Tag Archives: drama

The Father Ghost of Jane Snitly by Matt Carlson

She had never really considered it. It was something that she’d just decided to do. One day Jane Snitly bought the auburn hair coloring treatment, went home, read the instructions on the box, locked herself up in the bathroom and one hour later it was done. She’d become a redhead at twenty.

On top of it all, she looked good as a redhead. It wasn’t the flashy bright red of some, but more classy, like Katherine Hepburn in the 50’s and 60’s. And so it was, she’d chosen this look seemingly out of the blue – thinking it gave her an aura of the beautiful actress. And yet, even while she looked at herself in the mirror, she couldn’t ignore the pressing images that assaulted her there…

It was a gorgeous Buick of light blue sitting outside on the street under the front yard maple tree  – to keep under the shade. It was a hot summer day in the valley. There’d been a woman sitting in the passenger seat. She was very pretty, quite well dressed and she’d come with her Dad who was now in the house. He was having a conversation with Jane and Jenny’s Mother. The two little blond girls were 9 and 12, Jane was the youngest; Jenny the oldest. The two little girls were intrigued with the woman but didn’t dare speak to her. They’d been playing jacks in the driveway.

Blue curling up smoke from the woman’s cigarette went into the tree itself – seemingly dancing with the leaves – and Jane wondered who she was: this silent friend of her Father’s. Jenny felt it too and the girls left long lingering looks in her direction while halfheartedly spinning and catching. Voices were suddenly raised within the house and Jane and Jenny knew what that meant: another argument between their Mother and Father. They’d known something was up as their Father had ordered them to ‘stay outside and play’ upon his arrival and that he’d ‘wanted to speak to their Mother alone.’ Hearing those words had created a stir in their young bellies, but they had no clue as to why.

The wailing coming from within was low at first: a kind of moaning. Was that human? They both wondered while looking simultaneously at the house where their Father was now exiting. He didn’t say anything to them except that he loved them and would talk to them soon.

Jenny being older asked,”Daddy, where are you going? Why is Mamma crying like that?” She asked while chewing on her fingernail. Her Father stopped and seemed to reconsider something. The woman in the car was watching intently.

“Honey, Daddy is going to go and live somewhere else for a while…. but I’ll come back soon and we’ll do something fun, okay?” This was a lie, of course yet he wanted to give them a warm fuzzy of some kind. A lie was better than nothing. And perhaps he’d made himself believe that his words were true. Jenny didn’t say anything and he got into the car and started up the engine.

The wailing from within the house went up a notch and Jane suddenly found herself standing in front of the running engine, standing in front of the car where her Father sat with a strange & beautiful woman. Jane knew what it all meant. He was leaving. Leaving their Mother; leaving them. Leaving with the woman with auburn hair. Her Father stepped out of the car and asked, “What is it Janie?” But a paralysis overtook the little girl and no words would come. “Honey?… Okay, I’ve gotta go now sweetie – move out of the way.” And just like that she did what was asked of her. Her Father drove away. The woman gave her a sad smile and a slight wave of a manicured hand.

“Don’t go Daddy,” she whispered as the car drove out of sight. She’d forgotten to breath for a moment and felt slightly dizzy. Jenny had run inside to see her Mother. Janie stood there for a long time. Watching, waiting, trying to figure out what had just happened. Her tears and the low moaning were suddenly hers. Her Father had left her. Had left her Mom and sister. Only a Father Ghost would remain now….

**** Explanatory Note:

Almost sixty years later, Jane Snitly (her name has been changed to protect her identity) would die of Emphysema at the age of 68. According to a certain psychiatrist, she chose this hair color because unconsciously she chose to be the woman that her Father left with. That means she wanted to be the woman he chose to be with. (To be the woman that her Father loved). At the same time, she also chose to be the Mother that her Father left. The woman scorned and angry. Probably too,  that both of these identities  co-existed subconsciously within.

That being the case,  the two inner personalities or roles were at constant battle with one another; that the Mistress hated the Mother and that the Mother within hated the Mistress…The Father reassures and helps in developing a sense of identity to children in a family. When a Father abandons his children or is absent, the child will constantly search out that Father image – an image that he or she needs in order to construct their identity. The child (and later on adult) will do this subconsciously, of course and unknowingly will set up repetitive failures with people, people that the unconscious mind will perceive as a potential Father image. This is called the Father Ghost. Many of us have a Father Ghost, though we don’t realize it. He hoovers there constantly and is played out within the people around us, especially family members or other potential father-type images. Because it failed with their own father’s, and is an unconscious functioning, it will fail time and time again. No matter if you are a perfect Father figure, the scorned child will find fault with you somehow. Until the child becomes consciously aware of what is happening (and learns to make a conscious effort to change) he or she will continue to destroy potential Father figures. It is something imprinted within and a vicious circle…Some people will find other ways of creating identity with the pathology of the Father Ghost haunting them. Some will choose to work in psychology, health services and even religion…Anything that will give them a strong sense of belonging and reassurance…

*** ‘A noted sociologist, Dr. David Popenoe, is one of the pioneers of the relatively young field of research into fathers and fatherhood. “Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home,” he says. “Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.”  Fathers have a direct impact on the well-being of their children. It is important for professionals working with fathers— especially in the difficult, emotionally charged arena in which child protective services (CPS) caseworkers operate—to have a working understanding of the literature that addresses this impact.

Such knowledge will help make the case for why the most effective CPS case plans will involve fathers. This chapter lays out the connection between fathers and child outcomes, including cognitive ability, educational achievement, psychological well-being, and social behavior. The chapter also underscores the impact of the father and mother’s relationship on the well-being of their children….

THE IMPACT OF THE MOTHER-FATHER RELATIONSHIP ON CHILD OUTCOMES One of the most important influences a father can have on his child is indirect—fathers influence their children in large part through the quality of their relationship with the mother of their children. A father who has a good relationship with the mother of their children is more likely to be involved and to spend time with their children and to have children who are psychologically and emotionally healthier. Similarly, a mother who feels affirmed by her children’s father and who enjoys the benefits of a happy relationship is more likely to be a better mother. Indeed, the quality of the relationship affects the parenting behavior of both parents. They are more responsive, affectionate, and confident with their infants; more self-controlled in dealing with defiant toddlers; and better confidants for teenagers seeking advice and emotional support. One of the most important benefits of a positive relationship between mother and father, and a benefit directly related to the objectives of the CPS caseworker, is the behavior it models for children.

Fathers who treat the mothers of their children with respect and deal with conflict within the relationship in an adult and appropriate manner are more likely to have boys who understand how they are to treat women and who The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children are less likely to act in an aggressive fashion toward females. Girls with involved, respectful fathers see how they should expect men to treat them and are less likely to become involved in violent or unhealthy relationships. In contrast, research has shown that husbands who display anger, show contempt for, or who stonewall their wives (i.e., “the silent treatment”) are more likely to have children who are anxious, withdrawn, or antisocial.

THE IMPACT OF FATHERS ON COGNITIVE ABILITY AND EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT Children with involved, caring fathers have better educational outcomes. A number of studies suggest that fathers who are involved, nurturing, and playful with their infants have children with higher IQ’s, as well as better linguistic and cognitive capacities.Toddlers with involved fathers go on to start school with higher levels of academic readiness. They are more patient and can handle the stresses and frustrations associated with schooling more readily than children with less involved fathers.

The influence of a father’s involvement on academic achievement extends into adolescence and young adulthood. Numerous studies find that an active and nurturing style of fathering is associated with better verbal skills, intellectual functioning, and academic achievement among adolescents. For instance, a 2001 U.S. Department of Education study found that highly involved biological fathers had children who were 43 percent more likely than other children to earn mostly As and 33 percent less likely than other children to repeat a grade.

THE IMPACT OF FATHERS ON PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOR Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers. These children also are less likely to get in trouble at home, school, or in the neighborhood.13 Infants who receive high levels of affection from their fathers (e.g., babies whose fathers respond quickly to their cries and who The Link Between Marriage and Fatherhood Caring, involved fathers exist outside of marriage. They are more likely, however, to be found in the context of marriage. There are numerous reasons for this, not the least of which being the legal and social norms associated with marriage that connect a father to the family unit. That may also explain, in part, why research consistently shows that the married mother-and-father family is a better environment for raising children than the cohabitating (living together) mother-and-father family.

It is interesting to note that, contrary to stereotypes about low-income, unmarried parents, a significant majority—more than 8 in 10—of urban, low-income fathers and mothers are in a romantic relationship when their children are born.

Most of these couples expect that they will get married. One study found that more than 80 percent expected they would get married or live together. However, only 11 percent of these couples had actually married a year later.

Why they do not marry is an interesting question open to conjecture. However, as Dr. Wade Horn, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has pointed out, it may be because these couples receive very little encouragement to marry from the health and social services professionals with whom they come in contact.

Fathers and Their Impact on Children’s Well-being play together) are more securely attached; that is, they can explore their environment comfortably when a parent is nearby and can readily accept comfort from their parent after a brief separation. A number of studies suggest they also are more sociable and popular with other children throughout early childhood.

The way fathers play with their children also has an important impact on a child’s emotional and social development. Fathers spend a much higher percentage of their one-on-one interaction with infants and preschoolers in stimulating, playful activity than do mothers. From these interactions, children learn how to regulate their feelings and behavior. Roughhousing with dad, for example, can teach children how to deal with aggressive impulses and physical contact without losing control of their emotions.19 Generally speaking, fathers also tend to promote independence and an orientation to the outside world. Fathers often push achievement while mothers stress nurturing, both of which are important to healthy development. As a result, children who grow up with involved fathers are more comfortable exploring the world around them and more likely to exhibit self control and pro-social behavior.

One study of school-aged children found that children with good relationships with their fathers were less likely to experience depression, to exhibit disruptive behavior, or to lie and were more likely to exhibit pro-social behavior. This same study found that boys with involved fathers had fewer school behavior problems and that girls had stronger self esteem.

In addition, numerous studies have found that children who live with their fathers are more likely to have good physical and emotional health, to achieve academically, and to avoid drugs, violence, and delinquent behavior. In short, fathers have a powerful and positive impact upon the development and health of children. A caseworker who understands the important contributions fathers make to their children’s development and how to effectively involve fathers in the case planning process will find additional and valuable allies in the mission to create a permanent and safe environment for children.’

https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/fatherhood.pdf

Sidewalk Seas & The Eiffel Tower by Matt Carlson

It was early evening and time to take Miss Busybody and her brother Federer out for their evening constitutional. Both of them happy and energetic. Led lights blinking on their collars. “Oh, look! How wonderful.” A passerby would exclaim. The lights of red and white, a beacon on sidewalk seas.

Autumn had arrived and time had gone back one hour. Fall back spring forward. Wet leaves attributed to two footed ants in bright green & yellow (clean up crews) who were running water off into the gutters. Never at the same hour of course and you never saw who was doing what. The ant queen was surely sleeping in her warren somewhere nearby.

One day you would perhaps see piles of leaves huddled next to the trees. The piles  would stay like for a long time (unless a nice wind came along), then you might observe nearby trash containers resembling starving dogs with rib cages full. Always hungry those dogs. Then maybe an employee nonchalantly pushing a chariot while engulfed in a telephone conversation – NOT seeing you if you passed them by, “Have I suddenly become THE INVISIBLE MAN?” thought Gelledge… Then water would appear, running down the gutters. Who did that?! You never knew… And there were days when a small green truck for washing the sidewalks would be there, with its huge tooth brushes and a whirling one. It could spew water in every direction. The man driving it saw you and would smile (he liked his job) “Ok, then I’m not invisible!” Exclaimed our hero. He could breath safely. He still existed.

Trash would stay sitting there for long periods too alongside household objects that people no longer wanted. Unclaimed. Big cardboard signs taped to their bodies like: NZECHLOP1255983. They were remnants of someones life – just sitting there. Naked, finished, kapput. Who had these things belonged to?  Where had they gone? Had it been their choice to leave? The city scavengers were never far off: the displaced, the poor, the immigrants with a kid or maybe a dog. Had they been swept under the rugs of the system?

Gelledge was bored of the neighborhood. Sick of walking the same old tired streets. The dogs were too. When they no longer wanted to walk, they slunk back, appealing eyes looking into his. They wanted to go to the park, of course…or maybe climb into a warm bed if it was cold enough. Living in the big city after the wide open spaces of Provence hadn’t been an easy adjustment for any of them. Of course, the walks were more fun with the many ‘pee-messages’ everywhere. Details of what was eaten, how long ago someone had passed by: biological imprints still easy to read after several hours. Friends were made on every street corner, an occasional foe. The foes were on leashes, attached to angry, usually bitter womenfolk. Thermometers to how shitty their lives were. It was rarely the dogs fault for their bad moods. If you were stuck to someone 24/7 who was unhappy, angry at the world and/or constantly afraid, you too would be affected.

“Why not take a drive somewhere?” Gelledge asked the dogs who looked up at him with anticipation. They climbed into the old station wagon and after trying to unsuccessfully decode the radio (a security measure by a previous owner) well, let’s just say that the radio would continue on in silence. “Oh, let’s go visit the Eiffel Tower!” Exclaimed Gelledge. He wasn’t sure of the directions, his smartphone again in the shop so there would be no GPS, but he figured he could find it. He knew the general route. And at this time of night they were few people on the roads.

In fifteen brief minutes, there they were! The orange glow of the splendid tower reaching up like an immense Lego toy in the night sky. A giant metallic penis of sorts, built for the World Expo of 1889, it had stayed & vanquished the debate of its construction and had become a glowing pillar for Paris. It seemed close enough to touch. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eiffel_Tower

The base of it was huge with its four gigantic pillars and never ending tower: up, up up it went! There were a few buses parked along the streets & darkly lit parks surrounding it on two sides with the Seine River on another side. Getting out of the car, Miss Busybody and Federer looked up too and in their dog minds were astounded by the structure, the lights, by the many people too, some with dogs on leashes. Mostly tourists but with the vultures of commerce closing in fast.

Strange small colored lights shot into the air under the tower and floated downwards, spiraling in blue, purple and green. Fun to watch Gadgets for the tourists. A large number of African men walked around with them & miniaturized Eiffel Towers and other glowing objects, like key chaines and even plastic glowing hair ribbons (which looked quite funny on at least one man wearing one.) They didn’t pay any attention to Gelledge,  he was obviously a native walking his dogs. “Fooled them!” He thought.

They walked across the street to get some perspective of the huge structure. Then suddenly the tower began to twinkle with a thousand lights: white dots of illuminated butterflies in an October Parisian sky. It was warm; the people happy. People chatted, hugged, kissed, played. There was tenderness in the air. There was music too. Someone had brought his sound system, a guitar and a cup for money offerings. He was actually pretty good, singing in English and French & with a very nice tenor voice. There were easily about 50 to 60 people standing around nonchalantly listening to him. He was tall, nice looking & French. Gelledge would’ve liked to chat with him, but didn’t dare. He was on stage performing, even if it was on a sidewalk in a park at night. He would have to come back.

Next a walk under the tower itself & along with that the strong smell of ‘I WANT YOUR MONEY” in the air. Many people of all nationalities wandering about or standing in line. Millions of people came here every year. The tower attracted a multitude of languages & cultures from throughout the world.

A few people stopped to pet the two dogs and ask a few questions. Then an older man came along with a beagle and tried to communicate something. He kept making biting movements with his lips. Was it because Miss Busybody hadn’t taken to him or Chuck the dog? His French was limited. Miss Busybody barked protectively. Federer sniffed Chuck who was wearing a pretty cool grey and beige sweater, his well shaped head almost entirely black. He was cute as  a bug in a rug, (well cuter even) because let’s face it: bugs are not cute in rugs. http://rugchick.com/rug-eating-bugs-what-to-do-about-them/ They slowly edged away from the man, seemingly nice but totally not understandable with his gibberish.

It had been an eye opening experience to visit the Eiffel Tower this way. Driving at night was a great way to visit Paris. During the day time there were too many people, cars, trucks, the buses and taxis, the pedestrians… Getting away from the toxic atmosphere of the chateau too, had also been a good thing.

He would try to forget the nasty hate mail received from his ex’s lawyer the other day: a letter full of lies and inexactness wrapped up in legal jargon.  http://nobullying.com/borderline-personality-disorder/

Once again, Gelledge would have to counter deceit, counter hatefulness, counter jealousy. “Don’t stare at the past,” he reminded himself. “You’re not going that way.”

walking into the future

walking into the future

Change In The Air at The Château de La Reine Blanche by Matt Carlson

Cars sped by on the cobble stoned road. People ran around inside the Rene La Gall Square in their jogging clothes & earphones. Gelledge with slumber in his eyes, similar to having a sleeping bag on his head, walked around & outside of the square. It was chilly early morning: the leaves already carpeting the dirt  but mostly cement floors. His two small off leash dogs sniffed and peed alongside while visiting the row of trees on the outside of the square. Inside the park, two men were holding canon-like devices and blowing leaves and other debris off into a corner. The noise was annoying to say the least.

A woman with large breasts and a large basset hound walked by smiling at the two small white dogs. The three dogs stopped, sniffed butts, each taking a pee, then went away from each other – apparently there wasn’t much to communicate today. The woman wished Gelledge a nice day and walked off – her breasts rising as she did so. Gelledge spoke briefly to a pleasant man in black while their dogs made acquaintance with one another: this time a beige blind Pug.

Back at Le Château, Patches lay in bed half asleep,  knowing that someone would be coming soon to get her up. She had as usual, peed on herself during the night but the huge diaper with double protection absorbed most of it. She didn’t really care about things like that any more. Her brain was on a defensive roll. It kept her from realizing what a horrendous state she was in, constantly keeping her from seeing the hard reality that was.

A few weeks ago she had stated to Gelledge who rented her alcove, “I’m thinking about getting an electric car subscription…” Gelledge had looked at her with mild surprise. “You do realize that you are in a wheel chair and that you can barely use your right hand to stuff food in your mouth, right?” There was a pause. “I don’t wanna break your bubble, but you know that’s impossible right?”

It was brutal perhaps, but with everything in perspective, it was only very honest. Patches was ‘out of her hat’ so to speak and no one was saying anything. She spent her days, from the time getting up until going to bed in conflict with everyone around her. Unfortunately, her mouth& tongue still worked – not very well but enough to piss everyone and the queen of England off, so to speak.

If it wasn’t “Merde, merde, merde,” it was “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” or telling the poor cat  named Bat-cat, “Get down Bat-cat, down, down…,” from where ever the cat was. Or it was “No, Bat-cat, no, no Bat-cat!” and so on. Or she would make phone calls, which sounded always the same: “Phuckett. P-H-U-C-K-E-T-T…my number is….” It was always about an order for something, pills, diapers, clothes… And often times the person on the other line had a hard time understanding what she was saying. During the day as she had nothing to do but eat, go to the toilet and make green stools and piss (she did that a lot) she tried to tell people what to do & constantly. Needless to say, the hired help (mostly paid through the social system) were always leaving. No one could put with her for very long…And in Patches’ mind, all was well. She refused to see her true state of ineptitude on all levels. In her mind she was still designing rocket engines to go into space and the people picking up or cleaning her inert body were secretaries, assistant engineers or associates of the firm.

Brandon, her live in helper was also at the end of his rope. He could hardly speak civil like to her any more; and it was rubbing off in other directions and onto other people. His self imposed 24/7 enclosure in his bedroom was getting to him – that and no girls! Yes, all work and no play was not healthy and the word work wasn’t so easy to define anymore either. He felt like he was always working, but in truth he was unfocused. Nothing was really getting accomplished. Dealing with Patches just made things worse.

And Mahta, the tall, beautiful black as night Camorian had left the fold, or rather had been fired months before. She hadn’t told him about the baby. a little baby Brandon of sorts, named Ahmed jr.

Maybe if he’s known that he’d had a son, life would be very different. Patches yelled from downstairs, “Rob, wil yi tk mo t th tlet pleeze..?” It was hard to decipher what she was asking, but he knew. He waited for the phone to ring, the answering machine to pick up, then finished reading his article before going downstairs.

PARIS TIMES: A Tale of PURE fiction… by M. Carlson

PARIS TIMES: A Tale of PURE fiction…

(N° 21 “GOOD NEWS”)

by Matt Carlson

The downstairs cricket-sounding-squeaking’ of Patches’ wheelchair rose and permeated through the air. From the upstairs closed bedroom door, the sound wafted upwards like a sour vapour-odor from a tired Chinese restaurant kitchen. When ‘Tony’ the lift mechanism was wheeled around to pick Patches up and set her down on the toilet, one might think that you were reliving Orson Wells War of The Worlds. “Squeak, squeak, squeak,” it went. Add to that picture the illusion of two giant Gary Larson grasshoppers’ downstairs  & their high pitch speaking to each other & you get the ambiance of what morning life was like at Le Chateau de la Reine Blanche.

Gelledge sat upstairs in his newly acquired alcove, Patches’ once upon a time office which she could no longer use. She had had installed years earlier an electronic chair attached to the wall leading up the stairwell to take her upstairs and that worked for a while, but nowadays it was way too complicated. Today Gelledge was using the open space upstairs as his temporary boudoir, complete with a folded mattress, a guitar, a piano and cartons holding books and personal documents. His arrival in Paris seemed to be filled with a rather cold welcoming. Perhaps, he thought, if he’d still been in his 20’s or 30’s more doors would’ve opened. But being in his fifties, well one didn’t get the same reception. Ah, youth & beauty, gone so quickly! And musician friend Brandon had left for 2 and a half months leaving Gelledge alone to deal with Patches and her lunatic personality over the summer. It had been a hot & muggy summer of solitude.

In August people went on vacation in France – the Parisian streets practically empty, only tourists invaded the historical monuments and streets of the capitol. If you were trying to organize your life at this moment in France, you would of course be sorely disappointed. And Gelledge was.

His brain, heart and soul were feeling battered. His body tired thanks to becoming a vegetarian. Vegetable protein was not cutting it. He didn’t know enough motivating recipes to replace missing proteins. His body began to tire. He’d had to take a month of tennis tournaments off to build muscle back up by eating chicken and fish – after that he had felt better…

Adding to his frustration before moving to Paris had been the on line “cat fishing fraud” (supposedly from Nigeria), the disastrous break up with O. and his BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), being locked out of his own house in the south of France and his email and bank accounts, the 5 months of the dogs being kept away from him (at the psychopathic ex-mother-in-law’s – where O. was living), the cat theft of poor “Truc” (again the mother-in-law), the frankly hateful attitude of O. and his family. All that had been a trying experience. And it wasn’t completely over yet either. There were dues to be paid by O. and his Mother! Gelledge would make sure that justice prevailed. He had given too much over those ten years to see his investment just be taken away like that.

“Hello?”  A groggy voice replied. The tenth phone call was finally answered in California.

“Miguel, is that you?”

“Hey bro! How you doin’?” They were both glad to be speaking to each other.

“Do you get my letter?” Gelledge asked.

“Yea, I did. You’re funny. That was great dude. So, you’re thinking of moving back? That is sooo cool. You know we’re all jazzed with you coming back!” There were smiles on both ends of the telephone.

“That nice to hear, little bro’. Of course nothing is confirmed yet, but 85% of it is. I’m close to deciding, but still have some things to work out before doing that.”

“Well, hurry up and get your butt over here – Janie and the kids are super excited!”

The conversation went on for over an hour and a conference call set up the next two days to talk about details. Gelledge was still not decided. A big part of him wanted to be with family and catch up on lost time!  He didn’t want life to go by and wake up finding that it was too late. The idea of living in Fresno itself could be a deal breaker though. It was a ‘Bible thumping right wing homophobic hot as hell in the summer city’ with a terrible urban sprawl problem. Religion was rampant and there were major drug problems.

Chatting with his older brother Kirk on social media, he got a nice response to the idea of a possible return,  though the old Anglo – protestant – morality did slip out just a bit: “What are you going to do about a job and your meds?” It was a good question and the exclamation points did multiply with the second message – once it was pointed out they were lacking in the earlier message. Kirk had blossomed into someone else since finding his new wife Rebecca Anne. She was full of life and love – she brought him back home to himself. They seemed to complete each other somehow.

The second oldest brother Mirky-Mirk had a completely different response upon receiving an email of the good news. It went: ‘Wow….er…I hope that works out for you. Well, if you’re going to stay at Miguel’s – they’ve had a lot of stuff to deal with. I really love them a lot and don’t want to see them suffer. You need to really consider what affect that could have on their lives. So make it a short visit.’ End of email.

“Wtf?” Voiced Gelledge out loud to no one.  “That was not a welcome. That was….hmmmm…”

He’d have to think about that something else altogether. He had left his home town initially 35 years ago. A lot of water had passed under the bridge.

Still, it was a bummer and had forced Gelledge to think twice about the decision some more. Apparently everyone’s arms were not going to open wide and close with a hug. There was something else there. He thought back about his visit to Fresno over the spring. He had not returned home for fifteen years and Mirky-Mirk hadn’t come over to see him. They were finally invited (with Miguel, Janie and the kids) for dinner  a week later, which had been very strange. Normally, if you haven’t seen your brother for fifteen years (since their Mom had passed away) wouldn’t you be excited to see your brother? Wouldn’t you run over to where your loved one was and give a big hug? Well, that didn’t happen. There was a hug, but it was a week late & there was a halfness to it. Something unsaid. A holding back. Mirky-Mirk had drastically changed. He was older with thinning hair, overweight and in his eyes: guardedness. His voice too had changed.

The conversation was eased into, as the evening wore on during that dinner. Not exactly like buttermilk on pig’s skin, or maybe like buttermilk but curdled with lumps.  They had had a lot to say to each other, yet there had been no heart to heart. Parts of other conversations were shared with bits and pieces left out; Stories too, that had to be told and some memories. But Mirky-Mirk was waiting for reprisal, though none came. His brother was there to see him and that was that.

Those emails once back in Paris – there had been several  – with the good news hadn’t been pleasant. And because words had to be answered with words,  sharp ones came out that hurt, like small boxing jabs. It was enough to damage a newly walking on egg shells relationship. A budding flower beheaded before its time. Then the emails stopped. Mirky-Mirk was angry at being told off. He had been told: “No” and “You’re stepping out of line”.  That had pissed him off. Then he had been asked, “Where’s your joy?” That one was way too big, because there wasn’t any. And that made him mad too.

The heavy sitting anger already there mixed with self pity and loathing began their daily snack of his insides. All was projected outwards like stars spewing from an exploding internal universe.  His mind sat there locked in its cage. Metal bars keeping him from himself, his happiness. Where had those bars come from?

Mirky-Mirk saw his brother as some kind of threat – though it wasn’t really clear why. The “Frenchie” was coming home. Everyone loved him so much! But what about him?! He had stayed – he hadn’t run away to Europe away from the family!  He had taken care of Mom until she died; he had taken care of Dad & had been there for both funerals! Even Kirk had been too far away to be really helpful. He had been the only steady one, had done everything they’d asked of him and got nothing in return. His business had fallen apart, his wife and the distance between them…

Suddenly, he thought of his life. He hated it. The only good thing he saw was his daughter’s success and happiness. Everything else had been a bust.

Well, he still had Jesus though He wasn’t giving any answers today.

“Murder at Le Château de la Reine Blanche” by matt carlson

The discovery had been made late morning by Carlotta the fortyish Bulgarian housekeeper. Her screams echoing in the 15th century courtyard. Patches was dead. Her normally propped up feet on “Bahh – bahh” her favorite sheep-like cushion were astray, at an unsettling angle, the disheveled blankets off to one side, her smart phone on the floor, crushed. The worst thing was the terrified look on Patches’ face: eyes bugging out, mouth askew, like a dead carp in the frozen goods department. Time of death was noted by the coroner at around three in the morning.

“I cannot beveive it,”  said Carlotta in her Bulgarian accent. “Voo vould keill Madame Patches? I am soo, how you say, distravt?” The used hankerchief dabbled at fake tears upon her cheeks while speaking to the police officer. She was sad, but – about the money – not about Patches death. She would no longer be paid twenty euros an hour,  a fortune in her home country.

The staff was notified that their hours would be cut back entirely, Shocked to hear about Patches’ death, most felt little sympathy for her. Big Dick (aka Nick) was a bit shaken when Clover, from the agency called him.

“What? What do you mean someone killed her? What was the cause of death?” He asked sounding upset. A possible suspect, he had had good reason to kill her after what she’d done to him time and time again. But he had appreciated the tips she gave him afterwards, its just he felt so used and woud immediately take a shower.

“Well Big, it looks like she was smothered to death by a pillow,” responded Clover. “Yet they say she had a pink pill stuck in her gullet! Being that she couldn’t take a pill without someone assisting her, that means that the person knew her…But who would give her a pill at three in the morning?”

“That is strange,” concurred Big Dick. “Smothered by a pillow? I guess that would be the easiest way….Where was Brandon? Wasn’t he upstairs as usual?”

“Well, no. He’s still in America visiting his family near Chicago….She was alone at nights – Gelledge left some time ago to live elsewhere….The killer could be anyone of us! I mean, we all hated her, right? She was so mean. Well, I mean, I wouldn’t have killed her, but sure would have loved to slap her up the side of the head a few times… ha, ha, ha – now it’s too late..!” She laughed over the phone.

“Yea, right, or maybe velcro a used diaper on her head just for laughs!” They snickered and howeled, each adding a new and fun way to humiliate the now dead Patches. “We could’ve closed the micro-wave and told her we’d leave it that way!” or “”Put her only halfway on the toilet”…It was cruel and silly, but took away some of the nervous tension. Tension that was partly about the murder, of course, but underlying sexual tension too. Clover had often wondered about the rumors concerning “Big”, and after all, he was rather attractive, tall with dark hair & a charming personality.

Big Dick also enjoyed their ‘Tête-à- tête’ discussions  and appreciated Clover’s blond hair, cute face and perky breasts – like small melons waiting to be tasted. Clover and Big Dick, co-workers who had spoken many times about their mutual hatred for Patches too – in the office or on the phone. She had been the theme of many conversations. Patches had subjected them on numerous occasions to do tasks they considered beneath them like, cleaning out the cat-box, wiping the old woman’s ass, changing her smelly shoes, separating garbage (all into the wrong containers of course- because Patches had her own vision of how garbage should be divided up)…. Needless to say, it had to be done over once downstairs where her critical eyes could not witness it. It was more than aggravating.

Patches had been an engineer, had designed space rockets, had been a high level woman manager in a practically all male managed international company. To summarize, she had had illusions of grandeur, hated men (except when she needed their penises and strength), had never experienced true love (‘Did it really exist?’), had also had her life taken away from her with Muscular Distrophy (MS),  which she was very angry about up until she died, and had taken that anger out on everyone else around her. Her daily functioning was similar to how she used to work at her company: methodical. She would, through words (because the only body part that worked was her right hand & at about 15 percent) dictate slowly and painfully each precise step that was required in a given situation to her employees, called Life Assistants (LA for short). Her body rythyms  too were quite slowed down compared to everyone else’s, so when someone came into contact with her, well, let’s say that you had to put on the brakes. Big time.

And she was plain difficult! If her clothes were to be dried for example: Patches would tell her LA which articles would not be placed in the dyer, to turn inside out a particular garment, to place a nice smelling sheet of lavender inside the machine and in such and such a manner; to regulate the dryer at the correct temperature, to hang up another article of clothing; “Shit!” that she needed her food cut up “NOW!”  as a slice of failed-to-reach-her-mouth meat slid down to the floor, then: “No! Not like that, you idiot! In 3/4 size pieces!”… That the LA was to go and find a coat hanger in the bedroom when the clothes were dry (and of course upon returning with a coat hanger, “No, not that one – there’s a red metal one on the left hand side of the closet…”) Of course, that coat hanger would never be found and an hour would be lost looking for it, sending the pour individual (it was usually a female employee) – (Patches hated women too) into a slow rage, of contempt. A slow boiling pot of oil. It would be so much easier to take things into ones own hands.

That rage would usually be disguised at the beginning (this was a paid job after all)  but with each day the hidden rage would begin to erupt in brief flashes of rebellion, a bit like stuffing large quantities of mud in a wooden box. Too much mud forced into the box, now seeping through the cracks while engulfing the latches, squishing out its “sludginess” …

Usually, the rebellion would begin with, “It might be better to do it this way, because…”

“No! No! No!” Patches would scream, like scissors cutting stems. “It’s mine and I want it like that…”

“Madame, excusez moi, but you are being unreasonable, I cannot be spoken to like this…” And so on and so forth, until the LA would eventually “lose his or her cool” leave after a few weeks or months, and be replaced by yet another poor, unsuspecting and (most importantly) ignorant (of MS) life assistant.

To be fair,  it is necessary to say  that with MS when the brain is short circuiting your brain, that words don’t always come out the way you intend. So to add confusion to misery, that last phrase might come out,” No! No! No! (with spittle) “ehhh argggh minnneee, grrr fuck, shitshitshit…” Similar to picking up needles in haystacks, so is the daily frustration of many people dealing with MS.

in trying to find words for basic things, or trying to move body parts that no longer seem to listen to orders, emotions on “overkill”, probably unintended most of the time, it was a living hell. Even Internal organs too, had minds of their own, reaping havoc on daily lives. Silent screams unheard by others, but fully experienced within.

In Patches’ mind, she was not being mean or cruel. She lived in a fantasy world of still being that Big Cheese, giving her employees daily orders and running her castle, though it was only an apartment (one of several) IN a castle. But to her, she was a queen & those daily butt washing’s’ and vaginal hose washing’s’ mere acts of hygiene ordered upon by her to her servants. The obese gourmet chef that delivered plastic containers of home prepared BIO foods was also another chain of services in that which was normal for a queen, though he didn’t live at the castle.

Dennis was from Brittany, late forties, overweight, graying hair and he loved to talk about food- notable HIS food. Loved talking. Period. Not discussing really, but talking. Him ; not you. With Patches it was perfect, because by the time she organized a phrase or comment, it would be too late, Dennis would be on to another subject that he wanted to talk about. His jaw and mental processes seem to have no distinction. A hinged mechanism: ‘I have a thought – I have to speak it’ kind of deal. If he had a thought, it just came out followed by a flow of other thoughts and comments, sometimes peppered with loud, annoying laughter. The physical therapists, the nurses, the technicians (for electronic ramps and chairs), they too, were in Patches’ mind, subjects in her royal kingdom (or queendom in this case). Dennis was one of the longest employees – he didn’t have to be there at the castle but twice a week and only for a short period, while he delivered his “Creme Truite à la Noisette” or “Mousse à le Fevre” and of course, he yakked while he delivered. So, he was spared the agony of being instructed by Patches…They even had a friendship going.(*Too bad that Patches hadn’t realized that her body shape had begun to resemble that of Dennis’, thanks to his food designs which were too high in fats, sugars & creams…)

Unfortunately, Patches had miscalculated, through perhaps, no fault of her own who she could trust. She had had no one person who guided her, who cared about her. She had had no loyal subjects; they were paid employees and only there to do a job and to be paid afterwards; even Dennis.

Patches’ perceived cruelty and explosions of anger were not all intended and there had been no one to play the role of “buffer”, to ease the angry reactions of others with calm and logic. On top of that, she had unwittingly given power to those who hated her, in those moments of frailty, of fatigue… And now as her body lay in the morgue, no one yet had noticed that large amounts of money that had disappeared from her personal bank account. Only the killer knew about that.

And now he was to implement part 2 of his diabolical plan…and it involved the castle AND her  employees…

imgresThe ‘White Queen” castle was still intact. Even though Patches early morning screams or “Aieee” and “No!” or even “Shit, shit, shit!” seemed loud enough to wake anybody and yes, why not even crumble a few walls? In Gelledge’s head, he seemed to be going mad.

Having met Patches last year through a musicien friend (leaving for trip to the states) he had accepted to play night time babysitter to the woman from Kansas who now sat in a wheelchair. The MS (muscular sclerosis) continued on its’ merry way, reeking havoc on poor Patches’ body and brain. From the time she woke up life was a battle – at least in her dreams she could still do anything, still be anyone she wanted. Her mal être (feelings of misplacement) in life had never gone away finally, they had only become stronger. Her engineering days long past thanks to MS, she had forgotten that she didn’t run anything at all anymore – and her rigid concepts of how life should be constantly irked her to the bone. Now even her body would not respond to her commands, so her hired help would be her hands and her legs. They would be of her mind set, whether they liked it or not.

Last year Gelledge had worked out a comfortable exchange of services with her, following the definite separation from his “ex” and a year of having to combat against evil. The evil in question was in part due to a pathology called Borderline Personality Disorder. O. had it as did his Mom who was apparently continuing to care for him. The dogs had been rescued from their forced habitat and the mother-in-laws purgery of that day had (so he hoped) been squashed, though France being slow on the administrative level, maybe letters had not yet been written. Hmmm. Gelledge still questioned whether 10 years was enough to battle for his investment. O. wanted everything.

Patches each day woke up late. The hired help arrived at 10 a.m., then it was the preparation of a healthy breakfast along with her many medications. Her feet would be massaged with a special cream while responding to the current temperature  ie :”It’s too hot” or “It’s too cold” or perhaps “Could you turn the fan on?” “Pick up my phone?” “Give me my pill?” “Help me find my zapette?” and so on. One request could keep you bound by her side for hours if you didn’t know how to extricate yourself from her non-stop verbal agenda, which was always me, me and then me again.

Gelledge had been clear about his return in April, that he would only be renting. Even while on his long awaited trip to the states (fifteen years of absence) he made sure to explain carefully to her that this year he would not be available during Brandon’s absence. But her ears had selective hearing and did not want to heed those words. It worked for a week and so Gelledge helped her out in the evenings but with annoyance.

“My price is 50 euros an hour Patches – I’m too expensive for you. Even at half rate, I’ve paid my rent for 2 months already. Next week you’ll have to pay someone to come in the evenings. I won’t charge you for my presence during the nights while we’re sleeping. I’ll just be renting – but of course if there’s an emergency, I’ll be there.” It sounded a bit calous but Patches only understood numbers when push came to shove.

“My rental price is a friends’ price,” she said to Gelledge during the numerous negotiations. “I could get alot more for that room upstairs.” She declared and she was probably right, at least partially. Gelledge had pointed out that if she went through a company, she would be paying a great deal more for overnight care. Peace of mind however, wasn’t so easy to find. But living in a medically prepared housing situation was not for the faint of heart. You had little privacy, even if you lived in a nice sector of Paris. You had to stomach the ranting and the raving, the constating ringing of bells, buzzers and telephones, the numerous “subjects” who took care of her majesty, her “open toilet” policy as the only toilet that could reception “TONY” her automated person lifter, a rather large mechanism that carried Patches off to the toilet, well it was located in the hallway. So whether coming into the front door or going out through the front door, you automatically passed through the kithchen AND the hallway.. Helas, she didn’t seem to mind that everyone got more than a peek of her on the ‘jane’…

Today she had a new administrative assistant with a high squeeky voice, a bit like Minnie the Mouse, the disneyland character, but with the irritating lilt at the end of every sentence or question that some parisiens have. It sounde much like “Squeak, squeak, squeak, squuuueeeak!!!”

And for about two hours. Of course, Gelledge could’ve closed the upstairs door to the landing, but it was too hot if air didn’t circulate. He put his ear phones on and watched a couple of Star Trek videos, while hoping that inspiration would soon return.

He was in fact almost finished with his new CV in English…

Back In Paris by M H Carlson

Gelledge woke up in his alcove on the 1st floor of his new home. It was an apartment in a renovated castle known as the Reine Blanche, actually one of the oldest buildings in Paris.  The alcove was Patches’ unused office space  – now unreachable with her wheelchair. Though Patches had installed a system whereby she could actually go upstairs – an electric chair that slid alongside the wall on a rail – someone had to pull her out of her wheelchair, then put her into the other one attached to the wall and then once upstairs move her again into another chair to get around once upstairs. AND of course, being the pack rat that she was, there really was no room for a wheelchair upstairs. So she’d given up on using her upstairs office space  and elected to organize a downstairs office space. Her living room would never be the same.

Gelledge was her most recent renter.

On his back, Gelledge could overlook the living area down below through the stairwell bars in front of him, could see most of the corridor leading to Brandon’s room and the adjacent bathroom that they shared; he was surrounded by self help books and a multitude of:  administrative files, brooms, magazines, a tire pump, a rowing machine, a paper shredder as well as a ton of objects that were unidentifiable and misplaced.There were several cardboard boxes too stacked in corners, an old black PC sat on a big wooden desk, forgotten. Who would or could organize someone else’s personal belongings, someone in a wheelchair who would never use most of it again? Even a pair of unforsaken underwater diving fins sat nearby, carelessly shoved into a cubicle of a closet, bright green ends sticking out a few inches like small fingers. “Help me, save me, use me!” they cried out.

It was a terribly messy room, but Gelledge had brought some order to it, what with the few things he had retrieved from his recent move from Provence. There was:  his Wilson tennis bag, a large white tennis bucket, books, files, guitare, a pair of shoes, his Mom’s afgan on the office swivel chair in front of that same large wooden desk, a mattress which he shared with his two yorks’, which he folded after getting up – the space was so limited.

This morning as he opened his eyes he could hear plastic wheels being rolled on the cobbled stones of the courtyard down below. Someone was always coming and going with a wheeled suitcase around here – though you’d never know who it was. The Gare de Lyon (train station) was only about a kilometer away.There was a small window, which was difficult to access looking out over the courtyard from the alcove – one could see one of the two small towers across the courtyard and a rooftop apartment and its’ terrace overflowing with green plants.

Fatty and Finny (the two yorkies) wiggled on their backs and waited for their tummy rubs; Finny getting up every 30 seconds and sitting on the pillow next to Gelledge’s head, an efficient strategy to get Gelledge up. It was a morning ritual, all the hugging and tummy rubbing and kisses and licking going on between the three of them. Gelledge loved the two little dogs, had had to steal them back away from his “ex” a pathological space case.

It was time to take the dogs down to go pee and to do a poop. Gelledge always went first before going out. Once outside there would be no possibility to go to the toilet (unless you paid) once downstairs with the dogs. And being stranded like that – needing to go to the bathroom (especially in Paris) could be very uncomfortable. He missed those open spaces in the countryside or forest where he could just pee outside.

“Hold on, hold,” he said to the dogs who waitied outside the bathroom door. He quickly flushed and ran back up stairs to get some poop bags for them. There were three bathrooms in the apartment, but he usually used the one downstairs on the way out the front door.

Once the dogs’ harnesses were on, they took the red carpeted steps down to the security door, crossed the courtyard, took the next iron clad security door (complete with code) and then the last security door with a buzzer. Finally, they were out on the sidewalk with speeding cars rushing down the cobble stoned road. Why were people always in such a hurry here? Berbier du Mets (the road) was actually an ancient river bed that had been covered up after years of being polluted by Parisiens over generations. The entire quarter had once upon a time been a community for dying linen,  and of course, the toxic products had been thrown into the Biver River. It had become something of a garbage water route, people throwing anything and everything into it. Not to mention during rainy seasons when it would cause havoc by overflowing.

They walked a road over to Cordelières street where several poppy trees were aligned along the road – with small squares of grass at their feet – an ideal place for dog pit stops – though it was best to get there early before all the good spots had been taken. Most people picked up their dogs fecal matter, but there were always some that did not. Gelledge did and it wasn’t the  possible 35 euro fine that made him do it. It just made sense, there were so many dogs in Paris and if you didn’t pick “shit” up, you’d be walking knee high in it real soon. And dogs didn’t have a toilet at home to flush like humans did.

Sitting on a park bench on Aragos Boulavard on the way back, Gelledge considered his life: he was back in Paris after 25 years. His 10 year relationship with O. was now over. The Borderline Personality Disorder had won out, the mother-in-law too (apparently she also had BPD) confirming ‘the two peas in a pod’ theory…All that energy, all that money, all that hope, all that rennovating and hammering, screwing, maintenance on a home and the immense garden that was now vacant. Why was that? Had O. sold it? And then, all the energy he had put into helping O. get well again. That had no price –  O. seemed to have forgotten all that Gelledge had meant to him; all that he  had done for him while asking for so little.

There were many questions to be answered – to some it was obvious, but to Gelledge it was not. He had known O., believed in his possibility to change, to be a better person and yet, all of the proof showed him to be a liar, a manipulator, someone who could not deal with his emotions. O. had to have drama;  a never-ending cycle that had to be redone over and over. He remembered now when O. would talk about the bad occurences that happened only to him – that no matter what the circumstances, crazy things would come about….O. would often say, “It always happens to me.”

He scratched F and F’s head with a distracted air, wondering what O. and his mother would be doing. What was the situation with O.? Why hadn’t he returned to live in the house in Trets?

Next, he wondered about his situation. He had worked out things to be in Paris – the administrative battles had been worked out. Following his break up and subsequent move, it was as if he had disappeared, falling off the grid, so to speak to those administrative structures. How had that happened? Before with O. they were recognized as a couple so all administrative documents were in both names. How could it be that because they had broken up and Gelledge had moved to Paris, that he’d strangely disappeared from their radars? He wondered if O. or his Mom had lied and said something to make that happen.

It seemed possible after all the nastiness that they had thrown his way. After all, the key to the house had been taken (the only one AND to the door that Gelledge had found and installed). After their breakup, O. had told him to forget everything that they owned together, that everything was in his name – to just get over it. Following that, the house key had disappeared when Gelledge returned briefly from a summer job in England due to a sprained ankle. O. had screamed “THIEF” when Gelledge had transferred money that belonged to both of them into their mutual bank account to pay for bills, then had gone to the police and said that Gelledge had stolen their car, had stolen their motorcyle ….Also their on-line bank account had suddenly become inaccessible, (he had changed the code) his email account too –  it was officially in O.’s name.

And that hadn’t been all the nastiness thrown his way. O. had sent an email telling Gelledge to get his stuff off of HIS property – that people were coming to do that for him if it wasn’t done by a certain date. “What an asshole,” thought Gelledge remembering that. Funny though, because he was already getting his stuff out by then. He thought about the house payments made by him alone those last few months, the incredible energy he had put into that place, the animals, the garden, the sewer system, the two-roomed veranda he’d built, the wooden cabin (a gift from his Dad) put together by the two of them, the thousands of hours put into the garden too, the fish pond….dealing with O.’s BPD and alcoholism, the multitude of times putting his drunken ass to bed, having those repetitious conversations where O.’s brain just blocked up, where there was no opening, his horrible family…

And suddenly he was going back home after fifteen years…Suddenly Fatty threw herself on her back next to his feet. It was time for another tummy rub…

M H Carlson