Originally published on Thumpcity.com

Lilies of the Field

The date loomed ominously on the calendar…just sitting there waiting, like a cancer. The dreaded 25 year high-school reunion. Sally McHugh would rather have her intestines pulled out with a fork than attend, but her husband…God love him, had gotten it into his head that it would be a "hoot". Yeah, sure---go and spend an evening with one hundred and fifty people who 20 years ago were thrown together in an adolescent soup like some kind of cruel cosmic joke. What could be more fun? Since he'd gotten sick she tried to humor Bill as much as possible. Especially since there wasn't much humor in his colon cancer stage IV diagnosed life these days. She could suck it up and deal with these zombies--as she was sure they'd become, for one night for the sake of her sweet husband and his overly sentimental heart.

For weeks now she'd been having elaborate nightmares akin to LSD flashbacks. Shredded bits of real memories intertwined with ansgty projections so that the nightly brigade of shadows woke her in cold sweats. They always left the aftertaste of humiliation. She never remembered the details, just the brassy undertones of despair and doom. Plus, there was always the 3 am factor…she was utterly convinced that whatever minor problems one felt the least bit nervous about during the day were magnified by a thousand percent at 3 am. Spidery daylight musings grew into creature double feature THOUGHTS amplified by the hour flashing back like a neon red grin from her alarm clock.

She was having some kind of spiritual crisis…that must be it. A premature life review and it was coming up short. Short by some invisible grading system with some invisible matronly schoolteacher presiding over it. Finding ways to justify her existence for the last twenty years to a roomful of virtual strangers gave her pause. More so because she didn't know why it was suddenly so important. But it was. She found herself doing mental checklists lately: wonderful husband--CHECK, successful kids, CHECK--both in Ivy league money-sucking schools, fabulous house with spectacular garden…CHECK, CHECK. Fulfilling career…umm…well---there was the rub.

Public relations was no longer as chic or glamorous as it'd seemed in the 80s. She was undoubtedly one of the cities top spin-meisters. And she'd even managed to maintain a level of ethics, which was unusual, if not unheard of, in this industry. But let's face it, she wasn't exactly saving baby seals or feeding starving children. She knew some of her fellow alumni were doing amazing things. And what about her dream to become the next Margaret Mead (before it was discovered how un-PC she really was), or Madame Curie or the first female president? She'd have to settle for CEO of her twenty-horse downtown operation. Thinking of her employees as horses? Maybe she was more like Ms. Mead than she cared to admit. "Oh fer chrissakes get the damn thought police out of my head", she thought not without a bit of wryness. At least she could laugh at herself--that was something. And she'd worked hard, damn hard to get where she was. She'd toiled night and day to build and maintain this life. What was that old expression from the Bible? She reached back into her long gone Sunday school days to retrieve it from the mental archives… it went something like: "…consider the lilies of the field…they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all His glory was not arrayed like one of these." And then something else about splendor. Well--she supposed that she'd done more than her share of toiling and spinning and yet was still missing that elusive thing called splendor. She'd had moments of it---and had even known entire weeks of ecstasy and months of joy …but when she strung it all together she doubted it would compare to the lilies of her imagination.

But if she was really honest with herself and if she let the grown-up part of her prevail, she could acknowledge that most of the people she knew probably felt more like dandelions than roses, anyway. It seemed to be the major lesson to learn on this Earth School--Universita Terrum. Her version of the afterlife was a shining field of lilies---white-bright and pure. A land of dreams realized and bliss that spilled over on itself in its abundance. But in this life she had a shrinking husband whose intestines had declared war on the rest of his body and a party to attend. In true Nietschean fashion she squared her chin and shoulders and grabbed her credit card to buy the most dazzling dress that she could find. After all, she may not be a lily, but, like the ever-underrated, dandelion, she was a survivor.

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