I remember during the end of the first trimester of the pregnancy with my son, my husband, Vince, and I took a much-needed trip to Florida. This trip was planned and paid for before I found out I was pregnant, so we could not cancel it. It was like a second honeymoon for us, and Vince had planned it as a reward for surviving the medical complications of two previous pregnancies. Two years previously, we spent a week in Disneyworld on our honeymoon and then went on a Caribbean cruise. We planned to spend a week at Disneyworld and spend a week touring various parts of Florida during this vacation.
On Sunday, June 5, 1983, we decided to drive to St. Augustine, which was about an hour and a half away from Daytona Beach, where we were staying. We read that this was America’s oldest city, discovered in the mid-1500s by Spanish ships. It was the city where Christianity was first established in the New World Shores of what would become America.
We left early in the morning and had lunch at a motel along the way. We spent some time in the afternoon at the famous fort of Castillo de San Marcus and toured the Gonzalez Alverez House. We walked through downtown St. Augustine, admiring the old stores and buildings. I became hungry later in the afternoon and begged Vince to take me to a Woolworth’s lunch counter because I had an intense craving for a breaded chicken sandwich. I ordered the sandwich from the lunch counter and found it to be a greasy mess that I could not eat. We bought candied fruit slices that I quickly devoured. We headed back to the car late in the afternoon, feeling sad that we didn’t have enough time to explore this city of historic wonders full. We decided to come back on some other vacation and spend a week in this city.
We were tired and had an hour’s drive ahead of us back to Daytona Beach. We drove down US 1 and immediately a big gold cross caught our attention. Vince wanted to find the Fountain of Youth and thought this could be the entrance. We turned into the entrance and were initially disappointed that it appeared to be a cemetery that we were entering. Vince was curious and wanted to see what this was, so I reluctantly agreed to get out of the car and walk around.
We walked through a wooded section surrounded by very old graves, some dating back hundreds of years ago. We saw several tombstones that had a woman’s name inscribed, and alongside the woman’s name was an infant’s name. Many of these women died in their twenties, the same age I was. These women apparently died from childbirth complications as beside their graves were infant’s graves. We stopped and stared at these tombstones in silence.
I started to reflect on their meaning. I felt grateful that I lived in a time when medical knowledge and technology made it possible to survive the complications of childbirth. But I also reflected that these women who died in childbirth did not have to experience the emotional, physical, and spiritual complications that I had endured. I was grateful for the medical technology that was in place as had I lived during that time I would be in a grave. But I also felt I was unlucky to live in the modern era and experience all the grief and pain. I concluded the available medical technology was a double edge sword. On one side, it had the power to save lives, and on the other side, it could cause the most unneeded suffering. This was much to ponder.
Vince finally took my hand, and we walked away. In a small clearing, we caught sight of a stone structure covered with beautiful green ivory. A small cross adorned the roof. It appeared like a welcoming place, so we decided to check it out. As we approached, we saw that it was a small chapel. We entered the tiny doorway and found an altar that was surrounded by hundreds of candles with a shrine to the Blessed Mother.
Vince found a rack of pamphlets that gave information that this was the Shrine of Our Lady of Le Leche. It was founded in 1565 by Spanish missionaries, and it was preserved by an order of priests who pray daily for the health and well-being of high-risk pregnant woman and their unborn children. Near the entrance was a bulletin board containing many prayer requests and letters of gratitude from women who had good pregnancy outcomes.
In silence, we knelt at the shrine and said a prayer that God would protect this baby from the complications that I previously suffered, and we lit a candle We signed a card and gave a small donation asking the priests to pray for us during these next few months.
In the car on the ride back to the motel, we asked ourselves, “Was this a coincidence, or did God lead us to this place for some reason?” Are there coincidences in life or are events in life sometimes orchestrated, we wondered? It would be some months before we knew for sure.
But surely is no joke.
He hatches no eggs and does no tricks.
Just sleeps a lot and watches the flicks.
And does a cute little twirl.
And dashes down the hall.
It is me who’s the fool.
As she makes her fling.
To have some fun.
We are best friends.
And warm she makes me feel.
Ah, Tea, what cures all ails. Why ‘tis alway’ that ice cold water goes firstly into the kettle to boil is one of life’s enduring Irish mysteries. But I do so, as I follow the ancients. Start with a good brown teapot. And never drink tea out of any but a proper china cup. Honor and blessings follow a good cuppa.
Ice cold becomes scalding when the kettle begins to scream. Slowly pour boiling water into the brown teapot to heat up. This is essential. A cold pot can never produce a fine tea. Never forget it. Once the outside of the pot becomes hot to the touch, empty it and place a good black tea in the bottom.
Then comes the magic. Pick up the brown teapot by its handle and gently swirl the no longer boiling but steaming water onto the tea leaves to create a living brown goodness that reflects what is inside as it is outside. Unity. Wait patiently for the color to deepen and fragrance to arise calling the senses and body to partake in the earth’s bounty.
My Belleek china cup and saucer, spilling their shamrock loveliness together as one, await patiently their moment of truth. I add warm milk and simple sugar syrup into my proper cup and place a single anise cookie rightly on the saucer. Respect the tea. Boiled milk creates a film, granulated sugar grainy sips, and the wrong biscuit destroys all taste. It’s almost ready.
My brown teapot, my faithful friend, has been with me through every up and every down. I am now ready again for life’s pick me up and respite, a comfort, relaxation, sure guidance and the assuage from hunger. I pick up my flaming hot brown teapot with a single cotton glove and pour all of its goodness into my cup, stirring the Irish brew ever so slightly with a small silver tea spoon. It emits a soothing clink as it is set a’place askew my anise biscuit, which is for tiny bites later, on the saucer.
A proper upbringing breeds good manners; and the tea exposes all. My Beleek china exemplifies all that is Irish and true, and serves a fine cup of tea. I gently lift the saucer, and while curling my pinky just so, raise the cup in peaceful anticipation. The heat and delicious aroma surround me as I take my first sip of this glorious nectar. Heaven.
It was our favorite thing to do. We pulled out the box of pictures from out under the bed and opened it up. Envelopes containing the pictures and negatives all arranged in rows by date, marked in their respective envelope sleeves, all awaiting our rush to discover the captures of my life.
Why was my life was so interesting to her I could not know. Lovely Shay Alana, named after me, sat on my lap; my ever-constant companion. We patiently awaited the memories, which would enfold in my family and friends timelines from birth through our blessed departures and all those who journeyed with me in my life. People, places, things that left hints of celebrations or of matters best left untold.
Shay grabbed an envelope and opened the contents. “Oh Nan, you were so pretty when you were young.” The honestly of a babe’s utterances. I smiled. How time had etched the inevitable changes in my face, hands and body that seemed incomprehensible many decades ago. Was I ever that young, that carefree, that pretty? Did I ever foresee the changes, happiness or sorrow that awaited around the corners of my life after a twist here and a turn there? Or around every travail I turned, certainly never I expected the joy of my life that now sat comfortable in my lap who looked up at me with such love, such innocence, such expectation of every one of our communications. My Shay Shay, who loved more than anything than to be with me and bask in my presence. Whenever did I ever earn such an honor, the revel of such celebrity. How I loved every minute with her.
“Who is that?” she asked. Hesitant, I decided to tell her the truth. “I don’t remember.” I replied. There I was, at a party of sorts, where I searched my mind for some type of recognition clue. None. I was sitting at a table with a handsome young man who had positioned his arm around me for the unknown photographer with great familiarity. My dress, a deep olive, matched my eyes perfectly and draped my frame in an elegant manner. My hands and legs leaned gracefully yet modestly into him.
He was in a dark charcoal suit with a crisp white shirt and dark maroon tie. We looked dressed and made for each other. The chemistry between us was obvious and I looked smitten, both of us smiling happily for the camera. Youth, the exuberance of life and being out in the world with others generated an excitement from each of our beings that was obvious in our faces. Yet for the life of me I could not remember him or the occasion.
But we were looking our best, captured forever in one singular moment in film, catapulted across time many years later, to appear to a growing older gracefully but still lovely woman and her adoring and precocious granddaughter, instilled for all time together in a singular moment to create a time and life event, when we loved our lives, the society we kept, all the while looking our best.
Shay Shay shifted her focus into the moray of loose photographs. We leaned into one another and went on to the next picture.
Nothing Can Convince a Kook
Nothing Can Convince a Kook.
Try as ye may,
Try as ye might;
For ye risk a fight
and be at the end ‘a their bite
That ye n’er expected,
Nor w’an projected!
So stivel ye limbs ‘n
Down the road whistling’ ye go
Knowin y’er right
Look at That! Now ‘tis Bright!
Damn their lack of sight
Nothing Can Convince a Kook
Mary Pat Cashman grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois. After moving to the beautiful state of Utah where she raised her family, obtained a law degree at BYU and practiced law, she has come full circle back home to Park Ridge. Upon discovering the amazing Kelly Mayer’s writing class, she has since developed a passion for prose, poetry and mythological fiction. When not pursuing her many business and legal interests, she is the voice to paper of our angels, fairies, giants and fluffles of bunnies.
A Meeting of Three
“Where are those cigarettes,” Dee said, rummaging through the dresser’s top drawer in her bedroom. Instead of the smokes, she found the picture of her sister, Peggy, beneath silk scarves and hankies. Her eyes filled with tears. “Three years ago, three years. Why you and not me?”
With unsteady hands, she propped the picture frame against the mirror. Dee picked out a half-smoked cigarette from the butt-filled ashtray and lit it. The smoke engulfed the picture like incense on an altar.
“I miss you so much,” she said to the picture. Through her mind, the endless search for her sister’s killer ran like a film montage. With the back of her hands, she rubbed at the Mascara-streaked tears streaming down her cheeks. The once delicate hands that dealt blackjack cards at the casinos in Vegas now chaffed and raw from the countless dishes washed, beds made, berries picked — hands capable of anything.
Steve dropped the goldfish into the aquarium at the end of the bar. In an instant gulp, its gold tail wagged wildly from the mouth of the scraggy lionfish. Steve grabbed his beer bottle, yelled out, “Hot Damn!” and chugged the rest of his beer, slamming the bottle on the bar with a thud. He tossed a crumpled five-dollar
bill on the bar and slid off the barstool. Steadying himself, he grabbed the stool before it tipped over. He staggered to the tavern door, glowering at the regulars through eyes reddened by guzzling one-too-many long necks. The door swung open, and a woman in a red vinyl coat with a faux fur collar entered. Her icy stare slapped him in the face like the gust of cold night air. Steve winked at her.
She brushed by him.
“Well, exc-u-u-use me,” Steve said, giving her the one-fingered salute.
Outside, the Harley “Hog” glistened in the glow of the orange streetlight. His foot slipped off the curb, and he stumbled into the motorcycle. He regained his balance and kick-started the big machine. The roar of the engine drowned out the alcoholic buzz in his ears. With a twist of the handgrip, the mighty “Hog” screeched forward. Steve yelled, “Yahoo!” weaving in and out of traffic toward the ominous black clouds streaked by lightning in the western sky.
Fat Joe leaned against the oak tree’s trunk, sucking in short labored breaths for a rest on his walk from the train station in the barrio north of the city. Tiny rivulets of sweat coursed down his fleshy cheeks. “I gotta lose some weight,” he said, taking a long drag on his black Havana. The nicotine-laden smoke tore at his lungs. The muscles on his huge arm tightened as he reached around to his back pocket to pull out a handkerchief to mop his face.
With a push off the tree, he overcame his inertia and continued the slow walk home. His enormous stomach quivered over the top of his belt with each bone-jarring step.
His bulky hand, adorned with a blue sapphire pinky ring, felt along the top of the doorframe of the brick bungalow for the key. He opened the glass-paneled door and returned the key to its cache. “I gotta move closer to the city”, he said.
One step at a time, he pulled himself up the short flight of stairs. The door swung open onto a gray and yellow tiled kitchen.
He grabbed a couple of fajitas from the freezer and nuked them. Dropping the cigar butt into the sink, he took a bag of potato chips and a liter of Coke from the cabinet. Cradling his stash of food, he shuffled off to the recliner in the den.
The over-stuffed chair groaned as he plopped into it. The two fajitas and a handful of chips washed down with a swig of the soda appeased his low blood-sugar queasiness.
Joe picked up Stephen Ambrose’s “Undaunted Courage” from the side table and slid his finger to the dog-eared marker and read. The humid air from the approaching storm caused him labored breathing. His hands swelling from the salt-rich snacks, Joe removed his ring and placed it on the side table.
After only two chapters, he laid the book on his chest. The rhythmic beat of the rain on the window lulled him into a deep sleep.
The squeal of motorcycle tires in the driveway brought Dee out of her languor. She hurried to the bathroom to wash her face.
“Hey, it’s me,” Steve yelled, pounding on the door.
“Hold your horses!” she shouted, wrapping her long black hair in a ponytail with a rubber band. “You were supposed to be here by eight o’clock.”
Steve shrugged and pushed her aside. He opened the refrigerator, grabbed a can of beer, and belched. “What difference does it make? Fat Joe’s dough ain’t going no place.”
“I wanted some dinner.”
Steve laughed, “What’s the matter? Can’t rob a house on an empty stomach?”
“Watch your mouth. Let’s go. The drive across town will take us over an hour in this rain.”
Steve chug-a-lugged the beer and saluted her. “Aye, aye, Captain.”
On the walk to the garage, Steve pinched her ass. She clenched her teeth and slapped his hand. “Keep your mind on business. We got a lot of work to do.”
“Gimme the keys,” he said.
Dee got into the driver’s seat. “I want to get there in one piece.” Backing out of the driveway, the old Toyota coughed and spewed blue smoke. The wipers screak-screaked leaving white arcs on the windshield. Before they had driven a mile, Steve’s snoring challenged Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” blaring from the radio.
The Toyota jerked to a stop snapping Steve’s head forward. Dee parked under a willow tree opposite an old brownstone. The streetlight filtered through the leaves casting shadows on the house like black fingers grabbing at the windows.
“What’s the matter? You scared?”
“No way!” It’ll take more than a fat blob to scare me.” Steve poked his chest with his thumbs.
“Remember, the money’s in a shoebox on a shelf in the closet. We grab the box and get the hell out of there.”
Steve yawned. “How we gonna get in?”
“The key’s on top of the doorframe”.
He looked at the house, looked at Dee, and asked, “How’d you know that?”
“I have my ways. Now shake your ass. And be quiet.”
“What if he’s home?”
“Well, macho man, will it make any difference to you?”
Steve hesitated at the curb. “I’ll take care of him.”
“Does the big bad man frighten you? You want to go back home?”
“Just shut the hell up. He ends up a fat chorizo if he gets in the way.”
They crossed the street to the house. Steve reached up and groped for the key. “Got it,” he whispered. “Ain’t too clever, is he?”
“Shut up and open the door.”
With each step, Steve paused.
“If my heart beats any louder, we’ll wake up the neighbors,” Steve said.
“You want to go back, big shot?”
“Shut your face.”
Dee swung the kitchen door open. A fluorescent green glow filled the room from the digits 12:05 of the clock on the stove. Like tightrope walkers, the pair crept through the room. Dee paused at the doorway to the den. She raised her finger to her lips and pointed at the prone figure of Fat Joe on the recliner visible in the light from the street. His immense chest rose and fell in cadence with his snoring. On the side table, a sapphire ring glinted like the enormous eye of a cat.
Dee tugged at Steve’s arm, but she could not budge him, obviously drawn to the hypnotic pull of the ring.
Wrenching his arm free, he moved toward the blue glow. His fingers closed around the ring.
Like a slow-motion scene, Dee froze in terror as Fat Joe’s immense paw shot forward and yanked Steve to his chest, stifling a scream as his other hand clamped over Steve’s mouth and nose. Steve’s free arm flailed helplessly like the tail of the guppy in the lionfish’s mouth. Steve’s bulging eyes watched the blue ring roll on the floor and then stared up at Dee.
Steve pried the fat fingers off his mouth and nose. “Dee, get the hell out of here!” Before he could utter another word, the large hand smothered his face again.
Dee stumbled backward, crashing the lamp to the floor, giving the room a strobe light effect. Steve’s legs kicked with lessening force. His arm hung limp at his side. Tears poured from his bulging eyes.
Dee gawked at Steve and Fat Joe locked together like a boa constrictor squeezing its prey. A sharp ccrrrack resounded through the room. She ran careening off walls. Her waving arms knocked pots, pans, and the clock from the stovetop. Outside, her feet slipped on the wet leaves covering the sidewalk as she ran to the car.
She slid behind the steering wheel and smashed the door lockdown with her fist. With two hands, she fiddled with the car key to insert it into the ignition. “Dammit!” she yelled. Like an eclipse, the streetlight was obliterated.
Dee’s breath came in rapid and shallow gasps as she turned her head. A man, silhouetted in the streetlight, stood next to the car. The form motioned to roll down the window. Hesitating, she cranked the window halfway down. A voice said, “Senorita, you have my money?”
Dee stared at Fat Joe. She removed a plastic bag from under the seat. “I wanted him dead, but seeing you do, scared the hell out of me.” She handed him the bag and said, “I thank you, and my sister thanks you.”
Fat Joe shrugged and grabbed the bag. “Look, Senorita, is a job. I don’t need thanks, just the money.”
“It’s all there — all ten grand.”
“I trust you.”
“What are you going to do with him?” Her head nodded at the house.
A sly grin spread across Joe’s face. “Disposal is included in the fee. Where’s the ‘Hog’?”
“I’ll have it in my garage. The door will be unlocked. You can take it tomorrow.”
“Senorita? Have a nice day.”
Dee started the car and drove away. Framed in the rear-view mirror, the image of the enormous man receded. Covered in a blue cloud of exhaust, he stood counting his money. Her sobs turned to laughter.
Wally Cwik is semi-retired from the Engineering profession and has performed for over 25 years with the Park Ridge Players, a community theatre. He has written some radio plays performed with the Those Were the Days Radio Players, a group that recreates old-time radio shows around Chicago. He has appeared as a featured reader at the Twilight Tales in Chicago and has published stories in some small anthologies. He has teamed with Janette Avila, a recent Maine East High School graduate, to illustrate a soon-to-be-published book, The Mishaps of Angel and Puggy which this episode will appear.
The Corpulent Comedian's LAST ACT
Saturday Morning, August 17, 2019 Rand, Illinois
Demolition crews gathered on a bright, cloudless Saturday morning and prepared to bring down the stage house of the old Lee Street Theater to be replaced by an upscale condominium building. Before demolition could begin, all the utilities had to be shut off and capped.
Among the crowd that gathered on Lee Street to watch the demolition, three cousins (Nancy, Neal, Michael) whispered amongst themselves "I wonder what great grandpa hid in the old theatre when he worked there?"
Finally, the wrecking ball began to swing. "One" shouted the crowd in unison on the first swing; "Two" shouted the crowd on the second swing. "Three" shouted the crowd as the wrecking ball crashed into the brick stage house enclosure that toppled into a heap of bricks and debris. As workmen began to clear the rubble, a pair of oversized, long, floppy red shoes appeared - attached to a mummified body rolled up in an old stage backdrop. All demolition ground to a halt; someone called the local police.
The first Rand detective and a patrol officer on the scene quickly realized by the condition of the body under the rubble that this was would be a very cold case, and immediately contacted the County Cold Case Unit and the County Medical Examiner's Office for help.
Saturday Morning, August 17, 2019 Chicago, Illinois
As I was preparing to leave for my weekly Saturday morning motorcycle club rally, I looked around my half of the living room in my large apartment filled with computers and printers for my DNA-based forensic genealogy business.
I had been attracted to forensic genealogy because I'd been good at creating genealogy family trees and using genealogy resources since I was a teenager.
My apartment is located on the top floor of a 19th century mansion, in a neighborhood adjacent to the DePaul University campus on the north side of Chicago.
Before opening the door to leave, I checked my short stocky self in the mirror - blue-black lipstick and nails, nose and ear rings polished, DNA Detective T-shirt partially hiding my body art, multi-colored short frizzy hair. Then my mobile signaled an incoming call from an 'unknown' caller id.
"Kaitlin Sinclair, this is Detective Sergeant Jessica Caldwell of the County Cold Case Squad. As the on-duty detective this weekend, I just received a telephone call from the suburban Rand police department about a body discovered under the rubble of a just demolished theater. I know you aren't scheduled to report until Monday, but I could really use your help and expertise with this one."
"OK, what’s the address? And, please call me Katt.”
"Katt, you can call me Jess. Take the Kennedy Expressway outbound toward O'Hare Airport. Exit northbound at Lee Street and head north. Look for a construction crane. You can't miss it."
I ended the call with "I'll see you in about an hour" before adding "Jess" to my caller id along with her number. Then I left a note for my roommate, Darcy, set the alarm to protect all our computers, locked the door, and headed to the garage when I kept my Harley-Davidson vintage Fat Boy. Then I hopped on my Fat Boy, kicked its starter, and vroomed out of the garage into traffic.
Saturday Morning, August 17, 2019 Rand, Illinois
First to arrive at the scene was Detective Sergeant Jessica Caldwell from the Cold Case Unit, who slowly and awkwardly climbed out of her car. Jess signed in with the Crime Scene Recorder, took out her detective's notebook and pen and began taking notes while "eyeballing" the rubble at the crime scene. As lead detective, she began barking orders in a booming voice to everyone within earshot.
"Out of my way! I'm in charge here! Where's Katt?"
Next to arrive was Crime Scene Investigator Rebecca Dekland. Becca, a tall and willowy woman in her early 30s, climbed off her old Kawasaki bike, and removed her leather helmet, which revealed her short flaming red hair. She retrieved her camera equipment and crime scene gear from her saddle bags, joining other CSIs looking around the rubble. She began meticulously examining and photographing the corpse and its surroundings from all angles.
Last to arrive was Katt Sinclair on her vintage Harley-Davidson Fat Boy motorcycle. She looked for Jess. Jess wasn't hard to spot. She was the only officer with silver-streaked black hair, who was wearing a tracksuit and running shoes and limping around the crime scene with a cane, barking orders.
"Reporting for duty, Detective Sergeant! What do you want me to do?" Kat asked.
"Nice to meet you, Katt. We need your help in identifying the deceased. I look forward to working with you. Meanwhile, please create a new case file labeled RedShoe2019Aug17 into which we can collect downloaded photographs and crime scene notes. And please stop at the local library to find newspaper articles regarding today's demolition, the theater's history, who performed there, and maybe who went missing so we have a time-window when this crime could have taken place?"
Katt complied, then she used her mobile to snap her own photos and texted herself notes and ideas on what to do using her computers later tonight.
After the body and its wrapping had been removed to the Medical Examiners lab for processing, Jess called a 9AM meeting in her office on Monday so she, Katt and Becca could plan their joint investigation.
"Sounds like a plan" Katt and Becca chorused.
Jess roared home to enjoy the rest of her weekend with her dog, Sarge. Becca followed the Medical Examiner's vehicle to begin collecting and processing DNA samples from the crime scene as well as from the corpse while the weekend medical examiner autopsied it. Katt stopped first at the local library and found local newspaper articles about the demolished theater, before vrooming back to her pad in the Windy City to jumpstart her online investigation.
Author: Ralph Dellar (firstname.lastname@example.org) writing as Evan Talcott (email@example.com)
BOOK 1 of DNA Detective Series: The Corpulent Comedian's LAST ACT
Last/Final Act = A final performance or accomplishment, before one's retirement or ultimate demise
Alternate book name:
Death of a Corpulent Comedian"
Ralph Dellar grew up in Park Ridge and never left (except to attend college). He joined the virtual Writers Group in July 2020 with an idea for a crime novel, and stayed for the writing exercises and encouragement received from all the friendly members. A retired software quality assurance test engineer, his other hobbies/activities include family history/genealogy and 27 years as a Des Plaines 1645 Toastmasters club member.
Class E Poetry
- Another chance
- Hide in caves
- See a rainbow
- Still here
- Snow covered mountains
- Seasons of life
- Shadows before sunrise
Lake water shimmers
Invigorated and chilled
Wolf yelps while dog barks
Wind whistles around me
Winter wonderland, dark and light
You gone . . .
Fire roars warmth yet
Responsibility, only mine
Hide In Caves
Rain runs down a slippery slope
Wanting to win a one person race
Moving piles of muddy dirt can barely cope
As pebbles and ragged rocks tumble through space
Shatter onto pavement and break into pointed pieces
Daily life stumbles along at same fast pace
As we are challenged to be the best
Yet always compared to another family or face
Knowing tough choices challenge us
We need time to rest
Tumultuous thoughts run through brain waves
Pondering, questioning, wondering
Will we survive another day?
Would many leave it all and hide in caves
Daring, hoping, wishing there’s another way?
Fingers flicker as flames
Shins shake with silent sways
Heartbeat races unsteady
Eyes flood with tears
Unbearable ache fills body
Which can’t comprehend reality
Words flow from her letter as shifting sands,
Producing overwhelmed feeling of numbness
Who is she?
Possibility unrealistic, non-existent
Reality stares through me, showing
A deep hole, wider and sinking fast
Body moans in pain, a shiver shakes
Our life, our children, changed forever
Elicit romance, price too high
Tears stopped, trembling over
New feelings flow from brain
Years of trust, believing , now
Hanging by thin strand of once
Heavy rope which was steadfast
Caresses no longer, touches few
Passion ebbing . . . waning
Love weaker, yet still a beat
Rekindle faded flame?
See A Rainbow
A quiet storm simmers inside
The turmoil of the daily grind
Churns and boils over in my mind
Who, what, where and why
Questions repeated daily
Continue the commotion
Answers not possible
Logic can’t prevail
There must be a resolution
Dark clouds, rain, wind eventually subside
Clear skies and sunny days return
I can see a rainbow
Expectations unrealistic for us;
Need to escape like pus filled zit.
Everyone agrees changes unrealistic;
We signed on and expected fun.
Each day challenging choices
Can’t answer with silent voices.
Years passed, we are still here;
A life time to finish, so never shed a tear.
Snow Covered Mountains
Wait, watch, stand . . .people in line
Dangle, move, sit . . . chair only mine
Whistling wind, sunny sky, chilling cold,
Snow covered mountains, tempt me to be bold
In ski paradise many years old
Bend, observe, touch . . .shape of snow
Crunch, slide, whoosing . . .sounds make me go
Powder packed, perfect in form
Snow covered ground awaits another storm
Advance, glide, speed . . .down gigantic hill
Quiver, shake, relish . . . a new thrill
Too soon, run ends, causes a chill
Upward again ---make it? I will
Seasons of Life
Winter, spring, summer, fall
Seasons begin, end like clockwork
Snuggling inside in front of warm fire watching snow fall
Singing while strolling in spring rain
Self conscious in stupor of hot sun of summer
Fatigued as flowers fade and leaves fall
A lifetime together
Struggling to conform
Knowledge is proof
Door closes, frustration then freedom
New challenges, hope comes alive
Differences adjustment to why
Snow, rain, flowers, leaves
Cold, warm, hot, chilled
Rekindle faith, a newness of life
Love as seasons, recharged, renewed, rebirth
Shadows Before Sunrise
Up, down all around
My heart feels militant movements
Betrayal, broken promises, yet
Smiles change my upside down fretful feeling
Shadowy sunshine filters through
While whistling wind falls into confluent clouds
Weary waves wrap around, caress
My battered body
Up and down and all around
Water moves this body
Now empty of emotion as
Pain is gone
Sandee Drake is a retired high school French and Spanish teacher whose very first story written in a creative writing class won first place in the university writing contest in 1996. After retirement, she wrote her first novel, Greenebriar’s Garbage under the name S.M. Drake, and the children’s books Where Are We Going? Short Stories for Girls, and Short Stories for Boys. She has just finished the third and final book in this trilogy, Short Stories for Teens. She and her husband have lived in Park Ridge for four years, moving from Flagstaff, Arizona.
A Sunny Morning
A warm, dark and very early morning...
I rise as my body shakes with excitement, a new adventure as a tourist in my own town…
I fly out of bed; hurriedly change the clothes I have set out the night before…
Grab my photography gear, the breakfast I packed, my coffee and water…
One would think I am going on a stakeout ….
I got downtown by the Adler Planetarium in a flash…
There are just a few scattered shutterbugs nearby…
I pick an area a little bit away from them…
Methodically take everything out; making sure the tripod and camera are fully erect and attached…
The spot I found also had a place to rest my legs, have my breakfast and coffee…
I see little peaks of gold bars hitting the lake….
It’s go time …
Several weeks back I started donating blood through Vitalant; someone who is afraid of watching her own blood spill from her vein into a little vial was going to take the next step but this time watch it go from her vein into a tube that is clamped off in a grotesque manner. I’ve now given blood 3 separate times. After that third donation, Vitalant let me know I am A+ I am a great candidate for giving platelets, which get donated to cancer patients.
I didn’t even hear myself say yes I would like to without knowing what was involved. I figured I’ve been through most life threatening events since 2018, what is one more poke. I made the appointment for May 23 before I even left the center. As the date got closer, I must admit I was nervous. The nurse told me the entire process will take about 2 hours. What is 2 hours in the big scheme of life?!
Platelets are colorless fragments called thrombocytes. Platelet donation uses a machine to extract just your platelets and then returns the rest of your blood back to you. Because there is such a shortage, this process can be done every 7 days. I am already on the books to give platelets again on June 6th.
It’s quite an empowering feeling in a most nontraditional manner.
Francine Grossi has lived in Park Ridge for 13 years. She made the move temporarily but ultimately that turned into a permanent stay. She suffered a severe illness that almost cost her life. She is a now disabled/retired and working on her memoir. Francine bounded back but with many struggles and challenges along the way that will remain permanent.
She joined the Park Ridge Writers Group in 2020 with the idea to write “her story” and is ever grateful to have found the workshop and very appreciative of the critique & commentary from its members.
Bye Bye Butterfly
Fly fly fly so high
Fly away little butterfly
Wings open and close
So big and wide
You are never in disguise
Blue & purple
No two are the same
No two fly the same
Wherever they go
Wherever they may be
They always have a place right here
In our home always with me ❤️
Mother you are a joy to me
You are the one who nursed the seed
It ended up being me
I will for grow up strong
Remembering all our songs
You taught me well
You showed me great love
Certain things were shown
Others just inherited
Gifts I will hold forever and treasure
I love you now and forever
The best gift you gave me
Was your whole heart
His name is Giovanni
A boy with cheer
Eyes as wide and bright as a full moon
Face so round
An absolute perfect circle
Born as bubbly as could be
I chuckle every time he looks at me
His auntie gave him this bear
A red and green sweater lay across his breast
It’s white block letters read his same name
Giovanni and he called him “My Giovanni Bear”
To his surprise when he took him by his paw
He sang his Italian song
Singing good night and goodbye
With the promise of seeing him the next morning
His bear was his friend
Through thick and thin
Never left behind
Always sitting on his bed
He is there in the morning
He is there when he lays his head down at night
How mommie loves that bear
That protects my Giovanni
All through the night
Writes reflective poetry, children's poetry and short stories
Starting my first writing group in California Laguna Niguel
Now writing with the Park Ridge Writers Group
Follow on Instagram @poetry_nicole_suzette
Baby Blue Eyes
She entered my bus. She displayed the super transfer that would allow her to ride all night. She was young, maybe twenty-two, and beautiful. A child of the streets, mixed race, a blend of Caribbean black and Latina, long limbs, and beneath her plain, soiled, thin housedress, were hints of the body of a goddess, full breasts, firm belly, and wide hips. Her face had fine features, her hair was light brown, soft and kinky. And her eyes, her eyes were those of a fawn, wide and baby blue. Blue. Blue as the color of the Caribbean Sea itself. A large colorful crochet bag hung from her shoulder, within it the contents of all her earthly possessions. She passed by gracefully and moved to the back of the bus.
Time passed, a very short time. I was suddenly embraced by an aroma, a stench, that left me gasping for air. It was as though I had inhaled the metallic aerosols of a can of hairspray. In a panic, I opened the window next to the driver’s seat. Still overwhelmed, I opened the bus’s front doors. No cross-current and coughing now, I left the bus for the night’s sweet, fresh air.
After I had regained my breath and composure, I wondered about the source of the plume that had invaded my bus. I walked outside to the front of the bus and checked under it. Had I parked above a sewer? No. No sewer there. I looked around. No signs of a possible source, anywhere. I tentatively ascended the stairs and took my seat behind the wheel. The gas and its associated stink had passed.
A glance in the mirror revealed the young woman coming up the aisle.
“Would you let me know when we get to Ashland?” she asked.
“Yes. I’ll let you know when we get there.”
As she returned to her seat, coughing, and gasping for fresh air, I realized she had been the source of my ”suffocation.” She took a seat in the last row, a safe distance from me.
I reopened the window and opened the front door. A clean-cut, young man stepped through it.
He was drunk and smelled of vodka. He paid his fare and slipped into the jump seat. We exchanged a little small talk.
It was time to leave. I closed the door, released the parking brake, put the bus into drive. I departed the Jefferson Park terminal, took a left onto Milwaukee, a left unto Lawrence and we travelled east; just the three of us, driver, young man, young woman.
Sitting at the red light at Elston avenue, I noticed the young man gazing intently at the woman. He could not take his eyes off her.
I guided the bus into the stop at Pulaski, looked into the inside mirror and observed that the young man had now moved to the center of the bus. He and the young woman were now in conversation. Her voice had a lilting, comforting tone.
When we hit Western, the young man and young woman were seated side by side. He had gently taken her hand. She removed the crochet bag that had been between them.
When we arrived at Damen, they were gently kissing.
When I arrived at Ashland I called out. “Ashland!” No acknowledgement. “This is Ashland.” They were busy.
They exited the bus at Sheridan, at the stop next to the Travel Lodge.
Perhaps he rented a room for them. Maybe she had taken a hot shower to cleanse the grime of the street from her body. Maybe he had folded back the sheet and covers on the bed. Maybe he had taken a shower too, and meanwhile she had washed her clothing, that housedress, in the sink. Perhaps they encountered each other in bed and woke the next morning, glad of their decisions of the night before. Perhaps he would take her in, take her from the streets.
Or maybe, not.
I’m hoping for the former.
The description of the young woman, and the lack of description regarding the young man is a "Guy thing". The main character in the story is the bus driver. The story is told through his perspective. As a man, he is more interested in the young woman and her appearance.
The driver is also the main character of the story, for he is the one who experiences the greatest transformation.
At the beginning of the story, his relationship with the woman is base, a product of his own sexual attraction and desire. The relationship of the driver to himself and to others transforms as the story progresses, beyond one limited to his own desires, toward a genuine empathy for both the young man and young woman, as a couple. He develops a sincere desire for their well-being and the future of their relationship.
The story, yet, is incomplete. What causes the transformation? I have not figured that out yet, except that it has something to do with his being overwhelmed by the stink. At first, he attributes that to the woman. But the smell does not seem to deter the young man at all. Why is that? It's as though there is no scent. It does not exist. Is it because the young man is enveloped in his own cocoon of alcohol? Or, perhaps, instead, the bus driver smells the sin of his own lust. We can take this story in several directions. I guess I'll have to figure that out.
The story is grounded upon an actual experience I had one night driving the midnight shift out of Jefferson Park. The young woman and young man are real people. The events occurred as described, including my physical reaction and actions taken in response to a stench in the air.
This event occurred 43 years ago. The story reappeared in my sleep last week. Funny how the creative process works.
Mike McGovern is a long-term resident of Park Ridge where he lives with his wife Susan. He is a retired Human Resources consultant who worked for local companies including Abbott Labs, Navistar, Tribune, Amoco, and the Chicago Transit Authority.
Mike joined the Park Ridge Writers Group and began writing flash fiction to “maintain his sanity” during the COVID pandemic. To date, Mike has written fifty-four short stories. He credits his wife Sue for encouraging him to commit his “stories” to paper and is grateful for the support and feedback he has received from his colleagues in the Park Ridge Library writers’ group.
We are quantum particles
popping into and out of existence
Our features determined prior to conception
by the random production
of the gametes that formed us
We are unique among their probabilities
Perhaps range bound in our possibilities
Our past unfathomable
Our future certain
and yet uncertain
We quantum fluctuations live
within our equally finite fractal time
Contemplating the uncountable infinity of our universe
Francesca N. Pieraccini was born in Italy and studied both there and here. Her interests are cosmology, mathematics, writing, evolution, paleontology, and ancient civilizations. Most of all, she is a proud mother.
Puerto Morelos, south of Cancun, Mexico, is a small, shabby seaport. It is surrounded by expensive hotels and overgrown with a lush jungle of palm, banana and majestic rubber-trees. The bark of the rubber-tree is gray and smooth like the arm of a woman; and one of the trees actually reaches the fourth floor of my hotel.
The sun from the east awakens me each morning. I've been living at the "El Cid" for over a month and the sunrise never varies. It is already hot and humid outside. Shreds of white clouds move fast from the Gulf and vanish into the west, beyond the jade canopy of the jungle trees. The wild birds are invisible, but their music is everywhere. Some cackle loudly; some peep; some sound like a flute gone wild. Their melodies burst with life, a thousand springtimes... a thousand at the time!
How can I not go out on the balcony? So I plump down into a wicker chair and sip my black coffee.
Below me is a pond choked with mangroves. The shimmering pond is part of a swamp meandering through the forests of the Quintana Roo. Its water is still and cobalt blue. But from one end... riffles appear. They move together, in one bunch, across the pond. It's an alligator about six feet long. I see the old bastard each morning as he cruises placidly... his eyes just above the surface. A big bird, the size of a duck, crouches on the branches of a tree a few feet above the water. It has its wings spread to dry... and watches the reptile with me. And I wonder along with the bird how many monkeys and coatimundis the alligator will swallow this year.
Although the beach this year is full of seaweed, it's still a good place to spend the day. The sand is like sugar, smooth as flour. The waves, smelling of fish, roll-in... and break apart in rhythm. The salty breeze blowing from the vast, open sea is fresh and exciting. Each breath is an elixir.
The vast bay this early in the day is empty. Nothing sticks out on the horizon: no white sails, no fishing boats. The sky has the usual frigate birds. Their wings are spread; they glide effortlessly... almost to a standstill. Their "W" shapes pepper the sky from sunrise to sunset... and they never tire.
I stretch out on my beach chair, tuck my feet into the warm sand. I hide under a large parasol and watch Fernando come my way. "Good morning... senor!" he says.
His skin is dark-gold and his teeth shine like pearls. He isn't young, but he smiles like a twenty-year old. He's wearing a white shirt, white pants and white shoes: the uniform of a waiter from the "El Cid" hotel. The whiteness of his clothes is extravagant and almost hurts my eyes.
"How are you... today?" I ask Fernando. "How's business this morning?"
"Now ees no good. Later... more bissy... more dinero. You like tequila today... senor?"
"Nah... too early in the morning for tequila... Fernando. Bring me a bloody-mary... Not too salty, please!"
"Si senor!" he answers with a nod. I slip a couple of bucks on his serving tray and watch him trudge through the sand towards the bar.
Some of my grand-children are already giggling and splashing in the ocean. The bigger waves knock down the smaller kids and reach the roots of the palm trees loaded with green coconuts. Fernando is walking back with my drink. He's dressed in a hotel uniform, but his face is a portrait of a Mayan warrior. This land, this Quintana Roo belongs to him. His grandfather was probably spearing grouper and red-snapper from this beach. The sky, the ocean, the jungle were the same then... as now. The frigate birds hung in the air, the sea breeze blew in and combed his coal-black hair. Nothing has changed since that time except the living; ___ Fernando and me...
And I wonder if... twenty, thirty years from today my grand-kids will remember this day?
Prior to retirement, Victor Zenda lived in Park Ridge for over thirty years. Both of his two daughters graduated from Maine South H.S. He is currently a resident of Niles and grew up in Cicero, Illinois: a suburb just west of Chicago.
He is a baby-boomer born in 1947 in a U.S. Army hospital in Frillee, Germany. In Cicero he attended St. Mary's grammar school, Morton East H. S. and Morton Junior College. He received his B.A. degree from Northern Illinois University majoring in Secondary Education, Fine Arts and French Literature. He also studied Law at IIT/Chicago-Kent and Transportation at the College of Advanced Traffic in Chicago.
Mr. Zenda taught French at Mt. Carmel H.S. in Hyde Park and later went to work for the Burlington Northern Railroad, Bekins Van lines and United Van lines. When he retired he did a stint as a driver for PACE just for "fun" and stopped working in 2020.
He is currently... and has been for the last few years... writing fiction: something he regretted not doing earlier in life. He has been married for forty-seven years and has five grand-children