Homework Gone Awry – If You’re Not Strong Then You Have To Be Smart.

I’m sitting cross-legged, hands cupped on my lap, trying to control my breath as I push away my fears of what waits in the darkness around me. I am shocked out of my meditation as light from the open door floods over me. My eyes adjust and I focus on the silhouette of my father, leaning against the door frame with his arms folded across his chest. A few brief moments pass and then he speaks to me in a calm voice.

“Are you ready?”

“I don’t know. What if I’m not strong enough?”

“If you’re not strong, then you have to be smart.”

With that he turns away and closes the door. I am once again left in absolute darkness. The only sound is my heart, pounding as if it is trying to break through my ribs and escape my chest.

All time seems to stop as I hear the groan of rusty gates drawing open somewhere behind me. The smell hits me then, foul and unsettling. Soon there is the sound of something making cautious movements in to the room, claws clicking softly on the rough concrete floor. I hear sharp breathing as the creatures check the air for my scent. They pace the perimeter of the room, learning the space, before they begin to close in.

A short, guttural growl sounds out. I know they’re testing me. Panic fights its way into my mind, but I do my best to suppress it. My eyes are shut tight although I know that I wouldn’t see anything if they were open. I do not move, instead I focus on my breath as I’ve been taught.

My body tenses as I feel hot, putrid breath on my arm for the first time. I ball my right hand into a fist and form a mental image of my opponent as I time my attack. I inhale, and then strike out with all of my might. Immediately after I drop and tumble to my right in one swift movement. There is a harsh growl and a rush of air as one of the creatures lunges to retaliate, only to find its partner instead of the small, weak boy it had anticipated.

Rinn – Interlude

When was the last time you layed down on soft green grass and did nothing but watch the clouds go by? I certainly can’t remember, but I did today. I’m not sure why. It just felt like the right thing to do.

When you’re young you might see ponies or space ships. Harmless visions that spur the imagination. Today, I only saw dragons. Large and small. Fierce and content. Sometimes in battle or swift flight. Constantly shifting and contorting, they were formed by the clouds and by the spaces between them. They came to me, one after the other, for what felt like hours. I watched them and wondered what it said about me today. This worn and battered adult, who’s innocence is lost, staring at the sky and daring to imagine.

I used to wonder what dragons were like. How they moved. What they smelled like. I often thought about where they went. I don’t wonder about these things any more.

Homework Gone Awry – Six Words and a Statement

I check my watch for what must be the tenth time. I’m not sure where Allison is but I hope to hell she shows up soon. Not that it’s an unpleasant day. There’s not a cloud in the sky, and the calm breeze makes the temperature just right. I don’t like waiting though, that’s all.

I’m planted on a bench facing the main walkway. I’m people watching I guess you could say. There’s a large green space behind me filled with activity. People are chatting. Children are playing. Making all sorts of annoying noises.

I’m distracted by a pair of long legs in a short skirt so I don’t see the projectile coming for my head until it’s too late. I rub my temple with the palm of my hand, trying to massage the stinging sensation away. A memory from the past comes to me. I hear my mother’s voice, something about a clout to the ear. A young kid comes running up to retrieve a small red and black ball from the path in front of me.

“Sorry about that.”

“Yeah, it’s ok.” Sure I’m lying but what am I supposed to say?

The kid is just standing there staring at me. He’s scrawny with a messy ginger mop hanging down into his freckled face. He’s wearing shorts and a t-shirt with a cartoon T-Rex that says ‘Rawr means I love you in dinosaur’. The socks and sandals are a nice touch. He’s got a weird sparkle in his eye, like he’s a little touched. As soon as he opens his mouth I know I’m in trouble.

“Wanna know something cool? I have an owl collection. Snowy Owls are my favourite. I have two stuffies, the bigger one is Snowy and the smaller one is Snowy Junior. My Grandpa has a real Snowy Owl on the wall of his basement, I haven’t named him yet but I will one day. Did you know that Snowy Owls aren’t all white? They have brown bars and spots on their backs, and the males are smaller than the females, weird right? My Uncle Steve, he’s my Mom’s brother but my Uncle, he went to Nunavut once and got me a little owl made of seal fur, it’s called an Ookpik, he says that’s the word for Snowy Owl in some other language. I love Snowy Owls. Do you know that one time I was having a picnic in the living room with Snowy and Snowy Junior, and we were drinking Tang and we each had our own cups, but I knocked the pitcher over by accident. Everything was orange! Mom wasn’t happy because her new couch and fuzzy carpet used to be white, Dad says that’s what you get for having a white couch and fuzzy carpet, and then Mom got very quiet and they went upstairs to talk, they do that a lot. Did you know that…”

The kid just kept going. I felt like I had been sucked into a bad Abbot & Costello skit. At one point I think I even said “who’s on first?” The kid didn’t seem to notice. I manage to break my attention away to see Allison scurrying up the path towards us. She looked flustered, flabbergasted even. I didn’t even know the word was in my vocabulary. I think the kid must have used it once or twice.

Allison stops in front of me and the kid’s story trails off into silence. We’re both rendered speechless by the vision standing before us. Allison has that effect on people. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it, but it never hurts to get a reminder once in a while how lucky I really am.

“Jesus Dan, I’m so sorry. My roommate had a meltdown just as I was trying to leave and then the train was running behind because of some accident downtown…”

“It’s ok, really.”

“Hey, who’s this?”

“I look over at the kid. “Him? Just a friend. We were having a chat.”

The kids eyes light up and a big toothy grin, or gaps where teeth should be, fills his face. I stand and take Allison’s hand in mine. Our eyes lock and all my cares fade away.

“Come on, let’s go.”

I turn back briefly as we move up the path. “See ya kid. Good luck with your owls.”