Thursday, November 23, 2006
She had not often as of late seen them. For they lived in Paris. Paris the city of love and lights. Jacqueline does not remember the many sunny summer days spent at their villa by the lake.
She had been but a young child then and happening and memories seem to ever fade.
Now they were coming and she so longed for their arrival
Nana was beautiful by all counts and the lovely photographs that her father had shown her and Papa was of course as handsome as she was beautiful. They had always lived their lives in Europe, in one country or another. How they had raised her father, she would never know.
Now that she was the magic age of thirteen, they had promised to come once more to celebrate her life in Thanksgiving.
Mara and Theo were coming to see her. She wished she could magically fly away forever. Back to Paris. Away from this nothing town and nothing life. She would bring him, Will with her. That she knew for certain . Not that it was bad for them but she wanted to grow and she wanted Will to be with her.
Together they would roam Europe and see all the wonders that there were to seen. To be a part of Nana's and Papa's lives to the end.
(Written by Melanie)
Saturday, November 18, 2006
We just decorated the Christmas tree, and I couldn't help thinking of you. Watching Tad and Ellie taking handfuls of tinsel and carefully placing clumps of them on the lowest branches of the tree reminded me of doing the same thing with you. Remember how Mom always told us to put one strand on at a time? And we couldn't manage to do that. Bless her heart, it must have just killed her to leave our clumsy clumps, but she loved us enough to do it anyway. And now I look at my tree, no tinsel at all on the top 2/3's, and huge clumps on the bottom third, and think of Mom, and think of you, and it makes me cry because I know the day will come all too soon when I'll have a perfectly decorated tree with tinsel evenly strewn over the whole thing.
The twins are really excited that you're coming for Christmas this year. They have all sorts of surprises planned for you, none of which I'm at liberty to reveal. I will only caution you to be careful when you get into bed. Tad recently learned the art of short-sheeting when he went to a slumber party at a friend's house. He's tried it on everyone in the house. But be gentle with the little guy, and yell as loudly as if you'd broken every one of your twelve toes, okay?
Michael's been working hard, as always. If he knew I were writing, he'd tell me to send you his love. He's a good man, Will. I can't believe how blessed I am, to have found someone like him. He's wonderful with the children. He spins the most fantastic yarns, and has them more than halfway convinced that they're true.
Oh, and Will, you've got to hear what he did last week! We thought it would be fun to take the children to Six Flags. Michael decided to surprise them, so we pretended that we were just going out and running errands. You remember how boring that used to be, when Mom and Dad dragged us all over town, and we had to sit in the car and wait for what seemed like hours. Well, we did run a few errands, and then Michael pretended that he was running out of gas. He didn't notice that he was right next to Six Flags, until the kids began screaming with joy, pointing out where he was. "Why, that's perfect!" he said. "I'll just pull into their parking lot, and you three can wait in the car while I walk to a gas station." You never saw two such crestfallen faces. He pulled into a parking space, rolled down the windows, and told me to keep an eye on the kids, and he'd be back just as quick as he could. He actually got out of the car and started walking away. He got maybe ten steps away, before turning around and coming back. The kids perked up as quickly as anything, and when he said, "You know, I think I have a better idea. Why don't we go to Six Flags first. I can get gas anytime," they started screaming for joy. It was a lovely day to go, not too cold, and they had artificial snow hills so Tad and Ellie got to ride on sleds. It's fun to visit Six Flags in the summer, but I think I enjoy it more when they have their Holidays in the Park in the winter.
I told Mom about it, and she told me that we should move back to Iowa, and we wouldn't have to pay to let the children play in artificial snow. Maybe someday that will happen, but it's just not in the cards right now.
I'll close this letter with one last memory. Do you remember the only time that either of us would voluntarily clean our rooms? Christmas Eve Day? Well, that's one more thing that Tad and Ellie have in common with us. I mentioned to them today that Santa Claus does room inspections when he comes down the chimney, and Ellie casually remarked that she has plenty of time, because Christmas isn't for two whole weeks, and that's forever!
See you soon, little brother.
(Written by Faith Stencel)
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Once not so long ago, on a clear summers day, Jacquie sat, bow in hand upon the lush green lawn behind her house.
So still, she might have been asleep. Silent for now, her music.
The slim girl with hair as dark as night and vivid green eyes could not remain thus for long.
Her nature had always been bright and searching. Her laughter seemed ever to sore like a rush of wind.
He watched her closely, this changeling. Waiting for Jacquie to once more lift her bow and play. Play the music he loved almost as much as she. He waited for her to play her cello again.
Moving as if in slow motion, Jacquie gently caressed her bow as the lazy summer sun played with patches of light in her hair. So deep in thought of wondrous things, her gaze never wandered. She thought as always of him. The brother so much a part of herself. Her mind drifted amid playful images of him.
He loved her for her beauty. Her skin so pale she seemed to fade in the bright summer’s sun. Her smile, her sweet, sweet smile that ever warmed his heart. He would be her champion, following her anywhere. He would keep her close forever.
Jacquie slowly lifted her bow and began to play once more. His heart swelled as the music grew intense.
She would grow as would he and face the world, Jacquie's world together.
Even now Will could see her smile and just hear the faint sound of a melody. A melody so ingrained within him that it had became a part of his soul.
(Written by Melanie)
Monday, October 09, 2006
The pretty young girl with the long, blonde curly hair turned around and looked at her younger brother. “Tell them what, Will?” She asked with a smile playing at her lips.
“I am telling that I saw you kiss Jason and that you have his ring on a chain around your neck.” The little boy with the freckled face and serious blue eyes answered back.
Tears formed in Jacquie’s eyes as she thought about that day. It seemed like only yesterday, but it had been more than twenty years ago. A lot had happened in those twenty years. She went to college, and then law school and now she was a lawyer. Her younger brother, Will was writing his second book, after his first became a huge success. She was very proud of him.
Through the years she always asked him for his advice, even though he was a few years younger. She remembered when she quit college and was bumming around and working at a secretary job. “Will, do you think I should go back to school?” Will looked at her, grinned and said. “Well, Jacquie if you want to be a secretary and get your boss’s coffee for him every morning I don’t think you should.”
“Will, I am thinking about going to law school. I don’t know if I am smart enough or if I can do it, but I want to try.”
“Of course you are going to law school, Jacquie. What else could you possibly do?” He laughed.
Then, one day she called him. “Will, hi this is Jacquie, your sister Jacquie. I want to tell you something important and I wondered if you have a minute to talk.”
“Jacquie, hi how are you doing? Of course I have a minute. What is up with you?”
She hesitated. “Well, Will I want to tell you first before I tell anyone else. Jason and I have decided to get married.’
Less than a minute passed but it seemed like eternity. She wanted Will to say it was okay. She needed to hear him say it, then she could be sure that she had made the right decision when she told Jason yes.
“Jacquie, Congratulations Sis. I am really happy for you and Jason. To tell you the truth I can’t wait to become Uncle Will.”
“Thanks, Will. That means a lot to me. Jacquie let out a sigh of relief. “Will, do you remember the time you were going to tell Mom and Dad when you caught Jason kissing me?” You never told anyone, why not?”
“Well, uh, I don’t know. I just didn’t.” Will stammered. “Okay, Okay. I better be honest here. I never told you this before but Jason gave me a dollar and made me promise not to tell anyone”
“What?” What, I don’t believe you. You made me worry for months that you were going to tell them. I will murder you when I see you. Do you hear me, Will? I will kill you.”
“I love you, too. I need to get back to work Jacquie, let me know the date and I will be there. Take Care and Jacquie?”
“I wouldn’t have told them anyway, sis.”
“Jacqueline Louise Wright do you take this man, Jason Lee Stapleton as your Husband?”
Jacquie looked out into the familiar faces in the church and her eyes locked with a pair of piercing blue eyes in the crowd. As she looked into his eyes she knew that everything would always be okay. “Yes, Yes I do. She smiled up at her husband.
(Written by Linda Fort-Bolton)
“Jacqueline Louise Wright how many times have I told you that story?” her Grandmother asked as she adjusted herself in a big easy chair so that she faced Jacqueline.
“I don’t know, Grandma maybe a million times, but it’s my birthday today.”
The old lady put down her knitting needles. “First, Jacquie you have to answer a few questions for Grandma.”
Jacqueline’s eyebrows rose. “Are they hard questions, Grandma?”
“No child. They’re easy ones.”
“Jacqueline nodded and smiled. “Okay, Grandma.”
The old lady sat and thought for a moment, twisting her mouth from side to side. “Okay, first question. How old are you?”
“I turned six today, Grandma. Don’t you know that I am six years old?”
“Yes, child I know that you are six today. Okay, here is a hard question. Are you ready?”
Jacqueline nodded eagerly.
“When were you born?”
Jacqueline rolled her eyes. “March twenty fifth nineteen sixty-two. Six years ago Grandma, don’t you know how to subtract?”
The old lady smiled. “Okay, smarty pants. What is your Mothers and Fathers name?”
“Edward and Jean, I think, but I call them Mom and Dad.”
“How many brothers and sisters do you have?”
Jacqueline counted her tiny fingers. She looked up sharply with a smile. “I have five.”
“Do you know their names?”
Jacqueline shook her head. “Of course I do, Grandma. Jean, Mae, Edward, Loren, and my baby brother Will.”
“That’s right child, and where are your Mother, Father, brothers and sisters?”
“They’re at home. It is my special day, so I got to come here to visit you, Grandma.”
“Do you like coming to visit Grandpa and me, child?”
“Yes, Grandma. I love your stories,” Jacqueline’s eyes widened. “Now, will you tell me, Grandma? Will you tell me the story of the pony?”
The old lady let out a deep sigh. “It was a long, long time ago when I was your age. My Father, you never met my father, went to heaven before you were born. He was a strong and handsome man.”
“More handsome than Daddy, Grandma?”
The old lady grinned. “Oh, I guess about the same. Anyway on my sixth birthday my Father bought me a pony. We lived out in the country where ponies were permitted, ponies are not permitted here in the city.”
“I sure wish I could have a pony. I live out in the country. Well sort of. I live close to a park. Is that good enough, Grandma?”
“No child you have to live in the country. A pony needs a place where he can run free.”
Jacqueline shifted around on the couch. “Tell me more, Grandma.”
The old ladies eyes lit up. “Oh child, this was such a beautiful pony, and he could do all kinds of tricks.”
“What kind of tricks, Grandma?”
“Well for one. He would stick his nose right down into my coat pocket and pull out the apple I had hidden in there. ”
“Gee, Grandma that was a pretty smart pony.”
“Oh that pony was smart all right. His hair felt like silk, and his eyes were bright. Did you know he could carry three children at once on his back?
“He must have been a real strong pony, Grandma.”
“I guess as far as ponies go. He was really strong.”
“Tell me his name, Grandma.”
“You know his name child.”
Jacqueline’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. “It was Magic, right Grandma? Because he could do all kinds of tricks.”
“That is right, Jacquie”
Jacqueline lowered her head. “I wish I could have a pony like Magic to ride,” she whispered.
“Jacquie, come here and sit on my lap, child.”
Jacqueline got up from the couch and moved over to the chair where her Grandmother sat, and climbed onto her lap.
“Jacquie, when Grandpa gets home. I am going to have him take you to a place where they have ponies. And you know what, child?”
“You are going to get to ride one of those ponies for your birthday.”
Jacqueline threw her arms around her Grandmother’s neck, and kissed her on the cheek. “Grandma, do you know something?”
“I love you.”
(Written by Robert Rohloff)
Friday, September 29, 2006
"Jacquie, what are you doing up here? You promised to come to the park with me."
I look out the window of the USS Treehouse to see Sharon climbing up the stairs.
"Get in quick," I say. "You almost missed the countdown."
I lay two of the chairs that Loren uses for his club meetings on their backs and I crawl onto one.
"Come on, Sharon, you've got to get buckled in for our trip to the moon."
Sharon lays down on the chair beside me and props her legs over the seat.
"Ready." Sharon replies.
"Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Blast Off!"
Once we're in orbit, I take off my pretend helmet. Sharon takes hers off too.
"Ed and Loren said girls can't be astronauts. They said only boys can be astronauts."
"Maybe they're right. After all, I don't know of any girl astronauts?" Sharon says. "Do you?"
"Of course, you do," I reply.
"You know me, don't you?
"I'm a girl."
"So I'm going to be an astronaut."
"You are?" she asks as I put my pretend helmet back on to get ready for the Lunar landing. Sharon puts hers on too.
"I'm going to fly to the moon just like Neil Armstrong."
"WOW, that would be cool."
Bump! We've landed. I scrambled out of the seat. I push open the hatch of the Lunar Lander and start to climb down the stairs in my spacesuit.
"Yep. Maybe I'll even be the first girl astronaut. And then I can say, 'One small step for girls, one giant leap for girlonauts everywhere.'"
"If you're going to be an astronaut, then I'm going to be one too," Sharon said.
Sharon is my bestest, best friend and we do everything together. But I get to go down that ladder first.
(Written by Susan Flemming)
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Her husband swept in, a clumsy flurry of hands emptying pockets and wrestling out of his tuxedo. Jacquie still lingered in the foyer as he gulped a glass of water in the kitchen, then thumped up the stairs. She twisted the deadbolt, and it snapped, metal on metal.
The clock boomed a single note. One in the morning. She couldn't face the dark ceiling in the bedroom. Not yet. She set her purse on the hall table and followed her husband's trail into the kitchen.
God, her eyes burned. She eased into a chair. The pearls on her dress scratched against her neck all evening. The skin was raw, and her ribs ached from the long squeeze. She opened the buttons and drew the longest breath she could ever remember taking.
Then, the phone rang.
She jumped and snatched it before her husband waddled from the bathroom and answered it with a toothbrush in his mouth.
Her daughter, Emily.
"Is everything alright? Is something wrong?"
"No, no, everything's fine. Are you still awake?"
"Yes," Jacquie said.
But Emily didn't say any more. Jacquie tried to interpret the silence.
"Are you at the airport? Your plane is leaving soon."
"It's delayed a little while. I sent Dan to go look for some magazines. I found a quiet corner for myself."
"It's okay. The delay won't be long," Emily said.
Jacquie tried to think of things she should say.
"The ceremony was so beautiful, honey. I just know you two will be happy. And this honeymoon is going to be amazing. You're going to have a wonderful time."
"Thanks." Almost a whisper.
"Honey? Are you sure you're okay?"
Jacquie heard the quiver.
"...wanted to talk," Emily said.
Jacquie smiled and closed her eyes to keep the tears inside. "Honey, you can always talk. Whenever you want. You can talk forever."
She listened to Emily's voice, but the words were not important. She listened and the minutes passed while the sleepy world crawled on without them.
(Written by Jason)
I can’t wait. Mom’s taking me to buy a riding hat tomorrow; the riding school said that was a non-negotiable. Mom says if I really get into it – I can tell she’s thinking it’s a fad and won’t last – then she’ll buy me boots and maybe even a crop. How cool would that be? Erin’s already got all that stuff so she’s been wandering around like a queen bee for the last little while, thinking she’s some kind of Princess Anne – you know, the British royal who’s so big into horses.
Friday’s going to be my first lesson and I can’t wait. At least I think I can’t.
Wow! What a day. My first riding lesson! And I’m in love! Really!
Erin’s mom picked us all up in her station wagon right after school. We all piled in the back and Jill and Erin chattered on about which horse they wanted to ride. Joanie just sat there giggling and I listened. You know, as much as I wanted to do this, I also felt a bit afraid. A horse is a pretty big animal. What if I got kicked or bitten. What if I fell off and made a total idiot of myself. Of course, I couldn’t let the others see I was nervous; they’d have laughed at me.
By the time we got to the stables my hands were totally clammy and my insides felt like jelly. Erin and Jill rushed straight over to the stables and started stroking the noses of two big brown horses. Joanie and I kind of stood to the side and watched, until this skinny girl in a raggedy sweater and dirty jeans came over and introduced herself.
“Hi,” she said, “I’m Louise, I’m going to be your teacher.”
Joanie and I glanced at each other. Louise didn’t look old enough to teach anyone anything.
“Let’s just get one thing straight up front,” said Louise, “No fooling around. Understand.” She gave us a long, narrow-eyed look and Joanie and I understood.
Louise might be young, probably only about nineteen, but we could see she was one tough cookie.
“Sure, we understand,” we chorused. And I felt even more nervous.
“You, what’s your name?” asked Louise.
“I’m Jacquie,” I said, biting my lip, wondering what she was going to ask me to do.
“Okay, Jacquie, you can ride Cobweb. He’s over there – see, the grey with his head sticking over the stable door. He’s saddled up already, go get him and lead him out here.”
My heart kinda sunk into my shoes. Cobweb was tall. And I’d never been close to a horse before.
“Well go on then, what are you waiting for?” snapped Louise.
I scuttled off.
Cobweb raised his head and whinnied as I got close.
I stopped a couple of feet from the door to the stable and stared at him. He stared back at me. He nodded his head at me, as though he was saying hello.
I took a step closer.
He was beautiful, a sort of mottled grey with a long, intelligent face and dark brown eyes that seemed to look right into me. And he was big. Very big.
“Oh come on, Jacquie,” yelled Erin, “you’re not scared are you?”
Jill laughed out loud.
“Of course not,” I said, but I could feel the tips of my ears burn red.
I took another step towards Cobweb and put out my hand.
He blew a hot horsey breath onto it and sniffed at it, making soft snuffling sounds. I stepped closer and as I did, Cobweb lifted his big head and rested it on my shoulder.
“Well, well,” I heard Louise’s voice behind me, she was speaking softly and sounded surprised. “I haven’t seen him do that very often. I think, young lady, you’ve made an invaluable new friend.”
I reached up and stroked Cobweb’s cheek. He lifted his head and put his face against mine. I touched his muzzle. It felt like silk, like baby mice, so soft. He breathed in my ear and I knew Louise was right. I had made a really special new friend. Cobweb is just beautiful and I know he loves me. And I love him. Do you know, he’s an ex race horse.
I can’t wait to get back to the stables next week.
I’m wondering if Mom and Dad might even be willing to buy Cobweb for me. How cool would that be?!
(Written by Nicky Schmidt)
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Oh fun, fun day! This morning I called to invite my little Anna for tea and she said asked if it would be okay if she brought her girlfriend. Of course I said YES!
I spend all morning, worked like a dog, in that dining room until it just gleamed. I dressed the table with Mummie’s hand embroidered linen cloth. She’d be so proud to see that room sparkling with her good china on that beautiful cloth. The peonies are gorgeous this year and I arranged a bouquet in the cut glass vase.
I was bathed and in my good navy silk when promptly at three the doorbell rang. Henry and I invited them in. He wore his purple feather boa - kids get such a kick out of that silly old dog - and of course he danced and sprang and leaped. I swear sparks flew from his feet.
Anna must have told her friend that high tea is a dress up affair as their mothers had them polished and garnished in party dresses, their stick legs circled in lace, patent shoes glossy as tar. Jacquie, this is the friend, holds out her hand just like a duchess and get this, this kid is only six years old, says “my name is Jacquie” spelled the French way. She is missing her two front teeth and has a delightful lisp. Her long hair simply speaks of gardens. She observed the room and said, “you have a gorgeous home.” This kid is six!
My guests were careful not to clink or drip while sipping honeyed tea, and crunching chocolate chip cookies. Jacquie especially loved the ones with the tiny pieces of orange peel. Puccini - not intrusive - played in the background. Henry, that silly old dog, threw his head back and wailed a soprano accompaniment with Joan Sutherland. Jacquie raised one eyebrow of disapproval. Apparently she has good taste in music. We sipped and crunched around talk of puppies and kittens, (they both would like a pet).
Tea finished I invited them into my closet:
Anna must have told about this little ritual as decorum vanished as they raced for the prize: my red high heels! I thought we might have a little bit of a to-do as Anna pounced on them first. I gave her that look only an old maid school teacher has (good grief is this me!) and she handed them over to our special guest then chose the silver sling backs and even though I whispered to her that they were much more expensive than the red ones a tiny tear trembled on her lashes. Oh well, that little disappointment might make some of the bigger ones along the way easier to bear. “It will be your turn, next time,” I said. “Now come on it’s makeup time!”
I think perhaps Jacquie’s mother might not approve as the child looked a bit shocked as I painted blushed and mascara'd Anna’s face. But not for long, she raised her little face and I soon had her matching her friend. I was the one with tears on my lashes then they looked so darling.
“Now, get the loot,” I said. Anna teetered off into the closet and dragged out that pillowslip filled with the treasure. Good Grief all that costume jewellery that Mummie brought home from all those auctions she went to over the years. I keep saying I’m going to have a yard sale and get rid of all that junk but I don’t know if I could bear it.
They each took a corner and dumped! The bed sparkled with rubies and diamonds and gold. Jacquie got the tiara, to go with the red shoes. Anna, the long ‘sapphire’ earrings.
Last week I was busy altering some of those fancy old nighties for dress up. If I do say so myself they are quite fancy with the fronts cut short - I thought I might go blind hemming! - and the backs trailing. Our old lace curtains from the house on Elm St. were veils. So cute! When they were all gussied up we had a fashion show with lemonade on the patio. I took their picture posing beside the peonies with Henry. I hope it turns out.
Now they are gone, those darling, darling children; it seems they’ve taken the light with them. Oh well, I guess Henry will have to do. He’s sitting there waiting patiently with his leash.
(Written by Anna Hood)
Monday, September 25, 2006
By Jacquie Wright
My summer vacation was fun. We went to Disneyland. It was hot in the car, and baby Will threw up on me. I didn’t like that very much. But we stopped at a Stuckey’s and Mommy washed my dress and rocked baby Will until he felt better. And since I got throwed up on, Daddy got me a pecan roll all for my own! I was nice, though. I gave a little bit to baby Will. I didn’t have to share it with Jean or Mae or Eddie or Loren because Daddy got them one to share.
When we got to Disneyland, I saw Cinderella’s castle! It was pretty. And I got to ride all the rides. When I rode in the teacups, I threw up. Mommy sighed, but she didn’t get mad at me or anything. I have the best Mommy ever!
And I went on Mr. Toad’s wild ride. It was fun. And we rode on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride too. It was scary. I didn’t like it, and I hid behind Daddy so the pirates wouldn’t see me.
I met Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. They were funny.
When we stayed at the motels, I got to go swimming! I like to go swimming. I wish we had a swimming pool at our house. But only movie stars can afford to have swimming pools at their houses. When I grow up, I want to be a movie star with a big swimming pool.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
I can’t believe it. I mean, I can not seriously believe it.
I’m going to be a mother. Keith is going to flip!
We’ve been trying for a few years now, but somehow it worked.
I believe it was the trip to Uncle Jason’s vineyard that did the trick. Uncle Jas always grew his own grapes and had the best sipping wine on the Mississippi. It has something to do with the grapes, or the ground or the light. Uncle Jas always said his wine was an aphrodisiac. I only had one glass at the time. Wise Uncle Jas sent home a bottle.
I took the EPT test and then made an anxious call to my Gyno Guy. The results are conclusive. I’m........I’m.........my God. I’m pregnant!
No wonder I’ve been so cranky lately. The early morning vomits. The queasiness from certain smells. I LOVE tuna fish. Right now, if I was offered a shit sandwich and a tuna salad sandwich I’d eat the former.
Keith is at work right now. I would call him, but I need to make this announcement special.
I’ll make him his favorite meal. Okay, okay. So I won’t be cooking fish, but I will pay extra attention to something he will like. Maybe liver and onions? That sounds so good right now.
Then after dinner, I will tell him.
I have to tell Mom and Dad! Maybe I can just tell Mom. No, that won’t work. She spills everything to Dad. Then he’ll call Keith. (Probably cuss him out.) “What have you done to my Little Girl?”
I’m too excited. I need to calm down. Put my feet up. Maybe take a nap. I think there is ice-cream in the freezer and OOOOOH...pickles.
Oh dear Journal. I am pregnant. I’m going to have a child!
I wonder if it’s a girl or a boy.
I have to have a name!
I guess it can wait. First things first.
(Written by Roberta Nolte)
And stepped into it. But good.
It all began with The Kiss.
She hadn’t meant to look. Hadn’t meant to even be there. But Holy Jeepers Batman, she’d heard the painful sounds and thought someone was in deep trouble. Like Mr. Freeze and Joker with a choke hold kind of trouble. So she’d crept up to the bushes all stealth like. What would Batgirl do? she wondered as she crawled on elbows and knees through the rain wet grass. Investigate, that’s what. She’d slung on her bat cape and then wished she hadn’t. It kept getting caught under her elbows and knees. This would never do.
She bunched the cape carefully and shoved the wet, trailing entrails into the back seat of her shorts. There was now a bulge the size of Iowa on her backside but superheroes never complained. On with the mission.
Thunder rumbled in the far distant horizon. It was kind of creepy but pretty cool too in a creepy-cool kind of way. In the house, she could hear Will crying. What a baby. He always cried when there was thunder. She’d tried to teach him to be gutsy, like Batman. She’d even put her bat cape on him and told him he could be Batman. He hadn’t liked that. He wanted to be Robin.
She needed a Batman.
And so the fight had ensued.
Out went Jacquie into the yard the minute Mom heard them.
“Pick up the sticks the storm knocked down and leave your brother alone,” Mom said. “You know he doesn’t like storms. Honest to God, Jacqueline Louise!”
So okay, picking up sticks wasn’t so bad. If she hurried, she could catch the last few minutes of daytime cartoons on channel 32. She’d been doing a good pace, the yard practically cleaned up, when she heard the sounds.
She dropped the armful of sticks she’d been carrying. Where was the bat signal? Someone needed help.
Down to her knees, the bat cape dragging behind her. Crawl, crawl, crawl. She snagged a heavy branch on her way to the bushes. What she found made her drop the stick in shock.
There, lying in the grass as if it were a bed of goose feathers was her brother Eddie and -- A Girl. Their faces were smashed together. Their lips were locked and jiggling like jello.
Jacquie was so astounded she fell over the bushes on top of them trying to get a better look. The Girl screamed. Eddie jackknifed up and hit The Girl’s nose with the top of his head.
The Girl screamed again. Blood spurted from her nose onto the bat cape.
“Goddammit Jacquie – “ Eddie began, furious.
But she barely heard him. She was flailing, trying to get up. The back of her hand smacked The Girl hard across the face. A third scream.
“My eye!” The Girl moaned.
“Eddie, I was trying to save you,” Jacquie said, scrambling.
“Jacquie, I swear to God,” Eddie was helping The Girl, wiping grass off her shirt, trying to pry her hands from her injured eye, tilting her head back to squelch the nosebleed. “You’re a walking, talking disaster. Did you hear me call for help? Did I sound the least bit like I needed help?”
Jacquie pulled a twig from her hair. “What were you doing if you didn’t need help?”
“Kissing, Jacquie. We were only kissing. Come on,” he said to the girl, tugging her hand. “Let’s get inside and find you an ice pack.”
Jacquie watched them disappear into the house. So much for gratitude. Kissing didn’t look like much fun anyway. It looked, well. . . slimy.
She bent and got back to the task of picking up sticks. She was halfway up the side of the house, her arms full of broken twigs, when she saw Danny McDonnell sauntering past, tossing a baseball up and catching it in his mitt. He wore his grass-stained, Red Sox Little League Jersey and a cap cocked to the side of his head. He paused when he saw her.
“Hey Jacquie,” he called out.
Jacquie greeted him, chewed on her bottom lip, then called him over.
“What’s up?” he said.
“Can I ask you a favor?”
He eyed her. “Depends.”
Batgirl was never a coward. Jacquie took a deep breath. “Will you kiss me?”
Danny turned red. “Why?”
He hesitated. Jacquie felt the blanket of courage begin to seep away. She gave him an out. “If you don’t want to, fine.”
“Who said I didn’t want to?”
“I’ll do it,” he said quickly.
“Because I asked?” she was belligerent, suddenly angry.
“Because I want to.”
“Fine.” She clutched the pile of twigs to her chest. The cape around her neck felt like fingers choking her.
They stood there for an awkward moment, then Danny leaned forward. Their lips touched. His was warm, dry. Not at all slimy. When it was over, Danny’s freckles stood like stars against his reddened face.
“Thanks,” she said, feeling as if there was something she was missing. Something more than Batman and Robin. Something more than thunder rumbling in the distance and the smell of broken, damp tree limbs in her arms.
“Welcome.” He ducked his head, gripped his mitt and ball, and turned away.
She watched him amble down the sidewalk, watched the way his skinny body slanted slightly to the left as he tossed the ball upward and caught it, a glint of sun pressing like lips to the cocked bill of his cap.
(Written by Jasmin Randick)
I know that you would never have admitted this to our parents when we were very young. I was nuisance, I knew that, and you told me often enough when you were told to take me out with you. It was embarrassing; I was older than you, with no friends of my own but don’t think that I haven’t forgotten the day that you left me sitting on the park bench while you and your friends played ‘war’.
‘You’ll get dirty Jacquie, sit there and don’t move.’
I adored you at nine, at ten, and at eleven, but when I was twelve I hated you. Dragged off to high school to suffer at the plait-pulling hands of Janey Willis. I didn’t forgive you for years, not until you were in ninth grade and you brought home Martin Tucker’s older brother. I fell in love.
Did you know? Did you ever guess that he was my first love? No, I suppose you didn’t. I was invisible to you then. Your eyes forgot that you had a sister; your mind was full of baseball cards and your body full of the raging hormones that were beginning to be directed at Janey Willis’s seventeen year old sister. I knew.
Stevey Tucker. He made me go marshmallow and I wrote thousands of ‘Love is…’ notes that I kept in my jewellery box. He had shoulder length curly hair and freckles on his nose and I watched him over the pot roast. He had a special place in my Secret Diary and I kept it in the back of my drawer along the greasy cloth that he once used to wipe his bike seat.
But then you spoiled my love, by breaking his nose with a misplaced fist. He never came again and I heard years later that he had married Janey Willis.
Why did you never tell me that he said I was pretty?
(Written by Kate)
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Well, it's been almost a year since I started college. Mom and dad are getting used to me not being at home and I'm totally used to being a strong, independent woman. I've worked hard over the last year and now I start my great European adventure. I can't believe I'll be in Paris, France in just 3 days from now!
Alex is meeting me over there: she has to go see her parents before she goes. Something about getting their blessing for the trip. I know exactly what she means.
I've packed my bags and all my documents are in order and ready to go - now I just have to try to get some sleep until it's time to leave, but I can't - sleep that is. I'm just too excited! It's like all my birthdays rolled into one. I never thought a girl from Dubuque, Iowa, would get to walk along the Champs Elysees, see the Louvre and watch the artists in Montmartre. It's like all those years of growing up were just to prepare me for this. Of course, I'll have to remember to get some presents for the folks, but like Mom says, I should make the most of every moment.
Dear Diary - July 16, 1981, 9 a.m.
The big day's here! Off to LaGuardia to catch the plane to Europe! The butterflies in my stomach have been taking flying lessons because they're doing aerobatic maneuvers and I fell like I'm going to be sick, but I know it's just excitement. I haven't eaten this morning and I don't think I could. Should be able to eat something before we take off. Oh, taxi's here - I have to dash. I'm just not ready for this: I'm sure I've forgotten something.
Dear Diary - July 17, 1981, 5 a.m. GMT
Charles De Gaulle airport doesn't look as glamorous as I thought it would. And the people don't look as exciting. In fact, they look like the people back at LaGuardia. I'm waiting for my luggage and I'm not alone. Looks like we've all been forgotten. Everyone else looks like they don't want to be here. I don't understand why people are so miserable. Have I come to the right country? Is this the home of Coco Chanel, Champagne and haute couture?
Dear Diary - July 19, 1981
Alex is here! She's joined up with me at the hotel and I'm showing her the sights I've already discovered. There's a darling little boulangerie right at the end of the street where the bread is to die for, made fresh daily. The smells are like something out of Heaven. And the cafe opposite is just divine. Local artists and writers go there to discuss art and literature. I wish I'd taken French in grade school. Some words are easy to get, but they speak so fast, these French. That's because they have such passion for life - such zest.
Dear Diary - July 22, 1981
Today is the great day: we're visiting the Louvre. I've heard so much about the Mona Lisa. La Gioconda, I think they call it here. I'm going to see it for myself today and I'm sure I'll understand her secret. Every day is like breathing in air and eating pure inspiration. We went to Sacre Coueur last night and the floodlights were hauntingly beautiful. It's hard to see such beauty and not be touched by it. There were lovers walking in the warm evening air, hand in hand, their love intensified by the sounds, the colours, the sights. Paris is a beautiful city and it's true what they say here. To visit Paris is to fall in love with life.
Dear Diary - July 23, 1981
Managed to persuade Alex to come with me to find some postcards to send back home. I have a list of about 30 people I MUST send one to, and about 50 people I might send one to.
Dear Diary - July 25, 1981
Had the most fantastic evening at the theatre last night. Seems that everything is more vibrant and wonderful here, even if you don't understand everything that's being said. Alex is feeling a little homesick and I had to hug her for ages. She's ok now and raring to go on, but I know what she means. Everything I see here can only be described in superlatives, but the pull of home is also strong. I remember Mom's smile and Dad's infectious, deep laughter. I even miss Will's teasing! Reminds me a little of the film with Shirley Temple. I think they called it the Bluebird of Happiness. She found that happiness was in her back garden all along, even though she had many great adventures along the way looking for it. I feel a bit like Shirley Temple today. I am having such a great time here, but I know my life at home is even more wonderful and I'm looking forward to every day of it. I'll be able to tell my kids about these adventures though!
Dear Diary - July 27, 1981
Man, I've had some busy days recently. Haven't written much, have I, diary? I just guess that living your life is probably more important than writing about it sometimes. And the memories I'm storing up here will keep me warm on a cold winter's night when I'm old and grey and my children will be out having their own adventures. Last night was a magical memory to store. The weather was just perfect and we took a trip on a big boat called a Baton, or something like that, with an orchestra (actually a band, but orchestra sounds much nicer!) and a meal. I think it was Cordon Bleu, or Nouvelle Cuisine. I'm not sure. It was delicious, whatever they like to call it.
We got talking to some girls from Bakersfield who were out here doing the same as us. They've been here a month already and will probably stay. They were going to go to Italy, but they like it here too much. We're on our way to England tomorrow and we promised to send them pictures and souvenirs. They said they'd do the same if they ever leave Paris.
We've both got a lot of packing to do - we've bought so much stuff we need a new suitcase between us - and then we've got an early start, but England is so close it's only a 2 hour flight and then we'll be in London. We're staying near Buckingham Palace and we'll get to see the guys who wear the big hats with bearskins on. The great thing will be speaking the same language again so we know what everyone's saying! I wonder if we'll be able to gate-crash the wedding of Diana and Charles. Hey, I just thought of a great title for a TV show about them: Charles and I. Get it? Charles and Di. Say it fast - you'll get it then.
I don't think we'll be able to gate-crash, but we will see the wedding procession. Just think, dear diary, I shall be present for one of history's most romantic moments. Me, little Jacquie from Dubuque, Iowa. I may even be on TV because they'll have a lot of cameras there, won't they? Hey mom, look at me, I'm famous!
Must go to bed now or we'll miss our plane tomorrow.
I love my life.
(Written by Amin Motin)
If I remember correctly it was sometime in the fall of 1972. I had called on your dad while you had that farm out there in the middle of nowhere. For one coming from New York it was dusty and too backward. You had disappeared with your book and you came home by noon to see the stranger in fancy suit as you said looking at me with some curiosity and disapproval. Only after your dad explained at length you showed some interest to join in the conversation.
Remember the parlor with the octagonal table which served as the center piece. I noticed how you dipped into the book that you had in your hand as if we were a distraction to you. Only after I asked of what you were reading you took me seriously. Aesop fables with some woodcuts. It was dog-eared and I could from one glance know it was in the family for some generations. I asked you which story you liked best and your reply," the next story!" had us all in stitches. Your mom, I could see, while collecting the coffee cups smile with some satisfaction. Of course you tossed your ponytails as though you knew you were being cute. Then you asked 'what do you think shall fall first on our porch? The red and gold leaf of the maple or the Christmas catalog? You didn't like it one bit when your dad said, "enough!"
Of course I remember my friendship with your father especially and the chance visit to give a surprise to my old 'comrade'. Time was when we thought we would set the world on fire and it so happened he became a dirt farmer and I one in grey flannel suit and a ten percenter out in the city.
As if I would expiate for the direction missed I have been lately thinking more on the stories I had written and stashed away for later use. In token of your interest in anything of Aesop here is one you might enjoy.
1. AESOP IN THRACE
Aesop the famous story-teller, in his early years, worked as a common slave to a Thracian by name Domus. He was a man of short temper.
One evening the master lost heavily at the gaming table and came home in a wild temper.
Seeing Wolfie his dog coming to greet him, wagging its tail, he exploded. "Stand back, you cur!”
This was followed with a mighty kick. The dog merely moved aside, still wagging its tail.
"Why didn't you sink your teeth into his calf?" asked Catharsis the mouser, whose blood was up at the injustice done to its companion.
"When fools lose temper the wise do not lose theirs". Hardly had it declared these words, a cry went up from the master. For he had stubbed his toe against a loose tile on the walk-way.
"Only a clay headed fool would think of revenge", added the house-dog philosophically.
(Written by Benny Thomas)
Friday, September 22, 2006
Okay, I guess seeing as how I’m about to be a college student, I should probably stop with the whole “Dear Diary” thing. Guess it’s a little juvenile, but I’m not really ready to let it go just yet.
It’s been almost two months since I graduated from high school and I’m not saying I miss it or anything. Who in their right mind would actually miss my blowhard chem teacher? Thank God I don’t have to spend another day in his stupid classroom listening to that stupid braying chuckle. Seriously, I think something’s not right with that man. So no, I definitely don’t miss school. I’m not sure why I’m feeling so weird right now.
Oh, hang on-Will’s going on about something in the kitchen. Does he have any idea how loud he is sometimes? ‘Scuse me while I go discipline my baby brother.
Okay, I’m back. I absolutely can not believe I’m admitting this, but I’m totally going to miss Will. What will he do without me? I’m not being facetious either. I like that word-facetious. It sounds way better than smart-ass. He and Karen and LeeAnn are planning a surprise party for me before I leave and he thinks I don’t know anything about it. It’s sort of adorable, actually. It’s so funny watching him try not to slip-up in casual conversation. He’s really smart, but you know, he’s kind of an easy mark.
I’m supposed to go out tonight with Christopher, but I sort of don’t want to. He’s really sweet and all and I feel like such a jerk for even thinking this, but I don’t think we’re meant to be one of those high school love stories, where Jonny Prom and Susie Cheerleader get married right out of high school and live happily ever after. Huh. I’m so not a Susie Cheerleader. I can’t believe I just wrote that. But that’s what I’m trying to say. I think maybe we’re both meant for other things. LeeAnn thinks I should stay with him at least till school starts, but maybe it would be better if I ended things now. He’s got that look in his eye, you know? Besides, if it really is true love and all that, then things will work out right in the end no matter what, right?
I want to do so much! All love to Dubuque, but I want to see what else is out there. I feel like I’m sitting on a precipice, but I’m not scared at all because I know that any minute now some cool mountain climber guy is going to show up and teach me how navigate it all. I’m really not scared. I’m nervous, but that is not the same thing as scared. At all.
Geez, I guess I’d better get ready for tonight. I’m going to do it. Break up with Christopher, I mean. I feel bad. I always feel badly when I hurt someone and I do really care about him. It’s just. I don’t know. But I’m going to. Just not tonight.
(Written by Elizabeth Webb)
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Blinking away unwanted cobwebs from my mind I find myself in a park. The park is small, set on the top of a hill overlooking the city of my birth. In the center of this park a small, cement gazebo has been constructed for picnickers to sit on wooden benches and enjoy the beautiful scenery. I am sitting on one of these two benches feeling a bit apprehensive, but otherwise fine in the nippy autumn afternoon.
Why am I here? How did I get here? These questions run through my head when I notice someone walking across the grass towards me. As the figure comes closer I can see that it’s a woman, maybe 5’ 2” tall, average build, dark hair and eyes, around 40 years old, give-or-take. There’s something immediately familiar about her, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what it is. Well, that all might become clear since she’s heading directly towards me.
“Hello,” I say without feeling even a little stupid.
“Hey there, Kiddo, how ya doin’?” Damn her voice sounds so familiar.
“Okay, I just have to ask; do I know you?”
“Yes and no.” Her light, yet hardy laugh threw me off guard.
“Eh?” No snappy comebacks here.
“Okay, I’ll be kind. After all, you’re just a guy.” There’s that laugh again with a disarming smile to go with it. She’s got me intrigued.
“I know you. I know you very well – been watching you all of your life. As for me, you know of me, but you don’t know me at all, which is not your fault.”
She must have seen the “deer-in-the-headlights” panic in my eyes because she laughed once more and raised up both hands in a stopping motion.
“Calm down! Don’t worry, I’m not God or Christ or Buddha or even Elvis come to talk to you. Ya see, Kiddo, I’m your sister, Jacqueline, but you can just call me Jacquie or sis, if you like.”
“Jacquie?!” Okay, I just said that out loud, didn’t I? Well, what would you expect? The only Jacquie that could be called my sister died when she was just two days old – two years before I was born!
“What the hell are you talking about? That’s more than impossible! And don’t tell me you’re a ghost!”
“I know.” The smile on her face softened as she looked at me with less humor and more compassion. “I know this seems incomprehensible, but I am your sister, Jacqueline Louise, born and died two years before you came into this world.
“No, I’m not a ghost. I guess you might call me an angel. Yep, that fits best.
“Who you see standing in front of you is the woman I would’ve looked like today, if I had lived. Yes, you’re asleep. This is the only way that you could see me and not totally freak out. Well, not any more than you are now, that is.
“You’ve been thinking a lot about me lately, haven’t you?”
“Y-yes I have,” I stuttered, not completely convinced of anything. “I’m not sure why, but I started wondering what it would have been like growing up with a sister closer to my age. Norma and Grace are more than 12 years older than I am, and Johnny and Charles are 11 and 4 ½ years older, so since I was about 6 or 7 I’ve had no sisters at home, and was almost like an only child when I was14.
“I started asking Mom some questions about you; when you were born, how long you lived, why you died. I don’t know why I didn’t do this before, or why I did it now. She told me that your lungs weren’t fully developed when you were born – you didn’t have a chance back then. Today? Who knows? It just seemed such a crime to me.
“I went to your grave today -”
“I know, I was there.”
“Then you know that you have no headstone, just a cement block marking the spot where – where you’re – you’re buried.” My throat’s not helping me speak clearly.
“Yes, I saw you there.” The kindness in her eyes is almost too much for me. “That’s why I’m here now. I want a favor from you.”
“What could you possibly want from me?” Is this just a dream?
“Look, Kiddo,” she uses that name like she’s always called me that, “I know you’re a writer. I know you’re just beginning to work hard at it and you’ve got a long way to go.”
“Hey, watch the language, I’m an angel, remember?” Nice smirk.
“Okay, sorry Sis, go on.” Can’t even catch a break in my own dreams.
“As I was saying, you’re a writer and I want a favor. I want you to write about me – something – anything – I don’t care. I just want to be remembered a little more. I’d like to have ‘a life,’ if you know what I mean.
“Do you think you can do that for me?”
I can’t do anything but look at her. My throat has betrayed me completely. Help her live? Was that what she was asking me?
“Hey,” she snaps her fingers and my throat releases me, “how ‘bout it?”
“Sure. I mean, yes, I can do that. Anything? Just give you ‘life,’ right?
“That’s it, Sammy, that’s all I ask. Answer some questions: did I marry; did I have kids; what type of work did I do? What ever you come up with I know I’ll like.”
“O-okay, but can you answer some questions for me before this dream ends?” I just have to ask.
“Tsk-tsk. Bro, you’ve seen enough movies to know how this ends. Sorry, no-can-do. Just know that I love you. You and all my brothers and sisters. Mom and Dad, too.
“Time to go. You sleep well, and remember – I’ll be watching! Bye-bye, Baby Bro.”
“Goodbye, Sis. See ya later.” Now my throat clenches tight as tears chase each other down my cheeks. She fades. I sleep.
I wake, blinking. My face and pillow are damp.