WOMAN By Joy Lo-Bamijoko

He calls me Woman because that’s the way some men refer to their wives in this part of the world. He calls me Woman! But I have a name. Ngozi is alone in her house. She sits all alone in her well-furnished parlor, on a love sofa, reading a magazine. Beside her on a side table is a glass of red wine from which she sips. Her feet rest comfortably on a beautifully decorated ottoman. Her toenails are not painted, but are well-manicured, so are her fingernails. In front of her, a wide screen television shows a soap opera. The sound is tuned low so she can hear the dialogue as well as hear what is happening around her.  Calm and peace surround her, but not for long.

She hears a car pulling stealthily into her open garage. She knows who it is. Her moments of peace and reprieve are over. With haste, she quietly puts everything away; her glass of wine, the wine bottle, her magazine, and she wipes and cleans away the telltale signs like the reclining sofa that shows she was resting. She turns off the television and hurries into the inner room of her house.

Emeka walks stealthily into the house with his briefcase, without making any sound, as if to catch the wife in some mischief. He sniffs around and scans the house with his eyes looking for her. Everything is spic and span clean, and there are no signs of any mischief in his house. Finding nothing to hold against his wife, he tosses his briefcase onto one of the sofas. He walks to the switch board and puts on the fan, picks up the newspaper, flops down on the sofa, and pulls at his tie to loosen it. He crosses his leg and reads his newspaper.

Ngozi returns to the parlor with a tray.

  “You are back!” She smiles and offers Emeka a glass of water. “Your food is ready,” she says, walking away toward the dining area.

  “You are back, you say.  What do you think, that I won’t be back?” He sucks his teeth and goes to the dining table to eat.

She serves him his food.

 He finishes eating and withdraws to his room … mind you, they sleep in separate rooms—he changes into something comfortable; khaki shorts and a white tee.  He returns to the parlor, sits down again, and reads his newspaper.

Ngozi finishes tidying up the dining room and the kitchen and returns to the parlor, sits and picks up her magazine to read.

“Have you nothing to do, Woman?” Emeka frowns at her.

“Is there anything you want me to do for you?” she fires back without looking up from her magazine. Emeka looks at her with a frown on his face.

“What is this new thing about sitting around doing nothing?”

“I have finished my work, and I am resting!”

“Resting from what? Have you mended the button that fell off my shirt this morning? Have you fixed it?”

“Yes.”

“And my socks?”

“Yes.”

Emeka tries to think of something else to say, some job she must have missed, and not coming up with anything, he shrugs. “Well, if you have nothing else to do, find yourself something to do.” He returns to his reading and, at the same time, waits for her to leave.

Ngozi doesn’t move. He wants me to leave?! He doesn’t even think of me as his wife. He calls me Woman. As if calling me his wife will give me the respect he isn’t willing to give me; the respect he has always denied me all through this marriage.

 I know why he calls me Woman. To put me down, way below him, so that he can continue trampling on me.  He knows that as a wife, he will owe me the respect which will allow me to sit here with him, relax and read, if I want. But, as Woman, I will always remain his thing, his toy, his property to be bullied into subjection. I will not leave. Let him do his worse!

She sits tight, but alert.  She doesn’t know what her stubbornness this time will trigger, but she sits nervously, waiting for his next move. She fixes her eyes on the magazine, but lowers it enough for her to see Emeka’s movements. She has been on the receiving end before for less than this, with him throwing objects at her or whipping her with his belt.

Not anymore! This time, I will fight him if he tries to lay a finger on me.

 Emeka is also jittery. He is used to being obeyed. He doesn’t understand this new attitude from Woman. After many years and four kids, she should know his likes and dislikes. Why is she being so stubborn? For much less than this, he would have taught her a good lesson. Where is she getting this courage from, enough to challenge him? Our people say that if you come out in the morning and your chicken begins to chase you, you better run because you don’t know whether the chicken grew teeth the night before. Woman has grown more than just teeth, she has grown wings!

“Did you hear me Woman?” he growls at her.

Woman stands up, slaps her magazine on the small center table, and huffs and puffs as she walks away.

 Emeka tenses up with a level voice.  “What do you think you are doing, Woman?”  She doesn’t respond and continues to walk away.

“Stop!” Emeka shouts.  She stops, turns, her expression questioning. 

He fumes. “Can’t you understand that when I come home, I want to rest! I work myself to death from morning till night to provide for you, and when I come home, you will not allow me to rest.”

“What have I done? What did I say?”

 “You are disturbing me. Do you hear that? You are disturbing me!” he shouts.

 “What do you want me to do?” Ngozi asks, feigning remorse.

Emeka glares at her and holds her gaze for as long as it suits him; then he shrugs and resumes his reading.

Ngozi returns to her seat, picks up her magazine, and flips noisily through the pages. Emeka looks at her with a twisted upper lip. He realizes that Woman is looking for a show down.

Woman on her part is thinking that after so many years of marriage and four kids, she has earned respect for herself. She deserves, no, she demands to be respected. This house is her house, too. She has every right to enjoy it as much as he does. She works herself too hard cleaning, cooking, and making the house comfortable, for her not to enjoy it, as well.

The days are gone when she squirmed at the sound of his car, his voice, his threats. Now, with her children grown, and in position to defend her from their father, she sure has grown wings. Her kids have warned their father of the repercussions of beating their mother ever again. She smiles to herself.

He cannot touch me anymore. I have arrived. Is he even sure that he can defeat me in a fight? I know I can beat him! After all, I’m bigger than him. Why should I find something to do when I have nothing to do? What is wrong with sitting down and relaxing? Why should he relax and not me? He doesn’t work more than I do.

Emeka stares at Woman some more, and then he gathers his things and walks off. Ngozi does not even raise her head from her magazine.

After casually turning another page in the magazine, she says, “My name is Ngozi.”

 

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(Joy Lo-Bamijoko) RWISA Author Page

CRAZY CAT LADY by Amy Reece

 

CAT SITTER NEEDED

$50 CASH—One Night ONLY

Apply in Person

653 Silverwood Ln Apt B

 

 

Rita looked from the folded newspaper to the small adobe duplex in front of her. Well, here goes. My chances of getting murdered or sold into a sex trafficking ring are pretty good, but I need the fifty bucks. Need might be overstating it, but she wanted to go to the concert and she didn’t have the money for the tickets. Her meager paycheck from her work-study job didn’t stretch much farther than covering the bare essentials. If she wanted any fun money, she had to find other ways to acquire it. She’d done it all: research studies, selling her plasma, modeling for art studio classes. Answering a jinky ad in the college newspaper was nothing. She had left a note in her dorm room telling her slumbering roommate where she was, so at the very least maybe they’d be able to recover her body. She shook off the dark thoughts and approached the house.

A tall, thin elderly woman answered the door. “Yes? How can I help you?”

Rita held up the ad. “I’m here about the cat sitting job.”

“Oh, my dear, yes. Well, come in.” She opened the screen door and stood back to allow Rita to enter.

The living room smelled musty but looked tidy, with sagging, old-fashioned furniture covered with bright, hand-crocheted afghans and doilies. Several cats raised their heads from where they snoozed on the cushions, then lowered them disinterestedly. A tray with a flowered china teapot and matching cups was set on the coffee table.

“Have a seat and I’ll pour you a cup of nice hot tea. It’s so chilly out this evening, isn’t it?”

Rita sat and accepted the cup of steaming tea while she frowned at the woman. “Were you expecting someone else?”

“Oh, no,” the woman said breezily. “I was expecting you.” She smiled as she sipped her tea. “Or someone like you. I put the ad in the paper and I knew someone would be along presently.” More cats of every color had wandered into the room. There had to be nearly fifteen cats winding their way around her feet, perching on the back of her chair, and leaping into her lap.

“Oh.” Rita nodded dumbly and fumbled with the handle of the delicate cup, spilling tea into the saucer.  “So, when exactly do you need the cat sitter?”

“Well, tonight, of course. I need to go visit my sister in Santa Fe. I’ll be back soon after breakfast tomorrow. Now, let me show you where I keep their food.” She reached forward to set her cup on the table.

“But, but,” sputtered Rita, “don’t you want to know about me? About my qualifications?”

The woman laughed lightly. “It’s only feeding a few cats, dear. It’s not rocket science. Come along.” She stood, shooing the cats from her lap, and led the way into the kitchen. “The dishes are here.” She pointed to a row of small ceramic bowls lining a dish drain. “And the food is in this cabinet. They like to eat around nine and then you can wash up.”

“Okay.” Rita nodded and counted the bowls. There were only six. “Do they take turns eating? Should I refill the bowls after the first group eats?”

“I think you’ll find one round is more than enough. Most of these are ghost cats, of course. Poor dears.”

Rita stared at her blankly. “Ghost cats?”

“Yes. They seem to be drawn to me. They just can’t move on quite yet. They’re not like dogs, you know.”

Rita didn’t know. In fact, the only thing she was sure of was that this woman was obviously insane. Ghost cats? What the hell? But fifty bucks was fifty bucks, and if she had to placate a crazy woman to get it, she was glad to. “Great. No problem.”

“Now, feel free to help yourself to anything if you get a little peckish.” She led the way back to the living room, where she picked up a small, old-fashioned train case Rita hadn’t noticed before. “Be sure to lock up after me. Have a good night and I’ll see you early tomorrow.”

Rita stood in the middle of the living room and watched her leave. “Wait! How do I—” she wrenched the door open to ask her final question, but the woman was gone. She stepped onto the porch and looked upon and down the street, noticing red taillights at the stop sign at the far end. She must have had a cab or an Uber waiting. She shrugged and closed the door, locking it as instructed. Then she turned to address the room. “Well, cats and kittens, I guess it’s just us for the rest of the night. At least she keeps this place clean. With this many of you it could really reek.” She’d eaten an early dinner at the cafeteria so she wasn’t hungry. The remote was on a side table, so she grabbed it up and found a cat-free cushion to sit on. The woman didn’t have cable, but Rita managed to find a rerun of a show she enjoyed and sat back to while away the hours until feeding time. The cats, for the most part, minded their own business and left her alone. A few finally crept close enough to sniff her, but then stalked away. She’d never been much of a cat person, so she took no offense. Feeding time went off without a hitch and the woman had been correct: the six bowls were more than enough. Cats came and nibbled, but none cleaned out their bowls. Many of the cats simply came and stared at the food without touching it. Weird. Maybe they are ghost cats.

She got hungry around midnight, but found nothing but a few stale crackers in the cabinet. She took them with her to the couch, pulled one of the crocheted afghans over her legs, and fell asleep watching an infomercial.

The key in the lock woke her the next morning. She sat, rubbing sleep from her eyes.

“Good morning! I’m sorry I woke you. How did everything go last night?” The woman set her train case by the door as she walked in.

“Um, fine. Yeah, everything went great.”

“Oh, good.” She rummaged in her purse for her checkbook and a pen. “Now, I’ll let you fill in your name. Here you go.” She handed her the check.

Rita glanced down at it, noting the spindly handwriting, but satisfied that it was indeed for fifty dollars. Sweet. Easy money. She sat up and folded the afghan and laid it across the back of the sofa. “Thanks. Well, have a nice day.” She waved awkwardly as she let herself out of the apartment. I’ll just swing by the bank and cash this, then stop to buy the concert tickets on my way home.

“Can I help you?” The voice came from the house next door. “What are you doing?”

“Huh?” Rita turned as the woman marched down her front path to confront her.

“Were you in that apartment? How did you get in? That door is supposed to be locked! Oh, I’m going to kill my husband! He never checks!”

“Excuse me?”

“What were you doing in there?”

“No-nothing! I mean, I was watching that lady’s cats for her.” She realized she’d never asked the woman’s name. “She paid me. See?” She held up the check for the other woman.

The woman glanced at the check and frowned. “I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing, but you better get out of here before I call the cops!”

“What are you talking about? I didn’t do anything wrong! I answered an ad in the paper to come and watch that lady’s cats for the night. She paid me fifty dollars. See?” She showed the check to the woman again.

The woman snatched the check from her hand. “Nobody lives there! The woman with all the cats died two years ago! We’ve had a heck of a time getting renters to stay because they swear it’s haunted or some nonsense! Now, if you’re not here about renting the place then I’m going to ask you to leave. Now. Before I call the police.” She glanced down at the check, laughed briefly, and handed it back to Rita.

Rita took the check and looked at it to see what could have made the woman laugh. Her eyes widened as she saw it was not a check at all; it was nothing more than a piece of torn newsprint. It fluttered to the ground as she ran, the woman’s laughter echoing behind her.

 

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(Amy Reece ) RWISA Author Page

DENTON’S DEBBY DOLLS By Laura Libricz

The lunch bell rings and I set my brush aside, returning the unpainted porcelain Debby Doll head to the tray. A kettle whistles. Sarah runs to make the lunchtime tea.

“Thirty minutes and that’s all!” Mr. Denton barks at her as he hurries towards his production office, whacking his elbow on the filing cabinet as he slams the glass door shut.

The shocked moment of quiet is replaced by the delicate clinking of brushes against glass jars, chairs scraping on the concrete floor, and the idle chatter of the doll painters on their way to the break room.

Do you remember Denton’s Debby Dolls? The ones from the 1947 film “Ten Days Till my Birthday,” where Tammy James plays a little girl who got one for her birthday? Denton’s Debby Dolls Inc. make the dolls the same ever since. Tammy is well into her 80’s but is still loved and remembered for that tearful scene where she unwrapped the Debby Doll on her tenth birthday and said, “Well, gee, Mother, all I ever wanted was a Debby Doll!”

All I ever wanted was a Debby Doll but I didn’t get one on my tenth birthday. That year I moved from the city to Krumville, to Aunt Fay’s, and she said I was too old for dolls. She was a recovering heroin addict who hung photos of herself dressed as a vampire on all the walls. I was not allowed in the kitchen and had to eat my meals in my bedroom decorated with Aunt Fay photos. She said if I wanted a Debby Doll, I should petition the goddess Diana. I thought she was being funny.

Aunt Fay’s house was in the oak forest. She made oak dolls with hair from deer. The deer hair was arranged to look like human hair. She said these were petitions to Diana. Under an oak tree, Aunt Fay had an altar where she buried the dolls. Sometimes she burned them.

There were always gunshots in the oak forest. I never went outside that fall. In the city, there was shooting every Saturday night in our neighborhood and I was never allowed out. I don’t remember my city house much. One day Aunt Fay went outside and never came back in. Child Services came and took me away. I was now a ward of the State of New York.

What luck, I ended up in the same city as Denton’s Debby Dolls. When I turned eighteen, I went to work in the factory and I still do.

“Aren’t you coming to lunch?” Sarah asks.

“I’m working on my doll,” I whisper.

“Don’t let Mr. Denton see you doing that,” Sarah says. “He’s in a bad way today. I heard we’re 500K down this year. We have orders but there’s no stock. We can’t work fast enough.”

“I can tell Mr. Denton that I’m experimenting with new colors on my lunch break, which I am doing.” I stroke my Debby’s porcelain cheek with my pinky. “Look at her complexion. It’s lavender oil and China Pink pigment.”

“She’s not real, you know,” Sarah says. “I’ll bring you some tea.”

“Tea. Thank you.”

A year has passed since I’d first started working on my own Debby. I’d modeled what was to be the hollow shell of her head. Each hand painted layer and each firing was personally carried out by me. Today, I am ready to add the final details and fill her empty eyes. It’s ten days before Christmas. She’ll be my daughter, mine all mine. Mommy loves you, Debby.

There had been a man once, just once. He left a few hairs on my gingham pillowcase. And a legacy. My body changed in ways it had never before; swellings in places that had been unripe. Rosy cheeks, like a Debby Doll. I so wanted the child. Although I could not yet feel the child, I could. The growing presence of another life made me feel otherworldly.

But I was unmarried, alone, and I would lose my job when the baby came. Panic set in. It must have been eight weeks into the pregnancy when the fever came, followed by some mild cramping. During the night the cramping pulsed and intensified until I finally passed out. The next morning, the otherworldly feeling was gone. My unformed child had been born, its life over before it even began.

I forced myself up and out of the house, not wanting to be alone. I was working in the molding department that week and I would bear my child. From Denton’s secret mixture of minerals, bone ash, and alabaster, I poured the liquid clay. Before the first firing, I’d made a small imperfection on her cheek, like a chickenpox scar, so the other workers would reject her. I would always recognize my child. During lunch breaks, I stole moments to paint her face and sneak her head back to the kiln.

You’re here with me now, Debby, forever.

The lavender oil calms me as I blend your complexion to a natural sheen. I can almost feel your heartbeat. Light brown eye brows are added one hair at a time, your sense of humor. Would you like brown eyes like mine? Each brush stroke to your iris gives you another fleck of depth. Two dots of white on the left side of the iris ascertain your personality. I cover your eyes with high-gloss tears and now you have emotions. The creation process is almost finished.

See? I’ve made you a soft pellet body, into which I stitched your preserved mortal remains, hair from your Daddy, and oak bark—my petition to Diana. Your body lies hidden inside the top drawer of my workbench, along with your new gingham dress made from the pillowcase Daddy rested his head on. I forged a certificate from a midwife confirming your birthday, today, and your name, Debby.

Mommy’s here, Debby, don’t worry…

“What are you working on?” barks Mr. Denton. “Ten days before Christmas and you’re messing around with that B-stock? Those get smashed.”

I never saw him come up to my workbench. Debby, don’t cry, I’ll sort Mr. Denton out.

“You have a whole tray with these new dolls that have to be painted!” Mr. Denton’s face ran red. “You’ve been messing with that one since I came in!”

“Sorry, sir, it’s lunch,” I whispered.

Now Debby, be a good girl and get in my top drawer.

“You want to hide the thing as well! Is that a pellet body in there? Are you the one out selling B-stock on the weekends?”

“No, sir, I…experiment.” We may have to make a run for it, Debby.

“So, it is you! I’ve been told there’s a woman on the flea market every weekend with B-Stock Debby Dolls for real cheap. Give me that!”

“No, sir, don’t, you don’t understand…”

“Tea!” Sarah plunks my unicorn mug onto my workbench, brushes my Debby’s head into my top drawer, and slides it shut with her hip.  She grabs my hand and pulls me up. “Come on, we got pizza and it’s getting cold.”

 

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

(Laura Libricz) RWISA Author Page

Not Interested, by Lynn Hobbs

“Cordell.”

A booming voice called his name above the chatter of the crowded café. Cordell perched sideways on a swivel stool.

“What’s up?” An older man approached, narrow reading glasses sliding on his nose. His bald head glistened.

“Mr. Moore.” Cordell stood, and they slapped each other on the arm. The older man towered over Cordell’s lanky frame.

“Look at you.” Mr. Moore stepped back, cocked his head to the side, and scanned the younger man. “What’s with the beard?”

“It’s growing.” Cordell gave a half- smile, and motioned toward the stools.  “Lunch is on me. Glad you could make it. This hot weather isn’t healthy, is it?”

Mr. Moore chuckled. “No, but summer heat is part of Texas.”

Both ordered the lunch special with iced tea. He glanced at the young man.

“Heard some talk…heard you divorced Twyla.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Pretentious female, and all about herself. Guess you know that now.”

“I know it well…and I should have trusted your judgment… not my hormones.”

“Cordell, sometimes no one can tell anyone anything. They have to experience it firsthand for themselves.”

“Oh, it was an experience. I did everything for her.” He frowned at his older friend. “It was never enough, though.”

Mr. Moore grimaced.

Conversation ceased while the waitress set their food on the counter.

“Anything else I can get you?” She yanked two straws from her pocket placing them near their iced tea glasses.

“We’re fine, thank you.” Mr. Moore focused on his friend as she left.

Gazing at the heavy laden plates, Cordell appeared lost in thought, and slowly cut into his chicken fried steak.

“I’m here for you, man.” Mr. Moore spoke in an easygoing manner. “You may have graduated high school three years ago, but I will always be your mentor.” Blending gravy into his mashed potatoes, he waved his fork at Cordell. “Tell me about Twyla.”

Cordell’s shoulders slumped. He glanced at the other customers, and one couple looked in his direction.

“Twyla.” He paused, lowered his voice, and made eye contact with his mentor. “Twyla would not cook. I’d buy something after work, and bring it home. I heard one lie after another. She’d say she didn’t feel good.  I didn’t know she stayed up all night, and slept all day. She wouldn’t wash dishes or clothes, wouldn’t pick up after herself…she always had an excuse. After I washed or cleaned, she’d get out of bed and act sleepy saying she felt a little better. Then on weekends, she’d go out with her friends feeling great.”

“Cordell, there is an old saying for your marriage.”

“What?”

“That’s too much buck for a little sugar.”

“I did try hard to please her…and for what? She never did anything for me.”

The older man gently bit his lip. Leaning forward, he looked straight at Cordell. “Ever consider it was your will to have Twyla, and not God’s will?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Had it been God’s will for you to have Twyla, she would have been a blessing, not a lesson.”

“Wow. What a powerful statement, Mr. Moore.”

“Same principal applies to your money, and your budget. Is it something you want, or something you need? What happens if you over spend on something you want? Something you need in an emergency might not be affordable.  You could be broke by then, or your credit rating could hold you back.”

The young man nodded.

“Hear me out, Cordell. I pray for God’s will and guidance in my life. It is as important to me as is the choice between a good life, and an evil one.”

“I appreciate you, Mr. Moore, and I intend to pray like you do.”

“Wonderful. Thank the Lord. I’m happy Twyla is gone.”

“No more women for me. I’m done.”

“I wouldn’t go that far.”

“Nope, not interested.”

“See our waitress taking drinks to the corner table? I think she’s close to your age. Don’t you think so?”

“I guess.”

“Her face glows when she talks to customers. Seems genuine, and friendly.”

“She doesn’t know anything about them. Give her time, she’ll be manipulating.”

Mr. Moore flashed Cordell a wide grin. “Easy on assuming, now. They aren’t all like that.”

“Maybe, but I’m still not interested.”

“Here she comes, behave.”

“Sir, may I get you anything else? Would you care for dessert?”

“No, thank you, we are done. I’ll take both tickets.”

She scribbled on the order pad, and handed Cordell two slips of paper. “Hope you enjoyed the meal.”

“It was delicious.” Mr. Moore beamed.

She smiled, hurrying to the other end of the counter.

“So… what did you think about the waitress while she was here?” He pivoted to face Cordell.

“I wondered if I’d ever find a bag of rotten potatoes gooey on her kitchen floor…”

“Shame on you.”

“I found that on mine and Twyla’s kitchen floor, scooted against the wall.”

“Not everyone is nasty. Most are clean.”

Finishing their meal, each rose, and veered toward the cashier. Cordell paid while his mentor stuffed a five dollar bill into the tip jar. They meandered through the crowded café, and Cordell opened the exit door. The outside heat engulfed them.

“Mr. Moore, thanks for meeting me here today.”

“My pleasure.”

“Let’s do this again, same time, same place next week.”

“Cordell, I’ll look forward to it.”

They strolled in opposite directions to their vehicles when the waitress came barging out of the café. She raced toward Cordell.

“Sir, you left your phone on the counter.”

Recognizing his phone she waved high in the air, he stopped.

“Why, thank you.” For the first time, he gave her his full attention noticing her warm, caring eyes. “Thank you, indeed.”

He felt her skin flush as she slipped the phone into his hand. Whirling about, she hastened back inside.

He opened and closed his mouth realizing he didn’t know her name, and knew he’d return.

Sprinting to his car, he drove off with a glance at the café while the waitress lingered on his mind.

 

The End

 

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

(Lynn Hobbs) RWISA Author Page

Last Night by John W. Howell © 2017

So, with nothing better to do, I figure I’ll stop at Jerry’s place and grab a couple of drinks and a burger. Usually, I don’t go there on Saturday night since there’s a crapload of amateurs taking up what would be considered prime space. I figure since this is a Friday and close to Saturday, it may be packed, but not as crazy as Saturday. It’s the kind of place where everyone minds their business. They’re there for a good time and will likely not notice me. Even so, I go through the door, stop, and have a look around, trying not to make eye contact. I hope that the ball cap and large coat will keep me from getting noticed.  The bar holds a weekday crowd, hanging on each other like they never had a date before. I tighten my eyelids against the smoke and make out four guys near the pool table, and what looks like a couple of girls fetching drinks. I search for a seat beyond the table in the back, but it seems like they’re all taken.

A guy bumps into me as I stand here. I say excuse me, and he looks me in the face. “Hey, don’t I know you?” he says.

“I don’t think so.” I make to turn away.

“Yeah, you’re the sports hero who lost all his money. I saw you on TV.”

“Naw, people always say stuff like that. I’m not him, buddy; trust me.”

He gives me a puzzled look but doesn’t want to push it, in case he has it wrong. I turn away and continue to look for a seat.

Straight ahead lies the bar, and it has a place right in the middle. I move in the direction of the empty place and look over to the other side of the room. The tables look full of happy drunks. Buckets of empties line the bar top, and the barmaid’s trying to sell more. She doesn’t have much luck since most of these people just spent their last five bucks on this outing. Upon making it to the stool, I hoist myself up and lean on the bar.

“Hey, Greg,” Jerry says. “Whadda you have?”

“Evening, Jerry. I’ll have a Gin on the rocks with a water back.”

“Comin’ up.”

I like Jerry’s no-nonsense way of handling things. He doesn’t like small talk and gets right to business. My eyes smart from the smoke, and I wonder how Jerry gets away with letting people kill themselves, when clearly, it’s not supposed to be allowed in this kind of establishment.

“Here you go. Want me to run a tab?”

“Yeah, I would appreciate that. I intend to have another drink and then a burger.”

The guy who thinks he knows me grabs my shoulder from behind. I almost fall off the stool.

“You’re Greg Petros, the big fund manager. I knew I’d seen you on TV. You took a beautiful career in football and ran it into the ground.”

Jerry leans over the bar and lays his hand on the guy’s shoulder. “Move on, my friend. You made a mistake. This guy is nobody. Go sit down and let me buy you a drink.”

“You sure? You called him Greg.”

“Yeah, I’m sure. Go get a table, and I’ll send someone over.”

The guy looks at me one more time but does as Jerry suggests. He believes Jerry’s wrong, but the idea of a free drink lets him get away without losing face.

“Thanks. I didn’t mean for you to have to jump in.”

“No problem. Gimme the high sign when you’re ready for another drink.”

“Will do. Thanks.”

“For you buddy, anything.”

I should mention that Jerry and I go back aways. When I fell on hard times, he became the only one that seemed to give a shit. I take a sip of my drink and wait for the burn in my throat, which signals the good stuff. Here it comes. I take a swig of the water and almost believe life is good. The Gin needs to get to the brain before making any honest judgment.

While I wait for the warmth to go from my stomach to my head, I check out the folks seated on either side of me. They both have their backs turned to me and sit engrossed in some discussion with their neighbor. I figure it’s just as well since I don’t want to go through that old “don’t I know you?” bullshit again. Also, I don’t figure on staying the night, so no use in getting into any long discussions about life.

I look down at my drink and wonder what will happen tomorrow. My daughter Constance wants to come and visit. She lives in New York, and before all hell broke loose, we didn’t see each other often. I missed her so much, and it seemed I had to beg her even to talk on the phone. Now, it’s like she wants to be here every weekend. It’s only an hour’s flight by the shuttle or three by train, so she can come when she wants. I just can’t figure out why she got so clingy. I have my troubles, but it doesn’t have anything to do with her. No use in asking her husband, either. Though a nice enough guy, I always wonder if he has someplace important to go when I visit. He never sits still, and stays busy on the phone or at the computer. He makes a good living, but it seems a person could take an hour to sit and talk. I’d looked forward to some kind of relationship when he and Constance got married. It’ll never happen with him.

When I take another pull at my drink, I notice the burn feels less. It happens every time. First sip initiation, I call it. It’s like the first puff of a cigarette, hits hard then, after, nothing. I decide to let Constance pretty much have the agenda tomorrow. She and I have not had a chance to talk about anything deep for a while. It could just be that she blames me for her mother running off with that guy with the house on the Hudson. He has a title, and the old gal couldn’t resist, but, I think the daughter always felt I should have done something. Her mother’s sleeping with another guy and what the hell can I do about that?

I’ll just go with the flow. If she wants to go out, we will. If she wants to stay in, we can do that, too. I better think about getting some food in the house. Of course, we can always order take out. I need to move on to my drink and let this go. Tomorrow will be what it is. I remember the day she was born. I looked down at her in my arms and promised I would do anything for her. I love her more than life itself, and I hope we can somehow get to the root of whatever’s wrong. She sounded strange on the phone this morning, and I feel helpless to do anything about it. I hope she opens up when she gets here.

For some reason, I feel tired. Perhaps I’ll go ahead and finish my drink. Maybe I’ll just go home and forget the burger. First, though, I’ll just shut my eyes for a minute. My hands feel good when I put my head down.

“Hey, Greg,” Jerry says. I barely hear him. “What’s the matter? You taking a nap? Greg?” I can feel him shake me, but I have no interest in waking up. His voice gets further away, and I think he says, “Oh my God, Sophie, call 911, quick.” Now the room goes silent.

 

END

Love at First Sight, By Gwendolyn Plano

Love at First Sight

By Gwendolyn M Plano

 

“It doesn’t seem real. It just doesn’t seem real.” Mom muttered as she ran her hand over the curves of dad’s headstone. Sighing deeply, she stared blankly into the horizon.

After a few minutes, she turned and faced me. “I tell myself that it must be real.” She seemed to want my approval. “The stone says we were married 70 years. It must have happened; I must have been married. But, but…why can’t I remember?” She searched my face for answers.

Stooped from the burden of years now elusive and sometimes vacant, mom held my arm while she walked to either side of the monument.

“I saw him in a dream. Did I tell you that?”

“No, mom, I don’t think you did.”

“He was young, like when we first met.”

“Really? Could you tell me about how you met?”

“How?” Mom’s eyes darted to and fro as she struggled to answer. Then, as though the curtains lifted, she responded.

“Yes…yes, I can tell you how we met.”

“Let’s sit here, mom.” I led her to a cement bench under a tall oak tree near dad’s grave. “Now tell me how the two of you met.”

Mom took a deep breath and began. “It was during the war. I remember it now. It was 1944. There were posters in our high school which asked us to sign up to work at the Consolidated Aircraft factory in San Diego. They needed help building B-24 bombers. We called the bombers the Liberators. My sister and I and several of our girlfriends decided we wanted to help our country. Most of the boys in our class were enlisting in the army or navy. We wanted to do our part too.”

“Like Rosie the Riveter?”

“Oh, yes! We all wanted to be Rosie. Your grandparents didn’t much like the idea, but they knew the families of the other girls, and since we’d be living together and would watch out for one another, they finally agreed. After all, it was the patriotic thing to do.”

I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of mom being Rosie and asked where she lived.

“We lived with Aunt Lena on India Street in San Diego. She put in bunk beds for us. At night, we’d wash out our clothes and tie the pieces to the bedsprings so that they could dry overnight.”

“When we arrived at Consolidated, they gave each of us a uniform – blue pants and jacket. And, we had classes for a week or two. Most of us were assigned the job of riveting. It’s hard to believe, but there were about 20,000 women working at the factory. The assembly line was a mile long, and believe it or not, we built about nine bombers a day. Isn’t that amazing?”

“That is amazing, mom.” Pride glowed from mom’s face, and I couldn’t help but feel proud of her as well.

“I was assigned to the wings. I hate heights, but I’d climb on top of those wings and pretend I was sitting on the hood of a car. I didn’t get afraid that way. One day, when I was sitting up there, holding a riveting gun, your dad came by.”

“Hey,” he said. “What’s your name?” I thought I might be in trouble, but he smiled, so I smiled back.

“It’s Lauretta.”

“Well, Lauretta, you’re doing a great job. If you need anything, let me know. My name’s Jim, and I’m the foreman for this area.”

I put my arm around mom’s shoulder. “My goodness, mom, you were on the wing of a bomber when you met dad?”

“Sounds funny, doesn’t it? But, yes, that’s the first time we talked. I didn’t pay much attention to him, but my sister would whisper to me, “There he is again. I think he likes you. He keeps looking this way.”

Mom lowered her eyes and giggled. “Of course, I didn’t believe her.”

After pausing a bit, she continued. “Your dad started walking home with us in the evening. He lived further up the hill from us, so it wasn’t out of his way. Mind you, I was wearing the company uniform and had my hair in a bandana, so I was hardly a beauty.”

“Anyway, one day he asked if I’d like to come up to his place. And, I was stupid and said okay. That’s when I learned about the facts of life. You know, sex.”

“You didn’t know before then, mom?”

“No, but he taught me that night.” Mom giggled and put her hand on her face. “He wanted to get married right then. But, I told him no, he had to talk to my parents. We needed to do it right. Besides, I hardly knew him. There were a lot of shot-gun marriages those days. We all thought the end of the world was coming, and well, young lovers didn’t hold back.”

“So, you and dad became lovers?”

“You know the answer to that, don’t you? When I didn’t have my cycle, I knew I was pregnant. Your dad was elated and didn’t hesitate to talk to your grandparents. Of course, I was ashamed. But, I want you to understand something. You might have been the reason we married, but you were not the reason we stayed together for 70 years.”

“Did you love him, mom?” The question came out before I could filter it.

“I did, I just didn’t know I did. Your dad would tell anyone who would listen, ‘When I saw Lauretta on the wing of a B-24 bomber, I knew that she was the one for me.’ He’d say it all the time, ‘She’s the one for me!’” Mom giggled as she thought about this story. “Your dad always said it was love at first sight. But it wasn’t that way for me.”

“What do you mean by that, mom?”

“Well, love is a strange word, isn’t it? Your dad seemed to know from the first time he saw me that he wanted to marry me. I didn’t feel that way. I think my focus was romance or dreams. And, your dad wasn’t the wooing type.”

“I believe I fell in love with him after you were born. He thought you were the most beautiful baby in the whole world. In fact, I think he was happiest when he was holding you. He’d sing to you and rock you to sleep every night.”

She dropped her head, and tears rolled down her cheeks. My tears fell as well.

“He was a good man, a faithful man. Did I tell you his promise?”

I shook my head, and said, “no.”

“You know that he grew up hungry, right? During the Dust Bowl, his family barely survived. In fact, two of his sisters died.  Well, your dad promised me that his children would never go hungry. He would make sure of it. And, he did. He worked two jobs most of our marriage, and you kids were never hungry.” She paused and looked into my eyes.

“Your dad kept his promises.”

Mom grew silent. Her face turned from animated to expressionless, and I did not know what to think. She whispered something that I had to ask her to repeat. She sighed and looked at me again.

“It just doesn’t seem real.”

 

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

(Gwen Plano) RWISA Author Page

Bulletproof Vest By Laurie Finkelstein

 

The bulk, padding, and steel plates weigh me down. The protection of a bulletproof vest is necessary. No matter the weather, I wear the cloak. The weight is a burden, but I trek on because wrapped is the only way to navigate my journey. The jacket protects my heart from being blown to crimson shards of death.

A direct hit is avoided for days and nights, lulling me into calm and complacency. “All will work out fine,” I tell myself. The truth tells a story I want to change. All my will and might does not make an impact to stop the bombardment.

Experience and time separates me from tragedy. At any moment, the bullets strike. Inside or out. My house cannot provide security, nor can a million people surrounding me. With nowhere to hide, I am a target. Shelter and safety are nonexistent.

Discharges are held back while luck and grace harbor me. The slugs will come, however, in a piercing barrage without warning, and will pummel me.

Knocked to the ground, I am immobilized and rendered helpless. My breathing is halted. My movements are stopped, and I understand what assaulted me.

The shockwave subsides, and in small increments, I am able to take in air. Incapacitated, I continue to lie until I am rescued by the rational thinking buried under an avalanche of pain, doubt, and fear. My thoughts check my vitals to make sure I am in the here and now. “Stay in the moment,” I tell myself. “I can manage this. I will persevere.”

“Rise,” I command. The mass of the garb constricts my movement, but I stand, analyze what must be done, and begin to act. The warrior in me comes out. Battles will be fought. My impervious attire gets me through another crisis, and its weight comforts me. Without the guise, I am unable to prevail against the onslaughts, which pop out of the dark corners of another day.

Yes, my vest is cumbersome, but without my swathe I will not withstand the painful projectiles. Clips are filled, ready to punch and knock me down, disabling me should I forget for a moment to cloak myself within my protective armor.

My bullets are not made of lead, surrounded by a dense metal. The projectiles do not come from terrorists intent on decimating me. The ammo does not come from a police state or a dictator’s command. A barrel is not involved.

My bullets are made of depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Composed of irrational thoughts, insipid ideations, and ignorant rationalizations, they are crushing invisible forces. The capacity to shatter my resolve and render me dysfunctional invades me.

My unsociable enemy is treatable, but never disappears. My therapists validate my experiences of being trapped, resentful, guilty, shameful, ill-equipped, grief-stricken, lost, uncertain, and disabled. My growth in therapy helps me accept the challenge with compassion and empathy in my heart.

Throughout my lifetime three stages will haunt me.

Stage one is the onslaught of rounds. The crisis mode. The shock and pain.

Stage two is being slammed down, breath taken away. Sabotaged. Terms and feelings of the emergency are acknowledged.

Stage three is advocacy for myself. Stand. Breathe. Make decisions. Tools in hand to counteract the depression and anxiety and OCD. Utilize appropriate response and care.

Encouraged by others, I enroll in Toastmasters. Time for me to improve my public speaking and thinking on my feet. Professional and compelling ways of expressing my views is a talent I want to possess. Persuasive interactions are in reach. My computer with Google as my guide, I find the Toastmasters website. The rules and guidelines answer many of my questions. Ready to take on the challenge, I enter my credit card information and become a member. A direct thrust knocks me down.

At first, I don’t understand what attacks me. My heartbeat begins speeding up. My gasps for air speed up. My head spins with dizziness. The mighty effects of terror hammer me to the ground. Despair sinks me deeper into the attack.

Stage one. The thought of standing before people enunciating in a clear voice avoiding “ums” and “ahs” strikes with negative force. In a semi-frozen state of fear and regret, I struggle to make sense of my attacker. Groups of Toastmasters are warm, safe environments to learn public speaking and leadership skills. “Warm and safe,” I remind myself. Still my heart beats faster and my breath diminishes by the second. A ghost of recognition appears before me. Panic is familiar.

Stage two. My history tells me to take an extra Klonopin. Scared to death is not an option. Upon reaching my medicine cabinet with weak, wobble-producing legs, I discover my pill case empty. In my next move, I check the bottle. Empty. My heart beats faster and my limbs go numb. Sweat trickles down my forehead. My last attempt before I collapse in a heap of despair, I call my pharmacist. My trembling voice separated from my body explains my attack and lack of pills. “How fast can you fill the prescription?” my quivering voice speaks out. “Is ten minutes okay?” the pharmacy technician asks.

Stage three. My inner voice tells me to be brave. Think of a serene place. My happy place. Take deep soothing breaths. My toolbox is ransacked for more options until I come to grips with the present. The dispensary is too far to hike, so I must drive to pick up my pills. Cranked engine. Foot on pedal. Brake released. My self-talk takes me on a wild ride to the drug store. My trembling legs walk me to the back of the aisles. The friendly face of the tech reassures me. The credit card transaction is signed with a jellylike hand, completing the purchase.

Back in my car, I down the remedy with tepid water from an old bottle sitting in my trash. My panting is steadier, my heart pounding a little less. Within thirty minutes, I am relaxed, able to pursue my day. Ready to reassess my decision to become a Toastmaster. The choice is sound and important.

My bulletproof vest is worn as a badge of honor and survival. Without my garb, I would be a prisoner in my house, hiding in bed. Sick to my stomach. Useless.

The stigma of mental illness must be broken. My vest is worn with pride. I am a survivor. I am the voice of one in every five Americans experiencing the assailant. I am not alone.

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

(- Laurie Finkelstein ) RWISA Author Page

A Fishy Day By Karen Ingalls

 

 A FISHY DAY     

Karen Ingalls

                                                            July 18, 2017

                                                        Word Count: 1067

 

It was one of those wonderful August days when the sun was high and warm in the sky. The big cumulus clouds slowly drifted by, creating designs that filled Jim’s imagination, who at nine years could see all kinds of amazing sights. He had been playing with his model airplane in his aunt and uncle’s yard, where he spent the summers on their ranch in San Diego, California. Staying with Uncle Leon and Aunt Helen was always a special time of adventure, fun and farm work.

“Jim, do you want to go to the pasture with me? We’ll check the water trough for the cattle,” Uncle Leon asked, at the same time he took his handkerchief and wiped some perspiration from his tan brow.

“Oh, yes,” Jim responded with great excitement. He ran to the front porch and put his treasured airplane on the table next to where Aunt Helen sat in her rocking chair.

Uncle Leon walked over to the Allis-Chalmers tractor and stretched his long, thin legs up and over onto the metal seat. “All right, Jim, you can come on up now.” Jim awkwardly managed to climb up and grab hold of his uncle’s hand, who swung him onto his lap. With the turn of the key the tractor began to vibrate and the engine roared. Shifting the gears into forward, Leon yelled, “Here we go!”

The pasture was a favorite place for Jim with its rolling hills, oak trees, and green grass. It was always a peaceful place where a boy could run until he was out of breath, and then fall onto the grass and let the wind gently blow over his panting body. Many were the times that Jim would spend his days, just climbing in the oak trees pretending he was hiding from some enemy, or shooting squirrels with his imaginary rifle.

He and his uncle drove through the pasture until they came to a large trough sitting by a water pump on the top of a knoll. The cattle were grazing some distance away, but their occasional moos could be heard.

Uncle Leon helped Jim off the tractor and then sauntered up to the trough. “Not much water left so we best get this filled up.”

Jim was leaning over the trough where the top of it just reached his chest. “What can I do? I want to help.”

“Well, now, how about you pump the water in once I get it primed,” replied Uncle Leon with his usual smiling face. He was happy that Jim wanted to help, but he also knew that pumping water would be a big job for such a young lad. Once he had the water flowing with each downward motion of the pump handle, he instructed, “Okay, young feller, it is your turn now.”

Jim eagerly grabbed the handle and standing on his tiptoes, pushed it down, smiling happily when the water gushed into the trough. He repeated the pumping for as long as he could, but all too quickly his arms and shoulders began to ache. Jim did not want to admit that he was getting tired, but his uncle knew and said, “How about if I do it for a while?”

Once the water neared the top, Jim leaned over cupping some water into his hands. “This is the best tasting water I’ve ever had,” Jim thought to himself. He slurped several handfuls into his dry mouth.

Looking over at his nephew, Leon asked with a twinkle in his eye, “Did you see that fish drop into the water from this here pump?”

“What fish?”

“Why, that fish that came right out of the pump into the trough. I thought sure you would have seen him while you were drinking the water.”

“No, sir. I didn’t see any fish.” Jim wiped his mouth with his shirt sleeve and earnestly looked in the water.

“Well, he must still be in there.” Uncle Leon leaned over the trough looking for the mysterious fish. “Now isn’t that something. I can’t see him anywhere.” He peeked a look at his nephew, who now had eyes as big as saucers. “I wonder if you accidentally swallowed that poor little fish while you were drinking all that water.”

Jim stepped back from the trough and began to rub his stomach. “I don’t think so, sir.” The minutes passed and Uncle Leon continued to wonder out loud what happened to the fish. Jim began to imagine that the fish was swimming in his stomach. “I don’t feel so good,” Jim said as he stretched down on the cool grass.

Seeing that his nephew was fearful and feeling sick, Uncle Leon laid down next to him and pointed up towards the clouds. “Jim, look at that cloud up there. See the little one next to the big puffy cloud?”

He waited until Jim nodded his head and said, “I think so.”

“It kind of looks like a fish, doesn’t it? I wonder if that is the fish that was in the trough.”

Jim looked at his uncle, then up at the clouds, and then back at his uncle who was smiling from ear to ear. Uncle Leon laughed and began to tickle Jim’s stomach. “Or, is that fish still here? Where is that fish?”

Jim laughed and joked right back while he patted his uncle’s stomach. “No, I think that fish is right here!”

Soon they both stopped laughing and just looked at one another. “I hope I don’t tease you too much,” Uncle Leon said.

“Oh no, Sir.” Jim looked at his uncle and went on to say, “I like to tease my younger brothers. Mother is always telling me not to do it too much. She doesn’t want them to cry.”

“Well, I would never want to make you cry.” Uncle Leon put his big hand on Jim’s head. “Do you know why?” Jim slowly shook his head back and forth not wanting his uncle to remove his hand. “I love you too much to ever make you cry for any reason.”

With tears in his eyes, Jim whispered, “I love you, too.”

They spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sun, the warm breeze, and just being next to one another in the grass, watching the clouds drift by. It was a special day that Jim always remembered with a smile.

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

(Karen Ingalls) RWISA Author Page