Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Welcome Back

She paused as she opened the door, shocked by the almost empty room.

What had happened?  Where was everyone?

She'd been away too long.  There was a time when this room was packed with people trying to be heard.  Now there was a smattering of people hanging aimlessly around, muttering among themselves.  Their whispers droned like overworked bees as she made her way to the bar.

"You back?"

She reached for a bottle without replying.  There was a time when  she knew exactly what to say; now she could barely string together a coherent sentence.  It was the voices.  They had stopped speaking to her. She used to think their incessant chattering would drive her mad.  Now the overwhelming silence made her want to blow her brains out.

"You've been gone a long time.  Maybe some people don't want you back."

She surveyed the room.  This sedate group probably wouldn't.  But then she never cared much for an audience.

"I'm not back for them.  I'm back for me."

She hoped that didn't sound too self righteous as she turned to look at him.  He'd gotten grayer, the lines around his eyes deeper.  He knew about the voices.  He knew what it was like to have that eternal gabbing between your ears, but it never seemed to bother him.  Though she had noticed that even he had slowed somewhat in the last year or so.  A sad smile appeared across her lips.

"This used to be home.  I'm dried up, I need to come back and start over .  I guess I'm pretty pathetic."

He poured them both another drink, then held his up in a toast.

"Not pathetic, darling.  Only human."

He clinked her glass.  A  warmth began to well up in her as the whiskey burned down her throat.

It was good to be back.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Just Enough

Most children don't leave home until they leave for university.  Her kids left home earlier to go to rehab.  She thought she'd be used to it by now, her third child packing for an extended stay in an eating disorder clinic.  She wasn't.  She still felt like a failure.

She turned the faucet on as a cold wind howled outside the kitchen window.  Hot scalding water filled the sink as she began scrubbing the pot.  It was pointless to make meals; they sat uneaten on the plate while she and her daughter sat together in a heavy silence.  Her hands turned bright red in the water while she worked on a particularly stubborn clump of tomato sauce.  Her fingers began to tingle and sting but she wouldn't pull them out of the burning, sudsy water.  A depraved thought flashed through her brain;  cook the flesh off her hands in punishment for being a bad parent.  Not one of her children had been exempt from some sort of mental illness, whether it was an addiction problem, or self harm or now starving themselves.  She needed to make some sort of penance for her sins.  A mother was supposed to protect her children from the pain of the world.  How do you protect them when the pain is internal, not external?  She rinsed off the pot and dropped it into the dish rack.  Her fingers throbbed and ached.  She shut off the water and just stood there looking at them until she felt a powerful presence behind her.  She glanced over her shoulder and saw her daughter standing there.  Good thing she's inside, that wind out there would knock her over.  She put on her mom face and smiled.

"All done packing"?

Her daughter mumbled her reply.  God, that child was always mumbling.

"We can watch some tv if you want"?

The girl shook her head no,

"I'm kinda tired.  I'm gonna go to bed.  Tomorrow's gonna be a long day".

"Ok.  Love you.  Sweet dreams".

She had turned back towards the sink when she felt the bony arms encircle her waist.  She tried not to jump at their frailty.

"Love you too, Mom".

The hug evaporated as quickly as it had materialized.  She felt her breathing quicken as tears filled her eyes.  It wasn't much, that hug, but it was just enough to convince her that maybe, just maybe, she wasn't quite such a failure as a parent after all.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Full Snow Moon-Part I

The wind was howling outside the small shack.  Gerda buried herself deeper under the covers, trying to keep the cold out.  It had snowed for three days straight.  If it didn't stop soon she'd be unable to get more wood for the fire.  She peeked above her quilt at the embers dying in the hearth, sighed, and tried to sink amongst the blankets when a strange sound caught her ear.  A long, painful cry rose above the din of the wind.  Gerda sat up in bed.  There it was again!  A wounded animal?  It would never survive a night as cold as this.  Compassion over came common sense, and Gerda rose out of bed, threw on her boots and coat, and opened the front door.

 The snow had finally stopped; the full moon illuminated the small farm.  Gerda stood on the threshold and strained her eyes and ears.  Surely  it wasn't her imagination playing tricks on her?  Living alone in the woods could make a person funny after a while.  She waited a few moments more and started to move back into the house when something appeared out of the corner of her eye.  Over there, by the well. The sound of something quenching its thirst.  She started to  move across the yard  to get a better look, then stopped as she saw what it was.  A large, unkempt creature, hair matted, its flesh torn and ripped.  It looked like a man, it was wearing some sort of uniform.  Claws extended from its hands,  long pointed ears protruded from its head.  It was a ghastly sight, not quite human, not quite animal.  Gerda held her breath and started to walk as quickly and as quietly as she could backwards towards the house.  She had almost reached the door when her heel slipped on a patch of ice; she fell with a large thud and cried out instinctively, then clasped her hand to her mouth.  The thing at the well had noticed; it stopped drinking and moved towards her.  Gerda  rolled over and tried to get to her feet, but they kept slipping out from under her.  She screamed as she felt the thing's hand on her neck, felt the weight of its body on top of hers.  She closed her eyes and said a quick prayer, certain that her time had come.

"Feed me woman.  Give me shelter and I won't kill you."

Gerda squeezed her eyes tight, hoping it would be quick.

Edwards rolled the woman over and slapped her across the face.  Stupid cow, he was hungry, his leg was ablaze with pain.

"Open your eyes, damn it!  I said I need food and shelter.  NOW!"

Gerda opened her eyes and bit her lip to keep from screaming.  Cruel, evil eyes stared back at her; she could only nod mutely.  Edwards grabbed her by the arm and pulled her to her feet, pushing her towards the house.  She stumbled towards the door, Edwards close on her heels.  He needed to regain his strength, he needed rest.

Pryor would have to wait.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Don't Forget Your Reindeer

"Reindeer?  Where am I going to get reindeer at this time of year?"


"Why are you shouting at me?  I'm not deaf, dear."

Maggie took a deep breath.  Having Colin's mother move in with them seemed the right thing to do.  The idea of her living alone in a home seemed dreadful.  Now she wondered if they hadn't been too hasty in their decision.  They had just gotten the last of their children out of the house; this was supposed to be their time.  Now it was like going back to the beginning.  Mother wasn't completely dependent on them, so in theory they could come and go as they pleased.  It just didn't always work out that way.

"Mom, do you need me to pick anything up for you while I'm gone?"

"I don't think so dear.  I'll just putter around in the garden until the weather breaks."

"Don't do too much.  I don't want to come home and find you've pulled out a stump like last time."
"Oh, I had Jamie and his friend Harry do that.  I needed room for my asters."

Maggie smiled.  Mom had a way to charm any man, no matter what age, to her desires.  She always wondered why mom hadn't remarried.  Mom had once said the true love of a good man could sustain you for your entire life, even after he was gone.  Maybe she didn't need to.

"OK then, I'm off.  Your slicker and wellies are in the mud room."

"I know where the reindeer are, dear."

Maggie laughed softly.  Reindeer indeed.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Vince was fixing the lawn mower for the umpteenth time when he realized he had an audience.  Tina's sister's little boy was sitting on the top step of the stoop watching his every move.  The little kid followed Vince every where, mimicked all his mannerisms (much to Tina's displeasure).  It got annoying at times.  Tina told Vince he had to be patient with him because the kid had been having problems adjusting to his mom being away.  The kid was going to be around for at least a few years so Vince better get used to him.  Tina had been hinting very aggressively that it was time for Vince to propose and give the kid a taste of stability.  Vince wasn't sure he was ready for stability.  He wasn't sure he even liked kids.

"Tell me about the day I was born."

"I wasn't there.  Ask your mother."

"But you're my dad, why weren't you there?"

"I'm not your dad.  That's somebody else."


"Damn it kid, quit asking me so many damn questions!  I told you, ask your mother!"

"But she's not here.  She's away until next year.  You're all I got."

The little boy began to cry, unable to conceal his frustration and fear.

Vince threw his cigarette down and took a sip of beer.  It was warm and flat; he spit it out on the still smoldering bud.  He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, then held it out towards the sobbing child.


The boy stayed in place, snot running down his lip.

"C'mere, damn it!"

Vince sat down next to the boy and pulled him closer.  He settled him onto his lap while he pulled a rag from his back pocket, wiping the kid's face.  He sighed and looked out towards the wreckage of the overgrown yard.  Damn this place looked like crap.  He looked at the whimpering child and shook his head.  What the hell was he going to say?

"Look, kid.  I'm sorry I'm all you got.  I don't have the answers you're looking for."

The kid tried to talk, but a sob wrenched out of his throat instead.

"I'm a little kid and grown ups are supposed to take care of little kids not go away and leave them without someone to take care of them."

Vince looked at his watch; where the hell was Tina?  He didn't know what to say to this kid.  Sorry your mom is a crack whore who allegedly robbed a gas station.  Sorry no body bothered to find out who your dad really is.  He looked once more at the now silent child.  He'd fallen asleep against Vince's oil stained flannel shirt.

The two of them were still sitting there an hour later when Tina finally came home from work, the lawn mower still gutted at the edge of the unkempt lawn.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


I love him, I say.

You don't, is the reply.

I do, I insist.

You can't. He's not real.

He is.

Yes, but not to you. He exists, but the he you love is a figment of your imagination. And the he that exists, doesn't know you're alive.

He does!

But not enough to reply back.

That's cruel.

That's love.

Then why do I bother?

Because he is safe, and can never reject you.

But he did!


So it's love?

Only in your mind.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Sweetest Thing

She was bent over a stack of cakes and pastries when she felt a presence next to her.  She raised her head, ready to put on her fake customer service smile, when she realized who was there.  He smiled,  slightly disheveled in a wrinkled oxford shirt and old jeans.  They had reconnected via social media (didn't everyone) and he had mentioned he was moving near where she was living now.  She stood and tried to think of something intelligent to say.

"My God."

"No.  Just his emissary."

"I always thought you'd make a good angel of death."

She looked down at her hands, cringing at her uniform of apron and company cap.  She gave an embarrassed shrug.

"I look a mess."

"You look tired."

She smiled. He always said the obvious.  There was never any subterfuge with him. Straight and to the point.

He  put his arms around her, enveloping her in a big hug.  She sunk into his embrace, surprised how the tension in her body dripped away.  The two of them stood there, oblivious to the crowd and activity around them.  She didn't care if her supervisor saw them.  She put her head on his shoulder,  wondering why she never realized before how well they fit together.

"How's your boyfriend?"

She jumped slightly and looked up at him.  He really was quite handsome, his beard and hair lightly flecked with grey.  She remembered how scrawny and awkward he had been in college; he was definitely someone who improved with age. She pulled away and crossed her arms in front of her.  The tension began to creep back into her shoulders.

"How did you hear about that?"

"You can't keep anything from me.  I am omnipresent.  I know all."

He said the last bit in a funny, mock scary voice, but his easygoing manner was clouded by his eyes.  A look of concern filled them like tears.

She tried to laugh it off, but the pain was still there.

"Then you must have heard.  He's in a relationship.  Seems everybody else knew.  I spent all summer hoping we'd take it to the next level and he's all ready done that with someone else.  I'm not getting any younger, I can't afford to waste time with men . . ."

She stared off into the distance, her voice catching slightly.  She took a deep breath and gave him a cynical smile.

"At least I didn't sleep with him.  I guess I'm not so dumb after all."

He looked at her with such sympathy.  How could anyone as wonderful as her think she was stupid?  He'd give her the moon and the stars, walk barefoot through coals to make her happy.  He moved closer to her, letting his lips brush gently against her ear.

"It's a known fact, my darling, that you have lousy taste in men.  At least, American men.  I think it's time you came over to the dark side, and gave in to your desires for a slightly worn, but devilishly sexy Englishman."

She laughed, the first happy sound from her soul in months.  She wondered why she hadn't seen this earlier.  Maybe she had, and been too afraid to accept such a loving gift.

"I'm done with my shift in ten minutes.  Can you wait?"

He smiled and took her face in his hands.  For once his desire wasn't overshadowed by fear of rejection.

"I've waited twenty years, love, I can wait ten more minutes."

"You know that sounds like a cliche, don't you?"

"God, you're a pain in the ass.  Let me have my leading man moment, just once."

"I'll let you have it what ever you want."

"Now who's being a cliché?"

He kissed her, right in the middle of the bakery section, amongst the cakes and pies.  It was the sweetest thing he'd ever tasted.