Near 500 words: Personalized Poems

Some will do anything for love. Jay was thinking. What could he do to get Dab’s attention? He had been in love with her since he saw her six months before, coming out of Apartment 12B. He would say, “Hello.” She was always courteous. She said hello back to him, and that was it.

Once he went across the street and stood on his head as she walked out of the building. It started to rain and he was left wet. She laughed, plopped open her umbrella, then went on her way.

Then it hit him. He was pretty darn good at writing poems. At least, that was what his literature teacher said.

He put on his khaki shorts, sneakers and blue t-shirt. He made a large sign out of the cardboard box he had in the corner. On it, he wrote “Personalized Poems” in black marker. He took some cord and tied it to each end of the sign, threw it over his head, adjusted it against his chest, put on his straw hat, grabbed his clip board, placed some nice stationery on it and stepped out into the hallway of his apartment.

Mrs. Claymor saw him. Looked at the sign. “Write me a poem,” she demanded.

“Five bucks,” he said.

“What if I don’t like it?”

“Then you don’t like it.”

“Do it get my money back?”

“Of course,” he said, wanting to get on with things and find Dab.

“Does it rhyme?”

“It might just rhyme. Then again you might not be the kind of person who gets a rhyme. Some of the best poems never rhyme.”

“How long will the poem be?”

He wasn’t sure but five lines came to him. Mrs. Claymor liked that, smiled and handed Jay her five bucks. By the time Jay left the apartment building he had made fifty bucks.

Out on the street, several people stopped him and wanted poems. A woman with her daughter wanted one for the child.

Each poem took about five minutes of writing in his beautiful script. One was about how the woman made the sun smile. Another was the story of coming out of a dark tunnel and the woman provided the light. He wrote a poem for a man who had lost his job. And one for a woman who had just been hired. But still no Dab.

As he was about to head back into his apartment building, Dab approached him. Goosebumps appeared on the back of his neck.

She smiled and said, “Write me a poem.”

Jay had saved his best work for this one moment. He quickly wrote her poem and handed it over to her. She gave him the five bucks.

“No, no,” he lied. “This is my hundredth poem. It’s a free one.” He placed the money back into her hand.

She read the poem and said, “What dribble.” Then she dropped the paper on the sidewalk. She walked away.

At that moment, Jay’s world came crashing down. He stood in the middle of the sidewalk with tears in his eyes, thinking what a fool he was. Why did he think this would impress Dab? He felt like a man suddenly caught with no clothes on. He looked up at the side of the apartment building and saw his apartment window on the twelfth floor. He would be dead by the time he hit the ground.

“Hello,” a voice came from behind him. It was soft and light just like one of his poems.

He turned and a woman was holding his Dab poem in her hand.

“How did you know?” she said.

“Know?”

“Yes, this is—” she stumbled over the words. “This is my poem.”

“It is?”

“And it just made my day.”

“It did?”

She looked at the poem again, then back up at Jay. “I’m Carol. Can I buy you dinner?”

One family

Inspired by the movie, “The Hours,” based on the Michael Cunningham novel.

Yalda was the painter in the family. She was the youngest of six sisters. The other five were dancers. Her mother encouraged her to dance. When her father saw her watching him paint, he thought she might be an artist. Gabriel wasn’t opposed to dancing. It was just that it would be nice if one of the girls took up his passion.

He showed her the ropes. How to hold a brush. How to make it fly across the canvas. How to mix colors to get the results she wanted.

Her sisters were not unhappy about Yalda. Five dancers in the family was enough they thought. It was different for their mother. She wanted all her daughters to follow in her footsteps. She would choreograph the dancers. The daughters would dance them. This disappointment festered with the mother.

“C’mon, Mom,” her oldest begged. “You’ve got us. Let Yalda do her own thing.” She was beginning to realize that her mother might not be the encourager she always thought.

“I’m trying,” her mother said and hugged her daughter. “But I can’t help it.”

“You’ve got us,” her second daughter said. She was always the quiet one. But it was important that she speak up now.

Her mother hated the way she felt. It was even causing a wedge in her marriage. Her husband had never objected to her encouraging the daughters to dance. But he had realized that her obsession was not healthy. He kept his mouth shut and let his daughters do the talking.

Then one day, Yeta, his fifth daughter, came to him. She was crying. “Mom is going crazy.”

Her father laid down his brush. He followed his daughter to Yalda’s room. Yalda was no where to be seen. But his wife was crashing her daughter’s canvases. She was splattering paint every where. The father stepped back into the hall, closed the door and said to Yeta, “Your mother has to work this out of her system.” But he knew this was not about working this out of her system. This was much more than that.

When she was finished, his wife left the room. She had paint splotched on her face, on her dress, even on her bare feet. Her hair was a mess. She did not speak to her husband. She did not speak to her daughter. She walked into her bedroom, put on a pair of shoes, gathered up a few things, including her purse. She left the house and got into her car and drove away.

When her sisters came home from the movies, Yeta told them what had happened. Their father was in the studio painting. The oldest, Ana, came to the studio and brought her father his favorite tea. There were tears in his eyes. He took the cup and drank it, then said, “It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault.”

The other sisters came into the studio and gathered around their father. Then they cried. All of them cried. It was Ana who finally said, “Let’s go clean Yalda’s room.”

That night the man and his daughters discussed what they were to do. “We’re not going to the police and report her missing. We will just tell everyone that your mother went on a long trip and we don’t know when she will be back.”

A week later a policeman knocked on the door. “We understand your wife is missing.”

He invited the officer inside. “She is missing.”

The officer sat down with the man and his girls. They explained what happened. Not the part about Yalda’s room. But the disappointment she had felt about Yalda not becoming a dancer.

“She left of her own free will,” Ana said. There was a bit of anger in her voice. But mostly sadness. She missed her mother.

“I see,” the officer said. Then he perused the neighborhood. Two of the neighbors had seen her leave. She didn’t look like someone harmed or in harm’s way. She looked the way she always looked, except for the paint splotches. They definitely mentioned the paint splotches.

A detective came to see the family. He asked about the splotches.

The father told him what happened.

“Why didn’t you have her hospitalized?”

“How would you feel if your wife went crazy one day and attacked your daughter’s room?”

“I see what you mean,” the detective said.

“We were all in such shock. We figured she was doing what she needed to do.”

The detective had his answers. He left the family in peace. But the family didn’t feel any peace. The girls and their father worried about the missing woman. And they missed her. They missed her laugh. They missed her cutting up. They missed the Sunday water fights and picnics. They missed her voice as they went about their work.

The five daughters continued to dance. They formed a dance troupe called The Sisters and went on tour. For a few moments before each performance they stood in a circle in silence, thinking of their mother, then they dedicated the performance to her.

Yalda went on painting. In the early mornings, she slipped out of the house. She went to the meadows nearby and worked at her canvas. After a few years, she began to win prizes for her work. When asked, she shared that her paintings were for her mother. When she went and sat in the meadow, she thought of her mother as she moved her brush. That was why her landscapes reminded the viewer of a dancer.

After five years, Gabriel, her husband, finished a large canvas of his wife. It was his best work. Unlike his other paintings which were expensive, he gave this one away to a museum. In his mind, it reminded him that he had to let go of his wife. But it was hard.

Over the next few years, The Sisters travelled around the world. Yalda stayed at home close to her father. She got married and had a daughter. And each of the other sisters did as well. When the family gathered on occasions, they were a large family. They laughed and enjoyed each other’s company.

Just before everyone left, things went quiet. Gabriel and his daughters stepped away from the large group. They walked in silence to the meadow where Yalda painted her canvases. There they each remembered the woman who had left. They remembered one special moment each had with her. Then they returned to the house.

As they left their father, each sister said him, “Soon.” Each had never given up on the belief that their mother would one day return to them.

Near 500 words: The Three Sisters

Monica, Francesca, and Rosanna were sisters. They were Italian sisters. There is nothing like three Italian sisters. Their joy of life was irresistible. It was hard to keep from laughing when the three were in the room.

The problem was that Mario loved all three. It was hard for him to choose. Francesca was the oldest. And the sexiest. Monica was the best cook of the three. Rosanna was the youngest. And, well, she was Rosanna.

After a year of trying to figure out which one to date, he drew cards. He would never tell them what he had done. But he was tired of trying to figure out which to marry. This would settle it forever. It wasn’t even in his thoughts as to which would marry him. After all, he was such a handsome fellow.

Before he drew the cards, he crossed himself and said an “Our Father” and a “Hail Mary”. Then he got down to business. It was Francesca. Thank, God. She was the oldest and this is the one who probably was supposed to marry first. Little did Mario know that Francescea had other plans. She had never brought up the subject.

When he asked her, she said she was in love with another. She planned to marry him. Well, this threw Mario for a loop. No girl in the village had ever refused him. He was handsome, and everybody knew he was going to be a big star. It was only a matter of time before he took off for Rome to audition for the movies.

The next Mario saw the three sisters he did a foolish thing. He told the three he had drawn cards to find out which he should go out with. Francesca was the one the cards chose. Now he was so embarrassed but he wanted to tell them of his undying love. Since Francesca loved another, he had decided to let the other two choose. After all, he was a catch. Everybody in the village said so.

The three just laughed. They laughed so hard they couldn’t control themselves. Then Monica said, “We all love another and we plan on marrying him.”

Mario was heartbroken. No girl had ever turned him down. He was Mario, after all.

Rosanna then said, “You’re just not our type, silly boy.”

Mario went on a three-day binge. Then he woke up with the hangover of all hangovers. His head hurt. Then he crawled out of bed, washed his face and cleaned up. He put on his best suit and had breakfast. Nothing could change his moods the way his Mama’s breakfast could. Then he went and looked in the mirror and proclaimed, “You are Mario, the handsomest of the handsomes.”

He got on his Vespa and headed for Roma. Half way there, he stopped. He had to know. He just had to know who the three girls loved. It was early afternoon when he got back to the village. As he did, he saw the three women enter the Church of Santa Maria. He followed them inside.

Rosanna turned and saw Mario and she stood up from her kneeling. She had a smile on her face. It wasn’t just a smile. It was a Rosanna smile.

“Isn’t it wonderful?” she said to Mario.

“Wonderful?” Mario asked.

“Yes, the three of us have been accepted to become novices in the Order of St. Clare. Soon we will be Brides of Christ.”

Denise

Denise had a cousin who was nothing if not a dreamer. Denise’s cousin died of a broken heart.

Denise decided that was not for her. She had big dreams. But nobody in the family believed her. Not her brother, not her sister. They went their separate ways, found spouses, settled down. Each had a son and a daughter. Her parents liked their children’s spouses. And when they had kids, they made her mom and dad so happy. They now had grand children to spoil.

Denise’s mother kept asking, “When are you going to get a husband and have kids. All those guys you hang out with are gay. They are not husband material. Find a guy. You’ll be a happy Mr. and Mrs.” Her dad said nothing. He wasn’t a talker.

Now Denise liked her sister-in-law well enough. They went shopping and laughed and gossiped the way women do. Her brother-in-law, Marvin, only talked politics. The president this. The president that. And he was loud about it. “Oh, that’s just Marvin,” her sister excused her husband. “He’s got a good heart and he cares about the world.”

Right, Denise thought.

The times she saw her brother and his wife became fewer and fewer. They seemed to drift away from the family. Denise thought it was because of Marvin. He was a hater. Little did she know that her brother’s father-in-law had cancer. Her brother and his wife were helping her mother.

Denise always liked her nieces and her nephews. They seemed like good eggs. Her brother’s daughter especially. She had big dreams like Denise. That was when Denise decided to be a role model and really pursue her dreams. She had talent. She knew she did.

So she was going to New York and become a Broadway set designer. It had been something she wanted since she could remember. When she was seven or eight, she watched a tv show and she wasn’t at all interested in the actors. She wondered how the sets were made.

Oh, sure she liked boys but they were never as handy dandy with a hammer as she was. She could drive a nail into a board, and she could drive it straight. When she went into high school, she joined the drama club. Her drama teacher was sure she had the goods to be a set designer par excellence.

After high school, she let go of her dream. Her mother convinced her that life was too scary. She had to make a living, everybody told her. So she went off to nursing school and became a nurse. It was the easy way out. Dreams were risky, and they were scary. The closest she came to Broadway was the Community Theater.

Now she was in her early thirties. She finally had her education loans paid off. It had been a hard scrimp. She saved and lived with her parents to do it.

Seeing her niece one day made up Denise’s mind. It was now or never. She decided it was time to grow up and prove she had the goods. Be the woman she was meant to be.

On her last night at home, she and her mother had a fight. The next morning her mother didn’t come down to wish her good luck. But her father gave her a ride. In the car, her handed her $1000. “Just in case,” he said.

She wanted to cry but she didn’t. She pushed back her tears.

“Call me at the office if you need help,” her father said. At one time, he’d had dreams. He had not had the courage to pursue them. So he knew what his daughter was doing and how hard it was. But it was the right thing to do.

They pulled up at the bus station and went inside. Her dad bought the ticket. It was a round trip ticket just in case. Denise refused it. So her dad paid for a one-way ride to the big city. Then they hugged.

He left her sitting on a bench waiting for the bus.

“Man, I can do it,” she told herself, caught the bus and left town. As she rode the bus, she thought about all the stages of her life. That was then. Now she had the future ahead of her. She was thirty-two and just starting. And she realized that it is never too late to pursue her dreams.