Today’s featured story is called “One August Morning” written by TTW’s own Marnie Azzarelli.
“I’m writing to let you know that I have killed myself.” Mr. Carlson’s already buggy eyes bulged out even more from his dark face. Of all the things to expect in your mailbox on a clear Monday morning, a suicide note wasn’t one of them. Down the street of his picturesque suburban block, Mr. Carlson heard sprinklers going off, a man saying goodbye to his wife as he walked in his business suit to his compact vehicle (the minivan left in the garage when the wife took the kids to school), and in the distance he heard a large dog bark so people would know for a fact that she existed and that where she was barking was indeed her property.
From the cacophony of an early Summer morning, Mr. Carlson walked outside to pick up his usual stack of bills, junk mail, and magazines he forgot to unsubscribe from, when he saw the postcard. The postcard itself was strange as it showed a picture of a winter cottage getting ready for Christmas. It was probably a print of a Thomas Kincaid painting, or one of his many copy cats, that were usually re-posted multiple times by little old ladies on Facebook, covered in inane glitter stickers and calls for “PRAYERS DURING THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON.” A postcard like that wouldn’t usually make Mr. Carlson pause, but the fact that it was the middle of August when he received it did. Not only that but a return address was nowhere to be found.
Before he even began to read the card, he was already dumbfounded by the whole experience. But when he found the words, written in rounded feminine letters, his stomach that only contained a sip of his favorite morning brew, dropped to his clean porch.
“I’m writing to let you know that I have killed myself,” was the only thing written on the postcard, and the only words that would roll around Mr. Carlson’s head for the rest of the day. He would later call the police and would later let them handle the situation. But as he walked into his home, with the pink siding and white trim, all he could dwell on was the fact that his perfect morning was ruined by someone who wanted to die.
Daniel Rosler is a local NEPA writer and musician. He writes and performs with his bands, “Esta Coda” and “A Fire With Friends.” He has published a short story, “Dog Whistle,” in the Jawline Review, and a non-fiction piece, “Technology and the Death of the Individual: Chaplin’s Critique of Modern Times” for Moviejawn. He enjoys literary criticism and theory, particularly psychoanalysis and Marxist criticism, as well as continental philosophy. He is a graduate of Penn State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English, a minor in psychology and received the 2016 Academic Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in English. He currently works at the Scranton Times-Tribune and is debating whether he can afford pursuing his Ph.D at Binghamton University. He’s the loving father of daughter, Nora Kate, his dog, “Dobby” and grateful for his girlfriend, Ashley Farrow.
Daniel Rosler’s excerpt from a longer fiction piece is called, “Remembering Jane.”
“There’s nothing funny about the situation,” she would say matter-of-factly.
“As a matter of fact,” was something she also said a lot.
I met Jane in the summer. She wore a sundress that I thought was strange but later found out was a supposed rare, vintage outfit she picked up at a thrift store in her hometown. Either way, I told her then, and still believe now, that her shoes were stupid.
We ran into each other again at a mutual friend’s house shortly after. This time, and maybe it was the wine, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. The summer was nearing end, but it was still hot as hell. I watched her wipe sweat from her forehead near our friend’s pool. She refused to go in because she was afraid of public pools. I explained to her that a pool in someone’s backyard was hardly public.
“That doesn’t mean I know who’s been in here,” she said.
“Who cares who’s been in here?”
That’s when she pushed me in the pool. Everyone laughed. As soon as I came up for air, I laughed too. She had a huge smile. I hadn’t noticed it before.
“Now, I’m definitely not getting in there,” she said.
Later that night, she joined me in the back of my car, and there was hardly any time to come up for air.
We started dating. Became a serious thing I guess. We moved into a small, upstairs apartment. Jane would sit on the floor and listen to her records. Said she could feel the music better there. I told her she was crazy and would pour myself a small glass of Scotch and watch her. She would keep her eyes shut and stay there for hours. I remember her saying she could hear eternity like that but could never explain what that meant.
“Can you flip it for me?” She would ask every so often.
There were a lot of nights like that. Even though I thought she was nuts, I never minded.
She told me that when she was younger people would ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up, and she’d tell them, “myself.” The grown-ups got a kick out of that. They’d laugh, always noting that “kids say the funniest things.” They stopped laughing when she turned eighteen and her answer didn’t change.
“Just being yourself is hard enough,” she would whisper to me in bed. We liked to lay under the sheets and talk. I thought it was strange, but she said she felt safe like that.
I worked for a local garage and she stayed home working on her paintings. I guess she was pretty good at it, too. I wouldn’t know. Sometimes, she’d tell me in great detail of what she was trying to say in her art. A lot of it was political. A lot of it was about environment. And war. And peace. And people. And religion. And the economy.
It just looked like colors to me.
One day, I came home from a long day and Jane wasn’t home. I passed out early. When I woke up the next morning, Jane still wasn’t there. I started to worry, pacing around our living room. That’s when I finally noticed her newest painting. It was a portrait of me. She never painted me before. There was a note underneath it that said:
“You are the kindest, most gentle, and loving thing that’s ever happened to me. And yet, for some reason, I’m still not happy. I can no longer accept how unfair that is to the both of us. One day, you will hear from me again. I promise.
With all the love I can muster,
I spent the day sulking, had a little too much to drink and decided to drive around town to see if I would find her anywhere. I knew it was pointless. But people used to tell me love was pointless, and every single one of them still tried.
I tried for hours that night.
I stopped in a local pub, and the bartender Bobby told me I looked like I had seen better days.
I feared I had already seen the best.
Years and years passed before I finally heard from Jane.
It happened yesterday. A neighbor of hers called me. She told me she didn’t know of Jane having any family or friends. Told me she would check in on her when she could. After Jane died, her neighbor helped clear some of the stuff from Jane’s house. That’s when she found a photo of Jane and me. It was taken many years ago outside of an art show Jane had one Friday evening. The photo made it into the paper and had our names beneath it. Her neighbor told me she looked me up and decided to call me, thinking maybe Jane and I stayed in touch. She seemed disappointed to tell me the funeral had already happened. I told her not to worry about it, and she told me Jane passed peacefully. I’ve always thought that was a weird expression, but I thanked her. I couldn’t help but feel a little numb to the news.
I spent that night nursing a Scotch. I set up an old record player and put a Sam Cooke album on. Jane loved Sam. I used to hear her humming “You Send Me” while she painted. I flipped Sam Cooke records over more than any other.
That’s when I remembered something Jane told me once, that she could never be content with just “trying.” She said she had one life to live and that it didn’t mean anything unless she left something behind to feel proud of. She was full of passion, but I disagreed with her and still do now. I used to tell her to at least try meant everything. Made a world of difference. I wonder if she ever learned to agree with me. Or if, even better, she felt she had reached whatever goal she had set for herself. The kind of goal you can’t really explain to another person.
“Maybe those kind of goals are unattainable,” I would tell her.
“Nothing in this world is unattainable,” she would tell me.
She painted her whole god damn life away, and all I ever saw were the colors.
Kristin Ivey is a PA based writer and educator. She writes about herself in the following:
Kristin Ivey is a Pennsylvania writer, English teacher, and a graduate student at Wilkes University. Her essay, Life: What Writer and Teacher Can Tell You about Craft, was featured in Craft section of the May 2017 issue of Hippocampus Magazine. She earned a Writing Fellowship with the National Writing Project in 2000, an organization for which she has served as an Advisory Board member and teacher-consultant. When she’s not grading papers or running her two boxer dogs around agility courses, she’s participating in local writing groups in the Lehigh Valley area.
Ivey’s story is called, Flooded 40.91.
*40.91 – the number of feet of floodwater that washed through Wilkes-Barre during Hurricane Agnes
Earth’s sovereign star settled in the uppermost branches of April’s bare oaks. Brown squirrels and slate-belt pigeons fiddled through a pile of cracked corn the dog walker had tossed between two of Public Square’s park benches. Spring snowflakes at dawn had given way to cerulean skies by midday. As the day’s temperature rose, so too did the city’s residents. By one o’clock, Terrance’s fourteen-story apartment building cast a pencil-shaped shadow across Public Square Park and sliced through the remnants of Maiden Kankakee’s pedestal — her fountain long silenced. Terrance studied the patch of birdseed from the other side of the crosswalk as he waited for the cross-traffic to quiet. She won’t come, he thought for the thousandth time.
As the light changed and Terrance rolled into the intersection, he turned his attention to the little girl in the orange sweatshirt who skipped ahead of him, her hand firmly knotted within a woman’s whose hair was straight and white. The rumble of an idling vintage mustang revved and crescendoed at the main intersection off to his left. The sound scared the pigeons and startled the little girl, but didn’t seem to bother the squirrels none.
Terrance noted the moment the little girl’s Velcroed sneaker hit the park island’s curb. How she broke free from her parental knot and ran with an unabashed joy no grown-up has ever been able to muster. He nearly laughed when she flung herself onto the jungle gym sculpture nearest the park’s entrance. And by the time his wheels scraped the sloped curb leading into the park, the little girl was halfway up the eight-rung steel tower and well on her way to touching the trapped metal sphere at its center.
Terrance gave the wheels of his chair four hard pumps so he could build up momentum for the transition from concrete to brick pavers. His army green messenger bag, its winking stitched owl logo facing outward, bounced off one of his wheels like a palm on a bongo. He felt the subtle shift in speed the bag caused, and compensated. The menagerie of items he carried on the tray he’d clamped to his wheelchair jangled and danced as he buzzed over the bricks. He followed the spiraling pathway towards Kankakee’s defunct font at the park’s center. The trail reminded him of the outline of his own Momma’s ear — subtly curving in on itself until the center sunk into the subterranean. Of course, his Momma was long-gone now. Perhaps it was the anniversary of her passing that resurrected the residual ghost of the storm.
Can’t believe it’s been almost forty-five years since Agnes. That storm. She puked up so much water and mud all over the place. Must’ve been tearin’ it up in heaven for at least a century a’forehand. Smelled like it anyway. The night before Agnes hit, Momma said not to bother none with the evacuation. She said we were too far inland to worry about any trouble from the Susquehanna. “We’re underground people, not river people. Always have been,” she said. Well, until June 23, 1972, that is.
Terrance rubbed his thighs through his stained cargo shorts, but only felt his palms as they warmed. It had been decades since he’d registered any direct news from his nether parts. Twenty-eight trillion gallons of rainwater fell with Agnes and with it, she floated one brand new Buick from a Market Street showroom in Wilkes-Barre to Kingston and Momma’s station wagon. Mamma kept her wood-paneled wagon parked snug against the curb in front of their former two-story Cape. Until the flood, their house had been located at the backend of Kingston, eight-miles from the river’s edge.
He thought about taking out the scrappy article, but really, he didn’t need to read the faded clipping to remember its contents. We huddled in the wagon, wet and shivering despite the warm, swampy air after Momma finally caved about the evacuation orders. But by then we all knew she was too late. “Momma told me to hunker down on the passenger floor and ordered my little sister, Dotty, to lay flat across the back seat,” Terrance had told the reporter who interviewed him at Geisinger the day after he learned he had lost the use of both legs. “The rain was comin’ down so hard it was difficult to hear, but I did what she said. I stayed put, even though we all felt a bunch of debris hittin’ the car and trying to push us down the street. But when that Buick hit us– boy, it was louder than all the rest. Then, the front of Momma’s car crumpled and pinned me.” He remembered how the reporter had kept eye contact with him, even as the balding writer sketched his funny-looking notes in one of those flip-pad notebooks.
Terrance engaged the brake on his wheelchair, reached for his messenger bag and fished out his wallet. He didn’t need it, but took out the news clipping anyway. The paper had brittled and turned the color of horseradish. A feeble breeze kicked up and rattled the aged article, but Terrance held tight. He studied the grainy photograph of his Momma at its center. In it, she stood next to Terrance’s hospital gurney as she held his hand. Terrance gave the photographer a thumbs-up with the other, but his Momma didn’t smile. Instead, she stared straight ahead, her eyes fierce — her mouth a straight-razor’s edge.
The sound of a nearby news broadcast from a suddenly unmuted cell phone made Terrance look away from his past. The white-haired mother was sitting on a bench nearby, watching a weather forecast. “Come here, darling,” she said to the orange-sweatshirt girl. “Come, look at this.”
She won’t come here again, Terrance thought. She won’t.
This is a story written by local writer, Tara Lynn Marta, called, “Borrowed Love.”
Kyle stopped answering my emails. I wasn’t surprised. Friends warned me against expressing my feelings to him. “I wouldn’t go there,” my best friend Maggie said. But I poured out my heart anyway in an email.
Each morning at work, I’d see Kyle out of the corner of my eye as he sat at his desk, and I would will him to approach me. I’d already apologized for my impulsiveness, but it made no difference. The once amiable relationship we shared was branded forever.
Our communication was minimal, revolving around work related issues. Light conversation no longer existed. Kyle shunned me whenever it seemed as though I had something other than business to discuss.
But there once was a time. . .
Whatever brings two kindred spirits together was responsible for the energy transmitted between me and Kyle. From the moment we locked eyes I could feel our souls intertwine. And I determined that he felt it, too, evidenced by the soft tone of his voice whenever he spoke my name.
But that was then.
“He’s not the only man in the world,” Maggie said, after observing my despondency.
Even after communication ceased, it was difficult not to notice Kyle’s fixed gaze, which he concealed by lowering his head whenever our eyes met. Still, he would not speak a word about what was taking place between us, and I was left to ponder whether the entire situation occurred only in my mind.
Shelia began work two months after I sent Kyle the infamous email, and from the beginning, she was smitten with him. I’d heard rumors that she had walked up to him in the employee’s lounge and propositioned him for a date. He turned her down, yet nothing had changed in their encounters. They talked. They laughed. They exchanged pleasantries. None of which existed amid Kyle and myself.
If Kyle detested me, I needed to know, so I cornered him one afternoon in the parking lot before he got into his red Pontiac.
“I don’t have time for this,” he said. But there was no turning back. I needed answers. Wanted answers. Deserved answers.
“I’ve apologized time and again, Kyle. Why can’t you move beyond it?”
He tossed his coat onto the backseat, then turned to face me. “There’s someone else,” he confessed. And that’s when I learned of Kyle’s long-term relationship with Brook, a women he’d been with since college.
“Why didn’t you just tell me about your girlfriend in the first place?” I asked.
Kyle paused and jiggled coins in his pocket. “It’s complicated. I guess I couldn’t bring myself to tell you.”
I removed a strand of hair that had fallen in front of my eyes. “Even after you knew how I felt?”
Kyle shrugged, then turned his head in the opposite direction as if he couldn’t bear to look at me.
“Do you have feelings for me?” I whispered, hoping Kyle could hear. “Am I insane to think there’s something between us?
I studied Kyle’s expression until he clarified that I had been right.
“Yes, I have feelings for you. That’s why I can’t be near you. It hurts too much. I never meant for this to happen. I love Brook. But I love you, too.” He opened his car door, turned the key in the ignition and sped away.
Kyle had done his best to remain faithful to Brook, but his emotions for me overwhelmed him. So terrified was he that one false move would sabotage the relationship with his live-in love, he ensured that nothing but a quick greeting would ever take place between us.
Within the soul of mankind lies the inexplicable craving to conquer that which does not belong to us. When this occurs the only way to belie such desire is to walk away.
After much deliberation, I left my job and found tranquility in a new venue, far from the temptation of Kyle. I neither saw nor spoke to him ever again. But I would never forget that for a brief moment in time, two hearts – one of which was borrowed – beat as one.
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Tara Lynn Marta is a local NEPA writer who has read her works locally, including the Writers’ Showcase. Tara Lynn writes about herself in the following:
Tara Lynn Marta is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. Her work has been published by Aaduna, Inc., The Humor Times, PoertySoup, The Gorge, and Heartaches to Healing. Tara is a graduate of Wilkes University where she earned an M.A. in Creative Writing.
Tara Lynn Marta’s short story is titled, “The Diary.”
Inside the red Oldsmobile Cutlass was a secret hidden beneath the layers of clothes that were strewn over the backseat – a secret that Rebecca and Charlene inadvertently learned after agreeing to clean out their grandmother’s house. Grandma Jean had been dead nearly a month and the girls decided to relieve their grief-stricken mother from the task of having to clear away all of Jean’s personal belongings.
Rebecca rummaged through closets and dresser drawers, while Charlene battled cobwebs in the basement. Then it was on to the attic where both girls needed flashlights to light the way through the dusty upper level. Boxes were scattered across the attic floor, some piled one on top of the other. The girls patiently emptied the contents of each box and sifted through their grandmother’s things.
“Can you believe she kept all this junk,” Charlene said, amusingly.
“It obviously meant something to her,” Rebecca shot back.
Charlene reached into a large cedar chest and pulled out a metal box marked “personal.” She couldn’t resist opening it now that her grandmother was no longer around to stop the intrusion. “Wonder what’s inside?” she said, as she used a small screwdriver to pry open the locked box.
Inside was an embroidered brown leather diary with a tie wrapped around it. “Grandma kept a diary?”
“Don’t read it, Charlene. It’s private.”
“Grandma’s dead, Becky. She had to expect someone would read it after she died or else she would have gotten rid of it.”
Charlene untied the diary and sat on the floor leafing through her grandmother’s private thoughts. There were entries about birthdays and anniversaries, and notes about her children and grandchildren. But there was one entry Charlene did not expect to stumble upon. Charlene read with fervor before letting out a gasp.
“What?” Rebecca yelled.
Charlene read her grandmother’s words aloud:
Monday, March 1, 1947
“The baby is due in seven months. Joe has been good about the whole ordeal. Oh, I do care for him. But I have much guilt that he has agreed to raise a child that isn’t his. Joe always was a dear friend. He didn’t judge me the way others would if they knew the truth. He wanted to marry me in a hurry after I confided in him that I was pregnant. I know he will be good to this child and love it as his own. And the baby must never learn that Joe isn’t her father.”
Silence enveloped as both girls remained in dismay. “Grandpa wasn’t Mom’s real father! We have to tell Mom,” Charlene announced.
“We certainly do not. It’s not our business, Char. Let it lie.”
“She deserves to know, Becky.”
With that Rebecca charged at Charlene, grabbing the diary and heading for her car. She threw the tattered book on the backseat, then piled clothes on top of it.
“We’re not telling Mom,” Rebecca said. “Nothing good will come of it after all this time. Nothing good at all.”
Just then, Charlene’s phone rang. “Hi, Mom,” she answered, giving Rebecca a sudden look of angst.
“How’s the packing going?” her mother said on the other end.
“It’s going,” Charlene replied. “Mom, there’s something I want to talk to you about.”
Rebecca waved her hands in the air, cautioning her sister not to reveal their grandmother’s secret.
“It’s like this, Mom,” Charlene continued before being interrupted by her mother.
“Oh, sweetie, guess what I found in my jewelry box? The locket that Grandpa Joe gave me for my fifth birthday. Oh, how it takes me back. So many wonderful memories. He was the kindest father any girl could have asked for.”
Charlene removed the phone away from her ear and closed her eyes. Her mother’s words echoed in her mind. Her grandfather had been good to her mother and always regarded her as his daughter, not with words, but love.
“What is it you wanted to say, honey?” asked her mother.
Charlene brought the phone back to her ear. “It’s not important.”
And it wasn’t. Charlene realized that it wasn’t the blood running through one’s veins that brought people together. It was the love between them.
His comment struck a chord with her body. His words felt to her as if he strummed her very essence, like a steel string, ground in between the metal entwined grooves with his jagged fingernails. This left her with a reverberating sound, his voice, which resonated in her throat as if she caught his voice and kept it as her own.
“Who gets the couch?” he asked.
She parroted to herself quietly, “Who gets the couch?”
“I guess I will take it since I paid most of the bills anyhow. It is my place after all,” he answered his own question.
“I…” she paused.
“You what?” he asked.
He had a chipper musical quality to his being that she hadn’t heard since they first moved in together. He sounded like a customer service agent who was also a morning person.
He held the neck of a bottle of craft beer in his left hand and talked with his right. Then, he reached out his left hand as a truce.
“Cheers,” he tilted his bottle towards hers. However, she didn’t reciprocate the cheer.
“What’s the matter? You know you wanted, we both wanted this for quite a while!” he bemoaned.
“It’s not the fact that it happened. It’s the way that it happened. You tried to cheat with my best friend!” she piped up with a flicker of fire, then snuffed out the flame.
“You mean she tried…” he said now with an angrier tone, spacing out his words as if he were chewing on a piece of bloody steak.
“You didn’t object if that was the case,” she mumbled.
“What was that? Oh, nothing I am sure, because you know this is all in your head. You were looking for an excuse to get rid of me,” he labored over his words as blood seemed to dribble from his mouth.
“It doesn’t matter,” she sighed as she grabbed her bag, and walked out the door.
She didn’t look back.
“To new beginnings,” she spoke to the air as she pretended to toast to an imaginary recipient, dumped her contents onto the grass, then threw her bottle in a nearby recycling bin.
She didn’t care about much, but felt there was no need to stop caring about the environment.
The Writers’ Showcase is an event that features readings of poetry and prose from Pennsylvania based writers. The Writers’ Showcase: Spring Edition will take place on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at the Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W Market St. Scranton, PA from 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Admission is $4 at the door.
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