Monthly Archives: July 2015

I Get Lost Easily

(Author’s note: this story was written as an exercise in using wildly different phrases. They were the titles of the plays on the schedule at the local community theater: Oklahoma, Moonlight and Magnolias, I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change, and Born Yesterday. See if you can find them all.)
I have to confess. I get lost easily. Very easily.
My wife and I joked the best way to learn your way around in a new big city was to get lost on its streets for several hours. However, when our son was being born, getting lost was no laughing matter.
I had just started a new job at the Oklahoma City newspaper as a copyeditor on the night shift. My wife was due any moment; in fact, she was past due, and I was getting worried.
“Maybe I shouldn’t go to work tonight because you’re in extreme pain which comes and goes, but mostly coming.”
“Don’t fret,” she said. “I can always call a taxi and phone you from the hospital.”
The trouble with that was I hadn’t been to the Oklahoma City hospital yet, only the doctor’s office. So wouldn’t you know it, at about 10 p.m. I get a call from my wife saying she was in the emergency room, and the baby was due any second. I went to the old, balding man who was in charge of the copyediting desk that night. I told him I had to go. I was about to become a father.
He arched his eyebrow and rolled his stubby cigar around his lips. “I don’t understand. Are you the doctor?”
“No, I’m just the father. But my wife told me to get to the hospital as soon as possible.”
“Oh hell. I had five kids, and wasn’t there for any of their births, and they turned out okay. My ex-wife and them live in California now, and they get to go to Disneyland all the time.”
“I don’t know if I could concentrate on editing stories and writing headlines because I’m so worried about my wife.”
“Oh hell, get out of here. Nobody nowhere wants to work no more.” That was a triple negative which was why he was the boss. He got his journalism degree somewhere in Texas which explained a lot.
All I knew was the address. My wife told me it was at the corner of Moonlight and Magnolias. You couldn’t miss it, everyone in the doctor’s office assured her. Well, she might not miss it, but I was so sure about myself. I was almost late to my wedding because I couldn’t find the church. She married me anyway but informed me on our honeymoon she had high expectations.
“I love you,” she said. “You’re perfect. Now change.”
The changes had been painfully slow, but nevertheless they had been forthcoming. They were not forthcoming fast enough, however, the night my son was born. I couldn’t find Moonlight or Magnolias anywhere. I stopped at a couple of convenience stores. The man behind the counter at the first one said in broken English he only knew how to get from his mother’s house to the store where he worked. The woman at the other store put her hands on her hips when I told her my wife was about to have a baby and I didn’t know how to get to the hospital.
“What’s wrong with you? Everybody knows where the hospital is.” She paused to cock her head. “Are you a Yankee?”
I didn’t know what to say. Maybe being a Yankee would make me more sympathetic, or it might make her get out her gun and shoot me. That might work because someone would have to call an ambulance to take me to the hospital at Moonlight and Magnolias.
“”Yes?” I replied timidly.
“Oh hell. That explains everything.” She came around the counter, took me by the hand, walked out the front door and pointed down the street. She talked very slowly. “The hospital is only three blocks away. And be sure to go in the emergency room entrance.”

Within minutes I was at the information desk and explained to the clerk that my wife had arrived at the emergency room earlier in the evening and was about to have our baby. I told her I would have been there sooner but I got lost.
“I get lost easily,” I said.
She pointed to a big clock on the wall, and its hands pointed to 12 and 45. “I don’t know anything about your baby. The shift changed at midnight, and he was born yesterday.”

Remember Chapter Ten

Lucinda collapsed on the bed and immediately went into a deep sleep. Only minutes seemed to have passed when another knock at the door interrupted her rest. Looking at the alarm clock on the nightstand, she saw it was already a little after five o’clock.

“Listen,” Nancy said from the other side of the door. “We gotta talk.”

“Of course.” Lucinda stood and went directly to her rocket and sat. “Come in.”

“Somehow Shirley has heard the name Vernon Singleberry, and I don’t like it.” She stood in front of the old teacher. Her hands were on her hips.

“Shirley’s a very bright young lady, and she deserves to know the truth.”

“Maybe someday.” She narrowed her eyes and shook a finger at Lucinda. “But not now and for damn sure not from you.”

The old woman rubbed her chest and tried to show a knowing smile. “She already knows the story about the movie star is foolish. That’s why she doesn’t like school.”

“What’s so bad about not likin’ school?” she asked with a sneer. “I hated school.”

“Don’t you want better for Shirley?” Lucinda leaned forward in her rocker.

“What the hell’s wrong with being a beautician?” Nancy folded her arms across her chest and pinched her lips.

“Nothing. It’s just that—“

“Stop it,” she interrupted with acid on her tongue. “I ain’t your student no more. You ain’t nobody’s teacher no more. Nobody cares what you think. Git it?”

“Yes.” Lucinda fell back in her chair.

“If you don’t stop this, I’m goin’ to tell everyone the truth.” Nancy stepped closer and lowered her voice ominously. “You had the hots for Vernon. Yeah, I know about the time you fell all over him. Vernon was so dumb he thought you had lost your balance, but I knew you wanted to cop a feel. Do you want these old biddies to know about that?”

“No,” she replied, too tired to fight back.

“Good. We understand each other. Don’t talk about Vernon again.” Nancy turned and slammed the door on her way out.

Lucinda breathed deeply and found herself swept back to her classroom. When she saw Vernon enter she smiled. He wore another sweater and, for once, has no books in his arms.

“Mrs. Cambridge?” He asked hesitantly. “May I speak to you a moment?”

“Vernon. I’m so glad you came back.” She smiled. “You’ve really been a comfort to me today.”

“Oh. Then maybe I should come back another time. I’ve got a problem.” Vernon shuffled his feet and looked down.

“Don’t mind me.” Lucinda motioned to a chair. “You know I always told you to come to me when you’ve got a problem.”

“Thank you.” He sat but kept his head down.

“Well, what is it?” Lightly touching the tips of her fingers, she asked, “Some assignment giving you trouble?”


“Coach Cummins harassing you again about your game playing?” She was running out of possibilities.


Her hands went to her face as Lucinda straightened in her chair. “This is right before Christmas of your sophomore year, isn’t it?”


“It’s Nancy Meyers.” She felt a knot tighten in her stomach.


“I remember now,” she whispered.

“Mrs. Cambridge, I love Nancy very much.” He paused to search for the right words. “She’s the only girl who’s ever cared for me.”

“Oh, I’m sure others—“

“I mean,” he interrupted her, “she’s the only one who thought — who took me seriously as — you know, as someone you might want to love and — maybe — spend the rest of your life with. And I do, I do want to spend the rest of my life with her.” Vernon paused. “But not starting right now.”

“She’s pregnant.”


“And it’s your baby.”

“If we get married right now.” His eyes strayed out the window. “ I’d have to take fewer classes so I could work.”

“But you can’t take less than twelve hours or—“

“Or I’ll be drafted and sent to Vietnam,” he finished his sentence. A grimace darkened his face. “I don’t want to go to Vietnam. I’m afraid I’ll die there.” Vernon put his head down into the palms of his hands and cried.

Lucinda’s impulse was to go to him and put her arms around him, but she restrained herself, remembering the previous incident. “Vernon, Vernon, that’s all right.”

“I don’t know what to do.” He shook his head.

“There, there.” She thought if she continued to sit there she would begin to cry herself.

“Damn. Only babies cry,” he chided under his breath.

“Are you sure? Sometimes girls think they’re pregnant and they’re really not.”

“It’s for real.” He nodded, now staring at the floor. “She went to the doctor today.”

Without thinking about what she was doing, Lucinda stood to go to the chalk board and wrote the word “parents” as though she were about to parse a sentence. “How about your parents? Do you think they would help out enough to allow you to maintain a full class load?”

“My old man?” Vernon snorted. “You must be kidding.”

“Her parents?” She began to add those words to her list.

“They don’t have any money to spare.” He shrugged. “They’re as poor as we are.”

“Or least that’s what she says.” Her hand holding the chalk stayed motionless.

“Yeah.” Sniffing, Vernon sat up straight and looked at Lucinda with an incredulous glare. “That’s not a very nice thing to say.”

She turned back to Vernon, rolling the chalk between her hands. “I don’t know how to say this without hurting your feelings, Vernon, but Nancy isn’t as nice as you think.”

“What do you mean?” He took a handkerchief out and wiped his eyes.

“Well, she lies. I caught her in several lies when she was in my English class.” Lucinda wagged the piece of chalk at him. “She was very irresponsible about homework.”

“I don’t believe this.” Vernon stood. “Just because someone doesn’t turn in their homework you think they’re evil?”

“I didn’t say she was evil. But other teachers have told me—“

“Here this poor girl is carrying a baby out of marriage and all you can talk about is what kind of student she is?” He shook his head in disbelief.

“It’s more than that.” Lucinda noticed how she was using the chalk and put it down. “I just began with that.”

“When I came in here I thought you’d give me some good advice. Some help.” Vernon turned toward the door. “I never thought you’d attack Nancy.”

“I’m not attacking Nancy.” She pounced on the word “attack” to giver herself a platform for her defense. “She’s always been civil to me. It’s just what I’ve heard—“

“I never thought you’d stoop to petty gossip.” He kept walking out.

:This is a hard question for me to ask — but are you sure you’re the only one she’s been to bed with?” Lucinda lurched toward him. “Are you sure you’re the father?”

“Thank you, Mrs. Cambridge.” He turned to assess her with a cold eye. “I didn’t know what to do until I came in here.”


“I didn’t know if I wanted to marry her or not. Now I know I have to marry, if for nothing else than to protect her from vicious gossips — like you.” The last words he spat with hot anger.

“No, Vernon—“

“So now I know what I’m going to do. I’ll take nine hours next spring. That will leave time for a full time job to support my wife and my baby — yes, my baby.”

Lucinda noticed his voice was fading back into her memory. Vernon’s image floated between the classroom of ten years ago and her boarding house room of today. “Vernon! Don’t do that! It’s a mistake! Vernon!”

“I have just one last thing.” He pointed out the door into the boarding house hall. “Nancy’s little girl. She’s mine, ain’t she?”

“Isn’t, not ain’t,” she said, slipping back into her old ways.

“I’ll say ain’t if I damn well want to!” For the first time in front of his teacher, Vernon raised his voice in rage.

“Please, Vernon—“

“She’s my little girl, ain’t she?”


“Ain’t she!?” He lost all control of his emotions.

“Yes.” Completely depleted, Lucinda collapsed into her rocking chair, now firmly affixed to the present. Her hand went to her chest.

“I’m a daddy.”

“She’s lovely — and smart.” Lucinda closed her eyes and smiled. “She has this way of seeing the world clearly, like you.”

“She’s smart.” His voice was fading like an echo.

“Very.” She rocked slowly, comforted by her mind’s images of Shirley.

“And good. I want my little girl to be good.” His voice was hardly discernible.

“No sweeter child ever lived.”

“I wonder what she thinks of her goofy old daddy.” Vernon laughed loudly.

Lucinda’s eyes opened, her consciousness jostled to harsh reality. “Well . . . .”

“What?” His laugh evaporated.

“She doesn’t know.”

“Who does she think her daddy is?”

The very absurdity of the words caused Lucinda’s breath to become labored. “Nancy told her Warren Beatty, but Shirley doesn’t believe it.”


“Nancy named her after Beatty’s sister, Shirley MacLaine.” She covered her mouth with her hand to hide her quivering lips.

“That’s an old lady’s name.”

“That’s what Shirley says.”

“So she doesn’t know about me?”

Lucinda closed her eyes again and shook her head.

“You live in the same house, and you haven’t told her?”

His voice invaded her being and was intolerable. With all her strength she whispered, “It’s not up to me to tell her. I keep hoping Nancy will explain it.”

“The only thing I ever made that turned out good, and she doesn’t know I even existed?” Vernon’s voice weakened again, going down into the darkness of unpleasant memories.

“It’s not up to me.” All she could do was to repeated herself.

“I don’t exist for my baby.”

Lucinda’s native, irrational optimism gave her strength. “She’ll know someday. You’ll see.”

“Maybe I won’t.” His voice was almost gone. “Maybe Nancy will forget all about me before she tells Shirley. Then I’ll really be gone. Nobody will care.”

“I care.” Lucinda more than cared, but she did not have the courage to admit her feelings to Vernon.

“No, you don’t. Nobody cares.”

The words were vaporous, and she almost did not discern them. When she opened her eyes, Vernon was gone, and someone was knocking at her door.

Cancer Chronicles Twelve

My wife and I are excitedly planning our forty-fourth wedding anniversary celebration. We’re deciding which restaurant we want to order our take-out meal from.
We’re getting good at celebrating special occasions without exposing her to a load of communicable diseases. For Mother’s Day I went to Applebee’s, mostly because it is the closest restaurant to our house. I also had to pick up the take-out for Father’s Day at Applebee’s, again because it’s nearby. Ten minutes there and ten minutes back, and we can start eating. Our son will have the day of our anniversary off from work so he will be available to drive further away for the food, maybe a Red Lobster or Chili’s.
I know you’re thinking we’re getting overly giddy about take-out food. Normally we would agree. Actually entering a nicely decorated building and having the possibility of ordering a tasty margarita was half the fun.
But these are not normal times. Chemotherapy has weakened my wife’s immune system so much that going out is not worth the risks. She’s already been placed in isolation at the hospital to avoid infections so we know we don’t want her to suffer through that experience again. She overheard one patient in the chemotherapy room say they were going on a cruise before the next session. Cruises are fun but well known for possible exposure to all sorts of nasty little bugs.
We take our pleasure where we can find it and are grateful for each bite of food which comes from a Styrofoam box.

The Triangle

Li’l Bit was at the end of his leash, so to speak. The rotund chi-weenie dug down deep into the large dog pillow in the corner of the bedroom to pout. This situation with those two bitches was about to kill him. He could remember several years ago when he was the top dog around the house, but not anymore.
He had his best buddy Goofy, a slow-witted Basset hound, who let Li’l Bit tell him what to do. They pranced around the yard like a canine Mutt and Jeff. The women dogs always made room for them, but then Goofy got out of the yard one day, chasing some enticing smell, ran right in front of a car, and that was the end of him.
For a while the two girls, Cleo and Tootz, let Li’l Bit be king of the house. Cleo was a tall, lanky Labrador retriever mix who was about Li’l Bit’s age. When they first got to know each other they were the same size, but Cleo grew. It took her a long time, though, to figure out they were not the same size anymore. Tootz was a younger and newer addition to the family. She was a Chihuahua and was just about the right size to make a good match for Li’l Bit.
Until the unfortunate incontinence incident.
All three of them were racing to the back door after a squirrel sighting in one of the trees. Then Li’l Bit, in his haste to lead the way out, ran between Cleo’s slender legs. Unbeknownst to Li’l Bit, Cleo had developed a phobia about being tripped up by little dog legs and ending up on her skinny butt. Before he knew it, Li’l Bit found himself rolled on his back with Cleo snarling in his face. The next thing they knew, they smelled chi-weenie poop on the floor. Tootz snapped at Li’l Bit’s ears which she had never done. He had been her big and stronger loverboy, but not now.
From that day forth, Li’l Bit lost his alpha leader role. In a twist of fate, Tootz assumed the position. As the girlfriend of the previous king, she became queen. Cleo was not interested in being a leader. She just didn’t want the little dogs running between her legs and possibly tripping her.
To compensate for losing his crown, Li’l Bit turned to dog biscuits for comfort, and they began to show around his midsection. Tootz kept her school girl figure but only for herself. If Li’l Bit ever tried to act a little interested, she’d snarl and snap, and sit with her back to him. Cleo also put on weight, but she had been so terribly thin she never looked overweight. She assumed a motherly role with the two little ones. Also somewhat of a widow role too, since she had held a secret admiration for the foolish, doomed Goofy.
From time to time the same incident occurred, although without the embarrassing incontinence. After the latest event, however, Li’l Bit decided to become a hermit and never socialize with those two bitches again. Every few minutes he would dig his head into the pillow and lightly whine. First Tootz came into the room, sat next to the pillow, staring across the room. After a while she turned and tentatively sniffed Li’l Bit’s ears but quickly turned back to face in the other direction. Next Cleo lanquidly ambled in and sat on the other side of the pillow, looking off at nothing in particular.
Li’l Bit whined some and twisted around on the bed. In a moment Cleo leaned down and sniffed his head before resuming her position. Then Tootz nuzzled his jowls briefly but pulled away. Cleo folded down on her legs, put her head down and sighed loudly.
Damn bitches, Li’l Bit thought. Who can stay mad at them?

Remember Chapter Nine

Lucinda had just lain across her bed and endured the squeak of the mattress springs when a knock at the door jerked her back awake.

“Miz Cambridge? It’s Miz Godwin. May I come in?”

“Of course, Mrs. Godwin.” Lucinda lifted herself from the bed and stood, forcing a pleasant look upon her face as Bertha came in.

“They said you was feelin’ poorly. I wanted to check on you.”

“How kind. I’m much better.”

“Good, because I need some advice.” Bertha stepped forward with the urgency of a life insurance salesman at the front door.

Lucinda’s body twitched. “How may I help you?”

“I suppose you’ve heard the fuss about the fire marshal.”

“Yes, some improvements have to be made.” Without thinking, she slumped into her rocking chair.

“Well, Emma is hell bent – excuse my language – on not doin’ a thing. She’s the most stubborn woman in the world.” She smiled nervously. “I should know, bein’ her sister.”

“And you want to know if I think you should inform the authorities of her noncompliance?”

Bertha paused, as though her mind had to translate into her Texas vernacular what Lucinda had just said. Eventually, she nodded. “I’d never hear the end of it if she knew I was the one who turned her in. But I don’t want to wake up some night with flames all around me. The way she smokes, I know it’s goin’ to happen.”

“I learned long ago not to make other people’s decisions for them.” Even now she shuddered at the advice she had given Vernon. “You have to look within yourself for wisdom.”

“You’re afraid you’ll lose the roof over your head too?” Bertha asked sympathetically.

“No, that’s not—“

Emma’s voice rang throughout the drafty old house. “Bertha! Come wash these dishes!”

“I’ve got to go.” She headed for the door. “You’re right. It’s my decision.” She looked back and added solicitously, “Now you git your rest.”

Before she knew it, Lucinda was back at her desk at the college, and Vernon, dressed in blue jeans and a pull over sweater, entered carrying a notepad and a textbook.

“Vernon. I’m sorry I displeased you earlier.” At that time in her life, Lucinda was not very good at apologies. “I hope any little arguments we have don’t disrupt our friendship.

“What argument?” he asked as he sat.

“In the hall. You were in your gym shorts and we were talking about—“

“Oh, that was months ago,” he cut her off with a wave of a hand. “I’ve already forgotten about that.”

“Good.” She sighed in relief and focused on his notepad. “What do you have here?”

“It’s that paper you wanted me to do on Dante’s Inferno. And that poem I had to write about death.” He opened the notepad to the page where he had scribbled a few words. He shook his head. “Gosh, Mrs. Cambridge, this is hard.”

‘Well, do you see why I wanted you to write it?” Lucinda relaxed, comfortably back in her element of the classroom.

“Sure, if you go to – um, Hades, that means you must be dead and if we write a poem then we kinda know what Dante must have gone through to write his poem,” he explained with uncertainty.

“That’s right. So, read me your poem.” She leaned forward with anticipation.

Vernon blinked a few times and then began to read very slowly, “One night on a dark country road/ I sped on my way home./ With thoughts lingering about my date/ I didn’t think of what was ahead./ Suddenly before my car/ Was a rabbit frozen with fear/ Fixed in the middle of the road./ The headlight glare caught the shock and fear in his eyes./ Then he died./ And I cried.”

“Very touching, Vernon.” She stood to walk around to his desk and read it again from over his shoulder. “I assume that really happened.”


“I’ve no quarrel with the free verse with the rhymed couplet. But it is very brief. Perhaps in here – “she leaned over to point at one section “–right before the rhymed couplet you could relate some other experience facing death.”

“I haven’t had any.”

Her head snapped over to his face. “Surely one of your grandparents.”

“No.” He shook his head, averting eye contact. “All of them are still alive.”

“Oh, there’s someone you’ve known who died.” She became aware of his aftershave, which she recognized as a common brand like her husband had used. “You just don’t remember. And there’s been some experience in your life when you’ve been faced with your own mortality.”

His shoulders shuddered a bit. “But I don’t want to think about it. It scares me.”

“Well, Vernon, dying scares all of us.” She was practically whispering in his ear. “Part of living is overcoming the fear of death.”

“Sometimes, late at night, I think about what it’s going to be like not to exist anymore. Not to feel, be hungry, be happy, look forward to doing things.” His voice took on a mournful, frightened quality.

“Only atheists believe death means not existing anymore.” She pulled away slightly when she was aware she was entering a realm of preaching instead of teaching. She had always prided herself on keeping the two issues separated.

“I know that.” He exhaled. “But if I’m not here I’m not existing. Being in heaven is something I don’t know anything about. That won’t be existing like this is existing.” He turned to look at her face. They were very close. “I’m not saying this very well.”

She smiled. “I think you’re saying it beautifully.”

“And in heaven we’ll praise God all the time for eternity.” He averted his eyes again. “Forever. I mean, even that scares me. No end. Going on forever and ever and ever. In a way, the atheists have it better, thinking there is a definite end someday, but even that scares me. Do we have to keep talking about this? I’m getting sick to my stomach.”

“No. We can go on to the other paper. Tell me about Dante and his seven levels of Hades.” Her tutorial ethics kept telling her she needed to move away, perhaps to the blackboard. But she couldn’t make herself move an inch.

Vernon flipped over a page in the notepad. “Look at this and see if I’m on the right track.”

“Very well.” Lucinda leaned in even further to read from the pad. “You have grasped the meaning of each level very well. You’ve expressed it concisely and clearly if not elegantly.”

“Heck, I don’t think I could ever write elegant.” He laughed, and the pitch of his voice raised, making him sound more like a child than a young man.

“Are you still seeing Nancy?” She knew none of this was any of her business, but something in the pit of her inner being made her ask.


“I’m sure you’re a good influence on her.”

“She says I’ve taught her a lot.” Vernon nodded, his eyes were still fixed on the notepad.

“That’s good.” Lucinda felt her influence on Vernon was being passed on to Nancy which satisfied her need as a teacher to spread her life lessons.

“Of course, she’s taught me a lot too.”

“Oh.” She didn’t like the sound of that.

“Is this sentence okay?” Vernon pointed to a particular paragraph at the bottom of the page. “I got going on it, and it’s awful long.”

“What?” She was finding it difficult to concentrate on the essay because the physical sensations of their closeness made her light-headed.

“Look here.”

As Vernon pointed again to the paragraph, Lucinda leaned over even more, enjoying the warmth of their contact, until she lost her balance. He jumped up to catch her before she landed on the desk.

“Are you all right?”

Lucinda straightened and looked as though she had been caught in an immoral act. “Of course, I’m all right. I just lost my balance for a moment, that’s all. It could happen to anybody.”

“You need to be careful. You nearly fell all over me.”

“I don’t want to remember that!” She realized there was panic in her voice, and she couldn’t control it. “No! It did not happen!”

“Don’t get upset, Mrs. Cambridge.” He wrinkled his brow.

“I’m not upset.” Lucinda shook her head adamantly. “Nothing happened.”

“I thought maybe you couldn’t see the paper good, and you had to lean so far in that you lost your balance,” Vernon explained. “I could put the paper closer to you.”

“Please, I don’t want to remember I did that!”

“Lose your balance?” He chuckled. “I lose my balance all the time.”

Lucinda turned to walk back to her desk, blinking her eyes, trying to return to the present. “Vernon, please go now.” The scent of the honeysuckle outside her boardinghouse window grew stronger. She was almost there. “I don’t want to remember this.”

“Okay.” Physically Vernon was almost gone. His voice was growing fainter. “I’ll try to figure all this out.”

“No! Don’t try to figure it out!” She was on the verge of tears. “It was all very innocent.”

“I meant Dante’s Inferno.” The echo of his voice was fading.


Cancer Chronicles Eleven

Sometimes caregivers can feel a bit guilty for dwelling on their own fatigue. After all, what is a little fatigue compared to painful battle with cancer?
In my case, I have a Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep disorder. That means I stay in the dream state and don’t go into deep restorative level. I haven’t had a full time job in years. I was the stay-at-home full-time dad while my wife was the wage-earner. So I’m really glad I have this opportunity to show my appreciation to my wife for not kicking me out of the house. However, I’ve already had a heart attack and have a stent. Chronic sleep loss leads to heart problems and makes the sufferer more vulnerable to stroke.
For the past couple of years I’ve been writing this blog. Right now I’m up to posting three times a week—a story or opinion piece on Mondays, the cancer chronicle on Wednesday and a novella chapter on Fridays. Wednesday is the day I take my wife to chemotherapy which takes about two hours. Most times we drop in at a fast food restaurant for takeout on the way home. After what she’s been through at the clinic, my wife deserves to eat anything she wants. Then occasionally we have to stop by the drug store to pick up a prescription refill for her or me. At both places she stays in the car while I go in to take care of the business. By the time we get home we’ve been on the go for three or four hours. After I help her to get settled on the sofa, I don’t feel like posting on the blog so I get behind schedule. I don’t think anyone notices or cares if a post is a day or two late. After all, it’s free to the reader anyway. But I feel bad about not being consistent. That adds to my stress which makes the fatigue problem worse. Still, it’s nothing compared to enduring chemotherapy, so I should just suck it up and keep quiet.
Yet, if I end up having another heart attack or having a stroke, I won’t be any good for my wife, so it is for her benefit, I suppose, that I be a little concerned about how I am feeling. It’s okay to ask for help.
We are fortunate that our son has chosen to live at home. He is a corrections officer with twelve-hour days and a screwball schedule of three days on, two days off, two days on and three days off. When his days off fall on a Wednesday he can take his mother to the clinic for therapy. He is arranging days off from the prison when his mother has her mastectomy. It’s nice to have him at home when I need help lifting his mother when she’s feeling really incapacitated. He also keeps up with household chores that I can’t handle anymore
No one bothers with whose turn it is to do something. We will get through this situation by working together. No gripes, no guilt, just love.

The Split

After six miserable months living with his girlfriend Gail, Joe decided it was time to call it quits.
What had he been thinking? Sure, she was a gorgeous blonde. Smart as hell and could whip up the strongest cocktails this side of Manhatten, including a manhatten that could knock you on your ass. Joe knew what he was thinking. This was the hottest chick that had ever talked to him for more than two minutes. She had wandering hands and knew how to use them. While she was squeezing his ass she could list ten reasons why the American Revolution was going to succeed and by the time she listed ten reasons why the Articles of Confederation were doomed to fail Joe’s eyes were going back up into his head.
All the problems began when Gail brought her things over to the apartment to move in.
“What a pigsty. Don’t you ever clean this dump?”
Joe would have been insulted but her sharp tongue immediately went down his throat. A little housecleaning would not hurt anything. In fact, it was rather nice knowing exactly where the remote control was at any given time. Except that Gail had hounded him into cleaning. She cleaned up after herself but she regularly informed him she never accommodated slobs.
Next came the food.
“What is this eating out of cans? We’re not hobos.” Again she softened the edge of her criticism by sticking a finger in the pork and bean can, smearing it on Joe’s cheek and licking it off. “You taste better than the beans.”
Gail herself was an excellent cook but she swore it was her duty in life to bring Joe up to her culinary standards, not sink to his. Within a few weeks, he was chopping vegetables with speed and accuracy and mastered the techinique of bringing the pot to a quick boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer, occasionally stirring.
The last straw, however, came as they lay in bed and she ran her long taut fingers across his stomach and chest.
“God, you call that a body? I gotta get your ass in shape.” Even though she immediately rolled on top of him and began a vigorous massage, Joe felt he had reached his limit.
No amount of erotic stimulus was worth the total transformation Joe was undergoing. He got a headache trying to figure out how she could be so sexually attracted to him while obviously repulsed by everything else about him. The relationship had to end. But when? How? He could not tell her in the apartment. She knew where every knife in the kitchen was, and he had seen her splay a chicken in twenty seconds.
Joe read the newspaper every day, and he had yet to come across a story of anyone being murdered in the aisles of Wal Mart. An old woman had pulled a gun on some guy who tried to steal her purse once, but she didn’t shoot. He, however, did soil his pants. At this point, Joe would endure a prominent brown stain on the seat of his pants rather to evolve into some perfect man which he did not want to be. The hard part would be to convince Gail to shop at Wal Mart.
“Wal Mart? That crap?” she said the next day in the car.
“The people in the office, we thought it would be a good idea to buy stuff for poor people. The last quarterly statement was too good. We don’t want the public to think we’re rich snobs, you know.”
“Good point. Wal Mart’s good enough for them.”
As he pushed a cart down an aisle, Joe began slowly, “Gail, you know I think you’re great and all—“
“Look at these amazing short shorts!”
Joe had to stop the buggy abruptly to keep from hitting two teen-aged girls who were examining a rack of shorts and tank tops.
“They don’t have a size big enough to cover that baby bump of yours,” Gail mumbled as she jerked the cart from around them.
“Gail,” Joe continued, “I think you’ve sacrificed too much for me.”
“Well, it’s been a shared sacrifice,” she replied with a smile.
“Occupy Wal Mart! Occupy Wal Mart!” A group of people of all ages carrying placards marched toward them.
Gail quickly turned the cart down another aisle.
“Blow back prices! Blow back prices!” the protesters chanted.
“Man, cave dwellers make me sick,” she whispered, looking back at the marchers in disgust.
“Actually, they may have a point,” Joe said softly.
“As a matter of fact, I’ve noticed that about you, Joe.” Gail looked at him, her eyes narrowed. “What’s normal to you isn’t necessarily normal for me.” She paused. “I think you need a new normal.”
Joe grinned impishly. “Isn’t that like telling your little dog to change?”
She shook her head. “I’m not a pet parent. I’m a girl friend.”
“Which brings me to my doubts about our future.”
“Don’t worry.” Gail patted his hand. “We can win the future.”
Just at that moment they entered another aisle intersection blocked by the protesters. One man was on a bull horn.
“They all said us poor people had to be patient and wait for the money to trickle down to us. Well, I, for one, am tired of waiting for that trickleration. It feels more than a trickeration to me!”
The crowd roared its approval. Gail grabbed the cart handle from Joe, lowered her head and slammed ahead through the protesters.
“Hey, lady, get your ginormous ass out of my way!”
Gail was busy putting canned beans in the cart by the time Joe caught up with her. He had taken a few minutes apologizing to the woman, saying her posterior was in a proper proportion to the rest of her body. Joe then had to explain to the security guards who were escorting the protesters out of the store that he wasn’t one of them. The woman with the big butt put in a good word for him, and Joe went on his way to find Gail.
“Where the hell have you been? If I have to stay in this store any longer I’m going to kill somebody!”
Joe closed his eyes. “I wish you wouldn’t put it that way.”
“What do you mean?”
“Listen, you’re the hottest girl I ever went to bed with. I could listen to you talk about history, philosophy and geology all day. But you’re driving me nuts! I like who I am. I don’t want to be cleaner. I want to eat out of a can. And I don’t want to do a hundred pushups every day!
Gail slapped Joe and stormed away. His face was still stinging when a sixtyish year old man in a Wal Mart apron came up and smiled.
“Wal Mart thanks you in advance for leaving your cart in the designated area in the parking lot.”

Remember Chapter Eight

Lucinda walked around the house to the trellis going up to her bedroom window. Honeysuckle blossoms covered the vine. Leaning in, she smelled the scent, felt her heart begin to beat more slowly and closed her eyes. She cocked her head when she thought she heard a basketball being dribbled on a hall floor, the sound ricocheting off the walls. When she opened her eyes she was back at the junior college and saw Vernon jerking toward her, wearing gym shorts and sneakers, trying to bounce the ball.

“Vernon, what are you doing?”

“Why, I’m dribbling the basketball down the hall.” He stopped in front of her and wiped the sweat from his face. “The new coach, Coach Cummins, says to dribble the thing up and down the hall the whole gym period until I get so I don’t kick it when I run.”

“If you’re in Mr. Cummins’ class that must mean this is the fall of your sophomore year.” Lucinda considered how quickly time passed when it became a memory.

“That’s right. I did a whole lot better the spring semester. You even gave me a B.”

She smiled. “I didn’t give you a B. You earned it. I’m very proud of your progress, Vernon.”

The screen door on the front door flung open. The noise drew Lucinda back to the present. Nancy marched out with Shirley in tow.

“You’ll have to behave in the beauty shop this afternoon. I’m not leaving you here around that old busybody who’ll fill your head with nonsense.”

“Omigosh, that’s Nancy!” Vernon announced excitedly, his voice sounding like it was an echo from a well.

“Yes,” Lucinda replied without emotion.

“She still lives here?”


Shirley broke away from her mother and run over to give Lucinda a quick head. “I gotta go to Mama’s beauty shop this afternoon.” She looked up into the old woman’s face. “Now you take a nap this afternoon, okay? You don’t look good.”

“Shirley! You come back here right now!” Nancy screamed as walked down the sidewalk. “If you’re not by my side when I reach the street you’re gonna be in trouble!”

“Yes, Mama.” She gave Lucinda another quick hug. “See you tonight, Mrs. Cambridge.” She ran to catch up to her mother.

“Who’s the little girl?” Vernon asked. His voice was still faint.

“Her daughter.”

“So Nancy got married?” The question rang stronger.

“Um, Vernon don’t worry about Coach Cummins. Just do the best you can.” Lucinda watched Shirley and Nancy walk around the corner and disappear. When she turned back to Vernon they were in the college hallway once more.

“You bet I’m not going to worry about it.” He was solid and sweaty. “I may not be able to bounce this stupid ball, but I can beat up anybody in that class, including the coach. Look at that muscle.” He flexed his bicep.

“Now, now, Vernon, you’re always talking beating up people, but I’d say you’ve never even been in a fight, have you?” She allowed her eyes to linger on his arms.

“Well, no.” He ducked his head. “I’ve never got that mad at anybody yet. But if I ever do get that mad, they better watch out.”

“I hope you’re never that angry. In fact, I’m sure you’ll never be.”

“I guess you’re right.” He tried to dribble again but with no better results.

Lucinda looked around to see if any students or teachers who happened to be walking past them noticed their conversation. “How did you spend your summer?”

“I had a great time.” Vernon’s face brightened. “Nancy and me, we went—“

“And I,” she corrected him. “Don’t forget your grammar while you’re remembering your summer.”

“Oh yeah.” He paused to clear his throat and concentrate on what he was saying. “Nancy and I went swimming a lot and saw some movies. Gosh it was wonderful.”

“Did she go home for the summer to Pilot Point?” she asked.

“Sure, but I drove over to see her.”

“You drove all that way just for a date?” She could not resist letting a touch of censure color her voice. “Surely your parents didn’t approve of that.”

“I bought the gas with my summer job money,” he replied defensively. “Besides, it ain’t — isn’t any of their business.”

“If you spend your money foolishly you won’t be able to go to the university next year.” She was relentless in her chastisement.

“I’ll have enough.” Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, Vernon’s attention drifted.

“And I hate to see a fine young, honorable man like yourself deceive his parents over a girl like Nancy Meyers.” Looking back upon the incident Lucinda realized how petty and self-serving her manner was.

“I’m not deceiving no — anybody. I tell them I got a date and they don’t ask who or where. And they don’t say anything when I get in late.” He cocked his head in curiosity. “And what did you mean by a girl like Nancy Meyers?”

“Your mother and father haven’t inquired about your dates?” She continued with questions she clearly knew were none of her business to ask.

“Mama’s just happy I got a date and you know my father. He doesn’t care.” Vernon frowned. “And what did you mean by a girl like Nancy Meyers?”

“Oh, I’m sure your father cares.” Lucinda found safety in her attempt to defend his father. After all, honoring your father was one of the Ten Commandments.

“No, he doesn’t — and what did you mean by a girl like Nancy Meyers?” His tone was now markedly testy.

“I didn’t mean anything by it.” She feigned surprise that her remarks were taken the wrong way. “I’d think, however, that a young woman would consider the expense she’s placing on a young gentleman to have him call on her from such a distance.”

He lowered his gaze to study the basketball in his hands. “You don’t like Nancy, do you?”

“Let’s just say I like you better.”

“You’ve never liked Nancy.” It was as if a gate had been opened, and Vernon’s emotion came out. “I could tell, even that first time when I told you about the dance.”

This memory was getting entirely too uncomfortable. Lucinda looked up and around. “There was the bell. I’ve got a class. And you have to shower and do whatever else young men do after perspiring.”

“I didn’t hear a bell,” he replied sullenly.

“If I want to remember a bell, I’ll remember one. This is my memory, after all.” She turned to go up the porch steps to the front, leaving Vernon in past.

Inside she stopped at the bottom of the stairs and considered the effort she would have to exert to return to her room. She thought she heard her bed calling her to come rest awhile, and she obeyed.

Cancer Chronicles Ten

Chemotherapy weakens patients to the point their legs may buckle underneath them. Falling is not fun.
A couple of weeks ago people were falling all over the place in the chemotherapy room. There’s no surer way to get the attention of every nurse in the room than to keel over. A foot can slide on a slick spot on the linoleum. Carts, chairs, wastebaskets and IV racks are everywhere. A toe in the wrong place and down you go.
If you are lucky, you sprain or bruise something. You don’t want to hear a crack. You don’t want a broken bone on top of cancer to worry about. In football they call that piling on. Perhaps the worst would be a knock up side your head. That’s the first thing the nurses ask when someone goes down. No one needs a concussion.
After witnessing all of this first hand at the clinic, my wife slipped in our bedroom. I got her up to the foot of the bed she didn’t move the rest of the night. Luckily, our son, a corrections officer and trained to handle all kinds of situations like this, is close by and ready to help out.
I bought a second-hand walker which got her from the bedroom to the family room. Each day her mobility improves, but just going from one room to another wears her out. It happened she had a CT scan this week. The best news from the report is that the cancer has been reduced by 90 percent. Also good was that the leg was bruised and not cracked or broken.
The irony, she discovered, was that no matter how much it hurt to walk, she had to walk so the leg would stop hurting altogether.
More pain to get rid of the pain. So what else is new?

The Southland Life

Luncheon meetings in the Southland Life dining room bored William Gatesworth Gordon III to distraction. Yet another corporation tried to convince Gordon and his fellow members of First Bank Corporation Board of Directors to invest millions in its latest project. The top floor of the tallest building in Dallas did not impress him one bit. After all, it was 1975, and everything impressive had already been built years ago.
This food was not going to impress him. The strawberries were not any plumper or fresher than the fruits served by his own kitchen staff at his estate on White Rock Lake in Highland Park, which at one time was considered the most exclusive neighborhood in Dallas. Then that peasant oilman H.L. Hunt built his gaudy replica of Mount Vernon and brought housing values down.
The giant shrimp cocktail was tough and not quite the right shade of pink.
Now, on top of everything else, he was seated next to this gawky young man with an ill-fitting suit coat that did not match his trousers. One could only hope he would have the good manners not to engage him in conversation. No such luck. Before he could take another bite Gordon found a pale scrawny hand stuck in his face.
“I’m filling in today for Al Altwig, business editor of the Dallas Morning News. He was called away at the last minute. He left me his coat to wear which, I’m afraid, is a bit too large for me.”
After a brief handshake which Gordon used as an excuse to push the young man’s arm out of his food, the banker returned his attention to his shrimp and strawberries.
“I’m afraid I’m not fully aware of the details of the Georgia Pacific proposal to First Bank. I was only told about the meeting about thirty minutes ago.”
“They want our money. That’s about the extent of it.” Gordon sipped his Bloody Mary and found it inadequate. He looked around for the waiter who was attending to another suited gentleman two tables away. “Excuse me. Could you get me a fresher stalk of celery?”
“All I know is that it’s for a project centered in a small town in northern Georgia,” the young man added nervously. “It would create a lot of jobs, which would be a good thing, don’t you think?”
Gordon grimaced as he took another sip of his cocktail, thinking a new stalk of celery would not help the taste of his drink. “I think people should be responsible for finding their own jobs. No one ever handed me a job. I had to work for it. Business administration master’s degree from Southern Methodist University. Internship at First Bank and then vice-president.”
“That’s very impressive. Your parents must be very proud.”
“Of course they are.”
“Their investment in your education paid off well.”
“Of course it did.”
“And they provided you with the best pediatric care as a child. You attended the best schools and were always assured that your best efforts would always be rewarded generously.”
Gordon slowly turned his head to stare at the impertinent young newsman. “And what exactly are your duties at the Dallas Morning News?”
“I open the mail addressed to the business news page, edit stories and write headlines.”
“And they allowed you to attend this very important function?” Gordon raised his left eyebrow.
“As I told you, it was an emergency.”
“Hmph, I didn’t realize the Dallas News was employing socialists now.”