The trails meander through the river valley park where the city erected unique benches made from verdant trees felled to create park pathways. At night Paul and his four dogs inhabit a particular bench. They rest their tired legs and pant joyfully, cooling off from the hot humid summer days, during the night.
However, in the winter the dogs huddle against Paul, absorbing each other’s heat. Paul doesn’t have much in his tattered backpack. Only a oversized bottle of water, a bag of dog food, a couple of protein bars, and thin blankets for the dogs. But one night the ice creeps up frosting Paul’s beard. It’s -45 degrees Celsius outside and the homeless shelters are full.
Despite layers of clothing Paul trembles and his teeth chatter; he can’t sleep in this miserable blizzard. He’s terrified the dogs will freeze to death — they’re his family and all he values in the world. He covers them, wrapping them in blankets before spreading the sleeping bag across them all. Their fur is frosted over and he keeps rubbing them with his gloved hands to keep their bodies from stiffening.
Suddenly, a light shines, blinding Paul in the treacherous cold, then his body heats as if he were sitting out on a beach in Mexico on the perfect hot day. The dogs peer up at him from the white sand, wagging their tails. Paul and his dogs have moved on and exist in a place beyond words or woofs. They’ve left cruelty behind.
Six-year-old James was excited. He was at a giant amusement park with a fascinating complex modular domes. He tried to rush past his parents but his Dad grasped James’ hand firmly.
They entered the first dome and there was a huge race track inside. James squeeled while driving with his Dad in a go-kart. The next dome had a mini-golf course. Half-way through the course James decided he was bored and that it was time for his adventure alone; he crept off when his Dad was putting.
He spent his day playing in a giant indoor playground and then went outside to where there were rides for kids to go on. He made friends with another boy named Paul whose parents thought James had permission to ride rides with them.
After a while James felt sick because he hadn’t eaten. He returned to the mini-golf course to wait for his Dad. He sat there for hours but he never saw his parents. He thought they had decided they didn’t want him.
Then he heard his Mom’s angry voice: “JamesWilliam, where have you been?” He hugged his Mom and cried into his Dad’s shoulder when he picked James up. It appeared his adventure alone was more than James had bargained for.
” So what do you think?” Paul asked his husband. “It’s a print of a famous painting and the ocean and sky is calm and relaxing. You don’t like it?”
Trevor looked at the print hung over their bed: “Paul, it’s a print. I think if you’re going to buy a copy of a painting, you should at least buy a copy which is actually painted. This is a poster, how much did you pay for it?” Paul smiled with strain.
“Oh, it was only a cheap print framed. Maybe, we can go find an actual painting soon. I only thought this was a serene piece of art perfect for a bedroom.” Paul said sounding hurt.
Trevor sighed deeply; he hated it when Paul made him feel guilty.
“The ocean and the sky are serene but we could go down Whyte Ave this week during Art Walk and find an original actual painting, while supporting local artists. I’m sure a peaceful ocean and sky will be a common theme.” Trevor remarked, trying to convince Paul’s high taste.
Paul grinned.”That sounds fantastic! There is this great restaurant where they have real Italian food on Whyte and…”
Trevor tuned Paul out and flicked on the TV opposite the ocean print. An NFL game was on; true art, Trevor thought with a grin.
Jessica and Paul grew up together in Kelowna. Both of them had spent a lot of time learning to snowboard. At nineteen-years-old, Jessica could easily catch big air and do tricks.She often went freeriding down the mountain with Paul.
Jessica was worried because she had not seen Paul in two days. It was unusual for him not to contact her. She took the bus down Big White and thought she might go to Paul’s place.
Suddenly, the bus stopped. They were “within a mile-and-a-half of the service roads when [the bus driver spotted a man],” lying on the side of the road. Jessica got off the bus. Recognizing the man’s face she saw it was Paul. Tears slid down her cheeks.
“I love you Paul. Please be okay,” Jessica cried.” We are supposed to go to the next Winter Olympics together. You’re supposed to marry me.”
The RCMP arrived then and a female officer gently pulled Jessica away from Paul. “How do you know this man?” asked the officer.
“He was my boyfriend. We grew up together.” The officer squeezed her shoulder.
After an autopsy was completed Jessica found out why Paul had died. He had had an aneurysm in his brain; it ruptured. Jessica was shattered.
Thanks to Roger Shipp for hosting this flash fiction challenge.
Permanent illness is not an easy sickness to live with. With my depression, I have always expected myself to reach a certain point in my healing and then to remain there, being able to know what I can expect my body to handle each day. I gave myself a 5 year plan from the time I first got sick, that in 5 years I would be at level of healthiness where I could be independent enough on my own and at least have my Interior Decorator’s Certificate completed. I wanted a lot more than that but some things I have come to realize are not realistic goals. But my problem lately has been that even my 5 year goals that I did consider realistic are not realistic; I have instead regressed.
Regression is not something that was part of my ‘Get Better’ plan. I know in November I get a little bit worse due to SAD and basically the low amount of light in the winter sky but I was still well enough that I could attend class and go places without becoming too tired. But already this summer and perhaps even since I’ve been taking classes in Spring, I’ve been regressing.
It started with me missing about 7 of my 13 CAD classes due to the fact that I was too tired or too sick to go. It continued with a summer where I spent a great deal of time sleeping and on the couch. I spent less time having the energy to do all the activities I wanted to do with my friends, my articles were often not as grammatically correct or spelled correctly due to the fact that I was too tired to care, my emotions often felt all over the place, and I became tired of becoming this unhappy miserable person who didn’t have the energy for 20 minutes of Yoga never mind all the other events or activities I couldn’t attend or do.
I still was able to do some things I wanted to do but not as much as I used to be able to do. It took my Mom having a frank discussion with me about my declining health, to put the pieces together. These last 2 months I have spent much time at different Doctor’s offices trying to find a healthier way to fall asleep besides 20, 5 gram melatonin pills which no I cannot cut back on, I need them all to sleep. I have received sleeping medications from my sleep Doctor that have only made me sick or tired all day as well as all night and a ticture from my Naturopath that did nothing for me at double the dose she recommended. Finally, I visited my psychiatrist to address the actual regressions I have been feeling with my depression and have been trying to function unsuccessfully with a new dose of certain medications without feeling tired in the day and serious withdrawal when 1 of the medications wears off which unfortunately has been around 2:30 pm in the afternoon, a change of about 2 and 1/2 hours from the lower dose of the drug. 2 hours of activity wears me out in the day, my motivation, and my concentration has not been any better yet.
I’m so frustrated. I am tired of suffering through medication changes just to have somewhat of a normal life; I am tired of being fatigued and sleepy in the day; and I’m heartbroken after all that time I spent trying to move ahead despite my disease, working towards greater independence and trying to become someone who can contribute to society, that my health has regressed and is not improving.
I am trying to be positive though, really. I try to remember that so many people are suffering so much more. I try to remember that I have a family who can help me take care of myself when I cannot do much; that I have a boyfriend who loves me and is extremely understanding of my illness; and that I have friends and relatives who have not stopped supporting me at whatever stage of recovery or regression I have been in since getting depression 5 years ago.
It is essential to look at the bigger picture in life and it is essential that I don’t think no one understands what it’s like to be me because suffering is universal. When I consider the different painful situations I have been in in life I think of the Bible verse ” My Grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses . . . ” ( 2 Corinthians 12:9) This Bible verse said to Paul by God when he prays, suggests that Paul too suffered from some illness, that he prayed 3 times for God to take this ” thorn” away from him but God told him to depend on God because through Paul’s suffering the power of God was apparent. I hope that people see God’s strength when they see me suffer because He is greater than that suffering and He has greater things in mind for me than I will ever know or understand, just as he did for Paul in the Bible.