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Connie and Ling

Today in Writing 101, you’ll write about the most interesting person you’ve met in 2014. In your twist, develop and shape your portrait further in a character study.

I adore my morning walks, especially now that autumn is imminent and the temperatures are lowering. I usually start out with my two trusty side-kicks, Sugar and Spice, my Pomeranians. They are sisters and almost eleven years old now. I think they are more passionate about our morning walks than I am. It appears there is something magical about their Mom having to clean up after them that makes them such happy dogs.

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The surrounding area near my house is rather rural however, our housing area is not, and contains around 70 homes. We have a paved circular street which makes walking the dogs a breeze. For me, it is rather constricting and gets boring.

After the dogs have had their jaunt, I grab my weights (5 lbs. in each hand) and off I go for my walk. We have a rural road that runs adjacent to our housing area that borders a Navy helicopter practice field. It is a great walk and totals three miles. There is an abundance of wild life, birds, horses, and occasionally a snake shares the road with me.

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Most mornings I meet up with my two new friends in the neighborhood, Connie and Ling. The two women are sisters-in-law, as their husband’s are brothers. They are both Chinese, and I enjoy their company. Sometimes the language barrier makes for some interesting conversations. Nevertheless there is always plenty of laughter to make up for it.

Connie is the older of the two women. Her English is quite good because she has lived in the United States for many years. She is a thin woman with ramrod straight legs. Her graying hair is cut short and bounces when she walks.  It fits her personality.

Connie is always happy. Her smiles have lit up many a gloomy morning walk for me. Her eyes crinkle in at the corners when that smile spreads across her face. She carries two 5 lb. weights also because strength training helps battle osteoporosis. Believe me, I took her motherly advice!

Connie walks once in the morning and then again after work with her husband, Michael who works in an office all day. Connie still works fulltime at the local airport. She told me in China, her 80-year-old parents walk six miles a day! I have learned much from Connie and her culture.

Ling is about a year younger than I am. English is difficult for her to speak but, in spite of this our friendship grew. She is a tiny, short woman with black hair turning silver just like mine. Ling became a grandmother this year when her daughter had a little boy.

Recently, she has been pushing the baby in his push-chair or stroller around the neighborhood. She tells him I am his Auntie. I am greatly honored by this. In addition, her grandson is gorgeous! Lucky for him, he will learn Chinese and English. Ling knows French too, and she said she will teach him that also!

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I have enjoyed learning about China from each of these new friends. We have no pretense between us women; we just simply enjoy each other’s company. On September 8, 2014, Connie gave me some moon cakes to try for the Chinese Moon Festival celebrated that day. Here is the link to the story of the Moon Festival if you are interested.  The Moon Cakes were delicious!

Connie says there are so many legends to remember. I love listening to her tell those stories from long ago. Ling will interrupt her and tell her in Chinese if she does not get the story just right.  We three women have swapped vegetables from our gardens over the telling of many of these stories. I am so grateful for these two wonderful women who have become my new friends.  They have enriched my life with their culture and friendship.  Thank you Connie and Ling!

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Moon cakes photo credit: echinacities.com

Thanks for visiting with me today.  It was good seeing you!

Silver Threading

The Envelope

I ran after the trash blowing in the wind down the path at the back of my house.  I picked up as much trash as possible  while cramming it into another trash bag as I surveyed the bushes on each side of me.  It seemed like I was the only one who ever took the trash out to be picked up by the trash men.  My husband certainly did not.  He was on another one of his working trips far from home.

The wind howled again as another gust blew papers and a dirty coffee filter further down the trail.  I am going to be late for work, I thought.  I do not have time for this today!  I kept on though.  I just did not want to leave the path strewn with papers and banana peels.  It just wasn’t right.

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Finally I retrieved the rest of the trash in a pile of dry leaves swirling  in the wind.  I looked up and there on the tree in front of me was an envelope plastered against the trunk, blown there from the wind.  I went over to the tree and snatched at the envelope realizing that it was not my name on the front, but my husband’s.  Something  inexplicable drew me to this envelope.

I knew that I should not open this envelope as it was not mine; but in spite of this, I tore it open anyway.  It was a credit card receipt for the Motel 6 down the road.  My husband had gotten a king size bed for two and a full bar with room service last Saturday night.  The total of the bill came to $225.79.

I looked at the name on the receipt again and again.   Time seemed to slow down and stand still.  The name and credit card information was my husband’s!  I wrestled with this new bit of information.  He had been out of town last Saturday – working.  Again.

Now I knew the truth.  He had been cheating on me!  I felt like I could not breathe and I gasped for air.  I read the receipt over and over again.  Tears flowed from my eyes.  This hurt was deep.  I felt raw and exposed while these naked emotions shook me.  I just stood there with the wind blowing the remaining bits of trash around me in a circle.

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My cell phone rang shrilly in my pocket.  I answered the best I could with tears streaming down my face.  My voice was cloaked with emotion.  It was the Highway Patrol.  They regretted to inform me that my husband had been killed in a car wreck on the interstate yesterday.  They had tried to reach me this morning however, no one was home.

I thanked the officer on the phone and just stood there, rooted to the ground.  My husband was gone. Dead! Killed in a car crash.  If I had not found that motel receipt I would have never known what a cheating, lying, bastard I had married.

I tore up the motel receipt into tiny shreds and let the wind carry them away from me.  I wished I had never opened that envelope.  I walked toward my house, all the while mentally preparing myself to plan a funeral for a cheater.

2014 © Copyright-All rights reserved www.silverthreading.com

Thanks for visiting!  This short story was part of my Writing 101 assignment and is around 550 words:

“You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.”

 

Silver Threading

Rosie

This post is in response to The Daily Post’s, “You Robot,” at http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/you-robot/.  The instructions are:  Congrats — you’ve been handed a robot whose sole job is to relieve you of one chore, job, or responsibility you particularly hate. What is it?

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(“Rosie,” image courtesy of ufiojones.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/cartoon-black-history-rosie/)

I sat at my desk clicking my pen back and forth, as I pondered what my next post would be for my blog, Silver Threading.  Occasionally, I added another item to the shopping list that I was also working on.  It had been a long weekend.  Chores dominated my days and they were beginning to interfere with my writing.  I had been complaining to my husband that I needed a magic fairy to come over daily to complete all these mundane tasks that I just did not want to do.  My husband just smiled and went back out into the garage where he had been tinkering on a project for days now.

Suddenly, he came into my creative room where I do all my writing with a huge grin on his face.  He said he had a surprise for me.  That usually meant that I would get some tasty tidbit he had prepared for his lunch.  He always shared with me.  The man is a God is all I can say.

Today, he pushed a small robot into the room and stood with his hands on his hips.  “Well, what do you think?” he asked.  I turned in my chair and there before me was the cutest robot maid I had ever seen.  Covered in shiny metal, she sported a starched white apron with a matching white maid’s cap perched on her shiny head.  She moved with wheels that seemed to glide across the floor.  So this was what he had been tinkering with in the garage I thought.

“What chore do you hate the most?” he inquired.  I hated laundry and he knew I did.  Just yesterday, I had ranted about having to do the laundry this weekend – again.  You would think they would have created disposable clothing by now, I had fumed.

My husband pushed a remote in his hand and “Rosie” slid across the floor and stood before me.  “I am Rosie,” she said.  “I am your laundry fairy!”  He pushed another button on the remote control and off Rosie went to load the washing machine.  She seemed to know the difference between dark clothes, white clothes, and colored clothes, as she sorted nice round piles on the floor.

Rosie added the first load of dirty laundry, the washing liquid, and she even added the right amount of fabric softener to the washing machine.  She waited patiently while the machine cleaned the clothes.  At the end of the cycle, Rosie promptly removed that load and put it into the clothes dryer with a dryer sheet to prevent static cling.  She chose the correct setting and started the dryer.  At the end of the drying cycle Rosie folded and hung the clothes.  Then she put all of them away in the closet and in our dressers.

I was in ecstasy!  I finally had my laundry fairy!  Now, I could write my blog to my heart’s content and not be bothered with the laundry anymore.  And to think that my husband made this for me!  I told you he was a God, didn’t I?  Now what was that idea I had for my blog…

The Bus Stop

One of the great things about writing a lifestyle blog when you have retired is that you also have many memories to share.  It is another hot, humid day in my garden so I thought some story-telling might be in order…

The Bus Stop is a story my husband told me years ago about his time in the Air Force when he was stationed in Thailand.  The Vietnam War was raging all around him. He was in his early 20’s, trying to make sense of the whole war thing.  This is one of my first creative writing projects and I would appreciate feed back.  I decided to tell the story from his point of view.  Please CAUTION… there is some profanity.

 

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(Map of Thailand, from http://jacquioakley.com/thailand-map)

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It was 0500 hours as I started my walk to the bus stop. The air was cool by Thailand standards, only about 75 degrees, and the dirt road through Korat Village was dusty under my combat boots. I glanced cautiously around me, always wary of who might be about. I found myself that December of 1971, a sergeant serving in the U. S. Air Force, stationed at Korat Air Force Base, Thailand. The Vietnam War was still rearing its ugly head, and I was a crew chief working Transit Alert on the base. Every jet that flew sorties, I serviced and sent on its way to perform its required missions. I was there to do a job, and for no other reason than to serve my country.

Every morning, I took the bus from the village to the base and then back again each night. In good weather, the ride took about twenty minutes. There were no other people on the road that morning. The surrounding jungle was quiet and dark. It was strangely silent, and I did not even hear the insistent chattering from the monkeys. I could see the bus stop ahead. It was a roughly constructed bench with a bamboo top covered with banana leaves. The sides were enclosed, and during the rainy season, the bus stop was adequate to keep the rain and wind out. The enclosure was large enough to accommodate five or six people and would even shelter pigs or chickens if need be. Mostly, it just kept the sun off your head.

I looked around again and found it strange that there were no locals in the area. Our military superiors told us to be extra careful when living in the village because you could not tell who your enemies were. Saboteurs were everywhere and the Viet Cong traveled freely between the borders. Just last week, a sergeant had been stabbed in the village, and he did not survive. I was not taking any chances, and I watched where I was at constantly. I even sat facing the door whenever I was in restaurants and bars so I could always see what was going on at all times. I trusted no one.

I strolled into the bus stop enclosure and there, crouched in the shadows in the back corner, was an old man. Stooped in the classic flat-footed Thai squat position, he looked to be about forty-five or fifty years old, which is old for a Thai. He had almost no hair on his head and had a leathery wrinkled face. He was barefoot and wore a white silk shirt. His sarong was pulled up between his legs and tucked in, which was the customary garb for elderly men. I noticed that he did not have a walking stick with him. For someone of his age this was highly unusual, and I felt myself hesitate in the doorway. The old man did not move, and he continued to watch me with those sharp, clear eyes.

I was startled and felt my breath catch in my throat. My heart pounded, and I looked around for any other signs of human life. There was no one in the area of the bus stop in either direction. The old man continued to stare at me with that keen gaze, and our eyes locked. He spoke to me in his native Thai and said, “Sawae dee dong chow.” I was afraid and defiantly called out to him in English, saying, “Fuck you old man!” I then gave him “the finger,” which was my feeble American attempt to intimidate him.

The old man still did not move. He just sat on his heels looking at me with those sharp eyes, taking in every detail about me. In my alarm, I did not hear the bus coming, and it suddenly appeared out of nowhere. I actually smelled the bus before I heard it, and I swung myself onto the ancient vehicle filled with farmers heading to the local market on the way to Korat Air Force Base. Old women with teeth stained black by beetle nut spit red juice at my feet as I walked down the aisle looking for a seat. Chickens in cages and pigs strapped to the back end of the bus started to squeal and squawk as the bus slowly pulled away from the bus stop. I continued to stand on the bus, swaying back and forth while the rhythm calmed my heartbeat. I began to breath normally again. I looked all around for the old man, but he was still back there in the bus stop enclosure. He had not boarded the bus. We lumbered along in the bus, and I was safely dropped at the front gate to the base.

I worked with Thai civilians in Transit Alert at the base, and since I was still shook up from my incident at the bus stop, I knew they could help me understand what the old man was up to. The cultural differences between the Thai people and I were extreme. The majority of them lived in huts on stilts with their livestock sheltered underneath. They were farmers and lived off the land. In comparison, I had grown up in Southern California in an upper middle class neighborhood where I had been drafted by the Twins Baseball Club right out of high school. I pitched for them for two years before Vietnam came along. I knew nothing of cultural differences. I knew baseball and airplanes, and not much else.

My Thai civilian friends liked that I wanted to know about their culture. Their English was good enough that we could communicate and understand each other. I told them of the incident at the bus stop, and they asked me to repeat what the old man had said to me in their language. I told them that he had said, “Sawae dee dong chow.” I also told them how terrified I had been to see that old man crouching in the shadows at the bus stop. I explained to them that I did not know if he was going to jump out and stab me, or what was going to happen! I had been in fear for my life.

It was quiet for a moment as the Thai men looked at each other and then again at me. Their brown faces crinkled and their slanted eyes seemed to disappear in their faces from laughter! They pointed at me and held their sides as they laughed. I was incredulous! I could not believe they were laughing at my predicament. I had been scared, and they found this funny. Finally, Lang, who was clearly the elder in this group of men, wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes and explained that all the old man had said was, “Hello, good morning!”

I was appalled that I had not read the situation correctly. I had not been raised to treat people in this way, but war made me look at life differently, and I was afraid of what I had become. I knew then that if I was to survive in Thailand, or anywhere else, I needed to learn the language and the customs of the people so that I would not have misunderstandings like this again. I knew that I must never judge people based on my fears alone. I felt terrible and knew I had to make amends to the old man.

Lang taught me some of the Thai customs, and he explained that it showed proper respect to bow and fold your hands, as if you were in prayer, when you met people that you did not know in Thailand. He suggested that if I saw the old man again, I should bow and say the same thing to him that he had said to me, “Sawae dee dong chow.” That showed proper respect and was simply the nice thing to do.

The next morning at 0500 hours, I started out on the road to the bus stop much the same as I had the day before. Still cautious, I looked around and surveyed the road ahead. I was still guarded but kept my wits about me. Little dust devils swirled under my combat boots as I trod along the road. There were no locals visible again today, and I could see the bus stop up ahead. It looked the same as it had the day before. The dried banana leaves on the roof rustled in the light breeze. I approached the enclosure slowly and glanced inside. There in the shadowy recesses, just as before, crouched the old man.

I approached him with a smile on my face and bowed low to the ground, and said in my best Thai, “Sawae dee dong chow.” He looked at me with those sharp eyes and said in understandable English, “FUCK YOU!” and then he promptly gave me “the finger!” He smiled at me and I watched his brown eyes disappear in the creases of his face.

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(Image from “Family Life in Rural Thailand and Australia,” http://www.memock.com/tag/history-of-ubon-ratchathani/) – A bus similar to the one my husband rode back in 1971.