When I was the Key (2400 words)

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on October 8, 2013 0 Comments

There is an ancient legend, to be more precise it is a fragment of a larger tale; it states with great pomp that the sun, born of the moon, will bear forth the warrior and the key.  It appeared on a peculiar looking map (origins unknown) of which scholars from civilizations of old could not decipher.  Some believed its meaning was powerful while others dismissed it as utter nonsense – a start of a fairy tale to lure young ones to sleep.  Since no scholar, priest, or poet could interpret it, it fell to insignificance and then was forgotten by the larger world.

That is until I stumbled upon it.  After much contemplation, I concluded that my mysterious grandma was the moon, my shining mama the sun, my brave sister Kitten the warrior, and I…well, I was the key.

I was five when the Earth Angels captured me.  There had been word that some Lakota warriors had been scouting nearby and Kitten wanted to see if she could find them for reasons, I’m sure, that only made sense to her.  Despite knowing that Kitten’s idea of an afternoon lark might take a dangerous turn I did it anyway.  Truth is that I was like a puppy who wanted her attention.  Kitten warned me that she would not slow down just so I could catch up.  If I was clumsy enough to be captured at least she could console the loss of a sister knowing that she would no longer have to share a room.

As prophesized I fell behind.  Kitten was so sure footed she easily climbed a nearby ridge and did not look back.  Perhaps she was hoping I would give up and go home which was exactly what I was thinking of doing when the ground under me started to erupt.  Just as I was about to run a blue hand (the color of a peacock feather) with seven fingers and thumb grabbed my ankle.  It was such an odd sight that my first instinct was to study it but when it started to pulling be into the ground I realized it was too late to fight back.  Other blue hands started to emerge from the earth to pull me toward what I was sure was an early grave.

I called them Earth Angels because they proved to be of the earth and not. For a millennium (which passed as mere minutes for my earthly life) they educated me in the cave which was a type of museum for universal knowledge neatly tucked under what was then Montana Territory.  I was told to study various myths in order to understand my purpose when I came upon the legend of the moon, sun, warrior and key.  It drew me in which I took as a sign.  Earth Angels were big on signs (I think they would have been confused by idiom that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar).

My maternal grandmother Clarice Morgan was a cryptic character in my family.  Although she left my mother’s life when Mama was a little girl our family could still feel the ramifications of her actions as if they had taken place a week before.  What I knew of her was that she had a talent to both charm and repel.  According to the man I regarded as my grandfather (whom Mama, Kitten, and I called Grumps) she was evil incarnate.  It was his friend, Saul Reynolds, who was infatuated with her beauty and Grumps just followed Saul’s lead because… honestly, I don’t think he had anything else better to do.  Everything in his life had changed after the Civil War.  As life unfolded Grumps ended up raising Mama after Clarice and her fellow comrades disappeared into the Amazon jungle.  It was the void she left, along with Mama’s silence about her, which made me believe she was the moon in the legend.

Mama had to be the sun because all things seemed to gravitate around her.  By merely moving to a community she became the toast of the town.  She was smart, beautiful, but most of funny – so funny that even to this day when I feel out of sorts I can still think of jokes she told and my mood lightens.  On top of everything else she could cook like no other I have ever met.  Many an evening I feasted like royalty and enjoyed a song and dance with Mama who would swung us children around the room.  Before the Earth Angels took me, I thought of her as pure light.  She was the warmth that scared my shadows away.

Kitten was very much like Mama except bolder in her approach to life.  She was always quick and clever; which are attributes a good warrior needs.  Mostly she was my hero because she was never afraid to challenge an injustice or champion an underdog.  Sure she could be abrasive, but overall she was a girl who was admired wherever she went for the joy and amusement she brought with her.

This left me as the key.  I accepted this role for it gave me purpose and made my loneliness seemed like a means to an end.  It confirmed that I would never be like my older sister no matter how hard I tried.  A warrior is a person of action and a key just is until there is something to unlock.

The legend further made sense because as key my talents had to be hidden.  I learned very young that I had to be guarded for a slipup could result in questions and too many of those meant leaving for yet another home where those pesky questions wouldn’t follow.  While Mama was afraid for me (and at times of me) Kitten was not.  She was confident in her ability to confront and defeat any demon or angel who might drop by in order to better make my acquaintance.  That is the way of the warrior.

Though admittedly dissimilar, my humanity isn’t so different; as I grew older I grew wiser.  The beliefs I was so certain of in the bluster of my youth proved not quite as precise.  After living for 108 years I realized I was wrong in my interpretation of the legend.  Did the Earth Angels purposely lead me astray? Not that it changed anything beyond my perception…and maybe hurt my pride a tiny bit.  However I never told my sister the truth, even as Kitten lied dying surrounded by her children and admirers and their children and so forth (oh, the seeds she had scattered).  I didn’t know how she would react and that persuaded me to keep my own confidence.  She was always proud to be the warrior.

Fact is I am the warrior and she the key.

The answer was in her blood.  Mine is too pure, the frequency too refined, but Kitten’s was just right.  In medical tests the abnormalities that flowed in her veins were masked thus no questions were asked when she donated blood throughout her travels and impasses.  I don’t know if she knew what she was doing or if it was instinct, but for years she gave blood on a weekly basis.  Now I can see in others what she brought forth and I pray that whatever spiritual plane she finds herself she too can see the impact.

I believe as her body was dying, the linage that made us different from the rest of the human race became much stronger within her.  It was she who first heard the presence.  It was just me at Kitten’s hospital bedside that amazing afternoon.  She was asleep when her heart rate quicken and her eyes popped open, sitting straight up she said “What is that?”  It took a second then I heard it too.  It is hard to describe the sound a soul makes when it decides to reject what fate has given it to pursue something not planned in the stars, but once you hear it you know the miraculous exists.

Amazed by what I was witnessing from my sister I replied timidly, “That’s the sound of someone shattering the known universe.”

Kitten turned her head and with a childlike glimmer in her eyes, “So that’s what it’s like in your head.”

I debated if she was serious or trying to have a chuckle as my expense, so cautiously I responded, “Sometimes.”

Kitten asked me for a glass of water.  She drank it as if she had not been at death’s door moments before.  I could read a distinct change in her aura.  She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and used what must have been a previously dormant instinct to follow the presence.  “She is close by…emergency room…fourteen…maybe fifteen.  She was shot while walking away from an argument.  I sense her mother is a drug addict whose whereabouts are unknown.  The girl knows her mother fuels her addiction by working as a prostitute.  No father.  She lives with her aunt who is somehow involved with the shooting.  She is tired…so tired…always being disregarded.  She wants more from life but doesn’t know how to go about it.  She is angry at God.  Everything around her is collapsing…sinking into darkness…only thing keeping her afloat is a cornel of hope.  It is hope which is compelling her to reach for something she dreams of but doesn’t understand.”  Kitten then grabbed my hand and held it to her heart, “Bunny, do you feel her potential?  The power within her could split the atom!”

It must have been the combination of Kitten and me holding hands because the words of girl’s anguish echoed into the room.  “I MATTER!  I MATTER!  I MATTER!”  The room started to shake and I was reminded of a time many years prior when I was grabbed and consumed by a community of blue hands.

“Bunny, we have to find her…she matters.”

Tasked with a dying wish I went to the emergency room to investigate and that’s when I first laid eyes you.


I must have drifted off because it took a minute to realize Grandma Talk-a-lot was done chatting me up.  I had been listening off and on to this woman’s tale not giving it much credence since I suspected she was a combination of extremely lonely and mentally ill.   After all she was talking to a stranger in a nameless third rate casino tucked into the Flint Foothills.  Because of my commitment to nonstop drinking I would occasionally nod in her direction as if I was giving her an encouragement to keep on talking when in fact I hoped she would slip away and gamble her social security check on the slots.  However I couldn’t resist one aspect of her tale that I thought I heard clearly, “Blue hands with seven fingers and a thumb?”


I looked at her, really looked at her, for perhaps the first time since she sat next to me at the bar.  I thought she would appear earnest, but she didn’t, I couldn’t read anything from her, a complete poker face.  “Your life story included extraordinary beings with eight digits and I was wondering if they played a mean piano?”  I laughed a little too much at my obnoxious joke.  I was glad the alcohol was finally working its magic on me.  It was alarming how much I had to drink to start getting a decent buzz.

“They played a lot of musical instruments, most not identifiable.  I don’t remember a piano, but then again it was a long time since I have seen them.”

“That’s right, you claim to be really, really old.”  I rolled my eyes.  Little did she know in my now former life I am a medical doctor and thus know that someone who claims to have reached beyond their hundredth birthday don’t look as if they are in their early seventies.  Seriously, no one lives to the age, if my math was correct, she claimed to be.   However such thoughts were distracting me from my new purpose in life, “Hey barkeep, another round and keep them coming!”  I glanced at my new best friend who held the same poker face, “Oh, I’m sorry, name your poison, it’s on me!”

“That is unnecessary.  Speaking of extraordinary beings, you seem to have missed the last part of the story.”

The bartender kept cleaning glasses as if he hadn’t heard me. So I pulled out one of my remaining Ben Franklins and waved it in his face, but no response.  This put the fear of sobriety in me and I was about to request aid from my favorite story spinner when I felt the heat radiate from her.  That was when I knew that somehow she was responsible for the bartender acting as if I didn’t exist.

I wish I could say I was awed by her, but her special abilities didn’t impress me as much as piss me off.  “Okay, let’s put all of our cards on the table.  What do you want from me?”

“I would like you to go to Africa.”

I waited for her to elaborate but once again I got a poker face so I played along, “Where in Africa?”


“My death wish is about drinking myself to death, not being riddled with bullets.  _____ is a war zone.”  I was getting tired of our game and drinking in the privacy or my room sounded like the perfect refuge.  “It was nice meeting you…I’m sorry I never caught your name?”

“Grace Hope Morgan, but I always go by Bunny.  Before you ask it was a childhood nickname.”

“From before the Civil War.”  I smiled because a tiny part of me hoped she didn’t take offense.

There was warmth in her eyes, the poker face gone, “Not that far back.  Honey, before you kill yourself,” I stiffened, “which I know is why you are here,” she touched me on the shoulder as if she knew all my sins, “please meet me for breakfast tomorrow.  I want to explain why I need you…or at least explain as much as I can.”

I looked down at my empty glass to mull over a proper response.  She seemed to know I killed a mother and two children while driving drunk.  I didn’t deserve to live.  I looked up and she was gone.


Westerfield © 2013

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