TITLE: Raccoon Valley
By Tasha Reed
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Raccoon Valley Rd. 12:45 p.m.
Opening my eyes, tall snow covered pines enclosed me. Sitting up, a six-pointed buck, a doe and four bambi deer stared at me fifteen feet away. I froze, not wanting to scare them off. Why weren’t they afraid of me? Do I have a trusting face? The buck blinked his black eyes, tilted his big head to the ground and nibbled on snow.
Without warning, they quickly stretched their necks to the left; I too turned to the left. Immediately, they dashed at nothing, leaping to the right through the woods as though they spotted a lion. I watched the six points, the little white spots and the tiny white tails disappear in seconds as if they were never there.
What am I doing sitting here? I can’t believe I’m not cold. Felt like seventy degrees. Seventy degrees and snow, that doesn’t seem right. How did I get here? Where am I… did something, wait, what do I last remember? Wait, who’s there? Did I hear something? Is someone talking? Hello.
Placing one hand in the snow, my feet under me, I pushed myself from the ground. Knocking the snow off my legs and butt, I walked toward the left in the direction the deer stared. I heard talking. That must be why they ran. Hello. “Hello. I’m out here, don’t shoot. Hello—don’t shoot me out here.” Surely, I wasn’t hunting. I’m not wearing an orange vest, I couldn’t kill bambi anyway, even if I was starving. If they can’t see this red jacket and green pants in all this white, they shouldn’t have a gun.
“Hello—huuh…” I jumped behind a thick pine. I wiped my eyes for they played trickery with me. Looking again and wiping, it was my mind playing not my eyes. A large gold object sat on the side of the road. From behind, it looked like a large bird. A black and white cruiser flashing its lights pulled up. An officer got out looking into the wood line—shifting my eyes to where he looked, a truck had hit a tree.
Slowly, I stepped from behind the tree, creeping through the woods over fallen branches to get a closer look. The officer shook his head and ran over to the golden object. And as I got closer, my eyes bulged and I couldn’t take my eye off the large golden—my knees buckled and I fell to the ground.
Not again. The golden object turned toward me as it usually did at the time I dropped to my knees. As he stood from a crouching position with a girl in his arms, he turned exceedingly bright and his golden feathers separated out and folded back in. Lifeless, the girl with her head back, the wind blew through her brunette mane. As I looked at him, he smiled and moved his lips, but I couldn’t hear him nor read his lips. I looked back at the girl and gasped as she stared back at me. She smiled and they lifted in the air and out of existence.
“Jewels…” the harassing dark voice said, “It’s not too late to be one of my girls. Come worship me and I’ll still give you the world. Or you can stay here, and keep repeating your pathetic life, time and again, until you give up your silly faith. Remember this day Jewels, what God did to you. Remember and come worship me. A good master gives his servants everything, not take them away. Here, let me help you remember again.”
I hated the voice that clung to me as a thick, smothering fog. It left me long enough to keep me remembering everything I did wrong. The voice kept me in guilt. I remembered all right, that cold and bitter day; the never-ending nightmare.
It was so cold. Even the heavy iced laden trees leaned toward one another in the hopes of staying warm. I sat in the back seat starring out wide-eyed at the shimmering ice-sickles weighing down the tall pines. Hoping daddy would make a fire when we got home, I smiled at the trees, which reminded me of the chandelier hanging in the foyer of our house. I loved our home.
Too warm now, mom bundled me up before we left the house with hats, scarves, jackets, gloves, thermals, you name it, I had it on. And now headed home from church, my favorite place to go because I loved being around my Sunday school teacher Mark. I wondered what he was doing now—oh God, I love Mark. If only I were older. But being sixteen and he twenty-six, I’d guess I’d have to wait a couple years before we could marry without anyone saying something.
Mark, a close friend to our family, came over for dinner and I’ve secretly had a crush on him since he bought me a basketball two years ago and taught me how to shoot. And often we played one on one at the church’s gym after church.
A bump in the road interrupted my thoughts. The drive home with the blizzard like conditions made the bronco scary. Fortunately, my daddy was no stranger to driving in bad weather. Being senior pastor of his church, he had a snow removal crew but he voluntarily insisted on helping plow the snow out of the church’s large parking lot. Sometimes he’d take me along when he’d plow certain member’s drives. They’d invite us in for hot chocolate and freshly baked cookies or breads. I loved helping daddy, even if it was cold. On occasion he’d let me plow.
I knew my daddy loved the snow. Not me so much. I preferred the warmth of the summer months, especially since I was born in June. Shifting my eyes from outside to the rearview mirror, I’d caught daddy looking back at me. His attention always pleased me. I giggled inside because I could tell by the creases surrounding the corners of his brown eyes, he had a smile on his face. Hitting another bump, I winced knowing we were on nothing but a sheet hard packed snow with patches of ice. Redirecting my eyes outside, I stared into the glare that shined off the white ground and ice drenched trees.
Mom sneezed and blew her nose in a pink napkin. “Oh Paul…” Mom said. “It’s almost unbearable to see or drive. I can barely stand it. On top of which, they’re calling for more snow…”
Clearing his throat, “As long as we’ve lived here, you’d think you’d be used to it.”
Sneezing again, “I’m afraid I’ll never get used to this, nor do I ever want to. I think my cold is getting worse.”
“Sounds like it--”
Daddy thought he was fooling somebody, but I could tell by his stern voice and focused face, that even he was having a tough time keeping the bronco in the road. With a little fishtail here-a little fishtail there. But whatever he did, he could show no fear; otherwise, mom would have a fit, which would be scarier than the drive itself.
“I wished I’d brought my sunglasses.” I said.
Mom’s nervousness increased as she fumbled with her gray seat belt, trying to get it to work. Daddy said he was going to fix it last summer. I guess he forgot. Knowing how terrified mom was of driving in the ice and snow, he should have. Of course, daddy didn’t help by driving as if the roads were dry…
“Haa cheww… Paul—slow down,” Mom said while wiping her nose, “you’re driving entirely to fast for the road conditions.”
“Ruth, quiet please. We’re in a Bronco, I have it under control.”
“I just don’t know why you feel you have to go a hundred miles an hour. I’d rather get there in one piece than not at all—”
Well, I knew it was a matter of time, especially seeing mom’s fear increasing by the second. Her voice now, one pitch away from yelling. Daddy, you better slow down. Sometimes yelling can cause a person to wreck. And if we wreck, mom will really be mad. Mom turned and looked back at me…
“Jewels, are you seat belted in?” Her nose was just as raw and red like hamburger. A little piece of the tissue stuck to the bottom of her nose. I would tell her, but it look to painful to try and rub it off.
“Yes mom, nice and tight. Almost too tight with all these clothes on.”
Taking my eyes off her, I shifted them into the rearview and found daddy smiling at me. He went so much as to raise his mouth into the mirror and show all his white teeth. Boy, if mom had seen, she would have hit him in his arm with a little balled up fist. I relaxed, for his smile assured me he had everything in control.
But just as soon as mom turned around, she screamed— “Paul look out—!” And before I could scream…
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