Issue #14

(Summer 1996)

My Lady Melancholy - #14 Cover

cover drawing by Erin Higgins

(based on a drawing for"My LadyMelancholy")

Table of Contents

full or partial text is availablefor highlighted items

Stories

Poetry

 

(July 29,1996)


© Copyright 1995 EchoesMagazine

All stories, poems, and drawings are protected by copyright andmay not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form, by copyingor by any electronic or mechanical means, without written permissionfrom Echoes Magazine. Individual stories and poems are also copyrightby their authors; drawings are copyright by Echoes Magazine and bythe artists.


Erie Canal Days

by Ruth B. Shult

Following is a brief excerpt from thestory:

"SUKIE!" Mother's voice echoed across the fields, summoning me back from my daydreaming down by the canal. I kept very still, hoping she wouldn't call again. But she did. "Sukie, get up to the house! There's work to be done!"

Reluctantly, I left my perch on the bluff overlooking the canal, made my way through brush and brambles, and headed for the house. Along the way, I tugged at a blade of the tall grass that covered the back lot. With just the right pull, firm and gentle, the top six inches slid out of the bottom of the stalk. Sucking on the sweet, succulent part that was revealed, I walked ever so slowly across to the house.

Mother stood at the sink washing Mason jars and setting them on the drain board. "Sukie, take that basket of peas out on the porch and shell them," she said, drying her hands on her apron. "Don't dawdle! The water will be ready soon." As she spoke, she placed a kettle on the stove. With the grass stalk still dangling from my lips, I sat on the porch glider, shelling peas and idly watching the traffic race by on River Road, the three-lane highway in front of our house.

. . . .

By the time I was finishing the peas, the sun had burned the haze off the fields. Hot breezes rustled the corn. The hum of the wheat fields, the bird songs, and the distant rumble of farm tractors lulled my mind and body.

Suddenly, the quiet was broken by the rasping horn of a boat. Without a thought, I put the peas aside and raced to the canal. Bertie and Sis were already making their way down the steep bank. I joined them at the water's edge.

"Oh! I hope it stops here," Sis was saying. "I hope, I hope, I hope." We each crossed all our fingers, two crosses on each hand. Then, all three of us waved our hands, as if the sheer force of our triple-whammy magic would stop the barge. On a good day, five or six barges would pass by. Some were self-propelled, but most were pulled by tugboats. Lock number 20 was less than a quarter mile away, and barges often stopped just behind our acre to wait their turn. If the water in the lock was not at the proper level, the barge might have to wait twenty minutes. If an eastbound barge was coming through, the westbound barge could be delayed for nearly an hour.

"It's got a tugboat!" I yelled, spotting the bright yellow hulk through the tall, sparse trees that lined the canal bank at our property. "There's kids on board!" . . .

on the banks of the Erie Canal
illustration by Erin Higgins

 

© Copyright 1996 Ruth B. Shult

Ruth B. Shult was born and raised in upstate New York, withthe Erie Canal in her backyard. After completing graduate school atMcMaster University in Ontario, Canada, she taught literature andwriting for more than 30 years. Now retired, she has the time topursue her lifelong hobby of story-writing. Among her favoriteauthors are James Michener, Anna Quindlen, and Amy Tan.(6/96)

[Table of Contents]


Runaway

by The Lone Driver

 

Following is a brief excerpt from thestory:

 I had just passed the exit for Sydney when I saw a hitchhiker with a backpack, thumb out, wet and forlorn. It was a boy maybe fifteen or sixteen wearing a baseball cap backward. I don't pick up hitch hikers, but this was an act of mercy. Poor kid, at least I could give him a ride to the next exit or a truck stop.

I pulled over on the shoulder and stopped. A red semi passed me, splashing my windows with rainwater and rocking the shack-on-back. I leaned over and rolled down the passenger window. "You can put your pack in the back. The door isn't locked." I watched him in my side mirror, drag the wet pack around to the back of the truck. Another semi roared by splashing water. I heard the kid slam the back door and then he jumped in beside me, bringing the cold rain with him.

"Bad day to be out trying to hitch a ride, Buddy." I said and eased the shack-on-back onto the highway.

He didn't answer. I glanced his way. He unbuttoned his denim jacket and pulled out a pack of Marlboros. "I can't let you smoke in the truck," I said. He put the cigarettes back in the pocket of his flannel shirt. That's when I noticed. He wasn't a boy. He was a she. "You're a girl," I said, "I thought you were a boy."

"So?" she said. . . . .

"So, where are you going?" I asked.

"Why ask me? You're the one that's driving."

She was starting to annoy me. "Look, I picked you up because it was raining. I felt sorry for you." I looked over at her, and saw her wipe the fog off her window with the back of her hand. Tiny fingers that trembled. "Suppose I let you off at the next truck stop. Maybe you can call someone." . . .


illustration by Ferrilyn Sourdiffe

 

© Copyright 1996 The Lone Driver

The Lone Driver is a regular in Echoes. Some yearsago he gave up his home in suburban New Jersey and took to the roadin a pickup camper, in a continuing search for adventure andknowledge. (6/96)

[Table of Contents]


Homeless

by Eileen Spinelli

 

Oh for the welcome
of a door
ajar with light
and all our pacing
back and forth across the city
gone suddenly to seed.
Oh to be cool
in a fresh-sheeted field
of double bed --
our own
and fragrant as
a vendor's street bouquet.

Homeless
illustration by Vicky Perry

 

© Copyright 1996 Eileen Spinelli

Eileen Spinelli is from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. "When Iam not writing poems, stories, and books for children, you might findme pouring tea...trying on hats...picking herbs...painting in mydream journal...browsing in thrift shops...dancingbarefoot...(6/96)

[Table of Contents]


Promise

by Meredith Hasemann

 

My father and I sat for hours
on the dock of the abandoned
mansion, August sun crisping
my skin. He taught me to let

my pole trail gently in water,
as I dangled rock-calloused
feet in the tide. My heart leapt
at the tug. You got one, he

said, pull 'er up nice and
strong, you got it, you got it,
you got it,
as I eased the fish
out of water. I stared at the shiny

body twisting on the dock as
my father worked the hook out.
My breast was heaving as heavy
as gills and I ran screaming home

to my mother. Mommy, I caught
a fish,
I sobbed. Good for you,
she said. No, no, I got him
I got him, I killed him,
I wailed.

She hugged me. Daddy'll
throw him back, honey,
Daddy'll throw him back,
don't you worry, he'll live.

I promise.
As she held
me I cried, and wished
I believed that my mother
could kiss away death.

Daddy'll throw him back... (
illustration by Erin Higgins

 

© Copyright 1996 Meredith Hasemann

Meredith Hasemann, twenty-eight, comes from the east end ofLong Island. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in creativewriting at Antioch and reports that working as a waitress is "a greatway to meet people -- it gives me a lot of writing material." She iscurrently writing a novel about a young Latino's struggle to escapethe ghettos of East Los Angeles. (6/96)

[Table of Contents]


Hummingbirds

by Michael L. Pierich

 

Following is a brief excerpt from thestory:

Old Bill Grimes sat on his porch, watching the morning sun drip through the leaves of high oaks. The air was cool for late summer; there was likely a rough winter ahead. He glanced at the nearby stack of firewood. How many more winters would he be able to cut and split fuel?

Better not to think about it.

From where he sat on the top step, he had to turn his head to see the feeder. The hummingbirds were there, darting about the small red plastic tube like oversized dragonflies. Like siblings, they spent more time chasing one another away from the feeder than actually feeding. Bill chuckled at their antics. They were his joy, his only entertainment since the radio had died. He wished he could keep them around all year.

Sighing, Bill rose and dusted off his overalls. The arthritis hadn't stopped him yet. He ran his fingers through his white hair, donned his cap, and headed down the hill for the mail.

The dirt lane was steep for the first hundred yards, but leveled as it exited the woods. As he stepped into the open, the sun washed over Bill, warming his bones. The katydids hummed in the field to his left. He tried not to look to the right, but a raspy voice forced him.

"Hey, Bill! Where you goin'?" It was his ex-employer and landlord, John Weitzel. Bill stopped shuffling and reluctantly looked over.

"Just down to get the mail, that's all."

Weitzel stood in his driveway, thumbs hooked jauntily in his faded blue bibs, with that half-sneer he always wore. "Must be gov'ment check time, huh? Don't forget the rent! I got to get back at least some of that money I used to pay you." John always said that, every month.

John's yellow teeth flashed. "Say, Bill, how's the hummingbirds up there in the woods?"

Bill narrowed his eyes and looked hard at him. What did Weitzel care about birds? He remembered John had stopped and stared one day last week, when he caught Bill sitting on the porch enjoying his little buddies. John had hurried on up the hill in his pickup after a cursory wave. His stare bothered Bill, but then, a lot of things about John bothered Bill.

. . . .

 

© Copyright 1996 Michael L.Pierich

Michael L. Pierich is forty-six, a civil engineeringproject administrator who lives in a rural area north of Harrisburg,Pennsylvania, with his wife and two teenagers. He notes that hewrites for self-expression, personal satisfaction, and for itstherapeutic benefits. (6/96)

[Table of Contents]


Queen of the Lake

by Judith H. Windt

 

Following is a brief excerpt from thestory:

. . . All over the whole mountainside, water, melting from snow somewhere near the top, runs over the rocks in flat sheets and then clumps every time it crosses the trail, so we're always having to step over streams at the switchbacks. I can see how stiff and sore Marilyn's thighs are. Mine for sure are killing me. Thank God today we're just day-hiking up to some pass and don't have to carry anything but our lunches. Yesterday we really pushed to get up out of the crowds, which Marilyn hates, and set up by this lake called Granite Lake. There wasn't a single other human camped there. The only live things I saw were fish jumping at dusk.

We come to a snow field, and Marilyn lets me lead because of my experience with snow every Christmas when I visit my dad. Snow scares her. Two years ago, when I was eleven and she was working full-time and going to school, she came to pick me up at my dad's (he lives in Bear Valley), slipped in the snow, and broke her leg. That's when I learned to cook, so now I can get dinner while Marilyn helps Robbie with his dyslexia after work.

I follow the tree blazes and other people's footprints in the snow. I don't say anything, but I'm glad to see the footprints, even though I can tell they're a day or two old. Finally we get off the snow and from there it's only a few hundred steps more and we're at the pass. Marilyn isn't crying anymore, and there's a little bit of wind blowing to dry the sweat, so it's pretty nice.

"Rosie, what would I do without you?" she says. "Not only are you my right arm and my left arm, you're my eyes, too!" I feel sort of proud, because I really am a good trailfinder. I drop my pack on a boulder, and I suddenly feel really really tired, too. But Marilyn is already lying on her back sunning herself and looking sad, so I pull out the Velveeta and crackers and put together the sandwiches. When she opens her eyes, she gets all bothered that she didn't do the sandwiches. So to make up for it, she rushes over to the snow field to scrape up clean snow for a Tang sherbet.

. . . .

 

© Copyright 1996 Judith H. Windt

Judith H. Windt, fifty-two, lives in Menlo Park,California, where she freelances as a health and medical writer, "andundergoes mad weekend fits of gardening." She has published shortstories in The Sun, Pleiades, Room of One's Own,and Pig Iron, among others. "Queen of the Lake" arose from aninterest in mothers and daughters and a recent jewel-like backpackingtrip in the Sierra Nevada. (6/96)

[Table of Contents]


Divorce

by Gary Tinsley

 

A growing distance
between friends and lovers.
Hearts and minds
pulling and pushing.
questions,
doubts,
fear,
separation,
anxiety.

loss.

 

Divorce
illustration by Vicky Perry

 

© Copyright 1996 Gary Tinsley

Gary Tinsley lives in the "flatlands" of northern Illinoiswith his wife Lisa and daughter Samantha. He spent many years workingin the field of heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and nowteaches HVAC at nearby community colleges. "I have never been, norwill I ever be, politically correct."(6/96)

[Table of Contents]


My Lady Melancholy

by Jack Bolsen

 

After the failed romance,
when the rosepetals have
fallen in blood red disuse
and the bitter silence of
two a.m. rings in my ears,
she will slip through the
window somehow, into my dark
room as silent as shadows to
join the bitter solitude I keep.
There will be no denial when
she touches my cheek, no words of
welcome or refusal when our
bodies intertwine, her hair
invading my eyes as the red of
her lips presses into mine.
She will lie here next to
me the entire night keeping
watch over my vulnerable
mortality, caressing it with
cold fingers as the clock
counts past the sleepless night;
when the dawn comes she will
pick up the tears from the
pillow to wear around her
neck as she holds my hand
throughout the day, a ghost
of the love I used to know.

My Lady...
illustration by Erin Higgins

 

© Copyright 1996 Jack Bolsen

Jack Bolsen was born in 1967, and grew up in a smallfarming community. He discovered poetry at the age of sixteen, andsince then poetry has always been a part of his life. He hasparticularly enjoyed reading Sharon Olds ("a must"), ChristinaRosetti, Sylvia Plath, and Robert Frost. "Poetry can be a form ofcreative therapy, as was the case with 'My Lady Melancholy'."(6/96)

[Table of Contents]


Every Day Is Mother's Day

by Linda K. Wright

 

Following is a brief excerpt from thestory:

Mary removed the handkerchief that she kept tucked in her pants pocket and carefully wiped the spittle from Mother's lips. Some of it had already dribbled onto her chin.

"Pat's really been looking forward to visiting you, Mother," Mary said, "but her Kevin's sick, so she's not going to be able to come just now." There. She'd given the lie naturally enough and it was one she hadn't used before.

Mary looked over her mother's shoulder at the darkening cast of the evening sky and the winding road outside her living room window. She marveled how it wound its way around the house she'd rented in this scarcely-populated section of Maine countryside. It had kept pulling at her all these months. She knew she'd finally given into its influence.

She adjusted Mother's wheelchair in a corner of the living room, away from the final rays of the sun. Mother didn't like strong light. Here she would still be able to see the flowers Mary had arranged in the vase on the nearby card table.

Less than an hour ago, as the sun began making its western descent, Mary had knelt in the firm soil of her yard and picked them. They'd become so profuse, and Mother enjoyed flowers so.

Mary spied a daffodil and bent over to cut it. Pain shot through her back. She'd have to remember to take more of her arthritis medicine. She snipped the daffodil and slowly got up from her knees, shook off some dirt that had gathered in the folds of her sweater, and picked up her shears. She straightened, holding all the flowers she'd cut, and admired how the addition of the daffodil seemed to complete the arrangement.

Mary pushed her graying hair away from her eyes and gazed at the road, which could be seen from almost any window in the house. Tentatively, she took a couple of steps towards it, a couple of steps away from the house. She closed her eyes momentarily, then purposefully turned her back to the road and returned to the house.
. . . .

 

© Copyright 1996 Linda K. Wright

Linda K. Wright has written many poems and short stories;she likes to observe the commonalities in our diversifiedexperiences. Her short stories and poetry have appeared in manypublications, including Murderous Intent, The Maryland Review, andEclipse. Linda won the 1995 Charles Johnson Award for fiction.(6/96)

 

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