Archive for June, 2011

#28 The Nightgown

I was sitting in the back yard when it happened.  The low-to-the ground lounge chair had been saturated with rain the night before, and it was still smelled damp.  I was dumbstruck when I saw the flash of white; a long, scraggy animal flashed up from the pond, skipped beneath the hostas, slid around the daylillies and disappeared into the dense grasses.

My headache came within the hour.

We were doing last-minute chores in the house the next day, and as I stooped to pick up the dog’s toy, my shoulder hurt, all the way to my neck, and it radiated into and became part of the headache from yesterday.  I paid no attention to it.  We were going to Newport!  I packed my overnight with the new red nightgown, the black bathing suit with the thin ribbon of bright blue at the bust that made me ten pounds thinner and  my stylish Picasso smock with black leggings for dinner on the deck.

When I breathed in the salt air and warmed in the Narragansett sun of Beach No. 4, I let go of the headache and pained shoulder and neck and walked the beach with a Nikon in hand.  The ebb and flow of the tide soothed my cares as it washed across bare feet; toes dug into the sand, butt relaxed in the bleached, brown beach chair.  I visualized the color or rainbows, felt the wings of butterflies on my cheeks and soon was asleep.

Dinner was grand at the outdoor deck overlooking the Jamestown bridge.  Our table faced the bridge with sunset rays glancing gold, a beautiful site to a spectacular day.

The long, luxurious soak with salts from Israel was relaxing, and the shower selection of rain-forest heightened my interest.  I dried off in the thick white towel, dabbed on some Shalimar and skimmed into the red, silky nightgown.  My headache returned with a vengeance.  I felt the sharp pain in my shoulder.  “Nothing,” I said to myself as I turned the door and entered the room.

My prince of 25 years was already in the bed, a look of love and longing in his eyes.  As I lay beside him, the elephant in the room settled on my chest.  I turned to one side, and he was there.  I turned to my husband, and the elephant came with me.  Pericarditis.  I knew it well.  I took off the nightgown, folded it while my frustrated mate went for the Motrin.

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#27 Veritas

He asked that I go into his computer that day.  He was leaving for two days, and there was something wrong with his e-mail.  He couldn’t access it.

I spent the morning cleaning.  It was always like that. He would leave, and I would pull out the vacuum.  Actually, there are two vacuums, one for each floor.  I know that I should start at the top and work my way down, but I don’t; I start with the bathrooms and work my way up.  We can afford a housekeeper, but he never wanted one.  I hate to vacuum, but I look upon it as a sort of penance;  absolution for sins.  I love, though, to wash dishes.  I would never have a dishwasher.  Standing in one spot over the double sink, a spacious window overlooking the entire backyard, hot water, steam as it fills.  I decided to save the dishes for last; meditation.

I finished the cleaning and decided to tackle the internet.   I thought it better to enter the world of frustration prior to the illumination and peace I received from the mindfulness of meditation; i.e. dishwashing.

For some reason, there was no problem accessing his account.  Seven hundred e-mails!   Was this the problem?  I looked into his recently deleted file, and it was beyond my imagination.  How about old mail?  I cleaned that out, and went into his sent file and started to read.  I justified my snoop because of my eagerness to right his wrongs.  Little did I know that I would soon have to confront him with his written wrongs.

There there were, for anyone, especially me, to see:  weekly notes of gifts sent, urgings to come visit, concerns for safety and there was one that even mentioned me!  the bastard.  My investigation took the better part of the day, and it was about 4:00 when I found her picture in some obscure file.  Thank goodness I had a somewhat limited but compelling command of computers.  I used her picture as a screen saver.  The first revenge.

I needed some nourishment, and chocolate is essential in predicaments where your husband is (may be) having an affair.  I took the large Snickers out of the freezer and placed it in the micro wave, pouring myself a hefty cup of morning coffee.  My head was cleared, and I went to the dishes.  I was reminded of Sam’s affair 20 years ago, all events denied by both parties, and the painful years that followed building back the trust I had lost.  He promised it would never happen again.  Hollow words in light of today’s findings.

I went back to the computer.  I laughed at the nonsense of the screen saver.  I was hurt, but he was an old fool, and I would never end the marriage at this late date.  All I wanted was revenge.  The second act was taking the most recent notes and forwarding them back to him so that he would either become totally confused and think he’s suffering from senility or realize that his indiscretion had been found.  I wouldn’t know until he returned.

The third revenge was to confront the other woman.  Doesn’t everyone?  I thought it best, though, to take some time to really reflect on what was unfolding with each click.  I slept on it.

Awaking fresh and motivated, I marveled that it was a perfect day to establish a case for digital infidelity.  Innocent until proven guilty?   I was purely playing the role of Prosecutor.  He would have to defend himself.  Going through the new mail, there was nothing.  It had been weeks since his last response.  I went into his sent file with new insight.  In the Discovery phase, I realized it was he who had initiated the correspondence.  Got ya!  The third revenge was clear.  I would not confront this poor woman, who felt he was too old for him, refused his gifts, and assured him she was safe.  Instead, I would delete all of his files.  In his new mail, I kept only the forwarded three e-mails I had selected to send him, plainly showing his attraction to another woman.  Deleting all of his messages in the sent file, I was going to annihilate his contact file too, but thought not.  However, on second thought, I did just that.

Feeling totally confident that there would be no more of these cyber things, I cooked his favorite dinner, showered and changed into something soft and sexy.  The house was clean and so was his computer.  Revenge is so sweet.

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#26 Consumed

The smell of mold tightened her chest; it was hard to breathe and even harder to cough.  She could see the green and black spores climbing the wall of the walk-in safe.   This room was built on slab, as was the stone-floored, wood-beamed room with fireplace that was already consumed.  She looked through the small panes of the garden doors to the room she loved most and cried.   If the rain continued for much longer, the airborne, reproductive spores would find favorable surfaces in  other parts of her vintage, historic home to supply the nutrients; its beams, the Ogee wood frames that held mirrors and pictures, the fabric of the heavily upholstered furniture and drapes, the Aubusson rugs that were framed by wide-board, Chestnut floors.

The six weeks of May into June were beyond the norm; it had rained without mercy, the temperature was 80 degrees and less during the day and stayed around 68 degrees in the evenings; it wasn’t the heat, it was the humidity of 80 percent and upwards that was causing all the damage.  She wrote in her diary, chronicling the progress, “After six weeks of rain, my riverfront property resembles the rain forest in Central America I had once toured.”

There were several days of brownouts when all electricity along the Northeast coast, from Canada to New York was shut down by of a rolling blackout that began in Canada.  Nuclear power reactors were immediately closed down, and only those who lived off the grid had some sense of normalcy.   Several days after the failure, the government admitted there was a problem restoring the utility.  Experts throughout the world worked on the problem.  Power was restored to her hamlet about two weeks later, but not before the mold had taken hold.

Christy was an older woman, proud and independent.  Her husband had long ago died, and they had no family.  She was entirely on her own, an invisible woman to those outside her little acre.   Christy’s husband was a scientist who worked out of his home, and she was his soul mate.  When he died, she became more of a recluse, even having her groceries delivered.  Old Charlie took care of the grounds, and they rarely exchanged words.  She was living in a home that would soon consume her with its visible colonies of fungus.  She prayed that the weather would break so that she might open windows and doors to let the sun remedy the situation.  She had plenty of Clorox, and it was her choice for cleaning, however, even at full strength, the liquid burning through rubber gloves and nearly overcoming her, it would not touch the fine, almost picturesque art form created by oxygen and water.  From the outside, all looked normal, but inside, the plaster and wallpaper were taking on the appearance of mottled skin, and it was deadly she knew.

The sun came out that following Sunday.  On Monday, old Charlie came to mow the lawn and trim the bushes.  He found her body on the white couch, next to the waterfall where the sun would have simmered on the rocks.  She was dressed for the garden with a floppy hat and shears in her hand.  An open book of poetry was on the ground.   Initially, he thought  she was resting, and went about the front of the house, clipping and whacking, mowing and pulling.

Returning to the back yard, there were swarms of butterflies, hatched by the warm sun, around his employer.  She still appeared to be sleeping.  He went closer, and the butterflies scattered to the edge of the rose garden.  It was then that he noticed her skin.  Her arms were mottled in green and black.  The design travelled up her neck and onto her face.  She was consumed.

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#25 The Grill

The grill and I have a relationship I think.  Like my plants in the garden, I talk to it in hopes that it (they) will comply with my wishes.

Usually, I have to light the grill; my husband nowhere to be found.  I’ve gone beyond the time when the children start to bicker, the adults look wan, and the sun is beyond 12 o’clock high.  The grill does not need a match, it needs courage.  I could ask my son or son-in-law to take care of the lighting, but I know I must overcome this fear that possesses and desires to  inhibit me.

First step is to remove the cover and lift the lid, hoping that no critter has made habitation in its warm, cast iron layers.  “Nothing to worry about,” I convince myself, “the grill is clean, no animals or webs to contend with; no vestiges of winter nests.”

I bend down to turn on the gas, just a little to the left.  “Perhaps too much,” I think.  I turn it to the right a little.

Instantly, I unfurl myself, turn the lower knob to high, hold my breath and silently pray, hitting the start button.  “Snap.”  Nothing has lit.  I quickly turn the knob to off, turn the gas to the right in the off position, and question what might be wrong.  I check the gauge.  “Full.”  I remember it was my husband who had changed tanks last fall.  Were the connections intact?  Looking over the crowd of hungry family in the gardens, I hesitated to call anyone over except the man who made the connection, and he was nowhere to be found.

Sensing that time was not on my side, I started again, reviewing each procedure as I ventured forward.  “Gas:  knob a little to the left, perhaps a little more this time.”  Check.  “Lower knob:   high.”  Check.  “Ignition switch:  snap.”   Mission on target:  fire in the hole.   I turned the top knob:  high,and  closed the grill.  Smugly walking through the crowd, I announced, “Grill’s on.”

Inspired by Steve E’s story, Father’s Day, No. 30.

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#24 Your Robe

Dear John,

Welcome home.  I left you last night.  I walked out of our  condo with the rooftop garden and steam sauna you hoped I would love; I miss the farm.  I don’t want anything from you: the Mercedes is yours; sell or keep the summer-house; screw the investments.  I left with nothing of yours but your robe.  Do you miss it?   I took whatever I wanted, and I wanted your robe.

I know that this seems strange to you, after all we’ve been through, building a business, raising a child, sharing dreams; great friends, wonderful trips.  I’m tired of it all.  I want to simplify, get rid of excess, live an austere life reading and writing.  I have some money, saved over the years and will buy a little cottage on the water, something I’ve always dreamed, and you’ve never wanted.  I’m looking at villages where I can walk and bicycle to everything.  I’ll send you my address.

I expect the nights to be hardest, so I’ve taken your robe.  It’s your fluffy grey one with the shawl collar.  No matter how much it’s been washed, your aftershave is embedded in its fibers, with the faint smell of pipe tobacco.   I will miss you.


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#24 Intake

Phones with personalized tones ring

with insistent persistence.

Well-stocked carts pass by

with indifferent hosts.

Nurses, doctors, aids, students

with air of authority walk briskly.

Curtains cannot contain moans,

the soft murmur of concern.

Yellow buckets of soapy water, mops;

the stringy type, pass, hour by hour.

“How are you, Mr. B?  Feeling better?  has your nosebleed stopped?” an aide asks.  “Damned idiots!” he thought to himself, “my nosebleed is important, but I can’t breathe.”

Joking doctor, ear-to-ear smiles:  “I’m the best nosebleed practitioner there is; no bleeding coming through the gauze, eh, Mr. B.”

“No.  Great job doctor, and what are we going to do about my breathing?”

Lights hurt my eyes;

constant beeps assault my ears.

A professional woman walks into the room.  No, I see that it is a tall child.  “Well Mr. B, Doctor Jay has looked at your x-rays, and because we see a trace of pneumonia, we are admitting you.”

Smiles, held up with invisible tape,

light up the room.

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#23 Shadow

No. 1  Shadow was the name of the developer’s dog.  He was huge, black and looked more like a bear than a dog.  Shadow followed his master everywhere, he was always at his side at rest; and four or five steps behind when they walked.  He never walked by Jack’s side, only behind, like a geisha.


No. 2 I saw the shadow on the building next door.  The wind was blowing hard and the shadow was immobile.  My room was dark, and the shutters were closed,; slats open enough to see it, sitting on the porch.  The shadow seemed to be staring at my window.  I could see it plainly when a car from the main road passed; wind carrying its headlights to the shadow, unmoving, menacing.


No. 3 Our room was dark.  We were staying at a tidy bed and breakfast.  I was in that first twilight of sleep before REM when I saw the shadow of a woman’s head in the mirror, only the head, eyes closed, hair in tangles.  I tried to get up, but sleep possessed me and held firm to my body, pressing me into the soft mattress. My limbs were cast in concrete. Opening my mouth, words were unproductive;  an impotent scream had been formed when they found me.

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#22 Name First

The little girl with the dancing curls and big brown eyes was walking just ahead of her Mom that day when we nearly collided at the intersection of White’s Woods.   When she saw the pug, she immediately stopped as he did, and I nearly tumbled over the two of them.  Her mother was close behind and quickly came to retrieve her daughter, laughing at the antics.  Once introduced, Samantha, Sam, asked her Mom if she could walk the dog.  I nodded that she could.  The walk was cool in the shaded riverfront, and Sam and OJ took the lead while we chatted at the rear.  I learned that Sam was a precocious five-year old, home schooled, and today’s lesson was based on the organisms in Vernal pools.   The mother said, “There’s a huge one just beyond the bridge, and we should get a good look at the merging amphibians.”  I was curious, but knew that OJ would be reluctant to cross the bridge.

On either side of the walking trail there were buttercups, violets, sweet grass and dandelions.  Spring had taken a foothold in the Litchfield hills, and winter seemed far behind.  Both Sam and OJ would stop if there was a strange sound, and Sam would go to her knees and pet him.  He was a perfect pug that day, no tugging or pulling to go ahead, just steady walking, stopping just long enough to ensure that we were right behind.   Any other day, there would have been walkers, runners, a myriad of dogs and owners, but today there was no one but me and OJ, Sam and her Mom, and we were coming to the end of our trail; the bridge loomed just beyond the curve.  OJ had stopped and was lying on the ground.

Sam was trying to coax him up.  She asked, “Why did he stop here.  Isn’t he coming to the Pool?”  I told her that he had never crossed over the bridge; we usually stopped and went back.  Sam asked me if she could try to get him to cross.  I looked at her Mom, and she shrugged that it was okay with her.  I touched the little girl’s head and looked directly into her eyes.  “Yes,” I said, “if you can get him to cross, we’ll go to the pool.”  She knelt down on one leg, lifted one of his ears and whispered into it for what seemed to be a full minute.  She then gave us the okay sign as she straightened and took the lead.  OJ followed, no fear of falling through the slats, no thoughts of turning back.  Soon we were over the span and the widest part of the river.

Just down the path, perhaps two hundred feet or so, a quiet pool of water had puddled under several large hemlocks.  Sam and her mother, wearing green boots with yellow frogs, stepped into the water, heads down, and using sticks, parted the leaves from the mud.  OJ and I watched from high ground as Sam explained that they were looking for the tadpoles who would be wood frogs that summer.  Her Mom had taken a small net and specimen boxes out of her backpack.  I was amazed that a five-year old could have so much information and in awe that her Mom would be so dedicated to her schooling.

On the way back, Sam and OJ took the lead and OJ stopped at the foot of the bridge.  Again, Sam knelt down and whispered in his ear.  Without a struggle or need to pull, OJ followed her.  When we said goodby at the intersection, Sam relinquished her hold on the lead.  The road leading to various trails was filled with joggers from the school, and OJ could see a Retriever and was tugging to see him.  I asked Sam if she could share her secret with me so that OJ would cross other bridges.  She shared her secret.

“When you told me he wouldn’t cross,” she said, “I got very close to him so that he wouldn’t be afraid.”  OJ had stopped tugging, and it seemed we were all hanging onto every word she said.  “There are no magic words, just say his name, and tell him that he can do it.  You have to say it three times.”  To ensure that I did it right, I asked her to say the exact words.  She knelt down, lifted his velvet-black ear, and this time in more than a whisper.  “OJ, you can do it.  OJ, you can do it.  OJ you can do it.”  And, OJ has done it ever since; thanks to Sam.





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#21 Living Water

Out of the blue, I picked up a call that had percolated in my phone for a year.  When I called for messages after a severe electrical storm, I was amazed to hear a voice from 25 years ago; the message was a year old.  I don’t understand telephonic, but I do understand opportune time, so I responded.

Maggie was ecstatic that I returned the call, even if it did take a year.  When I explained what had happened, we both agreed we had to meet that day, and as soon as I showered, I was off to Massachusetts.  Not knowing if we would recognize each other, we exchanged information on cars and hair color; we said what we would be wearing.  We traded cell phone numbers, and she told me she had never turned hers on; however, she answered on the first ring when I arrived early.  Time had not been gentle with her.  She was stout, short, stooped when she got out of her 20-year old red Volkswagen with the grey door.

Her hair was magnificent; pure white, with a simple cut that enhanced her youthful face and smiling Irish blue eyes.  In a split second, we knew each other and remembered; the thread of our lives picked up as though it were yesterday.

In the restaurant, we were giddy as schoolgirls.  Sun streamed through the window, and framed Maggie in its warmth; she settled into it like a kitten.   The bank of memories floated as bubbles above our heads, and we pulled them down, one by one, testing the texture of their context, exploring emotions laid bare.

Maggie had been my mentor for a year.  She was a seasoned public relations writer, and I was her assistant.  We spent most of the winter working at her magnificent country home with acres of rolling farmland.  Shortly after, her husband’s business spiraled out of control, and they lost everything.  In the years that followed, we lost contact.  She was, and is still an accomplished writer; she had been a faithful wife and would forever be a loving mother.  When divorced, she became a recovering alcoholic, had severe depression, lived through a stroke, and was, I learned,  about to lose her home.   Nothing of which she said, though, could take away her passion for life, her inner peace, and her faith in healing grace.

We paid our bill, and knew there was more to be said, more to this opportune time.  The restaurant had an outdoor dining area that had been closed for lunch.  We were able to climb over its low stone enclosure and sit at one of its tables.  We talked of our faith and prayed for our families under the shade of a towering oak.  We hadn’t noticed the fountains when we sat down.  It was, perhaps, because they were quietly running.  As we prayed, the sounds of water became louder, and when we looked up, the water was living; it was tumbling in torrents, sheets where there had been trickles.

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#20 A

Just thought you might like to see my little rose boquet for the recitals.  The white roses are old-fashioned, have a lovely, heady scent, and thankfully bloom just at ballet time…Everyone gets a pin from my private collection…S.

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