Learning Curve

She’d always heard that Catholic girls go wild when they enter college, but she didn’t believe it. That didn’t mean that Jessie wouldn’t wonder what would happen once her classes began. Would she adhere to the morals and values she’d had drilled into her head? Or would she date recklessly, use drugs and drink until sloppy drunk?

On her first day at Chabot College, her local community college, Jessie stepped on campus with her nerves a tingle. Everywhere she looked were couples. Some walked hand-in-hand with serene looks on their faces. Some sat on benches, walls and lawns, often with arms and legs entwined. Still there were others leaning against trees with lips locked and bodies pressed firmly against one another.

Which would she be? A wanton hussy? A tender lover? A lonely spinster?

Jessie didn’t know which description fit her best. All she knew and hoped was that someone, some nice young man would find her interesting. But she set her sights low as she was not pretty, not even comely, but a frumpy, old-lady-like ultra conservative spinster at the ripe old age of eighteen.

As days passed she got to know the names of people in her classes. There were the outspoken types who knew everything and wanted their voices to be the only ones heard. There were the silent, but giggly cheerleader-types with skinny bodies, lanky legs and long hair well past shoulders. There were some like Jessie, not many, with limp hair, blotchy complexions and puffy bodies, and they were the ones who always sat alone. Jessie thought about joining them, but realized that even at her age you were defined by your friends. She knew she was socially awkward, but didn’t want to hang out with her kind. She wanted to establish a new identity: that of a smart, datable woman.

Months passed. Despite using her mother-taught skills to sew more fashionable clothes, nothing changed. Day after day Jessie ate alone, walked alone, spent study hours alone in the library or in some alcove tucked into a recess. The only change that she noticed was what was happening to some of her classmates. Pregnancies blossomed as winter neared. Were those the wanton hussies she’d heard about? Catholic girls gone wild?

Jessie wanted to feel what it was like to be held in a tight embrace, to be kissed tenderly, passionately, until her body responded in the way she’d read about in books. Maybe not to the point of losing her virginity, but it would be nice to come close.

Second semester George Atwood sat next to her in Advanced Calculus. He was a good-looking guy, but not what you’d call handsome. Not built like a football player with broad shoulders, but more like a golfer. He smiled at her and said hi every class period.

One day he slipped her a note, like she saw kids do in high school. When Jessie opened it later, she discovered an interest quiz which George must have copied from a magazine. He had listed a variety of activities and placed a box in front of each. She was supposed to check all those she liked and then return the note during the next class.

This was exciting! A man was interested in her!

Jessie checked off bowling, walking, reading, movies. She didn’t know what spelunking was and didn’t like going underwater, so diving and snorkeling were out. She didn’t want to swim because she was ashamed of her lumpy body. She did mark sports because she enjoyed playing soccer, baseball and had bowled for many years, and she loved watching almost any sport on television.

When George sat down next to her at class, Jessie slid the note to him, then waited to see his reaction. His face remained blank, his focus on the professor.

Jessie’s heart was broken before it ever had the chance to fall in love. She sat with downcast eyes throughout class, struggling to contain tears that filled her eyes. Sadness sat on her shoulders like a huge weight.

But after class, instead of rushing out like he usually did, George lingered. He smiled shyly as he rubbed one toe on the carpet. “Want to go on a date?”

Jessie smiled demurely. “Yes.”

Without saying a word, George placed his hand on her back and led her outside the building. “Are you free Saturday?”

She nodded.

“What would you like to do? See a movie? Go bowling? Go for a ride? We could go to Garin Park and hike.”

“Garin Park would be nice,” she said. “I’ve never been there.”

“Great. Do you want me to pick you up or would you prefer to meet there?”

“I don’t have a car, so how about you pick me up? If you tell me what you like to eat, I’ll pack a picnic lunch.”

They exchanged information, then said goodbye. Jessie smiled all through the rest of the day. She smiled on the way home on the bus. But when she walked through the front door, her mother gave her a funny look and then the cross examination began.

“Why’s that smile on your face? What have you done?” her mother demanded.

“Nothing wrong,” Jessie said. “A nice guy asked me on a date. We’re going to Garin Park.” She wasn’t prepared for the snicker that erupted from her mother’s lips.

“You’ve got to be kidding. Any guy who dates you is only looking for one thing and you’d better not give it to him.”

Jessie’s cheeks burned red. She knew what her mom was implying and there was no way she was doing that. She’d never been kissed, but she wasn’t so naïve as to not understand the implications of going further. “Nothing’s going to happen. We’re going to picnic and hike. That’s it.”

“I’d better meet him first,” her mother said.

“Don’t worry. He’s picking me up.”

The next two days Jessie worried about what to wear, what to fix for lunch, and what would happen when her parents met George. She’d seen movies where the parents were rude, embarrassing both the daughter and the date. She was sure her parents would behave poorly.

When Saturday arrived, Jessie put on her best jeans, and a royal blue Warriors sweatshirt. She brushed her shoulder-length hair a thousand times, positive that when she was finished, that it was smoother and shinier. Jessie fixed ham sandwiches with mayo, tomatoes and pickles, plus a slice of Swiss cheese.  She put two cans of soda in a bag along with two chocolate chip cookies she’d made that morning.

George arrived driving a recently washed gray Hyundai Sonata. When he got out of the car, he smoothed back his hair, tugged the hem of his college sweatshirt and headed to the door. Before he could ring the bell, Jessie opened it with a smile on her face.

She escorted him to the front room where her parent lay in wait. Neither responded to his polite greeting, instead glowered at him as if he was evil incarnate.

“So,” her dad said, “why are you interested in her?”

George stammered a bit before responding, “Jessie’s nice and smart.”

“But she’s ugly,” her dad said as he shrugged his shoulders. “There’s only one thing a guy would want, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll walk out and never come back.”

George grabbed Jessie’s hand tightly in his own. “I don’t think of Jessie that way. She’s a friend, someone I’d like to get to know better.” With that, he led Jessie out of the house and into the car. “Wow, that was intense.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know he’d be like that. Well, I feared he would, but I had hoped not.”

“Listen,” George said as he drove down Mission Boulevard, “if you’re uncomfortable being with me, I can bring you back home.”

“No,” she said as she brushed her hand against his arm. “I want to be with you. Really, I do.” She folded her hands primly in her lap. She stared at her fingers as she said, “I mean, I should tell you that I’ve never dated before. You’re my first.”

All went well. They found an empty picnic table right away. George ate everything, even praising the cookies when Jessie said she’d made them. They talked, shared stories, even discussed Calculus problems, which was a bit weird for Jessie as she’d never talked about schoolwork before.

“Let’s go for a walk,” George said after they’d stowed the bag in the trunk. “There’s a nice trail that encircles the park. If we’re lucky, we’ll see some deer.”

As they walked, they talked about the blue sky dotted with cumulus clouds and the possibility of rain. About the flowers that were still in bloom, typical for California. The dragonflies that zipped about, the giant moths and even a herd of cows grazing near an apple orchard.

When no more people were about, when there were no sounds of laughter, kids playing or conversation, George led Jessie into a copse of trees. He leaned against a trunk as he pulled her to his chest. “I really like you,” he said as he brushed his hand over her hair. “You’re smart and kind and thoughtful.”

“Thanks,” she said as she felt her cheeks turn crimson. “I like you too.”

His breath tickled her neck as he gently kissed her, over and over.

Jessie had never felt loved, not even from her parents who had ridiculed her for her whole life. Called her ugly, dumb, stupid, idiot, and many other terms that she preferred not to think about.  George’s kind words filled her insides, making her feel light as air.

When his lips met hers, she kissed him back. It was wonderful. His lips weren’t squishy, but firm. Not too firm. She responded in kind, not sure if she was doing it right, but when George intensified the pressure of his lips, Jessie began to question the safety of her situation.

She pushed back, trying to put some distance between them, but George resisted, pulling her tighter against him. He ran his right hand up under her shirt, rubbing her back in circles that at first were soft and enticing, but soon became firm and painful.

“Stop,” she said as she took a step backward. “Remove your hand.”

George’s grip around her waist increased until she was smashed against him, barely able to breathe. His hand undid her bra, then moved to her chest.

“No. I don’t want this.”

“Yes, you do,” he said. “You said you’d never dated. You must have dreamt about this. I’m going to be your first. You’ll love it.” He bent over and kissed her breasts. His hands went under the waistband of her jeans, rubbing back and forth, back and forth.

“No!” she yelled as she grabbed his hands and pushed them away. Jessie pulled her sweatshirt down and ran back down the trail toward the parking lot. Tears coursed down her cheeks as she cursed herself for being so stupid as to think he liked her, really liked her for who she was, not what he could take from her.

George followed, whistling a merry tune. No matter how fast Jessie ran, she could hear him. She knew he was there, probably even smirking at her stupidity. Her foolishness.

When Jessie reached the parking lot, she realized her mistake. She had no way home. She had no money, so couldn’t call her parents to come get her. She wouldn’t do that anyway as it would reinforce their belief in how undesirable she was. How they had told her over and over that no many would marry her, that men would only want was her body, not her love.

The walk home was too far. Granted, she was in good enough shape to do it, but the park was at the top of a huge hill, on a street with no sidewalks that, on a Saturday, was filled with fast-moving vehicles. Jessie thought about flagging down a friendly-looking driver, but realized that was as dangerous, if not more so, than riding with George.

“I knew you liked me,” he said as he walked up to the car. He pressed her against the hood, forcing her to bend backwards. He resumed kissing her, fondling her, ignoring her mumbled cries to stop.

“Is there a problem?” a deep voice asked.

“No,” George said as he hastily pulled away.

“Yes,” Jessie cried when she saw the uniform of a park ranger. “Please, help me.”

“Sir, let the lady go.” The ranger glowered at George as he pulled Jessie aside. “Get in your car and drive away.”

“She’s got no way to get home. I’m her ride, so let her go.”

The ranger looked at Jessie. “Do you want to go with him?”

Jessie shook her head no. “But I’ll need help getting home.”

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll take care of that.”

Once George left, the ranger led her to an information booth. He had her sit on a folding metal chair next to his desk. “Now,” he said, “did he hurt you?”

“No. I’m okay. A little shaken up, though.”

“Do you have money for a cab?”

She shook her head.

“Can someone pick you up?”

“No. My parents, but I don’t want them to know about this. Please, don’t call them.”

The ranger nodded as he picked up the phone and made a call. He walked her to the parking lot and stayed with her until the cab came. He handed the driver money, then wished Jessie a good rest of the day.

Jessie dreaded what was waiting for her at home. Her parents would laugh uproariously, making fun of her with an intensity she’d felt over and over as she grew up.

“Well, what happened?” her mom asked when she came through the front door. “Why didn’t that guy bring you home? Who paid for the cab?”

“Nothing happened,” Jessie said as she headed down the hall to her bedroom, her mother trailing behind.

“You’re lying.”

Jessie turned on her mother, her face contorted with anger. “You always think the worst. You never see anything good about me. You don’t trust me to know right from wrong. In fact, I’ve never heard you say you love me.” She closed the door to block out her mother’s shouts.

Jessie knew she’d have to see George again since he was her table partner, so she dreaded returning to class on Monday. But when the professor began his lecture, no George had appeared. She sighed. It was over. No love, no boyfriend, nothing except her parents.

Saddened, but relieved, Jessie wrote down copious notes.

 

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Just Me

If I could choose to be

anything in the world,

I’d prefer to stay me,

an ordinary girl.

 

Nothing too special,

simply plain ol’ me;

terribly typical

without mystery.

 

Lacking true beauty

from the outside,

I’ve talents aplenty

on the inside.

 

Reader, writer, singer,

puzzle-solver, too;

teacher, sister, mother,

friend to folks like you.

 

I’ve never had a dream

of golden luxuries.

I’m happy as I seem

floating on a breeze.

 

I yearn for happy days

filled with simple joys,

living, loving, always

playing with my toys.

 

Call me tteach Terry,

call me your best friend,

call me mistress merry,

forever without end.

 

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It’s all Relative

Winter’s cold seeps into my bones,

leaving me chilled and shivering.

While in my neighbor’s cozy homes

a fire keeps teeth from chattering.

 

I layer my clothes from inside out

in hopes of staying toasty warm,

but find I have to scamper about

always rapped in a blanket worn.

 

Snow never falls here where I live,

so some will find me most silly,

and many will not to me give

sympathy, a silly nilly.

 

I yearn for spring’s fresh welcoming

when early buds spring forth anew,

when sunshine’s rays come announcing

skies radiantly clear and deep blue.

 

Laugh, if you must, at my cold feet

and shriek when I ever complain.

Remember this, in summer’s heat

I’m cool in ‘Frisco’s foggy rain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Into the Medina

Mary had no trouble following the tour guide as the group descended from the coach and wound through the busy city streets of Fes. Even though her hat covered her eyes, just a bit, she could still see the red folder Stan held over his head. She followed his as best as she could from the rear of the group. She was always at the rear!  Last one to get off the bus, last one to cross the street, last one to see anything. It made her sad. She was an old woman; the oldest on the tour, but no one pushed her to the front or helped her when she was confused.

She trudged on, trying to keep her eyes focused on that folder, but there was so much to see! A variety of colorful goods bearing the country’s logo hung in doorway after doorway, beckoning her to enter. She so wanted to stop for just a minute…but Stan kept plowing forward.

Mary stumbled along on the cobblestone sidewalk, occasionally stepping into the street when the way was blocked by a parked car, truck or motorcycle. More motorcycles than anything. They were a nuisance. Not only did you have to step past the angled front wheel, but more treacherous where the kickstands that poked out, creating hazards for seniors like her.

It was hard to keep up. Mary had knee problems that plagued her. In fact, the more she walked on this lengthy tour, the slower she got despite doing her best to hurry. Even when by some strange bit of luck near the front, Mary fell behind until she was at the end of the twisting line of fellow travelers, especially when she stopped despite knowing that she shouldn’t, to peer inside a store.

She breathed a sigh of relief when she caught up with Stan who had halted before a large stone archway. He told everyone to turn on their “whispers”, cleverly designed boxes that allowed the group to hear whatever was being said, even from the back. Mary loved that link. It told her which way to turn, what to see, when to step carefully. But it didn’t make her legs go faster!

“It’s going to be crowded in here,” he said, “so we have to stick together. No stopping to shop. Keep your eyes pointed ahead. The crowds will jostle you. There are pickpockets that prey on tourists, so keep your hands on purses and wallets. Any questions?”

Mary put her purse strap over her head and clutched it firmly to her chest. She never carried all her money with her, leaving a good chunk behind in the safe in her hotel room, but she didn’t want to lose her ID and other important things zipped into pouches and pockets.

It was noisy and seemingly chaotic where they stood. Thousands of people milled about, coming and going and standing still. In groups of two or three or four. Sometimes alone. Children scampered around, taking off across the square before her or dashing up the narrow winding streets visible from where she stood.

Hundreds of voices filled the air. High-pitched women’s voices blended with the bass calls of store workers, all vying for her attention. And hordes of souvenir-totters were descending upon the group. Women in burqas holding out sparkling scarves. Men with browned teeth displaying colorful necklaces and silver bracelets.

Stan warned the group to ignore the beggars, to not look at them or nod or smile. To put all normal courtesies aside, for anything that seem like interest would encourage the beggars to follow, to harass to the point of misery. After one final look at the group, Stan took off into the square, skillfully winding his way this way and that, taking advantage of any opening large enough for the group of forty to pass through.

Mary worked hard to keep up because the hordes intimidated her. Even when she tried to dodge them, she was pushed from left to right, banged into from behind and shoved from the front. Each of the unwanted contacts throwing her a bit of kilter, making it harder for her to keep her eye on that red folder.

Stan led them down a narrow corridor. On each side were carts of limp-looking vegetables. Underneath and from above and from all around was the smell of rot. Maybe it was from the wood or maybe from the produce, but it was nauseating.

In the meat market slabs of raw meat hung from poles overhead or were layered on wooden tables. Flies buzzed landed on the meat. Mary pictured the eggs deposited and felt her stomach constrict. She stumbled over an uneven stone and looked down to right herself. Blood pooled below, so Mary moved aside in order to avoid stepping in it. The worst of all was when she spied a pair of live chickens being held by their necks as they were weighed on a metal scale. The poor things squawked and tried to flap their wings, but the vendor squeezed harder, immobilizing them. Mary knew they were going to be slaughtered. She hoped it was done humanely, but feared, because of what she’d witnessed, that they would not. She shivered with disgust.

Next came textiles. Huge vats of blackish liquid stuck out into the narrow walkway making it even harder to pass through. Mary saw the workers pull out dyed fabrics, twist each section to remove as much dye as they could. It ran down the street, along narrow gutters that overflowed into smelly pools. Mary tried to avoid the pools, but it was hard because she had to focus on the group, which moved on steadily, not seeming to care whether or not she kept up.

Mary found much of this offensive.  Yes, it was their way of life, their culture, the way things had been done perhaps for thousands of years, but it was still disturbing. She felt her nose wrinkle, then thought that this might offend the residents, so willed her face to smile.

When they turned to the right, the goods being sold changed. Colorful, flowing garments which Stan said were called djellabas. Mary stopped to write it down. In just those few seconds, Stan must have moved on, because she no longer saw the red folder.

Looking ahead while standing on her tiptoes, she thought she saw one of the men from her group turn to the right, so she went that way, stepping into a corridor so narrow that she could reach out and touch the walls on both sides at the same time. But she didn’t see Stan’s folder.

What to do? There didn’t seem to be anything of interest here, so she turned around and backtracked to the street of goods. There were vendors displaying kaftans for women. Beautifully decorated gowns with sparkly trim running down the front and on billowing sleeves. What looked like handmade buttons. In each stall, at least one man sat sewing. This intrigued Mary. She had been taught that sewing was women’s work, but here sat virile men, holding tiny needles between thumb and fingers, stitching in and out, in and out.

It was so mesmerizing that she forgot about keeping up. Until she was shoved aside by a burqa-wearing woman holding a tightly wrapped baby to her chest. That’s when reality called Mary back to the here and now. She hustled up the street, searching for a familiar head of hair or sweater or the red folder.

She thought she recognized someone familiar on a street to the left, so she turned that way. Ah, ha! She was right! There stood Stan, a worried look creasing his brow. “Where have you been?” he practically screamed. “I told you to stay with the group. It’s not safe to get separated in here.”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m at the rear and I can’t keep up.” Tears pooled in her eyes.

Stan moved her to the front. “Stay close to me,” he said. “No matter what.”

Mary nodded and fell into place as the group took off. The street became a steep incline. No longer selling clothes, now the venders displayed tourist crap that called her name. Oh, the postcards! The porcelain! The jewelry! The figurines! The scarves and so much more! Mary wished that Stan would stop and let them shop, but he didn’t. He plowed ahead, an unfriendly couple that she didn’t know well pushing her forward.

Stan turned left and right. He climbed higher and then followed a street that dropped at a steep decline. The vendors no longer sold souvenirs, but sweets. Breads covered with flies! Strange-looking flat cookies and pretzel-shaped pastries also covered with flies! Nuts of all kinds. Some glazed with sugar. Some roasted. Some still in shells.

At one place Stan stopped to allow the group to taste the sugar-coated almonds. Mary didn’t like them, but many in her group did. Several bought some to bring home.

Mary would never have bought any of the food she’d seen. For one, there was no one at home for her to give them to. For another, how could she gift someone food that flies had been sitting on right before being scooped up? It just wasn’t right.

They moved on. To the right. Up a series of steps. To the left. Under a wooden archway. Straight ahead where remnants of roofs almost touched in the center. Looking up, there was a confused mass of hastily nailed boards holding everything up. To a Californian like Mary who was sued to earthquakes that took down buildings, it didn’t look safe.

Finally they entered a low doorway. Even five-foot Mary had to bend to enter. Inside were bathrooms that they were told to use and then to sit on benches that lined the outer walls. Hanging everywhere were carpets of intricate designs and beautiful, rich colors. Shortly after the group was settled, the sales pitch began. Carpet after carpet was unrolled on the floor. They were incredibly beautiful. The salesmen promised that they could be washed. That they wouldn’t fade or shrink or bleed, but Mary wondered how that could be possible. Supposedly each was made by a woman working alone for months or years. Each was unique, he said.

It was tiresome sitting there. The pitch didn’t end until someone decided to buy a small runner. That person was taken into a side room. Came out bearing a wrapped package. Two more bought carpets. Then they were allowed to leave.

Back into the winding streets. The crowd had thickened noticeably. Within a few blocks Stan was out of sight. Mary tried spotting the red folder, but not only couldn’t she see it, she couldn’t see a familiar face or jacket. She was alone. In a maze of narrow streets. Being jostled on all sides.

Before they got off the bus, Stan had cautioned the group that it would be easy to get lost. That the streets wound this way and that. That there was no logic that would allow a lost person to find their way out. He had cautioned them with the necessity of staying together. Mary hadn’t believed him. Until she entered the Medina. It was being in a war zone with sights and sounds surrounding her, confusing her.

Mary understood, from Stan’s dire warnings, that she could never find her way out on her own. At first she had tried to memorize what directions they had followed, how many rights and lefts and straight aheads, but in time, there were so many turns, so many streets, that she was totally confused.

She felt she was close to the carpet store. Maybe just a block away. And she believed that they could help her, so she turned around and went back the way she had just come. But at the next intersection, she paused. Had she come from the right? The left? Straight ahead? Mary didn’t know. Tears formed and began to drip down her cheeks. She pulled a tissue out of her coat pocket and wiped them off.

Mary peered down each direction hoping to find something familiar looking. To the right were carpets leaning against a wall. That must be it! So she hurried that way. But no, there was no low door. No step up. Just a stall like the hundreds she’d seen.

Thinking that this must be the right street because so far, all the goods being sold were clustered together, Mary continued that way. There were numerous carpet vendors. But still no doorway. She went on.

Carpets changed to shoes and leather bags. A stench filled the air. She thought it was from the leather being processed but she didn’t stop to ask. Mary knew her group had not passed this way, so she searched for a friendly face. Someone who might help her.

The men scared her even though she couldn’t those feelings. There was something about the determined way the vendors stared at her, as if she were a sandwich to be devoured. The women weren’t an option because they were all in too much of a hurry. She tried stopping one, but the woman shouted at her and slapped Mary’s hand away.

Mary stumbled forward, staring beseechingly at one face after another. She knew time had passed since she got separated from her group, but how much time? She didn’t know. Her one great fear was that she was so incredibly lost in the Medina that she’d never get out. That her group would board the bus and leave without her.

They almost did once. In Madrid they toured an amazingly beautiful monastery. Mary had been intrigued by the tapestries and stained glass windows. The gold figurines behind the altar. She knelt to pray. She closed her eyes and thought of her kids at home, hoping that her grandkids were doing okay. That her cat was well.

When she opened her eyes, her group was gone. Mary hustled down the center aisle and out the huge double doors. Followed the sidewalk to where they had disembarked from the bus. Just as she arrived, the doors closed. Mary screamed and walked as fast as she could. Fortunately someone must have heard her or seen her because the doors opened!

What if the bus had driven off? She didn’t know the name of the hotel. Didn’t speak Spanish. Didn’t know how to hail a taxi. Thank goodness she was saved.

But now she was in Morocco, a totally unfamiliar country, language, culture. She wasn’t in a big city where there might be police officers who could help. Or a store that beckoned lost travelers. Plus she was lost in a maze so confusing, so terrifying that even if she had a phone, she couldn’t tell anyone where she was.

Mary stumbled along, continuing to search for comfort. Tears streamed down her face and her arms and legs felt rubbery. Just as she was about to give up a boy wearing a soccer jersey appeared before her. He had a huge smile on his face. His eyes sparkled. Mary smiled back.

“Do you speak English?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said. “I study English in school.”

Mary sighed. She understood him perfectly! “I am lost. Can you help me?”

The boy nodded. Her took her hand and led her in and out, down and up, left and right. Ahead appeared the huge square and the stone gate! “Thank you,” she said. “You saved me.”

“Let me walk you to where your bus will stop,” he said. “I will wait there with you until your group appears.”

He led Mary to a low wall and indicated that she should sit. It felt good to be in the sun, out of the dark maze. Here the crowds were further away, giving her a chance to breathe, to relax.

The boy stayed with her, as he said he would, until Stan appeared, the blessed red folder over his head. Mary cried out, held her hands in front, beseechingly. “You left me behind,” she cried. “I was scared.”

Stan glowered at her. “Mary, this is not the first time you’ve fallen behind. Why didn’t you stay near me?”

“When you left the carpet store I was the last one out. You left me,” she said. “This nice young man helped me. If not for him, I’d still be inside, lost.”

Stan smiled at the boy. “Thanks for your help,” he said as he handed the boy a coin. “Mary, follow me to the bus. Don’t look inside any stores. Stare at the folder. Only the folder. Understand?”

Mary nodded and did as she was told.

Back in the hotel she reflected on her narrow escape. Who was at fault? Herself? Surely not. She had tried to keep up. She had told Stan at the beginning of the tour that she was slow. It must be his fault, right?

Whoever was to blame, Mary swore to herself that from now on, she’d stay with Stan. The scare of being left behind was too frightening to contemplate.

 

 

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Spring woes

Rain drops pound on the streets

below ny hotel room, reminding

me of how lucky I am to be dry.

Winds buffet the windows:

throwing bits of dirt against the screens.

Gusts exceeding fifty miles an hour

blow vehicles into neighboring lanes.

I sit here thinking of home.

My heart reaches out to my cat,

Home alone in possibly a similar storm.

Does he cry for me as I do for him?

I want to go home.

As I stare out my windows I think

Of how far away I am.

I am sad inside yet enjoying

Being inside and warm.

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Relativity

If I tell you I’m cold

you’ll die laughing,

for the temp is just

above fifty.

The nights drop down

to the high twenties,

and I shiver and shake

like Santa’s belly.

Thermals are my new

day time friends,

trapping body heat and

keeping me warm.

No-burn nights I hate,

for no crackling fire

toasts my toes, or

warms my buns.

Winter comes even here.

California’s sunny skies

are bright blue, crystal clear

beacons, dotted with clouds.

It’s all relative, you see.

While I moan about the cold,

You’re trapped in a deep-freeze,

with slick roads and piles of snow.

If I tell you I’m cold,

You’ll die laughing,

for the temp is just

above fifty.

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The Gift

there are days when I

yearn for silence

no revving of motors or

screeching of tires

no planes lowering their

landing gear

as they begin their descent

 

no loud rap music

vibrating my windows with

its repetitive bass beats

no leaf-blower roar

or vacuum cleaner whine

 

I revel in each precious moment

of stolen time

as if the world stopped its

persistent revolution

simply for my enjoyment

 

when those seconds tick away

and the silence suddenly ends,

I feel as if I witnessed

a miracle

a rebirth

 

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