Dipstitch Podcast

Hello Dilettante Life followers, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything.  Time to get back in the saddle soon.  I miss my blog.

However, the reason I’ve been absent for so long is I have found a new passion I wanted to tell you about…

I have a new podcast!  It’s called Dipstitch,  a 15-30 minute episode of “sisterly conversation” brought to you each week.  What is sisterly conversation?  Well, my sister Susan and I talk about food, family, faith, dogs, knitting, jobs, holidays, parenthood and EVERYTHING in between.  I know you might be thinking, “this is a chic podcast” but it’s not. Most topics are very relatable and entertaining.  We have some laughs along the way and even have a guest every so often to join in the fun.

Won’t you have a listen?  Our audience is fantastic and makes the podcast worthwhile.  But, we’re looking to grow our fan base by inviting you to listen.  Dipstitch is available on a number of podcast platforms, but the easiest one to use is podchaser.com.

To become a loyal listener, go to podchaser.com and in the search box type Dipstitch.  Our podcast page will come up and have a green “Follow Podcast” button on the right side of the screen.  Click on it, and you’ll get an email when a new episode is uploaded.  It’s that simple.  And, if you scroll down, you’ll see Recent Episodes with a link next to it, to “View All”.   One stop shopping.

Thank you so much for being a loyal follower of Dilettante Life.  I hope you will enjoy Dipstitch as much, and become a follower there as well.

Warm Regards,

Jo

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pension

Bob McTeirnan worked for the city for twenty-eight years. He was a plumber at one of the city’s housing projects. He’d been there since the old law tenements had been torn down and the urban renewal plan was approved. The area had always been bad. Even when he heard reminiscences by friends about the old neighborhood and how even though they were poor they were clean, he’d laugh. He remembered his own uncles pissing on the sides of the buildings in the alleys on their way home from the foundry. It seemed that half the neighborhood was always drunk, and he promised himself he would never touch a drop. He kept the promise.

So, he laughed to himself when he heard the criticism of the Puerto Rican and black families –

– that they were dirty animals, that they destroyed the projects after the original families had left it to them in such a pristine condition. Because in truth, McTeirnan told himself, the projects were just slums-in-the-making, and they were twenty years old by the time the newer families had moved in.

But occasionally, he did find himself at a loss for understanding – like the time he found the dead baby in the plastic bag behind the furnace. He’d heard about this kind of thing from old-timers who’d worked here years and years before him. But he wasn’t prepared for it.

It was mixed in with orange peels and milk cartons and empty cans of beans. He felt no repulsion at the sight. His helper, Santiago, was out sick that day. It was just he and the baby and the noises and smells of the boiler room. He took the body to the slop sink and washed the cigarette ashes and dried juice from it. The umbilical cord was shriveled but still attached and he carefully placed it across the baby’s stomach, wrapped the body in an old uniform shirt and placed it in a Hefty bag. He carried it out to his car and put it on the back seat. He walked back to the boiler room and got a shovel.

McTeirnan drove over the Marine Park Bridge to Rockaway. But instead of taking the Drive to Belle Harbor and home, he turned towards Riis Park and the beach. He passed through the gates of the park where a sign hung reading, “Closed until Memorial Day -No lifeguards on Duty.”

He parked the car and walked over the dunes to the bird sanctuary. The gulls and terns flew close to his head. He wondered if they thought he was going to disturb their nests or if they could smell what he carried.

 

 

The sand and beach grass lifted easily, and he picked a spot that looked untouched by the winter tides. He dug deep and by the time he was satisfied with the depth of the hole, he was winded. He removed the baby from the Hefty bag but kept it wrapped in the shirt. He peeled it back from its face.

“It won’t be so bad here little…,” and he hesitated. He hadn’t looked to see the sex of the child. “You’ve already got it better than a lot of the ones that are going to grow up. The angels will come and take you very soon so, don’t be afraid.”

He laid the child at the bottom of the hole. He was going to take the shirt because it said “NYC Housing Authority” across the chest pocket and he thought there might be some trouble if someone found the baby. But it was an old shirt having belonged to Gustav who was dead many years and when he saw the sand crabs crawling in the wet sand around the bottom, he left the child covered.

He filled the hole in, stretched his stiff back, made a sign of the cross and walked off.

 

“Timothy is waiting, Bob,” his wife Clare said as he walked in the door of his home on Beach 136th Street.

“Waiting for what?” he answered as he hung up his jacket on the rack of pegs just inside the door of the apartment.

“He wants to go trick or treating. Did you forget it was Halloween?” Clare asked him.

“Oh Jesus, Clare.”

“Bob,” she said drying her hands on a dishtowel. “He’ll be so upset. He was so excited this morning.”

“Where is he?”

“In the living room.”

McTeirnan walked through the dining room and heard the sounds of Sesame Street on the television. His severely retarded, eighteen-year-old son sat ten inches away from the screen rocking, fingers twitching. He barely stopped to look up at his father. He was dressed like a hobo, charcoal beard, torn clothes and an old hat of Bob’s father pulled snugly down across his ears. He clutched a large, orange bag with “Trick or Treat” emblazoned with the face of a leering pumpkin – a hissing cat perched on its stalk.

The boy snapped the television off and walked over to his father. The resemblance between father and son was uncanny, even McTeirnan couldn’t help noticing it. The boy took his father’s hand and started to walk back towards the kitchen.

“Wait a few minutes, Tim,” McTeirnan said.

The boy frowned and returned to the living room. He snapped the television on and resumed rocking.

McTeirnan went into the bathroom and filled the sink with warm water. He brought his hands to his nose and smelled fish, cigarette ash and the baby. He washed his face and hands and stared at himself in the mirror. The apartment was quiet except for the sound of the television.

He heard his grand-uncle Garret, upstairs stamping his feet and barking. They were short, clipped barks. Garret was his mother’s brother. He was ninety-two years old and had Tourette’s Syndrome. McTeirnan knew the barking was compulsive and that he couldn’t control it. He also knew some Tourette’s sufferers cursed uncontrollably but Garret barked Lately, it kept him awake at nights.

He rinsed the sand that had collected around the drain and dried his hands.

“Let’s go, Tim,” he said, and the boy stood up. He was going on six feet, two inches, McTeirnan noted to himself. He was glad he was not violent. There had only been the one time when he was thirteen and Clare was walking him home from Mass at St. Francis. He began to cry suddenly and uncontrollably, and he threw Clare through the plate glass window of the fruit and vegetable store on 129th Street.

After McTeirnan paid the Korean owner for damages and took Clare for stitches, he brought the boy into the bedroom and locked it. He beat him with a belt for nearly half an hour. Clare screamed from the other side of the door and Garret banged on the floor over head to stop the noise. The boy made low, guttural sounds and crawled into the corner next to the dresser, watching each motion of his father’s arm, terrified. For nearly a year he would not look his father in the eye, and he ran from the kitchen when he came home from work.

He held the boy’s hand as they walked down the steps of the building. Small children looked curiously at them from behind Hello Kitty and Power Ranger masks. The mothers that knew the family nodded hello and said, “Hello, Timothy. That’s a lovely costume,” and patted him on the head. They whispered, “You’re a saint, Bob,” and walked off to ring doorbells with their own charges.

McTeirnan took his son to the homes of people that knew the family. He would wait at the curb while his son walked up the steps to the houses. He saw Timothy bathed in the yellow lights of the porches, rocking while his neighbors placed the candy and pennies into his son’s bag. It was a silent procession that lasted an hour and when they returned home, the boy left the bag with his mother and ran to the television set to turn it on.

McTeirnan sat at the kitchen table while Clare served him. He started to tell his wife about the baby and the beach but then he thought she would object to what he’d done; how he hadn’t informed the police. He thought she might be frightened that somehow, he’d be blamed.

He asked her how her day was instead and nibbled on a piece of candy corn while he waited for the rest of his dinner.

 

THE END

.

 

We Return You to His Regularly Scheduled Childhood

IT’S over. Finished. Kaput.

Emancipation is mine.

After hundreds of hours spent in the car — racing to practices at the home field, running late to games in Newark and Ho Ho Kus, picking up, dropping off — I’m finished with it, relieved of at least one huge parental responsibility.

My 12-year-old son no longer wants to play soccer.

I am a free man. Our fall will be filled with autumn leaves and hot apple cider.

After thousands of dollars spent on fees, cleats (there are two, um, borrowed milk cases full of old ones in the garage), water bottles of various shapes and sizes, multiple folding chairs for my wife and me, it’s over, finally over.

No more risking leaving work early. (”Boss, I know it’s only 9:15, but my son’s been moved up to forward for this game only.”)

No more booking hotel rooms in the wilds of Mercer County (Billy Bob’s Bed & Breakfast?) and two-day tournaments sponsored by Fred’s Chevrolet of Trenton.

No more parents screaming at referees: ”Where’d you get your glasses, Ray Charles? Old Coke bottle bottoms?”

No more parents screaming at one another: ”Marty, ya gotta ask the coach to pull your son! For the sake of the team, Marty! For crying out loud, Marty!”

No more soccer gibberish screamed by parents at their children: ”Tyler, center!” ”Morgan, defend!” ”Brittney, protect!”

And maybe most pleasant of all, no more parents screaming at coaches: ”If you don’t play my son now, today, this instant, his self-esteem will go right down the toilet! He’ll flunk third grade, and there goes his soccer scholarship!”

Ah, the elusive soccer scholarship.

Every single player I have ever met was destined for one — well at least according to parents and coaches.

”You know,” they would whisper, ”he could wind up rent-free at Wassamatta U. with that kick of his.”

And that is part of my distaste for the sport.

But even the New Jersey Youth Soccer Web site’s ”Coaching Techniques” section contains a passage about this:

Parents? Coaches? Or a combination of the two? Are the kids being lead to believe they can get a college scholarship?

”It’s amazing how many parents project their children at professional levels,” says Vern D. Seefeldt, director emeritus of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State.

Coaches feed the frenzy, too. When a soccer guru urges playing another tourney or ratcheting up practice time, parents often don’t object. They’re being told by the coach: ”Your child has amazing potential and needs to continue to improve.”

So for 8 of his 12 years in an effort to prevent future mishap, (”Dad, if I had played soccer I probably never would have plundered WorldCom”) we would pack him in the van along with water, soccer bag, soccer ball – (”Dad? Where’s my MetroStars ball?”). A fruitless search through the hedges and bushes of the backyard resulting in scratches, poison ivy, low-limbed eye-poking — two, sometimes three times a week like all the other ”involved” parents.

We would head off in the dark of the early morning only to remember that the new chrome-plated, steroid-enhanced, bend-it-like-Beckham shin guards were still sitting on the kitchen counter, and do an immediate U-turn on the Turnpike back to Glen Rock.

And then there were the practices after school. Parental attendance was expected.

For the life of me, I could never figure out what these other guys did for a living that they could be home, two or three days a week at 3:30 p.m. (Bookies, all of them, I’m convinced.)

My Dad came to three or four of my games in my entire life, and that was baseball. And a request to him for a ride to practice would have been provided by airborne means — made entirely possible by a well-placed Size 11.

I don’t like soccer. (Is it obvious?)

Didn’t like the structure, the over-organized aspect of the sport. I didn’t like having to sit down in a certain spot.

”No, not there. That’s for the visiting team’s parents.”

”But, there’s over 200 acres in this park.”

”Sorry.”

But admittedly, I’m in the minority. There are to 3.2 million registered youth soccer players and more than 800,000 coaches and volunteers, according to the United States Youth Soccer Association. Little League Baseball on the other hand counts a mere 2,748,765 participants.

And that is why I will remain fascinated by (and secretly pleased with) the fact that, for some reason, soccer was not something my son and his friends ”played.” By that I mean that I never saw a time when he and his friends left the house, picked up a soccer ball and just kicked the ball around in the park, despite all their practice, the amount of time they devoted to the sport and the obvious skill they had acquired over the years.

On the other hand, I have seen many children from South America and Europe in the park doing just that.

But my guys would take a baseball and glove, a basketball or a football. And they would choose sides or just play.

And maybe that’s the distinction for me, right there.

They would just ”play.”

The Sweetness of Summers gone by.

From the time I was 4 or 5 until I was 17, we spent summers in Breezy Point — bungalows and then the Surf Club.

We’d travel down to the club from Flatbush in the morning — around 10 a.m. or so — and Mom would park the Chevy Malibu station wagon in an area that, 30 years before that, had been oceanfront, before the Army Corps of Engineers built the jetties.

This was in the ’60s.

We’d unload the car, schlep everything up to the cabana and begin the walk to the beach at the tip of the Rockaway Peninsula where the club was located. That required a long and painful haul across a large gravel parking lot past the oceanfront cabanas and down to the beach.

Watching kids like us hoofing it on the gravel without shoes or flip-flops probably brought to mind Buddhists walking on hot coals. By summer’s end, it would be tough to pierce the soles of our feet with nine-inch nails; the calluses became that dense.

Then, the beach was ours. Sometimes the moms would join us later in the day, and at other times they were content to stay back, fix lunch for us and enjoy themselves a mid-week martini or two.

When we rented a bungalow, we’d play on the deck until the time when Dad’s ferry was due to arrive at the dock at Kennedy’s Bar & Grill on the bay.

He’d take the BMT from the city to Sheepshead Bay, then hop on the ferry for the 10-minute ride. My sister and I would hook our dog to the handle of our wood Red Flyer and have him drag us and the wagon the two blocks to the pier.

In those days, there was a little shack at the end of the pier. My older cousin and his friends would dive from its roof just as the ferry pulled in, and the dads who were on it would toss coins for the boys.

Around 5, if we were still at the Surf Club, the call would go out, the moms would pack up the cars and away we’d go back to Flatbush. We’d pass the old Fort on the ocean that in ’62 saw its long-range cannons, which once protected New York Harbor, removed and replaced with Cold War missiles.

The Chevy could fit nine — 12 when the cousins were around. It was fitted with a seat belt: my mom’s arm thrown across our bodies when some “. . . idiot!” would wander into our lane.

The rear-facing seat, which would be frowned upon now, helped us make the most awful gestures and faces a 9-year-old could at friends and their mothers as they followed the same path back to Brooklyn.

And the rusted hole in the Chevy’s floor was large enough that when we’d drive across the Marine Park Bridge — never the Gil Hodges, its rightful name, even though he was a neighbor on E. 32nd St. — you could see the blue-green waters of the bay below between the grates.

Sand in every crevice of our bodies and the car, we rode: past the golf course, past the seafood house, past McBurney’s Boat Yard at Ave. U where a Chinese “junk” and the Viking long boat from those Leif cigar commercials were moored.

All summer long, it was bliss.

Then there would come a night when, instead of pulling up into our driveway, we’d look up from the back of the car and see that the moms were parking at the Ideal Department Store on Flatbush Ave.

My heart would sink. All our hearts would.

It meant that we, along with many, many other sad souls, would be going into Ideal to get measured for our Catholic school uniforms.

It meant two crisp, white, polyester shirts with “OLHC” (Our Lady Help of Christians) embroidered in a crest on the pocket of the shirt.

It meant being poked, prodded and pinned by Abie the tailor, with a mouthful of pins.

It meant two pairs of hot, itchy, Navy blue pants with a baby-blue piping down the side of the legs of the pants.

It meant a tight pair of shoes. It meant thick wool socks.

It meant summer was over.

 

Oh… We Had Such Fun!

It was Sunday – a very hot Sunday and the neighborhood was quiet. The heat created a veil – almost void of air or sound.

The only noise came from air conditioners humming and whirring and the dripping condensation that plinked as it landed on the covers of metal garbage cans.

Those who could afford to, left for weekend homes at the shore. Those who couldn’t, stayed inside those apartments cooled through the grace of the air conditioners.

And those who could do neither initially sought and then abandoned the stoops, when the sun left no doubt as to its intention.

Carrie woke and the headache started. She pulled the sheets over her head. But the sun was without mercy and shone brightly through a bedroom window that was curtainless, despite her best intentions. She peeled the sheet back from her head and closed an eye to focus on the clock – 2:30p.m.

“Damn!”

She said it loudly and then cringed when the sound of her own voice increased the throbbing in her temples. She felt for the phone on the night table. A peculiar sensation began to erupt in her stomach. She looked over the edge of the bed and saw the telephone cord stretched from a leg of the night table to the closet.

Carrie gently rolled from the bed to the floor and pulled at the cord for the receiver. She placed it in its cradle, got a signal and dialed. “Hello?”

“Marion? Hi. It’s Carrie. Is Linda still there?”

“No, Carrie. She left at seven. She said she tried to call you but the phone was busy for quite a while.”

“Shit! I must have knocked it over during the night. Shit!”

“Weren’t you supposed to go to the Cape with her today?”

 

“Yeah,” she said, twirling a piece of hair. “What’s it like out, Marion?”

“Well, it’s about a hundred and seven degrees and two hundred percent humidity.”

“Great. That’s just fucking great. What are you doing today?”

“Jeff and I are headed out the door to go to his parents’ pool. Wanna come?”

A picture of Jeff Haber’s naked body exiting her bedroom door on an evening not too long ago flashed through her memory. Then her stomach erupted again.

“No thanks, Marion. I’ll talk to you.”

Carrie dropped the phone and dashed for the bathroom but didn’t quite make it.

After she cleaned up, she showered for almost a half-hour forcing herself through a run of ice-cold water. She stepped out of the shower and lit a cigarette but her wet fingers tore the filter off and she tossed it in the toilet. She began to sweat.

She wiped the moisture from the mirror and stared at her eyes. She followed a path of burst – blood vessels in her blue-green eyes, stretching the wrinkles of skin at the corners with her fingers. She rubbed at the dark bags under her eyes that a few years ago would have vanished quickly. These days they remained.

“If this is what you look like at thirty-one,” she said to her reflection, “what the hell is forty gonna be like?”

She shook her head to loosen the tangles in her wet hair and brushed it back with her fingers. She wrapped herself in a towel, and took a half-gallon of orange juice from the refrigerator in the kitchen. She drained it in two gulps.

Carrie tried calling some friends but no one was home. She told the last answering machine she spoke with to go to hell. She could always do a laundry, she decided, and dressed in shorts and an old T-shirt of her father’s. It became a monumental task.

She gathered blouses from doorknobs, underwear from backs of chairs, bras from corners of the living room and sheets from the bedroom. She grabbed towels, jeans and shorts and bent over to retrieve a pair of socks from under her bed. But she became nauseous and gave up.

On top of her dresser were nearly half a dozen pairs of sunglasses and she picked a pair that covered not only her eyes but blocked peripheral light as well. Her head throbbed and she sat down in a living room chair. There was a loud crack and Carrie pulled a CD, still sealed in plastic, from under herself. But, it felt better to sit down and when she heard the keys she’d been holding hit the floor, she realized she’d fallen asleep in the chair. She stood up and made her way to the door.

The heat hit her when she stepped into the hallway. Carrie put her laundry bag down to lock her door and felt herself sweating. She stood on the front steps of her building.

Her vision wavered as she looked up and down the block trying to remember where she had parked her car. The heat was rising from the asphalt and was visible. She remembered driving up Hudson the previous evening and then thought it might have been Greenwich. She started in that direction but, stopped. It was useless.
She couldn’t remember. She slung the laundry bag over her shoulder and walked towards the laundromat on Leonard St.

There were two other people there; a customer and the manager who watched a small black and white television, aluminum foil on the antenna, propped up on a cash register. The other customer seemed to be washing all his worldly possessions.

Carrie was curious as to the whereabouts of his shoes until she saw him reach into a dryer and pullout a pair of sneakers. She watched as he loaded a machine and then saw him flinch when he touched the rubber soles slightly reshaped by the heat of the dryer. There was a strong odor that followed him and it stayed in the laundromat long after he left.

Carrie pushed the coins into the slot and watched as the machine filled with water. She had a half-hour before the cycle would finish and was certain death would come to her from heat prostration if she stayed much longer. She walked out and looked across the street.

Walker’s, the tavern on the corner was more than familiar and she knew it had the best air-conditioning in the city. She crossed the street and walked in. It took her eyes a second to focus in the bar’s darkness.

“Hey, Carrie!”

She looked at the bartender pulling at the tap. It was her friend Catherine’s younger brother.

“Hello, Andrew,” she said. He leaned across the bar and kissed her on the cheek.
“Word has it you closed McFeeley’s last night,” he said.

“True, true, my dear fellow, but I had some help.” Carrie hung her head in mock shame.

“That’s what I heard,” he said as he turned on a blender.

“And fouled up my trip to the Cape for the weekend in the process.”

“The Cape? Oh, la di da.”

“Exactly, dahling.”

“Where on the Cape?” Andrew asked. “Chatham.”

“Nice. And you missed your ride, am I right?”

“You’re mighty perceptive for such a young feller, Andrew. And my old bomb just won’t make it.”

“Well, there’s got to be a ton of traffic by now. Who’s up there?”

“Oh, Linda and Chris and some people from the office.”

“And would ‘some people from the office’ include a certain Charlie Stewart? Would it, Carrie. Huh, would it, would it?” Andrew said as he screwed up his face.

“Well, Mr. Adams, I’d have to get up pretty early to put one over you, wouldn’t I?

“Biggest bunch of stiffs I’ve come across in a while,” Andrew snarled. “In my humble opinion, you’re not missing a thing, Carrie. What are you gonna have?”

“I probably shouldn’t have anything, but I’ll start off with a bloody Mary, Andrew.”

Carrie sipped her drink while most of the patrons watched the baseball game on the television. The cool air and the drink made her feel better. She looked at her watch to keep track of the progress of her laundry and checked her change on the bar for quarters.

The game was not of much interest and she wished she had brought a newspaper or a book to kill the time.

What a waste, she thought. She’d been looking forward to getting away for weeks. Andrew was wrong. The people at the Cape were good company, something she needed a tremendous amount of, just now.

And, there would have been Charlie. Charlie of the sandy hair and pleasant voice. Charlie for whom she’d go anywhere and do anything. This even surprised her when she thought about it. They’d met at the White Horse Tavern when Greg Hayes brought him down one evening.

 

 

“How long have you been in television, Charlie?” she asked as sat next to him at dinner.

“Since I got laid-off at The Post,” Charlie said as he took a bite of his hamburger. “And I’m only sticking around until I can get back into print.”

“A print reporter at heart, Carrie. Much higher standards of ethics than those of us in television,” Greg said facetiously.

Charlie walked her home that evening and they strolled through the construction sites along the river.

“All my life I wanted to come to New York,” he told her.

“And all my life I’ve been trying to get out, “Carrie said. “Where are you from originally, Charlie?”

“Gloucester.”

“And you left that for here?”

That night, he walked her home and kissed her goodnight. He took her number, but he hadn’t called. Carrie looked around the bar and remembered where she was. How long you can keep this up, she asked herself as she twirled the stem of the glass in her fingers. How many more hangovers? How many one-nighters?

“Not much interest in the game?” asked someone next to her.

“What?” she asked turning on her stool.

“It seems like you’re not much of a baseball fan.”

He was older than Carrie and she thought she recognized him from the neighborhood. He was balding in front and the T-shirt he wore had seen too many washings. Its printing had advertised something at one time but now was unrecognizable.

“No,” she said doing her best to discourage him. “I’m just killing time while my laundry gets done.” She looked at her watch. “Excuse me,” she said and grabbed her change from the bar. “Schmuck”, she grumbled to herself.

“Leaving, Carrie?” Andrew asked.

“I’ve got to check on my laundry, Andrew. See you in a few.”

The door to her machine was open and the manager was mopping up the floor. She watched for a second until he noticed her.

“Is there a problem?” she asked. “Where are my clothes?”

“Yeah, there’s a problem. How much soap did you put in there? The freaking thing started to leak all over the place!”

“Hey, listen. I put in the correct amount, okay? I’m a real pro at this by now, so don’t get so nasty.”

“Let me tell you something, missy,” he said as he walked towards her. You kids come in here and screw these machines up all the time. These are heavy-duty, commercial units and they just don’t flood for no reason, all right? Your clothes are over there in the bin,” he said and went back to his mopping.

Carrie was secretly delighted by the kid part, but she kept a straight face. She started to put her soapy clothes in another machine.

“Whoa, whoa! See what I mean?” the manager screamed.

“You can’t just toss them in another like that. They’ve got too much water and soap in them. You gotta rinse them off and dry them first.”

“For Chrissakes, mister! What am I supposed to do? Take them home and wash them by hand?” Carrie asked.

“Lady, all I know is you can’t put them in like that or I’ll have two busted machines instead of the one I got right now.”

Carrie picked up the load in one heap and threw them in a dryer. She jammed four quarters in the machine and left.
When she got back to the bar more people had come in.

The only seat available was next to the faded T-shirt. He seemed pleasant enough when she sat down, and after a two more bloody-Marys, she began to enjoy his company.

“…and you went into television right after college?” he asked.

 

 

“No, I taught seventh grade for a while but that didn’t pay the bills. So, a friend arranged an interview and now, eight years later, I’m in production. Pretty funny, huh?”

His name was Jack, she thought and he was in food distribution or something like that. Carrie wasn’t sure because, as the afternoon went on, she found herself talking away like a runaway train. It felt good just to have the company.

“Oh, Jesus!”

“What, Carrie? What?” Jack asked. “The laundry! My clothes! Oh, Jesus!”

Carrie jumped up from the stool too quickly and knocked a glass to the floor. “Andrew. I’m sorry.” She felt the room spin slightly and found it impossible to focus on her watch.

Carrie ran out the door and down to the laundry but stopped short of the entrance when she saw that the lights were out.

“Damn it!” she screamed. “DAMN IT!”

When she turned around, Jack was standing behind her.

“Can’t you pick it up tomorrow?” he asked.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she told him.

“Carrie, come over to my place for a second. Sit down, have a beer or something. I’d like to continue our conversation.”
Jack took her hand and they walked down the avenue towards the river.

“This is it,” Jack announced. Carrie looked up at a door to an old loft building. He held it open for her. As they walked into his apartment, she noticed the neatness immediately. Everything was in order. There was a huge bookcase and the books were arranged by size. There was not a trace of dust anywhere; not a dirty dish in the kitchen sink. In fact, it was too neat, almost obsessive.

“What can I get you? Some wine? A beer?” Jack asked.

“A beer’s fine,” she said.

“Just a beer?” he asked, steering her towards a chair.

“Yes,” Carrie said. “That would be fine.”

 

Music seemed to come from the walls. A Bach concerto she remembered from college filled the room and she closed her eyes. The beer and the apartment were nice and cool. The conversation came easily and she began to reminisce. But, suddenly she grew sad and tears gathered in the corners of her eyes.

“I don’t mean to fuck up so much. It’s like things are out of control sometimes,” she said.

Jack brought her another beer and sat beside her. He put his arms around her and stroked her hair.

“I used to be right on top of things. You can ask anybody,” she told him.

Jack kissed her cheek and moved his hand under her shirt.

“Sometimes I feel like I’ve gotten off a train in a strange town and I don’t know why I’m here or if I know anyone around.”

“That’s okay, Carrie,” Jack whispered. “It’s okay.”

Carrie looked at him. She sipped on her beer and then stared at it. “I really wanted to go away today. I have to get away from this fucking city. It’s driving me crazy. I mean look at me.” She put the beer down and slid it away.

“Sssh, Carrie. Relax,” Jack said. He moved his hand under her bra and massaged her breast.

“Don’t do that, Jack,” she said and pulled at his hand. But he began to fumble with the clasp in front.

“Stop it, Jack!” she yelled as she tried to stand up.

“It’s okay, Carrie. Really, it’s okay,” Jack told her.

“No, it’s not okay,” she said and tried again to stand up.

“I said, RELAX, Carrie and I mean it!”

When she tried to pull away, he grabbed at her shirt and it ripped. Carrie pulled away but he grabbed her around the waist.

“Let go!” she screamed.

“Hey, Carrie, you’re not leaving here until I say so,” he told her. Carrie screamed and brought her knee up into his groin.

 

 

“Bitch,” he yelled and he smacked her across the face.

Carrie fell and Jack tried to pick her up. She swung wildly and scratched at his face. She could hear voices in the hallway.

“Jack?” someone called and knocked on the door. “Jack, is everything all right?”

“Get the fuck away from here,” he bellowed.

“Help me!” Carrie screamed. “Get the police!”

“Hey, Jack,” came the voice again and then a pounding at the door. Jack walked to the door and unlocked it. Carrie could hear him speaking with someone on the other side. She stood up. She ran and pushed passed him. She slipped on the stairs, falling on the marble in the hallway.

“Miss? Hey, miss? Are you all right?” someone yelled after her but Carrie didn’t stop.

Her vision was clouded and her head spun. Carrie ran from the building and didn’t stop until she was out of breath. She leaned against a lightpost and shook her head. She looked around to see where she was. She he heard thunder and looked up to see huge, black clouds roll across the sun.

She tried to read the street sign but her eye was swelling. She looked at her torn shirt. Then she heard Jack yelling and she ran towards Hudson St.

The rain began to fall; drop by enormous drop. The white shirts of passersby became spotted with rain. Mothers with strollers began a trot down the avenue. People looked up and blinked against the rain that fell into their eyes. They carried newspapers and plastic bags over their heads.

Then the skies opened and the rain had its way.

The sound of it was overwhelming. Carrie ran to find cover and stumbled at the sound of a thunderclap.

She headed for the awning of a vegetable store but the space beneath was taken by people, bicycles and strollers. She continued running and tripped over a box, sending herself and a torrent of carrots spilling into small river rushing past the gutter.

Water from a puddle splashed onto her face as people ran past her. Someone stopped and offered her a hand but she shook them off.

 

She sat up and tasted blood in her mouth. Her knees were scraped and her hair hung in tangles in front of her eyes.

Carrie stood up and limped home. The key wouldn’t fit in the lock and she kicked the metal front of her door. She continued kicking until she became exhausted. She leaned against the door and slid to the floor. She held her head in her hands and banged her head against the door.

“What’s wrong with me?” she screamed.

She got up and tried the key again. It turned. She slammed the door behind her and let the cool, cool breeze from the air conditioner wash over her. There was something on the floor and she bent to pick it up.

It was a piece of paper, folded twice.

She glanced down to the signature at the bottom of the page and saw that it was Charlie’s.

 

The End

 

Shelter in Place

I recommend that you get rescued.  That is, when looking for a dog, let them rescue you.  Sure, there are boutique and purebred dogs that need homes, no doubt.  But, no one abandoned them.  Shelter dogs are waiting for days, weeks, or months for the right person to save.  And if you’re in the market, there is plenty of supply for your demand.

We adopted McDermott (McD) from a shelter over two years ago after the loss of my “once in a lifetime dog” Scout.  I have to admit that I was too quick to get a new dog.  It just didn’t feel right being home without the jingling of dog tags, and a 60 lb. hound sitting in my lap.  I scoured the internet trying to fill a void, an ache, a loss that couldn’t be relieved.  But, I pushed forward looking and imagining what this new dog would be like.

He was a terror.  McD was putting on a hard sell when we met him.  Playing with the other dogs, and running over to lick us; how could we not fall in love?  I held back tears when asked if he was the right dog, because I couldn’t get Scout out of my mind.  That should have been a red flag.   I should have put the brakes on right there and then.  But I didn’t.

After bruises, bite marks, chewed up socks, torn pillows, ripped sweatshirts, mangled baseball hats, and half-eaten flip flops – we did fall in love.  McD has now matured enough so that his destruction has waned.  We did try training, but I was untrainable, so that failed.  However, now he has reached a maturity level, where there are less and less “surprises” when we get home.  We made a solid commitment to rescue this dog, and we weathered the storm.

Time and tolerance has made this adoption work.  I  love McD almost as much as I loved Scout. He needed a home, and we gave him one, where he could get into lots of trouble.  We had thoughts along the way of giving him back because of his unruly behavior.  But, it was up to us to teach him how to be a good dog.  Failure was not an option.

So, adopt a shelter dog.  Shelters are busting at the seams with amazing dogs, who just need
your love and patience.  They need you to teach them what it’s like to be in a loving home.  A place where they can get into a little trouble and not be sent away.  You may be pushed to your limit, but just dig deeper finding the strength to look forward to a new day.  I know I did, and it’s paid off.

I love McD to pieces, and he fits comfortably in my lap.

 

 

Like a Fresh Bloom

I wanted the picture to be a promise.

A symbol of love that smells like a fresh bloom.  Time fades in the background.
A place that didn’t really matter anyway.

It sits on my desk and whispers stories I’ve never heard.  Was she ever that young?  Those hands didn’t belong to her, aged, wrinkled and riddled with veins and spots at the end.

The picture ties me to her other life.  A life without me. Eyes that look hopeful but cautious, not fully knowing anything.  Soon to be a bride, then a mother, my grandmother.

Promise me we’ll see each other again.

Promise.

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