Day 193: Screaming for Justice

On the Fourth of July I settled myself into a matinee of half-smiles and smoke at the McNeil’s cluttered kitchen table.  Justice, my dog, had made the two hundred mile road trip with Mother and me, and nestled nervously at my feet.  Mrs. McNeil, looking a bit on the raunchy side after having partied into the late night, yawned exposing a tongue covered in a dense layer of white.  Mother fluttered about the kitchen.  Pale-faced Cousin Betty wad donned in her white shorts and a white tank top with one red stripe. I thought she resembled an inflated bowling pin. There were dime-sized bruises on Betty’s goose-pimpled thighs; no doubt the result of a hangar beating from her mother.

Sitting there that morning, I felt acutely aware of Betty’s pain.  It was ever present in her absent stare.  I wanted to reach out to her, to help, to rescue. But attempting to converse with Betty was like throwing a ball against a wall—as hard as I tried, nothing came back, except what I threw out.

Maybe, for most children, the McNeil’s house would have been a playhouse of television, music, junk food, and entertainment, but for me it was a home where I repeatedly felt misplaced and saddened.   I had a hard time breathing at the McNeil’s, not so much from my seasonal allergies or my recent set of  silver braces, but from the hardened and bruised hearts that were all around me.  Theirs was a house of broken dreams—relatives of all shapes, sizes and ages, who appeared lost and lonely even though they were all gathered together.

Most of the hoots and hollers were the fruits of too much drinking and drugs, which I perceived as futile attempts to wash away the past and present.  Much of the conversations revolved around sorrows and disappointments: divorces, loss of jobs, cheating, stealing and what have you.

Although my good friend Jane, the McNeil’s daughter, was there with me, she too was somewhat lost in the shuffle of pain.  Though she was my friend and kept me company, she did little to change the feelings stirring inside of me.

Having my little black dog Justice at my side was my only comfort.  He carried within him a calm loving spirit that nurtured and guided me.  Even though he was a fearful and timid dog, his mere existence gave me a sense of inner peace and balance.

Still, with all of my emotions revolving around the McNeil’s home, I understood why my mom visited the family.  There was some value in these people.  Certainly, there were aspects of the McNeils which brought cause for liking.   Mrs. McNeil was a spirited lady, with enough spunk in her to draw anyone out of their own dismal thoughts.  And she instinctively knew how to both nurture and humor my mother.  As lonely as my mom was, I understood she needed the McNeils, much as I understood how I needed my dog Justice.  I was never angry with Mother for bringing me to the McNeils, neither was I disappointed; instead, I was rather disheartened; for there was a bitter taste in my mouth whenever I entered their house, an immediate feeling of homesickness, even if my mother was right at my side.

If I had to choose, this wouldn’t be the place I would have wanted to lose my dog.  But in life, I know now, as I discovered then, I don’t get to choose how my losses play out.  Going back in time, I would have preferred to see Justice live to a ripe old age, and watch him pass in my arms at the vet, beside the protective watch of my mother and father.  Though, by then, my father was barely visible in my life, and Mother needed my protection more than I received hers.

Nonetheless, I wish sometimes to go back and rewrite Justice’s end—to claim my right and his right to a formal departing embrace.

That hot, hot summer I lost Justice, some one hundred and ten degrees of sweltering heat, I partook in one of the McNeil’s Fourth of July traditions.  An event I believed all people participated in on Independence Day; that is, until I was an adult and I discovered differently.

As the sun set behind the mountains and the sky turned a hazy velvet-pink, twelve people piled into an old yellow pickup.  Mother, dressed in her skimpy halter and cutoff shorts, sat in the shadows of the truck near the tail end.  Her dark tan in striking contrast to pale Betty, who took a seat to my left, and balanced her generous backside on an ice-chest.  That evening Betty was smiling, as she peeled back the wrapping of the white taffy candy that she had stolen from my suitcase.  I took my place in the back of the rusting bed, alongside my friend Jane.

From the back of the pickup, one beer bottle clanged against the side of the metal bed then rolled back tapping the heel of my shoe.  Up above bottle rockets flared through the air arching like flamed rainbows.  And Beside me, Jane ducked nervously under a beach towel.

The truck puttered up a steep suburban hill. I took in the air, a mixture of stale ale, cigarettes, exhaust, and the smell of heat escaping the asphalt.  As the darkness set, together, the entire group, myself included, stood up in the rattling bed and banged pots and pans. This was our ritual. The way we celebrated our inherent freedom. “Happy Fourth of July,” everyone hollered. Some with slurs, some with screams, and others in quiet whispers. And then more and more banging.

Riding along, I was overcome with the sounds and sights, trapped between a sensation of elation and trepidation. I feared the constant movement and constant sound. But I was also filled with a sense of danger. I was pulled back in my mind with flash backs and reminded of my recent nightmare. At that time my dreams, if they were to manifest in real life, typically came true in seven days time. This day marked the week’s end. The seventh day. The day of reckoning. And I’d forgotten. I’d forgotten to remember.

The noise was my signal, my sign. I knew instantly, with the sounds all about me, obliterating my senses and tightening my stomach, that Justice was gone.  I’d woken seven days prior screaming and running to Mother’s bedroom. I told her Justice had died. I told her of the shooting lights and loud banging. I told her of the lit up sky. Of Justice being stiff and dead in an unfamiliar road in an unfamiliar town. I had seen a fence. I had seen Justice leap and escape. And I had seen myself crying and lifting my flaccid friend into my arms.

I knew innately, in that instant, as the dream flashed back before me, that Justice was gone to me forever. Gone were the days of romping pirates in the neighborhood garden. Gone were the bubble baths. Gone were the nights Justice rest curled at my toes slurping at his backside. Gone were his predictable dives under the coffee table with the arrival of strangers. And gone forever was his thick curly dark fur, his hot breath, his tickling tongue, and the depths of his amber eyes.

When we arrived back at the McNeil’s house, I was already deflated, left and forgotten in my own pain, as all around me people laughed and joked. My eyes grew dim, my heart heavy, while I approached the backyard, the first to escape the noise into the frightful silence. Nowhere in the yard was my dog. No sight of him. No sight of anything to remind me of him except his tattered red leash. I already missed his red collar, the one with the silver studs. I missed it like that collar was my own throat, the very thing that held my voice and breath.

For a few moments, I was overcome with denial and fear. For a while I grasped a sliver of possibility—the chance my dream was wrong. I gathered my strength, and wrestled through the shrubbery, the heat of the night still on me like a warm blanket. I screamed, and screamed again: “Justice! Justice! Justice!”  But Justice did not come.

I searched until my hair was covered in oleander leaves and grass. I searched the yard, the house, and then I searched the streets—a lonely, straggly-haired girl sprinting in the dark with the fireworks above her, crying out for Justice.

Day 58: Angel and Mary

By StrawberryIndigo "My Life In Color" Click on image

Here are my thoughts on spirituality. < click link.  I do not follow one specific religion or spiritual belief system. I hope this is not offensive to my readers. I am not trying to push any belief system upon you. This is another part of my journey. ~ Sam



Sometimes I get afraid to write. I’m afraid I won’t write the correct message, won’t express myself in the right light, won’t use my words adequately to express the deeper meaning. That I will get prideful, that I will depend on others’ input too much, that I will weep at criticism, that I will offend or scare some away. Such fears keep me from shining. Such fears stop me from trusting.

I know innately there is no right or correct way to communicate. I know ultimately there is no failure, and that my words’ power and energy are not dependent upon others’ opinions or reaction. What matters is being honest and true to myself. What matters is trusting who I am. What matters is moving forward with beneficial light and kindness.

I want to begin sharing another part of my journey, experiences that long to be shared to such a degree that an essence knocks at my inner door calling over and over to be opened.

Today I open the door.

The first experience I will share with you is what I would deem remarkable. It was a long time ago, but begs to be shared. Why now, at this exact moment and on this day, I do not know.

Angel and Mary

Written by Samantha Craft on March 27, 2012

Long ago, in the fall of 1990, during a time in my life when I was still training to be a teacher and trapped within the vice of a romantic relationship that left me tormented and lonely, I questioned my place in this world.

I remember vividly sitting up in bed, under my father’s roof, in my bedclothes. I remember staring at my own reflection in the mirrored-closet doors and wailing to God. I was begging, asking for forgiveness, demanding to see a sign, so I would know, without a doubt, that everything would be all right.

It was then, as I was screaming at the top of my lungs for mercy, I heard a voice. A small voice from somewhere, possibly from within, possibly from beyond. A still voice that was so very light and freeing. This would be the first night in my life that I would sleep soundly and free of nightmares. This would be the first night that before drifting into a deep slumber, I would be filled with a soothing energy, a wordless lullaby that moved my entire being in the shape of a figure eight, shifting my neck and back in a peaceful swaying motion.

The voice I heard before I drifted to sleep, whispered only one word—the word Colfax.

During this time, my last years in college, I’d found a friend in Angela, an open-minded, spirited gal who sat beside me in my teaching preparation classes. When I awoke the next morning after hearing the voice, I contacted Angela and explained to her the events of the night.

Trusting my experience, she said, that like me, she believed that something was going to happen with this word Colfax, something powerful. Angela anxiously set about researching the word Colfax in the library. I remember her telling me in class, the next day, that she’d found several places named Colfax in America, and that one such place was located about fifty miles north of us.

I began doodling the word Colfax on my notebook. Colfax was all I could think about. The lady sitting next to me in class, a fellow student named Maryanne, upon seeing my doodles, asked me quietly, “Is that where you are from? Because that’s where I live.”

I soon found out that Maryanne had lived in Colfax for quite some time. I explained to her that I had never heard of the town of Colfax before a few days ago, and that I had a distinct feeling that there was something having to do with Colfax that I was supposed to discover. Maryanne kindly invited me to drive up over the weekend and visit her.

On Saturday, Maryanne, as promised, drove me about the small country town of Colfax. We stopped at a restaurant, a park, and a few other places. All the while Maryanne asked: “Do you sense something?”

I left in the evening discouraged and saddened. I’d sensed nothing, felt foolish, and worried for my sanity and reputation.

These unsettling feelings stayed with me, until a few days later in class, the day Angela came bursting through the door of our classroom.

That day, Angela sat down at my side, caught her breath, and said to me: “I have something to tell you.  Something you’re not going to believe!”

I waited.

She continued: “You know about Colfax? Well, it is all over the news this morning! People from all over, as far as Texas, are traveling to Colfax, near where Maryanne lives, to see a vision in St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, some reflection through the stained glass window which looks like the outline of the Virgin Mary.”

Angela scooted in closer.  Streaks of her black hair reflected beneath the fluorescent lights.  “You were right,” she whispered. “You were right.”

I shook my head and tried to smile, still processing all that Angela had reported.

“What are you going to do?” Angela asked.  “Are you going to go back? You knew something important was going to happen there, and it did. It really did. Remember at first, you thought that Colfax was a person or a far away place?  And here it is, right up the hill from us!” Angela shook her head.  “Isn’t it strange that you’ve already been there, before all of these people? Are you going to go?”

“No,” was all I could think to answer. “I’ve already been.”

It wasn’t until some twenty years later, I realized a profound truth, the fact that the two people involved in my search of the meaning of Colfax, the only two people I confided in and trusted, were named Angela (Angel) and Maryanne (Mary).

Small Article relating to event.