Whatever they wanted; I didn’t care one way or the other.
I didn’t care if the handicapped wife fell in the well
or the bad guy said he’d save her and didn’t
Or when later, her so over souped corpse
(this discretely off-camera)
was falling off the bone
And the righteous husband, asked by the honest retriever
if he wanted the head…
Take it or leave it, made no never mind to me.
Then…in the distance…the masked rider
galloping towards us
a savior, female,
the tension palpable as she nears…
(think Meryl Streep I’m told)
Could it be?
The return of the white hair woman!
Note for revision:
Introduce white hair woman before her return.
The righteous husband heads off with his young’ns and
the white hair woman to high prairie climes
dusted with snow and newly minted men.
Everything there is for the taking.
Everyone’s a pioneer.
And no one ever goes to the movies.
by Mark Stein
Mark Stein’s poetry and creative non-fiction has appeared in Exposition Review, Eclectica, Nimrod, Michigan Quarterly Review, Madison Review and Moment. His plays have been produced at Manhattan Theatre Club, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Actors Theater of Louisville, South Coast Repertory, Manitoba Theatre Centre, LA’s Fountain Theater, and most recently an award-winning production at Chicago’s Raven Theater of Direct from Death Row the Scottsboro Boys. He wrote the screenplay for the Steve Martin/Goldie Hawn film, Housesitter, and the New York Times Best Seller, How the States Got Their Shapes, which became the basis for a History Channel series by the same name. His other non-fiction books include American Panic: A History of Who Scares Us and Why; Vice Capades: Sex, Drugs, and Bowling from the Pilgrims to the Present.
I note the time on my phone as I ring the bell. It’s 2:12 p.m. As I put my phone back into my purse, the door opens, and I force myself to smile. I enter the old house and the familiar warm, stale air envelops me.
I am pulled into an awkward embrace. The stink of cigarettes and unwashed hair assaults my senses and I squeeze my eyes shut while suppressing the physical urge to gag.
We pass through the room with the thousand books. Now we are in the kitchen. Now I am sitting at the round wooden table, sipping shitty, cheap coffee from a dirty cup.
I’m pretending to listen, but the complaints and stories have been soliloquized verbatim for years. I am sitting back from the table
(crumbs everywhere, smudges of jam and butter)
holding the mug handle with my right hand while my left awkwardly holds the side, as if I’m posing for a commercial.
I’m disgusted and for just a moment the disgust softens into concern, almost caring, but the moment passes, it won’t stick. I know from a thousand attempts that it will not stick.
My mind starts going back, and I know I need to get out of here.
(Please stop telling me about your uncomfortable bra. Please stop telling me about your friend from 75 years ago.)
“Here, here, take this.”
I take the folded white envelope from the wrinkled, mottled hand and shove it into my purse.
A hundred dollars cash, in twenties. From a lonely, fragile old woman who doesn’t realize she’s paying penance for an absolution she will never receive.
I hope it was worth it.
I know it wasn’t.
But I’m not giving it back.
I glance at the dash of my car as I back out of the driveway. It’s 2:33 p.m.
by Anne Alexander
Anne Alexander is a native Houstonian. She is a writer, wife, mother, autism advocate, and rescuer of animals, not always in that order. In a former life, she was a travel writer, correspondent and managing editor of a small town newspaper. She holds a BA in Psychology from Texas A&M University and is currently working on a collection of essays about families, mental illness and other delights.
When you left last night, pieces of sorrow drifted in your wake like lazy snowflakes. Some the wind caught and blew away. Some stuck to my sleeve. They remind me that what I need to say to you I need to tell myself.
Whose voice is it inside you pretending to be your own and telling you that who you are and how you are and where you are and what you are doing right now is not good enough?
That voice needs to be still.
Listen to your own heart. Do you hear passion and compassion, sorrow and joy, generosity and need, vulnerability and strength? These make you human – complex, contradictory, beautiful.
Why are we told we should want more or should be more? What more can there be than sharing our humanity with others? That alone may be the affirmation of our worth.
Some will not understand. Some will not care. Some will resent and malign. Some will say you have erred. That is their impoverishment, not yours.
Still, it will hurt. That will pass if you let it…if you don’t have someone else’s voice inside you ripping off the scab.
As for those who claim they speak only truth, you can measure the value of their words by the love you hear in their voices or see in their eyes. If the love is not there, it’s just noise.
Stand in the river. Embrace the good. Let the rest flow by you.
by Phil Gallos
Phil Gallos has been a newspaper reporter and columnist, a researcher/writer in the historic preservation field, and has spent 28 years working in academic libraries (which is more interesting than it sounds). Most recently, his writing has been published in Thrice Fiction, Sky Island Journal, The MacGuffin, and Stonecrop Magazine, among others, and is forthcoming in The Wire’s Dream and Carbon Culture Review. He lives and writes in Saranac Lake, NY.