Making Out at Stoplights
By Darian Lane
It wasn't that long ago.
Three months to be exact. I was sitting in Starbucks doing my studies when in walked a short-pale-black-haired-dark eyes-just-my-type-girl. She was staring at me with these dark piercing eyes and black eyebrows that hung like caterpillars. There was a smirk on her face. Like she knew me. Did she know me?
"You don't remember me." She spoke my name.
I stared blankly. She looked familiar, but I couldn't formulate a name or the placement of her face.
"Katherine." She smiled.
My mind raced, Katherine, Katherine, Katherine. Oh, Katherine! The girl I dated for about three weeks until I found out she liked to sleep in closets. Not to mention she had never kissed a guy. At 22 that was quite a feat. This was Katherine's best friend. I met her at a dinner Katherine prepared; Fried Chicken, Watermelon, Biscuits, Cornbread - I tried not to act offended.
"Oh yes, I remember now. Katherine." I struggled to recall this girl's name. "Courtney." She smirked.
"I'm here to study, mind if I sit here with you, all the tables are full."
We sat in silence for the next 20 minutes pretending to study.
"How is our mutual friend?" I said breaking the stalemate. "She's good. She's dating someone now."
"Good," I grinned.
"We should hang out sometime." There it was. I had put it out there. And now it was lingering out there like a stench.
"Hmmm..." She pondered.
The waiting was worse than the asking.
"I might have to check with Katherine on that one," she purred with a Colgate smile.
Three hours later we had a date. I arrived promptly at 9:45p (15 minutes late). She looked at my wardrobe; jeans, t-shirt, hat. She had bought a black dress.
"I thought it was dressy," she said pouty.
"This is California, nothing is dressy. But you look great, let's go." I grabbed her by the arm and whisked her out.
We had fun. We danced, we watched, we kissed, we drank. It was a connection.
"You know, even though Katherine gave me the greenlight, she had a funny look on her face."
"Sucks to be her." I laughed, pressing my hand onto her bare thigh.
We went home early.
In the car we didn't talk much. Too busy making out at stoplights.
It wasn't until we were in the bedroom half-naked she revealed she was a virgin. Yet I wasn't all that surprised. The surprise came when she rolled on her stomach and asked to be bitten. Curious and intrigued, I obliged.
"Come on, you can do better than that!"
With a challenge like that, how could I refuse. The harder I bit, the more turned on she became. Within minutes she exerted a war cry and went limp. I cuddled up behind, she latched my hand to her breast, and we fell asleep.
In the morning I drove her to her dorm for her Walk Of Shame. We kissed goodbye. It was electric. We kissed again. She looked at me.
She texted the next night, declaring how much she missed sleeping in my bed. The gentleman in me responded/texted, "Get some sleep, you have a final in the morning." (Mistake #1)
The next night...
I'm driving home from work hungry, longing, lonely, "Driving home from work wanna grab a pizza..."
"I'm vegetarian," she texted back.
"They have vegetarian pizzas - lol"
"They do :)"
"I'm driving by the University, do you want me to pick you up..." No response.
In fact, I didn't hear anything from her until the next morning...
"I get bad cell service here at the University," she texted. It was a lie.
"You do like to play games, don't you..."
" I do." She added a smiley face.
"And here I thought we had something special."
"We don't have anything."
I looked at the phone, the sender, the receiver, the day, the date, the text, the time, it was the end; my ego would never allow me to respond.
Darian Lane was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, raised in Bethesda, Maryland. Graduated Arizona State University with a degree in Communication. He currently has one published novel.
* * *
Preventing Suicide by Horse: Eliminate the Husband
By Carol Martindale-Taylor
The wind blowing through my hair, muscles rippling beneath me, the freedom of riding bareback--the stark terror of hanging onto a runaway horse--and the truck coming head-on wasn't giving us an inch to spare either. What's wrong with people? Do horses go to heaven? It was a moot point anyway; this one would find that barn door closed on arrival.
Katherine. What was it she so fortuitously said one time? Oh yeah, if you're ever on a runaway, pull one rein to the side forcing the horse's head to come around. Cherokee's head coming toward my right boot gradually slowed him down and eventually brought us to a standstill as the pickup whizzed by within a few feet us. Did I really see two adult men grinning?
Cherokee wasn't supposed to be like that, in fact, on our test ride he was exceptionally calm and responsive. With his brown and white patch-work coat and slight Roman nose, he came straight out of a Charles Russell painting and I fell in love immediately. That wild look in his eyes didn't appear until I brought him home--after he recovered from the cold he'd been battling.
But I digress. Before Cherokee, before I understood how little I knew about horses, there was Baron who technically belonged to my husband (let's call him Jim), a man who knew even less about horses. At least I knew shoveling would consume much of our time, well my time at least, since I made the mistake of commenting on how cleaning corrals was good exercise. That was the last time Jim ever touched a rake or shovel. The divorce proceedings should have started then.
My future ex-husband wanted a horse for the same reason some woman want a baby--all their friends have one, and as it turned out, Baron fit the bill since he was a big baby. Answering an ad in a local newspaper, we found him under fed and relegated to a small area along a back alley. It seems his 16-year-old owner, moving on to her new Appaloosa mare and foal, found it too time consuming and too costly to care for him. His thinning body showed every rib, making him look exceptionally tall and leggy (okay, so anything bigger than a Shetland pony looked tall to me). As we stood there talking, Baron wandered off down the alley prompting the owner to yell at her baby sister "Bring him back here!" The toddler put her chubby legs in motion, grabbed his dragging rein and walked him back to us. One picture truly is worth a thousand words; he was obviously the horse for us. Our friend, Paul, brought his trailer and we took Baron home.
Thankfully, Paul knew one end of a horse from the other which certainly prevented my early demise. Equally fortunate was the fact that Baron was Baron. Calm, unflappable, obedient--and 17-1/2 hands high--he filled out into a red snow-capped mountain with his four white feet and flashy blazed face. Other than cleaning that corral, he made owning a horse one of the easiest things we'd ever done, and before long his extreme gentleness and self confidence lulled us into the belief that horses, unlike humans, could be taken at face value.
The Fem Fatale
Now Gypsy did at least have a beautiful face. She was to be my horse for trail riding with Paul, his wife, my friend Katherine, and my husband. Our former landlord, living two miles up the mountainside above us, owned her and swore by her temperament. Since they were only using her to entertain the grandkids with rides around the yard, they said her one fault was being a little barn sour. And as he was inclined to do, Jim bought her for me sight unseen. He did things like that; you know, like putting retread tires on the front of my car, but never on his truck.
Since I worked full time and was an inexperienced rider, Katherine volunteered to bring Gypsy home for me by riding her down the mountain road leading into our canyon. The mare proved to be a little jittery on the road as we expected, but the ride was uneventful.
I'll have to admit, I did like the way Gypsy looked. Liver colored, solid slender body with a nice round rump, and a white blazed face with a dished nose, she was obviously part Arabian. She'd had one physical injury however, that was so bad she probably should have been put down at the time it happened rather than left to suffer. Every rib on her right side had been broken, with the upper and longer lower portions barely lining up with each other as they healed. Whatever caused the injury left a perfectly arched pattern along that side, and while we never discovered what happened, we soon came to believe it had a profound influence on her personality.
Now experienced friends told us horses won't do anything to hurt themselves. They might try to buck you off or knock you off by going under low tree branches, but they won't deliberately put themselves in harm's way. Gypsy never read that rule. The morning after her arrival, and ignoring the old adage about "pay backs" and a potential relationship to my retread tires, Jim decided to ride her first. Some would later say he was concerned about my safety; knowing him so well however, I prefer to believe he wanted to show Paul he was now an experienced horseman (remember that 3-year-old with Baron?). Under Paul's watchful eye, Jim saddled Gypsy, led her out of the corral, and then rode her up the embankment alongside it which brought them out on our road. Once there, she quietly looked back at her hind feet, then took them both over backward down the embankment and crashing through her corral fence.
Luckily she only landed on one leg (later diagnosed as "mush"--a clean break would have been better) rather than Jim's full body. After assurances Jim and my horse were still in tact, Paul got on her, took her back up to the same spot on the road and worked her back and forth for some time. My husband never got on her again. Katherine occasionally rode her around the local neighborhood. I admired her from my kitchen window.
Then along came Alan, a long-time friend and officer in a local police department. He actually liked Gypsy, insisting he wanted to buy her even though he had witnessed her looking back to see where the trail dropped off into the canyon below them. Given her head, she would position herself to take them both over the edge backwards, yet he had no qualms about trail riding with her. Some people just enjoy life-threatening challenges; must have been the "cop" in him. Anyway, Gypsy and I parted company without causing bodily harm to each other.
The Eight-Second Whistle
It was at this point that wild-eyed Cherokee entered my life. Riding him was a constant battle and I fully expected his headstrong ways to kill both of us in some creative fashion. I recall vicious jolts followed by visions of his ears racing toward my face--er...no, I was lurching toward those ears. At least there was no eight-second whistle to worry about during this rodeo.
Ultimately, Paul decided Cherokee needed to work off excess energy and relearn his manners, so he suggested I work him on a lunge line. A what line? After a quick demonstration, Paul loaned me his line and whip, and I set aside a Sunday afternoon to work Cherokee in his corral. As it turned out, Cherokee worked me instead. At the end of our session, I called my boss to let her know I wouldn't be coming into the office the next day; no matter which body part moved, it hurt. It hurt worse after watching Paul put Cherokee through his paces using only hand and arm motions. No whip, no line.
In an attempt to spread a little of the blame elsewhere, I do have to mention problems with my two riding instructors. For instance, one afternoon as I was perched on Cherokee's bare back and surrounded by these experts, I was given a lesson in bareback riding. Paul, the cowboy, stood to my left telling me to use my thighs when riding, and simultaneously, our next-door neighbor Sam, a Native American horseman and standing on my right, told me to tuck my toes under Cherokee's belly. Sam solved my dilemma when he purchased Cherokee so he could trail ride with our merry little group. The group I still couldn't join.
One Smart Pony
Then I started waking up to tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump as hooves pounded down our paved road in the black of night, night after night. Just as suddenly one night, our ghost rider was silent. Weeks later I found the neighborhood phantom for sale at the local livestock auction. Danny was under 14 hands--I liked seeing blades of grass close up--buckskin colored, pot bellied, and quiet. The auction's owner claimed him for non-payment of a feed bill and was nursing him back to health. It seems Danny's swollen knees were caused by running down paved roads in the dark...
With a beautiful small head, blond and black mixed in with his buckskin coloring, and odd black-striped legs, Danny could only be described as "cute." Nothing else had worked so far, so why not go for cute? We boarded him at the auction while his knees healed, and then I rode him home to wait for the other boot to drop. At least it was a small boot; Danny was manageable as long as I didn't give him his head. Pounding the pavement had caused him a lot of pain in the past, but any slack in his reins still meant the wind in my hair again.
To work off some of his energy, my now almost ex-husband and I started taking Baron and Danny out to pole line roads where Danny could satisfy his inclination to run. It didn't help much; after chugging down his allergy medication and a slurp of Pepsi, he was ready run. Doesn't allergy medication make you drowsy? Hum...must only apply to humans. Well, at least he didn't buck, run away, or look for death-defying heights to fall over.
By this time, at least I had learned a few things, like thighs work great. Out riding one afternoon, I met Katherine along the road as she was driving into town. While we visited, Danny and I relaxed and faced Katherine perpendicular to her truck, that is, we were perpendicular until a goat on the opposite hillside went up on its hind legs. Danny's sideways five-foot jump left my head talking to Katherine while my butt took off with him. All of us, goat included, were amazed I stayed with him. Thanks Paul.
I also understood that eventually some horse would dump me by bucking, running or some other evil act, but I was shocked when it happened with mild mannered Danny! At a slow walk and in slow motion, I smoothly listed to my left, sliding sideways until I was parallel with the ground. Soon I was looking up at his barrel-shaped belly.
Then a brush with fame arrived out of the proverbial clear blue sky one morning when Katherine called about a magazine article. It seems German scientists had genetically recreated the extinct tarpan horse, and the animals were being bred as a novelty. Didn't Danny have stripes around his legs? A few weeks after examining my photographs, the equine experts from the local zoo visited us to draw a blood sample from Danny. It seems another zoo had experimentally crossed tarpans with the Przewalski wild horses a few years ago; however, the experts from our zoo decided that although Danny was indeed part tarpan, there was no Przewalski blood involved. So ended our 15 minutes of fame.
Riding Into The Sunset
Then one day I discovered my closer-than-ever-to-being-an-ex-husband had tired of Baron and traded him for two purebred Hereford heifers to butcher. I wasn't the only one upset about the trade either; Danny didn't like it one bit. From then on, all Jim ever saw of Danny again was his backside. Did I mention Danny was smart? Capping off the whole unsettling incident, I could only save one of the heifers from the dinner table.
Then it finally happened. After nearly ten years of marriage, I found myself calmly waving goodbye to Jim. My friends insisted I'd have a good cry once reality penetrated, but I knew better. In fact, the only tears I shed happened when I sold Danny because I couldn't afford his feed.
And of course, it only took a few days for Jim to decide he wanted to come back home. Poor psychotic Gypsy had a better chance.
Carol Martindale-Taylor is a comparatively new freelance writer who studied creative writing at the University of New Mexico with Tony Hillerman, author of the modern-day Navajo mystery series. Her interests are varied as seen by articles published on both a tourist site and the paranormal.
* * *
Looking for Motherhood
By Andrew Pei
My first marriage was a childless one that ended ten years ago. Now 41, I married my second husband Gary, who was eight years my senior. Although neither of us had brought up the topic of a child before we tied the nuptial knot, I knew I had to take immediate action if I did want one. After turning over all the scenarios, we came up with one advantage: allowing me to experience motherhood, an advantage set off by a list of disadvantages: high risk of childbirth for me, sagging energy that would make us pant while chasing a toddler, possible financial difficulties after retirement, and even the embarrassment to hear someone say “Your grandson is really cute”. I would turn 48 when my child entered the first grade and 60 if I was to see his high school diploma. Gary’s numbers would look even more disheartening. With all the extra work and stress coming from the anticipatable and the unforeseeable, we might not be fit enough to attend our child’s college graduation. When Gary and I made the sad but practical decision to stick just to each other, I was torn in half in a graveyard silence that followed. Gary had to arrange a trip to the east coast to help ease my disappointment.
We were two hours into the deep ocean on a whale watch tour in Boston when a huge hunchback suddenly jumped out and flipped over in the air before it dropped belly up, causing tons of water to explode. But before my widened eyes could blink, the creature leaped out a second time, accompanied by a baby whale. Then the bodies went down while the tails shot up, making one spattering after another. The crowd went crazy; and I was mesmerized, not as much by the fantastic sighting as by the closeness of this whale family. My eyes began to swim, and my heart ached.
The mother whale must be teaching her baby, and she must be brimming with pride. Gary was busy videotaping, but I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand and started wondering if some common sense was worth questioning. How incomplete I would feel for the rest of my life! I wouldn’t have the opportunities to hear the first baby cry, to be enchanted by the sweet babbling and constant leg kicks, to witness the first roll over, the first effort to stand up, the first step, let alone the wedding, the blessing of being a grandma… I would pay to be torn with birth pain; I would pay to have sleepless nights so that my baby could sleep in lullaby; I would pay to parent a teenager; I would pay to…
That night I didn’t take my pill, and I made love with passion. That night I had a dream: I flipped over the ocean with ecstasy, and I wasn’t alone.
Andrew Pei is a high school English teacher. He has published two short stories and a few academic articles.
* * *
It's a Generation Thing
By Wayne Scheer
The other day I was in the supermarket, trolling aisle six for cranberry sauce, when I overheard a woman on the other end of the aisle on her cellphone informing her friend that her mammogram came back negative. As we passed, I wasn't sure if I should have congratulated her. I opted for not staring at her healthy breasts.
What happened to privacy? Cellphones happened.
I'm old enough to remember when people who needed to make phone calls in public went into a booth, closed the door and spoke as low as possible. After all, they didn't want others to hear their private conversation and common decency dictated they not invade the personal space of others.
Personal space. What a quaint notion.
We can't even get away from it at a quiet restaurant. It's gotten so that I prefer dining at noisy, busy establishments because the constant hum blocks out the chatter from the suit at a nearby table assuring his customer he would take care of the matter immediately. My wife even brings her cellphone with her to public restrooms, in case her sister calls. I can't imagine what it must be like for a person in a nearby stall, trapped, listening to two sisters kvetch about their day. There has to be something in the Geneva Convention prohibiting such conduct.
My daughter-in-law tells me my generation has problems multi-tasking, that she can talk on her phone, email a friend, watch television and prepare dinner at the same time. I choose not to mention her spelling errors or bland jambalaya because she forgot the red pepper.
And then there's her penchant for driving while dictating inatructions to her employees on her cell. I'm sure she's read the studies showing that a thirty-year-old driving while on a cellphone has the equivalent reflexes of a seventy-year-old or a person whose blood alcohol exceeds 0.08. Of course, she probably read the article while doing sixteen other things. Recently, she became enraged at a school bus driver on her cellphone involved in an accident that endangered the safety of thirty-six elementary school children. But she still talks on her cell while driving her own kids. The irony seems lost on her.
Perhaps it's a generational thing.
Yes, I admit it I've become a crotchety old man. But at least I don't share the results of my colonoscopy with strangers in the supermarket.
Wayne Scheer has locked himself in a room with his computer and turtle since his retirement. (Wayne's, not the turtle's.) To keep from going back to work, he's published short stories, essays and poems, including Revealing Moments, a collection of flash stories available here. He's been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net. Wayne lives in Atlanta with his wife and can be contacted at email@example.com.
* * *
Crater of Diamonds
By Shoilee SA White
Rana, my Bangladeshi friend from Oklahoma, kept driving toward our final destination—the Crater of Diamonds mine in Arkansas. I looked at my watch—it was 5:00p.m. “I’ve never been in a mine before, you know?” I said from the back seat.
“Me neither, ha ha,” Rana’s laughter filled the air inside the car.
Omar, my husband, sat in the passenger seat. “You’re wasting so much of my time!” he said.
“It’s good to get away from work sometimes, Brother,” Rana replied, keeping his voice calm, although I sensed sarcasm.
“At least you can talk in Bangla on this trip,” I said to Omar. I knew he wouldn’t show his annoyance in front of a non-Bangladeshi. But with Rana, he was open with his frustration.
The HW7 twisted and turned over the mountains as we continued our drive. I could see small lakes, tall trees, and some evergreens blending with the yellow-orange of other seasonal trees. The mountains with touches of fall palette and the many rivers and lakes truly make Arkansas “The Natural State.” I couldn’t take my eyes off of the scenery. We were so absorbed in the moment, both Rana and I lost track of time.
“It’s almost close to 6:30 p.m., according to the map, the diamond mine shouldn’t be this far on Highway 7,” I said.
Rana sensed the panic in my voice. “Hmmm.. It looks like I drove too far,”
“It’s getting darker, Oh no, we may not be able to see the mine!” I said as I put my head between the front two seats of the car.
Rana looked at me for a split second and then made a u-turn, “I think we’ll be ok.”
By the time we arrived at the mine, it was 7:45 p.m.
The night put a spell of silence on the surroundings—the street lights struggled to illuminate small patches of the ground. I did not remember the closing time from the brochure, but the darkness assured that the mine was closed. I kept my head down and stood beside our parked car. Only a small sigh came out of my throat. We walked to the mine entrance and stood in front of the closed gate: a large “Closed” sign hung on the gate.
“We came a long way from Oklahoma and aren’t just going to leave!” Rana looked at me and said.
A few moments passed by, I looked at him; “Okay, what to do then?”
I followed Rana and we began walking toward the park ranger’s home.
Omar stopped, turned his head toward me, “You and your crazy trips,” he said. I
ignored his comments and continued walking. The three of us came close to a wooden cottage, stepped on the front steps to the porch. I took a deep breath. Rana and I knocked on the door together.
Someone slightly lifted the curtain of the side window and looked at us from inside. In the dim light of the porch, I couldn’t see the person’s face. A few moments later, a tall man opened the front door, “I’m the park ranger. May I help you?” he asked in a coarse voice. I looked at him, his robe loosely tied around his waist and hair tousled.
He stood inside the room with the door partially open.
Rana hesitated, cleared his throat, “So sorry to wake you up Sir, we just drove
from Oklahoma to see the diamond mine, is there any way we can see it?” he asked softly.
“It’s closed,” the ranger smiled, his hand still holding the door knob.
“Can we at least look around?” I almost whispered. Oh, please, please at least let us look, I prayed. The ranger looked at me and then at Rana and then at Omar. A few seconds passed by. He nodded his head, “Yes, of course.”
My prayers were answered. I was astonished by the ranger’s compassion toward three strangers at a late hour. He even let us take pictures of the surrounding area.
The Crater of Diamonds is the 8th largest diamond reserve in the world. In 1994 alone, there were 1,421 diamonds found in this area. The most fascinating part of the mine is that the visitors are allowed to dig for diamonds and keep the precious rocks. I wished I were there during the day: missing the real fun of digging saddened me.
What in the world am I complaining about—I’m here at the diamond mine for God’s sake. There is no reason to be sad.
We walked around in the dark, some of the mine area were only lit by weak light from tall lamp posts. Rana took pictures using his camera’s flash.
By the time we headed home, it was close to 10:00p.m. Although Oklahoma and Arkansas were neighboring states, we had a long way back to drive. “We would reach home in the early morning, right?” I asked Rana on our way.
“That’s the idea, wake me up if I fall asleep while driving, ha ha,” Rana chuckled. “Hey, you know Rana, I’m not a bit sad that we couldn’t dig for diamonds.”
He kept his eyes on the road, “Why’s that?” he asked.
“I saw another jewel—the frozen waterfall on Mount Nebo. I still can’t believe
the water just froze on its way down—there’s really no end to nature’s beauty, is there?” “I agree,” he replied. “I can’t believe the park ranger allowed us to walk around at
such a late hour,” he added.
Omar turned his head toward me from the passenger seat and began talking. I pretended not to listen and kept my eyes closed. I don’t know why but I was more distant from Omar on our way back. Maybe something is changing in me—I feel a rope around is coming loose. I can go anywhere in America if I really want to!
We came back very late that night. Both Rana and Omar were yawning, their eyes dreary. I thanked Rana with a big smile.
I came inside our apartment and opened my window. A gentle breeze made a swooshing sound when the leaves brushed against each other, the night air smelled intoxicating. I looked up at the sky, the moon was bright. “Thank you—you’re my healing in need,” I softly said to the wind, the trees, the sky, the moon, and to the memories of Arkansas.
Raised in conservative Bangladeshi society, Shoilee SA White was driven into an early marriage. Her manuscript is about the salvation she found in America’s wilderness away from her unhappy married life. Currently, she is a graduate student at the University of South Florida, Tampa, FL.
Her writing has been published in numerous academic papers, in University’s newspaper, and in Bangladesh magazines.