The Hopeful Wanderer 49 – A Good Day

Porcelain clinked against wood with the unmistakable sound of a mug being set down. “Well, that’s peculiar.”

At the bemused tone in my host’s voice, I glanced up from where I had been scanning the spines of her myriad books. She stood hunched over, peeking out beneath the half-opened blinds on her living room window. Rain pattered against the pane and the muted afternoon sunlight painted her in charcoal shades. She had one hand upraised, as if considering pointing but remembering her manners. Her mug steamed on the windowsill beside her.

Leaving my own mug, I got up and padded to her side, socks whispering soft against silky wooden floorboards. She shifted aside for me a little so we could both see out the narrow window. The delicious, earthy scent of coffee cut the cool air.

“Down there,” she said, quiet. “The man in the delivery uniform.”

The sidewalk below the apartment was a multi-colored sea of passing umbrellas. But I picked out the man she meant because he stood at a crosswalk, waiting to go, sans umbrella or even a rain jacket. This, it seemed, was because a sphere of dry air surrounded him, not a single raindrop willing to fall on his head.

“Huh,” I said.

As we watched, more people arrived at the crosswalk. One or two had clearly been caught by the rain and were soaked through. A woman holding her purse over her head eyed the sphere of dryness around the delivery man. They exchanged words and then she stepped in with him. A businessman did the same. Soon the delivery man had an entourage of damp but grateful people crossing the road with him. I could see his smile from here.

“I think,” I said, slow, “that he’s just having a very good day.”

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The Hopeful Wanderer 48 – Sea Glass Below

The ocean’s surface receded above as I dove downward, out of reach all too soon. Pink rays of dancing sunlight lanced into the water around me, but these, too, fell behind. As my dive lost momentum, I blew out bubbles, sinking deeper into the sea. Every direction was an empty, darkening gradient of blue.

Now darkness encroached. I wished for daylight and longed for air, my lungs burning and my vision blurring. The weighty rock I held to drag me down wasn’t dragging fast enough and if I didn’t reach the bottom, I wouldn’t make it back to the top.

Below, a violet glow pierced the inky depths. Schools of fish swam between me and the light; these darted away as I passed among them. Spiny urchins and tiny starfish shrank back as my hand closed around a glassy orb. I dropped the stone. Turned myself around and pushed off from the bottom with all my strength.

My heart trembled. I couldn’t see the surface above. I only knew the direction by which way the last bit of air in my lungs wanted to go. Kicking mightily, I shot upward. The orb in my grasp blazed like an undersea star, lighting the way. When at last I made out the sunset tinged waves above, they were so far away. Too far.

And then, my head breaking through the surface, they weren’t. I choked and coughed and more waves slapped my face, but I was breathing air again.

Treading water, I held up the orb. Small chunks of indigo sea glass fused together with dark grout. Sealed within, stardust tinkled as it tumbled around, twinkling far across the waves. A beacon shining back toward land.

Or at least, as I set out following the direction of its blaze, I hoped so.

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The Hopeful Wanderer 47 – Name Calling

On a clear desert night, the crush of shifting sand from just outside my tent woke me. I lay on my bedroll in the dark, listening to the unmistakable sound of footsteps approaching. The gait of my visitor… lurched. Or hopped. When it stopped next to my tent, the shadow of a lengthy, humanoid shape limned against the distant, star strewn sky. Antlers protruded from between long, drooping ears.

It whuffed an animal breath.

My eyes found the tent zipper, expecting any second to see it begin to inch open. Against the canopy between me and the creature lay my bag. I could think of nothing within that would help me.

From the other side of that insubstantial nylon wall, a voice called with a high, thin quality that echoed away into the dunes. “Wanderer,” the creature crooned. Only the word it spoke did not sound like any word for wanderer.

Yet, somehow, that strange word meant me.

It was my name.

Instantly, though, whatever I had heard slid sideways in my mind. Gone, with only the lingering sense of rightness left behind.

I yanked the zipper down and snatched the tent flap open. As I ducked out, I glimpsed the flash of a glowing pair of wideset eyes. “What did you just sa-” I began.

But outside, no tall creature stood. The sands all around were empty but for a set of rabbit tracks leading away from my tent into the night. No second set showed the creature’s approach.

Hope sliced neatly from my chest. Along the graceful crest of a dune, the glint of starlight was a cruel, knowing grin.

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The Hopeful Wanderer 46 – The Memory Tree

They arrived as the full moon crested the horizon like an enormous gold coin. Silhouetted people in ones and twos materializing beneath the spreading limbs of the Memory Tree. Their outlines wavered and shimmered beneath the hazy moonbeams, solidifying as the night grew darker. I wasn’t the only person sitting beneath the boughs, so I wasn’t the only one with guests tonight. The living, strangers to me, sat or stood apart, awaiting the return of their own remembered loved ones, unconcerned with my presence.

All around me, my guests talked and laughed about times long gone. Some had already met each other through me, through previous events like this, but others introduced themselves for the first time. Eyes glinting and teeth flashing in the dark. I simply sat nearby and observed these friends long passed. They smiled or nodded at me, knowing their place here with us tonight meant they held a place in my heart.

The night grew longer and longer as the moon fled through the sky. The strangers nearby finished their visits and left, but we remained, for I could not visit the Memory Tree often. I opened drink after drink for us and grew dizzy as the twin suns began to pink the sky. With the oncoming morning, my guests wished me farewell and rained away into nothing.

Alone again, I lay on my back in the grass and the fading stars overhead spun and spun. I missed them all so much.

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The Hopeful Wanderer 45 – Insecurity

Beneath a brightly lit city, a yawning tunnel ran away into darkness. As if to avoid attracting attention to the area, no light spilled across the wide concrete steps leading downward. Yet at regular intervals, the footsteps of one or two people passing below rang out, telling those walking along the railing above that a few more souls had breached the unknown.

Always before these journeyed on, a faint ding sounded at the decrepit security scanners lining the mouth of the passage. A green circle lit up on crackling screens, indicating this traveler carried no doubts. I felt no call to join this inexplicable pilgrimage, so I stood watching from atop the stairs.

Nearby, an ugly buzz sounded from the scanners and a red X appeared on the screen. Little sparks showered the person standing below and she ducked until they fizzled out. Once she uncovered her head, she just stood there. Unable to move forward, too desperate to turn back.

Unthinking, I held out my hand toward her. “I’ll take it for you.”

The girl turned toward me, face half cast in shadows. She was terribly young for one burdened with too much doubt to pass through. “I couldn’t find a place to drop it,” she explained. “But if you don’t mind…”

My outstretched hand remained steady. She handed me a live, squirming, slimy thing. Extreme anxiety hooked into my skin and I instantly doubted my decision.

But she smiled. As she passed through the scanners with an uplifting ding, she seemed to shine in the dimness before complete blackness swallowed her whole.

As soon as I could, I found a waste bin where I dropped the nasty doubt. It left a smear of grease across my palm that I could only hope would come out with a wash.

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The Hopeful Wanderer 44 – Whispering Waters

When the waters rose and swept between the pillars of an innocuous shrine, it was said a voice could be heard by those standing beneath its graceful wooden arch. Intrigued by this rumor, I arrived there just as the rainy season petered off and stood where calm water met grass, toes bare, gazing outward at the flat expanse of shallows stretching to the horizon. Upon stepping onto the sandy path leading out to the shrine, buried beneath inches of clear rainwater, the splashing of my steps seemed insignificant against all that emptiness. 

Little rock gardens stretched away to my left and right, lit by afternoon sunlight beneath the ripples my motion created. The people here knew the depths of water would arrive every year to kill whatever grass they managed to encourage up from the earth, but they built beauty here all the same. Still, my heart thumped dully beneath my collarbone, hardly moved, my walk to the shrine a mechanical one. 

I arrived between the shrine’s old pillars too soon, before feeling could return to my chest. Deeper water rose and fell around my thighs now, threatening to push me over, and I rested a hand against smooth lacquered wood to keep myself upright. Once steadied and focused, I cocked my head, listening, for I had heard something… familiar.

Then I realized what maybe a few other visitors had understood before me. It was only my own voice, telling me what I needed to hear.

Shhhhhhhhhhhh… shhhhhhhhhh… it said.

Fingers trailing in water, palm rested against ancient tree, toes pressed into sand, and hair tousled by wind, I closed my eyes. And I listened to what I had to say.

A little, just a very little, the weight in my heart eased. For now, it was enough.

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You may have noticed the recent lack of posts…

I just suffered a death in my family. My family being me and my ancient, toothless dog, a Pomeranian little more than four pounds of fluff. My sweet baby.

Trinket passed away about two weeks ago on April 14th. While I was out of town, she walked out onto a garage porch and, unable to see with her bad eye in the dim light, fell off onto concrete and had a concussion and mild stroke. Though she survived the fall (thanks to the fast work of my sister) and we fought together on her recovery for three weeks, though she beat the weakness, and the loss of appetite, and was beating the dizziness–getting herself up and walking most of the time–though she had almost recovered her quality of life, she had a severe relapse one night and ultimately passed away in my arms.

She was very brave.

The grieving process is real. As I mourn the fifteen years she was with me and the loss of the very best dog in the world, I can’t predict how long this will take. But new posts will start going up as soon as I can write again. Thank you all so much for your patience.

I miss you, Wonder Dog.