The First Lady Driver

Fiction in Mused – The BellaOnline Literary Review – Fall 2014, Vol. 8, Issue 3

Although based on the life of Alice Huyler Ramsey, this scene is pure fiction. In 1909, Alice Ramsey, a 22 year old wife and mother, becomes the first woman to drive cross country, and she repeats the drive numerous times throughout her life. She is a woman after my own heart.


Alice Rumson ran her gloved hand over the dark green Maxwell’s fender and smiled at the older man standing by her. “It’s beautiful!”

“Great choice, Mr. Rumson!” The happy salesman pumped John’s hand. “Our finest model! You’ll never go back to a horse!”

“It’s not for me, Mr. Kelsey.” John rubbed his abused fingers and nodded at his young wife. “It’s for Alice.”

“Oh, John,” she turned to her husband, eyes bright. “Is this truly mine?”

He smiled, tapped his pipe gently in his palm. “Yes, Alice. It’s yours,” he said, talking around the pipe as he placed it between his teeth.

“Well, yes,” said Mr. Kelsey. “I’m sure she’ll enjoy riding in it.”

“Not riding, Mr. Kelsey,” Alice smiled demurely. “Driving.”

The salesman’s eyes lit up. “Driving?”

“You seem surprised.” She walked up to the man who was barely older than she and looked him in the eye. “It is the twentieth century now, Mr. Kelsey. Some women are no longer tied to the archaic notions of home and hearth.”

“Yes, well,” he said, offering a slight bow of the head. “You are the first such woman I have met.”

“Then I’m happy to make your acquaintance.” She held out her hand for him to shake.

He smiled, took her hand, and laughed. “And I yours.”

She circled the car slowly, tracing its curves and seams, brushing the back of her glove over the fragile glass of the headlamps. She stopped at the crank on the front of the car, leaned down and wrapped her fingers fully around its thick handle. Looking up at her husband, she winked. “Dare I?”

John laughed. “I’d wait till I had a proper lesson, if I were you.”

She ran to him and put her arms around his neck. “You’re right, of course, Darling,” she said, taking the pipe from his mouth and kissing him with abandon and seemingly little care of what the people around them might think.

She looked deeply into his eyes and the smile left her face. “You’ll get in trouble for this, won’t you, dear?”


“Oh, I am always bringing you trouble.” She leaned her head on his shoulder.

“Yes, you are always bringing me trouble,” he said. She looked up at him, a deep crease on her brow.

“My life was trouble free before I found you,” he said, putting his arms around her shoulders and holding her close. “My life was also free of happiness before I found you.” He brushed her hair with his lips. “You bring me such joy as I have never known.” He took her face in his hands. “And for that, I will suffer all the trouble in the world.”

A slow smile returned to her face. “It’s a motorcar, John. My very own motorcar.”

“Your very own.”

“I’ll share it with you.” Alice twirled out of John´s embrace and leaned against the door of the car, smiling.

“No!” He walked to where Alice stood. “No, dear. I know nothing about these mechanical carriages and I don’t wish to.” He waved a dismissive hand at the horseless beast. “I much prefer a horse who obeys the whip.”

“You are an old fogey,” she said softly.

“Married to a young woman with strange desires.”

He looked over her shoulder at the showroom filled with well-dressed but stodgy gentleman and a few of their equally dull wives. Alice followed his gaze thinking she stood out much like her beloved new motorcar would in a corral full of aging mares.

She removed a glove and slapped it loudly in her hand. “Well,” she said in a voice for all to hear. “I’m ready for my lesson, Mr. Kelsey.” All heads in the showroom turned to her.

John’s eyes widened above flushed cheeks as he put the pipe back in his mouth. Alice isn’t trouble, he thought, but she is a force to be reckoned with.

“You’re certainly not going to allow your daughter to drive.”

John turned to the man peering at him over rounded spectacles.

“She’s my wife,” John smiled, “not my daughter.” The man looked from Alice to John, raising his eyebrows.

“And it’s not up to me to allow her to do anything. She is perfectly capable of making her own decisions about what she is able to do.”

“Well.” The man turned to his wife, maneuvered his head under her wide brimmed hat and whispered in her ear. Her shoulders went from round to rigid the longer he spoke.

The woman turned to Alice, who sat in the driver’s seat of the Maxwell. “You should know your place,” the woman said, pushing tight blue gloves over her spindly fingers.

“I do know my place.” Alice pressed the plunger on the Klaxon horn, emitting an Ahooga! that knocked the woman back a pace onto her husband, her hat falling forward over her face.

“Dear! Dear!” The man struggled to keep his wife standing.

The woman shook her husband off, stood erect, adjusted her skirts and repositioned her hat. “Children today have no manners,” she said pointedly, turning in a huff.


Alice laughed as she provided fanfare for the couple’s retreat.

“Child indeed,” Alice said, smiling at John.

John walked around the car to where she sat and gently closed the door, locking her in her seat at the steering wheel. “Trouble you are, my Dear. And trouble you will always be.”

“I know, Darling.” She pulled the skirt up over her knees and peered at her feet as she randomly depressed the peddles. “You will never hear the end of this, I’m certain, so I shall make myself scarce by driving and driving and driving.” She jiggled the gear shift. “No one will ever see me and I’ll no longer be a bother.”

She turned to him. “I’m sorry I’m a bother, John, but I am so eager to … ” She hesitated, looking him in the eyes. “…to live.”

John laid his hand gently over hers and turned to the salesman. “Mr. Kelsey?”

The salesman trotted over to the Rumsons. “Sir?”

John smiled at Alice. “It’s time we were on the road.” Alice squeezed John´s hand tightly.

Mr. Kelsey walked to where Alice sat in the car and smiled at her. “You’re going to love it, you know,” he said, his voice low. They were youthful conspirators, anxious to begin their roles in this new age of mobility.

She beamed. “I know.” She ran her hands over the controls in front of her. “There’s so much to learn.”

“Oh, but it’s easy, really!” He ran to the front of the showroom and opened the two hanging doors to the street. “I’ll have you driving like you were born to it!”

“I was born to it!” She sat straight in the seat, one hand on the wheel and the other on the gear shift.

“I should drive it out onto the street, though,” he said.

“Mr. Kelsey.” Alice took the haughtiest tone she could conjure, which was difficult considering how unhaughty she felt. “It is my motorcar. I will drive it.”

He looked at John.

“Sorry, young man,” John said. “Once her mind is made up….”

Mr. Kelsey grabbed a pair of goggles, then another, and jumped into the passenger seat of the Maxwell. “Here,” he said, handing the extra pair of goggles to Alice. “Safety first.”

She giggled and pulled the goggles over her hair, positioning them on her eyes.

“You might want to fix your hair,” Mr. Kelsey whispered to her.

“My hair be damned!” she cried, causing a few of the more prim members of the crowd that had gathered around the Maxwell to gasp at her language. “Let’s drive, Mr. Kelsey!”

“Please, call me Caddy.” He motioned for a young man to turn the crank on the front of the car.

“And I’m Alice.” She laughed and shook his hand again, a more informal greeting of like-minded friends. “Call me Alice!”

The engine caught with a sputter and a cough, soon coming to a gentle rumbling idle. It was an odd sound of machinery, still uncommon to most ears, but for Alice it was a call to her soul.

“Ohhhh.” Alice took her hands off of the gently vibrating steering wheel and pushed her goggles up. “What power there is beneath my hands.”

“But you control the power, Alice,” Caddy whispered. “That is the joy of driving.”

“Are you sure you´re ready, Dear?” John stood next to Alice, his hand resting gently on her shoulder.

“Yes, Darling.” She put her hand on his. “I love you, John Rumson.” Alice held John´s gaze. “No one has ever been as lucky as I,” she whispered.

“I´ll be waiting here for you.” He put his hand under her chin and kissed her lightly. “I will always wait for you.”

“Ready, Alice?” Caddy Kelsey pulled the goggles over his eyes.

She smiled at John, kissed him again quickly, and put the goggles back on. “Ready, Caddy.”

She winked at John and put her hands on the wheel.

“Drive, Alice,” he smiled. “Drive.”

Creative Nonfiction

The Blue Room

A Memoir. August 4, 2014, The Prague Revue


The Blue Room was designed and built for sex. It had walls of blue molded plastic, all soft corners. Oddly shaped ledges were built into the walls around the room at various heights, each ledge the length of a body lying down perhaps, like a window seat—only there were no windows in the Blue Room. Someone had screwed metal hooks into the walls, high and low, decorative hooks, painted blue. Everything was blue. Even the glittering silver slide, which I supposed was meant for a quick bare-ass ride from the upper loft down to the floor below, reflected the blue of the Blue Room. My mother and I were there to break up the blue monotony. We were making patchwork-beaded pillows for the Blue Room, the sex room. It was a job.

In 1971, I was fifteen years old, sewing pillows to decorate a sex den in what was then—and still is—the gay Mecca, Provincetown, Massachusetts.

My mother was in her mid-forties and had just divorced my father after having been married for twenty-five years. The Sixties had been hard on my parents. My father was a political conservative. He wore the white shirt and narrow tie and dark gray suit that was the uniform of the men from the Greatest Generation. He believed in his government and in his job, a job that supported the Military Industrial Complex. My father believed in a world that was. My mother, on the other hand, was a dreamer. She was vehemently against the Vietnam War and dragged me to protests and marches. She was a civil rights activist, as much as anyone could be while living in our all-white suburban Connecticut neighborhood where the only interesting cultural diversion was the Jewish family who lived on the corner of Oak Street. Our neighbors were quietly pissed off when our family, against my father’s wishes, hosted “city kids” at our house for the summer. The neighbors waved pleasantly enough when we caught their eye, but we were persona non grata at neighborhood picnics. My mom joined a local migrant workers organization, the Asociación de Trabajadores Agrícolas, to get better working conditions for the local tobacco pickers. She was a supporter of Cesar Chavez; we didn’t eat lettuce for years. And she was a feminist.

It was too much for my parents’ marriage to bear.

After their divorce, my mother and I moved to Provincetown. We packed her 1966 navy blue Ford Mustang with her record albums and paintings. She had played at being an artist; her wild abstract paintings, like Rorschach’s designs, were whatever the observer thought they were. We took only as much from our life pre-divorce as the car could hold. I took one last walk around the house I had grown up in, running my hand over the rough shingles as if tracing a line around my memories, tying them neatly with string, my childhood sold, packed into boxes, or thrown away. I sat on my swing for a few minutes and memorized the backyard—the trees, the hill, the Sanderson’s house across the street. Then I got in the Mustang with my mom, our two cats, and a cardboard box labeled “Memorabilia.”

Provincetown is a small fishing community at Land’s End, the very tip of Cape Cod. It was—and still is—an artist colony, which as far as I can tell is just another way of saying the lunatics are allowed to run free. In 1971, the lunatics were abundant. The winter population of Provincetown more than doubled that year. Artists and professors on sabbatical, draft dodgers and college dropouts, and a middle-aged, formerly-upper-middle-class, divorced, suburban white woman with her fifteen-year-old daughter. It was a time of war protests and free love, hippies and pot, civil rights and honest-to-God feminism. The background music was the Moody Blues, Procol Harum, and the Steve Miller Band, “Let it Be” and “Instant Karma” and “All Things Must Pass.” The musical memory of Woodstock hung in the air around us, riding on the scent of patchouli.

If you weren’t alive then, I kind of feel sorry for you.

Although my father gave my mom money to support me, she refused any alimony for herself. She wanted to be free, and that meant living on her own, earning her own living. That meant she couldn’t refuse a job to make pillows for a blue room sex den.

The Blue Room was in a large bayside apartment on the second floor of a house on Commercial Street. On the first floor of the building was a head shop owned and run by the woman who had designed the Blue Room. Billy was a large woman in her forties, dynamic and funny, and high on something whenever I saw her. She would flit like an elephant in a muumuu from her yellow and orange kitchen (she baked the best brownies) into the Blue Room, rubbing her hands together, twittering, I love blue! I love blue!

My mom ran fabric through the sewing machine and I stitched little beads on the pillows. I hate to sew. To this day, I have panic attacks when I pick up a needle and thread. I come from a long line of devout sewers and knitters, crocheters and rug weavers; and as a kid I was dragged on daylong outings to every fabric mill and knitting shop within a six-hour drive, which for the women in my family was nirvana but for me was hell. The lingering smell of fabric sizing haunts me, sending shivers down my spine and tying a knot in my throat. I was willing to overcome my anxiety for this job, though; having to sweat through the tangle of a needle and thread was a small price to pay for the daily show I was privy to.

A steady stream of Billy’s flamboyant friends came in and out of her apartment, checking on the Blue Room’s progress. It’s enough to put your tits in a spin! Dennis, he was my favorite, petite with blond hair and a uniform of paisley bellbottoms and a vest with no shirt. He died in 1984. Many of Billy’s friends were gone by the mid-1980s.

I became a kind of Blue Room mascot, often dragged away from my pillow stitching (thank god!) and waltzed through the burgeoning Blue Room. Isn’t it too wonderful for words! I was a fifteen-year-old kid from suburban Connecticut. I had trouble imagining what heterosexual sex was like, let alone the kind of sex that I assumed was supposed to happen in the Blue Room. All I knew was that everyone in town was …titillated.

When the last pillow was stitched and the final touches added to the Blue Room–strategically placed lava lamps and black lights–Billy had a little party for my mom and me. I was kind of hoping for an invitation to the grand opening of the Blue Room, but, well, yeah … Most of Billy’s friends came; they had become our friends, too, during the stitching of the pillows. She made a large cauldron of Portuguese soup and Portuguese bread, and we drank glasses of Mateus Rosé and ate her wonderful brownies. I had one brownie. My mother had three.

We sat on the pillows we had made for the Blue Room. We laughed and talked and listened to Sly and the Family Stone’s Stand! album. But then someone put on the Beatles You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away. The room fell into a post-pot-high melancholia, quiet. The party was over.

My mom and I headed back to our snug three-room apartment overlooking Cape Cod Bay. She soared down Commercial Street as if she were running through knee-high water, her arms out wide, raising her knees to her chest and tippy toeing her foot to the ground, like a marionette in the hands of a drunk puppeteer. I grabbed her hand to keep her from flying off into the starry, starry night. We’re almost home!

Those were some good brownies, she giggled, holding tight to my hand and tripping high over cracks in the sidewalk. I’ll have to get the recipe.


“The Blue Room” is an excerpt from Lucy Gregg Muir’s work-in-progress, a collection of creative nonfiction, entitled The Autobiography of Toto, a Memoir.


The Treachery of Images

Fiction in Mused – The BellaOnline Literary Review – Summer 2014, Vol. 8, Issue 2


Sandra first saw one of John Henry Bascomb’s paintings at a gallery in SoHo. She was with her then-lover, Patrick, a man who was perfect in so many ways and never hesitated to remind her of it. But when she stood in front of The Lady Waits, a painting the size of a large envelope, and Patrick continued to jabber on about his newest acquisition, an abstract called Birth and Rebirth, which was nothing more than blue lines over red splotches, Sandra simply said, “Get lost, Patrick.” And he did.

Sandra got lost in Bascomb’s painting. A woman lying in bed, nude, full figured, flawed, but beautiful. Her lover lay over her, his stomach resting on hers. The colors were muted, their lips burnished, their cheeks flushed. He held one of her arms above her head, a glint in his dark eyes, the other hand gently cupping her breast. His smile teased. Her eyes were pleading, locked with his. It’s the eyes, thought Sandra.

But it wasn’t the eyes. It wasn’t one thing. It was the painting in its entirety. Sandra was pulled into the scene by the simple shading beneath the touch of a hand, a slight crease drawn under an eye, a tiny wrinkle telling the story of a life lived. It was art at its most powerful, a painting that stopped hearts.

Sandra looked around the gallery at the other three small Bascomb’s hanging there. A quiet group of women stood before each one. One woman sat on the ground in front of The Lady’s Pleasure, staring up at the spent couple in the painting, the Lady’s back close against her lover´s chest, his arm wrapped around her, holding her tightly, his chin resting on her wild hair, a hand again on her breast. Trust was the word that came to Sandra’s mind.

My Lady’s Laughter almost brought Sandra to tears. The couple, in a state of haphazard undress, sat on the floor in front of a fire, a deck of cards splayed out in front of them, the Lady laughing. She was holding up a card, showing it to her lover who had his hand on the button of his pants and feigned a look of playful alarm.

It was nothing deep. Nothing dramatic. Just … joy.

What was odd, Sandra thought, was that each of Bascomb´s ladies was different from the others, strikingly different. It wasn’t like Andrew Wyeth’s Helga, or Dali’s Gala. Bascomb’s ladies were numerous. Perhaps that was why so many women were attracted to his paintings — whoever you were, whatever you looked like, you could see yourself in one of Bascomb´s works.

Sandra had first heard about Bascomb from a friend, an artist in Maine. “Be prepared,” she had said. “His paintings are small, but there’s a lot more there than meets the eye.”

And that was it. Bascomb’s paintings were more than their subjects. If Sandra were to put it into words, she might say that what she was looking at was love in its purest form. But it was more than that. What she saw caused a visceral reaction; her heart slowed, her breathing deepened, she was overcome with both an incredible calm and an intense desire. When Sandra looked at a Bascomb, she suddenly wanted more. She wanted what Bascomb’s ladies had.

What Sandra saw in the Bascombs was indescribable, and that was a problem. Her job as a writer for The Journal was to describe it.

She went to her editor and friend, Marilyn, and had asked if she could write a profile of Bascomb. Marilyn had already known about his work. As the art editor, it was her job to know before everyone else who or what was the next big thing.

Marilyn had considered sending a more seasoned writer to interview him, but she hadn’t gotten to the top of her profession by ignoring the fact that if a writer isn’t passionate about their subject, the piece would be flat. The minute Sandra began talking about John Henry Bascomb, Marilyn knew the piece belonged to her. At this point in her career, Marilyn was supposed to assign articles, not write them. But if Sandra hadn’t asked to write the profile, Marilyn might have considered doing it herself. She, too, had seen the Bascombs.

Finding John Henry Bascomb was a problem. The brochure at the gallery was vague about where he lived, saying only that he “resides quietly among the beautiful rolling hills of New Jersey.” The gallery owner in SoHo told Sandra that Bascomb was not in charge of his affairs, and that “his family has made it pretty clear they don’t want publicity. If they get word I told you anything about him, they’ll pull his paintings.”

Marilyn pulled rank and called the gallery owner herself, promising free publicity for his gallery. He coughed up the number for the law firm that handled the sale of Bascomb’s paintings. Marilyn contacted the attorney. “Talk to his wife. She’s the one in charge,” he told Marilyn. “He’s at Gray Manor,” he said. “He’s been there a while. Three years.”

Gray Manor was known for the people who checked in to recover from the vagaries of life. Writers and rock stars, the famous and the infamous. “That’s a long time to be at Gray Manor,” Marilyn had said to Sandra as she handed her Bascomb’s wife’s telephone number. “Bascomb must have passed the point of no return.”

“But he still paints.” Sandra knew his most recent work, The Lady’s Gifts, the most erotic of the paintings of which she was aware, had been painted only a few months earlier.

“Evidently,” Marilyn sighed.

“There is something about his paintings, isn’t there?”

Marilyn had raised her eyebrows and nodded.

Bascomb’s wife was receptive to the idea of Sandra writing the profile as long as she could approve the piece before it was published. It also didn’t hurt to suggest that there could be a jump in the price of his paintings. “It will help pay his expenses,” Bascomb’s wife rationalized. Sandra arranged to meet her at Gray Manor to facilitate the interview. “You know he doesn’t speak,” Mrs. Bascomb said to Sandra. “He says only one thing.”

“What does he say?”

“Oh, I’ll let you find out when you meet him.”

John Henry Bascomb sat in front of an easel in the solarium on the ground floor of Gray Manor’s main building. Sandra was surprised by his appearance; she thought a man capable of such emotion would be more … dramatic. Late middle aged, average height, average build, glasses. No, thought Sandra, he was not dramatic in the least.

“We’ve set up a corner for him,” his doctor said, “with his easel and paints.”

Doctor Henderson was a striking woman, tall, mid-fifties, long gray hair pulled back in a wide barrette. She walked with Sandra to where Bascomb sat contemplating a blank canvas.

“He sits here for hours, sometimes just staring at the canvas, holding his paintbrush in his mouth. But then he’ll paint. He’ll be so engrossed he notices nothing around him. We know not to bring him his meal, not to rouse him, until he’s finished.”

Doctor Henderson turned and pointed to a door. “And this is where we store his work.”

She unlocked the door to a large closet and turned on a light. Hundreds of Bascomb’s small paintings were stacked vertically on metal shelves, a piece of masking tape underneath each section marked with a range of dates. “August to November 2011.” “September 2012.” “October 2013.”

“Wow.” Sandra walked into the closet. “These are all Bascomb’s?”

Doctor Henderson nodded.

“These are worth a fortune.” Sandra did quick calculations in her head, and even though math wasn’t her strong suit, she knew the paintings were probably worth a half million dollars.

“His family feels they are as safe here as anywhere.” Doctor Henderson looked over at Bascomb. “Once in a while he comes into the closet, takes a painting, and just sits with it.”

Sandra reached for a painting, then stopped. “May I?”

“Of course.” The doctor picked a painting from October 2013 and handed it to Sandra. “This one is remarkable, don’t you think?”

The painting was smaller than the others, not much larger than Sandra’s iPhone. But the image was clear. A man and a woman standing on a city street at night, snow swirling around them, locked in an embrace that made it difficult to tell where one body ended and the other began. The woman’s face was buried in the man’s chest, his arms holding her so tightly one could see the stretch of cloth over the tightened muscles in his arm. Again, as in the The Lady’s Pleasure, his chin rested on her head, his eyes were closed. Bascomb’s art was in the smallest of details. But this time, the feeling wasn’t of pleasure; it was pain, sadness, a sense of ending.

“Pretty powerful stuff. I’ve looked at this again and again.” Doctor Henderson laughed. “I’m almost addicted to it.”

“It seems so sad,” Sandra said, “but at the same time … I don’t know. The word that keeps coming to mind is ‘real.’”

“I’m sorry I’m late.” A small woman approached them. She was dressed in a simple blue sweater and form-fitting jeans, and her dark unruly hair was caught in a burnt orange ribbon at the base of her neck.

“Mrs. Bascomb. This is Ms. Miller, the reporter.” Although Doctor Henderson’s introduction was formal, there was an underlying warmth, an understanding between the two women.

Mrs. Bascomb smiled. Sandra held out her hand. “Thank you for agreeing to meet with me.”

“As long as you hold to our agreement, Ms. Miller, I have no problem with the interview.” Mrs. Bascomb reminded Sandra of someone, but she couldn´t place who it was.

“Would you like me to stay, Mrs. Bascomb?” Doctor Henderson asked.

“I would like it if you could,” Sandra interjected. “I might have some questions that need a medical explanation. If you have the time?”

Mrs. Bascomb nodded her agreement. “Fine with me.”

Doctor Henderson led them to a small sitting area on the side of the solarium opposite Bascomb’s corner. She motioned for them to sit. “We’ll be able to watch him as he paints, but we’ll be out of earshot.”

The three women were quiet for a moment as Sandra opened the cover to her iPad.

“Mrs. Bascomb, your husband’s paintings seem to have a deep emotional impact on people. Has he always painted?”

“No. He only started painting about fifteen years ago.”

“Why did he start painting?”



“Ms. Miller,” Mrs. Bascomb said. “My husband has been in and out of psychiatric therapy his entire adult life. He’s always been … unhappy.”

“What happened to him, Mrs. Bascomb? Why was he admitted to Gray Manor?”

Mrs. Bascomb smiled oddly, as if she expected Sandra would find what she was about to say funny. “He was found naked on the Amtrak between Baltimore and New York. Mumbling.” Her voice was flat, emotionless. But she continued to smile.

Sandra looked at her iPad, thinking she should write something. “Was there any indication before this that something was wrong?”

Doctor Henderson looked at Mrs. Bascomb and spoke. “Other than bouts of severe depression, his clinical history was fairly normal up to that point,” she said. “He was married, had children, he was highly respected in his career. He functioned at a very high level.”

“He only had one problem.” Mrs. Bascomb looked over at her husband.

“You don’t have to mention this,” Doctor Henderson said to her.

“I think it’s important for Ms. Miller to know. It might provide insight.” Mrs. Bascomb twisted the ring on her finger. “And depending on how well she writes the article, this information may or may not see the light of day. Right?” She looked at Sandra.

“Of course.”

“Ms. Miller, my husband was a notorious womanizer,” she said. “He had affairs, many, many affairs.”

“Many?” Sandra wasn’t sure what that meant. Three? Ten?

“Many,” was all Mrs. Bascomb would say.

“And you knew about this?” Sandra was incredulous.

“Yes. As a matter of fact, I knew quite a bit about each and every one.” Mrs. Bascomb emphasized the each and every. “And there were … this is off the record?”

“Of course.”


“Hundreds?” Sandra could feel her face turning red.

Mrs. Bascomb looked down at her hands and twisted her wedding ring again.

The image Sandra had of Bascomb was suddenly altered. She was angry. Bascomb’s paintings were not simply pretty pictures. They had become personal to Sandra. They were personal to everyone who saw them. But now, there was a treachery in the images.

“Mrs. Bascomb, how could a man capable of painting such … emotion … be such a….” Although the term douchebag came to mind, Sandra had enough presence of mind to know it would be best not to say it. “What do you think he was looking for in these women?”

“You’ve seen his paintings, Ms. Miller. What do you think he was looking for?”

Sandra hadn’t thought much of what drove Bascomb’s art; all she knew was that when she looked at one of them, she felt alive, she felt passion. She felt what it must be like to be in love, and be loved.

“He was looking for what he was painting,” Sandra said after a moment. “He was looking for love?”

“Yes.” Mrs. Bascomb bit her lower lip. “I think that’s it.”

“I don’t buy that.” Sandra was losing perspective. It was no longer about his paintings; it was about the man, the emotion his paintings evoked in Sandra, and now she was confronted with the possibility that it was all a sham. “That’s what we’re all looking for. Why would he be somehow special in his search for love?”

Mrs. Bascomb looked at her husband. “Yes, why was he special?”

Doctor Henderson’s cell phone chirped, she checked it and stuffed it back in her pocket. “If you’ll excuse me?” She got up and left Sandra and Mrs. Bascomb alone.

Mrs. Bascomb turned back to Sandra. “At one point in his life,” she said, “he met a woman, and he fell in love….” Her voice trailed off.

“And?” Sandra assumed Bascomb’s presence at Gray Manor suggested his love story hadn’t had a happy ending. “What happened?”

“Here.” Mrs. Bascomb stood up suddenly. “Let me introduce you to him.”

They walked over to where Bascomb was painting.

Mrs. Bascomb put a finger under his chin and tilted his face toward hers. “Hello, John.” She kissed him lightly on his forehead, holding her lips there for a moment. Pulling away, she smiled at her husband. “Ms. Miller is here about your paintings,” she said, her finger lingering under his chin, her eyes locked with his.

The two women sat near Bascomb. He took the paintbrush out of his mouth, set the blank canvas on his knees and smiled at his wife. He turned to Sandra and sighed. “She broke my heart,” he said, his forehead creasing, his lips in a frown. He put his hand on Sandra’s knee. “She broke my heart,” he said again, staring deep into Sandra’s eyes.

The pain in his expression was haunting. Sandra held his look, feeling like a mother with a hurting child. Sandra put her hand over his. “I’m sorry,” was all she could think of to say.

Bascomb smiled at Sandra and pulled his hand from hers. He set the blank canvas on the easel, dipped his brush in a small jar of blue, and painted a thin line. “She broke my heart.” He tilted his head to one side, dipped his brush in red, adding another line.

“Who broke his heart?” Sandra spoke softly to Mrs. Bascomb.

Mrs. Bascomb was silent. Sandra sensed she had crossed some line. “I would like to understand what brought him here,” Sandra said. “What causes a man like him to –“

“Go mad?” Mrs. Bascomb looked at Sandra without expression. “Ms. Miller, my husband is as passionate as he is brilliant. He wants to believe that love exists. But, love and passion are emotions. They can’t be dissected. They aren’t rational. And ….” She hesitated and looked at her husband. “You can’t manipulate love.”

Only those you love, thought Sandra.

“Love can’t survive in a purely rational mind. There is a war going on inside my husband, Ms. Miller. It’s been quite a battle,” she said, “and he’s losing.

“He paints the ideal,” she continued, “even though he doesn’t believe it exists…anymore.

“Have you ever had someone put you on a pedestal, Ms. Miller? Has someone ever thought so highly of you it was impossible to live up to their expectations?”

Sandra shook her head. “No.”

Mrs. Bascomb smiled. “Lucky you. The air up there is rarefied. One doesn’t last long on a pedestal.”

“His perfect love fell off the pedestal?”

Mrs. Bascomb sighed. “It’s worse than that.” She was quiet for a moment.

Doctor Henderson returned with three bottles of water and handed one each to Sandra and Mrs. Bascomb. Sandra unscrewed the cap but held the bottle in her hand.

“He became angry,” Mrs. Bascomb continued. “He pushed her away. After all,” she said, “any woman who would want him probably wasn´t good enough for him. You know the idea, you wouldn’t want to join a club who would have you as a member.”

“That´s rather convoluted,” Sandra said flatly.

“Convoluted. Yes.” Mrs. Bascomb said.

“Then what did he do?”

“He continued his search for the ideal.”

“What did she do, this woman he put on a pedestal?”

“What would you do, Ms. Miller?”

Sandra was still holding the small painting of the sad couple in the snow. “I don’t know. I’ve never been on a pedestal.” Sandra put the painting down. “Why does he say she broke his heart if he is the one who pushed her away?”

John Henry Bascomb cleared his throat, leaned close to his painting and wiped his brush on a cloth.

“Looks like he’s almost finished,” said Doctor Henderson.

“Dr. Henderson,” Sandra said. “You see what’s in his paintings. It’s more than talent, more than the ability to capture form and light.”

“Yes,” she said. She took the painting of the couple from Sandra.

“There have been other artists whose work has a similar impact. When you read about them, the word ‘genius’ comes up. Is it genius?”

“It might be.” Doctor Henderson laughed. “What is genius, anyway? Great scientists, great thinkers, are great because they look at the world differently. Bascomb sees things in a way that most of us don’t, or can’t. His genius, if you want to call it that, is being able to express emotions, feelings …” she paused for a moment. “People connect to what he paints. What he does for us, Ms. Miller, is he gets us to feel.”

Sandra wondered what pain, what resolution, if any, Bascomb could find at the end of his paintbrush.

Mrs. Bascomb watched as her husband rubbed a cloth around the edges of his intricate painting. She turned to Sandra. “I ask you again. What would you do, Ms. Miller, if the man you loved had that kind of emotion within him?” She looked at her husband. “But loving him came at a high cost?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

Mrs. Bascomb smiled.

“You said that when he was found on the train, he was carrying a painting.”


“What painting was he holding when he was on the train?”

Mrs. Bascomb raised her eyebrows and took a deep breath. “It’s in the closet?” she asked Doctor Henderson.

Doctor Henderson went to the closet, and returned, handing a painting to Sandra.

Bascomb had painted himself into the scene, only he was smiling, dancing, his arms around the Lady, her back arched, her head tilted back, face to the sky, laughing. The Lady´s hands were lightly draped around his neck. She was barefoot, her long skirt caught in mid-twirl. His foot was off the ground, toes bent back ready to step down, while the other turned out awkwardly in that moment critical to a perfect dance step. The background was blurred; the couple was in sharp focus.

“I don’t understand,” Sandra said finally. “This is beautiful. They look so happy. Why would he have this with him when he….” Sandra hesitated. “This is such a hopeful painting.”

“That’s what he doesn’t have, Ms. Miller.” Mrs. Bascomb watched her husband clean his brush. “When he was in Baltimore, when he was with yet another of his ideal ladies who fell from the heights, I think he must have realized…. He doesn’t have hope, Ms. Miller.”

“Mrs. Bascomb, who broke his heart?” Sandra felt this was the key to understanding what drove Bascomb mad.

Mrs. Bascomb smiled. “Ms. Miller,” she said. “Look closely at the picture you have in your hand.”

Sandra looked again at the delicate painting, at the joy on John Henry Bascomb’s face, and at the face of the Lady. And then Sandra looked at Mrs. Bascomb. “It’s you.”

Mrs. Bascomb raised her eyebrows and nodded.

“Oh.” It’s the eyes. “And The Lady Waits?”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Bascomb.

“But the other paintings? The other women?”

“We all break his heart, Ms. Miller.” Mrs. Bascomb twisted the top off her bottle of water. “The pedestal he puts us on is too high. Too cold.” She twisted the cap on the bottle back and forth. “Too lonely.”

Bascomb scratched his forehead with the handle of his paintbrush. “She broke my heart,” he said, leaning close and scratching a thin line in the painting with the handle.

“I’m having trouble, Mrs. Bascomb, coming to terms with this man, this artist, whose paintings stir such emotion in me, and yet …”

“…and yet….” Mrs. Bascomb’s voice trailed off as she watched her husband clean his brush.

“…and yet you stayed married to him.” Sandra was angry. “He cheated on you — I don’t care how many reasons or explanations you can come up with –-“

“He didn’t cheat on you, Ms. Miller.” Mrs. Bascomb’s words cut straight to the core of Sandra’s anger.

Sandra closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Opening her eyes again, she said, “You didn’t leave him.”

“Oh, but I did leave him, Ms. Miller. Perhaps not physically. But I could no longer be one of his ladies. You see, Ms. Miller,” she said, “my heart was broken, too.”

Bascomb dropped his paintbrush on the floor. “Ahh.” He leaned over, once more wiped it on the cloth, and placed it neatly on the table beside him.

“Then why didn’t you leave him? Why do you stay?”

“Look at his paintings, Ms. Miller. What do you see?”

Sandra didn’t need to look at the Bascomb she was holding; she kept her eyes on Mrs. Bascomb. “Love.”

Mrs. Bascomb smiled. “So, I ask you again, what would you have done if you were me?”

John Henry Bascomb stood up and walked over to Sandra, handing her the small painting she had watched him create.


Sandra’s laptop was open and the painting Mr. Bascomb had painted while she had watched that day, and that Mrs. Bascomb had given her, sat in a small frame on her desk. She touched her finger to the Lady’s face, her face. Bascomb had captured their moment together, Sandra seated next to him at his easel, his hand on her knee, her hand placed over his, her mouth shaped as if she was speaking. I’m sorry, she had said to him. But Sandra’s Bascomb was unfinished. Where Sandra was blues and greens, Bascomb was an outline, an empty figure, devoid of color.

John Henry Bascomb paints hope when he has none himself. He paints the passion that eludes him. And, he paints love….


The Promise

Fiction in Mused – The BellaOnline Literary Review – Summer 2014, Vol. 8, Issue 2


She wandered the barren fields exhausted, every step an effort. She fought the suction that nearly pulled the ancient Wellingtons off of each foot as she slogged through the ankle deep mud.

Stopping to catch her breath, she railed at the fallow fields around her. “Where’s the promise of spring?” The sound of her voice dissipated without echo in the cold dry air. She strained to hear a response.

“If you scream at the top of your lungs,” and she was screaming, “and there’s no one around to hear you, does it matter?” The sound of her voice left a trail of cold mist behind it. She laughed. Evidently not, she thought.

She pulled her dead husband’s old barn jacket close around her. He had been a big man, and she was a small woman; the jacket could have wrapped around her two times. But she still wore it, zipped up to her chin and with one of his narrow ties around her waist as a cinch. Pulling the collar close around her neck, she held it tight against the wind.

Squinting, she scanned the late afternoon horizon.

“Stupid cow, bustin´ down the goddamn gate again.” Putting her head down into the wind, she walked on toward the sun. “Just stay in the goddamned barn. That’s all I ask.”

A rooster crowed behind her. She stopped and looked back at the barn in the distance, and at her house. The lights she had left on were beginning to brighten in the first floor windows as the afternoon light faded.

“I just want to go home.” She wiped a gloved hand roughly across her eyes, watery from the wind. “Damn cow.”

She turned and attempted to walk again toward the horizon, to the field at the top of the hill where she thought the errant cow might be. She tried to pull her boot out of the mud, but it was stuck hard this time. As she struggled to free it, her stocking foot shot out of the boot and landed forcefully in the muck.

“Damn it to hell!”

Wiggling her muddy toes, she jumped up and down inside her other boot, shaking the batter-like muck off of her sock, and tried to keep the foot high off the ground. She felt like one of the chickens in the yard when it used to be chased by Boo, her black Lab, waving her arms ridiculously around her like flapping wings, attempting to find her balance. But she didn’t. Instead, she fell full force into the cold mud on her hands and knees.

“Stupid cow.”

Pulling her hands up out of the mud, she sat back on her ankles, knees still firmly planted. She wiped her fingers on his jacket and then covered her face with her hands. “I can’t do this.” She inhaled deeply the clean scent of the fresh mud and smelled spring, life. Taking her hands from her face, she looked at her mud-encrusted fingers.
“´Where is the Life we have lost in the living?´” Her hands fell to her side at the thought of the long forgotten poem, her gaze slowly taking in the fallow hay field around her. “Huh, Mr. Eliot? Can you tell me that? Where is the life?”

Exhaling sharply, she stood. She put her muddied foot back into her boot, held onto the top of the boot with both hands, and pulled her booted foot out of the mud. She did the same with the other foot, bending and pulling each foot, up and down, forward by steps, until she found a row of matted hay to walk on.

At the top of the low hill that marked the horizon lay the cow.

“Oh, no.” She walked over to it, standing beside its bloated stomach. “Not you, too.”

She sank down and sat on the cow’s bony ribs.

“I hate spring,” she said, planting her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands.

Wiggling herself between the ribs to get comfortable, she paused and looked at a star glimmering in the darkening eastern sky.

“I hate spring and you know it.” She shoved a foot between the cow’s front hooves and pushed them a little to the side. “Don’t try to tell me about the promise of new life. That’s crap.”

She angled her head as far back as she could to stare into the sky. “You always said I was too impatient for spring. Remember the year I yelled at the lettuce? ´Grow, dammit! Grow!” She chuckled. “You always said I was more into reaping than sowing.”

“But what´ve I got left to reap?” Evidently not much.

“You’re dead!” she yelled. The sound of her voice circled her, then was gone.

She sat quietly and stared at the sky

“Shut up,” she whispered. “I’m sitting here on a dead cow. You’re dead. I’m not going to listen to you. The only promise of spring is work, hard work.” Another star appeared in the east. “And being alone.”

She pulled her foot out of the boot and then shook it violently. Mud splattered across her face. “Crap. Why don’t I just up and die?” She spat mud.

Wiping her face with the collar of his jacket, she breathed deeply as it brushed by her nose. Holding the collar to her face for a moment, she then buried her head inside the jacket. “You’re in here, you know. It’s why I wear this stupid ugly jacket of yours.”

She coughed and lifted her head, tears sending muddy rivers down her cheeks. As she wiped the tears from her face with his sleeve, she looked west toward the horizon, the sun continuing its slow descent behind the hills.

“What am I going to do without you?” she asked the sky. “There’s no more promise.”

She rubbed her bare foot between her hands to warm it.

“I like winter. I like the cold. The dark. I liked that we could milk the cows and feed the chickens, get all the chores done early, and then sit by the fire looking at the seed catalog, or picking out dream tractors. I liked that.”

She flopped on her back, lying on the dead cow, resting halfway between night and day, watching as the sky in the east grew dark. The stars began to shimmer one by one as, east to west, the afternoon slowly turned to early evening.

“I can’t do spring by myself. You knew that.” Her voice was quiet. “Spring was yours. Mine was fall. We shared summer, though.” She smiled. “For forty years, we shared summer.”

Taking one of his handkerchiefs from his jacket pocket, she wiped her nose.

“And winter. I loved our winters.” She begged the stars and the sky for a return to winter, to the long warm nights together with his arms around her.

Still lying on the cow, she wrapped her arms tightly around herself, holding his jacket close, as the wind grew stronger and the sky blazed sundown in the west.

Quickly she sat up, watching the sun as it threatened to disappear.

“Where’s the goddamn promise of spring?” She yelled as the last sliver of sun disappeared.

“That’s right,” she said quietly. “Leave me here alone, again.”

She put the sock back on her foot and shoved it into the cold and muddy boot.

She stood, taking a determined swipe at the cow hair on the back of her pants. “It’s not like I can’t do this all on my own.”

Pulling his jacket around her again, she retied the cinch at her waist and trucked back through the dark field, trying to stay on the matted hay. The lights of the house were brighter now, her beacon. Her eyes slowly grew accustomed to the advancing darkness.

Walking past the barn toward the back porch of the house, she stopped suddenly. The lights from the kitchen made square patches in the yard, illuminating a sprouting daffodil, and the snow that was starting to fall in thick large clumps.

Pulling off her gloves, she shoved them into his deep pockets and then held out her arms, watching as each enormous flake turned to water in her hands.

“One last snow?” she whispered.

Raising her face to the sky, she smiled as the snow melted on her cheeks.

“I can do this,” she said. “Did you hear me? I can do this. I´ll do spring. I promise.”

Creative Nonfiction

The Swing

ImageCreative Nonfiction – June 19, 2014, The Prague Revue


My daughter swings.

My daughter is seventeen, and she swings.

She swings at night in the rain. She swings in raging blizzards. She swings in the cool shade of a tree during the long hot days of summer.

She swings to save her life.

From the time my daughter was two and could climb by herself onto the seat of the swing in our backyard, she has swung, furiously. From the moment she understood that the secret of swinging is in the arms and not the legs pull the chains and lean back push and lean forward repeat she has swung, frantically.

My daughter swings so much that the hooks that hold the swings eventually pull out of their sockets and new holes need to be drilled. My daughter swings so much that we’ve had to replace the heavy wooden swing-set three times in fifteen years. The second time we replaced it, the large beam that holds the hooks had split in half from so much swinging. When we replaced it with a new swing-set, I saved this beam and the swing that still hangs from it. I hung it across beams in my garage because it won’t fit into the pages of a scrapbook.

We replaced this swing-set on the morning of Christmas Eve while my daughters – I do have two daughters, but only one swings – were watching television and I was baking cookies, their father wrapping presents up in the bedroom. We were all present and accounted for so it must have been one of Santa’s elves! who delivered it. I keep the magic screwdriver the elf left in the snow by mistake in my desk drawer. It won’t fit into the pages of a scrapbook, either.

When she was eight and wanted to go late at night onto the swing, I worried that the bears would eat her, or a passing hobo might kidnap her. But I let her go. I stood in the kitchen window and watched her. I didn’t take my eyes off of her. I stood in wonder at my beautiful daughter in need of a nighttime swing.

I worried when she would come home from school, drop her books and run to the swing. And swing. And swing. And swing. And then she would come inside and melt onto the sofa.

I loved the swing for what it did for my daughter. I loved the swing for doing for my daughter what I could not do.

The swing-set can be seen by passing motorists on my street, a street well known by the locals as a back way into town, and by people walking their dogs. Many people know my daughter swings. Many have commented oh you live in the house with the girl on the swing and seem as much in awe of her as I am.

Sometimes I feel the need to explain my seventeen year old daughter and her swingshe is anxious depressed angry frustrated brilliant lovely hurt waiting to be in control of her own life. But mostly when people say you live in the house with the girl on the swing I just say yes.

And mostly, people understand.

Sometimes I’m not sure my daughter understands why it is she swings. Then again, I’m not sure it matters if she understands.

My daughter came to me yesterday and said I know it’s not Mother’s Day yet but I wanted to give this to you now. And she gave me this picture she painted, of her swing under a full harvest moon, and a tiny red heart on the seat of the swing.

Oh, my daughter ….

I love my daughter’s swing.


Link to the article:

Creative Nonfiction

Scream, Baby. Scream.

Creative Nonfiction – April 19, 2014, The Prague Revue

A response to Parker Marlo’s honest essay on cutting.


No, no, no. It doesn’t make you a liar.

Let me tell you why you cut.

It’s your mother’s fault. Yup. Your mother never let you cry yourself to sleep when you were an infant. She was one of those hippy-types who believed in the family bed and that allowing an infant to cry was cruel. Crying meant the infant was unhappy. And we couldn’t have an unhappy infant, could we? We were all peace and love and happy babies. At all costs, we kept the baby quiet. A quiet baby was a happy baby. A happy baby would grow up to be a happy adult.

God, where the fuck did they get that idea? As if our first gassy smiles are an indication of future contentment.

A baby who doesn’t cry makes up for it later, let me assure you. A baby who isn’t allowed to cry becomes an adolescent whiner, a self-centered all-about-me adult. A baby who isn’t allowed to cry becomes a needy anorexic cutter. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Oh, so anxious for you to be born! For all those expectant months your mother read every how-to manual she could find. Friends gave her their dog-eared copies to read with important sections highlighted, formula is manufactured by Nazis, (Oops. That’s another discussion.)

Your mother read how essential it is to bond with a baby from the very first moment of birth. Your mother isn’t, wasn’t, an idiot; she knew all about bonding, knew that bonding was the key to having a happy baby. She’d read all about it. That first night in the hospital, the day you were born, she kept you in her room instead of the nursery. But, oh, how she desired to sink into a deep, post-birthing-a-baby sleep. She couldn’t, though. She was a mother now. She had to bond.

And she tried to. God, how she tried. She swaddled you, but you looked like a hot dog falling out of a bun; she failed at her first job as a mother. And you cried. And cried. Was this bonding?

At two in the morning the night of your birth, when the famous film producer’s movie star wife who had just given birth and was resting comfortably in the next room screamed Shut that baby up! oh, God, she tried! And a few weeks later, when at your colicky worst you screamed into the wee hours of the night and the neighbors in the next apartment pounded on the wall Shut that baby up! oh, God, she tried. Again. And again. She was inadequate. Incompetent, certain that social services would take you away. She had to keep you quiet.

And yet your mother was so exhausted, so tired, so unbelievably drained, she wanted desperately to put you in your crib, shut the door, and let you scream. She wanted to Ferberize you, follow Dr. Ferber’s recommendations to let babies cry themselves to sleep. She tried it once or twice when the neighbors were out and the windows were shut, sitting on the floor outside your room, head on her knees, hands over her ears, sobbing. Shut that baby up. Shut that baby up. Please, shut that baby up. If only she had trusted herself then. If only she had trusted you.

Instead, she shut you up. She tamped you down. She stuffed a cork into your teeny tiny baby emotions, teeny tiny baby emotions that you should have learned to handle then so that by the time you were older you would know how to handle your big girl emotions.

But she shut you up. She wanted a happy baby. The kicker was, you weren’t a happy baby. You were miserable. The more she tried to keep you quiet, the more you screamed. The more you screamed, the more she tried to keep you quiet. The more she tried to keep you quiet, the more volatile you became. Tantrums, night terrors, uncontrolled outbursts of anger for no reason. Others said you were spoiled, but you weren’t. You didn’t have tantrums because you were denied candy or toys or whatever. You had tantrums just because. Kicking screaming flailing outbursts for no reason, at any time, in any place. Yes, your mother was one of those mothers, thebad mothers, the grocery store mothers who are the recipients of the tsk tsk tsksdolled out by the good mothers.

So, she shut you up. And then, her job, her life, was to make you happy, to keep you happy. Oh, she didn’t spoil you. You didn’t get whatever you wanted whenever you wanted it. You had rules to obey and were punished when you didn’t. But, your emotional happiness depended on her. As a toddler, if you couldn’t sleep, she rocked you. When you were older, if friends upset you, she distracted you. Your emotions weren’t yours to control. You didn’t know how.

You never learned how to soothe yourself.

When it came time for you to become independent, to rebel against your mother, as all daughters must in one way or another, you pushed her away.

And the emotional cork that had been implanted when you were an infant, that your mother learned how to perform a controlled release of whenever necessary to let out just enough steam so you wouldn’t blow up completely, blew.

And you did. You blew.

You were smart. You were beautiful. But you had no idea what this turmoil was inside of you, and you had no idea how to deal with it. You didn’t know how to deflect it. You didn’t know how to release it. You didn’t know how to turn the enormous emotional energy into something positive. You became out of control in your search for control. What else could you do? You blew.

You became extreme. Sex. Drugs. Sex. You confused pain and emotion. Emotions hurt but you didn’t know how to deal with them. So you caused pain because physical pain can be managed. A band aid. A splint. Drugs. Emotional pain has no band aid. The only cure for emotional pain is to cry, to feel it, to suffer it, to live through it.

And you never learned how.

I’m sorry. I fucked up. I thought I was doing the right thing, but that’s no excuse. What do they say about ignorance of the law? I’m guilty as charged. So sue me.

But you are kind of right about this. People don’t really care. Well, it’s not that no one cares. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s that we, I, can’t do anything about it. No, that’s not right either. I won’t do anything about it. Maybe it’s too late, but you have to learn how to handle your emotions, how to let yourself hurt, and heal. You have to learn how to scream in order to hear the quiet that comes after and know that it belongs to you. I have to let you scream.

So scream, baby. Scream.


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I Will Dream of Winter

I know that I will curse the sun,
and I will tire of the light,
the dampness and humidity
will be all that I can bear,
and I will dream of winter.

But for now I will delight in
the first fine day of spring.
Blue sky and a hot car, windows down,
top open and wild hair,
the first trickle of sweat.

Anxious for fresh picked tomatoes,
just shucked corn, and blueberries
picked by the side of a dirt road,
the cawing gulls that follow
the days catch, the night’s dinner.

Smell the basil in the garden
the scent of pine on a hot breeze
honeysuckle rides the wind
everywhere summer abounds,
and I will dream of winter.