Tag Archive: poems


Holiday Bus to Joseph

With the kids moved out and far away with families of their own, I decided that what I needed was something to kick off the holiday season—something to get me in the mood—Thanksgiving and Black Friday just weren’t enough.

Three years ago, it was a Christmas concert at Eastern Oregon University. It just so happened that year, on the night of the concert, La Grande and northeast Oregon experienced one of the worst blizzards on record. The walk to the concert hall from the parking lot took on the challenges of an expedition to the Arctic—very memorable—very North Pole-like.

The following year, I thought it would be fun to take the Eagle Cap Excursion train along the scenic Minim River. The price was right—a few cans of food for the food bank. There was a hitch however; it was a Santa Clause train for the kids, so I had to borrow a couple of kids from a friend to make my presence seem legit. We had a great time—the winter scenery was spectacular, which included sightings of elk, deer, bald eagles and a coyote, but the ride was over too soon.

That year I learned you get what you pay for.

On the third year, I decided to cater to the altruistic, extravagant shopaholic in me and signed on for a Holiday Bus tour to the touristy, colorful, quaint and remote village of Joseph, Oregon for a full day of s-h-o-p-p-i-n-g!

Joseph, for those of you who don’t know, is way the heck out there in the far northeastern corner of Oregon at the gateway to the Hells Canyon.

It’s beautifully situated, nestled up against the Eagle Cap snow-covered peaks of the Wallowa Mountains—the area is sometimes referred to as Little Switzerland.

I paid for the tour, which promised goodies, snacks on the bus, coupons for food, coupons for savings on merchandise from the merchants in Enterprise, as well as Joseph, and

Holiday Bus to Joseph, page 2

drawings for special savings certificates; never suspecting for one second that I had signed on for a marathon.

First stop—Enterprise for the warm-up round of shopping, then on to Joseph for the major round, then on the return trip, back to Enterprise for the grand-finale, with a chili feed and Christmas parade. It sounded great. I was chomping at the bit.

Saturday morning we gathered at the crack of dawn—raw recruits, and what I would soon categorize as experienced campaigners—in front of Albertson’s super market in Island City, which is just a suburb of LaGrande. We all piled into the busses like sheep for the fleecing. As a newbie, I took a seat up front, close to the driver and the exit door. The veteran soldiers-of-shopping headed for the back of the bus, Santa hats in place, twinkle-light necklaces denoting their rank, hooting and whooping like sailors setting off for their long-awaited shore leave.

We traveled along, passing through small villages, stopping for stragglers and innocent rookies who eagerly waved the bus down. We pressed on, all of us yakking, clacking, flapping our gums, confident, our wallets bulging with cash, our credit cards shined up and ready.

Naïve, I’d left home with a clear objective in mind: I wanted to find the one-of-a-kind gift, the unusual, the I just won’t be able to resist something you can’tfind at Wal-Mart.

Perhaps I need to clarify here that La Grande has two primary places to shop and they are Wal-Mart and Bi-Mart.  And during the winter, with a pass on both ends of town, you aren’t inclined to travel the seventy-five miles to the nearest mall.

We arrived in Enterprise for the warm-up round at nine-thirty a.m. The temperature hovered in the mid-twenties with a light breeze, an overcast sky, and a skiff of pristine white, crystalline snow on the ground—perfect—beautiful.

With the snowcapped Wallowa Mountains in the background, our busses pulled up in front of the old, stone-block Enterprise courthouse. Can you imagine how the local merchants

Holiday Bus to Joseph, page 3

must’ve felt watching those buses unload? Those merchants were ready, with feet braced, shelves fully stocked—you can bet on it.

Set free, we spread out over the town—about four or maybe five square blocks—each of us with our quest for the perfect gift uppermost in our minds. I perused and assessed each shop and after careful deliberation made one purchase. That one purchase made it easier to make the next and the next. This practice round showed me that I needed to hone my shopping skills, keep my impulses in check. After all, I needed to spread my cash out sparingly, know when to use my credit card. I had a full day of shopping to do and couldn’t afford to lose my head—not this early in the game.

After nearly two hours of nonstop shopping, many of us had retreated to the bus. My feet hurt. I was hungry. Inexperienced, I had dressed expecting the cold to be my enemy, but as the morning passed I realized if I had any hope of surviving, I would need to rid myself of several layers of insulation, namely my faux fur hat, faux fur muffler, my fleece vest, and my gloves. In other words, I was miserable, in pain, and sweating.

Remember, this was only the first round, and, it wasn’t even noon.

Laughing, singing, weaving in and out of the stores, the seasoned campaigners regrouped, the last to file back on the bus.  I couldn’t believe it! Whooping victoriously, they skipped to the back of the bus with their bundles of booty, as fresh and as full of robust good cheer and camaraderie as they had at the outset.

______________

The city limits of Joseph arrived too soon, but allowed me enough time to strip down to just the bare minimum of outer gear. However, there was nothing I could do to revive my feet, wiggling my toes was about all I could do. As the bus pulled into a parking lot, I girded my

Holiday Bus to Joseph, page 4

resolve, determined to see the day through to a successful conclusion. To do that, I needed nourishment and a tall, cool glass of something containing lots of caffeine.

But first, I had to run the obstacle course of the Joseph Holiday Flea Market. The seasoned campaigners had decided this should be our first objective.  I couldn’t allow them to see that I was already starting to fade, so I put on my game face to do what had to be done.

It was beginner’s luck that I discovered a booth selling homemade fudge just inside the door. With a sugar boost, I made it through the flea market and down the street two blocks to where I found real food and caffeine.

Thoughtfully, I, and all my fellow bus-mates, were given a voucher for dollars off at the restaurant of our choice, thereby assuring we would all eat hearty. While I savored my roast beef sandwich, my head cleared a bit, and I reasoned I could do this if I could pace myself; after all, I had four-and-half hours of shopping to endure. I had a list of merchants in my coat pocket, and I withdrew the list to study it, deciding on a plan of attack.

I would work the stores from north to south on the east side of the street, cross over and return on the west side of the street to the parking lot and the bus. Along the way, I would take advantage of any place that offered a place to sit and rest. If I had too many parcels, I could leave them in the bus. Feeling more confident, I visited the restroom, adjusted my purse on my shoulder, and set out to conquer.

Three hours later, all my plotting having failed me, I limped into Mad Mary’s Soda Fountain and Emporium, lugging a very large bag of stuff, and plopped myself down at her counter.

What kind of stuff?  you might ask. At this point, I couldn’t exactly remember. The day had become something of a blur. I was drunk from purchasing; staggering from one shop to the

Holiday Bus to Joseph, page 5

next like a crazed fiend—choosing and buying—opening and closing my purse, stashing receipts in my pockets, sweating, thirsty, I was out of control.

With my hand under my chin to hold my head up, I glanced at the clock and groaned in agony. I still had an hour and thirty minutes to shop. I knew there were stores out there I had skipped. I would have to backtrack now.

Carolers entered the store to sing songs of praise. The battalion of seasoned campaigners were out there; I could hear them laughing, unfazed, undaunted. I was beginning to despise their unflagging enthusiasm.

In my weakened condition, I guess I must’ve become slightly paranoid because, as I looked around at the other women sitting in groups and clusters at the tables, and along the counter, some in worse shape than myself, I had an epiphany, a crazy, wild moment of clarity. We had all signed up for this mission, willingly, eagerly.  We’d signed on to shop our hearts out for one entire day.  Like lambs to the slaughter, we’d accepted incentives and enticements, we were all aided and abetted into indulging in our vice for out-of-control spending.   We’d been given permission to fall off the wagon of reason and into the abyss of shopaholic despair.

Suddenly I saw everything more clearly. This was a subversive plot! It was a cunning strategy of mass aversion therapy! And I….I was cured! I knew it right then—I was cured for all time. Those poor souls out there, those women in that battalion of jovial, veteran campaigners, they were the incurables—after all, therapy doesn’t work the same way for everyone.

I vowed to see the day through, take my medicine like a good little soldier. I drank down my hot chocolate, picked up my shopping bag, squared my shoulders, and headed off to those shops I had not visited.

But now, I kept my head about me, and even rode the delightful horse-drawn wagon from one end of Joseph to the other, then back to where I started. I actually took the time to glean

Holiday Bus to Joseph, page 6

some enjoyment out of what remained of the day, making it back to the bus moments before our departure time.

In my seat, with my parcels tucked in around my feet, I closed my eyes. Ashamed and full of remorse, I knew I was way over budget, I had blisters on my feet, my knees screamed with fatigue, and my shoulders ached.  I was battle-weary but alive, and that was enough.

By now, the sun had slipped down behind the mountains.  Our balmy twenty-five degrees at midday had fallen off into the teens, with a light snow falling at dusk.

While wishing I was at home soaking in a warm bath, the bus driver took us away from beautiful downtown Joseph and back to Enterprise where he parked on a side street near the end of the parade route. Once again, we disembarked in mass and marched two blocks to enjoy the feast of a homemade chili the townspeople of Enterprise had made for all of us who came to enjoy the Christmas parade.

With my belly full, I trudged back to the bus, barely acknowledging the diehard veteran shoppers still laughing, still weaving in and out of the shops, still merry and seemingly still full of fight, their Santa hats and twinkle-light necklaces flashing in the dark, making them appear in my eyes, as extraterrestrial beings…inhuman.

Feeling defeated, I surrendered to the fact that I would never have the stamina of the seasoned veteran shopaholics that rode the Holiday Bus to Joseph. I would never make the grade—earn the right to wear a twinkle-light necklace.  It wasn’t in me.

Accepting that I was a wimp and a pansy, I watched the parade from the warmth of the bus. Melancholy, I longed for my slippers and my warm jammies.

As we left the Christmas lights and all the good people of Enterprise behind, the diehard veteran shoppers at the back of the bus began to sing Christmas carols. I tried to sing along, but I had trouble keeping my eyes open long enough to hold a tune.

Holiday Bus to Joseph, page 7

After twelve and a half hours of shopping, walking, eating and talking we rolled into La Grande, right on schedule at seven-thirty P.M.  We wished one another a merry Christmas and left the bus. Lugging all my booty, I limped to my car and asked myself, would I do it again?

No, was my first response.  Well, maybe, I thought, once I was home and able to sort through all my purchases. By the time I lay in my bed, all snug and warm, I had decided to wait and see. Perhaps doing the Holiday Bus tour to Joseph was like giving birth, perhaps it would take time for my memory of the pain and the stress to fade, but in all likelihood, I would probably have to try it again.

Merry Christmas to all the hearty souls who brave the Holiday Bus to Joseph and to those who are wise and stay home—Happy New Year.

ALOHA, SWEETHEART

Hunkered forward, eyes peering through a narrowing arch of windshield into the blizzard, nerves frayed, Fain MacKay sang to herself , skipping words, then humming the tune “over the river and through the woods”.  She’d turned off the radio, refusing to listen to the ominous weather report and impending road closures. In her headlights, the highway, what she could see of it, was a fluffy blanket of white—like driving through cornstarch. No center-line, no fog line, all white on the roadway and in the air—she was in a snow globe—a true, honest to God white out.  Creeping along, her foot barely on the gas, she feared she’d missed the turn.

Her dear husband was off somewhere, the fool, the idiot. No doubt somewhere swank and expensive—off with his sexy, bubble-headed secretary. “Probably gone to Hawaii”, she grumbled to herself. “Wish I was in Hawaii. But no, Cory says we can’t afford it, can’t take the time off, can’t leave the business.  Promised me we’d go for our twentieth anniversary. Yeah, right, if promises were horses beggars would ride. One more year, just one more year, twenty years putting up with Cory McKay and I might’ve gotten my wish, I could go to Hawaii. Nineteen years, nineteen years of married life down the tubes. Maybe, I’ll take myself to Hawaii, that is if I don’t die out here in this blizzard.

“Thanksgiving—have to go to the old cabin on Lake Lea, it’s a MacKay tradition. Pam should’ve come up here with me, but no, she wants to spend the holiday with her buds on campus, not her sad-sack, wreck of a mother.

“Well Pam probably blames me for screwing up the marriage, tearing our family apart. So, this is my punishment; dying  in a blizzard—alone.  Never mind that it’s Cory, the dirty, rotten lecherous fool, who’s to blame for screwing up this marriage.

“I might be on the downhill side of forty two, but I’m far from being an old hag. Damn it, I’m in darn good shape—better than fair looking—holding  up nicely.  It’s my philandering husband who’s having the mid-life crisis; trying to reach back in time to hold on to his youth. I’m very comfortable with my age and my life, thank you. That is, until Cory took off on this flyer, then my life took a sharp downward turn, a nosedive right into the ditch.

Her rear wheels spun out, fishtailed, letting up on the gas she concentrated, trying not to over correct. It worked. Still moving forward, not sideways, not backwards or stopped dead against a tree.

“Ditch—I’ll end up in one, buried under three feet of snow!

“I’m  a masochist, that’s what I am. I should have my head examined. What was I thinking, coming up here alone on Thanksgiving, crawling off into the woods like some wounded critter to lick my wounds, nurse my bruised heart?

“Answer: I needed to get away from the lawyers…Cory’s lawyer—my lawyer, the bribes, the threats: sign now with 3.5 million and keep the house, don’t sign, and forfeit the business, the cabin—my mind!”

The snow, coming down in big, feathery flakes, stacked up on the wiper blades. Her fingers cramping on the steering wheel, eyes wide, Fain searched for the turnoff to the lake. She had to be close—she’d just passed the sign that pointed down to hot spring.

Spotting the snow-shrouded wooden sign to the MacKay Cabin, she hung on tight to the steering wheel and plowed through the middle of a three-foot deep barricade of snow. When the poof of snow cleared, she was on the narrow lane that lead down to the cabin. With her headlights on low beam, she thought she saw footprints going down the middle of the road, but they disappeared at the bridge that crossed Salt Creek. Probably a deer, maybe a bobcat; the night wasn’t fit for man nor beast.

The cabin stood dark and deserted in her headlights. She turned off the ignition, put the keys in her coat pocket and leaned back to watch the snow slide down the still warm windshield. Stupid little memories spilled across her mind in a kaleidoscope of colors, smearing together, the happy hues ruined by murky browns and grays. Like Cory’s obsession for murder thrillers, and his pranks. That New Year’s Eve, the temperature hovering at zero, when he’d poured water on the outhouse seat. “My version of a hot foot,” he’d gleefully explained as he’d dribbled hot water down her backside to unstick her poor bottom from the privy bench—funny, and yet cruel at the same time—that was Cory.

Resting her head on the steering wheel, she wept; she’d been crying for days.  Stopping herself, refusing to cry anymore, she screamed into the silent night, “God, I hate Cory MacKay’s guts!” then sobbed, “God, I miss the son-of-a-bitch.”

A gust of wind rocked the car. The windshield cleared. The cabin lit up. “Like a prairie shit-house!” Cory would’ve said.

Cory?

Cory! He’d come to his senses. Ditched his pubescent secretary!

Heart in her throat, tears streaming down her face, Fain raced to the cabin and burst through the front door, expecting wine, candles and Cory.

Even with the lantern on the fireplace mantel lit, and the fire in the fireplace crackling away, the pale yellow light couldn’t reach into the shadow filled corners of the sparsely furnished, one room cabin. A swirl of snow rushed in behind her. The wind grabbed the door, slapped it shut, then flung it wide, letting it smack back against the log wall. Fain squeaked, jumped and spun around. The gust blew out the lantern light and a flop of snow doused the fire in the grate, sending a cloud of smoke into the room.

Feeling her way to the stone hearth, she walked her fingers along the rough mantel to the box of matches. Striking a match, she faced her pale visage in the lamp’s glass chimney, and hardly recognized the hollow-eyed, owlish face looking back at her. She looked like a mad-woman.

She was mad, mad as a hatter, thinking Cory was here, waiting for her.  Stupid.  But there was a fire in the fireplace, and the lamp, someone had lit the lamp. Someone was here, or had been here.

A whisper of air, a sigh glanced her cheek and snuffed the match. Startled, sensing a presence, expecting to see Cory and his big smart-ass grin right behind her, she turned and chucked the box of matches across the room. The box hit the slate floor and burst into flame. For a few brief seconds the room was full of a hellish orange light. Pivoting, her eyes scanned all four corners. Catching sight of her reflection in the window, she screamed, her heart jumped, took off like a diesel engine. Shaking, teeth chattering, clutching her chest, the burst of flame extinguished as quickly as it flared, leaving her breathless, in the dark, the smell of sulfur and smoke in her nose.

“Get a grip, Cory isn’t here. No one’s here. All that snow… the weather’s got you imaging things, Fain MacKay. The Forest Ranger, what’s his name, Terry…he lit the fire, and the lamp. He’s a good guy. Expecting us, like usual. We’re here every Thanksgiving, come hell or high water. This year it’s hell, but I’m here. I didn’t see any lights when I drove in. The snow, all that snow on the windshield blocked my view, that’s all. Just the weather. ”

Backing away from the window, she found the spare matches in the drawer with the dishtowels, and despite her trembling fingers, and after fumbling around a bit, she relit the lamp. Holding it up, she made her way to the still-opened door—it wouldn’t close. Desperate, teeth clenched, eyes squeezed shut, she put her back to it. Without warning, the door shut with a slap. Her wet boots slid out from under her. In slow motion, her back against the door she descended to the floor, concentrating on holding the lantern steady to prevent it from smashing and setting the entire cabin on fire.

The slate floor beneath her bottom, cold and hard as a sheet of ice, she reasoned, it’s the storm. Giggling in spite of herself, working hard not to become hysterical, she realized she was being ridiculous. Cory would love this. The wind, the snow… and me scared out of my wits. Sleep deprivation, that’s it. It’s been weeks, maybe months, since I’ve slept through the night. I’m hungry. My nerves, shot to hell. Tea, there’s tea in the cupboard.

After getting up off the floor, she shed her coat then pumped water from the pump at the sink into the teakettle. Kneeling down before the hearth, she shoved aside the wet coals and laid a fire.

As the fire came to life memories of cozy nights spent before the hearth, wrapped in Cory’s arms, filled her head. Her throat tightened with unshed tears.

Practical. She needed to stay focused and practical. There was food in the car. She had two bags full of deli food out there—she was hungry, that’s all, hungry and tired. She needed her overnight bag, her fuzzy robe and slippers, a big chicken breast and a lovely cinnamon roll smothered with frosting, and maybe some popcorn—after that, she’d be right as rain, or maybe have a belly ache. Either way, she’d feel better than she did at the moment.

Giving a glance out the window, noting the snow blowing down from the roof, she opened the door, ducked her head and made a dash for the car, delivering a curse as the snow sifted down her neck, “Cory MacKay, I hope you burn in hell!”

Swiping away the snow from the door handle, she discovered the car door wouldn’t open. She hadn’t locked it. She didn’t even remember closing it. Maybe it had frozen shut. Behind her, the cabin door slammed and the lights went out inside.

Taking two steps toward the porch, the food and her overnight bag forgotten, Fain watched a small gold light pass before the big window. Someone was in there.

Pulse hammering, perspiration mingling with the snow on her upper lip, she prayed, “God help me.”

Looking back to the car, she deliberated, smash the window? Wouldn’t do you any good, no keys! she remembered. Walk back to the road? I’d freeze.

It was Cory. It had to be. He was in there. Oh, yeah, he was playing with her. There was a hatchet on the porch. Making up her mind, she was through playing games. Like hell she’d give up the business. She wasn’t going to give up anything! Not for 3.5 mil…not for a trillion! She’d teach Cory MacKay a lesson, and about time. Game time was over!

***

            The dawn came crisp with a clear blue sky. Terry Bottger, the forest ranger who stayed down at the hot spring year round, packed his snowmobile with a gas can, a chain saw and his rifle. After a storm, he made the rounds to check the roads for downed trees and property damage.

Pulling up to the MacKay place, he spied Mrs. MacKay’s blue BMW buried under a mound of new snow. The MacKays usually came up for Thanksgiving.  But, he’d heard about the split and wasn’t sure he’d see either one of them up here this year. As usual, his mind went on a lightning-fast fantasy ride with the beautiful Fain Mackay as his leading lady, then he noticed the cabin door hanging by a single hinge.

With rifle at the ready, he approached the cabin. Inside, the furniture looked more like kindling. Bloodied stuffing from the daybed was everywhere. Broken glass from the window crunched under his boots. There were lines of dried blood on the floor, the walls and the fireplace.

Lying in a mangled heap near the fireplace lay Fain MacKay…beautiful, luscious Fain.  In her lifeless hand, she held a bloody hatchet. Her face gray, she was covered with cuts and dried blood. A large splinter of glass poked out from the cornea of her left eye.

Shaking, Terry backed out of the room. Air, he needed fresh air. Using his cell phone, he dialed 911.

***

            As the EMTs  hefted Fain MacKay’s body into the ambulance a black Hummer drove in. Terry groaned, it was Cory MacKay. Terry didn’t have much use for the man, he hadn’t deserved a woman like Fain.

Looking like a model out of Winter-fest’s best-dressed ski bum catalog in a black and glow-in-the-dark chartreuse snow jacket, and pants with black and green ski boots to match, Cory, the arrogant bastard, demanded to know, “What’s going on? What’s happened?”of the ambulance attendants, slamming the door of the Hummer behind him.

Terry stepped back to allow the sheriff, who had responded to the 911 call, apprise Mr. MacKay of the situation, “Looks like she just went berserk—went on some kind of wild rampage, busting up the place,” the sheriff answered. “It snowed all night, so there’s no way to tell if there was anyone else up here or not; everything is buried in at least three feet of new snow. But I’d say no one else was up here, other than Mrs. MacKay. If there had been anyone else in that cabin with her, they’d be all cut up.  But there are no fingerprints, other than your wife’s in there, on the door and the lamp. Could be she had a stroke.  Emotions running high—you know that kind of thing sometimes happens.”

“No! ”  Covering his face with his gloved hands, Cory slumped into a heap on the steps. “I called Pammy, our daughter. She told me Fain had come up here. Said her mother sounded desperate and upset. Going through a divorce, all that crap of sorting it out brought me to my senses. I tried to get up here last night but the damn weather stopped me. The highway closed.” Cory gulped and swallowed down a sob. Eyes brimming with tears he raised his head to the sheriff, “I came up here to beg Fain to take me back.  I’m an ass. My fault…put her through hell, my fault. Start over…tickets to Maui in my pocket. Second honeymoon.  Fain, oh, Fain, God no…”

***

            The ambulance headed down the road with the forest ranger leading the way. With his back to the sheriff’s car, Cory struggled to his feet and tried not to wince, reminded of the cuts on his back and shoulders.  His bandaged hand in his coat pocket, he clutched the envelope that contained the two airline tickets to Maui. A smile twisted his lips into a sneer, and he whispered, “Aloha, Sweetheart,” then remembered he was the grieving husband and squeezed a tear out to let it slide down his cold cheek.

One Arm Tied Behind My Back

She stumbled out the front door and down the wet steps, tears streaming down her cheeks. His smiling face a blur, Kay took a leap and flew into his waiting embrace. With her eyes squeezed shut, she wept against his neck, inhaling the smell of him, savoring the masculine feel of his hard, strong body, feeling the stubble on the nape of his neck against her cheek.  He smelled of musty fatigues and deodorant. It was a masculine smell, a warm smell, a lovely, comforting smell. He smelled like Spence, her lover, her mate, her heart. He was home. After two long, lonely years, he was home—home to stay. With his face buried in her neck they wept, until she pulled back seeking a kiss.

“God, you smell good, Kay. I probably smell like a duffle bag. Can’t wait to take a real shower, with soap that actually lathers, and get into some civies.”

A giggle escaped her lips before the heat of his kiss dissolved it. It was good to know their minds still traveled along the same wavelength. While in Afghanistan, their letters contained, practically word for word, identical questions. Often, they expressed the same thoughts, even though they were hundreds of miles apart, but after…after the explosion, things changed. Letters grew short…vague. The telephone conversations crisp and dry.

Without thinking, her hands slipped to his shoulders, then upper arms, and with their lips still locked, she clutched the empty sleeve, and her breath caught in her throat, just for a split second.

With his forehead pressed against hers, he murmured, “I’ll have a prosthesis in a couple weeks; be almost good as new, doc says.”

A lump, icy and cold as a well-packed snowball, formed in Kay’s throat. With a nod, she cut through that icy plug to ask the dumb question, “Does it hurt?” Instantly sorry, unable to shut up, she babbled like an idiot, making it worse, “My left arm, right at the shoulder, has this burning sensation. I can’t sleep on my left side anymore.”

God, if he shut her out, as he’d tried to do when he was in the army hospital in Germany, where he’d been flown after the explosion, Kay didn’t know what she would do. She couldn’t live without him. The arm didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. He had survived. He was home, and he was going to stay home.

“Doesn’t hurt much anymore…but yeah, it bothers me. Lightning shoots up my arm, to my neck. The pain makes my ears ring. The arm is gone—I know. It’s weird. But I’m good with it. I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. I’ve worked through some stuff.  I’ve got a lot more to do. But we’ll do it together, Kay. Together.”

“Just love me, Spence, don’t ever cut me loose.”

“Hell, Sweetheart, I can do that with one arm tied behind my back.”

Insomnia, In My Gentle Twilight Hues

by Dorothy A. Bell

In the black and white

Before she decides the color of the day,

The earth lies still and stark,

And I rest in a sleepless haze.

In my head,

Upon a stage, miniscule and grand

A shade, I call insomnia, splatters across the bleak pre-light.

Applying a creative pallet.

Here I lay suspended

Between dream-world

And reality

Seeking relief from my body’s

Screaming pain.

To ignore the pest

I turn up the volume

On an old, familiar dream.

At first, the vision floats out of focus.

I tune it in…

Sharpen the scene

I know  every player’s part.

If I shift my body’s weight

The dream,

I fear,

will fall apart.

With the wild drumbeat of my heart

Pounding against my skull,

I take shallow breaths.

My organ’s constant rhythm interferes.

I know my heart is there,

blood and sinew,

Yet I resent the  intrusion.

What I crave, is my illusion,

Distraction from my pain is what I seek.

Garish color spreads across the cheek

Of the earth where I lay.

Ah, it’s here,

The dreaded light of a new day.

My eyes snap shut,

Behind closed lids,

I hold the darkness,

Snatching at a scrap of dream

To carry with me into the fray.

Now in broad daylight,

Hobbled by my infirmities,

Mind and body weary of the struggle,

If I close my eyes,

Return to that old dream,

Looking to escape my body’s unrelenting scream

In the gentle twilight hues of my insomnia.

THE BABE AND THE BLUE CAT

BY

DOROTHY A. BELL

 (An exercise in one-syllable words)

A cloak of dark

hid the boy with hair of fire.

To make a torch of the wood,

he flew close to the land!

His eye to the rise,

and the first ray of sun,

he saw the crone in her black cart.

He heard her caw!  Caw!

Her call to lead him back to the croft!

“Dark will stay to hold the night!”

The crone did chant.

“Sun be gone!

Fire burn!

Lift the cloud to chase the day!”

A pure, blonde babe woke—he lay in his wee bed.

A far off voice he did hear.

He saw the wood.

The flame lit sky!

Where was the sun?

Day was here,

but all was dark!

Not a star did he spy.

Fire was in his nose and hair!

Fire was in the wood!

A shrill caw, caw… put ice in his pure heart!

A blue cat did step to his side,

a soft paw she put on his cheek.

A tear fell, warm with salt, on the nose of the cat.

“Purr, purr” said the cat.

“Chert and stone!

Pearl and bone!”

sang the cat to the babe.

The babe did sniff to dry his eyes.

He gave an ear,

his lips did part,

a smile broke,

and with a wink,

he sang,

“Chert and stone!

Pearl and bone!

sun, the birth of fire,

warm the new day!

Evil gone; good will out!

Stay the clouds of gray.

Rain down where sweet grass will grow!”

“Chert and stone!

Pearl and bone!

Caw! Caw!  Be gone the crone!”

sang the babe and the cat.

The crone did lie in her black cart to wail and pitch!

And in her wake, a slick of oil!

The boy with hair of fire

was but a spit of rain

to douse the flame

on the land.

Birds flew on high!

Bugs leapt to taste the dew!

As he sat on the floor,

the cat at his side,

a beam of gold from the sun to warm his blonde head,

“Chert and stone!

Pearl and bone!”

sang the babe.

“Purr, purr,”

said the blue cat.

The End