In a little corner restaurant, at the center of town, sits a little red booth facing the sunset. Book-ended by two other little red booths, the little red booth sits behind a large glass window, overlooking the second biggest road in town. The booth just beside this booth has a similar window, as do the tables and chairs beside the second little booth. In fact, the whole restaurant is filled with these 3’x 6’ windows siting end to end, around the three sides of the building closest to the sunset. The fourth side, facing the sunrise, is illuminated by little more than incandescent bulbs and spill light from outside, but it too holds warmth in the restaurant.
As the sun sets and disappears over the horizon, curvy metal lamps leaning from the walls and hanging from the roof, cast warmth, a man made warmth, over the place. Incandescent bulbs fill the room with warm, dim light and winter heaters begin their evening toil. In the midst of all this, a young man by the name of Sam sits at the little corner booth with a bag of books, a cup of hot chocolate, and the lazy evening company of other restaurant tenants.
A head nod, a jolt, Sam sits up with a start as the evening daze cuts out. “I’m falling asleep,” Sam mutters to himself, closing a book on mountaineering and looking around the restaurant at the other tenants. In the corner booth ahead of him, a family of six talks over a full dinner. To his back, a pair of college kids, maybe dating maybe friends, sips coffee and stares at thick lines of text, stretching across the lengths of their laptop screens. They say nothing to each other, but a casual observer can tell they enjoy one another’s company. “I would too,” thought Sam, “turning back around in his chair. “Maybe one day,” Sam continued, picking the book back up and opening to the last page he could remember . . . Chapter three, traversing the west face . . .
A head nod, a jolt, Sam awoke once again. He was either tired beyond words or exceptionally bored. Sam wasn’t sure which was the case, in fact he wasn’t sure of anything except for the fact that there was now a blonde woman just a few years older than him, standing beside his booth, and smiling at him, behind the glow of a tablet computer. As Sam looked up, the woman curtly introduced herself and the survey she was conducting for the restaurant. Though Sam was generally opposed to surveys, his exhaustion and the fact that a beautiful woman was talking to him made him more agreeable than usual.
The survey began by asking Sam’s opinion about the restaurant, and asking about Sam’s decision in choosing the restaurant. It moved on to other details such as the restaurant’s distance from home, Sam’s pre-restaurant activity, and so on. With every question, the survey grew in detail, but as promised, the survey never ventured too far into personal life. Through tired thoughts, Sam answered each of these questions to the best of his ability, keeping vague answers to a minimum and trying hard to answer accurately. When Sam’s final answer was taken down, the woman thanked Sam for his help and walked off to the front of the restaurant. Maybe she was done for the day, Sam thought. In any case, maybe now was a good time to try the book again. Chapter 3 . . . traversing the west face . . .
They say the third time is the charm. That may or may not apply to nodding off, but it is worth noting, as Sam sat up with a start. “Perhaps it was exhaustion after all,” Sam thought as he yawned and closed the book. Placing the book on the table, Sam looked around the restaurant once again to see if anyone had moved. Some tenants had left from earlier, but most of the same people were still in the restaurant, enjoying one another’s company. Sam glanced out the window at the cars passing by. Deafened by the thick windowpanes, the passing cars seemed peaceful and comforting. He started at them for a time, listening to the talk of the room. As Sam listened to the crowd, a familiar voice caught his attention and Sam looked back to confirm his ears’ testimony. The survey-taking woman from earlier was standing beside the booth in front of him, asking the family of six the same questions she formerly asked Sam. As the family jointly answered questions, Sam turned back to the window and listened to their response. They were much like Sam, in deciding on the restaurant, and it was funny to hear a similar response on their opinion of the restaurant. It was so entertaining in fact, that Sam soon found himself listening closely to their conversation. As the survey continued, the family being surveyed began to ask the woman questions, and before long it was the woman doing all of the talking, and therein lays the most interesting part of the conversation.
The family asked about the woman’s life, and about her job as a survey worker. To both of these, she replied by telling a short life story of sorts. She spoke of how the job took her across the states and around the country to various restaurants like this one. She spoke of how hostile people were throughout the country and how nice it was to be in a place where people were happy to answer a survey. The woman then spoke of a couple instances when irate customers moved her to tears. It humanized her, and caused Sam to pause and realize she was just another person trying to make it by in the world. By the time she finished and remarked how grateful she was to be in this town, Sam saw how wrong he was in his judgment call. She was just another ordinary person, trying hard to make a living in this world. She was no different than him in that respect, and she deserved every amount of respect given to other people.
At the end of the conversation, the woman and the family wished each other well, and went on with their lives. This profound serendipity caused Sam to pause and to remember the power of a kind word and an act of grace.
The heavy wooden door, leading into a cathedral styled sanctuary, swung heavily inward as a boy of twelve stepped inside an old Baptist church. As he stood in the light of electric chandeliers and looked up at the stain glass windows on either side of the room, a man two feet taller and thirty years wiser walked up to the boy and extended a hand. With a formal hello and a handshake, the man led the boy towards the front of the Sanctuary. The man led him through a choir door on the left side of the Sanctuary, into a choir room behind the Sanctuary stage. In the middle of this room, four white couches sat around an old, brown, coffee table. While the man withdrew from the room through another door, the boy sat down on one of the couches and made himself comfortable.
Alone, within the pristine walls of the church, the boy sat with one foot on the ground and with the other foot resting on the coffee table. He was bound for sleep until a door behind him opened. The boy lowered his foot from the table as a girl, nearly the same age as himself, and as a woman fifty years her senior entered the room. The two of them said hello to the boy, and sat down. Then the girl and the woman resumed speaking with one another about this and that. The boy soon lost interest in their conversation and stood up from the couch to pace around the room. He was less than five feet from the sofas when the man returned to the room, through the door behind him. Seeing the man, the boy returned to his seat. The man sat down on the couch next to the woman, across from the boy, and the girl sat on a third couch between the three of them. As they sat in this half circle, the man and the woman prayed aloud over the coming baptism, while the girl and the boy listened to them pray.
With a solemn, “Amen,” the man and the woman stood up from couch where they were seated, and gave the boy and the girl final instructions before leaving the room through the door behind the boy. As they left, the boy sat back in his couch and the girl sat up on hers. She smiled and introduced herself to the boy, who bashfully exchanged greetings and sat up in his seat. For the next several minutes, the girl tried to start conversations of various sorts, but the boy was a shy sort of person, and he didn’t pick up well on social ques. At any rate, she didn’t give up and she eventually came to the topic of the day. The boy listened with growing attentiveness, becoming comfortable with the conversation. At a certain point, the boy even found himself attracted to the girl, though he was at best a year younger than her. There was something about the girl’s character that was intrinsically appealing. She was beautiful in the way books are beautiful. That is to say, as beautiful as the girl was on the outside, she had a soul that was infinitely prettier.
As the two sat next to each other like this, the boy’s nerves slowly ebbed away from the event at hand, and he looked forward to the baptism. It was then that the girl said something unforgettable, and the boy clammed up at the sound of it. While talking about the baptism and about faith, the girl asked in the simplest way possible, “aren’t you excited?” and the boy thought long and hard about this, but he could not bring himself to respond. Rather, he just nodded his head with closed lips. Smiling, the girl replied, “me too.” As they sat like this for a few moments, the boy could not bring himself to look at her. He would glance up at her and then look at his shoes or at the clock in a far corner of the room. When the doors finally opened, and when the man and the woman reentered the room, the girl was still smiling and the boy was still looking at his feet. The man and the woman gave a white gown to both of the children, and escorted them to the choir changing rooms, behind the sanctuary stage.
As the boy stood alone in the changing room of the old Baptist church, he thought long and hard about what happened that afternoon. It was akin to recapping a dream while living in a dream. He couldn’t tell which way was up, he cried a little over his confusion, and he left the room in a daze.
Outside of the changing room, the man greeted the boy and led him up to the baptismal steps, behind a walled off part of the stage. The man took the boy’s gear, and brought it back to the choir room, as the boy stood with empty hands, on the steps of the baptismal. He stood alone for several minutes, thinking about the day and going over the girl’s words.
The daze lifted quite suddenly, as he felt the hairs on his back stand up and as he felt a warm body stand next to his. The boy looked over and saw the girl standing in a white gown. She looked back at him and smiled. Even here, looking eye to eye, the girl’s soul was brighter and more beautiful than the white gowns they both wore.
The service began minutes later, and the man reappeared on the stairs opposite the children. He stepped down into the baptismal and invited both the boy and the girl into the water beside him. As the children stepped down into the water, the boy looked out to the stage and saw the woman who prayed over them, standing amongst the crowd. Even here, the girl’s soul burned brighter than the stage lights.
The children were baptized that day, to the sound of applause and to the welcoming arms of friends and family. As the children were led from the baptismal to the audience, people embraced the kids and showered them with congratulations. In the midst of all this, the boy kept looking back at the girl. She seemed so happy before, and now she stood and looked like anyone else. From a distance, it looked as though the light had gone out from her face, but this was far from the case. As the girl turned and looked one final time at the boy, she smiled at him, and a glimmer of light shone from her face, as she and her family left the sanctuary.
That was the last time the boy saw this girl. Though he tried for years to find her, or even to remember her name, she was gone. Like a leaf in the wind, she blew away and the boy never found her. The boy’s memory of her face eventually faded into obscurity, and any inkling of memory concerning her name was lost forever. Nevertheless, the boy always remembered her the way people remember good books. Though the cover faded away, the story remained and stayed with the boy for as long as he could remember.
Telephone poles skirted past the windows, as long silver rail cars rushed across a weathered stretch of train track. Warehouses and empty, decrepit lots passed by on either side of the tracks as the train traveled along the countryside.
In the upper compartment of the train’s quiet car, a boy named Marcus sat with his head in a handful of books, studying homework, as the train swayed in a strong summer breeze. For all the conversation and activity of the world around him, Marcus remained deep in thought, lost in the words of the books.
Outside the train, warehouses and empty lots gave way to costal towns and cities. Soon these gave way to suburbs and office space. These too disappeared as the train slowed into the shadow of immense skyscrapers. The clatter of the train dropped steadily, plodding along only slightly, until it reached the seventh platform of the L.A. Union station.
The sharp hiss was hardly a whisper to Marcus and the rest of the passengers of the train, but it was enough to take him out of his thoughts. Marcus gathered his books as a voice came over the loudspeaker. “Welcome to union station. This is the final stop of train 637. All riders must depart. Please gather any and all of your personal items.”
As the passengers of train 637 filed out, Marcus packed his bags and checked his seat for loose items. Marcus was infamous among his peers as, “the guy who looses stuff.” So, he was inclined to check and recheck his surroundings, for any object he might have left behind.
Between double-checking his possessions and loading school supplies into his bag, Marcus managed to be the last person to leave the train. By default this caused him to be at odds with the railway workers.
Stepping off of train 637, Marcus turned his attention to the hiss and rumble of another train down the tracks. This new train landed in track eight, as Marcus fell in line with the other people moving throughout union station. In a way that is best described as organized chaos, Marcus shuffled through the crowd behind the other departing passengers.
Marcus felt something squish underneath his feet, and thought for a moment that they changed the floors. Then he felt the object stick to the ground as he walked along. Marcus knew in an instant what he stepped on, and he scowled.
Stepping to the side of foot traffic, Marcus lifted his shoe and confirmed his apprehension. A soggy wad of white chewing gum rested in the many groves of his shoe soles. He shuddered a moment, let his foot down on the floor, and rejoined the foot traffic.
The hallways of the station opened up to a grand entrance. Marcus carried on through this room, and stepped from the station to the street, where the busy foot traffic gave way to busy streets of cars and busses rolling along the asphalt.
Marcus looked around, searching for someone familiar, but he could not find . . . wait . . . there on the far end of the street! A family of six, seven if you include Marcus, waved and smiled. He smiled back and walked faster and faster until all seven members of the family were together, embracing and celebrating the break from school. “We missed you, Marcus,” Marcus’ family cried. “I missed you too,” Mark replied as he and his family stood at the far corner embracing.
Adam rode across town, with beads of sweat dripping from his chin. He was burning up and breathing hard in the heat of the day. The brakes of his sturdy mountain bicycle wined to a stop, and all was silent in the neighborhood.
Dismounting and walking his bike over to a little tree, the boy stared at the windows of the house. Seeing none, he looked on toward the tree, unhooking a cable from the bike as he walked. With the cable free, the boy, fasted his bike to the tree trunk and glanced around the neighborhood for thieves. Seeing no one around, Adam left his bike alone and walked to the front door. The door to the house was open, but the screen door was not, and in not knowing the intention, Adam chose to ring the doorbell.
Mere moments passed before Mrs. Smith, Brandon’s mother, answered the door. “Are you looking for Brandon?” Mrs. Smith asked. “Yes,” Adam replied. “He’ll be out in a minute,” Mrs. Smith continued. “Okay”, Adam nodded and sat down on the step. From the front door of the house, Adam looked across the empty yard. A little crabapple tree sat in the right corner of the yard, closest to the house. Behind the Crabapple tree there was an old blue spruce, standing 50 or so feet in the air. It provided a certain level of privacy between Brandon’s yard and his neighbors yard.
In any case, on the opposite side of the yard, there was a little concrete driveway leading to a light blue garage door. The driveway was weathered, but still intact despite jagged edges and protruding rocks in the surface. In any case, most people spent very little time considering the driveway. There was a little blue Chevy Cobalt and a medium sized, white Toyota Tacoma covering most of it.
The garage door squeaked and Adam jumped to his feet. Jogging over to the outside of the garage door, he saw Brandon lift the door from inside. Between Brandon and Adam, the door came up easily and Adam finally saw his friend face to face. “How’s it going?” Adam began. “Not bad,” Brandon replied, “just hanging out.” Without a word more, Brandon grabbed a bike from the piles of keepsakes scattered all over the garage floor, and lifted it over the mess. The wheels were flat when he set it down outside of the garage. Adam pulled a bike pump from his backpack and filled the tires, as Brandon closed the garage door and told Mrs. Smith that they were going biking.
Unlocking Adam's bike from the Crabapple tree and waving to the house, Adam and Brandon left Brandon’s house, riding down the neighborhood drive to a path between the houses. The path began as a level sidewalk between the houses. Then, about a mile out, the sidewalk lead right into a canal along a major street. This canal took Adam and Brandon under roads and past open fields for many miles.
By the time they reached the end of the canal, Brandon was winded and Adam was hardly better. They took a breather at a gas station near the canal, and sat in the shade, watching cars drive through a busy intersection. A half hour passed like this, and Brandon was content with going home. That is, he was content with going home until Adam started talking about an ice cream shop a few miles further down the road. As painful as riding down to the shop sounded, the alternative of no ice cream was enough to motivate Brandon down the path.
Forty minutes after taking a break, Brandon and Adam continued on their journey, intent on getting ice cream. Just after the canal, there was a bike lane down one side of a thoroughfare. It continued south for about a mile, and after that mile there was another canal, where Brandon and Adam resumed their journey.
While getting to the second canal was easy enough, Adam and Brandon were mildly prepared for the canal itself. What started off as a moderate trek down the suburbs, turned into a slosh through the canals.
It just so happened that a few days before the journey there was a big rainstorm in the city. Most of the rain water left the city within a 24-hour period of time, and the canals did a wonderful job of directing its exit. However, on the second set of canals where Brandon and Adam rode, there was a section where the river bed dipped down for no apparent reason. That is to say, underneath one of the roads, there was a tunnel about 12 feet in diameter that sat lower than the rest of the canal. Neither Brandon nor Adam realized this. So, when they came to a tunnel that looked about 10 feet in diameter, they thought nothing of it's potential depth. The water inside of it did not seem that deep from where they sat. So they rode on, straight through the tunnel.
Riding through the river was easy for the first few feet, as the water lapped against the rims of their tires. Then, five feet along in their ride, Brandon and Adam were up to their thighs in murky storm water, unsuccessfully trying to peddle out of the pool.
While walking through the storm water was unpleasant, it was nothing compared to the resulting swamps in their drenched shoes. Adam tried to air out his shoes on the other side of the puddle, but after another 30 min of sitting, they figured it was of no use. Brandon and Adam continued on with soggy feet for the rest of their journey.
That could have been the miserable end to a story, but it turned out to be one of the ride’s biggest highlights. As Brandon and Adam sat in the sunshine, outside of an ice cream shop called BJ’s, they laughed at the whole event and at their overall exhaustion. It was a good day, and at the end of it all, Adam and Brandon called it in and took the easy way home, via a white Toyota Tacoma.
A Road Less Traveled
12:45pm read the little clock on the dashboard. David glanced at it as he jumped into the car, and fired up the engine. The car was filled to the brim, and ready for a long drive to Phoenix, AZ.
As David placed his phone on the dash, and opened the driving directions, one of David's neighbors walked up next to the car and waved through the glass. David looked up and waved back at Mary, who was walking her dogs around the neighborhood.
"Are you going on a trip?" Mary asked, as David rolled down his window.
"I am," David replied, "heading down to Phoenix, AZ for Spring Training."
"That sounds fun," Mary replied, "have a safe trip."
"Thanks," David answered.
Mary continued walking as David rolled the window up, and pressed play on his playlist.
At 8pm, Phoenix, AZ was 2 hours away. However, David was in no condition to make the journey. Through blurry eyes, David spotted a blue sign, on the side of the road. "Rest stop," it said, and David felt obliged to follow it.
Pulling off of the highway, David followed the sign down a side road, to a parking lot. In the parking lot, there were a few other travelers, taking a break from their journeys. As he pulled into one of the empty spots, David let out a sigh of relief. Soon after putting his car into park, David fell fast asleep.
Inside a dream, David was on his way to Phoenix, AZ with his sister, Sara. They left late in the evening and drove through the night. Around 1am both of them were too tired to go on. Sara pulled the car into a little motel on the side of the road, and the both pilled out. The motel was in the middle of nowhere, but it was built up like a little roadside attraction.
As they entered the building, an hour passed before David's eyes. He found himself on a bar stool of a hotel bar, with a glass of whiskey in his hands. To the right of the bar was a little gift shop. As David looked toward the shop, he spotted his sister weaving through the isles of merchandise.
Two more hours passed before David's eyes. As David glanced down at his watch, a restlessness stirred in his soul. He looked up to see Sara coming towards him with the same restlessness. They rushed out of the motel to find that their car had been ransacked. Shattered glass surrounded their empty car.
David started to panic. Reaching in his pocket, he took out his car keys, and put them in the ignition. As he brushed the glass from his seat, blood flowed from his hands, and oiled the steering wheel. The car started up with a shutter, but quickly roared to life. As Sara jumped in the passenger seat, David looked back at the motel in shock. The motel was gone. They were in the middle of nowhere.
David awoke with a jolt and yelled. His face was white with shock.
Someone to Talk to
John Davidson, a young man in the eyes of many, stepped into a local restaurant escaping a hot and stagnant afternoon. The air inside the restaurant was cool and soft, as ceiling fans chopped away overhead. Apart from the bartender and a couple tenants, the restaurant was empty.
Stepping into this space, John eyed a seat at the far end of the bar and sat down across from a large television. The television was one of five, lining the dimly lit back wall of the bar. Underneath these televisions sat an assortment of liquors, on shelves of varying heights. Each bottle of liquor was filled to a different level, and many of the bottles had a little spigot on the top.
The bar itself was made out of a laminated rock, reminiscent of marble but ultimately closer to coriander. For most tenants, this detail did not matter one way or another. What mattered was that it was a smooth surface to drink from or to lie on in the midst of life’s woes. It was a companion of sorts, and no one really minded what it was. In any case, John’s mind was elsewhere. That is to say, John's mind was far away from the bar, imagining what retirement might be like.
As John sat at the bar in a sort of waking dream, a woman took a seat at the bar a few feet from John. The woman, a small but talkative individual, wasted no time in making herself known. She spoke suddenly and without warning, jarring John from his dream state and causing him to look strangely at this new tenant of the bar. The woman to John’s right was a small built person, as noted earlier, with long, well-kept hair, and the clothes of someone of means. She could have been John’s mother, had John been born with paler skin and a fair complexion. Alas, he had never met her before, but that did not stop her from intruding on his imagined space.
With the sound of football emanating from the televisions overhead, the woman began a conversation with John. It started slowly with talk of the football game and with talk of the weather. It then grew into the sort of conversation that a person might find odd in another circumstance. That is to say, the conversation went from small talk to therapy talk very quickly, and John soon found himself playing the part of a therapist. The woman spoke about her woes and life journey, as John nodded and listened as best as he could. It was hardly the lunch he expected to have, but John listened to the woman all the same. As they ordered food and ate lunch, the woman told John all the things a therapist might expect to hear, while John did his best to be attentive.
At the end of lunch, John paid for his meal, thanked the woman for the discussion and left the restaurant. The air outside was still thick with heat as he left, but for some reason John’s mind was far and away from the present circumstance. As he stepped into his car and drove away, John thought long and hard about what had just happened. In the aftermath he determined that there was one thing to take away from all of this. Said one thing is as follows: all people, loud or quiet, big or small, desperately need someone to talk to.
Welcome to the blog! I've republished some of my favorite entries from previous blogs (found in the archives) and I am constantly creating new content for this section. As with the rest of this website, I hope you enjoy reading and exploring the many ventures I am undertaking. Thanks for stopping by! - Chris