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Part V---



After twenty minutes of being lost on campus, Grandmother Pearl picked me up from school today. Now we’re at my house so that I can retrieve my purse (which I left at home in my frenzied rush this morning). Grandmother Pearl is inside, too, borrowing the restroom. Meanwhile, I let the puppy out of her kennel-I know she’ll go insane when she sees Grandmother Pearl, but that might actually prove to be hilarious.


And it is. Sure enough, when Grandmother Pearl enters the kitchen, the puppy jumps toward her and begs for attention. Hesitant at first, Grandmother Pearl extends her hand in an attempt to pet the puppy without getting licked (a lost cause).


“She’s big for a puppy!” Grandmother Pearl observes. Which is true, although the puppy is nearly six months old and is supposed to weigh forty-something pounds at her age.


After a few moments of craziness, I shove the puppy back into her kennel (not an easy task) so that Grandmother Pearl and I can head toward Bossier City. It’s only about an hour and a quarter before Grandmother Pearl has to be at her beautician’s parlor.


Anyway, so far so good with Grandmother Pearl. But I still have that feeling of inner turbulence, and I still have no idea why.

***



“I figure we’ll stop at Wendy’s and get us something to hold us over until dinner,” Grandmother Pearl says as we exit the interstate into Bossier City.


She orders fries, and I order a muffin. We eat in the car because it took us a good half an hour to travel the distance between my house and Bossier City, and Grandmother Pearl’s appointment is in only forty-five minutes.


We park in front of Grandmother Pearl’s beautician’s house (that is where the beauty parlor is) and continue to eat. No later do I finish my muffin than my cell phone rings (how annoying!).


It’s my mom, so, of course, I answer it. I hope I’m not in trouble. “Mom?”


“Arlene, what are you doing now?” she inquires.


I tell her that I’m sitting in the beautician’s driveway.


“Okay, well, I just wanted to let you know…one of your high school friends died this week.”


Holy crap; this is unreal. “Oh my gosh, who?”


“Your friend Maxwell. The obituary says that he was sick.”


“Oh my God.”


I rarely drop the OMG bomb, but this time I’m so flabbergasted that I can’t manage to say anything else. I knew that Maxwell had health problems all his life, but I wasn’t expecting him to die-I don’t think anyone did. But that doesn’t change the fact that he is dead.


It doesn’t matter that today is Friday, March 28, 2008 and that the last time I saw Maxwell was at graduation; seven years of being in gifted class together, seven years of friendship doesn’t disappear suddenly-or ever.


“Grandmother Pearl,” I summon when I get off the phone. “My mom just told me that a friend of mine died, and the funeral is tomorrow morning. Would you be willing to take me there?”I ask of her.


“If you’re willing to get up earlier than you usually do, then I’ll take you.”


As if getting up early would be even a slight issue when it comes to what has just happened! I don’t give Grandmother Pearl many details about Maxwell’s and my friendship because this is simply too new and too consuming to talk about now.

***



The beautician has today’s paper conveniently stacked on a chair; I immediately flip through it for the obituary page. Sure enough, there it is, a column accompanied by a picture of Maxwell smiling as though he had no pain at all. I can feel my heart shatter like glass slammed on pavement as I wonder if his last moment of life was that peaceful.


I read the column, noticing that it doesn’t have the same air to it that other columns have. It seems more celebratory of him. Still, though, it doesn’t keep me from sinking when I read that he’s been dead since Monday-Monday, March 24, 2008. I wish I would have known of this earlier so that I could have prayed for him sooner.


I don’t talk much to the ladies in the beauty parlor; it’s as if they’re not even there because I feel so alone in my devastation. Instead, I phase into the extraordinary world of the satire novel I’ve been reading.


I find it to be a strange phenomenon that a tumultuous fictional story can bring peace to a reader’s mind, yet turbulent reality is virtually unbearable when it gets really bad. Maybe it’s because we can feel the magnitude of an event stronger in our own lives than as observed from others’ vantage points, but what if we imagine ourselves as the main character as we read the story? Would the magnitude still shake us hard as though it were an earthquake?


------
"Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."-Jeremiah 33:3, King James Version

"Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path."-Psalm 119:105, New Living Translation

The present and future are not about who you were in the past-rather, they are about who you are and who you will become.

"Writing is truly glorious in that an author can put on paper the words that fear denies the voice to speak."-from my short story, "Set Free"

"...What you feel is what you are;
What you are is beautiful..."
-from "Slide" by the Goo Goo Dolls

Life surprises you! And I'm talking about the good stuff, because a bad surprise is not a surprise at all, it is just shock and horror. All of these good surprises, they are rewards, and the things that happen to remind you that you matter and that you should make yourself faithful so that you can be deserving of all of life's good surprises. Every wonderful surprise in life is a chance to flourish, so grab life by the horns-but don't ride, steer instead: life's horns are life's joystick. You can handle it, because your life's horns are made especially for you. If you don't give up, all of this will hold true and life will continue to surprise you.

Aubri, a. k. a. "Leopard Lady"


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