They got Away


“Look! There they are!” I shouted to my dad. Hopping up and down I pointed at a group of fish swimming lazily around the middle of the little pond. We cast our lines again right into the middle of them. They ignored our bait and continued their endless circling, oblivious of our attempts to capture them. They were so close that if we’d had a net we could have scooped them up. We’d spent hours chasing those fish around. It hadn’t been a particularly nice day, as far as weather and successful fishing went, but a day spent with my dad made it special. I had become obsessed with fishing since that first time, at nine years old, I’d reeled in the biggest fish, all on my own, at the local fishing pond. But, later, I had cried as they cleaned my fish to fry up for dinner.

For years it had escaped our notice of how alike we were, my dad and I. We are both passionate readers, sharing favorites with each other on a regular basis. I remember sunday nights, laying on the living room floor in front of the TV, we’d watch Star Trek. Sometimes he would try to watch Alien after I went to bed, but as soon as I heard that intro music I was out of bed in a heartbeat, “You’re watching it without me!” I’d say accusingly. He always gave in and let me stay up to watch it too. There are so many movies that the two of us love equally and have to watch whenever they’re on: My Fair Lady, Anne of Green Gables, You’ve Got Mail, Star Wars, Conspiracy Theory, Brave Heart, and one of my all time favorites is Dances With Wolves.

Due to circumstances that are now unimportant we didn’t get to have a normal father/daughter relationship until I was grown with a family of my own. All those years, they got away, just like the fish in that pond. If only I had a net to scoop them up and bring them back to me. Well, I’ve learned it’s never too late and you’re never to old to become daddy’s little girl. Even a grown woman needs a kiss on the head at night before bed. I treasure those moments. Your love makes everything OK again, daddy. I love you.
-LM Jones


The Night “The Messiah” Gave me Sales Advise


I stand back and run a hand through my hair. I’d just dusted the entire Kiosk and counted the money in the register. The mall around me begins to buzz with the activity of early shoppers. “Hi Leah! How are you today?” Pam shouts from the entrance of the clothing store across from me. Pam is a stylish blonde woman in her early fifties who seems to always have a smile or compliment to share. “I’m great Pam! How are you?” I say as I walk over to her and stand just outside the store. We exchange pleasantries and I tell her about how Liam threw my makeup into the toilet as I was getting ready for work this morning. I’d had to stop in at Sephora on my way through the mall to get samples of mascara and lip stick. Pam tells me a little about her dogs and we both get back to work. Occasionally, as I walk laps around my little kiosk, I glance over and see her hanging up a shirt. When she notices me looking she holds up a blouse that’s covered with bright blue and yellow floral patterns and acts as if she’s gagging. I nod my head in agreement that the shirt is hideous and we both giggle.

I alternate standing on different sides of the Kiosk, holding a soft pillow case in my hand, as I greet shoppers walking by. Most smile back at me, some return my greeting, others, after noticing me, immediately get a call or a text, and some suddenly find that the store displays have become immensely interesting and walk a bit faster. I only smile at them as they flee, enjoying my own private joke, that all it took for this petite little blonde blue eyed girl to become the stuff of nightmares was to sell sheets in the mall. The only time this irritates me is when I greet someone who I know heard me but chooses to continue to look forward, ignore me, and walk away. I have two college degrees so when I started the job I had to suppress the urge to feel that it was demeaning. It wasn’t terribly hard for me to shake off those feelings as it isn’t in my nature to feel that I’m above anything. After a few weeks it began to feel like I was part of a club. All the mall employees know each other and as I walk here and there throughout the day I chat with different people that I’m beginning to get to know. This is the one thing that I love about this job. Even mall security knows who I am and call out, “Hey Leah!” as they make their rounds.

“Boker tov, Leah.” I turn to smile at my boss as he quickly strides in my direction. “Good morning, Michael.” Michael is tall and thin with short brown curly hair, blue eyes, and a short beard. He’s wearing a black dress shirt and nice dark jeans, the same thing his other salesmen wear everyday. The other two Kiosks that he rents sell cosmetics from Israel. He’s a friendly man with a good sense of humor, which is surprising since he’d spent eight years in the military in Israel. He doesn’t seem the least bit militant. “Any sales this morning?” He asks in his thick Israeli accent. “Not yet, but it generally picks up after lunch and when school gets out.” I assure him. “Today is a good day, Leah, you can reach your goal and get your commission! I want you to do this. I want to give you more money.” I nod my head and smile and he gives me a high five. All of them, the Israeli sales guys, give high fives (ALL THE TIME). I don’t know if they were told that this is an American thing they should do as part of a sales tactic or if it’s just a normal part of greeting for them. I just go along with it and smile because that’s what I do, go with the flow.

At the end of the day I’m standing at the front of the Kiosk, pillowcase still in hand, leaning back and watching endless throngs of shoppers pass by. Earlier I’d had to take a break to get away from the crowds. Occasionally, I will start to feel claustrophobic in large groups of people. I’d felt an anxiety attack coming on and knew it was time to find a quiet place. Now I’m counting the minutes until the mall closes and my feet are throbbing and shooting pain up my calves. Today was an eleven hour day which means I’ve walked about eleven miles around the kiosk. I know because I keep track of my steps on my pedometer. I turn, looking over the top, and see a man standing in the center of the mall. He’s tall with long light brown hair and a short beard. He’s wearing jeans, a flannel shirt with a fleece vest over it, and he’s carrying a blue backpack. As soon as he notices that I’m looking at him he turns and walks quickly in the other direction. I think nothing of it and try to work up enough enthusiasm to make a few more sales.

“Do you like working here?” I turn to see the tall man, that I’d noticed earlier, standing before me. I smile up at him and say genuinely, “yes, I do.” He goes on to ask me a little about myself, where I’m from, what I enjoy and so on. I learn his name is Timothy and tell him mine. His gaze seems oddly intense as he speaks and I study him as I continue the small talk. “You know what you should do? When a man walks by that has on a wedding ring, you should ask him if he’s married, then ask him if he sleeps well at night.” I smile at the thought of actually saying this to someone and he goes on to say, “Now, if you see that he has a ring, but notices you’re an attractive woman and says he’s not married, Then you should ask HOW he sleeps at night. You’ll get a few laughs at least and you will have more fun.” I laugh again as he takes the pillowcase from my hands. “Burgundy isn’t the color you should be holding. It doesn’t catch the eye. You should use one of those light blue ones. Blue catches the eye and it’s a soothing color.” Just then Michael walks up, they greet each other, and just as suddenly as Timothy had appeared, he disappears with his friend.

I look over at one of the cosmetics salesmen named David and he’s making a circling motion around his ear. “What? Really? He didn’t seem crazy to me.” I say. David is not originally from Israel, like the others, he had told me once that he was from Ethiopia and had spent three years in the Israeli military. “He is crazy” David says in an accent that’s a mixture of Hebrew and Ethiopian. “He believes that God spoke to him in a vision and that he’s the Messiah.” I stare at him a moment before responding, “Well, the Messiah just gave me sales advice!” We both laugh and turn to get back to work.

-LM Jones



The black sedan pulls to a stop in front of the mortuary. John sits in the back seat prolonging what he knows will be a long walk in this cold and dreary weather. As he sits gazing out of the foggy window his eyes follow row after row of graves that stretch on for miles. His gaze is drawn to the fake flowers that decorate the front of almost every grave, they are overly bright even on this dark day.  He grunts irritably and thinks to himself, doesn’t anyone have enough time to bring real flowers, even once a week? John knows that these flowers are more than likely provided by the mortuary and this reminds him that there will be no one to bring real flowers for him one day- no children or grandchildren- so he will probably have these fake bright flowers decorating his grave as well. Maybe he can request for his to be left bare, anything would be better than the fake sentiment.

Taking a deep breath John shoves open the door, snaps open his umbrella and pushes up and out of the car. As he stands up he notices every creak, ache, and stiff joint in his body. When did pain become an accepted part of daily life? John stands straight and tall still over six feet even at eighty. John had served five years in the military during the Korean war and still carries himself like a military man. He is lean and handsome for his age with blue eyes that are still piercing and a full head of white hair that had been very black in his younger years. Suddenly, an image of Rose running her fingers through his hair and whispering something about raven’s wings comes to mind, immediately followed by that familiar wave of longing and of loss.

Rose has been gone for ten years now, but the pain is still as fresh as if she had died yesterday. John hadn’t been a saint by far before Rose, but he had never loved anyone else since that day in 1956 when, just out of the military, he had been at his best friend Jimmy’s house for a family barbeque. He hadn’t expected to see Rose, she hadn’t even crossed his mind, the last time he’d seen her she had been a scrawny freckled thirteen year old hanging onto her mother’s arm at the station as the train pulled away carrying John and Jimmy off to war.

Then, there she was, walking in with a group of friends, long legs accentuated by tight black slacks that hugged her tiny waist. She wore a pink cardigan purposely tight in the exact right place, curving around her breasts without revealing them, and a white silk scarf tied at her throat. Her bright red hair fell in waves around her face and down her back, but most striking was her bright smile and the way that the atmosphere of the entire place changed the moment her laughter filled the back yard. Jimmy, with just a hint of humor in his eyes, had slapped John on the back and said, “You remember my little sis Rose don’t you?” At that moment Rose caught sight of John and ran up to him flinging her arms around his neck. Obviously, she didn’t know the effect she had on men, or maybe she did, but John remembered, even now, the feel of her against him that first time.  “Johny! It’s so good to see you in one piece! Look how handsome you are! Now a bunch of us are going up to Rocky’s later for milkshakes, so you are going to come with us! I won’t take no for an answer!”

John didn’t even have time to string together a response before she bounced back over to her friends. Jimmy had noticed what must have been a look of blank shock on John’s face because he said, “I wouldn’t try to sneak away John. You might as well go along with her, she’s used to getting her way.” Jimmy continued to laugh as he walked to the cooler to grab a few more beers.

John was accustomed to attention from women and he never had been uncomfortable in the presence of a beautiful woman. He didn’t mind letting them do most of the talking because he enjoyed observing. Watching her eyes light up and her hands move with what she was saying. John was an introvert so he enjoyed sitting back and watching the world unfold around him, but with Rose it seemed that suddenly he had lost his equilibrium. No woman had ever made him feel quite as off balance. For a moment he had considered fleeing, but he was too intrigued to run.

So a few hours later there they were, in a booth at Rocky’s, alone because the others had become tired of being ignored by them. They had been completely absorbed in each other. John couldn’t remember a single thing she had said during that time, but even now he could remember the smell of her perfume. It was a mixture of vanilla and jasmine and completely intoxicating. He could remember how her green eyes were so full of light and laughter as she described the new experiences of life on her own at college. She had been so fresh, so ready to face life head on, and this was exactly what John needed after his years at war. He remembers sharing some of his war stories with her that night. Some were funny some sad. John had watched a lot of friends die and still wondered why he was alive when so many were not. Rose didn’t try to tell him how to feel she just held his hand and listened. He had known even then that she was going to be his wife.

John is pulled back from his thoughts as he realizes he’s getting close to where his Rose had been laid to rest, who came up with that saying anyway, laid to rest? John didn’t know how anyone could describe a lifeless body being buried under six feet of cold earth as restful. As he moved along he noticed, out of the corner of his eye, that same woman was walking with him again. He didn’t even bother to look directly at her or even acknowledge that she was there. She always seemed to show up at the most inconvenient times. Was she one of the nurses that occasionally came out to check his blood pressure? Well, he didn’t need any help and she always seemed to be trying to urgently get his attention. He didn’t want to talk to her he wanted to focus on the task at hand and get lost in his memories of Rose. This was his day once a week to honor her, damn it! Why couldn’t he just be alone. Finally, he walked up to Rose’s stone. He paused for a moment and then slowly bent down to replace the withered flowers with the fresh roses that he had brought. They had been her favorite, yellow with just a blush of pink on the tips of the petals. The smell of them brought on another memory.

It was the day of freshman finals and John had agreed to pick her up after she was done. He had been standing by the fountain with a huge bouquet of roses. When she saw him she ran up to him flung her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist. The flowers fell to the ground as their lips met and his mind and body became consumed with her.  “Thank goodness all those tests are over! What are we going to do now?” she asked as she hopped down and swept up her flowers.          “Well I thought we could go hiking and have a picnic if you want?” he had replied.                                                            “That sounds marvelous!” She said looping her arm in his as they headed to the car.

They had gone hiking and then decided that a pretty little meadow they’d discovered was the perfect place for them to eat. After eating they were laying on the blanket, Rose looking up at the clouds, John had been watching her face and twirling her silky hair around his fingers.  “Rose, I have something to ask you.”  She sat up, a little crease forming at her brow.          “Rose, I want to go through life with you at my side. I not only want to see your smile everyday, I want to be the one who puts it there. I don’t think anything would be worth experiencing unless we experience it together. So I’m asking you to share your life with me. Be my wife.”

“Oh, John!” She jumped at him and they fell back onto the blanket. Her lips locked on his and her body was pressed against his. Her hands were in his hair and he couldn’t bring himself to push her back. They had waited for what seemed an eternity and it seemed they couldn’t wait any longer. That is the day they had made love for the first time.  Later, as they were laying together, listening to the woods around them, Rose sprang up, “I didn’t give you an answer!” and she leaned over him, her hair a red halo around her head, kissed his lips and whispered, “Yes, John I want to share everyday with you.”

He sat up and fished the ring out of his pants, rolled back on his side and slipped it onto her finger. Then he rolled the blanket around them and they began to make love again.

Six months later they were married and expecting a baby that he was sure they had made that day and he was happy. He had everything he could possibly want. John supported them by working in the family company and they had just begun to make a home for themselves and then the bottom fell out. They’d been awakened in the middle of the night to sheets soaked with blood. They rushed to the hospital where they lost their first and only baby girl that they had named Lily. The doctor informed them that Rose would never be able to carry a pregnancy. This news had been crushing, but John was just glad to have Rose, safe and alive. He drove her home the next morning and they had laid in bed just holding each other. They spent months crying together, making love, and healing. Rose was still the bright woman full of life that John had fallen in love with, but there was a sadness there sometimes too that hadn’t been there before. There had always been an innocence about Rose, a certain fragility, that made John feel the need to protect her. He couldn’t protect her from the loss of their daughter. He felt powerless at times, but she would reassure him that all she needed was to feel him beside her, to be in his arms. Eventually, the pain did ease and life fell into a new normal.

Things were not always easy, they suffered lost jobs and tight months of grilled cheese sandwiches and wine, but that was alright with John. Sometimes he even enjoyed watching her temper flare up as fiery as her red hair because he knew it could just as easily turn into passion of an entirely different and more enjoyable kind.

John stands in the cold rain in front of Rose’s grave for a long time remembering their life together. As he hikes up his jacket around his neck a bright flash at his side startles him. It came from the woman standing beside him. This time he gives her his full attention and goes numb with shock. It’s Rose! Rose standing before him, but not the rose he put into the ground this is the Rose of his youth. Long red hair, curling at her elbow, bright green eyes sparkling as she looks up at him and the same impish smile on her lips.

“Oh John I’ve been waiting for you to see me.” She whispers as her hand reaches up to stroke his cheek.                                “But how is this possible Rose? Look at you!” She takes his hand and pulls him over to the stone next to hers. As he looks at it he realizes that his name is written on this stone, but how can that be? He looks back at Rose, his face full of confusion.  “Darling, don’t be afraid, but you have been wandering for a long time. You’ve been confused and so angry. It’s time to remember now.”

Suddenly, John does remember. It must have been that night he had felt so tired. He’d laid down in their bed alone and lonely and just been so tired. When he had awoken the next day it had seemed so gray and dull. It had almost felt like he’d been living in a fog ever since, and at this realization John begins to notice a change taking place in his body. He looks down and watches in astonishment as the spots and wrinkles in his skin begin to fade and disappear. He feels as if it is easier to stand up straight, almost as if he’s lighter. All the aches and stiffness seem to melt away.  Slowly, he turns back to Rose their eyes meet and the sun breaks through the clouds. As the light falls down around them John notices a little girl standing behind Rose. When she sees that he notices her she steps forward, her hair is the same bright red as her mother’s but her eyes are blue like John’s.  “This is our daughter John.” Rose says as her hand caresses the little head. John steps forward and kneels before the little girl that their love had created, his eyes are stinging and his throat feels tight, “You look just like your mommy.”

“Hi daddy! I’ve missed you, but now we can be together always!” Her little arms encircle his neck and she rubs her cheek against his.

Tears are streaming down his face as John scoops Lily into his arms. She kisses the wet parts of his face and lays her head on his shoulder and whispers in his ear “It’s going to be OK now.” John stands with Lily on his hip and gathers Rose to his other side and when he turns he notices that they are in a field that looks exactly like the one where he and Rose first made love. His arm tightens around Rose and he rubs his cheek against Lily’s silky head as they walk forward together into the light.


A Storm


“Coo,coo, coo”. I love the sound of these birds and their song calls me away from my dreaming. I’ve fallen asleep with the window open again, my pillow on the sill. My skin is sticky and warm, but I don’t mind. I stretch, flinging my arms out the window, in no hurry to get out of bed. I lay there, legs hanging over the side of my bed and head in the window, watching as the sun continues to rise. When I decide it’s time to get up I pull myself up onto the sill and jump to the ground. Heedless of bare feet and nightgown I head through the trees and down a trail. There is magic in the air, I can feel it tingling in my toes and fingertips. As I continue I come to a tree that towers over the path. I run to the tire swing hanging from one of it’s great limbs, flinging my body into it. My hair drags the ground picking up random debris as I twirl myself, around and around, until the rope can take no more. I lift my feet and let myself swing in circles until I’m dizzy. Then I jump from the swing and happily begin down the path once again.

When I get to the creek I step into it without hesitation. The delicious chill of the water is welcome on this summer morning. In the Deep South the summer air is a hot, moist weight on your body and in your lungs. The sweet smell of honeysuckle floats to me from the bushes all around. I pick a flower, careful not to break it, and slowly pull the end through until a single drop of nectar is gathered. It’s sweet taste fills my mouth as I continue to follow the water further into the woods. After a short walk the narrow creek opens onto a small pond. In the center of the pond is an island just large enough for a tree that dominates the entire space. As I continue, and the water deepens, I glide into it and back peddle forward. Stopping to float I gaze above and around me. Red and brown blurs flit back and forth overhead singing to each other as they go about their morning ritual. There is a little splash as a turtle, fleeing my presence I assume, hurries back into the water. I turn over and trudge through the red clay and onto the island. There’s just enough room to stretch my legs as I sit with my back against the tree trunk. It’s there that I enjoy my morning with eyes closed and mind wandering. “Leah!” My mother’s voice rings across the distance. I jump to my feet and splash through the waist deep water. Within minutes I’m on the trail my bare feet dodging familiar roots and stones. “Coming” I shout back to her. I arrive before her and she doesn’t even look twice at my dripping nightgown, wet hair, and muddy feet. My current state is nothing new. “I need you to watch your sisters while I go to the store.” “OK” I say as I head to my room.

Dry and somewhat cleaner I head back outside to the front yard. My little sisters are in the woods pretending to be fairies. I can hear their giggles as they pretend to fly and the dogs chase after them wanting to join in on the fun. I smile as I begin to balance on the rail ties that separate our yard from the neighbor’s. He’s sitting on his porch watching and waiting for the little blonde urchin’s toe to touch his sacred ground. Just then mom arrives back from the store. “Mom, can I go play with Jenny?” She nods and in a moment of pure mischievous glee I run across the neighbor’s yard toward the dirt road. “Hey! Git outta ma yard!” He yells at my back. I keep running through the neighborhood until I reach a trailer surrounded by a fence and guarded by the two of the scariest dogs. They bark at me angrily and I’m thankful for the fence that separates us. Glaring at them, I cup my hands around my mouth and shout “Jenny!”. They only begin to bark louder, the scorn is mutual, so I turn my back to them.  As I’m waiting I notice some junk out behind her house. One of the things reminds me of the piece of plastic that thread is wrapped around when you buy it. Maybe it’s called a spool, but this is huge so it must have been used to wrap industrial cables around. Finally, Jenny comes outside. “Hey, let’s go see what that stuff is,” I say as she closes the gate on the snarling little demon dogs. I barely repress the urge to stick my tongue out at them.

Upon inspection of the giant spool we discover that the center is hollow and that it would be perfect to roll in. So we roll our new toy to the center of her huge yard and I climb inside. I brace my hands and feet around the inside of the opening and Jenny gives it a push. The yard has just enough incline for it to pick up some speed as it rolls. When it comes to a stop I fall onto the ground and laugh uncontrollably. Jenny runs to me and announces that it’s her turn. It doesn’t take long for all the neighborhood kids to catch onto what we are doing and join us. We spend hours taking turns rolling each other in this formerly forgotten piece of debris. When we are bored of this Jenny and I go inside to watch a movie.

A few hours later after being suitably freaked out by “Silence of the Lambs”, I head over to visit a different friend. I knock at the door of his little trailer. He opens the door “Hi little Leah!” He always has a smile for me. Everyone calls him Tadpole. Tadpole is a wiry man in his 50’s with a long beard. He beckons me inside and I dodge piles of books and magazines as I wind my way to the living room. “So what will it be today? Moses, Krull, Spartacus or maybe My Fair Lady?” I consider for a moment as I search through his vast collection of movies, “I think maybe Anne of Green Gables.” He hands me the movie and we chat about nature and fishing for a while. “Well I guess I better get home, thanks for the movie Tadpole!” He waves as I run down the hill to the little tan trailer I call home. I cradle the movie in my arms as I dodge puddles and jump ditches in my rush to get there and watch it. Anne of Green Gables is one of my favorite movies.

After a shower I’m laying on the floor of the living room watching the movie. I always cry at the part where, the orphan Anne, is talking to her reflection trying to pretend it’s another person who can console her. I know what it feels like to be that lonely and to feel as different and awkward as she does. Outside it begins to storm. The day couldn’t end any better for me, I love thunderstorms. I run outside into the rain jumping in puddles and doing cart wheels. It doesn’t matter to me that I’m now dirty again after a shower. Why should I care? “Time for bed. Come in and dry off Leah.” My mom calls from the doorway. Later, in bed I’m laying by the open window. My arm is outstretched to feel the rain. I love the sound of it on the roof. I can’t explain why there’s a little ball of excitement in my stomach at the flash of the lightning and the boom of the thunder. It sooths me, as if the violence of the storm is a release for the violence in my heart. With my hand open to the sky, welcoming the rain, I fall asleep.