Not That It Matters

Not that it matters, but…
Twenty-five is way too young to die,
And death is an awfully permanent way to
discover you aren’t immortal.

Not that it matters, but…
OK, so it wasn’t your fault. Still, if you’d looked
Around, you’d have seen thousands of giant raptors
Piloted by idiots, all blind to see you coming.

Not that it matters, but…
So sorry to tell you this, but that macho hunk
Of iron wedged between your legs didn’t do
One damn thing to make you seem like more of a man.

Not that it matters, but…
I think you died of poor judgment, posturing, a lack
Of true belief in yourself, and most of all, selfishness.
The moment of death was just a logical outcome.

Not that it matters, but…
I’m so angry at you. Your family weeps, their lives
Changed forever as yours crashed to an end.  
And I bet you never gave that a thought, did you?

Not that it matters, but…
If you weren’t dead, I’d want to hit you, scream at you,
Tell you to grow the fuck up. But that’s just me.
Not that any of it matters. You’re still just as dead.


If you are a fan of poetry, be sure to check out the dVerse Poets Pub. It's Open Link Night and you'll find a lot of great poets hanging out there.


Requiem Invictus

After battling so long without success, she was already battered and bruised. The first arrow found its mark easily, and she staggered. She yanked it from her chest and pushed on. But in rapid succession, a second arrow hit and then a third. In her weakened condition, she was helpless to withstand the barrage. She was finished, and she knew it.

As the end came, her last words struggled from between her lips.

"...and the horse you rode in on," she breathed. "You're out of the will."

And then she was gone before the rest of the arrows even took to the air.


Written for the Tenth Daughter of Memory.


Paso Doble

She has a great smile and she uses it a lot. It’s her most appealing trait. That and the sense of humor behind it. That smile draws people to her,  many of them hurting, looking for a salve made up of equal parts compassion and smart-ass to sooth their bruised soles. But who brings a poultice for the wounds she hides so well?

Sometimes, a gust of loneliness blows through, riffling her control and the pages of her secret dance book, that place she records each step of longing and pain.  The pages flutter and rest open-book, exposing the anguish hidden by the smile for all to see, if they cared enough to look. Few do.

If those close to her were paying attention, they might notice that many of the lines in her dance book are not in her hand.  Moments left behind, as empty as the messages left in the pink plastic-covered autograph book she had in elementary school, he inscribed the margins with hopes and dreams that she never recognized as fiction until the ink was dry and it was too late

Charming, he dances a clever paso doble cloaked with temptation, never committing to anything but the dance. Woven from spun sugar, promises of more are sweet on the tongue, then quickly melted and gone. The dance keeps her emotions teetering on the precipice, unable to move forward, unable to pull back.

She is a smart woman, our heroine. She knows all this. But when the loneliness blows in, passing though the arbor as it comes, perhaps, she sees him as she wishes he were, and the dance of longing is renewed. The saddest thing is that, committed to her fantasy dancer, even such a charming one, she is unable to look into reality and see new partner.

Were she to ask, which she won’t, someone close to her, someone with more concern for her than for personal footwork, yes, Someone might offer a suggestion.

Go to a quiet place in your head or your countryside, Someone would say, a place important only to you with no associations to anyone else. Go there, leave your dance book locked away and open your heart instead. Ask then: If I could have anything, what would it be? If all obstacles were removed, and I could have him exactly as he is, no alterations allowed, would I want him?  If the answer is yes, Someone would add, the next question is obvious. And does he want you, exactly as you are, no alterations allowed?

If the answer to all these questions is yes, Someone would roll her eyes and ask, “Then what the Hell are you waiting for?

But if any of the answers is no, Someone would need say no more. Our heroine knows that if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. She might wish she were taller, younger, or able to tap dance, but she doesn’t invest her time and emotions longing for the impossible.

She’s a smart woman, our heroine is. And did I mention that she has a great smile?


Boost Your "Curb Appeal"

Going green? Good plan. But, geez, no need to be boring about it. Let me help.You’ll discover a popularity like you've never known before. Complete strangers will wave to you on the street. Pause, and you’ll be surrounded by admirers.

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Showing off here for Friday Flash Fiction, hosted by a car guy who works for my Big Daddy, G-Man.


A Pox of Prejudice - Part 2

Continued from Part 1

And so it starts…

That Monday, the day people have started calling “Black Monday,” Dodie is filled with trepidation as she pulls her old Ford into the lot two blocks from the STC building. She has no idea what to expect. The rumor mill predicts everything from demonstrations in front of the building to National Guard escorts for the new employee. She finds herself dawdling as she locks the car and starts walking.

The front of the building looks just as it always does. She shows her badge, and takes the elevator to the fifth floor.

“Are you ready for this?”

She turns toward the woman riding beside her. It’s someone she doesn’t know, but even so, she can tell the woman has dressed up a bit today. She looks more like she’s going to a wedding than to work. Dodie wonders if she thought she might be on television or something.

“Sure.” Her answer seems a bit flat in response to the somewhat sarcastic tone of the other woman’s voice. But so far, she has avoided getting into the snide, and frankly offensive, conversations that have swirled all around her since the announcement. And she’s not about to start.

“Well, we’re in for it now. This is just the first, you know. If we don’t do something, the next thing you know, the place will be infested with them, and there won’t be a chair fit to sit on.”

Dodie is shocked by the naked disgust in the woman’s voice. Coming from an attractive woman in a pink suit, it’s like finding a cockroach in the sugar bowl. Then the words hit her. Do something?

The woman looks at her over her tortoise shell glass frames.  “You’re with us, right?”

Dodie is saved when the doors slide open on her floor. “Uh, gotta go, I’m almost late. See ya.” She bolts from the elevator and heads for the bank of small lockers lining the hall outside the room filled with switchboards. A glance at her watch tells her she really is late. She twirls in the combination, exchanges her purse for her headset, and hurries to the time clock to punch in.

After she takes her place at the board and plugs in, she still hears the echoes of the hatred spouting from between that woman’s Rose Petal Frost-covered lips.

“Do something…You’re with us, right?” The words send a frisson of fear down her spine.


Like a wave, the room goes silent from front to back. The absence of sound lasts only a few seconds, and is followed by a second wave, as the operators resume their work. But the buzz of voices has a quality that is slightly off-pitch.

Dodie runs the current call card through the time stamp and turns to look. Several seats away, she sees Marge and another supervisor. Between them is a thin colored girl who is probably about twenty but looks much younger. She wears a simple plaid dress and her hair is smoothed and pulled back into a tight French twist. But it’s the face beneath the rolled bangs that catches Dodie’s breath. The girl looks absolutely terrified. She never raises her eyes to meet the daggers flashing from the eyes of several women around her as she takes her place on the board.

At that moment, Dodie vows to befriend her. She knows full well what it is like to walk into this job, doubting your ability to master the corded monsters all around you. And she didn’t have to face the resentment that infects the air all around this poor girl.


The call comes on the fifth cord set at Dodie’s position. No need to plug this one in. Only the first cord set is currently handling a call on the board. She knows a call on one of the last three indicates a call directly to her position from somewhere in the building. Shortly after she began at STC, a call on one of the last three cord sets was usually an announcement about a training class or Payroll with a question about her withholding.

Not now.

Dodie’s heart skips a beat. In the three months since “Black Monday,” a call to her position has become a daily event. At first, they were polite, suggesting that she might want to give more attention to her job and less to her coworkers. When she got the first one, she had gone straight to Marge and asked what was lacking in her work. Marge’s reception was cool, but then, she hadn’t ever been much in the warmth department.

“Your work is fine.”

It was enough to reassure her. She chalked it up to a practical joke. It wouldn’t have been the first one.

But the calls continued, each more aggressive and uglier than the last. It became clear that the problem was not the attention she wasn’t giving her job as much as it was the attention she was giving Rose, the new employee. Seems some people aren’t happy that she’s not “with" them.

Dodie is nothing if not stubborn. The more they threaten, the more she digs in her heels. She’s taken to having lunch in the cafeteria with Rose. The poor girl has been eating a bag lunch in the little park down the street from the building, and it wasn’t easy to convince her to brave the cafeteria. But she’s done it, and aside from the dirty looks, which they’d both ignore, there hasn’t been a problem. Others had actually started joining them. Not everyone is as prejudiced as whoever is making the calls to her station.

She’s tempted to ignore it, but it could be an emergency. She sighs heavily and pulls the toggle back on cord five. “2047.”

“Seems like you got a hankering for a bomb in your mailbox, nigger lover. That’d be a real shame, nice house like your daddy’s.”

Tears in her eyes, Dodie sits listening to the emptiness on the line after the caller disconnects until a tap on her shoulder startles her.

“Eleven o’clock, Dodie. Time to go home. I know you don’t love this place that much.”

Dodie turns and gives her friend Mary a weak smile. “Right.”

She pulls her headset cord free of the board, and joins Mary as she walks toward the hall.

“Hey, you alright?” Mary touches Dodie’s arm, her voice filled with concern. She’s seen the remnants of tears in her eyes.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just tired. Yawning, you know?”

At the front door, Mary says, “You sure you’re OK. You want a lift to your car?” Mary gestures to the car idling at the curb. It’s her only car, and her husband picks her up when she can’t get a ride with someone else heading toward the Grove.

“No, really, I’m fine. See you tomorrow.”

“OK, ‘night.”

Dodie gives a wave at the car pulling away from the curb and heads toward the lot.


 February 12, 2000

The ballroom in the Grand Regency Hotel is sparkling as the elegantly dressed woman pauses in the doorway, her hand held by her tuxedo-clad husband. Soft music from the small band near the dance floor floats through the air as they make their way toward the head table. It’s slow going, because at every table, someone stands to congratulate her.

Finally, the couple reaches the dais. She smiles as she looks at the large banner on the wall behind the table. “Happy Retirement!” It’s been a long time coming, she thinks as she takes her seat.

After a sumptuous meal has been served and cleared, one by one, friends and co-workers take the podium and speak glowing words about her accomplishments. Finally, the CEO turns toward her.

“I have the great privilege of presenting our guest of honor. I know that no introductions are necessary. She’s our favorite techie and I, for one, am going to miss her terribly. I know you feel the same. Ladies and gentleman, Vice President of Information Services Rose Franklin!”

The room bursts into applause as Rose joins the CEO at the podium. He leans down and kisses the diminutive gray-haired woman’s cheek and then sits down.

As the applause dies down, she adjusts the microphone.

“My friends. I am so incredibly honored by this wonderful send-off. But I had no idea you were so anxious to get rid of me.”

She pauses while the two hundred people in front of her laugh.

“Before we get to the dancing, which is really the only reason I came,” she smiles as the audience chuckles again, “I’d like to say just a few words.”

“When I started at STC 46 years ago, I never dreamed I would be standing here today. You all know your history; I don’t need to tell you how hard it was. Over the years, many of you have told me what a trailblazer I was, how brave I must have been.”

Rose takes a sip of water, and continues.

“You are so wrong. I was a timid little mouse who needed a job. That’s all. I couldn’t have been more terrified than I was the day I first walked into that room full of switchboards.” She smiles as she sweeps the room with her glowing brown eyes. “I know some of you must be old enough to remember what a switchboard is.” The responding laughter is accompanied by groans.

“That room was filled with white women. I was like a chocolate drop in a bowl of marshmallows. I know that they all weren’t ready to kill me on the spot, but I believed then that a lot of them would have welcomed the chance. Actually,” she says, her face turning serious, “I still believe that today.

“I never thought I’d make through the first week. And I wouldn’t have, except there was a young woman on that switchboard who really was brave. A woman who probably never realized it, but she was the real trailblazer. She had the courage to stand up to incredible pressure and become my friend. I can only imagine what she must have suffered to do so.  I know what she sacrificed.

“Every time I was ready to throw in the towel, I could hear her say, 'Hang in there, Rose. It will get better. It has to.’

“Every time I was terrified to take the next step, her words of encouragement filled my head.

“It’s because of her that I stayed at STC through those horrible first years. It’s because of her that I went back to school and learned how to become,” she turns and smiles at the CEO, “your ‘favorite techie.’ And it’s because of her that I am here tonight.”

Rose stops, and looks down at the podium for a long moment. The room is completely silent. Finally she looks up at the audience again, her eyes shining with unshed tears.

“And it’s because of me that she isn’t here tonight. One night when she was getting into her car after her shift, she was attacked. When the security guard found her hours later, she was dead, beaten horribly. The authorities never found the cowards who killed her.

"So tonight, I think it is appropriate for us to honor her.  My friends, please join me in applauding the true woman of courage, the real heroine in my story, Dodie Williams.”

Rose beams, tears running down her cheeks, as everyone in the room stands and enthusiastically claps their hands along with her.

When the applause finally fades and everyone takes their seat again, she turns to the band and says, “Get your boogie on, Boys! There’s folk want to dance here.”

A Pox of Prejudice - Part 1

Yawning, Operator 2047 braces her feet on the metal footrest attached to the front of her tall chair so she can twist around without falling off to grab the white card hanging from its back by a clip. The large numbers printed on the card identify her to the supervisor trolling back and forth behind the long row of women. There are eight other supervisors like her in the hangar-sized room, each monitoring her own row of women. The women all sit in identical chairs with numbered cards clipped to the back. During peak hours, there can be as many as 400 of them creating a hum of murmured voices that seldom abates. It’s like working in a beehive.

Worker Bee Number 2047. So warm and personal. Dodie doesn’t know why that still surprises her, but it does. It’s not even remotely what she’d imagined when she applied for the job last summer. It had seemed so glamorous then. If only Mom and Dad had had the money to send her to college right away, she thinks now. She’d give anything to be up in Tallahassee with her friends instead of being here.

Suppressing another yawn that makes her blue eyes water, she turns the card over to expose the bold red letters that cry for “RELIEF” on the reverse side and slides the card back under the clip. Almost simultaneously, as though she had triggered it, the board in front of her suddenly bursts into life, most of its small lights gleaming red.

No need to check her watch. It’s nine o’clock; two hours to go. Groaning inwardly, Dodie leans back and looks behind the backs for the supervisor. There she is. The tightly permed brown hair peeks out from the row of heads to her right. She’s standing between two chairs about halfway down, tethered to the board by the coiled cord dangling from her headset as she speaks into the mouthpiece. She sees Dodie looking at her and holds up two fingers.

Dodie nods, then turns back to the board and pulls out the rear cord of the only unoccupied cord set at her position. Might as well start chipping away at the red lights. Most of them, she knows, are pay phones full of impatient snowbirds who waited until nine o’clock when the rates went down, then dropped a dime in the slot and dialed “O.” Not her favorite customers to deal with, but when you work at night, it’s a fact of life. That she’ll be working at night for a long time is also a fact of life. You have to pay your dues before you are rewarded with the coveted eight-to-five shift.

She seats the end of the cord in the hole beneath one of the lit red bulbs on the 538 strip. The prefix identifies the location of the caller as the Beach, probably the lobby of one of the big hotels now filled with seasonal tourists. She flips the toggle forward, puts on her cheery voice and says, “Operator.”

A full fifteen minutes later, after she has completed that call and several more, the supervisor appears behind Dodie and plugs in.

“Thanks, Marge. My back teeth are floating.” Dodie pulls her own headset cord from the board and heads out to the Ladies Room. It’s true; she does need to pee. But even more, she needs to walk around a bit or she’ll never make it to her shift end at eleven. It’s been an awful day and she’s exhausted.

In the Ladies Room, she says hello to the three women standing in a cluster by the sinks, and pushes into one of the stalls. No toilet paper. Great. She turns around in time to catch one of the women pulling a face at the others. The expression is quickly replaced by reddened cheeks, and the three leave the bathroom.

Big surprise, Dodie thinks as she settles gratefully onto the toilet in the next stall. She has become accustomed to the feeling that she has single-handedly cleared the room.

After she washes her hands, she rests her arms against the cool porcelain of the sink and lets the cold water from the tap flow over her wrists. She feels a little foolish doing it, but figures it can’t hurt. Even though the old-timers swear by it, she doubts the chill to her wrists will perk her up. Catching sight of the reflection in the mirror above the sink, she grimaces at the image looking back at her. Even if the cold water does wake her up a little, it won’t do much to help the appearance of the person in the mirror. No one should look that old at nineteen. Her normally glossy ponytail hangs behind her head like a tired, coffee-stained string mop and dusky circles frame her bloodshot eyes. She hasn’t slept much since the whole thing began.

Yeah, it’s been one heck of a day, the latest in a long line of them. And tomorrow promises to be no better.


For Dodie, growing up in Miami was like growing up in Everywhere, USA. No one is “from” Miami, no one that she knows, anyway. Everybody is a transplant from somewhere else, usually some place up North. As with other coastal cities in Florida, the Miami draw is the beach and, most of all, the weather. But unlike many other coastal Florida cities and towns, Miami is a booming metropolis, about one million people strong.

Despite being about as far south as you could get in the continental US, Dodie’s Miami doesn’t seem much like “Old Dixie.” Little of what she knows about the American South touches Dodie’s life in any way. Few people seasoned their speech with “ya’ll” or ever invited ya’ll to “come have a glass of sweet tea and set a spell.” But scratch the surface, and what you’d find is southern to the core.

Her high school was as white as the bread that scented the air with tempting aromas wafting from the Wonder factory a mile away. Well, at least until the first handful of Cubans appeared during her senior year. “Racism” was something the TV commentators talked about, not a factor in Dodie’s reality. She’d heard the word “nigger,” of course, but it wasn’t in her vernacular. Other than the coloreds she saw outside the big apartment complex on Dixie Highway she drove by everyday on her way to work, Dodie never really noticed many Negroes. She knows there are a lot more up in Overtown and Liberty City, but that’s so far removed from the Miami she knows, it’s like another planet.

Recent events have brought the coloreds to the forefront of Dodie’s mind for the first time. As she thought about it, she’d realized that she had only ever known one colored person in her whole life. Ida had been there on Thursday when she got home from school, standing in the kitchen ironing as she listed to her “stories” on the radio.

“Hi, Ida. What’s happening in Young Doctor Malone’s life?” was her standard greeting every Thursday afternoon of eighth grade. While she ate the milk and cookies Ida set out, Dodie listened as Ida filled her in on the heart-stopping crisis the young doctor had faced during the previous week. She enjoyed hanging around with Ida on Thursday, but she’d never thought of her as anything but someone who ironed and liked soap operas. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? Both, Dodie supposes now.


One Month Earlier

The announcement comes as an insert in everyone’s paycheck, which is hand-delivered to her by Marge. That’s odd, she thinks. Why such personal service in the normally impersonal workplace?

“Open it,” Marge says without preamble as she hands the white envelope to Dodie.

Dodie does as she’s told and sees right away that there is an additional piece of paper in the envelope with her check. Oh, no, am I getting fired from my first job? With a shot of fear, she looks up at Marge, who nods.

“Read it.”

Hands shaking, Dodie pulls out the pink slip of paper and reads the words mimeographed on it.

“On Monday, February 10, the first Negro employee at Southern Telephone Company will begin working as a long-distance operator. Management urges everyone to treat our new co-worker with respect.”

Her mind in a whirl, Dodie doesn’t grasp what she’s reading. She expected the pink slip of paper to be the proverbial “pink slip” so completely, the actual words don’t register.


“Yes. And she’s coming to our board.” Marge’s voice holds the same note of impending doom as it might have had she been talking about a fatal diagnosis.

“Um…” Assaulted by conflicting thoughts, Dodie finds herself speechless, a rare occurrence.

To be honest, she can’t say she’s ever noticed the absence of colored people on the switchboards. But she can’t say she ever looked either. And had she thought about it, which she hasn’t, she would have assumed there were coloreds in other parts of the company. This is Miami, not Little Rock.

She feels a little surge of pride when she realizes what the announcement means. Good for you, Ma Bell. Surely, this can’t be a bad thing. But judging from the look on Marge’s face and the forbidding tone of her voice, she figures it must be.

Marge leans in conspiratorially. “We all have to be careful. She’s probably a plant.” She lifts her eyebrows. “You know, from the NAACP.”

“No, surely not. Really? How do you know?”

“Oh, I hear things.” Marge gives her a knowing look. “That sort of thing is going on all over, you know. It’s in all the papers. They’re just looking to stir up trouble. That’s how they are.” It might be possible for the supervisor to display more disapproval on her face, but Dodie can’t see how.

Dodie’s mouth is poised to give voice to the doubt she feels, but looking at her supervisor’s pinched face, she holds her tongue.

 “Uh, OK…”

“Good. Mind your Ps and Qs. Spread the word.” Marge turns and marches down the hall, her back stiff with self-importance under the striped shirtwaist dress.

As it turns out that Dodie doesn’t need to spread the word. Marge hand-delivered that week’s pay envelope to every operator on the switchboard, even those who don’t work her shift. She came in early and stayed late to ensure she had the opportunity to “warn” everyone.

Dodie assumed that Marge was playing Chicken Little. But she soon learns that the operators on the other seven switchboards have all received the same pink slip, and a warning to go with it. During the coming days, discussion of the announcement commands more attention in the Operators’ Lounge than the television.

“Can you believe it? A nigger operator.”

“I know! This used to be a good place to work.”

“And it’s only the beginning. You mark my words. They’ll descend on us like a plague of locusts.”

Dodie is ashamed she doesn’t speak up. But she’s the new kid on the board. And besides, she likes and respects her co-workers. Many of them have helped her as she struggled to learn the job. Hearing such conviction in their voices makes her question her assumptions. What if they’re right?

To be concluded in Part 2



The Perils of Pauline

The Perils of Pauline

playing the damsel she cowers, fist to mouth,
as Joe twirls a finger 'round invisible handlebars
framing a leering grin.  “ah, my pretty…”
and then, and then… (cue music)

with a waggle of eyebrows and swirl of his cape,
he is upon her. feigning a sigh of high drama, she
succumbs, as damsels must do, and counts herself lucky.
The Perils of Pauline beats Europa and the Bull any time.


Meanwhile, Up in the Attic

whipping winds threatening
to wrench the microphone from their hands,
TV reporters stand on the shore,
backdroppped by rolling waves of Irene’s fury,
repeating the same frantic phrases, lamenting
the fate of coastal cities and towns.

over and over, hour upon hour, day after day,
the same video loops crashing waves and
boarded windows as Irene and the “news” roll on.
local meteorologists try but fail to keep excitement
from their eyes as they do their thing at the map, thrilled
to take center stage with something important to say.

and then it passes, and Irene becomes less,
no longer newsworthy as she leaves New York behind.
the guy at the map talks of sunshine and fair winds,
no longer excited but, boy, what a ride.
recaps include video, but we saw it two days ago. "still,
she was one for the books," he murmurs with pride.

meanwhile, up at the top of the country, Irene
has the last word, but except for the locals,
there’s no one who hears. Like old toys and
broken furniture out of sight up in the rafters,
they are trapped there, isolated and forgotten,
as things in the attic frequently are.