December 11, 2018

Holiday Perspective - A Short Story

by Becki McCartney 

Contributing Writer, Gracious Jane Marie Blog




Mickey loved his job. He thought about this as he shifted two feet to his right. What a great job he had. It had purpose. It had meaning. Heck, he might do or learn something today that could improve lives for generations to come. Most working stiffs couldn’t say that. It was a tough job, sure. It had taken lots of training and preparation, but the outcome was so worth it. It was kind of like learning to ride a bike for the first time.

Ah, there was the rub, the downside of this perfect job. Being away from Cassie. Cassie, that sweet, kind-hearted little redhead. She had mastered riding a bike in no time. And climbing trees. She was the proverbial tomboy from her Marlins cap to her scraped knees.  How he missed making her laugh and kissing her goodnight. She understood, of course, that daddy’s job took him away for months at a time. She was proud of him, really proud. You could see it in her eyes. Still, being away from her tugged at his heart, especially at this time of year.

He knew holiday madness was in full swing in their little town. Since he had been away, Black Friday had come and gone. Cyber Monday, or whatever they were calling it now, had no doubt set new sales records. All of that pushing and shoving and grabbing for a buck made no sense to him from where he stood. Kissing Cassie goodnight was worth far more than all of that. Having her roll her eyes and laugh at his corny jokes, now that was gold.

“Mickey, do you need any help out there? You haven’t moved in a few minutes. Is anything wrong?” said the voice on his headset.

“No, sorry,” he said, “just worlds away for a minute. Thinking about Cassie and the holidays. Back on point now. This should just take another 30 minutes.”

“Okay, Mickey. Stay focused. You’ll be able to talk to Cassie in a few hours. We’ll all be calling home later today.”

Right, stay focused. Mickey turned back to the job at hand. He lifted his screw-driver and turned the specially-designed nut to the right. He turned it just enough to loosen it, leaving it attached. He gently lifted off the 6”x 6” cover plate. As he was moving it to his pouch for safekeeping, he thought he caught a glint of something reflected off the metal. He stopped and looked to his right. No, nothing there. “Well, of course not,” he thought to himself.  “I must really need some shuteye. First I’m distracted and now I’m seeing things.” He put the cover plate into his pouch and looked back at the reason he was here. It took him just 22 minutes to remove and replace the malfunctioning sensor, a record time. He put the cover plate back into position, tightened the nut, and returned his screwdriver to its tight-fitting compartment on his hip.

Mickey took a final look around. Everything secure, check. Nut tight, check. All tools where they should be, check.  “Sensor replaced. I’m heading back now,” he said into his microphone. “10-4,” came the reply.

As he started to move to his left, he caught a flash out of the corner of his eye. No, not a flash exactly. Something shiny. Something red and shiny. “What the heck?he thought and turned toward it.

Ah, it wasn’t lack of sleep after all. There on the horizon was a tiny sleigh led by what looked like a pack of Great Danes. Okay, the first Great Dane had antlers and a red nose so maybe they weren’t reeeally Great Danes. Mickey, of course, knew exactly what they were and who was driving that red sleigh. He hadn’t realized what day it was until then. No wonder Cassie had been on his mind. It was Christmas Eve.

He looked down and smiled. On that big beautiful blue marble below he knew Cassie was tossing in her sleep. She loved Christmas morning so she always had a fitful night’s sleep on Christmas Eve. Tonight would be no different.

An echo of hearty laughter and sleigh bells made him look up at the horizon again. The tiny sleigh was gone now. He knew the Toy Maker and his elves would have a full night ahead of them. The adults on the planet below had long since consigned Mr. Claus and his annual toy delivery to the ash heap of childhood dreams. Life on Earth did that to you. The joy and possibility of magic were replaced by thoughts of bank accounts, house payments, and the like. Only the innocence of a child’s mind could hold the truth these days.

“A second group knows the truth as well”, mused Mickey.  Astronauts.  Astronauts like him, who had seen the old man and his pack of Great Danes for themselves. Yes, the astronauts knew.

Mickey made his way back toward the hatch, hand over hand, with a smile on his face. He would get to wish Cassie a Merry Christmas in a few hours. He could be content with that, knowing she was safe and happy.  And that the jovial old Toy Maker would step-in in his absence.

As he made his way around the outside of the Space Station, Mickey sent up a silent prayer for peace on Earth, a long sought after and seldom found state for the planet below.  He felt in his heart that if only his fellow earthlings could see the Earth from here, they would be changed. He knew they would. He had been changed. Every astronaut who had ever gone into Space had been changed. When you look down and see that beautiful, complex, blue and green planet for the first time, it is hard to understand how the inhabitants were constantly at war and blindly treating the planet’s natural resources as disposable. It completely defied logic from this lofty perspective.  All astronauts knew this, too.

Mickey continued moving cautiously toward the hatch, unhooking and re-hooking his tether as he went. Almost there. Just 5 more minutes and he would be stepping back inside the airlock. The porthole was in view now. Sergei was there, smiling at him and giving a thumbs-up. He gave a thumbs-up in reply.

“Today is a good day,” Mickey thought to himself. “Who knows, maybe I’ll discover something in the science lab today that will change some of those lives down there, bring a little magic back to them. Science IS magic after all.”

And in the deep, profound silence reserved only for the cosmos ……….. a sleigh bell rang.

T H E       E N D

🎄🎅🎄

December 4, 2018

Abby and the Feather

     Abby, spokes-dog for this blog, has adventures in her dreams. I know this because of her gyrations and squeaks while she sleeps. When we walk together outside our fenced courtyard, she is always on her leach, lest she escapes and experiences actual adventures without me. 
     Well, this particular day was not a good walking day.  Although the sun was out, it was 
plum cold, as *Peeper would say, especially for north Florida, where we are.  Still, chilly or not, a doggie must have her private moments, if you understand my meaning. I usually open the door, she disappears for a minute while I watch the sky, the trees, the- everything else and then she returns. 
     This time was completely different because there was a large whitish something near our St. Francis birdbath.  I did a double-take, but Abby didn't.  With a bark, she was gone and chasing a big bird right before our eyes!  Now, we have lived in our home for many years.  We've seen snakes, armadillos, turtles, deer, birds, all manner of critters inside our wall.  This bird was the first of its kind.
      So there was Abs, barking and chasing and chasing and barking this poor creature down our serpentine bricked path. They both disappeared behind the house. Aware the unstable bricks I amateurishly laid myself can, might, will and do upend and painfully clobber the ankle bones, I carefully trod to find the bird trapped in the corner of the fence by my not always wise, yet fearless, Chihuahua.  Not following Abby's example of fearlessness, I cowardly called the lawn man named Bruce. (Not my husband, in this case.)              "Just throw a bath towel over it," he instructed.  At my hesitation and prolonged silence, he took the hint and said, "Okay. I'll be right there." 
     In the few minutes I waited for him, I was able to snatch up Abby and put her in the house.  Less barking deflates the madness of the situation. I peeked around the corner of the house and the bird was flapping its wings, trying to raise itself enough to escape the six-foot fence. 
     Bruce then appeared with his own towel over his arm.  I stood near the gate, leaving him plenty of elbow room with which to maneuver back there with the bird.  In seconds, he returned to say, "I'll need a bigger towel."  I dashed inside to retrieve the largest and thickest beach towel we own.  His second attempt to capture the bird was positive.  When he came trotting toward the gate, bird completely covered and inside the towel, I was shocked to realize how huge it was.  It was far bigger than the largest Thanksgiving turkey I've ever seen! 
     Well, Bruce left the yard and passed behind the hedges for a moment. "I let the seagull go and it flew away, unharmed," he told me. Whew, I thought, and thank you, God! 
      Note the sweet feather, in the picture above, left behind on the pine straw of our yard, giving proof this happened.  The dog knew to protect me from this massive creature she had only ever seen at a distance, the same as I had.  Little Abby's bravery is as massive as the bird was in size. And I knew to protect the gull, somehow.  My somehow was to call the yardman.  The simple sequence of events ended happily and in my book, that's always the best way. 

(*Peeper is the grandmother in my Goodbye Lie series.  Her way of speaking is less than refined, but her love for her family versus her dislike of Aunt Noreen makes for some funny interactions.)