Maraschino Cherries, a short story

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I was four when I went to Uncle Stephen’s wedding on the train across the country to California.  We had no fresh milk because of a hurricane through New Orleans, and I was bitten in the mouth by a Scotty dog on the way out west.  Plus I wasn’t permitted to sleep with Grampa in the top bunk which in the end was fortunate because he got sick on the sheets up there from drinking.  

I was used to grownups barfing from drinking by the time I could walk.  It was just a thing that happened.  Same with the crying.  They got drunk, and they passed out or got sick or cried or raged or sobered up or went to work or got so mad at you when you missed the bus that all you got for Christmas one year was a wind-up all-metal alarm clock with an extra-loud bell, kind of like they must use in the army, I thought.  That was fun.  I tried to have fun everywhere I went.  I’d have fun with almost anything.  

Except other children.  I didn’t really understand them.  Nana protected me so hard from the world that she forgot I’d need to learn to protect myself.  Yes, you can be too sheltered.  Especially by a woman who lost her daughter & then got her back because you came along.  You brought your mom & your grandmother back together after years of estrangement.  The mother remembered it one way, the grandmother another.  The mother, in the end, proved to be a good observer of the grownup shenanigans around her.  My poor, bumbling, beautiful mother.  Sandra Dee ideals but a Marilyn Monroe sensibility.  Sparkly as a movie star.  In any room, she was the brightest candle.  

I was four when I went to New York City with Nana to visit Mom & Bob.  They got drunk on ouzo & ate peanut butter & crackers on the sofa bed while I slept in it.  I had the giant box of crayons & a huge Alice in Wonderland coloring book from FAO Schwartz.  I got a doll in a giant flowered egg there, too.  Was I being paid off to keep quiet while the grownups recovered from their hangovers?  Yes.  Mom & Nana & Bob in a New York apartment with a great view & a bottle of ouzo.  For decades, just the word ouzo made Mom & Nana groan.  With actual nausea.  Licorice hangover, was all I could think.  It smells like licorice.  I liked licorice, but not groaning.  I wasn’t even tempted.  

Maraschino cherries were my drug of choice.  And ginger ale.  And a handful of coins for the jukebox across the dance floor.  Enzo was the bartender.  I liked to play with Aunt Marion in the package store, full of sun & sparkling bottles, like witch’s poison, all around the walls.  The counter with the register.  The traffic going by.  So light compared to the other side.  But Enzo was there behind the bar, and so was I, making myself Shirley Temples with cherries halfway down.  The pistachios were dyed bright red, too, but I preferred the cherries.  

There was a girl with peeling knuckles who had a special disease that made her stiff.  She loved pistachios, and ate them until her fingers were red.  The peeling & the dye was spectacular & gruesome.  She herself had straight blonde hair that hid most of her face in shadows.  She made the best of it like all of us kids in bars.  

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How to handle Mountain of Responsibilities after Marriage in Indian Society ?

Advice which is true for many situations in life. including marriage.

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The period of being spinster is very different from married period. When we are single, there is no responsibility of family apart from our personal responsibility. For example, career, appearance, competition among friends.. But we get married things change, we don’t have to manage ourselves but each and every person of our new family. So suddenly we have tremendous pressure on ourselves.

Some steps to manage responsibilities especially in joint family.:-
1) Understand rules and regulations of your new home.
When we used to live in our parents house there were certain rules and regulations we have to follow. We used to follow it. I just want my Queens to understand when you can follow the rules at your parents house, then definitely you can follow them at your husband’s house too. Just leave your before thought process in your previous home. Start afresh life, & make your mind accept…

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Rain for Remembrance, a poem

illustration rain for remembrance II

Rain

The woman sits up all night, listening to it rain.  The woman  has often sat up all night waiting for one thing or another to either leave or arrive: bandaged fingers, whooping cough, her own lookalike grandchildren.  When she can, she sleeps next to her dying mother in the king-sized bed; she bangs her own shins on the high rails, climbing in.  Her arms and hands are able to lift the wasted body of her dying mother with amazing ease.

She watches & waters the great rack of African violets in the living room; grows wheat grass for her mother’s cat.  Other times, she sits in a high-backed wooden chair, needlepointing forests in wool, chain-smoking for hours.  Her mother will die very soon; then the daughter will put on her navy dress with a large, elaborate organdy collar and fail to draw a deep breath for several days.  The woman’s several brothers and their children will fly in from all over the country, and flower offerings will dwarf the grave itself.

After the burial, the woman will pack all sorts of mementoes into her mother’s old cedar “hope” chest:  yearbooks, diaries, photographs, diplomas, invitations, programs, baby booties, baby spoons, baby cups, even a rather grisly alligator purse, complete with the head, legs, tail & feet and sharp black claws.  When she has nightmares, more often now, she sits up all night, her fluffy gray tabby queen on her lap like a hot-water bottle.  The cat’s purring leads the woman away from the perilous mountain passes & rocky cliffsides inside her head and back to level ground, so she can help her mother die properly.  That is what proper love looks like, she thinks.

 

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Engine of Life, a short story

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What inspired her?  A seemingly insignificant little turtle, named Max… Max who sneezed.  Dear, little, humble, Max!  How the mighty could fall.  Schadenfreude:  a word she had to admit was genius.  After Max?  Then there came the little red hen.

“Listen, honey,” the Wife told her friend.  “Go on then, and fuck him.  Go on, confide in him your hopes, dreams & fears! You go on, beg him for mercy, for forgiveness, for permission to have a life apart from his.  Go on now, and you be his wife.”  The two of them sat frozen, four icy blue eyes wild, two heads of hair crackling, one jaw hanging an inch with shock.  The wife licked her lips.  “Don’t judge a book by its cover; and certainly not by its dust jacket. Everybody’s story has more than one side.  Don’t believe everything you hear.”

The Other sat, listening for the answers with every cell of her body.  She could feel mitochondria working inside herself, she could feel the mitochondria chugging away in every single person in the restaurant — the fuel of molecular energy turning substance into the stuff of life. But she perceived only silence.  The engine of life, the mitochondria?  She stared off into space.

“Look, you asshole,” the Wife said, and she stood up & grabbed the check, her gauntlet thrown.  The icy, motionless, blue Other sniffed loudly.  The Wife kept on, plunging a sword through the Other’s breastbone… twisting.  The Wife wanted blood, as was her right.  Her old life was over.  Her new life was being born, right that second.

“How dare you,” the Wife told the Other.  “You will need me someday.  You might learn you have influenza and mononucleosis at the same time.  You could need a year’s bed rest to heal your lungs & liver.  Someday, you might get arrested for something which isn’t even a crime!  You might find out you have a brain tumor.  You might die in jail.  A wise, wise man I know told me the ends of things are always coiled up, rising from their beginnings.  He changed my life.”

 

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Love a Good Fail, and Fiona Apple is my Liturgy this Morning by Lache S.

This made me cry & laugh & feel less alone in the world. Thank you.

I am falling in love with failure. At least I’m trying. It is time I have to.

We shouldn’t, lovely womyn, be short on our accomplishments. It doesn’t matter how slow going we’ve been, what we haven’t done yet, or what we haven’t quite obtained. We have to focus on the great strides we’ve made despite all the seeming nothings. If we fail, that means we put ourselves out there. When ever I submit a request or offer myself, the answer is silence, but other times the answer has been “yes.” I just haven’t heard many yesses because I don’t really try all that often. I’m timid, beat myself up, get down on myself, give up. Failure feels most like failure, the bad kind, when I’m indecisive and I don’t or can’t act. Not committing to something or deciding feels like a weight or blades inside. How can I love…

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The War of the Roaches

illustration war of the roaches

The War of the Roaches

It began on May 30th.  The Aggressor made a completely unprovoked attack using a 16‑oz. spray bottle of Professional Strength Roach Killer, which took many of the Roaches by surprise and weakened their forces considerably.  However, some survived and began planning their strategy.

The next move on the part of the Aggressor  was the purchase of roach motels late Monday night (June 1st).  These were strategically placed at many crucial roach strongholds.

The roaches decided it was time for outside aid. Roaches from neighboring apartments were duly contacted and a force of millipede mercenaries was also engaged.  The battle escalated the next day with the attacker’s purchase of boric acid  This was sprinkled carefully over many major transportation routes, forcing the development of alternate modes of roach army movement.

Feeling even more intense weaponry was needed, the Aggressor purchased (on the morning of June 3rd), additional roach motels.  The insect army was getting decimated quite rapidly, and the Aggressor noticed it was composed mainly of adolescent roaches.

Just when it seemed the tide was turning in favor of the Aggressor, reinforcement battalions from the apartment building next door arrived. These were adults, hardy and strong.  It was time for the ultimate weapon. It had been threatened many times before in hopes of negotiating a peaceful settlement.

Oscar Wildecat, Secretary of Defense for the Aggressor, had pleaded with many roaches individually to give up the fight and order a cease‑crawl, but to no avail. The roaches had been known to be fanatical in their beliefs, and it was proven time and time again.  With a heavy, saddened heart, the Aggressor purchased insecticide room foggers.

The cans were solemn black with the appropriate warnings lettered in red and white. The Aggressor knew this was a last resort and tried one last time for a victory using conventional weapons. A spoonful of crunchy peanut butter was put on the kitchen counter, and around it was sprinkled a circle of boric acid. If this did not succeed, the buttons would have to be pressed — releasing the familiar mushroom‑shaped clouds of insecticide and bringing with it the awful stench of death and destruction.

The Aggressor retired for the evening and hardly slept a wink. The Secretary of Defense was up all night, trying dutifully up to the last moment to settle the conflict peacefully.  It was to no avail. The fanatical roaches spit in the Secretary’s face, and not one fell for the peanut butter.

The buttons on the Aggressor’s foggers were pressed, and the she fled the apartment. In less than an hour, the last major roach strongholds were obliterated. With tears in her eyes and a handkerchief over her nose and mouth, the Aggressor relentlessly bombarded major cities and small villages. Roadways were destroyed, and innocent civilian moths and ants also fell in the wave of carnage that swept through apartment number Seven.

Although some isolated guerrilla roaches remained, there was no hope for what was once a mighty nation. There was a minor skirmish here and there, but the tide turned, and the Aggressor conquered vast amounts of territory.

Secretary of Defense Oscar Wildecat took a hard line against the pleas of remaining survivors. Some called him cold and merciless, but he had been humiliated many times by individual roaches and perhaps his actions were understandable, even defensible.

Victory was not without cost.  Vigorous sanctions were extended to the Aggressor by the UA (United Arthropods).  Butterflies no longer engaged in free trade with her petunia plants, and bees no longer pollinated her azalea bush.  Only time could heal the psychological scars suffered by both sides in the debilitating and awful conflict.

Valuable lessons were learned by all involved, however.  The Aggressor learned the merits of preventive negotiation.  She no longer left scraps of edible organic material lying about.  That was an unwarranted and needless provocation to the UA, and led to many misunderstandings as to possession of territory.  The UA, in turn, accepted the fact that their only legal place of residence was the great Outdoors ‑‑ and in abiding by established inter‑organism rules and customs, they were able to carry on perfectly normal and unaffected lives.  The Aggressor and the UA learned to coexist peacefully.

We must hope relations between other global entities will not go to such extreme lengths. We must learn not by trial and error, but by bringing our resources together to prevent conflicts before escalation to unmanageable levels.  Hope.  That was, and still is, the key word. If all of us believe in peace strongly enough ‑‑ if we don’t lose hope ‑‑ perhaps one day the world will live in peace.  Just like the Aggressor and the UA!

(Secretary of Defense Wildecat would like to add one word.)

Meow!

 

 

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To My Blood Sister

illustration two women sophia loren

When you drink, your voice thickens sweet &
lethal as syrup. I know that sweetness —
once I let it go all through me, I let it stay & stay.
I don’t know if we will cry together, like sisters,
my nose pressed against your neck, but for now
we can drink together from the same bottle &
descend as one into our true blue depths, united
by our sadness, our terrible failure to be loved
enough. I will not flinch from your bloodstained
towels, your green veins, your broken arms.
I understand why you weep for the dead —
though you never loved them. Still,
the yearning to save rises in you as bread rises,
doubling your volume, your capacity for pain.

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