March 11, 2014, Writers Read at Fallbrook Library Presents
Women in Words: Readings by, for and about women
An all-open mic celebration of
Followed by a month-long fiesta of women in poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction—visit this site for newly published works Sundays and Wednesdays through March
Date: Tuesday, March 11, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Location: Fallbrook Library, 124 S Mission, Fallbrook, 760-731-4650
Join us for an all-open mic reading of works that celebrate Women in Words.
Bring your favorite writing—original or by another writer—by, for or about women throughout history, recent or long past, poetry, fiction or creative nonfiction.
And, if you’re up for a challenge, take the Women’s History Month Quiz here.
For more information about Writers Read, contact K-B Gressitt at email@example.com or 760-522-1064.
A Short Story by
He talked to the doctor, and it seems it had come to this: a matter of blood flow to the nether parts, and Ellis Leahy found himself trying not to look sheepish in the bustling HMO pharmacy line, putting in the order for his maiden prescription of the ED drug. He handed over the paperwork. A man about his younger son’s age fed the prescription into the computer and said, “Whoa, you sure you don’t want me to cut this down? I mean I can give you three pills instead of the thirty.”
“Why would I want only three pills?” He’d been hoping for about a hundred.
“This stuff’s expensive man. We’re talkin’ three hundred dollars.”
Ellis clutched his chest. Suddenly the trouble down south of the belt line seemed the least of his problems. Now the worry was a heart attack, right there at the counter. “Sweet holy Christ!” he said, wondering if perhaps it was time to pack it in on the makin’ whoopee thing. But then he thought better of it and said in a hoarse whisper, “It’s OK.”
The wait was on. Standing room only—flu season was rolling in high gear. The air bubbled with dangerous viruses. Surgical masks clung beneath watery red eyes. Muffled coughs and sneezes sang out. Ellis considered Canadian pharmacies and illicit drug runs to Tijuana. After a forty-five minute wait—during which an unsupervised toddler with a slimy green snot mustache wiped his face on Ellis’s knee—his prescription number, 672, sang out, and he approached the counter where a small blond woman his daughter’s age stood staring into the computer screen, a little, amber plastic bottle in her hand.
“Holy copuloli,” she said, turning her gaze to Ellis, holding the bottle up between two fingers and a thumb, giving it a maraca shake. “Three hundred bucks.” She jutted her lower lip out and gave her bangs a puff of air. “You know we got this stuff in generic.”
Ellis pondered this, then said, “How much cheaper?”
“Then that’s what I want.”
“But your doctor ordered,“ she shook the bottle again, “the name brand.”
He paused. “She must have stock in the company.”
A sympathetic smile played on the young woman’s face. “We have to get her OK to change it. If you’d like, we can phone her.”
“It might take a while to get in touch.”
Ellis found a place to stand against the wall. The influx of flu sufferers continued. After fifteen minutes, the calling out of “Prescription 721, report to counter 5” caused the vacating of a chair by the back wall. Ellis strode over and plopped his tired ass down next to a small, elderly woman who struck up a conversation, steering the talk from grand kids to incontinence, to bursitis in her shoulder and the gout that her beer drinking exacerbated, to her no-good and now-departed husband who cheated on her with a waitress named Lorraine, to her daughter who had no idea how to raise kids. And then, “What are you gettin’ today, Ace?” with a nod toward the counter.
“Gotta get some salve for this contagious flesh-eating thing I picked up in Guatemala. Want to see?” Ellis grabbed the bottom of his t-shirt, as if to lift it to reveal his rash, as little snotty came by again to wipe his nose.
The woman left abruptly. So did the man in the chair on his other side, and after another half hour of blissful isolation in the jam-packed waiting room (word had spread about his malady) they called him to the counter.
“Thirteen dollars,” the small blond said.
“My lucky number.”
“The pharmacist will be right here to give you the instructions.”
Ellis pictured a ridiculously youthful woman in a white lab coat telling him how to get laid, chemically aided. “I think I can figure it out,” he said.
The counter clerk pulled the plastic bottle back out of his reach. “It’s your first time,” she said. “You gotta get the instructions.”
The pharmacist, a harried, dark-haired mid-thirties beauty, looked at the prescription with tired eyes.
“You don’t really want to do this, do you?” Ellis said, beckoning with his fingers for her to give him the pills.
A seismic sneeze shook the waiting room, and she said, “Pal, after a day like today, all I wanna do is go home, pour a tall, strong drink, and put my feet up and watch TV.”
“So give me the short version.”
She nodded. “Three pills, at the same time, about an hour before you plan on gettin’ frisky.” She rolled the bottle across the counter to him. “And no alcohol.”
“No alcohol? You’re kidding?”
“Oh Christ, that’s what they all say. Have a couple of belts. It won’t hurt you.”
He handed her a twenty. She gave him seven dollars back. He pocketed the plastic cylinder and headed out, stopped at the 7-Eleven and bought a twenty-four ounce Budweiser, drove home and popped the beer’s top as he braked to a stop in the driveway, and washed three pills down right there behind the wheel. An hour, she’d said. He needed more time. So he turned up the music, Frank Sinatra’s Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, and he tilted his seat back a bit and sipped his beer. After forty-five minutes of sweet sounds, when Old Blues Eyes began to croon into Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” he swung his door open to the refrain:
“I’d sacrifice anything
come what might
for the sake of having you near…”
And with those words echoing in his mind, he entered his abode and gave the pill bottle a maraca shake as he called out to his wife: “Ruthie, girl. I’m home.”
About Dan McClenaghan
I write stuff.
I began with my Ruth and Ellis/Clete and Juanita stories in the early 1980s. At the beginning of the new millennium I started writing reviews of jazz CDs, first at American Reporter, and then (and now) at All About Jazz. I’ve tried my hand at novels, without success.
I’ve been published in a bunch of small presses, most notably the now defunct Wormwood Review. This was in the pre-computer age, when we whomped up our stories on typewriters, then rolled down to Kinkos to make copies, which we stuck in manila envelopes, along with a return envelope with return postage attached. Times have changed.
Aside from the writing, I am married to the lovely Denise. We have three wonderful children and four (soon to be five) beautiful grandchildren; and I am a two-time winner—1970 and 1971—of the Oceanside Bodysurfing Contest. Kowabunga!
By Penny Perry
My lemon tree is dying. I’ve fertilized, pruned, watered too little,
too much. I had wanted my grandson to be able to climb
out of the pool next summer and chug down whole glassfuls
of lemonade just the way his daddy used to.
On TV, Iraqis wave their arms and yell.
Angry people in odd gear. Are there lemon trees in Baghdad?
A city in the desert with two rivers and no ocean.
The same latitude as Long Beach, California.
Of course there are lemon trees.
And art museums.
Sand-colored apartment buildings.
I picture a grandmother buying dates for her grandson
in an open air market. A man with long arms scoops up the last cabbage
and hurries away in a big car.
Her neighbor buys more fruit than her cloth bag can hold.
Even the grandmother worries the market won’t be here in the morning.
She picks oranges, scans the March sky that brings butterflies.
The warm sun angles down. Palm trees form their twins in shadow
against tall office buildings.
She turns up a side street away from the clatter of taxis, and mini busses,
chews some of her grandson’s dates. She’ll have to hide the sweet fruit
so he won’t eat them all at once. But where? He opens every cupboard
She hurries past the honey-colored apartment. Pre-fab concrete.
Each unit has a balcony and arch-shaped window.
Her friend who lives here says she’s as cozy as a bee.
The grandmother likes her own street better. Split-level houses.
Clean lines. Big windows.
If her cat lets her, she will nap in her cool bedroom before
her grandson comes home from school.
Her cat thinks her thick hair is a nest.
In the shade of Abdel Magid’s lemon tree, she stops stares.
Shiny black two-inch canisters perch in the graying limbs.
Two more glitter in snapdragons below.
Dozens cover other lawns on the street. Abdel shakes his head:
“I had to tell my child not to play in his own yard. Little bombs
from America. They just fell from the sky. Next street over,
Rashid and his sons are dead because the little boy got curious
and bent down to look.”
The grandmother won’t nap this afternoon.
Stepping over the lethal tubes,
she will walk to her grandson’s school.
But first she shades her eyes with her sticky hands
and studies the Baghdad sky.
About Penny Perry
A three time Pushcart nominee, twice for poetry and once for fiction, my stories and poems have been widely published in literary magazines. Fiction Daily tagged my short story “Haunting the Alley,” published online in Literary Mama in August 2011. My first collection of poetry, Santa Monica Disposal & Salvage, was published in 2012 by Garden Oak Press. The collection earned praise from Marge Piercy, Steve Kowit, Diane Wakoski, and Maria Gillan. I was the fiction editor for Knot Literary Magazine, a Middle Eastern literary journal. I was also a screenwriting fellow at the American Film Institute, and my movie A Berkeley Christmas aired on PBS. And, I’ve just completed a novel about a school shooting. I write under two names, Penny Perry and Kate Harding.
Photo credit: Abeer AL-Kuwari via a Creative Commons license
By Kit-Bacon Gressitt
UPDATE: See below.
I was just shopping at Fallbrook’s local grocery store, Major Market, and I noticed this juxtaposition of sexualized female bodies with the bottom row of the magazine rack, where the kids’ magazines are displayed. I figured, well, they do have nice tushies, and there is a flap that’s supposed to cover the tushies, and I started to walk away. But that darn juxtaposition was gnawing at my conscience, and the flap wasn’t cutting the mustard. So, I took the photo, went to the manager’s desk, and showed the image to the young man there.
“What’s wrong with this picture?” I asked him.
He looked from me to my phone and then back at me with a befuddled face and said, “Um.”
If he’d said anything else—even,”They aren’t showing enough breast”—I’d have been less dismayed. That, at least, would have been funny—sexist, but funny. But all I got was an “Um.”
I contemplated explaining the sexualization of women’s bodies and the inappropriate nature of juxtaposing such imagery with kids’ magazines. But I opened my mouth, and his look went from befuddled to puckered with a hint of “This old hag is fricken nuts—somebody help me please!”
So I said, “The breasts and tushies are right where children will be looking at the kids’ magazines.”
“Oh, oh,” he said, “maybe I could move them?”
“Move them, yes, great idea. Thank you so much.”
When I finished shopping and checked back on the magazine aisle, he’d moved the Sports Illustrated display just about 2.5 feet to the right.
This is not progress.
UPDATE: I thought it would be interesting to get Facebook’s read on the Sport Illustrated cover, as FB has been notoriously inconsistent about what it has allowed (such as pornographic images passing as satire) and what it hasn’t allowed (such as breastfeeding images). To its credit, Facebook would not advertise this post “because it violates Facebook’s ad guidelines by including a sexual image that shows excessive amounts of skin or focuses unnecessarily on body parts.” . . . Hallooo, Sport Illustrated?
Photo credit: K-B Gressitt, taken with that thing that’s supposed to be a phone
By Scott Gressitt
How much love
has been awakened
at the bar
the dollar beer
that drew him in
kept him there
till she showed up
They spilled their hearts
as down they quaffed
the truth juice opened
their filters drowning
in the beer
they offered up
their stories, tender.
Nothing held them
back from now
The bar shut down
the patrons filing
one by one
till just they two
were left to this
against her car door
wet lips pressed.
About Scott Gressitt
An amateur writer and rapscallion, I write of my past, a life laden with extraordinary events. I have walked in places most of the population avoids. Besides scars and bruises, I’ve collected experiences that frighten, delight and entertain. I write with the intent to take you on a wild ride where all your senses are fully engaged. Enjoy.
Photo credit: M@X via a Creative Commons license.
By Karla Cordero
They walk through the park holding each other’s hand like crazy glue had met their palms. Ben picks up an object he sees buried in the tall grass.
“For you, the perfect pinecone,” he says.
Jane laughs, holds the pinecone to her nose, and breathes in the scent washed with yesterday’s rainfall. She scrunches her nose and sneezes, loosening a few seeds from the pinecone. The seeds sneak down into her blouse and nuzzle in-between her small breasts.
……………………At Rest in the Dark Wood by Kay Nielsen……………………
“Bless you!” says Ben.
The next day Ben calls Jane, only to be teased by the voice of her answering machine. Three days later, still no answer. Ben questions whether he did or said something to upset her. He jumps into his car and rushes over to Jane’s house.
Jane’s Toyota sits parked in her driveway. He knocks on the door, noticing a small leaf sprouting from the keyhole. Ben unlocks the door with the spare key Jane keeps under the welcome mat.
An explosion of green vegetation camouflages a home no longer familiar. Ben walks across the carpet thick with moss. Vines spread along the living room ceiling, fencing in the chimney. Shrubs furnish the counter tops and a frog croaks from the kitchen sink. Along the hallway, gardenias reframe family photos. The walls are painted with fern leaves. He hears sobbing escape through Jane’s door.
“Jane are you ok?”
“Don’t come in, please. Go away!”
He opens the door. A forest oasis grows from Jane’s breasts. She cries on her bed. Tears streaming down her face water the wild garden blossoming from her chest. A squirrel runs across the forest floor and hides behind a bush by her nightstand.
Ben looks at Jane. “You are absolutely beautiful.”
About Karla Cordero
Born in the hot little border town of Calexico, California, I started my new life in San Diego where the weather spoils the living. I’m currently an MFA candidate at San Diego State University, studying creative writing under Sandra Alcosser and Illya Kaminsky. Aside from the graduate life, I’m an associate editor for Poetry International and my work has appeared in the California Journal of Women Writers.
In 2013, I helped the San Diego poetry slam team place 4th in the country at the National Poetry Slam in Boston. I believe that activism exists in the ability to pick up a pen and paper, transforming one’s thoughts into a tangible action for change.
……………..Photograph by Susan Fan-Brown……………..
By Francine Schwartz
Many years ago
when I was a fish,
I saw you in your boat.
You were whistling and
drinking from a bottle.
You stuck your hand in the water
and smiled at your reflection.
I swam by, but you didn’t see me.
That was many years ago.
I’ve lived in many ponds since then.
And now I am no longer a fish.
I am a girl.
And you are no longer a man.
You’re a memory lingering
in a boat that bobs gently
along the shore.
About Francine Schwartz and Susan Fan-Brown
Writer Francine Schwartz is drawn to language that opens the doors to dreams, feelings, and individual interpretation. Her articles, essays, poetry, and reviews have appeared in various publications. “When I was a Fish” was published in Dancing Shadows, a compilation of poetry by Ms. Schwartz and photography by Susan Fan-Brown. Ms. Schwartz was given the 2008 Editor’s Choice Award by Bewildering Stories, which has published several of her poems and essays. Ms. Schwartz is also the creator of vinOrganica California, a mobile app guide to wineries that make wines from organically grown grapes. The app is available at the iTunes store. Ms. Schwartz lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.
Photographer Susan Fan-Brown sees movement between the ever-changing moments of nature, the shimmering subtleties amidst the lights and shadows. She focuses on the simplicity of the essential elements in her work. Ms. Fan-Brown’s photography ranges from commercial photography to portraits. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area.
A Short Story by Colin Leahy
I sat alone at a table at the side of the dance floor, wearing a powder blue tuxedo, working on my third beer, watching all the pretty ladies. Then here came Ron, the father of the bride, holding a glass of amber fluid in a hairy hand.
“Billy, my man!”
“How’s it hangin,champ?”
“It’s hanging loose, Ron, hanging loose.”
“Good. Good. Hey, I need to ask a little favor.”
Roger, the groom, had told me horror stories about this guy—a crazy, sometimes violent ex-Marine with a drinking problem and possible post traumatic stress disorder. I’d just met him in person the day before, at the rehearsal dinner, where he’d barked and bullied and berated the restaurant staff so badly I was afraid to touch the food, worried I’d find a cook’s green booger snuggled like a garden slug in a crevasse on top of the potatoes au gratin.
“I want you to ask my daughter to dance.”
He showed me a tight smile. “Not the bride, you dumb ass; my younger daughter, Holly.”
“Oh,” I said. I’d met her at the rehearsal dinner, too, a petite and willowy blue-eyed blond, as pretty and perfect as a Barbie doll. “I’m a little old for her, aren’t I, Ron?”
The father of the bride knocked back his drink in one fast motion. “Bullshit, Billy. I know she looks young, but she’s nineteen years old. What are you? Twenty-six, twenty-seven?”
“Thirty-one,” I lied. His guess was closer to the truth.
He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, fixed me with a hard glare and said, “Well, shit, I guess that is kinda old for my little girl. But fuck man, I’m not askin you to marry her. Just ask her to dance.” He thunked his glass down on my table, leaned in close so I could smell the whiskey on his breath. “She’s feelin like a little bit of a wallflower, her big sister gettin married and gettin all the attention.”
I considered saying that someone who looked like Holly wouldn’t suffer from a lack of male attention, but I thought better of it. I was pretty sure that the father of the bride was not a take no for an answer man. I sipped my beer and said, “I’m on it, Ron.”
He straightened up and grinned. “Good man. And don’t worry about the age thing, Billy. She’ll probably turn you down anyway. She’s outta your league. I just want to make sure she doesn’t feel ignored, know what I mean?”
“I do. And Ron.”
And, my third beer talking, I said, “If she doesn’t turn me down, and we hit it off, I suppose it wouldn’t be OK for me to try to get into her pants, would it?”
Ron froze and gave me a murderous look. “There’s not a chance in hell of that happenin’, fuckhead. Now just do what I asked, Billy Boy.”
Holly sat at a table by the bar with her mother, Maxine. Holly had changed out of her bridesmaid dress into a very tight and bright red, low-cut blouse and a short, black leather skirt. I scuffled up and said hello. Maxine, her oval face framed with thick honey-blond hair that looked as if it were woven in heaven, was radiant in a strapless gown that dipped to show some tasteful and compelling cleavage between two breasts so perfectly cantalopian that there had to have been surgery involved. She smiled like a starburst and said, “Hello, Billy. Make my day and tell me you’ve come to ask this old lady to dance.”
Holly’s expression was noncommittal, bored.
“I’ve come to ask two beautiful young women to dance, one right after the other,” I said.
Maxine’s eyes sparkled. She gave Holly an elbow. “You first, hon.”
Holly pushed her chair back and stood. She strode out into the lead, moving on a slalom course through the tables, toward the dance floor that had just emptied between songs. I followed. Her ass swished and her nylons, beneath the leather skirt and above a pair of black stiletto heels, were fishnet affairs, with dead-center black lines running up the back of each leg. I wanted to growl.
The D.J. cranked up that old Bee Gees song, “Stayin’ Alive,” and Holly and I were alone. I hate to dance. I lurched into my robotic shuffle-and-bob routine, using very little movement, very little floor space, as I prayed for a gathering crowd in which to hide. But Holly scared them off when she whooped like a maniac, pirouetted then karate kicked, sending one stiletto heel sailing. Then she cart wheeled, losing the other shoe, and hit her feet spread-legged, knees slightly bent, her skirt hiked to near crotch level. She stabbed her red-nailed hands into her main of blond hair and slithered into a snake-hips thing that could have been considered obscene. It would have made my mouth water if I hadn’t been out there with her, stage center.
An older couple shuffling onto the dance floor thought better of it and about-faced. I continued to bob and weave, sweat breaking out on my forehead now, and Roger, the groom, shouted out from the vicinity of the bar, “ALL RIGHT, BILLY, YOU OLD GRAVE ROBBER. SHOW HER YOUR MOVES!”
Laughter tinkled up from the crowd, and Holly dropped, did the splits, tossed her hair and extended a hand my way. I shuffled over and took it, tugged her to her feet, and she slipped and slid into a red-hot jitterbug, featuring an escalating series of pelvic undulations that drew wolf whistles and howls, as one of the other groomsmen at the side of the dance floor drank something fizzy from one of her discarded high heels.
The song ended. The crowd hooted and cheered, and before I could break away, Holly grabbed my hand and bent into a ballerina bow to her audience, showing a surely lovely cleavage to those in front of us, and a surely beautiful view of her ass to those behind. Somebody back there yipped like a coyote. Someone in front moaned. And Holly rose, clutched my arm to the side of her breast, leaned toward me, and, with a puff of sweet breath in my ear, asked if I had a car in the parking lot.
I said I did, and she said, “Good, this is so fucking boring. Let’s get out of here.”
If Ron hadn’t been such an asshole, or I’d had one less beer, I would have declined.
* * * *
“Kona Gold,” she said, passing me the joint.
I took a shallow hit. I didn’t want to get ripped.
“What the fuck is this music we’re listening to?” she wanted to know.
“Miles Davis,” I said.
She took the joint from me and took a long hard hit, then she tapped the CD player with a red fingernail and said, “He sucks.”
I pushed my driver seat back as far as it would go, then kicked off the rental shoes that were pinching my feet. I loosened the bow tie. I opened the plastic box behind the emergency brake and began to rummage. “I think I’ve got some John Coltrane in here.”
She pushed my hand out of way so she could do the search. “Don’t you have any that old punk stuff? Like Clash or the Sex Pistols?”
In the cloud of smoke inside my car, one thing was becoming crystal clear: Holly Malone was, as Ron said, out of my league, and I was under no serious consideration by her as anything other than a diversion. And she was a pain in the ass, one who was sure, some day, to make some good man very unhappy, so I felt free to run my mouth. “Nope, I don’t have any Sex Pistols, Holly, love, but I have been told,” I patted the inside of my thigh, “that I have a sex bazooka.”
She turned her big blue eyes, cold as ice, on me and blinked twice. Her red rosebud of a mouth hung slightly open. She squinted at me, then a light went on in her stoned brain and she brightened, then she burst out laughing like a fool, and I joined her, and it went on for what seemed an hour, and got so intense that she gasped, “Oh, my God!” and yanked the door open and jumped out and dropped her fishnet panty hose and the cherry red thong and squatted down and peed right there beside my car under the silvery grin of the crescent moon.
Then we staggered, arm-in-arm, across the blacktop lot, under glimmering stars, laughing like two imbeciles, and I couldn’t feel my legs. I was flying, and I felt the young girl’s body, hot against my side, would melt right into my own.
“Get me something to drink,” she said when we stepped with aching sides back into the reception hall. “My throat is really dry.”
“I’ll be right back.”
I found the bar and ordered two rum and Cokes, and as I lifted them, Ron appeared at my side.
“Haven’t seen you in a while, Billy. How are you and my daughter getting along?”
“Great, Ron. Just great.”
He put a beefy hand on my shoulder. “Glad to hear it, Billy. Now here’s what I’d like you to do.”
“What you’d like me to do?”
“I’d like you to back off, now.”
“Back off. …”
“That’s right. There’s a couple of young bucks here I’d like her to meet, and I’d like you to back off and give ‘em their shot.”
“Give ‘em a shot. …”
Roy laughed loud, “Ah ha ha ha,” like the joke was on me. “You really thought you had a chance with her, didn’t you?” he said. Then he slapped my back hard and called me a dumb ass as he walked off. I stood there with my two drinks held out in front of me, fluid sloshing over the rims as I fought to steady them.
* * * *
“Hey Billy, what’s this? You turnin into a two-fisted drinker on us?” It was Roger, the groom.
“Uh, no,” I said, looking down at the drinks I had just stabilized. “One of these is for a lady.”
“You dog,” he grinned, slapping my back.
I adjusted this time, shifted the drinks and didn’t spill any.
“I gotta ask you something.”
“What’s with the shoes?”
I looked down and noticed I had put them—my shiny black rentals—back on the wrong feet. I thought they’d felt kind of funny. I looked back at Roger and said, “Corns. On my little toes. I find if you wear your shoes this way, it takes the pressure off ‘em.”
“Ah,” Roger said, nodding, looking down at the shoes as though he was not buying what I’d just told him.
“Then why don’t you,” he said slowly, raising his gaze to look me in the eye “just take them off?”
I took a sip of the drink in my left hand. “Roge, c’mon,” I said, as I began to walk toward the bar’s exit, back out toward the dance floor. “This is your wedding reception. I’m the best man. The best man doesn’t run around barefoot at the wedding reception.”
I stepped out of the bar into a bone rattling throb of a slow rhythm from the disc jockey’s sound machine, my drinks in hand. I scanned the crowd, looking for Holly. I elbowed my way to the edge of the dance floor and spotted her, wrapped like a python around a young buck. I gulped her drink down in one fast motion, then I drank mine the same way, pulling the glass from my lips as I felt a touch on my shoulder.
“I’m ready for that dance now, Billy.” Holly’s Mom, Maxine, sultry, beautiful, her facial features well-defined by an expert application of make-up, said nothing about my shoes.
I put the glasses on a table. She took my hand and led me out onto the dance floor. From my perspective behind her, I found fascinating the topography of the flesh on her back. Her dress swooped low, revealing pristine white skin. The slight movement of her shoulder blades looked like something designed by God. The vertical alignment of the bumps of her vertebrae running down to disappear beneath the dress had a look of subtle, erotic perfection. I reached out the fingers of my free hand to touch them, gently, at a midpoint between her angel’s wings. She turned, smiled, pulled me to her, and nuzzled her lips against my neck, pressing her breasts into me, a sudden connection of flesh that had me staring off over her shoulder about a thousand miles away, until Ron came into a tight focus at the side of the dance floor.
I gave us a slow spin, to take Ron out of my line of sight. Maxine must have sensed my alarm, felt a sudden stiffness in my muscles. She turned and looked to her left and spotted her husband, then turned back to me and said into my ear. “Don’t worry about him. He’s just being an asshole today.”
“Oh,” I said.
“Let’s give him a show.”
Then, as I put my hands on her waist and we began to rotate, and she cupped my face in her cool fingers and pulled me down into a tender kiss that, enhanced by Holly’s dope, had the feel of a salacious Rapture, and I was suddenly keenly aware that the motivations of this mother-daughter tag team was much less about a communion with me—the safe guy—than it was about pissing off that blue ribbon son-of-a-bitch Ron.
And for the moment, I didn’t care.
After what seemed an hour, Maxine pulled her face away from mine, smiling, with a mean little twinkle in her eye, and a quick how ’bout that, Hubby, dear? glance at the bastard. It was a look that quickly expanded to an expression of wide-eyed horror, her fingers clutching my forearms as she spun me so my back was to Ron, using me as a shield against what I sensed would be his onslaught, and I suddenly found myself no longer in contact with the floor and suffering a horrid pinching in my groin and between my buttocks. In my stoned state it took a few seconds to comprehend the situation—that I was on the wrong end of a monumental wedgie.
Maxine screamed. Ron, behind me, was stronger than a pit bull. He had my underwear—tightie whities—stretched up between my shoulder blades, his thick forearms braced against my back, elbows digging into my kidneys. He held me high and gave me a hard shake. I flailed. I kicked. I heard laughter, male and female, and as Ron turned me in a 360 degree rotation on the dance floor, I saw cell phone cameras galore. I was aware that this, the most humiliating moment of my life, in front of all the friends I’d grown up with, would soon appear in still photos on Facebook and that a film of it would surely show up on YouTube.
It was there, suspended above the dance floor, with a strip of my underwear digging deep into my ass, that I decided it was time to move on, to take that job I’d been offered a good long way away, where no one would know me as Wedgie Man.
About Colin Leahy
Colin Leahy works as a night manager at a fast food burger place just off Interstate 15, in Baker, California, home of the world’s tallest thermometer. He writes in his spare time.
Photo credit: Bolshakov via a Creative Commons license.
February 11, 2014
Author Jincy Willett
Amy Falls Down
Preceded by open mic for original poetry and prose
Date: Tuesday, February 11, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Location: Fallbrook Library, 124 S Mission, Fallbrook, 760-731-4650
San Diego County-based author Jincy Willett has launched another novel loaded with social critique and her special blend of satiric humor and poignant clarity.
In Amy Falls Down, Willett revisits Amy Gallup, the heroine of The Writing Class, and proceeds to skewer various public figures as Gallup rides the crest of an unexpected success. Amy Falls Down will be available at the reading for sale and signing.
Willett’s other works include the novel Winner of the National Book Award and her short story collection Jenny and the Jaws of Life, which humorist David Sedaris described as “the funniest collection of stories I’ve ever read—really funny and perfectly sad at the same time.”
Willett also teaches one-on-one fiction workshops online. Click here for more information. In fact, be sure to click on all the links in this post, at least the ones that mention Willett—her website is hilarious!
And one more thing: Check out this interview with Willett at Slate.com, with a nice dig at writers’ “platforms.”
For more information, contact K-B Gressitt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-522-1064.
Reviewed by Kit-Bacon Gressitt
Have an awful life and live to write about, and you’re on the path to a contemporary memoir. Such memoirs abound on bookstore shelves, with tales of traumatic abuse, shame and suicide, rape, devastating depression, addiction—life’s real horror stories. The best, however, are not only harrowing but beautifully written, Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. But a life’s story need not be heartrending to be interesting, to be memoir-worthy, and bestselling novelist Diane Johnson’s new Flyover Lives is one of those memoirs that proves it.
Flyover Lives is named for the “flyover states,” the seemingly undramatic U.S. Midwest that Johnson’s ancestors helped settle, states that today are not destinations, but distant landscapes we disregard at 30,000 feet. Johnson’s book, though, is a detour that allows us to land and visit with her and generations past, read from their journals, learn of their pioneering successes and failures, their loves and losses. Even her childhood home of then small town Moline, Illinois becomes a character who warrants a front porch visit, a little fat chewing, simply because people were born and grew up and died there. They went to the movies in Moline, in 1945, and saw newsreel war images that stayed with them, making them grateful that they didn’t know what real suffering is. They were embarrassed by their father’s quirky underwear there, and learned to love their aunts and uncles. They left there to go to college, find themselves, marry and divorce, and move halfway across the country, then partway around the world, and learn that they can’t ever really leave.
Examined thoughtfully, these lives are interesting, Johnson’s and her family’s, and she reveals them with a respectful and often humorous narrative that makes them seem familiar. In particular, if you are Caucasian, middle class and born between the two world wars through the baby boomer years, you will recognize the more recent of these flyover lives in their details: Saturday double features, the dress-up box, learning to use Tampons—not the pads mothers recommended, college as a stepping stone to marriage, the ability to transcend the 1950s and become a different kind of woman.
Throughout the details, the family history, Johnson’s anecdotes of working with famous directors as a screen writer, and her self-revelations, the book reads like an intimate conversation, no plot, but lots of character. It has a quiet sense of time passed, time passing, the melancholy of days gone by, of people inadequately known and no longer available. No, Flyover Lives has none of the titillating trauma of many memoirs. What it has is a subtle poignancy, a gentle narrative of insightful, tender storytelling by a writer who seems to honor her family’s past as much as her present, the quirkiness and mundanity, the misadventures and achievements, with a sense that the people now gone had stories that went with them, stories we would have liked to hear.
Flyover Lives: a Memoir
Published by Viking January 2014
Other books by Diane Johnson include:
Lulu in Marrakech
Into a Paris Quartier
Also published by San Diego Gay & Lesbian News
Sidewalk Counseling: Peacefully offering the women the opportunity to choose life for their unborn children –from the Pro-Life Action League
By Kit-Bacon Gressitt
……………….Click for larger image……………….
This Wednesday is the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Last Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on a case intended to overturn Massachusetts’ abortion clinic buffer zone law, one of endless efforts to chip away at the right to legal abortion established by Roe v. Wade. Anti-abortionistas are so persistently pesky.
The Massachusetts law mandates a 35-foot buffer zone around clinic entrances, which keeps sidewalks clear and, incidentally, protects patients from protesters—or sidewalk “counselors” as anti-abortion organizations prefer their protesters be called.
I get this. “Counselor” inspires a more positive response in media consumers than “protester.” But, hey, you call yourself a counselor, and I want to see the license that allows you to hang that shingle.
While we wait for that, I suppose we could attempt to accommodate both sides of this battle, and call the people who stand outside clinics interfering with patients countesters or proselors or something similarly silly. But I figure they’re actually a bunch of busybodies.
If I’m heading to Planned Parenthood because I have a urinary tract infection or I need a mammogram or things are suddenly smelling kind of funky down there, I don’t want some stranger sticking her or his nose in my business. And if I’m heading to the clinic because I have an unwanted pregnancy? I really don’t want some strange busybody in my business.
But here’s the thing. These countestelorés don’t care what I want (nice Latin touch, eh?). All they care about is what they believe I should want. And, aside from counseling them on the impropriety of such public demonstrations of self-absorption—and their failure to generalize the primary don’t-talk-to-strangers lesson—there’s not a whole lot we can do to counter their faith-driven behavior, rude though it is, other than mandate that they keep their distance.
And faith is the thing here. These protselors—at least the ones who are not shrieking “Baby killer!” in patients’ faces or body blocking them before they reach the clinic door—are indeed proselytizing, attempting to convert their targets to their way of thinking, and they do it with free-flowing biblical rhetoric and medical blather. It’s a kinder, gentler way of telling clinic patients that if they have abortions they’re baby killers, God’s gonna hate them, and they’ll end up with deadly ectopic pregnancies, pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, breast cancer, placenta previa, psychological and emotional trauma, fatal infections—and don’t forget the dry cough and shortness of breath! By the way, I’m so grateful to the Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center for publishing all this misinformation, sourced not from the American Medical Association, but from anti-abortion organizations; otherwise you might not have believed me that anti-abortionistas would so blatantly, you know, fib.
Yep, you got it: Peaceful “counselors” have been known to lie to change pregnant women’s minds—it’s enough to give you shortness of breath!
…….January 2013 anti-abortion protest in Fallbrook……
Now, there are some lies we all should tell pregnant women: You look beautiful, The last trimester is much easier than the first two, No matter how bad your labor is, don’t worry—you won’t remember any of it. But lie to them about their reproductive health? About bogus medical outcomes? That’s pretty poopy. And as I was listening to the Massachusetts case arguments before the court (Justice Scalia was his typical punkasschump), the justices’ disregard for the women targeted by these procoutenselterlors was increasingly annoying, albeit the patients aren’t the legal focus of the case. And, of course, freedom of speech means the procoutenselterlors have the right to say most anything they want. I, on the other hand, do not have the right to not hear it. I can, instead, hustle my buns into the clinic to avoid their peaceful insistence on telling me what to do (something I’ve abhorred since adolescence), unless they’re peacefully detaining me, begging me not to kill my baby.
There’s a power imbalance in that there relationship. Hence the desire for a bit of a buffer for clinic patients, something to serve as a protective barrier from unwanted lectures on purportedly divine intensions for our uteri. But we have a funky Supreme Court these days. I’ve no inkling what the majority will decide. I do know that if they decide against Massachusetts’ law, anti-abortionistas will have a hell of a party, because the decision could put other state and municipal buffer laws at risk.
Being a bit of a planner, though, I’ve prepared for the worst while hoping for a just decision. Remember that Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center I mentioned? It’s one of those fake clinics, set up to sucker women in with “free medical quality pregnancy tests” and then barrage them with anti-abortion messages. I’ve left the center and their misinformation alone, because it’s the polite thing to do. But if the court decides against the buffer law, I’m going to trot down to the center with Planned Parenthood brochures in hand, and I’ll peacefully offer one to each woman, while being sure to stay out of her path. It’s called “modeling appropriate behavior.” But the biggest difference between the proctolecstors and me? I know the decision is the woman’s to make, whatever it might be.
Photo credit: © K-B Gressitt 2013
Also published by San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.
January 18th, 2014 in
, Reproductive justice
| tags: crisis pregnancy center
, fake abortion clinics
, Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center
, Justice Antonin Scalia
, Massachusetts abortion clinic buffer zone law
, Planned Parenthood
, Pro-life Action league
, sidewalk counseling
, US Supreme Court
By Penny Perry
After Dawson Young
The front of the year.
Your father and I.
A soft night in a little
back house on Raymond.
Neighbor children, Susie,
Karen, Steve safe in bed
for the night.
A love song in Spanish
from the cottage across
the street. Enrique’s
under the avocado tree.
Love, ripe like the oranges,
lanterns in the trees.
You were made in Ocean Park
at the beginning of the year.
The sea, a skein of gold
five city blocks away
under a full moon.
The trolley with lights
trundling up the boardwalk.
Women in babushkas,
men in prayer shawls.
Bonfires on the beach.
Ukuleles and bongos.
Poets and junkies seeing
magic in the flames.
You began in the bedroom
with the slanted roof.
blooming wild at our door.
About Penny Perry: A three time Pushcart nominee, twice for poetry and once for fiction, my stories and poems have been widely published in literary magazines. Fiction Daily tagged my short story “Haunting the Alley,” published online in Literary Mama in August 2011. My first collection of poetry, Santa Monica Disposal & Salvage, was published in 2012 by Garden Oak Press. The collection earned praise from Marge Piercy, Steve Kowit, Diane Wakoski, and Maria Gillan. Read more here.
Photo credit: Oxalis by John Tann via a Creative Commons license
By K-B and some fabulous students
Twice a week I teach writing to seventh and eighth graders at a small, rural school in Southern California. The school is the focal point of a fertile valley that keeps the Agua Tibia Mountains from toying with the Santa Margaritas. In this valley graced with ancient sycamores and gnarly live oaks, life and death, conflict and accord make their messy ways along tidy rows of ornamental plants, citrus trees, organic produce and the occasional hidden cannabis crop.
Nearly 60 percent of the area residents are white; nearly 70 percent of the students are Hispanic—many, the progeny of immigrants, the budding realizations of their parents’ faith in better things.
At the beginning of the school year, the children wrote of their hopes to become doctors and rappers and psychologists, artists and mechanical engineers and police officers, parents and soccer players and just content with their lives. At the end of the calendar year, they wrote descriptions of the gifts they would give to loved ones if there were no limits, ninguno.
Here are a some of their responses.
If I could, I would love to give my dad his mother back, and also the problems he has to all go away.
A gift that I wish I could present to my family would be for them to have a better life than they already have.
I wish I could give my brother a brand new car.
The gift I would love to give to children and adults is to find a cure for cancer. The gift would be an antidote strong enough to cure cancer in only a drink. It wouldn’t have an acrid taste or have any terrible side effects.
A gift I would wish to give is peace to the world … no fighting and everyone caring for each other.
A gift I would like to provide is money to the poor people in Africa.
I wish I could present [my friend] a unicorn. The unicorn’s name would be Bob, because Bob is an awesome name. … He would be able to talk and fart rainbows.
If I could grant a gift to someone I love, it would be to my parents and brother. It would be to present them papers.
I would like to present my grandpa a horse. … This gift would help my grandpa get stuff done quicker, since he’s so old.
A gift I would give to a homeless person would be a helpful dinner and clothes.
A gift that I would present to my father is an award for being an excellent example for me and my brother and for always telling us what’s worthy and what’s worthless.
I hope one day, when I have money, I’ll get my mom exactly what she wants.
If I could present any special gift to anyone I love, I would present the gift to my grandma … to convince her brother to spend with her the day of Christmas.
I would like to give to my grandpa on Christmas a phone so he can call me.