Scarred Innocence

Photo courtesy of : & Goggle

Photo courtesy of: & Goggle

My 500Word ChallengeWrite about ignorance. Tap that part in all of us that remembers what it was like to be innocent.

You don’t have many places to hide when you’re crammed into a three-bedroom house filled with six kids, one hyper-emotional mother, and an obnoxious stepfather. It takes creativity to find your own secret garden, so to speak.

At eleven, full of imagination and an innocent view of the world, I found mine in the cow pasture a quarter-mile from my house. The sloping hills, dotted black, and white, beckoned me like candy on Halloween. The barbed wire fence became a minor obstacle to scale.

Finding time alone to explore was the tricky part. I had to deal with younger siblings wanting to be the center of attention, homework, and chores, then dodging mom. At the first opportunity,  I’d slip out the back door, run over the hill, and climb the barbed wire fence into another world.

The cows, covered in splotches, were fascinating. They had the most beautiful eyes I’d ever seen. It was as if they could see into my soul. Intrigued with this interloper, they paused, chewing cud and waited for me to scale the barrier and join them on the other side. Talking to the cows came easy and boy did I talk.

I told them about my first crush and getting caught shooting spit balls at my teacher. I complained about mom. She seemed blind most of the time. And I gave them all the details about becoming a woman (that’s what my sisters told me happened). To me, it all seemed a bit messy and inconvenient, even if, for reasons known only to God, I felt the swell of pride.

I received the scar, one day, in the middle of my visit. Deep within the pasture, I sat underneath the shade of tall oak trees, the trickle of water as our background symphony, and read to my spotted friends from my journal.

I didn’t hear his footfalls in the tall weeds, but the skittering of nervous feet and snorting, as if in protest, raised my awareness and I turned. He stood a few feet from the tree line staring at me. I knew him by name, only. He was older than I and lived in a shack not far from our house.

The wind stilled and the water’s symphony faded into the background as the sound of my pounding heart took its place. I was in trouble; not for being in the pasture, but for being alone with him and the way, he looked at me. Far down in the field, I was out of sight and earshot from everyone. No one would hear me scream.

The cows, uneasy, stood a short distance from me. My heart beat faster against my ribs as he walked closer. When the cows shuffled their feet, he stopped, shoved his hands in his pockets, and watched as I sidestepped into the middle of my four-legged friends.

“Mom’s calling me,” I said, turning my back and running. I scrambled up the hill, through the thick grass, dropping my pencil as I leapt onto the fence. My shorts caught on the barbs cutting into my leg as I pulled free and ran toward the safety of home, blood streaking my leg.

It was my last excursion into the cow pasture. I understood the risks I had taken, but the danger of climbing the fence had never been from my four-legged friends. The barbed wire may have scarred my leg, but discovering my tiny space in the world wasn’t safe robbed me of my friends and scarred my innocence.

Lousy Execution Leads to ‘No Way Out’

Day 21 – 500 Word Challenge:

“Time to get honest and vulnerable. Share with us an embarrassing fact, an awkward truth, something you wish didn’t happen but did. Or tell us about failure, a time when you totally messed up, and what you learned from it.”

Day 21

Day 21

A long time ago (never ask a lady her age) I was the Bone and Tissue Transplant Coordinator for the American Red Cross (ARC). In spite of dealing with grieving families, the job became one of my all time favorites. As a result, of a massive education campaign, and the success of the program, I drew the attention of the local hospital’s Chief Operating Officer (COO).

I met with him, expecting to discuss how the hospital could help support the bone, and tissue program. Instead, he offered me the job of Director of the Same Day Surgery facility.

I took a leap of faith as well as the position and in short order, brought the facility from the red into the black and updated it with a new look. As part of the renovation, I decided families needed something to occupy their time while waiting. So, in a brilliant stroke of genius, (at least in my mind), I purchased movies and made them available for waiting family members.

Our library of videos (yes, videos) included the latest, most popular films, like Moonstruck (Cher’s Oscar winning performance) and Kevin Costner’s No Way Out.

I arrogantly believed everyone would be thrilled to have something better to do than reading outdated magazines. Only, I forgot a few things about these two movies in particular, and it never dawned on me to refresh my memory or consider the demographics of the patrons frequenting our waiting room. We had the latest amenities available to our families and I was proud (Pride comes before a fall).

Until the morning, I received a call from the COO.

“Sheila, I’ve received a call from Reverend…. He was upset and offended by the adult movie playing in SDS’s lobby; especially given there were children.”

My heart stopped, but my mind raced through the list of movies. I didn’t recall anything offensive. A couple might contain a bit of spicy language, but nothing too bad (I thought).

“Are you showing movies it the waiting room?” he asked.

I swallowed. “Yes, sir, but the people requesting to watch a movie make their own selection,” I explained.

“What are they rated? The Rev. mentioned a limousine scene, he said it was X-rated.”

I didn’t have a clue. My mind had gone to mush. “ I don’t recall anything remotely X-rated, but if someone has complained or finds one of them offensive, I’ll remove it.”

“Well, I liked to view it.” Oh, shit!

“Excuse me?”

“The Rev. may be making a mountain out of a molehill. Bring me the movie, I’ll review it and then we’ll decide what we need to do.”

“Which movie did he mention?”

I heard papers moving as if he was looking for something. “No Way Out. I’ll expect you to bring it up as soon as you can get a break.”

“Yes, sir.” I grabbed the movie from the lobby, a video player, locked myself in my office, and fast-forwarded the tape until I reached the scene in the limo. Oh My God! How did I miss that and what the hell was I thinking.

I walked the tape up the stairs to the COO’s office, certain I’d be fired. I thought he’d view only the questionable section, but no, he wanted to take it home and watch the whole damn thing. I left wondering if I should pack my things.

He summoned me to his office bright and early the next morning.

“Close the door, please.” I stared at the video player sitting beside his desk and waited.

“I watched the movie, and I gotta say that was some limo ride. Do you remember it?”

I played dumb. “No, sir.”

“Well, the only way I can describe it is to show you.” He reached toward the equipment.

I prayed the floor would devour me. “That won’t be necessary, sir. I’ll take your word for it. The movie will no longer be available and I’ll personally view the others to make sure nothing of this nature will happen again.”

“The Rev. was pretty upset.”

“I’ve written him a letter of apology.”

“Good.” He stared at me a moment, then broke into a smile. “ That’ll be all.”

I didn’t lose my job that day, but I did learn a valuable lesson. Perception is reality and people don’t always perceive things the same way. What one person (me) sees as a love scene, another person views as pornography (the Reverend). The intent of my actions was good, but the execution was lousy. I’ve never forgotten the experience, what I learned, or the movies.

Those movies, based on today’s standards, are mild, but back then, they crossed the line and I had been the one carrying the ball. I’ve always been  ahead of my time, but sometimes it gets you tackled or thrown out of the game.

I’d love to hear your comments. Talk to me. Tell me your story. And as always, you can follow me on Facebook at SheilaMGood and  Twitter @cofcmom.