Tag: Short Story

The Secret

I’ve often wondered: What’s the secret? I found out the other day. In need of a bra for a low cut dress, I took it to one of their stores—you know the one with the sexy lingerie. The sales clerk checked the front of my dress and said I needed a plunging bra. She handed me a few: A fully padded push-up, demi, semi-padded, an unpadded one that hooked in the front, and a bustier; she thought I should try on just for fun.

Since I wore push-ups in the 1970s, I started with that one. I slipped my dress over it and looked in the mirror. I laughed. My breasts spilt out of the top like two globes, which hadn’t seen the sun in forty years. The lyrics, blinded by the light, silicone sisters and boulder on my shoulder by Manfred Mann came to mind. Believe me, they were practically on my shoulders. The demi was perfect, not as much spillage as the push-up. “But not enough plunge,” the salesclerk said, examining how it looked with my dress. Next came the semi-padded. It worked, and I put it in my buy pile. No problem with the bralette. It was also a go. I took the unpadded one with the front hook from its hanger. I wore them in the ‘70s, so I knew I would buy it if I could get the clasp open. I had to put on my reading glasses to see what I was doing wrong. While I struggled with it, two young women were having a fashion show in the changing area. They came out of their cubicles, strutted around in various kinds and colour bras, critiquing each other. “I don’t like that colour on you.” “The pink is much better.” “Leopard is not for you.” “I like the coral.”

Okay, I’m open-minded and I’m not old. I don’t consider 60s old. But as they were commenting about each other’s bras, I couldn’t help but think: What does it matter if pink is not your colour or you like coral. No one will see them. If they were thinking men—well I’m not sure about that. If I recalled, we had beige, black, white and pink. They never stayed on long enough for men to admire or mention. Maybe they did, and I can’t remember. But it seems the world is different in 2016. Women are no longer hiding or burning their bras. They’re proud of them and showing them off along with their cleavage. Maybe if I were in my 20s, I too would be particular about what colour bra looked good on me. And want to show off the ones I was about to buy.

Anyway, while they discussed colours and styles I was sweating and swearing and fighting with the front clasp on the bra. I’d gotten it on. Loved it, but I couldn’t get it off. I tried to pull it over my head; that didn’t work. In the ’70s they were so much easier. And what about a man removing a woman’s bra with the flick of a finger, does it still happen? If so, was there one nearby? Or Houdini. I could have used his help. Since I was alone, on went my reading glasses again. When I finally got it off, I realized that as much as I loved it, there was no way I wanted a bra I had to put on glasses to hook and unhook. It went in the no pile. Then came the for fun red and lacy bustier. I decided it was a definite possibility. But it turned out to be more work than I planned on doing to be sexy. By the time I got it on I would need a nap. And I think I hurt my back. So here’s what I found out about the secret. You either have to be an escape artist or have perfect eyesight

Sex Or No Sex

sunshine-girls=product-photo-new  Half way through my first novel, Sunshine Girls I realized I had four      22-year-old female characters in 1973, but no sex. How could that be? After all wasn’t, sex, drugs and rock & roll the mantra of the decade? I took the problem to my writing group.

“You have to have sex,” one person said.

“No one wants to read a book without sex,” someone else added.

Since I’d never written a sex scene before, I headed to the romance section of the nearest bookstore. The first book I picked up, a bodice-ripping historical piece gave explicit descriptions of body parts. I perused a few paragraphs and put it back on the shelf. Too much like porn for what I had in mind. The next one about a woman being coy in 2011 was a little unbelievable for the era. Then I remembered the best seller, Fifty Shades Of Grey. Women loved it, so I bought a copy. I read one chapter and browsed through a few others and put it down. I’m picky about dialogue, maybe too much. From the way Christian Grey spoke, he seemed more like a vampire than young, good-looking and rich. Not the kind of person I wanted touching my protagonist. Besides my four characters were not into kinky. Or maybe they were, and my protagonist didn’t know about it.

In the four years of creative writing courses, not once did our teachers give us any hints on how to write sex scenes. And none of the articles I read on the subject seemed to fit what I wanted. I was on my own. It took me five hours to write one sentence. Mainly because I felt I needed to be careful with the protagonist, after all, she was a naïve twenty-two year old in 1973. Women still had a long way to go to lose the slut label. Once I got through the first scene, the others were easier and fun to write. I even laughed and enjoyed stretching my imagination.

paper-sun-product-photoThe sex scenes in Paper Sun were stress-free. The characters were fifty. By the time we get to forty, the word promiscuous should no longer exist. I even put my character in a no commitment sexual relationship with a man twelve years younger.

I still don’t know everything about writing sex scenes. But here’s what I figured out:

  • Relax.
  • Make sure no one else is around when you’re writing the scenes.
  • Unless it’s erotica or a bodice-ripping novel, keep it tasteful and simple—no need for long drawn out details.
  • Don’t forget the characters’ emotions.
  • Use your imagination.
  • Sex scenes do not have to be romantic.
  • Most of all be playful, laugh  and have fun with it.

In my third book, the characters are 65 years old and older. I’m dealing with bodies that are no longer youthful. Not to mention the up and down feelings that go along with aging. Up to now, my research describes all the physiological problems of people sixty and over. I haven’t found much on the emotional part of older adults having sex with a new partner or someone they haven’t seen in years. So, I’m back to asking myself the same question: sex or no sex.

See: http://sheilahorne.com

 

I’m Not Here Right Now

 

Today as we gathered at the Second Cup for coffee and cake, a farewell to Avi and Tenil, I couldn’t help but remember when they first took it over. I wasn’t sure if I would like them. I’d grown accustomed to the previous owner and his cronies that took up all the tables and chairs. One day something happened that made me realize that Avi and Tenil cared about their customers. I wanted a seat so I approached a man who had taken over two tables, one for his coffee and one for his work. When I politely asked him to move his papers he informed that his files needed the table. I left. The next time I went into Second Cup the situation had been dealt with. Tenil and Avi had set a rule, one table and chair per person.

For me, today was not only about saying goodbye to two wonderful people and their staff, it was saying goodbye to the place where I wrote Sunshine Girls. I’d bought a notebook from Chapters and for a longest time I called the novel, I’m Not Here Right Now. And I wasn’t. I was back in 1973 Toronto and Wasaga Beach. Everyday I went into Second Cup bought a mug of coffee and filled pages of the notebook with words and sentences. Then I went home and typed them into my computer. Once I finished the crummy, jumbled first draft, I printed out the manuscript and took it to Second Cup. Day after day, I sat and marked the pages with a red pen, made notes and scribbled in the margins. It became a ritual. But Second Cup wasn’t just a place for me to write. Avi and Tenil allowed me to host many Words and Music events. It was my drop in where everyone knew my name. I took my class there for an afternoon of writing. “Find one person and give them a life,” I’d said. Little did they know it was an exercise in writing through noise and distraction. And it was the place to meet friends for coffee and a chat. Where I went to relax and read the newspaper.

The reason behind the closure: A new Second Cup has opened has opened a block away. I’ve been to that new one. It’s corporate and cold. It lacks the warmth of Avi, Tenil and their staff. I won’t go here. So, as I tearfully hugged Avi, Tenil, and the staff, and thanked them for everything, I said goodbye to my long relationship with Second Cup.

Edward and The Romans

Sister Angela telephoned Mother every day to complain about Edward’s fighting. Every day Mother promised she would talk to him about his behaviour. But no matter how many times she spoke to Edward, he still managed to cause some kind of ruckus with the other boys at St. Mary’s Catholic School. He even threatened to slug our older sister Elaine and me, especially me. Being the youngest I seemed to annoy the heck out of him.“You are never to hit a girl, and certainly not your sisters,” Mother warned him. “If you do, you’ll be severally punished.”

Mother’s rule about him not hitting us gave Elaine and me free rein. Elaine teased him about not really being our brother. About being an ugly silly boy who Mother, Grandmother and Grandfather allowed to live with us on the Sugar Estate. We smeared shoes polish inside his shoes, put grasshoppers in his socks and lizards under his sheets. We chased him one Friday afternoon as he went to meet his cub troop, dressed in his freshly washed and pressed uniform and shiny black shoes.

“Good riddance to bad rubbish,” we yelled.

He made a fist at us.

“You can’t hit us,” I shouted, making a face. “You’re not allowed, because a boy who hits a girl is a coward.”

He made two fists and then got on the school bus. A few minutes later the driver closed the doors and Edward left for his weekend cub camping trip. We jumped up and down, hooted and hollered happy we were finally rid of him. Then we missed him. We missed his stories that always ended with him as the hero, saving the day and world from another villain. We waited for him to return on Sunday afternoon and fill our heads with tales of danger, fun and intrigue. Instead the only thing he talked about was Father Carmichael teaching them to box. He also brought home two pairs of boxing gloves.

“Father Carmichael was a boxer when he was young,” he said, dancing around and jabbing at the air. “And I want to be one when I grow up.”

“You’ll ruin your handsome face,” Mother said.

“I don’t care. I want to be like Cassius Clay.”

He tied a pair of gloves on my skinny wrists and began to teach me how to protect myself. Unable to raise my arms, I soon tired of the game and the heavy gloves and took them off.

Edward laughed. “You’re a sissy,” he said.

I shoved him to the ground, straddled him and punched him with my fists.

“And you hit like a baby,” he mocked.

Tears rolled down my sweaty cheeks and I was about to cuff him as hard as I could when Grandmother walked into the room.

“Eleanor,” she yelled, pulling me off of him. “Nice little young ladies don’t fight.”

I ran from the room.

“Edward, you’ve been told never to hit your sisters,” I heard Grandmother say. Then she went into the dining room. I heard her take the old leather belt she had nicknamed “Charlie” years ago, down from the hook behind the dining room door. I didn’t tell her Edward didn’t hit me. I didn’t have to. I knew by the time she returned to the living room, he’d be out the kitchen door and down the red gravel road to his special place across the cricket field. He kept that place secret from Elaine and me even though we begged him every day to take us. So one day we’d followed him. After we waited for him to scramble over the high white wooden gate, Elaine put her feet on the heavy chain and padlock, pulled herself up and sat on the top.

“Hurry, he’s nearly at the other end of the cricket field,” she’d said, looking down at me.

But I was too small to crawl up the wooden slats and she made her way down.

“Don’t worry,” she said, “tomorrow we’ll start digging under the fence so next time it’ll be easy.”

By the time Edward came home, Grandmother was busy setting the table for tea and had forgotten about giving him the strap.

“I don’t want to be boxer anymore, I want to be a drummer like Gene Krupa,” he said.

“I think that’s a good idea Edward,” she said, passing him a slice of cake.

After tea he found an old black suitcase and a rusty cake pan in the storage room. He hammered a spike through the pan and stuck the pointed end into the suitcase. It became a cymbal. Then he whittled and sanded two pieces of wood and made them into drumsticks. Every day he came home from school and practised his drumming on the suitcase drums. But it didn’t keep him from getting into a fight with the other boys during Lent. Not even when I told him he had to give it up, because we all had to give up something we loved. I had given up candy and recess. I spent every day after lunch in church saying the Stations of the Cross. In class I listened to Sister Angela preach about Judas’ betrayal, and about Saint Theresa the Little Flower. I promised Sister Angela that when the Communists invaded I would be more like Saint Theresa than Peter the Apostle. As Sister Angela said, Saint Theresa refused to denounce Jesus to non-Christian soldiers while Peter denied knowing Jesus not once but three times.

“I don’t have to stop because I fight as a Good Samaritan,” Edward said, “and I don’t know who the Communists are, and I don’t care about them.”

Yet Sister Angela chose him to be Jesus in the Good Friday play. The thought of it plagued me all during Lent. Edward would never make a good Jesus. Sister Angela always told us Jesus wanted everyone to turn the other cheek, something Edward didn’t know anything about and refused to do.

“Can we go home after mass?” I asked Mother as we made our way to church. “I don’t want to see the play, and I don’t want to see Edward as Jesus.”

“Good Friday is a day for little girls to be quiet and not annoy their mothers,” she replied, and gave me one of her warning looks.

Elaine was lucky. She got a cold and didn’t have to spend her afternoon in church listening to Father Carmichael telling us that Jesus died on the cross because of our sins. I couldn’t understand how my sins had anything to do with Jesus dying thousands of years ago.

Finally, mass ended. Father Carmichael said the last prayer, made the sign of the cross and stepped away from the altar. People rushed to the statue of Jesus, crying and begging forgiveness, as they rubbed his painted clay feet. I snuggled closer to mother.

“You would never do what they’re doing, would you?” I smiled at her. “Because ladies don’t that, do they?”

She squeezed my hand and pointed to the front of the church. In a tattered robe, a cross on his back, Edward was entering from the side door along with the other altar boys dressed as Roman soldiers. When they hung Edward on the cross with ropes, the crowd howled and dabbed at their eyes. Mother grinned proudly at him. From where I sat I could see the boys poking him hard with their cardboard swords and Edward kicking them.

After the play, Edward and the Roman soldiers rolled around on the ground outside the church cursing each other. I ran to tell Sister Angela. I thought that once she heard about the fight, she would march over and stop it. I thought she’d make them scrub the chapel floor for a month or give them some other horrible punishment. I thought she’d never let Edward be in another Good Friday play as long as he attended St. Mary’s. But she didn’t. She waved me away.

“Boys will be boys,” she chuckled.

I turned to leave but she called me back and peered at me over her glasses.

“Eleanor, wasn’t it tattling that got Jesus crucified?” she asked.

I kicked at a pile of gravel. Dust rose and fell, leaving a grey powder on my brown shoes and white socks. Sister Angela changing her mind about wrong being right confused me. Not only that, I wasn’t certain tattling got Jesus crucified, but one thing I knew for sure: I was going to be in trouble with Mother for getting my new shoes and socks dirty. And Edward and the Romans would continue to brawl every Good Friday.