Dream Closet (Fiction)

Monique let herself into David’s apartment with the key she still had, although they broke up the week before. She patted her stomach, as a wave of doubt hit her. Yes, she was doing the right thing, she told herself. David was the father of her child, but he was too down to earth. An accountant who made a lot of money, he would probably expect her to be a stay at home wife and mother.

On the other hand, Mike was cool, a singer/songwriter with a band who hoped to reach the top of the bestseller list one day. If she married him, he wouldn’t care what she did as long as she made him happy in bed. If he recorded an album and went on tour, she could travel with him, and that would be fun for her and the baby. Now, all she needed to do was collect the picture David refused to return and leave the key, and she would be done with him.

The photo still sat on the mantle. It was taken several months earlier while David and Monique were on the beach. Monique gave her cell phone to a passing tourist who agreed to snap the shot. As a surprise for David’s birthday, she had it printed and framed.

She picked it up and studied it one last time, her in her purple bikini with long dark hair cascading in waves down her back, and him in his black swimming trunks, as they embraced on the sand. She was about to put it in her purse and replace it with the key when she was startled to hear David’s voice in the hall outside the apartment followed by a woman’s voice she thought she recognized. She set the photo back on the mantle, made a mad dash for the living room closet, and stepped inside, closing the door behind her just as the key turned in the lock on the apartment door.

Enveloped by coats in the closet’s dark interior, she heard the unmistakable voice of her best friend Lynne. “I can’t believe I’m doing this. All I wanted was to tell you the truth about Monique and the baby.”

Monique couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Lynne was supportive the week before when Monique told her what she planned to do. “Oh, that’s so hard for you,” Lynne said. That was what she always said when Monique was going through tough times.

“Don’t think about that now,” said David. “Sit down. Take a load off. I’ll fix you a drink. What would you like?”

“Oh, just a Scotch and soda is fine, and don’t mind if I do take off these shoes. My feet are killing me.”

Monique heard ice clinking in glasses and other sounds that told her David was making drinks in the kitchen. “You really ought to get rid of that picture,” said Lynne.

“You mean the one on the mantle of me and Monique? I think I’ll hold onto it for a while.”

“David, she lied to you about your child. I don’t know why I’ve been friends with her for so long. All she wants to do is have a good time. She has no sense of responsibility whatsoever.”

Monique strained in an attempt to see more through the keyhole and barely made out David coming into the living room with two glasses. “You’re right,” he said, as he set them on the coffee table. “Now, come here, you silly goofball.”

“Not with her smiling down on us from your mantle,” said Lynne. Monique heard a resounding crash.

“Oh well, I didn’t like that picture, anyway,” said David.

Tears filled Monique’s eyes, as she heard the sound of the frame’s pieces being swept into a dust pan. “How about some music?” he said a minute later.

“Great idea,” said Lynne.

The strains of “Only Time” by Enya soon filled the room. It was playing on the stereo the night David proposed to Monique a month earlier. David knew that and so did Lynne. She couldn’t see them through the keyhole and assumed they were snuggled on the couch with their drinks.

“So how did such a sensible woman like you end up being friends with a worldly girl like Monique?” asked David.

“I’m not that unworldly,” said Lynne with a laugh. “I like to go to clubs once in a while. Remember? Monique introduced us at The Jaybird where Mike Evans and his band were playing.”

“That’s right,” said David with a chuckle. “What was I thinking?”

“Monique and I have been friends since childhood. She’s changed over the years, and I didn’t see that until last week when she told me she wanted to marry Mike even though you’re her baby’s father. She says you’re too conservative, and Mike’s in the moment. I guess I can’t blame her. She had a rough childhood. Her dad left without a word when she was about five or six, and her mother’s an alcoholic.”

“Monique told me all that. You’d think she would want her kid to have a more stable family. What kind of life is this kid going to have with neither parent holding a steady job, waiting for that big recording contract that might never come?”

“I don’t know,” said Lynne with a sigh.

“Well, I’m not about to stand by and let that happen, especially if the kid is mine. I have an appointment with a lawyer tomorrow morning. I don’t know what I can do legally, but I’m sure as hell gonna find out.”

Monique gasped, then clamped a hand over her mouth, hoping she hadn’t been heard. ”There should be a way you can force her to have a blood test to determine if the baby is yours,” said Lynne. “Who knows? It could be Mike’s. Perish the thought.”

“Let’s not talk about it anymore,” said David. “Dance with me.”

The couple came into view through the keyhole. Monique gazed in fascination, as their bodies swayed to the music. Lynne said, “Oh David, I’ve always loved you since the night Monique introduced us. I didn’t want to steal you away from her until now.”

“I love you, too, but I’m probably on the rebound from Monique.”

“That doesn’t matter now. Ummmm!” Monique felt sick, as she heard David and Lynne kissing just inches from the closet door.

“Good morning,” said the radio announcer. “It’s thirty-one minutes after six on a sunny Monday, fifty-five degrees, looking for a high near eighty.”

Monique leaped out of bed and dashed to the bathroom where she hung over the toilet and let it all out. “Damn this morning sickness.”

David was there, placing a cool hand on her forehead. “Hey babe, I’m sorry,” he said.

“I’ll be okay,” she said, leaning into him, feeling the reassuring warmth of his body and pressing her face against his. “I wish we didn’t have to go to work today.”

“You have a good reason to stay home,” he said, kissing her. “and I don’t have anything at the office that can’t wait till tomorrow.”

“You mean that?”

“Sure,” said David. “Come on, let’s go back to bed.”

***

The above story appears in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

 

 

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Review: The Paddy Stories: Book One

The Paddy Stories: Book One

by John Justice

Copyright 2016.

 

In Philadelphia in 1947, eight-year-old Paddy Flynn, who is blind, has lost his father as a result of World War II. He is then orphaned when his mother dies after a long illness. He spends time in a children’s home where he befriends a Japanese boy, who teaches him Judo, so he can stand up for himself when confronted by the home’s bully. He also develops a special bond with Lucy, another resident at the home.

Meanwhile, his uncle and aunt in Oakland, California, go through proceedings to adopt him. Once those arrangements are made, Paddy is sent to them by train. Along the way, he relies on the kindness of strangers, who travel with him most of the time. In California, his uncle and aunt, having no children, welcome him with open arms and treat him as if he were their own son. He eventually looks upon them as if they were his parents.

He adjusts to life with his new family, and by some miraculous twist of fate, he’s reunited with Lucy, but they are separated, temporarily, at the end of the book when Paddy is sent to the California school for the blind in Berkeley. The book also contains sub-plots involving other children and staff at the home in Philadelphia, but their stories end more happily than Paddy’s does.

When I first ran across this book, I thought it was for children, but further perusal told me otherwise. It tells the story of a little boy, and parents could read it to their children, but there are scenes that might not be appropriate for younger readers.

I met this book’s author, John Justice, through the Behind Our Eyes writers’ group, to which I belong. This book was produced by David and Leonore Dvorkin of Denver, Colorado, who are also helping me get My Ideal Partner published online. Leonore is quite the publicist. I probably wouldn’t have known about John’s book if she hadn’t mentioned it in almost every email message she sent me regarding my book.

I was prepared for a horror story about a poor little blind boy, beaten and taken advantage of in a society that held little respect for persons with disabilities, but I was pleasantly surprised. Even in the children’s home, where I expected a “Miss Hannagan” like in the movie, Annie, staff and other children were friendly and helpful. I was amazed when a nun showed up at the home and offered to ride with Paddy on the train to Chicago, where a local church formed a network of volunteers, who rode with Paddy in stages the rest of the way, until he reached his destination.

Of course no story would be a good one without conflict, and there’s plenty of that here: one bully at the children’s home, another on the train, and a third in California, not to mention the California school for the blind’s policy that all students must be residents at the school during the week. Paddy, though, is not one to be considered a poor little blind boy. When his mother became ill, she instilled in him the importance of being independent, knowing she wouldn’t be able to care for him much longer. He takes everything in stride, and although he cries himself to sleep in the California school’s dormitory at the end of the book, there’s a glimmer of hope. I’m looking forward to seeing what Book Two will bring.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

 

 

Summer Poetry and Music

The following poem appears in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders. To hear me read it and sing two songs I associate with summer, click here.

***

SUMMER HEAT

 

Warmth ushers in flowers’ fragrance,

new-mown grass, steak on a barbecue,

happy cries of children, thud of ball against pavement.

Oh, to sit on the back patio, hear a ball game on the radio

while a summer breeze caresses the back of your neck.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

 

 

Musical Lessons from Dad

Note: In celebration of Father’s Day, I’ve revised and am re-blogging a post from June of 2013, the year my father passed away. He was still alive when this was posted.

***

My fondest childhood memories are of Dad and me listening to music together. Dad loved to play old standards on scratchy long-playing records by such artists as Fats Waller and Nat King Cole. These songs taught me lessons I’m sure Dad wanted me to learn.

If “The Joint is Jumpin’,” you’ll get in trouble. No man will like you if “Your Feet’s Too Big.” You’d better “Straighten Up and Fly Right.” I also learned to appreciate “Seafood, Mama” but not until I was an adult.

There’s one more lesson I learned from my father via Louis Armstrong. Despite the hateful things going on around us, we live in a “Wonderful World.” To all dads out there, I hope you have a special Father’s Day.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

 

 

Review: The Dance House

Note: I’ve decided to review books as I read them instead of doing them all at once. This will make my life easier, and the additional posts might attract more readers.

***

The Dance House: Stories from Rosebud

by Joseph Marshall III

Copyright 1998

 

Since Joseph Marshall was the keynote speaker at this year’s annual Wyoming Writers conference, I decided to read one of his books. The Dance House contains short stories and essays about Indian life. The stories take place during the earlier part of the 20th century. In “Oliver’s Silver Dollar,” a young Lakota Sioux, speaking little English, is sent to a mental institution where he stays for thirty years because of a misunderstanding over one word. In “1965 Continental,” a white sheriff persecutes an Indian man because he believes he stole a fancy car. Other tales are about Native Americans surviving blizzards, dealing with whites who discriminate against them, and sharing wisdom and traditions with their grandchildren. The title story deals with the aftermath of a law allowing white men to claim Indian land. This collection also contains essays about Indians’ heritage, culture, and dealings with white oppressors.

The stories in this book took me back to times and places I hadn’t explored much since I was a teen’-ager in Mrs. Wright’s English class at Sheridan High School in Wyoming. If she were still teaching, I’m sure she would assign this book to her students. We all should read books like this to understand how we, as a nation, did a disservice to Native Americans by forcing them onto reservations, placing their children in government-run boarding schools, and commandeering their land. Remember that Indians were here before any of the first settlers came to this country in the 1600’s.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

 

 

News from Abbie’s Corner June 2016

Last month, I was busy with singing engagements. I played my guitar and sang at two nursing homes, an assisted living facility, and an adult day care program. I’ve decided to space out these performances so I’m not doing them all in one month. I won’t do any this month except for Westview where I’ve already committed to doing it once a month for the monthly birthday party. I’ll start in July, doing just one of the other facilities each month so I’m doing only two per month instead of four every other month. That way, each of the other facilities will have me every couple of months, and it won’t be quite so hectic.

The first weekend of this month, I attended the Wyoming Writers annual conference in Riverton which was quite an adventure compared to other such conferences. It was held at the Wind River Hotel & Casino, and as I usually do, I traveled with Rose Hill, Wyoming’s current poet laureate, and we stayed together in a hotel room.

At about ten thirty on Friday morning after getting up at the crack of dawn and driving for hours, we arrived at the hotel to discover that we couldn’t check in until four o’clock that afternoon. Being on the Wyoming Writers board, I had a meeting to attend on the other side of the casino. Rose wanted to accompany me so off we went. As we wound our way through the maze of slot machines and black jack tables, the song “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” from Guys and Dolls popped into my head. We needed luck to survive the barrage of noise, flashing lights, and cigarette smoke.

After the meeting and lunch, it was back through the casino to the hotel where conference registration was taking place. When we got there, we were told we could use a golf cart to get around the casino, instead of through it, and to the meeting rooms on the other side. It came with Austen and Garland, two friendly young drivers who took turns shuttling people around during that weekend. The cart only held one person besides the driver so Rose and I had to take turns using it. I felt sorry for those poor guys, having to run back and forth and decided to attend Saturday workshops on the hotel side so I wouldn’t have to press them into service as often.

I’m glad I made that decision because the workshops I attended were led by poet and University of Wyoming instructor Lori Howe. In one session, she had us choose seven words from a list and write a poem about a particular moment in life. In another, she asked us to write a poem about an event from more than one perspective. Needless to say, I wrote two poems that day. I’ll submit them for possible publication in an anthology she’s editing that will consist of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction by Wyoming authors.

On Saturday night, there was a banquet featuring Native American historian and storyteller Joseph Marshall III as keynote speaker. I must admit that writing two poems in one day is exhausting, and I dozed off during his presentation. However, I downloaded one of his short story collections, The Dance House, and will read and review it here later.

After the banquet, an open mic session was scheduled in one of the large meeting rooms on the other side of the casino. I’d already promised friend and fellow poet Christine Valentine I’d do a duet with her so there was no turning back. It was nearly nine o’clock, and Rose said, “Do you think we could hoof it over there without calling those guys to help us?”

“Sure,” I said, confident that if Lady Luck was with us the first two times we traversed that den of iniquity that is the Wind River Reservation’s main economic source, surely she would be with us a third time. I needed the exercise, and I figured I was already a candidate for lung cancer since my mother probably smoked while I was in her womb.

When we arrived at the Cottonwood Room, Rose huffing and puffing, me smiling with another sense of accomplishment, our conference chair said, “Why didn’t you use the cart?”

“We figured the guys were off duty,” I answered.

“Well, they’re not,” she said. She then produced her phone, made a call, and said, “Austen will be back to pick you up at ten o’clock.”

The duet Christine and I did was a poem she wrote about being driven to distraction by two songs. The first was “101 Pounds of Fun” from South Pacific. In the poem, she writes about how she and her husband kept singing that song together after watching the musical on television. She even sang it to the postmistress who probably thought she was crazy. In the end, she explains how she purchased Brigadoon from Netflix. Now, they’re singing ”Go Home with Bonnie Jean.”

Speaking of earworms, “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” stuck with me all weekend. Often, I found myself humming it in our hotel room. Finally, Rose, a Methodist grandmother, in exasperation, countered with her rendition of “How Great Thou Art.” (Here’s my version.) All in all, despite the hassles, this year’s conference was pretty good.

Now, here’s some good news. I originally thought my memoir, My Ideal Partner, wouldn’t be published until the end of this year or the beginning of 2017. A few weeks ago, I was surprised to receive an email from Leonore Dvorkin, saying she and her husband David were ahead of schedule. It looks like the book will be out sometime this summer. Meanwhile, she has been copy editing. The email messages that would normally have been flying fast and furious have not been because she says this book is well written. I guess it had better be since it’s my fourth one. When it’s published, it’ll be available as an eBook from Smashwords and Amazon and in print from CreateSpace.

This summer, I’ll be taking a correspondence class in the elements of poetry from the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired. I’ve never taken a course from them but have heard good things about their classes so am looking forward to the experience. You may wonder if it’s necessary for me to take a poetry class when I have two poetry collections under my belt. Well, there’s always room for learning and improvement.

As Garrison Keillor would say, that’s the news from Sheridan, Wyoming, my home town. Have a great month. I’ll have more news for you in July.

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

 

 

May 2016 Reviews

The Glass Family

by Leonore H. Dvorkin

Copyright 2012

 

Have you ever wondered what your glasses in the kitchen cupboard would say if they could talk? Well, this short, whimsical one-act play might give you some ideas. The action is centered around four glasses of varying sizes and takes place at night after all the humans have gone to bed, and the glasses are left to their own devices. They talk about their neighbors: the plastic glasses that don’t break when they’re dropped, the fancy glasses in the dining room that are handled with care and never allowed to associate with other glasses. They describe how good it feels when they’re washed in hot soapy water in the kitchen sink, making you wonder if their humans have a dishwasher. They reflect on how horrible it would be to break and have their pieces swept into a dust pan and tossed into the garbage. They banter about this and that all night until they hear the alarm clock upstairs and other signs their humans are stirring. Then, they fall silent.

Leonore H. Dvorkin is also the author of a novel and a memoir. She lives in Denver, Colorado. Her husband and son are also writers. She and her husband help other authors publish their books online in eBook formats through Amazon and Smashwords and in print through CreateSpace. With their help, my memoir, My Ideal Partner, will be published sometime this summer. You can learn more about their publishing services here. Leonore also tutors foreign languages and teaches exercise classes in her home. If you click on her name above, you’ll be taken to a Website where you can learn more about these services.

Having some experience in theater, I told Leonore that her play could be produced in conjunction with other one-act plays. She said she’s looking into that. I hope one day, her work can be featured on stage.

***

The Apartment

By Danielle Steel

Copyright 2016.

 

Four women share an apartment in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen: a shoe designer, a writer, an investment broker, and a doctor. They’ve been living there for years and become best friends. In the course of almost one year, two of them lose jobs and boyfriends. The third gets married, and the fourth becomes pregnant. The book opens in the fall, and by June of the following year, the apartment is empty except for one.

I downloaded this book from Audible, and I wasn’t impressed with the male narrator. His portrayal of female characters seemed forced, and I think the book should have been read by a woman. Otherwise, Danielle Steel has done a terrific job with another must read.

***

Midwives

By Chris Bohjalian

Copyright 1997

 

In March of 1981, you’re a midwife delivering a baby in someone’s home during an ice storm. After a long, difficult labor, the mother stops breathing. Numerous attempts to revive her with CPR fail. The mother is clearly dead, but the baby’s heart inside the womb still beats. What would you do?

In this novel, midwife Sibyl Danforth is in such a situation. Unable to get her patient, Charlotte, to the hospital because of downed phone lines and impassible roads, she uses a kitchen knife to perform a Cessarian and saves the baby. Her apprentice tells authorities Charlotte was still alive when Sibyl first cut her open. This starts the ball rolling on an involuntary manslaughter charge against Sibyl.

The story is told mainly from the point of view of sibyl’s daughter Connie, fourteen at the time, who later becomes an obstetrician. Connie talks about her life growing up with a midwife for a mother: her mother’s long absences while delivering babies and accompanying her mother to births when baby-sitters weren’t available. Bit by bit, she reveals the details of the fateful night in March of 1981 when Charlotte died. She then shares the details of the investigation, her mother’s arrest, and the long months before the trial begins in the fall. She talks about the trial itself, two agonizing weeks that changed the lives of her and her parents. The trial appears not to be just about whether Sibyl is guilty but also explores the question of home versus hospital births.

I’ve always found the topic of childbirth fascinating, probably because I’ve never experienced it. My mother once said that having babies isn’t bad, and you forget about it right away. That may have been because my brother and I were born in a hospital, and she was given gas during the difficult parts of her labor. Nowadays, I understand that with an epidural, hospital births are almost pain free.

Okay, enough of my reflections on childbirth. This book is a definite must-read. In fact, I might even recommend it to teen-aged girls, although it has some graphic descriptions. Maybe after reading this, girls might think twice before having unprotected sex.

***

Society’s Child: My Autobiography

by Janis Ian

Copyright 2008

 

This book was on sale at Audible for only $4.95. Remembering the author’s 1975 hit “At Seventeen,” I decided to read her memoir. She starts by describing a California audience’s negative reaction to her 1967 hit “Society’s Child.” She then talks about her life growing up. Her father was a music teacher, but because he was on an FBI watch list in the 1950’s and 60’s, he couldn’t have tenure no matter where the family went. They moved often.

When Janis was ten years old, she learned to play the guitar at a summer camp and got hooked on music. She described how playing and singing became a solace from the difficulties associated with moving from one place to another, being molested regularly by a dentist in one town, and her parents’ eventual divorce. She started writing songs as a teen-ager, and her music career took off. Her family was living in New York, and for a couple of years, she went to a performing arts high school but dropped out because teachers and even the principal resented her fame.

She describes in detail the next few decades of her career, writing songs, making records, touring, and her relationships with both men and women. During this time, she drifted between New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville and traveled overseas. She explains how she was inspired to write “Society’s Child,” “Stars,” “Jesse,” and “At Seventeen.”

At the end of the 1970’s, she married a man who turned out to be abusive. After ten years of putting up with him while still performing and making records, she left him and drifted in and out of several relationships. At the end of the 1980’s, she moved to Nashville and took a break from performing to write more songs. She then discovered her accountant had been purchasing insecure stocks by forging her signature. As a result, she owed a huge debt to the IRS, and they hounded her for years until she was finally able to pay it off. During that time, she battled chronic fatigue syndrome, and through a miraculous twist of fate, she found a true partner.

In 1998, doctors discovered a tumor on her liver, but when it was removed, it was found to be benign. Janis describes how she got into writing articles and short stories as well as songs and made a comeback in the performing world, creating her own record label. The book ends after she talks about how she and her partner were married in Canada five years after her cancer scare.

The recording of this book I downloaded from Audible features Janis Ian narrating it. She sings snatches of her songs, accompanying herself on guitar or piano during her reading. As she describes how she wrote certain songs, she plays and sings passages she is discussing. It’s fascinating to learn how her writers’ imagination works.

Like her, I wanted to be a singer, but I’m glad I’m not after reading her memoir and that of other performers. I wouldn’t have enjoyed the grueling hours or the lack of privacy if I became famous, and I’m sure there were times when she didn’t, either, but I enjoy living the life of a performer vicariously by reading such books as Society’s Child.

***

Losing to Win

by Michele Grant

Copyright 2013

 

In Belle Haven, Louisiana, a small town economically ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill, Carissa, a high school English teacher, is chosen as a contestant on a reality TV show in which people compete to see how much weight they can lose in three months through a grueling regimen of diet and exercise. The last thing Carissa wants to do is lose weight while millions of viewers are watching, but family and friends, concerned about her health and the town’s economy, convince her that this would be good for Belle Haven. She then meets the other contestants, most of whom she knows, and to her dismay, she learns that one of them is Mal, her high school sweetheart and now a professional football player who was once her fiancé.

As the author takes us through the contestants’ lives over the next three months, we learn that Carissa broke up with Mal because she no longer wanted to take a back seat to his career. Mal is recovering from an injury and hopes to get back into the NFL. As the two are forced together, things heat up between them, but what about the future? Does Carissa still love Mal, and is she willing to give him another chance? Has Mal realized there’s more to life than football? Who wins the weight loss contest?

I don’t usually read this sort of thing much anymore, but for some reason, I was drawn to the story. Maybe it was the light, steamy read I needed after the seriousness of Society’s Child. I was reminded of the phrase, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow, we die.” A friend once told me that when you diet, you die in a way. The pun would have been perfect for this book because the contestants do just that. They eat, drink, and are merry the night before the competition starts. Then they die-et.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems