Tuesday, February 5, 2013


 Wrapped in a faded beach towel, I sit by the lake for the last time.  The lengthening shadows of the trees behind me creep beyond the point where shore and small waves meet, spilling onto the surface of the water, and I realize that I've been here, on this patch of grass, for quite some time.  I’m cold, and a shiver presses through my wet hair, all the way down to the tips of my toes.

The thoughts I am lost in take me back to a certain summer, the memories still so vivid in my mind.  Like black silhouettes against white paper.  It was the summer after my second year of college.  The summer  I met him.  Liquid blue eyes and a straw colored crew cut.   Ocean and sand.  I’d singled him out from the group of other swimmers who were gathered at the lake, and shyly I realized that I had been noticed as well.  By late afternoon we  were sharing  ice cream and holding  hands. 

Several nights later, I began to get the phone calls.  A voice over the line, her voice, whispering the warning I would come to know so well.   Stay away from things that don’t belong to you. Followed by a click, and then silence.

I knew her, even though we’d never met.  She was the girl who had been his girl, and had been replaced-and she was devastated.  She’d made plans for the two of them, sketched out a future that she saw as their destiny.  Baked him cookies, and knit him sweaters.  I was nothing but a thief.  All  summer long, she continued to call me.  The same whispering voice, and the same warning.  The same pitiful attempt to stake a claim on a heart that was no longer hers.  I felt sad, more than threatened.

I  stand up and brush off my bare legs, polka dotted with small bits of dried grass that have stuck to my skin.  The surface of the lake has grown dark, and in the fading daylight I see the glint of a silvered trout as it jumps, as though suddenly afraid of the deep, cold depths of its home.  I’m urging myself to leave this place as well.   I’ve done what I came here to do.  Swim one last time in this water.  The same water that was so deeply shadowed the last time he swam in it that it swallowed everything.

And fate decided he would belong to no one.



La Douleur Exquise (French): The heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone you can’t have.

I wrote this last summer, and decided to repost it for this prompt because it fits so well.  While I’ve taken a few artistic liberties with the facts as they were, this is based on a true story.

When I was a college student, my group of friends included the music majors, and there was among us a very gifted young bass player named Jeff.  At the time I met him, I learned that he’d ended a long time relationship months earlier, and that his former girlfriend would not let him go.  Jeff was frustrated both by her inability to move on-and at the same time, continue to act as though they were still together.  Sadly, the summer after my sophomore year I was stunned to learn that Jeff had drowned in a nearby lake that students often frequent on warm weather days and nights.

I’ve wondered, from time to time, what became of that girl-how she could possibly ever come to terms with the reality of truly never being able to have Jeff.  I ‘m sure she was devastated. 

It’s also sad that I can’t remember her name.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Double Trouble

Best Friend. 

I’d never had the privilege of being one, nor the pleasure of having one.

As a child, I was pawned off, and passed along, one family after another, like a dreaded Christmas fruitcake.  Consequently, I made very few friends.  In any case, the position of best friend was always already filled.  Years later, it ceased to matter to me, and I resigned myself socially to existing solely on casual acquaintances. I’d started life as a foundling, so it stood to reason that I should finish as a foundling, of sorts, as well.

Until Matilda.  Fellow aspiring scribbler, and drinker of black coffee. Matilda, in her fashionable hobble skirt, who’d minced her way over to my table and asked to borrow a pencil.  By chance we’d both decided to visit the same café, to work on our novels while sustaining ourselves with cup after cup of a rich Jamaican brew. She saw me, hand poised above a stack of paper, and assumed me to be what I hoped to be seen as.  A writer.  Matilda, with her stunning gray Grecian hair, and an ever so gently lined face that belied her 62 years.  Matilda, who wore the heady Quelques Fleurs and winked at distinguished old men. She was a beacon of light at the end of the tunnel.  The partner in crime I’d been longing for my whole life.

The bell on my Stromberg-Carlson jangles me back to the present moment. That must be Matilda!  I struggle laboriously to my feet as quickly as my ancient skeleton will allow, feeling the familiar pinch of age run through my hip, slowing my steps.   I really ought to get rid of my soft chair and replace it with a hard one. Better for the bones.  But there is no need, though, to hurry to pick up the receiver.  Matilda is patient.  She accepts me in all of my faltering glory, like best friends do. Hello? Matilda!  Fifteen minutes? That’s fine!  I’ll pack some cookies to have with our coffee.

Matilda’s tomato red, 1910 Atlas Model H pulls into view, thirty-two minutes later. I had a bear of a time getting this beast started!  Matilda’s voice is breathy with excitement.  Forgetting the twinge in my hip, I pull my sheared beaver stole closer to my face, and climb into the passenger seat.  In a matter of minutes, when we are nearly at the café, we encounter a swarm of people.  Naturally, our curiosity is piqued, and Matilda articulates what I was just about to ask.  Mind if we take a quick detour and see what all the fuss is about?  We mutually agree that our novels can wait, for we seem to have stumbled upon an émeute. The assembled protesters, mostly female, are in high spirits, charging the atmosphere with an electric energy.  The unease among the males who have dared to venture close enough to observe, is palpable.  Women should not be allowed to behave like this.

Move along, granny!  A red cheeked constable in blue and brass takes Matilda firmly by the elbow, steering her away from the crowd.  I hear a huff of indignation, and I can hardly believe what Matilda does next.  She plucks the young man’s truncheon from his belt, and roundly swats the top of his helmet!

I am left with little choice.   I am, after all, her best friend.

I take the truncheon away from Matilda.


And swat him again.

Safe in the Arms of the Sea

I know the jagged rocks exist, though I no longer have an affinity for danger. These days, I am master of my ship.  I chart my own course.  Keep to the deep water. 

I can see him clearly now-more clearly than the day I met him, and I realize he was akin to a brigantine, recklessly sailed and doomed to flounder.  Raven hair, worn long and wild, and eyes that changed color with the changing tides of his moods.  Sometimes falcon, and sometimes dove. An impossibly irresistible, unholy trinity of leather and rum and tobacco.

My pirate.

Part tempest, and part gentleman, I tried in vain to learn the art of forecasting the weather that swirled around him.  At times he brandished words like a razor sharp cutlass, warning me to keep my distance.  Other times, though, when the winds were fair, he beckoned me closer with roses and his own brand of sugar, the sweetest I’d ever tasted.  He even slid a promise of pearl and silver onto my ring finger, and asked me to wait for him while he was away, prowling the vast ocean in a hunt for other ships to plunder.

He never returned. 

I realize it now.  His misfortune was my salvation.

The rocks are still there-only instead of tormenting me, I find my ears are deaf to their siren song.  And as for the rigging that threatened to ensnare me on that doomed voyage so long ago, like the gossamer strands in a spider’s web.  I see them for what they have become.