Two Girls, One Nice Man and a Rainy Day: An American Tragedy

I drive the same way to work every day. I have, over the years, begun to recognize certain traffic patterns, certain cars, certain people around me whether they be in cars or out. For example, there is a gray minivan that drives up the main thoroughfare I take, Sunrise Boulevard. I call him Speedyman. Speedyman drives very aggressively. He’s always jockeying for position in the three lanes of our direction, an in-town street, and he does not care that there are 800,000 traffic signals between where I always find him and where he and I part ways (which is very close to my work). It doesn't matter that he will not "beat" anyone because of how traffic works. He just drives like he does. Is who he is.

Speedyman cuts people off, races past people and, most humorous to me, clearly recognizes me because I too drive aggressively. I like to think I don’t drive moronically like he does, but I do admit that I try to maximize lane space and time lights and that sort of thing despite how usually pointless it probably works out to be ultimately. I expect that he, like me, has recognized my truck and knows I’m a “regular.”

I do know that he HATES being passed. I’ve even had some fun, which I admit is wrong, testing his anal-retentiveness, and I have seen that he will drive ANY speed, no matter how ridiculous, to not let me get past him. He has easily been willing to go far, far faster than I will just to not let the front of my truck get in front of his side view mirror.

Anyway, that is not my point. My point is to prove how much of a familiarity we can get in our morning drives with total strangers. How much of a “I know what is going on and who is around me” understanding we can have of our fellow humans even if we have never met them.

I admit I have fairly low esteem for Speedyman, and I’m even willing to admit that I may have him all wrong. I fully expect he is a lovely man in his real life and that his family, friends and co-workers are enriched by the fact that he is alive. In fact, I’ll even go as far to say that I am sure of it. But, whether I am right or wrong, I am aware of him. I know him, and I have some sort of an emotional relationship with him despite not having ever met him. We share a part of the world and that shouldn't, and CAN'T, be ignored.

Almost.

Anyway, my real point is to talk about the rainy day I had the other day.

The clouds were slung low, the rain wasn’t horrendous, but it was coming down hard enough that I wouldn’t have wanted to be out in it. It was dark enough that the headlights on my auto-switch were on, so, there you go.

I hadn’t run into Speedyman that day, so there was no pressure on. I was just driving. So along I went and, as I almost always do, I saw the two little girls that travel up Sunrise on their way to school at the same time I am traveling that way too.

One is tall, the older sister, I’m guessing ten years old or so, with bright blonde hair. Like Swedish blonde. Her little sister, maybe six or seven, is a red-head, bright red, long and reflectively straight like the older girl's. Both of them are always cutely dressed--matching knit hats and scarves, fashionable backbacks weighting down their skinny kid shoulders, that kind of stuff... the kind of stuff that suggests, "My parents love me"--and during the spring and warm parts of fall they ride their bikes every day. Sometimes I see the tall one hugging the little one as they walk along. I imagine the little one is complaining about having to walk so far, or maybe someone yelled about homework or who didn't feed the dog. Something banal. And genuine. They used to ride their bikes more, pink and purple helmets, but I’ve noticed them walking more lately as if the long uphill in the morning wasn't worth the glide on the way home. Either way, it’s a long trek judging by the distances I see them covering, two miles plus based on the fifteen to twenty minute randomness of my wake up time and traffic and all that rot.

Anyway, they are cute, and they remind me of my daughter. I always drive by and notice them with their bright hair and I smile and think of my baby girl, now tall and independent and grown.

Sometimes I think that Sunrise Boulevard, the massive 6-lane major roadway that it is, is a bit too public for a couple of cute kids that young to be so conspicuously alone. I mean, I do watch the news and stuff.

So, there’s a part of me that drives by them and, perhaps stupidly, looks around and makes sure there’s no sinister vans near them, no creepy primer-painted sedans pulled along side the curb near them cajoling them to "Help me find my lost kittens?" I’m fully ready to jump out and kick the shit out of some asshole if I have to.

So, yeah. That’s totally stupid. Not only are the odds of me happening along at the exact moment some a-hole comes along astronomical, the odds of it happening at all are insane if you actually read national percentages.

But that doesn’t matter.

As a society, we are afraid.

So here I am driving along and there are these two humans sharing the same space as me and not only do I not know them and have no way of ever knowing them without some sort of weird thing being assumed by any overture on my part, I am actually worried about … frankly, about the boogey man getting them.

Just wow.

And this played out in real life when it rained.

So there I am driving along on the rainy day and I come across these two girls I always see, and have seen every day for the last two years at least, and neither of them has an umbrella. Only one of them has a hood, and it’s a sweatshirt hood. I also know they are going to be walking at least another mile because I know where I have seen them in the past along my route.

I immediately thought that I should stop and give them the old umbrella I have behind my seat. I keep it for emergencies and I think I’ve used it like four or five times in nine years. Maybe.

So I think, “Aww, they’re getting soaked,” and I wanted to pull over and give it to them.

Then I think, “Nope. You do that, they’re going to scream and run. Because they have been taught that any ‘nice helpful seeming man’ that talks to them is a pervert and wants to rape them.”

I don’t even know if that’s what they’ve been taught. But I know it anyway. It's a guess on my part, I suppose, but one I’d bet massive money on. One I damn sure wouldn't bet a police investigation on.

So I didn’t stop.

They got to walk all the way to school in the rain. And my umbrella hasn’t been wet in two years.

Welcome to America.

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Comments 48 comments

WryLilt profile image

WryLilt 5 years ago from Toowoomba, Australia

Sad, isn't it? A few bad apples ruin the barrel.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 5 years ago from St. Louis

Wow. I know just what you mean. Sad that we can't help them (kids, I mean) when they need it. I don't really see a solution, but I think you captured this frustration very well. And, not to sound selfish, you miss an opportunity to do a good deed and feel good about yourself, like when people walk by somebody, anybody, who needs help. It's a sad world indeed.


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia

What a profound statement on what our society has become. Great job!


Cagsil profile image

Cagsil 5 years ago from USA or America

Very nice rant Shades. I know what you mean on that. It's absolutely absurd. Almost everyone is living in fear. I haven't figured out a way to deal with it. I did write a hub about political fear and religion fear once. But, not impacting enough. You got on the boogeyman. I lost it(LOL!LOL!LOL!). You never fail to amuse. :) Thank you for doing the challenge. :)


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 5 years ago from Bishop, Ca

You're spot on, my dear!!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Thanks you guys. And Christoph, you're right. I didn't even think of that, but I did get robbed. I would have felt damn nice about handing that umbrella off. I actually like that thing because I got it on a random storm night and, well, bleh lame story, but it has a tiny bit of sentimental story to it. And I would have happily handed it over.

And hey, Cags, thanks for helping me get it fired up. These are fun when they happen. :)


Betty Reid profile image

Betty Reid 5 years ago from Texas

Great story - plenty of tension but no violence.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

That's the irony of it all. There isn't any more violence than there always has been, but we have locked ourselves away from each other out of fear. That only makes our experiece as humans emptier.


Mark Ewbie profile image

Mark Ewbie 5 years ago from Euroland

I absolutely agree with your thoughts on this. I love children, they are perfect without the layers of crap that adults build to confuse and hide real feelings.

My little story is in a supermarket one day. Crying child, no sign of parents. Without thinking, I said "don't worry, come with me to the checkout and we'll find Mum and Dad". En route to checkout we find her parents. It was just a little bit too awkward, words left unspoken.

Would I do it again or just ignore the crying child? I think I would probably just tell a shop assistant.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Yeah, and how sad is that? You know, the Golden Rule is: Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself.

So, if your kid was lost in the store (and you're probably freaking out, or about to...) would you want someone nice like you or me to find him/her and help bring you back together? Or would you prefer everyone in the store to keep a profylactic distance and assume that eventually the minimum wage teenagers working there would hear the screams or even notice the lost look in his/her little face and step in?

I know what I would want.

The issue is, do we assume that people are like you and me, or that they're all perverts except the people in store uniforms?

WTF happened to us?


schoolgirlforreal profile image

schoolgirlforreal 5 years ago from USA

Very impressive hub, truthfully. I love the descriptions of the dark and how your headlights were on and of the swedish blonde hair.

Also what an interesting story. So detailed and well told and so true! I'm a fan now. Subscribe me :-)


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

How well writen and how very, very sad. I love the tension building up as you describe yourself and Speedyman, throwing in the red herring, and ending up with a nice guy feeling unfulfilled and an unused, dry umbrella.


Mikeydoes profile image

Mikeydoes 5 years ago from Fl,IL,IND

Awesome story! I did notice the same cars at 4am when I'd go to work. Just like clockwork the car would be there.

I have a truck, and there have been so many times that I really wanted people to jump in the back of my bed. It would save them 20 minutes, and would be no sweat off of my back.

But I never do it, lol.


lightning john profile image

lightning john 5 years ago from Florida

Hi Shades, You are most definitely one of my favorites on the HubPages. I can relate to this in so many ways.

First about Mr. Speedy Van. I encounter this so much in central Florida. It's the machoism charactoristic of many of our brothers here from the small islands, but what really is amusing is when we come along side a female driver that has the same policy(" F. U. you're not gonna pass me".) It's really funny.

And as for the two little girls walking to school, I would never allow it if I had two little girls to walk that far alone, No Way! The fact that you want to help someone elses kids says a lot about your character in a good light. The fact that if sombody saw you pull over to try to help them, would be suspicious is just the way it is. I drive a 04 E-250 Ford that I would not trade for anything. One day while in North Carolina, a county police officer pulled me over, I said what's the problem? His reply, "well I jist wanted to see who you were, cause most men that drive these here vans are rapists and child molesters." Not believing what was actually happening I had to use great restraint in not compicating things further with my words to him. After letting him look inside to see that there were no hostages or stiff bodies, he let me on my way.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Ok, ShadesBreath, you could have just thrown the umbrella out the window near them and drove on. They might have got the message and picked it up.

I remember a story about a woman driving by an old man out picking up bottles for the return deposit. She stopped and offered him all she had in her car and he refused preferring to pick them up himself on the side of the road. So she drove on and started tossing them out the window. A cop saw it and pulled her over for littering. She explained what she was doing and the cop let her go. The next thing she sees in her rear view mirror is the cop throwing his bottles out the window of his car.

Pay it forward and all that...

Good story though. :-)


SteveoMc profile image

SteveoMc 5 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

Loved the hub. Made me think, again.

I would have taken the risk and consequences with the girls if I thought it would help them. I say this for this reason: If only the perverts and nefarious criminals are willing to take risks like that, then what does that make our society?

However, walking in the rain is not such a big deal. I actually like it sometimes.

Always love your view on the world and great thoughts about everyday things.


ACSutliff profile image

ACSutliff 5 years ago

Shadesbreath,

I had a similar thought as Austinstar. But telling you what you should have done is not the point of this comment, and finding out what you should have done is not the point of writing this hub. The point is that you had these thoughts, and you did a great job of showing us.

You are a kind heart. It is amazing the connections we can make along a road most traveled. People notice the repeats they see all the time, but if we take a road less traveled, I wonder what we would notice?


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Hi Schoolgirlforreal! It's nice to see you on one of my little old hubs. I see you so often in the forums, it's like you've finally come by for tea. :) I'm glad you liked this story. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Twighlight Lawns: "unfulfilled" is really the truth. Christoph hit on that too. We're supposed to do good things and be helfpul to our fellow humans during our time on this Earth and somehow we've managed to get to place where we make that hard for ourselves. It's like we really are letting the bad guys win. :(

Mikeydoes: Yeah, how sad is it that you can't pick them up? I mean, you're going that way? You feel good for the good deed, they save some time. The world is backwords these days. I guess we have to figure out how to turn it around.

Lightning John, I know what you mean about women drivers. It's so easy for guys to assume they have the monopoly on stupid, agressive driving, but there are some crazy women on my route too. There's one woman I see ever so often in a gray Ford F-250 who I am certain is doing 90 MPH between lights. I kind of laugh every time she blows by me and then, a minute later I pull up next to her at the light. Only "kinda" laugh though because she scares the crap out of me. That's wayyyyy too fast.

Austinstar, I thought about that. I thought about pulling over way ahead of them and just laying it on the sidewalk for them. But then I figured, well, they've probably been taught not to take things that aren't theirs or something. I don't know, it just didn't seem right to toss it out either. I mean, it's just water, so, you know, have to let things go. But still... (sigh).

SteveoMc, I like the rain too. I used to always go out in it when I was a kid (although on days where, when I was done, I could come in and change lol. Those two kids had a long day of sitting around in damp stuff ahead). And I guess you are right. Maybe I should have taken my chances. Still, I'm pretty sure I would not want to have seen the terror in their eyes as their condition kicked in. It wasn't just me risking a shot at being nice, I would have been risking their moment of trauma too. It was a decision. Maybe the wrong one. I don't really know, but you bring up a really valid point.

ACSutliff, if Frost's poem gives us any clarity on that, we will notice that we must have taken the right road and made the right choice (because to notice anything else would be debilitating). That's my all time favorite poem, btw.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 5 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

I think the word I'm searching for is..... poignant! Oh well....

Excellent hub, of course, as always. Voted up for beautiful in an extremely stark way.

Later!


saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 5 years ago

After reading this interesting hub on humanity, it struck a cord with me. I drove over the road all throughout my country Canada and yours the USA and have seen many human situations played out as I drove alongside them, past them or with them. I have been a watcher and many times a helper or a sad witness to a grim situation played out on the roadways.

As a driver our minds continually play out scenarios and some of them are pretty dam ugly and yet some are so delightful, like how you described these two girls and then the rain situation and your caring thoughts about helping them and thinking of pulling over to offer your umbrella. Yet the other part of your brain kicking in to caution you with the thoughts that you may be considered a predator of some kind, isn't life amazing?

Driving allows us the opportunity to see, hear and sometimes become part of someones life whether good or bad. All we can do is offer our help, hearts and assistance to those truly in need on the highways and drives to and from our place of work. Thanks for a glimpse into your daily drive. peace


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Hi Wingedcentaur. Thanks for that. It is stark, isn't it. But, hey, it was just rain, right? They're still cute kids and they make me smile every time I drive by. So, it's all good.

Saddlerider: Yeah, as a trucker, I bet you've seen a lot of stuff, and I bet some of it I don't want to know. But you're right, the road is a place where we all are, both literally and metaphorically, and it's important to stop and become part of one another's lives. Too easy to isolate ourselves from each other in those metal boxes we drive around in.


Jeromeo profile image

Jeromeo 5 years ago from Little Rock

You yell here and throw the umbrella out the window and keep going, if you come back tomorrow or later that evening and its still there, then it was a miss but at least you'd have the satisfaction of knowing you had mad the right gesture.

Easy for me to say.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Yeah, Jeromeo, I thought about that. Hard to say what the right play to call was there. I'm Monday-morning-quarterbacking it too. lol. Thanks for reading.


Aya_Hajime profile image

Aya_Hajime 5 years ago

Yeah the other day I was hiking in the hills in my neighborhood. It is a fairly quiet trail and I don't usually meet anybody else, especially people I haven't seen before.

That day, I saw three large guys loitering about, not too far away from me. I turned around and got out of there quickly.

One of those things ... better safe and all that. It is sad how such a small minority can have such a large impact on everyone else - but all it takes is one.

Your wonderful story reminds me of a Steve Martin movie.


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 5 years ago from SE MA

Ayup. Been there, done that. Turned my eyes straight ahead and kept on driving.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Yes, Aya, it's definitely better safe than sorry. You have to trust your instincts. They teach that in self-defense classes. 1) Be aware of your surroundings, and 2) Trust your instincts. But it is sad that there are just enough jerks in the world to make us all live as if we are all jerks. :( (Which Steve Martin movie?)

Pcunix: Sad, ain't it.


Jalus 5 years ago

Great hub. Another "sad" thing that struck me while reading this: If you had given them the umbrella, it may have left them feeling a bit more comfortable with "strangers" which isn't a good thing either. Thankfully, we all dry!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Yeah, that is a sad thought. A good deed creates vulnerability. Which is made sadder by the fact that I don't think there's that many predators out there that we should be so worried anyway. Although, those two in particular are pretty visible to a huge amount of traffic. (sigh). To quote the old witch in the Wizard of Oz as she was dying, "What a world, what world."


mysterylady 89 profile image

mysterylady 89 5 years ago from Florida

Shadesbreath, you have reminded me of how vulnerable I felt as a teacher. One of my professors warned me never, ever to be in my classroom alone with a student. I followed his advice (and this was many years ago!) Every time I read about a teacher being accused of sexual violence on a student, I have to worry about whether this really happened or whether it was the student's way of getting revenge. It is a sad, sad world.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Yep. I had a tech that used to work for me at one of my shops whose wife used to call the cops on him if he made her mad. She would even cut herself, and then tell the cops he did it. He used to plead with the cops that it wasn't her, but they saw the cut, so, that was all they needed to know and he went to jail every time.

I never knew for sure if I believed him all the way, but I mostly did, until I met another guy who had the same thing happen to him. His wife actually mashed her face against a tree in the back yard several times (how insane is that), and the bark really tore her up. They took him to jail on her word and, because the damage was bad and it was the second or third time "he did it" he was going down. Fortunately for him, some guys were painting on a scaffold and saw it and had reported it ("Hey, they're some crazy lady beating her face against a tree) and somehow that information got put together with this guy's case in a rare efficiency of government. Just goes to prove that a man, or a teacher (whoever is perceived as stronger in a circumstance) is always guilty until proven innocent. And even if you did get accused falsely, people would always wonder.


Aya_Hajime profile image

Aya_Hajime 5 years ago

"Which Steve Martin movie?"

I was thinking L.A. Story. I love that movie. Often, life just happens and we don't think about it much. L.A. Story takes life and weaves it into something magical and funny. It highlights common life experiences, puts them in a different light, and makes us consider them more deeply.


mysterylady 89 profile image

mysterylady 89 5 years ago from Florida

You are right. Those two wives were totally insane. It is hard to believe anyone could be so vindictive, and it is frightening to see the power malicious liars can have over us!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

I totally forgot about that movie, Aya. Good pull. I should put that on my Netflix. Haven't seen it in eons. I love Steve Martin, even in his less absurd roles.

You said a mouthful on that one, Mysterylady. It is power. The one bad apple really gets to ruin everything.


tlpoague profile image

tlpoague 5 years ago from USA

It took me what felt like forever to find your forum on your challenge, which led me to here...Great hub! I was raised in a small town and have raised my kids in a small town. So for me, it wouldn't take much to pull over and give a helping hand. However, I spent three years in a city in total fear due to strange prank calls, mugging in the gas station a block away, and upon visiting a grade school was told off by a six year old. For someone not use to this kind of behavior, it was frightening. Would I have helped the two little girls then? I'm not sure...People do strange things in certain situations. Great hub though...I enjoyed reading it.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Yes, I suppose I could have done a better job with specifics there, eh? lol.

I gotta say, your city experience doesn't sound too great. Rough neighborhood sounds like. But the striking thing is, when you say, "For someone not used to this behavior." I can't imagine getting used to that. I don't think I want to live somewhere where I have to get used to muggings and rude children. Bleh. Too much of that and I might start understanding the roots of Fascism. lol.


De Greek profile image

De Greek 5 years ago from UK

The parents of those girls should be reported for letting them walk in the rain in conditions of heavy traffic


Karanda profile image

Karanda 5 years ago from Australia

It is sad that the urge to help our fellow human being has been stopped by a fear of doing the wrong thing or stepping in where you haven't been invited. What a dilemma we all face not being able to make a nice gesture.

Well written in the time frame, good on you Shadesbreath.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

He De Greek: Either reported or applauded for realizing this world isn't as horrendous as the media (and the safety industry) want us to think it is. A little good parenting and some good conversations with clever girls go a long way for keeping everyone happy and out of the news. I hope applause is what's really deserved here.

Karanda: Yep. The lawyers have won. And now they occupy all the seats in Congress, set their by their corporate masters. Game over for the rest of us. (Yeah, it came out okay for a half hour. I should clean it up, but I'm too lazy, so, it is what it is. Be a better blog than hub, but, ... etc.)


mysterylady 89 profile image

mysterylady 89 5 years ago from Florida

This hub inspired me to write my latest hub about Andrew, a former student. I put in a link to this.

Happy New Year!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Sweet, I love when that happens. Now I have something to read through my blurry morning eyes too. :D


sueroy333 profile image

sueroy333 5 years ago from Indiana

This was a great article. I loved the way you made me think of the patterns in everyday life. I felt the conflict with you.

My mind jumped to the times when I've seen a car on the side of the road that looks odd, and I think, I should stop and see if everyone is Ok. Then I'll remember I'm a girl and not armed. Then I'll think, "..but I have a tire-iron, and if I see it's another girl and she's in trouble I'll beat the crap out of the guy." Then I start hoping there's someone to beat.

Then I remember I'm not really a badass, and I'm sad that I can't just stop and see if someone needs help.

Yep. You made me think all of that within seconds. You are truly an excellent writer!!

Sad to say that you probably did the right thing. The bad guys make it difficult for all the good guys to BE good guys!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Hi Sueroy333. As cliché as it is: one bad apple spoils the lot. And we have just enough a-holes in the barrel of our world to spoil a lot of goodness.

I suppose we should try harder to put goodness back, but that would take a concerted effort. I know, "goodness starts with you," etc. but it would be more effective if somehow there were a goodness movement. Sort of a New Awakening except without all the bible thumping and stuff that drives everyone away.


SEO Expert Kerala profile image

SEO Expert Kerala 5 years ago from KERALA

really feeling sad after reading your hub, you are right sometime even we want to help some one we can't. great hub keep going.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Thanks, SEO Expert Kerala. It's how we've allowed our society to become. It's sad. Maybe eventually it will change.


ekenzy profile image

ekenzy 5 years ago

i will like to hear more abunt the story.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Well, we'll see if any further narrative presents itself. I still see them most mornings, so, you never know. Thanks for commenting, ekenzy.


savvydating profile image

savvydating 4 years ago

If a woman had approached the children with an umbrella, the girls may not have suspected her of being an axe murderer. According to BJS, homocide rates have actually declined (in America) since the 1980's and they are currently as low as they were in the 60's. However, men are more likely to commit homocide than a woman, 9 to 1. Thus, children are taught to be wary.

But I know what you mean - I was walking in the rain once and a man stopped to offer me a ride. I declined. He zoomed off in a huff. The whole thing was a little sad, but on the other hand, I would not get in a man's car just to prove that I am a trusting soul who loves the world and all the puppies too...nor would most people, I suspect. Anyway, what I'd like to say is that you are a remarkable writer. You leave me and most of us in the dust! I appreciate your talent.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 4 years ago from California Author

That's a very high compliment, Savvydating, thank you. And, you're quite right about the stats of crime these days. Our society is as secure as any culture has ever been, and yet you'd think we were made of marshmallows and the entire world is a campfire into which we're constantly about to fall. (Yes, that was a random metaphor, but, I've been writing all day and, well, that's what you get when my brain is shot lol).

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