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This year's writing contest topic is: Phobias.
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(#5312538) Blessed Are the Children
Posted by The Spades Master on 2 Dec 2021 at 5:11AM
Blessed Are the Children
Sunday 20 Jun 2021
"How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" Mother asked for the zillionth time.
10-year-old Latoya Williams, smiling, replied, "Practice, practice, practice!"
A collective cheer erupted from the three people in the silver Nissan Versa Note.
Behind the wheel, Father asked, "And who exactly is performing there this Christmas in that August and hallowed hall?"
"I am, Daddy!" Latoya jumped excitedly from her seat.
"Darn straight, baby girl. Never forgetóyou've earned it."
Mother, in the backseat beside Latoya, gave a hug. "Oh, Latoya, we're so proud of you!"
Latoya's Black parents, both classical music teachers, recognized their daughter as a child prodigy early on. She began playing piano at four-years-old. At eight, she could perfectly reproduce on the piano almost any song, even after hearing it just once.
Her exceptional talent had spread over the next two years, culminating in a VIP piano recital at Walnut Creek's Lesher Center for the Arts earlier that evening. After the concert, they were met backstage by Sanford Weill, the Carnegie Hall President, who personally invited them to play in Manhattan this 23 December, six months from now.
Father beamed. They were driving on Highway 4 East to their home in Antioch. "Now, baby girl, remember not to forget us when you become rich and famous. We just may need to borrow a million dollars from you, every now and then."
Latoya giggled. "Oh, Daddy. You two will always be..."
"LOOK OUT!" Mother screamed.
A diesel truck in the next lane had a sudden blowout. It lost control and slammed into the driver's side of their car. The Nissan rolled over twice before smashing head-on into the concrete barrier wall.
Latoya awoke. She could hear snoring nearby, but it was too dark to see who it was. "Hello. Is somebody there?" Abruptly, the snoring stopped.
"Hello, Latoya. How do you feel?"
It took Latoya a few moments to place the voice. "Is that you, Uncle Steve?"
"Yes, it's me, honey. I've, uh, been waiting for you to wake up."
Latoya stretched her arms wide and yawned. "Yeah, I guess I'm still a bit tired from last night's recital. And achy everywhere. Can you please switch on the lights, Uncle? Whereís Mom and Dad?"
"Latoya, you're at John Muir Hospital in Concord. And the room lights are on."
"I-I don't understand. I can't see a thing."
"I've got some bad news for you, honey. There was a car accident. You've been in a coma for the past three months. The doctors say..." Air Force Captain Steve Rogers took a deep breath before continuing. "They said you're blind."
Latoya was shocked into despair. She was condemned to live the rest of her life with one of her greatest fears. "Uncle, I'm ascared of the dark. I want my Mommy and Daddy."
"Latoya... I'm so sorry. Your parents didn't make it."
Latoya covered her face; her body shook uncontrollably with each wailing sob. Rogers held her close until she eventually stopped.
"Latoya? I need to tell you something else, honey, and it's best you hear about it now rather than later. OK? Both your legs were crushed in the accident. The doctors had to amputate them."
"But... but I can still feel them, Uncle!"
"What you're feeling is known as 'phantom limb pain.' Apparently, one could still feel sensation in one's legs, even after they're no longer there."
The awful revelations took a toll. Latoya feinted.
During the next two months, Steve Rogers commuted 35 miles daily from his home at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield to visit Latoya at Concord's John Muir Hospital. Latoya's rehabilitation was, so far, a non-starter. She was so traumatized by her injuries and her parents' deaths, she frequently sat motionless in her wheelchair, unresponsive to any audio stimulation or encouragement. Some nurses whispered amongst themselves the word, "shell-shocked."
Wednesday 24 Nov 2021
Steve Rogers visited Latoya at John Muir, greeting her with a kiss on the forehead. "Hey, champ. Happy Thanksgiving Eve."
Latoya gave an exaggerated yawn.
"Sweetie, how would you like to go for a ride?"
She shrugged and grunted noncommittally.
Rogers unlocked her wheelchair brakes. "I'll take that as a 'yes.' Címon, let's roll."
He wheeled her to the garage, folded the wheelchair into the back of the SUV, then drove west on Highway 4. Rogers rolled down the windows and took in a deep breath. "Ahhh. Some fresh air and sunshine will do wonders for you, Latoya."
"Yeah, right. I'm just glad I'm blind so I don't have to watch people's reactions when they see the freak coming."
"You're not a freak."
"Stop that! Have some self-respect."
"Now I know how Mrs. Butterworth feels. She's got no legs, either, you know."
Rogers sighed. They drove on for a few more minutes in silence. "Ok, Munchkin, here we are."
"Yeah, I'm about the size of a Munchkin now."
"Enough, already! You want to feel sorry for yourself? Fine. But do it on your own time at the hospital. You're on my time now, so shut the heck up."
Latoya flinched as if she'd been slapped. "Y-you can't talk to me like that!"
"Let's get something straight, missy. We've tried it the doctor's way for two months, treating you with kid's gloves and walking on eggshells around you. Well, now it's MY turn. Life as you knew itóIS OVER! As your legal guardian, I'm saying you'd best screw your head on straight, ASAP! Now then, just sit your butt in that wheelchair and keep quiet. I want to show you something."
Latoya was shaken into a tense silence at her uncle's tirade.
She heard the automatic sliding doors whoosh open and close as they went indoors. Immediately, she felt the slight breeze of the air conditioner on her face. She was pushed through what she guessed was a long corridor, catching intermittent conversations from people as they passed by. More doors opened and closed. Muffled sounds of metal clanked rhythmically against metal. Heavy grunts and snarls. And the pungent odor of sweat and... dirty socks?
Rogers said, "Latoya, welcome to the Martinez Veterans Affairs Clinic. This is the gym for the In-Patients. The soldiers here receive treatment for various disabilities.
"Near the back is Cpl. Jeff Thompson, he's a newbie from Afghanistan. His jeep hit an improvised explosive device last month on Halloween. It left him wracked with hemiplegia, meaning one side of his body is completely paralyzed. He's doing leg-lifts with his physical therapist. The driver of that jeep, Private Elsa Lundgren, she's like you, both her legs gone from above her knees. She's on your left at the weight machine, bench-pressing more weight than I ever could.
"To your right, is Lt. Jim Diamond, a VietNam Vet. He's a quadruple amputeeóno arms or legs. The lieutenant's doing a version of CrossFit exercises, a strength and conditioning workout that's developed especially for patients like him. I also hear he's the biggest flirt in this medical wing.
"None of them are freaks or monsters. These are heroes and heroines. Patriots, all. Every last darn one of them."
Behind his niece, Rogers placed his hands gently on her shoulders. "Just like you."
In the back of Latoya's sunglasses, tears came unbidden from her sightless eyes. "I'm sorry, Uncle Steve, I feel so ashamed! I wish I was brave and strong like your friends. But I'm just a kid! Iím no hero."
"No. You have a different kind of strength. Let me show you."
They moved through several more automatic doors before stopping.
"This is one of the lounge areas. I want you to meet this facility's oldest current resident, he's often found reading here. World War II veteran, Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Miller. Gunny, this is my niece, Latoya. Well, I'm going out for a smoke. You two get acquainted."
"Cap'n's told me lots about'cha. Like me and you are both blind as a bat."
"Huh? But Uncle said you read here all the time!"
"Yup, I do. Braille books for the blind. Just because you can't see, doesn't mean you have to give up the things you love. It's an adjustmentóstarting overóbut also very rewarding. I hear you're quite the pianist."
"No, sir, that was before the accident. I can't--"
"Are your hands injured?"
"Good! Because we just so happen to have a piano sitting right here in front of you. What a coincidence! I haven't heard anything good coming out of these here ivory keys in years. But I bet you can rustle up a grand tune or two."
"I'm sorry, sir, I can't--"
"Cap'n tells me you can play most any song after hearing it just once. Iff'in that's true, that means you don't have to look and actually see the keyboard, right?"
"Well..." Something like an electric shock passed through the girl. "Holy shoot, you're right!"
Slowly, she brought her hands up to the keyboard, her trembling fingertips lightly brushing over the keys from one end of the piano to the other, as if re-familiarizing herself with an old friend.
Latoya smiled for the first time since the accident. Then she began to play.
Thursday 23 Dec 2021
After the full-house audience finished applauding, an elderly man wearing a black tuxedo and red bow-tie walked to the center of the stage.
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Sanford Weill, and I'd like to welcome you all to Carnegie Hall." The audience responded with a short but enthusiastic cheer.
"Tonight, we have a special treat for you. Perhaps it's fate that Christmas Eve will arrive in just a few short hours, because this first performer will have you believing in miracles.
"Six months ago, a tragic accident befell this talented, young girl. In one instant, she had lost almost everything. But with faith, perseverance, and true grit, she found the strength to fight her way back.
"Iím also indebted to her uncle, Captain Steve Rogers, who, early on, had hope enough for the both of them when times were the bleakest. If ever there was a real-life Captain America, this is him.
"And now, without further ado, Iím proud to present to you the beautiful and gutsy young lady, Ms. La-toy-a Williams!"
Steve Rogers pushed Latoya's wheelchair onstage to a standing ovation. Once in front of the piano, she waited until the thunderous applause subsided into an expectant silence.
With tears rolling down her cheeks, she adjusted her sunglasses.
Softly, Latoya said into the microphone, "This is for my mother and father."
(#5292520) YOU MUST COMPLY
Posted by The Spades Master on 11 Oct 2021 at 12:41AM
YOU MUST COMPLY
The Covid Phobia
by tony hall
(word count: 463 words)
John Elliot was called to his daughter's junior high school.
Upon arrival, he drove his Honda directly to the ambulance parked beside the crowded track field. His daughter, Lisa, was laying on a cot, wearing an oxygen mask, surrounded by members and the coaching staff of her track team. A pair of paramedics were treating her.
Everyone but john was wearing a mask.
"I'm Lisa's father. What happened here? Is lisa all right?"
"She'll be fine," the taller paramedic said. "She feinted from oxygen deprivation while running the mile with a mask on."
John turned to Coach Robbins. "You made my daughter wear a mask in 95-degree temperature?!"
"Mr. Elliot, I was merely following the county policies regarding Covid-19 safety. Everyone must wear a mask while on school premises. By the way, you need to put one on, as well."
"What?! I was called here because I was told my daughter had a medical emergency... that your stupid policies apparently caused!"
Coach Robbins folded her arms in front of her chest. "If you refuse to comply, i will be forced to call security to escort you off the property."
Dumbfounded, John looked to the paramedics. "Do you guys agree with the medical science behind this policy?"
The shorter of the pair said under his breath, "Don't look at me, mister, I don't want any more trouble from the city. They already fired half our staff for refusing to get a Covid shot-- even though they all had natural immunity, which is 17 times greater protection than the actual Covid shot itself! if I were you, I'd just keep my mouth shut and follow orders."
The taller one whispered, "We're just trying to stay under the radar, Mr. Elliot. The government's given no scientific data to support masking pre-teens or that covid is a bigger danger to them than even the flu, but what can I do? if I publicly disagree, they'll label me a domestic terrorist and fire me...or worse." he disconnected the medical equipment from Lisa.
"Your daughter's awake now, Mr. Elliot." He saluted john. "We're outta here."
John helped his daughter off the cot. "Are you ok, honey?"
"I'll be fine, Daddy. Just feel a bit light-headed."
The other girls surrounded John and Lisa, chanting, "Put on your masks! Put on your masks! Put on your masks!"
Coach Robbins approached them and slammed her hand on the Honda's hood.
"Are you two trying to murder us? Put on a gosh-darn mask or get the heck off the premises!"
John looked at the mob, then at his daughter. He put his arm around her shoulder.
"Let's go, honey." He turned to coach Robbins and gave her a mock salute. "We're outta here."
(#5290482) Celebrate GoldTokens 22nd Anniversary!
Posted by ladyvic on 6 Oct 2021 at 11:28AM
Only ONE token for the number of years on GoldToken.
Anyone who wins one will be entered in the 4 in a row tournament.
The winner of the 4 in a row tournament will get six months membership!
Private Message me the answer to this question to win. DO NOT ANSWER ON THIS BOARD
What is GoldTokens October game of the month?
( Hint: answer can be found in the last Newsletter )
Remember, if you've already won on another board, no need to answer. You can only win 1 token
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