Sacrifice

MC Dalton

I may not be Australian by birth, but I take ANZAC day and all other days celebrating our fallen men and woman very seriously. I realised last night that I always focused on our fallen men, but there have been woman too. Woman who have sacrificed, died, fought and defended our free way of life. I dedicate this story to you, Warrior Woman. Again, this is not meant to offend, only to honor.

Sophie’s gaze ran up and down the long bronze list bolted onto the memorial. On the last tablet, not quite near the end, but close enough, she found them.

Corporal James Stewart.

Lance Corporal Cassidy Newman.

Lance Corporal Shamus Bailey Wilson.

The names on the plaque stared back at her with a cold, hard accusation.

“I should have brought you home,” her words soft as the breeze whispering off the ocean.

Retired, Royal Australian Navy Pilot, Lieutenant…

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A Camping we would go!

Well it would seem the Gods of adventure take their job incredibly serious, especially when it comes to making my life just that wee bit more interesting.

We will skip the many, many, MANY, times they have injected excitement, unexpected happenings and just plain out-there WOW’s into my life and get right to it.

I’m a bit of a Princess. I love my creature comforts and am not particularly fond of stepping outside of my comfort zone, however…

Hubby and I needed some serious down time and the boys needed space, time to be boys, and not screen addicted zombies. So, when friends of ours invited us to go camping we ummmed, aaahed and accepted.

Over the last few months we diligently researched and purchased the basic gear one would need for two nights on Bribie Island’s Ocean camping grounds. We were told they had basic Loo’s and cold showers. (By basic Loo’s I was to discover they were five star long drops with a foot pedal for a flush on the floor beside the loo. I thoroughly inspected the bowl and seat each time for spiders and reptiles – it happens don’t laugh!)

Okay this was a big ask for Mama Princess but I was willing to stick my big toe, no make that my foot outside the circle of safety.

Last Friday night after a huge week at work for both us adults we started to pack my Noddy 4×4. I call her a Noddy 4×4 because in reality my five-year-old ford escape 2L SUV is small. She is the perfect sized chariot for this Princess and her backseat is just broad enough to convey the philistines to and from school, rugby, basketball… you get the idea.

She is also the epitome of reliability and will go anywhere for her Mama. So, after much packing, re-packing and leaving of stuff behind, we got ‘the basics’ in.

By the basics I mean, a tiny towel each, swimmers, a change of undies a toothbrush and the camping gear and food. Oh, let’s not forget the wine – never forget the wine! One cannot expect a princess to survive on fresh air and sand alone!

We rose at Sparrows fart Saturday morning with a twinkle in our eyes and a spring in our step — a camping we would go!

All went according to plan and we were the first to arrive at the entrance to the track which led to Woorim Beach. From there we would travel, on very loose sand, for another twenty kilometers to the camp site, unpack, and set the philistines free to act like cave men for the next two days — happiness, right?

Wrong!

The Gods of adventure had, unbeknownst to us, already decreed it would not be thus!

While waiting for the rest of our party to arrive, I googled prices of double cab Bakkies? (Ute’s / Pick-ups). We would definitely need to upgrade if this camping thing worked out.

Dan dan daaaaah!

One should never invoke the presence of Loki and his wicked Imps, and always beware of the jinxing of one’s adventures.

None-the-less. We excitedly jumped into my car — hubby drove — and headed off down the sandy track, leading to the beach, which was fraught with all manner of ditches, donga’s, and exciting four-by-four thingies which would make the greatest of adventurer’s blood zing with excitement. All went fine and hubby traversed the track like a pro, until…

As we made our way, carefully, out of a deep and steep donga (ditch/hole/ hell) we spotted, too late, the tip of a rock sitting on the crest of the next rise like a granite ice berg. The bottom part of her nose came thudding down on that berg-stone. Both hubby and I cringed and I silently begged the angels that what I’d heard was only a dent and nothing more.

 

We reached the beach and pulled over to wait for our friends. I tried to ignore what had happened. If I didn’t look it was all going to be okay – Schrodinger’s cat, right?

Eh! Nope! Within seconds of stopping, the oil light screeched it’s warning like a red moon to a Wiccan seconds before the engine whined, cluttered, sputtered, and died.

I jumped out the car, the acrid stench of my precious Noddy SUV’s death burnt my nose as I lay on my stomach and looked up. My heart cracked and my stomach flipped. The berg-rock had ripped out the protective plate and her oil filter – no oil – no good – no engine!

Long story short — it took the man, my insurance company hired, three hours to recover my car from its sandy moorings (the tide came in, so that was a whole lotta fun! Not!). I prayed, I begged and crossed my fingers so tight I reckon they’ll forever be crooked, as the man and his lackey tugged and pulled, reversed and jerked at my poor Noddy SUV, with their monstrous four-by-four and tow rope, until finally we made our way (Me in our friends 4×4) back to the entrance.

It’s amazing how such mischievous mishaps mostly occur on days when a thousand other vehicles decide to also break down. We spent another two hours waiting for the flatbed tow truck to arrive. Two hours of twiddling thumbs, and guilt driving me insane as I was keeping our friend from enjoying his own camping weekend with his family.

As for my family – our friends shoved my men and our stuff into their vehicles and hauled them off to the camp site while I took care of my car. A whole day wasted. And not a sip of chilled wine or frosted beer to be had – oh the woes of a broken-down Princess.

Finally, myself and our loyal friend who had offered to stay with me and drive me back, arrived at the camp. All I wanted was to wash my face, spray some deodorant and sit down and sip some of Lord Bucchas fermented grape juice.

The hubby and his underlings had already set up camp. The blow-up beds were made and the wine was a chilling. I could do this right? I could live for two days without a decent wash. I could ignore the grinding irritation of sand clinging to the soft skin between my toes and other places I do not wish to share with the world. I would survive the hordes of mozzies jabbing their miniscule straws through my clothes and slurping up my life force, leaving me with itchy red welts. Giant lizards, snakes, falling tree spiders and ice-cold showers were a walk in the park (oh, how I fib!).

I could, for my boys, I would.

So much for a peaceful weekend. We had to leave again the following day because of an approaching storm. It’s not always fun relying on the mercy of others. Though our friends here are like family — each one of us would bend over backward for the other. Needless to say, we left the camp site late Sunday night, soaked to the bone and hungry (because it’s so much fun packing up in the rain).

But it would not be a quick and easy end to our trying adventure either. On our way back in the dark, we came across a boat which had washed ashore — called the coast guard, waited for coast guard, searched the frothing ocean for a bobbing body, (grateful there wasn’t one). And all of this was the cherry on top of our sandy, bug infested cake. Damp, hungry, irritable philistines in the back seat stretch a parent’s patience beyond the reaches of sanity. But eventually we got home, unpacked and had the longest hottest shower of our lives (a large glass of Muscadet accompanied me).

Moral of the story — adventure is not always romantic, clean or as much fun as many would have you believe, but it sure makes for many laughs and awesome family bonding.

I would attempt it (minus the broken-down car) again – with wine!

     

 

  

Forgive me for Dying.

 

“It is devouring me from within, and I no longer have anything to feed it.”

Quote from a dying friend.

Unlike most monsters, this one was silent, unobtrusive, and when I least expected it, it pounced. I had no warning. No time to prepare. No army to gather for the fight ahead. In truth, there’d be a battle, but the war had already been won. The outcome decided in one foul wave of the universes wand.

Never the less, my parents and I decided to take up the offer of a maybe and perhaps. I fought back with every ounce of determined stubbornness. And with every pain filled breath, I willed the cannibalistic cells which had sprouted from the base of my spine, to die. I prayed and begged. I bargained and promised. But, it only mocked my attempts and continued its savage rampage.

It weaved its wicked tentacles around the bones of my back. Like a weed, the ever-hungry beast forced its way between my vertebrae. It crushed the nerve and drank of my life’s essence. Not satisfied, the mutated cells continued a painful campaign upwards and into my brain. Nibbling at my spleen and liver along the way. Greedily, it dug deep into every sane part of gray matter I owned and rendered me hollow and paralyzed.

 

***

I can hear the world, over there in the distance. The rattle of a trolley, the whisper of a nurse — just beyond the fog. What is left of my mind, swims to the surface of a drug drenched ocean and with a pang of regret, I realize I have lived to see another day.

Mom and dad refuse to give up. They’re convinced I’ll win the battle. But I lost months ago. A cold river of morphine rushes through my chemo-singed veins; the result of a diligent syringe driver. The drug works quick to numb my screeching nerve endings – those which are left. I’d sigh if I could, but the tube forcing oxygen into my lungs won’t allow for it.

The chilling narcotic pulls me away from the crumpled-up human I’ve become. I sink gleefully beneath a mist of oblivious relief. Only, this time, it doesn’t stop pulling. I slip… slip… slip, down a long dark corridor.

Elated, I relax, this is it!

My time has finally come.

Faster and faster, it whisks me away. I welcome death with open arms. A great whoosh and my body spits me out. I am born again, but not to life — rather as an echo of it. I look down. I can see my whole body. It is healthy and strong. I look up at the white ceiling which has become a tunnel of white light. I raise my arms toward the beacon, waiting to be drawn into it, but nothing happens. The heart monitor continues to proclaim my life in sharp, poignant beeps.

My body is still alive, but this is not living! My eyes follow a silver chord which connects my spirit to the shell of what I once was.

I lift up my head and shout, “This is not living! Why am I still here?”

A choir of voices, like a thousand chiming bells, echoes across my hospital room.

“They must first let you go.”

They?

Who?

I follow the silver chord as it leaves my body a second and third time. The delicate strands, like fine strings of heavenly cobweb find their way to my mom and dad.

My parents sit quietly beside my bed. Mom’s tiny frame, huddled in a red jumper, faces the bed holding my limp body. There are dark rings beneath her eyes. Dad’s thick black mop has thinned and blanched, his skin no longer a healthy olive, but a tepid, spiritless grey.

Their vigil unrelenting. Waiting for the slightest hint of my miraculous recovery. They have sacrificed so much in this battle for my life. Mom even stopped painting.

“The supplies cost too much,” her justification.

I drift past the steel-framed bed which cradles my diminished form and come to stand by my parents. A sure, knowing wisdom unfolds inside me. A final gift granted.

I place a hand on each of their shoulders. The love that lies beneath their flesh reaches out, wraps itself around my fingers and solidifies the wisp which is me. Dad’s head slowly turns. His Adam’s apple bobs up and down. His pale blue eyes stretch and he stumbles out his chair. I can see the question in his eyes.

“No, dad, you’re not hallucinating.”

His hands grope for the bed rails behind him. Staring first at me, then at my dying body in the bed, then back at me.

“What is it, Clyde?” Mum asks, jolted from her silent mourning.

Unable to speak, he points. Mum looks my way and freezes.

“Sweet Jesus!” She clasps her mouth.

Unlike Dad, she slowly stands and pushes the two plastic chairs to the side. Her hand reaches toward me, shaking and unsure as she touches my face — I can feel her!

“Mum.” My voice breaks as her love for me soaks my very being.

Dad, is still unable to utter a sound, but his gaze is brimmed with hope. I reach out to take my parents hands between my own. It’s so good to feel their warmth. I stand a few moments longer allowing the glow of their love to give me strength for the next part of my journey. The hardest thing I’ll ever have to do in this life, must be done now.

“You have to let me go.”

Mom shakes her head; her indigo eyes a waterfall of sadness. I grip their hands tighter.

“It’s over mum,” I nod toward the sickly husk in the bed. “It’s my time.”

With the sense of finality looming, my dad recovers his composure and grabs my shoulders in his large workman’s hands, “We can’t lose you, Rosie! Please, we are nothing without you!” His deep voice trembles in pain. A river of invisible tears stream down my cheeks. I scrape together my courage.

“Daddy, I love you, please let me go! It hurts too much to stay. You and mum will be okay without me, please don’t lose what you have. It’s the love that you share, the love that brought you two together that made me, and that same love which you must always keep. Without it, you will lose me – forever.”

Their shoulders hunch in despair, as they nod reluctantly. We share one last embrace, the three of us. Dad’s arms locked around his two girls for all of time. Mom smiles, lips quivering. Dad, without looking away from me steps back, reaches for the machine which keeps my body breathing and my blood flowing, and flicks the switch…. The finality of his action echoes through our united hearts. They slowly fade from my sight, but are never far from me. I see them sometimes, when I take a moment to glance down. It is good to know they have once again found happiness.

Never fear death, embrace it as the next step in the eternity of the soul.

The last words I ever heard her say.

To Write is to Bleed, is to Grow, is to Heal.

I needed some reminding.

MC Dalton

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So yesterday I picked up my manuscript to do another round of edits.
Ouch!
It read like the day I accidently broke my mom’s favorite vase.  Staring back at me was a gaping wound, a black hole if you will. A problem with my Main Character and the plot. How did I miss this? Why didn’t I see this with my other edits?

The only difference, I can fix this, the vase however….

I suppose that is why we do SO many edits and then some more. Now, it’s a huge re-write for me. It’s all a part of the learning curb, painful, but so it is.

One thing I do know and what I want to remind all of you of, is that this writing thing is hard work.
We who sit and dream and build worlds out of nothing are the makers of magic. But magic comes with a…

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