Monday, December 10, 2012

What is Home?

 
I’ve heard many iterations of what “home” means to people. All definitions are varied and all are relevant. But, the definition changes depending on the experience of the individual defining it. For some, home might be a scary place; an uncomfortable, dark nightmare. For others, it could be a magical, happy place. My personal definition fell more toward the happy side of the spectrum, thankfully, at least in relation to my childhood home.
But, that home is different now. It is empty. It is dark. It is lonely. It echoes.
A year ago I didn’t know how empty a home could feel when the faces associated with it were gone. I don't think I ever truly realized that a home is only a shell. No amount of upgrades can change the fact that the four walls of a home encompass a hollow building. And, given a few years left to the elements, it’s amazing how much nature starts to reclaim that shell.
Or, is it not a shell, but maybe a seed? Yes, maybe it is seed. Maybe a home is cyclic, like a plant. My childhood home flowered in my youth, in the magical days, and now it has withered and sets in a dormant mode ready to flower again. It needs water. It needs nourishment. It needs care.
But, I’ll never make the mistake again of thinking that a home is a “where”, because that would mean that it is defined by the property on which it stands. No, a home is a “what”, because it is what you make of it. It is what you put into it. It is what you give it, and what it gives back to you. Rather it’s a castle or a modest 3 bedroom 2 bath 63 year old ranch-style sitting on an acre of overgrown weeds.


 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cement (or Cheesecake)?

Cheesecake.  It sounds good enough, two of my favorite things combined into one.  Cheese and cake.  But, there’s nothing good about it! It’s a pale brick, mixed up with some sugar, vanilla, maybe a few eggs, barely baked then flapped on a plate with a cherry on top and called ‘dessert’.  It’s disgusting.  It has the density of a meteorite.   

 
Cake is a wonderful thing, when it is baked thoroughly.  It is pure happiness on a fork; fluffy and sweet, evoking memories of happy celebrations.  Cake should be light and fun, with sugary icing and sprinkles, not scraped on a plate like a trowel full of mortar.  A proper cake is a party.  A proper cake marks a special occasion and brings a smile to everyone’s faces.  A proper cake is happy.  Cheesecake is not happy.  
 
I imagine that people who consume cheesecake do so in private occasionally, eating it slowly while in their pajamas, as if it were some unspeakable secret indulgence.  When a friend orders cheesecake from a menu, they usually get a gleam in their eye as if they are just about to commit a sin.  When they place their order, the waiter or waitress will repeat their choice “Ah, the cheesecake, excellent choice” while nodding their head approvingly.  It's as if “I’ll have the cheesecake,” was the password to some secret club.  If I decide to order an ice cream, my choice is never repeated to me nor met with such excited approval from the wait staff.
 
Cheesecake is obnoxious; it is the offensive joke of dessert. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Modern Art

All I had learned of art in grade school wouldn’t prepare me for what I would see in my library that day.  My grandmother brought me to our favorite library, the one with giant paper mache dinosaurs, to view an exhibit of Modern Art done by students from the local university, UNLV.  I had no idea what to expect.

The exhibit was packed with people.  Packed.  There was even a table with food and a tower of champagne (I thought it was soda, but I wasn’t allowed to have any).  I was excited.  The art was nothing like I had ever seen.  Large canvases with bold, colorful strokes of paint.  Small canvases with energetic splatters of enamel layered over strips of torn paper.  I was mesmerized.  This was art?  My mind was opened.  I took note of the other attendees who stood, like I did, immersed in the interesting array of displays.  I remember wondering if any of the students had attended the exhibit and watched the people examine their artwork.   I imagined that if they did, they would feel a sense of pride.  
In my adult life, I have exhibited my own artwork in my local libraries several times.  Each time, I am reminded of walking through that first exhibit with my grandmother.  In my mind, that exhibit was fancy.  I was in a world class gallery.  And, I was.  I was in my library, and that exhibit taught me that books and art were two means to the same end – illumination. 
 
 
(Photo of "Spectrum V (1969)" by Ellsworth Kelly (American) from the Metroplitan Museum's Modern collection.  Photo by Kristina Santry-Mull)
 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Torch

I was recently handed a torch I did not ask to carry.  This torch is both heavy, and light.  It is hot and cold.  It requires my bare hands to hold it, I can’t wear gloves.  It is both a light in the darkness, as well as a force capable of lighting fires of destruction.  The hands that passed it to me held it with integrity, honesty, and a clear, decisive vision.  I have to accept that they would not have passed this to me without seeing those same qualities in me.  I have a responsibility to wield this torch as a leader, to use it as they did – as a light.  And I will.  With all that I am, I will accept this responsibility with a humble and grateful heart. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dinosaurs at the Library

 
My library was full of dinosaurs!  Big, scary, multi-colored dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes complete with razor sharp teeth and big shiny, watchful eyes.  A few of them actually moved thanks to what I now know were small motorized parts.  The dinosaurs were made of paper mache, that’s also what I know now. 
 
But, when I was young, the resident be-scaled giants were made of bones, muscles, skin and teeth.  And, they watched me with their big eyes, shiny as glass.  I tried to stay out of their view, but it seemed as if one was poised at the end of every aisle, especially the children’s book aisles, which is where I spent my time.  Nonetheless, their watchful gazes didn’t keep me from spending an hour or so every other week browsing the new releases.  I was always looking for something new, having read almost every kids' book my library had in stock.  I even checked out an encyclopedia occasionally.
Dinosaurs.  That is what my library held for me; a land where dinosaurs ran free! 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Clutter Clearing

I’m a firm believer that a person’s dwelling area(s) reflect the state of their mind, body and spirit.  I’ve read several books on the subject and they have only confirmed what that I’ve always felt and known to be absolutely true – our living spaces are “living”.  In fact they are either quite “alive” or “comatose”, whichever reflects our current state of being.

Case in point, I once went with a friend to someone’s residence in order to retrieve a set of dishes that the person had given them.  I had never been to a home in this state of disarray before.  It was dark, the curtains were drawn shut.  It was dusty, smelly, roaches skittered everywhere, and spider webs (and their occupants) leered at me from every corner, literally.  It was a regular Haunted Mansion.  I couldn’t comprehend how someone could live and eat there, let alone sleep there.  And who lived there?   She was an emergency room nurse.  Would I want her treating me or a loved one?  Umm, no.  You might think that statement seems a bit judgmental, but to me someone with a job concerning the well-being of others shouldn’t let their own well-being fall to such shambles.   I later learned that she was fired shortly thereafter  for being under the influence of illegal substances.  Hmmm…  I heard that she went through rehabilitation, threw everything away, cleaned everything and is doing much better.
I’ve seen one room shacks in the Caribbean and Mexico.  There is a difference between being poor, and being dirty.  I’ve been in rich people’s houses that are disgusting and uncomfortable, and in poor people’s houses that are lovely and comforting. 
One of the best feelings is being able to let go of “things” that are no longer needed, and one of the first steps to doing that is to clear out some clutter.  Start with a drawer.  It works, it brings clarity.  It adjusts focus.  It calms nerves.  It clears mental cobwebs. 
It’s…necessary.
 
(Disclaimer - Having said all that, I also realize that some people have a mental disorder that requires that they hold on to things. I also have random items that I have held on to that seemingly have no value to anyone, but they do to me. However, I can’t imagine the psychic clutter of an entire house filled with things that I couldn’t bear to get rid of. It would be debilitating.) 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Free Gifts

I just realized that even though next week is my 39th birthday, it actually signifies the completion of 40 laps around the sun.  Not 39.  We don’t celebrate the day we are actually born as our first birthday; we celebrate it a year later, after completing our first lap.  So, coming upon 40 laps, I’ve had some thoughts.

First, I don’t feel 40 (or 39, or whatever).  Second, sometimes I feel 12, sometimes I feel 99.  But, never 40.
 
Last year, right around my birthday, I came up with the idea that I am “adaptable” rather than “moldable”.  I think that still holds true.  Being adaptable is a conscious effort on the part of humans.  We allow ourselves to adapt.  It’s a decision we can always back out of.  And, if it is a conscious choice, it is a good thing, right?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  It depends on the circumstances revolving around the choice to adapt.  Are we choosing to do so based on what is the best for us, or what “other’s” think is the best for us? 
Being adaptable is a gift, a wonderful present called “free will” that we were all given the day we are born.  It is non-refundable and non-returnable.  It’s a gift that we are all free to use every day.
How are we going to use it?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Excerpt from "The Plane Truth"

"It's timely, terrifying and a great read," - Joyce Brennan, Author 
 
Here is an expert from “The Plane Truth”, available at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/214003

     “So, how many plane crashes have you been in, Aiden?”
     “We’re not crashing,” he reminded her.  “We’re landing.”
     “Not helping,” she said and managed a small smile.
     “We’ll be fine.  And, after we land in one piece, you and I will have a drink together…to calm your nerves,” he said.
     He was her potential boss.  She couldn’t have a drink with him.  Or could she?  Just what was he asking?
     For a moment she forgot all about their impending doom and began worrying that she had bad breath.
     “A drink, at the airport in Reno.  You and me…” he started.
     Suddenly, a very loud bang rocked the plane slightly to the side and the cabin lights flickered.
 
 

 

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Love Story

One hot summer day in Phoenix, a debonair Mr. Fox took a stroll down the street with his brother and saw the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen in his life.  Such blinding beauty caused him to stumble off the sidewalk and fall smack on his butt (a stunt he would never live down).  Nevertheless, he calmly introduced himself to the stunning stranger found himself utterly mesmerized, so beguiled in fact that he went to the home of his fiancĂ© and cancelled their wedding plans (to her merit, the stranger was not aware that he was engaged). 

Mr. Fox was ensnared by this fascinating woman who defied the “norm” not only by hunting and bootlegging, but by wearing pants.  Men’s blue jeans in fact. The audacity!  But, she cleaned up well and they were married for over 60 years.  They had two children, who had four children, who had five children, who had six children; none of whom would have come to be if he hadn’t fallen off the curb at her feet that fateful day.

My great-grandmother, that sly, pants-wearing bootlegger, would have been 106 today.  And if she were still here, I know she would tell me dirty jokes just like she always did (and making this girl blush is difficult!).   And if Mr. Fox were here, he would be grinning ear to ear, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that he made the right decision.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Plane Truth

What would you do if you thought you were going to die, and you were strapped into a seat next to the person that might be the love of your life, especially if you had never told them how you felt?

Locked in their seats, Emily and Aiden are forced to face life and death together after fate throws a lightning bolt their way.

Check out my new e-book short story at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/214003


Saturday, July 21, 2012

It's a Conspiracy!


My most recent Flash Fiction entry:
#ThursThreads - www.siobhanmuir.blogspot.com 
I was given a prompt to use the line “They take this seriously” in the piece, and a limit of 250 words.  This is also a snippet of "Under the Granite Lies", which is one of my paranormal works in progress. I was glad to be able to incorprate the prompt line. 
               Right before we got to the door I grabbed his arm.  “Aaron, I just, well…please remember that I never wanted you to have to know the things that you are about to find out."

             “Whatever I find out, I promise it won’t change the way I feel about you, Lauren,” he said. 
I clasped his hand as we walked through the house and down the hall toward the basement steps where the meeting room was.  “I can’t believe I’m walking through Camp David,” he murmured as we passed framed photos of past Presidents on the wall.
I knocked on the door, waited for it to buzz, and then pushed it open.  The room was empty, so we slid into two chairs in the back row.    
A few moments later, the door on the other side of the room opened and Dad came in. 
Aaron stood and saluted him, “Mr. President.”
“Please, it’s just Gerald here.”  He shook Aaron’s hand and patted his shoulder.
I imagined all the things Aaron might be thinking.  I was sure his mind was whirling with every possible scenario except the right one.    
The door opened again, and Victor came in, carrying a cardboard box.  He was followed by two guards, one whom we had seen earlier on the path to the garden.  They looked human enough, unless one was to accidently touch their icy cold skin.  
Victor wore a Coca-Cola logo t-shit.
“They take this seriously?” Aaron whispered.
“Oh yes.  Very.”  I assured him.
(photo of Camp David in winter, taken from Wikipedia.)

 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Desert Rain

In honor of the rain that Las Vegas has finally received, here is a poem I wrote in 2004 about redemption (from what? from anything.):


Ghost of a Chance

The desolate desert land mimics the way I feel now.
Dry, emotionless, empty.
No life.
I stand alone in the deafening silence, the grainy sands blowing around me.
Taunting me.
I have never felt so empty.


Then...
Above the orange mesas, a speckling of white clouds swarm like vultures.
Somewhere in the distance, a crow calls.
The clouds grow, billowing from white to gray to black.
I am afraid of what they bring.

There is nowhere for me to hide.
A loud crack of thunder rumbles in the distance.
I wince, not knowing what to expect.
I shield my heart with my hands as if to keep it from danger.
A sound rushes toward me, a soft vibration.
I stand strong, holding my ground, there is nothing else I can do but wait.
The rain falls at my feet and I slowly lift my face to it.
It feels cool and refreshing in this arid air, enveloping me in the sweet smell of newness.
I feel the rain on my skin, in my hands, and through my soul.
My heart opens to accept this gift of nature's redemption,
And every piece of my being feels refreshed and vibrant.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Even Old Dogs...

My most recent Flash Fiction entry:
#ThursThreads - www.siobhanmuir.blogspot.com 
I was given a prompt to use the line “She was pregnant” in the piece, and a limit of 250 words.  This is what I came up with (249 words):

Cassie bent over to pick up the deposit her old, black Schnauzer, Jake, had left on the sidewalk.  She let out a small murmur of disgust when she felt the heat reach her fingertips through the thin plastic. 
Jake perked his ears as if he were noticing something interesting behind her. 
“Cassie?” 
She whirled around, doggie bag dangling in hand to see Thomas Shea’s magnificence striding toward her in even step with his miniature Yorkie, Jezebel, who had belonged to his late mother.    
“Hi Tom,” Cassie managed after swallowing hard. 
The dogs greeted each other affectionately, and Jake immediately set to sniffing Jezebel’s backside.
“Jake, stop it,” Cassie urged him away, not wanting a repeat performance of the mounting demonstration that he had somehow managed the last time she was lost in conversation with Thomas.  “It’s ok; I think he’s too old for anything to work anymore.”  
“Well, Cassie, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.  It appears that you and I are going to be spending some time together soon.”
“Oh?” She inquired.
“It seems, well, the vet told me she was pregnant.”  He nodded down at Jezebel who seemed to be smiling, if dogs could smile.
Cassie stared at him wide eyed.  “I don’t understand.  How could this have happened?  Jake was only on her for a minute!”
“Do you need me to give you a personal demonstration?”  He laughed, his blue eyes twinkling.  “Apparently you can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks.”
I got positive feedback from the contest host in the form of a comment: 

“Bwahahahaha! I love it, Kay! :D”  -  Siobhan Muir
And, that made my day!  ;-)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Connection

A friend recently shared his philosophy about Facebook with me, and I have to admit that I think he is on to something.
It’s all about “connection”.
Of course it is, right?  It’s amazing to find that old girl (or boy) friend and see how fat they’ve gotten, or how successful they are.  Isn’t it?  Doesn’t it feel good to reconnect with your first boss, your first employee, or your high school gym teacher?  It’s great right?  You send a few sentences, you catch up, and you make well-meaning promises to meet over a drink to discuss more. 
Does it happen? No.  Likely the only thing that will happen is that you will run across their name a few times a year when Facebook randomly decides that it’s time to poke them or write on their wall.  Then you will remember your excited agreement to meet up and discuss life, only those plans are now six months old.  Or more.  
My friend believes that maybe some people just aren’t meant to connect again, and that the mystical connection fairy of Facebook has somehow thrown a wrench into the cosmic "way of things." (I’m paraphrasing here.)   
Perhaps he is right.  
So what now?  Do I disconnect?    

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Flash Fiction

Ok, so what is it?  Flash Fiction is a short snippet of writing meant to get your brain working.  You are given a prompt, either a picture, word, phrase or combination of these and sent to your thinking spot.  Usually there is a word limit (sometimes specific), and a time limit.  Flash Fiction works to help power through the creative process, and you might be lucky and win something. 

Here is a list of Flash Fiction sites that run contests each week that I have browsed. 
#MenageMonday - www.caramichaels.com
#TuesdayTales - www.glitterword.wordpress.com
#ThursThreads - www.siobhanmuir.blogspot.com
#FridayPictureShow - www.jendauthor.com

My entries this week:

#TuesdayTales I was given the word "exoteric" that was meant to be used in the piece, a limit of 100 words, and this photograph:
“That’s perfect, keep still,” Louise called to her subjects while snapping photos with her Pentax.  She had no idea that one of her models was the same Mark Davids who had broken her heart in high school.  So far he hadn’t seemed to recognize her, and she was glad of it.  No need to revisit that embarrassing fiasco.
“Ok, that was perfect.  Thank you guys,” she said, busying herself with rewinding the film, happy with the exoteric composition she had managed to arrange.
“Louise?” Mark asked, walking toward her.
She felt her knees start to buckle.  “Yes.”
“I knew it.”

#FridayPictureShow I was given a limit of 100 words, and this photograph:

Louise unrolled the soft blue suede cloth to reveal a collection of antique scissors that belonged to her great-great grandmother.  The chubby, greedy hands of the pawn dealer caressed them in a way that made her a little queasy.
“These are great, but they are showing their age.  I’ll give you $350 for the lot,” he said.
“$450,” she replied firmly. 
“$400?”
“Done.”
She wasn’t quite ecstatic about the deal, but she had to take it.  These days she had been selling everything she could in order to buy food for herself and her son since unemployment ran out.

Well, I haven't won yet, but it's been really fun and I plan to continue entering. 
Happy Writing!


Monday, June 4, 2012

One Last Gift

This is me, seven years ago.  I was on Maui. 
 
This is me, ecstatic because I had experienced something absolutely thrilling and magical.  I had just returned from a flight in this small plane which had taken me over the island of Maui, to the Big Island of Hawaii’.  I had seen pods of humpback whales from the air.  I had witnessed thousand foot cliff waterfalls, lined up row upon row in a gorgeous staircase of creation along Hawaii’s north shore. 
But, most magical of all, I had witnessed creation itself, and felt the kiss of Madame Pele.  We had flown directly over Kilauea’s active caldera, and along the volcanic coast.  The plane shifted violently in the sky, thanks to the massive change in temperature directly below us.  It was thrilling.  I looked out my window and was filled with wonder.  I stared through an opening directly into the red-hot earth below.  The hole in the earth’s crust was in the shape of a human heart, the vog (volcanic fog) rose from it in steady clouds making it appear as if it were beating.  It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my entire life.  The hole was certainly large enough to swallow the small plane, but I trusted the pilot to get us through.  I had to. I had given up control getting on this flight, something I don’t like to do.
We spent a half hour circling the caldera before flying over the volcanic coast, which stretched in a thick black carpet for miles and miles.  We flew over Mauna Loa, and back over the channel to the coast of Maui.  Pods of whales again frolicked below us, dolphins miniaturized next to them. 
I titled this “One Last Gift” because this plane ride was the last Christmas present that I would ever receive from my beloved grandmother, although I didn’t realize it at the time.  Several months later she would pass away unexpectedly in my arms.  But, she left me with this amazing gift, the gift of knowing that sometimes you just have to buckle up and let the Pilot do His job.  He will get you there safe.  He has the expertise that you don’t.  And, if you are very lucky, He will fly you over a volcano and show you the secrets of creation itself while you are on the journey. 
Thank you for that gift, Grandma Betty.   I still miss you and love you every single moment.  

(Please note that this photo isn't a photo that I took.  We couldn't take photos in the plane.  I found this at usgs.gov, but it's pretty close to what I saw.  And, in real life, it appears much larger.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dali and Disney

Taken from: http://www.disneyonline.dk/news/?id=679

     This photo is of (if you don’t know who they are – where have you been?) Salvador Dali and Walt Disney.   They are individuals that embody the magical spark of creativity that I can only dream of having a sliver of in my lifetime.  I am fascinated by these two men. 
     Salvador Dali is by far one of my favorite artists.  He not only created art, he lived it.  He WAS art.  He embodied it in his lifestyle.  That is what I love about him.  He was fearless in his creativity.  He didn’t care what anyone thought about him or the way he lived his life.  He lived for art.  If only.  If only I could project that sort of fearless attitude.  Many viewed him as “strange”, and still do to this day because they can’t see beyond the canvas.  But I don’t view him as strange, or his art.  I think he was amazing, passionate and a true diamond of a soul.  His art moves me; his portrayal of his beloved wife in his paintings moves me to goose bumps.  His art is romantic, honest and raw. 
     Walt Disney, on the other hand, inspires me in other ways.  His story motivates me to follow my dreams, no matter how crazy they sound.  He dreamt of building a mouse and duck farm, literally, and he did.  He was inspired by the sparkle in his children’s eyes when they rode a merry-go-round at a park.   He wanted to capture that happiness (happiness is a hard thing to capture) and re-produce it so everyone could have the opportunity to enjoy it.  It took blood, sweat and tears, but he accomplished his dream.  What he did was amazing and inspirational.  I would argue that his original idea has brought more genuine happiness to people than many churches.  I’m not talking about the modern incarnations of the Disney empire, I’m talking about the heart and soul of his original idea.  It was a wonderful idea, an amazingly selfless journey, and he succeeded. 
     If only I could combine the energy of these two special souls, it would probably split the atom.  Or implode.  They are that rare.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Think Outside of the Box

Don’t we all live in boxes?  Comfy little caves that we were either placed in as a child, or designed for ourselves as the forces around us defeated our desire to stand tall?  Well, that’s a crappy way to live – all cramped and uncomfortable.  Barely room to move, breathe, stretch or even think sometimes.  The limitations are too restrictive.  And, who was it that put the restrictions there in the first place?  Was it a parent, parents, grandparents, or friends?  Or was it yourself, in response to social conditioning?  Was there a moment where you were so thrilled about something, a moment where your light shone so bright only to be extinguished by a mere word, action or thought of someone that you loved and respected?  I’m sure it’s happened.  It has happened to everyone.  None of us are truly alone.  If we could see outside our boxes, we would see that there are hundreds, thousands, even millions of other boxes lined up together, side by side, stretching to eternity. 

What would happen if we kicked the side off those boxes and crawled out?  I think we should.  We deserve to live in the sunshine.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Telly

I always feel defensive when someone acts stunned when I reveal that I haven’t seen a particular movie, TV show, read a certain book, or am not familiar with their favorite musical artist.  So what?  Does it make me less human?  You’d think so, based on their reaction.  So I missed out on some TV show, does that mean that my experience of this this thing called “life” is diminished?
I mean, really?
We’re all on separate journeys here.  Mine may or may not include the same programming as yours.  Yours may or may not include the same programming as mine.  I have an unknown amount of minutes to live and rather or not I choose to use some of them to watch, read, and/or listen to something that you suggest is purely my prerogative. 
Let’s ponder that shall we. 
In the meantime, I will take your well-meaning suggestions and filter them.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Excerpt 1 "Under the Granite Lies"


Dear Readers,
Below is an excerpt from a book I am writing called “Under the Granite Lies”. 
Enjoy. 
---

God, I missed him so bad already! He should have listened and never followed me! He couldn’t have known what would happen and that he would have no way to defend himself against an enemy who was already dead. I blinked away tears as I pulled off the road near the gate of the cemetery. 

After shutting the engine off, I rolled the window down and sat in the deafening silence until my eyes adjusted to the moonlight. I glanced down at the bouquet of roses lying across the passenger seat and ran my fingers along the smooth, silken red petals. Their delicate nature reminded me of my all too precarious position as a living, breathing human.
  
Cradling the paper wrapped bouquet in my arms like an infant; I got out of my car and slipped inside the iron gate, closing it behind me with a soft clink. The secluded cemetery was surrounded by dense forest, edging it on three sides in a protective gesture as if it were shielding it from the outside world. The street side was edged in a red brick wall, capped by cement finials interspersed with black iron fencing that matched the gate. It was nearly eleven o’clock, and the evening was cool and still with the soft perfume of a summer storm lingering in the air. Lightning flashed in the distance, the thunder rolling toward me in a low growl. 

The rows of standing stones stared defiantly back at me like the pale faces of a crowded hospital ward, each eager for attention, but I was focused on only one patient in particular. I would find his stone in the last row, fifth from the side, according to the annoyingly chipper, cheerily dressed clerk I had spoken to earlier that afternoon. 

I took a breath and stepped boldly into the eerie yet comforting stillness, taking the walking path that led down the left side. I glanced at the stones along the way, reading their names aloud to myself in quiet acknowledgment of the frailty of life. There were approximately thirty rows, each with about fifty stones across. Empty spots were scattered here and there, patiently awaiting their future occupants.

“Josephine Sue Barley. Beloved Mother and Sister.” 

But, not a beloved wife? There was a story there.

“Michael John Davis. Forever Innocent.” A figure of a teddy bear was carved below the words. A yellow plastic dump truck sat beside the stone, and had obviously been there for awhile. The grass had grown through the joints of the tires, a sure sign that the caretakers had thought better of touching it and instead manicured the lawn carefully around it.

I cleared my throat lightly and wiped my moist eyes with my sleeve. Soon, the last row was upon me. I paused.
 
Not ten feet beyond the last row of stones was the forest’s edge, the trees standing tall like a row of stiff soldiers awaiting inspection. The moon lit the cemetery in a silver glow, but the forest remained a dense, black, foreboding curtain. I felt a trickle of fear run down my spine but bravely ignored it, turning right and trekking the remaining few steps to the fifth stone in from the side. 

“Madeline E. Sturgis. Beloved Wife and Mother.”

No, that wasn’t correct, there had to be a mistake! No offense to Madeline, of course.  I stared blankly at the stone, confused for a moment before recalling that I hadn’t asked which ‘side’ the clerk was referring to when she gave me directions. Perhaps she was referring to the other side? I squinted at the long row of stones stretched out in front of me and began to walk toward the opposite end, glancing at the names as I passed so I wouldn’t miss it.