STORIES #51 ~ #60

These stories are inspired by the 100 Days project film clips of John Timmons’ (corresponding clips are linked below each title) and each is in response to his own daily piece or that of one of the other participants.

Note: only the most current stories are accessible, to secure the text and particularly, the images from being nabbed by and displayed on public sites.  If you would like to read some of the stories that are here, simply email me at for the password.




Merrilee twisted the tube of ruby red lipstick and drew her mouth into a heart. She powdered her face and swirled peachy rouge on her cheeks. She took one last look in the mirror and reached for the Muguet, her favorite, and sprayed it on each side of her neck just under the ears, on each wrist, and a poof on her throat.

She hopped down from the bench and clomped in shoes much too large for her across the bedroom and down the hall to her own room.

“Good afternoon, ladies,” she greeted the three who sat waiting for her at the small table. “How lovely of you to have come.” She poured out pretend tea with a gracious smile. She sat and took a sip of her tea, then held out a plate of make-believe cookies.

A woman came up and stood in the doorway. She shook her head at the sight in Merrilee’s room. “Have you been in my things again?” She sounded annoyed but not really angry.

Merrilee started to cry. The woman came over and knelt down by her chair.

“Oh, it’s all right, Mother, it’s all right. You look very pretty today.”

(First Publishing Rights to “Tea Party” belong to the Camroc Press Review,  08/18/10)


#59  EXIT


It would be a while before he would be tall enough to reach the knob and twist it and open up the door and leave. He was only eighteen months old, after all. He plotted for that day.

On every birthday he would test himself. Hands sticky with cake frosting, he reached high and higher above his head until at three he could grasp it. He laughed in glee. Freedom was within his realm.

At four he blew his candles out and exhausted from the party, let his daddy carry him off to his new big-boy bed. He waited. The house was slit with hallway light and TV laughter and the soft murmurs of his parents. He would wait until it dimmed to silence. In the dark of his room he went through the plans again. His clothes were packed inside the bright red plastic case that came with the 1000-piece building set of Legos that now lay heaped underneath his bed. He’d change from jammies into shirt and jeans but wear his slippers because he couldn’t tie the laces on his shoes. He’d take an apple from the bowl but have to be very, very quiet when he climbed onto the kitchen table. And the keys, he must not forget the car keys.

Sometime later when both the big hand and the little hand were pointed up, he dressed himself and snuck with his suitcase up to the bedroom door and peeked out at the hall. All was quiet. He eased the door open and the soft light lit up his empty bed. He hurried back and picked up Teddy and cradled him beneath an arm.

He slid the chair bit by bit out from the table, climbed up and reaching over, grabbed an apple–no, a nanner–no the apple- from the bowl. It took him longer to push the chair silently over to the counter where the daily clunk and jingle taught him that his daddy dropped his ring of keys. He carefully pulled them off the counter and as he climbed down from the chair he dropped them in a loud clink! He froze. He held his breath. He waited. No one came.

He tiptoed over to the door and with both hands grabbed the door knob. He panicked–the knob would not turn! He tried and tried and in his anxious efforts somehow turned the lock and Great Gopher!–it turned and he opened up the door.

He picked up Teddy and his suitcase and pulled the door shut carefully behind him. In the thin light of the moon he got into the car, buckled Teddy in, and giggled as he backed down to the street and drove away.



(they were so young)

“Hold me, just hold me!” she said and he did. Because there was no way of making her understand anymore that it was just the everyday twelve o’clock noon siren. It wailed in the distance, from the firehouse just a block from their home. She gripped him so tightly he wanted to die. When it stopped, she looked up at him with a coy smile on a face seamed with hollows and lines like old lace.

“Oh, I’m so embarrassed,” she said and struggled to sit back in the bed. “You must think I’m awful.” Her voice was a whisper, a mere breath of life. He eased her into the pillows, thinking she felt like a Chinese lantern, weightless, paper-thin.

“Of course not,” he comforted. One hand lingered on her shoulder, drew softly down over her arm. She shrugged it off with a scowl. “Who are you?” she said.

He held his breath, let it out, then said it again, though each word drilled into his soul. “I’m Tom,” he said. “I’m your husband.”

“Oh.” Her eyes were a palest blue, alive, eager. “ Do we have any children?”

It broke his heart. It made him angry. “Think, Margaret, think! You know this.”

Her face twisted, recoiled like the tip of a starfish when touched. A nurse came in and gave him a half-smile of sympathy. It made him feel worse.

“I’m sorry,” he said to his wife. “We have three children. Peter, Jeremy, and the youngest is Margaret like you.”

“That’s nice,” she said and smiled. “This is my boyfriend,” she told the nurse. “This is Roy.” The nurse fluffed up the pillows, checked Margaret’s pulse, and left them alone again.

She drank only a thick milkshake, three sips at the most at a time, as if it were poison he held to her lips. Guilt gave him patience to keep at it, because she’d forget she had taken some just a few seconds ago and so he could talk her into ‘trying’ a sip. He’d signed the papers that morning. He felt that she knew. He hoped she would believe that he’d asked first if starvation was painful. “She picks out the black specks of pepper,” they told him. The last taste to go was for sweetness. He had brought her chocolates, her favorites, the jellies. “Thank you,” she had said. “They’re so hard to get with this war.” But that was last week, and now she wouldn’t touch even them.

The day that she died he sat by her. Held her hand though he didn’t think she knew he was there. From dawn till the sun slipped through the blinds in a bright morning sun, he sat there. The nurse brought him something to eat and some coffee. She lifted Margaret up and gave her a sip of cranberry juice. “Talk to her, she’ll hear you, though she can’t respond,” the nurse told him. He tried but soon fell silent again and just sat.

She’d slept through the noon siren that day. In the late afternoon, she opened her eyes, looked straight at him. For the first time in a long time, he saw her there. “I love you,” he said.

“Chocolate,” she answered.

(First Publishing Rights to “Chocolate Wars” belong to Blue Print Review, October 2010)




He reached up with a flower, a drooping bright yellow dandelion he clasps in fat stubby fingers brown from dirt.

“Hmm, nice,” I said.

“He picked it for you,” said his mother, a woman with a pelican chin that descends into the open collar of her white blouse. I knew the child had been trying to give me the flower. I’d been ignoring it. Something you cannot admit to a mother. It’s like tripping over the umbilical cord. I don’t have children. I don’t want children. I don’t particularly like children. I took the egg-yolk yellow weed and smiled wide enough so that his mother was pleased.

“So it says here that you have taken care of younger brothers and sisters but have no official nanny experience?”

“Not yet,” I said. “It’s the problem of there always has to be a starting point somewhere and I decided that since I love working with children, a position of this sort would be ideal.”

“Not yet,” I said. “It’s the problem of there always has to be a starting point and I decided that since I love working with numbers, an accounting position would be a good place for me to be.”

“Not yet,” I said. I decided that since I love the outdoors, running a backhoe would be the perfect job for me.”

And so it went for months until the pelican called me to come in and nanny her chick. I would have preferred driving the backhoe but they probably were looking for a PhD.

Little Timmy Pelican is four and a half years old, almost five, and has a bed-wetting problem. This does nothing to bridge the gap he has finally recognized that yawns like the Grand Canyon between us. I am watchful and civil and willing to play for a few minutes at a time. He is cautious and quiet. I don’t upset easily and I give him ice cream whenever he wants it. He is respectful of boundaries and tried harder to potty train and eventually stopped wetting the bed. Though I have to admit, his doting mother treated him like one of her antique vases and his father called him “Sport” and aside from promising to take the kid with him to play golf someday had little else to do with him.

I lived with them for six months and got used to it, hating little kids a lot less than I did before when he comes over to me one afternoon and wants to show me something. He pulls at my hand to get my attention and because he’s learning patience I click off the TV and follow him into his room.

Well yes, I’d say he had something to show me. My first thought was ostrich but then I thought emu and I looked it up later that night. Turned out that it is an emu, which is good, because ostriches are larger and mean.

“Where’d you get this?” I asked him. He pointed under his bed. “Does your mommy or daddy know? He shook his head. The emu blinked.

“Timmy, I don’t know where you got this thing but we have to get rid of it,” I said. His bottom lip quivered. He ran over to the emu and threw his little arms around its neck. The emu obliged by sitting down so Timmy could reach.

What a picture. What a pair. It dawned on me that Timmy was lonely. His father ignored him, his mother displayed him, and I did whatever I could to keep him happy and playing by himself.

“All right,” I said. “he can stay. But you have to take care of him. Feed and clean up after him and all.”

Boy, the light that came on in that child’s eyes got to me. I went out and bought emu food and a soft cushy pillow bed for it the next day.

The bird was certainly well-behaved and quiet. Even I hardly knew it was there. One afternoon it was so quiet in Charlie’s room for so long that during a commercial I got up and went into his room. I always knocked, more as a signal that it wasn’t his mom or his dad to give Emeril (that’s what Charlie named him, isn’t that sweet?) time to hide.

“Whatcha doin?” I asked.

“Playin’ soldiers,” Charlie said. The two of them had two different colored armies spread out on the floor and in the middle, one soldier of each army faced off.

“Are they fighting?” I asked.

“They’re just talkin’ ” he said. The emu looked up at me and I could swear that he smiled.

“Can I play too?” I asked.

Emeril shoved over closer to Charlie who was pointing for me to sit down.



(point the way)

Charlie Bradley was born with a five-pointed star on his forehead. The nurses called it a port wine stain but his proud mother pointed out that it was more the color of cream sherry.

“Mark of the devil,” grumbled Grandma Bradley, not that anyone listened to her.  His father had wanted to have it removed thinking that people would think Charlie abnormal. Charlie’s mother believed it was the thumbprint of God and would touch her finger to it in amazement. Luckily, Charlie was blessed with nice thick hair so for most of his childhood the star was hidden behind bangs. Whether it was the brand of an omniscient finger or a cloven hoof, for the most part, it didn’t bother Charlie at all.

On Charlie Bradley’s tenth birthday he woke up with three hands. The new hand, slightly bigger than the other two, poked him awake and helped him wash up and eat breakfast. It hid under his shirt when others were around and that was okay with Charlie because his father seemed to avoid him already because of the star and Grandma Bradley had not looked him direct in the eye since the day he was born. The hand eagerly tore into his presents and swiped an extra piece of cake which it hid in his shirt and surprised him with later that night.

The hand was harder to hide. Instinct overwhelmed. It reached out and caught things the other two dropped. Several times it saved Charlie from a bad fall. In school it helped type his papers, carry books, and by college he’d ordered special shirts that gave it a sleeve of its own.

It was also smarter than the other hands. It would always point in the proper direction, it could deftly all by itself roll a joint, and it seemed more knowledgeable than its years about women and all of their parts. Though the star on his forehead had only proved helpful at night, the hand was a delight. Charlie therefore was quite excited as his twentieth birthday approached, wondering if his blessings came due with the decades.

And it seemed that they were.

He woke up still hungover from a birthday celebration with friends the evening before, so he can hardly be blamed for not immediately noticing. He stumbled out of bed and stopped short of the bathroom and just stared down at them in complete disbelief. At first he was horrified, then he started thinking, and soon Charlie became a very popular guy with the girls.

Through his thirties and forties Charlie made good use of his gifts and welcomed each new decade feeling comfortable with himself and yet anticipating each new addition. By age seventy, Charlie looked like a spider. He had four legs, four arms, a tail, three ears, two penises and of course, that star on his head.

When Charlie Bradley died they took him apart in the grand name of science to figure out his phenomenon.

“Let’s start with the tail,” said one of the doctors who looked a lot like the pictures of Albert Einstein.

“I’d rather we check out the legs,” said another, fit and trim as a runner.

“Oh let’s start up here,” said a very short doctor, “I’m most interested of course in his arms.”

“I think we should start from the beginning,” said a young woman, her place among her colleagues tenuous because of her age. Before anyone bothered to answer, she reached over and touched the star on his forehead. They all stepped back and gaped in surprise as all Charlie’s extra appendages fell off.




The man upstairs keeps the sunlight in an old cigar box in his dresser. He showed me once, but warned, “don’t touch it because you’ll get burned.”  He grew the healthiest African violets set out on a radiator in a southern window and taught me how to grow new plants from cuttings. We mixed the soil with vermiculite and peat because the violets like it that way and slipped in a number of small velvet stems.

I could get lonely in the city because I’m not outgoing like my younger sister Kate. She’s a calliope that draws people in to listen, stop and want to buy ice cream or follow her flute-playing into the river and drown. She is tall and auburn-haired. I am short and dirty-blonde. I always thought that was the reason she was a crowd-pleaser and I was not, so I stretch myself each day and every year have gained a half inch of height I think. I henna-rinse my hair too. I wish my mother could see.

The man upstairs shows me a Russian helmet that he wore in battle. It is marked with streaks of bullets that went blazing by. It also has a dent from when he said a mortar shell blew up behind him. He pulls out his medals, each wrapped in linen to protect them from the air and moisture. It’s funny, I tell him, that medals earned in the fire of war would be damaged by the everyday air of the city.

Yesterday my sister left to go back to Miami. She doesn’t like the New York cold. She left behind a part of herself somewhere, a boy they said it was, or so she told me. Now every day I look into the faces of the people in the street. No longer are they necessary strangers. One day, I’ll look at one of them and notice something. Something I’ll recognize like an African violet I’ve started from a mother plant. A look in his eye, auburn hair afire in the noon sun. The velvet leaves that set off his petals. I will take him to lunch, or coffee and donuts and explain to him that he is family.




I come too late to the morning forest. The deer have drifted ghostlike through the leaves. Coyote follows, hanging back, waiting for the bravado of his kind.

The birds call through the branches, turning quiet into shades of sound. It is a quickness, a feather flash of color, a swoop of wings that cast a shadow like a running turtle on the ground.

Every day they come through. I imagine them through the space of time between us. Where for a measure we’ve set to organize our lives, they, oblivious to the standards, follow light more accurately than the ticking of a clock.

Sparrows, chickadees give way to robins which in turn fly at the harsh call of the bluejay and the crow. It is a systematic scene written by a force we dissect and organize and can never really comprehend.

The dawn has crept away in face of morning, yet the mist hangs on the tinseled trees. The day has fallen quiet in transition. Between the light and deep darkness I hear the past. The soft and barely-there step of a moccasin. I feel the tension of the string pulled back halfway to hunting. Time transects itself. I stare into the face of one who listened here before me. For an instant, an undefinable space somewhere we meet as through a hole torn in a curtain. A glimpse of someone who has filled this place as I do. Who stands beneath a shorter tree.

But before I can invite him in for coffee and an English muffin, he is gone and I’m not quick enough to follow.




She daydreamed herself shrouded in her lover’s arms, felt his warm weight pressing down on her. She imagined the musk scent of him, the soft brush of his mouth on her neck. She was oh-so-tired and her mind slipped like silk in the heat of a slow eastern wind.

People moved around her in a swirl of dry desert sand. The sun wept hot oil on her face. Out of hunger, she drifted away from the day, from the busy yet quiet murmur that floated with the perfume of jasmine in the air. In her mind she was weak from the lovemaking. Placid, and slow. Her fingers sought the curls of his hair, her mouth kissed the top of his brow. Her lips were parched and made no sound, her thirst as forgotten as the years under dreams of desire.

She stirred as someone shouted, slid back into reverie. Another voice sang in a high-pitched trill. She opened her eyes. In front of her just a few yards away stood her husband, her children pulling at his arms and crying words she barely could hear. Her daughter was sobbing, down on her knees, her small body straining against him. Her son stood firm, both of his hands gripping one of his father’s. He stared into her face. She saw the conflict within him, his love stretched and hanging torn in the air. Tears locked for years inside her glass eyes crept up and spilled over, leaving large sparkling drops in the sand.

Her husband had never looked this frightening before. His anger was quiet. His anger was all in his face. She could not help but forgive him though he would never forgive her, she knew. Mahmoud stood steady and with a fling back of his arm, their daughter fell backward into the crowd.

She shut her eyes just as the first stone crushed into her jaw.




His back hung in flayed strips. Raw like the carcass of beef where she bought meat that her husband liked in his meals. The man was young, that she could see.

He was a robber, a thief of emotions, caught by a husband and branded by law. She found him on her way home, barely alive, moaning and rolling in the cool dirt of an alley. Sand ground into the torn flesh of his back, blood seeped like an overturned vase spilling water into a carpet. Colors ran, intermingled.

She hid him in the shack at the back of their walled yard. She moved tools, brought a blanket, a candle and some water and wine. She cleaned the ragged landscape of his back and dressed it with cotton. He whispered thanks between warnings. She shushed him and left him to sleep.

He told her about the woman. He cried when he spoke her name. He said her eyes still burned into his own, her lips healed his wounds with the memory of kisses. He said that he wished that he too had been put to death.

She kept him hidden for nearly a week. He insisted that he would leave the next day.

He was gone, as he’d said, but he had been seen by her neighbor, a bitter widow who resented her.

She sang as she prepared the evening meal, happy to no longer have a secret kept from her husband, when they came and took her away.

(First Publishing Rights to “Red Meat” belong to 52/250 THIRTEEN September 2010)



(great moments in cinema #50)

The man looks through the bars, between them, a gnarled dark hand on each side of his face. That way he doesn’t see them. Doesn’t know from the concrete wall painted peeling gray that he’s in prison and for a moment he forgets.

The child peeks through the spindles of the railing on the stairs. Shivers to the voices raised in battle. The sounds of fighting, slaps and screams get loud, louder still before they boil over into a slamming door and sobbing mother cries.

The baby’s crying hiccups, then settles into quiet hopeless calm. He crawls up to the white wooden slats that jail him and reaches out with tiny fists to try out what he’s been thinking of all morning. He pulls himself up and up and nearly over.

The squash blossom has been waiting, waiting to open up beneath its green cave of leaves. It has a day at most. It smiles up at the morning sun in a wide-mouthed grin.

Time ticks present into past. Happening into memory. Memory to forgotten. Time is a space we move between and all the while desire, fear, anticipation live on either side.




The sky split open like a tarp and spilled rain that broke tree limbs bent from the sudden weight of wet leaves. Lightning danced on electrical wires and transformers exploded in fire. It was another late summer New England storm and it hummed with movement and drama.

The woman loved thunder and lightning. She stood on the porch barely within the reach of its fingers. Wind tickled her neck, played with her hair. She laughed as it whirled up her skirt. The screen door slammed behind her and the man came out but stood a step safely behind her. He looked up at the sky, placed a hand on her shoulder. She felt its weight in her feet. She let it lay there a few moments before shrugging it off but turned her head and gave him a quick smile to temper the meaning. The night flickered, shapes lit up then disappeared back into the darkness.

“You coming in?” the man asked.

“In a minute,” she said.

“You shouldn’t stand out in it,” he said, “it’s dangerous.”

“Look at that,” she said. She pointed to the telephone wires that ran from the corner of their house out to the pole by the road. Between flashes of light he saw six birds perched there, evenly spaced on the line.

“You’d think they’d know better,” he said.

“They’re not afraid,” she said. “It’s all natural. Nature.”

“It’s because they don’t know that they can get fried.”

“No, they won’t, because they hold on with both feet. It grounds them, I think.”

“That’s just for the wires. Not for the storm.”

“They’re not holding metal,” she said. She looked over each bird, looking for umbrellas or golf clubs. “The lightning won’t strike them. And thunder never killed anyone.”

They stood silently for a few minutes, hearing the buzz of the wires wrapped in the sound of wet wind and puddles gobbling up rain.

“Rain has killed people,” he said. “Floods. Wiped out whole towns.”

“Not whole towns. Just a few people with each flood.”

She looked up at the wires, counted, waited for another flash and counted again.

“See?” she said.

He looked over. There were five birds evenly spaced on the wire.

“Was it lightning or the rain then?” he asked.

“Neither,” she said. “It just flew away.”


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