The monster’s shadow grew smaller as he pedaled harder. Wind whipped against young Allen’s hair. Sweat dripped down his face. To his dismay, accompanying summer heat was no companion.
Tightly he gripped his bike’s handlebars. “Don’t look back,” he whispered to himself. His boyish voice still caught him off guard.
He tried replaying what felt like a century ago. December snowflakes should have welcomed him as they usually did around his birthday. But that was not what waited on the other side of the door he opened.
Questioning if he stepped into a form of Wonderland he pedaled along the dirt trail. Sunlight speckled the ground through the willow and oak trees. Fragrances of sweet cut grass mixed with the musk of summer. Hidden cicadas hissed.
It felt familiar, yet also different.
The path curved sharply. Lost in his thoughts he hadn’t calculated right. Before he could stop the bike detached from his hand, and he flew briefly in the air. Face planted into the ground, “Maybe, I’ll wake up if I just stay here,” he pondered.
“No, it doesn’t work like that,” a voice chuckled near him.
Allen sat up, still dazed. Rubbing his eyes, he blinked repeatedly. “What is this place,” he asked the stranger, “and why do you have a table set up in the middle of nowhere?”
It was true. Upon lifting his face from the dirt he faced a young man sitting on a chair against a round wooden table.
The young man stood up, and offered a hand to Allen, “Why don’t you join me for a bit? You’re probably hungry, right?”
Suddenly, Allen became aware of an ache in his stomach. “I suppose.” Noticing there was only one chair, “But there’s only…”
A second chair appeared.
“You were saying,” the stranger smiled.
“How did that happen,” Allen took a seat across the stranger.
“Sometimes things appear at the last minute. After all, there’s no reason to give up in the beginning.” The stranger motioned toward the table, “Look down.”
A once plain table now decorated with cloth, two plates, and bowls of soup.
“Egg rolls and wonton soup,” Allen asked confused.
“You like them, don’t you?” The stranger bit off the tip of the egg roll, steam escaped.
“Yes, but it’s the middle of summer,” Allen shook his head.
“So, you only do things when it feels absolutely right.” He sipped some of his soup. “Seems like you live life too cautiously.”
“What do you mean by that,” Allen debated on his egg roll.
“Just that you might be missing out on things more important than society’s norms. That’s all.” He finished eating his egg roll.
Encouraged by the wisdom shared with him, Allen ate his food. His stomach and his spirit lifted. Sure, it was hot outside, and his food was hot inside. But why let these things matter to him as much as it did.
“There’s always ice water,” the stranger clinked his glass against Allen’s. “What is provided to you, even if it isn’t what you expect, don’t take it for granted. And never forget Allen, even in the scorching heat there will be times of refreshment.”
As the last drop left Allen’s glass, the table, plates, glasses, and the stranger disappeared.
Allen was left alone with his bike once more.
Wind whistled against the trees. Swinging one leg over the bike, Allen stopped. Chills crept through him.
“Oh, no!” Allen forgot.
He forgot the reason why he was running.
The ground began shaking beneath him. He could feel a fiery breath prick his neck.
It was Big Foot!
There was nowhere to go. His knees buckled like jelly.
Before Big Foot could take one step farther, and do who knows what, a little girl run forward.
She looked about four years old.
“STOP!” Her yell echoed throughout the woods. Birds flew from their nestled homes.
“What are you doing,” Allen shakily whispered.
Placing her hands on her hips, “I’m Adventure girl,” she proclaimed with a beaming grin.
“That’s not grammatically correct,” Allen hissed, “and what does that matter?!”
“He’s nothing,” she pointed to Big Foot. “I has my magic rope!” She revealed an unclenched fist to Allen.
“That’s…that’s not rope,” he glared, “that’s string!”
She shook her head fiercely, “No, it’s not. Don’t you have magination?”
“You mean, imagination,” Allen asked, worried this conversation was taking too long.
“That’s what I said, magination!” She turned toward the towering beast. “Be gone, you!” Throwing her string on top of Big Foot, a low growl escaped his lips as he snarled at Allen.
“I’m doomed,” Allen looked toward the sky.
Closing his eyes, he waited for the end to come near.
And he waited.
And he waited some more.
“Oh, you must be wishing hard for something.” Allen heard her say. He opened his eyes to see her pointing at the blue cloudless sky.
Big Foot, indeed, disappeared. Allen looked around speechless.
“You should really wait till night time.” The little girl continued, “That’s when the best wishes are made like a quiamond in the sky.”
“A what..” Allen held a laugh, “you mean diamond?”
“That’s what I said,” she smiled.
“I guess that was some magic string… I mean rope,” Allen began to say, but as he turned to face her, she, like the stranger, was gone.
Scratching his head, “Today has been so weird.” He picked up his bike and began to ride once more.
The path he was on now traveled past a river. The air grew slightly cooler, as some pink clouds rolled in against a golden sunset. Crickets began to chirp.
And Allen began to hear guitar music.
It sounded familiar and new at the same time. He had yet to pick up a guitar, yet he knew which chords were being strung.
Allen slowed down his pedaling and began to look at the world around him. Stars began shining, and the night drew closer.
He had forgotten his confusion. He forgot about the door he walked through. He simply was a part of this world now.
The door to Allen’s childhood began to close, but a new door in which Allen would be the one imparting lessons to the old and young was just beginning.
This is what happens when I watch a number of episodes from, “The Twilight Zone,” a show my dad introduced me to when I was little.
My dad will get these references. When I was growing up, he took me out to Chinese restaurants. He made me believe Big Foot was chasing our car when we traveled on country roads. He taught me endurance to keep doing what you love, which for me is my writing, just like for my dad is his guitar music.
He turns 60 this year, and no one would know it. As much as we grow up when we become adults, my dad has also taught me to never let your imagination, and your childhood die.
There are some parts of our lives that should always stay alive and vivid.
It may be a cold, snowy December, but it could be a summer Wonderland in your heart.
Happy Birthday, Dad!