The Major and the Minor

One of my favorite themes is how so often life pairs the mundane with the horrific.
~Have you ever found yourself sharing a big laugh at a funeral where you were actually shattered by the loss?
~Have you ever had a life-changing injury/surgery/accident that hinged on the change of one tiny detail in your life?
~Have you ever seen something amazingly monumental but been distracted by a very minor detail?
~Have you ever fallen in love right when you were just about to dedicate yourself to a major cause?
Tell us about your collision between life’s small details and a major experience.

29 responses to “The Major and the Minor

  1. She sat on the edge of their big bed, tugging the covers up to make sure he was warm.
    “Where the clicker?” He yanked the tousled green quilt and white sheets back and forth.
    “Here.” She took it off the night stand and handed it to him.
    The choke cherry bush outside the window waved its blooms of fluffy white tubes.
    She took one more look deep into the forest and shut the blinds to keep the lighting dim.
    “Did you see how swollen my feet are getting? They’re killing me.”
    He pulled the covers off to show her.
    She ran her hand over the swelling, closing her eyes and pushing down the fear.
    The sky was clear today. The full moon would rise that night around 6:15.
    He groaned as he worked to sit up straighter in the bed. He tapped out 2-0-2: CNN.
    “Farmlands and small towns are flooding all along the Mississippi valley,” the announcer said.
    The earth was warming; their meadow had turned green.
    “I thought I’d get my book and read by you for a while,” she said.
    The crocuses were in full bloom, and the daffodils she’d planted last fall were up.
    She rubbed his cheek with her knuckles. “How is your stomach today?”
    “Bad,” he said, not taking his eyes off the screen. “I don’t think I can eat today.”
    Last year’s mulch was giving off its cedar scent once more.
    “The stock market has dropped another fifty points today on fears that….”
    A ray of sunlight sliced in through a gap in the blinds and crossed her side of the bed.

  2. August

    She said good-bye, her words carefully chosen, a delicate tapestry woven in silk and regret, spoken with a softness that, even on that day, pulled me to her heart.

    When she spoke, her words drew me to her lips, their movement as hypnotic as ripples across a stream. Lips I once nibbled, that devoured my mouth when we kissed. I sat numb in confusion. How could what once brought so much pleasure now cripple me with so much pain?

    Her reasons were sound, her logic irrefutable. My rebuttals were shallow and weak. The clarity of her eyes shined in sharp contrast to my misty response.

    We walked to our cars where I tried to make a joke. Its flatness embarrassed me.

    She turned to me, brushed a kiss across my cheek, and whispered “I love you.”

  3. Buzia is missing. My sweet, pretty, red and white husky is gone from the dog lot, leaving her companions behind. Buzia (BOO-shah), whose appropriate name means “kiss” in Polish, whose soft underhairs push her outer black-tipped guard hairs into lines on her sides that I call her racing stripes.

    Worse, also missing is her tether, the light-weight chain that binds her to her dog house and keeps her safe from porcupines and motor vehicles.

    This isn’t the first time, either.

    The time before, I found her above tree line, some 2000 hundred feet up the side of a steep mountain, which I climbed with a friend at midnight in 20 below zero weather. The easiest path was up a narrow, snow-filled avalanche chute. When we reached her, tangled in willows, she was surrounded by coyote tracks in the snow.

    Fortunately, she is a very vocal dog and her answering howls to my calls allowed me to locate and pinpoint her position.

    That very vocal tendency helps me locate her on this summer day. She is somewhere in the swamp between California Creek and Glacier Creek across the two lane highway from my cabin in GIrdwood. I drive down to the old town site, which was flooded after the land through here sank four to six feet during the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964, a 9.1 shaker than lasted five minutes.

    I cross the railroad tracks and enter the swamp between the two creeks. I’ve never been here before. Visibility is better than usual as most forests here in Southcentral Alaska are so clogged with underbrush they are almost impossible to penetrate.

    Tall cottonwood trunks are free of low branches, their high branches forming a canopy that little sunlight penetrates. Various pools and muddy, water-carved trenches criss-cross the land between the trees, and I pick my way around the stagnant pools as Buzia continues to answer my calls.

    Finally, I guess that I am within a hundred feet from here, but a large patch of leafy brush obscures her. In between is a particularly wide trench filled with slimy green water and soupy mud. I search for a way across and find a deadfall tree spanning the water.

    I do not want to fall into that stinking morass, and I place my feet carefully on the eight inch wide rotten tree trunk, looking down and planning my next step. Bits of rotten wood fall into the sludge beneath me. I reach the middle of the span.

    A soft “Unngh” stops me dead. I raise my eyes to the bank about ten feet from me and see a large (!) black bear looking right at me. Had it not grunted, I would have walked smack into it. My dog is silent. Even taking off a foot for fright, this is the biggest black bear I have ever seen, much larger than the 300 plus pound bears we occasionally see getting into garbage around the village, or at the dump.

    It takes two seconds for me to decide what I should do. I back off the trunk slowly and move behind the tree’s root mass. Another few seconds and I turn my back to the bear and walk off slowly, hoping this does not trigger the bear’s chase instinct. When I’m 75 feet away, I run like hell across the swamp, find a path that leads up the valley and exits at a gravel pit when a friend is working on a Cat dozer. We drive to the ski resort a couple miles away and round up an armed posse. Back at the gravel pit, I point out the path and men bearing rifles sprint ahead of me.

    It occurs to me that not only are they protecting me from the bear, but also what might be the remains of my beloved husky, who might have made a tasty lunch for the bear. Ominously, there are no reassuring husky howls.

    I meet them coming out, leading Buzia on her chain. There was no sign of the bear, they say.

    To this day I wonder if I saved Buzia from the bear by showing up at that particular time, or if she saved me by distracting the bear.
    The next day, an experienced hunter spots that unusually large black bear and estimates its weight at 500 lbs.

  4. Pirates have taken over the ship. Swashbucklers bearing curved sabers and daggers, with their scull caps sometimes obscuring one eye, tie my shoelaces together when I enter the dining room.

    At my assigned table, chairs are tipped over or backwards, the flatware is a jumbled mess, and the cloth napkins are crumpled and tossed without care, decidedly unlike previous dining experiences here aboard this river boat, with its normally exquisitely appointed table settings and even more exquisitely presented meals.

    It’s Pirate Night aboard the MV Nicholay Cherneschevsky as we cruise the inland waterways from Moscow (“rhymes with OH, not cow”) to St. Petersburg in Russia. All in good fun, and our servers play the part with glee.

    My companions, seven friends from California, and I are still under a spell woven earlier in the afternoon when we attended a lecture on the Pre-Revolutionary Russian history. The speaker was an art history professor who once had served as the personal translator for Michail Gorbachev.

    She is a once-in-a-lifetime lecturer, one who captures her audience of about fifty passengers and never lets them go until the hour passes and her voice is almost gone. She speaks as if she personally had been there through the years of tsars and knew all their titillating secrets. Word of this experience races through the small boat and the next day more than 200 passengers crowd the hot room and spill over into the surrounding passageways and deck, all anxious to listen to this remarkable woman.

    This morning we passed through the tenth of the 18 locks that raise and lower our vessel on its journey through lakes and canals and rivers. We visited the town of Goritsky, and its 14th century monastery where Ivan terrible had the widow of one of Ivan the Great’s sons imprisoned and later drowned in the nearby river. Daughters of disgraced noble families were forced to enter a nunnery here, and after the series of revolutions in the early 1900s which eliminated tsarist rule, the nuns then living there were slaughtered in 1930.

    We are awash in murder and executions, court intrigues, and the tragedy of Russian history as we seat ourselves in the dining room for Pirate Night, or, as the flyer distributed to us says, “Welcome on pirat’s (sic) dinner!”

    Chicken, golden fish, vegetables, and cake with ice cream, all artistically arranged, grace our table.

    After dinner, a number of us assemble in the intimate cocktail lounge at the stern end of the boat. We each purchase a drink, and without speaking, raise it in a toast to three thousand Americans no longer with us. It is September 11, 2009, and we will never forget.

    • Gully, I have taken that cruise – I assume Viking? The speaker sounds like the same one we had on board. I have 2 of her books on Soviet Times in Russia ?.Ludmilla, I think. We did not have a pirat dinner, but did hear some marvelous jokes that were told behind closed doors in Kreushev’s days.
      Thanks for the trip revisited.

  5. The mundane (though fun) paired with pure tragedy. Good one.

  6. GLTW: i was with Vantage, but those boats carry many different groups. This speaker was Irina, not a usual guide, but someone asked at the last minute when more travelers signed up. Didn’t you love Khizi Island?

    • GLTW: If you really want to relive that fabulous trip, here’s a link to chapter one in the Russian Journals on my blog. Chapter follow chronologically from there. My favorite was Leaving Khizi Island.

      • galelikethewind

        Gully- thanks for sharing. Just read chapter one. Cindy and I are in Barcelona for 3 week stay in a rented apt. We traveled from Los Angeles to Madrid, where we had a five hour layover waiting for the flight to Barcelona. We can truly relate to your great description of Frankfurt airport, as we have passed through there many times. Looking forward to reading the rest of your wonderful travelblog.

  7. The last of the TV channels blacked out a few hours ago, not that it was giving us any news, just back-to-back re-runs of Gilligan’s Island that’d probably been pre-programmed weeks ago.

    Then the power went off at around 3pm, and because of the smoke it’s as dark as any midnight I’ve ever seen, although from up here on the eighteenth floor the approaching fires are now visible all around us.

    Luckily, we had some candles that we used to put on the table for dinner parties, so at least we can find our way around the apartment.

    I try my phone again, but the whole system’s still down, and there isn’t really any point in trying to contact anyone – like, what’s to say?

    Stella comes through from the bedroom. She looks absolutely stunning in a dress I’ve never seen before. It’s elegant in a gypsy kind of way, and shimmering in the candle light, sometimes red, sometimes purple, sometimes both at the same time.

    “I bought it a few weeks ago, just for tonight,” she says, when I raise an appreciative eyebrow. “You don’t think it’s too over-the-top for an apocalypse?”

  8. I try to write something every day, and am still working with 100-word stories. Not 99. Not 101. 100.

    I keep reading Ann’s submission and see the formula therein. And as such I am reluctant to parrot story along a similar trail. Perhaps this exercise from today will fit here?

    “No, Harold. Amy left with Mike thirty minutes ago.”

    Numbness claws my face and melts like hot tar to my fingertips. I cannot move. Two and two explode into a blinking neon four. Amy’s girlfriends laughing with heads turned made me blush as I walked past.

    Her mother’s eyes squint with that look of pity as if to say, “Did you really think Amy would go out with you?” She offers, “Perhaps you have the wrong night.”

    I don’t reply. I turn toward my car and punt the bag of homemade peanut brittle. Shards shower my soul like acid rain.

  9. Gale: I think lots of us have been there, those damm “Mikes!” Thinking of writing 2 similar 100 word stories from Amy’s and Mike’s viewpoints.

  10. This is a grab from one of my longer pieces of writing, and it occurs to me it fits this prompt. Roger is talking with Carnie, and she’s explaining how an old hippie who’d brought her up had insisted on being buried in a certain place deep in the forest when he died, and how difficult it had been for his friends to achieve that…

    “No, seriously,” he said. “Like, everybody loved Pete, obviously especially you, but when you were first telling me about him you laughed about him dying to ‘Time Is On My Side’, and just now you were joking about how hard it was to bury him. I mean, weren’t you sad? Wasn’t everybody?”
    “I was absolutely heartbroken,” she said. “But mainly coz I knew I’d never see him again – so I was really being sad for myself.” She shrugged. “It’s hard to explain. I was okay about him dying – all of us were – coz he made it so easy for us. Just before he went, he made a beautiful little speech about how lucky he was to be going when he was good and ready to, and doing it where and how he wanted to, surrounded by good company and tall trees – but he said he had one regret. And we all kinda waited, wondering what was coming next – and then he said he was afraid he’d go before Big Theo stopped hogging the joint and got around to passing it on to him.” She was grinning again now. “And Theo – seriously, mind you – asked Pete if he really thought he oughta be smoking dope in his condition, and that set us all off, especially Pete.”

  11. Good one. Reminds me of a newspaper story I read about a man in Fairbanks who was dying of AIDS. He decided he wanted his wake while he was still alive and could say goodbye to all his friends. So they threw one heck of a party–bagpipers, coffin, the works. Everything the man wanted. Problem was, he didn’t die. The new drug cocktails extended his life by years. Never did hear the end of the man’s story.

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