened to Samantha’s cascading grief, dragged a notepaper and pen front and center and wrote, “Mom died,” and shoved the bald announcement toward her husband.

Wrapping a comforting arm around her shaking shoulders, he offered what he could, a gentle murmur of sorrow.

A week later…

Samantha faced the mound of dirt piled in front of her parent’s headstone. Mom’s nicely dressed body lay four and a half feet under, safely encased in a mahogany coffin inside a cement vault, right next to her dad’s resting place. Samantha’s gaze wandered over the birthdates and death dates, and the scripture quote, “You shall be known by your fruit.” The etching of two apple trees that her mother had insisted mark their last place on earth stood in testimony to lives that never stopped bearing love and goodness even when they couldn’t say a word.

 Elliott edged closer.

Her son, daughter, sister, various friends, and relations had come to the funeral and left shortly after. Samantha had returned for three days in a row trying to understand how something as luscious as life could hold such a worm as death.

Elliott took her hand and said nothing. Wonderful in the mystery of communal silence, he didn’t need to fix her grief. He simply shared it.

Autumn leaves swirled from the colorful trees as black crows perched on mossy gravestones, creating a scene Alfred Hitchcock would’ve been proud to call his own.

“She was a beautiful baby.” Samantha had spent hours reviewing old family photos the night before, sharing her favorites with her patient husband.

Elliott smiled. “She was a good and holy woman with a gentle heart.”

“Though she could be a stickler! Remember how she insisted that every Thanksgiving had to be celebrated at her house?”

Elliot nodded.

“And she never did forgive dad. She held his mistakes up to the light of day every chance she got. Trying to drag him to Heaven, she’d say, but it made life miserable sometimes.”

Elliott bowed his head.

The cell phone rang.

Samantha pulled it from her coat pocket.

Blanch.

After hitting the talk button, Samantha strolled across the graveyard toward a cluster of trees. “Yes, honey?”

Blanche’s voice rose strong and clear. “Just checking in. I made a pie for the kids and thought of mom. I just wanted to hear your voice.”

Samantha stared at the tree in front of her. “Were there any worms in it?”

“Worms? In what?”

“The pie.” Samantha cleared her voice and tried to jiggle her brain into coherent thought. “I bit into an apple the other day…and you know…”

A chuckle broke the silence. “Oh, no. The pie looks delicious.” Her voice took on mom’s imperious tone. “You’re supposed to cut the worms out before you eat the fruit, you know.”

Ever my intention.

Samantha took her husband’s hand, meandered to the car, and left the mound of dirt behind.

Books by A. K. Frailey

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend Novels

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter https://amzn.to/3iGqGlQ

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In Production)

OldEarth Melchior Encounter (In Production)

Science Fiction Novels

Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Short Stories

It Might Have Been—And Other Short Stories https://amzn.to/2XXdDDz

Encounter Science Fiction Short Stories & Novella https://amzn.to/3dq6q5l

Inspirational Non-Fiction

My Road Goes Ever On—Spiritual Being, Human Journey https://amzn.to/2KvF3Ll

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings https://amzn.to/3rtAy6S

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Photo: https://pixabay.com/photos/apple-worm-hole-worm-eaten-3650876/

Live Again

Mara braced herself against a pier draped with thick, wet rope and let the ocean wind whip her hair free from its tight bun. Her calico dress pressed against her thin legs, outlining her willowy shape. The salty spray reddened her pale cheeks.

A tall ship bounced on the rippling waves as men dashed about securing it in place, and merchants lined the shore with flapping lists hugged tight to their chests.

Wiping a splash from her face, Mara remembered the tears that she had so often rubbed away.

Parson Wells strolled by and lifted his hat in greeting. “Hello, Mrs. Samuel. Come to see the ship in again?” His raised eyebrows conflicted with melting pity in his eyes.

Mara nodded, though her gaze never left the sea. The glorious clear sky and pink sun set her heart beating with a vibrant, almost unrecognizable strength. Seagulls screeched and sent a thrill along her arms.

“Your husband’s been busy as a bee this season—what with all the new orders.”

Dropping her gaze, Mara remembered her place and peered softly at the elderly man. “Certainly, sir. Caleb is mighty grateful for the work.”

A beckoning in the distance offered the old man an escape. He tipped his hat. “My regards to your husband.”

Mara returned the proper nod and watched the parson hurry away. Soon her gaze roamed over the sea once more. She had to pull her herself away.

Townsfolk bustled along on their morning errands, unmindful of others’ preoccupations.

As she strolled toward her husband’s blacksmith shop, a little boy scurried past, brushing against her. Stopping in mid-motion, she gazed after the curly little head as it bobbed along, weaving in and out among the crowd of sailors and merchants. Gripping her nerves with a mighty will, she continued her journey and stepped into the front room of her husband’s shop. Her eyebrows rose. There stood the little boy, handing a paper to her husband.

Caleb read the note, then squatting down to the boy’s level, he spoke softly. The child answered and Caleb laughed—the first laugh Mara had heard in months. Reaching forward a tentative hand, Caleb tousled the boy’s thick curls, dug in a deep pocket, and tossed the boy a coin. The child, grinning widely, swooped from the shop like a sparrow setting off for a new adventure.

Mara stepped in, her gaze watching her husband’s eyes as he followed the departing figure.

Startled from his reverie, Caleb glanced over. “You see it in?”

Mara nodded. “Safe and sound. Looks like a good haul. The merchants lined the shore like hawks at hunting time.”

Caleb peered into the dying embers of his fire.

Mara circled around the glowing mass and came to stand next to him, not quite touching. “Why do you still have me go? You know Jamie will never—”

Slapping the bellows with a muscled arm, Caleb shouted. “He might. Someday.”

With a light touch, Mara laid her hand on her husband’s chest. “He’s gone where no ship can bring him home.”

Caleb swung around and began to work the bellows, firing up the flames. “If he be dead—so I be.” Without lifting his eyes, he nodded toward the door. “Let me work.”

A child’s shadow flittered passed the doorway.

Mara’s gaze lifted toward the rising sun. Turning in the doorway, she watched her husband’s muscles strain with a mighty effort. “For now, Caleb. For now.”

As she strolled outside, a woman’s song cascaded along the street. Mara’s face softened. “Someday—we’ll live again.”

 

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

When a Leaf Falls

As I look out the window watching the autumn leaves swirl to the ground, I can’t help thinking about my brother’s death last week. There is a parable of sorts in every bit of nature; the autumn leaves are no exception. I find nature’s lessons to be healing in a sad and troubled world.

The first thing that strikes me is that when all is calm, the leaves appear to fall one by one. You can sit by and appreciate their particular glory as they fall. Yet, when the wind blows harshly, the swirl becomes overwhelming and you lose the individuality of each as they become part of a massive array of color and texture so strong that it takes on a power all its own.

Hence the reality of the refugees who are suffering and dying as a group, as mere numbers in a tragic statistic. My brother could have been regulated to a statistic, but for those who knew and cared about him, he was much more than that. Though my family is imperfect, our efforts to do right by him remain nonetheless. His life was personal, his death was personal, and he is more than another sad statistic.

There are times for statistics. There are times to analyze the big picture. A large-scale framework allows us to take a proper assessment of what is happening and take proper action. But if all we offer is large scale solutions, clean-up services for the yard, relief-services for the poor, money allotted to causes, we forget that there are unique and poignant stories in every life and death. There are at this moment hearts in grief, aged people suffering from loneliness, frightened children, and hungry families.

When a leaf falls, it is a bittersweet beauty because, though it is an end, it is also a beginning. Spring growth will rise from the death of the leaf. But when a heart falls, when a person’s soul despairs, there is no new growth. There is only death. That is the greatest tragedy that can happen in this adventure we call life.

Yet, there are solutions to our problems. Lots of solutions. If only we are willing to engage. Projects and plans for the poor, political solutions for the refugee crises, money for the needy, are all valid and helpful. But above all, we must never forget the beauty of the individual life.

There is no one so isolated from the rest of humanity that he or she can’t find someone to care about. In caring, so we find our beauty and when it is our turn to fall, we’ll find ourselves more than a statistic in the hearts of others who will discover in us the strength of new hope.

Books by A. K. Frailey

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend Novels

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter https://amzn.to/3iGqGlQ

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In Production)

OldEarth Melchior Encounter (In Production)

Science Fiction Novels

Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Short Stories

It Might Have Been—And Other Short Stories https://amzn.to/2XXdDDz

Encounter Science Fiction Short Stories & Novella https://amzn.to/3dq6q5l

Inspirational Non-Fiction

My Road Goes Ever On—Spiritual Being, Human Journey https://amzn.to/2KvF3Ll

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings https://amzn.to/3rtAy6S

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Photo https://pixabay.com/photos/autumn-leaves-border-frame-foliage-1649362/

Acceptance

Yesterday I took two of my kids to the oral surgeon to get their wisdom teeth removed. The trip down was okay, the trip back, very quiet.  As I drove through the last of a rainstorm which had moved through that morning, adjusting for all the construction barriers and trying to hold back useless questions, like: “Are you feeling all right?” I pondered the question of suffering—once again.

I remember the surprising answer my priest offered me after a miscarriage. Instead of telling me what to do to alleviate my suffering or how to get around the pain, his first recommendation was to “accept what you cannot change.” Not exactly what I wanted to hear.  In time, I learned the wisdom of his words.

We suffer for a lot of reasons, sometimes at the hands of others, sometimes through our own fault and sometimes, like wisdom teeth, for no apparent reason at all.  Simply recognizing the pain we are in is the first step to dealing with it effectively.

In my kids’ case, they knew that oral surgery would hurt, but they also knew that impacted wisdom teeth would cause worse suffering later if they didn’t deal with it now. I knew that taking my kids to an oral surgeon would involve pain, but it was a price I was willing to pay to save them more grief later. There are a lot of times when we are forced to realize that suffering is inevitable and asking why or being angry is useless, actually hindering the healing process. The human body is packed full of opportunities to suffer. But that fact need not leave us hopeless. When we accept that suffering exists, that it in itself it is not evil, then we can learn the value of acceptance.

A friend, a mother of two teens and diagnosed with cancer, told me after she had been informed that she had only weeks to live, that “It is what it is.”  In most people, I would have thought this reaction one of despair or mere resignation, but after walking the road of faith through all the stages of death with Carla, I realized how complete she had become. She accepted the presence of death. She did everything she could to say her grateful goodbyes and to leave in the most loving manner possible, and she died at peace.

When my kids suffered from swollen, aching jaws, I handed them their medication, gave them the directions, and reminded them to be careful. (I also handed them containers of ice cream and strawberry yogurt.)  My teens have a choice—deal with what is honestly, realizing that pain will be a part of their healing, or make things worse by trying to avoid it.

This morning as I said my prayers, I remembered the cross of Christ, and though I knew I would have to face this day’s allotment of suffering, I also knew through the love that Christ bears us, that suffering need not be wasted.  It is also an opportunity to love and be loved—if we accept it.

Books by A. K. Frailey

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend Novels

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter https://amzn.to/3iGqGlQ

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In Production)

OldEarth Melchior Encounter (In Production)

Science Fiction Novels

Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Short Stories

It Might Have Been—And Other Short Stories https://amzn.to/2XXdDDz

Encounter Science Fiction Short Stories & Novella https://amzn.to/3dq6q5l

Inspirational Non-Fiction

My Road Goes Ever On—Spiritual Being, Human Journey https://amzn.to/2KvF3Ll

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings https://amzn.to/3rtAy6S

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Photo https://pixabay.com/photos/avenue-trees-the-dark-hedges-3464777/