Out of Tune and Way Off Key

I know how it's supposed to go.
I heard all the songs. I memorized
The words and waited for them to come true.
That’s, after all, what love is supposed to do.

You came into my life, and the orchestra played.
But the tune was off key, at least to my ear.
You danced to the rhythm, keeping the beat
While I covered my ears and tripped over my feet.

I listened for violins and guitars and a flute.
Instead I got drums and banjos and horns that toot.
The rhythm and tempo and melody were all wrong.
But one thing I know; this is truly our song.


Written for One Shot Wednesday, hosted by One Stop Poetry.  Stop by and congratulate the One Stop team. They just won the 2011 Shorty Award in Art!


The Critic

So what say you, sir, of a muse
who speaks only when someone listens? 
Are her words then suspect,
making you wonder if she says them
just for someone else to hear? 
Is she naught but an actress who
performs only while an audience watches,
hands at the ready to clap? 

Oh, I hope not.


Written for Friday Flash 55, hosted here by G-Man.


Pandora and the Purple Monster


Written for One Shot Wednesday.


Magdalene Molly (Part 4)

This is Part 4 of a four-part story written for the 10th Daughter of Memory.

Magdalene Molly

Bridget drops the basket of wet clothes she is carrying toward the door to the yard.  She feels as though her insides are erupting. Beneath her skirt, her legs suddenly feel wet and she hears a faint splash.  She looks down to see a small puddle at her feet. 

Oh, no, I’m losin’ me baby, she thinks in panic.  Her Ma had lost three before their time came.  Not me too.

“Your babe is ready to be born, Bridget.  It’s time.”  Margaret, one of the other girls in the laundry, has left her station at the sink, and come to Bridget’s side.  “Come on with ye, lass.  I’ll take you to the birthin’ room.”

With Margaret walking beside her, holding her arm and whispering reassurances, Bridget walks slowly into the hall.  She has no sooner reached it than a pain sharp as a knife blade cuts her from the center of her back and around her belly to its far side.  She gasps loudly and doubles over, wondering if she has been sliced in two.

“Oh, Margaret, it hurts so much.  No one ever told me it would hurt so much.”

At that moment, Sister Nora turns the corner down hall and sees the two young women, one doubled over and falling to her knees, and the other struggling to hold her up.  She rushes to their side to help support Bridget.

“You labor has begun, child,” she says.  “You’ve no doubt plenty of time, bein’ as this is your first.  But let’s get you up to the birthin’ room.  Come along now.  Everythin’s goin’ to be fine.”


After what seems like an interminable trip, Bridget is settled into one of the beds upstairs.  She has never been in this room before.  Two of the beds are occupied by other girls.  As she looks on, a man she has never seen before comes in with Sister Agnes and Sister Clarice.  They surround the bed of one of the other girls, who is now screaming in pain, and draw a curtain.

Bridget listens to the activity behind the curtain for awhile and realizes that the man is a doctor.  She has been in the convent for five months and has never seen a doctor.  She’d thought that the nuns delivered the babies. 

The horrible screaming continues, but Bridget can no longer pay much attention to it.  Her pains have become more frequent, and as they have, they have become unbearable.  Soon enough, the only screaming she can hear is her own.

After hours of agony, she opens her eyes and sees Sister Nora at her side.  The nun lays a cool cloth on Bridget’s sweaty brow and gently takes her hand.  “It won’t be long now, Bridget Murphy.  I’ve sent for your young man.”

Her voice hoarse from screaming, Bridget strains to whisper a reply.  “Thank you, Sister.  May God bless ye for the goodness you have shown me and my baby.” 

“I lost my baby girl along with my future many years ago in the past, lass.  But I have always carried my daughter in my heart, and I imagined her to be just as you are.  You and your babe still have your futures ahead of you. I can do no less than offer you both a helpin’ hand into it.”  As she speaks, Sister Nora gives Bridget’s hand a reassuring squeeze. 

“Now get to work, girl.  You’ve a job to do.”


As if a curtain were drawing slowly back, light seeps into Bridget’s world.  The only things she is aware of besides the light are the sound of a baby’s lusty cry and the incredible pain she feels below her waist.  She opens her mouth to scream, but finds no voice.  She is too weak to make a sound.

The last thing she remembers is the squeeze of Sister Nora’s hand, and now she feels it again. 

“You’ve had yourself a wee lass, Bridget Murphy,” the nun whispers into Bridget’s ear, “and a strong young girl she is, too.”

A faint smile stretches Bridget’s parched lips, and she murmurs something in response.  Sister Nora leans down, putting her ear close to Bridget’s mouth, and says, “I didn’t hear you, darlin’.  What was that you said?”

“Her name is Molly.”


Sean sits on the bank of the river, watching a boat pass  He sees the fishermen aboard, milling around the deck readying their gear to fish once they’ve reached the open waters of the Irish Sea, but he doesn’t notice.  All his senses are focused on the grate beside him.   He smiles and thinks to himself, it won’t be long until I and my little family join Uncle Jimmy, who waits for us just down the road a bit.  And then we can begin our new life together.

The boat sounds its horn as it passes, and as the sound fades, Sean hears a tapping coming from the grate.  He jumps up and quickly pulls the grate aside.  He climbs down the ladder, nearly falling in his haste.

At the bottom, he sees Sister Nora standing with a swaddled babe in her arms.  He leans to peer into the darkness behind her, but there is no sign of Bridget.

“Sister?” he says, his voice raised in question.

The nun holds the little bundle out to him and he takes it into his arms.

“I’m so sorry, Sean.”

The meaning of what she is saying washes over him.  He stares at the nun, his eyes filling with tears.

“You must go now, Sean.  There will be time enough to grieve later.”  Sister Nora puts a hand on his back and urges him toward the ladder.

“Go.  Go.  This wee lass is dependin’ on you.  And oh, yes.  Bridget has named her Molly.”

The End

Magdalene Molly (Part 3): The Tunnel to Hope

This is Part 3 of a four-part story written for the 10th Daughter of Memory.

The Tunnel to Hope

Bridget hears Sister Nora’s sharp footsteps echoing in the hall, and quickly puts away her reveries. Taking up the iron, she turns back to the basket of clothes awaiting her attention. 

She pulls another pair of pants from the pile of laundry, and swipes her arm across her forehead to wipe the perspiration away again.  Between the hot black iron and the fireplace, it is stifling. The only relief she can hope for is a small breeze coming from the window overlooking the yard and the town beyond.  Her arm starts moving methodically once again as she gazes out at a boat going down the River Barrow in the distance, and her thoughts turn to Sean again.  One day we will sail across the sea to America and freedom…

“Bridget Murphy, come with me.”  Several sets of eyes turn to look at Sister Nora, standing in the doorway.  Yanked back into reality, Bridget puts down her iron and moves toward the nun, wondering why she is being singled out. 

When she reaches the door, Sister Nora spins on the heel of her stout black shoes, her habit flaring out slightly, and walks into the hall.  “Close the door behind you,” she commands over her shoulder.

Sister Nora leads the way, her back straight as a pitchfork handle, and Bridget falls into step behind her.

“Sister, where are we goin’, then?  Have I done somethin’ wrong?”

“Hold your tongue, Bridget Murphy,” the nun replies.  “ ‘Tis not yours to be askin’.”

As her face reddens, Bridget drops her eyes to the floor, and follows the Sister Nora meekly.  After many twists and turns through the cold stone corridors of the convent, they are in a section that Bridget has never seen before. 

“Keep up, then, girl. We don’t have all day.”

Bridget scurries forward, closing the gap that has widened between herself and the nun, her heart pounding harder with every step.  Kathleen’s words echo in her mind.  “Them what escapes this prison ends up spendin’ eternity in the ground outside the chapel door.”  She begins to pray, Dear God, please help me…, then stops, thinking herself the fool for looking toward heaven for help. 

The nun stops abruptly at a worn but sturdy-looking door.  She reaches beneath the folds of her scapular and withdraws a large key ring.  As she selects a large ornate key, she turns to Bridget and says in a low voice, “You are to say nothin’ to anyone, not even Kathleen – sure, and I’m knowin’ you two are thicker'n thieves – about what you will see today.  Are you understandin’ me, child?”


“I said, do you understand me?”

“Y-y-yes, ma’am.”  Bridget can’t keep the quiver from her voice.  Though terrified, another thought has begun to creep into her mind.  Did I hear a hint of kindness – kindness! – in Sister’s voice?   She gives herself a mental shake, telling herself that it is just her imagination.  Her thinking must be addled by fear.

Sister Nora works the big key into the key hole of the old door, and turns it.  The answering Click echoes in the empty hall.  She swings the door open to reveal nothing but blackness.  Bridget’s heart leaps in her chest.  Aye, and this could be the door to Hell, she thinks in terror.

Sister Nora reaches inside the gloomy space to take a lantern that hangs on an iron hook on the wall just inside the doorway.  From the depths of her habit she produces a match.  Striking the match on the stone wall beside her, she lights the lantern and adjust the flame.  Holding it up slightly to encircle them in a pool of light, she starts forward.

“Be watchin’ your step, lass.  These steps are near as old as time, and could be treacherous to you, what with your condition and all.”

In front of the nun, Bridget sees stone steps leading downward into the darkness.

“But where are we goin’?”

“Hush, now, and come along.  Sure and it will be fine.”

Wondering if she is being duped by the kindness she thinks she hears in the nun’s voice, Bridget follows, picking her was gingerly down the uneven steps.  Sister Nora doesn’t need to tell her to stay close now.  The nun provides the only light as they follow the stairway in a circular route into blackness.

Finally, they reach the bottom, where they seem to be in a basement filled with crates and barrels.  Bridget clamps her hand across her mouth to suppress the scream that rises from her throat as a large rat scurries across the floor in front of them.  Sister Nora moves across the damp stone floor to another ancient door and opens it with yet another large rusty key, revealing another stone hallway.  From a point far down the hallway, a dim light filters in from above.

 Sister Nora gives Bridget a little push in the direction of the light and said, “You have 15 minutes.  Hurry now.  I’ll be waitin’ here till you come back.  Don’t be thinkin’ of runnin’, girl.  You’d not get far, and I'd fear for your fate when they caught you.”

Uncertainly, Bridget starts walking slowly down the hallway toward the light.

“Move quickly, Bridget Murphy.”  Sister Nora’s voice hisses with urgency.


Bridget quickens her pace.  About halfway down, she hears a voice from the end. 

“Bridget, me love, hurry!”

Sean!  Bridget breaks into a run and throws herself into Sean’s arms.  “Oh, Sean, you came.”

“Aye.  Didn’t I tell you that I would?”

“Yes, but how?”

“Well, ’twas like this, Bridget.  Shortly after you left, I found out from your sister Colleen where they had taken you.  I couldn’t come right away, but when me Uncle Jimmy came visitin’ to Dungarven, I asked for his help.  Like I thought, he was more’n willin’.  He brought me over here to New Ross, and I came to the convent.  As you’d expect, the nuns I talked to were no help at all, denyin’ they knew anythin' of you.  But just as I was turnin’ to leave, Sister Nora gave me a bit of a push toward the door.  When she did, she also passed me a small note, askin’ me to meet her outside the gates that night."

Bridget’s eyes widen in surprise.  “Sister Nora did that?  I can’t believe it, Sean.”

“Best you be believin’ it, darlin’’, because ‘tis true, may the saints strike me if I’m lyin’.  I came back that night and waited by the gates, just as the note told.  I waited for hours, I’m tellin’ you, and I was pretty sure the sister 'tweren't comin’.  But then, sure and begorrah, she did. 

“And what a tale she was tellin’.  Did you know, Bridget, that Sister Nora came here as a girl no older than you be now?”  Nora’s mouth dropped open.  “Aye, her name was Molly then, and she had a baby here too.  They took the babe away, and she never saw it again.  She told me that she believed the poor wee thing was dead.”

“But why didn’t she leave this awful place then?” Bridget exclaimed.

“And sure, that’s just what I asked her, don’t you know.  Well, she said they wouldn’t let her leave.  And, Bridget, she said they probably wouldn’t let you leave either!”

“Oh, Sean. Kathleen was right.  I didn’t believe her for a minute, but she was right.“  Bridget begins to sob as the reality of her situation sinks in.  She never saw Kathleen again after she went to have her baby.  Bridget misses her dreadfully, but has been comforted by the knowledge that her friend was finally free of this prison.  Now she isn’t so sure.

Sean puts his arms around Bridget’s shaking shoulders and says, “There, girl, there, there. Sister Nora told me she would help you and the babe escape when it was time.  And I believe her too.  She has proven herself to be true, hasn’t she now?”

Bridget pulls up her apron and tries to wipe the tears from her eyes.  “What do you mean, Sean?”

“That night, she told me to come back in two months time -- that would be today, Bridget – and showed me the grate above the tunnel.  ‘Tis just down the river a bit, outside the walls of this convent.  She told me when to come, said to open the grate, and I’d find a ladder attached to the wall.  And sure, that’s just what I did find.  And when I climbed down, me love, you were here.”

Just then, they heard a sharp tap-tap at the other end of the hall where Sister Nora waited.

“I must go, Sean.  Oh, I hate to leave you.”

Sean kisses Bridget goodbye.  “It won’t be long, dear one.  Your time is comin’ in less than two months, and then we’ll be together, the three of us.  Uncle Jimmy has promised to bring me back and I’ll be waitin’ to take you away from here.”


“No buts, darlin’.  I’ll be here. And then we’re to go straight to Kilkeel with Uncle Jimmy.”

“But, won’t they come after us?”

“Nay, Sister Nora says that once you are gone, they will look for you around here and back in Dungarven.  It won’t even occur to them to look up north.”

He gently turns Bridget and gives her a little push toward Sister Nora.  “Off with ye now, me love.  I’ll see you before you know it.” 

With that, he clambered up the ladder.  She hears the grate drop into place with a bit of a clang, then Jimmy’s voice calling softly.

“Goodbye, my sweet girl.  I love you more’n you will ever know.”

And then he was gone.

Magdalene Molly (Part 2): Not Any Spring

This is Part 2 of a 4-part story written for the 10th Daughter of Memory.


(Continued from Part 1: Hunaballu)

Not Any Spring 
Now, as she puts the iron back into the fire to heat, Bridget thinks of Sean, and the life they might have had.  Aye, it would not have been easy; that she knows.  But it would have been blessed by love and graced by the knowledge that after a hard day, they would have each other.  Indeed, it would have been a fine life.

Instead, she has this one. 

This is her penance for being a sinner.  The sisters remind her and the others of that daily.  She was damned to this hard and loveless place in order to be saved from the damnation she’s earned with her “wicked, wanton ways.”  Prayer and punishment within the cold, granite walls of Our Lady of Charity Convent is her only way to redeem herself. 

Like all the girls here, Bridget spends her days working for salvation.  She scrubs her soul as she scrubs the floors.  She washes away sins along with every filthy garment she washes in the laundry.  But after she’s paid her penance, she will be free to go home.  Or so they say, these women of God who call themselves the Sisters of Charity. 

There is no doubt in Bridget’s mind that any charity that might have once dwelt in the hearts of these women has long ago withered and died, unable to survive in the lump of stone they carried beneath the wimple.  Deprived of love by their calling, the sisters have none to offer the girls who are sent to them for redemption, most sinners and harlots like her, pregnant and alone.

“Sure, and it’s little wonder they are such shriveled up old prunes,”  Kathleen Reilly said to her as they toiled side by side one day soon after Bridget arrived.   

Kathleen is near term in her pregnancy, and lumbers about the laundry like a one of the cows ready to calf back on the farm in Dungarven.  Unlike Bridget, Kathleen probably is a “fallen woman,” and she’ll be the first to tell you so.  After her Ma died, Kathleen took her place behind the bar at her Da’s pub in Wexford.  Along with the pints and bacon baps she served up, Kathleen filled other orders for the pub’s regulars. When she became pregnant, her horrified Da hustled her off to New Ross in short order.

Because Kathleen is one of the few people in this God-forsaken place who tells the truth, Bridget likes her.


Soon after Bridget arrived at the school, Kathleen told her that not all of the nuns were what they seemed.

“Don’t let them old crones fool ya, me girl.  Many of these 'holier-than-thou' old hoors here makin’ our days miserable ain’t no more holy than I be.   They traveled down the same garden path to this life as you and me.”

What shocks Bridget most is the thought that someone who came here at 18 years like she did could still be here when they are old as most of the nuns seemed to be.

“But, I don’t understand.  Why didn’t they leave when they could?  Glory, who would choose to stay here?”

“T’weren’t no choice involved, Bridget.  If they told you that you would be leavin’ after the baby came, they were havin’ you on, darlin’.  Them what walks out of this place is few and far between.”

Kathleen’s words send a chill to Bridget’s bones.  “Away with ye, that can’t be true.  Surely some must leave,” she exclaims.

Kathleen snorts.  “Oh, yeh, and they’ll be singin’ with the angels in heaven now, sure and begorrah.”

Bridget listens in horror as Kathleen tells her that anyone who has escaped this terrible life is likely buried in the mean dirt of the chapel yard, their graves unmarked.  This is God’s punishment for fallen women. 

“Same goes for their babes, Bridget, unless there’s someone willin’ to pay a pretty price for a wee one,” Kathleen says.  “They’re naught but spawn of the Divil, ain’t they?”

Bridget shudders, as she considers the Hell she has been condemned to.

The irony is that her fall from grace in the eyes of the Church was the result of a push by the Church itself.  Everyone thinks the baby has sprung from Sean’s loins, but she and Sean have never sinned.  No, this has been her reward for taking the pie Ma baked for Father Finnegan over to the rectory last summer. 

Shouldn’t that mean I’m carryin’ a child of God, Bridget wonders.  Apparently not.  She realizes that a helping hand from that quarter will be a long time comin.’  Not this spring.  Not any spring.


Magdalene Molly (Part 1): Hunaballu

This is Part 1 of a 4-part story written for the 10th Daughter of Memory.


Hunaballu is an old Irish term meaning "good times."

“Bridget Murphy, quit yer lollygaggin'.  The Lord didn’t put you here to daydream.” 

The stern voice jolted Bridget from her thoughts of Sean.  “Yes, ma’am.” 


Like everyone in the parish, Bridget’s family makes its way with farming, and like everyone, they spend long hours working the rocky soil and tending the animals.  Bridget and her sisters Mary and Colleen also have to help Ma with the household chores and caring for Daniel, the new babe.  Everyone toils from sun-up to sun-down, stopping only for the midday meal.  It’s back-breaking work, and exhaustion is a way of life.

Little did I know, Bridget thinks now as she pulls her apron up to wipe the perspiration off her reddened face.


The hard life on the farm was made easier by the stolen moments Bridget shared with Sean Collins, who lived on the next farm down the lane.  The friendship they'd formed as they walked to school over the years had blossomed into more.  It was difficult for them to find ways to meet, but the inky darkness of a moonless night offered an opportunity to escape watchful eyes.  Every evening, after supper was eaten, the animals fed, the prayers said, and the lanterns snuffed, their families went to bed to fall into the deep sleep of the exhausted.  While everyone slept, Bridget and Sean met in the Murphy barn, where they made plans to be together.

Huddled in the loft, the soft lowing of the cows obscuring the sound of their voices, they talked and talked, seesawing between the wild optimism of young lovers and the reality of being young and penniless.  They drew mental pictures of one scenario after another, but found every one flawed.

“But I’m 19 on me next birthday, Sean!  Sure and begorrah, t'is old enough to marry.  Me Ma was but 16 when she and Da were married.”

“Bridget, darlin’, you know they will not allow it.  They need your hands on the farm.”  Sean paused and ran his hand through his already tangled thatch of red hair.  “Besides, when they find out…”

Bridget knew time was growing short.  It wouldn’t be long before everyone knew what she had discovered a few weeks earlier.  And when they did, there would be hell to pay. 

One night, Sean presented an idea that seemed like it might work.

“My uncle Jimmy from Kilkeel, Ma’s brother, is comin’ for a visit in a fortnight.  Da calls him ‘black sheep in the flock. Don’t approve of his pub and don’t approve of him,’ says my Da.  I’ll be talkin’ to him while he’s here, Bridget.  I’m thinkin’ he might help us.”

“Oh, Sean, isn’t he the one mixed up with the…”

“Aye.  Sinn Féin. That he is, Bridget. But he’s a good one, me Uncle Jimmy.  I know if I talk to him, he’ll be understandin’.  I’m hopin’ we can hitch a ride with him up to Kilkeel. We can work in his pub until we save enough to get a boat out of Londonderry to America.”  

As much as Bridget wanted to be with her family, she wanted to be with Sean more, and so she agreed.  Finally, they had what they thought was a workable plan.


Ah, what was it they said about the best laid plans? 

The next day, Ma said Daniel was sickly, and asked Bridget to come along to help when she took him into see Dr. O’Toole in town.  Much to her surprise, it wasn’t Daniel who was to see the doctor, but Bridget herself.  And of course, he confirmed Ma’s suspicions that Bridget was with child.

After many tears and recriminations; after stony silences and suffocating shame draped like a mantle around Bridget’s shoulders; after a forced confession to Father Finnegan, her penance was pronounced and a new plan put in place.  Bridget would be placed in the hands of the nuns at the New Ross convent and industrial school . 

“With the grace of God, may they help you cleanse your blackened soul, Girl,” Da said.  “They’ll see that your babe is placed in good hands.”

Before she was taken away, Bridget managed to sneak out and meet Sean one last time.  “Bridget, me love,” he’d said to her, “I don’t know how, but I’ll try to see you.  And no matter what happens, know that I’ll wait, sure as I’m standin’ here. And when you come home...”  

Continued in Part 2: Not Any Spring


Poseidon Shrugged

It was just before three on Friday afternoon.
People were doing what people do.
Adults worked and children played.
Babies and old folks had a little snooze.

All living their lives in an ordinary way.
It was just another ordinary day,
Until Poseidon shrugged, deep in his watery domain.
Then nothing was ordinary ever again.

This was written for Friday Flash 55, hosted here by G-Man.


Dangerous Curves


Despite relative obscurity in death, he lives on,
And we who play the word game collaborate.
We audition many and oft in the end choose him
For visual elaboration and emotional demonstration.

GE, Sony, Hilton, Deere: visages crafted by him.
Electric or electronic, hotel or tractor, lifelong friends
Instantly familiar.  He hides behind the curtain as
They turn a Young Face toward the marketplace,

He died last month, leaving no family. His life was spent
Behind the ivy, shaping thoughts of future wordsmiths
And in boardrooms, masking more commercial thoughts. 
Lofty ambitions.  Did they leave no time for baser goals?

Want to know more? 


Written for One Shot Wednesday.


Just Before Dawn

Some call it “the magic hour,”
When darkness lies heavy like a blanket.
From the silence beyond the circle of lamplight
Comes no sound but whispers of the night.
The old house creaks and groans
After a day on arthritic knees and
A sympathetic hoot owl calls back softly.

A night hawk swoops past, tires humming, 
At the end of a long interstate week
Or on the drunken weave home from
The after-hours bar out on Route 10.
Every so often, at the edge of hearing,
Echoes the faint cry of the woman next door
As she answers the angry call of her mate.

Just before dawn, sirens scream and
The world sighs in its sleep.
Some call it “the magic hour.”
I call it insomnia.


Written for One Shot Wednesday.



"You really are a self-centered prick."  Though she says it to see a reaction on his eternally passive face, even as the words leave her mouth, she knows they are true.

He lifts his eyes from the board in front of him, and looks at her over the top of his glasses.  “And you, my dear, are a coward.”  The words are coated in sarcasm.

As she watches him make a small adjustment to his formation, she thinks that she should have known better than to expect any other reaction.

He evaluates the adjustment he’s just made, nods slightly, then leans back in his chair and takes a sip of his Merlot.  A small satisfied smile hovers around his mouth.  

“Your move.”

She considers the board.  Nothing is ever as it seems when playing with him.  She suspects he has laid a trap for her, one of his favorite gambits, and that little smile reinforces the suspicion.  He is a master at building a false sense of security in his opponents, allowing them the illusion of success.  He dangles victory before their eyes, almost close enough to grasp.  Like a hungry animal lured by the scent of nourishment, many times she has reached for it, only to tumble into one of his traps and lose the game in a heartbeat.

The game is treacherous.  When she first discovered it, she lurked, watching others play and admiring their skill.  It most reminded her of sitting in the game park at Washington Square, watching the players who congregated there, hunched over their boards.  As she had in the park, she finally mustered up the courage to get in the game, only to be trounced royally and in short order.   

In subsequent battles, her game improved, but a win always stayed just out of reach.  And she has developed her skills over time; she knows that.  Since she entered the game, she has won some of her rounds with the other players.  But he is a master strategist, and she has never managed to outwit him.   As much as it irks her to admit it, she knows that the challenge she faces in her sorties against him must be given credit for honing her game play.  

Now, as she studies the field, she sees no obvious trap.  In fact, she sees little she can do to move her position forward.  With his last move, he moved one of his lieutenants a few paces to the left, tightening a gap in the security of his line.  Of course.  She’d been planning to slip a scout through that unprotected opening and ambush him from the rear.  Time to devise an alternative strategy.

“Sometime today would be nice, sweetheart,” he says, strumming his fingers lightly on the tabletop.  

She knows he is trying to distract her and she ignores him, keeping her focus on the board. That’s been her problem all along.  His diversions are often successful with her.  She notes that the other players seldom fall for his ploys, and though it doesn’t happen often, every one of them can claim a victory.  

Of course, the other players, save one, didn’t fall into bed with him either. Big mistake.  B.I.G. mistake.  She feels the fool every time she thinks of how easily she was seduced.  When he shone his considerable charm -- which he could turn on and off as easily as flicking a switch, damn him – in her direction, she was toast.  She fell, as surely as her troops eventually fall in the game.  

She shakes off the thought.  Holding her breath slightly, she positions her squad in the burned out village just south of his line, and then moves one of her courtesans out of the building where she’s been concealed, and into the open.  It’s risky to step into the open so early in the game, but she’s hoping it catches him by surprise.  After all, risky moves have not been her forte.  It’s not for no reason that she has earned the epithet of “coward” from him.  Since the beginning, he’s been encouraging her to get outside her comfort zone.  All her life, she has operated on the belief that until one is sure of a safe landing, jumping off a cliff is best avoided.  But she’s finally coming to realize that he may be right: timidity wins no wars.

“Your move.”

She lifts her glass to her lips and takes a sip of her wine, willing her heart to settle down.  And this is the problem. She has never been able to handle risk well.  Her palms moisten, her breath becomes short, and her heart pounds as though trying to escape her body.  Her “tells,” which she knows he is able to read.  Heaven knows, he has called her on them often enough.  She fights to hide her nervousness as watches him study the board.  She prays the risk will pay off, rather than bringing the swift defeat she has become so familiar with.

Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

She watches the smug look creep across his face.  He’s going to take the bait.  She knows he sees her move as foolish, placing a member of her team out in the open and exposing her position.  And she knows he smells victory in her apparent vulnerability.  She represses her own smug smile as she thinks, That’s not victory you smell, pal. That’s a whore’s perfume, which I knew you couldn’t resist.

He turns his squad and moves them to surround the village, deploying a pentagram gambit.

He raises his glass to her in mock salute.


His eyes gleam with their own message.  “Was there ever any doubt?”  She knows that there was never any doubt that his intent was to crush her, to “take her out,” as he always has.  

She allows him a few moments to gloat, then she moves each member of her team from concealment.  The move puts every one of his squad into a direct line of fire.  Even the whores have a weapon trained on them.

She lifts her eyes to look into his astonished face as she drains her glass.  The wine has never tasted sweeter.



Written for the Tenth Daughter of Memory.



 awareness flickers
in the shadows angels call
end of day answers


Written for Haiku Friday, hosted by LouCeeL


The Theatre of You

Pretending in performance
wrapped in rhyme, each word
draped in red and gold threads,
you believe yourself invisible
behind the brocade of your poetry.  

False lines scripted onto the page,
weaving patterns of 
life and longing,
love and loss,
peace and pain,
hope and horror:
all fabricated from whole cloth. 

No director in the dark behind the scenes
nor puppeteer beyond the curtain
pulling heartstrings, you. 
With every rhyme, every weave
of word threaded with the color of life,  
the curtain of your theatre parts a bit more
and the spotlight shines brighter on your stage,
revealing the actor who has not lived at all.


Written for One Shot Wednesday.