All About Writing Prompt: Lady in the Park

Prompt 342

Ranger Percy took her duties seriously. She followed a routine that began with first light and ended well into the dark. It was a routine that most new mothers are accustomed to having:

Coffee,
Change the babies,
Feed the babies,
Out the dog,
In the dog,
Feed the dog,
Prepare for the charge of the babysitter,
Out the door,
Coffee.

She loved her job, creating a safe haven for those who needed to touch nature. Everyday, she followed the park’s trails looking for the beauty she could point out to others. Somedays the park was quiet, and those quiet days were filled with the sights of fawns, ground hogs, bald eagles, osprey. Other days were filled with activity, crowds surging to the river with their churches, earnestly baptizing rogue elements and bringing them back under the banner of the church, praying for the devil to be gone, and sharing an open barbecue with any who wandered near. Or perhaps it was the weddings that were held under the white picnic shelter where everything was new and clean, that fit into her fancy. Somedays the park was filled with rain and wind or snow that caused the gates to stay locked. On those days she poured extra coffee into herself and watched the antics of the deer under the picnic shelters. Safety first, she would think at the deer. Then she would smile at the idea that the deer were so well-trained they avoided the drifts and acted like tourists.

Logs washed up on the riverbank with the changing tides. Ranger Percy would wander among them along the beach selecting interesting driftwood from the boring logs. She saved them for a local woman who wandered through the park, talking to herself, who would paint them with scenes of fish underwater or goblins lurking and then leave them like a sacrifice to the wild. Percy would load them into her vehicle and put them on display at the Visitor’s Center.

Lunch,
Coffee,
Walk,
Second equipment check,
Drive the parking lots,
Return to office,
Read mail,
Call babysitter.

The windows of the Visitor Center filled with steam as the class on batiking for teenagers flowed on. She wandered over to the gift counter and rubbed the steam from the window, only to move rapidly out of the center to the walkway that led up and away from the building. Her homeless woman, the one she left the driftwood out for, knelt on the ground mumbling to herself. She had knife in one hand which she raised over her head and then plunged into a bundle of flannel.

“This for your heart.
This for your hands.
This for your feet
To travel to different lands.”

“Come, my dear, for
where you bleed, is here
in the present and a gift
To succeed. Travel through the smoke…”

Then she lifted the knife and held it over her head saluting the sky. A bag lay on sidewalk, close but not touching her.

“Are you okay, lady? I haven’t seen you around much. Is something wrong?” Slowly Percy moved toward the lady. She kept her handgun in its holster, preferring instead to calm her and keep her from injuring herself or another.

The lady looked at her blankly for a moment, then shook her head. “No, I’m not okay. I will never be okay. I am not sure I will make it through the day, let alone the night. Nothing will be the same.”

“Would you like to have some tea with me? We could go to my office in the Visitor’s Center, it is a lot warmer there too.”

“Why should you care? The world left me long ago. No one will remember me.”

“Come with me. I’ll show you something. I’ll make us some tea.”

They rose together.

Pours cup.
Shares cup.
Smiles.

“Thank you, but this is only tea. Nothing can leave my place filled when I’m gone, and I will be gone.”

Breathes deeply.
Reaches inside.
Holds door.
Ushers.
Follows.

“This is the room I made for you. You left these behind you. I was so surprised to see how they all went together, a mural. Is the display all right with you?”

The bag was opened. The flannel set to one side, with the knife now out of view, and the before the ranger’s eyes was a small wooden figure carved so carefully that it seemed alive. With a sudden intake of air, the figure opened its eyes and reached out to her.

The lonely old lady was gone.

Schedule change…

 

 

The Drive to the Hospital

My mother-in-law made my father-in-law follow me for the first five years I lived in Virginia. She was worried that I had no sense of reality, couldn’t recognize trouble, and would end up shot by some deranged person. If I told them where I was going, they would drive slowly behind me as I walked around DC. They thought I didn’t see them, and they were right. I was always focused ahead of myself, full of anticipation of the adventures before me.

It wasn’t long until I became a pregnant walker, heading to a job, living in a neighborhood that was filled with “interesting” characters. Life was full of roach poems, bus rides, and walks to monuments where my soldier husband was lined up with the Old Guard to provide historical presentations, security cordons, and presentations of the gun salute at funerals in Arlington Cemetery. He looked so good in that blue dress uniform, tall, straight, handsome, and a bit out of focus because he didn’t always wear his glasses. I followed him like the puppy I am inside: positive, happy, always looking for an adventure.

Adventures always have a point of risk. The family tried to keep mine to a minimum, after all I was about to become a mother. When I went into labor, my husband panicked, my in-laws panicked, and my neighbors panicked. No one seemed to have ever done this before, this birthing thing.

I found myself tossed delicately into our old blue station wagon that only worked on alternate weekends. Final destination? Walter Reed Army Medical Center, whose name is as big as the facility. Off we roared, exhaust system on auto pilot, hitting every pot hole in Washington, DC. I was not a happy camper.

Up, down, up, down, down, up. It was not a surprise that when we were a mere four miles for the hospital, the car broke down. We coasted into a gas station, and out my husband leaped looking for a taxi or his father to be home to rescue us. I’m sure that the payphone on the corner of the building had never heard such panic. That’s when I decided that in the car I could do nothing to calm him down. So out I gingerly got, trying to move slowly so that the bumps and bruises inflicted by the car wouldn’t mutiny against me.

I stood there for only a few seconds when one of the guys hanging around and ignoring my husband, except for some rather funny comments about a white guy in a black neighborhood having a panic attack, saw me for the first time.

“Oh lady, are you in labor? How far apart are the contractions?”

Enter a new adventure, for he ran to the car and caught my arm.

“Which hospital?” And that’s how my husband turned to see me being stuffed into a mustang by an energetic and rather panicked black man with my suitcase in his other hand.

“What are you doing with my wife?”
“Shut up and get in the damn car. It’s going to be okay, lady. Just breath easy and let me know if the baby decides to arrive before we do.”
“Have you delivered a baby before? What’s your name? Why are you helping us? Will my car be okay or will it be on bricks before we get back?”
“Shut up, man, your wife is having a baby.”

We arrived at the hospital in plenty of time. I hugged my young hero and grabbed my suitcase. Both men tried to grab it back, but this was my adventure. The suitcase stayed in my hand.

“Listen, man, thanks for the help. I don’t know how to thank you.”

“Just don’t judge a book by the off-duty color man. You are Army, I’m Air Force. Now, go help your wife deliver that baby.”

It’s a lesson that has followed my husband ever since, and when he forgets, I remind him, pointedly. Our son was born with all of the toes and fingers a mother could desire. It was the beginning of another adventure, one I’m still on.