Sunday Whirl: A Hint of Fear

Good morning everyone!

On Sunday I came across another writing challenge offered by host blogger Brenda Warren, called The Sunday Whirl. Here’s the banner:

And here’s the word list for Wordle #457:

I took the given words and wrote the story on Sunday already, just haven’t gotten around to posting it. The above words, in various forms, mostly appear in the first few paragraphs. The second part  I wrote just because I do like a good story. 🙂

A HINT OF FEAR

Larissa had won a scholarship to this college and she wasn’t going to waste it. She concentrated on her studies, foregoing holidays, declining invites to weekend parties. She even limited her trips back home so she could study.

Her diligence paid off in spades. When the marks were handed back after the last set of exams, she had to look twice. But it was true: she’d aced the exams. She was going to graduate with honors. She plowed her fist into the air and did a little pirouette.

She resisted the urge to dance around the room. Instead she thanked her professors and headed home where she could do all the singing and dancing she wanted to. Ah, but first a stop at Dairy Delightful, where she indulged in a delicious hot fudge sundae with whipped cream. This might inflate her waistline a bit, but she’d take a long jog tomorrow.

“Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars,” she sang as she slid the key in the lock on her apartment door. She opened the door partway when the strangest feeling hit her. Something felt very wrong, like someone was here. The odd sense of danger made her skin prickle.

She shook it off as imagination and stepped into the apartment, but that feeling of apprehension kept her from closing the door. Made her sigh a prayer. “God, if there’s really something wrong here, show me somehow.”

Though her eye saw nothing unusual, she did pick up a slight difference in the air. Had she left a window open? “Once I get a good-paying job I’m moving up in the world,” she promised herself. “Tenth floor at least.”

She straightened her spine and told herself firmly, “There is nothing wrong. I am not going to give in to some silly fear and let it spoil this beautiful day.”

But as she entered the room, the slight air movement brought to her a hint of stale tobacco. She didn’t smoke and neither had anyone else when they visited her. Acting on impulse she backed out of the room, shut the door, and locked it. Then she called her cousin Matt, grateful that she had his number on speed dial.

Handy having a cop in the family. So what if he’d find nothing amiss and tease her about being a chicken or needle her about her good imagination. She wasn’t taking any chances. Not like that girl in the news last week.

On second thought, Matt probably wouldn’t laugh.

“Yes I Can!”

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was BRAVADO

A word that took my mind back to a comment a smoker once made. I think I’d asked him if he ever tried quitting and he assured me, “I can quit anytime I want. I just don’t want to.”

In this particular case, he may have been truthful; maybe he wasn’t addicted to the nicotine and could quit whenever he chose to do so. But I’ve heard this same thought from different ones and it seems mostly bravado. The “I don’t want to” has a lot of fear of failure embedded in it.

Peacock

Bravado is a bold statement or manner done for show, bragging not backed up by true courage. A pretense of bravery.

Bold ones may say, “I can fight the lion and I’ll easily win,” when the lion isn’t roaring in their face and clawing at them. But if a lion were to actually savage them a bit, they’d disappear ASAP.

Like the boy I overheard bragging about how he could make a fancy dive off the high diving board at the pool. He dared one girl to do it and she executed a beautiful dive, doing a complete flip on the way down. But when it was his turn, he found some reason to avoid showing what he could do.

New Year’s resolutions often have a bit of this bravado in their makeup. People say, “This year I’m going to lose ten pounds, give up —, work out twice a week, or whatever.” But when the time comes — a craving hits, it’s time to go to the gym — the roaring lion isn’t so easily defeated after all.

Real determination, the kind that faces the challenge and wins, doesn’t usually bluster. Determined souls admit that the battle will be hard, sweaty, and laced with pain, and there’s no turning back. They grit their teeth and firmly say “I will do this if it kills me.”

And from the testimonies I’ve heard from ex-substance abusers, I gather it just about does.

The Life Cycle of Water

It’s been a long time since I thought of Dutch puck disease, but I read a news article this morning that jogged my memory, so I’ll tell you about it.

Dutch Puck Disease: From Beetle to Humbug

Back in the early 70s most Canadians had heard of the invasion of an elm bark beetle and the fungal infection, Dutch Elm disease, that was devastating our elm population. Cities were doing what they could to protect their beautiful shade trees, sadly, without much success.

Around 1972 some wit at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation got the idea to do a send-up on the story and the idea went over. So they made a mini documentary about the dreaded “Dutch puck disease” destroying Canada’s hockey-puck producing trees.

A narrator warned that this posed a dire threat to Canada’s favorite sport. Cameras showed scenes of devastation: shriveled and deformed hockey pucks hanging from the branches of wasted-looking trees. They even persuaded hockey great, Bobby Orr, to give an interview about the scourge. He almost managed a straight face as he said, “This is terrible! I can’t score goals if there are no pucks.”

They filmed a few man-on-the-street interviews, including one of an incredulous young lady exclaiming, “They do?! Hockey pucks grow on trees?”

From Spring to Bottle:
Big companies process for profit.

Apparently conservationists are trying to stop the Swiss company, Nestlé, from draining some California streams to bottle water. Protesters claim the giant Swiss corporation is actually drying up creeks by taking so much water out and making huge profits selling it back as bottled water.

There’s likely reason for concern, but one needs to exercise care to get the whole picture, not just the attention-grabbing headline. A person could make the same case against farmers irrigating crops. All summer long, “big corporate farms” draw water from the underground supply, pay next-to-nothing for it, irrigate their crops, sell their produce “pre-packaged” to consumers in the form of veggies, and pocket the profits. All the while, you could argue, depleting the nation’s underground water supply. Nestlé is accused of taking water from the streams, paying nothing for it, bottling and selling it as “safe pure water,” and pocketing the profits. The question is being asked: “Is this a crime, or is it business?”

As with Dutch Puck Disease, headlines, news stories, and especially documentaries can be manipulated to sound sensationally dire and point fingers. And people can be gullible: “If it’s on the news it must be true.” However, readers need to examine the facts carefully and ponder the validity of statements like the following:
“At its current pace, the world will run out of freshwater before oil,” Brabeck said. Apparently Brabeck is suggesting “privatization” as a possible answer.

Private companies — or the government? What blessings or woes would privatization bring? Communism was supposed to be wonderful, too.

People here in North America are very concerned about the environment and it’s so easy to raise a scare story. But let’s consider the logistics behind our water supply (the sky) and the possibility of drying up springs, streams and rivers.

We can’t squeeze more prehistoric animals to produce more oil, but water’s a different kettle of fish. I’m thinking the world will “run out” of fresh water when the clouds stop dumping it on us.

You can syphon off water at its source so the folks downstream get almost none. You can dam a flowing water source and even change its course so one area gets a stream and another area gets none. But mankind has not yet been able to dry up the clouds.

From Gush to Flush: The Life Cycle of Water

Every day the sun draws zillions of tons of water vapor from the ocean, lakes, rivers, etc. If we could shut off the sun we could prevent all this water vapor loss. But…

By some miraculous process, this vapor gathers into clouds that drift across the earth’s surface and, at a given signal, pour their contents wherever they happen to be. Drizzle, rain, hail, spit or snow it down on us. Topography, like mountain ranges, and a cooler land mass (as in hurricanes) influence where the clouds will empty out. However, in the past human attempts to redirect rainfall to dry areas (cloud seeding) have often met with grief.

A free gift from heaven, precipitation falls where it wills. It fills mountain streams, rivers, lakes, soaks into the land, replenishes underground springs. Water is absorbed by tree roots and drawn up into leaves that give off water vapor. Farmers draw from underground aquifers to irrigate their land. Cities draw water from said sources and people use it.

We water our gardens and lawns and the water is drawn up through plant roots and later evaporated by the wind. Thus it finds its way back into the cycle. As we hoe the garden or mow the lawn we sweat, and the breeze dries us off, whisking the moisture into the atmosphere to rejoin some cloud somewhere. Just think where all your sweat may travel.

People drink the water, replenish their cells, and urinate the excess. Our bodies are an amazing filtration system. Whether bottled water, tap water, or beverage, we drink it, filter it, and flush it. Really, we should should all do our part and drink lots so we can put more water back into the recycling system. 🙂

Conserve Water: Don’t Bathe

Just think. Every morning all across the continent people use zillions of tons of water to shower and bathe. My washing machine is chugging away as I write this. If we’d stop all this bathing and laundry we’d waste so much less water.

Thankfully, water is never used up. Household water runs down the drain, into the city’s waste disposal system, and — hopefully filtered — back into the rivers and reservoirs. Directly or indirectly it finds its way back into the ocean to begin another cycle of evaporation and precipitation.

We need to treat all natural systems with care, including our water sources, but conservationists shouldn’t resort to fear tactics. Big corporations may well be greedy; it kind-of goes with the territory. Bottling companies make a mega-buck profit selling their goods, and some may be diverting some streams, but they don’t actually destroy the water.

The company can’t keep taking water that isn’t there. If there’s no water in said streams, it’s more likely because there hasn’t been sufficient rainfall in that area to replenish them. At this time the folks in southern Quebec would gladly share theirs, but alas! We’ve not yet found a way to redirect clouds.

In my understanding, the system of evaporation and precipitation was in place when man arrived and will continue to replenish the springs, streams, lakes, and rivers until the end of time. We can dam it, redirect it, and pollute the “container,” but we can’t use it up.

Hockey pucks don’t grow on trees, either. The game goes on.

Life In A Dark Bubble

Yesterday’s Word of the Day prompt was BUBBLE. I’m coming in rather late here, but this is my response.

paranoia
life in a dark bubble
everybody hates me

mind-767584_640
Image by Gerd Altmann

Not long before this prompt came up, I’d an account I wrote some years ago about a woman I met on a trip we took. She likely would have been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic — if she’d ever sought medical help. It sounds like her doctors had suggested mental illness, but why should she listen to doctors when they’ve all been ordered by the government to destroy people like her? Another man friend tried drugs, but hated the side effects.

I’ve visited with several afflicted ones over the years, enough to give me some picture of what their world must be like. I know there’s a wide range of symptoms and reactions to treatment, but here’s my non-medical insight, for what it’s worth.

“When I was in the hospital,” this woman explained to me, her eyes shining, “they did experiments on me. They poison a person with mercury. The mercury slowly comes out of you through your skin, you know; I see little silver drops on my carpet all the time.”

What could I say? You’re imagining this? But she wasn’t. She actually saw these drops. Just as someone else saw an upside-down cross on a hospital curtain one night — a sure omen of evil to come. Who can understand why or how the mind perceives silver drops, or beetles on all the plants, or people pulling their hair in the night? For the sufferer, the only “logical” explanation is that someone is trying to drive them mad. Once mad, they’ll be taken to the psych ward and quietly disposed of.

“There are two kinds of people in this world,” another fearful person told me years ago. “Those who wish I was dead, and those who think I already am.”

“Most of the people in this world don’t even know you exist,” I replied. However, that’s reality, and reality usually doesn’t cut through such fear. I wasted my breath.

Many, many times people trying to help a person through their hallucinations waste their breath trying to explain that, “No, it isn’t what you imagine. You still have all your hair; no one has pulled it out.”

I’ve learned that my rational explanations will never combat paranoia; they just can’t pierce that bubble of fear. The afflicted, be they on welfare, members of ethnic minorities, Christians, or whatever else makes them unique, see themselves as slated for destruction — and no one recognizes the danger they’re in. If you don’t agree, if you won’t see how the government is out to destroy people like them, you are either burying your head in the sand or you’re delusional.

Sadly, some misguided religious people see all mental illness as “demonic” and their answer is some type of exorcism. This is usually a double whammy for the sufferers. Not only are they NOT cured by this ritual, plus now they live with the guilt of being possessed by evil spirits, and/or the thought that God must have given up on them, too.

From what I’ve observed, medication has had limited success in treating this type of mental illness. Some works great — for a time. There is some healing in the aging process. I once read that schizophrenia loses some of its grip on a person’s mind after age fifty. The problem is the dangerous situations they tend to live in, often being homeless and isolating themselves.

Another friend of mine who has suffered from fears very much through the years became a Christian in her twenties and the words that help her the most are the scriptures about God looking after his own. He does see, He does care, and He has looked after her amazingly well in her circumstances. When she calls me, greatly distressed because something suspicious happened, or someone said something threatening, we talk about the day when the trials of this life will be behind us and we’ll live in Heaven, safe from evil, free from care. Focusing on that better place makes the troubles of this world more bearable.

The Abduction

This is my contribution to this week’s Creative Challenge, a weekly feature on crimsonprose’s blog. Initially 100 words too long, it took some whittling to get it down to 150 words. I’ll call my story…

Outbuildings at Hethel

The Abduction

Reice approached the building cautiously. Was she too late? Collin had sounded so broken…coming here to think, he’d said…maybe end it all. What tragedy had brought her usually upbeat friend so low?

She had to find him. Hearing sounds, she started toward the door. Now he was calling her, but something stopped her. Reice despised this paralyzing fear!

Suddenly several guys rushed from the building. Before she could react they’d grabbed her and tied her hands and feet. “Collin,” she screamed.

He stepped forward. “I knew you’d come,” he sneered. “Sucker for a sob story. Now you’re going with these chaps and…”

“No, she’s not.” They all turned toward the voice and several policemen emerged from the woods. “Anyone who moves will be shot.”

“Grandpa!” Reice gasped.

“Your Mom overheard the conversation, Reice. She didn’t trust this guy.”

Collin’s pals scowled at him. “A copper’s granddaughter. Great move!”

The Crowded Street

Today’s contribution to National Poetry Month is a long verse by William Cullen Bryant, an American poet who lived from 1794-1878. I often have the same sort of thoughts as I watch humanity flow past me on the crowded street or in a mall.

The Crowded Street

by William Cullen Bryant

Let me move slowly through the street,
filled with an ever-shifting train,
amid the sound of steps that beat
the murmuring walks like autumn rain.

How fast the flitting figures come!
The mild, the fierce, the stony face —
some bright with thoughtless smiles, and some
where secret tears have left their trace.

They pass — to toil, to strife, to rest;
to halls in which the feast is spread;
to chambers where the funeral guest
in silence sits beside the dead.

And some to happy homes repair,
where children, pressing cheek to cheek,
with mute caresses shall declare
the tenderness they cannot speak.

And some, who walk in calmness here,
shall shudder as they reach the door
where one who made their dwelling dear,
its flower, its light, is seen no more.

Youth with pale cheek and slender frame,
and dreams of greatness in thine eye,
goest thou to build an early name
or early in the task to die?

Keen son of trade, with eager brow!
Who is now fluttering in thy snare?
Thy golden fortunes, tower they now,
or melt the glittering spires in air?

Who of this crowd tonight shall tread
the dance till daylight gleam again?
Who, sorrow o’er the untimely dead?
Who, writhe in throes of mortal pain?

Some famine-struck, shall think how long
the cold dark hours, how slow the light;
and some, who flaunt amid the throng,
shall hid in dens of shame tonight.

Each, where his tasks or pleasures call,
they pass, and heed each other not.
There is who heeds, who holds them all
in His large love and boundless thought.

These struggling tides of life, that seem
in wayward, aimless course to tend
are eddies of the mighty stream
that rolls to its appointed end.