Mary Beth Writes

   

     Swollen gray clouds dragged across the sky all day. The world was quiet, stuck in a gloomy swale between dawn and downpour.

          What was the moment that tipped the pewter pitcher of sky, that let the rain begin to flow?

          Whatever that tiny moment was, it had finally come. With a roar.

         

          Timothy Gandersen folded his arms over his chest, leaned against the open door of his barn, sighed deeply as he watched rain pouring down into his new-plowed fields. Farming often awed him. How was it that something as ordinary as a bunch of acres of Wisconsin dirt, could, with seeds and sunshine, rain and time, grow into life? He was pretty sure he'd never quite get over the plumb-nuts marvel of the earth's headlong push to bring forth new life, all the time, everywhere, all around him.  

          "What's the sigh for? Need a woman that bad?"

          Tim turned his head just enough to acknowledge his brother's presence. Just figured, he thought, that while he was feeling awe for the fertility of the farm, Glenn was thinking about women.

          "Got most everything plowed before the rain hit. They say it's gonna keep up for a week."

          Glenn snorted. "Yep. That's farming for you. All the right weather at all the wrong times. Spring's nerve-wracking."

          Tim shrugged his shoulders, as if he didn't care.

          "I'm not nervous. Just because you're the oldest don't mean you been doing this the longest. I been here eight years, you been here, what, three weeks? I'm just standing here a moment, admiring the powerful weather."

          Glenn raised an eyebrow.

          Tim chuckled. "Yeah, I know. You was raised on this place, too. But you lit out the day they sprung you free from high school. You've been so many places and done so much stuff it doesn't really seem like you're a farm boy anymore."       

          He grinned. "Like your hat there. Not many farmers wear $25 hats."

          Glenn grinned back, pulled his Nike cap off his head, slapped it against his thigh. He ran his fingers through his sweaty hair, then jammed the cap back on again, real nice.

          "Denise bought it for me my last birthday, I'm kind of fond of that moment when she was still nice. She hated seed caps and hat-hair.

          Tim stopped. "Hat hair?"

          Glenn continued. "You know, where you get those ridges that proves you sat all day on a slow tractor following long rows that don't move?"

          Tim laughed. "Denise sure trained you to be nervous about every little thing."

          Glenn skewed his face into a half-smile. "She was a piece of work, I'll grant you that."

          Tim let his eyes meet his brother's for a moment. "Sorry it didn't work out for you. I didn't know her, you guys only came home that one time. But it musta been something to be married to a genuine Las Vegas show girl. You always were so good around girls."

          "I can chase 'em all right. Just can't keep 'em."

          "I'd be happy to even get that far."

          "Yeah, well the way I see it is this. I know how to run far and fast. You don't ever run at all. Seems like neither of us has a clear picture on how to run a life."

           Tim jammed his hands in the pockets of his jeans. "Guess so. So you wanna kick off a little early, go across the road for supper now?"

          Glenn stared out at the pouring rain.

          "You seem to have forgotten we been workin' since before dawn. I'd say after twelve solid hours of hauling and plowing, you can't quite call that kickin' off early."

          "You got soft out there in Nevada, only working construction. You worked what, eight hours a day and then went home with a drop of energy still in ya. What was that like?"

          Glenn chuckled.

          "For a shy boy, you do pour it on sometimes."

          Now that they were back to insults, Tim felt comfortable. "You can call it shy if you want, I call it having dignity. Not that you'd know dignity if it came up and bit you where the sun don't shine."

          Glenn suddenly grinned, whipped off his rich-boy hat, and sailed it over to a hay bale. Then he grabbed his startled 26-year old baby brother to flail them both out into the pouring rain. Glenn toppled Tim into a tractor rut overflowing with mud and water. After that the two men proceeded to wrestle, grunt, and fight like they'd done every blessed day of their conjoined childhoods.

          Awhile later, slightly exhausted, lying on their backs gasping for breath while the drenching rain continued to drum over them, Glenn turned his head to Tim.

          "I missed ya when I was gone, Bro."

          Tim grinned with his eyes shut.

          "Yeah, you, too."

                  

          "Evening, Boys."

          It had taken a good while for each brother to shower the mud out of their hair and crevices. Since Glenn moved back home, they shared the house Tim had been living in since he was 20, when their dad had died and Tim had taken over the farm. It was a musty white bakery box of a farmhouse their grandparents had built before the Great Depression. Everything was worn-out, the capacity of the 80-year old plumbing so thin that by the time Glenn was done with his shower, there was no hot water. Tim pretended to gripe about it, but they both knew neither cared. What's a cold shower among single men?

          The best amenity of the old house was that it was situated across the highway from The Lion Heart, an overnamed country joint with a horseshoe-shaped bar at one end and a cluster of tables at the other. It served cold beer, worthy drinks, a fish fry every Friday night, a variety of pretty-good sandwiches, and the juiciest hamburger in three counties.

          Tim had been making his way across the highway for supper almost every night for six years. Even a shy man needs some human chatter just to keep his earwax from turning to cement.

          It didn't hurt that Marla Mack had started working there about a year ago.

          Glenn smiled his best "You wanna be the sun in my solar system?" smile at Marla. Tim observed carefully, the way he always did when he trailed his confident brother into a social situation. How on earth did they both come from the same gene buffet? The only females Tim felt comfortable with lived in a barn and liked to be sweet-talked while he attached milkers to their hot pink udders. Other than that, the female form and psyche were a mystery to Tim.

          Not to Glenn.

          Marla smiled back, then stepped back to let the men make their way to their regular bar stools. Tim pulled himself onto his evening throne quietly, sliding his elbows onto the polished wood surface of the old bar. Glenn made his way around the horseshoe, shaking some hands, smiling, hearing a joke, telling it over four folks down.

          Marla ushered some folks to a table in the dining area, then slid back inside the bar.

          "You want your regular, Timothy?"

          As soon as his full name bloomed from her luscious lips, Tim felt his detestable blush rising hot out of the collar of his clean shirt. It climbed his face like creeper on a barn, past his pale mustache, blue eyes, the seed-cap tan-line on his forehead, up into his white blond hair.

          Just like always, he stammered. "Uh, yeah. Thanks."

          She handed him a beer. He swallowed three gulps, then set the glass back down in the exact middle of the little square napkin.

          Glenn, back from his glad-handing, swung up on the stool next to Tim.

          "Hey Darlin', how's your day been?"

          Marla gave him a cool smile.

          "Molly and I were were going to put in our garden after she got home from school, but the rain put the kibosh on it."

          Glenn waggled his eyebrows at her cheerfully. "Well, you know what they say about what grown-ups should do with rainy afternoons, don'cha?"

          She turned and walked away.

          Tim raised his eyebrows at his brother.

          "You're only six months out of a divorce, three weeks back home, and you're already flirtin' your sniffers that hard?"

          Glenn twisted his head to chide his brother. "Bro, I am so far over Denise that to me she looks like a stop sign seen from space."

          Tim quirked an eyebrow, but said nothing.

         

          They ordered sandwiches from Marla a few minutes later as she whipped from patron to bar to kitchen and back again. Glenn chatted with the guy sitting next to him. Tim lip-read the evening news, wondering, as always, why bars have TV's if they won't turn on the sound.

          Mostly though, Tim watched Marla. He never tired of the graceful way she braided herself back and forth through chairs and tables. How she slid sideways into the bar, pulled spigots for beers, splashed and measured drinks, slid everything onto a tray, then arabesqued back out to diners, as if it were all easy.         Tim carried stuff all the time, all day long. He knew what sore shoulders felt like. He wished he could clod along behind Marla, carrying her trays for her. Sometimes, when she saw him watching her, she smiled a little. Her smile always made his heart tumble like warm socks in a Maytag.

          Until Glenn came to town. The first night they'd crossed the road to the Lion, Glenn had taken one look at Marla and whistled under his breath.

          By the end of the evening, when they were cutting back across the road to home, Glenn rhapsodized in blue.

          "She's built like heaven, smiles like Julia Roberts, smells like a midnight tryst in a flower garden and she talks, well, she got one of those low voices that..."

          "Glenn?"    

          "Huh?"

          "Where the heck do you GET words like tryst? You been reading romance books?"

          Glenn chuckled. "Once a girl takes you out trysting, you're not likely to forget the word. The girl that taught me the word to me was blonde, too, like Marla." He clutched his hand over his heart, like a slightly drunk melodrama queen. "And I do love to tryst with a blonde."

          So, that had pretty much been it. For the past three weeks Glenn had put on the charm, pulled out the stops, tried every trick he knew to make the skittish and beautiful Marla Mack smile at him as if she meant it.

          So far, Tim was glad to note, his brother was throwing snowballs in Panama.

         

          "Hey, Marla Darling?"

          It was past 9 PM and still pouring outside like an incontinent elephant. The folks left around the Lion bar were the unimproved kind of people who didn't have enough sense to go home in the rain. That included, of course, Tim and Glenn. Tim, a farmer and therefore familiar with restraint and patience, had finally finished his second beer of the evening and moved onto coffee. The others were way ahead of him in beverage consumption per capita.

          Marla was wiping tables in the closed-down dining area. She squeezed out a rag, then swiped it back and forth like a magician coaxing a shy genie from of a teapot.

          Glenn was sitting on his stool facing outwards, the better to admire her. He leaned his elbows back on the bar, crossed his long legs at the ankles, kept smiling. His hat was off now, his longish, sun-streaked, tawny hair shone nicely in the dim light of the bar.

           Glenn cocked his head a little to the side, ran his hand down the back of his hair. Even with five beers in him, Tim noted, Glenn still worried about hat ridges.

          "Sweetheart, you and your little Molly got rained out of your garden today and there it is out there, still raining, so Tim and I won't be able to plow or plant tomorrow, either. So what say I run over to your house in the morning and put your garden in for you?"

          She rolled her eyes at him.       

          "Glenn, if it's too wet for you to work your farm, what makes you think you can work mine?"

          "It's not too wet too work, Darlin', it's just too wet to drive a tractor in a muddy field. Do you have seeds or seedlings?"

          "Both."

          "Is your plot cleared?"

          "Mostly."

          "Where do you live, Sweetheart?"

          Marla's voice crusted around the edges, but Tim was the only soul sober enough to hear it.

           "You know what, Glenn? The main point of the garden is to let Molly be part of the process. She and I will do it when the weather improves."

          Tim swiveled slowly on his stool, then poked his head out, like a turtle checking out a new log. He cleared his throat. "Umm, you live in your uncle's old place, towards the end of Second Street, don't you?"

          Marla's eyes swung to Tim's.

          "Yes."

          "I, um, heard that from my mother." Tim swallowed. "She lives in town since my dad died, at the Oak Grove condominiums where your grandmother lives. When I go visit my mom, I end up meeting half the old ladies who live there. That's how I heard where you live."

          "Oh."

          He pushed on as if words were cinderblocks he had to personally move with a wheelbarrow.

          "Glenn and I could come by after school to help you and Molly do whatever needs to be done."

          It was about as much as he'd ever said to her.

          Marla looked surprised. "That might be helpful. My uncle was quite a gardener. The plot is 20' by 40' and I'm sort of intimidated by it."

          Tim smiled as easy as he could. Lord, she was a soft-looking woman.         Glenn stared at Tim, open-mouthed.    

          Tim stood. "We'll be to your place about 3:00."

          "Okay, Timothy. Thank you."

 

          As soon as they were out the door, Glenn turned on him.

          "How did you do that?"

          Tim tried to suck a piece of hamburger off the back of a molar.

          "Do what?"

          "Get Marla Mack to agree to a date."

          "Glenn, I may not be as sophisticated around females as you are, but even I know that if you arrive in a pickup with shovels, a roto-tiller, and your brother -- it isn't a date."

          "Yeah, well it's more than I could make happen."

          Tim began to smile as they trudged up the gravel driveway to their house.

          "Yeah, I noticed that."

          "Well, it's an awesome thing when I have to thank my baby brother for hooking me up to a hot babe."        

          Tim hesitated. Did Glenn really think this was about him?

          He sighed and didn't say anything. He'd about used up his allotment of words for that day.

         

          "Mr. Gandersen?"

          Tim looked up in surprise. The little girl was talking to him.   

          "What, Molly?"

          "Why can't we plant all the lettuce seeds at once?"

          Tim crouched down in the muddy garden so he wouldn't loom so tall over the petite 9 year old.

          "It's called staggering your crops, and it's the difference between passing time in a yard and growing your own food."

          He went on to carefully explain how, by planting new seeds every week or two, she and her mom could have just the right amount of fresh lettuce for two strong women to eat, every week till snowfall.

          "Does lettuce make people strong?"

          Tim glanced over at Marla who was digging tomato plants into the mud. He noticed she was half-smiling, as if she was eavesdropping on him and Molly. That pleased him, somhow.

          "Absolutely. Have you ever seen a weak rabbit?"

          Molly giggled.

          Tim pushed on, amazed at how easy it was to talk to a woman, as long as she stayed under ten years old.

          "You know what else makes you strong?"

          "Milk?"

          He laughed. She was a smart one. "You got it. But looks like your mom forgot to buy dairy seeds. Maybe sometime you and your mom can visit Glenn and me. We have some cows at our farm."

          Molly's eyes lit up. "Real ones?"

          Her lit-up child's face snuck under the radar of Tim's shyness. The afternoon, as far as he was concerned, was a success. He chuckled at Molly's freckled kid face. He didn't mind the warm drizzle of rain against his back. Sometimes he stole glances of Marla, admiring the wet ends of her shiny ponytail straggling out from beneath the hood of her yellow slicker.

          "Mr. Gandersen?"

          "Molly, you better just call me Tim, so I don't feel as old as my old, old brother over there."

          Glenn was hand-chopping a weedy patch at the bottom of the muddy garden.

          "Watch it, Bro."

          "Timothy?"

          Tim stopped, looked down at Molly, then grinned.

          "Almost everyone calls me Tim, except your mother and now you."

          "Yeah, she said you were probably named after special grass that cows like to eat that's called Sweet Timothy."

          Tim glared at Glenn, who's shoulders were shaking silently.

          "There's a nice thought. To be something that makes a cow's day."

          "So Timothy...?"

          Molly was beginning to sound a little peeved.

          "Yes?"

          "My mom also said that people who live on farms pretty often have cats. Do you have cats?"

          "Just some barn cats."

          She squealed at the thought of more than one cat. So he had to describe what the cats looked like, and that they didn't have names. But if she came to visit, sure she could name them all. He thought there were about fifteen cats. So then he had to admire the fifteen names she dreamed up, though the only one that stuck in his head was Marla. He thought, maybe, he'd just go ahead and name all the cats Marla. He wondered what a woman would think if a man named fifteen barn cats after her.

          The afternoon flew. Somehow Glenn ended up flirting with Marla most of the time, while Tim talked with Molly. That bothered him a little, but not as much as he would have suspected. He had no idea a mere kid could be so funny, bright, and fragile all at the same time. She kind of stirred things around in his heart just the way her mom had been doing for a year.

 

          Which led, a few days later, to a Sunday afternoon visit to the farm from Marla and Molly. Molly was in heaven chasing the cats until Tim showed her how to swing on a rope tied to the rafters. She clutched the rope, jumped off a stack of hay bales, then swooped across the interior of the barn like a pendulum, gleefully shrieking the whole time.  

          Later she sat on the edge of stall like a tiny bareback rider astride a very still horse, to talk to him as he mucked out the stable. She admired the swifts that flew through the barn, the coo of pigeons in the rafters, even the scurrying, nervous mice.

          There wasn't anything about the day that was imperfect, Tim thought, until he rounded a corner to get a sack of feed, and found Glenn kissing Marla up against the wall of the barn.

          He stood a moment, the bottom falling out of his stomach and his life as he watched Marla's hands move up Glenn's blue denim shirt into his tawny hair. Glenn's Nike cap was already on the ground next to them. There was no hat-ridge in his brother's hair.

          Tim turned on his heel to let himself be absorbed back into the old barn, his old life, that place where he never risked desiring anything more than long furls of dirt going nowhere.

         

          Tim and Molly, Glenn and Marla did things together over the next few weeks. The adhesive that kept them together was no longer, if it ever was, Tim's unspoken tenderness for Marla. From that day on, Tim watched out for Molly while Glenn courted Marla.

                            

          "Timothy?"

          Molly was sitting in the truck next to him. He was driving her to Marla's mother's house, where Molly stayed on nights Marla worked. Tim was doing his best to not think about Glenn and Marla, back in his house, with an hour to themselves before she walked across the road to work.

          "Yes, Molly?"

          Her small hands clasped each other anxiously in her small lap. Sometimes she just took his breath away. What was the Almighty thinking to let such precious life ride around in such a small and fragile body? It was the kind of thing that made a big man with wide shoulders shiver to consider.    

          "You like my mom, don't you?"

          Tim's foot lurched on the gas pedal a moment.

          "Sure I do. Your mother is a nice person."

          "No, I mean that other way, the way grown-ups like each other on TV."

          Tim muttered. "You shouldn't be watching those kinds of shows."

          "I don't. Grandma does. She says someday my mom is going to fall in love and marry someone again, and I should not worry if that happens. But I think it's happening, and I wish it was with you, not with Glenn."

          Tim felt sweat beading on his forehead. Were all little girls this terrifying? He'd rather talk to a banker about overdue loans, than discuss her mother's love life with a 9-year old.

          "I think what your grandma probably means is that your mom is pretty and nice, and people are going to like her, which means your life will probably change, too, at least a little."

          Molly sighed a very deep sigh. Tim stole a sideways glance at her and realized she wasn't just making curious conversation. Something was wrong. Very wrong. Her little knuckles were white, her small jaw was locked tight.

          He didn't have a clue what to say, but clearly he needed to say something.

          "Hey, Molly, it's okay. Your mom loves you and will always take good care of you. Why do you look so scared, Punkin'?"

          When she sniffed, Tim's heart just about fell out of his chest.  There was a McDonald's just ahead so he turned into the Drive-Thru.

          "I think I need a chocolate milkshake. What about you?"

          Her voice was very little. "Okay."

          Two minutes later they were parked at the edge of the lot, holding shakes, staring out the windshield at the gas station next door.

          "Molly, I'm not too good at talking about feelings, but if something is on your mind, I would like to hear what it is. My brother is a good guy, you know. I think your mom is having a nice time doing things with him."

          She swallowed hard. Tim saw a tear roll down her cheek.

          He wanted, like it was a need clawing inside him, to pick her up and plop her into his lap. But he didn't have the right. He wasn't her daddy, he was only the brother of the man her mother was dating.

          "Aw, Molly, what is it?"

          "My Daddy was a really good guy, too. But not all of the time. I get scared."

          Tim's heart started to pound. What was this child saying?

          He spoke quietly.

          "What do you mean?"

          "We divorced him when I was six. But before that we lived with him. And sometimes he was lots of fun, like Glenn is. But other times, at night, I could hear fights."

          Her voice was so soft he had to strain his ears.

          "They would yell at each other. And my dad would yell loudest, and my mom would cry. But the next day she would always say that everything was okay, that I must have had a bad dream. But I didn't. I remember them fighting a lot."

          Tim was gripping the steering wheel so tightly his wrists hurt.

          "Molly, what happened that made your mom divorce your dad?"

          One of her feet kicked against the upholstery. "I don't know really. They had a fight one night. Then the next day, when I got home from school, my dad wasn't there. My dad didn't have a job. He'd had one once, but he didn't have one then. Just my mom had a job, so he took care of me, but he was gone that day."

          Tim breathed in, breathed out. What kind of man would leave his little daughter with no one to watch out for her?

          "I couldn't get in the house, so I sat on our porch and waited for mom to come home."

          Tim watched people put gas their cars, standing there as if a little girl wasn't describing the day her heart broke.

          "Molly, how long did you sit there?"

          "I always got home from school in the middle of the afternoon but she didn't come home until after supper."

          Tim expelled the breath he had been holding.

          "Did he come home later?"

          And that is when Molly pulled herself out of her seatbelt to lurch across the front seat and burrow her face under Tim's arm.

          "He never came home again. My mom and I don't know where he is at all. I hate that he left us. But sometimes I think he will come back, too, and then I think I might love him again if he did that."

          "I guess I can see how you would worry if your mom started going out with other men."

          "It would be better if the man was someone who already liked me."

          Tim wrapped his arm around Molly's narrow shoulders and held her against his side a long, long time.

          When she finally looked up at him, he wiped the tears from her face with his thumb and gave her the most reassuring smile he could muster.

          "I'm going to take you to your grandma's house now. And then I am going to go back and talk to my brother and your mom, okay? I promise you that they are going to think about you, about making you feel less nervous. Okay, Punkin'?"

          She nodded.

          He knew right then, with every atom of his skin and mind, that if he couldn't make this one little girl feel safe in her life, well, he wasn't worth the air it took to fill his lungs.

 

          Marla was gone when he got back to the house. Glenn was sprawled on their ancient brown sofa, reading the newspaper.

          "Glenn, we have to talk."

          Glenn looked up.

          "What? Huh? You're Tim. You don't talk."

          Tim didn't laugh.

          "Did you know that Marla's ex-husband was just walked out on her one day, leaving her and Molly to fend for themselves?"         

          Glenn slapped the newspaper down.

          "No."

          "Well, Molly just told me, and she was scared and crying because she's afraid that you might be like her dad. Nice some times. Fights later. Then just gone, vamoosed, no trace of anything.."

          Glenn's face went still and dark.

          "Marla told me she divorced him years ago and that she hasn't dated anyone since. That's all I knew. Jeez,..."

          Tim walked into the shabby living room, moved a pile of laundry off the recliner, sat down to face Glenn across the room.

          "It makes this all way more important than it was. You think you're dating a pretty woman for awhile, but what you don't know is that you've got two hearts on the line here. Are you ready for this, Glenn?"

          Glenn was silent.

          Somehow, in that moment, the two brothers traded places.

          Tim pushed.

          "Because I'm in love with that little girl already, and it wouldn't be much of a fall to go for her mother, either. If you aren't ready to watch out for them for the long haul, to be there and not leave, then you should back out now."

          There was silence in the room. Tim heard the ticking of the clock in the kitchen, heard cars rushing past out on the highway.

          Glenn got up, walked over to the window that looked out on the long front yard.

          "Denise called me yesterday."

          Tim's head jerked up.

          "You ex-wife?"    

          Glenn didn't turn around.

          "I know, the timing here sucks. But she called to say she bought herself a car finally, so if I want my Mustang back, I can come and get it."

          "You said she took it in the divorce."

          "Yeah, well maybe I tried to make things sound more black and white than they really were."

          Tim swore.

          Glenn crossed his arms in front of him, so all Tim could see was his brother's stubborn, wide-legged stance.       

          Glenn shoved his hand through his hair and growled. "Tim, I miss Denise about as bad as if someone cut my arm off. I made her sound so awful because I didn't want to have to tell you and Ma how bad I screwed up. Denise wasn't a saint, but I was no day at the beach, either."

          Tim leaned forward angrily. "So you just lit into a new woman, messing up her life, while you decided what to do about the divorce you sorta wished you hadn't gone through with? Jeez, Glenn, how many people were you gonna mow over while you figured this all out?"

          "I know, I know."

          "Do you know? Do you know you about broke Mom's heart? And you sure did no favors for Denise, if you divorced her while neither of you really wanted to, just to make some stupid point.

          "Meanwhile, there's a little girl out there hoping you're not going be her mom's next guy who leaves her when it gets hard. You charmed Marla to finally move on with her life, until wham, she ends up in the arms of a man who's still got the hots for his wife?"
          Glenn turned around.

          "Is that all?"

          "Isn't that about enough?"

          Glenn gritted his jaw. "Nah, I don't think it's quite the whole roster. I think I got a brother who lies about as well as I so."

          Tim turned his head to glare.   

          "Haven't got the slightest idea what you mean. I don't lie."

          "Yeah you do. Every morning you get up and go out there and work your brains out, pretending you don't care you don't have a life. Not asking why you're working this hard. Taking care of mom, visiting little old ladies and falling like a ton of bricks for one little girl. But you don't have the honesty in you to mention to one particular woman that maybe you'd like to take her to the movies, or dinner, or something. Hell, I may be a screw-up loser, but at least I don't sit around letting years come and go where I don't grab out for nothing."

          Tim looked at Glen grimly. "You about done?"

          "Yeah. I'll go across the street tonight when she's done work, and tell Marla that I'm leaving. You have any guts in you, you'll be standing somewhere out there, waiting for me to drive away. She might need a friend right then. Though I don't know if you have enough truth in you to be that guy."

         

 

          Tim took a shower, put on clean jeans and a clean shirt, stood at the back of the Lion Heart parking lot till Glenn's truck was nothing but a memory of taillights.

          When Marla looked up and saw Tim by his truck, she didn't say a word, just let him drive her home, so she wouldn't have to make that drive alone.

          The next day he brought a kitten to Molly and an armload of purple irises that grew along side his barn, to Marla. She smiled when she saw how many flowers he'd brought.

          "You left anything behind for yourself, Timothy?"

          He laughed a little as he blushed, then stammered. "Most of what I'm interested in this past year or so, doesn't seem to be back there, but over here."

          Her smile was everything.

          "Are you interested in just being our friend for awhile? Molly and I could use a friend."

         

          Tim went back home that evening and named all his cats Marla. Before the year was over he was a married man with a freckle-faced step-daughter, a wife who made his heart tumble like warm socks in a Maytag, and crops to get into plain old fields that must, over and over and over again, sprout new life.     

     

                   

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A Fairy Tale for People who are Generous for No Good Reason that Anyone Can Understand.

Virginia swore under her breath as she kneaded, pounded, and rolled out her third batch of cinnamon rolls. The cat, startled by the racket, ran from the kitchen. Virginia stomped across her tiny kitchen to microwave the butter. She measured the cinnamon and sugar and then sprinkled it over the smeared melted butter with absolutely no patience for what she was doing.

Vivian Woke Up Drowning

Vivian woke up drowning. She came to the surface of dark and murmuring dreams with her arms grabbing through tangled sheets; her lungs straining towards breath.

Then, as every day, she remembered to open her eyes. A slant of light stabbed through the curtains into the dim green of her bedroom. She pulled up to sit on the edge of the bed, gathering the quilt around herself, pressing her hand to her wild heart.

The House in Blue River

 I wrote this years ago.  It is fiction, of course, although there were several big old wood Victorian mansions in my hometown of Ludington, Michigan. My grandfather had been a glazier during part of his life; he installed windows. He talked about a house they \ worked on where they found a secret room- there was some hidden way into it that was not a door. 

...

Andy's Three Magical Tasks

The heavy castle door creaked as it slowly opened; the music fell to a low thrumming heartbeat. Andy moved his controllers slowly and carefully, easing closer, peering through the meager light of the flickering candelabra...

"Andy!"

The screen went blank.

Andy blinked, and then looked up. His mother was standing next to him. The scowl on her round face made her look, to Andy, like the chubby elf-slayer on Morph-Over.

Lost in the Waubicon

Len wrote this story for a nephew who was a youngster at Boy Scout Camp at the time!

DP Wigley
Happy Birthday Bruce
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