My Dear Annie,

It took about ten minutes of me staring at a blank computer screen before I started typing this email – and that’s just today. I’ve been doing the same thing every day for the last eight months. I’ll type a paragraph, then delete it. The idea of reaching out to you began thirty seconds after you left our house and closed the door on our life together. I have about a thousand thoughts and questions swirling around in my brain, much like the autumn leaves dancing in the wind in our backyard.

I got up early and made myself a cup of coffee, then sat by the kitchen window and watched the birds at the feeders. You’ll be happy to know the red-headed woodpeckers have returned, just as they always do. How I wish you would come back to me, too.

I held my coffee cup up to my nose and inhaled the rich aroma of dark roast. I’m drinking from that cup you gave me ages ago with COOL BEANS scrawled across the front. I use it every day and always think about you (not that I need a reminder) and I’ve decided that today will be the day I must summon the courage to write to you to say “I’m sorry”.

You see, tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and I can’t think of a better time to tell you what’s on my mind. If I don’t do it today who knows if I ever will? I miss you, Annie. I miss you so damn much it literally hurts. My heart aches for you and my stomach churns when I realize what a first class jerk I was to let you slip through my fingers.

I don’t know what I was thinking. No, I take that back; I do know. I was thinking about myself – me, myself and I. What a stupid, selfish idiot I was. I’m sure you’d agree with that assessment. I’m equally sure there’s a spot for me in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest fool ever. How could I expect you to put your dreams and plans on hold while I pursued mine?

If I’ve come to realize anything over these last few months it’s the fact that what I want in life isn’t more important than what you want and all my achievements are not worth a damn without you. I am so sorry for not seeing that sooner.

When I finally realized how empty my life was without you and how much I yearned to be sharing and living our dreams together, you were long gone. I don’t blame you one bit; if I was you, I would have left me, too. I’m useless without you and I’m so ashamed that I put myself before you.

Do you remember that old wheelbarrow we found last year buried under weeds and ivy? It was missing its wheel and was of no use to anyone. You had the brilliant idea of transforming it into a planter instead of throwing it away. I have also lost my wheel, my direction in life and I find I can’t do anything without it, without you. I need you to help bring me back to life, to give me purpose. I need your forgiveness. I need you.

I was driven by my need for success and power more than anything else – more than putting you first, more than your deepest desire to start a family. How could I have deprived you of that? How could I have deprived us of that? How could I have been so blind not to see that was exactly what I wanted too? Well, I screwed up royally. All the success and power I ever wanted are mine now but they are hollow victories. The price was too dear – losing you and everything that was and might have been, that should have been. I wake up alone in our bed and come home to an empty house. And all day, every day, I simply exist like a wheelbarrow without a wheel.

I have no idea where you are, how you are or what you’re doing. I pray that you haven’t lost all faith in me, even though that may be what I deserve. That would surely destroy me because my love for you is stronger than ever. I wouldn’t blame you for not believing what I’m about to say but I would do anything, give up everything just to have you by my side once again. I am empty inside without you and I’m begging for a second chance. My one hope that I cling to every day is the fact that I haven’t been served with divorce papers … yet. Please tell me there’s a chance for us, a chance that you can possibly forgive me.

Thanksgiving Day. How blessedly thankful I would be to have you back, to have you tell me we’re going to be okay! How thankful I would be for the opportunity to show you how much I love you and need you in my life!

Tomorrow I am going to wake up early, pour a cup of coffee and watch the red-headed woodpeckers in our yard. Then I will attempt to prepare my very first Thanksgiving meal by myself. I bought a little turkey, all the fixings and a lovely bottle of wine … just enough for two. It would give me the greatest joy to share the day with you and every day after that, to hold you in my arms and make all the sorrow go away.

Annie, if only you could sprout wings like the red-headed woodpeckers and fly home to me! Will you come home for Thanksgiving dinner? Please come back to me and never leave.

I love you so very much.


~     ~     ~     ~     ~      ~     ~     ~     ~

Push ‘send’ and pray Annie hasn’t changed her email address. Go to bed, thankful for a second chance.

It’s Thanksgiving morning. I’m anxious and afraid to check my email. Can I bring myself to read beyond the first paragraph? Instead, I decide to wait just a bit and pour myself a cup of coffee. I sit looking out the window as the woodpeckers hop from branch to branch finding their way home.

Did Annie get my email?  Will she answer me? I guess I can put off the inevitable for only so long. I decide to check my computer; nothing. My heart is shattered. What a fool I was to wait so long.

The luscious aroma of roasting turkey is already beginning to fill the house. I can’t bear the thought of eating this Thanksgiving meal alone. When everything is done cooking, I’ll pack it all up and bring it to the homeless shelter; at least someone will reap the benefits of my stupidity.

I clean up the kitchen and pour another cup of coffee. I think I’ll sit by the window and work on the crossword puzzle while the turkey slowly does its thing. I wonder what the woodpeckers are up to.

I glance out the window to check on my feathered friends. Standing by the once useless wheelbarrow, suitcase in hand, is my Annie. She gives me a sweet smile and a little wave.

I never ran outside so fast in all my life.

NAR © 2021

 For FOWC with Fandango — Paragraph


The king is dead. Long live the king!

He really wasn’t a king; he was the mayor. Well, in truth, he wasn’t even the mayor. His name was Joe Montalbano and he was a royal pain in the ass.

Joe and his wife Pauline were one of the first couples to purchase a house on my street when they were built in 1960. They had a large piece of corner property – plenty of space for their precocious son Joe, Jr. to run around.

Joe was one of those guys who knew everyone and their business and they in turn knew him. A retired firefighter, there wasn’t a store owner, restaurateur or town official who didn’t know Joe. He belonged to the Knights of Columbus, the Kiwanis Club, the local beach club, the town pool, the Italian/American Society and the bocce team. He was a scout leader, coached Little League and marched in every parade. He also attended monthly town meetings and made his opinions known loud and clear. Joe had a lot of opinions.

Joe was the self-appointed inspector of our street. He would drive around in his maroon Bonneville doing 5 miles per hour checking every house for scofflaws. Now if Joe was doing this as some sort of community watch program to protect our little street, well that would have been fine. But that was not what motivated Joe. He was a busybody looking to make trouble wherever he could. Joe wasn’t happy unless he made his neighbors miserable.

If someone was doing a little home improvement, perhaps putting in a patio or cutting down a tree, that person better have a permit taped to the window and all the necessary papers in order. Joe would go out of his way to schmooze it up with the homeowners, make seemingly friendly small-talk and if everything wasn’t kosher, he’d sniff it out and report it to the town supervisor. Nice, right?

So, let’s say the poor schmo didn’t have a permit. He’d have to tear down any new construction he did on his own, apply for a permit and pay a hefty fine. Then if any new construction was approved, he’d have to hire someone to do the job and end up paying out the nose for work he could have done himself! But wait. If the construction wasn’t approved, then everything would come to a screeching halt anyway. And God forbid the building examiner found some unauthorized work that had been done years before; it would all have to come down. Good bye to that ‘illegal‘ den the family has been enjoying the last ten years. Thanks, Joe!

Once – and only once – I parked my car in front of my house facing the wrong direction. I wasn’t going to stay long; just enough time to use the bathroom and gather my dry cleaning. I couldn’t have been inside more than ten minutes when I noticed a police car out front. I ran outside but he cop was just pulling away and he had left me an unpleasant surprise – a ticket for “car facing wrong way while parked”. Who even knew that was a law? Apparently it is and I broke it to the tune of $150! Thanks, Joe!

Let’s talk about garbage for a minute. Collection days on my street are Monday and Thursday; we’re supposed to put our trash out in the morning on those days. God help the person who put their garbage out the night before! Good old snitch Joe would call the sanitation department. You can bet your sweet ass that person would get a serious reprimand and have to drag their trash back into the house. And if it happened again, a lovely fine would be doled out instead of a warning. Thanks again, inspector!

Everyone likes a little party occasionally, am I right? The Fourth of July, Super Bowl, graduation; these are times to celebrate. Invite some friends over, fire up the grill, have a few drinks, play a little music, talk, laugh, maybe even do some karaoke – that’s what people do at parties. Now, there’s a cut-off time for noise in the neighborhood; everything needs to end by 11:00 PM. So let’s say you’re on the front porch saying farewell to the last of your guests and it’s 11:08. Guess who pulls up in front of your house – Officer Krupke with his little ticket book and a big shit-eating grin, that’s who. “Is there a problem, officer?” you ask innocently. “Disturbing the peace by breaking the town noise ordinance” the cop replies as he taps his watch and hands you a summons. “You have a good night now.” You don’t have to ask who ratted you out; he must have all official phone numbers on speed dial.

That’s what Joe did; he went out of his way to make his neighbor’s lives miserable, all in the name of due diligence. Nice guy, that Joe.

So, years later when Joe finally kicked the bucket, everyone except the people who lived on our street went into mourning. The funeral was worthy of Vito Corleone! The fire department, the police department, the Knights of Columbus, the Kiwanis Club and the bocce team pulled out all the stops and paid for the biggest funeral with the longest limos, the most flowers and best catering the town could provide.

But our little street was cheerful as usual – not that we were necessarily happy that Joe was dead – oh, no no no! It was more a sense of relief knowing “Inspector Montalbano” wasn’t breathing down our necks … or anywhere else, for that matter.

Well, that sense of sweet relief lasted about a week. That’s when we saw the familiar maroon Bonneville crawling down the street at 5 miles per hour. And who was behind the wheel? Why, it was Joe, Jr.

The king is dead. Long live the king!

NAR © 2021


November 11th is Veteran’s Day in the United States. For much of the rest of the world and especially in Europe, it is Armistice Day, the day that marks the end of World War I. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 when the armistice was signed, over 20 million people had lost their lives.

I am humbled and honored to present to you a guest post by my friend, Paul Griffiths – The Birkenhead Poet. Dedicated to the young boys who lost their lives, he calls it “Shot At Dawn”; I call it perfection.

Shot at Dawn

I was not yet sixteen when I joined the army. I wanted to fight.
To do my bit for King and Country, to be on the side of right.
Both my brothers had signed up so I lied to my dear old mum.
I even forged her signature; I was foolish young and dumb.

From fifteen years to nineteen years I aged overnight.
I sailed right through the boot camp, I was so eager to fight.
The things that I know now I wish I knew back then.
I was too full of bullshit and bravado wanting to be one of the men.

I was a big lad for my age but I wasn’t very bright.
Why didn’t I listen to my Mother? My Mother was always right.
I thought I was born to be a hero, to wear medals on my chest.
Instead I am nothing but cannon fodder damned with all the rest.

I soon lost my rose-tinted glasses; they got trampled in the mud.
At the sight of so many bodies, all this carnage and the blood.
I’m freezing cold and hungry, too tired and scared to even sleep.
I’ve been on sentry duty now for the last two weeks.

I’d never heard anything like it when the enemy barrage fell.
Hiding like a rat under the ground – it was three nights of living hell.
The ground shook all around us and I was terrified.
A shell exploded right above the trench top, we were all buried alive.

My eardrums were bursting, my mouth was full of clay.
Please God, come and save me. Don’t let me die this way.
Then I heard the sergeant in the darkness counting who had died.
When he finally called my name out, I broke down and cried.

I don’t know how long I was buried down there; it felt like an eternity.
When they finally dug me out of that hell hole something died inside me.
My days collided in on themselves; I was in a total daze.
I felt confused and frightened lost in the fog of war’s damned malaise.

The Captain wasn’t bothered about me; he just didn’t want to hear.
He sent me back to the front line with a bollocking and a flea in my ear.
Sergeant said “If you want to be a hero lad, now you’ll get your chance.
The orders are just in, we are pushing forward for the big advance.”

All I could do was find a quiet corner to sit alone and weep.
I couldn’t function properly anymore, I’d cry myself to sleep.
I told the Captain how old I really was; he didn’t care about my age.
He said he could only go off what was written on my signup page.

I was scared sick to the pit of my stomach, I was absolutely terrified.
Thinking back to the day I signed up, wishing that I never lied.
I knew what lay above the trench top and it was worse than bad.
The Sergeant said “Don’t be scared, son. Keep your chin up lad”.

As the Sergeant took a little look above the safety of the parapet
A bullet hit him right between the eye’s; it must have his name on it.
He fell back right on top of me; man, he nearly knocked me out.
I was pinned down under his dead weight, I couldn’t move about.

By the time I wriggled free of him the other guys had gone.
To be mowed down by machine guns, all I could do was look on.
Then I heard the Captain screaming, calling out my name.
He called me a damn young coward to my eternal shame.

I tried to explain about the Sergeant and getting stuck in the mud.
The Captain was deaf to any reasoning, my excuse did me no good.
Captain put me on field arrest and I was immediately taken off the line.
I was told my court martial hearing was to be held in four days time.

I told the panel my true age, about my actions and exactly what I did.
They said I was just another lying coward who had run away and hid.
The verdict they passed was guilty, the sentence was death.
I screamed for mercy to deaf ears until I couldn’t catch my breath.

The weight of the world sat on my narrow shoulders. I was all alone.
Knowing I will never see my Mother again or my family back at home.
It rained all week relentlessly but the sun rose on that fateful morn.
Today is to be my last day on earth; I will be shot at dawn.

I felt the warm sun on my face but the air was bitterly cold.
They marched to a post against a wall and tied on my blindfold.
My body shook uncontrollably with fear. I was absolutely terrified.
Innocent yet guilty and about to be shot by my own side.

I prayed to God to save me, to give me a second chance.
When I heard those words “Ready, Aim” – I’m sorry, I pissed my pants.
I didn’t hear that final word of “Fire!” I don’t think I felt any pain
As bullets tore through my body time and time again.

I died branded a coward, my service forever put to shame.
To be remembered as a black mark on my family’s good name.
The records show I died aged twenty though I’d barely turned sixteen.
Labeled as a coward in the great war; but what does cowardice really mean?

PTG. © copyright


Parish, New York – a sleepy little town about 20 miles from Oswego, just about kissing Lake Ontario. The place I once called home.I was born in Parish and lived there until it became too small for me or maybe I just got too damn disillusioned.

I was the only child of Ron and Betty Cooper. Dad never said he was disappointed that I was a girl but I knew he really wanted a son. Mom named me Carly Grace. Dad never called me Carly; I was always ‘Carl’ to him. I didn’t mind too much but mom always said it was a heartless thing for him to do – a constant reminder that she couldn’t give him a son.

We lived in a tiny house in the middle of nowhere. Dad would sleep most of the day and go to work after dinner. He was a bartender at Floyd’s Place in the town of Mexico, about seven miles from Parish. College kids from Oswego would bring their dates to Floyd’s Place; it was a dive but dad did a good job keeping their tankards full all night.

I remember having to be very quiet during the day so dad could sleep. Mom kept me busy in the kitchen; she was a terrific baker and taught me how to make homemade bread.

Both my parents were heavy smokers. Even when mom was baking she’d have a Marlboro dangling from her lips. Well, mom got cancer and softly, peacefully passed away the night before I turned 13; to this day the smell of freshly baked bread reminds me of her.

It wasn’t long before dad hooked up with Paulette Garrison, a nurse who’d stop by the bar every night after her shift. Dad started staying at Paulette’s place in Mexico and by the time I was fifteen I was pretty much living on my own.

Memorial Day weekend rolled around and dad brought Paulette back to our house. I was looking forward to a cook-out and fireworks but dad and Paulette only came out of the bedroom for beer and cigarettes. That Saturday night I packed a few things in mom’s old suitcase, took her address book, whatever money I could find and softly left my home in Parish.

When I arrived at Grand Central Station, I called mom’s cousin Rita in The Bronx. She didn’t hesitate for a second, taking me into her home and caring for me like I was her own daughter. She also gave me a job in her bakery on Arthur Avenue. When Rita retired she put me in charge and I eventually became the owner.

Nine years went by when I got a call out of the blue. It was Paulette letting me know my dad had died – three weeks ago! There was certainly no love lost between us but I felt I should drive up to say farewell.

I stood at my father’s grave feeling nothing but the cold wind stinging my face. Softly I turned and left Parish behind me forever.

NAR © 2021

Written for Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt. Linda has asked us to use the word “home” as a noun, a verb, an adjective, or an adverb.