TV OR NOT TV

Just like the bighorn sheep of North America who shed their wool in the summer, I’m about to do a bit of shedding of my own. I’ll be lightening the load, taking out the garbage, so to speak.

Does anyone else think there’s a whole lot of crapola on TV these days? Seriously – what do people watch all damn day long? I have to be sick as a dog in bed to even think of putting the TV on during the day. 

I know some people love to watch their game shows and others are hooked on the news. That’s fine. They can have it! I can’t take more than 30 seconds of that Mike Lindell guy screaming about his freaking awesome pillows or the endless stream of bobble heads on 24/7 news yelling at each other nonstop. They’re literally sitting two feet away from each other; why all the yelling?

And that’s just daytime TV; prime time is even worse, especially if you have to put up with commercials. Why is it everyone on TV ads has “moderate to severe plaque psoriasis” or “suffers from the embarrassment of IBS”?

By now you’ve probably figured out I don’t watch much TV; I’d rather write stories, listen to music or work on my plants than sit in front of the TV while my brain cells shrivel up and die.

Now I’m not talking about ball games or movies; they are the exception to the rule. I enjoy kicking back to a good move and will watch just about any baseball game that happens to be on but in my opinion everything else is garbagio.

I know nothing about Game of Thrones, The Good Doctor or La Brea. And what the hell is the point of Naked and Afraid? Why do the people have to be naked AND afraid? Can’t they just be afraid? I know I am!

I’ve never seen one minute of any reality show such as The Karadashians (gag me with a spoon!) or The Bachelorette (kill me now!). I watched about ten minutes of Jeopardy! with the new host whose name I can’t pronounce … you know, the one who loves to tell anyone who will listen that she has a doctorate in neuroscience. Who gives a rat’s ass? I’d rather watch Naked and Afraid.

Let me give you a rundown of the shows I watch:

  1. Days of Our Lives (which Bill and I record and watch in the evening)
  2. General Hospital (which Bill and I record and watch in the evening)
  3. America’s Got Talent (I like talent shows despite the over-the-top Terry Crews)
  4. Grantchester (a fantastic BBC show)
  5. All Creatures Great and Small (another fantastic BBC show)
  6. Outlander (yet another fantastic show from the UK with lots of men in kilts as a bonus)

NB – Quality shows like 4-6 usually take two years or more between seasons; why it takes that long to film 10 episodes is beyond me but we patiently wait for their return because they are bloody amazing shows. They’re also commercial free; gotta hand it to the Brits!

That’s all folks! Pretty short list, I know.

So, what did I mean about taking out the garbage? After way too many years of watching the mind-numbing Days of Our Lives and General Hospital, I have cut the “soap on a rope”. Why? Because they are stupid, insipid, a huge waste of time and an insult to my intelligence. My 13-year-old granddaughter could write better storylines. And you know what else? I won’t even miss them.

GOOD RIDDANCE!

One thing’s for sure: in the world of soaps very little changes. If I decide to tune in to either of those soaps five or six years from now, Lulu will still be in a coma and somebody in Salem will be possessed … again. Oy! Now that’s just stupid!

NAR © 2022

ODE TO THE MOSQUITO

How can such a little thing
Be so damn annoying?
Flying round my arms and legs
It’s bothersome and cloying.

Who would think that little guy
Could be such a bloody sucker?
When he sticks his fangs in me
I scream “You Motherf*#+er!”

Go away, you vile thing
I’ll swat you with a stick.
You’re not welcome in my home
You nasty little prick!

You get me every time I’m out;
My blood is extra sweet.
Come and get me, little twit!
Tonight I’m packing DEET!

The end. 🦟

NAR © 2022

DON’T BLINK

Lucan then, Lucan now.

We all grow up. We age. It’s inevitable, a fact of life.

Over the past few months I’ve watched all my grandchildren blossom into bigger versions of their mini-selves. They are a beautiful batch, every single one of them.

But this kid, my second oldest grandchild. Lucan, age 11 going on 21. Ah, how I remember those early days with his Norman Rockwell all-American look. A little fuzzy towhead with bright blue eyes and a cute-as-can-be babyface.

Now his eyes are beguiling with crazy long eyelashes. His face is chiseled, full lips. And that pin-straight blonde hair with his own unique style. This kid’s a real looker, a charmer.

I just have one question: when did my grandson turn into Jonathan Rhys Meyers? 😎

JRM

NAR © 2022

SOMEWHERE THERE’S MAGIC

For this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday, we were asked to “find a word that starts with the letter ‘u’ and use it however you’d like.” Someone wrote a piece about the ‘ukulele’ which got me thinking. Here’s my stream of consciousness:

How many people do you know who play the ukulele? Unless you’re from the glorious state of Hawaii, I bet your answer is the same as mine: None. 

Oh, I’ve heard people playing the ukulele. If you’re old enough you’ll remember Arthur Godfrey’s ukulele playing and his signature greeting of “How Ah Ya? How Ah Ya? How Ah Ya?”. And let’s not forget Don Ho’s “Tiny Bubbles”. Hell, even George Harrison mastered the ukulele; he played the instrument for at least 20 Beatles songs; bet you didn’t know that. I have no idea how many ukes George owned but you can be sure it was a lot; he didn’t just like the instrument – he was obsessed with it.

Still, I never gave the ukulele much thought. I had nothing against it; I just never thought about it until one day I heard something so wondrous, so ineffably sweet and touching, I sat mesmerized by the magic coming from the radio. It was only after the song was over that I realized I was crying.

Give a listen, won’t you? Don’t worry if you cry; it’ll be our secret.

NAR © 2022

NB – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole suffered from obesity throughout his life, at one point weight 757 pounds while standing 6’2” tall. He endured several hospitalizations because of his weight. With chronic medical problems including respiratory and cardiac issues, he died at the age of 38 in the Queen’s Medical Center on June 26, 1997, from respiratory failure.

PS – I read recently that some readers outside the US, especially in the UK, cannot view the videos I post. That’s a shame because they are relative to the story and make for some damn good viewing. If you are unable to watch these videos, please drop me a line in the comments section. I think there’s a way around it; how easy it is I have no idea but I want you all to get the full benefit of my stories. Thank you!

SIGHING SIGHS

Story challenge by my friends at NopeNotPam  – Letter of the day: S

SALVATION!! Can you say it along with me, brothers and sisters?

SALVATION AND SATISFACTION!!

Since venturing out on our long-anticipated vacation, I have discovered so much more than the sultry sun, the salty sea, the scrumptious seafood and the sinfully sleek and sensual satin sheets.

I have found salvation from stress, suffering, stiffness, strain, stenosis, sciatica and sleeplessness. And contrary to what our dear Sir Mick sings while strutting sexily on stage in all his sartorial splendor, “I CAN GET SOME SATISFACTION!”

“How?” you inquire suspiciously? Well, at the risk of sounding like a super-store salesperson, it’s all due to the soothing stress-relieving qualities of the Sidney Slider Power Recliner. 

Seriously. I shit you not.

Since we arrived at our secluded, solitary and secret get-away location, I made a startling discovery: I am living a pain-free life for the first time in several years! Yes, I’m de-stressed simply being on sabbatical but I know without a scintilla of doubt my pains have subsided significantly because of this sensational sprawling supersonic seat at our seaside suite. Keep your sardonic comments to yourself; as a self-proclaimed scholar of recliners and a reclining specialist, I know what I’m talking about and speak nothing but the truth, so help me Stickley Furniture World.

How can something so simple as this recliner make me feel like a new woman, a renewed and improved supple design of the feminine species? I have no idea! Someone seriously smarter than me designed a lounger with superb supine capabilities. All I know is something shocking happened, something so spectacular that I am singing its praises while simultaneously shedding tears of shear joy. I am in seventh heaven – so much so that I have placed an order for my very own Sidney Slider Power Recliner (since I cannot bring this one back with me). Sadly, it’s not in stock at the moment BUT in less than two very short weeks it will be on its way to my home. Stupendous!

This is no small thing and I mean that literally. Sidney (we’re already on a first name basis) is a big boy, significantly larger than what I’m accustomed to.  I shall have to find a way to make him fit but make no mistake – this scintillatingly smooth suede stunner will fit! The only question I struggled with was which color I should select – the sensual sable or the shimmering sand?

I’ll have to wait just a scant few days after my return but it will all be worth it. If you could only see the sheepish smile of satisfaction on my face.

Ah, Sidney! How sweet it is” she sighed.

NAR © 2022

 

HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF

For the first time in more than five years, Lydia was beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. After struggling through a failed business venture and the misery of a toxic marriage, she was back on her feet and ready to start over. But first a little R&R was in order.

Lydia’s longtime friend and former business colleague offered her the use of her vacation house in Punta Cana. Having never been to the Dominican Republic, she jumped at the opportunity to get away to a place where she was anonymous; it would be the refuge she needed to relax and reflect on getting her life back.

The house was tiny and secluded – perfect for Lydia. Her plan was to shut out the world and do nothing but eat, sleep and swim in the large pool which took up most of the back yard. With the exception of a tall locked wrought iron gate in the front of the house, the property was totally surrounded by a high, impassable bamboo fence. Lydia felt very safe alone in the house.

After breakfast on her first day, Lydia grabbed a towel, a book and a bottle of water and headed out to the pool. The day was glorious with brilliant sunshine and she sat under a thatched umbrella reading her book. The sound of the water swirling around the pool was too inviting and Lydia could resist no longer. Spying a nearby float, she waded into the pool and gingerly climbed on.

“Ah” Lydia sighed. “I’m never getting off this thing.”

The only sounds were the gentle splashing of the pool’s mini waterfall and an occasional bird calling out to its mate in the dense gardens beyond the house. It was idyllic and Lydia silently blessed her friend for the use of her home.

After about 20 minutes of bliss, Lydia’s reverie was interrupted by the barking of a dog; however, it sounded far enough away for her not to be terribly put off. The barking stopped for a while and Lydia relaxed but it started up again. This time the dog was closer and a little more persistent. “Great” Lydia murmured under her breath. “Just what I need. Maybe he’ll go away and stay away.”

But the dog did not go away and Lydia quickly became impatient and annoyed by the intrusion. “Excuse me” she called out to no one in particular. “Can you please bring your dog inside?” 

No response and the dog kept barking. It got closer and louder and Lydia became increasingly pissed off. “Hola! Please take the dog inside!” she yelled, a little more forcefully.

Again, no response. By now the dog was barking and growling with a vengeance. Lydia was fed up and she lost her cool.

Hey!! Shut your dog the fuck up!” she shouted in the direction of the barking. Soon after Lydia heard a man yelling in the distance: “Perro! Ven aquí!” 

The dog barked once in response, his yelps becoming more and more distant. At last, peace had been restored.

Lydia must have dozed off on the float. Rubbing her tired eyes, she became aware of deep-throated growling sounds on the other side of the fence. The dog was back but this time he wasn’t barking. It was impossible to tell through the thick bamboo but it sounded like he had a bone or a chew toy and was gnawing away. Well, at least he wasn’t barking; she could live with the gnawing.

Lydia was lost in her thoughts for the future, the dog next door forgotten, when she was startled by aggressive scratching and burrowing noises near the fence. She glanced over and noticed the bamboo was shaking. She looked down and froze. Her blood ran cold and the little hairs on her arms stood straight up.

Panic set in as she saw the dog’s nose break through the bottom of the fence. Suddenly a huge, drooling mouth with razor-sharp fangs became visible. In the next second the lupine-like dog crashed through the bamboo barrier, heading straight for the pool. 

Lydia let out a blood-curdling scream and flailed frantically in the water but she couldn’t get out of the pool fast enough. She was no match for the hungry wolf dog. The image of huge teeth and piercing yellow eyes inches from her face was the last thing she saw.

NAR © 2022

ALONE TOGETHER

Listen to the waves as they kiss the shore, the rustle of the beachgrass in the gentle breeze. The golden hues of sunrise pirouette gracefully on the terrace and across the bed. The start of another day, as blissful and serene as the one before it. Summertime.

Is that my heart beating deeply or yours? Both, you say. You caress my shoulders. Hold me in your arms as if it’s our first time, our last time. I feel free. I feel ageless. I feel more cherished than any other woman.

You are my one, my soul, my heart. I watch your profile as you gaze out the window, peaceful and content. My fingers curl through the hair on your chest, now grey. That does not matter. Only we matter.

How long have we been alone together? A thousand summertimes, you say. How long will we be alone together? For a thousand more, I reply.

You pull me closer, eyes dancing in the morning light. Let the world go on without us. We are here where we belong – alone together. 

NAR © 2022

SCREAMING IN THE NIGHT

In January, 2021 I wrote a story with an unresolved ending called “On the Way”. It was one of several which I recorded and submitted to the BBC Radio show called Upload. When my story was broadcast on the air, the program host William Wright commented that he hoped some day I would write a follow-up. That comment stayed with me and fourteen months later I decided to do just that. That story was called “When the Fog Rolls In.” Recently I thought it would be interesting to combine the two stories by creating a new beginning and ending and tweaking sections within the body of the stories. Since then, I had the opportunity to enter a fiction writing contest; the call was for a 1,000 – 3,000 word mystery story. I decided to submit my reconstructed story. The word counter on my Microsoft Office page said the story was 2,654 words – not too shabby. I don’t enter many contests but every time I do I’m shocked by the number of writers who also submit stories. My stuff better be damn good if it stands a chance of winning against 400+ entries. Well, my story did not win but that’s okay; I tried my best and had fun creating this compilation. I am not deterred. The winning story was a masterpiece and deserved to come in 1st place so kudos to the author. Here is my story; I hope you enjoy ‘Screaming in the Night’.

I can see it now! I can see it! Got to get it!!”

David Stapleton screamed in his sleep. He flailed about on his bed, entangled in a mass of sweaty sheets and blankets. David slowly started to come out of his stupor, stuck in a surreal and frightening dimension between sleep and wakefulness. His eyelids felt stuck together and his mouth was parched. His body was stiff and leaden, his breathing heavy, his heart beating rapidly. David wasn’t sure of his surroundings; was this real or was he reliving his worst nightmare?

Gradually David became more aware. Yes, it was as he feared – the uncontrollable, unstoppable dream, his nightly companion. He sat up in bed and reached for a cigarette. Flipping open his old, beat up lighter, he lit a Marlboro and inhaled deeply. He sat in silence, smoking and thinking, his thoughts spinning like a Vegas roulette wheel. Each night he crawled into bed exhausted, desperately in need of sleep yet terrified that the dream would come again.

David glanced at his alarm clock; 4:17 AM – ridiculously early but he knew he would not be falling back to sleep. He slipped on his sweatpants and shuffled into the kitchen to make coffee. While the coffee brewed, David stared into the oh so familiar fog. He lit another cigarette and thought about that night four years ago.

Four Years Earlier:

David drove home that dark and foggy night barely able to see the road ahead of him. An electrical storm that evening wreaked havoc with the streetlights on Route 718 causing them to flash at indiscriminate intervals. Even though his was the only car on the dimly lit road, the strobe effect from the lights was haphazard and dangerously distracting. There were shadows looming everywhere; David never saw the cyclist cross his path.

The impact was powerful yet made only a quiet thud like the subtle reload of a gun’s magazine. The visual impression, however, was appalling. The tableau switched to slow motion; David watched in horror as a mangled body performed a ‘danse macabre’ across the hood of his car while musical passages from “O Fortuna” screamed in his head. The cyclist soared through the air like an acrobat and landed in a twisted heap 20 feet or so away.

David sat motionless in his car; no other living creature was anywhere in sight. “What to do? What to do?” raced through his mind. He’d never had a car accident, not even a parking ticket. Now he had run someone down – an innocent cyclist. Was it a man or a woman? Surely this person would be missed by family and friends, perhaps his or her parents or – God forbid – their children. What a terrible fate, a horrible accident. Yes, David had a few drinks after work, just a few; the alcohol had to be out of his system by now. But wait; the cyclist wore no reflective clothing, not even a warning light on the bike’s handlebars or wheels. Out cycling in the night, alone; wasn’t that tempting fate? Maybe they got what they deserved.

Slowly David opened the door and looked around; the deafening silence was pounding in his brain, the absence of people other-worldly. With measured steps he approached the crumpled body. A gentle push of his booted foot confirmed what he already suspected: the cyclist was dead. A battered helmet sat near the edge of the road; the bright orange and black ‘KTM’ emblem of the bicycle manufacturer in Austria stared at David accusingly. The longer he looked at the emblem the more he realized he had two choices: he could report the accident to the police and face the consequences or he could clean up this mess and get on with his life.

As he walked back to his car David knew what he had to do. A look at the front end showed very little damage, a small inconvenience he could deal with later. More pressing matters prevailed; first he had to extricate the bicycle from under his car. David sat in the driver’s seat, shifted the car into reverse and gently backed up. After a couple of seconds he could feel the car and the bicycle disengage.

The bike was a wreck but there wasn’t much debris on the road. Retrieving his leather jacket, David wrapped it around the top tube bar of the bike and carried it back to the dead cyclist. Taking a few steps away from the road he realized it would be easy to throw the bike over the edge, making it look like the cyclist had swerved off the road – if the body was ever found at all. He gave the bike a hefty toss and it disappeared into the woods below. With his foot David then rolled the cyclist’s body and helmet down the hill.

David walked back to his car and broke off a low hanging branch from a tree which he used to sweep the road clear of any pieces of glass or metal. Getting back into the car, he turned on the radio and cranked up the volume; his adrenaline was pumping.

Ok” David murmured to himself. “It’s all gonna be ok. Just one last thing. Got to take care of that little dent in the hood of my car.” David kept driving until he reached a busy gas station. As he drove up to a pump, he intentionally smashed into a metal barrier; witnesses could attest to the fender bender.

David’s decision to flee the scene was fueled by fear and self-preservation. Now as he drove home he felt much more relaxed and confident. He reached for his jacket but it wasn’t there. His face went pale and he broke out in a cold sweat. Closing his eyes he could clearly see his jacket wrapped around the bicycle, his phone still in the pocket, as it made its final descent into the woods.

Four Years Later:

Tom Delaney sat alone at his favorite bar sipping his third bourbon. Life had quickly gone down the shitter a few months ago when he bet big time on a “sure thing” that didn’t pan out. That was one of Tom’s biggest faults; he was always looking for the quick fix, the money angle, whether legit or not. Now here he was, a 38-year-old washed up ex PI with a huge chip on his shoulder, a failed marriage and no money.

When the bartender announced closing time, Tom begrudgingly slid off his stool and made his way to his car. He took Route 718 toward his parent’s cabin which they left to him in their will. With no other known relatives, Tom was totally alone trying to get his life back on track. So far he wasn’t having much luck.

The weather was changing and when the fog rolls in, driving on 718 gets hairy.

He wasn’t on the road very long when he found himself in pea soup conditions. Suddenly a deer appeared out of nowhere and Tom swerved, coming to a screeching stop. After a brief standoff, the deer gracefully bounded down the steep edge and disappeared into the thick woods.

Shaken, Tom settled himself in his car. The glow of the headlights picked up the reflection a shiny object in the thicket below. Being a curious type, Tom drove his car closer to the edge and grabbed a flashlight from the backseat. Gingerly he made his way down the side of the bluff landing on a heavily overgrown outcropping about 15 feet below. He walked around for a few minutes before his foot came in contact with an unknown object; whatever it was rolled a couple of feet away. Tom walked over and crouched down for a better look; the item turned out to be a battered helmet with the weather-beaten orange and black ‘KTM’ emblem of a bicycle manufacturer.

Disappointed that his find wasn’t something valuable, Tom stood up to leave. He took a few steps and heard a strange ‘crunch’ under his Doc Martens. Shining his flashlight on his boot, Tom couldn’t believe what was buried under the leaves and debris.

“Holy shit! A human skeleton!” Tom immediately remembered the helmet. “Poor guy must have ridden his bicycle off the road. Wonder where the bike is?” Tom panned the area with his flashlight. He was about to give up when something caught his eye. “Well, well, what have we here?” Tom moved some leaves out of the way and discovered a fanny pack which he took, clipping it onto a loop on his jeans. Maybe he’d get lucky and find some money in the bag.

Deciding to investigate a little more, Tom eventually came across the bicycle caught up in a large bush. It was a mangled mess, certainly of no value to him; nearby was a moldy leather jacket. Tom snagged the jacket and went through the pockets; nothing. Noticing a zippered inner compartment, he found an iPhone inside. Slipping the phone into his rear pocket, Tom slowly pulled himself up the cliff to his car and drove off. He left the scene with that uneasy, suspicious feeling he’d get while working on a case. Old habits die hard.

Once home, Tom reached into his rear pocket and retrieved the phone he found in the leather jacket. He emptied the contents of the fanny pack onto the kitchen counter: assorted crap, a wallet and an iPhone. “Hmm. Two phones. Why would one person need two iPhones? Maybe two people were there that night. What the hell happened? Was this the scene of an accident or a crime?” Tom’s PI sixth sense was working overtime now.

Both phones were wet. Drying them off, Tom placed the phones and SIM cards into two separate Ziploc bags filled with silica gel packets he had stockpiled. They’d have to dry out a day or two. Next he went through the wallet: $47 which he immediately pocketed, an expired debit card and a driver’s license. The license was issued to Joseph Barnes, 312 Ogden Terrace, Sparta, NJ. – a 90-minute drive from Tom’s cabin.

Tom broke out his own iPhone and Googled ‘Joseph Barnes, Sparta, NJ’; it took a little while as he scrolled down then BINGO! There it was – a missing person flyer dated January 2018. Last known location was Bethlehem, PA – a few miles from the cabin. There was a phone number to call. A picture of Joseph Barnes on a bike holding a KTM helmet smiled at Tom; the same face was on the driver’s license.

While the phones dried out, Tom spent most of the following day at Wind Creek Casino in Bethlehem playing the penny slots with Joseph Barnes’ $47. He was on a roll and left the casino with $100 in his pocket. Tom couldn’t wait any longer and anxiously drove home to see if he could get the iPhones up and running.

He took the phones out of the bags, inserted the SIM cards and turned them on; both phones started up. To Tom’s amazement, neither phone needed a passcode. Checking ‘Settings’ on both phones, he found what he suspected all along: one phone belonged to Joseph Barnes and the other belonged to someone named David Stapleton from Allentown, PA.

David, David, David. Why were you on Route 718 that night and what did you do to Joseph Barnes?” he thought. Tom realized that after four years David Stapleton could be anywhere with a different identity, job and phone number but there was only one way to find out. After his win at the casino, he was feeling lucky. This could be the big break he was waiting for.

Slipping the two phones into his pockets, Tom drove to his favorite bar. On the corner was an old phone booth with a pay telephone – the untraceable kind. Tom opened David’s iPhone; there were two different phone numbers for him. Tom hesitated for a minute thinking about his days as a PI.

Instinct took over, suggesting he ignore the first number on David’s phone and go for the second one. Tom reasoned that the first number was likely David’s cell number; there was a chance the second number was for a business or a house for David – anything that might provide a clue. It was worth a shot. After all, Tom wasn’t looking to talk to David just yet; all he wanted was a lead.

Tom dropped two quarters into the public phone slot and dialed the second number on David’s cell. The call was answered on the third ring. “Hi. This is David at Stapleton Plumbing and Heating in Allentown. We’re closed now but will reopen at 8 AM. Please call back then.”

Pay dirt! Tom Delaney may be down but he wasn’t out! He’d head back to the cabin and Google Stapleton Plumbing and Heating for an address. But first a little celebration – some pleasant company at the bar with his old friend Jim Beam.

Sipping his drink, Tom could practically smell the shakedown money he’d be raking in. As he drove home from the bar, the ubiquitous late-night fog rolled in. Tom was momentarily blinded by a pair of oncoming headlights and swerved right to avoid a collision. He turned the steering wheel sharply and his car plowed through bushes, bounced off trees, rolled over itself down the steep hill and crash-landed upside down in a ravine at the bottom of the cliff before it burst into flames.

Poor Tom. Just when things were starting to look up. Karma’s a bitch.

A few hours later David Stapleton once again found himself in the clutches of his bedtime companion – the ever-present nightmare. He woke up drenched in sweat and bolted straight out of bed, his heart racing. He felt nauseous and dizzy. Staggering into the bathroom, he grasped the edge of the sink staring at his sweat-soaked face in the mirror.

How could you have been so callous leaving that cyclist? How have you been living with yourself the past four years?” This wasn’t living, he realized, knowing every day would end with the same hellish nightmare.

David stood in the bathroom and closed his eyes; he could clearly see his leather jacket wrapped around the bicycle he threw over the cliff four years ago, his phone still in the pocket, as it made its final descent into the woods – the same dream that left him screaming in the night, every night, for the past four years. “I can see it now!” he sobbed. “I can see it.”

Overcome with fear, exhaustion and remorse, David walked out the back door of his apartment above the plumbing business. Barefoot and shirtless, he was unfazed by the cold and dense fog rolling in. Blindly he went down the damp rickety steps and walked deeper in the woods behind his apartment – unseeing, uncaring.

Suddenly David felt a searing pain in his chest. Gasping for air, he clutched his arm and fell to his knees, rolling down the wet, moss-covered precipice in the woods. Ten seconds later, David Stapleton was sprawled out in the shrouded morass 30 feet below, dead from a massive heart attack.

Was it a heart attack that killed David Stapleton or overwhelming guilt? No one will ever know for sure. David never knew that with Tom’s death he was completely in the clear of any crime; the only evidence – the phone that tied him to that horrible accident – was now in the jacket pocket of Tom Delaney’s incinerated body.

Tom and David – both dead on the same night a few miles apart – one hunting and the other haunted.

Oh, the irony.

NAR © 2022

THE SHELLS

The poem below is the second one I wrote for the book “Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women”. There were many submissions for the book, which became a #1 bestseller on Amazon in just one day; I consider myself very fortunate to have been among those selected to appear in this important and timely anthology of the challenges and adversities women face and how they overcome them. I hope you enjoy my poem “The Shells”.


Shells scattered along the shore

Some glittering in the golden sunlight

Lapis lazuli kisses of blue and green upon the water

So wondrous in their radiant beauty

Delicate as the blossoms of a dewy lilac tree

Day and night the waves wash over the shells

Yet they retain their brilliant resilience 

Trodden upon by eyes bewitched by shooting stars

In the blackness of the night

Some are picked up and tossed into the sea

Only to return upon the next wave

Those trampled into the sand do not sink

They are not swallowed up by the sea 

Nor do they disappear

For as fragile and tenuous as they may appear

They stand the eternal test of time

Ever rising as an Easter Morn

For they are the She Shells

They are women

NAR © 2022

BLINDSIDED

This story was recently published on The Writers Club. I would like to thank them for showcasing my work which was originally published on WordPress on September 17, 2017. Thank you!

Hard to imagine life without her. When the hell did everything start to unravel?

Now he sat alone in the shell of their apartment, baseball game on the tv playing for no one, nursing his second Dewars. Once upon a time this place was alive with people enjoying one of their famous dinner parties. When he closed his eyes he could hear their friends discussing politics, movies, the crazy tenants on the 2nd  floor … and the sound of her spirited laugh when someone told a dirty joke. 

They were the perfect couple, the envy of all their friends. Theirs was an easy, comfortable marriage – viewing a gallery in SoHo, cycling through Central Park, steamy showers after Saturday morning love-making. They were in sync in their choices of restaurants, paint colors and the biggest decision of all … neither one wanted kids. 

He sat there, head in hands while a thousand thoughts went through his mind. When did he begin having second thoughts? Was it the weekend in Maine spent visiting his sister after the birth of her first baby? Was it watching the kids in the playground across the street? All he could remember was the night he whispered in her ear that he wanted to have a baby. 

She was blindsided. What? No! He was just named partner at Goldman Sachs. She was food editor for Connoisseur magazine. Life is perfect. They had an agreement, dammit! Would she just consider thinking about it? No! How could he spring this on her now? 

Weeks, months went by. She remained adamant, distant. Then one day he came home after work and she was gone. 

Here he sat, alone with his Dewars, ballgame long over, fingering his wedding band, staring at divorce papers. 

It couldn’t have happened to a more perfect couple.

NAR © 2022

IT’S ABOUT TIME!

After four long years of difficult times, including two heartbreaking family deaths, a couple of surgeries, a multitude of hellacious aches and pains, the loss of a few family pets and – oh yeah – a pandemic, we are finally going on vacation!

V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N in the Summertime!

I know, cry me a river, right! This has not been a happy time for any of us; however, you know that saying “I feel your pain!”? Well, we sorta do but your pain is your pain and my pain is my pain so let’s not get all prickly about this.

Oh, it hasn’t been all bad: during that time we welcomed a new granddaughter. I have no right to brag; after all, I didn’t make her – God did – and what a work of art she is. She can truly take the worst day and turn it into Christmas!

So, in the blink of an eye my mister and I will be heading out of town to relax, recoup, refresh and recharge. Oh, it’s nothing extravagant; just a little time by the sea (which sea, I am not saying!)

But being a creature of habit, I shall pop in from time to time; I need to see what’s going on, to check in with YOU and to write, of course.

Hasta la vista, baby! You won’t even know I’m gone!

NAR © 2022

THERE’S A VIEW

Response to Sadje’s picture prompt on What do you see #144 July 25, 2022

There’s a view outside my window
Which changes every day
The sun was shining bright, my love,
The day you came my way

There’s a view outside my window
Which changes every night
The moon is high or sometimes low
And tonight it’s very bright

There’s a view outside my window
With water smooth as glass
No need for fear of naught, my love,
As we lie upon the grass

There’s a view outside my window
With water smooth as glass
Is that a bridge to walk across
A deathly dark morass?

There’s a view outside my window
And I know not what it means
It’s rightside-up and upside-down
It is not quite what it seems

There’s a view outside my window
I watch it every day
The moon was burning bright, my love,
The night you went away

There’s a view outside my window
It’s lovely, don’t you think?
If I step upon the glassy water
Will I float or will I sink?

There’s a view outside my window
But I shall watch no more
My love, you are not coming back
Of that I am most sure

There’s a view outside my window
It’s very lonely, don’t you think?
I shall walk outside and take a seat
Close to the water’s brink

There’s a view outside my window
Please don’t gaze for very long
For you will soon discover
My love and I both gone

NAR © 2022

THE MAESTRO

Here is another Six “Sentence” Story challenge/invitation from my friends at GirlieOnTheEdge, the prompt word being BOOKMARK. In the (alleged) words of William Faulkner: “Punctuation be damned!” 😎

My cousin Nina and I went to Italy during the late 80s, stopping in various cities along the way including the ever-glorious Florence, famous for her art museums, precious gold markets and some of the best leather products in the world – the perfect place for two 30-something savvy American women to leisurely stroll – and it was where I fell in love with a beautifully aged and well-preserved leather bookmark engraved with the image of La Scala Opera House in Milan with the name in script below the image – soft as butter to the touch and a lovely fawn color, it immediately became my favorite accessory which I slipped into my purse after bargaining with the vendor for a ridiculously low price leaving him muttering something about “irresistible American women” and he smiled devilishly at me remarking that he could never resist a woman with eyes as green as the Mediterranean.

Nestled between the many gold and leather stores was a tiny book shop which beckoned to me and I found myself in a cramped yet delightfully appointed treasure trove overflowing with tomes of every sort, including a volume which drew me in like the proverbial moth to a flame: Grandissimo Pavarotti ­– A Celebration of the Career of the World’s Greatest Tenor on the Silver Anniversary of his Debut; as a musician and huge fan of The Maestro, I knew I had to own this jewel of a picture book and I held it in my trembling hands, opening the front cover only to discover to my amazement that it was a signed copy, one of a limited number of editions, forcing me to quickly snap the cover closed but not before sneaking another peek to make sure I hadn’t imagined seeing what was clearly there in black and white – the honest-to-goodness signature of the greatest tenor ever – which then made me glance at the price while holding my breath; there was obviously a mistake as the cost of this gem was insanely low for a first edition signed copy of anything let alone a gorgeous photo album of the magnificent Pavarotti.

Acting as nonchalant as possible for someone about to pee her panties, I gracefully waltzed up to the register, handing my selection to the young male clerk who gazed into my sea-green eyes and scanned the label without so much as a second thought; I said a silent prayer to The Creator for gracing me with such apparently mesmerizing eyes, purred a “Mille grazie” to the love-struck cashier and left the store while cradling the book in my arms like a newborn baby, not even daring to show Nina my impressive find until we were safely back in our hotel room which I insisted we return to immediately, acting more like a secret agent than even I realized, praying no one in the area noticed while being extra-careful not to look directly at anyone with my dangerously alluring occhi il colore dell’acqua del Mediterraneo.

Upon our return to the hotel, I lovingly wrapped my precious new purchases in layers of tissue paper and placed them between newly-bought scarves made of silk from Como (gifts for my mother and sister); Nina laughed at the care I took in packing, exclaiming they were just paper and leather, not the Hope Diamond, to which I explained that to me they were as fine as any jewel and she wouldn’t understand because she did not possess the heart of a musician which didn’t seem to faze her at all; however, I was very content knowing my goods were safely locked away in my suitcase and would remain there until we were back home in The States.

We were met at JFK airport by our family members who smothered us with Italian hugs and kisses, loudly thanking God for our safe flight and equally loudly admiring our tans and new Florentine gold necklaces; I’m sure the women were wondering if we had jewelry in our luggage for them – which we did – but I knew I had something even more valuable, at least to me, and I couldn’t wait to display my new book on my coffee table at home (of course, the bookmark would travel with me always in whichever book I was reading but The Maestro would remain at home, center stage, for friends to gaze upon in awe).

Now settled into my usual routine, I returned to my job in Manhattan via the Metro North train from my apartment in New Rochelle; it was a pleasant ride and I had a book with me and, of course, my beloved bookmark which was standing guard in this week’s book of choice – Agatha Christie’s “Appointment with Death”– mysteries being one of my favorite genres; however, it was an unhappy and puzzling realization when I returned home from work one day to discover my book and treasured La Scala bookmark were nowhere to be found and I had no idea what happened to them or where I last saw them (having gotten distracted by a lengthy conversation with a friend preventing me from enjoying my daily read the entire train ride); I repeatedly emptied my purse praying they would turn up but they did not so I sat at the piano to calm myself when suddenly the phone rang and an unfamiliar female voice asked for me, saying she found my book and bookmark on the Metro North (thank heavens for taping that label on the inside cover of the book with my name and phone number); fortunately the woman who found my priceless belongings lived nearby and delivered them to me that very night, and by the sparkle in her eyes I believed she knew in her soul that my beloved bookmark held a place not only in my book but in my heart as well.

NAR © 2022

TWILIGHT TIME

Incorporating the word “astounding”, this was written for  # Eugi’s Weekly Prompt July 19, 2022

Coffee mug in hand, I leaned over the railing of my little vacation rental staring out at the Great Barrier Reef. Recently divorced and childless, I was now truly alone for the first time in a dozen years.

Glorious sunrise, isn’t it?” a smooth Australian baritone voice remarked. I turned my head to see a ruggedly handsome man with unruly blonde hair in jeans and a sweater.

We exchanged smiles and appreciative glances. I replied that it was indeed glorious. 

He lingered for a moment or two, then declared “Well, I’m off. Snapper and mash for brekkie.” He walked a few steps and turned. “I wonder, do you like Semillon Sauvignon Blanc? “

I sipped my coffee thoughtfully and said “I haven’t had the pleasure but I do enjoy a good chilled white wine.”

“Meet me right here tonight; if you think this is a thing of beauty, you should see the sunsets. They’re astounding.” And he walked off, the clop of his boots on the deck the only sound.

He was right about the wine and the sunset. That was the last night I would ever be alone again.

NAR © 2022

SANDCASTLES

The challenge for this day was to write a story of exactly 100 words about a destroyed friendship, something we all have experienced.

What makes a solid friendship come crashing down like a sandcastle, a friendship we think will test the tides of time and prevail? 

She lost a friend last night. Her friend did not die but their precious relationship did. The vitriolic words from her friend’s mouth were like a slow-burning poison in her gut. Never had she been so verbally (and needlessly) attacked. It was shocking; she will never speak with her friend again. Can anger of such magnitude reveal a person’s true colors?

What a selfish way to act. What an awful way for a friendship to die.

NAR © 2022

FISH AND CHIPS

As I was leaving my favorite fish and chips place, I bumped into an old friend. I waited for him to get his food and we sat outside eating and catching up. He was doing well but had recently stopped seeing a woman he enjoyed spending time with – one of those ‘friends with benefits’ things. I’m not one to judge; I’ve had many of those myself. Easy come, easy go. 

Tom, the worst mistake we make in these relationships is getting too attached. There’s no point beating ourselves up over the breaks” I told my friend, popping a chip into my mouth.

Funny thing is, Brian, I didn’t break it off; she did.”

“How’d ya feel about that?” I asked him.

“You know, mate, I didn’t believe she’d do it” Tom replied somewhat wistfully. “She’d broken things off before but we always got back together. We were drawn to each other like magnets. She was special – different, older, sexy as hell. She was a one off, Bri, not someone you easily forget.”

“What then?” I questioned.

She had some ‘issues’ that were pressing on her greatly. She needed to deal with them, straighten out her life, so she made the break. And this time she meant it. You know, mate, it’s silly but I miss her and I keep expecting to hear from her.”

“She misses you too, Tom.”

“Yeah, and how would you know that, Brian?” Tom asked suspiciously, surprise and curiosity peeking through his hooded eyes.

Because I know who she is. It’s Sophie. She works with my sister Nan and she’s been over the house a few times. I heard them talking” I answered my friend.

“Did ya now? Brian, tell me what you heard.”

“You sure, Tom?” I asked and he nodded in assent.

Sophie told Nan she thought she’d be able to have an ongoing casual relationship with you but it got intense, it got real. She said she couldn’t handle the pressure of your relationship any longer.”

Tom sat there toying with his food, lost in thought.

“Listen, mate.” I interrupted Tom’s reverie. “Sophie told Nan something else.”

Tom glanced up at me as if he just realized I was there. “And what might that be, Brian?”

“Sophie said hooking up with you was easy. Letting you go was torture. But they were two of the best decisions she ever made. She said she’d never forget you.”

Tom managed a half smile and we ate our food in silence.

“Good fish and chips, eh mate?” I said after a few minutes.

“Yeah. That they are, Bri”  Tom replied.

We finished our meal talking about our plans for the weekend, gave each other a bro hug and went our separate ways. When I looked back, Tom was having a good laugh with our friend Ian. 

Easy come, easy go.

NAR © 2022

CHARLOTTE THE HARLOT

Time now for another installment of “Six Sentence Stories” as challenged by my friends at GirlieOnTheEdge. Punctuation be damned! This week’s prompt word is EXCHANGE’.

When my boyfriend Keith sent me a surprise gift of a pair of metallic orange pleather boots with stiletto heels, I was somewhat taken aback; after six years of dating, Keith should have known I hated the color orange and thought anything made out of that cheesy fake leather was the height of tacky – what was he thinking?!

A couple of hours before the package arrived, Keith left me a voicemail that was gushing with delight and enthusiasm, positive I would be thrilled with his gift; in fact, his excitement was so contagious I was sure I would love whatever he sent me but nothing could have been further from the truth.

I don’t know what goes on in Keith’s mind sometimes and why he thought I would like the boots but they were hideous and I knew I would never wear them but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings so I made up a little white lie by saying as much as I loved them, they didn’t fit and I would have to exchange them for something else; Keith took it well and was not upset by my decision so off I went to the boutique – after all, it’s not like I hadn’t exchanged plenty of gifts from Keith.

I explained to the saleswoman that the boots were a gift and not really my style and I’d like to see what I could get as a replacement; she was totally understanding, agreeing that this particular fashion statement was not for everyone, and encouraged me to take a look around for something that caught my eye and didn’t scream “42nd Street Hooker!”

Just a few minutes after I started browsing around the store, the saleswoman called me to the front desk to inform me that I could not return the boots because they had been purchased on sale and had a no return or exchange policy; needless to say I was bummed out because I was looking forward to getting a nice pair of black suede boots or maybe a new leather jacket but that wasn’t the only thing that burned my cookies.

Inside the gift box hidden under all the tissue paper was a little envelope with a card inside which I hadn’t noticed before and was obviously not meant for me because it read: For My Steaming Hot Charlotte (NOT MY NAME!) – Can’t wait to see you dance for me wearing nothing but these orange beauties – Love Ya Baby, Your Big Bad Keith; but what really made my blood boil was thinking that ‘Charlotte the Harlot’ was probably “oohing and aahing” right this minute over a gorgeous pair of black suede boots meant for me as a gift from Keith – that no good two-timing weasel!

NAR © 2022

Zombies in Love / request to writers

What an intriguing challenge! Anyone game? 🧟‍♀️ 🧟‍♂️

The Plein Air Experience

Acrylic mono prints

I’d like to offer this for a writing prompt to any blogger that would have fun with it. You could be the first to make up a love story for zombies, a whole new genre! I mean, everyone knows how a vampire romance goes, she gets bit. You’ve heard of ghosts in love with a live person, witches in love with the devil, ogres in love, E.T.s in love with humans. Anyone can fall in love but I never heard a story about zombies in love. Did you?

You could take the story in any crazy way you want to. specifically, I’d like to know, how did they become zombies? Did they know each other before or did they just stumble into each other on Broad St.? Are they just friends or friends with benefits? If so how is that going for them? Do they have any…

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SAVILE ROW

James Savile, Perv

And now for something completely different.

It’s limerick time, as inspired/challenged by my friends at Nope, Not Pam at Camp NaNoWriMo. Just a little bit of fun on a steamy July morning.

There once was a fellow named James
Whose pockets were full of loose change
He’d buy lots of toys
For good girls and boys
Until a jail cell the judge did arrange

NAR © 2022

NAUGHTY AND NICE

In response to an invitation by NopeNotPam’s fun ‘Letter of the Week’ challenge, here’s a little something I wrote for the letter N.

Nora was a new resident in the quaint town of Nanuet. It had always been a dream of hers to own her own business and she never gave up. It wasn’t as easy as she thought and some of those dreams turned into nightmares. Then she met a guy named Nick, a well-to-do neonatologist while at a New Year’s Eve party and they bonded over the chicken nuggets and salad nicoise. Nick was one of the nice ones, a real gentleman, and Nora wasn’t nervous around him at all.

Nick and Nora exchanged numbers and he called her the next night. Nick tried to act nonchalant but nothing could settle his nerves. He really liked Nora and hoped he sounded normal over the phone and not like a numbskull. He’d found a little Northern Italian restaurant in the near-by town of New City and he became a regular customer, dining there nearly every night. Nick hoped Nora would accept his invitation to dinner at Nonna Nina’s Ristorante.

Not only did Nora accept Nick’s invitation, Nonna Nina’s became her favorite restaurant, too – bar none. Notorious for having a sweet tooth, two of Nora’s guilty pleasures were the sinfully creamy Nocciolo Napoleons and the Nutty Nutella Crepes. One night, while sharing a plate of traditional Neapolitan noodles, Nora absentmindedly said “Wouldn’t it be nice to get married at Nonna Nina’s?”

Nick’s eyes grew as big as nickel-plated saucers and Nora’s nose turned neon red – something that always happened when she was embarrassed. Nearly falling off his chair, Nick quickly returned to normal and said “Nora, my love, are you really saying what I think you’re saying. Do you want to get married?”

Nora nodded slowly. In no time, Nick was down on one knee and took Nora’s hand in his. “My darling, do me the honor of becoming Mrs. Nick Noletti. Marry me!” Overcome with joy, Nora replied “Oh yes, Nick” and started crying tears of happiness. She reached for a napkin and blew her nose noisily. She and Nick embraced while Nonna Nina, her husband Nonno Nino and all the neighboring diner’s applauded and raised a glass to the happy couple.

Nick and Nora celebrated their nuptials on the ninth of November in the Nirvana Chapel in Nanuet. Nick was dressed to the nines in his new tuxedo and Nora, not one for poofy, froo-froo dresses, wore an enchanting negligee style evening gown and carried a bouquet of narcissus, nasturtiums and nolanas. Her long nutmeg-colored hair was loosely tied at the nape of her neck with a tulle ribbon and she wore a simple string of pearls around her neck. The newlyweds honeymooned for nine days in Norway where Nora had numerous nieces and nephews. They shared all their hopes and dreams; that was when Nora told Nick about her great ambition to open her own business: a high-end nail salon.

Since Nick had deep pockets and he adored Nora, he was determined to make all her dreams come true. The couple purchased a little shop in New City which they renovated into a luxurious nail salon offering everything from soup to nuts. Nora was a Nervous Nelly on opening day but Nick assured her she’d be a success and the shop, which she named Nora’s Nail Nook, would thrive. As an incentive to draw new customers, Nora offered everyone who came into the shop a first-time free manicure.

At first business was nonstop; by the second week, Nora noticed a marked slowdown. Over a cup of Nespresso one day she asked Nick’s head nurse Nancy what she thought was causing the decline in business. Nancy immediately responded “Nora, haven’t you heard of Naughty Nails by Nat?” referring to another nail salon down the street. Nurse Nancy continued: “All the girls at Naughty Nails are nubile nymphs working in the nude! Every neanderthal in the neighborhood hoping for a little nookie with his pedi goes to Naughty Nails.”

Nora was nonplussed. “How can the Nail Nook possibly go up against a nude nail salon?” she wailed. Nora relayed the story about Naughty Nails to Nick who said “Don’t worry, my precious nightingale. I have a novel idea.”

The next day there was a bright neon sign in the window of the Nail Nook. It read:


“WELCOME TO THE NAIL NOOK WHERE WE WON’T NICKEL AND DIME YOU.
NINE MANI/PEDIS, GET ONE FREE! ALL MEN ACCOMPANYING THEIR LADIES
WILL RECEIVE FREE PEDICURES. FOR EVERY NEW CLIENT YOU REFER,
YOU WILL BE REWARDED WITH A FREE SPA PEDICURE!
COME ON IN AND TAKE A LOOK.
WE KNOW YOU’LL BE HAPPY AT THE NEW NAIL NOOK!”

The next morning Nora and Nick were thrilled to see a line of people waiting to get into the shop. Of course, Nat from Naughty Nails was not happy; he huffed and puffed and screamed like a nutcase but there was nothing he could do about it. Everything offered by the Nail Nook was totally above board. Nat neighed loudly like a wild horse and galloped away. Nick yelled after him “Tough noogies, numb-nuts!”

Nick and Nora had the last laugh and lived happily ever after in their little love nest in Nanuet. The end.

NAR © 2022

LIFE LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF BASEBALL

The family watching the NY Boulders in Pamona, NY 7/3/2022

Thank God for the United States of America! I love my country and even though I may not always agree with whoever happens to be in office at any particular time, it’s still the greatest country in the world.

But as much as I love the good old USA, it can’t compare to the love I have for my family. You already know Colette; here are my other grands – Mckenna, Lucan and Wyatt, with my son Bill and daughter-in-law Dawn. Along with 2 cats named Lemon & Lime and Lady, a St. Bernard, they are the epitome of the all-American hard-working, churchgoing, well-adjusted, happy and loving family. We’re blessed to live only 15 minutes away but still don’t see them nearly enough. They’re young and busy; we’re old and tired! There’s no keeping up with this crew!

Let’s start with 13-year-old Mckenna, my blue-haired prolific author and voracious reader. It’s been my honor to feature her here on my site as a guest writer; please check out her work. Mckenna is your typical teenager with a zillion friends running from one activity to another. She was a Girl Scout and heavily involved in taekwondo. She has taken lessons in cello, clarinet and saxophone, does fencing, swimming, dramatics, sports and is a big WWE fan. I’m proud to say she’s also on the honor roll. Besides being beautiful and funny, she’s adventurous, bold, daring and quite dramatic. She’s a really good “kid” and will be successful in anything she chooses to do.

Lucan. What can I say about Lucan? He’s our joke-telling, Pokemon-collecting, dinosaur-loving 11-year-old gamer with a shock of blonde hair and big blue eyes that can (and have) gotten him out of a few scrapes. That said, he’s also the class clown and will most likely be the first one to come home from school with a black eye (and I mean that in the most loving and lighthearted way possible). He’s the one who decided years ago he wanted a buzz-cut on one side of his head and long hair on the other – and the look suits him perfectly. Luc could be a model and I see him in that iconic Norman Rockwell painting of the boy in a baseball uniform. He plays trumpet and does all sorts of sports, did taekwondo for years and is a good student. He may be skinny as a bean pole but you know when Lucan is in the house!

Wyatt is our 9-year-old charmer with rich brown hair, sparkling eyes, a devilish smile and sweet personality. A few years after his brother got his personalized haircut, Wy followed suit and now has the same look. Like his sister and brother, Wyatt studied taekwondo for a long time, loves watching WWE wrestling, collecting Pokemon cards and playing video games. Wyatt is also a big NY Rangers fan, like his Grampy. Wy is currently taking guitar lessons and devouring books. He’s always loved LEGOs, cars and trucks ever since he was a little Wy Guy and enjoys going to monster truck rallies. Along with Lucan, he’s in the Boy Scouts and loves going on overnight camping trips with Dad and the boys in his troop. A bit subdued and shy, Wyatt has a delightful personality and good sense of humor. He may be quiet but when push comes to shove, Wyatt can be a little bulldog!

I love these kids so much! They get in trouble sometimes with their parents like all kids but they’re good kids, good students, love to read, do what they’re told (eventually lol) and help out at home. And after living through COVID they have learned to be a little more patient, accepting and to roll with the punches. Being separated from family and friends and having to do remote schooling for so long took a toll on them but they’re resilient.

That doesn’t just happen; they have two great parents who cherish them, provide for them, talk to them and educate them.

Bill is a teleprompter who has worked with everyone from Paul McCartney to Big Bird. Fortunately he didn’t miss much work during COVID and is probably the most tested person I know! Dawn is a pediatric nurse and office manager of the medical company where she works. She didn’t miss a day of work during COVID, sitting in front of her computer for 12-15 hours every day locating medicine, equipment, masks, dealing with patients, conducting Zoom meetings, brainstorming with fellow nurses and doctors, hiring new personnel and opening remote offices in every state in the US. Just like all people in the medical profession, her job is vital and sadly under-appreciated.

Dawn is without a doubt one of the best moms I know. She’s like the Energizer Bunny who just keeps going no matter what. Family comes first. Period. Many times Bill has to work on holidays or well into the night. Dawn always makes sure the kids have something to do or somewhere to go to keep them happy and occupied. She plans wonderful get-aways like whale watching in Maine, visiting Niagara Falls, hiking in Bear Mountain or day trips walking on the beach, fishing on Grampy’s boat or going to see the local NY Boulders baseball team.

I don’t know – call it luck or whatever name you can think of but we’ve been blessed with a loving and happy family. Thank you, God, for all your many blessings.

Happy 4th of July. Now play ball!

NAR © 2022

COLETTE

This is a little something I wrote for ‘Six Sentence Stories’ on the site GirlieOnThe Edge. We are to write a story of exactly six sentences, this week using the prompt word ‘strike’. Thanks to Denise Farley of GirlieOnTheEdge for coming up with this fun and challenging idea. I hope you enjoy my six sentence story, ‘Colette’.

She is our miracle baby, the light of our lives, the most precious gift anyone could ever hope for.

No matter how miserable I’m feeling with deep-rooted arthritis pain that won’t let go, no matter how tired I am and long to hide myself away and do nothing but write, the moment she smiles at me my pain washes away.

She’s like a lightning bolt, a heavenly strike from the skies that penetrates the top of my head and courses its way down to my toes, spreading joy, happiness and love throughout my body.

She is Colette, our perfect 28-month-old granddaughter, with the face of an angel and the determined heart of a lion.

When I am with her there is no force that can strike me down for she fills me every day with never-ending joy and an ineffable love.

I love you, my sweet baby girl, beyond the moon and the stars and all the galaxies in the universe. 

NAR © 2022

STUCK

Hey, fellow bloggers, followers, readers, friends, etc, etc.:

HELP!!!

That image above could be me dealing with WordPress. I am STUCK! I admit I’m not the most technologically fluent person but really – should it be this difficult??

You know that little bell icon located in the right corner of your page? This is what I see when I press that icon:

Yeah – nothing, zip, nada … just a little circle buffering, just a little obnoxious thingy going round and round and round, mocking me. I can’t see any of your comments, etc.

Not only that, when I go to one of YOUR pages to see YOUR latest posts, I cannot ‘like’ anything; I press and press and press the ‘like’ button but nothing happens. Dorothy at New Vintage Kitchen posted about a delicious-looking Tomato and Fennel Summer Salad. Can’t like it. Mitch Teemley wrote an interesting article about Vacation Homes for You to Try. Can’t like it. Richard Braxton has just posted another of his great poems called Don’t Beg Me For Money. Can’t like it. The list goes on and on.

I’m not begging for money. I’m begging for H.E.L.P.!!!

I am in WordPress Limbo – a very real place. It’s horrible and full of stupid people and sites that don’t work. Just ask our friend and fellow WordPresser Cindy Georgakas at Unique Times about her recent fall down the WordPress rabbit hole. (Cindy, if you’re out there, drop me a lifeline!)

I’ve been communicating with WordPress. Not for nothing (as they say) but are we all speaking English here or what? None of their “Happiness Engineers” has been able to help me and the advice they do give is impossible to interpret. Stop with the computer-ese and talk to me like I’m four years old; honestly, I will not be offended. Happiness Engineers – I am not happy! My grandchildren could do a better job explaining this to me. Note to self: call grand kids.

I am at my wit’s end right now. I want you all to know I am not ignoring you; I’m stuck in a WordPress bubble and can’t find my way out. If any of you can help, I am open to suggestions and/or advice. I’m not kidding! Truly, I’m not kidding!

Thanks, dear friends. Now to see if I can publish this post! 🤞🏼

P.S. – Did I say I wasn’t kidding?

NAR © 2022

THAI ONE ON

NB: This is a humorous work of fiction
with no intention of disparaging
any professions, persons, nationalities or ethnicities.

If you are seeking a woman with beautiful, exotic looks and a lovely disposition, a single Thai lady is the way to go. Thai women love to laugh and tend to be quite happy. They are demure and sweet in public, perhaps a bit shy, but when alone with their partner they are open and sexually accommodating.

Reading that online advert made Frank Morelli’s eyes widen. One of these Thai girls could be just what he was looking for. Intrigued, Frank decided to read a bit more. He scrolled down to see a bevy of available women – 922 to be exact. Beneath each pic was a name, age, contact address and the city in which the woman resided. There were also three options: 1) 💬 Say Hello; 2) 📧 Send a Message; 3) ❤️ Add to Hotlist.

There were some like Primmie who looked like she was just 17 and you know what I mean – a captivating schoolgirl-type with huge brown eyes, pouty lips and dewy skin. Primmie gave the impression of being a sweet, shy young thing with her glossy hair in pigtails wearing a short school uniform when in reality she could have invented sex. She was capable of teaching most men a thing or ten, taking them to erotic levels they’d never experienced before.

Then there were others like Opia who looked like she’d gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson – and won. She had an angry scowl and a leathery face that could stop a clock. She wouldn’t even be able to arouse a blindfolded Wilt Chamberlain – and he is reputed to have had sex with 20,000 women!

More than a few of the girls could easily be adult movie actresses while others looked like the ubiquitous hunchbacked dishwashers in greasy Chinese takeout joints that smelled like burning rancid oil. And by some miracle they were all available and willing to be dutiful wives and make anyone’s wildest dreams come true. At what cost? That part of the equation had not entered Frank’s mind. Even if it had, Frank was the type who acted first and thought later, if at all – a habit that got him into trouble more times than he was willing to admit.

The truth was most of these girls were looking for a ticket to The States, for some poor unsuspecting sap exactly like Frank to get them to fall madly in love and secure a green card and a one way ride out of Bangkok.

Frank made himself comfortable in his battered and patched pseudo-leather Barcalounger, his iPad nestled comfortably on his lap. A 25oz can of Bud Lite to his left and a bag of Utz pork rinds to his right set the stage for what could be the luckiest night of his vapid life. Frank loosened the drawstring of his sweatpants and wriggled his feet out of his Air Jordan knockoffs; this online mating game could take a while.

For lack of a better word, Frank was a “loser” – a thirty-something, short, stocky, balding, bespectacled, single, white, Italian Walmart shelf stocker living in his parent’s basement in Queens, New York. In other words – he was George Costanza.

This wasn’t exactly the ideal living arrangement as far as Frank or his parents were concerned but it didn’t cost him a dime and his mother did everything for him. Besides being as lazy as a slug, he just didn’t have that many friends and most of the ones he did have were married with children. He went on a couple of dates but he wasn’t what you’d call “a catch” and couldn’t hold a woman’s attention for very long. Frank wasn’t attracted to any of the women at work and the feeling was mutual.

There were a few things he enjoyed doing but most of them were solo activities like playing video games, listening to heavy metal music and watching porn. His father called him a no good, lazy bum and dreamed of the day he would move out of the house and stop being a drain on his wallet. His mother called him Frankie Boy and waited on him hand and foot, all the while lamenting the fact that she was not and probably never would be a grandma. She tried matching him up with a couple of her friend’s daughters but Frank left them cold.

Mrs. Morelli cooked all Frank’s meals and washed his laundry, including his fossilized jerkoff rags. She finally got fed up with her fancy hand towels being violated and bought Frank a case of cheap industrial-quality tissues from Amazon which he discovered in his closet one day. Neither he nor his mother ever said a word about the tissues but they kept being used and a new case would discreetly appear every month.

So there sat Frank, comfortably reclining in his “man cave”, taking his time perusing the ladies on the Thai bride website, adding his favorites to his hotlist when suddenly a photo of a girl named ‘Niki ‘ appeared. Frank nearly choked on his pork rinds when he saw her and he believed with all his heart she was the one for him. His iPad began to levitate as he felt himself getting hard. Grabbing a handful of Amazon tissues, he took care of business in about 20 seconds. She was a hot number, that Niki, and Frank was only looking at a still photograph!

Frank made himself presentable and clicked the FaceTime icon, his finger hovering over option #1: 💬 Say Hello. It was now or never so, mustering all the courage he possessed, he pushed the button which could determine the outcome of the rest of his life – a life with the enchanting Niki.

A few strange electronic sounds were followed by a shrill ring, then a child-like yet sultry voice was heard coming from behind what appeared to be a satin curtain:

“Ooh, swasdi. Hellooo, this Niki. You want Niki?”

Frank was flustered, intrigued and aroused all at the same time. “Oh, yes. Hi. Yes, I want nookie … I mean Niki. Hi, I’m Frank; is this Niki?’

Giggles from behind the curtain on the iPad gave Frank an erection. “Tee hee hee! Ooh, Frang want Niki nookie? Tee hee hee! Yes?”

“Yes” replied Frank. “No. Yes and no. Is this Niki?”

More giggles. “Yes, Frang. This Niki. You want Niki.”

“It’s Frank and, yes, I definitely want Niki.”

“What you want, Frang? You want tawk Niki, see Niki? You want marry Niki? Niki be good wifey.”

While Frank imagined Niki as his life partner from the moment he saw her photo, this was all moving very fast. On one hand he was thrilled to be speaking to a woman, especially a beautiful willing woman, and he hoped to have a relationship someday but on the other hand, was he ready to fly off and get married to a total stranger?

“Frang? Hellooo? You want Niki?”

Frank said the first thing that popped into his head: “How much will it cost me?”

Giggles. “Tawk free, see free on FaceyTime. Airplane tickie to marry.”

“I want to see Niki” replied Frank with an uncharacteristic smidgen of common sense.

“Okay, Frang. Here Niki” and the satin curtain was pulled back. There she was; Frank recognized her immediately from her photo. She was even more bewitching in person – long silky black hair, porcelain skin with tiny, doll-like features, a small mouth painted red and a diminutive body which Frank found delightfully appealing. Niki looked like Frank could snap her in two, like a delicate glass swizzle stick. She wore a lacy camisole which was surprisingly modest and revealed nothing. Niki was the opposite of all the blonde, busty, Botoxed porn stars he was used to where everything was supersized.

Frank was mesmerized.

Ooh, hellooo. You Frang?”

“Yes. Hi. I’m Frang” was Frank’s dimwitted response.

Giggles. “Ooh, Frang hansom Merican man from USA. You big strong. Niki like you. You like Niki?”

“Yes, I like Niki very much.”

“Niki make good wifey. You come Bangkok. Marry Niki.”

Frank’s head was spinning. “Wow! Yeah, that sounds great Niki! But first can we just talk like this for a few days and get to know each other?”

“Ooh, Frang. Niki no do nookie on FaceyTime. Betta you come Bangkok. You like Niki, marry Niki.”

It was now or never time for Frank and he was squirming in his pants. He had to ask himself what was holding him back. There wasn’t a thing going on in his life; he had nothing to lose by jumping in. This could be his one shot at happiness.

As usual, before Frank knew what he was doing, he blurted out “You know what, Niki? You’re right, dammit! I’m gonna fly over there and make you my bride!”

“Ooh, yay!” Giggles and little hand claps. “Frang let Niki know when you come Bangkok.”

“I definitely will, sweetie. Talk to you soon, Niki. Bye bye” and Frank wiggled his pudgy fingers at Niki like a ten-year-old boy.

Frank jumped up excitedly. He was a man on a mission. He went into the laundry room to retrieve his luggage and there stood his mother. Her face was as red as her hair and her expression said it all.

Mrs. Morelli clutched Frank’s suitcase and screamed at him: “You ingrate! You are a complete moron! Look at you, all hot to trot! Why can’t you go out and find yourself a nice Italian girl like your cousin Gerald instead of traipsing half-way around the world to some Godforsaken place called ‘Bangkok’? What kind of sick, perverted name is ‘Bangkok’ anyway? Oh my God, I think I’m going to be sick!”

Befuddled and feeling like a little boy, Frank snatched the suitcase from his mother’s arms, yelling back at her “You don’t know anything about it. I’m a grown man! Just mind your own business!”

Frank’s father heard the arguing and was now in the basement. “What the hell is going on down here?” he demanded. “You idiot! Look how upset your mother is!”

Mrs. Morelli wailed “He’s running off to someplace called ‘Bangkok’ where he thinks he’s gonna find a wife!

Mr. Morelli slammed his hand on the washing machine. “You ungrateful bum! Can’t you see what you’re doing to your mother? What kind of a sicko are you? I had a war buddy from my time in Korea who took off for Bangkok looking for a little filly. Nobody ever saw him again!”

“If you leave here for that sex den, you better not step one foot back in this house!” Mrs. Morelli shrieked. “I work my fingers to the bone for you and your father. If you think I’m going to start waiting on you and some mail order sex kitten living in my basement, you got another thing coming!”

You’re a disgrace to this family, Frank! A disgrace!” bellowed Frank’s father.

Frank sputtered ineffectually, pulled at what little hair he had and scurried back into his room. He could hear his parents shouting upstairs. Not live here? Where would he and Niki stay? Frank hadn’t thought about that. Well, he’d figure something out. Besides, once his parents saw Niki they’d welcome her with open arms.

“I’ll think about that later. It’ll all work out” Frank muttered to himself. “Right now I’ve got a bag to pack.”

NAR © 2022

BIRD OF PROMISE

Along with a group of about 100, I can proudly say I am a #1 bestselling author! We made it to #1 on Amazon!!

When I was first approached by Gabriela Marie Milton to contribute two poems to “Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women“, I was somewhat taken aback. “I’m a storyteller, not a poet” I said to myself. Although I have written a few poems, poetry is not my wheelhouse and I was reluctant to accept Gabriela’s offer. However, after learning what this anthology was about, I realized I could not refuse. I put pen to paper and imagined I was Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

To my amazement both my poems were accepted and now I can add poet to my resume! This has been a unique experience – both profoundly rewarding and humbling – and the subject is of utmost importance in our society today: the challenges women face and how they found the courage and strength to overcome them. If I should ever be asked again to contribute my poems, I will do so without hesitation.

I am a wife, a grandmother, a lover, a friend, a singer, a writer, a poet and a dreamer. I am a woman. I hope you enjoy the first of my two poems, Bird of Promise. Thank you for the privilege.

BIRD OF PROMISE
It was just a fling, just one of those things she fell upon
quite by accident with no intent of malice or harm.
She never meant for the strong desire so wrong to last so long.

No child, she. A life well spent with no sense
or scent of doubt or regret
for she was a one off, a rare and spirited
bird of promise in thought, action and word.

She knew herself better than any woman or man
who came to her with open heart and hand,
never afraid to take a stand,
without trying she could command
a room of strangers or friends
for she was the willow that always bends.

Never intimidated, she wouldn’t allow herself to be
berated, deflated, abused or humiliated. 

Then this thing, this once in a lifetime fling
blossomed like the bouquets of spring,
bursting with an uncontrollable,
unstoppable, insurmountable
force she could not rein in.

How did she allow herself to be so exposed,
for him to see her inner core,
wanting and demanding more
than she could give or afford
while inflicting pain with nothing to gain
except stress and blame
and risking the loss of all things
she held near and dear,
almost extinguishing
her brightest inner flame.

Resolve restored she said
“No more!” She’d said it before,
two, three times, maybe four.
Get up off the floor, open the door;
be that bird of promise and soar.
This time she meant it but her heart was broken
and sore like those who suffered
and bore
the ravages of war.

She loved him;
that was her greatest sin.

NAR © 2022

OY, MY PAPA!

My father was the type of man who liked to have fun, even if the joke was on him. I’m guessing the picture shown above ⬆️ was taken at least 60 years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. While my mother, sister and I were occupied with other things, Dad quietly went around the house collecting stuff – in this case a scarf, a yarmulke from a friend’s wedding and our family Bible. He then sat there not saying a word until one of us noticed and we all cracked up. I’m pretty sure at that point he started chanting which made the whole scenario even funnier. I showed this pic to my husband last night and even he cracked up. Yes, dad, your legend lives on!

Dad’s jokes weren’t always funny and he didn’t have much of a filter. I remember a family friend was complaining that she needed to lose weight. Dad told her she looked fine just the way she was which would have been totally acceptable if he’d left it at that but he had to add that she was “pleasingly plump“. Our friend was not happy with that description and huffed off, angry and embarrassed. Meanwhile dad couldn’t understand what he said that was so bad. He’d often do things without thinking them through like the times he’d invite people over for dinner and fail to tell my mother until a couple hours before their guests arrived, usually resulting in mom reacting sorta like this:

Mom was like Gina Lollobrigida on steroids!

She never really hit him over the head with a frying pan but she wanted to – lots of times. But that wouldn’t have stopped dad from telling the same old joke about the canary who ran out of gas or thinking he was entertaining countless waitresses by ordering an Al Pacino instead of a cappuccino which always resulted in an eye roll or a blank stare.

Speaking of blank stares, some of my relatives were hard nuts to crack and dad’s cornball jokes were definitely not appreciated. This was a particularly tough crowd; they look like they’re at a funeral instead of a bridal shower. ⬇️ And why is the woman on the left clutching her purse so tightly? She’s in my parent’s house; who’s gonna steal it? Probably fight or flight reaction due to Dad’s jokes.

L. to R. – My Aunt Cesaria, my grandmother (Dad’s mom), my Aunt Lena

What’s with all the purse clutching? Must be a generational thing. Man, I would have loved to have been around when this next photo was taken. ⬇️ Talk about surreal! The parents look like very nice, normal people but totally confused and amused at the same time; I think those guys had that effect on all of us. (I was going to say they looked “Dazed and Confused” but that was done by a much better band – no offense.)

KISS with parents

My dad was a good guy who meant well and wouldn’t hurt a fly. He was all talk and no bite, like the time he convinced an art auctioneer that he was “connected“. The poor guy was wetting his pants and falling over himself to make sure ‘Don Vito‘ was satisfied and there would be no retaliation. Mom just rolled her eyes and called dad “stunad“.

Dad had a lousy head for figures so, naturally, he volunteered to be the church treasurer. He then proceeded to botch the books so terribly, the Elders of the church came to our house looking very serious and officious in their black suits and asked dad how he managed to screw up the numbers so badly. Even dad couldn’t figure out what he’d done wrong; he was totally flustered and way over his head. Everyone felt sorry for him but business is business and dad was officially removed him from his position.

Dad was an immigrant from Sicily who taught himself to speak, read and write English entirely on his own. And he barely had an accent. His biggest achievement in his eyes was being able to do the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink! Everyone loved my dad and it gave him so much pleasure to entertain his friends and spend time with his family.

Times were tough, often heartbreaking. In 1943 mom and dad lost their first born and only son, the brother I never knew, when he was only 2-years-old. Baby Frank passed away on New Year’s Eve; my parent’s never celebrated or went out on New Year’s Eve ever again after that. Then my dad got drafted and was sent overseas. I can only imagine what Father’s Day must have been like that year. Talk about rough times!

Dad with Baby Frank, 1943

Now that I’m older and hopefully wiser, I regret being embarrassed in front of my friends when dad told a corny joke or sang a silly song. I wish I didn’t think of him as a clown or a buffoon; no one else saw him that way (except my sister) and he made a lot of people happy. I was young and stupid; I didn’t realize at the time everything he did was with good intentions.

My grown sons remember my dad, or ‘Papa’ as they called him, but I have four grandchildren who never knew him. I hope when my granddaughters start dating, my sons will wait up for them to come home from their dates, just as my dad did right up till the night before my wedding.

Me and Dad on my wedding day, June 10, 1972

When you’re young you think you have all the time in the world, then you start to realize the older you get the faster time goes by. There are plenty of things I wish I could go back and do over; I can’t. I just have to believe that my dad knew I loved him even when I didn’t show it. I hope he’s proud of the person I have become. I’m proud of my dad and I miss him. I know he’s listening so “Happy Father’s Day, dad! I love you!”

Dedicated to my father, Vito Schembre, July 14, 1915 – August 1, 1998

NAR © 2022

ESPERANZA

Photograph by Eileen Mroz

The #6 subway from Grand Central to my station in Ridegwood Queens was surprisingly empty for 5:40 on a Friday afternoon. At first I questioned whether I had gotten on the wrong train but as I looked around I saw some of the familiar faces.

Diagonally across from me on my left was a man wearing a ‘sorta-suit’ – my made-up name for a jacket and slacks of slightly different shades that one tries to pass off as a suit but it never quite works. Not only was it always rumpled but it needed to be cleaned. His tie was missing and probably stuffed into one of his pockets. He always stood whether there were seats available or not. With his right hand he held onto a pole while he clenched and released his left hand as though squeezing a stress ball. I guessed he was a detective. He was probably in his early 30s but he looked older. Lots of people who ride the subway every day look older than they are.

Directly opposite me sat a young guy who always traveled with an oversized orange duffel bag. He was 19 or 20 years old and naive-looking, perhaps Scandinavian with blonde hair and cool blue eyes. There were numerous tags on his bag; the most prominent identified him as a student at Queens College. Living on campus could be extremely expensive and I wondered what he was doing for accommodations. It looked like all his earthly possessions were crammed into that orange duffel bag. For a nanosecond I entertained the possibility of offering him the spare room in my parent’s house; they knew what it was like to struggle alone in a foreign country but they were elderly now and this wasn’t quite the same as bringing home a stray!

On the other side of the subway car was a nurse in royal blue scrubs. My guess was she was just starting her overnight shift; she looked refreshed and her uniform was neat and clean. Her hair was nicely done and she didn’t have that after-work jaded look on her pleasantly round face. She hugged a large black bag tightly on her lap, her phone resting on the bag with her ear buds nestled in place. From the rapturous look on her face, she was probably listening to some “Help me through another day at work, sweet Jesus” type of music.

Sitting next to the nurse on the verge of dozing off was an Asian man wearing a windbreaker, corduroys and an N95 mask. I had him pegged as an IT guy or possibly a research analyst. He always had a flat yellow plastic bag with him which looked like it had a comic book or two inside, probably for his kids. I liked him; he looked like a good dad and a decent person.

Those were the regulars; here and there a few stragglers would wander on and off but these were my daily traveling companions. We rode together every day, rain or shine, come hell or high water, yet we didn’t know each other’s names, avoided eye contact and never talked. That’s how it’s done in the subways of New York – anonymity at all costs.

Today, however, there was a young couple on the train I had never seen before. They spoke softly and their vibe was very intense. He was in a navy uniform and she wore black pants, white sneakers and a black and white checked shirt, her fingers interlocked over a slightly protruding belly – a baby bump, I was quite sure. His back was to me and he wore a mask so I could not see his face; still, by his posture, I could tell he was ill at ease and the conversation was not going well.

It eventually became obvious they had reached an impasse; talking ceased and she stood with her back to the door, a symbolic stance I’ve seen 1,000 times. The frozen expression on her face was one of utter disappointment, despair, unhappiness, hurt and rejection. They mumbled a word or two but barely looked at each other. It was not a comfortable situation.

At this point I was compelled to take out my phone and snap a photo of the couple, pretending to be busy doing something else. There was a story unfolding before me; I could sense it and needed more than my memory to remember this sad turn of events. At the next stop the sailor prepared to get off; he reached for his seabag and his fingers fleetingly touched the pregnant woman’s arm but he made no other contact. He quickly headed for the steps, never looking back.

The doors closed and the woman leaned against them, staring down at her shoes. I could see streaming tears coursing down her face and her shoulders silently shook. I knew at that moment the couple had broken up and she was beyond heartbroken; she was shattered. I thought at any moment she might drop to her knees and wail in hopelessness.

Our eyes met and I held up my hand offering her a tissue. Without a word she walked the three feet to where I was sitting, took the tissue I proffered and sat down beside me. We were now connected yet we did not speak. I felt the need to console her but I decided to stay silent; if she wanted to say something to me she would.

Shoulders shaking, hands wringing, tears silently flowing. She tore at the tissue I gave her and I thought she was about to say something when her phone buzzed. Her voice was barely more than a whisper.

Anita, Tommy is gone. Sí, just now. I don’t know. Just text it to me, por favor.”

She ended the call and looked over at me embarrassed, smiling poignantly. “Excuse me. May I?” and I nodded quickly, handing her another tissue.

Gracias.” She wiped her face and shoved the tissues into her little purse. With tentative fingers she pressed the link Anita had sent her. She spoke softly with no emotion. “Hello. My friend gave me your number. My name is Esperanza. Now? Yes, I can come now.” And that was all she said.

The train slowed down for the next stop and Esperanza stood up and began walking to the door. I impulsively called out her name and she turned looking at me with hollow eyes. I handed her my package of tissues, hoping she would stay on the train. After a moment’s hesitation, she took the tissues, turned and left the train.

So many thoughts went through my head in that instant. I remembered from Spanish classes in high school that ‘esperanza’ means ‘hope’. I thought it was one of the most beautiful words I had ever heard.

Where Esperanza was going I had no idea. I wondered if I’d ever see her again? Above all, I hoped she would be alright.

NAR © 2022

N.B.: My usual routine when writing is to search for an appropriate graphic after a story is complete; sometimes this process takes hours. When my photo-snapping friend Eileen posted this pic, it hit me like a ton of bricks. To say it took my breath away would not be an exaggeration. It screamed out to me that something heavy, perhaps even life-changing, was going on in an otherwise seemingly innocuous photo. Some people will gloss over a pic like this, not really seeing anything; others will be glued to it and the woman’s face. I was transfixed. In a glimpse it can look totally mundane and unimportant – except for the excruciatingly heartbroken expression on the woman’s face and the sailor’s inability to look her in the eyes. This is a first for me – a story based on a photograph; hopefully there will be more in my collection. I hope I did it justice. NAR

BLIND DATE

In March of 1968 I went on a blind date. This was a new experience for me and I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was the guy’s name. I insisted my best friend and her boyfriend (who set up the date) tag along in case my date turned out to be Hannibal Lecter (hey, it could happen).

As soon as I answered the door, I felt like I was in the middle of a chick flick. I stared at him, smiling; I heard birds tweeting and angels singing “Today I met the boy Im going to marry“. On the other side of the door my date was staring and smiling back at me. I think he heard the music, too.

His name was Bill.

I’d just turned 17 and he was not yet 20. Bill was different in so many ways from any guys I knew, most notably was the fact that he didn’t look like he belonged to La Cosa Nostra. He was tall, lean, tan and blonde and the way his biceps looked in his white t-shirt made my stomach flutter.

We went to another friend’s house for a party and spent the whole night talking to each other. After that blind date, we didn’t go out with anyone else ever again.

Bill’s what I affectionately call “a mutt” and he’ll be the first to agree. He’s 1/2 Irish, 1/4 Finnish and 1/4 Italian. He’d never met a first generation Sicilian girl like me before let alone gone out with one (we’re a rare breed, you know!); he thought I was “exotic” and looked like Sophia Loren. Every time he said that I got goosebumps – and he said it a lot.

We were crazy about each other; two years after that first date we got engaged and two years after that we got married.

Bill’s a real handy-man, the kind of guy who can fix just about anything. Back in the Stone Age before Google, we had a bunch of ‘do-it-yourself-books’. If Bill didn’t know how to fix something, he’d read about it. And if the books didn’t help, he’d solve the problem himself. He wasn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty – whether he was repairing an engine or changing a diaper.

Not only is he a hands-on kind of guy in every aspect of our lives, he’s also very smart and I don’t mean smarter than your average bear. Bill is flat out brilliant and that’s not a word I toss around lightly. He’s got the degrees to prove it but he’s too humble for that and definitely not the type to rub his smarts in your face. He has a classic wit – a dry and clever sense of humor that makes me laugh every day.

They don’t come any better than Bill. He’s the homebody type, not one looking to go out partying. His one guilty pleasure is fishing. He’s loved fishing since he was a kid growing up on City Island and you can find him on his boat every Saturday. In fishing terminology, Bill’s ‘a keeper’.

Now you can go ahead and call me delusional but I know what I know – and I know Bill.

* He’s colorblind but can identify blue; that’s why it’s his favorite color.
* He’ll ask other shoppers which bananas are ripe because he can’t tell yellow from green; he’s found people are very obliging and happy to help with his “handicap“.
* He loves Carvel soft serve vanilla ice cream in a waffle cone with chocolate sprinkles.
* All his food has to be cooked well done; if you think his burger is done,
cook it for an additional 10 minutes.
* He’s very proud of me and tells everyone I’m “an author”.
* Our doctor adores him and will spend the first 15 minutes of our appointments looking at new photos of our grand kids.
* He’s a die-hard NY Rangers Hockey fan.
* He and his identical twin brother were number 18 in the Vietnam draft
but they failed the physical due to pilonidal cysts.
* He would walk our newborn baby to sleep every night for as long as it took, most times more than an hour.
* He’ll do whatever it takes to avoid an argument.
* Family comes first, always.
* He’s a very generous tipper; people are grateful and remember that.
* I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like him.
* His favorite song is “Only You”.
* He’s a ‘one woman man‘. He doesn’t flirt or stare at other women;
that’s just not his style.
* He’s never given me reason to be jealous.
* He’s the most decent man I know.
* He never forgets my birthday or our wedding anniversary, especially this anniversary because it’s TODAY. And today’s not just any anniversary – IT’S OUR 50th!

I have to believe God knew what He was doing when He brought us together. Fifty years – it just doesn’t seem possible! I look at Bill now and I see the same guy I fell in love with the night of our blind date. I’m awfully glad he was the one on the other side of the door that March night in 1968.

NAR © 2022

The dating and newlywed games
June 10, 1972

BANG A GONG

As the parents of four young children, Kay and Michael Morgan wanted nothing but the best for their kids – 7-year-old twins Jack and Luke, 3-year-old Ella and baby Ivy. After meeting in college in Philadelphia and living there for the past twelve years, the couple had recently moved back to their hometown. It was great reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.

Kay and Michael wanted to send the boys to a good summer camp and everyone recommended Camp Dino-Mite. Not only did the camp offer a broad variety of indoor and outdoor activities ranging from chess to archery and just about everything in between – it was an easy ten-minute walk from their house.

The Morgans were looking forward to orientation day when the boys would meet their counselors and the other kids in their groups. The day turned out to be great fun with games for the campers and a barbecue lunch for everyone. Before heading home, Kay and Michael stopped at the main office to buy camp t-shirts for the boys and pay their registration fee.

They were just about to pay when Michael heard an unwelcome voice call out “Is that you, Morgan? Well, the Boy Wonder has returned! Ain’t that just Dino-Mite?!” Michael cringed; it was his old childhood nemesis Rex Tirano. Michael suddenly realized why the name of the camp was so familiar; “Dino-Mite” used to be Rex’s favorite expression. Apparently, it still was. Slowly Michael turned around to face his one-time foe.

Let’s just say the aging process for Rex did not go well. He had become a caricature of himself – a living, breathing buffoonish cartoon character – and Michael bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. Rex was pasty, prematurely balding and terribly overweight; he looked ridiculous stuffed into a camp t-shirt and a pair of khaki shorts. Rex was the complete opposite of the stereotypical tanned goomba high school bully with slicked back hair that Michael remembered; the only things unchanged were his pushy attitude, big mouth and cold, forbidding eyes.

“Rex” Michael replied coolly. “It’s been a while.”

“Yeah, I heard ya was back in town, living in a nice big house with your Wall Street job and your perfect little family. Must be nice being you, Mikey Boy – Mr. Quarterback, valedictorian, prom king big shot. Ain’t ya gonna introduce me to your wifey? Hiya, sweetie. What’s your name?”

Michael had always been intimidated by Rex – everyone was – but he wasn’t about to apologize for being successful and he certainly wasn’t going to allow his wife to be insulted or let his kids see him cave.

Where are my manners? Rex, this is my wife, Kay. Honey, this is Rex Tirano. We went to school together.”

“Kay and Michael – just like from The Godfather. Ain’t that precious? Well, you got yourself a Dino-Mite little lady there, Mikey. A real looker.”

Trying desperately to avoid an unpleasant scene, Kay greeted Rex cordially. “Are those your children, Rex?” Kay asked.

Rex nodded enthusiastically; his kids were almost as big as him and just as neanderthal. They were porcine, slovenly nose pickers practically bursting out of their camp uniforms. Rex beamed proudly as he introduced his kids. “Yeah, this here’s Bruno, then Gino and my little angel Claudia. My wife’s around here somewhere, meetin’ and greetin’.”

Aren’t you a little old to be wearing a camp uniform?” Jack asked innocently.

“And big?” Luke added, always unable to resist stating the obvious.

Michael wished his sons hadn’t said anything but they was just kids; he had to admit he was curious himself. Well, the cat was out of the bag now and there was nothing Michael could do about it.

Rex glared at Michael. “Whoa, Captain America, don’t tell me there’s something you don’t know!? Dino-Mite!! Allow me to explain: I own this camp! That’s right, Mr. Touchdown, hot shot class president – this is all mine” Rex boasted loudly, stretching out his arms causing his t-shirt to rip under his sweaty pits.

By now Rex’s crowing had attracted a lot of his attention and people rushed over to see what was going on.

Luke whispered to Jack that Rex looked David Banner about to transform into the Incredible Hulk. That was too funny for Jack and both boys started laughing at the sounds of ripping cloth and the sight of huge sweat rings under Rex’s arms.

Why you little smart asses! Looks like your daddy forgot to teach you some manners so I guess we’re gonna have to. Bruno, Gino, let’s show these two skinny little bean poles what happens when they don’t give proper respect to Rex “Dino-Mite” Tirano.”

Kay started to take a step forward but Michael blocked her; no way was he going to let anything happen to her. Besides, he’d been waiting for this chance for a long time.

“Listen, Rex. We didn’t come here looking for trouble. We just wanted a good camp for our boys where they could be with respectable people with decent attitudes. Apparently we made the wrong choice. You’re right – I didn’t know you owned this place. If I did, we wouldn’t have wasted our time coming here. You may have gotten larger, Rex, but you certainly haven’t grown up!” And with that, Michael turned his back on Rex and began to lead his family out of the camp.

Before Michael could take two steps, Rex grabbed him by the shoulder, spun him around and took a swing at him. Michael ducked and Rex’s big flabby fist landed squarely on Kay’s face. Everyone gasped loudly and people immediately ran to help Kay. Michael stood protectively in front of his children. A group of men held Rex back while someone yelled for the police; within minutes camp security and the police showed up.

Rex was cuffed and hauled off to the police station; he was charged with assault and battery as well as endangering the welfare of children. Michael was asked if he wanted a restraining order against Rex. “Oh, hell yeah!” said Michael. “I don’t want this beast anywhere near my family“.

The crowd of people started murmuring among themselves. No one really wanted their kids going to Camp Dino-Mite; they were just intimidated by Rex and he bullied every other camp owner into shutting down. He was the only game in town. Now people were no longer afraid to show Rex how they really felt; they tore up their registration checks and pulled their kids out of Camp Dino-Mite.

Michael didn’t give a damn about Rex – it was time he got his due – but he felt awful about what happened to Kay. An ambulance had taken her to the hospital; she had a broken nose and a nasty black eye which she wore with pride. She told Michael it was worth it to bring down a prehistoric galoot like Rex. The kids were in awe of Kay; in fact, everyone was in awe of both Michael and Kay for doing something no one else had the nerve to do – stand up to Rex Tirano.

It turns out the restraining order wasn’t necessary but it was worth it just to see the expression of Rex’s face. After losing the camp and the power he held over people, Rex had nothing left and Kay convinced Michael not to press charges. Rex moved his family to New Jersey, his tail between his legs.

That was the end of the “Tirano Menace” and it didn’t even take a meteor shower to bring him down. No, it was a woman, a manasaur – the so-called “feral, dirty and sweet little girl” who knew how to bare her teeth, show her claws, bang a gong and get it on – since time immemorial! 🦕

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