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 Larry's Kiss of Magic

 Gretchen Yell

"Come along Larry, get out of here!" his mother screamed. Panels on the house flew miles away; the family's couch no longer rested inside. Larry's only belongings blew from the small house -- as the wind screeched -- ears bled and tears soared distant in the wind. 

"Larry, Larry! Come here!" his mother panicked, her face grew in tension, "Larry, where are you?"

. . . Only the wind howled back.

Larry lost his family the night of the tornado, the tornado that went down in history for northern Minnesota. The unlikelihood of a tornado, more or less, a deadly one, which surprised the nation. Destruction expanded all across the land; this evil mystical force killed the innocence of the forest's magic.

The forest was Larry's refuge, he had nowhere else to turn, every member of his family: lost. He started independent life at age twelve, just old enough to feed himself and pave a new lifestyle. On his own, he grew lonely but had to ignore his weakness. He had to find shelter, feed himself, and build fires . . .

The fire glowed with passion. Larry Joe found a hidden beauty deep in the forest, as the magic illuminated; he captured the magic's mysterious essence. 

He had a crippled body with sunken wrinkles. An arch overtook his back, there was stiffness in his grasp, and there was a drag in his saunter; but he still was able to find himself in nirvana. 

Although weak and old, the art he painted replicated his happy soul, even through the hard times in his life. Painting was Larry's escape.

Larry hated living within the very nature that killed his parents when he was young. He promised he would never let nature take his life like it did his family's. "God damn you," he swore at the forest. 

Then an unexpected wind, similar to the tornado, struck Larry down -- so strong he couldn't stand up. His body convulsed, his eyes twitched and transformed to a bloodshot color. The wind struck his throat -- his voice, and just like his family -- suddenly disappeared. In complete shock, Larry laid on the hard soil; he tried to 

speak . . .no sound came out. From that moment on, his life continued with only his own inner-thoughts. 

Payback, the evil forest hated Larry and hated that he survived against its own will. He suffered greatly, but then one day he sat on a tree trunk watching a butterfly fly freely and he questioned why he couldn't live in the same freedom that this butterfly seemed to have. That's when it struck him: he noticed the danger within the forest, but if he were to seek its kindness, like this butterfly did, then the forest's harshness wouldn't affect him. 

He learned how to grasp onto the hidden magic deep within the evil forest by following a butterfly's example; he had to forgive and forget that nature killed his childhood life. 

            Larry cooked his dinner over the fire's searing blaze. The golden wicks jumped across the dark sky as if they were trying to take grasp of the magic, which Larry held. "Uhh!" Larry exclaimed as the hot ash torched his skin. The grunt was an incomplete sound of how he felt, because the words were incapable of coming out, due to the violent wind long ago.

            Next to the fire was a table with brushes, paper, and paints that Larry used for his painting. He sat outside every morning to paint a forest scene with sunrays peering through the trees, animals that filled the forest floor. Smooth strokes, he repeated the rhythm of the wind's howl, one could say that Larry found excessive hope in the face of death. 

            The trees shifted all around in the woods; they too were in search of the mysterious magic. The treetops constantly moved and veered away from the wind, trying to escape the evil force that overtook the forest. A constant battle: during the day and night.

Larry understood the magic filling the woods that was hidden. He lived in the center of the magic within a small hut. Larry was able to survive the somber forest with his inner strength. 

            Larry's fire glistened in a deep dangerous red of the devil. The rabbit he would eat, burned right through the heart, as a stranger of the magical kingdom. 

A group of three investigators were searching for the hidden Larry Joe in the woods. They all had an invisible force that slapped their faces with every forward step, it stung, like as if a fire spat at their faces. The branches flew with the rapid wind, and a family of rabbits ran crazily about from the fright of the three people, who all had horns o top of their skulls. They worked for the government; their job was to find trespassers that invaded exclusive national parks. Reports came to the government about Larry's whereabouts, and by law, they had to search him out and force him to go to a rehabilitation clinic for professional help.

            "This place is filthy," complained the biggest of the investigators, Taren. "One can just imagine what this man will be like."

            "Yeah, I'm sure he'll be like a monster. He'll have the red in his eyes, horns on his head, fire on his back, and a pitchfork in his hands; just like Death himself," said the strongest of them all, Jared.

            An evil loud chuckle arouse through the forest. The investigator's presence was known, the animals still ran around frantically to find the sweet taste of the latent magic.

            "Oh, most totally. He'll probably be strange, how long has he been living in these woods?" Sarah asked in a joking manner.

            "I heard his legend; he moved here in 1974 and hasn't been in touch with the modern world since then, and -- ," Jared paused because he smelled a campfire.

            "And?" Sarah asked.

            The smell had a death sense to it, it wasn't a pleasant odor but the investigators seemed to be fine with that, as if right at home. Then there was a thick smoke that spread around causing a gray dreary look. They could hear the harsh crackling from the fire, the popping sound screamed out in horror.

            "I wonder who that could be," Sarah said in a puzzled tone.

            "Larry Joe," all the three investigators answered in a crude whisper.

            Taren, Jared, and Sarah ran towards the fire with strong steps. An evil grin appeared on their faces, as if they were hunting some innocent animal.

            "Let's go get him," Taren murmured.

            Sarah and Jared looked at each other, and nodded. 

            "You betcha!" Sarah responded

            The fire intensified to an angrier red and popped louder while the rabbit cooked to a crisp; it laid face down on a cross-structure.

Larry Joe was painting peacefully, not disturbed by the fire's intensity. The loathsome situation was accompanied with the strong magic that was invisible to the ignorant. 

            Taren cleared his voice to question, "are you Larry Joe?" and he examined the hut 200 feet away from them. "We are investigators here to get you help, for a normal lifestyle."

            Larry didn't answer or show any type of gesture, he just looked at the three like they were dumb.

            "Are you Larry Joe," he asked again, but there wasn't an answer from him, "are you Larry Joe?" Taren began to become aggressive and his eyes turned scary crimson. 

            "We are going to investigate your house, and Sarah will stay out here with you," Jared told the wrinkly man.

            They scrambled through the house in hopes to find some type of identification for the strange man sitting by the fire. Objects were thrown vigorously about, smashing with an unpleasant clamor. 

            An expression of worry came to Larry's face as if when he stared deep into the fire, he realized the cruelty of humans. Reality hurt, Larry's soul fell -- crushed -- his heart didn't beat in rhythm and his eyes couldn't focus. All of this caused Larry to break down; he couldn't function normally because he felt very sad and upset. It was the first time he felt pain since he was a child when his family died; he didn't want to revisit that sadness. Then with his large innocent eyes, he turned to look at the red that was embedded in Sarah's eyes. 

His pure soul was scratched by this upcoming tragedy.

            The men ran out of the once before peaceful house, to get a hold of Larry. A new air swam into the door when it swung, as if it were trying to fight back against the investigator's evil presence. The magic vanished, Larry's paintbrush dropped on the hard soil.

            "Larry, you are to come with us! Do you understand? Do you understand? This is not a plea but an order," Jared said as if he were God. 

            Sarah and Taren grabbed firmly around Larry's thin arms to pick him up. Larry stumbled down.

            "You are going to get help from Clearwater Rehab clinic, to be normal," Jared said. Then he said in a softer tone to Taren and Sarah, "well, as normal as he could ever be."

            The investigators handcuffed Larry and tied his feet tightly with a thick rope. They found a wagon beside the hut so they threw him into it for the journey back to the vehicle.

            Sarah took some of Larry's clothes, paintbrushes, paints, and canvases for his personal use at the clinic. While she held them closed within a fabricated bag, Larry yearned, the same desire he used to find the forest's hidden magic. 

            The fire waved in never ending swirls, and out formed a monster with lowered eyebrows and protruding lips. It was a virtuous red excreting from the center out. The smoke thickened with a poisoning smell to it.

            "Hugh . . .hugh," Larry moaned.

            Larry awakened in a white and cold room; the only color came was in the corner with a pot of flowers. Larry did not like the room; it was too ghostly for him and it had a deadly stench to it. The only beauty that dwelled within the clinic were the delicate pink, orange, and yellow flowers.

            "Knock, knock," said a lady in a nurse's dress, with brown flowing hair, and a perfect silhouette. "Hello Larry, welcome to Clearwater; I hope you had a splendid sleep. I will be your personal nurse," she said as she was opening the shades. "I'll be around whenever you need someone to chat with or if you need any help. I've been assigned to help you rebuild your strength during your visit . . . oh by the way, my name is Kathryn," she said with an honest smile.

            Larry smiled back and he nodded, his eyes had a spark to them. He found it surprising that he became full of bliss, while enclosed in a bleak surrounding. Larry felt the nature that was in Kathryn's heart, he felt as if he could paint of this magic. 

            "Good morning Larry," Kathryn said on the second day. "Like I said before, I'll be here everyday, working with you. After breakfast and getting you ready for the day, you have a meeting with one of the doctors who will diagnose you for different types of illnesses."

            Larry found Kathryn's skin to be as white as a daisy; her physique was small but it had largest beautiful living soul in nature. Kathryn lived in the forest's magic of the modern world that no one else knew of; even Larry couldn't find the magic she possessed in this advanced world. She was good.

            The relaxed atmosphere didn't seem important, but for Larry, this is what he was used to, he fully enjoyed it. Kathryn picked out his clothes for the day and helped dress him. She also served breakfast -- a muffin and a small bowl of cereal, which he ate at the little table in the corner of his room.

            "Hey Larry, I hope you like blueberry muffins. Also, just so you know, this cereal has special nutrients for good health," Kathryn said while she gently placed his breakfast on the table. She did her job with great care, even with the smallest of things.

            Larry smiled. Kathryn's eyes smiled back. Their subtle body language communicated a genuine understanding. 

            Kathryn helped dress Larry in comfortable sweatpants and a basic t-shirt for the day. As she put one of his arms through the shirt's sleeve, Larry's arm got pulled on too much, "ughh, ughh, owio," he groaned. 

            "Oh my! Larry, I'm so sorry. Are you all right? Oh my gosh, let me massage your arm for a bit." She said in complete panic, her eyes were wide in fear at the thought that she could have seriously hurt him. 

            Larry didn't respond, besides some more grunts and moans. He looked up at Kathryn with teary eyes; his arm real hurt. His sad look set Kathryn even more in a panic, she felt terrible and worried about the pain he was in.

            "Larry, how much pain are you in? Could you raise your hands, ten fingers for your arm being extremely painful, and one for just a little pain."

            Larry raised eight fingers.

            "Ok, I will quickly grab an ointment and a warm washcloth. It will only take me a second. Just stay still. I'm so sorry Larry," then Kathryn quickly ran off to grab the things that she needed.

            As Larry sat in pain, he thought about Kathryn. He understood that she over-pulled his arm only by accident -- he didn't want her to think that he was upset at her. In fact, he really liked Kathryn; he could tell that there was something special about her. Her gentle mannerisms as she spoke to Larry insisted that she truly cared and respected him. 

            Kathryn returned with the ointment that would soothe the pain. Then she slowly gave Larry a massage -- which helped relax the muscle. Her touch instantly calmed Larry; her soft fingers seemed to transfigure some unexplained kindness onto Larry. Larry grinned. Her touch reminded him of the magic deep in the forest, both mysterious but with a loving mood about it.

Larry's hope vanished as the days dragged on; he became increasingly weak, and he couldn't grasp the magic that once held him together in the forest. Larry would only lie on his bed during the day, frowning with great agony. His paintbrushes were no longer being used; they just laid on the nightstand with old crusted paint. There also was a canvas that Larry started but then quit working on; he never left a work unfinished before. 

"Larry come on, you're a wonderful person, please paint," Kathryn said for encouragement. She did this strategically, knowing that some motivation would slowly lift his spirit. 

He painted; Kathryn sat beside him in silence, Larry's perfect setting.

"Wow, that's beautiful Larry," she said as Larry advanced on a painting with a scene of a castle surrounded in a mystical forest. Kathryn sat there watching him paint his masterpiece, not much was said -- this was a time of relaxation.

Kathryn sat with Larry everyday for about an hour to watch him paint. He painted true genius pieces of work. As time went on though, Kathryn noticed that he no longer had the interest he used to have since he first arrived at the clinic. He would paint things out of ordinary for his style. 

Larry had always been a physically frail man, but in spirit he was the wealthiest of mankind. The rehab clinic concealed his essence and he began dying a slow horrible death. Kathryn, who understood Larry, realized that the clinic was not a place for him. With all the time they had spent together in the clinic, she learned about the type of person he was, and it also changed her life.

            "You don't realize, but I think Larry must go home. It's the only place he can be himself in order . . .to stay alive," Kathryn said in defense for Larry against her boss.

            "No, it's against the law! We can't, we are bound by the government's orders, and if he went back he wouldn't survive by himself anyway," the manager said in an angry tone.

            "That's where you're wrong! I have been with him every single day for the last several months and I understand his problem. He must go back to the forest! Have you seen his paintings lately, they are messier and darker than ever."

            "But how can you know, he cannot tell you these words: he can't talk. Even you agree; he's in a bad state. That it is proven through his paintings; well, I should say his lack of paintings. Kathryn, don't worry about it, death comes to everyone at some

point . . . its just part of a bigger plan." The boss said with a boiling face. He looked as devilish as the three investigators did when they took away Larry's soul. 

            "No, no, no! Okay, the reason he is painting poorly is because of us. We are the ones killing him, this whole place is destroying him; and you won't stop it. I believe that is called murder. If we returned him he would be a strong man again. It's as if the woods have something hidden that we don't have here in Clearwater, I don't know what it is, but it keeps him alive. Sir . . .he is depressed," Kathryn said. 

             "No, and that is final Kathryn."

            "But -- " 

            "No, say more, and you're fired! Now go and do your job, take care of Larry Joe, I'm just sure he's screaming for you." The boss said in an evil undertone. He slammed the door as his temperature rose.

            Kathryn stood in silence without knowing what to do. After some serious thought, she then decided to join Larry in his room to help out and give him some company.

            Larry sat on the edge of his bed and painted in an ungraceful manner. His hands were curved in a painful position and he slumped over like a monster trapped in a fire. Rehab had put him in a dreadful situation.

            Finally, Larry was able to complete a painting at Clearwater; the picture was of an old man screaming and holding his cheeks together with his fragile palms. The portrait was identical to Larry except for it looked weaker. Kathryn then took a closer look at the canvas and also found a girl standing in the background with brown hair with a hopeful smile: she cried.

            She comprehended how Larry felt and that he was dying. His soul needed to escape Clearwater Rehab Clinic. In this painting Larry was telling her that he had to leave, and with Kathryn's strong spirit, he knew she could do it.

            Kathryn was trapped between her morals and the clinic's rules. She cried out in distress, for the devil would bring pain on her if she did not listen and she could lose her job if she helped Larry escape. But the magic she possessed couldn't be controlled, so, she began packing Larry's belongings. Larry sparkled, within his wounded smile, because of Kathryn's actions. He was a teacher, and she learned the meaning of essence in life through him.

            After Kathryn's working hours, she snuck into Larry's room. His stuff was already packed into her car and she had to walk Larry there.

            "Okay Larry, I'll walk to the car with you. Remember that we must be quiet so others won't hear. There are still some people on duty and they are currently down the west wing, so we will be fine," said Kathryn with caution.

            Then as they advanced to the door Larry suddenly lost control: he fell to the ground in the hallway. Kathryn couldn't help him in time. He slammed against the hard cement. 

"Will you help me with this," Kathryn and Larry heard, "didn't you hear that, it sounded like someone hit the ground pretty hard. Maybe we should check it out," a nurse said to another nurse about 30 feet away from Larry and Kathryn. A door creaked open by the two nurses; Larry and Kathryn froze in fear. 

            "Nah, that will be all right," replied the other nurse as they turned back into the room.

             Larry and Kathryn's heart shook hard from fright. They scrambled to the car right outside the entrance. When they were inside the car, Kathryn raced through town with her goal in mind: the hut in the forest. They sped through: stop signs and red lights to get Larry home in time so he could regain his strength.

            Once they arrived at the edge of the frightful woods, Larry and Kathryn advanced in the direction toward his hut. With Larry's first step, he smiled; Larry had connected with the forest's magic. Larry and Kathryn walked with power from that moment on until they reached to his home safely. 

            The fire pit contained no fire but an opaque smoke. It had died and relieved Larry's weakness, there was to be no more evil.

            Kathryn went into the house with Larry to bring his belongings.

            Kathryn watched him with grateful eyes. As the student, she said, "thank you Larry. You have taught me so many new words with your world. You will always be in my heart. Good bye Larry Joe," Kathryn said confidently.

            Larry then quickly grabbed her wrist and dragged her into his hut to show her his most cherished painting. It was of a daisy blooming gorgeously in the sunlight. Larry gave it to Kathryn as a gift, and then kissed her on her cheek as a sign of friendship.

            The kiss gave a gentle shock with the essence of magic.