Sunday 31 January 2021



by Todd Wells

a coffee that has a shot of Kahlua 


David took off his gloves and rubbed his hands together, close to the heat of the fire. He looked across the flames at his wife, and wiped his nose. Molly was fishing in the bag for a marshmallow. Her hair flowed out of her lavender knit cap, framing her beautiful face. David waited until he thought she was looking at him, then wiped his nose again, more vigorously this time. They had met ten years ago, an anniversary they were celebrating with this camping trip, and though David now found her more attractive than ever, she still wasn't getting the hint.

David attacked the middle of his face with one last effort. He didn't want to disturb the ambience with verbal instructions, but he was out of options. Then, fate saved him in the form of a snowflake, which landed on the tip of Molly's nose. She smiled at the snowflake's tickle, and rubbed at her nose with the back of her glove, removing both the snowflake and the dried snot that had been the object of David's irritation. He relaxed.

Molly's eyes sparkled as she impaled a marshmallow on her stick. Front-lit by the fire, but softened with the day's fading light and a delicate snowfall, David was powerless not to begin undressing her with his eyes. A zipper. A button. He could almost hear the tearing of the velcro as he imagined opening the cuffs on her parka.

David's trance was broken by the flash of Molly's marshmallow bursting into flame. Watching her eyes close as she wrapped her mouth around the charred confection, he had to stop himself from telling her out loud that they're a lot better if you just brown them. That way they don't taste like ash, and they're gooey all the way through. The one you're eating right now is probably still cold on the inside, isn't it.

David refocused. Let it be the purple underwear tonight, he hoped, and not the beige briefs with the frayed elastic band. He was scarcely done working out the logistics of carrying her across the threshold of the tent when he heard the rustling.

‘Shh. What was that?’

‘Wrumpf?’ asked Molly, her mouth full of carbonized sugar.

It was hard to hear over the crackling fire, but David was sure something was approaching from the woods. He peered into the trees.

It was getting louder. What at first sounded like a squirrel, and then a raccoon, was now probably a moose. David struggled to remember how to handle moose attacks. When the woman staggered out of the trees and bumped into him, she knocked him down easily, as he was already preparing to play dead.

The woman collapsed. In the fading light, David could see she was fully dressed for hiking; coat, boots, moisture-wicking slacks with several pockets lining each thigh. She was probably just a couple years younger than Molly. The woman curled into a ball, shivering violently.

‘She's soaking wet.’ Molly had run over. The woman tried to respond but her jaw was rigid. ‘Let's get her into the tent.’

David nodded and scooped her up. He could feel the cold cut right through his own clothing. In the tent David lay the woman down. Molly started undoing the frozen laces on her boots and speculated.

‘She's hypothermic. Remember that stream we crossed? She probably slipped on that icy log and fell in. We need to get her out these wet clothes and into a sleeping bag.’

The woman had pulled her arms across her chest. David tugged gently to get at the zipper on the coat, but she was clenched too tightly.

‘Come on,’ urged Molly, as she tossed aside the second boot, ‘Take her coat off.’

David stammered. ‘Okay, sure, that's what I'm trying to do. But she's not helping. I mean, look…’

Molly elbowed David aside, pinned the woman on her back, and forced her arms from her chest.

‘Unzip the coat,’ Molly ordered. David did as he was told.

Molly went to work on the buttons on the woman's shirt. ‘One of us will need to strip down and crawl in with her. She's not going to warm up on her own.’

‘It should be you,’ answered David, a touch too gallantly, because even in the dark tent he could see Molly smile.

David started stammering again, but Molly cut him off. ‘Go outside and find some rocks to heat up in the fire. We can use them in the sleeping bag.’ Embarrassed, David gathered up the wet boots and jacket and crawled out of the tent.

As he looked for appropriate-sized rocks, David rationalized that Molly takes off women's clothing a couple times each day, while he only gets to do select items once every week or two. Of course she's better at it than he is.

David found a rock that looked promising. He was about to place it in the fire pit when he heard another noise. It was coming from the same direction as before, but David didn't have nearly as much time to prepare. The next person to come barreling out of the trees was bigger and the impact knocked David flat, with the interloper landing on top of him. Two things were clear right away: this hiker was also soaking wet, and this hiker was a man. Despite the shivering, David could tell he was solid. In the light of the fire David could see the man's neatly trimmed beard accentuating his rugged good looks.

David got to his feet. ‘Are you okay?’ he asked.

The male hiker tried to answer, but with his frozen jaw all he could manage was, ‘G-g-g-g...’

‘You're good?’ prompted David. The man's head began moving vigorously in response, but his shivering made it impossible for him to keep his head on a straight up-down or side-to-side axis, and David couldn't tell what the answer was.

‘Is that a yes? You're okay?’

The man tried to speak again, this time more forcefully, but the result was no better. ‘Guh-h-h-h-h-h,’ he moaned, after which he curled up into a tighter ball and tried rolling himself towards the fire.

David's mind raced. ‘Hey, Molly,’ he called, ‘Hang on a minute.’

‘What is it?’ came Molly's muffled response from inside the tent.

‘I might, umm, need your help.’

‘Now?’ came the incredulous response.

‘It's just that, well, yeah.’

The tent rustled, the flap opened, and out stepped Molly wearing nothing but a pair of hiking boots.

‘She's in the bag, and I was just about to...’ Molly looked down, then back at David. ‘Another one?’

David nodded. ‘They're wearing the same kind of hiking pants, so I think they're together.’

‘U-h-h-h-h-h,’ the man groaned, either in agreement, or disagreement.

‘Alright,’ said Molly, assessing the situation, ‘I'll help you get him inside, and then I'll get in the bag with the girl while you take care of him.’

David had already been assessing the situation. ‘Can I talk to you over here for a second?’ he asked, gesturing towards the far side of the fire.

‘What in the world for?’ asked an exasperated Molly, rubbing her arms around herself for warmth. David guided her around the fire pit.

He lowered his voice. ‘I think that maybe it might be, umm,’ David glanced at the shivering man balled-up in the snow. ‘Maybe I should, you know, get in with the other one.’

Molly's brow furrowed. ‘Are you serious?’

They both looked at the male hiker. He was twitching violently, his low body-fat index providing little insulation.

Molly cocked her head as the understanding settled. ‘Oh, come on, don't be such a baby.’

‘I'm not being a baby,’ David protested, ‘it's just that,’ he looked at the man again, the chattering of his perfectly straight teeth cutting through the cold night air. ‘It's just that, maybe it would be better if I didn't get in with him.’

Molly nodded. She held her arms out to her sides, giving her husband an unobstructed view. ‘So you'd prefer that I get in with him instead? If that's what you want.’ The firelight danced across Molly's taut, goose-pimpled skin.

‘Maybe I could just heat him up by the fire,’ suggested David.

‘g-u-h-h,’ said the man, softer this time, his ample muscles running out of stored energy to warm themselves.

‘Decide,’ ordered Molly, ‘which one you want to get naked in a sleeping bag with, and I will get in with the other one.’

David looked at Molly. He looked at the hypothermic man. His internal conflict raged. ‘I, I, I guess...’


By early the next afternoon they were back in the car. David gazed out the window. He paid no attention to the postcard-perfect, snow-dappled trees rolling by. Molly stared straight ahead, both hands on the steering wheel. Periodically she stole a glance in David's direction, before quickly looking back to the road.

‘Would you like to put on some music?’ she asked.

‘No,’ he barely whispered.

Several minutes later Molly tried again. ‘I guess it was lucky all that stuff happened because, what was his name? Steven? If he hadn't been there, I don't think you could have pushed the car out of the snow on your own.’

Still staring out the window, David corrected her. ‘Simon. His name was Simon.’

‘Oh, right.’

Five more miles passed in silence before David finally said, ‘Maybe for next year's vacation we should go someplace warm.’

Molly didn't hesitate. ‘Agreed.’

About the author

Todd Wells lives in Chicago. He dabbles in time-travel, in that he plays bass in a 1980s cover band. More? Yes, of course. Go here:  

Saturday 30 January 2021

Lauren to Direct


by Janet Howson 

red wine 


Lauren admitted to herself that she wasn’t really coping well with all the pressures and responsibilities she was facing at the moment with her father’s hospitalisation and increasing dependency on her and the  Homelands Estate Agency in Mayfair had got off to a slow start leaving her wondering if she would be able to keep all the staff on. The planning of her marriage to Chris had been put on hold and this had affected their relationship and now she had four weeks to rehearse the Drama Group’s Murder Mystery production, to be shown at her golf club. She couldn’t refuse the role of director as she was Lady Captain at the golf club and this was a yearly social event that she had started about three years ago.

    She was about to call it a day and lock up the office when she heard her name being called. She swung round to see her PA, Charmaine, running across their car park, der hair uncharacteristically out of its neat French plait, flying dramatically behind her. Not for the first time Lauren was impressed by Charmaine’s toned, fit body. She knew how to look after herself. She had been Lauren’s PA for ten years and she could rely on her for anything. When things were proving difficult, she would take over to give Lauren a break. She organised her diary for her and never made a mistake. Over the years they had become more than employer, employee, they had become best of friends. She was wonderful when her father was in hospital and Lauren was visiting him every day. She didn’t know what she would do without her. The only setback was that Chris didn’t like her. Right from the first introductions Chris didn’t have a good thing to say about her. Was she jealous of the relationship between her and Charmaine?

    “Lauren, I was half way home and I realised I hadn’t given you the message from Chris. I tried your mobile but you must have it turned off.” She caught her breath before carrying on. “She said she would meet you at the White Feathers at eight o’clock. I am so sorry.  It isn’t at all like me. I must be tired. You still have about five minutes to get there. You could try her mobile?” She sounded so upset that Lauren’s heart went out to her. She was the kindest person she knew. Most people wouldn’t have bothered to return with the message.

    “The problem is I came by tube? My car has gone for it’s first service.” She was trying Chris’s phone but only getting the recorded message. “Damn it, no answer, I will just have to risk it and get there late.”

    “Look, it’s all my fault, I’ll order an Uber then run us both round to the pub and wait outside in case she's gone, then if she isn’t there I’ll get the Uber to drop you off at your tube station and then me at mine.”

    “You needn’t do that.”

     “No. I want to. It’ll make me feel a bit better about my negligence.”

    “Okay, let’s do it.”

    The Uber soon arrived and Lauren and Chris got in and they gave instructions to the driver and quickly found themselves at the popular and crowded White Feathers. A pub popular with the gay fraternity.

   “You go and find Chris then come out and give me the thumbs up. Good luck, I’ll see you tomorrow at work.”

    “Thanks, Charmaine.” Lauren checked her watch, “only fifteen minutes late. She will have got herself a drink I am sure, see you in a moment when I find her, won’t be long.”

     Lauren pushed her way through the crowded bar area checking faces. No sign of Chris. She then searched every corner of the seating area, then outside in the smoking area and lastly the toilets. There wasn’t a sign of her. Then she had a thought. Maybe she had sent a text. She had been in too much of a rush to check her messages. She pulled out her phone that had been turned onto silent whilst she had been in a meeting. There was a WhatsApp message from Chris.

    ‘Gone. When you can fit me in between your father, your work and your precious drama group, let me know.’

    Lauren read it again. She had never known Chris to be so vitriolic. Surely, she could understand how vulnerable she was feeling after her father’s stroke and how important her work was to her. She had worked so hard to get to where she was. She had never pretended otherwise. The remark about the Drama Group being precious stung Lauren. She had helped to start it up ten years ago with Shirley. She had been only twenty- five and wanted to find some kind of release from the pressures of work. She had loved it and was soon directing and writing plays.

    Charmaine. She had forgotten she was still waiting for her in the Uber with the clock ticking. She ran outside to the taxi beckoning to Charmaine, who on seeing her got out looking worried.

    “What’s the matter? Have you forgotten something?”

    “No, she isn’t there,” she showed her the text. There was nothing they didn’t share.

    Charmaine read the message and looked at Lauren. “Are you okay? I feel terribly responsible. She obviously wanted to speak to you about something urgent and I have messed up your relationship.”

     “Hey you two. Do you still need a taxi? I ain't got all night to sit around while you sort your lives out. I’m missing out on fares.”

    “Oh, so sorry. Do you want him to drop you off at the tube or are you going to try and contact Chris?”

      Lauren was about to get in when she stopped. “Do you fancy a drink, Charmaine? I don’t feel ready to go home yet and it would be good to talk.”

    Charmaine paused a moment to take this in. “Well if you are absolutely sure Chris won’t mind, I would love a drink with you. It will make a nice change to office meetings with cold cups of take-away coffee. Let me pay for the taxi, though. It will make me feel better.”

    “As long as I can pay for the first round.”

    “A deal.” Charmaine paid the driver and followed Lauren into the pub which was getting busier and busier as the evening progressed. “This place never changes, no elbow room. I love the atmosphere though and the drinks are quite reasonable for London.”

    Lauren stopped in her tracks and turned to Charmaine. “But this is a gay pub. Why do you come here? You were going out with a bloke called Simon for ages. Did you come here?”

    “Yes, we did and that was Simone not Simon, I suppose we’ve never talked about it but I came out about three years ago. I have always kept my work life separate to my social life,”

    “But the times you have supported me with my relationship with Chris and the problems I had telling my father. You never mentioned it. I bet you went through all sorts of soul searching, guilt and divided loyalties as I did. Oh, Charmaine you are a dark horse. Let me get the drinks then we will attempt to find a corner somewhere to talk. White wine?”

    “Great.” Charmaine scanned the buzzing bar area and saw a couple leave a tiny table near the door so she shot across and literally jumped into one of the chairs, just beating another hopeful, by seconds. She pulled out her lipstick and applied a coat then brushed her hair that had gone quite wild out of its plait.” She watched out for Lauren and when she spotted her carrying two generous glasses of white wine she stood up and waved.

    “Well done Charmain, trust you to sort it. I would probably be still wandering around aimlessly then drinking in the car-park.” She placed the drinks on the table, took her coat off and settled into the chair with a sigh. “It’s lovely to sit down and wind down after work. Why have we never done this before?”

    “Because you are my boss and it would have been presumptive to ask you. Although I would have loved to have done. It often crossed my mind at Christmas but I just never thought the moment was right. Still, hadn’t you better ring Chris, perhaps she could join us?”

    Lauren got her phone and as she unlocked it the earlier message from Chris flashed up. She read it again. ‘Arrived. You had gone. Not working, not with my father, not at a rehearsal. Was I expecting too much to expect you to be a bit supportive during this difficult time? Having a drink in the pub. If you are still interested in saving our relationship, I am on table near the door.’ She pressed the send button.

    Putting her phone away she took a long drink of her wine and studied Charmaine. She had never guessed she was gay. Why should she?

    “How difficult was it coming out, Charmaine? I have only recently told my father and he took it far better than I thought he would. I was quite surprised. He had even accepted that Chris and I were going to get married.” Lauren realised she had used were instead of are going to get married.

    “My family are all old school Catholics. They could not accept it at all. They still think it’s a phase and it’ll pass and I will end up marrying a good local Catholic boy.” Charmaine stopped and Lauren could see how upset this made her. “I am literally cut off from all family occasions. My father and mother don’t bar me from the house, but I don’t feel welcome there anymore. My brother is quite supportive but he lives in Manchester so I hardly ever see him. But hey ho. That is life and I have a job I love and a boss I….” she hesitated, “admire and work well with.”

    Lauren took all this in. After all these years she was seeing her loyal PA and friend in a different light. She had taken it for granted that the diligence and loyalty Charmaine had displayed were all just part of her work ethos and her ladder towards promotion. Now she wondered if it was more the fact that she liked Lauren not just as a friend but a potential partner. Chris must have recognised it hence her dislike and mistrust of her. How could she have been so blind?”

    “It must have been so tough for you. I know what a close family you all were. Why didn’t you talk to me about it? The times I confided in you about my relationships and problems and you just kept quiet about yours. I feel awful I never spotted you were struggling with your divided loyalties. You always appear so calm and organised. In fact, you forgetting the message from Chris is so out of character.” She leant over and placed her hand over Charmaine’s, “I am so sorry for being so busy and preoccupied that I wasn’t there for you.”

    “You two seem to be very cosy. Don’t mind me, I’m just the fiancée, no one important it seems. I would hate to break up this twosome by being a gooseberry.”

    Lauren spun round to see Chris. She had never seen her like this before. Her face was twisted in anger, her eyes blazing, her hands on her hips in an aggressive pose.   

    “Chris. You didn’t answer my text, I didn’t think you were coming.”

    “Well that’s quite obvious. You might need to reallocate this.” She pulled her engagement ring off and slung it on the table. “I hope you two are very happy together. I’ll warn you now, Charmaine, you will come very low down on the list of her priorities. You’ll be lucky if you get to go out once a week, and that’s normally squeezed in between other commitments. Good luck with her father. I felt I was never good enough for his precious daughter.”

    “Chris, sit down this is so ridiculous. It was my fault Lauren didn’t get your original text. Please carry on with your evening, I’ll get a taxi home.” Charmaine proceeded to gather her things together, embarrassed and near to tears.

    “No, sit down Charmaine. It’s not your fault. Chris you are totally over reacting. Charmaine kindly said she would stay on and keep me company whilst I had a drink. I didn’t want to go home so early.”

    “Forget it, Lauren I have had enough. That was what I was going to tell you tonight. Hence the urgency. I can’t cope with this part time relationship any longer. I have met someone at the art gallery who wants to be with me all the time. I was feeling really guilty about it. I didn’t realise you had already moved on.”

    Lauren couldn’t speak. She sat down with her back to Chris. After a pause Chris turned round and left the pub.

    “Are you all right?” Charmaine’s concerned voice broke into Lauren’s thoughts.

     “I think I’m supposed to feel broken hearted, but I don’t. Perhaps the reason I wasn’t seeing much of Chris was that I wasn’t sure it was really what I wanted. The relationship had grown stale. I was using my work, my father and my drama commitments as an excuse. I was seeing far more of you than I was her. She is right. I have grown very close to you.”

    “I will be totally honest with you, Lauren. I have been standing on the side lines for so long with the faint hope that one day you would notice me?  I kept on wanting to tell you how I felt but you were with Chris so I just accepted that. Now it looks like the engagement is over…”

    “Do you know, I suddenly feel really relieved. It is if a heavy weight has been lifted off me. I am going to the bar and I am going to order a bottle of Champagne and we are going to raise a glass to the future. Our future.” Lauren added smiling at her loyal friend. A friend who now, hopefully, would be the partner she had been waiting for all her life.  A partner she knew would understand why she had to devote time to her work, elderly father and her drama group. Perhaps she could involve her in the Murder Mystery? Who knows.



About the author

Janet Howson was born in Rochdale but moved to the South of England when she was seventeen. She loved writing and reading from an early age and wrote poetry and plays. She joined an amateur Drama group when she was eighteen and her love of the theatre began. She trained to be a teacher and her two subjects were English and Drama. She then went on to teach for thirty five years in Comprehensive schools in Redbridge, Havering and Essex. During this time she wrote and directed plays for the pupils and continued to be involved in Amateur Drama both as a performer and a director. Now she is retired, Janet has joined two writing groups and with the help and advice she has received here, started to write short stories and has had stories published in anthologies and her first novel, Charitable Thoughts can be found on Amazon Books. She intends to continue writing both novels and stories, adapting some of them into theatre scripts and radio plays.

Published Work

The Best of CafeLit 8 an anthology published by Chapletown Books 2019

Stories included: Marking Time & Induction Day.

Nativity an anthology published by Bridge House 2019

Story included: Solution.

Charitable Thoughts a novella published by Austin Macauley

Can be found on Amazon Books

It happened in Essex tall tales from the Basildon Writers’ Group

Can be found on Amazon books



Friday 29 January 2021

Faded Painted Rose



by M.A. DeNeve 

strawberry soda


             The accident- and I’m still not sure it was an accident - happened about mid morning.

            Chubby Checker was on the ancient jukebox.  Classic cars filled the street in front to Amelia's Books and Records. Occasionally  I’d look up from the counter where I served  fresh coffee and doughnuts and I’d see a Corvette, an Edsel or a Bel Air. As busy as we were, the cars made me want to be cruising.

            When the Beach Boys sang Little Deuce Coup, I new what one looked like. Jimmy one of our regular customers usually drove a Jeep into the parking lot, but he'd pass around pictures of his Coup.  On this day he had the car out on Woodward. He'd toot as he drove past.  Of course, I didn't know all of the thousand plus classic car buffs who’d come to the Cruise, but I thought my customers, the ones I served everyday, had the best cars.

            This was the Woodward Dream Cruise, the largest car show in the world.  The crowd was expected to exceed 1.2 million.  I thought I’d served at least that many cups of coffee and it was still mid morning.  In some ways the cars were coming home. They'd rolled off the assembly line right  here in Michigan.

            The screech of tires on pavement is not unusual for Dream Cruise Day, but when I heard it, I somehow knew something bad had happened.  At first I thought it was a car accident, two pieces of metal grinding into each other. Our customers rushed outside to see what happened. Amelia, the store owner, and I collapsed onto the bar stools at the counter. We’d been going non stop since 8 a.m. when we’d opened. We welcomed a brief break, but prayed no one was seriously hurt.

            Reluctantly after a few minutes we got up. I made a fresh pot of coffee. Amelia drifted toward the window.  Whatever had happened, it stopped traffic completely. Just what we needed on Dream Cruise Day when the street was overcrowded, and the cars weren’t moving much anyway.

            Jeannie who works records came back in and said the it was Rose. “She got hit by a car.”

            “Is she all right?” Amelia asked.

            “It don’t look good.”

            Soon sirens screamed; An ambulance made its way through the overcrowded street. I saw a few cops outside keeping the crowd away from the street. People started coming back inside to talk about what had happened.

            Earl from the Corvette Club said.  “The lady ain’t no more.”

            “She’s dead?” I asked.  “Are you sure?”

            “Course, I’m sure. You think I’d come in here and say a thing like that if I wasn’t sure?”

            The local patrons had not liked Rose when she was alive; many of them had been downright mean to her.

            I hadn’t known Rose well, but I’d always been nice to her when she came in. I was nice to all the customers, but I had felt sorry for Rose, who wore stained, faded sweat shirts, white socks  and polyester pants that stopped short at the ankles. I’d sneak her extra coffee cake and pay for it from my tips.  I could always get money from my parents, but I didn't think Rose had much. Amelia felt sorry for her too and invited her to meetings even though the others at the Fan Club and the Reunion Committee didn’t want Rose there.

            “She graduated with you?”I asked when I overheard Amelia invite Rose to the class reunion.

            “Fifty years ago, but who’s counting.”

            The Fan Club was Amelia and my grandmother and some of their friends. When they’d been young, they all liked different singers and some of them had changed favorites over the years. Bobby Rydell. Fabian. Dion. Frankie Avalon. They still had their scrapbooks and their records. They met once a month to discus what was happening with their favorites.

            The reunion committee again was Amelia, my grandmother and the others planning their fifty year high school reunion. They graduated in 1966.

            The Fan Club, the Reunion Committee and the car clubs all met at Amelias.  There were political groups too. This was 2016, an election year. We got Bernie groups, Trump groups and Hilary groups and even Green Party members and Libertarians meeting at Amelia. Suffice it to say, I made lots of coffee that summer.  Waiting on them was good practice for the Dream Cruise.

            More customers started coming back in. “It was some old lady,” one of the  them said. “She looked like a bag lady.”

            “Tramp in other words.”

            Those who knew Rose didn’t have any better things to say. “She was an odd one.”

            “Old as the hills,” Earl said.

            “She graduated with us,” Amelia reminded him.  “If she was old as the hills, what does that say about us?”

            “She got held back a few years didn’t she. She was older.”

            “Ain’ no crime in being old,” Amelia said. “She was a nice lady.”

            Someone punched some numbers in the Juke Box. After Brenda Lee stopped rocking around the Christmas Tree - we were in August for god sake - Nat King Cole sang “Faded Tainted Rose.”         

            I started crying. Rose hadn’t had the best life, but she didn’t deserve to die and she didn’t deserve their meanness. 

            How could anyone get hit during the Dream Cruise when cars mostly drove so slow?. Sometimes they speeded up for short jerky spurts. But they wouldn’t do that if someone was standing there.

            I remembered just before the accident. It was noisy in Amelia’s store, but I’ve got good hearing. The whine of a motor and the scream.  Someone had accelerated and…

            Amelia put her arms around me. “Time for a break,” she told me.

            I shook my head. “We’re too busy.”

            I was 16 years old and this was my first job. I’d grown up in the last few months working for Amelia. Old timers - 60 and 70 year old men and women - came in and I was calling them by their first names. That felt odd. Amelia reminded me that the presidential candidates were Bernie, Hillary and Donald. “First names come easier nowadays,” she had told me.

            Amelia’s was a used book and record shop. The old timers many of whom had  worked at the auto plants bought these same records when they were younger and the songs were popular.  Now they dropped quarters into Amelia’s jukebox and played the old songs that they knew when they were growing up. I’d bet few of my high school chums knew who Dion was.


            On Monday, the Dream Cruise was over and Woodward Avenue had gone back to normal. The Juke box mostly belonged to Frankie Avalon that day. Bobby Vee and Paul Anka sang a few songs.

            There wasn’t much new to say about the cars or the Dream Cruise. Instead the regulars talked about Rose who they said wore too much make-up and never learned to drive a car.

            “She never could look good no matter what she wore.”

            “Too fat and too weird.”

            “She sure was an ugly woman.”

            “She used to take the bus down to GM. She worked on the line just like a fella.”

            “Built like a fella too.”

            “Good worker, but no one liked her down there. She got laid off when the lay-offs came.”

            “She had seniority. The union shoulda done something about that.”

            “Remember our senior prom,” Amelia said.  “She didn’t have a date, so she signed up to serve punch. And she wore this pretty formal dress. I felt so sorry for her. She wanted to be part of the prom. She helped decorate too.”

            “Always trying to fit in.”

            “She never got married.” 

            “Who’d want her?” Someone suppressed a laugh.

             I turned away so I wouldn’t have to look at whomever it was had made that comment.

            Amelia silenced him. “She was a good person. What’s your problem?”

            “Good riddance to the nut case,” the man said and walked out.

            “She didn’t get pushed, did she?” I asked.

            Earl who was seventy-something and worked on restoring a Metropolitan which he drove to the store sometimes said, “I saw her. She walked right in front of that car just before it accelerated. It’s like she knew what was going to happen. There was something wrong with that woman.”

            “She was autistic,” I told him. “I had an autistic older sister and I recognized it right away.” Autism wasn’t diagnosed as often fifty years ago when Amelia and my grandmother and Rose were young. Women like Rose were ignored and teased, bullied and hurt instead of helped. 

            “Go take a break,” Amelia said kindly.  She was a good friend of my grandma’s and she knew how my sister died.

            I should have gone into the rest room. Instead I sat at the counter and let all the old timers watch me cry. They had all hated Rose because she was different. Most of them didn’t understand why she was different. They just hated her. But I had loved her just like I love my sister.

            On the juke box Nat King Cole sang, 

About the author

M.A. DeNeve is a crazy cat lady, tree hugger and bag lady. Her short stories appeared in Over My Dead Body, Yellow Mama, Everyday Fiction and Mysterical -E. Her novels are available on Amazon.