The Hidden Spoon

Another one of those phrases that originated from my real home life generated this snippet. Looks like something that could be a short story in the third collection (a few years out; mysteries) after editing and development. 

Alice had hidden the spoon as she always did. Her special spoon. Only she could use it. For her tea. It went in the back of the drawer, behind other utensils seldom used by anyone–George that is. It wasn’t there that day in May. A day when she most needed her tea. The day George passed away unexpectedly.

He arose at his usual hour. Alice knew this because she always preceded him first to the bathroom and then the kitchen. Like clockwork, claws clicked on floor as Dixie bounded from the bedroom, eager for her morning walk. George followed, offering his typical greeting on the way out, “Morning, Alice—back in a jiff.” On his return, he gave the usual report on the quantity and quality of Dixie’s deposit at her favorite spot. He headed to his easy chair, carrying the morning Gazette. Coffee always came later for George.

Alice heard the newspaper snap open, then nothing. She called out to him, “George, you want eggs this morning?” She got no reply.  A thud was the only response. She took a peek around the corner. That’s when she saw him face down on the floor.

“Perhaps a stroke—or a heart attack.” That’s what the EMT said. “The medical examiner will let you know.” He offered his condolences as he and his partner wheeled George out. So sorry, Mrs. Andrews. Is there anyone we can call for you?”

Alice just shook her head and smiled, “No thank you young man. Just take good care of him, now.”

Spring Soon Becomes Summer and WATWB for April

We Are the World Blogfest

A twofer–#WATWB and Spring

“Care granted to the sick, welcome offered to the banished, forgiveness itself are worth nothing without a smile enlightening the deed.”

So says Antoine de Saint-Exupery in Letter to a Hostage. Maria Popova has a wonderful piece about the short-lived author (1900-1944) of The Little Prince in her Brain Pickings site. While a journalist covering Spain’s civil war, he was captured by a group of anarchists. He feared death at their hands but they seemed less violent than bored. Popova’s excerpts begin with the blockquote above. She details how he survived this incident. Asking for a cigarette from a captor with a simple smile and a hand gesture sufficed. You will be gladdened and saddened at your reading of the full post. If you aren’t familiar with her site, you will want to read more.  Over how many millennia did we humans evolve the effect of the smile–which we perhaps learned from our fellow primates?  

Spring Continues Its Bloom of Life

On April sixth, I shared a photo taken on March 27th–an agave beginning its ascent. Four weeks later it reached a peak of nearly 14 feet. Now its pods are popping out from the center stalk. First they must ripen. Then their golden blooms will appear. The base of this particular mystical plant is challenged. Leaf blades were already dying before the stalk began climbing. Bites from the local herbivores left chunks in the leaves. The base hung precariously on a ledge cut more deeply by a mason for a wall made from the limestone. From where does the enormous stalk come–and so quickly? The roots are shallow. We get an average of 16 inches of precipitation per year here in southwestern New Mexico. It’s certain the stalk doesn’t grow below and then rise up fully formed.

 

It is the insentient will of these succulents to send towering beauty into the air. A stalk with sweet, juicy pods that nurture birds, bees, insects, deer and elk. Leaves that feed cattle and the same deer or elk. Such a powerful expression of life–of overcoming adversity. It will bloom just once. It then will die. But it’s memory lingers and serves as inspiration to us humans. Don’t give up–show what you are made of. Here’s a picture from today. Compare it to 4 1/2 weeks ago.

 

Putting Yourself In Someone Else’s Shoes

It’s a good thing to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Sometimes you have no other choice. She can’t wear hers at all for another few weeks. The foot surgery March 20th ensures that. So I’m relearning tasks we used to share when we both worked and had kids at home.

  • Laundry
  • Grocery shopping
  • Cooking–up to a point

Since we both retired, we have devised a division of labor that works for us.  It’s more efficient that way. I do the driving, banking and financial management, vacuuming and home maintenance tasks. She does the bullet point items above. Yes, it sounds like typical male/female roles. That might seem a sexist thing–but only if we came to it from a gender defined choice and not one that works for us. Still, it’s informative and refreshing to revisit those choices when circumstances force it upon us.

We are grateful and appreciative of one another’s respective contributions. It’s a more powerful experience when we must wear the other’s shoes. It could happen that I have some incapacity for a time. It has happened. She steps in for me as I am stepping in for her. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be looking forward to a 40th anniversary next year.

It’s a humorous topic on sitcoms (we don’t watch them but still see promos for them) and in movies–men can’t cook, clean, etc. Women can’t work on cars or do home repairs. It’s not really funny–it’s stupid. Do single men–think college students, etc., have mothers or girlfriends to do their laundry and eat out all the time? No, they don’t. If women can lead corporations and be CPAs, they can handle a family budget.

We have our roles by choice. No matter who does what in a marriage, occasionally wearing the other’s shoes will help it last.

Spring Has Sprung

It’s an early spring for plants, birds and more. A cold and dreary winter in southwestern New Mexico has yielded to warmer weather and growing things. The first agave began popping up on a precarious ledge in late March. This photo is from the 27th. Despite its challenged base, it will be large–probably fifteen feet and three inches in diameter in four to six more weeks.

an agave stalk begins its ascent
an agave stalk begins its ascent

A whole crop of astralagus are spreading near are patio. They’re volunteers that perhaps arrived on the wind last year or before. One of a very small cohort of New Mexico plants that won’t hurt you if you mistakenly touch them. Their leaves are not only soft but the blooms are beautiful lavender. Unfortunately for ranchers, they’re also known as locoweed–not good for horses or cattle who might munch on them. Ours is within or fenced area where they will do no harm for all but the deer or the rabbits.

an astralagus in bloom

A few bees have already been visiting this and its fellow plants. Also a hummingbird has checked the flowers already, but found them not yet ready for sipping. Moths and butterflies are showing up in small quantities so far. A couple lizards have been spotted on the stucco walls of our house. We’re hitting the sixties and even the seventies on a few days. Yes, spring has sprung. The grass will not rise, at least not fescue or bluegrass–we have neither. We have bear grass, yucca and other varieties of more arid species that grow wild here. We cultivate nothing–nature provides enough colorful plants. The cacti will bloom later–barrel, cholla, prickly pear and more.

The Tree

Observations make the scene. Especially when the story is not coming.

We remark on this one often enough. So today it is a snippet.

Two trees, foreground and back

Transfixed. Obsessed somewhat we think. Limbs and needles moving in the breeze. Sun and shadows vie for his attention. What does he see that we don’t? Another lifetime, perhaps. He might have been a bird riding the rippling branches or a squirrel climbing and jumping its way to the top. Max wishes—dreams, possibly, of clawing his way to the top.  In his current life he has the claws of a dog, not suited for scaling trees.

He and I do share a mental bond at times—stop/go, turn here. We anthropomorphize his conversation comments into meaningful contributions. But for the 25-foot tall  juniper I read nothing from his mind. I see the stare and nothing more. His gaze upon the tree, several times a day. Someday, I wonder, will the truth be revealed?

A Trainstorming Mashup

There once was a post by D.G. Kaye about “trainstorming,”–beginning a new sentence with the first word of the last. I did it before. This is a little more. You’ll see. I didn’t keep the prompts from last week’s Gila Writer’s Group but I believe that I took no more than a word but at least never a line from any of them. 

Cycles, bicycles and icicles. The messenger climbs the hill to see a serpent coldly coiled in the sun wishing for mice in the clover. Clover is a funny name for a machine brewing coffee. Coffee that might better have a flavor of clover-derived honey. Honey that drips into the baristas brew. Brew-Thru, the drive-through beer vendor in Kill Devil Hills, near Nags Head. Heads are not so common on the Outer Banks. Banks that ripped the hulls from ships for centuries past. Ships that brought the coffee beans to North America from South America, like Colombia. Colombia’s beans that are in the grind of my cafe mocha with the cacao beans.

Cycles come round. I am drinking enough of the espresso drink to profit from the punch card. The card that will give me a freebie after I buy twelve, at Sunrise Espresso in Silver City. The icicles are gone now, as weather warms, but the bicycles will return soon for the Tour of the Gila.

 

Random Acts of Kindness — #WATWB February 2019

We Are the World Blogfest

Here is this month’s post celebrating good news stories from people around the world. People doing good for no other reason than it’s the right thing to do. This month, I found a reprint on the Good Housekeeping website of an LA Times story about a foster parent. A serial foster parent if you will. Someone who only takes in terminally ill children.

Mohamed Bzeek first started taking in foster children with his wife Dawn in 1989. A few years later, the couple committed to caring for terminally ill boys and girls because no one else would. When Dawn died in 2000, Mohamed kept up with their work. “The key is, you have to love them like your own,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “I know they are sick. I know they are going to die. I do my best as a human being and leave the rest to God.”

man sitting on his living room sofa
GETTY IMAGES/GENARO MOLINA/LOS ANGELES TIMES

You can find more posts like this by searching for the hashtag #WATWB or checking the pages of these cohosts for this month’s We Are the World Blogfest:

Inderpreet Uppal Shilpa GargSylvia McGrath , Peter Nena, Belinda WitzenHausen

 

The Leap–a Short Piece

The memory and the imagination–tools in a writer’s bin. A story of devolution that began with a travel piece on Views from Eagle Peak. Modified a bit–with more fiction and less fact. Some remains. Writing from life some call it. 

I looked down at the dull gray boulders, thirty-feet below the clear water of Lake Superior. They called to me—well, maybe not them. Something did. Like the views from places there were no fences. No guardrails to keep the clumsy or the foolish from venturing too close. I was neither then. Just drawn to leap. Leap the 100-feet or so to the water below. To meet the rocks that called. Called me to a watery grave. I was a kid then. My much older brother pulled me back, sensing an unhealthy attraction, an unspoken intention. The psychic intrusion, the unwelcome desire quickly left at his touch—the spell broken.

Now and then an image has appeared in my mind, a recollection of that day. That day my life might have been cut short by an urge of unknown origin. Since then, I’ve looked down from countless vistas. Some were far higher than that Minnesota cliff. At the Grand Canyon. From a bridge over the Colorado River near Taos, New Mexico. At Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah. From visitor’s platforms at tall buildings here and there. The odd urge never returned. Until that trip to a resort in South America. That’s when I knew. Knew from where the call came.

I knew then, on that 20th story walkway, that someone must have jumped to the pavement below. A jump that shattered bones and splashed blood and gore that passersby witnessed. By the time we visited, the resort had scoured it all away. After the police officials allowed them. I could not be sure of the spirit. I have no proof. I have no news reports. No stories posted to social media or travel sites. No confirmation from the resort. Nonetheless, I knew. I told her about it. And the time on the cliff over the lake.

I felt the pull to climb atop the wall and take the plunge. A pull from an evil spirit. An evil spirit that caused the previous corporate owner to sell the resort. An evil spirit that found an opening into the minds of visitors. Happy visitors. Visitors with no death wish. Wishes only for fun and frolic on the beach. So, not a remembrance from the sad soul of the recently departed. No, the demon that instructed them. Them and others. Others who might have chosen the path of walking out into the bay during a riptide. A riptide that drowned an inexperienced swimmer.

She didn’t believe me. She humored me, though. We were there to put us back on the track. The track of a happy marriage that had become strained over time. She had always been afraid of heights. But she didn’t mind walking next to the wall, letting me walk next to the room doors. On the long walk to the elevators. I could almost hear the voice in my head. My head felt funny that day, the first day I felt it. She gave me the pills, the pills that made it all better.

The demons are out there. I know they are. You must resist them. Do not let them delude you. Don’t look. Don’t read those scary stories. Don’t watch those movies. You know the ones. The ones where the teenagers stupidly go into the deserted house on a dare. You believe, don’t you? I must go now—someone is calling. Calling me to dinner. It will be a tasty dinner I’m sure. Fugu. Fugu prepared by the former sushi chef at a local Japanese restaurant. They asked him to leave after that incident someone said. There’s no truth to that rumor, she insisted. She met him at a fitness center she told me. He offered to make lunch for his new friend. She was having Ahi (tuna), said she just didn’t care for pufferfish. I can hear her voice. In my head, that funny feeling again.

 

He Awoke at Dusk and an Update on the Short Story Collection

The Vampire Bodhisattva

After a brief time away in a sunny and warm Puerto Vallarta, it’s back to writing. This story has been sitting around for a few years. I hesitated to include it in the collection coming late this fall. Then I thought, ¿por qué no? Did I mention the Mexican beach trip? Anyway, here’s a first draft. You may reasonably expect some changes before it’s release in final form. But since you’ve never seen it before, here it is. BTW: the collection will be eclectic–don’t take this as at all representative of the whole.

He awoke at dusk, blood crusty and cracking at the corners of his mouth. Evidence that he once again had broken his vow. What kind of Bodhisattva could drink the blood of others? Ever since he had learned the path of peace, the practice of Buddhism, he had tried to leave the way of the vampire. Each night he awoke, renewed his vow to be a Bodhisattva. He must respect the humanity of others, leading them to the law. Instead, the hunger overcame him again and again.

Somehow, he must find a way to resist. Resist the flavor of warm blood coursing through the veins of passersby. Passersby he might otherwise lead to happiness. Happiness he himself was denied by guilt. But he couldn’t resist, not from twenty feet away or more. The redolence exuded from their pores—the lifeblood he wanted and needed, since the change.

In the meantime, he encouraged his fellow vampires to take up the practice. They laughed when he explained karma. How causes created effects in one’s life. That the karma from one’s current life carried forward into the next—in cycle of death and rebirth.

“Seriously?” one said, “A vampire is already eternal—we never die. So how could we be reborn?” The laughter echoed so loudly it pained his vampire enhanced hearing.

“Well, all of us don’t live forever, you know,” another said. “Those who get caught in the sun or are staked by a hateful human do suffer the true death.”

He realized then he had no other choice. Be true to his new found faith or remain a vampire. He fed one last time that night, before praying earnestly for rebirth. He walked outside just before the dawn, awaiting his flaming fate. He would never know for sure if his prayers were answered. The reborn don’t remember their past existences. Only their karma endures.

§  §  §

“Hello Mr. Burke. Back again for another donation?” the nurse said.

“Yes, I just can’t help myself—after I learned how valuable my O negative blood is,” he said, baring his arm with a smile.

“All right then. My goodness Mr. Burke, you’re due for your gallon-pin today—congratulations!”

Collection Update

We are running a little bit behind schedule, but we will catch up with a goal of first drafts on all stories by March 31st.  Where are we right now? First drafts on five flash and micro stories. Two third-thirds through a first draft of a full-fledged short story. We will be pounding the keyboard for the next seven weeks. We will get there! Must have the collection out to beta readers before summer.

 

#Chef Andres Feeds the Feds

We Are the World Blogfest

#Chef Jose Andres Expands His Program to Feed Furloughed Federal Workers

World Central Kitchen, people eating
Copyright ABC News.go

It’s more than a pity, it’s a disgrace, that US government employees have been working without pay for over a month. Some aren’t working at all–and of course are unpaid. All due to the Trump Shutdown. The cost to the US economy is one billion dollars per week, as those businesses which rely on those employees also are facing financial hardships for no rational purpose. But it’s those federal workers who Chef Andres is striving to help. Here’s the story from a different source than usual for this site. Delish.

Celebrity Chef Jose Andres‘ mission to feed those in need continued earlier this week when he announced that his program, #ChefsForFeds, was expanding nationwide. The program, which operates in partnership with World Central Kitchen, has been feeding furloughed employees in Washington, DC since the government shutdown started last month. Now he wants more communities to get involved.

“We believe this is a national food emergency and we will be there for the American federal workers,” Chef Andres said in his Twitter video. He also mentions the possibility that food stamps, or SNAP benefits are about to run out if the shutdown goes on much longer, which Delish also reported on Friday.

A post on World Central Kitchen’s website is encouraging anyone who owns a “restaurant, food truck, non-profit, or business interested in serving meals in your community” to fill out their form to be considered to join the #ChefsForFeds program. The program will provide branding and resources for businesses that want to help feed hungry workers. Find out more at worldcentralkitchen.org. If you are a worker that has been impacted by the shutdown, follow #chefsforfeds on Twitter and Instagram to find out where to get a free meal.

Cohosts for this month’s We Are the World Blogfest are:  Inderpreet Uppal, Sylvia Stein, Shilpa Garg, Simon Falk, Damyanti Biswas Please visit their sites as well!