(Appeared in First Stop Fiction)
The man isn’t dead as I’d thought, but the woman, the wife is. He’s in trouble though, besides a dead wife there’s something about a terrible injury he’s had, a foot. He’s younger than the last time I saw him and I’m not sure how that’s possible, but it’s the foot that’s the problem now. They, the doctors, want to take this foot off and there’s been a family meeting to discuss it. A meeting at a restaurant I just happened to walk by when we spot each other after so many years apart. We, the man and I, leave, get into a car. He’s driving, which he can do because it’s the left foot that’s affected. That’s a blessing which hadn’t occurred to me until now. He holds onto the wheel and hands me an article torn from a magazine about another man, a stranger, who, suffering from the same foot condition, jumped off the roof of his building. The doctors have advised him to do the same.
I tear up the article and crumble it to bits as we continue to drive, now through inexplicable gunfire, a bad-guy-cop situation in progress and out of the blue in this small village within our city. It used to be quiet here many years ago, when the man and I were together. But nothing’s quiet anymore. And now there’s this foot trouble. And the gunfire, although we make a fast left, he does, the driver, the man suffering with this foot and avoid the bullets. But still, there’s a decision to be made. My advice, because I don’t trust doctors who suggest a man remove a body part or jump off the roof, is to ignore them. I suggest we have a drink instead. Let’s go have a drink, I say. For old time’s sake even though we didn’t drink in old times. The man stops the car and we walk, he awkwardly, of course, with the offending foot in multiple layers of bandage. It’s in there somewhere, the foot, under all of that.
It’s still a part of him, although it makes him hobble. I don’t think you should jump, I say. Life without a left foot is tolerable, I don’t say and only imagine although I can’t imagine. You can still drive, I say, and you’re a man and never have to wear a skirt and high heels. Which, I can’t help thinking no woman should ever have to wear, either. The man rests his left leg with the bandaged foot on a chair next to the table where we sit in the back of the dark bar. Bars are always dark or used to be or should be. It’s still light outside and our eyes adjust as we stare into our glasses. If color was an emotion, the liquid would be brooding. We are silent. After the foot talk and the dead wife talk we have nothing to say. I am helpless as this man with this sorry foot sits across the years from me and slowly starts to cry, saddened beyond repair.
I went to Africa alone. No companion, no tour, just an American woman of a certain age on her own. I had read Isak Dinesen and Beryl Markham in high school and, like so many others, I wanted to be Jane Goodall; I was completely enthralled with the idea of this mysterious continent and the women who made it their home. Continue reading at Boomer Café.
(first published in anthology Spent)
One of my earliest memories of shopping is going up the escalator of a local department store with my mother gently poking me in the back to make me stand up straight. I’m not sure how old I was, maybe ten or eleven, old enough to be embarrassed and none too happy about it.
My mother wasn’t mean, although perhaps a bit insensitive, but she’s ninety-six now so I’ve pretty much left that particular incident in the dust. I think. However, I do recall most shopping trips with her as a kind of endurance test. She was fond of weaving in and out of the aisles looking at everything while I trudged behind, uninterested and bored, wanting nothing more than to go. Please, can’t we just go? Continue reading at Boomer Cafe.
Notes On Not a Memoir
The black hearse crossed in front of our car on the way to my first chemo appointment. “Think it’s a bad omen?” I asked my husband, “like a black cat?”
That was nineteen years ago so it wasn’t a portend of things to come. I was, and remain, one of the lucky ones. And, don’t worry this isn’t a cancer-survivor memoir. This isn’t even a memoir. I didn’t have a rotten enough childhood to write a memoir. Not perfect, mind you, but it wasn’t a locked-in-the-closet, raped-by-my-father, thrown-from-the car by a drug-addled-mother kind of upbringing. No alcoholism, no overtly deviant behavior. Misunderstood? Certainly. It was the ‘60’s. Everyone was misunderstood. Continue reading at Manifest-Station.
Essay: The Power of Never Giving Up
Times flies. We all know it. Whether you’re having fun or not. Whether the years are filled with sublime happiness or utter sadness, or, like most of us, with a combination of both. It simply goes, and sometimes, our dreams go with it. We turn around and ten or twenty years have whipped by and we are left to wonder what else we could have, should have, done.
As a big reader, I admired writers above all and I’d always wanted to write. But it seemed there was never the time or space, or the confidence, to begin. And, then everything changed, (divorce, business shuttered, remarriage), and I finally sat down and wrote nearly every day.
At first, it was a kind of journal, but after a year I decided it needed to have form, to tell a story, and I started a novel. I didn’t have any idea of what a difficult goal I’d set for myself, didn’t know enough not to do it. And, so I kept writing and I found the heart of the story that would later become my first novel, Time Is the Longest Distance.
A year into it, I got sick. The kind of sick that knocks you for a loop and threatens your life. But I was one of the lucky ones, (twenty-one years later, here I am), and more than anything, I wanted to finish my book. I kept writing for another year until I had what I thought of as a first draft. But the real turning point came when I happened into an extension class at UCLA with the best of all possible teachers. Someone who became a mentor, a guide. I threw out everything I’d written and started over, changing it from third person to first. Writing, as every writer knows, is rewriting.
Fortunately, I had simply fallen in love with the process. After multiple drafts and a few more years, I had a finished manuscript which I sent out and miraculously found an agent in New York. I thought my troubles were over. I was wrong. The agent did nothing, zip, zilch, and I was beyond discouraged. But I realized the wrong agent might as well be no agent, so I fired her and worked on a new book, although in the back of my mind, I kept returning to my Australian story.
So, now, hardly a debutante, I am making my debut with Time Is the Longest Distance to be published December 11, 2018 by a small press out of Australia. It’s been a while getting here, but I truly believe in the power of not giving up and I like to think it took just as long as it was supposed to. I write to be read and hopefully this story will find an audience. The time is now.
Why Australia? Why this story?
Always fascinated by Australia, I recalled hearing years ago about a man who had spent most of his life in the United States and returned home to Australia for his father’s funeral only to find that he had a whole other family living on the other side of the country. It started me thinking about families and secrets, a vast, solitary land, and all the spaces where we hide ourselves. The distance between us not always measured in miles.
I realized, too, that whenever I’ve traveled far away, especially outside of cities, it was usually the sky and the air that made the greatest impact on me. And, so I was drawn to the openness of the Australian outback and particularly to the old stock routes where cattle once ran. My story is set along the famous Canning Stock Route that runs from Halls Creek in the Kimberley of Western Australia to Wiluna in the mid-west.
My protagonist, Lilly, a 45-year-old New Yorker, is persuaded by her newly-found father, Cameron, rogue and legendary explorer, to take on the Canning, still considered the most difficult outback track in the country. Joined by her half-brother Grant, attractive scientist, and Jen, his twenty-something daughter, Time Is the Longest Distance is a moral story of immorality in a place where “night comes on like a door slamming shut.”
The hard days and long nights provide time and space for Lilly to recall the years with her ex-husband, Stephen, artist and all around drunk, perhaps the great love and surely the great disappointment in her life.
Like a moon walker far from her life, Lilly, entangled in an unlikely love affair and witness to an unsavory death, is forced to examine her own mistakes and imperfections as she learns first-hand about the power and destruction of secrets, sexual taboos, and the thrill of transgression. Out of her element, she must deal with her new family members, the extraordinary harshness of her surroundings, and an unorthodox passion that tests her idea of right and wrong. This is a story that presents a lesson in the choices we make, burdened by the imperfection from which we all suffer.
Like so many books, Time Is the Longest Distance went through many changes, as did I. What I learned beyond the extraordinary joy of writing, was to never stop, to always make time to do what you love most, and above all, power on!