French Silk Pie (Fiction)

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.I glanced up from my dessert and saw him. He was sitting at the next table, also alone, also eating French silk pie. Our eyes met. He stood, picked up his plate, and carried it to my table. Sitting down across from me, he asked, “You like French silk pie too?”

“Yes,” I answered, surprised by his boldness.

“You come here often?”

“Yes,” I said.

We stared at each other for a moment. Then, I picked up my fork and started eating again. Being a happily married woman, the last thing I needed was to be distracted by another man. Couldn’t he see the wedding ring on my left hand?

Finally, he extended his hand. “I’m Jack Baker.”

With an inward sigh of resignation, I put down my fork and took his hand. “I’m Jill Tanner.”

“Jack and Jill, how about that? I was transferred here a couple of weeks ago. I work at the Veterans Administration Hospital.”

“My husband was at the VA for a few days after his stroke. We weren’t too impressed with his care. We thought he’d be better off in a nursing home.”

“Yeah, I don’t blame you. Our nursing department has been short-staffed. I’m the volunteer coordinator, and I’m trying to recruit more people to help, but there isn’t much they can do unless they’re certified. It would be nice to get people who could fill patients’ water pitchers and do other tasks that don’t require certification. I already have a woman who’s blind and plays the guitar and sings. Those old guys really like that.”
“Linda was one of the few things we liked about that place. She has such a sweet voice. She knows all those old songs the men like, and she’s so good with them. Fortunately, she also volunteers at Fernwood Manor, so my husband can still listen to her music.”

“How badly has he been effected by the stroke?”

I sighed. “He can’t use his left arm or leg, and his speech is somewhat affected. His mind is still pretty good, but he might have lost some short-term memory. The therapists at the nursing home have been great, but the neurologist says there’s no telling if or when he’ll walk again.”

Jack reached across the table and took my hand. “I’m sorry. How long ago did this happen?”

I dislodged my hand and picked up my fork again. “A few weeks ago,” I answered.

“You look awfully young. How old is your husband?”

“I’m forty-six, and my husband’s sixty-four.”

He stared at me in amazement. “You don’t look a day over twenty.”

“I know,” I said, and I smiled in spite of myself. “but when I’m sixty-six, it’ll be a blessing.”

“There’s quite an age difference between you and your husband.”

“Yeah, when Don’s mother saw a picture of me, she accused him of robbing the cradle.”

He laughed. “How did you two meet?”

“I met him at a writers’ conference. I write romances, and he writes science fiction mysteries. I don’t like mysteries of any kind, and he doesn’t care for romances, but somehow, we hit it off. We both like to write, and that’s what matters.”

He looked thoughtful. “Wait a minute. Your husband is Don Tanner?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I love his stuff! I bought a copy of his latest yesterday and started it last night. He just had a stroke?”

“I’m afraid so. Before it happened, he signed a contract for another book. I talked to his agent, and he said he would see if he could get an extension, but I don’t know…”

As the stress of the past few weeks settled over me, I found myself looking deep into his blue eyes. After a moment of silence, he said, “Maybe I could be his ghost writer.”

“Have you done any writing?”

“I’ve had a few stories and poems published, but with a forty-hour-a-week job, it’s hard to find the time. This could be a big break. I’ve read most of your husband’s books, and I know his style. If I could meet him and get some idea of the direction he wants to go with his next book, I could write it for him.”

“I’m not sure how the ghost writing business works. Besides, Don has always been very independent. I’m not sure he’d like the idea of someone else writing his work, even though he may not be able to write it himself.”

“Are you finished here?” asked the waitress, as she started to remove our plates.

“Yes,” I answered, anxious to end this conversation. “Could you please bring us our checks?”

“Actually, we’re both on one check,” he said.

The waitress hurried away before I could protest. “You don’t have to do this.”

“Yes I do. I’m one of Don Tanner’s biggest fans. I’m not going to let a stroke interfere with his career. I’ve made up my mind. I want to help him.”

The waitress returned, and after she left with his credit card, he said, “Why don’t you come over to my place, and we’ll talk about it some more? We could even go online and do some research on ghost writing.”

I looked at my watch. “It’s late. I really should see Don. He goes to sleep early, and I like to talk to him while he’s awake.”

“I understand, but this is important. If we could work something out tonight, we could both see Don tomorrow, and I could give him a proposal.”

The waitress appeared. As Jack signed the slip, I considered making a run for it, but I happened to glance into his eyes. He looked so sincere. “Okay,” I said with a sigh. “I’ll follow you to your place.”

He lived in a red brick building with four apartments, two upstairs and two on the ground floor. His was on the second floor and had a balcony plus a living room, two bedrooms, and a kitchen. After giving me the grand tour, he asked, “Can I get you a drink?”

“No thanks,” I answered. I wandered into one of the bedrooms which had been converted into an office. The shelves were lined with books, and I was reassured to see some of Don’s titles. I sat in an armchair next to Jack’s computer, hoping he would take the hint when he appeared with his drink.

My heart sank when he said, “It’s more comfortable in the living room.”

“I thought you wanted to research ghost writers.”

“We can do that later,” he said, as he approached me, extended his hand, and pulled me to my feet. “Come on. The night is still young.”

With trepidation, I allowed him to guide me into the living room where we sat side by side on the couch. We talked about this and that, as he drank glass after glass from a bottle of Scotch on a nearby coffee table. I tried several times to steer the conversation in the direction of our project and suggested we get started on the research, but he kept putting me off.

After the third drink, he set the glass down and put his arm around me. I shouldn’t have been surprised, I thought. “Excuse me, but I’m a happily married woman,” I said, trying to pull away.

He tightened his arm around me. ”I find that hard to believe. Your husband is partially paralyzed. He may never be able to walk, let alone write, and he’ll never be able to make love to you like I can.” He pulled me into an embrace.

With my free hand, I slapped him hard on the cheek. Startled, he released me, and I jumped to my feet. “You bastard! My husband may never be able to walk or write or have sex, but I still love him, and he loves me, and that’s all that matters.” I snatched my purse from a nearby chair and hurried through the kitchen and out the back door, slamming it behind me.

My legs were shaking, as I descended the steep wooden staircase to the parking lot. I expected to hear the door open and his running footsteps behind me, but the only sound was the faint chirping of crickets. When I reached the car, I climbed in and locked all doors and windows. I took several deep breaths. When I felt calm, I started the engine and glanced at my watch. It was late, but I had to see Don.

When I reached the nursing home, I was surprised to find the main entrance still unlocked. “Hi Jill, you’re a little late, aren’t you?” said Beverley, Don’s nurse, as I passed the desk.

“Yes, I got held up.”

“I’m sure Don’s still awake. In fact, Bernadette might still be with him, although I doubt it.”

I’d forgotten about Bernadette, Don’s speech therapist, but would she be here this late? Because she worked somewhere else during the day, she came early in the evening to work with Don and other residents. In her mid-twenties with long blonde hair and blue eyes, she was also a fan of Don’s books.

The door to his room was closed. Thinking Bernadette was gone and Don was asleep, I inched it open and stepped into the darkness, stopping short at the sounds of kissing and voices. “Oh Don, even though you only have one good arm and leg, you’re such a lover,” said Bernadette.

“Ummm, you’re so soft, so silky, so delicious, my French silk pie,” said Don in the same seductive voice he’d used with me. “If I could write with the same part of me I use for loving, my troubles would be over.”

“Don’t think about that now. Just love me some more,” said Bernadette, and I heard more kissing. In shock, I cried out and flung the door open wide, flooding the room with light from the hall that illuminated the naked bodies on the bed.

***

The above story was published in this year’s spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders, an online journal featuring work by authors with disabilities. It won an honorable mention in the magazine’s fiction contest. It also appeared last year on Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

 

My Books

 

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

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Like me on Facebook.

Thursday Book Feature: Mourning Has Broken

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

Mourning Has Broken

By C. A. Balawyder

Copyright 2013.

 

The loss of her parents and sister inspired author and blogger Carol Balawyder to write the essays in this collection. She writes about her relationship with the loved ones she lost. Other pieces focus on such topics as travel, online dating, religion, and, of course, mourning.

Having lost my parents, grandparents, and husband, I can identify with the feelings the author expresses, especially the guilt at not having done more for her loved ones before they passed. If you are grieving and have similar feelings, this book should help you understand you’re not alone. If you’re suffering from a recent loss, be sure you have plenty of Kleenex handy when you read it.

 

My Books

 

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Open Book Blog Hop: Dropping the Mic’

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

Thanks to Stevie Turner for inspiring this. In her post, she challenges bloggers to write about a time when they dropped the mic’. Dropping the mic’ means experiencing a moment of glory. There are several such moments in my life. One stands out and is mentioned in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

When I published my first book, We Shall Overcome, my late husband Bill was confined to a wheelchair as a result of two strokes. I’d written the book several years earlier. Getting it ready for publication was a great way to escape from the stress of being a family caregiver.

One evening during the summer of 2007, I held my first book in my hands for the first time. Bill was sprawled in his recliner, as I removed one of the fifty author copies I’d ordered from the box. “Wow,” I said, as I gazed at the cover image I’d chosen, then turned it over to see my profile picture on the back.

“Let me see it,” said Bill.

He was totally blind, so of course he couldn’t see it, but he could hold it in his hands and share my pride and joy. I handed it to him and described the cover. Despite my limited vision, I could imagine the shit-eating grin that crossed his face when he said, “My wife, the published author.”

I held him. It didn’t matter that he would never walk again, that he could do little for himself and depended on me for everything. I had a man who loved me and a published book.

What about you? Can you think of a time when you dropped the mic’? Please tell me about it. I look forward to reading your stories either in the comment field or on your own blog with a pingback here.

 

My Books

 

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Thursday Tidbit: A Valentine’s Day Poem

The poem below appears in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds. My late husband Bill and I wrote it together. Click the Play button below the poem to hear me read it. Happy Valentine’s Day.

WHAT IS LOVE?

 

Being warmed from within by another,
having someone with whom to share dreams,
a soothing voice that comforts you,
gentle hands that smooth life’s hardships,
strong arms that hold you close,
lips that bring you pleasure.
Love is a heart that’s yours forever.

 

 

My Books

 

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Song Lyric Sunday: Bridge Over Troubled Water

According to newepicauthor, this week’s theme is “water under the bridge.” I have the perfect song, one of my favorites. It was on one of the first eight-track tapes I had as a kid.

During the seven years I was married to Bill before he died, he was my bridge over troubled water, even after he suffered his strokes. Whenever I was frightened, sad, angry, I would go to him. He would hold me, and although there wasn’t much else he could do, I felt everything would work out in the end, and it usually did. You can read more about us in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds. I hope you’ve found someone who can be your bridge over troubled water.

Bridge over Troubled WaterSimon & Garfunkel

Lyrics Courtesy of Google

 

When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all (all)
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you (ooo)
I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Sail on silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
Oh, if you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Songwriters: Paul Simon
Bridge over Troubled Water lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

 

My Books

 

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

Book Excerpt: The Morning My Husband Passed

Six years ago today, my husband was found dead in his room at the nursing home where he’d spent the past month. I’d been caring for him at home for six years after two strokes paralyzed his left side. He’d started going downhill, finally getting to the point where I could no longer lift him.

I’d hoped to get him into Greenhouse,, a facility where residents live in cottages holding no more than twelve occupants and each have their own room and bath,. However, there was a six-month waiting list for people on Medicaid, so he and I decided that he should move to a regular nursing home for the time being. He must have decided he couldn’t wait for greener pastures.

The following poem, from My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, talks about how I learned of his death and my reactions. You can click this link to hear me read it.

***

 THE MORNING MY HUSBAND PASSED

 

 

The nurse’s call wakes me at six thirty.

Relieved but unable to drive,

I call my father—he agrees to take me.

 

I think to myself,

this is it—I’m a widow.

I knew it would come, but why so soon?

 

He just turned seventy.

We were married only seven years.

I took care of him for six.

He wanted to make it ten.

 

Driving through the streets,

I see, hear, feel nothing.

When we arrive, I hurry to his room,

to his bedside where he lies,

swathed from head to toe.

 

I uncover his face,

eyes, mouth closed,

his body at peace.

I kiss his brow,

bury my face in his hair,

hold him, tell him I love him,

pack his belongings, leave,

my life having turned a corner.

***

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.

 

 

My Biggest Grammar Pet Peeve

Thanks to Mary Hiland  for inspiring this post. Like Mary, I understand the importance of good grammar usage, and I do my best to follow all English rules. Of course, if a character in a story uses bad grammar, that’s okay, but if you’re writing a blog post or other narrative piece, it’s important to watch your grammatical P’s and Q’s.

My biggest grammar pet peeve is incorrect usage of the words “lay” and “lie.” When my husband Bill was alive, and I was his caregiver, we struggled with this all the time. He would ask me if he could lay down. I would tell him no, that I would lay him down, or he could lie down, but he could not lay down. This information isn’t included in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, but you’ll find many other anecdotes about my trials and tribulations as a family caregiver.

Before I married Bill and became his caregiver, I was a registered music therapist, working with senior citizens in nursing homes and other facilities. If I had a dollar for every time I overheard a certified nursing assistant ask a resident if she was ready to lay down, I would be rich enough to buy my own nursing home, and then I would immediately conduct a mandatory in-service on proper grammar usage. If, God forbid, I end up in a nursing home, and I’m asked if I’m ready to lay down, I will say, “No, you can lay me down, or I can lie down, but I will never lay down.”

What about you? Do you have any grammar pet peeves? Please share them here, so we can all learn better English.

***

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.