Tag Archives: stories

sketchy stories

So, I was sitting here, minding my own business while watching mindless stuff on TV when the cable signal died. So TV is gone, internet is gone, and brni is in Ashburn, basically gone. I’m all caught up in my various art projects and am too tired to trudge upstairs to start something new.

I read but I’m terribly distracted and can’t figure out a way to settle. The story I’m reading is really well written but I keep drifting off. It’s not the story’s fault–it’s my stupid brain reacting to the unstable weather. I am totally at the mercy of the weather, phases of the moon, planets, stars and dust. It’s rather annoying, but whatcha gonna do?

So, I’m thinking that this is such a cool story, so well written (thank you Elizabeth Bear), that I end up feeling envious. I wish I could write. I mean, write well. As in good. But, aside from (usually) getting the grammar down okay, I’m not even a hack. So I think, why can’t I write? Why can’t I sing (yes, it’s related weirdly in my brain)? What is it that I can do other than complain and put myself down for having no talent whatsoever?

Here’s what I came up with…

I have ideas, thoughts, stories in me but no writer am I. I wish I could spin a good yarn, tell a fine tale, but try as I might, creatively coupling words to engage and transport is not one of my talents. Like singing. I want to but the attempt ends in flat screeches and embarrassing notes.

I make pictures. I draw my stories. I make them out of pulp, graphite, water, oil and earth. My stories are elementals. Things to be peered at, edges to be filled in with someone else’s words, emotions and reactions.

When I talk out loud, I have trouble finding the correct or perfect word. I have never liked talking out loud. I talk in my head — a lot! I’ve learned, as most of us do, how to communicate with others on a day-to-day basis, but that’s not what I’m typing about…

To be heard. understood. sorta. idunno

My method of communicating with the world in any real way, is through pictures. drawings. pen to paper. hand to clay.

My latest attempt to tell a story is to put a face on a skull. Not a real skull of course…a replica of a woman. No age known. No ethnicity. Nothing but a plaster cast of her very basic form. I’m told she’s of the European persuasion, though I’m not good enough–forensically speaking–to really know what I’m doing. I just hope to be sensitive enough to persuade her to reveal herself under my hopeful caress.

this is what happens when i’m bored

drawing lessons

I used to be a watcher when I was little. I was very intent about it and almost never smiled. I earned the name, “the old woman” because of it. I could be very still, watching what the larger people in my life did, not really understanding, just taking it all in. When I was outside, I watched the animals and plants as well. Especially the birds. I tried to will them to come to me. I begged them without words, just yearning, but they stayed in the trees. I began climbing trees to get to them, but they took to the sky.

I had one tree I especially liked. It lived in our front yard, set down the hill a bit, away from the house. I knew this tree as well as I knew my own room. I could climb it and perch way up, where the branches swayed with what little weight I had to offer. It was peaceful up there and I was safe from the looks and questions and demands my parents and the others had for me. I was safely content to be up in a tree rather than down there, with the other children, where I always felt I had to defend myself from their prying eyes and loud mouths.

I wouldn’t call my internal world a happy one. No, it was more a feeling one full of sighs and wishes. Looking, watching, examining, figuring things out, longing to be part of the world of feathers, fur, branches and bark. The external world, the world of people pulling and pushing, harshly proclaiming their displeasure at my reluctance to talk to them was simply too loud for me to handle. There was no respect for the boundaries of my world. They just burst into my space anytime they felt like it, even when they could see that it caused a great deal of distress and pain.

All I wanted to do really, was draw everything I saw. So I peered at everything and recorded what I saw on paper. I had to, there was no choice in the matter. It was what I was. It was why I was. And they even used that against me as punishment for being quiet.

My father hated the way I did everything. He even hated the way I ate my food. “Don’t just eat all the peas at once. Take a bite of the peas…now take a bite of the potatoes…now eat some of the meat,” he would bully me as we sat at the table. Every meal was a misery. If I didn’t like the look of a thing, he made me taste it anyway. If I didn’t like what I tasted, I was a fool or a liar or some other name that would send him into a tirade, pushing away from the table with disgust to go sulk in the living room, or possibly out the door to the nearest bar.

So, when I had done some thing, a thing I can’t even remember, but a thing so absolutely awful that only a quiet child of 5 could do, he took away my pencils and my pads of paper. He told me I couldn’t draw for 2 weeks. I drew too much anyway, and I drew all the wrong things the wrong way. So he took the thing I truly needed to survive in the world away.

It hurt. Oh, how my hands hurt! There was nothing I could do to ease the pain — I still remember looking at my hands, holding them close to my belly, trying to ease the tension, the ache of not drawing. Crying in my room, begging my mother as she stood on the other side of the door, “Please, please, I have to draw. My hands hurt.” I think she understood because she smuggled a pad of paper and a pencil to me, through the crack of the door, telling me not to let Dad know. Later, I heard them yelling. Mom telling him how wrong he was, he telling her terrible things about all of us. The fighting went on, building in intensity and cruelty as it always did, until finally, Dad slammed out the door and Mom retreated to the kitchen to cry at the table.

I stayed in my room, listening and drawing, waiting for the sun to come up so I could climb into my tree.

potty emergency

I had to go to the bathroom. But that woman was there, sitting with my mother at the kitchen table. The powder room was just beyond the kitchen, off the laundry room by the back door. This was the room where my mother had installed a sink to wash womens’ hair. You know, the kind of sink where you sit down in front of it and leaning back, ease your neck into the molded support. The women would come to the back door, where my mother took care of them. She washed, cut and set their hair. She had a regular beauty parlor dryer and even a large contraption for them to sit in while she “permed” their hair so that the tight curls she shaped their hair into would last an entire week.

Oh, but I had to go so very bad and the woman was in the kitchen and another was in the laundry room under the dryer. I stood there hoping, squirming, dying for my mother’s attention to get me to the bathroom before I had an accident. Holding my three year old pussy, I tap-danced frantically in the entryway to the kitchen.

“What is the matter with you?” she asked. I couldn’t tell her without the woman hearing.


“Linda, what is wrong with you?”

Oh God, Mom, please…I can’t, I can’t
“Can I go to the bathroom?” I hissed as loud as I could without being heard.

“What? You have to tinkle?”

Oh God oh God yeeessssssss.

“Linda, you do not have to ask. If you have to go, JUST GO!”

And I ran. I ran as fast as I could while holding on as tight as I could. I ran past the woman sitting at the kitchen table and I ran past the woman under the dryer and I ran into the powder room and I sat on the toilet without taking my panties off because that would have been too much too late, and I peed through my panties into the toilet bowl.

And then I had to figure out what to do. My panties were wet, soaked through and I couldn’t leave them on. I pulled on the toilet paper roll, wadded a long length of it up and tried to wipe. Still wet, dripping wet. I had to get them off. I inched my way to the rim of the seat, tucked my thumbs under the elastic waist and tugged and wriggled. Slipping off the seat, I pulled the wet panties down my legs, over my socks and shoes and off, onto the floor. My legs, socks and shoes were now steaked with urine and the panties were puddled on the floor.

I took my shoes off, peeled the little white, ruffled socks off, and stood there, transfixed in the middle of my wet mess. Trapped. I couldn’t leave the powder room without my shoes and socks and panties. The women. My mother. I pulled down more toilet paper and wiped my legs as dry as my three year old hands could manage. I squatted down by my puddle and with the very tips of my fingers, pulled everything tight together, trying to think, trying to figure out how to wrap it all into a small package and hold it tight to my middle. If I could do that, I could possibly shrink myself down and around it all and tip toe as quiet as nothing and skirt through, unseen, past the women, past my mother, then dash up to my room and hide my mess in the darkest corner of my closet.

“Linda!” my mother banged at the door, “What are you doing in there?”

Oh no, please no.

“Open the door, Linda, now, or I’m coming in.”

Please, don’t. Oh please, not now.

The door swung in as I crouched around my wet things. And my mother, loud with concern, assessed the situation and said, “Why didn’t you just go to the bathroom when you had to tinkle?”

The women.

refreshing bits

Every three years Villanova “refreshes our pc’s.” Refresh, as you may have guessed is their euphemism for replace. Why they have to rename replace refresh is something that only a true alliterist can figure out. I think maybe it makes people running departments feel special.


It’s a rather daunting undertaking considering how many faculty and staff are employed here. UNIT (UNiversity Information Technologies) started coordinating with departments many months ago, sending out broadcasts over email, voice-mail and even paper charts and such for us to indicate what we had and what we needed. This month they started the actual replacement procedures and have been conducting 2 classes a day on all the new software, applications and features. They even have a FAQ page on the web where they post glitches, bugs and work-arounds. One lovely woman updates this FAQ every evening as refreshing new problems and fixes are reported.

I must say, they’ve come a long way over the years. I lobbied for two years before I was given my first computer in 1990. I was extremely excited when Greg showed up with my beige 8088 IBM with a 20MB hard drive and a 2400 baud modem which I had to plug into the phone jack to check my email. I had a 12″ monitor with an amber display, a keyboard and a dot matrix printer. Greg from UCIS (which is what UNIT used to be called before they refreshed their name) came over, set up the computer, gave me my new email address (saboe@vuvaxcom.bitnet) and told me to have at it. “Where’s the manual?” I naively asked. “Manual? There’s no manual.” “How do I learn how to use the computer?” I asked, feeling dumber than I look. “You play,” Greg laughed and then left. This was the extent of Villanova’s user support at the time.

I doggedly poked at the keyboard until things happened. I asked people how they did whatever it was they did, learned how to use Dos, figured out that the black screen was where you actually started typing in WordPerfect and learned how to use Kermit to get into my email. I wrote the first unofficial email user’s manual for anyone on campus who was interested. The guys from UCIS asked me for copies to give out to people. I think I still have a copy of that manual somewhere in my desk. I learned much by typing the word “send” over bitnet to “talk” to distant friends and even participated in a remote internet demonstration without my prior knowledge or consent or that of the presenter….but that’s another story.

So today, I have been given a shiny new Dell computer. Because I do a lot of graphics for the library, I was given Option 2. Option 2 has a faster processor, 74 gig hard drive and 512 mb of ram. I connect to the network over a 100Mbps connection and my 19″ monitor has millions of colors besides amber. Option 2 is a tad faster opening Photoshop, but not by a lot. A few of us are going to lobby for more ram as soon as the virtual dust clears.

I’m old enough to be astounded by the changes and the fact that all the speed, space and memory available now never seems to be enough. Every now and then I google “bit.listserv.politics” just to poke around and read the posts from the old politics list I used to run. When I’m feeling really old, I just pull the book, The Internet Starter Kit for MacIntosh that Adam and Bill wrote, off the shelf and read the contributions my friends and I wrote for the first edition. Our pieces were on the order of “how has the internet changed my life?” It really did change our lives in many ways. We grew, exchanged information and ideas, formed friendships and even married people we never would have had occasion to meet if it wasn’t for those connecting bits and packets that I used to love to watch hop from Villanova to Princeton to Towson to…

ahhh…how I miss the old days of bitnet…when the internet and life itself was a bit more refreshing.

stuck on you

Been awhile since I’ve written anything in this journal. things just don’t seem to be pushing me in this direction lately…must be the weather.

I’m beginning to feel a teeny bit proud of the fact that I’ve not had a cigarette since April 20. Quitting has been difficult, but actually not as violently awful as it was the other times. I’m still disappointed that I allowed myself to start smoking again after being nicotine free for 8 years. Quitting that time was quite an event. Here’s the story…

Brni and I began seeing each other shortly after he had his famous assignation with the truck in Maryland. His arm was in a lucite sleeve to keep the bone from being displaced since the break was high up near his shoulder and not castable. He was going to physical therapy a couple times a week and at night he had this wonderful contraption to stimulate healing of the bone. The electric “bone stimulator” consisted of a cuff that wrapped around his arm secured with velcro. Brni had to be plugged in for 8 hours a day, so the logical time to do this was at bedtime. The stimulator emitted this soothing humming noise, much like the drone you hear in Indian classical music. After plugging Brni in, I’d get into bed with my head in the crook of his arm and the humming would soothe me into the most restful sleep I’ve ever experienced. I loved that thing.


Brni told me that the physical therapist could always tell when he’d stayed over at my place because he smelled like cigarette smoke. Brni would take these opportunities to ask me (nag me), “When are you going to quit smoking?” I would say, “Not unless I can get the patch for free.” At the time, to quit smoking using the patch cost about $400. I figured it was a safe bet that this wouldn’t be happening anytime soon.

So one day Brni came over with a little box. Inside the box was a 3 month supply of nicotine patches.


His roommate’s wife’s father was a pharmacist and some idiot drug salesman had sent them a bunch of samples. Drug stores can’t dispense or sell samples, so he asked Kim if she knew anyone who wanted them or he was going to throw them out. Kim thought of me.

So, I take the samples to my doctor to see if there’s anything wrong with them and maybe I can get out of this mess. No such luck.

The deal with the patch is, you stick it on your body when you get up and leave it on until you go to bed. Some people leave it on all night, but I figured, who smokes in their sleep? You should not get the patch wet, so you can’t bath or swim with it on. I suppose you should rip it off if you ever get caught in a sudden downpour, but I think I’m the only one who worries about stuff like that.


Ten days after I started the patch, Brni and I went to visit a friend in West Virginia. The day after we got there, we decided to go swimming, so I removed the patch. When it came time to put it back on, I had such a feeling of revulsion that I just told Brni that I was going to give myself a rest from it. I’d been feeling strangely awful for awhile, but I couldn’t articulate what was wrong. I felt disconnected from everything as if I were moving through a dense, oppressive fog.

Five days later, I still couldn’t bring myself to reapply the patch. I was sitting at my desk shortly after lunch, feeling awful as usual, when I realized I was swelling up. My legs were huge and I felt stretched out all over. I went home and weighed myself…I was 10 pounds heavier than I had been that morning. The next day, around the same time, I start swelling up again, plus I’m now covered by a very itchy rash. I called the doctor and he told me I was reacting to the patch and to take benadryl. I told him it had been over 5 days since I had used it, but he said, “Your body started a reaction and now it won’t stop. Take a double dose of benadryl.”

so i did…

Brni came over that evening and was a bit alarmed by my condition. He would ask me a question. I would answer, but it took about 5 minutes to get the words from my brain out my mouth. He called the doctor who said, “Oh shit, now she’s reacting to the benadryl.” He told Brni to put me in bed and just wait it out.

I was in bed for about a week. What I remember about that week is being in bed in a stupor where occasionally Brni’s or Jesse’s face would appear out of the fog in front of my face. I remember them asking me questions, but that’s about it. I don’t know how Jesse got to school or how he got fed…I don’t even remember getting up to go to the bathroom. It took a year for the episodes of swelling to disappear and I still get rashes occasionally when I’m stressed physically or emotionally. Turns out I’m allergic to adhesive.


This time I quit cold turkey.
Seemed safer.


just thought you all should know, my dog bites her nails.

she also gets annoyed when furniture or paintings are moved. when i had to rearrange stuff to mitigate the black hole brni made in our wall, fucking up the feng shui, i inadvertently left a nail exposed in our bedroom wall (yes, that’s right…buying the damned tv made it necessary to rearrange two rooms). anyway, loki was thoroughly offended by the bare nail in the wall, growling and barking until we were forced to pull it from her sight.

we discovered her sense of the aesthetic early on. shortly after i brought loki home from the shelter, we enrolled her in puppy school. it was a wonderful experience for loki and for us, and i highly recommend it to all potential puppy parents. this particular evening, class was being held in an old barn of sorts. there were large windows on two sides, one of which looked out onto a field where cows were grazing. as we were standing in place for the next lesson, loki started barking at the window quite insistently. she wouldn’t stop no matter what i did. i looked out the window and said, “i think she’s barking at the cows.” the teacher said, “no, she’s barking at the rug someone put on the window ledge. she doesn’t like it there.”


someone had taken their little throw rug which they were using as a puppy mat and put it on the window ledge. why would loki even notice such a thing let alone dislike the placement? i mean, she’s a dog. dogs don’t do design.

the owner of the throw rug removed it and placed it on the floor. loki stopped barking, turned from the window, now ready for the next lesson.

living under the beef n beer (albuquerque, 1973)

finding a decent place to live is a bit hard if you’re a single mom, full-time student and living on welfare.

my son michael was 3 years old. the only place i found that i could afford to live was a 3 room apartment dug underground behind a beef and beer joint. basically, you walked down a dirt path to a door which led to a room with a drain in the center. i euphemistically called this the “mudroom.” a second door led to a kitchen-like area with the living area to the right. behind the living area was a large room i used as a bedroom for my son and i. the ceiling in there was tacked-up cardboard. whenever it rained, the place got flooded. i would have to go outside and hop on the roof (which was abt 3 ft above ground) and sweep the rain off as best i could to keep the flood-waters from getting too high. then i had to sweep the inside waters over to the drain in the mudroom. that drain should have tipped me off when i first saw it, but i was young, poor and inexperienced. i called the landlord and he asked, “what do you expect for $85 a month?”

but my main problem was the mice. the critters lived in the space between the cardboard ceiling and the ground above. all night long, they’d scurry back and forth, as if they were running relay-races. every morning i’d have to take all the silverware and dishes out and wash off the droppings. i called the landlord and his only comment was to chuckle and hang up.

in desperation, i bought some d-con rodent killer. i felt horrible about it, but my situation was extreme. on the package it said, the mice eat the stuff and then go to their homes and quietly die. well, it never quite occurred to me that this was their home and so we had mice staggering and dying all over the place. i was horrified at what i’d done. got rid of all the poison, but by then it was too late. the situation got worse.

the mice apparently were keeping the termite population at bay. once the mice were gone, the termites had a fiesta. every morning i had to clean away the cones of sawdust from the furniture. then one day, while sitting on the couch with a friend, it started to literally rain engorged termites! my friend left never to return. i wanted to go with him. i called the landlord again, and he laughed harder and hung up.

at some point, the termites got their population in check, but the critters weren’t finished with me yet. the breaking point came the day i found nests of black widows living in the boxframe of my son’s mattress. that was it!

critters 3 / stupid white woman 0.

the kid was shipped off to santa fe to stay with my parents while i searched for a less populated place to live.

confused old women

i don’t know if i can relay this in anyway that will make sense, but i will try my best.

Last night, my cousin Donna called and asked if I was sitting down.
not a good opening
Donna proceeded to tell me that her brother (also my cousin, tho’ I won’t always admit to the blood connection), Andy called and told her that an old family friend’s husband called him to tell him of an odd phone call he had just received.
got it so far? it get’s worse
Mag’s husband (the old family friend) told Andy that some woman called asking for my mother, Lillian. Now, my mom died suddenly badk in 1989 and none of us have ever fully accepted this basic fact of life. Mag’s husband told the woman that the only Lillian he knew died many years ago. The woman claimed that this was not possible because she saw her in Las Vegas and she looked just fine.
ok then…we have a mystery here
So Andy asks Donna if she still speaks to me. ‘scuse me? Donna says, “Of course I still talk to Linda” whereupon Andy says, “Good, then you call her.”
so she did
My first thought was that someone had stolen my mother’s identity. I was also worried that someone might call my dad asking for my mom…maybe as part of some sort of scam on poor, confused old men.
The Mag factor made no sense. Mom was never really associated with Mag. They knew each other mostly through my aunt and uncle. They didn’t travel in the same circles. In fact, the only thing they had in common was that they were both tiny, black-haired Italian women. So, why would anyone call Mag to find mom? So, a few days later, I called Mag to find out first hand what had occurred, since, well, my cousin Andy isn’t known for his listening skills.
so, here’s what happened
Mag was visiting her 89 year old aunt at Bryn Mawr Rehab at the same time a woman from Las Vegas was visiting her friend. This woman apparently used to live here and either knew mom or was a customer of her’s back in the 60s. After Mag left, they went over to Mag’s aunt and asked after the woman who was visiting her. They may or may not have asked if the woman was my mom, but Mag’s aunt has alzheimer’s so she just looked at the list of phone numbers she had and gave them Mag’s. So, it appears that this was a case of mistaken identity, not a stolen one.

I wonder why my cousin, Andy isn’t speaking to me anymore?

donna’s real father

i posted this in reply to westlin’ wind’s nesting story. then i thought, maybe it might be fun for other friends to read…so, sorry for the repeat for those who read both of us….

when i was 10, there was a very precocious girl at tarelton day camp. one day she told us some jokes that i just didn’t understand, but everybody laughed so i figured they were funny. that night, i told helen, my babysitter the joke. well, i managed to get out the the title of the joke, “this joke is called johnny fuckharder…” and helen said, “don’t say that! it’s true!” what’s true?

she scurried me off to bed and next thing i know, mom and dad are waking me up in the middle of the night. dad proceeds to spend hours, slowly and tearfully explaining about the facts of life. mom sat in the corner, staring at the floor. finally dad said, “do you have any questions?” i just had one, “doesn’t it hurt?” dad stood up in a huff and blurted, “ask your mother” and stomped from the room. mom just shrugged and walked out.

so, i thought about this for awhile. i figured, well ok…the nuns say god puts the seed in the mom’s tummy and the baby grows. so, i guess the guy has to activate the seed by bumping it once. so you only have to do it once, bump the seed and then babies form at random intervals. ok. i can deal with that.

but….aunt rose was married to this guy who was killed in the war before she married uncle andy. so, who’s donna’s and little andy’s father? uncle andy or the dead guy? so, i asked aunt rose if uncle andy had ever seen her naked. she screamed no and threw a wooden spoon at my head. ok. the dead guy is the real father. i have to tell donna. so, to donna’s horror, i proceeded to explain the facts of life, with all the ramifications pertaining to her parentage. donna ran screaming hysterically from the news.

somehow the grown ups straightened things out with donna, but i had to wait until health class in 7th grade before finding out about sperms and eggs and that god doesn’t have a thing to do with it.

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