What I’ve Been Writing

Bench and notebook

This post should actually be titled “Where I’ve Been Writing.”

I’ve been busy creating fiction and essays over on the Medium website. You can access the stories through the links I’ve posted below, even if you don’t have a Medium profile.

I hope you enjoy the stories!

https://psiloveyou.xyz/here-in-the-dark-beside-you-e970a2af88d6

https://theweeklyknob.com/the-impostor-1d2ce9ced013?source=friends_link&sk=b6a9de10bd092fd62610f836ade09651

https://theweeklyknob.com/the-lonely-voices-197216acd90a?source=friends_link&sk=186e546d804a2b04c0c7f01a8aedabe8

https://thecreative.cafe/the-rivers-b2abd135f3f

View story at Medium.com

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Give me Rockets Like Flowers

Fireworks at the Ball Park 2016

The view from 2016 when we were on the other side of the stadium. 

I am not especially patriotic, but I love a good fireworks display. I’m not sure how I came to this attraction to all things bright and sparkly. It isn’t nostalgia. The only fireworks I remember in my childhood involved a car trip with my parents down a deserted country road. We stopped outside the city limits and my dad unloaded a paper sack of bottle rockets that we carried past a herd of curious cattle to the edge of a pond on some stranger’s land. It wasn’t exactly the type of memory I’m anxious to recreate.

The other day was July 4th, the day we Americans celebrate our independence by setting off grass fires and frightening the neighborhood dogs. My fiancé Andrew and I set aside this date every year for our annual disagreement about fireworks. He prefers to ignore them and hide inside in the air conditioning (I think he must have been a Labrador retriever in a past life) while I insist that the holiday won’t be complete unless I watch something explode.

“I could always stick a sparkler up my butt and run around,” Andrew said.

“Not spectacular enough,” I said, after considering his offer.

This year we compromised with an outing on July 3rd to the ballpark near our home to watch the Frisco RoughRiders play baseball. The schedule stated there would be fireworks following the game. We arrived at the stadium after the first inning and settled into our seats behind first base. I counted off the innings and willed the sun to set while we ducked at the occasional foul ball flying overhead. The ice in my soda melted and my thighs stuck to the plastic seat. The air filled with what was either the aroma of grilled hot dogs or my fellow spectators roasting in the summer heat. Around the 7th inning we rallied enough to stand and sing along with “God Bless America.”

As soon as the game ended I noticed a stream of people heading down from the stands.

“Should we follow them?” I asked.

The loudspeaker cut in, announcing that the fireworks would soon start. “They’ll be visible behind the first base section of the stands, fans will have a good view from the field,” the announcer said.

“That’s right over us,” Andrew pointed out. “I don’t think we’ll be able to see from here.” We leaned back in our seats, trying to judge the line of sight.

“We should move,” I agreed.

We hopped over rows of plastic folding seats and fought like salmon headed upstream against the crowd tromping down the aisles. The announcer warned “The fireworks will start in one minute” just as we reached the top of the stadium. I hummed the theme from Mission Impossible as we dodged a stadium attendant.

“Go! Go!” I urged Andrew as we weaved past shuttered food stands and splashed through puddles alongside the Lazy River pool. The first boom sounded as we fled through a gate and into the street beside the ballpark. I stood on the curb and leaned out into traffic so I could watch the pyrotechnics bursting in flashes of brilliant red, white, and blue. Their splendor was slightly blocked by the leaves on the tree I stood under. The display ended while I was still deciding on the best place to stand. It was like someone offered me a cookie and then broke it in half and gave me the smaller bit.

The following evening, the proper Independence Day, we celebrated with an after dark bike ride through our neighborhood. We ride at night because I will only put on bicycle shorts when there is no danger of anyone seeing me. The subdivision across from our home features roads with challenging hills. I usually complain and grumble as I downshift and pedal along. This night, as I struggled up the fourth or fifth incline, I heard the distinctive boom that meant somewhere people were celebrating.

“Can you see any fireworks at the top?” I called as Andrew cycled past me.

When we got to the peak we could hear a barrage of blasts from every direction. But we couldn’t see any fireworks. It was as though we had arrived at a free fire zone in the midst of an invisible military occupation.

We biked on through the subdivision. I struggled along hopefully at every rise in elevation while Andrew shot past me. At last we arrived at the outside edge of the subdivision, and Andrew coasted up to the stop sign at the intersection with the main road. An older man and his barefoot son stood in their front yard, watching the horizon.

“Look there.” Andrew pointed toward the east. A sound like far off thunder rolled toward us and I saw a burst of red and gold light up the sky miles away.

“I think that’s Arlington, it’s been going on almost an hour,” our neighbor told us.

We had a good view, although from our remote vantage point the fireworks resembled glittery dandelions gone to seed. As the booms faded Andrew turned to me. “If we listen carefully we might hear the people cheering.”

“Maybe,” I replied. I envied that distant crowd. I imagined the fireworks bursting in the air and showering their magic light on those below. I hoped they clapped. I hoped they cheered. I hoped they sang.

God bless America, land that I love
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above
From the mountains to the prairies
To the oceans white with foam
God bless America, my home sweet home
God bless America, my home sweet home

Irving Berlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Holidays, Humor, Memoir | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t Fence Me In Wichita Falls

My fiance, Andrew, loves Wichita Falls. We drove up there this weekend and he pitched an earnest plea for us to buy his childhood home.

Childhood home

Besides the lack of a down payment, I was not swayed by the quaint architecture or the quiet neighborhood.

“They had Fox News playing in the hotel dining room,” I said.

The hotel featured full length mirrors at the end of every hallway. Every time I passed one it startled me, as though I were encountering myself in some other dimension. They also served to remind me that I didn’t need that cinnamon bun from the breakfast buffet. The atmosphere was somewhere between The Shining and The Biggest Loser.

Full Length Mirror

“Oh that’s just the hotel,” Andrew replied. “The only public liberal arts school in Texas is here.”

The oil boom and bust left Wichita Falls stranded like a second string prom date. The city is filled with empty high rise buildings, evacuated like the set of a dystopian movie. Something with zombies or plague. But it’s also lovely and stocked with my favorite sort of shops – cheap antique stores and artsy coffee shops.

Wichita Tower

old building

Coca Cola old building

I took this photo standing in the middle of the street while Andrew was distracted by a window display.

Wichita Falls is home to the World’s Smallest Skyscraper, the Newby – McMahon building. A con artist collected money from investors in 1919 and proposed to construct a high rise office building, but the oil men he conned didn’t notice that the blueprints listed the size in inches, not feet.

Little Skyscraper front

World’s Smallest Skyscraper

Forever and a Day

There are also several breweries in downtown Wichita Falls

Fuzzy Hat

We’re getting married in October, and I found this floofy hat that I thought I might wear, but Andrew made the same sort of face I made when he suggested moving to Wichita Falls.

I’ve been thinking about wedding vows, and I don’t think I will include Ruth 1:16 “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people.”

Poodle Wichita Falls

I had to kneel down to get this shot. When I tried to stand up my knees locked and I waved at Andrew to try and get his attention, but he was looking at real estate listings on his phone and didn’t see me. I grabbed his arm and managed to pull myself up as I decided all future photography would be taken at eye level.

Cat on a chair

I don’t know if this was an actual cat before it was stuffed.

As we drove around Wichita Falls I noticed an interesting art display near a large, spooky building that turned out to be a grain elevator.

Attebury Grain

Don't Fence Me In

I convinced Andrew to pull over so I could take some pictures.

More fencesFences and Attebury

Andrew standing at fence

Here’s Andrew, peeking out to see if I had finished taking pictures.

As we strolled past a construction worker spray painting a store front, Andrew remarked on how well they were doing, renovating the downtown area.

“I still don’t want to move here though,” I said. “And don’t think the 6,000 liberal arts students will sway me either.”

In the last place we stopped I wandered away from Andrew, drawn to a display of vintage clothing. Nothing fit, the folks were all much smaller back then. You never see that in time travel movies, but really us future folk would be giants. I turned a corner, looking for Andrew, and ran into this guy.

Lion Guy

I don’t know what’s more startling, the lion head or the bare feet.

I weaved through aisles of antique glassware, stacks of crumbling books, and bins filled with old records in cardboard jackets. I couldn’t find Andrew and just as I stopped to take a deep breath, he popped up from behind an antique wardrobe.

“I’d know that sigh anywhere,” he said.

I was glad to see him, and glad to load up the car with our purchases and head home. Maybe I could change that verse a bit, make it “Where you will go I will go, as long as it’s convenient to a nice shopping area and has a hospital with a good reputation. Along with reasonable real estate prices and a decent commute to work and a theater.”

Rooster 1

Posted in Humor, Love | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Why is Facebook Trying to Sell Me Funeral Potatoes?

img_1820

This showed up in my Facebook feed the other night. Of course I clicked on the link and checked them out on the Walmart website. The back of the package states “Potatoes to die for” but I hope they don’t mean that literally.

You can buy a casket online from Walmart and opt for overnight delivery. I clicked and sorted them from low to high price and Walmart helpfully produced this sponsored product:

Remington 169 Qt. Plastic Storage Tote with Handle and Wheels, Green

It looks sturdy but I think I’ll go for cremation. I wanted to donate my body to science but Andrew worries that he’ll encounter me somewhere as an exhibit.

“I don’t want to see you encased in plastic and displayed at the State Fair,” he said.

The funeral potatoes are listed as emergency supplies and they have an 18 month shelf life. They might be useful for camping but I’m a little on the frugal side. I’m afraid I’d start counting down friends and family as the package gets closer to the expiration date.

I’m grateful for the Southern tradition of bringing food to comfort loss.

My own memories of grief are soothed by recalling those offerings carried in heavy Pyrex dishes, wrapped in aluminum foil and often still warm from the oven. What meals those lovely church ladies brought – pork chops marinated and baked in mushroom soup, banana pudding with soft vanilla wafers, fried chicken with a crispy golden crust only a cast iron skillet and love can deliver.

One thing I know for sure, no self respecting Southern Baptist would bring reconstituted potato casserole to a funeral.

Posted in Family, Humor | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Just Where We Belong

Drive in

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

 

I hesitated when I saw the invitation in my email because I am not a fan of scary movies. I tolerate them because they are one of Andrew’s favorite genres. When he watches Alien Death Camp Holiday or Haunted Mental Institution Massacre, I sit beside him on the couch and mutter comments.

“Did they go in the basement? Is that a hatchet?” I’ll say, my voice muffled by the blanket covering my face.

I clicked on the link in the email and signed up for two free passes for a screening of Strangers: Prey at Night. The summary I read said the film is a sequel to the first movie, Strangers. There were enough survivors for part two, this one to take place in an abandoned mobile home park, where the victims were threatened with murderous psychopaths instead of tornadoes.

I was sure Andrew would enjoy the movie, and I was willing to go along because the screening was to take place at our local drive in theater. I have fond memories of going to the drive in with my parents in the 1960s. There was a playground at the front, and I swung from monkey bars and climbed to the top of the rocket shaped slide to look up to the giant characters on the screen. When I was older, I went to the drive in on dates, but those times I stayed in the car.
We arrived early the night of the screening. I handed over my pass to the cashier in the little booth at the entrance and he told us, “Just follow the drive around to the back. It’s the last screen.”

“That one?” I asked, pointing to our left.

“There’ll be someone there to help you park,” he replied.

We swung around past the concession stand and drove to the last screen where Andrew spotted a young man dressed in fluorescent yellow, waving cars over into compact rows on the gravel lot. We settled in where he directed us.

After a trip to the concession stand for popcorn and a soft drink, we walked back in the dark to our parked car. I glanced over to the screen next to ours where a large group of people arranged themselves in chairs in front of the screen.

“What are those people doing over there?” I asked as I pointed to two men wearing suits, which seemed strange attire for an evening at the drive in.

“I don’t know,” Andrew replied, “but I think the movie is about to start.”

Andrew tuned in the car radio to the channel that would broadcast sound for our movie, and we watched the screen light up with previews for coming attractions. The first preview was a Claymation Cartoon.

“This is an odd preview for a horror movie,” I said. I swiveled around in the car seat and peered over at the lot next to ours. The screen there had a static display that said “Strangers.”

“I think we are at the wrong screen.”

Andrew turned to look behind us. “Oh well, at least we get to watch a free movie.”

I pulled up the drive in website on my phone as the next preview, an animated cartoon featuring a talking baby, started.

“The movies tonight are Death Wish, Black Panther, and…” I paused. “Peter Rabbit.”

Andrew does not appreciate children’s movies like I do. As a parent, I learned to be grateful for any entertainment that will encourage small children to sit still for an hour and a half. I looked around at the rows of cars that surrounded us. There were no lights marking the exit, and the only illumination came from the movie playing in front of us. A chorus of singing animals appeared on the screen. Andrew does not care for musicals either.

“Do you want to leave?” I asked.

“I don’t see how we can get out,” Andrew replied. After some discussion about the all-terrain capabilities of our Honda SUV, we decided to stay.

“At least it won’t last long,” Andrew said. This philosophy could apply equally to root canals, but I agreed and then complained about the size of the screen.

“Just pretend we are sitting on our couch at home, watching the movie on your phone, from across the room.”
The plot of the movie developed as we expected. There was action and romance between a female character named “Bea” and the handsome nephew of Farmer McGregor.

“I think this is based on true events,” I remarked, as a hedgehog wearing an apron ambled through the McGregor’s garden.

I flipped up my armrest and leaned over the center console so I could take Andrew’s hand and he grabbed the popcorn box just as it was about to spill onto the floorboards. What strange circumstances brought us here, to a place neither one imagined they would ever go, but both somehow certain that this is where they belong.

 

Peter Rabbit

Posted in Humor, Love | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

When We Are Small

 

Dinosaur

 

Despite the crying during our last visit, we decided to take our grandson, Will, back to the Heard Museum to see the robotic dinosaur display. I suppose when you are shorter than three feet tall anything larger than a cat is intimidating, especially if it has sharp teeth and looks like it might eat you. “He’s had a whole year, surely he’s recovered by now,” I remarked to my fiancé, Andrew.

Soon after Andrew and I started dating I warned him that, although we were past the risk of producing children, if he stuck around he would definitely be in danger of exposure to grandchildren. I have been preparing for grandmother status half my life. I picked out my grandma name, “Mimi”, right after my son and his girlfriend announced their engagement.

Andrew’s grandpa name is “Hoppy”, the unfortunate result of letting a toddler select the name. I warned Andrew, but he began by trying out grand-père. A French accent proved too difficult for an 18 month old who wasn’t born in France, so we were left with Hoppy and Mimi.

My own grandmother was old before I was born. We visited her on holidays, where I sat in her living room just long enough to absorb the smell of mothballs and mentholated back rub into my clothes. Her third or fourth husband, Mac, was my step-grandfather. He wore striped overalls and had a glass eye he popped out to frighten children. I am determined that we will be a different sort of grandparents.

That afternoon at the museum we began with a brisk walk through the lobby crowded with young parents and knee high children, and wove our way in a quick jog past the toys in the gift shop. As I pushed open the glass door that led outside, I held onto Will’s hand and explained that the dinosaurs on the outdoor trail were not alive, they were just robots. This was probably not as reassuring as I intended. It did strike me with some irony that we expect our young ones to believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, but then discourage their fear of evil robotic monsters.

We stopped at the first dinosaur on the trail. It appeared to be strolling out of the wooded area behind it, brandishing sharp claws and casually grinning at us with impressive rows of teeth in its gaping mouth. The dinosaur was covered in bright purple and blue vinyl, with a pattern that would look smashing on a pair of boots. A nearby sign announced that the design was chosen by children. Will stood just above waist high beside me and held on tightly to my hand.  “I’m just small,” he announced.

“Yes,” I agreed, “but you are also very brave.” Will squinted at the robotic animal and then looked back up at me, as though he were about to question my judgement.

“Was it this color last year?” I asked Andrew.

“I don’t think so, and I seem to remember it was carrying a Halloween pumpkin.”

“I’m getting bigger, but right now I’m small,” Will repeated as we stood there. The dinosaur roared and nodded his head up and down as though he were agreeing that Will was indeed, bite sized.

We trudged on to the next display, a Triceratops. It was the size of a small car, but I felt encouraged, as this specimen was a plant eater. This particular herbivore, however, roared just like the meat eaters. It also shook its giant horned head from side to side and moved its mouth as though chewing a tasty, boy shaped morsel. It occurred to me that the animators could have had at least one dinosaur that chirped, or maybe sang a little song.

We continued our stroll down the trail, stopping briefly to enjoy each exhibit, at least until the roaring started up. Will hiked along bravely. When Hoppy pointed out a huge, ancient oak tree, Will said “That’s a scary tree,” but he did manage to roar back at some of the dinosaurs.

When we approached the final dinosaur, a forty-six foot tall T-Rex, Will stopped and held up his arms.  “Carry me Mimi! I’m small!” I scooped him up and he watched over my shoulder as we marched past the overgrown lizard.

Will wrapped his arms about my neck and we followed along behind Hoppy down the trail and past the t-rex. From the moment your children are born, they are just looking for some way to prove you wrong, but to your grandchildren you are infallible. There are people who never experience this level of unconditional love, unless they own a dog.

Once we were safely past the dinosaurs Will spotted a play area of child sized wooden houses meant to resemble a pioneer village. Andrew and I settled in and watched him pour rocks into a metal bucket. I tried to snap Will’s picture, but freed from the pressing danger of robotic dinosaurs, he spent his play time rushing off to explore the little houses at the frontier town. Every shot I took was of his back, as he ran away from us.

I won’t always be able to pick him up, but he won’t always need to be carried. It is reassuring, however, to know there will always be someone who trails behind, watching over us, and ready with strong arms to lift us when we can’t go on. When we turn to them and plead, “Please carry me, for I am just small.”

 

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Always the Last Place You Look

I spent a good part of the morning on Christmas Eve searching our apartment for a book. The missing book was a collection of fairy tales that I received for Christmas in 1968, when I was eight years old. The book was a present from my parents, and I first saw it while it was still wrapped in a Treasure City shopping bag and lying on the floorboard of our Oldsmobile. I remember teasing it carefully from the brown paper sack while I kept an eye out to make sure my mother, in her place in the front passenger seat, didn’t spot me. After I flipped the book over and traced the outline of Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf on the back cover, I stuffed it back under the car seat. On Christmas morning I pretended that it had been placed there by a generous elf, but I knew the truth. I convinced myself that my parents were in direct communication with Santa, and were merely helping him out by picking up a few things on their own.

Now, half a century later, I couldn’t find it. It sounds odd to consider the loss of a fifty year old book unusual, especially from someone who regularly misplaces her wallet, but this book had followed me from childhood. My fiancé Andrew and I searched every book case and every stack of books in our 1200 square foot apartment. “Where could it have got to?” I asked as I bent over to look under the couch.

“Did you put it up here with the children’s books?” Andrew pulled out and glanced behind Richard Scarry’s “Best Word Book EVER” before sliding it back on the shelf in our dining room. I walked back to our bedroom, to look once more at the small bookcase there. I hoped that the book had somehow found its way back to the last place where I had seen it. It seems we are often falling into this, some version of “Have you seen my…” The older I get, the more things seem to go missing. I am either growing more forgetful or my possessions have decided to free themselves before the inevitable estate sale.

“No, it’s gone, I don’t think we’ll find it.” I continued to drift from room to room, including the bathrooms, in case I had tucked the book away amongst the collection of toilet paper I had stashed under the sink. Andrew followed along behind me, a terry cloth sweatband stretched across his forehead as though he were about to go for a jog. He is good like that, he often puts aside whatever he is working on to help me look for my phone, my purse, that book I was reading. He has adjusted very well to the responsibility of looking after another person’s possessions, while I drag along, resenting the imposition of caring for anything that can’t look after itself. I’m often setting down my phone next to a sink full of water, or leaving a plastic cup too close to the hot stove top.

I pictured the worn green and white cardboard cover of the misplaced collection, patched with clear tape. As I described the book to Andrew, he mentioned that I could probably buy a replacement on eBay. “But it won’t be the same!” I protested as I recalled the black and white illustrations that I colored in with crayons. I prepared to gather myself into a ball of self-pity, moaning something about lost childhood treasures, when Andrew asked where I had last seen the book.

“I think I put it with my photo albums,” I answered from under the bed. A moment passed and then Andrew called out.

“Here it is!” He found the book tucked away in a cardboard box in our spare closet. He handed it to me, and I flipped through the pages. Just as I remembered, every story began with “Once Upon a Time”, and generally each had a happy ending, but in between there was danger, often in the form of wolves or a wicked sorceress. Most had a handsome prince, trying to win the love of a beautiful princess. Sometimes the hero wandered lost in a dark forest, in need of enchantment to discover the magic castle. I put the fairy tale book back on the shelf and thought that this is what love really is, just two people, helping each other find things.

img_1576

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments