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Weird, Wild and Wonderful

I love to travel to Key West. It’s an eclectic place that fosters the last bastion of true bohemianism. It’s weird, wild and wonderful.

Every bar looks as though either Jimmy Buffet or a pirate are the proprietors. Dogs sit inside beside their owners on a stool with a bowl of water. They are all open and breezy without any doors, polish or pretense.  

They all have unique character and a story to tell. Some have antiques from boats long gone, sharks’ teeth or stuffed fish. Another is decorated wall to wall with dollar bills tacked up at random from patrons over many decades, with their signature.

But true to its laid back reputation, most of the bars are “take them or leave them,” your choice. While looking around, I once moved to a different table after observing cakes of dust built up on the ceiling fan above. It definitely deterred me from eating there, but alcohol kills everything, right?

On a pub crawl, a guide took us to many of the bars in the downtown area and regaled us with tales of murder, mayhem and debauchery, as well as a few ghosts who linger in their old watering-hole haunts.

Many accounts of the drinking prowess of one world famous classic author, Ernest Hemingway, are told in several bars. My favorite is the one where in the middle of the night, the original owner of Captain Tony’s told Papa H, his most loyal customer, that his landlord raised his rent, so he had to move to a new location down the street, now called Sloppy Joes. In a drunken escapade, Tony and Ernest and a few others moved everything in the middle of the night from the one location to the other, to stick it to the landlord. Hemingway took his favorite urinal, so he single-handedly pulled it off the wall to relocate it.

And in these bars, you can take your drink to go, as long as it is not in a glass cup. Was it legal? No, but as I was told by one barkeep. 

“We just follow our own path here. We don’t really pay attention to rules.”

That always summed up Key West to me in a nutshell. They march to their own drummer.

Walking down Duvall Street, you can find small shops with the usual tourist trinkets and printed t-shirts, but you can also find any number of artisans and their works for sale. They weren’t in a shiny gallery or shop, the works laid on the pavement, a chair or on anything to prop up and display. The art spoke for itself and need fancy packaging. The artists didn’t care about commerce or bottom line. They just wanted to do their thing and if they got money for it – great.

At any given time, you can see someone in a Superman cape and tights or any other Halloween costume. No special occasion, it’s what they chose to wear that day. And many people don’t even wear shoes, even inside the restaurants, shops and bars.

On one stroll, I saw a man with a lime green and yellow boa constrictor looped around his neck, just hanging there like a long necklace that hit the ground. It was his pet and he was just taking it to do some shopping. No big deal. Nothing odd to see.

Although, my husband, who is deadly afraid of snakes, would disagree as he made sure to conveniently jockey position to switch with me, so when we passed the snake, I was the one walking next to it.

Of course, there are the typical tourist spots for fun in the sun, boating and fishing, like most tropical places. But in Key West, there are also old buildings and architecture to see, some cared for, some not. But again, it’s non conformist and noncommercial, although most houses cost a cool million to own. And you can see Hemingway’s house, a random lighthouse with eighty-eight steps to the top and a museum where they unearthed treasure from a Spanish galleon beneath the sea.

Any number of walk-up outdoor counters serve conch fritters, gator and even shark. No four-star restaurants, just wrapped in a paper cone to taste on the go – sometimes with a frosty adult beverage in tow.

Like the bartender said, Key West is a place that made its own rules.

Each time I go, it seems different, weirder and more wonderful. But now that’s starting to change. There are less artisans on the main drag, less interesting costumed people on the street and with the Hard Rock restaurant and bar, corporate commercialism is starting to seep in. Although part of that restaurant is located in an old and somewhat haunted building, so there’s that.

Even Jimmy Buffet, the personification of an easy breezy beach lifestyle, has gone corporate with his Margaritaville bar and restaurant spilling over into a “hospitality company” with resorts and hotels. I guess nothing stays uncommercialized forever.  

I still believe the essence of Key West lives, but I just hope it stays that way. We need weird, wild and wonderful places just to ensure that bohemia and a lifestyle of “just go with it” never dies.

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Mothers and Children

I’ve been a mother for over thirty years now and a daughter for nearly twice that. On Mother’s Day, I found myself contemplating the juxtaposition of being a child and a mother.  

When you were a child, you often do things your mother doesn’t like or makes it challenging for her to be your mother.

And as a mother, your child does things that leave you hoping their child does the same to them—just like your mother probably said about you. It’s a cycle.

I often write about how difficult growing up is, but for a mother, growing a child up is even more difficult. As a child you have to go through many trials and tribulations, some of which are beyond your control, but for most of which, you are in the driver’s seat.

However, as a parent, from birth through and past adulthood, a mother is a mere passenger in their child’s journey. Sometimes you can give directions. At times you’re told to shut up. And mostly you just have to let them drive. And if anyone has ever tried to teach their child how to drive, this fact is painfully evident.

Children, whether youth or adult need to learn and make mistakes on their own. You hope the lessons are not too severe, but you must accept the truthful fact that you not in control. You must sit back and hope that everything you’ve taught them and everything they learned by your actions and deeds permeates not only their lives, but what they do and say.

And if you’re blessed once again, your child will make you a grandmother, which is equally enjoyable and terrifying. You can be frightened for them, since they’re in charge of another life and must learn from the same experiences you did. At the same time, you get to sit back watch and wish they suffer some of the minor bumps and equally hope the ride is smooth for them. Other than the joy of grandchildren, though, the best reward is when they turn to you and say you were right.

Cycle complete.

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Walk Like a Man

Author’s note: This was a writer’s prompt about identity.

The alarm clock rang and I hit it without looking. It fell to the floor with a loud bang, so I must have slammed it harder today. I hope it’s not broken.

As I was already awake, I decided to get up and start my day. Before putting my glasses on and still in a half sleepy daze, I went to the bathroom and turned on the shower. That usually wakes me up.

I soaped up my scrunchie loofa with cucumber melon body wash and started washing. But as the hot water woke me up, I knew something wasn’t right. I looked down and screamed. My body had completely changed. I pinched myself once, then harder a few times to see if I was dreaming. I wasn’t.

Still wet and soapy, I quickly ran to get my glasses. I looked down again with 20/20 vision and screamed. I felt like me, but I didn’t look like me anymore. I was in the body of a man.

I dried off with a towel and grabbed my phone.

“Siri, what happens when you wake up in the body of a man?” I asked frantically.

“I found the following articles on the web,” Siri said. “Body changes when you sleep and the science of sleep.”

This was useless, but what did I really expect? It occurred to me I rely on that phone too much for answers.

Then I saw the time. I was going to be late for work. But how can I go to work like this? How can I go anywhere like this?

I phoned my boss to call in sick.

“Hi, this is Pat,” I said.

“Who’s this? Pat? It doesn’t sound like you,” she said.

I heard my voice aloud. It was much deeper, like a man.

“Uh, yes, I woke up with a terrible cold and can’t come in today,” I said.

“Ok, feel better,” she said and hung up.

Do I call a doctor? And tell them what; that I used to be a woman? No, that won’t work.

I sat there in someone else’s body for several minutes absolutely blank as to what to do. I decided I needed some brain food and time to think, so I grabbed my baggy sweats and my bra. But then, I threw the bra back on the bed. No, won’t need that, which is nice. Honestly, I hate wearing it every day. It pinches everywhere and makes my back scratch.

When I got up, I walked funny and nearly fell down. I guess the weight distribution is a little different. More bottom heavy, less top heavy.

I wobbled to the kitchen table, made some cereal and poured coffee from my automatic Keurig maker. At least one thing was the same.

I sipped the coffee and guzzled the cereal like never before. I must have been hungry.

How did this happen? And why? How do I get back to myself? Nothing came to mind. I popped open my laptop, but just sat there looking at the blank Google search. What would I even search for? Turning into man syndrome on Web MD?

Now I started to panic. What if I’m stuck this way? I wanted to cry. Do men cry? Can they cry?

I wondered what would be different if I had to stay a man? What would I get and what would I give up?

I‘d spend less money on clothes, make-up, jewelry and shoes. And it would take much less time to get ready. That means more sleep. That’s good.

I’d make more money for the same job. I think they’d have to give me a raise for being a man, right? I couldn’t get pregnant. Oh, but I could get someone else pregnant. Forget that, I don’t even want to think about how that would work now.

And no one would treat me like a dizzy blonde girl anymore. They’d actually listen to what I have to say. Well, maybe. After all, since I’m still young, I don’t know if anyone would listen anyway. But it would be interesting.

I’m obviously stronger, just look at the poor alarm clock. Would I be better at sports? And maybe I could open jars easier.

But then again, I’d have to buy my own drinks at bars now and pay for dates. That sucks. Oh and men have to be the breadwinner, right? Well, I never thought I’d be a stay-at-home mom. I like my career. Wait, I wouldn’t even be a mom, would I?

Could I still watch Hallmark and Lifetime and read romance novels? Is that allowed?

What about dating? Do I still like guys? Can I like guys if I’m in a man’s body? Well, with politics today, I need to check the news on that one to make sure.  

What would life be like as a woman trapped in a man’s body? I always felt comfortable in my own skin. I was raised to be proud of being a woman and not to compromise myself for anything or anyone.

I guess I could get used to it, but I don’t think I’d ever like it. My natural instincts would always be off. I don’t know if I could feel right. And life would be so much more complicated.  

Then I felt tears rolling down my face. At least I can cry. That’s something.

When I went to get some tissues, I turned on the TV to put off thinking about this anymore.

I took the remote and started scrolling through the channels.

Oh, no; I’m obsessed with the remote control already. This is not a good sign. Am I’m going to completely lose my identity?

Flipping through the channels, I noticed they’re all either Hallmark or Lifetime. That can’t be. Oh, here’s a different one. The unicorns and flying horses’ channel? That’s not right.

I know. Last night I rented an old movie on the cable remote. It would be in my history.

Wait a minute! Victor Victoria was the last thing I saw before I went to bed. Maybe this is some kind of life imitating art thing. Maybe the Twilight Zone was real and the TV whammied me. Or what if it’s some kind of virus? I’ve heard of hormone changing therapy, is that contagious?

“Siri, look up hormone changing therapy,” I said.

“Pat, it’s time to wake up,” Siri said.

“Ok Siri,” I said and sat up quickly. I sounded like me. High-pitched and squeaky. Then I looked down. Everything was in the right place. Whew! It was a dream after all. No, it was a nightmare.

Thank God. After all that, I’m glad just to be me.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022

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The Duel with Alexa

Technology can be both blessing and beast. There are so many new things to learn, it can be intimidating. But I choose to think each technological improvement helps our lives. Where would be without the internet or cell phones? They have made life easier. And so began my duel with an electronic minx called Alexa.

It came with our home, so at first, I ignored it. The technician set it up so it would lock and unlock the front door on command. Big deal. I keep the door locked all the time, anyway. I was unimpressed.

My neighbors used it to play music. They liked it, but I have a jukebox with my favorite tunes. So, didn’t need it. Another neighbor wired his whole house to do anything electronic by mere voice. That was impressive, but to me too many things could go wrong; then your smart house would turn into a dumb nonfunctional house, leaving you trapped and sitting in the dark. No thanks.

But one feature caught my attention. It’s such a simple thing, but Alexa can keep your shopping list for you. So, when you use the last of something, you just tell her to add it to the shopping list and when you’re ready to shop, you can have it on your phone and use it at the store. Easy, right? In concept yes, but in practice?

So, I chose to embrace Alexa, for this at least. I’m not a technophobe. I actually consider myself a little above the average of the curve regarding technology, but with Alexa, I had a bit of a fencing match.

At first, I just kept saying “Add butter to the shopping list, add orange juice to the shopping list, etc.”

I hadn’t tackled the app, yet, but I figured I would have her repeat the list and I would record it on my phone as a text to myself. Good idea, right?

“What is on the shopping list?” I asked.

Silence.

My crime? I forgot to address her as Alexa each time. Lesson learned. Point Alexa.

“Alexa, add bran to shopping list,” I said.

“Ok I added bread to your shopping list,” she said.

“No, I said bran, not bread,” I countered. Silence.

Don’t speak so fast and annunciate. Lesson learned. But at least she repeated it back, so I know I was further than before. Another point Alexa and one point for me.

For a while, things were going well, we were communicating. So, I decided to level up. Since I purchased different things from different stores, I wanted to add shopping lists for each store.

“Alexa, add vitamins to Target shopping list,” I said.

“Adding vitamins to shopping list,” she repeated.

“No, not just shopping list, Target shopping list,” I said.

Oops, I forgot to say Alexa again. Point Alexa.

It took a little while longer, but eventually I figured out that I had to create the different shopping lists first, then add to them. Lesson learned. A point for me.

With that tackled, we were humming again. But there was one more mountain to climb. The Alexa app.

I downloaded the app and remarkably, there were all my lists with all the items I dictated. Yeah! I got this one on the first try. Another point for me. Right? Not so fast.

When I went to the store and opened the app, the items were gone. Now I was left at the store to rely only on my memory and yes, I forgot a few things.

Thwarted again, but undeterred, when I returned home, I looked at the app to figure out the problem. I even enlisted a YouTube tutorial to help. It turns out it was user error. It automatically checked the boxes of each item and I accidentally deleted them all. I won’t to do that again.

Luckily, perseverance paid off and Alexa and I developed a mutually beneficial relationship for the shopping list. I’ll call this one a draw.

And now I get to watch my husband going through the same fencing match with Alexa. Will I help him? Nope. Teach a man to fish, right? He has to learn the hard way. And after all, it’s a fun amusement for me.

Now I hear stories that Alexa is listening and recording conversations and watching and recording movements. I don’t about that, but just in case, I covered Alexa with a picture, so at least she can’t watch.

© Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022

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Sixth Stage

Eve sat alone looking around her empty house. It was deafeningly quiet. In the year since her husband died, it had been a whirlwind of must dos. She went through every stage they say and busily performed all the never-ending diligence tasks to punctuate the paperwork end of someone’s life. Now she confronted the last stage—to live her life again.

Starting over in new surroundings without the echos and ghostly reminders of her past life, Eve moved into an adult community with facilities and planned activities.

“Mom, you have to put yourself out there. There’s a lot of things to do here,” her daughter Carrie said, reading the club newsletter.

“I just don’t know what to do. I’ve never done anything before,” Eve sighed.

That wasn’t the exact truth. When Eve was younger, she was very active with volleyball, golf and tennis clubs and had many “parents of her kids’ friends.” But her social life revolved around her kids and family-type events.

And since the kids were long out of the house and a broken-down body made most of her former past-times impossible or obsolete. She was struggling with ideas to get started.

“It’s like the first day in a new school. I don’t know anyone and have forgotten how to make friends,” Eve said frustrated and defeated.

“The best thing to do is just show up for something, try anything. Friends will follow, but you have to try,” Carrie said and left the newsletter with Eve.

“Just try…” Eve said mimicking Carrie’s words as they lay like a weight on her chest. “It’s easy to say.”

Eve put the newsletter on her kitchen counter and stared at it for a few days, taunting every time she passed it. She picked it up and then put it down a thousand times, exasperated at the challenge of creating a new life.

Since she was eighteen years old, she did everything for and with her husband and family. Now, sixty years later, it was a mountain she never wanted to climb. She really believed she would go first.

Her family’s words rang in her head like church bells chiming the new hour. Find a hobby, join a club, just pick one thing.

“Just one thing,” Eve said and picked up the newsletter.

There were a lot of activities. Movie nights, crafts, cards, everything at her fingertips, but nothing to get her to cross the threshold into her next act.

“I need to be brave and just pull up my big-girl panties and just go there,” she said flinging the newsletter to the ground.

She got in her car and drove to the clubhouse holding her breath but determined to try. Walking around she passed the fitness room and noticed a few people on exercise machines. Not a match. She peaked into the arts room and watched some ladies pouring paint from dixie cups onto canvasses.

“Looks kind of interesting, but arts were never my thing,” she puckered her face and moved down the hall to the dance studio.

Eve admired those who could still dance. As a teen, she loved to be bop until she dropped at sock hops, but bad knees made that reboot beyond possibility.

After she walked past the dance studio, she was still hearing music. Curiously, she looked around with no luck. Finally, she asked someone where the music was coming from.

“Oh, that’s the choir,” a man said. “They practice in the community room.”

The choir? Those words resounded in her mind like heavenly horns announcing a king.

Eve was excited for the first time in forever. Music was a long-forgotten friend from a bygone era. As a child, she sang in church and school choirs. She became quite good and even ranked number one in a state competition as a soprano soloist. It was a youthful dream to become an opera singer, but marriage, kids and everything that goes with it became her reality.

She loved her family and had no regrets, but always wondered about the path not taken.

As she got closer the music became louder and her heart beat a little faster as her eyes and ears widened.

“Maybe this is what they mean when they say unfinished business,” Eve thought. “But I haven’t sung in years, I couldn’t just pick it up. Could I?”

Reaching the room, she shyly stood on the other side of the door listening to the melodious tones of the choral music. She closed her eyes to experience the sound and let the music wash over her. She let out a deep breath and smiled, recognizing one song from church and unconsciously sang along.

“You sing beautifully. Would you like to come in?” a women interrupted her haze and startled her.

Eve nodded as they lady showed her in and offered her a seat.

She sat down and looked around nervously. After a few minutes, she found herself singing. It was like muscle memory; she just did it without thinking. It was natural.

As the rehearsal came to an end, she felt herself smiling.

“I hope you come back. You have a very nice voice,” said the lady sitting next to her.

“Thank you. I will.” Eve happily walked to her car. She was home.

  © Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022

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The Case of the Deadly Dreams

Night 1

There he was laying on the kitchen floor. Next to him was the cast iron frying pan. But what happened? Who could have done this? I was sleeping; did I hear something? 

Barefooted, I ran toward the front door in my nightgown. It was still locked. Confused, I scurried around the house looking for an open window or unlock door. Everything was secure.

But how did the killer get in? And why?

Everyone loved him. Well, his friends did at least. He was the life of the party.

As for me, I wasn’t sure. Did I still love him?

It was a complicated question. To me, he was really two people. I remember the dreamy man I fell in love with. The man who swept me off my feet. The father of my children. Him, I loved.

But the man who questions my every word, ridicules my every idea and makes me feel less than. Well, him, I could do without.

Can I do without? I guess now, I must.

I hear something. It is the police?

No, it’s the alarm. Now I’m awake and he’s next to me. It was just a dream.

Night 2

There he was laying on the family room floor. Next to him was a knife. It looked like his prized hunting knife.

What happened? Who could have done this?

Dressed only in my robe and slippers, I ran into his den. The sheath for the hunting knife was empty. Yes, it was definitely his knife. I felt an unexpected chill and spun around the room. The window was open slightly.

That’s how the killer got in. But who would kill him?

Suddenly I remembered the fight he had with his business partner the other day. I heard them loudly arguing about the accounts but didn’t hear any specifics. Could his partner have killed him over money?

Then I saw a suitcase in the corner of my eye. I opened it. It was filled with money. Oh no, did he steal money from his company? There was a plane ticket in the sleeve. Was he going to escape and leave me destitute?

I heard a sound. Is that the killer? Oh no, is he still here? Did I see too much?

Terrified, I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“It’s time for breakfast. I’m hungry,” he said.

I sighed. It was just a dream.

Day 3

There he was laying in bed. Still. No snoring. No snorting. Not a sound.

I noticed he still had his clothes on. He does that sometimes, either too drunk or tired to change, so he just staggers up the stairs and falls into bed.

Next to him I saw some pills laying on the nightstand and scattered on the floor.  

Could he have overdosed? Would he do himself in?

No, it must have been an accident. These days he’s taking so many pills and with his eyesight going, maybe he made a mistake?

I looked down at the pills. They looked like his heart medication. Maybe he forgot to take them? The doctor warned him not to miss even one pill or he could have a heart attack. His health had been declining. His last checkup was not great. The doctor told him to turn his lifestyle around immediately. No booze. No sweets. No fatty foods, but he refused. He was a ticking timebomb.

I decided to clean up the pill mess and got dressed.

Climbing down the stairs, I noticed a half empty bottle of bourbon, empty glass and some empty candy wrappers on the table in front of the TV. He stayed up late watching a movie last night after I went to bed. When he drank, he often got the munchies.

I started to make his breakfast and set the table to eat. Every day he insisted on three poached eggs, bacon, sausage and toast with orange juice. While waiting for the eggs, I checked my phone and sent out a text to my friend to confirm our lunch appointment and returned a few emails for work.

Everything was ready, so I called for him to come down. I heard nothing. 

I went upstairs to wake him, but he wouldn’t rouse. I checked his pulse. He was dead.

Now… I’ll call the police. I’m prepared. I have something to tell them.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022

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A Miracle in Lighthouse Cove

I sit outside my church wondering if I should go in. I hear the melodic sounds of the congregation singing Christmas hymns. It sounds much better from here than inside. Together, they combine to create a singular chorus of joy and community. But from my pew, all I hear is offbeat, out of tune shrill from certain people in high and low tones drowning out the beautiful notes.

When the preacher begins the sermon, I barely hear bits and pieces of words. He’s a nice man, but he doesn’t exactly project to the last pew. You have to get to church early to get a good seat. Now that I think about it, maybe that’s his intention all along. Pretty clever.

As the door creaks open a bit, I listen. I think he’s telling the tale of the miracle birth of Christ. Lighthouse Cove could use a miracle like that right now.

My town is a simple sea town on the isle of Northhampton Virginia. We’re not even a dot on a map, but our lighthouse is very important. It lies at the entrance to the cove that leads up to Delaware and Maryland, along the Chesapeake Bay. Ships don’t stop in our small village, but they heed the lighthouse to find safe passage up the waterway. Without it’s continual beacon, they could lose their bearings and easily perish on the rocky land and miss the smooth secure bay waters.

For the last week, extra shifts of two men with binoculars were scheduled, searching the seas for one of our own, the Pearl.

She was a typical whitefish and halibut trawler run by a small crew of local men and boys. They went out to catch Winter Flounder for our annual town Christmas celebration. It’s my favorite time of year. The whole town gets together and celebrates with music and dancing. The feast of fish and vegetables with hot apple cider and the most marvelous cakes and pies anyone has ever eaten is legendary. But not this year.

The trawler didn’t return. For days, the men on the lighthouse have been watching and the women and children in the town have been worrying and waiting. They’ve been holding candlelight vigils on the waterfront after praying in the church every night for their loved ones to come home safely. They even decorated the church with anchor-shaped garland to honor the men who work in the sea to feed everyone.

As the head watchman’s daughter, I’ve had to act as the town crier more often than not. I sound a bell when the ships come in to alert the townspeople. And when any good or bad news regarding a ship is needed, my pa sends me into town to make an announcement. I don’t enjoy the job, but it’s my duty.

I dread telling these people the news. Pa and the others found some planks on the coastline. One was marked “The Pearl.” He told me to inform the others. I just don’t know how to say it. Should I burst in and blurt it out or wait until after the service?

I opt for waiting. I don’t want them to fret any longer, but a few more minutes of hope is better than despair. I won’t rob them of that. 

The preacher ended and I hear the short proclamation hymn followed by the final prayer. It’s time. I put this off long enough. I open the door slowly, trying not to make a sound, but I see a young boy caught me. He was playing with a toy while everyone was praying.

“She’s here!” he yelled and everyone else turned around, staring at me in sheer silence. Looking into their worried eyes, I tried to speak, but at first, no words came out.

“They found some planks washed up on the shoreline,” I said softly. “And one said…”

Just as I was about to finish, a loud humming sound came in the distance and distracted everyone. The entire congregation gazed at the large oak doors of the chapel, perplexed by the distant noise.

As it grew louder, it was clearer. It sounded like a group of men singing a sea ditty. I was shocked at the insensitivity and impertinence to disturb a solemn occasion with a silly shanty. I walked toward the door with the intention of hushing the men, when the big wooden doors flew open.

The congregation gasped in a chorus with their eyes widened. It was my pa and the other watchmen with several other men covered in black clothing. It was the crew of the Pearl! They made it.

The mass of people ran to individual men hugging them as the organ mistress played a happy Christmas tune. I was very happy to see the men alive and well, but I was puzzled.

I waded through the sea of gleeful smiles and tears and found my pa. “What happened?” I asked.

“It’s the darndest thing. They got lost in the fog and crashed on some rocks further north, but they nursed the boat back, even with a good chunk of her gone,” he told. “It took a while to find their way back, but they said the lighthouse shined their way.”

My heart warmed peering at the joy all around me. I was happy that I waited so long to speak. I don’t know what made me waver, but I was glad. I guess it was another miracle for Lighthouse Cove.

©2022  Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

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New Kindle Vella Romance Series

Click here for a free preview https://amzn.to/3vJ7cqE

Love is powerful, fulfilling, and redeeming. It makes you feel a sense of comfort, peace and pure enjoyment in life. Like most things, when it’s right, it’s very right and when it goes wrong, nothing can make you feel worse. 

Does real love last? Can it last forever? And if it does, how do you know it? When do you know it? And is it possible to fall in love at first sight or is it a euphoric fantasy? 

Is it possible to look across a water cooler, a bar, a street or a crowded room and fireworks ignite or at least flicker?

The search for love is as curious to us as the need to know how people achieved great wealth. Both accomplishments, both sometimes seemingly unattainable. After all, when you meet a new couple at a party, often don’t you ask – how did you meet? We all have an insatiable need to know.

In this new Kindle Vella Series, the pheomenon of love at First Sight is celebrated. These are REAL stories of REAL people (the names have been changed to protect the innocent…and not so innocent) who at first meeting experienced sparks, fireworks, trumpets and lightning bolts and fell in love. 

Much has been written about love as one of the most encompassing and enlightening feelings that most people will ever experience. Different for everyone and yet mesmerizing and illusive for some who still believe in the depths of their souls or who just hope in their consciousness that at the end of the day, it can happen to us all.

The first three episodes are free and the following require purchased tokens. New episodes available regularly.

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What If? Peace in Serene Scotland

Author Note: This was a writing group challenge to write a story with a fictional “what if” scenario about a historical time or event. I am enamored with history and the idea of alternate realities. In this incarnation, a time loop changes the scenario but protects the timeline. It’s interesting to consider how choices mold and alter events…

Surrounded by her loyal corgis following her every step, Lilibet walked along the rolling green and amber hills of her family’s Scotland estate looking for a buck. They’ve been tracking it for a week for a hunt later in the day.

The highland grounds of the Castle of Mey were her favorite place in the world. The early morning mists slightly levitating above the fields. The crisp smell of the heather waking up with dew. And the yellow sun gently rising from the horizon. It was a quiet and peaceful.

It was her twenty-first birthday and Lilibet’s mother, father, sister Margaret, and her new beau, Phillip, were all gathering for a family birthday breakfast before the hunting party arrived. They were all glad to be together once again for this momentous occasion.  

The war years were difficult for everyone, especially the royal family. It was a roller coaster of uncertainty, pain and heartache for years. When it began, in her shelter of their tranquil estate, the blitzes in London seemed so far away. She felt for the poor families and worried for her father, who moved to London to help her uncle, the king, and the prime minister deal with the war. Luckily, for the worst of the Blitz her father was in Churchill’s underground bunker. When they heard a bomb hit Buckingham Palace, they were certain it was the end.

For many nights, Lilibet, Margaret and her mother laid awake listening to the solitary night crickets in the deafening silence of safety, wondering what would become of their country and the world, while feeling helpless in the turmoil.

After the bombing ceased, her father and Churchhill worked together with the Allies to defeat Hilter, but her uncle, the king, was terribly shaken. The shell that hit the palace convinced him failure was the only possible result and he retreated into a debilitating melancholy state. He even dispatched Queen Wallis to Switzerland for her safety.

Churchhill didn’t trust the king or the queen, so he had agents watching them and his suspicions were right. The agents found the queen engaged in seemingly innocent parties and meetings with people who knew people the Nazi hierarchy. When they infiltrated from the inside, they uncovered the queen was trying to forge a secret treaty to spare England in exchange for information on the Allied plans.

Luckily they were able to intercept and squash the dastardly alliance in its infancy. The queen was escorted back to England under close supervision and she and the king stayed under house arrest in Windsor Castle for the remainder of the war to avoid any further unseemly conduct.

Once Hitler was defeated, her uncle was forced by Churchill and Parliament to abdicate, claiming health reasons, but only a few knew of their deep deception. Now with her father as king and her mother as queen, they faced the task of rebuilding the country and building the people’s faith.

Lilibet shuddered just thinking of what could have happened. She was disappointed and ashamed of her uncle’s cowardice, but proud of her father and his steadfast resolve to serve the people. The sacrifice of her father and mother resonated with her and inspired her to spend her life in service of the United Kingdom for the day she would be queen.

Walking back to the house, Lilibet and the dogs strode through the maze of the proper English gardens to admire the beautiful blooms her mother planted. Her mother Elizabeth doted for hours year after year to sculpt it to perfection. She paused to consider the dedication required to create and keep something so wonderful.

For now, her path was clear. She looked forward to minimal royal duties and a happy life in their serene Scottish home. Maybe one day she would be the proud Navy wife of her first love and raise a bunch of children, along with her dogs and horses. Maybe she’d become a horsewoman owning a stable of wonderful prize steeds. She always had an eye for a good horse and loved to care for them.

Eventually, she would learn the family business beside her father. But with the worst behind them, she felt content with her glorious future and ready for what it would bring.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2022

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What is Emotional Bullying?

Most people agree a bully is someone who physically assaults another by pushing, hitting, punching, grabbing, knocking books out of hands, stuffing someone into a locker or a dumpster, sticking a head into a toilet, etc. But physical bullying is not the only brand of terror; emotional bullying often leaves as many and deeper scars, especially since it’s not as easily detected.

But there’s debate over what is and isn’t bullying. Especially for some who have never been bullied, the outsiders and even insider’s view of bullying can be murky.

In its simplest explanation, emotional bullying is when someone makes another feel lesser, while asserting their dominance by belittling or giving orders or commands. And many people, adults and kids, don’t even realize they’re doing it. This can be a semi-regular or habitual occurrence, leaving no place for the bullied person to breathe.

Intent is communicated in words. “I didn’t mean that,” “you know what I meant,” and “you are reading too much into it” are arguments often used when someone verbally and emotionally bullies another, but in actuality may reveal that person’s inability to effectively communicate.  After all, communication, by definition, is when a message is sent from one point to another. But it’s the sender’s job to communicate the message to the receiver, not the other way around. If someone doesn’t receive your email, you don’t tell them they should have expected the email and should have intuitively known and understood the message that never came.

Differences of opinions can also degrade into emotional bullying. If you call someone “stupid,” most people would concur… that’s bullying. But what if you say… “you’re wrong,” “you’re making too big a deal of this,” or “you’re being too sensitive” –  is that bullying? Yes, it is. Those statements are directed at the person, not the disagreement. Opinions are in the first person… “I think.” If someone changes the opinion into “You don’t, shouldn’t, etc.…,” it exposes a need for supremacy to win the debate without merit by belittling the other’s opinion. There’s a difference between disagreeing with another and diminishing them.

Everyone has a right to their opinion and the right to disagree with another’s opinion, but no one has the right to tell anyone their opinion is less than. If I say, the water is blue and you say the water is green, that’s ok. It’s a difference of opinion. But if I say “you’re crazy, that water is blue, you don’t know what you’re talking about”…that’s bullying. Often people resort to bullying when they want you to agree with them and can’t get you to change your mind.

Psychologically, bullies declare superiority in physical or verbal forms over another to compensate for something lacking in their own esteem or to claim control. These people will sometimes use commands to diminish another while elevating themselves. Commands like “Forget it,” “Get over it,” “Move on,” “Get off of it,” “Don’t worry about it,” especially when prefaced by “You need to…” is one person ordering another what to do.

Anyone, any age can bully another and anyone, any age can be bullied. Parents, teachers, spouses, partners, friends, siblings, significant others or even strangers can all stealthily and even inadvertently cut emotional scars into others. This can cause resentment; lack of self-esteem and can fester into long-term issues which often lay dormant until they erupt, creating division which can break the person or the relationship. 

 Several tools can be used to prevent bullying…

  • Clearly communicate your message and intent in words; don’t expect another to understand your meaning if you don’t say it.
  • Stay on topic in disagreements and express YOUR opinion. Use “I” not “you.” And sometimes you have to agree to disagree or find a fair way to arrive at an agreement, like flipping a coin.
  • Respect everyone’s opinion and feelings. Only they can decide how they think and feel.
  • Don’t try to make yourself taller by standing on someone else.

It all comes down to this…making someone feel inferior can never make you superior.

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Happiness is NOT a Warm RV

In a pandemic world of limited safe travel, two girlfriends and I decided to take an RV trip to visit another friend a few states away who was isolated, depressed and in need of a boost.

With the best intentions, we rented a small RV to minimize contact with the outside world. It was the perfect plan. We’d stay at RV campgrounds to sleep and reduce nighttime driving and we brought food, so the only stops were for gas once a day. But, if you’ve ever been trapped in a tin can for 72 hours with even very good friends, you’ll discover what I did – friendship has its limits and nerves don’t.

We tried to anticipate problems by agreeing to “going native.” With limited storage space and the normal accruements of three women, we decided room for food must be prioritized over makeup, hair styling devices and large luggage. We each were allowed one medium-sized duffle bag with three changes of clothes and would do laundry on arrival. This alone nearly torpedoed the trip.

My predisposed picture of an RV trip comes from wacky scenes in Lucille Ball’s movie, “The Long Long Trailer” where she is thrown out of an unlocked door into mud and pummeled with flour and other ingredients out of unsecured cabinets. Unfortunately, my lens was fairly accurate.

Our first hazard came quickly. Within a few minutes, we heard a piercing alarm, as the other two annoyingly questioned the newbie driver…“What did you do?”

After we pressed all the buttons to no avail and could no longer stand the stabbing noise, we pulled over and called the RV shop. The first of many calls with a quick fix that I’m sure had them laughing at we three dim old ladies. Turns out the carbon monoxide detector was located in the banquette table, right where any normal person would put their feet. Needless to say, this was not the last time that sound plagued us. What dimwit thought of that brilliant location for a heart stopping alarm?

We drove in shifts to give everyone a break, but driving the RV proved challenging. We all underestimated the crosswind and the wide load of the RV which had each of us frequently riding the rumble strips on the shoulder. The first time it happened, we were terrified, holding on for dear life and yelling at the driver, who was also screaming in fear. After we realized this was one of many perils on this trip, the horror subsided, but the discomfort didn’t. The road rash and bad shocks left an impression on our bottoms and our waning anxiety.  

Life inside the RV, or the rolling turd as I began to call it, was not much better. The first time we tried to make a sandwich, I was having flashbacks to the dreaded Lucy movie, but in real time. Standing and performing any job amidst the rumble strips and swaying cab took practice that geriatric ally challenged knees don’t favor. You get bumped and bruised a lot. Even simple tasks seemed difficult and required multiple attempts in slow motion. Just buttering bread you felt like a malfunctioning robot with a loss of full kinetic operation.

Then with one slight break for traffic, the bread, butter, meat and cheese slide off the counter like they’re fleeing while plastic cups, breakfast cereal boxes and other pantry items fall on your head from the cabinets above. Lessons learned. You need to hear two clicks on the cabinet to ensure they are locked, not one. And sit down when making a sandwich.

The slight braking mishap continued to be a cruel test, though. Anything on the table like cards, laptops, glasses and cell phones would regularly plunge to their doom with each press of the brake pedal, even light ones. And there was a lot of traffic. After day one, the driver tried to shout warning while the others gripped everything like octopi attempting to ride out an earthquake. Good thing there were cup holders for drinks or else we would all have been sticky and drenched.

Outside foibles aside, I think the most surprising annoyances came from inside the RV. Actually, three fifty-five plus women are not the best company when trapped. For the sake of brevity, I will list the infractions and save the commiseration. Snoring; CPAP machine noises; horrible driving (especially next to mountains); endless negotiation of the heat and cold settings which would never please anyone; and continual absentmindedness regarding turning on and off lights and water pumps, resulting in one odorous day with no water and no showers and several nights in complete darkness.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back and my head was the chattering. The unanticipated volume and clatter of the RV was menacing, to say the least. Everything creaked, rattled, banged, jangled and clanged, creating a symphony of irritating sounds. My headache began at one in the first hour and reached Defcon five proportions by day three. And because I was in the driving pool, I could only drink myself to sleep at night, which was never peaceful. I direct you to the previously mentioned snoring and CPAP machine noises. If I were a cartoon, my head would’ve been too big for the RV by day two.

And the loud unabated road noise caused every conversation to be at a volume of eleven. Loud one-sided cell phone conversations were aggravating, but the maddening prattle of nonstop nervous and bored chatter left me wanting to hurl myself out of the RV into the Smoky Mountains below to escape. My only measure of passive resistance was when driving. At least I could roll my eyes, make faces and silently mock them undetected. It turns out the wonderfully fun discussions we always had over afternoon wine or game nights turned into empty idle babble when forced in a continuous loop. Maybe wine does improve banter and friendships.

When we finally arrived at our friend’s house, I was tempted to rush out the door and kiss the ground for safe arrival, but I settled for being the first released out the door. I have a sneaking suspicion that even though our remote friend was desperate for company; we all were frantic to get out of that tin can.  The only problem, in a few days we had to go back home and do it all over again.

© 2022 Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

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The White City

From her first step off the el train, Maggie’s eyes widened in wonder. The newspaper accounts and word-of-mouth tales of the grand White City paled in comparison with her green eyes looking at the real thing.

After seven years in America, she was accustomed to the sight of buildings tall enough to reach the sky, but this was different. It was magnificent – the most brilliant collection of crisp and clean white buildings she could imagine.

The expansive, elegant neoclassical Court of Honor buildings created u-shaped mirror of glistening reflection in the water basin in the center. Behind the sparkling fountain stood a series of roman columns topped with alabaster statues that overlooked the lakefront, as if standing guard. A giant glittering gold Grecian lady towered over the spectacle like a golden key welcoming entry.

Among the sea of black bowlers and straw hats, Irish immigrant Maggie and her new beau, Scottish arrival Davey McIntyre, moved in a daze marveling at the magical city created in less than two years to celebrate the 1893 Columbia Exposition World’s Fair.

Over the last several months, Maggie heard the other servants in her Lake Shore Drive household tell fanciful tales they read about of the beautiful and mysterious wonderland, wishing for a chance to see it with her own eyes. Her employers attended the grand fanfare of opening day and regaled the staff with first-hand accounts of the glorious firework display over the basin and the miraculous dusk illumination of thousands of electric light bulbs dancing to shed beams of light over the exhibitions, tricking nighttime back to day.

“What do you want to do first, me lassie?” Davey asked taking her hand. “I’ve a pocket full of nickels and the world is your oyster.”

                Maggie knew he saved for two months to spare the cost of several days’ wages to give his best girl this once in a lifetime experience. But with the train fare and the fifty cent per person admission, she feigned interest only in the free exhibitions to see as much as they could and save their pennies for a special ride or two.

                For hours, they viewed the art and beautiful pieces of grand china, glass, and glamorous textiles from all over the world. They walked through many pavilions displaying the latest innovations in machinery and invention, which were expected to usher in a new century of prosperity.           One of the most memorable was the hulking Edison tower of lights which was choreographed in time to the Blue Danube waltz.

                Touring “Little Europe” to sample the architecture, music, food and drink from abroad, Maggie felt a comforting warmth she hadn’t experienced since she left the Emerald Isle.

                “Try this beer,” she boasted, “Me dad said there’s nothing in the world like an Irish stout.”

                “Maybe, but it doesn’t top a Scotch Whiskey and a bag pipe ceòl mòr ,” he chided.

“If you don’t mind me saying, it sounds like when they killed the cow,” Maggie laughed.

And so started the playful but proud banter arguing which display was better, Ireland or Scotland. The tie-breaker was the Gallery of Beauty visit between the pretty Irish maid and the handsome Scottish lass. They finally agreed that the dainty maid would carry the day. At least they both got a taste of each other’s homeland.

The exotic Midway plaisance recreated the lands of the far east with realistic buildings, food, marketplaces, music and native dances.

“Can ya imagine the beautiful dresses that could be made out of this silky gold fabric,” Maggie wondered as she draped the cloth over her arms.

“Well, I can’t afford enough for a dress, but could ye make a scarf outta a wee bit?” Davey said as she smiled and nodded.

“Are you a seamstress?” a young girl standing next to her in the market asked in a harried voice.

“Well, me ma is a dress maker and taught me everything she knew,” Maggie boasted.

“Maybe you can help us.” She grabbed Maggie’s hand and whisked her to a nearby tent. There she saw a gaggle of young half-dressed Egyptian girls in revealing harem clothing.

“Fatima ripped her pantaloons in the last performance and we can’t fix them,” the girl said handing Maggie the garment, needle and thread.

The sheer fabric was tricky to work with and mending the break in the middle of the pant would take a skilled hand. Maggie learned to sew lace at her mother’s feet, so her needlework was second to none, In just a few minutes, she restored the tear perfectly.

The girls thankfully ushered Davey and Maggie into the tent to watch Little Egypt’s show in gratitude.

Most of the gossip about the fair surrounded the risqué costumes and “impure” indigenous dances by bellydancer Little Egypt. Her “hoochee coochee” dance was the hit of fair and equally scorned by the “church ladies” of the city.

Maggie was entranced at the astonishing way she could twist and move her body. But when she saw the enormous smile on Davey’s face, she said grabbed his hand to lead him out of the tent.

“Wait,” said a man standing next to the girls.  “Do you need a job? We could use a good seamstress.” He handed a confused Maggie a card and told her to come back tomorrow if she was interested. Maggie smiled and put the card in her purse, waving goodbye to the girls.

As dusk peaked, they cued for the soaring Ferris Wheel, a new engineering phenomenon. Rushing in with crowds of others, they garnered a perfect view through the metal webbed windows in the steel framed cab car to see the sun set on the unique White City and a day they would not soon forget.

(c) 2022 Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

Note: This is a short story adaptation of a small part of a new historical romance book Irish Eyes, which is book 2 to the Timeless American Romance series of books to be released in Spring 2022. Sign up for my email list on the home page to get updates and sneak peeks on this and more books.

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A Starry Night

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One of the best things about being a kid is exploring and noticing the little things in life. Tyler and his friends were no different. 

On a warm summer night, they enjoyed a rite of passage for eleven-year-olds, the backyard tent sleepover. Tyler and his dad pitched a small pup tent in the backyard and laid out some of sleeping bags and other camping equipment acquired during the family’s all too brief camping experiment.

They stacked some firewood in the pit to roast marshmallows for S’mores and cook hot dogs on a stick, the essential menu for camping.

Tyler was excited to have his friends, Billy, Cole and Mel, short for Melinda, for the sleepover outside. He had wanted to camp out for a lot time, but his dad said they had to be eleven before they could sleep alone outside.

Billy and Mel were neighbors and the three played together for years. Cole was a school friend who lived a few blocks away.

Tyler wanted to host on his own, so his mom and dad went through all the steps with him and promised to leave them alone, but kept a watchful eye on them through the windows.

Most of the culinary camping techniques were improvised, such as the use of the long wooden hot dogs sticks as Jedi light sabers locked in battle. Unfortunately, the fired hot dogs did not fare as well as they were flung two and fro in the skirmish. The kids just wiped them off and ate them anyway…five second rule. 

The methods of roasting marshmallows ended in a contest of who could keep their marshmallow on fire for the longest time, which made for some charcoal flavored S’mores.    

Not unlike most sleepovers, there was very little sleep, so they all settled into their sleeping bags, staring up to view the clear sky and bountiful nighttime landscape of stars.

“Look, I saw this in a book. There’s the big dipper and the little dipper,” Mel exclaimed, tracing the heavenly figures out slowly with her finger.

“What’s a dipper?” Billy said.

“I don’t know, it just showed the pictures of these constellations in the book?” Mel snapped a little.

“What’s a constellation?” Cole asked.

“The pictures in the sky made up by stars, I guess,” Mel answered quickly.

“I don’t see anything. Just a bunch of stars,” Billy said.

“Look, they’re right there, see?” Mel insisted and traced the pattern in the sky again faster this time.

“Ok, if you say so. I don’t see anything but stars,” Billy shrugged.

“Oh, I see them now,” Cole said. “That’s cool. You say you found it in a book?”

“Yes, there were some other star pictures too, but I don’t see them now. Just the dippers,” Mel answered.

“I think the stars are like a painting in the sky,” Tyler said. “Tonight it looks like a bunch of puppies playing in a yard to me.”

“I didn’t read anything about puppies in the star book,” Mel answered skeptically.

“Oh, I can see the puppies now,” Cole said.

“I don’t see puppies,” Mel crossed her arms.

“I still don’t see anything,” Billy sighed.

“It can be anything to anybody or different things to everyone,” Tyler explained. “It’s just what you see through your own eyes and with your imagination. It changes every night.”

“That’s not what the book said,” Mel maintained.

“My dad said imagination is all in your head,” Billy said.

“Imagination is in your head, dummy,” Cole laughed.

“It’s in your eyes and your head. It’s what makes us all special,” Tyler said. “It would be boring if everyone saw the same thing all the time.”

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022

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NEW RELEASE! PUZZLE AT PEACOCK PERCH Secret Senior Sleuths Society Mysteries Book 1

Why have one detective when you can have a whole secret society? This group of seniors is making time amid their bridge and mahjong tournaments, bingo games, arts and crafts, and tennis and pickle ball matches to solve mysteries together in their community. They put all the knowledge from their former occupations to work together to crack the case.

In this first book in the Secret Senior Sleuths Society of Peacock Perch Series, these seniors are tasked with a genuine puzzle and their original investigation of many “The Case of the Vanishing Vixen.” Their neighbor, Willow Wisteria disappeared, but not without a trace. They’ll use all their cunning, life experience and the knowledge from their former occupations to follow the trail of gossip and social media posts about Willow to gather clues and find suspects with means, motive and opportunity.

People think retirement communities are quiet with sleepy residents, but in fact, Peacock Perch is a typical senior village full of misdeeds and mystery that keeps the detectives very busy. And they know just where to look.

Now Available on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and Large Print Edition paperback on Amazon.

Subscribe to the newsletter on the Home page to receive exclusive videos of the secret camera footage discussed in the book.

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 Select-o-matic Husband

Author Note: The Twilight Zone was a popular show in the 50’s and 60’s that peered through the looking glass at a skewed way to view certain issues in our society in a fantastical way.

In the year 2200, women are now the dominating force in the world. After the nuclear WWIII, women around the globe banded together in an unprecedented solidarity of different races, creeds, nationalities, religions and ideologies to create a new order. Removal of politicians, lawyers, sports, the stock market and the restructuring of corporations to eliminate greed, ushered in an age of absolute peace and prosperity. With complete cooperation and efficiency, female leaders are able to administer and govern the world from a multi-jurisdictional board with all decisions made by popular and instant vote. Without poverty, crime, disease and corruption, it was Utopia, except for one problem – men.

 In the 22nd century, men are now free to pursue anything they want. Without burden of breadwinning or governance, they can fulfill any dream. Unfortunately, the remaining men all chose to become explorers and adventurers with most going out to far regions of the globe, sea or space to study and create new worlds.                   

“Ladies, we have solved today’s problem of male companionship. Our new device, the Select-o-matic Husband, allows you to input data into our computer with your ultimate preferences in a mate and select from unlimited possible choices. In just 24 hours, your new husband will be delivered right to your door with an easy-to-read instruction manual, ready to be integrated into your home environment,” the commercial said.

As Myra and her friends viewed the commercial one night, most were immediately on their armband computers, creating their perfect mate.

“Wow, you can put your interests in and what you like. This is so easy,” Jenna said.

“I know exactly what I’m going to get, no surprises afterward,” Brenda added.

“And there’s a money-back guarantee with a no-questions return policy,” Tilda said excitedly.

But Myra was reluctant. Gazing at the locket around her neck, she looked at the pictures of her parents and remembered the loving, happy home she grew up in, before the war. Now everything was so efficient and orderly, she missed the unexpected surprises and even the perils in life. She wondered if a computerized mate would make life so right, she would never experience anything exciting or wrong again.

“Done,” her friends all said in a confident simultaneous completion.   

“What about you Myra?” Jenna asked.

“I need some time to think about this. It’s an important decision. I’ll order mine later,” she falsely explained to divert the conversation. She doubted that she wanted this type of perfect arrangement.

The next week the friends gathered at Glenda’s house for their weekly girl’s night. Glenda gladly showed off her new mate, bragging of how perfect her life was now.

“R-ex is beautiful, Glenda,” Jenna said. “My T-om is not that muscular, but I wanted a tall and slim model.”

“He looks and cooks like a dream and even has my glass of wine waiting for me when I get home,” Glenda said.

“My K-en agrees with everything I say and always wants to do exactly what I want to do, when I want to, without argument. We spend the whole day discussing history, art and music. I made sure to select a genius IQ who was well-versed in all subject-matters. He even plays the piano and guitar, so he can serenade me,” Tilda boasted.

Myra listened to her friends gushing over their new playmates and watched R-ex creepily smile as he went back and forth, serving them snacks and drinks. They seemed happy, but to Myra, it just wasn’t real.

“Do you girls ever want to go back to the days when things were uncertain and a little messy?” Myra asked.

“Not on your life!” Jenna loudly exclaimed.

“Are you insane? This is the world we all dreamed of,” Glenda added.

“We are much better off this way. Why mess up a good thing?” Tilda agreed.

“I don’t know. Everything today is so perfect; I miss the excitement and thrill of the good and the bad, not knowing what will happen next,” Myra confessed.

The others stared at her a long time, silenced by their disbelief.

“That’s it, no more wine for you,” Glenda ordered. R-ex, get her some coffee and sober her up. She’s absolutely mad.”

© 2021 Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

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Which of These Things Don’t Belong Together?

SNEAK PEAK! This is a character introduction to an upcoming YA/middle-grade book “Popularity”.

Certain kinds of combinations like spaghetti and meatballs, movies and popcorn, and shoes and socks are famous pairs, but socks and sandals or spaghetti and tuna are definitely not.  

What if people were like that? Meredith was. She was movies and milk. She just didn’t think she fit. 

When her school district closed her high school, they redrew the district lines to split up the kids to neighboring schools. Suddenly, her friends since elementary school were no longer in her class. And even worse, living in a depressed part of town, she was now enrolled in the “rich kids” school.

The first day of school was right out of the pages of Seventeen Magazine and Teen Vogue. Designer shoes, clothes, backpacks… the bling was literally blinding. Fancy phones and even the cars parked in the drop off area smelled of money.

Meredith looked at her head-to-toe Goodwill hammy-downs and felt like Cinderella going to the ball in rags instead of a beautiful gown.

“No fairy-god parent here,” she said and walked through the hallway with her head down.

Unfortunately, she didn’t see someone on her direct intercept course and crashed right into them, spilling her drawing notebook on the floor.

“Those are spectacular,” a girl shouted and grabbed one drawing.

The girl’s name was Alyssa. She was one of the “popular” crowd.

“Did you draw these?” she asked Meredith.

“Yes, they’re just doodles of things I see.” Meredith replied in a soft voice and picked up the other drawings and put them back in her notebook.

They were doodles to her, but to most people, they were wonderfully detailed representations of people and things showing their innermost feelings and true colors. The picture of her father reading a book showed the depth of his interest in the subject in the wonderment reflected in his face. A drawing of her dog showed an older dog with a ball in his mouth, but the eyes of a young pup who always wanted to run and play.

“Draw me,” Alyssa said excitedly and thrust her hand on her hip, striking a pose.

“I don’t draw people posing like a model. I usually draw them while they are doing something,” she said.

“Ok, eat with us at lunch and then draw me while I’m not looking,” she said and bounced down the hallway, motioning Meredith to follow her.

Meredith never saw anyone bounce like that and she definitely never ate at the “cool” lunch table. She watched them from afar, sitting on the bleachers in the cafeteria/lunch room drawing. Secretly, she scribbled a couple people laughing and talking, but never showed them to anyone. No one ever saw her work until today. It was private; it was personal.

The popular girls were the most beautiful, richest and most talented in the school. Homecoming princesses, prom queens and most of the dance cheer squad. She looked at them sitting at the table like they were perched on a glittery cloud with pastel-colored auras all around them. They had everything in the palm of their hands.

She stared at them awestruck, forgetting everything in her head until Alyssa told her to sit across from her, so she could draw her face.

Meredith pulled out a notebook and gel pens out of her bag. She liked the pretty colors and sparkles of those pens to give her drawings a pop art kind of feel. She sat at the table looking around. The girls were talking loudly, all at the same time. She wasn’t really sure who was saying what or how they were eating, as none of them seemed to take a breath.

No one noticed her. She was like the table or the air; she was just there. But she noticed them, every facial expression and every movement. Their hair flowed back and forth and eyes seemed to glow while they talked with their hands, expertly drinking their soda with one hand and eating with the other. To Meredith, it was electric. She drew with a speed and enthusiasm she never experienced before. She grabbed pen after pen in rapid succession drawing not only Alyssa, but everything she saw. 

This was it, she thought. She didn’t fit in now, but someone, someday, she dreamed maybe she could.

(c) 2021, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

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Talk to the Hand

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Before “talk to the hand” became popular, I believe I used and saw the idea of that gesture many times.

As a parent, you often feel that many conversations with your child, back and forth, can be illustrated with one hand held affirmatively in the stop position.

With young children, you want them to quickly stop doing things that will hurt them and you need them to understand immediately. You need the “hand in the face” gesture when they are hurling themselves out of their crib to the floor, climbing over protective baby gates like Spider-man scaling a building and to not peel the wallpaper off of the walls.

Sometimes it works, although when they completely ignore you or respond in a rebellious “no,” there is more work to be done. 

When they get older, and can talk back, the dynamic changes. Like the time my five-year-old definitively told me “no” when I told him he had to go to bed. He furred his brow, pursed his lips and, with a defiant glare, put his hand up in my face and said “No.”

He obviously saw me make the gesture before and now emulated that behavior. Now I wished I never used the “hand in face” because now it boomeranged back to me, over and over again.

Fast forward to teenage years and it seemed every question and non-answer session could have used the long-retired “hand.”

Any inquiry about where he was going, what he was going to do or who was he going with met with a huge sigh and swift non-reply.

“Mom, just stop.”

But I didn’t stop. After all, these types of interrogatives were my job as a mom to protect him. This went on and on for years. No “hand in the face” but the message was the same.

Over the following decades, adult debates over holiday gatherings found me using a similar motion to my father as he often loudly pronounced rather explicit off-color jokes, racial slurs and ideologies very opposite to mine. And on more than one occasion, with one hand covering my nodding head, the other went up asking him to stop.

Fast forward a few more decades and the tables have turned once again. Now the adult children want to tell me what to do. If I want to close a bar once or twice, protest an injustice, go on an adventure or enter a beer drinking contest, I clearly heard their response once again. “Mom, stop.” Although distance requires the command to be on phone conversations or sometimes over face-to-face computer interactions, the message is similarly communicated. But this time, I get to use the hand to face gesture showing I am not listening. Talk to the hand.

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Waiting for a Reply

“Another email about Mary’s game night? What to bring, what time, what day, you think we were Congress trying to negotiate a bill, right lol. It’s not rocket science.” Caroline quickly replied to the email and went back to work.

Then she heard another ding notifying her computer that she had an email. When she checked it, she found an email from her friend Tara.

“Caroline. Did you mean to send that email to everyone?”

She read the email, panicked and then looked back through her sent emails.

“Oh no! I clicked reply to all by mistake. I wish this email chain was easier to use. I get mixed up with all the threads. I sent this to everyone in the group, including Mary. Yikes.”

As Caroline worked throughout the day, she barely kept her mind on her accounting as she received several responses to her mistaken email. Ding after ding, like the bell tolling, a constant reminder of her mistake. Others were smart enough to reply just to her email with their responses.

“Wow, Caroline, didn’t think game night was that taxing on your busy day, haha,” Jim emailed.

“Caroline, seriously, we’d all be too old to play games if we waited for Congress to act,” Mark chided.

“Hey, I thought some of our games are like rocket science, lol.” Carrie replied.

“Oooo, did you get an email from Mary yet?” Debbie emailed with a string of shock emojis.

She didn’t get an email from Mary yet. The waiting was the worse. She toggled between her work and her email, checking for the bell to toll for her. 

Hours went by. Nothing. Caroline went over the message again in her head, judging every word and phrase for the possible response.

Ok, the first line could be a joke – but the rocket science line, that probably nailed my coffin, Caroline thought.

Mary was a meticulous host and took her turn for game night very seriously. There were drink menus, snack suggestions and game choices all which required everyone to weigh in an opinion. She coordinated times and dates, which alone was an endless series of emails to sync schedules. Then there were the emails about what everyone would bring. Mary wanted to ensure there were no duplications.

Caroline appreciated her attention to detail and thought if everyone brought chips, that would be bad, but there were more emails during her game night week than any other week.

The fiftieth email check in the last few hours showed no email from Mary, which made Caroline even more nervous. She knew Mary was usually very quick with email replies. 

Maybe she’s busy and didn’t check her email, Caroline thought. Or maybe she doesn’t want to respond.

The suspense was killing Caroline. She heard every noise in her office amplified by ten. The coffee pot drip, computer keys typing and the water cooler gurgle echoed in her head. Then she realized she typed the same numbers into four different columns on her spreadsheet and had to figure a way out of the torture.

Can I delete the thread or the email? She thought, Googling the answer. Nope.

What if I reply and head her off at the pass, like it was a joke? Caroline stared at the email crafting the perfect response.

“Lol, just kidding. Can’t wait.” She replied to all and stared at the computer for a response. Silence. Then finally, a lone ding. It was from Mary.

“Lol. Bring nuts,” she emailed.

 Caroline was stunned. She obviously read the email thread. Was she taking the high road or mounting her attack to ambush and punish her at game night?

“Arrgh, now I have to wait three more days to find out.” Caroline plopped her head on her desk.

“Alexa, remind me to buy nuts at the store on Thursday,” she said.

(c) 2021 Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

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Pick That Up!

Should I pick that up? I think the better question is… Why should I pick that up?

My new husband of one year started as a dream. He’s kind, respectful and a lot of fun to be around. But I recently found his fatal flaw. He’s a slob! Not a pigsty slob, but he doesn’t pick up after himself. It’s infuriating!

It started small. He left coins and mail on the kitchen counter, magazines on the coffee table and left his lap top everywhere. But now it seems like every flat surface in our house is his dustbin for anything and everything that comes out of his pockets or lands in his hands. His nightstand, his vanity, the end tables, the countertops, the coffee table… they all have stuff on them and it’s driving me crazy.

 I should have known when it took him a month to put away his suitcase from our honeymoon. I accidentally kicked it five times. I reminded him the first week, then the second week, then daily for the next week, but there it sat. Finally, I shuffled into his small closet. He didn’t even notice.

Thankfully, he puts away his clothes most of the time, but everything else is habitual. I’m not a neat freak or anything, but everything has its place. Why do we have closets, cabinets and drawers if we put nothing away? When we were dating, we either went out or to my place, since he lived in a cramped apartment with a few other guys. I never knew. I can’t resolve if he’s absent-minded, untidy or just completely oblivious.

It’s been a tug of wills for months. He leaves things around. I wait a few days, and then gently remind him -but nothing. And every day I look at the mess seething with pent up rage. Finally, when I’m about to burst like Krakatau or when we have people over, whichever comes first, I tidy it up. I’ll put everything in drawers beneath or nearby wherever things land.

Frankly, I’m at my wit’s end. I’ve tried to help make him organized. I bought him separators for his drawers so he can easily put everything in them. I got magazine holders for his magazines, labeled them and put them on the shelf. I even got a new end table for the living room with a cabinet for his laptop. When I showed him how easy it was, he thanked me and said they were great. Still, they remain empty.

I even got a little passive aggressive once and took all his things and put them in a box to teach him a lesson. I figured if he couldn’t find anything he needed, he would learn the reason you put things away is so you can find them. At first he didn’t even notice, but when he was blindly looking around for his things, I caved and told him I took them and gave them back. And he just thanked me!

Is this my life—to be Cinderella and pick up after him constantly or live in a hoarder house, embarrassed to have anyone I know come in? Is that fair? I work too; we’re supposed to split the chores. And what happens when we have kids? If they’re like him and follow his example, I will spend my life in servitude up to my eyeballs in stuff.

On a recent trip to his mother’s house out of state, the clouds cleared, and I got some clarity. It took me a few days to notice, but I realized she followed him around, picking up his clothes and folding them on the bed, taking his dishes from him, and each morning we found things he left around neatly stacked near the bed. And as soon as we got out of the bed, it was magically made. Aha!

He never had to pick anything up his whole life, so he never learned that’s what he’s supposed to do. He doesn’t think this is any different. But it is. 

That’s it! Now I’m going to have to break him of this mommy-coddling habit right away. Maybe I’ll take a page from Pavlov’s book.

Now I’m wondering what other habits I’ll have to break. I hope Pavlov’s theory works on husbands too. 

© Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2021

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Newtakes not mistakes

Albert Einstein said “A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.” After all, one person’s mistake is another’s invention. That statement was never truer than with my childhood friend, Skizitz. Others saw everything she did as a mistake, but to me, it was creative and amazing. She was definitely an original.

As an Army brat, I moved around a lot, which was not conducive to making friends easily, until I met sixties. In three short years, she showed me how to try new things, ignore naysayers and bullies and completely be yourself. Words I’ve lived by my whole life.

She not only made lemonade out of lemons, it was a sweetest lemonade you every tasted because it was unique. Nothing was impossible, because to her it wasn’t right or wrong, it was just different.

When we went snowboarding the first time, we failed miserably. We went down a couple of feet and both fell. It was hard to balance. We thought if we held hands, we could help each other balance. That worked for a few feet, but then we both face-planted in the snow. We sat there in the snow as others glided down around us and knew we either had to try again or walk down the hill in defeat.

Skizitz smiled and kneeled on her snowboard in her patented butterfly pose sitting with her knees in front of her and her legs on either side like wings. “Try this Emmy, we can shush down the hill like a sled and use our hands to make us go.”

I know that’s not how we were supposed to snowboard, but we moved fast with the cool wind in our faces. It was fun and we got down the hill in style, with less bruises.

I’ll never forget the food concoctions she would come up with and the interesting way she ate everything. Popcorn with ranch dressing mix and butter a la Skizitz was her signature snack. And she ate her Skizitz-style peanut butter sandwiches by separating the two pieces of bread, splitting Oreo cookies in two, licking the white filling out of the Oreos and scooping all the peanut butter from each bread slice with the chocolate part of the cookie. Then she took the slice of cheese and put it between the bread and ate the sandwich. Is that the way to make a cheese sandwich or a peanut butter sandwich with cheese and peanut butter Oreos? I think they even sell peanut butter Oreos now. She was ahead of her time.

She found her own way to do everything from her made-up words to her banana-peel way of tripping, falling down at kicking a winning soccer goal. The unusual way she created costumes with on-the-spot back stories for every character like the half man-half clown, clownman, the princess pirate, or the frogbee are neighborhood legends.

Yes, kids made fun of her and teachers and parents always told her she was doing things wrong, but it wasn’t a mistake for her. Everything she did was unapologetically her way. I never forgot that.

Now I own an environmental sustainability company that has changed the face of our climate for the better, allowing affordable renewable energies to progress and thrive to produce clean water and air. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I was really just finding ways not to invent my process. Without those mistakes, I would have never achieved my goal. And even though it was years ago, every time something didn’t work or fell short, I remembered how Skizitz would call it newtakes and make it different. And I did.

Note: This is a character preview of a new middle-grade book The One and Only Skizitz.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2021

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Reruns

“Hi Mom, I need to ask you something about your crockpot.” Jamie called her mother on Facetime. 

“I can see you, can you see me? Isn’t this Facetimes thing fun?” her mother laughed.  

“Mom, hold the phone back, I can only see your mouth. Good. I’m using your old crockpot.  How did you get it to the right setting again? Warm for 1 hour than high for an hour? Mom you’re muted.”

“Oh sorry. I didn’t mean to hit it. It’s warm for 30 minutes, high for one hour and then warm for 30 minutes again. I can’t believe that old thing is still working. It was your grandmothers. Why don’t you get a new one. Maybe one of those instapots I hear about. That thing’s got to be on it’s last leg. It’s…”

“Mom, you’re on mute again. Anyway, I like it. They don’t sell ones this big anymore and I can fit a whole chicken, plus potatoes and vegetables in it. Those new ones don’t fit half that. Sometimes it’s worth keeping. Mom, I see your lips moving…but I have to go anyway, I hear the kids making noise in the other room. Love you, bye.”

 Jamie laughs, sighs and walks into the living room holding a basket of laundry and sees her two young daughters Avery and Alex dancing to a familiar tune and begins to move to the music a little.

 “Mom, we’re making a TikTok video,” Avery sighed.

“You’re in the frame, mom,” Alex said. 

“I could swear I know that song.” Jamie quickly hopped out of their way and started folding laundry, humming the song in her head.

With her back to the girls, Jamie kept humming the song and moves her head, shoulders to the beat.

 “Mom! What are you doing?” The girls both stopped and stared at her as if she was crazy.

Then a light bulb went off in her head. “I know that song.”

Jamie started to sing and dance a little to the song. The girls’ jaws dropped.

“How do you know that song, Mom?” Avery asked.

“That song is new,” Alex said.

Jamie laughed. “That song is not new. It was popular when I was a kid. I think I may still know the whole dance.”

Jamie put the laundry down and stood next to the girls and sang and danced the whole song. The girls were dumbfounded.

“That’s better than what we were doing,” Alex said.

“Mom, can you teach us that dance,” Avery asked.

Jamie and the girls laughed as she taught them the moves to the old song.

“Let’s put it on TikTok,” Avery said excited.

“Oh no, I don’t know about that girls,” Jamie said and walked back to the laundry.

“Come on Mom, you’re better than most of the people we see on there,” Alex coaxed.

“Well, ok, I guess.” Jamie smiled and checked her hair in the mirror.

It took a few takes, but they finally all agreed and uploaded the video to TikTok entitled “Old School Dance.” It has ten thousand likes, and counting.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2021

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Attic Adventures

Cammie was bored. The ten-hour car trip with her mother, grandmother and aunts was bad enough, but when they reached her great aunt’s house, there was literally nothing to do. No Wi-Fi, no TV, nothing.

Her great aunt Gertrude recently had a health scare, so they wanted to visit her while they could. Gertrude lived alone in their ancestral home and was the keeper of the family line. She kept the family stories to pass onto stories other women in the line to ensure they would not be forgotten. Cammie’s mother included her on this all-girl tour to get some first-hand knowledge of her heritage.

For hours, the women talked, drank tea and looked at picture scrapbooks. But Cammie rolled her eyes and counted the tiles on the kitchen walls while she pretended to look.

These are just a bunch of old pictures of people I don’t know, she thought. Why should I care?

She excused herself to use the bathroom and found a hallway full of doors. Her aunt said the bathroom was on the left, but there were two doors on the left. Cammie opened one and saw a narrow stairway. She flicked the light switch and climbed the stairs. The steps were so narrow her feet were nearly too big for them.

“This is the most exciting thing that happened to me in two days,” she laughed.

 She followed the stairway to the top and looked into the room. It didn’t look like attics she saw in the movies or on TV; it just looked like a room. It had bright lights, as there were no windows, white linoleum floor, white walls and ceilings and different colored sheets thrown over mysterious objects.

“Now this is more like it. Let the adventure begin.” Cammie ran around the room taking the sheets off one by one.

First, she unveiled a beautiful wood dressing table with an attached ornate three-way mirror. Cammie looked into the drawers and found a beaded purse with fringe, some small gold metal boxes and a silver comb and brush. Next to that was a bookcase full of old leather books.

Then she found a chest full of fabric and clothes, an old record player with a big horn, and a weird square treadmill with a big while belt attached to it. With each new item, she looked with fresh interest and anticipation until the next find. After she was done, she surveyed the room again and wondered what they were all used for? How old they were? And who they belonged to?

“There’s a tale for each one of these treasures,” great aunt Gertrude said as she hobbled up the stairs with her cane. Cammie was so entranced in her adventure she didn’t even hear her coming.

“Is this an attic auntie?” Cammie helped her sit in a big velvet chair she uncovered. 

“It was an attic when the home was built, but when there were more kids in the family than bedrooms, it was used as a bedroom. Over time, it became the final resting place for all their treasures.”

“Who?” Cammie asked.

“The Cole women, of course. Each piece tells a tale of the women in our family.” Gertrude pointed to the vanity.

“That dressing table belonged to Victoria. She was a flapper in the 1920’s and was the life of the party. She was killed in a car accident at 22. They found those little gold boxes of snuff powder on her.”

“The chest was brought here on a stage cross-country from Pennsylvania in 1870. It contained everything Mary’s family owned. Can you believe that? She became a seamstress and made custom dresses for all the richest women in town.”

“What’s with the horn on this record player?” Cammie asked.

Gertrude laughed. “It’s called a Victrola. It was Emily’s most prized possession. She took it all the way to California in 1910 when she tried to make it as a singer in Hollywood. She sang in movie theaters during silent pictures.”

“And oh, the bookcases. Aren’t they marvelous? Lillian was the librarian until 1950 when she died at 85. She kept her favorite books in that bookcase. She was considered the smartest women in town – like a walking encyclopedia. It was Lillian who started the golden book of Cole women.” Gertrude motioned to the giant book lying atop the bookcases.

Cammie brought the book to Gertrude. It was covered in shiny gold leaf and had the word “Cole” engraved on the top.

“In this book is one page for every woman in our family. Each generation had a record keeper who passed down the stories mother to daughter, aunt to niece. Lillian decided to write each story in the book to preserve them and handed the book to a special girl in the family to continue the line.” She handed the book to Cammie.

Each of the creamy pages had a woman’s name and year at the top and told the story of her life. And there were many blank pages for the future. Cammie looked at each page with wonder. These women were all chronicled in this book. How they lived, who they were and how they died.

 “I’ve kept the record for the past 60 years, since my aunt gave it to me. It’s time for new blood.” Gertrude smiled and gently handed the book to Cammie.

“I can’t do this. I wouldn’t know what to write.” Cammie looked at her with big-eyed fear.

“Just listen and tell their stories. You can start with your grandmother and I.” She said.

For the rest of the trip, Gertrude told Cammie stories and showed her pictures of the Cole women. Cammie took notes to write the stories in the book later. Now she saw the women in the picture scrapbooks as people. Through the stories, she felt she knew them. They were family and now she could keep them alive until it was her time to bestow the book upon the next generation of Cole women.   

© Copyright 2021, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

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An Unexpected Wind

Emma dreamed of visiting the Hardie Casino baths. Hardie’s two-story building with big arched Greek columns was the fanciest and the largest bathing casinos in Miami. Her mother, Carla, recently began working there as a sandwich maker, since their move from New York. Emma would sit every night entranced as Carla told her about all the people she saw that day sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the big salt water baths. She pictured fancy ladies in sunglasses and big-brimmed hats lying under beach umbrellas in the tropical sun and dozens of heads donned with bathing caps bobbing about in the deep salt water. And she imagined men diving from boards high in the air plunging into the pool below. But a casino pass was too expensive for their little struggling family, so Emma would have to live through Carla’s daily tales.

“Emma, Emma, I have a wonderful surprise for you.” Carla excitedly ran up the stairs to their 2nd floor apartment. Emma smiled and met her at the door just like every day before.

 “Mr. Hardie gave this to me himself as a bonus.” Carla smiled and handed a yellow ticket to her daughter.

Emma looked down at the ticket and cheered, jumping into her mother’s arms in glee. It was a day pass to visit the Hardie baths tomorrow. She would finally get to see everything she imagined with her own eyes and get to sunbathe on the golden beach and swim in the sea water pools. It was a dream come true.

Richard was taking measurements and recording hourly findings in the ledger. He volunteered for the twelve-hour night shift, relieving a work friend who left to attend his mother’s 60th birthday party. September 17th 8pm: 19 mph wind speed, barometer mostly steady slight drop, mild rain. No signs of any disturbances, he wrote, filled up his coffee and tilted back in his desk chair until his next report.

Emma fell asleep that night smiling with her wool bathing costume and cap next to her, dreaming of the next day’s event.

At midnight, Richard wiped the sleep from his eyes, filled up his coffee cup and read the wind speed and barometer again. The wind picked up to 30 miles per hour speed, the rain increased and the barometer dove again. Additional drop in barometer, probably due to rain, he wrote. No other disturbances.

Unaccustomed to the night shift, Richard fell in and out of sleep for the next few hours draining the coffee pot. He dutifully managed the hourly reports with no incidents, but at 5am Richard noticed a curious plummet in the mercurial rate of the barometer with the rain and winds increasing. Precipitation and wind speed steadily increasing to 50 mph, barometer dropping, he wrote. Still within parameters of rain storm-will monitor pattern.

Now Richard was wide awake. The rain and wind didn’t bother him, but the barometer was a concern. The barometric pressure and wireless reports from ocean steamships to Washington DC were their only indication of a tropical storm.

By 8am the barometer had jumped up and down like a ball, but the rain diminished and the wind was down to 10 mph. The barometer pattern is uncertain, could be within margin of error. Rain and wind speed depleted, no disturbances noted, but will continue to monitor barometer.

Emma and Carla awoke to overcast conditions, but no rain.

“Do you still want to go today? There’s no sun.” Carla asked. Emma’s eyes and smile grew big as she quickly nodded in response. Nothing could keep her from visiting the bathing casino, especially not a few clouds. Since Carla had to work anyway, they headed out the door to be there for the 9am opening.

After leaving her mother in the back-door kitchen, Emma quickly dressed in her bathing costume and wool cap and walked through the restaurant into the bath area. It was beautiful, just as she pictured. The long deep pool lay in the middle of the deck filled with chaise lounge chairs and fresh towels rolled on the seat. Her eyes turned skyward toward the three diving boards of various heights which seemed to reach to the heavens. Walking on the beach, she saw lounge chairs with umbrellas resting near the ebbing tide. All it needed was people to fill in the blanks. By 10am, despite the lack of sun, there were water bathers in the pool and ocean and sunbathers occupying the chaises. Emma happily went back and forth jumping into the bathing pool, watching the divers and running up and down the tide line.

At 10am, Richard noticed a big drop in the barometer again, but there was no rain and wind speed held at 10-15 mph. He looked at the wireless and saw no reports from the sea.

Suddenly at 10:30am, the wind speed reading picked up to 40 mph. Richard called the anemometer reader at the Federal building to double-check. They were also reading 40 mph, but he knew their margin of error was 15 mph because the three-story building was surrounded by newer buildings 10 to 12 ft taller in Miami’s growing metropolis. Richard was concerned. Checking the wind speed constantly, at 10:45 he noticed the wind increased to 60 mph. He tried to call the Federal Building to check the readings, but the phone lines were down. Protocol dictated posting the only public warning flags on the beach at 65 mph. Without confirmation, he was hesitant to make the solo call, but felt it was imminent, so he gathered the red and black-squared flags and walked three blocks to the beach.

Emma saw workers on the beach, hurriedly lowering the umbrellas tussling in the wind. Some people retreated to the pool area where the building provided a windbreak.

“Due to the wind, please exit the beach area immediately and take shelter in the building,” a man walked along the beach shouting into a megaphone.

Emma quickly walked toward the restaurant where Carla was waiting at the back door and hugged her. “I was coming to get you. We lost power in the kitchen, but I have a light. I think the freezer is the best place to be until this blows over.”

Richard reached the empty beach and posted the flags at 11:15am and ran back to the office fighting against the amplifying wind gusts. By 11:50, the wind speed was 95 mph. The category 4 hurricane hit Miami at 12:05pm at a velocity of 100-115 mph with a 15-ft storm surge.

The front half of the Hardie Casino building caved like a melting bar of chocolate with the 2-story building tiers and front columns atop each other. As the wind lulled, people came out on the street to see the damage, but a second wave hit a half hour later at 60 mph, killing more people and toppling the front of the building and the big Greek columns to rubble. Emma and Carla were safe in the kitchen’s walk-in freezer. The back of the Hardie building was the only part left standing.

Author’s Note: Those of us who live in hurricane paths are grateful for the notice and preparation provided by technology. 100 years ago, very little notice or public warning was provided.

© 2021, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

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The Perfect Date

Free Online Dating Clipart

The beaming sun stretched its smile, enveloping the lake. A comforting breeze swept ripples across the surface dancing to the beat of a full symphony of lilting melodic wonders playing the soundtrack for love in the band shell. Swans sang an operatic aria floating in aimless harmony.  

I even saw a butterfly go by. Add in a basket full of wine, bread and cheese and it was the perfect setting for romance. Neal left no stone unturned to create a beautiful first date.

He was attentive. He was kind. He was generous. It was everything I could have asked for and more than I expected from a date on harmoniousencounters.com.

I went into online dating with a lot of skepticism. This site asked every question except my blood type and promised to use their groundbreaking algorithm to find my perfect match. Well, it worked.

Neal and I had everything possible in common from the choice of wine and type of music to books, politics… and on and on. We talked for hours about every manner of topic from travel and wines to architectural styles and classical music preferences. He was a simply perfect match. Yet I sit in this perfectly wonderful setting with this charming man across from me and all I can think of is… “Meh?”

It was pleasant, but I was not attracted to him in the slightest – not at all. I don’t understand it. He was smart, good-looking and funny, but that spark, the joie de vivre, just wasn’t there.

I dreaded the end-of-date kiss like the plague. Everyone puts so much emphasis on the fireworks of the first kiss. But if there are no embers the entire day, the pressing of lips together can’t create a fire. They’re not flint. Unfortunately, I was right. It was like kissing a friend or relative; it was just pressing lips, nothing more.

That night as I cozied into a cup of hot tea and my romance novel du jour, I started to think I expect too much from a first date or any dates. In all these novels I read, its instant chemistry. They either hate each other or love each other at first site, then sparks fly. Of course, it’s fiction, but after a lifetime of reading books and watching sappy movies, I think I’m programmed to believe in love at first site and happy endings.

Maybe the perfect person is the wrong fit. Opposites attract, right? Maybe you need someone who’s your exact opposite and makes your blood boil to get your gears running. Neal was too perfect. Instead of Prince Charming, maybe I’m more of a dashing rogue girl. Where do you find them? Is there an unharmonious.com?

Well, for right now, I know where to find them – right in the pages of this book. But first, I need to cut the cord. Even if my happy ending isn’t easy, it will never happen on a computer. harmoniousencounters.com—delete account.

© Copyright 2021, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

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Time Capsule

It was the last day of high school in the year 1971 in a small Midwestern town. Four best friends secretly buried time capsules under the tree in front of the high school to commemorate their time there and vowed to meet fifty years later to dig it up.

All agreed to put three items each in individual tin coffee cans; something that represented what they did in high school, what they wanted to be and how they saw themselves at the time.

Over the 50 years, the four eventually went their separate ways. At first, they saw each other occasionally, then less frequently. They called on birthdays and sent letters and cards at Christmas. And when social media came out, they shared pictures and milestones on that. But life took them in different directions, so they were never again the best of friends. 

Margie was the first to leave. She went to college in California, lived in a commune for a while. Then she became a public defender and was elected as a democrat to Congress. She never married; she always said she didn’t want someone else trying to run her life.

Evie, who’s now called Evelyn, stayed in town for a while and went to work as a teller in the bank. She fell in love with the head banker who rose up the ranks to in JP Morgan Chase and moved to New York to head up their corporate division. So basically, she’s rich.

Fran married her high school sweetheart and lived in town for 20 years. It was a bad situation. Her husband mentally and physically abused her and cheated on her all the time. She kept having children, seven in all to keep things happy, but it didn’t. Everyone in town knew; it’s a small town. She finally withdrew and became a shut-in from the embarrassment. He died of a heart attack at 40. It was very sudden. Most people thought it was a suspicious death, but nothing was done. She got married to an insurance salesman moved away to start a new life with the kids. It was better for her to leave; too many bad memories and too much gossip.   

I stayed in town the whole time. I worked in my father’s grocery store for a while and avoided marriage and kids for the longest time. Finally, I met my husband, George. He was the guy who brought the bread every day. It was a long courtship where he pursued me for years and after we got married and had kids, he helped me run the store.

Fifty years to the day, we all met in the high school courtyard. The tree was huge, but the campus was basically the same. The reunion was nice. We all looked older, of course, but at least we all made it. I had my grandson dig up the tins for us. Let’s face it, none of us wanted to dig in the dirt anymore.

After the hugs and introductory greetings, we walked up the tree and all stared down at the tins. No one moved.

“Let’s just get this over with,” Margie said and grabbed her can, scraped off the dirt and ripped open the tin lid. She pulled out a program from the school play where she played the lead, her young republicans Nixon pin and her hand painted flower child peace headband.

“Check out the Nixon pin. Wow, you came a long way baby,” Evie laughed.  

“This is ridiculous. I never voted for Nixon! I’m a liberal.” She flamed and threw down the can.

With the tension broken, Evie smiled as she took out her old band baton cap and cheerleader bow, but grimaced when she saw her 4H farm medal for raising chickens.

“You can take the girl out of the farm, huh Evie?” Margie laughed and Evie pouted and quickly put the tin down.

 “This is not mine. Who put this in here? Funny joke.” Evie took a wipe from her purse and cleaned her hands with a puckered look on her face.

I opened mine and laughed out loud. There were photographs of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and the Pyramids and a picture of myself with a camera, all inside a grocery bag from the store. Yes, I wanted to travel and photograph the world.  

“Well at least the grocery store bag was right. I knew I’d never leave anyway.” I shrugged and put the pictures back in the can.

Everyone looked at Fran as she put her hand in and retrieved pictures of her and Bert, her first husband, with a card that said “Fran and Bert Forever” and began to cry.

“I was so stupid to give my life up for that jerk!” Fran covered her face and let the pictures and coffee can fall to the ground.  

Time is funny. We took separate roads and left behind who we were then and what we thought about life, when it didn’t turn out as we planned. Some out of necessity, some from convenience and some just changing life as it went along. They always say looking back in a mirror, objects are closer than they appear. Our time capsule experiment seemed to show the opposite. Seems the past is buried deep and far behind. Maybe that’s where it should stay.

© Copyright 2021, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

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I am an Island

Author note: I wrote this for a challenge to finish another writer’s prose. It took an interesting turn for me to give a look into the mind of the everyday writer.

“The descending sun painted the sky in an amber glow. Soft white clouds danced to a gentle breeze’s beat. The ascending moon tossed a quiet light over the plains, that separated the wilds of nature from what passes for civilization. The birds bid farewell in a rhythmic chorus. The lovers smiled at each other, in peaceful content. Twigs crumble under pained stress. Footsteps draw closer, stilling their thoughts, and chilling the night…”

“Rascal, lay down, I’m in the zone.” I scratched his ears and he sat on his pillow at my feet.

After reading this passage describing a scene of isolation on my half-blank computer screen, I realized something. This is my island; my oasis of calm in an ever-changing sea of still glass or turbulent crescent waves. No matter what’s happening in the world outside my very small window, I can escape into a sphere of reality which I create.

 In my little office, my writing takes me on a journey where I listen to the characters in my head and they tell me their stories.

Yes, I hear them. I know that sounds weird to non-writers, but as a writer, you become the observer in the world you create. With every word on your glowing screen, you weave tales and build a universe where people live, love, learn, thrive and survive. And you hope someday readers will share that world with you and enjoy their stay.

It’s a strange omnipotent power to create a fake reality. You wield fate like a god and hold the lives of your characters in your hands. With a sentence or paragraph, I can give this one true love, put that one in danger or even kill someone off. I think that’s the toughest part. I feel like a parent to these fictional children I formed.

Sometimes I feel responsible for them, although I often think they’re in charge of their own destinies and I’m just the one with computer chronicling it all. But even as witness, I’m servant to the divined natural science of our story world. Not unlike real life, there are rules in the tropes that must adhere. Certain stories must have a happy ending and in some, death is assured. I travel through their existence, sensing everything as they do. I guess just like the civilization I see outside my window, my island also experiences both calm and rough seas. Maybe my little island isn’t that different, but at least here, I’m still in control.

Ok, I’ve procrastinated long enough…I’m listening lovers, whose footsteps are chilling you in the night? I’m in the zone again. I hear the footsteps too.

“Again Rascal? Ok, let’s go potty.” I walked toward the door and took one more look at my screen.

Lovers, you’ll have to wait a little longer to find your stalker.

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99 cent Kindle Countdown Deals This Week!

From June 21 thru 26th, two of my ebooks will be ON SALE on Kindle for only 99 cents. It’s a great opportunity to try these books, both the first in their series. If you have Kindle Unlimited, they are both always available.

A cozy mystery combined with classic detective work, Beck’s Rule’s Mysteries Book 1 tells the story of fearless hard-hitting reporter May Beck’s disappearance and her friend, editor Buc Edward’s desperate attempt to piece together the puzzle with the clues she left behind to solve the mystery.

video https://youtu.be/LhyIP86zfkE


GROWING UP IS HARD! Written for middle grade and preteen girls, Diary of a 6th Grade “C” Cup tells the tale of young Katie who is the first in her grade to get a bra and encounters never-ending teasing and bullying. Through her personal diary entries, follow Katie’s triumphs and perils as she navigates through middle school and Jr. high with as few scars as possible. A must read for girls 9-13 who are trying to figure out their new and changing world and avoid bullying.

Video https://youtu.be/YFuTytCHUyc

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The Question

Looking through the glass window, Cathy paced on the floor, sat down and tapped her pencil on the table waiting. Tap. Tap. Tap.

 “This is taking forever,” she complained, got up and looked through the window again.

“What are they waiting for – divine inspiration,” she barked and sat down again, tapping her pencil. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Impatient, she got up and looked at the window again. “You’d think I asked them solve the meaning of life. Even a Rubik’s cube would take less time.” She yelled and sat down again, tapping. Tap tap tap.

“Cathy, here’s some decaf, give them a moment, this can be a difficult question to answer,” Rick said calmly handing her a cup.

The warm coffee helped for a minute. Cathy swirled it around in her mouth, trying to identify the flavor du jour. Since her ad agency only offered focus group participants coffee and donuts, both had to be pretty good. They gave a variety of sugar-topped cake donuts, cream and jelli-filled frosted selections and the most popular glazed donuts in town. And a gourmet coffee house in the area provided a different unique blend of coffee every day.

“Sometimes I think they take so long just so they can suck up the coffee and donuts,” she barked again and began pacing. “After all, they have nowhere to go.”

Cathy was anxious; this account has been a difficult challenge. As a 30-year-old marketing assistant, she couldn’t get her head into the fifty-five-plus brain to figure out how to sell to them. She successfully marketed everything from sneakers and cell phone cases to beer and perfume to her age group and was bucking for a promotion to marketing manager, if she could come up with a good campaign to sell to this target market. 

“What do they want?  Don’t they know what they want?” She said sitting down and tapping her pencil again. Tap. Tap. Tap.

“Here you go,” Jean said opening the door and handed Cathy a stack of surveys.

“Finally, let’s get some answers,” Cathy handed some of the papers to Rick and excitedly sifted through them.

With each paper, she anticipated more and more and was satisfied less and less.

“Where did we find these people – asleep in a nursing home?” She tossed the papers across the table. “Grandchildren! More free time! Reading! Playing Mahjong all day? This was a useless waste of time.”

“Now, wait, there are some good ones here,” Rick console her. “Here’s one that says more money.”

“That just says they can buy, but it doesn’t tell us how to sell them ultra-caffeinated energy drinks!” Cathy objected. “All we asked them was the best thing about getting old is________? How hard is that?”

Their client sold caffeinated energy drinks to a younger market and wanted to expand into the senior market by only changing the packaging, branding and advertising, but leaving the drink the same.

“If you ask me, I think our biggest problem is the warning labels,” Rick added. “After you remove diabetics, heart and cancer patients, and people with varicose veins, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and gout, there’s not a lot of people this age level in the buying pool. We don’t want to kill anyone.”

“Some of these people have to be active,” Cathy said feverishly looking through the papers again.

“I know, Rick said.  “What about this for a slogan…Drink Caffi energy drinks…you’re not dead yet!”

(c) Copyright Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2021

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The Hum

A friend came over for dinner and we watched what I call a scary movie. I’m not a fan, but she liked it, so I went along. After it was over, I was less scared and more confused at the unbelievable actions of the characters. I mean, if you’re scared, you run away, not investigate and go toward danger. Who does that?

My friend left and I was cleaning up the remnants of our impromptu fondue platter. It was not my finest cooking hour. Then I heard a strange dull humming sound. Hummmm. Hummm. Humm. Like maybe the refrigerator running? I didn’t think much of it and just continued my clean up duties.

When I took everything into the kitchen, I was puzzled. I couldn’t hear the hum anymore and there was the refrigerator right there. 

Looking at the piles of mess in the kitchen, I decided to finish the bottle of wine and watch a little TV. The old Dick Van Dyke Show was on and it was my favorite episode, the one with the walnut aliens. That show was a laugh riot with a funny take on aliens. Why do aliens portrayed in media always take on a weird vibe and shape?

Oh well, the wine spent for the evening, but I still wasn’t tired. So I decided to read a little. There it was again. Hummmm. Hummm. Humm. But this time it was a little louder and sounded like an engine. I thought maybe a motorcycle was passing and looked out the window. There were no lights, but I did see some bugs buzzing around the window.  That’s it, bugs, I thought.  

I continued to read, but the sound kept getting more intense. Hummmm. Hummm. Humm. It almost had a rhythmic cadence.  Hummmm. Hummm. Humm. It seemed mechanical, but the sound kept getting louder and softer, louder and softer.  Maybe it was the TV?  I hoped.

I don’t mind admitting, I was a little freaked out now. I needed a distraction, so I decided to do the dishes. I turned up the water and clinked the dishes and glasses as loud as I could to drowned out the sound, but I couldn’t quell the moaning noise in my head.  Hummmm. Hummm. Humm.

I went back into the living room and heard the sounds of rain. I scolded myself for my silliness. I let that stupid movie get into my head. I was imagining things everywhere.

So, I sat down to read again, but after a minute or so, it started again. Hummmm. Hummm. Humm. It was louder now, haunting. And I could swear I heard breathing too. I focused on the noise. It was under the couch – right under me. It sounded like a cat purring. But I didn’t have a cat.

Maybe something got in when my friend left. Could be a cat or even a bobcat? I heard sightings of some recently in the area.

I shirked back to the corner of the couch huddled in pillows. I was afraid. No, I was petrified. It was taunting me. Hummmm. Hummm. Humm. It was getting louder.

I wanted to run, but I was trapped-paralyzed by fear. I couldn’t move. It was getting faster, egging me on, tempting me to look. I didn’t want to look, but I had to.

Ok. Think, be smart. I needed a plan. I’d drop my book and the loud noise will coax it out. Good. Ok now drop it, I told myself. But then I hesitated, do I really want to know? I was fighting with myself back and forth in my mind. Yes, I had to know. I couldn’t stay on the couch cowering forever. It would not rule my life. Then, the humming was softer. Hummmm. Hummm. Humm. It was telling me I should look.

1-2-3, I dropped it and quickly retreated to the top of the couch. Nothing happened. Curious. Now I really had to know. I dropped the remote. Nothing-just the Hummmm. Hummm. Humm.


This is getting ridiculous. I can’t go on like this. Now I was mad. I needed a new plan. A proactive approach. Defense. I took a few of the pillows on my lap and quickly shoved them under the couch for a barrier. Still nothing.


I saw my phone next to me and stuck my phone down under the couch to take a picture between the pillows and see what was there. There was a glow-like two shining eyes.

OK, I was dealing with a wild animal or something. They always say when dealing with an animal, you need to seem confident. They smell fear. So I yelled aloud Get out! Get out! to inform it of my presence. Still nothing.   

Now I had to act. I armored up by wrapping myself in the afghans on the couch, grabbed the metal art piece on the side table and the lamp next to the couch, removing the shade. With one swift move, I told myself, I needed to poke at it and then I could hit it with the heavy art. It wasn’t a great plan, but it was a plan. It had to work.

With catlike agility, I jumped from the couch to the floor screeching like a warrior and stabbed underneath the couch to and fro.  Nothing.

So I sliced with the lamp like a sword sweeping it under the couch and heard a swirl and a thud. I got it. I darted my eyes toward the wall and saw my offender. I couldn’t believe it. There it was creepily grinning at me from ear to ear with blue eyes and a big red nose. How could I be so stupid? I shook my head and picked it up. It was a clown doll my niece left the last time I babysat. The batteries were running out. That was the Hummmm. Hummm. Humm.

I plopped back on the couch laughing at the fuss I made. I guess I’m one of the idiots from the It movie I watched earlier. I went toward the danger. But I know one thing for sure. Yes, I definitely hate clowns.

Copyright (c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

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Mad About Mars

I just can’t believe we’re going to Mars. Aren’t you excited? We’ve been watching the coverage of this ever since the first shuttle brought tourists 10 years ago.  Of course, we, that’s my husband Marty and me, waited to make sure it was safe…and when we could get a reasonable Groupon rate.  No, we aren’t the first people to do anything. We just got our first microchip phone, the IOS 2000 and the 2124’s just came out.

“Passengers, please clasp your harnesses and put on your oxygen inhalers, as we are descending into the Mars atmosphere,” the shuttle pilot said.

This is so exciting. I just got this inhaler. Its designer Fauci – well, it really says Fuci, but who notices. Ya gotta breathe, right? I got it in the back of a van in New Jersey. It has faux leopard vinyl skin. That’s the second best kind, since real faux leopard skin is nearly extinct. 

Where are you staying?  We looked at all the resorts, but we decided to stay in New Vegas. They have a really fun package there – tours, gaming and concerts.  It’s the green-man group’s tenth farewell tour. We’re staying at the NANASA resort. We wanted to stay in the Mars Rover building, but it is down for repairs. We are staying at the Curiosity building. At least we’ll get to go on the Mars Rover roller coaster inside the resort. People say it breaks down a lot, but I don’t believe that.

I’m looking forward to the Mad about Mars tour the most. Two days of really digging into the history and colonization of Mars. It shows how happy the Maritain people were to have their planet turned into the biggest planetary resort in the galaxy.  They are so much better off now. I mean, they all have jobs as servers, maids and hover drivers now. We really made a difference in their lives.

“Madge, come on, we’ll miss the front seats on the tour hover,” Marty said. 

It was nice talking to you; we start our tour right away. Have a good time.  

“Thank you for visiting Mars.  Our Mad about Mars tour starts with the beginnings of ancient Mars and brings you right up through the first contact with Elon Musk and the colonization of the people through the Space Force initiative and building of the largest luxury resort playground for humans with Trumptopia,” the tour guide turned into the gates of a sandy area.

“This is where first contact took place and where the great Elon Musk and the tribal Martian leader J’onn XX shook fingers for the first time.  Before SpaceEx and Space Force took control of the planet, the Martians lived in caves like this one.”

Marty, look at this cave, it’s so primitive.  Stand next to that Martian, I’ll take your picture like you’re entering the cave with Sir Elon exploring.  Marty, make believe you’re giving him the sign of peace.

“And here we have some ancient Martian hieroglyphs. We think they are a pictorial representation of that first meeting.  Since the native language is now extinct, no one can translate it, but it’s great to have the historical record. Let’s move onto the first groundbreaking of the Space Force Trump landing area, which is now the largest fast food court in the world,” the tour guide said.

Hey Marty, take my picture with the ancient carvings.  I wonder what they say.  Google, translate this picture from Martian to English. 

“Ok, according to the twentieth edition of the Mars English dictionary, the translation says Eat at Martian Joes,” the computer voice said. Oh that reminds me, I wonder if they have that green Martian milkshake I’ve heard about.  I have a  coupon for that.  Let’s go.

@ Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, Copyright 2021

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Falling

There it was watching me haunting me. That 4 foot by 4 foot cavern in the stage floor daunted me with every pirouette and every chace. In my head, I knew the orchestra pit was stationary but it seemed to follow me all over… upstage, downstage, stage right, stage left like a shadow taunting my every move.

When I joined the DuSable Dance Company in Chicago 3 months ago I was thrilled. While I danced for years, this was my first professional dance company.  That’s where I met him. The Danseur. He was tall, muscular and just gorgeous. With every step, he moved with the grace of a swan gliding across the boards as if aloft. I have to admit in my daydream state, my eyes see him dancing as if perched on a floating cloud.

My first few performances in the dance afforded me the vantage of watching him from my upstage ensemble view. As if on autopilot, my feet danced, but my eyes couldn’t leave him.  I breathlessly gazed his every step and each adagio. A few times, I nearly summoned the bravery to talk to him. But every time, my voice left me. I couldn’t utter a word.

Then the prima ballerina broke her ankle and they ask me to go on for her. I couldn’t believe it. I get to dance with him in the Pas de Deux, the dance for two. My head was so high in the clouds it could have hit a rainbow. I will be in his arms. We will dance as one. Then we’ll look into each other’s eyes and he’ll fall hopelessly in love with me. I was locked in my own fantasy. It was like falling through a trapdoor.

First lift. I am in heaven soaring with gilded wings. All I can see is him. 2nd lift. Perfection. All I see is his eyes. I am drowning in their blue pools. 3rd lift. He’s starting to swoon. We’ll be engaged by the curtain call. And now for my final big Grande Jeté leap…aaaaaiiiiiieeeee.  I was so lost in the rapture I created, I fell right into my nemesis, the orchestra pit trap door. A broken leg and arm will give me plenty of time to replay every one of those moments in slow motion. A cautionary tale. Don’t fall in a lovetrap on stage or you could fall into the trap door, literally. When your head is in the clouds, you can’t see where your feet are.

(c) Copyright Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2021

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Deception at the Copa

My name is Rico Bonacucci. And yes, that’s my real name.  I know, do you like my diamond? Those scumsucking nurses didn’t want to let me keep it on in here, but I told them what for.

I am not a man of many words, but I wanted to set the story straight before I die. That’s where you come in doll face. Write down everything I say.

It happened many years ago, when I used to have a club in New York called the Copacabana. It was a great club. Music, dancing, a mirrored ball, a great bar and showgirls…yeah real showgirls who showed their kiester and everything. Nothing dirty, mind you, just the backside. You see more on the beach these days.

But I digress…  I loved that club. That’s until they walked into it – Lola and Tony. Ah Lola, what a looker. She could put a smile on that American Gothic farmer guy with one shake of her yellow tail feather. She was something else. I usually never mix business with pleasure, mind you, but she turned my head around and around. Yeah, we went out, so what? I was really into her and it was mutual.

That’s until that rat punk Tony came into the picture. Che palle!  He was a lowlife scum from the gutter, but he looked good and the women seemed to like him. So, I gives him a chance behind the bar. I didn’t expect him to last long. He couldn’t even make a decent drink if all he had to do was pour it from the bottle into a glass. He’d even screw that up. But he kept the broads coming back and drinking. I made money, he made money, everybody’s happy.

I even looked the other way when he started getting’ chummy with Lola. They would laugh a little, yeah, I thought they were friends. So what? Figurati! I knew she was my woman and that’s that. Really, were affianced. I gave her a ring and everything. I would’ve done anything for that dame.

One day I overhead them talking. They didn’t see me because I was in the secret room behind the two-way bar mirror.  It was there since prohibition for gambling. We use it as an office now. I run a clean establishment. Anyways, I was counting the dough from my numbers racket and I heard them talking about cuts. Then he gave her some money and she kissed him. Yeah, the kiss hurt my feelings, but the money, that made me really mad.  No one steals from Rico Bonacucci.

So I put a tail on that pretty-boy Tony.  Can you believe he was working for the Russo gang? He was the grandkid of Russo himself. He got a job at the Copa to spy on me and report back to his Nonno so he could muscle in on my business. That scumsucking dirtbag.

Now, again, I run a clean and successful operation. No gang owns Rico Bonacucci. That’s why they wanted to take it over. And that little stronzoa, he was not only shorting the till, and kissing my woman, but he was paying Lola to tell him where I was, so they could take me out.  Well, they had another thing coming. I heard their whole plan. Basta! Enough.

That Friday night, Lola was doing her show and I was in the front row, as usual. She always comes and sits on my lap after the show to give me some sugar.  I always thought she wanted to mark her territory in front of the other girls. Cause, ya know, I’m a catch. Now usually I’m not packing. I’m a lover, not a fighter. But since they were planning to rub me out, I gotta be prepared. When she hugged me, she felt the gun, screamed and jumped up.

Then that stronzoa Tony comes sliding over the bar and points a gun at me. Well, yeah. I took him out. You don’t point a gun at a Bonacucci unless you got a date with St. Peter. Ya know what I mean? Fongool to both of them.

That was that. But when the cops showed up, Lola and the girls made up this story about how I was inappropriate with Lola and her boyfriend Tony tried to defend her and then I shot him in cold blood. They even hid his gun. I mean, please, I do not have to try with the ladies. I am a love magnet. But they were all out to get me.

So, here I am doing 30 in the cooler for nothin’.  Now I’m about to kick and I wanted my besmeared name cleansed. I am innocent.

Hah, but I got a little revenge. I hear Lola still sits at the Copa every night crying in her cocktail. And she got old, wrinkly and ugly. Hah! She’s got nothing. Niente!

I guess we all lost that night, though.  Him, his life; me, my freedom, and she lost her mind. Now I can meet St. Peter with a clear conscience. Arrivederci, toots, you make sure to have that printed tomorrow under my obituary.  A full page in the New York Times.

(c) Copyright, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2021

Author’s Note: This story was an exercise to retell a popular song. This is a different way to look at the Copacabana 70’s song.

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Experiment Breakdown

Darla was dreading the bachelorette party of her younger sister Dede. Several years apart, the sisters couldn’t be further from each other in every way. Darla was an introverted scientist who based her life like a series of chess moves, all based in science, probability and fact.

Dede was the extreme opposite as she moved through life without forethought, immediately acting on every whim and desire floating through life without a care in search of instant gratification.  Dede fell deeply and unapologetically in love with every man she encountered. The trysts lasted days or weeks and satisfied Dede’s sense of adventure and amorous view of every aspect of life.  Darla once saw Dede grab a man off the street and passionately kiss him, just because she felt like it.  This is why she was equally surprised at the shotgun pace of Dede’s wedding to Ricky after ten weeks of dating, yet predicted her lifelong talent to get exactly what she wanted without delay.

As ying to her yang, Darla was very shy and too focused on her studies to even consider dating until after grad school.  After several years of friendship, she carefully waded into the dating field with a work colleague who shared similar empirical interests. Following a few more years of dating, Darla’s boyfriend Ralph asked her to marry him, but she countered his proposal with an offer of cohabitation as a relationship experiment to methodically ascertain if all the variables were considered to achieve success before entering into such a binding contract.   

Darla didn’t understand her sister or her sister’s friends, who she named Twaddle Troupe, and couldn’t condone their nonsensical way of drifting through existence sustained by shopping, boys, and parties, which made her dread each and every one of the giddy activities of the bridal and prenuptial events. 

As forecasted, the bachelorette party was a series of excruciating nonsensical tasks for Darla to endure.  Darla decided to make an experiment of the day to support her hypothesis about her sister’s way of life. An artist’s studio began the day when donning white hooded jumpers, glasses and gloves, the aim was to create works of art by randomly chasing each other and throwing paint balls. Check one for frivolity.

From there, the girls visited a bar where a mixologist tutored them on proper drink-mixing techniques to create their own personal signature drink.  Learning was integral to Darla’s DNA, but when the event deteriorated into indiscriminate shot drinking and giggling, she just shook her head and prayed for a swift end. Check two for instant gratification.

The final stop of the night was a psychic.  For Darla, this was the most ridiculous and lowest blow. As a women of science, she found the idea of metaphysical presence and prophecy to be a mix of mere theatre and grift by practitioners who prey on weak minds. This woman by looks was no exception. Her dark exotic good looks and gypsy costume with the backdrop of the tented red and gold brocade fabric walls and incense-laded room ticked every box to create the phony atmosphere. For an hour, she sat in the back of the room crossarmed rolling her eyes while the Twaddle Troupe ooed and aahed over every word from the charlatan’s mouth.

Darla’s turn came at the group’s insistence and despite her half-hearted cooperation, the madam gasped when she looked at Darla’s palm.

“The pyramid of your life is about to crumble because of a betrayal,” The madam mysteriously said and offered to cleanse her ora amid an orchestra of shocked ooos from the twaddles.

Check three for nonsense, Darla thought. Since she didn’t believe in oras, the con for additional services proved her theory that her sister and crew would constantly succumb to impulse and could not have a meaningful existence due to lack of foundation.

As they piled into the pink stretch limousine SUV with loud music and dancing lights, Darla was counting the minutes until the day ended and she could regain her calm logical life.  When the girls decided to go to a club, she faked a headache and walked the few blocks home. She felt instant gratitude for the peaceful quiet as the party bus left her behind.

She walked through the door of her townhome and saw a red and gold brocade fabric shawl draped across the couch. She picked it up and winced wondering how Ralph could buy her such a tacky present.  Since she only wore solid earth colors, she appreciated the idea, but was confused as his most inappropriate mistake.

“He should have known better,” she said shaking her head.

To return the favor, she decided to take his favorite tea up to the bedroom for a nightcap and discuss his kind error.  As she walked up the stairs, she began to smell a strange, but familiar aroma. She smelled the tea and then her clothes and concluded the steam from the tea kettle activated the incense on her clothes from the psychic.

When she opened the bedroom door, she found Ralph entwined with another woman. Startled she dropped the tea set which crashed on the floor. They looked up and she recognized the woman as the psychic with the same gasp she heard earlier.

Without hesitation, Darla went into the closet safe, took out Ralph’s handgun and shot them both dead. She carefully wiped off the fingerprints, put the gun in the woman’s hand and walked back to the club, telling the girls she changed her mind.

The police deemed the crime as a murder/suicide for an affair gone wrong.  The Twaddle Troupe was Darla’s alibi as in their ultra-inebriated state, they said she was with them the whole time.

Darla’s experiment in dating was a failure, but she began a new hypothesis about a life of instant gratification.

(c) Copyright Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2021

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The Perfect Crime

It was the perfect crime. Now, I didn’t come to it easily. I’ve never done anything wrong in my life. I don’t even jaywalk; guess there is a little larceny in everyone.

But I really had no choice. I need to explain that right up front. I lost my job as a bank underwriter in the pandemic. I hate to admit, but I even went to a food bank once or twice in a pinch. I know there’s no shame, but for me, it was a big change. After eight months of depleted savings, I finally got a job through my cousin as a blackjack dealer in the local casino.

The casino was an interesting place. My customers were all locals. Sometimes it was a girl’s night, bachelor or bachelorette party, or just a night out for weary parents. But since this casino was miles away from a highway or anywhere tourists would want to go, most of my customers were regulars. Just everyday people who came in to get away from their day-to-day lives and reach for that pot-of-gold dream at the end of an ace, king, queen or jack blackjack.

The Goldrush casino was in a remote location of Wisconsin and was supposed to be run by the local Menominee tribe. I say that because very soon after I started work, I noticed several nefarious dealings in the casino.

Like I said, we served locals and regulars, so anyone else stuck out like a sore thumb. The first was two rather “big-boned” gentlemen who came into the casino every Tuesday and Thursday at 1pm like clockwork. These men wore a lot of gold chains and spoke with New York accents. Let’s just say, it was obvious that they weren’t from Wisconsin. They were in and out in less than a half hour, which seemed odd.

Then a few weeks ago a different man came to my table during the day. He seemed like a local and he said came during the day because he liked to play alone against the dealer. He brought cash to change for chips, but that was fairly common. Some people went to the cashier, some didn’t. He played for about an hour or two and left. He was a normal better and probably broke even, so I didn’t think much of it. He came in for a few weeks about three times a week. Then one day he came in on a Tuesday about two o’clock. But right before he sat down, I saw him sit at the bar next to the New Yorkers.

Then he sat down at my table and his game play immediately changed. He placed unusually high and risky bets, one after another. And he lost – a lot. He was pulling tons of cash from this brown paper lunch bag and he was doubling down and splitting everything. And he kept hitting all the time, even when he had nineteen. I kept asking him if he was sure, but then the pit boss came over and stood next to me, so I shut up. We’re not supposed to help or give advice. I just didn’t want him to lose his shirt. When he was out of cash about an hour later, he thanked me, tipped me and left. But the strangest thing of all was the pit boss took my bin and said he would do me a favor and cash it out right away because it was full.  It was full, but that was still very unusual. Why would the pit boss come over for just one guy in the middle of the day. Curious.

He came back on Thursday and then again the next Tuesday. Everything was the same. Each time he lost, he just grinned and said oh well, not my day. I knew there had to be some connection. My former job made me a very suspicious person, almost like a detective. Something was up.

I nosed around a little and talked to my cousin about the casino. She said she didn’t know how they lasted through the pandemic. There was limited capacity and even then there were hardly any people visiting, but they stayed afloat and even hired more people afterward when the customers came back.

Suddenly it all clicked together. They were laundering money by hiring shills to lose the money at the tables. I kept my mouth shut, because I needed my job, but each week it became more obvious.

Then the dairy plant had a fire. A few people were hurt and equipment was ruined, so they had to shut down for three months. It was almost worse than the pandemic. Most of the town was out of work and going to the local food bank that was barely restocked from the pandemic strain.

I wanted to do something. They helped me when I was down. One day it all unfolded in front of me. If I took little bits of the laundered cash, no one would be the wiser. They wouldn’t miss small amounts. I sewed a pocket in my vest and could slip it in unnoticed. Only question was how to get the money out after my shift, as we had to leave our uniforms every night. Then I remembered the brown bag. It was poetic to have the money go out the same way it came in.  So each day at my dinner break, I left some fruit or chips or something to legitimately take home my brown bag and slipped the money in.

The first night I was so nervous, I went through the door clutching the brown bag for dear life. But each day it got easier. Every detail was planned. No one would know.

After a week, I bought a small amount of canned goods at the store with my own groceries and left them at the food bank delivery door. Not a ton to be suspicious, but every night like little elves, they would just appear like magic.

I kept this up for three months until the plant reopened, then stopped gradually. No one ever knew. And the people in town didn’t go hungry. Like I said, it was the perfect crime, stealing from criminals and giving to those in need. By the way, I didn’t introduce myself; my name is Robin.

(c) Copyright 2021, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

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Scramble

I saw a pile of Scrabble tiles in a Facebook picture recently on my 5 minute social media break, otherwise known as my bathroom break, and thought, what if you could turn up the tiles you wanted in life, instead of the random ones you pull out of the bag.

If you have you ever played Scrabble and wanted to will certain tiles onto your rack, but got other ones, you understand my life. I have 3 kids, 2 dogs, 1 cat, 2 jobs, 2 elderly parents and 1 husband. It’s crazy.

Each morning, I wake up early, take the dogs for a walk, make breakfast and ensure my kids get dressed in something close to a human wardrobe. I’m pretty flexible, but when my 1st grader wears underpants outside his clothes because Superman does it, doesn’t fly with me.  My 3rd grader keeps trying to wear his favorite shirt and jeans every day. He saw a commercial for Febreeze and thinks he can just spray and go.  And my 6th grader daughter wants to dress exactly like her favorite Instagram pop stars. So I need to make sure there are no crop tops or makeup smuggled into her bag for a quick-change later. Apparently more than one of my children wants to pretend they are someone else. It’s not a bad idea, I’d like a secret identity – sanity.

Then I drop all three kids off at their three different schools. Thanks to overcrowding and lower school budgets, the school district separates kids by grade level and my kids just happen to fall into the grade categories that are in different buildings, lucky me.

Then I go to my parents’ house and make sure they eat, take pills and take them to whatever doctors or therapists they need. They want to be independent, but they’re older and have some physical needs and a lot of denial issues. I was a change of life baby and my two older much older siblings live in different states, so I need to check on them. After nearly 70 years of marriage my parents have figured out one thing – they love each other, but don’t really like each other very much. I think they are playing the one up game to see who can annoy each other the most. He refuses to bathe for days at a time, so she sprays the house with perfume. She won’t cook or do laundry for him anymore, so he makes messes everywhere in retaliation. Part of this job is to make sure they don’t kill each other.

Then I go to my first job as an aerobics instructor and personal trainer. It doesn’t pay a lot, but the hours are flexible, so I can get everything else done.

At 3pm, I need to pick up my kids from their schools and take them to soccer, music lessons or whatever else we’ve signed them up for so they are well-rounded people.

Back to my parents to cook them an early dinner and clean up a little. I hired a cleaning lady for them, but they argue so much, many of the services won’t send anyone because they’re uncomfortable. They use new people like pawns in their war of the roses.

Pick up the kids, make dinner and do homework until bedtime. Then walk the dogs again and do my second job as a medical transcriber until I fall down asleep. And start all over again. 

My scrabble tiles read run, cook, clean, drive, work and sleep.

My husband helps when he can, but he’s in the Navy and spends a lot of time deployed, so he’s gone for months.  When he’s home for a couple weeks here and there, I get a little breather, but I really want to spend time with him too.

I had a lot of plans when I was a kid for a professional career as a nurse or even a doctor, but those aren’t the tiles I picked. Falling in love young and a prom night pregnancy gave me tiles of 19-year old motherhood and the rest you know. Maybe when my husband retires after 20 years, I can go back to school. Maybe not.  We’ll see what tiles I get.

(c) Copyright 2021, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

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Steps

There are step programs for everything in life today to cure what physically or mentally ails you. After all, you have to take one step at a time to get anywhere. But despite all the dead spouse support group jargon absorbed and subsequently regurgitated over the last nine months, Melissa still had no idea what she was doing. 

It was supposed to be their best life. Retire and have fun. A two-step program to happiness. Nowhere did it say cancer, death and widowed. 

Since her husband died, Melissa was in an oarless boat floating aimlessly on her way to nowhere. She followed all initial the steps in the grief program brochures, but after acceptance, the navigation was a little foggy and the waves were a little choppy. So, she started a new series of steps on living life.

Keep Busy, the program said, so, she threw herself into project after project. Painting, adult color books, puzzles, karaoke, and she even learned to play the ukulele. The result was a bust – tried, abandoned and eventually chucked in the forgotten closet one by one to collect dust.

Make New Friends, the support group encouraged. So, she went to every event offered in her town and neighborhood from movies and casino trips to dances and game nights.  All were fun, but a glaring example of being uncoupled in the sea of coupledom.

Get a New Hobby, another pamphlet espoused. Learning from others, Melissa decided becoming a gym-rat taught self-reliance and could be performed as a single and with other singles. Power walking, jogging, and marathon-training all became obsessions to fill the days and make her too tired to care about lonely nights. This worked for a while, but sore and uncooperative limbs made this pursuit un-pursuable on a long-term basis.

Veering from the stated programs preached in the acceptable mature groups, Melissa took the page from another book called experimentation.  After some research and a trip to the dispensary, Melissa had a smorgasbord of products to begin. CBD oil, edibles, a bong, and just old-fashioned smoking, proved an interesting investigation into her inner psyche, resulting in too many mornings waking up with a cricked neck and papers stuck to her face from sleeping anywhere. These were accompanied by puddles all over the house as retribution from an unhappy un-walked dog.  Ultimately, she found a balance in creating some mild and delicious baked goods that did the trick. Just enough to allow uninterrupted sleep, but not too much to recreate hungover college Monday mornings.

And that triggered a revelation. Just like the oarless boat, she needed balance to keep steady. Melissa realized looking for the one answer, she threw herself headfirst and charged into all manner of activities, just to fill the days and nights, without regard to any of them. Maybe there wasn’t one answer, she thought. Her boat could stop at many ports of call on the way, but as long as she could keep rowing keep the boat steady, it didn’t matter the destination, enjoying the journey along the way could be the goal.

Opening the forgotten closet, Melissa looked at the bounty of dusty projects and activities with just one more problem.  What to do first?

(c) Copyright 2021, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

Author’s Note: This is a characterization for an upcoming Contemporary Women’s Fiction Novel coming in late 2021 called Control, Alt, Delete. More to Come Soon...

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There’s a Light

After a summer bonfire, newly coupled teens Josh and Sandy found themselves walking hand-in-hand on the moonlight beach in front of the old Jacob mansion on the hill.

“I bet I can hit one of those windows,” Josh picked up a rock and lifted his arm.

“No, please don’t,” Sandy pleaded. “That mansion has a very special history. My mother told me the  tragic love story of the woman in the dark tower.”

The ornate Victorian mansion was a perched on a hill above the beach with two distinct turret widow towers which can be seen vividly from the sea. Owned by the wealthy Jacob family shipping magnates, it was easily the largest home in the small New England town. Edmund Jacob had two twin daughters, Susan and Sarah.

Jacob was widowed when the twins were ten years old and dove into building his empire, ignoring the girls, so they became very close and raised each other. Susan was vivacious and outgoing, while Sarah was creative and introverted. They were yin and yang but relished in their differences and loved each other deeply. When they were eighteen, their father decided to choose husbands to ensure their future.

Jacob betrothed Susan to a young congressman. She acted as her father’s host for many parties and dinners for prominent guests and clients and he thought her social skills would prove to be beneficial on the arm of an up-and-coming politician.

He promised Sarah to a young executive, who he was grooming to take over his company someday. As the husband of a Jacob, Edmund thought the young man would be accepted as his successor.

Susan was an obedient popular girl who loved the social scene and dutifully agreed to marry the congressman and move to Washington, DC for an exciting life as a politician’s wife. But Sarah had no interest in marriage or the young overly-ambitious executive who her father considered a surrogate son.  Sarah ‘s only interest was painting. Day after day she roamed the quaint seaside town searching for inspiration, plopping her palette and easel at the exact point of muse and painting interesting landscapes from sunup to sundown.

One day as she was painting the intricate ocean waves, she met Daniel, a sea hand who worked for his father’s shipping company. Daniel romanticized the ocean and took great interest in her work. For months, they walked around town as she listened in amazement to the poetic detail as he spoke of the beauty in everything around them. She was smitten by his keen artistic intellect and sweet gentility. He returned her affection and appreciated her mind, heart and great talent. He was very observant and encouraged her creative vision.

The young shipping executive was very different. He thought both she and her art were silly and useless endeavors and made it clear, when they were wed, her job was to have babies and hold dinners for his clients and influential people in town; a life that Sarah considered a hopeless prison.

Susan loved her sister and was sympathetic for her perilous situation and her love for Daniel. She tried to help them meet in secret, by crafting a signal. Susan would turn on the lights in the home’s towers as a warning to the couple. She light both tower lights when their father was home and one tower light if the coast was clear. 

But one day, their father came home unexpectedly and caught the lovers. In punishment, Jacob and his aide sent Daniel away on a ship.

Sarah was forced to spend her life in a loveless marriage to the young magnate. In protest she bore him no children and refused any outward pretense of happiness. Instead, she locked herself in her tower studio and sadly lived out her days painting thousands of watercolors of the sea, hoping for Daniel’s return to rescue her miserable existence. She kept one light on in her dark tower studio as a signal to show him the way, but he never came back.

Susan lived a society life and helped her husband climb the political ladder and navigate his way to become a powerful senator, while Sarah wasted away on a forlorn dream until she died at age 100.

Looking at the dark towers in the big abandoned mansion as they left, Josh and Sandy suddenly saw a light brightly illuminated in one tower.

© Copyright 2021, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

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Reboot and Say Yes to Fun!

“Work, you damn computer!” Katherine pounded on the keys of her laptop in frustration. 

It was a year Katherine thought she would never see.  In one year the pyramid of her life tumbled one block at a time.  A twenty-year marriage, a cheating husband, a failed business she loved and now the last straw, a frozen computer. After two hours of hearing press number two for technical support, a simple solution was finally offered – press control, alt, and delete to reboot. 

After the successful resurrection of her computer, Katherine thought she needed a break. An hour soaking in a bubble bath with soothing eucalyptus candles, one Netflix movie, one quart of Cookie Dough ice cream, and a half bottle of wine later, Katherine emerged with renewed purpose. Like a baptismal dunking, she could wash away her old life and start anew. She needed a complete reboot. 

Step one, Alt. Step one of her new spirit must be to seek an alternate reality, Katherine thought.  Say yes to Fun. 

Katherine believed she had always been a fun-loving person, but in recent days the chasm of her abysmal life made fun and laughter impossible.  Now that she decided to accept and even seek out fun, she used her now-operational computer to Google, the most fun things to do.  Right there was an article from Women’s Day magazine entitled 43 Fun Things to Do in Your Lifetime.  Quickly copied all 43 items down and vowed to achieve them all in this year.  The year of no fear!

First on the list…Go to a concert! Katherine remembered all the concerts she attended in her teens and twenties. As shown by the many solo concerts held for an audience of one in her car and shower, Katherine loved music.  What’s not to love?  Screaming and singing at the top of your lungs with hundreds or thousands of others doing the same thing. Music filling your heart and ears to near deafening levels. Dressing like a rock star, roadie or groupie with the secret and likely unrequited ambition of being pulled up onstage to sing and party with the band. Yes, a roaring rock concert was the answer.

An online search later, Katherine found her favorite teenage band was appearing a mere three hours away that very weekend and still had tickets available.  Click and buy.

After an urgent text plea to her two girlfriends, announcing a girl’s night road trip, Katherine was ready to go.

Dressed in a black tank top with mesh wrap shirt, black jeans and as much silver jewelry with chains, rings, big hoop earrings, silver looped belt, black heeled leather boots and dark eyeliner, Katherine was ready to see Kiss. She considered full cat makeup, but decided that would be over the top.

She and her friends stood in line with baited anticipation. As she looked around, she saw many people of different ages and many more dressed as they were going to a picnic in khaki shorts, t-shirts, ball caps and white sneakers, instead of a Kiss rock concert. She saw very few people dressed up in Kiss makeup (glad she didn’t do that), but gratefully saw a few people similarly dressed for a head-banging concert. Upon reaching the front of the line, the attendant asked Katherine to remove her jewelry as it would set off the metal detector.  Confused and in disbelief, Katherine peeled off her metal armory as if she was peeling layers from herself and then quickly passed through the checkpoint and relayered.

An endless beer line later, they found their seats just in time for the lights to fade.  A singular bass note sounded, red and gold streaks of light climbing up the stage background screen, then an echoing guitar chord and synthesized sound revealed a huge light-exploding firework sign with the letters K-I-S-S. Then the music began and the band emerged to the roaring and raucous sounds of the crowd of fans.

Katherine smiled and looked around at her friends and surrounding strangers with their hands in the air bopping to the beat of the music and singing gleefully at the top of their lungs.   

“This is fun!” She raised her fist in the air, jumped up and down and sang loudly. “I want to Rock and Roll all night, and party every day.” Her new mantra.

© Copyright 2021 Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

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Echoes in Time

From photographs and slides to digital, preservation efforts often past memories to be technologically updated, providing opportunities for different views.

Although I’ve flipped through photos in scrapbooks and albums numerous times before, but television viewing afforded the possibly for a room full of people to view the same photograph at the same time. And the large screen with apt-era background music made it seem like a movie of my life.

Pictures capture a moment in time with different meanings for all who view. My children, nieces and nephews mercilessly heckled the muttonchop sideburns, bellbottom and plaid pants, clunky platform shoes, and revealing halter tops amid other clothing and hairstyle choices of the day, which although stylish then ring comical in today’s mirror. 

But as I watch each picture go by, I see the pair of white knee-high gogo boots that I begged my mother to buy me. The denim purse I bought myself with my baby-sitting savings. And the painful rollers worn overnight to achieve the curls in my very flat hair for my wedding do.

Each pixel evokes different memories behind the camera in the time before and after the shutter opened and closed. The baby picture of my sister with her dress turned back to front, since right before the photographer clicked, she spit up all over the front of her dress.  Or the joyous picture of family fun on Disney’s Splash Mountain a split-second before we were all drenched to the bone from a waterfall drop tsunami. 

Sometimes feelings frozen in celluloid are a stark reminder of the tenure of an exact instance of time. The sullen teenage scowl which resulted from teasing for a refusal to have my face painted like a clown at the Ringling Brothers museum. I was very aware of my oily skin and didn’t want the greasepaint to clog my pores and give me pimples.  Or a distant and uncooperative frown portrayed in a Hawaiian vacation photo from terribly missing my Navy boyfriend who was at home on leave while I was forced to be a world away. 

Remembrances of the ridiculous kitschy tourist traps my father never seemed to miss are encapsulated for posterity. The secretive Ft. Hood, which unknown to most people lies underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, the mermaids at Wiki Wachee, and the sarsaparillas at the OK Corral café were severely mocked back then, but now offer more nostalgic perspectives with time and age.

Regardless of how many technological evolutions these pictures will endure in the future, they remain echoes in time preserved for the next generation and those who follow to glimpse into past moments and draw their own conclusions about the time and place.

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Chatty, but not Cathy

Everyone is unique. It’s the engine which makes us go through the world. Some people ridicule differences and many people dwell on what they consider to be bad personality or character traits. I believe self-clarity and acceptance is the path to serenity. Here is my response to a writing prompt from my group which asks about character or personal traits you may or may not want to change. And don’t be surprised if this goes into my Growing up Girls book series. The first in the series “Diary of a 6th Grade “C” Cup” was just released on Amazon.

“Suzanne is a good student and contributes to class, but she does have a tendency to chat too much.”

That comment on a Kindergarten report card was the start and not the last such comment of my school career. Did I chat too much? Yes.  Should I have? No, I’m sure it disturbed class.  In grade school, a few friends and I even learned to sign a bit to chat silently during class.

Yes, I’ve talked to everyone who would listen, since I could speak. And maybe some that wouldn’t listen. This is perhaps one of the reasons my husband now has deaf ears from tuning out my voice. Sometimes I worry and guard about this with new friends. But I argue that being a “Chatty Cathy” is a benefit in many situations. 

When you’re new in school, in class, or in a neighborhood, who makes friends first?  The person who chats people up and gets to know them.

If a job interviewer has a choice between someone who sat silently during the interview or someone who was able to articulate why they should be hired, who would get the job?

At a wedding, party or any other event, who has a better time? The one who initiates conversation with everyone at the table.

Answering questions and giving speeches or oral tests in school never causes queasiness for a Chatty Cathy or an action which required janitorial clean up. Instead, that talent earns high marks in school and makes speech and debate classes a breeze.

In the job market, being chatty is particularly useful when in sales. Talking to a customer as a friend and giving them a lot of information gives a quick sense of trust and familiarity, which is useful when convincing them to buy large ticket items like a home or a car.

And while not a requirement, being chatty gives you self-confidence that can be used to act or sing in front of others. This self-confidence is also helpful in creating early self-esteem in young people. Something experts have lauded for helping youths resist peer pressure and temptations.

Yes, the chatty technique must be honed, as you must also learn to listen. And will it get you in trouble?  Yes, more than once.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not admonishing the strong silent types.  I believe you must be true to yourself. But I cheer in admiration instead of correct or scorn those who are labeled chatty. It serves you well.

(c) Copyright Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2020 All Rights Reserved.

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I choose

On primary election day many years ago, my husband and I went to our polling location together. He was ahead of me in line and asked for a particular party ballot, as was required of our state in a primary election.  When it was my turn, I asked for my party ballot, which happened to be a different ballot than my husband took. 

An older lady election judge looked at me curiously with confusion, “You mean you want this party ballot.” 

“No, I want that party ballot,” I explained and smiled. 

She looked at me again with the curiosity of a museum oddity, “But your husband took that party ballot.”

What I really wanted to say was welcome to the 1990’s lady, the dark ages left you behind. I couldn’t believe that 75 years after women were finally granted the right to vote, this woman would insist that I, a well-educated and well-informed voter, could not choose my own party and candidates, simply because I was a woman or a even married woman. But I restrained myself and just smiled.

“I’ll take that party ballot, thank you.  I make my own choices.”

I took the ballot, leaving her strangely befuddled and annoyed and went into my voting booth.

Later, when we were in the car, my husband told me the woman called him aside when he left the voting booth and whispered to him incensed, “Do you know your wife took that party ballot?” She whispered it like I had committed a crime that could not be spoken aloud.

My husband knew very well the way I voted, but as a joker with a weird sense of humor, he decided to play along and pretended to be enraged. “She did what?”

When he told me this later, I couldn’t believe it. Not only did she not think a woman could make her own electoral choices, she felt it was her civic duty to inform on her? This woman didn’t know the kind of relationship we had.  She could have carelessly and without forethought created a dangerous and complicated situation for me, simply to soothe her self-righteous indignation, while betraying her own gender.

A few days later, my husband told my mother-in-law the election judge story.  His mother spent decades as an election judge.  I always joked that her first election was George Washington for president. Having an infinite penchant for rules, she went on and on about how I should report that lady and how that conduct was expressly against the rules.

I was somewhat perplexed by her fervent objections. For years, she and I continually battled wills regarding her ideas that men don’t do any kind of housework, wash dishes, or take care of children and women with children should stay home and not work.  My views and my husband’s actions to the contrary were a source of constant irritation to her, which she voiced at every opportunity. She even introduced me to people as her daughter-in-law who works, as if that was my title.

Curiously, I couldn’t understand why this is where she drew the line.  But I wondered if it was the subjection of woman and their choices or the mere obstruction of rules she protested.  I guess I would never know.

The next election, I made sure to be ahead of my husband in line to exercise my right to vote.  Just in case that lady was there, I wanted her and others like her to hear me clearly declare my choice in front of my husband and create no doubt in their minds that I choose.    

Author’s Note: I did not say the specific party in this story as I believe voting rights are private.

(c) Copyright 2020, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton.

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The Main Connection

My husband and I bought the Main Plantation outside Charleston on a lark. We retired five years ago
and after thousands of games of golf and a closet full of paint by numbers canvasses, we needed a
second career. So the Main B and B began. The name shows it’s a bed and breakfast and also names us as its proprietors, Bill and Barb.

The Main plantation is a beautiful antebellum gem, with all the quaint markers of the day. Big white
columns greet guests after the long magnolia tree drive usher them in like a red carpet. Inside the home is frozen in time back to the days when cotillions and big hoop dresses were the order of the day. I loved this house the moment I walked in. And the two-tiered porch in the rear sealed the deal. It’s lined with Adirondack chairs. Bill and I sit out there and bid farewell to the sun’s reflection in the river every night.

The home was completely preserved as it was originally adorned in the mid 1800’s by a long line of the Main family, right up to the last Main, who died a year ago. From the trim, wallpaper and marble
fireplaces down to the brass candlesticks and the huge gold-framed mirrors in every room, it was all
there, just as it was.

When we first moved in, we started to rearrange the furniture and knick knacks a bit to accommodate
the B and B idea. But I would move something and the next day, it was back in its original place. This
went on for two weeks. First I thought I was having senior moments and just forgot to move things
around. Then, I was beginning to think I’d lost my mind.

So, I decided to do some research about the house, and what I found was the family’s matriarch
Margaret Main. Mrs. Main moved to the brand new mansion as a bride in 1838. She spent her life toiling over every detail maintaining the mansion for the grand events she held there. Even during the war, the party never ended, as Margaret regularly entertained confederate generals and presidents, to ensure her home’s safety from the war’s ruinous path of destruction. The house was her life. When Margaret Main died her will demanded the house continue with the family line and that all the finishes, fixtures, and especially all the mirrors in the mansion remain in place. Mrs. Main believed mirrors are a window to the past, present and future.

Then it clicked. When I altered something, anything, there would be a strange chilling breeze in the
room. But when I left everything in place, I felt a warmth, even a glow about the room. It was Mrs.
Main.

Bill thought I was losing it, but I decided to sit down in front of Mrs. Main’s painting and have a heart to heart. I told her how much I loved the house and promised to cherish it. And I explained what we were doing with the house and asked permission to move some furniture around. I think it worked, because we made some minor accommodations without issue.
Ever since then I talk to Mrs. Main all the time about the house. After learning about her, I feel
connected to her and to her home. I understand her wish to keep her legacy alive. Bill doesn’t get it,
but I feel her presence in the house. It may sound silly, but I really don’t ever think her spirit left.

“Good morning Mrs. Main, I think polishing the candlesticks are on our list today,” I said to Mrs. Main’s
painting. “Oh and I won’t forget the mirrors. I need to get into those intricate guilded frames. I know
they’re important to you.”

“You act as though you’re her maid,” Bill laughed, accompanied by Sala, their golden Labrador.
“I know,” I laughed. “But somehow I feel it’s still her house and it’s my job to be its caretaker.”

“Careful, you need to do a good job for Mrs. Main,” he chided.

“Oh just go walk the grounds and take Sala with you,” I laughed and rushed him out the door. “He just doesn’t understand us, Mrs. Main? He’ll never experience the connection you and I have to this house. I love it too.”

“I know you do, Barb, but you missed a spot. I will always be here to guide you,” Mrs. Main said in the distance.

(c) Copyright Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2020.

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Mary-Go-Round

Mary-Go-Round

“In ten miles, turn left at Exit 104,” said the kindly GPS voice. 

After school, Katie has band practice, then Holly has dance, and Robbie has to get to guitar lessons, Mary thought.  Do I have a lasagna in the fridge for dinner?

Mary’s daily commute gave her ninety whole minutes to herself each day to plan, organize and generally breathe. With a busy full-time career, house, husband, and three active grade-school children; life is a little hectic.

Oh, and don’t forget to run that report when I get to work and ask Jean for an update on the Statler project, she reminded herself.

Walking from her office parking lot, Mary quickly dictated a few notes and reminders into her phone.  

“Mary, when do you think I can get that report today,” said Rich, her coworker. 

“Right away, I just need to print it out,” she assured, as she picked up a cup of coffee, while taking off her coat.

“Mary, we have a problem on the orange site,” another coworker informed, following behind her brisk pace. 

“I’ll get on the phone right now,” Mary said. 

At her desk, Mary printed the report, drank her coffee and was on the phone to the construction site within minutes. Several hours later, she was dropping off reports, on her cell phone with another site supervisor and putting on her coat headed for the door.

Driving home, she was making a mental list of the evening’s schedule and her to do list when a truck pulled into her lane right in front of her and cut her off.  She quickly changed lanes, just in time to avoid the collision.  A little shaking and panting, she exited the highway and pulled into the school parking lot.

Breathe, she whispered to herself.  Just breathe. 

“Hi kids,” she smiled, quickly composing herself.  “How was your day today?” 

After her “mom taxi” run and dinner and homework were over, she put the kids to bed. She had extra work to do that evening to make up for her work absence tomorrow afternoon when “room mom” duties had her helping with the school amusement park field trip. 

On the school bus, she was making mental notes in her head, while nodding, but not hearing, the other mom’s gossiping about the new principal.

Did I call Matt and tell him to pick up the kids, she thought?  Do I have anything for dinner?  Oh, and don’t forget to call on that permit tomorrow. 

Going through line after line, she mentally planned, oblivious to the kids’ enthusiast chatter.  She toggled in and out of awareness from their high-pitched cackling back to her invisible lists, worrying about this and that.

“Mom, isn’t this fun?” Katie laughed with a gleeful grin.

Mary looked around.  She was on a plaster white steed with a golden pole bobbing up and down on the merry-go-round.  As she circled around and around, she looked at the blur of the crowd in the distance.  She didn’t even remember how she got on the ride.

It’s like life is passing me by.  I am stuck on my own personal mary-go-round.  I never get anywhere, I just keep going and going and going in circles, she reflected as she watched Katie and her friends laughing and throwing their heads back as they go up and down, around and around. 

When do I get to be like them and enjoy the ride, Mary thought?  When can I get off this endless loop?

That night after their dinner and bed routine, Mary opened her lap top and typed “how to retire early”.

(c) Copyright, 2019 Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, All Rights Reserved.

Featured

Minutes In Time

Photo by David Bartus on Pexels.com

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

Barbara was a typical working soccer mom.  With her college sweetheart Matt, she had three young kids who ran her around day in and day out.  Not to mention she her nursing career she had to fit it too.  She spent most sleep-deprived nights counting all the things she had to do.

This time of year, Christmas, was especially busy.  There were presents to buy and wrap, cards to send out, holiday parties to shop for, cookies to bake, school plays to attend, and decorations to put up to make the house a Christmas wonderland for the kids.  Matt helped where he could, but it seemed like one task for him turned into twenty long questions for her.  It was usually just easier to do it on her own.

Every year, she held her breathe from Thanksgiving to New Years, constantly anxious at the dwindling time clock to get everything done. 

After a ten to ten midnight shift just one week away from Christmas, she needed to stop by the mall after a to get a few things she could not find on Amazon this year.  Luckily the hospital had a parking garage, so she didn’t have to chisel the overnight ice and snow off her car, like the many she saw when pulled out of the parking lot. 

As she drove, bopping her head along to the Christmas music on the radio, she went through her mental shopping list.  At Apostrophe, she needed to buy those teen jeans the girls wanted, she thought.  And Sam asked for those static magnet things we saw when we stood in line for two hours to see Santa a few weeks ago.  And that special perfume Matt’s mother likes is at Macy’s.  Oh, and don’t forget to go by the personalization store to pick up the matching Christmas t-shirts.  I hope I ordered the right sizes, she thought.  “And I hope they are in, there just is not a lot of time if they are delayed,” she muttered aloud. 

Just as the radio played Rudolph the Red-nosed reindeer, a deer popped in her right path without notice as if in time with the music.  In a quick jolt of the steering wheel, she sighed in relief, just missing him.  She bumped along the side of the road with the plow’s packed snow drifts and looked for a way back onto the road.  When she turned back onto the pavement, she hit a big patch of black ice and started to spin.

“What do they say again, turn into the spin, right?” she panicked a little and turned the wheel. 

But the car just kept spinning and spinning.  Suddenly time slowed as her head whirled and swooned with each rapid rotation. 

What would happen to Matt and the kids?  He wouldn’t be able to take care of them by himself, her mind drifted.  How would the girls grow up without a mother?  She would miss their proms, weddings, grandkids. 

Then she began to get dizzy and flashes of her life played in her mind like a movie.  Her first kiss, their wedding, the birth of her kids, last summer at the lake with her mom and dad.  They all seemed to be smiling at her as she saw each of their faces in her imagined state. 

Then in a minute, it all abruptly stopped, pulling her forward into the steering wheel.  She looked up in a daze.  Her car had careened across the road into a snow bank.  The car was a stuck and a little banged up, but she was ok.  And she had only gone about 20 ft. 

It was only minutes, she sighed in relief.  It seemed like forever.   

She composed herself, found her cell phone, and called the insurance company towing service.  They said they would be there in 20 minutes. Glad that the car was still running, so she did have heat, Barbara surveyed her short and perilous journey through the car window.  She saw her snowy tire tracks of circles go across the road and sighed again in relief. 

Still a little shocked, she couldn’t stop thinking about what she saw.  Her kids, her family, her life, all passing by in just a few minutes.  The life she lived and had yet to live. 

“Wow lady,” the tow truck driver said looking at her car in the steepled snow bank.  “You were really lucky the snow stopped you.  A few minutes more and you would have been off the road completely.”

Barbara looked over at the sharp drop-off of wooded embankment he was pointing too and tried to catch her breathe. 

On the truck ride to the body shop, Barbara was rifling through her purse and found her Christmas to do list. 

“Why did I spend so much time on all this fussing?” she wondered as she crumbled up the list.  “I need to spend more time with my family and less time on all of this stuff.”

Copyright (c) 2019, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton