Sunday, October 31, 2010

Short Break + Story

I'm going to be taking a short blogging break, due to writer's block and busy things in life. (For those who are curious, don't worry/don't get excited, I'm not getting engaged anytime soon.)

Before I go, I'm leaving you with a story that I wrote a few years ago, long before I ever even read a blog or considered blogging. I hope you enjoy and I'll be back in a little bit.


Prologue

When one small raindrop falls into a puddle, it causes all of the raindrops in the puddle to move. Each raindrop does not move very far, but each one plays an important role in the magnificent result; a ripple. The ripple effect starts with one only one raindrop, but in the end involves hundreds of other raindrops.

Some stories begin in lands far away where there are Kings and Queens, dragons and unicorns, wizards and witches. They take readers from their usual dull, unexciting lives on mysterious journeys and impossible adventures. They leave reality and travel to magical places of the imagination. This story starts out in an ordinary town, not too far from here, in exactly the place that most readers want to escape from. It starts off the same way as a ripple does; with one small raindrop.




Chapter One: Carrie

It was 6:15am on a rainy Monday morning in April. Despite the fact that the sun shone brightly at this time yesterday, today it was hidden so well that anyone might have guessed that it was the middle of the night. In fact, all of Carrie’s senses told her that it indeed was the middle of her night, and she would have continued sleeping peacefully if her alarm clock had not rang loud and clear, the beeping noises exploding in her ears like a million marbles dropping to a hard stone floor. She was instantly forced into consciousness and she automatically swung her arm to stop the loud booming noise. The first thought that entered her mind was, Why am I awake? It can’t be 6:15; it looks like the middle of the night! She heard the rain tapping like drums on the roof of her house. She sighed and slowly got out of bed to look out the window. Great. A disgusting, rainy day.

After a nice, warm shower, Carrie went to wake up her eleven-year-old son, Andrew, for school. Usually this was her husband Warren’s job, but he was in Australia on a business trip.

“Good morning, Andrew,” she whispered. “Time to wake up for school.”

Andrew groaned and turned over, as usual, and Carrie left to rush around the house, trying to get everything done before it was time to leave. At 7:29 Carrie was ready to go and looked at the clock. Annoyance filled her, as it did every morning, and she breathed in a deep breath. Andrew was supposed to be ready by 7:30, but he almost always was running late. Usually she called his name and asked if he was ready, and soon she would hear the sound of his feet running down the stairs. Well, she thought, I could try to be patient, or I could just start yelling now, and he’ll rush down right away. She thought some more about this choice, weighing the sides. How should she react? Andrew was a slightly sensitive child, but could she manage to hold on with all of her strength and resist the overwhelming temptation to scream? Would it really be so bad if she yelled just this once? Warren always yelled at Andrew and it seemed to work out alright. Finally she concluded, It’s a cloudy, horrible day, and I’m just not in the mood to wait right now.

As the clock turned 7:30 Carrie yelled angrily, “Andrew!! Get down here this instant! I’ve told you a million times that you’re supposed to be ready for school at 7:30! Where are you?!”

Just as she expected, Andrew came rushing down. “Ok, ok!!” he shouted at his mother. “I’m right here! Why do you have to make such a big deal out of everything? And anyway we always get to school so early, would it be so terrible if I wasn’t the first kid in class every single day?”

“We’ve been through this so many times,” Carrie hollered back, “I need to get to work on time- it’s not all about you. You know you’re supposed to be ready by 7:30! Now, let’s go. Get in the car.” She paused. “It’s going to be a bad day,” she declared.

Andrew glared at his mother and folded his arms across his chest when he got into the car. They drove to the school building in silence. As Andrew got out his mother said irritably, “Don’t forget you have a dentist appointment after school today!”

“You’re right; it is going to be a bad day!” Andrew bellowed back as he slammed the door behind him.




Chapter Two: Annie Feller

Annie Feller always thought of herself as a normal girl. She had shoulder-length, perfectly straight brown hair and light hazel eyes. They were a beautiful mixture of chocolate brown and a bright green, the color of leaves in the middle of July. At nine years old Annie’s life so far had been pretty ordinary. She lived in the same simple brown house her entire life with her parents, her older brother, Sam, and her dog, Sunshine. She was quiet and slightly reserved, although she had many friends, most of whom she had known since she was in day care. Afraid of rejection, she was never the first person to start a conversation, but she tried to be cheerful in response to others’ greetings.

As she walked down the hallway on this particular day she saw an older, teenage girl from junior high named Margaret Weston approaching the door with lots of books in her hand. She was out of breath and it looked like the books were very heavy and weighing arms down. Annie saw the look of desperation on Margaret’s face as she approached the door. She tried shifting her weight to see if she could manage to free one hand to open the door. Annie continued to walk down the hallway in the opposite direction. I’m already past the door, she thought. It would take a whole lot to turn around now. Anyway, Margaret is doing just fine and doesn’t need my help. Besides, I’m a nobody and I’m younger than her. Annie would have continued walking, but as soon as she heard a large crash behind her, pangs of guilt and responsibility filled her. As she turned around she saw scattered books outside and she timidly went to the door and opened it for Margaret.

“Here, let me help you,” Annie said softly, taking some books from the floor.

“Thank you very much,” answered Margaret gratefully, out of breathe. “My bag broke on the way in from the car, and I tried to get in when everything toppled over.”

Margaret held up an old, dirty gray bag with a big hole at the bottom.

“I have an extra plastic bag, if you want,” Annie offered.

“That would be really great,” Margaret replied.

As Annie handed Margaret the bag she noticed that there was a package lying several feet away, hidden behind the door. She ran to pick it up saying, “I think you forgot this one.”

Margaret looked up and smiled a big, huge smile. She let out a sigh of relief.

“Wow, it’s a really good thing you found that!” she said to Annie. “My mother wanted me to give it to this boy in my class named Conner Henderson to give to his parents. She would have been so mad if I lost it! She must have told me a million times that I must remember to give it to Conner because Mr. Henderson needed it so badly. Oh, boy, I would have been in so much trouble.”

“No problem,” said Annie with a smile, “Glad I could help. Have a nice day!”

“You too!” Margaret responded happily.

Annie walked back down the hallway proudly, her heart dancing with the joy of knowing that she had helped someone today.



Chapter Three: Mrs. Bingeroni

Mrs. Bingeroni was more than ready for her sixth grade English class today. In fact, she was even a little excited. Her class had just finished reading The Phantom Tollbooth and she had a fun activity prepared that would get the kids to think about the book and improve their analyzing skills. She got to her classroom five minutes early to set up. She moved the desks around and brought in her large box marked ELIZABETH BINGERONI. Inside the box were all of her supplies: markers, posters, glue, and a big container filled with letters and numbers. Every year this project was a big success and the kids loved it. Soon the children stormed into the room chatting loudly. Mrs. Bingeroni could feel the excitement of the kids as they saw the surprise that awaited them in the classroom.

“What are we doing today?” they asked enthusiastically.

Mrs. Bingeroni just smiled and told them, “Just wait. You’ll see.”

As she turned around to continue setting up she heard Brian say, “Hey, Andrew! Look at my new watch! My mom bought it for me because I always drive her crazy asking what time it is and running late. Isn’t it awesome?”

Andrew frowned and stared at the watch, but finally growled back, “Actually, it’s not a cool watch at all. Why would you pick out a yellow watch? What a stupid color!”

Shocked and hurt, Brian snapped, “Hey! What is wrong with you? My watch is NOT STUPID!”

The next thing Mrs. Bingeroni heard was some pushing, yelling, and then a crash. She turned around and exclaimed loudly, “Andrew? Brian? What is going on?”

But there was really no need for her to ask, because as soon as she turned around she saw what was going on. Her large box full of letters and numbers had been knocked over and there were pieces scattered all around the room. The class froze in silence. All the excitement and anticipation that had filled the classroom evaporated into thin air like raindrops hitting hot metal. Mrs. Bingeroni sighed. So much for a fun project. It was going to be a long day.



Chapter Four: Mr. Henderson

Mr. Henderson sat on his couch in front of the television, flipping the channels and trying to escape from the world. Time was running out before he lost his job for good. It was almost a week since his boss had given a warning.

“Look, Billy,” he had said sternly. “I’ve been getting some complaints about you from the parents. The kids say you’ve been stopping short and have been having some trouble driving and reading the signs. The eye test that we did yesterday shows that you need glasses. I’m giving you a week off, and unless you can get glasses in that time, I’m going to have to let you go permanently. Do you understand what I’m saying, here?”

Mr. Henderson had nodded and sighed and gone home to report the news to his wife, who, needless to say, was less than thrilled. She urged him to call their friend Dr. Weston, who was an optometrist. Mr. Henderson had called him up and begged for his help.

“I don’t think that I can get you glasses in one week. It’s going to take longer than that.” Dr. Weston had said.

“Please,” Mr. Henderson had pleaded, “There has to be some way for it to work out. As a friend, I’m asking for a favor. Otherwise I’ll lose my job.”

Dr. Weston hesitated and after a moment’s pause said, “I think there might be a way…”

That was a six days ago, and if Mr. Henderson did not report back to work tomorrow, then he would be out of a job. He stared at the television screen which flashed images of people laughing. Then, he heard a key in the lock and the door to the house opened.

“I’m home,” a voice called. “I’m home from school!”

“Hey, Conner,” Mr. Henderson called to his son. “I’m in here.”

Conner came in with his backpack and gave his father a pat on the back. “Oh yeah,” Conner said, “This girl Margaret said to give this to you. It’s from her father, Dr. Weston.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Mr. Henderson. “Thank you so much!”

He opened the package and saw a pair of glasses. Trying them on he asked his son, “What do you think?”

Conner scrunched up his face in thought and put his hand on his chin. “Hmmm... I dunno, Dad, I’ll have to get used to them. Yeah, I guess they’re ok.”

Mr. Henderson reached for the phone. “Hello? Hi, this is Billy Henderson. I just got glasses; I’ll be at work tomorrow. What’s that? The 7:00am route in East Patterson? Sure. I’ll be there. Thank you so much!”

He hung up the phone smiling and looked at the ceiling. “I won’t take this for granted.” He promised himself.





Chapter Five: Trisha

Ever since she was a child, Trisha loved adventure. She loved sledding, biking, running, anything moving; anything that would carry her even a little bit away from the small town where she grew up. As she got older she loved roller coasters and airplanes and planned trips to travel the world. After she graduated from the community college, however, she realized that her plans were too expensive and would have to wait. Her longing to leave made it rather ironic that Trisha became a ticket collector on her local train line. She traveled back and forth between two big cities every day, stopping at a dozen small towns along the way. Although she enjoyed the movement of the train, she was never more than an hour away from her house.

On this particular day Trisha walked up and down the aisles collecting tickets as usual. When she first got the job she had tried to hide her disappointment, but it had been ten years since then, and she made no effort to hide her grumpiness. The train slowed to a stop as they arrived at the airport and passengers with luggage got on and off.

“Tickets out, please,” she mumbled, staring at the floor. She rarely looked anyone in the eye. She heard some noise towards the front of the car.

“Excuse me, ma'am,” she heard a man say. She saw a woman slide over and a man with luggage sit next to her, squeezing a big suitcase next to him. Trisha recognized that the woman was one of the regular commuters whom she saw every evening on the train ride home.

“I beg your pardon!” the woman declared loudly, “aren’t you going to put your suitcase on top?”

Trisha looked up again, surprised. She had recognized this woman because she always smiled and said hello to Trisha. At first Trisha had not responded, but after a whole week of being greeted with a smile, Trisha began to say hello back. Soon she had learned that the woman’s name was Elizabeth. She was surprised that Elizabeth would raise her voice over the small matter of a suitcase. She must have had a bad day.

“It’s very heavy,” the man said cautiously. “Would it be alright if I just left it here?”

Elizabeth stood up and looked at Trisha. “Excuse me, miss!” she exclaimed. “This man is refusing to move his suitcase, and I have had a very long day at work and do not appreciate being crowded on this long train ride home. Isn’t it the train company’s policy that all suitcases must be put on the shelves on top so that they do not block the aisles?”

Before Trisha had time to respond, the man said defensively, “I’m sorry, ma’am! I didn’t realize it was bothering you that much, otherwise I would have moved it right away!”

“I asked you to move it, what else should I have done?” Elizabeth replied angrily.

“What is the problem Elizabeth?” Trisha asked astonished.

It was just at that moment that one of the other ticket collectors, Herman, walked into the car. Herman was an older ticket collector who was superior to Trisha in rank. “What is going on here? I heard you all from the next car over. Is someone refusing to pay for a ticket?”

“No, sir,” Trisha answered, embarrassed that she seemed incompetent. “This lady here was just asking this gentlemen to move his suitcase.”

“Isn’t your job to reinforce the rule that all suitcases must be put on top?” Elizabeth demanded.

Herman stuttered for a moment and Elizabeth asked, “Do I need to call your supervisor?”

“No, ma’am,” Herman responded firmly.

Luckily the man spoke up and said, “I’ll be happy to put it on top if you’ll just give me a hand, sir.”

“Of course,” Herman replied and he and the man lifted the suitcase to the top. Herman asked the man where he was going and they arranged to take it down when the train arrived at the man’s stop. Elizabeth sat down saying quietly and politely, “Thank you.”

As she sat down Trisha noticed a big box with big letters that said ELIZABETH BINGERONI. Herman turned to Trisha and instructed, “You had better go up and down the cars making sure there are no more luggage problems. You got that?”

Trisha frowned and said, “Yes, Herman.”

She sighed and began to make her rounds.



Chapter Six: Scott

Every time Scott heard that rumbling sound he got knots in his stomach. He could always tell when the bus was just around the corner by its loud noise. Scott dreaded school, but more than that, Scott dreaded the bus ride to school. No one ever wanted to sit next to him, and because his stop was towards the end, there was almost never an empty seat. The kids on the East Patterson bus also took pleasure in teasing Scott, calling him names like, “Dotty Scotty.” The fact that kids picked on Scott was not the only problem on the Woodcliff bus; they also had a problem with bus drivers.

So far they had seven drivers in eight months. The last one had been their bus driver for three of those months, and everyone liked him, especially Scott, but he had been away for about a week now. Billy had always been nice to Scott, making sure the other kids shared their seats and scolding them if they said one harmful word. Even though he could be quite strict at times, the kids liked him because he was funny and loved to joke with them. They also liked him because he always waited for them when they were running late (as long as it wasn’t too late), which no other bus driver did. He whistled while he drove, and most importantly, he let them eat on the bus. Since his disappearance Scott’s ride to school had gotten worse. The new bus driver, Tony, had a habit of cursing at cars who cut him off on the road, and the children used these newly learned words against him.

The bus had now turned the corner and came to a slow stop at Scott’s corner. Scott held his breath as the doors opened, and when he looked up into the face of the smiling bus driver, surprise and happiness filled him.

“Hey, Scott,” the bus driver greeted him.

“Billy!” Scott cried. “You’re back!”

“Yes, I am,” Billy said. “And during my time off I did some thinking and I think I’ve found a solution to your problem.” He grinned and pointed to the front seat that was right behind him, which was empty. “I saved you a seat.”

“Thank you so much!” exclaimed Scott. He sat down happily, and as Billy drove off, Scott asked, “Where were you, Billy?”

Billy responded, “Well, my boss almost fired me, and I was going to give up, but a good friend helped me to find a way to get my job back.” As he stopped at the next stop, he turned to look Billy in the eye and said seriously, “In fact, it taught me an important lesson and I want you to remember it, too: Never give up. Sometimes other people in the world are mean, Scott, as you know very well, but there are always others out there who are nice. Never give up trying, alright? Ok, Scott?”
Scott stared at Billy a moment thoughtfully and replied honestly, “Ok, Billy, I’ll remember and try my best.”


Chapter Seven: Warren

Warren was glad to be back at home in the United States of America. He enjoyed his job, and didn’t mind traveling, especially to places like Australia, but this last trip had been quite stressful. He was still tense as he settled into his seat on the train ride home. Perhaps that is why he was so annoyed when the ticket collector came over frowning.

“Excuse me, sir,” she said loudly and harshly. “You must move that suitcase out of the aisle. Did you not hear me telling the other passengers in this car?”

“No, I did not,” he replied.

“Well, I only said it a million times,” she snapped back. “Now just move your suitcase.”

“Alright,” he muttered angrily, standing up. That’s it, he thought. That is the last straw. I don’t think I can take anymore. Why is everyone in the world out to get me?

When he finally arrived at the train station and got into his car, Warren was not in a good mood and his only thought was to get home as quickly as possible. He sped down the highway driving faster than he knew he should. When the world is out to get you, you gotta fight back, he said to himself as he rudely and swiftly passed a red Mustang. He thought of the ticket collector and how rude she had been. I’m always the nice guy. Well, not anymore. The red Mustang started to catch up to Warren and switched lanes to pass him. I’ll show you, thought Warren, and he put his foot on the gas pedal.


Chapter Eight: Barry

Barry walked out the door and shut the door behind him. At six feet, four inches tall, he was a big man who intimidated a lot of people. His wife had been rushing around the kitchen, trying to make dinner, when she called out his name in a panic.
“Barry!” she cried. “I didn’t realize this recipe needed a whole cup of oil and we just ran out! Would you please run to the food store and get some more?”
Barry agreed and was now on his way down the stairs to his car, when he heard the sound of a school bus driving away, and looked up to see his son, Scott, rushing towards him. Scott hated school and normally came home in a miserable mood, but today he ran to his father with a big smile on his face.

“Dad!” he called out as he ran.

Barry turned around and pulled his son into a big hug. “Hey there, Scott! How was school today?” he asked surprised.

“It was fine,” Scott answered impatiently. “But guess what? Billy’s back and he saved me a seat on the bus! I didn’t have to stand the whole way today!”

Barry smiled, knowing how much this meant to his son. It upset him very much how the other kids picked on his boy. He had also been bullied as a kid, and since then taken on some bully-like methods himself. He hoped his son would learn to stand up for himself the way he had and so he always tried his best to help boost his self-esteem.

“That’s great!” he said enthusiastically. “I’m so happy for you.”

“Yeah, I really like Billy.” Scott’s face turned serious. “He told me there are nice people out there and I should never give up looking for them.”

Barry kneeled down and said, “He’s right, Scott. I know the kids at school can make things tough for you, but maybe things will get better when you get to middle school.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Scott said hopefully.

“Alright, I’ve got to go run an errand, but I’ll be back soon, OK?”

“Ok,” Scott replied as he ran into the house.

Barry got into his red Mustang and started driving to the store. He had to go on the highway for a short while, and he merged on easily. As he drove along he noticed a blue Toyota driving crazy, in his rearview mirror. It quickly caught up to him and cut him off. If there was one thing that drove Barry crazy, it was being cut off on the highway by a crazy driver. He drove faster and caught up quickly. He knew this highway very well and knew that the lane that the Toyota was in merged into his lane. Barry sped up; he would not allow this driver to cut him off again.

The driver in the blue Toyota saw that his lane merged up ahead and glanced over at Barry. He sped up and made it clear he would attempt to pass Barry. The two cars were now side by side and Barry saw if he and the Toyota both kept this up, they would crash. It’s his lane that ends, Barry thought. He’s the one who should slow down and let me pass. There is no way that I’m going to be the one to give in. There is no way I’m going to let him pass. Why should I be the nice guy? The end of the other lane drew closer. Barry hesitated, but his son’s words echoed in his head. There are nice people out there, he thought. And I can show the world they exist by becoming one of them. At the very last second, Barry pressed down on the break. The blue Toyota clearly had no thought of giving in, and had not slowed down. He tried to zoom past Barry into the lane, but he was not fast enough. Barry heard the crash before he felt it.

The police and the medics arrived at the scene fairly quickly. They came with their sirens wailing up the shoulder of the road. Barry and the other driver had made it out of their cars before the police got there.

“Are you alright?” Barry asked the other driver cautiously.

“Aside from this big bruise on my arm, I’m fine,” the man said. “I held my arm up as we crashed and the glass must have cut it. How are you?”

“I’m also OK,” Barry said. “Just a bit shaken up.”

Other drivers had pulled over. When the police arrived they asked Barry, the other man, and the drivers who were witnesses, lots of questions and they inspected the damage to the cars. No one needed to go to the hospital, but the medics bandaged the other man’s arm.

Barry called his wife to tell her that he was in an accident, but that he was alright, and he heard the other man on his phone.

“Hi, Carrie, it’s me, Warren,” he said.

The policeman who had been inspecting the cars came over to talk to Barry and Warren.

“Hi, I’m Officer Green,” he said. “I’m sorry, but it doesn’t look like either of your cars can be repaired.” Officer Green looked at the two men and added, “You should know that you are really lucky.” He turned to Barry. “It’s a good thing you slowed down when you did. After inspecting the cars and listening to all of the versions of the story, it seems pretty clear that if you had not slowed down, the accident would have been fatal. You saved both of your lives.”

As Officer Green walked away, Warren stared at Barry, the realization of what had happened slowly hitting him. “Thank you,” he said to Barry. “I know I was wrong and I should have let you pass. The fact that you tried to let me pass saved my life, well, both of our lives.”

“You’re welcome,” Barry said surprised at Warren’s gratitude. Shock could certainly do a lot to a person. “I’m usually quite stubborn on the road, actually. It’s a good thing I ran into my son right before I got into the car. Something he said stuck with me, and if not for that I wouldn’t have slowed down for anything.”


Chapter Nine: Andrew

Andrew awoke to his father’s gentle voice as the sun streamed in from the window.

“Good morning, Andrew,” Warren said softly. “I’m home.”

Andrew got out of bed to hug his father, who had just returned from a business trip to Australia. As soon as he left, though, Andrew climbed right back into bed and fell back asleep. He woke up again at 7:20, and looking at the time jumped out of bed and sprang into action. As the clock hit 7:30 he put his hands over his ears and prepared to hear his father’s shout as he yelled at Andrew to come downstairs. But the shout never came.

“Andrew,” his father said softly instead, “are you ready?”

“Yes,” Andrew replied surprised that his father wasn’t yelling.

“Wow,” said his mother to his father, smiling, “you’re awfully calm this morning.”

His father grinned at his mother. “You’re right,” he said winking, “I am.”
Andrew’s parents drove him to school together in the most pleasant ride to school that Andrew could remember.

“Goodbye, Andrew,” they called as he left the car. “Have a good day!”

“Ok,” he answered. “You too!”

Andrew shut the door to the car smiling. It was going to be a great day.

3 comments:

  1. well enjoy your blogging break! my principal in elementary school always had an "A" attached to his lapel..a for attitude! that is all that matters and it can change everything around.

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  2. I have to read this when I have more time but just wanted to wish you a wonderful and productive break!

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  3. SternGrad, the blogging break does the mind good! I definitely needed mine...

    I agree with Am...
    it's all about attitude. That's why "b'simcha" and "machshava" have the same letters. It's upto us.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for commenting! Comments are welcome, especially on old posts. Please do not use inappropriate language. Thanks!