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NOVEMBER 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 11



By the Side of the Sea | Holly Day

Étude | Vasilis Afxentiou
Past harms torture the music and the love of a young woman


Measure of Distance | Sheldon A. Miller

CLIFFORD WATERS, PH.D., a marriage and family counselor of 20 years, is a contributing writer for Renaissance Online. He lives in Alta Loma, California.


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I was sure I was going to throw up. The brown summer lawn flashed in front of my eyes, a spinning carpet. Except this carpet was not soft, and I was being spun over hard ground.

"Put me down," I yelled. "Put me down!" But Uncle Arnold kept swinging me 'round and 'round.

He was laughing and laughing; his friends egged him on. His fingers were like steel straps, wrapped tightly around my wrist and ankle. I was dizzy, scared, and my shoulder ached something awful. 'Round and 'round he swung me.

"Whoosh. Whoosh," he shouted, swinging me up high and then down low, so close to the ground that I feared my head would crash into the dirt. In spite of myself, I let out a cry. It came from deep inside and didn't seem to belong to me. I gritted my teeth, partly to keep from crying, and partly to appear unafraid.

"Come on, Arnold," said someone. "Enough. The boy's had enough,"

One, two more spins. Then thump, I found myself on the ground.

"What's the matter, Skip? Can't take it? You're okay, just a little dizzy."

I leaned against the earth, clutching fists full of grass and dirt. The world was spinning around me. I tasted vomit.

Uncle Arnold towered above me. "Want to go for another spin?" He laughed. I tried to look up at him, but I couldn't move. I had to hold on.

When I could let go of the grass and lift my head, Uncle Arnold and the men were nowhere in sight. Unsteadily, I struggled to my feet...fell to my knees. I waited, then tried again, only to fall again.

I don't remember getting to my room. Mom, sitting on the side of my bed, listened to my tale of being swung dizzy.

"I'm sorry you were frightened."

"Mom, you don't understand!"

"You used to have fun when Uncle Arnold swung you around, but, I guess this time he was too rough. Maybe you're too old for this kind of play. Tell you what, Skip. Wash your face, come outside, and talk to your uncle. We're not going to eat for a little while."

"I don't want to, Mom. Uncle Arnold doesn't like me."

"No such thing. You know you're his favorite. He loves you. I want you to come out and patch things up. I'll bet he's sorry, and wants to tell you so."

Mom, it turns out, was right.

* * * A summer heat wave. When I complained to Dad about the house being so hot, he said it was too big and old to have central air conditioning installed. It would cost more than the house was worth. We had a humongous swamp cooler set in the living room wall, and yet the only time I felt cool was when I took off my shirt and stood close to the vents.

"Skip, get away from the front of that cooler.

You're blocking the air."

"Aw, Mom. I'm melting."

"Come sit beside me on the sofa. I've been meaning to have a talk with you."

"Mom, I meant to tell you, the reason I haven't mowed the lawn is that it isn't growing."

"That's not what's on my mind. I want to talk to you about Linda. You're underfoot in the house every day. That girl spends half her time answering your questions instead of doing the housework."

"I don't slow her down. I help her with the cleaning...We make her work fun."

"Skip, it's summer. During the day I want you outside."

"But there's nothing to do."

"Go over to Doug's and play. Play with Mary Ellen."

"Doug is at his uncle's ranch. He won't be home for two weeks, and Mary Ellen is training to be the hopscotch Queen-of-the-World. That's all she ever wants to play. BORING."

"How about working on your Scout assignments?"

'Mom, I'll roast."

"Look, Skip. You're old enough to find things to do for yourself. If you can't, maybe you should go to the shop with your Dad. He'll find you some chores."

'But, Mom..."

"And understand, you are to stay out of Linda's room! Her bedroom is off-limits."

"But, we just talk. Linda doesn't mind."

"You heard me young man. You are to stay out of her room. No exceptions."

[ MORE: a secretive glimpse ]