Blog

Be the Change #46: Working the Polls

Posted by on Apr 7th, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

If you live in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, I was one of the people who WOULDN’T STOP BOTHERING YOU.  My husband and I worked the phones and knocked on doors on behalf of Conor Lamb in the weeks leading up to the March 13 special election. 

But we were working the polls on election day on behalf of something even more important to us: the anti-gerrymandering effort.  We were outside a polling place trying to get signatures on a petition to change the way state and federal congressional district lines are drawn in Pennsylvania (see details HERE). 

You will be happy to hear that  I was punished for annoying you with phone calls all winter.  That day was really, really cold, and we had to stand outside the polling place, not inside where it was nice and warm and people had donuts.  We were well-prepared.  We wore gloves, hats, thick socks, and heavy coats over heavy sweaters.  And the nice people from Fair Districts had provided us with hand and foot warmers in addition to petitions and pens.  But it was still cold, and we were out there from the minute the polls opened until about noon, when our relief arrived .  Our faces were numb, our fingers  were popsicles and our feet were blocks of ice.

But it was SO worth it – and not just because we got 144 signatures on our Fair Districts petition.  144 signatures was a fantastic result:  more than 1/3 of the voters that morning signed.  But, the best part of that frigid morning was that we were reminded that Americans are more than the angry, divided, partisans portrayed on the news and in social media.  We are definitely divided, and definitely partisan.  And many of us are angry. 

But, at the personal level, we are also really, really nice.  Not a single person was rude to us, even the ones who made it clear that they disagreed with our cause.  Most disagreements were expressed like this: “No, thank you, I like things the way they are.”  One young guy even got into a jokey argument with us.  “Come on,” he said, “I’m a Republican. We have it set up so we always win.  Why would I want to change that?” 

Almost everyone expressed concern about how cold we must be.  One person offered to bring us coffee.  Many people stopped to talk to us, either to learn more about Fair Districts, or to share their concerns about the direction the country is heading.  For the first two hours, a local councilman stood outside with us, just to greet his constituents.  He knew almost everyone who came to vote, asking questions, listening, sharing personal anecdotes.  When he left us, he was on his way to another polling place in the community he represents.  This young guy, has a job and a family, but he had taken on the relatively thankless job of being on a community’s council, and he took the responsibility very seriously.

That councilman, and all the people who were worried about how cold Al and I must be, are the real America.  We could hear them, if we could only stop yelling at each other.

Be the Change #45: My Night With the Homeless

Posted by on Mar 12th, 2018 in Blog | 2 comments

Don’t worry, I wasn’t sleeping on a grate or under one of Pittsburgh’s 446 bridges.  I spent last Friday night in a comfortable home – and so did many others, thanks to the Family Promise program. 

My friend Patty’s parish, Saints Simon & Jude, is one of 16 churches in Allegheny and Washington Counties who serve as hosts for homeless families on a rotating basis.  When she told me about it the last time they hosted in December, I was so intrigued by this hands-on ministry that I asked if I could help out next time. 

I had it easy:  we had only one guest the evening I stayed overnight in the parish house.  I will call her Kelly.  A pretty, talkative young woman with an explosion of curly black hair, Kelly is the single mother of 4 children. Three of them stay with their grandmother.  The oldest is staying with her in the Family Promise host houses.  Kelly juggles two part-time jobs and is working hard to find permanent housing and bring her family back together. 

Before she connected with Family Promise, Kelly and her kids were “couch-surfing” with various friends and relatives. Most often, the 5 of them could not be accommodated together.  The program is providing her with a place to stay every night until she gets back on her feet, along with with housing referrals and budgeting assistance. They hold her accountable for managing her income so that she can save up enough for a security deposit.  She is also encouraged to build a little nest egg for emergencies.  The hope is that she won’t find herself homeless again the first time she faces an unexpected expense. 

Family Promise is a nationwide organization with 180 affiliates, 6000 participating congregations and over 135,000 volunteers. The Pittsburgh area has two Day Houses where the families can stay during the day when they are not at school or work.  They then spend that night at whichever local church is the host parish for that week.  Volunteers from the host parish drive the van that transports the families between the Day House and the nighttime host home.  Host parishes provide dinner, a small suite in the host house where families can spend the night together, and breakfast in the morning.  Most host houses can hold up to 4 families.

Did you know that 40% of the homeless are families?  And that 25% of the homeless are children?  Did you know that many programs will not accept single dads, or even fathers in 2-parent families?  In many programs, mom and children are welcome, but dad has to fend for himself.  Family Promise is one of the few programs that accept 2-parent families, single dads with children and families with teenage children.  They do not accept anyone with a criminal background that includes child abuse or violence of any kind.  They also do they accept current drug users, clients with untreated mental illness or families with a current domestic violence situation. 

If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity, or your church is seeking an outreach ministry, I’d encourage you to check out FAMILY PROMISE.  And I’m not just saying that because I had an easy night and breakfasted the next morning on delicious cinnamon rolls home-baked by some awesome Saints Simon & Jude parishioner! 

Be the Change #44: Keep a Sabbath

Posted by on Feb 11th, 2018 in Blog | 1 comment

My mother and father-in-law were old fashioned people.  Raised on farms, they each lost a parent early in life.  Pop-pop was raised by his grandparents, who had been born in themid-19th century.  Muni remembered attending religious-revival camp meetings during her childhood in the 1920s.  Their manners were old-fashioned, their morals were old-fashioned, and, oh my, did they have a 19th-century work ethic.

Pop-pop worked as a contractor and then building inspector until his early 70s.  Then he volunteered teaching woodworking at a retirement home until he was past 80.  Muni had scaled back a bit on the home front by the time I knew her, because she had a full-time job outside the home by then. But during my husband’s childhood, she maintained a large garden and a small orchard, from which she canned hundreds of jars of fruits and vegetables every summer.  She home-sewed her children’s clothes were home-made and made ice-cream in a hand-cranked wooden ice-cream freezer (which Al and I still own but don’t use). 

Staunch Lutherans, they never missed Sunday church.  And when church was done, they continued to keep a Sabbath by doing…nothing.  The occasional Sunday family dinners were raucous affairs with a dozen or so children and grandchildren elbow-to-elbow around the dining-room table, all talking at once.  But most of their Sundays were very quiet.  Muni cooked meals, but they otherwise did no work and rarely left the house after they got home from church.  In the summer, cool breezes drifted the white sheers in billows through the open windows.  In winter, a fire burned in the fireplace.  They read the newspaper or the Bible, and chatted quietly about some newspaper article or the day’s sermon or news of friends from church. Pop-pop usually dozed off for a while to the soothing ticking of the 19th-century clocks they had inherited from ancestors (Al and I have one of those, too, and sometimes if he is patient and fussy enough, he can get it to run for a few days). 

What is most touching to me is that they could always be counted on to be THERE.  If we happened to be out their way and decided to stop, we could be sure they’d be home – and invite us to stay to dinner.  Their friends and neighbors knew it, too, and so they often had unexpected – and very welcome – visitors.  Because they had no plans for the afternoon, unexpected company was no trouble to them.  They were happy to see you and have you spend as much time sitting with them as you wanted.  Imagine that in one of our busy homes today, where mom has to get the kids to hockey practice and dad is catching up on email from work.  An unexpected guest would be an intrusion.  You wouldn’t dream of just dropping in on someone in this century. 

And I think that’s too bad.  There’s a lot to be said for living at a slow-enough pace that an unexpected visitor is a delight.  And there is a lot to be said for rest.  Muni and Pop-pop worked hard for most of their lives, but they rested on Sundays – and they both lived into their 90s.  Lately, I’ve been trying to keep our Sundays free of commitments.  We don’t always stay home all day.  Sometimes we plan a hike, or a trip to a museum.  But mostly, especially this winter, we just stay home.  After church, we make soup or stew, put some music on, and settle down on the couch with the newspaper – while, when it’s in the mood, that old clock ticks with its quiet 19th-century dignity.

Wendell Berry wrote:

“The mind that comes  to rest is tended

In ways that it cannot intend:

Is borne, preserved and comprehended

By what it cannot comprehend.

Your Sabbath, Lord, thus keeps  us by

Your will, not ours.  And it is fit

Our only choice should be to die

Into that rest, or out of it.” 

This week, take a day off.  Give yourself the gift of a Sabbath.

Be the Change #43: Grace

Posted by on Feb 3rd, 2018 in Blog | 1 comment

I just finished reading a wonderful book, Grace by Paul Lynch.  It’s about the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s, but, more deeply, it’s the story of everybody’s life.

14-year-old Grace is wakened by her mother in the wee hours one morning.  Mam cuts off Grace’s hair, dresses her in boy’s clothes and sends her out on the road to fend for herself.  She can no longer manager to feed all of her children, and she doesn’t like the way Grace’s step-father has started looking at her.

The horrors that Grace endures, and her stubborn spirit, make for a story that is hard to put down.  Just as the fields have been corrupted by the potato rot, Grace is corrupted by her experiences.  The Irish people as a community are corrupted, as the veneer of civilized behavior is worn away by privation and an every-man-for-himself ethos prevails. 

Grace’s salvation comes at the hands of a very flawed group of human beings.  Giving a clever double meaning to the book’s title, Grace is the beneficiary of grace, in an unexpected way. 

It occurred to me, as I neared the end of the book, that Grace’s basic story is everybody’s life story. 

Everyone is ruined in some way.  This life is a beautiful miracle, but it can also be brutal in big, tragic ways or  in slow, small ways that accumulate like a weight on your back.  Some of us had addicted parents or other traumatic childhood experiences.  Your heart is broken by someone you loved.  A career setback proves to be unrecoverable.  Someone you love dies far too young.  You are disabled, or stricken with a chronic illness, raped or mugged or your house burns down.  And then there are the everyday insults of having to make a living:  tedious work for 40 years, unkind bosses and co-workers,  long, miserable commutes, the sheer weariness of getting up at 6 a.m. day after day after day.  “Life has a way of breaking everyone,” Hemingway said.  We are all broken.   Most of us are more tired than we like to admit.

And, like Grace, we are saved by other imperfect human beings.  I’m a Christian, so I believe that our salvation is in Jesus – ultimately.  But, day by living, breathing day, our salvation is in each other.  You are ill or disabled, but your spouse sticks around and takes care of you.  Your work is tedious, but your co-workers make you laugh.  You are hungry and think you are alone, and a local church group delivers food to your door.  A friend betrays  you, and the next day a neighbor you barely know shovels your walk for you and you invite him in for coffee.  This is what happens to my main character, Leona, in The Saint’s Mistress.  She suffers an unbearable loss, and is only healed when an old friend re-enters her life and gives her a glimpse of God’s grace and a reason to go on.    In a hard world, God grants us the grace of each other.

Every single person you meet is broken in some way.  This week, be the grace in someone’s life.

Be the Change #42: Why I Marched

Posted by on Jan 24th, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

250,000 in Chicago.  600,000 in Los Angeles.  A total of more than 4 million world-wide.   Measured on volume, the 2018 Women’s Marches were a great success.  For those of us who participated, it was spirit-lifting to be surrounded by singing, chanting, sign-carrying men and women who care about many of the same things.  Civility.  Decency.  A return to a foreign policy based on careful diplomacy instead of impulsive, inflammatory tweets.   The right of all human beings, regardless of race or religion, to freedom and dignity.  The ideal of “liberty and justice for ALL.”

To be sure, many people marched mostly to protest the direction – and, for some, the very legitimacy – of the Trump presidency.  But, it’s not enough to be against something (or someone).  I think it’s important for the movement ignited by the 2016 election to be clear on what we are FOR.

For me personally the march was about protecting the basics of our democratic republic:  the First Amendment, voting rights, fair districts, and getting dark money out of politics.

Just as it’s not enough to be against something; it’s also not enough to be theoretically for something.  The “kumbaya” moment of the march was uplifting and inspiring, but it should be just a start.  That’s why I donate to the ACLU, and volunteer with the anti-gerrymandering group Fair Districts PA.  That’s why I’ll be involved in voter-registration efforts between now and the midterm elections in November.

Political involvement was not in my plans for my 60s.  My plan was to retire, do some more writing and gardening, travel with my husband, and enjoy my grandchildren.  But the 2016 election and the year that followed broke my heart, and I’m not willing to just sit and be broken.  Al and I want our children and grandchildren to enjoy the same freedoms that we and our parents did.  And that takes action.  Marching is fine and feels good.  It puts our current government on notice that there will be a price to be paid at the polls in November.  But we really make a difference with what we do after the march.

What will you do to help move our blessed and beloved country toward the vision of freedom, justice and dignity for all?

Be the Change #41: Do what the pope says

Posted by on Jan 7th, 2018 in Blog | 1 comment

When I was young, I assumed that I would live a big, exciting life, full of great achievements.  Instead, at 62, I look back on a life of patient devotion to purpose:  to my 35-year marriage, to raising our children, to building a career and some financial security.  I didn’t always feel patient, devoted or purposeful, by any means.  I often felt confused, or wildly angry and resentful, or just plain tired.  The siren song of “living your dreams” frequently beckoned, except I didn’t really have another dream. 

I wanted the life I had, just easier. 

I wanted my devotion to be immediately and consistently rewarded.  Instead, I had to persist in the face of obstacles, problems and my own repeated small failures. 

I wanted ego rewards, and instead had to learn to submit my ego to the needs of my family and the demands of my life.   

I don’t think I’m alone in this.  I think this is pretty much the life story of almost every decent human being on the planet.   

And I’ve just discovered a lovely phrase for it, courtesy of Pope Francis.  Here is what the Pope has to say about those of us who are deeply flawed, struggle against both our own wayward nature and the disappointments of life, and yet show up every day and do our best for our families and communities.  In his New Year’s Eve homily, the Pope said that he feels “sympathy and gratitude for all those persons who, every day, contribute with small but precious gestures to the common good, who seek to do their duty as well as possible.”  He calls these people “artisans of the common good.”

The theme of this blog for the past year has been Be The Change.  But, it’s easy to forget, when the world’s need is so great, that we don’t have to solve every problem.  Sometimes it is enough to do the work before you to the best of your energy and ability – and occasionally beyond the limits of your energy and ability, if needed.  Sometimes it is enough, as Mother Theresa said, to “do small things with great love.”

This week, be an artisan of the common good.  Maintain your devotion to your family, your community and the work that you do.  Be courteous and kind to the people God puts in front of you. 

But be compassionate to yourself, too.  Know when you are doing enough.   

NOTES:

I wasn’t able to find the full text of the Pope’s homily but here’s a LINK to a nice synopsis.

Also of interest is this DAVID BROOKS COLUMN that quoted the Pope and got me curious about the homily.  Brooks uses courteous driving as an example of being an artisan of the common good.

Be the Change #40: Dare to be Open

Posted by on Dec 31st, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

Raising children sometimes feels like a 25-year emergency.  You’re in the eye of the hurricane all the time, from sleepless nights with babies, to constant chauffering with tweens, to the college and post-college years when they’re moving in an out of your house every few months, with their mystifying electronics and 35 pairs of sneakers. 

Then, suddenly, they’re out on their own for good.  The quiet settles like dust, and many parents wonder what they’re going to do with themselves now.  Some people take up golf or bicycling.  Some just settle in front of the TV and wait for grandchildren.  Many find satisfying volunteer work. 

My co-worker Rick and his wife Carol chose to work on their spiritual growth via connections with other human beings.

Rick and Carol have been committed Christians all their lives, and in recent years, as their 3 children matured and left home one by one, Rick talked a lot about planning the next phase of their lives, often speaking wistfully of friends who were overseas doing missionary work. 

As it turned out, they didn’t have to cross an ocean to find their mission.  They are gregarious people, and also enjoy being “problem solvers” as Rick puts it.  They love being a shoulder to cry on, and helping if they can, when a friend is having trouble:  divorce, death in the family, wayward children, illness, emotional upsets.  They recently doubled down on that when a friend’s daughter, who has a physical disability, needed a place to live.  Rick and Carol welcomed her into their home, where she stayed for several months until she was on her feet again. 

Their experience with Rachel inspired them to want to reach out more, and they decided that they wanted to put a special emphasis on making friends with people who are different from them.  Shortly after Rachel moved out, a young African-American man was going door-to-door selling magazine subscriptions while Carol was outside raking leaves.  Carol not only bought a subscription, but had a long chat with him and ended up inviting him into their house.  Over the course of one conversation with this young man, these two white Christian conservatives learned some things about racism, mass incarceration and the private prison system that they honestly hadn’t known before.  They were shocked and appalled, just as those of us on the left have been appalled by those same things for a long time.  But they truly hadn’t known – until it was made personal for them by a young man to whom they had the courage to open their hearts. 

There is so much to learn from their experience. 

First, there is no substitute for person-to-person connection.  I’ve felt that for a long time, and Rick’s story just reinforces it.  Now more than ever, we must connect with others, and, like Rick and Carol, I believe we must make a special effort to connect with people who are unlike us or might disagree with us.

Second, when we make those contacts, we have to be open to being changed.  I would go so far as to say that it isn’t really contact if you go into it thinking that you’re going to have an impact on the other person but they aren’t going to have any impact on you.  Because Rick and Carol were committed to spiritual growth – which inevitably implies change – their hearts and minds were opened.  Yes, that can happen – but only when we put the human connection ahead of our ideology. 

Chrstmas Present #3: I Have Forgiven You

Posted by on Dec 23rd, 2017 in Blog, Short Fiction | 1 comment

Here is the full text of my short story I Have Forgiven You, as published in the literary journal Metamorphosis a few years ago.  Merry Christmas and all the best for 2018!

 

Do you know that I’ve forgiven you?  I felt so unwelcome when I first came into your family.  Your house was overheated and aggressive with the smells of pine and boxwood, and everybody was talking at once, to everybody except me. My first mistake was getting engaged to your only son the same Christmas your oldest granddaughter got engaged.  Missy showed her ring and everyone whooped and hugged Joel and clapped him on the back and welcomed him into the family.  I showed mine and you nodded politely.  Well, I was 25 and already divorced.  And Tom and I had been living together for a year.  That didn’t go over with you in those days, when you were still vigorous enough to be judgmental.  Later, when your grandchildren cohabited, you learned to overlook it, but a mother-in-law is a more exacting judge of a daughter-in-law.

What hurt me the most was when your judgments extended to my kids.  They weren’t potty trained early enough to suit you.  They didn’t eat enough to suit you.  They made too much noise to suit you.  Whenever something got broken, my kids came under suspicion, never Missy’s.

I can’t claim to have forgotten, but I have forgiven.   Who could hold a grudge against you in this state:  gray and thin and loose-skinned like a baby bird, your hair a scrub of wild white tufts barely covering your scalp.

I patiently spoon lemon ice through your cracked lips.  You close your eyes with delight at each bite.  I’m glad to finally be able to please you in some way.  I hope you know that I’m glad to do this for you.

We don’t talk much.  You’re practically deaf now, although I suspect you don’t know it.  You never could understand half of what I said anyway.  You’d wince like I was hurting you and say, “PARDON me?” so impatiently.  I always talked too fast for you, in my New York way, but maybe, too, you weren’t interested enough to really pay attention.  It was only your own daughters, and their children, who were interesting to you.

We always did leave a lot unsaid.  You come from that generation who kept things private and kept up appearances.  You grew up in a slower-paced era when people stayed put and had all the time in the world to get to know each other, so intimacy didn’t need to be hurried.  Your generation got to know people by the gradual accumulation of their actions and seemingly-inconsequential words over the years, not by gushed confessions on second meeting.

I finally came to know you that way, in your own slow time.  And, by the same method, you probably came to know me better than I thought. I came to suspect that you were more like me than I thought.  I recognized the unhappy child’s determination that her children will have the childhood of her dreams.  Over the years, Tom left me clues in what he told me about his own childhood:  the homemade ice cream, the nature walks, the winter afternoons that you spent playing children’s card games instead of paying bills or scrubbing floors.  I got a glimpse that maybe your youthful hope was the same as mine:  that our children would be happier and more secure than we had been.

You taught your son to recognize bird calls and to spot wildlife by scanning for movement.  Years later, he taught me.  I love that about him:  that he patiently taught this Brooklyn girl to step quietly through the woods, slowly enough to hear a robin’s pleading song or notice the squirrel frozen on a tree trunk five feet away.

I thought you were so hard on my kids, and yet they always loved you.  I thought you favored Missy’s kids so blatantly, but my kids never seemed to notice.  They were always happy to see you when they were little, and they visit you now willingly, as long as we aren’t staying too long, kissing your tissue-paper cheek and holding your frail, bony hand, not even wrinkling their noses at the odor of diapers and looming death.  Their vision was clearer than mine.  They saw through the judgment to the love.

I never told you that you hurt my feelings.  Later, I never told you that I forgave you.  Do you know?

The Italian ice is gone.  I ask if you want some of your Sprite and you nod.  I raise the straw to your lips.  You latch on like a baby to the nipple and turn your cloudy eyes to mine gratefully, just for an instant.

***

Do you know that I have forgiven you?  I know you don’t have to be here.  My own children have to be here, and they’re the kind who do what they should.   There’s comfort in that.   But you:  you never did what other people thought you should.  It  always seemed to me that you did exactly as you pleased.  I didn’t like that in you, but now I find a different kind of comfort in that, too.  You must be here because you want to be.

Well, God knows I can’t afford to be picky about who spoons mush past my lips.  I can’t feed myself any more, can’t get myself to the bathroom, can barely roll over without help.  I know my hearing’s going, and you all assume that my mind’s going, too.  Well, it isn’t.  It tires me to talk and it tires me even more to strain to hear what people say back.  But I can still think.

I understand less about people than I thought I did.  When I was your age, I thought I had a lot of things figured out.  I thought I could predict how stories would end.

I didn’t think much of you at first, I admit.  Tom had just had his heart broken by that smart-alecky first wife of his, and you looked to us like the same mistake about to be repeated, with your loud voice and your New York accent and all those black clothes.  And you were already divorced at 25, for the love of God.  What did you expect us to think of you?  Once he took up with you, we hardly saw Tom.  I felt like you’d put him under a spell and would just chew him up and spit him back out like that first girl.  I can’t even remember her name now.

I started to forgive you a little when you can us two more grandchildren.  I can tell you we were surprised.  You seemed like the type who was more interested in books than in kids.  But, then you had them and you hardly ever brought them around.  I confess I didn’t think much of you and Tom as parents at first.  No, I didn’t.  You made such a big deal about not spanking them.  You were always explaining things to them.  You left me long lists of instructions when I kept them, as if I hadn’t raised four kids and didn’t know how to take care of a baby.  I admit I thought you spoiled them and that they would break your hearts.  But, I am surprised to find that they are two fine young people.  I don’t know how that happened.  Maybe you two got lucky.  Maybe you were better parents than I thought you were.  Either way, the world isn’t the predictable place I once believed it to be, and I’m too tired to figure it out all over again.

Oh, that ice feels good in my mouth.  My tongue always feels fat and sticky.  I must have revolting breath.  I probably have that old-person smell, too, all musty and decayed, like something already dead.  I should care, but I don’t.  I’m too tired.

I’m grateful that you still love Tom after all these years.  I think I finally forgave you for taking him away when you stayed with him when he was out of work for a whole year.  A year!  I respected how you went out and found work and supported the family.  I loved how you still loved my boy, really loved him, I could see that.  You stayed willingly, not bitterly.  None of my own three daughters could manage to stay married.  My oldest granddaughter couldn’t stay married.  But you and Tom did.  Another reminder that I don’t know what I thought I knew:  I didn’t think you had that in you.

Do you know?  I’m not much of a one for displays of affection.  I don’t like the way people your age are always hugging each other.  They even do it in church.  In my day, there were 100 people in the congregation and we all knew each other.  We dropped off casseroles when someone was sick or had a baby, and we went to the funeral home when someone died, but we never dreamed of hugging each other.  But, Lord, now there are 600 members and they hardly know each other’s names but they’re always wrapping their arms around each other like movie stars.

Oh, you can have this world, you young people.  I’m ready to go.  Maybe I’m just too old and tired to hold a grudge, but I wish that I had come to love you sooner, and I hope you know that I have forgiven you.

Christmas Present #2: Merry Go Round

Posted by on Dec 16th, 2017 in Blog, Short Fiction | 1 comment

Here is the full text of my short story, Merry Go Round, published several years ago in the literary journal Metamorphosis.

MERRY-GO-ROUND

You are a skinny little girl, but you have a big round belly like a starving child.  “Barrel belly” your family calls you affectionately.

You watch the world from the safety of your mother’s body, peering out with longing eyes from behind her legs.  Your sister touches bugs, runs races with boy cousins, and chips her teeth riding too fast on her bicycle and falling off.  She has black grit under her ragged fingernails, and her hair is always messy.  When your mother brushes your silky, fawn-colored hair, you are careful to keep it as neat as she made it.

You are at a park today, and your sister has ridden all of the rides.  You are holding her hand.

Your father squats to speak to you.  “Wouldn’t you even like to ride the merry-go-round?  We’re getting ready to go home.”

“Don’t force her, Ken,” your mother cautions.

Your sister pumps your arm up and down. “Ride the merry-go-round!   Ride the merry-go-round!  Pleeeeease!”

You raise your  pale, round face to it.  The legs of the horses are at the level of your eyes.  They are brown, black, milk-colored.  They wear bright necklaces of flowers.  Some are still.  Some churn up and down as the platform spins.  Some rear their heads and show square white teeth.  Children laugh above the tinny, gay music.

Your hearts squirms like a minnow in terror and desire.

“Ride the merry-go-round! Please!” Your sister pleads again.

You remove your hand from her sticky, grimy one.  The ride has stopped.  Another group of noisy children teems toward it.

“Would you like to ride?” your mother asks.

You nod.

“Well, all right, then,” your father shouts, swooping you up and depositing you on a black horse.

“A white one,” you whisper.

“What?”

“I want a white one.  One that doesn’t go up and down.”

He lifts you and plops you onto one of the milky-white horses, one that doesn’t churn. “Okay?” he asks.

You nod again.

Your father backs away.  The platform starts spinning and the music begins its skipping tune.

Your mother stands smiling.  Your father has raised the video camera to his eye, his cigarette dangling forgotten between  his slabs of lip.  Your sister bounces on her horse and waves wildly each time she passes them. 

You sit straight, both small hands wrapped around the metal pole.  You gaze straight ahead, unsmiling, in solemn dignity. 

 

Christmas Present #1

Posted by on Dec 10th, 2017 in Blog, Short Fiction | 0 comments

Over the next few weeks, I will be offering some of my short fiction to my readers.  Here’s your first present:  my short story Infamy, recently published in the December issue of PIF Magazine.  You can read it for free HERE or order for your KIndle (for only 99 cents!) HERE.

Enjoy!!!

Copyright 2014 Kathryn Bashaar | Design by | Adapted from PureType