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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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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Have you heard the new solo album from the lead vocalist of Pink Floyd? It sounds exactly like Pink Floyd. His voice is the sound of Pink Floyd. (Well, you might factor in a bit of psychedelia going on in the background.) Just like Natalie Merchant’s voice is the sound of 10,000 Maniacs. Some voices are just so distinctive as to create a whole sound of their own.

The elusive voices are the ones that drive me crazy. The voiceover on the commercial you almost identify, but it escapes you. It nags, like trying to remember a name or a word you know but can’t bring up when you need it.

But you have to wonder about the irritating voices like . . .

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Real beauty

She was a real beauty with flawless skin and long black hair. Her complexion was probably rosy, I guessed, although you couldn’t see it now. Just the gray pallor of death, underscored by the bright slash across her throat. I’d have to wait for the coroner to confirm that the slasher was left handed before I could officially say that this was the fourth victim of the killer we dubbed “Leftie.” But I knew it was Leftie’s work even without confirmation from the medical guys. We don’t normally have many serial slashers of any kind running amok in Dayton. . . .

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Cactus blossom


Our first rain in six months. It sprinkled gently for maybe thirty minutes tops. The plants in the area made the most of it, blooming overnight, showing off in reds and yellows and purples. Alice Walker taught me to be careful to always notice purple, so I do.

In the desert, you have to look fast and you have to miniaturize your expectations. One perfect bloom 3/4 inch in diameter may be . . .

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Little toot

You’ve gotta be pretty old to know this, but there was once a song with the lyric, “Don’t you ever give up, Little Toot.” If I recall correctly, it came from a cartoon made about the children’s book The Little Engine That Could. The story and the song were both about courage, determination, and overcoming obstacles. It was a favorite with me as a kid. I loved to sing the song, and my dad took to calling me Little Toot as a nickname. . . .

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I’d been planted behind a newspaper in the lobby of the Four Seasons for hours. Outside a fiesta of some sort was underway. Mexican flags and red, green and white banners where everywhere. I prayed he wouldn’t come out of the elevator and walk into the growing crowd outside.

Elisa’s voice cracked in my ear. She was undercover as a maid on his floor. “He’s moving,” she said. I felt a surge of adrenalin and sat up, ready for anything. Anything except the crowd outside where tracking him would be impossible . . .

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Animals are

Animals are invading my dreams. Moose, bear, wolves–they’re all in my head and popping up in my dreamtime. I attribute this to Dana Stabenow, whose 8 or so books about Alaska native Kate Shugak I have read in the last month or two. I love these books, these people, this Alaska she writes about. I picked up the first one because it was a mystery, which I read a lot of, but have learned to appreciate Stabenow as one of the more accomplished writers in any . . .

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Remember when

Remember when you heated up your baby’s milk in a saucepan filled with warm water? Now everyone zaps a disposable plastic container of milk in the microwave. Then there were those little bottle warmer gadgets that used electricity to gently warm a single bottle in a little cup-like container. What I want to know is why don’t they put those little electric cup-like warmers on the ultrasound carts, so when you plug in the ultrasound machine, the gel that makes it work gets warmed up. That gel is cold enough to . . .

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Shalimar. Mixed with a faint undertone of fear-drenched sweat. How peculiar, since we leave the air filters running in the office all night, and I had unlocked the door to come in, presumably the first in for the day. “Anybody here?”

I took a few steps down the small corridor to my office and found it trashed. Drawers open, papers scattered, chairs overturned.

I started backing out as I dialed my partner, Stacy. I was almost out the door when I heard Stacy’s phone ringing inside the office. “Stacy! Are you there?” She didn’t answer and her phone continued to ring. . . .

Please use the comments to write your first 50 words about “Shalimar.”