Imagination is a curious thing. As a child, I imagined all sorts of things. Being an olympic gymnast as I hung upside down on my swing set. Footsteps crunching in the leaves outside my bedroom window. Tornados lifting my house off its foundation. Maybe when life isn't as exciting as we'd like, our imagination decides to juice things up a bit. I never thought about whether or not we outgrow our imagination. But for me, apparently not.
A few weeks ago I assure you that I wasn't thinking my life was lacking in excitement. In fact, I welcome calm days that come and go on an even keel. The day I'm writing about, from the beginning, looked to be one of those kinds of days. A little work. A little relaxation. It was a Tuesday, and that evening was my weekly bible study. I was a couple of days behind on my study, so I decided to head into town early, pick up my favorite cold drink (large diet coke with extra ice--always from Sonic because they have the good ice), and drive to my favorite spot in the local park just a few miles out of town.
Now let me tell you about my favorite spot. It's at the far end of the park, away from the childrens' payground--kind of in a remote area. When I have extra time to kill, I frequently go there to read or just to enjoy the quiet. Sometimes I get out and sit at a picnic table--other times I open the sunroof on my car, turn off the engine and gaze up into the big old oak tree I park under. The river is right beside me, and the small dam creates the wonderful sound of water rushing over it. Ahhh. Nice, huh?
This particular Tuesday was exceptional. A cool breeze and only the birds interrupted the silence. I opened the sunroof and the windows. I opened my bible and my study guide. I dug out my pen and my reading glasses. I took a big swig of soda and was just about ready to begin when it happened.
A van approached slowly coming down the road to where I was parked. It was a maroon "Good Times Van". Remember those? It had a funky design on the side. If you've never been inside a "Good Times Van", let me just tell you about them. They are big enough inside to carry a small nation--therefore certainly big enough in which to hide a body. At this point, you might be wondering why my mind would go there. In all honesty, I questioned that too--even trying to pass it off as the resurfacing of the much overactive imagination I had as a child. But then this quote popped into my mind. "Just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you". On most days, I am not paranoid. The double negative is a positive. Someone was out to get me. Imagination is fully engaged.
As the van got closer, I could tell the driver was a woman. Even with her windows rolled up, I could hear the sound of a pounding bass coming from her stereo. I watched her approach, telling myself she would probably just turn around when she got to the end of the road. She didn't. Instead she turned in and parked right behind me---not beside me, but behind me in such a way that if I were to back out, I would have to carefully manuever so as not to hit her back bumper. I held my breath and then what I'd feared might happen happened. She killed the engine. Then she rolled down her window. From this I deduced that she would be staying for awhile. For just a split second in my mind I could see Horatio, removing his sunglasses and saying to me "Good job, kiddo."
Inside my head, music started playing. It wasn't the kind of happy tune you'd expect to be humming on such a lovely day. It was kind of like the theme from "Jaws". Ominous. Yes, that's the best word. Ominious. I carefully turned my key enough to roll up my windows. I had a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach as I heard my car doors click into the "lock" position. I wondered if she'd heard the click, too.
Fortunately, my side mirror was in the perfect position for me to keep an eye on her without her knowing it. I saw her cigarette smoke curling out her open window. I pretended to read. She was on her cell phone. Was she calling to let someone know the coast was clear and she had secured her position--telling them I was all alone? She began to apply makeup. Nice cover-up, but this old gal has seen that episode of CSI. Clearly she was using her mirror to look at me! She was covering up for what was about to go down. What happened next nearly sent me into a panic.
Coming down the same road as the "Good Time Van", another van approached slowly. This one was white and unmarked. Then I understood. Of course I would be taken in an unmarked van because it couldn't be easily traced. Once the white van made it's left turn, I would be completely blocked in. All of the sudden the "Good Time Van" begins to honk over and over. They had really planned this out. The Good Times Van was to be the distraction while the white van would grab me. It was then out of the corner of my eye I saw movement--it was a child running toward the "Good Time Van". The white van made a u-turn and sped away. Or was it just driving at a normal speed? I was confused.
Had the child foiled the plan? As I checked my mirrors, it appeared that the woman inside the Good Times Van actually knew the child. The hug was my first clue. I think I heard him call her "mom". The child got into the van, and just as slowly as the van had invaded my peaceful little place in the park, it left. Once again, quiet returned. I looked at my clock. Only 10 minutes had passed. In 10 minutes time I had gone from "all is normal" to "kidnapped" to "all is normal again". Ten minutes. I breathed a deep sigh of relief. As I looked at my reflection in the rear view mirror, I noticed that all the excitement had added a healthy "blush" to my skin tone! I think it improved my circulation.
Hey, don't judge me. I'm pretty sure that given the same set of circumstances, most anyone's mind would have gone to the same place mine went. Yeah, I'm pretty sure. Quit looking at me that way! Besides, it's nice to know that at an age when I've outgrown my jeans and my ability to hang upside down on a swing set, that I still haven't outgrown my imagination. Here's to occasional bouts of paranoia.