Flash Fiction

(The word pearl was a prompt given at a writing session. A strong female character came to mind and her story enfolded.)

Pearl

The last time I saw her, she was young; youth sparkled in her eyes. Now the sparkle is gone, the jade blue color diminished by time; her convictions etched in lines across her face. Her once narrow nose is broader, broken from standing up for others. Her chest sunken with anger, not there the first time we met.

“Pearl is that you?” I inquire.

She strains to turn towards me, her range of motion greatly compromised.

“Yes, I’m Pearl,” Her voice recalls dignity, and she pauses to ask, “Have I had your acquaintance?”

It was 1971; we got on the Concourse Avenue bus in the Bronx, each with a child in hand. She took notice of my bruises and we became friends.

I take the seat alongside her and gently touch her forearm, “Pearl, it’s me Rosa . . . . Rose, remember. . . .” I expect her to ooze with gladness, say, “Lordy, Lordy, Rose, how are you?”

Instead, she says “Rose? Can’t recall a Rose, refresh my memory child.”

If she remembers me, she would never mention beatings, and hiding in safe houses. I remind her of Bainbridge Park; how we would meet after lunch, let the children play in the sand box then walk them to sleep in strollers.

“I remember sunshine and playgrounds, how is your boy . . . ?”

“Danny, Dan, he’s at Fordham University; studying to be a lawyer.

Danny was five when I made the decision to leave the morning after a beating. I phoned my sister, asked her to get him from school, and left a note for John saying I didn’t want a divorce, and wouldn’t fight him for our son.

I worried about leaving Danny behind. Pearl said, “Don’t fret; your boy be fine,” and hooked me up with people.

John was a New York City Police officer and protected by his brothers, but the force would not ignore his beating a child.

Sill, I moved every four months with a new identity.

Three years later, the Richmond Virginia Newspaper reported the hunt for the killer of John McGill, a NYC Police Officer shot in the line of duty. I went home; stood next to his coffin, widowed with a pension; my eight-year-old son at my side.

John had never mentioned I was gone to anyone on the force.

Now Pearl dozes next to me, and her head bobs from side to side startling herself. “What was I saying?”

“We were talking about the time we brought the boys to the Bronx Zoo and rode the train around the park ten times. You packed potato salad and fried chicken; a stranger asked to buy your picnic lunch.”

The mention of potato salad crystallizes in her milky eyes, “I remember the day you left, bruised and wearing borrowed clothes; it broke my heart knowing I’d not see you again. How you been?”

“I never got to thank you, Pearl. . . .” She interrupts my attempt at gratitude and explanation of regret .

“Hush, Woman . . . tell me something that will make me smile.”

* * * just saying

(Originally posted on November 23, 2014)

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Sunday Dinner

Sunday Dinner

Sunday dinner, the expression twirls around my mind with memories; mingled with fancy dresses that hid crinolines. Mary Jane’s and cuffed white nylon socks decorated our feet. After Sunday Mass, we returned home with jelly donuts and a thick Daily News. Later in the day, some of us watched football while the others played tag outdoors. Dinner was late afternoon. A wooden ironing board placed across two chairs provided additional seating when we had guests. The guests were family who traveled the 40 minutes from the Bronx to Long Island for roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

More recently, Sunday dinner triggers thoughts of Tony Soprano and Sunday gravy. I have the Soprano’s cook book and have made many of the recipes. Some of you may recall my post, The Not Really Italian Bolognese Sauce.

The new movie, The Many Saints of Newark will be released this October. The young Tony Soprano is played by Michael Gandolfini, James Gandolfini son. Michael is twenty-two years old and I’m looking forward to the movie. David Chase lamented when interviewed on CBS Sunday that people are not tired of this story!

This Sunday I made Ziti al Forno (Baked Ziti with Little Meatballs). Vegetable Lasagna and Caesar Salad. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the guests seated around the table enjoying the food. We had a great time.

I miss Sunday dinners. Do you?

* * * just saying

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Silence in Lackawaxen

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Photographer: ДмитрийВладимирович

Silence in Lackawaxen

     A silence resides among us; the sound permeates the wooded areas, and hovers in the breeze.

     It is different from quiet.

     You hear its stillness when the wrestling trees pause; a falling acorn fills the void, and  you turn in the direction to catch the eye of a doe, her large chocolate brown eyes searching for her fawn, absorbing the emptiness a bent hoof suspended midair.

     We are vacationing in Masthope Mountain Community, near Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania. There are many homes, a few cars in driveways and silence.

     In these woods the doe, fawn and buck, run playfully through the woods, and wait by the roadside respectful of passing cars.

     Although we lived in New Jersey over twenty-five years I am unfamiliar with, “this neck of the woods,” but discovered Lackawaxen is home to the Zane Grey Museum. He and his wife, Dolly lived here from 1905 to 1918,. The area was one of his favorites.

     The silence, interrupted by chirping birds,and chipmunks jumping in dried leaves, creates a cloak upon our shoulders and has become a new best friend.

 

. . . .just saying

 

Father’s Day 2017 “Pedaling Father’s Day”

 

card-FathersDay-BikeCTMH

Aging & Attitude

The pedaling of an old man riding a wide-tire bicycle grabs my attention as I drive Acoma road. The methodical around and around of the bike’s wheels is mesmerizing.  I press the car brakes, slow to a crawl and drop back, to give the senior space, as we approach the corner stop.

He wears red Ked shoes and a large droopy straw hat shades his face from the morning sun.  He sports a long sleeve plaid shirt and hazardous baggy Dockers.  The blue and chrome fender bike has no basket or hand brakes.

Behind him rides a man in a metallic Speedo shirt and black skin-tight shorts.  He wears a helmet and mustache, and he does not pass abruptly. Instead, he moves to coast gently beside the elder, a solid traffic barrier.  They ease the corner together, dance a Minuet synchronized to Chopin.

I stop at the corner, turn right, and follow, absorbing their relationship.

It is paternal; head, back and shoulders are an older/younger version of each other.  The son peddles ahead deliberate not to look back, allows his father to ride independently while protected. The old man’s bike wheel does not wobble and the handlebars do not shake. There is an air of pride accompanying his movement. I drive by and see his wrinkled face, guess he is eighty. A full head of peppered gray hair surround a son’s face with minimal expression lines and suggest he  is sixty.

My mind conjures a past Father’s Day,

Imagine it is 1958, the father wearing the same plaid shirt, Dockers and Ked shoes, the son, jeans and a white t-shirt, both much younger. The father, teaching, leads the way with subtle protectiveness and allows the son to celebrate his newly acquired skill, riding a bike.

“Daddy, look at me!” He yells with a big smile.

Today is Father’s Day 2012. I watch the pair celebrate with a simple act of being there if needed, pedaling their bicycles.

 . . . . just saying

Ridiculousness

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Aging & Attitude

Ridiculous, this is ridiculous; I am telling myself, stressed about baking chocolate chips cookies.

Really! Chocolate chip cookies! Have you eaten a home-baked chocolate chip cookie that was not delicious?

I am on a mission to bake my grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies and disappointed with the results.

Granny B’s cookies were more like a brownie, square in size , not chewy or gooey, just the right amount of crunch. As you can tell from the picture; not flat or crispy.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

The struggle for perfection is ridiculous, absolutely positively ridiculous.

My children, who I will be bringing them to, remember the cookies, but not the way I remember them; a special treat that accompanied a special woman wherever she went.

Remember special treats for special days. Some of us even enjoyed weekly special treats.

Ours was eating pizza in front of the television on Friday night. Pizza was tomato paste on English muffins with American cheese criss-crossed on the top. The television show was Seventy-Seven Sunset Strip. We snapped our fingers and mouthed the words to the signature song. Then mesmerized by Kooky combing his hair, and prayed he would lend me his comb.

No really, I am being ridiculous. The cookies I baked are practically almost exactly like hers.

I never watched her bake them, but asked for the recipe once. Her response was she followed the recipe on the back of Toll House package but added one teaspoon more water. In later years I pondered and pondered how an insignificant addition to a cookie recipe could produce nirvana , then recalled Granny B baked with Crisco.

Remember the movie, “The Help,” when Minny says to Celia, “The greatest invention since they put mayonnaise in a jar. You have a squeaky door hinge, Crisco. Bags under your eyes, gum in your hair, Crisco”?

I examined the Crisco can, and sure enough, when substituting Crisco for butter add one teaspoon  water.

Now the recipe is just right. Well not exactly, the taste is delicious. That is not the problem.  

The problem? The cookies are too thick and a tad too light in color.  

I get it, I am being ridiculous.

I have tried a 9 by 13 pan, too thick, and 15 by 10, too thin. One is too small; the other too big. It is possible a 9.5 by 14 pan will be just right. Unless I am being ridiculous.

. . . . just saying

Vertigo

Vertigo/The Not Getting Younger Series

   th  I am in Albuquerque visiting my son and have Vertigo. Today it’s not so bad. I just cannot bend over, or rather tilt forward or position my body even on the slightest incline. It is best if I am in a posture perfect position, which is not so bad. At least I am not in bed.
      It started on last Thursday. I woke feeling fine but by 9AM had a severe case of the chills. I was already completely dressed and wearing a sweatshirt but got in bed, and piled on four assorted blankets and comforters. Still ice-cold, I turned on a room space heater to high and fell asleep for four hours. When I got out of bed, I was still fatigued and could not walk straight unless guided by a wall. My head felt too heavy for my body and I was dizzy, very dizzy.

     My son thought it best I visit the emergency room and I could not argue. He took me to the hospital where my daughter-in-law works to be certain I would get the best treatment, and he was right. When he parked by the emergency room entrance I experience a  sense of helplessness like never before, and was thankful my son was at my side. 

     An EKG test ruled out a heart attack. My son spoke to the doctor asking questions, and supplying answers I was too dizzy to ask. It was a complete role reversal and since I am not getting younger graciously accepted his loving care.

     When I flunked the “follow my finger, touch my finger and then your nose test,” and three people rushed to support me after being told to stand and walk, a head scan and MRI were ordered.

     The doctor laughed when I asked if my brain was normal. Then commented that there was nothing acutely wrong. The prognosis was vertigo. I was given a prescription for Meclizine and sent home dizzy and nauseous. 

     The next morning I did an online search and learned vertigo usually is a disorder of the inner ear BPPVBenign positional vertigo exercises | Vertigo …that affects body balance and that specific exercises can help.

     Another cause discussed in the u-tube video by Ninni Girl, was acute vitamin B12 deficiency.  Click skip the advertisement to view the video directly.

     Just when I was getting back on my horse and thought I would be posting consistently this happened, but I am thankful to have an ever so sweet memory of  my son and me.

. . . . just saying

Teachers Make A Difference

2000_4_founderCharles Best & Donors Choose

“CBS This Morning,” with Charlie Rose, Norah O’Donnell, and Gayle King is my favorite news show. I enjoy the television program and tape the entire two-hour broadcast. This way if interrupted by brushing my teeth or putting in a wash, I can fast forward during lunch and view what I have missed. The show’s tag line “Real News” is evident in many segments and laughter is kept to a minimal. I love, love. Love the “90 Second Eye Opener,” that captures the day’s top stories and more importantly, special reports inform me about things I do not know about, like Donors Choose.

Donors Choose is an online charity that collects and distributes donations to public school teachers across America, so teachers do not have to take money out of their own pockets for projects.

“Teachers ask, you choose,” is their mantra.

The program was started in 2000, by Charles Best, a history teacher at a Bronx high school. He and his colleagues were spending their own money on school supplies. Best built a website for teachers to post classroom project requests and people to make donations. His peers posted 10 projects, but Charles did not know any donors, so he funded those projects, anonymously. The other teachers thought the website worked and rumors spread. Fourteen years later, $292,646,946 dollars have been raised, and 528,697 projects funded. Clearly, teachers make a difference and I recall one that made a difference in my life.

The writer in me would not let the memory rest until I found some words in which they could be expressed.

Not Forgotten  

Miss Brown, my first grade teacher listened to me, “I was absent on Tuesday, and didn’t get a wooden box.” The other students had retrieved their Mother’s Day project from the supply cabinet and sat at their desks arranging paint and paint brushes.

   She smiled and said, “I saved one just for you.”

   I thought her hair yellow, like a Crayola crayon in a package hugged by red and orange. Her blue eyes sparkled and her Pageboy haircut bounced with enthusiasm when she taught. My heart raced as she held my hand, and we walked to the back of the classroom, my attention on her penny loafers. Together we bent to look inside the cabinet, darkness prevented a good view, but as my pupils adjusted, a wooden box appeared.

Miss Brow is not her real name. I cannot remember her name only her kindness.

. . . .just saying

The Wonder of Kindness

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The Wonder of Kindness

I have been mumbling and grumbling about the sorry state of affairs the world is in. You know what I am talking about; Bill Cosby, NFL domestic abuse policy, Ferguson Mo., Republican idiotic-mess, and the final slip into insanity, Isis; who think nothing of cutting off heads.

What is wrong with these people? It is overwhelming and leaves me no energy for a decent rant. I worry too, that I am adapting an older person’s perspective; the world is coming to an end or a Chicken Little belief that the sky is falling.

Then I heard about “Wonder,” a book my ten-year old granddaughter is reading, that is so good she could not put it down, and read while walking home from the school bus stop. So I got the book, thinking we would start a Nana & Alexandria book club. “Wonder,” by R.J. Palacio, is a New York Times Best Seller and there was a wait for the book at my Library.

Book Summary: Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman, who was born with extreme facial abnormalities and was not expected to survive, goes from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan, which entails enduring the taunting and fear of his classmates as he struggles to be seen as just another student.

In this book, the heroes are kindness, courage, friendship, and character; the message about leadership and solving life problems. I could not but it down either.

The book even has a happy ending, when Mr. Tushman, the principal, gives the middle school address and quotes J.M. Barrie from book, “The Little White Bird.”

“Shall we make a new rule of life . . . always try to be a little kinder than necessary?”

Although I always make an effort to not be rude, and treat others the way I want to be treated, have forgotten to be kind and rarely, kinder than necessary.

The icing on the cake is when the Henry Word Beecher Medal is awarded to August Pullman. Mr.Tushman quotes Beecher defining greatness.

“Greatness, lies not in being strong, but in the right using of strength. . . He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts.”

Auggie gets a standing ovation as he accepts the medal. It is a feel good moment for the reader and food for thought, what is kindness?

Kindness is a step beyond polite. Kindness is compassion, consideration, benevolence, goodwill, cordial, gentle, generous, decent, charitableness, sympathy, sweetness, towards others. Kindness is a wonder.

Thank you to author R.J. Palacio for giving us hope.

. . . just saying

R.J. Palacio Web site

Summary & Characters “Wonder” 

A Lost Pearl

81070be8-4105-4dda-b88e-eac682dc7c17Picture Male Tufted Humming Bird by Ray

 

A Lost Pearl

Flash Fiction

The last time I saw her, she was young; youth sparkled in her eyes. Now the sparkle is gone, the jade blue color diminished by time; her convictions etched in lines across her face. Her once narrow nose is broader, broken from standing up for others. Her chest sunken with anger, not there the first time we met.

“Pearl is that you?” I inquire.

She strains to turn towards me, her range of motion greatly compromised.

“Yes, I’m Pearl,” Her voice recalls dignity, and she pauses to ask, “Have I had your acquaintance?”

It was 1971; we got on the Concourse Avenue bus each with a child in hand. She took notice of my bruises and we became friends.

I take the seat alongside her and gently touch her forearm, “Pearl, it’s me Rosa . . . . Rose, remember. . . .” I expect her to ooze with gladness, say, “Lordy, Lordy, Rose, how are you?”

Instead, she says “Rose? Can’t recall a Rose, refresh my memory child.”

If she remembers me, she would never mention beatings, and hiding in safe houses. I remind her of Bainbridge Park; how we would meet after lunch, let the children play in the sand box then walk them to sleep in strollers.

“Yes, I remember sunshine and playgrounds, how is your boy . . . ?”

“Danny, Dan, he’s at Fordham University; studying to be a lawyer.

Danny was five when I made the decision to leave the morning after a beating. I phoned my sister, asked her to get him from school, and left a note for John saying I didn’t want a divorce, and wouldn’t fight him for our son.

I worried about leaving Danny behind. Pearl said, “Don’t fret; your boy be fine,” and hooked me up with people.

John was a New York City Police officer and protected by his brothers, but the force would not ignore his beating a child.

Sill, I moved every four months with a new identity.

Three years later, the Richmond Virginia Newspaper reported the hunt for the killer of John McGill, a NYC Police Officer shot in the line of duty. I went home;  stood next to his coffin, widowed with a pension; my eight-year-old son at my side.

John had never mentioned I was gone to anyone on the force.

Now Pearl dozes next to me, and her head bobs from side to side startling herself. “What was I saying?”

“We were talking about the time we brought the boys to the Bronx Zoo and rode the train around the park ten times. You packed potato salad and fried chicken; a stranger asked to buy your picnic lunch.”

The mention of potato salad crystallizes in her milky eyes, “I remember the day you left, bruised and wearing borrowed clothes; it broke my heart knowing I’d not see you again. How you been?”

“I never got to thank you, Pearl. . . .” She interrupts my attempt at gratitude and explanation of regret .

“Hush, Woman . . . tell me something that will make me smile.”

. . . . just saying

Shake It Off

taylor-swift-shake-it-off-video-falls-flat Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift, singer and songwriter, sold 1.287 million copies of her new album last week. Swift is the first artist to have three albums sell one million copies; “Speak Now” in 2010, “Red” in 2012 and this album, “1989” in 2014. I love the featured song, “Shake It Off,” and want to wear a tutu and diamond tiara when I shake it off. I am thinking of dying my hair platinum blonde and getting some feathers. She makes listening to a boom box and wearing a hoodie look cool. I love that she cannot jump high and how she embraces the failure to complete a proper curtsey with nonchalance.

Watching the video, I feel fourteen again, back in high school, and sitting in study hall. It is the first day of school; Mary Ellen Knefley on her way to sharpen a pencil, drops a note on my desk. The note details what Lillian St. Clair is saying about me, and that I am not liked. I care less, rip the note into pieces, and with a boom box balanced on my shoulder sing my way to the wastebasket.

Needless to say, I did not have many friends in high school. I was not cool like Taylor Swift, but I did know to disregard other people’s stupidity, unlike the youth of today who put their fragile ego in other people’s hands.

Well, I did have a best friend, Liz, but we did not talk about stupid notes. We talked about boys, the Beatles and JFK saving the world.

In a recent interview with Gayle King, Taylor Swift talked about MBF’s, and said best friends share a passion for what they do and do not get upset if you do not phone them every day. This young woman is not only cool but also smart. After fifty-three years, Liz and I are still best friends although we do not talk everyday or even once a year, some years.

I love this song, and thrilled that Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan parody her in a spoof.  Their joint efforts make a successful anti-bullying campaign. Yes, bullying is complicated; more serious and damaging than ever, and cannot be prevented by singing. However chanting, “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never harm us,” helped me. In addition, the line was clearly drawn in the schoolyard, anyone caught fighting was mean, and thrown out of school.

The only thing new about bullying is how extreme it has become, so extreme there are claims of bullying to death. Our local newspaper headlined a story about school age girls in a street brawl. A 9-1-1 phone call alerted police who said there were over 100 spectators and that they are investigating.

Has bullying becoming a spectator sport or does Taylor Swift have a better suggestion?

                                                                                       …just saying
 
 
 Rolling Stones Magazine “The Reinvention of Taylor Swift”