Erica’s tiny frame was bone-tired after moving all of her possessions across the street and down two blocks, all by herself; with only the help of a “borrowed” shopping cart. Just a few minutes, she thought to herself. I deserve a little break before I return this cart to Thurman’s.
She laughed out loud (imagining the spectacle she must have been to the neighbors these past two days) as she pulled her honey-colored tresses from the messy ponytail, ran her fingers through the shoulder-length strands and fixed them back into another messy ponytail. The last of the darkening tangerine sky was disappearing behind the houses across the street as Erica plopped down on the 5-step stoop of the historical semi-detached that would be home for at least the next year. Watching the color of the sunset fade into twilight soothed Erica’s weary soul.
The bathroom has been updated but the kitchen is original. Erica would have preferred it the other way around, but you do what you can with what you have (she hears her mother’s voice in her head). She knew she was lucky to have found the one bed/one bath on such short notice after her roommate, Sunshine, had gotten them evicted by not paying the rent and running off to Jamaica. Erica swore she would never live with another roommate, EVER again, no matter how tight things got.
She had wanted another place that faced due east, but begrudgingly ended up here facing west. The tiny kitchen is in the front, Where will the African Violets live? she fretted silently. Continue reading →
It was one of those late summer days where the heat felt dangerous. The sky was stripped of any color, the birds were no where in sight. We swam, slow-motion, from air-conditioned cars to air-conditioned buildings; drowning on the thick, humid air.
We arrived at ‘Branded’ just before 6:00 pm for happy hour. I had taken the time to change out of my work clothes into some tight jeans, a white tank top and my favorite pair of well-worn cowboy boots. It was hump day and my co-worker and I were both in need of a little R&R. She was the designated driver and I planned on taking advantage – it was my turn.
He was the only diner brave enough to sit outside; the table partially shaded by a lonely sapling planted in the sidewalk on the West side of 5th Avenue. On the shady side of the street, another patio was jammed with early revelers enjoying a folky singer-songwriter’s rendition of the Avett Brothers’ “I and Love and You”. I took notice and thought it was nice, but we were in the mood for some boot stomping country music and the band that night was all over the radio (plus I kind of had a crush on the lead singer).
I first noticed his facial hair, thinking how hot he must be with a full beard in Texas…in late August. At least it was nicely trimmed and he looked good vs. the ragged, homeless look some guys are sporting these days. I let the metal gate slam behind me and he looked up from his menu. His ice blue eyes caught my gaze and held on the way a good book won’t let you put it down when you’re finished. We traded quick smiles before Rainey dragged me inside. Continue reading →
She wipes the sweat from her brow as she slowly climbs back on to the bus with the nine other pitiful souls who chose the hottest day of the year to take this wine tour. The legs of her white capris are literally glued to her body and the cute up-do she had been so proud of, and had admired in the hotel bathroom mirror this morning, has wilted, fallen and frizzed.
This is their third stop of seven and Melody and the others are a bit tipsy already. She is not sure she’s going to make it to the end without a nap, but at least the bus has air conditioning…so far none of the tasting rooms has.
This is the Hunter Valley region of Australia. There are Aussies on this tour and they keep marveling at how it is 45 degrees in November. Of course, they mean Celsius and she uses the Units app on her iphone to quickly learn that this translates to 113 degrees Fahrenheit! She is a California girl, lives in Grass Valley northwest of Sacramento, and before today would not have believed it was possible to survive such heat. Continue reading →
There she is again…in purple scrubs today…standing on the sidewalk outside the hospital where I see her every morning juggling her soda, her cigarette and her cell phone.
“…stupid ass teacher, I told her my son does not need medication and if she doesn’t get off my ass, I’ll cuss her out in alphabetical order.”
Her outburst is so loud, I hear this from inside my car with the windows up. I want to park my car, get out and give her a hug. I also want to take the cigarette from her fingertips and smash it with the toe of my orange Juil Mojandas, and pour out her soda.
I want to take her out for breakfast and gently steer her toward healthy menu choices. The mother in me wants to lecture her about the evils of refined sugars and saturated fat in the American diet, which is probably why she is at least 30 pounds overweight, stressed to the point of snapping, and so amazingly angry at 7:00 am.
But all I manage to give her this day is a warm smile when our eyes lock briefly before my light turns green and I steer my car away from her smoke break.
The bright, sparkling kitchen seems always filled with mouth-watering aromas. He loves his beautiful wife very much, and even more so because she cooks for him every day. No daily over-priced, sub-par restaurant food like Ted and Aimee across the street…poor bastards.
Quietly dropping his keys into the antique dough bowl (a favorite souvenir from their recent honeymoon) he is met with the sweet smell of toasted coconut and rolled oats…dessert! Other days it’s a wonderful casserole of ground turkey, fresh broccoli and cauliflower and brown rice, or roasted chicken and root vegetables. He appreciates how she is always finding new, healthy recipes and does it all on a budget.
He sneaks up behind her just as she’s pulling a cookie sheet from the oven, and wraps his arms around the tiny waist; the dogs barking like crazy from the back yard because they know “daddy” is home from work. She giggles when he nibbles her ear, enjoying their evening ritual, but admonishes him to be careful of the hot pan in her hands. The phone rings. He answers with a smile after three chimes, but not before stealing a quick kiss. Continue reading →
“She’s only got one arm, how can she take care of that baby?”
“I know, right? You can’t change a diaper one-handed…can you?”
“You might could but you’d have to be fast. Babies roll and scoot quicker’n you can say ‘biscuit eater’, but it takes two hands to do almost everything. I just don’t see her…oh, here she comes….shhhhhhhhh.”
The one-armed, very pregnant stranger, returning from the ladies’ room, takes her seat across from her husband.
He whispers to his beautiful wife, who has lived with her disability since birth, “Do you want to have some fun?” Continue reading →
Most people consider weeding the garden a burden and put off the chore until the worry of neighbors talking is an even heavier weight to bear. Not Meg. Donning one of her signature dollar store, straw cowboy hats (the collection began to grow a few years ago after her daughter, Bronwyn, came home her sophomore year with one and left it behind because it looked better on mom). Now it’s a running joke between them and Bron brings a new one home almost every trip.
Pulling weeds is Meg’s therapy. Letting her mind nibble away on a worry while her gloved fingers slowly, purposefully, extract the unwanted growths has brought many creative answers to daily problems – gifts from the garden gods, she likes to say.
Today’s trouble rolling around her noggin is particularly perplexing. She had overheard a distant co-worker in the adjacent cubicle tell someone on the phone: “…he’s mean when he gets drunk, and he’s always drunk.”
After about 40 minutes, the garden gods give Meg an unexpected answer and her shoulders drop several inches as she exhales a breath she didn’t realize she was holding.
Gah, why won’t she answer me? This is what the blond is thinking as her right hand deftly manipulates the smart phone, thumb flying back and forth between messages, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Unconsciously, the fingers of her left hand twirl a pinch of her hair round and round her index finger, lets it go, grabs it again, twirl, twirl, twirl, lets it go; grab, twirl, release – a hundred times a minute.
Her breathing is shallow with excitement. Momentarily, her left hand abandons its task, picks up the Starbucks cup so she can suck down another huge gulp of her soy mocha latte. Her 28th birthday (ugh) is this summer but she still gulps loudly, like a child, when she swallows. Everyone notices; friends and strangers alike, but no one knows how to tell her. She doesn’t seem to know that anyone can hear from the outside what is going on in her mouth. Sometimes she swishes her drink around in her mouth for an eternity, oblivious to the distraction she causes.
Suddenly her phone vibrates. It is answered with a quick swipe of the thumb. She can contain herself no longer and blurts out the words that have been building inside her for the last 5 minutes since she heard them from the brunette.
“She must be pregnant….who get’s married on a Tuesday?”
Son, I understand that working at the family feed store might not be what you want to do for the rest of your life, but you were born into it. Your great-grandfather started this business with blood, sweat and tears. The family almost lost everything back in the depression, but we’ve kept it going. I grew up in this store, stocked shelves and took inventory since I was eight. You yourself spent all your summers here helping out.
Help me understand how you could just walk away from this legacy to cut people’s hair? How?! Cutting hair is a job for women, son! Would you really want to spend your days in a beauty shop listening to women gossip day in and day out? I just don’t get it.
Besides, if you quit working for me, you won’t be on our insurance anymore and that bull-riding will have to stop because if you break your arm, it’s on you.
There are eight of them this gray day, in the familiar common room with its fading flower print wallpaper; some sitting quietly lost in their thoughts, some with busy hands knitting or crocheting items that may or may not be worn by great-grandchildren, nieces or nephews who sometimes visit.
At six feet two in a sensible shoe, she towered over most teachers and all the students navigating the halls of her junior high school. With her head of tight orange curls and freckled skin, the sun had always been her enemy and mother had kept her inside, in the shade or covered from head-to-toe throughout her childhood. She never married. She has no children, grand children or great-grandchildren to make things for, so they are used to her silent, luminescent presence. Now, slumped in a wheelchair, her head topped with thinning blue-white pin curls and a face far more youthful than her years; unable to stand, not even sure of her height anymore, she suddenly interjects in her still strong voice, that: “As a child, I had an imaginary friend who used to get me into so much trouble.”
One head snaps up so quickly from the knitting in her lap that it startles another next to her who had been nodding off, and their eyes lock briefly, agree silently that “I always knew she was the crazy one”, before fixing their gaze on the speaker, who now has their full attention.