Category Archives: fiction

Ingrid Thanks 4/9/17

All the broken hearts in the world still beat.

 

A stunning lyric

In a pop song

For a man

In his fifties

Searching, searching

His whole life

To be home

In the arms of another.

 

Renting, only renting

For a few years

Or less

But not anymore.

Drifting, drifting

Never stopping

No interest,

Either direction on that two-way street

Thinking he’ll never find his picket fence.

 

All the broken hearts in the world still beat.

 

But he still lives

His heart still beats

Sadly beating,

Weakly beating,

But beating still.

 

Shakespeare, Milton, Byron

Not for them.

Their voices silent.

Their poems completed.

Life is too short.

It was for them.

It was for others

Whom I miss so much.

Whom I’ll never see again.

 

But I can smell the coffee.

And it is time to wake up and do so!

I can taste a ripe, ripe summer’s peach,

Juices drip as I break the skin

Feel the sweet liquid run

Down my chin

Until I wipe it

With the back of my hand.

The stickiness remains,

That joyous, beautiful stickiness.

 

 

All the broken hearts in the world still beat.

 

Find Beauty.

Find Peace.

Find Love

And Forgiveness.

Listen to the laughter of children, unspoiled, uncynical.

Rejoice in the stories of the old as they tell of victories and disasters from long ago.

They won’t be able to tell those stories much longer.

Their voices less clear.

And softer as the past rushes from us.

And soon like them,

Our passing fancies will all have passed.

 

All the broken hearts in the world still beat.

 

Even in our darkest times,

We are still alive.

We have only a moment.

This moment.

To live and love.

To be happy.


Where I was 2/18/17

I was a better person with you.

 

A better person than I am now.

In solitude, I dwell in dark places

I’ve constructed with shattered pieces

Of withered memories twisted by distrust

And ancient photos hidden away in boxes never opened.

 

I used to be happier

And less suspicious

And less angry.

Now I am sadder, and more suspicious, and angrier.

 

And the world reflects my feelings back at me,

Magnifying and multiplying

Two mirrors reflecting each other

In an amusement park fun house

As hollow laughter accompanies carnival music,

In a never ending loop.

 

I see conspiracies in passing conversations.

I see anger in the youth,

I see surrender in the old,

I see frustration in my peers,

 

But I do not see that,

They are reflections,

All reflections of myself.

 

And I will never be happy,

Never, ever be happy,

Until I once again see

That joy exists,

Still exists,

When pain and sorrow

Are released

From the prison

I’ve confined them in,

Deep in my bitter heart.


Cinderella’s End – My eighth book

Cinderella’s End: The Revenge of the Witch

By A.F. Winter
 
List Price: $12.95
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
268 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1514656181 (CreateSpace-Assigned)
ISBN-10: 1514656183
BISAC: Fiction / Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology

What happens to the characters in a fairy tale after “happily ever after?” Many cultures have a version of Cinderella because it is the ultimate underdog story of a bullied young girl in rags beating the odds and rising to the top. Cinderella’s End is about what happens after the ball and the marriage and asks the question, did Cinderella actually find true love?

Cinderella and Prince John marry but neither is particularly well-suited for marriage. Everyone important to Cinderella has died. She is an emotional wasteland. Prince John was raised to be a leader of the kingdom, not to be emotionally available. When their daughter is abducted by an evil witch, John goes on a quest to bring her home. Cinderella, left at the castle, is forced to play a role she was never comfortable in, a symbol to placate the peasants. After years of being alone, she develops an emotional attachment to a kitchen servant. The remaining royals do not approve of this friendship, accuse him of spying and throw him in the dungeon. The novel explores whether love can survive through distance and time.


Love is like Christmas 11/16/16

 

Love is like Christmas

The smell of freshly

Baked ginger cookies

From grandma’s kitchen

The brightly lit homes

Filled with welcomes welcome

The beautifully decorated tree

Holding gently

Memories of a lifetime,

Ornaments passed from

Generation to generation,

From friend to friend.

 

I walk down the quiet street,

Listening to the holiday parties

The Laughter,

The stories

Of good times past

And memories of good friend passed.

Their lives continue

In the retelling of traditions

And of recipes recreated.

 

I walk down the happy street

Where tomorrow morning

Children will rise,

Jumping on their parent’s bed

Gleefully yelling,

Santa was here, Santa was here.

The living room will soon be filled with

Mountains of discarded wrapping paper and

The laughter of children

As they test the warranties of their gifts.

 

I stop outside my home.

The darkened rooms.

There is no smell of cookies.

No tree with brightly

Wrapped presents beneath.

 

Love is like Christmas for me.

Never had it, never will.

And the expectation every year,

Of what Santa will bring,

Of what love will bring,

Makes my home a prison,

Sentenced to my gloomy rooms,

Waiting for release.

I walk away from my prison cell

To a darker corner of my town.

 

Mrs. Wilson’s husband passed.

It is the first Christmas without him.

Their only son died in Vietnam

So very long ago.

She sits alone with a scrapbook,

And smiles with tears in her eyes.

 

Mr. Paneer’s wife left him,

Along with the kids.

She always trimmed the tree.

He didn’t buy one this year.

He wouldn’t, he couldn’t.

He drinks another round while

Looking into the empty corner.

 

Mr. Murry died last fall.

His house is dark.

A For Sale sign sits out front.

And that is all that is left of Mr. Murry.

 

I stopped.

A light snow falling down,

Seemed to glisten in the streetlight’s glow.

Dancing, dancing,

Slowly falling.

I held my hand out.

A snowflake landed in my palm

A moment before melting.

Love is like Christmas,

Like Christmas indeed.


Eyes of a stranger 09/24/16

The manager looked at me with a blank look. “What was your order?”

“Eight everything, eight plain, and fourteen sesame.”

Her blank expression turned into the crazed worker whose associates screwed up and she was getting blamed for it. Her head slightly tilting to the left as her lips curled into a demented smile.  She had a rough morning.  The take out line was around the corner.  She was understaffed and there were lots of screaming babies. “I’m sorry, there is a fresh batch coming out soon, can you wait twenty minutes?”

That really wasn’t a question. If I wanted my damn bagels, I would have to wait for them.

“Can I get you a coffee while you are waiting?” She nodded to the cashier who took over while she ran to put out more metaphorical fires in the back.

The cashier smiled at me. “What would you like?”

“I’d best have decaf. I’m going to have to call the wife and explain why breakfast will be late.”

That was a lie. I have no wife. No kids, who will greet me like a conquering hero when I return with a freshly baked bagel breakfast. I have nothing to rush home to.  I buy two dozen bagels so I don’t have to come down here for another month.

So why do I feel the need to tell this person whom I never met and probably will never meet again, that I had some semblance of a normal life? She didn’t care.  I am just another customer, one of hundreds she will see today. As long as I am not a prick and make her life a living hell for a minute or two, she will forget about me as soon as I exit the store.

Why should I care what people think of me? Probably some basic human need to be accepted, to be loved. Why look for acceptance in the eyes of a cashier?  Why look for love in the eyes of a stranger?

I took my decaf making no attempt to complete the charade by placing a fake phone call to my fake wife. I headed to the milk bar.  Poured 2% into my coffee but only a few drops came out.

I looked at my almost black coffee debating whether it was worth going back to the cashier to ask for more. There was a teenage girl standing impatiently behind me waiting for a straw. She probably had some important business on her cell phone to attend to and my getting some milk for my coffee was standing in the way of world peace! I took a sip.  Damn, it was too dark to drink!

I headed back to the cashier. There was a customer who thought he was very funny.  He wasn’t.  The cashier smiled at his joke but he wasn’t done and kept going for another thirty seconds.    Tick, tick, tick. She smiled, he droned on, and I waited with the empty 2% thermos in my hand. Tick, tick, tick. Finally he got his change and left.

“This is empty.” I handed her the container.

She took it, turned to the small refrigerator behind her and filled it up. I accepted it back without a word. I filled my coffee cup to the brim but did not put the lid on correctly. When I turned to go, it spilled on the floor.

A older woman at the table closest to the bar looked at me as if to say, “Well, you gonna clean that up?”

If I didn’t catch her eyes, I could have just left. If I didn’t have lingering mother issues, I would have left. But I did, and I do, so now I was obligated to clean it up or else every customer in the place would think ill of me.  Here we go again! What the hell do I care what these people think of me? If I wasn’t stuck here in this coffee shop purgatory waiting for my bagels, I would be gone and life would be perfect.  If someone slipped on my light decaf coffee, it would be their problem.

I smiled weakly and tossed several napkins on the floor and swished them around with my foot. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Now I was going to have to pick up dirty floor napkins that I touched with my foot.  My life was spinning out of control!

I picked up the ball of dirty towels and tossed them in the trash container and then I turned to my coffee cup. Crap, I didn’t put the lid on properly because I was so concerned about the stares of those stupid table people! Now I had dirty napkins hands!  AND I had to wash them!

I took the cup with my left hand trying to balance the loose lid on the top while not spilling anymore of it. I headed into the bathroom to wash my hands.  But the lid was sliding off and I became overly concerned that whatever was flying around in the air of the men’s room would end up in my coffee.

Oh hell, it stunk to high heaven! Why do people do their number two business in public restrooms?  Even though, I didn’t have to use it, I gingerly peered into the bowl.  It was worse than I imagined! What sort of beast could produce something so large? Now I would not be able to get that image out of my mind for at least the next three hours.

I washed my hands quickly and fixed the lid on my coffee cup wondering how much of that thing in the toilet ended up in my coffee. That was not the biggest of my concerns. I turned to the door. There were people beyond.  If I opened the door and the smell wafted out into the dining room, everyone within smelling distance would think I was responsible.  But what was my choice?  Should I stay in the restroom and pass out from the fumes?  What would the headlines in the papers read, “Man drinking coffee in the bathroom dies from the stench of his own stool!”  A picture of me lying on the floor would go viral.

I decided to leave the bathroom. I always wonder about people leaving public restrooms with drinks.  Were they drinking while doing their business?  This was all too much.  I opened the door quickly and got out into the dining area without being noticed.

I sat down at a two top table and buried my thoughts into my coffee. I’m doing ok.  I’m doing ok. All will turn out well if I could just hold on for another minute or two.

“Here you go sir, sorry for the wait.” The manager said bringing the bagels over to my table.

I jumped slightly, startled at the proximity of my bagel bags. I thought I covered it up well although the manager did have a smile on her face that was larger than the regular customer service smile.  I got up quickly and paid for my order.

Stepping outside to freedom I exhaled deeply. I was free, but to do what? Go home and put the bagels in freezer bags, wondering how much I would be able to fit in each bag?  Could I fit eight in a bag?  And what happens if there is an extra one?  Do I mix everything with the sesame or even worse, the plain?  Will the plain retain its plainness in a bag with other types of bagels?  Sounds like a political conversation.

As important as that all seems, I longed for the excitement of the bagel joint; where orders are not filled in a timely fashion and loosely placed coffee lids create danger at every turn. I turned to enter again but realized I couldn’t go back in again. Not now. Ah well, there is always the next time. There is always the next time.


Happy Excerpt #2

My book, Happy, was published in late July.  The subject matter is racism in America.  Two kids, a twelve year old African-American boy with Autism and a five year old white girl get lost in the riots after another unarmed black youth was shot by a policeman.  Deshawn Smith is a civil rights organizer who lost his way until he heard about the two lost children. These are the words he spoke to the crowd.

 

Deshawn Smith walked on the stage.  The crowd grew quiet.  He looked out over the people standing in front of him.  They were waiting for his words.  No one was on their cell phones.  No one was talking.  They wanted guidance.  They wanted a leader that spoke for all of them.  And he felt humbled.

“The statue behind me is of John Patrick.  A man who fought for freedom and equality all his life.  He did not spew hate or preach violence.  He led by example.  He showed that each of us, white or black, man, woman, and child has value.  That is what my movement is all about.

But somewhere along the way I was turned from that idea.  I forgot my original purpose because it is easy to see the hate of other people and give back nothing but hate in return.  Too many people have died because of racial inequality in this land founded on freedom.  Too many people are kept in poverty because we fear others, we fear the stranger.

But there are two children, one black and one white, who did not fear each other but trusted each other and cared for each other.  They know nothing about racism, or poverty, or injustice.  They know trust, and friendship, and love.  They are lost somewhere in this city.  They are hiding because they cannot abide the hatred that they see all around them.  They are frightened by the burned out buildings, the looted shops, and the body bags lying on the sidewalks.

And why shouldn’t they be?  None of us want this kind of world for our children. The question I ask you is why aren’t we afraid of that?  How did we come to accept hatred as a part of our society?  How can we live in a world where this kind of violence is accepted?

Let us join together today to fight the hatred, not by throwing rocks, not by screaming slogans, not by intimidation, but by looking for two kids who have shown us how to love.   Get with a group and take responsibility for a street or two.  Go through every building, every alley; let’s find these kids.  But I ask you one thing.  Welcome a stranger into your group.  If you’re black invite a white person in.  If you are white do the same for your black neighbor.  If you’re Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or Jew, find a stranger to work with.  Because the way to fight hatred is to see the other not as a stranger to be feared, but as a person who has the same hopes and dreams as yourself.”

 

The book is available at:    https://www.createspace.com/6305829


Happy Excerpt #1

My book, Happy, was published in late July.  The subject matter is racism in America.  Here is an excerpt from the story.

 

Derrick Taylor was a punk, the kind of kid who felt entitled to everything and anything he wanted just because he was breathing.  He was going to be a truck driver and so he didn’t feel the need to do anything in school because, why does a truck driver need to know Social Studies?  Plus, why bother learning anything if you were just going to be passed to the next grade anyway?   So he pushed back against everything whether it was good for him or not.  This led to a life of crime. He had been arrested in a string of small time robberies and vandalism over the last few years.

We could look at the poor neighborhood in the small town of Brantley, where he grew up, and make all sorts of excuses for his behavior: the high crime rate, the high unemployment, the high drug use.  We could look at his family life and make excuses as well; his alcoholic father beat his mother to death one rainy night because she asked him to take off his shoes as he entered the house.  She had just been on her hands and knees cleaning the floor.  He took off his steel-tipped boot and beat her with it.  And when she was on the ground bleeding and begging for mercy he hit her with a dining room chair until it broke.  She was dead long before he stopped beating her.  Her bright red blood slowly oozed over the clean kitchen floor.

Derrick was home at the time.  He hid in the closet until he heard the front door slam before venturing out.  He was the one who found his broken mother.  He was the one who called the police.

Since that time, he was passed from one relative to the next.  Relatives who neither cared for him or gave him emotional support.  They offered him meaningless platitudes. “God loves you, if you love him,” or “Your life is a test and the bad events build character”, or “God only gives us what we are capable of handling.”  What twelve year old is capable of handling the death of his mother at the hands of his father?

Whatever the reasons that brought the sixteen year old to that confrontation with that police officer on that street in the suburb of that big city was immaterial.  He was there with a knife in his hand staring down the barrel of a gun.

 

The book is available at:    https://www.createspace.com/6305829