A Change of Plans

By John-Paul Marciano

“What are you doing here?”

That’s what I was asking myself while staring at the Munich U-Bahn map with no destination in mind.  I was 2½ weeks into a four week-vacation and I was supposed to be vacationing in Italy with my friend Matt.

My plan was to fly to Amsterdam, rent a car and pick up Matt.  From there we would spend three weeks touring the west coast of Italy.  Sounds like a great vacation, doesn’t it?  I sure thought it did.  “So why aren’t you in Italy?”  Let me tell you.

Two weeks earlier I arrived in Schiphol Airport on a flight from JFK.  After I picked up my luggage, I rented a car and drove to Matt’s apartment located on a dead-end road not far from Amsterdam Central Station.  On the drive over I thought we could go out for breakfast then go back to his place to load his stuff in the car.  What the heck?  We’re on vacation so what’s the rush, right?

I happened to find a parking space in front of his apartment building which, in Amsterdam, is a minor miracle.  I was excited.  Here I was two hours into my vacation and I had a smooth flight over, my luggage made it across the ocean on time and intact, it was smooth sailing through customs, my rental car was waiting for me when I got there and I found a convenient parking space in Amsterdam.  What could possibly go wrong?

I walked into the building, rang the bell to Matt’s apartment and waited to be buzzed in.  No answer.  I waited a couple minutes and buzzed again.  No answer.  “Maybe he’s in the shower,” I thought to myself.  So I went outside and sat on the stoop.  I smoked a couple cigarettes and enjoyed the crisp morning air while waiting for Matt to come out of the shower.  I walked back into the building and rang the bell.  No answer.  “Hmm.  Maybe he had an errand to run.”  I went back outside and lit a cigarette.

I sat on the stoop and considered my options.  I really didn’t want to leave until I found out what happened to Matt.  A whole slew of scenarios crossed my mind; some of them quite unpleasant.  I decided to wait until I could talk to one of his neighbors before leaving.

I don’t know how long I sat there but, judging by the number of cigarette butts I flicked into the gutter, I’d guess close to an hour.  A young man rounded the corner and walked toward me.

“Hello, are you John?” he called out.

“I am,” I replied getting to my feet.

“I’m Peter, Matt’s neighbor,” he said extending his hand.  I shook it and he continued.  “I just dropped Matt off at Schiphol.”

“That’s funny.  I was supposed to pick him up here.  What’s he doing there?”

“He’s flying to America,” was Peter’s response.  “He wanted me to apologize on his behalf.  Something came up and he had to leave.”

“I just talked to him yesterday morning and he never said anything,” I said while rubbing the back of my head.

“I’m sorry but I don’t know anything more,” he said apologetically.  “Would you like to come in for a cup of coffee?” he offered.

I mulled things over for a few seconds and made up my mind to go to Germany.  “Thanks, but I think I’ll pass.  Where’d you park your car?”

He looked perplexed but replied, “A couple blocks from here.”

“Why don’t you get your car?  You can have my spot,” I said pointing to my car.  “I’ll wait.”

He hesitated and said, “Thank you.”

“No problem, I won’t be needing it.”

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1976

by Lucille Domizio

My biggest regret is not moving to Buffalo. It would have changed the course of my life.

Looking back, I recall my parents howled with laughter when I told them I was moving away to be with Joe. “He has mischievous eyes” said Mom. “And he’s a man.” Dad was equally skeptical. “What do you know about being married?” he asked. “You’re too young.”

I met Joe through mutual friends and we started dating in the summer of 1976. We saw a show at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport and went to the Pike Diner for the best burgers and fries ever.

He told me a lot of personal things and I couldn’t believe he would confide in me so early in our relationship. I asked him why the sudden interest in me. He said he didn’t travel all the way from Long Island for nothing and thought it would be fun to go out with me. We also talked about marriage.

My heart was beating out of my chest when he kissed me good night. He said he’d call again and he did.

I woke up sick the morning of the followup day. I took medication and spent the whole day telling my mother that I was going on the date whether I was dead or had to go by ambulance. My aunt and uncle came by and thought I looked great. They said I should go if I felt okay.

So Joe shows up and when I told him I was sick he became extremely comforting.  We were supposed to see a play. When we got there I was freezing. Joe put his jacket around my shoulders. He kept asking me how I felt and when my teeth started chattering, he put his arms around me. I thought he was so cute.

When we got to my house we had a make-out session. He left around 3 a.m. And we continued to see each other until it was time for Joe to go back to school in Buffalo for his master’s degree. He asked me to go with him and I really wanted to go. But, at 20, I knew that my parents would never allow it. So after much angst I declined.

After the big farewell on my parents front porch, I gave him my address and he said he’d let me know his address when he got to school. Then I said, “Gee, isn’t it great that we’re not in love? This would be much harder if we were.” And Joe said, “We are in love. You just don’t know it yet.”

I never heard from him again.

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Skinny Ladies Eat Apple

By Mary McPadden

The bulging, jiggling folds of flesh oozed out from the tight spandex bathing suit. Trying on my summer swimsuit was torture and I felt like I was in an endless nightmare.

Suddenly I regretted the late night bags of salty chips, the creamy vanilla cookies, the tart lemon cream pie and the rich creamy flowing chocolate of the fondue fountain rented for my son’s graduation.

I regretted the sweet sausage and peppers smothered in sauce and the extra large steak with sweet onions and buttery mushrooms  I had eaten with the baked potato swimming in salted butter and sour cream.

And I regretted that French restaurant my husband and I went to on our anniversary where the waiter kept insisting we try the sweet crepes and the and the crispy creme brulee.

I knew I should have been better about what I ate this past winter. I wasn’t looking forward to this warmer weather where it gets so hot and you have to strip off all your clothes just to try to stay cool. Finally all the snacking and lying to myself about how I looked had caught up to me.

Then I thought about all those skinny ladies at the pool and how whenever I would be snacking on my crackers and sweets, they would be eating their apples.

Of course I regretted but what was I really going to be able to do now? I couldn’t magically lose 50 pounds. It seemed hopeless. Then I said to my husband “What am I going to do now?”

My husband replied, “Honey, can we talk about this over the ice cream sundaes I just made us?”

Stone Beckons

By JR Jurzynski

Stone beckons

Stone strikes

Message clears

Passage hears

Mothers wills

crevasses clean

Metacarpal pivots

Doves songs

Phalanges possessions

Ripples release

shimmering blind

Existing states

alter one

Ejaculate Flotsam

Pith transfuse

Chattels free

Smooth waves

pamper lave

Alluvial plain

Seven hands

leather thrones

Heirs apparent

Apparent airs

Conscious abort

Subconscious hide

Lowly Creatures

Sins science

Science sins

Pastel Valley

Impressionists Dreams

Artist’s Creation

never Scene

River Free

Ascending course

Reflecting Thee

Familiar faces

unfamiliar We

Weep profusely

Regrets life

Life regrets

Blasphemy

And so it is with Death. Whether God-fearing, God-believing, agnostic, or atheist Death’s knock comes to your door. The Life you lived here is over. The thoughts, the words, what you have done, and what you have failed to do. You have not eluded Death, so why regret Life.

Plagiarism

 By Ed Baranosky                                     

I plagiarized one of the first stories I ever wrote. I was a sophomore in high school. The war was on and the factories were running three shifts a day. Bowling leagues were organized as a form of relaxation for their employees.

After school I worked as a pinsetter at the Kingsway Bowling alleys in Fairfield. I would get to the alleys at 6:30 p.m. and work until midnight weekdays. On Saturdays and Sundays I worked from 1 p.m. until midnight.

In English-language class we were given an assignment to write an essay on a book we read. With all my other  homework in math, science, history, geography and my limited time to do all these things I thought I could get away with a bit of deception.

War stories were printed in the centerfold of comic books of the time. The story I stole was about the war in the North African desert. I copied it word for word and turned it in.

The teacher must have picked up the difference between the work I had been turning in and this story. The first person he called on was me.

The year was 1943 and those events had just happened. He asked where I got the book. I was not a great thinker on my feet. I was trapped like a rat. I spilled my guts. My classmates, being typical teenagers, took every opportunity to remind me of my embarrassment for the rest of the school year.

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Youthful Exuberance

By John-Paul Marciano 

“I know the perfect spot” Scott promised.

I drove up to Topsham, Maine with a couple friends of mine, Geoff and Phil, to visit another friend, Scott, who moved there a few months prior.  We left later than I would have liked and traffic didn’t cooperate so we didn’t arrive until after midnight.  We were all pretty tired so after exchanging pleasantries, Scott showed us where we could lay out our sleeping bags and we all turned in for the night.

The next morning Scott and I got up early and made breakfast for everyone.  We talked over breakfast about how we wanted to spend the week.  By the time the breakfast dishes were cleared we had a loose schedule laid out.  The highlight on the schedule was watching the sun come up over the Atlantic Ocean.

It was at this point of the conversation when Scott made his declaration.  “There’s a beach about 45 minutes from here,” Scott continued.  “It’ll be great.  You’ll love it.”

We all thought it was a great idea. So after checking the weather report for clear skies, the four of us decided Saturday morning would be perfect to go to Scott’s perfect place.  We agreed to leave at 4:30 a.m. to give ourselves plenty of time to get situated in time for the main event.

During the week Scott mentioned to some people he knew we were going to watch the sunrise.  By the time Saturday rolled around the four of us grew to seven of us.  Promptly at 4:30 a.m. we piled into two cars and made our way to Scott’s perfect place.  We got to the beach an hour later and, since the beach was deserted, we parked as close as we could.

Since Scott was the only one familiar with the place, the rest of us just looked around and shivered.  Did I forget to mention it was winter?  It was five below zero with a 10-mile-an-hour breeze coming off the ocean.  It was perfect weather for January in Maine.

“Where’s this perfect spot you were telling us about?” I asked Scott.

“Over there,” Scott said pointing to what looked like a wooded hill.  “It’s on the other side of that hill.  We should get moving.”

It took us about 20 quiet minutes over frozen sand to reach the hill and another 20 quiet minutes to climb to the crest and claim our perfect spot.  We toughed it out for another 45 minutes before the sun finally came up.  Despite the cold it was a sight to behold.  By the time the sun rose completely above the horizon we had forgotten we were cold and decided not to leave right away.

From our perch we saw two seals approaching the hill.  They spent some time diving into the water for what I presumed to be fish.  They hung around for a while and eventually left.  Not long after, a mama whale and her calf popped out of the water about 1,000 yards south of where we were sitting.  They gave us a show but they too eventually left.

When we finally decided to leave, we felt exhilarated.  As we made our way down the hill, we talked excitedly about what we saw.  I think it was Geoff who made it to the bottom of the hill first.

“Hey, guys.  I think we stayed too long,” Geoff announced.

“How do you figure?” someone asked.

“The tide is coming in and the water is ankle deep.”

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A Bit of Spring Spice

  By Ed Baranosky

The first time I met Natalie Rowland was at a board meeting in our corporate offices in New York. My name is Frank Barnes I’m an executive producer of ads for a major television network. Ms. Rowland is the advertising VP of a national cosmetic company. At our meetings in New York I found her to be intelligent, articulate and a stunningly beautiful black woman.

A strategy meeting was set up at their Durham, North Carolina office to go over the details of a seven-figure contract for a TV commercial to kick-off the spring introduction of a new cosmetic product created specifically for women of color.

I flew into Raleigh picked up my rental car and drove to the Ramada Hotel where I was going to stay.

I checked in, went to my room, unpacked my suit and draped it on a hanger. I hadn’t eaten since I left New York and it was already 6 p.m. I decided to go to the hotel dining room for dinner.

I was sliding my keycard into the door-lock when I heard the phone ringing in my room. It was Ms. Rowland asking if I could come to her condominium. She had a few details she would like to go over before our meeting tomorrow. I said “yes.” She then gave me directions to her residence.

The condominium was not far from the hotel where I was staying. I drove to the address, picked up my briefcase and rang the bell. When the door opened she greeted me with a pleasant smile.”

She was wearing red silk pajamas with pants that flared out at the bottom. As she led me into the living room. I could not help but notice how the silk followed every movement of her body. In the living room she said “I’m going to have a glass of Sangria before we get down to business. Would you like something,” I said “perhaps I’ll have one after we’re through, thank you.”

She poured her drink, took a sip put the glass on a table and came to where I was standing and said “I’ve been waiting to do this since I first met you.” She put her arms around my neck pressed her body against mine and kissed me. I could taste the Sangria on her slightly- parted lips.

I was taken completely by surprise.  It took a several moments for my brain to process the feelings that were going through my body.

I put my hands high up on her waist and pushed her away. The softness of her breasts on the back of my hands did not make it any easier.  As we parted I stammered “I’m sorry I can’t do this. I love my wife and children.”

I picked up my briefcase and said “I’ll see you in the morning at your office.” As I was leaving I could hear her crying softly.

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