Monthly Archives: July 2020

Birthday on the beach a short story by Linda Claire

Oscoda, MI on Lake Huron photo by Linda Claire

Gloria opened the photo album from last summer. Her birthday party had been on the beach front of her small cottage situated on Lake Huron. Right now, she was especially grateful for the photo book because there would not be a family gathering this year during the Corona Virus pandemic. This year, she would have a quiet birthday by herself. It was considered too dangerous for her family to make the trip. She had assured them that she would be fine and would look forward to their phone calls. “Don’t send presents this year.” She said. “We will all have a big party when this is over.”

The photos from her birthday party last year showed her family in a circle of chairs outside on the sandy beach. Gloria’s chair was resplendent with ribbons and a birthday banner. Gloria was pictured with a funny cone shaped birthday hat and a big smile filling her face. The sound of the gentle water lapping against the shore and the laughter of her family gave a better music than any stereo system. They had all commented about what a perfect day it was. That August 19th, 2019. Later that day, they would have a bonfire, but first they would have birthday cake on the beach, and she would open her gifts.

Gloria laughed when she looked at the photos of her gifts. Her sons and her daughters-in-law had purchased her a large George Forman grill for her. What a hoot! Gloria had the tiniest cottage and absolutely no counter or pantry space at all. Still, they seemed so proud of themselves. Gloria clapped her hands in a feigned delight and told them, “It is perfect, I can’t wait to use it and I will have you all over for some b-b-q.”

The next photo showed Gloria holding up a pastel green polar fleece shirt in front of her body. Her daughter had remarked, “Mom, now you won’t have to keep your old flannel shirt. This should be lovely on you. I thought you would like the color.” In fact, green was Gloria’s favorite color but her favorite shirt would still be the oversized flannel shirt that had been her husband’s. She felt comforted when she was wrapped inside the soft cotton of that shirt now worn through in some spots. It was her memory shirt.

“I do love the color.” Gloria said as she touched the new polar fleece garment. “Thank you everyone for these beautiful gifts, I sure am lucky to have this wonderful family.”

The next 3 photos in the album were so precious to Gloria she smiled from the memory of having received a perfectly selected gift from her grandson Dennis.

She noticed that the three photos were in the right viewing order and almost made a video of the moment. In the first photo, Dennis faced his grandmother with his little hands held behind his back. His smile was broad and excited. In the second photo of this series, Gloria is reaching her hands out to Dennis to receive the gift from him and her smile was just as broad and her excitement just as much as his. In the third photo, Gloria is caught clutching her hands to her heart with tear rimmed eyes as she looked at this perfect gift she had just received from her grandson.

Gloria had taught Dennis a love of nature from rock talk. Gloria’s grandson had lived in Gloria’s cottage home with his parents when he was little. “Rock talk,” Gloria had said was “from rocking Dennis every night whilst she told him story after story about the wonders to be found along the sandy shores. Treasures await us everywhere,” she had whispered to him every bedtime. “We will find a treasure tomorrow,” she would promise as his eyes closed in slumber.

As a toddler, Dennis had held his grandmother’s hand while they beach combed. Her garden had some of the spoils of these adventures. Among those were gnarled pieces of drift wood, a feather tied to a string and hanging from a tree branch, some old abandoned sand shovels stuck into sand piles, and even an old row boat that had now rusted and became their special place to play that they were pirates.

Last summer, Dennis had turned 8 years old, Gloria simply had spent her time sitting in a beach chair watching his adventures as he ran into the waves, or along the shores by himself. He always promised to stay in her view.

When she saw that 3rd photo from last summer of her receiving the gift from Dennis she stood up. She put the photo album to the side. She would look through the rest of the photos later. Right now, she wanted to hold that gift again. She walked to her kitchen windowsill and picked it up. Such a precious gift. It fit perfectly into the palm of her aged hand. It felt right there.

It was a small smooth rock. No one else would ever know or experience the joy of that stone. How lucky she was that she had received a gift so perfect for her.

Gloria clutched it against her old flannel shirt. “Happy Birthday to me.” Gloria said and she really meant it. And that was August 19th, 2020. It was the year Gloria turned 70 during a global pandemic. It was also the year that she learned there was more than one way to define “rock talk.” For certainly the rock was talking to her sense of love. Her spirits were rising. Her love was lifting her up. She was content. Tomorrow, she would walk on the sand and look for treasure.

A sunset date a short story by Linda Claire

photo by Linda Claire

Randy was on his 4th date with Carey. He really liked her, and he hoped she would like his choices for the evening. Afterall, he had listened carefully to Carey on their previous date and he had made mental notes about her preferences for dining choices and types of activities.

And so, it was, that on a Friday night Randy arrived at Carey’s apartment to pick her up and drive her to begin the date at a deli with several vegan options. When they finished dining, he drove straight over to the County Park and the hiking trails there.

Randy was clever enough to make the date romantic by announcing that he would leave his cell phone in the car. He told her that he wanted to give her his full attention. Randy had never been at this park and was not generally known for his sense of direction. Still, he figured how hard could it be?

Randy enjoyed Carey’s brilliant conversations and found it easy to be relaxed and be himself with her. His normal shyness was simply gone, and he felt an easy joy and comfort in her presence. Carey pointed out mushrooms, birds, and warned him of low branches. Randy had never had much outdoor nature experience, but it was quickly becoming his favorite activity and he wanted to learn everything from this attractive date.

And so, the time passed. And so more time passed. Randy simply paid no attention to the dimming light until Carey brought it to mind when she said, “Randy, this should be fun, we should be able to see the sunset together.”

“Good grief,” Randy was startled. He had no idea where they would see the sunset as he had no idea as to where they were and no idea which direction was west. In fact, he started to realize that he was lost. He was hopelessly lost in the County Park, but he did not want to alarm Carey.

Randy realized that this emergency might cause them to have to spend the night in the park. He began to worry about how a person spent a night in the outdoors. If only he had gone to Boy Scouts. Was there wildlife in this wooded park? He wondered. Perhaps there were coyotes. And Randy then began to think about any knowledge he might have on coyotes and how to fend them off. “Bears!” he thought to himself. “Oh my God, there could be bears!”

If only he knew where his Jeep was!

“Randy?” Carey asked, “Are you o.k.? You look worried.”

Randy had to punt. He quickly replied with a false bravado, “I’m fine, just wondering if you know the best place to watch the sunset.”

Carey pointed to the ridge ahead and then spoke, “Yes, I know this area. There is a good spot just up this path. We can sit right there and enjoy the whole view.” And as she said this the sky began to change to a beautiful shade of pink. Carey looked so happy. Was it his imagination or was she glowing?

Randy was grateful that they had spent some quality time together but, he was also aware that this would surely be the very last date invitation she would accept from a loser like him. If only he had just taken her out bowling.

The ridge appeared and it was complete with a fallen tree limb to lean against. Randy sat next to Carey hoping to make the next of the few precious moments that were left before he had to admit their plight. He promised himself not to cause her fear by telling her about lurking wild creatures that might stalk them soon.

Randy finally lifted his eyes off his hands clenched in his lap to the sky unfolding just over the ridge. Then, the miracle appeared. For Randy, the sky was parting, the angels were singing, the world was explosive with joy because just at the bottom of the ridge was the parking lot and Randy’s Jeep was parked right there! “Hallelujah,” Randy thought and held up a quite prayer of joy. By agreeing to watch a sunset, he had redeemed himself. Now, there was a possibility of getting that 5th date with Carey and next time he would take her bowling.

Randy put his arm around Carey and settled into watching his first sunset. Well, he had seen hundreds of sunsets, but he had never really seen one. This sunset was absurdly beautiful. He had no camera, but he took to memory the quickly changing shades of illumination being drawn across the sky. It was glorious. He glanced back at Carey and much to his amazement, she was looking right at him and then she planted a kiss on his lips.

“Wow,” Randy said. “I really like you Carey, and that amazing kiss!”

Carey smiled at him and said, “I have never been with any man so excited about a sunset. When you looked over the ridge, your expression was so joyous. Your magnificent reaction was contagious.”  

Randy decided right then that some secrets are worth keeping. He never would reveal that his glory moment was at discovering the parking lot and seeing his Jeep. Randy also decided right then and there to always bring his phone and to make sure it was loaded with a compass app and an app for hiking trails. It was all going to be o.k. After all, bowling should be a safe bet for that next date with his splendid new friend Carey.

The Argument a short story by Linda Claire

Their small argument started on a Tuesday morning. Mary Lou and Hank had been married for 38 years and they loved each other dearly. They rarely had a cross word. But during their seclusion in the midst of the Corona virus pandemic, they recently had found themselves snapping at each other over the slightest provocation. Annoyance was mounting.

Mary Lou asked him, “Do you want more coffee?”  It was her way to make up.

“Nope.” He said gruffly and then crossed his arms over this chest to indicate he was not ready for the argument to be over quite yet. He had a right to feel upset. After all, this was at least the 10th time that Mary Lou had made a rude comment about his habit of watching old game show reruns.

Hank got up to grab the coffee pot himself in a rather dramatic way aiming to show her that he was the martyred one who had to make all the sacrifices.

He started to talk. “There is nothing else to do now. NOTHING! Besides, I’m not the one who opened the front door!” he said in a voice that was loud enough to surprise even him.

“Oh, here we go again.” Mary Lou retorted and then went back to sipping her coffee in a way designed to look peaceful and unruffled. Her composure made Hank even more upset. He knew this was a ridiculous argument, but he could not help himself. The truth was it just felt better for him to be arguing than their routine of nothingness.

“I can’t golf, I can’t go to the swim club, there are no sports games to attend, I am done with this!” He was of course referring to the fact that they were very much sheltered in their home during the corona virus.

“Uh-huh,” Mary Lou said without looking up from her cell phone screen.

“What do you want to do today…nothing?” He demanded.

“I’m just going to enjoy my coffee. It looks like it will be nice outside today.” Mary Lou said while she purposefully tried to stay even keeled and calm. You might think this made her an angel, but her motives were not so pure. She knew that Hank could not stand her staying calm during a tiff. She knew that she was getting the best of this argument.

“Well, what about the door?” He snapped.

Mary Lou knew exactly what he was talking about. Hank was a good man. Hank was a loving husband, but Hank was also very obsessed with the front door that Mary Lou had rushed to open on New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight. She said she was inviting the new year in. She could not wait for 2020 to launch she had said. Good riddance to 2019 and another year of political divides and an impeachment of the President. On that New Year’s evening as they celebrated together, they had toasted with their glasses and laughed as Hank then proceeded to open the back door to give the boot to 2019. The old year out the back door and the new year in the front door.

But the gloom of 2020 was unbearable. The world felt like it was falling apart and here they were in July 2020 spending a lovely summer day inside having a ridiculous argument over New Year’s Eve and old TV game shows. 129 days of isolation and it was wearing on him.

Hank pouted for nearly 2 hours. He paced, he looked miserable and when he finally made his way over to the reclining chair, he sat and put his face in his hands and sighed loudly.

Mary Lou felt herself softening. After all, this was just a man who always knew what to do and how to take care of everything and now he was lost in the despair that was surrounding them and filling the world stage.

“Do you want to watch an old game show?” Mary Lou asked as she refilled his coffee cup and brought him a muffin. Mary Lou normally would not concede to watching TV game shows, but she knew that is how the fight started and she could easily end it by putting up with one silly old show.

“OK” he said and then he said, “Thanks for the muffin.”

They had been together long enough to know the fight was over.

“What show did you find?” Mary Lou asked him.

“Oh, it is called Let’s Make a Deal.” He was smiling.

When the TV emcee came on the screen, he looked at the contestant and confirmed that they would open door #2 to see if the grand prize was waiting.

Mary Lou was going to give Hank a bit of her mind about picking a show about doors. But when she saw Hank’s face light up with that crooked little half smile, she just felt happy. He was delighted with this inane form of entertainment.

“Hank, I’m sorry I opened the door to 2020.” She said softly. “I should have kept the dead bolt locked that night.”

“I’m sorry for how I just behaved. This is hard for me.” When he said this, he did not even look at her. It was a struggle when he asked, “Are we going to be o.k.?” He turned and waited for her answer.

She just smiled and gave a little nod of her head because he had already turned back to the game show and was laughing loudly at the bad choice the contestant had made.  “I feel your pain buddy.” Hank shouted to the TV guest.

Before they went to bed, they opened their email and they found out that their niece had just given birth to a healthy baby girl. 2020 might be a year of a world pandemic, but it was also the year of birth and love. 2020 was also, Hank hoped, a year to spend more time watching game shows!

Talented art critics…a short story by Linda Claire

Linda Claire by original art work…artist not known

Mary Lou was the first to admit she was eccentric. Some of the things she routinely experienced were considered impossible, unbelievable, and as some would say they were downright strange thoughts with no basis in reality. She was an odd ball. She was not an artist even though that was the general assumption that people had made of her. But she was extremely well regarded in prestigious art circles. When she was published, she laid claim to the title ‘world renowned premier art critic.’

Society accepted Mary Lou’s mysterious ways because her insights and opinions
on valuable art creations were legendary. Her memory for various artists and
their paintings astounded even world-class leading art authorities. If asked
about a painting, she could describe it in a way that was almost intimate. The
various colors, styles, subjects, and themes were masterfully described. There
was something beyond that too. There was some way in which you could say she just
knew the painting. She saw a painting and she experienced the painting. She knew
them in such an intimate way that her reflections were more heightened than the
artist’s own perceptions about their paintings.

Mary Lou knew why she had this talent and why she had been able to establish
this level of authority. She knew, but she dared not tell a soul why she had
this talent.

Mary Lou did, however, end up telling me about her hidden insight because
she could recognize that I was in possession of the same ability.

This is where I should introduce myself. My name is Claire. I am a single senior citizen
who has loved the visual arts since childhood. I am not famous like Mary Lou
and I have never publicly critiqued any painting or artist. Instead, I have a
habit of going to flea markets and secondhand stores where I rummage through
various paintings and prints. I also surf the net and explore paintings with
various themes.

Are you wondering if Mary Lou and I are women with extra sensory perception?
ESP is thought of as receiving information from what is sensed rather than felt
through our physical senses. I do not know if that definition exactly fits the
talent that Mary Lou and I have. Maybe thousands of people have our skill but they
have all remained quiet about it for fear of being shamed or given a label
of strange, odd, and a little touched in the head.

Now that I am an old woman, I have decided to explain the gift that I have
and that Mary Lou has mastered because it might open a door for others like us
to come forward and have discussions and work in concert to give a more
bountiful vibrancy to the art pieces they encounter.

And because I think this will open a door for others to immerse themselves
more fully into the visual arts, I will speak now and ask that as I tell you this secret you remain quiet and perhaps close your eyes and open your minds. Prepare. I will now reveal to you the secret of being a great art critic. This should open a door for you, or
perhaps you are already gifted with this talent.

First, imagine any painting that comes to your recall. Next, walk into it.
Yes, that is the pure secret to the gift. If you walk into a painting you check
it’s textures, see if the shadows are in the right place, picture the subject
as a first hand observer, and walk through the painted landscapes or open an
old wooden door. Stay in the painting. Touch the garments and the grass. See if
the artist has captured the light playing on the water. Then continue to
concentrate and see yourself there inside the painting. Do not judge, just
observe. Turn your head, look up and down, look for secrets, look for meanings,
examine your feelings and emotions. Stay inside the painting until you are
gradually ready to leave. The memory of that painting and all of it’s
particulars will remain with you forever.

You see, the gift that I possess is the ability to be there. To be in the painting.
Maybe, I have opened a door so that you can walk into a painting too. Just be
there.

The Moon. A short story by Linda Claire

The summer night sky was sparkled with stars and a bright full moon. The little girl was seated in the backseat of her grandfather’s Chevy station wagon as they traveled the dirt roads towards his home. It was special for her to be out this late and it made her feel almost like an 8-year-old instead of the mere 7-year-old she was.

“Grandpa, I think the moon is following our car.” She made the declaration with great and serious consideration.

“Hmm,” he replied and then continued, “What makes you think that the moon is following us?”

She became more animated. “So, every time you make a turn in the road, I can still see the moon right there. It has to be following us otherwise we wouldn’t be able to see it when we turned those corners.” And when she explained this to her grandfather, she felt even a wee bit older still.

The old man adjusted the rear-view mirror a bit to glimpse his lovely granddaughter. He felt again the joy of grand parenting. He loved being let into her innocent childish thoughts, so he replied to her comment with a challenge. “Should we take the long way home and make a lot of turns and really check out your theory?”

“Oh yes Grandpa” she was thrilled.

The old man veered about and made many turns so his beloved granddaughter could continue to test her moon theory.

“Grandpa, it’s working. It is still following our car.” She exclaimed and then asked, “Do you think there is a man in the moon, Grandpa?”

“Well, I don’t know about that. What I can tell you is that the moon has always been a good friend to me. I call this friend Luna. And, I think Luna can be your friend too.”

“Luna” she said the word with some reverence, and she was delighted to know that the moon could be her friend. “Grandpa, does Luna ever talk to you?”

He gave a serious reply, “Oh, not in the usual way. But Luna does listen, and she sends a light out for our path. In fact, when I was in the great war, I talked to Luna right above the decks of our Navy cruiser right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.”

“Oh Wow!” she exclaimed and again thought to herself what a super grandfather she had. She had seen the pictures of him in his sailor’s uniform and remembered the impressive photos with the big machine gun ports. She would have to remember to ask him to show her the photos again.

The Chevy station wagon neared the old man’s home.

“Grandpa look your house is right here and Luna followed us the whole way. She even got here a little ahead of us.”

Once they were in the driveway, he waited for her to get out of the car and then he took her small hand in his. The moon was indeed bright this evening. The breezes were warm.

“Grandpa, can we just look at Luna for a while?” she implored.

“Pumpkin let us do something else. OK?” he replied.

“What, what else should we do Grandpa? Should we talk to Luna?” she wanted to know.

“Nope, turn around and let Luna be at your back.” He answered.

“Grandpa, that is funny. You are the one who told me we don’t have eyes in the back of our heads.” And again, she felt quite mature.

“Look.” he said. “Look at the tops of the pines. Do you see it? The moon beams fall right along the tops of each pine. Look all around you and carefully. Can you see Luna shining on any other objects that we usually do not pay much attention to in the light of day? This is what it means to see things in a different light. It really is one of the best lessons Luna taught me.”

“I do see it, I do!” she replied. And then she told her grandfather the words he loved the most. “I love you so big.” When she said it, she held out her little arms wide to each side.

“I love you to the Moon and back” he told her.

“Grandpa, did you mean you love me to the Luna and back?” Then she smiled broadly, and the old man could barely hold all the love he had in his heart.