Survivor

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On summer bummer.

Published September 5, 2017 by mandileighbean

Good afternoon, all. It’s absolutely gorgeous in the Great Garden State; a little warmer than most would like for September, especially after a cool spell of a couple of days, but even though it’s a bummer, summer is winding down. I reported back to work on Friday, and was back in the building today. Truth be told, I’m excited to be back and I’m more than ready for fall. This summer has been a rough one for me, and even though I haven’t been updating regularly (it’s been over a month since the last time I posted), I’m back and ready to take my life back from whatever gross apathy and complacency has settled upon me. And I’m going to start with this blog.

Some thoughts for today: as I was walking the boardwalk (trying to get my weight under control), a sweet old man stopped me to tell me about a turtle he saw. I listened patiently, nodded encouragingly, and then simply kept on keeping on. It made me think about how all anyone needs is a little compassion, a little effort on the part of someone else to make them feel like they matter. I’m going to do my best to do more of that.

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #6.2017: Months after receiving a gunshot wound to the head, a patient is discharged from the hospital. She wears a pendant made from the bullet that was embedded in her skull.

Luna stared deep into her own reflection and she was trembling. She was in the ladies’ room of a fancy Italian restaurant that required patrons bring their own alcohol. She was dressed in an emerald green dress that glimmered like the scales of a fish – or a mermaid’s tale, if she was feeling especially fanciful – when the light caught it in just the right way. Her best girlfriends had insisted the color did wonders for her complexion and for her eyes. Luna assumed that same would be said of her hair, as it was the same shade of brown as her eyes, but her hair was gone. Her head was shaved. And although it had had about four months to grow back, her hair was taking its sweet time to return. The imperfections of the shape of her skull were exposed for all to see, and she felt so vulnerable. Her trembling hand moved to the side of her head, and trembling fingers traced the scar that ran from the front of her skull all the way to the back. It was ugly and purple and bloated, and it separated her hair in an unfashionable line.

The bullet entering and exiting her skull had done the same, had separated her life by an unfashionable, hard line. There was life before the bullet, and then there was life after the bullet.

Luna had been walking her overweight, long-haired Chihuahua named Teddy in the park just a block or two from her apartment building. It had been a marvel of a September day; warm enough to forego a coat beneath an unblemished blue sky. She saw the kids playing basketball and heard their raucous shouts and laughter. They added to the atmosphere, became ambient sound, and so she paid them no special attention. If she had, she might have dropped to the pavement when everyone else had.

In the shot of a lifetime, a stray bullet from an attempted drive-by shooting traveled through a chain link fence, across a blazing blacktop, and through another chain link fence before coming to halt inside the skull of Luna. She collapsed to the ground, falling at the same rate as the blood that spurted from the wound and splattered the fence. It made a neat pool on the ground around her, but Luna didn’t really remember all of that. She didn’t remember anything. It was all a black void until she woke up in the hospital about a month later.

When Luna was released, the doctors presented her with the bullet they had extracted from her skull during surgery. She had it melted down and molded into a neat oval, and she wore it around her neck. Her mother said she was morbid, and her friends never talked about it, but all of them had encouraged her to move on, to keep living, to be happy for her second chance. And Luna supposed she was.

But it was hard. It was hard looking like some oddly feminine monster of Dr. Frankenstein’s while trying to date. And it was hard to keep from crying when someone asked about the pendant she was wearing. And it was hard to escape to be confronted by a mirror.

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On what it means to be lucky.

Published July 11, 2012 by mandileighbean

I am sick of the stopping and starting, of the broken promises. If I am serious, then I must make a change.

Vague enough for you?

PROMPT: During her first trip to Las Vegas, a woman experiences the luckiest night of her life.

PIECE:

Brandi had never taken a single moment to stop and consider the definition of the word “lucky.”  At the mention of the word, Brandi was faintly aware that many would think of casinos and gambling, and of taking risks and placing bets.  Brandi was also faintly aware that some would think of various scenarios, in which a person was “lucky” for narrowly escaping danger, or for receiving some kind of accolade, be it monetary or other.  These ideas would bounce around the corners of her mind, never actually sticking, but always kind of floating in some nebulous of hazy understanding and consciousness.

Until her first night in Las Vegas.

Brandi had obviously heard of Las Vegas – Sin City.  She knew that according to popular culture, what happened there, stayed there and that some people just couldn’t handle the lawlessness the city seemed to exude.  Exiting the airplane that had traveled across land – and maybe sea; she had been too frightened to look out of the window – to bring her to her final destination, Brandi silently prayed she’d be lucky enough to survive a couple of nights in Las Vegas.  If the powers that be had deemed her fit to survive the flight, what was a few nights of drunken debauchery?  With a queasy smile, Brandi flagged down a taxi cab and politely requested to be taken to The Venetian Hotel, where her girlfriends were awaiting her arrival – anxiously, she hoped.

Brandi looked out the window, her eyes widening as best they could to take in all the majestic and mischievous sights zipping past.  The rhythmic and subtle jostling of the cab and her slight case of jetlag acted as a lullaby.  Soon, Brandi was sound asleep.

When she awoke, Brandi was nowhere near The Venetian Hotel.  As a matter of fact, she was probably as far from the wicked, winking lights of Las Vegas as was possible.  Heart racing as her bottom lip trembled, Brandi looked from left to right.  All the doors of the taxi cab were open, and a chilled night breeze rumbled through, whipping her hair about her eyes and mouth.  Frantically tucking the loose strands behind her ears so she could see and start composing some kind of visual assessment of the situation, Brandi was thankful for the compartment light shining overhead.  She leaned forward out of her reclined position and looking once more from left to right, realized she was in the middle of the desert.  It might as well have been the middle of fucking nowhere.

Sanity is a fragile thing, and if it is not handled with care, it will shatter sure enough.  Brandi was currently handling hers with a pair of rubber gloves, tiptoeing lightly around reality so as not to hit a snag or a bump which would send it flying, clattering to the floor where it would burst into a million, billion pieces.  She slid out of the cab to the right and decided to head to the front of the vehicle, where the high beams of the headlights shone for a precious number of feet.  As Brandi scrambled with her hands cautiously waving straight out in front of her to protect her from bumping into something and falling down, her breath became shallow and tears crowded to the rims of her eyes.  This was bad, very bad, and she didn’t know if she would make it out alive.

Someone else certainly hadn’t.  Brandi released a blood-curdling scream as she came to the front of the taxi cab.  A man was lying face down in the desert sand, pants and underwear around his ankles, eyes wide open but seeing nothing.  Brandi knelt to find a pulse and found none.  She leaned closer to study the face and found it to be that of the driver.  What had happened?  Why was he dead?  Would she be next?  She leapt to her feet and scrambled to the driver’s side of the vehicle.  Clamoring into the seat, she grabbed the microphone of the CB radio, squeezed the button like she was squeezing the trigger of a flare gun and screamed for help, pleaded for assistance.

Cops were on the scene within an hour and a half.

It turned out that the driver was a serial rapist, posing as a taxi cab driver to lure potential victims.  He would drive ladies – and the occasional weak-looking male – into the desert, have his way with them, shoot them twice in the back of the head and then dispose of the body.  Brandi would have been victim number seven – lucky number seven – but as luck would have it, a heart condition that had lain dormant since childhood had finally come home to roost; the rapist fell dead as he raced to commit the foul deeds, his heart giving out from all the excitement.

Brandi decided being lucky had a lot more to do with survival than numbers or money.  To be truly lucky was to be alive at all.

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