The Earring

It’s been a while and I’ve missed this! Dusted this one off, made some tweaks. Comments welcome.


Amadis awoke, cold and cramped in the half-light. When she realized she was on the floor, she let herself stay there, motionless. Last night she’d sat in the wooden chair she reserved for guests she didn’t like. Undeserving of comfort, she rocked for hours, begging, crying. Then too spent to cry. Sometime after three she slumped to the floor, her cheek against the blue tile. Mercy came as sleep.

Now, she opened her eyes and listened. The balcony door was ajar as she left it. The rising light twisted in exaggerated patterns cast by the iron railing.  She eased closer to the chair and pulled herself erect. Her head throbbed but her breath was even. Panic never served you, Amadis. If this is your last day, you may as well enjoy it.

She shuffled to the sofa for the worn afghan and cloaked herself. The chill was sweetened by her garden beds, below. In her mind she saw the hundreds of closing discocatus petals that lined the path to her door. Each plant once a cutting, severed from the whole, dipped into damp sand. Coaxed to root.

On the balcony she gazed beyond the fields to the skyline of foothills. As a child she’d raced the winding trails with her younger sister. Free of their mother’s scrutiny, they swung on wild vines and hunted for blackberries. Homeward bound, buckets filled, fingers scarred purple, Bonita would say, “Mama will say my berries are best.” And Amadis would laugh and race ahead to hide the sting. Bonita, the pretty one, the favorite. Adamidis’s mouth pulled down at the memory. No. Let it go. It doesn’t matter. It never did.

She caught a quick movement below, but when she turned, there was nothing. Maybe a cat. Then at once, her arms grew heavy. A rushing filled her ears. Her mouth watered, warning nausea. She turned to go inside, and then stopped, understanding the trick. “I am tired of you,” she said out loud. Gazing into the room, she noticed her own narrow shadow on the floor. “Come out, Perdio-Uno,” she said.

“Amadis,” he said, “Why do you insist on calling me Lost One, when it is you who has lost?”

His voice created a swamp in her belly. She allowed the dark wave to wash through her, over her. Past her. She relaxed.

“Perdio-Uno, our agreement was that you would not return until the last day of my 70th year. You are early.”

“If you have not found it by now, Amadis, another day will make no difference. Look at yourself, so gnarled. So wasted. But I am fair. We will conclude our business tomorrow.”

Alone again, she turned back to the balcony and noticed the moon. Good luck on a birthday. Salvatore will be here soon. Time to get ready.

* * *

Salvatore let himself in and called up the steps, “Abuelita, I’m here!”

Without waiting for a reply, he stepped into the kitchen and opened the freezer to find a bowl filled with frozen cherimoyas. Abuelita, you never disappoint me. He selected two fruits and settled at the table to wait. He carried his own knife, a gift on his sixteenth birthday. His grandmother handed it to him and said, “This was your grandfather’s. You are like him in many ways, Salvatore.” If words sounded like a warning, he didn’t question her. The boy fingered the worn pearl handle and cut into the custard-like fruit. He ate from the blade like the men who lingered outside his parents’ store. Independent rulers of their days, they answered to no one. Not like his father who toiled day and night in an apron.

He finished the rich treat and considered having another as his grandmother stepped down the back stair into the kitchen.

“Salvatore, I knew I’d find you in here. I used to tell your parents you could smell the cherimoyas all the way from your house. Are they the only reason you agreed to drive me to the party?”

“You look beautiful, Abuelita. Are you ready to go?”

Amadis smoothed her slacks.

“A charmer. Just like your abuelo. Yes, I am ready to have a good time today, no matter what.”

She caught herself and added, “You know your great-aunt Bonita drives me crazy. I am sure today will be no exception. She will probably bring her new pet to the party. A man half her age. Disgraceful.”

“Abuelita, the man is fifty” said Salvatore. “Besides, you will be having too much fun to trouble yourself over Great-aunt Bonita and her paramour. Anyway, you know she is only jealous because you have the most charming grandson in all of South America.”

Amadis felt a tug in her heart.

“There is a basket in the fridge. You might get hungry on the trip to the hotel. And would you bring down my garment bag and overnight case?”

“Abuelita, the hotel is only three hours away.” But he took the basket out of the refrigerator and ran up the steps to gather her things.

Minutes later, Amadis sat in the little car, turned to admire her grandson’s profile. So much like him

After an hour on the highway, traffic slowed. They crept along until they saw a policeman, where most of the drivers snaked U-turns across the grassy median. A few left the tarmac to a road that branched off to the right.

“Accident ahead,” said the officer. “The road is blocked. Where are you headed?”

“To the Hotel Providencia in Dangriga, Senõr.”

The officer nodded. “You can make a U-turn and backtrack to 36 and go west on 63, or you can take the detour into Lozano. If I were you, I’d take the detour. It isn’t paved, but it will still be faster than turning back.”

Salvatore looked at his grandmother.

“You are the driver, Salvatore. You decide.”

“We’ll take the back way,” he told the officer and nodded his thanks.

They bumped along the detour through red dust kicked up from the cars ahead. The air-conditioner ran full blast but they could taste the grit. The boy turned on the wipers and shot blue liquid onto the glass, leaving two clear spots for them to peer through. Ahead the road dipped slightly, dividing a wall of trees that swallowed the daylight.

“Pull over, will you Salvatore? I need a rest.”

“Are you all right, Abuelita?” he said. “There is nothing here.”

“I want a little walk.”

Salvatore pulled the car off to the side. Amadis rolled her pants up to her shins and kicked off her shoes.

“Bring the basket, Salvatore?”

She didn’t wait for him but he soon caught up. Away from the dust, he smoothed a tablecloth and opened a bottle of water for her. She noticed him look at her arthritic hands.

“Don’t worry. They don’t hurt me anymore.”

She pulled a stalk of dried grass from its sheath, stripping the seeds into her palm, and remembered the last time she rested in a hayfield. The baby was overdue. The midwife suggested walks to help the labor come. Neighbors called out as she passed them in the village, “Amadis, when are you going to show us that baby?” or “Amadis, not yet?” She was made awkward by the attention, as if it were a fault of hers that the baby was late. To avoid them, she decided to take a footpath that led to a hayfield. The golden shafts rose as high as her chest. As she walked, she held her arms out, letting her palms brush the tops of the stalks. The sun warmed her and she grew relaxed. I will take a nap, she thought, and cocooned into sleep.

She awoke to laughter. They were close. Embarrassed to be lazy in the middle of the day, she hoped they would pass without noticing her. It grew quiet again and she relaxed. I will wait a bit to be sure they’re gone. But the woman’s sigh broke the silence. Amadis smiled to herself. Be careful Senorita, and patted her stomach. Then the man called the woman Beautiful as she heard them wrestle to the ground. An electric shock ran up her spine and dried her mouth. The voice was unmistakable.

She listened as her sister moaned. She listened as her husband called “Bonita. Oh, my Bonita.” Amadis wanted to scream, to run at them and kick them. But she swallowed back her sobs. What would they do if their secret was out? Would they run away together, leaving me disgraced to raise this baby by myself? She dug her fingernails into her scalp; she clenched her teeth. She rocked back and forth and whispered, God, please punish them. Make Bonita barren. Make my husband impotent. Punish them for their betrayal. Over and over she chanted, I deserve revenge. I deserve revenge. I deserve revenge.

A voice interrupted her, seductive and terrible.

“Amadis, do not call to God for your sweetness.”

Her heart slammed in her chest.

“I need an answer, Amadis.”

Yes. It is what I want. They must pay for what they have done to me. I don’t care about anything else.

“Amadis, we are in agreement.”  His tone intensified, silky and awful. “Amadis, you have made the right choice.”

What have I done?

“There are many ways to punish your treacherous sister and your sniveling husband, but make no mistake; you will pay a price. I will visit again in fifty years. Let’s say on the last day of your 70th year.” Then there was a low, guttural laugh. “Unless you find the key to unlock the curse you have called upon yourself.” Then softer, “I will not speak till then, but I will never leave you.”

The presence seemed to vanish. Dusk came. No sound but the swish of wind in the grass. Numb, she wondered if she’d imagined the ordeal. It must have been a nightmare brought on by the pregnancy. Shaking, she got up and searched, hoping. But she found the depression in the grass where two had lain. Maybe it was just a couple that sounded like them?

Sunlight glinted beneath the matted grass. She bent closer and picked up an earring. It was Bonita’s. She put it in her pocket, brushed the grass from her hair and dress, and walked down the footpath toward the village like a ghost.

* * *

“Abuelita? Do you want to get going soon?”

Amadis looked at her grandson and saw her husband in his face: the same gray eyes, the same softness of expression. She loved this boy. No matter what mistake he made, she would forgive it. She thought of her sister, old but still a spoiled girl obsessed with her looks, desperate to find someone to cling to. She thought of her long-dead husband and the cold marriage they’d endured. She thought of the hundreds of moments her heart urged forgiveness, and the hundreds of times she refused.

“One more minute, Salvatore? I need a minute to myself. To say a birthday prayer. Would you take the things back to the car?”

He gathered up the picnic. “Sure, Abuelita. But not too long, okay? We don’t want everyone worrying about us.”

Amadis nodded, and lifted her eyes to the brilliant sky. So many years, I noticed their every suffering, and my guilt grew a little heavier. But I did not cause their pain. I caused my own. I forgive myself. I forgive them. I forgive you, Perdio-Uno.

Amadis took the earring from her pocket and without looking at it again, tossed it into the field, and headed to the car.


Evening walk by the river; joyful 4-year-old challenges grandma to join the trio of joggers.

Then a spill, a scraped knee. Mommy piggy-backs the last mile to the car.

Home again, to a place I don’t own: perfect anyway.

I chop celery and onion for tuna salad. A is showered, nestled in bed. The music of his mother’s bed time story drifts into the kitchen, “The cochlea…the tiny bones inside the ear drum…” C in her room, chuckling over something she’s read online.

I shake my head in wonder; look up from the Vidalia. I am living the life of my dreams. The clean, calm peace of a Sunday evening. No one is angry. No one has secrets. No one thinks I should be something I am not. I steady myself against the counter and whisper my thanks. And wonder how I got here from there.

I Can Do That!

Yesterday I sludged through the day wearing waders, up to my chest in quicksand, mind racing.

I love this job I am so lucky to have. It’s paying the bills and then some. The work is meaningful. But I’m six months in and still feel like a novice much of the time. Last night I found myself awake, staring out a dark window, reminding myself of what had to be done today–phone calls, emails, reports, field work. How to fix the mistakes I made last week. Thinking I should be working right now.

This morning it dawned on me. The problem is not the job. It’s not any of the stuff I’ve been blaming this stress on. The problem is still me forgetting that it is not my job to be perfect at anything. It is my job to do the best I can while being as grateful as I can. Oh, yeah. I can do that.

Whaddaya nuts?

I hadn’t had the experience of someone being outright rude to me in such a long time, I forgot what that sting feels like. It started to get easy for me to hear someone complain about being disrespected and me thinking (with some degree of smugness) “Hey. Let it go. Don’t let someone else’s crazy bring you down.” Then came this week!

A woman threatened to sue me. She has no grounds and I know her threat was her way of digesting her own mistake. That drama came on the heel of someone else telling me to “Shut up,” seasoned with several derogatory comments about my lack of intelligence and my “rediculous” belief system.

As the week wound down, someone very close to me told me she disagrees with what I wholeheartedly believe to be true. Of course she has that right! So does Ms. I’m-gonna-sue-your-ass and Mr. You’re-a-dumb-bell-non-believer.

There was a time when I’d have defended myself–even congratulated myself on my snappy come-backs.

I did not respond with anger this week. (My body did react, (Ouch.) but it’s on a slower track than the rest of me.) I will choose to accept what this week has given me—a lesson in humility, a window to remember what was compared with what is. And what growth still eludes me. Compassion, (for me and them) has nothing to do with being right or wrong and everything to do with love.

Thanks for listening.

Can anybody tell me?

Can anybody tell me why they let an eighth grade boy run the Oscars?

Can anybody tell me why anyone cares what Kris Jenner thinks about anything?

Can anybody tell me why a church leader who claimed exception above decency and the law should have been voted into office in the first place?

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He made my heart skip. Even if it was just someone who looked like him, a flock of butterflies rose in my chest. Back then, I thought I really loved that guy.

Then came years of struggle. Plenty of good to make it all bearable. At least I thought so.

Then the dagger: Truth. And my martyr years.

Then later, justified, I sang my mantra, “He got what he deserved.”                           

And now the freedom years, gifted through giving. Forgiveness. Compassion.

Love gone full-circle, all the way to unconditional.

Delicious peace.

New Year

Photo by Temari 09 Flikr

Photo by Temari 09 Flikr

Last night I heard about a beautiful young girl who ended her life.

I didn’t know her. I don’t know what terrible burden crushed her spirit. But she inspired me to remember to give every person I meet my undivided attention. They deserve nothing less.

And thank you, wonderful reader, for your comments and encouragements.

Happy New Year.


Have anything you want to say?

National Rifle Association of America

11250 Waples Mill Road

Fairfax, VA 22030

Prologue to a Mystery

This is the start of something I’ve been working on. All comments, criticisms welcome. Thanks!

Northeastern Pennsylvania, 1972

He slowed the pick-up a mile off the state road as he searched for an old logging trail. Finding the gash in the trees, he turned in and doused the headlights, though there hadn’t been another car for miles. Moonlight poked through the canopy of trees. He waited for his eyes to adjust. After several minutes he shifted into first and started up the winding trail.  A mile later, the woods opened to an abandoned pasture studded with brambles and woodchuck holes. He maneuvered the truck in reverse, backing onto the sharply sloped field. He parked in the shadow of an ancient oak. Above, a screech owl flexed its talons, distracted from its hunt.

The man stepped into the chill. A thin layer of frost coated the blanket of dead leaves, yet his flannel shirt was glued to his back like a second skin. He removed his woolen jacket, smoothed it, and placed it on the front seat. Moving to the rear of the ’57 Chevy, he unlatched the dented tailgate and eased it down to avoid the squeak. Sound had a way of ping-ponging through the mountains, especially at night. He reached for the shovel. Staying just inside the boundary of shadow, he gripped the well-worn shaft with both hands and stomped his boot against the metal spoon. The earth refused to yield, rock-hard from a year-long drought. He labored for some time, then glanced at his glowing Timex. It was after three. Frustrated, he flung the tool down with a force that bounced it out of sight. He ran his tongue across parched lips. His stomach twisted. Slouched on the stone wall that bordered the meadow, his mind raced. His army training taught him there was always a solution. “Slow down. Think pal.” A moment later, inspiration struck.

He returned to the back of his truck and slid his cargo from its resting place. He hefted the weight over his shoulder and moved toward the wall but stumbled over a tree root. He shuddered as he imagined it reach for his ankles like a vicious tentacle. His left leg ached under the strain. He longed to rub it. At the wall, he lowered his burden to the ground.

One by one, he removed the stones and placed them on top of the shroud. When he was finished, he stood back and observed the tomb. After several adjustments, he was satisfied. No animal could unbury it. He scattered leaves along the base, smiling over his genius. The straight line of the 100-year-old wall became serpentine, as if its builder had grown bored with symmetry. He returned to the truck and eased the tailgate back into position as a new uneasiness gripped him.

“Damn, the shovel. Where is the shovel?”

His eyes darted over the ground. It was gone. He dropped to his knees. White clouds of frozen breath escaped his mouth as he crawled from the truck to the wall and back, his arms arching back and forth like some frantic swimmer. Dawn would break soon. He noticed a low keening and stopped to listen. Startled, he realized it came from within. He tried to slow his panting, but couldn’t.

“Don’t panic. It’s here somewhere.”

The owl trilled. Bare branches grazed each other as the wind rose.

“The tree. I was underneath the tree when the shovel pissed me off.”

Within minutes, he found the tool and stowed it behind the front seat. Sliding behind the wheel, he released the parking brake, stepped on the clutch and shifted into neutral.  The pitch of the ground edged the truck forward which picked up momentum as the man steered left and rolled down the trail. Just before he reached the main road, he popped the clutch. As the engine roared to life, he flipped on the headlights and patted the dash, ignoring the ache that filled his chest.

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I am grateful for the journey,

For sacrifice given freely, no strings.

For joy. For tears. For healing. For rest. 

For forgiveness,



I am grateful for the knowing.

When we allow it, we are love.

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