Everybody called her Grandma Scott, but Eliza Scott (nee Lingstad) was nobody’s grandmother. The Scotts didn’t have children. Eliza was the eldest of three sisters, and she treated her younger siblings’ offspring with grandmotherly affection. My mother fondly recalled spending several weeks each year at the Scott farm helping to tend and feed the animals and taking baskets of food and water to the fields for the threshing crews at harvest time. She and her older sister Nora helped Grandma Scott make the sandwiches for the noon meal for the workers. And every morning she and Nora were dispatched to the barn to search for eggs deposited in secret places by the Scott’s brood of laying hens. My mother said there was nothing like having fresh eggs for breakfast. Eliza’s sugar cookies, as big as dinner plates, were a special treat as well.
When the weather was nice, sometimes the boys in the art department would eat their lunches on the roof of the building. It was pleasant to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine after being cooped up in the cubicles all morning. For a time, the roof was the place to be from twelve o’clock until one, especially after Shuffle discovered the hole in the skylight over the fourth-floor women’s powder room. Shuffle was a big, happy-go-lucky Jewish kid from New York. He never ran when he could walk and seldom walked when he could sit still. When he did move, it was very slowly.
My barber, Frank, is the world’s most talkative human being. He is a tall, skinny man with straight blonde hair, big ears, almost no chin, and the bluest eyes you’ll ever see.
Frank is smart, forthright with opinions on an endless variety of subjects, and unburdened by the handicap of a formal education. When you sit down in a chair in his shop, you never know what else you are going to get in addition to a haircut. Last week it was a lecture on Intelligent Design.
“I get a kick out of these religious folks,” Frank offered after he had draped me with an apron and wet and combed my hair. “Trying to sneak God into the schools by the back door.”
Stew and Gus were discussing the forces of good and evil. The two men had been friends for years. They lived many miles apart, but they corresponded almost daily by e-mail.
Stew believed in heaven and hell, and Gus professed not to believe in anything. Gus would be the first to admit, however, that he was familiar with the dark side.
“I believe in gods, devils, demons–the whole shebang,” Stew wrote. “It’s the only thing that explains suffering. Good and Evil exist side by side, and you can’t blame Evil on God. Or use it as evidence that there is no God. He does what he can.”
Stewart couldn’t decide how he felt about the war in Iraq. He went back and forth. One day he was for it, the next day against. Meanwhile he monitored the news from the Middle East with a growing impatience. Was war a fait accompli, or was the buildup merely a bluff?
Stewart did not like to wait, and he did not like uncertainty. What bothered him most about the affair in the Middle East was that he couldn’t make up his mind about the proper course of action. He liked being right, and he could live with being wrong, but not knowing what to do or think was driving him crazy.
His friends were no help. Monday Stew had sent an e-mail to several dozen of his friends and relatives asking for their views. Wednesday morning he was more uncertain and confused than ever.
Overstating the field filed under country without once-more temptings scratching out-of-line and inside the lecherous grime of mirrored windows white light glare so some passing passionate insects stare to wonder if the first crime was not the end of another beginning the night-corner lit with singular flare and the reflection in a pool of something caking on the blacktop.
Again through the evening frigid burls of treesap slowing the lapsing history sound surpassed by another succession hungry for chlorine or maybe salt but diluted so the darkness doesn’t hide anymore of those anothers: brain light (matter) wonder whether the rain came while we slept through Jazz Age vagaries sipping and bloating and wheezing and chewing.
Getting old is no fun. The worst thing about it is that you hurt all the time. I’ve got a bum knee and a bad hip. Old war wounds. I don’t know what I would do without Advil. My cousin, who is younger than I am, says old age is not for sissies, and I agree.
When you get to be sixty, your friends start dropping like flies. I lost another one last year. An old college buddy died of cancer. It was his second go-round on the cancer front. He had colon cancer, but he survived that. A few years later, the disease showed up in his liver, and that got him. A few years ago another friend discovered that he had a tumor the size of a golf ball in one of his lungs. They took that out, and he’s still alive and kicking. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. You’re always looking over your shoulder when you’re old enough to keep an AARP card in your wallet.
a collection of micro-fiction by Liesl Jobson
([email]jobson [at] freemail [dot] absa [dot] co [dot] za[/email])
At 19, the gold band on my child-thin hand was a ligature binding an artery of joy.
A gangrenous bomb ticked under my skin as the sharp metal chafed my swelling flesh.
Before the surgeon (sterilized in righteousness) removed my finger I visited the jeweler — and smiled as he cut off instead my wedding ring.
[b]After a Fight[/b]
Defeated, I speed read books, thrash through webzines, hum mournfully and dive into debt.
When I’m spent and broke, my conqueror says, “Write”. The echo returns unbidden and involuntary, “Right!”
It came abruptly, reason couldn’t be accomplished because everything happened faster than winter. The slowness of summer forgot to assist; years turned into hours, the leaves never changed or fell.
I sit now feeling their brains for food, filled with awe and wonder, and if I’ll ever get a chance to meet them. The end is probably the end, though, so hope seems lost. The wires and skylines linger like sandstone, ebbing slightly but sinking like quicksand, leaving out the unnecessary consumptions.
Life is like that. Somewhere in Europe things seem better because life is taken for what it’s worth. Tragedy is possible so open-mindedness works better than orange juice from Florida or Brazil or a freezer pop from Michigan.
The thing about childhood and adolescence is that one is an entrance into a dark cave while another is the realization that you’ve conquered the cave after boring its creation, each metaphor respectively. As a child, you don’t wake up in the morning with the intention of going to school, of embarking on a cruel and cold life’s journey heavy on the trail of your aspirations, with the courage and ambition to conquer your fears. You wake up to have breakfast or put on clothing. As an adolescent, you wake for breakfast or to get dressed so you can entertain your substantial notions of self-importance and young idealism to which you’re naive, more or less.
I had a doctor’s appointment the day the passenger jet lost its tail and made an unscheduled stop in Queens. My wife called from work to tell me about it. Sick to my stomach, I searched the online news websites for details. Nobody had much information.
I went outside and smoked a cigarette. The sky above the hills to the east was a wash of pink and gold. To the west, behind the house, rain clouds the colors of ashes were bunched like fists.
Later it began to rain. The water pounded on the roof, sending the cats flying for the bedroom, where they huddled cheek to jowl beneath the bed.
a short story by Joan Horrigan
([email]joanhorrigan [at] msn [dot] com[/email])
“Describe the music, Claire” Todd requested simply, as if that were simple to do.
We had just finished dinner at my place and were relaxing in easy chairs in the study, me in my old jeans and faded shirt and Todd neatly dressed in casual attire, when I told him about the new CD I had made for him. Todd was interested in hearing which piece on it I liked best, preferring to focus on a specific song and relish its details, ignoring that I had recorded many songs for him and the fact that I had learned to use my new CD burner.
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