Category Archives: Story

Cold Snap

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Cold Snap

As she awakened from her afternoon nap, she could see the glow of the lit-up dial of the alarm clock even through her closed eyelids. Everything on her body was thinning out. Her hair hung so limply that all she could do was to push it behind her ears and smooth it back from where it formed fuzzy little swirls on her forehead. Her arms sprouted an archipelago of purplish dry torn bruises—new ones every time she knocked up against a door frame or pruned the thunbergia vines. No one ever mentioned these bruises, although her children were perceptive and must have noticed them on those occasions when they stopped by on their way home from work to bring her groceries or to open the damper in the chimney and check that the gas lines had not clogged up over the summer.

Today it was her son who rang her doorbell to check up on her and accept a fast cup of coffee. It was going to be a cold winter, he lectured, so she needed a fire. Did she want him to light it for her? No, she wasn’t cold, but she would do it herself later, she insisted.  For the hundredth time, he lectured her on being careful to make sure the pilot was working every time, then feigned interest in what sparse news she had to impart. She feared her subscription to life had expired along with most of her friends. What new did she have to say about this week’s installment of Mrs. Maisel or even the weather, now that it had turned gray and unchangeable––much like her life?

After ten minutes, he was off to children and wife and supper, and she was glad for this. She kissed him good-bye. A good boy. She had been fortunate in her life. She moved over to the fireplace. It was cold already, she thought, as she  bent over to close the damper and blow out the standing pilot light on the fireplace, then turned on the gas.

Prompt words today are dial, chimney, expired, perceptive and work.

A Hamburger for Breakfast (by Forgottenman) Reblog

I couldn’t find a reblog button on Forgottenman’s post, but he gave me permission to quote a bit and give a link. This is a fun essay. Check it out!

A Hamburger for Breakfast

–by Forgottenman               

Dad and I were apparently very close when I was a baby, based on the photos my mom took. But the disengagement came later, when I was about three, when Mom took control. Control.

I grew up right here where I type this, in this very house. Playing outside here as a kid there were always summer crickets to be found, to be chased and caught, and to be kindly released. Occasionally, one would make his way inside the house, but his song made it easy for us to track him down, to catch him, and to release him outside. It’s different today.

In the summer of 1960 I was eight years old. I was a smart kid but (therefore?) floundering in what to make of life, of family. One day Dad mentioned he and his buddy Carmack were going fishing Saturday at Duck Creek (not really a creek, but rather a man-made cypress swamp created by the Missouri Conservation Department). Somehow, he gauged me and decided to ask if I’d like to join them on the excursion. I nervously accepted. I had never been fishing before.

I had already disappointed him, and he had disappointed me. When I was four I was thrilled when he promised he’d take me the next day to pick up our new 1955 Chevy Bel Air at the car dealer, but he “let” me sleep in instead. (I still can’t forgive him, though he is ten years gone. I was devastated.) A few years later he would take me to little league baseball sign-up night, but I couldn’t get up the nerve to go inside. A few years after that he stormed out at me when I relayed a message from Mom that made him mad – and she made him apologize to me when he returned. I knew early I wasn’t the son he had hoped for. I know now that I never would be, exactly, although we would eventually, um – accommodate. But Dad invited me to go fishing with him that day in 1960, and that moment was perfect.

….read the rest of the story HERE.

Great Kiskadee

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My friend Andy just published a wonderful shot of a Great Kiskadee that he captured in La Manzanilla, a town on the West Coast of Mexico.  It brought back memories of two different sightings I’ve had of one, both in the town where I live in Mexico, San Juan Cosala.  HERE is a link to my photos of my second sighting and below is a story I wrote about the first one I ever saw and the lady who inspired the story.

“Great Kiskadee”

I think every little girl has crushes on older girls.  Many years ago when I was living in Australia, the little girl who lived next door once said, “When I grow up I’m going to marry you!” When her sister, full of wisdom at age 8, explained that girls didn’t marry girls,  she said, “Oh.  Then when I grow up I’m going to marry my dog.”  It was the first time I was pretty sure that a little girl had a crush on me and it seemed to signal one of those switching-over times when we ourselves become what we have formerly observed.

Since then, a progression of little neighborhood girls have come to bake cookies or to sing along to my horrendous guitar playing or to do art projects.  Now that I’m in Mexico, they come to learn English.  It’s a treat for them to see my house and see what a foreign lady wears and eats, what her friends are like.  But I don’t think they have crushes on me.

That phenomenon of the crush is dependent  not only on the age of the one who bears the crush but also on the age and manner of its recipient.  As a little girl, I had crushes on three neighborhood girls.  One, the eldest, was independent, tomboyish, and friendly to me.  She grew up, married a rancher and moved away. The second was pretty, a talented piano player who lived with her maiden aunt.  She married a bully and grew silent and reclusive.  The third was our neighbor Patty Peck, my sister Patti’s best friend.  She, too, was a talented musician as well as a straight A student.

She was an only child, and I admired the attention her parents seemed to extend to her and to me, too, when once I stayed with them for a few days when my parents left town.  In her home there was more care, more rules.  I felt fragile, as though I might break.  Every time I left the house, I needed to tell them where I went.  This made me feel valuable.  The first day I was there, her mother Elsa gave me a paper upon which was written the day’s menu.  I was to make a check by any food I didn’t like so she could change the menu to meet my likes.  This was astounding to me.  Some of the foods I didn’t really know, since they were vegetables never served by my mother, and mealtime became an adventure.

After dinner, I could go out to play for a few hours until night time.  I decreased my range, proudly boasting to my cohorts that I couldn’t go beyond the school yard block in playing hide and seek because I was being taken care of by the Pecks and they didn’t want me out of calling distance.

This special feeling extended to Patty Peck as well.  She was birdlike–a pretty dark-haired high strung girl.  She had a nervous little laugh that seemed refined.  She paused  a moment before answering, as though she was taking care to think things over before she spoke–a quality rare in our world.

Of course, being four years younger and the little sister of her best friend, I never got to spend as much time with her as I might wish to.  This was mainly due to my own sister’s guarding of her friends.  I was “little” and my presence destroyed some fine balance among her and her friends, who seemed to be more exotic, fun and adventurous than my stay-at-home careful group.  My sister’s gang staged circuses and plays, charging admission.  They played Tarzan, complete with costumes.  My sister was Cheetah, Patty Peck was Jane–the most exotic role.  I could watch if my sister didn’t notice I was watching.  But Patty Peck, who had no sister of her own, was nice to me and seemed to like to have me along.  She never treated me as a pest.  I always had this feeling that if it weren’t for that selfish sister of mine, that we would be friends.

This came to be true my sophomore year in high school when she asked me to come to Augustana College, all the way across the state, to stay in her dorm for little sisters’ weekend.  I went, thrilled, and was as nervous as if a movie star had asked me over for a few days.  I worried about what I wore.  I tried to be neat and clean.  When we went out to eat, I worried about what to order.  But everything was fine.  She introduced me to her friends, took me to her favorite haunt for cinnamon rolls.  I think there was a banquet or some staged events, but for me the best part of the whole weekend was finally getting to have Patty Peck for my own friend.

After that, we wrote a few times before going off into our individual lives.  I went off to Australia and Africa, she married a handsome outgoing man and moved for awhile into a cabin high in the mountains of Montana.  During the winter, they had to snowshoe in, which I of course found to be exotic.  Also, it was untypical.  I was thrilled that she was living a life so unlike the one I might have imagined for her.  This careful “inside” girl,  studious and musical, chose a life-of-the-party regular Joe and let him carry her off to the wilds.  I loved that.

Later, when she  got her Masters in Microbiology and then went on to get her Ph.D., it seemed a more believable course for her life to take.  Amazed that anyone could maneuver successfully the upper realms of science and math beyond trigonometry and chemistry, I was only amazed–not surprised.  I could picture her in the white lab coat leaning over an electron microscope.  I could imagine her care, her graceful movements transferring the test tube from location to location.

I missed imagining her with Jerry, her ex-husband. When I pictured them together, I always thought of her as being called forth out of herself, giggling perhaps, a bit silly.  Brought to that place by him.  But I knew there was that scholarly alone place in her, too, that place that also needed satisfying.  That person sat on the high stool in the laboratory of my imagination, looking closely, evaluating.

Of my three crushes, she was the only one who remained  in my life.  For years I knew all of the turns of her life through my sister.

During our thirties and forties,  our relationships with former classmates and town mates  survived long distance.  We met at high school all-class reunions every five years or stopped in while passing through each others’ towns.  Then as we got less busy, we took more time to renew the closeness of old relationships.  Patty Peck began to take once yearly visits from Baltimore to Wyoming, where my sister lived.

Once, when I was visiting at the same time, we watched fireworks together and trekked up to the medicine wheel that was miles out of town.  As my sister and another friend walked ahead,   Patty Peck and I fell into walking together. I liked the person she had become or perhaps remained.  Interested in wildflowers, medicine wheels, cloud formations.  The scientific part of her noticed the minute world just as the artistic part of me did.  There seemed to be no difference.  You could go slowly and she understood that it was not out of laziness but out of a need to see it all, notice it all.  Her scientific mind recorded the details that I had to sketch quickly onto paper to remember.

Years later when she was one of three Pattys who came to visit me in Mexico all at the same time, I found that she had not changed.  She devoured my bird books, leaving little stick-it notes jutting out from pages, recording on them which birds she had positively identified.  She’d get up at six and sit on the patio recording the birds.  I, who had recently lost my husband and moved to this country where I knew no one, had quickly fixated on birds and insects with an insatiable interest.  The plot of my past six months had centered almost entirely upon them.  It was as though we had a child in common. I ate up her interest and her contribution to my informal research.  I had wanted that brilliant bird to be a red-breasted sapsucker so badly.  The story I was writing depended upon that exotic bird being in it,  and she had concurred in my opinion.

I took to getting up early and joining her.  It was a special time without distraction when I got to have the extra older sister of my childhood dreams.  Over the years, my relationship to my real sister Patti had augmented and mellowed into the relationship I always yearned for when I was little.  She listened, took care and valued me as much as I valued her.  But I had felt that neighbor Patty had felt that way about me even as a little girl, and it was fun to be on an equal footing, the  difference in our ages having been canceled out by our both passing age 50.   Now our varying interests, careers and life choices had brought us to this same place–my early morning patio overlooking Lake Chapala in Mexico.

I always imagined that trip of the three Pattys–my best friend, my sister and my sister’s best friend, would become a yearly event and I looked forward to it becoming so.  Next year, we wouldn’t float four abreast on the queen-sized air mattress; drinking margaritas and laughing for so long that we’d all get sunburns.  Next year, we’d continue our indexing and notation of the birds in my world.  Next year, we’d find different places to walk now that the lake was full and our former walking grounds covered by water.

Of course, in real life, those next year plans don’t always happen, and so it was for the three Patty reunion.  But on the shelf next to my computer is the vivid blue book titled “Mexican Birds” and sticking out from its pages like bright yellow plumage are the miniature sticky notes embellished with her fine flourished script.  “Vermillion Flycatcher, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Great Kiskadee” she has written, defining my world for me, leaving me a gift, a communication.

Recently, my sister Patti has gone out to to see her old friend for what will probably be the last time. They say that there is a good likelihood that her stage 4 cancer was brought on by her extensive use of electron microscopes in her work as a microbiologist.  I hope that as those closest to her come near to share her next journey, that they will all find the words they need to find for each other.  So far away, I wish I could comfort her, comfort my sister.  If I could get my emotions enough in check to talk, I’d call, and perhaps will.  But for now, I try to send strength, energy.  As I think of her, I can feel something from inside of me stream out toward her.  She might have a scientific name for what I just experience as healing energy; there might be a theory in physics to explain it.  But for me, I am sending a current composed of all of our short moments together combined with every time I have thought of her, admired her, wished that we were closer friends in proximity and sentiment.  I add my little stream to all of those who love her most.  And on the shelf near my computer, from the pages of the little blue bird book, she speaks back.

Good bye my friend and neighbor.  I’ll miss you.

Love, Judy

Midnight Tryst at the Horticultural Society Ball

Midnight Tryst at the Horticultural Society Ball

In spite of our earlier indecision, when our eyes met in passing on the dance floor, they sealed the tacit agreement that we would slip into the garden at the set hour. Later, we would try but fail to furnish an adequate excuse to our spouses of the reason for our mutual midnight escape. Even our shots of the night-blooming  cereus could not adequately explain our defection. It was as though we carried the scent of our desire-—as heady as the scent of that rare flower-—back to the hall with us. A universal blanket of dispraise settled over the crowd, in spite of the excitement over our viewing of the rare bloom. Everyone knew. Our mutual fate was sealed.

The prompt words for today are garden, tacit, dispraise and desire. I also made use of Cee’s FOTD flower prompt.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/02/19/rdp-tuesday-garden/
https://fivedotoh.com/2019/02/19/fowc-with-fandango-tacit/
https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2019/02/19/your-daily-word-prompt-dispraise-february-19-2019/
https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2019/02/19/desire/
https://ceenphotography.com/2019/02/18/fotd-february-18-2019-crocus-2/

Three Stories Miraculously Bonded into One

Click on the first photo to enlarge all photos and read the captions.  You must do this first to reveal the mystery.  What do all of these things have in common? Can you guess before reading the complete story printed after the photos and captions? Do you even want to?

Annie just peed in my shower––I mean a man-sized stream that arced up from where she was standing on the floor in front of the shower, over the 6 inch ledge and into the shower, where  it ran from a couple of feet away right down the drain. I shouted, “No, no,” but she finished and ran away. Then I remembered that I’d cleaned out her box this morning in the location where it is located in the  guest room shower and had to empty all the sand and wash out the box and under it because there was pee all over the shower floor, probably because all the cats were in yesterday and had used it and it was not pleasant to enter, so she just peed in the shower, or they did.

Anyway, I had sprayed ammonia over all the floor and box, scrubbed them both and then sprayed again with an odor eradicator and stood the box on end to dry while the shower floor dried. Then I closed the door so she didn’t go in there while it was drying. Unfortunately, I then left to drive Yolanda home, do a bit of shopping and stop by the fraccionamiento office to see if I’d paid my special assessment. I then stopped by a couple of neighbor’s houses to apologize for Diego’s barking while I was gone–another story–forgetting that I hadn’t opened the door to her guest room bathroom and set up her litter box again, so she had nowhere to pee. She did it in the easiest place to clean. Good girl.
Phew. Telling about it took as much effort as doing the two cleanups, but now the plot thickens.

Yesterday I knocked a bottle of dark rose-colored nail polish off the counter of my master bedroom bathroom and it dropped and broke on the eggshell-colored ceramic tile of my bathroom, spraying across 8 feet of floor, over the new rug I had just bought in the states, and a bit up the wall. Rapidly drying pools of bright polish and splatters mixed in with shards of glass and tiny pieces of glass made passing through the bathroom to the tub nearly impossible! Damn! How to clean it up without walking through it and cutting my fingers to shreds? I ended up wadding Kleenex and toilet paper and picking up what shards were big enough to see, then used nail polish remover pads to tackle the polish, removing big gobs with Kleenex, then carefully scrubbing with the pads. When I ran out of pads, I put polish remover on wads of Kleenex, but it was a big job.

When I had cleared away most of the bigger puddles and largest shards and removed most of the polish off the wall and rug, I had just the decorative splashes left—about 3 feet of them—it occurred to me then that the first thing forgottenman would say when I told him the story was, “Did you take pictures?” No, I hadn’t. So, now that most of the mess was already cleaned up,  I did.  Secondly, it occurred to me that I should just pour the rest of the bottle of polish remover over the floor and use my foot in my Croc to rub Kleenex over them. I wouldn’t have to worry about glass and could apply more pressure. I finally got it all up and then put more remover down and rubbed over larger areas to remove the stain, as that porous area now sported an overall  pinkish glow.

Finally, coming up to the present and Annie’s peeing in the shower, when I was mopping up her urine with toilet paper so I could flush it, I found a pretty good sized clear shard of glass from the top part of the jar which had no polish on it to make it obvious, jagged end facing up, in the shower just where I would have stepped when I took my next shower. It had flown up and over the edge and into the shower when the nail polish bottle broke! Good Annie! Her foresight (or hindsight?) in peeing in my shower probably saved me a serious injury.

But! Did I really say finally? As I was writing this post, the plot thickened again. Just before I started writing this post and taking the photos to accompany it, I had put a small pan of Brussels sprouts on to steam. Since there were only seven largish sprouts, I used a steamer basket in a small covered saucepan with water up to the bottom of the steamer bottom.  I had cut the tops of each sprout almost through to the bottom in an X pattern, and as I sprinkled them with “No Salt,” pepper, garlic powder and a bit of balsamic vinegar, I was remembering the last Brussels sprouts I’d had when I first got to Sheridan two months ago.  They were served as an appetizer in a restaurant and since both my sister and Jim, her husband, hate them, it was up to my friend Patty, her boyfriend Duffy and me to polish off the whole batch.  That was no problem.  They were delicious—piquant and a bit charred with a wonderful smoky flavor.  I was wondering how I could duplicate that recipe.  Would I steam them first, then char them? What were the spices? For years I’d been using a friend’s recipe which I loved but I liked these even better.

At any rate, the present day Brussels sprouts went on the gas stovetop to steam and I went to the bathroom to survey the scene and to write this story, then to my desk in the bedroom to finish it.  One thing led to another and a half hour had passed before I finished typing the story.  When I came back to the living room to plug in my computer, edit photos and post, I heard a sizzling and rapid rocking sound and smelled a burning smell.  Damn! The Brussels sprouts!  I quickly turned off the gas under the completely waterless smoking saucepan, removed the sprouts with tongs and took the pan to the sink, running hot water over the charred black inside of the pan.  Yes. More hissing and steam, but then, mindlessly, I turned the pan over and ran cold water over the burning hot pan.  Instantly, an explosion of steam so intense that it removed the color from the outside of the enamel pan that was nearest to its bottom. 

Luckily, I had a huge box of baking soda and two partially full bottles of cider vinegar.  Into the pan they went with the expected chemical reaction: rapidly swelling foam and more hissing. I did a rigorous scrubbing with a scrubber sponge and Spongedaddy, using lots of muscle power as well as more soda and vinegar.  Scrub scrub scrub.  Although I got some of the char off the sides, I made little progress with the bottom of the inside of the pan. 

As I left the pan in the sink to soak, I spied the Brussels sprouts neglected on the counter.  I mixed up a bit of stevia in balsamic vinegar and sprinkled it over the sprouts. Swirled them a bit, then decided to taste. I think you’ve guessed the ending.  Yup.  They tasted exactly like the Brussels sprouts appetizer in the restaurant in Sheridan, Wyoming.  So, again, thanks Annie. I’ll think twice before scolding you for any future misdeeds.  But I’m going to have to buy a new pan.  xoxoxo

The Awakening

The Awakening

She woke to a whiff of Darjeeling—that gentle caress to her nostrils that told her that Lorenzo had awakened early today. She could feel the press of his body on his side of the bed as he lay the tray there, ready for her when she was ready for it. He would not disrupt her, knowing all too well how she loved her Saturday mornings away from the press of the paparazzi and the demands of the fashion world.

On any other day, it wouldn’t be feasible to sleep in, but in addition to being a weekend, this was her birthday. She fell again into a sleep where there was no good reason for fantasy.  Her own life was fabulous enough to be replicated in dreams. Both children grown and off to their own fairytale lives: Francesca in Crete with her minor royalty husband, Sebastian a skillful artist flying from one country to the next to fulfill the long list of commissions that stretched out to infinity.

All-in-all, she herself had lived out all her childhood fantasies and only now had it become feasible to start to delegate tasks—grooming some of her most talented protégés to take over the designing and running of her couturier salon. Time to lie back and take it easy and let Lorenzo pamper her in all the ways he knew so well.

She stretched luxuriously, reaching her arm up to hit against the silk of her padded headboard, but strangely, hit instead against wood. Curious.  She opened her eyes. Light leaked into the room from between bent venetian blinds. Where was she? On the edge of the bed, a slightly paunchy old man with a day’s stubble on his cheeks sat studying the center foldout of a magazine he held at arm’s length. As she stirred, he looked up from it, his eyes widening in surprise. “Essie?”

She looked down at her own wrinkled hands, extending from the sleeve of a cheap pair of pajamas. She stroked her cheeks, dry and wrinkled , and wiped a small line of drool from the corner of her mouth. “Where am I?” Her voice felt as flaky and dry as her skin, her throat almost choking with the words.

“Yer here in Elm Gap,” he said, “where we’ve always been. Essie, do you remember what happened, yer slipping on the ice and falling sideways against the water tank?  Do you remember anythin’, Essie, of the twenty years since then?”

“Twenty years? I’ve been asleep for twenty years? What of Lorenzo and Francesca and Sebastian? Where are they?”

“They’re right here, Ma, waiting for you as usual,” a straw-haired woman said from the corner of the room. She, like her father, was rounded and nondescript—a thirtyish childlike frumpy creature much like the girl Essie had been. She was patting a tall pile of romance novels. “I been reading them to you for twenty years, Ma. You woke up just in time, cuz Ladonna LaRue, their author, just died and there won’t be any more.  But now you won’t be needing her life any more, because you’ve returned to your own. We always knew you’d return to us, Ma. This is your lucky day. And ours.

 

The prompt words today were skill, disrupt, whiff and feasible. Matt’s prompt was to create a simulated world.  Here are the links:

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/09/rdp-friday-skill/
https://fivedotoh.com/2018/11/09/fowc-with-fandango-disrupt/
https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2018/11/09/whiff/
https://dailyaddictions542855004.wordpress.com/2018/11/04/daily-addictions-2018-week-44/feasible
For Daily Inkling’s Simulation Theory.

The Vocabulary Lesson

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The seven-word prompt was to make use of as many of these words as possible in a short piece: knickers, oneiric, cigar, shenanigans, cold-cocked, finish and sun-dried. You needn’t check.  I used all of them. The November writing prompt was “Lipstick Lover.”

The Vocabulary Lesson

She was more than irritated. Pissed, really, as she thumbed through the dictionary in search of the word “oneiric.” Any word that needed to be looked up didn’t belong in a “Dear Jane” letter anyway—as though to the very end he was trying to demonstrate his superiority—her inferiority.

BASTARD! She slammed the dictionary to the floor, picked up the half-smoked cigar he’d left in the ashtray last night, relit it and surveyed the new paper cut on her index finger. Just one more of his shenanigans, she thought. Right after he’d cold-cocked her with the news that he and she were finished—that he was leaving her FOR HER MOTHER!!!!!!, he’d lit up his Cubano for one more puff before grinding it out and handing her this letter, telling her not to open it until he’d gone.

His finish had been pretty much like their beginning—with him ending up on the floor. But this time she was standing over him rather than lying on top of him. Idly, she flicked an ash into his open mouth, hitting him squarely on his tongue. The sun-dried blood on his lip looked like the smudge of a lover’s lipstick. Around his head were the remains of the crystal candlestick her mother had given them for their wedding.  She sucked at the paper cut, then at the gash across her palm that she had gotten from a shard of the candlestick that had taken a far smaller part out of her than it had out of him.

Far away in the kitchen, the phone rang and rang. Probably her mother. Well, let her get her knickers in a bunch waiting for him. Let her think (for as long as she could put off coming to investigate) that her daughter had reclaimed her property. She was in possession for now and everyone knew possession was 9/10ths of the law. She took another long draw before examining her wounds again.

Then, her curiosity getting the better of her, she moved back to the dictionary to thumb through the o’s. When she’d found the word, she chuckled and looked back at her lost love. Gone from this world, but no one would ever know it if she just shut his jaw and wiped off the bloodstain. As a matter of fact, he’d look downright oneiric!

 

The Nov. 8 Nov. Writing Prompt is Lipstick Lover.