Tag Archives: Short Fiction

The Two Detentions and The Detainee

4 Sep

The Two Detentions and The Detainee

Up until the age of seven I thought my name was Joseph, as I was named for my mother’s brother, Joseph. I was confused when I was called ‘Jo’ while my uncle was called ‘Joe’ and we’d both answer. I went to Catholic grammar school and high-tailed it out of there as soon as I could, being teased “Joseph Battleaxe” was no fun. With my scholastic performance a marginal C, I inched my way into being a terror in school; it was the only way I could find even an ounce of popularity.

I got into trouble in class one day–one of many, but the detention handed down this time was different. On a Saturday morning I was sent to the nun’s rectory at Saint Martha’s for make-up homework. In a basement that was dark and dusky, I sat scribbling the words “I will not throw erasers in science class” five hundred times underneath a clothesline where the nun’s bloomers hung overhead to dry. Underneath casement windows, I spied eight washing machines and, putting my homework aside because I wrote fast, turned on the washers to their full cycle. As each washer filled, I jumped in and out of each one, in series, until I reached the last washer, causing the overhead fluorescent lights to blow out.

When Sister Mary Ethel came into the basement to examine my detention homework, the washers were still going; my eyes bulged seeing a puddle form its way around to where she was standing. Reviewing my homework, her habit down to her ankles (where I couldn’t see her legs) I tried looking into her eyes, to show her my earnestness in coming to detention on Saturday as instructed, but she only said, “go home.”

Walking ten blocks, as I did most mornings and afternoons, rounding the familiar yards of my neighbors, saying hello to George, the Border Collie, and Mrs.Wassick watering her rose bushes, I fumbled with the lock, and no sooner had I stepped between the storm door and landing, my mother was there, standing in a house dress wearing a mopina (Italian slang for a rag that picks up everything) over her shoulder, scolding me, “Josephine  Porcello!” for creating a flood in the basement of Saint Martha’s rectory.

The following Monday I had to return to school and I was very nervous. My mother gave me an envelope, “Bring this to the principal and wait for her. Do not open the envelope.”  I always took my tuition to the principal’s office, but since the dictate came that I shouldn’t look in the envelope, I did exactly the opposite of what I was told. But inside wasn’t the tuition – there was a check – but it was not what I expected; inside there was a note that read,

Dear Mother Victoria,

We feel terrible about the mess our daughter Jo made, so please consider this check for $75.00 for reimbursement for the damage to the basement. Please let us know if any of the washers are in need of repair. Please speak with my daughter Jo. She needs to personally apologize.

Please call us at home if you need. (532) 433-0743

Sincerely Yours,

Mary & Mike Porcello

I didn’t know how I was going to bring this to the principal. In fact I was thinking of ways of not bringing it to the principal. But I also knew my mother was meticulous with her checking account and she would sooner – rather than later – notice the missing check. I had to eat it. I had to go. I had to face Mother Victoria.

I was in luck when I saw the secretary to the principal, Mrs. Poirot. She had a lot of lipstick on her teeth. I left the envelope with Mrs. Poirot and told her it’s the quarterly tuition and off to class I went.  It was a slick move, licking back that envelope, making it seem like it had never been open.  I’d face the consequences for that one later, that I was sure of.

All my classmates found my folly to be quite a laugh. The rumor going around now was that Jo Porcello destroyed the nun’s rectory by blowing out all the washing machines. I couldn’t tell them that they were bending the truth, and by Grade 8, I’d be voted Class Clown.  It felt good to be popular even if was in a warped sorta way.

That afternoon, when I got home from school, my mother said, “Did you see the principal? Did you give her the envelope?”  It’s very hard to lie to my mother. She watches me like a hawk. I’m scared to death of her sometimes. I’m scared because she’s so damn honest about everything. She prides herself on her honesty and she has instilled this in me, in her presence I find I often fall from grace to walk the straight and narrow.

But I tell her, “I left the envelope with Mrs. Poirot, her secretary. She wasn’t in!” I’m feeling indignant and I don’t know why.

“What do you mean? Why didn’t you wait for her? Did you look in the envelope?” My mother has black eyes, she’s thin, she’s tall, and she has a loud voice.

“She wasn’t there.”

“Did you look in the envelope?” I stall. I don’t know what to say. I want to leave the house, run. Run off. I’m searching for time, a way out. “Jo, answer me.”

I have a heavy weight on my shoulders, it’s hard to breath, I look to my dog, my Schnauzer, she’s not really that friendly,  “Mom, I’m sorry-”

“You’re costing us a fortune!”

“I’m sorry you had to pay the rectory, Mom.”

“I don’t want you to lie! I didn’t bring you up to lie! You should have stayed and apologized to Mother Victoria!”

It would be the punishment of a lifetime; it would be another way to detain me. I wished I was better in school.

“You’re going to work it off starting right now. Take all the clothes out of the wash and press all the shirts and underwear. And you’ll do this again, and again for the next month. I want you to strip all the beds, and change the sheets – and that includes your brother’s rooms, too!”

I couldn’t figure out why, at eleven years old, I was saddled with housework as a punishment, but I was. She was dead serious, too. I would be chained to both the house and school and that was it.

I’m running up the stairs, and her orders fade with my hurried steps, but she continues, “Don’t forget the vacuum!”

Oh, my God, I’m thinking, as I swing a large, heavy white Oxford shirt over the ironing board, watching the steam from the iron, as I lay the triangle of heat to my father’s cuffs, and around the buttons, and inside and then outside, and then button it up and hang it, and then start with the next shirt, and then the next, Oh, my God.

I’m into my third day of housework and homework, when a knock comes to the door. It’s Elaine, my best friend, she wants to go out, she wants to take a walk to get an egg nog at the local candy store, and pick up Sixteen magazine and, “I can’t” I tell her. And she asks, “Why not?” and I tell her that, “I was in trouble in school and I flooded the nun’s rectory and then I didn’t apologize, and I opened up an envelope when it was supposed to be private.”

I return to ironing, under my breath, resenting my mother’s orders; she’s so harsh,  “I wish I were back at the Rectory in Saint Martha’s.” I say aloud, loud enough to hear.

And then I hear my mother yell from the basement kitchen, “That can be arranged!”

My father is home from work. He is tired as he is most days; he has the hook from the cargo he lifts day in and day out, as he works in the hold of the ship. He is a longshoreman. He travels from Long Island to Brooklyn every day and he spends a lot of time in traffic. My mother always makes him supper. She makes his lunch so that he eats a warm lunch, too. She fills the thermos with hot soup.

He says to me as he sees me ironing, he notices the pile I’ve already ironed, “You got yourself into a lot of trouble this time, Jo.”

I pout. I love my dad so much (I love my mother, too, but it’s different). Unlike my mother who is so strict, my father is gentle and kind. “Dad, please get me out of this. Mommy’s working me to death. I don’t want to iron anymore.”

“Your brothers are enjoying this.”

I don’t hesitant to let him know how I’ve been working and no doubt stretch the truth just for impact. “I wish I could actually work and then I could pay for the damage to the rectory myself!”

“Well, you’re too young to go to work. You’re being punished and you have to take your punishment.”

I pout quite strongly over this and say, “There must be some other way.”

My father laughs, and goes into their bedroom. I follow him, as I watch him take out change from his work pants, placing it on his dresser, then his wallet next to the change; he leaves his wallet out so we can take a few bucks from it. He knows he’ll get it back empty. My brothers and I think it’s silly that he leaves out his wallet, because we all dip, but I think he does it for a reason.

I plead, “What can I do, dad? I don’t want to iron, vacuum, dust, and make beds, for a month! I can’t! I will die!”

“Ssssh, relax, Jo. How many days has it been?”

“I’m going into my fourth day.”

He smiles at me, my father with hazel eyes, a warm smile, his hands cup my face when he says, “Let’s go see Mother Victoria together. You and me.”

“No way, dad, no way.” I stamp my feet over this one and sit on their bed with arms crossed.

“It’s up to you. But you’d be better off facing the principal and apologizing. You can’t live your life under a rock, Jo. You have to own up to the mistakes you make.”

I yell back, “I am owning up! It’s September and it’s still warm! My track team is starting and I can’t even go to practice!”

My father responds to this not by yelling, but by watching me rattle off a self-pitying tirade. And when I was through, he sits on the bed next to me and unlaces  his boots. He squares my shoulders to face him. “You have to have an alternate plan. If I were you, I’d apologize to the principal, and I guarantee you your mother will ease up on you.”

I choke back, I want to cry, but I don’t, “Dad-“

“Jo, you need to face the errors of your ways. The sooner you do that, the sooner you can be free.”

I had rehearsed the lines I was going to say to Mother Victoria, gosh, it must have been a hundred times, talking into the mirror, I apologize, Mother Victoria, I feel so ashamed, please forgive me, I am so very, very sorry. And when I finally sat in front of her, a large woman, her white face against the border of her habit was a perfect fit from flesh to fabric, I wasn’t so petrified. She told me that I should go to confession and tell my sins to God, that I would be redeemed.  “Go to the House of the Lord and Honor Thy Lord.”


It’s been several years since those days, those days that seemed so hard, so tough, days I thought I’d never get through. We learn our most important lessons when we are young, and we take away those lessons to  make us into the men and women we are today. When I couldn’t find the answer, I would search deep within myself, relying on the values that were ingrained in me. These values of honesty, integrity of character, diligence and responsibility, all that I have learned, all that I take away, there is one lesson I learned as being the most important of all: respect for another person’s property.

Now I lay me down to sleep – without guilt.

© Terry Rachel, 2011

Grand Slam Pam II

28 Aug

Grand Slam Pam II

“Are you okay?”

A simple question like this doesn’t always yield a simple, sweet answer.  Jo was afraid of asking this of Pam. She didn’t want to hear bad news coming so early, she didn’t want to know if Pam’s life had turned upside down. Jo had recently left a sour relationship herself having simply walked away. There was no drama, no unkind words; in fact when Jo left her lover of only 6 months, the morning she left, she washed their bedding, cleaned the kitchen, packed up all her things, arranged the furniture the way it was, and left a note on the kitchen table,

 This isn’t working anymore. I gave it a try, it didn’t work out. Be safe, be happy.   Thank you for coming into my life for a while. I will miss the kids.



When Jo left she didn’t know where to go, but she left and drove 100 miles south, away from her lover. After she landed she never called the girl and decided to lose complete contact.

Not today, not now with Pam, not with most lesbians. Lesbians love drama, it’s their whole life. They don’t know the rules of breaking up, they haven’t a clue. They become spiteful, aggressive, and petty. They carry a grudge for months on end, maybe years. This was Jo’s thinking when she asked Pam again,

“Are you okay?”

Pam wasn’t okay, in fact, things were worse than Jo expected.

“I had a huge fight with Kasey, she allowed her dog to go after my dog – my little dog, my Shih tzu, he’s 12 years old, and he’s blind, for goodness sake! How could she not stop him?”

Jo was in the kitchen, barely awake,  making coffee. She loved a first cup in the morning.  The clock on the microwave said 8:30, that meant Pam’s time was 5:30.

“What are you doing up so early?” Jo asked.

“I told you. The roti attacked my dog.”

Jo, always one to draw lines right to the point, “Is he dead?”

“Well, no, he’s not, but that’s not the point…”

Pam was reticent to pick up until she felt indulged enough by Jo’s sometimes tart tongue. But Pam knew, too, that Jo was a fair listener, an empathetic ear.

“I am bringing him to the vet today, and Kasey won’t even come with me. Plus, she wouldn’t even recommend a vet!”

Being from different coasts was a disadvantage in more than one way: the thought process of these two women was wildly different. While Pam, always polite, trying to see all sides, had a very balanced tone where excitement and anger sounded the same, so Jo couldn’t tell if Pam was upset or not, and this underpinning of lady-like decorum infuriated Jo’s sense of urgency like a school bell.

“Pam, I don’t understand: what happened? Your dog got attacked by Kasey’s dog and – the dog isn’t dead?”

Pam knew she had touched on Jo’s short patience, “Jo, that’s correct. The dog was attacked-”

“How?” snapped, Jo.

“Well, the dog is blind; he’s 12 years old-”

“Yes, you said that. I heard that. How was your dog attacked?”

“My dog bumped into Kasey’s dog while she was eating and I…I…guess the dog thought my dog was going after his food…I don’t know…but I think my dog broke its jaw.”

“Jesus, Pam! Are you fucking kidding me?”

“I am not kidding you. I wish I were.”

“So what are you gonna’ do?”

“I’m looking for a vet, I found a vet. Kasey didn’t. She didn’t help me at all.”

Pam sighed a heavy breath and then began to cry, “She…refuses to help…I don’t know why…my poor dog…he’s so small, he can’t see…he didn’t want his food…he probably was going into the kitchen for his water…”

Pam’s crying quieted Jo as it always does when a woman cries because crying goes to the core of Jo’s soft spot. Jo let Pam cry, and when Pam was ready, Jo would offer good, fighting advice for Pam.

“Hold on, I need to get a tissue.”

When Pam got back on the line, she said to Jo, “I’m so sorry to call you so early. I just didn’t know what to do-”

“Pam, you call the vet and get an appointment right away. Fuck Kasey. Get your dog to the vet. You can’t worry about Kasey’s feelings or her dog or anything else. You have to get your dog to the vet. Make an emergency appointment right now. Okay?”

“Yes, well, I found a couple of vets, it’s just that it’s so early here-”

“That’s why it’s an emergency, Pam. Your dog is probably in pain. Get him to the vet. He needs to get to a vet. ”

“All right, Jo, I will. I’ll let you know. I feel so bad for him, he’s so afraid of being here…he’s so new to the place. He was just trying to find his way around here.”

Jo had been difficult with Pam and she knew why: she was confounded by women who get serious so fast, putting stock in people they barely know.


Pam’s dog would be okay, but he’d never be the same. This attack was just the first of things that would go undone for Pam.

During the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Kasey’s mother died and this upset her so much she took it out on Pam. She cursed Pam, violating her by verbally abusing her, saying mean and hurtful things to cause Pam to hideaway in her room (Pam and Kasey were no longer sleeping together). Pam would go to her room to cry and wonder how was it that her life became so upset and so unsatisfied. When she tried to comfort Kasey, sensitive to the loss of Kasey’s mother, she pushed Pam away, blaming their relationship for taking her away from her mother, that if she hadn’t gotten involved with Pam, she could have concentrated on the seriousness of her mother’s illness.

Pam and Jo spoke regularly during this time and Jo comforted Pam where she could, but it was the week before Valentine’s Day when the news Pam reeled was more than Jo expected.

“Kasey threatened to kill me if I don’t move within two weeks, Jo. She actually threatened to kill me! I’m fearing for my life, Jo!”

There was silence on the phone as Jo sat, shaking her head, looking out to a backyard filled with snow, a twilight evening, a simple Tuesday, nothing out of the ordinary; bird feeders in the distance were empty. Her dog nuzzled her nose to her lap, and Jo looked down and patted her coat.  She had pinned so much hope on Pam’s relationship, hoping that she, too, would one day find the love of her life, like Pam had found. Jo’s mind was filled with sadness.

Pam said, “Jo? You there?”

“Yes, I’m here, Pam.”

“Did you hear what I said? Why are you so quiet? Can you hear me?”

“What are you going to do,” Jo said, exasperated by the news.

A heavy sigh from Pam, “I have to move. I’m going to move while Kasey’s at work and I will. I already called two guys from Craig’s List. They’re coming tomorrow.”

“Wow!” Jo said, in support of her friend, “You’re moving fast!”

“I have to. I’m getting out of here. Kasey is crazy. Her dog is crazy. Look what I did for her? I moved here, left my job, my house – I did everything for her. I wanted to build my life with this woman. She promised me so much! What a fool I was. And you were right…”

Jo wasn’t used to hearing when people necessarily agreed to her opinion because her opinion was usually unpopular. “What did I do?”

Pam started laughing, “Jo, I will rise from this. Like the Phoenix from the ashes. I will rise from this and I will never, ever get myself into this situation ever again. I was so foolish – and I was fooled, but I’ll never let anyone do this to me again.”


By August 2011, Pam had returned to Vancouver and was working part-time at a local animal shelter, she would sometimes foster a dog for adoption.  She had set up a really sweet apartment for her and her cat, (her dog had passed from injuries endured from the attack).  And though many of her furnishings were still in storage, 300 miles away, and she couldn’t afford to get them out just yet, Pam was slowly building a new life.  “You know,” she said, having come from the tarot card reader she had seen before she left to live with Kasey,

“She started the session by telling me that I am shrouded in grief right now. I’ve lost so much over the past year. She told me that all my life I have always been the care giver. She said that I left my home and security because I believed that I had found someone who wanted to take care of me…SO effing true.”

Jo went to a tarot session once and had attended a séance; she often got a little more than intrigued when listening to things supernatural. “Wow! How long was the session?”

“Then she said, “But when you got there, you found out that it wasn’t the truth.” She told me that Kasey wanted me to be the caregiver and that she used me financially. She called her a “shark” and a “predator”.  The session was just over an hour.  It was wonderful.”

“Did she say what the future holds?”

“Well, she said it was really important to get out into the world.  She was pulling cards the whole time she was talking. These weren’t Tarot cards, I’m not really sure what she was using. Anyway, each card she pulled had some incredible connection to whatever we were talking about. As an example, I asked if my little dog passed over quickly to the other side. She reached down and pulled a card and it said “Swiftly.”

“Listen,” she tells Jo, “You are never going to believe where I’m headed to? I’m going with a friend!”

It was good to hear happiness in Pam’s voice. “Where?!” said Jo, happy for her friend.

“Oh, I’ve got to tell you this. First, I want to say ‘thank you’ you helped me so much through this time, Jo.  I have a new life and even though I’m not all there yet, I will be.  A new life, a new beginning and I deserve it, Jo. I deserve it. I rose out of the ashes and I will never let anyone bring me down again. I’ll never believe in an empty promise, and I’ll never believe anyone as quickly as I believed in Kasey. If someone wants to come into my life they will have to prove to me they’re worth it. ”

Jo sat listening, happy for her friend’s news. “You’ve come a full 180, Pam.”

Pam shrieked, “I’m meeting my son and daughter downtown for lunch and then, then, we’re going to pick up my new dog! I found him on a farm out near my mother’s house, he’s 8 weeks old. I’m getting another dog! Isn’t that great news?!”

It was the best news. “What kind of dog?” asked, Jo.

“Don’t you know?! He’s a Shih Tzu and I’m naming him, ready for this? ‘Phoenix’!”

The End

© Terry Rachel, 2011

Grand Slam Pam

18 Aug

Grand Slam Pam

When I met Pam she was working as a mortgage officer with a well-known bank in Vancouver, Washington, a beautiful area in the northwestern territory of the United States where the majestic Columbia River runs along the banks of carefully placed high rises and corporate offices. Nearer to the Columbia Basin, Pam had an office high enough to view the rapidly changing currents of the river. Having an office overlooking the river was something Pam never seemed to take for granted because it came with her planning. When we spoke by phone, usually on her lunch hour, she’d interrupt our conversation with, “Oh, Jo, I can see a great heron from here! He’s beautiful! I think he’s caught a fish!” That’s how good a view it was that Pam could watch blue heron dive for salmon and trout.

Pam had been working for the bank seven years and had come up through the ranks, starting first as a teller and with her sunny good looks and smart, facile tongue, she had a good head for numbers and she went on from one promotion to the next until she became a mortgage officer. Known for her ability to see a job through, and with her connections, she could move paperwork where no one else could. To arrive at this stage in the banking and loan industry was a coup of sorts, and though it may have come with a bit of cunning, her meteoric rise to break the glass ceiling was, nonetheless, a carefully planned move – not an exercise in complacency, but rather a bold move by a bold and confident woman who wasn’t afraid to go after what she wanted.

“This is what a woman has to do,” she told me after her excitement over the blue heron, “I work this hard for my kids, because no one is going to raise them but me.”

Pam had two children, a boy and girl, both in college. The children were self-sufficient and were working part-time jobs to help pay their tuition, but Pam often helped by sending checks to help with incidentals. She seemed to have it together: great job, healthy life attitude, good health, good children, a life that was well-balanced, and she seemed, overall, very happy.  If she did complain the complaint was minimal and she’d quickly move onto the next topic.  A considerate and thoughtful woman, she was mindful of taking up too much of a conversation, stopping to ask, “So, enough about me, tell me girl: what have you been up to?” Underneath that savvy, smart businesswoman exterior was a woman who yearned for a simpler life, one out of the corporate world. “Well, what is it?” I asked her one day, she had just come from a tarot card reading.

“I went into a metaphysical store that has just opened in Vancouver. I heard about her, this woman, there. I was just leaving when a very beautiful woman approached me and took my hands in hers. I didn’t know who she was. She looked into my eyes and said I think you need a reading. I found out she was the psychic I had been hearing about. But she didn’t know I was asking about her.”

“Wow, hmmmn. Amazing.”

“Well, I thought so anyway. She said I don’t belong in corporate America (I knew that about myself).”

“Where do you belong?”

“When I brought up the idea of the pet shelter, she thought I meant just volunteering. The next card she pulled was a card that said “Destiny.” Then she pulled the next card and it was a picture of a half-human, half-lion and it said “Power.”

“Hmmn. so, that’s where you got the idea? You don’t belong in the corporate world?”

“I hate the rat race and the petty competition. I always have. I feel like I’m supposed to be doing something bigger that benefits people. Every time I take a job making good money (working in a corporation) I feel like I’m just doing it for the money…I feel…like a prostitute. But I have never felt that it was my purpose. I have had the idea of a pet shelter for the past couple of years. It was just something I thought I might want to do someday…later.  I’m good at what I do and this is my job for now because I need the money and the benefits. But I need to be working towards my other goal at the same time.”

As fortune would have it, realizing her world was incomplete, on one particularly stressful day, feeling the walls of loneliness closing in, Pam had gotten onto a local dating site where she began an exchange of love letters with a woman from Seattle. She would later tell everyone – including her boss – she had met “the love of her life” and that it was time for a change. Soon after that, everything that Pam built for herself, everything she had worked for, was pushed aside in order for Kasey to place first in Pam’s life.


Kasey Fairfeather was a tribeswoman, seated on the counsel of tribesmen in the Suquamish tribe of the Pacific Northwest. This tribe also approves of same-sex marriage, and so when Pam told me how high an honor it was for Kasey to be on the counsel, I was surprised, having little knowledge about tribal customs. In addition to this rank and privilege, Kasey held an RN degree from the University of Washington, and had a nice home twenty minutes from where she worked as a second-shift nurse at Northwest Hospital and Medical Center.

Pam became quickly involved with Kasey and in February of 2010 began to unravel her life – she had left her Vancouver home – doing a short sale to unload it as quickly as possible, she left her Vancouver job at the bank (and the view), and told her children she was moving to Seattle. By June of 2010, Pam and Kasey, only knowing each other four months, were living together in Kasey’s home in Seattle. Pam and I spoke infrequently during this time, and I let it be, giving her the latitude to develop her relationship, I figured she’d call when she could.

In July, she called wishing me a happy birthday and during that exchange she told me how happy she was with Kasey, how leaving her job and moving and being free of her home in Vancouver was the, “absolute best decision” she had made. I was surprised and saddened, leery of the situation happening so quickly and said, “You don’t even know her that long, Pam.”

“Jo, but I do! We are like glove-in-hand, it’s a fit. We know each other instinctively. She is the one I’ve been searching for all my life.”

They say that good news sleeps late and bad news calls early, so when the phone rang early the day after Thanksgiving, I knew it couldn’t be good.  “Hello?” I answered cautiously. I picked up to hear Pam’s sobbing voice into the phone.

To be continued.

© Terry Rachel, 2011

The Little Black “Dress” Secret

12 Aug

Don’t ask me how it came to be that my paternal grandfather married a woman who was half-black, but after several inquiries I found out the truth an hour before leaving her door.


My grandmother was a polished gal in spite of the meager wages she earned as a seamstress, later working in Hell’s Kitchen in the twenties and thirties, she arrived in Ellis Island at twenty-one as a freshly married couple to grandpa. They both spoke “broken English” when the newly-wedded, Viola and Vincente Battaglia arrived, savings in hand of $290.15 in 1910 would be roughly $6,400 dollars by today’s standards. Not a bad start, not a whole lot of money, but a start. And they both had a trade: she worked with fabric, sewing clothing, a hemline so perfect, she was appointed head seamstress when they found her work so right in every way; grandpa worked with leather, cutting shoes, gloves, briefcases, sewn together, stitched right and right in a row, and right in a row came two boys: one in 1914, my uncle Frank, and the other, in 1915, my father, Victor.

By now you know the story about the immigrants. They brought their trades. The Irish, German, the Jews, Italians, Poles and so many others, brought their cultural jewels to America, where they worked with their crafts to help build rails, tunnels, bridges – New York’s subways – the factories that pumped smoke to build steel and textiles, and the Erie Canal built to transport goods along the Hudson artery, and so forth. You know the story, it was taught to us at an early age. This is a part of our culture and history. But there’s another part of history that wasn’t taught in grade school: that is Sicily, being geographically close to Tunisia in northern Africa where the Atlantic slave trade in the 1800′s was alive and well, where slaves were shipped through the island of Sicily through the port cities of Agrigento, Marsala and Trapani – this last one being where my great-grandmother was born – were Italian girls who were cohabitating with the guys who were a little darker than them – a little miscegenation, brought my great-grandmother into a bit of a dilemma, pregnant now at 16 with her first child, would turn out to be Viola, my grandmother who was born in 1894.

The official end of slavery came in 1863, but like our current law-breaking, running drugs, for example, my suspicion leads me to think that despite the Emancipation Proclamation, the Atlantic slave trade was still going on several years later.


I was always closer to my father’s mother. She taught me how to write a letter, how to hold a fork, “switch hands when cutting your food,” how to set a table, “use the good linen for company,” how to hail a cab. “if you’re going uptown you wait on the uptown side,”  and when I was young,  showing off my piss and vinegar telling her, “fuck, grandma, leave me alone,” that came out expectantly, she put me right back in line, by getting up and throwing off her apron, taking me by the ear and into the bathroom where she washed out her dainties, pushing a large bar of soap – washing soap – the kind that you used a scrub-board on, shoving it down my mouth until bubbles starting forming.  I never cursed at her again and, in some way, every time I curse now, I think of grandma, always afraid she’s going to come out of the kitchen, stampeding my way.

She died in 1983 in between the death of my parents (1981 and 1984) and I went to see her at the nursing home.

“Grandma, I got a question for you.”

“Are you studying in school? I want you to stay in school,” she waved her fan; it was a hot July afternoon. “Where’s my ginger ale?”

I hand her her soda, “Do you want some ice?”

“That would be nice.”

I step into the hall, green like a mint sprig, I see white gowns, stretchers, the smell of urine sickens me and makes me tighten my lips, “Excuse me,” I say to a white dress, she’s pertinent, as if she knows the question will have to lead her always to a knowledgeable answer, “Yes?” she snaps and puts me at attention.

“Uhm,” I stagger, not expecting such a quick response, “do …do you know where I can find some ice?”

“I’ll get you some. Who are you seeing?”

“Oh, thank you. My grandmother.”

“Ah, you must be ….you’re Viola’s granddaughter?”

“Yes, yes, I am.”

Her glasses sit at the bridge of her nose, and I notice her white stockings match her white shoes, and I could tell she polishes her shoes. She says, “Very nice. You look like her. I’ll bring some in, hold tight.”

“Thanks, yes,” I say, “it’s a little warm. Her ginger ale is warm.”

Back in the room, “Theresa, put the fan over there and come over here, I want to talk to you.”

In my family they don’t talk with you, they talk to you – and there is a big difference.

“Sit down next to me,” she pats the bed, I obediently sit next to her, in my twenty-seventh year, I’m at the height of my annoying and bombastic self.  ”You miss your father?” she strokes my hair, “I know you do. And your mother is sick, and you know I’m dying-”

“Grandma. Come on, please…you can’t die. They don’t want you in heaven anyway,” I tell her this with a smirk.

“I sure am, you little stinker – you’re just like your father – they’ll make way for me. You’re the one who should be worried.”

“Here’s your ice!” The nurse marches in with precise steps, “Viola! How are you doing today, sweetheart?” She notices grandma’s pillow, “Sit up and let me fluff this for you.”

“Thank you for the ice,” I say, grateful for her timely interruption.

“Oh, it’s no problem. It’s hot out!” She goes to the only window in the room and adjusts the blinds, she sends back a look to grandma, “Is that better?” gauging the level of light so it doesn’t get in the way of grandma’s sensitive eyes.

“Yes, yes, thank you, Rose,” she says to the nurse; they’re on a first-name basis, ‘Hmmn, grandma’s been here only four months, but look how fast you can become familiar.’

“Rose! Take a look at my granddaughter!”

“We met outside,” Rose says.

“Isn’t she a beauty?”

“She looks like you, Viola.” And with this Rose says, “You want the door opened or closed?”

“Leave it open,” says grandma, “They can’t hear in here anyway.”

“Grandma, I have to be going soon, I’m in downstairs metered parking.”

She gets the urgency, “I want to tell you something before I leave and before you go, you ready?”

I crane my cocky head, “What?”

“You’re such a snotty bitch, but I love you. That’s gonna’ get you far -”

“Is that what you want to tell me? What are you talking about, grandma – gawwwwd.” I drone on.

“Theresa, you don’t understand something – but you need to know. Your father is dead – my son, I buried. Your mother is sick. I won’t be there for you… You’re going to have to be strong.”

I roll my eyes, no one has to tell me the pain I’m in, or maybe they do, or maybe I just hide from the pain, but I know she can see it and it angers me. “I got a question for you, something I’ve always been dying to know. Can I ask you a question?”

“What is it?” She looks to me with full, brown eyes, her eyes are soft and soulful, her wide mouth full, she still has all her own teeth, her hair and abundance of white curl. “Ask! What is it?”

“There was some rumor, a long time ago, grandma, and me, I always wanted to know.”

“Theresa, just ask. If I can’t answer I’ll let you know. I didn’t bring you up to be afraid of anything. If you want a favor there’s a 50/50 chance I can do it. If it’s money I don’t have any to give.”

“Grandma, it’s not money. I make my own money.”

“Are you in school? Did you drop out? All right. Never mind, what was it?”

I let out a sigh, and then bleed all over, “Grandma, are you half-black? Are you? Because mommy used to talk about it with daddy and all the aunts on mommy’s side wondered and I used to stick up for you. And then my brothers – all of them – Sal, Victor and even Thomas, they said you were, but I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe it because that would make me black, too.”

She knitted her eyebrows and looked at me curiously, “Come here,” and she opened up her arms, where I went immediately to rest my head on her bosom, she smelled so good. As she rocked me, she said, “I am half-black, but it was a relation my young mother had so long ago. And I was ridiculed for years for it. But I endured the looks and the rumors and the talk….for so, so long. Now I don’t care. I haven’t cared…must be, well, right around 50 years old. I didn’t give a damn what they had to say.”

I wiped my eyes, and blew into a tissue; I bit my bottom lip and asked, “Did you ever tell anyone?”

She grabbed me again, this time grabbing only my cheek, taking the tissue out of my hand, she wiped my eyes, and brushed back my hair, “I would tell anyone if they asked, but they never asked!”

“Then why did you tell me?”

She didn’t hesitate, “Because you asked! You’re a little snotty bitch, and that’s gonna’ take you far.”

“I don’t know what you mean, grandma. I really don’t.”

It was time to go, I kissed grandma softly on the head and put her ginger ale near her nightstand, she said, “it wasn’t a secret, it was just never spoken about it. But you…you….I knew one day you were going to ask me.”

I smiled at her, “I have to go, grandma. I love you.”

She kissed me on the cheek, “I love you. And remember -”  I was standing in between the hallway and her room, when she called out the last words she ever spoke to me,  as if my brother Thomas the hairdresser could hear,“when I die, remember! I want Thomas to do my hair!”

I rolled my eyes at her and ran down the hall, not waiting for the elevator, I took the steps, taking them two at a time, I ran out the building and looked up to my grandma’s window, seeing the flowers I had given her were moved to the window ledge.

© of Terry Rachel, 2011

Who Are You Anyway?

6 Aug

Who Are You Anyway?

She chooses quotes for her Facebook page of Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Washington, Buddha, Dalai Lama, Kahlil Gibran and  (Rumi –  born so long ago – 8th Century – in a country that no longer exists – Persia), to realize worthwhile things, to understand the world, to feel connected, to appear tolerant.


Michele Bangelo walks to her car, she is unhappy, fighting back tears. Her lover didn’t show up at Starbucks at the mall.  Though Michele’s lover, Babe Dye, has a good reason for not showing, Michele, will not want to hear “another excuse.” Babe will get stuck at school, where she works as a jobs coach for developmentally challenged teens trying to land their first jobs, and Babe had a trying time with a particularly difficult kid that afternoon when she was to meet Michele.

But as she’s been hung up before by Babe, Michele will act out the way she was taught by her mother: she will not pick up the phone to call Babe. She will be spiteful and stay silent, punishing Babe by ignoring her in every possible way. And when she’s good and ready, and when Babe gets sorry enough, only then will Michele let her back in.  This, of course, leaves Michele with the upper hand, just like she was taught, just as she had witnessed how her mother would treat her when she was out of line, or when she didn’t do something her mother liked, and in this presence of mind, she will carry out how she will conduct all her past, present, and future relationships.


Wendy Van Glow is recently broken up from Maria Losintres. Maria didn’t want to break up with Wendy, and the first year of their involvement was amazing: they did everything together, they were inseparable. This was it:  they would define their relationship as “soulmates.” But something happened the second year, something unexpected, and Maria Losintres began to see Wendy in a different light.

Wendy had resented Maria because she viewed Maria’s life in comparison to her own, and she realized what a loser she was after all. Maria had had surpassed her educationally, graduating with a Masters degree in Physical Therapy and within two years of graduation, opened up her own practice where she would build her staff to 18 others with a very large clientele. Maria was enormously successful, but it didn’t hamper the very sound lessons she learned early on.

Maria was just like her father: soft-spoken, a resilient man who took the verbal abuse from his wife. Whenever a fight ensued between Maria’s father and Maria’s mother, Maria hid in her room, feeling despair for her father who she loved most, she would put her hands to her ears to cover the hurtful words her mother slung like arrows over innocuous situations.  “Idiot! You forgot the toaster was on!!”  “Moron! I told you to paint the trim first!!” and “Jerk! flush the toilet!”

So Maria found Wendy on Match dot com, a divorced mother of three, who now wanted to explore her lesbian side and come out at forty-two.  It worked that first year, but the second year Wendy began to lose patience with Maria’s steady-as-you-go demeanor. Whereas Wendy, a little bit on the wild side, and a lover of a good happy hour, was inclined to ditch the kids, and head out for drinks early, calling Maria while Maria was still at work, sometimes interrupting Maria’s client’s physical therapy sessions, would enjoy unraveling Maria bit by bit.

And so the second year Wendy showed Maria just how it had to be: “You’re a fool to think that way,” she told Maria when Maria said, “I’m not buying a house with you yet until you behave.” And with this sound logic Wendy became worse with the sourness she felt down inside of her, “Fuck you, Maria, who the fuck do you think you are? You don’t tell me what to do, bitch, I do what I want. I don’t need you, and my kids don’t need you. With your cars, and your fancy practice. Fuck you. You have nothing over me.”

And Maria, so hurt, so hung by the delivery of these words, says humbly, “I love you, I give you so much. I give to your children, I give to you. Everything you ask for, I buy. I pay the bills here, and I give you money. All I am saying is please: don’t call the office several times a day to bother me at work.”

Wendy doesn’t see Maria’s  earnestness, “Oh, Maria, you know what? You told me when we got involved you would be there for me. Everything was going to be perfect. So excuse me. Excuse me that I call my girlfriend. Excuse fucking me.”

“You call when you’re drunk, Wendy. That’s when you call. You call to ask me for more money so you can drink. And when you drink you become like this.”

Their relationship will last another five months, through Christmas, ending right before Valentine’s Day.


Jeremy Leary has been with his partner, Rocky Lee, for nearly fourteen years. In September, they will head to New York to be married. Jeremy is a tall, slender man  in his thirties, while Rocky, ten years older, is almost better looking than Jeremy, with his square jaw, perfect hair, the color of wheat, and his eyes that shine brilliantly blue when he’s engaged in conversation, Jeremy is wrapped in his partner’s charm, and Rocky knows just how to play him, teasing Jeremy when he stands, Rocky pushes his ass  into Jeremy’s crotch.

Today is a good day to Rocky’s way of thinking, a perfect excuse with friends coming by, Jeremy will not say a word to Rocky about his drinking, heaven-sent,  so  Rocky can drink to his heart’s content without  a complaint from Jeremy.

They often argue about money, “Why can’t you just cut back to once a week,” Jeremy pleads to Rocky, “if you just kept it to Saturdays, I wouldn’t care. But you drink every night, Rocky, and it’s costing us a fortune.”

Rocky shrugs  off these accusations.  It’s his money, he works, too. After all, a man should have some vices, and Rocky works longs hours to indulge his vices of cigarettes and six-packs every night. “That adds up. Rocky,” Jeremy continues with the nudge, hoping to make Rocky see the damage he’s doing to his body, while at the same time calculating the numbers, “It’s nearly four-hundred dollars, four-hundred!  A month! That’s how much you spend in cigarettes and beer. With that money saved every month we could go to Hawaii. You like Hawaii. Think about it, Rocky.”

“Well, I’ll just drink in Hawaii, too. Jeremy, please.”

They dance around the real issue:  While all his friends and family can see it, Rocky and Jeremy never talk about Rocky’s drinking problem.

Jeremy was visited by his friend Areena, a Russian-speaking woman who befriended Jeremy at work.  When Areena asked, “Hey, why so blue?” he didn’t hesitate with his admission, “I think Rocky is an alcoholic.”

The reasoning of these words isn’t easily spoken about.  So instead Jeremy flirts around the issue of money, hoping Rocky will see his trouble as an alcoholic. They will go through the seasons together, probably like this for a lifetime. Jeremy stays with an alcoholic, enabling his disease, and Rocky knows that if he ever does go straight, finding some way to admit he is an alcoholic, Jeremy will leave him


At the start of our lives, as we go out into the  world, we are given a toolbox where we learn how to say “Please” and “Thank you.” We learn to share, we learn to kiss a boo-boo, and we learn about friendship and love. But when the positive enforcement is mixed with the negative enforcement that’s where our thoughts become muddled. With the forces of good versus bad,  we yearn  for the once sweet memories to bring us back but  we don’t know how to get back to them.  Instead we get nuggets of happiness here and there.  We go to social media, relying on friends and family to build us up, to connect to us. We post quotes of happiness , integrity, and sincerity, desperately trying to reach inside of ourselves to find the happiness that is our birthright.

Instead, like Jeremy and Rocky, and Wendy and Maria, and Babe and Michele, we become comfortable in negative behavior, suffering the consequences, we settle, either directly or indirectly, into endlessly hurtful patterns of behavior, infusing our relationships with the fucked up shit taught to us by our parents. Dump their value systems.

Socrates once wrote a profound message that he hoped would cure one of all negative emotions, it has two words:  Know Thyself.  I should know, I’m the character of Michele Bangelo.

© Terry Rachel, 2011


Get Another One

31 Jul

Yesterday I took a hike up to Baldpate Mountain on the western side of Trenton, New Jersey with my dogs, Gem and Hank. On the way up to the first durable footing of this not very big mountain, but in the heat and with suffering humidity, that mountain is big enough. On the first level Gem meets two women and eagerly sends them a good hello with a wagging tail. The first woman calls out, “What a beautiful dog!” I hear this from ten paces below, and then she sees my face as I traverse the jagged rocks, mindful to let my walking stick help me as I push my weight up to where they’re standing. “Yes, thanks, and this is Hank, he’s a white lab,” I tell her in a relaxed manner, knowing that it’s important to be even more polite on a mountain where three people and two dogs are sharing  a six-foot expanse of rock.

The second woman, tagging behind the first, says “I used to have an Australian Sheppard. What is your dog?”

“Border Collie.”

“Really? Well, she’s beautiful.”

“She’s a good girl. Loves to climb and she’s good at it, too.”

“I loved my Aussie, I had him for years.”

We started shifting, them going down, us going up, Gem, leading the way.  “Get another one!” I said, “Dogs are great!”

In thinking of this exchange, as I walked, the walk taking nearly ninety minutes in the heat, where I had to stop twice to wipe the sweat now pouring onto my back, a sleeveless tee-short now soaked with sweat; the dogs were panting hard and we broke for a watery deliverance. My voice parched and I could barely call for Hank who had wandered off into the tall grass. I looked to see a big cast of blue sky with the sun high, I knew it was too early to bring out the dogs and should have waited for the sun to relax and instead, hiked closer to 4 o’clock, but I’d endure it with a head bandana, and a piece of fruit, and lots of water and try to find a running stream for the dogs to wet their pads.


You can’t do that with people you love. They don’t come back. People die and you don’t see them for a long time. They say you will see the ones you love when you die. I don’t know that. Maybe I’ll know it when I die. They say death is a mystery. I believe that. My own death is a dragon I must slay by facing it with bravery. In some ways I’m afraid of what I’ll find. What will I see? Will I go through a tunnel, a field, a valley, a gravesite? Will I see the devil? Is there a devil? Will I go to hell?

My friend leaves her job as a nurse to become a caretaker to her terminally ill mother. It all happened very fast. Illness breeds superficially and then it manifests itself becoming a fire-eating dragon, breaking out loose, and you watch it without preparation because it’s stunning and it catches you off guard, until you grasp the tools and make them your own – for you must play offense so that you don’t get swallowed by the dragon.

So she faces death, it’s looming over her, its coming for her; the daughter plays a significant role in her life: feeding, preparing, comforting, she does this for her mother, putting her life on hold. She barely sleeps, finding only fractured sleep. But this is your mother and you do what you have to. You lose your mother, you lose your womb. Your life goes oddly empty when your mother leaves. She knows this, so keeps her close for however long she can, for however long her mother’s heart can beat.

The aftermath is the hardest, it’s when others stop calling, people disperse, their advice doesn’t come, and they leave you alone to get along. A scattered card, lost in the mail, is delivered several weeks after the death of your loved one and you read it, but you put it back in the envelope and don’t display it. You are not needed, so you sit and you wonder and then you begin to cry. You cry from the bowels of your stomach, your heart is broken, shattered in a million pieces, and you catch your breath, and you hold back the tears and you wash your face and you look in the mirror and you say, “I miss you mom!”  You gulp at Mother’s Day, and you face it somehow. And then you visit the cemetery and you see your mother’s name engraved and the dates she lived, and you kneel down, talking to the headstone and you cry. You cry without pretense, not caring if anyone sees you when they drive by.

This is the aftermath. No one can tell you how long it will take; no one should tell you that “It’s time you got over it.” You take however long you want to heal the empty feeling, having lost your mother’s womb.

I think of my calling out to the woman, “Get another one!”  Referring that dogs are great, but you can’t replace the ones who leave you; you can only find survival strategies to live without them.

© of Terry Rachel, 2011

The New Jersey Girl Clique

23 Jul

The New Jersey Girl Clique

IN the summer of 2010, Libra Chilton attends a party in Eatontown, New Jersey by a woman named Dinn, a cherub-faced woman with a quick smile and bright eyes, she’s new to the gay scene – a late bloomer, with children now grown and a marriage coming to an end, it’s Dinn’s time to celebrate as a woman with a new-found freedom, she’s looking to have some fun, dating here and there, and now a party – a party to validate her coming out.  Like Dinn, Libra Chilton, has returned to school to follow her undergrad degree – “better late than never” she would say, having postponed her education to raise a family, she too, has a new-found freedom, and when the open invitation on a local community board for Dinn’s party hits Libra’s email, she decides to go. And even though she goes by herself, she is affable and more than willing to meet everyone in attendance.

At the party, Dinn greets her guests with a warm smile, making her guests feel comfortable.  Libra speaks to a few women she’s never met before and they exchange numbers and Facebook handles. A couple of other women Libra recognizes and joins their table to make small talk.  But Libra really doesn’t speak more than a few sentences to Dinn or anyone else in Dinn’s group, because Dinn has centered on her circle, her safety zone, and Libra’s not part of that circle.

In Dinn’s circle there’s  one big dragon head of a young woman by the name of Flavia  Mannia, brutish and awkward in motion, she’s not quite thirty-five, and she tends to drape herself around the necks of women much older than herself – a real “mommy problem” that one, she spies you with a jealous glean.  Dinn defers to her often – and later this will be to Dinn’s detriment, but for now Dinn doesn’t know how dangerous Flavia is.  Flavia is subtle, smiling to your face; she’ll cut you broadside when you turn.  An endless well of cruel and unfounded gossip, speaking as if she knows all one could possibly know about your background and character, basing her lies on untruths and on things she’s not privy to, she will perpetuate her stories, snowballing them recklessly so that everyone in her group will be castrated if they don’t agree with her opinion of the person she’s victimizing, so everyone else bases their opinion on the opinion of what Flavia deems as truth.  Flavia, with the gap between her teeth and her broad shoulders rubbing against Dinn, overpowering Dinn like a standing bull, she’s aloof to everyone including Libra.

Also in this circle is Chastain, a puppet on a string who plays second-banana for Flavia. If Chastain had any sense she would realize that Flavia’s presence is boorish and tiring.  They look idiotic standing there together, as Flavia goes “Whooop, whoop!” her hands ringing a circle in the air, and then a fist pump –  she’s just on when “her song” comes on, while Chastain follows her like a bad dress.  Onto Mary. Mary, oh, Mary, with the elephant ears and the nose the size of a coffee cup, another wet noodle embracing the opinion of Flavia, the brute. Mary doesn’t go outside the group either, as she cries at one point in the night, sobbing, looking ridiculous, clamoring over a woman who use to be her lover. The ex-lover tries to settle her down, “Stop, get a grip, we’re at a party,” she says, but Mary cries on. Flavia rolls her eyes, unsympathetic, because she’s gotta’ dance, gotta’ groove, she’s on.

As Flavia begs for attention, Chastain follows, and Mary cries, and Dinn smiles, in comes Tracy – always late, bouncy, racy, Tracy. Tracy knows everything – she’s about as reliable as a paper plate, and Flavia is her cheerleader. Tracy says “Oprah!” and Flavia says “Oprah!”  When Tracy says “Dr. Phil!” Flavia says “Dr. Phil!” and then behind them comes Dinn, Mary and Chastain licking their behinds. They all look alike – shaped like thumbs on stubby fingers, they think alike, too and they laugh at the same things.

Poor Dinn, always ruled by a husband who protected her and told her how to do things, will go everywhere  with these four other women, never giving anyone else a chance. At the party she doesn’t say goodbye to Libra.

“This is the clique,”  Libra says, when she sees the dynamics, and shakes her head in disillusionment.

Libra walks into the kitchen – there’s plenty of food, food that’s been untouched, but she only nibbles at the cheese and crackers on the counter. She opens the cooler and see that the bottle of wine she brought sits in the same position she placed it in two hours before. She takes one last look around and smiles at a couple making out on the living room couch. On the ride home she takes a detour, stopping at McDonald’s to pick up a chocolate parfait. While eating it she realizes she must have missed when the dessert was served.

© of Terry Rachel, 2011

My Insouciant Companion – Part IV

17 Jul

Have you ever known a lesbian who considered herself a model citizen, a standing member of the community, a solid woman by all standards – good job, established home owner, nice car, a tidy savings – all the established prerequisites. And then you come to find that she is, in fact, clearly out of her mind.

This is about a story of one such woman.

My Insouciant CompanionPart IV

Inside Girl Bar lights and music filled the air and smoke billowed out a duct from the dance floor ceiling. I always got freaked when the smoke started, but it was somehow fitting:  the place was burning like a “burning inferno” – hot music, hot girls, hot place to be – Girl Bar was everything it boasted.

Deb found me and Randee on the floor and bumped me purposely, she cupped her hand to her mouth, “Hey!” she said, “I made it!” I smiled, surprised to see my friend. “Where’s Linda?!” I replied, and without missing a beat, Deb went into a full spin, wiggling her hips, and shaking out her hair, “Sleeping!” she laughed, and then swept Randee up in her hands, spinning her around. I was surprised to see Randee so sure-footed, and smiled at her in recognition of this.

It was nearing two o’clock and the bar was packed with women mostly in their 20’s and 30’s; what a scene. I was thinking “How good it was to be alive”, and hearing the B52’s song Rock Lobster cast us all in the pose of a crustacean. It was great fun to be flailing your arms, squirming on the dance floor like a lobster. The lights were all in reds and then a chorus came together where we gargled out what could have sounded like a lobster cry where everyone was inching down, down, down, down. Randee was gyrating into my groin and then her hands found my belt buckle and this invitation was enough for me to kiss Randee on the dance floor without regard for anyone as I calibrated my kiss purposefully and strong, but not too strong or too long, just enough to let her know I wasn’t leaving her alone.


Linda woke in a fuzzy state in an unfamiliar bed, but managed to descend the stairs of Marcia and Pam’s house with cat-like silence, without waking her hostesses, and into the kitchen where she had done damage to herself only hours before. The clock in the kitchen read half-past two; she had slept two hours. She found it strange that she should be awake, but something kept rolling in her mind and after much needling thought, arrived at exactly it was that was bothering her: she didn’t trust Deb with Terry, not on a Saturday night and not after drinking so much.

It’s funny how in their short relationship of just six weeks, Linda had become possessive of Deb, calling her daily, sometimes from work, during lunch, leaving messages on Terry’s answering machine – this she felt stupid about, but she left messages for Deb anyway, never saying hello to Terry. She didn’t like Terry and to Linda’s way of thinking Terry was secretly after Deb, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth if you were to ask Terry.

“Damned if I stay here,” she said, taking a long swallow from a cranberry juice container, and a smack from her lip with the palm of her hand she wiped her mouth, and  somehow sealed a decision she would never live down, “I’m going to Girl Bar.”


Before I could turn around to see where my friend went, I spied Deb talking to a new woman, one I’d never seen before. On the dance floor Deb was dripping with sensation. At one point she smiled at me and her face touched mine with her sweat. She looked liked madness – like she had walked on a bed of hot coals, her eyes were flashing, and she had dressed down to her bra and Capri’s. The mirrored glass flashed different colored lights etching into her eyes and hair. I needed clarity. “Who’s the girl?” I pulled her arm, it was wet and sticky. Deb said, “You’re always yelling!” And then she started laughing again. “ Isn’t she gorgeous? I’m in love!”

The girl Deb was dancing with was gorgeous in that rugged way and any femme in their right mind would have easily gone for. The woman, Joann, had a ruddy, pock-marked face with good, creased lines of laughter on the corners of her mouth, and  a thick crest of dark brown hair, with eyes the color of aquamarine, so blue and watery, it struck me that I never seen such beautiful eyes. Apparently Deb thought so, too. Deb went back to bumping Joann sticking her behind in Joann’s crotch, shifting her weight up and down.

I took Randee by the hand and led her to the bar seeing Deb was in hood hands. Randee said, “We’ve got another hour-“I stopped her with an index finger to her mouth, “Aaah, we have more time than you think.”

She lowered her eyes to my mouth and we kissed. Her tongue was tart and new, thick; when she traveled to the ridges of my teeth she darted her tongue deep into my mouth and I pulled her waist into my hip, cupping my left hand through her belt loop, pressing on her lower back. I heard her moan, “Mmmm,” and a wet flash glistened hot down my thigh. “I want to sleep with you tonight,” I said. But she broke away, her eyes darting toward the door, and then she whispered, “Oh, my god, is that Linda?”


Linda sat at the other end of the bar and on the other side of the silver nickel cash register. But she spotted me, and I could feel the weight of her angry eyes as she threw back what looked like a seltzer with lemon. I was praying she wouldn’t approach us; I didn’t want to talk with her at all – I didn’t know why, as I’m usually friendly, but with her, I just didn’t know why. “Kiss me, Randee,” I said. She didn’t hesitate, and resumed the kiss with more bravado. “Let’s take a walk.” And I followed her out, passing Linda, acknowledging her with one eye.


 After making out for fifteen or twenty minutes in an alleyway lined with wooden skids and heat pumps lined like soldiers, Randee was as alert as she was when she traversed her way around the broken wine glass, and gracefully picking up that dance move with Deb said, “The music went off. Are they closing?”

“I don’t know, let’s go see.”

When we returned we saw two women pushing each other on the dance floor and the DJ stopped completely spinning the music when the lights came on. A siren from the DJ booth was louder than I’d ever heard it.

“Ladies! Ladies! Please! Take it outside now!” The DJ’s voice boomed into the microphone. “Bouncer please, bouncer please!”

To my amazement it was Deb being pulled by Linda in one direction, while the new girl, Joann, with the dazzling blue eyes, was pulling Deb in the other direction. Linda and Joann were being hustled out and I caught Deb’s eyes, “What’s happening?!” Deb shook her head in disbelief, and pointed toward the door, as a queue to meet her outside.

I pulled Randee along and once outside I said to Deb, “What’s going on? You alright? What happened? I stepped outside for a walk with Randee.” And then to Linda I said,

“What the fuck did you do to her, huh? Are you fucking out of your mind, starting in like that? You’re a grown women – look at you. We’re in our mid-thirties – all of us – and we are better mannered than you! You should be ashamed of yourself, a woman of your age should know better. You’re pushing fifty and here you are causing a scene like this!”

I thought I was seeing things because without hesitation, Linda’s hand came across my chest, pulling at my tee, her fingernail cutting a slice of skin from my neck, but Deb grabbed her hand mid-air before she could take another swipe at me and said, “Don’t Linda.”

Linda took a deep breath, but she wasn’t lying down, “And you!”  She yelled, her anger toward me, “You’re the biggest instigator of all! Bringing her here, trying to mock me at the party, moving her in! Taking her away from me!”

I had not heard Deb scream in forever, she didn’t even scream when her photography studio went up in flames. ”I left you sleeping! You are probably still drunk! And you were probably driving drunk!” she screamed and with this everyone fell silent, like she had woken us all back to our senses.

Except Linda. Linda said in answer to Deb’s insult, “Who’s this?!

Joann had been quiet up till now; I suspected that was a sign of good manners. Deb moved closer to her and Joann held Deb’s waist. Apparently what had happened on the dance floor in an hour’s worth of time cemented them  “thick as thieves.”

Joann said, “I don’t normally get introductions like this,” she had a drawl; she was up from Kentucky, working the track at Saratoga as a groom, in for the summer racing, “and I don’t think I want to shake your hand.” she told Linda. I smirked at this somehow sweet insult and winked at Randee.


 Well, I can tell you this story in a long, drawn out way and maybe, just maybe if you’re lucky, one day I will.


Randee and Terry slept together that night, as did Deb and Joann at Terry’s apartment. We presumed Linda went home by herself – but we had a strong suspicion she didn’t stay there.

Sometime in the middle of the night, Linda returned to Terry’s downtown Albany apartment, on a street lined with row houses and found Deb’s car where she proceeded to smash in all her car windows (except the windshield) and flattened her tires.

Sunday afternoon was later than expected when Deb walked out to her car to get her smokes, and when she came back screaming and crying on Joann’s shoulder, “I am so sorry to put you through this. I am so sorry to put you through this…” I knew Linda had done something to do with it.

I surveyed the damages with grief and an overwhelming sense of rage for a woman I hardly knew but knew better to stay away from, boiled up in me. She got Deb instead, knowing full-well Deb was in a vulnerable place – away from her home, in limbo, waiting for her home to be repaired, and now her car.


After the incident Linda harassed Deb day after day, week after week, calling with her concern, calling with her advice, leaving messages. At one point she offered to buy Deb a car. It took months for Linda to understand – that is, if she ever did – that she had become persona non grata. Deb had put her down to the lowest point of the social hierarchy and there she remained.

Randee and Terry dated after that for a while until Randee met a guy and wound up getting married. Terry was invited to the wedding. They remain friends till this day.

In the end Deb settled her estate, returning to Kinderhook just in time for Thanksgiving, and put on a big feast. She and Joann would enjoy a relationship that was companionable, filled with joy and love for a good long while. They took many pictures together.

The End

© of Terry Rachel, 2011

My Insouciant Companion Part III

9 Jul

Have you ever known a lesbian who considered herself a model citizen, a standing member of the community, a solid woman by all standards – good job, established home owner, nice car, a tidy savings – all the established prerequisites. And then you  come to find that she is, in fact, clearly out of her mind.

This is about a story of one such woman.

My Insouciant Companion

Part III

On the ride to downtown Albany, Deb was driving her four-seated teal blue Acura that she had turned into a truck. Figuratively, of course, as all of her photography equipment was in the back two seats and with the seats folded down, the equipment infringed to the passenger side. It wouldn’t have been bad with just two, but now we were squished in.

“It’s a good thing I’m thin, huh?” said the petite blonde sitting on my lap. “Ouch!” she said when Deb took a turn too fast and swerved out of the middle lane traffic and into the left lane to beat the light.

Deb yelled over the music, “Well then, move that thin butt so I can shift!”

The petite blonde whose name was as fitting as her personality, “Randee,” she said, “and not with an ‘I’ but with a double ‘E’” was more than happy to leave the party and join me at Girl Bar.

I smiled agreeably at Randee, “Hey, you didn’t cut your foot on that glass” I told her, “and I didn’t see anybody by your side at the party. Or, is it possible you’re with one of the Century 21 agents and just decided to leave her behind?”

Randee shifted again and put her arms around my neck, “Do you mind?” And then back to the question with a snap of her gum, “Who’s the Century 21 agents?”

Deb shot back, “It’s a long story, Randee.” Unlike Deb, whose playfulness with me was well-known, she didn’t understand the standing joke. “Don’t listen to her,” said Deb, “Just fuck her or laugh with her. If you listen to her she’ll drive you crazy.”

Eager to top this, I said, “Randee, the gum you’re chewing…please put it on Deb’s nose.” Randee was not an easily confused woman, but I was beginning to wonder. “Why would I want to put my gum on her nose?”

“I’m playing, Randee.” This was lost on her, I knew, so I would have to keep my sarcasm in check.

“Deb, do you want a piece of gum?” Randee asked, “I have some. Where’s my purse.”

Randee was trying to move and the grip she had around my neck grew tighter as Deb’s driving made it impossible to be comfortable. “Your purse is here,” I told her, “don’t worry. I think it’s on the floor, it’s under my foot.”

“You have no idea where her purse is. Don’t listen to her, Randee. I have your purse,” Deb said reassuringly, “it’s in the back of my seat.”

“Oh! Put this song up!” Randee squealed, “I love this song!”

And there we were, Deb blowing smoke out her window, Randee snapping gum, and me with my face pressed against Randee breasts, singing the lesbian national anthem,

There’s more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line  …the less I seek my source for some definitive …The closer I am to fiiii….ineYeah!”

I rolled out the door and gave Randee a hand to lift her up. I lowered my head down to say goodbye to Deb from the passenger side. “Come back if you can. Besides we’re both going to need a ride.” I turned to Randee, “Where do you live? I didn’t even ask you.”

“Slingerlands, it’s kinda’ far.”

Deb overhearing this said, “This isn’t going to work, my dear friend.”

Knowing what she meant I said, “Why, Deb,” and then in earnest, “please. I like her.”

Deb rolled her eyes, “You better bring her back to the apartment ‘cause I’m not driving to Slingerlands.”

My eyes creased with laughter, “See you later. Be safe!”


Deb took a different route to return to the party, as she preferred this time to drive slow, taking in the lush, deeply wooded bends so familiar to her having grown up in the small town of Aurora, New York, near to Cayuga Lake, one of New York’s Finger Lakes.  Deb’s business was in Kinderhook, a sleepy bucolic region of New York’s mid-Hudson where antique dealers flocked for the weekend.  This brought in much business for the town during the summer, but in the winter months it fell quiet, and the stores returned to closing early and the wildlife that oddly disappeared when the tourists came, returned with the frost, home to burrow, much like the year-round residents. Some secretly despised that their town turned into a sort of tourist trap during the summer, but Deb didn’t mind the tourist’s one bit. For her it was a way to get her business card out there and she took full advantage of it last summer and the summer before that. But not this summer. This summer she was frustrated.

She thought about Linda and how they came to meet. The fire to Deb’s Kinderhook home took out her photography studio and a part of the kitchen, and she was forced to leave, at least until the place was repaired. But it seemed the insurance company was taking too damn long, and she wasn’t getting the results she needed fast enough, and never mind the countless phone calls she had made, only to be put in a holding pattern, where she wasn’t making much gain.  ‘I would have been better off if the whole place burned,’ she told herself. But she didn’t mean it; she resented having to depend on others now especially since she was close to breaking six figures. The fire had certainly hampered her progress, so she passed the days dining and drinking.

That’s how she came to meet Linda. Linda was in Kinderhook picking up an antique desk, and was one of the onlookers at the fire that early evening in May. Deb remembered how kind Linda was, how concerned, taking her out to dinner and then drinks, and soon after, Deb would fall comfortably into Linda’s bed for a straight two full weeks, that is, until Terry made the offer to have her stay in the second bedroom of her Albany apartment.

Now she was driving back and forth from Albany to Kinderhook as her client base was there, but it was a nearly 50 mile round-trip – she quickly excused this thought as ungrateful, as she realized Terry’s place was uncluttered and clean, and she would be able to think and sort things out as she waited on the insurance adjuster to settle the damage.  She would remain hopeful, positive. If only she had paid more attention to what she was doing that busy morning, when she placed that still burning cigarette to an unbalanced ashtray and lit up a flammable roll of film that burst into flames, lapping up the ceiling so fast, that even in minutes of the fire department getting there, there was nothing in the studio she could take away except what she had already stowed away in her car.


When Deb arrived back to the party it was winding down with just a few stragglers left having some time between drinks. Deb searched for Linda, walking through the side entrance and through the kitchen, out through the large back patio, down a step and then last to the citronella tiki torches and to the chaise lounge, where Deb pulled up a chair and set it by Linda’s side. She kissed Linda on the mouth and Linda smiled.  And to that Deb said, “Let’s have a drink.”

Linda gave her a warm smile, “I’m glad you returned. I think there’s some booze still out. What do you want?”

When it came to a drink, Deb could hold her own and a Saturday night party to her mind shouldn’t be ending at 11 o’clock, this was no time to be winding down. “What do I want?” she replied in a casual, carefree way, knowing full-well what she wanted. Her eyes twinkled, “Ah, what the hell. Let’s get a Jack on the rocks.”

This would be the beginning of heavy drinking for Deb and Linda. Linda started banging gin and tonic and Deb continued with the Jack Daniels. They finished the party on bended-knee with Linda dancing her way into the barbecue grill, and tripping off the giant Hostas planted near the pavers and between the retaining wall. Deb reached for Linda just in time before she tripped again.

The hostesses, Marcia and her partner, Pam, seeing this, cheerily went over to them before they got too close to the outdoor pool. If they were to fall into the pool in their drunken state who knew then what could have happened.  It seemed no one knew each other that long, because if they had, they would have known that Deb was a summer lifeguard through her teenage years in Cayuga Lake Park and was still a powerful swimmer.

Marcia said, “Come inside you, two. Let’s get you some coffee. No more drinking!”

But Linda wasn’t having it and waved her off, “We are fine! Well – I think she’s better than me.” Pointing to Deb with her glass, she said, “Are you fine?”

Marcia laughed to her partner, “Help me, let’s get them inside.”

Linda balked, “No! Deb’s going home with me! Let me go!”

Pushing Linda up the stairs for her much-needed destination — the spare bedroom — was no easy task, and she proved difficult throughout the exercise, “I’m fine! I’m fine!”

When they finally reached the landing and down through the foyer, Deb had grown impatient, “Lay down, Linda, and shut up,” she told her, “Go to sleep, you can’t drive.” And with this covered Linda with a light fabric bedspread, and fluffed up the pillow she would lay her head upon. By the time Deb clicked off the light and closed the door, Linda was asleep.

Shortly after that, Deb was standing on the landing of the front stoop, under the huge overhead chandelier, of Marcia and Pam’s colonial home. “I can’t thank you enough,” she told them, extending her hand, “I had so much fun.”

Happily Marcia said, “Oh, it was a pleasure to have you. I’m sure Linda will be fine in the morning. I’m sure she’ll call you.”

Deb blew it off, “I’m sorry about that. Thanks a lot. We’re bad guests. Next time you can stay at my house – if it’s every gonna’ be ready!”

They shared a laugh, and then Deb yelled out, “Thanks again!” without turning around and headed back to her car.

One’s ability to party with the best of them has always been a part of what defines the ages, and there was no one who could drink Deb under the table. Surely Linda had tried, and wound up in a spare bedroom and with Deb nearly 12 years younger than Linda, that didn’t help Linda’s playing field. With this knowledge, Deb stepped into the clutch, and pulled the shift in reverse, and maneuvered down the long drive, passing the well-manicured lawn with its bordering solar lamps and headed for Girl Bar.

To Be Continued

© of Terry Rachel, 2011

My Insouciant Companion Part II

2 Jul

Have you ever known a lesbian who considered herself a model citizen, a standing member of the community, a solid woman by all standards – good job, established home owner, nice car, a tidy savings – all the established prerequisites. And then you  come to find that she is, in fact, clearly out of her mind.

This is about a story of one such woman.

My Insouciant Companion

Part II

At last sight Linda was in the chaise lounge, but she must have been tucked inside the house long enough to overhear my conversation with Deb. She stood between the hallway entrance, slighted right, standing askew on one foot, with one hand on the wall.

“You look like you’re holding up the wall,” I told her.

Deb suppressed a laugh as we watched Linda fix a menacing gaze at me. She took in big gulps of air, it almost seemed like she was trying to catch her breath, but then she winced, knitting her eyebrows against us, and then a smirk came over her. Then she shifted her feet in a stance that reminded me of the courtyard bullies I used to know when I was growing up; I could always tell when someone was readying themselves for a fight. “I’m not holding up the wall…” and then to Deb she said,

“How long have you two known each other? You seem like you’re old friends.” And of course we were, and because we were, we didn’t  jump to answer her question thinking there was more to it.  “A lot of lesbians remain friends with their lovers,” she continued, “I don’t understand how. They always seem to be in the way of any future relationship.” And then she paused and asked what she wanted to know in the first place.  “Are you two ex-lovers, or are you lovers now?”

Deb laughed the hearty laugh we needed and then threw me off guard when she honked my left breast, “Owa! You sonabitch!” I said, retaliating with a push to Deb’s left shoulder, knocking her off balance  just so I could grab hold of her ponytail. She belted out, “Don’t fuck with my hair, pecker! Let go of the ponytail, peckerhead!”

While I was recovering from my sore breast, Deb laughed, “See,” she said to Linda, “we love each other, but we’re only friends. “ And with that Deb tried grabbing hold of my other breast but I jumped back, giving her a look that told her, “Better not!”

“Why the question,” I said to Linda? “Do we look like lovers?”

“We don’t act it!” and giving me a wink, Deb said, “I wouldn’t go out with you anyway even though you are pretty cute.”

I laughed, “What makes you think I’d go out with you? You sleep too long, you snore, and you party way too much for me.”

“Yeah, but you love me and you know it, and besides, you want to secretly go to bed with me.”

I choked back a sip of wine, “Oh, yeah, baby, turn over right now. Against the sink!”

We realized we had both ignored Linda with our always present, quick and rapid-fire verbal slings that Deb and I enjoyed and often engaged in. So I said, half-heartedly to Linda, “Why do you want to know if we’re lovers?”  I waited for her to answer but instead  she rolled her plump body into a kitchen bar stool and began doing half-circles while simultaneously staring at the ceiling fan.  This went on for several seconds and I just looked at Deb. I  silently mouthed words in the air, “What the fuck is she doing?” Deb shrugged.

“So you girls are going out, huh?”

Linda had the kind of voice that was neither remarkable nor distinct, there were no highs, no lows, it was just a voice that sounded as if it had never sighed. I couldn’t imagine she ever said  “Wow!” in pure excitement like happy people do, or spoke with sincerity or concern to ask, “Are you okay?” like when a friend really wants to get to the truth. There was none of it in her voice.  To me Linda might as well have been a lamp in the corner, an indistinct and unremarkable object that was just there.

I couldn’t believe what Deb had told me in the car ride over.  “Wow!” I said to Deb in hopes of liking Linda for Deb’s sake, “That’s quite a big responsibility, quite a job, fat salary, a leadership position, for sure!” I  stared at Linda still sitting in the bar stool, still doing half-circles, and I couldn’t believe she was head of the Albany Teacher’s Union.  With as much good-nature as I could muster for a woman who I wasn’t warming up to, and sensing she didn’t like my shenanigans with Deb, I said to Linda, “I’m trying to get out of here, Linda, but I need a lift because I came with this one!” and tapped Deb’s shoulder.

Deb, leaning  against the stove, wide-eyed and smiling, blew one final puff from her cigarette into the kitchen fan, “Linda, I’m going to drop off Terry at Girl Bar, she’s begging me to go.”

“But you came to the party with me, Debra,” said Linda.

Deb, always careful of her appearance and, in particular, her long strawberry-blonde hair that was thick and rich with curl, tucked away any loose hairs, by swimming a hand over the sides and top, “Linda, I met you here, silly, I came with Terry! I’m going to drive her to the bar and then I’ll be back.”

“Please don’t call me, ‘silly.’”

“What?!” Deb was incredulous, “Linda, please, it’s just an expression!”

“I don’t care, I don’t like it. I don’t know you long enough to use expressions like that with me.”

Just then a petite blonde woman stumbled through the kitchen, “Excuse me, excuse me, make way.” She carried a tray of wine glasses and was just about near the kitchen counter when one glass toppled off hitting the tile floor, shattering into fragments.

“Oh, oh, oh!” She screamed, “Oh! I’m so sorry!”

Both Deb and I went to the floor picking up as much glass as we could, but the petite blonde wore sandals and Deb said to her, shooing her back, “We just need a dust pan. Give me a wet paper towel, too. Move back. The last thing I want is for you to cut your foot,” she said to the sandaled blonde, “I don’t do good with blood.”

To Be Continued

© Terry Rachel, 2011