Category: Blog

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.

Imperfect Perfection

When I’m working on a novel or short story and the words aren’t flowing I don’t see it as an obstacle. For me it’s a time do something different, something out of the ordinary, something wildly creative. It doesn’t have to follow rules or be correct. It is what it is: Imperfect and Perfect at the same time.     

Strawberries

Photo by Sheila Horne

Strawberries.

Take a bite, make a list, pretend I’ll complete it. Turn on computer, turn on music,

get into the groove. Check email, open pen, open book, scribble word. Search

for another pen. Write about obstacles, scratch out line, add line, gaze

outside—snowflakes float.

Strawberries.

Take a bite, check plant, check window, check paper. Write, about dogs,

about cats, about slippery with bad news rising. Count paper clips.

Strawberries.

Take a bite, stand at window. Look south, north, east, west,

shift from foot to foot. Sit down. Write Jasmine blooms: brilliant,

too brilliant, too too brilliant like desire, un-attachment,

aversion, lust, scratch out blooming Jasmine.

Strawberries.

Take a bite draw flower add stem and leaves. Scratch out flower.

Write about loves lost, beaches, Beach Babies they called us.

Summer Boys I named them—he laughed. What were their names?

Forgotten—so long ago.  Open holy water, sprinkle, make sign of cross,

visualize. Visualize what? Visualize chakra. Scribble word on new blank

page. Scratch word, scratch head, scratch arm. Write deluded deadline 

on calendar.

Strawberries.

Take a bite, move box black and white with polka dots. Climb in-jump out.

Write goals pretend I’ll meet them, meet, meet, meet who? Where? When?

How? Kill adjectives,adverbs, verbs. No. Need verbs. Prepositions maybe.

Strawberries.

Take a bite, look at John Lennon framed on the wall. Look at Bob Dylan

framed on the wall. Ask them their thoughts on stifling people at tables

in restaurants. Watch a man shake off winter and tramp through slush searching

for house number nine. Number nine. That’s it—Beatles. Number nine. Dig deep

into my soul, my essence, my being. Write about spades about shovels, about hoes.

The ho reached for the john. The john reached for the ho. No soul. No essence.

No being. No ho. No john.

Strawberries.

Take a bite, close pen, close book, shut down mind—Perfection.

 

 

 

 

Come On Baby, Light Me On Fire

I woke up this morning thinking about crime magazines, B-Girls and women who light men’s cigarettes. Why would a woman light a man’s cigarette? I couldn’t find much about it on the Internet. But there’s a lot about men lighting women’s cigarettes. Unless the man is genuinely being polite, lighting a woman’s cigarette is a tool to pick up women. What we called a, ‘come-on’ in the 1970s—we weren’t stupid, we knew what was going on. One website stated it’s ‘sexist’, after all women have hands. Yes they do and, like men, are capable of lighting their own cigarettes. But none of the websites answered my question. Why did some women light men’s cigarettes? I’m not talking about sharing a match. I’m talking about a woman picking up a man’s lighter from a table and lighting his cigarette for him. Not to mention being in a bar and pouring his beer into his glass. What was that all about? Up to now my research has come up empty. But I think I know why women did it.

Gidget. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Gidget, I wanted to be her. You know, live in California where the weather is hot year round, have surfer guys fall in love with me, and end up with a Moon Doggie type for a boyfriend. Anyone who has seen the movies will know what I’m talking about. There’s a scene in Gidget Goes Hawaiian, where she and Moon Doggie are having dinner in a restaurant and she pours his coffee for him. That was to show him what a good little wife she would make, attentive and loving. As a ten-year-old girl I stuck that scene in my memory. It was something I needed to remember for when I grew up. I must have forgotten because I never did pour my dates’ beers into their glasses. In forty years of marriage I’ve only poured my husband’s beer for him once. He looked at it suspiciously and said, “you poured my beer for me, why?” Who knows? Maybe the memory card from the Gidget movie had finally popped out of the file drawer in my brain.

This brings me to B-Girls. Who were they? Actresses who starred in B-Movies? Bad girls? My research tells me they were Bar Girls, not to be mixed up with Bar Flies. They’re a whole different story. B-Girls were hired by bars in the 1930s to entertain men, light their cigarettes and pour their drinks. If you read old crime magazines or watch Turner Classic Movies, you know the type. The kind that according to Rick James, you don’t take home to mother. I don’t have anything against them. They fascinate me. It has to do with lighting the man’s cigarette. I’ve never lit anyone’s cigarette. Except when they were driving and asked me to pass them one. I stuck it in my mouth, lit it and handed it to them. Not the same thing and definitely not sexy.

As I wrote this, another memory from my brain’s cache jumped out at me: A girl I once met while on a dinner date with someone whose name I can’t recall. I was twenty and naïve at the time. My date’s friend brought a girl with him. I can’t remember their names either. But I do recall her pouring his beer into a glass, leaning in close and lighting his cigarette. It had nothing to do with showing him what a good little wife she would make. It was more of a, ‘let’s get it on.’ Nothing wrong with it, after all it was the‘70s-one of the wildest decades. I spent the night captivated by the way she moved her hair. The way she coyly smiled and adjusted her dress. The way she tended to his smoking and drinking needs. I have to admit, for a moment I thought of pouring my date’s beer and lighting his cigarette, particularly when she filled up his glass for him. But then the scene played out in my mind: spilled beer all over the table. Me, dabbing at the mess with wads of tissues from my purse while my date went up in flames. All to The Doors singing about: a funeral pyre and setting the night on fire. So, I changed my mind and watched her serve herself up to both our dates.

Was she a B-Girl? Do B-Girls still exist? I’m not sure. Maybe. But I do know attentive is not for me. It wasn’t in the ‘70s and it isn’t now—especially if it has to do with pouring or lighting things. It’s better left to the women I can only write about. The B-Girls.

Out Of The Closet

“I’ve decided,” I said to a friend of mine. “It’s 2016 and I’m coming out of the closet.” Being a writer his eyes lit up. I knew what he was thinking: she’s been married for forty years, there’s a story here. I added: “Except for The Hand Maid’s Tale and Moral Disorder, I don’t like Margaret Atwood’s work. Neil Young is a great songwriter but a terrible musician. And Rush is the worse Canadian band ever.” I cringed and waited to hear that I was the most un-Canadian Canadian he’d ever met. But he agreed. Since it went well, I told more people. Strange enough they also agreed with me. Finally, I no longer had to grin and bear it when Neil Young came up in a conversation. I could say things like, “he really should have other people sing his songs they would sound a whole lot better.” I could also throw in, “green peas should be banned.” Then I thought, what if I didn’t stop at my thoughts and opinions? What if I took everything out of the closet?

What started with me speaking my mind turned into a trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond for purple hangers made by Joy. You know, Joy, the woman who invented a super duper mop in the 1980s. Hollywood made a movie about her life. Jennifer Lawrence did a good job playing her. Anyway, with ninety of her thin hangers now ready to keep my clothes from slipping to the floor, I began to remove everything out of the closet. At one point my husband stuck his head in the room, looked at all the clothes on the bed and asked, “What’s going on? Are you leaving me?” For some strange reason he always thinks I’m leaving him. But that’s another blog.

Once he left I went back to shifting the wooden and puffy satin hangers that took up too much space in my life. I soon found out closets are scary. You can never tell what’s lurking in them, like the hippie tops I found between my fitted blouses and suit jackets. Nine of them in various styles and colours. Sometimes things, like clothes and opinions especially on silent films, The Three Stooges and The Marx Brothers, are best kept a secret. So, I shoved the hippie tops behind the four off the shoulder, Madonna style sweaters and slammed the closet door.

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.

The King and I (Stephen King that is)

While reading Stephen King’s book, On Writing, I started to think about my own writing life. Stephen and I have a couple of things in common. We both come from single parent homes and were raised by our mothers. Stephen King’s father did a run-out when he was two years old. Mine left when I was one. Our mothers were the first liberated women but as Stephen mentions in his book, not by choice. We both started to write at a young age. He started as a child while house bound due to illness. I began at fourteen years old because I was stuck in the house and bored. When Ed Sullivan, Patty Duke, Father Knows Best or My three sons weren’t on television I was in my room listening to music on the radio and writing. I filled notebooks with short stories. The kind fourteen year old girls write—boy, girl stories all inspired by the cheerleaders and football players in grade nine.

In 1966 while packing up my room for a move from Texas to Toronto, Canada, I destroyed the stories. I honestly did not think I would continue to write. It was something to bide my time. But I did write—protest poems. All fueled by Bob Dylan singing about times changing and Johnny in the basement mixing up some kind of medicine while Bob stood on the sidewalk thinking about the government. Not to mention, The Who talking about “My Generation”.

Then came the 1970s—wild and wonderful. I should have taken my writing seriously. I should have pushed harder. I should have done a lot of things. But as the Byrds said, there’s a time for every purpose. It was my time. Time to be a beach baby, date, party. Time to learn to live alone and listen to the sounds of silence. I banged out stories and poems on my manual typewriter while The Moody Blues told me about, “The Land of Make Believe”and “The Best Way To Travel”. Yes, whimsical was the best way to travel.

Joan Sutton’s columns in the Toronto Sun became my obsession. I read them everyday while drinking coffee and eating a honey bun at my desk. I wanted to be her. So, on a snowy night I went to hear her read at a library. After, I gave her my binder of everything I had written from 1966. Now, when I think of handing over my work without having a copy, it scares me. But she was Joan Sutton. I trusted her and I was right. The newspaper did an article: Unknown Canadian Writers. I was one of them. If it happened now I would dig in. I would follow-up. I would make a few phone calls and knock on doors. But back then I was too young to understand that there was more to opportunity than what The Mandela sang about.

Before I knew it, the 1980s showed up. I traded in writing for diapers, Dr. Seuss, Robert Munsch and tying shoelaces. I returned to writing in the 1990s when I decided the world needed a sequel to the Gidget movies. I wrote it on an Atari computer. To type in Word One, I had to insert a disk, another disk to save and another disk to print to a dot matrix printer that bzzzzzzzzed and ehhhhhhhed. When I stuck the disk with the saved Gidget book into my newly bought IBM PC a few years later, the file was corrupted. To my family’s relief a forty-year old Gidget went into the garbage can. Around that time I decided to go back to school. I enrolled in George Brown’s Creative Writing Program. It took me four years but I learnt how to write. Not the ins and outs but the most important part of writing—to sit and free write. Put away my critiquing, editing hat, be creative and let the words flow.

My writing life isn’t as exciting as Stephen King’s. No drug or alcohol addictions. No fame. No long line-ups at book signings. After all he’s Stephen King, author of several books, some of which have been made into movies. He’s known worldwide. I’m Sheila Horne, barely known Canadian author of two novels and a few stories published in magazines and anthologies. But I have to say, besides our mothers and when we started to write, there’s another way that Stephen and I are similar. We both listen to music while we let our imaginations fly on twenty-six letters of the alphabet.

The In-Between

Catherine dumps the contents of the box on her bed.

“My box of goodies,” James had said three months earlier. She’d found him huddled against a wall on a rainy fall day. She turned when he called her name, knowing even after thirty-five years, it would be him. He had always been the one to find her.

“I remembered where you worked,” he’d said, pulling his thin jacket around him and coughing. “I took a chance that you would still be there.”

He stumbled, coughed again and held onto the wall. Catherine waved at a cab. When it stopped she gestured for James to get in. He picked up the box and followed her. At the time, it bothered her that he’d found her. Not because she didn’t want him to, but because it meant she’d been stagnating in the same job for years. And at fifty-five, it was too late to find something else.

Now she spreads photos, newspaper articles, a notebook filled with scribbles and old university catalogues on her bed. She looks at a map and opens a high school yearbook. The first time she’d met James he impressed her with his good looks, and the fact that he wanted to date her. She was pretty, but nothing like the girls he usually dated, who were considered super cute or beautiful. She and James went out for their final year. Then, near the end of school, he broke her heart.

“I understand,” she’d said, when he explained that he’d be going away to university and it was unfair to her. She blocked the word unfair from her vocabulary and moped through the last days of classes, anxious for the bell to ring so she would never have to see him again.

A year later on a crisp fall day James phoned her. By then she was settled in a job and a new apartment. She met him for a drink. He wanted to make a new start.

“And university?” Catherine asked.

“I never went,” he replied. He took her hand and smiled at her. “I can explain.”

Catherine swallowed the lump in her throat. University was the reason for breaking up with her and he hadn’t gone. “Don’t even bother to try,” she’d said. She knew an explanation wouldn’t make a difference. She would allow him back into her life.

“It’s complicated,” he said, seven months later. “But we’ll always be friends.” He left, and Catherine returned to being one of the single girls searching for love.

“He’s like a field mouse, shows up in the fall and leaves in the spring,” her friend said, six months later when Catherine told her James had returned.

That time she tried to tell him she was involved with a stockbroker. But he didn’t want to talk about other people. Instead he promised to make her dreams come true. He swept his hand in the empty space in front of him and told her they’d travel to distant horizons. Ride camels in Morocco, maybe get married. A few months later he was gone—so much for Morocco and dreams.

The stockbroker gave her an ultimatum. He needed to know she loved him. Catherine shook her head. She told him she didn’t and had no intention of marrying him. She’d watched him pull out a handkerchief from the pocket of his navy-blue suit as he walked away. Then James was at her front door in September.

Catherine picks up the stack of photographs and shifts through the pictures of him and a girl. In one of them they’re standing in front of a university. The girl is dressed in full graduation attire, a diploma in her hand. He’s wearing a black t-shirt and jeans. They seem happy. Catherine looks at a picture of him with two small children. She checks the year at the back of a wedding picture. It matches the last time he left her. That time he’d yelled something about getting her out of his mind and slammed the front door.

She turns over the pictures, checks the dates and quickly thinks back to their times together. He’d show up in September and leave in April. It all had to do with the start and finish of university and the girl in the picture. They’d gotten married right after her graduation and had children. Catherine never had him. He was never hers. He belonged to the girl in the photo.

“Transient between two hearts,” she says as she gathers up everything and throws it all into the box. A piece of paper with a phone number written on it falls out of the notebook.

“I have his things,” Catherine says to the woman who answers the phone.

The woman says she doesn’t want them. “You must have meant something to him because in the end he turned to you,” she says. She mumbles a few words Catherine doesn’t understand.

“No,” Catherine says. She looks out her window and sees that it’s snowing. “I meant nothing to him. I was just in between fall and spring.”

Previously published in the anthology: Arrivals and Departures, November 2014

Me On Canvas

RickHickspaintings

3a.m. and I can’t sleep. So I think about my life as a painting. I wave my hands in the air as I lie in bed—splashing, sponging, spattering and dabbing as if the blackness in front of me is a canvas. I connect my feelings about events in my life to colours—greys and browns to the darkest times, pinks and yellows to the brightest. I take it a little further by going on my computer and doing research. I find there are colours for every kind of emotion and some have strange names. At one point instead of typing happy colours, I typed hippy colours. Up comes: free spirit, flower child, catch the wind and bohemian beauty. Perfect for one stage of my life during the 1970s. My insomnia instead of being a nuisance turns out to be a lesson on colours, emotions and a fun time painting with words.

Me On Canvas

Curly blond, tanned, running wild on the plantation, bare feet, frilly dresses, this is me—paint me lime, hibiscus, mango, with a dab of ocean blue. Grandmother, corsets, soft and hard at the same time, mother soft and sad. Fudge, kites, baby chicks this is me—aqua, lavender, peach. Catholic girl, nuns, words that don’t mean a lot, this is me—dab me medieval slate. Lesley Gore, Beach Boys, sidewalk surfing, sock hops, football games, flipping burgers, this is me—Aggie maroon, teal, ember glow. Pool in the summer, boys, surfer shirts, drive-in, friends who were friends, this is me—fuchsia, tangerine, Texas tan. Catholic Youth dances, my room, music playing, writing stories, bobby socks, Friday night roller rink, Saturday bowling, tenny shoes, this is me—coral, morning sunshine, peacock blue with a smidgen of blush.

Another country, different life, this is me, not me—spatter me psychedelic, draw a box—midnight black around it. Friends who weren’t friends, clothes—not me, the scene—not me—plaster it bittersweet red—separate it from the rest of me.

Nice guys with nice hair, dancing, dating, fun, this is me—electric blue, sunset pink, Canada yellow. Any girls’ dream, drive in, funny face, this is me—dream catcher, warm peach, polka dots. Broken heart, pain and more pain—smear me poison dark, raw umber, crow black add a spiral, a wave and another, this is me—blue black, hauser dark, bottle green, make it spin. Alone, unhappy, this is me—cover me grey—no don’t it has no colour. Beach baby, dating, partying, friends who were friends, this is me—free spirit, flower child, catch the wind, don’t forget bohemian beauty. Thinking, writing, this is me—turquoise, magenta, yellow and orange.Writing, laughing, loving, this is me—royal blue, emerald, thunderbird. Kids, happy, adoring, playing, this is me—periwinkle, sky blue, willow tree. Freethinker, music, writer, this is me—paint me liberal blue, golden sun, coral, purple with a dash of red—this is me.

Words by Sheila Horne Paintings by Rick Hicks

Dream Date

Classic Car

While visiting Manhattan, I saw a re-furbished Thunderbird for sale in Soho. I ran my hands over the beautiful leather seats, the chrome bumpers and wheel rims. I saw myself in it. My hair blowing in the wind. I imagined the stories it could tell. Maybe it once belonged to a young man who saved his allowance to buy it. Maybe it was a sweet sixteen birthday gift to a girl from her parents. Maybe it was owned by someone in the mob. I pictured him sitting in the back seat, being driven by his body guard to meet his death. Before I left Soho I took a photo of the car. When I returned home, I wrote a story about a boy, his car, and a young girl’s dream date.

Classic Car

The smooth blue and white leather felt cool on the back of Justine’s thighs. She pulled her skirt down to cover her knees. Tommy didn’t notice. He was more interested in how she liked the way the convertible eased over the potholes in the parking lot.

“I don’t know anything about cars,” she said.

Tommy pressed on the gas pedal. The wheels spun. Justine gripped the door handle as the car veered to the left then glided over the gravel road. “Like ducks on ice,” he said. He glanced in the rear view mirror, frowned and pulled a comb out of his shirt pocket. He ran it through his hair, looked in the mirror again and smiled. “Hey high school beauty queen,” he said, pointing to the radio. “Throw a dime in the juke box.”

She stretched out her hand to turn it on. Tommy put his hand on hers. “Be careful,” he said, “she’s delicate.”

It was the perfect afternoon. A love song on the radio and the most popular boy in school, she couldn’t ask for anything more. Justine leaned her head back on the seat and stared at the clouds flying by in a blue sky. She planned their wedding, their children and their life. After months of getting him to notice her it was worth lying to her parents about having to work.

Tommy pushed hard on the gas pedal. The turquoise T-Bird fishtailed out of control but quickly corrected itself. “That’s what I like,” he said and grinned at his reflection in the side mirror. He asked how she liked the feel of the leather and the purr of the engine. She looked at him and realized he didn’t know her name. He never asked. Since she could remember, he’d called her, high school beauty queen. What did she see in him when he pulled into the Burger Palace where she worked part-time? What did she think would happen when he asked to drive her home from school the next day? The other girls she worked with nodded at her then at him. They loved his slick dark hair, his bright smile, his pretty blue eyes and his car. They said he won every drag race. They said she was lucky. They said the girls in school would be jealous.

An hour later, he stopped the car in front of her house. “So what do you think?” he asked.

“About what?” she said.

He ran his hands over the chrome dashboard. “Isn’t she beautiful?” He didn’t wait for her reply. “Later high school beauty queen,” he said, then reached over and opened her door. He waved and sped away. Justine watched gravel scatter under the wheels of his dream date.

Previously published in CommuterLit

I Want To Be A Cindy Lou

Music. It takes me on a journey. Lets my mind wander and brings back memories. The boy who didn’t notice me, the one who broke my heart, driving around in my friend’s car. I can remember where I was, whom I was with, what I was doing and how I felt. How about you? Can you relate to my story, “I Want To Be A Cindy Lou?”

“Love Potion Number 9” by The Searchers comes on the radio. In an instant, I’m fifteen years old again and in my room in Bryan, Texas. It’s where I spent most of my time writing short stories and listening to the radio. That is, when I wasn’t flipping burgers after school at the local diner. After all these years I can still hear the DJ reading dedications to the popular girls. Every night I hoped someone would dedicate a song to me. It never happened. I wasn’t popular. I didn’t fit the mold of the 1960s girl: long, straight blond hair and cute turned-up nose. All the girls like me, with brown curly hair and who didn’t resemble Michele Phillips from the Mamas and Papas were considered undesirable and thrown into the invisible club.

In ninth grade I decided that if I took art, I might be recognized as a great artist, even though I couldn’t draw or paint. Neither could the two girls who shared a table with me. Darla spent the time staring at the football players who practiced in the field outside our window. She was crazy about the quarterback. Unfortunately, like all football players he only dated cheerleaders. Rhonda at fifteen had only one ambition: to get married as soon as she graduated from high school. My goal was to be a Cindy Lou. That’s what we called the popular girls. They were beautiful, had perfect lives and were destined to succeed. I wanted to be one of them.

I dyed my hair blond. It came out orange. I sprayed half a can of hair spray on it to keep it from curling and phoned Darla.

“Nothing to worry about,” she said when I opened the door. “You look bitching, like Lesley Gore,”

We went to the pool to show off my new hairstyle and the two-piece bathing suit I’d made. We sat beside a group of boys. Darla soon tired of waiting for them to notice us. She climbed the high diving board and posed in her white crocheted bikini. That got their attention. She smiled at them, made a flawless dive into the water and surfaced grinning. The boys cheered. Unknown to Darla her top had slipped upward, revealing what, until now they’d only imagined.

That summer I worked every day chopping onions and serving customers. I saved my money. I was determined that in tenth grade I would no longer be invisible. Before school started I bought pretty blouses, mini-skirts and dresses. I traded in my knee socks for nylons. Surely, once the Cindy Lous saw me they would invite me to join their clique. It didn’t happen. So I went back to writing short stories and listening to music.

Forty-seven years later, “Love Potion Number 9” is playing on the radio. I’m in my room writing a short story. Except this time I no longer want to be a Cindy Lou. This time, I bask in the beauty that is the real me.

Previously published, 2013, in The Inspired Heart.