Esther came to The States from Honduras in the late 70’s as the Mail-Order bride of a man named Walter. She was not what anyone expected, neither young and timid, nor shapely and full of fire. Instead, she was thick, forty-something, plain and docile. She spoke little English, and faded into the background of any room she entered, like a dull, flowered wallpaper curling ever so slightly at the seams.
By all accounts, her husband was a simple man with few demands and little capacity for cruelty. He had already buried two wives and now looked to this new bride, to carry him through old age. Men, after all, were not meant to care for themselves. Maybe she expected more than his little trailer in that tiny foothill town, in the dry center of California. But if she did, she never said so.
Sometimes Walter took her to visit his children, two daughters and a son. He introduced her to his grandchildren as Esther. They never once called her Grandma. She was awkwardly kind to them, stroking their hair, hugging them, and smiling as they prattled on, seemingly unaware that she understood not a word of what they said. She had no grandchildren of her own. But she did have a son. Read the rest of this entry »
In early May, I get a panicked phone call from Linda twenty minutes before I’m scheduled to pick Alice up from her office. I leave work and drive over immediately, arriving ten minutes later to find the therapist slumped on the couch in her waiting room, with the inner and outer doors to her office wide open. She sits up abruptly when I enter.
“She stormed out of here twenty minutes ago” Linda blurts out, “She punched the emergency callbox in the hallway and disappeared. She was in a mood when she got here. Like really agitated. I got her settled down enough to talk and asked a couple of questions, then she just lost it.” Linda runs her hands through her spiky hair and exhales heavily.
“The estrogen can bring emotions closer to the surface, that’s one of it’s side effects.” I tell her. “What were you talking about when she ran out of here?”
“I’d asked her what was bothering her, if it was school or home, or if it was this girl thing, if she just wanted things to go back to the way they were. I wanted her to know that it was ok, if she did.”
Immediately, I know that last piece was enough to set her off all on its own. I also know that I need to go and find her, but I’m having a hard time disengaging from Linda, who looks absolutely crushed. Read the rest of this entry »
She bought the mask as a gift for his 19th birthday. It took all the charm she had to talk the antique dealer down to a price she could afford, but instinctively she understood that the boy and the mask belonged to one another.
After her death, six months later, the mask took on deeper meaning. It bewitched him, whispering dark secrets and filling his head with stories and colors he never could have imagined. In pencil and ink, his fingers flew, bringing the carnival of characters trapped within the mask to life.
For the boy, grief was not something to be discussed or expressed in ordinary ways, but it bled from his fingertips onto the canvas. With dark hues and haunting detail, his own tragedies intertwined with those which the mask inspired until even he could not untangle them.
Some nights, exhausted with the effort and frustrated by the medium, he painted his face, making his own mask and took to the stage as a merry minstrel. Make ‘em laugh. Make ‘em cry. Make them feel … anything. Afterwards, he’d go home, wash off the paint and stare at his naked face in the mirror … feeling empty, without identity. Then he’d lie down, put the mask on and let it fill him up again.
Read the rest of this entry »
One of my favorite writers just opened a Kickstarter campaign for his new book. If you don’t know what Kickstarter is, it’s a funding platform for creative projects, helping writers, artists and musicians raise funds to complete and produce their work. I’ve donated to a couple of projects in the past, one that met its goal and got funded and another that didn’t. I was delighted to have been a part of the one that made it and bummed when the second one fell short. In other words, I was invested in art from artists I believed in. This is another one of those.
I could wax poetic about Brendan Halpin’s books all afternoon, but here’s a couple of excerpts from my Good Reads notes on my favorites:
- on “Tessa Masterson Will Go To Prom” … Halpin shines here with his ability to create teenage characters who walk, talk, think and behave like teenagers. It is one of the things which drew me to his work initially and one of the things which keeps me coming back.
- on “Donorboy” … Charming, sad and funny. It’s a rare writer that can construct a novel entirely out of e-mails, IM conversations and journal entries and have the construct work FOR rather than AGAINST him. I loved this one and both Mouse and Ash did as well.
- on “Long Way Back” … a powerfully engaging read, equal parts laugh-out-loud funny and tearfully sad. An unpretentious and unexpectedly hopeful novel which should be added to your To-Read List posthaste.
- “Dear Catastrophe Waitress” is one of those rare books that somehow loved me back.
You can check Brendan out on Good Reads, Amazon and his blog. After that, please consider heading over to the Kickstarter page for “Enter The Bluebird” and tossing your lunch money in as an investment so a great writer can continue giving us great stories . $6 bucks will get you a free download of the book and larger donations will have even more sweet stuff coming your way.