The Path of Totality

Photo by Drew Rae on Pexels.com

Remember the 2017 eclipse? It was a big deal in the U.S. since it covered such a large swath of the land.  Here in Minnesota we were not in “the path of totality” — the area that would be totally darkened by the moon blocking the sun. But I was still hopeful we’d see something memorable.

Alas, we did not. It was cloudy that day. The sky darkened enough during the eclipse so that the streetlights came on near my office, and that was it. After all the media hype, the event itself was disappointing.

However, I did take away something memorable, and that was the title for a new short story. I loved the ring of “The Path of Totality.” I even mentioned to my Facebook friends that it would make a great title for a story. It didn’t take me long to realize that I should be the one to write that story.

The idea coalesced during a workshop I took about a year later from William Kent Krueger, a New York Times bestselling author from Minnesota. Mr. Krueger is just a peach of a guy – very down-to-earth and willing to help other writers. The class had something to do with the differences between fictional narrative and plot. As part of it, he had us write opening lines for a story. I was thinking about the path of totality title when I wrote what eventually became:

The problem with Justin Kincaid’s eyes began on August 21, 2017. On a dusty hillside in Oregon, the curve of the moon’s shoulder nudged away pieces of the sun. The crowd of people hurried to don their cardboard eclipse glasses. But to Justin, the sun still shone as whole and bright as ever.

Intriguing, yes? Why can’t this man see this celestial event like everyone else? What in his life is blinding him to it?

The story is one of a series I am working on with the theme of deceiving appearances. I am happy to report I am almost done with the final story! Plus, my ‘Path of Totality’ story was chosen for publication in the “Thunderbird Review,” a literary journal published by the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.

If you’d like to hear more of the story, please consider attending the virtual launch party for the journal. I will be reading an excerpt along with other writers in the journal. I’m sure they’ll also offer info about how to purchase a copy of the journal, too. The event is happening Thursday, April 15 at 7 p.m. Central Time via Zoom. Details are on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/2965093270398597

A “River of Poems” spans the world

We expected only a few local poets would be interested. We thought they’d offer poems about the St. Louis River on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.

That was our mindset when the River Talk planning team at my workplace first developed the theme for the public poetry reading to be held in conjunction with the St. Louis River Summit as an evening program in March 2021. We were mistaken, but in the best possible way.

In reality, our call for river poems through the literary submission management platform Submittable garnered interest from 76 poets from across the U.S. and around the world. They submitted 148 poems for consideration.

“As it turns out, a lot of people like to write about rivers. That’s because they are really important in our communities and in our lives,” said Deanna Erickson, director of the National Lake Superior Estuarine Research Reserve, which co-sponsors the River Talk series with Wisconsin Sea Grant.

An overlook above the St. Louis River in Duluth, Minn.

We quickly realized we were going to need more judges. In the end, we gathered six who represented a good cross-section of the audience we expected to attend the summit.

The judging was “blind,” which means the poets’ names were not associated with their poems. After two rounds, the judges narrowed the number of poems down to a dozen, with a few for backup in case any of the chosen poets could not be reached.

Although communication was sometimes a challenge, all 12 poets were enthusiastic about participating in the reading. They represented a wide diversity of ages and ethnicities.

The River Talk was a couple of weeks ago, but the warm fuzzy feelings it engendered remain with me. I could use many adjectives to describe it: powerful, beautiful, stark, raw, funny — but it’s really best if you listen to the poems and feel all the feels for yourselves. The reading drew 85 Zoomers, a record attendance.

The Lake Superior Reserve, our partner in the talks, recorded the reading and it’s available on their YouTube channel. Here’s a list of the poets (in the order they read) and the names of their poems:

Tyler Dettloff (Michigan) “My Stars”
Heather Dobbins (Arkansas) “I Held us on for 36 Hours after the Levee Broke to hell”
Ben Green (New Mexico) “Immersion: A Prayer of Intent”
Lorraine Lamey (Michigan) “Catching Your Drift”
Joan Macintosh (Newfoundland) “The Current Feels”
Kate Meyer-Currey (England) “Timberscombe”
Rebecca Nelson (California) “Of the St. Louis River”
Stephanie Niu (New York) “To the Beaver’s Eyes”
Diana Randolph (Wisconsin) “Knowing the Way”
Ron Riekki (Florida) “It Took a Long Time to Discover”
Derold Sligh (South Korea) “Rouge River”
Lucy Tyrrell (Wisconsin) “Talking Water”

Ironically, the one poem specifically about the St. Louis River was written by someone who had never visited it. Rebecca Nelson said her poem, “Of the St. Louis River” was inspired by the spiritual experiences she’s had while watching water. She grew up in the Midwest and said she wrote the poem thinking of the rivers she knew from childhood. “I would love to visit sometime after the pandemic!” Nelson said.

Barb Huberty, St. Louis River Area of Concern coordinator for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, offered this comment in the Zoom chat, “I never knew that poetry could unite people across the globe.”

Sharon Moen, Eat Wisconsin Fish outreach specialist for Wisconsin Sea Grant, offered, “Thank you to all the poets and organizers! I am inspired by the depth of your thoughts and stories.”

Remaining River Talks will be held on April 14 and May 12. For more information, visit the River Talks page: go.wisc.edu/4uz720.

The Horses Nobody Knows

If you didn’t get a chance to see my article in “Lake Superior Magazine” about the rare and endangered Ojibwe Horses, the same story has been reprinted in a different magazine: “Equine Monthly.” Click here to read it online.

An Ojibwe Horse, also known as a Lac LaCoix Pony. These horses are well-adapted to life in the northern wilderness.

If you’d like to hear the story behind my story, read my blog post here. These animals are so special. I felt privileged to be introduced to them.

A River of Poems

This Wednesday at 7 p.m. Central, I’m co-hosting a Zoom event that will showcase a dozen poets from around the world and across the country reading their powerful, evocative and beautiful poems about rivers. The March 3, 2021 reading is an evening program of the annual St. Louis River Summit, which brings together hundreds of people who work on and care about the St. Louis River in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It’s also part of our monthly River Talk programs, which are free and public-friendly. Details are below. Come experience different perspectives on our waterways!

Here is the Zoom link:
https://uwmadison.zoom.us/j/93264788373?pwd=amRqSWgvT1ZxNW03WFBnU2ZYclZUQT09
Meeting ID: 932 6478 8373
Passcode: 776905

The selected poets are:

Tyler Dettloff (Michigan) “My Stars”
Heather Dobbins (Arkansas) “I Held us on for 36 Hours after the Levee Broke to Hell”
Ben Green (New Mexico) “Immersion: A Prayer of Intent”
Lorraine Lamey (Michigan) “Catching Your Drift”
Joan Macintosh (Newfoundland) “The Current Feels”
Kate Meyer-Currey (England) “Timberscombe”
Rebecca Nelson (California) “Of the St. Louis River”
Stephanie Niu (New York) “To the Beaver’s Eyes”
Diana Randolph (Wisconsin) “Knowing the Way”
Ron Riekki (Florida) “It Took a Long Time to Discover”
Derold Sligh (South Korea) “Rouge River”
Lucy Tyrrell (Wisconsin) “Talking Water”

The reading will last an hour and will include time for comments and questions. The talk will be recorded and posted afterward on the Reserve’s Facebook page and YouTube. A summary will also be posted on Wisconsin Sea Grant’s blog.

River Talks are sponsored by The Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Wisconsin Sea Grant Program.

Climate Emergency Poetry

This is just a quick post to let you know I’ll be giving a reading this weekend that’s being organized by a local Climate Change awareness group. The event is this Sunday Feb 21 by Zoom.

Here are the deets:

Here’s info about the Zoom poetry reading I’ll be doing this Saturday (Feb 21) at 3 pm Central. I’ll be reading an excerpt from “Plover Landing,” and a couple of poems. I think I will be the last reader because they’ll be going alphabetically.
Here’s the Zoom address for Climate Emergency Poetry Reading #5 set for THIS Sunday, February 21 at 3:00 p.m. CST (4 EST):https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81576699711…

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Meeting ID: 815 7669 9711Passcode: 286977

SEE YOU THERE! HERE ARE YOUR SCHEDULED GUESTS:POETS: Ella Grim, Marie Zhuikov, Cal Benson, Jill Hinners, Jim Johnson
CLIMATE ACTIVIST: Bill Mittlefehldt
UMD MPIRG SPOKESPERSON: Stine Myrah
YOUR HOSTS: John Herold & Phil Fitzpatrick           AND OUR FIRST Q & A SESSION WILL FOLLOW!

Revisiting My Horse Mania

An Ojibwe horse makes friends with a girl at Dawson Trail Campground in Quetico Provincial Park, Canada.

When I was a girl, I was horse crazy. My best friend, Jody, lived in my neighborhood and we collected every different breed of plastic toy horse we could get our hands on. (Or that we could convince our parents to buy.)

I had galloping horses, standing horses, rearing horses, trotting horses; Palominos, greys, Morgans, Appaloosas, Paints, you name it.

Jody and I enjoyed many imaginary adventures with our steeds. Enraptured, we watched movies like “The Miracle of the White Stallions,” “Justin Morgan had a Horse,” “The Black Stallion,” and “National Velvet.” I must have read all the Beverly Cleary horse books and Walter Farley books. During winter, we didn’t build snowmen, we made snow horses (which are basically snowmen lying down).

The highlight of my year was summer YWCA camp where I could ride a horse, although at a plodding pace. (Spatz, I miss you!)

It didn’t help that my grandfather raised horses (and mules, donkeys, ponies) and had his own Western store. He had a mule named Hubert (after Hubert Humphrey, a Minnesota politician) and a dapple-grey pony named Daisy that he let me ride on my rare visits. My grandfather trained Palominos for show. The back of his store housed saddles, which were propped on rows of sawhorses. The heavenly aroma of leather filled that back room. I climbed up on the saddles, pretending I was riding.

Jody and I begged our parents for a horse, coming up with outlandish plans about how they could be kept in the garage of our city homes, promising we would take care of them and exercise them every day.

When we were in sixth grade, Jody’s parents caved. She got her own horse, a paint named Friskie. She kept it at a stable just outside of town. I spent many Saturdays there, joining her as she exercised Friskie around the indoor arena. I rode a different horse that needed a workout.

Sometimes, Jody would trailer her horse, once even bringing it to my back yard (see photo below). Her family had a cabin outside of town and I also I recall riding Friskie bareback on the gravel roads around Island Lake.

Having a girlfriend with a horse wasn’t quite as good as having my own horse, but it must have helped assuage my passion somewhat. I’m sure my parents breathed a sigh of relief. My horse love didn’t totally go away, though. At the end of junior high, I attended a horse camp in central Minnesota with another girlfriend. It was the kind of place where you were assigned your own horse for the week and were responsible for its care. We learned how to brush a horse properly, feed it, etc. We were assigned to different groups based on our riding proficiency. I was proud to be in one of the upper levels. The week culminated with a trail ride and campfire, where we had the thrill of galloping the horses.

These memories resurfaced because a magazine story I wrote (and photographed) about horses was published recently. Not just any ol’ horse, however. Quietly, over the centuries, the Ojibwe people developed their own breed, now known as the Lac La Croix Horse (or Lac La Croix Indian Pony). Once roaming in the thousands over northern Minnesota and Ontario, Canada, these horses were semi-feral and community owned. Tribal members only brought them into enclosures during the winter to ensure their safety and health.

In the late 1970s, the horses almost went extinct for a number of reasons, including systematic efforts by European settlers to destroy them, and the rise of motorized technology.

In my story for Lake Superior Magazine (“The Horses Nobody Knows”), I describe how the breed was saved from the brink of nonexistence and what they mean to the Ojibwe today. It’s the longest article I’ve ever written. I had to wait a year for it to get published, which was extremely hard, because, you know, horse mania.

Learning about an unknown part of my home state’s past was exciting. I thought I knew every breed. As it turns out, there was a unique breed almost in my back yard, so to speak, that needed help.

I was more than happy to resurrect my horse crazies and put my writing talents to use to help raise awareness about the Ojibwe horses’ plight. If you’d like to donate to Grey Raven Ranch to help these special horses, they have that option on their website.

Anyone got a ranch they want to sell me?

Book Review: Going Coastal

This review is not by me, but was written by a poet friend of mine, Jan Chronister. She reviewed “Going Coastal: An Anthology of Lake Superior Short Stories.” One of my short stories is in the book and I helped shepherd the project to life.

The “Going Coastal” anthology sporting its snazzy Northeastern MN Book Awards seal.

Full disclosure: we exchanged books for honest reviews. You can find my review of “Decenia,” Jan’s book of poetry, on Goodreads.

*

I’m a poet and rarely write poems longer than a page, so I find short stories intimidating. The stories in Going Coastal proved to me what I have been missing as a reader. Not only am I awed by the talent and craft it takes to create such prize-winning stories, but the time I invested in reading the anthology has rewarded me with new knowledge and insights.

Especially impressive are two young authors, Teresa Allison-Price and Maxwell Reagan, whose stories are their first published pieces. Without reading their bios, I would never have guessed this fact. After reading Johnna Suihkonen’s “What a Fire Weighs,” I will never look at an agate the same way again. Her metaphorical piece with its poetic feel reached out to me. Marie Zhuikov’s “Water Witch” kept me mesmerized with its well-paced narrative and intriguing subject matter. “The Urge for Going” should be required reading for anyone planning a trip up the North Shore. Following in the steps of Phil Fitzpatrick’s protagonist will deepen the experience and give every stop special meaning.

Two stories brought me to tears. I have always felt the natural world was where we should worship and Evan Sasman’s “The Painting” reinforced my belief. “Superior Mordant” by Judy Budreau pulled me in and had well-developed characters I could relate to.

Eric Chandler’s “The Heart Under the Lake” could only be written by someone who loves Lake Superior and the lands around it. It is a satisfying, well-crafted coming of age story that blends science with verbal artistry and maritime history. It was a delight to read.

I sensed autobiographical elements in many of these stories. That, admittedly, is one reason writers write. Another reason, perhaps not always acknowledged, is that they hope to enable readers to discover (or rediscover) thoughts and emotions that are often hidden under the cares of daily living. I’m glad I spent time with this collection that fosters self-reflection through superb short stories.

Kudos to my Commenters!

I would like to thank everyone who reads my blog. I so appreciate your attention and time. I often tell my friends that blogging is like having pen pals who live all over the world. I love you all!

I’d like to recognize those who have consistently liked and commented on my posts and photos throughout the years. I particularly would like to thank the five most-frequent commenters over my blog’s seven-year lifespan.

Please take a look at their blogs and consider following them if you like what you see.

The Coastal Crone, a.k.a. Jo Nell Huff, hails from Corpus Christi, Texas. She’s a writer who has grown her muse from working on a few newspaper articles and poems to writing a novel that involves a Texas Ranger. Her blog features stories about life in Texas. I think I “discovered” Jo Nell from comments she made on somebody else’s blog. Her comments on “Marie’s Meanderings” are always so thoughtful and kind. She even won a photo caption contest I ran and received a copy of one of my novels as a prize. I always worry about her when a Gulf hurricane is brewing.

Sharon Moen doesn’t have a blog, but she does have a website about her nature-based pottery creations: Falcon Fire Pottery. Sharon is my BFF from Duluth. We met decades ago through work. Our lives have intertwined ever since. In addition to her talent with clay, Sharon is a writer, poet, and chicken-mama.

WriterInSoul, a.k.a., Colette, hails from Pennsylvania – or at least I think she does. She’s rather mysterious. Her blog is about as old as mine and she’s “still here because I have things I want to say and things to share.” She’s a writer who produces a combination of longer posts and short thoughts. Colette is on short thought #280, she’s that prolific! I also especially enjoy her posts about “Things Men Have Said to Me.”

Jennifer’s Journal, a.k.a. Jennifer Kelland Perry, lives by the sea in Newtown, Newfoundland. I’ve been following Jennifer since she was an aspiring young adult novelist. Now, she’s published two novels and is working on a third. One of her posts inspired me to write this post. She writes about her life in the Great White North and her writing accomplishments. Sometimes her cats write posts for her.

Neil’s wife and Neil.

Yeah, Another Blogger, a.k.a. Neil Scheinin, reports from suburban Philadelphia. His blog chronicles “An arts-filled, tasty and sometimes-loopy jaunt through life,” complete with sarcasm, mild vulgarity, and some good photos. Along the loopy line, Neil documents imaginary conversations with psychologists and famous musicians. I appreciate his sense of humor and off-kilter views.

Free Horror Story: The House

brown wooden window frames on white concrete wall

Photo by Henry & Co. on Pexels.com

As you may recall, I’ve been writing an anthology of short stories about deceiving appearances. I think I’m almost done with the collection. I’m currently working on the last story, or what I intend to be the last story – but we’ll see if any more ideas strike!

One of the spookier stories in the collection was just published on the website of a local group of Halloween enthusiasts who are collecting horror stories from local authors for future publication in a ‘zine called “Twin Ports Terror.”

My story’s title is “The House.” It’s a cautionary parable about curiosity. I characterize it as a mix of speculative fiction, mild horror, and suspense. A nameless woman is the main character. She walks by a house in her neighborhood every day — a house so nondescript that it looks like it’s trying just a little to hard to fit in. Her curiosity about the place sets her on a perilous path . . . .

Read more here to find out what happens to her!

Thank you to the Haunted Duluth folks for this opportunity to share my work. Thanks also goes to my writer’s group for their help and edits.

Writers from Duluth and Superior – Haunted Duluth is looking for more stories for their ‘zine. Click on my link above to access details.

Coronavirus Chronicles — The Shower Singer, Part 3 of 3

person holding brown flower curtain

Photo by Elizaveta Dushechkina on Pexels.com

Here’s the final installment of my quarantine romance parable set in Minneapolis. I hope it offers a fun, but relevant distraction during these trying times! (Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

Thanks goes to my writers group for helping me get the story to this point (Lacey Louwagie VenOsdel, Linda Olson, and Jim Phillips). And thanks to Teague Alexy for sharing his musical mind with me.

Will Jane call Sam? Does Jane have cryptofungosis? (Don’t you think it’s weird this disease I made up a few years ago starts with the same letter as coronavirus?!) Will Jane and Sam ever meet in person? Read on….

The Shower Singer (Part 3 of 3)

By Marie Zhuikov

On Monday evening, Sam just finished supper when his cell phone rang. “Jane Johnson” showed up on his caller ID. His heart went still at the unfamiliar name. He hoped it was his Jane.

He swallowed hard. “Hi, this is Sam.”

A moment of silence followed, until the voice behind his songs spoke. “Hi Sam, this is Jane.”

He didn’t know what to say, but quickly opted for cool and casual. “Hey Jane, thanks for calling! I guess you got my note.”

“Yes. Thanks for the CD. I liked listening to it. You probably hear this all the time, but you’re a really good musician.”

“Well, I’m back to being a musician again, thanks to you,” Sam said, feeling trapped in the simplicity of his words. There was so much more he wanted to say.

“Oh, I’m sure it’s not just me. You would have gotten inspired some other way, even if you hadn’t overheard me in the shower.”

Sam thought about this. She might be right. Something or somebody else might have inspired him down the line. “But the thing is, I did hear you and you did inspire me.” He told Jane how he felt weird about it and had tried to meet her in their building.

“Don’t feel weird,” Jane said. “I think it’s cool that something good came of it, especially now . . . when things are so uncertain . . . .”

“About that –” Sam said, not wanting to call the disease by name, especially since she hadn’t. “When do you find out?”

Her answer came quickly, “Monday.”

“Wow, tomorrow. If you don’t have it, do you get to leave right away?”

“Probably not until Tuesday. It depends on when my doctor is at the hospital to sign what needs to be signed. The CDC is pretty strict about that stuff for quarantine release.”

Sam didn’t want to ask the next question and possibly upset her, but he needed to know. “And how long would you be in if you do have it?”

Jane sighed. “Another couple of weeks.”

“That sucks. Let’s hope for the best, then.”

“You got that right, I’m about ready to tear my hair out as it is.”

“Hey, want to hear one of your songs?” Sam asked.

“Of course I do!”

“Okay, I have to go grab my guitar. And I need to sing quietly because the neighbors — not you, of course — get upset if I sing too loudly.”

Jane laughed.

“Hey, can you video chat with your phone?”

“No, sorry. My phone’s pretty basic.”

Sam swallowed his disappointment. “Okay. Hold on.” He got his guitar and sat on the couch. He switched on his phone’s speaker.

As he began singing “Stranded,” Sam noticed a quiver in his voice. Although he had performed the song in front of audiences half a dozen times already, this was different. This was Jane.

He stopped and cleared his throat. “Sorry,” he said, taking a second to regain his composure. He continued, his voice stronger than before.

Afterward, Jane was quiet for so long, Sam thought they’d been disconnected.

“Jane?” he ventured. “You still there?”

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “I can’t believe you got that out of something you overheard from me.”

Her voice was soft, and he couldn’t quite tell what emotions were behind it.

“I think I’d better go,” she said. “Someone’s coming in to take my vitals. Six times a day, every day. Doesn’t even matter if I’m sleeping. But they’re earlier than usual tonight.”

Was that a hint of disappointment Sam heard in her voice? “Oh, okay,” he said, although he didn’t want their conversation to end.

“You got my phone number to call back?” she asked.

Sam brightened. “Yeah, it’s on my caller ID.”

“Okay. Give me a call tomorrow night. I should know by then.”

Sam hesitated. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll call you. Hang in there, you hear? I’ll be here whatever happens.”

Jane’s voice softened again. “Thanks. I appreciate that. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

“Okay. You take care and rest easy now.”

“I will. Bye.”

Sam wanted a few more moments on the line with her, so he waited before saying, “Bye Jane. And good night.”

*

Tossing and turning that night, Sam had an idea. Early the next morning before his shift at the co-op, he rode back to the hospital and bought a teddy bear for Jane from the gift shop. It was tan and plump. Smiling, it held a red heart that read, “Get Well Soon.”

Poor Jane. Today was D-Day. He hoped to God she didn’t have crypto, both so she could avoid further isolation — and because he wanted to see her — to meet her in person as soon as possible.

The question of her appearance still nagged at him. As he walked down the hallway to her unit clutching the bear, he thought about asking Gladys what Jane looked like. But any way he worked out the request in his head sounded weird and shallow. He reminded himself that it was the place inside her that her songs came that mattered.

When he arrived at the nursing station, Gladys wasn’t there. Sam left the bear with the other nurse on duty and asked her to give it to Jane.

Work was unbearable. He mixed up brands of organic kidney beans on the shelves, put the kale in the green onion bin, and got reprimanded by his boss for forgetting to close the storeroom refrigerator door completely.

He should just go home. How was he going to survive the next few hours? Shit, how was she going to? He hoped the teddy bear would help. It seemed so lame, but it was the best he could do for now.

He was so scattered and stressed, he couldn’t even channel his feelings into a song.

After narrowly surviving his bike ride through the traffic, Sam arrived home. He couldn’t eat. Instead, he paced his living room floor until he thought it was a good time to call Jane: 7 p.m.

His heart raced as he punched her contact listing on his cell.

She answered after the second ring with a “Hey Sam.”

He tried to divine her emotions from her greeting. Dare he think she sounded relaxed?

“So, what’s the news?” he asked.

I don’t have it!”

Sam couldn’t speak for a few moments. “Oh, I am so happy to hear that!”

“You and me both,” she said.

“So when can I spring you from the joint?”

Now it was Jane’s turn to pause. “You want to bring me home?”

“Hell yes!” he said. “If you don’t mind.”

“I’d like that.” Jane’s voice had gone all soft. The sound melted something in Sam’s belly. “Anyway, I don’t have my car here because I took the bus to work. My car’s parked in front of our building.”

In his enthusiasm to bring Jane home, Sam conveniently overlooked that all he had to offer her for transportation was his bike. He felt like an idiot, but an alternative came to him quickly. “Hey, I don’t have a car, either, but I’ll pick you up in a cab.”

“I’ll hold you to that.” After a moment, Jane added, “Guess what I am hugging right now?”

“The bear?”

“You got it. He’s my favorite visitor so far,” she said.

“I’m glad to hear that. I figured you would need something to hug today, either way.”

“I still can’t quite believe I don’t have crypto,” Jane said. “After I found out, I said a prayer for all those poor people who do. I felt guilty to be so relieved when they are suffering.”

“It’s all right, Jane. The only one you can do anything about now is yourself.”

A moment of silence passed over the line. “You’re right,” Jane said. “Hey, I’ll see you tomorrow, music man. Will nine work?”

“Perfect,” Sam said.

*

As Sam rode in the cab the next morning, he thought about the fitful night he’d just spent wondering about Jane. He wasn’t sure how he’d react when he saw her for the first time.

From their phone conversations, he’d built a clearer picture of her in his head – more than just the long hair and wet skin he’d imagined before. Now he imagined her eyes, colored with compassion, and brown hair. Her voice didn’t sound encumbered, and he wanted to believe it came from a graceful neck and through smooth lips.

He wanted to be attracted to her, but what if, when he saw her in just a few moments, he wasn’t?

He knew himself well enough to understand that he would be disappointed if he wasn’t. In that case, maybe he and Jane could just be friends. Would that be enough? Would he still gain inspiration from her once he knew what she looked like?

For a few moments, he thought about turning around and not meeting her. Maybe it was better not to know what she looked like. That way, he could maintain his vision of her — not have reality intrude. He could just tell the cabbie to do a U-turn and . . . .

No. Jane would be disappointed if he weren’t there to pick her up. He needed to go through with it. He needed to meet this woman, no matter what. If he wasn’t attracted to her, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. And why should the world revolve around him, anyway?

Sam watched the trees laden with green leaves slip past outside the cab windows, his eyes shielded from the sunbeams by his corn seed cap. Selene flitted through his mind. Had he ever felt this strongly about her? Would he be willing to rearrange his gig schedule for Jane’s birthday or for Valentine’s Day?

Honestly, he felt willing to do just about anything for this woman. A spike of nerves made his stomach clench.

Soon, the cab pulled up to the hospital doors. Sam instructed the cabbie to wait and he got out. As he walked through the doors and down the hallways with their locked rooms and harsh smell of disinfectant, his stomach rolled into an even tighter ball.

His mother’s face, vague and brooding, seemed reflected in the curtained windows. He took off his cap and stuck it in his back pocket, drew his hand through his hair.

Finally, he saw Gladys standing behind the nursing station desk.

She smiled at Sam. “C’mon honey. Let’s go get Jane outta here.”

They walked a few doors down and Gladys opened Jane’s door.

END

I hope you enjoyed the story! Let me know what you think happens once Sam sees Jane. Should appearance be as important as it is in our society?

If you liked this, you might like my novels. Learn more about them here.