Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Forcing the Hand of God: Chapter 23 (part 1)

Rodger finished lowering the kitchen cabinets in Ada’s kitchen Friday morning. Adele left him on the porch with Ada as she fed Jonelle in the back bedroom.

Ada wiped her hands across her thighs. “I’ve so enjoyed this time with Adele and the baby. You—-you’ve been busy. Like a carpenter wasp.”

His laughter exploded from his throat. “And I’m surrounded by queens.”

Ada reproved him with a sharp glance. “That’s not what I meant.” She tapped her glass with a finger. “Is it the upcoming fight?”

“No.” He cocked his head, amused by her interrogation. “I’ll pull it off.”

Ada pushed away from the table and went inside, bringing back a box tied with a satin ribbon. She handed it to him.

He jerked the ribbon off, tossing it onto the ground. As the lid slid off, he sucked in his breath as he stared at the black silk boxing trunks with white satin insets at the legs. He swallowed, meeting Ada’s penetrating eyes.

“I thought these would go nicely with your robe,” she said softly.

“Thanks,” he said, setting the bottom inside the lid, “I didn’t expect this. I bought the silk for you.”

“Yes, I know, but I wanted to do this for you,” Ada smiled. “Does the shoulder hurt at all?”

“Not a bit.” Rodger motioned to Adele as she came out the back door. “Look, honey.” He took the trunks out of the box.

“I know,” Adele winked at him. “I helped.” Both women chuckled. Adele leaned over his shoulder, close to his ear. “We did it all behind your back, and,” she tweaked his nose, “underneath your very nose.”

He stood, pushing his shoulder blades into one another.

“I’m outnumbered.” He caught Adele exchanging a quick glance with Ada. “You two just think you’ve outsmarted me.” He flexed his arms.

Adele’s face wrinkled in concern, but Ada stood abruptly, stopping Adele from saying anything. Rodger stood and held the door open for them. He walked back and picked up his boxing trunks and stuffed them carefully into his gear bag. Ada’s kitten attacked him from underneath the chair by the door. Rodger swatted at it.

“Pest!” he growled as it scrambled to the far side of the room.

Ada bent down and swept it up with one hand.

“Poor, Kid,” she soothed. “I thought you’d like him, Rodger.”

He waved impatiently at them; then, seeing he had wounded Ada, changed course.

“Oh, I do, kind of,” he tried to smile, hoping to ease the pinched look from Ada’s face. “I don’t like surprise attacks, is all.”

Ada grinned. “He’s friendly.” She put him down on the floor. “So sure that no one will harm him.”

Rodger rubbed his hand along his jawbone. “That cat reminds me of the Night Wolf. This crazy Jap raids the American air bases at night. All by himself. Does a fair amount of damage, too. You know what’s funny?” He looked fixedly at Ada. “Not one of us guys can get him. Out-maneuvers every single damn one of us.”

Adele closed in beside him. His neck tingled, like telegraph wires were connected to them, vibrating. He knew she tapped into his secrets. But he’d choose the time, a good time, to tell her.

“Wish me luck, my ladies.” He opened his arms to embrace Adele. “In a couple of hours, I’ll find out what I’m made of.”

Adele ground her cheek against his chest.

“Good luck, good knight,” she whispered.

Ada crossed her fingers and held them up.

“We’ll be thinking of the victory knock‑out.”

“I’ll be home in time for Captain Midnight,” he said as the door slammed shut behind him.

He walked along the familiar route conscious of the prickling heat and streams of voices around him. He nodded back to those who called after him. He swung his bag in time with his step and whistled an airman’s tune.

Wary faces turned on him as he strode through the gym to the locker room. The lanky Negro boy shuffled his feet as Rodger tossed his gear into the locker. He paused, waiting for the boy to look up.
“Something on your mind?”

The boy’s head snapped up and his eyes riveted on Rodger’s, his voice a husky whisper. “Lots a money comin’ down on this here fight.” Rodger shrugged, narrowing his eyes at the boy. “Don’t have nobody tending ya. I’d do it.”

Rodger studied the well‑formed muscles of the boy’s arms and shoulders.

“Sure. Earn yourself a cut of the winnings.”

“No, mister,” the boy put up a large, flat palm, and spoke fervently. “Don’ want no money. Jus’ you win.” His eyes burned.

To hide his surprise, Rodger bent down and laced his one shoe, then the other.

“Gonna do that, son.” He straightened. “Let’s work out. What’s your name?”

“Theys call me Li’l Les. Name’s Lester.”

Lester tossed Rodger a jump rope. He began a slow, easy hip-hop from side to side.

“Lester,” Rodger picked up his tempo, “you and me will be a winning team.” Not missing a beat, he whipped the rope faster and faster, wondering as he put his body through the routine paces, what Lester really wanted from him. The boy anticipated his needs, staying out of the way until he was needed. Rodger silently tallied the winning take. He knew the crowd had backed his opponent. A couple of hundred bucks, at least. More, maybe three hundred, on the second fight.

Shorty bounded into the room, waving his arms.

“Rodger! In the ring!”

Rodger flung aside the jump rope, pulled off the lightweight gloves and dropped them on the floor. Lester sat in his corner, dangling the regulation gloves in front of him as if exhibiting some kind of a trophy. Rodger snaked through the ropes and stood before Lester as he worked the laces tight on each glove. The crowd bunched around the young man in blue trunks, Reb’s friend. Rodger sized him up. A knockout in the first round. Big Red had schooled him on guys that came into the ring like bulls. Determined. All set for a kill. Easily killed.

The air crackled with alien voices. Rodger scanned the tops of the heads. He knew no one. Lester took his position behind the corner post. The voices blended to a drone.

The smell of his own sweat stung his nose. He clicked his mouthpiece into place. He felt sharp, ready. Energy coursed through his arms and buoyed his legs.

The bell clanged. He jumped up. His opponent in blue satin trunks with black initials “C T” on the left leg came bobbing into the center like a rubber toy.

Rodger slowed his step, teasing the man into a dance. C T swung wild, and Rodger stepped lightly away from the flying fist. He waited. CT came into his quarter circle.

Rodger cut him down.

The crowd was stunned into silence. Then the buzz swelled into a roar, crying victory for the next man, Reb. Lester offered Rodger the water jug and spit tube. His quick motions were efficient, yet oddly deferential.

Lester leaned and whispered in his ear, “Don’ like it quick, do they?”

Rodger shook his head, watching Reb getting laced up in his gloves. About the same build as he, maybe a pound or two heavier. Reb’s olive skin glistened with sweat; hard muscles rippled as he flexed his arms. He casually swiveled his head, giving Rodger a hard, brief once‑over.

“They want their money’s worth,” Rodger patted Lester on the shoulder. “I’ll give ’em what they want.”

He sucked his mouthpiece into place and waited for the bell. Reb stared him down. Rodger leaned forward, not blinking. Reb blinked, bobbing up as the bell jangled. Rodger was on the balls of his feet and swaying as Reb came at him.

They sparred. Reb was not so easily led as his friend, a better match for Rodger. Rodger pulled away from an uppercut. He nicked Reb’s jaw. Reb came in for him from the left. Rodger blocked. This man knew about dancing, too.

After the second round, Lester scolded, “Keep inside of ‘im. Don’ let ‘im come into your right.”

Third round. Shorty, commanding as a referee, bounded out of the ring. Rodger eyed the surly throng that lined the outside of the ring. Money poked up from fists, waved about like banners.

The bell. He leaped into the center of the ring. Reb charged him. Too late, he saw the gloved hand coming at him. He took the blow on his ear. The pain surprised him, giving Reb the edge. Rodger took another blow in the gut.

“Come on, old man, come and get me,” sneered Reb.

Maddened, Rodger lunged at his smirking opponent. He fended a blow to his left. Then his head cleared, and he knew the game Reb played.

Rodger dropped away from him, taking a sting on the shoulder. Reb closed in. Rodger bored down on top of him. One-two, one-two, one-two, three.

It was over.

Rodger looked down at the astonished face of Shorty. He smiled.

“Pay day,” he said. He turned and walked to his corner where Lester rubbed his aching shoulders and toweled him down.

He relished the cold of the metal post against his spine. Lester’s face was split by the white of his smile. Rodger tilted his head back and spoke wearily, “Just bill me as the ‘Bloodless Wonder.’ Madison Square Garden.”

Lester nodded in happy agreement. His hands worked deeper into the aching of his flesh. Reb and his friend were gone, out of sight of the crowd that had roared just a few minutes ago for their victory, now the men and women muttered angrily as their money changed hands.

Rodger shrugged off Lester. He took the towel and patted his face. His ear burned. His eye had already filmed over. The bodies crowding around the ring swayed back and forth. He inhaled deeply, breathing out hard. He climbed out of the ring and headed for the showers.

Lester trailed behind him. Voices trumpeted, and Rodger heard his name. He ducked into the stall and twisted the faucets on hard. Hot water pelted him, and he closed his eyes as a cloud of steam engulfed him. He drifted, then hearing voices, he lathered quickly and rinsed, stepping out, greeted by a towel thrust from Lester’s hand.

“Shorty’s got somethin’ for ya,” Lester gloated. “Man, oh, man, ya took in some winnings.”

Rodger dried off, careful of the tender spots. He felt his left eye begin to swell, and as he surreptitiously peeked into the mirror, he noted a bruise on his cheek. He dressed. Lester dogged his footsteps until he spun around and spoke to him “Listen, go tell Shorty I sent you to pick up my cut.” As Lester nodded and sprinted away to the main gym, Rodger ducked out the back door. He looked to his left, then his right, up the street and down, just in case Reb and his friend were waiting for him. It might have been a fair fight, but there are no honest losers.

As he came to the corner, his eyes strained to catch any movements in the shadows, and his ears prickled at the sounds of voices behind him. He strolled along, scanning to the right and left of him all of the way to his mother’s house.

The women bunched in the kitchen, not aware that he had come in the front door. He rattled his duffle bag, throwing it against the wall as he approached the kitchen. His Aunt Carrie screeched at the sight of him. Madeline turned from the sink and eyed him severely.

“Such savagery, Rodger.” She gripped the counter’s edge. “I’d thought you’d have outgrown this nonsense.” She wiped her hands on a green towel and motioned them into the living room.

Adele stepped away from his mother and aunt and ducked into the downstairs den where Jonelle slept. He rubbed his forehead.

“Not as bad as it looks.”

“You’ll be the death of your poor mother,” Carrie flung herself into a plump, upholstered chair. “Not to mention your wife.”

Adele laid a gentle hand on his shoulder.

“Sit a spell. I sneaked a cold beer from home. Rode at the baby’s feet.” She placed the bottle into his hands. Then, cupping her hands over his around the bottle, she pressed them gently against his cheek. “To the victor belong the spoils.”

Painfully, his eyebrows shot up in surprise. “How do you know some things before I tell you?”

Adele kissed him on his good ear. “Intuition.” She straightened, stepping away from the couch. “A lady always knows her knight and, like a good book, knows how to read him.”

Rodger caught her hand and held it, pulling her close again so that he could whisper in her ear. “I’m a good read in bed, too.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Thug. I have met you before; you are a killer and a thief.  You have my friend hostage, yet you will not take any ransom. You do not want my diamonds, rubies, sapphires or gold, not my car keys, my house, or anything of value. You have a stranglehold on her and only want her life, little by little, day by day.  I want you arrested and executed, and pray that chemotherapy will do just that.

Cancer.  It is a common and deadly genetic disease.  There is no positive spin on this. The statistics for breast cancer are scary. These are just a few from the website of

About 1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.
In 2016, there are more than 2.8 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment.
The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender (being a woman) and age (growing older).

The website, Susan G. Komen ( states that 1.7 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2012 worldwide. That means if you are a woman, you will undoubtedly have cancer or know someone who does.

If, like me, you have gone through the challenges of chemotherapy with someone you love, you know the heartbreak watching the effects and the feeling of being powerless to do anything to help.

There is an adapted excerpt from Grief Is a Journey, by Kenneth J Doka, Phd., on the website titled “The 3 Kinds of Grief Nobody Talks About”. It is well worth the read.  I especially resonated with the second one, "The Loss of a Person We Haven’t Yet Lost", and its most profound statement about “Anticipatory grief”, the sense of loss and grieving for a loved one diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. It is not just one loss, but multiple losses you experience as you lose a loved one, and grieve for each loss.

The worst of all for me, I do not want the one going through her ordeal to comfort me, make me feel better about this horrifying situation that is her reality, not mine.  So, I offer conversation as a diversion and leave room between words for deeper dialogue. I have learned that I cannot alter the course of cancer, though I have researched the scientific and New Age alternative approaches to cancer and tendered possible solutions, the maybe of hope, the if only…

I have learned from my friends to let it go; that just being there is sometimes all they want, a gab-fest or maybe have me do a physical chore that they no longer can do for themselves. I have learned to take this time as another gift of friendship. I have learned that memories are painful but comforting, that one does not forget a loved one.

I have learned that the best I can do is what I can do:  get a yearly mammogram and skin check-up and physical exam; cut down on the carbohydrates, eat more vegetables and fruit, exercise regularly, and wear sunscreen. And donate to cancer research.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Here’s What’s Happening Lately with Bullying

Cool Kids Can Curb Bullying, Study Finds
Schools experienced a 30 percent decrease in bullying if their most social students took a stand.

by Lauren Camera

Schools may have more success curbing incidents of bullying if their most social students take an anti-bullying stance as opposed to teachers and administrators setting blanket rules and regulations against it.

That’s the new finding from a group of researchers from Princeton University, Rutgers University and Yale University whose study shows that when students are the ones to take a stand against bullying – as opposed to adults in the school – it's significantly more impactful.

Over the course of the 2012-2013 school year, 56 New Jersey middle schools that armed their most influential students with social media training and various bullying awareness gear, like bright-colored wrist bands, saw a 30 percent reduction in student conflict reports.

Read the entire article at US>>

How Trisha Prabhu is Curbing Cyberbullying

By Trisha Prabhu, as told to April Daley

Two and a half years ago, Trisha Prabhu began work on ReThink, an anti-cyberbullying app that prompts adolescents to reconsider messages they’re about to text or post. Here, the 15-year-old Illinois student explains how she created a product that could maybe, finally make the Internet a safe space for teens.

In 2013, I read an article about 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick, who jumped off her town’s water tower because she’d been cyberbullied. I was heartbroken. I started looking up other stories, reading about kids hanging themselves in their bedrooms after being told the world would be a better place without them. It hit me in the gut.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A Penny in Time Chapter 4: I Do, Again (Part 1)

Slinky went with me and Sylvia the day we were to try on dresses.  She got along just fine with Sylvia.  Susan and Sylvia could sit in a corner and talk about bridesmaids' dresses and perfect shoes for the next hundred years.

I finally screwed up enough courage to come clean.  "Sylvia, I'm not going to be a flower girl in your wedding."  Her eyes bugged.  "I'm just too old to be flinging flowers around."

"Oh, of course, Elizabeth.  But I still want you to be in the wedding, as my bridesmaid."  She smiled like it was the brightest idea she'd ever had, and what's worse, Slinky nodded in agreement.

I shook my head.  "No, really.  I don't want to trip or anything.  I hate to be the one to spoil your big day."  I gave her a lame smile back, thinking how much she spoiled my life.

"I'll serve punch with Slinky, okay?  And you won't have to get me a special dress, or anything."
My Dad looked disgusted and didn't say much to me the rest of the day.  I should have pointed out to him how I was saving him the expense of the powder-blue satin and velvet dress that was not worth it for little ole me, who wouldn't be caught dead in a dress like that, even at her own funeral.

I considered wearing plaid sneakers with my plain, sleeveless blue dress. Leaning against the doorjamb, arms folded across her chest, Mom eyed me critically.

“Hey, it’s a fashion statement,” I flung my arms wide and twirled. “And comfortable. I’ll be standing awhile.” I grabbed my scarf and with dramatic flourish draped it around my neck.

“The trouble with ‘statements’ made in anger,” Mom straightened and wagged a finger, “is that you live to regret them. Chose your battles wisely.”

“Whoa, what about individuality, Mom-the-artist?” I mimicked her stance with my hands on my hips.
“I guess it is a matter of definition. Are you an individual or a just a rebellious teen? One is taken seriously, the other is not.” She turned around and left me there to think about it.

It was a beautiful June day for the wedding. I wore the blue dress with the scarf, but chose comfortable white ballerina shoes. I borrowed my mother’s diamond stud earrings, which were a little larger than the diamond in my newly pierced nose. My Dad’s parents picked me up two hours before the ceremony and clearly avoided looking closely at the center of my face the entire way over to the church.

I felt queasy during the ceremony, and concentrated on not throwing up, parked in the front pew with my grandparents.  The bride came down the aisle, a white-laced illusion.  The groom appeared by her side.  And they recited their vows.

How can they take vows to love, honor and cherish one another through sickness and health, till death do them part?  Surely it must have crossed Sylvia's mind that my Dad had said those vows once before.  I wondered if Mom really wished Dad all the happiness in the world, or if she were sitting at home feeling as rotten as I was.

I stood beside Slinky at the refreshment table, and helped pass out the three-hundred plates with slices of white cake with raspberry filling and butter cream frosting that I didn't even taste.  The reception line went on forever, with the band playing dippy love songs that couples slow-danced to.  Every chance he got, my Dad introduced me as “Elizabeth, my daughter,” in one breath.  Finally, someone, I think it was the matron of honor, announced the bride and groom would leave for their honeymoon after the last dance.

Slinky waved frantically at me.  "Your Dad's looking for you.  He wants to dance with you."
"I have to go to the bathroom.  Too much punch."  I hurried out of the room.  I didn't feel like dancing with someone who couldn't remember my name.  I joined my grandparents outside as the crowd threw rice at the departing newlyweds.

     All I wanted to do was go home and watch my favorite TV program with my Mom.  I mean, if spending the evening with my Mom sounded like a good idea, then you know I must have been a sorry space cadet.

"Hey, Princess," my Dad's voice carried miles, as he beckoned me after shutting the door of the black limousine on Sylvia's veil.  "When we get back from Hawaii you come spend the weekend with us, okay?"

Grandma gave me a little nudge.  "Go over and kiss him good-bye, real fast, like a bunny."
I wasn't going to run across the lawn in new shoes that hurt my feet and end up skidding half-way to Oregon just to give my Dad a kiss good-bye.  I suppose I could have hopped like a bunny and made a real spectacle of myself, but then someone would have told my Mom and she would have lectured me for an hour about it.

Instead, I waved.  "Bye, Dad.  Have a nice time," although by the look on his face I don't think he bought my sincerity, which made me feel kind of bad all of a sudden.  So I walked over and gave him a big kiss on the cheek.  "Really, Dad, have a good time." And, I thought, do some soul-surfing while you’re at it.

He hugged me for a long time.  "All of us will go next time, okay?"

I said nothing.  He and Sylvia could go on a trip every year or twice a month, but I didn't want to be with them.  Maybe they deserved each other, I didn't really care.  Things were never going to be the same with me and my Dad, and I guess I'd have to get used to that, but I didn't have to like it.  I wasn't going to let him go without a little hurt of his own.

"Hey, Dad," he turned, still smiling at me as I spoke, "please don't call me 'Princess', okay?"

He looked stunned a moment, then his smile returned.  "All right.  I'll see you in a couple of weeks, okay?"

I watched until they were out of sight.  I waited forever for my grandparents to say their farewells so that we could leave.  Slinky immediately started babbling when she got into the car, comparing notes with my grandmother.  I leaned my head back and shut my eyes, while Slinky rattled on and on about the lovely wedding.

It seemed a small bit of eternity with all the farewells.  I heaved a sigh of relief when I made it to my bedroom, and changed into my jeans and sweater.  The house was quiet and my Mom was in the back bedroom working on an art project for her class next Friday.  This, I decided, is how things should be, and settled down with a cold glass of milk before the television.  The only thing that spoiled it was a rerun of "Star Trek, the Next Generation" that I had already seen, but no matter, I liked it anyway.
Reruns were a lot better than being with Dad and Sylvia.  It was like we were aliens that didn't speak the same language.  I miss the way my life used to be, when Mom and Dad were together.  I miss the old Slinky that wasn't involved up to her shaved armpits with boys, clothes and make-up.  Frank got a job at McDonald's™ and I don't see him much, either.  I wish I could change everything back again, make it right, and everyone would be happy.  Only it seems everyone is happy, except for me.

Summer was the season for changes for me.  My body "blossomed" as Nana and Mom kept saying; shopping took on a whole new twist as I had to have bras, an electric shaver, and all sorts of things to accommodate Mother Nature.  I didn't have that much time for Dad, as I kept pretty busy with babysitting jobs every weekend and three weeks in August, yard work with Dean and Fran, earning plenty of money for new clothes.  I took my new position as Class Treasurer seriously and looked forward in the fall to starting tenth grade with the honors' class.  I was beginning to feel more responsible for my own life, like I could make decisions for myself and think through problems on my own.  

Dad didn’t seem to notice the changes.  We got along all right, like people do when they see each other once in a while, chatting about everyday stuff.  It had been a month or more since I'd spent a weekend with them at their condo, and when Dad asked me to stay over, I said I would.  I brought my star stencil kit and intended to ask him to help me do the ceiling.  I was stunned when I walked into my bedroom and saw what Sylvia had done to it.

My unstained bed and dresser were white with ugly, little gold scrolls here and there.  White curtains outlined the windows and the bedspread was the most hideous pink, ruffled thing with teeny red roses that I had ever seen.  The little porcelain unicorn sat smugly in the middle of the dresser.  I thought I'd throw up right then and there!  All my posters, banners and pictures were stacked neatly in two boxes.  The Disneyland banner I had brought to put up wilted in my grip as I blinked and blinked, hoping this ugly scene right out of Grimm's fairy tale would disappear.

But it didn't.  Dad draped his arm around my shoulder.  "What do you think?  Fit for a Princess, huh?"  His eyes twinkled and he grinned.  "Sylvia worked for three days to get it ready for you.  Like it?"

"Oh, Dad!" I slapped my forehead and acted like I had a sudden, horrible thought.  "I forgot I have to babysit tonight!  Could you take me home right now?"

"Sure, I'll get my keys."  He looked at me strangely, not moving.

"Could you take the other box, Dad?  There's no sense in leaving this crap here for anyone to trip over."  I picked up the larger box and made for the front door.  "Hope I didn't mess up your dinner, Sylvia."

"That's okay, honey, we'll do something special next weekend.  Maybe we can shop in the morning and catch a movie in the afternoon.  All right?"

"Sounds just great," I said, and I knew the sarcasm was unmistakable, even without the dirty look my Dad gave me.

"What's wrong with you, Elizabeth Conner?" he growled as we stood by the car.  "You're acting like an obnoxious child!"

"I'm sorry!  I guess I could have called Mom to come get me."  I straightened out the Disneyland banner on top of the star stencil box before Dad slammed the trunk shut and squashed himself down into the driver's seat.

"I don't care about that!"  He half-turned, his hand clutching the steering wheel and shaking the keys at me.  "You're not the sweet little girl that you used to be." 

"You're right, I'm not!"  I was steamed, too.  "You're not like the father you used to be, either!"
"Well, I haven't changed, Elizabeth."  He jammed the key into the ignition.  "I don't want anymore of this attitude problem, do you understand?"