BORED TO DEATH
Doors were kept unlocked and nosey neighbors and playing children flowed from house to house, never waiting for an invitation or even knocking. This village seemed innocent enough, quiet and pretty, but appearances can be deceptive.
Even my walk to school every day was perilous. The minute I left home, the cows in the field behind the house looked up threateningly. Over the years, one or two had been known to crash the fence, enter our garden, graze on our lawn and leave huge cow pats marking their territorial gains. l could only imagine the carnage if the entire herd broke loose and stampeded down the road, reaching the sweet shop on the way to school, before I even got there, destroying the licorice wheels, mint humbugs and sugared pear drops.
The section along the main road was relatively safe but then the Village Green had to be crossed. It was, of course a field of mines because if you stopped to ride the swings for a few minutes or go down the slide (and who could resist?) you could get waylaid by the big kids, forced to smoke a cigarette behind the trees and hand over your pocket money to the bullies. This never happened to me or anyone, ever, but it could have.You just had to be on your guard.
Just past the Green was the home of the evil witch who ominously put brown paper bags on the tall flowers growing in her front garden. Her dahlias won first prize at the village fair and the judges, like everyone else, enchanted by her demure presentation, were fooled into believing she was nothing more than a sweet, old lady. In fact, she was almost certainly spying from behind lace curtains, just waiting for a poor, unsuspecting young school child to walk by so she could kidnap her, tie her up inside and keep her forever in a brown paper bag. Naturally, I sprinted past her house avoiding capture.
There were more obstacles in the final section: the pedestrian short-cut where the world’s biggest dog, undoubtedly a wolf in disguise, lived and waited for tasty children. Its tail wagged madly as it brought me a ball to throw, a clever trick. I threw it and narrowly escaped when it ran off to fetch it.
My mother’s best friend, Nancy with the menacing cough, also lived on this stretch, and if she saw me, she would inevitably invite me in for toast and marmalade. It was best to rush past her house, hiding my face in my hood, unnoticed. Heaven only knows what horrors might arise if I went in. She and her jolly husband were far too friendly and kind—obvious clues that they were really sorcerers in perpetual need of fresh victims. Once their goldfish bowl broke and the shattered glass, water and gasping fish all spilled on her pretty hand-knotted rug. A nasty spell gone wrong, no doubt.
At the end of the school day, the return journey had to be made. Filled with dread, I braced myself for the dangers and, if lucky, I made it home in one piece. Looking back, I am fortunate to have survived.
By Andrea Ehrgott
I tied our dog’s leash to the handlebars of my bike, deciding to kill two birds with one stone: exercising and dog walking. After ten minutes of peace, I was jolted out of my head by the barking of a neighbor’s dog. Instantly, my 17-pound Westie ran from the left front side of my bike to the right with such force that the wheels skidded, throwing me to the ground. Hard.
Immediately, I heard Kyle’s intense voice, “Mom, are you okay?”
I was fine but I felt as if a huge fly swatter had smacked me to the pavement and sliding at least a foot. I was afraid to stand up, sure that I had broken my hip. I looked at my hands and hip, sure that I would find scrapes and blood, but nothing. Strange, there was no pain. I replayed the scene. When I fell, it felt like I had dropped onto an air mattress instead of the hard, rough asphalt. My hands and bare right forearm should have had scrapes on them, but they didn’t have one single mark. I was flabbergasted.
In disbelief, I asked Kyle, “Did you do that? Can you do stuff like that in the spirit world, protect me?” All I heard was a couple of lilting laughs as if they were stuck inside a helium balloon drifting into the sky.
“Thank you,” I said.
Chuckling, I picked my bike up and walked home. Again, my son was babysitting me, something I still wasn’t quite accustomed to. Sometimes he would appear translucent, but today I think I caught him off guard.
Kyle had died a few months ago. Later that day, my body was a little sore and felt crooked, but bruises never popped up. Somehow, Kyle had helped me from heaven.
By Tina Belle Boivin
YELLOW BIRD IN TOPANGA
My beloved dad, Ralph Precious, passed away in 2003.
Growing up, my dad would sing Yellow Bird by Harry Belafonte, as he danced about the house. His mother always had yellow canaries as pets and my dad swore that he saw wild canaries in our yard in Michigan. Although I doubted the existence of wild canaries because I never saw one, I liked the idea of wild canaries, like they were both wild and tame.
Last summer I went on a humanitarian and work trip to Ethiopia in support of my new company Ethio Sky. It was going to be a very intense trip for many reasons and I was just a little anxious.
About a month before I left for Ethiopia, a yellow bird started to show up in our yard in Topanga. I’d never seen a yellow bird in our yard before. When I would leave our front door, it would swoop over and perch on our balcony. When I sat at my desk at the window, it would perch on the balcony, facing me. I would greet the yellow bird by saying “Hi dad!”.
When I went to Ethiopia, I sat down in an outdoor restaurant under a huge umbrella of a tree. I heard the loud chattering of birds and looked up to see hundreds of chattering yellow birds. “Hi Ralph!” I greeted them in return.
When I returned to Topanga, my yellow bird, Ralph, had disappeared. It was as if my dad had wanted to see me off to Ethiopia and make sure I was OK while I was there. Once I was back safely, my yellow birds job was done and off he flew.
By Lori Precious