Whispers in a Library – In honor of Halloween’s Horror Time

Just thought everyone could do with a bit of scary fun!  Beware Librarians.

Whispers floated from the back of the building, the soft words emanating from the office of old Ms. Pemberton.  Clare squinted at the closed
door.  Shaking her head, she flipped the lights back on in the main room of the small town library and briskly walked down the corridor.

Kids, she thought to herself, can’t let an old woman’s things alone.  This was the third time this week she had to get them out of the Librarian’s office.  Teenagers goofing around, thinking that it would be fun being locked in the library all night.  Little did they know, she laughed quietly. Taking the keys from her purse, she slipped the metal into the lock and turned the knob.

“What are you two doing in here?” she demanded as she stepped into the office and turned the light on.

Tommy Totherow and Frances Ledford both looked up in surprised.  “Ms. Ridgely…is it closing time?”  Frances stuttered her eyes wide like a doe.

“You both know it is.  It’s almost midnight. Why are you hiding back here?”

“We were just trying to find out if it’s true,” Tommy stated gallantly.

“Find out what?”  Clare lowered her head and raised her eyebrows.

“If the ghost of Ms. Pemberton actually haunts this place,” he finished.

Clare regarded the two in contemplation.  Ever since the body was discovered in the office one morning, rumors flew around the small Georgia town about her ghost haunting the library.

Smiling to herself, Clare motioned for the teenagers to get out of the office.  “There are no such things as ghosts.  Come on you two, it’s time to go.  I’m sure your parents are wondering where you are.”

As she escorted the young people out of the library, Clare realized she forgot to lock the office door.  Waving farewell to Tommy and Frances, she quickly secured the main entry before anything could escape.  Walking back to the Librarian’s office, she noticed the air had begun to chill, her breath hung briefly as she grew closer to the end of the corridor.

She really needed to be more careful, she thought to herself, or they would get out and then everyone would know.  Nearing the door, she saw a pale wisp forming at the threshold.  Smiling, she looked at the ghost of her reflection, the eyes wide in terror.

“Thank you dear for giving up your body.  This is just what an old woman needed, a fresh new start in this century.  Have fun with the others, nothing above a whisper though, ya hear?”

 

Simmering Under the Ashes: A meeting with Eva Friedlander – Holocaust Survivor

Dr. Starostina's Special Topics Class "The Third Reich"
Dr. Starostina’s Special Topics Class “The Third Reich.”   Eva Friedlander and Dr. Starostina

 During this semester, my advisor, the lovely Dr. Starostina, is teaching a special topics class on NAZI Germany and the Third Reich.  Part of our discussions have centered around the victims of Hitler’s plan to create a master race, by eliminating those he felt were inferior to the “Aryan” race of Germany.  This list included, along with Gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally challenged, the sick and infirmed, the people of the Jewish belief.  His ultimate plan was to wipe them from the face of Europe. World War II was such a horrific time in Europe, especially for those on the above list.  Our class was privileged today to have Eva Friedlander, a Holocaust and War survivor, give a presentation of her book, the “Nine Lives of a Marriage – A Curious Journey,” which is her memoir of  the war, coming to America and her life here in Atlanta, Georgia, as a displaced refugee.  Eva Friedlander, a Hungarian Jew, and now citizen of the United States is 90 years old and an entertaining speaker.  Our class could not get enough of her stories.  “We are sponges,” commented one of my fellow students, “fill us up.”  With grace, and an overwelming amount of wonderful knowledge, she did just that.

Her opening statement was pronounced and emotional, “No one in today’s generation, understands what it means to be persecuted in their own country.”  While loving her homeland of Hungary very much, she was very dissatisfied with its people during the moments before and during World War II.  Working as a secretary at a legal firm, she watched as the NAZIs move in the politics of Hungary reached to restrict those of the Jewish faith every day.  “Tightening the noose,” she said.  Restrictions were minimal at first, then suddenly, you were told you could only spend a certain amount of time at the grocery store, there was a limited amount of time you could spend at the bank.  One day, the lawyer she worked for, was no longer allowed to practice his law at the courts.  Then the next step, taking families from their homes and forcing them to live with 2 to 3 other families in a small 2 bedroom apartment.  What angered her, was the fact ,that the people of Hungary went along with it.

Mrs. Friedlander said she was lucky, because she found a job cleaning after the law office shut down, and the gentleman she cleaned the house for was tied to the underground.  He alerted her that it was time she and her mother got out, because people were disappearing and not coming home.  Receiving fake passports and papers from the man, the two women took on different identities and lived in another city.  Normally a blond, Mrs. Friedlander informed us that she dyed her hair dark and work glasses, so no one would recognize her.  Cutting off communication with those they knew, the two women packed a small case and left their home, and did not return until the Allies reached the country.
It was during the time that they were hiding, that the war came to an end for them, but not the hardships.  Daily air raids were stressful, but the two women knew that with the arrival of the allies, the persecution would be over.  “90% of people hiding in the basement with us during the bombardments were not from the area,” she said softly, as the remembrance of the time filled her mind’s eye.  She relived in her words, the day the Russians soldier’s found their group hiding out in the basement of the villa and her brush with almost being raped.
During the time after her speech, there were many great questions about her book.  But one question caught my attention about her homeland of Hungary, and how they are now making laws against the gypsies there.  Mrs. Friedlander answered with a poignant statement, “Simmering under the ashes, the thought is there.  It is frightening to me to see this.  If a country goes down monetarily, it is a breeding ground for the extremist.”
It leaves this writer with a thought.  While we think we have learned all the lessons there is to learn about prejudice, has this world truly?  Or is hatred still “simmering under the ashes?”  Watching the television, I tend to think we are fasting heading back to that time of persecution.
Eva Friedlander and her assistant.
Eva Friedlander and her assistant.

You can read about Mrs. Friedlander and her Husband George in her memoirs, “Nine Lives of a Marriage – A Curious Journey.”  I urge and recommend it.  She’s such a wonderful lady.

When it Rains, it Pours – Can Anyone Really Manage Money in this Economy?

This week is winding up to be one of “those” weeks.  Yes, I know each and every one of you have experienced times like this, when you feel that your cup is truly running over, but not in a good way.  The old proverb, “when it rains, it pours,” is following me around like a bad odor, or like a green fog you see in cartoons.

What happened?  (I know you are asking, because you want to see if yours adds up to mine, and we can compare notes about how the stars have it out for us.)

My dog went into labor this past Sunday.  It would have been okay, I guess, but my beagle happened to have difficulty and the first one died, and the second one was headed that way, but I saved it.  THEN, the third got stuck, and poor Paisley had to be rushed in the morning to the Vet to have emergency surgery.  This was not good.  I’m in school and on unemployment.  Anytime emergency surgery comes into conversation, it is never good money wise, and in this case, when handed the $524.00 vet bill, I could feel the migraine coming.  Good news, one other puppy was alive and brought home with her brother.

Tuesday informed by my bank that I had to pay $140.00 at 2:00 pm. This needed to be to paid by 4:30 pm or it would report negatively on my credit report.  Hmmmm, did I mention I was in school and on unemployment, and just got handed a $524.00 Vet bill?

Wednesday, had no money and no gas to get to school.  (Gas has risen .40 cents in the past week.)  Running on fumes I remembered I had $20.00 to pick up at a local consignment store.  I bought a .79 cent coke and put the rest in my tank.  Needed caffeine to keep awake because I spent the night trying to catch up on homework I missed doing this past weekend. Got to school, and realized a 6 page draft is due in one of my classes, and I haven’t even had a chance to start.  Worried about Paisley.

Thursday, spent all day at school, took a writing test at 7:00 pm for the education department after tutoring all afternoon.  (Still driving around on the $20.00 Thank GOD, but now wondering how long that will last.)  Had to buy groceries also on Tuesday, and spent double what I normally do, even though I brought less than what I normally buy!! Everything has doubled.

Luckily, now I have noodle soup, and lots of beans and rice now, so I will not starve, but being in this situation has made me extremely sensitive to others who have it worse.  I know it seems like I am complaining, and I guess in a way I am.  I feel like I have already been down this road too many times when I was younger and rather naive about money management.  But now I’m in my forties, and it should not be this way because I have mastered that lesson.  What happened?

I read articles on Yahoo written by a lot of different reporters who explain how you can save zillions in just 20 years, by cutting out all the non-essentials.  I wonder if these people have actually lived in the real world.  We have cut out all the non-essentials, and other than constructing a tent out in the yard and living there, we are pretty much down to the very bone, and still do not have the means to cover all our bills.  (And these bills are not credit cards, just expenses for everyday living).  I am convinced that no matter what I try, there is never going to be enough at this time to pay what needs to be paid.  As long as gas stays above $3.00 and unemployment rates high, as well as groceries prices excelling into the “I can’t afford that” range, we will not ever experience any type of organized money management, much less a savings account that has more than .72 cents in it.

When it rains, it pours.

The Large Blue Tub – Part Two (A Tribute to the Civil Rights Movement)

As I historian, I am always researching.  Getting a tub full of old letters, documents, papers, and so forth from my grandmother’s cedar chest was a gold mine for me.  I have been shifting through the chaos for a while and jotting down notes about what I’ve found.  This particular post deals with my great-grandmother Martha Neely Gay.  For those who have read Book One, “The Forgotten Spell” of my series Legends of Green Isle, you will be familiar with some name dropping here.  My characters like Ms. Stacey, Thomas and Ned Neely, Miranda and her mother, Martha Gay, and of course Matt and his brother Toby Kelly, all carry the honorary names of those in my family’s history.  Referencing back to part one of “The Large Blue Tub” written last month, I have continued going through the letters and papers of Ms. Mary Louise Gay, (my grandmother’s aunt) and discovered a blank envelope with a large amount of papers and newspaper clippings in them.  After carefully extracting the aged paper, I discovered it to be a letter from the Forest Park Baptist Church dated March 31, 1954 from Pastor G. Nelson Duke, addressed to T.G. Gilbert (my great-grandfather) and Family.  It was a kind regard from the pastor for the passing of my Great-Grandma Martha Neely Gay, and in the letter he gave the information about the verses he read from the bible for her, and also a poem.  She died on a Sunday afternoon, March 21, 1954, after waging war with a heart ailment for about five weeks.

This post was going to be about the verses and poem, but something changed my direction. (I think it was the news about the celebration of MLK new memorial in Washington, D.C.)  The pastor referred to the verses  of Matthew 25: 34-40 as a reflection of my great-grandmother’s life and how she treated people around her.  I got curious so I picked up the Bible and read them.

Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come you who are blessed of My Father,

inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry,

and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger,

and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison,

and you came to Me.”  Then the righteous will answer Him, saying “Lord when did we

see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink? And when did we see You

a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  And when did we see You sick,

or in prison, and come to You?”  And the King will answer and say to them,

“Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine,

even the least of them, you did it to me.”

My Great Grandparents lived in the heart of turmoil in the 1950s.  Times were definitely changing, and so were the people in the South.  In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the “separate but equal” doctrine which formed the basis for state-sanctioned discrimination by way of the Jim Crow Laws.  On May 17th, 1954, just two years before Martha Neely Gay passed away, the Supreme Court also ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.   With this in mind, I go forward about a year after great-grandma’s death in Montgomery, Alabama, and enter Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King.

Rosa Parks, after hearing a speaker talk about the brutal murder of a young African-American, decided the next day that she had enough of discrimination.  When the bus driver asked her to give up her seat to a white person, she refused and was arrested.  It did not take long for Martin Luther King to become involved and he put forth the Bus Boycott in Montgomery which lasted about a year after this incident until December 20, 1956 when a federal decision, Browder v. Gayle took effect, and Alabama’s law, along with Montgomery’s law, requiring segregated buses, was ruled to be unconstitutional as well.  The Bus Boycott was one of many successful things which happened for the Civil Rights Movement, and took place not too far from where my family lived in Alabama.

Not far from Forest Park Baptist Church, there is now a MLK Expressway.  I know you are probably asking where this is going, right?  Well, I thought about the verses, and what the author truly meant by them.  The heart of the matter?  Well we need to treat everybody with equal kindness, compassion, thoughtfulness, love, and quit trying to separate those good things from our human nature based on irrational judgements of people just because of the color of their skin, their sex, or their handicap.  We all put our pants on the same way in the morning, one leg at a time, and if you cut any human, we all bleed red.   We, as educated people, need to look at those around like they may be Christ in disguise, and treat them the way they should be.

While Civil Rights has made immense progress, there is still some work to be done.  I guess I will dive back into the large blue tub and see what other connections I may find in there.  I think I want to see about the letters from World War II.  Hey, you guys have a great day, and do not forget, love conquers all things.

Short Story – Grandma’s Blackberry Patch

It’s been one of those days.  Here is a little short story which the emotions decided to write.  I do not know why, but I cried while writing it.  I guess it was because the emotion which wrote it was sadness. A work in progress which will be submitted to this year’s Prose contest for the Corn Creek Review here at Young Harris College  

            Grandma Tinning died on a stormy Saturday night last fall, right before my thirteenth birthday.  I was there with her, as well as my mother, and I remember the smile she gave to me as she drew her last breath.  The release of her soul was peaceful, her face relaxed as she left this realm, and traveled to the place where grandfather waited for her.

I remember mother being very upset, her world upside down, tears flowing freely, without any regard for proper appearance in front of the doctor and others who gathered with us, as they covered her mother with an old quilt kept on her bed.  While the rest of the family held mixed emotions concerning grandma’s death, especially one of my aunts, for me, it brought deep sadness to my heart; the only child of the eldest daughter, her death marked the progression towards the hollowing and aging of my soul.

Grandma and I were very close, and often when I visited during the holidays or summers, we would steal away from the rest of the family.  Tired of the formal attire, and attitude, to which our family adhered too, we sought the uninhibited flowers and trees, which coaxed in both of us, the wanton desire to mix with the inhuman, and converse with those who lived among their branches.  Grandma loved walking down to her gardens and talking about the wildness of youth, and what she did as a young girl to quiet her untamed heart.  Even though she was my grandmother, she seemed to understand what flamed a girl’s secret desire, and spoke of love with such a passion, that it kindled in me a fire which could only be extinguished once we reached the secret gate behind the blackberry patch, and entered into the magical world beyond.

Back behind grandma’s blackberry patch, there was a secret opening to a hidden refuge she created long ago when grandfather was alive.  It was a place she always talked about with love, as they both shaped it to be their own hiding place from the rest of the world.  The place held mystery in my eyes, and as she opened the wooden gate, it was almost as if we stepped from this earth into another world not visited by humankind very often.  Grandma Tinning
would tell me about the fairies that lived back in the dark corners of the garden, and how she visited with them every month when the moon was full.  The fairies first appeared before grandfather died, marking a strange pact for both of them, she told me. Only after his passing, as grandma became alone, did she find a new friend to keep her company.

“Before I had you Lucille, the fairies were my companions,” she whispered with a smile.

She still conversed with them from time to time, she confessed, and during the light of the full moon, the fairy prince would become human just for her, and whirl her into waltzes, to music played by the numerous grogs and frogs that formed the night time band. As a child, I believed every word, and watched as the dusk would come, and the lights would fill the garden and the blackberry patch, and grandma would pointand say, ‘there, Lucille, there  under the willow trees, behind the blackberry patch, there is where my prince and I will dance next time the moon is full.’

Watching them lower her into the frozen ground, away from the beauty of light, and fairy magic, caused something within me to die as well.  Her stories, which were once clear, began to fade, and my memory refused to hold on to them.  It was only after the funeral came and went that I began to understand why there was so much mixed emotion about her passing.

“Celia, mother was getting senile.  All those stories she told Lucille about fairies living in her garden were plain nonsense.  Why, she was eighty plus years living in a child’s world.”

That was my Aunt Estella, the youngest of grandma’s daughters, but she thought herself the wisest.  Aunt Estella did not marry like my mother and her sister, Maggie, instead choosing to continue her education through graduate school.  She was actually a PhD, but my mother did not like calling her doctor, because she felt Aunt Estella went to school just to get the title so she could look down on others.

“Stella, there is no reason to badmouth mother in front of Lucille.”

That was Aunt Maggie.  A middle child, Aunt Maggie faired the best of all of them.  Quiet and aloof, shy and mild-mannered, she married a very handsome doctor, whose practice thrived in the rural mountains of Tennessee because of his and his wife’s gentleness and caring.

“Mother loved her gardens, and if they were magical to her, and made her happy, then that is all that matters to me.  You need to stop Stella, before we say something each of us will regret.”

That was mother.  Always the mediator, never wanting to fight, but would if she felt a wrong being committed.  She was also the divorced woman, whose decision to take her own life into her own hands, instead of allowing her husband to control it for her, ended a fifteen year marriage.  She was happier now, more so then with papa.

“Both of you need to realize the woman was living in a dream world towards the end of her life.  I bet if you look at her will, she made changes, leaving everything she owned to this supposed fairy prince.  I bet there was some man who came every month pretending to be this wonderful lover, and got her to change her will.”

Aunt Maggie sighed, the sound heavy and impatient.  “Stella, is that all you care about, mother’s will?  I think this is the umpteenth time you have brought it up.  Really, sister, you disappoint me.”

“Mother’s will was locked up after father died.  She has not touched it.  All she cared about after dad’s death was her garden that he built for her.   I handled her money transactions.  She did not want to bother with any of it, she told me,” my mother replied.

I kept quiet, sitting alone by the large window overlooking grandma’s blackberry patch.  Did any of them know what lay behind it?  Had grandma taken any of them to the secret gate into her world of magic?  I wondered if they even knew how wonderful the fairy lights were at dusk.

“Well I still want the will read out by my attorney.  I do not want any unforeseen obstacles to probating the estate.”

“For God’s sake Stella, the woman’s not been in the ground more than a day, and all you can think about is mother’s will and things.  It is just stuff, no bond of love, or word of comfort, will come from it,” Aunt Maggie retorted angrily.  I could see Aunt Estella was getting to her nerves again.

“I do not want to stay here any longer than I have too,” Aunt Estella snipped briskly.  “I had enough of this manor when I was younger.  Mother never took to me like she did you and Celia; there was never any ‘love bond’ between us.  I rather not dwell on unpleasant memories.”

I watched Aunt Estella march from the room, her shoulders thrown back, black suit starched to stiffness, never giving way to creases or touches.  I always found her to be very sad.  She was so smart, but not smart enough to realize what she needed to do to belong in a family.

“Celia, that woman cannot be our sister, she is like a dragon, her fire scorching everything it touches.”

My mother took a smoke from grandfather’s old cigar box.  It was one of her hiding places in the manor.  When things became tense, she would puff on about half of it and then gag, often voicing her wonderment at why she ever picked it up.  This time I saw her hand shaking, and she drew a breath longer than normal, her eyes watering.  But whether from the smoke or something else, she refused to allow the liquid to escape its captivity.

“I have never understood Stella.  She always seems to think only of herself.  Mother left the estate to be divided equally among us.  It is almost like she is afraid of being left out,” mother murmured as she exhaled the cigarette smoke.

Aunt Maggie said nothing.  Her eyes wandered around the room until they caught me in their study.  Nodding, Aunt Maggie smiled lightly, the motion brief, as her eyes reflected sorrow that her heart could not contain.  I could tell she was deeply affected by grandma’s death also.

“Well, tomorrow it will be over and done with.  Let her attorney read it over, for pity’s sake, so at least she feels in control of something.”  Mother stamped out the smoking cigarette in
the ash tray at the corner of the desk, her lips drawn into a frown as she punished
the piece of tobacco, twisting it and mashing it until it was just a small piece of white pulp.

I stayed at the window long after they left the room.  The evening breeze was picking up and the sound of the rustling leaves was comforting.  It was like grandma’s voice, soft and
assuring. I could hear her whispering in my memories, to come and follow her out to the blackberry patch, leaving the unkind world behind, and seeking the solace of magic, in the secret place beyond.  The manor was deathly quiet, and I suddenly felt that I could not take its silence any longer.  The sun was still above the horizon, and I needed to find our place once more, before all was abandoned as youthful things are most often discarded, into the back of a box, and they allowed grandma’s secret garden to become overgrown and forgotten.

Escaping from the crowd which was congregating down below, I slipped through a side door and into the freedom of grandma’s yard.  Running towards the blackberry patch, I was delighted to see the fairy lights already peeking in and around the green leaves and dark crimson berries.  Her magic had not faded yet.

Following a half hidden stone path, I quickly darted around the edge and squeezed through the thorny branches, as they tried to keep me from the secret gate.  Grandma was back there, I could feel her hand reach for me, and I wanted to be with her, for just one last time, to hear her tell me of her fairy prince, and the midnight waltzes under the silvery full moon.

Squeaking with irritation at being burdened with opening, the hinges to the gate finally gave way and allowed me entrance.  I crossed the threshold, and stepped into grandma’s fairy world.  It was as I remembered it, the color flowing like an endless sea of flowers, the scent intoxicating.

Her fairy lights darted quickly, hiding themselves from view, uncertain of the visitor which suddenly intruded into their kingdom.  The frenzy which I felt earlier, dissipated as I walked to our stone bench by the lily pond.  Cottonwood seed floated on the gentle wind as I place myself on the center of the cold seat, and I sang the calling song, which grandma taught me many years ago, the hum of the words seemed so forlorn now, more so than before.

And I waited.

The ticking of time passed more rapidly than I wanted and I sang again, this time with more urgency.  Yet, the fairy lights stayed within their shelter and refused to show themselves.
No matter how hard I sang, none came forth, venturing to visit like they did when grandma was here.

Then as the sun settled at the edge of the earth, the shadows filled the garden, and the vibrant colors begin to wash from their places in the petals.  Once in awhile I saw the brief glimpse of fabric behind one of the azalea bushes, or passing behind the dogwoods and crepe myrtles, but the movement was gone before I could clearly see the pattern of the dress.
Now as I think back, it seemed to me to resemble the gay frock that grandma used to wear.

As the sun laid itself to rest, the full moon rose, and I stayed, my hope to see the fairies one last time powerful, and unyielding.  I glanced at the orb above me in the night sky in anticipation.  Would her fairy prince come out now, to dance with me like he did with grandma?

Time waned, and the air became colder, and the cottonwood stopped their dance, and the flowers lost their colors entirely as the light of moon bathed them in quiet sorrow, and washed them of their life.  I shivered.  Grandma’s prince did not come.  And as the silvery glow became obscured behind thick, dark clouds, it was then, that I realized, grandma’s magic had said its farewell.  The garden behind the blackberry patch became just like every other ordinary garden, and I was alone.

Somewhere in between Self Pity and Happiness

I am a writer.  I write fantasy, sci-fi and horror.  The Poetry Muse did not start speaking to me until about a couple of years ago when my ex-fiance left and the most wonderful man in the world entered my life.  It was at this time, that my emotions wanted to speak, but not in story form.  So I let it, and every now and again, the muse makes an appearance and some form of poetry escapes me.

This poem was written in Spring.  I was waiting for my 1950s History class to start and then, all of a sudden, the words poured forth.  Luckily I had my journal in my backpack. So here is this one:

Somewhere in between Self Pity and Happiness

The days have crept away, their life such frailness

taking with them to the setting sun, all the sorrows and wishes for what might have been.

Lying awake in the darkest hour, listening to the silence of night

I ponder,

I wonder,

what has happened to such precious time?

The hours spent in turmoil, thinking myself the unjust or persecuted.

When all which lay before me was the whimsical path of God.

Setting in motion a journey which took me

to somewhere between self-pity and happiness.

Should I choose to look back,

all I would see,

is the youthful charade of self-doubt.

It was always there, simmering underneath

and once the shell removed, its shadow lifted.

Truth.

Laid bare, exposed and bright.

My happiness is self-made, and self-pity is its death.