Category Archives: Short Stories

Early Morning in the Middle of the Day

I don’t usually lie down and nap in the middle of the day. I take meds at night that usher me off to sleep and if I try to nap during the day I often have wild and crazy dreams.

I ate some leftover pizza that didn’t quite agree with me so I went to lie down and drifted off into sweet slumber.

It was early morning around 5:00 a.m. I woke up in a housing project and went into the kitchen to make some breakfast. I was making biscuits when this large black man walked in through the kitchen door. He was dressed in a headful of blond dreads, but holding a black wig in his hand. He hardly had any neck at all. That’s how heavy-set he was. He made his way past me into the bedroom, stripped off his big, black boots and his clothes. This huge, strange, naked man stood in the center of the room.

I grabbed the phone to dial 911 because I didn’t know this man. When I peered into the bedroom he was wearing pale blue scruffy house shoes and pink, lacy, see-through, longjohn style pajamas. His jeans, underwear, shirt and jacket were lying in a pile on my bed. I told the dispatch operator what was happening. She kept telling me to repeat things to her and I was getting frustrated.

His eyes rolled back in his head and I thought he was going to fall onto the bed. I grabbed him by the arm and he pulled my arm around his shoulders and leaned into me. He didn’t say a word. Thinking he was drunk or under the influence of drugs, I tried walking him and he followed me into the kitchen, bumping the table and knocking the flour sack over.

Then he pulled me toward the door, out the door and across the parking lot. A heavy rain started falling. Within minutes the parking lot was flooded and we tromped through the parking lot in the downpour, me in my house shoes and he in his house shoes. My arm was still around his thick neck.

I had given the dispatcher my address and she told me she could not send anyone to help me. I went into a tangential rant about who I would call and what I would do if she couldn’t do her job and get some help to me. She tried to explain that the address I gave her was for a building and she needed the apartment number. I calmed down and gave it to her.

Pulling him back into the kitchen to get out of the rain, sliding across the wet floor, we both collided into the table, which went crashing to the floor with us along for the ride. Drenched, we sat on the floor making dough out of everything we touched.

The police and paramedics came inside and asked if I was okay. I told them I was and explained what had happened.

The over-sized doughboy was passed out face down in a pile of white powder, slimy, sticky goo clinging to his pink, lacy p.j.s.

They checked his eyes, started an IV of narcan, and hoisted him onto a stretcher. Within minutes he was gone.

About that time, my three kids appeared at the door. I woke up before I had to tell them what had happened.

This is the reason I take meds.

P.S. There is no sufficiently appropriate Google image to pull for this scenario, I checked.

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“Lost and Found : A Mid-life Love Story” Writers’ Group Piece

Our rainbow

The group’s mandatory word prompts are boldfaced, 500 words +/- 50.

My reasons for living had left me. Nothing remained but the sound of the clock ticking on the wall. Silent tears tucked me into bed each night. Fear of being alone in this world woke me up in the morning. He had taken his machete to my heart and mutilated the better part of me. Only a shell of my former self remained. Knowing I was losing all that I loved, I lost my mind, went deep inside myself to the point of no return, or so it seemed. An orchestra played The Horror Anthem in my head.

I lost my home, my family, and all the roles that were me. My job was gone. My profession was at risk. My grandmother’s house belonged to him now. He could pay the mortgage, the power bill, buy the groceries. All those years of listening to the advice of Suze Orman had paid off. I got the retirement savings. I got the serenity of knowing that the good does not last forever, but neither does the bad.

For years, I stumbled in the darkness alone. I could let the darkness suck me up and become a casualty, or I could turn away from the darkness and toward the light. I had that choice. I could trust the light that dances moonlit shadows on the forest floor, pierces the night sky with pin pricks, and sends rays through the clouds to lift the morning fog. I could trust the light that raises the seedling from the earth, warms the landscape, and slants through the window. I could put my faith in the light. I chose to trust the light.

There was not much left. The sun was beginning to set, but still, I could not look up into the sky to see it on the horizon. I walked the sidewalks of the city; head down, to see the dandelion weeds pushing their way through the cracks. My world was black and white fusion without any tone or hue at all. It was a void, numb, gray place. Socializing seemed something reserved for the living. A newspaper blew across the street proclaiming McGillicuddy as Mayor, and I did not care. A cup of coffee at Austin’s and you were there. Our eyes locked. We began to chat. We talked for hours that day.

You were an artist. You stroked skillfully onto the canvas of my soul with all of the primary colors, the palate of autumn sassafras leaves, until I laughed in the yellow, danced in the blue, and felt the passion of the red again, and again. As you painted, the blue and yellow blended into green of new life; the yellow and red mingled into orange zest for living it. A soft purple breath was whispered into the masterpiece with the sweep of your brush. As the days went by I marveled at what we had accomplished together. It was art for art’s sake, and then we signed that painting. Now we have this beautiful rainbow suspended in the spaces around us. It catches the light of a new morning sun.

529 words

Story Prompts for Writers’ Group 500 Words or Less: First Day of Vacation

Words: interloper, gnome, bucolic, karaoke, Albanian mud weasels, shrunken head.

First Day of Vacation ~ S.K. Nicholls

After ten hours on the train with my darling wife riding across the bucolic German countryside, I was relieved to know there was a pub down the stairs from our hostel. Twelve rounds of the best ale to be found and they started up with the karaoke, which pounded on my head in German and forced me into a foul mood. I followed the ale with eight shots of ice cold Jägermeister, trying to drown out the noise.

My head and my bladder were about to explode.  I was looking for the bathroom when I stumbled through doors to find myself in a lovely patio garden. It was dark out there, so I whipped old Joe out and started pissing, when all of a sudden I heard a voice, “Stop whizzing on my head, you Yank!”

“Who’s that talking?”

“It’s me, down here by your knees, taking a golden shower!”

I looked down to see a poor little garden gnome dripping in urine. “You talkin to me?”

“Of course, I’m talking to you, nobody out here but you in that Yankees jacket, and those pesky Albanian mud weasels. And both so disrespectful.”

I slid down beside the little fellow, not certain that I could stand any longer. “I wa…I wa…I wasn’t expecting anyone to notice,” I said, “Didn’t think anyone el..else was out here and I’m terribly ssss…sorry about your drenching. I didn’t know, uh, I didn’t know gnomes could talk.”

“No worries, happens all the time. You should be more concerned about those weasels than me.”

“Well, I…I know weasels can’t talk.”

“Who says we can’t talk, you foreign interloper?” asked the first weasel.

“Hand over your wallet!” demanded the second.

“Do it now or we’ll gnaw your eyes out!” said the third.

“I KNOW weasels can’t talk!” I looked at the gnome and him at me.

“You can’t even stand,” said the gnome. “Better hand it over.”

I passed my wallet to the closest weasel and they scampered away, my wallet clenched in sharp teeth.”

Suddenly my wife appeared out of nowhere, looking like she had a shrunken head. “What the hell happened to you?”

Sitting beside the soaked garden gnome, who of course was now silent, I told her my story.

“I swear that’s how I lo..lo..lost my wallet, honey!”

378 words

Let’s Go Backwards and Criminalize Abortion, Again! My Story: Part Two

My disclaimer:

I know that self-disclosure can be a dangerous thing. With all that is going on in Texas, South Dakota, and other communities across the country, I feel a need to go there with a couple of personal stories. First and foremost, it is not my intent to debate right or wrong. Second, all I can really do is tell you how it was in my life. Third, pray that you don’t have to make the sorts of difficult decisions I have had to make. Finally, wish you the best possible outcome if you have faced or are facing similar circumstances, or know someone in such a situation.

Continuation from Yesterday’s Post:

It was 1978; I was not yet 18 years old, with a son not yet two years, an abusive, estranged husband in Germany, and an abortion two weeks behind me. I had spent the last two weeks sitting in the living room floor with my son in my arms, crying, and listening to Linda Ronstadt albums, over and over. Linda Ronstadt gave way to Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks and slowly I began to feel less sorry for myself.

I still had my job as a nursing assistant at the local hospital, but I had spent most of my money on the abortion. I knew that I could not stay in my apartment, but I had no idea where I could go. My grandparents, a hundred miles away, were clueless to all that was going on with me. I did not feel that I should trouble them.

One night, at the hospital, I met a man, D.H., who was at the hospital because a female friend of his, A.L., had overdosed. On what, I don’t know, probably Quaaludes and Tequila, since that was the passing fancy. The drug culture was not new to me as my husband and his friends were in the thick of it before he joined the Army. It was just not something I personally imbibed, except for an occasional smoke or a very rare snort of a line…which did absolutely nothing for me. It was certainly not something I wanted my son exposed to. Yet, this man made me an offer I could not refuse.

D.H. was of Polk County Pot Plane fame. (I won’t go into the details of that, you can look it up on the web, a “B” movie was made about it [the movie is a joke, not at all how things really happened]). He had led the group who unloaded the plane and had a 75 acre pot farm hidden away in the North Georgia Mountains. D.H. was a Grizzly Adams type of guy, with long, blonde, bushy hair and beard. He ran a hippie commune in the midst of this pot farm where about forty young men and women made their home. They were mostly runaways, remnant draft dodgers, or people over eighteen who had been kicked out of their homes. Four or five of the young women had infants or toddlers. He invited me to relocate there and bring my son. All I had to do was help with the children, gardening, harvesting food and meal preparation. Being a farm girl in my youth, I thought this would work out well. My son would have playmates and I would be living the farm life again, which I had so dearly loved in my childhood.

Meanwhile, back at the apartment, I had a new neighbor, a Greek Adonis, N.K., whose friends and family owned and operated the local pizza parlor. Knowing I would be moving to this farm in the wilderness, I also knew I would have to give up my job at the hospital. I had no transportation, and while a few of the men had vehicles, I could not depend on them for a regular ride to my work. This guy, N.K., promised me a job as a waitress, paid in cash every Friday, plus keeping my tips daily. Most significantly, he would pick me up and drive me to work every day. I would only be working evenings from 4pm until 10 pm Thurs. and Sun. and 4pm to 2am Fri and Sat. I had promise of cash and a ride. I also had built in babysitters for my son.

I acclimated to life on the farm/commune quite well. I would get up and bake biscuits every morning served with grits, eggs, ham and sausage. We had goats, pigs, a couple of cows, and chickens. The vegetable garden was plentiful. We made jellies and jams from wild berries. The kids all stayed together with their toys in a huge playpen we had constructed outside and two smaller ones inside. The women, with flowers in hair, running around in tie-dyed maxi dresses, blue jeans and sandals, attended to each other’s children as needed. We were rainbow colors dancing rings around the sun.

Evenings, all would gather on a huge Asian rug in the living room in a circle on the floor, pass around the pipe, and talk about the day’s events or what was planned for the next day, listening to Marshall Tucker, CSN&Y, Pink Floyd, Bob Seger or whatever tunes we happened across. Fluorescent posters papered the walls of the old farm house, lit by black lights and strobes. We had a pet raccoon, named Rocky, and two flying squirrels that would join us. Though not ideal, I did feel safe. I did not; however, feel that I or my son had any sort of future there.

My new found friend, N.K., would come inside the house with us on those weekend nights that he drove me home from work. He was exotic, tall, dark and handsome, speaking with a thick Greek accent. I was all of 5’ 4 1/2”, 100 pounds soaking wet, had long blonde hair that I sat on, and bright green eyes. I must have seemed exotic to him. My commune friends were suspicious (and perhaps a bit jealous). N.K. drove a black on black, brand new Trans Am. One night, a couple of guys from the commune were busted in the parking lot of the pizza parlor and my friends were sure N.K. had something to do with it, but I doubted it. Needless to say, I was not trusted anymore.

N.K. vehemently denied any involvement, and I believed him. After all, he informed me that he was planning to move to NYC with his partner to open a Greek restaurant in Jamaica Bay. He offered me to join them. I didn’t know, at the time, that he was deeply entrenched with the Greek mafia. That is something I learned a thousand miles from my home and a month later. All I knew at the time is that I was promised a job in the new restaurant. N.K. also assured me that he had connections in NY that could get me a modeling job. With some hope for a future, I left my son in the care of his grandparents, and struck out for NYC.

Friend is a dangerous word in some circles. I won’t go into the details here, but I will say that his plans for me did NOT include a modeling job. At seventeen, I was merely a charm on his arm to various functions and parties in wait of my 18th birthday, which would be November 15th. N.K., and his friends, who were brothers, S.N. and L.N., and their wives, were busy setting up the new restaurant.

N.K. had secured an apartment in what was once an old bank. It was two stories. The upper rooms were stocked with evening gowns, cocktail dresses, shoes, accessories and makeup. There was only one door in or out of the large apartment. N.K. bolted it locked when he left for the restaurant every day. There was a vault in the old building that once housed a safe. The safe was no longer there, but the space had been converted into a well secured closet. The closet housed guns and drugs. My job was to guard these, call N.K. if anything suspicious occurred, and to escort the entourage of beautiful women who came and went to the upper rooms all day and all night to change clothes. These women had keys, and I didn’t. Where they went every evening, I did not ask.

One day about noon, I was sitting in the living room reading a book when I heard scratching at the front door. At first, I thought it was one of the girls who had forgotten her key. Now, it was November and already cold and windy, but there were no tree branches near that door. Then, the scratching again. I was dead bolted inside this apartment with no way out, … or so I thought. Then I heard “Ayuda! Ayuda!” There was a Peurto Rican village on one side of our Greek village and a Mexican village on the other. These were the first words I learned in Spanish, long before I learned to count.

I tried to peer out the barred window, but I could see nothing. Again, I heard, “Ayudame! Ayudame!” louder, pleading, crying. A knock at the door, timid at first, and then forceful.

I put my book down and, on a whim, tried the door. It opened, and into my arms fell a young girl. She had long black hair and large brown eyes. Her eyes were screaming with fear, yet glazed and reddened from crying. Her face was pale and dry, no tears. Unable to hold her, we both went to the ground. Her head lay in my lap. Her lips were blue. She was larger than me, but could have been my age, a young woman, not more than twenty years. She could have been younger. Her blue jeans were wet and black, soaked with blood. A pool of blood at her feet, and a trail behind her to the sidewalk and beyond. Her breath was in gasps. Her pulse was fast and thready. I had to let her go to call for help. Amazingly, people were passing on the sidewalk, and no one bothered to help at all. They glanced in our direction as if to say, “Looks bad, but not my problem,” as they stepped around the bright red sidewalk mess.

I left her there in the doorway. I made a call to the operator and asked for an ambulance. My fear, though not as great as hers, was that the police would come and find the closet. A fleeting, selfish thought. N.K. and I would go to jail. It was not something I could dwell on long. This girl was dying. Already, she slipped out of consciousness, eyes closed, limp as a dishrag. I knelt beside her and held her in my arms, brushing her hair from her face with my face, and begging her to hold on. Her skin was cold against mine. I felt her spirit leave her body. I knew she was not going to make it. She was barely breathing when the medics arrived, along with the police.

They carted her off on a stretcher and into an ambulance. She was somebody’s child, somebody’s sister, she was somebody; perhaps, a mother, like me. The questions from the authorities came like rapid gunfire. Was she alone? Did I see which way she came from? Did she say her name? Had I seen her before? Did I know her? Did she get out of a vehicle? How long had she been there? Did she say anything else at all? They repeated the same questions a dozen times and all I could say was what little I knew. They took photographs. They walked all around the building. Then they left. No one asked to come inside.

I cleaned up the blood all the way to the sidewalk, and followed the trail, as the police had, to the parking lot behind the building, where it disappeared. I called N.K. on the phone and told him what had happened.  He was furious with me that I had opened the door, and more so with himself for having left it unlocked. “She could have died on our doorstep!” I exclaimed.

The next day, N.K. made sure to dead bolt the door. About 10:00 am a couple came to the door, a man and a woman. They identified themselves as detectives from some task force. I could not open the door to let them in, so I spoke to them through the door. They asked me the same questions I had been asked the previous day. They told me the girl had died. She died at 5:00 pm, alone in a hospital, another statistic. Yes, it is always 5:00 somewhere. She had suffered a traumatic botched abortion. They believed by her pimp, or some John. Who knows? It could have been a “friend” trying to help her out of a bad situation. These were common deaths back then, not even noted in the news. She was known in the neighborhood as a street girl, Maria, like so many other Marias. No last name. Maria Doe. Just another whore. Who knows why? Somebody’s child. Perhaps, somebody’s mother.

God only knows why that door wasn’t bolted on this particular day. God only knows what life He saved Maria from, what life Maria saved me from. Or why?

Why did I find that ledger in 1992 stuck between two torn down walls?

This is from where comes some of the passion to tell the story in Red Clay and Roses.

This was 1978, just four years after Roe versus Wade, two years before I started nursing school.

The title of yesterday’s and today’s post is sarcastic. Of course, I can’t possibly imagine criminalizing abortion again. It would not stop the practice. It would only create more criminals, cause more pain and suffering.

I can’t condone abortion used indiscriminately and irresponsibly as contraception. I can support a potential parent’s right to decide and choose if they are ready to be responsible and committed to raising a child. For the child’s sake, if for no other reason.

If you want to know the rest of the story, you will have to wait until I get around to writing the memoir, autobiography, or roman à clef.

Teaser: I spent the latter part of my eighteenth birthday night naked in Central Park, near Fifth Avenue, close to the zoo, hiding behind a trash can and my hair until rescued by a soul man with a huge afro named George, and his woman, Ernestine, in a big, shiny, black Cadillac who took me to K-Mart to buy clothes. I made it back home to LaGrange, Georgia, by way of the Cayman Islands. It’s a long story.

Let’s Go Backwards and Criminalize Abortion, Again! My Story: Part One

I know that self-disclosure can be a dangerous thing. With all that is going on in Texas, South Dakota, and other communities across the country, I feel a need to go there with a couple of personal stories. First and foremost, it is not my intent to debate right or wrong. Second, all I can really do is tell you how it was in my life. Third, pray that you don’t have to make the sorts of difficult decisions I have had to make. Finally, wish you the best possible outcome if you have faced or are facing similar circumstances, or know someone in such a situation.

It was 1975, and I was living in an orphanage, the Ethel Harpst Home, in the North Georgia Mountains. I had been in foster care for several years after a few years with an abusive step-parent on the heels of my mother’s death. I don’t believe, at that time, I knew what love was anymore. I felt love as a child and had loving grandparents, but there had been enormous fear and loneliness. At fifteen, I wanted to know love. I wanted to feel loved.

I met a guy at school. He was popular and his family was prominent. He jumped through hoops at the Harpst Home to be able to date me, meeting with the house parents and the home’s administrator. He wrote letters and his parents wrote letters. I felt immensely desirable. First, house dates for months, then away dates.

Then, on about the third away date, I was date raped…but he “loved” me, and I was just “confused”. Sex was supposed to be fun. It didn’t matter that my faith had indicated to me that I should remain a virgin until marriage. I had been violated, but he “loved” me. He bought me flowers, candy and jewelry. He called me twice a day. We had mutual friends and they were all having sex. It was the sexual revolution. Birth control pills had come out in 1960, so by 1975 everybody was on them, but me. To take birth control pills would mean admitting that I was having sex, and I could not do that. By March of 1976, I was pregnant. The Baptist Church I had been attending closed its doors to me. After all, what a horrible influence I would be to the other young women.

“Free love” was trendy, and casual sex, once forbidden, was becoming commonplace. Roe versus Wade had decriminalized abortion in 1974, and birth control was relatively easy; however, neither was readily accessible.  I did have a Social Worker, Shelia Turner, who spoke to me about options. My boyfriend could be arrested for statutory rape. I could have an abortion, and not leave Harpst Home or disrupt my life in any way. I could go to an unwed mother’s house in Atlanta, give the baby up for adoption and return to the Harpst Home to complete my education. I had a $17,000.00 scholarship to Wesleyan and my teachers were encouraging a career in journalism. The option to have the baby and keep it was not suggested, but it was the option I chose.

My boyfriend was excited to become a father and eagerly offered to marry me. We were wed in the United Methodist Church. I stayed in school, and graduated early in advanced classes. At sixteen, December 20, 1976, I gave birth to a healthy bicentennial baby boy. My nineteen year old husband worked at a meat processing plant and he decided to join the Army as his father had been career military.

He completed his Basic Training and MOS in South Carolina. His first duty call was to Stuttgart, Germany. We could not go, my son and I, because he had not been in the service for two years. Before he left, he beat me severely to let me know that he could kill me if I was unfaithful to him while he was gone. I put him on a plane July 11th, 1978. There were tears in our eyes, and at seventeen years old, I took my eighteen month old son home to Cedartown, to our apartment which had a $300.00/month rent, $100.00/month power bill, and no groceries.

I discovered the rent had not been paid for the two months my husband had been home, nor had the power bill. I pawned my wedding band and engagement ring to pay the bills and buy food. A week later, I discovered I was pregnant despite being on birth control pills. I could not believe it. I also received a letter from my husband telling me simply, “I am tired of being married, so go back to South Georgia, Love Bryan. P.S. Take care of my son.” My son’s family refused me any assistance.  His mother advised me to, “Woman up, like a military wife should!”

I had no car. There was no public transportation in that small town. I worked two jobs while my neighbor babysat raised my son. I worked as a clerk at the drug store from 1:00 pm until 9:00 pm, had two hours to walk home, eat, change clothes, and walk to my second job as a nursing assistant at the local hospital from 11:00 pm until 7:00 am.  Had two hours to walk home, eat, change clothes and be back at the drug store to work from 9:00 am until 1:00 pm…every other day. I had from 2:00 pm until 10:00 pm every other day to be a parent and to sleep. I was earning $2.33 an hour. The clerk job was on a rotating shift and the nursing assistant job was straight nights. I was trying. The bills weren’t getting paid, and we barely had groceries.

The Church, you ask? Turned away.

After a month of these work hours, I went to the health department for assistance and was put on the W.I.C. program. I went to the Department of Family and Children’s service for welfare, but they could not help me because my husband was military. They sent me to the Red Cross.

The Red Cross could not get me food assistance, but they arranged for me to fly to Germany to speak with my husband’s Commanding Officer and tell my husband of my second pregnancy. I left Ft. McClellan, Alabama in a cargo plane alone. My son was with his grandparents.

Once in Stuttgart, I went to the guest house and then to see my husband’s C.O. He told me that Bryan had problems with drugs and alcohol, disobedience, and was heading for a dishonorable discharge if he did not straighten up. He told me that he was supposed to be living on post, but he had been staying off post. He gave me an address.

I took a cab to the address and had it wait, because I did not know what to expect. There was a store with an apartment above where I was to find my husband. I walked up the steps on the side of the building. Once at the top on the landing, I peered through the screen door to see my husband in bed with a woman who could have been my twin. It was a small apartment and the sofa was opened into a bed in the living room. They were sleeping in each other’s arms and appeared to be quite comfortable. I did not wake them. I went back down the stairs, got back into the cab, and went back to see the C.O. I told him what I saw, and that I was pregnant and needed some assistance. He assured me the he would get an allotment check cut out of my husband’s pay. I got back on a cargo plane and came home.

The allotment was $100.00 per month. I quit my job at the drug store. I filed for divorce, and went to the Hillcrest Clinic in Atlanta and had an abortion on August 25, 1978. I could not manage to feed one child alone. I was hopeless and helpless. It was how I chose to help myself and my son. It was my only hope. The divorce took two years. I remarried. My hat is off to women who have been able to raise kids alone. At age fifty-three, I have three grown children, two grandchildren, and retired early from a thirty year career in nursing.

I have no regrets.

You may be wondering why I decided to tell this story. I had an interview published yesterday that made me think about what motivated me to write Red Clay and Roses. Where did the passion come from to tell the stories of Althea, Bonnie Jean, and Sybil? A story that tells of three women with unplanned pregnancies before Roe versus Wade, and before birth control. The secrets they kept. The choices they made. Their consequences. The good doctor and how he illegally served his community. Swamp Witch Wilma and how she did the same. 1954. Do we need to go back there?

Tomorrow I will tell you the rest of the story. Yes, there is more. Tomorrow a young girl dies in my arms.

How to Eat for a Year on the Cost of a Timex

Brio

Jon, the bartender, had told me about being up for a management position at Brio Tuscan Grille. He was hoping for the Assistant Manager’s position as it would mean more money, his rent was due, his wife just had a baby, he had a two year old at home, and his car was on it’s last leg.

Brio was always the hopping joint in the Village by 8:00 PM, but it was early yet. A long day’s work behind me, I kicked off my heels, and hung my suit coat across the back of my bar stool. Within minutes, I was sitting there quietly at the bar dining on a large platter of beef carpaccio with arugla, capers and Dijon, warm bread in herb infused oils, flat breads, and sipping a glass of Shiraz.

The place was empty except for two distinguished businessmen in suits a ways down the bar from me. Known to eavesdrop for learning purposes, I listened as they spoke about corporate plans and entrepreneurial joint ventures. They also had a few words to say about bitter wives.

In came Roxie, a member of the Winter Park Wives Club. Not a formal Wives Club like the Women’s League of this or that, but an informal name I had given to the large group of high maintenance women who gathered on Thursday nights to gossip about whose secretary was doing whose husband and what they hoped to gain from such relationships. Sometimes, being invited to their tables, I was privy to their secrets and knew Roxie to be one of the more vicious women who had owned a small cafe in the Village that had gone bust, and had a penchant for jewelry. She was separated from her husband who had been let go from a legal firm and had a new, hot-bodied, young, boyfriend, Jarred, an architect.

“Jon, Jon, Look here!” she called from across the room holding her left arm out to dangle her flashy new piece.

White tassels shimmying on her short white dress with with every step, she bounced across the room to the bar. With her dark hair cut short and curled slightly around her face, and deep red lipstick, she resembled a flapper from the 1920s. Her high heels made her walk awkward with her lean long legs, and her bulging flesh was oozing out from around every orifice of her skin tight dress. She draped her bosom across the bar, still with arm extended.

“Jarred, bought it for me. It’s a diamond watch.”

“That’s pretty,” said Jon.

“I don’t like it,” I piped in.

“What’s not to like about it?” she asked.

“It has no numbers on the dial.”

“Who needs numbers?”

“I’m a nurse, I need numbers.”

“Well, I’m not and I don’t.”

“It has no second hand”

“What would I need that for?”

“To take a pulse.”

“I don’t plan on taking any pulses.”

“You just might need to.”

“I don’t need to. Isn’t it pretty? Cost him thousands of dollars.”

“It’s pretty, but it’s not functional.”

“It functions.”

“No, it has no numbers. It has no second hand. It has no indiglo.” I held out my Timex and showed her my large faced $15.00 watch, with it’s blue indiglo backlight. “I can see this baby in the dark.”

“Well, I don’t need to see my watch in the dark. I want one that sparkles in the light.”

“Pretty, but still not functional. Might as well have been a bracelet.”

“Humph! I’m not a working woman. I’m a kept woman, and I don’t need functional.”

“Well, I’m a working woman. When I work past noon, I can even even see military time at a glance.” I showed her my watch again.

“Well, you need to get off your feet more and onto your back.” Abruptly she turned to leave. “See you later, Jon,” she call out behind her.

Jon continued washing his glasses, and I noticed the two businessmen had been watching this whole show.

Businessman one stands, reaches into his pocket and pulls out his wallet, counts out five hundred dollars, and slides it across the bar in my direction. “Buy yourself a pretty watch,” he says with a smile.

Oh, no, I can’t take your money. I was just giving her a hard time. Don’t like her type.”

“Well I don’t either, and you deserve a pretty watch for holding your own.”

Not to be outdone, Businessman two reaches in his breast coat pocket and pulls out his wallet, counts out five hundred dollars, and slides it against the first pile of bills. “WE don’t like her type.”

They insisted. Before I could thank them, they were gone, with the pile of cash laying there on the bar.

I looked at Jon and he at me.

“I’ll tell you what Jon. Break this for me.” I handed him $100.00 bill.

He did.

“I need $20.00 for gas.” I took out $20.00, paid $40.00 for my dinner, placed $940.00 in the tip jar, and left.

I ate free at Brio for the entire year I worked in admissions for hospice. Every Thursday, after 12 hours on the street, going from crisis to emotional crisis, I would go by my Winter Park office, drop off my paperwork and head over to hang out with bartenders, Texas and Paul, and Jon, the new Assistant Manager at Brio Tuscan Grille. Occasionally I dined with the Winter Park Wives Club just for shits and giggles.

A Christmas to Remember At the Ethel Harpst Home

My childhood was unique in many ways.  I was in Foster Care for several years after my mother passed. The last Christmas before my emancipation was spent at a children’s group home, otherwise known as an orphanage, the Ethel Harpst Home, in Cedartown, GA.

Christmas that year seemed bleak.  I did not expect to be able to go visit with my grandparents because they were ill.  A hundred miles away and there was no expectation that any family would be visiting me. There would be no siblings, aunts, uncles, or cousins to reunite with this year.

I have been reading a lot of posts about holiday time and the hardships and humor of dealing with family members during the season.  You may not fully appreciate how much family “makes” the Holiday until you don’t have any.

At the Harpst Home, I had a roommate, Darlene.  She and I were both fifteen years old, certainly too old to be adopted.  Adoption at that age was rare.  People were quick to take in small children, but older kids were thought to come with too many issues.  It didn’t matter that we had straight A’s in high school, had never been in any sort of trouble, and tutored younger children in math and reading…we were undesirable by an age standard.  Darlene and I were on the “Family Unit” where smaller children and older children were housed together.  The younger ones looked up to us and we were considered role models.

Back to Christmas.

On this particular year, Santa came to the Harpst Home, as usual.  He brought lots of presents for the little girls. With enthusiasm, they gleefully ripped into their small gifts. Shiny bows and ribbons became hair accessories. They laughed and played, and it had special meaning to see them having so much fun.

Darlene and I were trying to be mature, but we were both holding back the tears when all of the presents were passed out and there were no gifts for us.  We were helping the smaller ones set up their Lincoln Logs and put their puzzles together, building with tinker toys and playing with Barbie dolls.

Our house parents, who had gone down in the basement, came in wheeling a pair of bicycles for Darlene and me.  Our frowns turned upside down and suddenly we felt included. We were most grateful. The bikes weren’t brand new, but they were ours, or so we thought.

It turned out that these two bicycles belonged to the weekend house parents who relieved our regular house parents.  For a week, Darlene and I had been all around the neighborhood on those bikes.  We were flying up and down hills feeling the freedom of the wind.  We took long rides to other neighborhoods meeting other kids our age. We went downtown to the store for candy and other treats to share on the unit. The weekend house parents came in and saw how much joy the bikes had brought to us and would not let us give them up, even though we offered the bikes to their rightful owners.

Today, I was stumbling through the garage tripping over six bicycles that we have not ridden in years.  What couple needs six bicycles?  We gathered up four of the bikes and tossed them into the truck.  We took them over to the Russell Home for Atypical Children.  We may give the other two away next year. It felt really good.

If you are tripping over excess, and there is a children’s home near you, clean up, and make the trip.

It’s worth it.

Embarrassing the Children

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So many of my childhood memories were unpleasant ones, so today I want to tell you some of those funnier and scarier memories of raising my own children.  I couldn’t do the Community Storyboard prompt this week because I wanted to focus more on the positives than the negatives so, this is my chance to totally embarrass my grown children.

My oldest and I grew up together.  I was fifteen when I became pregnant and barely sixteen when he was born.  He is now thirty six.  We even like the same music.  I remember his childhood like it was yesterday.  He had a fascination with the orifices of his body, namely his nostrils and ears.

One day, when he was about two years old, he was helping me plant nasturtium seeds.  They are rather large seeds, about the size of a pea.  Several days later, he was having trouble breathing.  Thinking this was asthma, I rushed in to the hospital.  A little while later, the doctor emerged with a few plants on a napkin.  The seeds had germinated in his head and had actually started to grow tiny leaflets and roots. Some of the roots were quite long. The doctor had removed the plants with a basket extractor.  His breathing suddenly improved.  My son also stuffed English peas into his ears and had me believing he had some horrible green discharge oozing from infected ears, when in reality, it was only peas.

Direct sowing Nasturtium seeds in the garden

On another occasion, he came walking out of the bathroom one night.  He was so proud that he had reached the age of four and could attend to his nighttime ritual without much in the way of assistance.  On this night though, yellow paste dripped from his lips and he was complaining about the new toothpaste.  He had brushed his teeth with Preparation H.  Poor little thing, with his puckered lips and a horrible taste in his mouth, was quite in shock.  It took a few rinses with fresh tasting mouthwash to resolve that problem.

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As an older child, it was his job to wash the pots and pans after dinner.  Once, while I was away at class, he proceeded to bury the entire lot in the back yard with a shovel to keep from washing them.  The trouble he went through to avoid that chore was amazing.  It would have been so much easier to just wash them, but not in his eyes.

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My daughter and I had a different relationship.  She was headstrong and stubborn, even at two years of age.  Once she was on the deck and took off running from me.  I didn’t want her to topple off the deck and get mortally wounded, so I tried to be patient with her. I could see that she had something black in her mouth and it appeared to have legs.  Yes!  It was a live cricket, and there was no getting it away from her.  She clamped down on it and swallowed it before I could get it out of her mouth, pure protein, I suppose.

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As she grew older, her stubborn streak grew with her, but so did her level of activity.  We bought a trampoline, hoping the kids would jump out some of their energy, and she loved it.  She also had a habit of straining her ankles and wrists.  After about four $75.00 trips to the E.R. for x-rays, only to discover these were strains, and sprains, and not breaks, I decided to give it a rest.  Then one evening, she came in from the trampoline at about age eight yo.  She complained that her wrist and arm were hurt.  Determined not to spend another 4-6 hours in the E.R. for a strain, I packed her in ice and put her to bed.  The next morning, in pain, she awoke with her arm swollen twice its normal size.  I felt like dirt, a nurse, and the worst mother alive.  It was indeed broken!

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My youngest, another boy, was such a good baby, I thought nothing could go wrong, and I was much older at his birth, twenty-five.  The kids had a swing set and he had climbed to its top where the monkey bars were at about the age of three.  He fell, right before my eyes, and tore the back of his leg on a protruding screw.  With the calm and composure of a CCU Nurse, I wrapped the leg in a pressure dressing and took him 20 miles away to the hospital for stitches.  He never cried a tear, not one.  They papoosed him in a cocoon to keep him immobilized, but he never even said, “Ouch,” while they stitched him up with 12 sutures.

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As I grew older and matured, the antics were farther and fewer between.  There were five years between each of my children.  I don’t recommend anyone starting as early as I did.  There used to be a joke about being barefoot and pregnant in GA, and I did grow up with my kids.  On the plus side, I could still demonstrate cartwheels, backbend flips, and hoola-hoops to them.  Something I could not have done later.  Now they are raising families of their own.  Fancy that!

Me upside down on hand rings when I was actually young and nimble enough to perform such a stunt.
Me upside down on hand rings when I was actually young and nimble enough to perform such a stunt.

Have you got any funny or frightening stories with your children, or yourself as a child, that you would like to share?  Go ahead!  Make my day.  I need a good laugh!

Farm Life in Fall

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Autumn for The Community Storyboard prompt

Florida doesn’t have much of an autumn and I do miss the autumn days of my childhood.  The first thing that comes to mind is change in the leaves and harvest time.  The second is camping and Halloween. The final is the preparation for Thanksgiving.  These were family times, when my sisters and cousins were most active on the farm as we joined together for autumn events.

In Georgia, September in the foothills of the Appalachians meant the landscape changed from lush green to a palette of reds, oranges and yellows.  We would go on top of Pine Mountain and look down below onto the colorful valley.  You could see for miles and it made the world seem so big.  On the farm, summer days fading into autumn brought harvest time and that was always a most busy time.

The fresh garden vegetables had already been frozen and canned.  The sweet potatoes had to be dug, the dried corn had to be shelled for the livestock, and the fields and garden spots had to be plowed under.  The apples were the first tree crop to be welcomed.  Grandmother would pare the apples that we gathered from the orchard.  Bushel baskets of them would be peeled and sliced to lay out onto aluminum panels to dry in the sunshine.  Grandmother bagged the dried slices into old flour sacks and pillowcases to hang in the pantry for fried apples pies.  Later, the dried apple slices would be soaked in syrup of water and sugar, laid out on circles of pastry dough, folded over, and then deep fried to a golden crispy crunch filled with juicy sweet goodness. The whole house smelled of cinnamon and apples when these were prepared.

We would pack the fried pies in our knapsacks to take camping.  Sometimes we camped in our own back yard which covered acres and acres, and sometimes we would go into the mountains or out by the Chattahoochee River to camp.  The older cousins would pitch the tent and prepare the site, while us younger ones gathered firewood.  The nights would bring songs around the campfire with my cousin playing the guitar, and then ghost stories to make us shudder and cling to each other in fright.  The stories got creepier the closer we got to Halloween.  Come October 31st, we were ripe for the horrors of Halloween and spent hours planning our costumes and making them ourselves. Nothing much was store-bought except the makeup we creatively applied.  Door to door trick-or-treating was done between neighbors and family without any thoughts to stranger abduction or individually wrapped candy or treats.  Some would give homemade popcorn balls or candy apples, and others would give store-bought candy bars.  We gladly accepted either without question.

Once  Halloween was over, we would start preparing for Thanksgiving.  The hired help from summer was mostly gone for the season.  After pulling weeds from nursery plants for a quarter a row on hot summer days, we were glad to see the cooler nights and the frost covered mornings.  The cold mornings meant that the pecans would fall soon.  Once this occurred, if we had a bumper crop, we would get paid a quarter a bag to pick up pecans.  We truly learned the value of a dollar.  Cousins, aunts, and uncles were all involved in this process as the pecans were gathered up from the orchards for sell by the truckloads to the local pecan warehouses.  They would then be sent to Westin, GA, where they were made into pecan brittles, divinities, fudge, fruitcakes, and other candies & cakes that would be sold at Christmas time.  Again, the pecan pies would be made that were always served with fresh whipped cream at the Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving was a huge event where family gathered from all over to give thanks for such a bountiful harvest and the blessings that had been bestowed throughout the year. The season of autumn was a long and busy season, but brought family together to work and to play.  We all seem so distant now with everyone living miles and miles apart, and families dividing, growing too large to keep up with.  Reunions are a difficult thing nowadays.  I miss the autumn of my childhood, but was glad to have raised my own family on a farm in GA, so my children had some taste of what my own childhood was like and the happiness found in it.

SQUIRRELS: THIS TIME IT’S PERSONAL (PART 5 OF THE CSB CHAIN STORY EVENT)

Here’s my part for the fabulous Community Storyboard’s first ever chain story event. You can follow the story through the links below –

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3 

Part 4

Gosling and Mc Adams had both drawn their weapons; his, a .357 Magnum, and hers, a pearl handled Saturday night special.   Gosling made it to the back of the Herring just in time to see the SUV turn the corner in a cloud of dust.  Mc Adams hobbled closely behind.

“Where do you suppose they are taking her?” Gosling asked rhetorically, as he glanced around the ally.

Mc Adams brushed the dust off her sleeves and put her gun away.  “Your guess is as good as mine, lover boy, but I’m figuring they aren’t going straight to Needham’s Party Supplies.  Wasn’t Ted Needham that slodge who was campaigning for the legalization of marijuana?”

“That’s him, alright, the lying cheating cad. Look over there!” Gosling exclaimed, spying a glint of gold on the pavement through the settling smut.  “What do suppose this is?”  He holstered his gun.

He walked over and squatted down to pick up the item that had caught his eye. “Well, what do know?  A gold handled dagger!  One of the squirrel goons must have dropped this.”

He turned the dagger over in his hands examining its exquisite features.  The steel blade was a good twelve inches long, capable of punching a hole through more than a skull, and sharper than Zelda’s sword.  It was the handle that he found most intriguing.  Solid gold and emblazoned with the likeness of a dragon, but this was no ordinary dragon.  This jeweled dragon was designed with an amethyst encrusted body, and nearly translucent ruby wings.  These were not ordinary wings for a dragon either, they were dragonfly wings.  This could only mean one thing.

“Sauron, the Inquisitor,” they both said in unison, “The One Ring of Power.”

Still kneeling, Gosling looked up to see that Mc Adams had taken off her good shoe and was bending over to pop the heel off on the pavement.  He followed the cord of the back of her nylons along her shapely legs, up under her tight skirt to the shapely, high, and firm round ass above.  The runs in her hosiery only made her look sexier to him.  He didn’t hear her talking for a moment.  He felt his crotch stir.

“Gosling!  Damn it! Gosling, I am talking to you!”

“What, dame, you were saying, what?”

“I said,” Mc Adams started again, “the corporate headquarters for Needham Party Supplies is in Rivendale, clear on the other side of the Misty Mountains. They must have taken Darlene there.  They have got a good head start on us.  We’ll have to take the train.”

“Right, doll, the train, we’ll have to take the train,” Gosling returned, wiping the drool on his filthy sleeve as he stood.

Gosling slipped the dagger deep into his trench coat pocket.  He missed his fedora.  They made their way down the alley to the sidewalk.   Gosling began to hail a taxi, while Mc Adams ducked into the bakery next door to the blown up Burgundy Herring.  Having had their lunch interrupted, she purchased a few cupcakes for them to eat on the way.

Once they arrived at the station, and were on the platform about to board their train, Mc Adams noticed a man sitting on a bench under a street lamp.  He was a pitiful excuse of a man.  He had yellowed skin stretched over his bony skull that was sparsely combed over by a few oily, dark hairs, large sunken eyes, and was crying into his hands with woe, “Precious, My Precious.”

“Shit, could it be?” Mc Adams whispered.

“Who is he?” Gosling asked.  Mc Adams had taken his arm, was pinching the shit out of it, and trying not to drop her bakery box, while hiding her face behind his shoulder as they walked toward the train.

“My informant, it’s my Goddamned informant from the smoke easy pub.  I can’t let him see me.  What the hell is he doing here anyway?”

They boarded the train for Rivendale.  The train wasn’t crowded, and for that they were grateful. It was long ride over the Misty Mountains, but this was the only way they were going to catch up and be in town by dark.  Rivendale was a charming little town, quaint and attractively unusual, with little shops on every corner.  Dwarves, elves, squirrels and bears all seemingly got along well with men in Rivendale.

“This has to be the work of those pesky squirrels in cahoots with those burglarizing hobbits.  I would bet my bottom dollar that the Squirrel Goddess has her lair in the warehouse district, and Sauron has the burglars doing his bidding along with these goon squirrels.  They wouldn’t have closed out so many cases if this wasn’t an inside job.  They also have to be working with tactical and technical explosives experts to pull off a job like what we just witnessed back at The Herring.”

“Right, boss,” Mc Adams agreed through the cupcake frosting that spilled over her lips.  “Mmmm, this is good, want a bite?” she offered.

“Thanks, but no thanks.”

Mc Adams put away the cupcakes and touched up her lipstick.  She was taking in the scenery, The Fangorn Ents Forest, and the scenic mountain passes. For miles and miles, the train wound its way around and over the Misty Mountains.  It rocked and swayed as it chugged along the railways.  It would be hours before they got into town.  Gosling got a nap.  Mc Adams was jonesing for a cigar.  The sun was getting low in the sky.  Finally, as the train was pulling into town, the conductor came by. He nudged Gosling awake and passed him a note.

“What’s it say?” Mc Adams asked curiously.

“Says, ‘There is a package for you at the ticket counter in Rivendale,’” Gosling read with suspicion.

“Can’t be, nobody knew we were coming.  Who is it from?”

“It’s signed, ‘Gandalf’.’”

“You mean Gandalf, as in Gandalf the Wizard, Gandalf the Sorcerer?”

“That’s right babe, Gandalf!”

I am turning this warped machine over to Dean.