Been a while, I know, but here is my 500 Club submission for this week. (I really miss writing these posts when I go a couple of weeks without contributing. I suppose I should post more than once a week. Sucks that I have to maintain a day job.) The prompt for this week’s post is: “The last thing [CHARACTER] wanted to do that day was…” I have, once again, returned to the unnamed gay assassin. Hey, if it works, it works. Hope you enjoy it.

the upside

The last thing I wanted to do that day was shoot my father. It’s not that I didn’t want him dead–I did. Badly. And it’s not that I was unwilling to do the deed, myself. I wanted very much to spill his blood, to watch, to witness his exit from a world he had made a living hell for me.

Really, I just didn’t feel like doing it on a school day. It complicated things. Considerably.

My planned alibi–a trip to library, where I would duck out a back door, kill him, and then returning to my studies–would not suffice. It would hardly make sense for me to venture to the library to do homework early in the morning on a weekday. As a result, I had to think quickly and, though I wasn’t a skilled or experienced assassin at that time, I knew theoretically that my chances of appearing guiltless decreased relative to the amount of creativity I had to employ on the spot.

But the bastard left me with little choice.

It was Wednesday morning. He was nursing a fierce hangover and, I suspect, was still slightly intoxicated. He unleashed his considerable anger on my mother, who had not made him pancakes for breakfast. She had, instead, been working the night shift at a convenience store and, exhausted, collapsed on the couch in the living room on the way to the kitchen. When I found him, he was punching her in the face repeatedly. She had already passed out. He had blood on his arms to the elbows.

I walked quietly to his room, retrieved his hand gun and crept back down the hall. With steady hands, I aimed and fired. Three shots. Two to the chest, one to the head. I had planned something more gradual, something that would look like suicide but allow me the pleasure of watching him die slowly. I wanted him to die knowing I was killing him. Me. Just a kid. It involved Drano and a funnel.

This was too fast, too easy for him, but he would have killed her, I’m quite certain, and this fact is what saved me from needing any alibi at all. The police saw it as a strange kind of self defense. It never even when to trial. Not in the courts, anyway. My mother refused to speak to me after that day, her own judgement levied against me.

It seems she loved him, even to the end. He broke her left cheek bone that day and dislodged seven teeth. She threw up blood for three days. But I was the one who took her love from her, no matter how much he deserved the taking, and she never forgave me.

After that, killing for money seemed an easy thing. People die every day. I suspect that most have it coming. God knows he did. I only wish it could have been slower.

But, he is dead, and that, I suppose, is the upside.

This week’s 500 Club offering is a two-fer. That’s right kids–I’ve taken on both prompts in one 500 word segment. I’ve done this because, (1) I missed last week and felt the need to offer up more the the writing gods this week; and, (2) because I’ve been wanting to write something that satisfied both prompts for a while and this week just felt like my week. But I stuck with the un-named assassin for yet another fictional jaunt. I kind of like him with no name. Perhaps I need to write more about  him.

the message

I got the message. There was no mistaking what I needed to do.

It was Tuesday after a busy weekend. Two marks. It’s ambitious, but it can be done. They were entirely unrelated but both happened to be in Chicago on the same weekend. Neither lived there. Both were Cubs fans. Really, no one should trust stadium food.

I slept late on Monday, something I rarely do, and then spent the day reading, drinking coffee and relaxing. A bottle of wine. Tuesday morning started out similarly except that I didn’t sleep late. I was just getting out of the shower when I noticed the missed call.

She had one of my numbers, but only for the most dire emergencies. All correspondence was typically done through email. She and I rarely had any reason for more personal contact than can be affected within a few lines of text.

She sounded mildly panicked. I spoke as though I did not notice.

“I require some assistance,” she said.

“Of what nature?”

She paused. One beat. “You know.”

I sighed. If I could just get her to say it…this could all go away.

“Perhaps,” I said. “Still, it would be nice to hear.”

In spite of the situation, I could imagine her smiling on the other end of the phone. Most assassins have never met their handlers. I used to sleep with mine. Bad form for a gay man, no argument there.

“The day I say that is the day your obligation to me ends,” she said.

It was a game we played. A delicate dance. I had walked out on her, walked away from the job, only months before. She would have said she knew I’d come back, but the fact is she had no more idea than I did. The obligation is more like a long tease. Foreplay. The prelude to an event that will never occur.

“You do, though.” I said. “Need me, I mean.”

She cleared her throat. “I desire your assistance. Professionally. And I believe my host wishes to speak to you.”

Play time was done.

“Ten million, unmarked, in cash or the bitch dies.”

I yawned. “Yes, yes,” I said. “I’ve done this a few times before. Where shall I meet you?”

The gruff voice barked an address. “And come alone,” he said.

How else would an assassin come?, I wondered.

“Of course,” I said. “Let me speak to her again.”

There was some shuffling on the other end of the line, then she said my name and I smiled.

“Can they hear me?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” she said.

“Are you on a cell?”

“Oh, yeah. I guess that would work.” Perfect. They were standing right there but could not hear my end of the conversation.

“Four of them?”

“Maybe.”

“Five?”

“I think that’s where I put it.”

“I would assume armed. Are they as dumb and poorly organized as they sound?”

“Uh-huh.”

“They’ll be dead by this time tomorrow,” I said.

“I know.”

It’s 500 Club time again, and once more I’ve decided to indulge the same character. If you’ve enjoyed the last two weeks, hopefully this won’t let you down. For some reason, the as-yet-un-named gay assassin is just too much fun to write. This week’s prompt was simple: Write a story using “[CHARACTER NAME] never liked the color red” as the first sentence.

red sweater

I’ve never liked the color red. I suppose many people would think this to be problematic, given my profession. The truth is that there are a variety of ways to kill a person that involve no blood at all. Unfortunately, many of the easiest and quickest do involve blood. Often, plenty of it.

Even if Simon had not been wearing a red sweater that day, I would have killed him. I’d had enough. I didn’t enjoy middle school when I was 12. I have no desire to replicate the experience now that I am an adult.

Simon’s sudden (and as yet unsolved) disappearance didn’t trouble me. Despite the fact that I had, only months before, sworn I would not kill again, it’s been my experience that predators tend to prey. I am no different from a jungle cat or the great white. My mind and body seem to have been designed for what I do. I am simply allowing function to follow form.

Margaret, the same friend who encouraged me to pursue internet dating, is the only person in my life apart from my handler who is familiar with my occupation. She once said to me, “I don’t know how you do it.”

“Do what?” I asked. I do a number of things well.

“I don’t know how you kill people,” she said.

“Well, there are a number of ways. I prefer more creative methods, but on occasion I use guns. When I have more time, there’s poison, arson, explosives, contrived accidents–”

“No,” she said interrupting me and rolling her eyes. “I don’t understand how you manage it emotionally. I get the logistics.”

“I suppose I don’t think too much about it,” I said.

She frowned.

I pointed to the salmon fillet she was eating. “Your fillet, wild salmon, do you wrestle with pangs of guilt at the the reality that only weeks before tonight that meal was a living creature?”

She glanced at her dinner plate and said, “No.”

“And yet it was. It was alive, fighting for its own survival, swimming upstream to spawn, doing whatever it is that fish do. Living. But now it’s your dinner, and you feel no guilt about that.”

“None.”

“And why not?” I asked. “Because you’re hungry.”

She thought for a moment before retorting. “Perhaps, but this is a fish, not a man. I wouldn’t eat a man.”

I smirked and she chortled.

“You know what I mean.”

“Of course,” I said. “I wouldn’t resort to cannibalism, either, but I need to eat. I need to survive. There will always be killers, and killing happens to be one of my more refined skills. I see no reason to feel guilt for being what I am.”

She nodded in understanding. I cannot imagine Margaret harming much of anything, but I think she followed my line of thought. Predators prey. They do not contort their nature to accommodate the weak.

Simon was, above all, weak. He chose to woo a predator. In the end, he paid the prey’s price. If you don’t want to be eaten, don’t behave like dinner.

And, anyway, he had no business wearing that god-awful red sweater.

I couldn’t help myself. For this week’s 500 Club, I’ve decided to revisit the character I created for last week’s flash fiction post, “killing simon“. If you haven’t read that post yet, read it first. This one picks up where that one left off and is written based on the following prompt: “Your (or your character’s) best friend has set you up on a blind date. Just as you are ready the door bell rings, you open the door, and…”

blind date

After the Simon fiasco I went months without killing a soul. Killing is a bizarre profession for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being the need to create emotional detachment from what you do. This is difficult because the process of planning a kill is lengthy and engaging. It takes time to plan a death so that it appears to have been an accident or the result of natural causes.

If a person were to work any other job, weeks of preparation culminating in professional success would be worth celebrating. It would be appropriate to feel pride and joy. Not so with assassins. We try to feel nothing.

This trains the brain to approach work differently and to partition off a part of yourself for the task of killing. The months I spent not-killing were agonizing, as though that partitioned part of me was suffocating. It literally hurt me to avoid the work.

So I called my handler and arranged a job.

At the same time, one of my few good friends decided the Simon break-up had left me despondent and insisted I re-enter the fray and start dating again. “It’ll be good for you,” she said with the haphazard arrogance people tend to assume when bettering others. At her prodding, I signed up for a ridiculous online dating service which caters to professional gay men.

I sensed disaster looming in the distance the moment the account was created.

The site specializes in technology-driven blind dates, matching members based on their preferences. I was given 3 choices for my first blind date–no pictures, only short descriptions based on the other members’ profiles. I made my choice and selected a nearby Starbucks as the meeting spot.

Two days later I sat sipping black coffee when a shrill voice entirely too close to my left ear exclaimed, “Oh my god! This has to be fate. It has to be!”

I turned to find an over-excited Simon wearing a red turtle neck (as my blind date had indicated he would be wearing) and a stupid expression of raw enthusiasm. He trotted around me to take a seat and proceeded to regale me with his recent dating woes, ending his 5 minute monologue with the proclamation that the dating service’s assessment that he and I were well matched was undoubtedly “a sign”. Surely, he asserted, I would not continue to reject his advances.

“Tell you what, Simon,” I said setting my coffee to the side. “Let’s get out of this place–it’s kind of stuffy in here and it’s a nice day out. Let’s take a walk and discuss it. Perhaps I’ve been too rash.”

Simon nodded and very nearly skipped out the door with me.

Twenty minutes later I deposited his limp body into a nearby dumpster, having removed his wallet, cell phone and jewelry to make it appear to have been a mugging gone bad.

When I returned home, I promptly cancelled my membership to the dating service.

The following is my long overdue weekly contribution to the 500 Club. I don’t know that it’s my best work, but it was sure fun to write. I have long been intrigued by the idea of assassins, but I’ve never thought to write from the point of view of one. Seeing the prompts for this week I realized it was high time I remedied that. Hope you enjoy.

killing simon

Honestly, it was Simon that did it.

He was a decent enough guy. He treated me well, no question about that. He was great in bed, handsome, charming, wealthy and he was certainly intelligent. However, he was also insecure. I have a difficult time with insecurity.

Perhaps this is because I accepted my own sexual preference a long time ago. I couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks of it. Perhaps this is because I have made a living killing people. One cannot be overly insecure when one’s chosen craft is extinguishing human life. Perhaps this is because I was growing bored of him and he sensed it.

Whatever the case, I dumped him. He was painfully dramatic about it. We had only been seeing each other for 8 months. It wasn’t like we were soulmates. But he pitched a shit-fit, crying and screaming, begging me to stay. He said that he would never love another man like he loved me.

Really.

I dismissed it and left. We weren’t living together, so I returned to my own apartment and my own life. But he began a tireless campaign to regain my attention. He called. He wrote emails and pathetic text messages. I spotted him more than once driving past my building. He even followed me out one night while I was on my way to do my job. Not that it was any trouble to lose an inexperienced tail, but it annoyed me to no end that he simply wouldn’t let the matter drop.

One afternoon I received yet another text message from Simon. It was immediately followed by an email from my handler to procure my services. I think it was the close proximity of the two that put the idea in my head. At least, I hope it was. I’m a killer, yes, but I like to think that I’m no barbarian.

Nevertheless, a solution to the Simon situation occurred to me at that moment. I could simply kill him.

I planned it out in my mind. I considered location, weapon, timing and even a couple of ironic touches just to satisfy my own vengeful nature. The idea made me smile.

That night I had a dream. I saw former marks. They spoke, condemning me. Not for murder, but for allowing my own humanity to wither and die. When I woke, I didn’t want to go back to sleep for fear they would still be there, still pointing their boney fingers while their dry voices proclaimed I’d become more than an assassin. Something worse. Someone who would kill to avoid an annoyance.

I emailed my handler at 5:37 am. I told her I was out. Out because of fucking Simon. Then I tossed and turned for nearly 4 hours.

At 9:31 am Simon sent the following text message: “miss u much. pls call when u can. i know ur busy…but i know u miss me, 2.”

At 9:32 am I turned off my phone.

And then I slept like the dead.

*I’ve decided to move my 500 Club disclaimers to the top of each post, as one of my three reader’s recently told me that they were confused by a flash fiction post until they got to the end and realized that it was, in fact, fiction. That said, this week I’ve gone with prompt number 2: “write a story around a song you really love. The catch? It has to be a guilty pleasure song, the sort of cheese that would have your friends guffawing if they saw it on your iPod.” As the title suggests, I’ve selected “SexyBack” (no, that’s not a typo. The title of the song is actually one word. Unbelievable, I know, but true.) by Justin Timberlake. It proved to be a challenge to incorporate the lyrics, but I managed a few. Hope you enjoy. As always, thanks to the kids over at The Parking Lot Confessional for hosting a little literary frivolity.

sexy.back

Kannibal sighed heavily and leaned forward, elbows on the table. She looked exhausted. Her form gave the impression that she was on the verge of collapse, but her face was stone. She raised her eyebrows and made solid eye contact with Hackjack.

Hackjack nodded. “Okay. I’ve made a decision.”

Kannibal huffed. “And?”

“I’m bringin’ Sexy back,” he said.

From the other side of the room Plague groaned.

“That,” Kannibal said with resignation, “is the dumbest idea you’ve had yet.”

Hackjack looked to Plague for support and, seeing none, turned to Kannibal. “She’s the best. I’ve never seen anyone hack as well as she can. Besides, I can’t crack that system. Can you?” Leaning back and addressing Plague: “Can you?”

Neither answered.

“I didn’t think so.”

“Hackjack, she’ll bring the brothers with her.”

“So?”

“Them other fuckers don’t know how to act,” Plague said.

Hackjack shook his head and countered. “Don’t worry about the brothers. We’ll get them drunk and Plague can take them to a titty bar.” Plague smiled. “They won’t be in the way. We just need to get Sexy here and let her see what we’ve come up with. Let her try to find a hole in that damn firewall. If we can’t do that, all hell will break loose.”

The three sat quietly, stewing in frustration and thick clouds of cigarette smoke. Bring Sexy back? How the hell could they have let things get so out of hand?

Plague was lost. Hackjack blamed Kannibal. And Kannibal was too damn stubborn to even acknowledge the accusation. But the truth was they all three of them decided to take the job. All three of them had knowingly entered into an agreement with Wilson, even though they knew how ruthless he could be if his partners didn’t deliver. And now all three of them were in deep shit.

“She may not come,” Kannibal said almost hopefully. “And who’s going to do Plague’s job while he’s babysitting the brothers? Huh? Oh, and, while you might not mind that big mouth bitch pushing all our buttons again, I honestly don’t know if I can even stand to look at her. That smug fucking smile on her face.”

“So turn around,” Hackjack said. “And I’ll pick up the slack. We can’t do this on our own. We need her.”

Kannibal growled and hit the table with her fist. “It’s just that no one makes me feel this way!”

“Titty bar,” Plague chuckled.

“Shut up, Plague. Kannibal, I don’t know what you hate so much about her, but seriously, stuff it. Bite your tongue. Go punch a baby. I don’t care. Just don’t fuck this up or it’s all three of our asses.”

Plague was still grinning like an idiot.

Kannibal pursed her lips and clenched her jaw. “Fine.”

“I’m calling her,” Hackjack said. He paused as he walked past Plague. “Can you keep it together if we send you to Baby Dolls with the boys?”

Plague chuckled. “Yeah, boss. I’ll be good.”

“No groping.”

“Scout’s honor.”

Hackjack left the room. Kannibal kicked against the table leg and muttered something. Plague looked at her.

“He’s bringin’ Sexy back,” she said.

Plague gave her a toothy, stupid smile. “Yeah.”

“Police! Arrest this man!” Harold ran along the sidewalk careening back and forth as though the city were twisting beneath him.

The police officer at the corner looked up from his hot dog unsure of what to make of Harold. Fifty feet behind him a younger man, probably in his late forties, was also running toward the corner. The younger man was running in a straight line, but, nevertheless, Harold arrived first.

“He talks in maths,” Harold exclaimed. “He…he buzzes like a fridge! He’s like a detuned radio!”

The officer stared at Harold dumb-founded, his hot dog hanging in front of his mouth. “What’s this about?” he asked.

“Karma!” Harold exclaimed. “I’ve given all I can.”

The younger man joined Harold and the police officer on the corner. The cop was eying Harold suspiciously.

“I’m sorry,” the younger man said. “He’s my father. He’s not well. Alzheimer’s.” The younger man was panting. On his face was the unmistakable mark of worry mixed with fear.

Beside him Harold was muttering, “It’s not enough. I’ve given all I can, but we’re still on the payroll…”

The cop huffed and tossed what was left of his hot dog into a nearby garbage can. “I’m going to need to see some ID,” he said to the younger man.

The younger man fished his wallet out and handed over a driver’s license which the officer took to his cruiser, parked nearby at the curb. There he swiped the license and waited with the patience of a monk.

Three minutes later the cop rejoined Harold and the younger man on the sideway. “Jacob Anderson?”

The younger man nodded.

“There are no warrants for your arrest,” he said matter-of-factly, “but I’m going to have to insist that you escort your father home immediately. I don’t believe it’s wise to let him explore the city like this on his own.”

Jacob nodded.

“Her Hitler hairdo is making me feel ill,” Harold said under his breath.

“We—my mother and I—we don’t let him out of the house on his own, but she was taken to the hospital today. We were at the veteran’s parade. Dad was in it. She started feeling chest pains and I had to call an ambulance. I was supposed to meet dad at the end of the parade route, but I was late.”

“I see,” said the cop. He looked toward the trash can that had recently been fed what was left of his lunch.

Harold looked to Jacob and said solemnly, “For a minute there, I lost myself.” Jacob put a hand on his father’s shoulder and squeezed.

“Well, Mr. Anderson,” the cop said, “see to it that you don’t…misplace him again.”

Jacob clenched his jaw and, taking his father by the arm, said, “Thank you. I won’t.”

The cop nodded and turned away from them.

“This is what you get,” Harold said, “when you mess with us.”

Jacob gave his father a tired smile. “Let’s get you home, dad.”

The two of them turned and walked west, toward the hospital district.

*Written for the 500 Club and based quite loosely on “Karma Police” by Radiohead.

When no one was looking, I casually set the chicken on fire.

Wait. That’s a horrible way to start. Let me back up a bit.

Lindsey Gordon is, perhaps, the most appealing girl in all of Wichita Falls. Granted, that’s not saying much, but you’ll have to take my word for it. She’s quite remarkable.

I’ve known her for a couple of years, trading pseudo-wit at the metaphorical water cooler and stupidly thinking that this would somehow set me apart from every other male no doubt chomping at the bit to garner her attention. We work in a small office, Wichita Falls being a fairly small town, and I knew she had a limited number of options. However, pithy commentary about last night’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance didn’t seem to be winning her heart.

“You’re a moron,” my friend Morgan informed me. “If you want a date with her stop beating around the bush and ask her out. Seriously. I don’t want to hear another fucking word about her otherwise.”

Morgan doesn’t mince words.

So I asked Lindsey out. It was a cardiac arrest inducing event for me. I could literally feel my heart straining while I stood there at her desk trying to find the words and wondering what in God’s name to do with my hands. I pulled them out of my pockets, balled them into fists and blurted out, “Wanna go to dinner?”

I think the force of my words startled her.

But she’s an angel, that Lindsey, and she said yes. I suggested Saturday night, but she was planning to attend a family cookout that night. Thoughtful girl that she is, she suggested we have dinner with her family and then go to a movie.

“You agreed to dinner with her family?” Morgan asked. “You are an idiot, Kyle. An idiot.”

Initially I thought Morgan was being harsh, but then the reality of meeting her mother and father set in and I saw the hopeless stupidity of my ways.

I fumbled her mother’s name when we met, calling her “Titty” instead of “Kitty”. I pretended to be a Cowboys fan when her dad mentioned sports, and then he asked me about some player I’d never heard of and he knew I was bluffing. I spilled iced tea all over her little sister.

And when her father went back into the house to grab a beer, I decided to be helpful and light the charcoal. I suppose I could have been more careful with the lighter fluid. Some of it splashed on the chicken sitting to the side of the grill. Two matches and a strong breeze later and the chicken was flambe.

Not my best moment.

Mr. Gordon asked me to go inside. Mrs. Gordon, Kitty, clicked her tongue at me and suggested we just go pick up Chinese. Lindsey’s sister declared that she was no longer hungry and that she would just go over to a friend’s house.

But Lindsey volunteered us to go pick up the Chinese.

“That was pretty funny,” she said in the car. “Mi pollo esta en fuego.

“What?”

“It’s Spanish. It means, ‘My chicken is on fire.'”

“You speak Spanish?” I asked.

She laughed and set her hand on mine on the console.

“No, just that one sentence,” she said. “Thank God you gave me a reason to use it.”

I could hear Morgan in the back of my mind. “Don’t fuck things up with this girl, Kyle. Seriously.”

And, you know what? At the end of it all, the Chinese food wasn’t bad. By Wichita Falls standards.

*Written for the 500 Club.

I tapped my pack of Lucky Strikes against the corner of the desk. I needed a drink, a stiff drink, but Frankie was still making like he had gone clean for good and the stash I normally kept in my desk was gone. The smokes would have to be enough.

I dug my lighter out of my coat pocket and flicked it with my left hand while sliding a cigarette out of the pack with my right. Flame to paper, and then relax.

That’s when there was a knock at the door.

I yelled, “We’re closed!” but the knock came again. It was soft but persistent, so I asked, “What the hell do you want at this hour?”

The door opened and she floated in.

This broad was trouble the moment I saw her. Headlights to bumber, she was a classic beauty. The kind you take notice of. The kind you don’t forget. Her hair was red and she glided into my office like she owned the joint.

That would have been enough to make her memorable, but there was more. The wings, for one. Fluttering just over her shoulders were two wings, semi-clear like a bug’s. She was flying–that was weird-ass fact number two. Three was even more bizarre: she couldn’t have been more than 8 inches tall.

“You the dick?” she asked.

I coughed like a kid trying to take his first drag. In my line of work I’ve seen a lot of strange shit, but I’ve learned not to let it affect me too much. Most people, seeing a small insect woman flying into a place of business, might get upset. I took another drag and then said very slowly, “Yeah, doll. I’m a PI. What is it you need?”

“I’m needin’ ya to be helping me. Ta find someone.”

I hadn’t heard the accent the first time she spoke but I caught it that time. Sounded Scottish.

“That’s what I do, honey. I find people. Your name?”

She fluttered to the edge of my desk and landed there, hands on her hips. She was small but shapely. It was the first time in my life that I wished I was smaller.

“I’m Sharon MacAlister. I need ta find the troll witch. And I’m needin’ some whisky, too, if ya can spare a thimble.”

I raised an eyebrow and smiled. I liked her spunk. “Sorry. Fresh out of booze. Occupation?”

“What d’ya mean?” she asked.

“What do you do, Ms MacAlister?” I asked.

“I’m a thistle fairy,” she said. “A thistle fairy who lost the damn MacBain ring ta the troll witch. I’m needin’ ya ta find her so I can get it back. The clan is gonna kill me if I don’t get it back!”

I nodded.

“I can pay ya,” she said. “Clan whisky if ya like, since you’re out. Or gold.”

“I’ll take the gold,” I said chuckling. “Hell, at this point I might even help you for free. You’re my first fairy.”

Sharon MacAlister looked up at me and huffed. “Don’t be gettin’ any ideas, longshanks. Just help me get the MacBain ring from that damn troll before the clan finds out.”

“Yeah sure, doll. I’ll help.”

Only 9:30 and it was already looking like an interesting night. A very interesting night.

*Written for the 500 Club in a respectful (though admittedly playfully) mashup of styles of Dashiell Hammett and Martin Millar.

Do you remember how the trees used to whisper to us? In the summer time, free from school and homework and responsibilities, we used to run outside, to the park or to a neighbor’s house or to our own backyards, and the trees used to rustle in the wind, chanting soft invitations to us. “Climb us,” they said. And we did.

Do you remember that? I do.

Do you remember how magical the world felt then? We read books about talking lions or about dragons and we believed, really believed, that there was such a thing. That somewhere in the world there might really be short people called hobbits, or that once upon a time there were princesses and castles and monsters to be slain. That magicians could cast spells and that out there in the greater world there was both mystery and danger, but we didn’t feel afraid. We felt alive.

In those days, you would look out your front door and you didn’t just see a sidewalk, a street, your mom’s car or the mailbox your dad installed with a distinct lean to the left. You saw the sky. You saw the grass with its infinite shades of green, vibrant colors bursting across the lawn. You saw a pulsing energy spread across your entire field of vision, like the universe was breathing right there in front of you. You saw raw possibility and you saw life.

These days it’s all about responsibility. The have-to’s and should-not’s. Where did the wonder go? Don’t you ever ask yourself that? The magic—did it just dissipate?

And it’s not that the dog or the kids or the job, the car, the leaky radiator, the project for your boss, the promise you made to lose ten pounds—it’s not that these things don’t matter. They do. But somewhere in the mess of what you have come to call the “real world” you forgot all about the things you used to believe in.

We called it “make believe”, and isn’t that ironic? No one made you believe, but you did believe. You believed Santa Claus was real, even that one Christmas after your older cousin tried to spoil your fun by telling you “the truth”. You believed in the tooth fairy, even when your dad woke you in mid-switch-a-roo, tooth in one hand and dollar bill in the other. You believed in Neverland, even though Peter Pan was just a movie. You believed in magic, even as your mind began to grow up and the so-called rational part of your brain began to dismiss this particular belief as childish.

Even now, you want to believe again. You can admit it to me. We both know it’s true. You want to believe.

Don’t you remember?

I’m sure you do. You probably even remember me, the magical voice inside you. The kid within the kid. The part of you that still believes in old world mysteries and secrets that unlock the magic in your everyday world.

Come on, now. You remember me, don’t you?

*Written for the 500 Club.