Save the Date

SoCS

 

It crept up, hid in the ordinary mundane of one day after another until the alarm on the phone chimed. You have an event tomorrow, it told her. An event? What event… surely she would remember… And it crept in, a memory around the fringes of her consciousness. The excitement of the unknown, seeing something new, feeling something new. Her mind tried to close the door on it. It felt like one of those silly cartoons, where whatever is hiding there squeezes out like play dough all around the edges, in spite of the effort to shut it.

She swiped it away with her thumb. Are you sure? it inquired. Yes. Very sure. Sometimes she thought the pain would never go away. Not the one they called a phantom in the limb that was no longer there – she didn’t mind that one. It reminded her there had once been something there. No, the pain of loss, of all those plans and hopes and dreams… the pain of living a life without him.

 

 

Thank you to Linda for a great prompt. Head over to SoCS to be inspired and for the participation rules!

Hope

10

I took Hope to bed with me for that night. Linny stayed with James. I knew we should be comforting one another in this, I knew from the beginning of the nightmare we should have been.

When the sirens went off that cool summer evening we thought it was a tornado. The skies were overcast and all was still except for some distant rumbling; but that is how tornados work. They drop like bombs, spin three minutes of wanton destruction, and suck back up into the belly of the sky.

I recalled grabbing Ellen and the twins, and shouting for Linny. But she was ahead of me, dragging Sarah and Evan across the backyard toward the bunker. She had the photo album tucked beneath one arm. She always grabbed the photo album.

I grabbed my phone. I sent a text, Tornado, love you, as I ran to pick up the boys. It never sent. The towers were already blocked, or down. We were supposed to meet within the hour, and it was my explanation for the inevitability of standing her up.

Hope sighed and twisted in my embrace. Her hair, finally dry again, tickled my lips and nose. She smelled warm, like I remembered healthy soil smelling. Clean and organic. “Papa?” She whispered.

“I’m here, baby girl. Right here. It was just a bad dream.”

“Papa.”

“Yes. Papa’s here. You’re safe.”

“Is he gone?” she said, clear as day.

My heart froze in my chest at the sound of her voice, at the clear enunciation, hardly the speech of a child muted by fear. I pushed her back to look in her face, her head resting on Linny’s pillow. “You can speak,” I whispered.

She stared at me. There were spots of color on her cheeks that showed even in the dimness.

“Who did you see?”

“The man.”

My blood ran cold. Was someone here? In the house?

“There’s no man here, honey.” I willed it to be true.

“The dead man, Papa.”

“I don’t understand.”

She moved back into my embrace and sighed.

After her breath told me she was sleeping, I slid carefully from the bed. I picked up the revolver from the table by the bed and walked carefully into the hall. I let my eyes adjust; dawn wasn’t far now. I moved down the hall and checked the bedroom where the rest of my family now slept.

The house was clear. Peaceful, even. My pulse gradually returned to normal, calmed by the weight of the pistol in my hand and the sounds of children sleeping… I sank to the floor in the hall, my back against the wall of the room where my Hope slept. I could feel her. I could see the stairs.

I waited for dawn with the revolver on my knee.


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Technical Difficulties

I am curious as to whether any other wordpressers are getting a warning that says ” ‘www.yourdomainhere.com’ may be suspended.” It then gives the options to “Fix.”

The fix just sends you a verification email that you then have to… well… verify. I have gone through this rigamarole, to no avail. I am trying to determine if this is a wordpress glitch or if I should contact someone about it.

My domain renewal is coming up, but not until October.

I’m also curious as to whether y’all can see my posts, or if I am, indeed, suspended…

Possibility

SoCS

 

He was lanky, long-legged, a conglomeration of geometric planes and angles held together by knobby joints and a hide the color of an October sunset. A white blaze snaked from his curly shock of red forelock and leaned to the right as it went from white to mottled pink and gray between flared nostrils. He squealed.

The chestnut mare snorted and nickered. She worried and fussed, licked him with her pink tongue and pushed her big shoulder against him when he wobbled. She offered her flank, but there was too much in the world to see to pause for a meal.

He was destined for great things. He didn’t look like much, weaving there in summer grass, tail stuck out, knees bent. But even then I knew. I saw him dancing in front of the judges, all harnessed grace and power, I felt the wind when he extended his trot, felt the bunch when he pranced in place, felt the connection and pride and liberation of a job well done.

I saw every possibility the day I met Cash. And I fell in love.

 

 

Thank you to Linda for a great prompt. Head over to SoCS to be inspired and for the participation rules!

Hope

9

Hope was screaming. The panic in her voice gripped and pulled me out of bed, out of darkness and toward her. In spite of our solitude the instinct was to keep quiet and not draw attention. I stumbled over something soft in the doorway of their bedroom, and went to my knees, using my hands to feel. I realized it was a small body. Hope kept screaming from somewhere in the dark. I heard Sarah’s voice, hushed, whispering Dad over and over.

I gathered up the body; it felt like James. Thin and hollow like a bird. I heard Linny coming, saw with relief she’d gotten the lantern lit. She set it on the floor and took the boy from me, and I went to Hope. She was inconsolable as Sarah tried to touch her. I reached for her, and she shrank back against the wall, still shrieking. Linny was yelling now too, desperate. “Make her stop, Jim!”

The unseen dangers weighed on us. Who was to hear? What? But for all we knew silence was the only reason we were left.

I grabbed Hope and pulled her close, muffling her against my t-shirt. She bowed her back and fought but I forced her. She smelled of sweat and fear. But she gradually quieted.

When I could be heard without raising my voice, I looked over my shoulder at Linny. “Is he okay?”

Sarah sat on one side of me, eyes like tar pits in her pale face. The other two boys huddled on the cot against the opposite wall.

“He’s hot.”

I looked at Sarah. “Do you know what happened?”

She shook her head. Hope was finally quiet, heavy sobs shaking her body. Her hands clutched at my shirt. I tried to push her back, look at her, but she clung tighter. I wrapped my arms around her, that now-familiar comfort washing over me.

Linny carried James back to the boys’ cot. She pulled up his shirt and shone the lantern on his pale, concave chest. “Rash,” was all she said.

“On his back?”

She gingerly turned him over. “Yes.”

Just like Ellen. Linny began to cry.


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Hope

8

James was sick. Of the twins he’d always been the frailer. Eli was robust, warm color in his pudgy cheeks, a spark of mischief in his eyes. James was born after his brother by almost three hours, and so silent that his mother and I briefly lost hope.

His first cry was not the fighting gasp for life of his brother, but a thin and plaintive wail that clawed at my soul. It was the kind of cry that made me question myself as a father, as a man, wonder at my selfishness for bringing more life to suffer humanity’s misery.

I’d tried to describe it to Linny later. She didn’t understand. But there was a lot about me Linny didn’t understand and never cared to.

As the two boys grew, even though they were identical, Eli surpassed his brother in height and weight and in basic skills, learning to crawl first, then to walk, run, and even finding his first words much in advance of James. Linny worried. She took them to doctors and specialists and healers. For once they all agreed. The child was below his growth percentile and likely always would be. But he was still within the norm. There was nothing physically wrong with him; they all called it a ‘failure to thrive.’ My grandmother, had she been living to meet him, would have called him poorly. She’d have also pointed out that I myself was a poorly child and no one put much hope in my thriving, either. Yet here I was. Quite possibly one of the last men on earth, barring my own sons.

“He needs a doctor,” Linny said desperately, her voice barely above a whisper.

I just looked at her.

Her dark eyes raked my face, and left me feeling exposed and somehow ashamed.

“What do you want me to do? I brought back all the medicine I can find. Isn’t there something here you can give him?”

Her arms were crossed tightly over what had once been a full chest. It struck me how thin she’d gotten. I had loved sinking into her soft curves. They were gone. “I don’t know what to give him, for fuck’s sake. What if I make it worse?”

He was headed for worse regardless. We both knew it. “I don’t know what you want from me. I’m not a doctor.”

“His fever is just getting higher.”

I handed her a bottle. “This will bring it down. It’s even grape flavored. And these,” I produced a bottle of penicillin tablets. “Half at a time. It can’t hurt him. We can hope it’s just an infection of some sort.” And not radiation poisoning I refrained from adding.

She nodded. There was something in her face, something that wanted to trust me but didn’t.

“It’s the best I can do, Linny,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

I wished she would move into my arms like she’d done so many times, so long ago. That she’d put her ear against my chest, and the world would slow for a moment. Everything felt right and possible when she was there.

She took the bottles and left the room.


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Lessons Learned from Grandma Pat

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I took art lessons from my late grandmother. She painted with oils and watercolors, amazing landscapes, seascape, mountainscapes… trees, and old mills and her grandchildren. She was Martha Stewart before anyone knew who that was. She could make something out of nothing. Could make anything out of nothing. Silk purses and sow’s ears? Absolutely. And dresses tailored to perfection; she never used a pattern. Could just look at a person and make them something that suited them. She made hats, little sculpted figures for dioramas, flower arrangements, jewelry, upholstered furniture, knitted cozies for anything that might get cold. She painted eggs with intricate designs, would cover anything that would sit still long enough with contact paper, wove wreathes out of tree branches and made bird feeders out of pop bottles and orange juice cans…

She couldn’t cook to save her life though. Grandad became a coupon clipper in their retirement; it was imperative that they be able to dine out.

She taught me how to harness the creativity I was born with. And she taught me to be inventive, to not waste anything, and that yeah, just maybe every single surface does need a doily. Or a cozy. Or a hat.

Also, you can never have too much ribbon.

 

 

Thank you to Linda for a great prompt. Head over to SoCS to be inspired and for the participation rules!

An Art of Connection

This was one of my very first posts on this blog. Am reposting today because, well, it’s been almost two years, and these words ring as true for me now as they did then. I am happy to say I’ve made some wonderful connections. Here’s to many more, folks. 


I spend a lot of time thinking about how people relate to one another. While I write about sex, for me, sex is a metaphor for life. The closeness and intimacy that two or more people share, while in its context may be sexual, at the root of it is simply a need for connection. It’s a need the most aloof among us has.

It’s a difficult thing, that connection. It requires time. Trust. A willingness to give oneself over to another.

Blogging is like that, as well. We reach out in the dark to one another, and hope to spark a connection with a perfect stranger. I hope my words goad you into feeling. I hope that, whether you’re reading something sweet and romantic, or something dark and forbidden, you are feeling a connection with the character I’ve created. And I hope you can slip into their skin for a moment. Live what they live. Relate to your world in a slightly different, more open way.

I hope to get to know you all through this project. Please feel free to comment and converse, and even criticize, as I am here not only to connect with you, but to improve my craft.

 

Circumstances Beyond our Control

Please be on the lookout for the next chapter of ‘Hope’ on Monday. Due to a nasty migraine, we’re bypassing today’s installment. More to come.

Hope

7

I had never dreamed in color before now. When I did dream, they were dreams filled with anxiety and involving colleagues, accounts due, my GP. But they ran through my unconscious mind like snippets of noir films, macros of a larger picture so terrible I was never permitted to see the whole thing.

Those dreams were in juxtaposition to what was a very comfortable, very colorful life. When I brought them up in therapy my shrink tapped his chin with his Cross pen and said, you’re very young to be having dreams that speak so loudly of mortality. And he would ask the next question.

Now I dreamed in color. Living color. Such living, screaming, swirling color the assault on my senses often woke me before anything happened inside the dream.

Sometimes when I dreamed this way I wasn’t even sleeping.

The human body – the primitive human body that is – is equipped with an auto pilot. Not the sleep walking cruise control of the non-primitive, safely civilized and socialized human. I clearly recalled instances in my previous over-wrought and over-worked existence of coming to somewhere and having no idea how I got there. Having driven my car, or taken three buses to arrive at my destination. Having even walked.

That state was one of muscle memory and luck. Had I been hunted I’d certainly have been caught and killed. We humans also go with the flow. It’s a natural herd behavior. We don’t need thought and wit to propel us within the relative safety of a group. Stop when they stop. Go when they go. We move through life in these unthinking mobs, like a school of fish or a herd of wildebeest.

Rewind… or fast forward, as the case may be… to primitive man. No one to rely on but oneself, and no learned reactions in this new world. A new evolution that hadn’t yet begun. I moved through it with a feeling of being utterly alone yet under constant scrutiny. The auto pilot here was one of waking unconsciousness. It was living in a memory while traversing bleakness. Otherwise the bleak might win.

I’d seen no other living person until coming upon Hope crouched on a crumbled curb whose once yellow paint was as colorless as everything else. I’d seen plenty of dead. And not only those caught in the path of terror. I saw a man hanging out a second story window with a bed sheet around his neck. I saw the bodies of a mother and a child, the child’s throat cut expertly and the mother’s wrists open from elbow to palm. I saw an elderly person, gender unknown, with no back to their skull and the barrel of the shotgun still resting on the bare lower gum. And I understood.

On this primitive auto pilot I moved through the landscape without seeing the desolation. The slightest sound or movement brought me back, though. Out of my waking dreams where my mind remembered a world my body didn’t mind moving through.


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