Friday, April 28, 2017

Walking After Midnight...

"You don't want to do that." She tried to warn them. "I mean it, you really are going to wish you hadn't. You should stop now."

The smaller of the two men stopped digging, "Did you feel that? Like a cold chill?"

"Don't pay attention to that! We are going to fix things. We only have a few hours to get it done."

She tried again. "I'm serious. Put down the shovels and walk away now."

Now it was the big man's turn to stop digging for a moment and he looked around nervously. "It's like a breeze on the back of your neck isn't it?"

"Yeah, do you think it's her?"

The big man shivered, "It's not midnight. Nobody has ever seen her before midnight. We are safe."

She laughed at that, "You are safe right now. If you keep digging you won't be safe at all."

Both men shivered involuntarily. "Keep digging!"

She shook her head. They really were going to regret this but what could she do to stop it?

"How long do we have?" The smaller man asked.

"An hour. I didn't think it would take so long. We should have figured out a way to use the backhoe."

"I'm not sure how we could have done that. Just breaking in here was hard enough."

"Keep digging. We don't want to be here when she starts walking."

She laughed again, "You don't want to be here when I stop."

"There it is again," the smaller man said, "It's a chill right through your bones, isn't it?"

"We must be getting close. That must be it." The big man nodded to show his confidence. If you hadn't noticed how white his knuckles were on the shovel handle you might have been fooled.

"Why hasn't anyone done anything before?"

"Scared. The law says we can't do what needs done here. People are scared. Scared of her. Scared of the law. Scared of their own shadows. But we are going to take care of it. She can't just walk around like that. It's not natural."

She gathered herself together, it wasn't easy before midnight but she could do it for a moment, she gathered herself together and knocked over the source of their bravery. The bottle of Jack Daniels tumbled off the gravestone they had rested it on while they dug.

The big man screamed louder and with a higher pitch than the small man. She hadn't expected that, but it delighted her just the same, "You really should leave now."

"Do you think we should go? It's close to midnight." The big man asked.

Now it was the smaller man's turn to fake bravery, "No. We are almost there. We will finish and she will stop walking."

The big man nodded and kept digging. She had walked this cemetery for the last time. Scaring children. Making old women think the town was evil. Driving down property values. That was really it. The big man's boss wanted to build a high rise across from the old cemetery and he couldn't very well do it if there was a nightly sighting of a ghost girl could he? I mean it was all well and fine at Halloween but every night? It just wasn't right. It was time to put her to rest for good.

"Are you sure this will work?" The smaller man hadn't met with the old woman, the one the big man's boss had found. The one who gave them the answer to their problem.

"Oh it will work," she said, "And you'll be very sorry. And your boss's last thought will be of the old woman and why she was willing to help him. And why he suddenly thought a 100 year old ghost was a problem. But it will be too late for you two by then. Unless you walk away now." She reached out to trace a line on the back of the big man's neck.

The cold was almost unbearable. They should have been so warm, digging and working as they were, but instead they were freezing. Clouds of steam rising from their sweating bodies. Puffs of smoke as they spoke. Any sane person would leave. But the big man was being paid very well to do this and money like that made most lose their sanity.

There was a loud clunk as they hit her coffin. "You don't want to do this." She tried once more. Though by this point she knew it was a lost cause. And really why should she care? She was finally going to be able to rest in peace. The old woman would win. At least in this part of the world. The old man who had sealed her fate was long gone. He had stopped fighting years ago. Too tired. As if he had been walking after midnight for a 100 years.

They cleared the dirt off the top of the casket and the big man pulled the vial of ashes from his pocket.

"We just have to put these on here and it will trap her inside?"

"That's what she said. Just sprinkle them over the top." The big man opened the vial and started to sprinkle.

"Wait! What does that say?" The smaller man saw the words that had been carved on her casket just a moment too late. The ashes were already spread. She faded away. Resting in peace, at last.

The big man read the words, "Here lies the protector. The guardian of the gates of hell. Woe to any who disturb her. May she walk the world for ever."

As he read the last word the church bell tolled midnight and the cemetery burst forth with life...

Or death.

Somewhere the old woman was laughing.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Getting the Wrinkles Out...

She knew she should be in the living room with everyone else but she couldn't tear herself away from the picture hanging in the hallway. He was wearing the navy blue shirt with the paisley print. She remembered the day she bought it for him. It was the first gift either of them had given each other. There was a new guy in the office who always looked really sharp and even though he felt silly about it, he felt kind of dull next to him. When she saw the shirt she knew it would make his blue eyes look fantastic and it would definitely not be dull.

She bought it. Guessing and working with the salesman for the size. But she was sure it would be fine. So sure she brought it home and washed and ironed it before she ever showed it to him. She remembered standing at the ironing board pressing out the wrinkles from the wash. Making sure it looked perfect. She was humming to herself while she ironed. She remembered feeling silly about being so happy ironing a shirt. Wasn't this the life she had worked so hard to avoid? She had never wanted to be domesticated, as she had put it. She liked her career. She liked her single life. Then he had showed up and changed everything.

She had switched out his plain white shirt for the blue one while he was in the shower. Snuck in to the bathroom and put it on the hanger and then snuck back out. She heard him laugh while he was getting dressed. When he came out he modeled the look for her. She was right. It made his eyes look fantastic.

"He called that his lucky shirt."

She jumped.

"Oh I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you like that. I just saw you looking at the picture. He called that his lucky shirt. He bought it on a whim while he was on a business trip and ended up wearing it to close a big deal. From that point on it was his lucky shirt."

"I remember that meeting. He was always our closer though, I don't think it was the shirt that made the difference." She smiled at his wife. His wife. This stranger in the hallway was his wife. Though maybe it was more that the man in that picture was the stranger. After all here she was talking to his wife. His wife. If she said it enough times maybe it would stop hurting.

"He was very good at his job. I am so glad you could make it for the funeral. I know most of the people at the remote branches weren't able to come. Such a distance to travel for...." his wife trailed off and wiped a tear from her cheek.

"I know more wish they could have come. I'm sure they let you know there will be a memorial for him, for the company in a few weeks? I know a lot of people will want to pay their respects. I am just so sorry for your loss. I am sorry for all of us, he was a good man."

His wife reached out and drew her in to a hug. She hugged her back thinking to herself, "This is all a bad dream. I will wake up soon."

"Excuse me, Elise? You're needed in the kitchen."

"Oh, thank you, Edgar. Edgar this is...I am sorry, I didn't catch your name."

She held out her hand, "Grace. I work with, worked with Harold."

She saw Edgar's eyes widen just a touch. "Nice to meet you, Grace. Would you mind if I asked you a few questions about office contacts?"

Elise smiled at Grace, "Edgar is our lawyer as well as a family friend. Please feel free to tell him anything. If you'll excuse me."

She watched Elise make her way to the kitchen receiving condolences from friends and family as she passed.

"Grace Reynolds?"


"I have something for you. Something Harold left for you. I am sure you understand why I didn't want to say anything."

"Yes, well, there was a lot of that going around it seems."

"Yes, I understand from the letter he left me that you did not know, well, everything about him."

"It seems that I didn't."

He took a card from his coat jacket and handed it her, "Please call me so we can arrange delivery. And..."

Grace held up her hand, "If you are going to ask me not to make a scene, it's unnecessary. There has already been enough pain. I don't need to add to it."

Edgar nodded, "Thank you. He was a good man. Please believe that."

Grace gave him a tight smile, "I will see what I believe eventually. Right now I'm just existing. Will you be in your office later today? I will be heading back tomorrow afternoon. I can call you later, but if we can arrange a time now that would be fine."

He looked at his watch, "Give me another hour here and then give me a call. I would think this evening or first thing tomorrow would be fine."

"Thank you. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I need to leave."

She started to walk away when she heard her name being called, "Grace! Grace! Please come with me for a second. I need to ask you something."

Grace turned and smiled at Elise, "Of course."

Elise took her hand and walked with her to the garage. There was Harold's car. The site of it felt like a punch in the stomach. So many times she had watched for it to pull in to the drive. He traveled between branches, so many miles on that car, so many times he was on the road while she waited for him to come home to her. Now she saw she wasn't home after all.

"He loved this car."

Grace smiled, "He really did. It was pretty clever. I remember thinking he should have sold the idea at a conference geared toward traveling salesmen. Of course, there really aren't as many traveling salesmen as there used to be are there?"

Elise was opening the trunk and there was the elaborate storage system that Harold had made. It was a traveling closet. He kept his work clothes there as well as files and work items. It was sectioned off with drawers and an area that worked like a hanging rod, but everything laid flat to keep the wrinkles away. Apparently he was very good at keep things separate to keep out the wrinkles.

"He was so clever with his hands. He didn't just make this, he invented so many things in our house. Storage areas, a little set of steps that I could push in and out in the kitchen..."

Grace took a small breath, remembering the day he sketched out the step design. She had never been able to use the upper shelves in her kitchen and he thought that was ridiculous. He sketched out a design for steps that could be folded flat and stored between the refrigerator and the cabinets, they fit exactly in the space and when folded flat they had a designed edge that made them look decorative. It was beautiful. And apparently he liked it so well he made another set.

"He was very talented."

Elise pulled his computer bag from the trunk, "I am sure the office will need this back. It's his work computer and some files he was working on. There is also a box of older items there." She pointed to a corner of the trunk. "Would it be too much of an imposition for you to take them? I could have them shipped out, but since you are here?"

"Oh, no, no trouble at all. I will be leaving for the main office tomorrow anyway, I can bring these with me. I'm driving so it's no problem. Not that my car is set up for traveling like Harold's is, but it will do. I'm sorry, I'm rambling, I just don't know the right thing to say right now."

Elise patted her on the hand, "I know. I understand. I've been rambling a lot myself for the past few days. If you are comfortable rummaging around a bit feel free to load any work items in to your car to take back with you. I know he wouldn't want anything to slide due to him...."

Now it was Grace's turn to pat Elise's hand, "We will make sure all of his clients are taken care of and nothing slips through the cracks."

"Thank you so much. I am so glad you made it." With that Elise gave Grace another hug and went back in to the house.

Grace picked up the computer bag and put it to the side along with the box of files. She started to look through the various drawers when the smell reached her. His smell. The trunk was filled with his clothes. It smelled like him. Like he was there. In the garage with her. She picked up a suit jacket and held it to her face and breathed in deeply. He was there. She closed her eyes and tried to keep from sobbing. He was there. He was here. Here. In this house. With this family. And these people. And she had never known.

She finished looking through the trunk and moved a small pile of things to her car to take back to the office with her. She smoothed back out all of his clothes and slowly closed the trunk. Leaving no wrinkles she walked away.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Trouble with Girls...

Stacy leaned against the door frame and watched her daughter sleep. She was above the covers and would get a chill soon. Stacy was debating if she should go in and cover her up or if that would risk waking her. And right now sleeping Daisy was the best kind of Daisy. Her husband George came up behind her and put a hand on the back of her neck. "What are we going to do with her?"

Stacy sighed and leaned back in to George. "Survive. That's what we are going to do."

"How did your parents do it? I can't imagine it was any easier with you?"

Stacy laughed quietly, "I would be insulted, but it's true. It wasn't. And they sent me to boarding school at 12 and welcomed me back home at 18."

"That seems kind of cold."

"It is the Wilder way. And it could have been worse. They sent me Couraboton. My mother went to St. Agnes of Farenholt. That would have been a nightmare."

"You say these names like I should know what they mean."

"There are three main choices that can be made for schooling. There is Couraboton where order and quiet are cherished and St. Aggies where the strongest survive and then, of course, homeschooling. Usually the religious go for that. We weren't particularly religious so that was never a consideration for me."

"If your mother went to St. Aggies why did she send you to the other?"


"She thought you weren't strong enough?"

Stacy laughed again, "Oh no. She was afraid without constraints I might get too strong. Strong without boundaries is an issue. And she was probably right. Though I chafed against the rules at Couraboton it did teach me quite a bit. And the one scandal I was caught up in made my mother feel as though I had proved her point. After all if I was going to get in trouble at Couraboton I would have been incorrigible at St. Aggies."

"Scandal? Oh do tell, my wild Wilder girl."

"So, you know how Daisy reacted tonight? That is what Couraboton is actively trying to teach control over. It's the temper flashes. The teen girl attitude on steroids part. Well they work to tamp that down. The buildings are designed to instill control. And each girl is given a necklace that you are to wear at all times. There was a Latin phrase on it about conducting yourself with control above all else. And the only time you took it off was in supervised areas, where if you lost control someone was there to mute the response. You can see how badly it could go if you lost control alone."

George thought back to earlier in the evening when he had been helping Daisy with her homework. She had been getting more and more frustrated and was starting to lose her temper. He had told her to take a deep breath and calm down and they would try again. Which was when their youngest child had come running in to the kitchen, bumped the table, and knocked over the glass of soda Daisy had been drinking. As the brown liquid spilled across her math homework Daisy melted down. Thank goodness right at that moment Stacy had walked in the door from work. She got everything stopped, cleaned up, calmed down and situated within a few minutes. Daisy was sent to the back yard to calm down. Paisley was kissed and fussed over to stop her from crying then sent in to the other room to play until dinner. And George's arm was examined to make sure the burns were superficial.

When your daughters were Wilder lineage the teenage years brought on their powers. And when they came in, they came in hot. So to speak. The wild fire had erupted from Daisy and would have burned the table and possibly the house down if Stacy hadn't frozen it in its tracks. As it was just the hairs on George's arm were singed. But it was the final sign that Daisy was in puberty and would need to be educated in more than just math.

"So my junior year I discovered that the necklaces had to be activated to work as dampeners. I, let's say, came in to possession of one that had never been switched on and started wearing it instead of my official necklace. So I had access to my powers while no one else did. It led to being able to make things go my way more often than not. It took them awhile to figure out what was happening.

When we were sitting in the headmistress's office discussing my punishment she snarled at my parents that 'this sort of thing might be okay at someplace like St. Agnes...' then my mother got to inform her that she was a St. Agnes alumna and the entire reason she had sent me to Couraboton was their reputation for being able to control their school. If they could not handle one teenage girl then perhaps their reputation was undeserved and should be corrected in the public record.

It was an uneasy detente. My mother was basically telling her that she would let every one know that I had found a way around centuries of work on power dampening procedures. An agreement was reached. I could not tell anyone in school about the necklace. I had to do volunteer work with the younger students, some parents sent their daughters long before puberty as a precaution and, of course, I had to give up my contraband necklace. But by then I had figured out how to control myself with or without the dampening effects of the school or the jewelry so it didn't matter.

My mother told my father that if they had sent me to St. Aggies I would have been running the entire organization by graduation. That was the St. Aggies way. The strongest destroyed the weakest. Power will out. My mother did not agree that that was the way it should be. She had spent her years there protecting those that were not as strong as she was. She was worried I wouldn't be as kindhearted."

"That's a little harsh. You are extraordinarily kind."

"Now maybe. But not then. I was extraordinarily strong and I had very little patience for anyone who was not. Now I see that strength needs kindness to balance it out. But I needed to learn that. Couraboton helped me get there, ironically it was my punishment and working with the young girls who were sent away before they even had a taste of power that got me there. That was where I realized that being kind was a different kind of power and strength."

"So how soon do we need to make a decision?"

"Soon. I had already scheduled a visit with Couraboton for next week. I will call tomorrow and see if we can move it up a few days. But I think as a day student, not a boarder. Between her necklace and me I think she will be okay."

"Should we put her under the blankets? She's going to get cold."

"Do you want to risk waking her?"

George remembered the fire erupting around her earlier today, "Maybe not. She can cover herself if she gets cold. She won't hurt herself if she falls will she?"

"No, she'll be fine."

And with one last loving look at their daughter George and Stacy left her to her dreams while she floated two feet above her covers.

Friday, April 14, 2017

You say cult like it's a bad thing...

When she was younger she thought everyone heard God speak to them. After all people in church prayed, which is supposed talking to God. The minister said you should ask God for help and He would answer. Everyone acted like they talked to God. But she learned pretty early on that for most people He didn't talk back.

Her parents took her to a child psychiatrist when what they thought of as her imaginary friend didn't go away. Her psychiatrist recommended that she be institutionalized when it became apparent to her that the child must be some sort of psychopath. After all she had some how found out very personal and private details about her life that no child should have had access to. It was especially troubling when the child insisted that God told her the information.

Once when she was 8 or 9 she thought she had found the answer. She was watching an old TV show where someone was getting radio transmissions through their teeth. Maybe all along that's what had been happening. She was disabused of that answer fairly quickly when God pointed out that 1. She didn't have any fillings and 2. This wasn't some sort of random radio program speaking.

It was pretty annoying at times. He really liked to talk. Like really liked to talk. And He would change his voice depending on his mood. She normally heard him as a He but sometimes He was a She. Usually He spoke English but sometimes He switched it up a bit. When she took Spanish in high school he stopped speaking English and only spoke Spanish to help her study. And there was that really annoying time the first year of college where He spoke ancient Aramaic just to show off.

Oh yeah, God was a huge show off. He probably couldn't even help it, but the whole, "like that? I made that" thing got old at times. And yes, she was very aware that her casual relationship with Him struck a lot of people as blasphemous. But you could not live with His voice in your head all day every day and not feel more casual toward Him. Everyone speaks like He is always with them, but if you've had food poisoning and He still won't shut up for a minute so you can sit on the pot miserable but in peace, well, you know He's always with you.

She learned to live with it though. After the incident with the child psychiatrist she and her parents had a little conference with God and they worked things out. After all she had been a miracle baby. Her parents had not been able to have children until her mother had gone old school and prayed and promised she would dedicate any child she had to God. Then she got pregnant. When God reminded her mother of that promise (which she had never told anyone, not even her husband) she realized that her daughter's imaginary friend wasn't so imaginary after all.

So her parents knew she talked to God and God talked to her. And they helped her to understand that unless she wanted to get in to a lot of sticky situations she might want to keep some of the things he said quiet. Though they did finally have to stop going to church when the constant refrain of, "never said that, didn't mean it that way, who do you people think I am?" got to be too much for her to be able to focus on the sermons.

She hadn't intended to start a cult either. It had just sort of happened. Though she kept a lot of what He said quiet, she didn't keep all of it to herself. And after awhile it wasn't even just Him speaking, it was who she was. She got a reputation for being a calming voice in tense situations. For knowing the right thing to say to bring comfort to those who were wounded. The perfect way to speak to someone to bring them back from the edge of chaos. And after she spoke with someone they would bring someone else to talk to her. And then they would bring someone else. And eventually she was speaking to large groups of people everywhere she went. And those people were following her to her next stop.

They took her advice on what to do with their lives. They spent their money on helping others. On making the world better. Through food, clothing, houses, sure, but also through art and science and teaching. And then one day a newspaper article came out about her cult. That people were treating her as some sort of messiah. And when the reporter called she said it really depended on your definition of messiah. Did they mean like THE MESSIAH the one that was supposed to save the world or did the mean A messiah as in one that God anoints to speak on His behalf? Because she was not THE for sure, but she felt there was a good case for being a.

That didn't go over so well.

Suddenly she was the leader of a cult.

Churches preached against her.

Parents worried about her brainwashing their children.

The IRS got involved.

Of course nothing ever came from any of the investigations. Well not nothing. Always a few more converts. They would start out wanting to expose her and end up exposing themselves, so to speak.

She still spoke to large groups. She still offered guidance and counseling to those that sought it out. But she was getting older. And she was tired. And she really just wanted a break. But it didn't happen. God assured her she would speak for Him until her dying breath. She answered, "oh joy." He laughed. At least He had a sense of humor about her blasphemy.

Today she was cleaning her kitchen while a younger convert visited with her. The third time she straightened the jars on the shelf to get them exactly right the teen said, "You're a little OCD aren't you?"

"A little."

"Have you asked Him to fix that for you?"

She laughed at that. "Well since it's His fault I'm like this I don't think He feels there is anything to fix."

"What do you mean?"

"I could get deep and philosophical with you about how each of us is unique and brings our own perspective to the world. And that we shouldn't be trying to fix other people when we ourselves still need work. But instead I will tell you the truth. Or my truth. I'm a little crazy."

The teen looked shocked. "Crazy?"

"Yes. Crazy. You cannot live with the voice of God in your head all of the time and not be a little crazy." God laughed. The teen didn't. "It's okay to laugh. I've dealt with it. But cherish the time that you have alone with your thoughts. Don't ever let people tell you that being by yourself is wrong. It's a blessing. It really is."

As the teen packed her books and headed out she smiled, "I needed to hear that."

She smiled. Of course she did. God had told her to say it. She thought, what was that about? God replied, "She was feeling a little pressure to go along with something because she was afraid to be alone. She just needed a reminder that alone can be better." She thought to herself, and to God, I wouldn't know about that. God laughed again, "Someday you are going to hurt my feelings talking like that."

She rolled her eyes and thought, how does one hurt the feelings of the great and powerful Oz? God laughed again. "Oh Lord it's hard to be humble..." And this time she laughed as well.

It was His fault she was crazy. But it was His blessing she was never alone.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

I have questions...

So by now you all have seen the United video and formed your opinions about it, what happened, what should have happened, who was right, who was wrong and this isn't a piece to make you change your mind.

But I have some questions...

As I have watched the reactions on my feed I've seen something happen over and over that doesn't seem compatible to me. It's an ideology thing. Now, I'm not saying this is everyone, I want to be clear about that, but it has been enough that it stood out to me. And I'm talking about the people who feel passionately enough about this to post about it. If you are a sideliner on this one I am obviously not talking about you, okay? So unbunch your knickers and move along. Now on to my questions...

There are the law and order people, the ones that say he should have just done what he was told and it's his fault it escalated and what did he expect was going to happen and he should have read the fine print and then there are the no fucking way was this okay how in the world is getting bashed up and drug off of a flight that he paid for, that he was allowed to board, that he had every reason to believe he was flying on that day okay?

Which is normal. There are always the divides. But the thing that I found puzzling was the people on either side of this divide tend to hold opposing views on another issue and they aren't really compatible in my head.

The law and order just do what you're told people tend to be the government can take my guns out of my cold dead hands people, while the fight authority people tend to be the you don't need a damn gun people.

And this puzzles me. Because if you are a firm believer in just do what you are told when law enforcement tells you to do it then if they come to your door and demand your guns shouldn't you just turn them over? I mean, they are telling you what to do right? If you believe that people just need to do what they are told and everything will work out then you cannot also believe that you won't turn over your guns when you are told to do it, right?

And if you believe that you shouldn't do what people in authority tell you to do but you have no way to defend yourself if they are knocking on your door what prevents them from just rolling over you?

They seem incompatible to me.

I also have other questions...

One of the first things that happened after the video was released was a dig in to the man's past to try to justify it after the fact. We're used to seeing this when an unarmed man is shot by the police for what seems like a minor infraction. Oh no! people tell us...He was a REALLY bad guy and this is why he was shot. Okay...but they didn't know that at the time. So now they use the tactic with this guy. Dig up some dirt. Get it out there, he wasn't a good guy. But the people dragging him up the aisle after knocking out his teeth (He fell down was the official Chicago Police Department release) didn't know that. You didn't know that. But some how what he has done in his past is justification for actions taken against him. Or at least a way of making him seem like a bad guy. And one of the stories I read said that the dirt they dug up wasn't him, it was someone who shares his name, so now is it not justified again? Or does it not matter because THEY HAD NO WAY OF KNOWING ANY OF THAT. I get it, if you are a just do what you are told person you think bad behavior means he's always bad. But...what would they dig up on you if something happened to you?

I thought about this last year when a few of my friends posted the picture the news would use if they were shot by police. Not the picture of them working with their kid's soccer team, or leading the praise service at church, or the one holding their newborn in the hospital, but the picture of them where they were standing in the shade but staring in to the sun so their eyes were squinted up and they looked bigger than they are and meaner and well, honestly, blacker. That would be the picture that was used. Scary black man shot by police. And then the next step would be what would they dig up about your past to justify what happened?

We all have things that we aren't proud of. That we are ashamed of. And if those things are public record somewhere? What would it be? Your DUII conviction? Your shoplifting record? That time you got fired from a what ever job it was you got fired from? Your next door neighbor telling the media how you were always violent? You know the one that let her dog shit under your porch until you told her you would be bagging and depositing said shit on her porch if she kept doing it? For me? Easy. They would pull up blogs. I've written things that would, in the right or wrong context, paint me in whatever light you wanted to paint me. Hell, they could pull lines out of my fiction pieces and show that I wrote openly about murder!

United has realized that the normal vilification and justification route did not work as well as they had hoped it would and is now in the pay off zone. They have a billion reasons to try and make this go away. But they took some giant missteps at the beginning and so it's much harder to do. One of the biggest was they missed the mood of the country. The one where most of us know that the TSA screens are security theater, but we still have to do them. The one where we have to get a background check and pay a fee to just keep our damn shoes on. The one where we are hit with stories about enhanced pat downs being allowed. The one where we are crammed in to smaller spaces with fewer basic amenities. The one where we are tired of paying A LOT of money to be treated like an inconvenience.  The mood shifted and they didn't pay attention. Which is our fault too. I mean, we've put up with all of it because there weren't other choices. You have to get places. You have two or three options. None of them are any better. Every airline is cutting and squeezing. Every airport has security theater. We are all trained to just follow along.

To just get off the plane when we are told.

Until someone doesn't. And we see him "fall down" and we see the stories about his sordid past come out. And we wonder, what would I have done? What would they have said about me?

(For the record, I would have gotten off the plane. I would have pitched a fit at customer service. I would have not gotten my way. I would have been sloughed off to the land of disgruntled passengers. United would have been relegated to the area where Delta sits in the "not unless I have no other options" airline choices. And we wouldn't have had the moment where people are all discussing what is too much? When is it too far? And United wouldn't be changing their policy. So I am glad he didn't do what I would have done. He made a difference. And he gave me more questions to ask about myself.)

Friday, April 7, 2017

An Easy Life...

Marion was old. There was really no way around it. She was just old. And she hated it when people tried to jolly her about it. “Oh look, it’s Marion, she’s 98 years young!” Oh just stop it. There is nothing young about 98. She hated hearing 98 years young. Really hated it. And they always said it so brightly, and slowly, and loudly. Like she was a simple child. Ninety eight years young. Idiots. She was old. And she was grateful for every year she had had on this earth, and grateful that they were dwindling.
 She knew it seemed wrong to be looking forward to her last breath, but she was tired. She was 98 after all, and today she was sitting in an uncomfortable lawn chair at a massive family reunion where she was expected to be happy to see each and every generation that came to talk to her. And to remember all of their names. And their ages. And that one time 40 years ago when they came to visit. It was exhausting.
That is what she was thinking about when one of her great granddaughters sat down next to her. She was a pleasant enough girl. Self-absorbed, but everyone is at that age. No matter how much people try to talk about “these kids today” Marion had watched enough generations growing up and aging that she knew they were really all alike. The styles changed, the slang shifted, but the stages of the ages remained the same. The stages of the ages, she liked that. She would have to write that one down at home. Words of wisdom for people to find after she was gone. Lord knows they don’t really want to listen to her now, but something about dying makes people an expert. 
“Well, I’m just fine. And unless your volume button is stuck you can stop yelling at me as well. I’m not deaf, I’m just old.”
“Child, I’m old, I’m tired, I’m a little cranky, and I am serious about you not yelling at me.”
“I’m sorry. I’m just used to Kurt’s grandmother. She’s completely deaf in one ear and mostly deaf in the other. She refuses to turn on her hearing aids so if we want her to listen to us we have to shout.”
“Well, all of us old people are the same you know.”
“I didn’t mean that, I just…”
Marion smiled and reached out to pat (Cassidy? Julie? Britany?) on the hand. At least she had the good manners to look embarrassed about lumping all old people in the same bag. That should be rewarded. And if she let her off the hook maybe she would go away and stop yelling at her.
“Are you enjoying yourself? Can I get you anything?”
“I am just fine, thank you, dear.” Marion felt proud of herself for not correcting the child’s grammar, though at her age she wasn’t really a child anymore, and should know the difference between may and can.  But Marion really just wanted her to move along so the next one could do their duty and eventually enough of them would have stopped by that Marion wouldn’t feel guilty about leaving. Maybe three more grandchildren and two more greats. That would be plenty for her today. Not that she didn’t love each and every one of them, but they were a large group and honestly so tiring.
“Yes, dear?”
Marion watched the struggle on the girl’s face. She wanted to say something to her but couldn’t decide if she should. Oh, lord, this wasn’t going to be a quick conversation after all. Might as well accept it.
“Oh never mind. I was just going to complain and nobody likes a complainer.”
Marion nodded in what she hoped was a sympathetic way, but all she could think was, “Never seems to stop anybody though.”
Britany (Marion had settled that this one was Britany) twirled her wedding ring, “Would you be mad if I wasn’t married anymore?”
“Well I can’t say as that’s any of my business.”
“Mom said that you would be disappointed in me. That a strong marriage is important to you.”
Yes, this one was definitely Britney then. Her mother Nancy was always a bit of a snot. She was the oldest daughter of her middle boy, and truth be told he had been a bit of a snot as well, may he rest in peace. But shame on her, trying to use an old lady to bully her child into doing her bidding. “Well you wouldn’t be the first to get a divorce, not even in this family, and you wouldn’t be the last either. Your marriage is your business, not your mother’s, not mine. It’s strictly between you and your young man.”
“I just don’t know what to do.”
“Do you love him?”
Britany pursed her lips, “I thought I did.”
“But you don’t think so anymore?”
“No, I mean, I still think I love him. I just…I just wish it was as easy with Kurt as it was for you and Grandpa Pete.”
“You do, do you?”
“Yes. Marriage is so hard now. Things were simpler when you were first married. There’s just so much now that can make a marriage go bad.”
Marion shook her head. Every generation thinks they invented the world and everyone before them just coasted along in bliss.
“I am going to give you advice. You can take it or leave it, but since you came to me I am assuming you want it. Marriage has always been hard. And it’s always been easy. But you never know what someone’s relationship is really like. You never know what challenges they face. Do not judge their public face against your private one. Your worst days against their best. Your challenges against their success. You don’t know what is happening there. Yes, in my day there were fewer divorces. But that doesn’t mean there were better marriages. There were a lot of people that should not have been together but they stayed for their own reasons. Do not make your choices based on their old reasons.
Now, do not misunderstand me, I think that the past few generations have thrown away perfectly good marriages because it got a little rough. They weren’t willing to do the work to make them last. But some of them should have never happened and shouldn’t last. Some of them were good at the start but not salvageable by the end. Only you know where your marriage lies on that line.
If you do believe that you and Kurt are not meant for the long run get out now before you bring children in to the situation. If you believe that you and Kurt can save your marriage do it, and make it solid before you bring children in to the situation. Children will bring their own challenges and you don’t need to already be on shaky ground when that happens.
 But whatever you decide. You decide it. You get his input as well. You went in together you can go out together. But it’s not my business. It’s not your mother’s business. If he were still alive it would not have been your grandfather’s business. Or your great grandfather’s for that matter, though he would have smiled to think you cared about his opinion. He did like to feel important in decisions.”
Marion looked at her great granddaughter. She wasn’t sure if any of that sunk in or not. It was probably the most she had said at one time to her in her entire life. People don’t really want to listen to old people talk. Especially young people. But maybe she really listened. Maybe she would think about what she was doing and make her own choices. That’s really all any of us can hope for in life. Making our own choices.
“Thank you, Grandma Marion. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but thank you for listening to me and for the advice.” She gave Marion a hug and wandered off to join the rest of the family.
Marion sat back in her chair and closed her eyes. Easy. Child, you think you invented hard. 
The vision was as clear today as it was back in 1945. Driving the Packard down a street that wasn’t hers. Knocking on the door. Knocking again.
The woman answered the door in a dressing gown. Her mouth forming a perfect O of shock when she saw who was there.
“You know who I am and you know why I’m here.  The baby is asleep in the car so don’t make me come knocking again.” Then Marion had turned around and walked back to the car to wait. When Pete came out of the house five minutes later the woman stood in the doorway watching him go. Marion waved at her then shooed her away.
“This is the last time. Do you hear me? If it happens again I will leave. You’ll never see me or the babies again.”
“Yes, babies. I will take them and you will never see them again. You know that I will. You have a choice to make, and you better make it by the morning. I will not put up with a runaround man. Will not.”
He did make his choice and they worked very hard to put things back together.  And more babies followed, then grand babies and now great grandbabies. Ten years ago when Pete lay dying in the hospital he wanted her to know that he had never strayed again. And that he had never forgiven himself for doing it at all. She told him that she knew he hadn’t. And at that moment she forgave him, put down the stone she had carried in her heart for 62 years and she wept over the loss.
These kids today think they invented the world. They had no idea.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


I really need to work on a fiction piece for Dana this week. It's my turn to submit and I really should be working on something. I started a couple different pieces last week but they didn't go anywhere. I have the bones of a story within a longer story I've been telling bouncing around in my head, and I'm sure that's what I am going to send her. But every time I sit down to write it out I get stuck. I can see the scene, I can hear some of the dialog. I am just missing some joining pieces and well missing the actual WORDS to TRANSLATE the VISION.

Using capital letters there to show my frustration with WORDING lately.

But I am not giving up, I will have something done by Friday. Or Sunday. One of those...even if it's not what I think I'm going to send, I will find a writing cue and send something else if I have to. BUT I REALLY WANT THIS PIECE TO FALL OUT OF MY HEAD.

And honestly? It's kind of nice that it's not the dry desert of no ideas up there block it's the how do I say this to describe what I'm seeing sort of block. Those are much more comforting. Those are the blocks that feel more like log jams, like if I get one piece to wiggle loose it will all come flooding out. The other type of blocks feel like failure. And who needs that?

Okay, Just wanted to actually get the satisfaction of seeing the black letters march across the white space so this is what you get.

Thanks for listening to me whine.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Ghost Writer...

"She was born in poverty and died the same but what came in between was richness beyond belief..."

"Stop it. Just stop right there."

"I know it's rough but bear with me for..."

"Rough? It's not just rough, it's cliched. I imagine you also going to talk about fighting for every step and the seemingly endless doors slammed along the way."

"Well, yes. I thought I would. People like a story that shows overcoming the odds. And especially if there is a tragic ending. I mean, isn't that why I was hired?"

"I'm actually not entirely sure why you were hired to tell the truth."

"Need I show you my resume again? Or those," and with that the author waved her hand toward a stack of bestsellers. "It's not like this is my first rodeo."

"Yes, I see that. And it shows with the cliched way you are approaching the story."

The author closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Trust me. Please. This is the way the story should start.

"Fine, skip to the marriage."

"The beginning or the end?"

"The middle."

"I haven't really written about the middle. I wrote about the courtship and then the divorce. Those were the interesting parts."

"Not the 15 years in the middle? You think the only interesting parts are the very beginning and the very end? Why do you think those are interesting? It's because of the middle. We see and don't see a thousand people in our lifetimes, starts and stops, it's only the ones that have middles that mean anything. Tell me what you are writing about the middle."

"There is nothing about the middle. Well, not nothing I guess, there is mention of the years together and the number of children."

"The children being nothing as well?"

"No, I wrote about the relationships with the children. How they all left."

"Left? They didn't leave, they grew up. That's what children do. They grow up. Left. They didn't abandon anyone, they grew up. My god. You are a hack."

"But they didn't just grow up and move out, they left town. The lost touch. They moved on."

"It was a different time. Before everyone had e-mail and texting and cell phones. There were letters. There were visits."

"The only record for visits I have is for funerals."

"Can you think of a more important time for a visit?"

"But that's really more about obligation isn't it? Not..."

"Not what? Not love? Not family togetherness?"

"It just doesn't seem like it's, well, it doesn't seem like there was a lot of companionship."

"Maybe they just weren't so co-dependent in those days. People grew up and became adults. Not like now. Where adults ride bicycles to work and go to amusement parks and wear t-shirts with comic book characters on them." She sniffed with disgust.

The author looked at her Wonder Woman t-shirt and pursed her lips, "I am only sharing the draft with you out of kindness. It would be nice if you would show me the same respect."

"I thought you were sharing the story with me for feedback. If everyone tells you you are brilliant you never get a chance to be better. And you need to be better. This is cliched tripe."

"Aside from the stylistic choices that you don't approve of, have I gotten any of the facts wrong?"

"No, but..."

"So you would say that this is all true, correct?"

"Yes, but..."

"And it does include the highlights right?"

"Well...I would..."

The author held up her hand, "I know we are talking about 92 years of life. I understand there are a lot of stories in there that weren't told, but would you say the frame work is essentially correct?"

"Yes. I would say the framework is essentially correct."

"Okay. Thank you. That's what I need. I will, of course, let you have one more chance to see the book before I send it to the publisher. But for now I have what I need."

"Oh no, please, wait, don't you have more questions? I have a few more stories I could share that I think you will find very entertaining..."

This was the first time the haughty tone had been dropped. It almost made the author feel badly for ending the session. Almost.

"I will get back to you if I feel I need to add more."

"No, please! Let me stay. Please, it's just so lonely and nobody else wants to talk about my life and..."

"I'm sorry. This is all for today."

And with that she drew a line through the salt circle and blew out the candle sending her away, listening to the spirit scream and curse her as she faded away.

Ghost writing a biography was not for the faint of heart.

Saturday, April 1, 2017


Just kidding...

I'm not doing that this year.

Of all of the little writing challenges I've set up for myself that one might have been the hardest. Or I should say, the ones that are within my control. Setting up the challenge to get something published a few years ago was the absolute hardest because it was out of my control. But the things that were in my control? That one was tough. Part of it is that it's not my strength. There is a reason I always tag poems with "bad poetry." Part of it was because it's not my strength so just thinking in that way was challenging. Basically it's not my strength is what I am saying.

But it was fun in it's own way. And now it's fun to torment Skippy with the thought that I might do it again.

It was also a real creative drought last year. I was going to submit things for publishing last year as a goal (see how I've realized that the sending it in should be the goal, not the part they are in control of?) and I had to give it up when I couldn't even find the juice to put words on paper. This year has been like starting an engine that stalled. A few backfires, not real smooth action, chugging along, but words have been written. Threads have been started. It's better.

I haven't set any additional goals, I just went back and checked on my January goal posting post and I said "I'd get back to it" well it's April 1st and I haven't set a firm goal. Hmm...Let's see. I've been doing an exchange with Dana. She sees the stuff that I'm not really sure is anything just yet and I get a feel from her reaction what it is or isn't. And just sending it to someone else can tell me what I think.

There are a lot of things because of the way that I write that go no where. I write short stories. I am not a book person. I am not a novella person. I don't outline. I don't have plots sketched out. I just sit down at the keyboard and write. It's not a very disciplined way to do it, I know, but the times I've tried to be more organized and writerly the well has gone dry.

So, anyway, there is that, but it's not really a concrete goal type thing. I haven't posted a ton on the blog. That could be where I need to step up. With sabbatical this summer there will be stretches where I am away from my routine and writing for long stretches but I think I'm going to aim for 115 blogs this year. I did a complex math formula to figure that out. Don't ask. It will make your brain hurt to see how mine works.

So more blogs. Keeping up the work exchange with Dana. And no poetry month.

But there is part of me that wants to do it again. Just to mess with Skippy. I'm a writer. Making my readers cry fills me with joy...

The scream from Australia could be heard
Was it some strange tropical bird? was a giant roo
Yelling "that's not what you do!"
And for once the writer concurred...