Career development and lasting relationships

My mother claimed I laughed after hanging up, but the information received wasn’t funny. Gerald was dead, and I felt some responsibility for his decision to end his own life.
My mother had called me to the phone and stood by, curiosity etched on her face. “Well, what was that all about?”
I said, “My cashier’s husband shot himself.” I distinctly remember saying my cashier, not the cashier at the Paramount, or calling her by name, Carol.
“But you laughed.”
“I didn’t laugh,” I replied. “At least I didn’t mean to.”
“Were the two of you friends, this man who shot himself?”
“No, as a matter of fact he was very jealous, and I think he wanted to hurt me.” I had already said too much, but she tucked that incident away with the other mysteries surrounding my life away from home. “That was my manager on the phone and he wants me back right away.”
I had been summoned, but more important, I needed to talk to Carol, the first person I ever had intimate sex with.
The thirty-mile drive from my parent’s home to my college apartment seemed to take forever, with emotions ping ponged from guilt to relief and back to guilt. My unplanned one-day trip to visit my parents was to avoid a conflict with Gerald. Carol and I had been counting the box office receipts, when he parked across the street, got out of his yellow Buick, and glared.
Against Carol’s advice—he had obviously been drinking—I crossed the street rehearsing a question that I hoped would break the ice. His features were shadowed from the overhead streetlight and gave no indication of his temperament, but the strong odor of alcohol offered a clue.
“Are you willing to talk to me?” I chose my words carefully, opting against the blunt can we talk?
I accepted his snort as yes, because I hadn’t a prepared response if he refused.
“I’m so sorry about what happened between Carol and me. I would give anything to change that.” Silence. I chanced what only a naive young man might attempt. I held out my hand and said, “I’m hoping we can get past this and still be friends.”
The double irony of the situation, we weren’t friends before the incident. From the details Carol told me about their relationship, he wouldn’t be the kind of person I would want as a friend.
He stared at my hand and said, “And to think I was just beginning to trust you.” He stepped off the curb and headed toward the Paramount. Carol scrambled from the box office and disappeared into the theater. Gerald paused in mid street and headed toward the Sportsman Bar. I felt a sigh of relief when he bypassed my uncle’s bar in favor of a more rowdy bar a few doors down.
Later, as I was taking the receipts to the night deposit at the bank, a huge yellow Buick swerved, jumped the curb and came directly toward me. I froze, not knowing which way to move, but it swung back into the traffic. Gerald’s last words through his open window, “You fucker.”
I didn’t go to my apartment that night, but decided to pay my folks a visit. The next day was my day off and I didn’t care if I missed a day of school.
The seduction began a couple of months earlier when Carol and I were counting the matinee receipts. I joked that my landlady painted the toilet seat without telling me.
She laughed and said, “My sister’s fixing up an apartment in her basement you could rent. I’m living upstairs with her for the time being.”
Separated from their husbands, both sisters could use the extra money; it seemed like a logical decision. I moved a couple of days later, just before the storm of the century. When I woke up, I found approximately four inches of water covering the floor. Sloshing to the toilet I thought about the painted toilet seat, my reason for moving to this swimming pool. I retreated back to bed, the only dry spot, and pondered my predicament.
A light knock on the door and Carol’s voice, “Are you awake?”
She entered before I could answer, standing in the open door with the sunlight behind her. Her long blond hair usually tossed over her shoulder and spread across her left breast or braided and trailing behind her, was rolled tightly into a circle on top of her head. The few errant strands glittered.
She sat on the edge of my bed and said, “I’m sorry. We never expected a flooded basement. I wouldn’t blame you if you want to move out.”
I lay on my back grasping the single sheet tight to my neck. “Does this happen every time it rains?”
“It depends on what you mean by this.” She crossed her arms, lifted her negligee and thrust it aside. She stood and pulled the cover from my grasp. I remember her cold wet feet against mine, barely recovering from my trip to the bathroom. We were side by side, naked.
I can’t remember what happened, or didn’t happen, but she said, “Maybe if I let my hair down it will help,” so I assume our first attempt wasn’t a total success.
I didn’t need her to let her hair down to appear more sexy. That wasn’t the problem. I couldn’t tell her that the stretch marks on her stomach disturbed me. I knew she had children, but I had no idea what pregnancies can do to a woman’s stomach. To this day I imagine, if she thinks of the incident at all, she will assume letting her hair down did the trick. Actually, I shut my eyes, and it worked.
I hesitate to tell what happened next. Gerald burst into the room, sloshed to our bed and cuffed me across the face. He pulled Carol up by the hair and dragged her through the water and upstairs.
About a minute later Carol’s sister came down and said, “He’s gone, but you better get out of here.”
After a night in my car, my friend Del Hoppe and I located an apartment above Harry’s Bar at the opposite end of St. Germain from the Paramount. Del, a fellow college student, worked as a relief projectionist at the Paramount. We maintained our friendship to the present.
I suffered bouts of anger and guilt, the first against Carol and second against me, and our relationship never recovered to the openness we once shared. She got into trouble reselling tickets and pocketing the money, a somewhat common practice at the time, and agreed to quit. She remarried one of my college buddies.
I stopped at their apartment one evening after work to share the details of my promotion and was surprised at her protruding belly. I resisted asking if the wrinkles disappeared, and then began to mentally count our months of separation, although nearly a year had lapsed.
She grinned and patted her tummy. “It’s my husband’s baby.” She cast her gaze to the floor. “I miscarried Gerald’s baby.”
Gerald’s baby. I again began to mentally count but had no beginning or ending reference dates.
“You probably figured out that we reconciled before I quit at the Paramount, but you and I weren’t talking much at the time.”
My turn to stare at the floor. “I’m sorry.” For allowing her to take the blame or for the loss of her as my confidant, I couldn’t express at the time.
She ignored my apology. “Gerald took advantage of my guilt and forced himself sexually on me until I got pregnant. After the doctor established my due date, he shot himself.”
“He wanted you pregnant? Why?”
“I would have three kids to support, not an attractive situation for finding another husband.”
“Well, I guess you proved him wrong. Where is Gary?” When I had called she said he wasn’t home but I should come over anyhow.
“He hasn’t left me, if that’s what you’re thinking, nor are you going to get a repeat performance. We’ve hurt each other enough.”
“You didn’t hurt me,” I lied.
“Good. Now tell me what happened to Sammy?”
Sammy had been fired as manager of Paramount’s sister theater, and I was promoted to his position, the news I intended to share with Carol that evening. Theater business dominated our conversation the remainder of the evening. I wish we could have dug deeper into our relationship, which, except for one incident of sex, was like a brother sister. Had things worked out different, my seduction could have been a positive experience.
Like an older sister, Carol cautioned me about stumbling into a forced relationship by getting a girl pregnant. “Always carry condoms,” she had advised. “Look at me. Pregnant at age seventeen and forced into a bad marriage.”
I refused her advice because the sin would be premeditated. Ironically, she hadn’t offered a condom that morning in the flooded basement.
I believe her intent was my initiation to sex and wanted to make the experience a positive one for me. Another gift of irony, it turned out to be the least safe sex of all. The incident ultimately blended with all my other growing-up experiences and helped shape my character.
I only wish Gerald would have shaken my hand that night in front of the theater.

Gossip and Alpha Male

According to Yuval Noah Harari in his book SAPIENS, the key that set homo sapiens apart from the other animals about a million years ago can be found in the use of language. Most animals have speech related to specific needs: mating, danger, and pleasure. Some such as monkeys learned to deceive, a false alarm to clear the pack from a food source. Most sounds are memorized codes such as the alphabet soup of acronyms relating to our government, CIA, FBI, USDA, etc. Like the nouns in any language, the list could go on nearly forever.

Homo sapiens discovered relationships between these coded sounds, much like verbs, actions between them. On to higher forms of communication: abstractions (unseen forces in the universe) and hypothetical’s (if thens and what ifs.)

Abstract language coupled with a more basic interaction inherited from animals—rule of the alpha male over social groups, modern time extended to include alpha female—coupled with a basic human need for self identity. Who am I in relation to the other members of my social group. Gossip. These judgmental statements require abstract words—feelings, values, attitudes, appraisals, put-downs.

Social groups are still ruled by alpha males, but the lower hierarchy continually jostles for position, how do I fit in relation to those closest to me. Conspiracy theories—recently labeled fake news—add juice to the conversation.


by Mort Harris
Nineteen forty eight, the American West teemed with hostile Indians. As more settlers moved out West, Redskins attacked wagon trains and burned ranch houses, tarnishing the name of Washington’s famous football team. The President, in desperation called upon Stephen Gold, the Secretary of State. “We have a serious problem with terrorism in this country” said the President. “The Indians are attacking us indiscriminately. We have information that they are stealing herds of women and raping the cattle.”
“Sir” asked Gold, “Could that report be in error?”
“Never!” thundered the President. “Our intelligence is indisputable; worse than that, they have resorted to suicide knifing.”
Gold was shocked. “Suicide knifing?”
“Yes” said the President. “Terrorists are attacking saloons; they knife a few people and then stab themselves to death.”
Gold shook his head. “Insane fanatics.”
“What’s wrong with those Indians?” questioned the President. “Haven’t we been generous with them?”
Gold whispered, “Maybe they are a little upset about us being on their land and slaughtering their Buffalo.”
“Nonsense. It’s those wild extremists, the Redskin Supremacists.” He grabbed Gold by the shoulders, “Gold, you are an expert on the far West. I need you to go and check out the tribes. We have received reports that they are preparing for more attacks. More importantly, it is rumored that they are compiling arrows of mass destruction.”
Gold asked, “Have you intercepted any vital messages between the tribes?”
“Only one, when we broke their smoke signal code.”
“What did it say?”
“Yankee go home.” The President shook his head. “Those inconsiderate heathens.”
“Ungrateful savages.” echoed Gold.
The President slammed his fist against his desk. “We have got to have more rigid immigration laws. The Indians act as if it were their land.”
Gold grimaced but nodded.
“One more thing Gold, when you’re out West find out what we can do to lure more settlers out there. I’ll send a large army with you as a peace measure, of course.”
After his futile search for arrows of mass destruction, Gold wrote:
Dear Mr. President,
I picked up some pretty trinkets and got a great buy on a blanket. At our pow-wow, I learned the tribes were not open to our kind of democracy. However, they thanked you for the gifts of whiskey.
Stephen (One Braid) Gold
Toward the end of his trip, Gold found himself in Sutter’s Mill, California. Crossing the muddy main street, he was struck by a speeding stagecoach. People gathered around his injured body.
“Who is that?”
“That’s Gold.”
“What happened to him?”
“He was struck by a stagecoach.”
Word started spreading though the town. “They struck Gold.”
“Sutter’s Mill.”
The Pony Express carried the fake news all the way to Missouri. “They struck gold in California.”
The excitement spread by telegraph to Philadelphia, New York and Boston. Thousands of people stampeded out West to seek their fortune.
Swathed in bandages, splints on his arms and legs, Gold, leaning on a crutch, met the President in the Oval Office. The President nailed a medal into the cast that covered Gold’s chest. Gold attempted a salute but the cast on his arm locked at the half way point. The president heaped praises on his Secretary of State. “You have exceeded my expectations. You not only pacified the Indians with whiskey, but you discovered an ingenious way to get our people to migrate West.”
“Sir, the people of this nation are lucky to have a man such as you as President.”
“I know,” boasted the president. “I sent my best General and more troops to suppress the Indian uprising in the Dakota territory.”
Months later, General Custer stood proudly on a hill top waving the flag of the 27th Cavalry and shouted, “I will stop those Indians if it’s the last thing I do.”
Mort Harris is a comedy writer for Marty Allen.


by Geri Bedrosian, President Summerlin Writers Workshop

Calpurnius loved his horses. It might be said Calpurnius loved his horses more
than his sons, more than his daughters, more than Potitus, his father, more than his
wife, Conchessa, more than his life. True the horses and the cavalry command
brought him wealth and prestige. The horses in the cavalry and his Decurion, (10
Roman-Briton cavalry horse warriors), needed him-they were welfare, income, life
style, life’s blood. Every day he and the men and his sons tended to the horses
every need. The exercising to create muscles of steel, quick responses and
maneuvers in the face of battling foe, feed, brushing down, rubbing down, finding
mares and sires to continue to breed the finest cavalry horses in Cumbria. He
demanded utmost allegiance from his men, his ten and his sons that these horses
and men became as one in the face of battling for life, limb, family, tribe, religion,
country and king.
Depending on the season, bone cold, chilling wet or hot soaking steamy work life,
little rest from training, maintaining, managing – it consumed all their lives for it
was their livelihood. They slept and woke with the horses every day. This was the
life of Calpurnius’ son Maewum Siccat, born 387 to Calpernius and
Conchessa. He grew to be a strong, wiry fair-haired lad and could know the best
and worst of a horse, could out ride his tribe and siblings, could know the very
dreams and ideas behind those most beautiful largest eyes in kingdom come.

That is why it surprised Calpernius that his elder son did not want to serve the
Calvary or the Curia, the senate seat of Cumbria’s decision-making government as
was written by law. Maewum wanted adventure and not servitude to the Cumbrian
citizenry. He knew horses and he knew he was a warrior. Be careful what you
wish for. And, as fate would have it, Maewum got his wish. A marauding tribe of
Irish pirates overtook Cumbria and kidnapped most of the women and children,
leaving many Cumbrian men dead. Maewum was on board a ship to Ireland with
some of his townspeople, a slave to a ruthless Pelagian tribe who believed original
sin was not passed on to mankind, born in innocence with a nature that is pure as
Adam first was. This was not Maewum’s tribal religion. He was in servitude until
he was 16 having mastered the Irish language and culture and worked as beast
master, tending all manner of animals. He was abused and psychologically
brainwashed to believe the Pelagian ways or die. This he did until his
He escaped all right-right into the hands of the French in Tours where he learned
French monasticism. He escaped and returned to Ireland where he converted
pagan warriors, wealthy royal, noble women, the unfree and the poor to vow to his
monastic charity overthrowing pagan idols, converting pagans in Ireland to true
Christianity, that humankind is born in sin and must spend eternity and good works
to escape it. Churches were built on royal lands but Maewum refused Kingly gifts,
their kinship which made him outside their protection. He was charged with
financial impropriety having received gifts from his converts, wealthy women,
who later became nuns. He was beaten, robbed, chained, imprisoned, awaited
execution. He returned the gifts and made restitution and was set free to continue
his life’s work. It is true he used the parable of the shamrock to teach the trinity of
3 persons in one God: the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit but never a snake
slithered in Ireland’s cold and salt sands. The Druids wrote this poem about
“Across the sea will come adze head, crazed in the head, his cloakwill hole
for the head, his stick bent in the head, he will chant impieties from a table in the
front of his house and all his people will answer: so be it, so be it.”
By now Maewum Siccat was being called holy
Magnus (famous), Succetus (god of war), Patricius (father of citizens),
and Cothirtiacus, which in Old Irish is Cathraige and Celtic Latin
is Patricius (servant to the Four Druid Houses). This last name is the name
Maewum became: Patricius (Patrick) warrior/priest, father to followers, slayer of
Pagans for conversion to true Christianity. He made a name for himself but about
that color green….


The leprechaun slipped out of his secret hiding place as
the sun set in the west.
From afar he heard the music of an Irish Jig and began
to swirl and dance.
A cloud appeared above his head and swiftly travel to the
young lass.
To bring unto her young life a feeling of a wonderous
No, no said the people, we do not believe in love and
It’s for us to decide who shall drive the bridal carriage.
Young people do not have the wisdom and knowledge to
make such an important decision,
it’s the elders to decide each and every mission.
Ah, but the leprechaun wanted to cause havoc and
disruption, for he knew true love was the best of a
romantic discussion.
So, he cast a spell upon a priest to secretly to find and
marry, those of whom that loves comes from the sprinkle
of the love fairy.
He goes by the name of Patrick and the world owes him
great affection, because he turned the world around in a
new direction.
This annoying little leprechaun spell made the Priest owe
so famous.
A holiday was name after him that brought true love to
the surface.
First comes St. Patrick’s Day – when the Irish celebrate
the Wearing of the Green. Then comes April 15th – when
the government observes the Sharing of the Green.
St. Patrick’s Day is such a wonderful occasion. It gives
Irishmen that same feeling of omnipotence that Texans
have all year round.
Like Clancy told his wife the other day: “You gotta look
on the bright side of things, honey. Remember all the
gold jewelry I gave you for Christmas? Be thankful it
turned green in time for St. Patrick’s Day.”
I know a Jewish fella who celebrates St. Patrick’s Day.
The way he reads it, it’s: Aaron – Bo Ruagh!
Leprechaun fair warning “Never iron a four-leaf Clover.
You don’t want to press your luck.”
Murphy told Quinn that his wife was driving him to drink.
Quinn thinks he’s very lucky because his own wife makes
him walk.
Reilly went to trial for armed robbery. The jury foreman
came out and announced, “Not guilty.” That’s grand!
shouted Reilly. “Does that mean I can keep the money?”
Billy stops Paddy in Dublin and asks for the quickest way
to Cork. Paddy says, “Are you on foot or in the car?” Billy
says, “In the car.” Paddy says, “That’s the quickest way.”
On St. Patrick’s Day O’Reilly was going to take his final
solo flying lesson. His engines cuts out and he
immediately gets on the radio yelling, “Easter –
Christmas – Armistice – April fools – New Years. The
radio operator on the end says very comely, “Do you
mean mayday?”
“Did you see the paper?” Gallagher asked. “They say I
died!” “Yes, I saw it!” Finney replied. “Where are you
callin’ from?”
Leprechaun words of wisdom: In life, there are only two
things to worry about. Whether you’ll live or you’ll die.
If you live, there is nothing to worry about. If you die,
there are two things to worry about: whether you’ll go to
Heaven or Hell. If you go to Heaven, there is nothing to
worry about. If you go to Hell, you’ll be shaking hands
with so many friends you won’t have time to worry.


Joyce is an active member of the Summerlin’s Writers’ and Poets’ Workshop.

Joyce Rice is an inspiring and enthusiastic performer, author, and motivational speaker who
connects to audiences of all ages through her genuine and generous spirit.
Featured nationally on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as numerous international television
programs, Joyce has lectured on the “Art of Innovation” for such influential and forward thinking corporations as General Dynamics, Rockwell International, and ITT.
Her self-developed strategies for success and happiness originated on her family’s sixth generation farm in Iowa and have been cultivated over a lifetime.
At age 17—after years of practice, determination and staying true to her potential—she was
judged the best baton twirler in the world, defeating some 20,000 other young women for the
World Champion title.
But that was just the beginning. She has also excelled in the field of entertainment with more
than 40 years of experience on stage.
Her talent with the baton took her across the US and Europe, performing at professional football
games, festivals, and world fairs and as the opening act for the Harlem Globetrotters.
She parlayed that talent into a long-running act as America’s Favorite Cowgirl, demonstrating
her prowess with whip-cracking, lariat-spinning, juggling, and comedy at venues around the
She also co-founded and developed the “Thank A Farmer” educational program, adding magic
tricks to her repertoire to promote agriculture and the critical role of farmers and ranchers.
Joyce’s numerous successes allow her to share with audiences how an Iowa farm girl with a
dream became a successful innovator in show business—and one of today’s most unique and
outstanding speakers.
Her journey inspires her to engage with audiences and light a spark that will put people on the
path of accomplishing their own dreams.
She’s been called a “master of visual and verbal communication” and uses those skills to make
points indelible and delight audiences by demonstrating innovation in action.
By sharing her life lessons and proven strategies, Joyce inspires and empowers others to
maximize their talents, rise to the top, and live their full potential.
Joyce strives to help others remember they are capable, responsible, and in control of achieving
their goals and dreams.


by Rena Winters

One morning I awakened at dawn and realized that a door had closed in my life. I know
that each of you have had a door close in your life at some time. I lingered by that closed door,
then, as in previous losses, I walked alone.
The wet grass beneath my feet healed my body, the trees overhead fed my spirit, and I
kept hearing, or thought I heard, live it now, you cannot live tomorrow unless you live today,
this moment, then I became aware of the great process of time, we hold nothing. All things go. I
became a part of that great stream of time when the ancient life forms started. I could see
those life forms as though in progression, vivid as a chart on a museum wall. Yet the ancient
hieroglyphics speak only of today, an unbelievable optimism overflowed me. The life force
moves. It continues to grow and change. It re-creates from decaying hearts new grasses –
perhaps in a different form, and there is an expanding consciousness to perceive the wonder of
this movement of life, suddenly I knew my part in this, it was not to war with progress, not to
spend my force grieving because the buffalo are gone and the whale may be leaving, not
grasping for some utopian future, but from my thought and feeling, first in mind and heart and
then in words tell what it is, just what it is, this day.
So this wonderful spring day I saw a blossom in a tree, it bloomed high above the
branches bursting forth with brilliant color. I saw the arched head of a deer, the gentle grace of
a doe in movement; I saw a cottontail, standing as a statue. For a while I walked in the tracks of
a raccoon. I sat on a moss-covered stump and wondered what myth am I living? Promptly the
answer came, it is the miracle of God at work and the words came rushing in my head clearly,
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want, he maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he
leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of
righteousness for his name’s sake, yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of
death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me, thou
preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou annointest my head with
oil; my cup runneth over, surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and
I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I departed the woods and went to the beach, through cracks in the pier, I two swallows
with golden lined beaks closed in their carefully feathered nest. They sleep the deep sleep of
infant’s sleep, their elders sat on the dock rail, chatting together before starting the day of
feeding their young. I heard the call of a heron and the splash of the dive of a gull. I listened to
all the birds and the wonderful sounds of the ocean.
On this day I walked in the good earth, the dirt and the sand. I smelled the clean fresh
air of the mountains and the cool salt air of the sea. I saw a blossom high in a tree and it healed
me. I heard myself saying “let the past go, let the future be, it is enough to feel, and see, and be
in this instant in time.”
I understand that the door was not really closed, all the life and love I had known
walked with me beneath the trees, life flows in an endless stream, being a part of life, we flow
with it.
Spring has many faces, like a beautiful woman whose features fragment in the ripples of a
stream; there are two faces of spring that I hold very dear although they are at opposite sides
of nature’s spectrum.
Have you ever spent a springtime afternoon in San Francisco … that Bagdad by the bay,
you will see lovely girls in bright spring dresses … handsome, tanned men, and the orange paint
of that famous bridge silhouetted against the sky and on the hills the skyscrapers, towers and
cathedrals, awe inspiring canyons of steel that give testimony to man’s great creative genius?
All of this is just the window dressing for God’s wonder that is spring. The winds of
March drive frothy white caps across the bay and in the bright blue sky the soft white clouds
skid and speed over the heavens to the final rendezvous with the golden sunset. Another face
of spring can be seen in the hill country. You know spring comes in many ways to many places
but she must love the mountains the best because it is here the first buds appear on the trees
while the winter snow still clings to the ground below. It is here a riot of wildflowers first comes
to bloom and the roaring river seems to sing an anthem to the coming of spring…. the rebirth of
the land. This is the prelude to the lush dark green of summer, the age-old promise given at the
beginning of time, God’s spring, blossoms, soft breezes, and butterflies, the all-enveloping
peace and serenity this is springtime in the mountain.
Springtime is a wonderful time to renew and rejuvenate our lives and our thinking. Just
as all of nature’s creations began life in the springtime. It’s time to begin life anew, to stretch
and broaden and widen our horizons and our thinking. To burst forth with flowers of love to all
those around us, to everyone and everything we touch.

Sticking Up for Someone

by Marcia Gewelber

I was borne a feminist. In my own home I experienced many
inequities. My father always spoke of and encouraged equal rights for men
and women. Since he died when I was 10, I alone carried the Flag of
My mother, for example, always believed my brother was more equal
than I. It reminded me of the book, Animal Farm, in which the “Pigs were
more equal” than any other animals. It was she I had to fight to go to
college. Since my brother was 7 years older than I, I watched as he went to
college, joined a fraternity, while my mother bought him a used car so he
didn’t have to travel by subway.
She had already told me when it came to my turn to enter college; she
would not give me a “red cent” to quote her. In the year 1959 she told me,
“It’s not necessary for girls to attend college. You can work as a secretary,
like other girls your age.”
Well, for those of you who know me, I applied for scholarships and won
one which paid for school as well as my books. At that time, I majored in
Business. To turn a phrase, I “burned my bra” well before Betty Friedan
made it a cry to rally women.
After I graduated valedictorian, I took many types of jobs until I could
save enough money to go back to college and major in Writing. It was at
that point that I was hired by a Psychiatric Group of doctors to transcribe
tapes of cases of child abuse that would be entered into court records.
At that time, the group had just hired their first female Psychiatrist. I’ll
call her Dr. Smith. I had a chance to talk with her on breaks, getting to
know her background and the woman herself. She was a strong woman,
extremely bright, especially being the first female Psychiatrist among men in
the same field at medical school. I learned she felt she had to be better just
to survive. And survive she did.
I worked in that office where the male Psychiatrists would talk to each
other in front of me as if I didn’t exist. That’s when I learned that Dr. Smith
was hired at half their salaries without the “golden” lists of benefits that the
men had in their contracts. They would talk down about her, putting her in a
position of second-class citizen in their eyes—only because she was a
I kept notes of what they said, knowing instinctively they were
breaking the law, my law. At last I felt I had enough ammunition to speak
with Dr. Smith. It happened I was able to get her alone in the cubicle in
which I worked.
I began by telling her how much I admired her, and how I felt about
female equality. And, I pulled out my notes and began to list all the gossip I
overheard, beginning with the salary difference. She became agitated
immediately. That’s when I explained that I did not want her to use my
name; that I needed this job in order to return to college.
After about 15 minutes, she promised me she would not use my name
and thanked me profusely for informing her about all the discrepancies
included in her contact. She hugged me and said she would confront them
What I did not know was after our talk she hired an attorney, and was
going to sue the Group. I never saw her again.
Shortly after that, I was fired for a cause they manufactured. I felt hurt
and betrayed. After all, she had promised to keep my name out of it.
I quickly found another job and earned enough to go back to college.
My hurt feelings disappeared because I had a new direction in life, and I
knew I would finally be working as a writer. I graduated as “Writer of the
Year” and have enjoyed my career from then to now.
Today, I look back and see that I wasn’t a snitch, I was a hero in the
sense that Dr. Smith was now on equal footing no matter where she landed,
and I helped getting her foot up, so to speak. I realize how much courage it
took for me to let her know about the disparities she was facing.
And, today, I still wear no bra, knowing I am a true-life feminist!

CURRENT CHAPTER: scroll down to chapters one through eleven

CHAPTER TWELVE Friday Morning , December 1, 1899

Eyes open and pinch back shut. Pulls bed sheet over face. Light sneaks in. Dark under Mother’s quilt. Ears don’t hear Stella singing in kitchen. Tosses covers away. Not on couch. Sun shines bright through window. Curtains hide sun on living room window.
Caleb’s bedroom! Father, not Stella, tucked Caleb in new bed last night. And desk and dresser, Father said Mr. York’s surprise. Foot steps into slipper. Giggles.
Nana teases, “I’m going to find your secret place.”
Walks to desk. Wiggles toes on foot without slipper. Floor cold.
Nana Sings, “One shoe off and one shoe on. Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my grandson Caleb.”
Opens desk drawer. Mr. Wentzel’s tobacco tin with three curly things. Stella put in drawer when saying goodnight. After Father tucked Caleb in.
“Caleb. Are you awake?” Father’s voice from the stairway. “I need you to meet someone in my office.”
Looks down stairs at Father. “S-stella?”
“I wish Stella were here, but she went to the dairy to get milk for breakfast.”
“Gotta pee.”
“I’ll wait for you by the office.”
Not a dream. Father let Caleb drive Dowdy’s horse. Holds out arms. “Giddy up.” Makes clicking noise. Trots down stairs to bathroom.
Father stands outside office door and points. “That man in there knows something about your family.”
Nose remembers cigar smell. Finds foot without slipper. Whispers, “Diddle, diddle, dumpling.” Eyes see man’s black shoes. Not shiny! Go up to black pants. To black shirt. To black hat. No cigar.
Oma says Man-in-Black always stinks like cigar.
Black hat hides man’s eyes. He points to chair. Caleb sits. Man’s eyes move to chair behind desk. Father sits.
“Caleb, this is Mr.—”
“As I told you, just Sean.” He lifts black hat. “My only name for now.”
Oma’s Man-in-Black!
“Well young man. Now that you know my name, tell me your name.”
“Is that your full name? What about a last name?”
“Don’t remember.”
Father’s hands on desk. Sees Papa’s ring first time. He says, “We aren’t even sure he’s been baptized. Can you supply us with that information?”
Sean-in-Black keeps eyes on Caleb. “Tell me about your mother.”
“Where is she?”
Papa yells. “Are you sure that’s necessary, Sean?”
Oma says Sean is Caleb’s mean uncle.
“Please answer, Caleb.”
“In heaven with Nana. With Little Sister.” Eyes want to cry.
“A little sister?” Sean smirks.
Oma tells Mean Uncle to wipe smirk off his face.
“What about your little sister?”
Eyes go to black shoes, not shiny.
“You do know something about the girl.”
“Oma says pray for her.”
“She died?” Mean Uncle Sean pushes coat open and shoves hands in pockets. “What about your father?”
“Don’t have papa.”
“Do you remember a baseball game?”
“Man in uniform hit the ball real hard.”
“Who bought you a baseball cap at the ball park? And took you to a cinema?”
Face hurts. Papa should make Sean go away. “Papa?”
“You said you don’t have a papa.”
“I think Caleb means me. He sometimes confuses my title of Father with Papa.”
“Was he a priest like Father Busch?”
Remembers only shiny black shoes.
“Tell me about the fire.”
Papa says, “That’s going a bit too far.”
Pinches eyes shut. Shiny black shoes won’t go out of Caleb’s head. Looks around. “Where’s Tella?”
“Who is Tella?”
“Stella, my housekeeper. She’s taking care of Caleb until he finds a permanent home.”
Eyes open. Find white envelope on Papa’s desk. Mrs. Cunningham has brown envelope. Policeman had black envelope.
“I presume she is away. Does she leave Caleb alone often?”
Man-in-Back looks around. “Never?”
“Except when I’m here to watch him.” Uncle Sean’s eyes stay on Papa. “Unless accompanied by an adult.” Papa sits back down. “For instance, yesterday Mrs. Cunningham escorted Caleb to a prospective family.”
“Cunningham? The Implement dealer here in Bovine?”
“Yes, his wife. I don’t see what that has to do with—”
“Did the fire burn you, Caleb?”
Shakes head.
“I’m afraid I have to confirm that.” Faces Papa. “Note that I did not touch the boy.” Eyes back on Caleb. “Please stand and lift your shirt for me. I want to see your back and stomach.”
Glances at Papa. Lifts shirt.
Uncle Sean makes circle with finger.
Turns around and pulls shirt down.
“Lower your pajama bottoms and turn around.”
“I most seriously object.” Papa tries to stand.
“Very quickly, Caleb.”
Loosens string and pajamas fall down. Urge to pee again.
“Thank you, Caleb. You may pull your pajamas back up. Now, I need to see your feet.” He looks at Papa. “May I?” He sets Caleb back on chair and lifts foot without slipper. He shakes head and takes slipper off other foot. He smiles.
Points and giggles. “My strawberry.”
Nana says, “I’m going to find your strawberry and tickle it.”
Uncle Sean puts slipper back on foot. “Caleb, I want you to show me where you sleep?” He glances at Papa. “With your permission, of course.”
Papa stands. Man-in-Black stares but Papa doesn’t sit down.
“Father Busch, I want you to understand that I am a professional. I will in no way harm this boy. There are certain conditions that go with the stipend. You’ll find them in the envelope with the bank draft. Feel free to look them over while this young man shows me his bedroom.”
Papa drops to his chair. “I’ll be right here, Caleb, if this man frightens you.” He picks up envelope and sets it down. “No, I will follow you to the stairway.”
Man-inBlack doesn’t scare Papa.
Slides off chair and takes man’s hand. Hears Papa humming as they climb stairs.
“So, this is your room. Where did you get the nice quilt?”
“The Mothers.”
“What mothers?”
Counts on four fingers. “Mrs. Cunningham, Grandma Betsy, and Earl’s mother.” Lowers his pinkie. “And Arnie’s mother but she died.”
“I see. Mothers. You miss your Oma?”
“And Nana.” Tears form.
I want you to think real hard. “Who put you out on the window ledge?”
Shakes head. Picture won’t go away.
“Your grandmother?”
Nods and tears burst out. “Nana.”
“Where was Oma?”
“Oma on fire.” Runs and bumps into Papa on steps.
Papa yells, “I regret that I allowed you time alone with this boy.”
Can’t pee no matter how hard Caleb tries. Wants to look at sad face in Oma’s little mirror. Nana hides locket in apron pocket. Kicks off slipper. Giggles through tears.
“You can tickle my secret place now, Nana.”
Peeks out bathroom door. Runs to Stella’s bedroom and looks in. No one in kitchen. No one in living room. Outside office door, Mean Uncle Sean grabs Caleb’s arm, bends down, and whispers, “Look under your mothers’ quilt.” He puts his finger on his lips. “Our little secret.”
Papa comes out of his office. Sean smirks again. “I’ll be back some time next year. I’m aware of the new orphanage. Not a good place for Caleb.” He pulls black hat down over eyes and walks out.
Curls up in corner. Chews on pajama string. Papa sits at desk. Writes.
“Caleb?” Stella calls from kitchen.
“The boy’s in here.”
Stella stares. “Caleb, are you all right?”
“He’s had a difficult morning. Take these notices to the Council members. We need to meet immediately.”
“Yes, Father. Immediately?”
“This afternoon at one o’clock. It’s written right in front of you.”
“What about Caleb?”
“Take him with you.”
“Your breakfast, Father?”
“I’m in no mood.” He reaches into his pocket and takes money out. “Get him something to eat at the cafe when you deliver Emma’s note.”
Nana helps Caleb stand. Kisses his hair. “Where are your slippers?”
“Caleb doesn’t know.”
Papa scratches head. “He came down stairs with them on.”
“I’ll find your slippers later. Right now you need get dressed for outdoors. The sun is shining but the air is still cold.”

A bell jingles when they open cafe door. Emma comes from kitchen. “Hello, Caleb. You’re just in time to help with the noon rush.” She glances around empty tables. “Well, maybe it’s still coming.”
Stella takes off Caleb’s coat and holds it. “We’re here on Father Busch’s order to deliver this message.” Hands Emma folded paper. “And to buy Caleb breakfast.”
“I think Caleb earned pancakes and maple syrup after working at the venison fry last Monday.”
“Father gave us money.”
“In that case, I better pay up.” Emma takes nickel from money drawer. Gives it to Caleb.
In New York Nana saves nickels for Milk Man and Ice Man.
“Do you have a safe place to put this?”
“My desk.”
“Wow. A young clerk.”
“Mr. York’s idea to get him ready for school next fall. He furnished Caleb’s bedroom furniture. I’ll make some curtains.”
“Sun hurts Caleb’s eyes.”
Emma asks, “What else do you have stored there?”
“Three curly things from Mr. Wenzel. Maybe something else. Don’t know.”
Our little secret.
Emma says, “All boys have a secret stash.”
Stella says, “Bring out Caleb’s pancakes. We have one more message to deliver this morning.”
Emma glances at paper from Father. “Emergency meeting. What’s that all about?”
“Man looked at Caleb’s strawberry.”
Stella sets coat on chair. “A birth mark on his foot.”
“This is a meeting, I don’t want to miss.”
“I better deliver this last message to Ben and get back to make Father his lunch.”
“Breakfast first, S-stella.”
Bundled back up after pancakes, Stella tells Emma, “Our next stop, York’s Mercantile.”
“Giddy up.” Makes clicking noises. Trots out the door
Stella looks at Emma. “We have Father to thank for that.”
Inside York’s store, man takes milk bottles out of box and puts them on shelf. Talks to them. “Customers have to see you guys before they’ll buy.” Claps the dust off hands. “What can I do for you, Stella?”
“We have a message to deliver.” She hands him the paper. “And Caleb has something to say to you.” She nudges Caleb. “What do you say to Mr. York?”
“Thank you, Mr. ‘Ork, for my desk.”
“And your bed and dresser.”
“My secret place.”
“I charged the parish for the bed and dresser, but Caleb can keep my children’s desk as long he stays. I’m sure the parish will want to purchase more adult furniture when the bishop arrives for confirmation. You’ve taken the guest room since he was here two years ago.”
“I expect to sleep on a cot in Father’s office.” She glances around the store. “I would like to buy Caleb a small toy.”
Mr. York puts his hand on Caleb’s shoulder and points to shelf of toys. “Go see what you would like?”
Turns and points. “Caleb wants milk bottle.”
“A strange toy and quite breakable.” He looks at Stella. “Sturgis dairy only delivers bulk milk, but some of his customers want it in bottles. He agreed but won’t furnish the containers.”
“I’ll take one. If I need to walk to the dairy again, I’d sooner carry a bottle than a pitcher.”
“They come in pairs, an empty to exchange for a full one.”
“Just one for now.”