Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Balance

In my dream, an angel appeared to my grandmother, Estella. It was a beautiful angel, steady in posture, flowing hair, silky garments, and a serious message.

“Your scale is balanced,” she said.

She then went on to explain the Scale of Life. That from the moment of birth, the scale records every thought conjured and deed committed. It holds good deeds on one side, and bad deeds on the other. The objective of the scale is to determine the fate of each soul that leaves this earth.

The angel then informed Estella that her time was near, and that because her scale was balanced, the deeds she performed from now on would be very important additions to the scale.

Hearing this, Estella became defensive and started naming some of the good deeds she had performed in her life. The angel countered each good deed by naming a bad deed she had also performed. This went on for minutes… until the angel hushed Estella.

“You are wasting your time,” the angel said. The room grew silent, as Estella thought desperately to herself. Moments passed, and then her eyes opened wide.

“What if I build a dam?” Estella said, “Would that be enough to tip my scale towards the left?”

“Yes…” the angel replied.

The dream then took me to a hilltop, from where I looked down at a stream that flowed from left to right. I had taken Estella’s place in the dream and understood the task I had promised to the messenger. The stream was narrow towards its left and grew wider as it flowed to the right. I could still hear the messenger’s voice, whispering that the stream represents life and souls flowing through it. It was unbalanced… and I understood where I needed to build my dam.

I moved down from the hilltop and began building my dam in shallow water. It was a simple dam, made of sticks and stones, held together by clay. It did not require any special skills but it was very effective. The water to my left began to grow deep, while the water to my right narrowed to a trickle.

Suddenly an angry voice yelled out, “Get away from there!”

I looked to my right to see where the voice was coming from and noticed that the water to my right led into a dark cave. I could hear the sound of heavy footsteps coming from inside the cave, splashing in shallow waters.

“I said get away from there!” The angry voice repeated itself.

I stopped working, staring nervously at the opening of the cave as the footsteps got closer. My heart pounded with nervous curiosity, and I decided not to wait for the owner of the voice to arrive. I ran up to the hilltop, where I felt safe, and looked down at the cave opening.

From there a hulking figure appeared and looked up at me, tilting its head slightly to the right. Hatred clouded its eyes and shadowy dark features as it moved along the stream. It had broad shoulders, plated with muscles from head to toe, and a familiar face, though I was too far away to recognize him.

He stood over my dam, looking down at it in disgust. I expected him to destroy it, but he did not have the power to undo my work. He could only intimidate and discourage. He then looked up at me. “If you ever come down here again, I WILL take you with me,” he said. He looked at my work once more - then back at me, holding eye contact as he walked back into the cave.

I listened to his footsteps move further away, and I became curious about his face. I then moved down from the hilltop and into the cave. I could see his large hulking silhouette lumbering up ahead, moving towards a light at the other end. I followed him towards what I thought would be hell.

When I exited the cave on the other end, I did not find what I expected. There was no fire and brimstone. Instead, it was a typical cityscape, buildings, cars, and people moving about. I turned my attention back to the demon, which then had transformed himself into a man. I saw him climb into a car, and I moved as close as possible. When I peeked inside the far side window, I recognized the demon as one of my coworkers. I then moved away from him, ran back through the cave, and returned to the green hilltop.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Descent

The other night, I fell partway down a flight of stairs. They were made of slippery oak and I was wearing socks of cotton white. I stepped onto the first step as I had done so many times before, but this time was different. In the blink of an eye, I was airborne. My feet went forward and upwards, and all my agility meant nothing. I knew exactly were I was, but before I could react, a baseball bat -as if swung by Barry Bonds- struck me hard across my back. It knocked out my wind; then a blow to the back of my head, my left elbow, and again across the center of my back. It was the sharp edges of the steps counting my descent, until I finally came to rest. Then there the reaper came to inspect, and insincere whispers reminding me of a fortune I once did not have, that I would one-day pass of natural causes. I took inventory at the bottom of my narrow escape and pondered whether it was unnatural to pass from a shove and the impact of bats.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Horde

In unison, they flow like a herd of sheep, single-mindedly marching towards wherever. Others are wolfs, cloaked as sheepdogs. They keep the horde moving forward, barking and snapping at the heels of any sheep who dares to get out of line or raise its heads to see where they are going. The wolf then grins back for approval from the shepherd who watches from the shade.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Cherry Flavored Jell-O and the Grinch

My brother Richard was a carbon copy of our father, in both appearance and personality. So much so, that our sister Debra once referred to him as “the one Judas amongst us.”

Except for a few special occasions, Richard and I normally got along quite well. This night would be one of those special occasions.

It began with daddy telling me that he and my mother were going out, and that seven-year-old I was in charge of my three younger siblings.

“Bet not nobody go in the kitchen while we’re gone,” daddy warned me with piercing eyes, “Or that ass is mine.” He pointed at me.

I recognized that look and knew that he meant exactly what he said. Richard and the girls were also familiar with that look, so they understood my situation. Daddy gave me one last gaze before closing the door behind him, and we soon heard his car pulling out of the graveled driveway.

It was a perfect opportunity to get into trouble, or show that I was responsible. I tried to keep everyone in my sight, and away from the kitchen. We watched TV in the living room, where everyone but Richard was content. He kept complaining that he needed to go to the bathroom.

“Can’t you wait?” I said, “They’ll be back soon.”

“No! I need to go now!”

I reminded him that no one could go into the kitchen, and he promised that he would not. The kitchen was in the opposite direction from the bathroom, which was down the hallway, so I finally gave in.

“Just hurry up,” I said... and he swaggered down the dark hallway, out of my sight.

While Richard was away, my attention shifted back and forth between the TV and the hallway. It never occurred to me that he would climb out the bathroom window, and in through the kitchen window, all for the sake of mischief. He then retraced his steps to rejoin my sisters and me in the living room.

Daddy had placed a trap on the refrigerator door, a small piece of paper at the door’s upper corner. Upon opening the door, the paper would fall unnoticed. Inside the refrigerator, daddy was chilling a bowl of cherry flavored jell-o. It was the reason he wanted no one inside the kitchen – and I had no idea that Richard had devilishly taken a huge gouge from the center of the jell-o.

I was relieved when daddy returned home, and proud that I had accomplished my task. The first thing he asked was had anyone been inside the kitchen.

“No daddy,” I said, watching him as he walked through the room and into the kitchen.

When I could no longer see him, I listened for any comments that he might make, while my eyes shafted back to the TV, where we were watching Sesame Street.

“Get your ass in here!” daddy suddenly yelled.

I knew that he was talking to me, so I sprang to my feet and dashed two steps toward the kitchen before stopping. “Wait!” I thought to myself, “What is he mad about?” There was no time to think. My thoughts were scrambled, and I knew I had better not keep him waiting.

He met me at the door.

“I told you not to let anybody in the kitchen!” He grabbed my left arm and jerked me forward.

“Daddy, nobody came in here,” I said, pleadingly and puzzled. He then snatched me stumbling towards the refrigerator.

“Then who in the fuck did that?” he yelled, yanking the refrigerator open and pointing. I stared, but nothing made sense until I saw the gouge. I took a mental snapshot of it, just before he threw me to the floor.

“I’m-ma teach your ass!” he promised and stormed from the room. I stayed on the floor, waiting for him to return, furious and afraid.

“He’s crazy,” I thought, “He set me up.” I believed that he had taken the gouge from the jell-o himself, just for an opportunity to beat me – but it made no sense. There was not much time to think about it. Moments later, daddy stormed back into the kitchen and snatched me up.

I dangled at the end of his grip, airborne between the strikes of his heavy leather belt, as he cursed me the entire time. I had never been so angry with him – and when he finished, he told me to take my “ass to bed.”

Richard followed me like a shadow, studying me as I went to the bedroom, crying and rubbing my stinging arms and legs. I sat on the floor with my back against the wall, while Richard sat across from me on the bed. The lights were off, but I could make out the curious expression on his face.

I soon stopped crying and began recalling the chain of events. “Why would daddy go through so much trouble to set me up?” I thought, “Why is Richard acting so strange?” “Why does he look so sinister?” Then I recalled that Richard was the only person to leave my sight while daddy was away.

Then it hit me.

“You did it; didn’t you?” I said - hoarse, looking across the room at him. Even in the shadows, I could see his lips curl into a devilish Mr. Grinch-like smile.

“Yes…” he whispered, now sporting a full grin. I was still rubbing the welts on my stinging legs.

For a brief moment, I felt relieved, thinking that I could tell daddy. “Maybe he wouldn’t be mad at me anymore,” I thought. Then I considered that he probably would not believe me. That he might even beat me again. “Why did you do that?” I said, “You don’t even like jell-o.”

There was an awkward silence before he answered.

“To get you in trouble,” he gloated for another moment and then left the room.