Poem: The Sound of Death

This week in school we had to write poetry. I’ve never been a big poet. It feels too short and I’m long-winded (haha, at least I own it). This week was tough. Not only because I was in the hospital, but also because there was a school shooting right down the street. I moved to Highlands Ranch with my family in 1991. I met my wife at Highlands Ranch High School. I graduated from Highlands Ranch High School. And while the shooting wasn’t at my High School, it was right down the street. My wife and I moved to Parker in 2004, but it’s still in the same county (Douglas County). My kids go to school in this county. My wife is a teacher in this county. It all hit too close to home and I’m not happy about it. I had to write three poems this week. Given my ER trip and the school shooting, they all were in the theme of death. I had an idea for my third poem and approached my son. I asked him what he was feeling about the shooting and we chatted for a few minutes. He is very lyrical (creates his own rap music) and I asked him if he’d collaborate with me. We sat down for a couple hours and created the below poem. I haven’t really edited it, but I wanted to share it. Please feel free to give us feedback.

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The Sound of Death

We all don’t want to cry for help,

But sometimes we fear for our health,

Try to run and protect ourselves,

Try to avoid the pain we felt.

 

It used to be we went to school

We learned, we had fun, we lived life,

Empty minds, we followed the rules,

Not knowing the impending strife,

The thought had never crossed our minds,

This moment, a cut in our time,

It has to change, now is the time,

What will you do, government minds?

 

We all don’t want to cry for help,

But sometimes we fear for our health,

Try to run and protect ourselves,

Try to avoid the pain we felt.

 

A normal day, sitting in class,

Listen to our teacher ramble,

Biggest thought was letting time pass,

Alarm sounds, nothing flammable,

So many sounds, screaming abound,

Bullets whiz by, fear for my life,

Loud crashes, bodies hit the ground,

Now I won’t live to ninety-five.

 

We all don’t want to cry for help,

But sometimes we fear for our health,

Try to run and protect ourselves,

Try to avoid the pain we felt.

 

I feared for myself, my friends gone,

A battle ensued, yet I stand,

I’m still stuck here, but they moved on,

Too many fell due to one man,

As I remain, I recollect,

They’re on the ground, their souls have left,

Another mind that’s left unchecked,

So many lives we all bereft.

 

We missed our chance to cry for help,

Without a thought for our own health,

We didn’t run, thought we had stealth,

As bullets fly, their sound is death.

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Short Story

Writing a Short Story for my Fiction Writing Class. Here is the first part.

Sitting on the couch, Tom’s fingers were laced through his hair. His limbs shook and he couldn’t find any control. He leaned forward, putting his head between his legs, drawing deep breaths between sobs. On the coffee table before him was a bottle of whiskey, a tumbler filled with much more than two fingers, several empty cans of Skoal, a crumpled paper, and the gun. Oh yes, the gun, staring at him as if mocking, calling out to him to use it. He’d bought it a year earlier and only used it once at a range. He lifted his head and stared at the Heckler and Koch VP9. He wanted to cast it aside, maybe even toss it out a window or something, but then what purpose would it serve?

Sweat and tears dripped down his face, over his red and puffy eyes. How could she do this to me? He picked up the paper and read through the note, scrawled with the angry words of a scorned wife. This was the tenth time he’d read the letter, hoping each time, somehow the message had changed. But it wasn’t to be.

He took the glass, tilted back his head, and drained it in a quick gulp. The whiskey burned all the way down his throat, but he didn’t care. The pain was punishment for his actions and he deserved it. Maybe it’d burn a hole in his stomach. At least he wouldn’t use the gun. Who am I kidding? I’m a coward. His wife had given him every opportunity to be brave; far more than he deserved, but he couldn’t ever do it.

At least the whiskey allowed him to forget, if only for a few moments, maybe even an evening. Then he could deal with all of this tomorrow. He grabbed the bottle in his trembling hand and started filling the glass. Why bother? He brought the bottle to his lips. The burning dissipated in an instant—more than likely it was numb—allowing him to drink a good fifth of the handle.

His hand still shaking, he jumped to his feet and paced the family room. This was the home he shared with his wife and two kids for the past nine years. Their images flashed in his mind. Beautiful Brenda, the woman he’d loved for well over sixteen years. Their two kids, Jordan and Becky. They were too young, too innocent, and wouldn’t understand what was happening. His heart cried out to Brenda, but of course, she wouldn’t answer. It didn’t matter. This was all his fault. He had to fix it. That’s what he did best, wasn’t it? He fixed bad situations. Could he do it again?

The room wasn’t large, so after a few steps, he turned and headed back in the other direction. With each pass of the coffee table, the gun cried out to him like a baby crying for its mother. He ignored it; looked away, tried his best to distance himself from the table. Maybe if I don’t see it, don’t make eye contact, it’ll leave me alone. But it didn’t. Like a lighthouse guiding a ship, it was a beacon calling to him, clawing at his mind to let it in.

The Day Gravity and a 17 Year Old J.G. Did Not Get Along

Rocky Mountains

The title may lead one to believe I am clumsy.  Let me assure you that is not the case.

On a late-August Sunday afternoon, way back in the year 1995, I was a senior in high school and was working full-time at—of all places—McDonald’s.  Two of my closest friends and I happened to work the opening shift, which meant we started at the bright and early time of 5:00 AM, but were fortunate enough to be off at 1.  With our stomachs stuffed full of free food, and with the whole day still in front of us, we all decided to go for a ride.  With no destination in mind, we headed west and followed the winding roads leading into the Rocky Mountains.

After an hour, or so, of driving, we pulled over next to a river and decided to do some light climbing.  We made our way up a very steep hill—I will get back to this later— and spotted a large outcropping of rocks.  We started the forty-foot ascent with no ropes or safety equipment on the loose granite stone, and finally made our way to the top.  In all honesty, we should have probably all fallen, or at least injured ourselves on the way up, but filled with youthful exuberance, adrenaline, and the misguided belief that we were unstoppable, we made it unscathed where we smoked cigarettes and BS’ed the afternoon away.

When we finally decided it was time to head back, one of my friends looked at the way we came up and said “there is no way we can get back down, I am going to look for another way.”  I, in my infinite wisdom—and cite my statement from above pertaining to feelings of invincibility—decided to go and look for myself.  This is where things went downhill—quite literally—for me.  I don’t remember anything, my mind having blocked it out.  I may have attempted to climb back down, or I may have slipped on the loose granite ledge at the top, but until my mind decides to unblock the memories, we will really have no idea.  My friends, who safely made it back down, rounded the corner and reached the spot where we previously climbed, wondering where I was.  They found me a couple hundred yards down the steep, tree-filled hill, laying next to a large boulder.  Thinking that I was kidding and was playing a joke on them, they yelled at me to “get up and stop playing around” but after I didn’t move, they realized something was seriously wrong.

They made their to me and realized something wasn’t right.  Both of my arms were broken, my chest had caved in, and my neck didn’t look normal.  One of my friends ran down—as I mentioned before—the very steep hill in search of assistance, while the other stayed with me.  He was an Eagle Scout and started splinting my arms using whatever he had at his disposal, including several shirts and branches.  At some point I came to, and I guess I tried to get up and I told my friend I was fine.  He told me I wasn’t and basically had to hold me on the ground so I wouldn’t injure myself any further.

Meanwhile, my other friend made it back down to the road where he frantically sought assistance.  Remember, it was 1995 and cell phones were in short supply.  Those that did have phones, found the service to be spotty at best, especially in the rolling hills of the Rocky Mountains.  After finding someone with a phone, but with no luck getting a signal, he found someone willing to drive him twenty minutes to the nearest town where he could call for help.  He had to run back up the hill, tell my other friend what he was doing, ran back down the hill, and headed for the bustling metropolis of Deckers, CO.  When I use the terms “bustling” and “metropolis”, I am being facetious.  It is quite literally a general store at the junction of two, two-lane highways in the middle of nowhere. Who knew if they even had a phone that worked, not to mention, how he was going to explain to the emergency personnel where they could find us.

Long story short, he made it and called 911, before driving back to the two of us, after once again climbing the hill (I joke because he liked to tell how many times he had to run up and down the hill).  They had to continue holding me down on the ground so I wouldn’t injure myself, all the while my complexion was turning blue and they were petrified I wasn’t going to make it.

After another hour or so (I believe, again I don’t exactly remember myself) a helicopter arrived.  The emergency personnel tied me to a board and carried me down before loading me in the helicopter, where we set out on the 45 minute flight to Swedish Medical Center.  This is my first memory.  At some point during the flight, I remember having difficulty breathing and told the EMTs that I needed my inhaler.  Of course, this was nothing more than an asthma attack—no it couldn’t be the fact half my chest was caved in.  I had always wanted to ride in a helicopter, and here I was, yet I don’t remember a thing.  My memories are blacked out again until I am being removed from the helicopter on the roof of the hospital to a frantic group of doctors and nurses, all who were asking me questions and trying to gather more information.

My friends dead-headed to the hospital, but it was a drive of over an hour.  They also stopped on their way and called their parents, as well as my own.  Not really explaining what happened, they instructed my parents to go to the hospital.  At the time I arrived via flight for life, my parents arrived at the hospital to see the helicopter landing, and my mother had a sinking feeling I was the one being delivered.

My next memory is of my parents, followed shortly thereafter by my girlfriend of the time—who is now my wife—and her mother.  I told them all I was going to be okay, but I of course couldn’t see myself, and I think they were all a little more frightened than I was.  My last memory, which was it for a period of several days—I was heavily medicated and sedated from this point on—was of being dehydrated.  I was so thirsty I quickly drank down the required amount of barium sulfate necessary for a CT-Scan, which anyone who has ever had the pleasure of imbibing this concoction will know, it is anything but pleasant, and no one in their right mind would chug it.  Well I did.

Anyway, I spent eight days in the hospital.  I broke both arms, punctured my liver, broke three ribs, one of which punctured and collapsed a lung, and crushed four vertebrae in my neck.  The vertebrae in question were C2, C3, C5 and C7.  Several of the fragments were close to slicing an artery in my neck.  I was put into a halo, which immobilized my neck.  I had to wear it for twelve weeks.  It was one hell of a way to start my senior year of high school.

All in all, I know how fortunate I am to be walking, yet alone alive.  Christopher Reeves’ injury was not too much before my own, and I know I could have faced a very similar fate.  I owe my life and am forever indebted to my two friends who were with me that day.  They are both still very close to me, and I only hope I am able to repay them for all they did for me, one day before our time comes to an end.

I have added two photos.  The first (where I am laying down) is about halfway through my healing process the second , is from the day I finally had the halo removed.  I know my hair was horrible, don’t know what I was thinking.

Halo 1Halo 2

Book 2 is in the hands of several beta readers.  Get a copy of Book 1: The Unknown Man, before book two comes out.