Ghostly Relationships

IMG_0781Down a driveway of cement cobblestones, I talked to her about ghosts. Cam was my height, which means short, mostly black hair gathered in a ponytail, silver and grey on top bordered by red and blue streaks. She was Asian, maybe Vietnamese, renting a basement room, which at various times had served as my son and daughter’s living space. On this particular day I’d pulled up to the house where I’d lived with my husband for twenty-five years, the same house where he had died, the same house where I’d raised my children, where we’d eaten meals together at the kitchen table and stepped on the porch at night to look at stars. But on this particular day I was feeling nostalgic. I slowed down at the curb of my old house about twenty minutes from where I currently lived, wanting to catch a glimpse of the garden where for years I had waged a battle with ferocious weeds, transforming patches of Bermuda grass into stays of Pacific Coast Iris, a wisteria vine, an herb and vegetable garden, daffodils in the spring.

Bay Laurel trees in my new neighborhood were beginning to tease the air with spikey leaves; it wasn’t yet quite spring. I wondered if the apple tree I had planted in our backyard was still there. I wondered if I’d see any daffodils with two-tone cream cups. I’d recently returned to the Bay Area following an almost three-year sojourn in the south. I think my unplanned visit was part of a reintegration, reacquainting myself with the path I’d traveled in the hope of creating a new one.

She said it was okay for me to look at the garden even though Lester, the man whom I’d sold the house to, wasn’t at home. I only wanted to look at the garden, I said to her, not go inside the house, and while I was standing there, recognized the rosemary bush I’d planted, remembered walking down to the garden with a scissors to snip a bunch to use in dinner preparation. I saw a crowd of agapanthus, Lily of the Nile. The original plants were small pots I’d originally brought back from a Lake Merritt Garden show, purplish-blue and white blossoms. She nodded and said it was okay and opened the gate. I stepped inside. There was a gazebo just beyond the backyard stairs, a raised garden bed filled with kale, collards, and lettuce (this may have been Lester’s winter garden), succulents with thickly padded leaves, a clipped grapevine that twined around the back stairs (possibly the one I had planted in another section of the garden), an area with roses, fuchsias, jasmine, a brick walk-way possibly built with the ones we had left in a pile following the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, a pergola near the back fence, actually a stone wall that my kids and their friends had decorated with drawings. I recognized my Pacific Coast Iris in the same spot where I’d planted them. But I realized that this garden was not mine. Yet Lester had used the plants and the ideas I’d left behind, and in that way, I had contributed to the garden. I clicked pictures with my cellphone and stepped back outside through the gate.

“Can I ask you something?” said Cam. She had allowed a moment for me to ferry my thoughts from past to the present.

“Sure.”

“How long did you live here?” She held a small notebook and a pencil in one hand. She seemed like she was about to take notes.

“Have you ever seen ghosts in the house?”

Gentle Readers:
Through the magic of Google Analytics, I know there are several hundred dedicated readers of this blog. Thank you for your interest. Who are you in Baton Rouge, Mohegan Lake (Judi is that you?), Oakland, San Francisco, Natchitoches, Las Vegas, and Houston?  Who are my readers in China, France? Leave a reply below. Join the party!

  • Review of my poetry collection “Two Places” by Nina Serrano of Estuary Press.
  • Links to My Work

    Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
    Price(USD): $15.00
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    Pygmalion

    IMG_1081two angels sit on steps
    regenerating

    the third
    a look-out
    for whatever
    got them into this mess—

    a rag of wings
    a bindle of legs

    angels on a goof setting off a debate about whose bright idea the whole thing had been anyway, to forsake  a clock tower several blocks away from where they’d offered free target practice to pigeons for years, but on that morning they choked, gave in to redevelopment, waited for someone to climb the stairs to where they were now encased, to stroke a torn wing bud, kiss each ding with garlicky breath

    Gentle Angels:
    Through the magic of Google Analytics, I know there are several hundred dedicated readers of this blog. Thank you for your interest. Who are you in Baton Rouge, Mohegan Lake (Judi is that you?), Oakland, San Francisco, Natchitoches, Las Vegas, and Houston?  Who are my readers in China, France? Leave a reply below. Join the party!

    Posted in Flash Fiction | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

    Ode to Aunt Elsie

    DSC01304I look at the walls of your town house where you lived for more than forty years and died after your hundredth birthday just as you predicted you would. I’m looking at your walls, family photographs of children and grandchildren, obligatory framed pictures of you and your husband from a marriage you endured; paintings of mountains and houses—a range of browns, beige, rust, sand, every color of earth—from rugs to bedspreads; I remember how you dressed with such good taste in expensive clothing, your body measurements recorded and checked off on a piece of paper in your bathroom. Paintings by your friends, a Marc Chagall hanging in the living room; a cabinet filled with dolls from around the world, symbolic of your internationalism and frugalness; Rosh Hashanah cards in stacks that you didn’t use printed by the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism for a fund-raiser you may have organized, a menorah hanging next to a Mexican yarn doll with green serape, piles of National Geographic’s, books on art from Italy, cover designs for Vanity Fair magazine, art works made by family members sitting on ledges and shelves including a raku pencil holder with feet and eyes I gave to you so many years ago, dried stalks of lavender in your kitchen together with five containers of cinnamon, glass jars of beans, whole wheat macaroni, rancid sunflower seeds; you kept track of every baby announcement, birth day, bar and bat mitzvah, logged dates in a book; pictures of my own children, collections of ribbon, thread, buttons, keys, marbles, girdle snaps, scissors, a couch facing two stained glass windows like sitting in a synagogue (with you), praying.

    Posted in Jewish, Poetry | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

    Catching Flying Fish

    IMG_1278The old woman who lived beneath our house called up to me. “Why are you leaning over the railing with a fishing pole?” I wanted to do something special like catch the beautiful silver fish swimming beneath our deck. If I pressed my ear to the redwood planks, I could hear them. I’d even baited my fishing pole with chewing gum. But it was the sugarless kind, and I was afraid I might not get any bites.

    Basuma moved slowly. Her legs were swollen from working as a check-out clerk in a supermarket. Her grey braids reached the top step. Basuma settled into a broken lounge chair and straightened out her dress. She pointed to the garden. “It’s filled with weeds.”

    “I know. But my mother doesn’t have time to do that.”

    “You can help her.” I was silent. Weeding was not my favorite thing. She looked at my pole. “You trying to catch something?”

    “Fish.”

    “The ones swimming beneath the deck?” her brown eyes widened. I nodded. “Come over here. Sit down.”

    “But what if a fish bites?”

    Basuma laughed. She was one of the biggest women I’d ever known with a curtain of flesh that hung beneath each arm. Freckles covered her hands and arms, making her look like a ripe banana.

    She took my hand and pointed to a flowering plum tree in our backyard. “See anything?” I could make out several birds with red throats. One bird put a wriggly thing into the smaller bird’s beak. “The momma bird is feeding the baby bird,” she said, casting off her slippers and pushing them beneath the lounge chair.

    “How do you know it’s a momma bird? Where’s the daddy?” My own father lived far away.

    “Daddy’s is waiting for his turn,” she said, pointing to a row of houses on the next block. “Until then, he’s watching out for cats.”

    “Basuma,” I said, shaking off my flip-flops. I placed them next to her slippers. “There’s no way a bird is going to sit and look for cats.”

    “Not so,” she said, in a sing-song voice. “Daddies know that cats wait for little birds with shaky wings to fall from the tree and then snap them up for lunch. And when it sees the cat scrunch itself up into a waiting rock beneath the tree with its mouth open and its tail ticking,” she continued, “the daddy flies to the branch and warns its family to fly away.”

    “Basuma, how does a bird learn how to fly?”

    “The momma bird teaches it how to use its wings.”

    “But how does the momma bird learn how to fly?”

    She scratched around in her scalp and pulled out a brown and white feather from her grey hair and began to fan herself. “Can’t you guess? Her momma, of course.”

    “But how did the first momma learn how to fly?”

    “Sheesh, child, it’s much too warm here.” “Let’s go down to the basement.”

    We climbed the winding wooden stairs to her small room.  Its walls were cool gray cinder blocks. The window looked out on the garden. Basuma sat in a rocker, the only chair in the room. I sat on a blue rug and leaned my head against her bed. “Tell me.”

    “Once there was a Bird Woman named Liana,” she began.

    “Liana!” I said. “That’s my name!”

    “Of course, no one knew about her being the Bird Woman. That came later. Liana was nobody’s child and everybody’s child. She was an orphan who had been brought to the village as an infant. Everyone said that once she got older, she would share a great gift. So all the families in the village helped to raise Liana. Every year she got to live with another family. She grew up learning a bit of something from everyone.

    “One family taught her how to listen. Find those places where roots grow around a tree. Listen to what they have to say to you. Once you do, you will know how to hear.

    “Another family taught Liana how to sing. This was a family secret. “You can move rocks when they sit on your heart.“ Still, Liana was sad. She wanted to know about her mother. She wanted to know about her father. She tried to move the heavy rock from her heart, but it wouldn’t budge. One evening she leaned against a walnut tree.

    “Why are your eyes sliding off your face?” asked an ant who had made a trek down the bark of the tree to talk with her.

    “I think something must be wrong with me.”

    “Don’t you have a fire each night?”

    “Yes.”

    “And isn’t your belly filled with food?”

    “Yes.”

    “Then what can be wrong? I’m always happy when I’m warm and my belly is full.”

    “But you don’t understand. I receive gifts from all the families; I have none to share.” Now Liana was now living with Malley’s family, a girl who was just a few years younger than Liana, and her little brother Joosh. They were her favorite family.

    The ant scratched her head. Climbing up and down and around and everywhere, she knew many things through her antennae. “I know! You can borrow my smelling. Then you will have a gift to share.” The ant crawled up into Liana’s ear and rubbed its antennae against the side of her head. All Liana felt was a tickle. Later that evening, she ate dinner with Malley and Joosh, and fell asleep.

    “The next morning she awoke covered with her leaf bark blanket. The children’s mother must’ve taken it from her pack to keep Liana warm. She opened her eyes and saw that the moon had not yet disappeared. But even though the day was still young, she felt something had changed.

    “Liana smelled the dew on the leaves, a cool wet freshness. She looked for moss on the back of the trees and inhaled the difference between damp and wet. Smoke from last night’s fire curled up inside her nostrils and brought her yesterday’s memories. The ant had given Liana its sense of smell. She jumped up from her blanket.

    “What’s wrong?” asked Malley, stirring in her bed of soft fresh leaves. “Why are you up so early?”

    “I am making breakfast.” Liana raked the live coals into a pile. She was older than Malley and knew how to do this.

    “Joosh heard both girls and rolled out from his covers. He made it is business to be a part of everything.

    “Liana poured tea from a kettle. She could smell the hot water; she learned that water has its own special smell. Liana loved these two children. She wanted to do something for them and felt she could. She cupped the ear of each one with her hand, and blew softly through it. She released the gift of smell. The children walked through the forest together. But the ant’s gift was magnified through their own larger size.

    “Now we know everything,” said Malley.

    “What?” Joosh pulled the hem of his sister’s dress.

    “Quiet. You’re too little to understand.” Of course, this got him angry. Joosh bared his teeth and stuck out his tongue and stomped up and down on the pine needles.

    “Malley began to laugh. But as they walked, they noticed an opossum on lying its back with its belly ripped open, entrails pulsing and slimy. Malley and Joosh smelled the stench of death. The boy’s face turned gray. He held his stomach and felt sick. Malley grabbed her brother’s hand, and they ran. Then they smelled their fear.

    “Liana ran after them. “Come back.”

    “Get up, please” the children sobbed to their parents.  Liana didn’t understand that fear is something all creatures must learn so that they can protect themselves. She didn’t understand that it was its own gift.

    “But there was no one to hug Liana. She had wanted to show the children her love but instead she felt that she had hurt them. At the last tree beyond the big rock, she saw nothing but a blue swirl. She didn’t care what happened. She felt she had to leave the village.

    “Each special thing that the villagers had taught Liana grew into a feather. Her back grew thick with them, and the wind parted her dark hair down the middle of her neck, which spread over her arms into two wings. Liana had turned into the first Bird Woman, moving so quietly through the air, she didn’t even disturb the wind. But her beautiful song was heard throughout the village.”

     

    I awoke up from the lounge chair holding my fishing pole. Basuma was gone. My pole shuddered. Something was stuck to the chewing gum and I yanked it toward me. It was a small brown feather with silver glitter. It looked like a school project. But where was Basuma? And why wasn’t I in the basement?

    “Liana,” I heard my mother call from the kitchen. “Come here and help me unpack the groceries. I just got back from work. What a busy day at the check-out counter. Everyone’s buying bags of food for the holidays.”

    I placed the feather inside my pocket and went to the kitchen. “What’s for dinner?”

    “Spaghetti.” She hugged me.

    I started to help her unpack. “What’s that funny thing you have?” she asked, pointing to my pole.

    “I was fishing off the deck with Basuma and then she told me a story.”

    “Basuma?” my mother laughed. “Oh, child. “The more you grow, the more stories you make up. One of these days you’re just going to sprout wings and fly out of here.”

    Links to Published Work

    Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
    Price(USD): $15.00
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    Start of Something Big

    Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 12.43.15 PMI spent my life married to an assortment of alcoholics, musicians and mental patients who made interesting, but unreliable mates. Clearly, I wasn’t getting younger and like the Fifth Element in the science fiction movie of the same name, I was great at rescuing people but lousy when it came to love. What else could there be, I asked, when I had exhausted relationships that provided me with neither income property, nor my own syndicated newspaper column, let alone a sense of peace and pulchritude?

    Painting the Walls
    I moved back to my apartment after a period of its being sublet. But the place required painting. I asked around. Anyhow I got lucky, a man who knew his flat from semi-gloss and everything in between. At first I thought my walls, closets, and bathroom would only need a fresh coat of white. For years, everything had been white. But then my painter handed me color sample books: “Roadster Yellow, Norman Shaw Goldspar, Navajo White, Jacobean Lace,” colors to open up a skylight in any ceiling; “Split Pea, Old Claret, Cinnamon Slate, Pumpkin Pie,” I wanted to taste each one; climbed up the side of my closet in “Blue Hydrangea,” encased in a cloud of “Harbor Fog,” and peeked around doors wearing nothing but “Seville Scarlet.” Toward the end of the afternoon when the painter had almost given me up for lost, I named my three colors for the ceiling, trim, and walls.

    Buying Lightbulbs
    I’m the kind of driver everyone cuts in front of; I see this as my gift to traffic, an assurance that no matter how backed up the cars along the freeway, I can guarantee a hole in front of my Toyota that someone can slip through. Let’s not say I’m a bad driver; instead, let’s say I’m someone who listened carefully to her first driving instructor about always leaving at least three car lengths between my car and the one in front of me. Obviously, I don’t like getting close. Which is what I thought about when I entered Walmart to get lightbulbs and a few other household items, necessary as I put my house back together following a three-year absence.

    Prying a shopping cart loose, I saw row after row of red heart-shaped balloons spawning everywhere over my head, a cruel joke, reminding me about the approach of Valentine’s Day and that I had just left someone I loved. But as I wheeled my cart down the aisle, I was comforted in knowing that I could shop for the same identical items here that my love placed in his cart every weekend: pizza hot pockets, cans of biscuits; there was something reassuring in seeing those same brands winking at me from behind their freezer doors. And for the first time, I was grateful to Walmart.

    Apple Store iPhone Fix
    Lady Liberty sat in a wheelchair at the corner of High Street and MacArthur wearing a pair of tennis shoes that stuck out beneath her green robe and sunglasses. Passing her in my car, she waved a sign reminding me about taxes. I was going to the Apple Genius Bar to talk to some knowledgeable person about my new iPhone. Of course, I should’ve been thinking about tax season, gathering receipts filed into separate envelopes, cabbages waiting to be hoed into one row.

    In the meantime, on the way to the Apple Store I’m streaming music from my iPhone on my car’s audio system. Since I’ve moved back from Louisiana, I’ve needed to create a buffer, can’t bear to listen to local radio stations, count egrets as I reenter the Bay Area, wrap a bubble of myself around myself. Right now I’m driving to the Apple Store because this new phone doesn’t seem to work with the Blue Tooth system of my Camry. I can listen to music, but I can’t make or receive calls. Basically, I’m looking for an excuse to return the damn thing. I’ve got two weeks. I’m glad to see that the jade plants are in full bloom. Pink push-pins.

    Buying a Bed
    I realized it was over the evening you returned from rescuing your brother. You had driven several hundred miles to his daughter’s house. She had vowed to take care of her poor old dad who had been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, but it turned out she mostly was interested in getting Power of Attorney over his bank accounts. We talked on the phone as you made your way there and back. In the middle of the night, you stopped at McDonalds for coffee and kept driving. Your brother had returned home, but was very sick. I knew I could not help take care of him. I asked for how long he would be staying with us, which is when I heard the big snap. “What the fuck. You let me take care of that. I’ve been close to my brother for years. Any woman who comes between me and that relationship can leave right now.” You repeated yourself for the next ten minutes with generous helpings of fuck thrown my way.

    I’d already known that I took second place to your daughter. For the first several years, our time together was continually dictated by her comings and goings and while as a parent, I understood how the needs of our children come first, I couldn’t reconcile how our needs as a couple seemed secondary. For me, the love that two people generate is the engine that holds a family together. Maybe you never had that. Maybe you never knew. I’m not sure how this happened.

    The walls are painted. Ceilings are a creamy Navajo White, walls Guilford Green, and the trim, California Chamois. There’s a new light in my room. Next week, I will think about buying a bed.

    Readers, scroll down and leave a comment:

    It would be great to hear from you!  Who is my dedicated reader in Tempe, Arizona? Also Tucson. Judi, is that you in Mohegan Lake? And what about those dedicated readers in Monroe, Louisiana who continue to look at my blog. Baton Rouge? New Orleans? Nancy?  Oakland, give a shout, will ya? New York, let me know what you are thinking. It would be great to hear from the readers of this blog.

    Links to My Work

    Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
    Price(USD): $15.00
    Posted in Essay | Tagged , | 1 Comment

    Social Networking

    Wanting to understand how people interact, marketers are hunting for the new Holy Grail, a metric to evaluate clicks in an era of social networking. Page views, RSS, brand recognition, whatever moves us to the point of purchase. When does the wallet pull happen? When do we give? Marketers agree it’s the one-to-one relationship with a customer that counts. The biggest mistake is in abandoning a relationship once it’s been established. So what does a social network of patients suffering from dementia sound like?

    Honey.
    How are you?
    Today?
    Go somewhere.
    Not today.
    I’m all bright.

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    Tucson Starbucks

    IMG_0860National Croissant Day at Starbucks coffee counter
    doesn’t mean a free roll for every shopper,
    if only to commemorate a special event,
    people place orders with a drizzle of chocolate syrup.

    Above the company logo, a girl in wavy ringlets,
    an understudy for Lady Liberty on New York City’s
    42nd Street, her image printed on mugs, t-shirts,
    does what she does naturally,

    unzips her tail, in each hand holds
    a gesture of hospitality, openness, a mermaid
    from a public house installed in a Safeway Supermarket
    located next to the Wi-Fi area where the Food Network

    plays on an overhead screen. Snowbirds and contractors confer.
    Parents park kids on chairs to play videos,
    push their carts up the aisle. Bobby Flay barbecues,
    I dip into my own chicken noodle,

    an out-of-towner who reads Tucson brochures,
    Hohokum and Apache gone to shopping centers,
    subdivisions, dealerships carved from adobe homes and saguaro
    blossoms into a strange red fruit.

  • Review of my poetry collection “Two Places” by Nina Serrano of Estuary Press.
  • Links to My Work

    Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
    Price(USD): $15.00
    Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

    Coupon Queen

    Faces from Occupy OaklandA neighbor knocked on my door and asked for drug money; actually I don’t know she’s my neighbor at all except last year, a few weeks before Christmas, I sat in the car hoping to start it, and she came over and said, “Hi, I’m your neighbor.” That was news to me. “Can you lend me money? I’ve been out of work and I want to buy a few toys for my three kids.” So what about it anyway? It was Christmas.

    The next time I saw her was summer; she was about thirty pounds thinner, knocked on my door as hard as a bill collector, and me still in my bathrobe. I’m in the kitchen stirring my instant and here comes this thump, thumping at my door, and I wonder, who in tarnation, and for a moment I do a double-take because I think it might be my ex and I pray, “Oh, no. Anything but that.”

    I see her face between the iron rails of my door, a shrunken doll still asking for money. “I have to go to the hospital and have some tests. I need money to pay someone to watch my kids.” She’s coughing so hard. I rush to the refrigerator and get a juice box; you know, the kind that comes with its own straw, and take it out of the plastic because in her condition, I don’t think she can. I push the box out between the railings, only this time she sits down on my doorstep to finish drinking it. And yes, I give her a dollar.

    I’m a soft touch. Until she wakes me up on a Sunday a six o’clock in the morning banging on my door and giving me that same old story about the hospital and her kids. So I yell at her through the screen door, “Cut yourself out some grocery coupons,” thinking I have to check this Sunday’s advertisement section to see if there isn’t a coupon for shampoo. I almost don’t have any left. I tried to fall back to sleep, but after her big to-do, I couldn’t. Once I’m up, I’m up. I go to the front door to bring in the Sunday paper, and look twice to make sure she isn’t there.

    What a day, is right. There were hardly any coupons, just one for an ice-cream sauce with taste-alike cherry pieces and chocolate sprinkles. I’ve had that before. And some blue-looking stuff to clean your carpet, but I don’t have a carpet, just linoleum tile that is coming up near the window, and a coupon for some of that fancy printed toilet paper; the plain kind is good enough for me.

    Altogether, it wasn’t a good coupon day. But Bonanza days is coming soon and you’ll catch me in line, yes you will, down by 41st and MacArthur waiting to buy a jar of artichoke hearts; I enjoy them in my salad with a few sliced green beans and a red bell pepper. Now that’s what I call living.

    “It don’t take much when you got the touch,” that’s what my ex used to say. I mean that man could dream, big dreams of houses and cars and vacations to Maui. Don’t ask me. I don’t even know where Maui is. But he did. Walked right into the travel agency downtown and brought home folders filled with women in bikinis floating on yellow air mattresses. There were never any coupons in his folders. None.

    Now I’m going to do it right, that’s what I say. Good riddance. Every week I look at the newspaper and separate my coupons into piles. I’ve got a free pile, a save pile for when I have more money, like when they say twenty-five percent or fifty cents off, and an everything else like a hummingbird feeder or a commemorative plate, but you have to send away money for those. And then I take my piles and organize them alphabetically: “C” for all the cereal coupons like Froot Loops, Cheerios, Strawberry Squares, All-Bran; you know what I mean. So whenever I go shopping, I carry my coupons along in these same piles with a rubber band around each one. I take my time, because saving money is something I need to take my time with if I’m going to do it right. So I go up and down the aisles stopping to match each one of my coupons with its box because I’m the type of person who likes to try new things, you know what I mean; I’m like a kid in a candy store.

    Some of my friends, they’re not like that at all, oh no; they’ve stuck with the same brand for years. I can’t understand that. Why does it have to be one brand your entire life just because your mother used Lysol to clean her toilet bowl? I tell ‘em, but it doesn’t do any good.

    So I carry my coupons to the market with a rubber band around each one. And Becky, that’s my niece who comes down from Sacramento every Christmas, bought me a genuine leather purse with three pockets, which is real handy to have on a shopping trip. And when I’m finished, Mildred, that’s the cashier, who’s been working at the SaveMart around the corner as long as I’ve been collecting social security, says to me, “O.K., Gracie. What do you have today?” Then I pull out each one of my coupons and put ‘em on the counter. “Hmmm, some of that new taco sauce,” says Mildred, packing my groceries into a bag. “Let me know if it’s any good.” She finds out about a lot of good stuff that way, and sometimes rings me up for only one box of Double Fudge cookies instead of two.

    Yesterday I went to Drug King with a few coupons I’ve been saving; some Wilderness pie filling, yes, I’m going to make a two-crust pie. And a coupon for small cans of albacore tuna that are great for lunches because I hate opening a can of tuna and letting it sit in the refrigerator. It gets that tinny taste, you know what I mean; same thing as those cans of tomato paste where you need a tablespoon or so and what gets left finally gets thrown into the garbage. Now I know what you’re thinking: I’m wasteful, right? Well, I tried saving my extra tomato paste, putting it in a container and all that, but it was a couple of months before I even looked at it again and by that time you didn’t want to look at it. Winston, you remember, that’s my son living in Oregon or did I tell you that? He grew a whole bunch of different molds in the eleventh grade right in my refrigerator.

    “Winston,” I told him, “Instead of growing those fuzzy molds, figure out what to do with extra tomato paste.” And you know what he said? “Ah, ma. Why don’t you just throw it away?” And I said, “Is that what they teach you in school?” He didn’t answer; turned back around to study his baseball cards. I never did figure out what to do with my extra tomato paste. Amalia who lives next door, freezes hers in the ice-cube tray and then puts them in Bloody Marys. Not a bad idea, ‘cept I don’t drink anymore.

    So I was at the Drug King with coupons for everything I was going to get and started to size up the cashiers for a person who knew how to do the job right, not one of those kids in training pants, picked out a good-looking girl in corn rows who knew her business, pleasant but without asking a half-dozen times for a price check. It must’ve been around lunch-time, waiting my turn to buy a lottery ticket along with the rest of my stuff, when fizz bop bam, the seltzer bottle from the person in front of me pops open; it wasn’t even on sale, some kind of faulty merchandise, and the whole counter gets wet with bubbles. That’s when the manager comes by with a “Closed” sign.

    “Young man,” I say. “I’ve been waiting in line longer than you’ve been living.”

    “I’m sorry, ma’am. We’ve got to clean this up.”

    So this man standing behind me takes my cart and wheels it away, saying, “C’mon, follow me.” We land at the next counter, number three, between the Enquirers and the Trident sugarless gum. My hands are shaking so hard it was hard to pick up my stuff and load it back on the counter. Then the man I told you about does a slow bow and says, “Excuse me, may I be of assistance?” Goodness me. My female parts stood up and took notice. After I said, “Yes,” he put everything on the counter with the cans price side up to make it easier for the cashier, so don’t you think it the least I could do was to invite him to come by the next day?

    I planned to bake a cherry pie when I got home, and said to him after I was standing and waiting for him with my bag of groceries, “Mr. Line Finder, how would you like to have a slice of home-made pie?” He looked like such a snack pack with a green vest and a grey mustache. Then he said, “I don’t know where you live, Miss.” Wasn’t that sweet? So I said, “If you have a pencil, I can write down my address on the back of this shopping list, if you don’t mind.” He said he didn’t mind a bit.

    I asked his name and he said he was George, the Mayor of Fruitvale Avenue. I’d never heard of a mayor of an avenue, but guess there’s a first time for everything. So the Mayor bowed once again and said he was glad to make my acquaintance, said, “Us geezers needed to stick together,” He told me I reminded him of his best friend, Arnie’s sister, except she couldn’t tell a bargain from a mark-up.

    I ha, ha, ha’ed. And that was a good thing, too, because had such a sad face. And then we said bye-bye, so long, see you tomorrow. And I wheeled my shopping cart to the end of the parking lot, and walked home with my extra coupons.

    Posted in Flash Fiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

    Saguaro

    IMG_0256
    Not the freaking desert,
    my father would rather spend
    his day at the beach,
    my mother, always in charge of food,
    packed egg sandwiches and a tall thermos,
    passed an insulated plaid bag to my uncle who cursed, took the sac anyway,
    and my two aunts, always ahead of the game, one negotiating rocks with a gimpy leg,
    the other, carrying an empty bowl and tennis racket.

    Through a fence of children,
    alive they rarely had a good word to say about each other—
    renegades, artists, weavers, dreamers
    hold my hand gently knowing
    my heart’s been juiced, a Bloody Mary.

    My father wants sunglasses, mom says
    he never wore a pair in his entire life and leaves it at that,
    rappel down a ridge spiked with cactus,
    aunties remove clothes and swim beneath a waterfall,
    each one thinking the other is too fat. After lunch,
    they escort me back to the parking lot
    past the scarred arms of Saguaro. It’s all over.
    Mom says there’s time on the meter.

  • Review of my poetry collection “Two Places” by Nina Serrano of Estuary Press.
  • Links to My Work

    Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
    Price(USD): $15.00
    Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

    Visiting Hours

    DSC01342In a loosely gathered knot,
    cousins from different airports
    arrive at her bedside, morphine placed
    beneath her tongue, a liquid sacrament.

    Friends want her to recognize them,
    to repeat names, to remember
    how they used to spend summers together with the kids.
    In one moment she catches fire, the next, forgets.

    The children don’t know what to say,
    hold up a birdcage,
    a red mug of coffee to her lips,
    try to entice her back to breakfast

    as though she were a child,
    and the coffee, candy,
    which she doesn’t take.
    When she sleeps, she dreams

    of her husband on the beach,
    near a lake where they swam
    in the cold water of the Catskills.
    Her visiting hours keep getting longer.

  • Review of my poetry collection “Two Places” by Nina Serrano of Estuary Press.
  • Links to My Work

    Two Places: Cross the Bay Bridge to Oakland, California and walk the bayous of Louisiana
    Price(USD): $15.00
    Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , | Leave a comment