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Friday, June 29, 2018

starburst in july

Fireworks, Sky, Party, New Year'S EveIt really burned. As many times as Callie had attended fireworks events on the 4th of July, she had never had a spark fall on her until now. It had been an unusually beautiful burst of color. She had been absorbed in watching it until the last glimmer faded, echoing in the “ooh” of her teenage sister Cara sitting beside her. Then all of her attention turned to the searing pain on her arm, and she uttered a very undignified    "Ouch!”  And Cara jumped up, shaking the quilt as Callie grabbed her arm.  A  grandmotherly type woman was now steering them toward the first aid area. 

Matt leaned back in his folding chair, flexing his arms behind him. No excitement tonight. For all their spectacular explosions of light, fireworks displays were generally quiet affairs for the EMT squad. Nothing exciting ever happened. Not that he wanted anyone to get hurt. A quiet evening was good. With all the classes he was taking, it gave his mind a chance to rest and drink in the fragrant summer air.
     “Hey, Matt, someone’s coming.” His partner gave him a heads up, and a grin. According to their unspoken agreement, it was his turn.
     The girl was burned. He reached for the bandages and meds that were standard procedure. Because of the uneven light in their area, he didn’t get a good look at her face at first. “Doesn’t look too bad, Miss. I think we can get it fixed up right here.” He looked up to give her a reassuring smile. And forgot what he was going to say. 
     “Hi, Matt.”
     “Callie?”  Memories flooded him. A little girl with blond braids licking a Popsicle, a pretty teenager smiling at him over a plate of chicken wings, a lovely face in the moonlight, crying as he said . . . “I didn’t know you were back.”  
     “I’m home on summer break.  I’ve been away at Bible college.”
     He wrapped her arm expertly.  Callie had always known he would make an excellent doctor. Healing was in his hands. And ministry was in his heart.
     “Oh.  I guess I didn’t know that either.”  Matt gave her a shy smile.
     “I wanted to tell you, but every time I started to, it seemed presumptuous.  Like ‘I have my life in order now, can we pick up where we left off?’ So I never did.  My parents kept me posted about you though.  I knew you were still in school and working as an EMT. But I had no idea you would be here tonight.”
     “You know I wouldn’t see it that way, Cal. Breaking our relationship was the most difficult thing I ever had to do. And finding out that you belong to Christ now makes this a very happy day.” Matt didn’t let go of her arm.
     “But Matt, it’s been so long. I don’t want you to feel obligated. I know God has called you to medical missions. I won’t hold you back.”
     Matt stood and pulled her with him away from the crowd at the first aid tent. “Callie, you never did tell me what you’re studying at college?”
     She looked at him, eyes serious.  “Missions.”
     Matt didn’t say anything, just put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. “You knew it all along, didn’t you, you adorable rascal. You knew as soon as you told me what God led you into that I would ask you to marry me, just as I wanted to years ago, but couldn’t because we didn’t share the same faith in God.  You’re just trying to get away from me, aren’t you?” His eyes twinkled with mischief and something else that made her heart pound louder than the boom of the fireworks.
     “You know better than that, Matthew Ralston.  I just wanted it to be God that put us back together.  But I never dreamed He would do it this way.”
     “His ways are perfect; His timing is right. I still love you, Callie.” 
     And the sky exploded in a burst of color that showered like confetti around them.           -- VQ 

Friday, June 22, 2018

summer of the bicycle

Bicycle, Pedal, Bike, Cycling, RoadStella couldn’t imagine life without her bicycle. As she pushed her ten-speed down the sidewalk toward the repair shop, she had to smile to herself. She could practically chronicle her life in bicycles.
      She remembered the first bike she ever owned—a little pink one with training wheels. Her father taught her to ride, giving her repeated pushes and picking her up when she crashed. Then the trainers came off and she was zipping around the neighborhood with her playmates, pretending their bikes were ambulances, fire trucks, school buses and any other vehicle that fit in with their play. The next bike in her life was a yellow beauty with a basket on the front. The year she was in 6th grade, she and Gerald Lampberger had filled it with apples from his father’s orchard. The fruit hadn’t tasted half as sweet as the joy of having him push the bike home for her, glancing at her with adolescent adoration. 
     It was in the 11th grade that she first rode a tandem bicycle. Joe Collins had come wooing her on one. She could almost see him sitting in front of her—dark hair waving in the breeze, his long legs 
pumping the pedals, turning to give her a mischievous smile. How they had enjoyed those rides! Joe was an adventurer; he had delighted in discovering a new road for them to ride. The next year came a draft and Joe’s new adventure was a war. He died somewhere overseas. His dog tags came home, but he didn’t. Stella always wondered if he ever rode a bike again after he left the tandem leaning against her porch that long ago day. Joe’s final adventure was in heaven; it was his best one by far. 
     She steered around a pothole and thought about the remaining years of her life. There was the bicycle she owned in college; the beautiful Schwinn she bought with her own money from her first job; and a succession of other two-wheeled prizes. As she saw the bike repair shop around the corner, she wondered what her life would have been like without them. Maybe if she  hadn’t enjoyed the breezy freedom of life from a bicycle seat, she might have married, had a family, enjoyed other paths in life. But such contemplative thoughts didn’t seem to mix with the sunny Florida day and the cheerful bustle of the little retirement community. 
     Stella leaned her bike against the shop and stepped inside. The man behind the counter had his back turned. She walked closer and spoke. “Hello, I need a new tire on my bike.” 
     He turned. “Ok, I’ll be right with . . .” He stopped midsentence and scanned her face. “It is, isn’t it? Stella Middleton?”
     As though her mind were sorting through its files, the answer came to her in swift recognition. “Gerald Lampberger! Well, I never!”
     He put his elbows on the counter and smiled. “How are you, Stel? Last I heard of you, you were making a name for yourself in Minneapolis.”
     "And you were out west somewhere. Arizona, was it?”
     He nodded. “Worked there with my uncle for years. Now, I putter around with bikes and tell everybody it’s work.” He winked at her. “Let’s have a look at yours.” He led the way outside. 
     Stella stood it up and pointed to the front tire. “It was fine when I put it on the front porch last night, but this morning, the tire was very flat. And, I’m afraid I’ve never been good with repairs.” 
     He grinned. “I remember. Well, I think I can get you fixed up in no time. By the way, whatever happened to the yellow bike with the basket?” 
     They talked while he worked, and soon Stella was fixed with a new tire — for which he wouldn’t accept payment (“Let’s call it an old friend’s debt,” he said.) Which all seemed perfectly normal until Stella was on the way back to her house and remembered how she first met Gerald so many years ago. He had pounded a nail into her bike tire.
     And she wondered if reform really did occur and if the bump she heard last night had actually been the cat. Come to think of it, he hadn’t been all that surprised to see her today, had he? And the network in the retirement community did make it easy to locate residents. Stella paused to glance at her bike and smiled. Maybe this summer would add another chapter in her chronicles. Anything was possible.
— VQ 

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