Nano Nano

Oh, if only I were as prolific in writing as Williams was in adlibbing!

Once again – glutton for punishment I am, I participated in this year’s National Novel Writing Month or simply NaNoWriMo as many, sometimes cringingly, call it. In layman’s terms I had write 50,000 words of my story/novel in 30 days.

Why 50k and calling it a novel? I’ll let the NaNoWriMo website explain it:

We’ve found that 50,000 words is a challenging but achievable goal for many people, even folks with full-time jobs and children. And, though on the shorter side, it’s definitely long enough to be considered a novel: 50,000 words is about the length of The Great Gatsby.

We define a novel as “a lengthy work of fiction.” Beyond that, we let you decide whether what you’re writing falls under the heading of “novel.” In short: If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel, too.

Nanowrimo website

As a fan fiction writer I use it motivate me to go for those longer multi-chapter stories in the warren of plot bunnies running amok among the dust bunnies in my head. I am verbose – I know this. I have a fic out there that took over 277k words and eighteen months of my life to tell. So, I at least start the stories and complete them once NaNoWriMo is over.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo off and on for a few years now. I believe they chose November because here in the States, at least, Thanksgiving at the end of the month throws a huge wrench in the gears of obtaining that 50,000 words. When I first started there were a couple of years where I had not managed my time well and had fallen far short of the goal. Now I try to hustle at the beginning of the month, with a personal goal of reaching the 50k by the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Because I know from experience nothing is getting done that Wednesday thru Friday.

Notice I said try to. I was more than annoyed with myself this year to have only reached 42823 words on the morning of the 22nd. I knew there was no way I was typing over 7k words in a single day. Between preparing for, celebrating during, cleaning up after Thanksgiving my brain just had to accept the fact that not another word was going to be typed until Saturday morning the earliest. Yeah – between family staying the weekend, and I’ll be honest – alcohol, lots of alcohol, Saturday morning at the earliest became Sunday evening before I could write again. It took until last night, but I crossed the Rubicon with 53517 words and two days to spare!

2022 NaNoWriMo Winner Badge

No, this year’s so called novel “Rock Star” is not even close to complete. I estimate another 20k, but a chunk is done, and the was the goal. So now I get to breathe for a moment, pull out the big red editor pencil and go from there.

Let’s see how others are goal tending this Tuesday…

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Slice of Life Tuesdays
Writing Challenge

And Press “Pause”

Today is the finish line for the 15th Year Slice of Life Story. It’s been a great run. I have not missed a day, and while I have definitely pants it close a couple of times this month, this is the first year I was never in danger of missing a post for 2022. I must say, that’s a pretty good feeling. Alas, another 31 days and flavors is in the books. Off to the next big thing, right. Hmmmm, not exactly.

Usually I go straight from the Slice of Life Writing Challenge straight into National Poetry Writing Month as I have done for the past several years.  

However, there are 18 items sitting in draft mode here on WordPress alone. Some are partially done poems needing tweaking, some essay ideas to be fleshed out, three are nothing more than a couple of lines of an idea I want to work with at some point. There’s a book I’ve been working with off and on for a couple of years. There’s my fanfiction. And let’s not talk about the literal pages of ever multiplying plot bunnies clamoring to be fleshed out into something more. Thus, I know it is not because I do not have anything to say. Because in spite of Muses best efforts to get as much out of me and onto paper, canvas and pixels, it’s all bottle-necked. I don’t like that for all my output, the things I want out the most are not getting out there. And I don’t know why.

I don’t like not knowing.

I do consider myself a decent story-teller, and yes, it pleases me that some want to hear/read what I have to say whether in poem, prose, essay, blog or my Verbal Diarrhea Diaries, but I also feel something of a responsibility to that which will remain behind in these pixels long after I am gone. Because one edict I did have is this: if I felt strongly enough about something to put it out there, even if I must apologize later [and as a Virgo who abhors being -gasp- wrong, believe me, I avoid being in that situation like it’s plague], I may edit or tone it down, but I do not take it back.

Noticed that did in there?

It is that responsibility, where I have increasingly found myself thinking of better ways to express a thought coherently only after I hit ‘publish’, which has me galled to no end. Between the bottleneck mentioned above, and this lexical lethargy has become increasingly worrisome and hit its head earlier this week. La Impostrata, a personification of the Imposter Syndrome coined by fellow blogger and real life friend GirlGriot, struck big time and for the first time ever I trashed something I wrote. No, I did not return it to draft mode to be pondered over and reworked for another time – I trashed it. And then trashed the trash can in my perturbment. I can all but hear writer friends of mine gasp in the horror at this cardinal writing sin. I know, I KNOW! I sincerely apologize to you for that horrid lapse in judgement. But mostly I apologize to myself because as a person who has files with snippets of discarded writings in the belief it will be used elsewhere later, I damn sure know better. I am ashamed of myself. Something has to give.

So rather than submit myself to another month of more writing pressure, I’m choosing to press pause on challenges for now. I’m going to step back and sit out this year’s National Poetry Writing Month.

Oh, I will still write and post poems in April, fret not (not that those who know me were). There is no way Calliope, Erato or Melpomene are easing up on me. It just won’t be for the next thirty days straight. Naturally, I’ll be here on Tuesdays for our weekly slices.

I want to feel comfortable in what I write, whether it is poems, blogs, short stories, flash and fan fiction. That the something I say that makes sense. Sometimes I need to write because I feel confident that what I say that will inform or entertain others and sometimes I need to read so that I can be better informed and entertained myself. What I will always need regardless, are times when no matter what is going on in my life I pick up my pen.

I’m simply allowing myself the grace to ease up on the writing pressures I put on myself.

We made it! Day 31 of 31 – Let’s see how others are slicing it out this final day of the challenge.

15th Annual Slice of Life Writing Challenge

15th Annual Slice of Life Writing Challenge
Two Writing Teachers

The Oopsies Have It!

I sometimes use my phone to compose posts on WordPress. It’s convenient when I’m not in front om my computer to write my posts. For example, when I’m on the subway and an idea comes to me for a poem. As it’s one Ill have to link to via this blog it made perfect sense to start it here. One less step to do. Yeah, not quite.

Convenient as it is, it comes with with a few problems. I am not the world’s best speller to begin with, I’m prone to grammar typos and don’t forget my adoration of dangling participles. Most of which I don’t catch until after my post has been published. And oh, let’s not talk about the autocuumber – I mean autocorrect. That charming little helper that constantly insists I have no ducks left to give, yet will occasionally decide in a food post that I had fuck a l’orange for dinner. Oopsie!

Add in that my fifteen words per minute typing cannot possibly keep up with my fifteen hundred thoughts per minute mind. I drop words mid sentence. I know I thought them, but the fingers do not reach my keyboard in time before other thoughts and words crowd them out. And le pièce de résistance: big fingers – little keyboard. I’m constantly hitting the c, v, b, n, or m key when all I want is amspace. (<– like what just happened there – oopsie!). Using my phone for drafts is convenient, but a recipe for disaster.

Especially the times when I was not done composing posts, and did not want to lose the work done thus far. At some point I accidentally managed to hit “Publish” because that button is too dang close to the dropdown menu where “save as draft” is hidden. I know the app designers emphasize posting, but it’s bedeviling as all get out when drafting. Because naturally, once I have realized that it’s live, I don’t want to trash it, so now I am scrambling to edit my accidentally published post, only to have hit “update” instead of “save as draft” in the process – yet another oopsie(!). This especially galls me for I constantly tell my students, “If it’s a mess in draft, it will be a mess live. Submitting it will not magically fix anything FUBAR.” Goodness knows this mess of a blog is proof of that. It’s bad enough when working from my PC. It’s especially true for me when composing on a mobile device.

All that to say, so, if you happened to see my first, second, twenty-second, failed attempts of what probably looked like an incomplete or an incomprehensible posts for the few moments it was up before I could fix it, I apologize.

Day 18 of 31 – Come see how the rest of us are slicing it up this Friday!

Slice of Life 15th Annual Story Challenge

15th Annual Slice of Life Writing Challenge
Two Writing Teachers

Knowing When To Press “Pause”

We’ve reached past the halfway point of National Poetry Writing Month, Week 1 of 52 Essays 2017 and my email inbox has days’ worth of writing prompts from the several groups I am a part of. Yet, I have posted nothing since last Tuesday. From February 28th to April 10th I posted something everyday single day. There were also days where I posted multiple times, such as April 4th, where I posted thrice in a 24-hour span.  Yet for the past seven days, I’ve posted nothing. Maybe it is something of a burnout, I don’t know. What I do know is that it is not writer’s block.

There are 28 items sitting in draft mode. Some are partially done poems needing tweaking, some essay ideas to be fleshed out, three are nothing more than a couple of lines of an idea I want to work with at some point. Thus, I know it is not because I do not have anything to say. Maybe it’s because I have so much to say and it’s all bottle-necked. Still, with the exception of my Verbal Diarrhea Diaries, I have humbly learned that every emotion that emits or bon mot that bubbles from my lips is not necessarily something that I want put to print or pixel; this is especially true with essays.

It would be much too easy for me to become one of those writers who quickly spouts off on all the many events that happen- the tragedies, the scandals, the oh so many injustices in the world, with commentary from the hip. I admire the writers who can regularly, and seemingly within a mere few hours of an event, publish intelligently heartfelt, or uproariously satirical content. I even admire the tweeters can who evoke the right contextual chord in 140 characters or less within minutes of an event. I do consider myself a decent story-teller, and am humbled when someone messages me wanting to know if I am going to comment on some event or another. Yes, it pleases me that some want to hear/read what I have to say whether in poem, prose, essay or my Verbal Diarrhea Diaries, but I also feel something of a responsibility to that which will remain behind in these pixels long after I am gone.

The permanency of the Internet certainly makes me think more carefully about what I say, and when and how I want to say it, because I do not want my contributions to be little more than mindless chatter in the white noise of the Internet. It is that responsibility, in the week or so before April tenth, where I have increasingly found myself thinking of better ways to express a thought coherently only after I hit ‘publish’, which has me galled to no end.  That lexical lethargy had become increasingly worrisome and seemed to hit its head last week where the first time ever I trashed something I wrote. I did not return it to draft mode to be reworked – I trashed it. I can all but hear certain writer friends of mine gasp in the horror at this cardinal writing sin – I know, I KNOW, I sincerely apologize to you and to myself for that as well. So in the midst of what should have been another busy week of words, I chose to pause, to step back, to wait.

And in that pause instead of writing, I went back to reading. I have found one writer’s adage to be true – the best way to learn to write is to read. I like to read, or reread, the words of others who have inspired me to write. Read those writers whose voices, have helped me to discover my own. After all, we learn to read before we learn to write, so it makes sense in a way. I read some for pleasure and some for research of the ideas pieces in draft mentioned above. Twice I found myself donating a couple of hours to Wiki Walking. And I say donate as opposed to lost as most of the information accidentally gained was worth the time spent.

I want to feel comfortable in what I write, that I have something to say that makes sense. Sometimes I need to write because I feel confident that what I say that will inform or entertain others and sometimes I need to read so that I can be better informed and entertained myself. What I will always need regardless, are times like week -when no matter what is going on and as I pick up my pen again this week –  is to know which to choose and when.


Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge – Week 16


A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.

How I See It

Writers see the world differently. Every voice we hear, every face we see, every hand we touch, could become story fabric - Buffy Andrews

Ah Buffy, I do not know you, but oh how writely (<- not a mistake), you’ve nailed this. This reminded me of a conversation I once had with a friend on how a Facebook post I once wrote came to be in the manner it did. It came down as such.

When I see/hear any thing, it’s all a matter of part of me registers it first. Casual me sees things at one level, writer me see things at a different level and poet me let things resonate on another. Then there are the times when it all converges effortlessly as one.

Looking at the last of autumn leaves on my street is rendered as follows–

The casual me says:

The trees on the block were so pretty last week, now all the leaves are almost gone, it makes me sad. 

The writer me tomes:

A week ago, this tree-lined block was in full bloom of autumn colors. Now only few leaves are left on graying branches to testify to that erstwhile splendor. It’s near maudlin in my heart to compare.

The poet me pens:

Leaving memories 
Reflected in these gray tears
Golds and rubies fall

(PS: Yeah, I know not the best haiku, but hey, not all my two-second poems are going to be gems – shoot me)

And when they all came together in the Facebook status post in question:

There’s a tree-lined block I walk through almost daily. A week ago this block was awash in the vibrant hues of fall. Today gnarled gray fingers claw at pink cloud-dotted cerulean skies, desperate to hold on to their remaining gold and ruby jewels in the ever shortening daylight of mid-autumn. I watch one such topaz jewel lazily drift to its final resting place upon the concrete. It felt as if watching a tear fall.

The same eyes saw the same street, the same leaf, at the same moment, yet each part views it, and thus tells it, differently. Still, not matter how it’s seen/heard/felt…

Warning: I'm a writer. Anything you do or say may be used in a story.


Let’s see how others are slicing up their Monday:



10th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge! – DAY 13


May Auld Acquaintance Please Be Forgot

Though born in raised in New York City, my family background is from the South. Or as I sometimes joke, I am from South Cackalaky (a colloquialism for South Carolina) via the South Bronx. My Yankee/Dixie mix is apparent in my daily life, but more so around the holidays where part of my Christmas Day meal this year consisted of Italian (baked ziti), Spanish (yellow rice) and Southern (pork shoulder) cuisines.

As we rapidly approach the very end of 2016 I am now reminded of a different tradition — how one must start off the very first day of each year. With variances for local and/or home preferences the checklist is as follows:

New Year’s Day Prep Southern Style:

  1. New mop and broom.
    — One does not bring last year’s dirt into a new year.
  2. A man must be the first one to come into to house.
    (2a. That man must have money in his pocket.)
    — Usually, this was the man of the house, who would walk out the back door, if available, then enter through the front door.
  3. Everything must be clean. Your clothes, your linen, your home, you.
    — A continuation of not bringing in last year’s dirt into a new year – starting after Christmas, the home gets a scrub down.  For some homes, the parts of the house that would be seen by any company that may happen to come calling was enough. For others, the home is cleaned stem to stern within an inch of its inanimate life. Then once everything was cleaned, it was time for everyone to get clean. Hair washed, toe nails clipped, root-to-toot clean.
  4. Prepare the good luck meal of Pork, Black Eyed Peas, and Collard Greens.
    — Though generally a ham, it can be any kind of pork, but it must be pork. Black-eyed peas, on its own or mixed with rice. Collard/Kale/Mustard Greens, or any combination thereof, rounds out the holy trinity of culinary tradition.

All of the above, if followed properly, was presumed to be an assurance of a healthy and prosperous year ahead for you and your family.

So after all that – speaking solely from personal experience – considering the fucked-up, not even close to putting the fun in dysfunction people I was blessed to have to shape my young life, all I can say of all that is BULLLLLLL SHIIIIIIIIIIIIT!

After all, these traditions were ones passed down from families who lived in or were a part of private homes. As poor tenement dwellers, this premise was a glass cliff from the start.

  1. A new mop and broom: Unless it somehow was no longer usable during that week, my mother held on to mops or brooms until the last strands or straws fell off. Who could afford to waste money replacing perfectly good items?
  2. A man must be the first one to come into to house (and have money in his pocket). The only way this could occur is if my father went out for New Year’s Eve and drunkenly stumbled in the door first by happenstance. If there was something needed from the store we could not wait for him to get up first, for if he was home at midnight that meant he did not have any money to go anywhere the night before. So much for money in his pocket. Not to mention, we lived in a tenement, duh! There was no back door to go out of in order to come in a front one. And he damned sure was not getting out of bed and getting dressed to walk out of a door -only to walk back in again- just to satisfy some tradition/superstition. More often than not, I was usually the first person to cross the threshold on the first day of the year.
  3. Everything must be clean.  As an only child and a female, with a father who lifted nothing other than a fork or a liquor bottle, the totality of this cleanliness ritual fell to my mother and I. As I got older the brunt of it was on me.  The days between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day were bloody torture for me. I do not exaggerate when I say bloody as my knuckles often became cracked and raw from the constant scrubbing with bleach, ammonia, Lestoil, Pine Sol and hot water as I cleaned. And don’t you dare ask whether I used gloves. Despite years of seeing others, yes white women, doing so on television and in movies, I was well into my teens before it even became a thought in my head as something I could do for myself. The one time I actually brought it up, my mother looked at me with much disdain. “What? You think you too precious to touch water?” The use of gloves was never brought up again.
  4. The good luck meal. Since ham was made for Christmas, in my mother’s kitchen the pork part of the tradition was almost always in the form of chitterlings and hog maw (the smaller intestines and stomach lining of a pig, respectively, cooked for food). If you have no idea whatsoever of what I speak, my God I how I envy you and wish I shared the wonderful bliss of your ignorance! Years after I left home, the smell of bleach and ammonia combined -something everyone knew you should not mix, yet everyone did exactly that back then- would immediately take me back to New Year’s Day when my mother’s kitchen was an olfactory assault of cleaning products and offal stench as my mother spent a good hour or so at the sink cleaning the -ahem- meat before cooking it. Once I was whipped and not allowed to eat anything if I did not eat everything was cooked for the house for New Year’s Day. I took the beating and went hungry for two days because I refused to let that nastiness cross my lips. The only reason I did not starve for three days was because winter break was over and school had started again where I ate breakfast and lunch. I still was not allowed to eat dinner at night. This stalemate lasted until all of the chitterlings was gone and something else was cooked that I was willing to eat.  This whipping and starving routine were repeated several times over a couple of years before I was taken seriously and allowed to eat only what I wanted. I just realized, I was only ten when I first defied my mother like that. That was truly the precursor to what was coming down the pike – but I digress.

Each January 1st this plague of tradition fell on our apartment with the hopes of a better new year. I presume as we did not follow the rules to the letter, three hundred and sixty-five/six days later, the January 1st of the new year found us just as miserable and poor as it found us January 1st of the previous one.  So what was the point? Suffice it to say, when I became the matriarch of my own household, things went a lot differently for New Year’s Day. At least I thought so.

As I look back on it now, it really was not all that different. I have enough south in me that each time I have moved I purchased new mops and brooms to not bring old dirt into a new place. Yet, like my mother, I do not purchase new cleaning implements each year. With two sons to run to the store if necessary, plus my late-husband –having a man being first to come through the front door, with money in his pocket, was almost a given. If someone non-male somehow cross the threshold first – whatever. Granted, while whatever place we called home was not always white-glove spotless, it was clean – except perhaps for my younger son’s room, depending on his mood, that is. And as I was the one in the kitchen, I cooked any damned meal I felt like cooking that day. As I am now a single woman whose adult sons are out on their own, even that much of the tradition is just a memory. Yet, I am living better and happier than I ever have in spite of it.

The closest I come to preparing for the new year is in my spirit. I fully believe how I find my heart at the stroke of midnight is what guides the rest of my year. The years I started off depressed, pretty much remained so. The years I started off on a good foot, stepped on accordingly.  As for this year, I admit my bank account needs some serious replenishing, but I can keep a roof over my head, pay my bills, not starve and still have something of a life on my own. It’s going to be a long while before I can globe hop again the way I did last year, but I will be able to travel a little this year.  Yet all of those things are material. Most important is that I am content. I am happy with myself. I am happy within myself. I am prepared for some new craziness/challenges with this new year, but I am also looking forward to seeing what new joy/beauty/happiness 2017 will bring.

What better way to start?

Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge.
A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.


And let’s see how others are slicing this first week of 2017:
Slice of Life Writing Challenge|Two Writing Teachers


Saw this posted on Facebook…


I feel this also applies to just about any and everyone in the creative field, but especially the writers.

We creative types give many, many thanks to our respective muses, imaginations, inspirations or whatever we choose to call that which guides us to create in whatever medium. And while everything we do is a piece of our truths, it’s not always our personal stories we convey.  A Clockwork Orange By Anthony Burgess,  Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote are first person stories told from the viewpoints of a fifteen year old boy who probably has Asperger, and a flighty young woman in 1940’s New York City, respectively.  Suffice it to say neither tale was told from the first person view of the author. We as readers seem to innately understand this when it comes to novels, without introductions, forwards or some other advance notice to clue us in. Yet not so much with poems. Unless the reader already knows, or knows of, the writer, the first person view-point is general taken as, well, personal.

While my drawings and paintings leave a lot to be desired, I do feel I have a fair hand at the written word, specifically my poetry.  Still, just because my writes are in first person singular, don’t always make them my first hand account.I mostly write in the first person, as in 95% of what I pen is from that perspective, and considering  some of the poems I have written, let’s just say be damned grateful those writes are pure imagination, okay?

Though I cannot help it if it is not read, I now make a point of adding a footnote at the end of my writes if I think there may be even the slightest confusion. At least now, if a comment is given under misunderstood information, I know it’s not because I didn’t let the reader know.

I write, you read, and if the correct words come together enough for you to feel something, then I feel I’ve done my job well as communicator. I’m not going to lie, it makes me feel good when I read that the things I write touch people.  If I manage to evoke a laugh, a quiet reflection, visceral anger or have your heart-break just a little, I am grateful. Just not a former sharecropper, or an unborn child, or a cutter or getting murdered or… or…


Let’s see how others are communicating with what’s left of this lovely Sunday:


Slice of Life Writing Challenge – Day 13 – Two Writing Teachers


Giveth and Taketh

“I believe that inspiration will always try its best to work with you–but if you are not ready or available, it may indeed choose to leave you and to search for a different human collaborator…This is how it comes to pass that one morning you open up the newspaper and discover that somebody else has written your book [or blog post!]…or in any way whatsoever manifested some spark of inspiration that you’d had…but had never entirely cultivated…Therefore, the idea went hunting for a new partner.”

–Elizabeth Gilbert , Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Oh, how much I do believe the truth of this. I posted absolutely nothing between late November and early February.  NOTHING.

It’s not that I did not have any ideas. I had plenty. But they all just came at odd times.

  • Hurrying down the stairs to catch a train.
  • Hands deep into slicing up meat to make a stew.
  • In the midst of teaching a class.
  • In a meeting with my boss.
  • and so on and so on…

Each time I said to myself things like “I’ll remember”, “I’ll work on it as soon as I finish_____”

Each time it was gone by the time I procured pen and paper. By God do you understand the frustration of knowing you had a great thought, an excellent lyric at the tip of your tongue, but now it’s gone can’t spit it out? I did this one time too many and the dearth of posts between November and February was my muse punishing me.

I have not seen my thoughts ideas elsewhere, at least not any can remember/recognize  lol, so at least I felt Muse has not totally given up on me, I just had to bide me time in the purgatory known as writers block. I am happy to say, Muse has decided to give me another chance and I’ve been a busy little these past couple of weeks.

I’m not messing with her again.


Let’s see how others are slicing up their Day Two….


Slice of Life Challenge Day 2| Two Writing Teachers

30/30 – 18 | Special

Below is a carry over of the characters I created in Rebbie, a 30 Days /30 Stories post from a few days ago. Please read the first entry to further get into the character here.

I was about 11 when my whole life got turned upside down.

One Friday night we girls was staying over with Olivia and Alethia at Miss Jackie’s house.  It was late and I woke up having to go to the bathroom.  As I passed by Miss Jackie and Mr. Hal’s bedroom, I heard the bed squeaking and their voices through the half-opened door. I didn’t know grown folks made so much noise when getting Special Hugs as Papa called it.  I tried not to laugh as I closed the door gentle like and went on about my business.

Saturday morning, Miss Jackie was just a smiling and humming all over herself as she made us breakfast.  It weren’t that unusual, she gots like that every now and again.  This day, she just seemed happier than usual. I was asking Olivia why her mama gets so happy like that every so often.  I thought I was talking low, but apparently Miss Jackie heard me and laughed saying it was because Mr. Hal gave her such a special hug she still felt good.  My mouth must have fell open something fierce ‘cause I ain’t even realize it was open ‘til Miss Jackie told me to close it before a fly went in it and why I was looking at her like that.  I told her how Papa told us we ain’t to never ever ever talk about special hugs in front of no one and that I was surprised she was talking about it all easy like that.

I tells you, there must have been something in them damn pancakes ‘cause my mouth was just a going that morning!  Next thing I know I’m telling her about the time Papa slapped May-May something fierce ’cause she mentioned it in the kitchen once and only us girls was there.  He immediately apologized for hitting her, but we were to NEVER talk our Special Hugs again not even with each other.  Something in Miss Jackie’s face changed, I remember it did looking back on it, but I wasn’t old enough then to get it and like I said my mouth was running on it own accord that morning.

“Special Hugs?”  She asked.

“Yeah” I said, stuffing my face with the pancakes she had just placed in from of Olivia and me. “Like the one you and Mr. Hal had last night when I passed your room as I was going to the bathroom.  I ain’t know grown folks makes so much noise with their special hugs.  I closed your door. Papa says the door should always be closed and locked and we need to be quiet when he’s giving us our Special Hugs.  I guess ya’ll forgot.”

That’s when the bowl holding the next batch of pancakes Miss Jackie was mixing hit the floor.  Olivia and I jumped.  Twice.  First from the bowl dropping then again when Alethia, May-May and Cassie came tearing into the kitchen right behind it.

Miss Jackie was staring at me kind of funny like and I think that be about when I got the first sinking feeling that maybe something wasn’t no where near right.  May-May saw Miss Jackie looking at me and asked me what I done did to her.  I told her I ain’t done anything but ask her about her Special Hugs from Mr. Hal.  Then May-May starts in on me on how Papa says we’ ain’t suppose to talk about it at all and now Miss Jackie’s gonna tell Papa and how we three all gonna get it for sure.  I was trying to tell May-May how Miss Jackie done talked about it first, but all Cassie heard was how Papa gonna whup us and she starts bawling.

Cassie’s bawling starts Olivia bawling and I declare that girl is the most sorry-fullest looking thing on this here green earth when she gots her face all twist up in tears like.  Next thing I know we all up in that kitchen crying, Miss Jackie too.  She apologizing to us, we apologizing to her, Olivia and Alethia were apologizing and they damn sure ain’t had nothing to sorry about! It might have gone on like that for another half-hour at least, but then Mr. Hal walked in.

“What in the blazes…?”

Miss Jackie’s head snapped up at the sound of his voice.  It was years before I understood that unspoken language that grown folks who know each other well can speak, but Miss Jackie and Mr. Hal had to be speaking it that morning.  Ain’t nobody said a word as Mr. Hal washed his hands and took over making the pancakes in another bowl, Miss Jackie and us girls cleaned up the mess from the dropped bowl and soon everything seemed almost right back where they were before the bowl hit the floor.


There was this hincky feeling that kinda lay over everything.   Miss Jackie and Mr. Hal joked with us and just did all the things they always do with us girls when we all together.  Still,  every now and then I would see Mr. Hal sneak Miss Jackie a look and they would speak that quiet language of theirs and they would both look at me and my sisters for a short moment with this sad look.

They sent us girls out in the front yard to play after breakfast, which we did.  Olivia and Alethia had snapped-out of their crying spell by then, but May-May and Cassie kept giving me dirty looks.  It felt like everybody was a blaming me for something Miss Jackie done started!  I couldn’t see where, but I knew I had somehow messed up Miss Jackie’s good mood and I felt bad for that. I told May-May I was going round back to the kitchen to get some water.  I actually was fixing to tell Miss Jackie and Mr. Hal to go on back in their room and have another special hug if it would make Miss Jackie happy again.

Heavens, I was young!

I was actually going to say that!  I just felt so bad for messing up her good mood and if that was the thing that made her so happy in the first place I figured it would work again.

“Hal you can’t over there!  My God, Hendricks will kill you over them there girls!” Miss Jackie’s voice was all panicky.
“Dammit Jacqueline!  What am I ‘posed to do?  Wait ‘till he gits here askin’ for them and then tell ‘im he can’t have them?  Woman think! All the hell he’ll cause up in here in front of all the girls.” Mr. Hal was mad about something.  “I gots to take the fight to him. It’s the only way.” It was the first time I had ever seen him like that and I stopped in my tracks too scared to go in and too scared to run for fear they would hear me and think I was listening in grown folks business, which Papa always told us never to do.

“’Sides I ain’t going by myself.  I’m taking Patrick  and Rev Emerson with me.  We jus’ gotta pray he don’t come for the girls  ‘fore I gets back with them.” I could hear Mr. Hal walking, no stomping around in that kitchen.  I think he was trying to keep his voice quiet down, but he was just too upset. That made me feel just that much worse somehow knowing I was the cause of this too.  I had just about decided to go on back to playing when I heard the one thing I shouldn’t have.

“It’ll be all that much harder to take the girls away from him if they back in his house.”

I believe I done mentioned how my mouth was on its own accord that morning, because my head just wouldn’t kick in as I tore into the kitchen.

“Whatchu mean take us girls away from him?  Why you wanna take us from our Papa?” I was loud.  I know I was loud.  I’m constantly being told to bring my voice down; it tends to get a little up there and I wasn’t nowhere near trying to keep it down as I ran into the kitchen and got in Mr. Hal’s face like I was grown. I started hollering for May-May, which was kind of a wasted breath since she was already on her way in from when I started yelling in the first place.  Of course May-May running in brought Cassie, which brought Alethia and Olivia.

In less than a minute we had an even worse crying yelling and hollering about than before.  Miss Jackie crying trying to calm all five of us girls down.  May-May at me and me screaming at the top at top of our lungs about how ain’t nobody going to take us from our Papa, Cassie bawling again just because we were and Olivia and Alethia were just standing there tears running down their face.

Men are rarely any good when women starts to crying their heart out.  The poor man had Miss Jackie and the five of us little ones all at the same time. He just looked from one crying female to another and shook his head.
Somewhere in there I got the notion to just go tell Papa what they was trying to do and took-off.  At least I tried to.  May-May was on the other side of the room from me, but I was back in kitchen so fast standing in exactly the same spot I was in before, if I hadn’t heard the slamming of the screen door I wouldn’t have known I moved at all.  I realized it was May-May who held me back as she stood holding my arms now.

May-May had turned thirteen a few of months before and had her monthly for a while now.  The women folks were all “…youse a young womans now” when they be seeing her and she done gone and let it get to her head .  She started to boss me and Cassie around like she as grown as Miss Jackie. Calling us “dumb little girls who ain’t know nothin’ ‘bout nothin’!”, especially when Papa wasn’t around to hear her. I was so sick of her trying to be all big on me, like she grown too I turned on her.  I was yelling at her for being all mad because Papa just told her a couple of months ago that she be too old for special hugs from him now and she can’t get none no more and how she ain’t wanting me and Cassie to get none either.  Miss Jackie groaned and suddenly sat down like somebody done dropped the heaviest of loads on her shoulders -which looking back on it now is kind of exactly what happened- and started whispering the Lord’s Prayer.  May-May turned on me then and screamed at the top of her lungs.

“Rebecca in Jesus’ name will you just Shut. The.  Fuck.  Up!”

And for the first time in my life I understood what folks meant when they said the words, the earth stood still.

Nobody, but nobody called on the name of the Lord like that! Mr. Hall and Miss Jackie looked at me and May-May with this – this look.  I was some years older before I could fully understand the level of shock they must have been going through at that table to look like that and it had nothing to do with May-May cursing, but at that moment all I could think was: Now what I done did?

“You know don’t you, Myrna-May? That it’s not right?” Mr. Hal’s voice was so soft, barely above a whisper, but we all heard him right clear.  I ain’t realize how quiet it was in the kitchen again until I saw Livvie asleep in his arms at the table. I don’t even know when all of us sat down, but we all were.  May-May just hung her head down with these tears coming down her face.  It was a real quiet kind of cry. I ain’t never known Myrna-May to cry like that.  She always made noise.  She was either really happy, really sad or really mad. Even when she herself didn’t say anything, her face said everything. These quiet tears was something new to me and it scared me to the core. It scared me to the point that I was finally, finally did something I ain’t been able to do up to that point.

I shut-up.

“I hear some of the older girls talking about it. It took me a while to figure out it was the same thing.  It took me even longer to figure out what was supposed to be right and wrong.” Myrna-May’s voice was low.  It sounded like she was talking from way cross the room through some kind of fog, but I was sitting right next to her. She was speaking loud enough though because neither Mr. Hall nor Miss Jackie asked her to speak up.
“They make jokes about doing – it – with someone’s papa, but I could kinda tell by the way they talked that it really wasn’t right somehow.  They made it sound all nasty and everything but…” Myrna-May stopped and looked from Mr. Hal to Miss Jackie who nodded at her for her to keep talking.

”But if it’s supposed to be all bad and nasty, w-why does it feel so-so…good?”

Mr. Hal’s neck actually made a snap like sound when it popped-up.  We all heard it and turned toward the sound. I truly believe the ONLY reason Mr. Hal didn’t completely explode at the moment was his girl asleep in his arms.  Miss Jackie had jumped-up quick like, ready to catch Olivia if he had, but he stayed in his chair.  Even so, the look on his face just before he looked down at the floor again scared Myrna-May and me so bad we grabbed each other’s hands.  Miss Jackie came and put her arms around me and Myrna-May.  Alethia came and rubbed May-May’s arm.  I ain’t quite sure how, but everything clicked at that moment for me.  It all just sort of came together.  I looked up at everything and everyone around me and as usual I said the first things that came out of my heart.

“Our Papa’s not suppose to give us special hugs is he, May-May?”  I asked Myrna-May.

“No, Rebbie honey, not like that.”  She squeezed my hand.  She had stopped crying, but she was still speaking in that far away voice.

“It’s something grown men folk only supposed to do with grown womenfolk only.  Never, ever with children.”  Miss Jackie added and there was something – final – in her voice.

“We ain’t ever going back to our Papa is we?”  I guess there was something final in my voice too because they both looked at me kind of hard, but soft and Mr. Hal sighed real hurt like.

“No, Rebecca honey, you can’t.”  Miss Jackie stroked my face speaking in that that same low across the room sound that Myrna-May had. Miss Jackie ain’t never used my whole name unless it was something really good or really bad.

I ain’t have to ask which one was what .

To this day, I have yet to decide if it was for better or for worse.  Way, way, way down deep, where I don’t want to really even admit it to myself, if I had to do it over again, even knowing all that I know now all these years later, I think I would have made more of an effort to keep my mouth shut.

Daily Prompt: Good-bye

Early autumn.

Click.  Click.

He stands in front of the floor to ceiling picture window in the living room that faces the water.  Being near the apex of the hill gives him a nearly unobstructed view of the river, the bridge and the rest of the city spread out before it.  The glittering effect of the sun on the water is as picture perfect as the fluffy cotton candy clouds breaking the monotony of the azure sky above.

He does not see this.

Click.  Click.

The leaves are mostly green, but you can see the first of fall’s leaves on the lawns and sidewalks. A perfectly shaped, beautifully russet leaf lazily drifts from a tree in front of the brownstone to the street.  Even this early in the season you somehow know autumn is going to show off in a blaze of glorious color at its peak.

It does not so much as invite a shrug from him.

Click.  Click.

Children play on the sidewalk or in front yards enjoying the last vestiges of the day. Their occasional high peals of laughter break the relative silence of the late afternoon. It is a good hour before the streetlights come on and another half hour at least before the sun noticeably sets.

He does not notice.

Click.  Click.

The gentle swish-swish, swish-swish of leaves brushing against a window is somehow rhythmic.  It is the same gentle breeze causing the light curtains to sway in front of open windows as evening approaches.  Somewhere down the block just out of the line of vision the happy tunes of an ice cream truck are heard.

But not by him.

Click.  Click.

He has stood by the picture window long after the brilliant red, gold and indigo of sunset have paved the way for the now diamond studded navy night.  The grandfather clock in the front hall again chimes the passing hour.  The stereo is just barely audible above the regular sounds of the house.

The only thing he has heard and continues to hear in his mind is click.

Click.  Click. 

Click.  Click.

Click.  Click.

In reality, each click is no louder than of that of an old-fashioned typewriter key strike.  For him each is as loud as a cannon blast.

The sound of stiletto heels clicking against a marble floor of the foyer as they walk out of the door and his life.



Daily Prompt | What A Twist!