This story is by Lori Lee Palmer and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“I had the dream again last night.”
“The dream where I’m dressed in a spacesuit, and I’m running and bouncing on the moon,” said Angela. She slurped up a spoonful of cereal, and then looked at her grandfather for his reaction. “What do you think it means?”
“How do you feel during the dream?” Grandpa Jerry grabbed the toast as it popped up from the toaster, and buttered it lavishly. The aroma wafted through the kitchen.
“Well, at first I’m excited and happy, kind of like being on an amusement park ride. But then I feel scared and out of control as I bounce higher and higher. I make myself wake up.” Her forehead scrunched up as she concentrated her gaze on her grandfather, who messily munched on his toast. Why were old people so gross when they chewed? Didn’t their teeth fit right?
“Is anything happening in your life right now that gives you the same type of feeling?”
Why did Grandpa Jerry always answer a question with a question? Why couldn’t he just give her the answer? It was obvious from the smug look on his face that he knew more than he was saying.
“Grandpa, I’ve got to leave for school! Can you please just tell me what you mean and lay off the psychology mumbo jumbo!” She rinsed her bowl and spoon haphazardly and shoved them in the dishwasher.
“Hmm, are you anxious about school? Is anything special happening today?”
“I told you at dinner last night – representatives from all the major Florida state colleges are putting on a college fair today. I’ve got appointments to speak with three of them.”
“How do you feel when you think about going to college?” Grandpa Jerry asked.
“Grandpa! Why can’t you stay on one subject, instead of bouncing around all over the place?” Angela huffed as she picked up her backpack and stormed out the door.
Angela pounded the sidewalk and kicked leaves out of her way as she walked the half mile to school. “Why won’t he just tell me what my dream means? He used to be a psychiatrist, so he must know these things. Why does he keep asking me questions instead of telling me what I want to know?” she muttered to herself.
Walking briskly and breathing in the crisp morning air began to calm her, and her thoughts turned to her school day and the college fair. How do I decide on a college? Do I have to pick a major right away? I don’t know what kind of job I want to do for my whole future! Is my SAT score high enough to get me into any school I want? Will I have to write essays as part of my admission applications? I hate writing essays! I won’t know what to say, and they’ll think I’m a loser! Should I write something to really suck up to them and make them think I think their college is the best? Should I look into out-of-state universities? Can my parents afford that? What if I don’t know anyone at the school I pick? What if I go to a state college, and none of my friends get in? What am I going to do?
Angela’s mind was so full of questions that she didn’t pay attention where she was walking as she started to cross the street. She barely registered the sound of squealing brakes before the car hit her and she went flying through the air. Her mind careened back to her dream. She looked down and expected to see herself wearing a spacesuit, then she blacked out.
“Angela, can you hear me? Please squeeze my hand if you can.” Her mother’s voice sounded like it was far away, and seemed garbled. Was she underwater? It sounded that way. Or maybe she was dreaming. She willed her hand to squeeze back, but her effort was fruitless. Maybe after I wake up, she thought drowsily.
“Angela, I know you’re in there, please wake up and talk to us.” It was her father this time, and he sounded stern. Why wouldn’t they let her sleep? She tried to open her eyes, but her eyelids felt so heavy. After a few flutters she opened them slightly. Where was she? This wasn’t her bedroom. What were all those strange noises; the mechanical beeping and whirring?
After a few more attempts, she finally opened her eyes and rubbed them. “Where am I?” she asked. Her family surrounded her.
“You were hit by a car. We’re at Memorial Hospital,” Angela’s mother said. She still held her hand. “You’ve had a concussion, but the doctors say you’ll be alright. You don’t have any broken bones, just some minor bruising.”
Angela tried to focus on her mother’s face. She had that lopsided smile she wore when she was trying hard to smile after crying. Her cheeks were wet, and there was a box of tissues on the bed tray.
“Did I fly? I remember flying, like in my dream. Only I wasn’t wearing a spacesuit.”
“It’s too bad you weren’t in a spacesuit,” her grandfather said. “You wouldn’t have gotten banged up so badly.”
“Do you remember what happened, Angie?” her father asked. “The woman who hit you was pretty upset. She said she didn’t see you. That you must have walked right out in front of her.”
“I don’t remember. It all happened so fast. It hurts my head to think. Can I go home now?” Angela struggled to sit up, and her mother used the bed remote control to help her.
Jerry drove Angela home and her parents went back to work. He needed to keep her talking and awake. He made her tea and they sat at the round wooden kitchen table with its hard-backed chairs.
“So, what distracted you this morning?” asked Grandpa Jerry. “It’s not like you to step out in front of a car.”
“I was freaking out thinking about my future. I don’t know what college I want to go to or what I want to be, and everyone keeps asking me like they think I should have everything all figured out.” Angela blew on her tea to cool it before taking a sip.
“Oh, to be young again and have the future completely open in front of you.” Jerry sighed.
Angela’s eyes opened wide as if a lightbulb had just gone off in her brain. “Grandpa! I think I understand now what my dream was telling me! My future is so boundless that I’m afraid to make a decision that I’ll regret for the rest of my life.”
“Sweetie, no one expects you to have your whole life mapped out. You don’t have to pick a major now. Take classes and see what you like best. You could be a lawyer like your father, an accountant like your mother, or a psychiatrist like your dear old grandpa.” He winked. “Or you could go your own way completely. The sky’s the limit.”
“But Grandpa, what if I’m afraid to fly?” Angela chewed at her thumbnail.
“I won’t tell you to not be afraid, because your feelings are valid. But if you change your attitude and try to embrace the future, you’ll lead a much happier life. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because that’s where you’ll gain experience and wisdom. Lord knows I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. Life lessons, we call them.”
“I remember when I was a very little girl and feeling cranky that you used to hold me upside down to give me an attitude adjustment. I would laugh…it was so much fun. Too bad I’m too big to hold upside down now.” Angela smirked.
“Yes, you certainly are. Please promise me you’ll pay more attention to your surroundings in the future. It was quite a shock to my old ticker when the hospital called this morning. It’s been less than a year since I lost Grandma Millie. I couldn’t take losing you, too.” Jerry put his hand on top of Angela’s and squeezed.
“I’m sorry, Grandpa. I love you.”