31 Days, 31 Dates: Chapter 1

There’s a rumor I’ve heard that at a certain point in your life you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.  I’m not sure what age that is, although I have my suspicion it happens about two minutes before you pass through the veil.  Despite what teenage girls everywhere think, it’s definitely not the age of 25.  If it were, I wouldn’t be standing outside an institute building on a Sunday morning in Laramie, Wyoming, staring at the front door.

The sign invited visitors, but I wasn’t a visitor.  Technically, I was one of them.  This is where I was supposed to belong.  But I didn’t belong.  Not anymore.  I used to.  But that seemed like a long time ago.  And a different girl.

I bit my bottom lip.  Of all the feats and impossible acts mankind has performed, opening a door is not one of them.  Yet, there I stood unable to perform the simple task of opening a door.

I heard giggling behind me and turned to see a girl who looked barely old enough to be in the singles ward.  She smiled, and leaned toward the guy who walked with her.  His dark hair was slicked back and his suit pressed.  His short frame made him look like he wore his father’s suit.  Her blues eyes danced in amusement as her short, curly blond hair bobbed up and down.   As she past me, I noticed her cheeks imprinted with dimples.  He held the door open for her and as she went in, she stood on her tiptoes and said, “Thanks, Darren.”

He beamed and looked like that moment was the proudest moment of his life.  He looked at me as if I was intruding on his personal triumph.  “Are you coming?”

I looked around trying to think of a reason not to follow.  Unless I wanted to pose as a crazy person that stalked church buildings, there was no excuse.  “Thanks,” I smiled politely and walked in.

I had never been in that particular building before in my life, but it felt familiar.  A painting of the Woman at the Well hung above the couch.  I glanced to the chapel.  The couch looked more inviting and I wished I didn’t promise my brother I’d sit with him.  I walked into the chapel and noticed it was decorated in the purple theme.  Huge windows on the sides of the stand allowed light to flood in.

My instinct was to go to the back of the chapel.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t early enough to procure the coveted back seat.  At least I wasn’t so late that I had to sit in front.  I got a spot in the middle on the side.

I looked around nervously.  My goal was to find my brother without making eye contact with anyone else.

“Hey, Grace,” I heard to my right.  I breathed a sigh of relief to find brother, Matt putting his scriptures next to me.  “Glad you made it.  I don’t feel like walking home after, can you give me a lift?”

I nodded my head.  My brother’s attempt of going green prompted him to sell his car. During the week he used public transportation to get to and from work.  For the most part, anywhere else he wanted to go he either walked or rode his bike.

“I’m passing the sacrament, so I’ll join you afterward.”

I nodded.  A huge sigh of relief escaped as I watched him walk to the front of the chapel.  As I watched him, I noticed a guy stop him to talk to him.  Suddenly, they both turned in my direction.

Uh-oh, this can’t be good.  I picked up a hymn book and started to flip through it anxiously.  However, I could tell they were walking in my direction.

“Gracie,” Matt said, “this is Wyatt.  Wyatt, this is my sister Grace.  She just moved here.”

“Nice to meet you,” Wyatt said with a smile.  He stuck his hand out for me to shake. “Unfortunately for you, you picked a bad time to come.”

My eyebrows furrowed.

He laughed.  “I’m speaking today.”

“Oh,” I said forcing a laugh.  Got to love that Mormon humor.  “Maybe I should leave,” I turned to leave.

“Stay,” Matt commanded and I resented being treated like a dog.

Wyatt thought we were performing some kind of comedy routine and laughed again.  “Only if I can leave with you.”

I smiled weakly.  Matt held his index finger at me as if that held the power to keep me on the bench.  Which, it must have worked because all I did was glare at him.

“I better get up on the stand,” Wyatt said and shook my hand again.  “I’ll see you later?”

Apparently, with Matt’s mighty finger, I wasn’t going anywhere.  I nodded my head.  They walked to the front of the chapel.  I decided to continue flipping through the hymn book until service started.

*******

I paced back and forth in the foyer of the church.  I looked at my watch for what seemed like the bazillionth time in five minutes.  “C’mon, Matt,” I muttered out loud and flopped onto the couch.  Just then, the chapel doors opened and two men walked out.  Quickly I sat up straight and made sure I was sitting ladylike in my skirt.

The two men were deep in conversation.  One was wearing an expensive suite and was tall, well over 6 feet because he had to duck coming out of the chapel.  The other was shorter, probably not even 6 feet tall, with thick brown wavy hair and he smiled at me.  It was Wyatt.  As he conversed with the taller guy, he kept glancing over at me.

I smiled politely at him but was trying to use mental telepathy to get Matt to come.  It wasn’t working.

“I’ll see you later, Connor,” said Wyatt.  He started walking toward me.

Oh no.   I really didn’t want to shake his hand again.

“Oh, Wyatt,” Connor said in a deep, low voice while turning around.

That’s it, keep him occupied.

Connor mumbled something to Wyatt but his voice was so low, I couldn’t understand what he said.

Wyatt stopped walking and looked at him.  Now was my chance to run.   I looked down the hall and looked at my high heels. Maybe not.

“What are we doing again?”  Wyatt asked Connor.

Connor mumbled a reply.  I thought I heard volleyball mentioned. Connor pointed at him.

“Yeah, I have a lot of work to do, but I’ll try and make it.”

“Right on,” Connor said and for the first time noticed me sitting on the couch. He mumbled something to me but I didn’t understand.  Which was okay because he didn’t wait for an answer.  I looked behind him down the hall willing my brother to come at that moment.

Wyatt sat down next to me.  “So,” he smiled.  “How did I do?”

“It was good,” I smiled my most polite smile.

He nodded slowly.  “So, you’re new in the ward?”

“I’ve been here about a month,” I tried to nonchalantly check my watch.

“I don’t remember seeing you,” Wyatt ignored my watch check.

I shrugged.  “I haven’t been the most active.”

“Oh,” he said not wanting to dive into such a personal topic on the first conversation.

“I enjoyed your talk,” I said.  “It was very…” I wanted to say long, “informative.”

“Informative?” he laughed.  “If by informative you mean spiritual or I just gave a long winded narrative of the virtue of keeping the Sabbath Day holy?”

I forced a laugh. “I meant, it was something I needed to hear.”

“Oh,” he said perking up.

Perhaps I should have let it go with that, but I couldn’t help but add, “Over and over and over again.”

He looked at me and I smiled.

“Hey Wyatt,” a voice to the side of us said, “good talk today.”

I stood up as Wyatt turned around.  “Thanks, Matty.”  He looked at me as if I were going to disagree.

I rolled my eyes.  “I was just kidding you, it was a good talk.”

He nodded but didn’t look like he believed me.

“Wyatt is the Elder’s Quorum president,” Matt explained.

“Well,” I said because I wanted this conversation to end so that we could leave.  “It was nice to meet you,” I again smiled. Then feeling bad about my earlier comment, I felt like I needed to reassure him.  “And it was a good talk.”

“Thanks.” Wyatt smiled unsure of the sincerity.

“Listen, we better go,” Matt looked at me.

I rolled my eyes.  He knew I had been waiting for him for fifteen minutes.    “Ready when you are.”

“Later,” Matt nodded at Wyatt.  “I’ll probably see you at dinner groups.”

“See ya,” I gave one last parting smile to Wyatt.

“Hey Grace,” Wyatt said as Matt opened the outside door for me.

So close to freedom, I turned around.

“Will I see you at FHE tomorrow night?”

“FHE?” I asked.  Matt nudged me with his arm.

I wanted to say no.  “Sure,” I smiled.

“We’ll probably play volleyball.”

“Oh,” I said again.  My mind raced with excuses to get out of going.

“Great, see you then,” he nodded to Matt and we walked out the door.

As I climbed in my car I couldn’t help but mumble, “Oh no.”

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31 Days, 31 Dates: Prologue

I pushed the scan button on my car radio searching for a radio station.  All I heard was static.  “C’mon,” I said to myself and pushed again.  “There’s got to be something.”  My old Buick Oldsmobile was crammed with all my earthly possessions and I was tired of driving.  Interstate 80 from Provo to Laramie seemed a little desolate and I felt lonely.  I needed to hear some music to get my mind off of things and I couldn’t find a radio station.  Unfortunately, my car was so old it didn’t have an mp3 player or even a CD player.  A broken toothpick was stuck in the side of the on button to hold it in place.  “C’mon,” I muttered again.  Suddenly, a song broke through the static.  “Finally,” I sighed.

After a moment, I could make out the strains of a country song bewailing a relationship that had come to an end.  “Forget that,” I said and took out the toothpick.  “I need something to get my mind off of that, not on it.”

31 Dates in 31 Days excerpt

Years ago, I wrote a book.  It’s not all that great but it does have a beginning and an end.  It’s about a girl named Grace who takes a challenge from a guy named Matt that she can go on 31 dates in 31 days.  It is set in an LDS single’s ward.

A lot of the dialogue is taken from actual experiences in my life.  Including the following discussion on altitude.  Can you guess which character’s voice is mine?  Unfortunately, it is not the heroine’s. 

Here is a chapter from my book.

My body was still very much upset with me when I woke up Sunday morning.  It complained as I was getting ready for church.  It definitely let me know how unhappy it was with me when I sat on the bench in the chapel.  The folding chair in Sunday School and Relief Society didn’t appease it any.

The good news during church was it was my fourth week since Matt and I started the game.  It was old news.  I hardly got any stares or comments.   The news article from last week seemed all but forgotten.  For the first time all month, I felt like a regular member.

My date for the night was Niles Scott, a tall skinny guy who turned red every time he spoke in his monotonous voice.  We were going to another fireside at the bishop’s house.

When we arrived to the bishop’s house, people had already gathered.  The living room was full of people.  There were two empty spots on the love seat next to Lexi, but I kept looking.  “Where do you want to sit?” I asked but as I turned around Niles was gone.  “Okay, table for one,” I mumbled.

“Grace,” I heard my name called.

I scanned the room of people but couldn’t figure out who had called out to me.

“Grace,” I heard again.  The voice seemed to be coming from the couch.  But that would mean it was Lexi calling me.  Surely, my ears were playing tricks on me.

“Grace,” she said again and laughed sweetly.  “Here’s a spot.”

I looked around the room again to see if there were any other options.   There wasn’t.

“I don’t bite,” she said sweetly.

I walked to the couch and sat down.  “Thanks,” was all I could say.

“So,” she started, “I hear you got a boyfriend out of your …” she bit her bottom lip, “game.”

“Well…” I wished I had disappeared with Niles.

“That’s so great!” she continued.  “I’m so happy for you.”

I looked around the room for any other place to sit.

“Matty,” Lexi called out causing me to jump.  “I saved you a spot.”

He smiled and nodded but continued to look around the room.  But she had saved the last possible sitting place.  He walked over and sat on the other side of her.  As soon as he did, she linked arms with him.

“I’m surprised you didn’t bring your boyfriend,” Lexi said to me.

“Mac?” I asked.  “He’s working.”

“Too bad.  It is hard dating someone who chooses to work on Sunday.  What was it you said in your talk a few weeks ago?” she asked Matt.

“Working on Sunday is not good.” Matt mumbled and I had to fight hard not to laugh.

Lexi’s eyes narrowed.  “Anyway, maybe we could double some time.”

Matt coughed loudly and tried unsuccessfully to untangle his arm from hers.   Doogan walked in and was crestfallen when he saw our seating arrangement.

“Doogan!” I said causing Matt and Lexi to jump.  “Why don’t you sit here?”

He shook his head but inched forward.

“No, I’ve got to find my date,” I stood up.  “You might as well.”  He was already to the couch.  I walked to the doorway and looked back.  Doogan looked happy.  Lexi looked annoyed.  And Matt looked uncomfortable, which I felt bad about.

I found the kitchen and also my date.  Niles was talking to the bishop’s wife.

“Hi,” I said.  “I wondered where you disappeared to.”

The bishop’s wife looked at me and then at Niles and smiled.  “I better go see if bishop needs any help.” She said and patted my arm as she went into the other room.

I sat on a stool next to Niles.  We sat in silence for a few moments.

“The weather is supposed to get warmer,” he spoke looking down at the counter.

At first, I wondered if he had seen Mac’s call out to me on the news and was making fun of me.  But after studying him for a few seconds, I could tell this was just his topic of choice.  “Yeah, I heard that.”

“We’re cooler than Salt Lake or Denver,” he continued.

“Yeah, I’ve noticed.  Wyoming is cooler.”  I would have used the word colder.

“It’s because of our altitude,” he said matter-of-factly and almost made eye contact with me.

“Is that right?” I wondered if I could get my spot back on the couch.

“We’re in the mountains, so we’ll always be cooler.”

“So,” I tried making the conversation light, “we should move some place lower?”

“Only if you like it hotter,” he looked at me.  If he didn’t look so sincere, I would have started laughing.

I nodded.  “Do you want to come in for the fireside?”

“I prefer to stay in here.”

I bit my lip trying to decide what proper dating etiquette called for.

“There you are,” Matt said walking into the kitchen.  “We’re about ready to start.”

“Don’t you want to come in?” I asked Niles.

“Bishop wants to get started,” Lexi walked in.

“Go ahead and start, we’ll be in, ” I looked at Niles who kept his head down.  “In a few minutes.”

“You coming?” Doogan popped his head in.

Niles started looking for the exits.  Judging by our quiet ride here, I could tell we were three people past his comfort zone.

“You all should go in,” I felt bad for intruding on Niles’ solitude.

No one moved.  Niles began fidgeting.  I was as uncomfortable as Niles looked.

“Hey everyone,” the bishop said patting Doogan’s back warmly.  “The fireside is in the other room.”

I looked at everyone.  I went into the living room and sat on the floor in front of the tv.  Lexi and Doogan sat on the couch.  Matt stayed by the kitchen doorway and leaned against the wall.  Niles never came in.

Everyone in the room snickered and whispered.  I didn’t get much out of the fireside that night.

The Legend of Henry Luck

Some people’s life

can be summed up in one little story.

 But for others,

it takes a legend to tell their glory.

 Back in the day,

when the old west was still young –

 the law couldn’t

contain anything under the sun.

 There lived a man,

Henry Luck was his name

 and Wanted Posters

broadcast his fame.

 Most people

avoided him and hid from his shadow

 It was common

knowledge that if he had a foe,

 that enemy

would wind up full of lead.

 and if lucky,

he would only end up dead.

 So many brave

men found no shame to run

 instead of

being caught on the wrong side of Mr. Luck’s gun.

 But even outlaws

can’t outrun time and grow old.

 At least, the

lucky ones do, the others end up lifeless and cold.

 

One summer day

Henry sat in a bar in Wyoming

 He contemplated

his sins and started to have misgivings

 He knew he would

have to account for all the bad he’d done

 For living his

life with a bullet and gun.

 And he tried

to drink his guilt away.

 When he heard that, oh so familiar call asking him to drop all

 and have a

showdown in the street that day.

 Henry downed

the last drop of whiskey

 and yelled out,

“Kid, let me be!”

 And the kid,

mocked ol’ Henry and called him a chicken

 for not coming

out and taking his lickin’

 Henry walked

to the swinging door of the bar

 and said,

“Kid, I’ve been where you are

 looking down

the road you’re going down.

 So trust me

when I say, turn around.

 Turn around

 and run or just walk away.

 It’s not too

 late to save your soul today.

 If you kill me

my friends will hunt you.

 If you kill me

my kin will come after you.

 If you kill me

my enemies will pursue you

 and you will be

their prize and trophy

 as the

murderer of their enemy.

 It’s not a life,

so turn around and walk away

 Find a pretty

wife and settle down and stay.”

 Henry stopped

talking and hoped the kid did hear

 Instead the

kid laughed and asked, “What, are you full of fear?”

 Henry opened

the door and walked to the street

 “All right then,” the kid said, “on the count of ten.”

 The kid stood

straight and shuffled his feet.

 And when he

reached ten he pulled out his revolver

 and pulled the

trigger a bit harder

 and Henry Luck

fell onto his back as if falling into bed.

 The kid wiped his

brow and yelled, “I killed Henry Luck dead!”

 

A month later

the kid was shot by David Crow

 while he slummed

the streets of San Francisco.

 

Back in Wyoming,

as they prepared to bury

 Henry Luck

in the local cemetery

 his casket

broke open and out spilled dirt.

 They say about

two hundred pounds worth

 and one steel plate

with some twine tied to the ends

 and in the

middle a small bullet lodged within.

 

But there was

no body in the coffin that day.

 And this is what

the townspeople did say –

 Both men

received just what they wanted in that shoot out

 The kid did

receive the fame he sought for, no doubt.

 And Henry Luck?

Well, they figure he got to rest in peace

 living up to

his name to a grand old age without worry and in ease.

© 2013 ck’s days

The Quest for Beauty

(fiction)

Dylan knew something nobody else realized.  She knew there was something inside her.  Something trying to find it’s way out.  Something beautiful.  And she just knew, if she could find someway to let it out, it would touch other people.  Maybe even help them.  There were only two problems: 1) she didn’t know how to get it out, and 2) she didn’t exactly know what it was she needed to get out.  But she knew something was in there.

 

One day, she heard a beautiful song.  “Maybe,” she said, “my beauty will come out as a song.”  So she sat down at the piano to  compose a beautiful song.  The only trouble was, she didn’t know how to compose music.   It didn’t matter to her, she moved her fingers along the keys just like she had seen her sister do.  But her mom came in and told her to quit pounding on the piano.  “Maybe,” Dylan said, “my beauty isn’t a song after all.”

But what could it be?

A few days later, her mother read her a bedtime story.  Dylan noticed her mother sniffing.  “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“This is such a beautiful story,” her mother smiled through her tears.  “It’s been my favorite since I was your age.”

A story can be beautiful?  Dylan thought.  Oh, yes, I will write a beautiful story.

The next day, Dylan sat down to write.  But she didn’t know what to write about.  She kept thinking about the story from the night before.  “I can’t write a story that’s already been written,” she decided and put her pen and paper away.

How was she ever going to let the beauty out?

A few days later, her parents took her to a play.  The play made her laugh.  At the end everyone clapped.

“Beautiful,” she heard someone behind her exclaim.

Beautiful?  Dylan thought.  Maybe I can be an actress.

The next time her school had a play, she tried out.  But didn’t get a part.

That night, her mother heard her crying in her bedroom.

“What’s wrong?” her mother asked gently.

“I don’t know how to get my beauty out,” sobbed Dylan.

“Your beauty?” her mother asked while dabbing Dylan’s tears with a kleenex.

“I tried composing a song, but I can’t even read music.  So I tried writing a story and I couldn’t think of anything to write.  So I thought I’d be an actress, and I didn’t get a part in the school play.  Maybe there’s no beauty in me after all!”

Her mother hugged her gently.  “There’s beauty in you.”

Dylan looked at her mother.  “You have to say that, you’re my mother.”

Her mother smiled warmly.  “Hey, I happen to know it’s true.”

Dylan looked down at the floor, still unable to believe her.

“Some people have to compose a song, write a story, or act in a play to let their beauty shine, but you don’t.”

Dylan sniffed. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

Her mother hugged her again.  “You don’t need to do all that, you have a better way to let your beauty out.”

“I do?”

“Of course.”

Dylan waited for an explanation.  “How?”

 

Her mother gently clicked foreheads with her.  “Through your smile and laugh.  Everybody loves your smile and they love to hear you laugh.”

“They do?” Dylan asked hopefully.

“They do.  People tell me all the time what a warm smile you have.  I know for a fact, it has cheered up many people.”

“It has?”  Dylan couldn’t help but smile.

“See,” her mom grabbed a hand mirror off the dresser.  “See what other people see?  That right there is the most beautiful thing.”

Dylan couldn’t help herself and looked in the mirror.  She had to admit, It was a pretty good smile.  She might even say, it was beautiful.