Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Bon Voyage (09/05/05)
TITLE: Rachel's Lesson
By Carol Sanford
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“One does not see anything until one sees its beauty.” Oscar Wilde
Friday morning. Ten o’clock. Thirteen residents of the convalescent home waited expectantly for the bright red and green trolley to arrive. It pulled up to the door a few minutes early. Slowly passengers boarded. Some needed the assistance of the wheelchair lift. Others used the steps in front taking walkers and canes with them while a few needed no help. Rachel easily settled into the first seat directly behind the driver. She sat next to her aunt, a centenarian. As the bus retreated, folks who stayed behind smiled and waved “bon voyage.”
Within minutes, they were heading west on the crowded freeway. Rachel had no idea where they were going so she sat back to enjoy what had been described to her as a scenic drive.
Her aunt sat by the window looking out. They didn’t converse, but occasionally she would look at Rae and comment, “This is nice.” As the miles evaporated, Rachel’s eyes considered the surroundings. The terrain was high and rocky. The stones were a sun-bleached white in a deathly parched land. Intense heat rose up in waves from the arid earth. There was not a living thing to be seen. What she did see were stark warning signs. There was danger of rock or mud slides. It was against the law to abandon a cat or dog in this desolate area. Rachel wondered why they were driving through what looked to her like a God-forsaken place. Further on, hints of a past forest fire were visible and had erased what little vestige of green there had been.
After a bit, Rachel turned her attention to the other passengers. More than half were sleeping, hoary heads bobbing in rhythmic cadence to the wheels on the highway. Those who managed to stay awake seemed to be staring out the windows with tired eyes. “I am not the only one completely bored,” Rachel thought to herself.
After an interminable length of time, they left the freeway and followed a road less traveled. Though remote, indications of life became apparent - a few cabins, a gas station and general store came into view.
They arrived at their “destination.” This involved nothing more than a brief view of a creek rapidly running from a nearby mountainside. Rae conceded that the water looked fresh and inviting. After a glimpse of mere seconds, the trolley did an about-face and headed back exactly the way it had come.
Sitting back in her seat with a sigh, ready to fall asleep along with the others, Rachel again contemplated why they had ridden to this place which, in her mind’s eye, was anything but scenic. While she speculated, Rachel became aware of two elderly ladies talking together several rows behind her. Eavesdropping, Rae heard one telling the other how this ride had brought back many fond memories. She admired the unique beauty of the rugged landscape and recalled family picnics by that same creek. Her husband and children loved it. They had camped, fished, waded, and swam. There was no mistaking the lilt in her voice; the joy brought on by the recollection of happy times past. Rae felt amazed and chastened at the same time, realizing that where they were meant absolutely nothing to her, but the world to someone else.
On the return trip, Rachel resolved to consider the view from the window in a more positive light. Instead, a fear that the coachman was speeding grew within her until it became huge. Without seatbelts, Rachel felt they could all be in danger. She thought he was driving quite fast, passing tractor trailers and swiftly maneuvering around the multi-laned freeway like it was mere child’s play with the trolley a toy.
Finally, the excursion was almost over. As they turned into the facility, Rachel thought with relief how glad she was to be back safely. To her surprise, the other passengers, now fully awake, began to applaud in appreciation for a wonderful ride, especially complimenting the driver on his prowess behind the wheel. One by one, as each resident alighted, sincere and heartfelt gratitude was expressed for a lovely trip. As Rachel descended the steps, she smiled, mostly to herself, and also thanked the driver for a memorable journey.
“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” John Lubbock
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