Take Care of Her – Chapter 3


Chapter 3

Merlot was easy. Not cold. Not hot. Not sweet. Not something she had to think about. Not something she had to remember. The first glass was fast. The second, she drank as slowly as she could manage, thinking about every sip. Still fifteen minutes before her therapy appointment. She couldn’t wait any longer. Gretchen gulped the last of the wine in one sip and paid the bill. At least it was happy hour.

Rachel didn’t call her back into her office until 6:02.

“How’s the week been?” Rachel started.

Gretchen’s eyes filled with tears when she answered. “Same.”

“That’s okay,” Rachel said. “Remember what we talked about last time. You’ve had a loss. And you’re grieving. The feelings that you are experiencing, that are making things difficult for you, are normal. And expected.”

“Still?” Gretchen asked.

“There’s no timeline on sadness. I think you’re doing fine.”

“I don’t feel fine. I feel like I’m dying.”

“Is that a reasonable description of what you’re feeling?”

“I don’t know,” Gretchen said.

“Do you think it’s possible that you might be mis-naming this continued discomfort? Calling the feeling something a little unreasonable? That while you may be hurting, that you know you’re not actually dying?”

“This isn’t helping,” Gretchen said.

“Why do you think that?”

“I know what you’re looking for. Yes. I brushed my teeth today. Yes. I went to work. I slept. More or less. I ate. More or less.”

“And you don’t think that’s doing well?”

“I also cry every day. I think about him every day. I hurt every day.”

“That’s absolutely expected.”

“Maybe I should hurt. Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I deserve it.”

“That’s a false thought.”

“That’s all I have.”

“Gretchen,” Rachel said.

“I know,” Gretchen said.

Rachel settled into a long pause. “What was your favorite birthday party as a kid?”


“A true thought. A time. A happy memory. Something you loved.”

“I can’t think of anything happy. Nothing’s happy.”

“Is that a false thought?”

Gretchen curled her knees to her chest and tucked into the upholstered chair.

“What’s another version of that thought? Take your time and give yourself a chance to remember. To really consider all the possible choices.”

“My fifth birthday,” Gretchen said. “My mom let me paint my nails purple and I got a white cat.”

“That’s happy,” Rachel said.

Gretchen nodded.

“Was that girl worth it? The purple nails and the white cat? Did she deserve those things?”

Gretchen hugged her knees tighter to her chest.

“Consider that as an equally true and valid thought.” Rachel made sure she had Gretchen’s full attention. “You didn’t ask for this hurt or sadness. But you’re dealing with it. You didn’t ask for the job of healing yourself, but you got it. And your job is to take care of that five-year old. So make sure she knows how worthy and good enough she is.”

Gretchen didn’t cry any more.  She didn’t say much for the rest of the session.

She listened.

His Trains

Two bedrooms.
Three babies.
Where does he sleep?

You have your dreams
wrapped and tied
with felled timber
and he’s left
to be your alarm clock.

To be the stark reality,
the cold winter floor,
the frosted window
in your cottage escape.

What you wanted,
then left,
now he’s left
to sure up
the beams
while you build
to the sky.

His trains
your blueprints,
and the sledgehammer
that knocks down
his insulation;
transport an awkward visitor
to your family gathering.

I watch
I wave.
I hope he
survives the trip
and wishing on rails,

I dread
his crash.

Take Care of Her – Chapter 2

Chapter 2

The tail of the ribbon draped across the letters of her office keyboard as Gretchen typed. She rotated her wrist and the satin swayed. She didn’t remember tying it there. She didn’t remember coming in to work. Or ever getting off the couch. The clock at the top of the computer screen read 10:52. She wasn’t meeting with Rachel until 6:00. She wanted earlier—hated that empty hour between work and that soft therapy chair. It was so far off. Lots of hours to fill. Lots of hours to remember. Lots of hours.

“Gretch, you coming to the 11? He wants the whole department there. Something with the EMR analytics.”

Gretchen nodded. She couldn’t remember the woman’s name. Her desk was around the corner from her in their hospital basement office. She’d seen her every day since they both started here seven years ago. Something starting with the letter P.  Everyone looked the same down here on the bottom floor.  IT.  Analytics. Environmental Services. Morgue. That’s what lived in hospital basements. She had to go to the meeting. She’d worked on that electronic medical record analysis. There was a problem with the voice dictation software. She hadn’t worked on that. At least she didn’t remember working on it.

10:53.  Lots of hours.

Take Care of Her – Chapter 1

(Favorite season means new fiction, new horror, new images. Slowly releasing my new short story.)

Chapter 1

Gretchen dragged herself through her apartment. She was sweating, even though she only wore shorts and a tank top—the same ones she put on Friday afternoon when she had come home from work. It was Sunday night. She hadn’t walked outside her door since then. Only inside. Pacing. Losing focus in the bedroom and finding herself in the kitchen, but not remembering how. It had been 47 days. They said, with time, it would start to hurt less. It hadn’t.

Why was it so hot? It was March. She walked to the door, to check the thermostat, but stopped at the couch. She was tired. Standing felt like she was trying to push away the weight of a dump truck with her feet. She needed to sit. So tired. She never made it to the thermostat. She put her hand on the arm of the couch and lowered herself into it. Her glazed eyes scanned the room. Didn’t see much of anything. Until the ribbon. It was wrapped around the base of a purple candle on the coffee table. She’d missed it.

They had gone to a jazz club the day after Valentine’s Day. Not this year, of course. Last year. He had to work on the day. She didn’t think she was a girl that cared about that nonsense. She didn’t want to be. But maybe she was. Gretchen didn’t remember getting off the couch, but she found herself on the floor, the red ribbon in her hand. The club had given those at the door instead of tickets.  They each had one, worn around their wrists until the end of the night. She’d saved hers. How was it still out? She’d packed everything away. Where she wouldn’t have to see it. She didn’t want to see it. Couldn’t. So, she closed her eyes. The ribbon curled in her hand. She heaved herself back onto the couch and fell asleep.

In This Wreck

In this wreck

This mess of


And collision


Trying to put two trains



From different tracks

Freight and passenger

Local and express

Arriving and departing

From this entangled heap

Of melting collapse

We had a ticket



Climbed onboard

And stayed onboard


When the

Course veered

From our plan

Secure in our seats

Until the crash

And now

We’re in the middle of nowhere


When we wanted cities


When we planned

For distraction


Pull away

Call for help

Rebuild from the ground

If the injuries aren’t

Enough to stop us

From leaving the scene

crumple up our tickets/maps

To stop the bleeding

Hide in suitcases

Among the clothes

We chose


To show

To make a memory

Of a tie with a pin

And a dress

With a rip

But those memories

Don’t always keep us warm

We wait

Prying ourselves out

Pushing off beams and

Coughing on dust

Not strong enough

To step away from

The wreck

Not ready

To walk home

Tear It Off

Tear it off

take the skin

Dig out the infection

Hiding in the pockets

It seeps

For protection

Let it ooze

Out to air

Dry, form your scab

Leave off the ointment

that only collaborates

to drench and drown

Your own protection

down in your guts.

Willing defection.

Can’t run yet.


The break will hold your weight.

The clot will staunch the flow.

The healing will come.

Tear it off.

Dance Around

Dance Around

Same steps

Count 1234

Take your space across the floor

Turn back

Count 5678

Position around intake inflate

We’ve learned the choreography

Lines and turns

Cross and counter

Point and yearn

To express this mess

Contract then confess

Drag the trunk of costumes


Away from the gaze

Of the

Why aren’t you watching me?

I didn’t spot,

I scuffed

Raked and padded

Weak arms, rebuffed

Front and back

Down and up

In and out

And we keep



Afraid to make a sound

To miss a beat

Spook the moment

Lose what we found

The flowers at curtain

don’t last long

New prima

you dream of


like new tights

Trade your shoes

but save your taps.

Sounds get better

even evaporated


Fills memories


Or waiting for the next one…