Teacher Teacher


Dear Mrs Matina,

Thank you for being my teacher.  I don’t think that you got to pick who was in your class. And I didn’t get to pick you.  But thank you anyway for teaching me.

Mom told me to write this letter to you because it is World Teacher’s Day on the 5th of October.  I didn’t know there was a day for teachers.
Is there a day for ventriloquists? That’s what I want to be.  Do you know what that is?  I saw a guy on TV who was a ventriloquist. I started practicing.  Do you remember that day when you got mad cuz you thought Billy Baker was farting?  That was me being a ventriloquist.  I am getting pretty good.

Mom says there is not very much money in ventriloquism.  That means they don’t get paid very much.  She also says that teachers don’t get paid very much.  She said that if I want to make money then I should be a doctor or a plumber.  I don’t want to be a doctor because I don’t like guts.  And I think Mom was just saying plumber cuz she was yelling last week about how much we had to pay a guy to come fix our toilet.

Anyway, maybe I will be a teacher and a ventriloquist.  Then I could get paid twice.  And I could throw my voice around the classroom and scare the kids.

I think you are a pretty good teacher, Mrs Matina.  Specially when you are not tired and crabby.  You look tired a lot.  Are you tired of telling us that a lot is two words?  See — I remembered. I think Billy Baker must make you the most tired.  He doesn’t remember anything.

Well, I have to go do my homework now so my teacher won’t get crabby.  (Ha ha, that was a joke.)

Happy Teacher’s Day.

From your student,
Greg Hollister


Today’s Assignment:  Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What’s the first word that jumps off the page? Use this word as your springboard for inspiration.   Today’s twist: write the post in the form of a letter.

My word came from There Was a Country by Chinua Achebe.  There it was, page 29 — “I went home to my village at the end of the holiday and visited a secondary school within my district in Oba near Ogidi.  I asked the principal to give me a job as an English teacher.  And he did!”  Thought it must be fate, what with Sunday being World Teacher’s Day and me being a teacher.

Lost and Found


I hated him. With every fibre in my being, I hated him. It didn’t matter that he was my father. In fact, that probably made me hate him more.

He was asleep when we left for school and gone when we got home. There was no telling when he’d return, but one thing was guaranteed — he’d be angry drunk when he did. If he came home during dinner, within ten minutes there’d be dishes on the floor.. If he drove up before bedtime we’d scatter and dive into bed with our clothes on, praying he’d be too tired to start yelling. And if he arrived after we’d retired (we’d never fall asleep – we’d lay awake listening for the car) we’d shiver under our bedclothes and wait. Wait for the inevitable, fierce, ranting rage.

Many times Mom would grab her bag (with the spare keys for the Buick) and run. We had to be quick and shadow her. Fortunately drinking made Dad slower and more clumsy. We’d squeeze into the car and roar off into the night, pyjamas and all, stomachs churning, bodies quivering. On more than one occasion we slept in the parked car, too afraid to go home. In the morning we would creep back and silently get dressed for school while Dad snored away on the couch. That afternoon he would be gone and the entire scenario would play itself out again.

By the time I reached 14 I had begun to fight back. My insides would be like jelly and I would feel sick to my stomach, but I would rise to meet his wrath with a righteous indignation of my own. How dare he! How dare he treat us this way!

In the Autumn of tenth grade I had a long weekend reprieve. A good friend invited me to a high school retreat at a camp nestled next to a national forest. The four days were filled with diverting activities and side-splitting entertainment. Every evening we would gather to sing and listen to a speaker share words of faith.

I was a believer. As a five-year-old I’d “given my heart to Jesus.” This meant, I was assured by the Sunday School teacher, that Jesus would take me to heaven when I died. Somewhere along the line I had also learned (perhaps unintentionally) that good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell. That seemed fair to me, so I tried to be a good person. It is all degrees of comparison, right? So, I took the worst person I could think of, whom I knew was going to hell, and compared myself to him. Surely I was a million times better than my father. He deserved hell!

The last night of camp the speaker challenged us to go off by ourselves and talk to God. I wandered off to the banks of a grassy field. On my back, looking up at a legion of stars, I began a monologue. I talked and talked and talked until I was empty of words and exhausted. Then, what had begun as a soliloquy turned into a discourse. In my mind’s eye I stood before a mirror. There I was, me in all my gawkiness and effort. I was comfortable with what I saw and not displeased. “This is how you see yourself,” I heard. Then, as I watched, my image slowly transformed into the image of my father. I began to shake but I couldn’t look away. “This is how I see you.” And I knew it was the truth.

Tears began to stream down the sides of my face. I knew. I knew that in the eyes of a holy and righteous God there was no difference between me and my father. I saw the hate in my heart, the ugly, palpable hate. And I was devastated. Helpless. Sick.

Then I saw in the mirror a dazzling image. But perhaps “felt” the image is more accurate. As I looked my insides were filled with a profound peace and flooded with joy. “This is how I see you in my Son. Let go and let me come in.”

A new person got up from that bank.  A new person walked back into that home.

I lost hate that night.   But I found joy.



Today’s assignment: On day four, you wrote a post about losing something.

Today, write about finding something.

The Twist: Use this assignment as the second instalment of that post.

(If you would like to read the first post first, you can find my Day Four Post here.)

Tour Guide for a Day

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Most things can be stretched only so far before they snap.

Our local economy is pretty much tied up in sugar cane.  Hills once covered in indigenous shrubs are now covered in cane.  When the wind is blowing, sugar cane bows and bends in mighty ripples.  While only a handful of the community are actual farmers, there’s not a soul in town that doesn’t know all about sugar cane.  It’s our “bread and butter,” if you will.

Our second largest “industry” is tourism.  We have a forest in the heart of the borough and a resident bird for which “twitchers” will come half-way round the world.  We are close to game reserves and the Indian Ocean.  We have a history museum, a cultural museum and a butterfly dome all on the same property.

One Saturday I was approached by a neighbourhood tour guide.  Please would I drive his mini-bus for the day?  He knew I had a special license to drive larger vehicles.  The man who usually drove his small bus was sick in hospital.  He implored me and he promised me compensation.  Since I had nothing better to do, I agreed.

At the airport I waited in the vehicle while the guide ran into the building waving a sign: “Herbert.”  A short while later he returned, all smiles and non-stop chatter, with a family of four in tow.  Hastily he loaded their luggage and urged them to take a seat somewhere in the bus.  As I pulled away from the curb he introduced me and then turned his back to me and forgot I was there.

That’s when the prattle began.  I have rarely heard more entertaining and fanciful pieces of fiction.  The tour guide regaled the family with hundreds of interesting bits of local history.  Most of his stories had their roots in truth but he deviated from fact soon after starting and landed up telling the most outrageous tripe.  It was a good thing my back was to the travellers as my face would have betrayed my incredulity.

The last straw was laid on the camel’s back when we were just a few kilometres outside of town.  “Now, do you see those fires?” he asked, pointing out the windows toward the smoke-filled horizon.  “They are burning the sugar cane.  They do this just before harvest. They burn the cane in order to produce the nice dark brown sugar you all enjoy.”

A young voice piped up, “Is THAT how brown sugar is made?”

“Yes, indeed,” answered the knowledgable tour guide.  “The cane they harvest without burning will be white sugar and the cane they burn will be made into brown sugar.”

That did it.  I finally broke my silence.  “And don’t forget to tell them about the special cows we raise.  The white ones make regular milk and the brown ones make chocolate milk!”

Needless-to-say I wasn’t ever asked to drive again.  And come to think of it, I don’t remember getting any compensation for the day!


Today, write a post with roots in a real-world conversation. For a twist, include foreshadowing.

Home Sweet Home


Twelve.  My thirteenth year.  It was the best of years, it was the worst of years.

My early years were spent in the Bay Area.  Then at 12,5 years of age, I relocated to Sacramento.

It was difficult to leave friends in sixth grade.  Most of us had been together since kindergarten. We pledged to remain friends forever across what we saw as a great divide (just under 100 miles).  But it didn’t happen.  I moved and spent the next nine months trying to fit in to a new school and community.  They carried on with their lives, my vacant seat eventually filled with someone else.   I became a memory in that place.

Our new home was a tract house.  Thanks to Abraham Levitt our home in suburbia was an affordable cookie-cutter.  It had the same 4’x6′ patch of lawn in the front of the house as every other house in the 10-block neighborhood.  A Platanus occidentalis (or American sycamore) was plonked dead center.  The front door opened into a large section, half of which was the living room, one-third of which was the dining room and a sixth of which was the kitchen.  A fireplace cut the total area in two, providing a divider between the lounging space and the eating space.

A passage led off to the left from between the living room and kitchen. Two small bedrooms were situated on the left side of the passage with a small bathroom on the right.  Then, at the very end of the hall to the right was the master bedroom with an en suite bathroom.  All of the walls were white.  The low ceilings were popcorn spackled.  There was wall-to-wall shag carpeting in various hues of brown.

Only, our house was different to all the other houses in the tract.  Where everyone else had a two-car garage, we had a rumpus room.

The two steps down into this chilly, black-and-white tiled, over-sized room set the space apart, as if the room were in another galaxy.  The biggest room in the entire dwelling, this land became my sister’s and mine.  We had to put up with water pouring in through the crack between the south wall and the floor.  (After the first flood, we learned to leave nothing of importance on the floor.)  We had to wear extra clothes and pile on blankets in the winter.  We had to sleep under thin sheets, flapping them to regulate airflow and to frighten off mosquitoes, in the summer.  No matter.  It was ours.

Despite all the hardships (puberty in a new place, a river running through my bedroom), there was also joy (new friends, my own space).  And this strange new building slowly became home.


Today’s assignment:  Tell us about the home where you lived when you were twelve.   Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences as you compose your response about the home you lived in when you were twelve.

Memories of a Favourite Meal


It had been a frenetic week.  Clearing out, cleaning up.  Perhaps because there were so many of us, the job took three times as long. I’d toss something in the “Throw Away” pile and a cousin would walk by, see it and move it into the “Sell/Give away” box.  Then a sister would see it and carry it to the “Keep/Preserve.”  I’d discover it there and toss it back into “Throw Away.”  We tried not to think too much about what we were doing.  At least once an hour we’d misplace a cousin and find her underneath the stairs or behind locked bathroom doors in a torrent of tears.

I’d been doing pretty well.  Until I found Grampa’s carving knife. Then it was my turn to disappear for a while.

I went to my favourite corner coffee shop. It had a large glassy storefront filled with light for those in the mood to celebrate.  But it also had little dark recesses in the back for those who wanted solitude.  My cappuccino forgotten on the coffee table in front of me, I sat on an overstuffed sofa, staring at the carving knife on my lap. Tears meandered down my face, dropping onto my sweatshirt, creating two dark patches.

I was startled out my reverie by a stranger, a young woman who’d been sitting in another corner typing away on her laptop.  She’d abandoned her endeavours to plop herself down next to me.  My initial response was a flare of anger.  How dare anybody bother me!  Then I looked up into her face and saw such kindness and concern there.  My temper melted with her soft words, “Are you okay?  Can I help?”

Hastily I wiped away the tears I’d allow to stream down my face.  She offered me a napkin and I unceremoniously blew my nose.  “Thank you,” I muttered, trying hard to sound sincere.  There was a brief silence and then “My grampa died.” were the only words I could manage before the tears overwhelmed me again.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. And she put her arm around my shoulder.  “He must have been a very special man.”  An hour later we were still there, sipping fresh cappuccinos.  She was an excellent listener.

“Funny,” I said to Donna (that was the young lady’s name), “how an inanimate object can hold so many memories.” I caressed the knife. “Grampa used this knife to carve every turkey at every Thanksgiving of my life.  This meal, Thanksgiving dinner, which was always served at two in the afternoon at Gramma and Grampa’s house, will always be my favourite and the one which holds the most cherished memories.

“We would arrive at G&G’s house by noon. Mom would have baked an apple pie, for those who (unpatriotically, I thought) didn’t care for the perfect pumpkin pies Aunt Betty would bring. The rich aroma of cooking turkey would greet us at the door and Grampa would call out, ‘Biggest yet! She’s a whopping 24 pounder!’ Dad would mutter under his breath, as he spent much of his day doing, that it was a Tom.

I’d run to the kitchen, straight into Grampa’s arms. Grampa would be wearing one of Gramma’s frilly aprons. Every other day of the year Gramma was in charge of the kitchen. But Thanksgiving was Grampa’s day. ‘Hey, Punkin!’ he’d sing. ‘Sausage and oyster stuffing this year! Take a look!’ and he’s proudly open the oven door for just a second. Not that I could see much as the bird was covered with a tinfoil tent that would only be removed the last 30 minutes of baking.

“’Ready to get to work, buddy?’ he’d ask, tying another of Gramma’s aprons around me. And that was that. While the rest of the family chatted and drank and ate the little appetisers Grampa had scattered around the house, the two of us would prepare the meal. When I was very young I was in charge of putting the olives, carrot sticks and pickle slices in a special sectioned serving bowl. I could stir the gravy, set the tables, tear the lettuce leaves and fetch ingredients from the fridge.

“Then, when everything was done to perfection and the turkey was ready to be carved, Grampa would take his carving knife and show me again how it is done.  He would beautifully cut the white meat from the bone in perfectly even slices.  Next he would move on to the dark meat, filling another platter with succulent morsels of meat.  I would call everyone to the tables.  As they assembled, Grampa would take the carving knife and clean it before sliding it back into its sheath.  ‘Always clean your knife when you finish,’ he’d say to me every single year.  Then he would carry out the white meat and I followed him with the dark.

“As I got older Grampa gave me more and more responsibilities. After Gramma died I became his sounding board for recipes. ‘What do you think about chestnut stuffing with dried cranberries?’ he’d ask during one of our phone conversations as early as July. And in the last years of his life, when the family insisted that Thanksgiving dinner was just too much for the old man to handle, I’d assure them that I would do most of the work, and Grampa and I were granted another year of camaraderie in the kitchen.  But it was always Grampa’s honour to carve the bird.

“Last year in February Grampa moved into a ‘retirement home.’ Uncle John packed most of the things Grampa wouldn’t need anymore into boxes and shoved them into the basement. Cousin Jason and his bride moved into Grampa’s house while Grampa decided what to do with the place. I visited Grampa several times a month, neither of us daring to bring up the subject of Thanksgiving. In September Aunt Pat sent out word through the family grapevine that she would be hosting Thanksgiving at her home. She called me a week later and asked if I would collect Grampa and bring him. A lump caught in my throat but I agreed.

“Grampa and I were silent most of the way to Aunt Pat’s house. When we got there we were ceremoniously shown to seats in the living room and brought drinks and chips. ‘Do you need any help?’ Grampa asked. ‘No, no,’ Aunt Pat reassured him. ‘We’re covered. You just sit and relax.’ The food was good, the fellowship was nice, but the turkey was carved in the most appalling fashion.  There weren’t any slices, just lumps of meat.

“Grampa died last week.  He got a bad cold that moved into his lungs.  We had the funeral on Saturday.  We’ve been clearing out Grampa’s things. I thought the worst was over.  I thought I cried every tear I could ever cry.  But then,”  I held up the knife, “I found this.”

After a significant pause, Donna whispered, “I’m glad you found it.  I am sure that he would want you to have it!”



Today’s assignment:   Tell us about your favourite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.       Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

Opening Wounds


Greg was scared to death.  Absolutely, positively petrified.  Claire on the other hand seemed jovial.  In fact, Greg had never seen her so radiant.  Okay, that wasn’t quite true.  She was this bubbly on their wedding day — seven years, three months and two days ago.  Greg didn’t think he’d ever felt quite like this before, even on the day they exchanged vows.  He was so nervous his palms were sweating.  He wiped his left hand on his brown WWF hoodie and tried to focus on making his breathing regular.  Claire was babbling away.  Something about painting the spare room and decals.  Decals?  He was lost.  His right hand felt slimy in hers.  A strange feeling of panic was rising from the middle of his gut.  He kept swallowing to force it down.  This was normal.  This was natural.  Why was he having such a difficult time processing this?  He, Gregory Alan Arendt, was going to be a father. A dad. His heart was beating against his chest and reverberating in his ears.  He actually felt sick to his stomach.  He briefly closed his eyes and then opened them wide in terror.  No.  The images were returning.  He was so sure he’d left them behind.

Claire was ecstatic.  Aside from marrying Greg, she’d never wanted anything so badly in her life.  The first two years of marriage they hadn’t even thought of having children.  And then after three years of trying, Claire had lost hope.  Now, out of the blue, when she had forgotten her longings, it happened!  The doctor had confirmed it.  They were going to have a baby. A baby!  Claire was going to get to be a mom.  She felt lighter than air.  It was she that had suggested they walk the ten long blocks through the park from the medical center to their apartment.  Autumn was such an intoxicating season. Dank earthy fragrances, golden showering leaves, noisy kids with empty notebooks clamoring off to school.  School!  Their child would one day go to school. Parents’ evening!  Homeroom mom! Baking cookies and reading storybooks at bedtime.  Claire squeezed Greg’s hand and began chattering away.  They’d have to fix up the little spare room for the baby.  It could use a fresh coat of paint.  And she had seen the cutest little duckie decals at the Home Depot shop the other day.

Uriel sat and waited.  Patience came naturally.  Things would happen when they should.  All things would be woven together perfectly in the fabric of time.  While he waited he mused on the casing he inhabited.  These poor humans, tied to these awkward bodies.  To be so finite must be extremely vexing. And yet these funny simple creatures occupied one of the highest places in the created order.  Uriel smiled to himself. He currently wore the skins of an old woman. And in his hands were knitting needles, red wool and a half-finished sweater.  Uriel didn’t understand how all the pieces fit, but he didn’t question.  His was just to do as he was told.  And so he began knitting.

Greg was in full panic mode.  He was sure his legs would give way as he half-stumbed across the damp grass. Claire was nearly pulling him along now.  What was he thinking?  He couldn’t possibly go through with this.   And then he saw her.  A small elderly woman sitting on a park bench knitting.  Greg came to an abrupt halt. His breath froze in his lungs, his arms hung senseless at each side. “Mom?” he barely whispered.

Claire had been talking about a diaper service when suddenly Greg stopped and went limp.  She turned to look at him.  Her first thought was that Greg was seriously ill; he looked sick.  He stood transfixed, mesmerized by an elderly woman on a park bench.  She started to say his name, to wake him up from the stupor into which he’d fallen, but then she heard him.  He was calling the old woman mother.  Claire was confused.  Greg’s mother had died in a horrible car accident a few years before she had met him.  She remembered hearing the story from a mutual friend.  Greg’s fiancée had also been in the car.  There were no survivors, not even the intoxicated man in the other vehicle. Claire stared at Greg and tried to make eye contact.  She called his name, but he didn’t seem to hear her.

Uriel felt the nudge as a young couple holding hands came walking toward him.  He lifted his eyes and watched them approach.  The woman was animated, her enthusiasm bubbling all over.  By contrast the man stumbled forward exuding fear.  When Urial’s eyes met his, the man stopped.  Urial stood and pronounced the words he’d been given.  “Greg. Don’t be afraid. Rejoice, for the Lord has restored unto you that which was taken. Let go of the past, and live today in the joy that is yours.”  Uriah watched the man sink to his knees and begin to sob.  With a look of confusion and concern, the woman also fell to her knees and held the man.  Uriah knew the words spoken through him had been for the man alone, so that the woman hadn’t heard.  He stood watching them for several minutes before he was called home in a fast-swirling mist.  He would never understand these creatures.  Surely one of the mysteries of the universe.



Today’s assignment:  A man and a woman walk through the part together, holding hands.  They pass an old woman sitting on a bench.  the old woman is knitting a small, red sweater.  The man begins to cry.  Write this scene. Today’s twist:  write the scene from three different points of view:  from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.

Now Open for Business


Located on a bend at one end of Main Street, the building has seen a wealth of businesses come and go through the years.  It’s been a repair shop, a fabric store, a furniture wholesaler.  And now, a café.

In the past it was a dark secretive room, every available space filled, hosting tables, lamps, an old washing machine, bolts of material or huge burlap bags of beans.  What windows it had were plastered with peeling posters and covered in black film.  The low ceilings and crowded space made the room a nightmare for anyone who experienced claustrophobia.  Dark, dingy and dangerous.

Then, while the town was looking away, the building retreated into itself and fell into a silent sleep for several years.

This Spring the building stretched and began purring. Windows stripped themselves naked.  The ceiling vanished.  Fans and lantern-like globes grew from the rafters.   Walls wept bright aquamarine.  The floor pealed off its black leggings to reveal bare Oregon pine.  A long wooden counter grew along the length of the street-side windows.  Tall stools stood guard at regular intervals. A deep blue sofa and comfortable chairs appeared.  Round tables of various sizes moved in. And the storefront looked out at the town with brilliant eyes and a beguiling smile.


Today’s assignment: go to a local café, park, or public place and report on what you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind.

Thoughtful writers create meaning by choosing precise words to create vivid pictures in the reader’s mind. As you strive to create strong imagery, show your readers what’s going on; avoid telling them.

Today’s twist: write an adverb-free post.

Bitter Sweet


I am not sure who invited the guests to our table that night.  It was probably Susan.  She loved to play hostess and bring out her china and silver.

Susan, Gayle and I were all employed thirty-somethings who shared a rental house in the Ingleside District of San Francisco.  Directly across the street from us lived Harriet Reinhart, an eighty-year-old widow.  Five doors down from her lived Sam Howard, an eighty-three-year-old widower.  Perhaps if Susan knew before dinner what she knew after the meal, she would not have invited them over on the same night. But if hindsight is 20/20, foresight is blind!

Both of our guests arrived elegantly dressed.  Mrs Reinhart wore a powder-blue cotton tea dress with a lightweight powder-blue cardigan perched on her shoulders.  Mr Howard wore a black old-fashioned suit with a black bow tie.  Mrs Reinhart brought a box of chocolates.  Mr Howard brought flowers.

Susan, who liked to do things properly, launched the meal with an appetiser — buttered garlic shrimp on a bed of baby spinach.  And that’s when the fun began.

Mrs Reinhart:  (with a deep intake of breath)  Oh.  Shrimp.  I don’t eat shellfish.  And is that garlic I smell?  Nasty stuff — garlic!

Mr Howard:  (smiling at Mrs Reinhart and then at Susan)  I do enjoy shrimp.  Isn’t it wonderful to live so close to the sea?  We get so many different types of fish for sale, and all fresh!

Mrs Reinhart: (picking at her shrimp) You can keep your fish, Mr Howard.  I have never smelled anything so foul.

Mr Howard: (gently) Really fresh fish doesn’t have much odor at all.  My brother Matthew and I used to go fishing down at China Basin.  Oh, but that was so many years ago, before the projects were built.

Mrs Reinhart: (actually eating some of her appetiser)  Ugh!  Don’t get me started on those projects.  What an eyesore!  And the crime!  Those people just do not appreciate what they’ve got.   They take it for granted and treat it with contempt.  The government should flatten those homes and build something really useful, like a bowling alley.  But this government, all it does is give out free things.  And it is my tax money going to pay for those houses!

Mr Howard:  (as Susan cleared the small plates)  Thank you, my dear.  That was quite delicious!

Susan:  (enthusiastically) Just wait for the next course, Mr Howard!

Mr Howard: (smiling) If it tastes as good as it smells we are in for a real treat.

Susan brought in plates ladened with beef lasagna, cooked carrots and peas and garlic bread.

Mrs Reinhart:  (gasping at the plate set before her) Oh no!  This is far too much food. I will never be able to manage it.

Susan:  Don’t worry, Mrs Reinhart.  Whatever you can’t finish, we will wrap it up and send it home with you.

Mrs Rinehart:  (looking unimpressed) Hmph.  This would feed me for days.  People are real gluttons these days.  You know, we lived through the depression.  You had to know how to get the most for your money.  Nowadays people just throw their money away.  Every year they buy new things.  We had to make our things last.  I still have my refrigerator from 1936!  Take those Brunnel people who live next door to you (addressing Susan).  They bought a brand new car just last week.  Their old car was only two years old!  Imagine that!  A new car every other year.  How decadent! 

Mr Howard:  (with a huge happy sigh)  Susan, this pasta dish is delicious!  What did you call it again?

Susan: (grateful for the compliment and the change in conversation)  Thank you, Mr Howard.  It’s lasagne.  Really quite easy to make.

Mrs Reinhart:  (with a sneer)  Too much tomato for my liking.  I am afraid it shall give me terrible heartburn.

Gayle:  (trying to change the topic)  Mrs Reinhart, how long have you lived on Idora Street?

Mrs Reinhart:  (pleased to have been addressed directly)  Oh, this is my forty-second year.  Robert and I were newlyweds when we moved in.  They were brand new homes then.  The neighborhood looked nothing like it does now.  Back then people valued their properties and took care of them.  There were beautiful lawns and flower beds.  

Mr Howard:  (to Mrs Reinhart)  Ah, Harriet!  I remember when we moved on to the block.  You baked Gladys and I an apple pie.  Best pie I ever tasted!  You made us feel so welcome.

Mrs Reinhart: (a slight self-satisfied smile, and then a sudden frown)  Well, that doesn’t happen anymore, does it!?  People come and go so quickly these days!  Everybody rents, no one buys and settles down.  No one cares about anyone else in their community anymore.  I could die in my sleep and it would be a week before anyone noticed I was gone.   I went into hospital last month.  Do you think anyone came to visit me or enquire about my health?  No, times they’ve changed for the worse, I’m telling you.

Mr Howard:  (glazing around the table)  Well, I think we have the exceptions here, Harriet!  Aren’t these young ladies special, to have invited two old codgers like you and I to dinner in their home!  (to the three of us) Thank you so much for having us over.  It really is a special treat to get out.

Susan:  It is a such a pleasure to have you!  We really should do this more often.  I am afraid we are all so busy working  just trying to make ends meet, that we often just come home and collapse in the evenings.  

Gayle:  (speaking quickly before Mrs Reinhart, who’d opened her mouth to say something)  And what a blessing to be able to share the evening with two such remarkable people.  There are so many questions I’d love to ask you — what it was like growing up in the City, what you did for entertainment!  Shall we retire to the living room for coffee, chocolates and conversation?

Needless-to-say the rest of the evening was pretty much like the first half.  Mr Howard would talk about his first date, his first car, his first real job, and Mrs Reinhart would counter with some criticism that vaguely related to the topic.  After our guests had gone we agreed that it had been a good, but exhausting experience.  Two such different personalities!  One so bitter and the other so sweet.

Over the course of the next few years we grew close to both Mr Howard and Mrs Reinhart.  We had them over to dinner at least once a month.  Despite her sharp tongue and bitter disparagement, Mrs Reinhart had a kind heart.  She would often leave flowers on our stoop and she began baking apple pies again (which were every bit as delicious as Mr Howard remembered).

One cold autumn night Mrs Reinhart retired never to rise again.  And contrary to her continually pronouncement, we realized that morning that something was wrong when the curtains weren’t drawn and no grumbly morning greeting was raised as we rushed off to work.

Our monthly dinners were never the same again.



Today’s assignment:  write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else.  Today’s twist: write your post in the form of a dialogue.

Raquel López Stopped By


“While you were away . . . . . Raquel López stopped by to see you.”

The pink note was propped up on my desk.  Raquel López?  Attendance registers full of Langa Mthembus and Lethu Mthethwas, Thembi Ndabas and Thando Ntulis were a clear indication that we lived in Zululand. Raquel López did not fit the bill.

I was immediately intrigued.  “She will stop by again after 3 PM.”  Well, it looked like I would have the opportunity to meet this Raquel López.  I wondered what she could want.

At precisely 15:00, Raquel López showed up at my door.  A short woman, she stood at a little over 1,5 metres tall.  Confidently she introduced herself and thanked me for the meeting.  Her strong, stocky build and straightforward launch into conversation emphasised her powerful character.  Usually brusque encounters intimidate me, but the look in Raquel’s eyes was warm and her smile sincere.  I relaxed and invited her to sit down.

“I have two boys,” she began, straight to the point.  As she spoke her large, brown eyes traveled around my office, stopping on photographs of and drawings by students.  “They need to be in school.  They are Grade 2 and 4.  We come from Spain, but we are working here in Zululand now. I have been to many schools and we will take the best.”

Raquel turned back toward me and focused her gaze my way.  She had very dark, short-cropped hair which produced whirling curls around her head.  Her coiffure was like a mass of thunderclouds, seething and swirling, ready to release pent-up energy.  She waited expectantly for my reply.  “We can accommodate them,” I told her.  And I enquired about their proficiency in English.

She waved her hand, dismissing my question.  “They are reading well in English. They are fine.”

Raquel then proceeded to drill me on the ethos of the school.  She challenged the established mission, vision, values and goals.  She reminded me of a Jack Russell terrier, small but fiery and fierce.  She pushed, but not in an unfriendly way.  She was a mother who loved her boys deeply and wanted a school with a good fit.  Although her questions were intense and probing and often a bit on the accusatory side, she listened carefully to my answers.  I could see she weighed each response with care.  Several times she removed her oversized, blue plastic glasses and gave them a good rub with her lightweight denim jacket.

Raquel was bitterly opposed to what she thought of as the established Christian church.  She perceived all Christians to be judgemental and narrow-minded.  She did not hesitate to tell me that she had already visited all the other schools and left ours for last on purpose.

“Okay,” she announced, suddenly standing before I had finished.  “I am happy.  We will come here.” A brilliant smile stretched across her face.  “We will see you on Monday.  Thank you.”  And with that she turned and strode out of my office.

I slowly stood, took a deep breath and blinked several times.  What a powerhouse of a woman!  I looked forward to meeting her sons.


Today’s assignment: Write a post focusing on one  of the people that have recently entered your life, and tell us how your narratives intersected.   Today’s twist: Turn your post into a character study.

MIxed Messages


Final bell.
Noisy pandemonium erupts and is sustained for ten minutes before gradually fading to silence.
Nola Baxter lifts her head from her hands.  Now it is safe to emerge from her cocoon.

Looking around the grounds outside her classroom door, Nola utters an expletive.
Damn kids, she thinks.
They have left the place in shambles — papers, jerseys, lunch boxes and even the odd shoe scattered across the playground.

How inconsiderate!  How irresponsible!  she mutters under her breath.
Little pigs!  Little monsters!  Is this the thanks I get?
Nola is so tired. She is completely spent.
She used to love teaching.  She used to enjoy getting out of bed in the morning.
Now she is just so damn tired.

With a sigh she leans down and starts to pick up the litter in front of her home-away-from-home.
Maybe it is time to resign. she thinks. Maybe I should call it quits.
I’m not getting through to these kids anyway!  They certainly don’t appreciate anything I do.

One piece of paper catches her eye — an A5 paper folded into fourths and brightly decorated.
It looks like a note that has been passed from one person in the class to another.
Nola’s temper rises again.  They don’t even listen to me!  Too busy passing notes.

Curiosity gets the better of her and she unfolds the letter.

“I love Mrs Baxter.  She is my best teacher ever.”



Today’s assignment:   You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to whom it’s been addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

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