Just Say No






She asked her father to walk her down the aisle
the second time.
Instead he wrote a letter.

She imagined him in a room.
She imagined him with a clean legal pad in front of him.
She imagined him, drink in hand
as he
formed the words,
the perfect words,

to hurl at her
like stones
that stung as they pounded against her heart,
leaving it bruised and
gouged and
beyond repair

It was easier she supposed to put in five pages his true sentiment.

Easier than to
just say no.

###


Poem by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photograph/Graphic by Lynne Lancaster
(For more stories and poems click "older posts"! or the links at the end of the page)

Let Them Bless The Child - Please


(In parts of India hijras (eunichs) may be invited to certain celebrations. Some believe they bring good luck.)




"But they must be allowed, Dhir. The baby is coming!" Suman's cries could be heard all through the village. "Upon my knees I am begging you to let them come before it is too late!"

Suman's cries, loud as they were, fell upon deaf ears. For Dhir, who was educated in the ways of the west, no longer believed in, nor would he honor, the traditions of his forbearers."I will not have them in the house! They are filthy - those not man and not woman creatures. And they should come into our home, with their stench and their unnatural chants and prayers over our child? It is ridiculous!"


Embarassed, Laila the mother of Dhir, wept in a far corner of the room. Had she not raised the boy properly? How could she have known that the short time in America would have so turned his mind? The hijras had been summoned and were ready. Yet unless invited inside they could not come in to perform the rituals.


Dhir thought, had he not taken every precaution? And had he not taken his wife to the doctor in Delhi and was told all was well? Why then did he need the hijras? Why was he, the man of the house and the father of the child, disrespected in this manner?


Suman's mother held her daughter's hand tightly as her only child labored. She had always liked Dhir and had thought him perfect for her daughter. Yet she had not suspected he so despised the beliefs upon which he had been raised. Now she was certain that evil surely would befall them all.


Four floors below, on the stone path in front of the great house, the hijras waited. Dressed in their beautiful golden threaded saris, with their incense,dance and chants, they were ready to begin. They heard the cries of the soon mother and the angry shouts of the soon father. They were anxious to perfom their rituals for the nearly born but knew the chants and prayers must be done in the room... before the child was born. Afterward it would be too late, and they would be able to do nothing.

Bad luck would ensue without their attentions. They waited for the invite that would never come.As they retreated, Suman could hear the tinkle of the little bells on their ankle bracelets. The tones became more and more faint and the band left taking their whispers of goodwill with them.

Feet first and early in the morning, came the baby. Feet first - a terrible sign. When Suman was told this she became quiet and labored on. She stared into the eyes of her husband but hers was not a look of love.

Three hours later,the baby's distorted head became visible. In one final push out she came - joined at the head by her own mirror image. At once, the grandmothers screamed and wailed in outrage, striking Dhir with their fists. He was to blame for this. He alone had not allowed the blessing of the hijras and now look at what had befallen them.

Dhir, knew full well that this could not have occurred just in the hours before birth. The babies had to have been that way all along and not because there had been no welcome extended to the hags.He forced to the very back of his brain, the little pictures of the baby taken at the doctor's office with the special machine. Not clear enough to tell the sex of the baby - but clear enough to tell there had been only one. Only one.

Across the village, Suman could hear the songs of the hijras as they danced and sung at another house. Whether wedding or birth or other celebration, she did not know. She did know good luck would follow there. Not like here. Not like today.

This is was what Suman thought as she rose from the bed and plucked her babies from their bedding. Holding them closely, she opened the glass doors that led to the balcony.Dhir sat with his head in his hands. The women flinched as if struck when Suman motioned for no one to follow. She wanted time alone before they would all become either the stuff of scorn and ridicule or of curiosity and delight. These were her thoughts as she edged to the end of the balcony.


The babies,unnamed and unblessed, whimpered for the breast. Suman cooed and stroked them. Seated in the kitchen, the women wept. Neither could Dhir hold back his tears. All was quiet on the balcony.

Perhaps Suman had begun somehow, to feed the little ones. Suman heard the sad tones of her mother, mother-in-law and husband. She then climbed over the ornate wrought iron that circled balcony.


Covering the faces of her unnamed and unblessed daughters, Suman dove into the light of the rising sun.





Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photograph/Graphic by Richard Dudley
(For more stories and poems click "older posts"! or the links at the end of the page)

Mary's Ribbon




My sister Mary was 12 and I was 7 on the first day of summer vacation, out of school for just a day. Mary was finally going to be allowed to walk the two blocks down to Burke’s store all by herself — something the rest of the kids in our family accomplished by the time we were 6.


With her nickel, Mary was going to buy us lollipops. Mamma wrote a note for Mary to give to Mr. Burke, telling him what she was to buy with her nickel. If not, Mary might fill a bag full of lollipops without knowing she shouldn’t do so.


Today, even the smell of a lollipop makes me sick.


That June day was full of sunny promise. I remember looking at Mamma as she washed the lunch dishes, the strings of her apron hanging loose around her waist. Daddy had just planted his usual kiss on the top of her head before leaving for work. He said he could not begin his shift unless he kissed his sweetheart first.


I heard the snap of the screen door as it slammed shut and the creak of the third step off the back porch that Daddy never got around to fixing. Daddy’s whistling as he walked to the car is as clear to me as if it happened today. The clink of the dishes, the scrape of food into the garbage pail, the billowy softness of mamma’s yellow curtains are as vivid to me now as then.

Mary was so excited, and not just about going to the store, either. Summer meant the end, at least for a while, to her waving goodbye from the porch as I walked to school with our brothers.


It meant that we could be together every day.


Mamma watched her skip down the sidewalk, her long pigtail captured in a red ribbon to match her shorts. Mamma said she watched her go into the store. I asked for a glass of orange juice and Mamma got it for me.


My two brothers came in making a commotion, pretending they were flying planes in the war or something like that. The baby started crying and Mamma went to pick her up. When Mamma went to the front porch and called for Mary, I was thinking Mary was playing in the backyard. I went out back to look, but she wasn’t there. Mamma said, “Sarah, go on down to the store and fetch your sister.” That was fine by me, since I was getting impatient.


She wasn’t at the store either, and only her red ribbon on the sidewalk marked her place. I picked it up and put it in my pocket. She wasn’t anywhere. Mary made me mad now, even though we knew we weren’t supposed to get mad at her. She didn’t know what she was doing.


Until you know for sure what has happened, and even when you do, everything is regret. Blame and loss hang over everyone like a thick fog. Should someone have gone with her? Should we have noticed sooner that she was gone? If we had called her name just once, would she have heard us and come running? Did we take too long to call the police?


Life went on the way it does. I had one dream of Mary where she told me she was OK and she told me not to worry. That made me cry because it was the only time Mary had ever spoken. For the rest of her life, Mamma would weep for no reason: at least no reason I understood until I had children of my own.


I keep Mary’s red ribbon, now frayed and faded, in my jewelry box. There are rings and trinkets in there that shine and twinkle but are not nearly as precious to me as that one piece of fabric.


###



Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin

Published by "Ophelia Street" October 2008
Photograph/Graphic by Lola Rodriguez

MOTHER LEFT






She donned her coat, her hat, her gloves
and waved goodbye the mourning doves
nested in the willow tree
and last of all said goodbye to me.

Where she went I did not know.
When she’d return was a mystery so
I gave her a hug and a hug some more
and watched her leave through our front door.

Down the street in a sort of prance
that was her simple farewell dance.
A twirl, a skip, a jump, a hop;
no pause to turn or even stop.

Before I knew it she was gone
around the corner and beyond.
I’ve watched for her daily from our gate
for forty years and still I wait.



###


Poem by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photo by Elke Oerter
(For more stories and poems click "older posts"! or the links at the end of the page)

Left At The Altar



Dressed in a simple white gown with little pink flowers embroidered along the hem, I waited at the altar.

For how long doesn't matter. I do know I was alone-nobody was there to meet me at the end of the aisle. I had no bouquet and no attendants. Heck, my parents weren't even there.

It was the winter of 1957 and, I am told, it was particularly cold. By November, the trees surrounding Lake Fortune were completely bare and the children in town were ice skating on Thanksgiving.

On December 12, sometime in the afternoon, I was found in a box on the altar of the Cathedral of St. Francis. Father James had just finished the last mass of the day and was resting in his sitting room with his usual cup of tea. "I heard something," he said at the time. "I thought it was a kitten.

I took up my cane and went toward the sound which was coming from a cardboard box." Expecting to see a small kitten, he instead found me. Absent though was any indication of who I was or my age.

The newspapers reported that I was a pretty,brown eyed redhead in excellent health. I was clean and well fed. There was a stack of clean cloth diapers and two more tiny dresses in the box - one blue and one red. Present also was a silver locket which, when opened, was empty and all efforts to trace it,unsuccessful.

I was adopted and raised by the childless and long married Millicent and Harold Lewis. In honor of the church and the priest who found me, I was named Frances James Lewis.

Mine was a happy life. Each year I had a nice birthday party. My house was always full of friends and extended family. I never once felt like I didn't belong.

Every December 12, my parents brought me to the church. Perhaps they thought my birth parents would be there and would see what became of me. Whether they ever did, we never knew.

Every time I'd see a woman anywhere with red hair I would wonder-are you...?
Five years after my father passed, my mother also died. I buried her with the little locket. Inside I placed a picture of myself as a happy, smiling baby seated on the lap of the only mother I'd ever known.


In 1983, St. Francis caught fire. I cried as if my family home had burned down. For years, until an apartment complex was built there, I returned to the massive expanse of bare ground where the church had once stood.




###


Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photograph by : Gavin Mills
(For more stories and poems click "older posts"! or the links at the end of the page)

Indescribably Malicious

Here they come looking for ghosts again. With their electronic stuff, their television cameras, their sensors and fancy lights — all that crap. The fat one hides a cross in her purse but she tells the others that she’s not religious or superstitious. What a load. Why the people who watch the TV show don’t keep a BS detector on at all times for the likes of her I’ll never know.


They come when it’s dark because it makes it more dramatic for TV and they think they can hunt better that way. I’m here all the time, day or night — doesn’t matter to me. They want to see a ghost, they really do. They see flares and orbs and all this other crap. They don’t see anything except what their feeble minds tell them to see. I can stand right in front of them and they see nothing at all. Won’t give them the satisfaction.


Trudging through the weeds that used to be my front yard, past the little plot where Ann had her flower garden and where I eventually planted her, they trespass. They think nothing of it since nobody lives here now. I won’t let anyone live here.


They call themselves professional ghost hunters or spirit detectives. Professional, my butt. If one of them farted on tape, they’d replay it over and over, convinced someone is saying, “Help Me!” or “Get Out” or some other such nonsense.


If they really were professional, they wouldn’t come in here tonight, though. There’s something here besides me now — something that came with the darkening sky last night. It’s a big evil. Bigger that what got hold of me when I killed Ann and then slit my own wrists in 1991.


I can see it and it can see me. It follows my every step, peering on the windows, marching around on the roof above me and making the walls shake. And for the first time since I died, I want to leave. It’s been glaring at me through the windows, murmuring nonsense, scratching on the back porch and hammering on the front door since last night. I don’t think it can get in unless someone lets it in.


They’re getting close now, hiking up to the house with paraphernalia in tow. I’m waiting, just waiting, because I’m sliding out the door as soon as it opens.


###
Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Previously published in Bewildering Stories
Photograph by Mike Swope
(For more stories and poems click "older posts"! or the links at the end of the page)

The Namecaster

The village has waited three seasons for this day.

Bent like watsonias blowing in a field, she comes down from the mountains on the winding path. Her arrival is announced in whispers which travel from hut to hut until knowledge of her presence reaches the ears of everyone.

"Crack! Crack!" says her walking stick against the ground. The dirt and dust dance at her bare feet. The villagers sing, shake their shiny kalloos, and beat their drums in her honor. Like tiny white seeds, her teeth appear. She is pleased with the reception.

The village is silent as she stops in front of the hut of Tamubu and his family. She circles it four times, chanting the familiar words:



"The moon and the stars
have called out to me!
The sun and the clouds
have called out to me!
The ground and the seas
have called out to me!
The lion and the ant
have called out to me
The ancestors and gods
have called out to me
and they have told me your names!"


Tamubu's wives bow before her then run to slaughter five goats for the ceremonial feast. Four goats for each of the child's names and one goat for the Namecaster.



Tamubu throws more wood upon the fire. He puts a newly woven mat nearby so the Namecaster will be comfortable when she reads the flames and receives his son. Tamubu bows low and averts his eyes as she enters the hut.


After three season's wait, she is here and the young son of Tamubu will receive his names at last. And Tamubu bows again and again before her; his heart beating in welcome and in happy anticipation.
###
Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Excerpt from the upcoming book of fiction:
"The Namecaster and Other Stories of Traditional Superstition"
Photo by Sofia Henriques

A Lifetime


After thirty years of marriage, raising three kids, burying a lifetime of pets in the backyard and making ends meet, the day has arrived.

But...

It has arrived not adorned in the selling of this house to buy another in Florida for our retirement.

It has arrived not sadly as we kiss goodbye the grandkids.

It has arrived not even twirling in hilarity as I don a bathing suit that hangs slack around my ample breasts out of proportion to my body...

Instead...

It has arrived with you in a wheelchair, not knowing where we live.

It has arrived with you staring puzzled at a picture of your own children.

It has arrived with your sudden fear of any water even in the sink or bathtub.

So...

After thirty years of marriage, raising three kids, burying a lifetime of pets in the backyard and making ends meet, the day has arrived.

I know I said ‘till death...But whose death were we talking about?

Surely widow’s weeds would have been better than this.
###
Poem by Pamela Tyree Griffin Previously Published in Salome
Photograph by Craig Toron

(For more stories and poems click "older posts"! or the links at the end of the page)

Then All Was Oblivion




His cape afloat behind him, the man stumbled down the street a mumbling, incoherent hulk. He didn’t know what time it was though the autumn evening allowed just enough moonlight for him to see.

His head ached and his chest burned-or was it the other way around?

Usually his body, containing a given amount of absinthe, reacted so sweetly. Thus, he concluded, he was not full of the drink. and why he had not taken a carriage home, he didn’t know. Why had he made the supreme error of walking on legs as uncooperative as the laces on a woman’s corset?

He decided to sit on the curb for just a moment before laboring on. In response, his stomach revolted and sent out an abundance of foodstuffs eaten hours before. He felt better. Try as he might though, he could not stand.

A blurry someone approached him, saying something he couldn’t understand. He fainted again and began to commune with the occupants of his expansive and tortured dreams.

He vowed to never leave them.


The October 10, 1849 issue of the Baltimore Clipper newspaper devoted an entire column to the death of the writer Edgar Allan Poe who had been found unconscious on the sidewalk days before.


###
Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Previously Published in Doorknobs and Bodypaint
Photograph by: José A. Warletta
(For more stories and poems click "older posts"! or the links at the end of the page)

THE ENDING



This is my undoing, my ending.
My mouth will no longer say anything- let alone goodbye.
I know that your hand grasps mine as does your heart.
That I do not move or speak, means nothing.
I know you are here. I know you are with me.
Soon, I will escape this prison.
I will be a big part of what you remember and a big part of what you may want to forget.
My love for you is a great as the sky and just as beautiful.
My thanks to you is bigger than any world, and just as beautiful.
I will know you always. This goodbye is only temporary.
I will be waiting joyously.
I will be waiting - just to say hello to you again.

###


Poem by Pamela Tyree Griffin
(From My Hospice Experience)
Photograph/Graphic by Asif Akbar
(For more stories and poems click "older posts"! or the links at the end of the page)

Fare Thee Well


In southern bound undulation,
they float on unsteady breeze -

their black wings
stretching to the horizon.
Their path
lengthy
and
rising
and
dipping,
then rising again...
Chased to the far beyond
by frost and damp and inner
timepiece.
Their disappearing cries beg us believe
that as surely as the sun will rise again
they too shall return -
on the other side
of winter.

###

Poem by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photograph by Brandon Bankston
(For more stories and poems click "older posts"! or the links at the end of the page)

"MAXWELL"


Amelia and Helen got ready.

“We can’t be late,” said Amelia who rustled about like a bag of shredded paper. ”I’m sure he’s expecting us.”

Helen nodded in complete agreement while adjusting the festival of feathers that was her hat. “He always liked this hat,” she said.

Elsewhere a man sat up in bed. “I’m leaving today,” he said to the empty hospital room.

Across his bed, slivers of sunlight were created by the half closed blinds. Yet from that window he could see marigolds, roses and tulips. Their colors spoke to him of spring and beauty and life.

Amused by the silly and curious chatter of the squirrels, his whole body was a convulsion of chuckles. The birds, he didn’t know what kind they were, settled on the bird feeders. He could hear their staccato pecking at the food.

He reached one gnarled hand up to his weathered face and wished he’d gotten a shave beforehand. “Too late for that now,” he thought as he inserted his gleaming false teeth. His hair was a perfection of grey snarls – too late to do anything with that either.

At least he was clean. Clara, his home health aide, had always seen to that. She was a great lady, making trips to the hospital even though she didn’t have to and was not paid for such. She came every few days if only to visit with him. He would miss her.

He loved to hear her shuffling footsteps coming down the hall and seeing her ample frame squeeze its way through the doorway. She was like a locomotive slowing down for the next stop She was not just an employee - she was something more but just what it was, he could not name.

He never heard his Aunt Amelia and Aunt Helen, his favorites, come into the room. They were just as he remembered. When he saw his Aunt Helen’s hat, he was as gleeful as a little boy. His giggles belied his 92 years.

“Aunties – I knew you were coming. I dreamed of you both – so I knew.” The sound of his voice startled him. After the stroke, speaking had not been possible-yet here he was doing just that.

“Good dear. You’re ready then.” Helen said. “Everybody is waiting to see you.”

Maxwell rose from the bed and, taking their hands, began to dance to a waltz not played in more than fifty years and heard only by them. And then they were off, spinning and spinning some more, upward to and through the clouds like butterflies set free.

Their laughter rolled over the gardens and reached the birdies and squirrels. The flowers saluted them with gold, maroon and yellow petals which danced on the waves of the wind before fluttering back to earth.

Maxwell was going home.
###


Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Published in Pond Ripples September 08
Photograph by: Nat Arnett
(For more stories and poems click "older posts"! or the links at the end of the page)

The Swing

Ellen stood at the back door and looked at the swing. The strong autumn breeze pushed it back and forth and she imagined she could hear the children's laughter: Hal Jr.'s loud bellows and Anna’s soft giggles. Hal had put the swing there for them and then hopefully for their children. He didn’t live to see any of them grow up.

Cancer claimed him finally on a night much like this one some fifteen years ago. Ellen had opened their bedroom window so he could feel the crisp fall air across his wasted face. He’d asked whether she thought Mother Nature’s paintbrush had worked her magic again and she, looking out at the oranges and reds of the maple tree, agreed that indeed the paint brush had been especially masterful.

For about an hour that evening they’d talked, until he felt parched and wanted a glass of water.

“But before you go,” he’d said, in a voice that was like a whisper on the wind, “promise me that after I’m gone, you won’t let that swing sit idle. If you ever want to talk to me, just go to the swing.” She’d nodded and drew herself up into a tight ball inside.

She knew he was saying goodbye and she could not bear it. Deep in her heart she knew that when she returned to the room, he would be gone, soaring to heights the swing would never reach.

Without looking back or calling out to him, she took off her apron and walked into the yard. She sat on the swing and moved as if her beloved were sitting with her as always. Anyone looking that night would have thought her mad, with her dress flapping, deep rivers of tears flowing from her eyes.

For fifteen years she’d gotten used to being a widow, making a life out of what remained. She raised the children, saw them through college. She celebrated their birthdays, weddings and rejoiced in the births of her grandchildren.

With each new development whether major celebrations like these or minor occasions liked the scraped knees, PTA meetings or getting herself a job - she made a pilgrimage to the backyard and settled onto the swing. This is where she felt closest to Hal. It didn’t matter how good or bad the weather, she talked to him right there.

Tonight was no different.

Ellen had decided to remarry. A chance meeting at her high school reunion had led her to John a man she had barely known in their senior year. She remembered him as a gawky boy with bad skin and big glasses. A widower, he’d grown into a tall, handsome man who wore contacts.

At the reunion, he’d asked her out to dinner at the new French restaurant where they talked for almost until closing. She had no idea how he felt but she knew she’d felt such giddiness only once before in her whole life and with only one man. She had never allowed herself to think it could happen again.

That dinner led to other happy dates and eventually getting married seemed like the only thing to do. Happily she would be leaving the house that had grown so large and ill fitting around her. Sadly she would be leaving behind her beloved swing.


II

Helen knew deep inside that the swing had been only a means to think through her problems; that Hal was no more there than anyplace else on earth except, of course, in her heart. But she also knew that because of his final advice, the swing had given her time to shake off some of the sadness and seriousness of her widowed life. It had allowed her many moments of happiness. Because of the swing she had been able to put her life back together after Hal’s death. And now that she was leaving, Ellen tried to think of all the ways she could possibly thank Hal.

When finally it was time to go, Ellen took one last look around the house and then walked out to her special spot. She stayed so long that Charles had to go out and see about his wife who was fiddling with the swing. He took her hand and they made their way to the car. When they drove away, they looked only forward. Ellen hoped the house would not be empty long.


III

Not long after, the new family moved in. While eating dinner, the little boy pointed to something glittering in the yard. Curious his parents put down their forks, picked up the little boy, ventured out to where the swing was moving, as if pushed by unseen hands. There they spotted, on the seat back of the swing, the source of the shine: A golden engraved plaque which read:


There isn’t any problem
there isn’t any thing,
that can’t be thought out
back and forth
from right here on this swing!

With Love and Peace from Ellen and Hal
To You and Yours 2008



They placed the little boy on the swing and sat on either side of him. They began to swing, slowly, gently: The mother supporting the boy to prevent a fall, the father's arm stretched around both of them.

And although they didn’t know it at the time, a lifetime of thinking was ahead of them... And it would all happen right there under the maple tree, right there on the swing.
When the boy's little baby teeth formed a smile and his laughter filled the air like balloons racing across the sky, they knew for sure that this house had already become home.


###


Written by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photograph by Kristine Beebe

Fifth Session



Some days it's almost ok. Some days I manage to get up and get going. I finally went back to work after three months extended leave and it was good to get back except - except people kept acting like nothing happened. Like someone pulled them all into a room and told them to pick up where they left off. From before I got the news.


But you don't have to hear about that again. Me? I'd rather talk about the laundry.


You see I washed clothes yesterday - I've put off doing Jim's until about a month ago. And even then I would only wash a thing or two. I mean I'd do a bunch of clothes for the kids and me and maybe wash one of Jim's socks-just one. One Sock. Crazy huh? Well of course you wouldn't say I was - even if you thought so.


I've been keeping all his dirty clothes in the basket my Aunt Della gave us for our wedding. That rose garden is beautiful...when I first started coming here everything was covered with snow...did you plant it?


Oh yes the basket. She made it just for us. Has our names woven into it - a red heart with our names, also in red, woven right into it like it was bleeding. Jim said it was her subliminal way of pointing out her distaste for our liberal attitudes. Aunt Della is a card carrying, Bible toting, from the womb conservative Republican.


We thought that basket was so damned ugly that we used it to hold rolls of toilet paper and cleaning stuff in the downstairs bathroom! Whenever Aunt Della visited us, we pulled it out, put a bunch of magazines in it and put in the living room like we used it all the time. God we used to laugh about that. Oh boy, I think I'll take you up on that offer of another tissue now. Thanks.


I know - I know... Where was I?


Yes. Well yesterday when I did the clothes I realized that the basket was empty. Empty. I was frantic - why didn't I notice it was empty? I was so upset; I cried most of the day. The kids were with my mother so they didn't see me.


As long as Jim's clothes were in that basket, could smell him. I could feel where he'd been-even in his old smelly socks. Some nights I dumped the whole pile of clothes in bed with me and covered myself in them. Cover myself in Jim.


And now the last piece is gone. No ceremony, no notice on my part.


The fact that I hadn't noticed is worse than finishing the last of his clothes. All of him is gone; all of what he smells like, gone.


And I didn't even notice...


###


Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photography by Inga Galkinaite

Nearest Living Relative


I am the Nearest Living Relative.


A nasal toned woman on the other end of the phone informs me of this. My uncle George, whom I never knew because he died before I was born, left behind a wife I can’t remember. Why the hell did I break my rule about not answering the phone once vacation starts?


This woman tells me that my “Aunt Gladys” was discovered by neighbors at four in the morning, as she paraded down her driveway buck naked and singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic. When approached, she mooned them; a vision given that she is 72 years old.


Social Services has conducted a full investigation, whatever that means, and I have been found. At 35 years old, an unmarried, childless, professional, I have only recently found myself.


“When,” she demands, “will you get here?” It seems that Gladys has to go into a nursing home. I need to sign something which can't be simply faxed.


I try to diminish my involvement in this situation though nothing works. My parents and their parents are dead. Neither I, nor they, have any siblings of which I am aware. My only other relation, my Uncle Sal, is in a Wisconsin (or is it Idaho?) nursing home sustained by his own excellent financial preplanning. I haven’t seen him since dad’s funeral years ago. He was in a wheelchair then.


Later, I search the photo album I inherited after my dad died. In it, I finally find three black and white pictures glued to a musty page. At the bottom of the page is one word: “Gladys”. Then I remember.


Each picture shows a svelte, smiling woman with a hand on her hip. She wears an obscenely (mom's word not mine) short white dress emblazoned with sunflowers. Her blond hair is piled on the top of her head like spiked cotton candy with a cigarette hanging from the corner of her mouth. In one she’s dancing in our kitchen with a mop.

The pictures were taken when I was about eight or maybe ten. Gladys came late, dressed in an obscenely (mom's word not mine) short white dress emblazoned with sunflowers.


She called me “kid” instead of Lisa. I guess calling, “Hey Kid!” was easier than remembering my name. “Hey Kid! What grade are you in?” or “Hey Kid! Like hamburgers?” or "Hey Kid! Come sit by me and let me tell you all about men!" Except for my mother calling her a pistol, nothing else shakes loose from my mind. This is the sum of what I know about Gladys. Such as it is, it brings an involuntary smile.


However reluctantly, I don the mantle of the Nearest Living Relative, cancel my singles cruise and drive the almost 300 miles south to Virginia.


I don't have a problem finding the hospital since it's on the main drag. Actually, there is not much else except the hospital. I slowly walk down its linoleum floors thinking I should be walking down a beach in Jamaica. A white haired and wobbly security guard tells me to follow the yellow stripe on the floor. It eventually leads me to the sunroom where the Alzheimer’s patients spend the day.


I open the door and immediately hear a raspy, “Hey Kid!” coming from a small lady in a wheelchair. Her hair, now white, looks much less styled by Albert Einstein than I remember it. She is composed. She is looking at me when she again says, “Hey Kid!” I can’t believe it. Could it be that Gladys remembers me?


I go across the room and sit by her, taking one of her liver spotted hands in mine. Her fingernails are painted a stunning red. She is the thin woman in the pictures. She has a lot of wrinkles now and the right side of her face is slack-maybe from a stroke, but it’s her.


I don’t know why but thoughts pour out as if from an overturned pitcher. I imagine that, since it’s clear that she remembers me, we might have a chance here. I project us to my small house for our own celebrations. Scenarios abound of us sitting on the front porch sipping tea or something stronger, going for walks and the like. I’m lost in this sort of revisionist future when the door opens and a nurse enters the room.


And that’s when Gladys yells, “Hey kid!” and I see that she is no longer even looking at me but is totally and absolutely focused on the nurse.


To every single person who enters (including her Nearest Living Relative a few moments before) she calls out the salutation that has carried her this far, this many years: “Hey Kid!”


I watch each recipient smile at the greeting, wondering what they think, and knowing what I know.

###

Written by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photograph by Blake Campbell

Nametag


Nametag:
"Hi My Name is Delia and I'm Twelve Years Old"

Nobody wants the big ones.
They say different but it's all a lie.
The younger, the better, is what their eyes say.
Eyes don't lie.
The cutoff point starts around five-
then your options decrease.
From the display, the little ones are chosen.
Carefully selected
and are more often than not
taken away
to live lives of
happiness presumed.
We big ones
are returned to wait
for the next time.
to hope
and hope
we'll be
the exception to the rule.
###
Poem by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photograph by Charlie Balch

Sleeping Beauty

Today you brought me roses
and whispered in my ear,
just how much you love me
as you wiped away a tear.

Now in the dimming light of evening,
I look into your eyes;
lose myself in all your sweetness
which is your disguise.

If someone saw you sleeping
they would not believe
your capacity for cruelty;
your ability to deceive.

At work they think I'm clumsy.
My lies become an art.
I explain the bruises visible
And hide the ones that stain my heart.
###
Poem by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Graphic by Guenter M. Kirchweger
(October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Link-->Domestic Violence Awareness Month - National Coalition Against Domestic Violence I wrote this poem to honor those who have suffered abuse at the hands of a loved one or significant other...)

For Those Who Love A Writer



I was happy to be alone
writing in my solitary fashion.
Pen in hand, ideas boiling
from my head, rolling out of
my pen.


I was able to sit in my quiet places
never exchanging many words with you.
I was unafraid of sitting only
with my self
and my ideas.
Your present absence
made it easy.


For years I lived life
on a stack of pages
while you existed,
a nebulous, unseen someone
on the periphery of me.


Now you are gone;
tired of living alone,
I suppose you were
unamused by the muse
of a woman writing,
always writing.

And for the first time

I am afraid of the dark
and
my own company


###
Poem by Pamela Tyree Griffin

When Aunt Agnes Came To Stay

Aunt Agnes came to stay with us when Mamma went into the hospital to have some of her inner workings adjusted, as Daddy said. Aunt Agnes had spent most of her life in the Army where she earned many awards for her skills.

She was an excellent markswoman. My Uncle Ernest still limps from the bullett stuck in his behind. It got stuck there when she found him in a compromising position with the neighbor lady. Aunt Agnes aimed and fired as he ran down the street and got him in one shot.

She could play the piano better than Elton John and Little Richard put together. She complained that she was slowing down even though she could still run the 50 yard dash in 7.5 seconds at close to 53 years old. Amazing indeed given her habit of chain smoking!

It was obvious to us early on however, that if they gave a medal for cooking, she would never win. A medal for eating her food maybe, but cooking? Not a chance.

As Mamma said, “Bless her heart but your Aunt Agnes, an apron, lard and fire are nothing to be messed with.” In fact, if we saw any combination of these items, Daddy told us we should run. Daddy's saying that Aunt Agnes had no idea what constituted edible victuals always drew a quick smile from Mamma.

Before Aunt Agnes arrived, Daddy made me and my sister thoroughly clean the house.


We scrubbed the floors until they shone; even the raggedy linoleum in the kitchen was buffed to perfection. We cleaned the pots and pans until we could see our harried reflections on their bottoms. We flipped a coin to see who would have to stick her hands into the toilet and I lost. We swept the front porch, weeded Mamma's precious flower beds and we washed the windows until they sparkled.

Daddy looked the house over and satisfied that we’d done a great job, gave us each a crisp five dollar bill for our efforts.

Then Aunt Agnes blew in through the front door with her various baskets, bags and suitcases one of which held her cleaning ingredients. The first thing out of her mouth was, “Stanley you done let my sister’s house go straight to Hell. Where are the girls? We gonna clean up this place.”

Out of one bag she pulled what Daddy called her damnable cauldron. From the depths of it she pulled jars, bottles, cans of potions and elixirs the combined smells of which made us woozy. And finally, from a straw basket lined in wax paper she grabbed a clump of chicken feet and potatoes each one with with more eyes that a common house fly.

“Girls, get your mother's lard out. I’m gonna’ fry us up a mess of these chicken feet and taters while we clean this house. Proper like.” She added that last bit just to antagonize Daddy who by now was hiding behind his newspaper and cramming his last supper of three hot dogs into his mouth.

And so the torture began. And running was out of the question.



###
Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photo by Preben Hansen

"MOSES"


Moses just HAS to answer the door himself, oxygen tank and all. His wife is in a back bedroom likely shaking her head. She never comes to the door and so I have learned to wait for as long as it takes.

I'm used to waiting. Moses is my friend though we've met solely due to his infirmity. I'm a volunteer at the "Peaceful Bridge" Hospice.

After about ten minutes, the door opens. There he stands smiling in his toothless, glad to see me fashion. Our visit may last ten minutes or it may last all afternoon. Moses, a man dying, decides.

Today is a good day because he has taken out his weathered deck of cards saying. "Girl you ready to get beat?"

"Yeah right," is my reply.

"By my calculations," he wheezes, “you owe me close to $222,000. Lucky for you I'll be long gone before you can pay!"

We laugh. He's not uneasy about his cancer and never has been. When I first met him, he told me that I shouldn't worry about him-that everybody dies just not everybody knows when. In fact, he's lasted longer than predicted. One more month he'll have to be removed from Hospice. If you haven't passed away in six months - you gotta' go.

Moses sits on his recliner with a colorful assortment of pillows supporting his back. He's got to rest a minute. He's a big man although not as big as he used to be, judging by the pictures around the room. I don't know if he has some dentures lying around somewhere which don't fit his shrinking gums. In his pictures he's a big, teddy bear of a man with arms like logs and a wide white grin.

Moses has a little multi purpose folding tray in front of him. The tray does a bunch things: holds his food and medicines, his tv guide and sometimes his comb and brush. Once I came here and he had one swollen, dry foot up on the tray.

Now though, everything is cleared except the single picture of him, his wife Pearl and their baby.It's a studio portrait. It's never far from sight. Moses looks to be in his twenties wearing a seersucker suit. Pearl, who seems to be using all of her strength to hold the baby, is a handsome woman. Her straw hat partially hides her face but her eyes are shining.That's the closest I've come to seeing Pearl. When I visit she is either out or in one the back bedrooms. She has never once opened the door. If I want anything, I get it myself. Not that I mind- it's just that I feel like an intruder, a trespasser in their domain.

"She thinks you is death itself girl," Moses said to me once. “Like seein' you is bad luck or something!" I have never seen their son either.

Rested, Moses shuffles his cards so we can play 21. I think the deck is fixed because I've never once won and he always insists on dealing.We play for an hour or two. Throughout Moses likes to watch videos, usually westerns starring Jack Palance or John Wayne. He's already won several hands and is finally tired of playing with a "fool girl like me".

Usually he falls asleep right about now and I leave.Today though, he's wide awake and is standing. "You wait here while I make a deposit, girl." The first time he said this to me I thought he was going to the bank. In reality he was going to the bathroom but just didn't want to say it.The toilet flushes, the door opens and then there is that horrible crash.

I'm not supposed to lift Moses, instead I put a pillow under his head and call 911. He's breathing okay and talking fine-making perfect sense. In his ramblings he tells me about Little Moe, who I thought was a grown man somewhere.

As it turns out, his baby son died the same day the portrait was made. As they left the studio, he broke free of his mother's hand and ran ahead of his parents on his fast three year old legs towards God knows what. He tumbled off the sidewalk and landed under the wheels of an old, blue Caddy, which mashed his head. Pearl has not spoken one word since that day. Not one.

My friend Moses died during the night in the hospital.Some weeks later I received a box in the mail. The return address label said Pearl and Moses Dawn. I didn't open it right away, preferring to look at the name Moses Dawn for a while.

When I finally did open the package, I found wrapped in tissue paper, Moses's deck of cards and his favorite picture of his little family. No note. Nothing. Pearl had decided to speak to me after all.

Moses would have liked that.

###
Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photo by Agata Urbaniak

"Promise Kept"


(Inspired by and written for FH)


I console my friend’s husband today;
words escape me-don’t know what to say.
For how do you talk about the life
Of his one and only - his friend-his wife?

We surrounded her that last day in her hospital room-
we four high school friends and her anxious “groom.”
I remember she asked us with her usual zest-
“Why are you crying? It’s only a breast.”

When the nurse came in to usher us out,
“What a load of crap!” we heard our friend shout.
But then she beckoned me back to the room
and she whispered, “I think I may be leaving here soon.”

Then weakly she pointed toward the hall, out to him.
“Just in case I don’t wake up-please take care of Jim.”
I dismissed her words most prophetic.
Lost in my fear, I was unsympathetic.

Now with my head bent and my shoulders shaking
and with my tears falling and with my heart quaking
torn as I am with grief of my own-
I rise to console the one so alone.

I have no idea what I should say or do
to help our friend’s Jim - to bring him through
a grief so strong-so horribly profound
that for now I can say nothing – I can’t make a sound.

That way I won’t rail out against mighty Death
who audaciously has stolen my friend’s final breath.
For now I’ll just put my hand on the shoulder
Of this broken soul- the loving foot soldier.

I console my friend’s husband today;
words escape me-don’t know what to say.
So I’ll just let him talk about the life
Of the someone we loved deeply-our friend-his wife.


###


Poem by Pamela Tyree Griffin

Art by Jixue Yang



Gladys had a face like a patchwork quilt. When people first saw her they recoiled although they tried to hide it. Children cried. Teenagers made fun. Her own daughter Phoebe though,now a teenager herself, was as beautiful as sunshine. She'd never said hurtful teenage things. At least in Phoebe’s eyes, her mother was beautiful.

Gladys had been married to Phoebe’s father and there were some good times. One day however, she returned from work to find him sitting on the couch with Phoebe in his arms. His belongings were packed in suitcases lined by the door like soldiers going off to war.

"You just don't get it, " he said. "What man could reasonably be expected to wake up to a woman who looked like... that?"
And Gladys, who did want to be reasonable, snatcheed Phoebe away from him and said, " Just get out!". And that was the end like the last sentence of a very sad book wherein for better or worse held no meaning.

Still she had her Phoebe. The little girl who had always come running into her mother’s arms and given her kisses, who was ever so helpful and kind seemed to have grown up overnight. Often Phooebe said, Gladys was just fine, “Just the way you are!” It got so that Gladys believed it was true.

And she went on with her life.

Few people remembered that Gladys had not always looked this way. She had been born with a soft complexion and noble features. Those who attended her small wedding thought her radiant- a handsome woman.

One day though,when Phoebe was just a few months old,the kitchen caught fire. It raged into the living room where Gladys napped. She woke up just in time to see it surge toward the baby’s room.

She lurched from the couch, through the angry flames and into the nursery. Grabbing her sleeping baby and holding her close to her chest, Gladys tried to get the window open. It was stuck. She had no choice but to return the way she’d come - through the same flames which licked and snapped at her arms and face.

She’d saved them both. The baby, the beautiful unscarred baby, never knew the story.

And tonight, as Gladys goes to tell Phoebe goodnight and sweet dreams, she hears her daughter giggling on the phone. She doesn't interrupt her, understanding her daughter's need for privacy.

Then, “PALEEEZE! Who TOLD you that? You know I’m adopted.”
###
Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photograph by Bazil Raubach

"If You Loved Me"










"I think you feel the way I feel, but if you loved me, you would show me."

I thought to myself, how many more ways can I show my love? This is what I thought, but what I said was," Whatever you want honey, name it." I reached for my wallet.

She said, “Put that thing away. This is not about money. If you loved me,” she said again, handing me a steak knife, “you would sacrifice something.”

I don’t know what I was thinking when I saw the knife. Here I’d been married to this woman for ten long years. I thought nothing she could say to me could surprise me. Out of the blue,” Look at your little finger. What is it good for?”

I had no idea how to answer that. Better for me if she’d asked for some spending money. THAT I could handle. “Deidre,” I said. “I do not get your meaning.”

“Sure you do,” was her reply. “That little finger is not even on the hand you write with. Not serving any purpose at all. I’d think you’d hardly miss it.” She was staring at it now, almost hungrily. This scenario repeated itself throughout the rest of the night. She repeated again and again the words: “Love by Sacrifice” , her voice a hoarse whisper.

“I love you, woman,” I said for the hundredth time or so it seemed.

“Well you know what to do then.”


2


When I came to, I heard an indescribable scream coming from somewhere close to me. It took about a minute before I realized it was coming from my own mouth.

I looked at my hand which was wrapped in a big bandage where blood had soaked through and through and dried. I thought, “Sweet Jesus, when did this happen?” I was sweating by then and trembling. More from fear than anger though. This crazy would kill me before it was over - that much I knew.

I needed to get outa’ there and fast. But then I heard her coming up the steps. Calling out to me she said, “Did you sleep okay honey? Boy did you snore last night!”


She came into the room dressed in my favorite blue satin nightgown carrying a tray loaded down with pancakes and sausage. Was this woman crazy? How did she expect me to eat? I just wanted outa’ here.

“You can keep the house, the car, anything, everything. I’m leaving,” I said.

“Oh, I don’t think so. You have got to eat something, dear. I made your favorite big old breakfast.”

I told her I didn’t want her breakfast. For all I knew it was full of poison. Then I went to get up but couldn’t quite catch my balance. I was too weak to make it to my feet. How much blood had I lost?



3


Groggy. Cloudy. Dizzy. Determined. All of this was me. The room was dimly illuminated by a small lamp on the dresser. I didn’t know where she was. I just knew I had to get up before I had to make any more “sacrifices.”

I was so weak, in so much pain. And the pain seemed to be coming from every part of my body - I mean every part of my body ached. How would I get outa’ here? No matter, I thought, I am gonna’ get on my feet and walk – no run outa’ here.


But getting on my feet was mere wishful thinking since I could see the left one sticking out of the small trashcan across the room. The other was sitting on my chest-toes pointing to my face.

I don't know how this horror began or what triggered it. What I do know is how it will end.
I hope it's soon.


###
Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photograph by Juliet James

"A Poem For Your New Home"



May this always be a place of peace
and each room a calming refuge.


May this always be a place of happiness
and each room a joyous respite.

May this always be a place of love
and each room happy heart.

May this always be a place of rest
and each room a gentle welcome.

And may this always be a place of dreams
and each room the coming true.


###

Poem by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Artwork by Roland Maier

"Cleanliness Is Next To..."


"Think she’s coming downstairs anytime soon?”

“Who knows - you know she’s got to get them cleaned up. Make ‘em presentable.”

“But dinner is ready. I’m going to go ahead and set the table.”

It was already six and Sandra had not once come out of her room. Between her primping and getting those two ready, it’s a miracle she ever got out of the room at all.Stanley and Rose, her anxious parents, sat at the table waiting.

The food cooled. The whipped potatoes looked whipped alright and the gravy had developed a second skin.

Stanley opened the newspaper and muttered, "No wonder he divorced her. She’s fanatical about them. Must have driven him crazy. I know it's starting to annoy me and she's only been back home a month.”

Just then, Sandra appeared. The two were behind her as she walked slowly to the table.

Her mother said. “You must be hungry.”Sandra nodded.

“You think they look okay for dinner, Ma?” She pushed them forward so her mother could see them better.

“Oh sure honey. They look just fine.And you look very nice too honey.”

They clapped.

“Daddy?”

Rose gave him a nudge under the table and he said, “Sure Sandy honey just fine.”They settled in to eat.

Just then Sandra noticed a spot of something on one of them. She stood abruptly and took them back upstairs.

Her father just shook his head.

How, he thought, could he and Rose have produced a person who washed her hands all day long? How could that be?


###

Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photograph by Britta Kuhnen

"PACKING"




A small, somber crowd gathers in front of the house where the EMTs must be hard at work trying to save Gloria Lewis. Nobody is allowed in. Parked next to the ambulance is a hearse.

You know a man will do crazy things in anger, the women in the group say over and over like some sort of mantra. Lord help you, they say, when a man has nothing to lose, especially a drunk man.

And Miles had been drinking for half the day - after having arrived late for work for the last dangblasted time according to his boss who fired him. It wasn't enough though, the drinking. It fueled rather than satiated his rage.

He'd often felled her like a tree, his hands a vicious axe. He'd given no thought to their children and what they might find when they returned from school. They'd seen it before anyway. The oldest one, their sixteen year old Jane, was quite practiced in the cleaning up of blood and the mending of broken bones. There would be much more to clean up this time.

Through the grapevine Gloria had learned that Miles had been fired. After three hours when he hadn't shown, she knew what was coming. She'd been down this path many times before; this worn path where she paid for his disappointments time and time again. She knew a supreme pummeling was on the menu again.

When he got home and saw she was packing, that just about did him in. He just couldn't believe her nerve. He came at her then, a mad dog, frothing at the mouth with the stale smell of cigarettes on his breath. He came at her, with his big paws fisted and ready, his sweaty face curled into a snarl of fury. This time I will finish her, he probably thought.

When the bulging black body bag was born out, a gasp traveled through the crowd like a wave. We gasped but weren't surprised. The worst had finally happened and folks wondered about the children.

The sheriff appeared.

There was no need for handcuffs. Instead, he held her small, trembling hand in his for the short ride to the hospital.As he gently helped her into the ambulance, he felt the pistol she'd been packing.

It made a small bulge in his pocket and bothered him not at all.


###
Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photograph by Daniel Wildman
@@@@@
(October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Link-->Domestic Violence Awareness Month - National Coalition Against Domestic Violence You may have seen this before since I publish it somewhere every October. I wrote this story to honor those who have suffered abuse at the hands of a loved one or significant other...)

"Worship"


There is a beauty that you will never see. Even this man before me - forever quiet on this metal slab - all 274 pounds of him- possesses a beauty. I mold his ample folds of flesh between my hands, I close his staring eyes, I inhale the elixir of what remains of him. Opened, the totality of him revealed, I am moved near to tears at the collaboration between his enlarged heart, engorged stomach, and spiralled intestines, each of which has worked overtime to keep him from my blade. And his glorious, grey matter I now hold in my hands like an offering to the gods, to weigh and to ponder the thoughts it once held. He is beautiful, he is horrible, he is none of us and he is all of us and his magnificent temple is as sacred as any other.
###

Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photograph by Adam Ciesielski

"Lessons"





Sharon at last, has halted her bleating
which was the result of a good and sound beating
administered by someone who loves her true:
Her dearest, her boyfriend made her black and blue.

For the transgression of not dusting and more
Maria's fiancé threw her to the floor.
Then Maria the quiet, the meek and the mild
rose softly whimpering - just like a child.

For the God awful sin of drinking a beer
Anne's darling, her husband punched her in the ear.
And for talking and having an opinion at all
her beloved, her husband shoved her through a wall.

Oh women like these never tire of learning
and thus must be thrust to the fire till burning.
And women like these do not run - do not hide
while waiting for all of the blows to subside.

For allowing them to be girlfriends or wives
the significant others demolished their lives.
How twisted Shaniqua's body and how silent Pat's breath.
Tell me how can they all look so happy in DEATH?
###

Poem by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photograph by G Schouten de Jel
(October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month)

"Blind Date"




Stood in the rain and I debated
to stay, to go and so I waited,
'til the day became the night
and I realized with certain fright,
that you would not come.

I gripped my hands and I stifled
thoughts that with my heart you'd trifled;
that I the calm, the undemanding
would be left in the rain standing
and you would not come.

My hair became a matted mess
and glued to me became my dress.
Powerless was I to move my feet
as water spat out from the street.
But you did not come.

Afternoon and school children passed
and when heaving, I'd seen the last,
I knew then but could not mention
the cruelty of your intention--
that you would not come.

Now the city has gone to sleep
and my own company I keep.
But I will stay and man my post,
sleeping in a box at most.
Maybe then you'll come.

Then you'll come.

You'll come.

Please COME.
###
Poem by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Previously published by the delightful Unfettered Verse
Photo by Dovile Cizaite

"Intersection"




After all, it was a stone; a big piece of rock. It was a tough piece of old something that had hurled through the solar system a million years ago to find itself a dark glistening in the hands of a boy.

The boy was a ten year old freckled, curly red head. A seeker, a thinker, a step in the puddles boy – but only a boy.

The two, the stone and the boy, met on the bridge which spanned two hills over the highway. Mute, the bridge was the sturdy witness to the meeting.

And under the bridge, day after day, streams of vehicles flowed: The greens and reds, the rusted,the shiny new. From morning until night, their motors were afire with the urgent comings and goings of their occupants.

As each rounded the curve of road and went under the bridge, the boy watched and twirled the stone in his nimble fingers. He also watched the sun, the cloudless sky and the smooth motion of the journeying birds. And he watched the ceaseless movement of the cars occupied by people he didn’t know.

One easy pitch, like throwing a baseball across the dry school field as he had done so many times, was all it took. The stone left his fingers and twirled unevenly over the side of the bridge. Physics dictated that the stone picked up an enormous amount of speed along the way. Without looking back, he turned and headed home.

Just then, with no time to spare, the woman ignored the speed limit and dashed up the black, seamless ribbon. As she negotiated the curve and neared the bridge, the falling stone struck her windshield, broke it and was stopped short by her forehead.

The proverbial fates had conspired that day. The rock, the boy, the woman and the car all intersected at the same time and place.

Finally home, the boy played his video games, ate the snack left on the kitchen counter and waited.

After all, it was a stone; a big piece of rock. It was a tough piece of old something that had hurled through the solar system a million years ago to find itself a dark glistening in the hands of a boy.


And the boy would forever question why its trajectory should end with his no longer having a mother.


###


Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photograph by Jeremy Sharp

"Best Girl"


Mary guessed that now that he was married, he wouldn't be "hanging out" with her anymore.

Twirling around in her mind were the memories of Sunday dates spent on long drives, strolls through the park, going to the movies or passing time at the ice cream shop.

She knew that with a brand new wife and eventually a family, their dates would be a thing of the past. But one Sunday a month-was that too much to ask? One day out of thirty- too demanding on his time? Their time?

So lost in her reverie that she barely felt the moisture trickling down her face.

"You are acting like a big baby," she muttered to herself. "You knew it couldn't go on forever."

From a distance she heard a car horn. Then the phone rang and rang and finally the doorbell got her attention.
***********

When they were settled in their favorite booth, he took her hands into his own. "What happened? Did you forget what day it is?"

"I thought..."

"You thought I'd miss Sundays with my best girl? Not a chance - Grandma - not a chance!"

###

Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Photo by Anissa Thompson

"Tough Love"


His siblings had already left home.


His mother continued to provide for him although each day she returned later and later. Once or twice he went hungry.

One day, when she didn't come back at all, he decided to take his empty stomach and leave. He took a running leap and stepped out into space.

At the last minute, when he began to struggle against his fall, he suddenly felt himself soar.

His mother watched as her little robin rode the breezes near the treetops.

At long last the nest was empty.



###
Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin
Art by Dez Pain

"Fury"

Why me? I deserved this crap? What did I do? I tell you, I am beyond anger, beyond crying- I am all cried out.

Can you believe this?

Was all this really necessary?

Stuff tossed all over the yard - lawn chairs got thrown down the street. The doggone swing yanked right off the tree - you know it's been there since Grandpa hung it up there ten years ago.

And do not get me started on the damage to my car - it's beyond mere scratches. Total loss. I know it was already a rolling total but it was my rolling total. It ain't rolling anymore - that's for sure.

Do not get me started about the house. Doggone monster ran through it like it was made of paper.


I know it's not over yet. No it's not over.

How do I know? You can't be serious.

It's not over because the doggone weatherman says more is on the way.

And this one they're calling Kyle.

###

Story by Pamela Tyree Griffin
photo by D. Finnell

"IF"


For David

(Aka: My Best Friend and The Best Husband In The World)



If I could,

I would grab a handful of sugar
to sprinkle along your path to
make it forever sweet.


If I could,

I would reach beyond the stars
and grab a galaxy
so you could call
the Universe your home.


If I could,

I would cup my beating heart
in my hands
so you could see how much
I love you.



If I could,


I would.


###

Poem by Pamela Tyree Griffin
(previously published)
Photograph by Jos van Galen