Side Project: My Forgotten Youth

So I took a break from writing the fantasy book that I have been working on and wrote something different. I woke up last night at 3:00 a.m. and had a book idea ramming itself into my consciousness. The idea wouldn’t go away. I had to write down the general idea. Below, I have written out the rough introduction to the book. I don’t plan on stopping work on the fantasy book, but I just needed a break. In my mind, this will be a very short book, less than 200 pages for sure. A middle-grade book, I think. We will see. In my head, this book is dealing with some heavy issues kids are dealing with even today. My current working title is My Forgotten Youth. Enjoy.

Introduction: The Abnormal Life

You don’t really question the things that happened to you as a kid. To you, it was just how life was and that was normal. It’s not until years later that you start to understand that your childhood might not have been completely regular. Example: My mom once told me that my father was a famous magician. I asked her why I didn’t have a dad and she said that he was busy working in Vegas and that the entertainment company that employed him wouldn’t let him take time off.

It made sense to me at the time, that my dad was a magician; too important to come and visit me. I told all my friends at school, and when they got old enough to realize it was a lie, they let me know, harshly, over and over. It was 1990 and I was eight years old. My mom would often disappear for weeks at a time, that was normal. My grandma and I would always order pizza when she knew mom wasn’t coming home. I got to the place where I hated the very smell of the stuff. Mom continually traveled up to Detroit with her boyfriends; sometimes just for the weekend, and others, for a month at a time.

We lived with my Grandma Susan. She had a little trailer that my grandpa had left her when he died. That was years before I was even born though. We all lived in Sissonville, West Virginia and my mom and Grandma had their own rooms, but I had the hall closet. It was big enough that my twin mattress could fit, but that was about it. 

One morning, I woke up before I should have. Not sure why, but something seemed wrong. Sometimes you wake up because of a noise, but you think you just woke up naturally. It was one of those times when you feel like you slept for a long time. I was wide awake. There was the sound of clinking dishes in the kitchen and I walked in, the footed pajamas I wore had a hole for the big toe on each one, but they still made a soft shiff shiff as they slid across the linoleum floor. 

The sound of my feet caused my mother to drop her little plastic purse on the side of the sink. When she did, amber pill bottles came plopping out on the counter and the floor. She was startled.

“Hey darlin’, what are you doin up?” She asked, smoothing her blond hair back from her face and licking lips that were too dry. 

“I heard something, and woke up,” I said. 

She was fully dressed in a short skirt and some of those fishnet stockings that girls loved to wear in the 80s, but that she was obviously too old to be wearing. Mom was fashionable; MTV was always on when she was home. Her bangs were the poofiest bangs in the whole town. While I always thought mom was pretty, in a “my mom” sort of way, I hated poofy bangs. She quickly picked up the pill bottles and began stuffing them back into the hot pink purse. One of them had rolled across the floor and my bare big toe twiddled it. I reached down and picked it up. It had my grandma’s name on the label.

“Oh,” I said. “This one is grandmas.”

A slight panic flashed across her eyes. “Yes, well I am taking it to get it refilled,” she said.

“Are all of those grandmas?”

She backed away from me and I was confused. “No, these ones are mine,” she said glancing towards the door. “Why don’t you mind your own business, huh? You think you know what’s best do ya? You aren’t the parent here! I am!” She screamed the last part, but immediately hushed herself, glancing towards the hall that led to grandma’s room.

“Mom, are you okay,” I asked, brushing off the harshness of her words. I learned long ago, not to take her harshness with any sincerity.

“I’m fine,” she hastily said, zipping up the little purse. It looked stupid, hot pink and almost rubbery. I thought it was like something a little kid would have, not a grown woman. She brushed tears out of her eyes. When had she started crying? Coming over, she kissed the top of my head. She smelled; sour, like ammonia. Like when our cat’s litter box hadn’t been cleaned in several weeks. Her arms were too thin, I could see the bones in her wrists. She had bruises up and down both of her arms, little scabbed dots all over.

“You be good okay. Listen to your grandma. I’m gonna be gone for a couple weeks, alright. I have a job up in Detroit I have to do. Robert says we can get some real good work this time.”

Robert was the current guy she called her boyfriend.

“Okay,” I said.

What else could I say? She looked back once, then walked out the front door.

I never saw my mom again.

The Floating Lights

One night, my mom and dad went down across from the Bloss’ house to their grandfather’s house, Don Bloss. This was Tom Bloss’ father, Tom being the girl’s dad. They were buying some property from him to start the process of building a house. They wanted to build a house of their own design. My cousins; Randy, Tammy, Tuesday, and I were hanging out together. This had to have been around Christmas time because Tammy lived in Texas and I was only able to see her around that time of the year. As it happens, there was a blacktop road beside the girl’s house that went up the hill near there and had a circle turnaround at the top. Don had paved this to encourage people to buy lots up there.

As mom and dad were negotiating and signing contracts, my cousins and I decided to walk up to the top of the hill and play tag at the top. It was becoming dusk by the time we got to the top of the hill. It was cloudy. There was a large tree just beyond the pavement, which sat in a small field just before the edge of the forest which continued up the hill. I knew just inside the tree line was a barbwire fence. The land Don had broken up into lots, used to be his family’s farm where they had cows. As we played, I noticed some lights at the top of the hill just inside the tree line. I didn’t think much of it. There were a lot of kids around this area that rode four-wheelers down the trails here inside the barbed wire fence. So, I just assumed it was some kids up there riding four-wheelers.

There was a problem with this theory, however. There was no sound of engines. Randy suddenly stopped running having seen me standing over to the side staring up the hill. “What are those lights?” He asked. “I’m not sure.” I honestly answered. “I thought maybe they were four-wheelers, but I don’t think so, there’s no engine sound.” The girls stopped playing as well and came to stand next to us, hearing the conversation. “Maybe it’s some people riding bikes with lights on the handlebars?” asked Tammy. That could have been the case, but those were not cheap and often broke easily. So, seeing so many (five in fact) on bikes would have been rare at this time. As we debated, the lights began to move down the hill, just inside the tree line, down the trail I knew was there.

“I don’t hear any leaves,” I said. Referring to the fact that the foliage was down and we should have been hearing the crunch of leaves as bikes or even feet were coming down the path, but it was completely silent. No sound at all, save for a slight breeze. These lights were round and appeared to be hanging in the air. They were about the size of basketballs and moved slowly down the path, about as fast as some running at a slow jog.

As the lights came closer to our group, they left the woods and began floating across the small field between the blacktop circle beneath the tree that was there. It was at this point that we realized that nothing was holding up these lights, not a bike, a person, or anything else. The balls of light were gently glowing with a yellow-ish orange light and they were floating about three feet above the ground seemingly on their own. As children, we were terrified and immediately began running down the hill. The lights, followed us, close behind. Looking back, I could see they were matching our pace as we ran, being only about twenty feet behind us. We ran all the way down the hill and then up the driveway to where my parents were meeting in the house just above the end of that road. We stopped long enough to look back down at the end of the road we just come from. The lights were at the end of the road. As we watched, they began swirling around each other and then just winked out, as if someone had blown out their candles.

Of course, we told my parents what had happened, but we weren’t believed. My dad just thought we had gotten scared in the dark and whipped ourselves up into a frenzy. However, I can tell you that when I was around 14 years old, I was watching the Discovery Channel with dad when suddenly on the screen were my floating lights. I jumped up and just about scared the pants off of dad. “That’s the lights we saw when I was a kid!” I yelled. Dad was completely confused and I had to tell him again about the lights. So, what did the Discovery show say about the lights? Aliens? Ghosts? Nope! Apparently, it’s a natural phenomenon called “ball lightning”. It’s where lightning forms into a sphere because of magnetism or something. It often floats several feet off the ground or way up in the air. Now the way it seemed to chase us? I’m not sure about that, but I am convinced that we saw ball lightning that night. I guess when I get to heaven this is yet another thing, I am going to have to ask God about.

D. Michl Lowe