“Emeryville”

John remembers the ways of the Ohlone as he digs for oyster along the shore at Emeryville.  Near his dead father’s old fishing shack stood Shellmound Park; a midden of many lifetimes.  A mountain of crusty mollusk fused together rose 60 feet above San Francisco Bay with a dance pavilion atop its summit.  The dance and the park died with the passage of prohibition in the 1920’s.

The Guardians

The Guardians

The first fly catches her scent in the hot, summer wind. Buzzing his arrival, he scrapes his feet and glories in the Guava juice erupting from her mouth. Death is a strong, sweet thing for those with voracious appetite. Guardians of the Dead leave sticky, spiny footprints tracking her body, their microscopic ears attuned to a tornado of hissing emerging from her last gurgling expiration.

The Picnic

“But Jody, that dress in Lerner’s Shop window may not be ‘right’ for the school picnic.  I’m just trying to warn you! What are the other children wearing?”

“I don’t know, Mom. I don’t care! I want something different. I want to look nice and I want to choose it myself, ok?”

Jody could hardly contain her twelve-year old explosive excitement. Her mom had given her $5.00 to buy something for the picnic and agreed it would be her choice. She stood in front of the shop window on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach, Florida and imagined visions of herself, floating and frolicking, fairy-like, through the woods at the picnic tomorrow, looking wonderful!

It would be a ‘magic’, fun day!

The dress was typical 1940’s style thin, cotton fabric with stamped, tiny print red and pink roses with green leaves covering its expanse. The top of the dress is made of a shirred elastic base similar to a fitted bathing suit top to cover her tiny breasts and it falls in a straight gathered line at the waist to form a full skirt which flows to just above her spindly knees. It is ‘strap-less’ as Jody gasps with delight and considers it the most romantic, daring ‘sun-dress’ she has ever owned!

Jody is a hit at the party the next day: all the girls “ooh” and “aah” over her new dress.

The boys give Jody a more quizzical look: why would a girl wear a silly dress to a sand lot picnic?

“You can’t slide into first place wearin’ that”, gassed Joe,  from the sidelines.

But, all agreed: girls are silly, anyway, right? The boys shrugged it off as another implausible action of their classmate…all except Pat Hanley. Pat is taller and more mature than most of the boys. He has an inexplicable desire to see just how that dress works, though later, when asked,  cannot explain his actions, either!

“It was an innocent game of tag; give-me-a- break!”, said Pat.

“What happened, anyway?”

“I grab the top of Jody’s dress while Jody continues to run!”, says Pat.

Guffaws and shrieks and howls of laughter follow this volcanic action as Jody struggles for her maidenhood, red-faced and embarrassed. Jody and her dress, restored to its proper place, remain on the sidelines for the rest of the day. She never wears it again,  but that dress and the picnic remain in the deep-freeze of her memory, forever.

“Things That Go Bump in the Night”

Jeanie and I sit in our upstairs bedroom and wait for the eerie sound of a rusty-hinged door creaking shut and the hollow, sinister laugh of  “The Shadow” on our radio.  It is 1942 and 7:30 in the evening.

“Aheeheehee, the Shadow knows!”

Our modest stucco bungalow, set close to a paved, busy street is minutes from downtown Daytona Beach, Florida.  The street is quiet after 8 and a Lights Out situation becomes part of the current Civil Defense.  The 2nd World War has created Captains in hard-hats; flashlight weapon in hand, they patrol the neighborhood.  If you forget and leave your front porch light on,  Mr. Barnett, our hard-hat neighbor, comes calling.

Jeanie and I often play jacks on the front porch and wait for Mom to come home from her Civil Defense  job.  She serves food to workers in an airplane parts factory on the second, ‘supper’ shift.  We romp with the neighborhood kids in the cool of the evening, playing hide-and-seek, but tonight anticipation is high as our favorite radio program is about to begin.

Glued to the sounds in the safety of our upstairs bedroom,  we are frightened out of our skin by that swashbuckler, Lamont Cranston and his faithful sidekick, Margo, as they set out on another startling adventure.  Tonight  they promise to take us into the “Land of the Living Dead” complete with nefarious zombies lurking about.  During the broadcast, I know it is not safe to look over my shoulder or behind me for you never know what might be lurking there!

It is a quaint little house.  Our bedroom sits in a tiny attic, nestled  in the center of what was once a storage area, accessed by a narrow staircase along one side of the living-room wall.  One small, screened window to keep the birds out faces the street below.  In bad weather,  an old, oilcloth tablecloth is rolled down to keep the rain out.

Close in age, Jeanie and I are close for other reasons I will not discuss except to say Daddy is an alcoholic and sometimes he is home and sometimes he is not.  Jeanie and I adore him.  He always has a ready hug and smile for us.  He is a happy drunk.  Mother  is the “warden”, chief cook and bottle-washer and lawmaker on the premises and lays down the rules for girls with lively imaginations.

“Heeheehee!  What evil lurks in the hearts of men…?  The Shadow knows!  Good evening, friends and welcome once again to our program, sponsored by ‘Super Suds'”.

It is here three Wizard-of-Oz  midgets sing the jingle:  “Supersuds, Supersuds, lots more suds with Supersuds!”

My plan forms as I gather up Dad’s old, black overcoat and hat from beneath my bed.  Weaned on the “The Shadow” and “The Inner Sanctum”  radio programs and old Bette Davis histrionics at our local movie theater,  I am the actress reborn!   I love anything overly dramatic, ridiculously soapy-romantic or terrifying.   The script and sound effects on radio make my hair stand on end.  Imagination allows me to go “into the scene”, and I become Bette Davis!

Saturdays are the highlight of life.  Mother gives each of us a quarter; eight cents for the movie ticket and five cents each for the popcorn and Orange Crush.   Our life is one of excitement and wealth!

I may become Boris Karloff or Bella Lugosi.  If I sneak up on my little sister dressed in Dad’s old, black overcoat,  hold it up just below my eyes and make a guttural,  evil, laughing noise,  she will respond with a big screech and run to tell mother I have frightened her.  As mother is not home yet, my plan takes shape.

But almost there, my plans begin to stray.  Just as Lamont Cranston and Margo are about to get to the most bone-chilling, dangerous part of their mission, we  hear heavy feet moving up our staircase…

“Mom…?  Dad…?”

No answer.  We both cower beneath Dad’s overcoat and wait to see what monster emerges into our little room.  Whoever it is has a flashlight,  waving intently,  back and forth…back and forth.  The light is blinding us but we recognize the voice:

“Girls!  Your mom called to say she will be late tonight!  Jackie, you are to make peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches.  There is milk in the fridge.”

Oh, my gosh… Mr. Barnett with his hard-hat and flashlight from next door!

“Stay put, girls, and behave yourselves!”

My stomach does not  feel so good.  I decide not to scare Jeanie,  after all.   In retrospect,  I am learning things don’t always go as planned as we huddle  a little closer to each other and wait for Mom to come home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Angel in the Cobweb

lovebirds4 best (2)lovebirds4 best (2)lovebirds4 best (2)There are so many amazing Yiddish words that found their way into the English language, and we thought it would be great to highlight one.  To find one with a third definition, however, was not so easy.  We thought all was lost until we stumbled upon this gem.tush – See more at: http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/#sthash.9NAHOSQf.dpuf

There are so many amazing Yiddish words that found their way into the English language, and we thought it would be great to highlight one.  To find one with a third definition, however, was not so easy.  We thought all was lost until we stumbled upon this gem.tush – See more at: http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/#sthash.9NAHOSQf.dpuf

fabric angel by J. Casey 001original fabric figure by Jacqueline Casey

“The Angel in the Cobweb”

Think you could move that tush of yours and do a little dusting?”

It is a quiet question.  He will not fuss about my housekeeping and knows I am wrestling with grief. I avoid cleaning the room where Mom stayed on her last visit.  John guides me there and we stand with our backs to the late afternoon sun as it beams through a northwest window. He is silent as I follow his gaze into the far corner and into the largest cobweb I have ever seen .

Inside the web stands a breathtaking angel figure about twelve inches tall.  Stately, ornate, she fills the center of the web and reminds me of a fabric figure I  made for mom on her last birthday. As I try to photograph the web, the late afternoon light bounces about and the angel does not translate into the image I expect to see.

My computer spits forth an intricate, muddy scene suggesting a spider’s web.  I am disappointed.  Still, both John and I have seen an angel in the web and I consider it a miracle.  It is a gift from my mother.  It is so like her to send that type of message.

My mother is an angel many ways:

an uncomplaining vigil does she keep.

From nursing home, she spent her latter days

yet longing to escape and visit me.

My life and work is in another place.

The separation makes our meetings tough.

She counts our visits when we do embrace

and cheerful is her face (she likes to bluff).

She once did visit me, her trip sublime.

She slept in what she called ‘my Princess bed’.

And said she hoped to visit other times

the room with lacy pillows on the spread.

And so she moves within my web of dreams.

Assures me love comes from another sphere

where hope and faith’s forgiveness does appear.

Speakeasy Entry “My First Halloween”

 

“My First Halloween”

The light from all the houses along Tanglewood Street seem dim and scary  tonight.

In my first-grader’s mind, all the doors squeak eerily as they answer our “Trick-or-Treat” call.  But, ah, the open crunch and tumble of all that candy  as it makes its way into my lovely red, metal bucket.  That is the magic of it all!  And I forget about being nervous or frightened.

“So, little, girl…what are you supposed to be?” said the wizened old gent who answered the door at #8 Tanglewood.

“Huh, ‘be?’….I dunno…”

“Well, I never heard of such a thing! A girl with a bag on her head and two holes for eyes!   You must be called something in order to be scary on Halloween!”

“But… but mom never told us we had to BE anything!”

It was true. Mom had put bags over our heads and sent us on our way.  Never “Trick-or-Treating” before,  this was my first “grown-up” Halloween.

“Just ring the doorbell and call out ‘Trick-or -Treat’, child, and show them your bucket.”

Hastily rigged, my Mom was home from work minutes before we were out the front door in our costumes: Two barefoot kids; walking bags with holes for eyes.  You could see my legs from the knees, down.  I  suppose we were a comical sight but too young to know we looked stupid.

Before us on the sidewalk, I hear snickers from a pirate with a fantastic scarf around his brow.  He wears an impressive black patch over one eye and  a long blade at his side.  His sister skips behind him, dressed in a pink, filmy fairy princess  dress with a magic wand and waving her arms at everything.  My little sister and I gaze in astonishment at the costumes as we walk farther away from home.   We saw magical creatures careen up and down the streets.  Downtown is dark and threatening if it were not for the revelers who carry old kerosene lanterns and flashlights.  Many ghosts, their white sheets flying,  scream down the sidewalks.   I could feel my little sister cling more closely as a clown opens his gaping mouth at us !  Main Street was like a ghost town, except for one lit storefront.  I pulled  little sister into the shop  and heard triple clanging sleigh bells ring over the door.

“Well, look at this! If you aren’t the scariest two, bewitching bags I have ever seen! Martha, come quick, and see what just walked through our door!”

Mr. Wilkerson, the shopkeeper, loves Halloween and goes all out each year to dress and decorate for the occasion.  He wears a heavy, ape costume with a head so real it takes my breath away! My little sister, Jean, will have nightmares tonight! But there was something familiar about the voice of this gorilla that reminded me of my grandfather.

“Martha, these are the little Whitford girls from Tanglewood Street and they look weary from all their walking.  Call their mom and tell her I’m driving them home in a few minutes.

(My story based on fact. Such times did exist in the 1940’s in Daytona Beach, Florida)