Monday, December 19, 2016

All I Want for Christmas...

Periodically I write little comments on my wife's bathroom mirror. Goofy stuff like, Beauty begins here, or, My heart is here, and then I add arrows pointing to where her face will be when she looks into the mirror. Stuff like that.

This week, it being near Christmas, I wrote, All I want for Christmas... and added those arrows pointing to where my wife's face will be. She wrote on my mirror, Is you! She drew a happy face.

And it is true. All I want for Christmas is my wife, and I tell her every year she is all I want, and I mean it. I don't think she believes me, so I decided to write it down. For some reason, writing things down adds a veracity and absolution to events that cannot be duplicated verbally.

So here it goes, My Love! I am making a list of the gifts you have given me over the years, ones you may not even realize you delivered, but which have been received and noted all the same. This is why you are my most treasured gift, and why you truly, truly are all I want for Christmas.


Christmas, 2005: Beauty

I simultaneously finalized my divorce with my oldest son's mother and met an amazing woman named Amanda. It was almost as if I had jumped overboard expecting to land in the ocean, only to find myself laid out on the deck of a passing ship. I had recently written a story about a man in such a situation who met a woman named Amanda, and I let her read the story, and I may post it later because it is short and sweet. She was beautiful. She still is, and perhaps I had not landed on another ship when I abandoned the old one. Perhaps I had washed onto the shores of a wonderful oasis, and she was cold water on burnt lips.

Oh, she was amazing. She still is, and I loved her from the moment we met. No awkward silences. No shy discomfort. I took her hand. I asked her to dance. She said, No, but she danced with me anyway and never let go of my hand. I taught her to two-step. She reminded me how beautiful life could be. One touch, one playful flirt, keep my hands to myself and no kissing on the first date, and is this our first date?

We spun that night, and somehow we were already an old couple. Neither of us felt those pangs and worries you feel when you first meet someone and sort of wonder if this is going to work out. There was none of that. It was absolute in that moment as when you hold a newborn child.

I loved this woman. There were no conditions on that statement, nothing she had to do to earn my affection. This love simply was.

She is a book I must have read in another life, because I already knew her, and she knew me, and with such primal knowledge there was no need for pretense or doubt or insecurity.

And that year, in 2005, the woman who would become my wife and bear me two sons showed me a beauty I had long, long forgotten.


Christmas, 2006: Passion

What else could follow such a beginning but passion? We were in love, and we danced, and we celebrated life and youth and freedom. We lit a gasoline bonfire, and that outburst from the darkness blinded us, seared our cheeks, and we reveled until the flames began to settle, and the light came back to our eyes. We found ourselves hovered together over a glowing warmth neither of us had ever experienced or expected.

Honestly, it scared the ever-living shit out of me.


Christmas, 2007: Patience

Oh, Lord did it scare me. I was terrified, and I had for so long allowed dark angels to perch on my shoulder and whisper in my ear that I followed their advice and ripped the petals off this incredible flower. I threw it in the fire, stomped the ashes and ran. I dove in the ocean and slapped the waves, and I left this beautiful, beautiful woman alone to stoke the embers.

Is patience even the right word for this year? Perhaps it should be tolerance, or faith, or something more befitting and specific, but I do believe patience encompasses these things. An underlying faith exists that things will turn out all right. There is a tolerance for the wait, and what happens while you watch the clock tock. She showed faith. She showed tolerance. She showed patience.

It was not a pretty year, and I did not swim very far from shore before I missed her warmth. My heart beat too heavy, and I sank. There really was no other choice but to turn back, wade ashore, sling off the muck and hope to receive what so few people are capable of giving.

I asked, and in 2008, this woman granted me the gift God himself believes is holy enough to sacrifice his own son.


Christmas, 2008: Forgiveness

She granted me forgiveness. I asked. She forgave. It was that easy, and here is that beauty I have seen since our first dance.

She even shares some of the guilt for my behavior, though she was not to blame. Fault lies entirely on me, and reading this she will likely sway her head, and if I were behind her she would turn and say, No, I did this and that, remember?

No you did not, Love. What you did was suffer, and then forgive without condition. That would be my answer to her, and she still would shake her head and insist on dividing my sins between us. She would probably tell me to go in the other room, now, and quit pestering her so she can read.

Not only did she forgive, but she asked for nothing in return and demanded no punitive damages. We simply sat down at our fire, uncovered the coals because they never died, not really, and began collecting sticks to rebuild something we both knew could be beautiful again.


Christmas, 2009: Determination

We rebuilt. We rekindled. We stacked logs on one another and I shrugged away those dark angels clinging to my shoulder. They fluttered over us, though, waiting, because they never go away, not really. They only shy from the light and crouch in the shadows. So we built up the fire. We surrounded ourselves with friends and family who believed in the light we could envision so vividly, and we bent our backs and poured the foundation of our home together.

Truly, this year my future wife kicked in the door to my heart. She dragged in her furniture and clothes and ensconced herself deep in my core and refused to budge, nor would I ever want her to leave. She is right where I want her, and there is a certain warmth to knowing someone will fight to keep you, or slug through dark waters to find you. I would have my own chance to test my patience and determination later, but first... we had to celebrate!


Christmas, 2010: Joy

Oh, the light began to shine. A boy was born. He cemented two older siblings who shared no blood. He joined a man and woman who both thought they might be too broken to find happiness. This year was pure joy, and this amazing woman spun in the center of it all, and here she would stop me and say, No, I didn't. It was all of us.

To which I would respond, Yes, you did. This was all you, and without your determination and will and grace, none of this would have happened.


Christmas, 2011: Bliss

What is bliss, really? It is living within the light such that you can see none of the dark. That is bliss. We lived in the light, and the dark angels flew far above. We embraced friends and family who would walk with us, and we lived what might have been the happiest year of either of our lives thus far.

Wanna get married? I was not very formal.

Neither was she. Sure, she said. How about Saint Patty's Day.

Perfect, I said.

And here is that old couple so comfortable with one another, married for lifetimes and many more to come. Neither of us felt any compulsion to pretend to be someone we were not. It was bliss. It was heaven. It was a wonderful, wonderful life, and she spun and I twirled her and our children danced around us, and the dark angels circled just beyond where we could see.

We made plans. She bought a dress, and that Christmas we shared a pleasant bliss that the light would forever burn around us.


Christmas, 2012: Strength

We married. Our two oldest children, bound now by one little boy dressed as a Leprechaun, red-headed, blue eyed, fair cheeked and protective of his gold-wrapped chocolates as the fairy creature he was, witnessed this woman give me her hand as she had on the first night we met. This time when I asked, she said, Yes, and we danced, and we celebrated, and the dark angels fell from the sky on a clear summer evening.

They took the little boy and flew him away. The joke was on them, because the boy left his heart with us, inside a little girl, but they knocked down this beautiful woman with their wing beats, stomped our fire and heaped sand on the ashes. They knocked us all down, and in some ways they still haunt our yard and peek through the windows, and we have to chase them away with a torch and a rock.

But here my wife made her own dash into the ocean, and she slapped the water and she screamed, and the dark angels shouted around her and there was nothing I could do but watch.

So I sat at our fire. I found a few embers, and I stoked them, and I waited. See, this woman about to drown herself had taught me patience, and when she waded ashore and slung off the muck and asked for that gift so few people are capable of giving, I said, Sit down, it was my fault, too. She had taught me grace and forgiveness as well.

And we sat for a while. We gathered wood, because she had taught me that steel-willed determination can lift mountains. We watched the flames begin to catch, and those friends and family who had seen the light with us huddled around us and provided warmth while the fire began to grow and a new light shone from the flames.

This new light was strength. These are blue flames, if you wonder, the color of dusk and dawn, and they are closest to the burn and sometimes not visible. They are the hottest flames. They may not chase away the dark angels with their light, but they will turn them to ashes if you can put their feathers to the test.

She and I burned blue that year, as did our two older children, as did our friends and family who could see the blue flame growing within my wife. The darkness shied away from us, but there was work to do and work that remains, because these creatures do not die easily.


Christmas, 2013: Encouragement

This Christmas my wife gave me endless encouragement. We decided to have another child, and at the same time I started a company and abandoned a flailing career. It was hard work and a headlong charge into the unknown. There was doubt. There was uncertainty. The dark angels whispered to us that we would fail, that we were weak, that we were misguided fools owing to the loss of our child and should do as we were told and douse our fire and quit.

My wife met this with the same determination she always meets challenges. She bent her head and got to work. She encouraged me. She supported me. She walked with me and I walked with her, sometimes leading, sometimes following, but always together in lock-step lock-arm, into the unknown, swatting away the doubters and waving our flames to snuff out the shadows. This was a Christmas of healing, still sore but not so wounded, and one in which we looked forward to the next year and the year after that.


Christmas, 2014: Hope

In 2014, for Christmas my wife bagged and tagged a bountiful bouquet of hope for me and our children. Another boy was born. His brother had ushered in joy. This one ushered in hope.

Life had swerved us down a back road that led to a destination unknown. There was only hope that we would find more light, faith that we had the strength and determination to get there. But we had been prepared for this journey, and my wife inspired hope in us all that we would find light amidst whatever the dark angels could drop from the sky.

As always, she was right. I believe she will agree heartily when I say she is always right.


Christmas, 2015: Optimism

In 2015, again the angels swarmed us, but they are no match for the blue flame and we know that, now. My wife casually fought them. It was like watching an ape fight a kitten, almost cruel how easily she dismissed the darkness of a failing business and the flap of wings as the whispers and threats began to surface from mouths we thought we had seared shut.

It was too easy for her. She is that strong. Our friends huddled around us. We stoked our fire. We cleaned our home and honed our strength against the stone of this new challenge. We employed all these skills my wife has inspired in me and our children, and showed the heart she inspires in everyone she meets.

She granted me optimism for Christmas in 2015. She reminded me of the hope she had given me the year before, and regifted her encouragement from 2013 with an extra box of strength she had saved up all year to purchase.

And there again is that beauty. Truly her beauty is the gift that keeps on giving.

She really is that strong, and her youthful, blissful, beautiful, magical optimism is another blue flame. She displays this optimism in everything she does, and she has all along, and I finally put my finger on the source of her strength.

It is an undying optimism that the future will always be a pleasant place to live, and that we should live there together for as long as we can.


Christmas, 2016: Wisdom

This year, I already figured out what she got me for Christmas. She is getting me wisdom. I think by now that should be pretty obvious.


 - Eric



Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novels Wink and Steps from WiDo Publishing, out now! See more of Eric's work here: Publications, or order directly from Amazon, or wherever books are sold.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Recipe: How to Make a Fear Sandwich

A Fear Sandwich is my favorite recipe. I eat it daily, and have found it keeps me healthy and spry. Your body might give out, maybe even your mind, but your will and faith should always remain as young and strong and fearless as a toddler's.

Ingredients

1 cup Fear
1/2 cup Doubt
1/2 cup Insecurity
2 tbsp Luck (more if you think it will help)
1 lb of Fresh Faith
2 pieces of Hard-Baked Determination


First, mix the Fear and Doubt thoroughly. I find beating them with a whisk not only creates the best mixture, but also makes me feel better. Beat the hell out of these two.

Once mixed, add half the Insecurity. Do not add it all. We'll add more later. Beat thoroughly.

Sprinkle in your Luck and let it settle for no less than five minutes. The Luck takes time, so be patient. I find setting a clock works the best, and if you let it settle for longer than five minutes, it will only thicken the mixture. You can add more Luck if you like, but a little Luck goes a long way.

By the way, I've found my best Luck at a store called Grindnose, on the corner of Workhard and Sweat, here in Dallas. You probably have something similar in your town.

Once the mixture has thickened, add the rest of your Insecurity. Beat it into a well-destroyed, unrecognizable mixture, with the consistency and color of creamy peanut butter.

Spread to 1/4" thickness on a covered baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees for 45 minutes. You must bake at an excessive temperature in order to leach out the Bitterness and firm up the Luck.

Once baked, place on cooling rack for ten minutes. While cooling, grate your Faith into a cup, and sprinkle over the Fear-patty to melt. Your Faith may seem to dissolve, but this is how it clings to the Fear. The Faith will spread and cover the entire Fear-patty if you lay it out properly. Ensure there are no gaps or holes where the Fear can seep through.

Flip the patty and cover the underbelly. Do not forget this, as the underbelly of Fear can be the most tasteless part of this recipe.

If you need more Faith, add it. This is one ingredient you cannot overuse.

Now, you can buy your Hard-Baked Determination at Grindnose, or you can bake your own. Either way, slice two pieces of Determination to fit your Fear. Cut to length and width. Make sure the Determination hangs beyond the edges of your Fear, as you do not want even small pieces of Fear protruding beyond your Determination. A bite of pure Fear, without a mouthful of Determination and Faith, ranks as one of the most repulsive flavors you can create.

You can then season to flavor by adding such ingredients as Joy, Celebration, and Ecstasy (not the drug). I like to sprinkle a bit of Gloat over the top, since that helps subdue the Fear, but this is a personal preference. Too much Gloat can be spicy, and can cause unseemly side-effects, so use this with caution.

Whatever your taste, enjoy your Fear Sandwich!

What about youDo you have a favorite recipe you would like to share?



Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novels Wink and Steps from WiDo Publishing, out now! See more of Eric's work here: Publications, or order directly from Amazon, or wherever books are sold.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Do That Which You Fear the Most

So I'm walking home from dropping off my son this morning. His mom works at an in-home daycare in the neighborhood, and I work from home, and on kind-weathered mornings I put him into the backpack (he's a little over 18mos) and haul him down there on foot.

And I'm walking back thinking about fear.

I think about fear from time to time, because it is one of the greatest measures of a man. (I mean human and include women, don't get your panties in a knot. Geez. Is it that time of the month already? People are so easily offended these days which is way more fun, isn't it!)

You can tell a human's (better?) demeanor by how they react to fear.

Some run and hide. These we call either cowards or survivors depending on whether you are looking out of or into the hiding den.

Some charge at their fears like dumb salmon up the stream into that goddamned bear's mouth. All that work to get your fat ripped out by some grizzly cub. Nice one, karma, very nice, but the next joke's on you, ya bitch.

These second types we call either fools or, well, something else. Usually we call them fools.

See how they failed? we say. See! See what happens when you swim upstream, ya dumb fish! See!

Well, not all of us say that. Some of us stand back and call them heroes. We mourn their passing and admire their bravado. We swim with them next time and face our fears, knowing full well we could at anytime be chomped, flayed, spread on the bank and our heart swallowed beating.

Me? I admire these guys. Sure, I fail. I have lots of failures to report. Heck, I'm in the oil field. I quit my job in semiconductors in 2013 to get into the oil field. Do the math, folks. It's not good math. I missed med-school by half a point of GPA. I'm divorced. I'm short and have small hands. So yeah, I've failed.

I also made it upstream a few times. Missing med school, I created a great career in semiconductors. I remarried a beautiful woman and had two children with her. I published a few novels and shorts, two from a decent publisher, even. I earned respect as an author from friends, family, and enough strangers to measure on both hands and half of one foot. I created a business and established myself in a niche market as a genuine player, albeit a very quiet player as oil prices refuse to rise up (stupid bears!).

The point is this: Do that which you fear the most.

If you fear heights, climb up there and look down. Afraid to try something new for fear of failure, ridicule, mockery or debauchery? Do it anyway. Try it. Fail. Fail often. Fail happy or die dreaming.

Chase out your fears and leave them on the bank with the other dead fish. Swim hard. Slap those bear-cheeks with your fins, and don't forget your teeth. Fight hard, die hard, live hard.

Anyway. Jump in and swim.

How about you? Are you afraid to swim through the bear's mouth? At least I made you a salmon and not a chicken.

 - Eric





Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novels Wink and Steps from WiDo Publishing, out now! See more of Eric's work here: Publications, or order directly from Amazon, or wherever books are sold.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

What is your ~Why~?

I want you to ask yourself this question: Why am I doing this?

Pick your "this".

For me, I will pick writing. Why do I write? Most writers, when addressed with this question, reach in their back pocket and pull out the Stock Writer's Response to All Questions:

1) What are you writing?
Answer: It's top secret. I'm not allowed to speak of it.

2) Wow, you're a writer. Are you published?
Answer: (Lie) Why yes, yes I am.

3) Where can I get your books?
Answer: Amazon

4) Where do you find the time to write?
Answer: I don't. I make it up as I go.

5) Why do you write, anyway?
Answer: Because I have to.

Now this last one is super-common among writers, but I want you to stop yourself and do me a favor: smack yourself in the forehead. That's right. Smack it good. Make it sting.

Because that's a stupid answer.

You don't "have" to write. You don't have to do anything. Jesus, you make it sound like it's some burden to write, sort of like sex after marriage. "Well, I have to. It's just part of the job."

No, it isn't. It's not part of the job. You don't write because you have to. You write because you ~want~ to.

Figure out what you ~want~ from writing, and maybe you'll be a better writer. Is it money? Is it a career? Is it a little bit of fame, or is this just a hobby for you that will spin and spin and never go anywhere but up and down?

All of those things are fine, but understand ~why~ you are doing whatever it is you are doing. I tell my kids:

Smart people know how to do something. Geniuses understands why. That's the difference.

So try not to just know ~how~ to write, but understand ~why~ you're writing in the first place.

Me, I want to make a career of this. I want to write full-time, and support my family on a sic-six-figure income, maybe seven, and I'll do it not through savvy marketing, but by writing something truly phenomenal that even my writer friends will gawk and and say, Damn, I actually read one of his books, and Eric Trant doesn't suck. Go figure.

That's my goal. That is my ~why~.

What is your why?

 - Eric




Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novels Out of the Great Black Nothing, Wink and  Steps from WiDo Publishing.See more of Eric's work here: Publications, or order directly from Amazon, or wherever books are sold.

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Obstacle Popsicle

You know, I run into this all the time: Obstacles.

Many folks run. Some hide. Others turn around and go home. Me, I tend to curse a little. Stomp around a little. I spin a few circles, flip it off, think about going home, and then either I or my wife talks me out of quitting.

Then, after all that (and it is sort of the way a dog goes to sleep -- three laps, makes no sense, but that's their method), I buckle down and lick it.

I lick it like a popsicle.

Obstacle popsicle. Get it?

- Eric


Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novels Out of the Great Black Nothing and Wink from WiDo Publishing, out now! See more of Eric's work here: Publications, or order directly from Amazon, or wherever books are sold.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Overcoming Odds

So over the past couple of years, I've been researching heroes. Not the fictional kind -- the actual kind. I re-read Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five and finally got around to The Things They Carried. Now, both of those are written by pacifists, so I had to balance that out with some hardcore fighter types, and I read Marcus Luttrell's Lone Survivor (and watched the movie), and Audie Murphy's To Hell and Back. I even read Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken, about a WWII bomber-sprinter (good book) who was sort of in-between warrior and pacifist. He simply did what needed doing. Hillenbrand wrote Seabiscuit, by the way, and she made a point to mention that in this other book, in a very nice cross-over. I read James Clavell's King Rat (he's the Shogun guy, which I also read). He was a POW in Japan, and Rat is pretty amazing.

And so on.

But of all these books I read, the one that's stuck with me the deepest is Mark Twain's Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc. He considered it his crowning achievement, and his most significant work. It is an amazing book, if you're into that sort of thing, and is shamelessly researched and cross-referenced and accurate. Jeanne D'Arc, as is her proper name. Pronounced in French, it sounds like Shown Dark, which is appropriate for that poor beautiful creature. She fought her fellow countrymen, the church to whom she dedicated her life, and the invading English. She fought her troops, her family, her friends, and the king she crowned. They all watched her burn alive, and even afterward she fought on, death being no match for her, until the Catholic church finally repented and elevated her to Sainthood. God, what a story that girl is. Of all the stories in our verifiable and recent history, there is no other as magnificent as that of Jeanne D'Arc. She never faltered, never wavered, never gave up. Heck, she never even questioned her heroism.

Now consider Audie Murphy. He was refused by the Marines and the Paratroopers. If you saw Captain America, the recent movie, Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in WWII, was the size of the Captain BEFORE they juiced him up on steroids. Murph didn't need that extra Marvel / Stan Lee meat -- all he needed was a target and Garand. Well, the Army finally took pity on this poor scrawny wimp and enlisted him. They tried to make him a cook and a clerk. He had none of it, and snuck out on patrol until they gave up trying to stop him and said, Fuck it. Murph, we're going to send you into battle until you're sick of it.

He got plenty sick of it, but he fought all the way through Italy, France, and Germany, leveling up as he went. I challenge you to read his book, and note how cold and determined he was, and compare it to the baby-face little boy he seemed to be. It's frightening.

The dude was frightening.

And he was 135lbs, 5' 6" tall. And a Texan from right here in North Dallas. I had dinner at one of his old houses, before it shut down. And he killed a hell of a lot of men.

Now don't get me started on Luttrell. He's from just north of Houston, where my son and I go hunting and camping. I know those woods, and although I've never wrestled gators, I've water-skied over plenty of them in the brackish waters of the Galveston Bay.

In all these stories, the hero never gives up. They never falter. They never feel sorry for themselves. There is no pity for themselves or for others. They never question their motives, because inside exists an indestructible sense of right-and-wrong, the very core of life-and-death, and to live is win, to die is to win. A true hero (or heroine) can never be beaten. Defeated and killed, yes, but never beaten. Re-read what I said about Jeanne. She kept fighting even after they burned her. She won. Look at Christ. He did the same thing.

Read Luttrell. Read Murphy. Read Unbroken. Read Things and Slaughterhouse, about guys who had no heart for war, but went anyway because it was their duty. Heroes. Write heroes like that.

Write people who do it because it needs doing, even though they ask the cup to be taken from them.

- Eric



Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novels Out of the Great Black Nothing and Wink from WiDo Publishing, out now! See more of Eric's work here: Publications, or order directly from Amazon, or wherever books are sold.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Two Year Heart Birthday and Angelversary

So it's been two years since we lost our boy, and in some way gained a daughter. May 22, 2012, is the day we rode the elevator down to the O.R. and watched them wheel away an eighteen month old boy who looked like me but with red hair, had that hot temper of his mother's, my and his brother's eyes, and his sister's lips and all of us kludged into this tiny little body.

They declared him brain-dead on the 20th, if I recall correctly, which I may not. In any case we'd been in the hospital a couple of days already, arrived Friday, May 18, 2012 just before 10:00 P.M. That was after the transfer from a local hospital to Children's in downtown Dallas. They thought about life-flighting him because they weren't sure he'd make it, but the chopper pilot was out of flight hours. I don't know how that works, but they transported him and his momma in the ambulance, blowing through the lights and screaming. After a while, I followed with the car, the bags, all that shit that's nothing more than ~stuff~ because everything I had was in that ambulance.

I had enough piece (peace? peas? pees? shit. whatever.) of mind to stop and grab some drinks at a 7-11 along the way. I got beef jerky, snack supplies, Cokes for Momma and Red Bull for me and Dr. Pepper and Sprite for the kids. I knew what was coming and maybe that was my way of delaying my arrival at the front lines for this coming battle.

See, he'd had a seizure that grew progressively worse over the course of two hours. Imagine some invisible guy shocking your eighteen-month-old baby boy every few minutes. It was like that. At that first hospital, he seemed to be doing okay, stabilized, and we were all standing outside his room crying but still hopeful. You heard that bleep-bleep of his heart monitor, and there was this nurse in there tending to him when that bleep turned into one long tune. No warning, just bleep-bleep, bleep-bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. Like that. It wasn't like in the movies, or maybe it was. The nurse was a dude hovering over Dastan, and he yelled, SHIT! I heard something crash because I think he knocked over his tool tray. Maybe he was the blood tech drawing blood. I don't know, but he yelled, knocked over something, and I mean about a dozen nurses seemed to drop from the ceiling. I'd swear some of them came over the top of that nurse station, fuck the door, slid into the room, all of them screaming for whatever it is they scream for, chaos, and Mandy and Brianna and I were standing right outside the room.

Mandy's knees gave out. I remember that because it was like someone had slugged her. She took Bri with her and they huddled outside the door wailing, mostly one long, Nooooo, interrupted by little chirping No-no-no. They were about six feet and seven thousand miles away from me. I was frozen, watching through that doorway. You know those dreams, right? Not a dream this time. I was paralyzed, and someone dragged away Amanda and Brianna, took them to the waiting room, and nurses were scrambling in there and yelling for stuff and I was at the nurse's station looking into the room, watching and recording.

They were doing CPR on him. They use two fingers for someone that little, with one hand on top of the other pressing down. They took turns every five minutes or so. Another nurse was pumping air from the top, squeezing that bag thing. They got him stabilized, but they needed to insert a breathing tube because he wasn't breathing on his own. Turns out, we'd already seen his last breath but didn't know it at the time.

He turned blue. You hear about that, but unless you've seen it in real-life, you don't fully appreciate it. His face and chest looked like a blue marble countertop. His veins popped out, and the charge nurse was standing beside me, and I looked at her and said, You know what we're seeing, right? Don't you? You know what's happening?

She just nodded.

His heart got going, bleep-bleep, but it flat-lined again when they inserted the tube. They were ready this time with curses and tools. I heard lots of cursing that night. They wanted that baby to live. We all did. He turned blue again, more two-finger heart pumps, but now at least he had a breathing tube. Stabilized. Red cheeks. He looked like a normal baby boy, healthy, no scrapes, no cuts, no bruises, just a tube in his nose with a full belly. Down for the night as usual.

After they transported him to Children's, to the big hospital, we cycled through a couple of nurses, but one of them really stuck with me. Her name was Heather. I thought that was funny, because the midwife who brought Daz into the world was named Heather, and the dear friend who watched his brother as an infant was named Heather. I think there are probably a lot of angels with that name.

Now comes that stretch of time in-between, where you wait, you pray, you cling to hope, and you eventually realize what's happening. We all had our moments. Mine was after they did one of the brain-dead tests. They swabbed his eye with a Q-tip, looked for dilation, some sort of response, among other tests that we probably should not have watched. But I am a watcher, and I wanted to see. His left eye was huge. His right eye was normal. That meant a pinched optical nerve, which meant a swelling brain, which meant things I didn't want to admit. I curled up after that in this empty room next door, under a hospital blanket, and I wailed. I knew my family needed me, but I'm not the hero I thought I was. This broke me. It humbled me. All those fantasies we as men and we as humans have of flying in with our cape flapping, armor shining, strong, bold, wise and brilliant, those were all dashed against the floor under that blanket. I was none of those things because I couldn't even stand. Hell, I could barely breathe.

Brianna said it best: He's just a baby.

Bri kept saying that over and over. It was hard to make it click, because he looked just fine, and he'd been fine a few days before, no blood, no nothing, just a little shaking and some buggy-eyes, then his heart stops a couple of times and he turns blue. But he gets his color back. No big deal.

Con was quiet. He said he'd never felt anything this painful. He's said that a few times over these past two years, and at the Children's Hospital memorial ceremony (which they host for all those who lost children), Con cried at the table.

Mandy was like me, in shock, trying to make decisions with a used-up brain, nothing but mashed potatoes.

She and I were synchronous in those moments. You see in the movies where one of the spouses, usually the wife, breaks down and attacks the husband, blames him, makes a scene and all that jazz. That never happened. Mandy was beside me beside her beside Connor and Brianna beside all our friends and family. There was a unity, because that's what this boy seemed to be made of. That was his stuff, the fluff inside the teddy bear. He's a glue that bonds people.

There was no discussion about whether to donate his organs. She and I made mention of it, almost casually, something you never think of or speak of.

We should donate his organs. That was one of us. A statement and not a question because there was no question.

Yeah, we should. That was the other. Let me get the nurse.

It was that simple. We got the nurse and we signed the papers, and on May 21, 2012, they took over Dastan's care and hospital bills. He was no longer ours, but we were welcome to stay.

Do families stay? That was what we asked them.

Some do. That was their response. Some don't.

We stayed. He'd lost his ability to regulate his body temperature by then, and they had these balloon-bags around him filled with warm air. His brain had completely ceased to function, even though he looked just fine, a little pale maybe, with Band-Aids on his heels where they'd been sticking him, on his arms and legs and tape on his chest and cheeks and this tube in his throat. But other than that, he looked ~fine~. The nurses even combed his hair, that red hair, and made him look like a little boy having a bad day and nothing worse.

Mandy and I slept on the bed that night, curled like a couple of cats. She'd been sleeping with him already, but this was my first and only night to stay in the bed. I was waiting for him to come home, I guess, and sleep in our bed. Sleeping up there with him seemed like I was admitting some sort of defeat. I had his feet, Amanda had his head, a little doll-boy whose blood was being pumped into one arm and out the other, literally, because they had to draw so much for the transplant tests.

I got a pinched nerve that night, from the way I slept, because I didn't move. It took about six months to heal.

On May 22, 2012, they came to wheel him away.

You can walk down with us, one of them said. They said that because Mandy and I were stuck to his bedside.

So we walked him out. We rode the elevator down or up or wherever it went. We got out. We went through some doors, and all the doctors and nurses were in their operating gear. We came to a set of double doors.

This is it, one of them said.

They gave us a minute, but not too many minutes. Time was not ours anymore, because there was a beautiful baby bird on the other side of those doors, barely two-and-a-half months old, waiting on Dastan's heart. There was a sixty-nine-year-old woman waiting on his kidneys. Someone else was waiting on his liver.

Okay, one of them said.

Then they wheeled him through the doors and turned to the right. The doors closed, and we were standing in a hallway that was nothing more than a hospital hallway, like any one of a thousand hallways.

I sat for a little while outside those doors. Honestly, I wasn't sure I'd be able to dislodge myself. I knew Mandy needed me because she was breaking down, too, and I knew the kids needed me, but I had nothing left. So I sat.

At some point I got up, and God bless my wife because she showed strength I do not possess. You wonder of the two of us who is stronger. It is Mandy. Hands-down she proved it.

She spoke at the funeral, spoke about organ donation, how important it is even for children. She spoke to the media, to anyone who would listen, and I stood behind her mute. After she delivered Dastan's eulogy, she moved aside and I stepped up to the microphone, looked out at the room full of people, standing-room only, full of family I'd forgotten I had. I nodded. I was silent. After a while I moved with Mandy back to our seat, and afterward, after it was finished and we were alone in the sanctuary, Mandy and Brianna and Connor and I stood over Dastan, and we admired how perfect he still looked, how well they'd dressed him, all the stuffed animals and flowers around him. We closed the casket and opened a new and magical door on our lives.

He's still with us. I feel him poke me at night sometimes. So does Mandy. Those first few weeks were full of dreams that defy reality, more real than reality, all of them wondrous and hopeful and beautiful. Vivid. I feel him and so do we all.

I feel him most when I see Aubrie, the little girl with his heart. I think how old he would be, and how he would fit into this family, and I see Aubrie and know he's exactly where he wanted to be, where he was meant to be.

He was that little streaking star. Someone made a wish, and he made the wish come true, because that was the stuff he was made of.

Happy Angelversary, Dastan. Happy Heart Birthday, Aubrie.

Aubrie

Dastan

- Eric




Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novels Out of the Great Black Nothing and Wink from WiDo Publishing, out now! See more of Eric's work here: Publications, or order directly from Amazon, or wherever books are sold.

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