The Widows’ Wall (a short story)

(This short story was originally published in 2015 in Clapboard House, a literary journal.)

The wall, when you approach it from the east, in the early morning, looks blank. Looks just like a regular stone wall. The morning sun hits it at such an angle that you can’t see the inscriptions at first. And in the summer, ivy and other creeping plants do their best to stake their rightful claim. One of the widows will usually come by, though and tear any encroaching plant life away, so that the writing is not obscured.

Marianne Carlson, twice widowed (and thus with two stones in the wall) owns the property on which the wall sits. Her modest clapboard farmhouse, built in 1913, belonged to her first husband’s family, the Whidbeys. Edward had been the only son of Ernest and Grace Whidbey; a daughter had run off to the South and hadn’t been heard from in decades. Edward Whidbey had been a drinker. One starless night he had staggered onto the pond when it was not quite frozen through, not being able, in his inebriated state, to distinguish between the snow-covered meadow and the snow-covered and not-quite-thick-enough ice that covered the pond. He had sometimes liked to wander about at night, to look at the stars and howl at the moon. Ernest and Grace moved into town shortly after that, not being able to bear living on the property where their only son had died. They had felt obligated to give Marianne the house and land as recompense for her trouble, and also so that she could raise their grandson away from their own deep sorrow.

For a long while, Marianne stewed in her bitterness over Edward’s failing her. When she married him she had been a naïve girl, had not known much about drinking or what it did to people. Sometimes when he drank, he sang to her and was lovely in ways he normally wasn’t, but that scared her as much as the other times. She wondered who the real Edward Whidbey was – the good-natured crooner of folk songs who reached under her skirts and nuzzled her with the rough stubble of his beard, or the howling wreck with bloodshot eyes who yelled at her for overcooking the vegetables and leaving the radio on and using too much electricity. Continue reading

Max Bran (A Story)

(A new unpublished essay/story today about my cab ride with Max Bran, a San Francisco musician.)

When I met Max Bran he was driving a taxi in San Francisco. It was an old beat-up taxi, a clunker. It was raining and I decided to splurge on a cab because I had been waiting for a bus for quite a long time, and it was late at night, and I was in a part of town that didn’t seem so good now that it was nearing midnight. I usually ride buses in cities when I travel because it’s a good way to get to know a city, and also to observe the people who really live there.

I am a person who can’t tolerate silence in a cab unless I ascertain right away that the cab driver does not speak English. This particular night I was sort of dejected because my agent had just that afternoon told me she didn’t think she was the right agent for me. She had been my agent for seven years and had never sold my short story collection or any potential books that I had outlined and was in the process of working on. I was secretly glad that she had finally brought up this idea of separation because I knew I would never have had the guts to do it myself. I was still hurt though because she was really my only connection to the literary world in New York City, if such a relationship – one in which nothing had happened – could be considered a connection. Continue reading

Girl Scout Stories

(This short story is original to my website today. Any resemblance to my life as a former Girl Scout leader for my daughter’s troop is purely coincidental… Or not.)

We had all gotten together to commiserate, as women often do, about husbands and children and weight gain and technology. Also, the rudeness and slovenly, whorish dressing of today’s youth, our own children excluded of course. (We politely didn’t mention Bertie’s daughter Robin, who had been spotted at Starbucks with her school uniform skirt rolled up within an inch of her life, three earrings in one ear and too much eye liner.) Bertie herself had sighed to us that Robin now had a butterfly tattoo on her lower back right above the crack of her ass. (Bertie didn’t say the crack of her daughter’s ass; that was my husband’s comment when I told him about it. He said girls were doing that so that when they had sex from behind, the guy would see the tattoo and get more turned on.)

We were having lunch at Café Mediterraneo. Before becoming Café Mediterraneo this same location had been home to El Sombrero Loco, Hunan Palace, and a French “bistro” that none of us can now remember the name of. Its international pedigree has kept us coming here for lunch over the past two decades. Every time there is a change of menu, we hope for the best, and go somewhere else during the remodel. But we always come back. We are nothing if not loyal. Continue reading

The Whoosh

(A new unpublished essay, posted just for this website.)

I had been standing on the corner of Huron and Michigan Avenue waiting for the light to change from red to green. There was quite a mob of us, some already loaded down with bags from upscale boutiques or department stores or with the world famous caramel corn from the shop right around the corner. No one seemed to think it was odd to be eating caramel corn at 11:00 in the morning. The place had a line from the moment they opened, no matter if it was one hundred degrees or a blizzard.

I had snaked my way to the front of the crowd, ready to launch across Michigan Avenue as soon as the light turned green. I have always been like this. In a hurry to get from one thing to the next. I have no patience for dawdlers and also old people who slog along like they have all the time in the world.

The light turned green. I put my right foot out and leaned ever-so-slightly forward, at the ready. I must have been distracted by something because I didn’t go into my full launch mode right away.

And then. Continue reading