Archives for posts with tag: Reading

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Babysitting
by Wanda Morrow Clevenger

Sometime in the early 70s, I got roped into babysitting for the grandson of one of my mom’s bosses.  Considered too young for a real job, too young to date, too young to walk uptown to the square (otherwise known as the vortex of evil where only loose girls hung out), too young to initiate a singular thought or action that wasn’t first scrutinized to splinters, but old enough to be responsible for the safety of someone’s child it seemed.

The boy hid out in his room while I watched TV.  He had little use for me, I had less for him but for the cash payoff at midnight—an acceptable first job tradeoff.

And so it went, while his parents drank and dined the night away, he played quietly in his room.  I got bored and began casing the joint, my eyes and hands caressing the belongings of total strangers.  There was little of interest in the small trailer-style home and I wasn’t brave enough to help myself to a snack so returned to the living room lit only by the television.  And that’s when I saw it: a stack of adult magazines piled up on a small corner table.

I soon gave up babysitting and after high school got roped (again) into going on an interview for a jail matron position—a woman was needed on the premises when female prisoners arrived or were moved.  At five foot nothing, ninety-five pounds, I knew I hadn’t a snowball’s chance.  And too the only other candidate was the brash woman whose child I happened to have babysat sometime in the early 70s.  I was told she had some political pull.  A shoo-in for sure.

Was I too young to look through those magazines?  Of course I was.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My mother brought up four girls by herself.  I was the youngest and as such was considered too young for everything.  Absolutely everything.  It’s a wonder I managed to survive to a ripe old age.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Wanda Morrow Clevenger
is a Carlinville, Illinois, native. Over 438 pieces of her work appear in 152 print and electronic publications. Her nonfiction “Big Love” was nominated for 2016 Best of Net by Red Fez literary journal. Her poem “When I Loved You” was commended by the judges in the 2015 Lost Tower Publications “The Double Happiness Love Completion.” Her debut book This Same Small Town in Each of Us (Edgar & Lenore’s Publishing House) was released in October 2011. Visit her magazine-type blog, updated at her erratic discretion, here.

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Panda Express
by Meg Eden

The boys from Bowie order Orange Chicken and laugh at me.

Why’s a white girl working at a Chinese restaurant? they ask.

I answer, Free sample?

My Vietnamese friend told me, You are white on the outside but Asian at heart. She took her banana leaf rice cake and gave me half. This was our weekly communion.

When my shift ends, I take the chicken that has been sitting in the glass display, unfit for customers. If I don’t take it, another will throw it away. The meat’s tough and sweet in my mouth.

When I sweep the floors, my boss laughs. He says, Have you ever held a broom? He means: spoiled white girl. I’ve cleaned my father’s workshop, built our back patio with bricks and a pile of sand. But I know that all he sees are my soft hands.

He asks if I know Chinese, and I say, I love you.

He says, Say it again.

I love you, I echo. Wo ai ni. A phrase I learned from pop songs.

He tells me I sound like his daughter, a girl who is many oceans away, and teaches me how to write:

A heart behind two doors is agony;
a mouth behind two doors is a problem.
After twenty gates is an opening,
a window of unsealed happiness.

SOURCE: Previously published in Little Patuxent Review.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, senior year with my Okinawan sanshin.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Meg Eden‘s work has been published in various magazines, including Rattle, Drunken Boat, Poet Lore, RHINO, and Gargoyle. She teaches at the University of Maryland. She has four poetry chapbooks, and her novel Post-High School Reality Quest is forthcoming June 2017 from California Coldblood, an imprint of Rare Bird Books. Find her online at megedenbooks.com or on Twitter at @ConfusedNarwhal.

In a Bejam
by Allen Ashley

It was 1970s Britain and suddenly everybody wanted a chest freezer so as to stock up – if not for a nuclear winter, then at least for the weekend. Still at high school, I got a job as a shifter in the Bejam supermarket. Friday evenings and all day Saturday. Keep those cabinets of frozen peas filled up, cart the 10kg cardboard boxes around the store and, if you were lucky, hang around by the till and help the customers wheel their wares out to their estate cars. And maybe get a 10p tip.

If you were unlucky, the delivery lorry would arrive in the yard and you’d spend all morning lugging chilly legs of lamb off the back and into the walk-in freezer. At which point, one of your workmates would think it a fine practical joke to lock you inside the chiller for five to ten minutes as “a laugh.” There was no mechanism to open it from within. Release would come when the weedy deputy manager threatened them with the sack; or maybe something worse, like overtime.

We sold all the usual British culinary delights – Bird’s Eye fish fingers, Wall’s ice cream, Findus faggots (a low-grade meatball product, just in case you were wondering). People were encouraged to buy in bulk: multipacks that would, safely frozen, last three to six months. If you didn’t get bored with the bland diet by then.

We also sold own-brand Bejam goods: ten or twenty percent cheaper. It was an eye-opener for me that these arrived on the very same lorry from the very same factory as the branded products.

I lasted a few weeks; my wages spent on Hawkwind LPs.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This piece is about a temporary job that I took at a Bejam supermarket whilst still at school. We called them “Saturday jobs” here in the UK.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, around the time of my first job, mid-1970s,

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Allen Ashley is the judge for the annual British Fantasy Society Short Story Competition. His most recent book is an updated, revised version of his novel The Planet Suite (Eibonvale Press, UK, 2016). He works as a creative writing tutor in north London, UK.

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Chocolate Memories
by Susanna Fussenegger

Just like Lucy, I too worked in a chocolate factory.

For one day.

This was at the famous Lindt Works in Germany. The year was 1965 and I, a student, wanted to earn some spending money. I did not speak German.

No problem, the company desperately needed hands to create bon-bons. Getting hired was a breeze, followed by training which consisted of pointing me to a spot behind a conveyor belt.

Before I even had a chance to blink, there came the super sweet smelling chocolates, fast and furious. Putting pieces in my mouth, just to thin the flow, was impossible because of the scent. It could have brought even the hungriest of giants to the brink of puke.

My job was to wrap little toy soldiers, carved from chocolate, into red foil.

Those soldiers did not march, they sprinted.

As I reached for them, they fell over face down, instantly replaced by a new regiment. The ones I “dressed” ended up with their red uniforms all wrinkled, brown butts showing.

With hands sticky and sweaty, I soldiered on.

Instead of getting the hang of it, though, I made more mistakes.

Embarrassed, I glanced up — and what did I see? Two big supervisor ladies looking at each other, then at me, with utter disbelief on their faces. They started to walk toward me slowly, and I was sure they were going to yell:

AUS !

That word I knew.

I dropped everything, without looking back, I ran through the door saying:

AUSGANG

I was totally flying! Queasy, I prayed that I would see the sign:

00, which in Europe is known as WC .

What a memory! But you know what? I still love chocolate!

IMAGE:  Ethel (left, Vivian Vance) and Lucy (Lucille Ball) have trouble keeping up while working in a chocolate factory (I Love Lucy, “Job Switching,” 1952).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this story thinking of all the talk about people working in countries other than their own. A first job is always a humbling experience. Multiply that with the anxiety of the unknown.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susanna Fussenegger is an educator and counselor, and has been a naturalized American citizen since 1972. She is an avid reader. Since childhood she has always known that people enjoyed listening to her stories and hopes to leave special tales behind for her grandchildren or anyone who cares to read them.

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Fancy Goods
by Clive Collins

Sixteen, in need of clothes and the occasional night out on which to wear them, I took a job for lousy pay in a fancy goods shop working Friday nights and all day Saturdays.

Nights, I swept the shop and its frontage. Mornings, I washed the shop and its frontage.  I dusted the stock – carefully.  There was a lot of expensive china displayed.  Mostly though, I sold paraffin and went home reeking of the stuff, but a pound better off.

My boss was Sidney Bach, a grey pudgy man with dandruff who disliked me.

I worked for the clothes.  Christmas Week I was in every day. Christmas Eve a pretty woman was in the shop when I got there. “Mrs Sidney,” Sidney wheezed.  “Sylvia,” she said.

Lunchtimes, I walked into town.  Not that day though.  A green Mini with Sylvia driving stopped alongside me.  “Get in,” she said. Mistletoe hung from the rearview mirror.

“Lunch?”

I nodded.

She took me to the town’s only French restaurant, leaving the Mini on a double yellow.  At the table we bumped knees while she fed me food the like of which I’d never tasted.  Wine was taken.  I watched my watch, surreptitiously.

“What about Sidney?” I said.

“Oh, bugger Sidney!”

Afterwards, getting out of the car, she caught hold of me, kissed me full on the mouth.  “Happy Christmas, sweetheart,” she said.  “Working New Year?”

Parked where we were, I could see Sidney watching us through the shop window.  That afternoon I sold a full set of Royal Albert china.

When Sidney made up my money at night, Sylvia snorted, re-opened the till and pressed paper into my hand. A fiver, I thought. At home again, I found it had a twin.  Supposed to go back after the holiday, I knew I wouldn’t.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me in the suit the paraffin paid for.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Dichten = Condensare” was what Pound said made poetry.  This piece is a very condensed version of a much longer tale, and though I have enjoyed the discipline of cutting things down to the bone, it still isn’t poetry.  I would also add that Sidney and Sylvia Bach are aliases.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Born in Leicester, England, Clive Collins has spent the greater part of his life working as a teacher in Ireland, Sierra Leone, and Japan. He is the author of two novels, The Foreign Husband (Marion Boyars) and Sachiko’s Wedding (Marion Boyars/ Penguin Books). Misunderstandings, a collection of short stories, was joint-winner of the Macmillan Silver PEN Award in 1994. More recently his work has appeared in online journals such as Penny, Cecile’s Writers, The Story Shack, and terrain.org. He was a short-listed finalist in the 2009 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. A chapbook of his short stories is to be published by Red Bird Chapbooks in 2017.

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Marginalia
by Courtney Watson

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It was the first estate sale of the year, an event of note in my sleepy corner of Virginia. The house was unremarkable except for the master bedroom, which had been converted into a library. The former owners, deceased, had been history buffs, and resting at eye level was a copy of Rise and Fall of the Third Reich — a book described as an account of the nightmare empire built by Hitler. When I opened the front cover, I discovered a Christmas tag taped over a map of Axis-occupied territories with yellowed Santa Claus stickers. Written in blue over the Atlantic Ocean, a sweep of ink brushing against the golden Reichsadler, was merrily inscribed “To Auddy With Love, Mabel 12-25-60.”

The 1200+ page book was well-read, with sentences underlined in green and purple. There was urgency in the arrows and questions and comments in the margins, with special attention paid to Karl Adolf Eichmann, architect of the Holocaust. Auddy commented on every mention of Eichmann, and such was his obsession that he left a bit of treasure for me to find 50 years later. Taped to the final page of the book was a fat yellowed envelope adhered with cracking brown tape labeled “Adolf Eichmann’s Death” in capital letters. In it was the end of the story, a folded page of newspaper detailing Eichmann’s capture in Argentina and subsequent execution on the gallows of Tel Aviv’s Ramleh prison, the first in Israeli history. I like to imagine that Mabel read the article before Auddy, and saved it for him.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I love stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves and learning about who people are—who they truly are—through their possessions. I’m deeply interested in marginalia and the story it tells, which is why I’m always on the lookout for books wherein the reader has visibly interacted with a piece of text; there is something fascinating, to me, about that conversation.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Courtney Watson is a writer and college professor in Roanoke, Virginia, where she directs the Humanities & Social Sciences program at Jefferson College of Health Sciences. Her writing has been published in Long Story, Short, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Boston Literary Magazine, 100 Word Story, and more. She is co-founder and co-editor of Rum Punch Press.

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Bad Karma
by Linda McKenney

The rocky outcrop known as Meads Wall was used for the emotionally charged scene in The Two Towers where Frodo and Sam capture Gollum.

We’re driving through Wakapapa Ski Fields. I’m reading from The Lord of the Rings location guidebook, indicating movie set locations around New Zealand.

As we ascend Pinnacle Ridge, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact location, as the weather is overcast, with low-lying clouds. We come to a section of rock that feels like the right spot. I get out to explore, fighting the chill of windy dampness. Walking, I kick a stone about the size of a baseball. It looks like a lump of coal. I put it in my pocket.

We’re packing to return home. My conservative husband notices the rock.

“What are you doing with that?”

“I’m keeping it as a souvenir.”

“You know that there are prohibited exports?”

“I read the list and rocks are not specifically listed.”

Though when we go through customs, I’m a bit anxious, about being arrested.

Back home, I show off the rock to my grandchildren, exaggerating about smuggling it out of the country.   “I might have been arrested!” They are fascinated by my boldness.

One day, as I’m dusting, I realize the rock’s missing from its home next to the framed print of Gandalf riding into Hobbiton. Remembering that I’d stowed it away for a visit from my two-year-old grandson, I think I’ve just neglected to put it back. I search every possible hiding place. No luck.

I gather my grandchildren together.

“My New Zealand rock is missing. Do any of you know where it is?”

They profess surprise and concern. One offers, “Well, you stole that rock, maybe it’s bad karma.”

They all assure me that they have no idea where the rock is.

Neither do I.

IMAGE: The Putangirua Pinnacles track, Aorangi Forest Park (Lord of the Rings location, New Zealand). (Sourcefirstlighttravel.com)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda McKenney is a Personal Life Coach, Motivational Speaker, and Writer, specializing in Mindful Living and Eating. She continually reinvents herself, and her new adventure is writing creative nonfiction. Her most recent work is published in Behind the Podium, Silver Birch Press, 101 Word Short Stories, and The Survivor’s Review. You can join Linda on her Mindful journey by visiting her blog –- majokmindfuleating.com. She also has an alter ego at Susanbanthony.live.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I’m at the entrance to the Lord of the Rings Museum, made to look like a Hobbit doorway. I was very disappointed that the set of Hobbiton was closed. I still have to explore the south island of New Zealand and perhaps find another rock.

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Misplaced Keys
by Kaki Olsen

A lot of things were “lost in the move” when my family relocated from Oregon to Massachusetts. Some books never made it into a box and Dad accidentally left my hamster in a hot car in West Virginia.

We were bereft of other things in the process. My sister sold off my favorite stuffed animal when I missed one of our yard sales. We had to sell our antique train seats. Because we had no room for it, my mother left the piano that she had grown up with in the care of friends.

Nearly two decades later, those same friends announced that they were moving and wanted to know if my mother would like to reclaim her old piano. She still had no room for another piano and she impulsively blurted out, “but my daughter would probably love to have it.”

And so it was that the piano was professionally moved from a living room in Oregon to a cramped student apartment in Utah. It was at least five feet tall, weighed 600 pounds, and had no decorations other than a gold-leaf “Steinway and Sons” on the music stand. As soon as the mover cleared out, I sat with reverence at the 1918 Model K piano and played my favorite Beethoven.

A few weeks later, mother and piano were reunited for the first time in decades. With the same sense of respect, my mother sat at the familiar ivory keyboard and sobbed her way through Debussy’s “Claire De Lune.”

I could fund a number of dreams with the sale of the piano that was restored to me, but I’ve never been able to disregard the history that tied two generations to an 88-keyed treasure.

IMAGE: “Woman at the Piano” by Henri Matisse (1869-1954).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kaki Olsen is a disability case manager who spends most of her off-work hours at her computer. She has been a published essayist since her debut at iEmily.com and her first novel, Swan and Shadow, was published by Sweetwater Press in 2016. She is an alumna of Lexington Christian Academy and Brigham Young University and her advice on the publishing process has been featured in AuthorsPublish’s e-zine as well as their Get Your Book Published: 10 Authors, 10 True Stories, 10 Ways to Get Your Book Published. Both books can be found at Amazon. She has been a guest speaker at two colleges and several conferences. When she is not at a computer keyboard, she enjoys playing several instruments, studying new languages, and traveling to foreign countries. Her published works are catalogued at kakiolsenbooks.com, while her critique of the written word is found at kakirecommends.com.   She appears on Twitter as @kakiolsenbooks and can be found on Facebook.

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A “found” umbrella
by Isobel Cunningham

My father took me to lunch one spring day when I was sixteen. In the restaurant he smelled the wine, took a sip, declared it “very nice,” and poured me a glass. I looked older than my years and, anyway, no one would have dreamed of challenging my father, of asking him why he was giving wine to a minor. He had an air of authority and of good-natured charm that carried all before him.

As we came out, a few drops of rain fell. He looked at my light dress. How could we wander around under dark clouds threatening a solid downpour?

The renowned Windsor Hotel loomed ahead and he suddenly caught my arm and directed me up the steps.

We approached the main desk.

“Hello,” he said with his cordial smile. “Has anyone turned in a black umbrella?”

“Just a moment, sir.” The clerk retreated to a mysterious back room and soon emerged with three large black umbrellas.

“Is one of these yours?”

“Ah there we are! That’s what I was looking for. Thank you, young man.”

I followed my father out of the hotel, slipped my arm under his and looked up into his face.

“Did you really lose that umbrella, Dad?”

“Well, no. You’ll notice I never actually said I had lost an umbrella.”

A long pause before he pronounced in his rather round-about Irish way.

“Remember, there are a finite number of umbrellas in this world and they are meant to be shared round. If someone wanted to borrow your umbrella, you’d lend it to them, wouldn’t you?”

Something to think about as I walked close to my father, sheltered from the rain. After all, there were still two umbrellas left in the Lost and Found.

IMAGE: “Umbrellas” by Fernand Leger (1881-1955).

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is the second prompt from Silver Birch Press that evoked a memory of my father. He was quite a character. It is a challenge to “tell the tale,” as he would put it, in 300 words while capturing his mercurial, charming, and unpredictable character. As a counterbalance to his unorthodox attitude to private property, I had my mother and the nuns who educated me.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: At 17 with my mother, the other moral compass.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Isobel Cunningham writes poetry and short fiction. She has been published in Silver Birch Press online and Rat’s Ass Review online. She published her first book of poetry in 2015 entitled Northern Compass (available on Amazon) and she writes a blog  isobelmtl.wordpress.com. She is a docent at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and finds inspiration in works of arts and in nature.

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Mercy, Merci
by Melanie Villines

It’s election day 1996 and I’m in Paris—covering an ulcer conference as a medical writer. Everywhere I go, people ask about “Beel Cleentone.” They love him here—the American hipster in shades with a saxophone. But the conference is over and I’m free to spend a week on my own. I change hotels and check in to a place on the Ile St. Louis recommended as Parisian perfection by a famous psychic who used to live here. That must have been a long time ago, because this place is worse than a dump—it’s scary, with thick peeling coats of wallpaper that seem to move. My room is close to the street with windows anyone could jump through. I manage to call a spot where I’d stayed before and book a room. I run outside, rush down to the main street and hail a cab. I duck my head inside. “Do you speak English?” He shakes his head. I open the door and sit in the taxi. I try to explain my problem in the simplest way I can. “Mon hotel est mal,” I say and point, then point in another direction to show that I want to go somewhere else. He gets the message, zooming down narrow streets to the hotel, waiting while I get my bags and check out, zooming across town, pulling up at the new spot, helping me inside with my bags. I give him a 200-franc tip. Later, I sit at a café, ready to read with my prescription sunglasses—but they are gone, lost in the shuffle to change hotels. When I return to the hotel, the concierge hands my sunglasses to me. The cab driver came back with them. Was it my trying to speak French? The big tip? Or was it Beel Cleentone?

PHOTO: Bill Clinton plays “God Bless the Child” on the saxophone (Arsenio Hall Show, June 1992).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Melanie Villines is a writer who lives in Los Angeles. Her latest novel is Windy City Sinners (Sugar Skull Press, 2015).