Monday, April 27, 2009

Part One - I : "I Loathe You"

Part One

Chapter I

I Loathe You

     "I loathe you."

     It was the meanest thing I have ever said to her. I meant it though, I swear to God I did. I do not think she has ever done anything to cause harm to a single person in her life, let alone me, but that did not seem to matter, I hated her regardless.

     There were no tears, not at first at least. I think she took me as kidding. She let out a short gasp, as if she was about to chuckle but held it back. This is not how it was supposed to end, I know it now, but there are some things you just can not take back. This was one of those.

     “This is all wrong. I can’t be around you, not for even for another minute.” At this, her tears broke through her already watery eyes.

     I do not think it was because she was losing me, I never meant that much to her. No, it was because I was leaving her all alone, and at that moment, after everything that just happened between us, no one would want to be alone. Anger was where the fear had been just minutes ago, and soon gave way to sincere regret.

     That was the last time I saw her. I got up and left her to what was becoming her own small pool. She never said a word. Maybe just was not able to speak, or maybe she had nothing to say to me, either way it was for the best I thought. I made it to my car and pulled out of the park that had become the stage of our final act. “As Your Ghost Takes Flight” was playing loudly from the car’s stereo, it was a track on the mix CD that Rose has made me when we first met. Rose was all I could think about now. She had the straightest blond hair and brightest blue eyes I had ever seen. She was beautiful. She was nothing like me at all, she got kicks out of most things in life, it only depressed me. I put down the window, just to let in some fresh air into my car that was becoming rapidly stale. All of a sudden I felt cold, but it was not from the wind. It was a different kind of cold, one that crept from the inside until cold was no longer just how you felt, it became a condition. The hairs on the back of my neck began to rise as a chilled tear fell off the side of my nose.

     I pulled the car over and turned the car off. Everything was swirling. I was not sure if the car was still moving or not, even though I had already removed the keys. I opened my door and stumbled out onto the road. A gush of wind hit me suddenly as a car flew by and almost took my door off. I walked around the car and into the woods. There was almost a half foot of leaves on the ground. Some yellow, some brown, but mostly orange leaves all over the floor of the woods. With everything around me swirling, I almost fell as I stepped over the fallen foliage, not really knowing how far beneath the piles of leaves the earth really was. I stood nearly six feet from the road as I watched my eight arms move in every way that was possible to move.

     Before I had a chance to react, everything from inside me came up. I got sick all over my shoes and the nearest tree. I suddenly felt empty, very empty, as if not only did I lose my lunch, but any emotion or feeling that I may have ever felt had just escaped. All except for the coldness, which instead grew even stronger, as my eight arms became sixteen. I needed to get out of there. I needed to leave and go somewhere else, anywhere else, but I could not see my car.

     Trees were now everywhere, in every direction, even up. Not that I could actually tell which way up was, but whichever way that was, trees were there. I did not get to choose a direction in which to walk, when I felt a sharp pain in the back of my head, as if I had just been hit with a baseball bat. I thought I was lying down, but nothing really felt certain. My head felt warm where the pain had been, but the cold grew around me. I tried to focus, to find something that was stationary that I could hold on to. My arms were now all just one blur with the trees, and I felt dreadfully tired. So I closed my eyes and gave into the cold.

     I awoke to a bright light, it was shining right in my eyes, then as soon as it was there, it went out and all was dark. Did someone turn the light off? Maybe the light burnt out? I could not stop thinking about the light. It seemed to be the only thing that mattered anymore. I closed my eyes again.

     The next time I opened my eyes there was a light in the room, but it was not the same bright light as before. I was lying in a bed in what appeared to be a hospital room. I saw my mother asleep in a chair next to my bed. I had a million questions to ask, starting with what exactly had happened, but I did not have the heart to wake her, so instead I just thought about the light again. My head still hurt a lot, but it was now a little clearer than when I had seen the light, and I started to think it was only a doctor’s flashlight. It made the most sense, and in a period of my life where nothing seemed to make sense, one sometimes needs to learn how to take the most logical explanation over trying to find the most absolute truth. Occam’s razor I believe it is called, or at least that is what I think I learned in school.

     I looked across the room to see if she was there. I knew I told her I never wanted to see her again, but at this moment she was the only thing I wanted to see. Maybe she would be asleep in a different chair on the other side of the room. Or maybe at least there would be a bouquet of flowers with her name written across the card. She was not there though, and there had not been any miserable flowers with anyone’s name on them.

     I sat there for the next twenty minutes just thinking about her, and her bright blue eyes. I could not think of a single thing about her I did not like. Nor, for the life of me could I remember why I said those things to her. Even worse was how I felt they were true. Every minute that passed, I felt I lost another memory of her. I could not remember how I met her anymore, or when for that matter. The more I tried to recollect the more that fell apart inside until finally, the only thing left, was her face and our last encounter.

     My head started to hurt again and without knowing it I began to cry. I wanted to stop, I tried to, but I could not. I felt as though I had not cried in years, although I knew I had just a few hours ago in the car. Was it even hours ago? I could not tell. I had lost all sense of time. It was dusk outside, or was it morning? Nothing was certain anymore except the fact that I was alone. I had a million questions to ask. I could not take it anymore, I did my best to clear my head, and eventually fell back asleep.

     When I finally woke up again, my mother was gone. It made me feel even more alone than I had before. I never liked hospitals and this just gave me another reason. I wanted to leave and that was just what I planned on doing. I sat up straight, that alone took all but some of my energy, so I decided just to walk to the bathroom for a start. After removing an IV, it took me another five or so minutes before I was able to reach the bathroom less than fifteen feet away. All my muscles burned and ached with each step, even the muscles I did not think were being used, as if they had been dormant for months.

     After repositioning my arm that I was using for balance, I was able to fumble around for a light switch. When I found the switch I made sure to close my eyes so they would not be blinded by the instant ray of light in the room. It seemed to take longer than usual, but eventually my eyes began to adjust so I could open them and find my way to the toilet. 

     At first look in the mirror I thought my eyes were still adjusting, but they were fine, that was really me. I was so taken aback by my appearance my feeble legs could barely withstand the shock, so I had to quickly sit down before I fell.

     What had happened to me? My hair was scattered everywhere and in a way that made it look as if it had grown overnight. My eyes sported heavy bags that stood out drastically against the ghost white of my face caused by the fluorescent light. I looked as if I had been casted to play the role of a zombie in an old horror classic. The sight of the bandage on my head brought back a stinging sensation on the back of my skull that must have been from when I fell yesterday. Or was it the day before?

     I did not want to look at myself anymore. I turned off the light and finished up as quickly as possible in the dark, then returned to my room.

     I eventually made it back to my bed, where I curled up into a ball under the blankets. The cold came creeping back, inside and out. I felt very trapped. I no longer had the energy to try and leave the hospital, so I thought, and it was depressing me. I tried to go back to sleep, thinking maybe when I woke up I could try again, but every time I closed my eyes all I could see was the pale, bruised, sickly version of me in the mirror. It made me start to wonder what exactly did happen, or when it happened for that matter. This all brought my thoughts back to Rose.

     Why did I say those things to Rose? Where did we meet each other? Had we ever made love? What color were her eyes? With every question asked, another answer vanished, and they were coming and going more and more quickly now. Blue. Her eyes were blue. I could still remember that, blue with a yellow circle in the middle, just like mine.

     I felt I needed to see her again. I decided I would make myself leave, no matter how long it took me. There was no way I was going back to sleep right now, so I figured I would try. I turned over and got back to my feet. I was still wearing my hospital gown, and found a pair of slippers beside my bed that I was able to put on before I reached the hallway. Outside my door there was a wheelchair parked to the left, and without much thought I sat down on it. My arms were sore, hardly as much as my legs by this point, but they felt as if I could wheel myself down the hall. Halfway down the hall a nurse stopped and looked at me.

     "Do you need any help getting somewhere?"

     I wanted to try and check myself out, but after seeing how I looked in the mirror, I doubted they would let me just waltz out the front doors. I did not want to chance not being able to see Rose again as soon as possible.

     "No thank you, just trying to get the hang of this thing."

     "Alright then, just let me know if you end up needing a hand."

     She smiled and walked back to her station down the hall. I wanted to call out to her and tell her I changed my mind my arms were so sore, but I could not chance it. When she was out of sight I continued down the hall and into the elevator.

     When I finally reached the bottom floor I wheeled myself out and around the corner where I saw a couple pay phones. I wanted to call Rose and ask her to come see me, to apologize for everything, but I was sure she would not come, even if she did answer. Knowing my mom she would insist on me sitting around the hospital for a few more hours, if not days, to make sure everything was all right with me. Since I knew my car was probably not here, not that I could effectively drive it even if it were, there was only one other option, a cab.

     I flipped through the pages of the phone book looking for a number to call. Would it be under T for taxi, or C for cab? I looked under T first because that was what I happened to open it to, and found it right away. I picked up the phone and dialed the number, only to get an operator asking me to enter the correct amount of change. How ever was I planning on making a call without change. I turned around to see a lady walking by me.

     "Excuse me, miss?"

     She looked at me and smiled.

     "Yes? Need help?"

     "Well actually yeah. I was going to make a call, but as you can see I don't quite have my wallet with me, do you happen to have a couple quarters on you?"

     "No, I'm sorry, I don't. If it's quick you can use my cell phone though."

     "Yes it's quick I promise, thank you!"

     She flashed me another view of her bright white teeth and then dove into her handbag. By the size of it I would have expected it to take her an hour to find anything in there, but seconds later she pulled out a cell phone and handed it over to me.

     "Thank you, I'll only be a second."

     I looked back to the phone book, and dialed the number.

     "Hello? Need a taxi?"

     The voice on the other side of the phone sounded rushed and raspy, as if she could not wait to hang up the phone and get back to her undoubtedly second pack of cigarettes since she started her shift.

     "Hello? Anybody there need a taxi?"

     "Yes sorry. I need a taxi to come pick me up."

     "Are you going to tell me where you are, or do you just want me to take a guess?"

     I never thought making a simple phone call would create so many difficulties.

     "Oh, um, one second." 

     I turned back to the lady next to me who was waiting patiently still smiling at me.

     "I know this may sound like a weird question, but what is the name of the hospital?"

     I was hoping that she did not think I was delirious for not knowing where I was, and more so thought I was just uninformed of the name. Fortunately either it was the latter, or she did not really care.

     "Lakes Region General Hospital."

     "Ah, that's right, thanks again."

     I could hear the lady on the phone moving around on her end impatiently.

     "Sorry about that, I need a taxi at the front entrance of the Lakes Region General Hospital."

     "And your destination?"

     "My destination?"

     "Yeah, you know, the place you want the taxi to drive you?"

     I knew what destination meant, I just for the life of me could not recall where Rose lived.  I racked my brain quickly trying to remember. I kept picturing Robin Hood. I started trying to think of anything associated with him, Loxley, Nottingham, Sherwood. Sherwood, that was it.

     "Sherwood Lane."

     "Now that wasn't so hard was it?"

     Easy for her to say.

     "We'll have a cab out for you in a few minutes, we got one in the area."


     She already hung up on her end. I flipped the phone shut in my hands and gave it back to the lady beside me.

     "Thank you very much."

     She took the phone and put it back in her purse.

     "Front entrance? Need a push? I am headed that way."

     I was about to tell her I was all set, but my arms screamed in protest before I could.

     "Actually, that would help a lot, thank you."

     She came behind the chair I was in and began to push me down the hall. The entrance I saw around the corner turned out to be the wrong one and I was instantly glad I accepted her offer. She pushed me without say a word, and I was relieved to not have to answer any more questions from anyone, I am not really sure what I would have said.

     Before long, much shorter than had I volunteered to push myself, we were going through the front doors and out to the curb where people were picked up and dropped off.

     "I should be okay from here. I can't thank you enough for all your help, really."

     She put on the brakes for the wheel chair and came around front. 

     "It was no problem, you take care of yourself okay?"

     She shot me one last smile and turned to go back in through the revolving doors. It was only a few minutes after she left that the taxi pulled up. I used all the muscles in my arms to get me up, and then staggered over to the car. I leaned against the trunk with my left arm and opened the door with my right, then let myself fall into the back seat.


     I nodded to him as I shut the door. He glared at me in the rearview mirror with the cab still in park.

     "Nice clothes."

     The last thing I needed right now was fashion advice from someone who barely spoke english.

     "Yeah, thanks, they were just handing them out in there, figured I'd bring home a souvenier."

     "No pockets?"

     "They were free, I'll take what I can get, can we get going?"

     Every moment that passed I felt I needed to be with Rose even more.

     "Well the ride isn't free, are you hiding the money in another place?"

     I really did not think any of this out enough. I was starting to think I should have just asked a nurse to call my mom in the first place.

     "The place we are going, I will only be there for a few minutes, after that I will have you take me home, where I have the money. I'll make sure you are paid for the inconvenience."

     "I better get the money."

     He mumbled something else under his breath, then grabbed his walkie talkie and told the chain smoking operator he was on the go.

     The ride seemed to take forever, the entire time I just thought of what I would try and say to Rose when I got there. I started to become nervous as we got closer. What if she did not want to see me again? What if the things I said really hurt her? Was there any way she could forgive me? I had a million questions to ask, then we pulled up to her house.

     "I will be quick, I promise."

     He mumbled something like 'you better', but I was halfway out of the cab already. In my state of excitement I made a failed attempt at jumping out of the car and paid the cost when my legs gave way and I fell flat on my face. I slowly got back to my feet, and made my way to the front door. I braced myself against the brick exterior, took a deep breath, then pushed the doorbell.

     The door opened and instead of seeing Rose, there was a man in view. He did not look familiar really, but I could not remember if I had even met her dad before.

     "Can I help you?"

     His voice was soft spoken as he eyed my gown with confusion.

     "Yes, is Rose home? I really need to talk to her, it's important."


     "Who do you think you are?"

     "Sorry sir, I'm Max. I really need to talk to her though."

     "Is this some kind of joke? You come here and ask for her as if nothing happened?"

     I guess she told him about what I said. I hope she was lying that time she told me her dad had a gun rack he used to ward off boys.

     "No sir, please tell her I'm sorry for what I did. I didn't mean to hurt her, and that I would really like to see her again. I need to see her again."

     "Well we both know you've made that impossible. Now leave my property before I call the police on you!"

     He began to shut the door on me. With the last of my energy I reached and stopped it mid swing.

     "Sir, with all due respect. I must see Rose. I have to apologize and do whatever I can to make things right between us."

     "Boy are you crazy? When were you released from the hospital?"

     So she did know I was in the hospital. She did not send flowers because she hated me, not because she had no idea.

     "I wasn't really released. I just left half an hour ago. I figured if I told them why I wanted to go they would have stopped me from coming here. I needed to see her too much."

     The anger in his face faded, and now he looked worried.

     "Oh. You need to come in for a minute, we should talk."

     "The driver is waiting to take me home so I can pay him, I really don't have time, is Rose here? Can I please just talk with her quickly then I promise I will be off your property and on my way home."

     "Wait here a second."

He turned and left the door open. I was still leaning on the brick wall for balance, but my legs were barely holding me up. He walked down the hall and I saw Rose's mother come into view. She looked exactly like Rose, except twenty years older, maybe. She looked down the hall at me and her mouth dropped. Mr. Sall whispered something in her ear and they turned down another hall together looking worried. 

     Mr. Sall came rushing back my way, with his wallet in hand, and out past me, almost knocking me off balance on his way. He walked up to the driver and I saw him hand over money, I could not see how much, but I did not hear the driver put up an argument. Mr. Sall turned back towards me and came up the front stairs.

     "Follow me."

     We walked into the living room and sat down opposite each other. Sitting felt wonderful on my sore legs, I felt so out of shape. Mrs. Sall came in with drinks and took a seat next to her husband.

     "What is the last thing you remember Max?"

     His gaze was on shuffle between me and his wife next to him.

     "Yesterday afternoon, or at least I think it was yesterday, Rose and I went to the park down the street. We were sitting there in silence for some time when I..." 

     Tears started falling from my face as I tried to remember everything. It was all so foggy.

     "I told her I loathed her, that I hated her and couldn't stand being around her. I don't know why I said it, I really for the life of me can't remember why I did, but I know it's not true, I really didn't mean any of it. I got up and left her there, crying. I got in my car and drove off. My head was spinning from everything so I pulled over and got out.  I was nauseous, I think I got sick, then I guess I passed out. Next thing I knew I woke up this morning and I was in the hospital."

     Rose's parents looked at each other, concerned. I could see her mother holding back tears as I had just tried to do a few moments ago.

     "I don't know how to tell you this, but that is not all that happened. That day in the park wasn't yesterday, it was nearly seven weeks ago."

     The room started spinning slightly, and the bandaged part of my head began to throb. I reached for the drink in front of me with all four of my hands I could see.

     "What?" My voice was quivering. "Seven weeks?"

     "Yes Max. You hit your head hard when you fell, you were unconscious when they brought you into the hospital. You have been in a coma ever since. Do you remember what you two were doing at the park that day?"

     In a coma for almost two months? I tried to fight back the nausea and think about that day at the park. I searched my mind for anything it would give up. The only thing I could see was her crying. Over and over again, like it was on repeat in my brain. Then I saw it, the bottle by her foot, opened and emptied. I let out a sound that I thought was only made by small rodents, and put my hand over my face.

     "We... we were fed up. We thought our lives were headed no where."

     My throat felt like it was on fire, it hurt to say anything at all.

     "There was nothing in our future we saw that was worth sticking around for. We thought if we stuck around there would just be more disappointment for us both. So..." It all came rushing back now. "We bought a bottle of Tylenol, a big bottle, the kind you buy for an entire family, and we took it to the park. We took turns swallowing the pills until it was empty." The glass of water fell from my hands, but I barely noticed. "I, I hated her for going along with it, thats why I said everything.  I was so upset I got in my car and left. I left her all alone."

     "When you pulled your car over, a passer-by saw you get out and fall down. He called 911. The paramedics said you threw up most of the pills, and they were able to pump the rest out before any serious damage was done, but the blow to the head left you in serious condition."

     Then it hit me. Why they would not let me see Rose. Why I could not see her. There was no passer-by who saw her passed out on the ground at the park, I left her there, and I lived. I hated myself.

     "We looked for Rose for hours after we heard how they found you. There was a crash up the road from where you fell, and the road was backed up for hours. It was someone stuck in traffic who happened to look over and see her curled up  in the grass, but it was too late."

     Hearing it made me sick. I threw up in my mouth and ran to the bathroom. I could hear them talking outside the door before they knocked and came in.

     "I am going to call your mother okay? She is probably worried sick about you. I know I would be."

     Hearing her now, I realized just how much Rose sounded like her mother.

     "I'll go get you another glass of water."

     Considering everything I just found out, her parents were really willing to help in anyway possible. I suppose they had just spent the better part of two months having to take care of themselves, maybe it was a nice change of pace to be helping someone else.

     When the sickness stopped and her parents left, I got back up and left the bathroom. Across the hall was Rose's room, I walked through her door and looked around. It was still exactly how she left it. I started crying again. It hurt to move, but I continued in until I saw her desk. There, on top of a small clutter of papers and notes, was a picture of me.  Beside it, on top of her jewelry box, was the worry stone I gave her the day we met. All those thoughts I had after I left her were wrong. She loved me, she really did. I loved her too, only now it was too late. I was too niave before to realize that she alone was reason for living. I should have seen that before, I should have stopped her from talking me into doing it. I felt embarassed to be alive with her dead. Guilt swept over me, so I turned and left her room.

     I made my way back to the kitchen where Mr. Sall was filling a glass of water. I made my way to the table and sat at one of the chairs. My head was pounding and every muscle in my body was aching.

     "Mr. Sall, do you have any aspirin? My head is killing me."

     He put the glass of water down on the table and turned back to the cupboard.

     "I can imagine. I saw the rock you hit your head on, you are lucky there wasn't any long term damage from it."

     He grabbed the bottle of aspirin and opened it, he shook out two pills and put the bottle down, then brought the pills over to me.

     "Roger, I think his mother is here."

     Mr. Sall turned and went to be with his wife and let me mom in. Every second in this house the guilt grew stronger. I did not deserve to be alive after leaving Rose like that. I looked out the kitchen window and saw my mom pulling in. On the counter next to the sink I saw the opened aspirin bottle.

     I deserved this.

     I got up and walked to the kitchen sink and took a few more pills, then drank. The bottle was only half full when I reached it, but before my mom even came to the door it was empty. I capped it back off and placed it in the cupboard where it belonged and then made my way to be with everyone else.

     "Oh, thank God, Max you are all right! How are you feeling?"


     She made her way past the Salls and grabbed ahold of me. Then she kissed me on the top of my head.

     "I have been so worried about you."

     "Max, you should go wait in the car, we'd like to talk with your mom for a few minutes if that's okay."

     "Of course, of course, Max go wait in the car, I will be there shortly."

     I did not argue, I wanted to be left alone. I made my way down the front steps slowly enough, and got in to the car, the back seat of the car. I did not want to have to deal with beign face to face with my mom.

     I could not really be sure of how long she was in there, time had a funny way of acting when he drugs started to kick in. All I can tell you is it was longer than five minutes, and less than two hours. Although even that was a ballpark. My mother finally came down teh driveway and got into the driver seat.

     "Oh Max, I've been so worried."

     "I know mom, I'm sorry. I am going to take a nap now though, I am really tired."

     The pain all seemed to fade away, as everything began getting blurry.


     "Yes hunny of course, I'll wake you when we get there."

     "Mom, please, I need to tell you. It was never about you."

     She responded with words I could no longer make out. My head felt so heavy, and everything seemed so far away. I started wondering if I was doing the right thing. If maybe I was just making the same mistake. If this was really what I wanted. A million questions to ask, then I fell asleep.

Monday, April 20, 2009

"The Worry Stone" A Prologue

     I originally thought the stories I had started writing nearly five years ago were finished after the eighth installment. I spent the next two years attempting to go back and edit these stories, sometimes just the aesthetics of the stories, other times I would try and adapt them into different formats, and more than once I even tried starting over from scratch, but none of these methods turned up fruitful. I had toyed with the idea of just letting them be, and moving on to an almost 'sequel' of sorts that would pick up where the first set of stories had left off. Early last month I actually spent a week to cleaning up my first round of stories, and made them fit together a little more cleanly, and in doing this, I started to see the whole picture of what I wanted to accomplish with all of this. My eight short stories (which has now become nine) is collectively Part One: "Consequences" of a soon to be three part tale called, "The Worry Stone."
     I also felt that since these stories have become the spine of everything I have spent my creative talent (if you want to call it that) on, I figured it would be nice to show everyone exactly where the origin of these stories come from. The majority of characters in the first part of "The Worry Stone" are actually made up of real life friends and very loosely based around real life situations, daydreams and scenarios I have lived through in the last ten years of my life (or seen friends live through). Parts two and three will be primarily fiction that results from the events of Part One.

     The idea of how one decision, one choice or one idea can unfold and change everything for everyone (also known as the butterfly effect) has been one of the most inspiring notions to drive me to write a story at all. I often refer to a moment in my life that was so amazingly small and insignificant, that has had lead to an epic alteration in where my life has led me. Everything from my friends and taste in music to me moving around the country and ending up here in Minneapolis. It fascinates me to see how minuscule this choice seemed at the time, and how grand it ended up being for me. Even more so I feel blessed to be able to have traced my life back to this moment (not ignoring the fact that previous to this said moment, there was some other unnoticed event causing all of this to unfold, and more moments before that one.)

     For me this is the beginning, and I felt it would be a great prologue to my story. Everything stems from something. So here we go, for the first time I am putting this story into words (and therefore is a first rough draft). This story (with the exception of names and appearances changed to fit current storyline) is a true story which stems a tale of fiction and fact that when completed, will be "The Worry Stone."

"The Worry Stone" - A Prologue

     I hate gift shopping. It is my least favorite part of site seeing. I never know what to get anyone. I guess maybe I put too much thought into it. My grandma collects silver spoons, she is easy to shop for. Grandpa? Well he likes magnets. My brother could care less if I brought him back something from my field trip, it is my mom that is the hard one to shop for. She drinks a lot of coffee, but I already have gotten her a dozen mugs, even if she did dishes twice a month she would always have a fresh mug in the morning. Postcards are a silly gift to bring back, especially if you are visiting in-state. I could have gotten her a teddy bear, but I am sure it would have ended up in the toy chest in my closet that still holds the bears and rabbits and dogs of my childhood. No, I wanted it to be something she can keep out, something she would find useful, or at the very least a cute sentiment.

     I should have asked her this morning what it was that she wanted me to get for her. I am sure she would have said something like 'You don't need to get me anything, I just want you to come home safe.' She worried about me a lot. Not because I was known for getting into trouble, just she cared for me and was never at ease when I went more than an hour away from her.

     That is it, that is what I could get her, I could get her a worry stone. There are stones of every color, this was a perfect idea. With a brand new green worry stone, a collectable spoon and a magnet with a picture of the Old Man on the Mountain on it, I made my way over to the cashier.


     I was only given $10 from my grandma to spend on stuff at the gift shop, but fortunately I had brought the $5 I had left over from a recent yard sale. It was a good thing I brought bagged lunch.

     Now that I took care of that, I supposed it was time to catch up with my group and take the tram up the mountain. It was not until I searched the entire cabin that I realized my chaperone and group had already entered the tram and I was forced to wait for the next one.

     Behind me in line, and soon to be my tram-mates, was a group of girls and an older woman I assumed was the mother of one of the girls. I remembered one of the girls right away, Jessica went to elementary school with me and was in my class last year. The other girls came from  another school and I had only seen them in the halls a few times this year.

     One of the girls, of which I could not place the name of, was in the middle of her friends with her hands in front of her face. She was crying. I saw her face for the first time when she lowered her hands to plead with her friends. She was beautiful. She had straight blonde hair that fell past her shoulders, and even through the tears, I could see two bright blue circles in her eyes. How had I never seen her before?

     "I can't do it, it is too high, I'll wait down here for you guys, please, just go without me."

     She kept glancing up at the path of the tram that was carrying my group up the side of the mountain, and then back down to the faces of her friends, desperately hoping that they would agree and leave her be.

     "Don't be silly Rose, the tram is as safe as can be. It does this everyday, it is perfectly safe!"

     Her friends were not giving her any slack, and the chaperone was staying out of it.

     "No really, just leave me down here, I'll be fine, I can eat my lunch and do homework, just come get me on your way back."

     I had never talked to a girl I did not know, in fact I barely talked to girls I did know. This girl just seemed so scared, and she did not want to hear half-hearted promises from her friends, she wanted something else, she needed to hear from an unbiased person. I do not even remember stepping up to them, or even thinking what I was going to say until I said it, but there I was, with my hand out talking directly to the girl with the blue eyes.

     "Use this."

     At first she looked shocked, wondering where I came from. In her attempt at persuading her friends to leave her behind, she did not even notice the quiet boy standing in front of them, not that many people noticed me in the first place.

     "Excuse me?"

     "Use this."

     Her gaze broke from mine, and turned to what I was holding in my hand. It was the worry stone i had just purchased for my mom.

     "What, what is that?"

     She had stopped crying now, and was staring at the stone with sincere curiousity.

     "It is a worry stone. You place it in your hand like this." I put it in my right hand, thumb in the groove and started massaging it. "And rub it right here. It is meant to help keep your mind occupied with something else so you won't worry."

     She hesitated, looked at her friends as if they were going to give her some sort of sign of approval, they did not. They were just as taken aback as her. After a moment's time she reached out and grabbed the stone from me.

     "Thank you."

     Now she was looking up at me, nearly dried tear stains, with the most beautiful smile I had ever seen, on her face.

     "No problem."

     I started to turn to leave her with her friends.

     "My name is Rose."

     Rose, what a gorgeous name.

     "I'm Max. The tram is here, are you ready?"

     On cue the tram landed behind me and the door opened. Once again Rose looked around for a sign of approval, this time she got it in a form of held back giggles from her lot of friends surrounding her.

     "Yes Max, I am."

     I turned and entered the tram and left her with her friends. They followed suit a few seconds after and in less than a minute the tram was filled with another group of field trippers. The more people that entered the tram, the further I seemed to get from Rose. I wanted to work my way through the crowd to get to her, but I did not want to hover over her, instead I felt safe on the opposite end of the tram, far enough away that I could not say anything stupid.

     A few minutes later we were at the top of the mountain, and I held back a bit to let the others out before me. Rose worked her way through the crowd and caught up to me before I could make it out of tram and get back with my group.

     "Here you go, thank you. That was very sweet of you."

     Her hand was extended with the worry stone pressed between her fingers.

     "You keep it, there is always the trip back down. I don't need it anyways, it wasn't for me."

     She smiled but did not bring her hand back to her side.

     "Thank you. At least take this then."

     She grabbed a small note from behind the worry stone that she was holding on to and handed it directly to me.

     "I know we have a few days left of school, but I don't want to take the chance of missing you. Call me sometime this summer."

     I took the note from her and she turned and ran back to her friends, all of which where giggling and whispering to her as she approached. I turned back to my friends and looked down at the note in hand. It said, 'Rose Sall, 603-555-1951.' I could not hold back a wide grin on my face when I saw the 'o' was in fact a heart. I walked back to my group, none of which were looking my way and noticed what just happened. I liked it that way, so I folded up the note from Rose and put in in my pocket where the worry stone had once been.

This story changed my life in a very different way than it did Max's. It in turn made me decide to stay at a school I had previously hated. Instead of moving away with my mom, I stayed with my grandparents a little longer and moved with them to a new part of town. A part of town that built new friendships, friendships that lasted through high school, and led to other friendships that last to this day. If not for that worry stone I would not have met nearly any of all of the wonderful people I have come to meet in my journeys (would I have met others just as fantastic? I'll never know). A small decision, like what to get my mom at a gift shop, has altered my life, for better or worse, forever. It is this very idea, simple in context, but infinitely complex in reality, that I find to be the most interesting of concepts. So although in the following stories you may think that the coincidence of the characters to be just too much, or perhaps unrealistic, try not to think of it as all of these people who happen to have been in the wrong place (or perhaps right place?) at the wrong time, but instead that these are just some of many (in time, of everybody) who is affected by an event that they themselves had no control over. Hopefully it will beg of you the same question that has nagged me for years... Are there really any events that we do have control over?