“Course of action for today – tackle the basement!” announced my husband Ned. “Care to join me, Jan?” 

“Why not? I’ve got writer’s block anyway” I replied glumly.

“After you, madame” said Ned, bowing extravagantly.

Seven months ago we moved into our little beach house. It’s in good condition and Ned’s handy so employing a repairman wasn’t necessary. The former owners left a few things behind; it would be nice to find a treasure or two.  After sifting through mostly junk, we decided on a floor lamp, a wine rack and a hammock. 

“Jan, look at this old dower box. Want to store your blankets in it? If not, I can use it for something.” 

“I don’t think so, hon. Looks kinda beat up to me. It’s all yours. What are your plans?” 

“Ah … you’ll see” Ned answered inscrutably.

“Ok, mystery man. I’m heading back up. Have fun!” 

Still putting off writing, I tossed the ingredients for beef stew into the slow cooker for dinner this chilly December night. Glancing out the kitchen window I caught a glimpse of Mr. Sandman, the stray cat who hangs out in the beachgrass surrounding our house. After making a pot of tea I set off to the sunroom, my blank laptop mocking me. 

By the sounds of sawing, drilling and hammering coming from the basement, Ned was having a grand time working on that beat up dower box. A couple of hours later he wandered up from his workshop, a sprinkling of sawdust icing his hair. Ned grinned and twitched his nose, appreciatively sniffing the aroma enveloping the kitchen. 

“Mmm – beef stew! How’s the writing, hon.” 

“Don’t ask. Hey, guess who I saw today. Mr. Sandman.” 

“You don’t say” Ned replied. “I was thinking about him just the other day.” 

I ladled the stew into bowls while my husband sliced the freshly baked bread and poured glasses of pinot noir. “So, when can I see what you’ve been working on?” I inquired. 

Right after dinner” Ned replied. “I think it’s damn good!” 

We finished up and Ned anxiously led me downstairs. “Well, there it is. What do you think?”  

I was speechless; there in the window was a home for Mr. Sandman!

Ned had opened the old hopper window at the top of the basement wall and, using a carabiner, secured the heavy window pane to a beam in the ceiling. He carefully inserted the dower box into the window opening; it was a perfect fit! Ned had sawed a doorway facing outside; a piece of an old rubber car mat with vertical cuts served as the front door curtain. A carpet remnant covered the wood floor of the box and a soft baby blanket provided a cozy nook in the corner. Ned had removed the back of the dower box and reattached it with hinges on one side and a latch on the other, giving us easy access to the box. A peephole drilled into the back panel allowed us to peek inside to make sure all was well. Ned had anchored the box to the wall with several short, sturdy bungee ties. There was even a small safety heater attached to the ‘ceiling’ of the box. He had thought of everything!

Giving me a wink, Ned opened the latch on the back panel, slid in a small plate of cat food and secured the latch. 

“Oh, my soulful, sensitive man!” I exclaimed, hugging my husband tightly. 

It snowed lightly that night and there were paw prints leading to the dower box. Ned and I exchanged looks and raced downstairs as quietly as possible. We tiptoed to the box and peeked through the peephole. A sleepy and very contented Mr. Sandman had found his way home. 

NAR © 2019

The old hopper window

Reposted for One-Word Challenge#FOWCworkshop


As we drove down the gravel road to our summer house, I opened the car window and inhaled deeply. Mixed with the salty scent of the ocean was the fragrance of lilacs and honeysuckle – the delicious aroma I missed last year. The pool was still beyond our sight but I saw it clearly in my mind … our private haven … the sensation of floating, feeling all stress evaporate, stillness interrupted only by an occasional breeze. 

Our house is large with floor-to-ceiling windows affording us spectacular views of the distant ocean. Located on a cul-de-sac, there is no traffic and we are invisible from the street.

Last year was the first time we didn’t make it to our sanctuary. 

It all started on June 3rd when Bill fell off a ladder. I was sitting in our den overlooking the backyard and saw him fall. In the seconds it took me to reach him, he was sprawled on the deck, barely conscious, a lump on his forehead the size of a peach. But it was the sickening angle of his leg that made me realize this was serious. 

I called 911, then our kids and we followed the ambulance to the hospital.  Bill had a badly broken femur. Surgery was done that night which would be followed by a lengthy hospital stay and rehabilitation. We all realized our long-anticipated vacation scheduled for June 30th would be cancelled. Priorities. 

Surgery went well and I visited Bill every day, staying all day. At night when I closed my eyes I saw him falling off the ladder. Stress took its toll on me, my arthritic knees screamed in agony and my back began to spasm.

Compounded with Bill’s physical pain was his guilt over “ruining our vacation”. He felt far worse for me, our kids and grandkids, convinced that we were too disappointed to forgive him. Again, priorities.

As Bill began to improve, I thought I would also but my pain became excruciating and I began a months-long regimen of spinal injections to relieve the torment in my legs and back. 

And the year from hell ravaged us, bringing with it more hardship and tragedy than we could imagine – all difficult, some almost unbearable. The most crushing of all was the overdose death of our dear nephew – ripped so cruelly from our lives. We cried in pain, sobbed in anguish. We woke every morning of that hellish year, putting one foot in front of the other, somehow managing to go on. A missed vacation paled in comparison.

Now rebirth … another summer. Driving down the gravel road to our vacation house all I can think about is floating in the pool with Bill, the sun shining down on our battered bodies. The unpacking and settling-in will get done soon enough but right now the warm blue water of the pool and the smell of honeysuckle and lilacs is all we need.

NAR © 2018


“Eavesdropper, eh? Terrific odds. He’s a mudder and the track is muddy today. And look at his lineage! Yep, Millie, I predict that’s the winner of Race 9” said Harry Goldman to his wife.

She brushed him off with a wave of her hand. “Whatever, Harry Houdini. Not one of your famous magical predictions has paid off yet.”

“All right, Millie. I admit you got lucky today. What’s your secret .. communicating with a horse whisperer?” 

“Oh, zip it, Harry! If it wasn’t for me, we’d be in the poor house. You haven’t won all day! Now be quiet and let me concentrate on my choice for this race.” 

Harry heaved his portly body out of his seat. “Pardon moi, madame. I’m gonna place my bet on Eavesdropper. Then we’ll see who’s got horse sense!”

“You mean horse’s ass, don’t ya?” Millie cackled. “Go on. I’ll be along in a minute .. I’m thinking here.” Snapping her chewing gum, Millie studied the racing form, then traipsed to the betting windows. 

Bets placed, Harry and Millie settled in for the race. “I got a good feeling about this one, Millie!” Harry said excitedly. 

The starting gun shot out and the announcer shouted “And they’re off!” 

Eavesdropper took the lead immediately and held on. Anxious, Harry stood to watch. Suddenly the horse in fourth place started picking up steam. Faster and faster, he flew past the other horses and at the last second crossed the finish line just before Eavesdropper. 

The announcer’s voice boomed over the loudspeaker. “What a shocker! The winner by a nose .. Muddy Waters!”  

Harry slumped into his seat. “I don’t believe it! Eavesdropper was a shoe-in.”

Millie, however, was flying high.  “I won again! Good old Muddy Waters. I knew it!” 

Millie, I’m begging you! “How’d you do it?” 

“Harry, remember how you said Eavesdropper was a mudder? When I saw the name ‘Muddy Waters’, I knew that was an omen.” 

But how did you pick ALL the other winners?”

“It’s the colors! If I like what the jockey’s wearing, I’ll pick that horse.” 

“That’s your strategy? COLORS?!? Ok .. who you picking for the last race?” 

Millie looked around surreptitiously and pointed to a name on the card. 

HIM?? Rabelais? His color is ‘Eiffel Tower Brown’ .. like a turd!” 

“Not so loud, Harry! He’s from France and you know how ‘I fell’ for those Frenchies!” 

“Aren’t you the clever one?” Harry groaned at Millie’s little joke. “I give up, Millie. Go with your cockamamie ideas and bet it all on Rabelais!” 

Millie was already at the window before Harry was even finished talking.

NAR © 2018

Reposted for Fandango’s FOWC –


While reading the real estate section, my wife Jen called out to me. “Hey, Eric, check this out. You know that community we love? One of the houses is available, has everything we want plus a big yard and a pool. And get this .. their asking only $275,000! That’s well within our budget!”  

“Seriously?  Those houses usually go for twice as much! Wonder why it’s so low.”  

“The agent’s number is right here” replied Jen. “Let’s call.”  

After talking to the agent, we agreed to meet at noon. When we arrived she explained that the owners had moved out of the country and were anxious for a quick sale. The community was lovely and families were outside enjoying the great weather. The house was even more beautiful than we imagined .. not a thing wrong. We asked the agent to make arrangements for an inspector to check everything out and a few days later he reported the house to be in excellent condition, removing all doubts. 

“Well, babe”, I said, giving  Jen a hug, “looks like we just found our dream house!”  

Two weeks later we moved in and everyone was very friendly. In fact, the guy next door came over and invited us to a community welcoming barbecue that weekend. We knew we were gonna love this place.

The barbecue was fun and later on at home we talked about how nice our neighbors were. In particular, Jen was surprised by how helpful the men were, “Except for that one incident when Barb got annoyed with Gil because his mashed potatoes were lumpy!” she laughed.

As time passed, we couldn’t help noticing that all the men were house-husbands while all the women went to work. How odd! One night Gil called to invite me to the Friday night poker game at his house and Jen to a ladies night at Susan’s. 

The game was going well when Gil suddenly asked “So, Eric, when are you gonna get your balls snipped?”

 Nearly choking, I sputtered WHAT??”  

“Sure! We’re all snipped. Dr. Susan does it .. smooth and rapid. Our wives convinced us life would be much calmer that way .. and it is. Here’s her number.”  

Mumbling excuses, I left the game and darted home .. colliding into Jen running from the other direction. 

“Do you know what they do here?!?” she asked, horrified. 

I nodded frantically. “And the only things getting cut are our losses! We’re outta here!” 

NAR © 2018


“Windsor, you son on a bitch, get your ass off my lawn! Go on .. get the hell outta here!” 

That was Old Man Jenkins. He and his wife Margaret live next door to us and the source of his rage was none other than our pet bulldog, Windsor. My husband Tom would run out of the house, apologizing profusely. 

“Sorry, Mr. Jenkins! Windsor’s a handful but he’s just playing. He’s really lovable once you get to know him.” 

“Get to know him!? Are you freaking nuts, Peterson? That bastard just crapped on my fruit trees!” 

“Fertilizer, Mr. Jenkins?” Tom suggested sheepishly and dragged Windsor away. 

“FERTILIZER!?! I think you mean shit! 

Hush now, Aaron!” chastised  Margaret. “Using such vulgarism .. why, there’s children next door!” 

“Don’t hush me, Margaret! That damn dog’s a menace! If you can’t control your frigging mutt, Peterson, I’m gonna call the cops. Or maybe I’ll just put a bullet between his beady little eyes.” 

And the kids started crying. 

“Now, Mr. Jenkins, please don’t say that. You’re scaring my kids.” 

“Well, that’s just too damn bad! You solve this problem or I will .. permanently.” 

Tom brought Windsor back inside, promising the kids everything was going to be ok, that Old Man Jenkins was just sputtering angry syllables that he didn’t really mean. 

The next few days we kept Windsor on a short leash. Old Man Jenkins seemed to calm down and busied himself with his fruit trees. 

On Saturday morning Margaret Jenkins approached me in the grocery store. “Thank you, Alice, for keeping Windsor out of our yard. Now Aaron can care for his beloved fruit trees in peace. In fact, he’s been so preoccupied he hasn’t noticed the family of critters living in our wood pile. They’re just so darling, I even named them – Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar!” 

And off she went, chuckling surreptitiously. 

Sitting down to dinner later that day, we suddenly heard Old Man Jenkins yelling at the top of his lungs. We never heard him scream like that before so we knew it had to be something awful. Please .. not Windsor! We raced outside, stopping dead in our tracks: there stood Old Man Jenkins, pricked by at least 100 porcupine quills.

“Excellent aim, Balthazar!” exclaimed Margaret. “Guess he knows you’re just a mean old ‘prick’, Aaron!”

Old Man Jenkins learned a lesson that day: don’t mess with Margaret; she’s one smart cookie!

NAR © 2018


It is raining again’ Rachel thought woefully as she looked out the window of the Manhattan apartment she shared with her boyfriend Jeff. ‘And the weather forecast is for rain all week  and into the holiday weekend!’ She and Jeff talked about getting away for a few days, maybe to Washington DC or to Boston but the weather all along the east coast looked bad. Labor Day weekend was just a few days away and it would be great to escape this incessant rain. 

It is raining like crazy!” exclaimed Jeff as he entered the apartment. “I’m soaked, hon. Toss me a towel, would ya? We’ve been talking about getting away for Labor Day. Why don’t you  check the computer for vacation spots while I get changed? I’ll be back in a sec.” 

“It is raining everywhere” whined Rachel as Jeff returned to the living room. “I thought about going to The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or Disney World  but they’re having rain, too.” All evening they checked out various places, with no luck. They were about to give up when Jeff shouted “Whoa, babe! Look what I found on Expedia .. two round trip tickets to Cabo San Lucas for $296 per person and only $200 for the hotel! AND NO RAIN IN SIGHT!! Let’s go for it!”  Rachel threw her arms around Jeff’s neck shrieking “Cabo! Swimming! Mojitos! SUNSHINE! HELL YEAH!!”

“It is raining, babe. Can you hear it? For the first time in ten days I don’t give a damn because tomorrow we’ll be in sunny Méjico! I’m so stoked we made those reservations the other night.” Jeff yawned while Rachel snuggled up against him. “I thought I was  dreaming”, she replied sleepily. “Cabo, here we come!” and they drifted off to sleep. When they woke the next morning, the rain had stopped but it was cloudy and the sky was gray. The Uber picked them up at 8:00 for their 10:00 flight. The closer they got to the airport, the lighter the skies became and by the time they were seated in the plane, the sun was trying to break through the clouds. They arrived in Cabo just in time for cocktails and dinner, watching the glorious sunset from the hotel’s veranda. Very early the next morning Jeff was awakened by Rachel’s crying. “Honey, what’s the matter?” he asked.    

“IT IS RAINING!!” she sobbed. 

NAR © 2018


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! 


“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?”  


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

Reposted for Fandango’s FOWC –


Hard boiled egg whites, cottage cheese, skim milk. Day 1. Brian sighed.

Boiled rice, a mozzarella slice, lactose-free milk. Day 2. Brian cried.

Yogurt, tofu, almond milk. Day 3. Brian died … just a little. 

After receiving the diagnosis “ULCER”, Brian’s wife Ali had been lovingly, carefully packing his lunches. “This must be her White Period”, he thought, wistfully. 

Coworkers averted their eyes as they passed Brian’s cubicle on their way to lunch. Gone were the cheerful calls “C’mon, Brian! We’re going to Smokin’ Joe’s Hot Wings for lunch!” or “Salsa and nachos in the break room, guys!” Oh, the humanity! 

Brian’s computer *pinged*. An email from Ali: “Hi, hon. Hope you’re having a great day. Did you find the Maalox I put in your backpack? We’re having something special for dinner tonight … poached chicken, brown rice and garbanzo beans … hope you’re hungry! Love ya, babe! xo”  

“Ah, Ali’s Beige Period.” Brian stared blankly at the computer screen. “I wonder how many beige foods there are … oatmeal, boiled potatoes, matzoh….” 

Brian put his head in his hands, a solitary tear falling through his fingers onto his khakis. Slowly the wet spot morphed into the shape of a slice of pizza. “What the … ?!” Incredulous, Brian blinked and wiped his eyes. “What’s happening to me?!” Images of devilish cramp-inducing, bowel-seizing delicacies danced ‘round his head … jalapeño poppers, tacos, barbecued ribs.

“The dreaded hunger hallucinations!” Sweating, Brian texted Ali. “Babe. Last minute meeting. Sorry, I’m gonna miss dinner. Love ya!”  

Brian lied. 

Grabbing the bottle of Maalox and a SmokinJoe’s menu from his desk drawer, Brian bolted from his cubicle, giddy as a new dad at the birth of his son. 

“Outta my way, boys, outta my way!!”

And out he ran, laughing and joyfully shouting, “Jalapeño-effing-poppers, baby!!” 

NAR © 2017

Reposted for Fandango’s FOWC –


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAR © 2017