Member Monday: Grandmother’s Skirt by Alicia McCauley

Welcome back to Member Monday. Today we feature an essay by Alicia McCauley. Alicia is a teacher, a writer and the President of Vigilante Kindness. Her essay, Grandmother’s Skirt, was recently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas. Welcome, Alicia.

Grandmother’s Skirt

by Alicia McCauley

A tiny crack splintered through my heart when I hung my grandmother’s skirt up in my closet this Christmas.  It’s a red and green plaid skirt that sits perfectly on my hips and floats at my knees, a traveling pants sort of miracle being that I’m six feet tall and my grandmother was five feet tall on her tallest days.

The skirt is one of two items I took from her closet when she passed away.  The other was a bland oatmeal sweater that smelled like her.  I kept that sweater on for days after she died, breathing in her smell even as I laid in bed nights, listening to the sounds that felt all wrong in her house.

But the skirt went unworn.  

The first Christmas season after she died, I couldn’t put it on without crying and so it hung at the back of my closet, its red and green merriment lost in a dark corner.  The second Christmas season after she died, I was able to wear the skirt with only the slightest quiver in my bottom lip when I looked in the mirror.

I paired my grandmother’s skirt with a black jacket zigzagged with zippers and tall, black boots with the skinniest of heels.  For good measure I added my favorite leather studded bracelet.  I remembered my grandmother wearing the skirt, so proper in her heels and pantyhose and a red sweater on top.  She would’ve laughed and shaken her head at her modest skirt paired with my hints of edginess.  

A thousand times I wanted to send her a photo.  I wanted our pictures to stand next to each other, each of us wearing this magical skirt, her red lipsticked mouth smiling next to my own pale grin.

Every single time I took her skirt out for a spin, I was showered with compliments.  I’m not fashionable or trendy in any sense of those words.  I’m gangly and awkward and when I can find pants that don’t look like I’m readying for a flood, that’s a fashion win in my book.

When I stepped out in my grandmother’s skirt, it was a whole new experience.  Compliments were showered upon me.

“I love that skirt.”

That is a fantastic skirt!”

You look radiant in that skirt.  It really brings out the color in your cheeks.”

Needless to say, I felt great in that skirt, so great that I carefully put it in my clothing rotation as often as possible.  I took the skirt to see ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.  I wore it to three Christmas parties.  I wore it to the Christmas sing-a-long on the last day of school.  Finally I donned it for our Christmas morning church service.

As we read the Communion passage, I held the plastic Communion cup, complete with wafer sealed on top, and swirled the grape juice so that it coated the sides of the cup in red.  I thought about how Christ’s sacrifice covers my sins. I savored the wafer on my tongue and washed it down with the bittersweet juice, running red down my throat.

After church and after all the gifts were opened, a knot caught in my throat when I hung my grandmother’s skirt up that Christmas afternoon.  I ran my hand over the wool and slipped the skirt back into the recesses of my closet.  

Later that day I strapped on my helmet and pedaled out for a Christmas bike ride.  Under a blindingly blue sky and with the taste of Communion still on my lips, I thought of all the gifts I’ve received this past year, both tangible and not.

I smiled because somehow in spite of her passing, my grandmother still manages to give incredible gifts.

In her skirt I felt vibrant.

I felt confident.

I felt beautiful.

And the most magical gift of my grandmother’s skirt is that when I took it off and placed it back in the closet, all of those feelings still remained.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com. Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!

Member Monday: Breakthrough by George Parker

Welcome back to Member Monday. Today we feature a piece by Writers Forum member and newsletter editor, George Parker. Welcome, George.

Breakthrough

by George Parker

Rock work comes easier for some people than others. Some people pick it up right away. A few never get the hang of fitting rocks together without the benefit of concrete or mortar into an immovable wall. Most of us only get it after a long hard struggle learning how to talk to the rocks.

Ella was a Corpsmember from Del Norte. She had been on John Schwabe’s ‘Fishhead’ crew. Schwabe was a fisheries biologist, and most of the projects his crew was assigned were salmon habitat restoration projects in the north coast watershed. Ella had thrived at Del Norte. She had a hippie spirit that appreciated the concept of ‘giving back to the Earth’. Her ambition had been the Backcountry Trails program from the day that I met her at Del Norte. I had already worked my two years as a regular CCC corpsmember. When I met Ella I, I was a staff member. I was a fisheries special corpsmember, liaison between the CCC and the Department of Fish and Game sponsor, and technical adviser on fisheries projects. I frequently worked with Schwabe’s crew on fisheries projects. Ella was outgoing and sociable and friendly and really wanted to make a difference in the world. She was a hard worker who always pushed her five-foot-two-self to be better, faster, and stronger.

Ella was chosen for the Backcountry Trails program and assigned to one of the two Kings Canyon National Park crews. I had decided that it was time to move on from fisheries and had applied for trails jobs around NPS. I was hired by Kings Canyon. Ella turned out to be on the CCC crew that I was going to work with. This was a good thing!

Ella fit in very well with the camp life and culture of a Backcountry trail crew. She worked as hard as anybody on the crew. Her high spirits saw her though the trials of a first season on a Backcountry trail crew. Ella had only one thing dogging her. She just could not get the hang of rock work.

Laurie Church, our NPS foreman, and Eric Vanderleest, our NPS maintenance worker, spent a lot of time with Ella, trying to teach her how to fit rocks together that did not look like they wanted to fit together. Ella would appear to understand, and Laurie or Eric would leave her to finish the section, but when they would come back to inspect the work, the rocks would be too loose and unstable to be acceptable. When a section of rockwork was finished, you needed to be able to kick the rocks and jump on them and not have them budge. Ella wasn’t getting there. Eric would test kick her work and rocks would move. Ella started getting frustrated with her progress. Eric started getting frustrated. Words were exchanged. Tempers flared. Life did not feel good around Ella’s rockwork.

By the August dog days of the season, our trail maintenance had progressed above Rae Lakes and was heading towards Glenn Pass. Crewmembers by now were getting enough experience with rockwork that the good ones could be left more or less on their own. Eric and I were running corpsmembers in several sections of the trail. One morning Eric and I hiked out of camp ahead of the crew and he lined me out on what he wanted done that day. One section just needed eight or nine feet of single tier wall. Eric told me to have Ella just piss ant the rock down for the project, but he expected me to build it.

“I don’t know what else to do with Ella,” Eric said. “I’ve tried showing her every way I know how. Laurie has tried everything she knows. I don’t know. Maybe Ella is just a person who is never going to get the hang of rockwork. She just might be piss anting rock for the rest of the season.”

Eric and I continued up the trail around the bend about thirty yards, and he showed me where he wanted a multi-tier wall on a switchback. Eric continued up the trail to his worksite. I went back to the first worksite, where I met Ella on her way up the trail.

“Eric’s got a section here that needs some single tier wall.”

Ella mumbled “Sure”. She looked like an exhausted late season corpsmember. For the most part, she looked like everyone else on the crew at that point of the season. ‘Clean uniform’ had become a relative term. Dirt was ground in to her khaki uniform shirt under her daypack straps, leaving black lines around her shoulders that were never going to come out…not even when we got back to washing machines. Her blue CCC hard hat was on her head but pushed back off of her forehead, sweat damped hair peeking out across her forehead. She had leaned out over the summer. She was more solid, and could perform feats of strength and endurance she had never thought possible for herself.

One thing was different between Ella and the rest of the crew. I could tell the difference in the sloop of her shoulders and the exhaustion in her eyes. Her face was drawn. Her eyes had a vacant stare. I had been in the same condition before in Yosemite. I think she had hit her wall. The wall is that point in a trail worker’s first season when you reach a point of exhaustion at which you are not sure you will be able to physically finish the season. You are emotionally drained. The muscles protest at being pushed so hard. The stress of living with the same twenty people or so all summer takes its toll, and all you can think of is returning to civilization, to showers, TV, and restaurants. Ella displayed all of the symptoms on that day.

“Okay, Ella. This section here is just gonna need some single tier wall. While you’re piss anting the rock down for that, I’m gonna be up around the bend piss anting the rock for another wall section. I’ll be back to work the wall, okay?”

Ella nodded wearily as she dropped the rock bar and shovel off her shoulder.

“You okay, Ella?”

Ella nodded again and started up the hill to gather rock.

I hiked down to my section and started rolling likely rocks down the hill to the site. By the time I had all of my rocks together, I decided that it was time to go check on Ella.

Not only did Ella have all of the rock gathered, she had already laid three rocks for the wall. I was surprised because I hadn’t told her to build the wall. Then again, I hadn’t told her not to build it, either.

Ella was on her hands and knees chipping a rock with a single jack as I approached. She looked up, and when she saw me, she straightened herself up and stretched her back as I inspected her work. I expected loose rocks and lousy contact. What I found were three good rocks in a wall. Good contact all the way around where the rocks touched each other. They had a good foundation back into the trail tread. I kicked the first two rocks. Solid. They didn’t budge. I didn’t kick the third rock because it wasn’t tied in to a fourth rock yet. That was the one Ella was shaping to fit.

Ella sipped water from her canteen as I looked at her wall.

“Do you know what you have here, Ella?”

“No.”

“You have a good looking wall. It’s solid. It looks good.”

I thought the compliment would cheer Ella up, but it didn’t seem to. She just nodded and took another sip of water. I looked the wall over again, and considered Eric’s instructions. He hadn’t expected Ella to be able to pull this simple wall off, and he had expected me to build it. But Ella was doing a good job here. I decided to let Ella finish.

“Okay, well, it looks like you have this under control. I’ll be right around the corner up there if you need anything.”

Ella just nodded again and put her canteen down. She began chipping away again at the next rock to go into the wall. I went back to my project.

I checked on Ella a couple of more times during the day. She built a good wall. At the end of the day, Eric and the corpsmembers working with him came back down the trail. Eric gave Ella’s completed section the kick test. It passed. He said, “Good job, Parker.”

“Cool. Can you guess who built it?”

Eric looked confused for barely a moment, and then his face lit up. “Ella?”

“Ella.”

Eric kicked the wall once more. “Damn! That’s good!”

He looked around for Ella and brought her over to the section. She looked just as fatigued as she had that morning. Same sagging shoulders. Same drawn face.

Eric said, “Ella, this is good work. A good solid wall. Nice job.”

Ella just nodded.

I am certain that on that day Ella burst through her emotional wall by building a good rock wall. Her spirits picked up after that day. She laid more rocks. Good rocks. As a testimony to how good Ella became at rock work, Kings Canyon National Park hired her the next season as a regular trail worker. Yep. She got my job.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com. Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!

Member Monday: Sleepover from Walks with Thurber: A Memoir by Jennifer Levens

Welcome back to Member Monday. Today we feature a piece by Writers Forum Treasurer, Jennifer Levens. Welcome, Jen.

Sleepover

from Walks with Thurber: A Memoir

by Jennifer Levens

Author’s Note: This is all from the dog’s point of view, so the misspellings are his and on purpose.

I had a sleepover at my house. I know, it has been a long time since I got to talk to you. Mom has been busy, whatever that means. I have been going for more and more walks. But I have to tell you about my sleepover. You know I like white fluffy things and purple things. (That’s because Mom likes purple things. Sometimes she is a purple thing herself), but anyway about my sleepover. Mom brought my friend over and he stayed here. He got to sleepover at my house!!! Mom took us both for walks but not at the same time.

His name is Stan, but Mom calls him Sweetie Pie. Is that a food? Mom and Dad get pie a lot. They don’t let me have it. I get bananas and apples and grapes (not many of those) and a cracker at the morning and a cracker at the night and fish oil pills and then sometimes if I have itchy places or I sneeze a lot I get other pills. Sometimes I fake sneezing, because Dad wraps pills in meat. I like meat a lot too.

About my sleepover, the car smelled funny after Stan was in it. He wasn’t in my seat, but something happened. Mom brought him home and my blue thing for my seat wasn’t there again. I have another thicker blue thing. It is softer and more fun. Anyway, Stan stayed for a long time. Why does he get a bowl of food all the time and I only get two bowls a day? I wouldn’t eat his food. It is hard and in really small balls. He throws it up and catches it. I can’t do that with my food only the apples and bananas and grapes.

Anyway Stan slept in a cage. Mom would never let me sleep in a cage. I couldn’t even fit in Stan’s cage, but Stan says he likes it. It is like a cave and it smells like him and he sleeps real good in it.

The first night Stan woke everybody up. He grrr…d and he woofed and he was real loud. I only do that when there is danger like from that gray thing that crept along the fence and hissed at me and made mean faces at me. I don’t really know what Stan was grrr…ing about. I mean, I guess I am used to the stuff that happens around here. When I go to Stan’s house he says he likes it, because he gets out of his room for a while and my Mom walks him. He says she rescues him from the smelly place where there are all sorts of us and other people like, eeuwwee, cats and stuff. I don’t think I would mind a snake. Snails live at my house and I don’t mind them. They are really easy to catch. Anyway, back to Stan and me. Mom didn’t take us to Dog Park. She left us all; me, and Stan, and Dad all the next day after Stan got here. She came home smelling of woods and trees and why didn’t she take me? I would have really liked that.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com. Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!

Member Monday: An Excerpt from Checked Out by Sharon St. George

Welcome back to Member Monday. Today we feature an abridged excerpt from chapter 1 of Checked Out, book 2 in the Aimee Machado Mystery Series by author Sharon St. George. Sharon is a charter member of Writers Forum and serves as the Writers Forum Program Chair. Here’s a little more about Sharon.

Abridged_excerpt_from_Chapter_1_of_CHECKED_OUT 2Abridged_excerpt_from_Chapter_1_of_CHECKED_OUTSharon Owen, writing as Sharon St. George, is currently working on SPINE DAMAGE, the fourth book in her Aimee Machado Mystery series published by Camel Press. Owen is a charter member and current program director of Writers Forum. She is also a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Visit Sharon at www.sharonstgeorge.com or on Facebook at Facebook.com/sharonstgeorge.

An excerpt from Checked Out

by Sharon St. George

In order to carry on a confidential conversation, Aimee Machado, hospital librarian, and her colleague, medical staff director Cleo Cominoli, meet at a diner near the hospital where they work.

“Looks good.” I nodded at the steaming bowl Cleo placed on the table. “What is it?”

“The special. Meatball soup with kidney beans.”

“Okay, enough small talk. What’s up?”

Cleo sucked in a deep breath and blew it out on her soup.

“Sig is scheduled for prostate surgery with Dr. Poole.”

“How did that happen?”

“He didn’t ask me. His family doctor referred him to Poole, so it was a done deal when Sig finally told me.”

“Does Poole know Sig’s your fiancé?”

“ ’Fraid so. Of course she’ll blame me if he tries to back out.”

“Then what are you going to do?

“I don’t know yet, but we’ll have to act before Sig’s surgery date.”

“We?”

“Please, Aimee. Siggy’s loud and bald and fluffy, but I love him to pieces and we have a great sex life. You’ve got to help me. We can’t let Dr. Poole turn him into a eunuch.”

“You can’t be serious. Poole is aloof and intimidating, but that doesn’t mean she’s castrating male patients just for the heck of it.”

“Doesn’t it?” Cleo scooped a meatball into her spoon, stared at it, then dropped it back into the deep crimson broth in her bowl. She looked a little green.

“When is Sig scheduled?”

“Two and a half weeks from now.”

“Have you tried to talk him out of it?”

“Yes, but Sig’s convinced he’s going to die if she doesn’t operate.”

Cleo’s reaction was so extreme there had to be something she wasn’t telling me. She facilitated every one of TMC’s peer review committee meetings. All of their findings and corrective actions were kept in padlocked file cabinets in her office. She also kept confidences brought to her outside committee by nurses who observed suspicious behavior both on the patient floors and in the operating room.

“Do you know something about Poole that you’re not telling me?”

“Nothing I can confirm, but when a patient leaves the hospital against medical advice the night before his surgery, it raises an enormous red flag. There was an incident several years ago at the last hospital where I worked. One of the surgeons was performing unnecessary surgeries, and eventually the OR nurses got suspicious. Word got out to the rest of the nursing staff, and one of the floor nurses started warning the surgeon’s patients away. After a third patient checked out against medical advice the night before surgery, that nurse was exposed and fired.”

“What about the surgeon? What happened to him?”

“Nothing. He’s still there performing surgeries on other unsuspecting patients. That’s why I turned in my resignation and move here, three states away.”

“Are you saying you think someone warned Cody O’Brien away from Dr. Poole?”

“Why else would he bolt at the last minute?”

“Then you should tell Sig to get a second opinion, even if he has to go out of town.”

“If I can convince him to do that and he does decide to back out, I’m afraid he’ll end up like Cody O’Brien.”

“Cody O’Brien was killed by a horse. Sig’s not a cowboy, he’s a dentist.”

Cleo sniffed and said softly, “How do we know Cody was killed by a horse? All I heard is that he was found unconscious in the trailer with his horse. There was a contusion on his forehead consistent with a kick from a horse’s hoof.”

“Sounds pretty straightforward. Is the sheriff’s office investigating the incident?”

“No, and that’s what bothers me. They won’t investigate unless the coroner’s report shows something suspicious. In the meantime, I thought you and I could do some checking—on the quiet. We can’t go through hospital channels.”

“What kind of checking?” I said.

“Checking up on Dr. Poole. You were hired because you’re a forensic librarian. Use your skills.”

“But I’m not a forensic librarian. I’m a health sciences librarian, and part of my job is building a forensic component for the TMC library. That doesn’t make me a detective.”

“Some of that forensic know-how must have rubbed off. I’ll bet you know more than you realize about how to investigate a murder.”

“Cleo, you can’t believe Dr. Poole is going around killing patients who change their minds about surgery?”

Before Cleo could reply, Margie bustled over to our table. “Hello, ladies. Just dropping off our flyer. Friday night’s entertainment is Code Blues.”

She was referring to a blues combo made up of musicians affiliated with Timbergate Medical Center. I glanced at the flyer and noticed Laurie Popejoy’s name crossed out. I asked Margie what that was about.

“Rumor has it Laurie Popejoy can’t be in the combo now that she’s not employed by the hospital.” That was news to me. I shot a look at Cleo.

“I was getting to that,” she said.

Margie continued her update. “They already have a new gal they found right under their noses.”

“Who is she?” Cleo said.

Margie frowned. “Let’s see … I think her name is Dr. Phyllis Poole.”

As soon as Margie was out of earshot, Cleo grabbed my arm. “Can you believe that? Poole in Code Blues?”

“No, but let’s get back to Laurie Popejoy. What’s going on with her?”

“I was about to tell you that Laurie was Cody O’Brien’s floor nurse last night. He checked himself out against medical advice at the end of her shift. She called in her resignation first thing this morning.”

“What does all of this have to do with Cody O’Brien’s death? Are you thinking Laurie Popejoy said something that made O’Brien skip out on his surgery?”

“He skipped out and ended up dead. Laurie resigned immediately. The timing is too suspicious to dismiss as coincidence. I don’t like it one bit, and I won’t rest until I know whether Phyllis Poole’s involved.”

“Come on, Cleo, don’t you think you’re overreacting because of what happened at that other hospital?”

“Maybe, but we don’t know what lengths Poole’s capable of when it comes to protecting her reputation and keeping her medical license. Meanwhile, she’s not getting her hands on Siggy, whether you help me or not.”

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com. Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!

Member Monday: An Excerpt from Argentine Assignment by Chloe Winston

Welcome back to Member Monday. Today we feature an excerpt from Argentine Assignment, Chloe Winston’s latest book. Here’s a little more about Chloe.

Chloe Ryan Winston 001Chloe Ryan Winston was born on a ranch in eastern Oregon, graduated from Marylhurst University, and earned a master’s degree at Idaho State University.  She lived in Ashland, Oregon, which is featured in her writing, as well as Mexico, and has traveled extensively to fifty-eight countries.  Ms. Winston has contributed to several blogs, and as a travel writer to publications including The Los Angeles Times, International Travel News, and Mature Lifestyles.  She has been a cruise destination lecturer as well as a high school teacher, counselor, and administrator. Chloe will be signing copies of Argentine Assignment at Barnes and Noble on October 24 at 1 p.m.

An Excerpt from Argentine Assignment

by Chloe Winston

The plane’s engines were already rumbling as we scrambled up the narrow, wobbling steps as though the devil himself could have been right on our heels.  I didn’t dare look back.  I whispered, “Knee, don’t fail me now!”  It wouldn’t do for that old sledding accident to kick up a fuss.

A dim light at the top told me the door was ajar, perhaps we could squeeze through that opening. Was it left open for us? Who was on the other side? Were we leaving the frying pan for a fire?  I tripped, my dicey knee buckling a little, and I grabbed the skinny rail to keep from falling.  One of my fingernails ripped.  A brisk gust of wind tore the scarf off my head.  I glanced down. 

The curly girlish wig that I’d put on Jaime’s head was now askew. I yanked one reluctant hand off the rail to reach over and straighten it.  I wanted him to look like a girl until I found out what was going to happen after we boarded the plane. And perhaps should keep him looking like a girl until I handed him over to Derry in Mexico.

My hurried movement threw us both off balance for a moment.  I feared we would fall, and I took a quick breath. Just a few more steps. The door opened a fraction wider, showing a slender hand extended to us.  I shoved the boy inside just as the airplane’s engine strummed more deeply in an initial readying for takeoff.  As I shoved him, I again lost my footing, falling to my knees. A painful slip.  Our helper giggled—a strange reaction I thought, but at least a friendly sound. We probably did look funny…entering a plane this way rather than the more usual collapsing corridor.  I got to my feet, losing sight of Jaime for a moment. Then the attendant slammed the door behind me, swinging the lock into place.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com. Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!

Member Monday: Kijumi is Coming by Alicia McCauley

Welcome back to Member Monday! Today we feature a piece written by member Alicia McCauley during her recent return trip to Uganda. Alicia is the founder and President of Vigilante Kindness, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing education and employment opportunities for students and villages in developing countries. On Saturday, October 17th from 4:30 pm-6:00 pm Alicia will be speaking in the Redding Library Community Room about her most recent trip to Uganda. This event is free and open to the public. Welcome back, Alicia.

Kijumi is Coming

by  Alicia McCauley

I woke this morning to the welcome voice of thunder and the syncopation of rain. I drew back my curtain and breathed in the relief. It hasn’t rained in Gulu in a month and a half, leaving everything and everyone parched and jacketed in ruddy, red dust.

I threw on some clothes-okay, I really just yanked a skirt up under the nightshirt I’d peeled off and thrown on the floor. I didn’t bother with shoes or anything else. I grabbed my camera and iPad. I tiptoed to my mom’s room to see if she was awake to watch the storm with me, but the crack under her door was dark. So with my camera and iPad in hand, I scrambled back down the hall to the balcony outside of my room. The sun wasn’t up yet and I knew I was in for a spectacular lightning show across the dark sky. I sat on the balcony writing and snapping photos.

The storm was behind me, so I didn’t see the fingers of lightning pointing from the sky and touching the ground. Instead the whole of the sky would go from pitch black to electric pinks and yellows all at once, like a camera flash to the face. As my retinas recovered from each flash, I’d count the seconds between the turbulent thunder and the blinding flashes of lightning, counting the miles separating me from the storm, just like I do with my students at home when a thunderstorm rumbles in. To my delight, the increments quickly shrunk from five seconds to one second and then the thunder and lightning were stacked on top of each other, a thrilling assault on the senses.

Not to be outdone by the thunder and lightning, the wind rushed in as well, a welcome reprieve from the stifling, still humidity. The wind whipped at my skirt and splashed my bare feet with rain. My balcony overlooks the once grand Pece stadium and I watched the field puddle.

During my first two nights in Gulu, sleeping was a near impossibility. My jetlagged body struggled to adapt to the correct clock and to the humidity that always sucks the life out of me at the beginning of my trip. At night I’d lay naked under my mosquito net, not the sexy kind of naked, the ugly, sweaty “peel everything off to survive” kind of naked. Mosquitoes buzzed around my net and I laid there sweltering.

I could only imagine what the last month and a half in Gulu had been like. I’ve seen the parched, brown crops and can imagine the utterings from cracked lips praying for rain in this unexpected dry season.

The morning of the storm, I watched the sun peek her pink face from behind the clouds as the spaces between the thunder and lightning counted back up to six, then seven, then ten miles away until the storm held its breath altogether. The soccer field drank the puddles and they vanished almost as quickly as they’d formed. Just when I thought the storm was through, a fresh slashing of rain fell, and a second helping of thunder and lightning filled the sky until the ground was sodden and swollen with rain.

Later that morning, I sat downstairs talking with an old musee. He taught me the Luo name for thunderstorm (mwoc pa-kot) and the Luo names for different kinds of rain. There’s ngito, meaning a drizzle. There’s kot paminilemu, an unexpected rain. But my favorite kind of rain is kijumi, a long, hard rain.

The musee talked about the parched crops and how this mwoc pa-kot and kot paminilemu vanquished his worries of famine.

Famine.

And here I was complaining about the heat because it made it hard to sleep.

Fear of famine had never even crossed my mind. I’ve never known the worrying pangs of impending famine.

While I’ve not known physical famine, I have known the feeling of famine in my spirit, the ugly nakedness of feeling bereft. I know about waiting and praying with dry, cracked lips for some relief, any relief to fall from Heaven. I also know the reprieve of rain and the joy of hearing the cool whisperings of God blow into my life.

Friends, some of you are impossibly parched right now, famished down to brittle bones, praying desperate prayers from cracked, dry lips. I don’t have any pretty, pious words for you, but I prayed for you today during the kot paminilemu, prayed that you’d be absolutely sodden with a first and second helping of refreshing rain. Hold tight, dear ones, in the midst of your dry season, keep looking to the sky.

Your kijumi is coming.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com. Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!

Member Monday: Honeysuckle Moon by Linda Boyden

Welcome back to Member Monday! We hope you got to see the spectacular lunar eclipse last night. It’s a pleasure to serve up a second helping of lunar wonder by poet, storyteller and children’s author, Linda Boyden.  You can purchase a hardback copy of Linda’s newest picture book Boy and Poi Poi Puppy at All About Books.  Welcome, Linda!

Honeysuckle Moon
By Linda Boyden ©2014

I lie in night’s velvet deep.
Outside the window
clouds hide the honeysuckle moon,
crickets serenade the languid air,
the night softened by their song.

The clouds disperse.
The full moon bleeds the landscape white.
I rise and walk among the ghostly trees,
the only sound, my metered breath.

An owl soars across the face of the moon,
its body, a crucifix of shadow.
Thunder trembles in the distance.
I fall on my knees, heart pierced by beauty.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com. Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!