Private Concert

Ella and Sarah stood outside my door. Ella grinned mischeviously and announced, Private Concert. They came through the screen. Sarah sat in my rocking chair while Ella stood in front of the fireplace.

Ella snapped her fingers, setting the beat, and a band appeared behind her. She sang Cow Cow Boogie and Angel Eyes. Wow, two favorites of mine, I thought.

Ella took a bow and Sarah gave the rocker to her, moving to the fireplace-stage. At the first snap of Sarah’s fingers, her band appeared. She started with Misty and moved on to Bring in the Clowns. Another wow, I have such specific and precious memories of times when I heard Sarah sing those songs.

I didn’t care how or why this was happening, I just prayed . . .

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Calculator

I pulled out my calculator and punched in numbers. No matter how I tried to make it work, there was no way this job offer would earn me enough money to pay my rent and my car payment.

I didn’t know what to do. I’d been looking for a job for too long. I needed a paycheck, any paycheck. If I took a job that didn’t pay enough, would I be ruining my chances at a better job that would let me keep up with basic needs?

My apartment was one of the cheaper in town. My kid needed to eat. Gas prices were driving me nuts. I threw the calculator in a fit of anger. “Why don’t jobs pay enough for people to live on,” I fumed . . .

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Getting Somewhere

For many years my daily rhythm of life involved getting somewhere and accomplishing something. A month ago I crashed my car into the curb on a dark corner, flipped the car three times, and ended up in this bed. I’ve spent the entire month feeling pretty sorry for myself and complaining a lot. The nurses probably talk about what a pain in the ass I am.

Then yesterday it occurred to me that maybe this whole holding still and lying down while my body heals thing is actually a blessing in disguise. I mean . . .

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Retreat

Hikers in the woods
There were five people scattered in small cabins around the main house. The place was billed as a retreat, where writers could hike in the woods and clear their minds of all the debris of civilization while preparing their next great American novel.

Truth in advertising went out the window the first day, when the police were there all day questioning everyone because one of the cooks was stabbed eleven times with a big knife that police thought might be a kitchen butcher knife. Especially one extremely irritating detective named . . .

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Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting is what I hate
Yet it’s often my fate
To spend the day
In a broken way

To tinker and sputter
But never discover
How to fix fast
What seems to last and last

I don’t need the aid
Of a merry maid
I need a report
From tech support.

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Favorite childhood food

Crisp potato chips layered over a huge slather of sandwich spread. (Sandwich spread: really just mayo with chopped pickles in it.) All on white Rainbo bread.

Cold leftover scalloped potatoes and cold salmon patties for breakfast. Not the kind of scalloped potatoes you get in a box now-a-days. Real scalloped potatoes. And the salmon patties were probably fried in something ghastly like bacon grease.

Navy beans ‘n ham (greasy ham floating in a navy bean soup) on corn bread.

Ignorance was bliss.

Ball

“Just take this ball to a full service gas station and have it inflated,” the physical therapist said. He handed me a flattened hunk of rubber that he means to have me use as a computer chair. What century is this guy living in, I wonder. A full service gas station? I’ll bet he thinks bicycle pumps still come with one of those little needle gizmos on the end that was used to insert air in a football or basketball. Part of his idea is great: I do need to change my posture at the computer. Part of his idea is pure crap: full service gas is as dead as dial phones.

That’s the way thinking is. Parts of it are revised periodically and reflect the current state of events. Parts of it are stuck in some legacy mode that hasn’t changed since before the Beatles came over from Europe, or maybe since one cave man viewed another cave man he didn’t know as a source of danger. This mish-mash of ideas accounts for . . .

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Macrame

Elizabeth wore a long, flowing, patterned skirt. Unlike most women her age, her hair was long, its heavy gray bulk tied back in a low-riding pony tail. She looked like the kind of woman who made macrame wall hangings while eating granola and smoking pot in her hippie-style youth. Her skin was permanently crinkled into smile lines around her eyes, which shone with a vibrant, alert, brown light. Her movements were unhurried and graceful. The air around her body for a radius of several feet felt quiet and kind.

She was to be my therapist. I came here determined to say nothing, but when I saw Elizabeth I felt chattier than one of those lonely old ladies you see in the grocery store trying to hold a conversation with the checker. . . .

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Peacock

After the echo of the gunshot died away, the only sound was the squawk of the peacocks penned in the neighbor’s huge back lot. I dropped the gun, then picked it up again. I thought vaguely of fingerprints and not leaving the gun here. I should leave, but my feet were planted on the ground like tons of immoveable stone. I couldn’t move my eyes from the small round hole in my father’s forehead. The fact that he had stopped moving, stopped breathing, felt like the most fascinating bit of information I’d had since the age of seven when he started visiting me at night.

A sudden flood of relief ran through me, made me weak and I dropped to the grass gasping and crying . . .

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