Muddy Girls

Muddy Girls

Sky’s Falling Girls Make Mud Pies

Photo by Daiga Ellaby via Unsplash

“Lacy! Gimme that mud bucket! Is Sky over there? Is it spitting out mud?! We need more mud for these pies!”

Lacy looks towards her bossy twin, tilts her head, and casually skips over to Missy with Sky in the muddy bucket. They have mud pies to make.

“Here! You ain’t gotta be all direct about things, Missy. I could’ve heard you all the way down the Chattahoochee River. You need to learn how to talk to people. Didn’t Mama tell you that? Didn’t Aunt May?”

Lacy, the quiet one, usually the one to smooth things over when things got out of control, has been frustrated with her twin sister for a few days. This one event lit an already fiery flame within her. She was tired of Missy and someone had to let her know. Totty follows close by. She wants to see what her two big sisters have brewing.

“All’s I said was to bring the bucket over and look after Sky too. That was a great big ole piece we pulled from behind Ms. Ruby’s shed. I don’t want us to lose it.”

“You oughta go’on and apologize, Missy. Don’t be so bossy all the time. It ain’t ladylike.”

Missy sucks her teeth, rolls her eyes, and blows out a raspy breath. Lacy stands her ground. Totty reaches for her sister’s hand and squeezes it. They both watch Missy struggle to make amends — to admit wrong.

“Okay, Lacy. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have been so demandin’. I was excited. Can you forgive me?”

Lacy looks at Missy, searches her eyes for truth, and finds it. She accepts her sister’s apology. It is pie-making time.

“Okay, I accept it. Just — you mind your manners and don’t let it happen again or me and Totty’ll go right on home.”

The girls scoop mud up by the handful, plop it into three buckets, then spread the contents in three pans. Each lump is layered atop the other and within minutes, an ultimate mud pie is made. Totty jumps at the opportunity to stick her fingers in the gooey dirt, then slaps it across her face.

“TOTTY! Whatchudoin’?!” They both scream at their toddler sister, reprimanding her for being curious. “YOU ALMOST ATE SKY! That’s not for you to eat, Totty. It’s for us to build muddy sky pies with.”

Totty shrugs her shoulders. She shakes the mud at her fingers sending muddy bits flying into the air. The sky changes color. What was once a sinner’s yellow is now a saint’s orange. It is getting late.

“We better get movin’,” Missy exclaims.

“Right. Mama will have our hides if we don’t beat the crickets’ song and Ms. Ruby’s porch light.”

The three of them run as fast as they can, buckets of muddy sky piled upon each other, dirty clothes and pruned fingertips are signs of a good time.

The night is tailing them and Sky fades to black the moment their shoes meet the front door.


Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium.

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Changes

The Remarkable Use of “No.”

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A Dusting|Photo credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

Claudia sits on her borrowed couch, sips Theraflu, and twists her hair from nervousness. She licks the edge of her gold tooth and sucks in the wild air of the night. It’s not hot. It’s not cold. It’s an in-between seasons kind of evening, yet there’s snow on the ground. She pets her cat Louie on the back of his head, scratches his little ears, and licks that gold tooth once more. She acquired it back in ’94 on a dare from her then-girlfriend, Cindy.

Cindy was a powerhouse. She had everything going for her, including being a mom and wife — house with the picket fence, Benz, and thousand-dollar breasts. She wanted Claudia, though, and she had her.

Then there was Dave. He was a news correspondent for a prominent journal in their city. He had red hair, freckles, and a laugh that reminded Claudia of Santa Claus. The things she did for that man . . . They snuck around town late at night, crept into places where a significant amount of money was definitely an option and had sex on every inch of furniture in her home.

He was married too. No kids. His wife caught them out together at a museum. That was the end of Dave.

Paula . . . Sexy. Sassy. Paula. She had moonbeam eyes, plump, kissable lips, and smelled like a broken heart. Claudia fell for her easily, even got her name tattooed on her left breast. A memento. A keepsake. Something she now regrets.

Paula wasn’t married, but she wanted an open relationship. She couldn’t see herself tied down to just one person and Claudia loved her so much she agreed. She made so many changes to her life and herself, she began to notice that she no longer knew what she wanted.

She wanted to be loved. She wanted to be lifted up and gazed upon as if the sun rose from the cleft of her chin. She wanted commitment — the totality of oneness with a mate, and happiness. She wanted happiness.

Leon, the gas station guy, changed her whole perspective on dating and she thought, This is what I want. Yes, this is it!

But Leon had a long-standing relationship as a coke-head and Claudia found out the day a few items began missing from her home. It broke her, the last straw. Her back shattered in places bones were not supposed to be.

Take away the addiction and Leon was perfect. And maybe that was the problem. He was so well-put-together that Claudia did not search for hints of faults or flaws. At the age of fifty-two, she made the decision to just say “No” and live her life without someone else attached to her.

When she did this, the doors of opportunity opened. New job. An advance of $2,500.00 on her first fantasy fiction novel. Relocation. Two new books edited and published within six months of each other. Bestseller’s list. And on and on and on, it went. Her life was an avenue of great things and she enjoyed skipping down the unknown path.

Until . . .

Laura. Five years later, she was forced to say “No” out of fear of who Laura could actually be and what she would potentially lose. Laura was single. No kids. No drug habits. No crazy antics of horrible events to come. And to Claudia, something was wrong with this. She was too perfect. Laura could not be true.

Because of her past, Claudia passed on Laura. She wasn’t going to take another chance at being the underbelly of a broken creature. She skipped her casually — afraid of what could be behind that unopened door. She used “No” so often after her, she forgot “Yes” existed.

She forgot life existed.


Originally published in The Junction via Medium.

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Today, I Wanted To Tell You I Love You

*I am sharing this here as well.

Today, I Want To Tell You I Love You

Because I Do

Photo by Hush Naidoo via Unsplash

Many of you know I work in the medical field. This is my sixteenth year being in some form of this industry and I do not recall senses and anxiety levels as heightened as they are now. What I want each of you both here in A Cornered Gurl and on Medium to know is: I love you. The work I do puts me on the front lines of our facility and my face, along with my six co-workers’ are the faces our patients see first. I work for a prominent imaging facility in my area and as of today, we are still open.

We will be open, We are there to provide scans and invasive procedures to those who need them. This is our job.

I have a background in medical claims accounts receivable with a focus on insurance. Prior to this job, I worked as an Insurance and Patient Accounts Representative for five years and prior to that, as a Medical Billing Specialist for five years. At the very beginning of my adventurous tour of the medical world, I worked in primary care. What I did then, prepares me for what I do now.

I register anywhere from forty to sixty patients on a daily basis. Many of their questions used to be; “Is my insurance going to cover this?” “How long will this procedure take?” “Will I need to fast (be NPO or nothing to eat or drink for a certain amount of time) for this scan?” The questions I get now are far more difficult to answer, however, my organization equips us with the tools we need by keeping us up-to-date with numbers and medical terminology to be able to direct our patients to the professionals who can better assist them when we cannot.

I can tell you many stories ranging from happy to sad to indifferent to overwhelmingly fearful. People are wrought with fear mostly and the media does not make it any better. Am I afraid? Sure, I am. What I do puts me in close contact with many who have communicable diseases and it has for nearly two years. But, we are trained and taught how to operate in a facility such as this one so washing my hands, using hand sanitizer, wearing the proper PPE whenever necessary, making sure my vaccinations are up-to-date, taking multi-vitamins, and disinfecting exposed surfaces throughout the day is second nature to us. But, this does not mean we will not contract COVID-19.

What I hope for all of you is that if you can, you practice social-distancing, quarantine or isolate yourself whenever you feel any symptoms related to COVID-19 (properly research them and communicate with your Primary Care Physician), adhere to any curfews or lockdowns your city, state, and countries implement, and be smart, be kind, and be loving.

Over the next few weeks, there will be challenges at our facility that I have never experienced. I want all of you to know that I will be using all the tools given to me during orientation and throughout my career to properly handle those that arise. I work with an awesome group of people and we do what we have to in order to provide the best care for our patients.

If you need an uplifting word or a virtual hug or just someone not too far away to let you know they care — I do. I love you. Be safe. Help others when you can, but by practicing the best methods so as to not harm them or yourself.

I am working the closing shift tonight and I can already envision a bit of havoc, but I will conquer it as best as I can. I wanted to let you all know what I am facing — from my perspective.

Peace and blessings.


Originally published as a letter in A Cornered Gurl via Medium.

Featured Writer for March

Shannon Mastromonico is a recently added contributor to A Cornered Gurl and is a powerhouse of talent. With the ability to visually capture her poems and prose with her own art, she brings something extremely different to our publication. Her words are sharp, vulnerable, and edgy with a hint of “matter-of-factness” to them. I am happy to present to each of you our Featured Writer for the month of March, Shannon Mastromonico with her debut poem:


Until Planets Move

©Shannon Mastromonico 2020

This marks new ground
broken. This
is a pain plateau. Going
through too many dark forests
foraging for peace. Lost
and undernourished
Until planets move
and color shifts
Respite by chance
of wandering stars
and moon dips


Originally published in A Cornered Gurl via Medium.

Non-fiction Saturdays

Grief

It Comes When You Don’t Want It

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova via Unsplash

When you’re shopping. When you’re on an important phone call. When you’re at your youngest child’s soccer game. When you’re cleaning up the house . . . It strikes without warning and all you can do is succumb to it. All you can do is let it grab you and swallow you whole and try to breathe in breaks, counting to ten, and allow yourself the chance to be overcome by a force much stronger than you. This is what happened to a patient I was registering for a particular scan on Wednesday, March 04, 2020. A certain phrase triggered her and she shook her head quickly, held up a hand to me as if to say, “Please, just give me a moment,” and then the tears flooded her face.

I respect life. I honor death. I give grief the space it needs. I directed her to the box of Kleenex to her left and advised her to “Please, take your time, ma’am.” She wiped her face, huffed out a regretful sigh, and began to explain to me that her husband died three weeks ago. It’s still fresh, you see. She isn’t used to the frequent interruptions that her heart issues to her because life is still trying to go on, however, she is feeling stuck.

She took the tissue and dabbed at her eyes. She talked while I listened. I went over her medical information, the purpose for her scan, verified her demographics, then gave her a little more time to be in that space. That space was comforting. It was necessary for the moment. And me — this stranger she met at an imaging center preparing her for what’s to come is now apart of her growth.

She apologized profusely and I looked at her with a clear intent to demonstrate that there was no need for an apology. I asked her if she needed more time before we pressed on and she told me that she was okay — we could continue. I finished the registration process, slipped a wristband on her left wrist, and directed her to the waiting room where she would be called for her scan. I asked her before saying goodbye if I could hug her. She nodded yes, and I lifted myself up from my chair, walked around to the patient lobby, and pulled her in for a long, tight hug.

The tears came quicker then, but this time, she did not apologize. I told her that I wished her well — I wanted peace to be something she could gain and soon. She thanked me and we ended our time together. I have never been married. I cannot tell you what it feels like to lose a spouse, but I have lost a grandmother, two-great-grandmothers, a grandfather, an aunt, a few cousins, and a couple of close friends. I know that this type of pain — this death pain comes and goes. It never truly ceases.

We cannot time it. We do not have a map for it. We cannot direct it. It comes when it wants and usually when you do not want it to. It sneaks up on you when all you want to do is find sweet rest, but you cannot and eerily enough, it’s almost like grief knows this. It’s as if it knows you want to move on, you want to be lifted up from the belly of the infected beast, but no matter what you do, you are pulled back into its sweaty grip.

The next few people I registered happened to be in line waiting while I interacted with this particular patient and each of them thanked me for what I did. It must have been the look on my face because I thought and I assumed, most would think this way too, that this is how we are to react when someone needs a moment — to give them the time to step back, lose it a bit, and come back to life. There’s still humanity, people — some of us are truly humane.

Grief does not wait for you to get it together. It does not care who is watching. It does not think about the life you have to live after your loved one dies and will never come back. It moves and shakes and hits you when you least expect it. I hugged a patient today. We embraced until she stopped crying and nothing else mattered to me at that moment. Nothing else could have pulled me from what I thought mattered most.

All that mattered is that she knew I cared and I had to show her — I did.


Originally published in Other Doors via Medium.

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