Night, how I adore thee.

Sometimes a girl needs a friend.

And that friend is a book. That book is “A Writer’s Book of Days” by Judy Reeves. And in that book is the day’s writing prompt: Night.

The great carouser.

Invitations from Night to play to party to succumb to temporal pleasures delights deliciousness. Invitations to plumb forbidden pleasures in basement bars secreted hideaways and strip clubs with prancing buxom figures in hot-pink neon lights.

Night, the barker who beckons drunken men and bold ladies into exciting holes-in-the-wall brimming with booze and cigarette smoke that in a manner of Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde are dreary, depressing, dead in daylight.

Night, who delivers the surreal the sensual and the suspect.

Night, who suggests and illuminates shadows only by skirting their peripherals, invoking mystery, arousing fears. “Come here, go there, if you dare. Your identity shall be concealed, your face unrevealed,” encourages Night.  “Privacy I guarantee. Daytime reveals, night conceals. I tempt you to pull up the bedcovers up over your head or pull them down, as you please.”

Night is not always the Good Guy. Fear follows where Night traipses. Dangers real or imagined crouch behind dumpsters, inside cars parked at Lovers’ Lanes, in cheap motels and plush homes where illicit affairs and actions produce varied consequences.

Hearts are broken, people brought to their knees, property is stolen, homes invaded, homicides happen and prison sentences are promised eventually by Night’s presence.

Night does not distinguish between Right and Wrong. It offers a wide stage of theater ranging from solemn hours in solitude and prayer to upheavals and uprootings and ruination of lives.

Do you wish to weep in privacy? Night will be a friend at your side. Reminisce at the sea or on the park bench about loves lost, high school friends who like you are now elderly, contemplate problems, cultivate solutions, or simply breathe far from the stress of life and Night does listen.

And no words need even be spoken but inside your heart and mind.

Night gifts you with solitude when you most need it as much as it pierces a burning reminding thorn of loneliness into your side.

As delicate as Night is so is it harsh. From sweet kisses and tender caresses upon a lover’s hand in your bed a dying parent’s in a hospital bed to brutal violations of safety, personal space and living spaceS, Night allows.

Night bears not the Scales of Justice. Night’s purpose is not to weigh or judge but only to serve as the indefinable fulcrum between extreme pleasures and extreme sins.

Night , how I adore thee. You are my nature, my domain, my friend. Never have you betrayed me, wounded or abandoned me. Always certain to show up and certain to return after Daylight provides its performance.

What human being in my lifetime could ever claim such loyalty and trustworthiness? 


Cards! Come! They did. And so did Lady Fortune.

Write about a fortune-teller.

March 21 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”

Purple gypsy scarves, bangles and jangles and turbans. They weren’t for her.

Hers is a long line of ancestors in fortune-telling. Some were legit. Some were in it for show, donning those scarves of spaghetti fringe and rainbow beads and a thousand bracelets that clacked with every twist of the wrist.

Serafina sometimes felt burdened her ancestry, her special talents, her gifts. At times, they were a curse, as any gift that truly differentiates you from the masses is. Giftedness brings loneliness.

To relieve herself of that burden, she knitted or tended to mourning doves. About 20 of ’em in a walk-in aviary in the backyard of her 1-bedroom house. The house is the size of a postcard; the backyard real estate though makes up for it. It’s three times the size of her house!

The cooing of doves, their gentle guttural churnings and their varied vocalizations sooth her. They make this sound when she arrives with a pan of seed, another sound when they’re threatened, another sound when communicating danger, and still another sound when contented.

The doves, though not the brightest bird in the world, were at least honest, she thought. Like all animals. No facade. No deceptions. No manipulations. No personal agendas.

Unlike people, what you see in animals is who they are.

Serafina was an expert fortune-teller. The real deal. Like her doves. No flash. No fancy-schmancy dramatics that so, too, many clients sought and believed characterize a good fortune-teller.

Too many fortune-tellers belong in the business of acting rather than in the art of insight and predictions, thought Serafina a thousand times.

Some people will do anything for a buck and many will pay the bucks for a good show instead of authenticity. These facts depressed her but what could Serafina do? Certainly not impart wisdom upon the human race!

Like those of her mother and both grandmothers and their mothers and so on down the line back in time, Serafina’s tool was nothing but a simple deck of 52 playing cards. The very one and same used by men in countless poker games through time and in her families too.

Instructions on the meaning of each card began early. Just around 7-1/2 years old, she was. Both grandmothers and mother assembled around the kitchen table beckoning Serafina to take a seat.

Enticements included a plate of gingersnap cookies, homemade of course — her favorite — and a chilled glass of ginger ale. Also homemade. “Come, sit,” Grandma Amber would say, taping a seat with the palm of her hand.

As a girl, Serafina was far more keen on chasing wild rabbits and pheasants in the nearby fields than sitting around the table with adults learning the ways of the cards. Grandmas Amber and Mattie insisted. Too, Serafina’s mother gave her no exit despite long frowns and beggings to be outdoors where the fun was.

Recognizing Serafina’s knack with the cards — “you’re a natural!” – Serafina musta heard that a 100 times! — the three ladies brokered no refusal.

As with many things — piano lessons, yard work, home chores, everything from making the bed to milking the cows that kids balk at and refuse and GOOD caregivers insist upon regardless — it was only later that Serafina appreciated their intent and imposed discipline. Those truly made her a better person.

Around 18, Serafina came into her own. The study of the cards, their individual meanings, around the kitchen table with her elders was long completed.

Whatever card appeared in a layout, she knew well its “bookish” meaning. That, in simplest terms, a 3 of Diamonds indicated legal or money issues, possible disputes or delays. A 7 of Hearts challenges in love broken promises, disappointments or unfaithfulness. And so on.

Yet “academics” had no place in cartomancy — that’s telling fortunes with playing cards. Those were simply guidelines, the traditional meaning assigned to each card. She could look at, say, that 3 of Diamonds and see — just SEE — not legal problems necessarily but something entirely different. Something outside the box of traditional teachings.

Like an unexpected pregnancy, for example, in Susie’s case. Or a windfall from the untimely death of Uncle Joseph, in the case of Big Marvin –too bad about the tractor brakes failing. Or an unplanned road trip, in the case of Greta, who swore she never wanted to leave the town, never mind the state! But yet when she learned of a brother she never knew she’d had — a long-held family secret that came to light — she could only think of Serafina’s prediction as she sat on that Greyhound seat en route to Missouri two states over.

At 18, when she received her first deck, her very own!, Serafina’s world shifted. It was akin to her teenage friends getting their own telephone back in the day before the ubiquitous cell phones in every toddler’s hand! A direct line and private.

Serafina began offering readings to her friends, both for practice and fun. A good many pooh-poohed her invitations for readings — free, they were too, no less! Especially the boys. They verily laughed her out of town!

And since theirs was a town of 5,000 and the next one over was a good 20 miles’ drive — and she had no means to get there — being laughed outta town was unwelcomed banishment indeed!

Regardless, like her mother and grandmothers at that kitchen table who persevered with her long ago, so did Serafina. Over time, word spread.

Girlfriend Louisa marveled at her repeated readings. “She’s so accurate! How’d she know those things?!? I never told anyone about me and Mike! No one!” (Mike was her secret older lover from that town 20 miles away).

So it went. Praises upon praises. Even the doubters — again, mostly the boys — started coming around.

“Serafina! Tell me, when am I gonna meet a girl?!”

“Serafina! am I gonna be able to get outta here and go to college?!”

“Serafina! Is Debbie cheating on me? I really think she’s screwing around with Joey but she says no. Is she a liar?!”

“Serafina! How can I get money?? Workin’ at Bobby’s Burgers just ain’t cutting’ it.”

On and on it flowed, the questions, the concerned citizens. Some were everyday thoughts; many were soulful ones. Serafina was privy to more unrevealed thoughts and concerns and revelations than the minister!

“Serafina! I’m so unhappy being married to Billy. Should I leave him?”

“Serafina! I suspect I’m pregnant but I don’t want to have another baby. What should I do?”

“Serafina! I think I like women more than men. What’s happening to me?!”

Serafina in time became minister – counselor- fortune-teller and best friend to those she knew and many she didn’t. Her reputation for insight and accuracy grew and word spread, as it does. Even passersby through the little town called Cottonballs — at one time cottonfields draped the landscape far as the eye could see — stopped, drawn there either by word of mouth or a humble neon sign flashing simply “Cards! Come!” in the window of her little office along the main street.

Serafina achieved notoriety and outrageous success. Yet humbleness was her nature. She stayed in that tiny 1-bedroom house with the large yard despite ample resources to “upgrade.”

She never left Cottonballs. Never married and never bore a child. Her doves were her children and her craft. She was sought and never turned away anyone who was truly in need and had but a dime in a pocket.

Indeed, her knack with playing cards brought her her fortune. There were no purple scarves, bangles and jangles and turbans or bracelets clacking with every twist of the wrist.

Serafina was the real deal. And, thank god, there were still folks who favored that over entertaining performances.

When Serafina died and her simple “Cards! Come!” sign was switched off for good, the town, along with many regular clients from outside, mourned. But perhaps no one mourned as much as her doves. For in her, they’d had a kindred spirit. Kind. Gentle. Authentic. No artifice, no phoniness.

Just like the birds she so loved. The doves who were released on the evening of Serafina’s service at her little home with the big yard.

And on the gravestone is carved the 8 of Hearts. The meaning: An unexpected gift or visit or invitation to a party. A passionate relationship or success in business.

One of the few occasions when, in the life of Serafina the fortune-teller, that the traditional meaning held.

For Serafina. And for us all.

For Serafina. And for us all.

To Serafina … who from the other side teaches that our fortune lies not neither in prescribed texts nor rules dictated by others. It rests in our authenticity.

the kiss we remember isn’t always the first.

Write about a kiss.
February 1 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”

He lay on the mattress. On top of a piece of plastic and a sheet. He hated that plastic. Only reminded him of his infirm state of body. Most days he was lucid. However, he slipped in and out of consciousness. Felt confused, disoriented, illogical. An effect of the drugs. Only God knew how many chemicals coursed now through his body. Except the man, clear-thinking or otherwise, didn’t believe in God. So no one knew how many drugs to fight off the cancer were in his body. The doctors lost count.

He was a proud man. A smart man. A severely stoical man. His was a life of severe abuse. He had survived it. Or had he? Yes. He lived through it. Came out alive. But at what costs. Many many many. Too many. He wouldn’t talk about it. He probably didn’t even known himself how many.

He shifted slowly from his back to his right side. The plastic cover crinkled. It pained him, the slight movement as much as that sound. Yet another reminder of his infirm condition.

Life was draining from his body. Cancer was taking it all away. Aggressively. Inarguably. The man who had dictated life, its ways and means according to HIM to so many — his children, his wives, sometimes even friends and relatives of his wives’ families — was now being dictated to. Ironic. A turn of the tables. A taste of his own poison, so to speak. Just as he had dictated to and forced his will upon others, he was now being dictated to by forces stronger than he. By a disease that refused to surrender. An illness that marched through the whole of his body and mind.

The illness was brutal. A half-million soldiers under the command of a cruel general. It took no prisoners. The man himself was captive to forces greater than himself. Was at the mercy of all the rage inflicted on others through his lifetime. Especially those he loved.

“That’s more comfortable,” he thought, once he accomplished that shift from his back to his right side. A seemingly simple move of considerable exertion for the sick, the elderly and the immobile. Even the seemingly simplest of turns in bed taken for granted by most people can take 5 to 10 minutes. A turn or two can mark a major achievement in a day for the debilitated and the demented.

Gratitude for having at least some strength left to move one’s self on one’s own with no help from a nurse or doctor or partner or caretaker? Perhaps.

Gratitude for still being alive? Perhaps. But what if it’s accompanied by crushing pain. Debilitated drugged-up existence. Muscles atrophied by cancer. No recovery in sight now. Ever.

Is the cost of “staying alive” worth the costs? The enormous costs of doctor and hospital visits and drugs and more drugs and medical tests and studies. On and on and on the list of expenses. Just to “stay alive.”

“This is not life,” he said to himself. The initial comfort of lying on his right side slowly gave way to discomfort. Stiffness. Immobility. He was a man of mobility. He HATED this immobilization. More than anyone could understand except his daughter, one of his two, who was just like him. Had inherited the Mobile gene. Take away mobility. Motion. And life for those two was over.

He felt it through his morphined-up body and mind. At least now he was relaxing. Experiencing some streams of peace through the torrents of ravaging pain of the months, the agony of cancer eating away at him. And eating him alive from the inside out.

Yes. The streams of peace expanded within. Like air they felt. Like the soft rides along the airstreams. His mind had last-minute recollections. Flashes from the life he was leaving behind. He would miss his wife. He would miss his dog. He would miss riding the airstreams as he had countless occasions in an airplane he no longer had.

Except that he was gliding on those currents, the winds that he loved, when death came to him with a kiss.

wind. thy taste is liberty on my lips.

Remember a sound.

January 19 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”


Listen to the air.

Glorious air. Moving air. Air turned unstill by turning of engine parts. The sound of a hum of wheels and gears and things I can’t don’t know and have never seen inside of an airplane engine.

The hum. Not a high hum like a tension wire. Not rev rev rev like a race car’s. A roaring hum much like the ocean’s. Yes, that’s it. The sound of a small plane’s engine when you’re inside the plane and flying is like that. The hum of an ocean in the sky.

I feel fortunate and blessed to have a father who flew and flew a small plane, not commercial aircraft. The sensations and sounds of flying are so intimate. Nothing like those of commercial planes. Where you can get up and move around. Where you can listen to airplane audio or a movie or an iPad.

Or just as likely 10 shouting spoiled brats completely unsupervised and undisciplined by their “parents.”

In a small plane, you remain seated and belted the entire flight. If you’re tall, the seating is cramped. If you’re short, the seating is cramped. There is no radio to listen to except the spurts of aviation chatter between control towers and pilots, pilots and pilots and pilot and passenger — all through headphones.

There is only the deep loud hum of an engine in motion interspersed with occasional announcements of aircraft position required by law. (That every pilot adheres to law is no, they do not.) If you speak to another without headphones, you shout. If you move, you move not very far.

Nothing separates you from the air except the skin. Our bodies are designed identically, now that I think on it. Thin skin made of metal (aluminum, I presume, though perhaps the industry’s invented even lighter and stronger materials that better withstand forces of flight without added bulk and weight).

The cockpit door is right there. Right there, on your right if you’re the front passenger. Inches away. The door handle, too, right there. Inches away. It can be turned with one or two hands, depending on your strength.

It would be so easy to simply turn the handle during a flight and jump into the sound: the WHOOOOOOOOOSHHHHHH of air currents. Actually it wouldn’t be quite as easy as all with air pressure against the door. Still, the point is made about the intimacy of a small plane. It’s not like a Delta (are they even still in business?) or United.

The roar of a small plane’s engine in motion is as near the ocean’s as I’ve experienced in a lifetime of listening to sounds. Or, to describe it another way, it’s like the roar from a conch shell placed against the ear only the sound envelopes your head and the whole of you, not only the eardrum.

I was given a gift through my father and because of my father who so loved to fly. The gift of the sound of air, intimately. From up high. High above the earth and her peoples (and annoying people). High in the metaphorical heavens where space is freedom and freedom space. The place where birds go, travel and reside.

The sound of freedom is the wind. And, because of my dad, I got to sample that wind from the inside of a 4-seater Mooney, securely in the capable hands of a pilot who took flying seriously. (Not all pilots do; there’s no shortage of dickheads who fly unsafely, after drinking, etc.) What a gift and life experience.

Yes, the sound of freedom is the wind. The motion of the air coursing beneath and over the wings. I have my father to thank for the gifts of (intimate) flying. The stuff of dreams of man.

I alo have the eagle, my totem, my protector and my guide, to acknowledge and honor. I see feel and know your presence. And at this odd, complicated and challenging time of life, I beckon your guidance and your vision, broader than mine here on earth, so that I may take the direction designed by Spirit.

Eagle Bald Flying

My dad is no longer here but his love of flying is. I see our common threads too.

And, eagle, I hear your sound. Your calls and the sound and song of wind over your wings. The wind. The sound of life. The sound of freedom.

Ssssssssshhhhh. Stealth in Shinjuku Station.

Once, when no one was looking …

January 7 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”

They are unseen in the late hour of Christmas Eve. Inside their cardboard boxes that are inside a distant corner inside the vast underground passage inside one of the world’s largest train stations in Tokyo.

What was the hour? Midnight or so?

The camp of boxes is not the chaotic layout more common in the West. They stand close together, reflecting a culture of the collective in small spaces, and not ordered yet orderly, reflecting a culture that strongly values orderliness and organization. (Like the Germans; just one reason Japan and I sync well.)

It’s the first time I’ve made these en masse. Onigiri. Balls of gohan — rice — wrapped in sheets of nori  — dried seaweed. The ubiquitous snack in Japan. Indeed, their onigiri is our Lay’s. Sad.  Today’s not for a comparison between the healthful Japanese diet and the crap American’s.

Year two in Japan. My rice cooker serves me well. My diet’s as Japanese as the next Kabayashi-san’s. Nonetheless, I’ve never before made rice in this quantity. I’ve done my best to cook it to the right consistency. Sticky. And condense-able into balls that won’t fall apart. Rice that’ll stay bound and compact and hold the wrap-around sheets of nori.

They’re amateurish, I conclude, as I get rolling. With bare hands I dig rice out of the cooker and shape into balls the size of a small orange. More like mikan? The Japanese tangerine.

The rice though sticky isn’t holding together as well as I’d want. Yes, amateurish. But not horrible for my first time. I wet my hands. That helps to a point. The wetness causes grains to cling to my palms. I scrap them off to shape into the ball. Like working with slightly sticky cookie dough.

Balls formed, into each I press an umeboshi. Pickled dried plum widespread and traditional in an onigiri though by no means the only “centerpiece.” All variety of fillings are found inside an onigiri! Tuna or salmon with mayonnaise. Tarako (salted roe). Mentaiko (seasoned cod roe). Tempura tidbit. Konbu (dried kelp). I go with umeboshi (plum). It’s traditional, what they know, what I know too. {How many past lives in Japan have I had I wonder.}

I wrap the onigiri — clumsy lil’ baseballs they be! — in seaweed sheets then each in plastic wrap. Two tasks easier than the shaping. Into bags they go, a few dozen or so. Then off I go (by bicycle or foot, don’t recall) to Shinjuku, about a mile away.

One of the world’s lively, crazy-busy, bustling stations is Shinjuku’s in Tokyo. Some 3.4 million pass through every day. Where the homeless have their camp of cardboard boxes is quiet at this hour. It’s late. Station shops are closed. And it’s in a relatively remote corner of the behemoth station. Shinjuku Station, a town unto itself. Like all big train stations in Japan but particularly this one.

Japanese don’t hassle the homeless and the homeless don’t hassle passersby. Not like in the United States. Very different culture. I miss it so sometimes. More than usual lately.

I enter their camp. Quietly. I don’t want to be seen. Not for fear. Not for anxiety. Not for inability to speak Japanese if a homeless man does emerge from his box or appear by foot. I’m stealthy for the surprise.

Along with the general orderliness and cleanliness of their camp of boxes, I notice one thing above all else. Something that remains with me vividly to this day some 20 years later. Their shoes. Set neatly side by side just outside the entrances to their boxes.

Even in their homelessness, their tradition of removing shoes before entering a home persists.

I sneak, stepping lightly, delicately, weaving through the boxes, placing a bag of onigiri here then there. Then, arms emptied, I depart, more quickly than I arrived. No one’s seen me and I want to keep it that way.

The next morning — pretty sure it was Christmas — a camp of homeless men awoke to bags of onigiri containing umeboshi amateurishly pressed by a gaijin (foreigner).

Once, when no one was looking, I was a Santa elf. Perhaps Buddha’s too. Can’t really distinguish. They’ve both got jolly big bellies.

The Celica’s blue but not the moon

Write about a day moon.

January 5 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”

“The moon! She be somewhere!”

Evelyn looked at Danny as if he were a madman, a werewolf.

“I saw that,” said Danny. Her eye rolls. Evelyn rolled her eyes a lot when it concerned him.

“Listen,” said Evelyn,  taking command of the situation. “If  we don’t find the way out, we’re gonna die here. Do you GET that? Does it REGISTER in that thick wood noggin of a head?” She tapped the sides of her skull.

“I GET it, Evelyn!” He snapped. “I’m NOT stupid!”

She rolled her eyes again.

“I saw that!” he shouted.

“Whatever,” she exhaled under her breath. “Now, Mr. Astronomer, which way did you say is west?”

Danny tilted his head skyward and scanned. Saw nothing new. Was presented the same scenery they’d been looking at for the past 7 hours.

“Wellllllllllll,” he hawed.

Another eye roll, this one dramatically pronounced. Her entire head rolled too.

“Goddamn it, Danny!”

Her abrupt sharp irritation caused him to lose a breath.

“Let me get this through your thick skull one last time! We. Are. Going. To. Die. Out. Here. Die! You know, D-I-E. Do you get that?! No water. No food. For days and days!” Fear and anger drenched her voice.

“We’ll be found a year from now! Some poor lost soul like us will stumble on us. Two bodies carpeted by ants and flies and whatever other insects are out here! Flesh gone! Dried up and eaten by vultures and god knows what else. Our eyes pecked out …”

“OKAY! That’s enough! I get it!” yelled Danny.

“Soo,” said his sister, hand set over thumping heart to calm and compose herself. “So you see, it’s really really REALLY important that you lead the way.”

The two stood in a desert 15 miles south of Palm Springs. Evelyn rued the moment she’d agreed to park her Toyota Celica and “explore.”

“I’ve got a good sense of direction,” Danny reminded her. Couldn’t argue that.

“We won’t get lost.” Even with his strong internal mapping and study of night skies, Evelyn wasn’t thrilled with the idea.

“Okay, just for 10 or 15 minutes,” she relented. What harm could come of it? They were in the middle of nowhere. Nuthin’ out here. Her blue Celica could be spotted a mile away!

They exited her vehicle, she with underlying trepidation, he with exuberance, and began walking.

“Look! Look!” he pointed. Like a boy discovering gumball after lollipop in a candy store, Danny leaped from cactus to cactus, rock to rock, hole to hole dug by a reptile or rodent. Such things fascinated him. All things of nature captivated the young man of 22 who for his mental retardation had the mind of a 6-year-old.

Evelyn, on the other hand, was bored out of hers.

She watched him scamper off, this way, then that, like a dog chasing a rabbit. He got away from her. Too fast.

“Danny! Danny!” Evelyn shouted. His strong gangly legs carried him along the desert wind. Hers, on the other hand, were like sodden logs after a monsoon.


Evelyn gave chase. It was futile. Her short leaden legs were no match for his gazelle. Her only choice was for him to him to run out of steam — which he would — and catch up to him then.

Danny did and Evelyn did. By then, her blue Celica was nowhere to be seen.

“SHIIIIIT, Danny!!!” exhaled the 25-year-old, folded over, hands on knees, drawing in deep breaths. “Where’d you learn to run like that?!”  She always knew he was fast. Just not THAT fast. And very near tireless.

Glee radiated from his eyes like sun rays. “Look what I found!”

He opened both palms to display four rocks. Each the color of the sand surrounding them. Each bland. Each like the millions of rocks in the vast landscape.

“There’s more in my pockets!” he patted. There certainly were. They bulged.

Evelyn rolled her eyes.

Months passed until the bodies of Evelyn and Danny were found. Not by a lost soul like she’d predicted, rather a pilot in a crop plane headed to California’s farming region.

The blue Celica was retrieved too.

On the day they were found, the moon was as it was that day they got lost. Nowhere to be seen. A new moon, nigh invisible to the human eye, its presence revealed only by the faintest shimmer in the dark of night.

The siblings were buried side by side in a moving service that gutted the parents and left friends and family weeping for days. They were laid to rest under a moon blazing bright and full, guiding them onward so that they might never lose their way again.