Day 51: All Saints Day and the climax

Jack O' lanterns, pumpkins, and gourd decorate our front step on Halloween

Sunday was the church observance of All Saints Day, though officially it is November 1st. It is the time in the Christian calendar to remember the saints as well as those in our lives who have passed away in the previous year. It also helps explain Halloween, which is All Hallows Eve, when the spirits of the dearly departed would come back to visit. Originally, the idea of trick or treating was that tricks were played and blamed on the spirits coming back to visit. I know that plenty of mischief has been played on Halloween and at other times including ding-dong ditching and other harmless pranks. The significance of the jack-o-lantern was to ward off the evil spirits by carving the pumpkin’s face or a candle to spread light onto the porch: where the symbols light for God and truth and darkness for evil. The costumes were to disguise the mischief makers and it was all in fun. To ward off a trick, the homeowner would provide a treat or payoff and no mischief would be played. The celebration of Halloween has certainly changed since then and much of the meaning has been lost.  Today’s Halloween-ers are more interested in candy along with the fun of running the neighborhood and being with friends. During the church service as the names of people from our congregation, their family members, and close friends who have passed away in the previous year were read aloud. A bell was struck after five names were read, until all of the names were called and remembered. I remember last year’s All Saints observance, when my dad’s name was read aloud. As the names were read aloud and the bell chimed I remembered my dad; his life, my mom and step-mom, my brothers, and I thought about the next steps in the writing of the narrative.

It had been a busy weekend with chores and other tasks. I had not spoken to Julie, my step-mom for few weeks, though I had written two letters. I called her in the afternoon to say hello and explain the project I was working on and asked if I could fax what I had written so far and call back later for feedback and to talk. Once I explained the project and its topic she immediately recalled the event as if it were yesterday. It was good to talk with her and catch up. I promised to call later and faxed the pages to her, all five of them. I ran an errand, did a couple of chores, and finished making dinner before I called her back. She answered on the second ring and it was good to hear her voice. We laughed about our memories of the night and she provided a few details I had forgotten. It was a good conversation and I wished we were closer so that our phone moments were replaced by being able to spend time with her.

After our call, I had dinner cleaned up the kitchen and walked the dog before heading down to write and work. I finished the climax and mapped out the falling action and resolution. Below is the climax, though you will have to wait for the falling action and resolution.

I had only seen my step-mother a few times before; at the dinner she made for us when my dad told us he was getting re-married and at the wedding a few days later. When we met her she insisted we call her Julie, but that was, five months earlier and Julie looked different with her head wrapped in a scarf and covered head to toe in respect to Saudi Arabian custom. It appeared hardly comfortable for the Saudi Arabian summer day and night where temperatures reached over 110°F and drop into the low 80°F range. In fact, none of us was dressed for the heat fortunately, it was nighttime and temperatures were as cool as they would get all day.  Women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia and must have a driver to take them when they shop or go anywhere. My dad had called her and given her our flight information and that we would be arriving in Dhahran and not in Riyadh. She decided that she was going to drive to meet us and bring all of us back to Riyadh. The trouble was it was over five hundred miles round trip and the highway was a long stretch across the hot desert, which could be dangerous. As it was, they had car trouble after running through a sandstorm not long into their journey. Her driver pulled the car off the highway and they were stranded. As we would learn, Julie is amazingly resourceful, they flagged a passing truck for help, and Julie and Mr. Muffla were soon on their way to Dhahran riding in a very large watermelon truck.

With my dad’s car stuck in the desert over a hundred miles away and the watermelon truck not an option, my dad had to figure a way back to Riyadh with Julie, three kids, and a driver. Car rentals did not exist in this place and the only option was finding a taxi driver willing to drive 250 miles through the desert at night fully loaded with six passengers and their luggage. Somehow, my dad with Mr. Muffla’s help found a driver, we loaded the car and were off. We had arrived late in the evening and it was very dark and the further we drove into the desert along the unlit highway away from Dhahran the darker it became. Dhahran is on the coast near a major oil field and flares burning off gas could be seen occasionally as we drove along the road. Their flame gave the dark night a faint orange glow. The moon was out guiding us along the way. The highway from Dhahran to Riyadh though the desert was a lonely drive with few cars out. My dad told us that the driver needed to be cautious and watch for camels and soon we came upon our first car crash. When it is car versus camel, both lose. The camel is tall with long legs and the car and its occupants have no chance. We passed several car crashes along the way and the cars were just left behind and we kept driving. We made a short stop early in the ride for a drink. The drink was a sweet fruit nectar drink available locally and it quenched our thirst. We made sure to bring water with us and we continued on. It wasn’t long that nature took its course and we all had to go. Though, my younger brother David was the first to bravely declare,

“I have to go to the bathroom,” he said.

After a few miles, Warren and I chimed in that we also had to go. My dad spoke to Mr. Muffla who translated and we soon pulled off the highway. With no town in sight we were on the side of the deserted highway. We climbed out of the car and David asked,

“Where is it?” David said referring to the bathroom.

My dad swept his arm across the horizon and replied,

“Anywhere you want,” he replied.

The moon provided enough light to see casting a pale glow across the desert and we all walked away from the car into the desert. We took a moment to look up at the stars and I was amazed at how bright they were and how many filled the dark blue night sky. The lonely highway in the middle of the desert is a beautiful place to star gaze away for the lights of the city. Once we were finished we piled back into the car and were on our way. It was tight fit; I sat between the driver and Mr. Muffla in the front seat with Warren, David, Julie, and my dad snugly sitting in the back. As we drove through the night, I dozed and woke off and on. We continued to drive through the moonlit night along the largely deserted highway to Riyadh and dad’s home. I thought of Sugar Land and how different a place Saudi Arabia was and wondered what was ahead.

So there it is: the climax – the peak of the action. It needs editing and proofreading, but that is after I have added the falling action and resolution. I have mapped it out and know where I am going with my writing. Monday is gonna be a great day with teaching the falling action and on Tuesday, the resolution. Sunday was a good day to work, think, reflect, connect, and remember my dad. Making the Days Count, one day at a time.

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