Category Archives: Risk

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Devil # 3

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Helpless.” Helplessness: that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that –- and what did you do about it?

Okay, I was going to give this prompt a “miss” and went to the new prompt generator I’ve been using for the past few days.  I hit the button and was served up the two-word prompt: “Ill Devil”.  At first I read this as #3 Devil, and I must admit, I got a chill, because what I immediately thought about when I read the prompt was the third time I was in a near-death situation where I felt totally helpless.  What are the chances, I thought, that these two prompts would line up?  This must be something I’m meant to write about.  But then reason stepped in and I realized this prompt always gave an adjective and a noun.  What they probably meant by the prompt was ill Devil. (Changing the capital to a small “i” clarified the prompt.) But then I realized that ill devil described the occurrence I am trying not to talk about as much as #3 devil did, so I guess, prodded on twice by fate or coincidence or synchronicity, I will try.

I have written to a similar prompt twice in 2015, so probably most of you who read my blog have chanced upon one of those posts, but when I wrote to a similar prompt in June of 2014, I wrote a different piece and since I had few of my present-day readers then, I’ll mention that THIS is what I wrote.  It may not be obvious that the topic given in today’s prompt was what I was really talking about then, however, because it was a poem where I actually stood to one side of what I was really remembering and wrote about the subject as an onlooker rather than a participant.  I only alluded to the real subject, which is what I’m going to attempt to write about today. That real subject is Ted Bundy and how otherwise respectable women sometimes fall prey to such predators.  Okay, deep breath. I’m going to tell to the world something I have actually told to very few people. Yes, this is a true story.

Devil # 3

Nineteen seventy-something. In the bar with friends.
When you are in your twenties, the partying never ends.
It was rodeo season  and the big one was in town.
As one by one they ordered drinks, I couldn’t turn them down.
We were a rather rowdy bunch of teachers in our prime
Devoted in the classroom, but wild on our own time.

The bar was crowded hip to hip, the music barely heard
over the loud cacophony of laugh and shouted word.
It was my turn to buy a round. I struggled towards the bar.
My polite “Excuse me’s!” really hadn’t gotten me too far
when a guy appeared in front of me and moved the crowd aside
as though he had appointed himself to be my guide.

As I returned with eight full drinks, again he stemmed the tide
by walking close in front of  me and spreading elbows wide.
He smiled and then departed, back to the teeming mass.
Impressive that he had not even tried to make a pass!
My friends all wondered who he was. I said I had no clue.
Tall and dark and ivy-league, he vanished from our view.

This story happened long ago. Some details I’ve forgotten,
and any memories he retains, you’ll learn were ill-begotten.
I think we danced a dance or two. I know we talked awhile.
I liked his fine intelligence, his low-key polite style.
At three o’clock the barman’s bell commenced it’s clanging chime
and I made off to find my friends, for it was closing time.

Two lines of men had split the bar, lined up back to back.
Their hands locked and their arms spread wide–they moved into the pack.
One line moved east, the other west, forcing one and all
Either out the front door or towards the back door hall.
I was forced out the back way–out into the alley.
My friends and I had made no plans of where we were to rally

and so I walked around the block, sure that was where they waited,
but there was no one there at all–the crowd had soon abated.
I went back to the alleyway to see if they were there.
but all was dark and still, and soon I began to fear
that both carloads of friends had thought I was with the other.
I had no recourse but to walk, though I prayed for another.

I combed my mind to try to think of anyone at all
living in this part of town where I could go to call
a friend to come and get me and furnish me a ride
for 3 a.m. was not a time to be alone outside.
There were no outside phone booths and I lived so far away
I simply had to rouse someone, but what was I to say?

But since I had no other choice I thought I’d check once more
if any single soul was waiting at the bar’s front door.
And as I left the alley to be off to see,
I saw a new familiar face looking back at me.
It was my dancing partner, his face split in a grin.
It seems that he was going to save me once again.

He had asked me earlier if needed a ride,
but I had told him wisely that I had friends inside
and so I thought he’d left, but I could see he was still there.
Yet, ride home with a stranger?  Did I really dare?
And yet I had no other choice, abandoned as I was.
And so I said I guess that yes, I would, simply because

I knew there was just one of him and I was young and strong.
And he seemed kind, polite and gentle.  What could go so wrong?
His car was just a block away. Our walk was short and brief.
And when he pointed out his car, I felt a great relief.
For it was a convertible–and easy to escape
If I detected the first signs of robbery or rape!

He opened up the door for me. I got in the front seat.
But as he started up the car, my heart skipped a beat.
For from the bushes, two more men emerged and jumped inside–
one man in the backseat, the other at my side!
He pulled out into the street, though I protested so.
I didn’t really want a ride, so please, just let me go!

(And here I have to beg off and say I’ll finish this story tomorrow.  Right now my heart is pumping and my head throbbing as though I’m re-enacting this whole tale physically as well as mentally.  I’m totally exhausted.  Why I decided to write this in rhyme I don’t know. Perhaps I thought it would be easier, or more fun or more lighthearted, but there is simply no way to write this from any other frame of mind but the terror I felt that night. So, sorry, but I will resume tomorrow. You all know that I’m here telling the story, so be assured that the worst didn’t happen…but the story is by no means over, so join me tomorrow for the rest.  I, for one, could really use a drink, but it is only 1:40 in the afternoon so I’ll find some other means of escape.)

To see the conclusion of this poem, go HERE.

If you’d like to try out Jennifer’s new prompt generator, go HERE.

Risking It

The Prompt: Envelope Pushers—When was the last time you took a risk (big or small), and pushed your own boundaries — socially, professionally, or otherwise? Were you satisfied with the outcome?

Risking It

What risks are left in life at 67? That big risk of childbirth far behind me (and since I said no to it, so is the risk of my life being detoured by the products of it); travel no longer the thrill it once was; too tired to build and decorate any more houses; and love seemingly something that is going to be experienced in online spurts for the rest of my life; it seems as though the only risk left is that big one. And I fear it. Actually, resent it. I don’t want for life to ever be over.

I can’t stand the thought of fading into nothingness. Yes, my “work” might live after me, but my work is just the rumor of me. It is only the part of me I have been able to express. What about that entire unexplored rest of me? Where will it go? Will it ever have another chance? I feel the press of my own potential. Have I let it down? Will Hell really be the fleeting awareness, as I fade away, that I have left the most delicious offerings on the plate of life untasted?

I am not an athlete. I was never a mother. Although I have made some brave decisions in my life, nonetheless, I have feared too much. I fear being laughed at, rejected, passed over—so much so that at times I haven’t even tried. Like so many others, I have too often escaped. The power of books and films is that they afford us the opportunity to live vicariously those risks we put off taking in our own lives.

Then, the internet. Finally, the opportunity to control our fantasy lives—to create personalities for ourselves where we can leave out the parts we don’t want to face. We can always be 40 on the internet. Frozen at 145 pounds. Our successes are there on our cyber page for all to see and we can simply neglect to mention our failures. The internet is like a scrapbook with all of the faces we don’t want to see, ever again, relegated to Facebook, where we can block them with the push of a button.

Online, we get to think before talking, or at the very least, a chance to review and edit before hitting the “send” button. We are able to choose greater exposure with fewer risks. Or, one can opt for the “voyeur” stance—simply watching and imagining without ever taking the risk of exposing ourselves.

There is a swimmer a hundred yards off shore who swam by going in the opposite direction a half hour ago. A kayaker paddles by as close to the shore as she can safely travel without being swamped by waves. Two more kayakers come into view 500 yards out, paddling for shore.  It is not only the large decisions in life that expose us to risk, but there is risk, also, in the everyday details. You rent a kayak, yes, but how far out into the bay are you willing to paddle it? You go to potentially dangerous places, but to how much of that risk are you willing to expose yourself? We are all here at the same place at the same time, but I am sitting on my porch, well-shaded by the palapa roof.

The tern bobs just beyond the surf line, ducking his head underwater now and then, in search of any fish who are dumb enough to make it easy for him. Up above, magnificent frigate birds are executing their perpetual ballet—this time on our stage. Even clams stick their necks out now and then, albeit to their peril. Younger women and men jog by. Buxom grandmothers plod by. Children draw hopscotch patterns in the sand and poke at a large dying fish. I want to tell them to leave the fish alone as the child touches the eye, but when the fish doesn’t flinch, I hope it signals the end of its too-long death, gasping for air it can’t draw in now that it is surrounded by too much of it.  Simply by going after his own breakfast, he has taken a risk that will lead to his becoming someone else’s.

Part of taking risks is going into worlds we are not familiar with, to risk the discomfort of adjusting ourselves to that world. I think the secret is, however, to find familiar worlds within every world we take ourselves off to. It is not that we are rejecting the new, but rather that we are clinging onto those parts of ourselves that make us “us.” When I come to the beach, I occasionally meet with other writers. This keeps me reassured that I am sane to spend so much my life in recreating that life in words. It keeps me less lonely. It gives me a timeline and a goal. Without these touchstones that remind us who we are, we can all too easily become wanderers without purpose, going on to the next place in search of ourselves.

Sitting here on the porch, I am not necessarily any safer than the man or woman swimming so far offshore. It is my own risks I’m taking. I risk telling you something that will make you like me less. Something that will make me look foolish, deluded, poorly-informed, naïve, even crazy. A bigger risk is that in this writing I might see a part of myself I don’t like. This prompt today has done that: raised a question I don’t want to answer, even though I know the answer is hiding there somewhere within me. I know what the risk is that I’m afraid to take, but like the name of that acquaintance whose face I know so well but whose name suddenly eludes me, I just can’t quite put my finger on it. There is at least one risk left to take before that final risk formerly alluded to. Now I just need to set about trying to remember what it is.