People Like Us

Archive for the category “Uncategorized”

An Atari Kind of Christmas

http://wp.me/p2D1ny-5w
Just in time for the season, a reblog–why you should never ask children what they got for Christmas

Advertisements

Faith Walk

People Like Us

Cool mountain air rushed past our faces as we followed the narrow, rocky trail framed with green fern and smooth Aspen. We could hear the sound of rushing waters in the distance, and we knew our destination was near. Suddenly, the trail seemed to end at a small stream lined in dark rocks. The small cascade of water flowing smoothly over rocks almost didn’t even count as a waterfall. The scene was beautiful, but not the majestic flow we had all expected. We had driven well over an hour in rough, mountainous terrain before we had even begun to hike. The disappointment was palpable.

View original post 258 more words

Thou Shalt Obey Your Father

There was a lot of tension in the tiny, makeshift school house.
“Lisa, why didn’t you do all of your homework?” I asked. Lisa didn’t answer.
I leaned in closer.
“Lisa, you will never learn unless you do what I say. So, do what I say! I will call your parents this afternoon.”
Still no answer. I scooped up the paper from Lisa’s desk and put it on my desk to send home later. She was in deep trouble.

I turned back to the chalkboard in the front of the room and began to instruct my students while writing on the rough surface. I wrote my name in my best handwriting on the board then wrote the titles of two stories from my 3rd grade literature book.
“I want you to read these two stories and then do your spelling,” I instructed. I paused dramatically. “Then do 100 math problems.”
I could see my breath as I spoke, puffs of steam in the frigid air.
I turned to my students who, as usual, had nothing to say. Lisa’s blue, glass eyes stared back at me blankly from her porcelain face. Thumper’s black bunny eyes were fixed on the shovel in the corner of the room and Baby Alive was still slumped over in her chair, with one eye partially closed and her legs in the air.
I gathered all of their papers from the cardboard box desks in front of them and began to mark them with my red crayon. I had just begun to make a large “X” on Lisa’s paper when I heard my mother calling me:
“Karen Denise! Do you hear me? Come eat!”
I sighed and surveyed my “classroom”, where light filtered in through ancient, broken pine boards onto the dirt floor which I had swept clean. I decided my “students” could stay outside in the shed for the night.
I slammed the framed, chicken-wire door shut and walked back to the pink house that sat low beneath the cluster of tall pine trees, which lined up shoulder to shoulder like soldiers guarding our home. I could see the marshy area that lined our yard though the trees, and the pungent, damp smell greeted me in spite of the cold. There was a narrow, winding, black-top road that disappeared into the trees to the left and eventually led to the Hoke’s house; to the right the road led to a dead-end just past the Robinson’s house.
My siblings and I had become close to the Hoke family, a devout, charismatic Christian family who lived about a mile down the road. The Hokes had two children, Shannon and Gerald, who were about my age and frequently came to play. My sister Norma traveled to church with the Hokes often, and sometimes my brother and I went with her. Norma loved going to church more than anyone I knew, something that really irritated my father. She not only rode to church on Sunday mornings and evenings and to youth meetings on Wednesdays, but she also journeyed across the county to camp meetings and “brush arbor” meetings with the Hokes. I sometimes went to the camp meetings with them. Camp meetings were held in the summer under a tent on the side of the road or in a pasture, and featured lively music and hell-fire and brimstone preaching. I looked forward to attending these meetings, the positive and exciting atmosphere was such a stark contrast to the darkness I felt at home.
On rare occasions Mama would come with us to camp meetings and she absolutely loved the music. She was astonishingly tone-deaf and would sing very loudly and with such joy in a high, falsetto voice in church, especially when they played her favorite hymns, “Jesus Hold My Hand” or “I’ll Fly Away”. She clapped her hands with delight in time with the music, her plump arms jiggling and her tiny feet tapping. During the service, I would help her mark her large white bible with notes from the sermon and loved to read the family milestones she documented in the family section. Sometimes those meetings lasted for hours, so I would sleep in Mama’s lap until alter time came and someone “got the Holy Ghost”; their shouting always jolted me from my sleep.
Norma’s love for Jesus and for going to church was always a point of contention in our house.
However, that cold, grey, January day when I walked into the house to eat supper I could hear a serious argument brewing between my father and Norma. This one was much more heated than usual.
I had not even closed the front door when I heard my father’s raised voice.
“Brain-washed! Those people are just brain-washing you. You ain’t comin’ in here with all that religious crap and preachin’ to me! AND you will not be going back to church with those people. I told you there ain’t no such thing as no Holy Ghost! You will never learn!” My father was sitting in his recliner, shaking my sister’s bible at her. He was livid. It reminded me of a previous argument they had a few months before when we lived in Livingston. In that argument, Norma read scripture to my father about the Holy Ghost and as a result he chased her around the yard with the wrench he had been using to work on his car. The entire time he yelled at her about how “God ain’t real” and Norma rebutted with the appropriate scripture.
This time, Norma was angry–angrier than I had seen her. She pointed to her bible in my father’s hands and said: “In the book of Acts it speaks of how ‘all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues’ and how the Holy Ghost gives us power to—“
“I said there ain’t no Holy Ghost! This bible is just a book written by somebody, it’s nothin’ special. And you are DONE sitting around here reading that mess all the time, I will just be keeping this book or maybe I will throw it away. You ain’t going to church either and you won’t be talking to those holy-rollers. AND you can start wearing pants again, we ain’t religious nuts around here.” My father pointed to Mama. “Go get me a pair of her pants.”
Norma continued to argue. “Daddy, I don’t care what you say—the bible and God are real. He takes care of us and He answers our prayers. The Holy Ghost is real. You need to read that bible and you will see—“
Mama returned with the pants, and my father held them out to my sister. “Get out of that skirt and put these on right now, right here. I want to see you do it.”
Norma shook her head and was crying. She changed out of the long denim skirt, one of many she had begun to wear in the past few months. She believed at the time (like many at the Hokes’ church) that women should only wear skirts, out of modesty. I had even tried to wear only skirts for a few weeks, out of adoration for my sister. That endeavor ended the day I tried to put my jeans back on again and they were too tight. I thought being that devout made you eat too much. Someone once told me that there are lots of overweight Pentecostals because gluttony is the only sin they will tolerate. They also told me that there is nothing else to do but eat when you don’t watch television.
Norma put on the pair of jeans my father held out to her, stripping down in front of the entire family. I was so embarrassed for her.
“Now you git to your room and stay there. You will NOT be able to come out unless you are cleaning the house or going to school. You will NOT go to church or read this Bible again,” my father commanded.
Norma began to make her way to her bedroom, but then turned to my father and said: “You can stop me from going to church, make me stay in my room and wear pants but you can’t stop me from praying!”
I heard the door slam to Norma’s bedroom. I wasn’t hungry anymore. Silence filled the room like the cigarette smoke that curled from my father’s nose as he sat in his recliner. He threw Norma’s Bible on the floor and turned up the television. Mama went back to the kitchen to serve up the Hamburger Helper, which had begun to cool in the iron skillet.
I crept down the dark, cold crooked hallway to my sister’s room and could hear the soft sounds of “The Hinson’s Greatest Gospel Hits” playing on Norma’s record player. She was still crying when I opened the door, and I crawled up on the bed next to her. I stared at the ceiling for a while and watched my breath blow out above me in the frigid bedroom. There was one gas heater in the very drafty house and it was in the living room. We all piled blankets on at night to stay warm. Some nights when I slept in Norma’s room, she told me to lay on her side first to warm her spot until she got into bed. I would do so, then scoot to my side while Norma warmed me with her body and taught me to pray.
“Norma, do you want me to warm your spot for you?” I asked.
She didn’t answer. After a few moments, I realized she was praying. It seemed she didn’t stop praying for the next few weeks while she was banished to her room. I thought it would never end, my father was so stubborn. Someone once said that sometimes, the most stubborn people learn the most painful lessons in the harshest of ways. As it turned out, it was only death that would distract my father from punishing my sister any further.
3145980733_43f1a82df2_b

Accidental Target, Part 2

People Like Us

“A young girl next door was walking along that road right there,” the officer said …“She was shot in the neck … It looks like you were the only one shooting.”

View original post 1,134 more words

Accidental Target

People Like Us

20131112_112938The day my father shot the neighbor’s child was just like any other warm, September day in the South.


View original post 1,421 more words

An Atari Kind of Christmas

It’s that time again-teachers, don’t ask your students what they got for Christmas

People Like Us

        I just knew everyone could see straight through me… After a brief jackhammer like pounding, my pulse began to slow, and I could feel the fire leaving my face. My body was like rubber, and I felt like I had just walked a tightrope over a sea of piranhas.

 

 1479289_10202812808820528_576699923_neditThe holiday break was over. I could still hear the sound of the bell ringing in my ears when Ms. Hurto made the announcement that would cause my stomach to plummet to my feet.

“Everyone, put your chairs in a circle,” she began. “We are all going to take turns telling what we got for Christmas.”

The sounds of almost twenty, seventh-grade girls sliding metal chair legs across the pale green, industrial tile almost drowned out the sound of the roaring in my ears. With sweaty palms I gripped the back of the bright-green, hard, plastic chair…

View original post 1,357 more words

The Battle

“The Battle”

Karen Muston, 2001

 

In misty pre-dawn

light

I peer into a

silvery depth–

They are here again

this time their number

has multiplied.

My heart pounds,

and I run

to escape the

Dark Purpose of

their visit

I shudder to think

of surrender,

Of the repercussions.

My pace too slow,

they attack my

lower extremities,

in a scarring,

hailstorm force

that becomes

hideously disfiguring

I battle valiantly,

with a hunger

to be victorious.

I run faster

until they suffer

violently

in their retreat.

Cautiously,

I slow my pace

and return once

again

The Victor

in the

Cellulite Battlefield.

 

Watch Me, Mama

“Watch me Mama,” she calls

and I watch

as she performs great, acrobatic feats

her sunlit brown hair dances

around sparkling hazel eyes

in a face whose beauty

has only begun to bloom

I am watching

only I see the cherub she once was

with an angelic, toothless smile

chubby legs attempt those first steps

as she reaches for me–

“Are you watching, Mama?”

She leaps again and

with a bittersweet smile

I see the young woman

she will be–

Sweet-spirited, with a tender heart

and a fine mind to aid her

so much love to give

those blessed ones

she will share her life with

I am watching

every performance

Engraving these images

so that I will not

miss a thing.

Karen Muston, 2001

His Dance (The Baylorian, 2001)

“HIS DANCE”

With uninhibited energy he leaps and gyrates

to a popular, classic rock beat

His pre-adolescent body

Like unfinished architecture

covered only by briefs

His face aglow, eyes dancing,

his impish grin, that mischievous expression

so well known to me.

Laughingly, I watch

beset by memories and passing time

A time before muscular limbs

replaced chubby, dimpled legs

when that mischievous expression

could be found in

a rounder, more innocent face

sprinkled with angel kisses

And quick, firm hugs

replaced soft, delayed embraces

When we danced to nursery songs

and I was his world.

I watch him

and then, still laughing,

I join him there

and together

we dance.

~Karen Muston

2001 The Baylorian

Journey’s End

My father’s ashes felt warm in my hands. This is what death feels like, I thought. I rolled the plastic over in my hand and wondered at how a man with such power in my life could be condensed to little more than a gallon-sized storage bag. I put the plastic bag back into the cardboard box and placed it on the floor in the back seat.

Flat, frozen land flashed past us on the way to the cemetery. It was a cold day in January and all the foliage had withered to brittle shades of brown. The shrill sound of a train whistle pierced the silence. “We should put his ashes in that train car over there,” my husband said with a smile. His large, calloused hand patted my leg, and his blue eyes twinkled in an attempt to make me smile. “After all, it would be fitting. He never did want to be in one place for very long.” I nodded and smiled ruefully. He was right, my father would travel no more.

I glanced back at the box that contained what was left of my father. I wanted to feel something besides the hollow tightening in the pit of my stomach.  I wished for home. My mind flashed involuntarily to my father’s sunken face, his gasping for air with lungs that betrayed him, gnarled hands clutching, and my betrayal in the end. I could smell death. I momentarily fought nausea. Cigarette ashes, that’s what he looked like now. How ironic, I thought. I can’t ever remember seeing him without a cigarette in his hand.


 

Post Navigation