Working in Public #Fiction

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The thin man with graying hair and huge glasses in the seat next to me on the airplane was squinting over his laptop. The screen was bright and had large text. He didn’t seem to be aware that I could see what was on the screen. For half an hour, I watched, fascinated, as he read his email and worked on documents.

I learned his name was Roger Newton, that he was the President of the Chase Bank branch in Casper, Wyoming, where I lived, that his wife, confined to a wheelchair, worked at a rehabilitation center for people with disabilities. The couple had no children or pets and were trying to sell their house so they could move to a condo. Then, I saw something that made my blood run cold.

An instant message appeared from someone named Dirk G. “Hey, Roger, I’m all set for tonight around eleven o’clock. You sure your wife will be in bed by then?”

“Oh, yeah,” Roger answered. “She’ll be in bed by ten. The key is underneath the mat outside the kitchen door. I disabled the alarm this morning before I left. She doesn’t know this. Try not to make too much noise. I don’t want the neighbors to hear anything, okay?”

“No problem. My pistol has a silencer. You sure your wife won’t hear me coming in the kitchen door?”

“Naw, once Carla’s out, she’s out. A train could come through the house, and she wouldn’t know it.”

“Okay, I’ll sneak in the back door, through the kitchen and living room, and right into the bedroom. I’ll have to use a flashlight so I can see what I’m doing, but if I can aim for her head, she won’t know what hit her, and she won’t feel any pain.”

“Good deal.”

“Okay, so, what about the money?”

“Carla’s jewelry case is on the bureau in front of the bed. She doesn’t keep it locked. Inside are some really expensive necklaces and bracelets I bought her over the years. You can take and sell those, and that’ll be your deposit. Once the life insurance claim settles, I should be able to write you a check for the rest.”

“Sounds great! Let me be sure I have the right address. That’s 1531 Apple Tree Lane, right?”

“Yes.”

I was a realtor in Casper. That address sounded vaguely familiar. I stood and made my way to a nearby lavatory, where I sat on the toilet and opened my phone. Sure enough, 1531 Apple Tree Lane was a house I’d shown the previous week. The woman interested in buying it needed a place that was handicap accessible because her husband had just suffered a paralyzing stroke. The house was listed with a different realty company, and she hadn’t made an offer.

Right then and there, I wanted to call my husband, Rick, a police detective, but I didn’t want to make my seat mate suspicious if he even noticed my absence. So, I stood, flushed the toilet for good measure, washed my hands, and returned to my seat. I leaned my head back, closed my eyes, and tried unsuccessfully to sleep.

The plane couldn’t have landed in Denver, Colorado, soon enough. After retrieving my baggage and rental car, all the while making sure Roger Newton wasn’t anywhere near me, I locked the car doors, and, with trembling fingers, punched in Rick’s cell number. It was only seven thirty, so he wouldn’t be at the station yet. When he answered, my voice was shaking when I said, “Oh, honey, you’re not gonna believe this.”

“Lucy, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

After I explained the situation, Rick gave a low whistle. “Jesus! Are you sure he didn’t see you watching him?”

“I’m pretty sure. He was hunched over that monitor the whole time, squinting. It’s a wonder he doesn’t have a headache.”

“He probably does. I sure hope he isn’t driving. I think I told you that only last week, my buddy Tyler, who works at Magic City Computers, spoke to a group of Chase Bank employees about protecting themselves while working in coffee shops or airplanes.”

“I remember that.”

“Well, he said Roger Newton, the President, wasn’t there. Go figure. Well, when I get the cuffs on him, I’ll tell him if he’d come to Tyler’s presentation, he wouldn’t be in this mess.”

I laughed, in spite of myself. “Seriously, I don’t know if there’s anything he could have done to protect himself. He looked like he was really having trouble seeing.”

“And he’s plotting to murder his wife so he can cash in on her life insurance policy. Don’t that beat all? Well, I’ll get on this right away. You stay safe. Call me when you get to the hotel, okay?”

“I will.”

I started the car and looked at my watch. The real estate convention I planned to attend wasn’t scheduled to start until nine. The Holiday Inn, where I would stay and where the convention would be held, was only about a fifteen-minute drive away. I figured I’d have plenty of time to get settled and grab a bite to eat before the first session started.

When I walked into the hotel lobby, I stopped short. Roger Newton stood at the registration counter, rubbing his temple as he spoke to the clerk. My heart pounded. His back was to me, so I didn’t think he saw me, but I wasn’t about to take any chances. I turned and marched out the way I’d come. With trembling hands, I unlocked my car, got in, and locked all doors. I drove away from the loading zone and found a secluded spot at the back end of the building, constantly checking my rear view mirror to be sure he wasn’t running after me.

After I parked, I called Rick again. When he answered, he said, “Babe, I was just about to call you. I just got off the phone with Chase Bank. Mr. Newton is in Denver at a bankers’ conference at the Holiday Inn where you’re staying.”

“I know. I just saw him in the lobby. I’m back in my car now, and I don’t think he saw me.”

“Good, look, I think you’d better skip this realtors’ convention and come home as soon as possible. This guy may not see very well but still…”

Normally, I rebelled against Rick’s protectiveness, but this time, he was right. What if Roger Newton did see me and was involved with some sort of mob? It wasn’t worth the information and insight I would gain at the convention. “Okay, I’ll see if I can get a flight out today.”

My heart sank when I discovered that there were no seats on any of the flights returning to Casper from Denver International Airport that day. I booked a seat on a flight that left early the next morning.

When I called Rick with this information, he said, “That’ll have to do. Now find another hotel, preferably with room service. You shouldn’t be going out once you get settled.”

“You’re right. I’ll see what I can do.”

The Mariott wasn’t too far, and they had a cancelation. It was more expensive than I would have liked, but it had room service, free wireless Internet, and other amenities I could use while hiding out.

Once I was settled, I called Rick to tell him where I was. “Great!” he said. “I’M heading out now to Mountain View, where Carla Newton works. Try to get some rest. I’ll be in touch.”

Despite my anxiety, I slept for a couple of hours, then spent the rest of the day working, watching television, and ordering delicious meals from room service. Every time someone knocked on the door, I looked through the peep hole and didn’t open the door until I was sure it wasn’t Roger Newton or a possible henchman.

Rick called every so often with updates. Carla Newton would spend the night at the rehab facility where she worked, since she needed specialized equipment to help with her personal care. Rick and another officer would steak out the property so they could arrest Dirk G. when he arrived. There wasn’t evidence of Roger Newton’s involvement in any criminal activity other than the plot to murder his wife.

I was still anxious when I turned in that night, but the bed was so comfortable, and I was tired. The door to my room was locked and chained, so there was no way anyone could come in without me knowing it.

When I woke the next morning, I found a text from Rick. “We nabbed him. Call me when you get to the airport. I’ll be up.”

I did just that while waiting for my flight in the terminal. “How did it go?” I asked.

“Great! This Dirk G. character was a real amateur. Right away, he told me who hired him and where he was. The Denver police have Roger Newton now.”

“That’s a relief.”

“Okay, I’ll meet you at the airport when you get into Casper.”

“You don’t have to do that. My car is there.”

“Then I’ll follow you home. Will see you then.” For once, I didn’t argue.

When my plane landed in Casper, I found Rick in the baggage claim area talking to a woman in a wheelchair. Could it be Carla Newton, I wondered. If so, what was she doing here?

Rick saw me, and we rushed into each other’s arms. After a quick embrace, he turned to the woman in the wheelchair and said, “Mrs. Newton wanted to come and thank you personally for being such a nosey seat mate to her husband.”

I smiled, bent,  and extended my hand to her. “I’m glad I could help, but I’m so sorry about all this.”

She took my hand and smiled in return, then shrugged. “I should have known something was up. I recently discovered him having an affair with a woman with two good legs. When I confronted him, he told me she meant nothing to him and the relationship was over. He then insisted I buy this life insurance policy and was so happy when I agreed. I thought a move to a new place would give us a fresh start, but I guess I was wrong. It’s a good thing we hadn’t yet signed the lease on the place we found.”

“Did you have an offer on your house?” I asked.

“Nope,” she answered. “and I called the realtor yesterday and  told him to take it off the market. I’ve got enough to deal with right now, and the last thing I need to worry about is moving. However, your husband tells me you’re a darn good realtor, so if I ever decide to sell, I’ll call you.”

“Thank you,” I said. I retrieved a business card from my purse and handed it to her.  “If there’s anything else I can do, please let me know, and again, I’m so sorry.”

“Hey, I’m alive, thanks to you, so don’t be sorry. By the way, Roger called me this morning from the Denver police station. He said somebody set him up. I told him that if he’d only taken my advice and learned braille, he could have gotten one of those braille tablets, and nobody would have been the wiser.”

 

THE END

 

The above story appears in this year’s fall/winter issue of Magnets and Ladders.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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Winter Through the Senses #Poetry

Winter arrived early here in Wyoming. So, here’s a poem I wrote that appears in this year’s fall/winter issue of Magnets and Ladders. It was also published last year in The Weekly Avocet. Click on the title to hear me read it.

 

WINTER THROUGH THE SENSES

 

 

In the silent snowfall,

see flakes swirl.

Amid white-covered streets, sidewalks,

feel snow crunch beneath your boots.

Hear the rumble of a distant snow blower.

 

Indoors, feel the warmth of slippers on your feet.

Breathe the aroma of steaming cocoa.

Savor the flavor of its frothy, chocolaty goodness,

safe, warm while snow keeps falling.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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Visitation #Fiction

With Halloween just around the corner, here’s a short story that was published in the 2015 fall/winter issue of Magnets and Ladders. This is my submission to blogger Stevie Turner’s October Share Your Short Story Contest. Enjoy!

 

VISITATION

 

Carrie was fourteen years old and lived in an apartment with her mother in New York City. A year earlier, her father wandered into traffic one night while drunk and was killed by an oncoming bus.

He hadn’t always been drunk. Carrie remembered many times as a child when he picked her up after school while between jobs and took her to the park where they flew homemade kites, and he pushed her on the swings and waited for her at the bottom of the slide. When she joined a softball league at school, he bought her a used glove, ball, and bat and showed her how to pitch, catch, and throw. He occasionally took her for ice cream.

As she grew older, his drinking bouts increased in frequency. He rarely took her places after school and was hardly ever home when she went to bed. She often found him sleeping on the couch in the morning.

Her mother, Dianna, constantly berated him. He kept saying he was sorry, that he would stop drinking and get a job and keep it. He never quit drinking, and he never kept a job for long.

Dianna worked as a secretary at a Baptist church. Carrie was used to getting by on the meager salary her mother received. Most of the time, it was their only source of income, barely enough to pay the rent on their small, shabby apartment, let alone buy food.

On the night Carrie’s father died, when he didn’t come home for supper, her mother packed his clothes and other items in a box that she left outside the apartment door with a note. He never claimed his belongings.

During the following year, Carrie and her mother were forced to move to an even smaller, shabbier apartment, and Carrie had to switch schools. Dianna threw herself into the many projects at the church to help those in need. These took up a lot of her time, and Carrie was often left to fend for herself when she wasn’t in school. She didn’t attempt to make friends because the squalor where she lived embarrassed her, and she never kept in touch with kids she knew from her previous school.

One day after school, she boarded the bus, resigned to yet another evening alone with the cockroaches and leaking roof. She hated riding buses, since her father was killed by one, but on this cold Halloween evening, it was getting dark, and she didn’t want to walk alone at night. As she’d done many times, she’d stayed after classes to study in the library where it was warm. Now, as the sky gradually darkened, she found a seat in the back of the crowded bus and stared out the window at people and buildings, as it bumped along, stopping every so often to pick up and drop off passengers.

Someone sat next to her. A hand fell on her knee, and a familiar voice said, “Hey sweet pea.”

She jumped and turned to see a man who looked just like her father, wearing baggy blue jeans and his favorite plaid shirt, the clothes he wore the day he died. She detected no acrid stench of booze but a whiff of the cologne he wore when he was sober. Thinking he was just another pervert who happened to look, smell, and sound like her father, she turned back toward the window. “I know you don’t believe it’s me, princess, but it is,” he said, taking her hand.

Princess, that was one of the many names he called her. “Leave me alone,” she said, jerking her hand away and moving closer to the window. People turned and stared, and she wondered why.

“Honey, nobody can see me. I’m a ghost.”

“You’re nuts,” she said, turning back to him.

“So are you,” said a man across the aisle.

This couldn’t be real, she thought, as her face grew hot, and she stared at the man sitting next to her. She shook her head and blinked several times. “Carrie, you’re not going to get rid of me that easily.”

She turned back toward the window. She was nowhere near her stop, but she had to get off this bus now. Without a word, she reached for the bell to signal the driver to stop. The man’s hand shot up and grabbed hers. “You’ll have a long walk home if you get off now, bug-a-boo.”

How did he know where her new home was? This was ridiculous. “Besides, sweet pea, you really don’t want to go back to that fucking apartment with those god damned roaches, do you?”

Carrie smiled in spite of herself. She always thought it funny when her father used such colorful language when talking about things that didn’t appeal to her.

“Now that’s what I like,” he said. “a smile from my little girl.”

She looked around, wondering if she could move to another seat, but they were all taken. “Honey, I know I haven’t been the best of fathers lately, but I’m clean now. I haven’t touched a drop of liquor since last year, and I won’t ever again. I’m going to make it up to you. From now on, we’re going to have the best of times, just you and me.”

Just you and me? What did he mean? Was she going to die right here and now? She remembered something her mother said. The preacher at the Baptist church believed that people like her father went to Hell, a place that was always on fire, where there was wailing and gnashing of teeth. Was that where her father was taking her? She pictured herself being consumed by ugly, yellow flames.

“No, I don’t want to go to Hell,” she screamed, trying to stand and pull herself away from him.

He squeezed her hand. “It’s gonna be okay, honey. Daddy’s right here.”

He said those exact words the night her appendix nearly ruptured when she was seven, as she lay in the emergency room, tears streaming down her face, gripped by pain. He told her everything would be all right, and it eventually was. It was one of few kept promises.

A squeal of breaks brought her back to the present. She felt a jarring crash, then nothing.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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Active Voices of Writers with Disabilities #Re-blog

Today, I’m pleased to share with you a post by fellow blogger Lynda McKinney Lambert​ in which she reviews Magnets and Ladders, an online magazine featuring work by authors with disabilities. This magazine is produced by Behind Our Eyes, an organization of which I’m proud to be president. Please read Lynda’s article and take a look at Magnets and Ladders. Even if you don’t have a disability, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the magazine as much as Lynda and I do.

 

Via Active Voices of Writers with Disabilities

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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WebsiteImage contains: Abbie, smiling.

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

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In the Garden (Poetry)

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

On this, the last day of National Poetry Month, here’s a poem that appears in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders, which is produced by Behind Our Eyes, (BOE) an organization of writers with disabilities.

Another version of this was published in my collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. You can click on the Play button below to hear me read it. I hope that as we move into May, you’ll still take time to read a poem or two now and then. Poetry is meant to be enjoyed year round, not just in April.

 

In The Garden

 

There are no trees, just an expanse of dirt
with steps leading down from the yard.
At the age of twelve, while Mother and Dad work,
I sit on the steps,
study seed packets of peas, corn, tomatoes.
With limited vision,
I read labels, gaze at pictures.
Five-year-old brother Andy is out riding his bike.

Sirens wail in the distance, come closer, are silenced.
“It sounds like fire engines,” says Dad.
After a while, the phone rings.
I hurry in the house to answer it.
A male voice asks for my mother.
I rush outside, call her to the phone.

“Hello,” she says.
“Oh my god! We’ll be right there.”
She slams down the receiver,
returns to the yard, me in tow.
“Ed, we need to pick up Andy at the police station.
He was playing with matches near that shack
at the bottom of the hill when it caught fire.”
I’m abandoned in the garden.

 

 

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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

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Abandoned (Fiction)

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

As she trudged down the alley, Vanessa glimpsed what looked like a small blanket. The night was dark, and no moon lit her way. She was tempted to walk past, but a whimpering from within the blanket stopped her.

She knelt, and bit by bit, she pulled back the cover to reveal first a head, then a torso, then arms and legs. The body was naked from head to toe. Exposed to the elements, the baby cried in earnest.

“Oh my God,” she said, re-wrapping, then scooping the infant into her arms. “Where’s your mommy? Who could have just dumped you out here like this?”

In the eerie silence, she wished now she hadn’t taken this shortcut home. She’d been in a hurry. Unable to afford a baby-sitter, she’d left her two children, ages eight and ten, home alone. She’d told them to do their homework, then go to bed at nine o’clock if she wasn’t back. She’d only planned to be gone until then, but now, it was nearly ten. Her writing group meeting had run later than usual.

Feeling a sense of impending doom, she decided to retrace her steps and take the long way home. Once in the safety of her apartment, she would call the police about the baby. She hoped someone from the department of family services could pick up the child right away. She couldn’t feed another hungry mouth.

The baby continued to wail. “Shhhh,” said Vanessa, as she turned in the direction from which she’d come. A dark figure appeared ahead of her. Vanessa froze. “It’s okay. Everything’s going to be all right,” she said, more to calm herself than the baby.

A woman’s voice said, “Hey, bitch, what are you doing with my baby?”

Another figure appeared, and a second woman’s voice said, “Bobbi, this is the pick-up I told you about. They’re going to pay us a lot of money, and they’ll find her a good home, a better home than we can give her. Remember? The woman on the phone said to leave the baby in the alley behind the building, and she would pick her up. That’s her.”

“But that’s my baby. You can’t take her away. She’s my flesh and blood. Please…” She burst into tears.

Vanessa ran, leaving Bobbi to grieve and the other woman to comfort her. What sort of adoption agency required a person to abandon a baby in an alley, she wondered, as she reached the street. She remembered there was a police station on the next corner. She would leave the baby there, tell her story, and be done with it. As she ran toward the next intersection though, reassured by the distant whoosh of traffic, she heard running footsteps behind her.

The baby kept crying. As Vanessa ran, the darkened buildings and deserted street dissolved into the darkness of her squalid bedroom. The baby crying in the basinet next to the bed was her own. She reached for her daughter and held her close, wondering why she’d dreamed she had two children.

“Oh Danielle, it’s okay.” The crying ceased, as hungry lips found a full breast.

The next afternoon, as Vanessa was walking through the park with the baby in a cheap stroller she’d recently purchased at a thrift store, a woman approached her and said, “Oh, what a beautiful baby.”

Vanessa almost gasped. The voice was similar to that of the woman in her dream of the night before, the one who’d pleaded with her not to take her baby. It couldn’t be, she realized.

“I’m sorry,” the other woman said. “I didn’t mean to startle you. It’s just that… Well… I gave a baby up for adoption several years ago, so whenever I see a baby, I always feel this twinge… I mean… You’re so lucky to have this baby.”

Vanesa smiled. Then after gazing into the woman’s face that registered only compassion, she found herself saying, “Yeah, I feel lucky, and I wouldn’t give her up for anything in the world, but it’s not easy. I’m trying to make it as a writer, and I’m learning the hard way that writing isn’t always that lucrative. I need a job, but in order for me to work, I need day care for my daughter, and I can’t afford that.”

The woman gave Vanesa a knowing smile. “I understand. My parents convinced me to give up my baby for those same reasons.”

Vanessa remembered the scene from her dream, Bobbi, begging her not to take her baby, and the other woman, maybe her mother or sister, reminding her about the promised cash they would receive in exchange for the baby. Surely this woman hadn’t been forced to give her baby up in this way.

As if reading her mind, the other woman said, “It was a private adoption. My parents arranged it. What about your folks?”

“Actually, mine have been supportive so far. They love having a granddaughter, even if she is out of wedlock. They send me an allowance every month, but I can’t depend on them forever. They think I should go back to school and major in journalism or something like that, but I don’t know.”

“What do you write?”

“Oh, a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” Vanessa answered. “I’ve sent some poems and short stories to some journals, but I’ve only gotten rejections.”

“Well, I might be able to help, at least with the writing.”

She fished a card out of her purse and handed it to Vanessa, who stared in amazement at its bold black lettering. “Bobbi Douglas, Author.” As she scanned the contact information below the name, she realized the woman didn’t live too far from her run-down apartment building. She put the card in her pocket and asked, “What kind of books do you write?”

“I just self-published a fantasy novel called The Shadow of Darkness, and I’m working on another. I also do some writing for Medford Media.”

“Oh yeah, I like that rock station you guys own.”

“Well, I actually write human interest and history pieces for the talk station, AM 950.”

In the stroller, Danielle stirred and whimpered. Vanessa glanced at her daughter, then turned to Bobbi with an apologetic smile. “She doesn’t like to be still very long. She always wants to keep moving, so she can see how things change around her.”

Bobbi gave Vanessa a reassuring smile. “I understand.”

On impulse, Vanessa asked, “Would you like to hold her?”

Bobbi’s eyes lit up. “I’d like that.”

Vanessa bent, lifted the baby, and handed her to Bobbi. “I named her after Danielle Steel, one of my favorites.” Her face grew hot, as it occurred to her that Bobbi probably didn’t care for Danielle steel, an author who didn’t write fantasy novels.

The other woman surprised her by saying, “Oh, I like Daniele Steel. I often read her books for pleasure.”

Bobbi then smiled at the infant in her arms. “Oh, look at you. Aren’t you a pretty one? I’m so sorry I’ve kept your mommy talking so long. You’ll get going here in a minute, I promise.” Danielle cooed and smiled back.

“She likes you,” said Vanessa, as Bobbi placed the baby back in the stroller and turned to her.

Do you have any of your writing that you could show me?” Bobbi asked.

Flabbergasted, Vanessa said, “Um, not with me, but I could print something up at home and bring it to you. You don’t live too far away from me.”

“Actually, I was thinking I could meet you and Danielle tomorrow afternoon at Starbucks on Grant Avenue, and I could buy you a cup of coffee or something. Would four o’clock work for you?”

“Sure,” answered Vanessa. Self-conscious, she added, “I don’t really have anything that you’d call a fantasy novel, but I’ll check out your website tonight, and maybe I’ll get inspired.”

Bobbi laughed. “It doesn’t matter if it’s fantasy or not. I just want to read something you’ve written. Then maybe I can give you some direction.”

“That would be great. Thanks so much. Will see you tomorrow.”

The next afternoon, as Vanessa pushed Danielle’s stroller through the coffee shop’s entrance, she felt a sense of hope. She found Bobbi in a corner booth. After parking the stroller next to the table, Vanessa sat down across from her new friend and said, “You know, I had the craziest dream about you the other night, and so I wrote this short story about it.”

***

Note: the above story is my entry in blogger
Stevie Turner’s April short story contest. It was published last year in Magnets and Ladders and can also be read on my website.

 

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.