500-750 Words

GUEST POST: FORBIDDEN LOVE – PART 1: SEPARATED AS ONE


It is a thrill and a delight to post a story written by my 11-year-old granddaughter, Mckenna Richy. A smart, funny, talented and loving young lady, Mckenna can be just about whatever she wants to be in life, excelling in whichever profession she chooses. It’s obvious she’s already a very good writer! I’m extremely proud of her for writing this incredible love story. I hope we get to read Part II very soon!

“Hello.”

Jasper heard a voice. He looked up to see a girl angel about the same age as himself on the other side of the border. “Who are you?” he asked.

“The opposite of you” she responded.

“Yeah, I get that. I mean, where did you come from?” Jasper said.

“I came from my home on the side of the border that I am standing on” the girl replied.

“I’m Jasper” the boy angel said, hoping to make an unusual but true friend.

The girl angel smiled. “I’m Cameron.”

EIGHT YEARS LATER

“Cameron! Could you come here please?” called Cameron’s mother, the Queen of the Angels. Cameron walked down the hall of the palace and approached the throne room where her mother was seated.

“Yes, mother?” she said.

“I would like you to meet someone.” Her mother motioned to a boy angel about the same age as Cameron. “This is Alex. He will be your husband” her mother said.

Cameron was taken aback. “H-husband?” she weakly said. “Uh … can I use the restroom? I had a huge glass of dragon fruit juice!” and with that Cameron ran out of the throne room and flew out the window.

Cameron flew to the edge of the border, the place where she first met the love of her life, Jasper. She sat down near the edge and started crying.

Cameron?” she heard Jasper say. “Are you okay?” he asked.

No, I’m really not, Jasper! I’m sorry” cried Cameron, “but I’m being forced to marry someone else – someone I don’t love!” Cameron continued to cry.

“Is there any way out of it?” Jasper asked, trying to help.

None that I can see. I’m doomed!” Cameron whined.

“I’m so sorry, Cameron” said Jasper.

Cameron got up and stood on the edge of the border. “What’s to stop me from jumping over?” she quietly asked.

Huh?” said Jasper. “If you jump to this side there’s no going back!”

“That’s the point” Cameron replied.

You really want to be with me, don’t you?” Jasper asked.

Yes, Jasper. I do” Cameron responded.

I’ll be waiting for you” said Jasper.

Just as Cameron was about to jump, Alex came out of nowhere. “There you are! Everyone has been so worried about you!” he said.

Cameron was surprised to see him. “AHHH! How did you get here?!” she asked, clearly annoyed.

“Your mother sent me to find you. Besides, I would like to get to know my future wife” responded Alex.

Yeah … no!” snapped Cameron.

Well, get used to it. In two weeks you’ll be stuck with me forever” said Alex in a sarcastic tone.

“Well, as you can see I’m fine! Can you please leave? I’m trying to talk to someone who actually means something to me!” said Cameron.

“Ooh. He just got roasted” said Jasper quietly.

“Cameron, you’re friends with this monster?” asked Alex.

Cameron got angry. “He’s not a monster! I’m in love with him!” she firmly said and without thinking she pushed Alex away and jumped off the edge of her side of the border. When Cameron opened her eyes, Jasper was standing over her. “Jasper, did I do it?” she asked.

Jasper helped her up. “You did it, Cameron!” he said.

Cameron hugged Jasper without any care that Alex was watching from what used to be her home.

“What did you do to yourself?” asked Alex, as white as a ghost.

Cameron was confused. “What do you mean?” She looked at herself. She had wings and horns almost identical to Jasper’s and her blond hair had become as black as coal. “Looks like crossing over has some benefits” Cameron said with a grin.

Alex ran back to the castle, probably to tell Cameron’s mother that her daughter was now a demon. But Cameron couldn’t care less. She and Jasper were finally united. Cameron didn’t care what she looked like or what side of the world she was on.

And neither did Jasper.

250 Words

SOCIALLY DISTANCED


Both men lived in the same apartment building, one on the ground floor and the other, two flights up. They would see each other in passing, nodding ‘hello’ or muttering the occasional “How ya doing?” They were approximately the same age and had seen each other often but a friendship never developed.

Then the corona virus hit and everything changed.

They happened upon each other in a nearby park, masked up, walking their dogs. One had a golden retriever, the other a chocolate lab. They struck up a socially distanced conversation, at first talking about their dogs then, of course, the craziness of COVID.

They were both unemployed computer engineers, laid off because of company closures. Each one contemplated moving back in with their parents but that was impossible; neither one came from accepting or understanding homes.

They started biking and jogging together, often running the six miles that made up the full loop around Central Park. As they talked they discovered they had much in common: their nonexistent love lives, their passion for chess, a fascination with micro-brewing and their dream of working from home as computer app designers. And how gut-wrenching it was coming out as gay.

The next step was so natural: moving in together. They could share one apartment and save money, work on ideas for app design programs, dabble in a little home-made beer and totally, passionately, fiercely fall in love.

A new year, a new start. Love in the time of corona.

Poems

THE HAPPIEST WIFE


There’s a quaint little road not too far from me
Where the sign by a hedge reads “Love Lane”.
People travel for miles and miles to see
The street with that enchanting name.

The houses all look like fairy-tale homes
As psychedelic butterflies flutter by.
Statues of toadstools, angels and gnomes
Make passersby grin and contentedly sigh.

There’s never a cloud-filled sky o’er Love Lane
And the flower gardens bloom all year long.
A gentle breeze spins the old weather-vane
While a cardinal whistles his song.

At the end of the street is a sweet little church
Which has seen brides and grooms come and go.
A duo of lovebirds comfortably nests on their perch
Cooing greetings to all those below.

Alongside the church is a babbling brook
Where ducklings are happily splashing.
A couple cuddles close with their poetry book
While their children are playing and laughing.

Love Lane can fill every heart with great joy
Like it’s Christmas or Valentine’s Day.
Sweet as a crush for a young girl and boy;
It’s just puppy love, or so people say.

Can a place like Love Lane really be true
Where peace, joy and harmony reign?
Is it possible to never feel lonely or blue;
To not suffer heartache or pain?

Someday as I walk down that storybook street
I’ll happen upon the true love of my life.
All the luckiest spouses on Love Lane do meet
And I know I’ll be blessed with the happiest wife.

500-750 Words

RAINBOW BRIDGE


Eric and Sue always knew they’d get a dog someday – not one from the pet shop but a rescue in desperate need of a loving home. When they saw Lily, all chocolatey-brown with big doe eyes, they knew she was the one. She was the sweetest, most gentle dog ever, despite having been abused and terribly frightened most of her life.

Animals know when someone is trying to help them. Lily knew she was safe, happy living in her home on Paradise Place with Eric and Sue. She loved them as much as they loved her.

After six years together Sue noticed that Lily had a little raspy cough and some trouble eating; this worried her. A trip to the vet confirmed her fears; Lily was diagnosed with a rare case of tongue cancer.

Malignant. Inoperable.

How much time?”

Within the year” was the grim answer.

Sue and Eric promised each other two things:
– They would spoil Lily rotten and smother her with love.
– They would never let her suffer or die alone.

The veterinarian decided the best treatment would be medication and radiation therapy. It wasn’t a cure but Lily responded well; she was a happy girl. She loved napping in the upstairs TV room. Upon waking she’d walk to the top of the stairs, stretch and shake her head, dog tags jangling noisily. When baby Julia came along, Lily was so good with her; Eric and Sue never worried when Lily was near the baby.

Eight months later Lily started getting worse. Within days she declined rapidly; she was listless and wouldn’t eat. Eric and Sue were blindsided one morning when Lily began vomiting blood; they knew the end was near for their beloved girl. It’s not like they weren’t expecting this; it just happened so fast and too soon.

At the animal hospital Eric and Sue comforted Lily as the vet gave her a sedative. They whispered loving words and kissed her head. Lily finally relaxed in their arms. Another injection was administered and Lily passed peacefully after just a few seconds.

Eric and Sue were heartbroken. They took the next day off from work to recoup, scrubbing the blood from the carpet and washing Lily’s bed. That night while folding laundry Sue heard a noise upstairs. She thought it was Julia but the baby was fast asleep. Then she recognized the sound: jangling dog tags! Exhausted, Sue knew it had to be her imagination … until she looked at Eric. He was white as a ghost, his gaze transfixed on the staircase. Sue whispered in questioning disbelief “You heard that?!” Eric nodded yes. “That was Lily!”

Logically they knew it couldn’t possibly be Lily but they looked anyway. Then they checked Lily’s leash and collar; of course they were right where they put them the night before. But in their hearts they knew – Lily had come back one last time to her home on Paradise Place to say goodbye and let them know she was ok on the other side of Rainbow Bridge.



Lily
500-750 Words

THE HEART OF COOKING


December 29, 2019

“Debonair, sophisticated and charming” sighed Alice Carter. “Cary Grant and David Niven are so good in that movie. I always loved ‘The Bishop’s Wife’. Such a wonderful Christmas tradition.” 

“And that Loretta Young is some eyeful, too” replied Alice’s husband Ralph. “Those high cheekbones, full lips, tiny waist and long legs – a real looker, that one.” 

“You alway could pick a beauty, Ralph. Well, I better start dinner. I’m making your favorite – sausage and potato casserole.” 

“I hope you made a lemon meringue pie for dessert.” 

“Of course! I know what you like, Ralph.” 

Returning to the den Alice found Ralph was watching the news. 

“Why aren’t there more delightful men on the news, men like Peter Jennings?” 

“Because he’s dead” replied Ralph.

“How about Mike Wallace?”

“Also dead” Ralph reminded Alice. 

“Look at this clown, Glenn Beck, wearing jeans and sneakers on a news program! Give him a beanie and he’d look just like one of those little rascal kids. What ever happened to that nice Matt Lauer?” 

“Fired for sexual misconduct” replied Ralph.

“Good Lord! I don’t believe it! Well, what about Bill O’Reilly, Eric Bolling and Charlie Rose?” 

“Fired, fired and, oh yeah … fired. Alice, can I please have a moment of peace and quiet to watch the news?” 

“Well, pardon me for living!” she sniffed. “I’m going to check on the sausage casserole.” 

When she returned Alice stopped dead in her tracks. “Oh my God, Ralph! What on earth are you watching now?” 

“It’s all day news, Alice. I didn’t change the channel.” 

“The ‘X Rated News’?? No wonder those poor men got fired. What red-blooded guy could resist floozies like that showing off their goods on national tv? They look like hookers! And look at you sitting there in your underwear, drooling and all bug-eyed. I’m sure as soon as my back is turned you’ll be jacking off to these little twats. Disgusting!” Alice harrumphed. 

“Talk about disgusting – watch your language, Alice! Just be quiet. You don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about. I bet you didn’t even know Russia had topless newscasters? These women are professionals. They’re lawyers, professors and judges, not bimbos with sketchy unspecified qualifications who just walked in off the street.” 

“Yeah, they’re highly qualified alright … as cockteasers!” Alice snapped. “Take that one on the end with the dyed blond hair, fishnet stockings and spike heels. Look at how skimpy her dress is. Did they run out of fabric? Her boobs are straining to break loose from her top and the bottom is so short – if she uncrosses her legs we’ll all get to see America’s amber waves of grain! Her family must be so proud!” 

“Woah, woah, woah! That’s enough, Alice. Look, this here is Megyn Kelly. She has a law degree, is a journalist, an author and a world-famous political commentator as well as a news anchor. The dark-haired one on the end is Kimberly Guilfoyle. She’s a political analyst, an attorney and former First Lady of San Francisco. Now she’s dating President Trump’s son. And yes, I’m sure their families are very proud. Besides being absolutely stunning they’re brilliant. Why don’t you just run back into the kitchen like a good girl and let me enjoy my one indulgence.” 

“Indulgence??” Alice countered. “So you admit it’s all about cheap thrills and nothing to do with the news. You’re such a pig, Ralph!” 

“Whatever. How’s that sausage coming, anyway? I’m hungry.”

Alice saw red. “Here’s an idea for you, Ralph. Get Kinky Kimberly to heat up your sausage. I’m sure she’s highly qualified!”

500-750 Words

TI VOGLIO TANTO BENE


December 15, 2019

There are five boroughs in the city of New York – Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island – each with a unique character and charm of its own. That was true back in the 1930s and it’s still true today.

Every family has a story and mine was no different as I’ve been told numerous times. My parents were both from Manhattan. They met in 1937, got married two years later, moving into the family’s triplex apartment in Manhattan with my mother’s immediate relatives – 19 aunts, uncles and cousins plus her parents and grandparents.

World War II had begun and countless men were being drafted – but only men without children. My mother’s uncles all had several kids making them exempt from the draft. My father was also safe for my mother had a baby just ten months after getting married – a breathtakingly beautiful boy with rosy cheeks and auburn curls. He was named Gaetano after my paternal grandfather. Then the unspeakable happened. My parent’s world came crashing down just two short years later when they endured the devastating loss of their beloved baby Gaetano on New Year’s Eve. “Nephritis” the doctors said. “There’s no cure.”

Given no time to grieve, the army snatched my childless father and shipped him off to Europe to battle the enemy, leaving my mother with no husband and no baby. My father returned home in July of 1945 and somehow they managed to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and begin again. Their daughter Francesca was born in 1947; I followed four years later, born on Francesca’s birthday. I was named Sophia. Francesca still hasn’t forgiven me for ruining her birthday party!

When I was six months old my parents decided the city was no place to raise a family and started looking for houses in The Bronx. In 1951 The Bronx was a lot different than it is now; it was like a village in the countryside with farms where people raised sheep, goats and chickens and grew fresh vegetables. They got milk from the animals and made their own cream, butter and cheese. It was a far cry from Manhattan and it was idyllic.

My parents bought a nice two family house just big enough for the four of us and my grandparents. There was also a large backyard perfect for my grandfather’s grapevines and fig trees and my mother’s vegetable garden. My grandmother was always sickly. I recall my mother telling us how much my grandmother loved being away from Manhattan. She relished sitting in the backyard watching my grandfather picking grapes and feeling the warmth of the sun on her frail body.

On a beautiful warm day I was taking a nap in my baby carriage in the backyard while my grandmother sat in a chair gently rocking the carriage. I started to stir and opened my eyes. I saw my grandmother’s smiling face looking down at me, her doe-like eyes twinkling as she sweetly sang an Italian folk song, “Ti Voglio Tanto Bene” (“I Love You So Much”):

I love you so much and I’ll be here for you. You will feel in your heart a love that is true. I love you so much and I’ll cherish you with my voice sweetly singing only to you.”

At 11 months of age my earliest memory was seeing my grandmother’s adoring face smiling at me. It was her twinkling brown eyes and sweet voice that calmed me. She passed away three years later but the special bond we shared would never die.

Ti voglio tanto bene, nonna.”

500-750 Words

THE PORCH


October 6, 2019

“Walnut hair and skin so fair

Freckles like stars on her nose

Green eyes glittering like precious jewels

And lips as soft as a rose” 

“Hey, Pops, what’s that you’re singing? I’ve never heard it before”. 

Brady, I didn’t see you there” replied Ben Williams as he leaned his guitar against the porch wall. “Just an old number I wrote for your Mom. Another lifetime.” 

Pops, can I ask you something? It makes me sad how little I remember about Mom. What was she like?” 

“Oh, son. That’s not easy to answer. Your mom was a real beauty, a feast for the eyes. And we were happy. We had you and your sister  our first three years together. Then I got that trucking job and your Mom was alone a lot. It’s hard on a woman when her man is away for days at a time, especially with babes to care for. She was special and she loved you kids – don’t you ever forget that – but she got lonely. 

“When Ron Carter’s wife died your Mom befriended him. They were both lonely and found comfort together. I don’t blame her for that. One day when I was home from the road she brought Ron a cherry pie. She took your sister with her and they never came back. From that point on it was just you and me.” 

Father and son sat in contemplative silence. 

You know, Pops, at first I thought Mom would be back soon. Then I gave up on that dream and convinced myself she had died. Strange thing is, thinking she was dead was easier than believing she abandoned us.” 

Ben let out a ragged sigh. “Thank God I had you, Brady. You didn’t know it but you kept me from falling apart. Getting that steady job at the hardware store was a life saver and I was able to be here for you.” 

“Then I started dating Rebecca and I was hardly ever home!” Brady laughed. “Marrying her and moving in here with you made my life complete.”

“That sweet gal of yours made my life complete, too, son. She filled a void in my heart and never once complained about having to live with her pain in the ass father-in-law! Rebecca’s like a daughter to me” declared Ben. 

“Pops, did you know Rebecca was the one who insisted we live here with you. Not too many women would do that. And our kids are crazy about you! You’ve taught them a lot.” 

“I love those munchkins, Brady! You all made this house a home and a broken old man whole again.” 

Rebecca poked her head out the screen door. “Dinner in ten minutes, you two. Would you round up the kids for me please?” 

That night Rebecca asked Brady what he and his father had been talking about. 

“Just reminiscing, mostly about my Mom.” 

“I wish I had a chance to know your Mom.”

“Me too, Becca” Brady replied wistfully. “Me too.”

500-750 Words

TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY


September 22, 2019

The scream of the alarm clock jolted Tia from a deep sleep. With eyes closed, she reached over and smacked the off button. Slowly rolling her head, she glanced at her dozing boyfriend Andrew. 

Feeling her eyes on him, Andrew peeked at Tia and whispered a groggy “morning already?” 

“Uh-hum. 6:15” Tia murmured as she snuggled closer. “Plenty of time to…….” 

Fuck!!” yelled Andrew as he bolted from their bed. “I’ve got a 7:00 Caesarian and patients all day!” 

Disappointed, Tia went into the kitchen to brew some coffee. When she returned to the bedroom, Andrew was dressed and ready to go. He rushed by her, not even stopping to take the coffee and muffin she prepared for him.

Gotta run, T” Andrew called over his shoulder. “Catch ya later!” And he was gone. Tia picked at a muffin thinking how mornings like this were becoming more and more frequent. 

They met in college and fell in love, sharing their dreams – she becoming a fashion designer and he a doctor. Tia had been accepted to the Fashion Institute of Paris but Andrew begged her not to go until he was in med school. She agreed with the idea and found work dressing bridal shop windows. The job was ok but it was unfulfilling and every time she mentioned studying in Paris, Andrew reminded her of their plans. Now he was a busy doctor and she was still at the bridal salon. 

On the way to work she heard that George Harrison song with the line “And if you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there”. She couldn’t get that line out of her head and the road not taken – the road to Paris. She truly loved Andrew and made many sacrifices for his career. Now it was her turn. 

That evening when Andrew got home from work Tia told him they needed to talk. “Let me grab a shower first and I’m all yours” he replied. 

When Andrew returned he went to the fridge and poured them both a glass of wine. “Listen T, I known you want to talk but I have something to say. Can I go first?” Tia nodded. 

“After all our plans and promises, our dreams have finally come true but there’s still something missing in my life. I love you, Tia. Marry me. 

Tia was floored. “Drew, I love you, too, and want to marry you but there’s something missing in my life. What about my dream to be a designer? What about Paris?” 

Paris!? Not that foolishness again! T, forget that road, stay here and marry me.” 

“Foolishness, Drew? Foolishness!? You begged me to wait for you while you pursued your dream. If you truly love me you’ll wait while I follow my dream.” 

As they stared at each other, Andrew’s pager beeped. He glanced at it. “My patient’s in labor. I gotta go. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.” 

But Tia already knew which road she had to take. 

500-750 Words

THE BEACHCOMBER


August 25, 2019

I guessed that something was wrong as soon as I saw the look of shocked disbelief on my husband David’s face. 

Babe, what’s wrong?”

With tears in his eyes David whispered “I lost my wedding ring!”  

It was our last night in Cape Cod. After dinner we went for a walk on the beach. There was a lot of seaweed in the ocean from a storm a few days before. We walked along the shore, teasing each other with clumps of seaweed; that’s when the ring must have slipped off his finger. But exactly where we had no idea. We crawled around searching but it was dark and we couldn’t see anything. David was devastated. 

“Hon, I know your wedding ring means the world to you but we can always replace it.”   

“I know, Jess, but it just won’t be the same.” 

Dejected, we returned to our room and went to bed. After hours of trying to get to sleep, I grabbed my laptop and Googled “Will a ring wash ashore after falling in the ocean?” 

Almost immediately there was a *ding* on my laptop … a response from “TheRingFinders.com. It read: “We can help find any lost metallic object on the beach or in the water. Enter your zip code and we’ll get back to you ASAP .” 

I entered the zip code for Cape Cod and 10 minutes later I heard from Rick at “RingFinders”. After explaining our situation, Rick said he’d be at our B&B at 7:00 AM to start his search. Thank God for the Internet! 

True to his word, Rick was already on the beach at 7:00. We ate breakfast on the veranda, never taking our eyes off Rick as he searched everywhere with no luck. It was almost checkout time when he trudged up to the B&B.   

No luck, folks. You’re gonna get socked in traffic if you don’t leave now. I’m sorry to disappoint you but I’m not giving up. I’ll keep in touch with you either way.” 

Disheartened, we checked out and loaded up the car. Taking one last look at Rick, we waved goodbye when we realized he wasn’t waving goodbye … he was waving in excitement. He ran up the beach with his arm in the air, hand clenched in a fist.    

I found it, folks! I found your ring” he shouted. 

We ran to meet him and he grinned as he placed a wet, sandy ring in David’s hand.

The ring was under 11 inches of water and seaweed!

Overjoyed, David hugged Rick and we asked how much we owed him. 

“This is a free service we provide but we gladly accept donations” Rick explained. “Its very rewarding to see the joy on people’s faces when they’re reunited with their precious lost items.” 

I don’t remember how much we gave Rick … that’s not important. What I do remember is David glancing at his ring all the way home and smiling. 

What an experience and certainly an incredible act of kindness. Thanks, Rick!

500-750 Words

MAMMA MIA!


June 30, 2019

Christ, Marco! I’m a nervous wreck!” wailed Tina. “This is the first time I‘m meeting your mother. Do I look ok?”  

“Are you kidding me? You look great! She’s gonna love you!”  replied Marco as he put on his mother’s favorite Dean Martin record. 

Carrying a box of Italian pastries, Marco’s mother Francesca arrived promptly at 6:00 – ready and quite curious to meet her son’s first female roommate. Introductions were made, niceties exchanged and Tina went to check on dinner. “She certainly knows her way around that kitchen well enough”  Francesca thought to herself. 

While Tina put the finishing touches on dinner, Marco brought out some appetizers. “Ah, bruschetta!”  exclaimed Francesca but when she bit into the small slice of toasted Italian bread, she discovered the topping was raw meat. “It’s steak tartare, Ma” explained Marco. Francesca made a horrified face and hastily deposited her half-chewed delicacy into her napkin. “Oh God! Raw meat will kill you!” Francesca emphatically declared, “I hope the rest of the meal is cooked”, she mumbled. 

In an attempt to quell rising tempers, Marco showed Francesca around the apartment. 

“Look, Ma. Isn’t this nice?  A small but functional kitchen, a dining area, and a comfy living room. But the best part is two bedrooms, each with its own bathroom so there’s no fighting over who gets to shower first.”  Marco laughed self-consciously. 

Yes, dear. Very nice.”  

Francesca silently simmered. “What’s this world coming to? Whoever heard of boys and girls as apartment  roommates? Maybe in a large house with five or six people but an intimate little apartment with two people of the opposite sex?”

Finally dinner was ready. During the course of the meal, Francesca couldn’t help but notice how attentive Tina was to Marco. She suspected a romantic relationship between the two of them and their actions only made her more suspicious.

Throughout the evening while watching Marco and Tina together, she became convinced that there was more between them than met the eye. Reading his mother’s thoughts Marco said “I know what you’re thinking, Ma, but I assure you Tina and I are just roommates.”  His mother smiled thinly but said nothing. 

About a week later Tina said to Marco “Ever since your mother was here for dinner I’ve been unable to find the napkin rings we used. You don’t suppose she took them, do you?” 

“Well, I doubt it”,  he replied, “but I’ll email her.”  

Dear Ma – I’m not saying that you DID take Tina’s napkin rings and I’m not saying you DIDN’T take them but they have been missing ever since you were here last week. Love, Marco  

He immediately received a reply: 

Dear Marco – I’m not saying that you DO sleep with your roommate and I’m not saying that you DON’T sleep with her but if she was sleeping in her OWN bed she would have found the napkin rings by now – under her pillow. Love, Ma 

Lesson learned: Never try to fool an Italian mother! 

500-750 Words

THE LOSER


March 3, 2019

“Instantly Irresistible” read the label on the perfume bottle at a shop in Bangkok. I was, shall we say, drawn here after several misunderstandings with the Sydney Police Department. I called it “gaining a profit”; they called it “pickpocketing”.

Contrary to the Sydney Police, my parents and my friends, I’m not a complete loser – just a partial one. I worked in a book store back home but got canned when I ‘borrowed’ a few dollars from the register. The shop owner called the police on me, even though “he really liked me and hated doing it” . Then there was the ‘incident’ which brought me here. 

Now I’m washing dishes for a restaurant, just barely getting by. The waitresses, all sisters, live together downstairs in a shoebox of an apartment near the supply room. I sleep on a cot in the basement and use the grungy bathroom – better than nothing. There’s a basement window which I crawl through when I get home late and the restaurant is closed. Only the owner and the eldest sister have a key. 

Sometimes when the sisters are working I’ll go downstairs for supplies, take a small detour into that shoebox and help myself to their tip money. I’m wondering – can I be considered a ‘housebreaker’ if the door isn’t locked? 

I have a clandestine girlfriend, too. She’s a cleaner at the tailor shop nearby. I saw her through the shop window and she looked up and smiled. One dark night after work I waited for her outside the shop and asked if I could walk her home. She agreed but said only half way – her family would not approve. She lives with her parents and 11 siblings. All of what she earns goes to her family. She owns only a few clothes and a ragged cloth pouch. I surprised her with a bottle of perfume which I found in a moldy wood crate behind the shop. She smiled happily and slipped it into her pouch. Her name is “Piti” and she calls me “Sam” which isn’t even my name but that’s ok. No one knows I exist.  

After dark the next night I waited for Piti but she never showed. Disappointed, I skulked home. The same thing happened the next two nights and on the fourth day during my break I glanced in the tailor shop window only to see a different cleaning girl. “Where was Piti?” I wondered, becoming concerned. 

Several days later I overheard the sisters talking. Piti had become deathly sick – an apparent toxic reaction to old perfume from a bottle found in her pouch. She had been in quarantine, but died this morning. 

I was reeling. I did this to Piti. I killed her! She was a perfect angel, the sweetest part of my life. Everything I do hurts someone. In the course of three weeks I’ve gone from petty thief to murderer. Everyone is right. I’m a complete loser. I don’t know how I’m going to live with myself.       

500-750 Words

BUT I’VE BEEN THINKING


December 9, 2018

“Confusion, Jesse? What confusion? We have plans. What’s going on?” Mia stood impatiently tapping her toe. 

“That’s just it, Mia. I don’t know what’s going on. We really need to talk about our wedding.”  Jesse paced back and forth, hands shoved deep into his jeans pockets. 

“Hold it right there, cowboy! Are you calling off our wedding?” Mia’s eyes grew dark and angry. 

“No, Mia, I’m not. But I’ve been thinking – I don’t want this elaborate wedding we have planned.” 

Mia’s face flushed. “Well, this is a fine time to tell me! Our wedding is one month away and everything is ready. My dress, the venue, the caterers, our honeymoon. Even the name cards for the tables have been printed!” 

“I know. I just didn’t have the guts to say what was on my mind. Mia, I don’t want our wedding to be a circus with a cast of characters I don’t even know! I don’t need a six figure salary or a penthouse apartment to be happy. Your dad’s a great guy and making me a partner in his firm was extremely generous but I never wanted a rat race, cutthroat job and I certainly don’t want to be the boss’s son-in-law! 

I grew up on a farm, Mia. My parents are simple people. The smell of the earth, working with my hands, tending to the animals – that’s what I know and love. I always dreamed of having my own farm some day, waking up before the roosters and working in the fields until the aroma of bacon and eggs lured me home to you cooking breakfast. I dream of shoeing horses and mending fences, four or five barefoot kids running around the house, family barbecues with homemade apple pie for dessert. I dream of making love to you as the moonlight dances off our bedroom ceiling. I’m an uncomplicated guy, Mia. All I want is us, a family and a farm.” 

“Jesse, I have dreams, too. Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed of marrying a man as rich and handsome as my father, having a huge wedding in the Waldorf, cruising around the world. Now you’re asking me to give it all up for a bunch of brats and a barn in Nebraska?! You can’t be serious, especially after all my father has done for you.” 

“Mia, I never asked your father for anything. All I did was fall in love with you that rainy day we shared a taxi.” 

Jesse, you’re not thinking straight. Do you really believe you’ll be happy spending the rest of your life milking cows and going to state fairs or whatever the ‘simple people’ of Nebraska do?”  

“You know what, Mia? You’re right. I wouldn’t be happy – at least not with you.” Jesse walked to the door, then turned. “I’m sure some day you’ll meet a guy as shallow as you. Bye, Mia, and thanks for keeping me from making a huge mistake.” 

“Hey, cowboy. Go to hell!” 

500-750 Words

NO ONE WILL BE WATCHING US


October 28, 2018

We were driving down iconic  Route 66 in our convertible Volkswagen Jetta on our way from Chicago to Santa Monica, California, everything we owned being towed in a small U-Haul. On the floor behind us, sleeping in his carrying case, was our bulldog puppy, Ringo. 

We’d been on the same stretch of road for what seemed like an eternity without seeing another soul – nothing but miles of tall corn fields swaying in the breeze. We talked about everything, especially opening our new veterinary practice – a big step but one we were excited about. We even had the name picked out – “Carlyle Planned Pethood”. 

Rummaging through the glove box, I came across the White Album. “Hey, look what I found” I said to Doc, my nickname for my husband, showing him the CD. 

Excellent! Put it on, Babe.”

Opening the case, I discovered a forgotten joint, crushed but still viable. “Whoa! Check it out. This CD has a bonus track!”  

We lit up, getting higher and louder with each song. Putting on our thickest country twang, we laughed as we sang ‘Don’t Pass ‘Don’t Me By’. And then there they were … those unmistakeable opening funky get-down notes of ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road’. We were grooving in our seats, thumping on the car doors, digging the hell out of that song.

Suddenly Doc pulled the car over and turned up the volume of the CD. He looked over at me, sunglasses lowered on his nose and started singing “No one will be watching us … why don’t we do it in the road?”  

“Have you lost your mind? What are you .. some horny teenager?” 

“Well, I’m no teenager, I’ll give ya that. But here we sit .. a hot banging Beatles song, my incredibly sexy wife in a miniskirt and plenty of road. Listen .. Paul’s practically begging us to get out of this car and do it … IN THE ROAD!”

Slowly stretching my legs on the dashboard, I suggested doing it in the car. 

Doc laughed and leaned over to kiss me, whispering “we’ve done it in the car … a lot. C’mon, Becca!  Let’s get down(*kiss*) and dirty (*kiss*) and do it in the road (*long hot kiss*). 

Doc has this delicious way of making me melt like ice cream on a hot summer’s day. Pushing the ‘REPEAT’ button on the CD player, he grabbed a blanket from the back seat and we ran to the rear of the car. Laughing, Doc slipped off my panties and I wrapped my legs around his waist as we slid to the ground. 

Just as Paul reached the high note, we heard ”Pardon me, folks. Officer Matthew Jackson, Kansas State Police. As soon as you’re finished checking that tow hitch, you best be on your way.” And he walked back to his car singing “Why don’t we do it in the road”. 

We sheepishly got back into our car and drove off. Nine months later we named our first son Matthew Jackson Carlyle. 

300-500 Words

PLAY BALL!


June 24, 2018

Ever since he was a small boy growing up in Fairfax, Missouri, Will Horton was obsessed with baseball. Every chance he had he’d play ball with his friends and when no one was around, he’d put on his mitt and spend hours bouncing a ball off the old shed behind the house.  

In 5th grade Will was one of the starting pitchers for his Little League Team, the Scrappers. They practiced three or four days a week after school and played a game every Saturday against the rival team, the Coyotes. By the time Will entered 7th grade, he qualified for the traveling team playing both home and away games.

Will lived on a dairy farm with his mother, June, and his dad, Tom. They tended cows, sheep and goats from dawn till dusk which was rough and demanding work. It was a hard life but the Horton’s were sturdy stock and enjoyed the farming life. 

Most nights during baseball season Will and his dad would enjoy watching the local Major League baseball team, the Kansas City Royals. Will dreamed of one day playing with the Royals in Big K Stadium. He longed to go to a game but tickets weren’t cheap and Kansas City was 100+ miles from Fairfax. “Some day” Will would whisper to himself and fall asleep every night looking through his collection of baseball cards. 

On his 13th birthday Tom totally blew Will away with two tickets to the Royals game that Sunday afternoon. Will was so happy, his whooping and hollering got all the cattle skittish. “Sunday is three whole days off! I don’t think I’m gonna sleep a wink till then!” Will said excitedly. 

After what seemed like an eternity, Sunday morning dawned with clear blue skies and bright sunshine. After their morning chores were done, Tom and Will ate breakfast, then jumped in the truck for the drive to Kansas City. Will chatted all the way, going on and on quoting all the Royals stats. As they approached the city, they were in awe of its size. Driving into the Big K parking lot, Will swore it was the biggest building in all Missouri. Finding their way through the maze of gates and entrances, an attendant showed them to their seats. 

Will was speechless. The smell of peanuts, hot dogs and beer filled the air and the crowd was anxious for the game to start. Finally the Royals ran onto the field to the roar of cheers. They played a great game and won with a staggering score of 12 to 2. All the way home Will and Tom talked about the game. That night at bedtime he promised himself again he would one day be starting pitcher for the Royals. 

Time went on, Will graduated high school and was recruited by the University of Miami as pitcher for the Miami Hurricanes. After school he delivered pizza, saving what money he could. He was living the dream. One night that dream abruptly turned into a nightmare when Will’s delivery car was sideswiped by a truck. The car rolled over several times. Will lost consciousness and woke up in the hospital .. his pitching arm amputated just above the elbow. He was vaguely aware of people in his room, hearing snippets of conversations – “Freak accident” .. “tried to save the arm” .. “tragic loss”  .. “baseball career over.” 

Will was devastated; his baseball days were over. He transferred to a college in Cincinnati, which was located across from the Cincinnati Reds ballpark. On game nights he’d go up to the school’s rooftop, wistfully watching the games. One dismal night Will stood precariously on the ledge. Softly he heard a voice say “You don’t want to do that.” Turning his head slightly, he saw a cute little brunette wearing a baseball cap. “You jump, who’s gonna go to tomorrow’s game with me?” Offering her left hand, Will smiled ruefully as he climbed off the ledge. “Hey, I’m Kate.” 

True to her word, they went to the game together the next day. Entering the stadium, Will felt alive again as all the sights, sounds and smells filled his head. The roar of the crowd was exhilarating. He was home! Natural as can be, Kate tossed Will a mitt just in case a ball came flying right at them. She was a firecracker and he fell in love that day. They went to games in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and at their fifth game, Will proposed. Kate jumped into his lap, gave him a big kiss and said “YES .. under one condition, mister. We honeymoon in New York. I’ve always wanted to go to a Yankees game!” 

Will couldn’t decide which event thrilled him the most: his wedding day or actually stepping into the immortal Yankee Stadium. The experience was more than he ever dreamed and the game was perfect from start to finish .. even though his beloved Royals lost to the ‘Bronx Bombers’. They bought Yankee caps and jerseys and on the way back to their hotel he excitedly said to Kate “Let’s make a new tradition .. to visit as many ballparks as we can in our lifetime.’ Kate nodded happily in agreement. 

A couple of years later Will and Kate became the parents of twin boys. They loved playing ball in their backyard and Will even learned how to pitch lefty. They started playing Pee Wee Baseball and on their 4th birthday, Will made a big deal of presenting them with their gift. “This is a custom your mom and I started before you guys were even born. Now it’s time for you to join us in the ‘Horton Family Ballpark Adventure’!” 

Will beamed with happiness as his kids excitedly tore into the gift box to find two Royals baseball caps, official mitts and four tickets to the next Royals game. Will gazed at his family and suddenly realized THIS was his destiny all along. Winking at Kate, they grabbed a baseball, bats and mitts as Will shouted “PLAY BALL!”  

300-500 Words

BADDA BING, BADDA BOOM!


April 29, 2018

 Justice of the Peace? You wanna elope, Angie? Our parents haven’t even discussed the wedding!”  

“Exactly, Taylor, and it’s gonna stay that way!” said Angie in her best Marisa Tomei voice. “Let me ask you a question. Have you ever been to an Italian wedding? No? That’s what I thought. There are two things I know for a fact – #1: our parents couldn’t be more different and #2: left in the hands of my family, our wedding will be a circus, complete with unicycling-jugglers and a magician. Remember my cousin Gina’s engagement party?  Well, picture that ten times worse. Forget about an elegant ceremony in your parent’s country club like your sister had, with one maid of honor and a best man. There will be no dainty hors d’oeuvres and flutes of champagne served by an attentive waitstaff followed by dinner of Beef Wellington and fingerling potatoes. The delicate wedding cake with gold leaf flowers? Ain’t gonna happen. Our romantic wedding night in the country club honeymoon suite? Fugetaboutit! My parents are old school, Taylor, and only want a real Italian wedding. My father would rather swim through the shark-infested Straits of Messina than go against tradition. Now picture this: the ceremony will be held at St. Vito’s Church with my mother’s uncle, Monsignor DelFino, officiating. There will be at least ten bridesmaids and groomsmen, a flower girl and a ring bearer. The reception will be held at The Villa Barone catering hall where my brother-in-law Carlo, the newly-elected volunteer fire chief, had a sweet sixteen birthday party for his daughter.The cocktail hour will be a cash bar with antipasto served buffet style. The reception dinner will be Italian wedding soup, penne alla vodka, salad and a choice of chicken, prime rib or fish. The cake will be five, maybe six tiers. My cousin Vinnie will play the tarantella on his accordion, followed by the pièce de résistance – the Viennese Dessert Hour and flaming cherries jubilee. Our wedding night will be spent sitting around the kitchen table with you, me and my mother counting the money we got for wedding gifts while my father records everything in an accounting book like a cigar-chomping Iamblichus. OR ….. we go to City Hall, get hitched and spend two luscious weeks in sunny Aruba. Your call.” 

“Are you kidding me, Angie?  Say no more. City Hall awaits!” 

300-500 Words

ONE + ONE + ONE


March 4, 2018

Out of the blue the call arrived. It was late and I was beyond tired. We were tempted to let it go straight to voice mail, but Gary thought it might be important. 

“Gary? It’s Alice from the adoption agency. Fabulous news! We have a baby for you and Carol. Can you come by in the morning?”. 

Gary jumped up. “My God! Are you sure?”  Completely convinced that something terrible had happened, I grabbed the phone. “This is Carol Wheeler. Who’s this, please?”  

Not bad news. Just the opposite … elating, top of the world, Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds news! 

ALICE FOUND US A BABY!!! 

“Yes!! We’ll be there! Thank you so much”  I sputtered. 

Dumbstruck, we stood there … then pandemonium erupted. Laughing, crying, hugging, kissing, dancing like lunatics. We didn’t think … or even care … to ask “boy, girl, age”? After eight years of trying to get pregnant and failing miserably, some loving stranger was presenting us with the most precious gift imaginable. 

Collapsing onto the couch, we talked about the past eight years … the failed attempts …  heartbreaking losses … the baby things we collected over the years, now hiding in the attic. 

“Gary, do you realize tomorrow we will be a family of three?”  

TOMORROW!!  

All tiredness forgotten, we raced to the attic for the plastic bins of assorted baby items. There in the corner sat the bassinet, glowing in the darkness – a mystical aura the likes of which I’d never seen before. I believe at that moment I heard angels singing. We reverently carried it down to our room. I leaned into Gary, overcome with elated exhaustion. 

And then the phone rang … again. We stared at it, afraid to answer, convinced it was Alice calling to say the baby’s mom had changed her mind, there would be no happy family for us. 

I reached for the phone and wearily, warily said “Yes?”.  

Carol? It’s  Dr. Shaw. Sorry to call so late but your tests results are back. The reason you’ve been so exhausted lately? You’re three months pregnant … with twins … and everything looks great!”  

Stunned, crying, all I could manage was a hushed “My God. Are you sure?”  

“Absolutely. Congratulations!” 

Gary held me closely and whispered “Shh. Another baby will come along.”  

I giggled. “You’re so right. That was Dr. Shaw. I’M PREGNANT … WITH TWINS!! We’re gonna be a family of FIVE!”

We had won the Triple Crown.

300-500 Words

THE IVY GARDEN


March 4, 2018

Out our kitchen window I can see my little girl Nell playing with her new best friend Gina. Since moving to rural Vermont two months ago, the girls have become inseparable. They are both four years old and about the same height but that’s where the physical  similarities end. 

Nell is a green-eyed lanky Irish redhead covered in a profusion of freckles while Gina is a slightly plump Italian beauty with brown doe eyes, smooth tanned skin and lustrous black hair. 

As I stand at the kitchen sink I can see the girls playing in the yard. Their energy is boundless as they dash back and forth from the swings to the trampoline to their bikes. 

Moving around the house doing my chores, I can hear Gina counting, followed by a loud “ready or not…here I come”, then the hysterical giggles as Nell’s secret (but usual!) hiding place is discovered. 

The yard is fenced in and I’m completely conscious of where the girls are and what they’re doing .. most of the time. Occasionally they’ll wander into a concealed corner of the garden to pick wild flowers for me and Gina’s mom. Even though I can’t see them, I can clearly hear their conspiratorial mumblings as they go from one blossom to the other.  

“Buttercups and Lilys of the Valley” whispered Gina.

“And some of this pretty shiny ivy” added Nell. “Mommy likes shiny things.”  

All was quiet and I presumed the girls were waiting for me to come downstairs and present me with a freshly-picked bouquet. But to my amazement on the crisp white linen dining room tablecloth sat a short blue glass vase brimming with buttercups, lilys and ivy. It was breathtaking. I stood there admiring the green, white and golden cluster when suddenly I heard woeful whimpering and sobbing coming from the porch. 

And there, huddled closely under the wicker chair were Nell and Gina, their little bodies covered in itchy red rashes. Only then did I realize the vine in the vase with the flowers was poison ivy! 

“Come with me, my sweet girls. It’s nothing a little calamine lotion won’t fix. Thank you for the  flowers .. the most beautiful I’ve ever seen! Won’t daddy be surprised when he comes home tonight!” I said, smiling and chuckling wistfully to myself. 

And tomorrow we will rid our garden of all the pretty shiny ivy. 

Longer Stories

LAPIS LAZULI SKIES


Graphic by Peter Runfola

February 4, 2018

Arabic lanterns surrounded the palace high up in the hills of Qatar. Some were on the ground lighting the maze of pathways leading to the palace. Others dangled from the multi-layered eaves and swayed gently in the breeze, creating shadows that danced in the night. Still other lanterns stood atop the parapets, casting a diaphanous cloud over the entire fortress, encasing it in a shroud of the palest turquoise blue imaginable. And the largest lanterns of all were mounted on the high palace turrets, their glow reaching up to the heavens and down into the deep forest below. 

As enchanting as the palace looked on the outside, inside was filled with sorrow and despair. Within the great walls of the palace lived King Abdel, the royal family and a countless number of servants. King Abdel resided in the palace since the day of his birth, the first child born to his parents, King Aali and Queen Nuha. Tragically Queen Nuha died in childbirth, leaving her husband alone with their newborn son. Abdel was cared for by the queen’s wet-nurse and handmaids but King Aali was too heartbroken over the death of his only wife to take an interest in his newborn son. Burdened by anguish and grief, the king lost his will to live and he, too, died .. leaving the infant orphaned and King of Qatar. 

Abdel grew to be a strong and handsome man. He was a brave warrior and commanded a huge army of loyal soldiers.  Abdel married twenty-seven times, each wife lovelier than the last. Sadly, no children were conceived and Abdel was childless with no heir to assume the throne. At last, when Abdel was sixty years old his newest bride, Queen Yaffa, presented him with his first child .. Her Royal Highness Princess Fayruz, the Arabic name for turquoise – the color emanating from the palace lanterns as well as her incredible eyes. 

“By Allah, our Lord, to You belongs all praise. You are the Sustainer of heaven and earth. But could you not have given me a son?!” cried King Abdel in a combination of frustration and joy. 

But once Abdel looked at his daughter, he was enchanted .. besotted by her perfect beauty. Her skin was a warm mocha color, her downy hair just a shade darker and her eyes, like two turquoise gem stones, were bewitching. She was the treasure of the palace, worth more than any fortune in all of Qatar. 

Weeks turned into months and months into years and, as if ordained by the gods, Princess Fayruz remained the only child of King Abdel. She was a delight to everyone in the palace, loved by all from the cooks in the kitchen to the great advisors of the king. Having no siblings, she became friends with the children of the palace workers, all the while being groomed to one day assume the position of Queen of Qatar. 

Of all her many friends, her dearest one was Dabir, the son of the palace teacher. Dabir was a handsome boy with skin and hair the same color as Fayruz. And just like the princess, Dabir also had the most amazing eyes .. his a twinkling amethyst violet. All the children shared a classroom, played together and napped on cots in the large rest area. The princess’s handmaids were always with her but it was Dabir whom Fayruz would run to when she had a nightmare. The two children huddled together as Dabir calmed her fears. His tenderness and gentle spirit did not go unnoticed by the palace physician and it was decided that when he turned thirteen  Dabir would begin to study medicine. 

Dabir was an exemplary student and at the age of fifteen was ready to continue his studies at a university hundreds of miles away from the palace. The day of his departure was the saddest day in Fayruz and Dabir’s young lives and the two dearest of friends vowed to write to each other daily. Fayruz cried every night for two weeks after Dabir left but the arrival of his first letter brought her much happiness. They wrote each other frequently but as time went on the letters became few and far between as both became more involved in everyday life. 

Now Fayruz was seventeen and “High time that she be married”, declared King Abdel. Arrangements were made for princes from far and wide to call upon Princess Fayruz in the hope of winning her hand. She was a stunning beauty and all her suitors were smitten with her, but Fayruz was not interested in any of them. Two more years passed and still no husband was chosen by Fayruz. King Abdel was nearly eighty years old and his health was failing. He begged Fayruz to choose a husband so he could die in peace .. a bit of an exaggeration which was always King Abdel’s nature. 

As Abdel’s conditioned worsened, the palace doctor was at a loss to help him and other doctors were summoned to treat the king. Once again he pleaded with Fayruz to choose a husband and this time she acquiesced, promising to select someone by the end of the month. Perhaps love between her and her chosen one would come after marriage. 

The final week of the month arrived and Fayruz met with possible suitors while doctors examined the king. On the last day of the month Queen Yaffa rushed into her daughter’s drawing room to tell her the king was much improved and was asking to see her. Fayruz hurried to her father and as she approached his bed the doctor turned to bow before her. To Fayruz’s amazement the doctor was Dabir! Crying tears of joy, Fayruz and Dabir ran to each other, embracing – reunited after so many years. 

One month to the day Fayruz and Dabir were joined in marriage. That night King Abdel slept as peacefully as a newborn babe while the palace lanterns glowed in a delicate fusion of turquoise and amethyst. 

Longer Stories

SAFE IN A BUBBLE


February 4, 2018

“Arabic For Dummies”? The Qur’an? What the hell are these disgusting books doing in our house? You’re still associating with that .. that .. savage, aren’t you, Gloria? Answer me!” 

“Papa, please, calm yourself. It’s not good for your blood pressure. If you’re referring to Yusuf, he is not a savage. He’s a sweet, gentle and loving man and you’d  realize that if you got to know him. He’s a student at the university studying religion and…..” 

“And the making of bombs and God knows what else! Gloria, he’s an Arab, a Muslim, for the love of God! Haven’t you seen enough on tv and in the papers to know what these people are capable of? Crashing planes into buildings, blowing up villages, turning themselves into human bombs! They’re animals, all of them!” 

“And since when did you become an expert on Muslims or Arabs? You’ve never even tried to get to know them. All my Arab friends are good people .. peace loving people. We’ve spent hours talking, exchanging philosophies and sharing meals.” 

“I cannot believe what I’m hearing. You actually sit down and eat with these people, if you can even call them that? This is a nightmare! How can you do this to me?” 

“What am I doing to you, Papa? You haven’t even given him a chance. You refuse to meet him, to sit down and have a conversation with him. You’d see he is a man of peace, a good man incapable of hurting anyone.” 

“Are you crazy? Do you actually think I would sit with him in my house? Please, God, don’t tell me he has you brainwashed already! That’s what they do, you know…draw you in to their cult and before you know it you’re hooked and there’s no way out. Why can’t you stick to our own kind, find a nice Jewish boy? An Arab and a Jew .. whoever heard of such nonsense?!” 

“You’re not going to bring that up again, Papa, aren’t you? You didn’t give Evelyn a hard time when she said she wanted to marry Sal. And what about Kenny when he and Makayla got engaged? An Italian man and a black woman are in our family now and you won’t let me see Yusuf, simply because he’s an Arab!” 

“Oh no, there’s no such thing as simply an Arab, Gloria. They all have a hidden agenda! Are you blind to what’s going on around you?” 

“Papa, look at me. I’m a grown woman capable of making my own decisions. Why can’t you trust my judgement like you did with Kenny and Evelyn?” 

“Gloria, you’re not thinking clearly. Sal is a doctor, making a fortune. Your sister and their kids will never want for anything. Makayla’s parents are both lawyers and she’s in law school herself. Your brother and sister made smart choices. They didn’t bring some maniac suicide bomber into our family.” 

“STOP! Stop saying that! You know nothing about Yusuf and you have no idea what you’re talking about! He’s a wonderful man and I have deep feelings for him.” 

“Deep feelings? What are you saying, Gloria? Are you sleeping with him?” 

“Oh my God! I can’t believe you just asked me that! I’m not a child and, frankly, that’s none of your business.” 

“None of my business? As long as you’re living under my roof, it’s my business.”

“Here we go again! Well maybe it’s high time I moved out of this prison and found a place of my own!” 

“PRISON! After all your mother and I have done for you, you have the nerve to say that? And by ‘a place of your own’, you mean shacking up with that terrorist, don’t you? Why don’t you just stab me in the heart and put me out of my misery!” 

“Enough! What’s going on here? I can hear the two of you all the way downstairs!” 

“Hilda, I didn’t hear you come in.” 

“As if you could hear anything over all the yelling in here! What’s gotten into the two of you?” 

“It’s your daughter. She’s being absolutely unreasonable. I don’t even know who she is anymore.” 

“Oh, so now she’s MY daughter? Sheldon, the last time I checked she was OUR daughter. Is this about that Arab boy again?” 

“Mama, please, I can’t talk to Papa about this any more. If anyone is being unreasonable, it’s him.” 

“Gloria, why don’t you go out for a while, go to that nice coffee shop near the university. Sheldon, come sit with me.”  

“Hilda, are you crazy? She’s going to run right to him! Don’t you see what you’re doing?” 

“Just like you ran to me, Sheldon, when your parents called me a filthy Nazi? Look at me, Shelly. Do you remember what it was like for us when we first met? You a Jew and me a German. Ach du lieber! What were we thinking? My father was so furious, he wanted to kill both of us. But we knew we’d rather die than be separated. Sheldon, you should know better than anyone that you cannot judge one man simply by the color of his skin or what country he comes from or what god he worships. You’re a good man, liebchen. You were a good man when we were teenagers and you’re a good man now. You’re scared, Shelly, just like we were scared back then. But we persevered and in time my parents saw the real you and your parents saw the real me. Do you remember what you told your parents all those years ago?” 

“Of course I do. I said ‘I love her and I would die for her’.” 

“Ja. And do you remember what I said to your parents?” 

“Like it was yesterday. You said ‘I love him and I would die without him’.” 

“Things haven’t changed that much, Sheldon, except now WE’RE the parents. I hate to burst your bubble but they love each other and it’s as simple as that. Trust them.” 

300-500 Words

THREE OF A KIND


December 3, 2017

Head cocked to the right, Jake waited impatiently as I read the article he had slipped in front of me. Having been born with microtia, Jake’s right ear was very small and malformed with significantly decreased hearing…..just like his idol Paul Stanley from KISS….so tilting his head to one side for better hearing was second nature. 

“Mom, can we go….PLEASE?” he pleaded. “The article says 100 dogs and cats will be euthanized next week unless they’re adopted. Please, Mom! I’ve wanted a dog forever!” 

“Jake, I’ll tell you what. Today’s Wednesday. If you finish that book report and clean your room by Saturday, then we have a deal.” 

“Really?? I swear I will, Mom!” Jake threw his arms around my neck. “I can’t wait until Saturday!” I couldn’t help laughing at his unbridled excitement. 

Saturday finally arrived and Jake was true to his word. His report was done and his room was clean. He even found an old frame in the basement for his precious KISS poster! 

So I was true to MY word, too. We got to the shelter early and looked around, stopping at all the cages. After a while, I lost sight of Jake and finally spotted him in the corner, bending down staring into a cage. There weren’t any other people hanging around that section and I wondered what type of dog caught Jake’s eye. I was surprised to see it wasn’t a dog but two  tiny grey kittens. 

“Hey, buddy, what’s up? I thought you wanted to get a dog. Did you change your mind?” 

Jake looked up at me, his big brown eyes brimming with tears. “Mom,” he whispered. “Come look. These are special cats!” Bending down to take a look, I thought to myself “what could be so special about a cat.” My question was answered when I looked in the cage and I gasped slightly. 

“Ah, I see an introduction is necessary” said one of the shelter volunteers.”These are our  Scottish Folds. No one wants these little guys because of their folded ears. Everyone thinks there’s something wrong with them but that’s just the way God made them.” 

“Mom, they’re just like me! I love them. Can we take them home, please?” 

“We sure can, buddy” I managed to choke out. “What are you going to name them?” 

“That’s easy.” Jake smiled up at me. “Paul and Stanley.” 

300-500 Words

#9 DREAM


Graphic by Peter Runfola

December 8, 2017

Head resting gently on his shoulder, her ever-so-slightly parted lips barely grazing his neck, he inhaled the intoxicating aroma of gardenias in her hair and traced her perfect ear with his mouth. Her arms caressed his upper back while his hands slid down hers and he pulled her closer. They swayed across the dance floor to the smooth rhythm of John Lennon’s “#9 Dream” – their first dance together as husband and wife. 

Twenty seven years ago their mothers were best friends – army wives and neighbors, sharing morning coffee, exchanging recipes and sometimes a handkerchief to wipe away tears. Their babies napped  in the same playpen…..he a dark-haired, brown-eyed, sweet-faced charmer and she a fair-skinned  blonde little goddess with eyes as green as dewy grass. 

When they were four she surprised him with a worm and he plucked a dandelion for her that made her giggle. As time went on and days turned into years, they remained  inseparable – climbing trees to see if they could touch the clouds, catching lightning bugs and making a wish before setting them free, sitting in her room sharing their dreams, listening to their parents Beatles CDs while stretched out in his dad’s station wagon, kissing for the first time and a second and a hundredth. 

They “went steady” in high school and became lovers in college. They found an apartment above a shuttered café in Brooklyn. They talked about taking a chance on the old place and bringing it back to life. They worked together and finally celebrated the grand opening of “The Glass Onion Café”. 

It poured like cats and dogs on their wedding day – the old adage of a long and happy marriage.  Could this be reality, their happily-ever-after? Dreams shared in a teenage girl’s bedroom come true? 

Something old….her grandmother’s pearl necklace. Something new…..the minuscule miracle of life growing inside her. Something borrowed…..her mother’s “army wife handkerchief”. Something blue……her sapphire engagement ring. 

The MC made the introduction of the new Mr. & Mrs. to the guests and invited everyone to join them on the dance floor. The photographer snapped shot after shot of the stunning couple……she in her exquisite gown of Scottish lace and he in a fitted, perfectly tailored tuxedo. 

It was the magical night everyone intrinsically knew was meant to be; their #9 dream come true. 

300-500 Words

THE WHISPERING COTTAGE


October 15, 2017

“It’s a nice house, don’t you think, Virginia? The property is a decent size. And the fresh air! Just what the doctor ordered.”  Finding the perfect house for his ailing wife was first and foremost on Edgar’s mind.  

Encouragingly, he continued: “It’s very affordable at $5 a month! One bedroom and a writing niche upstairs and downstairs another bedroom, parlor and a nice kitchen which your mother will put to good use.”  

From their carriage Virginia smiled at her husband, covering her mouth with a  handkerchief as the deep cough began again. Edgar hurried to her side and she stared lovingly into his eyes. “Yes, my dear. I think we will be very happy here.”  

Then it’s settled! I’ll finalize the rental while you rest here.”  Before returning to the cottage Edgar covered Virginia with a blanket to protect her from the cool April breeze. 

Sitting in the carriage with her mother, Virginia gazed at the cottage. “A lovely little home for the three of us, Mother.” Closing her eyes, Virginia pictured their caged songbirds on the porch, a rocking chair nearby where she could rest in the sun and an etched signpost near the door which read “POE COTTAGE”.

**Virginia, I’ve been waiting for you**. Opening her eyes, Virginia asked her mother to repeat what she just said, but Maria assured her she had said nothing. Again Virginia closed her eyes and again she heard the gentle voice in her ear – **Virginia, welcome home**. A strange peace came over Virginia as she realized it was the cottage whispering to her. “My lovely forever home”, she thought. 

They moved in on a beautiful day in May of 1846 and they were happy there. In the evenings after eating a modest meal prepared by Maria,  Edgar worked on his poem “Annabel Lee” while the family cat sprawled across his shoulders and Virginia dozed by the fireplace. But even with constant care, sunshine and fresh air, Virginia’s consumption became worse, her waif-like body wracked with fits of coughing. 

In January Virginia’s health began to fail rapidly. Edgar stayed by her side day and night, reading to her, until at last on January 30, Virginia heard the whispering cottage beckoning her. 

She died peacefully that night in Edgar’s warm embrace as he softly recited

                                 “But our love it was stronger by far

                                  than the love of those who were older than we.”

Poems

MY DARLING


October 1, 2017

Melt in my arms tonight, darling, for you’re safe in this room here with me

Rest your head on my chest now, my darling, think what tomorrow will be 

The moon is full now, my darling, the hushed trees making nary a sound

As snowflakes and crystals descend from the heavens tenderly kissing the ground 

The winter is here now, my darling, gone is the summer breeze song

But the fire is warm, the blanket is cozy and I’ll cling to you all the night long 

Close your eyes and sleep now, my darling, for you know I will always be near

Wipe the tears from your long golden lashes; ’twas a bad dream, there’s nothing to fear 

Hush now, no more crying, my darling, only sweet thoughts swimming round in your head

You’re so precious, my darling, my angel, very small yet so safe in my bed 

Tomorrow is Christmas, my darling, and the reindeer are pulling the sleigh

With Santa and candy and toys made by elves and he’s surely coming this way 

Chef has baked cookies, my darling, and the night servant has brought out a plate

To place on the mantle, my darling, for Santa…..his poor hungry tummy to sate 

What’s that you say, my sweet darling? Read one more story tonight?

Yes, of course, my sweet little darling, for I know all things will be right 

Just a short one, my sweet little darling, for the clock is beginning to chime

In just a few hours, my darling, you’ll awaken to a wondrous time 

Are you ready, my precious, my darling, for the story of fairies and plums?

Mommy’s here, my sweet angel darling, and here I’ll stay until our morning comes 

Sweet dream time is finally here

Merry Christmas, my child most dear