The Special Gift

Davey felt like a 12-year-old misfit. While his peers were showing an interest in soccer and football, he preferred to play. Make-believe was his favorite pastime and he was good at it. In fact, he’d find himself daydreaming when he least expected it.

His penchant for creativity trumped all other areas of his life and the girl he met at the park during his preschool years, Susan, had both a serious side and a playful one. He daily contemplated how to get her attention and every year he longed to send her a birthday present, but he didn’t want his weirdness to show.

No matter how many other girls at school caught his attention from time to time, he thought of Susan far more often, except for one girl who moved away before his seventh birthday. But he figured that he was too young to hunt her down and wrote off any potential relationship as being an immature infatuation.

One summers day, Davey’s imagination got the best of him when he came across a giant troll lying on its back in the park. The troll was twenty times larger than he ever imagined, and friendlier too. Davey cocked his head to see what the troll was looking at in the sky, but one of the trees was in his way. Hustling to the troll’s other side, Davey laid down in the grass and tried to see what had sparked the troll’s interest.

Troll_Lying

“Hi, Davey,” said the sweet voice next to him.

Davey turned abruptly and found Susan lying next to him with her arms behind her head. Jolted to an upright seated position Davey asked, “How long have you been here?”

“I watched you come around this big troll with your eyes so glued to him that you never saw me,” she said. “Do you not like how I look?”

“I love how… I mean, you look great.”

“Thank you.”

Davey leaned back and looked up in the sky. He shifted his head a bit closer to Susan’s to see what she was looking at. “Are you counting sheep or watching a parade of elephants?”

Susan giggled. She thought Davey was silly, but wondered if he ever paid close attention to her. She liked him a lot, but was tired of waiting for him to ask her to go steady.

“Davey, what do you see in the sky?”

“I see an adventure waiting to unfold.”

“Tell me about it, please.”

Troll_ClubA boisterous growl came from the tree line. Davey and Susan jumped to their feet. A large troll with a giant club came out from the trees. The kids made a run for it. They sprinted through the tall grass, across a footbridge that wasn’t patrolled by trolls, and down a winding street. They slowed once they realized that trolls couldn’t run fast.

BANG!

Troll_TossA large crushing metal sound reverberated from the parking lot. The two ran to the corner and saw a giant troll toss a boulder, crushing a car. Davey scanned the area and saw several smashed cars with people fleeing. As the troll raised another rock, he knew this was his chance to save Susan’s life and win her affection. He reached for her arm, but she was gone.

Davey moved quickly through the woods in search of his friend, but she was nowhere in sight. He wondered if she had been lifted up into the air and carried off by another troll. troll_cook.jpgEmerging from the bushes, Davey found the troll’s campsite. A kettle was boiling with the catch of the day over hot timbers—the poor man.

Troll_CageSuddenly he saw Susan dropped into a cage and held for an afternoon snack. Davey waited patiently for the troll to settle in his teepee for a nap. Moving silently around the perimeter of the camp, Davey unlocked the cage and ran with Susan through the tall grass and into the plains.

They were in the clear. They shouted with joy and twirled around. And like spinning flowers, they slowly dropped to the ground side-by-side and gazed up into the sky. It was a good day.

The alarm clock sounded and Davey woke up. He climbed out of bed and got dressed. His time with Susan was over. He felt a sense of loss and decided to grab his calendar to see if he had really missed her birthday. With only a couple days before she celebrated, Davey realized that he wasn’t going to be able to send her anything in time.

His sadness shifted and a smile rose on his face when he realized that he could send her an imaginary gift. He figured that if she really liked him, she would pretend to receive an imaginary gift, knowing in her heart that he’d want to give her something. And if their unspoken love was true, they’d both look forward to the day when they’d share what each other dreamt about. How amazing, Davey thought, if they both dreamt of the same gift.

THE END

© 2018 by CJ Powers

Troll_Canp

Advertisements

Facing the Light

Sunset

The man’s eyes struggled to focus. He cocked his head to compensate for his blurred, bottle induced vision. His breath reeked of whiskey and his slurred speech revealed that his alcohol levels were near toxic. The security officer slowly finagled the man’s car keys from his clenched hand.

The drunk relinquished the keys with little effort when he noticed the boss’s wife. He was on a mission and became a prowling tiger. He stepped behind the table, inside of the festival booth, and opened his arms to welcome Jennifer with a hug. His stubbled face slipped to her side, as he planted a moist, dripping kiss on her neck.

He held the hug long enough for Jennifer to push back, turning her head away from the fumes escaping his mouth. Her eyes filled with fear and gave me a look, a visual cue for help. My hand clenched into a fist and I stepped toward the man who hovered a good four inches above me.

“Derrick,” Jennifer said with a mix of slurred words. “You remember my close friend of the family, Carl.”

Carl closed his eyes, lightly shook his head, and turned toward me. His eyelids opened revealing his veiny eyes, half glossed over. “Good to see you again, Derrick.”
He extended his hand.

I glanced at Jennifer who leaned into her friend and wrapped her arms around his lanky, yet oversized bicep. They looked like lovers who had just finished a quarl and were considering if there was time for make-up sex.

I cringed at the thought and reached my hand forward to shake his. The squeeze around my hand suggested he had turned wrenches thousands of times before his retirement. His arm slipped around Jennifer and she leaned into his chest. Their eyes revealed matching desires to get a room, while mine closed in disgust.

The moment of chivalrous thought quickly turned to sorrow as I considered that the boss had been cheated on by his friend and wife. My demeanor shifted with a repugnant taste creeping into my soul from the experience. I looked above for hope and saw a setting sun tossing out beautiful orange and purple colors.

Turning back to preparing the booth for the eminent crowd, I scanned my memory for anything that might be of cheer. Helen Keller’s noted words rose to the forefront of my thoughts. “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.” The simple words brought a sense of hope back into my life.

Her phrase was naturally accurate and held a spiritual truth worth remembering. I needed to keep my focus on the good in life and live as an example for anyone in need of hope. My choice to follow the light might even draw others into a warmth worth embracing. A smile stretched across my face as the festival guests entered the park.

I noticed the security officer walking Carl toward the medical tent, as Jennifer stepped next to me. “You know, I hate having to pretend I’m something that I’m not around him,” she said. “I hate having to pretend we’re close because he’s my husband’s friend.”

“I don’t understand. Why would you need to pretend at all?”

“Listen, you don’t know what it’s like living with my husband,” she said. “I’d be punished for days if I snubbed one of his friends.”

“I’m sorry you have to indulge in his antics to keep your relationship at home intact.”

“Thank you. You’re the first person who understands.” Jennifer turned and set up the brochures.

The topic was finally over, but I was trapped in my head wondering what it was that I supposedly understood. I shook it off, turned toward the sunset and pondered how the difficulties of life’s shadows disappear when we look to the light.

It was going to be a good evening.

© 2018 by CJ Powers

Elevator of Providence

ElevatorDoorPlacing the razor to my face, which was lathered with shaving cream, became difficult when the lights flickered. I had skipped shaving yesterday, so it was important to finish. After a few strokes, the lights went out and I faced the dilemma of going to work with a partially shaved face or hunting for a flashlight in the dark.

I banged my hand into the door as I reached for the doorknob. The handle was not where I had imagined. Once found, I opened the door to a window-lit bedroom and spotted my cell phone laying on the desk. After swiping up for the flashlight, I moved into the bathroom and positioned the light on the right side of my face. There was enough bounce light coming off of the glass shower door to illuminate my left side. Within a few minutes I was clean shaven and curious.

There was a rythmic thumping noise coming from outside my unit near the hallway. Faint voices bantered back and forth, so I figured they spoke on the topic of the day—the electrical outage. Choosing to take a very short shower, I jumped in and lathered up in record time, but I hesitated to rinse when I heard a plea for help. I stood motionless trying to hear the words being uttered.

My shower backs up to the elevator and I realized someone was trapped inside. I scrambled to dry off and get dressed with the understanding that taking time to help the woman would make me late for work. I chuckled as my mind flashed back to the end of work yesterday. In that moment I thought about providence.

Circumstances caused me to work an additional hour past my normal quitting time. One of the owners told me to come in later the next day to avoid overtime. So here I was staring providence in the face with an hour given me in advance to help calm the woman and her anxious dog. I was amazed and immediately focused on making sure the woman was okay.

She and her dog had been trapped in the pitch black box suspended around the third floor for 10-15 minutes. The woman’s voice trembled with fear as she responded to someone a floor lower shouting about the phone in the elevator. The backup battery had failed and the phone line was dead.

I looked for the elevator key, but there was not a breakable glass case that held the key. “I’m going down to the first floor to get the elevator key,” I said.

“Thank you,” she responded with a tone of relief in her voice. Her confidence level was boosted.

I moved swiftly down the hallway lit by a couple fading emergency lights and was thankful that the staircase was still lit. On the first floor I bumped into the building manager who providentially arrived seconds earlier for a planned meeting. “The fire department is on the way,” she said.

“I’d rather the woman trapped in the elevator not have to wait any longer,” I said. “Let’s grab the elevator key and I’ll head upstairs and speed her escape.”

The building manager moved quickly to the glass case and noticed it was cracked open. The key was gone. “I’m not surprised,” she said. “The new laws only allow police and firemen to open an elevator door in emergencies.”

“Today would be a good day for an exception, is there another key somewhere else?” I asked.

She took me into the elevator room where the equipment is stored. As we entered, she threw the light switch to the “on” position and nothing happened. Then she laughed.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “You did it out of habit.”

She nodded and scanned the room for a backup key, but couldn’t find one. Then the thought hit her. “There’s probably one in the Knox-Box,” she said. We headed toward the one hanging in the foyer. After struggling to get into it, she remembered the one at the backdoor.

I watched her struggle with it. “Don’t worry about it, the firemen are here,” I said when I noticed the reflection of red lights flashing on a pane of glass.

The building manager walked out to the Fire Chief car, but no one was there. I circled back to the front door and went outside to see if he was doing a quick inspection of the surroundings.

“There’s a woman trapped in the elevator on the third floor,” I said.

“Is the electricity out?” he asked.

“Yes.”

The Chief got on his radio and instructed his team of the situation. He entered the foyer and met with the building manager. They went to the Knox-Box at the front door and found no elevator key. She took him next to the one at the back door, which was also void of an elevator key.

“I have a universal key in my car,” he said. “I’ll get it.”

“Shouldn’t one of the smaller keys open the elevator box next to the elevator? Won’t there be an elevator key there?” asked the building manager.

“Yes, but it’ll be faster to grab my keys.”

Soon a fireman dressed in full gear carrying an axe entered the foyer with keys in hand.
“Oh, don’t bring that axe in here,” said the building manager. “We don’t want anything destroyed. There is a key.”

The fireman held up a metal loop of a dozen different elevator keys. “I’ve got the key right here. Where is the woman?”

“I think she’s stuck between the third and fourth floor,” said the building manager.

“She’s on the third floor,” I clarified. I’ve already talked to her and she’s expecting me to come back up with the key. I can take you there.”

The fireman signaled for me to lead the way. I was being followed by two male firefighters, a female firefighter, and the building manager. When we got to the elevator door the fireman started working his loop of keys, but couldn’t find one that seemed to engage the mechanism needed to open the door.

“Shouldn’t we get the key from the Knox-Box to open the elevator lock box and get the key we know works with this elevator?” asked the building manager.

“I have every known elevator key right here,” the fireman said as he lifted the loop of keys.

“Okay,” said the building manager with a huff.

The fireman worked a key, then another and another. Then he pulled the loop back and the keys slipped, forcing him to start the search over.

I thought about providence and wondered if it was about to show itself once again. Just then the lights in the hallway came on. The building power had been restored.

“Should I turn the elevator back on?” said the voice over the fireman’s radio.

“Yes, turn it on,” he responded.

The sound of power surging was heard. “The lights came on,” shouted the woman trapped in the elevator.”

I leaned toward the door and said, “Push the door open button.” The door opened and her shaking dog charged into the hallway. The woman followed with a broad smile on her face. Everyone was relieved.

Realizing her predicament the woman asked, “Is the elevator working now?”

“Yes,” answered the fireman.

“Well I need to take the dog downstairs then,” said the woman. She stepped back in the elevator, but her dog fought to stay out.

“It’s good to get back on the horse after a fall,” I said. “The dog will need to rebuild his confidence.”

The woman looked at me and nodded. Then she gave the dog a big yank and his little feet slid across the carpet and entered the elevator. She pushed the first floor button and the door closed. She was back on schedule to letting her dog outside.

I stood in awe of the team of people who gathered to help the woman. After watching everyone head toward the staircase, I turned toward the opposite staircase and passed by many congregating in the stairwell with questions and stories to share.

One man who followed me asked, “What happened?”

“Providence was able to save the woman before any of us could,” I said.

I opened the stairwell door and we were met by a lady with lots on her mind. “I just got off the phone with the power company,” said the lady. “They said there was an accident and they lost power to 155,000 buildings in the area. They also said the power will be on in about two hours.”

I smiled and quietly stepped away from the group. I glanced back and saw the man who had followed me step away from the group. He seemed to be in a daze. As I entered the garage I heard him mutter, “He knew something happened. I want that ability.”

Copyright © 2018 by CJ Powers

A Chance Meeting: A Story to Warm the Heart

pexels-photo-688012The cold drove me down the street faster than normal with the hopes of stepping into the next shop for warmth. Handing out promotional rack cards to every business in town was difficult due to the whipping wind. While I loved the freshness of the Chicago breeze during other seasons, winter typically saw the wind chill drop below zero, which was once again the case.

I stepped into a beauty parlor and my eyes locked onto a gorgeous woman who welcomed me to the shop. Her green eyes and reddish hair suggested an Irish heritage, but it was her Celtic Claddagh ring that convinced me of her family line and availability. The ring was on her right hand with the heart facing outward to signal that her heart was open to the right person.

The Irish side of me lit up and I engaged in an enthusiastic conversation. She was funny and generous with sincere compliments, but our time was cut short when her boss called her into the backroom. The moment was awkward at best. I headed to the door hoping to hear her voice one last time. The bell overhead clanged as I opened the door and faced the frigid air.

“I hope you come again!” the woman called out with a cheerful voice. I turned and gave her a smile, then twisted into the wind as I closed the door behind me. My face numbed from the below zero wind chill as my mind raced with warm thoughts from our chance visit. It was a good day.

Sitting by the fireplace in the early evening, I took a sip from my mug of soup and collected my thoughts. I penned a thank you note to the woman that had warmed my soul during the blizzard. I chose my words carefully knowing that she would most likely read the note several times over. Not because I wrote well, but because we seldom receive handwritten correspondence.

The words flowed directly from my heart with a sense of passion that would catch the attention of any healthy woman. Every syllable added to the rhythm in a fashion that, when read out loud, might sound musical to the discerning ear. The melodious words affirmed her hospitality earlier in the day and encouraged her to shine for others entering the shop for days to come.

As I signed the parchment, I reread the inspirational paragraphs to make sure when scrutinized the note reflected nothing more than a platonic thank you. Albeit encouraging beyond what most would attempt in a day of harassment allegations. But I made sure that not a single word suggested anything beyond a wholesome acquaintance.

That’s not to say a woman might not misconstrue certain words to be hints of a future she might long for, or inflate other words to the point where she could dream of a future that I would never accept. But within context and the definition of each word, she should only understand how well she comes across to others and the value she holds within her heart.

As for my heart, it was not ready to consider returning to the salon. My heart was still pounding for a woman from my past that I never had a chance to date. She was a woman of high moral character, though her past suggested a few dusty roads had been traveled in her younger years.

But I enjoyed the refreshing and warming company in those few moments while my toes and fingers warmed. And hopefully, the woman will always appreciate the stranger who entered her life long enough to encourage her with sincere compliments of her hospitality.

The Christmas season seems to have little moments of surprise that gives us that extra push through our hardships in life. It’s a time when all men consider good will to those they meet. And hopefully, it’s a time when simple words of affirmation can be magnified to boost a person’s morale for those who don’t have family around to celebrate.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Grandma’s Empty Story Chair

Grandma's Empty Story ChairMy favorite chair sits empty today, crowded in by boxes of stuff I collected over the years. Some of it will see its demise in the dumpster out back, while the more contemporary pieces will be given a home thanks to a local mission or charity.

When I left this world, I was freed from the days I spent in darkness. Having perfect sight again makes this new life extraordinary. My skin is silky smooth and my new body has no stretch marks from the excess weight I once carried on earth. I wish my great grandkids could see me this way.

I can barely remember the fear in the little one’s eyes as she reached out to touch my aged, wrinkled skin. The discoloration from medication gave my arm an eerie and deathly bluish shade. The texture alone was enough to startle any three year old, but I was glad she screwed her courage to the sticking place.

My heart raced with joy when her soft fingers touched my fragile skin. Caution was quickly voiced from my kids for my skin could be too easily torn—but I needed my great granddaughter’s touch regardless of the risk. Her loving, yet hesitant touch, gently slipped away and I fell back into my distant prison of old age. Always feeling alive, while trapped in a decaying body that no longer responded as I willed.

Now, glancing at my empty chair brings a subtle note of joy. I was glad for the opportunities I had, although few, to share stories from a time long ago. My son listened attentively to each tale and responded with questions that taxed my memory, as he searched for enough detail to remember my younger years going forward.

My daughter was also eager to learn more about my life including the love interest I had before meeting her father. She was the most empathetic person that listened to my stories and understood the value of each object I amassed over the years. The symbols were reminiscent of several life-impacting stories that I lived out and my daughter could retell most of them just by looking at the piece collected.

But today the boxes are being tossed because the grandkids and great grandkids see no value in any of it. My stories are fading as each representation rusts away or turns to dust. My empty story chair will soon be pitched, as its worn-torn look no longer matches the decorative styles of the day. And with it, I’m afraid family members will no longer cherish my remarkable stories.

Oh, my daughter will continue to share several stories, and my son will even share a few, too. But even he will one day contemplate the waning interest by his children and their kids. His time will become finite and he will have to choose between sharing one of my wonderful stories or making sure his grandkids listen to one of his. I would never wish that frustration on him.

Instead, if I could encourage him right now, I’d say…

Grandma’s story chair is empty and the artifacts surrounding it no longer speak of the thrilling life I led, so say goodbye to me once again, not fearing that I’ll permanently fade from your memories, and speak into the lives of your kids, grandkids and their kids. For you are of great value to me and I want your stories to resound with compassion and wisdom that will bless our family for generations to come.

NOTE: The sketch illustration was created by CJ in an attempt to make his story feel real. While not an illustration artist, CJ used his Bamboo drawing tablet to sketch elements from his mother’s living room.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

A Story of Humility

HumilityThere once was a humble man. He rightly assessed himself with truth and wisdom. He accepted himself, faults and all, and shared with others freely. His confidence was in his author. He was content in who his maker had made him to be.

When his life excelled, his survival was due to his creator. When his life went belly up in the darkness of despair, his maker held him from demise. He could survive all that he faced. He could do all things through his maker who strengthened him.

There once was a manipulative religious leader. She knew the humble man was set apart for glorious things. She judged him unfit, for his self-awareness suggested a lack of humility. Her network labored to take him down a few notches. They stripped him of money, home and relationships. They blocked him from any and all forms of success. They even found his Achilles heel and dropped him into a repetitive menagerie of daily pain. And finally, they teased him with lovers just out of his reach.

He survived. He cried. He humbly acknowledged his new place in life. He knew that he’d no longer shine as he was made to do, but instead testify to the actions of those that were made to support his creations. He endured for a dozen years, fighting to keep bitterness from tearing up his soul. He finally let go and accepted his new lot in life and waited for judgment day.

The manipulator was proud of her ability to play god in the man’s life. She saw him breaking and would soon announce his new humble status. But something was wrong and she’d have to delay her announcement.

The man stood firm in the face of agony and disgrace. He rightly divided the word of truth and still accepted himself in spite of circumstances. He again acknowledged that his creator made him for a glorious cause, as had been done for the man with a coat of many colors. And, his confidence remained not in himself, but continued to reside within his savior who strengthened him.

The manipulator was angry that the man’s humility did not look like her own. She was convinced it was “fake,” yet it survived the worst of emotional, physical and spiritual attacks. Could she be the barer of fake humility? She trembled at the thought. Her attempt to play god would soon be revealed—her status sinking beneath that of junk bonds.

The humble man simply lived his new life without the glorious gift his savior intended for him to share. No one missed the loving gift, for they never knew it was on its way. The future soon became bleak with no relief in sight because the humble man’s humility didn’t look like hers.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Steele Blue: The Forgotten Crime

steele_blue_bookcover_72This week was busy with the release of my first novel in paperback. My first interview for the book was in the United Kingdom, which was a fun kick-off event. I’ve already talked with a couple bookstores interested in having me in for book signings. These activities are starting to make me feel like an author.

Steele Blue: The Forgotten Crime is about Diaz, a notorious dealer that’s expanding his cherry meth distribution in Chicago, who desires undercover Detective Steele as his life partner. Fighting to keep her cover intact with plans to bring down the drug kingpin, Cassie spends extra time with Diaz, blurring the lines between justice and her growing love for him.

Realizing her precarious situation, Cassie sees to her son’s safety and works hard to regain her memory from the night of the opera house fire—the night Diaz lost his first love. Feeling slighted, Diaz hunts down everyone involved in the death of his “Carmen.”

Racing against the clock, Cassie tries to find balance between her motherly duties, her infiltration as the kingpin’s girl, and her role as the officer tasked to close the case. Cassie is forced to face her fears in discovering the missing piece of her memory that will bring Diaz down. But will it alter her future?

There are elements in the book that came from rubbing shoulders with cops my entire life. My dad was a Sargent on the police force and many of his friends were cops. Every time we got together the group would share true-life stories from their work. They shared stories that were scary, hilarious and unreal sounding—even though all of it actually happened.

I crafted the main character, Cassie Steele, from interviews with two female detectives. Due to a coupe plot twists in the book, I also salted in observations from a local woman. This combination plotted out over actual Chicago locations that I walked made for a fast paced story sprinkled with humor.

I’ve already heard from two women who read the book faster than I thought was possible. They loved the mother and son relationship, and Cassie having to work through her life balance issues to become the hero by the end of the book. One man said that he couldn’t wait until the movie comes out to see the Lake Shore Drive chase scene.

This book means a lot to me and I hope all of you will purchase a copy. Let me know what you think about the story and be sure to pass word about the book onto everyone you know. I could sure use the help getting the word out of the book’s availability. Happy reading!

© 2016 by CJ Powers