Jeff’s Unconsummated Love

The clouds were low and dark, heavy really, you might say, as if hiding something with evil intentions. Jeff was walking briskly a late fall afternoon, somewhat anxious, glancing at the sky furtively and often. From the outside, it might have appeared as though he felt stalked. He accelerated his pace, leaving traces of steam with each exhale, vaguely regular, which may have been SOS smoke signals if you knew Morse code.

Jeff had been in the military. He never liked talking about it. He lost too many friends and people under his command. Not that he felt guilty. He had done his best, more than his best. He was just tired of explaining. He was tired that he’d had to be responsible for men and women who would end up dying no matter what he did. He carried each and every one in his heart. He loved them all. He vowed to never ever forget anyone, not by talking about them, but by remembering them, as if in subtle forms of prayers, keeping them alive in his thoughts. He remembered their names, their nicknames, and what made them who they were, little quirks or a particular sense of humor, and sometimes their bouts of anger or fear that made them oh! so human.

A few more steps and Jeff entered the café he frequented almost daily, remaining self-absorbed, at least to an outsider. He did not need to look around to know who was new at the tables. Years of duty gives one that extra sense; the discernment between the familiar and the not so familiar. Hence, he noticed, without looking, a young woman between two men, fidgeting with a straw. The men were unfamiliar. The people at the other tables and the café staff were all familiar. The young woman fell somewhere in between. But why did she feel familiar? He knew he’d never met her. He felt in his chest a yearning pain, and a dull cramp in his stomach. He asked for his usual to Alex, the barista.

All the tables were busy and yet Jeff sat at his table. Skip was there. Gray haired man, with a mustache, steal eyes, yet a strange softness in them, or was it a resignation? He stood up and nodded briefly at Jeff before going to sit at a table next to the young woman.

“Do you mind?” Skip asked the women who was busy typing on her laptop at that table.

“Be my guest!” she said. Jazz had curly blond dyed hair with gray roots. She wore a dark jacket over a pale green blouse. Her makeup was precise, if only a tad overdone.

“Writing your memoir?” Skip asked.

“Some people like to draw,” she said out loud, then she waited a little longer than expected. Skip thought she was done, turned to the table next to his and looked at the young woman, who also looked at him. The two men around her remained engaged in conversation.

“I like to eavesdrop, and write what I hear,” continued Jazz, so everyone could hear. And she laughed indicating it was a joke, or perhaps it was her natural sarcasm. Skip stopped looking at the young woman to answer the older woman, but she was deep into her writing. So he looked back at the young woman and smiled, and she smiled too, as a response to what Jazz had just said.

“First time here?” he asked the young woman.

“You know damn well it is!” interrupted Jazz loudly, “Is that why you sat here, to flirt with her?”

Skip’s face flushed. He smiled at the young woman, “You were saying?” he said quietly, ignoring the older woman’s words and tone.

“My mother needs home care,” she said, “I came back to help her.”

“You’re… from here?”

“Yes, but my dad took me away when I was five and…”

“Drew?… Drew Johnston?”

“Yea… Yes! That’s me!” she said.

Everyone knew Drew’s story. Her mother Diana went through a terrible divorce some twenty years earlier and Robert Johnston kidnapped their daughter and disappeared. Diana was irate and desperate.

“Were you in touch with your mother all along?”

“Not right away. It wasn’t easy…”

Jeff knew the story very well because Diana had paid him to find Drew. Diana was Tracey’s daughter who died under his watch. He felt it was his duty to help one of his beloved soldiers’ family member. He’d found Drew almost immediately, about 1,200 miles away. He was ready to kidnap her to bring her back to her mom. But he overheard a conversation between father and daughter that changed his mind. Robert had offered Drew a chance to choose between him and her mother because he did not want to cause her any pain. He had tears in his eyes when he said, “If you choose your mom, I may not see you again until you’re 16 or 18. It’s up to you!” Drew wanted to stay with him.

That day, duty, which came from his mindset, and his heart were in conflict for the first time. His wish to respect a young person’s free will prevailed. It tore him up inside. He went back to Diana and told her the truth. She yelled at him and swore she’d never want to see him again. He knew the feeling of an angry woman. “Gertrude,” he thought.

Drew continued, “When I was 16, he told me he was grateful that he had me and he could not hold a grudge against mom because he would not have had me without her. So, he put the two of us in touch. I called her. She cried on the phone. But I could not forgive her as easily as dad could. I was scared of her. So I accepted to talk with her on the phone but I did not want to see her in person. Not yet. But then she became ill, so I came. I came with body guards. She pointed to the two men around her with her face.”

Drew did not look anything like Diana. Nor did she look anything like Tracey. “So why does she look familiar?” Jeff wondered. He instinctively did not look directly at her as if to protect himself. Not just that she might know who he was while he did not yet know who she was. But if she came with ill intentions, to look at her would open the door for an interaction that would put him at a disadvantage.

Suddenly, she was standing at his table, looking straight at him. Her eyes wide. A faint smile. “I hope you enjoyed your last cup of coffee,” she said.

“Gertrude!” he thought, “Of course! She reminds me of Gertrude who swore she’d have me killed when I visited her on her death bed.”

“You’re not Drew,” Jeff said, “If you only knew the truth… you may not have carried out the last wish of your great grandmother.”

She sat down. “Tell me!”

“It’s too late now… don’t you think? The way you drew out that story of yours…”

“We can call for an ambulance!”

“Your great grandmother, Gertrude, wanted to sleep with me and I said no. Not many refuse such offers in the military. You can imagine, she felt deeply insulted. She asked me if I was engaged. I said I was. She asked me who it was, if she could see a picture. I said I did not have one. So she thought I was lying. She thought I was rejecting her. In truth, I did have a picture, here it is…” And Jeff showed the young woman an old wrinkled black and white photo of a young female soldier and him, with the name Natalie and the year 1959 hand written on the back. Jeff continued, “But Natalie did not see me that way and I did not wish to bring more discomfort between us by drawing attention to my love for her publicly. I was deeply committed, heart and mind, and I could not get myself to be with any other woman.”

Jeff fell off his chair. The young woman came to her knees by him and called for someone to call 911.

“It’s okay,” Jeff whispered, “It’s a good way to go, by the side of the great granddaughter of a woman who once wanted me. No regrets.” Jeff took his last breath, a peaceful one.

The medics came in. The clouds had lifted outside. It was getting dark and the sky reflected orange and purple colors. Inside the café, everyone had gathered around Jeff. The medics took control. People made a circle around them to let the process happen. People had made a circle but remained quiet. There was not much to share. Many people knew Jeff, but few had talked with him.

Fiction exerpt: Sonia and Makeet

Sonia came to my office one day, devastated. I have permission to tell her story. And I have Makeet’s as well. I have only omitted details that do not change the deeper understanding, like their real names, where they live, where they work, and who they know.
I had just come into my office that day when Sonia burst in and started to cry. She came in, apparently skipping by the front desk and the introductory form, and it did not seem like the time to start with bureaucratic details. I took a breath and switched my focus to her crying. It felt like a release. Some dam had opened up and the waters were rushing forth now, finally freed from some burden… I waited.
“I don’t know anyone I can talk to about this…” she started, finally, five, maybe ten minutes after coming in…
“I had to come and see someone… do you think you can help me?… I knew there were therapists in this building but I did not know which one could help me. When I saw you outside walking toward this building, you looked so sure of yourself… and I feel so unsure of myself… I just followed you… Then you entered your office… so here I am… Do you think that’s strange?… Can you help me?” She said everything she had in mind as though it was my role to sort it all out… to make sense out of it.
“I don’t know… it sounds like you just trusted your gut feelings…” I reflected, reassuringly.
“Gut feelings…” she said, “so that’s what gut feelings are…”
She looked disheveled, wild. Her breath was shallow. She noticed my looking at her and apologized.
“I am sorry that I look like this. I didn’t dress up today or put my makeup on… I am overwhelmed and things that used to matter don’t seem as important today.”
I welcomed her and told her about my process and expectations, and that I had a maximum of two hours today, if she needed that much.
“Two hours?” she repeated, “Okay. Oh! Money’s not an issue…”
Her statement was congruent with her demeanor. Although she came in with little care for her appearance, she carried herself like someone well to do. She signed the informed consent letter. I decided to postpone taking her family history. Her story was fresh in her mind and this was the best time to hear it, when she was still emotional, when she had not had a chance to fit it into something meaningful. I invited her to tell her story.
“He came out of nowhere… he walked toward me… I knew he was going to snatch my purse… I saw it in my mind… When he snatched it, it felt like I’d been waiting for him to do that… It felt like… you know when you wait for the train at the station and you wait and the train arrives and you get in… just like that…like he was the train and my purse was just waiting for him… But then I snapped out of this vision, I shot him – I always have a gun with me, it’s registered and everything – I only wanted to wound him so he’d slow down and the police could get him… and I called the police.”
She said all this, like a train picking up speed… and, when she stopped, she was breathing hard and her forehead was moist as though she’d been running. I asked her: “Were you running to fire those shots?”
“No!”
“You sound out of breath and you’re sweating like you’ve been running! Is that how you feel?”
“Running… Yes… It’s like a dream… but I cannot quite make it… it feels so real… more like a memory… Oh! my gosh look at me, I’m crying!” she said and stopped talking.
“You’re crying…” I said softly, acknowledging her.
And she burst into tears. “I lost him. He was supposed to be mine. And I lost him…”
“You lost him?” I continued.
“Yes… I can see it clearly like a movie of my life… I shoot him… while he is running away… I shoot him… one single shot and he falls down… dead. I am running so fast… and I kneel to feel his breath… I kiss him and kiss him and he does not breathe…. He does not take a breath… I kiss him like we used to… I don’t want to lose him… But he is gone… I shot him… kissing him does not do anything and I cry. I’m angry with him. I scream: ‘Why did you run away? I gave you everything! Why? Why did you make me shoot you? Now I have lost you!’ I leave my purse with him; it’s too late now… I would have given him anything – my god, I loved him so… And I cry so hard, holding him while his blood soaks my clothes… I don’t care… I don’t care… there’s nothing to care about anymore… I could die right now with him…”
“A different memory?” I suggested.
Sonia was suddenly introspective. “Wait!… There’s more… My clothes!” she said with surprise, “I see my clothes… they’re not what I usually wear…”
“… in what way?” I asked to let her know I was taking it in.
“They look like old fashioned clothes,” she said. “It feels so real… We have slaves… My husband and I have a sugar cane plantation… My husband is never home… I am in love with one of our young slaves. He is strong, always singing… he never looks down… We make love often in the afternoon… I give him everything…”

(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)

Fiction exerpt: Watching the Seeds Dance

He was throwing the seeds to the winds and watching them swirl around and fall where they would. He was laughing joyfully at this, seeing how the winds danced with the seeds and the seeds let themselves be danced with. Then his mother came and raised her voice: “Son,” she said sternly, “we are not that rich that you can waste the seeds as you do! You need to learn to put them in the ground so they will grow so we can feed ourselves and feed the village. That is our responsibility! If you don’t learn this, you will never amount to anything and I will have failed as your mother!”
When his father came home for supper, the mother told him: “Your son wasted the seeds again…”
“Son!” The father said, “I am worried about you. You are a headache to your mother and me! You are a dreamer and that won’t get you anywhere… You cannot just live randomly! You need structure and discipline and hard work to make a living! We are farmers! That’s what we are! That’s what you are! So do as your mother says… learn your trade or else you’ll never make a living!”
The little boy went to his room feeling very alone and scared that he would never amount to anything, that his parents were right, that he was such a disappointment to everyone… and he felt much shame within him. He fell asleep crying and asked Life to give him the strength to be a good boy, to make his parents proud. He always talked to Life like other people talk to God because he could touch life, he could touch the seeds, feel the winds, he had a connection with it.
The following day he went to the fields and promised his mother he would do as she said. He was filled with a sense that it would not be so hard to plant the seeds as his mother told him and as his father wanted. He was filled with the kind of resolve that made him feel he was a good boy and he would make his parents proud. So he started planting the seeds as he was told, dutifully and carefully, saying caring words to each one. He would say to one: “You will grow strong and tall and soothe the hearts of many people!” Then he would cover it with dirt and say out loud: “Dirt! Be good to the seed, she has so many people to love.” And to another: “You will be so beautiful that no one will eat your fruit, but everybody seeing you will be blessed with happiness!’ And he continued like this feeling content. Suddenly, his mother called him and raised her voice: “Son! Don’t you see that all this time you are taking is just a waste of time? How many seeds have you planted so far? How many do you have left to plant? You’ll never amount to anything! You’re just a waste of my time!”
The little boy went into the woods and started to cry feeling hopeless. He had done his best and he was still a disappointment to his mother. He’d envisioned so much pride in her and it was not happening. He was feeling like a horrible little boy and was filled with shame. He lost track of time and arrived late for supper. His mother told him there was no supper for him because he was late. She sent him to his bedroom. She said he had a rebel streak in him and he needed to learn a lesson. The little boy did not say a word. He went to his bedroom. He did not even cry. He was numb. And his heart was heavy. He did not even think to talk to Life like the previous night.
In the morning, he had a hard time waking up. His mother yelled at him a few times to get up and then gave up. When he got up, he gave himself breakfast and went out to the woods and walked aimlessly, alone. He did not even come home for lunch. When he got home for supper, he was silent. His mother yelled something about worrying her all day. His father told him if he could not follow a simple task they could no longer help him.
Many days passed and nothing much changed. The little boy no longer felt the seeds in his hands, and no longer talked to them. He no longer laughed watching how the winds danced with the seeds and the seeds enjoyed being danced with before they fell softly on the ground, giddy with love. Many days passed alone. Not even alone, just empty, like he did not have a self anymore; nothing.

(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)

 

Fiction exerpt: In My Constellation

Ann looked up. No clouds. The moon was bright and full. Ann never tired of looking at the moon.
Jack had left the day before on a business trip. That’s what they told the kids, Mary and Jeffrey, 7 and 5 years old, respectively.
Ryan was the end point of that business trip, somewhere in Kansas. How do you explain that to a 5 or a 7 year old?
*  *  *
The moon seemed like a soothing face. Ann noticed the stars, each one alone and each one reflecting light from millions of years ago, some of these stars perhaps long gone and yet… present to her now. She saw the Great Bear by the horizon.  She thought: “What if, from far away, human beings too were seen as lights? Each one unique and reflecting one’s truth, and groups of human beings seen as constellations.” She wondered which constellation she belonged to. In that moment, magically, she knew that she and Jack belonged to two different constellations.
Ann’s cell phone rang. She did not pick up. She was taking a walk on her lunch break. Some falling leaves brushed her face. She looked up. The light was piercing and bright through maple tree branches and leaves. As Ann moved her eyes down, still out of focus, she saw it all as a painting and noticed that the pattern of shapes and colors all belonged perfectly together. Stars and Autumn leaves filled her heart. She knew she belonged to a constellation of people. She did not yet know which one, but she knew it would come to her and she no longer was scared to be alone.
On her way back to work she checked her cell phone. At noon she had a call from school. She needed to pick up Jeffrey. It was about his dad. He’d been screaming and the counselor had spent much time with him. She had tried to remind him that his dad had gone on a business trip as he had before, and Jeffery told her she was lying. Ann took time off from work to spend the afternoon with her son. She’d never done this. She’d been so devoted to work like others are to their church… and now she felt so disinterested… she just belonged somewhere else.
When Ann picked up Jeffrey, he’d already calmed down. The counselor was trying to explain that he had been very agitated, unmanageable, that she had to call… Ann smiled, took her hand in hers, and looked into her eyes: “Jeffrey is right! We lied to him… We lied because we did not think he could take it… but really it was because I could not take it… We did not tell you either. I was not ready. I did not think you needed to know right away. I am sorry. I am truly sorry about what happened this morning and what you had to deal with. Can you forgive me? I need to go… I’d like to spend some time with Jeffrey.”
The counselor was stunned. Her mind was still trying to argue that she could not explain how Jeffrey had calmed down so suddenly. Her mind was processing the new information. And then she realized she needed to answer Ann’s question: “Sure! Sure! You need to be with Jeffrey! We’ll talk some other time!”
“Mom?” Jeffrey asked, “Mom? Can I have some ice cream? I missed lunch…”
“Are you hungry?” Ann asked him, “We can go out and get a bite?”
“No, just ice cream!” Jeffrey said.
“Ice cream then!” Ann said, “And then we’ll go to the play ground at the park.”
“To the play ground!” Jeffrey said smiling.
They drove to the ice cream store. As Ann finished parking her car, Jeffrey told her he loved her and gave her a hug. Ann felt tears coming to her eyes. “So you know your dad is not on a business trip?” Ann whispered in her son’s ear.
“Yes,” Jeffrey whispered back.
“How did you know?” Ann said softly.
“Because.” Jeffrey said as softly. And releasing the embrace he added in a normal voice. “Can we have ice cream now?”
Jeffrey’s self assurance took Ann by surprise and she smiled: “C’mon!”

(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)

 

Fiction exerpt: The Eulogy

The minister took a deep breath, looked to his left where an Asian man was sitting in a wheelchair, and started talking.
“Karl Park, here, asked me to read this eulogy for him. Some of you may know Karl. Here is what he wishes you to know.
“Jerry was playing cards all day, in silence, a cigarette burning his lips and eyes permanently squinting, which served him well at poker. He read silence like no one I knew. Not only did he detect a player’s bluff a mile away, he could tell his cards before they were laid down. He had little use for words. Also, I never saw him use a match or a lighter as he always lit his first cigarette from the flame of the gas stove in the morning, and then each cigarette from the previous one after that. Starting around 12, he was stealing Marlboro’s from uncle Tits. He switched to Camel’s when he could buy his own. He learned to play cards in the Korean War and then on the job, in the Northwest Territories, with other gold or diamond miners. There rarely was much else to do after work, aside from going out to town once a week. He said no woman would live with an old man who’d been a bachelor all is life. Not one bit of bitterness mind you. I think he was just content, set in his own ways, and he liked his quiet space; he wouldn’t want anyone to disturb that, not even a woman.
“I didn’t know Jerry from his talking except for one story. Jerry’s uncle’s real name was Dick for those of you who didn’t know. Dick wasn’t married so his teenage nephews joked about his manhood. Jerry called him Tits one day and the name was disclosed openly by accident and it stuck. Of course later Jerry understood better about being a bachelor and that it did not mean anything about one’s manhood, but it was too late.
“As some of you know, for the last three years Jerry has invited me home with him. But perhaps very few of you know how that happened. He was very private and perhaps laughed inwardly at the rumors that came of it.

(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)

Fiction exerpt: Rih Al Khamsin

A Spiritual Tale
“How did you get here?” She asks.
Our camels – dromedaries really, but everyone calls them camels here – walk us across the infinite sand. Our companions fled when we were warned of bandits. She had told us we were safe despite appearances. The bandits did leave us alone. Life has become unpredictable to me. It did not use to be this way. Everything was so easy until I tried to be true to myself.
“Don’t you already know my story?” I ask.
She felt familiar to me when I first saw her. I had a tingly sensation in my chest and a feeling … an experience of recognition like meeting an old friend, or was it a long lost lover? Since we dressed in desert clothes, including a veil, I could draw no more hints from her looks to help me remember her. Only the sound of her voice teases my curiosity. Imagination, like mirages, plays with my mind. I imagine her in ways I would not want her to know, at least not without being more acquainted.
“I like the sound of your voice,” she says.
Hmmm… Is she flirting with me?
“I was married,” I start, “I had a good paying job, then I lost everything, and went bankrupt.”
 “I cannot feel you in what you are saying! I want to know you, not your circumstances …”
I don’t understand and shut down.
“You’re not used to people being interested in you, are you?”
“… guess not!”
“We could make love right now and then you would trust me enough to open up, or you could just trust me.”
Before I can tell her of my thoughts, she continues, “… of course, once we make love, you’ll stop seeing me as I am … You’ll dream of making love again, and you’ll start being scared of losing me. Trust wouldn’t last.”
I think of Le petit prince and The Alchemist.
“… so why don’t you just trust me and avoid all this drama.”
Her earnest ways disarm my entangled thoughts.
“Who are you?”
“Mary Magdalene.”
And so I trust her. “When I lost everything, I first felt freedom. I had a new chance at finding meaning in life. I saw a therapist to find out who I am. She listened. One day she told me I should stop therapy, get back to my former line of work and to my former wife. Every fiber of my being screamed that she did not know me. I did not know how to tell her my truth. I did not know how to say she had gotten me wrong when I did not know what was right.”
“I like it… Continue…”
“You like what?”
“You are on your journey. It’s all good, don’t be scared!”
“So I went to see a psychic. What I remember the most is he said people don’t know me because I don’t know myself …”
“You only think you don’t!”
“I am still lost!”
“Only in your mind!”
“?”
“… not in your heart!”
“?”
“Listen to your words! When the therapist urged you to return to your meaningless life you knew she did not speak to your truth, so you weren’t lost! She gave you back to yourself.”
“I don’t think she intended that!”
“Does it matter?”
“Is that water ahead?”
“No! Not for another hour!”
“How do you know? Are there signs?”
She chuckles. “I know this path!”
Time passes. Suddenly, I scream: “How did you do that?”
“Do what?”
“You changed me into a woman!”
“Child! You did it! You wanted to see life as a woman!”
“But when I had thoughts like this before they never came true!”
“Would you stop asking why, and just experience? What’s new?”
“Well … I have lost my lust for you!”
“Ha! Ha! What else?”

(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)

Fiction exerpt: Hallelujah

A woman, dressed, barely, talks with the driver of a Mercedes Benz. The license plate reads Hank Jr. They take off toward the church and the abandoned house at the end of the street.
A painter sketches the scene from the sidewalk. He includes the hooker, blurred, in the foreground. In the background, he sketches the church, well cared for, but unattended, and the abandoned house next to it, vibrant with life due to vines and other growths. A few feet from him, his four year-old son uses ice cream on his face like an abstract painter uses paint on canvas.
*  *  *
A businessman shares a table with a woman in business attire, just enough make-up, and subtly died hair dropping to her shoulders. She compliments him on his tie, not an uncommon one. He acknowledges the compliment, taking his time looking at her, and decides on the Scampi, she, a Caesar salad with extra anchovies.
Later he will call her to let her know she got the job. He will ask her out to dinner. She will hesitate … to change the power dynamic.
“Am I too forward?” he will ask, not unlike playing ping-pong, throwing her a spin.
“No,” she will say. Her return has no spin and is floating.
“You are a delightful woman! Would eight o’clock suit you?” throwing her an overhand.
“No … to both your offers,” she will correct with a backhand slice.
“I am afraid we have a misunderstanding,” he will say, off-guard, missing the ball.
“I guess we do,” she will say, leaving her paddle on the table. “Thank you for the call!” she will add and hang up. The phone will ring again. It will echo in her empty apartment. She will have already stepped out for a walk in the evening breeze.
*  *  *
They first met in astronomy class. During a break Elianne complimented Frederick on a question he’d asked the teacher. They enjoyed talking and went out for dinner. After, they walked each other home. First to her apartment; then to his, a couple of miles away. They ended up walking back to the university campus where they sat on a bench to watch the night fall.
“Have you ever fallen asleep looking at the stars?” he asked her.
“Once,” she said while another dialogue was taking place within her. Her heart was telling her mind how much she loved this man; his freedom, his nonchalant disrespect for common practices – no … not disrespect – just no compulsion to follow them. She admired that. Where did he come from?
“Where are you from?” she asked him.
“A planet in the Pleiades.”
She laughed. Ask a silly question, get a silly answer, she thought.
“Where do you come from?” he asked.
“My mother’s womb.”
“… and before that?”
“That’s where it all started.”
“Perhaps, yes,” he conceded. “What attracted you to astronomy?”
“How about you answer first?”
“I was born on Earth like you, from human parents. But I really come from the Pleiades. I am married there with two teenage boys. I was asked to take a vacation on Earth. Astronomy was a natural choice.”
“You are married and you left your wife and sons behind? Did you guys divorce?”
“No! Marriage here is a contractual affair and, once married, people try to control and change each other. People say my husband, my wife, or mychildren. At home, we don’t think that way. Being married means to align oneself in support of the other on his or her path. Giving birth to children means accepting the responsibility to support them on their path. It is not about guiding them, educating them, or raising them.”
“So you have a life there and you chose to live a parallel life here?”
“Seems odd, I know.”

(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)

Fiction exerpt: Awakening

Sandy was driving. The traffic light was green. Everything is quiet. We’re not moving. We must have had an accident. I can’t open my eyes or extend my arms, or move anything. I feel nothing. I hear nothing. I only have my thoughts. What happened to me?

* * *

“Any signs at all?” Sandy asks the nurse.

“No Ms. The EEG is normal: activity, sleep, dream … but his body is not responsive.”

Sandy enters the room and sits by the body. She puts her purse on the edge of the bed and she ignores that it falls on the floor.

“I’m so sorry sweetie!” She says, choked up in tears, “I’m so sorry.”

She holds his hand; it feels relaxed and warm enough. The EEG shows no difference as she talks to him.

“Randy … It’s me, your sandy beach! You must think I’m a bitch! That truck came out of nowhere. I tried to turn away. It was too late. By the time … You must believe me. Please forgive me.”

“Ms?”

“Yes.”

“He can’t hear you. See the EEG isn’t reacting to your words. He is in his own world.”

“He’s gotta come back to me.”

The nurse leaves shaking her head.

Sandy looks around and slips her hand under the sheet, finds the top of his thigh and tries to arouse him.

“Randy … remember … you used to like this.”

She cries.

(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)

Fiction exerpt: Did You See the Moon Tonight?

Some time after One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest …
A man plays the banjo from the street. It is nighttime. He faces a house. There are no lights coming from inside. He looks as though he’s been sleeping outside for days with the same clothes. He’s middle aged, or he may be ageless. He plays for a while, perhaps longer. A light is lit, and a bedroom window opens. A woman, a little younger, not much, pokes her head out, with laughter reserved for daytime.
 “Did you see the moon tonight?” he sings playing the banjo.
“I was drinking from the stream,” she sings back.
“Did you see the stars tonight?”
“I was closing my eyes to imagine love in the world.”
“Did you see the present I left at your door steps?”
“I come in and out through my bedroom window.”
“I want to share my world with you.”
“Sure, if you will enter my world too.”
She comes out in her nightgown. He puts his instrument down. They hook their right pinkies together and cross over with their left hand to hook their left pinkies. They recite together:
“Nurse Ratched, pills and order,
The world isn’t round, try no further,
Notice how night turns brighter,
So the grass you step on is greener.
My name is Candy, my name is Randle,
We pledge together to be the spindle,
To ignite, rouse and kindle,
Passion and magic, all with a candle.”
Still holding firmly to each other’s pinkies, they bring their faces close to one another and give each other a kiss on the right cheek followed by the left, and, they rub noses, moving their heads left and right 4 times.

(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)

Fiction exerpt: Margaret Emond’s Letters

People call me to fix leaks. I’m a plumber. I have to cut into walls sometimes to replace old pipes. What I find there, you may call family secrets. Yesterday, in an old stone house, behind some crumbling plaster, I found a stack of old letters in their original envelopes tied together with hemp twine. There was a note on top: “To whoever finds these letters,” and it was signed: “Margaret Emond”.
Letter no. 1 – May 21st, 1854
Dear Mystery Friend,
Ever since I was a little child, I stood still watching people. People appear warm and clever but are preoccupied with ambitions. They pretend to converse with motives unspoken. I find myself not caring for their presence. I distance myself as my suffering from people’s absence from their heart is too heavy to bear. I have come to be a quiet person.
I walked to the park to watch the swans earlier today. My spirit filled rejuvenated and blessed with hope.
I cannot suppose men and women of all races and religions will treat each other with contempt forever. I long for a friendship with someone open to a true sharing of the soul. I hope you will take my confidence to heart kindly.
Sincerely,
M. E.
I am making plans to visit my aging parents for the end of the year holidays. On the phone, my father asked me for a favor. He told me he needed nettle roots. He makes it into an herbal tea; it helps lower his PSA levels and relieves pressure from his swelling prostate. He can no longer find it at the health stores near him and wondered if the stores near me would have some.
My friend Mel called Chris, a farmer friend of hers, and we were soon driving to his farm. He told us there were different species of nettles. He’d never heard of their roots being used for medicinal purposes and thought he should look into it for his own father. He directed us to a meadow where he pointed at two patches of tall brown growths.
We did not have to dig too deep and large amounts of roots came with each shovelful of dirt without too much effort. In half an hour we had two tall buckets filled with roots. There was plenty more. We gave them a quick rinse and went home.
Letter no. 2 – May 28th, 1854
I wonder about your era, Mystery Friend. Are people still bickering over racial and gender divides? Are people celebrating life? Are people living with passion? Oh! I am elated at the idea of seeing something of your world!
M. E.
“It has to be roots from the stinging nettle,” Dad said on the phone.
“That’s what I have. Do you know what part of the root I need to dry up?”
“What do you mean?”
“I did not buy them at the health store. I dug them up at a local farm.”
“Are they organic?”
“Sure, Dad!”
“How do you know?”
“The farmer said they are. I trust him.”
“And you are going to dry them up?”
“Yes, Mel has a food dehydrator. But I need to know what part of the root has the healing properties you are looking for.”
He did not know. A day later we had the same answer; we can use the entire root.
Washing the roots and chopping them up to get them ready for the dehydration process, I thought of my relationship with Dad. Neither he nor I are herbalists. He is a historian. He seeks for and reads old documents from archives. He pieces facts together like puzzles. He does not try to say more than the documents say. If something is missing, he keeps searching until he finds answers that make sense.
I don’t live in the same world as Dad. I work hard and don’t mind getting my hands dirty. Dad and I, we do not have much in common except for fitting pieces of puzzles together; different kinds of pieces.

(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)