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Insult and Injury

Fiction and Poetry Blog Nosh Magazine{Originally posted in The Slow-Cooked Sentence}

She asked for my bag to search it for stolen library books, and she wanted me to come back inside too. I refused. As if I would willingly walk back into the library with a toddler throwing a tantrum. Stupid woman.

“Feel free to take it,” I spat out, struggling to hold on to my angry son.

She blinked at me from behind her glasses, than picked up the bag and marched back in.

“Are we in trouble, Mom?” my older son asked, shrinking himself into the shadows of the building.

I shook my head, silently willing the small, stiff child in my arms to calm down. Instead, he arched his back into the curve of a scorpion’s tail and wailed.

I’d hunted scorpions as a kid. Armed with an empty mayonnaise jar, I’d wander out into the vast stretch of sandy desert that was my backyard and start kicking over cow patties. Scorpions burrow small holes under the dung, flat as a Frisbee, and hide out during the hottest part of the day.

Sometimes, my brother and I would capture five or six at a time. From pincer to tail some of them were longer than my dad’s thumb. Others were small enough to fit on a dime. Of the hundreds of scorpions we captured, grew bored with and released, I remember two: The one found under plywood, whose body alone measured three inches and whose tail was thick as jute, and the mother with a million babies on her back. She got away.

That’s what I wanted to do now, just crawl into a hole as people gave my toddler and his meltdown lots of space. A bitter, angry brew boiled in my belly. I’d been taking my children to this library long enough for a few of the librarians to know us by name, but I didn’t know this one, nor had I paid attention to her face when she stamped our books. Instead, I studied her hands, studded with rings that squeezed her flesh and forced it to ooze around them. Those pale, sticky hands usually busy with musty books and cups of sugared tea were poking through my things, pulling out water bottle, bike helmet, knitting.

“She’s taking out your wallet, Mom,” my older son reported from his hiding spot near a window. “She dropped it.”



The Queen of All He Knew

The Queen of All He Knew

Fiction and Poetry Blog Nosh Magazine{Originally Published on Doobleh-Vay}

I dream of riding the Orient Express

for two nights in a row now

I am in a bright cabin with paper and pencils

and very Bohemian in an authentic way

like the way I used to wrap scarves around my head in college

and head out to the bar for a drink

when it was not even chic- just odd

scarves that my Kurdish friend would give me

and how they were so bright turquoise

that I stood out from miles away

like a beacon to other strange girls

blinking and calling out

be the person yr supposed to be

and later you will be fine with it

I am on a journey and at some point in the dream I freeze frame for a second and hit some sort of intense epiphany- only I wake up right as I feel the hairs on my body stand and stir

it was like that yesterday too



The Deep End of the Shallow Water

Fiction and Poetry Blog Nosh MagazineOriginally published at Storytellersunplugged.

Richard Dansky’s short story, besides being an intriguing story about monsters and possibilities and what hides in the dark, challenges the reader to think about our preconceptions and how they affect what we see.

He introduces the story with this tidbit:

There are a lot of lakes and ponds in the Triangle, many of them man-made. There’s one I pass driving to work every day, and another that sits across the street from my office. You can go there on your lunch break and see people fishing or sailing or throwing frisbees into the water for their dogs to chase. I’ve even availed myself of the facilities a few times, and am pleased to report I’ve only fallen out of a rented canoe once, and briefly.

An admittedly unscientific sample suggests that most of those folks have no idea that Lake Crabtree (and the “lake” part is purely an honorific; it’s about as deep as a Bret Michaels interview and covers only slightly more territory) was dug out with backhoes and bulldozers in the not-too-distant past. Even the signs posted at various semi-prominent points don’t get the point across. Maybe they’re ugly signs. Maybe people have come up with their own stories about where the lake came from and how long it’s been around, and if things are otherwise, they don’t want to know. Either way, it works for them.

Which, I suppose, is the point of the story.

Enjoy.

***

THE DEEP END OF THE SHALLOW WATER

We got out of the car just before sunset, a half-mile down a gravel service road that we shouldn’t have been able to access. The spot where we’d stopped was a pretty one, a clearing in the second-growth pine woods that ran up the edge of the body of water we’d come to investigate.



We Women Who Write Poetry Are

Fiction and Poetry Blog Nosh Magazine
{Originally published in Ordinary Art}

“Taking us by and large, we’re a queer lot
We women who write poetry. And when you think
How few of us there’ve been, it’s queerer still.
I wonder what it is that makes us do it.
Singles us out to scribble down, man-wise,
The fragments of ourselves.”

Amy Lowell

And so I’ve learned, across phone lines with background static, and small children sucking on their mother’s breast, while we jiggle laundry and lovers, balance belief with lack of self-esteem, that we are a queer lot, we women who aspire to the poetic word.

We sit in our pajamas silently penning Pulitzers while the world races by outside our doorstep, unaware. How many of you, how much of me, has been steeped in loneliness? Fear that it isn’t enough, could not possibly matter to anyone but ourselves.

And then there is a voice on the other end of the line, bringing with it the recognition that we are more than the echo in a silent room of fingers tapping impatient keys. We are more than longing. We are more than ache.



The Mailbox

The Mailbox

Fiction and Poetry Blog Nosh Magazine{Short story originally posted in L’Chaim}

She pops up the red flag , glancing over her shoulder as she does. They all do. She looks at the sky and presses the palms of her hands to her eyes.

It’s Jack I feel bad for. A postal worker in life, he didn’t know he’d be required to continue his courier services by death.

When she’s gone, I collect the letters, one from her to “Mrs. Virginia Anders” and two others. Mrs. Anders is her mom. Or is it was? I’m never sure on these things. I know this because this is her third letter to leave. The first was tentative. “I miss you and love you.” You could tell she didn’t know where this was going. The second letter was needier. “I could use you this week! What do I tell him?”

I steam the envelope to her third letter and carefully peel open the flap. She’s angry, oh so angry! “How could you leave me!” she says. In spots, the writing smudges. The color of the ink distends into this circle with ragged edges. The paper’s wrinkled.

Then I do something I’ve never done with any of the letters. I add a note at the bottom. “Mrs. Anders,” I write. “Please don’t worry. I’ll take care of her.” I refold the letter, return it to the envelope, and glue the flap shut again. Then I take it and the rest of the letters in a metal bowl to John’s gravesite. I light a match and watch them burn like I have for two years now. It’s not in my job description.



The Letter

Fiction and Poetry Blog Nosh Magazine

{Originally published on Truth Is Freedom.}

A daily ritual for 40 years, the door swinging open on creaking hinges. At first that noise had bothered him, but now it was a comfort. Something familiar. Step, shuffle, 12 steps with the right leg and 11 shuffles with the left foot. The distance hadn’t changed, but the numbers had slowly increased through the years. The door closed behind him, a creak followed by a thump and then the snick of the oiled latch springing home.

The rows of faded post boxes covered the rear wall of the foyer; many were empty now, holding only memories. The labels spoke eloquently of times when hope and promises filled the room, but that had changed as the world forgot the sacrifices they all had made. The key ring dangled from his right hand as he reached his destination, and with gentle chimes his gnarled shaking fingers slid the worn brass key into the lock. A turn, the door opened, and the letter was revealed.

He tilted his head to one side and caught his breath. Was this finally the one? He reached in and withdrew the envelope addressed to Occupant. A clink and the post box closed, and he dropped the keys back into his pocket. He turned, step, shuffle, six steps with the right leg and five shuffles with the left foot as he made his way to the table bolted to the west wall. There was a clunk as he hung his cane on the edge, 8.5 inches from the right end; the silver eagle’s head was worn, but the engraving, 41st Regimental Engineers, could still be seen on the band.

He set the letter down, three inches from the front edge and directly in front of him. He fumbled for his reading glasses and hooked them over his ears, left side first, then the right. With his left hand, he withdrew a penknife from the inner pocket of his overcoat and turned the letter over until it rested perpendicular to his waist. He flicked open the blade, the shimmering cover said congratulations on your retirement; the sharp steel made a soft hissing noise as he slit open the cream colored paper from bottom to top.



Practice Is an Art

Practice Is an Art

Fiction and Poetry Blog Nosh MagazineOriginally posted in Goodword Editing.

(Scroll down to find the audio link to hear the poem read by Marcus Goodyear.)

for David Tulley

The pianist plays alone every time
learning not to let the world decide
when he creates and when he rests.
Studios, concert halls, practice rooms
hallowed, not hollow, never empty.
The walls, the chairs, the carpet tremble
with potential decisions. Synthetic
fibers of carpet twist together,
their friendships forming expectant
berber curls, their voices hushed
waiting for the performer’s approach.



What’s Left of Destiny

What’s Left of Destiny

Fiction & Poetry Blog Nosh Magazine{Original Post in The Master’s Artist}

Editor’s Note: This short story was written for a competition run jointly by the literary journal, Relief Journal, and Baker’s acquisitions editor, Dave Long. Jeanne says of writing this story, “I poured a bit of my soul into this story. I can honestly say writing it changed me, so if it accomplishes nothing else, that’s a good thing.”

What’s Left of Destiny

“Where’s Jack?”

“Don’t worry, Mrs. Calhoun. Jack is close by.” He maneuvers her wheelchair around a pale amber puddle in the middle of the linoleum floor, shooting a sympathetic smile at Sam, the mop-wielding janitor.

Sam returns the smile and the sympathy, then nods at the wisp of a woman in the chair. “Evenin’, Mrs. Calhoun.”

Everyone around here knows better than to call her by her first name. That privilege belongs to Jack alone, and it’s been almost three years since she’s heard him use it.

“You’re a good man, Sam,” he says over his shoulder as he continues down the hall. And he means it.

Folks say Sam was a local baseball legend in his youth. Could have made it in the majors, if only he hadn’t suffered that shoulder injury. If only. Now there’s a dead-end road he’s traveled more times than he can count. No. There is no if only. For whatever reason, Sam’s path landed him mopping up unidentified bodily fluids in a place where most peoples’ minds exited stage left long ago. And he does it with cheerful dignity. You gotta respect someone like that.

As for his own path, for the moment it leads to the door at the end of this hallway. These days he tries to take things one at a time.

He taps lightly on the door. When no one responds he opens it and pulls the wheelchair inside. An oversized tub dominates the room. He twists the stainless steel knobs, adjusts the temperature, then squats in front of the shrunken form seated in the chair. “Ready for your bath, Mrs. Calhoun?”She raises her head from its usual lolled position. He knows that look. Fear mixed with defiance. She darts her eyes as though looking for a way to escape. “Who are you? Where’s Jack?”



Wholly Holy

Originally posted on Christa Allan’s blog. “The holy goes on, no matter how many balls you fling at it.”   Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott I suppose living to the age of a highway speed limit has caused me to redefine holy. In my youth, now defined as any age a neighborhood speed limit ago, I’d define holy in strictly religious terms…you know, the Baltimore Catcheism holies. Today, I’d define it in the seemingly more commonplace…sun risings and settings, moon shadings and lightings,  gentle smiles and [...]



Gagged and Bound

Religion Originally published in They Hang Like Paper Lanterns.

The drops weave together daily,
their fibrous web,
and bind me in this sticky love.
I trip upon my own heart strings.

Boundandgagged1They shoot me full of adrenaline, then entangle me, gag me, rob me
Leaving me to finish off what’s left of myself.
Heart racing, eyes bulging; wet, salty and gasping.
Wishing, perhaps, they’d completed their aim this time.
Please stop toying with me and end it.
(Then thinking that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.)

(click title for more)