Solitude (Fiction – with Photo by Emilio Pasquale)

It’s been a while, but it’s that time again… another collaboration with Emilio Pasquale!  He supplies a photo and I provide a story inspired by the photo.  If you haven’t checked out his photo blog, I’ve made his name a link so you can check it out… I don’t think you’ll be disappointed🙂


I pulled my tangled hair into a ponytail at the base of my neck and wrapped a rubber band around it.  As I plunged my other shirt into the creek to rinse it clean, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between two young men, probably in their early twenties, I guessed.

“I can’t wait to start at Reichter and Schmidt.”

“We don’t graduate for two more months.”

“Yeah, but I’m ready now.  I’m thinking I’ll get promoted and make the real money in no time.”

“I haven’t started applying for jobs yet,” the other responded.

“You can’t wait for life to happen, Danny.”

“It happens anyway.”

I lifted my gaze to Danny.  I didn’t know him, but felt his kindred spirit.  I could attest to the fact that life resembled a desert wash after torrential rain.  Unable to soak into the hardened soil, the excess water paid no mind to the boundaries of banks, much like life progressed regardless of “plans” or dreams.   One day, you were in control and the next, it slipped away like liquid through oily fingers.

“You can’t get pissed about where you’re going if you don’t steer the boat.”

“Who says I’m pissed?”

The go-getter snorted.  “You will be when you’re middle-aged, living with mommy and daddy, and still trying to figure out what you want to do with your life.”

“Whatever,” Danny said as he flicked a rock across the water.

The ripples expanding from the place where the rock sank mesmerized me.  At first, pronounced and defined, then tapering off into stillness, they reminded me of my late middle-aged view of life.  The problems and struggles were all rocks thrown into my pond; at first disruptive, but gradually they disappeared.  No matter the rock’s size, I remained.

People like Danny’s friend really got under my skin because I used to be one of them.  When I was in grade school, I knew I wanted a husband, two kids and a couple dogs, living in a huge suburban house with an expensive car in the driveway.  I dreamed of schmoozing at networking dinners in fancy restaurants and traveling all over the world.  I wanted the big corner office with the floor-to-ceiling windows, even though I would hardly be there to enjoy the view.  I had faith in the myth that a woman can have it all.  I got everything I ever desired, but I still had nothing.  Ironically, I didn’t find meaning until I had nothing.

I wanted to tell Danny it was okay to be still and listen for life to beckon you.  But I knew I wouldn’t because I hadn’t spoken a single word in 2,853 days.

“I can’t help you if you don’t want to help yourself.”

Danny flung a rock into the water.  “I’m sick of your stupid clichés, Mark!” He hurled another rock at the same spot.  “Can you, for once, say something that isn’t a quote from some motivational book?  Or is that thinking too far ‘outside the box’?”

My gaze shifted from Danny to Mark.

“I guess not.  I’m going back to camp.”

Danny rested his forehead in his hands.  I knew how he felt.  I had also thrown daggers with deadly accuracy.  I left in my wake too many corpses to count; relationships that would never be restored.  Now, I traveled alone, unarmed, by necessity- so no one else would suffer.

I twisted the water from my shirt and hung it on a sturdy branch of a nearby scrub oak.  Danny never lifted his head or acknowledged me, even as my footsteps crunched the leaves and pine needles covering the ground.  I was used to that, as the years had made me invisible.  Only a few people noticed me, in the form of spare change dropped at my feet.  Humiliated, I always accepted with an averted gaze and a nod of my head.  God provided.

Danny stood and dusted his jeans off.  He walked in the opposite direction of his friend.  I thought a quick prayer that he might not be so stubborn and choose to make amends.  I hoped he wouldn’t know the pain of surviving alone.

I lowered myself to the ground beneath the tree and leaned back, resting my head on my pack.  As soon as the sun rose, I would stuff my few belongings inside the bag and head west with my life carried upon my shoulders.  I had a destination in mind, but no timeframe in which to get there.  I never thought beyond what I would do when I got there because I think I knew, deep down, there wouldn’t be a beyond to concern myself with.


This story was obviously inspired by Emilio’s photo.  He sent it to me back in January but I just haven’t been able to write.  When I saw this photo, I saw immense loneliness, and it was more the emotion that I took from the photo than the image itself.

Thanks again to Emilio for providing another photo for story inspiration.  I hope we will collaborate again soon!  And thank you to everyone who stopped by to read the story.

Have a beautiful Tuesday!

Worthless Commodity?

Never peace between darkness and light...
Never peace between darkness and light…

I refuse to believe

That time is money;

That each breath is calculated

In dollars and cents,

That what I thought priceless,

Is essentially worthless…

It doesn’t make sense.

I cannot concede

That my value is monetary;

That my worth is determined

On an hourly basis,

That there is no light in darkness,

An eternity spent in stasis …

Life must be more than this.


First of all, I have to say that I’ve missed this place- and reading what others have been up to.  I knew I’d be gone for a week, maybe two, but my absence extended and I began thinking my writing thoughts were done.  Since my last post in January, I endured a 3.5 hour trial so a judge can determine my fate in my divorce (nearly a year after filing), I unloaded the burden of ‘too much house’, lived with a neighbor for several days while in between houses, moved into a much smaller house that I selected on my own, and got knocked down by a nasty cold.  Things are nowhere near where I’d like them to be but that will take time.  And the things I want to do to make this house my “home” take money.

And this is what started the poem I’ve posted.  As I was patching nail holes throughout my house, wondering how someone could possibly have so many things to hang on the walls, I contemplated the idea of having someone paint the interior.  I quickly nixed that idea because I don’t really have money for paint, much less the luxury of someone to do the work for me.  I thought, I don’t have time or money, but right now, I have more time than money.

That realization sent me thinking about how everything seems to come down to dollars and cents these days.  I’ve spent the last year and over $18,000 fighting a soon-to-be ex who seems to view me as his meal ticket.  I could rant about that but I won’t, because I’m tired.  And besides, there’s no point.  My fate is now in the hands of God, and the judge who will determine how much I will lose.  As I look back on this last year, I’m most disappointed that my value seems to be, well, in my value… as in my salary, my savings, etc.  If I didn’t have the kids to care for, I would quit my job and live nowhere… and everywhere. I’d earn enough money for my necessities, but not enough for anyone to bother to take advantage of me.

But this is the real world.

I feel more hope than I did a year ago, but honestly, I still struggle with lows that make me wonder if I will battle darkness every day of my life.  I wonder if I will always cry when I should be happy, or feel this weight inside me when I should be soaring.  Only time will tell.

Although I’m more realistic (cynical?) than I’ve ever been, I still want to believe my thoughts, ideas and dreams cannot be appraised and converted to currency.  I have to believe that darkness isn’t a certainty and there is more to hope for than whatever this life brings.

Those are the thoughts/inspiration behind the poem.  Have a beautiful Wednesday!

The Beast

01-21 Flower

It slithers through

subconscious caverns,

slinking around the darkest

corners cloaked by repression,

nourished by denial;

the sweetness, addictive-

the hunger, insatiable.

Shrouded in ignorance,

the beast dances the host

into quick-stepped slavery

in jeweled shackles of depravity…

The beast thrives,

while humanity dies.


Bjorn Rudberg invited me to check out the First Quadrille at dVerse. The challenge invites us to write a piece in exactly 44 words, using the word “dance” as a verb including an object.  If you’d like to join in, the prompt is still open.


For those of you who read the poem and are thinking, “huh?” this is where I normally help by explaining what I was thinking when I wrote it.  Unfortunately, I can’t be so specific as to name the addiction (and I can’t say why, either), but I can say I was writing about the  impulse (beast) that lives within, unchecked.  It thrives, hidden by our own denial, gaining strength as it consumes us.  Left alone, that impulse/behavior becomes us and we lose who we used to be.  The frightening thing is, others can see this happening, but the afflicted person is often clueless.

I’m sorry I haven’t had as much time to read and comment on blogs – I have about a week before I need to be out of my house, so things are crazy right now.  It will probably be a couple more weeks before I am able to really get back into things – please be patient with me!  Have a beautiful Thursday🙂

Filled Slate

Another page turned,
365 days of memories
fresh in my mind;
like too-thick paint
on an oil-slicked surface.
I wake to the problems
of so many yesterdays,
yet resolve to remain resolute
in my desire to see hope
where I once saw darkness.
It’s hard to lift my chin
and I search my heart for praise
clutching a half-full glass,
trusting it will never be empty-
rather, overflowing with counted blessings.

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post- it just makes me smile :)
This picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post- it just makes me smile🙂


As I do with poetry, I’m going to explain the thoughts behind the words I chose.  I wrote this poem on the first day of the year.  I admire those who approach the new year with such a strong sense of hope and excitement for what the next 365 days might hold.  I want to hope- I really do, but if hope was a candle’s flame, reality would be the wind gust gathering the strength to snuff it out.

I woke up on New Year’s Day, hoping my heart would feel giddy anticipation for the promise of a new year; a clean slate of sorts.  Instead, my consciousness noted the fact there is no clean slate – my slate is already filled with the stuff that’s happened the last year, and it’s too gunked up to be wiped away.  Before the end of the year, I received a confirmed diagnosis of the culprit of my younger son’s pain:  juvenile arthritis, specifically, ankylosing spondylitis.  (He is an amazing kid who happens to turn 10 this week.)  The new year doesn’t change the fact I’m left with choices that don’t feel very much like choices at all.  The first seven lines of the poem speak to this.

Even under the weight of reality, I still want to hope and remember the ways I am blessed.  I spent most of 2015 in a suffocating darkness where I could see no reason for my next breath.  I don’t make resolutions, but I do resolve to do everything I can to not go there again.  Praise is a chore at times, but I want to trust with all my heart that under the thorns of my burdens lives a joy I couldn’t fully appreciate without the struggles.  The last part of the poem is a pep talk to myself to not let my past hog-tie my future and take away my ability to experience joy.

May you find peace today, tomorrow, and the days following- even during trying times.  Have a beautiful Wednesday!

The Companion Broker (Fiction with photo by Emilio Pasquale)

Okay, it’s been a while since I’ve posted a collaboration with Emilio, where I write a story inspired by a photo he provides.  It’s completely my fault!  See, Emilio gave me this photo to write for September.  I have no excuse for my delay, other than 2015 isn’t landing at the top of my “best year ever” list🙂   If you haven’t checked out Emilio’s blog before, you really should – click his name to link to his site…. I gave you three chances here!  I’ll stop rambling now – the story begins right after the photo.

Photo by Emilio Pasquale... story by me!
Photo by Emilio Pasquale… story by me!

I had a knack for finding the broken ones.  I would take them in.  I would love them.  I would lose myself in them.  Each time, I thought my heart was full enough to make them whole.  Each time, the shine tarnished and I escaped with a little less of me.

My present is made up of their pasts, the cracks in my broken heart filled with pieces of their pain.  Desperado, Cat’s in The Cradle, Father of Mine, Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough… their burdens set to music. As I sped down the remote highway, I played each and every one of these songs, over and over. It’s funny how the years of heartaches wrapped in catchy melodies slid along the hardened spaces of my soul with such ease. At least the tears reminded me that I was still alive.

This time, I didn’t care if I lived to give again. Phillip had been my latest broken bird, on the verge of falling into the dark abyss. I scooped him up and nurtured him. For three years, he greedily fed on my love and affection until he was strong enough to fly. And he flew all right… straight to my ex best friend, Sarah. I took his bad and gave him my good. It all cancelled out in the end and left me… empty.

Off to the right, a row of rusted old cars and a seen-better-days ranch caught my eye. On impulse, I pulled onto the shoulder, kicking up a cloud of dust and gravel behind me. When the dust settled, I stepped out of my car and eyed the street sign perched atop a leaning metal pole. I didn’t know which was more ironic; the fact there was a street sign marking a span of dirt that could barely be considered a road, or that the sign read “Opportunity Way.” I doubted opportunity traveled back-roads.

I walked for a little ways until I came to a waist-high wooden fence that encircled the yard. For a time, I perched on the fence, staring at the row of cars. I couldn’t help but relate to them; we had all been shiny and something to look at back in the day. But now… well, I cried.

I didn’t want to think about it, but I suspected I would always see the lost ones, broken, looking for validation and something that felt like love to make them okay for a while.  I could see my future so clearly… like beggars pleading for loose change, their eyes would search mine for a bit of my soul they could have.  On my strong days, I would turn my head and quicken my pace. “I don’t have any,” I would mutter.  It would be true.  If God was merciful, they won’t pursue me. They would see I was as broke… broken… as they were. They would sense I had nothing to offer, no hand to grasp in desperation.

“Howdy, ma’am!”

I startled, losing my balance and fell back into someone’s arms. I twisted my neck and glimpsed a not-completely-unattractive man, possibly in his early fifties. Exactly what I don’t need. I jerked my weight forward and steadied myself on the fence.

“You’re welcome,” he said.

“I didn’t thank you.”

The wood bounced as he hoisted himself to sit next to me. He shrugged. “I was overlooking your lack of manners.”

I clenched my jaw, but kept my gaze focused on the cactus that took root next to the blue car. “Speaking of manners, it’s not polite to interrupt someone’s thoughts.”

He smiled. “Maybe not, but when the thoughts are thunk on my property, those rules don’t really apply.”

“You’re right. I’ll go.” Before I could slide off the fence, he touched my arm.

“You’re welcome to stay.” He shifted his gaze toward the cars. “Lots of people come here to think. It keeps me in business.”

“Business? What kind of work?” I thought maybe mechanic, but his khaki pants and pastel blue polo shirt didn’t fit.

“I’m a companion broker, you could say.”

“Companion broker?” The words tumbled around in my head as I tried to figure out what that meant.

He laughed. “Lemme explain. I help fix people.  This highway is traveled by lots of lonely people; people with heavy stuff on their mind. Sometimes all they need is human connection.”

My eyes widened. “So you’re a pimp? That’s horrible!”

He lifted a rhinestone and gold-plated Zippo from his pocket and lit the cigarette hanging from his pressed lips. “No, not a pimp. I mean, sometimes people are looking for that, but usually, they just want to talk so they don’t feel alone.”

“Not a pimp, huh? That blinged-out lighter says otherwise.”

“Hmph. One of those.” He shook his head and exhaled a trail of smoke.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

He shrugged. “Bitter, disillusioned and bearing scars of past loves. I’m guessing you’ve convinced yourself you’re on a journey to find you, but really, you’re running from who you are.” He paused to exhale another puff of smoke. “You judge me because it makes you feel better about yourself.”

“Listen, Mr…. Mr. whatever-your-name-is, you may think you know my story, but you don’t!” I clenched my eyes shut, hoping it was enough to keep the tears back.

“They call me Big Guns.”

I stifled a laugh. “Big Guns?”

He pushed up his shirt sleeve and flexed, I think. “See what I mean?”

I saw a barely perceptible bulge in his bicep. I shook my head, “I’m sorry, but those aren’t even purse pistols.” I laughed, almost forgetting that moments ago, I wanted to cry.

“Come on,” he said as he hopped off the fence.

I didn’t move. Following him seemed like insanity.

“Trust me. You need to see this.” He held his hand out, waiting for me to grasp it.

Impulsively, I took the invitation and his fingers curled around my hand. “Is it more impressive than what I’ve seen so far, Mr. Guns?” I shocked myself with the flirtatious tone in my voice.

This time he laughed. “I think you’ll be amazed. You can call me Thomas.”

I followed Thomas to the row of rusted cars. With his back to me, I slipped my tinted gloss from my pocket and swiped a quick coat on my lips.

“These cars were my dad’s hobby, but he passed away three years ago. I can’t bring myself to get rid of them, yet I don’t have the expertise needed to restore them either.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.” I didn’t know what else to say.

“I found another way to use them to honor his memory, though.” He opened the door to the first car and gestured for me to look inside.

Paper filled the inside of the car clear up to the windows. “What is all this?”

Thomas smiled. “These are letters from the lonely. We’re all broken in some way and these letters allow those passing through to let go of some of their burdens.”

“What do you do with the letters? Do you read them?”

“I don’t read them. I leave them here so the intended recipient will find them. There’s no such thing as coincidence; our paths cross for a reason. Some people write letters, but others read them and take one with them when they go. All I ask is that writers include their name and phone number, and when you take a letter, you contact that person.”

Companion broker… it made more sense. “Do these people ever meet?”

He shrugged. “Some do. I’ve gotten a few letters thanking me, but really, I’m just doing God’s service.”

“God’s service?”

Thomas smiled. “I used to be a pastor but disagreed with the human way of organized religion. So, I decided to minister to people on my own, according to God’s word and Jesus’ principles.”

My cheeks flushed. “I-I’m so sorry, I called you a pimp.”

“And you laughed at my biceps.” He closed the car door and led me to the blue car. “I think this one might have what you’re looking for.” He pointed to a notepad and pen on the dashboard. “Write a letter, or take a letter, it’s up to you. Take your time.”

I watched as Thomas shuffled away, dust trailing behind him. A pastor. Unbelievable. I turned my attention to the mounds of paper filling the car. I shoved them aside so I could sit. I wondered why he thought I’d find what I was looking for here. I didn’t even know what I sought.

I grabbed the paper and pen and wrote my first tentative words. The rest of the words followed swiftly and before I knew it, both sides of the page were filled. I hesitated. Then with a deep breath and long exhale, I scrawled my name and phone number. After I dropped the paper onto the pile, it felt like a weight had been lifted from inside me.

The dense pile swallowed my hand, and my arm up to my elbow, before I grasped a page. I held it up so I could focus on the scrawled words. I can’t believe I’m writing a letter to leave in an old car for some stranger to read. I smiled. My letter started similarly. By the time I got to the end, my eyes blurred. I swiped the wetness from my cheeks with the back of my hand.

Seth Mitchell.

My breath caught as I stared at the familiar name. A buried past, exhumed and resurrected by one hand-written letter. I folded the page into fourths and shoved it into my back pocket. Twenty years felt like a span of a few breaths. That letter transported me from middle age to mid-twenties. I stepped out of the car and slammed the creaky-hinged door behind me. The thought crossed my mind that the old car was a time machine of sorts.

Maybe Seth had been right back then… that love wasn’t enough. Maybe I was right in my proclamation that time doesn’t heal all wounds. Maybe right or wrong no longer mattered.

All I knew in that moment was that I needed to find out.


Thanks so much for reading! If life cooperates, the plan is to have another Emilio photo/story collaboration posted in December.  Stay tuned🙂