Worthless Old Fool
by Katie Did

    Ada's eyes squinted open.  She lazily rolled her head to the left and peeked at the green, illuminated numbers on the clock radio.  5:46 am.  Fourteen minutes left to lay and enjoy that wonderful world devoid of cares and worries.  Not that Ada was the type to worry over much, she wasn't, ...not anymore. There was a time, long before, when even the tiniest of things threatened her peace of mind.  That was prior to becoming a children's writer, twenty-seven years ago.  And even though thousands of stories lay in dusty disarray about the two-bedroom condo, still neatly tucked in their original rejected envelopes, the thought of quitting was only a distant whisper.  A whisper that would vanish, as it always did, when the idea for yet another wonderful story would escape the dream world and fill her semi-conscious mind.

    Ada lay perfectly still, allowing the remnants of last nights echoing pictures to fill her mind, but none came.  She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and tried again. ...


    Every nerve in Ada's body convulsed to attention as the radio blared its preset announcement.

    Ada reach over and slapped the twelve-minute snooze bar.  "The 29th!" she exclaimed out loud.  "Today's my birthday!"  Just how old she was, wasn't clear. Fifty. Fifty something.

    "Let's see," she began to calculate.  "I was 54 when Alicia Mc Gowen won her court battle to play on the boys, high school, baseball team...and 56 when Jason Alien won his to wear his half shaved head at Eisenhower Middle School."

    Tilling her head up and slightly to the right she continued to cipher.  ..."And then I was 57 when eight year old Anthony Oren became an ordained minister at the Custer County, Christ The King Baptist Church."

    Ada's intense love for children and their fresh, young, pliable minds, coupled with her inability to physiologically bear them, left her with the comforting habit of associating their struggles and accomplishments with her birthdays. It gave her something to celebrate. It was also what inspired her to write.

    "And I was 59…" Ada's expression of wonderment, which always veiled her face when she thought of her 'Birthday Children', suddenly changed to sadness, "when little Miguel Aranda was abducted from his front yard.  Good grief!  The child has been missing a whole year!"

    She threw back the worn cotton guilt, swung her legs over the edge of the bed, and slid her feet into fuzzy, raccoon house slippers. Her years of thinking and seeing a child's world left her with many juvenile accessories.  She felt it helped to keep her mind young and alive.

    As she pasted her 'Barney' toothbrush, the realization of her age exploded with brutal clarity. "SIXTY YEARS OLD!! ...Sixty years old??"  She stared at the frosty haired woman in the mirror.  The generous squirt of bubble gum flavored paste tumbled from the brush and circled down the drain. Ada leaned into the mirror and proudly exposed a mouth full of healthy teeth. In a frenzy she rummaged through the drawer for her hairbrush.  Finding it, she hastily whipped the sleep tossed snags from her head and leaned in again and inspected the density.  Seeing that it appeared as thick as always, she whirled around and dove into the empty tub.  On her hands and knees she untangled only two hairs from the drain guard.  Stepping out of the tub, she sat down on the commode and thought about 60. It didn't sound so bad, and it was actually quite an attractive number, as numbers went.

    The 'snooze' was up and hard rock music blasted her ruffled nerves.  She liked keeping abreast of what kids listened to these days, but not just this second.

    "SHUT UP!!" she yelled bitterly as she turned off the alarm. Why was she so angry?  Today was like any other.  She would make the coffee, retrieve the morning paper and sit down at her word processor.  That's the way it always was, and today was no different.

    But it was different!  Something kept chanting 'DEFEAT' in the back of her mind. ..."Cry uncle ...cry uncle, and I'll let you up"...  The words from one of her stories flooded in totally out of context. "I won't cry uncle, I WON'T!" Ada stormed.   She marched into the kitchen and began to make the coffee. She glanced over her shoulder to the 'Never-Never' plant, which sat on the desk. Its constant vigil and ever-present whispers inspired Ada to NEVER, NEVER give up.  ...Today it looked a bit wilted.

    Ripping open the front door she glanced around for the paper.  Finding it, she tucked it under her arm, stepped back into the front room and slowly closed the door. The bright, morning sunlight must have been playing tricks on her eyes, for it seemed all that would focus were the multitudes of unpublished manuscripts which lay haphazardly about. Two years ago, she had stopped submitting them. Twenty-five years worth of rejections were enough for anyone.

    Ada calmly observed the fact that it was those years which ended in five and zero, that were responsible for the over sensitive magnification of life's failures. ..."Oh yes!  That was such a wonderful story"... The haunting praises of the children of her close friends fleeted past her mind like the past twenty-five years.

    Of all of Ada's stories, her favorite was the very first one, "Angel Walker's".  It was about a young girl named Lucy and an angel named Katie.  It depicted divine intervention in the life of a child, hopelessly lost in a world of negativity and sometimes overwhelming odds.

    After nine months of turning her soul inside out, the ending of "Angel Walkers" had filled her with so much hope and excitement, she was compelled to sincerely announce, "If this book touches only one child with its message of a very active upper world of celestial creations, then it will have served its purpose."

    There was only one child who had read the story, and Ada had never met him in person.  He was the nephew of her best friend Donna.  She had mailed him the manuscript for his much needed thirteen-year-old opinion.  He gave rave reviews saying, "It was a real page turner."  The crisp, yellowing manuscript now lay somewhere in its rejected envelope, collecting dust.

    "When things go wrong, act as if."  Her own words of wisdom served to switch her into a mechanical mode.  She poured a cup of coffee and positioned herself at her desk. Usually on her birthday, she would type a letter to herself, including a momentous accomplishment of a child. But today there seemed to be nothing which lightened her spirit.  She whipped open the paper and desperately searched for something with which to associate March 29th.  She could find nothing. "Act as if...", she said again.  So, she began to type.

…Happy Birthday Ada, YOU WORTHLESS OLD FOOL!
    Unable to contain her anger any longer, she snapped upright, sending her chair tumbling over behind her.  In a rage, she pounded the keyboard with both fists.  As tears streamed down her cheeks she cried, "I HATE YOU!  YOU TOOK EVERYTHING I HAD TO GIVE AND RETURNED NOTHING!"

    All the years of inspiration which overflowed her stories, now flowed freely down her softly wrinkled face.  Writing was useless.  She sobbed until there were no more tears. Finally, she took a deep breath, wiped her eyes and said out loud to the 'Never-Never' plant, "Whatta ya say we just take the day off?"

    She glanced around the room. So what did one do, if not write?  Her moist gaze rested on the old Zenith console, which supported a multitude of aging, jilted submissions.   Perhaps the morning news with its reports of people and their situations, more disheartening than Ada's, would serve to pull her out of her self-pitying disposition.  She reached for the power knob and the television roared into action..."

    ..."Today we have with us Dr. Chad Thomason, the world renown scientist, and the discoverer of  TETRAGLYCINERTOPHIA, better known as TGC; the miracle drug responsible for reversing the early effects of mild to moderate mental retardation in children." The blurry vision of the early morning talk show host slowly grew crisp and clear as the ancient picture tube warmed...

    "Today he is here to explain to us how this miracle drug works, and also to share with us what it was like growing up on a farm in Missouri. `"Dr. Thomason, when do you feel was the first time you realized you were going to play such a dramatic roll in the survival of children all over the world?'"

    Ada backed slowly away from the set.  Her heart ached Terribly with the thought that his answer would only serve to make her life feel even more empty and worthless.  She was sure their long hours of study and research, the endless struggle and dedication to what they believed in were very similar indeed.  Yet here he stood with fame, fortune and a Nobel Prize, and here she sat with her miniscule retirement fund and a truckload of unpublished manuscripts. Ada felt the anger well up inside her again, and she gratefully directed it toward this middle-aged man on the screen in front of her.  Even though she had cried when she had read of his discovery, she was certain now that the universe had delivered an incredible gift to a very selfish, insincere man.  He was probably born to a wealthy family and given everything his spoiled little heart desired. Ada smugly nestled back into the comfort of her tattered, overstuffed couch and righteously awaited his haughty answer.

    …"Well, like you said, I was raised on a farm a few miles outside of Kansas City, Missouri.  As a child, I was most difficult to handle.  I fought everyone and everything.  It seems I spent most of my childhood literally locked in my bedroom.  That was the only way my parents were able to control me.  School was punishment to me.  I hated it and I was flunking most of my classes."

"But when I was thirteen years old, a friend of my aunt's mailed me a story she had written and asked for my opinion.  No one ever asked my opinion.  I was so flattered, I sat down and read for days.  You see, I couldn't read very well."

    "The story was magnificent.  I'll never forget the name of it. Angel Walkers.  It didn't change my life immediately, it kind of grew like a seedling planted in spring.  The concept portrayed within the story, sat on my rebellious, little brain for quite a while.  Katie, the angel in the story, filled my every waking thought for over a year.  She sort of woke me up to the fact that I was here for a reason.  Although I had no idea what that reason was, Katie gave me the strength and courage to seek it out."

    "I'm not even sure if the woman who wrote that story is still alive.  But if she is and if she's watching. I'd just like to say, `Thank you.  Because of you, millions of children throughout the ages will live happy, productive, independent lives. You once wrote a story about an angel, but in my heart I know, that angel was you.'"

    Ada sat dumbfounded.  She didn't hear the rest of the interview.  She didn't even hear the elevated volume of the television as it switched to a commercial. Slowly, a smile spread across her face.  She stood, walked to the TV and turned it off.  She went to her desk, flipped on her word processor, sat down and began to type…

     ..."Happy birthday, Ada"...


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