MY DARLING

Melt in my arms tonight, my darling, for you’re safe in this room here with me
Rest your head on my chest now, my darling, think what tomorrow will be 
The moon is full now, my darling, the hushed trees making nary a sound
As snowflakes and crystals descend from the heavens tenderly kissing the ground 

The winter is here now, my darling, gone is the summer breeze song
But the fire is warm, the blanket is cozy and I’ll cling to you all the night long 
Close your eyes and sleep now, my darling, for you know I will always be near
Wipe the tears from your long golden lashes; ’twas a bad dream, there’s nothing to fear 

Hush now, no more crying, my darling, only sweet thoughts swimming round in your head
You’re so precious, my darling, my angel, very small yet so safe in my bed 
Tomorrow is Christmas, my darling, and the reindeer will be pulling the sleigh
With Santa and candy and toys made by elves and he’s surely coming this way 

Chef will bake cookies, my darling, and the night servant will bring out a plate
To place on the mantle, my darling, for Santa…..his poor hungry tummy to sate 
What’s that you say, my sweet darling? Read one more story tonight?
Yes, of course, my sweet little darling, for I know all things will be right 

Just a short one, my sweet little darling, for the clock is beginning to chime
It won’t be long now, my darling, you’ll awaken to a wondrous time 
Are you ready, my precious, my darling, for the story of fairies and plums?
Mommy’s here, my sweet angel darling, and here I’ll stay till the bright morning comes 

NAR © 2017

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

DON’T MAKE ME REGRET THIS

They held a candlelight vigil for me but what was the point? I was already dead. The night before all my friends were together enjoying a dinner and in less than 24 hours my fate was sealed. 

There were many thoughts going through their heads but one question they all shared was this: “How could something fall apart so quickly?” The denouement came to be through a very neat series of synchronized, predetermined events as they stood by helplessly. How could they have been so blind to the trouble headed my way? 

I was the most charismatic in our group; they flocked to me and we became friends immediately. They were mesmerized when I spoke, as though I knew all the answers. Sadly, I did know for my father had prepared me. 

My message rang true like none they’d ever heard before, so simple yet so profound. I spoke words of love – not a romantic, physical love but an all-encompassing, never-ending, consuming ardor which burned deeply into their souls. It wasn’t just one thing; it was all things. 

They loved me beyond measure; there was nothing they would not do for me yet they failed me miserably. 

I asked so very little of them. I gave them my all. 

Lauded and praised. Denied and betrayed. Derided and defiled. Beaten and broken. Nailed and speared. The agony!   

My children, you are forgiven your many failings, your countless sins. I did not want to die. Please don’t make me regret this. 

Wishing my fellow writers, poets, philosophizers and dreamers as well as those who consistently and faithfully follow me and read my humble imaginings a very blessed Easter and a lovely Spring. May your lives be full with all things bright and beautiful. Thank you for being an important part of my life! – Nancy 🐘

NAR © 2022

SO SHE WENT AND DID IT!

And why not?!

My beautiful granddaughter, just one month from her 13th birthday, discovered the blues and turned into a rock star with a brave new attitude – and I couldn’t love her more for it! Truth be told, she always had confidence and bravado; now she’s just braver and newer with a whole lot more attitude. She is the epitome of cool.

Mckenna made a bold move, something many of us would vacillate over for weeks on end. Why, it takes me forever to decide whether I want fries with that or not! She’s in middle school now – that’s big league! She was ready to take on the challenge. She’s been ready for this change for a while now and Mom at last gave the thumbs up. (Kudos to Mom for holding out as long as she did.)

This kid. My first grandchild. My first baby’s first baby – quite a mind-blowing concept, isn’t it? I’ve said this many times: “You think you can never love anyone or anything more than your children … until you have grandchildren”. Those of you who are grandparents know what I mean; if you’re not, I hope you get to experience that relationship sometime in your life.

Every grandparent thinks their grandchildren are the best things since the potato peeler. I’ve never heard any friend of mine say “My grand kids are real pains in the butt and I wish they’d just leave me the hell alone!” Well, think about the long lonely months just a couple of years ago when we could only see our grandchildren through the front windows of their houses because of a little thing called COVID. We’d make signs proclaiming our love, drop off groceries or birthday presents and blow kisses. Mckenna went through a rough time back then; most kids did. What the children must have been thinking! My daughter-in law is a fantastic pediatric nurse and a great Mom; she had a handle on things and knew how to explain to the kids what was going on but they still worried. Seeing us whenever we could drop by was one thing; not being with us was quite another and kids have huge imaginations. The first time we were allowed to be physically together, Mckenna hugged me for close to ten minutes and wouldn’t let go. And I didn’t want her to let go.

Mckenna will always hold a special place in my heart, not just because she’s my first grandchild but because she’s a fabulous person. When she was an infant her Mom would drop her off at our house so we could babysit. Mom always said “Please don’t let her nap on you; put her in her crib.” I nodded and proceeded to let Mckenna nap on my shoulder, sometimes up to three hours. That was a real bonding experience for me and Mckenna. Don’t tell Mom; that’s our little secret.

Mckenna’s a great student, active in a variety of sports, plays several musical instruments, is in drama club and probably tons of other stuff this aging brain of mine cannot remember. She has lots of friends and loves to read and write stories (Check out her guest posts here on my site; one of her stories got more ‘likes’ in one day than any of mine! That’s my girl!). She loves music, Harry Potter, WWE Wrestling, nail polish, Junior Mints and jewelry but is not beyond getting on the floor with her younger brothers and playing with their huge LEGO collection. You know, all teen girl stuff.

And speaking of her brothers, she loves them, too, but there are those days when all they have to do is breathe a bit too loudly and she turns on them like a she-wolf. You know, all teen girl stuff.

What can I say other than I love this kid – excuse me, this young lady. I hope I can be just like her when I grow up!

NAR © 2022

THE BUS STOP

Every morning my father would walk with me to the bus stop and wait for the school bus. No matter the weather, he never missed a day. Once I was safely on my way to school, he would go to work at the bagel store right on the corner by the bus stop.

Dad was a widower raising me on his own. My mother died from a fever when I was still an infant and I don’t have any memories of her. We had no other family nearby and dad did everything himself. I never heard him complain and I knew I was loved. Dad always packed small bagel pieces in my lunch bag; he sprinkled them with sugar and cinnamon and I giggled when he told me they were the ‘bagel holes’.

Next door to the bagel store was a shoe repair shop. A young woman sat in the window busily attaching new soles onto worn shoes. Sometimes she would stitch together a tattered handbag; I liked to watch her work, her fingers deftly plying the leather and pulling the needle through.

The shoe lady never looked up from her work but I could tell she was beautiful. She had dark brown hair that fell over her shoulders and long eyelashes. I asked my father if he thought she was pretty but he said he hadn’t noticed.

One morning during a rainstorm, we stood under the awning of the shoe shop. I watched the lady in the window and this time my dad watched her, too. She must have become aware of our presence and she looked up at us. I don’t know if it was a thunderclap or some other force of nature but when her eyes met my dad’s, the shop’s big front window shook and the lights inside flickered.

The next morning on our way to the bus stop, I noticed dad was carrying a worn pair of shoes – and he was softly humming. I said nothing but my heart began to dance. Together we walked into the shoe repair shop and the lady smiled shyly at us. She was indeed very beautiful. Dad handed her his shoes and asked if they could be repaired. Their fingers touched and neither one pulled away. The lady said dad’s shoes would be ready in four days.

Each morning after that as we waited for the bus we would smile and wave at the lady in the window. She’d smile and wave back, her gaze lingering on my father’s handsome face. On the afternoon of day four dad picked up his repaired shoes. He surprised the lady by giving her a bag of warm bagel holes sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. The shoe lady peeked into the bag and laughed gaily, saying she never had such a treat. She and my dad smiled radiantly at each other for a long time.

That was chapter one of our happily ever after. Now every morning both my dad and the shoe lady walk with me to the bus stop; he holds my right hand and she holds my left. From the bus window I watch them walk to work, their heads close together and their fingers intertwined, and my heart does a little dance.

NAR © 2022

HAND IN HAND

Abigail had been waiting for this night for a long time. She was excited to be going to the gala with Charlie and she had a feeling something special was going to happen.  

Charlie came into Abigail’s life six years ago and they’d been inseparable ever since. She loved him very much and knew he loved her, too. Charlie was wonderful to Abigail’s mother Evelyn and that meant everything to her.

Abigail knew as soon as she met Charlie that he was ‘the one’. On the other hand, her mother was not easily swayed. Evelyn was an excellent judge of character, possessing the uncanny ability of sizing someone up rather quickly. It took a few times being with Charlie before she felt the same way Abigail did. He was truly a wonderful man.

Together Abigail and her mother chose the ideal dress and Evelyn surprised Abigail with her great-grandmother’s delicate seed pearl necklace. Evelyn knew in her heart this was a special night for Charlie and Abigail; she didn’t want to leave anything to chance.

As Abigail finished dressing for the dance, she heard Charlie and her mother talking downstairs. “He’s here!” she thought happily, concerned that work would delay him as it frequently did. Abigail gracefully descended the stairs, her feet barely touching the carpeted steps. She was a vision of perfection in her pale pink floor-length dress and Charlie looked more handsome than ever in his three-piece charcoal grey suit, matching tie and pale pink shirt – a hint from Evelyn, no doubt.

With a dramatic flourish Charlie produced a wrist corsage from behind his back and slipped in onto Abigail’s arm. “Your favorite, sweetheart – Lilies of the Valley” Charlie said with a smile. Abigail’s fingers lightly touched the delicate flowers. “Oh, Charlie! They’re beautiful and they smell heavenly.”

Watching the duo, Evelyn’s eyes sparkled with joy; she was so happy for her daughter. “You two look fabulous. You know, Charlie, this may be the perfect night to finally pop the question” she teased.

“Why, you must have read my mind” Charlie declared.

Abigail’s eyes widened as Charlie got down on one knee. He held her hand and said “Abby, I love you very much. Fate brought us together six years ago and I want to make it official. Please say ‘yes’ and make me the happiest man on earth. Will you allow me to adopt you?”  

“Does that mean you’ll be my daddy now?” ten-year-old Abigail asked excitedly.

“Yes, it does, Abby” Charlie replied with a grin.

“Daddy and Mommy” Evelyn added and hugged her husband’s arm as tears of joy tricked down her face.

“YES!” squealed Abigail, her fists pumping the air wildly. “This is the best night ever! I’ve been wanting a real daddy forever! I can’t wait to tell my friends at the father-daughter dance tonight!”

Abigail ran to Charlie, threw her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. “I love you so much, Daddy! Can we go to the dance now?”

And off they went, hand in hand.

NAR © 2022

 

EACH DAY IS VALENTINE’S DAY

LOVE (noun): deep affection, fondness, tenderness, warmth, intimacy, attachment, endearment, devotion, adoration, doting, idolization, worship, passion, ardor, desire, lust, yearning, infatuation, adulation.

I’m a romantic soul. I love the idea of love, being in love and being loved. I’m Italian – being passionate comes naturally to me. I love my family and my friends. It’s a feeling deep inside me and I don’t care who knows. In fact, I want them to know! I wear my heart on my sleeve and I’ve been hurt because of that vulnerability but I’d rather love and risk being hurt than go around being an unfeeling, grumpy-ass sourpuss full of apathy, ennui and angst.

Loving goes beyond the love of people. I love writing, food, a quiet Saturday morning, the smell of coffee, a good movie, music, animals, feeling the sun on my face on a warm spring day, the sound of my grandchildren laughing, my husband who would do anything for me, spending time with cherished friends both near and far.

While flowers are lovely, they wither and die. Chocolate is heavenly but it lasts longer on my hips than on my lips! I enjoy sharing a good bottle of wine and meaningful conversation with someone I care about. I adore a dirty joke, a sentimental song and reading my friend’s poetry.

And why are people so afraid to say “I love you”? Guys – admit it; it gives you the cold sweats. Loving someone isn’t the same as being in love with someone. We often take the easy way out and send little messages like “Luv ya!” or “I ❤️ you”. Some of us can’t even bring ourselves to say the word “love”.

What’s this fascination with loving things? You hear people say “I love my car.” “I love Starbucks.” “I love my new phone.” “I love these shoes.” “I love that restaurant.” “I love that show.” Sure, these things bring us pleasure but we can live without them and they sure as hell don’t love us back.

What I can’t live without are the special people in my life, the people who call you up just to say “Hi. How are you?” and end with “I love you” without expecting anything in return except maybe hearing “I’ve missed you! I love you, too.”

Chances are if you’re reading this it’s because you enjoy the things I write about and that makes me very happy. If my writing can bring you pleasure, make you think, smile, laugh or cry, then I’ve done my job. Thank you for taking the time to read this and listening to the song below; it’s one of my favorites.

I think the idea of Valentine’s Day is grand; it’s sweet and sexy and over-the-top crazy romantic. It’s all about love. Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyday was Valentine’s Day?  

NAR © 2022

SEE ME, FEEL ME

My husband Sam and I were hosting our usual Friday night dinner with friends, something we’ve been doing for several years. Sam is a psychology professor at NYU and I manage Dahlia’s, an eponymously named floral shop.

Our weekly dinner companions are Claude and his wife Piper who own a small eclectic bookstore called The Paper Trail and Austin and Rebecca who have been engaged for seven years. Rebecca is a music teacher at a private school in Manhattan and Austin is a graphic designer. We keep asking them “When’s the big day?” but neither one seems to be in a rush.

Our dinner conversations are always lively, touching on a variety of topics. This particular evening, Sam said “I asked my class this question today: ‘If you had to choose between being deaf or being blind, which would you choose?’ Now, my friends, I’d like to know how you would answer that question.” My husband – ever the provocateur! Perhaps that’s what I find so stimulating about him.

Well, no big surprise, no one said anything for a moment; this was a profound question. I finally decided to break the ice by responding. “For me, as a florist, I would have to say I’d choose to be deaf. I need to see the arrangements I’m creating, which color flowers go well together, the best bouquets to match bridesmaid’s dresses, even something as simple as placing flowers in the right vase. I wouldn’t have to hear the bell on the shop’s front door or the telephone ring; both can be hooked up to a light to get my attention. And customers could always email or text me with their orders. Why, I could even communicate with my customers via tablets in the shop. I’d still be able to see and smell all the beautiful flowers, meet my customer’s expectations and take pride in my creations.”

Spurred on by my answer, Austin chimed in. “Exactly! I totally agree with Dahlia. In the field of graphic design, I would be incapable of working without the ability to see. These days there are so many electronic devices we can use to communicate; I don’t think being deaf would interfere with my life or my work at all.”

Immediately Rebecca countered what we said. “I get where the two of you are coming from but I could never teach music if I were deaf. I’d be able to place my fingers on the correct piano keys or strum the right strings on a guitar because I’ve been making music all my life. It’s second nature to me. But I wouldn’t want to exist without the sound of music, to hear my students playing, to correct their mistakes or praise their achievements. It would be impossible for me to conduct an orchestra, not knowing if the violins should be a little louder or the bassoons pianissimo. Austin, if you were deaf, you wouldn’t hear the wedding march when I walk down the aisle or hear me say the words ‘I do’.”

Austin was quick to reply. “As long as I could see your radiant face in your gorgeous wedding gown carrying the beautiful bouquet designed by Dahlia, that’s all that would matter. And as far as hearing you say ‘I do’, I would read your luscious lips before tenderly kissing my new bride.”

We all laughed as Sam exclaimed “Nice save, Austin! Claude and Piper, we’ve yet to hear from you. What’s your poison – deaf or blind?”

As if on cue, both Claude and Piper declared their answers at the same time; he said “Deaf”; she said “Blind”. They stared at each other in bewilderment and the rest of us couldn’t help but laugh at the expressions on their faces. Of course Sam had to keep the game going by saying “At last! Some controversy, a little gasoline on the fire of our conversation. Let’s keep this ball rolling!” and he poured everyone a fresh glass of wine.

Claude cleared his throat. “Piper, mon cher, we own a bookstore! How can you possibly say you would choose blindness over deafness? Mon Dieu! Have you forgotten how we bonded at that little book shop in Paris … what was the name? Ah! La Manoeuvre! We both reached for the same book of poetry by Paul Eluard and when our eyes met I knew I could never look away.’’

“Oh, my darling Claude. I could never forget La Manoeuvre. You read poetry to me and time stood still. It was as though we were the only people in that shop. Our love for books is why we bought The Paper Trail; that store is our baby. I know each book on every shelf and have read most of them. The feel of the paper, the smell of the leather-bound first editions, hearing you read to me – I do not need sight to love a book.”

Piper and Claude moved closer to each other and embraced, momentarily forgetting they were not alone. They kissed, then pulled away, embarrassed. Piper blushed and gave a breathless laugh.

“Claude, do you remember the books I had in my bag the day we first met?” Piper asked.

Claude nodded and said “Oui. One was ‘Wuthering Heights’ in Braille and the other was French sign language. They were for your parents.”

Piper looked around the room at the rest of us and explained. “My mother is blind and my father is deaf. Somehow they never had trouble communicating; I suppose they spoke the silent language of love. That’s why I was so passionate about having a Braille section in our bookstore. Also, there is new technology to help both blind and deaf people enjoy a movie or television.”

Turning to Claude, Piper said “As long as I can hear your voice, it doesn’t matter if I never see another thing again.”

We all felt a little in awe of Piper at that moment. We sipped our wine, captivated by the sounds of silence.  

NAR © 2022

A LITTLE THING LIKE THIS

It was raining when Kate Sullivan left Mercy Hospital. She was exhausted after her 12-hour shift, a bit short-tempered and very sweaty. All she wanted was to get home, peel off her scrubs, shower and go to sleep.

Usually Kate walked the seven long city blocks to her apartment in Soho just to clear her head, grabbing a donut on the way. Even after a nightmare of a shift, walking was better than riding the New York subway. Her Crocs and scrubs had been splattered with enough bodily fluids at the hospital; she had no desire to be subjected to the lascivious Neanderthals who rode the train.

But walking home this morning in the pouring rain was not an option. Stepping out from under the protective awning of the hospital, Kate hailed a taxi. As if by magic, one appeared almost instantly. “Thank God” she sighed, praying the cabbie wasn’t one of those chipper talkative types. She just wanted someone to drive her home in silence.

“Good mornin’ to ya, miss. And where might ya be goin’?” The cheerful driver’s greeting sounded like angels singing.

Kate groaned quietly and rolled her eyes. “I might be going home if you’d just start driving’’ was her clipped response.

“Yer wish is my command! Where to?” the cabbie asked, undeterred. In a matter-of-fact voice Kate gave the driver her address.

“I’ll have ya there in a jiffy!” he replied and began humming a tune, one which was vaguely familiar to Kate but she couldn’t place it.

How could anyone be so cheerful at the ungodly hour of 5:00 AM? Kate glanced over at the cabbie’s ID card taped to the tinted plexiglass that separated the front and back seats. She read his name was Declan O’Murphy; could it be any more Irish? His photo depicted a rather handsome man, probably early-thirties with tousled brown hair and a shadow of a beard. He wore a somewhat serious expression but there were deep dimples threatening to break out, almost as though he had a private joke to share. His eyes stared back at Kate and she felt goosebumps doing a jitterbug up and down her arms.

Kate sat back in her seat, took out her phone and quickly checked her schedule. Damn! Another 12-hour shift tomorrow night. She peeked over the top of her phone to steal a glimpse of the driver and immediately looked away when she saw he was looking at her in the rearview mirror. He grinned broadly showing dazzling white teeth. He looked extraordinarily handsome.

“Are ya a doctor, then?” he asked, eyes dancing.

Pfft!” Kate exclaimed. “No, I work a lot harder than most doctors I know. I’m an ER nurse; just came off an all-nighter and have another one tomorrow.”

Declan whistled and pushed his cap back a bit. “ER. That’s pretty heavy-duty stuff now, ain’t it? Well, I’ll leave ya be; just relax. OK if I put on some music?”

Kate shrugged and mumbled “whatever”; she found herself smiling slightly at Declan’s charming Irish accent. She was surprised when rock music filled the taxi. Kate recognized the song as the same one Declan was humming and found she really liked what she was hearing. She was sure she’d heard it before but just couldn’t place it.

She leaned forward a little, talking over the music. “I like this song a lot. Who is it?” she asked.

Declan jokingly gasped and smacked his hand across his chest as though mortally wounded. “Ya can’t be seriously tellin’ me ya don’t know the best rock group to come out of Ireland? Why, this is the one and only Thin Lizzy. Here … take a look at this” and he passed Kate the jacket for the CD ‘Jailbreak’ through an opening in the plexiglass. “That there’s the great singer Phil Lynott, gone too soon like so many before and after him.”

Kate really enjoyed the CD, especially “The Boys Are Back in Town” and before she knew it they had arrived at her apartment building. Was that disappointment she was feeling?

Here we are, safe and sound”. Declan offered to walk Kate to the front door with an umbrella but she said that wasn’t necessary and asked how much she owed him for the ride. They settled up and Kate made a dash for the front door. Declan watched her disappear into the building, then drove off in search of another fare.

It wasn’t until Kate was in her apartment that she realized she still had the CD jewel case. She frowned wondering how she’d be able to get it back to Declan. He only had her address, not her name or apartment number and she didn’t notice which cab company he worked for. “Well, I’ll think of something” she thought. “Right now I need a shower and sleep.”

When she was done, Kate got into bed, reached for her phone and clicked the YouTube app, searching for Thin Lizzy. She fell asleep listening to ‘Jailbreak’.

The following night her shift was just as hectic as the night before. At 5:00AM, dog tired, achy and hungry, Kate left the hospital for her trek home. No rain today and the pre-dawn streets were still deserted except for an occasional car and the lights from a 24/7 donut shop. She was about to stop for a sweet chocolate glazed when she heard two short honks from a nearby car. Looking over her shoulder she recognized Declan’s taxi and immediately smiled.

The window slid down and Declan’s sing-song voice rang out: “Top o’ the mornin’ to ya, lassie. Might ya be lookin’ fer a ride home?”

Kate laughed and walked to the cab. Easing into the back seat, she teased Declan a bit, asking if he was hoping to find her or his CD case. Now it was Declan’s turn to laugh. ”Could be I was hoping to find both.”

They exchanged friendly banter all the way to her building; there was even a little flirting going on. Kate asked herself if she could be falling for this guy after two short rides in his cab. What was really weird was she never got a clear look at Declan but she realized to her amazement that didn’t matter. For once she was attracted to a guy for his personality, the things he said, his sense of humor and his appealing Irish accent – not his looks. Usually that was the first thing that drew her to a man but this was different.

Hey, Declan, you know what I just realized? You don’t know my name!”

“Well, I was hopin’ you’d tell me cos I have something to ask ya” he replied.

“My name is Kate. Kate Sullivan. What do you want to ask me, Declan?”

“Ah, a wee bit o’ the Irish in ya, is there? I knew it! Well, Katie, there’s a Thin Lizzy cover band playing tomorrow night at Paddy Maguire’s and I was thinkin’ it would be grand if we went together.”

Kate didn’t hesitate for a second. “I think it would be grand as well. I’d love to go, Declan. I want to get to know more about you.”

“Aye, Katie, that you will. I’ll pick you up right here tomorrow night at 8:00. And, Katie – my friends call me Murph.”

No one ever called her “Katie”; she felt little butterflies in her stomach when Declan called her that.

Kate wanted to look great for her date but didn’t want to look like she tried too hard. She chose a sunny yellow camisole, her favorite pair of skinny jeans and dangerously high-heeled sandals. She hoped Declan would appreciate her look.

At that same moment Declan sat in his taxi waiting for Kate; he was so nervous he got there 20 minutes early. This was a bold move for him, rarely acting so impulsively, but he felt he and Kate clicked after spending only half an hour riding in his cab. He thought about his grandparents who met on a train in Belfast and were madly in love by the time they reached Dublin. He hoped Kate wouldn’t be disappointed.

When Kate spotted Declan’s cab, she stopped for a minute to compose herself; she hadn’t been this excited about a date in eons. It was crazy – she barely knew the guy. Declan saw her standing in the doorway of her apartment building and his heart started pounding; she looked amazing, so understated yet elegant.

Kate started approaching the cab. “Well, it’s showtime, boyo” Declan whispered to himself as he got out of the cab and walked around the front to greet Kate.

Wow! You’re a fine thing tonight, Katie!” Declan said breathlessly.

Kate stared at Declan in disbelief. “And you’re … you’re …”

“Ah, so you’ve noticed I’m a little person, have ya? All 4 foot, 5 inches of me.” Declan gave her a crooked smile. “Achondroplasia; I’m sure yer familiar. Katie girl, if this is a deal-breaker, I understand.”

All Kate could do was stare. Neither one spoke. Kate laughed nervously and said “Yeah, this is quite a surprise. Oh, damn! I just remembered something.”

Before Declan could respond, Kate ran back into her building. “Well, I suppose that’s it then, ya eejit! Shoulda said something before now!” he chastised himself. He shoved his hands in his pockets and started walking back to his side of the cab.

Murph! Wait!” It was Kate calling out to him. Declan turned around to see Kate running back to the taxi. Catching her breath she said “Here. I forgot your CD case.”

Taking the case from her outstretched hand, the first thing Declan noticed was Kate had switched her high heels for flat sandals. He looked up at her and she smiled broadly.

Declan O’Murphy, if you think a little thing like this is going to change how I feel about you, you’re dead wrong. Now drive. Our night is just beginning.”

NAR © 2022

NO OTHER LOVE

Her skin is the color of peaches and cream, soft as a cygnet’s downy feathers. Sleepy eyes gazed up at him, sparkling like the icy blue waters of a glistening lake. His heart melted as her pouty rosebud mouth smiled sweetly. Strawberry blonde hair framed her head, caressing her perfect face. He held her in his arms and kissed her eyes, her nose and her cheeks. His lips brushed lightly against her ears and he delicately nuzzled her neck. At that moment he knew he would never love another as deeply and tenderly as his precious newborn baby girl.

NAR © 2021

GUEST POST: FORBIDDEN LOVE, PART 2: REVENGE OF THE WINGS (Fantasy)

It’s a thrill for me to post the second installment of “Foribidden Love”, a fantasy angels and demons story created by my granddaughter, Mckenna Richy. Last time we saw our star-crossed lovers Cameron, Princess of the Angels, made a huge leap of faith and love by joining Jasper, the demon boy, on the other side. This act resulted in Cameron becoming a demon and angering her mother, Queen of the Angels. Alex, an angel who was also in love with Cameron, could not believe what Cameron had done and was willing to do whatever it took to bring her back to the Land of the Angels.

Mckenna has been working on Part 2, among other stories which will also appear here, since before Part 1 was published in February, 2020. Much has happened in our world since then; a lot was very disturbing and frightening for all of us. There were many things our kids didn’t understand; sometimes as adults we forget that. I’m so proud that Mckenna kept her mind active and her imagination flowing by continuing her writing. She’s quite the young lady now at 12 years of age. She’s determined to give everything she does her best shot and I know she will succeed at whatever she chooses to do. And if she learns a little bit from me along the way, then even better. The universe awaits!

So, what do you do for fun around here?” Cameron asked.

“Well, this place has no rules so basically you can do whatever you want” Jasper said with a smile.

“Huh!” exclaimed Cameron. The two walked through the town that the angels hated so much.

“Next question: Why the heck is there so much lava?” asked Cameron playfully, while pointing to the multiple volcanoes and lava-falls. Jasper just laughed.  Cameron flicked her finger against his head. “I’m being serious, y’know!”  

“Okay, well, this land has a very long history.  Do you want to hear it?  And I’m only explaining because I’m sick of the questions.”  Jasper said.

Cameron sat down. “I’m kind of offended, but I’ll take it” she said half-jokingly.

Jasper sat down next to her and began to explain the long and somewhat boring history of his home.

Meanwhile back at the palace, Alex was pacing his room, thoughts running through his head.  He knew that if he tried to kill Jasper, he would have to kill Cameron, too. But the truth was he didn’t really want to kill anyone. On the other hand, he also didn’t want to die. His mind was racing! All Alex wanted to do was fall asleep and wake up in a world where the past 12 hours never happened. Easier said than done! Suddenly the door burst open and Alex’s older brother, Mason, burst into the room.  

“What the heck did you do, Alex?! I heard that the Royal Guard is planning on killing the Prince of Demons and YOU’RE leading them. You’re supposed to be getting married to the princess in two weeks!

Alex sighed. “She’s no princess.” 

Mason was taken aback. “How can you say that?  Her mother is the Queen and she possesses the greatest power in the world.” 

Alex flopped on his bed. “Before you start shooting your mouth off, how ‘bout you look out the window?”  

Mason went to his brother’s window and saw Jasper and a demon girl talking. “Who is that demon, the one with the black hair?” 

Alex threw a pillow at his brother, “Take a wild guess, genius!” 

Putting two and two together, Mason sarcastically said to Alex “Ouch, bro!  You REALLY messed up big time!” 

Alex was annoyed. “Thanks for making me feel worse. It was your idea to marry into a powerful family.” 

Mason put his hands up. “I’m aware of that.”  He paused as Alex sat up. “But are YOU aware of what you have done?” And with that, Mason walked out. Little did anyone know that next time Mason saw his brother, he would be a different person.

TWO DAYS LATER

Cameron’s mother, the Queen, addressed Alex: “Now, I have put a spell on you so that when you cross over, you will not turn into a demon. I’m trusting you to bring my daughter back.”  Alex saluted the Queen and he and his troops marched to the border. They burst in and began putting out the fires.  

Jasper and Cameron were inside the demon castle when they heard the terrible commotion outside. The couple rushed to the window.

“It looks like war out there!” Cameron cried.

“Then we better go and fight.” declared Jasper. 

Cameron paused and looked out the window again. After what seemed like a million years, she replied “Yes, Jasper. You’re right. We must fight.” They both leapt out the window and flew over the battle scene.

Noticing Alex, Cameron asked “Jasper, why is Alex here?” 

“I have no idea” Jasper replied.

Suddenly Cameron and Jasper were sighted.

“DOWN WITH THE DEMONS!!!” Alex’s troops shouted.

Cameron flew down to Alex. “What are you doing?” she shouted.

“Just following orders” Alex answered.

“And what are those orders?!” demanded Cameron.

Alex replied: “To kill the demons.” 

“But why?” Cameron asked.

“You could ask your mother” Alex said. But wait – I think maybe there’s a way to make this all stop.”  He offered Cameron his hand. “Come back home to the Land of the Angels and never leave again. Then all this will end.” 

Cameron felt like she was going to explode. “You think I came this far just to go back after only 24 hours?!  I crossed the border because the demons did nothing wrong. I belong here as a demon with Jasper. YOU can go back and tell my mother that her daughter is gone!”  

“Listen, if I don’t bring you back to your mother…”  Alex’s voice trailed off.

“What, Alex?  What’s my mother going to do?” asked Cameron.

“She will leave me to die and come and fetch you herself” Alex replied quietly.

At first Cameron didn’t know what to say. Then she spoke what was in her heart: “I just want a peaceful world where people can love whoever they want, where there is no queen or king.”   

Suddenly Alex knew what had to be done. He snapped his fingers and the troops disappeared. Jasper flew down and stood next to Cameron.

“What are you doing, Alex?” he asked.

Alex didn’t answer. Then it happened. His angelic wings turned black and his blonde hair to a rusty red.  

Standing in the place of what once seemed like a lost cause was now a chance for redemption.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“He failed!” said the Queen of Angels angrily. “If that so-called ‘angel’ can’t bring my daughter back, then I’ll have no choice but to do it myself.” 

TO BE CONCLUDED IN PART 3 OF

“THE FORBIDDEN LOVE” SERIES

MFR © 2021

GUEST POST: LOVED BY AN ANGEL

SOMETIMES IT’S BEST NOT TO SAY ANYTHING ABOUT A GUEST POST; DOING SO WOULD SIMPLY TAKE AWAY FROM THE INTENSITY AND BEAUTY OF A PIECE. TO EXPLAIN SUCH A PERSONAL MEMORY WOULD BE A DISSERVICE. I KNOW YOU WILL BE QUITE TAKEN BY THIS POEM WRITTEN BY MY DEAR FRIEND, PAUL GRIFFITHS – THE BIRKENHEAD POET. THANK YOU, PAUL, FOR ALLOWING ME TO SHARE IT HERE. ❤️

I loved her with a vengeance that even the devil failed to understand.
For her I would have gladly sold my soul and for eternity be damned.
She was worth crossing the great divide, the line drawn in the sand.
I’d have broken every commandment and dismissed God out of hand.

My angel who became a mortal and turned her back on heaven above.
Such things are worth the sacrifice if it’s done in the name of love.
When her wings were clipped she did not cry out or complain.
She said to feel true love for just an instant was worth any amount of pain.

I never knew why she would do such a thing, falling for a wretch like me.
She told me, when she looked into my eyes she saw what others failed to see.
To become a mortal woman yet my goddess to me was still held as divine.
I worshiped her with all my heart with a love that transcended time.

I think God punished us by punishing her for abandoning him for me.
God might be omnipotent but I think he got stung by that green eyed jealousy.
She made her choice and she fell in love and it was her free will.
But now she became vulnerable to human traits and my angel fell ill.

God now turned his back on her, as I turned my back on him.
She told me not to go to war with God, it was a battle we couldn’t win.
I told her I was sorry that she ever fell in love with a wretch like me.
She said she would not change a thing that our love was meant to be.

I have yet to face God’s wrath when we finally meet eye to eye.
He’d better beg for my forgiveness; why did he let her die.
For she held heaven in her eyes and a look of love so clear.
If the devil awaits me then I shall enter hell without a hint of fear.

I don’t know if I was blessed to fall in love or is love but a curse.
To be loved an angel briefly then to lose her, what scenario is worse?
God only knows the answer and he ain’t talking to a fool like me.
So I guess I’m damned to walk alone, and if so then it shall be.

PTG © copyright

GUEST POST: FORBIDDEN LOVE – PART 1: SEPARATED AS ONE

It is a thrill and a delight to post a story written by my 11-year-old granddaughter, Mckenna Richy. A smart, funny, talented and loving young lady, Mckenna can be just about whatever she wants to be in life, excelling in whichever profession she chooses. It’s obvious she’s already a very good writer! I’m extremely proud of her for writing this incredible love story. I hope we get to read Part II very soon!

“Hello.”

Jasper heard a voice. He looked up to see a girl angel about the same age as himself on the other side of the border. “Who are you?” he asked.

“The opposite of you” she responded.

“Yeah, I get that. I mean, where did you come from?” Jasper said.

“I came from my home on the side of the border that I am standing on” the girl replied.

“I’m Jasper” the boy angel said, hoping to make an unusual but true friend.

The girl angel smiled. “I’m Cameron.”

EIGHT YEARS LATER

“Cameron! Could you come here please?” called Cameron’s mother, the Queen of the Angels. Cameron walked down the hall of the palace and approached the throne room where her mother was seated.

“Yes, mother?” she said.

“I would like you to meet someone.” Her mother motioned to a boy angel about the same age as Cameron. “This is Alex. He will be your husband” her mother said.

Cameron was taken aback. “H-husband?” she weakly said. “Uh … can I use the restroom? I had a huge glass of dragon fruit juice!” and with that Cameron ran out of the throne room and flew out the window.

Cameron flew to the edge of the border, the place where she first met the love of her life, Jasper. She sat down near the edge and started crying.

Cameron?” she heard Jasper say. “Are you okay?” he asked.

No, I’m really not, Jasper! I’m sorry” cried Cameron, “but I’m being forced to marry someone else – someone I don’t love!” Cameron continued to cry.

“Is there any way out of it?” Jasper asked, trying to help.

None that I can see. I’m doomed!” Cameron whined.

“I’m so sorry, Cameron” said Jasper.

Cameron got up and stood on the edge of the border. “What’s to stop me from jumping over?” she quietly asked.

Huh?” said Jasper. “If you jump to this side there’s no going back!”

“That’s the point” Cameron replied.

You really want to be with me, don’t you?” Jasper asked.

Yes, Jasper. I do” Cameron responded.

I’ll be waiting for you” said Jasper.

Just as Cameron was about to jump, Alex came out of nowhere. “There you are! Everyone has been so worried about you!” he said.

Cameron was surprised to see him. “AHHH! How did you get here?!” she asked, clearly annoyed.

“Your mother sent me to find you. Besides, I would like to get to know my future wife” responded Alex.

Yeah … no!” snapped Cameron.

Well, get used to it. In two weeks you’ll be stuck with me forever” said Alex in a sarcastic tone.

“Well, as you can see I’m fine! Can you please leave? I’m trying to talk to someone who actually means something to me!” said Cameron.

“Ooh. He just got roasted” said Jasper quietly.

“Cameron, you’re friends with this monster?” asked Alex.

Cameron got angry. “He’s not a monster! I’m in love with him!” she firmly said and without thinking she pushed Alex away and jumped off the edge of her side of the border. When Cameron opened her eyes, Jasper was standing over her. “Jasper, did I do it?” she asked.

Jasper helped her up. “You did it, Cameron!” he said.

Cameron hugged Jasper without any care that Alex was watching from what used to be her home.

“What did you do to yourself?” asked Alex, as white as a ghost.

Cameron was confused. “What do you mean?” She looked at herself. She had wings and horns almost identical to Jasper’s and her blond hair had become as black as coal. “Looks like crossing over has some benefits” Cameron said with a grin.

Alex ran back to the castle, probably to tell Cameron’s mother that her daughter was now a demon. But Cameron couldn’t care less. She and Jasper were finally united. Cameron didn’t care what she looked like or what side of the world she was on.

And neither did Jasper.

MFR © 2021

SOCIALLY DISTANCED

Both men lived in the same apartment building, one on the ground floor and the other, two flights up. They would see each other in passing, nodding ‘hello’ or muttering the occasional “How ya doing?” They were approximately the same age and had seen each other often but a friendship never developed.

Then the corona virus hit and everything changed.

They happened upon each other in a nearby park, masked up, walking their dogs. One had a golden retriever, the other a chocolate lab. They struck up a socially distanced conversation, at first talking about their dogs then, of course, the craziness of COVID.

They were both unemployed computer engineers, laid off because of company closures. Each one contemplated moving back in with their parents but that was impossible; neither one came from accepting or understanding homes.

They started biking and jogging together, often running the six miles that made up the full loop around Central Park. As they talked they discovered they had much in common: their nonexistent love lives, their passion for chess, a fascination with micro-brewing and their dream of working from home as computer app designers. And how gut-wrenching it was coming out as gay.

The next step was so natural: moving in together. They could share one apartment and save money, work on ideas for app design programs, dabble in a little home-made beer and totally, passionately, fiercely fall in love.

A new year, a new start. Love in the time of corona.

NAR © 2021

Reposted for  http://fivedotoh.com/2022/12/16/fowc-with-fandango-neither/

THE HAPPIEST WIFE

There’s a quaint little road not too far from me
Where the sign by a hedge reads “Love Lane”.
People travel for miles and miles to see
The street with that enchanting name.

The houses all look like fairy-tale homes
As psychedelic butterflies flutter by.
Statues of toadstools, angels and gnomes
Make passersby grin and contentedly sigh.

There’s never a cloud-filled sky o’er Love Lane
And the flower gardens bloom all year long.
A gentle breeze spins the old weather-vane
While a cardinal whistles his song.

At the end of the street is a sweet little church
Which has seen brides and grooms come and go.
A duo of lovebirds comfortably nests on their perch
Cooing greetings to all those below.

Alongside the church is a babbling brook
Where ducklings are happily splashing.
A couple cuddles close with their poetry book
While their children are playing and laughing.

Love Lane can fill every heart with great joy
Like it’s Christmas or Valentine’s Day.
Sweet as a crush for a young girl and boy;
It’s just puppy love, or so people say.

Can a place like Love Lane really be true
Where peace, joy and harmony reign?
Is it possible to never feel lonely or blue;
To not suffer heartache or pain?

Someday as I walk down that storybook street
I’ll happen upon the true love of my life.
All the luckiest spouses on Love Lane do meet
And I know I’ll be blessed with the happiest wife.

NAR © 2020

RAINBOW BRIDGE

Eric and Sue always knew they’d get a dog someday – not one from the pet shop but a rescue in desperate need of a loving home. When they saw Lily, all chocolatey-brown with big doe eyes, they knew she was the one. She was the sweetest, most gentle dog ever, despite having been abused and terribly frightened most of her life.

Animals know when someone is trying to help them. Lily knew she was safe, happy living in her home on Paradise Place with Eric and Sue. She loved them as much as they loved her.

After six years together Sue noticed that Lily had a little raspy cough and some trouble eating; this worried her. A trip to the vet confirmed her fears; Lily was diagnosed with a rare case of tongue cancer.

Malignant. Inoperable.

How much time?”

Within the year” was the grim answer.

Sue and Eric promised each other two things:
– They would spoil Lily rotten and smother her with love.
– They would never let her suffer or die alone.

The veterinarian decided the best treatment would be medication and radiation therapy. It wasn’t a cure but Lily responded well; she was a happy girl. She loved napping in the upstairs TV room. Upon waking she’d walk to the top of the stairs, stretch and shake her head, dog tags jangling noisily. When baby Julia came along, Lily was so good with her; Eric and Sue never worried when Lily was near the baby.

Eight months later Lily started getting worse. Within days she declined rapidly; she was listless and wouldn’t eat. Eric and Sue were blindsided one morning when Lily began vomiting blood; they knew the end was near for their beloved girl. It’s not like they weren’t expecting this; it just happened so fast and too soon.

At the animal hospital Eric and Sue comforted Lily as the vet gave her a sedative. They whispered loving words and kissed her head. Lily finally relaxed in their arms. Another injection was administered and Lily passed peacefully after just a few seconds.

Eric and Sue were heartbroken. They took the next day off from work to recoup, scrubbing the blood from the carpet and washing Lily’s bed. That night while folding laundry Sue heard a noise upstairs. She thought it was Julia but the baby was fast asleep. Then she recognized the sound: jangling dog tags! Exhausted, Sue knew it had to be her imagination … until she looked at Eric. He was white as a ghost, his gaze transfixed on the staircase. Sue whispered in questioning disbelief “You heard that?!” Eric nodded yes. “That was Lily!”

Logically they knew it couldn’t possibly be Lily but they looked anyway. Then they checked Lily’s leash and collar; of course they were right where they put them the night before. But in their hearts they knew – Lily had come back one last time to her home on Paradise Place to say goodbye and let them know she was ok on the other side of Rainbow Bridge.



Lily

NAR © 2020

THE HEART OF COOKING

It was an ordinary Sunday morning when ten year old Marianna was roused from her sleep – not by the sound of icy pellets of sleet hitting the window nor by her pesky cat nuzzling her neck with his downy face, purring loudly in her ear. Nothing that mundane could disturb her peaceful slumber; it was something much more tantalizing and enticing.

Gradually the hint of a delectable aroma wafted into her room like wispy smoke, encircled her head and tickled her nose with ethereal fingers. Sleepy eyes blinked open and Marianna grinned as the realization hit her – Mama’s making meatballs! 

Slipping on fuzzy socks Marianna ran to the kitchen – the queen’s domain where Mama reigned supreme. She was standing guard over her gleaming Autumn Gold Amana stove, all the burners dutifully at work. The rear burners held two large stainless steel pots containing simmering tomato sauce, a slowly bubbling brew of crimson ambrosia. The front burners held the culinary Holy Grail – Mama’s treasured cast iron pans which had one purpose and one purpose only – frying meatballs. The expertly formed golfball-sized orbs of pure perfection sizzled in Mama’s special mixture of olive oil and butter turning the meatballs a delicious golden brown. The butter and oil combination was one of her many secrets – “a kiss from the cook” she would say.

“Come, Marianna. Mangia! I put some aside for you. Eat them before they get cold.” 

Marianna scampered to the side of the stove where Mama had placed three glorious meatballs on a little plate. Her immediate reaction was to gobble them up as fast as possible but they would be gone too soon.

There’s a process for eating fried meatballs fresh from the pan. First you select one, gingerly picking it up with your fingers. No respectable Italian would eat a fried meatball with a knife and fork; it’s a ritual and you don’t mess with rituals. Next you inhale the fragrance which in itself is a religious experience. Bringing the meatball to your mouth, you pause for one second, lips barely touching the crunchy crispy outer shell. Now for the best part – that first small bite revealing the exquisitely cooked succulent interior of the meatball.

The sensation of flavors bursting in your mouth cannot be adequately described. Like a wine connoisseur savoring the bouquet of a fine Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, so must the sublime piquancy of the noble meatball be appreciated. The combination of the outer crust and tender succulent inside blended with Pecorino Romano cheese, oregano and seasoned breadcrumbs makes for the ideal culinary marriage.

Marianna brought her now empty and licked clean plate to the sink and watched as Mama carefully placed the meatballs into the sauce where they would lovingly simmer and soften for several hours.

Mama” Marianna began timidly, “may I have your recipes when I grow up? I want to learn to cook just like you.”

“My recipes?” Mama asked incredulously. “There are no recipes written in some fancy cookbook. The recipes are in here and in here” she said touching her head and her heart.

But how will I learn to cook without a recipe?” Marianna asked.

“My angel Marianna. Cooking is like breathing – don’t think about it. You watch. I will teach you. Your hands and heart will know when the texture is right – a little water, some cheese, a few eggs, a handful of seasonings. You’ll know. As long as you add the most important ingredient, you’ll never need a recipe.” 

“What’s the most important ingredient, Mama?”

“Love, my angel” Mama said as she kissed the top of Marianna’s head. “Love.”

NAR © 2019

TI VOGLIO TANTO BENE

There are five boroughs in the city of New York – Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island – each with a unique character and charm of its own. That was true back in the 1930s and it’s still true today.

Every family has a story and mine was no different as I’ve been told numerous times. My parents were both from Manhattan. They met in 1937, got married two years later, moving into the family’s triplex apartment in Manhattan with my mother’s immediate relatives – 19 aunts, uncles and cousins plus her parents and grandparents.

World War II had begun and countless men were being drafted – but only men without children. My mother’s uncles all had several kids making them exempt from the draft. My father was also safe for my mother had a baby just ten months after getting married – a breathtakingly beautiful boy with rosy cheeks and auburn curls. He was named Gaetano after my paternal grandfather. Then the unspeakable happened. My parent’s world came crashing down just two short years later when they endured the devastating loss of their beloved baby Gaetano on New Year’s Eve. “Nephritis” the doctors said. “There’s no cure.”

Given no time to grieve, the army snatched my childless father and shipped him off to Europe to battle the enemy, leaving my mother with no husband and no baby. My father returned home in July of 1945 and somehow they managed to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and begin again. Their daughter Francesca was born in 1947; I followed four years later, born on Francesca’s birthday. I was named Sophia. Francesca still hasn’t forgiven me for ruining her birthday party!

When I was six months old my parents decided the city was no place to raise a family and started looking for houses in The Bronx. In 1951 The Bronx was a lot different than it is now; it was like a village in the countryside with farms where people raised sheep, goats and chickens and grew fresh vegetables. They got milk from the animals and made their own cream, butter and cheese. It was a far cry from Manhattan and it was idyllic.

My parents bought a nice two family house just big enough for the four of us and my grandparents. There was also a large backyard perfect for my grandfather’s grapevines and fig trees and my mother’s vegetable garden. My grandmother was always sickly. I recall my mother telling us how much my grandmother loved being away from Manhattan. She relished sitting in the backyard watching my grandfather picking grapes and feeling the warmth of the sun on her frail body.

On a beautiful warm day I was taking a nap in my baby carriage in the backyard while my grandmother sat in a chair gently rocking the carriage. I started to stir and opened my eyes. I saw my grandmother’s smiling face looking down at me, her doe-like eyes twinkling as she sweetly sang an Italian folk song, “Ti Voglio Tanto Bene” (“I Love You So Much”):

I love you so much and I’ll be here for you. You will feel in your heart a love that is true. I love you so much and I’ll cherish you with my voice sweetly singing only to you.”

At 11 months of age my earliest memory was seeing my grandmother’s adoring face smiling at me. It was her twinkling brown eyes and sweet voice that calmed me. She passed away three years later but the special bond we shared would never die.

Ti voglio tanto bene, nonna.”

NAR © 2019

THE PORCH

“Walnut hair and skin so fair

Freckles like stars on her nose

Green eyes glittering like precious jewels

And lips as soft as a rose” 

“Hey, Pops, what’s that you’re singing? I’ve never heard it before”. 

Brady, I didn’t see you there” replied Ben Williams as he leaned his guitar against the porch wall. “Just an old number I wrote for your Mom. Another lifetime.” 

Pops, can I ask you something? It makes me sad how little I remember about Mom. What was she like?” 

“Oh, son. That’s not easy to answer. Your mom was a real beauty, a feast for the eyes. And we were happy. We had you and your sister  our first three years together. Then I got that trucking job and your Mom was alone a lot. It’s hard on a woman when her man is away for days at a time, especially with babes to care for. She was special and she loved you kids – don’t you ever forget that – but she got lonely. 

“When Ron Carter’s wife died your Mom befriended him. They were both lonely and found comfort together. I don’t blame her for that. One day when I was home from the road she brought Ron a cherry pie. She took your sister with her and they never came back. From that point on it was just you and me.” 

Father and son sat in contemplative silence. 

You know, Pops, at first I thought Mom would be back soon. Then I gave up on that dream and convinced myself she had died. Strange thing is, thinking she was dead was easier than believing she abandoned us.” 

Ben let out a ragged sigh. “Thank God I had you, Brady. You didn’t know it but you kept me from falling apart. Getting that steady job at the hardware store was a life saver and I was able to be here for you.” 

“Then I started dating Rebecca and I was hardly ever home!” Brady laughed. “Marrying her and moving in here with you made my life complete.”

“That sweet gal of yours made my life complete, too, son. She filled a void in my heart and never once complained about having to live with her pain in the ass father-in-law! Rebecca’s like a daughter to me” declared Ben. 

“Pops, did you know Rebecca was the one who insisted we live here with you. Not too many women would do that. And our kids are crazy about you! You’ve taught them a lot.” 

“I love those munchkins, Brady! You all made this house a home and a broken old man whole again.” 

Rebecca poked her head out the screen door. “Dinner in ten minutes, you two. Would you round up the kids for me please?” 

That night Rebecca asked Brady what he and his father had been talking about. 

“Just reminiscing, mostly about my Mom.” 

“I wish I had a chance to know your Mom.”

“Me too, Becca” Brady replied wistfully. “Me too.”

NAR © 2019

TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY

The scream of the alarm clock jolted Tia from a deep sleep. With eyes closed, she reached over and smacked the off button. Slowly rolling her head, she glanced at her dozing boyfriend Andrew. 

Feeling her eyes on him, Andrew peeked at Tia and whispered a groggy “morning already?” 

“Uh-hum. 6:15” Tia murmured as she snuggled closer. “Plenty of time to…….” 

Fuck!!” yelled Andrew as he bolted from their bed. “I’ve got a 7:00 Caesarian and patients all day!” 

Disappointed, Tia went into the kitchen to brew some coffee. When she returned to the bedroom, Andrew was dressed and ready to go. He rushed by her, not even stopping to take the coffee and muffin she prepared for him.

Gotta run, T” Andrew called over his shoulder. “Catch ya later!” And he was gone. Tia picked at a muffin thinking how mornings like this were becoming more and more frequent. 

They met in college and fell in love, sharing their dreams – she becoming a fashion designer and he a doctor. Tia had been accepted to the Fashion Institute of Paris but Andrew begged her not to go until he was in med school. She agreed with the idea and found work dressing bridal shop windows. The job was ok but it was unfulfilling and every time she mentioned studying in Paris, Andrew reminded her of their plans. Now he was a busy doctor and she was still at the bridal salon. 

On the way to work she heard that George Harrison song with the line “And if you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there”. She couldn’t get that line out of her head and the road not taken – the road to Paris. She truly loved Andrew and made many sacrifices for his career. Now it was her turn. 

That evening when Andrew got home from work Tia told him they needed to talk. “Let me grab a shower first and I’m all yours” he replied. 

When Andrew returned he went to the fridge and poured them both a glass of wine. “Listen T, I known you want to talk but I have something to say. Can I go first?” Tia nodded. 

“After all our plans and promises, our dreams have finally come true but there’s still something missing in my life. I love you, Tia. Marry me. 

Tia was floored. “Drew, I love you, too, and want to marry you but there’s something missing in my life. What about my dream to be a designer? What about Paris?” 

Paris!? Not that foolishness again! T, forget that road, stay here and marry me.” 

“Foolishness, Drew? Foolishness!? You begged me to wait for you while you pursued your dream. If you truly love me you’ll wait while I follow my dream.” 

As they stared at each other, Andrew’s pager beeped. He glanced at it. “My patient’s in labor. I gotta go. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.” 

But Tia already knew which road she had to take. 

NAR © 2019

THE BEACHCOMBER

I guessed that something was wrong as soon as I saw the look of shocked disbelief on my husband David’s face. 

Babe, what’s wrong?”

With tears in his eyes David whispered “I lost my wedding ring!”  

It was our last night in Cape Cod. After dinner we went for a walk on the beach. There was a lot of seaweed in the ocean from a storm a few days before. We walked along the shore, teasing each other with clumps of seaweed; that’s when the ring must have slipped off his finger. But exactly where we had no idea. We crawled around searching but it was dark and we couldn’t see anything. David was devastated. 

“Hon, I know your wedding ring means the world to you but we can always replace it.”   

“I know, Jess, but it just won’t be the same.” 

Dejected, we returned to our room and went to bed. After hours of trying to get to sleep, I grabbed my laptop and Googled “Will a ring wash ashore after falling in the ocean?” 

Almost immediately there was a *ding* on my laptop … a response from “TheRingFinders.com. It read: “We can help find any lost metallic object on the beach or in the water. Enter your zip code and we’ll get back to you ASAP .” 

I entered the zip code for Cape Cod and 10 minutes later I heard from Rick at “RingFinders”. After explaining our situation, Rick said he’d be at our B&B at 7:00 AM to start his search. Thank God for the Internet! 

True to his word, Rick was already on the beach at 7:00. We ate breakfast on the veranda, never taking our eyes off Rick as he searched everywhere with no luck. It was almost checkout time when he trudged up to the B&B.   

No luck, folks. You’re gonna get socked in traffic if you don’t leave now. I’m sorry to disappoint you but I’m not giving up. I’ll keep in touch with you either way.” 

Disheartened, we checked out and loaded up the car. Taking one last look at Rick, we waved goodbye when we realized he wasn’t waving goodbye … he was waving in excitement. He ran up the beach with his arm in the air, hand clenched in a fist.    

I found it, folks! I found your ring” he shouted. 

We ran to meet him and he grinned as he placed a wet, sandy ring in David’s hand.

The ring was under 11 inches of water and seaweed!

Overjoyed, David hugged Rick and we asked how much we owed him. 

“This is a free service we provide but we gladly accept donations” Rick explained. “Its very rewarding to see the joy on people’s faces when they’re reunited with their precious lost items.” 

I don’t remember how much we gave Rick … that’s not important. What I do remember is David glancing at his ring all the way home and smiling. 

What an experience and certainly an incredible act of kindness. Thanks, Rick!

Authors Note: Every word of this story is true and Theringfinders.com is a real organization. Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction!

NAR © 2019

MAMMA MIA!

Christ, Marco! I’m a nervous wreck!” wailed Tina. “This is the first time I‘m meeting your mother. Do I look ok?”  

“Are you kidding me? You look great! She’s gonna love you!”  replied Marco as he put on his mother’s favorite Dean Martin record. 

Carrying a box of Italian pastries, Marco’s mother Francesca arrived promptly at 6:00 – ready and quite curious to meet her son’s first female roommate. Introductions were made, niceties exchanged and Tina went to check on dinner. “She certainly knows her way around that kitchen well enough”  Francesca thought to herself. 

While Tina put the finishing touches on dinner, Marco brought out some appetizers. “Ah, bruschetta!”  exclaimed Francesca but when she bit into the small slice of toasted Italian bread, she discovered the topping was raw meat. “It’s steak tartare, Ma” explained Marco. Francesca made a horrified face and hastily deposited her half-chewed delicacy into her napkin. “Oh God! Raw meat will kill you!” Francesca emphatically declared, “I hope the rest of the meal is cooked”, she mumbled. 

In an attempt to quell rising tempers, Marco showed Francesca around the apartment. 

“Look, Ma. Isn’t this nice?  A small but functional kitchen, a dining area, and a comfy living room. But the best part is two bedrooms, each with its own bathroom so there’s no fighting over who gets to shower first.”  Marco laughed self-consciously. 

Yes, dear. Very nice.”  

Francesca silently simmered. “What’s this world coming to? Whoever heard of boys and girls as apartment  roommates? Maybe in a large house with five or six people but an intimate little apartment with two people of the opposite sex?”

Finally dinner was ready. During the course of the meal, Francesca couldn’t help but notice how attentive Tina was to Marco. She suspected a romantic relationship between the two of them and their actions only made her more suspicious.

Throughout the evening while watching Marco and Tina together, she became convinced that there was more between them than met the eye. Reading his mother’s thoughts Marco said “I know what you’re thinking, Ma, but I assure you Tina and I are just roommates.”  His mother smiled thinly but said nothing. 

About a week later Tina said to Marco “Ever since your mother was here for dinner I’ve been unable to find the napkin rings we used. You don’t suppose she took them, do you?” 

“Well, I doubt it”,  he replied, “but I’ll email her.”  

Dear Ma – I’m not saying that you DID take Tina’s napkin rings and I’m not saying you DIDN’T take them but they have been missing ever since you were here last week. Love, Marco  

He immediately received a reply: 

Dear Marco – I’m not saying that you DO sleep with your roommate and I’m not saying that you DON’T sleep with her but if she was sleeping in her OWN bed she would have found the napkin rings by now – under her pillow. Love, Ma 

Lesson learned: Never try to fool an Italian mother! 

NAR © 2019

THE LOSER

“Instantly Irresistible” read the label on the perfume bottle at a shop in Bangkok. I was, shall we say, drawn here after several misunderstandings with the Sydney Police Department. I called it “gaining a profit”; they called it “pickpocketing”.

Contrary to the Sydney Police, my parents and my friends, I’m not a complete loser – just a partial one. I worked in a book store back home but got canned when I ‘borrowed’ a few dollars from the register. The shop owner called the police on me, even though “he really liked me and hated doing it” . Then there was the ‘incident’ which brought me here. 

Now I’m washing dishes for a restaurant, just barely getting by. The waitresses, all sisters, live together downstairs in a shoebox of an apartment near the supply room. I sleep on a cot in the basement and use the grungy bathroom – better than nothing. There’s a basement window which I crawl through when I get home late and the restaurant is closed. Only the owner and the eldest sister have a key. 

Sometimes when the sisters are working I’ll go downstairs for supplies, take a small detour into that shoebox and help myself to their tip money. I’m wondering – can I be considered a ‘housebreaker’ if the door isn’t locked? 

I have a clandestine girlfriend, too. She’s a cleaner at the tailor shop nearby. I saw her through the shop window and she looked up and smiled. One dark night after work I waited for her outside the shop and asked if I could walk her home. She agreed but said only half way – her family would not approve. She lives with her parents and 11 siblings. All of what she earns goes to her family. She owns only a few clothes and a ragged cloth pouch. I surprised her with a bottle of perfume which I found in a moldy wood crate behind the shop. She smiled happily and slipped it into her pouch. Her name is “Piti” and she calls me “Sam” which isn’t even my name but that’s ok. No one knows I exist.  

After dark the next night I waited for Piti but she never showed. Disappointed, I skulked home. The same thing happened the next two nights and on the fourth day during my break I glanced in the tailor shop window only to see a different cleaning girl. “Where was Piti?” I wondered, becoming concerned. 

Several days later I overheard the sisters talking. Piti had become deathly sick – an apparent toxic reaction to old perfume from a bottle found in her pouch. She had been in quarantine, but died this morning. 

I was reeling. I did this to Piti. I killed her! She was a perfect angel, the sweetest part of my life. Everything I do hurts someone. In the course of three weeks I’ve gone from petty thief to murderer. Everyone is right. I’m a complete loser. I don’t know how I’m going to live with myself.       

NAR © 2019

BUT I’VE BEEN THINKING

“Confusion, Jesse? What confusion? We have plans. What’s going on?” Mia stood impatiently tapping her toe. 

“That’s just it, Mia. I don’t know what’s going on. We really need to talk about our wedding.”  Jesse paced back and forth, hands shoved deep into his jeans pockets. 

“Hold it right there, cowboy! Are you calling off our wedding?” Mia’s eyes grew dark and angry. 

“No, Mia, I’m not. But I’ve been thinking – I don’t want this elaborate wedding we have planned.” 

Mia’s face flushed. “Well, this is a fine time to tell me! Our wedding is one month away and everything is ready. My dress, the venue, the caterers, our honeymoon. Even the name cards for the tables have been printed!” 

“I know. I just didn’t have the guts to say what was on my mind. Mia, I don’t want our wedding to be a circus with a cast of characters I don’t even know! I don’t need a six figure salary or a penthouse apartment to be happy. Your dad’s a great guy and making me a partner in his firm was extremely generous but I never wanted a rat race, cutthroat job and I certainly don’t want to be the boss’s son-in-law! 

I grew up on a farm, Mia. My parents are simple people. The smell of the earth, working with my hands, tending to the animals – that’s what I know and love. I always dreamed of having my own farm some day, waking up before the roosters and working in the fields until the aroma of bacon and eggs lured me home to you cooking breakfast. I dream of shoeing horses and mending fences, four or five barefoot kids running around the house, family barbecues with homemade apple pie for dessert. I dream of making love to you as the moonlight dances off our bedroom ceiling. I’m an uncomplicated guy, Mia. All I want is us, a family and a farm.” 

“Jesse, I have dreams, too. Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed of marrying a man as rich and handsome as my father, having a huge wedding in the Waldorf, cruising around the world. Now you’re asking me to give it all up for a bunch of brats and a barn in Nebraska?! You can’t be serious, especially after all my father has done for you.” 

“Mia, I never asked your father for anything. All I did was fall in love with you that rainy day we shared a taxi.” 

Jesse, you’re not thinking straight. Do you really believe you’ll be happy spending the rest of your life milking cows and going to state fairs or whatever the ‘simple people’ of Nebraska do?”  

“You know what, Mia? You’re right. I wouldn’t be happy – at least not with you.” Jesse walked to the door, then turned. “I’m sure some day you’ll meet a guy as shallow as you. Bye, Mia, and thanks for keeping me from making a huge mistake.” 

“Hey, cowboy. Go to hell!” 

NAR © 2018

NO ONE WILL BE WATCHING US

We were driving down iconic  Route 66 in our convertible Volkswagen Jetta on our way from Chicago to Santa Monica, California, everything we owned being towed in a small U-Haul. On the floor behind us, sleeping in his carrying case, was our bulldog puppy, Ringo. 

We’d been on the same stretch of road for what seemed like an eternity without seeing another soul – nothing but miles of tall corn fields swaying in the breeze. We talked about everything, especially opening our new veterinary practice – a big step but one we were excited about. We even had the name picked out – “Carlyle Planned Pethood”. 

Rummaging through the glove box, I came across the White Album. “Hey, look what I found” I said to Doc, my nickname for my husband, showing him the CD. 

Excellent! Put it on, Babe.”

Opening the case, I discovered a forgotten joint, crushed but still viable. “Whoa! Check it out. This CD has a bonus track!”  

We lit up, getting higher and louder with each song. Putting on our thickest country twang, we laughed as we sang ‘Don’t Pass Me By’. And then there they were … those unmistakable opening funky get-down notes of ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road’. We were grooving in our seats, thumping on the car doors, digging the hell out of that song.

Suddenly Doc pulled the car over and turned up the volume of the CD. He looked over at me, sunglasses lowered on his nose and started singing “No one will be watching us … why don’t we do it in the road?”  

“Have you lost your mind? What are you .. some horny teenager?” 

“Well, I’m no teenager, I’ll give ya that. But here we sit .. a hot banging Beatles song, my incredibly sexy wife in a miniskirt and plenty of road. Listen .. Paul’s practically begging us to get out of this car and do it … IN THE ROAD!”

Slowly stretching my legs on the dashboard, I suggested doing it in the car. 

Doc laughed and leaned over to kiss me, whispering “we’ve done it in the car … a lot. C’mon, Becca!  Let’s get down (*kiss*) and dirty (*kiss*) and do it in the road (*long hot kiss*). 

Doc has this delicious way of making me melt like ice cream on a hot summer’s day. Pushing the ‘REPEAT’ button on the CD player, he grabbed a blanket from the back seat and we ran to the rear of the car. Laughing, Doc slipped off my panties and I wrapped my legs around his waist as we slid to the ground. 

Just as Paul reached the high note, we heard ”Pardon me, folks. Officer Matthew Jackson, Kansas State Police. As soon as you’re finished checking that tow hitch, you best be on your way.” And he walked back to his car singing “Why don’t we do it in the road”. 

We sheepishly got back into our car and drove off. Nine months later we named our first son Matthew Jackson Carlyle. 

NAR © 2018

PLAY BALL!

Ever since he was a small boy growing up in Fairfax, Missouri, Will Horton was obsessed with baseball. Every chance he had he’d play ball with his friends and when no one was around, he’d put on his mitt and spend hours bouncing a ball off the old shed behind the house.  

In 5th grade Will was one of the starting pitchers for his Little League Team, the Badgers. They practiced three or four days a week after school and played a game every Saturday against the rival team, the Coyotes. By the time Will entered 7th grade, he qualified for the traveling team playing both home and away games.

Will lived on a dairy farm with his mother, June, and his dad, Tom. They tended cows, sheep and goats from dawn till dusk which was rough and demanding work. It was a hard life but the Horton’s were sturdy stock and enjoyed the farming life. 

Most nights during baseball season Will and his dad would enjoy watching the local Major League baseball team, the Kansas City Royals. Will dreamed of one day playing with the Royals in Big K Stadium. He longed to go to a game but tickets weren’t cheap and Kansas City was 100+ miles from Fairfax. “Some day” Will would whisper to himself and fall asleep every night looking through his collection of baseball cards. 

On his 13th birthday Tom totally blew Will away with two tickets to the Royals game that Sunday afternoon. Will was so happy, his whooping and hollering got all the cattle skittish. “Sunday is three whole days off! I don’t think I’m gonna sleep a wink till then!” Will said excitedly. 

After what seemed like an eternity, Sunday morning dawned with clear blue skies and bright sunshine. After their morning chores were done, Tom and Will ate breakfast, then jumped in the truck for the drive to Kansas City. Will chatted all the way, going on and on quoting all the Royals stats. As they approached the city, they were in awe of its size. Driving into the Big K parking lot, Will swore it was the biggest building in all Missouri. Finding their way through the maze of gates and entrances, an attendant showed them to their seats. 

Will was speechless. The smell of peanuts, hot dogs and beer filled the air and the crowd was anxious for the game to start. Finally the Royals ran onto the field to the roar of cheers. They played a great game and won with a staggering score of 12 to 2. All the way home Will and Tom talked about the game. That night at bedtime he promised himself again he would one day be starting pitcher for the Royals. 

Time went on, Will graduated high school and was recruited by the University of Miami as pitcher for the Miami Hurricanes. After school he delivered pizza, saving what money he could. He was living the dream. One night that dream abruptly turned into a nightmare when Will’s delivery car was sideswiped by a truck and slammed hard into the side of a building. Will lost consciousness and woke up in the hospital .. his pitching arm amputated just above the elbow. He was vaguely aware of people in his room, hearing snippets of conversations – “Freak accident” .. “tried to save the arm” .. “tragic loss”  .. “baseball career over.” 

Will was devastated; his baseball days were over. He transferred to a college in Cincinnati, which was located across from the Cincinnati Reds ballpark. On game nights he’d go up to the school’s rooftop, wistfully watching the games. One dismal night Will pushed himself up and stood precariously on the ledge. A soft voice behind him said “You don’t really want to do that, do you?”

Turning his head slightly, Will saw a cute little brunette wearing a baseball cap. ‘What’s it to you? You don’t even know me.

“That’s true” the girl replied “but if you jump who’s gonna go to tomorrow’s game with me?

Will found himself smiling a little despite his depressed mood. This girl was cute and spunky. Offering her left hand, Will reached out and climbed off the ledge. “Hey, I’m Kate. Nice to meet you.” 

Kate meant what she said and the next day they went to the game together. Entering the stadium, Will felt alive again as all the sights, sounds and smells filled his head. The roar of the crowd was exhilarating. He was home! Natural as can be, Kate tossed Will a mitt just in case a ball came flying right at them. She was a firecracker and he fell in love that day. They went to games in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and at their fifth game, Will proposed. Kate jumped into his lap, gave him a big kiss and said “YES .. under one condition, mister. We honeymoon in New York. I’ve always wanted to go to a Yankees game!” 

Will couldn’t decide which event thrilled him the most: his wedding day or actually stepping into the immortal Yankee Stadium. The experience was more than he ever dreamed and the game was perfect from start to finish .. even though his beloved Royals lost to the ‘Bronx Bombers’. They bought Yankee caps and jerseys and on the way back to their hotel he excitedly said to Kate “Let’s make a new tradition .. to visit as many ballparks as we can in our lifetime.’ Kate nodded happily in agreement. 

A couple of years later Will and Kate became the parents of twin boys. They loved playing ball in their backyard and Will even learned how to pitch lefty. They started playing Pee Wee Baseball and on their 4th birthday, Will made a big deal of presenting them with their gift. “This is a custom your mom and I started before you guys were even born. Now it’s time for you to join us in the ‘Horton Family Ballpark Adventure’!” 

Will beamed with happiness as his kids excitedly tore into the gift box to find two Royals baseball caps, official mitts and four tickets to the next Royals game. Will gazed at his family and suddenly realized THIS was his destiny all along. Winking at Kate, they grabbed a baseball, bats and mitts as Will shouted “PLAY BALL!”  

NAR © 2018

BADDA BING, BADDA BOOM!

Justice of the Peace? You wanna elope, Angie? Our parents haven’t even discussed the wedding!”  

“Exactly, Taylor, and it’s gonna stay that way!” said Angie in her best Marisa Tomei voice. “Let me ask you a question. Have you ever been to an Italian wedding? No? That’s what I thought. There are two things I know for a fact – #1: our parents couldn’t be more different and #2: left in the hands of my family, our wedding will be a circus, complete with unicycling-jugglers and a magician. Remember my cousin Gina’s engagement party?  Well, picture that ten times worse. Forget about an elegant ceremony in your parent’s country club like your sister had, with one maid of honor and a best man. There will be no dainty hors d’oeuvres and flutes of champagne served by an attentive waitstaff followed by dinner of Beef Wellington and fingerling potatoes. The delicate wedding cake with gold leaf flowers? Ain’t gonna happen. Our romantic wedding night in the country club honeymoon suite? Fugetaboutit! My parents are old school, Taylor, and only want a real Italian wedding. My father would rather swim through the shark-infested Straits of Messina than go against tradition. Now picture this: the ceremony will be held at St. Vito’s Church with my mother’s uncle, Monsignor DelFino, officiating. There will be at least ten bridesmaids and groomsmen, a flower girl and a ring bearer. The reception will be held at The Villa Barone catering hall where my brother-in-law Carlo, the newly-elected volunteer fire chief, had a sweet sixteen birthday party for his daughter.The cocktail hour will be a cash bar with antipasto served buffet style. The reception dinner will be Italian wedding soup, penne alla vodka, salad and a choice of chicken, prime rib or fish. The cake will be five, maybe six tiers. My cousin Vinnie will play the tarantella on his accordion, followed by the pièce de résistance – the Viennese Dessert Hour and flaming cherries jubilee. Our wedding night will be spent sitting around the kitchen table with you, me and my mother counting the money we got for wedding gifts while my father records everything in an accounting book like a cigar-chomping Iamblichus. OR ….. we go to City Hall, get hitched and spend two luscious weeks in sunny Aruba. Your call.” 

“Are you kidding me, Angie?  Say no more. City Hall awaits!” 

NAR © 2018

ONE + ONE + ONE

Out of the blue the call arrived. It was late and I was beyond tired. We were tempted to let it go straight to voice mail, but Gary thought it might be important. 

“Gary? It’s Alice from the adoption agency. Fabulous news! We have a baby for you and Carol. Can you come by in the morning?”. 

Gary jumped up. “My God! Are you sure?”  Completely convinced that something terrible had happened, I grabbed the phone. “This is Carol Wheeler. Who’s this, please?”  

Not bad news. Just the opposite … elating, top of the world, Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds news! 

ALICE FOUND US A BABY!!! 

“Yes!! We’ll be there! Thank you so much”  I sputtered. 

Dumbstruck, we stood there … then pandemonium erupted. Laughing, crying, hugging, kissing, dancing like lunatics. We didn’t think … or even care … to ask “boy, girl, age”? After eight years of trying to get pregnant and failing miserably, some loving stranger was presenting us with the most precious gift imaginable. 

Collapsing onto the couch, we talked about the past eight years … the failed attempts …  heartbreaking losses … the baby things we collected over the years, now hiding in the attic. 

“Gary, do you realize tomorrow we will be a family of three?”  

TOMORROW!!  

All tiredness forgotten, we raced to the attic for the plastic bins of assorted baby items. There in the corner sat the bassinet, glowing in the darkness – a mystical aura the likes of which I’d never seen before. I believe at that moment I heard angels singing. We reverently carried it down to our room. I leaned into Gary, overcome with elated exhaustion. 

And then the phone rang … again. We stared at it, afraid to answer, convinced it was Alice calling to say the baby’s mom had changed her mind, there would be no happy family for us. 

I reached for the phone and wearily, warily said “Yes?”.  

Carol? It’s  Dr. Shaw. Sorry to call so late but your tests results are back. The reason you’ve been so exhausted lately? You’re three months pregnant … with twins … and everything looks great!”  

Stunned, crying, all I could manage was a hushed “My God. Are you sure?”  

“Absolutely. Congratulations!” 

Gary held me closely and whispered “Shh. Another baby will come along.”  

I giggled. “You’re so right. That was Dr. Shaw. I’M PREGNANT … WITH TWINS!! We’re gonna be a family of FIVE!”

We had won the Triple Crown.

NAR © 2018