A Suit Jacket and a Flower (Fiction)

“Britney, what’s this I hear about you not going to the prom with Marty?” I asked, as I hurried into the kitchen with an armload of groceries. I set the bags on the counter and turned to glare at my daughter. She sat at the kitchen table with her best friend Samantha, a bag of potato chips between them. Raucous music blared from nearby Bluetooth speakers. I reached over and switched them off. “Samantha, I need to have a talk with Britney now. Would you please go home?”

“Mom, she and I were going to look at magazines to find a hairstyle for me for Saturday,” said Britney.

“Saturday is just what we need to talk about,” I said.

Samantha, looking embarrassed, rose and hurried out the back door, calling, “See you later.”

“Mom, what’s going on?” asked Britney, turning to face me, a look of hatred in her eyes.

“I should ask you the same question. Imagine my surprise when Diane cornered me, as I was getting the groceries out of the car, and told me you’d just turned Marty down as a prom date after you’d already promised you’d go with him. How could you do such a thing? Marty’s deeply hurt.”

“So what,” said Britney, retrieving a potato chip from the bag and popping it into her mouth. After crunching for a few seconds, she said, “I changed my mind. I found another boy I like better. There are plenty of girls who don’t have dates yet. With three days until the prom, Marty will find someone else.”

“Who is this other boy? Is it some punk who wears a nose ring and greased hair and rides a motorcycle?”

“T.J. is not a punk. Yes, he wears a nose ring and rides a motorcycle, but he’s one of the coolest kids in school. It’s an honor to be asked out by him. I couldn’t pass it up.”

“Honey, you’ve been friends with Marty since you were in first grade. How long have you known T.J.?”

“Oh, about a couple of months,” Britney answered, grabbing another chip.

“You’ve known him for a couple of months. Why haven’t you invited him over?”

“You wouldn’t like him. He lives with his brother who owns Jake’s Burger Joint, and he doesn’t want to go to college. He can’t afford to go, anyway.”

“Jake’s Burger Joint, that sleazy diner on Fifteenth Street?”

“It’s not a sleazy diner. A lot of kids hang out there after school. Jake serves hamburgers, French fries, and milk shakes. Oh, I meant to tell you. I’ve decided not to go to college.”

“What?”

“After graduation, T.J. is going to work with his brother at the restaurant. I thought I’d stay home and find a job. Maybe Samantha and I will get an apartment.”

“Wait a minute. You’ve only known Samantha a couple of months, and you’re talking about moving in together. I thought she had a good head on her shoulders.”

“She does. She lives with her sister who runs The Hair Factory. That’s where I’m getting my hair done. She gave us some magazines to look at so we could choose what styles we want.”

“The Hair Factory. What kind of a name is that for a beauty shop? What happened to Alicia and Claire? Why don’t they come around anymore? They’re nice girls.”

“Nice girls who plan to go to college and get good jobs.” My daughter’s mocking tone made me want to slap her. “Look, I don’t want to argue with you right now,” she said, getting to her feet and picking up a nearby pile of magazines. “I’m going upstairs to look through these myself and find a hairstyle for Saturday.” She hurried out of the room, and a minute later, I heard her bedroom door slam.

I collapsed into a nearby chair and buried my head in my hands. Since I’d been promoted to junior partner in my law firm, I’d been too busy to notice any changes in Britney except for the fact that she no longer hung out with Marty, Alicia, or Claire. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw her report card. Had her grades suffered, hampering her chances of winning a scholarship to the university for the following year? Had she already been denied?

I didn’t know how, but things were going to change. For starters, Britney would go to the prom with Marty. I formulated a plan in my mind, as I marched to the phone to call Diane. When she answered, I told her everything I’d heard from Britney, including her unwillingness to go to college.

“I’m not surprised, Carol. Marty says he’s seen her hanging out with a bunch of kids he doesn’t recognize down by the creek after school. Maybe I should have said something sooner.”

“No, it’s my fault. I’ve been working too many hours and not paying enough attention to Britney, but that’s going to change. I’m going to figure out a way to cut back my hours. If I have to, I’ll quit the firm and open my own practice. In the meantime, I think I can fix it so Britney will go to the prom with Marty. He hasn’t asked another girl, has he?”

“I doubt it. Britney just gave him the bad news today. He’s still pretty depressed.”

After I got off the phone and put the groceries away, I sat at the kitchen table with paper and pencil. My daughter’s handwriting was easy to imitate. “Dear Marty, I’ve changed my mind again. The guy who asked me to the prom isn’t really my type. I didn’t realize this until after he’d asked me and I said yes to him and no to you. I hope you’ll forgive me. I’d really like to go with you to the prom. If you’re still free, you don’t need to reply. Just pick me up at eight. I’ll be waiting. Yours truly, Britney.”

I put the letter in an envelope, sealed it, and addressed it to Marty. As I walked next door in the gathering dusk, I saw lights on in the living room. Hoping no one could see me, I crouched, inching towards the mailbox at the bottom of the front steps. After the deed was done, I slunk home.

The next evening when I arrived home after another long day at the office, Britney and Samantha were in the living room watching television. They sat on the couch, the bag of chips between them and magazines scattered everywhere. “Britney, what time is this boy picking you up Saturday?” I asked.

“Mom, his name is T.J.,” said Britney, as Samantha giggled. “He’s picking me up at seven.”

“I thought the prom didn’t start until eight,” I said.

“It doesn’t,” said Britney. “We’re going to a party at his friend’s house first.”

“Oh,” I said.

“I suppose you’re going to ask me if his parents are going to be there. Get real, Mom. I’m almost eighteen. I can take care of myself.”

“You’re right,” I said. “If you want to ruin your life, that’s up to you.” It was my turn to exit.

When I reached my room upstairs, I flopped onto the bed and breathed a sigh of relief. When Diane answered the phone, I said, “The other boy is planning to pick up Britney at seven. In the note, I told Marty to pick her up at eight. If I can keep her in her room until Marty arrives, this should work.”

“When Marty found your letter today, he was thrilled. I don’t think I’ve seen him this happy in weeks.”

Saturday dawned bright and clear. I was pleasantly surprised when Britney returned from the beauty shop. Her long blonde hair was arranged in simple curls. “It looks very nice, honey,” I said.

Britney was sulking. “I wanted purple hair. Samantha came to school yesterday with purple hair. She said Doreen did it. Purple is T.J.’s favorite color, but Doreen said it wouldn’t be fashionable for me.”

“Who’s Doreen?”

“She’s Samantha’s sister who runs The Hair Factory. What could I say?” I was relieved that Marty wouldn’t have to be embarrassed at the prospect of taking a girl with purple hair to the prom.

At a quarter of seven that evening, I knocked on Britney’s door. “Come in,” she said with a note of disgust in her voice.

She wore the long white dress with a high neck and long sleeves I bought her a couple of weeks earlier. She wanted something strapless, but since I was paying for it, what could she say? “Honey, you look beautiful,” I said, tears brimming in my eyes.

“Whatever,” said Britney, jamming her feet into the white sandals I also bought her.

“Here’s a flower to pin on your dress,” I said, producing it from my pocket. Realizing I’d forgotten to order her corsage, I’d called the florist and requested one purple violet. It wouldn’t match the pink carnation Marty would wear, but maybe it would cheer her up. She’d been gloomy ever since her return from The Hair Factory.

Britney’s eyes opened wide in astonishment, as she gazed at the violet. “It’s purple! You brought me a purple flower! Mom, I love you!” She flung her arms around my neck for the first time in weeks. I held her, as we laughed and cried. “I didn’t think you liked T.J.”

“I haven’t met him yet. Maybe he’s not as bad as I thought. I may have over-reacted the other day. If you stay in your room until I call you, that will give me a chance to get to know him.”

Britney wrinkled her nose. “You won’t like him.”

“Maybe I will. It’s hard to formulate an opinion without meeting him. Besides, this will give you an opportunity to make an entrance.”

“Make an entrance?” she said, giving me a look of incredulity.

“Remember last year when you wanted to be Miss Teen-aged America after seeing the pageant on TV? Pretend you’re in the competition. Walk as gracefully as you can down the stairs and into the living room, as if you were walking on stage at the pageant, and T.J. were one of the judges. Boys like to see girls make entrances. He’ll be awestruck when he sees you in your white prom gown with your purple flower and your white sandals.”

“If he were the judge, he’d pick me, wouldn’t he?” said Britney with a dreamy look in her eye.

“Yes, he would,” I said, as I pinned the flower to her dress and hugged her.

At ten minutes after seven, the doorbell rang, and I was there to answer it. I wasn’t surprised to see the young man who wore a blue blazer over a white t-shirt and black slacks. What stunned me was the sight of Samantha standing next to him. She wore a purple sleeveless dress that showed too much cleavage, purple sandals, purple earrings, and yes, her hair was purple. She said, “Hi, T.J. and I came by to pick up Britney for the prom.”

“Mom, is that T.J.?” called Britney from the top of the stairs.

I turned and said, “Yes, I think you’d better come down.”

T.J. put an arm around Samantha’s waist, and she giggled. Britney, not bothering with a graceful entrance, hurried down the stairs and stopped short. Her eyes widened, and her face grew pale, as she gaped at the couple in the front hall. “What’s going on?” she asked in a quavering voice. “I thought T.J. was taking me to the prom.”

“Not anymore,” said Samantha with a grin. “He asked me yesterday.”

“That’s why Doreen wouldn’t give me purple hair,” said Britney. “She said it wasn’t fashionable.”

“No, it’s not for you,” said Samantha. “but it sure looks good on me, doesn’t it?”

“No dear,” I said. “It makes you look like trash.”

Samantha gasped, and Britney said, “Mom’s right. You’re a slut. I thought you were my best friend.”

“I am,” said Samantha, looking abashed. “T.J. was all for standing you up, but I told him the least we could do was offer you a ride.”

“Well, you can take your ride and shove it,” said Britney. “and you can take this, too.” She ripped the purple violet from her dress and flung it at T.J. It hit him in the nose before landing on the floor at his feet. “Get out of my house.” She gestured towards the open door.

As they turned to leave, Samantha said, “Who needs you, anyway? You’re nothing but a snob.”

I closed and locked the door behind them, turned, and took my weeping daughter into my arms. “You’re right,” she said through her tears. “T.J.’s a punk, and Samantha is trash. I’ll be the laughing stock of the whole school, and I’m not going to this stupid prom.”

“Oh yes you are. You’re going with Marty.”

“What?”

“Honey, let’s sit down.”

Forty-five minutes later, the doorbell rang. “Hello Marty,” I said to the young man standing on the threshold. “Don’t you look handsome, and you brought Britney a corsage.”

“Yes,” said Marty, sporting a grin from ear to ear. “Mom wasn’t sure if Britney had one, so I brought this over.”

“How sweet. Come on in. She’ll be down in a minute.” Marty followed me into the living room, as Britney made her entrance. Smiling, she approached Marty and extended her hand. Marty took it and said, “Hi Britney. I’m glad you changed your mind again. I’m really looking forward to tonight, aren’t you?”

***

Note: the above story appears in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders. Click below to hear me sing the song that inspired it.

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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

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

His

While working on music I’ll sing next week at Greenhouse, I decided to perform a song I hadn’t sung in years, Vera Lynn’s “Yours.” As I was practicing this, I realized that I feel the same way as the woman in the song. This was popular in 1941, so I think it’s safe to assume that the woman is singing this about her loved one fighting overseas during World War II, wondering if he will return and knowing that even if he doesn’t, she’ll always love him and no one else.

My husband Bill isn’t fighting overseas. He left this world four years ago and isn’t coming back. I’ll always be his and could never love another man. Please click this link to hear me sing the song.

***

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

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

News from Abbie’s Corner March 2017

Abbie-1

I’d love to say that it’s been a pretty quiet month here in Sheridan, Wyoming, my home town, but Garrison Keillor might sue me, even though he’s retired and no longer uses this line to describe his fictional home town of Lake Woebegone, Minnesota, so I’ll say that this past month has been pretty quiet.

On February 2nd, my friend Christine Valentine and I attended a concert by the Dave Bruebeck Quartet at the Whitney Center for the Arts on the campus of Sheridan College. The music was great, especially their rendition of “Take Five” with the drum rift that took me back to the time when my younger brother Andy played the drums. Dad, may he rest in peace, would have loved it, and I’m sorry he and Andy couldn’t be there.

Also on February 2nd, I gave my own performance at the Sheridan Senior Center’s adult day care program. Accompanying myself on guitar, I sang a lot of old standards those clients loved. On February 28th, I gave a similar performance at Westview for the monthly birthday party, which the residents enjoyed.

My singing group, Just Harmony, after taking a month off, started practicing in February. We already have a performance lined up for an event at the Methodist church, where we practice, on March 18th. We hope to get more lined up.

The weather here has been unseasonably warm. As a result, I’ve been able to get out and do some walking. On Friday, February 17th, I walked downtown and did some errands. On the 18th, I walked to the library for my monthly Range Writers meeting. I do realize that we still have some winter left, so I’m not holding my breath.

Well, that’s all the news for now. I’ll be back in a month with more.

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 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

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

News from Abbie’s Corner February 2017

Abbie-1

After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, January was a pretty quiet month. I spent the first week with my brother and his family in Jupiter, Florida. We went to the ocean one day and had lunch and rode a carousel in downtown Palm Beach Gardens the next.

The highlight was a boar’s head festival at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda by the Sea in a ritzy neighborhood in West Palm Beach. President Trump attends this church when he’s in the area. It’s huge with immense stained-glass windows, and the acoustics are phenomenal.

The boar’s head festival is something they do every year around the time of Epiphany. This year, music was provided by a chorus accompanied by organ and trumpets. There was also a drum and pipe band that led a processional at the beginning of the program when the symbolic boar’s head was carried in. Their rendition of “Amazing Grace” gave me chills.

There was all the pageantry of a Christmas program: shepherds, wise men, angels, Joseph and Mary, and of course the Baby Jesus. My brother told me there were two live babies: one dressed up as Jesus and the other outfitted as a lamb. With my limited vision, I wouldn’t have known they were there. They behaved remarkably well during the performance. I imagine with all the rehearsing they did, the babies were used to it so didn’t fuss. The congregation was invited to sing familiar carols with the choir. The program was a lot of fun.

A couple of weeks after I returned home, a gal in my singing group hosted a party for all of us. It was a potluck dinner consisting of ham, rolls, lasagna, and a variety of salads and desserts. I brought a Schwann’s chocolate cream pie which disappeared rather quickly. I was lucky to get one piece but glad I brought such a party pleaser.

After we ate, we practiced some songs we’ll sing for an event at the Methodist Church in March. We start regular practices this month.

When I heard that my writer friend, Joan Feagins, was giving a reading at Sugarland Ridge, I thought it would be a great idea to follow that with some music. The activity director agreed, and it was arranged. Residents enjoyed both Joan’s reading and my music, and I had a good time, too.

The next day, I performed at Westview’s monthly birthday party despite the fact that it was snowing pretty heavily. As the para-transit bus was driving me home afterward, we passed a car that had slid into a ditch and was being pulled out. I wondered if I should have stayed home, but the residents enjoyed my music. One gentleman who requested Christy Lane’s “One Day at a Time” told me I sang it a lot better than she did. In that case, it was worth it.

Well, that’s all the news I have for now. I hope your year is getting off to a great start. I’ll have more news next month.

***

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

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Circus in the Bedroom

Abbie-1

In light of the announcement that the Ringling Brothers circus is closing after 100 years of operation, I decided to re-blog a poem from a couple of months ago that appears in My Ideal Partner. At one point during the six years I cared for my late husband Bill, we had to purchase a mechanical lift to make it easier for home health care aides to transfer him from the bed to the commode in order to give him a shower. As you’ll note from the excerpt below, Bill didn’t like the lift, but I came up with a pretty good solution to that problem. Click on the poem’s title to hear me read it.

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At first, Bill didn’t like the lift, because it suspended him in mid–air while he was transferred from the bed to the commode and vice versa. I almost laughed when I saw the process for the first time, because it reminded me of the song about the man on the flying trapeze. Because Bill had no vision, I could imagine how insecure he felt during the process. We kept reassuring him that he was securely fastened into the sling and wouldn’t fall, but after his first shower, he said, “I’m not using that damn lift again.”

I was flabbergasted. It had taken one month to get the lift, and another for the carpet in the bedroom to be replaced. For two months, Bill traipsed back and forth to Eventide (the nursing home) for his showers. I had to dress him every day, not just on the days when his showers at home weren’t scheduled. My own back was starting to bother me. I was ready for a break. “Please, honey, just try it for another week,” I said. “It takes some getting used to.”

“It’s not a problem,” said Bonnie. (Bill’s case worker) “Jean said you can keep getting your showers at Eventide if you don’t want to use the lift.”

I wasn’t about to settle for that. Because Bill joked about girls seeing him naked, I got an idea. “Okay, honey, just imagine you’re naked on a flying trapeze in a big circus tent, and fifty women are in that tent who paid $50 each to see you naked on that flying trapeze, and you’re going to get all that money.”

It sounded outrageous, but it worked. After another week, he seemed happy as a clam, being propelled across the room, hanging in mid air.

***

UNDER THE BIG TOP

 

Like the daring young man on the flying trapeze,

he glides through the air, smiles down on me.

I wink, say, “Bravo!”

 

We’re not in a circus but in our bedroom.

His left arm and leg useless,

a mechanical lift raises him off the bed,

propels him across the room,

lowers him to the commode, ready for the shower.

***

It’s too bad men on flying trapezes don’t bring in as much money for circuses as elephants do.

***

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

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

News from Abbie’s Corner December 2016

Abbie-1

As you read this, I’m flying the so-called friendly skies to Florida where I’ll spend about a week with my brother and his family before returning on January 9th. December was a busy month, as you would expect for a holiday season.

The whirlwind actually started the night after Thanksgiving when Just Harmony, my singing group, was one of many entertainers during the Christmas stroll in downtown Sheridan. We sang at a thrift store run by the local senior center called The Green Boomerang.

A week later on December 3rd, we performed for a Christmas open house at the Trail End Museum here in Sheridan. After that, our appearances came in quick succession: a memory service at Champion’s Funeral Home, an AARP Christmas party at a local senior apartment complex, a Big Horn Women’s Club Christmas party, and a Sunday morning service at Prairie Dog Community Church. We also sang at Green House and Sugarland Ridge.

I did some performing of my own with my guitar. The Monday after Thanksgiving, I did a poetry reading and sang for a cider social at Sugarland Ridge. The Tuesday after that, I sang for the monthly birthday party at Westview. The following week, I performed at Sheridan Manor, the week after that at Green House, and on the 22nd at the senior center’s adult day care facility.

On the 21st, I planned to participate in an open mic program at the senior center, but I was the only one signed up, so I played my guitar and sang for about half an hour while people played cards and chatted. The activities director asked me to come back any time.

I also went to a couple of Christmas parties. December 8th was our Friendship Club Christmas party at Ole’s Pizza and Spaghetti House. We ordered lunch off the menu, exchanged ornaments, and played Christmas bingo. On the 10th, Range Writers had its Christmas party at The Country Kitchen. Again, we ordered off the menu, and we exchanged gifts and each read something to the group.

Here in Sheridan, we definitely had a white Christmas. We already had quite a bit of snow on the ground. When I got up about eight o’clock Christmas morning, it was cloudy, but contrary to the weather prediction, it didn’t look like we’d received any new snow overnight. By eleven o’clock however, as I was waiting inside the kitchen door for the para-transit bus that would take me to the senior center for Christmas dinner, it was coming down. Actually, I think it was blowing more than it was snowing.

Despite the inclement weather, the senior center’s dining room was crowded. The delicious meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes, asparagus, fruit, and custard was paid for by a local philanthropist. Someone played Christmas songs on the piano while everyone ate. I ended up eating and visiting with people I knew.

Afterward, as the bus made its way through the storm, windshield wipers at full speed, I wondered if it would have been safer to eat Christmas dinner at home alone. I had a mini beef pot roast from Schwann I could have cooked in the microwave along with some frozen mashed potatoes and green beans, but although it would have tasted good, it wouldn’t have been the same. Once I arrived home safely, I was glad I went.

Aside from my trip to Florida and my usual appearance at Westview’s monthly birthday party, I have no other plans for January. Just Harmony will start practicing music for programs in the winter and spring months. I have a completed full-length poetry manuscript I recently submitted to the National Federation of State Poetry Society’s Stevens Manuscript Competition, and I may send it out to other publishers and then resume work on the short story collection I started last summer, Welcome to Wyoming.

Here’s a song we associate with the coming of a new year. I wish you all a great 2017 and will have more news in February.

***

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

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

A Poem Rings True

Abbie-1

I wrote the following last night in light of events during the past week. It was inspired by the song, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Click on the title to hear me read it.

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NOTHING RINGING

 

I heard no bells on Christmas Day,

no familiar carol,

no song of peace on Earth,

only bad news:

 

war raging in the Middle East,

a sea plane crash in Russia,

a friend’s canine companion passing,

another friend’s mother diagnosed with breast cancer,

a third’s mother hospitalized with dehydration,

actress Carrie Fisher dead from a heart attack.

 

There may be no peace on earth,

no good will to men,

but hope still lives.

***

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

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.