The Baby Picture 0




“The usual?” Mary grabbed two slices of sourdough from a bag before slapping on some tuna salad.

“Yeah,” Tom replied looking around the deli.

Two small puddles of rain water merged on the floor. He shook the drops from his umbrella before sticking it into a cloth grocery sack. Water leaked through the canvas of the heavy bag. He looked around to see if anyone saw its contents.

Mary sliced through his sandwich, placed it on a plate with pickle, and pushed it toward him. He placed on his tray a banana from the fruit basket and a cello-wrapped brownie from the deserts.

“Just a cup of ice water,” he said paying for the lunch.

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The Moment a Heartbeat Shifts Trice 0



Michael S. Sommermeyer

Snow dusting the crest of Mount Tom,
Patches of orange and brown balm,
Cold air smell of jet metal-cased gneiss,
The moment a heartbeat shifts trice.

Clouds roll over the summit peak,
Dark anger of winter mystique,
A chill of slushy snow and ice,
The moment a heartbeat shifts trice.

Skew angle of silvery rock,
Makes way for a white aftershock,
Of wind breath’s plunging sacrifice,
The moment a heartbeat shifts trice.

Valley awaits the brewing storm,
Sunshine blocked behind veil swarm,
An aversion to inclement vice,
The moment a heartbeat shifts trice.

Seeking Charity 0

A Conversation

“I implore you to be accepting. Find it in your heart to give charity.”

“It’s not something I can do easily.”

“The best people find virtue in charity. Are you unable?”

“Charity is not the problem; accepting the victory. That I have a problem with.”

“But it is done. You have no choice.”

“I want to recoil in my distaste, frustration, dissatisfaction, and contempt of his win.”

“You have a lot of work to do.”

“You have no idea.”

A Short Cut to the Dining Room 2




The man stood by the glass door with a bag over his hand and he nodded his head back. Danny looked at him through the water gurgling up from the water fountain. He swallowed another mouthful and considered opening the door.

The man wore a beanie cap, a blue work short, jeans, and he held a green bag with his left hand in front of his right. Behind the bag he appeared to hold something in his right hand. Danny thought about the bag as he returned to his seat.

Mary, his mom, sat on his right holding baby Jeff. His dad, Jeff Senior, sat across from him. Danny shared the same bench with his sister Ann. At every other table in the dining room families talked in pleasant harmony.

A man wearing a green beret teased a woman wearing a flowered muumuu with a french fry. She giggled and grabbed at the fry when she missed. A woman poked into her chili, while a man rested his cheeseburger to steady her bowl. The sun reflected off the glass and the beaded crystal curtain. Behind it a sign invited guests to visit the American Freedom Train at the Naval Air Station.

Danny slurped a gurgle of remaining soda out of his empty cup. Two drops rose up the straw with a slurp, slurp sound. He dropped the cup behind his sister’s and reached for her grape soda.

“Danny is trying to drink my drink,” Ann said.

“You know better,” his mom scolded.

He fingered his empty cup. More soda would be nice, although refills cost money, and his mom already made it clear this was a treat. He still wished for another. He looked back at the water fountain and the door. The man still stood there. Danny went to get another drink of water.

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Taking the Road to School 0




He hid behind a branch, yet she found him. A pink travelers case, with a dancing ballerina inside, hung at his hip. She packed inside his breakfast of creamed wheat and bobbing raisins. Now she wondered if it sloshed inside covering the ballerina with a sticky sauce.

He refused to eat his breakfast. Definitely, he announced he would leave home forever. She packed up his suitcase and made sure to add his bowl. He took the case, stumbled down the deck, and ran for the road.

The road started from their trailer. It circled through meadows, pine trees, a one-room library, and finally a Spanish-styled market. A second road crossed it leading to a brown church with a tall steeple on one end and a cluster of houses on the other. A few feet away from the crossroad, a power pole buzzed. Before, she had invited him to lean against it and listen to the buzzing. He buzzed his lips all the way to the market.

His fleeing took him no farther than start of the road. Between them a dry creek full of grass and saplings cut them off from each other. He inched along the shoulder kicking up old asphalt along the edges. His eyes met hers in a dance of cat and mouse. He moved to hide himself and she followed. The case became too heavy to hold so he set it down. His mother reached out both arms from her side of the creek. He laughed and toddled around to embrace her.

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Retirement Tomatoes 0




His tomato plant stood in the middle of a mound of sand as a brittle stick with two wilted branches. He tried more water, which puddled around the stick. Water seemed to only lubricate the small grains before they cut into the base of the $2 plant. If a man could grow a field of potatoes on Mars, he should be able to grow a tomato. Or could he?

Across from his garden, the neighbor grew tall corn, squash, and tomatoes. The garden bloomed with buzzing bees, ladybugs, and pesky worms. In comparison, his garden looked worse than a desert with cactus flowers and burnt grass. He grew dirt.

The neighbor amended manure from rabbits, goats, and a horse mixed with straw. A goat would just eat the garden and he had no room for a horse. He decided he could raise rabbits.

The price of one rabbit totaled $12 at the feed store. He bought two. The rabbit hutch cost $54 and the clerk warned him she couldn’t tell a male from a female. If he had two females, then great. Otherwise, he should expect kits in 30 days. More rabbits meant more manure, so he agreed. Rabbit feed totaled $16 a bag and fed four rabbits a month. He was now a rabbit farmer.

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L.A. Needs the Water 0

A Conversation

“They talked about the Owens Valley last night.”

“About the Alabama Gates shootout?”

“Missed that part.”

“Sort of a Bundy Seize around 1924.”

“A bunch of ranchers took over Alabama?”

“A bunch of Bishop ranchers kept Los Angeles from drinking Owens Valley water for nearly a week.”

“The old aqueduct?”

“It was new then. L.A. bought up the orchards and dried them out to send water south. The ranchers wanted the water back.”

“The place is a desert. I’m guessing the protest didn’t work out so well.”

“The ranchers lasted four days. Newspapers all over the world talked about it. But it didn’t stop Los Angeles. It opened up the gates.”

“It all runs downhill.”

“Yeah, flush twice; L.A. needs the water.”


Alabama Gates

Courtesy: Loyola Marymount University Digital Collections

Scarlet Ribbons 0

Scarlet Ribbons


The trip required three bus changes, a slight wait, and the chance of no seat. He just wanted to forget work on the humming bus ride home. Before noon, someone clogged the sixth floor toilets. The backup sent water over the walkway as he returned to lunch. After a shower of piss water, Robert Lotz needed a seat.

The bus lurched to the stop letting out a whoosh from its brakes. Second stop on Robert’s trip. He waited behind a college girl in a running suit, a boy wearing eye shadow, and a shopping cart pulled by a hunched-over woman. In college, he organized each weekend frat party dressed in modern pop.  Tonight, he was the old man at the end of the line with four kids, two dogs, and a wife who saw him more as a burden than the wild guy she married. Waiting to board, he read the newspaper folded to the business section. The economy needed this market to come out of its flats. He pushed up a pair of bifocals as the hunched woman struggled to lift the shopping cart.

He reached to help. The woman turned, gave him a look of contempt, and smacked his hand back. She pulled the cart into the step again. Unable to lift the cart, she turned and gave him a look of “what are you waiting for.” He picked up the cart and raised it on the bus.

He dropped three quarters in the meter, turned inside, and shook his head. Just as he predicted; no seats. Robert walked over to the straphangers, propped his briefcase between his feet, and folded the newspaper under his armpit. The bus jumped forward and he grabbed a hanger. With his hanging hand he pushed up his glasses. Another night of standing unbalanced. He stood opposite of where the shopping cart woman had managed to wedge between an angry fat man and the skinny track girl. She shoved to position further into the seat, the fat man nudged back, and the reaction slid the college girl off the seat. Catching herself, she grabbed a hanger just as the bus turned onto the highway.

The driver made a fast pace over the rolling hills. The girl, the fat man, and the shopping cart woman all left the bus. Robert sat down three stops from home and scrunched up his toes seeking freedom. He set the newspaper down beside him and watched out the window. The highway gave way to a street lined with elm trees, white cupboard houses, and Halloween decorations. He hit the buzzer and the driver stopped two houses from home.

Children dressed as villans, superheros, princesses, and ghosts jumped on the sidewalk or scurried across the grass. They popped up beside him or in his path in spurts excited by the night of tricks and treats. He marched through the costumes pausing and pitching from side to side. With his dance, he managed to miss most of their twists, turns, and orbits. A crowd of kids blocked his porch scampering for the treats laid out by his oldest daughter Cindy. She ignored him as she dropped small candies into each bag. He cleared the horde of small monsters into the house. Continue Reading

Description vs. Feeling 0




Sometimes a writer decides to describe items; a bookshelf filled with classics, a few popular authors, and a dictionary.

Sometimes a writer decides to describe feelings; a bookshelf of proven ideas, untested ones, and the long unvisited prefixes memorized years ago for the ACT exam.

Descriptions of items provide a snapshot of the moment. An inventory a detective gives to a murder scene.

Descriptions of feelings give the reader a moment to reflect and react to the items. The feelings they experienced in a similar situation.

The reader craves feelings because they provide a chance to share the character’s experience. Rewrite descriptions to include feelings. Otherwise, the writing becomes a list.

A Moment of Pure Truth 3




Christopher stood over the maze of workday and eyed the sea. A thin fog cloud floated passed his perch on the 45th floor. On the docks, sea lions barked at tourists. East Bay traffic sought a faster path, ships hauled electronics in and almonds back out, and the blood-red sun sunk into late afternoon north of the Golden Gate.

In the conference room, five people sat in executive chairs around a table. Their faces reflected gloomy sullenness. They might as well said they intended two more hours of arguing and defensiveness. He crushed out his cigarette and flicked it into the wastebasket.

Across from a camera hunched a nervous man with a woman perched to the side wearing a mask. Christopher thought he could use some oxygen too. While the man told his story, the woman repeated what he said.

“Does she have to do that?”
“We need an accurate transcription,” said an attorney seated at the end.
“Isn’t the video enough?”
“I want to read it tonight.”

Christopher rocked forward. He ran his right hand through his gray hair and looked over at the man. “Forget the transcriber, Mr. Wells. The faster you answer, the faster we can get out of here.”

The nervous man explained his one-of-a-kind process. It required this and that and one thing or the other. It mattered little to those at the settlement conference. The questions rolled and the answers landed in a flat dud. Each person rubbed their eyes and wished for sleep.

Christopher turned to the window daydreaming of places far from this evening. He watched the sun drop into the ocean until the dying light filled the room.


Five hours over the vermilion bridge, he rolled down the fabric roof. Clammers walked along the beach carrying clam guns and pails. They smiled in the ocean air. Christopher breathed deep taking in a feeling of warm relief. The sea smelled sweet. Sentries of redwoods stood on the cliff and a lone tree marched out to the shore. He longed to join its rush to the sea. Away from him, he picked up the faint smell of skunk. Humboldt County Fog, he guessed. A guy in a beanie and a girl in flannel shirt smiled and waved.

He touched the dash. It felt solid although he still wore his virgin wool dress pants. He closed his eyes for a moment and opened them quick. A pair of 501’s and a wool cardigan replaced the virgin wool. He looked in the mirror and dark sunglasses reflected back. He settled into the car seat steering the wheel away from the sand.

The redwood forest rose above the ocean. Ferns and grass bunched up crowding the road. The path intruded on the stillness giving way to silence. Sentries of trees towered until only darkness touched the sky. The forest seemed to ignore his intrusion of their assembly. Christopher came to seek solace and the forest ignored him.

He slowed the car into a clearing. The tires crunched over cones, broken branches, and fronds. A hard thump echoed from the closing door. He regretted disrupting the surrounding cathedral.

He wandered over fallen trees and rocks. Over a ridge he scanned for the tree tops watching the breeze sway each branch. The trees reached a height beyond his imagination. He leaned against a trunk rounder than his height. He followed the ridges and cliffs of bark as high as he could see. It never ended. He guessed this tree stood stories tall long before his great-grandfather saw California.

The width of the tree circled around and Christopher stepped over ferns as he rounded it. A black ant carried a golden speck of pollen at the end of a mile long trek. It rushed to disappear under the surface of leaves going deep into the humus. Christopher looked around the clearing not seeing his starting point.

A beam of light surrounded a smaller tree with a pathway from the sky. Dust and insects crisscrossed the dancing light. Christopher stood in awe breathing in the serenity.

He walked away from the big tree to stand under the light shaft. The illuminated tree stood tall like the last one except for its pure white branches. His shoulders shuddered and every tree seemed to step back with appreciation and respect. He reached up stroking an albino cone of pure whiteness as a subtle spark passed through his hand twinkling in the light. He rubbed together his fingers feeling the soft white powder. A jolt of energy flashed from the tips and floated to his core. He felt alive and full of wisdom.

The light around the ghost tree grew brighter and he stood alone looking up. In the light glow, Christopher’s face expressed joy.


“Is that what a nervous break down looks like?” asked Mr. Wells.

Christopher jumped back from the table. The room grew larger and a crowd standing around him snapped to attention. The transcriber braced Christopher’s back. He sank into a chair confused by the way everyone stared. A hand pushed him a glass and he sipped the water allowing himself to return to the meeting.

Christopher surveyed the balcony. Stars touched the rooftops of the city and a helicopter searched over the bay. He stared outside while the others waited for him to say he felt alright. Christopher cleared his throat and everyone turned to him.

“Answers come at the strangest times,” he said.
“How do you mean?” Mr. Wells asked.
“All this means nothing. None of you should win.”
“But we are so close.”
“A settlement over a little slight?”

Christopher pushed himself away from the table. He stood for a moment before the people seated opposite him. He nodded, smiled, and looked up. They followed his gaze to the ceiling tiles where he saw his answer. The other people in the room only saw a crisscross pattern.

As they tried to understand the truth, Christopher gathered up his papers, turned away, and walked out the door.