HL Pic Series: 8 – Josie


Josie twirled a red umbrella as she walked down the cobble-stoned street toward the Centrum, the center of town from where all streets began. There she knew she would find a restaurant to get a slice of pizza. Pizza was, after all, in every country across Europe.

Earlier that morning, like every morning for the past three and a half months, she had been painting down by the canal. The air had turned from fog to mist and then into a light shower. Luckily, she packed up when she felt the first bit of mist, and had gotten her paints back to her flat before any damage occurred, unlike her first rainy morning in Maastricht. Not quite quick enough that day, some of the watercolors had run down her shirt.

She loved her bustling city life in the Netherlands, and was sad to have to leave the following week. Her study time was coming to an end, but she was going to miss her new friends and their eclectic ways.

Josie’s American friends and parents thought her crazy when she told them she wanted to take an art semester in the Dutch country, rather than going to Paris or Italy like most students. Josie did her homework though, and decided her education would be better improved by going to a country with a more open attitude about people, freedom and life. Walking through the street, she knew she had made the right decision, even if sometimes she became uncomfortable by the Dutch’s open views of the body.

In the country that produced Vincent van Gogh, Pieter van der Werff and Johannes Vermeer, Josie had found her deep creative and artistic Self. She allowed her ingrained restraints to fall away, and she occasionally worried that she would lose that new-found Self when she went back home to the states.

Josie spotted a friend trotting toward her.

“Hallo, Yosie!” the woman called, waving.

“Hi, Renate!” Josie was grateful that most Dutch were fluent in English because even after several months there, her Dutch was still terrible. “I’m going to get a slice of pizza. Are you hungry?”

“Oh, Yosie, don’t you get tired of pizza? The market is on today and we can get kibbeling and frites! They serve it with tartar sauce.” She said the last part slowly, trying to entice Josie. Josie laughed.

“You know I don’t like fried fish! I maybe could do the fries, but your ketchup is so sweet here. Hmm… Maybe this time I’ll eat them like you do, with only mayonnaise.”

“Oh, Josie! You’re so funny. I’m going to miss you when you go next week. Maybe I can come for a visit, yah?”

“I would love that, Renate! We will definitely keep in touch.” Josie hugged her friend. She noticed the rain had stopped so she pulled down her umbrella as they entered the Centrum. 

Jan and Christof hailed them from a table set outside at a nearby cafe. A server wiped off chairs for them. Josie sighed. It wouldn’t be Europe if we didn’t eat outside.

 I am really going to miss this.



HL Pic Series: 7-Lucy


Lucy dreamed. She was in Venice this time. Venice? Lucy woke.

It must have been spurred by my date tonight. Out with Golly, they had picked up McDonald’s and gone to the park downtown – the one with the pond and the pretty lampposts. That what must be what triggered it.

Lucy shook her head to clear the dream, then got up to make a cup of tea. She would not be getting back to sleep too soon, she thought. She took her tea to the sofa, grabbed a pen and paper and began writing as she recalled the dream.

The lamppost sat on a dock where several gondolas bounced lightly nearby in the water. I’ve never seen a gondola in my life. How do I even know they’re called gondolas? She watched the gondolas’ bouncing grow more erratic, so she looked to the right and watched a giant yacht float into the city. It was not slowing as it neared.

In her dream, she yelled to the captain, “Slow down!”

The captain looked at her through hollow eyes. The great ship would never make it through the canal – it would smash into both buildings that lined in on either side. Then it did.

But it didn’t. It glided through the buildings, rather than into them.

Lucy stood on the dock. Her hands shook. She looked around but nobody else on the dock or over by the buildings had noticed the ship. She waved at a lady near the closer of the two buildings, but the lady had looked right through her, too. Lucy looked at her hands, and went to hold the lamppost. They went right through it.

So… I’m a ghost.

Remembering caused the pen to shake in her hand, but she wrote it all down. She wrote it shakily. She wrote it in her journal of dreams, adding it to her collection of other strange dreams.

The captain looked through me. What does this mean? Is it another premonition? Or is there another more symbolic meaning to this dream? His eyes… What do all these dreams mean? Am I going to die? Or am I going to live?



HL Series: 6-Darlene


Darlene stood on her balcony, gazing out over the Tuscan village and countryside. She never thought she would get out of her small town to venture across an ocean; but here she was, living a life she had never wanted to hope for.

She had met Derrick later in life – just after she turned fifty. Sure, she had dated lots of men, even married a couple, but they didn’t work out. Since there weren’t any children, she’d had no reason to stay after the passion wore off; but Derrick was different.

She had been waiting tables in a truck stop restaurant when state troopers made him exit the closed highway. He had wanted to wait out the storm, rather than get a hotel room, and this was how he ended up in Darlene’s booth.

At three in the morning, she had already been working for four hours. Her feet ached. A new girl had bumped her earlier and spilled a full plate of food on her, so her uniform was filthy and greasy. Mind-wrestling the drunks had been extra difficult that evening. She could not understand why anyone was even out in that kind of weather. If they needed booze that bad, they should have picked it up before the storm hit and taken it home to drink.

Angry and exhausted, Darlene had tromped toward Derrick with a coffee pot in one hand and her order pad in the other. She hadn’t anything about him until she stood before him at the table. When she looked up, the greyest eyes she’d ever seen stared back at her with a slight twinkle. Startled, she immediately stood taller and tried to smooth her apron, though when looking down, she realized it was futile. She gave him a half-smile.

“What can I get for ya?”

“Well, I guess I’ll have whatever is on the front of your apron.” He laughed, releasing her from her stressed and straight-backed position.

Darlene relaxed and pulled at her apron. “So that’s two eggs over easy, bacon, a side of pancakes and coffee?”

“Sounds delicious.” He handed her the menu and she smiled back at him. “Can you join me?”

Darlene instantly rubbed her hand over her hair. “Me?”

“Yes. It’s a cold night and you look like you could use a cup of coffee.” She nodded, and went to put his order in. Then she grabbed an extra cup for herself and went to sit down with him.

She ran away with him two weeks later and had not been back to her hometown since. That was four years ago.

Looking once again over the Tuscan valley, she had no regrets.


HL Pic Series: 5-Ashley


Ashley stared at the flap-like piece sticking out of the gigantic formation. She’d heard about the strange growth from some of her cycling friends, but did not believe them. Instead, she decided to ride out into the desert by herself to see it; proof was in the sighting – or so her parents had always said. So, she loaded her backpack with a towel, sunscreen, snacks and water and rode her bike eight miles out of town to get a closer view of Paddle Rock. It’s weird! I wonder how that happened.

Ashley had been raised by atheistic scientists who had an answer for all of her questions – up until she had become a teenager. Then she would ask questions they could not answer, like from the Big Bang Theory: How could something come from nothing?

She fought with her parents as they tried to convince her, which created distance between them. Their theories did not make sense to her, so she began a spiritual quest to fill the small void she felt in her chest. Searching the book store, she bought books on Druids, Wicca, Kabbalah, Astrology, New Ageism, Becoming a Shaman, Crystals, Tarot, Mystic Wisdom, Buddhism and many others. Over time she read them all, but each time something still felt missing.

At college she ended up on a dorm floor with a bunch of Christians, some who were bicyclers, like her. She was uncomfortable talking to them about her lack of spiritual upbringing, even though a few were interested in her story. Sometimes she got really frustrated with them because there were days when all they talked about was Jesus. If he is so great, why doesn’t everyone follow him?

One morning, after an extremely difficult exam, she awoke with a headache. She decided to skip class and stay in bed. Waving goodbye to her roommate, who would be gone for several hours, she rolled back toward the wall and closed her eyes.

As she lay in a half-dream state, the face of Jesus, sheathed in luminescence, floated before her and said, “You are my child. I formed you in the womb and know every bit of you. You are well loved.”

Ashley woke up. Her head felt groggy, so she sat up, shook it, rubbed her eyes and wrapped her arms around herself. Did that really just happen? Did Jesus just talk to me? That’s weird, my headache is gone already.

Since she was not sure if she had just had a dream, or if it was indeed a vision, she got up, walked over to her roommate’s desk and borrowed her bible. She had heard the girls talking about the New Testament, so she opened up to Matthew and began to read. The words rang of truth and she began to feel the hole fill.

HL Pic Series: 4-Jo


Jo studied the hammock.

“I think it will stay,” she said to the small gecko hanging onto a wooden porch post. “Now, it’s time for a margarita.”

So far Jo’s dream had not developed as she had planned. She had worked hard for thirty eight years as a school teacher, living frugally and saving every penny toward her retirement. When her dream to marry and have a family had not come to fruition by the time she’d hit thirty-five, she decided to change her dream. Now, here she was, living on an island in the Caribbean.

The thing was, it was not at all what she had expected. Sure, there were sandy beaches, lots of good-looking men on vacation and beautiful clear waters.

But, the brochures had not mentioned the sand fleas or the fact that shoes need to be worn on the sand because it gets hot enough to cause blisters. Those dreamy picture cards had not mentioned the fish that nibble at legs and toes, or the jellyfish that stings like a burning hot poker, or the crabs that chase people from the water. Those beautiful brochures had not discussed language barriers, the inability to find help that worked more than a few hours per day so a house could be painted and wood trim fixed, or the fact that everything smelled like fish. All the time. Everywhere.

Jo had come down to the island once to see the house, buying it through a website. When she moved, she discovered she had paid much more than market value and now she was stuck. After three months of living in it, she recognized that she had not done her due diligence. Now, paint chipped, the washing machine froze up and she only had one burner left working on her stove.

She did not even want to think about the hurricanes.

And… Nobody had told her that in equatorial heat, sweat poured from every pore, all day and all night. She never felt clean. She was either sweaty and gross, or dried out from the salt air like an old starfish. Nobody had told her how terribly she would miss her family and friends.

She sighed.

Today was a good day. She had a hammock, and her blender still worked; and so, she made a margarita and took an afternoon nap.