A Reprint of one of Ronnie Coleinger's short stories
Spending the evening at this gathering was not what I wanted to do with this beautiful sunny day, but my outlook changed as I began mingling with the guests. My editor had asked if I would attend this event and put my face in front of a few of his peers in the publishing field. He said to smile, shake hands, talk about my novels, and for God’s sake let the others around me talk once in a while. You see, I often have the ability to dominate a conversation; sometimes I even dominate an entire room full of people.
I did exactly what he said, met some very wonderful people and had a very good time. When the steaks came off the grill, I filled my plate with a huge T-bone, cooked rare just as I like it, and then filled the empty spots on the plate with potato salad and coleslaw. I got a plastic cup of Bud Light beer and walked towards a table that had two seats left vacant. There was a lady sitting across the table from one of the empty chairs and she caught my eye as I walked towards the table. I figured she would quickly put her head down and try to ignore the chance eye contact, but she did not. Her eyes never left mine. I could feel her reaching out with those gorgeous eyes hoping for someone to talk to, someone that would not judge her or bore her to tears. I hoped I could stand up to the test as I carefully put my plate on the table, then my cup of beer, being very careful not to trip and fill her lap with either the beer, my steak, or both. As I sat down, she wiped her fingers on her napkin, reached across the table and shook my hand. She said her name was Jenny, I said mine was Ron. Her smile said she did not care about names; she was too busy reading my mind, exploring my soul; did I love the same God as she, was I married? All these questions and I had just met her. We had not spoken more than twenty words between us, but I knew her: I felt her anxiety, being here with no one to talk to, no one she could comfortably talk to, that is.
There were over a hundred people attending this gathering and she hoped I was the one; the mental connection she needed to release her foolish, childish shyness, which always kept her from these events. Her girlfriend had conned her into attending today, as I had been conned by my editor. As I cut my steak and put a bite in my mouth, I could feel her stare continue. I made a conscious effort to speak to her, and listen in between bites of food. Her steak was getting cold and she seemed to have lost the ability to think—talk—listen, and eat at the same time. Her eyes were hungry for human comfort, but her stomach seemed to have lost its hunger for food. I told her that I was not going to talk to her anymore unless she agreed to my conditions. She tensed, said she did not do conditions; I smoothed her ruffled feathers and said that I would give her one sentence of conversation for each bite of food she put into her mouth, chewed, and swallowed. Her demeanor lightened, she smiled and slowly blinked her eyelids, trying to release the tension my words had caused in her mind. We seemed to eat quickly because the act of feeding ourselves was hindering our time spent getting to know each other, and asking the questions that seemed to flow from our lips. I discovered that my crazy mind loved this person, this warm being that was on the same mental channel as I. Everyone around us was mentally tuned to channel five, but we seemed to be on channel ten, the same channel, the same mind set, the same understanding of life, love, and the pursuit of friendship.
Her eyes were light blue; she wore no makeup at all. Her eyelashes, trimmed short; her eyebrows plucked with care. When she laughed, her eyes became damp and glistened. Her nose was small and pudgy, but perfect in every way. Her lips were well defined and very pink. Then I saw it, I suddenly realized; she was not perfect! She had a tiny one-half inch long scar on her right eyebrow. The tiny hairs of her eyebrow tried to conceal it, but I spotted it anyway. I knew right then that we were compatible; you see I am not perfect either.
We blended, we meshed, we joined, we thought as one; we sometimes spoke at the same time. Sometimes we said no words at all, but with her eyes, she told me a story. She had a twin sister, I a twin brother. We were born two days apart, she being the oldest, wisest, more mature one. I, now bordering on childish giggles; she, loving the feelings she stirred in my mind. I suddenly realized that I had reached across my side of the table and let the very tips of my fingers touch—the very tips of her fingers that rested in the center of the table. She did not move her hand, did not pull it back. She tempted me with her eyes to let my fingers caress hers, to throw shyness and caution to the wind. “Don’t be to bold,” I counseled myself; she felt my apprehension, moved her hand so her fingers rested on top of mine. My emotions stirred, but I refrained from looking to her fingers that were now touching mine; instead, I held the eye contact with those wonderful blue eyes. I could not look away from those eyes, fearing to ruin the moment, fearing she would stand up and leave, fearing she might bolt. Shy yet bold, fearful yet brave. So many emotions raced through our minds, giving way to friendship, yearning for someone to share our stories, someone to listen to our tales: Many in the planning stages for years, but never put to pen and paper. Writers of prose—authors of novels—tellers of tales, we were.
She began telling me just such a story: She looked to see my expression, my smile. This story she recited from memory, conceived with love, tenderness, emotion. By her telling me this unwritten story, she imparted a trust in me, a stranger, a fellow author, a teller of tales, to not steal the story; but only express my approval. Jenny spent the next twenty minutes carefully reciting the story from her memory where she had spent weeks developing it, nurturing and finessing the details into a working short story manuscript. When she had finished with her telling, she smiled, looked embarrassed as if I might not approve of her prose. I could not stop smiling, and she quickly discovered my true feelings to her story from deep within my eyes. I had loved it. In fact, I wished I had thought of it. She said she would put pen to paper and write the story in the morning, after her beer buzz left her sleepy eyes. I wished to myself that I could be there to kiss the sleep from her eyes, but knew that would not work for us, not now; too soon. I would use the phone number she wrote on my business card to test the waters before assuming I had the right to kiss her sleepy eyes.
I had left the gathering around nine o’clock and headed home. I was in possession of Jenny’s phone number, neatly hand written on the back of my business card and then safely tucked inside my wallet; safe so I could not possibly misplace it. Jenny planned to leave around nine-thirty with her friend who was dancing with a guy she seemed to have also made connections with.
The next morning my cell phone rang very early and I saw on the caller I.D. that it was my editor, Bill. I quickly answered and talked to him for a few moments. He seemed distracted, distant, and I asked if he survived the party last night. He said he had survived well enough, but he needed to tell me something that may upset me. I felt a little tension set in, thinking someone had not approved of me last night, or I had slighted someone; I had in fact talked to Jenny all evening. Worst yet, he might have decided not to publish my latest novel.
Bill then explained that after I left the gathering last night, Jenny and her girlfriend had walked across the street to their car that they had left it in the parking lot. He said Jenny must have been distracted because she had stepped out in front of a car and been killed. I heard the breath leave my lungs as if a baseball bat had kit me in the chest. Bill asked if I was okay, I said yes; but I was not. My soul had died and my heart was broken. True, my heart was still beating in my chest, but my life seemed over. I hung up the phone without another word and sat on the hassock in the living room. I could think of nothing except Jenny’s eyes looking deep into my soul. I must have sat there quite a while; the doorbell rang but I did not answerer it. I just sat thinking, loving her for another moment, remembering the new story she had recited to me as we sat eating our supper. Now she was gone, my new friend was dead.
A voice spoke my name from my kitchen; the sound startled me. I realized Bill and his wife Sandra were standing in my kitchen. I stood up, but sat back down, unable to stand on my trembling legs. As I talked with my friends, I finally pulled myself together and made us some coffee. As we sat at the kitchen table and talked, eating cinnamon rolls and drinking coffee; Bill and Sandra told me what had happened last night to Jenny. Bill told me what he knew about her, where she lived, who her parents were, and talked about the four novels she had written. Bill promised to let me know when the funeral was scheduled, and asked me to attend with him and Sandra. I agreed, hoping friends nearby would help us all deal with the tragic loss of a colleague, a dear friend.
Jenny had told me the story she had conceived in her mind and was going to put pen and paper to the following day. She did not live to pen that story, so I wrote it for her. I hope she likes it. I will send her a copy, addressed: “Jenny Campbell, God’s Heaven, Heavens Way, 00001.” I named the story, A Friend Remembered, the name Jenny had given me; a name I felt had significance after our chance meeting at the gathering. When you read the story that I wrote from Jenny’s memory, remember Jenny’s light blue eyes sparkling back at you as she giggles.
I will never forget that tiny scar hiding in her eyebrow. We all need to notice the small things about our friends. Someday you may need something to hold onto if that friend leaves this world before their time. A heart needs a second chance at love, and the thought of that scar gives my heart something to grasp hold of when it begins to break late at night as I try to fall asleep. Tell your friends you love them, and give them a big hug before it is too late.
A Reprint of one of Ronnie Coleinger's Short Stories
As Amanda stepped through the door of the wide-bodied jetliner onto the Jetway, a cool refreshing breeze engulfed her. It was snowing outside and she felt a shiver flow through her body as the wind howled around the small-unsealed places where the Jetway met the side of the aircraft. As captain of this airplane, she had just completed a six-day shift of ferrying the plane between London and New York. As she walked up the Jetway, she felt her body relax a little.
Amanda had felt uncomfortable all week, as if something in her life was amiss. She did not understand the feelings, but understood that she needed to pay close attention to these deep foreboding feelings so they did not become depressive. Amanda knew this time was different from the times before, and something was definitely wrong in her life. She was certain of it, but she would have to be patient until the nature of the problem became obvious to her.
As she stepped into the main concourse and headed towards the ground transportation area of the airport, she smiled as a small boy stood and watched her walk. He stared at her with those young boy’s eyes, so impressed with anyone that could fly an airplane. Then she remembered that she, as a small girl, had also loved airplane pilots. She could remember watching the pilots coming off the planes after a flight, and dreaming of how she would love to fly. Amanda loved her job and could think of nothing she would rather do with her life than pilot these incredible flying machines. It made her feel giddy as she walked down the concourse and remembered her first solo flight.
That night, as Amanda crawled under the covers of her bed and opened the latest adventure novel she was reading, she suddenly had that same feeling that something was wrong creep up her spine, and it made her shiver. The feelings quickly slipped out of her conscious mind as she became lost in the novel she was reading. She read for about an hour, and then remembered that she needed to get up early tomorrow and decided she had better get some sleep. If she let herself, she could easily read until the radio alarm woke her. Four o’clock in the morning would be here soon enough, so she turned off the light, pulled the covers up over her ears and let the warmth of the bed overcome her thoughts until sleep came upon her.
Amanda’s dream started simple enough. She soon found herself piloting a jetliner over the English Channel that separates England from France. The plane, with 360 passengers and crew aboard was in an uncontrollable nosedive towards the water below. The dream (nightmare to be exact), gave Amanda no reason for the plane to be in such a horrible nose down position, but it was obvious even in the dream that something in this airplane had mechanically failed.
Amanda and her copilot tried desperately to pull back on the controls and get the plane’s nose pulled up. Their air speed was increasing at an alarming rate and they would plunge nose first into the channel below if they did not quickly right the wrong with this flying machine. The sounds in the cockpit were deafening, the bells, the chimes, and the voice of the planes warning system yelling verbal warnings in the pilot’s ears. “Pull up, pull up,” it screamed to no avail. However, nothing Amanda or her copilot did seemed to level out the flight pattern of the huge jetliner.
They now only had seconds left before it would be too late to save their own lives and the lives of their passengers from the impending doom. Amanda’s arm muscles were screaming with fatigue from pulling with all her strength on the controls of the aircraft, pulling, pulling, and trying to get the nose of the plane to pull up. Amanda reached for the engine’s throttle handles and applied full power to the engines in an attempt to provide some form of lift to help correct the aircrafts rapid decent. Nothing she or her copilot did would force the nose to rise. Amanda could see fishing boats, tugboats, and two large barges below her as the plane rapidly descended towards the channel below. Amanda felt the warmth in her seat, but could not stop the flow. Uncontrollable fear had now seized control of her body.
Amanda could hear her own screams, as the nose of the plane touched the surface of water and began its devastating plunge into the English Channel. She felt the incredible impact, her legs crumpled under her seat as the nose assembly collapsed back into the cockpit. Her body began driving forward and her face smashed against the controls in front of her. She heard her own ribs breaking in her chest as her mind blocked out all other sounds except for the sound of her now dying broken body.
Then there was darkness, the darkest darkness Amanda’s human mind could image: A darkness that was so dark that when she tried to speak, it absorbed the vibrations in her throat, and no words come forth. Darkness so vast her eyes could not see even her own thoughts of light. So dark that the breath she tried to breathe was devoid of oxygen.
Amanda’s mind slowly began to slip away into the darkness of death, and she now must face this darkness, alone. The most distressing feelings a human mind can face is to be alone in total darkness, alone to face ones worst fears, alone for eternity, alone to face ones death. Amanda would now face her fears, as the plane slowly sank into the depths of the English Channel and settled on the rocky bottom of the oceans floor.
Amanda suddenly struggled to free herself from whatever was binding her. She finally cleared her face and struggled free. She began to fall, but stopped suddenly with a thump on a very hard surface. She was free of her constraints, but she was unable to understand this darkness. Then she realized that she could see a tiny little light; the light was shining from behind her, and she began to comprehend her predicament. She suddenly realized she had been dreaming, and had fallen out of bed. “This is only a dream,” she screamed aloud trying to clear her foggy mind. Amanda could see the city lights shining in around the edges of her window blinds. She could see a small light coming into her bedroom from the nightlight in the adjacent bathroom. Amanda reached for the light switch on the table by her nightstand, switched the light on and instantly found herself blinded by the bright light, but her eyes quickly adjusted.
Then the shocking truth of her reality began to invade her conscious mind. She was certainly in her own bedroom, but her horribly broken and twisted legs had folded beneath her and now she sat on the carpet floor beside her bed. She could see the blood beginning to seep through her white pajamas with the tiny red roses. There was so much blood! She could smell her own urine and realized she had lost control of her bodily functions. She could also smell jet fuel, a lot of it, as if she had bathed in it. Her nose was bleeding, the blood running down her face and into her mouth, dripping from her chin to the white carpet of her bedroom floor. Amanda realized that she was severely injured, but did not understand why. She looked up at her pillow and saw that it was soaked in fresh blood. She suddenly remembered the dream and tugged at her memory for details. She remembered crashing headlong into the ocean of the English Channel. Surely she had died, in the dream at least. Amanda tried to reason with her panic-stricken mind, searching for an explanation as to why she was sitting in her bedroom, broken, bleeding, crying, and gasping for breath.
Amanda reached for her cell phone and realized water was dripping out of the case, and the LCD display was broken. She looked at her clock radio, and the time was 6:59 AM, one minute before she was to land the plane in London. As she sat on the floor, trying to discover the reality of her situation, she realized she was truly dying, or possibly already dead. Then she realized it was Saturday morning and her clock radio that was set for her weekend wakeup at 7:00 AM had turned on, and she was listening to the early morning news. The news anchor stopped telling the story he was in the middle of, and said that he had a breaking news report to announce. The news anchor then announced, “There has been a plane crash in the English Channel between England and France. The jetliner had 360 passengers and crew aboard and they all perished as the plane nosedived into the channel. Witnesses said the plane did not attempt to correct its steep decent, but simply plunged straight down into the water. There are very few details available, but we are now receiving reports from a news agency out of Great Britain that the flight, based out of the United States, was a new airline named Freedom Flights International. The flight number was FL1001. There is little other information about this crash but we will keep you all informed as updates become available.”
As Amanda listened, she realized the flight that had crashed was the wide-bodied airliner that she was to fly this morning, and the flight number matched. How could she have crashed into the English Channel when she was here in her bedroom? Then another breaking news update about the plane crash in England came over the radio, and this time Amanda understood that she was DOOMED. The reporter read the statement from the airline, and it was devastating news. The reporter stated, “The airplane that crashed into the English Channel this morning killed all 360 passengers and crew aboard. The flight was piloted by a female pilot named Amanda Witherspoon who had over 3000 hours of flight time, and her copilot, Robert Smith, also a highly skilled pilot.”
Amanda was confused as she sat on the floor of her bedroom, broken and crying, but realized that somehow she had died in the plane crash. How she ended up here in her own bedroom, dying or dead, she still was not certain. How could she have possibly moved from a dream, into this reality? She knew her body was not in the plane, or was this not real; maybe this was just her dying brain’s way of trying to cope with the reality of death.
As Amanda sat beside her bed, her head began to roll to the side and then rested between the bed and the nightstand as she slowly lost consciousness.
The now dead body rolled over on its side, and the last death-breath escaped from its lungs. As the body lay on the floor, it slowly faded away as it returned to the cockpit of the wrecked airplane, now resting on the floor of the English Channel.
Amanda’s mind had allowed itself to die where it felt safe, loved, and comfortable; in the bedroom where she slept and dreamed of her wonderful life, the lovers she had known and the family that loved her still.
When the funeral was complete, Amanda’s brother went to her apartment and had the manager open the door with his master key. When he went inside the empty apartment with all of the memories of his little sister, it made him cry all over again. He sat in the living room and cried for almost an hour before he found the courage to look around the rest of the apartment. He touched and picked up many of Amanda’s possessions, and each one brought another tear. When he finally entered the bedroom, it was a mess, unlike any of the other rooms in the apartment. There was blood on the pillow and bedding, on her pajamas that lay on the floor beside the bed, and he could smell urine as if Amanda had peed in her bed. Then he smelled the odor of jet fuel and picked up Amanda’s pajamas, as the smell seemed to emanate from them. They were still wet with urine and jet fuel. There was blood on the carpet, on the light, everywhere. The clock radio was playing softly, an old tune from the nineties, something called, I Hope You Dance, but he could not remember the exact name of the song. When he picked up the cell phone, the LCD display was broken and water ran out from inside the phone. The battery was also dead and there was blood on the case. He did not know why Amanda had bled so profusely, but she must have been all right, because she had driven to the airport and flown the jetliner to England. As he considered the mystery, he soon dismissed the worry and began cleaning the room.
The FAA investigation into the plane crash had found that a massive hydraulic leak had caused a catastrophic failure of the flight controls. The authorities determined that a small private airplane had crashed into the right wing of the jetliner, severing the hydraulic lines and draining the system of oil. Amanda’s brother cleaned the apartment and loaded all of her things into his large trailer. He would take all of her belongings to his home a few miles away for storage until the family could sort through them. As he shut the front door, he turned towards the apartment and said “Little sister, if you can hear me, I love you.” As he walked to his truck, he could hear his little sister singing in his mind, singing a lullaby to his son when he was very young. He remembered how Amanda would sit with her nephew, hold him gently in her arms and sing softly until he would fall asleep.
The family would always remember the look of excitement in Amanda’s eyes, even as an adult, as she would watch an airplane flying overhead and giggle aloud with excitement.
Rest in peace little sister.