Friday, April 21, 2017

The Perfect Daughter

Courtney stood in the doorway.  Her heart pounded with the frenetic energy of a trapped Hummingbird fighting for life.  She tried to concentrate on her breathing.

“Mama?” she whispered in the darkness. “Mama? Are you awake?”

She peered into her mother’s bedroom hoping today would be a good day. As she stepped into the disheveled room, with the smell of illness permeating the air, she approached her mother’s bed. She held her breath. She could see her mother’s pale face upon the pillow and her chest rising and falling. She leaned down and gently laid her hand lightly on her mother’s frail, thin shoulder.

“Mama?” she repeated softly.

Her mother slowly opened her eyes and focused on Courtney.

“And cut!” cried the director. “Damnit Courtney!  What is with you today?  You moved off your mark again! Now let’s try it one more time and please do it like we rehearsed okay?"

Courtney cringed and felt her anger rise. She knew she hadn't blown it. But, she didn't argue and moved quickly back to her starting mark for another take. This job was a nightmare. Had she not been so desperate for the work, she would have quit. The director, Al, was sadistic in demanding needless takes and lighting changes. He was deliberately malicious to crew and talent alike. He had created an atmosphere of almost unbearable tension on the set. Word had it he was a frustrated actor himself and on a steady diet of coke, and God knew what else. At first, she thought he had bad allergies or a cold. But on her second day of shooting she’d found out from a second-line-prop man it was drugs.

“Just try and stay under the radar kid, and you’ll do fine,” said one of the production assistants.
“Yeah, like that’s gonna happen,” she murmured. She was in three more scenes today.
But, she made it through her second day, and then, her third and fourth. Today should be her last day and she’d make enough to pay her rent and buy some food. The utilities would have to wait a little longer. God, how she hated living like this. She was in a constant state of anxiety and there were times she had to concentrate just on breathing. To make matters worse, she wasn’t feeling well, probably due to lack of enough sleep. She moved to her first mark and concentrated on the scene. Prop men and gofers swirled around her. A makeup lady touched up Courtney’s face.

“You’re doing fine, honey,” she whispered to Courtney. “Just hang in there one more hour and we’ll break for lunch.” Courtney nodded. At least she’d get fed today, that was some comfort. She had no food at home other than a can of tuna, a couple pieces of bread and two tomatoes.

“Okay people!” hollared Al. “Let’s get moving! Time is money!” Courtney wiped her sweaty hands on her skirt and concentrated on her character. Al’s grating voice echoed through the soundstage. “Lights! Speed! And…ACTION!” Courtney moved forward into the room.

“Mama?” she whispered in the darkness. “Mama? Are you awake?”

And, as Courtney whispered her lines she was suddenly transported back to her own childhood in Illinois. She was seven years old and walking into her mother’s dark, depressing, cave-like bedroom. Her mother had been drinking again. Courtney could smell the liquor.  The depressing aroma was forever hanging in the air. How she dreaded those mornings. She never knew what to expect.  Her memories of always trying to be the perfect daughter came flooding back.

Monday, April 3, 2017

We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym - A Special Place for All Kids

By Kimberly Mack

Dina Kimmel, a successful entrepreneur, is giving to the community, and word is spreading. She is giving strength, love, patience, and acceptance. Kimmel, president and owner of We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Tarzana, has designed and built her kid’s gym with a specific clientele in mind. Thirty percent of the children that come through the door are children who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. It all started with a little boy named Gabriel.

It was in 2009 that Kimmel learned that her youngest child, Gabriel, was Autistic. He was two years old. Kimmel and her devoted husband Tim, feeling overwhelmed at this news, set out to learn all they could about Autism.

The Kimmels discovered that no two children’s symptoms are alike. There is a wide spectrum of symptoms. There are approximately 46,000 children born every year in the U.S. that will be afflicted. But, when detected early enough and treated, many children go on to lead more fulfilling and independent lives. There is hope.

Motivated by her love and drive to help her son, Kimmel then took over the space of her son’s previous gym, and designed the only Open Play occupational sensory gym in Los Angeles. All of the equipment and games are colorful and beckoning. Great care was taken to avoid any possible sensory overload. Everything was designed to enhance and improve sensory skills, strengthen coordination, and teach crucial communication skills and social interaction. There is an arts and crafts room, and an abundance of sensory-fun toys. Everything is designed to provide a fun and safe learning experience. It is a happy place and a gym children love. Kimmel’s seven-year-old daughter, Sophia, is a regular visitor, and Kimmel is thrilled she has been able to discover games and activities that her two children can do together.

This sense of togetherness seems to be at the root of the gym’s mission.

“My gym is a place where all kids – despite their differences — can have an equally fun time,” Kimmel says. “The gym has the best top notch occupational equipment in it that is essential for kids on the spectrum and just good old fashion fun for typical kids.”

This month marks the gym’s one year anniversary. “I love it,” Kimmel beams, looking around. “So many people need to be given a safe place where they feel comfortable. It’s my home, and we’re all family.”

Kimmel has also built a dedicated team of licensed therapists, each highly accomplished in their own field of expertise. Her support staff consists of licensed occupational and behavioral therapists, social workers, and language and fitness specialists. They are all compassionate professionals. They work tirelessly with parents to reach their child’s goals in both group and private sessions.

Regularly scheduled Youth Fitness classes held by Coach Kee, a certified children’s fitness specialist, are popular and contagious. Her classes are designed to build self confidence and improve self esteem, as well as help the children to develop agility, balance, cardio, courage, and leadership. Her women’s fitness classes are equally popular.

“I have an amazing staff,” Kimmel states. “I’m very blessed. I’ve gotten such a welcome in the area, and I’m very proud of what this has done for the community.”

And We Rock the Spectrum is a bona fide deal. “To use a gym with the equipment I have in it usually costs $150 an hour, and we simply charge $10,” Kimmel says.

In addition to their regularly scheduled classes, they also have special events, private play dates, and birthday parties. They offer their own online store of toys and gluten-free snacks.

“With Autism on the rise and not everyone able to afford to pay the expensive prices for private therapy, We Rock makes it easy for just $10. It’s a place where special needs kids and their family and friends can play too!”

Reprinted from the Tolucan Times

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Beyond the Mists of Forres

The village was dark and silent except
for the howl of a lone wolf from across the ravine. The air had turned cool with the approach of fall. The young woman shivered slightly
as her dark green eyes scanned the deep forest.
All was still – it was a good sign.
It was time. Pulling the hood of
her long black cape over her waist length raven hair, she let out a thin
whistle between her small white teeth to summon her beloved black wolf. Moving silently forward through the trees she
treaded lightly in her breeches and boots. Glancing up, she smiled. The light was good tonight. Nearly a full moon, but not yet. She had time.
A rustle in the bushes made her turn to catch the wolf coming to her
side with his fresh kill of rabbit still clenched between his jaws – his dark,
amber eyes gleaming in the dark. He dropped his prize at her feet.
“Ah, there you are.” Kari whispered as she reached for her
bow and arrows, and slung them over her shoulder.
“We must be off Wolf.
Make haste with your meal. It may
be your last for some time.”
A nearby knicker met Kari’s ears and she smiled again. Softly approaching was her devoted steed Dario. His dark bay coat and beautifully shaped head
gleamed in the moonlight as he nuzzled her cloak for a lump of sugar.
“Ah,” smiled Kari, breathing in his scent, and feeling his
energy. “You know my heart well, my dear
friend. I cannot resist you and well you
know it.”
Scooping her hand into a pocket of her cloak, she withdrew a
tasty treat. Dario dipped his head,
sniffed at Kari’s hand and the sweet disappeared. She quietly stroked his forehead, adjusted his
bridle, and spoke softly.
“We must make haste this night Dario. We must make our way home before the moon is
Kari looked into the dark beautiful eyes of her magnificent Friesian,
and a current passed between them.

He nickered softly, and pawed the ground with a strong foreleg. He understood and was eager to do his mistresses’ bidding. Taking a final look
around the village, Kari swung herself upon Dario’s back and softly called to Wolf. Electricity suddenly filled the night air and
sensing the urgency of his mistress, Dario spun and cantered through the woods
as graceful and silent as a gazelle.
The evening light was good, but it mattered not, as Kari knew
the way well. It was a two day ride home
to her lands. With any luck Dario would get
her there well before the full moon. An
hour into their journey, Kari slowed Dario to a walk, and let her thoughts
wander. Somewhere to her left flank was Wolf,
always her protector. She could sense
when he was near.
Kari made good time stopping only briefly for some
nourishment, and to see to her other needs.
Her excitement grew as she closed the miles toward home. Urging Dario on through the last of the
forest, she broke onto the crest of the small hill where her property
began. The sun was just rising behind
her, and the vision that unfolded before her made her breath catch in her
throat. How she loved her home and her land. She halted Dario to admire the view. Its
beauty never left her wanting. The
lushness of the hills and green grass always brought her a sense of peace. All was calm in the early dawn light. Her well guarded keep filled her with a sense
of pride.
Urging Dario on, her thoughts drifted back to her visit with
the old woman in the village. She had
been difficult to find and surrounded by loyal kinsmen. But once Kari announced herself and requested
an audience, she was welcomed. Her long journey had been worth it. For three days and two nights they
talked. Some of the old woman’s mumblings
and visions puzzled Kari. The place she
described was filled with foreign sounds and edifaces. Kari bit her lower lip in puzzlement. She knew of no such place the woman
described. She could only hope she would
be able to make more sense of it when she reached her home. She would follow the old oracle’s
instructions. Until then, the peace she
so desperately sought would continue to elude her.
Kari stiffened. A low
growl interrupted her thoughts. Wolf was
warning her. She was not alone. Suddenly a sharp whoosh filled the air as an object made contact with a nearby tree. Dario snorted and reared. Kari kept a firm, but calm hand on the reins
and whirled in the direction from which the airborne object had come.
Angered that someone would dare to accost her on her own
lands filled her with fury. She was well
known and only a fool would dare to attempt such an action.
“Who goes there?” she cried, grabbing her bow and arrow. “Make yourself known or suffer the
consequences!” She wondered sharply why she
had not sensed any danger. But she
knew. She had been distracted with her
“Make your presence known!” she called out, scanning the edge
of the forest. “Show yourself!”
A low chuckle and rustling was immediately heard, followed by
more laughter as a dozen men on horseback moved out of hiding and into the
clearing. Kari breathed a sigh of relief
and lowered her bow and arrow. By all
that was holy, she could have shot him.
It was her twin brother, Noel.
“Ah, sister,” laughed Noel, smiling broadly as he approached
her on foot. “Such a fierce warrior you
are! We’ve been tracking you for the last
mile. You did not pick up our
presence? How deep in thought you must
have been.”
“You bloody oaf!” she
cried, rankled that he would choose such a method to make his presence known. “I could have injured you!”
Kari dismounted and was immediately wrapped into her
brother’s massive arms as he engulfed her in a powerful hug.
Noel gazed upon his sister’s lovely face. Her green eyes gazed back at him clear and
open to his close scrutiny. Her
alabaster skin glowed with good health.
“You look well,”
admired Noel with the grunts of the others.
“Your journey has agreed with you it seems. Was it a
“Aye,” she murmured matching her strides with her brother’s as
they walked across the lush grass. “What news is there from home?”
Noel put his arm around Kari as his men joined them. “There is naught, but that Uncle is frothing
at the mouth to see you.”
Kari smiled and tugged at Dario’ reins to follow. “And, how is our dear Uncle?” queried Kari. “How fares his gout?”
A grin lit Noel’s handsome face bringing forth a flash of
white teeth and a twinkle to his green eyes.
“The same as his
disposition, I fear. He limps with
greater pain everyday whilst he roams the halls grumbling to himself. He has been impatient for your return. He is anxious for the cure you will surely bring
him with your herbs and libations.”
Kari smiled in return as a vision of her cantankerous and
aging white-haired Uncle came to mind.
She would attend to him with the herbs she had acquired first thing.
“So,” continued Noel, halting Kari mid stride. “Was your mission a success? Did you find the old woman?”
Kari stopped and let her gaze wander over her brother and the
men behind him that were family to her.
“Aye!” she breathed anxious to share her excitement. “She was there Noel!” she cried clutching his
arm. “She knew who I was. She had
knowledge of what I sought! She grows
old, but she is well tended.”
“Tis good then,” replied Noel with a nod. “And, what of the other matter we seek?” he asked
in earnest. “Had she any news?”
“Yes,” gleamed Kari. “It
has been as we suspected. Our parents
were not killed. They are alive. She
has had many visions. We sat talking
into the wee hours. Her visions are
strong Noel, and we share the same sight.
She believes they have been held prisoner these many years. She fears for the place they are in. She feels a sense of urgency.”
“Where?” growled Noel,
his jaw tightening, his eyes becoming a hard green glint. “Does she know where?”
“Nay,” breathed Kari.
“But she has described the place, and ‘tis ugly.”
“We must find them,” resolved her brother. “Let us make haste,” he continued as he
turned to his horse and his men. “You
need to get home and rest. Then we will
“We ride!” He called
out to his men, swinging up into his saddle, turning his great steed towards
the top of the hill.
Kari eagerly nodded and quickly mounted Dario. All securely mounted, they thundered down the
hill and across the valley towards home; beyond the mists of Forres.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Wailing Woman

By Kimberly Mack
Residents in the small, upscale community of La Jolla said sometimes you could see her walking on the beach just before dawn, when the tide was out and fingers of fog clung to the top of the cove and nearby hills.  But, you could only see her for a few moments and then she’d disappear.  Sometimes over the sounds of the surf pounding on the rocks, you could hear her crying.  In town they called her “the wailing woman.”  I didn’t believe these stories, of course.  I'd never seen a ghost.  Nor, did I want to.

I was house-sitting for my cousin and his wife one weekend.  They had a beautiful home overlooking La Jolla Point.  I’d been up late trying to work on my book when I fell asleep.  Sometime later I woke on the sofa and was stunned to notice it was almost dawn.  I rose to put another log on the fire.  It was then I heard her.  It was soul-wrenching sobbing and seemed to echo throughout the house.   I quickly went to the balcony and scanned the beach below.  She was there; standing on one of the rocks, oblivious to the pounding surf as it washed through her.   Her transparent arms stretched upwards, towards the sky as if reaching for someone or something.  Her cries were none I’d ever heard before, almost like a wounded animal.  They were gut wrenching and disturbing.  My heart was pounding in my chest as I stood rooted to the railing.  Then she turned and looked right at me.  I felt sucked into her dark scrutiny and could not move had my life depended on it.  Her eyes were full of such despair and something else I could not identify.  Then suddenly, without warning my legs turned to jelly and gave way beneath me.  I crumbled in a heap on the deck.   When I came too, the woman was gone and the sun was rising, its giant orb casting a golden light across the water, banishing all things dark and mysterious.  I welcomed it.    I felt cold all over.  There were only the sounds of the waves crashing and an occasional gull crying.   I turned and made my way back into the house telling myself to breathe.  As I rounded the corner of the living room, I glanced down at the hard wood floor, suddenly puzzled.  There was water beneath my feet as if I had spilled something.  I know I had not.   I froze, understanding suddenly dawnng.  I was not alone.   She was here.  

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Lover's Deception

Artwork by Colleen Ross
By Kimberly Mack
The words “I hate you,” slipped so easily off her tongue.  She laughed when she said them. 
It made me wonder.  Perhaps she did just a little.   I watched her and began to notice things. There was a new hesitation in her touch, a passion missing in her kiss.  Her beautiful sea-blue eyes would never quite meet mine. 
Suddenly there were more lunches with “the girls,” visits to the museums and shopping trips.  But, she never bought anything; never brought home any “souvenirs.” Then the funny phone calls started.   The person on the other end always hung up. 
She said she was running off to meet the girls for their weekly bowling night.  With a light kiss and a wave of her small hand she was off.  I stood looking down at the driveway as she pulled her light blue Plymouth out of the garage.   She hadn’t taken her bowling ball.  It was still in the hall closet.
I tailed her down Highland three cars back to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.   I had a sick feeling in my gut. 
I was losing my girl.  - Mick

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Slow Burn

Photography by Kimberly Mack

The rain had barely cooled off the city. The suffocating heat was a killer. I was driving back from visiting an old pal of mine in Echo Park. I left an hour later, twenty bucks lighter and wishing I’d never gone. I decided to step into my favorite watering hole to shake the heat and my mood. Fifteen minutes later I stepped through the door of The Formosa. The place was quiet. It was early.  I waved to Joe. He was wiping down the bar. I took a seat.

He nodded. “Hey Mick. How are things?”

“Not bad,” I said reaching for my cigarettes.

“What’ll ya have?”

“Give me a bourbon, would ya Joe? Heavy on the ice.”

He nodded, threw the bar towel over his shoulder and moved away. I lit a cigarette and turned to check out the scenery.

The Formosa was a favorite of mine. Even if you weren’t thirsty, it was a great place to people watch. Nobody really bothered you. If they did, Joe would throw 'em out. Or, if you were broke somebody would always loan you a couple of bucks. If you got really lucky, somebody would pay you back. I was hoping I’d get lucky.

So, there I was, minding my own business, working on my second bourbon when I saw her. She was sitting in the back booth facing the door. I could tell just by looking at her she didn't belong.  A voice in my head said, “Careful Mick.” I didn’t listen and moved further down the bar. She lifted her eyes and looked directly at me. Her eyes were the deepest blue I’d ever seen. Like the color of the sea on a hot summer day. I stopped breathing. She looked away. Somebody fed the jukebox and the music of Miles Davis floated out. I heard the front door slam and laughter. It echoed down the bar and off the walls. I watched her nurse her drink. She had small, well manicured hands with red nail polish. There was no ring. She looked at me again. I nodded. She gave me a little smile. That was my cue. I took it and moved towards her table.

“Mind if I sit down?” I asked. She shook her head, her dark hair floating around her shoulders. I sat.

“Would you like another drink?” I asked. She shook her head. Her hair danced again with the movement.

We looked at one another across the table. A few seconds passed. Her eyes had flecks of green. She wore no makeup, other than red lipstick. Her skin glowed like freshly polished porcelain.

“You have a name?” I asked, trying to get the ball rolling. She nodded.

“Leonore,” she whispered.

I leaned towards her to hear.

“Mick,” I replied, offering my hand. She hesitated, then quickly placed her hand in mine. She was trembling. I watched her.

“You okay?” I asked.

She looked away and rummaged in her purse. She pulled out a handkerchief.

“Please,” she said raising her eyes back to mine. I saw the threat of tears. “Would you get me out of here? she whispered. "I'm afraid I'm in a bit of a mess."

I nodded. I was in big trouble. I was about to go down for the count. We left The Formosa and walked out into the muggy night air. The heat was suffocating. I couldn't have cared less.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sore Loser

Photography by Kimberly Mack
Rain had come to the City of Angels and it was coming down in truck loads.  The streets were sloppy and flooded.   It’d been raining for weeks, and the skies were bleak and grey.  So was my mood.

I didn’t like driving in the rain, but I got a call from a buddy, so was headed downtown to the county jail.  He was in a jam.   I took my last five hundred bucks to bail him out.  

Seems he was at his weekly poker game last night and had won big.  Good for him and good for me.  He owed me money.
Next thing he knows he wakes up in a hotel room with this doll curled up next to him.  Would have been okay with him, but she was just a kid; and only sixteen.  He’d never seen her before in his life.  But she was telling a different story and sticking to it. 
Another kicker, he'd been rolled. They took all his winnings.  Somebody was a sore loser. 

The place depressed me.  It reeked of urine, sweat and despair.  I was glad I had my place over on Las Palmas.   The sergeant at the desk had a two day’s head start on a beard and a bad attitude.  The soggy cigar stuck between his teeth had gone out long ago, but he kept chewing on it.   A tired looking janitor at the far end of the room was mopping up someone’s accident.    In the distance the clang of a bell was followed by the grating sound of steel clashing on steel; it was the lock up.   The halls echoed with each sound.   I wanted some fresh air.
“Wait over there,” growled the cigar chomping sergeant when I paid Roger’s bail.  I sat and checked out the scenery.  At 7 a.m. the place was already buzzing with activity.  Cops were coming and going hauling in drunks, prostitutes and gang members sporting some pretty nasty war wounds.  Some of them were still bleeding.  The janitor wasn’t going to be happy about that.  Suddenly the clientele took a turn and a couple of men dressed in snappy business suits and sporting wingtips came in.  I watched as one stepped up and whispered to the desk sergeant.  The other two hung back.  The guys looked familiar, but I couldn’t place them. 
Ten minutes later the bell rang again. I waited.  I could hear footsteps on the tile floor.  I stood up, but it wasn’t Roger that came around the corner.  I was stunned and suddenly forgot my growling stomach.  It was the blonde I tangoed with two weeks ago and who had “borrowed” my car. Her buddies were the suits.  Suddenly it all clicked and I knew why the guys looked so familiar.  I’d seen them all together at The Formosa.    She looked good and like she’d spent the night at the Ambassador and not in a cell at the county jail.    She kissed the big guy and saw me.   Our eyes locked across the room.    She winked at me.   She was Trouble, with a capital "T."  I could see it in her eyes. I tipped my hat.  Suddenly Roger was standing in front of me and the moment with the blonde was gone.
“Hey buddy,” he said.
I roused myself like a man sleep walking.  Roger looked and smelled like he’d been on a two day drinking binge and then hung out to dry.  I was suddenly glad I’d come to bail him out.   As Roger signed for his belongings I looked around.  The blonde and her friends were gone.  I pushed her out of my mind.  My friend was in trouble and needed my help, but my troubles were just beginning.  

A Man and His Chips

bonaventureI was in an elevator the other day with a young man, maybe mid-30's, who was eating a bag of Doritos. It was silent inside except for the whirring of our descent to the main floor and his crunching and chewing of his chips. The rustling of the bag echoed off the walls. We were alone. He was quite intent on his chore, as he never looked anywhere other than into his little cellophane bag. I was hesitant on speaking to him for fear of breaking his spell. He seemed so...focused. And I was fascinated by his focus. And as the elevator doors wooshed open I suddenly thought...okay, this would make a great commercial. The ideas came pouring out. So, you see you never know where inspiration may strike. Stranger things have happened in an elevator...and I found some in an elevator with a man and his chips. And not a word was spoken.

The Long Walk

Photography by Kimberly Mack
The street was silent as he parked beneath her building.  She lived on one of those crazy winding streets high up in the Hollywood Hills that boasted of past residents from the '20's and '30's like Gloria Swanson and Charlie Chaplin. He could hear Frank Morgan floating out over the hills…a jazz fan.  He smiled to himself.   

He grabbed the bottle of red wine and began the trek up the steep stairwell.  The occasional bark of a dog and the music echoed through the hills.  The music got louder the higher he climbed.  He arrived at her front door.  It was 35 steps to her door and was surrounded by bright Bougainvillea and a breathtaking view of Hollywood and downtown LA.  He had to catch his breath.  The stairs were a killer.  He knocked.  She answered.  She was the one playing the jazz.  Things were looking up.

“Hello,” she breathed in her soft Veronica Lake voice. 

“Hi,” he replied back.  She stepped aside and he stepped in.   He caught a whiff of her scent as he moved past her and into the livingroom.  She smelled of baby powder and lavender.  There was a fire going in the fireplace.  

He held out the bottle of wine.

  “Thank you.  Won’t you sit down?” she said with a floating gesture towards the white sofa.  He would, and did.    “A drink?” she asked.  

“Bourbon … on the rocks,” he replied.  She glided over the polished hardwood floor to her liquor tray to fix his drink.  He drank her in like a man dying from thirst.   She was a petite little number, lean with hard angles and cheekbones like Lauren Bacall.   Her shoulder length hair was blonde with red highlights when it caught the light.   Her eyes were emerald chips, the irises flecked with gold.  Her skin was smooth and pale.   She was intoxicating.  

She sat next to him.  He studied her over the rim of his glass as he took a swallow.   A bell went off from the kitchen.  

“You’re cooking?” he asked.  She nodded.   He had planned on taking her out.  

“Yes.  I thought it would be a way to repay you for helping me last night.”  

He nodded.   He met her the night before at The Formosa in Hollywood.   She’d gotten herself into a jam and had too much to drink.  He stepped in and helped.   She hadn’t any money on her.  He paid her tab and gave her a lift home.  

“I have the money to repay you now,” she said, pulling a twenty out of her purse.  “So silly of me to have grabbed the wrong bag.” 

He studied her and waved away the money.  “Does that happen to you often?”  

She shook her head, her hair falling forward.  She brushed it off her forehead with a carefully manicured hand.  Her nails were short and painted red.  He liked that.   He never cared for long fingernails on a woman.  They could get a man into trouble.  

 “No, I don’t do that very often.” She moved suddenly off the sofa and over to the dining table.  He watched her intently like a starved man. 

 “If you’ll open the wine and light the candles,” she whispered. “I’ll bring dinner out.”  He nodded and like a man hypnotized, rose.  While he opened the wine, he gazed out over the city.  The view was impressive, and the lights twinkled like gems in the dark night.    The music of Miles Davis filled the room, and he was suddenly struck with a strong feeling of déjà-vu.   He had been here before.

  Chapter 2

He didn’t know what time it was when he woke up.  He only knew that she was gone.  He reached out across the bed.  His hand fell away empty.  He lay quietly, listening.  There was nothing but silence, and the faintest scent of her perfume.   He didn’t like what he was feeling.   

He waited around.  He took a shower, stalling for time, and thinking she’d show.  She didn't.  If this was his place he would’ve thought he had dreamed the whole thing.  But, that was her rumbled bed he’d crawled out of an hour ago.  He felt like a dope;  like he’d been dumped. 

He walked out the front door into the bright, smoggy sunshine of Los Angeles.  He descended the steps he climbed last night. 
Images of her floated through his mind as he made his way to his car.  He wanted to see her again.  She’d gotten in.  

He turned, glancing up the street. His car was gone.  He reached into his pocket for his keys and swore.  His pocket was empty. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Birthday Party

It is Sunday, and we have a group of children this afternoon who are celebrating a birthday.  
The children are excited, curious, and a little in awe of the horses. After all, they sure don't look as big when you see them on TV! They laugh together and chatter away, their faces eager for adventure, their eyes as round as saucers.   
Shirley, their riding instructor, has a captive audience as she takes them on a tour through the barn, while our resident pigeons look on. The horses poke their soft, velvet noses between the steel bars of their stalls to greet the children, hoping for a tasty carrot or two. Each child picks his or her favorite horse to ride.  

"I want to ride Alabama!" announces one little girl in braids as she jumps up and down.  
"Blue Cheese! Blue Cheese!" another shouts. 
"And I'm going to ride Florida and go real fast!" a little, red-haired boy with freckles
declares to the others.
"Can I ride Missouri?" a small girl asks, pulling on Shirley's hand. 
"Sure," says Shirley as she smiles down at the bespeckled girl with a pony tail. 
Some of the other working students and I saddle the horses and help the children to the arena. The children are. all chattering excitedly, ready to mount and ride their chosen horses.  
"Are you coming with us?"a small, wisp of a girl asks me. She is about 10 years old and has a little, brown pony tail and glasses.  
"Yes, I am," I reply, "would you like that?"  
"Oh yes," she answers, skipping along beside me, her pony tail swishing back and forth.  
"I've never ridden a real horse before," she whispers.  
She shakes her head. "But in make believe I have. Lots of times. And I've won lots of
ribbons, too." 
"You must be very good then!" I replied.  
"I pretend I am."  
"Well, today will be a lot more fun than pretending, and I'll be close by to cheer you on."
"Okay," she says as she catches hold of my hand.  
I smile at my little friend and give her hand a reassuring squeeze. We continue to talk on our way to the arena. I soon discover that her name is Kelly, and she's very excited about her first ride, but a little nervous, too. She loves horses and has always wanted to ride. She has a stick horse named Star that she gallops down the side-walk. The horse's mane is made of red yarn, and they make a lot of noise as they gallop past the neighbors.  
"Do your friends like horses, too?" I ask.  
"Oh, yes," she answers matter-of- factly. 
She runs with a very horse-oriented crowd. They set up jumps in their back yards or in open fields with whatever is handy: buckets, brooms, sticks and branches—they have their own horse shows. I enjoy listening to Kelly's light, pleasant voice and like the feel of her hand in mine. I, too, did the same things when I was little. I was in love with horses at her age and have never outgrown it.  
"Do you have your own horse?" she asks.  
"No, I don't, but I feel like all the school horses are mine."  
"How many are there?"  
"At least forty."
 "Golly," she sighs "forty horses!" We laugh.  
Kelly and I momentarily stop as we approach the arena and then join the other horses lined up waiting for their riders. Parents and on-lookers are standing by with encouraging smiles and ready cameras. Shirley calls out the children's names and assigns them to their requested horses. Kelly is given a little gray Arabian named Vermont.  
"Oh," exclaims Kelly as she strokes Vermont's soft nose, "he's so pretty."  
Kelly watches closely as I check her cinch and stirrups. Then I help her mount up. 
"Now, don't worry," I reassure her when I notice her pale little face. "You'll have a wonderful time, and I'll be right with you, okay?"  
"I'm not scared," she bravely replies. "But you'll be right here with me?" she asks, clutching my hand.  
"Yes, I promise. And if you want to stop, you just tell me, okay?"  
"Okay," she sighs.  
We give a little wave to Kelly's mom, who is standing outside the arena, and start our walk around the arena. Kelly, like many of the other children, clutches the horn of the western saddle. I speak encouragingly to her as I walk along side of Vermont, and she soon begins to relax and smile. Vermont seems to like Kelly and behaves wonderfully.
 We pause while Shirley explains how to trot the horses, and then off we go. Kelly is grinning from ear-toear, bouncing every which way in her saddle and loving it.  
Soon the lesson is over, and Shirley calls for everyone to line up the horses in the center of the arena. I help Kelly dismount. Her face is flushed and perspiring.  
"Well, what do you think, Kelly?"  
"It's the best time I ever had!" she cries, "and I want to come and do it again! Can I?"
I remove her helmet for her and smooth back her damp hair.  
"You'll have to talk to your mom about that," I answer.  
"Maybe I can come and visit you and watch you work sometime?" she asks quietly, looking up at me.  
"Sure," I say,kneeling down. "I'd love it. You can come by and see me any time you want."  
Kelly suddenly throws her arms around my neck and gives me a quick peck on the cheek.  
"Bye," she mumbles. Before I can hug her back, she's off and running to her mother.  
So I wave goodbye to my new little friend from across the arena. I help the rest of the children dismount, and we lead their horses back to the bam. The children talk about their favorite parts of their ride, looking forward to the birthday cake and punch waiting for them. Up ahead, I can see that the tables under the umbrellas have been set, and the paper cloth is gently blowing in the breeze. It has been a nice group of children,
and I hoped Kelly would come back to visit. Somehow, after today, I didn't think she would be satisfied riding her stick horse.
The other working students and I untack the horses, check their feet for stones, and put them in their stalls. I feel a sense of accomplishment after the lesson and a renewed sense of excitement about riding Having shared something I love with the children, my love for the animals and the sport is much greater. I smile to myself as I make my way into the tack room.  
"What are you all dreamy-eyed about?" asks Melody as she struggles with a heavy Western saddle. 
"Nice day," I answer as I help her with the saddle. 
"Well, snap out of it," she barks, "and let's get cracking." 
"What's up? I ask, puzzled. 
"We've got 18 girl scouts coming," she pants as she hauls the saddle on to her hip, "and one of them is having a birthday party!"  
© 1991-2000 by Kimberly Mack. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Treasured Gift

By Kimberly Mack

I miss my grandparents. I think of them often. They were the most supportive and loving influence in my life.  Many years ago, long after their passing, while I was living in San Diego, I suddenly had the urge to find their old house. So, I pulled out my map and set out in my gray mustang.

I remember very clearly the first time I saw my grandparents. My mother had died after a long illness when I was seven. My father decided to send my older sister, Judy, and I to San Diego to live with them until he could get settled in Los Angeles.

It was early in December when we left Michigan. There was snow on the ground, and the sky was gray. I watched Judy push her loafers through the snow as we were getting into the car. She said it would probably be a long time before she saw snow again, so she’d better make it good. She was 11. It’s funny how some things remain crystal clear in your mind and others are so easily forgotten. I clung to my father’s hand on the way to the plane. My hand felt so small in his. Trying very hard not to cry, my sister and I got on the plane. We didn’t speak much. I held her hand and she gave me her dolls to play with. I chewed the purple ball of gum my father gave me. He told me if I chewed the gum my ears wouldn’t hurt. I don’t think I ever took that gum out of my mouth the whole way to California. I remember the pilot telling us if we looked out the left side of the plane, we might catch a glimpse of the Rockies. Sometime later his voice again floated over us to announce our air speed and arrival time in San Diego. Then we were on the ground and walking down the ramp of metal stairs into a hot blast of Southern California heat. I was wearing my red wool coat and couldn’t wait to take it off. It felt itchy and uncomfortable, where before it had been warm and snuggly. But I soon forgot about the heat, for my grandmother and grandfather were standing up ahead on the tarmac calling and waving to us. My grandmother, Meme, as we called her, was holding out her arms. I broke into a dead run and straight into her embrace. My grandmother had a wide smiling face, shining brown eyes and her short hair was streaked with gray. My grandfather was wearing a suit and a hat, and his blue eyes were twinkling at us. They took us home and I began to feel safe. We lived with them for two years.

I hadn’t seen the house in over thirty years, but I was excited and filled with a sense of purpose. I felt my grandmother’s presence as if she knew I was coming. I could easily picture her answering the door at my knock and I’d fly into her arms just as I did that day at the airport.

Traffic on the freeway was light and I found my grandparent’s street with little difficulty. I smiled as I drove past the park with the Eucalyptus trees, remembering my bike route planned by my grandfather. When I began to approach the house I could barely contain my excitement, and I held my breath. There it was; 2332 Myrtle Ave. As I slowed down, my eyes swept over the tangerine colored Bougainvillea covering the gate to the walkway. It looked just the same. The blue shutters on the front windows, the maroon garage door, everything looked the way I remembered. I felt as if I had been transported back in time. Any moment my grandmother would come walking out through the garage, her gray hair escaping from her hairpins, her stockings sagging around her ankles, calling me to come in for dinner. It was a weird feeling. I drove on to explore the rest of the neighborhood. Although excited, I also was aware of a feeling of sadness. They were both gone, as were most of the residents from those days. I could not stop time, nor could I bring them back.

Passing the house one last time I peered through my window. It was then I noticed a young girl sitting on the front lawn reading a magazine. She looked up. It was clear I had been studying the house and thought she might think my behavior odd, so I pulled over and got out of the car. She was friendly as I introduced myself and explained that I use to live with my grandparents in the house when I was a little girl. She looked to be in her late twenties. When she told me her landlady was home and invited me in, I couldn’t believe my luck. I jumped at her invitation. As we walked through the familiar gate to the front door, my mind became flooded with more memories.

The landlady was an elderly woman named Lila, of small build, with dark hair and of a European descent I couldn’t quite place. She had a pleasant face etched with wrinkles and warm brown eyes. She offered me tea. I was very touched by her kindness, but not wanting to put her to any trouble, declined. I explained the circumstances again of driving by the house. She told me to make myself at home and look around. I was elated and felt as if the house knew I was there.
Not too much had changed. I wandered through the main entryway and found myself in the kitchen. It had been slightly remodeled with new cabinets and counter tops. I glanced at the table past the long counter and remembered the mornings before school. One of the things my grandmother would fix with my breakfast was a cup of hot cocoa with three small marshmallows. She always served it in one of her yellow china cups. I took a special joy in the cocoa and always wished the marshmallows would last a little longer. The lunches she packed for me always included the bag of Fritos I loved. I shared some of my memories with Lila. I smiled as I told her my grandmother always enjoyed a pot of tea after dinner. I would sit with her while she would peer deep into her cup at the pattern the tea leaves had made to see our fortunes. She had wonderful stories, and I loved to listen to her talk of the days she and Pappy were younger, and the exciting places they had lived around the world when he was a Commander in the Navy.

We wandered back into the dining room. I was especially anxious to see my grandparent’s bath and bedroom. As I walked down the hall, I caught my breath. I could swear it had the same odor. I couldn’t believe it and felt myself trying to get a thorough whiff. It was a scent I always associated with my grandmother. A clean smell of lavender and cedar. Yes, it was all the same, and I felt the urge to gently reach out and touch the cabinets outside their bedroom.

When I arrived at the stairs that led down into the living room, I paused. This room brought back memories mostly of my grandfather. He would sit in one of his big reclining chairs for hours. I remember when I first came to them; it was weeks before I ventured into that part of the house. He was quiet, and I think I was a bit afraid of him. But, I finally struck up my courage and approached him. We called him Pappy. I discovered later he never liked that name, but somehow it had stuck. Pappy taught me many things. I learned how to count change (a most intimidating task). He taught me to boil water, and how to make my first fried egg. Later, I graduated to the preparation of pudding. We would play The Spider and the Fly, and giggle when he caught me. At Halloween Meme made me a princess costume, complete with magic wand, and Pappy took me ‘Trick or Treating.’ He made me my first skateboard, using wheels from a pair of my skates and a piece of wood. It was the best skateboard I ever had. He showed me where I could ride my bike in the neighborhood so I wouldn’t get lost. I played hopscotch on the sidewalk with little pieces of chain he bought me from the hardware store. We’d watch TV; shows like Rawhide with Clint Eastwood, and Perry Mason, starring Raymond Burr.

I turned and began to go up the stairs leading to my old bedroom and playroom. There were rolls of brown carpet on the dark tiled stairs and cans of unopened paint. It was then I learned Lila had rented out my old bedroom and playroom, so those doors were locked. I was disappointed. As we passed what use to be my old playroom, I suddenly remembered my first discovery of Pappy’s old Royal typewriter. I spent many happy times punching the old metal keys as I wrote funny little rhymes and poems for my grandmother. It was the memory of the old Royal typewriter that was the most significant for me. When I was 13 my grandparents bought me a green Smith Corona typewriter. I loved that typewriter and spent hours writing stories and lugging it everywhere I went. Whenever it needed to be repaired, Pappy would see that it got fixed, and we would take the bus into town to the repair shop. I used it so much I always needed to buy new ribbons. I still have my typewriter and will never part with it.  It is a treasured gift.  For years, Meme subscribed to numerous writing journals for me, predicting I was going to be a writer. She bought me my first Webster’s Dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus. She was always there to encourage my writing. She read everything I wrote, and always gave me constructive criticism and advice.

The last place I had to see was my grandmother’s beloved garden. She would spend every evening watering and tending it. I had many fond memories spending the evenings nearby collecting snails or making mud pies. But, I was to be sorely disappointed. Once the garden had been thriving with colorful Birds of Paradise, roses and a variety of flowers. Now there was nothing but weeds and dead overgrown brush. It made me sad. I felt like crying. Like my grandmother, her garden was gone as well.

We walked back towards the house and I felt it was time for me to go. I thanked Lila. She had been so kind to let me into her home. She smiled and I impulsively hugged her. As she went back into the house, I walked up the pathway towards the gate. I turned for a final look and silently said goodbye. It was time I returned to the present.

I drove home marveling at the events of my trip. I realized that somehow I had been given an incredible gift. What a wonderful surprise it had been to be able to go inside my grandparent’s old home to look around, and to relive so many happy moments. I made a mental note to write Lila a thank you card as soon as I got home.

An hour later I pulled my Smith and Corona out of my closet. Setting it on my desk, I opened the case and lovingly gazed at the green and gray machine. I checked the ribbon and rolled in a sheet of paper. My fingers hit the keys.  I miss you Meme and Pappy.
©Copyright 2011 Kimberly Mack

The Perfect Daughter

Courtney stood in the doorway.  Her heart pounded with the frenetic energy of a trapped Hummingbird fighting for life.  She tried to conc...