IT IS MY PRIVILEGE TO SHARE THE NEWS WITH YOU THAT OUR LATEST ANTHOLOGY IS NOW #1 ON THE AMAZON BESTSELLER LIST! I SHARE THE JOY AND PRIDE ALONG WITH EVERYONE WHO CONTRIBUTED TO THIS AMAZING BOOK. THE FOLLOWING WAS WRITTEN TO THE AUTHORS OF THE ANTHOLOGY BY GABRIELA MARIE MILTON, EDITOR
We are thrilled to let you know thatHidden in Childhood: A Poetry Anthologypublished by Literary Revelations is now a #1 Amazon bestseller. This book was made possible by the gorgeous poems you, poets from around the world, sent us. Thank you for trusting Literary Revelations with your poetry.
Congratulations! You are now #1 Amazon bestselling poets!
Amazon Description: From authors featured on NPR, BBC, and the New York Times, and from emerging poets, comes a monumental anthology in which every poem sends shivers down your spine. Childhood’s joy and trauma expressed – with stunning talent and sincerity – by over 150 poets in more than 280 poems. Childhood spaces magnified by the human memory, populated by good and bad, by trips to hell and heaven, in an almost Hieronymus Bosch type of atmosphere. Over 150 voices call you to read this book. Read it. You will learn that childhood never goes away. You will be reminded of the beauty of the seraphim and the need to protect children from any form of abuse. 150 voices knock on your door. Open the door. A chorus of childhoods will tell you that our children need love.
Literary Revelations is proud to bring you this anthology and deeply grateful to all contributors for pouring out their hearts into the pages of this book.
If you are interested, the book may be purchased here: Hidden in Childhood: A Poetry Anthology https://a.co/d/6H4pKiw
My husband Dan had recently been offered a two-year assignment in the Firenze branch office of his company. It was the opportunity of a lifetime which couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient point in our lives. We’d been married for six years and now a few loose ends were starting to fall into place for us.
After months of gut-wrenching indecision, we believed the time was right to start a family; the spectacular apartment overlooking Central Park became available and our bid was accepted; my art gallery had taken off and was written up in Aesthetica Magazine, drawing the attention of the world-famous artist Klaus Voormann who stopped by one day out of the blue. I was shocked when he proposed the idea of exhibiting one of his original drawings for a month or two and even more surprised when he showed me photos of the artwork he wanted to display – the cover of The Beatles album, Revolver.
No, this was not the time to pack up and move to Italy but even with all the amazing events balancing precariously on the pinnacle of our lives, how could I ask Dan to turn down this dream assignment? I couldn’t. After all, it was only for two years.
We were able to sublet our spectacular apartment overlooking Central Park; I regretfully left Klaus Voormann in the hands of my capable gallery manager and with ineffably heavy hearts we put our hopes and plans for a baby on hold – at least for the immediate future. With very mixed emotions we left New York for our new life in Firenze.
My husband’s company arranged for our living accommodations in an exquisite apartment overlooking the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio. During the first couple of weeks of our stay, I busied myself becoming familiar with our new home. There were endless shops and museums to occupy my time but I could only do so much sight-seeing. Unbelievable as it might sound, I soon found myself becoming bored in one of the most fascinating cities in the world.
To make matters worse, Dan was assigned to the Padua office for one week. Located 140 miles north of Florence, he clearly couldn’t commute. He’d have to stay there and I wasn’t allowed to go with him. I had trouble sleeping while Dan was away and found myself waking up at the ungodly hour of 4:00 AM. I’d make a pot of coffee and write in my journal until the city yawned and brushed the sleep dust from her eyes.
One particular morning I was feeling unusually lost, my journal sitting on the desk mocking me. Coffee cup in hand, I went out to the balcony to breathe in the early morning air when I spotted a man walking down the street. I wasn’t too far away but I couldn’t clearly see his face. He wore a fedora-type hat and long black coat, his gloved hands by his side. Perhaps, like me, he was also having trouble sleeping. There were a couple of things about this scene that struck me as ordinary yet peculiar: the man’s casual way of walking indicated he wasn’t in a rush but he kept his eyes straight ahead, never glancing from side to side. There were also no signs of activity anywhere in the city, not even a ripple in the water. The man continued walking until he was no longer in view and I soon forgot about him.
The next morning the man was back, again carrying himself in the same determined yet unhurried manner. He reminded me of a character in a film noire detective movie. I found myself becoming more intrigued. When I saw him approaching on the third morning, I quickly grabbed my Nikon and snapped a photo. After three days of this routine, I decided I clearly needed to find a project I could sink my teeth into, something creative. While visiting the Uffizi Gallery later that morning, I discovered many types of art courses were offered there. I registered for photography, a subject I knew a little about. It was also one of the few classes that included day trips. All I needed was my camera.
Dan finally returned from Padua and after a romantic weekend reunion, he was off to work and I headed to the Uffizi. There were only four other people in the class – a married German couple and two Irish nuns. As I gazed out the window, a man’s voice as deep and mellow as a glass of montepulciano resonated throughout the room. I turned to see someone familiar – the man I had spotted walking by the Ponte Vecchio! He was quite handsome with light hazel eyes and a shock of black hair. He introduced himself as Leone – not Mister or Doctor or Professor – just Leone, our instructor.
The course was interesting, the scenery breathtaking and the teacher took his job very seriously. I was enjoying the class but, as I told Dan, it could have been a bit more fun. Leonewas all business. That’s why I was totally surprised that rainy Tuesday when I was the only one who showed up for class and Leonesuggested we wrap up early and get a bite to eat.
We went to a café in the Uffizi and for the first time the impersonal teacher relaxed; I truly enjoyed his company and when our conversation turned to my gallery in New York, Leonewas very impressed. During lunch I got a text from Dan saying there was a business dinner he couldn’t get out of and would be home late. Curious about the disgruntled look on my face, Leone asked if anything was wrong. I explained the situation and he said it must be fate, the perfect opportunity for me to see his studio. I was grateful for the diversion.
Leone’s studio was simply but elegantly decorated. The walls were covered with his stunning photos, all black and whites, each one a masterpiece. His work consisted solely of portraits; this surprised me considering all the beautiful sights in Italy. Leone said faces had much more interesting stories to tell than places and asked if he could take a few photos of me. I was a bit reluctant but flattered and so I agreed. It was there in the back room of his studio where our affair began.
In the eight years since Dan and I met, I had been with no one else. I had no idea how monotonous and unimaginative our sex life had become. My affair with Leone was dynamic, passionate, electrifying. We were ravenous when we were together and starving when we were apart. Our relationship became extreme. Leone brought out my wildly sexual, erotic side; there was nothing we wouldn’t do to give each other pleasure. The more we saw each other the more we wanted each other. Our affair became all-consuming and never diminished for the 20 months we were together. Twenty months! I had friends whose marriages didn’t last 20 months.
Always in the forefront of my mind was the fact that Dan and I would be returning to New York and for the first time during my affair with Leone I became afraid. There was more going on than sex. There were deep feelings. There was affection. There was love. That was never supposed to happen.
Two weeks before Dan and I left for New York I told my lover I would never see him again and even though it killed me, I ended our affair. One week later Leone sent me a text which read “I think about you too much”.
Why can’t I stop loving him? Why can’t I stop this hunger inside me? I wanted him so much but I desperately did not want to hurt my husband. Dan was such a good and decent man. He didn’t deserve any of this. I was in love with two men and it had to end.
Dan and I returned to New York. We moved back into our spectacular apartment overlooking Central Park. I resumed ownership of my fabulous art gallery and added two new photographs – one of the Ponte Vecchio and another of a man with light hazel eyes and a shock of black hair.
We settled into our usual routine. We got comfortable in our apartment and talked about having a baby. It was like nothing had changed in the two years we were away but everything had changed.
Exactly one month after leaving Italy, I found out I was pregnant. Firenze, mi amor!
When I was eight years old, my parents bought a small house on a tiny crescent-shaped street called Magnolia Terrace, one of the many cul-de-sacs in the area. At the end of the street was a turnabout and beyond the turnabout was a footpath that led into a wooded area dense with poplar trees.
Magnolia Terrace was the tiniest street around with only 8 houses; they were all very similar, modest and affordable. Each house was painted a subtle shade and the street was lined with magnolia trees; from March through April, the graceful trees bloomed in an array of pastel colors, from luscious whites to pale yellows to deep pink and purple hues.
The residents of Magnolia Terrace were hard-working people with a great love of family, God and country. We were far from rich but we were content.
There were children in every house and our street rang with the sounds of fun and laughter. When the streetlights came on, we knew it was time to run home for dinner; there would always be tomorrow for more childhood games. For me and my friends, Magnolia Terrace was the happiest place on earth.
Our fathers all worked for the same factory about fifteen miles from home and they would take turns driving every day – two cars, four men per car. They’d leave for work at 7:00 AM and be home by 5:00 PM in time for dinner. Two or three nights each week our dads would go bowling, get together at one of the houses to play cards and attend a meeting at the “lodge”. We kids thought our dads were really spies for the FBI and the factory was just a cover because they all used a secret handshake and wore the same ring like Dick Tracy.
Sometimes when our fathers went out, our mothers would get together for sewing bees or book clubs. About once each month all our parents would get dressed up and go to the lodge for a fancy dinner and an important meeting. As usual, they never told us anything about their time at the lodge. It was grown ups only.
There was one very important rule our parents made sure we clearly understood: under no circumstances were we allowed to go beyond the turnabout and into the poplar woods. When we asked why, our parents told us the woods were private property and we would be trespassing; there would be a hefty fine to pay. This sounded very official to us and we were raised to obey the law so we never entered the woods.
Time passed very quickly for us; I was now 18 years old and a senior in high school. I had a boyfriend named Ryan; his house was diagonally across from mine and was the closest to the woods. Our parents knew we liked each other but we were never allowed to be alone. The only time we were even allowed to hold hands was at the weekend barbecues where there were lots of people around.
When our fathers went out at night and all was quiet, Ryan and I would sneak down to the footpath near the woods. We never did anything bad – just talked and made out – but it was our special time together. One night we were making out when Ryan suddenly stopped and motioned for me to be quiet. He tapped his ear and pointed into the woods; we sat very close together as silent as could be and that’s when we heard it – distant sounds we could only describe as guttural chanting.
Ryan took my hand and as quietly as possible we left the area and ran back to our houses. My mother was engrossed in her sewing, the TV on in the background, and she never heard me come in and head up to my room. Whatever Ryan and I heard in the woods frightened us both but I knew we had to find out more.
As I was drifting off to sleep, I had a weird thought: my mother was always busy at her sewing machine but I never saw any of her creations. What was she making? The next day she had a large box delivered; it had obviously been damaged during shipment and was taped up but some of the contents were visible. All I saw was what looked like white cloth and I didn’t think it was a big deal but my mother became irate and screamed at me to go back into the house. She could be very strange at times and I never knew when she would fly off the handle.
Ryan and I decided the best night to go back to the woods would be bowling night; that was Monday, four days away. We were determined to go deeper into the woods; we wanted to see and hear more but knew we had to stay out of sight. Neither one of us had any idea what to expect; it could have been a group of hippies camping in the woods. Whatever is was we hoped our questions would be answered on Monday.
The weekend dragged on. If my mother was still upset about her delivery, she didn’t say anything. On Sunday we had our usual barbecue and just as everyone was beginning to head home, my father started handing out brown packages tied with red string to all the men. My mother always used red string to secure her packages so whatever was wrapped in that brown paper had been made by my mother. I wondered how many times the same packages were handed out over the years and I never noticed. None of the men opened the packages but they seemed very happy to have gotten them.
Finally Monday evening arrived and at 8:00 PM all the men of Magnolia Terrace headed out to go bowling. When it was safe, I snuck out of my house and met Ryan at the turnabout. The crescent moon did little to light our way. We held tightly onto each other’s hands as we hesitantly entered the woods. Every few feet we would stop and listen but all was silent. About 15 feet in, we were startled by a distant glow that lit up the night sky like a rocket; the low chanting we heard the other night began and intensified to an angry rumble. Believing the revelers were blinded by the glow of what must have been a bonfire and deaf to all sounds but their own, Ryan and I felt emboldened and crept further into the woods. We now had an unobscured view and what we saw shook us to our core.
Was this a spacecraft surrounded by aliens? The luminosity of the fire was so intense, it was impossible to clearly make out shapes and sizes. Then gradually the flames diminished just enough for us to clearly see this was no spaceship but something far more horrifying in its significance: it was a blazing cross! And the creatures were no extraterrestrials: they were men, maybe as many as 25, dressed in white robes with attached capes, rope belts and pointed hoods with eye holes covering their faces.
We were transfixed. Ryan spoke to me in a barely audible voice “Nanette, I can’t believe what we’re seeing! It’s a Ku Klux Klan gathering.”
I nodded and whispered softly “I know. I saw them on the news. I’m frightened, Ryan! Why are they here so close to where we live?”
But before Ryan could answer, the chanting stopped and one man began to address the group. I gasped and buried my face in Ryan’s chest, my body quivering, and he held me tightly. When I looked up, I was crying and barely able to utter the words “That’s my father!”
“I recognize his voice, too” Ryan replied. In hushed tones he continued. “Nanette, we can’t stay here. Let’s go back to my house, slowly and as quietly as possible. Here, take my hand.” Terrified, I held Ryan’s hand tightly as we cautiously made our way back to the clearing, never letting go of each other. Once free of the woods, we ran back to Ryan’s house and collapsed under a tree in his backyard.
For a long time we sat huddled together, saying nothing. Finally, Ryan spoke softly: “Nanette, we have to talk about this, but not now. Let’s get our thoughts together and we’ll talk during the week. I think you need to go home now and try to get some sleep.” I started to get up but Ryan held onto my arm. “Nanette, be careful. I love you.”
That was the first time Ryan said those words and I told him I loved him, too. We hugged, then I quickly walked back to my house across the street. As usual, I snuck in through the kitchen; my mother and a few other women were playing bridge and no one saw me scramble up the stairs to my room. I threw myself onto my bed and cried into my pillow. This felt like a nightmare.
From the next day on, nothing was the same but I had to act normally. I could barely look at my father let alone talk to him without feelings of anger and disgust. I was also deeply saddened. It was difficult to believe that all the fathers living on our perfect little street were members of the KKK and all the mothers supported them. The many nights they were supposedly bowling or playing cards they were really in the woods plotting and scheming and doing God knows what. And all the time my mother spent hunched over her sewing machine she was making the men’s robes and hoods! The fact that our parents were living duplicitous lives all these years made me sick to my stomach.
There was nothing Ryan and I could do and no one we could trust; the Klan hid in plain sight. Confronting our parents with what we knew about them would do no good. Ryan told me to hang on a little longer until he figured out what to do. A couple of weeks later he told me he came up with a plan. He said during Sunday’s barbecue we would tell our parents that we were in love and wanted to get married after graduation. Ryan said he would ask my father for his blessing and tell him that he wanted to work in the factory with the other men to provide a good life for me. We were sure our parents would see we were mature enough to make such a big decision and would give their blessing. Ryan told me once we were married we could leave town and never return to Magnolia Terrace.
As happy as I was with Ryan’s plan, I was filled with mixed emotions. It wouldn’t be easy leaving my parents and the only home I ever knew but I couldn’t go on turning a blind eye to the evil lives they were living. I cried for the younger kids who would be left behind but I saw no other answer; this was our only way out.
On Sunday the barbecue was in full swing when Ryan said he had an announcement to make. Everyone quieted down as he told my father about our wishes to get married and asked for his blessing. To my surprise my parents were very happy for us and my father enthusiastically patted Ryan on the back. My mother began to cry and embraced me. I was revolted by her hug but told myself I’d only have to play this charade for a little while longer.
Everyone was very happy for us and my father droned on and on about how we could build a house of our own on the plot of land right next to their house. Ryan laughed and nodded at my father’s enthusiasm and we smiled at each other across the yard knowing our plan was successful. Relief washed over me as I watched my father and Ryan walk over to the area where our future house was to be built and laughed thinking how flawlessly Ryan had pulled off his plan.
Just then my mother came out of the house carrying a bag and placed it on the ground next to my father. I looked on in disbelief as my father reached into the bag and drew out a familiar-looking brown paper package wrapped in red string and proudly handed it to Ryan. They both looked over at me with serpentine eyes as they smiled and shared a secret handshake. At that moment I knew I’d been betrayed.
It is a great thrill for me to announce that my poems will be included in“HIDDEN IN CHILDHOOD”, the latest anthology edited by Gabriela Marie Milton, scheduled for release the end of this month on Amazon. Among other works, Gabriela is the author/editor of the #1 best-selling poetry collection “WOUNDS I HEALED: THE POETRY OF STRONG WOMEN” (which also features two of my poems).
To be included in this newest anthology with so many incredibly talented authors is a proud achievement for me; I am humbled and grateful. Many thanks to Gabriela for giving me this amazing opportunity.
This house has been my home all my life. I was born in an upstairs bedroom in the middle of an unexpected snowstorm and, with any luck, I’ll die peacefully in my sleep in that same bedroom.
I lived here with my mother, an elementary school librarian, and my dad, a veterinarian. See the red door on the left side of the house? That was the entrance to Sullivan’s Pet Clinic. I always thought dad had the best job in the world – working out of our home caring for animals every day and many nights. Those middle of the night emergency calls were always the worst. I grew up standing by his elbow, engrossed by everything from happy birthings to heartbreaking endings.
Being an only child and a constant figure in the clinic, it was naturally assumed by everyone, including myself, that I would follow in dad’s footsteps. However, that was not to be the case. You see, as much as I loved working with animals, I took the sick and dying aspect of it all very personally; I wasn’t very good at handling the loss. What use is a veterinarian who only treats healthy animals? I might as well be a groomer at PetSmart!
After my second year of college, with no real goal in mind for my life, I dropped out and left home. I found I was adept at quite a few things: I was a carpenter, a pool cleaner, a gardener and a plumber and, while I was good at all those things, none of them brought me the sense of fulfillment I desired. So at the ripe old age of 28 I decided to return home. My parents were overjoyed to see me, of course; however, that thrill diminished rapidly once I told them I had no intention of joining the family practice. My dad made a suggestion: “Find a paying job which will allow you to contribute to the privilege of living in a comfortable house with a roof over your head and food to eat or move out”. I chose the former.
One day while perusing the want ads, I saw a listing for a housepainter. The company was local, the job was full time and since I had dabbled in a little painting at my previous jobs, I applied for, and landed, the position. I was to start the very next day. It wasn’t rocket science but there was skill involved and I enjoyed the work; doing anything with my hands was supremely satisfying. With each brush stroke, time flew by and before I realized it, I was a 46-year-old man married to my dear wife Laurie, the local church secretary. We were the parents of three teenagers – two daughters and a son. Savannah was the eldest at 17; she would be heading off to college next year. Following close behind was Georgia, 16 and Max, 14.
One late summer afternoon while having our traditional Sunday dinner at my parent’s house, my folks stunned us with the news that they were going to retire and move south. Hard as it was for dad to believe, he could not find anyone willing to take over his practice without also buying the house. Sullivan’s Pet Clinic unceremoniously closed its doors and my wife and I and the kids moved into my childhood home. We bid farewell to my parents and locked the door to the clinic, promising we would do our best to find someone who wanted to take over dad’s practice. Unlike my father, I had no problem renting the clinic while my family lived in the main house. Still no one expressed an interest in the practice.
On a rare Saturday off from work, I threw myself into sprucing up the yard. I grabbed the necessary gardening equipment and “invited” the three couch potatoes playing video games to join me. After much grousing and a bit of bribery we were hard at work pulling weeds and pruning dead branches. After a scant five minutes, Savannah let out a squeal and called me over, informing me “there something stuck in one of the azalea bushes” and she was “pretty sure it was alive”. At first I didn’t see anything but upon closer inspection I found that Savannah was right. Mixed in and almost undiscernible among the reddish blossoms was a female cardinal. She was obviously wounded, her left wing hanging uselessly and a small bloody wound on her breast.
Instincts that had been dormant for years arose and came rushing at me like a locomotive. I yelled for the other two kids to run into the garage to get a shoe box and some of my clean painting cloths. They were quick in their return and with gloved hands I gently plucked the wounded bird from the bush, placed her in the cloth-lined box and began walking her into the house. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted something bright red flitting from branch to branch, whistling an unanswered call, and I knew it had to be the wounded cardinal’s mate.
Fumbling through a maze of pens, clips and rubber bands in my dad’s old rolltop desk, I finally found the keys to the abandoned pet clinic. Unlocking the door I was amazed to see my wife Laurie had kept the place clean and organized and I made a mental note to thank her when she returned home.
“First order of business is to assess the bird’s wounds, especially the spot where there’s blood” I announced to my kids in a voice that sounded eerily like my father’s. I asked Savannah to find gauze pads and apply light pressure to the bird’s wound while Max used his phone to search for info on broken wings. When Savannah told me the blood from the puncture was dry, my dad’s voice quietly whispered in my ear not to dislodge the clot; doing so could cause the bird to bleed out. Savannah applied a dab of Neosporin around the wound, replaced the dressing and wrapped a long strip of clean cloth around it, securing it with a small piece of surgical tape.
“There’s a ton of stuff here on caring for a wounded bird” Max shouted triumphantly, waving his cell phone over his head. I read what he found and quickly assessed what we needed to do.
“Ok, we need to fill a hot water bottle to keep the bird warm and a long strip of cloth to wrap around her wing and body. We all worked together efficiently and our patient seemed to sense we were trying to help her. Savannah placed the hot water bottle under the bird and put the box near the window in the sun.
“We did good, guys! Let’s just leave the bird to rest and we’ll check her in a little while.” I started walking toward the door that led to the main house when Savannah called out to me.
“Dad, we can’t keep calling her ‘the bird’. She needsa name. How about ‘Lady C’?” she asked. And we all agreed that was a good name.
When Laurie got home from work, we told her about our adventure with Lady C. “Sounds to me like all those years at your dad’s side is what really got you through this.” I had to admit it – Laurie was right and I felt a pang of remorse for never following in dad’s footsteps.
As we talked, Laurie looked over my shoulder out the window. “There’s a male cardinal flitting around out there. I’ll bet you that’s Mr. C wondering where his lady is.” That’s when I remembered spotting the bright red cardinal earlier in the day.
After dinner we went back into the clinic; Lady C was resting comfortably. Georgia replaced the hot water bottle for a fresh one and on the way out I thought I heard a tap-tap-tapping sound by the window. When I turned to look, nothing was there.
Days went by and Lady C continued to heal beautifully. Her little chest wound was now unnoticeable, covered by new feathers, and her wing was in fine working order. During the whole of her convalescence, Mr. C could be seen in our trees, on our back deck and even on the windowsill looking into the clinic. He must have been the one tapping on the window weeks ago.
At last the time came to let Lady C go free. We removed her wrappings one last time and watched as she hopped around the inside of the shoe box which had been her home for the last few weeks. I reached for our little patient and Savannah stopped me. “Can I do it, please?” Of course, my answer was yes.
We brought Lady C outside and placed her on the wood railing around our deck. Slowly we backed away and in no time at all Mr. C came swooping in, landing next to his lady. They began chirping to each other and sweetly canoodling, completely oblivious of their audience. Then, as one, they flew off into the trees.
Time went by and every so often we’d see the cardinal couple flying around the yard and visiting our feeders. Then they disappeared, gone for a new life somewhere, happy together. A few months went by and then one morning, just as the weather was beginning to change, we heard a clatter of that distinct cardinal chirping. When we peeked outside the window, we saw Mr. & Lady C … and their fledgling twins.
Savannah turned to me, her eyes shining brightly. “Dad, I’ve made a decision. I want to go to veterinary school and follow in Grandpa’s footsteps.”
I hugged my daughter tightly. “Let’s call Grandpa; he’ll be so happy and proud to hear your news.”
I suddenly realized I was grinning like a kid, full of excitement. It was a great feeling.
Just in case you failed to notice that I’m an audiophile as well as a storyteller with a huge passion for The Beatles, I thought I’d share this meteorite of excellence with you –
Only one of the greatest guitarists ever to have lived playing one of the greatest songs ever written by the greatest group ever to have graced this universe. That’s a lot of greatness; it doesn’t get any greater than this!
Thank you, Jeff, and thank you, Girlie! ☄️ 💫 ✨
He was unassuming, one might say “modest”. I cried today for Jeff Beck. Not before first smiling and reveling in the gift he offered. A tribute popped in my YouTube feed this morning. I decided to watch it. Here’s the link. Beginning at 9:35 in the clip until conclusion of that particular segment at 12:34 minutes… “Niagara Falls, Frankie angel.”
Author’s Note: It’s funny sometimes how things unfold. I was talking with a friend last night about navy and submarine movies, how much we both enjoy watching them and offering each other suggestions for a few good films. Then I came across another friend’s post – Fandango’s One-Word Challenge (FOWC). The required word was “stodgy” – not your everyday kind of word. I wondered if I’d used that word in any of my past stories so I did a quick search and “U.S.S. Arizona” popped up – a story about, of all things, a navy battleship! It’s funny sometimes how things unfold.
Gregory Tomlinson stretched out on the top bunk, smoking his Lucky Strike cigarettes, watching the cloudy vapors swirl around the dimly lit corner of his berth on the U.S.S. Arizona. Some of the guys exchanged letters and treats from home, showing off photos of their wives and girlfriends. Others played cards and cursed at their radios saying “This news is a bore! Turn it off and find some Glenn Miller!” And the men all laughed like boys at summer camp.
“Hey, Gregory” whispered Leo Becker from the lower bunk. “Can I ask you a question?”
Gregory chuckled. “I think after eleven months trapped in this can you can ask me anything!”
Leo hesitated for a second then said “Ok, here goes. How come you never get any mail?
Gregory didn’t answer and Leo could have kicked himself. Lighting another cigarette, Gregory inhaled deeply and blew a perfect smoke ring.
Just as Leo was about to apologize Gregory summersaulted off his bunk landing seamlessly on Leo’s. “That is an excellent question, my friend.”
Leo was stunned. “I, a homely handyman from Reedsport, Oregon, am your friend?? With your Tyrone Power charm and good looks you probably have a girl in every port! All I have is this box of letters and photos from home.”
“Ha!” snorted Gregory. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Your box is very special, Leo; even if I had a box I’d have nothing to put in it. When I was 15, my parents were killed in a car crash and I was left alone – a family of one. No siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins – no one. I took off and made the Navy my family.”
“I have a question for you, Leo” Gregory continued nonchalantly. “How many nights have we sat on your bunk poring over the contents of this box?”
Leo rubbed his chin thoughtfully, mumbling “eleven months, 30 or 31 nights give or take a few here or there .. I’d say between 330 and 345” Leo calculated.
“And how many times did I ask you to describe Jenny to me?” Gregory asked as he stared at Jenny’s photo. Leo shrugged, unsure. Gregory stopped to light another smoke. “You told me how you said “hi” to Jenny the day you were painting her office at the school and she said “hi” back and smiled. You said you got lost in her eyes and you knocked over a can of paint! She had the sweetest disposition and didn’t get mad, even when the stodgy principal went nuts over the spilled paint.” Gregory sighed. “You said how you really started liking her a lot that day. You know why I asked you to tell me those stories about Jenny, Leo? Because I felt all alone but hearing you talk like that made me feel like I had two friends – you and Jenny.”
Leo barely had a chance to get his thoughts together when there was an enormous explosion, followed by continuous bombings and eruptions. Pearl Harbor was under attack. Leo quickly stashed his belongings into his knapsack and he and Gregory ran out to man the guns. The attack on the Arizona lasted about 11 minutes, long enough to kill Reedsport, Oregon’s own Leo Becker.
Upon Gregory’s medical discharge from the navy, he was summoned by his commanding officer and handed a box which he recognized immediately as Leo’s. Gregory’s name was written on an envelope attached to the box. When he opened the envelope he found a letter with an inscription:
“To my dear friend Gregory. I wish you could have seen how your face lit up whenever I talked about Jenny. You clung to every word I said. I never told you this but Jenny asked about you in every letter she wrote to me. Truth is, she was much more interested in you than she was in me. But you know what? That’s OK. If ever there were two people who belong together it’s you and Jenny. I love you both and you two love each other, too, even though you haven’t even met yet. Don’t waste another minute, Gregory. You belong with Jenny and she belongs with you.”
Gregory’s eyes welled up with tears and he could barely make out the last few sentences. Wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, he read on:
“My friend, I’ll be watching you from heaven. Call Jenny; her number is on the back of this letter. It will make me so happy knowing my two dearest friends finally found each other. Don’t forget your old pal, Leo.“
Gregory tucked Leo’s box under his arm and picked up his knapsack. He walked down the hallway and spotted a bank of telephone booths. He stared at Leo’s letter for about three seconds before reaching for the phone.
Typing the final paragraph of my thesis, my computer crashed. It would not start up at all.
This could not be happening!
The closest place that had public computers was the library. I ran there, rushing through the doors into the brightly lit room. All the computers were being used! Frantic, I explained my problem to the librarian and asked if there was another computer available.
She brought me to a room. The door locked behind me. There was a desk, paper, a quill and a candle. And I was wearing sandals and a medieval monk’s robe.
A couple of years ago New York was hit by a major snowstorm. Wearing thick-padded booties, the snow silently tiptoed in while we slept and when we awoke there was a three-foot-deep crystalline blanket everywhere we looked. It was coming down pretty heavy and we could barely see anything in the backyard as we looked out our bedroom window … almost as if someone was standing on our roof shaking out a king size comforter full of feathers. Bill and I stood there for a while taking in the silent beauty of it all, then shuffled into the kitchen to prepare a pot of coffee and a few slices of my homemade banana bread.
The instant we were done making breakfast, the lights went out. There was no point in trekking down to the basement to check the circuit breakers; we knew the area had experienced a power outage. We sat in the kitchen by the still-hot radiator enjoying our coffee and warm toasty bread, a pale white glow from the snow enveloping every room in the house. Before retreating to the living room, I poured our pot of coffee into a thermos to stay hot for a few hours.
I went to the closet and brought down Bill’s emergency hand crank radio with LED flashlight, AM/FM stations including the NOAH weather channel, a power bank of phone chargers and USB ports. This baby would serve us just fine until the power was restored. In the meantime Bill ventured out to the frozen tundra of the screened-in porch to retrieve some logs for the fireplace.
Bill got a nice fire going while I set up the radio on the table between our recliners. The phone chargers and USB ports were lifesavers; we were able to keep our cell batteries from dying and my laptop going so I could work on my stories. I was even able to plug in my new electric blanket which used a handy dandy USB port. Bill marveled at the technology of the little red radio and only bemoaned one design flaw – there was no TV.
We were happily ensconced in our recliners enjoying our little haven. All was silent outside except for an occasional gust of wind and every so often we’d spot a blue jay out our front window picking berries off the holly bush. I think we must have dozed off for a bit when we were roused by the harsh sound of steady scraping. We listened for a few seconds, then realized someone was outside shoveling the snow. We peered out the window to see our two little neighbors, six-year-old twins Jackson and Connor, shoveling our front path. At least that’s who we figured they were; it was impossible to tell by the way they were bundled up.
We sat back in our chairs, sipping our coffee and listening to the steady scrape-scraping of the boys’ shovels. Closer and closer the sound came; now they were clearing the steps leading to our front door. The adagio of their shovels was replaced by a sharp staccato knocking on our front door. I sank deeper into my blanket while Bill went to get some money to pay the enterprising kids, delighted that he didn’t have to shovel our front path himself. He opened the heavy wooden door and stood just inside the glass storm door to settle up accounts. Jackson and Connor stood on the front porch leaning on their shovels; toothless grins, cherry-red faces and sparkling blue eyes glistened in the still-rapidly falling snow which clung to their long blonde eyelashes.
“We cleared your path for you, Mr. Richy!” they proudly declared in unison, looking over their shoulders to admire their handiwork which was now covered by a fresh ½” of new snow. They looked back at Bill, staring up at him for his approval, their faces sporting the goofiest, most irresistible smiles imaginable.
“I see that, boys, and a fine job it is, too” replied Bill. “So tell me, what’s your going rate?“
With furrowed brows and crinkled noses the twins eloquently asked “Huh??”
“How much do I owe you for shoveling our path?” Bill asked in a way they could understand.
Very matter-of-factly with absolutely no sign of embarrassment or regret, the boys announced “Oh, we’re not allowed to accept money. Our mom and dad said we have to do good deeds.”
“Hold that thought, boys, and don’t go anywhere.”
Bill scurried back into the living room. “Are you hearing any of this conversation?” he asked me, clearly incredulous. “A concept like that in this day and age is mind-blowing!”
“Well, what’s your game plan?” I asked, knowing Bill always had a plan brewing.
“My game plan? Why, I’m going to pay those boys for a job well done and toss in a few packs of Pokémon cards just for good measure!” He was downright gleeful.
Bill scurried back to the boys and, opening the door just a crack to keep the cold out, shoved $20 and two packs of cards into their pockets.
The boys immediately started to put up a fuss about taking the money but Bill told them to stash it in their piggy banks for a rainy day and if their dad had a problem with, he was more than welcome to come over and talk about it. With new-found treasures in their pockets, the toothless twosome raced home to show their friends their unexpected booty. Their little friends cheered loudly at the sight of the boy’s riches. Even their dad came out to see what the hubbub was all about.
The big financial deal now settled, Bill sat back in his recliner and sighed contentedly.
“You’re such a soft touch” I teased. “You’re rather pleased with yourself, aren’t you?”
“As a matter of fact, I am!” he replied. “Listen, I’m all for good deeds but when I was their age, I was out shoveling snow and I know it’s hard work. Those kids did a damn good job. If their dad objects to them getting paid, I’ll just tell him to think of it as a tip for his two fine sons. I can’t believe he’d have a problem with that.”
Well, it came as no big surprise when the twins soon returned and began shoveling the snow off our driveway – and this time they had reinforcements. Their momma didn’t raise no dummies! You haven’t lived until you’ve seen five six-year-olds shoveling one driveway like their little lives depended on it.
“Better get your wallet out, Rockefeller. They’re back and they brought company” I laughed.
Bill may have unwittingly created a couple of monsters; during the spring the twins started going door-to-door pulling a wagon behind them. They were selling rocks! I’m reasonably certain their parents did not give permission for their budding business venture because it ended as abruptly as it started. Too bad; I’m sure they had the rock-selling market cornered. Very entrepreneurial kids; even Warren Buffett had to start somewhere!
Well, kind of a pity when you think about it. The boys scrubbed those rocks until they glistened in the sparkling sunlight. They really were impressive-looking rocks – there’s no denying that – but they were still just rocks, not exactly a priceless commodity.
It was January 8th, the second Sunday of the new year; Martha asked her husband George to help her take down the Christmas decorations. As was George’s usual reaction, he sighed heavily, a look that said “anything but that” dripping from his face. He just couldn’t help goading her.
Martha planted herself directly in front of George and began singing an annoying children’s song in a very loud voice. The lyrics had been changed and Martha thought they were so very clever; George thought they were maddening and covered his ears tightly with his hands. Martha pulled George’s hands away and sang even louder until George was ready to explode.
“Enough howling! You sound like a cow giving birth!” George shouted in response. “Well, I guess you don’t leave me much choice.” He inserted a bookmark into his dogeared copy of “To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf, placed it on the side table and pushed himself out of his easy chair.
“Oh, don’t be such an old cluck, George! I have reinforcements.” Martha disappeared into the kitchen and emerged a few minutes later dancing a clumsy version of the bossa nova while rattling a martini shaker over her head.
“Now you’re speaking my language, señorita!” George replied, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. Martha poured them each a drink. George took a sip, savoring the perfectly chilled vodka. No matter what he thought about Martha, she could make a damn good martini. George stoked the logs in the fireplace, enjoying his drink and staring at the flames.
“Are you just going to stand there while I do all the work?” Martha asked, her temper starting to rise.
“I’m getting into the spirit, Martha. Are you going to begrudge me every little pleasure in life?”
Martha drained her glass. “The trouble with you, George, is you’re perpetually petulant!” She struggled with the tongue twister and laughed raucously.
“Shut up, Martha. You’re incredibly less humorous than you think you are” snapped George as he poured himself another martini. Martha suggested George fuck off and went back into the kitchen to prepare another round. Popping an olive into her mouth, she was startled to hear the sound of breaking glass coming from the living room.
“Honestly, George! How can you be so clumsy? We’ll be drinking our martinis out of plastic cups at this rate!”
The un-decorating rapidly deteriorated when Martha realized George hadn’t dropped his glass; it was one of her treasured Swarovski crystal angel ornaments. It landed on the hardwood floor and shattered, the slivers spreading like a crack in thin ice.
“You dumbbell! You wretched, good-for-nothing oaf! I despise you!” Martha shrieked like a wounded animal.
“Oh, stop braying, Martha. It isn’t exactly a Michelangelo, you know!”
Martha picked up George’s beloved book and threw it in the direction of the fireplace. George lunged for it and crashed into the Christmas tree, toppling everything onto the floor. Lights and ornaments smashed under the weight of his body and he cried out as broken glass tore into his skin.
“Oh, God! My ass! My neck! Bloody hell! There’s glass everywhere!” he bellowed.
Martha casually finished her martini and threw her glass into the fireplace, delighting in the tinkling sound and the dancing flames. She looked at George entangled in the tree, shards and splinters of glass strewn about, and she started chuckling. Clutching the martini shaker, Martha chuckled more and more until she tumbled into the easy chair laughing uproariously. She removed the cap and poured what little vodka was left straight into her mouth. Standing unsteadily, she looked around the room.
“What a dump!” she quipped.
“Darling, I’m in a fair amount of pain. I believe I’m going to need a Band-Aid … and another martini. Be a dear and make a fresh batch.”
George started laughing uncontrollably as Martha danced around the room singing “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf, Virginia Woolf, Virginia Woolf? Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf so early in the morning?”
Slurring her words to the song, she fell to her knees in a dizzying fit of drunken hysterics.
Recently I noticed I am unable to comment directly onto some of your blogs. This has never happened before and is only happening on some blogs which makes it even more of a mystery. If I was unable to comment anywhere on WordPress, I’d know the problem was likely something to do with my settings or my computer; that is not the case.
I’ve had multiple conversations with WordPress; I was told in no uncertain terms that the problem cannot be fixed. I find that very hard to believe. The first suggestion WordPress gave me was to clear my browser cache; in all honesty, that’s the first answer they give to every problem.
You are not just my readers; you are my friends. We have a line of communication going; when that line is broken, it’s very frustrating. I can’t see my comments on your pages and I know you can’t see them either. A friend of mine did a little checking for me and he was unable to see any comments by me on some of your sites.
I have a favor to ask: if you have not seen any comments from me on your site in the last week could you please check your settings and see if I ended up in spam? One friend already confirmed that she found me in her spam settings; once she removed me, she was able to see my comments on her page again.
Thanks for doing this and for understanding this snafu. The WP gremlins are at it again! Please post any questions or comments here. Thank you all so much!
As soon as I pressed the “print” button, I got a little thrill. This is the 400th story I’ve written for my site sine I began writing in 2017. That is a great accomplishment for me and I thank each and every one of you for making that possible. I hope you enjoy #400 as you read this latest ink. 😎
“Mr. Bennett, we did everything in our power but the injuries were too extensive. I’m sorry. Your wife did not survive the surgery … the surgery … the surgery … your wife did not survive …”
My eyes flew open and I gasped for air like a drowning man. My fisted hands clutched the disheveled sheets on my bed. I was soaked in sweat, my heart racing. The recurring dream came back last night. Gradually my heartrate slowed down and my fists unclenched. Laying on my back, I stared up at the softly whirring ceiling fan. I closed my eyes for five seconds and the tears started. It never gets better; it never gets easier.
Three years ago my darling Olivia, my life-force, my soulmate, my wife of two ineffably brief weeks died in a ghastly motorcycle accident while on our honeymoon in Barcelona. Frozen in place, I stared at her broken body; my brain told me she was dead but my heart and soul refused to listen.
I remembered the ambulance and police arriving, the excruciatingly long ride to the hospital, the lonely wait in the eerily quiet emergency room and the surgeon’s words … those words that haunted me day after day after day. My wife was dead, my brief marriage erased and my heart crushed. We hadn’t even opened our wedding gifts.
I dragged myself to the shower, trying to wash away the dream. It didn’t work. It was time for me to leave here, escape the memories and the sadness. Our friends stopped calling long ago and there was nothing left for me. My parents were dead; Olivia’s parents wished they were dead instead of her. In this huge world I was utterly alone. It was time for me to go.
A loud thunderclap announced it was not a good day to take out the bike. I’d been sleepwalking for three years and I’d had enough; I needed to do this. For the first time in forever I removed my wedding ring and placed it on the dresser next to my phone and wallet.
“Will the bike start up?” I wondered “Or has it died, too?” I grabbed my helmet and walked to the garage. The bike was plugged in; when did I do that? In one of my rare moments of clarity? I slipped on my gloves, opened the garage door and climbed on my bike. It was pouring and I had no idea where I was going. It didn’t matter; I stopped caring. Now I needed to stop the heartache.
Saying “Hello” is so much sweeter than saying “Goodbye”.
Hello to a new year, new beginnings, new friends and new memories to be made.
Goodbye to 2022; it was not a stellar year for many of us.
Change was in the forefront last year; changing our habits, our attitudes, our priorities is not easy but it is often good and usually necessary. I chose to make some difficult changes; I was indecisive and flip-flopped many times but ultimately got my act together and made the necessary adjustments in my life. I cut ties with a few people which, while being profoundly difficult, proved to be for the best. I will miss those people but I will not allow them to influence my life.
There were losses, especially one that will forever leave a void. That was the passing of a dear old friend, a tremendous shock and extreme sadness for everyone who knew him. Rest easy, Jean-Michel; there is no doubt in my mind that you are singing with the choir of angels.
Health issues were a concern for us again this year. Arthritis has found a nice home for itself in most of my joints; it’s not fun watching yourself slowing down and being unable to do the things that once came so easily. Through our communication, I discovered that many of you are enduring the same pain; it was eye-opening and humbling to hear of the great discomfort you’re experiencing. I’m doing whatever it takes to keep myself from turning into the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. If only WD40 worked on people! I have a fabulous physical therapist who has brought me out of the depths of pain before and is doing so again. Thank God for you and your magic hands, Dr. Wonda!
Good times and serendipitous events occurred as well during 2022. I made a lot of new friends on WordPress, had my work published several times and will be joining forces on an exciting project with one of my new friends who is now a very good friend. I’ve never had a writing ‘partner’ before so this new side venture should be interesting and fun. This is not in place of my website; I won’t stop writing stories and will never abandon my baby, The Elephant’s Trunk!
Over the years I have been blessed more times than I can count so there’s no point dwelling on the negatives and what-ifs. I thank God for my amazing Bill, our beautiful family and incredible in-laws. Truly dear friends are a rare commodity; I’m so very thankful for the few everlasting bonds of friendship that have been formed over the years. We came perilously close to losing a family member as recently as ten days ago. With a multitude of prayers and God guiding the doctor’s hands, she is now on the road to recovery. Marie, we love you and are so grateful to have you back with us. And soon you will get to see Colette again!
And now for you, my dear WordPress friends. Sincere thanks for reading my stories, my labors of love. I appreciate you, all your “likes” and comments, but most of all I delight in our camaraderie. We are a family of writers, poets, artists, cooks, musicians, comedians, deep thinkers and visionaries, all bringing joy and entertainment to others while living our own dreams, whether grand or modest. Thank you for allowing me into your world.
I wish you all a happy, safe, healthy, blessed and fulfilling year ahead. Take good care and be well always. And may all your wishes and dreams come true!