I was a fat baby. Earliest photos show fat lines around my wrists, knees, elbows, well, just about everywhere.

As I grew older, I did not lose that fat. Instead it grew with me. It’s not that I didn’t exercise. I was an active kid. I played kickball, softball, baseball, whiffle ball, croquet and more. I built snow forts in the winter. I hiked through the woods behind our house. I climbed trees and searched for maple leaves.

Even so, I remained fat.

When I was about ten years old my parents enrolled me in skating lessons at the local rink. This was not due to a request of mine, but rather something they decided I should do.

If they had asked, I would have declined.

I had roller skates at home. I did learn to skate and did so in the garage fairly regularly. I was capable of skating around and around in circles, encompassing the confines of the garage, but I could not do any fancy moves and had no inclination to learn any.

In fact, I was terrified of falling, so never went too fast.

Imagine my terror the first time I put on skates at the roller rink and walked out onto the floor. I was trembling and clearly shaken. I begged, cried, pleaded, to no avail.

So I grabbed the wall and moved. Slowly. Almost like walking. Eventually I worked up to rolling at a very slow speed, still holding tightly to the wall.

After completing the first circle, I got brave and let go. I still was not gliding, but rather stepping, but at least I was moving.

Then the instructor called us to the center of the rink. She demonstrated how to skate by putting one foot in front of the other and sent us off. I tried. I really did, but I was too scared to commit to lifting one foot in the air.

The other kids got it. I thought they were all professionals pretending to be ordinary kids. Most of them zipped around the rink. Most did this crossover maneuver when they hit the turns.

I walked.

Our next task was to learn the hokey pokey. Simple, right? Not if you’re afraid to lift a foot or turn your backside around. Which describes me perfectly.

While the others shook this and that, I stood still. The instructor tried to convince me to do it, but I refused. She cajoled. She demonstrated. She stood next to me and held my hand.

I stood still.

When the song was done, she sent us off to circle the rink again. While I was creeping along, the instructor spoke to my mom. I found out late that the instructor thought I could benefit from private lessons, but there was no money for that. My mom promised to bring me during free skate times so I could practice.

And she kept that promise despite my pleas to give up the idea.

I did not improve. I stayed terrified.

Week after week my mom forced me out onto the rink and watched while I did as little as possible.

Sometime during a lesson someone told my mom that I needed an outfit for an upcoming performance. It was to be a two-piece blue skirt and halter top. My belly would be sticking pout for all too see and the skirt was so short, that if it didn’t have built-in panties, my own would show.

I didn’t want the outfit. I didn’t want to be in the performance, but that didn’t stop my mom.

She took me to the fabric store and bought the pattern and the fabric. She sewed an outfit that would have pleased someone else, but when I put it on, all I felt was horror.

The day came. My mom drove my siblings and I to the rink so my family could see me out on the floor.

As soon as we arrived, she sent me into the restroom to change. I did. But I didn’t come out when I was finished. Instead I stood in front of the mirror, appalled at the fat that was so clearly obvious.

My mom came looking for me. She grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the room, into the spectator area of the rink.

The other kids were dressed and ready to go. Not a one of them looked like me. All had thin arms, thin legs, thin bellies. All looked awesome in their blue outfits. All stared at me as if a hippopotamus was in their midst.

I felt ill. I truly believed that I was going to throw up. I left my mom and walked into the bathroom where I locked myself in a stall.

When I heard the hokey pokey music, I cried. I knew I would get in trouble for wasting precious dollars. I knew that my father would be told. I knew that both parents would lecture and scold. I knew that I would be punished.

But I could not unlock that door. Could not return to the rink.

When it was all over, my mom brought me my clothes. When she said nothing, I knew I was in trouble.

She said nothing all the way home.

She did tell my father. He did punish me. I went to my room and cried.

Later on, I hid my skates in a dark corner of the garage and never used them again.

The sad part is that I never asked for lessons. Had never hinted that I wanted to learn to skate better. I was satisfied going in slow circles around the garage floor.

I felt like a failure. This feeling clung to me for so many years that I never wanted to try something new again.

 

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One Special Day

Sherry watched woefully as her classmate Sabrina handed out bright yellow envelopes to the girls in the class. One by one eyes lit up and smiles creased faces as the envelopes were torn open. Squeals of delight filled the air.

Sherry crossed her fingers behind her back, hoping desperately that this time she would be included. As the pile slowly got smaller, she knew, due to years of experience, that once again she would be left out. It didn’t mean she couldn’t dream, however, that things had changed.

It brought tears to her eyes, watching all those happy faces, yearning to be among them as an equal. But she wasn’t equal Far from it. Her old-fashioned clothes made her stand out amid all the rest. Who wore seersucker skirts and gingham dresses?

No one. That’s who.

And her shoes. They didn’t help either. Her doctor insisted on saddle oxfords to support her weak arches. Sherry hated them.

She wanted Nikes or Keds: black and gray or blue and white, with the distinguishing logo on the side so that she could be like the other kids.

Even her hair distinguished her from the pack. Her classmates all had brown or black or blonde hair. But not her.   Bright red curls surrounded her head, forming a wild halo of color. No one else had red hari except for Billy, a rather odd-looking boy who often trailed after her, calling her names, pushing her from behind and pulling her hair while he cackled like a witch.

He was excluded from the boy groups just as she was from the girls.

Sherry had tried to convince her mom to cut her hair, to keep it close to her had so that she didn’t look like a crazy person, but her mom would have none of it. Her mom’s hair was just as red, just as curly, but she saw it as a source of pride, not embarrassment.

Sherry practically drooled as Sabrina neared her on the playground. Only one card left. Only one invitation to hand out. Only one girl not holding one.

As Sabrina walked up to Sherry, the girl’s face broke into a huge smile. Sherry trembled with excitement. This was it! She was no longer an outcast!

Sabrina’s hand slowly extended toward Sherry. Closer and closer the envelope came.

Was this going to be the time when she got invited?

Granted, when she was little she attended quite a few parties, but that was because of the rule that everyone got invited or no one did.

Those were the good days. Days when she didn’t feel different.

But in elementary school things changed. There were no rules, so kids could pick and choose who to invite. As soon as the teasing began in first grade, no invitations ever came her way.

She was in fourth grade now and should have known better. But she got good grades, never got in trouble, never teased other students, never gossiped. Surely the other kids noticed.

And so she smiled back at Sabrina. As the card got close enough to touch, Sherry extended her hand, ready to receive it with the increasing joy she felt welling inside.

Just as Sherry’s fingers neared the edge of the envelope, Sabrina moved past her. “Mrs. Allen?” Sabrina said. “Would you like to come to my party?”

Sherry turned around and looked at the smile on her teacher’s face.

Once again, she stood out. She was the odd girl. The one no one wanted at their party.

 

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Sleaze Supreme

“Did you hear the rumor about our dear principal?”

“No.”

“Well,” said Tom Smythe, the senior Government teacher at Valley Christian High School, as he leaned back with a rather smug look, “it’s a really great story.”

Debbie Alsop, a first year teacher, asked, “What’s being spread around now?”

“Supposedly he’s been accused of sexual harassment, just like in his last district.”

“What do you mean?”

“Jim cornered a young teacher.  She filed a sexual harassment suite that looks pretty solid.”

“Come on, Tom, you’re always stirring up trouble. Don’t you think the director checked Mr. Perry’s record before hiring him?”

“You are so naïve,” Tom said as he leaned back in his chair.  “Wait until he puts his hands on you.”

“I don’t want to hear anymore,” Debbie said as she grabbed her pile of essays and walked away.  She was so angry rage spilled out of her pores.  Tom and his rumormonger friends ruined more than one teacher’s career, simply because they had the power to do so.  Anyone with a work ethic, anyone who was a good teacher, was a potential target.  Debbie knew she was their next victim thanks to an inside tip from a veteran teacher, and so she kept herself clear of Tom and his pack of liars.

Debbie stomped down the hall past a pair of teenagers locked in a passionate embrace, past a young teen defacing a hallway mural, and past a group of smokers who quickly formed a defensive circle as she breezed past, paying as much attention as a fly with cataracts. While students were expected to leave shortly after the last bell, it wasn’t unusual to find clusters of them openly defying the rules.  The first few days of school Debbie challenged the defiant ones, but when she was not supported by administration, she chose temporary blindness as a reaction. It was easier that way.

After unlocking her classroom door, Debbie plopped her papers on the worktable at the back of her room, turned on her stereo to a soft rock station, and then simply sat. Brushing off her anger, Debbie immersed herself in the essays, reading primarily for content, but hoping for glimmers of brilliance from her otherwise apathetic students.  She did not hear her classroom door open, nor the barely discernible touch of expensive leather soles crossing the carpeted floor.

When strong hands squeezed both shoulders, Debbie screamed.  She grabbed for the hands, trying to pry them off her shoulders, but to no avail. Suddenly warm breath tickled the hairs on the back of her neck, little puffs that sent shivers rolling down her spine. The hands held Debbie firmly in place, stopping her from pulling away or even turning to see the attacker’s face. She squeaked, “Who are you?  What do you want?”

“Relax, Debbie,” said a softly crooning voice.  “It’s me, your old pal.”

The hands released her as quickly as they had pinned her down.  Debbie’s chair spun around almost from its own volition, stopping only when she was inches from the hazel eyes of Jim Perry.  “You frightened me, Jim.  That wasn’t fair.”

“There’s nothing to be frightened of, now, is there?”  He spun Debbie back around, returned his hands to her shoulders and immediately applied a deep massage.  “I came by to see how you were doing.  You didn’t stop by my office today, so I was worried about you.”

She struggled to fight off the lethargy creeping from her shoulders down her back. While the massage felt incredible, something about his nearness repulsed her. Debbie shrugged her shoulders, trying to wrench away from Jim’s grip, but his hands refused to let go. “I have a lot of work to do,” she stammered. “I, uh, didn’t know you wanted to see me.”

“I had been planning to visit your classroom anyway,” he said as his right hand slid down Debbie’s spinal column, caressing each vertebra.  “I’ve heard that the student work you have displayed is phenomenal.”  The hand traced the line of her bra, moving from armpit to armpit, traveling around the front, stopping just as his fingers contacted the swelling of each breast.

Uncomfortable with the uninvited touch, Debbie tried to think of a way to disengage from the situation without angering the man who literally held her fate in his hands. “Tell you what.  Let’s go to your office right now.”  She tried to push out of her chair, but Jim’s hands flew back to her shoulders, holding her firmly in place.  He squeezed so hard that tears filled her eyes.  “You’re hurting me.  Please stop.”

“You’re fine.  So fine.  Just relax.”  Jim resumed his massage while keeping his left hand on Debbie’s shoulder. As his hand “accidentally” brushed her breast, he said, “Let’s stay here where no one will interrupt our conversation.”  His right hand tiptoed across her cheek, her neck, around the outside of her ear, and the outline of her quivering lips. “I locked your door when I came in, so we are quite safe.  Quite alone,” he murmured as his kissed her hair along her neckline.

Tremors shook Debbie’s body and tears slid from her eyes.  Again she reached for Jim’s hands, hoping to stop his increasingly incessant explorations of her upper torso, but he craftily avoided her bumbling attempts. “It’s time for me to go,” she said.  “My ride is waiting.”  Her heart pounded so loudly she thought for sure he could hear it.

“I’ll give you a ride home when we’re finished.”  His handsome face moved near hers again, his blue eyes glittering like ice, his cheeks crimson, and his breath coming in ragged puffs. “You are so beautiful and so smart,” he said as his index finger brushed her lips.  In an exaggerated motion, Jim then touched his own lips, inserted the offending finger in his own mouth, and caressed it with his tongue.

“Stop, please,” Debbie said.  “I really do need to leave.  My car is in the shop and my roommate is coming to pick me up.”

“There’s something on your cheek,” Jim said.  He leaned so close that she could smell his lunchtime latte and burger with fries.  She gasped when his tongue tenderly licked away tears streaming down her cheeks.  “Everything is going to be alright,” he crooned.  “Relax.  Jim Perry is a magician who makes all pain disappear.  Let me work my magic.”

He framed her chin with one large hand, pulled her close with the other, and kissed her, forcing his tongue into her mouth.  Gagging, Debbie pulled away, saying, “I’m, uh, expecting a phone call any moment to tell me my car is ready. I need to pack up my things.”

“You’re lying,” Jim said as he deftly pulled over a nearby chair and sat, knees touching hers, hands resting on her thighs. “I don’t think you’re expecting a call.  In fact, your car is right next to mine. I checked before I walked out here. Why are you playing games with me?”

“I’m not.  Maybe my roommate picked up my car for me.  Let me call her to check.”  Debbie reached for her phone, but his hand shot out and grabbed her by the wrist.  As Jim pulled her back to him, he twisted her hand until there was an audible pop.  “Stop!  You’re hurting me,” she cried.

As he pulled her to him he said, “I don’t like it when people play games with me.”  He leaned forward, staring into Debbie’s eyes, his own eyes hard and frightening.  He forced his tongue into her mouth, holding her head in a pincer-like grasp. Jim’s right hand went under her blouse, rooted around for her breasts, and squeezed so hard she gasped. “You are so beautiful,” he whispered into her left ear, his afternoon whiskers scratching her cheek.

Saying nothing, pretending to relax into the probing kisses, Debbie slid her hands up Jim’s chest and then pushed as hard as she could. Taken by surprise, he lost his hold, and the chair slid a foot away. Seizing the opportunity, she jumped up and ran to the opposite side of the room. “I have a lot to do, Mr. Perry.  I think you should leave now.”

“Since when did I become Mr. Perry? Aren’t we good friends?”  He languorously stood, brushing down the front of his black slacks while staring into her eyes.

“Yes. Of course,” she said as she silently slid closer to the wall phone.

“Haven’t I been a great help to you? Don’t I listen to your concerns?”

“Yes,” Debbie said as he strode toward her. “But I really do have a lot of papers to grade.  I think you should leave.”

“I think you need a break,” Jim said as he quickly cut off her path. He grabbed her arms, forcing her against the classroom wall. “Quit fighting me.  I know you want this,” he said as his breathing quickened.  He pulled Debbie’s arms up over her head, crossed her wrists, and then smashed them against the wall with his left hand.  He placed his right leg between Debbie’s legs, his chest smothering hers. Jim’s fingers found her buttons, and slowly, ever so slowly, he undid each one.  “That’s better,” he said. “Now you’ll be more comfortable.  It’s very warm in here.  Why don’t you turn in a work order to get the air conditioning fixed?”

“Please, Jim, stop.”

“Stop what, darling?” He blew into her ear as he ran his left hand under her bra.  “You’re my special project.  You know that, right?  The moment I met you, I marked you as someone I could work with.”  Jim slathered her neck and face with kisses.

His lips brushed hers once again, light as butterflies bouncing from flower to flower. “Stop,” Debbie mumbled as she tried to escape Jim’s amorous clutches.

Jim slid one hand down her chest, touching the waistband of her slacks.  He forced his fingers under the band, beneath her underwear, pushing deeper and deeper as his breathing came in ragged bursts. Debbie struggled, wriggling her hips in an attempt to get away, but that only seemed to intensify Jim’s probing.  The only thing she could think to pretend to relax into his embrace, then wait for an opportunity for escape.

“You like this, don’t you, Baby?”  He kissed her ears, her neck, and her breasts while his hand moved further down her body.  Jim was so preoccupied that he didn’t hear her cries, didn’t recognize her futile attempts at resistance. Jim slipped his coffee-enhanced tongue deeper into Debbie’s mouth, causing her to gag once again.

Empowered by nausea, she found the strength to push Jim away and ran to the nearest garbage can.  Bile filled her mouth over and over again.

“Hey!  You didn’t tell me you were sick,” he said as a look of horror crossed his face.  “My God, you’ve given me the flu!”  He took a starched white handkerchief from his pants pocket and wiped his lips and tongue.

“It isn’t my fault,” Debbie said as she shakily stood.  “You’re the one who kissed me.  Touched me.  I thought you were my friend.  Instead you’re as sleazy as the rumors say.”  She moved toward the phone, picked up the receiver and held it out like a weapon.  “This is an act of sexual harassment,” she said, surprising even herself with her strength.  “I intend to report your actions to Officer Young.”

Jim’s face reddened as he rearranged his mussed clothing and put his handkerchief away.  “I think you are mistaken, Ms. Alsop,” he said in a voice as sweet as whipped cream.  “I came to your classroom to talk to you about your lack of management skills.  To let you know that a pink slip will arrive before March 15.  Your teaching career is finished, unless you are willing to cooperate with me as your principal and mentor.”  He stared at Debbie, his eyes glittering with anger.

She punched in Young’s numbers.  She listened to four rings, saddened when Voice Mail kicked in.  Staring at Jim, she calmly said, “This is Debbie Alsop.  Please call me at 4366 when you have an opportunity.  I want to report an incident of sexual harassment.”

As she hung up the phone, Jim ran his hands down the sharp creases of his trousers. Staring at Debbie, he said, “If you report what happened here, you won’t be back next year. Maybe even next week.”  With that he slowly turned and headed for the door with a saunter that bespoke confidence in his ability to maneuver his way out of any situation.  “Not only that,” he said with his hand on the doorknob, “you won’t work anywhere in California.  I’ll file my own report which will detail how you tried to seduce me, despite the fact that you are a lesbian.”

Debbie watched dumbfounded as he opened the door and left.  Only when the door clicked shut was she able to move.  She scuttled to her desk, picked up her keys, ran to the door and locked herself in.  She sank to the floor.  Wrapping her arms around her knees, she cried.  She cried for his arrogance, for his betrayal of what she thought was friendship, for his threat to expose her sexuality, for the violation of her body.  Minutes passed.

Eventually Debbie stood, walked the distance to her desk, gathered her students’ papers, stuffed them into her satchel, picked up her lunch bag, and walked out.   She headed to the parking lot, unlocked her car and mechanically threw her bag onto the passenger seat.  She put the key into the ignition and with a feeling of satisfaction as the engine of her deep red Camaro roared to life, put the car into gear, and drove out of the parking lot.

At first she drove without direction, heading first north, then east, then finally turning into a shopping center a few blocks from home.  She pulled into an empty slot, stopped the car, and turned off the engine. Debbie leaned back into the soft leather seat and allowed the torrent of tears to flow. Even though Jim had gone way past sexual harassment, she knew she could not report it.  She could not risk the exposure of her sexuality. To be employed at the school she had lied on the professional integrity contract.  If he followed through with his threats she would also be promptly terminated, as sexual “deviancy” was not tolerated.   Plus there was the fact of the lie.  It proved that she was dishonest.

Wishing now that she had listened to Smythe’s rumors, Debbie revved up her engine and stormed away, heading for the safety of home and the waiting arms of her life-partner.  She knew that Sam would demand that she quit at the end of the school year, if not sooner.  No problem there.  Might as well start looking for another job.

 

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Indian Lake

When we lived in Ohio, summer vacation meant a week at Indian Lake. In the early morning hours, my brother and father snuck out of the cabin, fishing gear in hand. After a stop at the bait shop, they got into a rented boat and took off.

While they were participating in a male-bonding ritual, I stayed behind with my mother and younger sister. Times were different then, so I was allowed to roam the fields around our cabin. I went out early each morning, so as to listen to the songbirds talking about the weather. I picked the tops off thigh-high grass, and with God-like hands, scattered the seeds.

One tree had several low-slung branches that I could easily climb. Granted I only went up a few feet, but I was high enough to feel like a princess in a castle tower. When the winds blew, I imagined a retinue of admirers bowing in unison.

When my dad and brother returned, there was the cleaning of fish and gear. I loved carrying the rods and tackle boxes. Somehow it made me feel part of their exclusive club. Only once did I venture toward the fish-cleaning station. I never returned because the stench was nauseating.

In the afternoons my brother and I played outside. Whiffle ball was a favorite activity, as was badminton.  My dad set up the net behind our cabin, and left it up for the week. We played several games every day, most of which I lost.

After dinner the family got in the rented boat for a ride around the lake. I loved the smell of the fuel, the roar of the motor, and the feeling of flying across the surface of the water. Sometimes we rode past the expensive houses lining the shore, and when we did, I created stories about the families that lived there, always including myself as one of the children.

Other nights we went near to the town. If we were lucky, there was a carnival going on. We never docked the boat and walked among the celebrants, but we did drift with engine silent and listened to the music and the laughter.

On the weekend we drove around the lake and picnicked at the state park on the west side. From our chosen spot we watched boats going by. I loved the water skiers, even though I would never have been brave enough to don a jacket just to be yanked out of the lake.

Those were easy times in which my parents relaxed in each other’s presence. Each day offered some new adventure that became the source of storytelling at the evening meal. Even sitting in the large swing on the porch was a joy. It creaked one note going back and a different one going forward.

Nirvana, it was not. My parents did have occasional spats, and I was terribly jealous of my brother’s one-on-one time with my dad. My sister, seven years younger, did not join in my imaginary games, which didn’t bother me as I preferred a solitary life.

One day my father woke me up early to go with them to the bait shop. He bought me a Nehi orange soda, even though it was morning. Holding my hand, he took me across the road over to the dock. As he primed the motor, I handed the gear to my brother, all the while hoping that my dad would invite me to go along.

It was not to be. He put the motor into gear and off they went. My shoulders slumped and tears welled in my eyes. The further away they went, the more I cried.

When I realized that my dad would not change his mind, I turned around. Without looking, my right foot reached for the step that should have been there. Nothing but air greeted me, and so I toppled, comic-book fashion, into the water.

Down I went, into the shocking coolness. The air was stolen from my lungs, to be replaced by the fishy tasting water. I flailed my arms and kicked my feet to no avail, as I had never been interested in learning to swim.

It seemed as if a large fish pulled me down, down, to what felt like the bottom of the lake. No amount of struggle released its grip.

Just as I thought I was lost forever, I flew from the water. Blessed air greeted me with the song of life. My father’s arms pulled me to his chest, where he held me in a tight embrace.

He drove the boat next to the dock and grabbed it with one hand. “Get out,” he said.

I did.

“Go to the cabin and stay inside. Tell your mother what you did.”

As I took the first step, my father revved the motor. I didn’t need to turn around to know what was happening. My father, my hero, left.

For that one all-too-brief moment I felt a father’s love. How sad to think that an eight year old had never experienced that love before and never felt it after.

Indian Lake remained my favorite vacation spot for many years. Too bad that we moved to California and those wonderful, lazy days ended.

 

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Two souls

We fit together, you and I

Most times we see things, eye to eye.

 

For you, it’s sleeping on the right

Left is my choice always at night.

 

I listen carefully when you speak.

Good understanding, when at your peak

 

Moves us, as team, smoothly along

Seeking middle, where we belong.

 

When I smile, you always do, too.

And if I cry, you soon will coo.

 

For when one is sad, we can’t fly

No matter how hard we might try.

 

We love each other, that is true

For you love me, and I love you.

 

Without you, I just couldn’t live.

So to you, my whole heart I give.

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Fitting In

Jeremiah had always hated the first day of school, but it was particularly worse when it was at a new school. He should be used to it by now. As a child of a military parent he’d never stayed more than two years at any one place.

But what do students wear in Vallejo? At Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, his last home, everyone wore t-shirts with crazy sayings or movie references. Granted, he was in eighth grade then, a time when kids could still be silly, so things might have changed if he’d stayed there for high school. He’ll never know, though.

But he’s got to be prepared. He has to have the right clothes before orientation, which is tomorrow. If he walks on campus wearing out-of-fashion clothes, his entire academic career will be shot.

“Mom? Can you take me shopping?” he asked when he spotted his mom cleaning the bathroom.

She sat up, brushed hair out of her eyes and said, “What do you need?”

“Clothes.”

“You’ve got plenty of clothes. Why do you need more?”

“I don’t know what kids wear here and the only way to find out before the orientation is to go to the mall. Whatever’s in the stores is what kids will be wearing.”

She sighed. “Let me finish here and then I’ll take you.”

Jeremiah went into the kitchen and fixed himself a peanut butter sandwich. He poured himself some water and took an apple from the bowl. He carried it all to the front room where he turned on the television, shuffled through stations, eventually landing on a baseball game.

“Let’s go,” his mom said several minutes later as she picked up her purse and keys. “We’ve got about an hour before I need to begin dinner.”

Within minutes they were at the outlet mall, one of those that sold discounted designer labels. Jeremiah found two awesome shirts and a pair of shoes at the Nike store, two shirts at Under Armour and one at Adidas.

“Thanks, Mom,” he said. “I didn’t want to look like a dork.”

She smiled as she drove toward their military housing. “You’re not a dork.”

“Anyone can be one if they don’t wear the right clothes.”

At home Jeremiah removed the tags from his new clothes and put them in his drawers. Then he got out his bike and rode around his neighborhood looking for kids his age. He was sure there would be some since this was the family housing section. For the longest time he saw no one, but on a third trip around the block he spotted a couple of teenagers standing in front of one of the units.

Jeremiah stopped next to them. “Hi.”

They stared at him like he was crazy.

“I’m new.”

They snickered. “Yeah, we figured that out as soon as we saw the bike.”

Jeremiah looked from side to side and saw no bikes. Okay. So he’s already discovered one rule here: nobody rides bikes. “Do you go to Fairfield High?”

“Yeah.” The blond haired boy said, “I’m Josh. I’m a sophomore.”

The black haired one said he was called Trevor and he was a freshman.

“So am I,” Jeremiah said. “Are you going to orientation tomorrow?”

“Yeah. It’s required,” Trevor said. “Besides, I’m new here, like you.”

“Do you walk to school?” Jeremiah asked.

“Nah. Our moms are friends now, so they’ll take turns driving us.”

Jeremiah wanted to ask for a ride, but that would be dorky. “Well, I’d better go. Maybe I’ll see you.”

When he got home, he told his mom about meeting the boys. She was happy for him. “The best part?” Jeremiah said, “They were both wearing shirts like my new ones. Now I know I won’t stand out.”

The next day Jeremiah was ready early. He was wearing his new shoes and the Adidas shirt. He felt pretty confident that he would fit in.

They arrived about twenty minutes before the orientation began. In the office she filled out some forms and picked up an information packet. Jeremiah was given his class schedule. Using a map they walked around campus, following his schedule, so that he’d know where to go. Jeremiah knew he could have figured this out on his own, so se was glad when his mom left.

He went into the gym where the first session was being held. Trevor waved to him, so he climbed up the bleachers and sat next to him.

“So,” Trevor said, “let’s compare schedules.”

It turned out that they had PE and English together. Considering that there were eight hundred or so freshman, that was pretty good. “Maybe we can study together,” Trevor said. “I struggle in English but I’m awesome in Algebra.”

“Sure,” Jeremiah said. “That will make it a lot more fun.”

“I’ll ask Josh, but maybe you can join our carpool.”

Jeremiah nodded. “That would be great.”

They stayed together for the rest of orientation, even getting into the same small group led by a senior. When there were breaks they talked about their interests. Trevor played baseball while Jeremiah wanted to be on the football team. Jeremiah liked horror movies but read fantasy. Trevor also liked horror movies and played video games.

By the time the morning was over, Jeremiah knew he had a new best friend. He smiled as he climbed in his mom’s car. “Guess what? I’m going to fit in here just fine.”

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I Have Truly Been Blessed

Every day I count my blessings.

When I awake, I am blessed with another day.

When I rest my head on my pillow at night,

I am blessed because I lived through another day.

 

I have a most wonderful husband.

He blesses me in all the wonderful things he does

To fulfill my life.

To keep my strong with his cooking.

To support me in all the endeavors in which I partake.

In being by my side through all these many years.

 

I am blessed to be the mother of three wonderfully

Talented, special grown children

Who live fulfilling lives of their own.

It fills me with tearful joy whenever I hear their voices

Whenever I get to spend time with them

Are some of the best days of my life.

They make me feel intense pride

And joy and love.

And I miss them, even though I am proud that

They are doing fine on their own.

 

I am blessed with family

That comes in many forms.

There are my seven grandchildren who are

Uniquely gifted.

Who are kind and generous and caring.

Who are succeeding in diverse ways.

And whom I love dearly.

There are other family members who

Hold special places in my heart.

They call, ask how things are going,

Share stories, sit and talk, share meals

And many more special ways.

 

I am blessed with friends

Who care about me

Who enjoy being with me

In whom I find support and comfort.

They nurture me artistically,

Share fun times and with whom I have great talks.

Our connections span years,

And even when separated by space and time,

We connect when chance encounters brings us together.

 

In all these ways,

God has been there for me.

He walks with me, helps me, cares for me.

For all this, I can say with all honesty,

That I am truly blessed.

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