on: privilege and the art of being tone-deaf

your fragility
speaks
volumes —
cuts deeper
than
your s i l e n c e


Originally published in A Cornered Gurl via Medium.

Home Is Where Everything Is


Pandemic Reflections

I have become glutinous; sticking to my home — fearful of going too far away from it. I question every errand that needs attention. How important is it? How much longer can I go without it? Is the purchase cost-effective enough to simply have Instacart drop it off after I fill up my cart via my favorite stores instead? Do I really need to go to the store myself?! Do I?!

I am growing indecisive during this pandemic season and I know it has a lot to do with how scary this virus is and how massive it has become.

I went from a woman working in an imaging facility, screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms to yearning for a workspace from home and actually attaining that and now . . . Now, home is more than just where I work — home is everything. Everything is here at home.

I still get anxious but not nearly as bad as I did on days I knew I had to be in the public eye — around other people. It’s easier to curb my anxiety . . . I have a bit more control over it. I can subdue it and move forward and do what needs to be done on a daily basis.

At home, I am not running away nor do I have the urge to run away from my fears. But I do recognize the magnitude of what has taken place. I am cognizant of the fact that it could be me, my family, or a close loved one (again) pushed toward their demise from this virus.

Home is where I sit with the neverending debate going on in my head; “do I get vaccinated or not?” Currently, there is no winner. I think there will be one soon.


Two of my succulents; re-potted and were temporarily placed directly in front of my balcony door. I’ve since moved them to be alongside two more of my plants. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

After one year of dealing with the pandemic, I am learning how to be easier on myself. I have new ways to bring joy into my life. I find peace in the simplest things and I hold on to it. I have taken a liking to plants, succulents in particular, as they were a gift to me from my team at my previous job.

I talk to my plants. I name them. I open the blinds in the living room and kitchen and let the love from the sun’s rays wash over them. I water them. I check their soil and preen and primp them. I am ensuring the health and wellness of living things other than myself and my dog, Jernee.

It feels good.

It feels like an accomplishment I did not know I needed to accomplish. It feels essential.

I have what I need . . . Food. Water. Shelter. Books. Laptops. Music. A bossy Chorkie who cuddles with me on cold nights and gives me wet-nosed kisses that turn into paw pats on my face — everything is here at home.

After one rigorous year of quarantine, various mandatory restrictions, and only visiting my closest loved ones every few months, I have a hard time envisioning what the next year and the year after that will have up their sleeves.

And will I be able to remove myself from home? Will I lose the adhesive I’ve grown fond of relying on when I can stray far away once again?

Will I even want to?


This story was written in response to Medium’s Writing Prompt: Pandemic Reflections:What Comes to Mind When You Think About the Pandemic Anniversary?


Originally published on Medium.

The Funeral

Microfiction

Photo by Wojtek Mich via Unsplash

She laid his suit out on the bed. A freshly pressed blue shirt. His favorite speckled necktie. Blue and black cufflinks.

He would look great at his final foray into the crowd. She’ll remember him fondly. His crooked smile. His hopeful laugh. The nasty nights of arguing. So many nights of arguing.

He never saw the machete she wielded in her hand. His last words were, “I never meant to . . .”

She doesn’t miss him as much as she thought she would.


Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium.

Mr. Bradford and His Ox Collection

Flash Fiction

Photo by Samuel Sweet via Pexels

Mr. Bradford, the town farmer, has an ox collection. I mean . . . we call him the town farmer because it sounds a lot better than “The Town Lunatic.” He lives out near the Crescent Mountains on 200 acres of inherited land that he has kept maintained and ran like a tight ship for twenty years. He has a collection of oxen that increases every few months. There are no cows or bulls to be seen — none, only oxen.

Father Tony says he cannot part with any of them, not even as a source of sustenance or profit. He is attached — connected deeply to each of them and with time, this fascinating truth only gets weirder.

My name’s Toby Clemmons. I live five miles away from Mr. Bradford. My family’s his closest neighbors. Me and my best friend, Buddy Newsom, have walked his land in secret every other Saturday for the last three years. He’s got corn stalks, fields of wheat grain, collard greens, cucumbers, cabbage, and squash. Oh and his oxen. No chickens. No hogs or pigs. No horses.

My nana says he had his manhood stripped away from him when he was in his teens — something about being a sex-addicted fiend who couldn’t keep his third leg in his pants.

Me and Buddy were sitting on my porch one Thursday after school and she had been rocking back and forth in her rocker, smoking on that stinking pipe of hers when suddenly she struck up a conversation with us. “Old Man Bradford had his pecker tweaked and boys snipped when he was a young’un. He had a hard time learnin’ to be decent. He’d often run around town naked threatenin’ to stick that penciled thing in any of the town girls.”

I looked at Buddy. He looked at me. We looked at my nana. “Say what now, Nana?!” She patted the arm of the rocker, tapped the booty of the pipe, and stuck the tail back into her mouth. Mini smoke plumes circled around us as we sat with our mouths completely open. “The Griffith brothers got’im. They’d heard what he’d been doin’ — caught wind of it through Father Tony’s sister Cindy and her friend Maggie. They attacked Old Man Bradford one night when he’d been headin’ home. That ain’t a way to lose what God gave ya — no sleepin’ med’cin or anything like that. Castrated and left to bleed in the middle of Bennyhill Road, holdin’ what he ain’t even had no more.”

As you can probably imagine, me and Buddy probed her to go on for this was a story we hadn’t heard and I was almost positive my folks weren’t going to tell me anything like this. So, me and Buddy sat there hellbent on listening to Nana. “Sheriff Yates and his deputies went searchin’ for the Griffith boys that night, couldn’t find’em. Some say they took the next train to Norfolk. Others say some no-gooder named Tommy Stacks loaded’em all up in his Cadillac and drove four towns over. I don’t know which story to believe, but if you ask me, Bradford’s been a whole lot calmer since he lost his manhood.”

I know what you’re thinking. Maybe he collects oxen because they too have been stripped of what many believe makes a male, a male. I would agree with you. But my best pal Buddy put a bug in my ear that made me see things differently. “Them oxen ain’t judgin’ him, Toby. He can load’em all up, care for them the way he knows how — run on empty or be as off as the day is long, and guess what?! They ain’t gonna say a thing. They’re just gonna go about their days grazin’ on grass, shittin’ all over the fields, and being right there for Mr. Bradford when he needs them.”

The day Buddy told me this, I began seeing Mr. Bradford in a different light. To many in the town, he had been a man who had several screws loose — one who, if we had the courage to actually say the word “rapist,” would, in fact, be that word — an outcast, cast out, who would never be allowed back in. I opened my eyes and I see a man who never learned what respect is — how to give it or how to receive it. He never learned there is a time and a place for everything. He had no other way of expressing himself.


Me and Buddy were taking the back roads to get to Mr. Bradford’s fields when we spotted Father Tony. I decided to pick Father Tony’s brain. He was, after all, Mr. Bradford’s only friend.

“Father Tony! Hey! Father Tony! Can we ask you something?”

“Sure. What about?”

“My nana says Mr. Bradford lost his manhood when he was a boy to the Griffith brothers after he’d been trying to mess around with some girls in town. Is this true? Is this how he lost his mind?”

“Your nana said what, Toby?! Have mercy. Listen to me and listen to me good, boys. Daniel Bradford fought in ‘Nam and came home to his father’s death. Two years after that, his mother died too. No siblings. No cousins. No family. That farm you see him working on all the time was his father’s great-grandfather’s farm. His mind ain’t been the same since he came back from the war. As for his manhood — he attempted to court Lily Fleming one night at Vee’s Diner and she declined his invite loudly on a Friday night when the place was packed. He came home that very night, chopped off his frank and beans, and nearly bled to death.”

“Jesus Christ, Father Tony!”

“Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, boy. You heard me right. I’d been sitting up in my room feeling kind of down and something kept punching me in the gut. Something that said, “Get on over to Daniel’s place now.” So I hopped in my cruiser, sped through the back roads, and got to the farm just in time.”

Buddy looked over at me and shook his head. We didn’t know which story to believe now. Both stories could be movie thrillers, but this was Father Tony and my nana probably hadn’t taken her pills the day she fed me and Buddy that mess about Mr. Bradford.

“So, that’s what really happened?”

“That’s what happened, boys.”

“So, why doesn’t he talk? Can he talk? He always stares blankly with that boring smile on his face and waves flimsily at us.”

Father Tony shook his head and let out a loud sigh of disbelief. I don’t know if he couldn’t believe we asked this question or he couldn’t believe he was being asked to answer it, but all the same . . .

“I didn’t get there in time to stop that part. He’d managed to cut half of his tongue out too. Said it’d prevent him from ever asking another woman out. This, he had to write out during the police report and hospital intake.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. This man . . . This man really didn’t have anyone but those oxen of his. Well and Father Tony. I didn’t know it at the time, but Buddy slapped me on the back and said, “Toby! Man, you’re crying. You all right?!” I was all right, but I wasn’t.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned and sweated through the sheets. I went downstairs for a drink of milk and Nana was sitting at the table in the dark, smoking on that stinking pipe. She looked up at me and smiled a sly smile. It was then I realized Nana’s maiden name was “Fleming”. I’d never called her “Lily,” only “Nana.”

“A damn shame, ain’t it?”

And that’s all she said.


Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium.

Underwater Tricks

Photo by Engin Akyurt via Unsplash

Boris had twenty-five seconds to escape from the chains that bound him. The blindfold was never an issue — it was always the key. Sometimes, it’d slip. Others, his fingers just couldn’t grip it in time. He had no problem holding his breath — at this, he was the state champion. Could he unlock the padlock to the chains, swim to the top of the surface, remove his blindfold, and tell the crowd how he did it?

Five seconds remaining. 5, 4, 3 . . .


This is a microfiction example used in A Cornered Gurl for writers to take note of for our most recent challenge, “Underwater Experiments” where “Microfiction is our addiction.” If you want to join us in this challenge, please click here . . . Challenge ends on Friday, January 29, 2021.