Eugene was a wreck – disheveled clothes, bloodshot eyes, tired, hungry and freezing. He had been working in the lab nonstop throughout this sleety March night, frantically perfecting a classified formula. He still had 300 small black-capped vials to fill, wrap securely in packing materials and stash inside porcelain statues before he could neatly stack them in crates and deliver them to the transportation facility before dawn. A HIGHLY TOP SECRET ASSIGNMENT, he was told.
The harried chemist was momentarily startled by a swift scurrying motion across the room. A rat? “Keep going – no time to dilly dally” he muttered to himself, choosing to ignore the unwelcome intruder.
There it was again, that scampering scurrying movement. Eugene glanced in the general direction of the noise, then did a double take, squinting. He removed his thick glasses and rubbed his tired eyes. Putting his specs back on, he snuck another peek. On a shelf, partially hidden behind urns and sculptures, sat a leathery-skinned troll with enormous eyes and long, pointy ears.
“Great”, Eugene mumbled. “Now I’m hallucinating.”
“Real, am I. Working too hard, are you. Weebly will help”, whispered the troll in a raspy voice.
“What the…? This is insane!” Eugene rubbed his eyes again and took a swig of his now cold coffee, grimacing at it’s acrid taste.
“Finish, you won’t. My help, you need. Watch.” Raising one gnarled finger, Weebly pointed to the formula and magically poured it into the vial, sealed it, carefully wrapped and hid it inside a statuette and gently placed it in a box. Eugene was too stunned to move.
“Understand now, you do? Work together, we will. Four hands better.” Weebly cocked his head to one side, his long finger rubbing his chin.
Despite his incredulity, Eugene accepted the fact that this clever troll was his only answer if he hoped to finish the project in time or face the deadly wrath of the powerful men in charge. Working together, the duo swiftly got the job done. Eyeing the clock, Eugene saw he had ten minutes to carry the heavy crates to the terminal across the compound.
“Weebly’s help, you need. Too heavy, they are. Transport you, I will”, offered the sage intruder, but Eugene dismissed him. Straining, he placed the boxes on a hand truck and walked toward the stairs.
“Beware the stairs! Frozen, they are!”
Unwisely, Eugene ignored his helper’s warning. Struggling up the frozen stairs, his feet suddenly flew out from under him and he lost his grip on the hand truck. Eugene tumbled backwards, crashed into a shelf and knocked over a hefty basilisk statue which crushed his skull, killing him instantly. The hand truck slid down the stairs and landed with an incredible crash inside Eugene’s laboratory, scattering its shattered contents everywhere.
“Listened, you should have” clucked the wise old troll before scurrying away.
I wrote this story about 3 years ago and was going to repost it for Fandango’s One Word challenge which was “reasonable”. When I read through the whole thing, I couldn’t help noticing Fandango’s “like” at the end and a couple of comments we exchanged. Genius that I am, I quickly reasoned I must have submitted this for another one of Fandango’s word challenges so instead of going that route again, I thought “Why not share it with everyone?”. This is a letter from a mature me to a much younger me. I hope you enjoy what I had to say.PS: You’ll see I mentioned someone named Steven Tallarico; go ahead and Google him.I think you’ll be surprised to learn who he really is.
Did you ever wish you could go back in time to when you were five years old? That’s a reasonable age – old enough to grasp the difference between right and wrong yet young enough to be just a kid having lots of fun; not on the cusp of adulthood so it’s probably a good idea to try not to muck it all up.
If I, a seventy-something-year-old woman could write a letter to my five-year-old self, I might say something like this:
There’s a ginormous amount of ‘stuff’ that you’re gonna have to deal with in life so listen up:
• Everything you’ll ever need to know you’ll learn in kindergarten so pay attention. • Follow the Golden Rule, obey the Ten Commandments and listen to the Beatles because life really is about peace, love and understanding. • Mom and Dad aren’t the enemy; they’re doing the best they can so cut them some slack.
Right now you’re having the time of your young life. Your days are pretty much planned out. Mom does all the work and there aren’t a lot of demands on you. It’s mostly playing, eating, napping, doing a chore or two, sleeping; repeat tomorrow. Life is good and you’re a happy kid.
Sometimes, though, you’re gonna be so sad all you wanna do is cry and that’s ok; even big people cry. You won’t be sad forever. Other times you’re gonna get so mad you just wanna hit somebody, but that isn’t a good reaction – except if it’s Willie Casa; he’s the bully who lives three houses down. So when he hits you over the head with that plastic gun of his, you’re gonna bop him in the nose. And you know what? He’ll never bully you again.
Speaking of noses, yours is ok right now but in a few years it’s gonna turn into a real honker and you’re not gonna like it. You’ll get teased some and it’ll hurt. But hang in there because the most important guy in your life won’t care about that at all. He thinks you look like Sophia Loren and that’s a good thing. Besides, I know a good plastic surgeon.
Mom isn’t comfortable talking about a lot of personal stuff and you’re gonna wake up one morning to discover you’re body’s changing. It happens to all girls and while some of it is pretty yucky, most of it is really amazing. Let’s just say God knows what he’s doing and you’re gonna turn out ok.
When you’re about 13 somebody cool is gonna enter your life, coming and going for a couple of years. He’s a 16-year-old beanpole named Steven Tallarico – Google him. You might feel like kicking yourself because you didn’t run off with him but your whole life would have turned out differently and probably not for the best. Don’t worry. In 1968 you’re gonna go on a blind date and that guy will change your life forever and in the best ways imaginable.
You’re gonna make a lot of mistakes; everybody does. It doesn’t matter who you are in this giant world – you’re gonna screw up and believe me some of your booboos are doozies. You’re gonna hurt people and when the dust settles all you can do is apologize and try to make things right. The important thing is to own your mistakes and take responsibility.
Responsibility. Accountability. Big words with important meanings and so easy to overlook. They’re gonna be important to you and believe me, kid, there’s nothing wrong with that. People won’t always act the way you want them to; try to remember just because YOU think someone should act a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the right way for them. Let it go because it’s wrong to force people to do anything. And don’t let others force you.
Don’t be afraid to smile and make friends but don’t blindly trust people you don’t know. And if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If somebody scares you, scream your head off and run like hell because there are some bad people out there. But there are also a lot of wonderful people and most of the time you’ll be able to see the difference. Sometimes you won’t and people will hurt you. Shame on them! Cut your losses and move on; it’s their problem, not yours.
Nobody’s life is perfect, not even yours. You can own a lot of great stuff but if you don’t have a loving family and friends then you don’t have anything. You will be greatly blessed in more ways than you can count – not by the wonderful things YOU do but by the wonderful people in your life.
Some things I’ve learned along the way: • Listen to Mom and Dad; they really do know more than you (especially about Woodstock!). • Go easy with the blue eye shadow; it’s not a great look. And watch out for sloe gin fizzes; they have a way of sneaking up on you and knocking you on your ass. • Be a friend, lend a hand and don’t judge; you never know what someone may be going through. • Be respectful – not only of others but of yourself. • The popular thing isn’t always the right thing and the right thing isn’t always the popular thing. That’s a tough one. • If you say you’re gonna do something, do it. Be responsible (see above). • Don’t be afraid to show your emotions and let people know how much you care; it’s how you know you’re alive. • Be flexible. Things don’t always go as planned. • You’re gonna have your heart broken more than a few times and you’re gonna break some hearts, too. It sucks but that’s just the way life is. • Don’t be late. Period. You can’t control the weather or traffic but you can anticipate it. • Don’t lie or make excuses. Not only does it show poor character – it’s too hard to remember all your tall tales. The truth always comes out. • Smoking is not cool so cut it out. It’s a disgusting and expensive habit. • Listen to the Beatles as much as you can; not only is their music just about the best you’ll ever hear, you’ll learn a lot from what they have to say. • Just be a decent person; it’s really not that difficult.
And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.