Fiction


I need motivation to clean house. If I don’t have a good reason to do it, it doesn’t get done. Really. There are so many more interesting and creative things to do with my time. The best motivator is when company’s coming, then it’s, Yikes, how high the paper piles have grown,” Gee, I didn’t realize the dust was that thick,” and, “Whew, that floor looks baaad!”.

Big band music has been my go-to energizer when even I can’t take the mess any longer. It doesn’t lend itself so much to dusting, or going through papers, but putting away clutter or swiffering to Glenn Miller and Harry James is about as painless as cleaning gets. With my motorized wheel chair for locomotion my floors are done and danced to in no time.

There are advantages to living in a three room apartment. By just turning up the volume on the computer, I can hear music in the bedroom and kitchen as well. Taking this a step further I can catch up with TED Talks or some other podcast in the living room or kitchen while I cook or clean. I found a public radio blog called On Being and listened to a wonderful interview today with the poet Elizabet Anderson.
The help page for On Being has a hundred or more pod casts to choose from and several ways to access them. I used ITunes.

Speaking of TED Talks and wheel chairs here’s one you simply can’t miss. Multimedia, performance and installation artist Sue Austin has a fascinating mission at the center of her work: to challenge the idea of disabled as “other” and represent her experience as a wheelchair user in a brighter light.

Skeleton in Your Closest – Literally ( Writer’s Digest Creative Writing Prompt )

When you go to get dressed one morning, you discover that there really is a skeleton lounging in your closet. Write this scene—discover how it got there, why it is there, what to do with it now.

I was feeling around for my brown pumps on the closet floor, when a skeletal foot peeped out from behind the folds of my orange and gold caftan. If I hadn’t been so determined to distance myself from the grisly sight, I might have tumbled over backwards, as it was, I bolted upright and leaped back in one swift motion. It was miraculous that at my age my limbs still worked so successfully. but a pity I couldn’t say the same for my pounding heart.

I pushed the caftan aside and uncovered a full length skeleton tied to the clothes pole. Still shaking from the initial fright, I went to the kitchen to have the tea I’d already poured before I examined my new “friend”. It had to be a prank. I wasn’t dreaming and I certainly hadn’t murdered anyone. Feeling Nancy Drewish, I pulled out paper and pencil and began to write: Who would do such a thing? How did they get into my apartment? (shiver) and the big question–Why?

Nothing made sense. My grand kids would never do this. Halloween was long past. I hadn’t committed any crime I could be threatened or blackmailed for, and there were no connections to skeletons in my life history. Or were there?

With a jolt, I realized there was ONE–but that event went all the way back to my college days! I’d been part of the usual crazy gang of young people, my behavior and theirs swinging wildly back and forth from adult to childish by the day, sometimes by the hour. For Jimmy’s birthday, Anita had brought a skeleton to a “One Day Closer to Death Party,” as she called it. We’d all dressed in black and deluged him with macabre gifts like tombstone paperweights and giant tomes of hideous plagues and epidemics and named the skeleton, Fingers. At the end of the evening we’d signed a pledge to “keep in touch” and to remind each other periodically that death was stalking us.

I untied the skeleton from the rod and lifted it out of the closet. As I did something snagged. A black envelope had fallen to the floor. Seating him on the couch, I checked the bones on his left hand. One digit was missing.

Inside the black envelope was a list of names and birthdays.  Nearly half had been crossed out. “Just a gentle reminder–pass it on,” was written in elegant calligraphic script and it was signed Dr. James.D Winston, M.E. 😉  P.S, “Blame your mother!”

The Write Time Daily Challenge – Day 2    “You are in a laundromat watching the clothes dryer go round-and-round, and suddenly……

Lyrics to The Windmills of My Mind danced in my head while clothes tumbled in the dryer.

“Boring,” muttered a young woman at the next machine..

“Like a wheel within a wheel,” I agreed politely–but no–the flashes of red and blue changing patterns looked delightfully kaleidoscopic. As circles in a pool mesmerize when they spread outward in ever-widening rings, my thoughts turned towards infinity and “Swiftly Tilting Planets”.  I wondered what Einstein would think. Were there mathematical equations at work in the swirl of sweaters and socks?  Could a great theory be developed if I had the mind of a genius? Could something as simple as the flash of a sash tie the string theory together?

An anonymous woman’s tombstone reads: “At last her laundry is done”. So it will be with me, with all of us. Eternity awaits. No–eternity doesn’t wait. It’s from the always-has-been to the everlasting-will-be, part of what is-now.  And the One (big O) who set off that “Bang!” with His Word inhabits it all.

I really wanted to tell the bored woman that we were standing in the ever-expanding universe as constantly growing, changing, aging, dying specks of impermanent matter in an unmeasurable immensity of eternal time–but I figured she wouldn’t get it. (Word Count 211)

With nods to Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Bill Weiss, Madeleine L’Engle,  Kathleen Norris, Albert Einstein. And the big One.

“Here is an amazement–once I was twenty years old and in every motion of my body there was a delicious ease, and in every motion of the green earth there was a hint of paradise, and now I am sixty years old, and it is the same.” *

There hasn’t been a delicious ease in my body since the age of six when I got polio, and I’m sixty-eight not sixty, but specifics are immaterial. Mary Oliver has, once again, reached deep inside my heart and given exquisite voice to my feelings.

Playing Frank Chacksfield’s Summertime in Venice today on iTunes I felt young and in love and it hit me that I’ve spent most of my life in love. The thought amazed me! It’s been a long life and one with the normal share of problems and sorrows, so what’s going on here?

The answer is, I’m blessed. Sounds simple, atheists might say simple-minded, but neither would be the case. My life is a complicated process demanding constant adjustments in thoughts and actions, in beliefs and reactions, but there are certain constants that bring me joy regardless of good times or bad. The major constant in my life has been my Christian faith and that faith has led me to perpetual thanksgiving.

This blessing of gratitude colors all my thoughts and life views and grows stronger and stronger by the day. To begin with, God loves me. What could deserve more gratitude than that?

My great joy comes in prayer, in nature, in art and beauty of all kinds. And so I am in love and in a state of wonder at the sheer magnitude of God’s creation. But I am not always happy. The miseries of this world are far too apparent and too appalling to ignore or minimize. A friend writes today about the seven deadly sins and votes greed to the top of the list. Yes, I agree. And want to shake the apathy from the placid and the evil out of the wicked, but who will listen, who will care? Most importantly, who will change?

So, I ride the waves of bliss and despair and my heart suffers, but scratch the surface of that bleeding heart and as it bleeds the hint of paradise appears, the promise, the glory of a God who is righteous and who will judge fairly, with both compassion and vengeance.

Mary Oliver lives in that state of wonder, too, senses and articulates that hint of paradise in nearly every poem. I’m grateful to her for adding to my hope, for singing her psalms of praise and joy, for loving the world and God as I do.

*This quote appears smack in the middle of Ms. Oliver’s poem Am I not among the Early Risers?, from both Thirst, and New and Selected Poems–Volume Two.

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I decided to begin an exploring poetry notebook but didn’t like its flimsy yellow cover, so I glued on a sheet of cardstock from my Mariposa collection and then one thing led to another. I gessoed the edges near the spiral to cover the yellow, added a Photoscape collage, then blocks of lettering made from the leftover cardstock. The back cover got a different pattern cardstock, a Wordle and some text. A pretty envelope went inside the front cover to hold collected bits, but the inside back cover is still unadorned and sad; maybe I’ll do that later. Right now my floors need swiffering.

I have a specific blog devoted to writing for Soul Food and I will be using that now and then.

Fast asleep, I hear the rhythmic thud-whisk-thud-whisk of a straw broom sweeping nearby. I shift position and slide into, rather than out of slumber, happy to let someone else clean for a change.

My eyes shut, body blissfully relaxed, I recognize the sound of cabinet doors gently opening and clicking shut and tip-toing footsteps that seem oddly metallic. I hold my breath to listen more intently and realize someone is in my bedroom going through my things. Survival instincts kick in and whatever wisp of a dream still remains bursts like a pricked balloon. In an instant, I’ve flung off the blankets and am up and on my feet.

“Who the dickens are you?” I ask a trembling, barrel-shaped woman dressed in a haz suit and combat boots.

“One of the dream housekeepers. I’m supposed to tidy up your mind so that you can start fresh each day. I tried not to wake you, but I guess I haven’t got the hang of things yet; you’re my first customer.”

“I fell asleep in the Land of Dreams?” I ask, not believing it for a moment, and she nods her head vigorously. “I’m not awake then?” She blinks and shakes her head. “What’s in the bag?” I ask.

“Scraps. Snips and swatches, bits and pieces of your old dreams.”

“My dreams are precious! If you want to toss the worries and aggravating crap I’ve been thinking lately, feel free, Lady, but not my dreams. Give me that bag,” I demand and make a lunge for it.

She sidesteps gracefully considering her age and the bulky suit and clutches the plastic bag protectively to her chest. “Can’t. They’ll let me go for sure. Customers aren’t allowed to see.”

“Listen, Toots, I don’t want to get you fired, but this is my head you’re in and I call the shots. Hand it over.” My words have the ring of an oldtime movie and for the first time I notice the lack of color. Everything, including the woman, is in black and white–I am dreaming!

“You really should let me clear out your dream clutter,” she continues. “You’ve been accumulating it for years and your cabinets are bulging.

Just as I’m about to decline her offer my bedroom dresser shudders, the hinges on the overhead cabinet strain and begin to creak.

“If I don’t catch that, you’ll be sorry,” she warns, making a wild dash to the swollen door and covering it with her black bag.

“What’s in there?”

“Nightmares! Old ones that have been breeding and festering for years! Got it!” she yells triumphantly, as the door blasts off and shoots into the bag along with whatever propelled it. The momentum of the crash flings her to the floor where the bag wrestles and kicks at her as she tries valiently to twist it shut. I rush over, drag her to her feet and together we stomp on the hideous thing until it lies still on the floor. When we back away a thin stream of black oozes out and along with it a pair of enormous fangs and a revolting stench.

Breathless, I can only point in horror at the fangs, while this dumpy old woman leaps straight into the air and lands with both feet smack on top of them. A resounding crunch and they are history.

“Awesome!”

“Steel soles,” she says, turning pink, whether from pride or exertion I can’t tell. “I didn’t realize I’d need them so soon. Now, you’d better let me put some salve on those feet before they blister. Don’t need these any more,” she adds kicking off the boots and unzipping the haz suit, until she stands before me in a faded house dress and fuzzy slippers.

For the first time I realize my bare feet are itching and there’s a peculiar burning sensation in my ankles. When I lift my pajama legs I see tiny red lines snaking their way up my calves.

“Poison! That thing with the fangs was poisonous.”

“Not to worry,” she says with a reassuring smile, “It’s serious but not fatal; after all, we’re in The Land of Dreams.”

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