Original Short Story: "Dale's Story"
The Perfect Prom
Rob Morris had asked me to go to the spring prom with him. This Rob was the class clown. Still, he was popular, actually liked by the in-crowd, tolerated by the jocks, and even admired by almost everyone else. I did not like this Rob, but no one else had asked me to the prom, so I was considering it.
About the last day of winter, my mother, Glendale, after whom I was named, started needling me—asking me if I had been asked to the prom. She was buzzing with ideas for the perfect dress. Every day before school and after school, she would burst into my room and offer me prom advice. Her prom had been the highlight of her life; she cherished every moment of it.
My mother had attended her senior year high school prom with the man she would marry, my father—Garland Whitfield, III. My father did not remember anything about the prom except that it provided the occasion for his first kiss with the girl of his dreams.
After being raised by Garland and Glendale, the perfect couple, as their yearbook described them, I was not the perfect daughter. I was morose for most of what I can remember of my childhood. I'm sure I caused my happy, perfect parents untold agony, except for the fact that they were incapable of recognizing agony.
Every little infraction of mine—from skipping school to verbally abusing teachers to shoplifting—was met with the happy hope that I would outgrow my dissatisfaction, meet a good man, settle down, and give them beautiful grandchildren.
So, my parents were perfect. I was not. But I am telling this story primarily about the prom because I think it is important. The prom is the reason I sit here today, serving life in prison without the possibility of parole. Well, of course, that is not really true. It's what I did at the prom that landed me in this fine institution. But I digress, I guess. Or jump ahead of myself.
Gun Control Nuts!
Before I tell you exactly what I did, I want to say that all you gun control nuts can go to hell. What I did was because of who I was, not because I could get a gun and do it or because my friend's parents kept a gun to protect their family. If I had not been able to get a gun, I would have driven my car into the prom dance hall and probably have done more damage than I did. So, fuck you! for blaming the goddam gun! blame me! the one who committed the crime!
Anyway, here's what I did. I stole a little revolver from the desk of my friend's father. I had often studied with her, and I knew her father kept a gun in his desk drawer. I guess she just enjoyed knowing that she was sharing a secret with me. I had no idea I would consider such a theft at the time she showed me the gun.
But the image of it lying there in the drawer kind of just engraved itself in my mind's eye, and four years later, I purloined that little gun, after my friend and I had studied for finals.
I tucked the gun away in my evening bag. Back then they did not check bags when people entered big halls.
"Would you like a glass of punch?" my prom date Rob Morris asked me.
Popping at the Prom
"Hell, no!" I responded, pulling out the gun and popping him in the head.
I then walked up to the punch table and popped everyone there. People were suddenly scurrying for cover. Screaming, screaming—but the music continued, and a couple was still dancing cheek to cheek until I popped them.
I stopped and reloaded. Then I started popping anyone I saw. I was calm. I was starting to feel even calmer. Now the screaming was louder, prom dancers continued to scatter. I kept popping people until finally I heard sirens.
The police burst into the hall, and I popped a couple of them before one of them popped me. I fell . . . and don't remember anything after that except waking up in the hospital with restraints hooking me to the bed.
I had killed 19 students, 2 teachers, and 2 cops. I remembered popping people with the gun, but I do not remember who any of them were. However, I did know them all, except for the cops, I found out later.
My perfect parents got me the best public defender they could find. And then I never saw them again, which was ok by me. I never had any idea who they were and never cared to find out.
I avoided the death penalty by a last minute confession. I had wanted to confess all along, but the public defender wanted to claim something was wrong with me, diminished capacity, mental illness causing inability to be responsible, or some such to that effect.
As I Sit Paying
Hell, I knew I was responsible. I knew what I had done. And I thought I knew why.
But the "why" now becomes more muddled in my mind as time goes by. I have been in prison for twelve years. I have a lot of time to think, to wonder, to consider, to try to connect the many unconnected dots in my mind, and just generally to wallow in sorrow.
I hate what I did. I hate it that I killed all those innocent people, and for what? Because I hated trying to live up to standards of perfect parents. Hell, Garland and Glendale were not perfect. They never ever claimed to be. I guess I just imagined that they thought they were perfect. Maybe it was because of my own personal failings that I thought other people were perfect, and I was not.
I still don't know. But I do regret what I did. And most days, I think that is the only thing I have learned in this life: that I did wrong and I regret it. I don't know what I will think next. I guess it just depends on what I can learn about how to live. And I do take some comfort, knowing that I am paying for my crime . . . but then I turn morose again, realizing that my paying will never bring back those poor souls I so maliciously popped at the prom.
At SRF Lake Shrine, Windmill Chapel
Life Sketch of Linda Sue Grimes
The following original poem captures the tranquility of my favorite meditation place in Los Angeles, California, the Windmill Chapel at Self-Realization Fellowship's Lake Shrine.
The Windmill Chapel
In the temple of silence
By the lake, we sit
In stillness, meditating
In divine Bliss.
Returning to our daily minds,
We walk out into the sunshine,
And the flowers greet us.
The Literary Life
Born Linda Sue Richardson on January 7, 1946, to Bert and Helen Richardson in Richmond, Indiana, Linda Sue grew up about eight miles south of Richmond in a rustic setting near the Ohio border.
After graduating from Centerville Senior High School in Centerville, Indiana, in 1964, Linda Sue Grimes completed her baccalaureate degree with a major in German at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, in 1967. She married Ronald Grimes on March 10, 1973.
As a writer, Grimes focuses on poetry, short fiction, politics, spirituality, and vegan/vegetarian cooking, which results in her original veggie recipes.
Although music was her first love, Grimes considers herself primarily a literary specialist as she creates her own poetry, studies the poetry and literary arts of classic writers, and writes commentaries about classic poems.
However, Grimes does continue to express her love of music by writing her own original songs, which she records, accompanying herself on guitar or keyboard. She shares her musical compositions at SOUNDCLOUD.
After completing the PhD degree in British, American, and World Literature with a cognate in Rhetoric/Composition at Ball State University in 1987, Grimes taught English composition in the English Department at BSU as a contractual assistant professor from 1987 until 1999.
Grimes has published poems in many literary journals, including Sonoma Mandala, Rattle, and The Bellingham Review. She has published three books of poems: Singing in the Silence, Command Performance, and Turtle Woman & Other Poems, and a book of fables titled Jiggery-Jee's Eden Valley Stories.
Grimes published her first cookbook in the spring of 2013, titled The Rustic Veggie-Table: 100 Vegan Recipes. She is working on a second cookbook and her fourth book of poems.
Currently, at Owlcation, Grimes (Maya Shedd Temple) posts her poetry commentaries. On LetterPile, she shares her creative writing of poems and short fiction, along with prose commentaries on each piece. She posts recipes resulting from her experimental cooking of vegan/vegetarian dishes. on Delishably. She posts her politically focused pieces at Soapboxie, and her commentaries focusing on music at Spinditty. Pieces on the writing process appear at Hobbylark.
Linda Sue Grimes has been a devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda and a member of his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship, since 1978. A Kriyaban since 1979, she has completed the four Kriya Initiations, and she continues to study the teachings and practice the yoga techniques as taught by the great spiritual leader, who is considered to be the "Father of Yoga in the West."
Grimes practices the chants taught by the guru accompanying herself on the harmonium. She serves at her local SRF Meditation Group as one of the chant leaders.
Online Literary Presence
In addition to the contributions of her literary works to Owlcation, LetterPile, and SOUNDCLOUD, Grimes also curates her original creative literary pieces at her literary home, Maya Shedd Temple, on Medium, where she features her creative writing without commentaries. Grimes also maintains an additional online presence on Facebook and Twitter.
My Spiritual Journey: Why I Am a Self-Realization Yogi
"By ignoble whips of pain, man is driven at last into the Infinite Presence, whose beauty alone should lure him." –a wandering sadhu, quoted in Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
Introduction: Salvation Is a Personal Responsibility
I am a Self-Realization Yogi because the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, who in 1920 founded Self-Realization Fellowship, make sense to me. Paramahansa Yogananda teaches that we are immortal souls, already connected to the Divine Reality, but we have to "realize" that divine connection. Knowing the Great Spirit (God) is not dependent upon merely claiming to believe in a divine personage, or even merely following the precepts of a religion such as the Ten Commandments.
Knowing the Creator is dependent upon "realizing" that the soul is united with that Creator. To achieve that realization we have to develop our physical, mental, and spiritual bodies through exercise, scientific techniques, and meditation. There are many good theorists who can help us understand why proper behavior is important for our lives and society, but Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings offer definite, scientific techniques that we practice in order to realize our oneness with the Divine Power or God. It makes sense to me that my salvation should be primarily my own responsibility.
No Religious Tradition
I did not grow up with a religious tradition. My mother was a Baptist, who claimed that at one time she felt she was saved, but then she backslid. I learned some hymns from my mother. But she never connected behavior with religion. My father was forced to attend church when he was young, and he complained that his church clothes were uncomfortable as was sitting on the hard pews.
My father disbelieved in the miracles of Jesus, and he poked fun at people who claimed to have seen Jesus "in the bean rows." My mother would not have doubted that a person might see Jesus, because she saw her father after he had died. My mother characterized my father as agnostic, and she lived like an agnostic, but deep down I think she was a believer after the Baptist faith.
Here’s a little story that demonstrates how ignorant about religion I was as a child: When I was in first or second grade, I had a friend named Caroline. At recess one day at the swings, Caroline wanted to confide something to me, and she wanted me to keep it secret. She said I probably wouldn't believe it, but she still wanted to tell me. I encouraged her to tell me; it seemed exciting to be getting some kind of secret information. So she whispered in my ear, "I am a Quaker."
I had no idea what that was. I thought she was saying she was magic like a fairy or an elf or something. So I said, "Well, do something to prove it." It was Caroline's turn to be confused then. She just looked very solemn. So I asked her to do something else to prove it. I can't remember the rest of this, but the point is that I was so ignorant about religion.
The Void in My Life and My First Trauma
Looking back on my life as a child, teenager, young adult, and adult up to the age of 32, I realize that the lack of a religious tradition left a great void in my life. Although my father was on the fence regarding religion, he would listen to Billy Graham preach on TV. I hated it whenever Billy Graham was preaching on TV. His message scared me. Something like the way I felt when my father's mother would come and visit us, and when my father would let out a "Goddam" or other such swear word, she would say he was going to hell for talking that way. I was afraid for my father. And Billy Graham made me afraid for myself and all of us because we did not attend church.
I never believed that things like swearing and masturbation could send a soul to hell. But then back then I had no concept of "soul" or "hell." I believed it was wrong to kill, steal, and to lie. But I'm not sure how these proscripts were taught to me. I guess by example. It seems that I had no real need for God and spirituality until I was around thirty years old.
My life went fairly smoothly except for two major traumas before age thirty. The first trauma was experiencing a broken heart at age eighteen and then undergoing a failed marriage, after which I thought I would never find a mate to love me. But I did meet a wonderful soulmate when I was 27.
Heretofore I had thought finding the proper marriage partner would solve all my problems, but I learned that my difficulties were very personal and at the level where we are all totally alone, despite any outward relationships.
The Second Trauma
A second trauma that added to my confusion was being fired twice from the same job at ages 22 and 27. At age 27 things started to make no sense. And it started to bother me intensely that things made no sense. I had always been a good student in grade school and high school, and I was fairly good in college, graduating from Miami University with a 3.0 average. That grade point average bothered me, because I thought I was better than that.
But then not being able to keep my teaching job and not being able to find another one after I had lost it very much confused me. It seemed that I had lost touch with the world. School had been my world, and my teachers and professors had expected great things from me. But there I was at age 27 and couldn't get connected to school again.
Feminism and Zen
I began reading feminist literature starting with Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, continuing with Ms. Magazine, and many others. The result of taking in the feminist creed led me to believe that I had someone to blame for my failure—men; men had caused the world to be arranged so that women cannot succeed outside the home. I began writing again, an endeavor I have sporadically engaged in most of my life from about age sixteen. I decided to apply for a graduate assistantship in English at Ball State University, feeling that I was ready to get out in the man’s world and show it what a woman could do. I felt confident that I could succeed now that I knew what the problem was. But that didn’t work out either. I finished the year without a master’s degree in English, and then there I was, confused again, and still searching for something that made sense.
I had heard about the Eastern philosophy known as "Zen" at Ball State, and I started reading a lot about that philosophy. Zen helped me realize that men were not the problem, attitude was. I kept on writing, accumulating many poems, some of which I still admire. And I kept reading Zen, especially Alan Watts, but after a while the same ideas just kept reappearing with no real resolution, that is, even though the Zen philosophy did help me understand the world better, it was not really enough. I got the sense that only I could control my life, but just how to control it was still pretty much a mystery.
Autobiography of a Yogi
Then in late 1977 on one of our book shopping trips, I spied a book, Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, and I recommended it to my husband, because he liked biographies. I purchased poetry books, and we purchased the autobiography for him. He did not get around to reading it right away, but I did, and I was totally amazed at what I read. It all made sense to me; it was such a scholarly book, clear and compelling. There was not one claim made in the entire 500 plus pages that made me scratch me hand and say "what?" or even feel an uncertainty that this writer knew exactly whereof he spoke.
Paramahansa Yogananda was speaking directly to me, at my level, where I was in my life, and he was connecting with my mind in a way that no writer had ever done. For example, the book offers copious notes, references, and scientific evidence that academics will recognize as thorough research. This period of time was before I had written a PhD dissertation, but all of my years of schooling had taught me that making claims and backing them up with explanation, analysis, evidence, and authoritative sources were necessary for competent, persuasive, and legitimate exposition.
Paramahansa Yogananda's autobiography contained all that could appeal to an academic and much more because of the topic he was addressing. As the great spiritual leader recounted his own journey to self-realization, he was able to elucidate the meanings of ancient texts whose ideas have remained misunderstood for many decades and even centuries.
The book contained a postcard that invited the reader to send for lessons that teach the techniques for becoming self-realized. I sent for them, studied them, and I have been practicing them since 1978. They do, indeed, hold the answer to every human problem.
I know it is difficult for most educated people to believe that all human problems can be solved, but that’s because they get stuck in the thought that they cannot. If you believe that you can never really know something, then you can’t, because if you believe that you can never really know something, you won’t try to know it.
Yogananda gives a map with directions to reaching God, and realizing that one’s soul is united with God brings about the end of all sorrow and the beginning of all joy. Just knowing the precepts intellectually does not cause this realization, but it goes a long way toward eliminating much suffering. The faith that we can overcome all suffering is a great comfort, even if we are not there yet. I realize that God is knowable, but most important is that I know I am the only one who can connect my soul to God—and that is the spiritual journey I am on.
© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes