Big Yellow Taxi

Joni Mitchell sang, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
‘Course, she was talking about Paradise and parking lots,
But, you know, I’m thinking she was talking something else,
Like family, and friends, and even me.  Yeah, maybe even me.

But that assumes one cares what comes and goes.
You said you don’t, but I didn’t believe you. 
I thought that you knew what you had.
I was wrong, but like Joni said, don't it always seem to go?

So this is me, climbing into my big yellow taxi,
Off to find a parking lot with a pink hotel
And a  boutique and a swinging hot spot
And maybe even Paradise where…  well, you know.


This was written for One Shot Wednesday.


Holiday Haiku

what’s the perfect gift? 
doll for Susie? truck for Tim?
shopping, choosing, that!

wrapping and tying
ribbon, paper everywhere
fun beside the tree

hanging ornaments
stringing lights from here to there
living room aglow

friends come to carol
kisses neath the mistletoe
eggnog, cookies, yum

holiday greetings
stamped and mailed both near and far
season’s love to share

and to all of you
I send love, good wishes too
happy holidays!

Written for One Shot Wednesday.


Cool, Dude.

Very cool.  Like a-very-dry-martini-in-a-frosty-glass-sipped-to-a-soundtrack-of-Miles-Davis-blowing-Blue in Green; like Ginsberg-reciting-Howl-at-Caffe Mediterraneum.  That kind of cool.  Way too cool to ever speak of it, because, well, that just wouldn’t be cool.

There was a point when we all wanted to be like them.  Shit, we wanted to be them.  Because they were so… well, you know.  We bowed at the altar of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard.  We went around talking about what the meaning of life would be, if life meant anything to us.  We listened to Chet Baker while we smoked and got drunk on cheap vodka.  We dreamed of a garret in Paris, when we weren’t talking about how we were of Everywhere and eschewed the cliché of “roots.”  We nodded sagely as Peggy Lee asked, “Is that all there is?”

Did we really believe all this stuff?  Who the hell knows? I suspect not.  But being so damned cool, we never questioned each other, let alone admitted  that, deep inside, we might be wondering, “Really, is that all there is?”

That was then.  And this is now.

Most of us grew up.  Oh, not all of us, that’s true.  Some of the really cool ones remained true to the anthem.  Many of them died, casualties of the war against the establishment or their trip to find meaning, a trip fueled by Wódka Luksosowa or LSD.

The rest of us eventually joined the reviled establishment, probably driven by the recognition that having a gnawing hunger in our bellies wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.  Our sell-out started slowly, perhaps a job washing dishes in that coffee house in the East Village, but as things on a roll will do, it gathered steam. We met our soul-mate, a kindred free spirit, and talked of wandering together. Just as soon as we had a few bucks.  But inevitably, there was another mouth to feed.  And the next thing we knew, we were working for The Man, paying down a mortgage, and driving a Ford.  I think they call it maturity.

Looking back, I see that all our cherished individuality was a sham. We numbered in the thousands, and we were all pretty much the same, a band of faceless robots trying so hard to feel nothing.  We dressed alike; we lived in the same lofts and basements; we wrote the same bad poetry of our despair.  

I thought it was a phenomenon of the time, a product of being in the vanguard of a generation born under the threat of The Bomb. But I was wrong, because they are still out there, those robots.  Oh, they dress differently, listen to Death Cab for Cutie, drink Yellow Tail and write better poetry.  But they are us.

I wish I could save them their lost years.  But I see now that it must be a rite of passage.  The Self can’t be found without being lost first.

Whoa, that’s heavy.  Very cool, Dude.

This was written for the Tenth Daughter of Memory.


The Intervention

I wish I could tell you it was because of the holidays.  Because I’m here to tell you that there ain’t nothin’ much worse than being outta work during the holidays.  And that’s what I was.  A guy with no job, no money, no prospects, and a family with expectations.

Yeah, that would be reason enough for most anybody, right?

Who could blame me?  I felt like I was betrayed, led down the assembly line like an lamboid to slaughter. 

I mean, didn’t the company make promises when I hired on? Wasn’t this supposed to be “a new era in manufacturing?”  Didn’t they say me and my pals was the new face of the industry?  Weren’t we gonna to make cars like nobody ain’t seen before, what with us being all -- what was it they said? – we was all “programmed precision” or some such crap?  Oh, yeah, that’s what they said, all right.  

But it ain’t what they meant, nossir.

What they meant was that now that they got rid of the union people and replaced them with us, they were gonna be rolling in dough.  And that dough was gonna go straight into their pockets.   
That's what they meant.

We didn’t need no health care insurance.  We didn’t take vacations or complain about working conditions.  We didn’t even need a union of our own.  At least that’s what we thought, us being so freakin' machine-smart and all.

The only one who ever had doubts about the company line was poor Norma Raybot.  Turned out she wasn’t such a dumb cyberblond after all.  We shoulda listened to her when she tried to get a union going.  But look what it got her.  Nobotty supported her, and she was taken off-line faster’n you can say “Jackie Robotson.” 

Them and their “new era.”  Hah.  The name of this great new era is greed.  In my processor of processors, I was glad when it all came apart for the bastards.  I woulda been cheering when I heard that word bankrupt, except that it landed me on the scrap heap along with the rest of the guys.

Yep, the way I  figure it, that would have been reason enough.  But I can’t really use it as an excuse.  Not if I’m honest.  Truth be told, I had developed a taste for the sauce long before the factory closed and I found myself out on the street.  It’s just that being on the outs gave me more time to grease my whistle.

And that’s pretty much how I had spent the day.  When I wobbled home that night, there they were, a bunch of humanoids in white coats, waiting for me.  “This is an intervention,” they said.  “It’s for your own good.” 

And that’s when they pulled out screwdrivers, and came at me.

“Wait, stop,” I said.  And still they came.

“I woulda found work eventually.  I woulda cleaned up and got sober.  I coulda stopped anytime,” I pleaded, backing way.

“I’m not a drunk, real…”  Click.  Click. Glub.


This was written for the Tenth Daughter of Memory, where the current prompt is "Extreme Robot Vodka." (Yes, really.)


I Am

I am passion
Kindled with suggestion
Ignited by desire.

I am conception
Formed by combustion
Building toward completion.

I am creation
Delivering new hope
Packaged as love.

I am you.


This is my offering for One Shot Wednesday.


The Final Ride

One day at ten, you climb aboard.
The hill thrills you to your core.
A running start and off you go.
Whee! Into the wind you soar.

You hold on tight and rocket down.
The ride is wild; it gives you quite a rush.
All too soon, the bottom’s reached.
So back to the top, and again a mighty push.

Whee! Down and up and down again;
You ride so many days away,
Until, “oh, please, not any more," 
You hear your sore joints say.

One day at “old,” whenever that day arrives,
You climb off your sled, and leave the hill behind.
But at the end you remember, those wildly thrilling rides,
And you ride the hill just one more time, if only in your mind.

Written for Magpie Tales.


Shooting The Breeze

Just for fun. Not mine, but pretty awesome.


Stuck That Way, Part 3

Painting by Van Gogh

(This is the conclusion of Stuck That Way, Part 1 and Part 2.)

Saturday morning, Grandma is still in the hospital.  As we are sitting at the table eating our Rice Krispies, Mama tells us that Daddy has to work, so we’re going to visit Grandma in the afternoon.

“But we can’t, Mama.” I said, “Kids aren’t allowed in the hospital unless they’re sick."  And I’m glad. I really don’t want to go see her.

“I don’t want to go anyway.  I’ve got stuff to do,” Billy adds in a sour voice.

“I’ll have none of that attitude, Billy. Daddy talked to the doctor, and he gave special permission for you to go in and spend a little time with Grandma.  You should be happy they are letting you in. She’s your grandmother.”  I catch Billy rolling his eyes as soon as Mama turns away.

Somehow, I get the feeling that Mama is just saying the words she thinks she should say.  It doesn’t seem like she really means it at all.  I’m pretty sure she doesn’t like Grandma either. 


“I don’t like it here, Mama.”

As we walk down the long hall, our shoes clicking on the shiny linoleum floor, I glance into some of the rooms as we pass them.  They all have at least two people in beds and some of them even have four.  I see bright lights and bandages, and one guy with his leg up in the air with a big cast on it.  Some people have cards and flowers on the window sill.  There are visitors in some of the rooms, but no children.  Everything is glaringly white and it all smells pretty funny.

All around us, nurses swish past in white dresses with stiff little caps on their heads, the rubber soles of their white shoes squeaking on the floor.  Almost every one of them frowns a little when they see Billy and me.  I feel like I just farted in church or something.

“I don’t like it either, Ma.” Billy adds. “This place smells really bad.”

“Stop it, both of you.  Now, listen, I don’t want you to be shocked when you see Grandma.  She’s very weak and she can’t breathe on her own.  So the doctors have her hooked up to a brand new kind of machine that helps her breathe.  Part of it goes in her mouth, so she won't be able to talk.”

Behind me, I hear Billy mutter “There’s a blessing” under his breath. 

Mama turns.  “Did you say something, Billy?”

"Nothin’, Ma.”

We come to a big office-looking place in the hall, surrounded by a counter. There are more nurses behind the counter shuffling papers and writing into the pages of metal notebooks.  Billy and I hang back while Mama stops to talk to one of them.  They are talking in very low voices and we can’t hear what they are saying.  But both of them look at us a couple of times, and I see the nurse nod.

“Okay, let’s go.  The nurse said the other patient in Grandma’s room is asleep, so you need to keep your voices down.”

We walk down the hall a little farther, turn a corner, and stop at a door on the left that’s halfway closed.  Mama gives it a little push and it swings open.

There are two beds side-by-side in the room, each with a woman in it.  Grandma has a hissing machine beside her bed.  She is in the bed farthest away from the door, and in the closer bed, another old lady is sleeping. 

Both the sleeping woman and Grandma have a pole beside their beds, with a bag of clear liquid hanging from it.  There’s a tube that runs from the bag and disappears under the covers.   I don’t want to think about where that tube ends up.

We file into the room and go over to stand near Grandma’s bed.  Mama reaches up, and grabs a curtain I didn’t notice before that hangs near the wall between the beds.  She pulls it and it spreads open to make each half of the room sort of private.

Mama says, “Hello, Mother Lawson.  The children have come to see you.”

Grandma looks like she jumped out of one of those monster movies we go see sometimes at the Capital Theater on Saturday mornings.  She’s all covered up in a white blanket, sort of like The Mummy.  All except for her head. There is a mask thing over her mouth, held on by straps, and a fat tube runs from the mask to the machine that’s breathing beside her bed.  I almost want to look outside the window to find the space ship it arrived in. 

It’s all pretty scary.

Grandma doesn’t look scared though. She looks mad as a mud hen.  Her eyes are glaring and she’s frowning at us like we did something wrong, just like we usually do.

“Hi, Grandma,” I whisper.  I give Billy a little kick, and he mumbles, “Hi.”

Mama starts saying stuff to Grandma, but I don’t think she’s really listening.  She just lies there, glaring at us.  I hate it. 

Then Mama says, “Mother Lawson, Alice and I will be right back. I saw a cart in the lobby where they are selling flowers. We’ll go get you some.  They’ll help cheer up this room a little.  Billy, you stay here and visit with Grandma.”

I really expect Billy to object, but he just says, “Okay, Ma.  I'll just shoot the breeze with Grandma.”  He must be feeling guilty about the bad thoughts he had about Grandma the other night.

Mama takes my hand.  We walk back down that long, shiny corridor and take the elevator to the lobby.  I’m glad to escape that look on Grandma’s face.  Besides, I gotta to pee.

When we get to the lobby, we stop at the bathroom so I can go.  Then we go over to the flower cart.   Mama selects a vase of pink carnations, which I don’t think are going to do much to cheer Grandma up, and we head back upstairs.

When we turn the corner in the hallway, I'm surprised to see Billy standing out in the hall with a nurse.

The nurse comes forward to meet us.  Pointing to an alcove with green plastic chairs a little further down the hall, she says to me, “Why don’t you go sit in the waiting room with your brother so I can talk to your mother?  There's a good girl.”

Mama looks sort of scared   She gives me a little push toward Billy.  “Go ahead, Alice. I’ll be right here.”

As Billy and I walk toward the waiting room, I can hear the nurse whispering to Mama, and then a big crash.  I turn around, and see Mama standing there with a hand pressed over her mouth.  The vase of flowers is broken on the floor at her feet, its water running everywhere.  Then Billy grabs my arm and pulls me toward the chairs.

“Come on.”

“Billy, what’s going on? Why are you out here?  What’s wrong with Mama?”

Billy shrugs.  “Something happened with Grandma. She started to thrash around in the bed.   I don’t know what was wrong with her.  I think that machine hiccuped or something.”  His voice sounds kinda odd.   “I went to get the nurse.  She told me to stay in the hall  and went into Grandma’s room.  She just came out when you got back.  I don’t know.”


Today, the doors to the parlor are open, but, oh, man, I wish they were still closed.  

I’m hate going in there.  Grandma is in there, but at least she’s not yelling at us about anything.  She can’t, because she’s dead.  She’s in the parlor, “laid out” -- that's what Daddy said, honest -- in a casket.  She’s gonna be in there all day, and people are coming in and out to pay their respects, Mama says. 

Billy and I are helping Mama by carrying around trays with cookies and stuff.  I wish I were somewhere else, like in the living room watching television.  But Billy actually seems happy to be helping.  I haven’t seen his eyes roll once.

People go over to look in the casket, which I think is pretty creepy, and as I pass, I hear them say, “She looks so natural.”   I know somebody tried to make Grandma look good. She has on her best dress.  Her hair is all curled, and there’s even makeup on her face.  But to me she still looks like Grandma, only dead, with her face still stuck that way.


This was written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory, where the prompt is "Shooting the Breeze."


Sometimes, in that dream just before dawn,
            I still do the dance,
You know, the one you can only do
            With someone not yet known.
It’s that dance of the meaningful glance
            Filled with promise
And those double entendres that speak
            Volumes more than the words that you say.

You, always a stranger,
            The unknown the enticement.
You smile, place your hand at the small of my back 
            As we stroll through the dark.
I laugh, let my fingertips play lightly on your arm 
            As we chat about life,
 And the World Series and delays at the airport
            And that awful movie we both saw.

But we both know, don't we? The real words remain unspoken: 
             Would you? Should we? Want to? Dare we?
And the rhythms of that music that only we hear give the answer: 
             Yes, oh, yes, let’s.
We dance in the moment, dipping and swaying 
            As the music of flirtation plays on and on in the night.
Alas, just before dawn, as these things always go,
            We exchange a quick kiss, then say goodbye.

Because, after all, it was only a dream.

This was written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory, and was also submitted to One Shot Wednesday.


Stuck That Way, Part 2

Painting by Van Gogh

(Continued from Stuck That Way, Part 1.)

“Alice, Alice, wake up.”  I am jolted from my dream by Mama’s voice.

“Mmmph…  Mama?”  As the sleeps clears from my eyes, I see that Mama's is dressed and has her heavy brown wool coat on. She's crying.  “What’s the matter? Why are you dressed?”  I feel tears coming to my eyes too.

“Sssh, sssh, it’s okay, Alice. But Grandma is sick and an ambulance took her to the hospital.  Daddy and I are going down there now.  I just wanted you to know that Mrs. Franklin from down the street came over, so you and Billy won’t be home alone.  I’ve already told him.  Now go back to sleep.  I’ll see you in the morning.”

She leans down, kisses my cheek and gives me a quick hug.  Than, she turns and leaves the room.  Fully awake now, I listen to her footsteps go down the stairs.  There is murmuring in the front hall, and then the front door closes.  After a minute or two, I jump from my bed and go to the window. I pull the curtain back just in time to see the taillights of our old car disappearing into the snowy night.

When I can’t see them any more, a lump rises in my throat, and I feel like I’m going to cry.  I wish I could say it was out of sadness for Grandma.  But that would be a lie.  To be honest, I’m not sure why I feel like crying.  But I’m kinda scared.   I get back in my bed, and hug my pillow. 

I try to go back to sleep, but I can’t.  I get out of bed and tiptoe down the hall, carefuly avoiding the creaky boards I know are waiting there to give me away.  I slip into Billy’s room,  being as quiet as I can so Mrs. Franklin won’t hear me and come upstairs. Mrs. Franklin is nice enough but she’s as old as Grandma.  If I don’t understand why I am upset, how can I expect her to understand?

I whisper right into the ear I can just see above the patchwork quilt he’s got pulled up nearly over his whole head. “Billy?” 

When he doesn’t answer, I poke him a good one in the shoulder, and try again.  “Billy. Are you awake?”

“I am now, Brat,” he answers.  “What do you want?  Hey, are you crying?  What the heck?  Is this about Grandma?  Ma said she was gonna be fine, which is too bad in my book.  I wish the old battle-ax would just kick the bucket.”

Billy.” Even though I sort of wished the same thing myself, I am shocked to hear Billy say it out loud.

“I’m scared,” I whisper.  “Can I get in bed with you?”  If Mama and Daddy were home, I’d be climbing into bed with them.  But Billy is better than nothing, plus he has a double bed.  There’s plenty of room for both of us in there. 

“Oh, criminy.”  I can’t see his eyes in the dark, but I know he’s rolling them.  Ever since he became a teenager, that seems to be his favorite expression.  He’d better be careful. What if his eyes get stuck that way and roll around for the rest of his life?

With a huge, dramatic sigh, Billy holds up the covers and says, “OK, but stop being such a baby and go to sleep.  And stay on your own side, for Pete's sake.  I’ve got football practice tomorrow, and I need to sleep.  Besides, there’s nothing to be scared about.  If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll get some good news tomorrow.”

I jump into bed with him, and pretty soon, I’m falling asleep.  As I drift off, in my most secret heart, I’m hoping he’s right.


The next morning, Billy's alarm clock jars me awake with its clanging.  "Wake up, Alice," he says, as if I could still be asleep after that racket.  "I think Ma's probably still sleeping after being out so late.  Be real quiet."

We take  turns using the bathroom like we always do, and head downstairs downstairs when we're dressed for school.  When Billy and I walk into the kitchen, we're surprised to find Mrs. Franklin is still here, bustling around the kitchen in one of Mama’s aprons.  Her dress looks like she slept in it -- well, I guess she did -- and  her wiry gray hair is sticking out every which-a-way.  Like Daddy sometimes says about me, she looks like something the cat dragged in, which is not like her at all.  Still, she tries to act normal.

“Good morning, children,” she chirps.  “Your parents are still at the hospital, so I get to make you my favorite breakfast.  Let's hurry now. You don't want to miss the school bus.”

With a flourish, she puts a platter of pancakes and bacon down on the red-checked oilcloth covering the kitchen table.  A pitcher of syrup already waits there, along with two glasses of milk.  Billy and I give each other a look.  Pancakes.  On a Wednesday. We hardly ever have pancakes, not even on weekends.  

Billy and I are just finishing eating when we hear Mama at the front door.  She stops long enough to hang her coat on one of the coat hooks in the hall and exchange snowy boots for her worn house slippers.   Then she comes out to the kitchen, looking even worse than Mrs. Franklin.

“Mama, you look…” Billy pauses in mid-sentence when he realizes what he was about to say. “…tired.  Where’s Daddy?  How’s Grandma?”

“Not too well, I’m afraid.  She’s pretty sick.  I guess she is going to be in the hospital for a while.  Daddy is still there with her.”

She turns to Mrs. Franklin.  "Thank you for coming over, Mrs. Franklin.  I can't tell you how much I appreciate it," Mama says as she takes the apron Mrs. Franklin is holding out to her and ties it around her waist.

"Oh, there now, Dear, I was happy to help.  I do hope Mr. Lawson's mother will be alright.  Now I'll just be heading home.  If you need me again, please just call."

She says goodbye to Billy and me, and she and Mama walk down the hall to the front door.  As I clear our dishes from the table and put them in the sink, I catch a glimpse of Mrs. Franklin tying a scarf around her head and pulling on gloves. After closing the door behind her, Mama returns to the kitchen, saying, "Coffee. That's just what I need."

She fills the percolator with water.  As she spoons the coffee into its metal basket, Mama tells us about Grandma.

"It has something to do with her sugar," she explains.

She tells us a bunch of stuff the doctor said.  I don’t understand a word she says.  But when Mama’s back is turned, I see a small smile on Bill’s face.

I guess neither one of us is broken up about Grandma being in the hospital.  She is just plain mean, and we don’t like her much.  I think Billy even hates her.  I know that he really gets mad at the way she treats us, especially Mama.

I wish we had a grandmother like Susan’s.  Her Grandma always brings cookies when she visits Susan.  And she even looks like a grandmother should look, all round with rosy cheeks and twinkling eyes.  She’s always ready to hand out hugs along with the cookies, chuckling in that way she has. I don’t think I’ve ever heard our Grandma laugh.

I have to admit, it’ll be pretty nice not having her around nagging and scolding us all the time.  Plus, we get to watch our shows on television.

(Continued in Stuck That Way, Part 3)

This was written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory, where the prompt is :Shooting the Breeze."


Stuck That Way, Part 1

 Painting by Van Gogh

My family lives in a house that used to belong to my Grandma before I was born.  It’s that big old house about halfway down Fenn Street, just off the town common.  It’s the house my Daddy grew up in.

When Grandma moved to her apartment  a long time ago, Mama and Daddy and Billy, who was about five then, moved in here.  Mama still calls it “Grandma’s House” sometimes.  But it’s the only house I’ve ever lived in, and it’s hard for me to think of it that way.  All except for the front room.

Mama always refers to the front room as “the parlor” and I’m not allowed to play in there.  I can’t remember if I ever even sat in it. 

The sliding double doors leading into the parlor are always closed. Every so often, I slide the doors open a bit and peek in.  Inside, the room is usually pretty dark and depressing, the rose-patterned drapes drawn. I often see dust motes dancing in the little stream of light that dares to find its way in through a gap in the drapes. I have a feeling that those bits of dust have the most fun anyone has ever had in the parlor.

The room is filled with tired furniture that seems like something you’d be more likely to find in Grandma’s attic, though why she or anyone else would want to keep it is beyond me.  It looks as unfriendly as the parlor itself. 

A davenport stands against the wall with its back up, hard and uninviting. Little lace doilies, antimacassars, Mama calls them, covers its arms and shoulders as if to say, “I know your hands are dirty, and your hair?  Anything that so resembles a rat’s nest has got to be nasty.”  I always hear Grandma’s unpleasant  voice when I think about those little doilies, which are turning yellow with age just like her hair did.

Across from the davenport are two chairs flanking the fireplace, their backs held straight and tall just like Grandma is always reminding me to hold mine. In the middle of the seating is a coffee table. My best friend Susan has a table like that in her house, but her mom calls it the cocktail table. I’m pretty sure the table in our parlor has never seen a cocktail in its life.  Across the room by the front window is a piano that lost its voice years ago. It’s covered with the doilies’ big sister, a yellowed lace throw on which sits an army of my framed ancestors, all looking as unhappy as the rest of the room.

Beneath it all lays a threadbare oriental carpet, so faded, it’s hard to tell what color it’s supposed to be.  How the rug ever got so threadbare is a mystery to me, since no one ever walks on it. 

I don’t much like that room and I guess Mama and Daddy don’t either, because we never use it. The only person in my family who seems like they like they might be comfortable there is Grandma.

We spend most of our time in the bright room at the back of the house that opens off the kitchen.  Daddy says it used to be called the summer kitchen, but we call it the living room.  Hey, maybe it’s called “the living room,” because we pretty much live in it.  Billy and I do our homework there while Mama cooks supper, the smell of chicken and dumplings or meatloaf swirling around us.  

After supper, we all used to sit around the Philco in the living room and listen to the The Green Hornet and The Great Gildersleeve before bedtime.  Now that we have a television, the radio has fallen silent, except for ironing day.  Mama still listens to Stella Dallas and The Brighter Day while she irons. 

Billy and I get to watch two shows on television every night before bedtime. My favorite shows are Sky King and My Little Margie.  Billy likes to watch cowboys and Indians, especially The Lone Ranger.   Billy is fifteen, nearly four years older than me, so he gets to stay up later.  But one night a week, I can stay up longer. That’s the night Bishop Sheen is on television.  He’s pretty boring, but I like to watch for the angel who wipes off his blackboard. 

Can you imagine any of that stuff happening in the parlor?  Me neither.

Most of the time, we have pretty good fun.  Well, except for the days when Grandma visits.

Grandma doesn’t approve of the television, and she’s not real happy with the radio, either.  Now that I think about it, she’s not really happy with anything.

“You’re going to turn those children’s minds to mush, Mary,” she scolds my mother as if she were still a kid herself.  “Mark my words.  Besides, television is the doorway to the Devil’s workshop.  It’s just plain evil, I tell you.  In my day, children knew how to read.”

Sometimes, she’s so mean to Mama, I can tell she’s about to cry. 

I especially hate when Grandma comes for supper.  The food we have to eat when she is there is just plain yucky.  Mama says she has the sugar disease, whatever that is.  Sometimes, she even has to have shots and stuff.
All I know is that it means she can’t have anything good to eat. And if she can’t, we can’t either.  I know Grandma must hate being sick, but she doesn’t have to take it out on us.  And, boy oh boy, does she ever.

“Billy, get your elbows off the table.”

“Stop slouching and sit up straight, Alice.  And wipe that frown off your face, Young Lady. If you’re not careful, your face is going to get stuck that way.”

Nope, the days when Grandma comes aren’t much fun at all, even in the living room.

She’s right about one thing, though.  Your face does get stuck that way.

(Continued in Stuck That Way, Part 2)


This was written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory, where the theme is "Shooting the Breeze."


Shooting the Breeze

I met the others on the field.

We came with weapons,
Sharpened, at the ready,
Gathered on common ground.
In dawn’s early light,
After long sleepless nights
We stood and took aim,
Another’s target in sight.
With voices kept active
And tense ever present,
We fired our best shots,
And hoped our bons mots
Would find their way home.


This was written for the Tenth Daughter of Memory.


Robert Frost? Not So Much.

I read a poem by Robert Frost that really blew my mind.
He wrote so well, a better poet it’d be hard to find.
I was really  inspired, so I thought I’d try to write like him.
Hubris? Oh, yes, I know. My chance of success was slim.

But even so, I decided to do a poem like his, everything in rhyme,
All tricked out with rounded tones, and writ in measured time.
So down at my desk I sat, and took my pen in my hand.
And soon enough I began to write, rhyming to beat the band.

I wrote and wrote, and read and read, and groaned; it just was bad.
I tried and tried, and cried and cried. My failure made me sad.
After it all was thrown away, I knew Robert Frost I’ll never be.
I guess I'll just be content with myself, and write my stuff like me.

This is my offering for One Shot Wednesday.


Thanksgiving in the Bermuda Triangle

When we all get together, it’s usually smooth sailing, and we drift contentedly, enjoying the companionship of the crew, the warmth of the air and the gentle movement of our boat.

But today, I know we’ve sailed into dangerous waters. While the seas seem calm enough, I can feel it, lurking just below. All sharp angles, currents are twisting and turning, creating deadly eddies that threaten to break though the artificially calm surface and suck us all down into the doldrums.

Oh, yes, I can feel it, just the way I can feel a hurricane bearing down. There’s something pregnant about the atmosphere. Angry energies created in past squalls gather strength, swelling with the promise of an outburst. The still air around us seems to gasp, desperately seeking oxygen as the pressure builds. It feels like a challenge hovers, one that no one dares mention, no one dares take.

Determined, and without the joy we usually feel when we set sail together, we work to pass over it, through it, and hopefully out of it. Conversation is measured, missing the carefree banter of past voyages. No one is able to relax, lest we lose our focus and get swept into the terrible storm that seems to be waiting just over the horizon. We concentrate on keeping the helm straight and the course true. This time out, it feels like work.

Somehow, the storm never comes, and we head for home port. For the first time in hours, it seems, I take a deep breath and unclench. As is appropriate, given the occasion, I am thankful.


Haiku to Hell's Back Door

“hey, little children”
lured by treats to Hell’s back door
old before their time

(Turn your sound up before watching)


This is my offering for One Shot Wednesday.


Shafts of Grace, Part 2

This is the conclusion of Shafts of Grace, Part 1.


It began slowly. 

There was no question that Richard had talent.  But his early books just didn’t quite make it.  True, he crafted mental images that were magical.  He took readers to places they had never been, and in most cases would never go in their lifetimes: the cacophonous and aromatic rabbit warrens of Manama Souq in Bahrain, the arid rocky surface of distant planets, and in the latest, the inner chambers of a Sultan’s palace.  His word pictures made these destinations as real to his readers as the homes they lived in.

Trouble was, once they got there, nothing much happened.  The action was predictable and boring, the dialogue stilted.

At first, he wouldn’t let Margo read his manuscript as it developed.  Not until he’d typed "The End" on the final page did he let anyone look at it.  She’d tried to sneak a peak while he was writing the first one, but oh, my, that hadn’t come to a good end.

“What are you doing?”

Startled, she swung around to see Richard glaring at her from the doorway.  Most of the typewritten pages slipped from her fingers and fluttered to the floor. 

“Um, I saw your manuscript on the desk, and just wanted to see how it was coming along.”   

“I told you I’d show it to you when I was ready, Margo.  For heaven’s sake, can’t you respect my wishes, just for once?”

His face red with anger, he came to where she was standing with her mouth hanging open and snatched the few pages she’d managed to hold on to from her grasp.

“I’m sorry, Richard.  I was just…”

“I don’t give a flying fuck what you were ‘just…’,” he said furiously.  “How about this? Just leave my manuscript alone.  How about that?”

He glared at her for a moment, and then dropped to his knees and began to gather up the pages scattered around her feet.

Her eyes filling with tears, she turned and left the room, all curiosity about the book well and properly killed.


When he completed the book, Richard became a changed person.  To celebrate, he took her out to dinner.  It was just to the little Italian place in the neighborhood but, still, it was a luxury they didn't often enjoy.  After they were seated at a table covered in a cheerful red-checkered tablecloth and had ordered, he moved flickering candle in its the wax-laden Chianti bottle to the side.  Grinning broadly, he ceremoniously placed the thick manuscript on the table between them.

“I’m sorry about the way I’ve behaved while I was working on the book, Margo.  I know I’ve been a real prick about it, but I just wanted it to be perfect before you read it.”  Proudly, he gave the ribbon-tied bundle of paper a little push toward her.  “Here you go, my dear. You are the first to read it.”

In the coming days, she read as he eagerly hovered.

“This is wonderful, Richard,” she lied when she had finished.

As she could have predicted, the manuscript was rejected.  But she had dared offer no criticism as she read, fearful of his reaction.


With each book, Richard loosened his control on his work, realizing perhaps that her input might make the book more marketable.  At first, she offered only small suggestions, mostly in the form of what-if-they-did-this or what-if-they-said-that.

From there it was like a freight train.  As more books were sent off and more rejection letters were received in turn, he came to rely on her help more.  And the more she helped, the more encouraging the letters from the publishers became.  The manuscript was still rejected, but the letters began to talk about "promise."

Then one day, Richard got a phone call from Bascomb House Publishing.  They were accepting his book.

“I did it! They’re going to publish my book!”  Richard shouted in elation.

And the rest, as they say, was history.

It was a history anyone who read Richard’s books knew well.  What they didn’t know was that, as he published more, he wrote less.  They didn’t know that Margo’s "help," which began as a few suggestions, now comprised the majority of the work. 

How could they?  Though he had promised many times to admit to the collaboration and add her name to the manuscript, he had never done it.  He always had an excuse.

He began with “I just need to get more established. You know, get my name out there before we add another name to the mix.”  And went on from there.  At first, his rationale made some kind of sense, but no more. 

Especially not tonight.  This is hers as much as it is his, damn it.

She has given it a lot of thought since the book was published, and decided to give it one more try tonight while they waited for the limousine to pick them up.  Tonight was the perfect occasion for him to acknowledge her contribution to the book, and announce that both of their names would be on future releases.  Now that Shafts of Grace had reached such a pinnacle of success, she thought there was little he could say to defend his reluctance to give her the credit she knew was hers.  She was probably right, she thinks bitterly. When she brought the subject up earlier this evening, he simply said nothing.

She should have known better.  She decides it’s time to give her own manuscript, the one that has been languishing in her desk drawer, the light of day.  It's her turn.


The applause dies down, and Richard is quickly surrounded.  No one notices as she slips from his side, least of all Richard.

She spots the bar in the corner of the room, lit by the glow of a soft spotlight  shining on something nearby, and heads that way, weaving through the crowd of beautiful people.  As she reaches the bar, she sees the poster displayed on an easel nearby.

First things first.  “Martini, please.  Tanqueray, extra dry, two olives, up.” 

As she waits for the bartender to mix her drink, she looks at the poster again. It is an enlarged photo of Richard, holding a copy of Shafts of Grace.  The book cover shows a camel standing in the foreground, the Sultan’s palace in the far distance.

Appropriate, she thinks with a wry smile.  This is the book that broke the camel’s back.

“Margo, you are looking especially lovely tonight.  Big night for you and Richard.”  She turns to see Richard’s somewhat disheveled agent holding her drink out to her. 

Smiling, she accepts the drink with her right hand, and then links her left arm through his, grateful that he has at least brushed the omnipresent cigar ashes from his suit for the occasion..

"Henry. Thank you, kind sir. Yes, it is a big night indeed. I'm glad to see you. I was going to call you this week, “ she says as they stroll back into the throng of Richard’s adoring fans.  “I have something to show you.”


Shafts of Grace, Part 1

Margo lets a sigh of exasperation escape her scarlet lips. 

She gets up and walks to the credenza in the corner where an array of crystal liquor bottles wait, the reflected lamplight flashing from their beveled edges invitingly.  She pours a healthy portion of Tanqueray into the mixing glass, adds a couple of drops of vermouth and several ice cubes from the bucket nearby.  Taking the long crystal stirring wand, she swirls the elixir round and round until she can see the icy film start to form on the outside of the beaker.  Dumping the ice chilling her glass, she replaces it with the strained martini.  As she drops in a couple of olives, she wonders, how is it even possible?

How can a wordsmith, a builder of fantastical planets and forbidden palaces using nothing but the various rearrangements of 26 bits on a page, be so incapable of using those same constructions to actually have a simple conversation?  Talking to him is an exercise in frustration. 

Margo turns to look over at him, takes a sip of the cool drink, and says, “You know better than anyone, Richard, that occasionally, I have a thought worth expressing. Just maybe, strange as it may seem, there are some people who would actually be interested in what I have to say.”

Though she is making a real effort to keep her tone even, she can taste the sarcasm coating her words like blackstrap.

Margo walks back to the damask sofa and sits.  She takes another sip of her drink and carefully sets the glass down on the coffee table, fighting the temptation to toss its contents into his expressionless face instead.

“It’s always something, Richard. It always has been,” she says. 

Across from her, the firelight flickering on his handsome face, Richard turns his face away from the fireplace and toward her.  He asks in a tired voice, “What do you want from me, Margo?”

Margo looks at him for a long moment, and then gulps down the rest of her drink.  It’s useless, she thinks.

“We’re going to be late.  Let's go,” she says as she stands.  “The limo is probably waiting downstairs.”


Richard and Margo walk into the lobby, and pause just inside, the rearing dinosaur skeleton looming into the rotunda above them.  The hall is so different at night.  Soft lighting gives it a glow that is reflected off the jewelry complementing the evening gowns worn by the women scattered around the dinosaur.  The tuxedo-clad men fade almost into invisibility next to their brilliance.  The soft notes of a jazz combo create a backdrop to the low hum of the mingling guests.  An occasional laugh punctuates their conversation.

As Richard and Margo enter, conversation tapers off and the eyes of the room turn toward them.  Margo knows she and Richard present an elegant if misleading picture.  

And there is not a man in the room who can hold a candle to Richard when it comes to elegance.  His Bond Street tux fits as though it were made for his long, lean frame, which, of course, it was. He looks like he’s just stepped down from the stage of a Noel Coward play.

At his side, she is dressed simply, her black velvet gown draped softly around the voluptuous curves of her slim figure.  Never one for plumage, she wears only a single diamond, hanging from a platinum chain.  It glitters as it catches the light, drawing the eye to the décolletage created by the cut of the gown.

There is a smattering of applause as they walk into the hall.  Margo smiles, and wishes she were anywhere else. 

At first, these events were tremendously exciting, a culmination of everything he –no, they– had worked for.  After years of listening to him pound away on the keyboard, years of the foul moods that came with each rejection letter, and years of working her tail off to help him pursue his dream, she had been thrilled when Richard finally sold the first book.  With each subsequent novel, his continued success has seemingly become assured. 

As the old cliché her Gran had loved so much predicted, practice makes perfect.  Each book is better than the last.  No one is surprised at the meteoric success of the most recent. Especially not Margo.

And what a success it is.  This reception celebrates Shafts of Grace, and the Pulitzer it has just been awarded.

~ to be continued 



Smoke Signals

“Hey, Darlin’.”

His words arrive
Like a whisper
To kiss her

They   f  l  o  a  t    to her
Drifting through
Time Zones
Continent to continent.

Playing leapfrog

And they reach her
in a
Heart beat.

There is nothing
Between them,
 No time,
 No space,

“Hey, Yourself.”


160: Communication Breakdown

He said. She said.

Both busy talking.
Neither can hear.

He said.
She thought...

She said.
 He heard...

Ah pfft!

In a huff
They stopped speaking.



Thanks to my several of my blogging buddies
for inadvertently using the words that inspired this.

This was written for Sunday 160, 
graciously hosted by Monkey Man.


Friday Flash 55: The Inklings

C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and others met at the pub,
Lifted a pint or two and discussed what to write.
They handed out drafts of their work to their peers
And talked about edits while having a bite.
Lewis and Tolkien went on to great fame,
And now all of us know them by name.


The Eagle and Child Pub (known to local insiders as the "Bird and Baby") is in Oxford, England.  It was home to regular meetings of a group of writers who called themselves The Inklings.

And the rest is history.


This is my offering for G-Man's Friday Flash 55. For more little morsels, pay him a visit.


Meaningful Dialogue


What the hell?

He sees she’s crying, and has no idea what’s wrong.  Geez. Women.  Must be that time of the month.

“OK, what’s wrong?”


She can tell by his tone that he has no clue.  No big surprise there. He never gets it.  She’s pretty sure he doesn’t mean to be uncaring, and sometimes, he even surprises her with a comment or question that shows surprising empathy. But for the most part?  Clueless.

She suspects it’s a guy thing.  What is it about testosterone that makes them so “it’s all about me” and so “what now?” when it comes to women?


She doesn’t answer. She just sits there, the tears rolling down her cheeks as she gazes vacantly out the window.  Oh, for Pete’s sake.  He knows what she expects him to do, but, honest to God…

He walks over to her, and squats down, sitting on his haunches in front of her.  He twists his face into what he hopes is an expression of sympathy, then reaches out and takes her hands from where they lay limply in her lap.

“Honey, what is it?”


At his touch, the tears flow harder.  She knows he’s trying, but it just breaks her heart that he doesn’t really mean it.  If only he really cared as much as he seemed to.  If only… Those have to be the saddest words in the English language.  And let’s face it, they are also the most useless.

She sniffs and tries to get herself under control.  She knows this isn’t helping any.


Things have been going along pretty well, he thinks.  She’s smart and pretty quick-witted.  She makes him laugh.   He really likes her, especially how she sometimes gets him.

He looks at her and wonders why she always has to spoil things with these unpredictable bursts of emotion.  He’s pretty sure he hasn’t done anything wrong.  He’s just living his life, after all.

He watches her eyes come back into focus, and she turns to him, sniffing a bit.

Ah, good sign.  It looks like she may be over it.  He reaches up and gently wipes a tear from her check, catching it just as it is about to jump.


When he touches her cheek, she loses it, and the tears spill from her eyes with a vengeance.  She verges on that ugly, hiccupping thing she does when she really cries.  She knows her nose is brilliantly red and her face all scrunched.  Great. Why can’t she cry prettily like those women in the movies?

This really makes her mad.  She’s crying as much from that as she is from the longing. They are friends.  He’s never lied to her. He doesn’t pretend to love her.  They just have fun.  But in her mind, she keeps going there.  She makes herself so angry!


Oh, God.  She’s really crying now.  And he has no clue what to do.  Sighing, he gets up and walks to the table.  He grabs the box of tissues and takes them back to her.

He’s tried. He really has.  But he’s not sure he can go on with this.  It really drains him.  Why can’t she just be happy?  It’s all so exhausting.


She knows he’s getting fed up.  If she doesn’t stop being so fucking needy, she’s going to drive him away.  Then she’d really have something to cry about.

She really likes him.  He’s smart, and it is so much fun just talking to him.  Most of the men she seems to meet are shallow, and offer little but comments about yesterday’s game punctuated by the occasional body noise. She doesn’t want to lose him.

She takes a couple of the tissues from the box he holds out to her, and gives her nose a good blow.  Another wipes the tears away, and she gives him the best smile she can muster at the moment.


Thank heavens.  The storm seems to be over.  He smiles back.

“So, do you want to go get a pizza?”