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Grand-mère said, grand-père painted the house blue. My mère said the bright blue kept the snakes away and the hunters from shooting at the house.
Why anyone would want to shoot a house?
Out in the swamp, up on the stilts, the house is an easy target. Mère said grand-père wanted no tracas, no mistakes. Grand-père wanted everyone to know they was home.
I know better. I remember. Grand-père told me when I was young. He told me they would come for him and I was not to be sad when they came.
We moved to town when they shot grand-père through the wall.
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“The most sublime act
is to set another before you.”
“No hon, it was Max. He was the first to call me Jac. Eventually everyone, even my mother began calling me Jac.”
“We’ve been married for three years and I am just now learning about Max’s visions? I have known you for twelve years, what else don’t I know about you?”
Smiling, Amanda kisses me. We are sitting on the couch, watching television when out of the blue Amanda is asking about the name Jac.
“Amanda, you knew about Max’s visions, but I don’t think you thought much about the idea of Max being able to see the future.”
“No, I suppose not. I vaguely remember you telling me about the crystal.”
“Not a crystal, a crystalline Orb. It gave Max… I don’t know what it gave Max. I know he could see things in a place he called the Everywhen or Everwhen. Something like that.”
Amanda is looking at me. She is about to ask something. I know what she is going to ask because Max told me about this moment. Max told me Amanda and I would never be apart. From the day I saved her from choking, we have known we would be together forever.
We went to the same college and graduated at the same time. Amanda teaches advanced English, and I am doing research in quantum physics. I am going to figure out how the Orb shows Max the Everywhen.
“Jac, did you help Max? Did you do something to help him? Is that how he knew to help Mark and Jamie?”
I avoid Amanda’s eyes. I do not want to answer.
“Jac, you can tell me. Did you help Max?”
“Yes, I helped Max.”
“How? How did you help?”
I am both ashamed and proud of what I did for my friend. I helped him understand the images and ease his pain. My friend Max gave me more than I ever thought about giving him. I would do it again if he asked.
I am ashamed because I used my affliction to help Max. I figured out the stinging I felt when Max was in the Everywhen was less on my bad side. When I sat with Max to my left, the numbness on my left side softened the stinging.
I am proud because I gave my friend something he needed. When I had nothing, no friends, no confidence…
Max gave me everything.
When I do not answer, Amanda, the love of my life answers her own question.
“You allowed Max to cause you pain, to lessen his pain, while he was having visions. You used your bad side to help Max.”
“How do you know that?”
Amanda is beaming. Radiant and beautiful. She refuses to answer. It dons on me when she raises an eyebrow.
“Max told you?”
Amanda is roaring with laughter.
“Of course, he did. He told me all about how you helped him. He told me about us and about this day. This conversation.”
“If you knew all this, why did you play dumb.”
“I wanted to see what you would say. Max was right.”
“Right about what?”
“Max told me that you and he talked all the time. That he helped you to own it. He was right about that, you own it. It never slows you down except with one person.”
“Oh? Who is that?”
“Yes, me. You never want to appear weak or call attention to your weak side when I am around. After all these years, you still want me to be proud of you for owning it.
“Jac, honey, helping Max was owning it. Helping Max brought us together. Even though I had to ask you on the first date, and I made the first move, and I had to propose, you own it with everyone but me.
“That is what I love about you.”
The story of Icky Waddles is ending here. When you have almost nothing, or think you have almost nothing, and you willingly give the little you do have for a friend, you own it.
If you want to read about Max, the Orb, and his journey to self-discovery, the short story collection, Max and the Dreamtime, begins with The Find.
Written: May 27, 2020
“No one is useless in this world
who lightens the burdens of another.”
The rest of the school year was uneventful. Max was right, the schoolwork was harder but everyone, was nice. Well, almost everyone was nice.
Amanda and I hung out pretty much every day at school. She didn’t come over to my house much. I think Lillian must have said something mean to Amanda. Amanda said she preferred being home. I fixed up my bike. When the weather was nice, I rode over to Amanda’s on my good days. I did not mind the ride, and Amanda’s mother is always nice to me.
I did not see Max as often. He was busy with high school and Jamie. At the Thanksgiving break, we played some X-box and hung out. That is when he told me about the visions and the Everywhen.
“The Aboriginal people of Australia call it the Everywhen or Everwhen. It is something like a trance where the past, present, and future are all visible. Like a movie in your mind.”
“Is that what happens to you? A trance?”
“Not really. Well, maybe. I don’t know exactly. All I know, is when I focus, I see things that will happen. I don’t even have to hold the Orb. I just focus and it connects.”
“Connects? How does it connect?”
Max pauses, thinking about my question. I flip off the game console before turning back to Max.
“The Orb is giving me the visions, or it is allowing my mind to connect to some ability that is already there. Maybe, yes, I think it is opening up an ability that we don’t know how to use.”
“Do you think it is hurting you?”
“No. There is no pain when I see the future. If I tell someone what I saw, or if I make something happen that I know will alter what I saw in the future, I feel pain. Mark and Jamie say they feel the stings. Tell me about the stinging you get when I am in the Everywhen.”
“It is like a little electrical dance over my skin that stops, here and there, and bites like an ant.”
“Do you see anything or just feel it?”
“I feel it. Max, it is not that bad. I think… Maybe it is more intense when you are seeing something that makes you upset?”
“That is a good question. Let’s experiment. Do you want to help me?”
Max jumps up, closes the door to his bedroom, then steps up on his nightstand. He turns the screws on the heating grate, pulls off the cover, before reaching in and retrieving a small box. After replacing the grate, he steps down and opens the door. Opening the box, he cradles the Orb, and sits back down on the carpet.
“Okay, here is what we are going to do. I am going to let the Orb show me something. You focus on what happens to you. When the vision is complete, we’ll figure out what happens to you.”
“Okay, but what do I do if it gets too painful?”
“Just say: Max, stop.”
Sitting Indian style, Max holds the Orb in both hands. Resting his hands on his shins, I see light bouncing and refracting through the Orb.
In seconds I begin to feel tingling on my skin. I stayed focused and notice the tingling comes and goes in waves.
Then something changes.
The stinging starts.
I let it continue for what I think is a long time but is only a few minutes.
Max opens his eyes. He looks sad and worried.
“I felt the tingling as soon as you closed your eyes. It sort of came and went in waves. Until the end when it started stinging. I tried to hold on, but the stings got harder… No, not harder. Just more of them at the same time.”
“What do you think it means?”
“If you tell me what you saw, maybe we can figure out why it is happening.”
Instinctively, Max grabs his side before he feels any pain. I cut him off before he can speak.
“You know it will hurt you to tell me?”
“Yes, but I can manage. It is not as bad now.”
“Not as bad? What changed?”
“I don’t know what changed but I can manage the pain. In the Everywhen I was seeing Mark. He was playing Hockey. He is really good, the only Freshman to ever start on the High School Varsity. Scouts are coming to see him. Then it happens. In a couple of years, it happens”
Max stops and leans to his left, trying to protect his side from the pain.
“Max, what happens?”
“Mark becomes Captain of the team. He is going to be offered scholarships. But a goon hurts him.”
Max stops, and grimaces, before he finishes.
“In a couple of years, they will take out Mark’s knee to win the state championship.”
Max stops, opens his eyes, and looks at me.
“You have to tell Mark.”
“Yes, but when?”
“You will know when, but you have to tell him. No matter the pain, you can’t let your friend get hurt.”
“I know… Jac, will you help me?”
“Yes, of course. How?”
“In two years, when you are a Freshman, remind me to tell Mark.”
“Remind you? Why, what are you talking about?”
“Please, just remember what I told you and do not let me forget.”
“Okay, I will not let you forget. But, Max, what else have you learned?”
Max shakes his head no. Puts the Orb back in the box before setting it on the nightstand. Turning back to me, I understand without being told it is time to leave. While I am standing to leave, Max lies on his bed, I let him know I will help him.
“Max, the stinging happens when you see things that make you sad or unhappy. I think the stinging helps lesson your pain. If you want me to help, I can take the stinging.”
Max smiled, nodded positively, then closed his eyes. I close the door behind me on my way to the stairs and the back door.
I will take the stings for Max.
I will own it for Max.
What is Max not telling us?
Written: April 11, 2020
“You never know how strong you are until
being strong is the only choice you have.”
Lunchtime in middle school was the best part of the day and the worst part of the day. I sit for lunch with Amanda and several new friends. We always sit together. We sit at the end table away from everyone else. Two of my new friends, Marco and Albert have trouble eating, Amanda and I sometimes help them.
The other kids ignore us at lunch.
It is the best time because we can talk and laugh. No one at our table judges us. Marco doesn’t talk much, because of the slur. Albert talks just fine and never shuts up.
“You should have seen him. He can really play the game.”
“No way. You played X-Box with one hand?”
“Amanda is right, I can play now. The game is mostly right-handed so I can play. I use both hands but mostly the right.”
“Albert, you should have seen him. No twitches. No stumbles. His hands flying over the controller. Until the end.”
“What happened at the end?”
“Jac almost won! Spittle was flying everywhere.”
They are laughing, everyone is looking at us. Albert wipes Marco’s face causing us to laugh harder.
Until I see Amanda start to panic.
She is choking.
I jump up, using my right hand for balance on the table, I rush around to her side. She is pointing at her throat. She is turning pale.
I remember something. Because of Max’s comment about me being a hero, I remember. I read on the internet how to help someone who is choking. The Heimlich maneuver, but what are the steps?
I reach around Amanda’s waist making sure I am just under her ribs. Then I give a hard, quick, squeeze. My right arm is very strong.
The quick squeeze works.
Amanda spews a blob of peanut butter and bread that lands with a splat in the middle of the table.
Everyone in the cafeteria looks to Amanda. She waves politely that she is okay.
I turn and announce everything is okay.
“Move along, nothing to see here. Just a girl learning to chew.”
I am laughing and waiting for Amanda’s response.
Amanda gives a thumbs up.
I own it.
When the giggles cross the cafeteria, I sit back down and smile at Amanda. She smiles back and I feel like we have connected somehow. She feels it too.
I can tell.
Then I poke the peanut butter blob with a pencil pushing it back to Amanda.
We roar with laughter.
I remember what Max said: Jac, you are going to save a girl from choking.
What is Max not telling us?
Written: April 9, 2020
Ten lessons in motivation from Admiral W. H. McRaven.
Research sites and graphics artists.
About R. C.
Fortunately, in secondary school, my interest in reading was sparked. A close friend and an instructor who took an interest in a boy he later called ‘The rebel without a clue.’ were instrumental in learning the value of a good book. Both piqued my interest in reading.
My lifelong friend inspired me to read J.R.R. Tolkien, and I became addicted to the fantasy genre. The instructor required me to read exciting historical novels for academic credit. Frank Norris, Leon Uris, and Ken Follett are inspirations and fuel my love of history.
Born to a military family, it was logical that I follow the military tradition. However, after four years of “yes sirs” and scraping the wax off floors, I decided there must be more fun in a corporate career.
After thirty-plus years of work experience across the globe, the corporate career landed me in Colorado.
Where it all started.
Humans are interstellar capable.
Is she strong enough to save everyone?
Pops, Allison’s father says, let them all die.