A young woman writes to her uncle about a life-changing experience.
|This item was written for the Tourn-A-Rounds Contest, guided by the following prompt: You have just experienced a hair-raising, heart pounding adventure that left you broke. Write a letter to a friend or family member asking for money -- but, it must include puns!________________________________________________________________________
June 6, 2007
Dear Uncle Aiden,
When I was growing up, you were always saying, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." It was your advice when my family had to move to a new city mid-way through the sixth grade; and you said it when I broke my leg right before soccer try-outs. You even said it to me as recently as last fall, when the only job offer I’d received since graduation was in accounting. Somehow, as often as I’ve heard them, the significance of those wise words escaped me -- until recently. Last week, I found myself in a dilemmatic squeeze play and your adage pulled me through. In fact, it saved my life.
My sourpuss boss had kept me late again that afternoon; he’s a miser even by tax accounting standards. Number crunching for hours had put me in a bitter mood and all I wanted to do was escape to my little fourth floor loft and chill. A quick stop at the mailboxes in the lobby put me face to face with old Mrs. Boswick, the Cat Lady from 2B.
“Why hasn’t your neighbor picked up this package?” she asked tartly.
I looked from the box on the floor addressed to the only other fourth story resident, Chloe in 4A, to Mrs.Boswick’s calico purring superiorly in her arms. I said to the cat, “She mentioned that she and her fiancé were catching an afternoon flight to Boca--” I was interrupted by the dull thud of Mrs. Boswick’s foot kicking the parcel in my direction.
“Well, you can take it to her door. Let it clutter up the fourth floor hall, instead.” The elevator doors opened at that moment and she took her exit cue, briskly hobbling in and mashing the button marked 2. As I was scrambling to pick up the oversized box I managed to say, “Hold the elevator, please!” just as the doors shut.
I’ve been known to joke about living in the penthouse of my building, but when the elevator doors opened on the top floor, the hallway’s shabby décor revealed the lemon that it was. I placed the box at the foot of the door bearing 4A in peeling gold letters. I rang the doorbell in case Chloe had changed her plans, but no one answered so I crossed the hall and let myself into 4B, chez moi. Though it’s no luxury suite, it does afford a mesmerizing view of the city. From up there, the noise of the city’s distant commotion was as soothing to me as classical music. I hastily opened the window, then hopped safely back before the distance to the ground soured my stomach.
Around eleven o’clock, I was just settling into bed in the company of a good book when I heard the sirens approaching. Naturally, I thought nothing of it as distress signals warning people of danger are an inherent part of the urban din and, therefore, largely ignored. These sirens caught my attention though, when the emergency vehicles they issued from came to a screeching halt in front of my building. Racing from my bedroom to the open window, I carefully looked out to see fire engines alit with flashing strobe lights, and a gathering crowd on the sidewalk. People were shouting but only one word penetrated my addled brain -- Fire!
A wave of panic racked my body like a jolt of electricity, rooting me momentarily to the spot. I turned my head towards the entryway, and saw billows of grey smoke spewing angrily from the crack under the door.
On heavy legs reminiscent of childhood nightmares, I staggered to the door. I grabbed for the knob but searing pain made me jerk it back; it was like trying to take hold of the flat, metallic side of a preheated iron. The pain intensified the panic in my head, and I realized the urgency of my precarious situation. I had to get out of there, fast.
Running back to the window, I leaned further out than I’d ever dared to before. Pain and panic now had a third companion in my frenzied mind: nauseating fear. Hands clamped to the sill like steel vices, I heard screams for help and only realized it was my own voice when bystanders on the street began pointing up at me. “Hurry! Hurry!” I cried as a thick cloud of choking smoke overtook me from behind in its haste to escape out the open window. Looking over my shoulder into the gathering gloom of the apartment, the only discernable feature was the doorway outlined by an eerie orange glow. “HURRY!” I shrieked, but the word caught in my throat when I saw the firefighters rushing to the sidewalk four stories below my window, carrying a rescue trampoline.
Oh God. No! They didn’t expect me to jump, did they?! “I can’t, I can’t, I CAN’T!” I screamed down. A fireman’s oddly calm voice amplified through a bullhorn called out, “It’s all right, miss. We’ll catch you! You have to jump for it!” People on the street were coming nearer, shouting encouragement. I saw Mrs. Boswick clutching her cat to her bosom. I thought she yelled, “You can do it, honey!” but the sounds seemed far away, drowned out by the roar of the heartbeat pounding in my ears.
Suddenly the wind shifted, and a cold breeze momentarily rushed across my face. With it, a courage I didn’t know I had took hold of me. Roused from my panic with a newfound conviction, I decided I was not going to perish that day. Trembling all over, I eased one leg through the window until I felt the ledge beneath my foot. Closing my eyes for an instant, I took a deep breath, gripped the window sill with all my strength, and sent the other leg out. Standing on the ledge with my torso still inside the window, I took one last look into the apartment. Furious flames licking the walls of the entryway and feasting on the old, dry structure of the building satisfied any doubt -- I had no other option. I backed the rest of the way out onto the ledge.
I was paralyzed with fear, but it was time to jump. The fireman with the bullhorn assured me they were ready on the ground. The crowd held its collective breath. Standing there, with certain death just minutes behind me, something miraculous happened. I took in my bird’s eye view of the world. Looking out from that height, a new perspective filled my consciousness, and for the first time I realized life’s intrinsic choices were mine to make. With this resolve, Fear released me from her vicious grasp, and I was ready. Rallying as much momentum as possible, I launched myself as far away from the ledge as I could.
Only seconds passed from the time I leapt to the time I bounced safely into the trampoline, but it was a life-changing trice. In those deciduous moments I became free from the bondage of fear controlling my life. It was a new beginning.
In the ensuing hours of medical attention and police interviews, I learned that the apparent electrical fire was accelerated by my neighbor’s package in the hall. Turns out it contained hundreds of souvenir matchbooks emblazoned with the couple’s names and upcoming nuptial date. I guess you could say their new beginning had a hand in pushing me into mine!
Just before dawn, I was put up in a neighborhood hotel. I fell exhausted into bed and slept deeply until the following afternoon. When I woke, I called my boss to explain why I hadn’t shown up for work. His secretary curtly said she’d announce me, and a moment later I was put through.
Shockingly, he answered, “Charles P. Anderson. Fire Department.”
“I’m sorry?” I said, confused.
“Miss Greene, I am a busy man running a successful business. Since you are too busy gallivanting around with your newest flame, or whatever, to come to work -- I have decided to eliminate your position. You’re fired.”
And this was the moment, Uncle Aiden, when the true meaning of the childhood prose you were so fond of reciting became apparent to me. Following the harrowing events of the night before and the new outlook they yielded me, I was seeing my meaningless job and my ascetic boss in a new light. I have choices! I don’t have to be afraid to take a leap of faith and find something truly inspiring to do with my life. I will climb to new heights! I will make lemonade!
I have you to thank, Uncle Aiden, for providing me with the doctrine under which I will begin living a new and improved life. Lemons to lemonade. Of course, I’m a little pressed for cash after losing my job, apartment, and pretty much everything I own. The purse strings are pulled tight leaving nothing but puckers! I owe you so much already, I hate to ask for one more thing… but I need you to front me a little start-up fund to get my new life established. I promise to pay you back!
Thanks in advance (pun intended!) for always being there for me.