Saturday, May 24, 2014

Death of a friend - Ruth's story

This was written on August 29, 2010 on Helium. Helium is closing down but the story is still important to me so I am re-posting it here. All 300 of my articles on Helium will disappear at the end of the year and like this one, there are many I want to save. 

Ruth's story

The tubes and the heart monitor had become part of the background. The constant beeping, annoying at first, now seemed to offer comfort and hope. I watched her from the doorway, too young to be allowed in the room.

The fifteen-year-old girl on the bed was often asleep when I came to visit. I would call her name softly when I arrived. “Ruthie”, I said quietly, “Are you awake?” Sometimes her mom would be there and gently touch a spot on her shoulder that was not wrapped in bandages.

The smile that erupted when she saw me standing in the doorway was contagious. “Hi”, she would say cheerfully, “I just had the best dream”. Not believing that anything bad could come from this I said, “Tell me about it”.

“We were little. We had those old-fashioned clippers and were playing barber in the empty house next to mine. We cut off all of Jackpot’s hair”.

Laughter erupted from the doorway. “That wasn’t a dream, that was a memory”, I said. I watched her on the bed, seeing her eyes crinkle in laughter. Loving her as much as I did, I did not see the bandages or the parts of burned skin that were visible. What I saw was the curly brown hair, sometimes wispy around her face. I saw dark brown eyes that viewed the world with wonder. I remembered the two little girls, one light and one dark, cheerfully cutting the hair of the 6-yr-old boy. We had been in so much trouble.

“Do you remember that we were not allowed to ever go to the empty house again?” I asked?

Ruthie glanced up and gave what would be the equivalent of a nod. She looked tired all of a sudden. Drained from the exchange, she drifted off to sleep. Her mother, looking worried came from the room. Pulling my mom and me from the doorway, she looked for a place to talk.

“She’s had a bad day today”, Ruthie's mom said. “The skin graft under her arm didn’t take. They also had to remove three fingers from her right hand”. Ruthie's mom glanced at me.

I was horrified. How could this be happening? We were best friends. We had our lives planned. Ruthie wanted to be a nurse. Ruthie was boy-crazy. Ruthie and I were always together and had been since we were three-yrs-old. People loved to be around her, she seem to draw people to her like a magnet. She loved everyone in turn and only saw the good in people.

Ruthie was the ringleader. She had an amazing imagination and we were often in trouble. Knowing each other as well as we did, we would often start giggling in class, knowing what the other was thinking. Ruthie saw the world with humor and did not take much seriously.

I looked up at Ruthie's mother. “What!” I said. It was as if the information had just made sense. “What!” I said again, “Does she know?” Her mother shook her head no. “Are you going to tell her?” I demanded.

“No”, her mother replied, “Not now, it’s just been a rough day. When she feels stronger, we will tell her. Right now, we are letting her get as much rest as she can. The drugs help with the pain and she needs to sleep”.

“OK, I’ll go in and say goodbye”.

It was a long slow walk back to the room. Ruthie was sleeping. From the doorway I said, “Hi Ruthie”. Ruthie opened her eyes. “Hi”, she said weakly. “Did you know my mom said when I get out of here, she will let me have piano lessons?”

“Wow, that’s great”, I said enthusiastically.

“I can’t wait”, Ruthie said.

“I’ll see you tomorrow. See ya’ later, alligator”, I said

“After while, crocodile”, Ruthie replied.   

Walking out of the hospital, I had a fleeting thought that it might have been better if Ruthie had not survived the fire. After two weeks of intense pain and unbearable suffering, losing the fingers would just be too much for her to bear. Ruthie had always wanted to play the piano and although I had tried to teach her, we were both too silly to make a real effort.  

The whole thing was unreal. Ruthie was not the person in the bed. Ruthie was light itself, shining on everyone. Ruthie would be a nurse and share her generous spirit with those who most needed her help. That was who she was.

As we walked into the house after the hour drive from Los Angeles, the phone started ringing. My mom picked it up. She listened for a minute than said, “I’m sorry”. Turning to me she said, “Ruthie just passed away”.

The sun lost part of its light that day. Without Ruthie to share it with others, it never regained its former glory.    

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A collection of writing prompts

Reinventing the wheel is what writer's do. It is not necessary when the Internet has many sites with prompts to beat writer's block. You have better things to do than try to come up with prompts when the work has been done for you. As a writer who gets stuck or just doesn't feel like writing, these sites not only have great prompts but are entertaining as well.

One Word

Click “go”, and a word pops up. You have 60 seconds to write about it. You will need to think fast but it is a great exercise to get your mind working.

911 Writers Block

This is really fun. Who says you can't have fun while trying to get your sluggish brain to work. The website shows a touch-tone phone that you dial for prompts.


Spin the wheel and see what you get. The prompts are almost abstract and it is a mental stretching exercise.

Creative writing prompts

This is another fun page to play with. Pick a number and write what it says. This could probably stop you form any serious writing because once you do one; you just have to do another.

English 50- Intro to Creative Writing: Exercises for Story Writers

These are not writing prompts but a collection of exercises to get the brain moving. Although it is set for writing fiction, it will still good exercise.

There are those who believe that writer's block is all in the mind and have a simple suggestion. Sit in the chair and just write. Once you sit down, it doesn't matter what you write as long as you're writing. Put words down. Just close your eyes and start typing nonsense. Write anything.

It doesn't matter what prompts you use. Find one that works for you. Just don’t get so caught up playing with the prompts that you forget why you were there in the first place.

New direction - Helium is calling it quits - where does it leave me?

When I joined Helium long ago, I was new to writing on-line. It was a wonderful experience where I met new people, learned a lot more about writing, and made a little money. A couple of years ago, they changed directions and I decided not to follow. While my 100+ articles made a little money, I stopped writing for them.

Instead, I migrated to Squidoo along with some of those from Helium where we continued to learn from each other. I have enjoyed watching people grow.

Now, Helium is shutting down and I have a problem. A lot of my Helium articles are linked to other sites. When they shut down, those links will not work anymore. I haven't worked with this blog in a long time. I have been really busy with family history and those blogs get all my attention. However, I need a home for my helium articles.

I am not going to post all of them here. I have more than 70 on camping and might turn it into some sort of book. I have some on raising a grandchild I will add to a blog I had started a while back. However, I think this is where some of my memoirs and off-topic pieces will go. Fortunately, I started this blog about writing so it seems appropriate that I use it for what I originally intended.

I loved Helium in its heyday. It was exciting and I couldn't wait to get started each day. I enjoyed the interaction with my new friends. There has not been anything quite like it since. The old staff at Helium, the original people, were helpful and made it a treat. Thanks to them for several years of motivation and encouragement. I wish it had continued but at least I had the experience and I am better for it.