Tuesday, March 28, 2006

BC: Think A Writers’ Conference Can’t Kill You? – Part 1

Next month Mount Hermon writers’ conference rolls around again. I’ll be there, on critique team, and teaching one of the fiction mentor tracks. More importantly, I will be walking. And lucid.

Not the case three years ago, when I was suffering from Lyme disease, and was only getting worse despite treatment. This five-mile-a-day runner was reduced to standing only a few minutes at a time, tottering with a cane. House-bound. In lots of pain. Sensitive to light. Unable to think clearly and stuttering in my speech. I thought Mt. Hermon was lost to me that year, but then I had a remission. As it turned out, it would be very short—just long enough for the conference—and then I would really plummet. But God had His plans. I would be prayed for there.

I would also, thanks to a few well-meaning friends, nearly meet my death.

I knew I’d have to stay in my room most of the time to rest. And I still couldn’t walk any distance—even on level ground. Mt. Hermon with all its hills? Forget it. So I got myself a handy-dandy electric cart thingy, and I was all set. My stuttering was down considerably, so maybe I wouldn’t sound like a complete idiot. Neither would I be the sharpest tool in the shed.

The motorized carts have to be unmotorized when you need to roll one without turning it on. It’s a simple flip of a switch. My husband turned the switch off so he could roll the thing to the back of our car, lift it up and put it inside. I knew when I reached MH I’d have to ask someone to take it out of the car for me.

My adventure begins.

Starts out fine, but the hour’s drive exhausts me. I arrive, already wondering what I’ve gotten myself into.

Soon as I drive in to park at MH I spot two editor pals, Nick Harrison and Terry Whalin, who, like good gents, lift the cart out of the car for me. Then along comes two ACFW pals—DiAnn Mills and Kathleen YBarbo. They can see I’m spent. They say they’ll help me check in and get my bags into my room, where I can rest. I’m set to be on a main floor so I can drive my cart right into the room.Great to have friends to help. All seems to be going fine and dandy. Except that the cart won’t work. I climb on, turn the key, and nothing happens. I don’t know why. Think the thing has broken. Lyme-brain here has completely forgotten about flipping the switch to re-motorize it.

Oh, man, now what to do? An hour away from home, on that very hilly terrain, and no motorized cart. I can’t walk three steps on that slanted ground.

Everyone except DiAnn and Kathleen has disappeared at this point, checking into their rooms or whatever. Most folks haven’t yet arrived. The conference grounds look pretty deserted.

Well, first things first. DiAnn and Kathleen say they’ll get me to my room. From there I’ll call the place I rented the cart from—maybe they can tell me how to fix the thing. My room is across the street and down a hill. A good size hill. I’m thinkin’ Mt. Everest. Wonderful D. and K. say they’ll just roll me down the hill to my room, then one of them will drive my car around and unload all my stuff for me.

Sounds like a plan. So. I’m on the cart. Holding my cane, which I will need when I get off said cart in my room. D. and K. will hold the cart in back to keep me from rolling too fast.

They push me across the street. Which, of course, is level.

Apparently this gives my helpers a false sense of security.We reach the hill.

My mind is a fuzzy on how this happens. But somehow D. and K. decide that K. can handle this operation alone. D. will go ahead and drive my car.

K. and I start down the hill.

All goes well at first. Then we start to pick up speed. Boy. We are really picking up speed.

It suddenly hits me how utterly helpless I am. If this cart gets out of control, I don’t even have the leg strength to put my feet down and attempt a Fred Flintstone stop.

Faster still. Oh, man, we are honkin!

This all happens in a matter of seconds. I look over my shoulder, opening my mouth to tell K. to slow me down a little. “Kathleen—”She’s not there.

I take in the terrorizing truth in a split second. The cart has slipped from her hands. She’s running to catch up, a look of abject horror on her face, and she's not going to make it. Not at all.

I pull farther away.The wheels churn to warp speed.

I swivel back toward the hill before me.

At the bottom on a bench sits a man, watching my deathly spectacle with perfect calm. Like he’s waiting for a bus. I am headed straight for him.


The cart pulls farther away--and rockets down the hill.

~ Posted by Brandilyn Collins
Seatbelt Suspense™


At 11:06 AM, Blogger Lynette Sowell said...

Um. Kathleen is my Mount Hermon mentor this year. :)

At 11:46 AM, Blogger Southern-fried Fiction said...

NO FAIR! You can't leave us there. You and your seatbelt suspense! LOL Okay, when do we get to hear the rest of the story? Do I have get Kathleen to play Paul Harvey?

At 12:15 PM, Blogger ~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Oh, Missy Ann, suddenly you CAN read my suspense, huh? What happened to Your Wimpiness?

Come back tomorrow to see if I survived.

~ Brandilyn

At 1:13 PM, Blogger Ernie W. said...

Okay, it took me a whole minute to let go of my chair. Thank God for friends.

At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, can I relate to your story. I've been in a manual wheelchair for most of my life. Once some friends and I went to Maine to visit L.L.Bean. We chatted on the side of a street which turned out to be a steep, long hill (3 or 4 blocks). I announced I was going down the hill by myself, for the fun of it. As I picked up speed and had no way to stop the forward movement, I suddenly realized I had to pass through an intersection. If a car crossed my path, my friends would have to scrape me off the street. I could do nothing but pray for no traffic. When I reached the bottom of the hill and stopped, I looked back up to see my friends rooted in the same spot -- racing down to help me. I later learned that instead of expressing horror, they laughed so hard one of them wet her pants. Our experiences may be similar, but our friends are sure different. :-)
Barbara Thompson

At 10:51 PM, Blogger Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

Ya' know...Brandilyn, I knew you'd leave us right there...ready to turn the page...Auugghhh!!!!

I hope you post right after midnight:-)

At 11:51 PM, Blogger Missy Tippens said...

Oh my gosh! I just choked on my spit laughing so hard! And now my son thinks I'm a lunatic.

I can't wait to hear the rest. :)



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