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Candy When

10 Aug

Candy When


When my first dog, Candy, a Schnauzer, Grand Dame of three litters of pure-bred, silver pups, passed away after sixteen years, she was cremated and interned in a majestic bronze urn emblazoned with her full name and dates, Candy Girl, born September 1964 – died, November 1980.

She lived a long time. Candy was given to me as a present for my ninth birthday; I was thrilled. I named her after the Four Seasons’ hit song, after the same name. Candy Girl was a simple pop song, without harm, just about a love, charming just enough, my parents agreed to the name.

But Candy didn’t stay my dog; she became my mother’s dog instead. When my mother passed, she took Candy’s remains to the family plot.


Like I do every weekend, I try to spend the most time with my dog. Because of my daily hours, where I’m out of the house 10 to 12 hours each day, it’s a long time for my dog, Gem, to go without company, so on weekends, I dedicate a few hours on Saturday and Sunday for special walks, long walks, hikes to state parks, and trails that I know she will like. It makes up for the time, I think, for when she endures the lost time from me during the week. And for myself, too, as I miss my friend, Gem, when I can’t see her. I would love to take her to work, but that’s another story for another day.  

Yesterday, as I was walking Gem, I thought about Candy, and it only dawned on me at that precise moment, while stepping over a small stream of water in Point Mountain Park, as I watched my adventurous, happy dog, take laps from the cool and refreshing water, that when Gem dies, what will I do with her ashes?

I don’t think I want her boxed away, taken down into the earth; no. I don’t think I want that at all. She’s been too free, her makeup is that of courage, loyalty; she’s a good hunter, she’s strong and agile, and smart. She knows who likes her and who doesn’t like her, and so she’ll shy away, and go about her business. She doesn’t push, she knows better.

So what do I do, as I know my dog is exceptional in behavior, she must have an exceptional going out, how do I keep it in line?


In 2008, I lost two of my cats, 7 months apart. I had those cats for seventeen years. I trained my cats, as much as cats could be trained. They didn’t go on counters, and they didn’t stain anywhere except their litter box. I changed the litter often, as I knew the behavior of cats, and I knew my own cats well. They were friendly cats, outgoing, not shy, not spiteful, they enjoyed seeing others, and readily greeted new faces. And of all things not akin to the feline, they allowed me to take a brush to them.

One time, I brought Angelo out for a walk on a leash. He didn’t like it, and we didn’t do it again. But over the course of those 17 years, both Romeo and Angelo hung out with me, and came with me on many a move. Romeo didn’t do well in the car. He always threw up, but Angelo, was hardy. Both were brave, both good mousers. They didn’t cough the hairballs too much, thanks to the brushing.


So when they passed away, I cried for several days. And then one day I stopped crying. It just happened. It was like the flow of emotion just settled. Where all that emotion went, I don’t know. Two months had passed, and it was lonely without my cats, those chatty little bastards, how I missed them. But I found composure, accepting the Circle, as they say, The Circle of Life.


Coming out of a hot shower, I lay on my back naked in the hallway of my home, staring up at the ceiling, I thought about my cats. It was late winter, a quiet day, a Sunday in March. I sat up and stared at the bookcase that flanked both bedrooms, here were the boxes that held the remains of Angelo and Romeo. They were on the second shelf, next to their pictures. They was a stuffed play mouse between the two pictures. They liked being outdoors, lying in the hot sun. How long do I keep them on display on this bookcase?

My mind shifted to the day, and I dressed quickly. I gently brought down their remains from the shelf, placing them in a shoebox, and then taped the shoebox all around. I opened the car door, and placed the shoebox on the back seat floor. I drove to Durant Nature Park in Raleigh, North Carolina.

There’s a section to the nature park where a house once stood, but no one knows it. No one ever walks that trail because it’s closed off for what the park calls, ‘sensitive feeding area.’ So no one goes through the trail. But I do because I am horrible at obeying rules. So, I walked that part of the secluded trail, and when I reached the stone chimney (that’s all that remained), I opened up the shoebox, and then opened their boxes. I was staring at a palm-full of each cat’s remains, asking myself, How do I do this? Do I sprinkle here and there, under a tree over there, where? I decided just the way my cats had lived a frisky and eager life, to let their ashes spring to life, and then, without a thought, threw their ashes like a bouncing ball. Once, twice, three times, and then watched them settle. They were free.


It’s a Sunday, it’s bright summer, and I am headed for the Delaware Water Gap. I will hike again today with Gem. And I will remember each and every blessed day I have with my dog, while my dog is with me. But she isn’t coming with me to the family plot, no. Just as in life, she was raised and trained to be a fighter, a courageous dog, a smart dog, never beaten, never caged, she will always be free, never encased on a shelf or a bookstand.

 Copyright Terry Rachel, August 2014


But there’s…

15 Jul

There’s never been anything that’s ever been easy.

I just walk around, bike, try to talk to people, and try to make new friends. I bring my dog wherever I go, it’s just that this moving around isn’t easy. I miss certain things, I think I miss the friends I made – I know I miss the beach. I use to know the one pizza place I liked the most, but it’s certainly far away now. I tell people here, strangers that I do know a good pizzeria, but it’s not here in Reston, Virginia. Nope. No, it’s in New Jersey. Then I think about my home, the one in Raleigh. I wonder how long it will be before I move back there. Or will I ever? Really. Seriously. Why am I keeping this house? Will I ever move back to Raleigh, North Carolina? Oh, I don’t know. There’s so much…

I used to live in Colorado – don’t know a soul from there – a long time ago. I must’ve been 18 when I hitchhiked out there, lived there for a summer. I fell in love with a boy there, or I should say, he fell for me and I just went along. Never saw him when I returned to New York. In 2001, a visit to Vermont turned into a move to finish my last semester in college. I took away one friend from there who I still speak with – well, kind of – we ‘talk’ on Facebook. In 2007, Atlanta was a completely bad move – I moved there for a contract, thought it was going to be great. Boy, ha! What a joke that was. Get a load of this: in the course of six weeks I was robbed 3 times. Yeah, no kidding. But you know, I took away one friend from there who helped me out of a jam, and I still speak with her on occasion, not a lot, but that’s okay. Look at these towns: Brooklyn, Uniondale, Long Island, Albany, Schenectady, New Rochelle, New York, Stockton, New Jersey, and Trenton. Now I’m in Reston, Virginia. I’m going to tell you why I move so much, but first I want to tell you this:

I was watching this reality show about Long Islanders, how they can’t make it now, how they lost their jobs, how their homes are facing foreclosure. The show profiled these once all working people, how they use to pay their bills, how they use to have a lifestyle where they saw their goals for retirement and the foundation for getting there, and, unbelievably, all three couples were now lost financially on Long Island. Come to think of it, I think that was the name of the show. And Long Island’s not cheap, I mean you have to have money to live there – the taxes are crazy. People there have weird-ass accents.

I moved out of Long Island when I was twenty-nine. I knew the place was gonna’ get crazy. It was nice in the 1960s, 70s, even 80s, but then it got crowded, too crowded for me, so I moved 160 miles north of there and landed in Albany.

This friend of mine just passed away. She was 83. She lived in Albany in the same house since, I don’t know, I want to say at least 50 years. Fifty years! Fifty years in one house. Never had a foreclosure.

Now, personally, I would die. There is no way I could live in the same place that long. Granted, I don’t have kids, and, sure, children make you grounded because of school, friends and friends of theirs; you don’t want to upset the routine they’re in and so on. I get it. But I am a lesbian and I’m a single lesbian and because I am, I can move around and pretty much move, and that’s what I do.

And let me tell you why I love to move: there are so many places and people to see. There’s a completely different culture out here. Take the accents, take the Long Island accent – NO ONE speaks like that in any other part of New York. It’s strictly a Long Island Accent. Albany people don’t sound like Long Islanders and people from New Jersey sound nothing like New Yorkers. I could go on and on about the accents, but you’re getting the picture.

I love to move because, I have to work, and I’m older, and I don’t want to be without work while I’m still young enough to work, and not quite old enough to retire. I get bored easily. Yes, and this is a big one. Last winter I was sitting outside smoking a cigarette, it was right after the New Year, and all of a sudden, after glimpsing the white snow, cresting on a pine bough, I saw my stretched out dog through the pane glass, and said, “it’s time to go.” I guess those are the right words, well, they’re familiar, that’s for certain.

When I lost my last contract – and I did so damn well, I thought they would offer me a full-time gig but they didn’t. I was like, “Fuck it.” I’m moving again. It came as a surprise to everyone. I just got so sick of so much.  Being let go again. What the fuck? Talk about silent age discrimination. It sucks and it’s alive and well. But like I said, I get bored easily. But one thing I knew, one thing I had going for me was that, even through all my adventuring, I knew my word was good, that I was honorable. I knew that if the corporate sector didn’t appreciate my background, I’d pull out my ace in the sleeve – saving it for my older years, so to speak, and that was when I decided to apply for a Secret Clearance job with the government. The government liked that I never cheated on the government and didn’t have a rap sheet.

I’m there five months, right, and guess what I told my boss? I’m like sitting in his office, and he’s giving me my 3 month review (which I did very well; I got a 3% raise – hey it’s something), and I say to him, “You know, I’d be open for relocation.”

There are just no words, there’s only action for me. Because there’s so much more to do.

I think about those people from the reality show, those people on Long Island who are sinking – they don’t want to move. I think if they moved, opened up their mileage and scope for looking for a job – they could keep their house – rent it out, but move around in order to survive. In the olden days people moved all their shit in covered wagons, leaving the rocky roads of Maine, for example, forging into wild, unchartered land because they heard about the California Gold Rush. Americans have always been pioneering. I could go on about how the lazy counter of time can be a killer when you’re looking for work and not finding anything – I’ve been there, I know the trouble, but nothing’s ever been easy.

When the Wine Left

15 Jan

This morning I went through an old wine box made of wood.  One time, a long time ago, I received a trio of wines before I even knew how to drink wine, and received this trio as a Christmas gift. The wine was shared – and was good to drink, but I couldn’t part with the box. And so it remained.

For a long time I didn’t know how I would use it, this simple pine box, but it was of a good design, with a sliding door, but then slowly  I found myself storing birthday cards and letters from my grandmother and brother, and kept the concert stubs and the movie stubs, the cut-outs of favorite editors that sparked my interests; Haley’s Comet – I made it to Jones Beach on a cold November at 3 a.m to watch that one; the day JFK Jr died – I was on Block Island, the same body of water his plane went down in, his watery grave, the same ocean I swam in only the day before, covered the news. I kept that clipping.

Over the years the box grew larger and larger with news clippings, birthday cards,  love letters, more movie stubs, pictures were now tossed in of my friend’s children, my nieces and nephews graduation announcements, the death notices I’d collected. I could hardly pick up the box, it had grown that much.

Since the beginning of the year I have thought about going through it – the stuff I’d collected since 1979, way before my collective spirit and the events that shaped me and made me, out of pure survival, become so hard; me, then, a lamb, a cognitive and curious soul, an innocent – but I was prepared to face my past, and my past was in that box.

In that box were dead things from people who were dead and their wishes were long gone and I was wrong to keep their memories in a box. It was time they be set free. If I could get rid of their vanished thoughts, I’d be better now to face them rather than have their well wishes wind up in some Ephemera show at a sports arena in some strange and faraway place.

I didn’t read everything, and I went through it quite clinically, saying aloud, “You’re not in my life…you’re not in my life…” flip, throw out the card; “You’re dead….you’re re-involved…” flip, throw out the card. Some memories failed me and I found myself asking, ‘Who did I see that concert with?’ I couldn’t remember.

Then there were Brian’s letters, several of them. He was an old friend – best friend. We had been friends since we were 10. He died in 1996 of AIDS, I was by his side. He loved me.  I kept his cards, all his letters. I remember when he died I couldn’t travel from St. Vincent’s in New York, and so returned to his apartment for one last look, one last time. On his kitchen table, he’d written on a simple tablet, his own hand, and put down these thoughts, “Oh, Dear God, why? Why, why, why?” I took the letter from the tablet – it was very personal and I know I should not have, but I did. I stored the letter (it was much lengthier and charged with emotional turmoil than I can say here), but I folded the letter and threw it away. It was his talk with God and I had no business in keeping it.

Then there were the love letters. ..I kept some of those to help remind me how I once believed in love. I saved all my old driver’s licenses – it’s amazing how I’ve aged, and I find it curious that the ID’s really show the timeline. I came across a picture of my brother Victor and I – I was happy about that, and I will get that picture framed (I’d forgotten about it). The cards and letters from my old friend Elaine, were kept. I read those today, not all, but some, and I realize how much she once cared about me. But people change and you can’t hold them to the person they want to be now. In some letters she talked about her husband, “Big and Ugly” Gary, before we even knew he would die within 10 years.

Inside the box I’ve made room for the people who are in my life now, for the events, for the new news of my life, for whatever new challenges I face, whatever new concerts I may attend.  But in the bottom corner of the box, I had folded away an old calendar page (I remembered keeping it). It spoke about my love of nature, because I always loved nature far more than anything I could ever love and admire, was a poem by Joyce Kilmer and inside of this  was the hair clippings of my cat Angelo of 17 years. And because he loved outside as much as me, I gave him this poem:  “I think that I shall never see A poem as lovely as a tree. Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree”

Some things should never be thrown away.

copyright, Terry Rachel 2012

Some Things Should Never Been Thrown Away

The Fruits of Labor – Paulie and the Blueberry Letter Part 1

10 Dec

Paulie Arcevita is a nineteen year-old out of Brooklyn, a rogue and a ruffian, he got chops from the “school of hard knocks.”  Cut fresh and edgy, with an attitude as sharp as a butcher’s knife, he’s still got a heart of gold under that metallic hard surface. Everything Paulie does he does the hard way.


Every time I walk somewhere I look at the ground, but there is no money on the ground. I know for a fact people lose money, but I walk everywhere and I never see any lost money – and forget about a wallet. Man, how I’d love to see a wallet with some money. Or a bag with some money. I’d be crazy with excitement if I ever found a bag of money.

I’m walking like I do on some avenue that’s kind of dirty with houses that don’t turn on their lights at night and during the day their blinds are shut. They gotta’ keep it out, you know. I know behind those blinds is some kind of dysfunctional shit going on. People who leave the door open, lights on, they seem more normal.

Several months, you know, after this, like what I’m telling you, I’m walking – again – and one day, I’m walking, right, and I pass near a forgotten lot and these bushes are enormous like no one, and I mean no one –  has ever trimmed them or taken care of them in any way, right. So in the bushes is a bag. The bag is small and it’s ripped just a little so I pick it up. The rip in the bag reveals a little piece of paper with a paisley design and, at its end, where the white creamy border is, is curled just a little so you know it’s packed tightly. I’m thinking, Oh, Jesus, it’s money, Oh, Jesus, it’s money!  My balls are itching with excitement. I ignore the marsh-like mud that creamed one of my boots, and I grab the bag. I’m excited and I wipe the mud off my boot on the back of my other leg and get my jean leg dirty, but I don’t care. So I’m holding this bag and then all of a sudden I feel angst! Now I feel kind of criminal and figure it’s normal and I begin to walk with the bag detouring my original destination. I go behind the bakery and sit way back behind the garbage and I open the bag. Sure enough, there’s a roll of twenty dollar bills wrapped in a rubber band and a deposit slip for $2500.00. The address on the deposit slip reads “Van Vranken Avenue Garage.”

I keep the money in the bag and take out two twenties. I go into the local DVD store – one still left that hasn’t been hit by Netflix and Blockbuster. Don’t ask me how this guy is still making it.  Anyway, I’m taking my time, spinning through the store, and I feel like the clerk is rushing me.  He knows me as a customer who usually goes to the back room where all the porn is and where the kids aren’t aloud in.  Today he’s surprised when I pull out cash and pay for two movies instead of renting them.

At the counter he says to me, “Popcorn?” like he knows I always take the popcorn, and I could see he’s wondering how come I didn’t get no popcorn for free.

“Because, man,” I wanted to say, “I don’t eat your lousy heat lamp popcorn no more. Only when I got these shit-ass movies for rent did I want your heat-lamp popcorn because I felt like that was part of the deal. But now, now, I’ve got no deals to make with anybody because I’ve got money on me!” But I don’t say anything, no. I just tell him, “No, thanks.”

Then I pass George the mechanic. He hasn’t seen me in a while. I never pass that way, that street, whatever way you want to say it. And I like George and all, and him and I get along good and he’s a good mechanic. He’s surprised to see me and we shake hands.

“Man,” he says after I hand him the money I owed him from, God knows how long ago. “What? Did you hit the lotto, Paul?” he tells me.

George got a greasy face and greasy hands and grease under his fingernails.  I like George, but George knows a lot of people, and he’ll stand around in his shop for hours talking about people and I’ll probably be one of them. I don’t need that.  George fixed my car almost a year ago right before I got hit with a DUI and lost my license. Then I had to park my car and that’s when I owed George money.  “No, George. I’m working now, and I’m doing good. I didn’t hit no Lotto.”  That’s what I told him.

It was good to pay off George.  It was an old debt – $150.00 bucks.  Now I can walk on this street again.  When I said goodbye to George he was standing under the shop’s sign: Van Vranken Avenue Garage.

This one guy I know parked his Miata in a garage and somebody broke into the garage and stole his freakin’ hard top. That’s lousy. So even though my car’s in a garage and I can’t drive it for another three months –  and it kills me, because it’s gonna’ be summer soon and I won’t get to the beach, and I won’t get to show up for softball practice because the park is way out of the way, and I’m gonna’ have to hoof it everywhere, even with this freakin’ money – and me, like a jerk, gives it to the video guy, and then back to George.  Shit man, what am I gonna’ do? What if George catches on? Holy shit. I’m gonna’ be in so much freakin’ trouble it’s not funny.

So I keep walking and I know I got to be home. I got to feel safe. I feel uptight. I want to watch the movies. The bus is coming, that’s good. I get on the bus, and I could tell it’s a new driver but I can’t tell if this driver is a man or a woman. The black girls are sitting way in the back. The same girls – I’ve seen them before; they go up to the community college and take the bus pretty regularly. The three of them, here they go, whenever they see, they start singing.

© Terry Rachel, 2011

Money in my Pocket

4 Dec

            I needed a job and I needed one yesterday.  So I put out an ad in a local Pennysaver and this is how it read:

            “Woman, $10/hr.  Can do computer work, clean, landscape, help you with groceries.  Anything, really, for $10/hr.  I am going to be unemployed soon and just wish to parlay my income.”

When I met Heather she walked me into her formal living room, and in her living room was a wooden cross – no lie, it was 10 x 3 feet – the biggest cross I’d ever seen.  Heather said it was a replica of the cross Jesus carried before His crucifixion.

So I’m sitting there with Heather, in Heather’s living room, with this big cross, wondering how I’m going to make $10 bucks an hour from her and she offers me a cup of tea. I drink the tea and then she tells me she needs help with her files, her church files to be exact, and I’m to come back in a week and organize all her client files because she’s very unorganized with the congregation material and for a pastor of a local church, Pastor Heather, found that to be a “sin in the eyes of God.”  In my own odd way I liked Pastor Heather and told her I’d take the job.

Meanwhile, another call comes into voicemail from a guy who says, “My wife travels a lot. And I want to surprise her, so she doesn’t have to cook. Can you make lasagna?”

I call the guy back, tells me he’s a paraplegic. I feel bad for him so I made the lasagna at my place and took it to him at his place. That dish cost me $24 dollars to make. When I delivered the lasagna, he rang me in. Sure enough he couldn’t get up. There he was in bed, wheelchair beside him. He said, “Put it in the downstairs refrigerator!” And I did. At first I couldn’t find the downstairs frig, but then I did. Inside the refrigerator was like 60 cans of beer. So I shoved the beer around and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Jesus, you need a party.” But I suppose before his accident he entertained a lot. I guess no more.

He paid me $45 dollars for my time and said, “Thank you so very much.” I never thought about it after that but I wonder if they liked the lasagna.

            I got another call from a guy who wanted a blow job, another guy wanted to know if I could take care of medical insurance, and write letters on behalf of his aging mother. I said no to both of them.  The Pennysaver ad had its ups and downs but I was making money, and maintaining my car and my rental.

One day, about a week into the ad, a call came in from a very elderly man and his wife. They were living in a house that was their first and only home and they had lived there since being newly wedded. They raised their children there and were now great-great grandparents. The house was three miles from my apartment and I thought what the hell. With the winters being so tough in the northeast, three miles was a cinch.

I arrived on a sunny, crisp morning and I could see the driveway and walk needed shoveling badly and I thought, ‘Well here’s twenty bucks right here.’

The guy answers the door and he’s old. He’s the oldest old man I’d every seen. His wife is sitting on the couch.  She’s old, too. Come to find out, he’s 96 and she’s 94. And the first thought I get is, ‘Wow, these people need a nursing home.’ She can’t see, she’s blind; he can see and is the peppier of the two.

My first assignment was to scrub the kitchen floor and take out the garbage. The woman says, “Can you give me a manicure?”

There are photographs of them on the mantel and on bookshelves and I’d taken a peak. So I give her a manicure and do the best I can, but because she’s so frail, I don’t clip close, I just tone it up a little bit. The old lady had her nails polished in every picture on that mantel. So I polished her nails–just with clear polish, and told her she had pretty nails. She smiled and I smiled back.

The guy talked about his years at General Electric. He was there nearly fifty years, started out of high school. GE was huge employer in Schenectady, New York and a lifeline for many old-timers. I was listening as he went on and on about his time at GE.

“Is there anything else I can do? Do you need me to go to the store? Have you got groceries?  I gotta’ get going.”

He said, “Thank you, no. We’ll be in touch.” He paid me $15 dollars for exactly an hour and half of my time and I went home.

Five days later he called me and said his wife passed away, that he needed a ride to the bank.  He needed to take care of monies and his mortgage, change a few things.

I drove his car to the bank because he was too nervous. I waited in the bank’s lobby. Afterwards I drove him home and spoke with him a little while at his house. Before leaving a phone call came in from his great-granddaughter.  I tried not to overhear thinking thoughts of the old lady, his wife, and wondered if the funeral parlor repainted her nails, or did they look good enough by my doing, and  that maybe I really was the last person who had polished her nails.

He said, “Here,” as he handed me the phone, “my great-granddaughter wants to speak with you.”

The great-granddaughter was nice. She was just checking on me to see if I was normal, and if I really had her great-grandfather’s best interest at mind. “Of course,” I assured her, “I’m just trying to make a little money.”

Three days after taking him to the bank he called again. He said he’d like a ride to the cemetery to see his wife. I drove him to the cemetery all the while thinking about my phone conversation with his great-granddaughter.

She lived in California and she was friendly in that laid-back, California way. She said she appreciated my time and that many of her aunts had passed on, and that she wished to be there, spend more time with her grandfather, but she had a family of her own, and she just couldn’t. I told her it was okay and she said if I needed anything I should call her.  I was to let her know how her great-grandfather was doing. We exchanged e-mails.

After he visited the cemetery I drove him back home. While there he said he hadn’t bathed for a week and could I give him a bath. So I got out a bucket of very hot water and sponged him down. I handed him fresh clothing, and helped him get dressed. I said, “Well, that’s it, I have to get going.” He said – before paying me, “You know, if you treat me right, I’ll treat you right.” I laughed and said, “For the bath I want $50 dollars.” He paid me readily.

After that he called several times but I didn’t call him back.

About one week later his great-granddaughter e-mailed asking if I’d been to see her grandfather because he wasn’t picking up the phone. I replied that her grandfather was a ‘dirty old man’ and signed off with an LOL! She called me right then and asked me what my e-mail meant, why I could no longer visit with her great-grandfather.

After relaying what happened with the bath and how, for about five straight days he was calling and leaving dirty messages on my voicemail, there was a silence between her voice and mine.  When she spoke she sounded mortified and apologized for him. I told her, “It’s no big deal. I just don’t want to deal with him anymore.”

Who knows what happened with him after that. Maybe he did get legitimate nursing care. Maybe he got a nurse who was buxom and blonde; I hope he did. But I’ll never forget the willingness of his frail and skinny body trying to get a hard-on, wanting his testicles played with, when he said the words, “You treat me right and I’ll treat you right.”

I had to find a legitimate job.


            Working part-time for Pastor Heather, working in her office filing her files, helping her organize things, she asked, “Are you a Christian?”

I said “I went to Catholic school; I was raised Catholic and I used to go to church.”

“Do you go to church now?”


It was the truth. I hadn’t been to mass in years. My family was dead and I was pissed off at the world. I’d been working these weird $10 buck an hour jobs and my former employer was contesting my unemployment. I was now out of work two months with a monthly income of maybe, eight hundred dollars, maybe; but nowhere near the $1,000 or even $1,200 I really needed to live. Half of that eight hundred went to rent. I was eating boxed macaroni and cheese and meatloaf. By the 7th day of eating meatloaf I forced myself to throw up.

Pastor Heather said, “I don’t understand why a woman like you doesn’t have a good job.  I will pray for you.”

I was aggravated myself, wondering why with having just graduated with my four-year degree in English, I wasn’t working a professional job. “Come on, Heather,” I said, “It’s just the way it is. Things will change. They will. They have to.”

She said, “That’s good, because God loves you. Ask Him for the things you need.”

I said, “Heather, when I pray, I don’t pray for me, I pray for others.”

She said, “You have to ask. Have you ever asked?”

I said, “Listen” as I’m filing her files, “Jesus Christ came to me once, blessed me over my bed. He rose from the foot of my bed and blessed me. It was the most perfect morning of my life. I was blessed in a dream and I’ve never slept so peacefully. I guess you could say I’ve seen Jesus Christ.”

After I told her about my visit from Jesus in a dream, she got really preachy. One day she  tried doing something called tongues on me – freaked me out.  I figured I’d get scarce for a couple of weeks.

I was so broke and so ashamed of my life. Where I was once hanging with all these women and feeling pretty high on myself, I was now living in such a shit-ass apartment with, of all things, mice. Thank God for my two cats at the time, they were good mousers. I was looking for work on Monster, on all the Web career boards, but still couldn’t find a full-time job and working at $10 dollars an hour off the books. My unemployment never went through. The employer won saying I was not eligible because when I was offered a job for $8 dollars an hour, I lied and said I was sick. But I wasn’t sick. It’s just that I was making $18 dollars an hour before I lost my contract and his offer was an insult. So I filed a claim and when they asked if I’d turned down work, I said I hadn’t and it all came back and unemployment called the employer and said that they’d offered me work, but because I lied, the claim was disqualified.

Two weeks later I called Pastor Heather begging for work.

I painted both the men and women bathrooms at the church and cleaned the church toilets and urinals. Then Heather asked if I could take care of her parents when she went to a religious conference in Las Vegas. I took care of her parents for three days. I changed her mother’s sheets, cleaned her father’s bedroom, vacuumed and cleaned their house and cleaned their separate bathrooms. One bathroom toilet had over spilled and created a big mess and was running down into the basement and I cleaned that. I made them dinners and gave them their separate medications before tucking them in and saying a goodnight prayer.

It was April and I couldn’t make my rent. I bargained with the landlord to sell my refrigerator. He said, “Okay, how much?’ I said, “I’ll pay you one hundred fifty cash and the frig cost me three hundred. Keep it and we’ll call it square.” I had $1800 in savings, that was all I had, and I wasn’t touching it. I was waiting for my way out.


            When Heather returned from Las Vegas she thanked me and paid me $140 dollars for taking care of her parents and $200 dollars for painting the church bathrooms. I was so grateful. I filled up my truck with gas and I bought groceries and food for my cats and new litter. It was Sunday morning and I was going to church with Heather.

Heather said, “Are you ready to accept Jesus Christ into your life?”

I said, “Yeah, but what do you mean? He’s already in my life.”

“That’s not exactly true.”

I didn’t know what she was getting at and I must have sounded like a fool when I asked her,

“He’s not in my life everyday, I guess, but He’s kind of busy, don’t you think.”  She started to laugh, but not laugh at me and I could tell the difference. She said,

“Oh, I see.” And with that she stood from the couch in her living room and came across to where I was sitting and knelt before me. She took her hands in mine and said,

“Are you ready to accept Jesus Christ as your savior and Lord?”

“Yes,” I said, and she blessed me. She prayed for several moments and then she handed me a box.

“Open it up,” she said, “it’s for you.”

It was a Bible and she’d inscribed it, ‘Jo Battle, Reborn, December 4, 2011.’


            At mass, at Heather’s church, it was so different from what I’d known. Everyone was singing and raising their hands and holding hands and a couple of people knelt before the pastor asking, in some way, divinity of grace, and I remember thinking,        ‘Oh, man. I just need a confessional booth,’ I just wanted a priest. Evangelical Christianity was unknown to me.

But I’d sang the songs and found myself crying at one point because I was stunned by the faces of those who believed. I felt sinful, selfish in my wants and desires, having hurt others in my life, looking across at the faces of those who were so believing, those who may have had less than I had and yet who were still rejoicing, where I still sat brooding, I’d felt like a heel. I thought, “Is this my ‘born again’? Is this what Heather meant?”

At the time I was volunteering for Big Brothers and Big Sisters and I’d asked Heather if Yvonne, my ‘little’ could come along to mass. Yvonne was so pretty in her blue dress the color of a robin’s egg.  I was Yvonne’s ‘big’ for four months during the time I’d lost my job and working these odd jobs. She agreed wholeheartedly and invited us to breakfast after mass.

I hadn’t been out to eat anywhere in weeks and I ordered a big breakfast of eggs and bacon and sausage and the breakfast plate was big and delicious and, being self-conscience not to gobble my food, I slowed down waiting for Heather and Yvonne to catch up, but Heather still noticed my hunger. She said,

“Jo, I don’t understand why a woman like you doesn’t have a good job. If you don’t ask for it, then I will.’

I smiled and looked into Heather’s eyes but I felt ashamed and looked away and turned to Yvonne instead.

“Yvonne, do you think I need a good job?”

Heather stood, paid for breakfast and said, “Yes, just say yes, Yvonne.”

Yvonne smiled a toothy smile and hunched her shoulders, “Yes,” she giggled, “but I’ll miss you.”


            I had $1800 in the bank and I kept an eye on it. It was now May. I had been out of work for five months, still working odd part-time jobs, trying to meet routine expenses. I didn’t have credit card bills; it was just the lights, a basic cable hook-up, my phone, car insurance, my car loan and my rent. I was extremely careful about spending. Thank God the cats didn’t get sick during that time.

My buddy Nan, an Internet pal, contacted me. I told her things were tight, that I couldn’t find work as a tech writer in Upstate. The entire upstate area was depressed. If you didn’t work for the state in Albany, NY or GE, as a contractor, you weren’t working. There was little technology opportunity.

I asked Nan, “Hey what do you think if I use your Kannapolis address and put it on my resume? Would that be okay?” Nan liked me and we had had a little phone sex.  We’d never met and she said, “That would be fine, darlin’!” She was real sweet-talking. She’d sometimes call me ‘sugar’. That’s so southern. I’d chuckle every time she’d use expressions like that. God knew I wasn’t sweet as sugar, but Nan thought I was.

As soon as we hung up I went back into the job boards and I prayed to God as I was changing my address from Albany, NY to Kannapolis, NC, “Please help me, God. I need work. I’m dying over here.”

I finally asked God for help.


          That Memorial Day weekend, flying into Raleigh, I looked out the airplane window and thought of all the people I’d met working for $10 per hour and how only five days before today, I received a call from Brian Adamson of Luxen who liked my resume and needed a tech writer and was delighted I lived in Kannapolis, NC. It would be a short commute, I might hit some traffic, and could I be there the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend started.

‘See, Jo, this is what you get for lying, ‘a voice came over me as a stewardess handed me pretzels and a glass of seltzer water. I’ll just have to tell Brian the truth if I got the job,

I had a sister in Kannapolis, and that I really only stayed at my sister’s once a month and that’s why my resume said NC and not NY and that I was actually living in NY, twelve hours by car, and could the company possibly relocate me?

I wore a tight top, uncharacteristic for me, but it looked sharp, with its different shades of green and it enhanced my breasts, under a beige well-tailored suit. The suit was too much money, but it looked good off the rack and it fit. I got my portfolio together three days before the interview and when I arrived in Raleigh, I rented a car right away. Until that day I hadn’t used my credit card in nearly seven months.

Before July’s rent was due, I packed up my things, called my friend Carl, and he got his buddy Chris, and they helped to move me. By leasing a truck through a non-popular trucking company, I spent $300 dollars because the truck was being returned to Albany. I secured an apartment on line and made arrangements over the phone, taking a virtual tour and sending off a check for $700 dollars to secure the place. I gave Carl $200 and Chris $150 dollars for helping. Some odds and ends like gas, food, and a cheap hotel, cost me a little over $200. I spent less than $1800.00 to move and to secure an apartment. On Monday, June 28, 2004, I reported for work at Luxen. On that first Friday at the job, I filled out an expense report and two months later received a check for $1,500 for my relocation expenses. No one asked about Kannapolis, NC.  I never called to thank Nan.


            Those days marked my character, those days when I couldn’t rub two nickels together but learned about people in ways than I would have never learned had I not received the lesson of grace and humility. During that time my faith was there but hidden. And I remember how, in my desperation, in my most absolute most desperate of pleas, and with all my heart, I asked God for help.

Five People Who Need “Telling Off”

12 Nov


1. You don’t really think I believe you, do you? I just let you think you’re original, but you’re about as original as a grain of sand. You’ve stolen everyone’s ideas – and, clever girl, you’ve somehow managed to sell the idea to others. What is one thing you have done that was the very fabric of your own mind? What? Name one thing. ….I’m waiting.  Right. I didn’t think so. You’re a leech. You’ve always been a leech sucking out others ideas. Don’t think I don’t see, because I do. You’re probably waiting for me to ask you….but I have never asked you to represent me in your make-believe artistry and I never will –  ever.

2. You’re so ‘phony-baloney’ and so transparent. You have pathetically (and countless times) made feigned attempts to propose we get together on a friendly basis. I remember when you asked me out for a date. I was so shocked by this because you had only broken up with your ex two weeks before. I am not a rebound, babe. Sorry. Doesn’t really say much for your character does it? You gave lots of thought to that one, huh? Really mourned the loss of your two-year relationship. Do you really think I would trust these behaviors? No way, man. And so you get on my Facebook page with your polite gestures telling me how positive your life is going (while you talk about me behind my back) and then give me a ‘parting shot’ before you leave. Do you really think I give a fucking shit about your part and parcel life? No. I don’t.

3. I did not like that you came to my little rental apartment to insult me. I did not appreciate your telling me I was overweight – when, you are 3x more overweight than me. You spent one night with me and you a) didn’t bring a dime with you; b) verbally mistreated me the entire time you were here; c) complained and complained about everything. I spent close to $300 on you – even paid your transportation on NJ Transit. Ugh, you were such a drag. I couldn’t wait for you to leave. Honestly, you’re not welcome in my world again. I do not miss you. I do not salivate or long for your long, drawn-out political views and your provincial viewpoints on public policy and homosexuality. You are quasi-intellectual and quasi-religious – two qualities that irk me to no end. Honestly speaking, I have no more room in my life for you.

4. You send me a letter with 4 deposit slips, my house key and a check for $50.00. This is, of course, how you end a friendship. In the first place, you never, ever should have cashed a check for fifty dollars for doing nothing. I asked you six times, “Please paint the closet. It won’t take long. It will take about an hour.” And copious times you said you would. I asked you, “Please collect the rent?” You said you would. You did not. Then you’re nowhere to be found: you don’t return calls, you don’t respond to inquiries. This is a friendship? What is this friendship based on? Friendships begin with mutual respect, trust, kindness, discretion.  You have completely lost my respect and the opportunity to witness a generous heart. My generosity is rare. But it’s too good for you.

5. You dated me close to six weeks. In this time you did not spend a dime. I took care of everything (Oh, wait, I think you bought the popcorn at the movies.) I went out of my way to see you, call you, and then when I began the talk of sex or kissing or lovemaking, you put your feet in the sand and drew a line: there was no compromise with you. You’re terribly set in your ways; a cranky old bitch – I saw that, but I was willing to overlook it. It didn’t work out. But then you show me a lack of respect by breaking off with me through an email. I called you after the email because I wanted to hear you tell me what it was – you never called me. You never called me back. You didn’t have the guts to speak with me. For all the kindness I showed you and the respect I gave you and the generosity I so handedly shared, you didn’t even have the courtesy to speak with me.


As I near the closing of 2011, I remember these real events. I point them out because I have little tolerance for others – particularly at this stage in my life – who treat me with less than the respect I deserve. I don’t turn the other cheek. I see a lot of bullshit, and these behaviors I’ve described here – where they think they fool me, where they think they can take advantage of my precious time and life – trust me, I’ve got it, trust me, I see it all, and I’m here to let you know it’s not okay to get away with bullshit. This hardscrabble bitch has your number.

copyright – another ORIGINAL by Terry Rachel, 2011

Barbara Walters Interviews Author Terry Rachel

30 Oct

We sat down with Terry Rachel, author of A Hardscrabble Daughter at her Connecticut home.  She welcomed my team and I into her sprawling ranch home overlooking the Long Island Sound. Here’s what she had to say about her life, her new book, and why she considers herself hardscrabble.

Barbara Walters: Terry, it’s so good to see you.

Terry Rachel: Thank you. It’s nice to see you, Barbara.

Barbara Walters: You were quite heavy last year. Have you lost weight?

(Terry laughs aloud and crosses her legs, she’s wearing a red cashmere sweater and corduroy slacks. She summons her assistant who brings us freshly ground coffee and scones. It’s a cool October morning.)

Terry Rachel: Yes, it was time.

Barbara Walters: Do you feel free? Free of that baggage?

Terry Rachel: It was baggage. I lost 40 pounds.

Barbara Walters: The last time I saw you was at a Beat Writers reading.

Terry Rachel: Yes, yes, in the Village.

Barbara Walters: You’ve come a long way. This home is quite large. And you have how many dogs?

Terry Rachel: I’m breeding Border Collies. Here I have the Grand Dame, Jewel, and her litter – Ring, Shake, Speare, Robin and Hood. So 6 all together.

Barbara Walters:  Interesting names.

(Terry laughs)

Terry Rachel: Yes, well, I have to detach from them soon. So the names will probably change with their new owners.

Barbara Walters: What was the price tag on the home?

Terry Rachel: Five and a half – well, almost six. It came in around $5.9 million.

Barbara Walters: Let’s talk about your writing. How did you go from blogging on WordPress, to complaining on Facebook, to reading your stories  in coffee houses, to a New York Times Bestseller? You’re doing book tours – there is some talk that Showtime wants to turn some of your stories into short films – is this true?

Terry Rachel: Yes, they’ve been in touch with me.

Barbara Walters: Barbara Lowenstein?

Terry Rachel: Yes, she’s the agent that got the ball rolling.

Barbara Walters: How did you get the attention of the Lowenstein Agency?

Terry Rachel: I kept writing. I entered some contests and won one, then another and another. And I would post these wins through Twitter, Facebook. I had a following through email and before I knew it, all this.

Barbara Walters:  And all this success………. but there is no one to celebrate with – no one living, to share in your success. You mention that your family is all gone, you are estranged from your nieces and nephews, even cousins.

Terry Rachel: My stories have death as a continual theme. It’s through these stories that I release my frustration.

Barbara Walters: Your sadness. Your lesbianism.

Terry Rachel: Yes, that too.

Barbara Walters: Are you really ‘hardscrabble’ as you say?

Terry Rachel: I can be. My life was very hard. I lived for a long time as a minimalist. I saw how people viewed me. But honestly, I was unburdened from material things.

Barbara Walters: Do you think your lesbianism added to being “hardscrabble”?

(Terry laughs at the question)

Terry Rachel:  Let’s put it this way: I was duped many times.

Barbara Walters:  And now that you’re fifty-eight your whole life has changed. You have a home overlooking the water, you’re a successful dog breeder, a full-time author. You live very well now.

Terry Rachel: Yes.  I thank God for my reversal of fortune. It’s nice to be comfortable for a change.

(The phone rings, Terry excuses herself to take it by walking to a quieter space in the living room. The turn of events would cut short our interview.)

Barbara Walters: I have one last question: if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

(Terry laughs at the question)

Terry Rachel: Didn’t you ask Katherine Hepburn this?

Barbara Walters: Yes and I took heat for it by the way. But I think it’s a fitting question for you.

Terry Rachel: Hmmn. What kind of a tree… a fiery maple. Yes, a fiery maple. That would fit me perfectly.



Copyright, 2011 Terry Rachel

What Follows My Noose

23 Oct



When I pulled up to the motel I encountered the front desk clerk and used a false name to present myself. I had a large bag with me but not much clothing. All the designs I planned I planned very carefully. The large bag held my tools. These tools would be the tools I would use to kill myself.


But let me begin in 2008. While living in North Carolina, I was disenchanted with my living situation. There was no work, I was struggling financially, the jobs I could land I could lose. I was told I was rude, too aggressive, impolite, always in a hurry. They never said I didn’t have a brain, never said I wasn’t a quick study – the southerners didn’t like me personally. I had few friends – I felt an emotional hole I could not fill. It showed in my house – it was minimal. I had little interest in improving it. It was just a house. A roof over my head. I would speak with old friends from New York – Long Island. A friend there pleaded with me to return. She used to call me “sister” and that “you need to come back to your family,” that I was, “a New Yorker at heart.” All the women I loved seemed to live in other states. There was no gay scene in Raleigh.  The gay bars catered to men; I had to face to it: I needed to move, I could no longer stand listening to the silence.

I have to tell you something, but please (and this is a warning) don’t make it a habit of repeating my stories to just anyone. I’ll tell you. I was lonely and needed friendship and I needed to be needed. The dog was a rescue, she cost me only $100.00. Within the first six months of having her she got into some rat bait and nearly died of toxic poisoning. The bill for that took me two years to pay off. I still have my dog. I love her (I wanted to kill her before I went to the motel, but I’ll explain that later).

Following my decision to move and head north, I rented out my North Carolina home very quickly. I moved with my dog during a brutal February snowstorm.  After six weeks of living in Nyack, New York, near to the girl I thought I loved, and who I thought could be a potential mate, I’d come to realize that we had nothing in common after all. Before this admission, however, I made one attempt to kill her with a pillow to her face, crushing off and disassembling her breathing . She was quite fat and couldn’t move so well. With this knowledge, with my strong back and hands, I could hold pressure to her face, and I calculated – I scoff at its brilliance, but I determined she’d be out in 7 to 10 minutes though I would be sweating profusely and would need to hydrate during the process, I would have courageously seen this act through but I decided against it because her two children were there. They had alternating visits. I probably should have killed her during a weekend when the children were with their other mother.  I have to remember that long distance relationships rarely work out and that hindsight is a bitch.

I drove south about 100 miles and then drove off highway to long winding country roads for another thirty miles until I reached Stockton, New Jersey. I took a room on a horse farm. The woman I was living with, she and I got along okay, we didn’t have to say too much, and she was nice enough; it was her dogs that were crazy and I was somewhat fearful of them but I didn’t let it show and often threw them a ball to break up their own monotony. They weren’t very smart and would, sadly, fall for things very easily. I would point the penlight at an array of objects, the laser going in circles or up or down or across the floor and walls, sometimes they would crash into the TV, while my dog and I sat watching their foolishness.

Anyway, about this woman. She had just begun dating and now had a boyfriend she’d met on Craig’s List. When she told me he was a former member of the Pagans, I didn’t say too much but only looked to her one night while she was cleaning up the dinner dishes and offered this, “Do you know anything about the Pagans?” She feigned ignorance (but that was often the case), but the Pagans were a motley crue – felons, convicts, bad dudes; she said she didn’t know.  As a couple these two were not “spring chickens” as they say, so I was quite surprised by what followed next.

When he and I got into it one day it was because the two Dobermans wore collars for her invisible fence, but my dog wasn’t wearing one – I didn’t want her on a invincible fence collar because that would take time for her to learn and I didn’t want her to go through the exercise because she was a smart dog and wouldn’t run off the property like the two other dogs. Anyway the Pagan motorcycle guy yells at me and says I was not being responsible for my dog and that   my dog had the advantage with having more room to roam. I was leaning up against my car responding to this by saying that I wasn’t about to put an invisible fence collar on my dog, and before I could got out the next sentence I was thrown into my car door, I struggled to get one leg in, and I did, but Pagan guy was forcing the door closed on my left leg and my dog was not in the car with me. So in my anger I pushed back the door and with this he lost his footing and halted his advance on me.

That same night I packed my things – it was Mother’s Day and the next day I was starting a contract for New Jersey Motor Vehicle. I went to the Red Roof Inn.


Three Months Later

By September I had a change in luck. I’d seen this ad for a house share in Ewing, New Jersey. A safe enough town flanking the Delaware river, Ewing would offer me all the things I cared for in a small town without having to drive far or, heaven forbid, to a dreadful mall. This made my life much easier.  Easy to get food, pharmacy items, and so forth, all of this was available within three miles:  a pizzeria, a coffee shop, several small Italian restaurants, a Chinese take-out, a nail salon, a barber, an ice cream store, three dry cleaners (I don’t use a dry cleaner much but it’s nice that they’re there), a Mexican restaurant, two churches (one Catholic, the other Presbyterian), a large park to walk the dog, a towpath that runs along the river, a good gym to work out, a post office and a hardware store (this last one being very important).  It seemed that everything I needed was here in Ewing.


One Year Later

I’ve tried to reach my friend in Long Island, the one who called me ‘sister’ it doesn’t look too good. I guess now that I’m only living within two hours from her, she’s not calling me. I drove to the cemetery where my brothers and parents are buried and said a prayer. I brought my dog and introduced her to my dead family. I got some nasty looks from other visitors but I didn’t pay it much attention. I wish I could see my nieces and nephews but too many years have gone by between us and the chances of building a relationship now are next to zero.I have not had a good time meeting friends here – I find the gay women are exceedingly clannish, they don’t allow for new faces, they are often phony, catty, and honestly, if I take away one friend, I’ll consider myself a lucky woman.


 The Decision

I went to the hardware store and bought one 8 foot rope with a 1” thickness, four pieces of 3’ feet rope and two eye hooks. From home I packed two scarves, a radio, a writing tablet, my memorabilia box that held my cards and letters, a box of my writing (some handwritten, some on tape) and an extra set of car keys and a drywall drill. While at home I printed out a list of my passwords and taped this to the monitor. I left manila folders on the coffee table. These folders contained instructions for my lawyer – these instructions take care of my North Carolina property. I left out my dog’s medical history and instructions for her care, and then I doubled-back. I looked to her as she whale-eyed me from the Berber rug she often laid upon. I commissioned her for a walk and she came readily, tail wagging, we walked the woods behind the townhouse, often isolated, we’d use this as a shortcut to the park. I spoke with her for a very long time before taking out the scarf. My plan was to place the scarf down into her mouth and suffocate her. I would then bring her lifeless body with me to the motel.

My plan was to kill myself in an out of the way area; I didn’t want to be close to where I was currently living.  My good manners were always one of my finest attributes. I thought my roommate would appreciate this seeing how he suffers a tremendous case of obsessive compulsiveness and paranoia. There would be some blood, maybe some feces, and then of course the dead dog. No, he would clearly have a stroke of some kind. It was decided: I would kill myself in a remote part of New Jersey in a motel on the side of the road.

I got busy right away. I turned up the radio, wrote a note saying goodbye (I blamed no one, I just missed my family and wanted to see them again). I separated the shorter four pieces of rope and placed two each to my left and right jean pocket. I emptied the contents of my memorabilia, cards from previous birthdays, letters from friends, concert stubs, and spread them across the bed. The writing I had created from ages 13 through 62, the writing that never reached a publisher, never won a contest, was never read by friends or family, was burning in the motel bathtub. After I did this I knew the fire alarms would soon go off. I had drilled two holes and pushed the eyehooks into a ceiling beam. I moved the desk chair underneath the eyehooks, placed one scarf in my mouth pushing it down as far as I could and then I stood on a stool, and taking the noose I tested its strength by pulling the drop dead cord around my wrist first and it held. I took the rope from both pockets tying my feet first. I balanced myself back to the stool where my head met the noose and I pulled the drop cord to shorten the slack. In my last move I tied my hands and kicked out the desk chair.


The Crossing

It went very fast from that point. I felt a terrible pain in my neck, my entire being was imploding, My eyes went lifeless but not before I saw the smoke coming from the bathroom and heard the fire alarm. Then I died. I began walking naked through a long windowless tunnel but before I left I saw myself, my shell, hanging in the motel. I guess I was successful in killing myself. I was surprised as there wasn’t much success in my mortal life.  I heard from mysterious voices after that. I was pulled for a minute into a very dark place and then out of the darkness I saw a silhouette of a man. He told me “Come this way.”

Once in the light I saw that the man was my oldest brother, and standing next to him were my other two brothers. Behind them were my mother and my father – they were quite young, not the ages they had died. And then I saw myself: I was only twenty-nine. I couldn’t figure this because you see, I was 62 when I died. I saw friends – I saw one friend who had died in 1996 when he was 39. He held me and said I looked beautiful. He said, “You will like it here as we transform.”

I went off to some part of another secret spirit, I rose up in the growth spurt of spring, and then came as a windstorm in November. I folded into a new infant’s eyelash. I was around in different ways for different reasons.

Two years later I was called to the tunnel, a crossover was beginning and I was to meet someone who was very significant in my life. To welcome them in their crossover I transformed myself again. When I got to the tunnel I saw my dog but she was not alone. I called, “Come, girl, come, don’t be afraid,”  and she ran to me. I fell to the ground to welcome her. We played for some time and I said to her, “I could never hurt you.” To the stranger standing over me I said, “Who are you?”

“Jo, I am Dr. Kay, don’t you recognize me?”  I hadn’t and so he continued, “When word got out about your suicide and that you left the dog, your roommate brought her to me for adoption, and since she was a patient of mine and such a good girl, I took her in. We lived together for two years.”

I was still confused. “Dr. Kay, my dog would only be 8 years old. Clearly she  would have lived longer than that.”

“Yes,” Dr. Kay said, “Do you have any idea how much she missed you? Nothing made her happy after you left. She wasn’t eating, wasn’t playing, she was lifeless.”

“So, she died of an illness? What? Please tell me.”

“Jo,” he sad sadly, “the animal hospital endured structural damage through fire, the whole place went up in smoke, I was in my office with Gem going over some paperwork at the time when the accident happened. An experiment in the laboratory set off one of the flammable gases causing a massive explosion that rocked the entire building.”

“Dr. Kay, I’m so sorry-”

“Yes, it was very sad. Oh, well, isn’t that the strangest. They’re calling me! I have to go!”

“I don’t understand, “ I told him.

“The surgery. It’s over. I made it.” Dr. Kay was gone.

Time was now so casual, there was no need to rush. So I walked with my dog to the edge of a cliff that was smooth and linear, where we never fell, where there was no ending, and we just went on.

© Terry Rachel, 2011

Season 1 – The Introduction

1 Oct

 October 1, 2011

Good Morning, Dear Readers,


With this writing I begin with a series about three young girls –  Lisa, Claudia and Olivia – orphaned at an early age in Quebec, Canada,  they are chestnut-haired, hazel-eyed, French-Canadians, and all very pretty –  they would be soon adopted after the accident that killed their parents by a young couple who were barren, Yvette, and Richard Oakley, each established writers, living in an affluent suburb of Long Island, they would move the sisters to their home in Garden City where they would grow and play and live their lives as any normal pre-teen girl, but when each girl’s sexuality peaks, together they  question the path to take as they come to the crossroad of their lives.


I hope you will enjoy their journey.


My best,

Terry Rachel




The Oakley Girls of Garden City 



The Introduction


Lisa is the youngest of the sisters, at age 10, she plays with boys, preferring their company over girls. She is smart in school but takes advantage of not doing homework, a little bit of a know-it-all, she’s keenly aware how pretty she is.  Today, Saturday, she’s hogging the bathroom more than usual, not having to be rushed out by her sisters, she stares long in the mirror, examining her face. She pretends to put on mascara, as her mouth gently drops open, she purses her lips to throw a kiss, and thinks that her lips are too big. Taking out her barrette she shakes her head to loosen her hair, flipping the ends, she bends her head to her knees, sweeping her hair in a downward direction, she snaps up straight and shakes again her magnificence she is most proud of. She can do styles now. Her older sister, Olivia,  taught her how to use a curling iron – but she doesn’t always get to use it, because Olivia and Claudia use it the most, and she feels like she gets what’s left over. She knows she has to be very sweet with her sisters.

Claudia is the middle child, at twelve, she has green-hazel eyes, and sunburned features, freckles across her nose and some to her cheeks, she has long, thick lashes the color of caramel, her hair is naturally two-tones of chestnut and dark blonde. On the swim team from 6th through 9th grades, Claudia is slender and elegant, some would say she is the most beautiful of the Oakley sisters – but as the good Lord gives the human mind or, at least those willing to accept it, the gift of modesty, Claudia prefers to concentrate on doing good for others, volunteering takes up most of her time when she is not with her swim team.

In her marmalade-colored room, one sunny window shines its morning light, as Olivia sits writing an e-mail to a school chum she met in her sophomore year. School begins next week, right after Labor Day, and Olivia, thirteen, has been thinking about her girlfriend for weeks. Ever since Cathy left for a family vacation to spend the summer in Michigan, Olivia has texted her nearly every day. The light pours onto her flawless olive skin, her dark eyes read again what she is about to send to her friend. Her hair is never in her face, unusually confident for her age, her  ballet instructor expressed to Mrs. Oakley that Olivia has the potential to go far as a dancer.

Yvette Boulanger-Oakley was raised on Long Island, but spent summer vacations with her parents’ family in Quebec City, Canada, where she held a soft spot for her faraway cousins she rarely got to see. With her love of travel and her natural affinity for uncovering a secret, Yvette went onto Syracuse University – a difficult school to gain entry to for its quality journalism studies, and after graduating interned for Newsday where she would eventually write a daily column, taking over for Erma Bombeck, her editor saw how good she was at telling a story in less than 1000 words that pulled on the heartstring of her readers. Yvette has auburn hair, her glasses sit on the bridge of her nose, or on top of her head, she wears turtlenecks tucked inside a belted skirt, knowing not too many women can pull it off; she dresses always to show off her flat stomach.

When she was thirty-two and married to Richard six years, herself having been to several fertility clinic trails, and Richard, having gone through countless sperm tests, both of them unable to have children of their own – rather than getting completely down over it, and being the type of woman to see her way through any obstacle, she was an optimist at best, and so she and Richard considered the next best thing would be to adopt.  On an early morning on December 24th, at her office, Yvette was the first to pick up the AP wire that a family in Canada endured a terrible accident, where the driver of the car was killed along with his wife, but that the children, three young girls, were alive, having survived being hit by a semi-trailer while on their way to a Christmas event reported by the mother’s side of the family.

Richard Oakley is meeting today with his editor at Random House, he is on his third book for them and the advance of $10 million that he received took him well into his fourth year to complete the novel. It should be a good one; he thinks it’s got a market. The novel is based on a family of prosperous dairy farmers who lived in Hungary during World War II but were forced to leave from the Nazi advance, buying their way to America being guests of a family living in Minnesota.  In the cab ride from Grand Central up Park Avenue, he is dressed in a pair of linen slacks and denim shirt, his blonde hair sweeps down, in Robert Redford fashion, just above his blue eyes; he adjusts his sunglasses to take in the other yellow cabs lining the busy street. The manuscript sits on his lap as it is boxed; his editor prefers to read on paper. Richard didn’t mind printing it out, even though printing out over 150,000 words took a lot of paper, he poured his heart into this effort, not counting the rewrites, he hopes to receive the remaining $12 million by the time it goes to print. Under his breath, come the words, “Right in the bank for my girls,” and then to the driver, “This will be fine here, thanks!”

End Part 1

© Terry Rachel, 2011

Mourning Dove Road – A Butch-Femme Tale

24 Sep

Part II

The Motel

            It was by e-mail and phone that Katherine and I kept in touch during January and February. She’d phone each night or I’d call her. In one e-mail she sent me the pictures of her surgery and I sank when seeing them but wrote encouraging words, words that told her she’d be up in no time; that she was strong, that January was a long month, true; but February was a short one, and that spring would be here before she knew it. I missed her so much and I was missing my cat.

Five Mondays in January is no fun and I felt each one of them settle on my bones like a wet sock. By the third week, returning home one night from working late, I was unprepared for what I was to encounter. For fifteen years I was greeted at the door by a friend who, if he could talk, could reveal all my secrets, but he was a better friend than that, and that night, when I’d stepped through the door, I’d found my cat, Romeo, in a remote part of the house, whimpering in pain. Upon closer inspection, he had vacated his illness in nearly every room. As I held him, he cried in my arms, and I cried for two weeks after, imagining how sick he’d been throughout that day. I’d never see Romeo again, and I wouldn’t see Katherine for several weeks. The year had started badly.


            I kept sending her songs of the day, lyrics that reflected my love for her. I kept saying to ‘wear my ring’, that that was a sign of my love. She’d write to me in sleepy sentences, sometimes she would sleep for hours on end, with little awake time during the day because of her accident. We’d text message nearly every day.

I missed her body, her blonde hair, her blue eyes and the scent of Burberry that she wore. Her image burned in my heart, and the image of her falling was beginning to wane as February came to a close. It was good news:  her mother was returning to New Jersey because Katherine could now drive and was able to bear weight. We made plans in March to meet and she had signed her divorce papers. By the end of March, she would be ‘free’ she wrote saying and she could now love me, ‘totally and completely.” I couldn’t wait. I circled the weekend of March 3rd and 4th on the kitchen calendar three times for three things she always told me:  “you are my love, my life and my friend.”


            Katherine and I planned to meet at the EconoLodge outside of Matthews, NC, in Charlotte — not far from her home. She couldn’t drive long distances because she was only beginning to walk again; she had been using crutches or a cane, and was only walking for two weeks when I’d met her the weekend of March 3rd and 4th. We hadn’t seen each other in two months. I bought a new red shirt and it looked good. I wanted to look good for Katherine.

I drove into Charlotte leaving work early that Friday and though I’d never traveled to Charlotte toward Matthews, you wouldn’t know it by the way I navigated the road on that sunny afternoon. I was going to see my girl. I was finally getting to see her. I had missed her so much. I arrived first. She called to tell me she was going to be late -something had come up with Tom again, so I waited in the lobby of the EconoLodge talking with the manager, making small talk. I had waited about forty-five minutes; we were to meet at 5 p.m.

When Katherine pulled up she was wearing her Burberry sunglasses and she’d colored her hair from blonde to brown and she had lost weight. She got out of the car and she was wearing her brown boots, tight jeans, and a white blouse over a black Danskin that showed off her breasts. She had worn the gold hoop earrings and the silver ring with its blue mystic stone I had given her as a Christmas present. She was limping, but she was walking. I was so proud of her. It was so good to see her, to be in her company. I had missed her so much. She was wearing a brown suede jacket I’d never seen before.

“You look great. Nice Jacket,” I kissed her hello and hugged her hard.

“Hi! You are here before me! I’m sorry, baby. It’s so good to see you!”

We paid for two nights and when we got into the hotel room, we hugged and kissed but something wasn’t right. She broke the kiss and I looked at her,

“What? What’s the matter?”

“Look at the door,” she said.

As she rose, I watched her go to the door, trying to turn on a light that wouldn’t turn on. She wiped the door with her index finger and looked at me.

“Jo, it’s dirt! Dirt. Ugh, how disgusting. When was the last time they cleaned this             door?”

At that point I turned down the bed and looked at the sheets, there was a bad looking mattress underneath.

“Babe, no offense, but this doesn’t look too good.”

She said, “What should we do?”

“Let’s go. It’s not worth getting sick. We could get lice here, who knows. They’ll give us our money back.”

“Where should we go?”

“I don’t know. We’ll find somewhere else, don’t worry.”

Katherine was very upset. I went to the manager and asked for a full refund, but he wouldn’t budge. We were there less than 15 minutes and we were forced to pay one night.

Katherine started crying. I took her out of there and we drove ½ mile down the road and booked an adequate room at a Microtel Inn. She was still upset. Come to find she was menstruating heavily and it was obvious she wasn’t feeling well. Who knew if she’d fought with Tom before meeting me? She wasn’t telling me if she had.

We settled in. The motel room was much cleaner and cozier, and I could tell she felt comfortable when she began to unpack and put out her toiletries. I looked around, unpacked myself, and got into some comfortable clothing. It was getting near dinnertime but we held off and began to kiss.

I hadn’t kissed her in two months. She tasted so good to me. We explored each other’s mouths. I went to reach for her waist and her hips, she had lost weight, but she was still full and eager. Her breasts bounced toward me and she let out her bra onto my chest. I was so completely enthralled by her giving and her beauty and the love she held for me. I surrendered becoming completely naked without any props, allowing her to touch me without embarrassment. I had missed her so much and I needed her so badly. I couldn’t contain myself and I moaned, “Kath, I love you so much. I’ve missed you so bad. Baby…”  And we made love and we stroked each other in a way that spoke of sadness for being apart and a freedom for finally being together again. I teared up and she did too.

Sunday morning, before leaving, we made love again and she orgasmed so strong and quick she began to cry and then she began to weep uncontrollably. She said,

“Oh, Jo, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong, I’ve never cried like this            before. I guess everything’s coming out now, it’s been all bottled up inside.”

I held her and kissed her and said, “It’s okay, honey, don’t worry, it’s okay.”

We were friends and we were lovers. I let her know me. This was my end of the road. She would be my last hurrah. This was it. She was my girl. We spoke of marriage that weekend. I trusted her. I could finally be myself. I was home with my girl, my beautiful, Katherine. She had fallen and could now walk. Her divorce papers would be final at the end of March. We were in love, we would be together. There would never be another woman in my life. I told myself, “I’ll never be alone again.”

On Sunday morning we said goodbye at a Bob Evan’s restaurant. I would remember the breakfast Katherine ordered, a raspberry crepe with so much raspberry sauce it could have easily filled two plates, and lots of whipped cream.  She had given me a couple of forkfuls as I ate an egg and bacon sandwich on an English Muffin.

“That’s all you want?” she asked me.

“Yeah, that’s it. Let me taste some of your crepe.” She fed me a forkful.

“Woooh, that’s sweet, baby. Let me have another.”

She smiled, “Have as much as you like.”

“Yum it’s sweet, but it’s good, and hey! Look at that,” I said pulling out my shirt.  The shirt was bleached out as white as could be.

“Oh, aren’t you lucky,” she said. “A drop of that raspberry sauce on that shirt and you’d be screwed.”

Out in the parking lot the sun hit her face and she positioned her sunglasses to her eyes.  “Oh, that sun…hmmn…it feels good.”

“Yeah, it does.  Babe,” I said, “I love you.”

“Oh, Jo…baby, I’ll miss you. It was so good to see you.  I’ll call you tonight, or    just call me from the road.”

“You know I will. We’re meeting again in two weeks, right?”

She shook her head, “Yes! I may be able to drive to Raleigh then!”

I waited until she started her car and watched her drive away.


            On the ride home to Raleigh I didn’t call Katherine, I figured she was sleeping, but I’d made it home pretty quickly. I had slept good with Katherine at Microtel, I had relaxed. We watched some movies in the room, I’d felt comfortable. I couldn’t make love to her hard because her leg was still healing and so my lovemaking, my style, was sweeter and gentler. I knew she’d tire easily and I didn’t want to push her. We embraced in a soft and sweet balance I’d never shown her before, but I knew to go easy. I was so in love and I was so happy driving back because I knew that I would be seeing Katherine, she’d be visiting me, she’d be coming into my home on Mourning Dove and all the visions of her falling would fade away once she walked through my door. It would be like it never happened.

I put in a CD and played it loud, I was singing, I drove back home doing nearly 85 mph, just to call Katherine, to speak with her for our evening phone call.

Fly Away

There’s been a bird, a red-breasted robin, flying into two upstairs windows of my home. At first I didn’t know where the noise was coming from, when dressing I spotted him flying toward the window. I remember a Chinese proverb, something symbolic, or a Confucius saying, that a bird in a home is good luck. Still, several days later, the bird flies toward the glass on mornings when I dress. I’ve given thought that maybe the bird is crazed with bird flu disease, or maybe he’s just stubborn, wanting only to befriend his reflection.

For three weeks straight I drank and smoked, falling into the same exhausted, drunken slumber from the night before. I’d wake up weak and dizzy, drink some morning coffee, and go to work where I was barely recognizable to myself and to others.

Last night I looked up an old phone statement and retrieved a number I hadn’t called since New Years.


“Hi, it’s Jo Battle.  Sorry to call so late.”

Katherine’s mother had sounded the same from our first meeting at the airport.

“It’s fine. How are you, Jo?”

I was nervous calling her now, calling her at all – but I had to find out how Katherine was.

I began, “Elizabeth, I’m hanging in there, but please tell me:  how is Katherine?  Is she okay?”

“Yes,” Elizabeth said with a smile, I could hear her nonchalance through the phone,” she’s fine.”

“Are you sure?” I pressed.

“Yes, yes.  She’s fine.  She not working yet-“

“Well, I don’t care about that,” I interrupted.

“But she’s fine, Jo, really.”

“Elizabeth, I’ve called Katherine so many times, she’s not taking my calls. Where is she? She’s not speaking with me.  She’s not answering the phone. I am worried. That’s why I called you.  Where did she go?”

“She’s fine, she’s just doing her own thing.”

The phone call between Elizabeth and I lasted a little over three minutes.

At 3 a.m. I called Katherine. She didn’t answer. She hadn’t answered the phone in two weeks. I left a four-minute message on her cell. She didn’t call back. I called the house phone, left a message there. I’d lost count the number of times I tried to reach her.  It was now several weeks since March 3rd, well passed our last meeting, and Katherine wasn’t taking my calls. She had stopped texting. Katherine had moved on without a word. She had closed the door and closed it hard in my face in order to move forward with her life.

I dream of  Katherine, sometimes seeing her walk toward me. When this happens I masturbate and use her body, her face and her hands to hold me. Every night is the same. I wake at two or three in the morning, and call Katherine’s name. I pretend to reach for her, stroke her waistline, her hips, touch her hands, and smell her hair.


            Into the month of May I’m wearing shorts. I sweated today, breaking up the ground, trying to get rid of clover, wanting grass instead. I paint, repaint, scrub walls, get out the drill, build, break down – find projects that need attention, I do all these things to forget about Katherine.  Sometimes I can still hear my cat scratch on the doorway wanting to go out, he would have wanted out today; it’s beautiful.

The birds are singing and their songs sound like ‘cheater, cheater, cheater.’  I think of Katherine and hope that the reason she left me was because she needed space or something and not because she cheated on me. I think of her everyday. I miss her more than I’ve ever missed anyone.


            The summer came and I went to Atlanta for a writing contract. It was a hot summer. I rented out a room in a woman’s house – she lived in Decatur, and not too far from where I was working. It was a crime-filled area, and I endured three consecutive car break-ins, a house fire in a nearby house that roared so large it was too hot to sleep in my rented room that night (and I had to stay at a motel), a daily commute on the train while my car was in the shop, and the worst part was losing my house keys when they slipped off the back of a turbo toilet in a restaurant. Atlanta wasn’t looking too good for me. And for some reason my boss did not like my aggressive style. I didn’t like him. I guess my New York attitude was just a bit too much for this part of the genteel south, so I planned to return to Raleigh and chalk it up.

The Meeting

Before the sun leaves to its nighttime horizon it’s a little cool before it goes, but when the moon rises and the wind settles, the night takes on a quiet of its own. It’s here, between the twilight, where I go down.  So on the drive back to Raleigh, I passed Charlotte, turned around, took out a pen and piece of paper, bought a map, and found the hamlet of Matthews, NC.

The driveway was long, she was right about that; the house was huge. This was an affluent neighborhood. Bicycles were in the driveway. I saw the Black Rendevouz. I walked up to the front door, and the doorbell sounded hollow as it rang, one, two and three bells. A young girl answered the door,


“Hi, don’t you remember me? You came to my house only last year, we made smores.”

I was standing on the front porch, “Oh, right.”

“How are you?” I asked.


I began to feel awkward, it was still hot out even though it was nearing October, that’s just how the weather is in the south. And then I hear,

“Who is it?”

I gulped. Oh, this was a bad idea. Here I was unannounced, no warning. I hadn’t seen Katherine in months. What if she called the cops. What if she …

She came to the door.

“Jo, oh my God.”

I didn’t know where to look. I couldn’t look at her. “Please come in,” and she opened the door.

We walked back to the patio, it was just as well because I was warm and wanted some air – even if it was a thousand percent humidity – to smoke. “Do you still smoke?” I said to her. She was wearing shorts, sandals, a simple tank. Her scars were evident, you knew from the length of her scars, and scarred circles where the screws were, that her operation was extensive. She saw me staring.

“It’s pretty bad, huh?”

I didn’t say anything, but veered my eyes to face her. “Katherine, what happened? Where did you go?”

The children were near us, Patrick was precocious, listening, wanting his mother’s attention. “Go in the house, I’m talking! You’ve had me all day. I have a friend here. Go inside!”

We smiled at each other. I continued, not wanting to miss my chance, to hear what I’d been dying to know. “You just left me. You never called me. The last time I saw you was at Bob Evans restaurant. What happened?”

What she told me, she had to tell fast because it was going on 4:30, and she alluded to having company.

“Jo…I’ll just tell you: during the time I was sick, when I broke my leg, after I was operated, they gave me all these painkillers. I was taking so many. I was sleeping the days away. I became addicted.


“Yes. I was addicted – heavily. Oxycodone. Well, one day, night…I can’t recall. I got back on Curve Personals and …” She stopped, like a there was some large stop sign looming over her forehead.

“What…say it! I’ve been waiting all this time without knowing! Say it! Say it!” I was very upset, my heart raced. I held back my tears but I was filled inside with pain as wide as a river. I’m sitting there waiting for the words, and nothing is coming out of her mouth.

I said, “Did you meet someone or not? Is that why you took the chicken way out, just totally forgetting me? Not taking my phone calls? Ignoring me when you told me how much you loved me over and over? Say it!”

‘”Yes! I met someone!” and with that she threw out her left hand to show me the ring.

“Where’s my ring? You took my fucking ring off?” Why I said that, I don’t know. It was a moot point. There was silence. I looked at her, she could not face me.

“Look at me, Katherine. I have to know this: do you love her more than you loved me? Tell me. Tell me and I will go and I will never bother you. But goddamn it. Do you love her more than you SAID to have LOVED ME!”

She looked away, then down, then the tears came, then she started crying. I pulled out a paper towel from underneath a drink of soda and handed it to her.

“Here, blow.”

She took the towel and all she said was, “Jo….I’m sorry.”

After that, there was no reason to stay, there was nothing to talk about or take back. I stood, and quickly got in my car, navigating backwards down the long driveway, never losing sight of her face, watching her wave goodbye, I turned the corner, and made my way up Interstate 40.


At my Mourning Dove home, children in a nearby backyard are learning the alphabet, and you can hear their father recite,  “C. C is for cat,” he says. You say it, “A, B, C” and “C” stands for what?”  “C” stands for Courage” I say under my breath.

The children are playful. Sirens go off in the distance, somewhere, someone is hurting. Other children play with a basketball and yell, “That’s what you get!  Hurry up, man!” And the birds go, ‘woo, woo, woo.’ The twilight begins again.


© Terry Rachel 2011