Friday, December 7, 2012

The Life of Orderly Chaos:
An online soap opera

Season 2 premier

January 7

Friday, November 16, 2012

“There are some things we can do.  We don’t have to take this lying down.  We can challenge this decision.”  Juniper has spear-headed a tenants’ meeting in a downstairs common area that none of them even knew existed.  It seems everyone is present.  The tension in the room is so thick it could be cut with a knife.  Some aren’t holding back how disgusted they are with this sudden inconvenience.  Some are hanging around the refreshments seemingly more interested in free food and evening entertainment. 

Geneva creeps in and pushes her way through the crowd, taking a vacant seat near the wall at the back of the room.      

“Some things we can do like what?  Those folks aren’t going to listen to us!  If they cared anything about what we thought, they’d have talked with us before making this decision.”  Maria’s tone leaves no question as to how she feels about the entire ordeal.  Valissa looks at her sideways, then rolls her eyes and shakes her head.  She sits with her arms crossed, hoping this is finally her ticket to return home to her father. 

“Unfortunately, this is what happens when we don’t pay attention to what’s going on in city government.  If suggestions are made and there’s no one there to speak on our behalf or otherwise, we get excluded from deciding upon the outcome,” Bethany echoes.  As any best friend would, she’s volunteered to help organize and whatever else Juniper might need.  

“Then, who’s our councilman? Or is it an alderman?  Whatever it’s called, I’ve never seen anybody around here introducing themselves even around election time.”  Alesandra whirls in with an armful of additional finger foods.  Tish is close behind carrying beverages to put on ice.  They begin to assemble the refreshments on the table amongst the others.

“What about the owner of the building?  He made the deal without telling us anything!  And I just moved in here a couple months ago.  Do you know how expensive it can get moving?  Then transferring mail and all that!”

“Ok, there’re quite a few questions we want answered.  Now, I think the first thing we should do is get an attorney to advise us of what our rights are.  Do any of you happen to know someone or have a family member that could help us out? Cost-friendly?”

The room remains silent.

“Ok, there could be someone that would be willing to do some pro-bono work.  I’ll handle it.  And… the next thing would be to find out who represents us on that council.  Since none of us seems to know, I’ll phone and find out whose district we’re in and ask a few questions.”

“Who should I speak with about possible relocation assistance, since we’re being forced out?”

Juniper’s hands are throbbing from scribbling the tenants’ questions on her steno pad.  “I’ve noted that also, Alesandra.  By the way, let’s give Alesandra a hand for these delicious refreshments that she’s prepared.”  A few tenants chewing on finger food smile and nod in her direction, with staggering applause.  “Thank you so much, Alesandra.”

Alesandra nods with a nervous smile, slightly taken by surprise.  The tenants resume their questions and complaints.

A stranger enters the room, his head swallowed by an oversized chapeau.  He leans against the doorway with his hands in his pockets.  For a moment, Juniper is hopeful that it’s the owner of the building.  She invited him via voicemail and email but never received a response.  He did send one of the maintenance men to open up the room for them, though.  So perhaps he did decide to show.

“Ok, so how many of us would be willing to attend the next city council meeting?”  Surprisingly, most the entire room raises their hands, murmuring among themselves how serious they are about challenging these decisions.  “That’s great!  I’m going to start a contact list.  You can include your name, telephone number, email address and whatever other information you think would be useful.”  Juniper tears out a couple sheets and makes a quick heading before starting the list circulating around the room.   “Beth, do you have an extra pen?  I have more notes to jot down.”

At the mention of Beth’s name, the stranger begins scanning the crowd.  Beth digs through her purse and pulls out a writing utensil.  She taps the person in front of her and asks her to pass it to the person with the list. 

“Beth, can we take a moment to talk?”

“The stranger towering over her shoulder isn’t easily identifiable to the other tenants with the oversized chapeau.  They pay little attention to his quiet request that Beth to excuse herself.  

 Juniper freezes as she watches Bethany try to handle the situation on her own.  The look on her face is clear.  It isn’t the maintenance man, nor the owner of the building.  “Sir, this meeting is for tenants only.  I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

“This lady isn’t a tenant in this building,” the man rebuttals, almost with a tinge of humor.   “But we’ll gladly leave,” he smiles as he takes Beth by the hand.  She tries to resist, but his grip is firm.  Some other tenants notice that something doesn’t look quite right.  To avoid further embarrassment, Bethany gets up from her chair and reluctantly walks toward the exit with her escort.

Juniper watches, unsure what to do.  She wants to call out to her friend, but doesn’t want to give away too much of Bethany’s personal matters to the other tenants. 

“Perhaps we can also get the media involved.  They’d have a field day with this story.  Local residents forced out.  All these faces in the news.”  Juniper’s message is clear.  The man looks around at the crowd, some of them still watching.  He smiles maliciously back at them before turning to Beth.

“Are you coming along?  Or should I plan on seeing you afterwards?” 

Bethany slowly turns and makes her way back to her seat, occasionally glancing behind her as if she’s afraid she’ll be threatened with violence.  She doesn’t say another word.  The entire room has an eerie silence.

He never takes his eyes off of her.  “Later then,” he announces before glancing over the room one last time.  “You all have a very productive meeting.  Sorry to have disturbed you.”  He gives another malevolent smile and exits.

“Alright, then,” Juniper sighs.  “Now, let’s make plans to organize a –“

Bethany bolts out of her seat and runs out of the room, startling Juniper and a few others seated nearby.  Some roll their eyes and shake their heads as if they’ve seen this before. 

“Beth, NO!” Juniper calls out to her, watching her run after her abuser.  “Ma’am, do you mind continuing?  I have to-“

“Not at all, honey.  Go see about your friend.”  A lady gets up and starts to make mention of other resources that could be useful to their cause while Juniper goes to assist Bethany.

The tenants all seem slightly shaken.  Yelling can be heard echoing from the foyer.  They glance at each other, not sure what should be done.  Some are fidgeting with their cellulars, contemplating phoning the police.  Others seem all too familiar with this scenario and begin whispering among themselves, ignoring the lady that’s taken the floor. 

“WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!?!”  Someone yells from the foyer.


Gunfire echoes throughout the place, followed by screams and gasps.  Panic and tension return.  Some run toward the foyer.  Others quickly dial the police.  aH

Friday, November 9, 2012

“These old rags will never do.”  Geneva pushes back the numerous “dusters” and house dresses she has accumulated over the years.  Grocery.  That’s all she’s bought for herself.  Of course, there isn’t much income to purchase clothing.  Still, if she’d have skipped buying a house dress or two, she could’ve managed to buy a new dress over a couple of months, even if only from the clothing barn or community center.  But then, why should she?  She’d never actually expected to get a phone call from Quincy asking her out.  Yet he’d called only moments ago explaining that she’d left a bag of cat food at the Cornerstore Market last week.  He’d suggested they meet for coffee this afternoon so he could return it to her.  A Friday morning date.

 Geneva pulls out an old floral print dress and presses it against her body while looking in the mirror.  As she studies her appearance, her eyes rest on the reflection of a photograph of herself from over thirty years ago framed on her dresser.  She takes one hand and caresses her face.  The years have been bitterly kind.  For a moment time flashes to the last date she can remember.  The silly feelings she had hoping to become Mrs. Wellman on that day so many years ago, only to be told that there was already a Mrs. Wellman.  The pain from that experience seemingly etched in her forehead and around her eyes. 

“Oh, this is so silly, PomPom.  This isn’t a date.  I’m just picking up my bag.”  She hangs the dress over the mirror and turns toward PomPom nestled in the center of her bed. “This silly old ninny left your bag of food at the grocers.”  She pets PomPom’s head and begins unwrapping the clothing from her body.  After a few moments, she’s changed and ready to go.  Her hair is pinned in a neat chignon.  She smooths the sides down once more before tying the scarf neatly over her crown and putting on her coat. 

“I shouldn’t be gone long, PomPom,” she calls out as she shuts her door and makes way toward the stairs.  No chance in hoping that the elevator has been fixed.  It’s been broken so long that she’d be afraid to ride it if it were.  Her knees question if Quincy is worth the effort with every stair she takes.  But it isn’t for Quincy she tells herself.  PomPom has to have his food.

It’s a good thing that the coffeehouse is nearby.  Geneva has never been inside.  She’s only passed by a time or two.  This seems a popular spot.  Lots of people buzzing in and out.  She marvels at them, mostly young and middle aged adults.  People huddled together chatting.  Some sound so serious.  Some laughing.  Quincy stands and waves his cane in the crowd.  He’s seated in the back near a window.  Geneva nods and makes her way through the crowd.

“I hope this wasn’t too much of an inconvenience for you.”  Quincy props himself on his cane and pulls out her chair.

“No, I should be thanking you,” Geneva laughs as she takes her seat and nods in appreciation.  “I’ve only passed by this place going this place or the other.  Never been inside.  It’s really nice.”

“It’s usually not so busy this time of the day.  The morning crowds rush in for coffee.  The afternoons are usually mellow.”  Quincy takes his seat and rests his cane on the back of his chair.  “Oh, before I forget…” he pulls a bag from the seat adjacent to his. “This is yours.”  He extends the bag to Geneva.  “Didn’t know you had a cat.  I can usually tell a cat person from a couple of feet away,” he laughs.

Geneva takes the bag and gives a nervous smile. 

“How long have you had your cat?” Quincy inquires.

“I, eh… I’ve-“

“Your coffee, sir.”  The waitress interrupts, placing coffee and condiments on the table.  Quincy gives her a nod and smile as she leaves.

“I hope you don’t mind.  I took the liberty of ordering for you.  It’s only black coffee.  Decaf.  Medium roast.” 

“That’s just fine, Quincy.  Thank you.”  Geneva and Quincy begin personalizing their coffee with sweeteners and creams.  Geneva takes half and half.  She notices a box in the chair that Quincy pulled the bag from.

“A package?” she motions toward the chair.

Quincy is puzzled at first, until he realizes she’s pointing at the box.  “Oh, yes.  I’m sending a care package to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. ”

“That’s very thoughtful of you Quincy.  I’m sure that’ll be much appreciated.  Did you have family there?”

“No, I just always try to do something to help when I can.”  Quincy sips his coffee.  “That’s just right.  Nothing like a nice cup of coffee in good company.”

Geneva smiles as she tests the temperature of hers that’s now cooled slightly from the cold half and half that’s been added.  There’s a sudden noise that startles them both from a table not too far from theirs.  Some patron emotionally charged over the re-election of President Obama to the point that he has lost his ability to communicate his feelings without all those unnecessary sound effects.

“Guess there are some still unsettled about the election,” Quincy scoffs. 

“Well, can’t please everybody,”  Geneva laughs.  Quincy joins her in laughter. 

The two of them sit for about an hour or so, reacquainting themselves.  Geneva learns that Quincy has been married only once.  A widower for only about five years now.  He has two grown sons that are also making careers as servicemen.  Geneva sits and listens to his stories with not much to share about her own. 

“I’d better get to the post office and get this mailed off if I want it included in today’s shipment,”  Quincy announces, preparing the get up with the assistance of his cane.  “Would you be interested in a walk to the post office?  It’s just right around the corner.”

“No, I’ve got to get back,” Geneva lies, not wanting to seem too available.  She also prepares to rise from the table.  Quincy quickly reaches to pull her chair out.  She smiles at him displaying such qualities of a gentleman, wondering how long that could possibly last.  As she picks up her bag and stands, she extends her hand to shake.  “PomPom thanks you,” she says while holding up the bag of cat food.

Sparked by the mention of her cat, Quincy inquires again.  “You know, this is really the strangest thing.  I’ve been deathly allergic to cats all my life.  Can’t stand to be within a few feet of anyone that owns one.  But…my allergies aren’t the least bit bothered by you.”

Geneva gives a nervous smile. 

The waitress comes to clean the table.  “Is there something else I can get you?”

“No,” Geneva nods.  “We’re leaving.”  She looks toward Quincy.  “Thank you again.”  Geneva begins to make her way toward the door, turning back to wave at Quincy.

Quincy nods and picks up the box from the other chair, never taking his eyes off of her.  “I’ll call again.  Another cup of coffee on another day?”  He asks.

Geneva turns and gives and affirmative nod.  “I wouldn’t mind that at all.”  She waves once more as she exits the coffeehouse.

The stroll back to Millford Estates is one of the most pleasant Geneva has had in quite some time.  Her knees don’t ache quite as bad.  Perhaps the small amount of exercise has helped, if only a short walk to the coffeehouse.  As she climbs the steep stone stairs to the entrance she takes in a deep breath and smiles.  Then she opens the heavy, intricately carved mahogany door and carefully makes her way over the threshold.  Some tenants are gathered near the mailboxes just to the left of the entrance.  Guess now’s as good a time as any to check for her new AARP card.  And maybe her new benefits statement arrived.  She slowly moves around the people near the mailboxes, reflecting on the wonderful time she’s had.  While fumbling with her keys she notices that the conversation from those gathered about sounds upsetting. 

“How can they just do this without telling us anything beforehand?” One questions with disappointment.

“It seems like we should get a vote or some say so about what happens to us!” another angrily protests.

“I just moved here a few months ago.  Look like if they knew about this they wouldn’t have accepted new tenants,” sputters someone else.

“Thank God.  I wonder if they’re going to give us some relocation assistance,” sighs another.

Geneva reaches inside her mailbox and pulls out a neatly folded piece of paper addressed to her and taped together.  She gently separates and unfolds the paper, squinting to try and read the typing that is already in large, bold print.

Dear Tenant,

Millford Estates will no longer be available as residential property effective immediately.  You are being asked to vacate within three months of this date.  Your understanding and cooperation is greatly appreciated as we continue to grow and expand in effort to remain a thriving city.       

Friday, November 2, 2012

Valissa rushes in the house and drops her backpack by the door.  Today was the best day of school that she’s had since they moved to this new school district.  She’s made a new friend.  Of course, no one could ever take Larque’s place.  But this girl will do for now.  She’s alright.  And she’s invited her to a masquerade party for Halloween.

“Mom!”  Usually she’s in the kitchen fixing a late lunch or in the living room.  She didn’t mention having to go anywhere before Valissa left for school.  Yet, she was nowhere to be found.  “Mom!”  Valissa peers out on the terrace.  No one there. 

“Dag, if I’d known she wasn’t gonna be here I’d have stopped and hung out longer.”  After peeping in the bathrooms, Valissa returns to the kitchen to fix a snack.  She removes some frozen appetizer from the freezer, unwraps it and pops it in the microwave.  Her eyes focus on the near empty bottle of Hennessey on the counter.  “Not again!”  A few paces to the bedroom confirms what Valissa knew to be true.  Maria was passed out again laying on the bedroom floor. 

“Maria!  MARIA!”  She doesn’t move.  Valissa stares for a moment.  She’s still breathing.  “This time I won’t put you to bed, Maria!  You’re a mess!  What is wrong with you?!?!”  Valissa slams the door and runs to her backpack to get the prepaid cellular her friends gave her.  This is why she doesn’t invite friends over.  The last thing she wants to add to her list of parental embarrassments is to bring company home to witness Maria sloppy drunk or passed out.  Larque answers almost immediately it seems after Valissa’s dialed her number.

“What’s up, chick?”

“Can you get Dennis and them to come through and swoop me up?”  Her fury is barely detected.

“Whut?  Maria lettin’ you out the house???”

“Let’s just say that the responsible parent pissy drunk and passed out is understood  permission to leave.”

“Gotcha.  I’ll be there soon as I can get hold of them.”

“Good.  I’ll meet ya’ll at the pier.”  Valissa disconnects the call and tucks the phone in her back pocket while making way for the door.  A thought breaks her stride.  She backtracks to Maria’s room where her purse is rested on the bed and uses her hand to fish down toward the bottom where Maria thinks she’s hiding her cash.  When she brings her hand out, there are a couple hundreds, a few twenties, some tens, fives and ones.  Valissa returns $220 to the “secret compartment” and strolls out of the house, slamming the door.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Another fulfilling night of culinary wisdom devoured.  Alesandra’s night classes are all she looks forward to.  Tonight while Chef Ingalls was demonstrating one of her worn out techniques, Alesandra was tossing around the idea of meshing a few spices with some lamb that she couldn’t wait to try.  As she enters her apartment, she drops her utensils and supplies on the kitchen counter and grabs some chalk to jot down her recipe on the chalkboard her sister handmade and presented to her as a Christmas gift.  She reads over the ingredients and smiles.  Perhaps this will be the one she’ll feel confident enough about to present to Chef.  Has to be perfect.  Finishing at the top of this class in this culinary institute is detrimental to the future she has carefully outlined for herself.  It’s the only way she’ll get ranked high enough to even be considered appropriate to apply for a position at a restaurant given 5 star ratings consistently for the past 8 years.  And the one time they received that 4 star rating was only because the head chef happened to have been out the night they were being rated and an overly zealous second tried unsuccessfully to upstage him by altering the original recipe.  Before then, they had consistently received 5 star ratings since two years after opening in 1974.  There was no other place she wanted to begin her professional career.  Well actually there were other alternatives, but they pale in comparison.

Once showered and changed, Alesandra goes into her living room to catch up on the Food Network programming for the evening.  Nestled snug on the couch with a bowl of ice cream, she tries desperately to ignore the pink elephant in the room.  That being the treadmill that was another of Tish’s brilliant ideas. Such a considerate birthday gift. Her conscious eats at her with every spoonful of ice cream.  She wants to get on it.  She’d promised herself she’d start out doing only about 15 minutes a day.  Only problem is those are the most difficult 15 minutes to find.  Of course, she could get on it while she watches the tube.  But, essentially she’d only be working off a fraction of the calories she’s added just from the ice cream she’s having now.  Not to mention she’s already showered and dressed for bed.  Finally she resolves to get up early tomorrow morning and give it a go.  Not to lose too much weight, but just get it better under control.  After all, nobody trusts a skinny chef.  That was one of the last thoughts resting on her mind as she drifedt off to sleep, only to be awakened by the sound of the telephone.  Tish’s smiling face lights up the display with the face time option indicated.  For a moment she considers not answering.  Her mother’s words that they look after each other always force her to include Tish in her daily life more often than she would rather have her. 

“Yes, Tish.  What is it now?”  Alesandra enables her face time feature and notices that Tish is still bubbling with personality and wide awake at 10:45 in the nighttime. 

“Lloyd is so through.  I can’t believe we’ve stayed together as long as we have.”

Oh, great.  She’s decided to drop another boyfriend on a whim.  “What is it this time?  He forgot to send you flowers for the anniversary of your sixth date?”  If only Alesandra could just get a fraction of the dates that this chick gets and discards like used Kleenex.

“It’s just not working out.  I kind of need someone a bit more refined, you know.  His idea of a cultured evening is watching reruns of “What’s Happening?”  Tish’s focus shifts.  She begins pecking on the computer.  “I was thinking I need to try a dating site because that way I’m sure to find a match with more likeminded interests that I think are important.”

Alesandra gives and exaggerated chuckle.  “You can’t be serious, Tish.”

“Yeah, I mean why not?”

Alesandra rolls her eyes and shakes her head, returning her attention back to the food network programming.  “Tish, you are so ridiculous.”

“You know, it really isn’t that outlandish.  I was watching a commercial for a Christian dating site.  There’ve got to be some better prospects there than those others.”

“Christian dating websites?  If Almighty God needs help from the web putting people together, then you’re crap out of luck.”  Alesandra is unable to suppress her laughter.  “Besides, I’m willing to bet that most of those men on there are creeping.”


“Of course, Tish.  Think about it.  They’re not really Christian men.  They’re just looking for what their idea of a Christian woman is to creep with.”

“Hmmm.  I didn’t think about it like that.”

Exactly.  She didn’t think.  “Since when are you so hard up for a date that you gotta resort to a dating website, anyway?  You’d do better going places where you can increase your chances of meeting the kind of man you think you want this time.  Your ‘pick of the season.’ Instead of dating men you bump into at the gas station, work or some night spot.”  Alesandra can hardly believe that she’s having to give Tish dating advice, especially when she’s not had a date in well over two years, now.

“That sounds reasonable, I guess.”

“Trust me.  The web is way too risky.  You never know what you’re gonna get when you hook up with someone face to face.  But all the lies floating around on the web…outdated pictures.  That’s a dating disaster waiting to happen.”  Alesandra sits up, clicks off the television and prepares to go to her bedroom.  Against her better judgment she blurts out a suggestion.  “How about you come to the culinary class that the school is hosting Saturday night?  We’ll each be hosting a table as part of our class curriculum.  The class is about $45.  The last time we did one of these there were quite a few noticeably handsome guys there.  Some of them alone.  So…”  Alesandra crawls into bed after tossing her spoon in the sink and placing the empty ice cream carton in the trash. 

“So what time should I be there?” Tish is still pecking on the keyboard.

“If you want to get your choice of seats I suggest you get there at least twenty minutes early.  They’ll begin somewhere around seven.”

“What should I wear?  I got some cute leopard pumps that I’ve been waiting to –“

“Ok, I’m not going to dress you, Tish.  But I do suggest that you not show up looking like Beaver Cleaver’s mother.  So, definitely no stilettos.” After snuggling in the covers, Alesandra places the phone on her nightstand.  “I’m going to sleep.  Register for the class online.  And you are NOT permitted to sit at my table.”

“Just kind of scan the crowd for me and point out the good ones then.  Oh, but why am I asking you?  You haven’t had a man in how long?”

“Good night, Tish.” Alesandra disconnects the call and the screen goes blank.  She loves her sister, but sometimes it sure is difficult to like her.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The night seemed furious.  There was rain joined with winds sweeping in a sideways pattern that seemed determined to force Bethany and Juniper from their path toward its southeastern destination.  Still Bethany and Juniper hugged closer together under their oversized golf umbrella that despite its sturdiness was about to lose its battle trying to fulfill the purpose for which it was created.  They were catching water from both directions, the sideways rain overhead and that water that was bouncing from the concrete.  Once within arms reach of the door the oversized umbrella finally gave way to the wind and flipped.  Bethany and Juniper squealed like high school teenagers at the cold of the water saturating their clothing.  Bethany slipped inside the doorway while Juniper tried to salvage what remained of the umbrella.  Alas, the wind had its way and carried the umbrella over the flow of traffic in the streets and off into some unknown location in the dark of night.  Juniper sidestepped inside and slammed the door shut.

“Do you think he knows what you’re doin’?  Has he called the thunder gods to conjure up a diversion?”  Juniper removed her rain bonnet and trench.  Bethany did the same.

“You think?”  She playfully responded.  

Juniper had pulled one over on Bethany this time.  They’d had a nice early dinner.  Friendly conversation likened to those that they’d had long before he came along and Juniper got hip to what was happening.  But once she got her in the car, she sprang it on her.  She says to her that she wants her to go to this support group for battered women.  Just sit in.  You don’t have to say a word.  Had Bethany not had such a pleasant evening – and had he not coincidentally been away at an art showing out of town, this time insisting that she stay behind – there was no way that she’d have agreed to tonight.  But as fate would have it, the timing was perfect.  Juniper had convinced her that it was more a favor to her as a friend than for her own sake.  Something to ease her anxieties.

“Ladies, welcome.  We’re about to begin.”  The hostess disappeared into a room on the left.  The support group was about to commence.  Beth froze.

“This really is a good idea, right Nip?”

“You don’t have to say a word.  Just listen.”  Juniper grabbed her by the hands.  “I’ll be right beside you.” She gave her a warm smile and they took a couple of steps toward the room before Beth froze in place yet again.

“Wait.  This isn’t really necessary. What if somebody recognizes me?  What if someone I work with is in there?”  Bethany was panicky.

“Beth, what if he never stops?  There really is no reason not to.  Just this once.”  Juniper rubs her arms and grabs her by the hand again, this time successfully leading her into the room.

There are woman and men gathered there. Many of them with the same look of shame, hurt and exhaustion that Juniper has witnessed with Bethany countless times before.  They quickly slip to a couple of vacant chairs in the back.

“I want to thank everyone for coming tonight.  The weather has made this among the most challenging of nights, but we still have a pretty decent turnout.  As you can tell, this room is too small for our regular circle, but we can still continue to remain open and uninhibited in our discussion.”  The hostess hoisted herself atop a table.   “Who would like to begin?” 

A woman bolts up from her seat and takes a breath.  She seems overly anxious to speak up, given the circumstances.  “I’m glad that I finally found the courage to leave my abuser.  I thought I was going to feel alone and abandoned.  But…somehow, I don’t.  I feel as though I’m doing what’s best for me.  Like I have a renewed interest in myself.”  The lady fumbles with her fingers as she pushes the words out.    “There were so many nights like this that I’d be on edge waiting for the storm to pass.  Not the one outside, but the one that would be brewing behind the walls of that house.  He would be drinking.  And I knew it.  I knew that if he drank it would be at my expense.  The scars.  The broken fingers.  The busted lips and black eyes.”  She shakes her head as she recants some horrific moments of abuse.  “No more.  No.  No more hiding behind dark sunglasses and unseasonable attire covering up bruises.  No more having to hear begging and ‘I promise I’ll stop.  I’ll get some help.  I won’t do it again.’  No more.  This time I’m going to focus on loving myself.”

Juniper’s watery eyes glance at Beth.  A single tear trails from Beth’s eye.  She reaches and grabs hold of her hand as the first volunteer continues to speak.

“I’ve lost a friend or two and family that I’ve become disconnected from.  My abuser wouldn’t allow communication with anyone.  But I’m going to get my life back.” The woman smiles and nods as if her declaration has finally been approved by some higher power.  She takes her seat.  Fellow participants give her gesture of support and encouragement.

Monday, October 15, 2012

“As I prepare to take my seat, let me share with you my vision of our future here at Millford Estates.  This complex was once a main artery of the heart of our city, erected during an era when life was peaking and the city was thriving.  It saddens me to change the beautiful skyline it creates.  The sturdy structure and maturity of the brick that has weathered the worst of storms and was a part of each historic triumph.  That’s why we’re not tearing it down, but rather modernizing the use.  Millford Estates will no longer be considered a residential establishment, but rather become a place where visitors can also come and enjoy the beauty that it has added to our city.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present The Millford”.  

Councilman Ford unveils the design model.  Tones that imply pleasant surprise can be heard throughout the room.  The contractors and partners that have been ushering the deal are smiling.

“It’s growth and a city government with its thumb on the pulse of the nation that keeps us at the top of the list of most desirable places to live rather than the bottom – or for that matter omitted from the list altogether. As your city councilman, I’ll continue to make strides towards preserving our stature among the community, the city, the state, the country and ultimately our world. ”

Councilman Ford smiles for photographs and waves to the crowd of business professionals gathered for a luncheon to discuss plans to enhance the city’s image.  The meeting, not open to the public, is an opportunity for business professionals to network and discuss plans to shape local marketing as they derive can best increase revenue.  Everyone is pleased with the changes he’s proposing.  The tenants of Millford Estates are not of the economic status that would help bring their vision of the city into fruition.  And after all, it isn’t like they’re forcing them out with nowhere to move.  There’s public housing and other low income-assisted residential options in areas where like-minded citizens live.  They’d probably be happier somewhere else.      

As Councilman Ford takes his seat, he leans in to his assistant.  “Can you get more speaking engagements?  Elections coming up and I want to make sure to remain in the public eye.”

“That shouldn’t be a problem.  Local universities are hosting voter registration drives.  Perhaps an appearance or two at a couple campuses could get you some great exposure with the younger kids.”  His assistant makes notations in an agenda.

“Exactly.”  Councilman gets up from his seat and begins mingling with the business professionals and contractors.  If this thing goes according to plan, perhaps he could use this as leverage to build a platform and run for a higher office.  Unseating one of those fuddy duddies won’t be easy.  They have more wealth and clout.  But Councilman will not be intimidated.  He has a plan and only another 5 years to get to where he wants to be. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

The hustle and bustle from grocery store patrons coming and going has Geneva slightly on edge, but it’s the most excitement she’s had since her last trip to the grocery store this time last month.  Ironically, she’s timed her trip for about the same time everyone gets their SNAP benefits posted to the EBT card rather than waiting a couple days for the crowds to subside.  This is really the only time that she gets to interact with other people, if only passing in the aisles.  Sometimes she catches herself paying attention to the other shoppers and contents of their shopping carts.  Entertained by the families and children that beg for candy and sugary cereal.  She imagines what life would be like if she were a part of their lives.  Their nana or great aunt.  She smiles to herself, so distracted by children begging for items that she barely misses a gentleman examining canned vegetables.

“Oh, pardon me now.”

“Quite alright, ma’am.  Can’t do much more damage than the price of these canned goods is gonna do to my fixed income.”  The elderly gentleman gives a hearty chuckle.  “I see your basket is empty.”

“Well that’s only because I just got here.”  Her response is almost curt, as if she doesn’t really want to talk with him.  A deception of too much time spent apart from the company of others, especially gentlemen.  Geneva notices his glistening smile and wonders if those are porcelain veneers or some other material.  Very unlikely they’d be his real teeth at his age.

“Then, you know it would really be a huge help if an old man could share a basket with you.  That is if you aren’t doing a heap of shopping and it isn’t too much of an imposition.  Those hand baskets are difficult to manage with my cane and – Oh, is your husband accompanying you?”  He looks around as if he expects to see someone join her from either direction of the aisle.

Geneva suppresses her surprise, uncertain how she should feel about his offer but glad for the company.  “Ain’t married.”  She replies almost as if she’s offended by his request only because she’s unsure of herself.   “I suppose it makes sense to share a basket since you’re near cripple and all.”

“That’s mighty fine of you, ma’am.”  He places a canned good in the basket.  “Lead the way.”  He extends a hand in the direction they’re taking in the aisle.

Geneva slowly begins to push the basket down the aisle taking notice that she doesn’t smell efferdent  but a nice mild aftershave instead.  Those couldn’t possibly be his real teeth.  She stops to pick up a bag of rice. 

“Uh, name’s Quincy by the way.”  He looks at Geneva awaiting a reply. 

“Geneva.”  Her response is less terse.  She places the rice in her basket and resumes strolling down the aisle.

“Good to make your acquaintance, Geneva.”  Quincy reaches behind her and picks up a bag of rice to add to the cart also.

“Suppose I should be more careful who I ask to share a cart with considering you almost ran me over.”

Geneva smiles.  “Is that how you got on that cane?”  They share a laugh.  “You got ran over by some old lady with a shopping cart!”

Once the laughter subsides, Quincy replies,“No, ma’am.  Not by far.  This here is compliments of the war.”  He uses his cane to tap the side of his orthopedic shoe.  “Some shrapnel got lodged in my foot.  Haven’t walked without it since.”

“So sorry that happened to you.”

“Considering some folks lost their limbs, I feel like I won the lottery.”  Quincy adds a box of oatmeal to the basket.   Geneva reaches to get a box of grits only because she realizes that she’s been so attentive to Quincy that she’s bypassed the black-eyed peas. 

The two of them continue to make light conversation as they peruse the aisles of the grocery store.  Quincy is about a few inches taller than Geneva’s 5’5 frame.  He’s husky from what Geneva assumes is years of limited range of motion from a war injury.  What usually only takes Geneva about half an hour has easily turned into almost three hours.  Never before has she laughed so much. 

“I’ve got my milk and eggs.  That’s about all I came for.”  Geneva begins putting her things on the conveyer belt with the assistance of Quincy.  Although she’s sad that this shopping trip has reached an end her voice still sounds light and happy from all the laughter they’ve shared.

“It certainly has been a pleasure sharing a cart, ma’am.  I, eh…”  Quincy laughs under his breath a bit.  “I don’t know how people do these things nowadays.  Could I trouble you for a cup of coffee every once in a while?  Maybe call on you to share a cart on grocery day another time?”  Quincy looks embarrassed.  All the charm with which he’s entertained Geneva reduced to schoolboy bashfulness.

Geneva smiles.  “I think that’s a fine idea, Quincy.”  As she pays the cashier for her purchase, she loads the bagged items into her portable. 

Quincy’s face lights up.  “Well alright then.  Let me get your number there.”  Quincy pulls out his wallet and shuffles through some compartments.  “This here is my appointment card.  I’m sure not to lose that.  Just write your number there.”  He passes the card to Geneva. 

“Could I use your pen, young lady?” 

The cashier smiles and hands her the ink pen.  “Congratulations, he’s a cutie.” 

Geneva blushes but avoids making eye contact with Quincy who is also smiling from ear to ear.  After she writes her number on the card she returns the pen to the cashier.  “Thank you, young lady.”  She gives Quincy his appointment card and he immediately returns it to his wallet.

“Good day, Quincy.”

“And a good day to you, Geneva.”  Quincy tips his hat.  He has all his hair, too.  Closely shaven salt and pepper stubble that trails from his head to his sideburns, beard and mustache.

Geneva gives another warm smile and pushes her portable cart toward the mechanical doors.  Quincy is so distracted by her that he hasn’t heard the cashier give his total, watching her until she is no longer visible.

“Sir?”  The cashier is giggling at their behavior.  “Your total is $21.40.”

“Pardon my distraction.”  He returns his hat to his head.  Wallet still in hand, he counts out exact bills before digging in his pockets for the change.  The cashier hands him his receipt and bag once she’s placed the money in the drawer, and he walks away.

“Oh, Sir!” she calls out.  “Your lady friend forgot her bag.  Do you suppose you could get it to her?”  She takes a couple steps to hand the bag to him.

“Yes.  I’ll do that.  Sure will.”  He smiles and peeps at the contents of the bag.  Cat food.  Funny thing about it is his allergies never gave him any trouble the entire time they were side by side.  He smiles again, resisting the idea that this chance encounter was somehow meant to be.

Monday, October 1, 2012

“I’m glad everything looks good doctor, but these annual mammograms don’t seem necessary anymore.  Exactly what age do I have to reach before I can take this one off the list of my annuals?”  Tish is neatening her clothes on her delicate 5’8 frame and playing with her reflection in the paper towel dispenser. “Because I don’t have a family history of it and I can positively say that this is the worst of them all.  You’d think that with all that technology has to offer they’d come up with a less painful method for testing.”

“Tish, I understand your concern.  Most of my patients feel the same.  And despite your complaining, I know you’ll still come and get your annual mams.  You just wouldn’t be you if you didn’t have more to say about it.”  Dr. Leslie gives Tish a broad smile and closes the file. 

“Sure, doc.  But I know that one less test is one less doctor’s visit.  Meaning one less family vacation to Italy if you have a bunch of women who stop coming in.”  Tish returns Dr. Leslie’s smile and opens the door to exit.  “How about if I refer a few women I get to skip a test?”

Dr. Leslie laughs and follows Tish out of the room.  “Definitely one of my favorite patients.”

“Then can I get something free for a few referrals?”

Dr. Leslie retrieves a pen from the breast pocket of the lab coat and hands it to her.  “There.”

“Wow.  That’s right, doc.  You’re always on it.  Make sure I have a pen to sign that credit card receipt.”

“The receptionist will take care of you, Tish.  Good to see you.” 

Dr. Leslie still quite amused by Tish’s humor takes a detour to the next exam room while Tish walks the hall toward the receptionist desk.  She’s digging in her purse for her compact and lip balm when sobbing halts her pace.  Almost without thinking, she tunes in to the cries being heard from the suite to her right. 

“You can’t be serious.  I thought the free mammogram at the health fair was mistaken.  The lady told me it was probably nothing.  But you’re telling me there’s really a lump?”

“The good thing is that we’ve detected it and can make plans to have it removed as soon as possible.”  The person consoling her wasn’t very successful because hardly anything was audible through her weeping.

“But I don’t have a family history or anything.”

“Unfortunately, not having a family history doesn’t guarantee that you won’t develop a lump…”

Tish resumes down the hall toward the receptionist desk lost in thought at what she’s overheard, her head cast downward until she accidentally bumps into someone.

“Oh, pardon me, ma’am!  I’m so sorry.  I wasn’t watching where I was going.”  Tish almost melts away as she observes the woman wince in pain.  She’s bald and thin.  Looks tired and weak.  “Oh, no.  I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

The lady tries her best to smile through her pain and nods her head.  “It’ll be fine.”  Tish notices that she seems flat chested as she carefully tips around her.  She’s totally distracted by what she’s heard and seen when a voice from the receptionist desk catches her attention.

“Ma’am…”  Tish turns toward the receptionist seated at the desk.  “Would you like your next appointment same day a.m. or p.m.?”

“Oh, um… a.m. is fine.  Same day, please.” 

The receptionist hands her an appointment card.  “Insurance still intact.  We’ll see you next year.”

“Definitely.”  Tish turns to exit the waiting area realizing that gambling with her health is no laughing matter.  She pulls out her cell phone and presses quick key option 3.  After two rings, there’s an answer.

“What is it now, Tish?”

“Alesandra, have you ever had a mammogram?”         

Friday, September 21, 2012

A rapid knock at the door and Bethany pops inside.  Juniper left the door unlocked anticipating her friend’s arrival for their regularly scheduled movie night. 

“Nip, I’m here!”  She shuts the door behind her and makes her way through the living room. 

“I’m in the kitchen!”  Juniper is preparing one of their appetizers of queso dip and chips for the evening. 

Bethany finds her way around the kitchen island and pecks her bestie on the cheek before removing her sunglasses.  “Surprised you could find some time away from you-know-who to spend with me!” 

“Likewise.”  Juniper smiles at her friend and pours the queso into a serving bowl.  “Pour those tortillas on that plate for me, would you.” She takes the pan and begins to wash it out in the kitchen sink.

Bethany obliges and eyes the drummettes on the corner of the kitchen island beautifully adorned with celery and varieties of dippings.  “Ooo, la la.  You’re getting fancy with the food now.  That makes a beautiful presentation.”

“Compliments of a neighbor downstairs.  She’s going to culinary arts school.  She’s the one who did that cake everyone was raving about for Thanksgiving last year.”

“Ooo, that was delish.”  Bethany swirls around with the plate of queso as Juniper places the clean pan on the dish rack and grabs the plate of drummettes.  They retreat to the living room and set the food on the table where a bottle of chardonnay and glasses are already waiting.

Juniper plops down on the couch and tucks her feet underneath her body.  “Work has been crazy this week!  I swear I almost called in today, but I –“  Juniper’s statement is abruptly interrupted at the sight of the latest of black and blue masterpieces painted across the canvas of Bethany’s olive-complexioned face.  

Bethany eases down onto the couch, what isn’t being spoken clearly understood.  Juniper smoothes the hair that Bethany has tried to use to hide the bruises away from her face. 

“What was it this time? You criticized another of those kindergarten scribbles her calls art?  Or he needed a realistic point of reference to paint?”  Her questions are somber and sharply pierce the original lighthearted tone of their gathering.

Bethany tries to replace the hair to cover the bruises.  “I kinda wanted to not have to talk about it tonight, Nip.  Let’s just enjoy the evening –“

“And pretend you aren’t a battered woman?  What?  Pretend that you won’t have to fake being tired and needing to rush home so you won’t be beaten tonight, Beth?”  Tears begin to glaze Juniper’s eyes.  “How long are you going to allow him do this to you?”

“Look, things just really got out of control this time.  I mean, he hasn’t hit me in almost a month.  We just –“

“Did you hear yourself, Beth?  Your idea of improvement is that it’s been almost a month.  I must be the one that needs to get help because I’m literally terrified here that one day I’m gonna get a call my best friend is in the hospital, or worse.”

“He’s tryin’, Nip.  He told me he was gonna-“

“Beth, if he’s not getting in the car and driving somewhere to get some help I don’t care what’s coming out of his mouth.  What? Do you expect him to tell you he’s gonna continue to beat you whenever he feels so inclined?  Are you awaiting a confession, Beth?  I’ll tell you this much, his actions are pretty consistent here.”

Beth tries to lighten the mood.  “Anyway, what are we watching, tonight?”

“Uh, The Burning Bed and a couple others, Beth.  Appropriate for the occasion I think.”

“Maybe I should just go.”  Beth’s tone is full of quiet embarrassment as she stands up and walks toward the door.

“I’m not the one you should be leaving.”  Juniper’s words cause her to pause for a second.  “You don’t have to stay with him, Beth.  I can help you.  There are people who can help you.”

Bethany continues toward the door.  “Some other time, Nip.”  She walks out and eases the door closed.

Juniper releases the cry that was reserved inside for all that her friend has allowed herself to endure at the hands of a man who says he loves her. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Life of Orderly Chaos

“For this recipe we’re gonna use bacon grease rather than oil.  So put your bacon on.  While that’s frying, let’s season our meat with a little smoked paprika and cayenne pepper.”

“Oh, no!  The only bacon I have is maple flavored.  That isn’t gonna mix with cayenne and smoked paprika.  Damn.”  Alesandra closes the refrigerator door and turns the tutorial off.  “Guess I’ll just fry this bird up the old fashioned way.  Nothing fancy, just good ol’ crisp fried chicken.”  Her cell phone rings and she adjusts the flame on the stove before running to her purse on the kitchen table to dig it out.

“Ugh, Tish.”  The face on the display betrays the intended anonymity of the call.  She pushes the green button and puts the phone up to her ear.  “What do you want now?”  She walks back over to try to decide what to cook with the chicken that’s already unthawed.

“Whatcha cookin’ for dinner?  I know you about to eat somethin’.” 

“I’m only having salad.  I’m on a new diet.”

“As of what?  15 minutes ago?  Girl, tell somebody else that lie.” 

The voice on the other end is equally as irritating as her cynical quips.  If momma hadn’t told her to look out for her sister before she died she would never take another of her phone calls.

“Anyway, you should be practicing cooking something since you’re the ‘aspiring’ chef.  Ooo, if you haven’t started cookin’ yet, why don’t you make that bacon wrapped thing you did last month?  And I’ll gladly volunteer as the official taste tester.  I’ll be over there in about 20 minutes.”

“Yeah, and you just keep on comin’ over here eatin’ my food.  I’ll fatten you up and you’ll be big as I am.”  Alesandra goes back to the fridge and takes out the maple flavored bacon.  “Lloyd won’t want you then after I put about 50 pounds on you.”

“Whatever.  See you in a few.”  Tish disconnects the call and Alesandra puts her phone on the kitchen counter.  She catches her reflection in the mirror and pauses, studying her body.  She and Tish are like night and day.  Tish has always had people showering her with comments.  She’s  light-skinned and thin.  She’s always had the cute clothes and the cute boys.  That isn’t Alesandra’s story.  Being darker complexioned and heavier, she’s always had to work a little harder to get noticed.  Her personality has to make up for what most consider a less attractive physique. 

She turns the stove off.  To spite Tish, she decides to put the bacon and chicken back in the fridge and takes out the lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers.  “Oh, yeah.  Tish doesn’t like olives.”  She grabs those too.   

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Life of Orderly Chaos

It’s Saturday morning.  Another morning.  For a moment Geneva wonders why she should even bother getting out of bed.  There’s no job to go to.  Nowhere that her presence is required.  Should she make an unscheduled appearance at the grocery store no one would notice her.   Today would be exactly like yesterday and the day before and tomorrow still another repeat of today.  Each day the same.  Each day void.  Then she remembers PomPom.  Yeah.  There was a reason to get out of bed.  She has to feed PomPom. 

Slowly Geneva swings her 70 year old legs over the edge of the bed.  Her bones make a popping sound with each movement.  My, my, where has the time gone?  Seventy years have passed.  She can still remember on mornings like this her mother calling to her to get up and go get some fresh milk and eggs from the old country store.   She’d hurry and get dressed because going to the store always meant she could ride her shiny silver bicycle that her daddy bought for her.  Those days were long gone.  All that remains are the memories. 

Geneva slides her feet into her slippers and eases out of the bed, handling herself ever so delicately.  “I’m coming, PomPom!”  PomPom looks exactly as he’s named, a big fluffy pompom.  And PomPom is all the company Geneva has, PomPom and her plants.  She never married.  Never had children.   Contact was slowly lost with all her friends as each of them got married and started families of their own.  New families met other families.  Soon there wasn’t much time to spend with others outside of those newly formed social circles.  And after her retirement, well, she gladly lost all contact with those dreadful people that she once worked with.  No one calls.  There’s an occasional wrong number, but nothing other than that.  No one comes by.  Not even looking for another apartment.  For a moment Geneva wonders how long she could stay inside before anyone realizes she hasn’t been out of her apartment.  She makes her way to the kitchen.

“Looks like it might rain this morning, PomPom,” she announces as she opens up her kitchen window.  “Which will do my plants some good.  I’d better put them out there on the fire escape.”  She moves the plants gently from their resting place to the ledge near the fire escape.  There are about 8 of them.  Different kinds.  She’d never be able to pronounce most of their names.  They’re just vines and leafy bushels.   After a few moments, she’s managed to move them all.  “There we go.  Plenty of fresh air and some moisture.”  She eases the window down slightly and turns.  “Now then, let’s get you something to eat.”

Geneva slides her feet over the stained linoleum and takes out some cat food from the pantry.  She’s entirely too stiff and weak to clean like she once could.  Some things go undone.  She thought about hiring one of those cleaning services, but for what they charge she’d have to go without eating for a month.  She’s one of those that’s caught between systems.  Too much income to qualify for anything without enough of an income to make ends meet.  All those years she worked for Mr. Pritchard she didn’t know then that getting paid cash left her with nothing saved up in social security.  And hardly anything available from the welfare.  Had it not been for that part time job she had kept, she wouldn’t be getting the few pennies she gets now.  As she peels the top off of one of those easy open cat food containers she walks over to PomPom’s bowl.  “Oh, PomPom.  Look.  You didn’t eat your food from yesterday.  And…this has gone bad.  You can’t keep wasting money like this.  Did you get into that garbage outside again?”  She turns to dump the old food from the bowl into the trash and replaces it with the freshly opened cat food.  “Why you would want to go out and dig in that trash when there’s good food here for you to eat is beyond anything I can understand, PomPom.”  She turns around and puts the bowl back in its place.  “Here you go.”  Geneva eases over to the chair where PomPom is resting and strokes him.  “I reckon we’ll go make groceries next week.  You got about a few cans in the pantry.”  Geneva smiles at PomPom and goes into the living room.  PomPom’s been fed.  She wonders what else there is to do.  What possible purpose could a day like today have for an old woman like her?  She decides to sit and wait to see if anyone will call.  Or maybe someone will get lost and knock on the door looking for someone else.  There must be some reason why she keeps waking up every morning.  Just have to wait and find out what the reason is.  She sits and starts gliding back and forth in her rocking chair, staring out the window at the rain.

There are many like Geneva.  Not necessarily tenants of Millford Estates, but throughout the city.  Elderly people that have worked their entire lives only to find themselves forgotten in their golden years and misplaced among the continuous quest for progress.  What plans could there be for people like Geneva?  Let’s take a look at local government and find out…

“Good morning, Councilman Ford.”

“Yes, Contessa.  How are you this morning?”

“Not nearly as good as you’ll be once I give you the news.”

“Good news this early in the morning.  That’s a good sign.”

“Those plans for the demolition of Millford Estates have finally found their way to Mayor Yancy’s desk, and we have someone interested in bidding on the property.”

“Oh, well now that is good news.  Any idea how soon before we can serve notice?”

“Once Mayor Yancy approves and signs, notices can officially be given.”

“Excellent.  Progress.  Cities thrive on growth and progress.”  Councilman Ford stops short of entering his office and turns toward the secretary.  “What interest does the bidder have in developing the property?”

“That I don’t know for sure, but someone mentioned a hotel.  I believe one of the other councilmen was talking with him about saving the structure since the building has a good foundation and is in the downtown area.  That seemed the most feasible idea.”

“Yes, tourism.  Great.  Thank you, Contessa.”  Councilman Ford enters the threshold of his office.

“Oh, and don’t forget about your 9:30 conference call with Mr. Trudeaux.”

People who don’t regularly attend (or tune in where available) nor participate in their local city government are kept in the dark about the plans that are being made right under their noses.  The tenants of Millford Estates will find out on the tail end that their building is being scoped to become part of the city’s urban renewal project to bring those that fled during the urban sprawl back from the suburbs. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Life of Orderly Chaos

Juniper Sturdevant and her new beau have been locked inside their downtown studio apartment for almost the entire weekend.  Needless to say, what began as a romantic lovers’ weekend has taken a turn for the worse.  It seemed a good idea at first.  They would spend a couple days spoiling each other to make up for an argument that the two of them really couldn’t remember the cause of at this point.  That argument forgotten only because of the new one presently brewing to replace it.   Once again, Juniper has made her best friend the topic of their conversation.  And as always, she’s displeased with what little concern he has towards what he describes as her “damsel in distress” lifestyle.
“You could try to be a little more understanding, you know?  I thought you had a cousin that went through something like this?”
“Exactly, and that’s why I can tell you it isn’t help unless she sees it as help.  Otherwise you’re only enabling her and giving attention to a bad situation.”

 Juniper rises from the couch and walks to the kitchen for a glass of water.  He can tell she isn’t the least bit happy with his response, no matter how truthful it may be.  He follows her to the kitchen.  She’s leaned against the counter drinking her bottled water.  He rubs her shoulders.

“Think about it, Jun.  The last time she was in a mess she came running and crying to you about how badly he’d treated her.  But then after about – what was it? 3 days?  She went running right back over there.  The only one that was still upset about it was you.  She dumped all that emotional garbage on you then returned to the source.”

“As thought provoking as that sounds, I refuse to turn my back on my best friend.”

“I’m not saying turn your back, Jun.  But do you see what this is doing to us?  We’re supposed to be enjoying spending time together.  Instead your friend with her psychotic codependent relationship has pulled us into that circle.” He kisses her forehead.  “Right now, she’s with him and probably not the least bit concerned about what’s going on with us.”

“I know.  I’m sorry.”  Juniper finally succumbs.  Her anger subsides.  She returns his kisses.  “I’m just not sure how to be there for her and at the same time watch her keep making the same mistakes over and over, you know.”

“You can’t help someone like that.  If she doesn’t care more about herself than to let that guy continue to treat her so badly, you caring more about her than she does is getting both of you nowhere.  When she’s had enough, she’ll do something about it.  Simple as that.”  Jun continues to playfully sulk over his candor. He lifts her from the ground and she wraps her legs around his waist.  “I am so jealous.  You are such a better friend to her than the girlfriend that you’re being right now.  What do I have to do to get some of that attention?” 

“You can…get a couple of your civilly unsocialized cousins to casually bump into him one night after they shut down the bar.”


”You asked. “
“How about instead we plan to go to that thing you’ve been asking about next weekend.”

“But, you said you’re strapped for cash this month-“

“I’m sure I can manage with some creative finagling.  Besides, I don’t doubt you’re worth every penny.”  They share a kiss.

“Hmmm.  In that case, let me thank you in advance.”  He and Jun continue with their playful affections.  Their lover’s spat setting the stage for a finish that made the argument a catalyst for a dramatic, passion-filled finish. 

Meanwhile, three doors down…

“Will you please get off of my phone!  I don’t have all that unlimited this and that.  I have a plan that calls for some discipline in how it’s used.  And I don’t appreciate you talkin’ up all my minutes about that ugly long, lanky boy!”  Maria leans over in her chair trying to peer down into the other room.  Her sixteen year old daughter ignores her tirade and continues with her conversation.  “Did you hear me, Valissa?!?!  GET OFF MY PHONE!

“Ugh, Larque let me call you back.  She trippin’.  How much sense it make anyway to take my phone, tell me I have to use yours then holler about get off the phone.  It’s like she forgot why she got me my own darn phone in the first place, you know.  But anyway, call me back tonight and tell me what Dennis and them was talkin’ ‘bout.  Bye.”  Valissa walks to the living room and returns her mother’s cell phone.  “Why we just can’t get a house phone?”

“Girl, who do you think you talkin’ to like that?  I know what I’m doin’.  You talk on this phone so I can keep up with exactly who you talkin’ to and how much time you spendin’ talkin’ on the phone.  Now, I don’t want no more police comin’ over here questioning me about you and I ain’t got no idea-“

“Oh, blah blah, blah.”  Valissa sighs under her breath and plops down on the couch adjacent to her mother’s chair.  She grabs the remote and starts to change channels on the television.

“What exactly do you think you’re doin’?  I was watching the news.”

“News comes on again at six and ten.  This show only come on this station at this time.”  Valissa ignores her mother and starts laughing at the television program.

“Lawd, have mercy!  This child gonna be featured on the ten o’clock news if she don’t stop actin’ like she crazy around here!  I can’t go to jail!  I can’t do it!  Help me, Holy Ghost!”

“Well now, I wouldn’t be watchin’ this program if somebody hadn’t demanded I get off the daggone phone.  I bet even the ‘Lawd’ got sense enough to see that.”

Maria stares with a dumbfounded look on her face.  “If I had known any number of years ago that you would turn out like this in spite of all that I’ve done to raise you to be a respectful young lady-“

“Yeah yeah yeah.  Save that mess, Maria.  You’ve worn that one out.  Try again.”  Valissa laughs again at something amusing on the television, not really taking her mother seriously at all.  “What you should be talking to the ‘Lawd’ about is gettin’ daddy to take you back so we can move up out of this stank neighborhood.  Movin’ me away from all my friends.  Then trippin’ ‘bout me talkin’ to ‘em on the phone.  Looks like you won’t be satisfied until I’m some dried up ol’ nobody like you with no friends.  Just sittin’ ‘round worried about who I’m talkin’ to… Just, psst.  Be gone.  Poof.”  She returns her attention to the television. 

“Valissa, we wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t gotten your sassy behind in trouble in the first place!  I did what I had to so that you wouldn’t end up like most of them other kids you’ve been hangin’ around with-“

“Whatever!  Lots of folks get in trouble, Maria!  Have you ever thought that I was tellin’ the truth?!?!  That it really wasn’t my fault!?!?  NO!!  All you can do is compare me to your precious Janine.  Who by the way did what???  Got grown and got up out of here!!!  She don’t even call, much less come by for a visit.  Does she even know we’ve moved?  Do you even know her number, Maria? Huh?  Uh, NO!!!”  Valissa stands and throws the remote on the coffee table.  Maria is speechless.  “But guess what?  I ain’t gonna disappoint you.  I’m gonna follow in her footsteps.  The first chance I get, I’m gonna do exactly like Janine and disappear.”  Valissa storms to her bedroom.  Maria jumps at the sound of the door slamming.  She sits there processing all that her youngest child has just told her as a tear streams down her face. 

These are only two of the tenants of Millford Estates at 1855 Millford Lane.  Two tenants among others who smile and pass each other day in and day out. Each one quietly living their own version of a life of organized chaos.