Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Master of Every Situation

It was 5:30am in Hong Kong. The sun was just showing over the crisp edges of the high rises. People were scurrying on the roads, stepping over the litter and unwanted members of society still hidden in the deep shadows of a sinful city. In my comfortable room, I reached high over my head feeling the tension ease from my spine. The unadorned white walls and sparse furnishings felt warm compared to the coldness of the city. A satisfied smile spread over my face. I looked back out and saw that the sun’s rays had climbed half-way down the buildings. It was time to be up. The rest of Hong Kong, and for that matter China, would be awake soon.

Quietly, I sat at my little kitchen table sipping hot tea, my robe gaping in the middle where it never use to. Propped on the chair across from me, I examined my swollen ankles. The sun continued to reach over the long surfaces of the building and I knew Kai would be here when the slender rays touched the streets. I put my mug down with a dulled thud and went to shower.

Clothed in a dress that sat higher on my legs than the last time I put it on and leggings that came to mid-calf, I smiled at the obvious progress of this miracle. Three more weeks, I thought glancing at the small pile of boxes containing gifts that sat in a corner, a soft pink blanket falling over the corner of them. Ai-li Mei would be loved unlike any other Chinese girl. I ran my hand over the top of the small cradle my father had carved and then sent overseas for this little bundle. I smiled again, something I had been doing a lot of lately.

Glancing out the window, I saw that the sun was now illuminating the sidewalks. Kai would be at the door any minute. He had been so supportive. Neither of us meant to have this child, but he was honorable about it. Kai offered marriage as the customs of his country would expect. Being an American and in my 30s, I declined his proposal. A marriage based on an accident would not be a healthy one. I’d raise the child alone or with his help, but not as his wife. He’d seemed relieved and I was surprised that he kept calling, checked on how I was doing, and attended every appointment. This morning, we would attend the last appointment before Ai-li Mei was born. Ai-li Mei. The name we chose for our yet unborn little girl to honor his family.

The door buzzer alerted me to Kai’s arrival. I grabbed my sunglasses and purse from the counter. Stopping at the door, the intercom carried my voice to him, telling him I was headed out to meet him. “Ni hao Kai,” I greeted him happily once on the sidewalk. He smiled at me, looking at the large shape protruding before my usually slender body with an overwhelming amount of joy.

“Ni hao, Angela.” Hands laced together, we began the mile walk to the clinic. Ai-li Mei spun in happy circles. She loved the sound of Kai’s voice. Gently, I placed his hand on my stomach, just below my ribs. “She is playful today,” he said. Rarely could he feel his little girl twirl. It was not often that she danced with such joy. Usually, she tapped out small S.O.S’s from the comfort of her bat-like position. Little signals that I alone shared with her.

The soft green walls of the waiting room looked dirty. The large bodies of pregnant women usually hid the small smudges from little hands that graced the walls in wonder during the busier evening appointments. The furniture looked shabbier too. Not many mothers-to-be made appointments for first thing in the morning. Work took precedence over prenatal care. I sat down on the shallow couch, my weight pushed as far back as possible. Having an American frame was not conducive to the small spaces in Hong Kong. Moments later, the ultrasound technician stumbled over the strange letters of my name and then led us back to her dark, cool room.

I knew the procedure and quickly pulled my long shirt up, tucking it under my generous pregnancy breasts, and slid my leggings down so my hip bones were showing. The warm goo spread across the mountain of my abdomen. Little Ai-li Mei stopped her dance and lay still. The technician slid the magic wand over the roundness of the child folded within my skin. She chatted in Chinese with Kai. I understood some, but my attention was mostly on the grainy figure rippling on the little TV sitting on the counter. She’d grown considerably since I last saw her image five months ago.

Her indentations now represented real features. I could see ten little toes squeezing, her legs coiled into a fetal position, her round bottom pushing into my diaphragm. Her belly was bowed in a way that reminded me of Santa Clause. Little fingers appeared to tap restlessly against her tummy as if she was as impatient wither confinement as I was. I took a deep breath at the thought of holding her so soon. The technician moved the wand further around my stomach toward my back. I looked at the screen again. Nobs stood out indicating we were now looking at her back. They connected together, my eyes following the straight spine she had developed, leading me to her head.

I could see the back of her skull. I wanted to see her face, know if she was smiling, if she could open her eyes, see her happy. Most of this, I knew, would be impossible, but I had felt all of her growth spurts, especially the ones over the last few weeks, and felt as if she was no longer a fetus, but an infant ready to come lie in my arms, alert to the world around her. The technician lingered on her skull. She said something to Kai and left the room.

Kai reached down and took my hand absent-mindedly as he stared at the blank screen. “What is it Kai?” I asked, stirred to see him looking so emotional.

His wet eyes turned to look down at me. “It’s nothing. She just went to get a doctor to help her get a better image of the baby’s head.”

“Why? Won’t Ai-li turn for her first photograph?” I asked. Kai laughed, but it sounded sad instead of happy. “Camera shy, just like me I’m sure.” I said feeling nervous.

The doctor came in the room and introduced herself quickly. Her English, unlike the technician’s, was quite good. She told us that the measurements for the skull were off and that she was going to take some pictures herself. Kai and I sat in silence. Dr. Ching was kind and warm, but she seemed too rushed. My nerves began to jingle as she quietly moved the wand over my geography, quickly snapping pictures, never offering an explanation. Excusing herself, she left the room, promising to be back as soon as she reviewed the printed images.

Slowly, I wiped the goo off and pulled my clothes around me. I wanted to block out the coldness that had suddenly entered the room. Kai pulled me close, his arm over my shoulders and his other hand resting gently on Ai-li. Outside, the sun rose higher in the sky, flushing out dark corners that thought they were safe from its intensity. I thought of the way the sun warmed my skin as Kai and I continued to wait.

Dr. Ching returned and invited us to her office. We followed her through the twisting hallway and were seated in two folding chairs. “I’m sorry,” she said, indicating the chairs we were sitting in. “I don’t usually have patients in my office, but I wanted to talk to you in private.” She took a long deep breath, folding her small yellow-brown hands into each other. Her brown eyes looked at both of us, trying to express something we could not yet understand. She closed them a moment before continuing. “The films show that the baby has grown a significant amount. I am estimating that she weighs 5.7 kilograms. In American, I think that is about 12.5 pounds. Her head accounts for 2.5 kilograms or 5 pounds. I believe most of that is fluid.” She stopped and looked at each of us.

I sat still, not understanding. “What does that mean?”

“Your baby’s head is filled with fluuid. Her brain has not fully developed. She will not likely survive childbirth.” Dr. Ching paused, her hands tight little fists at the edge of her desk. I felt as if I was suffocating. My lungs would not expand, my heart seized, my brain screamed. I sat on the hard metal folding chair dying. Kai sat tall beside me as if he hadn’t heard a word she said. “The two of you need to make very difficult decisions. You need to decide if you want to deliver the baby naturally or have a C-Section. In this situation, I think a C-section would be less traumatizing for all involved.” Dr. Ching paused. “You also need to make decisions about the body. I have a folder of information I am going to send with you when you are ready to leave. You can stay here as long as you need.” She slid a thin folder forward on the desk and then quietly left the room.

Kai and I sat. We didn’t look at each other. The floor and walls felt so much safer. Their blank canvas could not betray emotion. Even the messy desk now posed a threat. The folder sat there and with it a deep gulf of unanswerable questions. Eventually, Kai reached over and touched my elbow. I looked up, unaware of the tears falling down my face nor the shallowness of my breathing. His face was dry, but its paleness told me he was in obvious distress.

Slowly, he rose to his feet, gently pulling me to mine. Kai folded me in his arms. Together, we shuttered, unable to flee the prognosis Dr. Ching had delivered. I don’t know when we left the office, only that the sun had disappeared on the other side of the skyscrapers. Its thin rays were abandoning me as well. We walked back to my apartment where we continued to sit together until the sun disappeared.

Suddenly, Kai spoke. “There is an old Chinese proverb. It says: You are the Master of every situation.” He looked at my disbelieving face. How could he possibly think I was responsible for the situation? I did everything I was told to do. I ate well. I exercised only moderately. I slept when I was tired and listened to the cues my body gave me. I did everything the medical community told me to do; everything! Anger began to build in me. I could feel my face heating up and my hands clenching even though I was still too stunned to speak.

He continued on, approaching me very slowly. “I’ve been thinking about that proverb and how stupid it is since Dr. Cheng told us. We didn’t choose this to happen.” Kai stopped just in front of me. “Only, it’s not stupid. It’s deeply, deeply true. It means that we can’t choose our circumstances, but we can decide how we will behave in every situation.”” He reached for me, my anger settled a little by his words. I allowed him to help me to my unsteady feet again. He wrapped his arms around me, resting one on top of little Ai-li Mei like he had done for the entirety of my pregnancy. “We are the Masters of how we respond to the situation. We can give up and give Ai-li nothing. Or we can keep our promise to her and make sure she is loved unlike any other Chinese girl, even if it is only for a few precious minutes.” He paused a long time, looking intensely in my eyes. “I’ve made my choice to love her fiercely.”

Kai reached up and wiped my tears away; tears of misery mixed with those of promise and hope, tears of a desire to be a mother once again fulfilled, even if for a short time. This was the moment in my life that rushed through my mind as my daughter, Xiaojian, sobbed into my shirt at the loss of her unborn child and Kai stood with a knowing look heavy in his eyes in our home of 27 years.

*** Swap-bot***

Monday, August 30, 2010


I watched the second hand tick by slowly and my mind wandered to the muggy air just outside. It was probably raining cool drops from heaven. As the second hand stuttered on, I wished I could be there instead of in the windowless room. I'm sure it was for our collective mental safety. Out of sight, out of mind was probably the philosophy behind the picking of this particular bunker.

I sighed heavily, my bangs flitting in the air in response and scribbled a note. 'Gustar-like verbs: first half pronouns must harmonize while verb agrees in number with subject' "Oh God, just shoot me now!" I thought as the teacher continued on.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Sunday, August 29, 2010


I felt the rough burlap straps more thoroughly each passing minute. They were heavy and had rubbed bright red sores in my otherwise white skin. Slowly I made my way through the foliage and over the rotting logs, following the one man that both terrified me and promised me safety. I could hear fast moving waters somewhere ahead of us and prayed he would continue to keep his word.

*** One Minute Writer ***


"We'll win, ya know; we always win when we sit in line with the bathtub." I hated how he always presumed he was the best based on something ludicrous like a bathtub or the kitchen sink. Quickly he dealt the cards and I picked up my hand. Yep, I thought, he is presumptuous, but right again.

***Daily Writing Practice ***

Friday, August 27, 2010


You know those little Legos? Not the big blocks, but the little teeny tiny ones. They are unbreakable. It doesn't matter what you do to them, they simply never break. Melt? Yes. Get scratched up and grimy? Certainly. Break? Never. I wish they would though. I'd like some revenge every time they dig their knobby little tops or sharp sides into the bottom of my feet.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Thursday, August 26, 2010

7-Word Swap

Words: Epiphany, shark, spirit, watching, terrible, unmarked, playing.

I’d watched it happen to many families. Those little bundles of joy wrapped in a blanket grew. The bundles began to toddle, became independent, developed an identity, and eventually grew taller than their parents. This frequently marked the beginning of the end. Playing would not include the adults in any form any more. I’d witnessed the tears, the fights, the ugly words and loving reunions. Now, it was my turn to go through it. My little bundles were growing quickly. Soon, they too would be taller than me and ready to take on the world.... alone.

Unlike other families, I decided to rebel. I would fight against being left behind. Sunday’s became our family day. It was the one day a week where school activities and parties would just have to wait. This evening, we would be watching movies and eating buttery popcorn. The idea came to me out of a complaint. Apparently, I never wanted to watch anything good. The complaint turned into a light hearted argument about cinematography. The old styles—slow and measured, scarier in imagination than on screen—versus the new style—fast paced and putting it all out there, no guess work. The argument grew more scholarly and then I had an epiphany.

I went to the video store and rented Shark Swarm and Jaws. We all snuggled on the couch and watched. I told them my plan to compare and contrast the films; to put the debate to rest at last. I was pleased to see they were on board and we started the movie.

The kids cheered with great spirit as blood spurted over the pier and across the screen as the toxic infested sharks attacked everyone who came near the water. The same scene played out over and over, with little variance. As predicted, the after movie conversation died quickly. How much could be said about Shark Swarm? The movie said it all and left little room for questions, other than the reality of anything like it ever happening. It was silly horror. Nothing more.

We took a break to stretch and gather more goodies before putting the next movie in. Again, we watched. The kids seemed bored at first. They were not use to movies that weren’t flashy and moved at a more natural pace. After a bit, they were absorbed into the terror of the movie. Their bodies tensed, hands clenched, eyes riveted on the screen, minds begging for answers to the terrible scenes playing out in their heads. When the movie ended, they sat quietly. “Well?” I asked, my joy unmarked by their ashen faces. “What do you think?”

They sat in silence staring at me. Finally, the eldest stood up and clapped. Quickly the others followed him. I bowed and we all started to discuss the movie. We talked late into the night. I smiled knowing that I was in the thick of them still. Maybe not the very core, but still important somewhere on the outskirts.

I may not win the war of the teenage years, but I am elated to take a few battles. Even mundane ones.

*** Swap-bot ***

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Dark clouds filled the skies, their voluminous bodies falling down to the ocean. I watched as the winds blew them onto land and knew my chance of survival was bleak. The little clapboard shack could not hold up to the storms power.

*** One Word ***


Mist rolled off the lake, covering the lowest branches of trees with a blanket of pretend snow. I watched my feet as I walked toward it, leaving small marks in the frost covered ground and fields as I soldiered to the bus stop.

*** One Word ***

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Driver

You were plump then, little brown pigtails sticking out from the sides of your head, and a cute smile. Everyone called you a sweetheart. That was a long time ago. Now you stand before me in a fitted tank top and too short shorts that show your form off. You are beautiful- you always were- and no longer persuaded by my arguments. I am not the influence in your life. Your friends have taken on that role and it is they that have called and told you to come right away. I imagine you will enjoy the party, but I worry about you making the drive. It is a good distance and you are an inexperienced driver who's attention quickly shifts between a text message, a new ringtone, the radio station, and occasionally the road. Every time you walk away and climb in that contraption you call a car, I wonder if it will be the last time I see you. Will you be coming home tonight?

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Tourist

John had complained frequently that I made a poor tourist. At the last stop, I snuck into the disembarking crowd and disappeared around the corner. I was exhausted of posed pictures and tight smiles, of lectures and shortened histories, of directed moments and inadequate schedules. I wanted more for my mind, more from Mexico. I knew he would be mad, probably panicked that I had been abducted by a low-life thug who would demand a ransom in American dollars. Even that was preferable to another flash followed by "now if you will all come this way." Slowly I wandered away from the main group and found a country away from the pristine shoreline of tourism. I'm not sure I will ever return from whence I came.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Friday, August 20, 2010


My husband and I have been married for nine years 359 days. I'd tell you the recipe, but its not a set thing; it changes with us as needed. Only the ingredients stay the same: kindness, respect, love, and understanding with sprinklings of compassion and humor. An occasional dash of anger or disappointment helps ensure we don't take one another for granted.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Ocean/ Methodical

The sound of the ocean roared in my ears as the plane raced down the strip and began ascending. I knew it wasn't the ocean itself, but it was the closest I'd heard to it since I'd been away from home. Closing my blue eyes, I let the sound wash over my soul. I gripped the seat arms more tightly. Going home after 23 years presented many challenges.

Methodically, I planned my trip. It wouldn't be good for my acquaintances or business partners to find me. Or my family. Bloodshed would be a certainty if that happened. To ensure everyone's safety, I had to create a new identity, build a life and reputation in a place I couldn't yet step foot, plan enough goose chases for them to eventually loose interest, and of course make sure there was no trail behind where I would actually walk.

I just hoped the ocean would offer me the escape I sought. It could just as easily swallow me whole.

*** Daily Writing Practice AND One Minute Writer ***

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Running through the streets looking for you was a misdirected reaction. I should have been home sitting at my kitchen table and drinking a latte with you while sharing a biscotti. Instead, I stood on a corner in the rain regretting what had never been.

*** One Word ***

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Too Complicated To Explain: Visit the Site

It wasn't a hard choice. The diner across the street was blaring The Big Twang and I'd hated the group ever since my ex had joined the band. It was raining so hard, I was beginning to 'melt' and needed shelter. (At least that's how I preferred to refer to the chemical reaction between water and sugar.) Plus, they were playing Abba and I'd always had a soft spot for Dancing Queen being the Sugar Plum Princess.

Out of the rain, I stretched my wings spilling colored sugar on the floor and settled at the bar. The monthly molting was becoming a serious pain. Barry, as I later learned his name was, raised a hoof in my direction. Feeling bad for the guy, I smiled back. He'd slopped most of his drink on the floor, his snout not really fitting into the glass well. Drinking problems in these parts were all too common. Accessible glassware really needed to be considered. I shuttered at thinking what kind of germs were carried on the bottom of his hooves and decided I would not order anything to eat.

Looking around the dim room, I saw the waitress putting her hands up in protest as a dragon. was crossing his heart and then, well his bottom. Barry kept snickering. "What's that all about?" I asked daintily.

"Cross my heart and promise not to fart," he said, neighing loudly and slapping his hoof against the bar in a very Mr. Ed sort of way. I opted not to pay attention to any of them and signaled the barkeep.

He had dark hair that curled just above his eye, rippling muscles deep enough to reflect light in little waves of ooh-la-la, and a great cape to compliment the whole package. My wings fluttered when he looked in my direction. In an instant, he was in front of me. "Hi there sweetness," he said softly. "What can I get for you?"

My wings fluttered a little quicker. "How about a nice glass of plum wine to start with." He looked me over in a way that made me feel I had nothing on. I blushed. He winked and returned with a bottle and two glasses.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***


I'd fallen for him. Well, not him, but his characters. I dreamed about him; fantasized about him; never thought I would meet him. Then one night, on vacation in Mexico, he sat across the bar from me. We raised drinks, smiled, and moved seats. In the end, he left with another woman and I fell again. This time the landing was hard.

*** One Word ***

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


"It was a blast," I told my friend. She was on the other end of the line, but didn't miss my eye rolls.

"I bet!" She sympathized with my plight. I dreaded that she would soon be sunk into the same unpleasant experience. I could tell her what to expect, but it would only make the agony more intense.

"So, which day's work meeting are you attending?"

*** One Word ***


It started as a small patch of particularly nasty ones. We weren't that concerned. It wasn't the first time we had let down our guard and things had slipped beyond easy control. Together, my husband and I implemented the old precautions. It didn't work and the nasty ones beget smaller, weaker versions of themselves which quickly grew into new threats.

We called in the specialists, each with his own thought on how to best proceed. All of their advice failed. Worry and doubt became second nature as we continued to work through person after person, all who claimed to have the answer to stop the erupting population. My son began a new mantra that he said every time he felt surrounded by the beasts, "I want to kill the zombies."

We laughed hysterically at our small son, but understood his frustration. After all, they had targeted him unlike anything anyone had ever seen. "Scabies," the most recent doctor had said.

"Yes," my son replied, "Zombies."

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Law

Amid all of the screams, begging, and tears, I never felt it was my responsibility to help. Time after time, I asked myself the same question, "Why does she allow this to happen? She could stand up for herself or walk away. No matter how bad it gets, she never does anything different." As long as he did not lay a hand on me or my sisters, it was merely a sad fact of life. One that I felt no responsibility for. That is until I turned sixteen.

It wasn't the day I turned sixteen, rather a rainy fall night when he decided my mother had had enough and he was still angry. I stood by the phone, keeping quiet on my way back to my room where I could shut the door on that sad fact. This time, he stopped me. Asked me where I was going. Looking down at his feet, I stammered, "To my room."

"What the hell are you doing out of your room in the first place?" he stormed on.

I looked up to his face, too surprised that he would even question it. There was no rule that we were to stay in our room while they were fighting. It was a safety precaution we chose to follow ourselves. My stunned silence lasted too long and I felt the flat of his hand land sharply against my cheek. I fell backwards, barely catching myself. Rage filled me as I looked at the floor and felt the stinging heat on my cheek.

Standing up, hands clenched at my fist, nerves shaking uncontrollably, I stared at his shocked expression. I wondered if he was shocked that he had hit me or shocked that I bothered to stand back up, something my mother would never dare to do. We looked at one another for several seconds, neither saying a word and both holding our posture, unwilling to let the other see a change in our demeanor.

"I'm sorry...." he finally said, his eyes falling to the ground. "I didn't mean to...."

I didn't care. He'd never apologized before, not to my mother or any of us for his actions. It wasn't enough. That's when I realized why she stayed. She loved him, wanted him, needed him in a sad way. I did not. I didn't care about this sorry excuse for a man; a husband; a father. "If you ever touch me or my sisters again, I will call the cops and we will all be gone. I am not strong enough to deal with you, but the law is on our side."

He almost toppled over, taking two full steps before regaining his balance. I stood taller, my arms still straight down at my sides, my hands clenched tighter. I stared at him, silently daring him to leave a mark. He didn't. He simply turned and left.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Saturday, August 14, 2010


He saved his pennies for weeks, months really. Finally the day had come. He held my hand as we walked up to the register with the Magic 8 Ball. "I'd like to buy this please," my five year old said to the cashier.

*** One Word ***

Exaggeration: 4 unrelated lines of prose

His hatred for her grew dark enough it eclipsed the moon on a bright summer's day, baffling astrologists to the end of time.

Her breath was so strong, she knocked over an entire squadron with one blown kiss; the military referred to it as the kiss of death.

My daughter is so persistent and stubborn she is likely to dominate the world by the time she is sixteen. (The only exaggeration is that she could rule the world by thirteen.)

The child was so sweet, he melted in the rain.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Friday, August 13, 2010


They were few, but each one was incredibly precious. It would be enough time to tell her baby "I love you," to kiss her forehead, and to spread out her fingers before the child died in those few seconds.

*** One Word ***
Someone I know will be going through this when her child is born within the next week. It saddens me to no end.


We sat high in the mow,touching rafters with broken pieces of straw and talking about the things young kids talked about in those days: Madonna, Guess Jeans, and who liked who. The hunts for new litters of kittens were merely an excuse to find some privacy from the adults and space from the youngest of the human litters. My sister was jumping from bale to bale, pretending to be a gymnast and choreographing her routine around the thin shafts of light that seeped around the wooden slatted walls. Leap. Twirl. Arms extended high. Twirl. Leap. Toes pointed for effect. And then she disappeared.

"Jenny?" I called, suddenly afraid. There was no response. My body stiffened a bit more and I slowly went to look for her. Peering over the bale she was last standing on, I saw her body in a heap, muddied and shaking slightly, two floors down. It was only then that I realized the trap door had given way.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***


For many years, John had loved her..... and only her. He thought of her as his lover and was always faithful to her. She had taught him patience and how to survive with whatever Mother Nature and God provided. But today, they were failing him and he knew that this would be his last battle. Propping himself up on his elbow, John looked out his window to see her one last time.

The white crown glinted brightly in the sun; the purple and blue cloak fell gracefully down the length of her body; her green and yellow skirt peeked from beneath the cloak. She stood majestic and confident as always. Finding great peace in her solidity, John laid himself down and took a last rattling breath, releasing his soul into his love's care. The great mountain sighed at his immortal embrace.

*** One Minute Writer ***

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Switch

It's a dangerous switch to flip. And thanks to a friend-living-in-California-whom-shall-otherwise-remain-nameless's recommendation, I flipped the stupid thing and have been drawn in. TV. I live without it for exceedingly long periods of time. Then with a little flicker, it can start to consume my life. This time, I am stuck on "Burn Notice", a fabulously entertaining show with beautiful actors (who actually have well developed characters) and a lot of explosives.

One more season to go and I will have the willpower to flip the switch and return to the more important pursuits in life. Writing being just one of them.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***


Angel sat at the kitchen table, the sun shining hotly on her shoulders and back. She looked at the door and waited. She couldn't believe he had really walked out on her for good. Glancing at the clock, Angel decided he would be back within the hour. The probability of John being gone forever couldn't be that high, could it?

*** One Word ***

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chance Encounter

Marcus sat in the dappled shade of a tall oak tree in Grand Park, a book perched on his knees. It was one of the few parks remaining in the city, many of the others having fallen to housing market demands. Condominiums sprouted where trees, shrubs, and small flower gardens once thrived. The sprawling foundations of high-rises ate up the crisp green blades of grass in the middle of wet spring like they were a salad to be enjoyed before the main course arrived. Having acquired a taste for the serenity of the outdoors several summers ago, Marcus grieved the birth of the developments and sought refuge where he could.

He breathed in the slight scent of grass cut early that morning. It tickled the top of his lungs while the smell of exhaust burrowed deeper down, reminding him that the green space around him served as an oasis from the cold shoulder of the concrete city, nothing more. A sigh escaped his thick frame. Marcus wondered how long before Grand Park would be reduced to a mirage. He shook his head and closed his book. Little enjoyment would be found in the park today now that his mind was cluttered with thoughts of its imminent demise.

Hefting himself off the ground, he began to walk home when he heard a vaguely familiar voice. It drew him in like the Pied Piper and like a young child, he found himself skipping along to the light sounds even though he knew he shouldn’t. Closer he walked until he found the source. It was her. Julia Swipter, the woman he believed he would marry until she broke the news that she was engaged to a man half-way across the world. She sat on a bench calling to two or three happy brunette children, laughing at their antics, and tickling them mercilessly if they taunted her from too close a proximity.

He hated the woman sitting thirty feet from him. She had destroyed his world without a hint of remorse or responsibility. Marcus had wallowed in shock and denial for nearly a year after her departure from his life. It took another year before he met someone he felt he could trust again. They broke up a couple of months later, but the relationship was the first of many that had slowly moved him back to a healthy sense of himself and confidence in others.

He stared at her, wanting to turn away, but unable to move his heavy legs. Curiosity, he decided; it was curiosity that kept him immobile. He wanted to know if she had failed in any regard without him. Quietly, he sat down to the side of the tree a few feet further back. He opened his book and set it on his knee, but watched her openly, turning to the book when the children showed even the slightest hint of interest in him or he thought she might look in his direction.

She looked older, but equally as beautiful as she had eight years ago. Her hair fell to her shoulders, a deep brown cascade over a slender collar bone. He remembered tracing it when they sat together on the couch reading or when they played in his bed. It had always attracted him and he could never get his fill of it, especially when she wore her dainty silver necklace with the black opal that weighed it down and swung with her movement. He’d felt cheated that another man had kissed those gentle curves and smelled the light perfume she wore. He felt his heart twitch at the fact and a bit of the betrayal bubbled up in it.

Suddenly she stood up from the bench, chasing one of the children playfully on the smooth lawn, her cream heels buried in the grass. He noted that she was still slender; her legs were long and lean. He remembered how powerful Julia had been on their morning runs together and late night dance parties. She had never tired. He felt every ounce of the weight he had put on over the years. After she left, his body rebelled, demanding sweets and wine and large portions to fill the void she had left. Not that any of it helped. Marcus stopped trying to control its spread until recently. Now he regretted giving in. Burying his face in the book, he tried to hide his embarrassment.

He sat on the grass, immobile, listening to the children playing and Julia’s joy at being with them. She was obviously happy, joyful even, beautiful still, and healthy. From his distant, she appeared to be a success. He hadn’t found the failure he had stayed in search of. He continued to listen to her voice, his eyes diverted to the book. Slowly, the sound started to drift away. Glancing up, he saw them walking past the shrubs another 10 yards off. Julia had a bag flung over her shoulder and the youngest children’s hands nestled in her own. The oldest child ran a few paces ahead. They were leaving.

Still Marcus sat in the shade. Yes, he thought, he had become a better person because of his experiences with her. He’d learned to value nature and to defend it. He’d pursued a Master’s Degree, something he never thought he could do until she encouraged him. Education was a lifelong commitment for him. She had taught him love and betrayal, the costs of each achingly high. She’d made him laugh, cry, explore, reconsider his life. Destroyed was their relationship, but she hadn’t taken his life away. Her gift was to show him a glimmer of what his life could hold.

He’d wasted it though. He’d wasted it in regrets over meeting her, in anger over his broken heart, in envy that someone else would hold her at night. Never had he thought of the relationship as a gift, one that could keep giving over many years. The resolution hadn’t fit him, but the life lessons he should have learned would not be entirely wasted. Marcus jumped up from the ground, the shade of the tree washing silently over his heavy body and the book falling to the ground. He picked it up, placing it in his backpack.

His first step was timid, but it strengthened his overall resolve. His steps quickened until he began to jog and then run and then sprint for the exit. She would be gone, he knew, but he wasn’t chasing her for once. He was finally taking control of his life rather than letting a single set of circumstances dictate who he was. The chance encounter, one he secretly wished for and dreaded, propelled him on. For the first time, he realized he was the one who held him back and she had just been where he laid the blame. He smiled and silently wished her luck in her life.


Thursday, August 5, 2010


She lay still, music playing softly in the back ground and the lights dimmed. Her body was sore after having been roughly worked over for the last hour. "Mmmmmmm," she said, "A massage is always the perfect escape."

*** One Word ***

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


We held hands as we stepped off the curb to cross the street. It was a warm April day and the kids were excited to venture out for the first time that Spring. Now I watch as my eldest takes his child's hands and prepares to cross the street.

*** One Word ***

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


They'd set sail that morning, the luxurious yacht destined for the warm islands south of Hawaii. A small villa and a handful of servants awaited their arrival on the private island. They stood in the prow of the boat, sipping champagne as they watched the waves sliced by the boat. Spray wet the white sides of the boat, making it shimmer in the rising sun. Joanna set her glass down and smiled broadly at her husband. Snuggling up to her husband of less than 24 hours, she purred into his neck, "It's perfect George."

George relished the closeness, the feel of her chilled skin against his own. Her warm breath and wet lips raised goosebumps on his arms and sent a shiver down his spine. He leaned over her, taking in the smell of her hair, then raising her face so that he could kiss her lips. It was a soft kiss. A kiss that is shared between lovers of a long time; almost chaste. He planned their honeymoon meticulously, careful to keep every detail to himself.

A light danced seductively in her eyes, her lips curved up in a small smile. "Shall we go below?" she whispered. He smoothed the wind blown hair from her face, lifted her in his arms, and began to carry her to the lower cabin. She smiled at him, crossing her ankles and unbuttoning his shirt. He began walking across the deck, his attention split between his wife and his balance. She kissed him again. Kicking the step between levels, he stumbled to the rail, catching himself but losing his grip on her. Water splashed on the deck as the boat continued careening away from her. He watched her small form struggling in the water.

A large smile spread across his face. Mission accomplished he thought. Heading down to the cabin, he began to count the millions he stood to inherit, only a small portion of which needed to be paid out to the small on-board crew.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

Monday, August 2, 2010


He pulled his pockets out, showing me they were empty. My lips formed a thin line, set deep with disappointment and dread. "We made a deal," I said. Ice coated my words.

"I know," he replied, the color draining from his face. "But mom, I tried to save my money..."

I cut him off, my hand in the air indicating I expected silence. "I want none of your excuses."

*** One Word ***
This would have posted on Monday, August 2nd if my daughter had not fallen out of bed and howled with an insistence that made me not even consider pushing the publish button before rushing upstairs.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I sat on the convent steps questioning if I made the right choice in coming. My long skirt fluttered in the breeze and I didn't see the Mother Superior walk up. "Can I help you Miss?" she said. Her habit covered most of her defining features, but her blue eyes, identical to my own, told me what I had come in search of.

*** One Word ***