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LAce Posted Monday, November 10th, 2008
Chocolate Zen
Mary Baader Kaley

“When you're settled in Zen, your mind is serene, unaffected by worldly distractions.”
-Zen Master Fenyang

I bought this book of Zen quotes thinking I could use some inner peace. Except I had absolutely no time for meditation and the littlest things would grind and irritate me.

“We have two whole months until Halloween,” said Emma, my eight-year-old, on the way to school.
“No. It’s still August, which technically means it’s two months and three days,” retorted twelve-year-old Bobby.

“Wait. There are two whole months in two-months-and-three-days.”

“It’s more than two months, so you’re wrong. So, snap.”

“Why do you always have to argue about nothing? Stop talking to each other! Just don’t say anything for the rest of the ride.” I breathed in deeply. Perhaps my kids would join the debate team in high school.

After I dropped them off, I drove home in silence. I wondered if contemplating while driving was considered meditation. And then it happened in a microsecond: a small red car pulled out halfway into my lane from a side street. I swerved into oncoming traffic to avoid it, jumping back into my lane scarcely in time to avoid a head-on collision.

“Holy crap! Crap, crap, crap!” I touched the cross around my neck as my heart turned over in my chest. “I’m okay.” I was panting. “Breathe. Relax.”

I eased into the four-way stop ahead, and then looked in the rear-view mirror. The crazy driver was now behind me, coming too fast. I braced myself for the hit. “Shit!”

Thump! I was jolted forward but not as badly as I expected.

The driver came running out; early twenties, messy hair, disheveled. “Jeez, I’m sorry.” He swayed from foot to foot. “Your car looks okay, though. Your car looks okay.” He kept looking back down the road. He was holding a broken wooden spoon.

Examining my rear bumper, I agreed there was no damage. “I’m okay. The car’s fine.”

Honk! A procession of angry drivers was building behind us. I looked at my keys.

“Yah, really sorry.” He jumped back into his car and drove off.

“Without hindrances the mind that seeks enlightenment may be burnt out. So an ancient once said, ‘Attain deliverance in disturbances’.” - Zen Master Kyong Ho

Todd and I had to get to work, so I decided to forgo explaining the whole bumper tag thing. I knew he would go out and analyze the structure of my car for half an hour then lecture me about neglecting to exchange insurance information. Maybe I’d tell him later.

I sneaked a peek at my beeping cell - a new text from my speech pathologist friend.

“Hug ur kids 2day. Have new case of kid in car accident over summer & has TBI. 2nd grade, 4got how 2 read, write & speak.”

TBI? My Internet search returned traumatic brain injury.

“2 sad.” I texted back with tears running down my face. I ate a chocolate bar and drank a diet soda.

When I picked up the kids from after-school care, I took them for ice cream. Emma made a smiley face at the top of her vanilla cone with her tongue. Bobby decided to make a headless zombie in his chocolate cone.

“So, what do you guys want to be for Halloween this year?” I asked.

“Dressing up for Halloween is lame,” scowled Bobby.

“I’m not sure what I want to be this year yet,” Emma said dreamily.

“That’s ‘cause you’re lame and stupid.”

“Bobby!” My face twisted, but I stopped. I told myself to breathe and concentrate. “You need to apologize. And then you can either hug Emma or say three nice things about her.”

“Sit quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.” – Proverb

Todd was watching the 6:00 news when he called me into the family room.

“Look at this! This is right near us on 147th.”

There he was on our screen, the messy hair and disheveled clothes of the driver who hit me earlier, now wearing handcuffs being led into a municipal building. He was shouting something about vampire slayers. I eased myself into the chair. The picture flashed to the red car he drove, crashed in a ditch surrounded by investigators. It was less than a mile from where I swerved to miss him.

“Psycho dude killed his mom and dad,” Todd explained. “Thought they were vampires or somethin’. His mom’s severed head was in the trunk when police stopped to help him. They’d been dead for over a week.”

I touched the cross at my neck. And I then confessed the morning events to Todd. He didn’t run to the garage to check out the car, and I think he was glad I hadn’t asked for insurance information.

“The world is like a mirror, you see? Smile, and your friends smile back.” – Proverb

By nine-thirty, the kids were done with their homework, smothered with affection, and in bed. I took the glass of pinot Todd poured for me and went out on the back deck. I looked at the round moon, closed my eyes and sighed. I had a thought. I ran back inside straight to my closet, and looked for items to test my costume idea. The heels were a bit much, but…

I walked to Todd’s recliner where he was watching sports highlights.

Holding a chocolate candy bar in my hand, I asked “Trick? - - Or treat?”

Comments [post a comment]

Posted by Marie Shield [ ] on Tuesday, November 11th, 2008 at 9:02 AM
You took this reader on a fast curvy up-down-up ride in this wonderful short story. Hope to see more of your work.

Posted by Kim Townsel [ ] on Friday, December 19th, 2008 at 7:14 PM
I agree with Marie--what a ride this story was. Well done!

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