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Plucky

by Rhoda Olkin

I don’t mind being disabled so much as I mind being short. Okay. I mind a little, but not like I used to. Not like the time Mark Feely said to Phil Hamilton that he didn’t understand why a cripple came to a junior high dance anyway. That time hurt beyond tears, but we were only 13 years old then, and we’re not 13 now. I’ll bet even Mark Feely doesn’t say things like that anymore.

But, as I was saying about being short, it’s not so great. You can’t ever be chic or svelte or have stature and presence unless you’re tall. I worry about this whenever I’m meeting a guy for the first time. Since my divorce from Joel a few months ago I’ve started dating again, so I’m meeting a lot of guys and worrying quite a bit about being too short. The guys are very polite about it, but sometimes you can just tell; they’re thinking words like “shrimp,” “puny,” and “runt” to themselves, all the while making small talk and pretending to want to get to know me. Sometimes they even ask me out for a second date, just to cover up. It’s so phony.

Did I say I started dating again? That’s not really accurate. I never really dated before I got married, three years ago. So how did I ever get married in the first place? I tricked Joel into loving me, I guess. I always thought I was lucky to get him, and I left when I realized he was lucky to get me. It was classic, really; he cheated on me every chance he got, ’til I figured it out. I’m sure his other women were all tall. I heard his new wife’s not much over five feet, though. Go figure. He probably cheats on her, too.

Anyway, I was telling you about dating, and how I worry about my height, what there is of it, when I meet someone new. I used to worry about being disabled. There was a time when I felt really bad about it, even defensive, like I’d been born a Protestant in a Catholic town. People would make comments that would really bug me, and I’d go away feeling mean and angry. To make myself feel better, I used to categorize people’s comments into types and give each type a name. For instance, some people would say really stupid things like “after a few minutes of talking with you I don’t even notice your handicap anymore,” like maybe I’d suddenly become undisabled or something. I called these the “you’re so cute I didn’t even notice you’re in a coma” types. Then there were the “some of my best friends…” types. They’d tell you about some friend of an aunt’s neighbor’s cousin, or something like that. And some people, I mean people with two perfectly good legs, would actually say to me “you’re so lucky!” Lucky not to have died, of course, is what they meant. To me, lucky is keeping the two matching legs you were born with and growing up to be tall.

But the one that always got to me most was the type I called the “plucky little disabled person” type. Here’s an example. One from my own life, in fact.

I was at the doctor’s office, just having a routine physical. I’m sitting on the examining table wearing one of those paper gowns, into which I’m sweating quite a bit. My legs – one good, one not so good – are sticking out over the edge of the table, but not too far since there isn’t that much of them, what with my being short and all. The doctor comes in, and right away he looks at my chart, trying to find an explanation for such an odd set of legs, but he doesn’t find it in there, since I’m a new patient. So he asks about it, and I tell him, of course. And then he tells me all about one of the medical interns or residents or whatever they’re called who is also disabled but is a real good doctor and all and really well liked, and who never seems to complain that his disability slows him down because he just seems to have adjusted so well, and isn’t that wonderful? Could you die? I just smiled, naturally, but I had some pretty wild thoughts about what to do with the stethoscope hanging around his fat neck.

See, the point is, if you’re disabled, you’re not supposed to have problems, because then people think you’re not adjusted, or you have a chip on your shoulder. You’re supposed to be plucky.

I don’t know how I got off on all that. I started to tell you about what it’s like to date when you’re short, like I am. Take last Saturday night, for instance. I went to the Cafe Beaujolais to meet Henry, a friend of a friend. A blind date, you could say. He isn’t really blind, that’s just an expression. I’m the disabled one. Not that he knew that, at first, because I was already sitting down at a table when he came in. Sometimes, sitting down, I feel tall; I sit a lot.

I knew who Henry was as soon as he walked in the door, because he didn’t look nervous. Most men look nervous unless they’re on a date and trying not to. Then they look in control, like they could walk into Baskin‑Robbins 31 Flavors and choose, right off. “Pistachio,” they’d say masterfully, like there was no other choice. Anyway, I caught his eye and waved. He came over and we shook hands.

“Hi, I’m Jean. And you must be Henry,” I said, and smiled. I can be downright charming when I try.

“I must be,” he replied. They all say this; I try to overlook it.

He sits down and notices I have a glass of white wine and says it looks good, and he thinks he’ll have one of those too and can he get me anything. So I let him buy me another glass of wine and then we settle down to chatting. He’s a really good talker and listener too and he keeps the conversation just rolling along. But the thing I like best about him is the way he has to keep pushing his glasses back up to the top of his nose when they slip down, which they do a lot. I don’t know, somehow it just makes him seem like a regular person.

Well, with all that wine in me it isn’t much time at all before I have to go to the bathroom, but I try to hold it in as long as I can, so as not to have to stand up and reveal my stature. But pretty soon I say “excuse me for a moment” just like it was no big deal, and I stand up, real casual, and walk towards the bathroom. I’m in there for a while, not that anything I’m doing takes so long, but just so my face won’t be hot and flushed anymore. Then I walk back to the table with my head up, just like a tall person would.

Then the most remarkable thing happens. Henry smiles at me like he’s glad I’m back, and when I sit down he says “what happened to your leg?” like he really wants to know and isn’t just being polite. Do you understand what I’m saying here? He doesn’t say anything about my being short; he doesn’t even look like he’s thinking about it and trying not to. So I answer him and tell him all about it and he listens like he’s hearing the score of a baseball game on which he has a three‑dollar bet – you know, interesting, but not earth shattering. And he asks a few questions about it, and I answer straight and he answers back, and next thing I know we’re just chatting about this and that. I try to make him laugh so his glasses will slip down his nose, and it seems like I do a lot of laughing too.

After a while I realize I don’t even know what he does when he’s not laughing and pushing up his glasses, so I say “hey, I don’t know what you do.” He tells me he’s an archeologist for the city, that every time someone wants to put up a building or something, they need a report of some sort and he goes on a dig and fills out the archeology part of the report. I may be mixing this up a bit, though I’m listening real hard, but I’m busy being impressed because I figure he has a bachelor’s degree and maybe even a master’s and I’m starting to worry just a little bit about whether he likes me or not. But I recover enough to ask a reasonably intelligent question about whether he was supposed to be looking for endangered wildlife like baby newts or anything like that, but he says No, that was for the biologists on the team, and then I really am impressed because being part of a team sounds so much more important than just having a job.

Then he asks me what I do and I tell him about the store where I work and I almost tell him I’m part of a selling team but stop myself just in time. But I talk about the public like maybe I know a thing or two, and about how the store has a radio on all the time and how it makes me crazy.

Then we talk about music for awhile and Henry tells me he plays violin and I say “I’d like to hear you play” before I can stop myself. Could you die? A first date with an archeologist no less, and I practically throw myself at him.

Later that evening he walks me out to my car and says, “may I see you again?” Real old‑fashioned, you know, but sweet. So I say “yes,” because I don’t feel he’s being phony. And I stand with my back leaning against the car door and he stands real close looking down at me. I’m so busy wishing he would kiss me, which he does, that I forget to worry about being short.

That was last weekend. Henry is going to call me tonight. I know he really will call because he said “I’ll call you Tuesday.” Men who aren’t going to call you say “I’ll call you,” or even “I’ll call you next week,” but never “I’ll call you Tuesday.” I’m a little nervous, I don’t mind telling you, because I’m going to tell him I can’t go out with him anymore, and I’ve never broken up with an archeologist before.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I must seem like some kind of crazy, turning down a great guy like Henry. But unless you’re short like I am, you just can’t understand; you have the wrong perspective. You have a tall perspective, and a tall perspective says that when you find someone who obviously isn’t going to forget your birthday, someone whose glasses slip down his nose in a way that makes you want to kiss the tip of that very nose, a man who is, in short – excuse me – just like Henry, then you hold on to him for dear life, and hope you never have to let go. And if I were tall that’s probably exactly what I would do, too. But I’m not, and there’s no use pretending.

You see, the reason I can’t go out with Henry anymore is that he was so wonderful; we had the perfect date. It was a date I want to remember for a long time, just like it was. For one night, for that one perfect date, I forgot I was short. I couldn’t bear to see Henry again and suddenly have him look at me in a way that would make me know that he was noticing I didn’t have much in the way of stature. Maybe someday I’ll have whole stretches of time where I forget about not being so tall, or even when someone could say to me “Hi shorty,” and I wouldn’t feel like cutting that person off at the knees, but would just say back “Hi yourself, tall‑y.” But not yet. I’m just not that plucky.

Chord & Discord is published!

Chord&Discord FrontThe Walnut Creek Writers Guild is happy to announce that our second anthology, Chord and Discord: Music Themed Stories by the Walnut Creek Writers Guild has been published.

You can access the book on Amazon  here

And on Barnes & Noble’s site here

As an appetizer, we are posting excerpts from some of the stories.  We hope you enjoy them. If you do, we hope you’ll find time to leave a comment at the end of this post. If you enjoy them enough to buy a copy of our book, please consider leaving a review on the Amazon or B&N page.

Thank you!

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A Night Manager’s Tale, by Catherine Hensiek

graphic-for-night-manager-copyGiancarlo, the night manager of Ca’ Riva Serenissima hotel in the Castello district of Venice, paced from his alcove office to the lobby doors. An unseasonal storm raged outside. Earlier the drenching rain had overwhelmed the sandbags stacked around the front entry and flooded the terrazzo floor of the lobby. Most of his new reservations had arrived and were safely tucked into their rooms. But longtime guests, Mr. and Mrs. Parker, were on a late flight from Paris, and he was concerned that water taxi service would be canceled by the time they got to Marco Polo Airport. Just as Giancarlo was thinking about alternative transportation for his guests, Mr. Parker appeared from the dock at the back of the hotel, shook the water off his broad-brimmed hat, and handed him a business card with the Parkers’ reservation number written on the back, along with two passports.

“Buona sera, Signor Parker, and welcome to Venice and the Biennale.” Giancarlo took Mr. Parker’s cold hand in his warm one.

Mr. Parker grinned. “And buona sera to you, Giancarlo. Can’t you do anything about this weather? Caught what I am sure was the last water taxi leaving the airport, and huge waves nearly swamped us on the lagoon. How are we supposed to tour the exhibits without drowning?”

“I am so sorry, Signore. I must say the weather has been unusual this season. But, I assure you of sunshine for most of your stay. I predict that you will be able to enjoy our most bellissima Biennale yet and keep your feet dry!”

His guest laughed. “I won’t hold you responsible if we get more rain. But, from the looks of the forecast, the Arsenale will be first on the list this year. The Giardini will have to wait for a sunny day. Now, do you have suite 22 ready?”

“Sì, it is waiting for you.” As always Giancarlo added, “Do you need help with your suitcases? And how is Signora Parker? She is guarding your luggage?”

And then came the same reply going back many years, “No, no, traveling light! Left the bag at the back door near the dock. I can grab it on the way to our room.”

Giancarlo scanned the passports, handed his guest the room key, and then offered him a brochure from a local recital hall. “They have brought back the Verdi/Puccini program you and Signora Parker have enjoyed in the past.”

Mr. Parker glanced at the brochure and tucked it in his pocket. “Grazie for remembering.”

Giancarlo watched as his guest walked through the breakfast room to the back hallway and the short flight of stairs that led to the suite the Parkers had engaged for so many years. It seemed to him that the old gentleman walked more slowly than before. His broad shoulders sagged and his gait was wobbly. Giancarlo started to call out, to ask again if Mr. Parker needed help with the luggage, but hesitated.

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Flight of the Bumblebee, by Webb Johnson

graphic-for-bumblebeeHi, Bob. It’s Karen. Find Lew before you leave.”

The phone memo’s curt tone told me all I needed to know about my promotion. Even so, I had to hear the bad news from the big man himself.

Sitting behind his neat desk, Lew Cook told me that the Selection Committee felt that Clara North had the greater talent for team-building. “That was the decisive factor,” he said.

I tried not to let it show, but I couldn’t hide my disappointment.

I know you feel lousy, Bob, but that’s the way it is. There’ll be other opportunities.”

I said, “OK, then.”

Lew’s eyes shifted to a ringing telephone, then back to me. He nodded a short and snappy encouraging smile in my direction as he picked up the phone. I smiled back the best I could as I stepped back into the empty corridor.

Driving home, I was in a mental fog. I should never have told Laura about the new job. I should have kept my mouth shut and saved her the disappointment, and me the humiliation, of trying to explain why my younger rival got the promotion instead. Wanting to put that conversation off for as long as possible, I left the other commuters on the freeway and took the longer way home.

Veering across two lanes of traffic I made it to the Alternate Route 23 off-ramp with no dents or scratched paint. The blaring horns and middle fingers could not make my already miserable outlook any worse.

I remembered my dad taking us to buy eggs and honey at a farm somewhere along the old country road. That was decades ago, but nothing much had changed. Definitely not the sharp turns. When I heard my tires skid, I remembered a kid named Billy Lovett, who died in a smashup during a high school car race.

With third generation heirs selling out to real estate developers, many of the ranch houses were deserted. Even so, the fields and hills were lush with new grain, and neglected fruit trees still managed to put on their spring exhibitions of pink and white blossoms. When I breathed in the scents of laurel and live oak that grew along the creekside part of the road, better memories came to mind. I thought about Laura and me in another universe, dancing—doing The Pony to a thunderous, amped-up rendition of “Proud Mary” by Ike and Tina Turner.

The trophy they gave us is on the mantel in our living room, but it had been a long, long time since we’d danced or did much of anything for fun. I had hoped the new job and the new salary would help put a spark back in our marriage. Now, I dreaded the disappointment I would see in her expression, dreaded even more the way I knew she would try to make me feel OK about it, like there’s nothing wrong with being a loser.

Another hairpin turn snapped me back to my driving.

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Thawing of the Heart, by Norma Armon

graphic-for-thawingo-f-the-heartShe read in Opera News that in September 1998, Zubin Mehta was staging Turandot in the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. It was where Puccini had originally set the story and was to be a major event in the musical world. I’d give a year of my life if I could afford to go see that! Nehama thought. She did a little research.

China had begun to try to attract foreign investment, and the Chinese Central Government sponsored a few study group tours to show that the country was ready to welcome Westerners and their dollars.

At UC Berkeley, California, in the Department of Linguistics, excitement bubbled over: a couple of the professors had requested sponsorship to tour Four Great Cities in China.

Nehama asked her Head of Department for the details, “What does ‘sponsorship’ of this trip entail?”

If the Chinese agree to sponsor the group tour of ten, they pay for rooms in five star hotels, all meals and land transportation, as well as the guides. Participants pay for the flights, including two internal ones within China,” he explained.

Do you know when this trip will take place?” Nehama asked.

The dates aren’t final, but it will be at the beginning of September. Are you interested in traveling with them?”

Yes, I would consider joining the group if the schedule lands me in Beijing during one of the nine dates Zubin Mehta’s Turandot is being performed. I’d appreciate it if you put me on the list and let me know when you learn whether the sponsorship is approved,” Nehama said, “and what the dates will be.” Nehama looked down at her lap, wondering if she was ready for the pressures of a group, the closeness of people. She already felt conflicted.

The excitement of possibly seeing Puccini’s Chinese opera in Beijing was almost more than Nehama could contain. El bel canto, as Nehama’s father called opera, had been the secret sauce that made their father/daughter relationship palatable. He was an introvert with little capacity to connect, yet found profound enjoyment in opera.

Nehama could almost hear her father’s voice, “…the most consummate of arts. A magic potion containing music capable of setting in motion the unexpected,” when he first played one of his records for her.

In Israel, his adopted home, her father’s worldview had been derided as a throwback to the European values that proved useless to save Jews from the Nazi’s attempts to exterminate them. Israelis called themselves sabras, the Hebrew word for the thorny fruit of the local cactus, a symbol of what Jews had now become. Needing to protect themselves, physical prowess, and developing an army with the power to stand up to tormentors, was valued, not musicians and singers to soothe their sorrows and help withstand the pain of exile.

Nehama’s mother and siblings were true sabras, living in the current world, not caring much for the old man’s passivity and soft pleasures, and thus actively demeaning opera, which they called shouting matches. But Nehama loved the music and learned to understand the lyrics. She studied Italian and took singing lessons so she could sing her favorite arias in tune. By sitting next to her father every Saturday to listen to the weekly radio broadcast, attending a live performance with him, or singing along him in a duet, she formed the only connection to her otherwise distant father.

To ease her anxiety about the tour, Nehama invited Mary Lou Stalgust for lunch at home on Monday, to keep her company while she waited for the call. Mary Lou was one of the few mutual friends who hadn’t cut her off when Nehama and Joshua divorced. It surprised Nehama, because Mary Lou was Joshua’s supervisor at Applied Linguistics.

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Fairy Music, by Sandy Stuart Shaller

graphic-for-fairy-musicEvery afternoon, Sylvie went down to the garden and listened to the fairies playing music. She crept under the willow tree where the long fronds hid her from view.

The fairies were tiny creatures that swung on branches with their violins or flittered in midair with their flutes and piccolos. Some of the fairies were so dazzlingly beautiful that Sylvie had to squint to see them; they were like bright rays of sunlight. Others looked like green toads with mottled skin, and had heavy webbing between their fingers. There were fairies as thin as water and fairies as thick as molasses; no two were alike.

Beautiful or strange, they all played the most wonderful music. It flashed like gold and flowed like sweet mead. It created streams of sound that wove through the air like a lark coasting on a summer breeze. It wrapped around Sylvie like a lyrical glove, warming and thrilling her. Sylvie would sometimes close her eyes and find that the music transported her to faraway places. It was, after all, fairy music, so Sylvie was not surprised to find herself sailing through the air on an oriental rug, or floating above a waterfall where mermaids and mermen played and laughed and loved.

The fairies played their music for only an hour each day, and when the hour was up, one fairy would alight on Sylvie’s arm and sing, “Come away with us, Sylvie. Come away.”

But Sylvie would only smile in melancholy fashion and shake her head. The fairy’s eyes grew large when she declined, and in its eyes Sylvie could see herself. A young girl, nearly a woman, with long wavy hair the color of an elm tree and eyes the color of a chestnut.

Then the fairy would look sad and flit away with the others, vanishing into the beams of sunlight. Sylvie remembered reading in some book that a fairy is sad for only a brief time, but fairy anger lasts forever.

 

If Not for Honey and Chili


by Norma Armon

When the stork didwoman+dreaming+of+babyn’t bring me the sister I yearned for, I announced to the world I would find a way to make sure to bring children to everyone who wanted them. And when I was old enough to know what reproductive specialists did, I knewexactly what I would be when I grew up. But sometimes, as the head physician at the infertility clinic, when I watch dejected patients slump down upon hearing the most recent negative results, I wish I’d chosen another way to earn a living.

I share their disappointment, and know I’ll need to find a way to provide the amount of encouragement and hand-holding they’ll need before deciding to take another step in a calvary of continual doctor’s appointments, costly prescriptions and painful injections, ultrasounds and minor surgical tweaks. My primary role is that of chief-dispenser-of-hope and my most successful tool over the years has been the example of Nadine and Jonothan, long-time husband and wife volunteers at the clinic.

Jon helps clients become realistic about the multiple steps involved in their quest for a baby and describes the embarrassment and discomfort they may have to live through – whether they eventually succeed or not. Nadine helps our clients clarify their reasons for wanting children. She knows all about that, having tried for over ten years to become pregnant, before having her first child. While Nadine went through fertility treatments, she satisfied her yearning for offspring as a kindergarten teacher, caring for other people’s children and continuing to hanker after her own.

A born teacher and caregiver since childhood, Nadine was the “sandwich child” who’s road to family acknowledgement in a highly intellectual, competitive household had been to become the nurturer of younger siblings and cousins. She grew up to become an early childhood development specialist and originally volunteered at the clinic to research would-be parent’s attitudes on the healthy development of their babies.

Nadine’s mother, the well-known writer Nanna, was instrumental in the establishment of the fertility clinic, being one of the principal donors.  She is a favorite of mine, and I have spent countless hours, as I help her ready her home for another fundraiser for the clinic, listening to her stories of family lore come alive with the color and precision of her language while she makes sure the decorations and the food are as artistic, precise and carefully selected as the words in her novels. It was on one of those occasions that Nanna told me, under strict confidence, that Nadine had been impregnated once, but it was the wrong time and the wrong partner, so she terminated the pregnancy. Then, once she married Jonothon, they tried for years to have a baby.

“My daughter suffered in teeth-gritting, lip-pursing, sorrowful silence, the indignities, pain and disappointment that fecundity treatments volley upon infertile couples. During her years of barrenness, Nadine believed it was punishment for the abortion before her marriage,” Nanna said. She looked up from the flower arrangements to see my response.  I was all ears, hoping she would tell me more.

Nanna described the half-serious competition with her sisters – including a long-established wager – about who would end up with the greatest number of grandchildren. Nanna’s children had produced only one child each so when her youngest sister announced both of her daughters were having twins, she knew she had to do something to help Nadine become pregnant.

“I was about to lose my bet,” Nanna continued, “and I don’t forfeit bets easily. So I decided to take the project on, scouring the medical literature, reading advice columns, joining support groups and contacting my cronies…. I must have collected every remedy to overcome infertility known to mankind.

A Persian friend of hers recounted an anecdote of her distant cousin, Mariah, who consulted a shaman to help save her marriage: her beloved husband’s family was demanding he divorce her because she hadn’t produced an heir.

The shaman summarily asks, “Do you serve your husband spicy food before you come together? Do you seduce your husbands’ seed with sweets so they make a home in your womb?”

The woman doesn’t respond and hangs her head.

“Have you strayed so far from the wisdom of the sages that you don’t know of this?  Go home, offer your husband a dish in a sauce made with chili pepper, introduce honey into your womb and then lie with him.”

A year after this encounter, Mariah gave birth to triplets. “I must have looked askance at that,” Nanna said, “because my friend swore the anecdote was true and offered to introduce me to Mariah.”

Nanna incorporated the anecdote into her best-selling book about arranged marriages. As she developed the book’s plot she thought of passing on this prescription to her daughter; it seemed innocuous and Nadine had tried everything else without success. Yet Nanna agonized about how to broach the subject to her daughter. She didn’t want to be thought a meddling mama or to be laughed at for recommending superstitious hogwash. It was a bit out-of-character for this modern educated woman to recommend anything without being asked, and certainly to suggest anti-scientific remedies.

“Still, one never knows…” Nanna said. “The doctors hadn’t found any physical impediment to Nadine and Jon becoming pregnant. I thought following the shaman’s instructions might be just the placebo to unlock Nadine’s mysterious psychological blocks.”

Nanna decided to break her rule never to show work in progress before publication, and brought the story to Nadine and Jon.  “I allegedly sought Jon’s feedback to flesh out the character of the husband in the novel,” Nanna explained. “To get his opinion on how a male would response to such circumstances. Nadine must have read the draft of the book as well,”

In the support sessions Jon leads at the clinic, he recommends that couples develop non-verbal hints of the moment in the cycle considered optimal for successful impregnation. “It’ll make both of you feel less embarrassed about sex on the clock. For example, my wife didn’t flirt or send coy looks my way to announce the time was ripe for baby making. I was simply served some delectable concoction in a hot chili sauce.”

And I’ve overheard a red-faced Nadine advise the women to insert a tampon smeared with honey before intercourse. If any of them question the value of doing that, Nadine murmurs, “Oh, it’s just an old wives’ tale which can’t hurt.”

And when the clients shamefacedly consult me, asking for a medical opinion that might debunk such perplexing advice, I concur, answering, “No, it can’t do any harm.”

If Nadine happens to be about, I smile and add, “But then, who knows, it might just work,” with a knowing wink at my mother.

Indian Attack at Charles Lindbergh Grammar School

by Webb Johnson

A noted children’s author named Chief Hail Storm came indians-1143584_960_720to our school sometime during the spring of 1945.

I don’t recall where I was when  I learned that President Roosevelt died, or that World War II had come to a victorious end.  The atomic bomb is just a muddled memory, but I remember the day Chief Hail Storm showed up in my Kindergarten classroom as though it were yesterday.

”The Chief” had written and illustrated one of the books Mrs. Syminger, used to teach the alphabet.  Using iconic images of American Indian kids going about their daily routine he illustrated how letters are used for words.  For example, “T” is for “Tomahawk” showed a kid dressed in a head band and loin cloth holding what looked like a hatchet. “R” is for “Rabbit” showed the same kid holding a recent kill by the ears with a caption, “Ready for Supper.”  “D” is for “Deer” had an Indian brave taking a bead on Bambi’s dad with a bow and arrow, and so on all the way to “Z is for Zoo” which was accompanied by a drawing of a monkey wearing a feather head dress; an image that frequently re-appeared in my childhood nightmares.

The announcement came about a week before the famous Indian was to make his appearance, and all our classroom activities revolved around the upcoming “pow wow,” as Mrs. Syminger called it.

Everyone else was excited but the approaching day only brought me rising fears and apprehensions.  I asked my mom if there was any chance that the previous autumn’s Scarlet Fever quarantine might re-occur any time soon.  Giving me a big hug, she promised that the doctors would make sure that nothing like that would ever happen again.

She had no way of knowing that her intended reassurance only caused me to lose all hope.  When my dad asked, “Why isn’t the boy eating?” Mom answered, “He seems worried about something.”  I was afraid to say I was worried about being scalped because I knew they would scoff and repeat some version of, “But that’s just silly,” which was the stock response to the sum of all my worries and fears during that stage of my life.

D-Day arrived.  It was deathly quiet when Chief Hail Storm entered the room in full bleached buckskins, tomahawk, lance, feathers, moccasins, fur pelts with the flattened heads still on, and a serious scowl on his war-painted face.

I recall the smell of stale milk as he raised a feathered signal coup and howled “HEY YAAAAAAHHH!”

I came back with; “BLLLEEEHCCHHH” blowing the soggy Corn Flakes my mom had forced me to eat across the front of my Roy Rogers tee shirt.

I was shuffled off to the school nurse, humiliated and sodden, but safe – out of harm’s way – where neither arrows nor tomahawks could find me.

THE END

Feel free to tell us what you thought of “Indian Attack at Charles Lindbergh Grammar School” by clicking the leave a comment link at the top of the page.

 

Excerpts: The View From Here

Hello and Welcome!

The following are excerpts from completed short stories found in our first fiction anthology titled The View From Here: Glimpses of Possibility. Within the pages of the anthology, you will find stories of travel, but not just ordinary travel, rather travel to faraway lands and to places of inner darkness.  You will even find a journey into the depths of a bellybutton.  More than that, however, you will find expressions of the imagination, some based on real events and others culled from the deep recesses where only nightmares live.

It is our sincere hope that you will find these morsels of creativity to your liking.  You may purchase the complete anthology, in both paperback and e-book formats, by clicking the link below.  Enjoy and feel free to leave any feedback in the comments section of this website.

Also, please check out the promotional video used to help market The View From Here. Special thanks to Joseph Herbst who created the video and to the great Lloyd Lindsay Young who provided the narration.

Thank you and Happy Reading!

 

The End of the RoadEndOfRoadModify_4

by Joseph R. Herbst

Her mind raced backwards through the jumble of shattered and disjointed thoughts.

She recalled driving through the Arizona darkness along a lonely and forgotten road, somewhere south of Three Points. Her vision was limited to just a few yards by an unusual, thick fog. A tight and tangled knot formed slowly in the pit of her stomach. Anxiety clawed at her mind. This shouldn’t be. She was in a desert in mid-August. How could there be fog?

The road in front of her suddenly disappeared, dropping away into oblivion. Just seconds from disaster, she slammed on the brakes and yanked the steering wheel hard to the left, her tires skidding across the loose gravel. The car careened wildly off the side of the road and plowed into a cluster of boulders heaped in the darkness just beyond the shoulder. She shook off the impact and stared into the stark emptiness. No road. No land. It was as if the entire world ahead of her had been swallowed up; leaving nothing but the strange, gray mist.

She shifted her focus. A small, dilapidated service station, lifeless and dreary, crouched in the eerie gloom just to the left of the severed road. A malfunctioning neon sign teetered on the sagging roof, sputtering its questionable welcome: END OF THE ROAD GAS.

She squirmed out from behind the crumpled steering wheel of her mangled car and crept towards the crumbling structure. A portion of the roof had collapsed, perhaps decades ago, leaving a gaping hole in the top of the building. The exterior walls lay in disintegrated mounds at the foot of the old service station, having surrendered long ago to the relentless elements. It was a wonder the sign still had any power to it at all. She peered past the exposed, dry-rotted framing to what remained of the interior. Except for a heavy rope hanging from a massive, wooden ceiling beam, the building was completely empty.

“Hello, dear child,” a voice rasped.

 

TRAIN RIDEBoyOnTrain_ModifiedWindowandBoy

by Sandy Stuart Shaller

My Uncle Abraham McCandless was the most important person in my life. He was as tall as a redwood tree with frizzy white hair like Albert Einstein, and a big white moustache like Mark Twain.  I came to him thirty-four years ago when I was, “No bigger than a palm cake…” according to him. He carried me out of the hospital, in his palm, and wrapped up in a red and green plaid blanket that his dead wife Ellie-Beatrice had made.

He put me in a basket on the floor of his old Ford pick-up truck and drove with me from New York City to Lower Waterford, Vermont, three hundred and twenty-nine miles north of the city.

“I just kept looking down at the wild mop of red curly hair that you popped out with and thinking, the Maker has given me a little miracle.”

I never knew my parents. They died two days after I was born. Mother had a sudden hemorrhage, and my Father had a car accident racing to the hospital when he found out. So Uncle Abraham was my Mom and Dad and most everyone else.

I never cared, though; Uncle Abraham was all I needed. During the day, I helped him in his antique shop, The Treasure Chest, and outside on the big plot of land in front of the store. We were trying to create a Shakespearean garden. We had a willow tree in one corner and a sundial in the center. Around the sundial we planted violets, primroses and daffodils, eglantine, honeysuckle, gillyflowers and plenty of pansies. Uncle Abraham had read “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to me, acting out all the parts, and I was convinced that if we grew a purple pansy I could use it to make Petey Hannochy fall in love with Betsy Mooney who was always writing him notes.

 

 The Starter KitSnowGlobeOnFire

  by Norma Armon

I put my hand against the slit at the opening of the underground bunker. My palm didn’t recoil at the shaft of light that streamed in, so I knew the sun’s glare had begun to wane. Soon darkness would come and it’d be easier to breathe. Time to go look for food and water. I scrambled out on all fours from the makeshift quarters Papa had dug under the house and overheard him talking to Nomama. I stopped to listen.

“That’s it! We’ve ransacked what was left in town.” I saw her nod. “The stream is bone dry … I haven’t even seen animals around for days … the place is deserted. We’ve got to go … we must find a community to attach the children to, before it’s too late.” Papa’s voice scared me, it sounded like the booms in the heavens. Too late for what? What was Papa afraid was coming?

“Do you think you’re strong enough to start walking? Papa asked her.

Nomama nodded again. I hadn’t heard her say a word since Papa carried her in all those darks ago. We’d taken care of her until the gashes and cuts healed and her mangled foot stopped oozing. Maybe she had wandered to our area from far away and didn’t speak our language. Or maybe there was something wrong with her voice. Or, she didn’t want to talk about what had happened out there. But we could tell she understood what we said. I had given up wanting to know – I just wanted her to get better and go away.

 

Backward GlanceLearnerDriver_Mod1

by Kathy Oldham

It was exciting to be driving in such a different way from what I was used to in America, and I was quite glad we had the road to ourselves, unobserved by other drivers.  Keep to the right, keep to the right, I kept reminding myself to avoid veering too far and driving out of my lane or off the road.

Time was running out.  The end of my first six months in England was approaching, and after that date I was no longer permitted to drive on an international license.  I had to have an English driver’s license to be insured and drive legally.  I was nervous to test in what, for me, was a foreign style of driving, full of quirks and different signs.  After the first time behind the wheel, I agreed with my husband to book proper driving lessons.  At first, I didn’t know whether to feel relieved or insulted, because taking lessons had been his suggestion and not mine.

One evening after work I waited by the kitchen window for the instructor to arrive.  He drove up in front of our flat in a little white car with a large red block letter “L” on the roof.  It looked like the naff sign on a pizza delivery car.   I had seen these L placards on other driving instructors’ cars, but it didn’t lessen the conspicuous feeling of being seen as a ‘learner’ driver.  To me, the L placard was a public display of incompetence and inadequacy.  I was young enough to think that anyone noticed, or cared, that I was having lessons.

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