Myopia by Nancy Richardson

Who could live with a person who sells
vacuum cleaners to old ladies, sweeps
the dead skin from their mattresses
promising them a cleaner life?
All I felt was the heat on his skin.
Later in the dark, when the baby’s cries
were like spikes in the mattress
and he wouldn’t get up, I wanted to throw
his body off the bed. Words float away
like dust motes leaving nothing
but quiet air, the way the small silences
around a conversation alter the direction
of a thought and are seen, like dams
in a river, by the way the talk flows up,
over and around. I sat in front of the TV
serving the baby chunky food from jars,
the day Robert Kennedy was shot.
Sobbed for his lifted head, his empty eyes,
my silent life, and left then, along
with the unused words, drove down
the two lane road in my rusty Volkswagon
with the kids, headed for words
like insight, foresight, some other life.

About the Author: Nancy Richardson

Nancy Richardson’s poems have appeared in journals anthologies. She has written two chapbooks. The first, Unwelcomed Guest (2013) by Main Street Rag Publishing Company and the second, the Fire’s Edge (2017) by Finishing Line Press concerned her formative youth in the rust-belt of Ohio and the dislocation, including the Kent State shootings that affected her young adulthood. In An Everyday Thing, she has included those poems and extended the narrative to memories of persons and events and the make a life.

She has spent a good deal of her professional life working in government and education at the local, state, and federal levels and as a policy liaison in the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Education and for the Governor of Massachusetts. She received an MFA in Writing from Vermont College in 2005 and has served on the Board of the Frost Place in Franconia, NH. Visit her website.

Grace and Frankie and Mom and Me by Nuchtchas

GraceandFrankiePhoto-author's personal collection


After watching season one of the Netflix series Grace and Frankie, I knew I wanted my mom to watch this show. What I didn’t initially realize was how much I needed her to watch it with me.

If you’re not familiar with the show, Grace and Frankie stars Jane Fonda (Grace) and Lily Tomlin (Frankie) as wives whose husbands each ask the women for divorces, so they can marry each other. (The husbands, by the way, are played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston). While it’s absolutely a contemporary situational comedy, the show handles topics that are perfectly relevant to my 70-something mother who got divorced after 30 years of marriage. While her divorce was for different reasons than those of the characters on the show, and while many details are different, it’s the emotions, and the conflicts that resonate.

My parents divorced after thirty years of marriage, yet I was still a kid, a teen at the time. Some of the things happening, I couldn’t see anything but my side of, because I was a kid. I couldn’t talk to my mom about what was happening to her because at that time she was working on making things as safe and healthy for me as possible. Talking with my mom about the divorce as an adult is always like unwrapping an onion; we find new layers and new perspective, and at some point, we will both cry.

While Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are both playing characters a bit younger than they are in reality, the age they are playing is what my mother is experiencing right now. I watch the episodes before watching with my mother, so I can watch her and listen to her reactions when we watch together. So many times, we hit pause and talk about how what we are seeing on screen is just how things happened in life.

For example, in the first season there is an episode with a funeral, and Grace must see all of her old mutual friends. She had to face the way she was viewed, how it seemed her ex-husband was seen, how she was no longer in people’s lives, and even that she wasn’t invited to her niece and goddaughter’s shower.

When you get divorced you don’t just lose a spouse, but so much family, and sometimes that is on both sides. People who were family begin to ignore or reject you. Even your friends – they have other plans, they are suddenly too busy.

I saw tastes of that when I was younger, but I didn’t understand it till Grace and Frankie. Until I watched these two fictional people go through similar things to my mother.  This show gave me some context to talk about it after the fact. I know that watching this show has helped me deal with a lot of held-over issues I have from my parents’ divorce, but that is nothing in comparison to what my mother has been able to process.

As we’ve continued to watch the show, I’ve found that each season helps more and more, and I believe that’s true for my mother, also.

Season one, or course, is the divorce, what it is like during that.

Season two was more about what happens after, and what it’s like when dating resumes. Not only that but dating at a ‘certain age.’ This, particularly, was really close to when my mother started dating, and it opened up new lines of conversation for us. It made her feel that she could talk to me about her dates and the men she had been seeing. It’s not easy for a mother to talk to their children about dating, no matter how old those children are, but Grace and Frankie laid the ground work for us. The show built the vocabulary and language, so when we weren’t watching it, we would still have that touchstone.


Season three was about companionship and how you need more than your children at that stage of life. So many people devote their focus – their lives – to their children; then they reach an age where their children don’t need them every day, and they find they need other people. I know now that I can’t be a friend-replacement for my mom. We have a lot of things we can connect about, but I can’t do all of the things she needs. Again, Grace and Frankie gave us the building blocks for this understanding. It made it clear that just because I can’t be the companion she needs, that doesn’t mean I have failed her in any way, or that she doesn’t love me enough. My empathy for her situation is much more nuanced, thanks to these fictional characters.

Season four focuses a lot on age, getting older, your children under-estimating what you can do, making choices for you, and how sometimes you need to be able to identify your own limitations and that things have changed. This was so topical for us. My mother is still working full time, she’s an executive so she works anywhere from forty to seventy hours a week. She watches her grandkids and helps out a lot with the family, and she is still very physically active, walking almost every day and participating in 5Ks. Yet, some of my siblings treat her like she can’t care for herself, and feel the need to micromanage her health and mobility. Of course, it’s right to be concerned for your parents as they age, but you still need to find the balance so concern doesn’t turn into taking away their autonomy.

So, how did my mother and I form our mutual Grace and Frankie habit? It all started when she was visiting me: I had her cornered, and so she had to finally watch the show. Much like me, she was hooked just a few episodes in. We binged the entire first season in that week and it was excellent.

When the second season launched, we did the same during my visit to her, but we didn’t finish, so we started arranging “watching dates.” We would both watch in our homes, but FaceTime while we watched so we could talk about it. This became our thing: watching a show and visiting with each other.

Quickly it made us long for new seasons right away. We used to space them out, but come season four, we watched at least one episode every week, if not two. When we finished the existing episodes of Grace and Frankie, we knew we didn’t want to stop.

Immediately, we looked for another show to watch. Currently, we are going through another Netflix series, Schitt’s Creek, which is great, but missing something Grace and Frankie has. Still, our weekly date is set, it’s in my calendar, my husband knows to expect it, it’s a done deal. A few weeks ago, we didn’t even watch an episode, we just talked, because we needed to talk.

But Grace and Frankie is more than just a television show, and our watching dates have become so much more than mutual commentary on it. This experience brought my mother and me closer together, gave us a way to communicate about things we could never really approach before, and caused us to have weekly dates. My mother and I live in different countries; when I was in the same town we would see each other often, but after a decade of being away our time together has grown limited. Sharing this show – sharing any show – has returned some of that precious time to us.

And there’s more. As much as the show has had a positive effect on my relationship with my mother, its power has reached beyond the screen. I know that Grace and Frankie has had a profound effect on its cast and creators (Jane Fonda went back to therapy after season one) and I am so thankful that they have continued to put out this great series for all of us. But for people of my mom’s generation, it’s become a source of truth and recognition bound with laughter.

My mom is always telling her peers that they have to watch it, which has had varying reactions from, “What channel is Netflix on?” to “I can’t watch that, Jane Fonda is in it, remember that photo?” (Okay, that’s a whole other ball of yarn.) Yet, every person her age who finally watches it, is changed.  We are setting up another screening this summer with a mutual friend; she doesn’t have Netflix but will be coming to my mom’s house and watch it there with her, and me, on FaceTime.

You might think it’s a bit strange that a sit-com can change a relationship, but this show did. Thank you, Grace and Frankie for giving my mother and me the vocabulary and context to improve our relationship, and thank you, Grace and Frankie, Netflix, and FaceTime, for making it possible for me to hang out with my mom from another country every week. For giving us back that close-knit relationship. For improving the relationship we already had. Thank you also for doing all of this with humor. Being able to laugh together makes difficult subjects so much easier to approach, and you have helped us do it with Grace… and Frankie.

About the Author: Nuchtchas

RE - NuchtchasNuchtchas is an artist from NY, now living in Canada. Graphic Artist by day, working in both web and print medium, she finds fulfillment in creating fine art and podcasting. You can find more about her at

Instrumental: Can You Be Free? by Melissa Cynova

In my time doing tarot readings for people, I find that it’s the inner prisons that hold us the tightest.

In the 8 of swords, we see a woman barefoot. She is standing in a muddy field, surrounded by blades. Her arms are lashed against her sides, and she is blindfolded. It’s raining, desolate and dreary.

Can she be free?

If you look more closely at the woman, you’ll see that her legs are not bound, and there is an empty space in front of her. She has been there for so long, I’m afraid, that she is trapped not only by the hardships that brought her there, but by her fear itself.

Sometimes, we are so conditioned to things going wrong in our lives, that we don’t move away from the things that harm us. We stay – in a bad marriage, bad job, bad living situation – much longer than we should because we’ve become conditioned to the bad.

This is not, of course, referring to folks in a dangerous living situation. This is the woman who looks in the mirror 8 years later and sees that she’s living with a roommate, and that they don’t really like each other anymore.

The best thing to do if you find yourself in this situation – in the 8 of Swords – the first thing is to look at where you are now. Assess your surroundings and make a plan instead of waiting until it’s unbearable and snapping a little bit. You can’t make good decisions when you’re filled with rage or sorrow. Those emotions color your decision-making skills and often you move too quickly and lose your balance.

Once you know where you are, take some time to make a plan.

For example, you’ve been working in the same office with the same people for 5 years. It’s a good job and you make good money, but the people that you work with are the gossipy, office shark type. You’re not really good with office politics so you keep your head down and are quiet all of the time. Always.

If you’ve decided you’ve had enough swimming with the sharks, move slowly. Update your resume. Find a headhunter in your field. Line up interviews and remember your value. Make slow, deliberate strides out of the beige world you’ve found yourself in, and into something that better suits you.

The most important thing to do when you’re in the middle of the 8 of Swords is to assess the situation before you start walking away. Take stock of the ground beneath your feet. Start loosening the ties on your hands and slide that blindfold off. Now that you can see what’s around you, you can walk free.

About the Author: Melissa Cynova

Melissa CynovaMelissaC_Bio is owner of Little Fox Tarot, and has been reading tarot cards and teaching classes since 1989. She can be found in the St. Louis area, and is available for personal readings, parties and beginner and advanced tarot classes. You can Look for her first book, Kitchen Table Tarot, from Llewellyn Publishing.

Melissa lives in St. Louis with her kiddos, her partner, Joe, and two cats, two dogs and her tortoise, Phil.

She is on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Go ahead and schedule a reading – she already knows you want one.

Fairy Dust by Bobbi Sinha-Morey

It had been so long with the days
rushing by that I hadn’t been away
from rinsing fruit I’d gathered from
trees, churning milk for butter and
cheese, that I’d forgotten what it was
like to have a waking dream, to be
lifted somewhere else so nothing,
no one could touch me. It was then
I made a fusion for myself of apples,
oranges, cherries, strawberries, and
a rare ounce of fairy dust, a smoothie
I poured in a tall, chilled glass, and
I’d been asleep till a wind in the door
and a smidgen of feet woke me up.
It was a young girl in a bonnet, not
much more than fourteen who, as
quietly as she’d come, had slipped
away from me. I followed the path
her footprints had taken—past a
woman in her yellow dress, the ivory
memorial, and a road I’d never seen
before that curved around a copse
of trees. It brought me to a small
house of orchids and I stood there
with them watching me. I knew
they had eyes, and they whispered
among themselves. The empress
orchid was larger and more powerful
than the rest; her color was as golden
tawny as my hair, and there were red
streaks along her petals as though a
lady had stroked them with her fingers.
And her voice was so bare—a light,
airy rhapsody stoking the love in my
heart; and I saw the girl in her bonnet
again, spinning crystal into saucers,
ballet dancers, swans, angels, and
chessmen. She led me to the water
where handmaidens were finding
alluvial diamonds in the river,
the best ones on beds of soft
eiderdown, some of them blue
in the cerulean light, and I saw
them glister, perfect for a bride
on her wedding night; and, in their
deep fire, the crimson vanilla swirls
of an opal.

About the Author: Bobbi Sinha-Morey

Bobbi Sinha-Morey’s poetry can be see in a variety of places such as Plainsongs, Pirene’s Fountain, The Wayfarer, Red Weather, Oasis Journal 2016, Helix Magazine, and Uppagus. Her books of poetry are available at, and her work has been nominated for Best of the Net. She loves taking walks on the beach with her husband.

Sunday Salon: Life Lessons from the Gym


I would never consider myself an athletic person. I don’t enjoy watching or participating in sports, I hate to sweat, I get headaches when I exert myself. I’m not very coordinated, or graceful – my dad used to tease that I was the only person he knew who could fall up the stairs. (I had a peculiar way of stumbling over my own feet when I raced up the stairway.)

During my elementary school years, I counted myself extremely lucky to have exercise induced asthma which meant I was excused from gym classes throughout my entire school career! What an amazing gift for a chubby, shy, couch potato.

It wasn’t until I was well into adulthood I began to appreciate exercise. Moving my body, getting a little bit winded and shiny with sweat, feeling my heart start to pound and blood race through my veins really did give me a tiny bit of a “high.” Besides that, it helped keep me slim, and having once been decidedly “not slim,” I’ve always been a little bit paranoid about gaining weight.

Being an introvert through and through, I only liked to exercise alone. I had a library of VHS tapes: Jane Fonda, Kathy Smith, and my all time favorite, Leslie Sansone and her Walk at Home Program. I had such a collection I could workout everyday for a month in the privacy of my basement and never do the same routine twice. When the VHS machines wore out, I replaced everything with DVD’s and continued my walking, yoga, pilates, and strength training.

Of course there were times when the regimen was interrupted for varying lengths of time. Months – even years – when life in general was simply too hectic and I couldn’t muster the energy to trek downstairs for that 30-45 minutes.

That’s the thing about a routine – exercise or otherwise – it’s easy to fall out of the habit.

And then it’s difficult to get back in.

But for the past several years, I’ve been happily back in the basement at least three or four mornings every week, walking away the pounds with Leslie or doing yoga with Rodney Yee, or strength training with  Petra Kolber (I love her Scottish accent).

This past January my husband retired and one of the things he wanted to do was start a regular exercise program. So we joined Planet Fitness, conveniently located just a mile from our house. I started accompanying him to workouts, because I knew he was much more likely to keep it up if I kept it up with him. So for the past seven months, we’ve been attending quite religiously twice a week for an hour’s worth of strength training and cardio.

I’ll admit, I didn’t think he’d stick with it. He’s not much more athletically inclined than I am, although he did enjoy golf for a while back in the 1980’s. Lately though, working the gears on a six-speed transmission in his classic muscle car was about the most work he was interested in doing on a Sunday afternoon.

But like me, he got hooked on the feeling. Hooked on feeling better, to be more precise. On losing weight and having his clothes fit nicely. On having more energy. On knowing he was doing something good for himself.

Certainly there are days when either one or the other (or both) of us really doesn’t feel like going to the gym. We hem and haw and drag ourselves out the door. But once we get in and get started on our routines, I think our mojo starts working and we leave a little sweatier than we went in, but also with a clear head and a spring in our step.

In other words, (to paraphrase Dorothy Parker) we may not feel like exercising, but we love having exercised.

So what does all this have to do with art? Or Creative Living? Or “the intersection of art and life,” which is what these Sunday Salon posts are supposedly all about.

I think you know. It’s about discipline and habit and routine. It’s about getting yourself to the page or the keyboard or the easel or the sewing machine or the garden or the barre. It’s about making time and space for your art whatever it might be, and showing up when the time is right.

Even when you don’t really want to.

I’ve been proud of myself for my Planet Fitness attendance this year. I’m less proud of my dedication to any of my artistic endeavors. I’ve yet to develop the kind of discipline needed to carry through on self-imposed deadlines, and those are the only ones I currently have. It’s so much easier (and more fun) to go for picnics in the park with my husband, or catch a matinee in the afternoon. Curling up next to him on the couch with a book is lots more appealing to me these days than writing or revising or practicing piano.

My favorite at-home exercise guru, Leslie Sansone, has another piece of advice I think is as appropriate to creative work as it is to exercise. “You don’t have to spend an hour on your workout,” she says. “If you can only spend 15 minutes a day, then spend 15 minutes a day. Believe in the small doses! It all counts.”

Believe in the small doses. Perhaps that’s something I could apply to my creative living with some semblance of regularity. A small dose – 15 minutes a day? 15 minutes of free writing, or responding to a prompt. 15 minutes on one page of a Mozart Sonata.

More than likely, the 15 minutes would stretch into 20 or 30. My hands might get a little achy from holding the pen or running 16th note passages. My heart might race a little with excitement at finding just the right words or mastering the phrasing of a difficult passage. And no matter what the end result, I know I’d feel a sense of accomplishment for having written, for having played.

For having the discipline to Just Do It.

It all counts.

About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan lives in Northville, Michigan with her husband. She is the author of Life in General, and Life Goes On, books of personal and inspirational essays about the ways women navigate the passage into midlife. She is also a musician, and performs as a pianist and as a member of Classical Bells, a professional handbell ensemble. These days if she’s not curled up on the couch reading with a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) close at hand, she just might be on the treadmill at Planet Fitness. She loves to connect with readers at her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Death Works Holidays by Selena Taylor

0264 - Death Takes Orders via FlashPrompt

“How big is the order?” Death reached under his cloak to read his clip board. The Deaths looked at each other and grimaced.

“There will be at least 30 souls there for us to collect,” the other Death told him.

The two Deaths started to walk towards the old manor, passing through the cemetery that was on the property. Each carried a plastic jack-o-lantern half filled with candy retrieved when children had dropped it. They both felt ridiculous, but it helped them blend.

And She had been clear: blending with the humans was vital on this day.

“Fitting.” The other snorted at the word.

“It looks like there are bodies all over the house. I have been called to the basement. I really hope there are no spiders. They give me the creeps.”

“Oh god, I know what you mean. I once was called to a forest where a man was bitten by several deadly spiders. I had to stand there holding up my cloak as the man came to terms with his demise. He kept twitching and arguing with me. ‘Maybe there’s anti-venin close by? Maybe you’re mistaken?’ That was a long day. This one is looking to try and beat that day.”

It was Halloween. A day to be happy and celebrate the work they did, and to acknowledge others who helped their kind. It was the one day children were less afraid of the so called “monsters” and embraced the supernatural. But… not this Halloween. This Halloween had them collecting the real monsters of the world. Behind a headstone were a few buckets of candy. Death slowly picked one up.

“There are lots of them back there. Lots.” As they looked at the candy, they heard a sound coming towards them. By the light of a candle that appeared in the Death’s hand, they learned that the sound was a little girl, skipping. Skipping towards them.

Some might wonder why such a young girl would be skipping through a cemetery, but they knew why. They knew it was just a trick. It was not really a little girl, but rather, one of the most dangerous demons ever given life.

She stopped in front of them, her fairy wings and glowing halo lending an air of innocence she didn’t possess. “Hello, boys.” Her voice was nothing like the child she appeared to be. Rather, her words came out in a dark purr. “I wish I could say Happy Halloween, but this is a sad day.” She stopped skipping right in front them. She wriggled her shoulders. “Time-stops make me itch. Hope it’s not bothering you. Did you get my special note?”

“Oh yeah, we got it and we understand it, too.”  Death felt the pull of time come back to where they stood. “How come we stopped time for so long here?”

“That was me, today,” said the not-really-a-little-girl. “One of the souls crossing over really needed his teddy bear. So, I went to go get it.” She paused, her face softening into a wistful expression. “It will help.”

They started to walk towards the manor.

“How old is the one who needs the bear?”

She held the bear close to her heart. “He’s only three. He was with his older brother when they got separated from their parents. They are waiting for me with the others. “

“How many?”

“Thirteen. Just today. I have been dealing with this group for a while, and today I finally won. If you call this winning.”

They all sighed.

“Boys, I know you have seen it all, but I was extra-creative with these people.”

“We promise we will be just as creative. Did you see I actually brought my scythe? I think it looks really nasty. It should work fine – instill fear and obedience. That sort of thing.”

“Oh, that’s great. Thank you. I have been working on this case for so long. Going the extra mile is appreciated.”

Searching the sky, Deaths and the not-a-girl realized that the time barrier had nearly dissipated, and all would soon be back to normal. Pity. They could have used the extra cover from human eyes. Mere mortals should not witness such as they.

“Let’s get to work, boys.”

About the author, Selena Taylor

Selena TaylorSelena Taylor is a wife, a mother, and a woman who strives to tell the many stories that occupy her mind. She is active in the Rhett & Link fandom and appreciates dark humor.  She and her family live in Illinois, where she takes every opportunity to lose herself under the stars and let her imagination run wild. For more from Selena, check her out on Facebook.

Alla Prima by John Grey

My view has been deliberately chosen,
a cozy spot halfway along the beach.
I have an image in my mind.
It’s now up to beauty to render it.

Each vision must have been born of woman,
sired by man, eighteen or more years added
plus a pleasing shape and lovely smile.

They must step out of the water at slow speed,
one after the other, an alia prima of loveliness,
lithesome and graceful.

And let each and every one of them
leave their footprints in the sand,
a fleeting record of consummate ease.

About the Author: John Grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review, Gargoyle and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock and Spoon River Poetry Review.

The Estate Sale by Bernie Brown

Ella wanted to be a blithe spirit, a la Noel Coward, but she couldn’t rest, join her beloved, and escape this limbo existence until her three most precious treasures found happy new homes. That was why she was hanging out at her own estate sale watching people buy her belongings.

The moment the estate agent unlocked the door, the bargain-hunting crowd hurried in. A short, pear-shaped woman made a bee line for Ella’s gold-spangled evening jacket, the one she wore at the Berlin Pediatrician’s conference. That’s where she met Johan, with whom she had a fling lasting several months and involving a trip to Bavaria, a cruise on the Rhine, and some jaunts to remote Alpine villages.

The woman slipped on the jacket, running her hands admiringly over the spangles. She beamed a smile as bright as the spangles, twirled around, stopped and said “I just love it,” to no one in particular. The jacket’s dramatic line needed someone more statuesque to do it justice, but it so clearly brought the woman joy that Ella wanted her to have it.

This was going to be easy. The jacket had already found a happy home only minutes after the sale began. Next up, the needlepoint pillow Archer, another fling, bought her at the London conference.

A man over six feet tall examined the pillow with its elaborate floral pattern and the saying “You can never be too rich or too thin” in filigree script. A flawlessly tailored jacket on his long, lean frame and Italian leather shoes on his elegant feet proved he had both the financial resources and the body type to appreciate the pillow’s message. He smiled at the man with him, a shorter, more muscular fellow, and Ella guessed they were a couple. She hadn’t considered a man owning the pillow, but this man was the perfect match. At this rate, she’d be on her way by dinnertime.

Two blonde, giggling twenty somethings were leaving with the pink leather Gucci bag and the embroidered satin evening clutch from Milan. Ella wasn’t as emotionally attached to those bags, but it pleased her to know they would have a fun life.

Ella sighed in satisfaction. This was going well. Her career as a pediatrician, her life of travel, her carefully chosen belongings, all had brought her pleasure. Each held a memory. But now, she wanted others to enjoy them, to find life the joyous adventure she had found it. So far. So good.

There was still the painting. When the right person claimed the painting, Ella could go. She could leave everything else to fate, but the painting must go to someone very special.

It was called “The Doctor.” In the scene, a doctor sat next to a bed in which a sick child lay. Light splashed on him as he sat, chin in hands, studying the child. The distraught mother prayed at a dark table in the background, her head down. In the shadows, the father hovered, haunted and bereft. Darkness nearly filled the room, except for around the doctor and an arched window. Through the window, sunlight spilled onto the green plants on the sill. The light in these two places meant hope to Ella, hope that the doctor would find a cure and hope that the child would thrive like the plants.

The painting was her most treasured possession because it not only featured her profession, a doctor of children; but the man who had given it to her, Clark, had been the love of her life. The others she’d dated like Johan and Archer, they’d been fun—lots of fun—but Clark had been much more. Although Ella had never married, never wanted to, Clark changed her mind.

They were both in their fifties when they met. That was the year the conference was in New York. As they got to know each other, they made repeated trips upstate to country inns, ski resorts, and antique shops. When they saw the painting in a Rhinebeck shop, they simultaneously knew they had to have it. Both of them had been in the doctor’s position, calling up all their skill, knowledge, and experience to help a sick little one and relieve the anguished parents.

And then Ella had lost Clark, lost him before they could get married. A heart attack took him away with cruel speed. After that, she had withdrawn, no more fancy trips abroad, no more designer clothes. She spent her extra time volunteering in free clinics.

And now she had a second chance to be with Clark, not the way they had planned, but together again, all the same. But Ella couldn’t complete that journey until the painting was held by deserving hands.

A couple stood in front of the painting. “The frame is perfect. We could just cut out the picture. It’s so depressing, anyway,” a gum-chewing man said to the overly-bleached blonde woman with lipstick on her teeth.

The idea appalled Ella. Nothing doing. Cut out the picture, indeed. Ella whipped between the couple and the painting and hissed. “Ssssssss. Ssssssss.” They backed away, their eyes wide and searching, probably for a snake. She hissed again, longer, more fiercely. Ssssssssssssst. They nearly stumbled over each other trying to leave the room. Ella dogged them until they were gone. Sss.Sss. Sss.

She had better stay right here on guard if lowlifes like that were around.

Several people stopped, studied the painting, murmured appreciative sounds, and then moved on.

Two middle-aged women looked interested. One carried a tote bag with “Support Community Theater” emblazoned on it. “This would be great for the set,” she said. “It casts just the right dark mood.” So, they meant to use it on a set for a play. Not exactly purgatory, but not exactly personal. What happened when the play was over? Would it be stashed and forgotten in some storeroom?

Ella considered this prospect less odious than the previous customers, but still not a desirable destiny for her precious painting. No, it just wouldn’t do. As much as she had enjoyed the theater in life, it was not the right home for “The Doctor.”

She didn’t want to frighten these well-meaning women, but she had to discourage them.

She could tickle them, but tickling wasn’t severe enough. She could scratch them, but she didn’t want to hurt them. She had one more idea, which she really hesitated to carry out. It just wasn’t her style. Still, the painting was at stake.

As the women studied the painting and reached into their purses, Ella farted.

Not one of those super nasty, wave-your-hand-in-front-of-your-nose farts, more like a baby’s toot. Being polite women, they ignored the smell, probably assigning it each to the other. They showed no signs of discouragement about their purchase. Ella realized she would have to be more dramatic.

In the most indelicate way, she let one rip, its odor permeating the corner where the painting hung. The first woman leaned in closely and sniffed the painting.

Just to be safe, Ella again passed gas worthy of a farm animal, and the baffled woman drew back.

The tote bag carrying one said, “Maybe the paint has spoiled or something, or it has been stored someplace inappropriate.”

Her friend, less tactful, said, “Face it, Evelyn. It stinks to high heaven. It smells like a port-a-potty at a construction site. We aren’t wasting our meager budget on something like that. The actors wouldn’t appreciate it.” And they moved on.

Ella watched them go, wishing them well.

The afternoon wore on, and the crowd thinned out. Lots of merchandise had marched out the door with customers, but her precious painting still hung, lonely and alone in its corner.

Ella second guessed herself. Maybe she should have let the theater ladies buy it. At least it wouldn’t be ripped apart.

The estate agent started consolidating the remaining merchandise. Ella realized Clark would have to wait. She couldn’t complete her journey yet.

The door flew open and crisp fall air preceded a tall, thin bespectacled woman, and a short, round bald man came. Their presence, chatter, and laughter enlivened the room.

Ella perked up. She liked the looks of them. Academics, maybe.

They looked around, picking up a Venetian glass bowl and admiring how the light shone through it. Ella watched anxiously. Would they look at the painting?

Just then the estate agent removed “The Doctor” from its hanging spot and carried it across the couple’s line of vision.

“Wait,” the man said.

The estate agent stopped, smiled, and held up the painting for them to see better. “It’s wonderful, isn’t it? I thought of buying it myself,” she said.

The wife said, “It’s more than wonderful. It’s a chapter in our lives.”

“What do you mean?” the agent asked.

The husband offered, “Our daughter was critically ill with meningitis when she was six. She wasn’t expected to live, but she did.” He stopped to wipe away a tear, and his wife opened her purse and handed him a tissue. He went on. “Thanks to brilliant doctors, she pulled through, and grew up well and healthy. We have just come from visiting her and our granddaughter.”

By now, the estate agent was sniffling and getting misty, too. “Here, take it. It’s yours.” She thrust it at them.

“No, no that wouldn’t be right,” the wife said with a gentle laugh.

“Well, then, I’ll reduce the price.”

They agreed on the price and talked some more, but Ella was no longer listening. Blithe at last, she took one backward glance from the doorway at the remains of her life, and fulfillment flooded through her. It was time to go. Clark was waiting.

About the Author: Bernie Brown

I live in Raleigh, NC where I write, read, and watch birds. My stories have appeared in several magazines, most recently Better After 50, Modern Creative Life, Indiana Voice Journal, and Watching Backyard Birds. My story “The Same Old Casserole” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Modern Creative Life. I am a Writer in Residence at the Weymouth Center, which is the perfect spot to work on my novel-in-progress.

Sunday Sensations: Growing Up Ain’t Easy

Many of us learned, at a fairly early age, that plants, animals, and humans need some basic things to grow – sun, air, and water. What we didn’t learn at this tender young age is the fine art of that mix. Too much sun? Dead. Too much water? Dead. Wrong kind of air? Dead.

Right now I’m growing some basil in a pot on my kitchen counter. I should have said attempting to grow. Rescued from a clearance cart at Aldi’s, this basil plant has had an Oliver Twist existence of thriving and nearly dying. Finding that fine balance between over watering and under watering hasn’t been easy. If only life were a bit more like a video game. Then I would get a fancy indicator light that’s like “heads up, basil dying if you don’t water in the next day!”

But life is infinitely more complex than that. So, by trial and error, I attempt to keep the poor thing alive. Some days I wonder why I keep trying to grow my own plants. With everything going on in our family and the endless projects and to do lists – plant keeping is nearly impossible. The struggle is most definitely real.

Then again. This week we made spaghetti, one of our host son’s favorite meals, and some of the fresh leaves graced the dish. Watching his eyes follow me as I picked the leaves and dropped them in reminded me why. Because of the joys of having something fresh. It’s worth the struggle.

Parenting is a lot like trying to grow my basil plant. It’s complex. There’s no rules, handbook, or indicator light to say “give more of this!” Yet, like the basil plant, when done right there’s amazing growth.

There are times when I go to bed at night wondering if I did the right thing or not. Too stern? Too gentle? Drowning my kid or starving him? With our host son in the mix, I’ve learned how much a kid (even a teenager) craves attention and love. There’s a light that shines every time I admire or praise.

Before our host son came, I took my husband to see the Mr. Rogers documentary. The care and compassion Mr. Rogers had for children and their feelings impressed me. Much like the plant thing, I think most of us know what helps make a child grow up well, but understanding the delicate balance is hard. Mr. Rogers seemed to grasp it easier than most of us. One of the most important lesson? Kids are just like us.

So I keep watering with kind words, wedding with some discipline, and shining light through teaching. Do I get it wrong? Yes. But, many times, just like your garden, if you just show up—things will grow.


About the author: Tabitha Grace Challis

Tabitha Grace ChallisTabitha is a social media strategist, writer, blogger, and professional geek. Among her published works are the children’s books Jack the Kitten is Very Brave and Machu the Cat is Very Hungry, both published under the name Tabitha Grace Smith. A California girl (always and forever) she now lives in Maryland with her husband, son, and a collection of cats, dogs, and chickens. Find out more about her on her Amazon author page or follow her on Twitter: @Tabz.

To Isaac Albeniz’s Asturias by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

The guitar’s deep voice
stroked and plucked into life
wings like a broad-feathered bird
over treetops, lifting, dipping,
darting to alight on a bowing
hemlock crest. Balanced, calm
the bird settles, feathers tucked.
He scans the skies, dips his yellow gaze
to creatures below. Dismisses
any that don’t look like food.
The music builds then soars,
fingers pluck the bird into magnificent flight.
Sailing high where blue melds into white
he rides the air currents,
spins out of sight.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.