Losing Track of Time by Noreen O’Brien

Work, for me, is a holy place—a place in which I can easily get lost and completely out of touch with the world. It’s important and valuable that I have this ability at times, because all too often I can be distracted so easily by any shiny object.

On this particular day, I was behaving as my typical efficient self. I had done my usual litany of “stuff.” I opened the windows to the morning, completed a few household chores, prepared and popped into the oven a broccoli-cheese quiche, before the outside temperature soared in the blistering heat of August’s dog days, and a fresh cup of tea was sitting at my elbow as I sat in front of the computer in my home office.

Off I go, into work mode, getting deeper and deeper into the tangles of the World Wide Web as I sought ways to market books for a new project I had begun with a new client, a publisher of spiritual books. After a while, I pulled out my folder on thoughts I’d been noting for creating a flyer for each book I was to market. As I mulled these things over in my mind, I tried to remain present and keep an eye on the big picture, knowing how easy it can be for me to get bogged down in that scenery, in the place where it’s easy to omit an author’s name or the date or location of a book signing.

Every once in a while I could almost see a chem trail of delicious aromas float across the room and into first my nose, then my line of vision, just as we see in cartoons. Mmmmm, I’d think, someone’s got something good in the oven! Then I’d fade back into work mode, while the flyer began to emerge on my computer screen as I navigated the page using the tools in the desktop publishing software. Several times, during a couple of hours of work, I’d had a hint of aromas tickling my nose and sending signals to my belly. At least once, I thought, hmmm, someone’s doing a fine job of burning something!

Eventually I dragged myself away from the computer and found my way into the kitchen to set the kettle to boil for a fresh pot of tea, evaluating in my mind the progress on the morning’s work. When I reached for the kettle to fill it with fresh water, I was brought a little closer still to the present, and then even closer to a conscious thought about that burning smell. As I turned on the burner, bringing me closer to the oven where I could feel the heat of it, I knew. I had done it. I burned my quiche. So thoroughly, it was fit only for the compost bin. And the heat thrown from the oven over the span of that couple of hours heated up the house long before the summer weather temperatures could.

Yes, I’m quite capable of losing track of time. As well as being the most productive among us. But I can also be the one to be so focused, all I can cope with is the view and awareness of what is inside the tunnel with me. Nothing else exists outside of that space—not the timer going off, not even the alarm clock I later tried because I thought it would pierce my focus and help to lead me out of my near stupor. I simply must learn to accept that I can’t do certain things at certain times.

Oh, and by the way, the quiche may’ve been burned into oblivion, but my flyer was a big hit with my publisher client.

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Ten Years Old and Counting by Estelle Cade

When I was ten years old we were living in Whitman MA. I remember my parents driving us down the street to show my sister and me our new school. It was the Pleasant  Street  School, grades one through six ( I don’t think there was a kindergarten class there), and our house was at the other end of Pleasant Street. Up to this point a city kid, I looked at this new school in horror and exclaimed, “How can I learn anything in a wooden school?”

When I had a birthday and turned eleven, I saw a movie with Carmen Miranda singing and wearing one of her fanciful head-dresses and a marvelous pair of cork-soled shoes on a very high platform. I yearned for a pair of cork-soled shoes, exactly like hers, naturally, and for that eleventh birthday my very dear great aunt gave me a beautiful pair of cork-soled sandals: flat heeled, as naturally befitted my age and station in life, as they say. But, the edges and straps were bright red and the linen on the front part was embroidered with a bright red tropical bird. My sweet aunt did her best to fulfill my desires and I wore the sandals happily all summer, probably pretending that I was wearing those amazing Carmen Miranda platforms. (My love of shoes began when I was about three years old.)

When I was ten, going-on-eleven, I learned how to be the new girl on the playground, no longer having my Best Friend since Grade One, at my side. The girls looked me over, a couple of them came to speak with me, asked my name and so on, but at the end of the day my sister, a first grader, and I walked home from school together.

Another day—recess again—a girl came over to me, told me her name and said, “Let’s walk around together,” so we did. (No planned games here – the boys must have done something, but kept out of the girls way as they walked around or stood in groups, talking,) At afternoon recess this same girl joined me and asked, “Would you like to be my friend?”

Quite surprised I agreed that I would be her friend and she said, “Ask your mother when you get home, if you can come to my house after school tomorrow.” We lived on the same street, and as my mother said I could go to her house, we became Best friends for a long as I lived in Whitman.

So, when I was ten going-on-eleven, I learned that I could learn something in a wooden school—more than you’d think, perhaps. It was a double-graded classroom and as I’d already covered the fifth grade work in my city school, I readily absorbed the sixth grade material I heard all day.

I learned that loving relatives will try to capture just the gift you really hope for, and perhaps succeed a bit anyway, and you feel cared about in a special way.

And I learned that while lonely and a bit scared in a new setting, a quiet manner and some pleasant words can help you make a new place for yourself, and new friends to spend time with.

And then, when I was eleven going-on-twelve…oh, but that’s another story for another day.

Bubble Gum Explosions by Noreen O’Brien

Bubble gum—Bazooka Bubble Gum. The hours and hours of practice put into blowing giant, head-sized bubbles; the gum would be long past the point of being pink, much less containing flavor.

Kathy, Mary, Louise and I, sitting out on the front stoop, usually mine or Kathy’s, chewing, snapping—disgusting noises, really—poking our individual tongues through our individually chewed gum, blowing into the gum, rather than through an open mouth. Sometimes the bubble would pop early on, small, worthless; but sometimes, I swear it took long minutes of carefully calculated huffs and puffs around our tongues and into that gum. Bigger, bigger, bigger, then POP!, a bubble big enough to cover the entire front of our head, across nose, eyes, forehead and into our hair, ultimately exploding into a mass of sticky mess and guffaws of silly giggling and laughter. Continue reading

Opening Day Thoughts by Marty Glaser

I woke up at one thirty in the morning, and rather than bother Lenore, I went into David’s old room and started writing. I wrote three poems that would be read for me at the TOPS meeting at the Mill House on Wednesday morning. I would honor three TOPS members who lost weight and qualified for State Division weight loss recognition. Continue reading

An Imaginary Friend by Ted Scott

I’ve never had an imaginary friend and I’ve never known someone who has, but I suppose that it’s possible so I’ll try to construct one and maybe have some conversations with him.
Or her; maybe that’s the way to go, an imaginary girlfriend. I don’t suppose Val will mind, since it’ll all be imaginary.
I think I’ll call her Veronica, since I don’t know anyone with that name. It might be confusing if I named her Susan or Elaine or any of a bunch of other common names that I associate with real people. To me, Veronica is the name of Archie’s girlfriend in the comic book of 65 years ago. She had long black hair and was sexy and sophisticated, a little too much for Archie, who was better suited to Betty, a sweet blond girl. But Veronica was probably 17 and here I am 79. I’ve got kids in their 40s and grandkids in their preteens, but teenagers are a mystery to me, so I think I’ll have to let Veronica age a little if we’re going to have a successful relationship. I was thinking 40, but maybe 60 is a little easier.
Let’s say that today is her birthday. She’s 60.
Me: Happy birthday Veronica, how does it feel to be 60?
V: Oh; Woe is me. I thought I was 17.
Me: Well, look in the mirror. You can see you’re not 17 anymore; but you’ve still got beautiful hair, even if it is a little different color.
V: Is that supposed to be a compliment? Where are Archie and Betty and Jughead and the rest of the gang?
Me: I think they’re still back in comic book land, but I’ve rescued you. Now you can grow and be yourself.
V: But I liked being 17.
Me: Well I did too, but things change. There was a war going on; well actually just finishing. They ended the draft just in time for me, and the next war didn’t start right away. I was just the right age to miss both wars. Of course I could have joined up if I wanted to, but I had seen enough of what happened to those young men to want to avoid it. And just think of all that carnage and killing; for what purpose? Did it save us from the tyranny of the North Koreans or the Vietnamese? They hardly knew we existed until we were killing them.
V: I didn’t know about those wars. Nobody got drafted in comic book land. You seem to have a thing about wars. Do you still think that way?
Me: Yes. They don’t draft young men these days, but there’s still a lot of pressure to fight. The economy has changed. You can’t just get a permanent job that will give you security and benefits your whole life anymore. You have to worry about your employer being taken over and your losing your job and about your retirement and not being able to send your kids to college. In some ways the military offers the most secure employment. The pay is a lot better than the $70 a month that the Vietnam draftees got, but there’s a lot of downside to the job.
V: Let’s not talk about war anymore. What about all those wonderful gadgets I’ve been hearing about; like the iPhone and such.
Me: You’re right. There are some new gadgets and new things to do. Back then you couldn’t even listen to the radio outside. You had to be plugged in. If you wanted music you had to make it yourself or go to a concert. If you wanted to talk with friends you had to go to their house or meet up at the soda fountain. Now a days, the word is mobile. People are always on the move, and communication is constant. And among teens, it’s texting.
V: What’s that?
Me: Texting is where you type out your words on a tiny screen, then push a button to send your message out. It’s almost like being a ham radio operator and sending out Morse code.
V: But I thought you could talk on an iPhone.
Me: You can, but that’s not the preferred way of communication these days. Young people prefer to interact in chunks. Without the careful synchronization that is necessary in a live conversation. I’m not sure why that is, but my wife does it all the time with the kids.
V: You’re married; with kids?
Me: Yes, I thought you knew that.
V: No, I’m just a 17 year old from 1955. I was hoping we could go on a date; maybe to a drive in. I’d like that.
Me: Well there aren’t any drive ins these days. If you want to watch a movie, you go on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
V: Well maybe I should meet your wife. I’d like to see what she’s like. Maybe we could all go have a soda together.
Me: I think that would be fine, but she probably couldn’t see you or hear you. That’s because you’re not real. You’re just an imaginary friend.
V: How can that be? I can see you and hear you. And we’re having a real conversation.
Me: I’m sorry to disappoint you. This whole thing is Janet’s fault. She was the one who gave out the prompt to tell about an imaginary friend. Maybe you should go back to comic book land.
V: I think you’re right. That was a happier time for me.
Me: OK; Thanks for trying. Maybe next time I call you, you can be my age. Then we’ll have more in common.

An Easy Kind of Day by Alice Thomas

 

Water thrums against my craft

Reminds me of its deep voice

That’s like no other-

Splashing. Battering. Booming.

And this I’ve remembered for over forty years

Yet it still echoes across my bow

Smells like weeds rolled in sand

With fish-guts iridescent in the foam.

Meanwhile, my Shakespeare (rod and reel)

Scrapes against the bench its filament

Tangled in the troller, risen above the wake

And 4 o’clock seems to have quietly crept in

Sculling across my thoughts, as I check the sun’s coordinates

And now, the time of bloody fire has come

Aglow in a red-orange rage– arching behind the oaks

Screeching its tumble right down to course’s end

Time Was Not Our Friend by Janet Keyes

I tried to think of an occasion when time got away from us. Maybe we are the only people who never experienced that, or perhaps we never felt embarrassed enough to remember it. Or maybe we had such an experience and found it so traumatizing that our minds have completely blocked the memory.
I do, however, recall an incident when time was not our friend. We were young, with two small children. We liked to go out square dancing a couple Saturday nights a month. We also did western style round dancing a couple Tuesdays each month. These recreations gave us a break from our routine, and gave Allan’s mom and my mom some quality time with the little ones. As responsible parents, we always left a phone number where we could be reached in an emergency.
On one such evening we were going down to the square dance at the Westover Air Base in Chicopee. We had called ahead to make sure this was a phone that would be answered throughout the evening. You just never know with a government agency. We were reassured, and Continue reading

The Tale of the Footes by Estelle Cade

Once upon a time, Mr. And Mrs. Foote learned that they would be having twins, a girl and a boy. The girl, being in a hurry, was born first and they named her Righty. The boy, a few seconds later, arrived, and they named him Lefty. They were adorable identical twins, and the parents were “toe-tally” thrilled with their tiny baby toes. So sweet, so cunning.

However, as they began to walk Mrs. Foote noticed that Righty’s little toes turned out as she began to walk and that Lefty’s little toes turned inward. Fearing that this might hamper their agility, she enrolled them in Miss Toe Knees School of Dance. The children took to dance immediately! Righty found Ballet to be the perfect style for her and the second that Lefty put on those shiny black tap shoes, he was off and away! Continue reading

Toby the Beast! by Marty Glaser

 

I used to walk between two houses on my way to school. The house on the left was the Williams house and the house on the right was the Shaidas’s house. There was an alley way between the two that I had to walk down to reach Anna Avenue and Lenox Street to get to Silver Lake School.

The Williams family had a huge beast of a dog they called Toby. Toby would sit out on the front porch behind a plate glass window.  Every time I walked past Toby, I would talk to myself and say,” Nice Toby!  Be a good dog to me!”  I swear he could sense that I was petrified by his presence on his porch. I was afraid to even look at him so I never made eye contact with the beast.

Continue reading

It’s Coming!

Where I Come From, the new collection by members of The Well Done Writers Group will be available soon. Here’s a sneak peek at the cover:

Cover of Where I Come From by The Well Done Writers

Back Cover Text:

The question of where one comes from is not answered simply with the town where we were born or the region where we grew up but by a myriad of places, experiences, and people who conspired to make us who we are.

The original “Where I Come From” poem was written by George Ella Lyon, Kentucky Poet Laureate 2015-2016. The poem and the writing prompt that grew out of it has traveled around the world and has been used in schools and jails and at family reunions – and also in writing groups.

Lori Thatcher brought the prompt to the members of The Well Done Writers, a Greenfield Senior Center Writing Group. This book contains some of the writers’ responses.