A good story meets you in the midst of life. It tells you something true, something you can relate to. It abducts you. It takes your heart unexpectedly. It gives you the breath of another life as a character in the fairy tale. It becomes a reality you dream is yours. It paints a world you cannot quite touch. It draws you in with emotion and connection, love and heartbreak, familiarity and fantasy. That is when you know it is a great story.

Settled in the sand. Sun on her shoulder. Sweet quiet wind across the shoreline. Steady and constant whisper of waves running wet fingers up the beach could barely touch her. Laying there, just far enough away from the fondling foam to feel its icy shock on the tips of toes. In and out, water breaking, reaching, falling back into the deep expanse.

Dear God, I can’t pray to you. It wouldn’t be right.  You listen to the prayers of your loyal people. Those whom you love. Those who listen to you. You want me to be good, you wanted me to act like your child, and I haven’t. You want me to honor you in thought words and deed, but my faith is not strong enough. You want me to love you above all things. I don’t. I don’t want to. And I’m not interested in making a change anytime soon. So I understand, there is no reason why you should listen to me now.

Every Sunday, she was distracted by that picture. Tried not to look for too long, because it made her uncomfortable, but she couldn’t get it out of her head. And there, just on a forgotten wall down the church hall. She thought maybe they should have covered up that picture years ago, like all the other ones. But for some reason, they forgot this one.

Quiet air.

Hangs there. Invisible to the eye who looks upon. Heavy upon the chest of those who breathe it. She tries not to inhale that quiet air that she cannot see. It stings the back of her tongue thickly swamping shallow into her lung. Drowning in the quiet air, gasping at the hidden tears bleeding down the back of her throat. Concentrate and no one sees. Metal air in, hope breathed out.

Songs that make me swell with pride, as my chest booms with every celebratory explosion in the sky. Passionate speeches and heart wrenching memories pour out of every red-blooded American. Love and brotherhood with our fellow citizen, that was by random chance born on this side of the globe. Admiration and appreciation for the soil and air we breathe on this particular continent. Defended, guarded, even pressed out beyond our borders, we join hands and voices to let our freedom ring around the world.