Mary Beth Writes

 The kitchen was, as children's picture books and women's magazines love to (cloyingly and deceptively) describe, "abustle with holiday cheer." Mrs. Willard had just pulled the Thanksgiving turkey from the oven to where it now rested in Norman Rockwellian splendor on the counter. Her daughter Caroline was flinging butter pats into hot, defeated potatoes being pummeled by the Kitchen-Aid.

Mrs. Willard's oldest daughter, Lucy, was tucking brown ‘n serve rolls into the turkey-themed-napkin that lined a turkey-shaped basket.

Suddenly, an acrid scent of scorching sugar wafted from the oven. Lucy sniffed it, hesitated, then her self-esteem sank.

Mrs. Willard also sniffed, then shrilled. "Lucy, I think your puffs are cracking!"

Lucy sighed as she pulled the oven door open and crouched down to squint into the hot dark recesses of her mother's appliance.

Every Thanksgiving and Christmas for decades Mrs. Willard had made orange vegetable puffs. She mashed sweet potatoes or yams (no one was ever quite sure which), patted the vegetable pulp into a snowball around a marshmallow, rolled the thing in crushed cornflakes. After that she placed the vegetable balls on a cookie sheet. They were supposed to briefly bake while the turkey was being carved.

This year Lucy's mother had asked Lucy to bring the puffs. Lucy had mumbled that she preferred bringing bread.

Lucy was, like many fine but oddly-retro women, an excellent bread-baker. She mixed and matched whole grains, goosed the flavor and yeast with molasses or honey, added olive oil dribbled from Italian tins, covered the bread with crusts of crunchy seeds.

Her mother dismissed her protests. "Your bread is way too much work for this day and age. Besides, that birdseed on it riles your Dad's internal system something awful."

Lucy had sighed and not argued.

So now she crouched to watch in outward dismay and interior awe as the balls slowly cracked, steamed, and deflated into a sticky Kilauea of orange lava. It oozed towards the edge of the baking sheet; a blob plopped to the oven floor where it hissed like a small, orange, pissed-off mouse.

"I'm sorry, Mom. I couldn't find a recipe, so I just guessed." 

"Did you add one egg for each can of yams?"

"Uh, no. I bought sweet potatoes at a produce stand last week. I baked and mashed them, then tried to get them sticky enough with evaporated milk."

"Oh, Lucy, that's not how you do it at all! Why didn't you just call me for the recipe?"

Her mother pursed her lips as she slid perfect gravy from the turkey pan into the turkey-shaped gravy boat. Not one drop dripped in the wrong place.

"I didn't start them till midnight last night, Mom. It was too late to call."

Mrs. Willard expertly righted the gravy pan with a dripless twist. “Why do you always have to figure out everything on your own, Lucy, and then do it wrong? And why do you stay up so late? Goodness, you're 43 years old now and a widow to boot. It's time to be sensible, go to bed at a reasonable hour, and ask for help when you need it."

Lucy flinched. Forty-three years old and a widow to boot. Time to be sensible.

She grabbed the cookie sheet of failed vegetables, carried them across the kitchen, jettisoned them to untidy freedom down the garbage disposal. Was there some unwritten law that said that after one lost a spouse, they had to become well-rested and sensible?

Just then, like superheroes popping up in the nick of time, two little girls whizzed around the corner.

"Auntie Lucy, Auntie Lucy...."

Lucy took a deep breath and tried to smile. It wasn't hard. Morgan and Jordan, Caroline's 6-year old twins, were dressed in matching Elsa outfits. "Auntie Lucy, Daddy and Grampy said you would take us to the beach!"

Lucy just bet they did. "Are they still watching football?"

"Yeah, but Uncle Bob said they might turn on the Teletubbies instead, because Tinkie Winkie gets more action than the quarterback. So we stayed awhile to see if they were gonna do that, but they never turned it on, even though we kept asking. So Daddy sent us here to ask you to take us to the beach."

The elder Mrs. Willard pursed her lips more tightly. "Girls, go tell the men that we're about ready to eat. Also tell them that if they aren't at the table on time -- with that durned TV turned off -- I'll dump their Buds."

The girls hesitated a moment to aim more pleading looks at Lucy. She smiled. They looked like Cocker Spaniels worshipping a snack box on a high shelf.

Lucy relented. "Okay, maybe we can go to the beach after we eat. That is, if you brought anything warm to wear."

"Yippee! Yeah, we got new Frozen snowsuits. I’m pink and she’s blue!" Lucy glanced at her sister, still tossing butter grenades into the potatoes. She wondered if Caroline had ever considered simply licensing the girls’ arms over to Disney for tattoos..

During dinner the men, not being able to watch football, talked about it. Lucy's mother and sister talked about diet systems their coworkers were on. Lucy, seated at the end of the table by the twins, ate a lot, yawned, watched the girls play with their mashed potatoes. After a while she roused herself to show them how to pinch off sections from the soft rolls and shape them into tiny bricks. They made a small cabin together, with a gravy river running next to it. They sliced olives to make paving stones for paths. They arranged flower beds from corn relish, baby gherkins, and cranberry sauce. 

Lucy had been a preschool teacher for twenty years and she was very good at it. Alan used to say if preschool teachers got paid what they were worth, he wouldn't have to work. Alan had been a lawyer.

Lucy was about to show the girls the dazzling miracle of what happens to an ice cube if you salt it a lot, when she felt her father's eyes on her.

She looked up. "How's your love life lately, Lucy?"

A single woman at a family holiday dinner is seldom surprised by prying questions which, if tossed back at the asker, would get them evicted from the family.

"Gosh, Dad, going pretty well. I read recently that if you have enough sunflower seeds, you can train squirrels to come in your house and be intimate with you. So, did you know you can buy 50-pound bags of seeds at that feed mill downtown by the river?"

None of the adults cracked a smile. The girls’ eyes, though, grew big as squirrel heads. Lucy turned to them right away. "I'm just joking, Sweeties. I'd never seduce a squirrel."

She muttered. "I don't have to; they find me all on their own."

Lowell, Caroline's husband, swiveled his massive head to glare in her direction. Lucy noticed that his jowls stretched so much when his head turned that he'd probably be almost normal looking if his head swiveled completely to the back.

Lowell glanced at her dad, as if she, Lucy, had suddenly disappeared from sight. "We fixed her up with this guy from my office. Jim's a great guy, single, making close to a hundred thou, has loads of personality. But Jim said she hardly talked the whole date, was kinda stand-offish at the end, too."

Lucy shuddered. Lowell and Great Guy Jim worked at the national headquarters for a pest extermination franchise company. Great Guy Jim had picked her up for their blind date in a BMW so small she'd wished she'd worn one-inch heels instead of two. He talked about his career all the way into the city. She learned his salary was $87,740, his pension was being met on a 1 to 2 ratio, and his kids from his first marriage were in Catholic schools even though he didn't go in for "that kind of thing" himself.

But the most unsettling aspect of the date was this. As soon as they walked into a huge Mexican restaurant, the manager spotted Jim and came right over to personally welcome him and "his lovely lady." Jim told her as soon as they were seated (ahead of everyone else in the crowd waiting for tables) that before his company started treating the restaurant's kitchen, they'd had cockroaches the size of taco chips. He snorted as he laughed, "When you stepped on 'em, they sounded like taco chips, too. It was the original La Cucaracha around here!"

She grimaced at the thought and the slur.

He'd told her that he'd negotiated such a super deal for them on their extermination fees that now he could bring anyone he wanted to the restaurant for a really great price. He brought his mom, for instance, every week.

Lucy didn't eat much. She didn't invite him in for coffee later, either.

 Alan had died two years ago.  Maybe he hadn't exactly been her soulmate, whatever a soulmate was. He usually forgot her birthday. He'd gained weight and his hairline had been receding so fast that he joked he could hear it moving on quiet days. He loved his career as a public defender. He also tended to forget things like time, if his tie was clean, or to slow down when it rained.

It was the last that killed him. His car slid into a tree on a drizzly, icy afternoon. She was never sure what her brought more grief. Missing Alan. Or only understanding, after he was gone, how much she had loved him. Whatever it was, she felt as if an enormous charcoal-dark theater curtain had fallen down on her life the day he died.

Mrs. Willards noticed the highly imaginative food play on her granddaughters' plates and opened her mouth to scold.

Lucy couldn't bear to hear one more sensible thing. "Hey girls, is it time for the beach?

Morgan and Jordan jumped into a tizzy of glee. She took each child by a hand and led them to the front hallway, where she helped suit them up in the full regalia of their new Elsa jackets and Olaf hats and mittens and scarves.

 ...

 Lucy loved the way light played across the wide and tawny beach.  She loved the endless blue hues of the water that lay next to the skin of the sand.  She loved it especially now, in late November, when people were gone and all that was left was full wind, rushing waves, the high calls of seagulls.

The twins chased flocks of gulls until they soared like living confetti up into the sky. Lucy helped the girls stamp out their names monster big on the damp sand. She laced her hands under their snow-suited arms to spin each shrieking kid around and around until they were so dizzy they all fell like a pile of puppies.

"Hey, Auntie Lucy. Someone's coming."

Lucy rolled from her back to her front. Sure enough. Coming across the sand were three dark figures. She peered at them until she realized she recognized two. She stood up and waved. "Hey, Jake. Hey, Buddy! Happy Thanksgiving!"

The men halted, strained their eyes, then swerved to come towards her. The shorter, older man stuck out his hand. "It's the Beautiful Bread Lady. And a Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, Lucy!"

He glanced down at the girls. “I see some young women accompany you who are almost as gorgeous as you. Might they be daughters?" The girls closed in next to Lucy. "Jake, you're an old flirt, and I thank you for it." The man's smile slid across his face as wide and smooth as the slide on a jazz trombone.

"No, these are my nieces. We ate too much dinner at my parents' home, so we came here to run it off." She smoothed her hands over the children's shoulders. "Girls, remember when I told you how I sometimes make bread and take it to a church where people who don't have houses stay at night?"

The girls’ eyes, big as squirrel heads again, nodded. "Well, I know these gentlemen from there. This is Jake and Buddy. I'm sorry guys, I don't know your last names."

Buddy, younger than Jake, shook his head kindly. His face was creased from too much weather, too much hard living. "You know our stories, Ms. Lucy. That's better than knowing our names."

Maybe. She knew Jake was a Vietnam vet and Buddy had served in Desert Storm. Both been coming to the shelter for years. Jake because he was too beat out to hold a job anymore. Buddy because he held two jobs, both so low-paying he couldn't cover child-support and rent, too.

Buddy was still talking. "This gentleman is Roy Strom. He just moved here from Pittsburgh to work for the shelter plus, I guess, some other organizations in town."

It was hard to tell what Roy Strom looked like inside his huge blue anorak. She liked his eyes, though. They were brown and filled with good humor. She noticed that his hand was warm even though she shook it through his mitten and hers.

She asked why he moved to Wisconsin and laughed at his answer. "I'm following my ex-wife's husband's brilliant career. He gets transferred a lot, so I have to move, too, if I want to be in the same town as my son. It's one way to see the USA."

He glanced down at the girls. "Ben's six, also.  I can't imagine missing this age."

Right then Buddy pulled a small, sun-yellow plastic football from the pocket of his army jacket. And like that, Lucy and the twins and the men were playing.

There was so much joy in gently tossing a ball to a little girl who would catch it badly, then run like a screaming monkey for an end post - a line drawn in the sand

They played deep into the afternoon. It was dusk before Lucy realized how late it was getting and herded the girls back to the car. Jordan and Morgan waved happily to their new friends as Lucy pulled out of the parking lot.

"Where have you BEEN all this time, Lucy? You didn't even remember to take your phone with you. We were worried sick about the girls."

Lucy stared at her mother, at the other adults lying in slow motion around the family room. The men were watching football again.

"Mom, I told you I was taking the girls to the beach, so that's where we were. If you were anxious, why didn't you drive over and join us?"

The twins, trailing jackets, scarves, and hats, tromped across the den to their mother.

"We had the bestest time! We met Buddy and Jake and Roy and we played football and I made 27 points and Jordan made 33 of them and we both won."

Caroline looked up.

"Buddy and who and who?"

Lucy answered quickly and quietly. "Roy just started writing grants for the shelter and some other places in town. Buddy and Jake are clients at the shelter, I've met them many times. They were stretching their legs after their dinner at the Salvation Army."

There was silence in the room. The football announcer blathered on as Lucy's family took in the doomsday news. Their little girls had played on a cold and empty beach with their feeble-witted aunt, two shamefully destitute men, and an unknown stranger. Lucy watched her family blinking at the news like cows studying a sparking electric fence. She bit her lips as her mother opened her mouth. Lucy felt the charcoal curtain dropping again.

She quickly leaned over to kiss the girls' rosy cheeks.

"I've got to go home and feed my cats, but we'll do something again soon, okay?  Maybe I can get tickets to see the Nutcracker Ballet before Christmas."

The girls started to cheer. Her mother snapped her mouth shut. Taking children to a ballet was, of course, proper deportment for unmarried aunts.

Lucy sighed. The Nutcracker would be so dull compared to football on the beach.

*****

It was several weeks later, and Lucy was trying very hard to find some Christmas spirit. It wasn't easy.

She blinked back tears of frustration, took a deep breath, then opened her eyes to a view of her Christmas tree which, if the tree had been human, would be positively indecent.

She was on her back, one armed stretched up to grab the trunk of the miserable tree. She attempted to hold it against the wall while her other hand scrabbled around, trying to find the bolts that would tighten the tree into its tippy red stand. When she found the second bolt, she flipped over onto her stomach to tighten the contraption. Needles jabbed into her stomach like a bed of nails. The Christmas music radio station she'd selected lost its signal in the ruckus and became a screech of static.

Lucy's three cats leapt straight up over the back of the sofa and into the tree. They fell back to earth, through branches, in a meowing panic of bad cat language.

The tree, wavering under the feline assault, slowly upended over Lucy in a tidal wave of pine. She closed her eyes in pain and disbelief. The weeks since Thanksgiving had been so rotten.

The kids in her class climbed all available walls each and every day, as is the modus operandi of 4-year olds before Christmas.  Caroline and Lowell were furious when she turned down a new guy they'd scrounged up. "Dolph" revealed to her that he was really "into the sea" and he wanted to share that by taking her to "Finding Nemo" and then out to dinner for sub sandwiches.

The last straw was her mother calling her, before she'd even had her first cup of coffee, to insist that Lucy buy an on-sale pre-decorated artificial tree she'd just seen advertised. "Sweetie, it's pre-lit and its balls are wired on so all you have to do is unfold it and plug it in! And after the season is over, you zip it back in its little jacket and put it in storage. It's so simple, Lucy. It's what I'd do if I was alone. Just a little something for the front window. And then you'd have more time to rest. You need more rest, Dear. You're getting drawn again, around your eyes."

Which is why Lucy went to a tree lot after work to buy this sorry-looking, green-sprayed, son-of-a-pine-tree that was now sprawled across her like a drunken sailor.

She shimmied from under the randy tree, flipped off the Martian radio, then slouched on the sofa to watch her cats slink back into the living room.  They delicately sniffed, bobbing their foolish noses at the tree. 

She sighed. It was very late and very dark. One more lousy Saturday and all she was, was hungry. She pulled herself up, found her jacket and mittens, hat and scarf. She'd just run to the grocery store to buy something to cook for one more lousy, lonely dinner.

***

Mommy, Mommy! I wanna candy cane!"

The produce department's exuberance of oranges, grapefruits, and apples dazzled Lucy's weary eyes. She noted the dozens of gold-wrapped, red-ribboned poinsettias lined along the floor as if choreographed by the Rockettes. It looked as if someone was orchestrating an "Up With Christmas” floor show.

A curly-haired toddler waved a candy cane. His mother laughed and kissed his chubby cheek.

A middle-aged couple, wearing good coats as if they were on their way to a holiday concert, smiled at each other. The husband placed two bottles of wine in their cart next to a poinsettia and a greeting card.

She thought, for a moment, she recognized an older man wearing a red jacket and a striped scarf. She racked her brain, then realized the man looked like Santa Claus! He was by the fresh garlic; testing, sniffing, picking out bulbs that suited him.

Just then, the Muzak switched. "Here Comes Santa Claus" evolved, weirdly, into an advent carol she'd learned in church choir as a teenager.

"Let all mortal flesh keep silence."

The din of the store receded like a wave rolling away from her ears. She heard the ancient words as if a choir of monks chanted it in a dark monastery.

"And with fear and trembling stand."

The medieval song always scared her.

"Ponder nothing earthly-minded."

Santa Claus wheeled his garlic away. The middle-aged man kissed his wife's cheek as the two ambled to the check-out, talking. The mother put an orange in her little boy's hands, his eyes lit up as they moved to the dairy aisle.

Lucy swiveled her head, slowly. The only person left was a gray-haired woman in a drab coat. Lucy watched as the woman ran gnarled fingers down a row of golden apples.  She chose two, carefully placing them in a plastic bag, then moved to the bins of nuts where she picked up the ladle to scoop a pitiful handful of chestnuts into another bag.

 For with blessing in his hand, Christ our God to earth descendeth...

The woman stopped to gaze at a small display of rare dusky red pomegranates. She glanced up at the price, then caressed one fruit with the tip of her finger. Too dear for her, but she knew what she was missing. 

Our full homage to demand.

Tears gathered in Lucy's eyes. She could not stand the sadness of this woman's life. It was too, too close.

Lucy abandoned her cart.  She walked quickly back out of the store, down the lane of parked autos, to her car at the far end. She slid in, turned on the ignition, then leaned against the seat, heart pounding. The memories she tried to never think about gathered like seraphim.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence.

She remembered that day. So ordinary. Like all their days. She'd come home from work, sautéed two chicken breasts, cooked almond rice, tossed a pretty salad with avocados and red peppers, opened a bottle of inexpensive white wine.

Alan was late again, so the chicken got dry.  When he finally arrived, he apologized, kissed Lucy's cheek in the most perfunctory of ways, then sat down to eat with her.  He wasn't crazy about the meal. She knew he liked heartier food but he didn't complain. He wasn't that kind of guy.

They tried to converse, but their days were still too much in them. She asked if he'd filled out the adoption papers they needed to do next. He's smacked his head and said he'd forgotten but he'd get to them tomorrow for sure.

The irksome, tedious evening just kept going. A detective Alan was using on a tough case called and he took the call in their spare bedroom. She put a load of laundry in the washer.  After he got off the phone he did the dishes, the way he always did. She worked on a lesson plan.

No fights. No cheating. Just some more of life's precious hours spent getting done what needed to be done. No joy. No light. They went to bed.  At 10:30, after the news, Alan turned to slide his hand up her arm and leaned in to kiss that place behind her ear. She said she was tired. He said nothing, just moved away and fell asleep.

The next day he was killed.

The mortal flesh had been keeping silence ever since. Tears poured over her cheeks. It wasn't guilt that haunted her. No one always says yes to their spouse. Not every marital moment is bells, whistles, and choirs singing anthems.

Her tears were for the great mortal mystery in which she and Alan had lived so blindly. They'd loved each other yet somehow they'd let the feast of life turn into dry chicken and budget wine.

Terrible questions wafted their terrible wings around her. Would she ever live a full-enough life? How could she see the mystery, live in a moment, feel warm skin of children's' arms, eat what is perfect, hear music instead of din?

Lucy wept. She grieved for the husband she'd had not loved wildly enough. She grieved because she did not know how to live preciously enough. Her life was still, these years later, a quiet soliloquy whispered behind a charcoal curtain.

***

Tears always stop, even for the desolate. Eventually Lucy wiped her hands across her face, blew her nose into paper napkins from the glove compartment and put the car in gear.

She was about to turn left out of the parking lot to go home when, inexplicably, she turned west, towards the Interstate.

She drove north all night, stopping only for a sandwich and coffee from drive-thru's. Her little car shook when long-haul trucks passed her in the inky darkness. She listened to radio shows where callers were lamenting, she realized, that their lives were too small for the longing in their hearts.

It was a past five AM when she finally arrived at the wild, freezing northernmost beach of Door County. She'd driven, without too much thought about it to where she and Alan had spent their honeymoon. She found a wool blanket she kept in the trunk and then walked towards the water. The sand was so frosty her footsteps crunched as she trudged through whistling wind. She found two ice-wizened scrub bushes and hunkered down between them.

There was a line on the eastern horizon over the dark void of Lake Michigan. It was charcoal gray against the jet-black night. She watched the charcoal line a long time, shivering in the terrible wind. The charcoal rose a little.  It grew over the far edge of the water, like a curtain slowly going up.

 Higher. A bit higher. A bit lighter. Then, before her eyes, the curtain exploded into nothing as a seam of pure silver appeared. The silver widened into gold.  Clouds she hadn't seen were suddenly under-lit by gold light.

Fingers of rose appeared. A shot of green and teal streaked the sky and then dissolved in a blink to leave the growing rose-tinged, gold-gilded clouds.

Like the waking-up eyes of the little child she craved, a peep of dazzling gold woke up and winked into the world. It was a glimmer until it opened just wide enough that Lucy could see this was not just refracted light. This was the sun, birthing itself into the morning.

The sun was rising. No. More powerful than that. The earth spun and the sun that was always there appeared again, burning star of all light and warmth.  The sun was there, waiting for the blue planet to open this day's door. The sun kept coming as the earth kept turning -- inexorably. With no questions for meaning or meaninglessness. With no concerns, no agenda, just there, burning with power and life.

Dawn rose out of the water, gleamed a path across the lake to where Lucy sat on an old wool blanket, weeping, but not sad.

The light burgeoned out of the darkness.  All sustenance, all answer. It was morning.

Lucy stood and stretched her arms in greeting.  She laughed at herself as she whispered aloud. "Hello, Old Sun. Welcome to Wisconsin. Welcome to me." She bowed a little. "I can't say it, but I get it."

It was not her job to live a fulfilling life. It was not her responsibility to make meaning happen.  All she needed to do was open her eyes and be grateful. The sun would do everything else

Lucy walked back to her car.  Dazed but grinning.

She laughed later to consider far she'd driven then stopped to take a nap at a motel. When she awoke, was as hungry as the proverbial bear so she bought snacks at a gas station. A quart of milk. A juicy orange.  A Hershey bar with almonds. Tastes that were, she thought, as rich as pomegranate.

…..

Lucy walked in her front door late that afternoon.  She laughed at the cats peering out at her from under the tree. 

Two messages were on her answering machine.

Her mother was frantic. Where was she? Lucy's heart melted. How amazing was it that in this whole world there was a plump old lady with sharp opinions who loved her so very, very much? Had she ever truly reveled in the lumpy velvet of her mother's great and worried love for her?

The second message was, of all things, from Roy Strom.

"Hello, Lucy? Buddy and Jake wheedled me into this although I must admit it wasn't that hard to do.  It's nice to have an excuse to call you.

"Anyway, the food at the shelter has been a bit uninspired lately and they are hoping you might bake some bread for them. They said they'd be glad to do anything they could to make your life easier, if you would find the time to make bread."

Lucy looked at the Christmas tree laying across her floor.  Well, now, there was the solution to that problem.

"And also, Lucy? I was hoping you and your nieces might like to play football on the beach with my son and myself. I know there isn't a whole lot of daylight this time of the year, but maybe we could find a little light in which to play with the kids?  Then, um, maybe you and I could go out to dinner, later?"

"As the Light of light descendeth

from the realms of endless day,

Then the powers of darkness vanish

As the night doth clear away."

….....

 

A note: The hymn "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" is from the St. James of Jerusalem liturgy, written in the 4th century.  Copies of it have been found both in Greek and in Syriac.  The hymn and liturgy are used to this day within the Orthodox Christian Church.  On the Sunday after Christmas, in Jerusalem, it is recited by the people in the church, then chanted by the priest as the bread and wine are brought into the sanctuary. 

In 1864 Gerard Moultrie translated it into English for use in Anglican services. Moultrie lived in England, but his family roots were in South Carolina. His grandfather had been a general and then governor of that colony but was upset when the Americans won the Revolution and moved his family back to England. Apparently there is a Fort Moultrie in South Carolina, named in honor of old General-Governor Moultrie. Interesting that we have a fort named after a Tory. 

"Let All Mortal Flesh" is an amazing hymn.  If you sing it slow, it's filled with solemn, almost scary, dignity.  if you sing it fast, it's fierce.

 

 

 

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Field of Dogs

This was written in that bend of the year between Thanksgiving and full winter, when so often there is a feeling of anxiety. We are marooned again in too-short days. We are prone to becoming stranded in long nights among our old and unsettling memories.

This story started on a November evening. And although this is fiction, in my opinion it wouldn't have to be.

A Small Owl

My first Joyce Andrews story is Outside on a Very Cold Night.

This is my second Joyce Andrews story. Joyce is around seventy years old and lives by herself in an old farmhouse that is twenty minutes from the expressway between Milwaukee and Madison. She divorced her first husband decades ago; then raised good kids who have their own lives now. In her 40’s she married John, a wonderful man who died several years later.

She’s smart and brave and has lived a complicated life.

She isn’t done yet.

Outside on a Very Cold Night

I wrote this in 2016 and shared it with some friends. I know it's not Christmas Eve yet, but it is the beginning of the season where most of us will wonder what lies beneath and behind the things we do.  This is my salute to people who pay attention. 

................................

A Fairy Tale for People who are Generous for No Good Reason that Anyone Can Understand.

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Vivian Woke Up Drowning

Vivian woke up drowning. She came to the surface of dark and murmuring dreams with her arms grabbing through tangled sheets; her lungs straining towards breath.

Then, as every day, she remembered to open her eyes. A slant of light stabbed through the curtains into the dim green of her bedroom. She pulled up to sit on the edge of the bed, gathering the quilt around herself, pressing her hand to her wild heart.

The House in Blue River

 I wrote this years ago.  It is fiction, of course, although there were several big old wood Victorian mansions in my hometown of Ludington, Michigan. My grandfather had been a glazier during part of his life; he installed windows. He talked about a house they \ worked on where they found a secret room- there was some hidden way into it that was not a door. 

...

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