Author of Breasts Don't Lie

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Coursera: The Coffee Clutch

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I signed up for a course on Plot in Fiction through Coursera and can’t figure out how to post my assignments. Running up against many web walls, I decided to post them on my website.

Remember, this is fiction, made-up, not true.

My nasty little trolls (Jennifer G., Richard A., and Susie S.) can make all the comments they like but I will block you.

Here goes: The Coffee Clutch: Rising Action using 12 unrelated words.

All she wanted was a cup of hot coffee, French press, with whole milk and two teaspoons of sugar, sometimes within the first hour of awakening. She padded into the kitchen on bare feet, pushing aside the debris of unpacking, and the assorted filth of teenagers, swearing. Patience wasn’t her strong point, and her hand-eye coordination refused to engage without that first cup. She reached for the water heating appliance, not a teapot or even a pan but something her partner bought her as a consolation prize for dealing with his cranky daughters and plugging it in, knocked over the canister of beans.

”Fuck, fuck, fuck,” she said crouching down to sweep up the beans.

Managing to get the beans into the grinder and then into the press, Sara sighed when a large black bird, a crow or a jackdaw, flew into the window above the sink. Shards of glass and metal lay around her feet from the fallen press. Holding her breath, she looked for a safe place to step feeling more and more like a hungry tiger prowling its cage while outside, freedom taunted.

“What’s going on?” said a muffled voice from their bedroom.

“Nothing,” Sara said, pretend-sweet, reaching across to turn off the water; she flinched when its steam scorched her arm, and a boiling stream exploded onto the remnants of glass, metal, and coffee grinds. Red splotches colored her neck and face as panting she cleaned up the mess.

A memory of their first six months together filled Sara’s mind emphasizing the difference between the two realities. She looked at the tell-tale towel thinking that she was responsible for the messes in her life from the coffee to her relationship. Then her defenses settled back into place; this is the universe’s trick to get me to be nicer and go caffeine-free – not happening.

“Sounds like you need help in there,” her boyfriend said from far away. Nearby teenage grumblings set her nerves on the edge of crazy.

“Naw,” Sara said grabbing her coat and keys. “All aboard the USS Misery.”

******************

You are my peer evaluators. So, what do you think?

Yoga, Cows, and A Texan

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Saturday I had an urge, an almost unable-to-resist urge, to run someone down using a Ford Focus …

The car had a few dents, and I had a fleeting thought of “What the Hell.”

It’s been a trying week. We rolled into Frisco, a small Cowtown outside of Dallas, last Tuesday night at 10 pm. Stiff with sitting in a car since 5:30 am in some time zone, getting out for potty breaks and snacks, we stumbled into the apartment, trotting back to pick up the cat meowing in her purple plastic cage.

The next morning, the full force of the move hit me. I am in Texas. Without a job, a yoga home, a writing group, friends. Eeeoogh. Time to make the best of it.

So, I started out looking for yoga studios. This city is obsessed with hot yoga, my idea of a bad time. I come away from their heat mixing with my constitution creating cranky person prone to hissy fits. Then I expanded the search. I found a lovely studio just 25 minutes away in another city/burb/whatever. Entering the information on my phone’s Google Maps, it suggested a tollway. No way. Lots of very tall walls. How do you get on and off? Not happening, and I mapped another route. Getting there was not a problem. Lovely classes – I took two – leaving after 2 and ½ blissful hours in the studio.

Getting home from the studio was a problem – it took 90 minutes, a distraught phone call, and the above-mentioned urge. Without a doubt, I made a left when I should have turned right ending up in another city, full of walled communities, streets with no names or names I couldn’t find on my itsy-bitsy phone map, and limited places to make a turnaround. After cruising one street four times, I pulled into the BMW dealership, driving between two sets of cars to the man talking on his cell phone. He looked like a Texan. Smooth, hair slicked back, aviator sunglasses, and an incredulous look on his handsome-featured face. I rolled down my window. My face flushed with yoga and exasperation, but I smiled at him.

“Do you know you’re driving on a sidewalk?” he said.

“No. Anyway … “

“You are on a sidewalk.” He emphasized each word.

“I didn’t know that I was on a sidewalk. I need to find Preston Road,” I said trying to look friendly and feeling an urge to smack him silly.

“You have to get off the sidewalk.” He ran his hand through expensively coiffed hair.

“Other cars are on the sidewalk,” I said looking around. My hair was sticking to my face.

“You can’t get your car off this area without damaging the undercarriage,” he said waving his phone around.

“Look, there’s a dip in the,” and I paused for effect, “sidewalk. I’ll ease my car off the … sidewalk … if you’ll just tell me which way is Preston Road.” I turned my wheels towards him, inched forward a little bit to show him that I meant business. He backed up, made some vague hand gesture, and got in his car. Maybe he felt the need for some protection. Good call.

Completely confused by this time, I drove off without damaging the undercarriage of the car and with exemplary control having not hit him, his car, or the plate glass window of the dealership. I was protecting the remains of my yogic karma, minuscule as it was.

Against the odds, I found Preston Road and drove to the apartment. Flustered and cranky, I noticed the number of cows out grazing. They looked nonplussed. Peaceful even. One even mooed at me. Okay, I can do this, I thought. Opening both windows, I mooed along with the cow feeling … Texan. Not his kind of Texan, a kinder, gentler Texan-in-training who needs a road map.

 

 

Words for Int’l Women’s Day

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I didn’t know what the term meant – I don’t say things like that.

As most of my friends and colleagues and a few attorneys know, I have been stalked, my car and home vandalized, and my professional reputation threatened for a year by a mentally unhinged person. During that time, I walked a tightrope between creating more distress for the person’s family on one side and ignoring my safety on the other side. With this current act of name-calling, I am done being quiet.

There is something horrific about a woman commenting on another woman’s appearance in a way to shame her or cause her pain.

I’ll be sixty in a couple of years and with it has come some hard knocks leading to episodic wisdom.

I’ve lived through ballet auditions where I didn’t make it through the first rounds because they were ‘looking for a particular body type.’ Balanchine wanted his dancers to be ‘like racehorses, rail thin, beautiful, and not bright.’ No one cared how I danced.

Nevertheless, I modeled my way through college being a consistent size 8. Patterns were cut to this size in the 70s and 80s. I can’t take kudos for the size 8 body; it’s the family bone structure and genetics.

My first husband made comments about my looks, my weight, and my height. You can’t change some of these characteristics. They are genetic, predetermined, or out of your control. I will never forget the day I said to that husband, “I’m a size 8. Get over it. Not a size 4. Not going to happen.” And I returned to my graduate school studies. He remarried and described his wife as “young, beautiful, and stylish.” Good grief. She can’t stay that way forever. He can’t either.

I’ve had dates where I knew the men were not into my appearance. “But that body,” they would say. Yeah, I’m a little more than that. We are entitled to preferences but beyond 30, people, this life, my body comes with an expiration date. Go away and grow up.

I’ve lost jobs or not received a second interview because I look too old – employers can’t ask your age, but they figure it out. Ageism. Or maybe I did not fulfill their appearance requirement. Still illegal and still hard to prove but you know it when you are on the receiving end.

My wrinkles and the knowledge in my eyes are hard won – living, loving, making mistakes, grieving, being a friend – it is all there on my face and body. I don’t look, act, sound, think, or believe in the same ways of earlier decades. To do so would be a nullification of who I am, my genetics, my values, and every experience that I have lived through. I will not do that to myself. Or to another female. Or male.

So, to the woman who calls me BUTTERFACE, I am sorry for the time, and it will happen, when someone makes a derogatory remark about your appearance. By then, I hope you will have learned the self-acceptance to shrug it off.

Valentine’s Day – To Sit or Not

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Valentine’s Day. Well, what can you say? I woke up this morning to find my stalker, yes, I think of her as mine, had enlisted her husband to harass me. Block, block, block. The shredder-guy is coming to release me of my deluge of papers and I’ve yet to gather the papers together (but not the transcripts of her texts and screenshots of her threatening to hurt me). Not an auspicious start to the holiday – maybe I should just sit this one out.

Gathering my stuff for the shredder, I realized that I was a magpie in another life – surely the monstrous number of books, photos, and papers is a sign. One box contained a yearbook from middle school – 8th grade. An infamous year of that awkward stage, the year after I had settled in Alabama when I knew enough not to carry my monogrammed shoe bag from Scottish boarding school but not much else. Academically, I was bored out of my mind being a year or three ahead in most subjects. And completely flummoxed by the teacher for English, Spanish, and French. She had a kind heart and taught conversational French by the book.

After two years of French taught by a Frenchwoman, I was way, way ahead of other students. In this class, we sat around memorizing little dialogues before reciting them with another student at the front of the class.

Remember 8th grade. The hormones. The preoccupation with skin imperfections. Always before the yearbook picture. The tight jeans and bowl cut hairstyles. Who was responsible for those atrocities? Those damn polyester shirts that gapped you know where. Always. Or the button popped off after giving a book review. Yes. A bad time.

French class was my respite. I could daydream and fret depending on the day, state of my hair, cooperation of my shirt, or clarity of my skin. I do remember the time I had to recite my little French ditty with the cutest guy in school, Serge. Not ever forgetting his name, his full name, but only giving you the first name so I can bypass the humiliation of someone contacting him.

Serge stood at the front of the class in his bell-bottom jeans. With the knife-like pleat. Wearing a chest hugging shirt. His blonde hair cut in a mullet. Green eyes half-shut. Skin like freshly churned butter. With his lazy lion looks, I thought wow. Wow. Frigid air conditioning lifted his hair, and I thought WOW. He’s so cute. Maybe I said it aloud. My mouth was open when I heard my name called and called again. I shook my head. Eek. I stood up knocking over my chair, tripped over my neighbor’s chair, and stumbled to the front of the class. I could do this. I knew I could. Do this.

At the front of the classroom, all eyes turned to us, the teacher said, “Begin.”

I looked at Serge and thought no bloody way. But it is school, and I’m a good student. He smiled at me without looking at me. In my general area. Hormones, adrenalin mostly, raced through my body.

“Ou … “ I looked at the teacher. A red spot formed on my flat chest.

“Go on,” she said. I clenched my fists. Somebody in the back of the classroom giggled.

“Ou guardez-vous …”

I felt more red spots creep up my neck. Serge smirked at me. He knew he was the coolest, cutest guy in school and I was just a dork.

“Ou guardez-vous … “

I bit my lip. So hard that I remember tasting blood. Burning splotches broke out on my chest, neck, and face. People in the front row of desks would not meet my eyes; facial muscles straining, not cracking a smile. The middle to the back of the class was out and out laughing.

Serge must have thought he was going to play with me. “What do you want to ask me?” he said arranging things in his pant pockets. By now, I could see the red splotches combining; instead of a collection of measles-like red bumps, I had Scarlet fever.

There was only one way out of it.

“I’ll take the F,” I said to the teacher.

“Ou guardez-vous vos saucisses?” The vignette would have me asking the cutest guy in my grade where do you keep your sausages? Sometimes in life, you just have to sit one out.

Oh, good, here’s the shredder guy. He needs to obliterate this yearbook then I can have a laugh and get on with Valentine’s Day.

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