Showcase

This Writer Showcase page is for displaying examples of work by writers profiled in specific blog posts. The authors have given Writing North Idaho permission to display these samples of their work.
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The following three stories were the winners of the "A Picture is Worth 500 Words" Short Story Contest which ended June 21, 2013.



First Place Winner:

THIS OLD HOUSE

by Tana Essary, Post Falls, ID

The last time she heard the screech of that dilapidated screen door, she was headed the other direction, determined never to look back. Sasha let it slam now with a whack, like she had thousands of times before. She carefully reentered the house of her childhood, though it had never been her home.
The distinct odor of mouse droppings, cheap, stale wine and human urine wafted in the air. She heard a scratching in the wall as a fly buzzed irritatingly at her face.  The hiss of the wind through the busted out windows softly whispered her name. In it she could almost hear her brother, Luke, calling from far across the field on a hot summer’s day. Saaaaa-shaaaaa!  Saaaaa-shaaaaa!
A hole, big enough to swallow a Volkswagen, occupied the far end of the floor—the work of vandals, or maybe just hunters scavenging firewood. Leaves, and litter, a damp mattress, and the remains of a teenage drinking party covered what was left of the scarred, creaky boards.
The words “Crazy Old Man” were spray painted on one wall, and various obscenities on the rest. Sasha obviously wasn’t the first of the foster children to return to the roost. She smiled with the knowledge she would be the last.
She had felt justified, at sixteen, when she stole money from the hidey-hole she’d discovered, woke Luke in the middle of the night, and tiptoed out. They’d more than earned it, considering all of the money Joe and Adele received from the state to look after them. Also considering the free labor they got out of it, without an ounce of gratitude or affection or kindness in return.
So many nights she’d lie awake, planning every detail of how she and Luke would run far away, change their names, build lives of their own. Finding the money was a sign from God, as far as Sasha had been concerned. She and Luke would finally be free of this place.
But reality, as might be expected by anyone but a couple of kids, did not hold up to the escape plan of her dreams. Their lives were not the easy street of her imagination. But they’d survived. No, eventually, they’d thrived, and they never had to see this place again, until now.
Sasha turned and looked back through that old screen door, out into the overgrown yard in front. She saw Luke, who’d had no desire to take a look inside. She saw the scars on his shoulders peeking out from the sleeveless shirt he wore in the heat. The door screeched one last time as she went to join him at the truck.
Five cans of gasoline lined the bed of the pickup. A box of matches was where she’d left it in the glove box.
“Are you ready?” He asked.
“Yeah,” Sasha answered, and she never spoke truer words in her life.
This was one memory they would be putting to bed forever.

#

Second Place Winner:

VOICES ON THE WIND
by Wally Swenson, Shelley, ID

Agnes Eckdahl could no longer feel her feet; but felt the straight kitchen chair she sat on torturing her back, and her fingers ached as she clutched at the quilt wrapped around her shoulders.  Her swaddled baby, Eliza, lay still and tight against her chest, angelic face covered against the cold.  A black-iron stove hunkered against the west wall, stone-cold and useless after having devoured the table, both benches, and the one other chair in a last futile attempt to warm the room—yet still she sat in front of it.  Three days ago the fire had gone out before she could break up her wardrobe, and she’d used her last match days before that.  Her mother in Ohio had warned her that life in Idaho could be hard; but her husband, Silas, had been determined to move west and begin the new century in a new place.  Since then she’d been worried many times, and afraid a few, but had never felt as exposed and alone as she did now.  A furious blast of wind brought creaking protests from the two-room shack, and when Agnes raised her head, a stealthy breath of frigid air sneaked past her woolen scarf.  “Where’d you go?” she whispered hoarsely.
I didn’t leave.  I’ve always been here.
Agnes looked around the empty room.  Light filtered through the ice-covered windows—a cold, blue light.  Tendrils of grainy snow encroached under the door like fingers feeling their way into the room.   “But I can’t feel you,” she said urgently.
I’m always here.”
“Then help me,” she wailed.  “Make Silas come back from the valley.  He’s been gone two weeks.”
I can only do what you can do for yourself.”
“But you said all I had to do was ask.”
That’s still true.”
“Then help Eliza—she’s here.”  Agnes looked down at her chest.
Eliza’s with me.  She doesn’t feel the cold anymore.”
A chill more frigid than the winter outside shocked her drooping eyes wide open as she recalled words she’d spoken yesterday.  She’d tried and failed one last time to force the door open against the drifted snow.  “Please don’t let Eliza suffer any more,” she’d whispered. 
Releasing her grip on the heavy quilt, she let it fall open and turned back the soft wool blanket all her children had used.  Long and keening, her anguished cry filled the small room, penetrating the frosted window panes and joining in chorus with the other voices in the wintry wind.
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Third Place Winner:

TO LIGHT A CANDLE

by Wendy Steffenhaugen, Malad, ID

Kara Leon counted the money in her Tupperware container. Forty-three dollars. She knew that wouldn’t last long. She closed her eyes and let out a ragged sigh. It had been close to four months since she’d escaped. She’d been trying to find work, but she had no references and didn’t dare put her social security number on a W4 form. Maybe the right person would understand if she explained her situation. She could only hope so. She knew that Josh would never stop looking for her, and she didn’t want to imagine what he’d do to her if he found her.
            So far, Kara had successfully orchestrated her own disappearance and she needed to keep her identity a secret. That had been especially hard to do with her name and photograph splashed all over the news nationwide, but a stroke of incredible luck had led her to this abandoned house a good distance away from any town and practically hidden among the trees. Kara had become comfortable in the well-insulated old house; it was so secluded that she felt safe most of the time. Some nights she even dared light a candle. Watching the shadows of the flame flickering on the walls and ceiling around her was oddly soothing. Tonight was one of those nights.
            Silas Howard drove out of the Hertz rental lot and headed for the interstate. He turned on the air conditioner and frowned with distaste; he thought he detected the foul odor of cigarette smoke. Business trips were usually avoidable for the owner of Howard Enterprises. But this one, to Oregon, he had volunteered for. Just north of Portland was a piece of property he had inherited almost a year ago, but been too busy to make a trip out to inspect it, although he was familiar with it:  14 wooded acres bordering Tillamook State Forest including the house he had grown up in. Nobody had lived there for quite awhile—about seven years if his memory was correct. Yes, that was right, because he knew it had been eight years since his mother had died, and less than five months later, he recalled with resentment, his father had a new wife. The couple moved to Arizona, leaving the house in Oregon unoccupied and forgotten. Now, Silas only planned to put the house on the market, but wanted one last look at it before he did. After all, it was his childhood home.
            It was dusk by the time Silas turned onto the familiar meandering dirt road. It was crazy how overgrown the driveway was. He decided he better park and walk; he didn’t want to return the rental car with scratches in the paint. As he got closer, he noticed a faint light in one of the windows. His nostrils flared in disgust as he imagined some homeless meth head camped out inside. His fingers curled around his cell phone. Should he call the police now, or should he peek in the window first?
#


The following three stories were the winners of the "Winter Reflections" Holiday Memories Contest which ended December 8, 2012.

FIRST PLACE WINNER:  

AN EXTRAORDINARY, ORDINARY CHRISTMAS MIRACLE
by Anita Aurit of Sandpoint, Idaho



     Dad's spit polished jump boots crunched through the glittery snow. The silver winged-parachute emblem on his green beret sparkled in the winter sun. He was home from his first long tour in Vietnam.
     Dad was not big on family, constantly repeating his favorite saying, "If the Army wanted soldiers to have families, they would have issued us one". Holidays made him harder, not softer.  His temper and drinking ramped up at Thanksgiving and gathered steam as the holidays progressed.  Mom soldiered on, marching through the wreck of each holiday with grim determination. Her mission was to ensure that her family celebrated each holiday with as little incident and emotional damage as possible. 
     It was a picture-postcard Wyoming Christmas and the three tow-headed children watching at the window desperately wanted to be a picture-postcard family.
     "Hey, where is everybody?"  He stood next to his heavy duffel bag, arms outstretched; a grin covered his normally stern face. We ran toward him. Mom approached more slowly, gauging his mood, wary about the uncharacteristic joviality. What came next was amazing, more smiles from Dad, enthusiasm for the beautiful winter scene and happiness at being home at last.
     We skied, toasted marshmallows and even visited neighbors. Dad was charming, quick to laugh and slow to show anger or irritation. We held our breath, crossed our fingers and wished for this idyllic interlude to continue forever. Mom began to relax and smile as well.
     Christmas Eve was a frenzy of gift giving. We sat in the sea of torn gift-wrap admiring all our presents.
     "Aren't you going to open that one?" my father asked. As soon as the words left his mouth, the top of the box behind the Christmas tree moved. We approached with caution.
     "Yip. Woof" A shiny, tiny, black nose appeared at the top of the box.
     "What is it?" "Is it a seal?"  my brother asked.
     My dad laughed and replied, "It's a puppy." We lifted the silver fur ball out of the box.
     "What kind of a dog is it?" my brother asked.
     "It's a Malamute, a Husky," my dad replied, "The perfect dog for three kids in the wilds of Wyoming. He'll take good care of you and your Mom when I go back to Vietnam."
     I hugged the puppy close to my heart. He was a symbol of all my dreams and hopes. Puppy breath mingled with the smell of peppermint and hot chocolate, a heady aroma. We nearly wore his fur off with all the petting and cuddling.
     "Thanks Dad, thanks Mom, this is the best Christmas ever!" we couldn't say the words enough, as though saying them would make them ring throughout the rest of our lives.
      I'm still warmed by the memory of that Christmas miracle and it was then that I learned an important lesson. Miracles have no size requirement. They don't have to be grand and flashy. They can be the realization of the most simple, precious desires that exist deep in our hearts. 

SECOND PLACE WINNER:   

GLORY IN A MEADOW
by Wallace Swenson of Shelley, Idaho



     I don’t get around in the hills like I used to.  I mean, I can’t head up a mountainside just to check out a copse of quaking aspen for a bedded deer.  Nor traipse three ridges over and back again in eight hours.  But, I can still walk through the lower meadows and meanders.  And I do, carrying my ancient rifle just so I don’t look like some old fool, lost after wandering out of camp.  Little could I expect that this walk would present me with a life-changing image.
            I stepped out of the thick, dark pine forest and into a meadow.  As though on cue, it started to snow: big flakes, soft and fluffy; globs as big as daisies.  They fell straight down, but at a lazy pace.  Actually, leisurely is a better word, like each one was looking for just the right place to settle to earth.  I stood mesmerized for a minute or so, then stuck out my tongue to try and catch one like I used to when I was much younger.  I managed to do no more than spot up my specs.  I’d guess the open area was about two acres, and pear shaped, more or less; I stood at the stem end.  At the other side, a small grove of aspen trees huddled; just the place for a deer to spend the day.
            I started across the open expanse, pushing through powdery knee-deep snow, the silence absolute except for the sound of blood coursing past my inner ear.  I approached the edge of the winter-naked trees, alert for sound or scent, but neither heard nor smelled anything.  Then, I saw an opening in the trees, a pathway as clear as if it had theater lights along each side.  A hole had opened in the low-hanging clouds and light streamed through.  I walked the sunlit path, untrammeled and smooth, into the interior of the glen.  After some twenty feet, maybe forty, I don’t remember exactly, the trees gave way to another open space, this one about sixty feet across.  A perfectly shaped, snow-shrouded, fifteen-foot spruce tree stood statue-like in the middle, and a message struck me so hard I couldn’t breathe.
            Sinking to my knees, I unzipped my coat and dug in my shirt pocket for the ever-present pencil and notepad.  Heart pounding my head to dizziness, I wrote:
With a mantle of white, the tree bent down as though praying,
Kneeling in snow so brilliant it dazzled my wondering eye.
An azure sky, as cold as my heart was warm, connected earth to heaven,
And in the silence of grace, the spirit of Christmas touched me.
I wept.

THIRD PLACE WINNER:   

PAY IT FORWARD
by Kim Gibson of Hayden, Idaho

             It happened right before Christmas, about seven years ago now.  We had just moved to North Idaho. My youngest son was about 8 years old, and he came down with a sore throat. Although I was working full time as a PSR, I did not have health insurance for my children or myself, so hoping my son would get better on his own, I held off on making an appointment with his pediatrician. Unfortunately, after a couple of days, he felt worse and started running a temperature, so I ended up taking him to Urgent Care. I was signing him in at the front desk when the receptionist started explaining that the visit would cost a minimum of $120, the strep test would cost another $25, and she ended by announcing that more fees may apply for anything else the doctor does. In my head, I added the cost of a prescription to the fees the receptionist had just rattled off. The visit was adding up quickly! Frustrated and tired, I started digging through my purse for my wallet when I heard a voice from across the room say, “I’ll pay for them.” I turned and noticed an older gentleman who had entered the room while I was speaking to the receptionist. It took me a moment to register what he had said. I refused, of course, but he insisted, handing his credit card to the receptionist. A few minutes later, my son and I were in the checkup room waiting for the doctor. My eyes were full of tears, and my son asked, “Why did that man do that?” and “Was he rich?” I replied, “I don’t know. I don’t think so.” and “I hope you will do the same thing for someone else someday.”
            When I remember the kindness of that stranger, it inspires me to be a better person. Every Christmas since receiving that gift at the Urgent Care, I have tried to find a way to pay it forward. Some years, I’ve enlisted the help of my family. For example, the first Christmas after my oldest son moved out on his own, there was a single mother in his apartment building who confided in him that she hadn’t been able to buy her young children Christmas presents. So, we bought some toys, had fun wrapping them up, and early one morning, we left them anonymously on her doorstep. That was so much fun, and one of my family’s favorite Christmas memories. Other years, I’ve done something in secret that I’ve never shared with anyone. As I reflect on the kindness of that stranger, the memory continues to warm my heart, restore my faith, and inspire me to be a better person. I feel grateful to have received this gift. It was so much more than a paid doctor bill.

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The following three poems were the winners of our recent "Can You Haiku?" Haiku Contest which ended June 15, 2012.

FIRST PLACE WINNER:

Struggling skyward,
With nectar lipstick ready,
Flower seeks a bee.


by Thomas Leo of Cocolalla, Idaho

SECOND PLACE WINNER:

early morning spring--
tree to tree a woodpecker
plays the xylophone


by Minh-Triêt Pham of Paris, France

THIRD PLACE WINNER:

Rolling golden hills.
Clouds and shadows play at chase,
Red barn stands alone.


by G. Elizabeth Law of Austin, Texas
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The following three stories were the winners of our recent Short Story Contest which ended March 30, 2012. A rule of the contest was that each short story begin with the sentence: Her long journey through pain was almost over. This sentence, written by Robert Norwicke, was the winner of our Brilliant Beginnings Contest held last year.


FIRST PLACE WINNER

THE GOLDEN VEIL
by Lila Bolme, Post Falls, Idaho

Her long journey through pain was almost over. Everything around her became a blur of pale gold. Eyes, starved of oxygen, lost their desire to see. Her body let go of its need for the things of this world. Her purpose was fulfilled. Soon she would be gone and no memory of her few days remain. Even her mother would forget and time would continue to weave the threads of life and death through the plains of the Serengeti.

Not many weeks earlier, in the lap of the savannah, the veil of gold lifted to reveal its vast treasure of sun soaked blue sky to the eyes of the little gazelle. She drew in her first smells of dusty grass and elephant dung, of acacia trees and the smell of cat. Immediately struggling to stand, her wobbly legs poked softly at the belly of Africa. She called for her mother. Her tiny ears flicked away biting flies and twisted to pinpoint the direction of grunts from distant lions. She could have no understanding how the sum of her existence would play itself out.

As she grew stronger, she gloried in the spring of her gait, kicking at the sky. Unaware that gravity existed at all, she leaped up and twisted in the air for the joy of it, then unleashed her energy in a full out sprint. Her legs folded and unfolded as quickly as a switchblade, reaching for more ground and more ground, until it was a sea of honey beneath her.

Like the wind, her tawny form sailed through the herd. The hot earth barely noticed the tap of her tiny hooves as she raced along at her mother's side. It was as if she had wings. The air was her friend. When they stopped, she pushed her nose under her mother's warm belly drawing in long gulps of milk and then napped in the tall grass, guarded by the blue sky and a steady chorus of insects. Every moment was glorious; a grand adventure savored till the end.

She was running at top speed when she tripped. They were all running, away from the molten horizon of late afternoon. She was surging ahead, feeling the power in her legs, confident and determined. It was truly unfortunate that her delicate bones, so efficient for speed in their light-weight design, went in an instant, from being an asset to being a liability. It happened so fast. A small misstep perhaps. Hardly noticeable. A single, subtle movement that shifted her footing ever so slightly and the tiny leg snapped. Suddenly, the lazy landscape that had been content to let her race by, tumbled furiously, fighting the sky for the most benevolent place nearer The Maker. Then just as suddenly, the sky won out and the earth returned to its place; a blanket of fine caramel colored dust lingering, reluctant to settle. She had fallen. A thing that should never be done on the savannah.

She sprang up and took one bound, but a new feeling flooded over her.  A searing jab that shot through her and caused her legs to buckle under her. She rose on three legs, overcome with this new sensation. Her rear legs instinctively launched her into the air to get away from the pain, but when she came down, her leg gave way again. Once more she tumbled nose first into the dirt. Every part of her instinct said, Get up! Get up and run!, but even the adrenaline racing through her body couldn't make the broken leg function. She tried to leap to her feet but she toppled over again and again, stirring up more dust in the setting sun. Finally, wracked with pain and muscles depleted of strength, she gave up struggling for a few moments. Laying in a haze, her lungs greedy for oxygen, she was disoriented and confused.

She searched through lessons she had learned by her mother's side. Ingrained patterns of behavior gave her a sense of urgency but she was frozen, unable to move. The air was thick and yellow and she didn't recognize anything except for a distinct smell. Something from her memory; familiar, yet repelling.

Raising her nose, she turned her head to identify the source and called to her mother. The calls  were unanswered but they were not unheard. Two silent orbs of liquid amber. A penetrating stare. So hypnotic that she didn't even notice the soft white lips of the cheetah unsheathe their ivory daggers. The air was poisoned with the acrid breath of a meat eater. Hard white fangs punctured the soft flesh of her neck. Vice-like jaws crushed her throat. The sudden pressure startled her and three tiny hooves beat the air as if to carry her away. But the air was no longer her friend. It left her; and as her desire for it subsided, the pain subsided as well.

The little gazelle lay patiently, in the lap of the African savannah, as the golden veil was drawn between the world of the living and the world of the dying. But she would not be alone. With no other to accompany her, she was now drawn to, even comforted by the presence of the big cat and she gave herself over. A soft brown eye searched for the vast treasure of sun soaked sky in its most benevolent place. A glimpse of blue, and then everything turned pale gold. The dust and the sky and the big yellow cat melted together and faded, until they were gone.


SECOND PLACE WINNER


THE MARRIAGE PRICE
by Laura Johnson

Her long journey through pain was almost over.

The many hours spent here at his bedside would soon come to an end. Years of torment, abuse and mistrust would finally lead her to that which she had longed for her entire adult life. Freedom.

With a gentle touch, Ann Marie laid her hand across her husband’s heated forehead. She smiled as she recalled fonder memories of this man who had dedicated his life to making her fearful and ashamed. For despite his anger she believed that there truly had been a time when he had loved her.

And she had cared for him.

But a courtship of flowers and kind words had led to a marriage of jealousy and rage. He saw her infidelity in her eyes. He quickly discovered that she loved another. He also came to understand that their marriage was a convenience that she could ill-afford to turn away from.

When he found out that he had married a woman who was pregnant with another man’s child, he had spent his wedding night beating that child from her. He had taken from her screaming, protesting body the only life she would ever bear. And in doing so he had left her barren and cold.

Ann Marie had been patient throughout their marriage. Quiet, submissive, she had done his bidding with nary a word of protest. She followed silently behind him, she did as he demanded, when he commanded it. And while she played the part of the dutiful wife, she plotted his demise in great detail.

In recent years she had imagined lashing out at him with the quick, steady strike of a snake. She thought of a rapid delivery that would leave him no time for review. But then, she wondered why she should deprive him of the slow, vindictive agony he had bestowed upon her. Who was she to take his abuse without complaint and not be allowed to repay him? After all, he deserved something for all of his trouble.

Over time she continued to be the shadow in her husband’s life. She persevered through his constant ridicule and humiliation, his slovenly nature and his lurid affairs. She became stronger in her hatred of him. She dreamt of the pain she could cause him. A monster grew within her, a monster that reeked of unbridled revenge.

While her husband slept in the bed next to her, Ann Marie began praying to a dark god. She prayed for a way out, she prayed for his death, she prayed for his pain. When he left her alone to find his satisfaction somewhere else, Ann Marie gathered books on spell-casting, witchcraft and poison.

Soon she would be able to summon the one that she needed to end this life of misery and misfortune. She would be able to sleep at night, alone, untouched and at peace.

She no longer cast a fearful eye towards her husband. Instead she held a steady gaze on him forcing him to turn from the dark, paralyzing glint that glimmered in the night. He moved from their bed to the couch, tossing, turning, aching and crying out to her for the pain to stop. He became weaker and weaker until he was made to go back to their bed and let her care for him.

Ann Marie smiled as she moved her cool dry fingers to the pulse at his wrist. She closed her eyes, mumbling her prayers as his heart beat its last and his breath died on his lips.

She got to her feet and looked down at his pale, placid face. Finally, it was done.

In a gesture of sudden kindness, Ann Marie reached out and stroked the stubble that ran along the side of his sunken cheek.

“What sort of wickedness is this?” her husband’s corpse demanded through blue-tinged lips. “What have you done to me?”

Her eyes fluttered convulsively. She withdrew her hand and stared at him with her hard, cold eyes. Her gaze settled on his chest and she watched for signs of his breathing. There was nothing. Only those words spoken from a dead man’s rotten, cavernous mouth.

She stepped back from the bed and reached for the phone to call the coroner. His hand struck out at her knocking the receiver from her shaky grasp.

“You’re an evil woman,” he muttered. “A fit wife for the dark one, wouldn’t you say?”

The corpse of her dead husband reached out to her and grabbed her wrist firmly. He pulled her to him with the strength of three men. Her knees buckled and she fell before him. Tears slid from her large, frightened eyes.

He reached out to stroke her cheek, his fingers cold and lifeless. It occurred to her then that she had freed herself from one master only to give her soul over to another. One whose cruelty and depravity knew no bounds.

Her long journey through pain had just begun.          


THIRD PLACE WINNER

WITHOUT THINKING OF TOMORROW
by Jack Robert Staff, Sandpoint, Idaho

Her long journey through pain was almost over.   The late summer day is gratefully cool. A soft breeze whispers. Clouds ooze like attic spill-stains dripping from God’s north Idaho ceiling.  Children, some of them old men, play baseball in a nearby park.  Boats are backed down a ramp into the water.

She is waiting to see if he’ll come.  But even the water smells dangerous.

A bird squawks his arrival.  She sees his red shirt against the townscape behind him.  Her hands are clenched.  For the first time, she is bra-less.  It seems to bother him in the all best ways.

He reaches the shade where she stands in shadow.  It is their first face-to-face beyond the workplace where they met.  It’s been months now.  They have dragged by.  Their past now seems full of lesser moments:  grief, fear, doubt, sleepless nights.  At work, they have known only shy glances.

At some unspoken cue, they sit in the grass.  She points to the tree as a backrest for him.  He shakes his head and waves for her to take the spot.  Of course not, she giggles.  She was raised to defer to the man, to let him have the best place and the best parts of her.  He knows she is old-fashioned in that way.

So she must be embarrassed for both of them as she tries to find comfort in the rough bark.  But the tree won’t accept the curvature of whatever backbone she may still possess. As if foreshadowing the rest of it, neither of them can claim the tree’s support.

Suddenly they are older so they speak in the gentlest of ways.  Even long months of covert notes have not prepared them for this.  Their faces reveal more now that they are finally so close.  But his remembered fragrance is impossible to catch.  She curses the breeze for taking away his sweet smell.

He tells her of his marriage.  She tells him of hers.  They marvel at similarities:  youthful sweethearts, school days, kids, careers.  Their hopes and fears.  How cancer took her husband.  How wildness took his wife.  His year-long separation and, just days before the two of them met, his reconciliation.

Soon, as she somehow knew it would, the wife’s unseen presence sits down next to them and leans easily against the tree.  His invisible wife is ragged at the edges, not as horrible as once feared, but still woman enough to know how to lean into a tree’s embrace without becoming self-conscious.

She finds herself asking the questions one dares not ask in notes or whispered work moments.  The wife’s diaphanous presence keeps his answers modest.  Watching the crow’s feet at his eyes, she is moved that he can still answer so truthfully, without embarrassment or guilt.  They both know one simply makes such choices and then lives quietly with them, no matter the price.

She discovers that what she really needs to know is something deeper still.  As she asks straight out, she slides her half-lotus into the shadows, putting a safe distance between all of them, giving his wife’s ghost plenty of leg room.  Does she listen?  Does she know you?   Is she kind?   Is she trustworthy?

Sometimes … It depends … I suppose … Hope so.  He exhales his answers past them both.  Much bolder now, she forgives herself when she bluntly asks if the two of them are still intimate.

He gazes into and through her.  They both know what it will mean if he lies.  But his one-word answer comes out solid and true.  She reads its many meanings without needing to probe the obvious.  Yes, after so many years of marriage.  Yes, after the separation.  Yes, after the kids and lonesome needs have cobbled them back together.  Yes, now that he has forgiven her.  Yes, even now.  Especially now.  Yes. 

She nods and watches the boats instead of his face.  She places a hand on his knee, then quickly pulls it back. Now she doubts if he can see his wife’s ghost sitting there.  She realizes she always will.

They talk about affairs and “playing around.”  Maybe they are trying to find out how they might fit into those other choices society so blithely offers.  But just as the day is honest and clear, they are also far too decent to be anything except who they have been and still are.

Afternoon light slants toward sunset.  She senses he must get back.  Lost in one another’s eyes, they now learn that both of them are old-fashioned.  Some part of them knows this time has simply been borrowed from her.  They grimace at that unspoken reality.

Their long-awaited meeting has been but one lapsed moment in the darkness of an emotional movie-house.  Now their film refuses to track on the sprockets of the projector, held fast ‘til its celluloid melts on a blistering white bulb, burning their true colors into a fleeting sepia of decency, curling at the edges, perhaps even ruining the print.  They know it will take delicate splicing if they are to see the whole film.

She feels his wife’s spirit stand up.  The ghost turns without looking at either of them, a see-through woman in a see-through world.  It walks away and they are left with silly, if poignant, goodbyes.

She longs to scream that she needs him, that he strikes in her vast chords of ageless music.  That she finds him remarkable and necessary.  But she knows she mustn’t.  She accepts that some words can never be taken back.  Some words carry a destiny too dangerous to utter.  Some words unleash the whole of it.  So she keeps her mouth shut.  Once more, she grimly resolves to live without thinking of tomorrow.

Glancing around sheepishly, she sits and again tries to fit her back into the tree.


__________________________________________



Profiled Author: Larry L. Laws
Corresponding Post Link


Back Then

Memoirs of a Country Boy

Back Then: Memoirs of a Country Boy

by Larry L. Laws



I roamed the countryside searching for answers to things I did not understand.”
The great Leonardo Da Vinci quoted the line above and that is why the country will always be a favorite of many. Larry Laws perfectly puts into picture a country boy’s life in his latest work Back Then: Memoirs of a Country Boy.
The heartwarming memoir spans four generations of the Laws, going back to the time of the Great Depression down to the Information Age. As illustrated in Laws’ latest work, life in the country revolves around self-sufficiency. Families had large gardens and farm animals for food. Most of all, 90 percent of the transactions between neighbors, relatives and friends were sealed with a promise and a handshake. It’s all about living up to one’s word, the author pointed out.
Filled with humor, inspiration and just the right dose of poetry, Back Then: Memoirs of a Country Boy hits the message home in this age where friends are earned by just clicking the “Add Friend” button in social networking sites rather than the honest lives they lead.

From Poetic Expressions by Larry L. Laws

Ronnie, my son

Do you observe the shimmering
Lake surface sheen rippled by the breezes?
White capped by gusty
Storm bearing winds.
Dimpled and dappled by rising trout.
Swirled by in-flying mallards.
Splashed by dive bombing Osprey
Making larger increasing rings.
Like reverberating audio claps
And peals of chapel bells
Turned visual
Thus allowing sight of spreading
Intensity.
Do you see the bleached
Bone ashed bark
Of aspen tree trunks? Barely
Showing beneath green
Leafed Frock cover purveyance
For song birds of summer
Who nest and fill the very air
With intonations of mating tunes.
I want to believe you can.

TIME

To one with a cause
What is a year, a minute
Or a month?
To some, time is of the essence.
For some, a lifetime
Can pass in a fleeting moment.
As so can a day seem an eternity.
Tis truly a wise man
Who conquers time
And lets not a ticking clock
Be his bondage.
All time is relative
Only in that it measures
A segment
Of each allotted span.

MY MOUNTAIN DOMAIN

From low lying valleys, lush green and productive,
To majestic peaks encircled in clouds.
Each elevation, a plateau of diverse offerings.
As I stand in the fringes of year-round snow
And look down on eagle flying below.
How insignificant, but yet so much a part.
Nature's splendors dwarfs me.
Stately white mountain goats
High above stare-always down.