Tiny Blue Marble

9-27-12  The prompt:  A marble, chosen from a bowl     

Write for three minutes



It was a universe in my hand.  It’s amazing what you can pick up on the street.  Here I thought some kid had finally lost his marbles.  It was instead more similar to the Universe pendant from Men in Black.  A world of galaxies so dense you could look at it forever and not discover all its secrets.  I held it up to my eye, and imagined the terror or wonder of all of the inhabitants of all the planets in all the systems in all the galaxies at this giant eye appearing in the night sky.  I was God.  I looked up above me, a chill went down my spine, and suddenly I knew it wasn’t true.




My Hero – My Dad

6-14-12    The prompt:     Pick a person who is important. 

                                            Pick a photo of   that person. 

                                            Start with: “In this one, you are…”

Dad-Saipan 1945

In this one, you are… writing home to your mother and father.  The cover on your head is cocked jauntily, against all regulations.  There is no one around in the background, just sandy beach.  You probably got one of your buddies to take the picture.  Your smile says “Having a wonderful time, Mom.  Don’t worry.”

You had been on Saipan Island for two months, two years into your enlistment.  The action wasn’t bad yet.  Iwo Jima was quite a few months down the road, and you had no idea.  Most of the day was spent servicing the planes and going out on sub patrols in a borrowed Helldiver.  Nights were quiet, with the occasional siren and mad dash to the anti-aircraft guns, or to a bunker for protection.  I suppose for you it was the bunkers.

I’m following you now, retracing your footprints from Camp Lejeune and Parris Island to Quantico, then to San Diego, then off on the ships to the Islands.  I just want to know what was going on.  The stories turned out to be so sanitized or fictionalized that I lost track of you as a pre-Father doing whatever it was you did in the war.  The photo of you is all that was left of your war record after the fire.  I’m lucky it was on the desk in the living room, and that someone had the foresight to pick up the whole thing and dump it on the front lawn.

You gave me the gift of a few stories so that I could live the life of a World War II Marine vicariously through your eyes.  You must not have known that I wanted nonfiction.  The stories were thrilling enough.  I just wanted to know the truth.  I know now as an adult that telling the truth about war is never done lightly, never done with children, and only done safely with those who have shared the horrors.  I just wish now that I had the courage to ask later in life, and that you  had the courage to answer.

Through my explorations, all of the papers from the St. Louis records archive are in sleeves in a notebook.  Your complete military record is there. I have books about the Pacific war on the shelves, and the Marine Corps is digging up unit histories for me.  I have one of those cases for the folded flag.  It has room under the flag for the medals and campaign ribbons.  I’m slogging through the history, just as you slogged through making the history.  Perhaps this is how I keep you alive in my heart and mind.  Seeing you in your uniform, seeing you in the landing craft, seeing you with the rifle that used to live in the trunk in the basement of our old house after you were done with it.  I know that was real.  I held it.  I have your picture in a frame on my desk, you standing on the beach, hat cocked jauntily on your head.  I see you, and I remember.

Zion Park, Utah, 1978

5-17-12    The prompt:   It might have happened like this…

The three showed up late at the Ranger’s office, wanting permission to camp overnight in one of the rim canyons of Zion National Park.  The young man’s name was Jon, without an ‘H’, and his girlfriend Lou had brought along her best friend Beth.  They knew they were pushing it, but they flew through check-in, and headed up the trail around the rim of a smallish box canyon.  Halfway to their destination campsite, it was already getting dark, and the setting sun painted the walls of the canyon a deep striated red.  At the point of deep dusk, Jon called it quits, and he and the girls set up the tent in near darkness.

The next day, I had planned a trip to Zion with my new co-worker Steve.  We were mud loggers on a geothermal well being drilled just north of Beaver, Utah, and I had gotten my first paycheck after graduating from college.  Thrilled and flush with hard cash, I went out and bought a new camera, and wanted a chance to try it out on the scenery.  Steve had suggested Zion.  He had been in the area for two months already, and was there for the beginning of drilling.                                               Continue reading

With a Little Help from My Friends

11-29-12  Use this quote         “It is not down in any map.
                                                  True places never are.”

                                                                   Ishmael, in Moby Dick


I thought it was a gopher hole.  More legs have been twisted and more horses put down because of gopher holes than I can possibly count.  I stumbled forward, and stretched out my hands to catch myself and prevent serious damage.  Oddly enough, there was nothing there to catch my fall.  The forward momentum continued, and I was head over heels before I knew it.  What the hell?

The fall was much too long to be a normal trip.  One second, one full and surprising second, was what it took.  The thud at the bottom shook the wind out of me, and I gasped at the suddenness of it all.  The first impression was the smell of warm damp earth.  The second was of darkness.  It wasn’t full darkness, as there was a small circle of light overhead. “It must be a hole I fell into,” I thought.

The third impression was of eyes.  Lots of eyes. Mostly in pairs, but some in shocking ones and threes.  As I sat up, the eyes resolved into little faces, moving forward out of the darkness to explore the intruder, me.  They were faces of wonder, with little open mouths all going “Ohhhhh!”  The bodies were small and deformed to my eyes, but these little people had no problems with them at all.  They crowded around me and chattered, touching my skin and clothing and plucking at me.      Continue reading

Windows of the Mind

10-18-12  The prompt:  Go to a unique place, spend time there, and describe it.



I love my clients.  Some of them have said the same about me after the work was finished, but I really love my clients.  My latest is a divorced woman who has moved from Amherst to Belchertown, from a five bedroom big standy-uppy house in a development to a little cottage on a lake.  She called to ask if I could look at her new house to see about a bathroom remodel and possibly, if there was time, a kitchen also.  I didn’t have anything pressing, so I agreed to meet her there the following weekend.

The walkthrough almost didn’t take place.  When I arrived at the new house, it turned out to be a little three-season cottage twenty feet from the most beautiful lake I had ever seen.  I was agog.  Struck dumb.  Walking across the lawn, I had the strongest sense that all would be well in the world if I could only sit down and take in the view for the next twenty years.  My feet slowed, I remembered to close my mouth, and I think I may have moaned quietly, but perhaps it was part of the dream.

The water was clear, and deep.  Ripples from the breeze moved across the surface, and water lilies bobbed in the water just away from the shore.  A small frog saw me and leapt into the lake, pumping its legs to escape the intruder.  It was late summer, and the breeze was warm on my face.  I just wanted to stay there forever.

Trees hung over the water, and a memory of a rope swing and laughing children came to mind.  Watermelon and sandwiches, cousins and grownups.  I could feel the water over my head, and the sandy rocky bottom of the lake, the slime of algae and floating green plants.

“Hi!  I see you found the place!”  Cynthia walked across the lawn with her hand held out.  I took it, gave a slight squeeze, and wondered if it would be appropriate to propose right there, before I even started work, before we had a contract.  I just wanted a way to stay.

“I love it,” I said.  My throat felt like cotton.  “The location is beautiful.”

The walkthrough began, and I could see the immediate possibility of rescuing a sad neglected bathroom and making it wonderful for Cynthia.  It would give me at least five weeks in heaven.  I told her I would draw up a plan and pricing for her approval, and a tentative contract.

Three weeks later, and I’m finished with the bathroom and standing in the kitchen.  I’ve finished the floor replacement and electrical work.  I just installed the window that will be over the sink and looking out over the lawn to the lake.  The old kitchen window was a piece of crap with two panes of glass separated by a vertical muntin that divided the view.  The new window was a single huge casement, which, when the protective film was removed from the glass, looked just like a framed photograph of the lake.  I stood there for fifteen minutes, silent and staring.

I shook myself back to reality, and moved away from the view to begin the drywall.  Two sheets later, I found myself back in front of the window.  The smell of wood smoke threatened to take me away again to some past life full of memories.  The view of the lake was still there.

I figured two more weeks, and I’d have to decide.  No one ever looks in the septic tank when someone goes missing.  Who would know that I had moved in?  Perhaps some weights and a short boat trip to the center of the lake.  The building inspector had told me recently that it’s actually eighty five feet deep.

I just stood before the window and smiled.

Maria, sans fear

7-19-12 The prompt:  Pick a name at random from the phone book –
                                   “Maria Sanscartier”
Work was a bitch. Again. Didn’t Jeff realize that she was doing the best she could? Her output with her accounts was twice that of her coworkers, and still he criticized her every half hour for not doing enough or trying harder. The walk home was always in the dark because Maria inevitably came in early and stayed late.

It was a sultry night tonight, and the walk was relaxing. Walking away from the center of town, she noticed as the trees got taller and the lights got dimmer. Life sans office wasn’t so bad. Maria had developed this little quirk in her expressions and thoughts. With a name like Sanscartier, she couldn’t resist adding sans to her life. Maria Sanscartier, Maria sans boyfriend, Maria sans pussy cat. Wouldn’t it be nice to be Maria sans Jeff.

She was strolling. There was nothing at the apartment to draw her home faster. A microwave dinner, bed and a book. It was much nicer to be nature watching outside on a clear fall evening. Maria sans cares. There were a few others out and about. A couple passed, holding hands and speaking love to each other. The occasional car passed, lights on, drawing the driver home. A tall thin kid ahead paused, looked up at a street sign, and turned the corner. Maria was suddenly alone in the universe, sans people, and stood still to look straight up at the vastness of the stars. There were more of them here than there were over the office. She imagined her boss looking up and seeing a pitch black sky, not a sign of stars, no possibility of life. Take that, sucker.

Maria traveled on, approaching her block. She looked up at the street sign the kid had examined, and without a sound a hand was clapped over her mouth. She felt herself falling back. A scream formed in her mind, in her throat, and made it as far as the hand. As she was being dragged around the corner, she realized her mistake. The kid! He wasn’t looking for the street name! He was waiting for her!

Thoughts of rape came unbidden. Maria sans life. The thought turned her into a wildcat. Not tonight you don’t! Her flailing hands felt hair, and she grabbed. With every bit of will and strength, Maria pulled forward and down. The hair, and the head under it, flew forward over her shoulder. She crouched, and the body attached to the head followed. The kid landed hard and flat on the sidewalk in front of her. Her mouth freed, the scream flew from her lips and alerted the neighborhood. She turned to run to the safety of the apartment half a block away. She hesitated, and turned back. With all that remained deep in her core, her life energizing her, she took a deliberate step forward, and kicked the kid in the side of his face as hard as she could. Her golf pro would be proud of her follow-through.

Maria, sans fear.

Look, Ma, I’m Flying!


5-2-13  The prompt:  Use this poem as a starting place:


by Marie Howe

“Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven devils had been cast out” —Luke 8:2.

The first was that I was very busy.
The second — I was different from you: whatever happened to you could not happen to me, not like that.
The third — I worried.
The fourth – envy, disguised as compassion.
The fifth was that I refused to consider the quality of life of the aphid,
The aphid disgusted me. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
The mosquito too – its face. And the ant – its bifurcated body…


I sat still, finally sitting in First Class, breathing the air from everyone else in the cabin.  I had never indulged myself like this before.  Imagine what my Pa would say if he saw his farm hand son sitting up in the front of the plane with the High Priced Spread.  There was a feller sitting across from me with a suit on that could have paid the mortgage on the farm for a whole year.  He kept looking over at me, like he was wondering how come there was suddenly so much leg room in Coach and had he missed a turn coming on.  I snuck a glance back, and by accident caught his eye.  I just shrugged and gave him my best shit-eating grin.  You probably don’t want to do that with too many strangers.  Ma would be vexed.  “Mind yourself” she would say.  So I minded, and kept my stare out the window.                                           Continue reading