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Smelled: a gamey odor downstairs in the basement. Searched for its source but couldn’t find it.

Found: one dead mouse with reddish-brown legs and a white underbelly in the basement bathroom. A deer mouse. Picked it up with tongs, took it outdoors, and tossed it atop a four-foot pile of snow. It was gone by the following day.

Found: bits of foil wrappings and a chunk of nibbled chocolate on the floor of an upstairs closet.  

Found: a dusting of chocolate powder when I moved a new plastic jug of Nestles Quik. Discovered a 1/8th by 1-inch hole nibbled near its bottom.

Found: a torn-open bag of Hershey's Kisses.

Placed: chocolate mix canister and kisses in a trash bag. Kept them upstairs so a mouse wouldn’t find the treats again before trash pickup in four days.

Could not find: the mousetraps.

Bio: Brigitte Whiting lives in Maine and often uses settings and experiences from her backyard in her writing. She earned Fiction Writing Certificates from Gotham Writers Workshop and UCLA-Ext and is working on her WVU-MFA Certificate. In addition to facilitating WVU classes, she meets weekly with two local writers' groups. Her poetry group has published a collection of their poems, Wit, Wisdom and Whimsy.

 

 

A deep sigh came just as Jason was pulling off the highway onto Route 11. He was close and could feel his back tingling as if his whole spine had suddenly fallen asleep. This happened every time he headed into a small town, no matter the location. His hometown had tainted similar places through memories of loneliness, frustration, and expected yet undeserved sympathy. Due to his small-town avoidance syndrome, Jason had missed housewarmings, weddings, and most family gatherings over the years. But this felt like a worthy sacrifice to maintain a comfortable distance from his childhood. Anxiety was an easy excuse to turn around, but he knew this time must be different. It was unavoidable.

The car’s backseat was filled with clothing & books to the point where most surrounding vehicles had been rendered invisible during the long drive north. Jason never noticed. He rarely checked his blind spots even on a good day. Water bottles were strewn across the floor in front of the passenger seat, along with a half-drunk, now spoiled fruit smoothie from earlier in the week. Burger King bags had joined this pile during his four-hour drive when Jason told himself there were no other options, but in reality, he simply couldn’t contain a craving for chicken fries.

The twenty-four-hour name-brand gas station swiftly came and went as Jason lit a cigarette for the final stretch, a Pavlovian response that kicked in once the Mobil was in his currently imperceptible rear-view. This cigarette would ordinarily last exactly until the third and final stoplight.

He slowed down as he approached the ominous sign he hadn’t seen in almost a decade: ‘Welcome to Warwick: No war, all wicks.’ The awful, outdated slogan induced a heavy, smoke-filled, somber exhale. 

The first stoplight. Just over the town line, and unnecessary for about twenty years now. In his youth, this would barely generate a speed reduction, but right now he appreciated the pause. Overpowering his instincts, Jason finally continued after the third light turned green for a third time. He passed the first house on his left and still found something shocking about the fact that this farm still functioned, with a tractor parked in the distance beyond the chicken coop right over the fence, a few yards off the road. He hadn’t seen cows or horses in years. Jason stared for a moment before realizing he was no longer used to the extreme smell that came along with their presence. Forgetting the cigarette in his hand, he quickly rolled the windows up, accidentally bathing himself with smoke, then put them back down just as fast.

The second light and first sign of human life. Another car passed on its way out of town. The fellow driver woke Jason out of his daze as he glanced down and had a moment of panic, remembering the empty gas light came on twenty minutes ago. He flicked the cigarette out, knowing the last gas station for miles was about to come up on his left. As he pulled in, there were no longer any signs of life.

This was a far cry from the station Jason passed right off the highway. It was more of a shed than anything, with multiple warped boards on every side desperately in need of a paint job, even with the half-hearted white streaks that were clearly a recent addition. He wondered if the gas station even took credit cards yet. And if it did, could it be trusted? Any chance they knew what cyber-security was out here? 

Jason got out of his car and started debating if it was self-serve when he was startled by a voice from behind the shed. 

“No gas!”

The raspy voice grew angrier, yelling “Closed!”

Standing at the clearly functional pump, Jason glanced at his watch, helplessly looked around knowing there were no other options and said: “It’s only 5:20.”

Noticing the barely legible wooden sign propped up by dripping paint cans, Jason’s recent experience made him wonder how a gas station could get any business being open nine-to-five. Then he remembered that filling up your tank was one of many mundane activities that functioned as planned family outings around here, and could hear the older generation of men who prided themselves on avoiding the dreaded ‘city-schedule.’

A woman emerged from the shed, and with a look of recognition said “I’ve got 4:59” in a soft voice.

She appeared to be in her seventies, a beautiful plump woman standing no more than five feet tall and wearing a flowery blue dress that could have been in rotation since the seventies. The current look on her face showed a lifetime’s worth of taking charge, undeterred by the deferential expectations of her youth. This was confirmed as her presumed husband hurriedly came around the corner. To see a tall man in a plaid shirt and ripped overalls cower to this woman’s hushed tone put a smile on Jason’s face. Especially this far upstate.

The husband and wife discussed something quietly before he came over to the pump.

“Cash only” he mumbled, clearly feeling demeaned as his wife watched closely. The man waited to see if Jason could comply with this restriction or would just leave them alone.

Jason opened his car and scrounged together seven dollars, figuring that would be enough to get him back to the highway and twenty-first-century commerce. He pulled his head out of the car and waved her over. “Seven dollars of regular?”

The woman in charge said, “Of course, honey” without moving a muscle. Her husband slowly dragged his feet, kicking up the dry, dusty parking lot in the process.

As he put the handle away, the man started to walk away before locking eyes with his superior and stopping dead in his tracks. He turned to give a halfhearted, “thanks for your business – please come back again,” then scurried away. Defeated.

Jason returned the thanks as he got back in his car. The woman waved stiffly, projecting an appreciation her husband had failed to even fake.

Once back on the road, the cause of the two pointless stoplights became visible. The remaining solid brown bricks were covered in an occasional streak of soot, two sides broken up by a collapsed roof in the center that had turned a once enormous building into two nearly disconnected large ones. The remaining grids of windows that faced the road contained alternately shattered or stained panes of glass, covered in smoke and/or the yellow grime of time.  

Even when Jason still lived here, no one spoke of the fire, despite remaining surrounded by remnants of their lost industry. Nothing had changed. If there was no money to replace the welcome sign, then there was certainly no way to rebuild or repurpose the old candle factory that made this a vibrant town for the first couple years of Jason’s youth.

Oddly enough, the burnt façade reminded Jason of the city and the various renovated buildings that now contained overpriced lofts.

Five miles later after a seeming eternity of driving to Jason, the enormous, nearly empty lots of land that each belonged to a single resident gave way to the center of Warwick. Route 11 turned into Main Street for about one mile. The current businesses were always a curiosity, as the revolving storefronts on the ‘outskirts’ of Main street reflected passion projects of friends the landlord currently owed a favor to. A knitting store. A very specific fish-themed jewelry maker. A gallery showcasing a decent artist that would likely remain unappreciated. These were the original Etsy shops.

What looked like a large white farmhouse in the middle of the street had a large black and white sign proclaiming ‘diner’ sitting on the front porch. The single restaurant in Warwick served just about everything and had been a constant since Jason was born, just passing through different hands as the years demanded. Randy’s had once been Ethel’s had once been Daniel’s had once been Tom’s. But this place never went out of business – the head cook just changed as others passed away, retired, or moved away. Those who passed away or retired were memorialized in a gallery on the wall.

Jason pulled over across from Randy’s to take another pause. He could not believe how far he had made it. Into Warwick. Where he had not stepped foot or rolled rubber for nine years. The memories came rushing back, and he was surprised how many of them were pleasant. Daniel always knew Jason’s favorite type of omelet – bacon & sausage, no cheese – and Becky the waitress was his first crush when he was ten. That gallery with the large street-facing window housing a large blue and yellow modernist portrait had replaced the hobby shop’s hanging model airplanes and stacks of board games. Jason had bought his first home soldering kit there and smirked thinking of the time he opened the back of the radio and tore it apart, assuming he could put it back together. It took three years and he had paid for it dearly, but the still-functioning radio now sat among the most prized possessions in his trunk. The one reminder of his childhood that had survived several small apartments.

The third and final stoplight was in view, intimidatingly awaiting his approach. Glancing over at the moderately expensive bottle of wine he bought based on Gina’s recommendation, Jason saw another excuse to further delay his arrival. He knew a three dollar six-pack of Shins would be more appreciated. Even though he couldn’t drink it anymore, remembering a favorite drink, even one he could never forget, would be a better gift than wine that would simply sit on the counter until the tag was re-written and the bottle re-gifted. Jason turned the ignition off and got out of his car. A short walk towards the general store, supermarket, pharmacy, and coffee shop seemed like the best idea.  

A loud bell attached to the door rang out as Jason walked into the hybrid store. The two high school girls behind the counter immediately looked over and silenced themselves. The stock boy never broke his momentum, continuing to fill the cooler with Shins. Jason noticed no one was wearing headphones, neither girl had a phone in her hands, and the radio – real radio, not streaming – was eerily playing Benny Goodman over the speakers. Based on this scene alone it appeared the town had kept even the children from technology and Jason couldn’t decide if that was enviable or terrifying. As he walked over to the cooler, one of the girls spoke up.

“Are you Jason Catamount?” she inquired. The other girl looked at her friend annoyed as they both stared waiting for an answer.

Yes.” Jason stated harshly, still moving but keeping an eye towards the counter.

The cashier cautiously continued, “So I guess you’re back for…,” trailing off as her friend lightly backhanded her arm behind the counter.

After a brief quizzical glance, Jason returned to his mission immediately tripping over the stock boy in the process. This boy – truly a boy of no more than fourteen – fell onto his side into the fetal position that comes from being knocked over while crouching into the bottom shelf of a cooler. As he looked down, a flash came into Jason’s mind of himself laying helpless on his bedroom floor. Frazzled, Jason instinctively leaned down and reached his hand out to help the boy up.

 ‘Oh God I’m so sorry,’ seemed a little too strong of a reaction, and Jason wasn’t sure if he would offend anyone using ‘God’ like that. Would a simple ‘I’m sorry’ sound too stiff and unapologetic? Maybe ‘my bad.’ Did kids still say that? Did kids in this town ever say that? He did. Just ‘I’m so sorry’ would be fine. Yes. A simple apology with a simple modifier. 

As Jason returned to reality, he had already helped the boy to his feet. The kid was now standing and apologizing to Jason. Silent assistance must have felt weirder than saying any of the phrases he had debated. Suddenly and rudely he blurted out, “Can I have a six-pack of Shins?”

The boy reached back into the cooler. As he handed over the beer, Jason recognized the guilt with a hint of fear on this kid’s face, especially while handing him some beers. There was an unmistakable symmetry between the two of them in that moment, both equally eager to blame themselves for any hint of disruption.

Jason now had the beer in his hand and figured it was best to leave this interaction as it was, having learned long ago that talking too much was far worse than walking away when given the choice.

Once the six-pack was dropped on the counter, the second cashier rang up the purchase on the heavy-keyed register, while her initially inquisitive friend grabbed a bag.

“No bag,” Jason stated with a forced smile and friendlier tone, immediately wondering if the young girl felt the rejected offer was due to annoyance with her questioning him after he walked in. Trying to get out of his head, Jason reached for his wallet and then started worrying if this place also took cash only.

The anxiety was getting worse the closer Jason got to his destination and the more he talked with others. He knew he would not be able to have any meaningful conversation today, but he still had no choice other than continuing his journey.

Slowly handing the cashier his card, he assumed he would have to walk out of the store empty-handed. Seemingly noticing that Jason was uncomfortable, the girl worriedly said, “We have a ten dollar minimum,” replacing one concern with another as his eyes saw $4.89 on the register then started scouring the store for any item worth more than $5.11.

She quickly added, “Don’t worry about it,” as the cashier’s friend returned the favor and hit her on the arm lightly, causing guilt to successfully reach the fourth and final person standing in this small shop.

Jason grabbed his card and headed towards the door, suddenly worried by the pattern of sympathy these girls and the woman at the gas station had shown him.

“Mr. Catamount!” He heard behind him. Jason paused without turning around, hoping there would not be any more questions.

“You forgot your beer.”

Jason silently grabbed the beer and scurried out of the store, briskly heading back to his car. He opened the door, slammed it shut and threw the six-pack next to the wine bottle among the garbage populating his passenger seat, knocking more water bottles onto the floor.

The flashbacks continued. Jason was once again sitting in his car, on Main Street in Warwick, having a minor panic attack. At least it was minor for now. He stopped. He breathed. He said to himself it would only be an hour or two before he left.

He audibly counted, “One… two… three…”

The longer Jason panicked, the longer he would be in town. This realization pushed him to start the car and place it into drive. He sat there for a moment with his foot on the brake. Still breathing heavily but slowing himself down… slowly.

A horn blared as Jason almost hit someone while pulling back into traffic. Looking before he pulled out is one of the few safe driving techniques he typically practiced, but he couldn’t think of anything but forcing himself to move forward right now.

The near accident negated all the calming breathing practices Jason’s doctor had taught him, but he pulled right into the road anyways after the other car fully passed by. He caught himself speeding towards it and suddenly hitting the brakes. Almost immediately, the car was crawling at about five miles per hour. Then he slammed the brakes again, bringing the car to a hard stop. Luckily, he was kind of close to the red light. But this wasn’t why he stopped.

The Bar had crept into view. A perfect encapsulation of everything he hated about this town. Full of lonely and frustrated drunks looking for undeserved sympathy. And it had the worst name ever. The Bar. Reflecting the laziness of Warwick even when it was thriving. In just two words. No one wanted to think, they just wanted to be told what to put where on the factory line. Then they wanted to go drink a beer at The Bar. This mindset never left, and it was what Jason hated most about his hometown. Uninspired and afraid of change.

The left blinker flashed, urging Jason to turn onto Catamount Road. At this point, his father was less than a hundred yards away. He just wasn’t sure if it was at The Bar or at his house.

Jason sat at the light as it turned green, then yellow, then red, then green, then yellow, then red. He counted five of these cycles as another ineffective attempt at meditation, trying everything to not look at The Bar or the Catamount Road sign.

Jason was lonely, frustrated, uninspired, and often drunk. Complaining constantly, craving sympathy at every turn. Afraid of leaving his beloved city, afraid of change, and now sitting in his car terrified of facing his father.

About a hundred yards away, Jason’s mother sat by herself, calmly thinking of how she would tell her son his father had died. Looking at the clock, she was not surprised he was almost three hours late but still remained hopeful.

Another horn blared behind Jason. He glanced up at the mirror and saw nothing but himself.

Bio: McCord Chapman has been using his passion for storytelling for his marketing day job for years, but has started writing fiction regularly in the past year. As an avid cinephile and critic, he has always loved bringing characters to life and watching or reading about them. Every aspect of the craft fascinates him as a perfect mix of creativity and structure. McCord joined WVU in December and is working towards his fiction MBA. He will keep writing fiction while leveraging his love of story in day to day life.

We’re late, of course. Won last-minute tickets to a concert at the Greek, the Gipsy Kings, but now parking is impossible. Ten years of driving in LA and the traffic makes me want to move to, I don’t know, Kansas. Then my date points to a spot. “You almost drove past it,” she says. Thirty-nine seconds later we’re speed-walking with three hundred Angelinos and I think we might just make it when the crowd halts. Now it’s a human traffic jam, but, like most highway jams, no one can see the crash. Though that doesn’t stop all of us from rubber-necking. I spot the hold-up. Up ahead, walking, cane-in-hand is the oldest women I've ever seen. She's moving at the speed of dark, and the crowd, now a line, clusters behind her. We hear music, and people groan because now we’re all late.

 

Twenty minutes later most of the crowd filtered past the bottleneck, except us. We are trapped, and there’s nothing to do. Her gait is algorithmic: pause, cane, pause, left footpause. She strains each time to move her right foot. I’d jump ahead, but my date shoots me a look that says if I do she’ll take a cab home. I resign myself to the pace. It doesn’t matter. We’re nearly there. Still, I’m miffed and simultaneously ashamed of my miffedness. We follow her slowly for another ten minutes. Twenty more people crowd behind us. Then she stops. Her seat is of course right in front of ours.

 

The opening band closes, and the Gipsy Kings walk onstage, not so fast themselves. They’re leathery, regal, obviously masters, nine flamenco guitarists, and one percussionist. One nod and three strikes of the drum ignite the guitars. It’s magic, and it echoes toward us. Simultaneously dancing spreads sequentially like a contagious madness through the crowd. Each row of people sees those in front of them lose their inhibitions and give in to the music. It reaches the ancient woman in front of us, and she abruptly stands up, curving her right arm swan-like into the graceful pose of a much younger woman–a flamenco dancer–and now she dances.

 

Her hips piston to the beat, staccato and electric. Everyone around me has stopped moving to stare at her agile, refined, and surprisingly athletic movement. The woman must be an actual flamenco dancer, I think and then realize my jaw is slack. I close my mouth. Onstage, the tension in the music builds and breaks like a fever. She doesn’t miss a beat. Next, we feel a crescendo, and then the Gipsy Kings clap fast to the rhythm. Half of the performers clap alternating with the others: syncopated and fast. The crowd joins in, no guitars. It’s the climax, but I’m not watching the stage, I’m watching her. She is the stage. For me, she has become the show. I feel euphoria and an alien urge to kiss her. Luminous and beautiful, she dances nonstop to the music for two more hours. The show ends, applause then silence.

 

She collects her cane. With it, age washes over her, and she begins her slow walk home.


 

Bio: Cedar White is an independent author based in Oregon. He is the author of the recently published children’s novel Stripe of Courage available on Amazon.

 



Trish pushed her hair to the side to show off her sparkling diamond earrings. “Alvin just got these for me. I didn’t even have to drop a hint.”

Heather leaned forward for a better look. “Oh Trish, they’re beautiful. And LuAnn, did I see you drive up in a new Lexus today?”

“Yes. It’s a belated birthday present. We had to send the first one back. Jeffrey surprised me, but it just wasn’t the color I wanted.”

Heather put on her biggest smile. “Well, cheers ladies. To all your new gifts.”

Trish beamed back. “Thanks, Heather. Now that John’s with the company, I’m sure you’ll be benefiting soon too.”

Heather sighed and shifted almost imperceptibly in her seat, then raised her glass of Prosecco. “Here’s hoping so.”

Heather allowed her friends to pay for her lunch again and then rounded the corner to her Kia. Slipping into the driver’s seat, she felt the sun-drenched pleather sticking to her thighs and closed her eyes to imagine the feel of cool leather cradling her skin. She drove home and pulled into the driveway just as her husband, John, returned home from work.

“Early day, hon?” Heather pecked him on the cheek and linked arms with him to walk up the front steps.

“Not really. I brought some work home. I was too distracted at the office.” John threw his suit jacket onto the sofa, kicked off his shoes, and headed for the kitchen. After grabbing a beer, he straightened up to find Heather leaning on the other side of the refrigerator door. He jumped back, gave a little chuckle, and looked up to see Heather giving him a toothy grin. “What’s up? Did you have a good day?”

“Well, I had lunch with the girls today. Did you know the Janley’s got a new car? That’s the second one in two years. You know, my car is almost five years old. I was thinking I could really use a new one, you know, for safety purposes. Mine is definitely getting a little quirky. It’s also one of the oldest cars in the neighborhood, and with you working for the Company now, we need to keep up appearances, don’t you think?”

John sighed and set his beer on the counter with a thwack. “Look, Heather, we talked about this when I got the job. I know I didn’t get the starting pay we hoped for, but if I work hard, in time I’ll get a promotion. You just have to be patient.”

Heather’s hands flew to her hips and she leaned into John, narrowing her eyes. “Patient? Look around, John. We have the smallest house and the oldest cars in the neighborhood. It’s an embarrassment. I think you need to go in there tomorrow and demand a raise. You’re even bringing work home. Do you think your boss, Alvin, is working at home right now? He’s probably sitting in the hot tub with a gin and tonic.”

John exhaled through his teeth. “Calm down. You’re being ridiculous. I’ll ask for a raise when I think it’s time to ask for a raise.” John snatched his beer off the counter, grabbed a second one from the fridge, and headed upstairs to his office, slamming the door behind him.

Heather stayed in bed the next morning to avoid a confrontation with John. She knew Alvin’s schedule from Trish, so that afternoon Heather pretended to run into Alvin, and then joined him for a cocktail at the Club.

“I love the beautiful earrings you got for Trish.” Heather leaned toward Alvin, giving him a glimpse of her cleavage. At the same time, she caught the hem of her dress with her sleeve and rode it up her leg with a practiced swoop. “You’re such a thoughtful, generous man.”

Alvin leaned back and diverted his eyes. “Look, Heather, I think you’re an attractive woman, and I’m aware that on your husband’s salary he’s not able to provide you with the things you want, but I’m happy in my marriage, and Trish is your friend.”

Heather’s mouth flew open and she quickly smoothed out her dress and sat up straight, her face flashing shades of pink. “Oh.. Alvin! I thought we were just enjoying a drink, and I guess I’ve had a little too much, but I didn’t mean anything.” She leaned forward and grabbed his hand, glanced around and whispered, “Please don’t say anything to Trish, or to John, about this misunderstanding.”

Alvin retracted his hand and rose, turning an eye toward Heather. “I know exactly what this was, Heather, and honestly, I’m embarrassed for you.” Alvin left, leaving Heather mortified. She waited a few minutes, stood up, pulled back her shoulders, and left without looking at anyone in the room.

Heather arrived home, sat down on the sofa, buried her face in her hands, and cried. What was she doing? She had humiliated herself with her friend’s husband. Why didn’t things ever work out for her? It just wasn’t fair that her friends had everything. Didn’t she deserve that too? If only John was more ambitious. She would just have to talk to John again about getting that raise.

Heather heard John on the stairs, stood, and did her best to straighten herself up and wipe her eyes.

“Oh John, you’re home.” John descended the stairs and looked at her from the landing with lips drawn tight and eyes narrowed, but didn’t say a word.

“John? Is something wrong?” John hesitated, and then took giant steps toward Heather, stopping short of knocking her over.

“What were you doing having drinks with Alvin today?”

“What? Who told you that? I mean… what about it?” Heather saw John’s face turn dark red, and suddenly her breathing stopped. John had never been a violent man, but she had never seen him this angry. Oh no, Alvin must have told him she was flirting with him. She stepped back and crossed her arms tightly in front of her.

“Whatever you heard, it was really no big deal. We just ran into each other and had a drink. That’s all.”

John’s arms went rigid as he held back his clenched fists. “Well, Heather, that innocent drink just got me fired.”

“What? You’re fired? What are we going to do?” Heather dared look into John’s face, her eyes wide, temporarily forgetting her fear and embarrassment.

John took a step back and shook his head. “ What I’m going to do is sell this ridiculous house and move to a real neighborhood. Somewhere I’ll be able to live well on a lot less money.”

“Move? Are you being serious, John? We finally made it to the best zip code. I‘m not going anywhere, so if you’re leaving, you’d better find some way to keep paying for this house too.”

“That’s ridiculous. Heather. Do you want us both to be out on the street? You know there’s no way I could afford that. You’re going to have to decide what you’re going to do, but whatever it is, it won’t be with me.” John left by the front door, and with a click, Heather was alone.

Heather moved trance-like through the house, looking at all the nice things they’d bought over the past few years. Each purchase creating another small rift in her relationship; each high price tag had the added cost of conflict in her marriage. She stopped in front of their wedding photo, remembering how happy she’d once been just to be with John. With a sharp inhale, she turned and ran outside after John, who was just shutting the car door.

“John please wait. I love you. Please don’t leave. We can start over. Work things out. Let’s try.”

John started the car and looked up at Heather with tired eyes. “No Heather. I just don’t trust you anymore. You’re not the same person I married, and I don’t think I’ll ever be as important to you as my money. I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

John drove away, leaving Heather with her things.

 I had plans for that summer and everything changed because of the marbles. But I’m way ahead of myself.

My brothers, Jeff and Mick, hung around Farmer Tom’s place, feeding chickens and riding on the tractor with him, watching while he milked his yellow cow, Bess. I’d been over there a time or two when Mama had shooed me out of the house to go fetch my brothers home for supper. I’d seen Mrs. Farmer a few times, a slight woman with gray hair pulled back loosely into a long ponytail and we’d waved at each other.

Farmer Tom died the last day of June and we were let out of school early, to mourn the loss of a great friend our teachers said, and to get us out of the school building because we couldn’t sit still for excitement. I should have figured something was up when I saw Jeff and Mick whispering intensely with Sam, the undertaker’s son.

Two days afterwards on Saturday, my whole family and me sat scrunched together in a stifling hot church, the fans creaking to push out even hotter air. Mr. Farmer’s coffin sat in front with a single vase of blue forget-me-nots next to it. Mick kept shoving Jeff with his elbow, which jostled me into Mama. Mama looked at the three of us and glared, her lips in a tight line. Finally, she slid between Jeff and Mick. I kept noticing that Jeff and Mick were paying unusual attention to the coffin all the while the Reverend was speaking in his deep sad voice. I sat there wondering about Mr. Farmer and about what I’d do this summer since I kept lists of things I planned to do and at this point, my summer was pretty full up.

I don’t know how long we were in the church but I was about to roast and Mama was fanning herself with the church funeral bulletin. I suppose I should have felt more sadness for Mr. Farmer except I’d never seen him but from a distance and never done more than wave at him and it was so hot, I could barely think. Well, when the Reverend finally stopped droning and Mrs. Chesterfield began to play the piano as loud and lively as she could, Jeff and Mick jumped to their feet. Mama snatched the back of their shirttails but they whispered something to her and she nodded. I noticed she wiped away a tear.

Well, just as the ushers were walking forward to get in line to carry the coffin out, Jeff and Mick followed close behind them and the two of them grabbed a handle on each side. Then the eight lifted the coffin and all went well while they slowly walked down the aisle and through the dark-wood double doors to the steps. Everyone else was making a wild escape out of the church and I had to scoot out quickly so I could watch the coffin being carried down the stairs. I don’t know what happened but one of the eight tripped on the last step down and the coffin lurched as if it was coming alive. The lid opened an inch or two and out flowed a wave of water, it looked like, and the men in front slid on something shiny. The coffin flew upright and out jumped Mr. Farmer in his black suit, whatever breeze there was catching at his cuffs as if he was walking and his arms flailing, and then Mr. Farmer fell on his face with a thud. Mrs. Farmer shrieked and jumped over to him, straightening out his pant legs and tugging his arm to pull him up. Finally, Mr. Farmer was gathered into his coffin again and the lid closed and the procession continued toward his gravesite near the church while Jeff and Mick picked up the marbles. I kept backing up away from the churchyard step-by-step, wanting to see everything but not wanting to be too close. When the last shovelful of dirt was tossed and flattened, I headed for home.

That night at supper, Mama’s mouth was little more than a taut string. She banged bowls of potatoes and beans on the table. Daddy sat at the head of the table. Mick and Jeff squirmed in their seats. I think we all waited for the thunderbolt to happen. Mama asked us for our plates, dished beef stew and potatoes on each of them, and passed them back to us. Daddy said grace. I felt like I could hardly breathe waiting for the cloudburst and being glad it wouldn’t land on me this time. Then she burst.

“How could you! I was so ashamed of you. And Mr. Taylor was your friend.” 

So, that’s his name. I half listened and then I realized Mama’s anger was now directed at me. “I didn’t know anything about this,” I said. “Honest. Mick and Jeff didn’t tell me nothing.”

“Mary Lou.” Mama’s blue eyes looked like they could flash lightning. “You will go over each morning and feed Mrs. Taylor’s chickens and each Saturday morning, you will go over and help her with whatever she wants you to do.”

“But it’s summer vacation.”

Mama just glared at me. I looked at Daddy but his face was set like stone in an expression I’d never seen before. I sighed.

“Now everyone eat,” Mama said. “I don’t know what Mrs. Taylor is going to do now, them living on leased land and him no longer here to work it. Life does have its troubles.”

I didn’t say anything further throughout that meal and afterwards I dried the dishes. When I finally could escape to my room, I didn’t feel even like reading which was my favorite thing to do. I just lay on my bed feeling like all my plans had been blown up.

I slept in as long as I could until Mama pulled the quilt from off my eyelids and told me to get up. I could tell from her expression that this wasn't a morning to argue with her. After breakfast, I took my time getting over to Mrs. Taylor’s and I dribbled out the chicken feed figuring if I took too long, nobody would want me back. Instead, Mrs. Taylor thanked me and insisted I come in and share a cup of tea with her, which I had to do to be polite. If Mama found out I was less than polite, who knew what else she’d pile on me but this dawdling was eating into my time. On my way home, I realized if I got to Mrs. Taylor’s about the time the sun rose and hurried with the chickens, I’d be home in time for breakfast and have the rest of the day to myself.

My plan worked out well for a few days but Saturday morning I had to go help Mrs. Taylor in addition to feeding the chickens. I arrived after breakfast, fed the chickens, and then knocked on her front door. She didn’t look like she was expecting me so I had to explain why I was there. She let me in. The kitchen was tidy, the floor sparkling clean and there wasn’t a particle of dust anywhere so this was going to be easy.

“Come in, Mary Lou,” she said. “Let’s have a cup of tea before we begin.”

Though I felt grown up sipping tea out of a fine china cup with pink roses and a matching saucer, I was tensed up anticipating what she had in mind. I kept eyeing the clock that tick-tocked on the mantelpiece and seemed to me for every minute the clock moved forward, it must have moved back a half one. I was nervous about breaking something so I finally quit drinking anything at all and looked over her shoulders through the window for something that needed to be done outside.

“What I’d like more than anything with Mr. Taylor gone, God rest his soul, is to have you read to me. Mr. Taylor used to every evening in his lovely deep voice.” She sighed, and I felt a breeze of sadness float over me.

I scanned the room and then spotted four shelves loaded with thick leather-bound volumes. It would take an eternity to read all those out loud. “That’s probably more than I could possibly do. I’m only eleven, going into the sixth grade. I’m sure you’d hate to hear me stumble through them.”

“Let’s try it anyway, shall we?”

I was her prisoner, what else could I do but agree, and so I watched as she set the china cups and saucers next to the sink and then walked into the living room and stood in front of the bookcase. I wasn’t sure whether I should get up from the table or go in and suggest which book might be interesting to start with, as if I would have known. We didn’t have books at home so I borrowed as many as I could. Mama didn’t know it but I’d gotten a card from the town library, too.

Anyway, Mrs. Taylor came back into the kitchen with a thin book and I breathed a sigh of relief inside. Pilgrim’s Progress. I kept reminding myself of Mama’s thin mouth and the tight lines on her face when she’d told me I’d have to do whatever Mrs. Taylor wanted me to do the whole summer so I knew I had to stay.

“Maybe we could share reading,” I said, hoping she’d jump at the bait and then I’d just let her keep on reading while I feigned interest.

She handed me the book and sat there still and quiet, breathing in and out quite normally. “Go ahead, Mary Lou.”

I opened to the first page and began to read and somehow it turned out to be a lot easier than I’d expected and it was noon hardly before I knew it and I was free to go. I looked forward to the next Saturday but I wasn’t going to let anyone know that.

And that was how July and early August went: I was up each morning with the chickens, pardon the pun, and by now I’d named them all and learned their different personalities, and each Saturday morning I’d read another two or three chapters in Pilgrim’s Progress and we were almost through the book and I was beginning to wonder what we’d read next. I don’t know what possessed me though and the third Saturday of August I slipped in a few other papers and when it was time to read, I read those. Well, Mrs. Taylor stopped me cold with her words, “What’s that you’re reading?”

“Well,” I said fetching for some quick excuse. “I figured we’re almost through Pilgrim’s Progress so I thought a change might be nice.”

“Tell me what it is you’re reading.” Her eyes, I noticed for the first time, were brown but in them was a sternness I had not figured on.

“My writing,” I muttered almost under my breath. I took my pages and scrunched them into my jeans’ pocket. “I like to write.”

“No, no, go ahead. I quite enjoy it for a change.”

I pulled out the papers and smoothed them out. I’d never felt this before, my heart feeling like birds flying inside, all free and happy like when they chirped good mornings to each other on summer mornings. I read what I had and Mrs. Taylor laughed until she cried. I was greatly encouraged. When I finished the pages I’d brought, I asked her if I could read her more next week and she nodded.

So for the next two Saturdays, I brought what I could of what I’d written. And something else happened because we started to talk to each other like one woman to another and I found out she wasn’t that different from me and that being older didn’t mean that you’d become someone stern and only concerned about grownup things. I’d ask her about her childhood and she’d tell me all sorts of stories which, when I remembered them later, I wasn’t sure whether they were entirely true or not but it didn’t matter because here I was able to talk and laugh with a lady who was much older and wiser than me.

The Saturday before school was to start, I knocked at Mrs. Taylor’s door and a woman I’d never seen before opened the door.

“Come in, Mary Lou,” Mrs. Taylor called from somewhere in the back of the house. “This is my daughter Lisa.”

I thrust out my hand and she barely touched my fingers.

“So this is the girl who reads to you each Saturday, Mother?”

Mrs. Taylor walked into the room and she looked different like she was both glad and sad to see me, and I could see she’d been crying. “I’m leaving today. Lisa’s insisted I come live with her. Since Mr. Taylor died, I haven’t been able to keep up with the farm lease payments. It’s for the best but I’ll miss our times together.” Her words sort of hung in the air and then they fell with a crash to the floor and I wanted to pick them up and somehow cradle them and make everything back to what it was.   

“It’s not for the best! Isn’t there another way? You could come live with us.” I tried very hard not to, but I burst into tears, big sobs that just tore through me, and I felt like a little girl again. I finally was able to stop, and I stood there clutching the packet of papers I’d had the foresight to put into a used manila envelop that I’d scrounged from Mama. “Why do you have to leave? You’re the only friend I’ve ever had.”

I helped with packing the china cups and saucers in newspaper. When we were finished, there weren’t many boxes of things from a lifetime, which surprised me. The three of us somehow tied a rocking chair to the top of the Chevy, set an ornately carved jewelry box, that Mrs. Taylor said was a wedding gift from Mr. Taylor and that he’d carved himself, on the backseat, along with a couple of boxes of wood-framed family photos I’d never noticed before and fervently wished I’d paid more attention all the times I’d been there. My envelope of papers was on the kitchen table and I placed a newspaper on top. 

After lunch, Lisa left me and Mrs. Taylor to sit in the living room and I asked her if she wanted me to read to her for a bit. She shook her head. What I really wanted to do was to ask her if we could talk even though I didn’t know what I’d ask her and the time seemed so short that I couldn’t even think of what I might have wanted to hear so we sat there and I understood what silence being deafening meant.

Then Mrs. Taylor cleared her throat and reached over and patted my hand. “I don’t want to leave but I have no choice. It’s like losing Mr. Taylor all over again. It’s like losing your whole life.” She pursed her lips tight and took a deep breath that she held for the longest time. “I’ll miss you, Mary Lou.” She stiffened and pulled her hand back and walked into the kitchen where she found my manila envelope. “Are these for me?” She looked at me squarely with her brown eyes telling me something I couldn’t decipher. “Thank you. I’ll cherish these,” she whispered. “I won’t ever forget you, our Saturday mornings together.” She smiled and her whole face lit up.

I didn’t know at the time what any of this meant except that I felt like if someone had tapped me, I would have sounded hollow because all the life had gone out of me. I’d spent all week copying everything I’d written with the intention of reading a bit from them for the rest of the summer and maybe we could have continued into the fall and winter. And all that planning was ending right now and I didn’t know whether to run and hide or to act as grown up as I could. “Yes,” I said. “For you.”

I helped with carrying the last of the boxes out of the house. Mrs. Taylor alternated between a few sobs and telling me she wasn’t moving but sixty miles away and maybe I could come visit her but for me, those sixty miles may as well have been half around the world. 

At three o’clock that afternoon, Lisa said, “I think we’re finished here, Mother. I’ll let you two say your good-byes.” She walked out of the house with the last box, set it behind the driver’s seat, and settled herself in behind the wheel.

I stood on the stoop next to Mrs. Taylor. She still clutched the manila envelope in one arm and then squeezed me so tight with her other arm I could barely breathe. “We’d never have become friends if it weren’t for the marbles,” she whispered. “Mr. Taylor would have enjoyed seeing all the commotion for his sendoff.”

She squeezed me again and then gripped my hand while we walked down the flagstone pathway to the car and she let go when she slid into the car. I pushed the door shut, Lisa started up the engine and Mrs. Taylor mouthed “I’ll miss you,” tears in her eyes. I stepped back while the car rolled away down the dirt road, watched until the last puff of dust was gone.

 

 


Bio: Brigitte Whiting lives in Maine and often uses settings and experiences from her backyard in her writing. She earned Fiction Writing Certificates from Gotham Writers Workshop and UCLA-Ext and is working on her WVU-MFA Certificate. In addition to facilitating WVU classes, she meets weekly with two local writers' groups.

 

Yearning - F2k WINNER!

by

Noel



Trish pushed her hair to the side to show off her sparkling diamond earrings. “Alvin just got these for me. I didn’t even have to drop a hint.”

Heather leaned forward for a better look. “Oh Trish, they’re beautiful. And LuAnn, did I see you drive up in a new...

Read more: Yearning - F2k WINNER!

 

 

 

Flamenco

by

Cedar White

We’re late, of course. Won last-minute tickets to a concert at the Greek, the Gipsy Kings, but now parking is impossible. Ten years of driving in LA and the traffic makes me want to move to, I don’t know, Kansas. Then my date points to a...

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Marbles

by

Brigitte Whiting

 I had plans for that summer and everything changed because of the marbles. But I’m way ahead of myself.

My brothers, Jeff and Mick, hung around Farmer Tom’s place, feeding chickens and riding on the tractor with him, watching while he milked his yellow cow, Bess. I’d...

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Ruler of the House

by

Luann Lewis

We never should have bought this old house.  We sunk all our savings into it plus we took on a mortgage so huge that at this point I would have to pay out money just to get rid of the place.

 

I hate the sounds...

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Abe, the Teenage Hypnotist from Planet Garfunkel

by

Albert Orejuela

You’re hearing a voice, but no one else hears a sound. It’s a deep distant whisper, soft, safe, and inviting: the words of which you can’t yet make out. The harder you listen, the softer it gets; softer and softer, deeper and deeper. The more you listen to it here, ...

Read more: Abe, the Teenage Hypnotist from Planet Garfunkel

 

 

 

A Night in Fontana

by

TJ Marshall

Brody Carlisle halted his horse on the crest of a shrub-covered hill, slapped his Stetson twice sending dust floating skyward, and after placing it back on his head, coaxed a swallow from his canteen.

To the west, the sun slid behind a scattering of tall pillar-like plateaus. Their...

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Full

by

Luann Lewis

Food. Globes of mashed potatoes glistening with a thin layer of gravy, plump slices of pie gushing with ruby red cherries–food wassensuous. It was sensuous before Abby even knew the meaning of the word.  Sparkling Christmas goodies enticed her as a child. She would sneak from her...

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The Decision

by

Brigitte Whiting

Stan stood on the sand, crumpled by how many people and birds running and sliding into it today. Now, it was getting dark, the last of the purple, streaky clouds turning black against a pale, gray sky.

Go or stay, just two choices.

He reached down...

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Swiftwater

by

Cedar White

10

Amos stood on a thick, muscular knoll on the shoulder of a dark river. He shivered, soaking wet from his silver hair to his leather shoes, and stared, disoriented, at the pines across the river. They seemed to stand with their backs to him. Amos felt...

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Minerva Shield

by

Frank Richards

In July the monsoon rains returned and with them came the little green frogs. Price Aurigena had first seen them in the summer of 1969 when he’d arrived in Korea and now, a year later, they were once again everywhere. Frogs sprang from the ground like exploding popcorn...

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Seinfeld Moment

by

Frank Richards

I have studied martial arts all my life: Karate, Judo, Kenpo Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, and Hsing-I, but as I've gotten older, I pretty much stick to Tai Chi. I used to study Tai Chi at a park in Washington, D.C. called Glen Echo Park. It's an old...

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Wedding Portrait – Life Portrait

by

Glennis Hobbs

July 20, 1942


Escorted by her eldest brother Neil, Annabell walks across the front lawn to meet Bill. her groom. She is dressed in a long gown of pink net overlying pink point d’esprit. A bandeau of artificial roses secures her pink net veil. She also...

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Salvation

by

Teresa Crowe

S is for Scintillation. 

Their arms and elbows locked as they vied for control.  Major released her grip and dredged her beet-colored nails across his muscled chest.  Zane glanced at the four lines of ripped skin, blood dripped onto the rim of his pants.  He lunged forward, grabbed...

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The Explorers

by

Glennis Walker Hobbs

Black, ginger, and tortoiseshell felines zoom through the open screen door onto the deck. Black Nic pauses and surveys his domain from the top of the steps. Kittens race down the ramp and scamper into the backyard. Glory, the tortoiseshell, runs to the maple in the corner, ...

Read more: The Explorers

 

 

 

Beckett – you asked for this

by

Joy Manné

Here am I, on this grey morning, here I am again, entering this day as I entered yesterday and the day before and unless I am spared by death will enter tomorrow and the day after, endlessly growing older with the anxiety that brings, the fear of coming...

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Reconciliation

by

Brigitte Whiting

Mattie opened the front door. "I'll be back in a while, Henry," she said, then stepped onto the porch and clicked the door shut.

It opened behind her and Henry stuck out his head. "Wait, I can come with you."

She shook her head. "I need...

Read more: Reconciliation

 

 

 

Road Trip

by

David Snyder

  The eight-year-old 1958 Chevy was purring along through rural Kansas with ease. Don smiled with pride. When it hit 180,000 miles he planned to celebrate with a smoke and an ice-cold Mountain Dew from the cooler.  It was a beautiful late April day with the sunny...

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Why I’m Failing My Innovative Fiction Course

by

Ed Kratz

   

This is from an assignment in the Innovative Fiction Course taught by Karen

I'm just not making it in my innovative fiction course.
What is innovative fiction you might ask? Well, if you have to ask, I'd say you're one of those rubes...

Read more: Why I’m Failing My Innovative Fiction Course

 

 

 

Dear Don...

by

Ed Kratz

   

The Don, whose real name you do not want to know, ever, has vast experience solving problems. Our organization, Don’t Try to Find Us Press, never advocates violence. We take no responsibility for violent acts committed by those misinterpreting the Don’s recommendations.
Now for...

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Todd’s Miracle

by

Leslie

Todd shivered in the dark, seated cross-legged on the linoleum. Coats and dresses draped gently over his five-year-old shoulders. He flinched as a slit of bright light flashed through the space at the bottom of the door. Seconds later the deep, rolling rumble followed. “Mommy?”

Silence.

“Mommy?” ...

Read more: Todd’s Miracle

 

 

 

Mad Hatter Town Planners

by

Margaret Fieland

   

I fell down the rabbit hole straight into the town planning committee meeting. A large basin of Sangria sat in the middle of the scratched wood table in the center of the room, and a keg rested against the back wall. Al, Stan, and Art...

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Dinner at Grandma's

by

Lolla Bryant

You’re at Grandma’s house again for dinner.  As always, the family is gathered together and everybody’s trying to out-talk everybody else.   You ask yourself why you continue to go through this ordeal every week, but you know why; it’s Grandma.  Also, it’s a family tradition that brings you...

Read more: Dinner at Grandma's

 

 

 

Mommy’s Little Secret

by

Leslie

At age five, Amy told her mother that the thought of swimming scared her. Not surprisingly, her mother poo-pooed the idea, and said that fear showed weakness and stupidity. From then on, Amy said she hated swimming and never admitted any fear to her mother again. I don’t...

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New Age Centre

by

Natalie Knight

I had been in Oz for a few months when I received an emergency call to come back to South Africa. Every émigré who leaves elderly parents dreads this call.

 

But this was worse than death. Our family lawyer called me to attend a meeting...

Read more: New Age Centre

 

 

 

"I’ve Been With Willy All Day"

by

Brigitte Whiting

   

The late August sun hung hot in a bare blue sky. Matilda picked up a tattered straw bushel basket and trudged into the garden with it. The rows of beans were dusty green, the corn stalks tall, their leaves edged with yellow. She settled on...

Read more: "I’ve Been With Willy All Day"

 

 

 

Of Heroes and Holiness

by

Angela Hess

What does a hero look like?

 

George Bailey is a hero.

 

George Bailey dreamed of traveling the world.

 

George Bailey gave up his dreams to care for his family and community.

 

Rudy left his family...

Read more: Of Heroes and Holiness

 

 

 

A Red Squirrel's Narrative

by

Brigitte Whiting

This past summer and fall upturned me. The birdfeeder, usually so generous, abdicated her job, and I had to scrounge for food during the long wet season. My mother told me it was unusual to have such a rainy August and October. She would know. I was born...

Read more: A Red Squirrel's Narrative

 

 

 

Talk-Back, Dear Lia, on FnF

by

Joy Manné

This essay is part of a Talk-Back series – I owe that title to Karen. A Talk-Back is my response to a chapter in a WVU textbook, my communication with its author.

This Talk-Back is a response to the exercise in Lia Purpura’s chapter, ‘On Miniatures,’ (Flas...

Read more: Talk-Back, Dear Lia, on FnF

 

 

 

Reunion

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

“Why the F--- Do I want to see a F—ing alligator jump up to eat a F—ing chicken hanging on a clothesline?”

 

The last time I hung out with my Uncle Dan is when I dragged him to Gatorland to do something touristic. ...

Read more: Reunion

 

 

 

A Fear of Broken Things

by

Angela Hess

“Does he look at you?”

 

My cousin’s innocent question triggers a flashing red warning light in my brain. My baby doesn’t look at me. I assumed he was too young still, but my cousin’s baby is only four days older than mine, and they are...

Read more: A Fear of Broken Things

 

 

 

Wild Roses Growing in the Ditch

by

Louise E. Sawyer


It is a joy to hold a lovely scene, a delightful moment, in memory.
~Marjolein Bastin

Frank was four and I was five and getting ready to start school when Dad and Mom moved us into a new house on Glasgow Avenue—a three-bedroom home that wasn't quite finished—in...

Read more: Wild Roses Growing in the Ditch

 

 

 

Hazardous Happenings

by

Albert Orejuela

At some point, everything comes to an apex.  Status quo can only persist for so long before the natural balance of the universe calls for consumption, and then it all comes down to a choice.  That’s it, a lone decision that ultimately leads down a pathway to a higher level...

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Dealing with Rejection

by

Carolann Malley


Sending your writing out into the world can be scary whether you write poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. But, at some point, if you are a serious writer, you will do it. Getting a rejection letter back can be more devastating than asking a girl out as a teenager and...

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Backyard Neighbors

by

Brigitte Whiting


I took an hour to walk outdoors in my yard, first to clip dead honeysuckle branches, pluck dandelions, and then to fill the birdbaths and feeders. And to ponder what to write about one of my backyard neighbors, the gray squirrel, Sciurus Carolineses. Its name is derived from the...

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Betrayal

by

Angela Hess


My four-year-old son has a friend over. I overhear my son’s friend tell my two-year-old daughter, “Gracie, you can’t come in here.” Then my son’s voice: “It’s okay, she can play with us. Here, Gracie,” he says, presumably handing her one of the toys they are playing with. My mama...

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The Weight of Emotions

by

Angela Hess

  I can hear my parents’ raised voices upstairs. They are fighting again. I turn on the sink faucet, letting the sound of the running water drown out their voices. I thrust my hands in the nearly scalding hot water and methodically scrub each dish in the sink...

Read more: The Weight of Emotions

 

 

 

An Apology

by

Brigitte Whiting

   I'm sorry that I hadn't thought of how I would take care of a puppy. It had seemed like a good idea, accept the gift of a puppy from acquaintances. She had the coloring of a coyote and was named Brindle for those tawny markings. I'd...

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Baby Precious

by

Louise E. Sawyer

It was Christmas Day 1950 and my sixth birthday. Under the tree was an unusually long, large box with my name on it. I was excited to open it. I couldn’t wait. When I finally did, I was amazed to look upon the most gorgeous doll I’d...

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Downsizing

by

M Clare Paris

 
I think about death quite a bit. Not morbidly, nor do I worry about what happens when one dies. Although I enjoy a spiritual life, I am also philosophical about the end of my life. If there is something else, it will be darned interesting. If there isn’t, ...

Read more: Downsizing

 

 

 

Absent But Present

by

Louise E. Sawyer


My father, Thomas George Sawyer, was absent at my birth and absent the first seven months of my life.

It was Christmas Eve 1944 at the two-story white house on Beechwood Drive-my Grannie’s house in Victoria, the capital city of British Colombia on Vancouver Island. Grannie Price, my...

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Gathering: A Contemplative Essay

by

Brigitte Whiting

I'm always looking for ideas to use in writing: for that prompt at which I first gulp and then slowly retrieve some thread of an idea, for the poem I need for the Monday morning poetry group, for an essay that's due in two days.

I've heeded...

Read more: Gathering: A Contemplative Essay

 

 

 

Seasons in a Wild Turkey Hen's Life

by

Brigitte Whiting

Last spring, a wild turkey hen incubated her eggs for twenty-eight days. When they hatched, she scrambled to keep up with them. Poults to scientific literature. Babies to her. She didn't need to teach them to scratch for bugs—they came with that instinct. Nighttimes during their first four weeks, ...

Read more: Seasons in a Wild Turkey Hen's Life

 

 

 

Lesson in Subtext

by

Joy Manné and Karen Barr

Roles

Teacher – Karen Barr

Student – Joy Manné

Teacher

WELCOME TO WEEK 8 OF SUBTEXT.

There is no word count, but the challenge is to get all ten types of subtext in as few words as possible. Here they are:

Show don’t...

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Teenage Escape Plan

by

Danielle Dayney

I woke to warm, gooey air smothering me even though the ceiling fan was spinning on high. Dangling lightpulls smacked and banged the glass globe with each rotation of the blades. The base of the fan swayed and groaned, ready to jump from its screws in the drywall any second.

...

Read more: Teenage Escape Plan

 

 

 

Miracle Baby

by

Harry C. Hobbs

The mother and father watched as the sun rose on a cold morning in February 1945, wondering if their four-month-old son had lived through the night. Could miracles really happen? Perhaps this child they had wanted so badly wanted wasn’t meant to survive. His mother was a month past her...

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Ylva the Úlfr

by

Cynthia Reed

When I flew to California in September, the golden archipelago summer, verdant below and mazarine above, still held sway. Twenty-three days and eleven thousand two hundred and forty miles later, if you’d sat here with me on the back deck this afternoon--you’d know, too--autumn now envelopes Sweden in...

Read more: Ylva the Úlfr

 

 

 

Boardwalk Stroll – A Prose Poem

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs (Glennis Hobbs)

My morning stroll leads me to the east end of Flinty’s Boardwalk by Del’s Cairn. A replica of ...

Read more: Boardwalk Stroll – A Prose Poem

 

 

 

Adventuring — An Unrhymed Heroic Couplet

by

Brigitte Whiting




I've been where no red squirr'l has gone before,
toheights and depths, despair. Until an opened...

Read more: Adventuring — An Unrhymed Heroic Couplet

 

 

 

Ode To A Poem

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs (Glennis Hobbs)

you start as a blank screen
or a sheet of pristine paper,
words elude me, then
tantalize, taunt...

Read more: Ode To A Poem

 

 

 

The People’s Princess ~An Elegy

by

Louise Sawyer

There was a day never forgotten
When the world, including me, watched from afar
the fairytale wedding of...

Read more: The People’s Princess ~An Elegy

 

 

 

Crystalized Fog ~a Pastoral Poem

by

Gerardine Gail Baugh

Of cold air hitting a warmer ground
Yesterday ended in a rising fog
Or was it the other...

Read more: Crystalized Fog ~a Pastoral Poem

 

 

 

Elegy for Judy

by

Gerardine Gail Baugh


I try to hear her voice; its sound has faded.
I see her hair, shining dark, brushing her...

Read more: Elegy for Judy

 

 

 

Becoming a Writer ~ Prose Poem

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs (Glennis Hobbs)

How does a person achieve success as a writer? The answer is fairly simple. One should work in...

Read more: Becoming a Writer ~ Prose Poem

 

 

 

Elegy for Dad

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs (Glennis Hobbs)

Easter, 1996

that year we began to plan a tea
for Dad's ninetieth birthday,
insteadhe landed...

Read more: Elegy for Dad

 

 

 

Sestina

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs (Glennis Hobbs)

my passion in life is to write
perhaps I should start with a poem
to rhyme or not...

Read more: Sestina

 

 

 

To RBW: An Elegy

by

Brigitte Whiting

You've been gone for a long time now,
and I think of you, reminded beneath
the autumn skies...

Read more: To RBW: An Elegy

 

 

 

Last Cigarette

by

Belinda Moutray

Under the shaky match’s sulfurous flame, the last Marlboro’s tip blazes brightly, dims and flares.

Broken, quivering...

Read more: Last Cigarette

 

 

 

Writer's Prayer

by

Margaret Fieland

Bless my paper, bless my pen,
bless my keyboard, Lord. And then,
please keep track of all those...

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Unmutable

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

She’s unmutable beauty in life and death.
Endearing spirit, smile warm as sunshine and everlasting.
From birth’s first...

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Spiders Are My Friends

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

From the breeze, I saw the glistening web.
The big, cozy spider stared out at me.
I wonder...

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Serial Killer

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

Hide behind an actor’s mask and prybar;
Some humans are born with souls as dark as night.
Abduct, ...

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Resembled His First Love

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

All victims resembled his x -first love, Stephanie Brooks,
Long middle parted brunettes with small framed feminine good...

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Phrasical Subordination

by

Margaret Fieland

The main clause of the sentence names the thing you mainly do
but it can have subordinates and...

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Passing Through

by

Margaret Fieland

Morning sun shimmers through gray clouds,
etches shadows on cracked sidewalk.
Empty beer cans surround broken fire hydrant.
...

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Library Book Group

by

Brigitte Whiting

I don't believe in Dracula,
don't even know his story,
Count Vlad the Impaler of Romania, circa 1400s...

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If I Set A Clown On My Lawn

by

Gerardine Baugh

I doubt I am noticed, behind trees, that line of pond, in my front yard.
I turn...

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Falling in Love

by

Margaret Fieland

My mother
sank into cold lake water
bit by slow bit,
first up to her ankles,
then her...

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Ever Wonder About Ted Bundy?

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

I wonder how many others are like Ted Bundy.
He bludgeoned his victims so they couldn’t make a...

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Dreamscape

by

Margaret Fieland

Dreams and nightmares roll around,
fantasies I weave at night,
land of dreams I cannot share,
panoramas to...

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Blueberry Jelly

by

Gerardine Gail Baugh

Blueberry jelly
Splattered across the table,
Ingrained in the rug
Flowing patterns spattered on the wall
Sitting in...

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Dandelions

by

Brigitte Whiting


We discussed dandelions in my poetry group. Some grow so tightly their stalkless stems have to be dug up with...

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TAN RENGA and NÎGUIN: : Japanese poetic forms for two or more writers

by

Carol Neillon Malley, Cynthia Reed and Sharon Ammerman

INTRODUCTION
During the recent MFA314 Japanese Poetic Forms class, WVU students had an opportunity to explore six forms...

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Dump The Core!

by

Gerardine Baugh

A Prose Poem

It is just after ten at night. Michael changes the channel so Captain...

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The Guinea Pig’s Obsession

by

Louise E. Sawyer


I watch Joy munching on her cat grass, head down she gobbles without stopping. Down one row and up the...

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Tomcat Under Nine Antennas

by

Gerardine Baugh

I stretch out over the back of the couch, lounging soft, boneless skin, soft fur stretched so far...

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Words Done Gone

by

F. Michael LaRosa


F. Michael LaRosa wrote this piece for MFA376. He tells us, it is a blues song in prose that laments...

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A Dream: Must Have Been Something I Ate

by

Gerardine Baugh

A pickle meets the side of the barn. Ignoring the rats. With arms like tendrils, it sneaks its way...

Read more: A Dream: Must Have Been Something I Ate

 

 

 

Stormy Weather

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs


Thunder rumbles, stops and starts again when lightning jags across charcoal coloured skies and splitsinto forks. Raindrops dance...

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Frenzy

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs


Norva hosts an open mic musical fundraiser two days after Christmas so that people who are home for Christmas can...

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Wearing a Coating of Ice

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Long Way 'Til Spring

by

Brigitte Whiting

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Late Bloomer

by

Brigitte Whiting

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Kenji Snuggling

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Santa Joy

by

Louise Sawyer

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Joy and Neuron

by

Louise Sawyer

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Bullfrog and Black Butterfly Koi

by

Gevera Bert Piedmont

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Animal Paw Prints

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Milky Way Bonaire

by

Miranda Mulders

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A Dark Welcome

by

Albert Orejuela

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The Big Rock Candy Mountain

by

RJ Hembree

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Fog in the Adirondacks

by

Albert Orejuela

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Smew

by

RJ Hembree

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Roadside Attractions

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Rock Formations at Point Lobos

by

RJ Hembree

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Hot Air in the Hudson Valley

by

Albert Orejuela

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Rock and Roll

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Take a Walk on the Wild Side

by

RJ Hembree

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Tracking a Tractor

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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One More for the Road

by

RJ Hembree

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Bella in High Key

by

Albert Orejuela

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Chickory

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Patterns in Nature

by

RJ Hembree

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Blowing Away

by

Albert Orejuela

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Morning Shot Great Blue Heron

by

RJ Hembree

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Close Up

by

RJ Hembree

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Watchful Budha

by

Gevera Bert Piedmont

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