Slice of Life Moments Owen E. Richason IV December 1, 2022 Sitting alone at a table in a popular, crowded restaurant, the agreed and somewhat dreaded, yet much anticipated, meeting time grew nigh but had not passed. The harsh weather crept in unobstructed, without pause, because it did not contain care or concern. The shower knob, now fully turned off, did not stop the water from dripping. Each new drop formed ever so slowly, and dangled in a fluid dance, before splashing down below. It was going to be one of those days. All up and down the block, recently emptied trash bins with their lids flipped open, lined the street. Watching her children play in the front yard, her stomach grumbling, she had just one wish – to put a full trash can out on the curb, just like all the other families. The bright, warm sun gently beamed down all around, causing grains of sand and bits of shell to glisten, as she watched with great delight her precious little boy laugh and splash in the fun, wonderous, aqua-blue surf. When she came through the door, with a helpless, frightened kitten outstretched in her hands, the little girl’s mother could only smile, proud her daughter cared so deeply for a stray, it made her heart full. After years of planning and saving, the young parents were absolutely delighted to hear, “The guest in front of you paid for your parking… Enjoy your day in the park!” “So, what are you going to put on your Christmas wish list this year?” “I’m not going to make one.” “But, you’ve done so since you were a little boy.” “Mom, I’m getting too old for that stuff.”At that moment, she realized her little boy really wasn’t so little anymore. And when she gazed up to the wonderous night sky just past dusk, seeing Capella shine so brightly under the lovingly-assembled backyard tent set up by her dad, she suddenly understood his deepest heartfelt wish was true – she really could accomplish anything. The little boy erupted into infectious, belly-busting laughter when his dad smeared peanut butter on the top of their new puppy’s nose. It was just another ordinary morning when she handed a newly bought backpack to her 14-year-old daughter, shared a hug and kiss on the cheek, and waved goodbye at the bus stop. So, she never imagined her little girl would never come home again. When she dropped her teenage son off at the sports complex, he asked if she brought any sandwiches or snacks. She replied, “No, but I will after practice.”He hung his head, acknowledging, “Oh, okay.”Surprised by his reaction, she asked why and he told her he was very hungry. “How could you be hungry, I packed that giant sandwich for your lunch and a bunch of snacks?”“Well, I only ate some of it.”“Why didn’t you eat all of it?”“Because Mom, there was a new kid at school today who forgot his lunch and didn’t have any money to buy, so I gave him half of mine.”All she could do was smile while tears welled in her eyes. On her very first big date, the girl was so nervous, she tripped in the movie theater aisle, spilling soda all over a complete stranger, causing the boy she really liked to burst into laughter. On his very first real date, the boy was so nervous, he tripped in the movie theater aisle, spilling soda all over a complete stranger, causing the girl he was trying to impress to burst into laughter. Anxiously wanting to leave the school as soon as possible and not being at all fond of a particular student, the teacher spit out an objectively rude comment before turning around and literally bumping into the boy’s father in the hallway. Rushing into work, he excitedly checked his bank account to confirm his $50,000 bonus deposit. But when he passed a homeless family on the street, he suddenly realized he had no cash to give. So, he took a hurried detour to the nearest ATM and went back. Seated beside his new girlfriend at a trendy, new restaurant, he felt good about how their evening was going, until the server approached their table. It was his ex, who put him through a nasty, spite-filled breakup. While accepting the award, the photographer thought, “The difference between what a camera captures and the human eye witnesses is truly remarkable.” Because the real-life moment and picture bore little genuine resemblance. This particular lie cut considerably deeper than any before it. But its unbelievable betrayal taught a valuable lesson; one that came at a cost of unforgettable heartache. When the company CEO walked into the one-on-one meeting unexpectedly, the junior executive not only felt surprised but panicked, until the boss concluded with, “Job well done – you’ll be generously rewarded!” Ecstatic about winning the school science fair, the little girl ran home quickly from the bus stop, full of excitement. But when she showed her first prize medal to her new stepdad, he said, “Yeah, it’s good; but it doesn’t mean you’re some kind of genius.” Exiting the grocery store with four over-stuffed bags, two precariously dangling from each arm, the plastic suddenly split open, and the contents spilled onto the ground. A kind stranger stopped to help pick up the goods, and that’s how their friendship began over 20 years ago. The “Add to Cart” button never looked so surreal as she selected a pack of adult-sized clothes hangers. Clicking it stirred so many emotions and brought back the fondest of memories when she first used the children’s sizes to hang much smaller shirts and pants for her once little boy. Walking through the farmers market, she stopped to look at a local artist’s work, when one particular painting caught her eye, because it reminded her of a favorite spot she used to frequent with somebody she lost long ago. Although very close friends with a reputable purebred breeder, the young couple chose to adopt a two-year-old pup from their local rescue shelter who had been surrendered nearly four months earlier and passed up several times before. Having left her place a total mess due to an unexpected trip out of town, she dreaded opening the door. But when she did, she was greeted by a freshly cleaned house and a beautiful bouquet of flowers, courtesy of her fiance. Nervously scratching the silicone off his last lottery ticket, desperately wishing for a match, he found none, wasting his last $100 until his next paycheck. Sadly, a saucer of milk and some meaty table scraps weren’t enough for the stray kitten to survive the night’s freeze. The outcome could have been very different if the poor little thing were brought inside, fed, and kept warm. Mistakenly placed inside the wrong mailbox, a hand-delivered, unsealed envelope contained four playoff tickets, undoubtedly intended for a neighbor. Excited to confirm their first pregnancy, the young couple was overwhelmed with joy when the ultrasound detected not one, but two heartbeats. After numerous discouraging rejections by top choices, an admission acceptance finally arrived, accompanied by a generous scholarship – the beginning of a very tough, but welcomed journey. Overwhelmed with grief, the once proud army wife struggled to grasp why – especially after hearing the term “suicide by asphyxiation” so casually used and wondering how she’d explain what happened to their now fatherless children. While waiting in the queue line for the next show to begin, Mom knelt down to tie her boy’s shoe, when she noticed he was standing on $80 in cash. Clearly seeing a young pelican in deep distress, three strangers came together to free the panicked adolescent from a web of tangled plastic. Having been embarrassed after spilling her lunch onto the floor due to an energetic toddler careening into her legs, she was reluctant but flattered to accept an invitation to share a table with a young man her age who offered to share his food. On their very first father and son charter, the tween hooked the biggest grouper the captain had ever seen. And, although the hard-fought catch got away, it was a moment they’d never forget. Way off the trail, approaching a clearly injured bear cub, the unheeded warnings became a terrifying premonition when the mother sow appeared from out of the underbrush. With a beautiful butterfly delicately balanced on their toddler’s finger, the little one giggled as Mom and Dad relished once again seeing the wonder of the world through a child’s eyes. As the hang glider unexpectedly flew into the vacuum of a vortex, onlookers cringed in disbelief as the helpless aeronaut plummeted uncontrollably to the ground. The puppy playfully poked its head out of the leaf pile, eagerly waiting for its favorite bouncy ball to be thrown again. Nervously counting the few, small bills left in her wallet, she knew it would buy just enough gas to get back and forth from work, but not for the week, when a stranger approached, handed her a $100 bill, and said “Merry Christmas.” On a hectic Christmas Eve morning, unexpected news came. The baby they’d nurtured and loved for the past several months was now officially part of their forever family. The adoption had been approved. No more capitulating to unreasonable demands. No more cowering in abject fear. Now was the time to take a stand and end the cycle of abuse once and for all. Seeing the house key on the closing table brought up so many emotions, it was difficult to focus and listen to all the information. While shelling along the beach, the little girl and her mom were delightfully surprised to discover a baby crab living in a conch they collected. Although it was heartbreaking to block the number and delete the pictures, it was time to admit the relationship was always toxic, with far too many hurtful experiences. Separated from its mother and siblings, the frail little duckling found a welcoming family in the farmhouse lab and her pups. After writing their names in the sand, they sat back on the beach and watched the sunset over the horizon together for the last time. The park visitors smiled, chuckled, pressed against the underwater viewing glass, and snapped pictures as they greatly enjoyed the dolphins’ playful antics. The crumpled, empty blanket she ambivalently tossed aside, lay next to him on the loveseat, clearly indicating that he was no longer a priority, but rather, an afterthought. Bright, flashing lights pierced the darkness, casting eerie shadows over crumpled metal, as the surreal scene set off an alarming panic. The ride down the zip line was simultaneously frightening and exhilarating, providing an unparalleled experience that had to be repeated. Clinging to hope was now futile, a fool’s errand, it was time to accept the bittersweet finality, make peace with the present, and take comfort there still was a future beyond the moment. Cruising at high speed along the open water, a pod of dolphins raced beside the boat playfully jumping over the waves A quick peek into the attic revealed this year’s location for hiding the big Christmas gift, and it was the one at the very top of the wish list. A split-second before the chopsticks reached the last bite of tuna roll, the mischievous kitten leaped onto the table and quickly absconded away with it. Seeing the toddler wandering into the street, chasing after a loose ball, the next-door neighbor acted quickly, scooping up the child, just before a service van backed up. Repeatedly hearing a strong, melodic voice from the crowd through half of their set, the band brought the enthusiastic fan onto the age sing their most popular song. Looking out over a scenic stop along the mountain trail, the panoramic view was breathtaking, but it was the crisp clean air and peace and quiet of it all that was the most enjoyable, particularly for someone who lived in the big city. On an early morning hike, the family watched in amazement as a mountain lioness led her cubs down a steep, precarious slope for a cool drink. Sitting nervously airside, she couldn’t wait any longer to see him walk off the plane in his uniform, after a lengthy eight-month deployment. The rookie EMT’s first night started with a 911 abuser and ended with a highway fatality – a motorcyclist driving recklessly at high speeds, weaving in and out of lanes in between vehicles. It was the first morning in 18 years setting the breakfast table with one fewer place, after dropping off their high school graduate at college the day before. It had been a long, hard day at work with everything going wrong when a big, beautiful flower bouquet was delivered to her desk, along with a reservation to her favorite dinner restaurant. While the graduation stage was full of happy, energetic kindergartners in their caps and gowns, the audience beamed with pride, laughing and crying at the same time. Leaning toward her for a good night kiss, he lost his footing, slipping right off the front doorstep, falling into the bushes; but it was his clumsiness and expression she thought to be two of the cutest things she had ever seen. Comfortably seated in a rocking chair, hot cocoa in hand, the clear water rushing over the river rocks provided a most relaxing retreat. The end of the month had long yet to come, but the money had already run out. Roasting marshmallows around the fire pit on a crisp, cool night had fast become one of their favorite family pastimes since moving into their new home. Being new to the company, the annual office Christmas party gave him the opportunity to approach a girl who caught his eye. Almost tossed in the trash with the junk mail was an inconspicuous envelope containing an unexpected, delightful surprise – a check for nearly $400. Just as the students evacuated their school for a fire drill, a thunderstorm erupted, unleashing a bolt of lightning that struck a nearby tree and split the trunk in two. Looking out over the bow to the rolling aqua-blue water as the boat slowly rolled with the tide, a manatee casually swam by with her newborn calf following right along. As midnight struck, New Year’s fireworks exploded loudly outside, exasperating the exhausted, young, single mother, who desperately tried to comfort her frightened newborn, worrying about getting to sleep to make the early shift at work in the morning as her seven-year-old shelter rescue nervously cowered in the corner. Anxiously waiting in the parking lot for her teenager to reappear from his very first job interview, she felt a lump swell in her throat, and tears run down her cheek when she read a bittersweet text announcing, “I’ll be out soon, Mom. Just getting my uniform now.” It had been just five days since New Year’s Eve and only one of three resolutions had not been broken. Just as the family spread out their blanket and emptied their picnic basket, a few furry little creatures curiously approached, asking to share the family’s goodies. Casually strolling along a heavily wooded, winding path, the family experienced a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife encounter they never forgot. The picturesque scenery and cool gentle breeze coming off the waves inspired the artist to imagine an entirely new piece, a challenging concept never personally attempted before. Though neither wanted to admit any meaningful relationship between them had long ago passed, they nevertheless regularly kept in touch. After 4 years with the tech startup, his job came to an abrupt end on an otherwise ordinary Tuesday morning in the form of an unannounced digital lockout. Waking up to a slew of congratulatory messages, she couldn’t believe the news at first but was overcome with joy when she confirmed it was all true.