Fearful Memories

She came to her mother in the night

smelling of sweat, fear and sour breath

with hair tangled into miserable knots

crying about the monsters plaguing her dreams

which resembled all too closely

the boys who teased her mercilessly at school

even though Mom had complained to the teacher,

begging her to stop the torture.

The girl snuggled next to her mother’s side

head resting on the chest

arms tightly gripping her mother’s waist

and cried until all tears were gone.

her mom thought about sending her daughter

back to her own bed

back to the darkness where nightmares ran free,

but instead cradled her daughter and tried

to erase the painful memories.



After her husband’s death, when she lost her condo because she couldn’t keep up with the mortgage payments, Alice thought things couldn’t get any worse. With tears in her eyes, she sold everything and anything that people would buy. The rest of the stuff she gave away to charity organizations or paid to have it removed to the dump.

All she had left was three suitcases of clothes, which Alice stuffed in her car. She moved in with a friend who was going to rent her a room for a tidy sum of $1000 a month. This gave Alice the rights to a shelf in the refrigerator and two shelves in the kitchen cabinets, but no laundry privileges despite a functioning laundry room.

For that amount of money some people could rent an entire house, but in San Francisco it was a bargain, for which Alice was grateful. At least she had a place to sleep in a safe neighborhood.

But when her friend had a heart attack and died, the house was sold, leaving Alice without a place to live. Her pastor suggested the homeless shelter a few blocks away, so Alice applied and was accepted, but only for three months. She would be connected to social services organizations who would help her find a job and a permanent place to stay.

Alice snickered at that idea. She’d turned seventy last month.  No one would hire a woman her age with a lack of computer skills. But Alice went on every job interview that she was sent on, eventually getting hired to clean offices after hours. It paid minimum wage. Enough to buy food, but not enough to pay rent.

When her three months were up in the shelter, Alice had nowhere to go. She packed her stuff up in the car once again and drove to the beach where she parked along a sidewalk, under a shady tree. During the day, the car was cool. At night, the tree provided a bit of shelter from the dripping fog.

Alice slept in her car every night for two weeks. She knew she was dirty despite her best efforts to keep clean. There was a McDonald’s a block away with a bathroom she could use. The sinks were tiny, but with effort she’d stick in one foot at a time and wash the rest of her with paper towels. Even with her daily sponge baths, a layer of grime slowly formed.

And her clothes! The hand soap was too watered down to remove stains and body odor. To remove excess water she had to wring them out, and since there was no place to hang them to dry, they ended up wrinkly and old.

Her hair never got truly clean. She did the best she could to stick her head under the spigot and scoop water on the top of her head, but it wasn’t good enough. Her normally white hair slowly turned a shiny gray and stuck to her head like a helmet.

Because she wasn’t clean enough to be a cleaning lady, she lost her job. How ironic, Alice thought. Who’d ever think that one had to be a model of cleanliness to scrub filthy sinks and toilets!

Alice returned to the shelter, hoping they would allow her to move back in, but they refused. The director told her it was a one shot deal. Others needed a chance. Alice had had hers. She was referred to another shelter ten blocks away, but when she got there, there were no open spaces, so back to her car she went.

One day while she was out looking for work, her car was towed away. Now Alice had nothing but the clothes on her back, whatever was in her purse and a small pension that was on direct deposit.

After withdrawing a bit of money, Alice went to a nearby thrift store and bought clothes. The clerk stuffed them in paper bags which Alice had to pay for because nothing is free in San Francisco. She left with her arms full and stumbled to the serenity of the beach.

She piled her stuff up on a picnic table and considered her options. Alice had none. She had no family that would take her in. She had no job. No place to live. All that was left was a bit of hope that a stranger would come along who felt sorry for an old woman and would offer her a place to stay, but even though she sat there into the night, no such luck.

She wished for a cold bottle of water and a warm meal, which ironically she had enough money to pay for, but McDonald’s would not let her in with her bags of clothes. She would have to leave them outside and hope that no one would steal them. Alice knew that, with the way her luck was going, that nothing would be left if she stepped inside. So she walked back to the beach, hungry and thirsty.

Alice wandered up and down, paralleling the shore, admiring the crashing waves, just to have something to do. Ahead she saw an outcropping of rocks that ran perpendicular to the shore, massive boulders with a base that sported an array of colors. As Alice neared, she discovered that tarps and tents provided the color, and that a village of people made the spot their home.

Alice approached a man who was tending a fire. “Hello,” she said. “What is this place?”

“This is our home,” the man said. “We consider ourselves family.”

Alice’s eyes teared up. She missed her husband so much. Since she had no family of her own, the idea of belonging to this family appealed to her. “What do I have to do to join?” she asked.

The man’s eyes scanned her from head to toe. “Do you use drugs or drink?”

Alice shook her head.

“Are you a prostitute?”

“Of course not,” she huffed.

“Will you contribute to the food pot? Can you buy materials to build a shelter?”

“Yes, yes,” she said. “I can do both.”

“Then welcome,” he said. “My name is George. My tent is the gray one. Put your bags inside. Later on I’ll introduce you to the others and find you a place to sleep for the night.”

Alice placed her bags just inside the door of the tent. She took a quick look around and was surprised to see how neat and clean everything was. In her mind, homeless people were filthy, stinking individuals, with mental issues or addicted to drugs. But here was a camp for people like her. People who couldn’t pay the high rents and had nowhere else to go.

When Alice returned, George offered her a chair and a cup of coffee. He gave her a piece of bread with peanut butter. “Thanks,” she said. “I’m starving. I had run out of options, you know, and was pretty desperate.”

“That’s why we’re all here,” he said. “We’re a bunch of old farts with no place to go. No family to turn to. No friends who’ll take us in.”

Alice watched the waves crashing on the shore. “Is it safe here for an old lady like me?”

George smiled. “We’ll take care of you. Make sure no harm comes your way. That’s what I meant about us being family. It’s like it was our destiny to come together.”

Alice smiled. George seemed like a really nice man. She was sure he’d take care of her. “I’d like to live here,” she said, “if you’ll let me.”

“Sure. No problem. First thing we’ll need to do is build you a shelter of your own. After breakfast we’ll go to the hardware store and buy the things you’ll need. The most expensive will be a sleeping bag. It gets cold out here at night, so you need a good one. Sound okay?”

“It sounds lovely,” Alice said. Then she remembered what George had said about it being destiny that brings these folks together, and she understood what he meant. She already felt like she belonged.



When Thomas first heard the story of King Midas and his magical touch, he was living in a homeless shelter for women and children. His mom, a sweet and loving person, worked two jobs, but didn’t make enough money to rent an apartment. His older sister worked part-time as a clerk in one of those stores that sold everything for a dollar or less, but even with her help, they were hurting.

The shelter wasn’t so bad because Thomas had his own bed and meals were served twice a day during the week and three times on weekends. Plus there were other kids to play with and a tutor to help with schoolwork.

While Thomas was grateful for what he did have, he yearned for more. Like Midas he wished that he could walk around touching things and have them turned into gold. Think of the joy he could bring to him mom’s face! Think of how happy she would be! And Thomas would be so proud, since, for the first time, he was able to help his family.

But that was make-believe and wishful thinking. The stuff of little kids, not middle school boys like him. He had stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy and Santa and the Easter Bunny when he was four when he realized that none of those creatures ever visited him.

At first he thought it was because they couldn’t find him. After all, he had no home. Sometimes he slept on the floor in apartments of people he didn’t know. Sometimes he slept on the street, or tried to anyway. Until the shelter had room for his family, he had never known what it was like to sleep in the same bed every night.

And to go to school every day wearing clean clothes.

One day, in Science class, the teacher gave each student a cup and had them put dirt in the bottom. Then she gave them each two seeds and told them to push the seeds into the dirt. Next was a dribble of water and then the cups were put on the windowsill.

Thomas took good care of his plants. Every day he tested the dirt, and if it was dry, added water. He rotated the cup, making sure that sun touched all sides of the budding plants. And the plants grew taller and taller every day. In fact, Thomas’s plants did better than those of all the other students.

His teacher told him he had a green thumb, a talent for growing things, and that reminded Thomas of Midas.

What is he could grow the food his family needed? So he asked his teacher for more cups and more dirt and more seeds. The new ones flourished under his care and soon were taller than those his classmates planted weeks before.

The time came to take their plants home. Thomas carried two cups home one day, two the next, and two more the day after that. He found a sunny spot in their room in the shelter and put all the cups there, lined up, like soldiers. And like Midas, he touched them every day, constantly checking on them.

The time came when the plants were too large for the cups. Thomas showed them to the shelter’s director. Mrs. Malloy smiled and said, “Follow me.”

She took Thomas out back to what used to be a garden. “You can clean this up and plant here.” She touched him lightly on the shoulder, turning him to see a shed. “You’ll find all the tools you need in there.”

Thomas went to work immediately. First he chopped down the four-foot tall weeds, and then dug up their roots. He added enough water to soften the dirt, then turned it over and over and over until only rich brown soil showed.

Mrs. Malloy supervised his work, checking on him at least once a day. “You’re such a hard worker,” she said. “This garden hasn’t grown anything edible in years. The soil is well-used, but not in a good way. Guess what? I’m going to buy you some fertilizer.”

When Thomas came home from school the next day, four large bags of fertilizer sat next to the garden. Thomas opened the first bag, scattered the mix over the dirt, and then using the shovel, turned the dirt over and over. He opened the second bag and repeated the process. And then the last two.

By the time he was finished, the dirt was a coco brown and silky to the touch. Thomas smiled.

When the weekend arrived, Thomas dug enough little holes for each of his plants. Then he carried his little cups outside, two by two, and turned them upside down, settling each plant in its own hole. Lastly he sprinkled water over the plants until the soil was damp.

Every day, as soon as he came home from school, Thomas went out back to check the progress of his garden. Every day the plants were taller. So, tall, in fact, that they became top heavy and were falling over. So he went to Mrs. Malloy and asked for her advice.

“You need some baskets for the tomatoes and a trellis for the peas. The squash will grow wherever it pleases, but at least we can help the others. I’ll go to the store tomorrow and get what you need.”

“Thanks,” Thomas said.

“You’ve got a green thumb,” she said. “Everything you touch seems to grow. You should be proud.”

“Can I support my family with a green thumb?”

Mrs. Malloy looked down at him and smiled. “Not right now because your crop won’t be big enough to sell, but when you’re older, you can work at a farm and grow things that will feed hundreds.”

The next day Mrs. Malloy helped Thomas loop the tomatoes through the baskets and wind the peas through the trellis. “You’ll need to check every day to see if the plants need adjusting. As they grow, the tomatoes will be heavy and will pull the plant down unless you make sure the baskets provide enough support.”

Thomas nodded. He understood exactly what she meant, and so every day, as soon as he came home from school, he inspected his garden. He pulled out weeds, wound stray tendrils around the trellis, and pulled longer branches through the baskets.

His plants flourished. One day he was able to pick two tomatoes which he proudly showed his mom. “Oh, Thomas,” she said as she wrapped her arms around him. “I’m so proud of you! We’ll share them tonight at dinner.”

The next day Thomas picked four tomatoes and the day after that, six. Every day he provided food for the table. Soon the other residents started praising him and thanking him. And when the peas and squash ripened, there was even more to share.

Before dinner one night, Mrs. Malloy asked Thomas to come to the front of the room. “Thomas, we are all blessed because of you. You have given us many gifts and brought joy to our lives. Your green thumb has provided us with fresh vegetables for many nights. We are all proud of you.”

Everyone applauded, making Thomas blush. As he sat down, he smiled. While the things he touched didn’t turn into gold, they did grow into something better than gold. Nourishment. Joy. Happiness.

Thomas was just like King Midas. He has a magic touch.


A Dream of Peace

I dreamt that I traversed the sands of time

to a place mysterious and sublime.

Where gigantic trees with branches stout,

safely nestled all feathered friends about,


providing shelter from many foe,

yet allowing freedom to come and go.

Silky soft leaves whose gentle caress

becalms restless souls, soothes with fine finesse


young and old alike; no bias here

where all live in peace for many a year.

Through the sands a winding river ran

giving sustenance to both beast and man.


Surprisingly blue with not a trace

of sinister longings upon its face.

It speaks of a sweet love; it calls to me,

“Step right in,” it says, “ and I’ll set you free


from all that ails; as well sin and pain.

You have nothing to lose, but much to gain.”

With tremulous step I slowly crept

into her warm, comforting arms.  I slept.


Or thought I did, for there soon appeared

hosts of angels. I panicked, afeared

of my demise. But to my surprise

they lifted me on high with joyous cries.


The night did end. My dream soon left.

The suffering world found me quite bereft

and yearning for that heavenly place

whose welcoming arms did me quick embrace.


One thing alone I brought home with me:

knowledge that all men could soar high and free

seeking truth, wisdom, righteousness, and grace.

making earth a truly heavenly place.