When the Chickens Come Home to Roost 

by Selma


“Young lady– obviously, you don’t know who I am. I’m Mrs. Manzanilla from Refaccionaría Manzanilla,” my mother announced in Spanish in a voice too loud for my liking. I wanted to run and hide. The way she said that, and the dignified way she looked when she said that made the poor cashier take a nose-dive into the deepest recesses of her brain. I saw it in the way the cashier tipped her head. She wanted to try to understand what this lady in front of her was talking about. As far as the young girl was concerned, there was only one Refaccionaría Manzanilla in the whole of Macondo and this lady was not that Mrs. Manzanilla. She knew.

She knew for a fact that Mrs. Manzanilla had never set foot into a Save Big Store; that instead, she sent her housekeeper into the store twice a week to drop off a grocery list. And that the necessary items then got delivered to the mansion. And besides, Mrs. Manzanilla’s daughter and her were thick-as-thieves. She knew exactly what that Mrs. looked like.

“I’m sorry Mrs. Manzanilla, but I’m just following protocol of a report from our security personnel. They’ve instructed me to ask you to step aside and to request that you voluntarily return the items that they saw you stash into your two bags.”

“And I say, you are wrong! I have no need to do such an outrageous thing as stealing from a place like this. I demand to see the manager.” The girl makes a phone call.

It was a busy Thursday evening and people were stocking up on items in anticipation of the long holiday weekend. The buzz of the cash machines, the intricate bustle of the happy shoppers and the upbeat tempo of the music in the store, drown the embarrassing tone of the commotion going on in front of me. But in my insides I felt a volcano erupting. I wanted to run away. I didn’t want to be around to see my mother get escorted to the police station.

On my back, I carried an overstuffed rucksack that was ripping at the seams. My mother carried a small buston bag with wheels — just as conspicuous looking as mine.

“Oh I understand,” my mother volunteered, “you see our overstuffed bags and think the worst… well I never! …” she slams her fist on the counter. “We came here with our luggage because we’ve just arrived from a short trip. We stopped in to pick up a few necessities. And you immediately assume that what you see us carrying in these bags are items stollen from your shelves. Well you are wrong…wrong, I tell you!”

Any minute now, any minute now the earth will rumble and swallow me up whole, I think. That will be better than this. I start to sweat cold.

The people in line at the cashier where we stand get directed to a different line. They look at us with scorn for disrupting the rhythm of their shopping experience. But that is all they do. To them, we are nobodys. No one bothers to know more, but to me, of all the inconsistencies that I have seen and come to understand since turning nine, this has got to be the worst.

And people will talk, a nagging voice announces inside my head. They don’t seem interested in the heated discussion going on right now, but someone will remember. 

I start to pray…

They escort us to a room in the back; the office. They ask us to wait.  My mother gives me a side glance and the zip-it-up sign to keep my mouth shut. No need to tell me Mom, I think, even if I wanted to, words have left my thoughts moments ago. All I have now is prayers. And those won’t buy me a pardon… 

Inside, we see a row of monitors apparently displaying every aisle in the store.

We are dead, I think, then I hold my breathe. Just then I notice that the monitors show a lot of static on the screen. I exhale. But the exertion of exhaling, or perhaps it was the part about holding my breath, makes me feel light-headed. I lean on the wall and close my eyes.

I hear the voices of men talking and above theirs I hear my mother’s unwavering voice. I do not know for how long this goes on; I remain fixed on my prayers.

“Come on child, let’s get out of here.” Mother takes my hand and together with my uncle, the owner of Refaccionaría Manzanilla, we walk out of Save Big.  He calls us a taxi.  He hugs my mother and pats me on the head. Mother and I sit in silence in the taxi until we arrive on the front steps of our house. I drop my rucksack and make a dash for the chicken coop. I remain inside until my mother calls me in for supper.

“Besides, it’s time for the chickens to roost,” she says. And then I begin to cry.

Shadow Syllabus

Reblogging because Work, feelings/insights like the ones portrayed here need to be circulated again and again. The Author IS the right voice in the right time. This piece serves to reaffirm our faith (if ever we feel we’ve lost it) in our own humanity. I am glad I stumbled upon this one (via Cheri Lucas) I hope you find value in it as well. Selma

Their Ears, Not Pierced

by Selma

February and March had me busy working on this contest piece. I worked hard on it, submitted and Short Fiction Break Magazine published it. Yay!

I didn’t win the contest but certainly emerged a Winner in more ways than one. I invite you to Please read in its entirety. Thank you. And I’d be thrilled to read your comments to me there… Thank you.

http://shortfictionbreak.com/their-ears-not-pierced/

But, if you don’t want to visit that link, here it is again. Open.

THEIR EARS, NOT PIERCED

“The Heresy of one age becomes the Orthodoxy of the next” Helen Keller

I sit on a bench outside the airport newly arrived on my flight from Asia. Two little girls sit beside me. They’re either twins, or very close in age. Their ears, not pierced. They are wearing dresses that reveal chubby arms with rubber bracelets of many colors. They are completely absorbed in their iPads whose cases match the color of the dresses they wear. They don’t acknowledge my presence and neither does the young mother. She stands swaying from side to side tapping her baby’s bottom with a rhythmic beat as she hums softly. The baby, she carries in a sling. The baby’s hand is all I can see because it is dressed in a hooded-Pikachu-romper. Yellow. The young mother’s gaze is focused on the street and she is obviously waiting for her ride. I close my eyes for a moment and immediately, I’m transported back to a time when there were no iPads.

Both of my sisters and I wanted to sit by the window on the bus. We wanted to look out the window to see the villages go by. We wanted to see the dogs barking and chasing after the bus. But we were too little; the windows too high. More than once people sitting on window seats offered that we sit on their laps. Mom would let us. But the roads soon lulled us to sleep. We’d wake up with our cheeks stuck to the unfamiliar necks of sweaty people; the necks of people whose faces we didn’t ever remember seeing before. Who were these people we’d think and then we’d give out a cry for our mother.

Once I remember being awakened by a pair of hands with rough nails caressing me down the front of my little body under my little dress. The unfamiliarity of the hands alerted my senses and startled me awake. And yet another time a woman shoved me way under her own blouse and had me sucking on her breast like a baby. The salty taste of her skin made me feel like gagging and woke me up with a tremendous start.

Growing up in Macondo my friends and I always saw it as a good place to grow up and a good place for raising kids. There was nothing the townspeople wouldn’t do to help young mothers. It was as if the entire town was involved in the raising of children.

As young girls learning about our place in society, we all agreed that here, mothers did a lot to help their children form lasting friendships by exposing them to other children. Someone was always ready to attest that growing up their mothers were good at making play-dates for them, at hosting parties, picnics and outings. That observation was uncontested. Sleepovers at friends’ homes were unheard of though. For that, mothers here relied on their own sisters and sisters-in-law and employed the assistance of cousins. In my case, sleepovers with my cousins meant a 5-hour bus ride in the company of strangers.

In my mind I can still see my mother carrying one baby boy, a big over-stuffed bag holding books, blankets and baby clothes and three little girls running behind her. The day before the trip we were made to understand that we would be wearing our cousins’ clothes because though he was still too young to notice that he was a boy, society required that mom had him dressed in boys’ clothes at all times. This was mostly as a tribute to dad for having reached that coveted goal of procuring a boy — dad’s trophy.

Girls were produced at a-dollar-a-dozen but boys had to be special-made. So that when a family was blessed to introduce a son into the world, God forbid they’d ever be mistaken for a girl. In those days, no boy-baby ever knew the joys of wearing pink and orange and purple or variations of those colors. So cloaked in that mentality, mom did as she was told.

Those early practices of sharing clothes and riding buses molded us. They taught us that we belonged in a community of girls and that we had each other to rely on when we needed support. Every bus ride ended being a happy time; unhappy incidents, if any, only lived on in our minds.

In the Macondo that I know, there has always been a strong belief that girls have to endure much grief and pain throughout their lives starting with the miracle of birth. Of course there were male-doctors and nuns ready to assist in the delivery of a baby, but neither the doctors nor the nuns had first hand experience of what the pain was like. Epidural anesthesia was unheard of then as it was understood that the price of the miracle was the pain.

“Our main job as women is to carry a heavy banner and to make it look easy. No matter what, you cannot give any hints of how heavy or painful it all is. You do that, and all the other women will continue supporting you. Fail, and you stand alone.” That’s the mantra my friends and I heard repeated often growing up. Thus, when in the throngs of the delivery, wet towels would be shoved into the mouth of the mothers to prevent any sound of agony from escaping into the waiting room.

If a boy popped out, the doctor himself would shout it out in siren fashion:  “…itsa booooooooooooy!!” And this would ring through the town by word of mouth. A celebration, tailored for the father, would then begin and it would continue until the mandatory 5 days of rest for the mother was over. Acquaintances and family alike would drop in on the father to offer a congratulatory pat on the shoulder. A small present that almost always consisted of clothes for the baby — blue, would accompany the well wisher.

On the other hand, if a girl popped out, there would be no such announcement. The doctor would exit the room, seek out the father’s eyes, and just nod a sympathetic nod. At this, the father would lower his head in an apologetic gesture and his buddies, standing at sporadic locations, would read into the father’s demeanor, wave and walk away saying “better luck next time buddy,” under their breaths. The new mother would still qualify for the mandatory 5 days of rest and one day, during that short rest-period, the baby would get her ears unceremoniously pierced to comply with their antiquated belief concerning girls and pain.

Everyone knows that babies cannot fend for themselves. They need feeding, bathing, cleaning up after and more. But unlike other countries where independence is encouraged in boys and girls, here in Macondo the practice of doing everything for the boy would continue. Never allowed into a kitchen, sisters would turn into maids for their brothers. And brothers would take their sisters for granted never really conceding to the idea that what they were doing was unfair.

There I sit out on the bench, thinking all these things in no particular order. I am tired and sleepy but forcing alertness. The tropical breeze on my face, arms and toes titillate my senses. I slip off my sandals, crack my toes, open them wide then rotate my ankles. The girls and their mother are still there. I stand next to the bench, leaving my sandals where I sat, clutch my hands and stretch my arms long causing my back to curve. I proceed to stimulate my body into alertness with my various stretch poses and then as I am in limp-pose with my head touching my knees, I hear the mother speak for the first time.

“Come on girls get your things, dad and grandma are here.”   I straighten up and remain standing. I glance over at the girls as they scurry around trying to fit little feet into their rubber polka-dot boots. Then holding their iPads by the small handle they stand shoulder to shoulder by the edge of the sidewalk giggling softly. Dad gets out of the car and kneels down on bare knees to embrace his girls.

“Daddy, daddy, daddy,” they repeat over and over. They each kiss daddy on his cheek and the next moment one of them is on daddy’s shoulder and the other one is hanging on to one of his arms. With the girls stuck to his body this way, he stands and kisses his wife on the forehead and pats the sleeping baby on its hooded head once. I don’t mean to intrude, but my eyes get fixed on his ears. Dad is wearing earrings. On both ears!

“He couldn’t stay awake for daddy huh?” he says, rubbing the baby’s head again but looking into his wife’s face. “That’s okay,” then he discreetly pinches her on her hip. “I have missed you terribly honey,” he whispers close to her ear. Then sliding the door of the minivan open he places his giggly-bundle inside and directs them to the back seat.

Grandma sits in the middle of the seat so the girls position themselves on each side of her. They strap themselves in, kick off their boots again, raise their legs and the next moment they are staring into their screens again while grandma strokes their hair one at a time. The baby in his Pikachu romper, a boy I come to understand, is strapped into his purple car-seat and off they go back to their lives.

My ride into town doesn’t arrive for another hour. I expected them to be late as usual; only people in Asia are punctual, but they just wouldn’t let me plan on a bus-ride. Too dangerous they said. So I wait. Out here I see people come and go. Teeth flashing in open laughter on the faces of some, mostly the newly arrived passengers and restrained smiles on the others.

“Those girls are studying medicine, and those will become pilots and engineers,” a voice says to me from inside my head.

“Yes,” I say to the voice absentmindedly. “Still in its nascent stage, but things are different now. I wonder if they can feel how much the winds have shifted. I get the impression that Macondo is ready to embrace the change that is being soldiered on by those kids returning with knowing-laughs on their faces.”

“They are the lucky ones,” I reassure my imaginary companion sitting on the bench now. I sigh long and feel a weight lift off my shoulders. My whole face breaks into a smile.

“I’m glad I made this trip. Ten years away is a long time.” I speak the words aloud to my companion again, “I’m one of the lucky ones too!”

I hear the buzz of dreamland calling me. I yawn such a great big yawn that tears spring from my eyes. I go over to the food-stall and get a coffee-smoothie and I plead with my mind to keep watch for just a little longer. I sip my smoothie and wiggle my toes.

“Change’s a-coming”, I inform my toes this time.

An off-duty taxi drives up to the curb; its radio blasting. I recognize the song playing and I smile from ear to ear.

“Oh Michael Buble,” I say out loud, “you and me both. I am feeling good!”

Thanks again. Selma

…WordPress HOW TO DO WORDPRESS

by Selma 


My last post was a clear indication of where I stood concerning WordPress at the moment. I haven’t stopped looking for answers. As they say, every problem comes with its new set of solutions. And I might add, every New Day brings you new lessons to learn. 

Today, tenacity has landed me here. I haven’t read it all, but I want to update anyone who, like me, is struggling to make sense of WordPress. 

I can only talk about what this new information will do to me because ME is all I know. I know that I will not get it right after a few readings, but I also know that it will keep me learning and questioning. 

There is hope. Hope is a good thing. 

If any of this has brought even a glimmer of light into your WordPress Forest, then I’d venture to proclaim that my ordeal has been worth it. 

Here is that link:  https://codex.wordpress.org/Main_Page

HOW TO WORDPRESS SUPPORT

by Selma


The sky’s the limit, someone said, but then someone contradicted, the sky is not the limit. The sky is not the limit I say… and I add, one is never too old to learn how to touch the sky.

HOW DO YOU GUYS DO IT?

As you all know, I am a new blogger. The truth is, I am new at many things this year, and that’s because I decided to be more gogo about things this year. I want to make 2017 a memorable year for me. And in so doing, I want to add something worthy to the lives of people who I haven’t had the privilege of meeting yet. But for that I have to stand out a little more still. Standout — that is something I have shied away from all my life. What compels me to gogo right now though, is my heartfelt desire to help brighten a little corner of someone’s life somewhere.

I want to share short stories. I want to share awareness. I want to share joy and hope. But that will require I do more. I don’t know what yet, so I will keep my eyes open.

There are tons of wonderful bloggers already. I follow a handful only because social media is not my forte, thus, it tends to still be a little too overwhelming for me. I am still trying to assimilate what I am learning.

On January 15th, I opened a Twitter account without telling a single person I know. To my surprise, Twitter turned out to be a generous platform for me. A week later, I was following a select 126 and 47 beautiful individuals were following me. I was thrilled! @SelmaWrites is my twitter handle if you care to know.

But then I found I felt constricted with how much I can say on Twitter and my soul yearned for a way to vent. On a whim, I decided to give this WordPress a try. But this wordpress has me perplexed like never before. I have my website. But I have nothing else. Not much by way of tech-savvy or marketing or the like. And unlike twitter (where by the way, my followers now amount to 1,210 as of this post) I do not feel that I am moving. I have contacted some of the happy people at wordpress and asked for help, but I must confess that I do not know what kind of help it is I need, so I do not know how to formulate a request. The last time I contacted them my complain was, ‘um, I do not have a theme on my website yet; how do I do that?’ And their kind response was, ‘yes you do. Its 2016 Theme.’  That shut me up!

I have tried getting my answers from the big world wide web, but again, I cannot assimilate what they say with how I need to react to things. In short, I just don’t know how-to DO WORDPRESS. So until I learn, I will just need to keep at it.

If anyone out there already has it together, and would be willing to direct my attention to short/shortish sites where I can get help to make this page a little better (and to attract a little more traffic) please drop me a line.

I have been watching these tutorials, two, three times in a row, each. I enjoy listening to them, but the way they move the cursor on the screen is just dizzying. They are trying to help I know, but I have concluded that unless one knows which way the cursor will move next, it is difficult to follow along. And sometimes, many times, what I see on the video screens looks a lot different from what I have infront of me on my PC.  Sad to say,  this is all I have to work with.

I recon there must be more people struggling like me, (maybe?) so this is what I want to leave you all with today. Video-Tutorials. Look them over. If they help you, great!! That will give me satisfaction. In the meantime, I will keep on trying to stay positive and not let this website get to me. Wish me luck!

https://en.support.wordpress.com/video-tutorials/#get-started

Kids see Things that Adults can’t see

by Selma

“Today I am a round blue thing mommy. What am I?” said little Donny. As soon as he posed the question to mom he hugged his legs firmly and started swaying from left to right and back again; he laid curled up like a little fur ball on the floor. Sure that he had mom’s attention, he stopped swaying to receive his mom’s response.

“Hmm, let me think,” said his mommy, “are you a furry, round blue thing?”
Mom thought that perhaps he was pretending to be the little blue furry kitten pictured in his story book the night before. Why would anyone think of painting a kitten blue anyway, she remembers thinking.

“No. No fur on me”, laughed Donny, “keep guessing mommy.” He swayed to the left and again to the right and then stopped, eagerly awaiting mom’s answer.

“Well, are you a round blue thing that enjoys being kicked around?”, his mother asked.

“Mmhn. Maybe. You can kick me around but that’s not what I am for”, said the boy with his eyes dancing on mommy’s face.
Mom was sure that the little boy was talking about the nice blue ball that his grandparents had recently sent for him. But, right after thinking that, a more recent image arose in her mind: “No ball kicking inside the house,” dad had said in an authoritative voice. Dad was bent over picking up the shattered pieces of the broke lamp. “Balls are for playing outside; not for inside the house — things get broken and hurt”, dad had punctuated. Dad’s reprimand had made Donny cry but he never kicked his ball inside the house again.

“Hmmn are you a round blue thing that likes to bounce up and down then?” asked mom.

“No mommy. I cannot bounce. God didn’t make me for bouncing. Just for rolling.” replied the little boy.

“No?”, Mommy said in surprise. “You’re not your new blue ball?”

“No mommy. I’m not that.”

Mom looked away from the magazine she was paging through to get a clue from the things he was playing with at the moment. No mention of round blue objects in the story books he had around him nor anything blue in his vicinity. He was playing with his toy cars but those were not blue. Mom couldn’t decide what to say to him.

“Well, I’m afraid I will need you to give me a clue because I cannot guess what it is you are today Donny”, she said.

“A clue?” He was intrigued . He got off the floor and walked to where mom was sitting. “Well, daddy loses it every day and he cannot go to the office without it. So every day he spends a lot of time looking for it. It’s daddy’s very important thing.”

Well, John is always misplacing his keys, that’s for sure thought mom, but Donny specifically said that he is a round blue thing. Keys are not round, mommy thought.

“I give up Donny. I cannot guess what you are”, she said at last. Even with his clue, she really couldn’t guess what he was pretending to be today.

“Mommy, today I am the little round blue marble on daddy’s keychain. The one he uses to start the car with.” He said this and then he folded his arms feigning anger, or perhaps that was pride on his face?

“Oh my Donny. You had me on that one. I would never in a hundred years have guessed that today you were the little blue marble on daddy’s keychain”, she ruffled his curly hair. “Now it’s mommy’s turn to ask you a question. Why is it that you are a round blue thing today?”

“Because today I am that little blue marble that’s hanging from daddy’s keys. The End”, said Donny. He emphasized the ‘the end’ just like mommy did at the end of every story she read to him.

And with that mommy knew that there was no point in her prodding him for more clarity. Today her son was feeling like a little blue thing that was very important to his daddy. It was no use trying to play detective or psychologist. Kids know what they know.

There is no Love in Violence

“Domestic violence rarely affects only those directly involved in the abusive relationship.” ― Asa Don Brown
Short of stepping on Curly’s tail, Becky stormed into the living room, slammed the screen-door shut and hurried to her room.
“What?” her mother asked from the kitchen, “back already? Did you forget to take something?” her mother continued.

Becky didn’t answer. Her footsteps were heavy as she went up the stairs. She closed the door to her room, pressed the play button of her CD player and turned the volume on high. She got inside her closet and sat on the floor on the corner closest to the window. The evening was pleasant and the sound of the birds on the tree outside the window was silenced by the sound coming from inside her room.

Her mother finished rinsing off the dinner dishes and wiping her wet hands on her apron, rushed upstairs to see what the matter was with her daughter. She knocked on the door with the secret code they had settled on for the month, but no tap-tap, the code of acknowledgement, came from inside the room. Mother knocked the same way again and again, but again Becky didn’t reciprocate. Mom turned the door knob and realized that the door was locked from the inside.

“Becky, open the door. Let me in. Becky, what happened? Did something happen with you and Margo?” Mom was getting worried. This was so out of character for her daughter.

She waited a few more minutes and knocked again. “Becky,” she said, a little more impatient this time, “talk to me. Open the door.” Becky got out of the closet, lowered the volume on her CD player and unlocked the door. Then she sat on the floor next to her bed. Mother knocked again and this time Becky reciprocated by tapping on the side of her bedroom table with their coded tap-tap. Mother turned the door knob and entered the room.

“Honey, did something happen to you over at Margo’s house?”
Becky hugged her knees and looked away from her mother. Mother followed Becky’s lead and sat on the floor next to her daughter.

In the short year that they have been neighbors, Becky and Margo have become best friends. They walk to and from school together, they spend endless hours playing outdoors and talking on the porch-swing, they walk up to receive holy communion together at Sunday Mass and apart from the fact that each girl has their own house chores to do, they are inseparable. Once or twice a month Margo’s mother has invited Becky to come along as Margo’s guest for a family dinner at a sort-of-nice restaurant in town. The dinners always left Becky a little perplexed but she dismissed the feelings Because she could not find the appropriate words to form the thoughts about the feelings, even in her own head. This being the case she never got around to saying anything about this to her mother. When mother would ask, Becky would talk about the food instead of the feelings she would bring back from the dinner experience with the Romanos.

“Yes, I decided to sneak in on Margo instead of calling out to her. When I looked in through the screen door I saw Margo kneeling on the floor. She had her hands stretched out infront of her and I saw her daddy loading her arms with heavy books.”

“You mean that it was like some kind of punishment?” her mother asked.

“Yes, exactly. It had to be. Margo looked sad and scared but she had her arms stretched out and her daddy kept putting book after book for her to hold in her outstretched arms. At one point, Margo got tired so she relaxed her buttom on the back of her legs and her daddy hit her on her back with a book,” replied Becky suppressing fresh tears that burned to come out.

“And you saw all that? ” her mother asked holding her daughter’s hand with one hand and wiping a tear off her own face with the other.

“Yes. But the worst part is that Margo saw me looking. I think that I will never be able to face her again. I am embarrassed to have seen what I saw. And I am sure that Margo is embarrassed for it as well.” Becky’s words punctuated the conversation and a long silence, thick as a morning mist, permeated the room. Her mother didn’t know what to make of the situation. And she didn’t want to say something out of place without thinking things over first, so mother and daughter just sat there on the floor.

In the year since they have been neighbors the mothers have not become close. They have exchanged pleasantries but unlike the girls, their relationship hasn’t advanced beyond that. For starters, Mrs. Romano, Margo’s mother is a career woman. She works from 9:00 – 5:00, sometimes later and like the rest of the neighborhood, Becky’s mother refrains from approaching Mrs. Romano to allow her the space she and the neighbors think she needs. Come to think of it, besides attending Mass with her family on Sundays and the occasional dinners out in town, Mrs. Romano seldom participates in anything in the community. Mr. Romano, on the other hand, works from home. According to Margo he is a translator of German Novels. He is at home all the time and it is he who attends to Margo and her younger sister when they return home from school. He is very polite yet reserved with the neighbors. He attends school meetings but doesn’t socialize with anyone at school. According to Becky, the Romanos move to a new town every two years or so and before coming to Macondo, they lived in Los Alamos. Apart from that, no one knows anything else about the family.

*****

“The abuser does not believe, however, that his level of authority over the children should be in any way connected to his actual level of effort or sacrifice on their behalf, or to how much knowledge he actually has about who they are or what is going on in their lives. He considers it his right to make the ultimate determination of what is good for them even if he doesn’t attend to their needs or even if he only contributes to those aspects of child care that he enjoys or that make him look like a great dad in public.” ― Lundy Bancroft Bancroft