A tale of ceaseless twists.
A time without meaning; A time without hope; A sliver of darkness moves into a thought — tangles the scope.
Enter a dream and leave in a fury; Erase all joy; Enjoy all falling into fear — twisting the meaning.
A laugh empty of emotion; A calmness eerie and quiet; A grin of wicked smudging the soul — mangles the mind.
My children are drawing with colored chalk on the sidewalk in front of our house. The neighborhood is quiet.
I’m lifting weights in the garage. Being 50 years old and training for a powerlifting competition is challenging. Keeping watch of an 8-year-old and 5-year-old at the same time is a new level of focus and demand.
It is important to let the girls have space and do their own thing. But, between every set of lifting, I keep my eyes on my kids.
Watching them draw a little city with the concentration of the most intense kind, I wish I could find myself enjoying a project at work with such abandon.
The sky is blue and it’s hot, but the large oak tree in our front lawn is providing plenty of shade from the blazing sun. My girls are unfazed by the heat and drawing with their chalk like seasoned architects.
Florida weather is great except when it’s not.
Storms here can appear like magic with huge black clouds suddenly blowing in due to ocean currents and high wind gusts whipping around the peninsula.
There’s nothing close to us today, only wispy, white, thin clouds decorating our Palm Coast beaches. But, off in the distance, North of us I see ominous darkness shading the sky.
That thick darkness isn’t moving toward our house, so the threat isn’t a concern to my girls and me.
Checking the far-off storm from our driveway only takes a few seconds then I turn around to see the pictures my little artists are chalking up the sidewalk and now our front walk with.
The sidewalk and path are covered with sketches of houses, bushes, flowers, and trees. Over the houses are dark clouds and jagged lines of yellow depicting lightning.
I wonder why my children have moved the storm over the houses and included lightning.
My eight year old reads my mind, “Daddy, do you like the way we made our neighborhood? We love to draw out here — this chalk is awesome! Do you like our lightning storm?”
Questions firing like a gun. Her mind zipping and electrified.
A kid’s questions fire out on parents with the rapid intensity of a hail storm that demands answers.
“Sure sweetie. Why is the storm in your drawing when it’s way over there?” I asked because children have the most creative answers. Sometimes it’s hilarious and other times their reasoning seems genius.
My five-year-old is concentrating on drawing, so I don’t dare bother her. That level of focus in her art may be the beginning of a true passion not to be disturbed.
“But Daddy the storm is right here,” my older daughter replies. “Okay,” is all I say.
It’s their imagination. They have a right to it. Leaving them to go do another set of deadlifts, I smile. The wonder of my children gives my heart many smiles.
I’m lifting 375 pounds from the ground to an erect standing position when suddenly a crazy, close explosion singes the air. Carefully, I set the barbell down. I turn around and all I see is sunlight.
No shade outside of the garage, no rain, and an absence of any wind give me no hint that the dark storm I saw in the distance had suddenly moved over us.
I knew I heard lightning.
I feel the tingling of electricity pricking my skin in a thousand dancing stings. Lightning must have flashed nearby.
Looking immediately for my girls, I see them in a rainbow cloud of chalk that surrounds them like a puff of multicolored, translucent smoke.
The sky is clear. I’m confused, disoriented and running to my girls.
See the sky and its might; See wind and feel its strength; See eternity and taste its punishment.
To look upon and touch the rip; To flow in peace and rest silently; To quiet and meditate on the terror.
Found in a loop and lost in a corner; Forever gone in a sparkle; Forgotten and lost wanders my spirit.
“Daddy are you okay?” Sylvia asks. Her sweet voice reaches inside me and soothes my heart.
My five-year-old has the most innocent look on her face. Her eyes are shining and her hands are stained with blue and green chalk. Yellow smudges are wiped in across her shirt. Chalk is all over her from head to foot in stains and smears.
“I’m fine precious. Just wanted to make sure you and Elise are okay. That lightening scared me.”
Elise asked, “Why is lightning here, Dad? The storm is way over there.”
“Good question. I don’t know. Maybe we just heard the sound of lightning from the storm.”
Elise shook her head and said, “No, I saw a flash. It was right here!” She started to cry.
Elise gets upset sometimes when she doesn’t understand something or feels she’s being corrected when she is convinced of a fact. Probably my fault for being a strict teacher with her. I had her reading at a 3rd grade level in the first grade.
My faults as a parent sit heavy with me, but I work every day to be a better dad. “Honey it’s okay. There’s no reason to cry. I’m sure it was here.”
She is easy to calm especially when I redirect and switch the topic. “ Your drawings are great! That’s an awesome chalk neighborhood you and your sister are making.”
“Yeah, look at our house,” Elise points to her chalk rendering of our home. She goes on to point out details drawn in. Sylvia does the same.
“Mind if I have that piece of white chalk I ask Sylvia,” and she hands it to me, “Sure Daddy.”
The evening must be approaching.
I’ve lost track of time.
We have filled up the whole driveway with chalk drawings of houses, dogs, cats, trees, bees, and bicycles among other things. Our clothes are covered with chalk.
I know Chelsea will be home from work soon so I have to get the girls inside to have a bath, do homework, and I have to cook dinner.
My wife is a software engineer with a defense contractor. I work at home doing data work for a local legal firm.
It’s my job to handle school pick up and drop off as well as most of the home duties including cleaning, cooking, and laundry (Ugh!). But, that’s our routine and we love it.
I figure a few more minutes and we’ll head inside. The girls will be disappointed but this chalk utopia can’t go on forever.
The three of us keep drawing but I can’t seem to get up. I’m lost in chalk and it is inseparable from my hand. My girls are drawing too and we talk and stand up but the day is not seeming to fade.
Elise and Sylvia don’t have any more worries and we just keep drawing.
When we begin to run out of space for pictures on our driveway more sidewalk winds in the neighborhood to fill.
The chalk is never-ending. There always is more. The scene is real to me but I can’t understand it or reason why it goes on.
I ask my daughters if they are okay. They both just nod and say, “ Yes Daddy.” They return to their drawing and I do as well but a thought in the back of my mind is shaking me.
Tremors tingle through my nerves and creep down every piece of my being. But, I keep drawing on the outside, happy and content.
To show my inner dread would send the girls to tears and naked fear. I can’t do that to them. If I caused them to lose their sanity and peaceful spirit it might mean a forever of lunacy.
We’re we struck by the lightning?
Are we dead?
Is this a limbo of infinite chalk drawing? Am I going nuts?
My crazed thinking is dizzying.
The sudden whack on my arm startles me.
“What’s going on?!”
Chelsea punches me in my right arm when I’m snoring. This usually happens after a heavy workout or a heavy meal, both were part of the routine the previous night.
Usually, I’ll get my arm pummeled around 2 a.m. and this early morning is no different.
“Hon, I was having the most wicked dream,” I say to my wife but she just mutters, “Uh huh” in her sleep.
I have the most clammy feeling all over my body. Seems my dream gave me the sweats and light perspiration covers me.
I get up and go to the bathroom to wash my face.
Turning on the light shoots shivers racing to my core. My face is covered with colored chalk. Blue, red, yellow, and green. My hands are covered too.
Panic fills my head with anticipation of even worse foreboding. I rush to check on my girls but they are not in their beds.
They are not in the house.
I run and open the front door. Elise and Sylvia are there coloring the sidewalk with chalk.
I’m compelled with an undeniable urge to join my daughters and we color. The chalk has taken over. There is no end to coloring, there is no end to the chalk.
All my thoughts are about the chalk. What color to use? How much is there? The chalk is so good. The chalk is so beautiful.
“Ouch, hey stop it,” Chelsea punched me again. I must have been snoring like a freight train.
Getting up the next morning to make the girls breakfast before waking them I notice a drawing on a piece of slate we keep for notes and such in the kitchen.
On the board is a stick figure picture drawn by Elise and Sylvia done in a rainbow of chalk titled “Daddy!”
Chelsea hits me again and mumbles, “Shut up, stop snoring” and then turns over. I wake up holding a box of multi-colored chalk.
Dream in dreams chalked in frightening screams.
The Palm Coast Weekly headline hit the local newsstands the next morning.