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Archive for the ‘General Fiction’ Category

coffee_smileCafe Attitude
by: Colette Calapristi Casey
© 2014

I could feel the paper in my hand fluttering from the shakes that had taken over my body. The words on the paper seemed simple enough: Jane Smith, 395-3098. A simple name. A simple phone number and today a very, very complicated situation.

I paced in my bedroom back and forth with my cell in my hand. I know I had asked for this, but now I wondered if it was just better not to know.

My mother was a saint as far as I was concerned. My whole life, she has been there for me through thick and thin. It didn’t matter what kind of crap I was pulling she was always there to guide me back on track. I remember one terrible day when I was 15, we had one of the worse fights of my life.

It started out simply. I had asked for information about my birth mother. I could see the color drain from my mother’s face. She was sitting on the couch reading the news on her computer. She slowly closed it and stood up to face me.

“I will tell you everything I know about your birth mother. What do you want to know?” My mother’s voice was kind but strained.

“Like her name, where does she live? Why did she give me up? Didn’t she care about me?” Yeah, I screamed it.

“I can’t tell you any contact information until you turn 18. That was part of the arrangement of your adoption. I can tell you that she cared very deeply for you, but was not able keep you.”

I remember the heat rise to my face and if I was a cartoon character I’m sure my eyes would have been bugging out.

“Oh dare you! I want her name and address now!”

The strain on my mother’s face tightened more if that was even possible.

“Alyssa, I wish I could tell you, but even if I gave you the information, she will not be there. She will not be there until you turn 18.”

“What the hell mom! What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

And there it was. My cussing at mom was not acceptable and she let me know it. I ended up getting grounded for over a month. Each time I opened my mouth and yelled at her, she’d tack on a day until I was up to 30 days grounded. Ok, so I’m a little slow on the uptake, but I did eventually shut up.

Now, standing here in my room with her number in my hand, these last three years seemed to have flown by.

I thought of my mother and how she had placed this paper on my nightstand the morning of my 18th birthday. That was two weeks ago. She never asked me about it and I never thanked her. I had gotten what I wanted but couldn’t bring myself to make the call, until now.

I looked at the number again, closed my eyes and tapped the numbers.

I put the phone to my ear and could hear my own breathing. It rang once, twice and a third time. On the fourth ring, she answered.

“Hello? Is this Alyssa?” Her voice was warm and rich.

My first thought is that my mother must have tipped her off.

“Ye..yes. This is Alyssa. Is this Jane? I mean Mrs. Smith? I’m sorry what can I call you?” I was stuttering like an idiot.

I heard her laugh. “You can call me whatever you like. But Jane is nice.”

Her laughter calmed my nerves and I could breathe a little easier.

“Jane, I was wondering if you would like to meet somewhere?”

Again, that creamy laughter. “Of course sweet child. Why else would you reach out to me. I think it’s time we got to know each other don’t you?”

My mind screamed, ‘yes! yes! I’ve wanted to know you ever since I learned about you!’, but I answered more reserved. “Yes, Jane. That would be very nice.”

We chatted about a place to meet, a time and what we would be wearing, but she insisted she would know me when she saw me.

The date was set for this Saturday and we would meet a popular coffee shop downtown.

The four days in-between were excruciatingly long. I felt like I had to tip-toe around my mother as I never told her about the meeting and she never asked. I was sure she knew and I was sure she had been talking to Jane.

By time Saturday had arrived, I had picked out four or five outfits, put my hair up, down, in a pony-tail or with a headband. I finally settled on a look and headed out to meet my mother.

The coffee shop was moderately full with patrons, students and housewives waiting for swim lessons at the Y to finish. It was a beautiful day outside and so I waited a few minutes to get the perfect café table facing the street.

I checked my watch and it was ten past 10. Jane was now 10 minutes late. I tried not to appear over anxious as I looked at everyone who walked by and in the shop. I don’t know why I was looking for her, I didn’t have a clue what she looked like. I told her I would be wearing Seattle Mariners jacket. What a stupid item of clothing to wear. There were at least two or three other people here with one on. But they weren’t 18 or female. I was beginning to think I was being stood up.

I took a sip of my coffee and starting checking my facebook. I scrolled through the status updates and even watched a cat video until I felt a hand on my shoulder. Then I heard the sweet, beautiful voice.

“Hello Alyssa.”

I looked up with all the excitement of a kid at Christmas, but what I saw freaked me out.

“Are…are you Jane?” I asked and I’m sure I had those bug eyes going.

“Yes I am. I’m sure you have lots of questions.”

The woman pulled out her chair and sat down beside me. She had long brown hair, blue yes, full lips, high cheekbones and was wearing a Mariners Jacket. Oh, and yeah, did I happen to mention she looked just like me? I’m not talking in a mother daughter kind of way. I’m talking like in a freaky twin sister kind of way.

I sat there stunned as she put on sunglasses as the sun came out.

“I..ahh..” yeah, smooth.

“Why don’t I start.” Jane said calmly.

I nodded my head still trying to see any wrinkles, any sign of gray hair, no droopy neck like my mom, nothing.

“Alyssa, first I have to say, you were very much loved. It was very difficult for me to give you up, but it was a matter of life or death that I do. You’re life. You needed to grow to maturity to be safe, and now that you are, we can finally meet.”

“What are you talking about? Someone wanted to hurt me? Is that why my mother wouldn’t tell me where you were until I turned 18?”

Jane smiled and took a sip of her tea.

“That’s part of it. Yes, in order for you to thrive here, you had to be adopted by a family…here. And yes, your mother knew that she could not tell you where I was until you were 18.”

“oookkkaaay, but I still don’t know why I couldn’t go with you instead of being adopted.”

Jane smiled. “Alyssa, I’m sure can see that there is something different about us, right?”

I nodded my head. You bet there’s something different.

“How old are you anyway?” It blurted out, I couldn’t help myself.

Jane laughed again. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“Try me.” I was starting to get pissed off. This was my life and she’s answering questions with questions and laughing at everything.

She tilted her head and I felt a coolness settle over her.

“All right then Alyssa. Let me tell you, about you.”

Her words ran in circles in my head. I tried to comprehend what she was trying to tell me. Words like ‘came to this planet’ and ‘fell in love with a human’ and ‘takes 18 years to get here’ stuff like that.

I’m sure my bug eyes were out when I finally got it together to speak.

“So, you are saying, my mother is my aunt, my father is your old boyfriend who died when your people found out you were pregnant and that I’m an alien too?”

Jane laughed, but then caught herself. I think she could see I was just a tad overwhelmed.

“Yes, darling to some point. Because you are part human, you will be able to age, but just not as fast as others.”

I smirked. That didn’t sound so bad.

“You’ll also be safe. Because you are of age, my people cannot erase you as a ‘mistake.’ I loved your father so very much and after he was killed I couldn’t bear to see you harmed. So for our safety, your mother took you in and I returned to my planet.”

I could see that it was love that drove her to give me up. I wondered if I would ever possess such an unselfish and graceful quality. I realized it has always been there with me in my mom. Her patience and grace got me through the toughest times in my life and made me strong for what I would hear today.
“So what does my mom have to say about our meeting?”

Jane shrugged. “I have no idea. We’ve not spoken in nearly 18 years.”

Bug eyes. “So, how did you know if was me on the phone when I called.”

Jane smiled. “It will be your gift soon. Empathy with a touch of telepathy. You will experience an awakening of the people around you and feel a connectedness like never before. You and I will be able to communicate freely if you so desire and you will learn what drives the humans. This includes your mother who of course is driven by great love.”

All of my confusion, anger and attitude seemed to slip away the longer Jane and I spoke. The more I got to know her, the more I loved my mother. Isn’t funny how a total stranger could show me how much I am loved.

We talked for another hour until Jane touched her watch. It was time for her to go. And when I say go, I mean, not down the street.

“Blessings upon you Alyssa and you and I shall be together in the energy soon.”

Jane walked up to me and gave me an amazing hug, one like I’ve never felt before.

I watched her walk away and then I picked up my cell and called my mother.

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“One Good Deed”

One Good Deed
By: Colette Calapristi Casey
© 2014

Susan Miller moved slowly through the room of overstuffed boxes, trinkets and furniture wondering where to begin first. She walked over to the sliding glass doors and opened the drapes, letting the afternoon soon warm the room. The glass door was cloudy at best, the result of years of smoking from its resident. She sighed.

The lock on the slider was stuck from lack of use, but once pried open, the ocean air rushed in. Why he never opened the drapes baffled her when a beachside view of the Boardwalk and the Atlantic lay in waiting.

Susan closed the screen door and breathed a sigh of relief. The looming work before her seemed to become more manageable as the scent of the ocean wafted through the condo.

She was thankful she came so early. It would be a long process and she wanted to get a start on it.

Susan had gone through four piles of ‘stuff’ that included trinkets from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Her mother had already gone through the most recent items per the will and through these items into piles for Susan.

The trash pile was growing while the ‘give-a-way’ pile not so much. She was meticulously going through a notebook of loose papers when her cell phone startled her back into reality.

She looked at the number and rolled her eyes. “Hello Marlene. What do you want?”

“Well that’s a hell of a way to greet your mother. I was just calling to check in.”

Susan knew the call was more than just checking in. Her mother never called just to say hi.

“Okay, how are you. What do you want?”

Marlene sighed on the other end. “Fine. Be that way. You always were a little bitch.”

“There’s the mom I know and love. For the last time, what do you want?”

“I know you’re at the condo today and wanted to make sure you understood the rules of the will. Anything you find dated 1980 or later is mine. I get the new stuff. Got it?”

“Yes ma’am and you are welcome to it.”

“So have you found anything? I know he purchased some coins in the last 10 years. I found most of them, but any others are mine. He never bought that stuff before then.”

Susan started to rub her neck and head. She was getting a headache.

“Got it.”

There was a long silence before Marlene spoke up.

“Ok. We’ll that’s all I wanted to say. Let me know when you’re done so we can get that condo on the market. The sooner we sell it, the sooner you get half. Per the will of course.”

“Yeah. Got it. If you’re done I have a bunch of piles of junk to go through that someone just threw into a big mess.”

“Well, okay, I know you’re busy. Call me when you’re done.”

Susan clicked the end call and slipped her phone back into her bra.

The day dragged on until Susan had sorted through all the piles in the living room, kitchen and bedroom. The only area left was the washer and dryer area.

The air had grown cool and the Boardwalk tourists had just started picking up speed. Susan grabbed a soda from the fridge and went out to the deck for a break.

She always loved the boardwalk, especially at night. She looked down towards the amusements that were all illuminated, spinning and twirling. People just walked up and down “the boards” stopping in small shops, picking up an order of greasy boardwalk fries and teens getting their flirt on.

Susan smiled. She loved her weekends and summers with her grandfather. Her mother was always too ‘busy’ to spend time her, so she was always pawned off on her grandfather. But she didn’t mind. Grandpa would take her for a walk on the boards, buy her ice cream and even took her with him on a few jobs. He was the top “fix it” guy in town. The only reason he was able to afford the condo was because when the market dumped, he picked it up for a song. Because he was handy he remodeled it and updated it to be one of the nicest on the block. He had done that a lot, bought and flipped property.

Her smile faded. Most of the assets from his modest estate went to her Mother, and she guessed it should.

Susan took the last gulp of her pop and tossed it in the recycle can she had set up.

“Ok. Last room. Laundry.”

Susan opened the first cabinet and found what was expected: laundry soap, bleach, and the usual suspects. She had brought in another big black trash bag and started tossing. This job would go quickly. Tomorrow would be easy, moving trash to the dumpster, donating other items and taking the one small sentimental box she had collected, home.

Susan had gone through the final cabinet and had cleared everything and reached for the last item. By all appearances it looked like the manual for the washer and dryer. It was in plastic and set on the side of the cabinet. As usual, Susan made sure to check everything.

Everything started out as expected. They were indeed manuals. She took each one out and fanned the pages. The first one, the dryer. Now the second. When she fanned the pages she discovered two pieces of paper stuffed into the manual.

Curious, she pulled them out and began to read. “Deed of Ownership” she read out loud. “The Henson Complex, 400-500 Ocean Avenue.” Susan read the words again. Her heart started to race.

“Are you kidding me Grandpa?”

She looked over the deed again and searched for a date. There it was: 1979.

Susan shook her head. If what she was reading was correct, Grandpa had owned entire block of the Jersey Shore Boardwalk.

Susan barely slept that night. She tossed and turned worrying about getting up early. She had to get to the City to validate the deed and the date,which that would exclude it from her mother. Her mind reeled that her Grandfather had been this rich but never let on.

With each toss and turn, the darkness began to fold into the sunrise and the day would shortly follow. The morning dragged on with Susan watching the clock every minute until 8:45 a.m. when she could head out to City Hall.

“So, is it real?” Susan blurted to the man behind the desk. She was comfortable with him. He would often join her and Grandpa for ice cream on the boards.

He laughed. “Oh yeah, yeah, this is real Susie. You know, your Granddad was really loved around here. Everyone knew him and he knew everyone.”

“I know that. But seriously, is this real? I mean, this means he owns a whole block of the boardwalk! How could he afford something like this? I mean, if he owned this, he was a frickin’ millionaire right?”

The man smiled. “Yes. Yes, he was a millionaire and now, so are you.”

Susan’s eyes widened. “Wha…whaattt?”

“Yes, Susan, I know all about this deed. He must have been hoping you’d find it. All the revenue from this property has been put into a trust. For you. Because it is dated 1979, it falls within his Will for you to receive. You’re mother can’t touch it.”

My heart raced as I thought of my Grandfather. Of how he would pay the medical bills of friends who couldn’t afford it, of how he would check in on older tenants of the buildings he serviced and fix any problems they had for free.

Then I thought of myself with all that money. One thing I know for sure is that it is ‘found’ money and it had to go to help others. That’s what I decided to do. I knew with the trust, there was plenty for me to live on and then some. Starting today I could now officially help so many people. The children at the Community Center where I volunteered, the hairdresser, who’s husband left her with a small baby, and all the other people that gave me an opportunity to be a better person.

No one ever said life would go as planned. For in the moments of the surprise one see’s the bigger “Plan.”

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cityNo Wind, No Rain
by: Colette Calapristi Casey
© copyright 2014

The buildings glistened in the sun, street lights rotated from green to yellow to red. Neon signs flashed inviting patrons in and café’s were set for the evening’s dinner guests. Everything was at it should be, but where was everyone?

I ran down Monroe Center usually a gathering place for young professionals, hipsters and swing dancers in the Park on a Tuesday evening. But there was no one. Absolutely, positively no one.

No wind blew on the street, no rubbish overflowing from the trash cans. I searched in vain for signs of life, a stray dog, a frantic squirrel or a pigeon scrounging for a lone fry.

My voice echoed against unmoving buildings devoid of life. I was in a ghost town yet it seemed like I was the ghost. I felt the fear rise up in my chest and begin to pour out by way of my tears.

I stumbled as I reached for a park bench and sat, dropping my face into my hands.

“Where is everyone?” I said it very quietly at first, but the panic drove it to a higher volume. This time I screamed it. I waited for a response, but the only thing I heard was my own voice echoing throughout the city.

I tried desperately to remember how I got here, but it was to no avail. I laid on my side and rested my head on my arm. I searched the pavement for signs of life. An ant, a beetle or a fly. Nothing. Nothing but emptiness.

I felt myself fall into a deep sleep which provided some comfort. In my dream I heard voices and they were comforting.

In what seemed like an instant their soothing voices disappeared, jolting me awake in my deserted city.

I sat up and wondered into the Grand Hotel. Everything was as it should be. The magnificent chandelier set against the gold leaf ceiling was as regal as ever. The sent of vintage and new blended beautifully throughout, but still there was no one. I walked into the main lobby and realized I heard a sound!

I ran towards it and almost immediately knew what it was. The fountain was pushing water over the rocks and live plants. I had to admit, at this point some sound was better than no sound. I stepped up to the Starbucks bar and noticed that hot coffee was brewing and the espresso machine was on. I helped myself to a cup of coffee and sat again to rest. I was so tired. I don’t recall ever being this tired before. The lounge chair was an overstuffed wingback of red velvet. I set my feet upon the footstool hoping to hear the voices again. The voices that let me know I wasn’t alone.

And then they came.

“It will take some time, but I believe her prognosis is quite good.” The man’s voice was soothing. I fell deeper into my sleep.

“How soon will she come back to us Doctor?” That was my…husband? It sounded like him, but his voice was different. It was wavering.

“It’s too soon to tell. We’ll be keeping an eye on her.” I heard the other man say.

“Just keep talking to her. They say that Coma patients can still hear , even though they may not respond.”

In a coma? What did he say?

“Jennifer. Baby. I’m here sweetheart. We need you to be here too. We need you to come back to us. Can you hear me sweetheart?”

I heard him. His voice so tender and caring, but I couldn’t answer him. It’s as if through my sleep I was conscious but my body would not cooperate. “I’m here Sam! I didn’t go anywhere!”

“Jenn, McKenna drew you a picture today at school. She really misses her mommy.”

I have a child. I do! I have a child!

“She wanted me to give you this.”

I felt something against my cheek, but I still couldn’t move. My heart. My heart, I think it is breaking. It hurts so bad.

“You’re mom and dad are coming to visit tonight. They are worried about you, but I told them you were tough that you would be back in no time.”

I would. I will.

“Jennifer, I love you so much sweetheart. McKenna loves her mommy, come back to us babe, come back to us please.”

I felt him. I felt him all around me, I loved him and our child with all my heart. I don’t want to be here anymore. I want to leave. I’m so alone here. I need them, I need to see them.

“Jenn? Oh my God! Jenn?”

His voice was closer now and I think I can see him.

“Doctor! Nurse! Her eyes! I think she’s trying to open her eyes!” I could hear him shouting. I was feeling closer. I was feeling less alone.

“I’m coming darling. I am. Wait for me. I’ll be home.” I heard my voice, but it was only in my head.

My husband grabbed my hand and I held it. I would be home soon. It would be soon. This time when I fell deeper asleep, I dreamed of my family and of sunshine, dancing and people. Lots and lots of people.

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beachVacation Blues©
by: Colette Calapristi Casey
©2014

It had been the longest 12 months of my life. The new year started off with a divorce, followed by a new temporary job in a new town, followed by yet another temp job. All in all, I’m thankful to have at least been employed long enough so that I could afford my dream vacation in the South of France.

After the long flight I finally arrived at my hotel, the Grand in Cannes France. To say my room was breathtaking was an understatement. The furnishings were impeccable and the view, well the view was magnificent.

I sat on my balcony, sipping my morning coffee, watching the buzz of Cannes and taking in the view of the sapphire Mediterranean. How on earth did I get so lucky to live like this. My work was grueling, but it did pay well. I have that to be thankful for. However there was always one person that could harass me at every turn. She’s always popping up and making my life miserable. As a matter of fact, she is the reason I hardly ever get asked back to my temp jobs. Ah, well, she’s not here now and I’m going to enjoy my vacation.

Spending time in the morning allowed me to catch up on my sleep and ease into a beautiful day. I was excited to check out the city and donned my hat and sunglasses to take in the sites.

I walked up and down the waterfront, passed the private beaches with sunbather’s taking in each rain of sunshine. It was a beautiful day. I kept walking and passed the theatre where they have the film festival. It looked like they were setting up for something. There was a red carpet and ropes to keep people away.

I soon wandered upon “Old Cannes.” Immediately I was taken out of present day and into the past with the cobblestone street and the tight alleyway lined with one of a kind restaurants and boutiques. It was this visit that I decided I would dine here tonight.

I spoke with one of the merchants who told me about the live music, violins, accordion players and how it filled the street at night.

My heart raced with excitement until I heard her.

“Hello Susan. Miss me?”

I turned around and saw her standing before me. As usual, she was incredibly beautiful and confident.
Stephanie Hathaway was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen, but with a heart like coal. Her bright blue eyes, full lips and cascading blond hair were nothing short of perfection. But she was cruel. Very cruel.

“Really? Here? You followed me here?” My voice sounded hopeless.

“Followed you? Are you shitting me? You followed me. Why can’t you just end it now?”

My heart sank. It’s not the first time I’ve heard her talk like that. I have heard these cruel words on more than one occasion.

“Stephanie, I have to go.” I quickly turned to walk away from her. I suppose I was not surprised by her appearance. She had a knack for turning up anywhere at anytime.

We met when I lived in a foster home. It was one of the worst homes I had ever lived in. But, that is where I met Stephanie. She was beautiful, but tough. For a long time I just about worshiped her. All though elementary, middle and high school we were inseparable, but by the time I went to college, I had enough. Stephanie was bossy and condescending. I started to feel worse than usual with her around. I needed to leave our friendship. However, Stephanie wouldn’t hear of it and so, she has followed me everywhere.

I even went to the police to obtain a restraining order but they said I didn’t have enough information for them to do anything about it.

And so, I live with it. I live with her constant appearances and opinions.

I ran from her. I ran as fast as I could. I heard Stephanie shouting out to me from the crowds at each and every turn. The trip back to my hotel felt like an eternity, but was never more happy as when I reached my room.

My heart rate slowed and at once I felt exhausted. I looked at the clock and thought that I might have a nice nap before dinner. The bed was so inviting so I accepted its welcome, slipped out of my shoes, dropped my bags and lay down to sleep.

My dreams were not restful and I felt as though I had run a marathon when I woke up. My voice was horse and I was sweating. I was having these kinds of dreams more and more lately. I was hoping that the vacation would help but maybe not.

My shower was just what I needed to reset my mood. Soon I was back in old Cannes and as the merchant promised earlier, there was music. Lots of music. I was in heaven! Can anything get more wonderful than this moment?

The hostess seated me at a lovely café table on the street in front of the building. I quickly enjoyed an amazing glass of cabernet and appetizer of “little fish”. I laughed when they arrived. It was a platter of little silver fish that had been battered and fried head and all. Besides the little guys looking at me, they were quite delicious.

“Haven’t you had enough already? When are you going to quit?”

I looked up and there she was sitting across the alley from me at another table.

I tried to ignore her, but as usual, she wouldn’t stop.

“Seriously. Do we have to continue to do this? This is my life you are messing up. You need to just be gone once and for all!”

I gasped. Even after all these years, she never came out and said this. Ever. It broke my heart. I felt tears begin to well in my eyes, but anger overtook me. Enough was enough.

I felt my body stand like it was out of my control. So was the scream.

“STOP IT! WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!!!!”

Stephanie smiled at me, but it wasn’t a cruel smile it was kind and nurturing.

“There it is sweetie. Let it out. Let it all out.”

My rage welled up inside me like never before. I felt my face go flush.

“I can’t take this anymore Stephanie! Why are you always here? Why are you always in my life!”

Stephanie came closer, but stayed across the alley.

“You know why. You don’t have to run anymore. I can take care of us.”

I shook my head violently. “No, no, no, no!”

Just then I realized that people had begun to gather around me. A kind man, took my arm.

“All you alright madam?”

I cried. I sobbed, “No, no, I am not. She has been tormenting me for years, I can’t make her stop!”

“Who madam?”

“Her!” I pointed directly at Stephanie, who stood there with a look of sympathy on her face. This only made me more angry.

“Who madam? There is no one there. Are you sure you are alright?”

I looked at him. Why couldn’t he see her? Why couldn’t anyone? Even the police officer said she didn’t exist when I went for the restraining order.

“Of course I’m alright – She’s right there! Why can’t you see her! It’s Stephanie Hathaway – The actress! You’ve seen her in movies, she has CD’s. She’s everywhere!”

The man looked stunned and confused. He looked at the other people who had come to help. They too looked confused and began to talk amongst themselves.

I started to cry. “Why? Why can’t you see her.”

The man took my arm and helped me to sit back in my chair. “Forgive me Madam. You are obviously very upset. But, madam….YOU are Stephanie Hathaway.

At first his words sounded foreign, even though he was speaking English with a French accent.

“Noooo….”

“Yes Madam. I am a fan. You were signing autographs earlier today. You are very talented.”

I couldn’t comprehend what he was saying and I looked up at Stephanie who was nodding in agreement. She spoke but only I could hear her.

“It’s over. Its time for us to join. You are safe now. We are better together than apart.”

The siren sounded far away but must have been close because it wasn’t long when I heard kind voices and gentle hands on my back. Gentle hands. Not the hands that had hurt me so long ago.

I answered the paramedics questions and finally agreed to one final question.

“Madam. We can help you. Can you come with us?”

I looked up at Stephanie.

“It’s time darling. Let them help us.”

I felt a sense of peace and saw Stephanie fade from view.

“Yes. I do believe I need help sir.”

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tabby-cat-1Knock, Knock…Who’s There?

By: Colette Casey
©copyright 2014

The morning sun bathed my bedroom in amber light and drowsy haze. Chica was cuddled at the end of the bed against my feet. I felt her purring and joined her in rhythm; I didn’t want to get out of bed either.

After a week from hell, I finally felt like I’d cleared the hump. I had finalized a massive project at work, and wrote my last check to pay off my condo remodel. I know I fudged the numbers a bit on my return, but everyone does right? And its not like I spent the money on a trip to Vegas, it would just replace the money used to pay off the remodel. Now, with the sun caressing me in warmth, I could feel balance coming back into my life.

Little did I know that the pounding on the door was a knock that would change my life forever. So much for lounging in bed. I bolted up and threw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Chica looked up at me, scowling for disturbing her content place in the universe.

“Who is it?”

“Tamera Jensen, IRS.”

What the….”Excuse me, did you say IRS?”

“Yes ma’am, we had an appointment for this morning. Since you work from home, you asked that I come here.”

The wine fog from last night started to dissipate and I realized that I had indeed requested this.

I opened the door to check and see if maybe this was a man with a woman’s tiny voice, but in fact she was who she said she was….an IRS agent, frumpy and a haircut like it was done at Styles by Salad Bowl accompanied by a worn out tired expression.

“May I come in?” Looking straight into my eyes I could tell she was tired of standing in the hall.

“Yes, I’m sorry, of course come in.”

After a few pleasantries and a pot of coffee brewing on the counter, we were elbow deep into the past year of my life. I couldn’t help but think she knew about the write off that was at best “gray” on the moral ethics counter.

“Now we come to the deduction in question.”

Okay she knew. My heart stopped for a minute as I thought about how I would look in this springs current orange color. Although I never was a fan of the jumpsuit, or any Chicks Behind Bars movies for that matter.

“Your Condo remodel caught our attention. Can you please explain why this should be a tax deduction as well as your cat food.” She took off her glasses and placed them on the papers. She smiled at me and to tell you the truth, it kind of creeped me out.

You know I guess it does sound weak when you say it out loud.

I’m sure my eyes were as wide as saucers and I tried to force words out of my mouth, but it wasn’t happening. Thank god she cut in.

“I’m not sure you are aware of this Miss Cole, but I used to live in this very condo.”

My mind raced back to the previous owner and it wasn’t her.

“I had purchased this place a while back, when I had worked for my first major corporation that actually paid a good salary and had benefits. However, I didn’t get to stay here much because I traveled quite a bit. Thankfully this job doesn’t require travel.”

I watched as she looked around the room with a look of fondness and sadness at the same time. I couldn’t imagine why she wanted a job that didn’t travel. She wasn’t wearing a wedding or engagement ring on her finger, she didn’t look like the type you’d find on match.com and her gray suit and pumps didn’t scream ‘I’m a party girl.’ I watched her as she canvassed my home. She stopped short when she saw Chica sprawled out on the floor sleeping.

“How old is your cat?” she asked pointedly.

How old? Why should that matter for a tax audit. “Um, she’s old, I’m not sure, she kind of came with the place.”

“Came with the place? Is that why you wrote her in as a tax deduction?

My brain was doing the stammering before the words came out of my mouth. “Well, you know, I know it sounds lame, but my clients really like her, she gives my home office a sense of, well, home I guess.” Lame. Lame. Lame. Chicks Behind Bars here I come.

“Why would you assume the cat came with the place? Surely it had belonged to someone before you showed up and decided to grace it with your presence.”

Prison songs were starting to run through my head.

“Well of course, it’s just that I thought the previous owner abandoned her. I kind of thought of it as a rescue. “ Then an even lamer thought came to mind before I could stop myself it was out. “Even a ‘contribution’ to the humane society that I took her in.” Somebody please stop me before I’m put away for life.

IRS Agent Jensen stared at me blankly. Finally, thank god, words failed me.

I watched as she pulled together her papers and began stuffing them into her briefcase. I was a goner, I was sure of it.

She snapped her case shut, stood up and then turned to Chica. “Mittens! Mommy’s home!” Chica shot up and I could see her focusing her old eyes on IRS Agent Jensen. She trotted towards her and then began to weave in and out of her legs.

“Miss Jensen?” I didn’t know what else to say.

IRS Agent Jensen knelt down and showered love and kisses on Chica and then stood up to face me.

“Miss Cole, as I mentioned before, I used to own this place, with my ex-husband. He got the place in the settlement. When I tried to retrieve Mittens the place had already been sold. To you.”

Tamera Jensen took off her unflattering glasses and pushed a smile across her thin lips. I tell you what, I’ll make you a deal, I’ll approve you poor excuse for a tax deduction in return for my cat. She’s all I have left.”

I looked at Chica and thought of our lazy Sunday afternoons cuddled on the couch while I read and then I looked at my new kitchen and her cat food bowl. IRS Agent Jensen was giving me an out, she would just require part of my heart.

“I, I, don’t know what to say….” Finally.

“Miss Cole, I know this will be difficult for you. If you’re like me, your pet is part of your family, but in this case, she was part of mine first and you have put yourself in a precarious position with her already.

I reached down and picked up my beautiful Tabby. But at that moment, I knew she wasn’t mine because she was squirming away reaching for Tamera Jensen.

I felt a few tears run down my face as I looked at Jensen. “I guess she really never was mine, was she?”

Tamera shook her head. “No, but rest assured she will be well loved and you will live to write another deduction.” She smiled wryly.

I handed over my friend and watched as the two walked out the door silently. I guess when I did those taxes, I really did let the cat out of the bag.

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adressofanycolor_amish_randall_persPins and Needles
by: Colette Calapristi Casey
©2014

Megan woke within the morning with the sun raining down upon her from her bedroom window. She wondered if the awakening would be justified within the gift of the sunrise. It only took but a moment before the rooster crowed to conclude the thought. The answer was as she had suspected ‘get up.’

Megan rolled toward the sunbeam that had welcomed itself to her morning and basked but only for a few moments before the decision to take her current relationship to the next step was decided. Get up.

She slowly rolled out of bed and was quickly greeted by the family pet, Benjamin, a tortoiseshell cat with a variety of colors, mood and hair that captured her attention each time he joined her. She particularly liked to caress the hair coming out of his ears as it reminded her of a bird in flight. Of course, the acceptance of affection was all on Benjamin’s terms. He was not one to be subservient to others.

This morning she moved a little slower than other mornings. It was more difficult when the snow covered the ground and the sun beamed down upon her farm. There was a sense of peace from the muffled noise that the snow provided. Maybe it was nature’s way of bringing the world to moments of reflection within the silence.

There were so many thought churning across Megan’s mind these days, including this morning’s trek to the Lancaster County General Store and an almost certainty to see Jeffrey.

She had noticed recently that her heart would beat a bit faster whenever she saw him. Even though he was not Amish, and even though she was warned to eliminate feelings for the outsiders, she couldn’t help herself. He seemed like a young man on the verge of inspiration. A man of good character and thought. If he was not Amish what would be the harm in a friendship?

Days, months, weeks, did not matter, because each day she saw him, was like the first.

The morning chores were completed quickly and after breakfast, Megan climbed into the cab of their buggy to head to the store.

Lancaster and its surrounding area was an accommodating city, although, she and her family never really ventured into the city itself. She had always understood that everything she would ever need could be found within her community and the land.

She didn’t mind her life. She rather enjoyed. She enjoyed the simplicity and appreciation that came from a breath of morning air sprinkled with dew, the greatness of a sunrise and a sunset and the bonds of community. Very rarely had Megan ever felt alone.

As her father parked the buggy in the special parking space, Megan hopped from the cab. She held over her arm a basket for the items to be purchased and a blush on her cheek.

The bell to the store rang as they entered and Megan’s heart began to race as Jeffrey turned from behind the counter to greet them. He was a handsome boy of 16 or so, auburn hair and blue eyes.

For Megan, it was the eyes that had captured her attention. They had a depth of emotion and a hint of mischief at the same time.

“Hello Megan and Mr. Byler. Nice to see you guys.”

Megan’s father, a husky man dressed in traditional Amish wear and who adhered to the Amish ways. His beard was long and robust but managed to frame a kind face. “…And, a fine day to you Mr. Dunlap.” Megan’s father nodded his head and tipped the wide brimmed hat he was wearing.

Megan stood beside her father looking shyly at the ground as her father retrieved a shopping list from his pocket.

“All right daughter. We have much to do. I will get a few items in hardware and your mother would like you to get two boxes of pins.

Megan nodded and proceeded to pick up the request items.

“So do are you guys making a quilt or have big sewing project?” Jeffrey asked Megan stopping her in her task at hand.

Megan turned to see Jeffrey right behind her. She took a step back. “The pins?” She asked.

“Yeah, why would they need you to pick up two dozen pins? It just seems like an odd amount.”

Megan smiled. “It is for pinning. We Amish do not use buttons. We pin our clothes a certain way, the same way, every day.”

Jeffrey cocked his head and smiled. “Really? I’ve grown up around you guys but never knew that.”

Megan looked at her feet. “Yes, we are quite different, but we are really very much alike. We both believe in family and community and that we are stronger as a whole than as an individual. Otherwise you would not be in this store helping your father. We are really not much different.”

Megan heard her words and realized she was trying to justify her emotions for the outsider when in fact there would be no way for them to pursue their friendship.

Megan turned away to collect her items and her father came walking up the aisle. “Are you ready daughter? We must get back.”

“Yes father, we have what we need.”

On the way home, Megan smiled at her father and thought of life on the farm. While it may not have been as exciting for some, she knew it was where she belonged.

“You know daughter. You are an exceptional person.” Stated her father frankly.

“Why thank you father.”

“I see the way you look at the boy. He is a fine boy, but I just ask that you consider what you would give up to pursue such a notion.”

“Of course father. I have given it much thought. Although I find him most enchanting, I can say that my foundation is in my life with the community. It’s not just because I was raised in this, but because I have time. Time to enjoy a moment, to watch the sun rise, the pin my clothes. So many of the outsiders are blind to the moments of life and energy. I do not want to be blind and I fear that if I were outside the Community I would be too distracted to see what blessings lay at my feet.”

Megan’s father glanced over at his daughter and realized that the girl had indeed become a young woman.

“I love you Megan. You are aware, yes?”

Megan smiled. “I am aware father. And I love you as well.”

The buggy continued down its path with cars passing quickly. But in their lane, time just took its time.

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lovers-c-1910s-1-s1

    • A Day in a Moment to Last a Lifetime
    • by: Colette Calapristi Casey

©2014

Could it be true? Could the assassination of the President be tied to this??? George Hendrickson stood in amazement at the letter in his hands. He’d already read it twice but could not believe what his eyes were showing him. It was dated September 14, 1902, exactly one year after the assassination of President McKinley.

“Ida! Ida! In here girl! I want you to have a look at something!” Hendrickson shouted to the front office where his secretary, Ida Fairwhether was typing feverishly. Ida was a young woman of 22 and was experiencing her first adventure in the big city and away from the dairy farm of her youth. On a good day, Ida would braid her hair and drape it across the top of her head looking like the milkmaid she was. Ida was a proud woman and proud of her lineage. She often proclaimed that she could handle any tasks, because her family traced its roots back to the mid-1600’s when settlers brought cows to Plymouth in 1624. A true daughter of the revolution.

Ida heard her boss shout her name and stopped what she was doing immediately. Even though she was just on the other side of the door, she wanted to let him know she was on it.

“On my way Mr. Hendrickson!!”

Ida threw open the door and stopped at the scene before her. Her boss George Hendrickson stood dumb founded surrounded by pieces of dropped ceiling tiles, papers, wires, and the contents of the top right corner of his desk that included; the latest edition 1910 American Fruit Company clock; pencils and one bunch of ripe bananas.

“Sir? Are you alright in here?” Ida asked tentatively.

George shook his head slowly. “I’m not sure Miss Fairwhether. Have a look at this letter, will you please?”

Ida walked toward George while eyeing the disrupted ceiling above her. It wasn’t just the fallen and destroyed items; it was a very large beam shooting through the ceiling. “Sir? Is it safe for us to be in here? We could get hurt.”

George followed Ida’s eyes to the ceiling commanding a sense of presence to realize he and Miss Fairwhether may be in danger.

“Of course! Of Course. Let’s move into your office area Miss Fairwhether.”

Ida lifted her long skirt as to not drag it across the debris on the floor.

“If you don’t mind me asking Mr. Hendrickson, what happened in there? I had heard a noise but thought it was just a truck going by. I was so entranced in my work that I’m sorry to say I hadn’t noticed.”

George looked at Ida and wondered if the look on her face was one of concern. Concern for him? He wasn’t sure, but whatever it was, he liked it. He felt a little safer.

“Well, as best I can figure Miss Fairwhether, the construction on the sixth floor must have caused the damage we are now seeing on the fifth floor. I was told late last night that they were tearing up the flooring and had discovered a poorly constructed support beam. They were going to attempt to replace it, but it must have fallen through.”

“I’m surprised we haven’t heard from the construction crew yet. Don’t you think it would be appropriate for someone to check on us?” Ida asked indignantly.

The look on George’s face changed from shock to panic.

“Yes, you’re right! Quick please read this letter.”

Ida took the letter and began to read it at lightening speed, just as she had learned to do in Secretarial school. She was an “A” student.

“Oh my goodness Mr. Hendrickson! Can this be true? Could Mr. Shaw the company president have been involved in the assassination of President McKinley?

At that moment George and Ida heard voices outside their door. It was the construction crew from Floor 5 checking their work.

Knock. Knock. Knock. “Excuse me, we are just checking to see if everyone is alight in there. We seemed to have had an accident upstairs.

George looked at Ida and whispered. “Quick, hide the letter.” Ida’s blue eyes grew bright and wide. She folded the note, opened her blouse and slipped it into her corset.

Ida realized she had done this in front of her boss once she saw the look of delight cross his face.

“I’m so sorry Mr. Hendrickson!”

George blushed. “Not to worry Miss Fairwhether, we are now in this scheme together.”

Ida opened the door to the men and immediately began scolding them.

“Do you gentleman have any idea what could have happened here?? Mr. Hendrickson could have been seriously harmed!”

George smiled again. Could she really care? He thought to himself.

The construction workers began with a plethora of apologies and promised to return in the morning to repair any damage. They apologized for the inconvenience and noted that their employer was happy to compensate them both for any lost wages for the day.

George straightened and put his hands behind his back. His three-piece suit fell perfectly against his lean, young body.

“Well, gentlemen. Accidents happen and I believe your offer is quite fair. Let’s shake on it and we’ll say that everything’s Jake.”

The lead construction worker nodded his head, wiped his brow and moved toward George to shake his hand.

“Thank you for your understanding sir. We’re going out to get supplies now and will be here first thing in the a.m. to fix ‘er up.”

George nodded. “Yes, very well. If you’ll excuse us gentlemen, Miss Fairwhether and myself must make preparations for our absence in the office tomorrow.

The men nodded and Miss Fairwhether showed them the door.

Once closed she turned towards George, opened her blouse and retrieved the letter. She began reading it quietly, but loud enough that George could hear.

He moved closer to her. Her voice was serene like a meadow on a sunny day.

“To my judge and my jury. May God forgive me for what I have done. These are my last words on this earth. I am not a courageous man, for if I was, I would have come forward with what I know. For that, I am just as guilty as those who plotted to have President McKinley assassinated.”

Ida looked up at George and gasped.

“Continue reading Miss Fairwhether, please.”

“I am confessing the involvement in the assassination plot by the American Fruit Company and specifically Mr. Franklin Shaw. Mr. Shaw conspired with other trade titans to open up trade routes in direct conflict of President McKinley’s protectionist Acts to protect foreign investment.

Within the confines of where this letter is found are ledgers, memorandums and copies of phone messages by Mr. Shaw and other offending parties. Please, Mr. Shaw is a dangerous man. He threatened my family if I came forward with this information. I ask that you consider this if you are a family man. For if your efforts fail, you will be gravely punished by the most despicable of our society.”

Ida’s eyes grew wide. “You have to take this to the police Mr. Hendrickson. You have to!”

George stepped toward Ida. “I know Miss Fairwhether, I must. However, I must inquire. And, please forgive me if I seem indelicate, but this is a very important issue to me. “

A confused look came over Ida’s face. “Why must you even ask? You must know this is the right thing to do. What would happen if someone else crossed Mr. Shaw and something horrible happened? This would be on our hands.”

George raised a brow. “Our?”

Ida blushed again. “Yes. Our hands Mr. Hendrickson.”

George smiled. “I can only do this if I have your support. And, Miss Fairwhether, please, call me George.”

Ida smiled. “Well George, what do you say? I think its safe to say its curtains for Mr. Shaw.”

George hugged Ida. “Come on, let’s find the ledgers before the construction crew.”

Ida nodded. “I’ll get the Police. We’ll wrap up this mess in no time.”

Ida followed George into his office and they both looked up at the hole in the ceiling that had brought justice to a society and brought them together.

George turned to Ida, took her in his arms and kissed. Ida moved closer, stepped on the ripe banana and sighed.

Prompts:

The fifth floor

The President

Dropped ceiling tile

Ripe Bananas

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