Jennie Marima: Capturing life’s poignant moments

J.MarimaHer Sister’s Keeper, Jennie Marima’s submission to Sisters Born, Sisters Found: A Diversity of Voices on Sisterhood, zipped all the way from Kenya to California in an instant—one of the blessings of today’s connected world. Jennie has been writing for a long time but has been a bit shy about creating a presence on the Web. I’m delighted this interview will now be available for folks who want to know more about her.

Let’s see what Jennie Marima has to say:

1. Though we haven’t met yet in person, I feel we are becoming acquainted through “Her Sister’s Keeper,” the story you contributed to Sisters Born, Sisters Found: A Diversity of Voices on Sisterhood, as well as through our email correspondence. Based on what I’ve read about your prior publications and awards for children’s literature, it seems the story you submitted to the anthology, which tells a darker tale about sisters and family life, is a departure for you. Is that an accurate perception? Can you talk a little bit about that? What inspired you to write Her Sister’s Keeper? How is it similar to and different from other fiction you have written?

It’s been a pleasure to work with you, Laura. It feels like we’ve met in person.

This story is not too different from other short stories I have written in the past. My stories are often sad. I usually write when I observe or experience something upsetting or unfair. I am often restless until I let it out in either a story or poem.

I also enjoy writing for children. This calls on me to grow younger, remember my own childhood, makes me want to listen to children and play with them (which I enjoy!) so that my stories can accurately portray their experiences, aspirations and wildest fantasies.

I have wanted to write this particular story for a long time. I just wasn’t sure what form it should take. I toyed with the idea of a play, a novel even. But then it kept screaming to be let out, and now! A short story seemed the ideal and quickest way. I can now breathe.

I am fascinated by stories about impossible love. I have always wanted to write an Indian-African love story, as they are so uncommon, at least in Kenya. Because I haven’t had a chance to really interact with Indians, get into their homes, see how they live, what they eat, how they talk, etc. it was easier to write about an American and an African.

2. You’ve received awards for your first picture book as well as for stories, both published and in manuscript form. Have you been writing for a long time? What motivated you to start writing, and what keeps you going day after day? Do you have advice for writers who are either just getting started or who have been writing for a while and feel they aren’t getting anywhere?

I have only won one short story competition for my story Almost Family, published on the Storymoja Africa blog. My poem She Could Hear God was recently longlisted for the BN Poetry Award for African poetry. My unpublished children’s story The Runways made it to the top 20 of the stories submitted for the Golden Baobab Prize (Africa’s highest prize for children’s literature) in 2012.

260536_153911068014575_4885897_nAlthough my picture book Rundo the Elephant, published in 2008, hasn’t received an award, it has been approved for use in Kenyan schools by our institute of curriculum development.

I have been writing ever since I can remember. Writing has always been my outlet for pent up frustration and for expressing joy.

I feel motivated to write when I encounter good writing—writing that doesn’t draw attention to itself. I aspire to write like that. I want my readers to be lost in the plot and not even realize they are reading. But what really gets me writing is when I observe life and the cards it deals and how characters cope with the same.

My advice for writers is to keep writing, no matter what, for that’s what we know to do best. And someday, if you wait long enough, you may have your breakthrough.

3. Since I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, most of my friends and associates are people in the United States, primarily in California. What would you like people in the United States to know about the writing life in Kenya? Are there things you think we’d be surprised to learn? Do writers in Kenya share any common strengths? How about shared obstacles?

I imagine, the world over, every writer’s highest goal is to be published. This is no easy road here in Kenya, where reading for leisure is a luxury only VERY few can afford. Publishers can only accommodate so much fiction and still make a profit. It is also next to impossible to support yourself purely from writing fiction. We keep our day jobs to pay the bills.

Many of us grew up reading books from the West and imagined that that is how we should write, too. The settings were unfamiliar (it doesn’t snow here, for example) the expressions, foreign—but we learned to love the stories anyway because we loved reading and they were good stories in all fairness. It’s refreshing to now see more and more Kenyan stories coming up, told though our lenses. It is also wonderful when our authors get international opportunities and recognition.

Sisters-prelim-cover-v2-460x6844. Why did you submit a story to Sisters Born, Sisters Found? What hopes do you have for the anthology?

I had just finished writing the story when I saw the call for submissions. Since I hadn’t any immediate plans for it, besides getting it out of my system, I was excited that it seemed a perfect fit for the anthology and was thrilled that it was accepted.

I believe this anthology will bring to light the universality of our experiences. That we all laugh and cry. We hope, we love. We hurt and heal. From all corners of the globe, we feel these things. Black, white, rich, poor. That we are human first, before we are anything else.

5. What are you working on right now, and how can people learn more about your work?

I am currently trying to finish a novella that seems to have stalled.

I have been surprisingly shy about my writing. (Lord knows why!) I use my little-known first name, Jennie, on all of my writing. I am like two people in one. There’s the mysterious, faceless writer and then there’s the other me, the one people know—your everyday girl, daughter, sister, friend and colleague.

But this question makes me think maybe I should create a blog or some other platform to showcase my work. I guess it’s no fun if I kept it all to myself.

Jennie’s bio:

Jennie Marima (a.k.a Shi) is a Kenyan author.  Her first picture book Rundo the Elephant was published in 2008 by East African Educational Publishers. Her story The Runaways made it to the top 20 in the 2012 Golden Baobab Prize for the most captivating unpublished manuscript for children. Her short story Almost Family won the Storymoja May 2013 Photo Contest. She is currently working on a collection of short stories and a novella for teens.

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That shocking proposal

Here’s another Belinda Blue Brown episode draft. The more of these I write, the more loose ends there will be to clean up when I pull them together into one document. I hope you enjoy that I’m sharing a bit of the writing process here. In the end, I don’t know if the whole project will be a keeper, but that’s part of the fun.

That Shocking Proposal

3160916013_9492d737b9_tMy friend Velda Sue, well, she goes by Suzette now, and since we haven’t spoken in, oh, thirty years and since I only heard about her plight third-hand, I don’t suppose you could say she’s my friend anymore. But, jeeze, we’ve known each other since we were tykes runnin’ barefoot in black earth that seemed a whole lot moister way back when, you know. Oh, that dirt. It smelled so good we didn’t just make mud pies, we tried eatin’ ‘em out in my backyard one day. And my mama, she came out to hang laundry on the line and saw that mud all around our mouths, and us chewin’ up a storm.

She hauled us inside, stripped off our clothes and dumped us in the tub real quick, nothin’ harsh about it though. She was speedy but never the punishing’ type, thank goodness. Neither was Velda Sue’s mom. They lived right across the street from us, so it wasn’t long before Velda Sue’s mom came over, and the two of them were laughin’ about our mud pies over Sanka coffee in the kitchen and my mom’s special-recipe pound cake that tasted a whole lot better than mud, come to think of it.

And when Velda Sue and I were gettin’ bored splashin’ in the tub, it was her mom who came in, gave us each a good scrubbin’ and dressed us in matching sundresses, and told us to play inside for a while, at least until our dads came home from the Good Days Bakery, where they both worked as supervisors—my dad in the cookie department, and her dad in the bread department. So Velda Sue and me were like sisters, twins almost, born just a day apart, and we went to the same school and took the same ballet class and played on the same softball team and all that. I thought someday Velda Sue and me would live across the street from each other and raise our babies up together, just like our mothers, but, you know, I could tell by high school that wasn’t gonna happen. I just didn’t want to admit it.

See, my pa died in an auto accident when Velda Sue and me were ten. Her dad was driving, and he survived without much damage, just a few bumps and such. But my dad went right through the windshield. And it turns out he didn’t have any life insurance, and Mama had no marketable skills, so it wasn’t long before we moved in with my grandma and grandpa on the outskirts of town. So Velda Sue and me didn’t go to the same school again until high school, and, well, by then let’s just say we traveled in different circles. She was gorgeous and blonde and real coordinated, made the cheerleading squad all four years, which was like being a rock star or some kind of goddess. Now I was slim enough, I guess, but shaped sort of like a pear and not at all coordinated. Plus my wardrobe was, um, limited, and back then clothes mattered, a lot. So, Velda Sue and I would say a quick hi sometimes if we passed each other in the halls, but that was all.

2700730806_e04642e0d7_tBut then, here’s the thing, we did become friends again for a little while, not the best of friends like when we were kids, but friendly for sure. After graduation, she went off to some fancy school in the East, and I went to school in California, a junior college outside of San Francisco where my uncle worked, so he pulled some strings to get me in tuition free. I got my AA and did the books for a music store for a year or so after that, but then, well, okay, I’ll admit it, I missed my mom and my grandma and grandpa, who were gettin’ up in years, and they all missed me, too. I kinda missed my brother and sister, too, and even North Bend, though I never figured on that. When I got on that Greyhound headed west, I thought I was goin’ away for good.

About a year after I returned to North Bend, Velda Sue came back to town, too, and it turns out we both showed up to volunteer for this thing called VISTA on the same day. It’s kinda like the Peace Corps only folks work in America, not in other countries, and it seems a lot of folks in North Bend are underprivileged, according to the government, so there was plenty for volunteers to do right here. And you know who else was volunteering? None other than my Bernie, but of course he wasn’t my Bernie back then. And Velda Sue and Bernie and some other volunteers and me, we’d go together to Paulie’s Diner after work, or throw parties, and so we had a little social group goin’ that was pretty fun, and it turns out Velda Sue, she fell for Bernie.

Now, I’d had a crush on Bernie since when I first saw him standin’ by his locker freshman year. Oh those big brown eyes and that sheepish grin of his, they did me in, but I kept it to myself, so when Velda Sue said she had the hots for him, I didn’t have any claim on him, so I figured they’d be an item soon enough. She said she wanted to settle down with Bernie and that she’d had it with all those fancy guys back east. So I wished her well and said Bernie’d be lucky to have her, which I thought was true. And one day she got all dolled up with eyeliner and eyeshadow and sparkly lipstick and a skimpy knit dress that hugged her curves just right. She’d gotten wind of Bernie’s having bought an expensive ring at Carolina Jewelers in town, and she said her heart was all aflutter because her dream was about to come true, and soon enough we were all at our regular booth at the diner, and Bernie got down on one knee, and he pulled out a ring, and he proposed, but he didn’t propose to Velda. He proposed to me. And I was like to be flabbergasted, and so was she, and she stormed off. I ran after her, but she yelled at me that I was a traitor, and worse stuff I won’t repeat, and she said to leave her alone.

Well, my feelings were hurt, and I stood there, mouth open a mile wide, while she got into her Corolla and started the engine, but then I thought of Bernie back in the restaurant, with all the food gettin’ cold, and so I turned around and came back to the booth. He was slinked down real low and our friends were saying stuff like, man, that’s a bummer, gosh, that didn’t go so well, did it. And so I sat down next to Bernie and I admitted I’d had a crush on him for a long time, but I didn’t really know him, and he didn’t know me, so maybe we could back up a bit and get acquainted, and if maybe after a while he felt I was still wife material and vice versa, we’d get engaged. And Bernie, being his wonderful self and all, he said of course. A year later he proposed for real at the very same booth at Paulie’s, and we got married a year after that, and had our reception at Paulie’s, too. By then Velda Sue was back in school, studying abroad somewhere, and I didn’t think I should invite her. She never believed that I hadn’t somehow intentionally stolen Bernie from her.

imagesNow I’ve heard from my mama, who heard from Velda Sue’s mama, that Velda Sue is back at home and in a real bad way. She won’t talk about it, and she won’t go out. All she does is watch Lifetime movies and eat carmel corn and D’Giorno pepperoni pizzas. And my mama said Velda Sue is askin’ about me. Now I still have her old phone number memorized, even though I tried to forget it because I was so jealous of her, and I’m tryin’ to decide if I should call her. I did pick Bernie over her that day when I gave up on following her and returned to him in the restaurant. I could have pounded on the car window, told her she had to let me in, but maybe it was a little like how she picked her popular friends over me in high school, and maybe I was getting back at her in ways I didn’t even realize at the time. But I swear I wasn’t trying to win him or anything before that shocking proposal. The thing is, though, how do I know if Velda Sue’s really askin’ for me or if my mama’s just havin’ some fantasy about Velda Sue and me being buddies again, which I tell you, is about as likely as a cow jumpin’ over the moon.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Laura McHale Holland

Comments are welcome. If you don’t see a comment section below this post, go here.

Mud pie photo by derringdosGreyound bus depot sign by kuyman.

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Flash fiction: That Cat

That Cat
By Laura McHale Holland

It was a cat: calico, chipmunk size, at my neck purring softly at first, then louder and louder until the feline sounded like a helicopter, and then we were in a helicopter, a real helicopter, but it was sputtering and spinning, descending rapidly toward the earth, and we had just one parachute, and the cat said to me, it’s either you or me, babe, and I wrenched him away from my neck and almost threw him out, but then I thought the way things are these days, someone could probably catch that on video, me tossing the cat into the blue, like some horrid cat hater, when, really, the cat had spoken to me, threatened me, but nobody would know that, so I calmed down and told the cat the parachute was too big for him anyway, so we may as jump together.

I put on the chute and tied the cat to my body with my scarf, and out we went, just in time, too, because the helicopter was turning into a fireball, but as soon as the parachute opened, that cat screeched and howled and wiggled out of the scarf and wrapped himself around my neck and scratched me up something fierce, and then he ran off as soon as we landed in some trees.

The emergency crews are in place now, cleaning up the mess, and everybody thinks I got all scratched up in the trees, and that cat, that chipmunk-size calico cat, isn’t around to tell them any different.

(Photo by Ashley Bayles, http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashleybayles/5949583068/sizes/m/)

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Last light

This is a variation on Slip Away, which I posted yesterday. What do you think?

Last Light
By Laura McHale Holland

She saw the boat so still on the water, their eyes fixed on each other as their laughter rippled into the woods where she stood. She raised her rifle but couldn’t take aim. She didn’t know whether to shoot her boyfriend or the woman who’d stolen his heart. She lowered the weapon and walked away.

When he came home later, no yummy aromas were in the air. She’d promised him a hot meatloaf sandwich and German potato salad. Where was she? Her purse wasn’t on the couch where she always threw it. He dashed to the kitchen, called her name. Silence. Bare kitchen windows. No cat dishes on the floor. He raced through the house. Her pictures, gone. Her furniture, gone. Her toothbrush, clothes, books, plants—gone.

Everything she owned was gone. Except for the rifle. It was tucked under the covers on her side of his bed, barrel up, glowing in the last light of day.

 

The photo is by Kevin Marsh, http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinmarsh/1801817287/

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Slip away

Slip Away
By Laura McHale Holland

She saw the boat so still on the water, their eyes fixed on each other, their laughter rippling into the woods where she stood. She raised her rifle but couldn’t take aim. She didn’t know whether to shoot her boyfriend or the woman who’d stolen his heart. Disgusted at her indecision, she lowered the weapon and walked away. She had just enough time to pack up her belongings and slip away before he came home.

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At least

At Least
By Laura McHale Holland

I never meant to leave him like that. I was driving to the mall to exchange some shoes that were too tight, and I just forgot he was there. Then I got sidetracked by all those end-of-summer sales. And then I saw my friend Rosie in the Starbucks line and I stopped to chat. I finally came out loaded up with goodies galore—flip flops, a new swimsuit, v-neck T’s, even some wading pool toys. It wasn’t until I opened the Camry’s door that I remembered he was there, because I saw him. Dead as a doornail in his car seat. Oh, what a shock. I mean, I killed my daughter’s baby.

At first I could barely see or breathe; the gravity of the situation hit me like a head-on collision. I sat in the driver’s seat, sun beating through the windshield, and leaned over the steering wheel. I sat there sweating like a pig and wishing I could just erase the last hour. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even make a sound. But then I must have gone on automatic pilot or something because all of a sudden I was on the freeway, heading home.

Once I pulled into my driveway, I lifted my grandson out of the car seat and talked to him just like I would have if we were coming home after an ordinary afternoon of errands. Then I put him down in his crib and sang him a lullabye that would always put him right to sleep with the sweetest smile on his face. I tucked his favoite stuffed bunny up by his shoulder just where he liked it, too.

When my daughter comes to pick him up, we’ll walk into the bedroom and find him cold, unresponsive. We’ll both be completely done in. What will I do when she cries out? When she picks up her baby and leans against me, sobbing? Should I say it might be SIDS? I can’t tell her I forgot her baby was in my car. If I do that, then she won’t have her mother’s shoulder to lean on as she goes through this. I have to give her that, at least.

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I never signed

I Never Signed by Laura McHale Holland

Here’s a new story that is not part of the connected flash fiction experiment. It’s just one of those ideas I had to pursue. I’m posting this from my iPad, so the formatting might be a little odd.

It’s them. Poking. Sneering. Surrounding me. Telling me to get to work. There’s a ream of flyers to fold, for starters.

I always imagined when I went toward the white light that Mom, Uncle Earl and Little Bandy, Grandpapa and Scoot –and my friends from later years, like Billy and Mae, who died way too young — all of them, I thought, would be waiting. I was going to see each one emerge from a white mist of sweetness and impart wisdom to me as I wended into whatever this place beyond life is. But my loved ones are not here. I’m at the end of the brilliant white tunnel, but the ones here greeting me are dregs I’d pushed way out of my mind.

I snuck away from them just before dawn more than forty years ago. One paper Safeway bag of belongings. That’s all I carried, heading anywhere but where I was. I thought I’d found the answer. Human happiness. Love empowering. I shriveled instead under the weight of menial tasks. Long days, long nights. Repetition. Repetition. Defection, forbidden. If they caught you leaving, they locked you in the boiler room.

Some creep grabs my arm. I think his name is Gus, but after all these years, I can’t be sure. “You signed a contract,” he says. “You’re ours for eternity.” I know that isn’t true. I never signed a contract. They started that signing folderol just before I split. They hadn’t worked their way down to me yet.

Gus yanks me  toward a door. Opens it. Ah, the boiler room. Hot. He tries to push me in. I kick. Kick him in the groin. Push him in. “You won’t get me,” I declare. And spin away. Far away. Away.

Behind, gnashing teeth. Ahead, Mom’s hand.

 

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An absorbing tale

This is a review of Tell A Thousand Lies, a novel by Rasana Atreya

Tell A Thousand Lies is an ambitious, imaginative, engaging, unpredictable work. Author, Rasana Atreya roots the story in the specifics of rural India and, in particular, the trials and triumphs of protagonist Pullamma, who, along with two sisters, was raised in poverty by her grandmother. The sisters dreamed of a different life than their circumstances dictated, and the action one of them took to achieve that end set powerful forces in motion that ripped Pullamma’s life apart. The setting was itself a revelation for me, and I expect for others who have no direct experience of the culture, but the author also transcends time and place to plumb universal themes: betrayal, jealousy, greed, power, love, hate, forgiveness. Atreya conveyed the main characters clearly, with just enough quirks and flaws, so they jumped to life, engaged me emotionally, swept me into the saga, and left a lasting, positive impression.

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The one he always wants to hear

Here’s another moment in the ongoing series of connected episodes that might (with revision) become a short story at some point.

The One He Always Wants to Hear
By Laura McHale Holland

We sit together, the abandoned boy and I, on a bench at the aquarium. He’s never before seen otters cavorting or orange jelly fish drifting through the deep, or sea anemones opening, closing, opening, closing in a rhythm ancient as the earth.

He leans against me and looks up with sad brown eyes. He doesn’t know his father is infamous for slaughter or that his stepdad insisted his pregnant mom leave him behind when the family moved to India. The stepdad said he couldn’t allow the boy’s bad genes to taint his coming child.

He leans in closer to me and asks, “Can we go to the land you came from?”

“We sure can,” I say. “Just close your eyes.”

And I begin the story, the one he always wants to hear, the one about the land behind the waterfall.

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All of the episodes in this series in the order in which they were posted follow:

Back pocket wishes

Cascading to the sea

Right through the heart

Away today?

A dime a dozen

She doesn’t know them

On the seat

A pillar of the community

He needs a friend

Double rainbow

The one he always wants to hear

Give it some time

It gives my life meaning

Smiles

Extenuating circumstances

 The four of us

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Double rainbow

This week’s episode. What do you think?

Double Rainbow
By Laura McHale Holland

Carly runs the palm of her hand over her skirt, smoothing wrinkles that aren’t there. Facing her, a lawyer shuffles papers on hs desk until he finds the Last Will and Testament of Chloe’s biological grandfather, the man who had hired a drug dealer to kidnap and kill Carly and her daughter, Chloe. Now the old man is gone, knifed repeatedly in a prison bathroom—no witnesses, no suspects.

To Carly’s left her former boyfriend, who is also the dead man’s son, is texting someone on his cell phone. To his left is his mom, sitting tall and stiff. Carly looks straight ahead and sees a faint double rainbow just inside of the window behind the lawyer. She smooths the nonexistent wrinkles again.

The lawyer thanks them all for coming and begins reading. After several pages, he finishes and puts the will down. “This is preposterous,” the older woman declares.

“Let me see that,” the dead man’s son snaps. He stands up, snatches a copy of the will from the desk and starts reading.

Carly cannot speak. She and Chloe are inheriting half of the dead man’s business. It’s some kind of holding company that owns more than half the town. The rainbow glows.

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All of the episodes in this series in the order in which they were posted follow:

Back pocket wishes

Cascading to the sea

Right through the heart

Away today?

A dime a dozen

She doesn’t know them

On the seat

A pillar of the community

He needs a friend

Double rainbow

The one he always wants to hear

Give it some time

It gives my life meaning

Smiles

Extenuating circumstances

 The four of us

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She doesn’t know them

Here’s the next installment. It’s difficult to create connected segments, each of which stands alone. Perhaps in the editing process I can achieve this. It’s something to shoot for–just because.

She Doesn’t Know Them
By Laura McHale Holland

I sit on the bank, bare feet dangling in the bracing water, and I listen to the gurgles, always changing yet always the same, eternal. Though they lived far from here, sometimes I hear my ancestors’ voices in the wind, beside the river rocks, in the rustle of dogwood branches overhead.

It turns out the brown-eyed girl I thought was orphaned, the one I came to know between errands for the guy I thought was her dad, the girl I came to love, that girl, has a birth mother who never chose to give her up: a young mother who was locked in a basement and couldn’t search for her baby. She has a grandma and grandpa who have missed her too. It is their right to have her; she is their blood. But she doesn’t know them.

The social worker told me, “Stay away. Chloe is where she belongs now.” Chloe. The name suits her, though I liked to call her Pia because her eyes reach into the soul, like Edith Piaf’s songs playing on a foggy Sunday morning.

I see no path before me. So I wait at the river, seeking wisdom as the sun sets. I can see Chloe spurning her grandmother’s cookies, shrinking from her grandfather’s hugs while her mother, rescued just one week ago, is sedated in an upstairs bedroom where she was tucked in every night of her childhood. And the media, stationed at front and back doors, has the family under siege.

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All of the episodes in this series in the order in which they were posted follow:

Back pocket wishes

Cascading to the sea

Right through the heart

Away today?

A dime a dozen

She doesn’t know them

On the seat

A pillar of the community

He needs a friend

Double rainbow

The one he always wants to hear

Give it some time

It gives my life meaning

Smiles

Extenuating circumstances

 The four of us

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Right through the heart

Right Through the Heart
By Laura McHale Holland

He had nothing against the man and woman rushing to the Mercedes, nor the paparazzi in pursuit, nor the throng of people flanking the spectacle at 3 p.m.—except that they were all in his way. He was angry, sure. Why should he have to pay hundreds of dollars to get his F-150 out of impound? There was no place to park except the white zone. What was he supposed to do? Skip the custody hearing so he couldn’t see his son anymore? No way. So he was gone at most half an hour. And the truck got towed. That frosted him, sure.

But he didn’t plan to use the assault rifle. It just felt good tucked inside his coat. Then one of those TV reporters knocked into him, pushed him aside and said, “Get out of the way, man!” So he pulled out the rifle, shot that reporter right in the head. People started screaming and he kept shooting and shooting, watching the blood spurt, the bodies fall. He got that man and woman, too, the ones rushing to that fancy car. Then he saw the girl in the back seat watching them fall. She had big brown eyes just like his son. He aimed the rifle at the police cars coverged on the scene, but he didn’t shoot. He let the officers  shoot him right through the heart.

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All of the episodes in this series in the order in which they were posted follow:

Back pocket wishes

Cascading to the sea

Right through the heart

Away today?

A dime a dozen

She doesn’t know them

On the seat

A pillar of the community

He needs a friend

Double rainbow

The one he always wants to hear

Give it some time

It gives my life meaning

Smiles

Extenuating circumstances

 The four of us

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Cascading to the sea

This flash relates to “Back Pocket Wishes,” which I posted March 19:

Cascading to the Sea
By Laura McHale Holland

I came from the land behind the waterfall until the drones split ears, hearts, flesh—and washed my tribe away. Except for me. Five years old. I was plucked from a thunder cliff and dropped in a Disney Channel family a continent away.

Now I’m a chameleon handyman, gardener, chauffeur. My boss blackened his whimsey wife’s eye after she locked their daughter in a closet all day. “The brat cries too much,” the wife had said.

I want to pluck that child from the back seat. Take her to the waterfall. But it is now only a memory cascading to the sea. And I need this job. I cannot protect her from her parents approaching the car, let alone the bombs still falling from the sky.

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All of the episodes in this series in the order in which they were posted follow:

Back pocket wishes

Cascading to the sea

Right through the heart

Away today?

A dime a dozen

She doesn’t know them

On the seat

A pillar of the community

He needs a friend

Double rainbow

The one he always wants to hear

Give it some time

It gives my life meaning

Smiles

Extenuating circumstances

 The four of us

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Some thoughts on sisterhood

I’m going to be on a panel at the Women’s PowerStrategy Conference Saturday and even though the panel topic is “If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother” (on which I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say, no doubt), I’m preparing a one-page handout about sisterhood (on which I have even more to say). I’m pasting my draft in here and would very much apreciate your feedback.

Some Thoughts on Sisterhood
By Laura McHale Holland
Author of Reversible Skirt, a Memoir

My two sisters are my dearest friends. Over the years, they have cheered me and comforted me through all my triumphs and sorrows. And vice versa. But we weren’t always buddies. Our early years brought us significant heartbreak and abuse that, rather than pull us together, drove us apart. For many long days, nights and years, an ugly current of bitterness ran through our relationships; fights, ridicule and jealousy ruled our world.

Then things changed. Gradually at first, and then more rapidly, we transformed from sniping detractors into enthusiastic fans. And we have been close for so long now, the times of strife among us truly are distant memories. However, countless times people have come up to me, remarked upon the bond my sisters and I share and then looked wistfully as they’ve said something like, “I haven’t spoken to my sister in years. What’s your secret?”

So I’m going to write down ten things my sisters and I, through trial and error, have learned about how to care for each other. I hope these thoughts on sisterhood help others seeking to form a closer bond with their beloved sisters—by blood or otherwise.

Together you and your sisters must:

1. Decide you want to have loving, supportive relationships with each other and commit to taking action to make that happen. It is best for all parties involved to make this decision and commitment. Meaningful progress will be much slower otherwise.

2. Remember that the past is over; there is nothing you can do to change it. So forgive yourself for any harm you may have caused your sisters and forgive your sisters for any harm they may have caused you.

3. Realize that you and your sisters will inadvertently hurt each other’s feelings after you’ve made a commitment to do the opposite. Forgive yourself and your sisters for these blunders as they occur and move on.

4. Focus more on listening than on being heard, and learn to see things from your sisters’ points of view.

5. Do things together that you all enjoy, things that make you all laugh, things that will bring smiles to your faces long afterward.

6. Tell your sisters often how much you love them. Always put your loving connection with one another above all else in the relationships.

7. Notice your sisters’ good qualities and the admirable things they’ve done. Tell them about these things repeatedly—and celebrate them.

8. If you need to complain about one of your sisters, do it with someone outside of the situation. Look for a sympathetic ear, but don’t try to convince the person you are good and your sister is bad.

9. Think about where your sisters need a hand and provide wholehearted, passionate assistance.

10. Be patient. Some struggles we face are life-long. Have high expectations, but don’t give up if your sister falls short. Hold out an encouraging hand.

This is my first stab at sharing this, so I’m bound to have left some things out. I may elaborate on these and provide examples in the future. I will welcome your comments.

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Guest post at TellTale Souls

I don’t have a story ready this week yet (I’m still thinking over what direction I want to go in this year), but I do have a guest post up at Lynn Henriksen’s TellTale Souls blog. It has to do with mothers, and, well, mothers are what brought us all into this world, and some of us are mothers ourselves, so it’s hard to be neutral on the topic, isn’t it?

I hope my thoughts on my mother and stepmother stimulate you to share your own perspectives.

Here’s the link:

http://telltalesouls.com/blog/extolling-the-virtures-of-mom-in-memoir-not-for-everyone/

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