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Friday, March 23, 2012

Never Forget

To let my readers see who I am, I've decided to share a short story I wrote, of when I was fifteen, on the brink of losing faith in mankind as a whole, until one event changed my life forever. I'm a bit nervous because this is based on real events and comes from my heart. So I'm very nervous about how people will respond to it. But readers need to know who is behind the writing,. So here it is. I hope you will enjoy it. I humbly request to hear what you think about it. Thanks.

Never Forget:

I stood leaning against the wooden rail with my pole in my hands and wiped the sweat running down my forehead with the back of my sleeve. Humidity was thick in the air. It tasted salty because of the sea that spread out as far as the eye could see. Twenty feet to the rear lay a beach with Starfish and, sea shells, and sand crabs dotting the shoreline, all but abandoned by humans. Strange since it was summer vacation. My family and I stood in the middle of a half a mile long, shabby wooden pier that was sturdy and had a lot of splitters along the edges.

Mama and step dad stood on one side, my two brothers on each side of them, and my sister and I on the right side. I looked down the beach and scowled at the slide in camper that the family, along with two dogs: One a Pomeranian, the other a red Doberman, had lived in on the beach for a full year.

My Doberman lay beside my feet acting lethargic and panting. I reached over and scratched behind her ears as I stared at the pale, cloudless sky. When we first arrived I'd loved the idea of living at a real beach and looked forward to swimming in the ocean at any given time I chose. Lately the swimming bored me. I did it for exercise and to stretch my legs. I scowled at the thought of going into the water again because of the many sunburns I'd received. My skin ached in remembrance of the last one I'd received two weeks ago, with blisters the size of quarters and skin as red as a hot poker made it hurt to be touched.

Thank God that finally healed.

Still, getting outside to fish on the pier, or play at the beach beat being cooped up. More than once I'd gotten sick from being too cold at night because my bed was the hard, unforgiving floor and my blanket always ended up sprouting legs. As for bathing, we had to go into the bathroom and use the public showers. Who knew when a stranger might walk in, so of course we’d go in our bathing suits, not an easy feat by any means. We couldn't adjust the water either.

"Let's go jump in the water." My youngest brother suggested.

I balked. "Are you insane? There is glass over there. Besides, it's too damned hot." My eyes narrowed at him. "I don't want another stupid sunburn." I huffed.

"Trina, leave your brother alone." Mama warned and went back to watching her pole.

Sure, I'm the one who gets yelled at. I sighed and pulled a sliver of glass out of the bottom of my worn out shoes. I winced when it pricked my finger and stared at the tiny drop of blood forming on the tip. Stupid thoughtless bums. I huffed and flicked it into the water.

Every morning about a foot from where the water rose, broken beer bottles and broken glass shards scattered across the ground. We had to be careful where we stepped and always keep our shoes on. Especially when we played in the water, so that we could scare away the sting rays that loved to burrow into the sand at the bottom of the water by dragging our feet as we entered the water.


I listened to the waves crashing against the shore and stared at my shoes and then rolled my eyes. I didn't want to be like the five year old boy from last week who stepped on one and ended up having to get the razor sharp, splinter laden barb surgically removed from what remained of his foot.

Poor thing. He'll never be the same. I scowled. His parents should have paid more attention. Now that poor kid will pay the price. My jaw tightened and my hand closed around the pole till my knuckles turned white.

Seagulls’ cries filled the air as they flapped their wings circling above the water. I feel for you, kid. Only fifteen and I'd already survived having my world ruthlessly ripped apart by the ultimate betrayal once. I winced and tore my mind away from the unwanted memory crowding into my mind as my heart ached. Life gets better. I scoffed. Yeah right that’s easier said than done.

My stomach growled demanding my attention and I stared at it. "Be quiet." I mumbled and turned my attention back to the water, spotting a couple of sailboats gliding through away from shore. I watched a fish jump out of the water in front of the pier and released a long exhale. Day in and day out it had been fish, shark, crabs and shrimp. Sure it was a variety but still seafood.

I'm sick of seafood! I shifted on my feet. A Peanut butter and jelly sandwich would be a God Send right now. Too bad we only get them twice a year. Mama, my stepfather, my sister, and continued to fish. My two younger brothers sat on the pier cross-legged, blank eyes staring out over the water, listless, bored.

What else can go wrong today? I grit my teeth and my free hand balled into a fist, slamming against the top of the railing. I looked around the pier and saw there was only three other people, besides us. One of them, an old man, stood down at the end, watching us. He looked at the bucket and then smiled at me.

Sorry pal, you will have to get your own fish. That’s our dinner.

The smell of seaweed and algae reached my nose as the wind picked up just enough to tease me.
My skin tingled in warning as his gaze intensified. Stop staring will you? I turned my back to him and grit my teeth as unwanted memories crowded in. What did I do to deserve that? I tightened my bulky plaid button up around me to protect myself from the stares I felt on me and tried to make myself as small as possible.

I guess the whole world has to take a shot at me. I used one hand to rub my tight shoulder and stomped on a bug, grinding it under my foot. Go away you nasty thing.

My shoulders hunched and my chin fell to my chest. I closed my eyes feeling a heavy stone settle in my belly. Great, now I'm attacking little critters? I swallowed trying to hold back the tears stinging my eyes and my heart felt like a vice grip closed around it. My free hand gripped the splintered edge of the wooden rail to keep me from falling to my knees.

Please God, there has to be at least some decency out in the cruel, harsh world. I can’t take it anymore. Help me be rid of my bitterness. I don’t want to be angry all the time.

I huffed and kicked the bucket. And please, no more seafood. Just a simple break that's all I ask. Only for a little while. Tears clung to my lashes despite trying to keep them at bay as sadness washed over me like the waves crashing against the shore. Why do things just keep going from bad to worse? Is everyone cruel?

My hand tightened on my shoulder and I winced. I took a deep breath and blinked my tears away. I gazed back at the sea, watching the waves ripple. Maybe the world doesn’t care anymore?

Everything rested on my shoulders weighing me down as the waves of sadness and pain continued to batter at me like a twig on a turbulent sea. I pinched the bridge of my nose. If it has to be seafood, then I at least want a shark that we can fry in the pan. It’s been two months since we had shark. Anything but more fish.

Everyone at school griped about how boring fishing was. I didn’t have any friends, but that didn’t bother me. As long as people leave me alone, I don’t care.

I stared at my rod and grimaced. Even fishing started to lose my interest. My skin prickled in warning and I felt a heavy stare on me. I looked around and saw the old man watching me again. Why is he so interested in us and that stupid bucket of fish? I shifted and my knee bumped the top of the bucket./br>
A few minutes later Mama’s pole bounced like crazy. “Hey guys, I’ve got something!”

The five of us went over to find out why her pole bounced so hard as she fought to reel it in. When she pulled it up out of the water, my eyes widened in shock.

Okay, that's something that we haven’t eaten yet.

My seven year old brother jumped up and his fist pumped the air. “Alright! Finally, something besides fish.” My jaw hung dropped as I watched him hug our five year old brother and they jumped up and down. I blinked. What no fighting? Weirdos. I shook my head and looked at Mama. My step dad reached over lifting the line and grabbed the eel. He walked over to the other side and laid it on the pier and then knelt down and pulled out his knife.

“You’re not going to feed that to the kids, are you?” The old man walked over and frowned.

“It’s this or fish, and they are sick of fish.“ Mama stared at him.

“Why eat out of the ocean?”

“We’ve been doing so, for over a year. My wife and I both have no jobs, despite her nursing degree.” He Huffed. "Nobody around here will hire us. We're collecting aluminum for money, but we're barely able to make rent for our camper.” He shrugged. “We even had to put the fishing licenses as a priority just so we can eat.”

"Put that eel and the bucket of fish away. You can have that stuff tomorrow night." The old man set his pole aside. He winked at my mother and draped his arm over my step dad's shoulder. "You, come with me and I'll tell you why."

With a puzzled expression my step dad nodded and allowed the old man to lead him away.

Mama looked at us kids and bent over adding the eel to our bucket. “Don’t get your hopes up.” She frowned as the boys ran up and down the pier.

“No fish tonight, hooray!” They cheered in unison.

I stared out to nowhere, not seeing anything. Why do I always seem to meet the worst people? Not even guys, just people in general. I felt the heavy weight of depression closing in again.

After a while the old man and my step father returned. Their arms were loaded with stuff from McDonald’s. My mother's jaw dropped when she saw the food and she shot a questioning look at my step dad. He gave her a nod.

“Thank you.” She smiled at the old man.

He nodded and handed each of the boys two ice cream cones. He passed us girls one each. “Don’t spoil your dinner, but eat this before it melts. Okay?”

We stared at our step dad. He nodded and we accepted the ice creams, finishing them off before they had a chance to start melting. I Inhaled a deep breath drawing in the chocolate scent I'd missed so much and felt my mouth water in anticipation. My tongue swirled over the sweet, cold treat and my taste buds danced with pleasure. My heart sank when the treat was gone. The old man passed each of us cheese burgers, French fries and drinks; real sodas. We'd had water, milk, and when we were lucky, kool-aid, so that was an extra special treat.

I picked up my burger and grinned."Thanks mister." I sank my teeth into the meat and savored the ketchup on my tongue. I chewed the lettuce and tomato and felt some of the darkness in me fade away. Delicious. I’ve missed having tomatoes. I grabbed a handful of my fries and shoved them in my mouth.

The old man ate with us laughing at our antics.

After devouring my three burgers and all of my fries I danced around the beach, spinning in circles with my hands stretched out beside me and grinned. So did my thirteen years old sister. My brothers bounced up and down and ran around playing with their new toys they'd gotten in their happy meals. My step father chuckled and walked off to put the bucket of fish away.

Mama stood up and slapped her arm, flicking a mosquito off. “Okay kids, let’s get our stuff and head in for the night.”

I gathered the poles and tackle box and then turned around to ask my mother a question, but stopped when I noticed the old man was still there. I placed the tackle box in front of me as if to use it for a shield.

“Have your husband meet me here in the morning and by tomorrow evening he will have a job.” He looked at my mother.

My mother’s face lit up. “Thank you sir, I will.” She followed my step father and I finished gathering the poles from their pier.

The old man walked over to his gear.

I stood there and frowned. Why is he so kind? What does he want? I felt the wind pick up and shivered. I snatched the last pole up and followed my family. We all went inside and settled into bed for the night. I closed my eyes and said my prayers, pulling my blanket up to my chin. Thanks God. We needed that break. I closed my eyes and went to sleep.

Two days later my stepfather worked as a welder. My mother even had a job nursing and we moved into a three bedroom house located two hours away in a small town that was only two miles wide and two miles long. I grinned as I ran to check out my new bedroom, with the dogs at my feet. I hugged my Doberman in my excitement and she licked my face, making me giggle. No more cramped camper on a beach for us.

We girls had a room, the boys had a room and my mother and step father had a room. We had plenty of room for the dogs inside, but also had a screened in porch. My hand traced the railing of the porch and I smiled. I stretched my leg in front of me. Man, it feels so good not being cramped all of the time.

After helping us move everything into the house and showing us where everything was, the old man walked back out to his pickup truck. He stood outside by the driver’s door and all six of us went out to thank him.

My mother smiled at him. “Thanks again for everything. How can we possibly repay you?”

The old man grinned at us kids and then smiled at my mother. "Simple, next time you see someone who needs help, don’t hesitate. Do for them like I’ve done for you - help however you can and ask nothing in return." With that he climbed into his pick up and drove away.

We never did see that old man again. Years later {after I was married and had kids of my own} I found out that house was his summer retreat. We lived there four years and never paid any rent. All that he asked in return was whenever the yard, front or back, needed tending we’d do it and we did.

I'll never forget that day, or everything he did for us, for as long as I live. That kind, generous old man completely restored my faith in mankind and gave me a reason to keep meeting life's challenges with my head held high. I know a lot of you don’t believe in God, but I do. I will always think that was God sent him to remind me that not everyone is bad, selfish, mean and cruel.

I want to make it clear that I never lost my faith in God, just in mankind as a whole. But, I feel that God used this event to show me there are still good people out there and that I shouldn't lose hope in humanity, even in the darkest of times.

It was a powerful lesson: One old man’s kindness changed my life forever. Even to this day I try to help others every chance I can, even if it gets me kicked in the teeth. I just remember what he said and how his kindness made me feel and I try again.

Through the years when I've hit hard times or started wondering if there is any good left in the world, I think back to that day twenty years ago and smile knowing that somehow, some way things will work out.

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