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It’s Been One Week…

Hot like wasabi when I bust rhymes…

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Honor in Training

Image result for a walk on the beach

Spring 1998

Thursday, May 20th

            Sweat poured off his young body as he tried to focus on keeping the pain at bay.  His sensei had already told him that the first person in the class to take a wrong step would be the one who cleaned up all the equipment, which he had been good enough to scatter around the fringes of the room.  At seventeen years of age he was beginning grow tired of such practices, though he knew well enough to realize that the teachers were in their position for a reason.  They had most likely gone through the same frustrating methods at the hands of their masters long ago. 

“Don’t focus on the pain people, let your breathing come in and out, slowly and easily.”  He felt like telling the older man where he could stick his breathing exercises.  Inhaling through his nose and exhaling in the same manner he tried to ignore the man, allowing his mind to drift back across the river towards home.  In only one month he and his girlfriend were going to embark on journey in their lives that they expected would bring great change in their lives.  For the last eight years of their lives he had wondered what this would feel like, knowing that eventually they would soon join the wider world outside of high school.

“Ferris, if you concentrated on what you were doing as much as you sat around daydreaming, you’d be teaching this class now.”  Looking over at his girlfriend he saw as she offered him a look that suggested he mind his infamous tongue.  Biting back the retort he felt forming in his throat he remained silent, knowing that it didn’t take much to upset his sensei these days.  Much of it had to do with the fact that of all the students that had come and gone he still remained, taking the most advanced classes and mastering whatever he was taught.  Still it wasn’t enough for this man, he seemed to always find fault in something he did.

            When most people decided to push so hard it meant that they truly believed in him, though with his sensei he had the feeling that the man simply didn’t like him.  He’d been told more than once that this was just ridiculous, grown adults didn’t often make it a practice to target their younger counterparts.  Of course, it was always said by those who didn’t have to see or hear firsthand what went on in the dojo. 

            Standing with legs spread shoulder width the entire class had been told to keep the position about five minutes ago, during which many of them had already discovered that their muscles had begun to cramp.  He was no exception, though he had learned years ago how to ignore his body’s aches and pains enough to endure as much as he needed to.  With their arms extended in front of them the entire class looked ready to simply shake their limbs out and leave. 

            Sadly this was one of the only three dojo’s within fifty miles of his home.  Their instructor was indeed talented enough as well as accredited, though his failings were only known firsthand to his students.  He was impatient, overly demanding and at times pushed his students far too hard, several kids having injured themselves in years past.  Somehow he still had his studio, a moderate sized space located on the third floor of the Carden building in what was considered downtown Astoria.  The red brick building played host to private residents as well as several small businesses that took up the

ground level.  Fire escapes were located on both the north and south sides, though the north side was rusted so badly that it had been in need of being replaced for years. 

            He had the insane urge to fall forward from the stance he now held, place his hands upon the floor and swing his legs upward into a handstand.  Refraining from that notion however he ground his teeth together in frustration, the static practices that their sensei wanted them to drill over and over grating on his nerves.  This style was indeed powerful, that much had been shown in past matches he had conducted upon this very floor.  It wasn’t the style that he truly was enamored of however, since he favored constant movement over the stop and go motions of other disciplines. 

            That was where Capoeira came in.  He’d yet to find a discipline that could match its energy, though in truth it lacked the power of other styles.  It was far more showy, but it also offered a better range of motion and promoted a stronger sense of balance.  This had appealed to him quite readily, though the intense training he and his girlfriend had been through in the last four months had at times seemed a little excessive when taken with that of the training the two of them went through during the weeknights. 

            Capoeira took up only one day out of the week, though in that one day the two of them learned more about themselves than they had in years of martial arts instruction.  Tae Kwan Do, Karate, Tai Chi and now Taji Chin Na at his request and only on every other day had taught him much in the ways of endurance and control, but with Capoeira he felt a freedom that other styles did not allow for.  Aside from being illegal in the United States of America, the Brazilian art of dance fighting offered him a chance to express himself in a way that he hadn’t found until now. 

            The first moment in which he’d shown his sensei his knowledge of the art he had been forced to endure a lecture that had blistered his ears.  His sensei did not believe in the art of Capoeira, claiming that it was for show offs and those who were more interested in looking like movie stars.  He had been told in no uncertain terms that he was never to express himself in such a way again, not in the dojo and not anywhere else.  The words hadn’t sunk in as the teacher had hoped they would, mainly thanks to the fact that he didn’t make it a practice to listen to demands made by anyone but his parents. 

            Even his teachers in high school had learned what happened when they made demands upon his person, even modest demands that he could easily meet.  He tuned them out quite easily, doing what he wanted without regard to the consequences.  When it came to martial arts he hardly ever listened to his instructors, save for the man who had been kind enough to teach him and his girlfriend dance fighting. 

            As their teacher walked in front of the class to begin drilling them he suppressed the need to roll his eyes, knowing that the older man would not look upon such rudeness without commenting.  As he began with basic punches, both hands starting at the sides of the body, one punching out and then followed by the other, Tyler couldn’t help but wonder how he stood the monotony of his position.  No doubt sensei had his methods, but to have to do this every day, over and over, Tyler wondered if he ever just got bored of the same old thing.

            This was the same concern he had expressed to his parents upon requesting that they allow him to study different disciplines.  At first they’d accused him of not paying good enough attention, wanting to switch because he didn’t allow himself to truly learn

everything he was being taught.  After this he’d come to wonder how in the world adults could be so smart and so naïve at the same time.  Being seventeen didn’t mean he was stupid or so inexperienced that his attention span was measured in nanoseconds, it just meant he was eager to see as much as he could in the time he had. 

            Going through the drills he let his mind wander, confident that he could still convince their sensei that he was paying attention.  His thoughts drifted to another discipline he had learned only two years ago, his skill in the art of Kenjutsu remarkable for one his age, or so his teacher had told him.  For whatever reason he felt an affinity for martial arts, whether hand to hand or with weapons.  His family did not share the same proclivity, though they seemed to understand well enough to support him through his training.  Since the age of six and five Tyler and his girlfriend Kerian had been enrolled in one martial arts class or another, picking up on several styles by the time they had reached their teenage years. 

“Ferris!  Pay attention!”  He finally did roll his eyes, not acknowledging the glare that his sensei shot his way, snapping his attention back to the fore as he mimicked the moves along with the rest of the class.  Damn and hell if this wasn’t just boring.

                                                *                      *                      *

“I’ve never been able to figure out why you provoke him like that.”  Tyler and Kerian were outside the building waiting for his parents to arrive, their muscles sore like always after such a strenuous exercise.  They would be fine tomorrow, but for now they didn’t even want to move. 

“I dunno, maybe it’s just cause he’s an ass.”  Opening her mouth wide Kerian’s eyebrows shot up as she pushed her boyfriend roughly to the side, laughing as he pretended to be hurt.  She couldn’t exactly disagree with him, their sensei was a harsh man, but she found it hard to speak of people in such a way. 

“That’s not nice y’know.”  She scolded him lightly, lowering her eyes to make her point as he rolled his own, telling her that she was not getting through to him.  “You know you’re problem?  You don’t take anything seriously enough.”

“Well golly, I suppose now I’ll just have to learn my lesson by falling as low as I can go, and then gain my way back up through humility and patience.”  She pushed him again as he laughed, rolling her eyes at his jovial mood.  Sometimes it seemed that Tyler didn’t really listen to anything or anyone, living his own life by his own means and worrying about the consequences later. 

            She knew he cared about life, about her and those around him, but it was hard sometimes to figure him out.  Even after having lived with his family for the last eleven years she still couldn’t understand how he lived so carefree at times and still managed to be serious during the moments he needed to.  She found at times that all she could do was grin and bear it, going along with him come what may. 

            Looking both ways along the road she saw little traffic coming or going, the setting sun glinting off of the tops of the town’s buildings as evening began to pass into night.  Normally they would have driven home, but a rather poor run of luck had landed Tyler’s truck in the shop with a thrown rod.  Despite being able to pay for the overly expensive job the mechanic had told him it would be several days before he could even

get to his vehicle, having been backed up with work for nearly a week.  So they were left with public transit, which did not run this late, or depending upon his parents. 

            The book store that lay across the street from where they stood had closed only minutes before they had reached the sidewalk, otherwise they would have been able to take a seat and enjoy a story or simply a cup of coffee while they waited.  Towns near the coast were notorious for being early risers and early to bed.  Often their hours did not extend past seven or eight o’ clock in the evening, much to the dismay of tourists who were used to other towns that stayed open all night.  The taverns were the only locations that stayed open into the wee hours of the morning, and much of the time this depended solely on how much business they received. 

            Tyler had been in one of the taverns in town, a place called the Wet Dog down near the docks.  He had gained entry without being asked for identification and therefore had managed to spend the next two hours in the place, seeing what the night life of those twenty-one and older was really like.  To be honest he really hadn’t been that impressed.  True, it had been a new experience and something he wouldn’t ever forget, but in all it was kind of mundane as opposed to his average night. 

            If he and Kerian weren’t sparring outside or out in the garage that lay separate from their home they were usually watching television or a movie with his parents.  Some nights they helped either with dinner or the dishes, performing chores whenever asked and at times just for the hell of it.  They were good children, or so they had been told. 

            The two of them got enough excitement without being inebriated, one of their favorite pastimes including long walks along the beach or within the woods beyond the hills that lay behind their home.  Several old logging trails lay scattered about the wilderness beyond the hills, pathways that had long ago been used to transport machinery and logs on their way towards the town of Longbeach, the namesake of the peninsula they called home. 

            Their house lay nearly at the end of the peninsula, only five miles away from its end in Surfside Estates, a small spread out community that had existed for a far shorter time than the town it was closest to, Oysterville.  Once the county seat, Oysterville had flourished, its primary trade, its namesake, guaranteeing its notoriety for far longer than either of them had been alive.  Now it was a small, quaint little tourist attraction, a step back in time for those tourists who were camera happy for anything that seemed like history. 

“Hey there they are.”  Kerian pointed down the street as a familiar vehicle came rolling along, its bright headlights glaring despite the fact that there was still light enough to drive by.  Picking up their gym bags Tyler and Kerian walked out to the edge of the curb, waiting patiently for his parents to pull up.  It took only moments for the car to stop near where they stood, Tyler getting in back of the SUV and Kerian sliding in front.  The driver’s seat held Tyler’s mother, her grin alighting upon each of them in turn as they returned it with their own.

“So did you learn anything new?”

“Yeah, Tyler learned how to keep the sensei good and annoyed for a prolonged period of time.”  Looking back at Tyler she grinned even wider as he crossed his eyes at her, not bothering to stick his tongue out as his mother looked back.  Giving him the

usual “learn to control yourself” look she turned back to the wheel, releasing the brake after checking for oncoming traffic.  As they reached the end of the block she turned right onto Kohler Street, going uphill for another block before hanging another right. 

“Can’t you go one session or even a day without rubbing someone the wrong way Tyler?”  Her tone was light as she asked this, though he understood her meaning quite well.  Both of his parents knew too well that of their three children he was at times the most difficult, seeing nearly every opinion different from his own as a challenge.  While it was quite normal it still grated on the nerves at times, since he was often unwilling to let go of an issue once it was presented to him, like a dog worrying at a bone someone had tossed in its snout. 

            Tyler didn’t go looking for trouble, he just didn’t let it go once it found him. As he made himself comfortable in the back seat he allowed himself to relax finally, far enough from his sensei that his nerves didn’t feel worked over.  As Kerian and his mother began to talk in the front seat he looked out the window as they drove along, watching the town of Astoria recede as they traveled along the bridge.  Large sandbars were evident to either side, several gulls landing upon them to search for a meal, their cries ringing strangely in his ears as though from the end of a long tunnel.  Working one finger into his ear he wiggled it back and forth, taking it out only to discover that the gulls had gone silent for a time. 

            He disregarded the strange effect, concentrating instead on the road ahead as the last section of the bridge loomed over the car, its green iron girders and beams catching the headlights as they sped along.  He knew almost every inch of the upper surface of the Astoria bridge, having traveled it by both foot and car so many times.  As they exited its four mile length he turned to look through the back window, glimpsing the bridge one more time before they sped away.  Shadows pooled along the entire length of the steel and concrete construct, confusing him for a moment as he realized that there was enough light to still illuminate its surface better than what he was seeing.  Blinking several times he lost view of the shadows as they rounded a bend in the road.  He turned forward again, frowning slightly before gently shrugging his shoulders. 

                                                *                      *                      *

Friday, May 21st

            The next day found them in their separate classes as they prepared for another day of instruction at Ilwaco Jr./Sr. High School.  Consisting of grades seven through twelve the institution had originally been just a standard high school, and had been located upon the hill where now the Hilltop Elementary School resided.  Many years ago, when several of the teachers who now instructed at the high school had still been students themselves, a devastating fire had coursed through the building.  Much of the school had been destroyed in the process, though through careful effort and the support of the local community much of it had either been saved, restored or replaced. 

            To this day many sections of the old school were still not quite up to code, but as long as nothing was falling apart, people were happy.  In the high school there were several areas of repair that those in charge had been meaning to get to, but had yet to fix properly.  One of those inconsequential things was no doubt the funding that allowed

science courses to purchase the necessary materials that other schools only had to mention to receive. 

            Ah well, you did what you could with what you had, no complaints. Besides, Mr. Milner seemed to enjoy the time he spent on the water gathering their specimens.  With the commercial fishing license he had so faithfully kept since he was a boy it was his pleasure to provide for his classes.  Having less students than the bigger schools helped as well.  Lifting his scalpel Tyler looked up at his teacher as the older man bent over to help another student, one of the thirteen individuals who had actually signed up for Marine Biology this period.  As a morning class it had the tendency at times to be too much to easily assimilate, especially with the enthusiasm that Mr. Milner tried to instill in his students.

            Tyler enjoyed the class, it allowed him to learn more about his home in an environment where the instructor actually cared and helped to facilitate learning.  Many of the teachers in this school were the same way, only a few had been here so long that they were on the verge of burning out or becoming far too jaded.  Tyler had much respect for his teachers, though at times even he realized that they wondered if he really was paying attention to what they said.  He was, but his attention was as diverse as his interests, meaning he felt it necessary to focus on more than one thing at a time.  He often found such single-minded pursuits to be rather boring, though he kept his mouth carefully shut, knowing that those in charge often didn’t like knowing that they weren’t the center of attention.

“Okay class, I want you after carefully making your incision to gently peel back the outer layer of skin, thereby revealing the innards of your sharks.  If you find that the skin is stuck gently take your scalpel along the inside to clear away any connections that remain.”  Sand sharks as they had learned did not grow to enormous proportions like other members of their race, but were still enough like their larger cousins to offer some insight into a shark’s anatomy.  Tyler easily peeled the skin of the thing’s belly back, pinning it to the waxy layer that filled the bottom of his dissecting tray.       

            As he peered within the shark’s body he consulted the black and white diagram they’d all been given, knowing that Mr. Milner would not get after him for moving ahead.  He was one of the best, or at least most attentive students in this class, affording him just a little more privilege than others.  Raising his scalpel he carefully eyed the miniature maze that lay within his specimen, trying to decide what to remove first.

From humble beginnings.

            He started in his seat slightly as the whisper seemed to come from every direction, his glance turning left and right, going largely unnoticed by the rest of his classmates.  The only one that really seemed to notice his strange behavior was a freshman that sat behind him, a younger girl name Madeline Rohen.  Everyone just called her Maddie, or in the case of those who chose to follow the sometimes cruel hierarchy of high school, there were other names that had been affixed to her person.  Tyler knew some of her life’s history, he had talked to her enough times to get the gist that she was not the happiest or most blessed among her fellow students.

            That didn’t really matter to him however.  He was still trying to figure out just where that strange whisper had come from.  It had sounded strained, as though the

speaker was in great pain.  Setting down his scalpel he leaned back in his chair, unsettled at that moment for no particular reason.

“Hey.”  Turning in his seat he regarded the freshman,  offering her a warm smile which she returned.  With wavy black locks tied back in a bun against her neck her young face was pleasant enough to look at, not overwhelmingly beautiful but definitely cute.  Her body was that of an athlete thanks to the last seven years of Track and Field, the sport one of the only joys in her life.  He knew that she was the middle sibling of four, with one younger brother and two older sisters.  One of her sisters had graduated just last year, while the other was only a year ahead of her. 

“What’s up First?”  She smiled at the simple nickname, earned at their last track meet spent together as competitors.  Many of the individuals on their team had done well this year, qualifying members of their team in nearly every event.  Aside from Basketball and Volleyball, Track was one of the sports that their school tended to excel at.  Every year at least five or more athletes went to state, and this year had been no different. 

            Tyler had gone in both the shotput and for discus, while his girlfriend Kerian had gone for the 110 high hurdles and the 200 yards sprint.  Maddie had qualified for the 3200 meter run, though she had not placed, going home with no award but a deep satisfaction from having gone so far.  His nickname for her had come from her victory in the district championships, her hard won fight to succeed inspiring even those teammates who hadn’t thought she was worth the shoes she ran in. 

            He’d always liked her.  She was smart though extremely shy, leaving him at times to wonder what her home life was like.  From the way she held her head down all the time and refrained from being outspoken or even recognized he found it hard not to feel sorry for her.  That mistake had cost him only once however when she had responded to his kindness with resentment, thinking that he pitied her.  Since then the understanding between the two of them had been such that she understood his feelings towards her, while he knew that despite her downtrodden appearance she was more than what she appeared.

“Are you, um, going to be around on Saturday?”  Tyler turned back to his dissection for a moment as Mr. Milner passed them, tapping lightly on his worktable to let Tyler know that class was in session.  As soon as he’d passed however Tyler turned back to Maddie, offering her a small conspiratorial grin to let her know he hadn’t ignored her.  He did wonder why she was asking.  Despite their mutual respect they did not run in the same circles, their short conversations few and far between.  Still it would be rude not to answer.

“I guess.  I’ll probably be out on the beach or around somewhere.  Why do you ask?”  She flushed slightly before responding, which confused him a little. 

“Well, I was wondering if you’d, ah never mind.”  He leaned closer to her with his eyebrows raised, trying to prompt a response from her.  She seemed to lose herself in her dissection however, her single-mindedness a defense against embarrassment.  He relented, going back to his own specimen with only one glance back.

“Well if you find what you wanted to say, I’m always around.”  He muttered the words, knowing that they were still audible enough for Maddie to hear.  Tyler didn’t see

her gentle smile as she blushed again, her heart skipping a beat as she basked in his attention. 

                                                *                      *                      *

            At lunch he and Kerian met up in the stadium outside the school, their own private lunch area.  Normally there were a few other students present, mostly skaters and others who didn’t care to take lunch in the crowded cafeteria.  Today however there was only the two of them and Maddie, whom Tyler had invited to come sit with them.  It was a rare occurrence, but both he and Kera had found before now that she was good company when they could get her to talk.  If it happened only a few times a year then so be it.

“So what were you going to ask me in class?”  Tyler bit into a ham and cheese sandwich after asking, looking over to the freshman with his calm blue-green gaze.  Kera was thoroughly enjoying the leftovers from dinner the night before, a turkey and Swiss cheese Panini that his mother had learned to make.  Maddie had been hesitant to share their lunches with them but had cracked as they had insisted, almost thrusting the food into her hands.  After seeing the meager lunch that she had brought from home it had been easy, their decent natures not allowing them to see her go hungry. 

“Well ah, I mean um…are you two doing anything on Saturday?  I mean are you going to be around?”  Wiping her lips before answering Kera looked sideways at the younger girl, wondering just what she was trying to ask.

“I was just wondering if maybe you two would mind if I hung out with you this weekend, you know if it’s not too much trouble.  If it is then that’s okay I can find something to do.”  She was stammering as Tyler and Kera looked at one another, clearly not understanding what she was getting at.

“Are you alright Maddie?”  She looked up at him with her doe-like eyes full of hope that he wouldn’t say no or tell her that he didn’t want her around.  Looking back to Kera he almost grunted in frustration as she simply shrugged, indicating that it was up to him.  Both of them knew that their Capoeira instructor, Mr. Ken Delong, had already told them that he didn’t want anyone else knowing that he was instructing them.  He wasn’t a bad man in any way, it was just that what he was teaching them would get him in serious trouble if he were found out. 

            Thus far only the occasional passerby had seen the three of them on the beach, their chosen meeting spot being the stretch of coast a half mile from their house.  That was fine since the average spectator most likely wouldn’t think twice about what they were doing, thinking perhaps that a martial arts instructor had been good enough to take a couple of students aside for a private session.  Around these parts it wasn’t entirely uncommon since a large portion of the children that lived upon the peninsula were enrolled in martial arts of some type.  The reasoning for this wasn’t always clear, but it had been a practice for the last twenty years. 

“I just, I just wanted someone to hang out with you know?”  She hung her head, screening her eyes from the two of them effectively as they once more shared a look.  Mr. Delong had been very adamant about no spectators and since he was giving them free

lessons it didn’t feel right to bring along an uninvited guest.  Still, the downtrodden look that seemed to hang over her was hard to ignore. 

“Well, we can have you meet us out near our home if you can get there.”  Looking at Kera he still didn’t see any sign of warning or silent alarm in her face, only a calm acceptance of the decision she’d already known he’d made.  Maddie’s face lit up noticeably at the reply, her fingers digging into the half sandwich that Tyler had given her.

“You gonna eat that or smash it?”  He pointed his gaze down at the sandwich in her hands as she released her grip, taking a large bite as she smiled up at him.  Thankfully it wasn’t a full smile, though both he and Kera couldn’t help but return it.  

                                                *                      *                      *

Saturday, May 22nd

            When Saturday came it found Tyler and Kera walking to towards the beach at around eight o’ clock in the morning.  Mr. Delong, living all the way in LaCenter, would have already left from home to reach them in time.  In the past years worth of weekends they had yet to understand just why he had approached them as he had, why he would bother to make the nearly two hour drive just to instruct them for a few hours every Saturday.  There was no doubt in their minds that he could have found someone else much closer to pass his knowledge on to. 

            Still, why look a gift horse in the mouth?  They were both more than grateful for the chance to learn something new and had taken to the art of dance fighting with a zeal that had surprised even Mr. Delong.  Each day they’d trained they had progressed, the movements they were shown coming to them like a second nature.  So flexible were their bodies now that it was all they could do during their sessions in Taji Chin Na to not break into a smooth rhythm of constant motion as they had been taught. 

“Think she’ll be here?” Kera shifted her gym bag as she spoke, slipping the shoulder strap over her head so that it rested on her opposite shoulder.  The bag bounced lightly against her left hip as she walked, her athletic curves alluring in the light green jumpsuit she was wearing.  Around them the landscape was still waking up, the smaller animals and insects announcing their existence to the world as they had daily for their entire lives.  The morning dew glistened off scrub grass and conifers alike, painting the area around them in a pleasing mosaic of color.  Houses that had been built only a few years ago lay dark as their occupants were either still asleep or not in residence at the time. 

            About half of the houses that were built along this coastline and farther inland belonged to what the locals liked to call ‘snowbirds’, people who were present in the more pleasant months and then left when the storm season came.  Tyler and Kera had lost track of just who was who anymore, not really caring as long as much of their home remained wild.  According to his parents and several other adults they spoke to regularly however it would no doubt not remain that way in the years to come.  Rumors had it that there were already plans to begin building houses in the far reaches of Surfside, areas that he and Kera had wandered since they were small children. 

“We told her what time and where to be, so I’d hope she’d make it.” 

“What do you think Mr. Delong will say?”  He didn’t answer, tilting his head as though to say that it would be best to deal with that problem once they reached the sand. 

                                                *                      *                      *

            As it happened they needn’t have worried about either Maddie or any averse reaction from Mr. Delong over her presence.  As they walked upon the slightly overgrown trail that led from the asphalt to the gray sands of the coastline ahead Tyler felt a slight tingle run through his body.  Without being able to explain it he pressed forward at his normal casual rate, barely noticing as Kera seemed to feel the same sensation.  Both of them ignored this feeling, walking steadily towards the large dune that obscured their view of the ocean from where they stood.

            The roar of the mighty Pacific was like a sweet symphony in their ears, a lullaby that had been present in their lives seemingly forever.  That it called to them was an understatement, that it was a part of them and vice versa was far more accurate.  The ocean in all its vastness had ever seemed to them like a second home that lay within their reach but so far beyond, an enticement that they could look upon yet never fully grasp.  They’d never bothered to discuss such things with anyone save themselves, figuring that either people wouldn’t understand or would simply discount their words as youthful exuberance. 

            As the crested the dune however both of them couldn’t help but inhale deeply the sweet scent of salt air that permeated this place.  Most people thought it quite rank, the odor of dead animals and other matter that was washed ashore not fitting in with their idea of what a normal beach should be like.  For Tyler and Kera however the gray windswept carpet that lay before them was far more majestic than any tropical resort ever could be.  Like so many places there was a power here that one could feel if they were to content to let themselves try. 

            Leaving their shoes and gym bags in the thickets of dune grass to the sides of the dune they began to stretch as they made their way down to where Mr. Delong, he would not abide the title of Master, and Maddie stood.  The two of them were conversing in what seemed to be pleasant tones as Tyler and Kera approached, Maddie smiling at whatever Mr. Delong was saying.  Their instructor graced them with a smile and a bow shortly after they bowed to him, Maddie watching with rapt attention the formalities that played out in front of her. 

“We have a guest today it seems.  Would either of you care to explain?”  The smile did not leave his face as he spoke, though the slight edge he put into his voice escaped no one’s notice.  Maddie looked apologetically to them as they looked from her to each other, thinking up a good explanation that the man would accept. 

“Well spoken.”  All three of them arched their brows in confusion as Mr. Delong laughed, a hearty and pleasing sound.  “If you had began to give excuses I would have considered this trip today a waste of my time.  Instead you sought to think before you spoke, a wise choice.”

“So you’re not mad?”  Kera winced as she asked, not quite sure that she wanted the answer.  Their instructor only nodded a few times before replying, his smile still wide.

“Your friend Madeline and I have had a chance to speak, of you mostly since it seems she was eager for you to arrive.”  Motioning towards Maddie with one hand he

turned towards her, all three of them seeing the grateful smile upon her young features.  It seemed as though she might soon pass out she was so deliriously happy, which prompted Tyler to clear his throat, indicating that he was ready to begin.  Nodding once Mr. Delong

silently agreed, waving both him and Kera over to stand upon the wet sand only a few feet away.  Patting Maddie gently on the shoulder Tyler stepped towards the older man, joining him and Kera as they began their warm-ups. 

            Nearly ten minutes later their warm-ups flowed easily into a practice session unlike any Maddie had ever witnessed.  She had sat in on training sessions before in dojo’s spanning from here on the peninsula to as far as Vancouver, and never had she seen something this fluid, this alive.  Watching these three people go about their workout she found herself mesmerized, unable to tear her gaze away as she watched the intricacy and precision with which Tyler and Kera executed each move.  At certain moments it was hard to determine who was the master among the three of them, so skilled did they seem.  The older man however proved at times that he was indeed the superior fighter, catching Tyler and Kera off their guard just enough to trip them up, forcing them to begin again. 

            After three hours time she had witnessed more action in her life than any movie screen could have ever shown, more poetry in motion than she had thought possible.  She had found herself almost crying at times, the beauty of what she witnessed stealing her breath as both Tyler and Kera seemed to flow steadily without fear of exhaustion, their bodies little more than continual motion as the sands beneath them churned under their feet. 

            Bowing to Mr. Delong they remained still as the older man returned the bow, dismissing them as he began to walk down the beach in the direction of the next approach.  She had already spoken with the older man before the two of them had arrived and understood that this was just a part of their Saturdays.  As the two of them came closer she rose to her feet, brushing sand away from the seat of her jeans.  They spoke in low tones to one another as she waited for them to retrieve their gym bags and shoes, patient as they each retrieved a towel to dry themselves off.  She felt as though she should have been ready for them by retrieving their bags, though that seemed as though it might have been a little presumptuous. 

“Hey Maddie, enjoy the show?”  She smiled at Tyler as he spoke, her heart warming as he grinned, telling her he was just kidding.  Kera laughed at that, slinging her arm around Maddie’s slim shoulders as they began to walk down the dune.  Nothing could have made the freshman happier at that point, her heart near to bursting at the mere touch of the senior. 

“Well Mads, tell ya what.  Let’s go home, get us cleaned up, and then the rest of the day is all ours, whatcha say?”  Hugging her closer Kera grinned at her, the smell of sweat and salt air seeming to Maddie the sweetest scent she had ever encountered at that time.  As they kept walking she couldn’t help but agree that such a thing would be just fine.  It would be just fine.

There Are Real Victims and There are Professional Victims

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Simply stating that victims need to ‘suck it up buttercup’ isn’t a universal cure-all for everyone. PTSD is very real and it does exist for those that have been through extremely traumatic experiences in their lives. Yet it remains an unfortunate truth that the writers at Mind Tools and many other sites have discovered is in fact a rather persistent trend that many people have picked up on. Becoming a ‘professional victim’ is essentially telling the world that you’re not getting what you think you deserve, or that someone is keeping it from you, or that you’re ‘oppressed’.

While this is a worldwide phenomenon and has been going on for generations untold, in America this has become a serious epidemic. People believe they are oppressed in this day and age and resort to many different statistics that can ‘prove’ that they are in fact being oppressed and treated in a different manner than anyone else. Unfortunately for many of them the oppression of a capitalist system is not quite as real as they would want you to believe. Let’s take a moment and think about this.

Oppression is of course the unjust treatment or control of a human being by another, and is also described as mental pressure or distress. It’s this last definition however that many people have seemed to lock onto the most, since ‘mental pressure and distress’ carries a very broad and varied definition that many have decided translates to being oppressed the moment another person disagrees with them in a fundamental, or often political, manner. This level of oppression has thus far led many people to become the victim despite their claims that they are not. The convenience of this victimhood is often that it can be turned on and off like a light switch whenever the individual happens to need it, thereby allowing them to escape responsibility for their words and actions when they feel pressure from others for their beliefs and then allowing them to appear strong and confident when others of like mind are around so that they don’t appear weak.

This is a trend that has been ongoing for a while and unfortunately greatly undermines the plight of actual victims that have been wronged in the past. For instance, claiming that rape is anything that happens to unsettle a person, from words and conversations of a sexual nature to cat-calling, seriously damages the case of anyone that’s ever been raped or molested as it’s been defined for so long. Assault is the same way, as is harassment and many other heinous acts that are quite serious but have been trivialized throughout the years by those that want to argue for the emergence of safe spaces.

Being a professional victim is, in a sense, an insult to those that have been victimized in their lives. It is not a mark of strength or solidarity, and it is just as troubling as claims that are made towards any person that commits what many call cultural appropriation. When you choose to play the part of a victim but have never been victimized in truth you are essentially mocking those that have been victimized in the past, and thereby affording them no respect for having gone on with their lives. The strength they need, the support they accept, is minimized by those who act as professional victims, and their struggle to integrate back into society and keep their heads up is only belittled by such attempts.

In other words, being a professional victim is a useless gesture that does more harm than good to those that have been victimized.

A Long Walk

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Thursday, October 20th, 2003

            The woods were always a bit windy this time of year, their steady thrum and rush of leaves sounding like millions upon millions of voices whispering at once.  Analyn couldn’t help but stuff her hands into the fur-lined pockets of her warm coat as she wandered through the thick woods behind her home.  She’d always enjoyed the brisk feel of autumn as it threaded its gradually chilling fingers through the heavy foliage that dotted the hillside behind the flood plains upon which she lived.  There was a peace out here that the city didn’t offer, a serenity that every now and then she had felt was the only saving grace of this area.  She liked the city, in fact she planned to move there when she was done with school, but there would always a place in her heart for the home she’d known since she was a younger child.

            The dark fabric of her coat blended so well with the surrounding woods that Analyn had successfully hidden from her mother and Samuel, her mother’s long-term boyfriend.  She’d made a game of this at times, seeing how well she could keep concealed within the surrounding woods just to see how long it would take her mother and Samuel to find her.  Her mother had warned her at times about getting lost in the woods out back, but Samuel had shaken his head as he’d claimed that there was almost no way to get lost.  There were homes further up the hill beyond the trees and there was a clearly defined trail that ran throughout the forested area.  Analyn had learned only a few years ago to make her own trail, but in retrospect she hadn’t expected the large number of spiders and sticky webs that she’d had to walk through.

            This place was peaceful, it allowed Analyn to gather her thoughts at times such as now, when she wasn’t sure how she felt about the world around her.  Her mind and heart were both heavy after she’d watched the news broadcasts this morning with her mother and Samuel.  She would perhaps never call him father, which it seemed as though Samuel was just fine with.  Analyn respected the man, she respected the large home that he had allowed her and her mother to move into, but she had a father she loved dearly.  This had been discussed more than once and had been resolved between the three of them only a few years ago. Samuel wouldn’t try to be her father, but he would ask for respect in his home, in their home.  Analyn hadn’t had a problem with that.

            That thankfully was not the issue at hand, the reason why she had come out to the woods to be alone.  Her mother knew where she was, Samuel was taking a nap in one of the upstairs rooms.  This was one of her mother’s rare days off and as such the woman was busily tidying up the house and relaxing in her own fashion.  Of course Analyn knew that today this routine was more to keep her mother from going crazy.  She could almost understand the feeling. 

            Looking up at the rapidly browning leaves of the trees Analyn closed her eyes as she felt a light breeze caress her cheek, inhaling deeply of the fall scents that tickled her nostrils.  This was nice, it allowed her to believe for a moment that nothing was wrong in their lives, that they hadn’t lost anyone they cared for.  She felt just a bit horrible for such a thought, but it was far better than believing the newscasts and ratings-grubbing reporters that were trying to make a name for themselves with her uncle’s supposed death.  She knew that he was one among many that had disappeared behind the GrayCap, the mysterious wall of fog that had encapsulated the entire Longbeach Peninsula, but his loss as well as others tore at her just as she knew that it did her mother and uncle Garrett. 

            She had known her uncle Tyler well enough that she could easily remember him.  He’d been a fun and carefree person, he’d always made time for her and his family, in fact every time Analyn or her younger cousin, Brandi, had been around Tyler and their aunt Kera had spent a great deal of time with them.  Analyn could remember pleasant times spent walking on the beach with Tyler and Kera, or walks in the woods beyond their home. 

            Analyn had always thought of Kera as her aunt since she’d been born since Kera had preceded her into the family by many years.  She’d been told that Kera was not a blood relative, but that she had been adopted by the family when she was only two years old.  The full story hadn’t been given to her until only a few years ago, but it hadn’t made a bit of difference.  Analyn adored her aunt Kera and knew that her uncle Tyler had feelings for the girl.  She’d known somehow that people who considered each other as siblings weren’t supposed to have such feelings, but the distance between relations seemed to make such a thing okay.  At any rate none of the family seemed to think it was weird, so neither did she.

            She’d lost her uncle and aunt almost four years ago along with many of their friends that she’d met in the past.  Analyn had cried for nearly three days in a row before she had finally dried up, the sorrow eating at her even as her tears had finally stopped.  The horrible occurrence had been called an accident, an act of God and even been blamed upon some freakish science experiment that had gone horribly wrong.  Analyn hadn’t believed any of this, but that in turn had left her with the empty feeling she still had in her heart.  There was no explanation as to why or how such a thing had happened.  All she knew was that for the past three years anyone that had gone into the fog, such as the many soldiers that had been lost within the first year, had not come back out. 

            There had been newscasts, reports, articles in the paper and even several magazines, but no one had been able to decipher thus far just what had happened.  Even aerial photographs had yielded nothing, showing only the roiling clouds of fog that dominated everything from the base of the peninsula and the Willapa Bay to just beyond its tip.  Boats had been sent in, probes had been dropped into the fog, thermal imaging had been tried and even other more technical methods that she couldn’t understand.  Everything so far had come back with the same results, a big fat zero.  The fog had thus far defeated every attempt to see past its silvery gray surface, as though it were actively keeping out anyone and everyone.

            It had been found out just who the relatives and surviving family members were that had lost loved ones within the fog, and Analyn and the rest of her family had already been bombarded for a short time by reporters eager for a story.  The buzz that had turned in their direction had died down quickly however as they had been unable to say anything further when it came to the GrayCap.  Analyn had been angered for a time by the pushy methods of the reporters, resenting the constant need for the parasitical men and women for their unyielding need to up their ratings.  How the hell was she supposed to know what had happened?  She just wanted her family back, she didn’t care what had occurred to take them away, she just wanted to see them again. 

            The winds increased slightly as Analyn felt a breeze run its playful fingers through her long, dark blonde locks.  Every concern she had ever had seemed rather petty in the face of the disappearance of her family.  Her aunt and uncle, her grandparents, all of the people that she knew and cared for on the peninsula, they were all gone now as far as she knew, taken by killed by something that no one knew about or understood.  She felt helpless as she thought about them, realizing that even if she were right across the river at this point she could still do nothing.  Her family, that part of them at least, were lost to her. 

                                                *                      *                      *

 Friday July 17th, 1998

            “Boo!”  Analyn shrieked in delight as her uncle came up behind her, placing his cold hands upon her neck as he laughed.  Whirling around she smacked him lightly in the stomach as he continued to smile at her, his blue eyes sparkling in amusement.  Kera was not far behind him, carrying the bags of ice that Tyler had used to cool his hands with.

            “You could help me instead of goofing around.  It is your party after all.”  Kera gestured to the large ice chest that was sitting to his right, hefting the bags of ice as Tyler leaned down to open the lid.

            “I thought I wasn’t supposed to help because it’s my birthday.”

            “Not till tomorrow buddy boy, today you’re still required to help out.”  Kera bumped him gently with her left hip as Analyn giggled.  She was staying with her family for the next two weeks as she always did during the summer.  This was her special time with her grandparents and her uncle Tyler and aunt Kera.  She had the best of times during the summer when her mother would send her to the peninsula.  Her mother, Sareena, and uncle Garrett were going to be coming down the next day for their younger brother’s birthday party, and her mother said she had a surprise for all of them.  Analyn already knew what the surprise was, but she wasn’t about to spoil it. 

            “What a bummer.”  Tyler said as he crossed his eyes at Kera.  Analyn giggled again as Kera shook her head at Tyler, rolling her eyes as she seemed to do so often. 

            “Can we go to the beach today?”  Analyn asked, pulling lightly on her uncle’s arm.  It was fun having an aunt and uncle that were both still in high school since they still knew how to be kids and could give her the attention she wanted.  Otherwise the beach might have been kind of boring.  Her grandparents were still working during the summer, her grandfather was out of town a lot, and her grandmother often worked in town which was a long bus ride, longer than she wanted to take.  It was nice to have Tyler and Kera here all the time.  

            Today both of her grandparents were here thankfully, each of them had taken the next several days off to spend with their children.  The birthday party tomorrow was going to be lots of fun, especially since Analyn would get to see people she hadn’t seen in a while, such as friends of Kera and Tyler and their younger siblings. She was looking forward to seeing Caralee Landis and Nikko Nguyen most of all since they were so much fun to play with.  Plus Caralee’s older sister Brooke was always really nice to her, in fact she could believe that Brooke really like singing to her and Caralee when she got the chance.  Brooke had such a nice voice that Analyn had told her once that it was like listening to an angel.  Brooke had laughed and blushed slightly, thanking her as Tyler and Kera had affirmed her words.

            “Probably a little later we can.  We still need to set up a few things inside the garage and the house.  Evelyn wants us to help her with a few things in the kitchen, there’s going to be a good number of people here tomorrow.”  Kera leaned over slightly to look Analyn in the eye. Analyn liked when Kera did this, it made her feel important in a way, as though the older girl really valued having her around.  “Tell you what, as soon as we help out your grandma with the cooking and get your uncle to take care of his stuff,”  she shook her head as Tyler stuck his tongue out at her, “then we’ll go to the beach.  Deal?” 

            Analyn nodded her head as she smiled broadly, “Deal.”  The two girls extended their pinkies as they wrapped them around one another, shaking before Kera gently threw her arm around Analyn’s shoulders, each of them walking from the wide open garage towards the large stretch of lawn that separated the garage from the house.

            She liked coming to her grandparents a bunch, it was a nice home built on two full-sized lots and even had a strip for a motor home or a trailer on the far side of the garage.  There was a run down shed that looked as though it was ready to fall apart on the lot opposite from the house, a remnant of the old style of camping that had first brought her grandparents to this place.  Analyn had heard stories from her mother and uncle Garrett of how they had slept in the shed when the house was still under construction while her grandparents and an infant Tyler had slept in a small trailer.  There had at one time apparently been a cinderblock campfire pit with a metal grill in front of the shed as well.  That had gone away, as Analyn had been told, when two feet of sand had been dumped on each lot, covering the entire landscape so as to begin the building of the house and garage. 

            The house was nice and quaint, it was only one level but had three rooms, a large kitchen, equally large living room and a nice sized dining room.  There was a small deck on the back corner of the house, extending from the sliding glass door that led out of the dining room.  The front deck went from the right corner of the house and wrapped around the left corner, ending just a little past the front door as it connected with the house.  Her grandparents had worked hard to build the house out of pocket, utilizing the help of their kids, friends and family to get the home up and operational.  To this day the home was complete, along with the rock and flower garden that her grandfather saw as his pride and joy just in front of the deck.  There was a fish pond as well, but thanks to the crows it never did that well.

            There were only a few clouds in the sky this day, highlighting the natural beauty of the land as Analyn cast her gaze to the grassy, wooded hills that rose up in gentle, rolling slopes just across the road.  She smiled to see a pair of does walking slowly along one of the hills, grazing as they walked.  One of them stopped as she and Kera continued to walk towards the house, her large, dark pupils staring straight at Analyn it seemed as she continued to chew whatever was in her mouth.

            It was at that moment that Kera noticed the deer, stopping as she leaned down to put her face near Analyn’s, smiling over her shoulder as she made an “oooing” sound.  “Look at them, they’re so beautiful.”  Analyn had to agree as she continued to smile, watching as the deer turned her gaze away, continuing forward after her companion as the two soon disappeared within the trees.  Deer and other such animals were common on the coast, popping up here and there whenever they so desired.  There were only certain critters that had to be watched carefully, such as coyotes, raccoons and even the occasional black bear.  In all the walks that she’d taken with Tyler and Kera, Analyn had only seen one black bear, and that had been thankfully from far away. 

            As she and Kera turned back to the house Analyn looked back just once, hoping to see some sign of the deer again.  When she could see only trees she shrugged.  She would eventually see deer again, it was just a matter of when and where.

                                    *                      *                      *

            Her uncle had turned seventeen the next day and the party had been a success.  Analyn could remember having a great deal of fun with Caralee, Nikko and several other children.  The surprise that her mother had sprang upon the family had come in the form of Samuel, who had almost immediately won over the hearts of each one of their family and friends.  It had been joking tossed around that maybe Samuel would be the one to offer her mother a long and happily married life.  That rumor had been laid to rest quickly in the next year’s time, neither one of them had the desire to marry again.  Her mother had been married to her father and then divorced when Analyn had still been too young to even know what was going on.  She was a bit thankful for that and had come to realize just why her mother and father could not co-exist in a marriage.  They were simply too different in temperament and couldn’t live with one another.  Analyn had come to accept this at least in part, though she still managed to see her father more often than not.  He was as much a part of her life as anyone else and her mother thankfully understood this. 

            Sighing to herself Analyn shoved her hands into her pockets just a bit more as she remembered that on that day before the party that she, Kera and Tyler had indeed gone to the beach.  As always they had done just exactly what Analyn wanted, within reasonable limits.  They’d looked for sea shells and had even taken a few with them, they’d gone out in the waves and they’d even buried uncle Tyler in the sand up to his waist.  It had been a good day, one among many that she looked back upon fondly and with no regrets.  The only regret she had now was that were would be no more days such as that.  Or perhaps that was more of a lament than a regret. 

            Analyn could remember that her mother and Garrett had been excited when the thought that their little brother and surrogate little sister would be graduating at the end of the next school year, thinking that they would be on their way to the next step in their lives.  For all that her mother and older uncle didn’t act as though they allowed the outside world to touch them, Analyn knew that they still cared a great deal.  Her mother and Garrett had left home almost directly after high school, making their own ways into the world as they saw fit.  They had kept in touch with their family on a regular basis, or as regular as could be, but as Analyn had began to find out shortly before the tragedy sometimes family moved away or became so involved in their lives that the time between meetings could grow longer with each passing year. 

            She had a whole slew of family that she hardly saw any more, though the tragedy had brought them closer together for the first two years.  Somehow Analyn could believe that the tragedy had kept them apart as well, as though none of them could quite think of how to deal with the grief that losing their loved ones had brought.  Even four years later the grief was still far too fresh to be discussed, as though it were something taboo that wasn’t polite to speak of.  Analyn knew better than to bring up the subject of her uncle Tyler and the rest of the family with her mother.  Even Samuel had seemed torn by the loss, though he hadn’t known the family all that long.  It had only been after a year into the disaster that Analyn had realized that Samuel had had friends upon the peninsula that he’d lost. 

            Four years time had passed far too quickly it seemed, as though it had all been in the blink of an eye.  The tragedy had remained upon the television and in the papers during that entire time, drawing people in from across the country and even other parts of the world at times.  It was without a doubt one of the most sought after tragedies and greatest mysteries in a long time.  Analyn had heard that the GrayCap had drawn enough attention that even comics had began to do stand-up routines with the GrayCap as their main material.  She hadn’t watched any of the shows that had decided to make a joke of the loss of so many, finding them vulgar and far too disrespectful.  She hadn’t even wanted to watch the mini-series that had been put on one of the cable channels.  The farce of a show had been called Silver Mists and was what some had called a realistic view of what must have happened.  Analyn didn’t know how anyone could be so stupid, but she supposed it was a big world.

            At school she’d weathered the many questions of what she thought had happened, who she’d lost and what she was feeling.  There had been several days when she had been advised to see the guidance counselor so that she could explain what she was feeling and how she could best let it out.  Analyn had scorned the teacher, doing her best to be a smart aleck and ignore the best attempts of the counselor to get her to open up.  Her mother and Samuel had been called in to discuss just why she was blocking the counselor’s attempts and to judge as to whether or not she needed therapy, to which her mother had responded with an ear-blistering lecture that had almost broken out into a fully blow verbal fight between her and the principal.  It had been then that Analyn had see that as much as she was hurting, so was her mother.  Samuel had wisely stayed silent and escorted a weeping Sareena and a stony-faced Analyn out of the principal’s office afterward, admonishing the principal in a stern voice before doing so. 

            Analyn had continued to attend the same school until she’d finally transferred to the junior high that was just down the road from her home.  It was there that she had finally seen the morbid interest in her family begin to die down, finding that as the children grew older with each passing year their interests expanded and differed from day to day.  She had been glad to finally find a place where she wasn’t seen as some sort of macabre celebrity because of what had happened to her family.  Analyn had done her best to make friends and had a good number of them, friendly girls and boys who shared the same interests and had allowed the matter of her missing family to drop when she didn’t wish to discuss it.  Her friends were no doubt a large part of the reason she could still function as a regular human being.  If not for them and her mother and Samuel she might never have been able to live with what had happened. 

            At times she had to wonder how the rest of the family was coping.  Her great aunt Sondra and uncle Jed that lived in Lake Hughes, California, seemed to have taken the disappearance of the family members among the hardest of anyone.  Her grandpa Gary had been Sondra’s older brother and a good friend to Jed.  It had been these two that had staunchly refused the honorary funeral that had been suggested by a few friends and distant relatives that had come out of the woodwork when the disaster had struck.  Their sudden appearance after so many years had struck Analyn as odd since until that moment she’d scarcely heard of any of them.  Aunt Sondra and uncle Jed though had began the refusal that had filtered down through much of the family, denying those who had either abandoned or sought to profit from the family’s loss their undue attention.  No funeral had been held, but the family had held a gathering that had been kept as quiet as possible to remember their missing members.  No one outside the group of those that had been invited, and it had been a large number, had been allowed to know where the gathering was being held. 

            A distant relation, the husband of uncle Jed’s granddaughter, had managed to rent a campground site out off the beaten path in a place that had served just fine for the family.  The park rangers and other employees that worked around Lake Champoeg had been more than happy to remain quiet to any that might have asked about the goings on of such a large group.  As the husband, Cecil, had found out the lead park ranger had lost someone as well upon the peninsula, proving how small a world it was.  The man had been gladly invited to grieve with the rest of them, an invitation he had gladly accepted. 

            Analyn could remember that it had been a pleasant gathering of friends and family, many people that had known and been quite fond of the Ferris family.  She had seen people at the gathering that she’d not seen in years and could barely remember, but Analyn had known somehow that each person there had been there for the best of reasons, to honor the loss of a family they had truly cared for. 

                                                *                      *                      *

Wednesday July 22nd, 1998   

            Analyn woke up before her aunt and uncle that day, making herself breakfast as she’d been taught during her stay last summer.  It was easy enough to make a bowl of cereal with chunks of banana when her grandmother was kind enough to keep such things in the fridge.  She could almost believe that the woman kept such treats stocked just when she was around as her grandfather said.  Grandma Eve was at work in Longbeach while grandpa Gary had gone back to work in Warrenton, helping out with an extra shift because somebody was out sick. 

            She’d heard about how Kera’s father had been killed in a tragic accident when she had been a little girl and how her mother had gone to a mental institution shortly after.  Analyn could see the hurt in Kera’s eyes at times when she looked at the only photo she had of her family, the but older girl didn’t talk about it much.  That was okay, to Analyn it looked like it was too painful to talk about anyway.  She liked to see Kera smile instead of frown, she was too pretty to look sad.  That seemed to be uncle Tyler’s special gift when it came to anyone, especially Kera, he could make anyone smile. 

            At the moment they were both still sleeping, they were no doubt tuckered out from the past several days with her.  Analyn liked to have fun with her family, but even she crashed now and then.  There was only so much fun a person could have before they had to rest again.  Gently opening the fridge once more she managed to pull out the gallon of milk that was already half empty.  Grandma had already said she was going to stop at the store on her way home which was good since having three kids in the house and a constantly hungry husband seemed to make the food run out really fast.  Analyn closed the fridge just as quietly as she strained just a bit to hold the milk jug with her other hand.  She was a thin girl without much muscle so holding onto something even half-empty was still a bit of a strain.  Grasping it with her other hand as well she managed to get it over to the counter that sat opposite the fridge, where her bowl of Rice Krispies and banana chunks waited. 

            She was just about to unscrew the cap from the milk when she heard a strange clopping noise, as though someone had just taken a step on the deck outside with a hard shoe or something.  She’d heard that noise before, or at least something like it, when friends of her grandparents had visited in the evening or midday.  The sound of a high heel made such a noise, but there was little explanation for anyone to be here at this time of day.  Looking at her wrist Analyn could see that it was still just a little past seven thirty in the morning.  Her grandparents had left nearly an hour ago, so it couldn’t be them. 

            The interior of the house was set up so that the large picture window in the living room would look out upon the rock and flower garden as well as the deck.  On the opposite wall was the large blue sectional couch that her grandparents often collapsed upon at the end of a hard day.  The large television was situated near the left corner of the window, while a pellet stove was kept near the right.  From where she stood Analyn could easily see out the right half of the window, but she could not see the left half thanks to the large bookcases that had been lined up to offer some distinction between the living room and kitchen. 

            Leaning forward didn’t help much as Analyn could see only a little bit more of the deck, enough to see the glass table and weathered steel chairs that her grandfather had kept for so long.  Turning her head to the left she tried looking out the window set into the kitchen door, seeing only the lawn beyond and the back corner of the garage.  Keeping the cap on the milk she walked away from the counter, stepping from the cold linoleum into the living room as she came into view of the deck through the window.  What she saw made her stop suddenly as the clopping of what she now knew to be hooves suddenly stopped. 

            Analyn’s jaw hung open as she looked through the window to see a very large doe standing sideways next to the glass table outside, her neck craned to look inside.  The doe’s large black eyes were wide as she looked inside, seeing Analyn as the girl gulped once, smiling as she looked back at the deer.  It was hard to read the expression of a wild animal, but Analyn could have sworn that a glimmer in the dark, liquid eyes or perhaps a single twitch of the ear indicated interest as the doe continued to look inside, standing absolutely still. 

            The sudden yawn from Kera’s room startled Analyn enough that she jumped slightly, the motion causing the deer to spring into motion as her hooves clopped loudly upon the deck, hastening her departure as Analyn watched. Within seconds the deer was gone, bounding across the road and into the wooded hills, disappearing as though she’d never been there in the first place.  Analyn slumped her shoulders for a moment before shrugging them, going back to the counter to pour the milk for her cereal. 

                                                *                      *                      *

            She hadn’t told either Kera or Tyler about the deer, keeping it as her own little secret.  Why she had done this Analyn didn’t know, but she hadn’t thought of that day until now, which was amazing really.  She had kept that memory for so long that she was rather impressed that she could pull it out of her mind at a moment’s notice.  Of course she had had such fond times at her grandparents’ home that it wasn’t all that much of a surprise.  As the woods around her blew about in the winds once more Analyn smiled, remembering the love that had abounded within that home, the absolute feeling of belonging that had blessed each one person that had ever set foot in the place.

            So many friends and family had made their way through the home that it was no wonder that it had become a haven of sorts, a place she always enjoyed going to.  To think that such a place had been taken from them all was unthinkable, it was wrong to such a degree that Analyn couldn’t help but feel angry at whoever or whatever was responsible.  She would not blame God, such a path didn’t hold any allure for her at all.  Some other kids might have pointed up to the sky and demanded to know why a loving and caring God would take away those they cared about, but in the past five years Analyn had already had to deal with death and loss.  The year before her grandparents, aunt and uncle had disappeared the family had lost her great grandmother Ida and her great aunt Betsy within less than a year’s time. 

            Great grandma Ida had been in her seventies when she had been diagnosed with severe kidney failure.  She’d breathed her last while attached to a dialysis machine, fading from the world as her children had watched.  Analyn, Tyler, Garrett, Sareena and Kera had not been there to watch her pass, but grandpa Gary, grandma Eve and grandpa’s siblings had been there to pass her onto the next life.  When her grandparents had come home Analyn had seen them both crying and her young heart had been saddened to see such a thing. She didn’t like to see people cry, especially not her family.  When aunt Betsy had gone only a few months later, the victim of a severe and unexpected heart attack, the family had been devastated once again.

            Analyn had gotten to see her great aunt Betsy in the hospital, but it hadn’t been the greatest of sights.  Aunt Betsy had been unable to respond since her heart attack had taken away her ability to even breathe on her own.  Betsy’s children, cousins that Analyn barely knew, had given the approval to unplug her machines after the doctors had told them that there was absolutely no chance of recovery.  She had watched her grandparents cry once more, but as before she’d had her mother, uncles and aunt with her.  Tyler and Kera had been there to keep Analyn occupied so that she would not bear the sorrow too heavily. 

            She could remember aunt Betsy well enough to know that she had liked the old woman.  Aunt Betsy had been the most educated person within the family, having obtained a Master’s Degree, though Analyn didn’t know in what.  She’d always been a nice woman as far as Analyn knew, in fact she couldn’t remember a single time when aunt Betsy had been anything but kind to her.  Not long enough after her great aunt’s passing, the greatest tragedy had happened.  Four years now and she could not think of those who’d been lost without feeling as though she would cry.  Analyn sniffed as she opened her eyes fully, looking around as she frowned suddenly.     

            The woods out beyond her home were thick enough to offer cover from the homes on the hill, but she’d been walking as the memories had been rolling through her mind, she was sure of it.  What she saw now should have been the back yards of those homes and the wooden siding and decks of the same dwellings.  Instead she saw only more woods as they stretched up the hill, confusing her as she turned around to peer in the direction from which she’d come.  It was not a long walk from the far reaching back yard of her home to the woods, in fact it wasn’t even that far of a walk really up the hill to the homes that lay on the street high above, but as she looked back at the trail Analyn felt her breath hitch in her throat at what she saw.  Where there had once been a well-defined dirt trail there was now nothing but overgrowth, bushes and small plants that lived between the trees and the open spaces.  The trail was gone. 

            Analyn shook her head in denial, that couldn’t be possible, there had to be trail there.  She’d been walking and riding this trail on horseback since she could stay on a mount by herself, she knew it better than she knew any other place.  Looking back in the direction she’d been heading she was startled to see that the path had disappeared in that direction as well, blocking her into the brushy clearing somehow as she tried to peer past the trees.  This was not happening, it couldn’t be. 

            She attempted to stride forward to see what lay up the hill, thinking that she must have gotten turned around or something.  This made no sense in her mind but at that moment it was all she would allow. She couldn’t be lost, she’d been up and down this hill so many times in all directions that she couldn’t possibly get disoriented.  Analyn knew this trail, hell she knew this hillside.  To think that she was lost was a thought she didn’t and would not entertain.

            Yet even as she made her way upward a sudden sound startled her, forcing her to stop as something darted past her within the trees and scrub, a strange form that she couldn’t quite make out.  It was a bit bigger than she was, that was for certain, but anything else that might have identified it was far too vague as she peered up the hill. 

            “Hello?”  Analyn called.  The sound came again, sounding not unlike the growling of a cat, or perhaps a dog or even a bear.  This was still a wild place, but Analyn was fairly sure that such creatures didn’t venture this close to civilized areas unless they felt threatened or were extremely hungry.  Besides that she’d never heard of a cat that large in this area.  As she continued to peer forward the dark shape flitted through the trees again, making little more sound than a passing breeze as the only noise she could hear were leaves as they crunched beneath the thing’s feet. 

            Analyn was growing a bit nervous as she looked back down the other way, her eyes narrowing as the shadows seemed to have deepened within the woods she’d walked through.  The day above was still bright, she could see the cloud-streaked blue sky far above the tree tops as the sunlight still shone down upon the foliage all around her.  Yet something still made the darkness seem as though it were attempting to encroach upon her, almost threatening her in a way.  Analyn attempted to get her mind off the strange shadows, telling herself that she was daydreaming, just imagining things.  She didn’t buy that at all though, in fact she dismissed it out of hand immediately as she licked her lips, not willing to believe that her imagination was just running wild.  It might have been far preferable at this moment, but it would have implied that her grip upon reality was not as sure as she would want it to be.

            Standing absolutely still Analyn turned her gaze up the hill, no longer seeing the dark blur that had been moving about. She didn’t hear another growl as she moved one step backward, licking her lips as she turned back the way she’d come.  The growl came again in the next instant as Analyn saw off in the distance another dark form, or perhaps the same one, dart through the shadows, barely a glimmer as she stopped.  Her heart was beating madly as she heard her breathing become a bit quicker, threatening to increase as she attempted to tamp down the sudden fear that had risen within her heart.  This could not be happening, she had been upon a trail only moments ago and now for all intents and purposes she was within a strange forest that she just barely recognized.  Her home should have been only a short distance down the hill, she should have been able to see homes up above, but she was lost in a wooded land that was beginning to feel more and more hostile with each passing moment. 

            A lovely child.

            Analyn spun in place to stare up the hill, seeking the owner of the strange, rasping voice that she’d just heard.  The speaker sounded as though he were in great pain, the strained words echoing strangely on the wind. 

            You will make a fine addition, your spark will be welcome.

            She could see no one as she turned around in a complete circle, her throat tightening as she attempted to figure out just what was going on.  As she turned Analyn began to see the dark form again, or rather she saw many dark forms flitting about the woods, circling her as the single growl became many, sounding undeniably feline in nature as she licked her lips again.  What was happening?

            Even as she asked herself this Analyn saw as one of the dark blurs raced forward from the darkness, its form becoming more defined as she watched in horror.  It was a strange mix of cat and human, its features more feline than human as it opened its mouth to reveal twin rows of needle-like teeth.  Horribly long claws tipped each finger and toe while a shining pelt of absolute midnight covered the thing’s body, glimmering as it raced into the light.  It’s long mane of hair extended from the crown of its head as far back as Analyn could see, waving madly as it raced towards her, its eyes making the creature’s intent quite clear.  Unfortunately for Analyn, shock had frozen her legs completely, she couldn’t move a muscle to save her life, literally. 

            The creature was only a few paces away when it sprang, jaws and claws extended to tear into her despite the fact that her mind was insisting that this was a terrible nightmare, a fantasy of some sort that would evaporate once she woke.  Shutting her eyes Analyn waited to fee the harsh claws of the creature, to feel as she was ripped open by the demonic thing as it collided with her.  There would be nothing left, perhaps only a bloody smear on the grass.  Her vivid imagination really sucked sometimes.

            The sound of something striking the creature opened her eyes as she saw the thing go flying away, streamers of blood and what looked like teeth trailing it just before the thing hit the ground hard.  It did not rise again as Analyn watched, its lifeless body lying still upon the ground.  Analyn felt as a brush of wind blew her hair in front of her face, cascading through the small clearing as she turned slowly, her heart beating madly in her chest as she fully expected something even worse to be standing behind her, something that would make the hellish cat thing seem like an angel in disguise.  She wasn’t a bit ready for who she saw. 

            “U-uncle Tyler?”  The blonde-haired man that stood in front of her did indeed look almost exactly like her uncle, from the light blonde hair atop his head to the jeans and t-shirt he wore so often.  Her uncle wore dark sunglasses and had let his hair grow out much longer than usual, but overall he was still the powerful figure he had always appeared to be, his muscular form toned in such a way that he did not appear bulky but would never be mistaken as a weakling.  In his hands he held a long, white staff that seemed to glow with a radiance that might have come from within the wooden surface.  His blonde locks were tied behind his head in a long tail, allowing Analyn to see his bearded countenance.  He looked so grown up with facial hair, especially with the dignified moustache that flowed over his upper lip. 

            “Hey kiddo.”  Analyn rushed to embrace her uncle, wrapping him tightly in her arms as a host of questions came to mind, each one jockeying for space within her mind as she almost sobbed against his chest.  Tyler held her tightly as he kept his gaze on the darkness within the woods, scowling as he saw several more dark forms circling around them.

            “I can’t stay long Kit, in fact neither can you.  Something is coming, something very bad.” 

            Analyn pulled away for just a moment, tears filling her eyes as she looked up at him, “What could be worse than losing all of you? Where’s Kera? Where’s grandma and grandpa?  What happened Tyler?”  Tyler shushed her gently with one hand as he kept the staff in his other, smiling down at her as he’d always done.  Analyn couldn’t help but smile back, wiping at her face as she stepped away.

            “All I can tell you Kit is that something bad is coming.  You won’t remember any of this, just like I won’t, but it has to be said.  We’ll be together again, that I can promise.”

            “Everyone?”  Tyler’s face seemed to fall just a bit as she asked this, his expression telling Analyn that something very bad had happened.  She wanted to ask, but at that moment Tyler spoke again.

            “Whoever survives Kit.”  Analyn’s eyes grew wide as she listened, “Go home now Analyn, go home and enjoy the time you have left.  Just stay safe kiddo, for me and everyone else, stay safe.  Enjoy what you have even as you remember what’s been lost”  Analyn was about to speak again when Tyler suddenly struck the ground with his staff, the expected sound turning into something quite unexpected as Analyn visibly recoiled from the sudden crack of what sounded like lightning striking a solid object.  The world flashed a horrifying white in that moment as she was blinded, taking a step back as she raised her hands to cover her face.  And then all was silent for a time.

                                                *                      *                      *

            Analyn blinked several times as she stood absolutely still, her hands raised to her face.  Opening her eyes fully she found that she was standing upon the trail leading up the hill, the winds around her moving through the trees, making it sound as though millions upon millions of voices were speaking at once.  Above to her right she could see the wooden decks and stilts that supported the few houses on the hill as they just barely poked through the trees.  There was no one outside today despite the pleasant weather, leaving her grateful as she hurriedly lowered her hands, wondering what she’d been doing in that moment. 

            She couldn’t remember much more than the desire to take a long walk, to clear out her head somewhat after yet another disturbing newscast on the GrayCap, the disaster that had befallen the Longbeach Peninsula, where her grandparents, aunt and uncle had lived.  She wanted to believe they were still alive, but after four years without contact it was hard not to believe that some ill fate had befallen them.  The face of her uncle Tyler came to mind just then, his easy smile and carefree attitude ringing a strange note within her memories.  She wasn’t completely surprised, he’d always been a fun-loving person and had always made time for her.  His surrogate sister and her aunt, Kerian, had been just the same.  Each high school senior had always enjoyed spending time with her, a fact which only made their absence that much harder to bear.

            Analyn missed her grandparents, Gary and Eve, as well, feeling as though in her heart there was now a void, a large question mark that was her doubts over whether or not they were still alive.  She knew it had hit her mother and the rest of their family as well, but for some reason it seemed to resonate even more within her.  There was something missing in her heart without them, a piece of her being that was not there any longer and would remain gone until something managed to fill it.  Analyn didn’t know if that would ever happen, or even worse, she didn’t know if she would allow such a thing.

            Sighing gently to herself she stuffed her hands a little deeper into her pockets, turning around to face down the hill.  She could only walk so long before her thoughts began to wear her down.  Looking up to the sky Analyn figured that she’d been on this trail now for close to an hour judging by the position of the sun.  That shouldn’t have been possible, but then she might well have just zoned out and stopped for awhile, thinking perhaps of the past and what could perhaps never be again.  That was a depressing thought. 

            As the winds gusted again Analyn looked back down the trail, her thoughts turning to home, her mother and Samuel.  She had a place to go to at least, someone who would understand the pain she felt.  If anyone could, it would be her mother.  Analyn smiled as she thought that she was lucky to have this time with her mother at least, times she could still enjoy.  As she headed down the trail the memory of her missing family still pervaded her thoughts, but the realization that they would want her to continue her life pushed at the sadness with each step, allowing her to go forward as she began to realize just how fortunate she was to have someone to talk to.  She couldn’t help but think that it was time to enjoy what she had even as she remembered what had been lost. 

            Some very wise person had told her that, but she couldn’t seem to remember who.

An Angry Woman (part VI)

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I stood up from my seat, she must have thought I was going to leave because she smirked at me in a way that made me feel even more justified for what came next. Instead of picking up my drink bottle and sandwich however I leaned forward, cracking my knuckles on the wooden table top between us as she looked up again, frowning at me now. She no doubt thought that the ‘nitwit’ had something scathing to say since the frown looked like a primer for another tirade that was coming. Oh, it was, but not for the tirade she was ready for.

“When last I checked we worked at the same rate of pay at the same store and on roughly the same days. But somewhere along the line you seemed to think that meant that you were better than the rest of us. I hate to be the one to bring your salty ass back down to earth because honestly I’d rather never talk to you considering how much of a royal bitch you can be. Either change your goddamned tampon or pull the stick out of your ass and remind yourself that you’re no better or worse than any of us. Whatever’s going on in your life doesn’t belong here. When you walk through the front doors you’re an employee, just like the rest of us, when you walk out you’re no better or worse. You so much as scowl at another one of us again and I’ll be making damn good and sure it’ll be the last time. I don’t care what’s going on in your life, if your husband left you for a good reason or your dozen cats went out and played in traffic, you don’t get to be resident bitch when you’re here, especially not to people that you work with.”

She opened her mouth to say something, but I wasn’t done.

“The very moment you feel the need to repeat this or even think about getting me fired, think about this: you could be replaced by a high school student for less pay and with less experience. You’re expendable, you’re replaceable, and the moment you’re gone, you become a cautionary tale at best.”

Like I said, it wasn’t my finest moment, but the shock I saw on her face as I turned and walked out made it all worth it. What made it even better was what happened after that though.

(to be concluded)

Sometimes…..

Stand-up comedian John Mulaney, whose five-year tenure as a Saturday Night Live writer ended in 2012….. -Matthew Love, Vulture

n the latest installment of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, comedian John Mulaney hosted for the second time in his career. He used to write for SNL and has won awards for penning some of the celebrity host monologues.  –
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, The Hollywood Reporter

Instead of issuing one of his customary confessional monologues, Davidson was joined by former S.N.L. writer John Mulaney… -Joanna Robinson, Vanity Fair

It does seem that he wrote for the show, but there are those that are pretty adamant that he didn’t. In truth it’s something kind of silly to argue about but all the same it would seem that if so many people from various sites are willing to agree on something it might just be true. But we’re all entitled to our opinions.