The Welcome Wagon (new fiction)

By Laura Kathryn Rogers

The doorbell rang just after 4:30 p.m. And, of course, I answered it. It seemed the right thing to do.

Three ladies of varying ages and one intense-looking gentleman, stood at the door. They sized me up even as I sized them up. The intense man even sniffed at the air, as if to detect my recent hygienic accomplishments.

“Hey there!” Mr. Intense said, thrusting out a  short-fat-fingered hand at me. I thought about why I was in the house, and responded to his handshake. His grip was firm and warm, respectable in someone who seemed about to burst with purpose. “I’m Griffin Parks. I’m the president of the neighborhood property owners association. We like to meet all of the new neighbors. Welcome you personally,” He said, giving me a warm smile.

“Why thank you,” I said, hoping that I was dressed appropriately for the occasion. I was in my work uniform, which consisted of some well-worn blue jeans, button-fly. A sleeveless white undershirt underneath a blue, orange and green checked flannel shirt. Because I preferred it, I was barefoot. I wore gloves of the type that an fastidious homemaker would use in the process of house-cleaning, but they were not for housekeeping. Not at all.

“Jeannie Perkins, here,” The lady nearest to Griffen said, over-enthusiastically. She wore a horrid floral pantsuit that did not flatter her many curves. “I’m your next door neighbor! I have three kids, but they’ve moved away. You know, careers, the baby is in her last year of college. I try to keep busy.”

The middle lady, much more to my liking, stepped out from behind Griffin. She had a nice, hourglass shape accentuated by a slim waist and some drop-dead gorgeous legs. She was wearing a solid yellow dress that looked comfortable and accentuated her reddish-brown hair and green eyes. “Elizabeth Foreman,” She said, smiling. “I’m an attorney in town. I work from home. Keep pretty busy, though–I have two kids, totally grown, but mine have not had the grace to leave home yet!”

The last lady, who had a distinctly unfortunate squint, spoke up last, so quietly I could barely hear her. “Patty Lake” She said simply.

“We tease poor ol’ Pattie and call her Patty Cake, sometimes, don’t we, girl?” Patty squinted at Griffin and gave a brief nod. Patty was so nondescript as to fade into the surroundings. Limp light brown hair, matching eyes, sallow skin. A figure neither blessed or neglected. Her clothing was tan pants and a white sweater. No jewelry except for a wedding ring. Plain.

“We didn’t get your name” Patty said, her voice dull, without flavor.

I have several names that I go by, depending on what I’m doing, so I thought of the least objectionable one, and gave that. Rudy. Rudy Jefferies.

“So, what do you do?” Griffen asked, his grin friendly, wide, and so harmless looking that you might (might) want to tell him everything. I didn’t want to tell him anything. I’d seen his kind before. He would use whatever information you gave to advance himself, and the hell with you.

“I am a problem-solver, I guess you could say, ” I said, adopting the same grin. “I take care of things that other people don’t want to do. Privately employed, of course. Get to work for myself. Love it.”

“I see” Griffin, said, his megawatt smile fading somewhat. “Well, can we come in for a while? I know you are busy unpacking and stuff, but we’re awful proud of this little neighborhood. We want you fully on board about how to do things from the get-go. Sound okay?”

I smiled, turned and pointed towards the living room. “What can I get everyone to drink?”

I heard them trading observations as I made mixed drinks for the ladies, straight scotch for my man, Griffin. By the minute he was appearing to be tougher than he looked. And that could be a problem harder to solve than others.

“I think he’s hot.” Elizabeth of the corresponding hot body and features was saying.

“Of course you do.” Griffin said, his disapproval subtle. “He’s a man.”

“Jealous, Sweetie?” I heard her say.

“Oh come on, you two, I wonder what he actually does. Problem-solving? What is that?” That was our little Pattie-Cake, who was working on my identity as if I were a complicated arithmatic problem. “He has to be legit. I mean, income, job. How else could he afford the house?”

“I’m sure he’s fine. But didn’t the realtor say something about him looking looking like a Hippie? This guy is pretty clean-cut. Where’s the beard and long hair?” This came from Jeannie, of the floral pantsuit.

I walked in the room with a tray laden with their drinks and some peanuts I had found sitting next to the scotch.

“Not very good pickings, I’m afraid,” Giving them a toothy smile. “You know how that goes. Pack for a week, unpack for a year.”

The comment made them all relax. The liquor assisted. Half an hour later, they’d forgotten to be suspicious of me, even the self-promoting Griffin. They lounged easily on the sofas, to such a point that I wondered what the actual owner would think had he walked in the room. But there was very little chance of that.

“You have very good taste in decor. Did you do it all yourself?” This from the admiring Elizabeth. Frankly, I was quite admiring in her direction as well. Very. Too bad my job prevented me from making friends…….
“Actually, I had nothing at all to do with it.” I said, easily, drinking my club soda. Had to keep a clear head for my work.

“Well, whoever you hired did a fantastic job, can we walk around?” That was Pattie, surprising me that she would be interested in anything.

“Well, downstairs you can, but upstairs is still not….”

Griffin waved his hand, giving Pattie a quelling look. “Never mind, neighbor! We know you’re still getting settled. Week or two, why don’t we come over and do the tour?”
“That would be fine with me,” I said, holding up my club soda as if in silent toast. They could do what they liked then–I wouldn’t be there.

Then, there was a loud groan from upstairs. I knew ignoring it would make them suspicious. Instead, I commented on it. “My partner, ” I said, winking. “He really tied one on last night. Another reason I’d rather not do the tour today.”

“Gotcha.” Griffin said. I noted with inner amusement that Elizabeth looked sad.

Then, as if on cue, a loud thump. Cursing inwardly,  I said, “I’d better go check on him.”

They began to talk amongst themselves as I left them. Elizabeth lamenting that all the good-looking single men seemed to be gay.  I sprinted up the golden-carpeted stairs, and turned right at the top. I saw the house’s owner, Kraig Philemon, crawling out of the bedroom where I’d left him when the doorbell rang.  We’d been interrupted.

He looked up at me, and trying to speak, failed.

I shook my finger at him as if at a child. “Didn’t I tell you to stay put?”

I pulled out the revolver out of my shirt pocket, checked to be sure the silencer was still on. He waved his hands at me, eyes wide with terror. Then, he fell, certain not to move again, as my perfectly aimed shot went straight to his forehead.

I came back down to find a sheaf of papers thrust at me.

“You look like the type to be very active wherever you are. ” Elizabeth said, forcing a smile. “We went ahead and assigned you to the street cleaning committee. We all take turns. Clear leaves, snow, all that. Sometimes garbage that gets dumped on the curb by litter-bugs.”

“Well, I am good at removing garbage.” I said, giving her a subtle wink. She held eye contact for a tad bit longer than I thought was entirely decent, after all, we were practically strangers. Everyone noticed, specially Griffin.

“So tell us more about this job of yours. Professional problem solving.” Griffin said.

His eyes widened when I showed him my gun.

“You don’t live here.” Pattie said, her monotone giving way to a squeak with emotion that could  not be discerned. What was it? I’d heard it before in my long career, and always from those about to die.

Panic?  Fear?

“Nope.” I said, waving them to a corner. “And you are perfectly great people, I’m sure, but you know, my job requires that I not have witnesses.”

They all went meekly to their deaths. I did things quickly, to keep from things being messy. I hate mess.

I saved Elizabeth for last, just because I liked her so much. It seemed a shame, a damn shame indeed.

“You can’t!” Elizabeth pleaded, her eyes full of the gun pointed at her. “We’re just the welcome wagon.”

“I know,” I said,  “And unfortunately, in your case especially, so am I.”

I pulled the trigger, and shortly thereafter, left.


No One’s Talking (new fiction)

by Laura Kathryn Rogers

When my sister Lisa died, I was not surprised when they quickly found the body. In fact, I could have told them where to look.

You see, I was the person who killed her.

She was two years younger than me, and the darling of the family. She never put a foot wrong in the eyes of my parents. Only I knew the ugly, redoubtable truth. And finally, it was up to me to do something about it. And, so, I did.

It wasn’t unpleasant. In my mind, it was justly deserved.  The crime was effortless, possibly because I’d been planning it since we were toddlers. Yes. Yes. I’d hated her just about that long.

We’d been a study in contrasts, Lisa and I. I was not your typical oldest. You know, OCD, controlling, with an overblown herding instinct for anyone younger than me.

No, I opened my eyes, fresh out of my mothers womb, looked around, and really wanted to go back inside her warm, safe cave. However, that was not an option. Out into this world I was shoved, expected to make decisions, produce, look and act smart, and in some way be responsible for the Lisa’s of the world.

I wasn’t going to have any of it.

I summed up the planet in a child’s keen but practical way. I saw a place where there were pictures to paint, men to be wooed by, songs to sing. And I didn’t feel responsible for anyone–not even myself. Life was a party, and I planned to dance my way through it.

Lisa was that child who always produced, always pleased, and never let our parents down. And while they did not see it, Lisa made sure that our differences were apparent. She would find subtle ways to make me look bad, all the while turning up the sweet face of innocence. When we were alone, she would turn her slate gray eyes to me, and I would see the truth of her hatred. She wanted me to be gone too.

Maybe it was then, that I started wanting to kill her, maybe before. It hadn’t taken my parents long to see that whatever native talents I’d been hiding, babysitting was not one of them. They chalked it up to my irresponsibility that I just wasn’t good at keeping track of Lisa.

What they didn’t know, was I tried to leave her places, hoping against hope that someone would want a perfect little girl like her and never bring her home. Yet, Lisa was always able to remember our address, even as a very young child, damn her. And so she always came back home. After a while my parents hired a babysitter for her, and left me to my own devices.

Darling Lisa. She seemed to wake each morning with a laundry list of great and meaningful things to do. Not for her, charming sister of mine, to let a single day happen, unfold. She had everything neatly planned, never a hair out of place. Why couldn’t I be like that, our parents questioned? Be organized? Plan?

Internally, though, I did have my own list–of all the ways that I would like to see my sister Lisa die.

I was the sister with hair forever out of place. I was the one who nearly didn’t graduate high school because I hated math and didn’t feel the need to pass the class.

A teacher, who knew my family asked me to write a paper on Eudemus, one of the guys who hung out with Plato and Socrates. I couldn’t tell you the first thing that I wrote–as soon as I put the paper in the teacher’s hands, she read it, and gave me enough points to pass (and thus graduate) I drove the learning out of my brain. I was already, impulsive way, mentally en route to my graduation party. Who gave a damn about Plato?

I was blessed in a way, because, while my parents didn’t appear to think that I had any talent, a Hollywood producer did. He saw me on an after graduation trip that I had slung hash and served indigestible burgers for years to pay for. Lisa never worked after school, as my parents felt she needed time to study.  When she graduated as class valedictorian, they sent her to Europe as a reward.

I was on the beach, free of my perfect sibling for the first time since I was a toddler. Free of well-meaning comments about how if I just tried, I could be better. You know, like my sister, Lisa.

Everyone seemed full of such comments, meant to stir up latent responsibility in me. However, that day, the universe was smiling on me. The producer struck up a conversation with me as I soaked in the sun.. He was hungover, bored, actually looking for a bit of bedroom action that didn’t involve the wife with whom he was equally bored.

Instead, he found me. Not particularly pretty (anyone in my family could have told him so), not really smart, and totally quirky. Perhaps it was my random ordinary-ness that appealed to him. Before you could say “your place or mine” (and actually we never ended up being lovers, only work associates,) I had a screen test, and a fat movie contract. My ticket back to my Iowa hometown was torn to shreds and flushed down the toilet.

I couldn’t be happier.

Nine years later, I had somehow forgotten to call home, send letters, or even communicate with a life, which was to all practical purposes, dead for me. I was having too much fun. The producer turned out to have some great connections. some of whom were talented writers.

In all the fuss of my ‘discovery’ as they called it, they taught me to dance, sing and act. Well, actually, they didn’t have to teach me to act….I think I had always known how to do that, just to survive life with the perfect Lisa.

I had quite the life up until recently. I had the requisite Hollywood mansion, several more cars than I needed, all kinds of dates with the A-List bachelors and resultant coverage in the tabloids. As always, I saw it as fun, what life was supposed to be.

I would sometimes think about Lisa, toiling away in medical school, trying to hard to BE someone. I would laugh. I already WAS someone, and I had gotten there without trying. The black sheep of the family turned golden–and without any effort.

Surely some relevant moral was present.

Three months ago, however, things began to change. Things were going well on the movie set where I was filming my latest project. The plot was, interestingly enough, a “Baby Jane” sort of rivalry between two sisters. As usual, I was the star, and people treated me that way.

I never had the problems in Hollywood that I had had in Iowa. People saw results here, and my results were that, at age 27, I had two Oscars, and three non-winning nominations. I was the highest paid actress in town. And I didn’t even have to sweat to get it. And…now, even better, for the first time in my life, I had more. I was in love.

In my previous relationships,  I had never given love much thought. It was much like the acting which brought me wealth, acclaim and more movie offers than I could complete. A man came into your life, it worked as long as it worked, and then you moved on. That all my men ultimately left me and were, within months, engaged or married to others caught my attention, but didn’t rent a room in my head. They wanted something different than I did, I reasoned. I wished them well when they said goodbye.

Not so with Arthur Hastings. I was shocked by my initial rush of attraction to him, because he seemed very much an ordinary man. He was hired to be my personal assistant. He was had the natural blonde hair that was coveted in Hollywood. Clear green eyes. But I don’t think anyone would have called him handsome. He seemed, as I had once believed about myself, totally ordinary.

At first, I was annoyed by him. He took exceptionally good care of me, but he didn’t always say yes to  me. I was used to, by then, being told yes, right or wrong. Arthur would look at me, with laughter in his eyes, and say no, then gently explain why my latest demand was not in my best interests.

Then, he would offer me an alternative, one that I would usually  accept–and then find that I actually preferred most of the time. The times I didn’t agree, I would stand my ground, and we’d go off on a merry-go-round of infatuated stubbornness. But I never held his job over his head to get my way. I knew if I did, he would leave…and I did not want him to go.

We soon became lovers. Making love with the man was an event, something like a circus and a rock show combined. His conservative approach to life  flew to the wind in the bedroom, and I was stirred to places that I didn’t think were possible. It was not merely sex–it was a work of art, which each time, created a masterpiece from our efforts.

This was the man I planned to marry.

I never guessed that Arthur might not want to marry me. Certainly it was advantageous to have a relationship with benefits with a famous movie star. And, he had never told me he loved me. After a time, he’d moved into my home. Anytime I wanted to go out, he was willing to escort me. He stood up to me just enough that I respected him. He never bored me. He had his own money inherited from a rich old Aunt, so my possessions didn’t interest him. He was perfect.

Then, on the movie set, I got a phone call from Lisa.

She was in Los Angeles, and she was concerned about me, she said.  Had hoped she could stop in on the set and have a ‘talk.’ I groaned quietly as she said these words. The ‘talk’ was likely to be a prolonged attempt at guilting me about my neglect of the family.

Despite all of my successes, the Oscars, the million-selling films, and the lavish lifestyle that was splashed across People Magazine and celebrity television shows, there had not been one comment from the parents. Not one appearance at an awards show, though I had my agent invite them.

Instead, I could feel their deep disappointment in me, reaching out from our humble home on Birdsong Drive. The silent comparison to my sister, who had recently graduated from medical school, first in her class.

I didn’t want to see Lisa, but Arthur convinced me. He was curious about where I had come from. He found it fascinating that my people never wanted to be interviewed, in fact had refused to ride the publicity train of a major star.

We were at a place in our relationship,  he suggested, that he reasonably should know more about my family. After all, he’d introduced me to his parents, gentle, sweet elderly folk from Santa Barbara, who seemed to like me. I knew his two sisters and his brothers, who all worked on movie sets, and who had worked for me at one time or another. Why have secrets?

So, I called my sister at her hotel and we made plans.

Arthur picked Lisa up at her hotel, and within minutes of them arriving on the movie set, I noted a change in Arthur.  He seemed less attentive to me somehow, even less desirous to argue with my choices, good or bad.

Instead, he was the soul of consideration to Lisa. My sister was her placid, gracious self–at least to others. However, as soon as we were alone, she made no attempt to hide her hatred of me. It came out in every look, gesture and snide comment when there no one around to witness it.

Arthur insisted that Lisa stay until the film was wrapped up, to give her idea about what show business was like. I objected, but was ignored. Before I knew it, Lisa was staying in one of the guest rooms in my mansion. The staff doted on her. and I boiled with barely concealed anger.

I began making mistakes at the filming. Lisa would pull me aside and advise me about what she’d seen me do wrong. “Don’t you think you should have put more emphasis on that last line, Sissy?”

Ye-Gods! That name! Soon everyone on the set was calling me “Sissy.” They got offended when I finally screamed that the next one who used the name would be immediately fired. In the corner, Lisa sat, knitting a scarf,  contentedly.

It was starting again, and I could not bear it. This was my place. My town. I would not let her take it from me.

Arthur did not see it the way that I did. We had a few horrendous fights. He started sleeping in a guest room. At the time, I didn’t question which guest room. Or, that it ended up being with my sister.

Several weeks passed and I started wondering when Lisa would go back home. She had mentioned starting her residency program, but when? I had hardly listened  when Arthur  told me.

It seemed he was talking about Lisa incessantly, to anyone who had listened. They seemed to be spending a lot of time together, off the movie set. Because I had been so busy, he had taken Lisa on drives to point out the beautiful scenery. He’d even taken her to Santa Barbara.

The day we wrapped up shooting was one I would never forget.

Both Arthur and Lisa were absent. I was grateful for Arthur babysitting my sister (that had to be what it was) because, without her on the set, I made no mistakes, I got the job done. People appeared to have forgiven me for resisting my nickname and were nice to me again. A bit guarded, perhaps, but kind.

I really didn’t need their kindness, but I preferred things as they had been when Lisa was in Iowa. Away from me. Away from my movie set. Away from Arthur.

There had been a great cheer when we wrapped the last scene. That was normal. Time for champagne, and a wrap party. Time to perhaps convince Arthur that it was time to he returned to our bed.

Then, there was a hush. Then a roar of approval that was greater than the usual ‘thank God its over’ hurrah. I looked where everyone else was looking. There were Arthur and Lisa.

In wedding clothes.

My sister looked beautiful (how could she look anything else?) resplendent in white silk and pearls. My parents stood beside her, grinning with pride. Arthur’s family were not far behind. On Lisa’s finger was a large marquise cut diamond, startling in its quality and in the beauty of its settling. Next to the equally beautiful wedding ring, of course. The ring given her by Arthur. the man I thought would someday marry me.

It took acting gifts that I didn’t know I had to get through the next  hour. It galled me that my parents and Arthur’s expected (and literally insisted) that I go with them to the celebratory wedding dinner.

I sat there, watching the happiness all around me, but stopping just short of me. I made a vow. I would not let Lisa steal the only man I had ever loved. For this, she would die.

I looked across the room at my would-be groom, the husband of another, and found that he was looking at me. He made a gesture with his head to an outside room, and I followed him. Lisa did not follow.

“I guess we should have told you. It was just so fast. So amazing.”

“Spare me the details,” I said, “I know all about my sister…..”

“Look,” Arthur said, “We had a great thing going on, you and I. But I know you. We didn’t want the same things, Sissy.”

I closed my eyes trying to control my rage. “Don’t ever call me that name.”

“Can you tell me that it would have ever been more with you, S…ah, Joy?” Arthur asked, trying to be that reasonable, gentle man I’d fallen in love with.”I mean, look at  your track record. Who has lasted  more than a few months with you? I wanted some substance in my life. Not be a movie-star’s plaything. Lisa is going to work in Africa after she is finished with her residency. I’ll go with her. She is going to do great things.”

“But I loved you!” I said, my heartbreak, clear to me, in every word.

Arthur smiled. “You think you did.”

“No, I did. You don’t understand,” I said, tears filling my eyes and running  down my face. “And you don’t understand Lisa. The only reason she wanted you was because she knew  I loved you.  She knew. It’s been like that our whole lives. She acts very kind, very caring. But underneath, she is evil. Hateful. This is all about me, getting at me. Not about you. You’ll see it in time. Don’t ask to come back then.”

I turned and walked back to their celebration, and said my goodbyes. Then, went and bought a handgun.

I would have used it that day, but I had to wait. Arthur and Lisa left that day for a Baltic cruise and were gone three weeks. They returned tanned and rested. Arthur  bought a house, across the street from mine. He said Lisa didn’t want to live anywhere else. He tried to be kind, but I ignored him. I knew the truth. Lisa wanted to rub the marriage into every open wound I had, and believe me, there were many.

The day Lisa died was the day that my agent called with great news. He said that my last movie was number one at the box office and was getting raves by even the toughest critics. The ‘Baby Jane’ slant of the film got notice of the press, and Lisa was interviewed about whether my excellent acting had been talent or memories of sibling hatred.

Lisa, flashing her engagement and wedding rings said skillful things that made me, Joy, appear selfish, self-absorbed, and incapable of love or healthy relationships. “We have tried, Arthur and I, and we won’t stop. However, she’s always been that way.”

When I read this blurb, I tucked the  handgun in my jean jacket and headed across the street.

Lisa answered the door herself, acting surprised. Her eyes told a different story. The hatred in the slate gray/blue eyes was plain despite her friendly tone. I had always known she hated me. I just hadn’t guessed how far she would take it. Now I knew. Now, she had to pay.

I started off with small talk. Childhood memories. At some point, I would pull out the gun. End conversation between us forever.

“Do you remember when we were about three and Mom made me take you to Bennett Park? That day you got lost?” I said casually. I sat down in her formal dining room, accepting a glass of tea from her.

“I didn’t get lost, Sissy.” Lisa said, her voice jolly, full of kindness. “You left me. You took me to that clown that was blowing up balloons. You asked him to do a special one for me. When I turned around, you were gone.”

“If that’s the way you remember it.” I said, casually, sipping deeply from my drink. Whatever else my sister was, she made excellent tea.

“I remember it that way, because that was the way it happened. And the clown, a convicted child molester, took me home, but not before he had a little fun with me. I was three years old.”

“How could I know he was a child molester?” I asked, starting in my seat.

“Three!!”” Lisa spat out. “Three!! Can you imagine what it is like to have a grown man do… things to you at that age? You left me there! Four hours, while our parents were searching, he did horrible, disgusting things to me. Then, he said,  that if I ever told, he would kill our parents. I believed him. I never told.”

There was no pretense at sisterly love now. She was Cain, I was Abel.

“I was five.” I protested. ” I didn’t know people could do things like that….I…”

“Excuses!” Lisa raged.

And then, I saw it. I have never been the most discerning soul in the world, but that day, I saw it. It was in those slate gray eyes that looked at me only with blame. There was something more there. She was insane.

I started to get up, to get away from her, but she stopped me. With words.

“Run, you won’t get far. I was a very attentive medical student. What I put in your drink won’t be traced. I knew you were coming, you see. I knew that this one thing you would not be able to forgive. Nothing else I did even touched you. This time, I knew I had hit you in the heart. I knew you would not forgive. I was ready.”

I didn’t feel like anything was wrong. Was she lying about the poison? I didn’t know. Something greater possessed me. More than rage. I fastened my hands around her neck. She surprisingly did not resist. Moments later, she was on the floor, dead. And I was left with a quandary. I had killed my sister.

What next? I’d played a murderer in several of my films. My choke marks would show–unless she was found too late. Lucky for me, Lisa was very slender, and my last role had called for me to lift weights, bench-press nearly 300 pounds. Still, I drug her, feet first, enjoying seeing her once perfect hair get messed up as it moved along the floor.

No one was home. I supposed I was lucky. Lisa had intended that it be me that came out the door feet first. She had given her small housekeeping staff the day off. The fences in our neighborhood were too high to let curious neighbors in on the scene. I arranged Lisa in the passenger side of her  tan Mercedes with pillows, making it look as if she were napping.


We got to the ocean, and I tied rocks to her wrists and ankles. I made sure that no one saw. For fun, I made sure we were in Santa Barbara for this sea burial. I laughed as I watched my sister go down in the water.


Lisa was found, and the papers ran with the tale. It was a tragedy, certainly, worsened by the fact that she was newly married.

But what made it worse still was, just after the funeral, her sister, the great movie star, Joy Winter, had gone missing. The parents of the siblings were bereft. Both their children gone. There were no clues in either investigation.

But, I could have told them.

I knew.

As I had driven back home, I had begun to feel drowsy. Disoriented. Enough so to swerve a few times and nearly have an accident. I pulled over to the side of the road, turned on the radio. No music.

“Sissy, my dear, do you think I’ll go alone?” My heart began to race. Lisa’s laughter, joyfully malicious came out of the speakers. “I planned everything. A little taste of what happened to me.”

I heard a knock on my driver’s side door, and screamed. It was a clown. Waving. Reaching out. The door opened, although it had been locked. I felt hands go about my throat.

Later, when Lisa’s car was found, it was assumed that whoever had killed her had abandoned it there. Even in death, no one ever thought about me.

When I was killed, there was only one person who could have told you where to look for the body.

That would have been my sister, Lisa.

Trouble was, she was already dead.

And ever since I drew my last breath, Lisa has not been talking.

Hyacinith Buckett’s 12 Days of Christmas

How to sing it: (Sing “On the First Day of Christmas, Santa brought to me” traditionally. Try to imitate Hyacinth when naming the gifts. Have fun!!!

On the first day of Christmas, Santa brought to me

“A slim line white telephone suitible for the lady of hoooouse…..”

On the second day of Christmas, Santa brought to me

Perfect marks from Sheridan at University (you want how much, dear?)

On the third day of Christmas Santa brought to me

An alarm clock for getting my lazy sister Daisy out of bed…….

On the fourth day of Christmas Santa brought to me

A GPS so that I don’t have to tell Richard where to turn……

On the fifth day of Christmas Santa brought to me

A long sleeved shirt for Onslowe!!!

On the sixth day of Christmas Santa brought to me

A front row spot in Emmetts next dinner musical

On the 7th day of Christmas Santa brought to me

A postman that can read (surely I have more mail than next door!!)

On the 8th day of Christmas Santa brought to me

More socially acceptible relatives for my candlelite supper!

On the 9th of day of Christmas Santa brought to me

A backyard with a Merceedes and room for a pony

On the 10th day of Christmas, Santa brought to me

A Vicar who doesn’t mispronounce my name (It’s BOUQUET!!!)

On the 11th day of Christmas, Santa brought to me

A skirt that goes to my sister Roses knees….

On the 12th day of Christmas, Santa brought to me

Nothing because I want you to believe I have everything!!

Letter to a Racist

You were sitting, where you usually do,  in the back row of the dining room at the Hardees of Nicholasville. You were reading your newspaper, which you have, on occasion shared with me, when I asked. It was Saturday morning, and I was enjoying my own tradition (healthy or not) of biscuit and gravy, sweet tea and reading pleasures of my own.

Hardees is, like many breakfast-serving restaurants, home to many elderly gentlemen, often in groups. They have quite  lively conversations about what is wrong with the world, how they would save it, and why no one listens to them. You weren’t part of them.

You chose to sit off on your own, keep to yourself. I respect that. As an introvert, weekends are my re-charging time. I might choose to be alone in a crowd, but even with people I care about, I want to start off my mornings without being  required to talk or listen to someone else talking.

A  woman who looked to be of Hispanic ethnicity, with four young children, including an infant, sat in front of you. All the children were clean, appropriately dressed for the cold weather, and amazingly well-behaved. The mother went to get breakfast for herself and her family leaving two of the older children in charge of the baby, who was secured in the high chair Hardees provided.

While the mother ordered her food, she was observant of the table. I know this, because I watched. As a trained social worker, I know that my job doesn’t end at 5:00. If I see a problem–anytime, as a mandated reporter (as all people in Kentucky are) it is up to me (and others) to report abuse, neglect, lack of supervision etc. If we see it.

There was none of this.

While the mother was ordering, I watched the siblings interact. The oldest child was teasing his baby brother, waving his hands in front of the baby’s face. I started to say something to the child (gently) to get him to stop. But the baby boy took care of matters himself. He swatted his older brother! I laughed out loud.

The older brother took advantage of his age and strength and pulled the high chair over closer, the better to tease his little sibling. Bap, Wap! The baby slapped his brother again.

Chuckling, I made eye-contact with the older brother, who settled down a bit. The mother came up, eyes on the floor, heavily laden with food for her family.

Other regulars coming into Hardees readily said hello to me and others, made eye-contact, smiled. This lady did not look at any one. She efficiently  got her children eating neatly and quietly.

You were looking at the well-behaved family too. I thought you were seeing the sweetness and humor that I saw. I looked over at you, because I had positive experiences with you before. I smiled and said “That little boy can take care of himself, can’t he?”

You looked at me, and said, well within the hearing of the mother and the children, “What I want to know is who is paying for all of that? We are.” You looked at me momentarily  for confirmation of your idiot comments.

I have to admit, I didn’t behave well. I turned my head away, then looked back, giving you a  very disapproving look. A look that basically said exactly what I thought of your asinine comment. I went back to my book.

But I could not read. I was too angry. I usually sit, often across from you, in peace, and read or write as you peacefully read your newspaper. In fact, I chose to sit next to you this morning, because I had a guarantee of being allowed to read in peace.

However, your comments made it impossible for me to do that.

I got up, disposed of my tray, then went to the mother and her family. I touched the baby’s beautiful black hair and caressed it, as I often do with babies. I asked her, respectfully, “How old is your son?” Her first comment was a surprised sound, as if she were shocked that I would speak to her.

Then she told me (as did her eldest son, who’d been doing the teasing) that he was one year old. I said  to the eldest,  “He certainly knows how to hit back, doesn’t he?” The oldest agreed, grinning. I looked up and exchanged a glance with  you, because my effort to be decent to this family had your attention too. And I hope you heard what I heard. Everyone who spoke at the table spoke in perfect, unaccented English.

I felt helpless, you see, and wanted to soften the harm your careless, uninformed comments had done. But I didn’t want to be, in any way soft towards you. As I left the restaurant, our eyes met and held once again. I let you see the anger on my face (which probably made my features quite ugly) and I shook my head. I will not be sitting anywhere near you in the future when I come for breakfast.

Now, let’s look at a few things. The entire family had features that led me to think that they were possibly Mexican. I heard the mother speak to one of the children in flawless Spanish. I looked at them and saw the positives-what a sweet, well-behaved family they were.

From the mother’s downcast behavior, it was my guess that she works hard, probably at a job that an unemployed Caucasian felt too good to do. This was a day to take her children for a treat. And you ruined that with your callous, uninformed remarks.

This mother may or may not have been born in America. That she spoke perfect English (probably better than you) said to me that she was. Food Stamps do not purchase breakfast for a family–hard-earned cash does. There is no longer the large welfare checks that misinformed folks assume that minorities get for doing ‘nothing.’ This lady probably worked harder in a week than you did in your whole life to earn this ruined feast.

You looked at a woman of a different ethnicity and made sweeping assumptions about her. You spoke loud enough, perhaps noticing her humble, downtrodden way, counting on the fact that she would not stand up and tell you what to do with your ignorant opinions.

If I had thought of it, I would have gone to the manager, who I know well, and would have asked him to tell you to leave. However, he may not have done it–because he knows you well too. So, in a way, by not doing more, I contributed to the injustice.

What would you say if you knew this family was legal, had every right to be in the restaurant, and were paying with money honestly earned? If a loud Caucasian family with children whining about not wanting to eat, yelling and otherwise misbehaving had sat down to eat would you have said the same thing? And why should a woman who looks different than you (or me) have to prove her legality just to be able to enjoy a meal in a restaurant without the disapproval of others?

There are a lot of times, especially when I consider how much mercy and grace I have been given, where I overlook the poor choices of others (as I hope is done with me.) However, I can’t let your behavior go. You put your foot (verbally) on the head of a struggling fellow human being when you didn’t have the slightest idea of what you were talking about. That, I can’t let that go.

I note that people rarely greet you when you come to eat. I think I am the only one. And I have done that to make sure that you didn’t feel alone in this sometimes overly friendly restaurant. I knew you were somewhat gruff, and I sensed loneliness coming from you in the past. I offered you kindness, not pity, because of my perceptions–gained from observing your behavior. From this day on, I will not even offer you that.

Hatred ends up coming back on the hater. You lost a friendly acquaintance today. And, whether it does me good or not, after this blog is published, I will go back to the restaurant and talk to the manager and tell them what you did. If the  manager is the decent man I think he is, I hope, the next time you pay a call, you will find out what it is like to be excluded. The difference is, your exclusion would be based on something you actually did, unlike the woman you harmed with your words.

I am not ready to say it, but because God expects it, I will say to you, my hating friend–may God have mercy on your angry soul. I do believe that you need it.

Update: I discussed this with one of the managers at Hardees and it turns out that the entire incident was filmed on closed circuit camera. The manager will discuss this with the customer, who has caused problems at the restaurant. He will be told that Hardees has a zero tolerance for hate speech, and will be banned from the restaurant if it happens in the future. As hard as it was for me–speaking up worked!!!

Getting Rid of the Lace Doily

(The face of racism in America)

The candidate gave me a firm handshake and solid eye contact. I started to wonder if I’d been wrong about him.

Then, he opened his mouth.

“We’re going to get rid of Obama. I promise you that.” He swore to me strongly.

He didn’t realize he had just lost my vote.

He didn’t tell which of President Obama’s policies he disliked, or wanted to be rid of. He was much more personal. He wanted to get rid of the man, himself. Rid of Barrack Obama. He didn’t call him by the title that voters had given him at the ballots–President.

The (white) candidate used the president’s surname, without any respect for the fact that President Obama held the highest elected office in the world.

Was it racism?

I am not sure. You see, the lace-doily was out.

Hello, 2014. Some would say that the civil rights era has ended. We have a black President. We have had a black man to serve as a four star general and Secretary of State. The Klu Klux Klan makes muffled silly sounds from time to time, but they no longer terrorize black families trying to peacefully sleep at night, or earn their part of the American Dream by day.

We have famous black movie stars, athletes, governors, supreme court justices, great singers and many other notables in our society. Where is the racism?

I would assert that racism is alive and well. It has simply gone underground.

I call it lace-doily racism. I saw it in the indifference when the murderer of Travon Martin got off for his crime. I saw it when Marissa Alexander got a 20 year sentence for firing a warning shot to keep her abusive husband from beating her. I noted that some (some) white people around me were a little too quick to shrug their shoulders and want to get back to business (fair or not) as usual.

Racism, with all of its subtle currents, is the attitude that paints President Obama as ‘wrong’ and destroying the country, when, in fact, his presidency has spent less, warred less, and most importantly brought us out of a near depression based on Republican mis-management.

When his opponent Mitt Romney’s healthcare ideas were improved upon and ultimately made into the Affordable Health Care Act, it was white people who mockingly called it “Obama-care.” Now, many people use the term easily, not aware that no other president’s efforts to improve equal opportunity for all have been so reviled.

Senators, such as Mitch McConnell, vowed to make Obama a one term president. Most recently they have used the ‘threat’ of Obama as ammunition to try to destroy their political rivals chances. And the sad thing, Democratic hopefuls, who should know better, have played along, distancing themselves from the president.

Lace doily racism opens up the country club doors, but only so far. It has the attitude of “Yes, you can swim in my pool, but you can’t marry my daughter.” Seeming acceptance, but a guarantee of obstructionism if a progressive and empathetic individual tries to uplift his country, but just happens to have dark skin.

I love my country. I love my adopted state. I don’t love hidden agendas that border on hate crimes. I don’t love that some of our politicians in Kentucky and elsewhere play on the ignorance that has always fed racist behavior but stop just short of saying what I believe they really mean.

I believe that it isn’t President Obama, his personality, his executive orders or his way of trying to end obstructionism in Congress that is the problem. It is instead, angry, enraged white men (and sometimes women) who subtly hate, but express said hate behind vague comments and subtle innuendo.

America can do better. Let’s look at what is really going on. When mostly white congressmen block the President’s attempts to continue to re-build America, are they truly concerned about their constituents? Or, are they outraged that a black man had the audacity to tell them what to do?

Most recently, we had McConnell fans try to bully Allison Lundergran Grimes into saying who she voted for. This is an attack on privacy that is shocking. From the moment we step into the voting booth, and the curtain closes behind us, til the moment we step out, our choice of candidate is our own business.

The shameful thing here was that the question was even asked. Had it been a white president, would it had been asked? Grimes opponents were counting on her answer stirring up latent racism from simple people moved to be fearful of a President who just happens to be black. Instead, the askers of the question simply tipped their racist cards and revealed their hating hearts.

Tomorrow, we have an election. It is citizenry’s chance to send a clear message to those who hide behind the pretense that this country is anything like equal. That civil rights goals are even close to being realized. They’re not. The power vacuum is outrageous. The level of disparity between white people and minorities in the United States, if anything continues to be miles-high.

White men (and women) in power speak with a forked tongue and then act self-righteous when called on it. I have said before, and will say it again–if President Obama was President John Smith, WASP, would there be such a determination to cast doubt on a legacy that history will likely admire? Would they be so intent to turn him into a bogey-man to frighten seniors and the uneducated in our country?

In Kentucky, the President’s last name has been used over and over in a way that I do not recall hearing George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan’s name used–as if he is the devil himself.

We are recovering in an economy that was going belly up rapidly. Yet, the man can’t seem to win. What is really the problem here? Behind the lace doily, I believe we will arrive at the truth. And it is a truth that I hope will heartily shame those who have used the president’s name as a burning cross to obtain votes.

We are all part of one big diverse family. If you chose not to believe it now, I guarantee you will be surprised when greeted by our half-Jewish Savior. The gates of heaven can only be opened by love. It is my hope that the haters among us will put their lace doilies away and learn to accept the diversity that makes us one rich blanket of human beauty.