Behind the Fan – Chapter 3, Mary’s secret burden.

Dementia, Mary rolled the word around in her mind as she drove.  No one could tell her exactly what this meant or what to expect.  The doctors claimed it was the gradual decrease in Grandma’s cognitive ability but then could not explain the type of lapse the woman suffered.  Mary found these the most difficult to deal with emotionally.  In Mary’s mind, it was as if Grandma Dot disappeared; became lost in her mind.  It began last year, or maybe it was the year before, sad that she couldn’t recall when they noticed it.  She slowly exhaled as she battled with her sense of guilt.  As her grandmother’s power of attorney, she damn well should know this!  In her peripheral vision, she saw Kim look at her, but she ignored the question in her sister’s eyes.  She preferred to bear her guilt in private.

Mary had been dealing with this for over a year, spending more time with Gran without anyone’s knowledge.  She thought that doing so would help her understand this better, however, in the end, she felt just as lost as her grandmother.  When Gran’s doctor tried to explain this, she left the office with more questions than she had when she began.  She took Josie’s suggestion and Googled the information, which was a mistake.  Stories of the elderly trapped behind silenced minds, stories of women like herself attempting to appease a parent when they became unreasonable.  She scanned through images of healthy brains, which diminish in size and function without rhyme or reason.  After an afternoon of this, she felt more frustrated than she had before.  Nothing she read addressed the problem her grandmother had currently, which was the baffling absence of…presence.

No one could explain this.  Gran would be talking to you one minute, and the next she would stare off into space; smiling.  The only positive was that Gran appeared happy.  Mary wondered; where she went or did these lapses took her anywhere?  Mary was frustrated since anywhere she turned for answers, she ran into a blank wall.  It wasn’t always like this, her Grandmother boasted about how bright their Great Uncle Donny was but, to be honest, the woman herself was just as intelligent.  Every Christmas, Mary gave her the New York Times book of puzzles.  Gran would have the puzzles finished before May.  Mary was amazed, simply amazed.  Even now, Gran could still on rare days sit with her and work a puzzle.  Nevertheless, when she grew tired, the faraway look would come to her watery blue eyes; Gran would smile serenely then disappear before her very eyes.

Mary had no other option than to consider Grandma Dot’s future.  She researched facilities that specialized in dementia, Alzheimer’s and treatment for patients suffering memory loss. The best doctor in the city offered recommendations but would not take Gran as a patient.  Sadly, her situation was not dire enough, or it was that it was not interesting enough for him.  Caustically she wondered if he’d feel the same if this was his grandmother, she doubted this.  She knew several women in her club that are in the medical field; she turned to them for their input.  They all recommended the same facility.  After a thorough review, she was ready for the most challenging discussion, that with her sister.

“NO, absolutely not; Mary we are not putting Gran in a home!”

Sensitive Kim, she has always been a compassionate soul, but in the last couple of years, she has been nothing but a weeping willow.  She watched sad movies in her free time and sat there crying the whole damn time.  She donated to every SPCA, Children’s Hospital or Disaster Relief Campaign that she saw.  Not that this was a bad thing, Mary reasoned, it is just that she believed that Kim should pick one single organization to support.  Mary’s current concern was that Gran’s future would become another banner her sister would wave.

“Kim, listen to me they may be able to help her.  Don’t you want her to get better?”  Kim eyed her sister suspiciously.  Taking advantage of the lull, Mary continued. “Look it is close to us too, we can visit more often.  They said she could even come home for overnight visits.  Plus, when the time comes…”

“When the time comes, Mary?”

“Kim, Grandma, is not going to live forever; she is damn near a hundred!”

That was it; Kim stormed out of her house in tears without saying another word.  Mary rose to stop her then decided against it.  The reality was she was sick and tired of everyone falling to pieces when she depended on them.  It was rare that she needed anyone, but it never failed that she found herself abandoned each time.  They were weaklings, all of them.

In the end, Mary did what she did best; she handled it.  The resolution decided by her on one of her visits to her Grandmother.

***

The grandfather clock struck four; the chime interrupted the silence in Gran’s home.  They sat at the table with a crossword puzzle between them, the majority of the squares empty.  It was apropos to the current situation with so many questions and many more unrealized solutions.  Her grandmother sat across from her soundlessly, staring without seeing.  They had sat like this for the better part of an hour.  Mary reached across and took the old woman’s hand.

“Where is it that you go to Gran?”

Silence.

No words filled the space between them; the old woman remained as she had been; mute.  In a rare moment of vulnerability, Mary dissolved into tears.  She cried tears of anger that she was the only sister strong enough to deal with this.  Tears of frustration because even now, she was unsure she was doing the right thing.  They were tears of sadness, as a rush of memories surrounded her in her grandparents’ home.  Silent tears shed, as she sat embarrassed, suffocated under the weight of her ego.  Her grandmother sat unaffected, like Mona Lisa, Grandma Dot smiled a soft, gentle smile.  Mary’s tears subsided all the while she kept her grandmother’s thin hand in her own; oddly, it made her feel stronger.  It didn’t make sense, but she accepted it.

The open window invited the warm spring evening air, and a mix of new greenery and the perfume of gardenias’ rushed in.  Mary inhaled the sweet air, allowing it to calm her emotions.  Quickly the mask of efficiency returned, her sense of duty bolstered her resolve.  Mentally she clicked through the items that needed to be addressed to provide a safe environment for her grandmother.  Mary wasn’t known for being emotional; instead, she illustrated her love by her competence.  She glanced at her grandmother; the woman remained imprisoned within her mind.  Mary struggled to understand this.

“Where do you go?”  Her soft voice disturbed the silence; still, she received no response.

Mary straightened and looked around the room.  On the main wall, an aged photo of her grandparents hung centered, surrounded by pictures of her own family and that of Kim’s.  She caught the faint scent of a cigar, although not a fan of smoking, she always associated cigars with Grampa Nick.  Unconsciously, she smiled as his memory swirled in her mind.  Grampa seated at the small piano, hammering out forgotten melodies.  The card tricks he loved to entertain them with, no matter how many times she saw them; she never knew how he did them.  The time, as a young girl, he let her and Kim have a sip of champagne on New Year’s Eve.  She recalled how it made them feel grown up and a part of the celebration.  As subtly as it arrived, the faint cigar aroma was gone.  Distractedly she noted before putting the house on the market; they would have to make sure that they rid the home of the stale smoke smell.

***

The drone of the SUV motor lulls Mary back.  Her passengers were silent; thankfully, they left her to her thoughts.  She clicked off the cruise control and accelerated, the answers were ahead of her, not in the past.

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Miscellaneous Reviews and Comments

  • I took Nowhere on the Map to Daytona Beach a couple of weeks ago and started it on the beach. I jumped in my seat and had to reread it when I got to the police station explosion.  I said, “She got me!  I’m invested in these characters”. Thank you for the autographed copy.  Comment regarding Nowhere on the Map
  • Thanks so much Caroline Walken… You are an amazing author and am excited to read this new story.   Comment regarding Nowhere on the Map
  • Thanks also for making the love scenes tasteful but leaving the reader a bit short of breath!
  • Couldn’t wait to see what happens next! I loved the entire story and look forward to Caroline Walken’s next book!
  • She will surprise you and leave you wanting more… XOXO Thanks Caroline!
  • Thanks so much Caroline Walken… You are an amazing author and am excited to read this new story!  Comment regarding Nowhere on the Map
  • With the exposure I’m know Caroline Walken will be very successful! In my opinion it’s far better than any other love story/drama I have ever read!
  •  This book is masterfully written and I highly recommend it to anyone who has ever longed to be truly loved and desired. I am looking forward to reading the next book in her series. Caroline Walken has become one of my personal favorites. This book is a must read.
  • With the exposure I’m know Caroline Walken will be very successful!
  • In my opinion it’s far better than any other love story/drama I have ever read!
  • I am not normally an avid reader, but this book was so good that I could hardly set it down. I am looking forward to reading the next book in her series.
  • I will read your stories and keep wanting to read more and more, also another thing about your stories when reading it’s really like you are right there living the story with the characters in the book.   It takes you off to another place and another time. Comment regarding Beta copy of Behind the
  • I just finished reading “Nowhere on the Map”; I could not put it down! It’s sultry, sexy but sweet. And the unexpected twist. Comment regarding Nowhere on the Map

1500 Words from Behind the Fan

From Chapter 7 of Behind the Fan… Dottie’s photo shoot.

Behind the Fan on Amazon

The dining room evaporates and in its place, a men’s club from a lifetime ago emerges. The place is shaping up, and word is the new boss intends to boost the reputation of The Bee. He has the mix-matched chairs and tables with scarred surfaces on uneven legs tossed to the alleyway. Now tablecloths drape the new round sets, and gracing the center are small candles. The place looks classy; they are operating as a premier club now. Paulie fires the creepy guy that was supposed to clean (but seldom does) and in his place is a woman that scrubs the place from top to bottom and the girls are appreciative of this. Two huge marquee signs flank the door out front, and Paulie tells the girls he’s placing their pictures in them as an advertisement. He announces he is bringing in a professional photographer to do the job. Even though Dottie is new to the lineup, Paulie includes her, and she is thrilled.

The day arrives, and the club has a party atmosphere; Paulie invites his special guests and allow the girls to invite their beaus. He is liberal with the liquor, and by the time the photographer sets up, the mood is just like an opening night. Her nerves are on edge after she builds this day up in her mind. On a whim, she approaches Nick Denham and asks him to play her music for her. He did this at times; she liked it when he played for her set. She can’t say why his playing is different, but it reaches her in a way that is exhilarating. She decides not to examine it more closely than this. Nicky, of course, is happy to oblige.

Now she can concentrate on her routine. It is more than just a photo shoot; it is an audition for the new boss. There are rumors that Paulie can move a girl up to the better clubs where she can make more money. Dottie thought about this all night to the point she couldn’t sleep. There are plenty of larger clubs still in this area; she and Donny won’t have to move to another town. Donny can still go to the same school; maybe they can get a new place. She dreams of a flat with two bedrooms and a real dining room. She could use some luck, even with dancing and running drinks, money is tight, and they live frugally. Their expenses increase after the prep school accepts Donny. She manages to get the school to reduce the tuition, however; she has a payment each quarter. A better paying gig will help their cause. The day of the shoot has arrived, she is tired and a ball of nerves, she has a lot riding on one little afternoon.

The stage lights glare; the runway is polished to a high gleam. The photographer arranges the lighting to shine at an angle so it won’t interfere with the shot. Backstage she makes careful preparations. She concentrates on her make-up and the set of her hair. All morning, she wears hard curlers until her scalp is sore from them. She stands before a mirror, brushing her hair to a soft gleam; in the end, she decides the pain is well worth it. With layer applications, she mops her foundation on heavier than normal, next she strokes on the blush darker to show up better under in the photo. She borrows false lashes from Lillie; while gluing them in place, she prays they won’t pop loose under the heat of the lights. Holding her breath, she steadies her hand, carefully she applies black eyeliner to her upper lids; fearing it looks like a black slash against her fair skin. Straightening she examines her handiwork; pleased that the eyeliner frames her eyes, bringing them to the forefront. Lastly, she brushes on the pancake powder liberally to ward off the shine. Her feathered fans are her ‘shtick’ and in the days preceding; she grooms them to perfection. Behind their shield, her attire will be a skimpy shell pink satin bra, matching panties, and garter belt. In the poor lighting of the dressing area, Dot carefully rolls the silk seamed hose up her leg, gently snapping the top to her garter. When her preparations are complete, she stands before the pitted mirror for a critical look. She doesn’t recognize the woman in the cracked surface. She does not see the exhausted pseudo-mother working until the wee hours of the morning only to rise again within hours to see Donny off to school. She is not the girl that prayed in church every Sunday to make next weeks’ rent. This girl is not the ignorant virgin that laughs at bawdy jokes without knowing why they were funny.

Dottie stands before the mirror looking at the image of a real woman. She is beautiful; like a goddess, she stares entranced, she doesn’t recognize her reflection.

She is satisfied that she is ready and pulls on her faded flannel robe; she grabs the large fans and heads for the stage. She explains her routine to the photographer; the thin man nods on occasion between fumbling with his thick glasses and adjusting his camera lens. She takes this as his approval for her routine. She glances over at Nicky; the look in his eyes causes her to stop. No man has ever looked at her like that. The look in Nicky’s eyes is difficult to resist, hard for her to ignore. It is clear that she set him back on his heels this time. He has a thing for her; the man hardly keeps it a secret. He is an outrageous flirt, and he seldom gives her a moment’s peace. A considerable challenge now that Donny has taken a shine to him. Card tricks, Nicky wormed his way in showing the boy card tricks! Now Donny also campaigns for him! It won’t do him any good; she has a front row seat to the roller coaster ride a woman took after taking up with one of these boys. Layoff men are addicted to the action; they raise hell like there is no tomorrow, and run through women like whiskey. She sees first-hand what the other girls go through. The last thing she needs is complications from the likes of Nick Denham.

Within the darkness in the back of the runway, she glances at the shadowed form seated at the piano, despite the fact he didn’t smile, she knows that his eyes twinkle. The butterflies in her stomach flutter; she is uncertain which situation is responsible for this. Nicky leans forward, and he rolls into a slow, sultry number; the horn player joins in, but it is the piano that takes the lead. She draws in a deep breath and unties the robe, shrugging her shoulders she drops it; she kicks it beyond view. Strangely, she feels naked and needs a moment to settle her nerves. She exhales, and snaps the fans to life; they flare out around her like an angel’s wings as she steps into the halo of light. The piano meets her, welcoming her to the dance. Slowly she sways waving the feathered fans around her. Closing her eyes, she permits the melody to lead her all the while undulating the fans around her nearly nude body. At last, she finds her rhythm, Dottie opens her eyes to stare not at the photographer, but instead at the camera lens itself. She intends to provoke the instrument into falling in love with her. In place of the shuttered lens, she imagines Nicky’s face, envisioning his reaction to her movements. Secretly she dances for his pleasure, allowing his music to make love to her. As Nicky runs his fingers up and down the keyboard, she fantasizes how he would run his hands over her body. Lightening his touch; barely tickling the keys as he teases her, just as she would expect him to do. In response, she gyrates and lowers her body to the floor, swiveling she rises again like smoke. Rapidly, twisting and seducing the melody from him. His fingers now fly across the piano keys increasing the tempo to match. Dottie spins, arching her back and throwing back her head as the music thrusts its way inside her. Nick cleverly chases her, never allowing her to escape him as he brings her to the crescendo of the performance. Hitting the final note, he holds her in there; leaving them both breathless. She drops the fans to the stage, the clatter echoes in the silent club. A sheen of sweat glistens on her skin under the glare of the spotlight, her hair in disarray, she pants uncontrollably.

Picking up the fans, she carefully refolds them before retreating to the back of the stage to retrieve her robe. Quietly the audience begins to converse again, the words muffled by the pounding of her heart. It is crucial that this had gone well, over her shoulder she calls to the photographer.
“Sir, did you get the photos you needed?”
When she received only silence she turns, the photographer is mopping his face with his handkerchief; all he does is nod.

1500 words from Nowhere on the Map

From Chapter 35… For the moment, the pain over Bobby’s loss was at bay; they had returned to living life to the fullest.    

They all received the same text: “Dinner at home, Carol is cooking for everyone.  It is time to have fun – Dad.”

Maggie laughed, only her Dad would text in full sentences!  She read the message again, reveling in the proof that her matchmaking had worked.  She knew he and Carol had started dating after the birthday party and she thought she heard a voice in the background when she had called the other night.  Maggie smiled as the light faded on the screen of her cell; it was high time the Chief settled down.  She jotted off another text and arranged her day to accommodate her family’s plans.

Derrick arrived, hearing the music coming from the garage, he followed the sounds of Miranda Lambert offering advice to the brokenhearted certain that this would be where his wife and sister were.  Brass bounded from the garage adopting the role of the official greeter.  He found everyone but what the girls were up to was anyone’s guess.  Teresa, Maggie and his cousin Kayla were all in high heels; in particular, Maggie wore a pair of ridiculously high stilettos paired with her Capri jeans.  Teresa strutted up to him for a kiss; also dressed in a T-shirt and jeans paired with her best heels.

“Do I need to ask?”  Derrick grinned down at his wife.

“We are teaching Kayla how to walk in heels.”

Derrick lowered his face for a ‘family friendly’ peck from his wife; she is remarkably beautiful regardless of the silly get up.  He had to admit recent events made them both much more appreciative of each other.  It was so easy to ignore taking time out for someone you loved.  Between the twins and his double shifts, each of them stayed worn out most of the time.  Bobby’s murder changed their perspective now they had Date Night, and he arranged some free time for Teresa.  Quality of life is what they talked about the most, that and another baby.  Teresa turned to re-join the other two but shot him a saucy glance as she sashayed away.  The look in her eyes turned him on; he felt the low burn for her ignite.  Trying for baby number, three may happen tonight.

Jon arrived; a quick assessment led him to the garage area also.  Derrick handed him beer as he entered, Jon gave the man a quizzical look.

“We are having a high heel lesson.”

Derrick explained, then offered a quick toast to Jon, and both men settled back to watch.  Maggie noticed Jon and flashed him a smile causing his heart to jump a bit.  She had that effect on him regardless, but today, she was showing off for him.  Nothing compares to a confident woman when it comes to being sexy!  She made another pass near them; he had to steel himself from reaching out and reeling her into his arms.  Jon was certain the mountain of a brother would not have appreciated the PDA either.  He couldn’t help his reaction; he liked his ‘Country Mouse’ in those crazy heels; it was ludicrous and sexy at the same time.

The girls paraded, danced and horsed around as the men watched amazed.  They even played around with Brass, which delighted the dog to no end.  Before long, Kayla was as at ease on heels as the other two.  Derrick took a text from his big brother, updating him on the party.  He quickly snapped a photo sending this as proof, he and Jon were laughing at Darren’s response when chaos erupted.  They heard a commotion as the twins burst through the door.  Evidently, Carol had turned her back on them, which was the break they had waited for.  She followed in hot pursuit, however; she was no match for the toddlers.  They were accomplished escape artists; honing their skills just for a moment like this.  The toddlers split after clearing the door, already keen to the trick of dividing the pursuers.  Despite being quick as rabbits, they found themselves outmaneuvered by the girls.  Teresa caught Lucy while Maggie trapped Lucas.  Carol willingly admitted defeat as she joined the others.  It was all in fun, their mother chastised them for ‘tricking’ Miss Carol, however; the twinkle in her eyes dulled the bite of her words.

Understanding willful children Maggie had another solution, she turned and cued a slow dance on the DVD player and began dancing with her nephew.  She gracefully wove around with the music while the little boy giggled and grinned.  Jon watched amazed and she caught his stare; the look in his eyes evoked a rare blush from her.

“I think my biological dad had been a dancer.”  She offered as an explanation.

Teresa countered, “I don’t know I believe he was a jockey or maybe a Smurf!”

The girls erupted in laughter.   Maggie rejoined the boys and hopped out of her outlandish heels as Lucy immediately tried to walk off with them.  She caught the little girl before she escaped very far.  Lucy tried to pout, but one look from her mother corrected the attitude.   Maggie relished the fact she could play the fun aunt; she was happy to leave the raising to those more adult-like.  She kneeled down to her niece kissing the pink cheek; Lucy abandoned her attitude and was again bright and sunny.  She did want the little girl to understand why she had received the look from her Mom.

“Say, Angel, those pretty shoes cost Aunt Maggie a weeks’ worth of groceries!”

“Where did you get those anyway and why?”  Jon inquired indicating the shoes.

“Jamie’s wedding; she wants everyone dolled up, so I have to practice walking so I don’t trip down the church aisle!”

Jon smirked; “It’s that hard to walk in heels?”

Maggie raised her eyebrows, how little men knew of the suffering girls endured for fashion!  The women all turned towards him; he felt the heat of the spotlight.   He had clearly hit a nerve!

“Tell you what City Cat, I will walk in these stilettos from here to the end and back with a cup of beer balanced on my head!”  The glint in her eye enticed him.

“You are on Magpie, let’s make it interesting, fifty bucks says you spill it!”

Maggie shook on it, retrieved two disposable cups and filling them half-full, she then handing one to Jon.

“Me?  I can’t fit into those things!”

“No, you get to wear what you have on.  You will see how hard this really is!”

Derrick fished out some money, Teresa found more in her purse and they too anted up.

“My money is on Magpie.”

Turning to Jon, Derrick shrugged.

Maggie suggested Jon go first, Carol decided to stay, joining in on the fun.  She shook her head and smiled, the Chief was right this is what everyone needed.  She and the children cheered as Jon left the starting point.  The girls joined in, wolf whistling at him as he walked the first leg causing him to stop since he was laughing too hard.  It was clear the women were not going to make this easy on him.  He psyched himself up for the trip back knowing Maggie would rib him to no end if he lost.  He hesitantly turned for the trek back; he felt the liquid slosh above him.

Kayla called out to him, “Jon you are doing it wrong, you need to move your hips; you know give it attitude!”

Now it was a matter of defending his manhood and that of all men.  He glanced at Derrick; his friend simply shook his head discouraging him from falling into their trap.  Bolstered by his first successful pass, he did as commanded putting some sway in his walk as he began the last leg.  This actually made it easier; he could see how this evened out his stride.  He sped up assured he now had the contest won.  The cup rocked slightly he stopped short, and contents shifted suddenly.  He caught the cup right before it drenched him.  He heard the girls cheering; Derrick simply looked down shaking his head.

Maggie was ready to go; she wisely waited, knowing he was not above tickling her.  She gave him a sideways glance as he passed, then winked.

He stood alongside Derrick confidently stating, “It’s not over yet.”

His friend just looks at him then laughed turning to watch Maggie.  Squaring her shoulders, she placed the cup on her head; she walked off on the ridiculously high heels with her hands on her hips that swayed perfectly with the music.  She willed the cup not to move, the contents slightly sloshed above her.  She slowed allowing the amber liquid to settle.  She gracefully turned, looked Jon right in the eye and walked back to him.  Standing before him the contents still encased in the plastic cup, she retrieved it from her head then took a healthy sip.  The Chief had arrived by then, he too bore witness to her success, and he joined the rest as they erupted in cheers.

Rob Santa’s 9/10: The Night Before

Rob Santana has become one of my favorite authors to follow, due to his unique perspective. Like everyone, I can tell you exactly where I was on 9/11 when I heard the news that the first tower had been struck.  However, to take the event 24 hours prior puts a new perspective on the event.

My favorite installment from the ten stories was “Watch Our Paint Dry”, but all of the stories will touch you in a manner you’ll not forget.  What I love the most about the book is the underlying message of love and hope.  True, we don’t know what would have become of these characters but each was forward thinking.  In any period in your life, this is a message worth sharing.  Rob Santa’s 9/10: The Night Before should be on everyone’s device, it is that compelling.

Thank you, Rob, for your talent and inspiration; I look forward to your next book!

 

The Family Farm – a flash fiction piece

Long before you knew this world, I lived. Now decades later you walk around this old house curious about how I lived.

Young man you inherited a home I created from your Great Grandmother’s dreams. In the 1947, I built this farm with my sweat and the aid of the schooling thanks to the G.I. Bill. To you it is just a small shack that you should tear down and acers that will absorb your tears and sweat.  Just know son, when it began, this place was all I lived for.

…entry in a flash fiction contest – the prompt was use of the phrase  “I Lived”

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