Author: Library Staff

Little Falls

DISSONANCE: A Gram Story By Peg Scarano

Word: Dissonance
Word Count: 497

A Gram Story
By Peg Scarano

My mother-in-law, Rosina, and I have had a love-hate relationship for nearly 50 years. The first strike against me was the fact I had no Italian blood flowing through my veins. A normal person might realize that this particular liability really wasn’t my fault, but it didn’t take me long to realize I was not dealing with normal here. Over the years, my husband and I had several lengthy discussions about the cause of his mom’s mean streak. He was always the loving son saying she had a rough childhood. Or she had twin boys and 18 months later gave birth to another son so she was dealing with three boys in diapers. I almost fell for that one because I know that would make me cranky.

I could write a book about all of the “gram stories” my family and I have collected over the years, but for now, I’ll just share this one classic. I was working at Valley Health Services. Two years prior to my retirement, Rosina became a resident of the nursing home.

I had a great relationship with Lisa, the CEO/Administrator who also, for some reason known only to God, took an immediate liking to Rosina and her spunky personality. As a caring and loving daughter-in-law, I took time out of my work day, five days a week, to go upstairs to visit Rosina and ask if everything was OK or if I could do something for her. Most days, I got a grunt or an eye-roll, but I felt good that I had at least tried.

Thanksgiving Day, Lisa always stopped in to wish her residents Happy Thanksgiving. She made a point of talking to Rosina because she loved her! She told her how nice it was that Rocco and Peggy were picking her up later to take her to their house for dinner so she could spend time with her granddaughters. Rosina’s comment to Lisa was, “Peggy doesn’t do anything at home and she doesn’t do anything here. I think you should fire her!”

Friday morning there was a message on my phone from Lisa asking me to call her when I got a chance. When I did, she shared this latest Gram story with me. I was mortified while Lisa thought it was the funniest thing she had ever heard. I shared this horrifying story with my husband who in turn, shared it with his brother, John, who told me not to go and see his mother for a week. I happily complied.

Unbeknownst to me, Rosina told John the following Tuesday that I hadn’t come to see her on Monday. John casually replied, “It’s my understanding you told Lisa to fire her and she did. Peg doesn’t work here anymore.”

This little exercise did not put an end to our dissonance, but I sure felt like I put points up on the scoreboard! John said she was speechless – at least until she saw me again the next week.

DISSONANCE: For Want Of A Vote By Josh McMullen

Word Count 494

For Want Of A Vote
By Josh McMullen

“How am I supposed to feed my family?”

It was a simple question, really, one that the senator had no trouble giving quasi-answers to on TV shows and in the newspaper. But one-on-one, with the scraggy man standing in front of him, he could only stand there and say nothing.

“It’s a simple question, Senator. I have a wife and two kids. With what you just did… How. Am I. Supposed. To feed. My family?”

The senator flushed, knowing exactly what he was talking about. Less than 24 hours earlier, he had cast the deciding vote on a bill that, for all intents and purposes, would allow employers to force their employees to pay full price for provided health insurance if they deemed it necessary.

He was just on his way to write his resignation letter. He didn’t like it on principle, but principle didn’t pay the bills, not in government, at least. The writer of the bill came to him in the middle of the night. “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours someday,” was all that was said. If he wanted to do what he wanted for his constituents, he needed every vote he could possibly get. A handshake later, the senator had officially sold his soul. There was absolutely nothing he could do, because it was on its way to the president’s desk in five minutes.

They said nothing. The senator had no excuse for what he did, and the scraggy man was too filled to the brim with rage to speak any further.. The dissonance was palpable, yet still (and without the other knowing such) they shared an unspoken harmony.

“You have one chance to explain yourself,” The scraggy man said. “I honestly don’t care what happens to me.” That’s when he pulled out the gun. “My wife won’t have to worry about it…there’ll be one less person to pay for, thanks to you.”

“Look, you don’t have to do this,” the senator said. “I know what I did was wrong. It was purely based on politics, and I have no excuse. I’m sorry.”

The scraggy man thought for a second, then fire came back into his eyes. “You know what you did was wrong…yet you did it anyway. You claim to be a man of the people, yet you do things like this. That’s it, the time for talk is over.” Without a second hesitation, he pulled the trigger, and the senator fell to the ground, crimson flowing all around him. The last thing he heard was the loud explosion of the second bullet burying itself into the scraggy man’s chest. He fell to the floor right next to the senator as a flood of humanity surrounded them.

It’s strange…for want of a simple vote, a simple raise of the hand or cast of the ballot, two lives were lost. May God and my constituents forgive me for what I’ve done… the senator thought as everything faded to black.

DISSONANCE: You Don’t Believe By Sally Madison

Words: 446
You Don’t Believe
By Sally Madison

The trucks arrived at the dock in a midst of chaos complicated by the downpour, while the troops were executing the evacuation, efficiently as possible, but not very steadily. ‘The smell of the salt water and diesel fuel is almost a relief from obnoxious aroma of antiseptic and the ever present stench of death at the MASH unit,’ Linda thought. Men screamed orders; soldiers hurriedly carried wounded soldiers towards the waiting ships in the harbor. Noises from the transport jeeps and troop carriers were drowned out by the engines starting up in the belly of the ship.

Linda jumped out the back of the troop carrier, “This way, Lieutenant! Hurry!” she was commanded with great urgency by the medic-in-charge. She grabbed the IV bag attached to the next patent to be unloaded from the truck and held it high.

The moaning drew her sympathy, “It’s going to be all right”, she cooed, holding the hand of a mangled unrecognizable mass of bloody bandages and fatigues. She matched her pace to the other soldier’s, holding the gurney as they raced up the metal grated plank, anticipating the protection of the huge hull. Clank, clank, clank – the plank hit the deck of the ship in unison with the muddy boot steps.

She could hear the WHOMP! WHOMP! WHOMP! of helicopter blades approaching for a landing on the massive ship. The whirlwind ripped off the white cap and put her quaffed hair into a tangle, while her Navy cape blew out straight, strangling her neck by the clasp. ‘If only the rain could wash away the splatter of mud, blood, and bile on her nurse’s uniform, that was tugging at her legs, and clean away her memories of the emergency ward, as well’, she thought.

Escaping from the dissonance, her mind wandered briefly to a vague memory when she had been listening to the radio. ‘What was that new song?’ Linda thought, ‘yes, how appropriate.’ She ran the song over again in her mind, “Tell me over and over again, my friend. You don’t believe, we’re on the eve of destruction?” The message was overwhelming and foreboding.

WISSH! WISSH! WISSH! rang the bombs in Linda’s ears, louder and louder they were coming in and splashed in to the water near the dock.

BA-BANG! The explosion deafened her, momentarily; instinctively she ducked. Peering from behind her forearm, she saw a fire ball where the helicopter had been just a second ago. Her eyes stung from the intense heat. Fireworks of shrapnel peppered the air. PING! PING! PING! rang out as the pieces hitting the deck. SPLAT, SPLAT, SPLAT – they hit the water. Another WISSSSSSSH! louder and louder and… silence.

DISSONANCE: Laurel Doves Chapter 8 – The Call By Sharon Collins

Word: Dissonance
Word Count 489

Laurel Doves
Chapter 8 – The Call
By Sharon Collins

Geneviève was not the only sleepless soul this first night of cloistered freedom. Mother Superieure also stared into an empty sky, the weary moon having hidden her face behind the gathering clouds. Her mind filled with a dissonance that even the harmony of prayer would not dissipate, she had elected to absent herself from Matins. The Prioress would lead the sisters in their dark of the night devotions. A foolish practice, she thought, Yeshua would laugh at such ceremonies. The Lord did not listen any better during the dark than during the day. Tonight especially, she required peace, needing time to consider the enormity of Jean’s arrival and request. She did not welcome the distracting shuffle of two dozen sleepy sisters heading to chapel to pray although the tolling of the chapel bell did soothe somewhat.

Despite, a lifetime of preparing, she had fiercely hoped to pass into her next life without having to heed The Call. This fervent hope had evaporated today, washed away like the dust and grime coating Jean’s five doves, falling away like their beautiful curls, swept up and tossed into a midden of despair. Clutching her simple cross of sacred Laurel wood to her lips, Mother gave into the flood of grief, today’s unwanted eventuality had summoned.

‘Oh Isobel, my dear sister, how I will miss knowing your wise spirt walks the same earth as mine. Distance and duty have separated us for nearly a lifetime, and now our chance to walk under the same sun and dance as we did as girls is gone. Jean’s dreadful news has cleft my heart in twain. I pray you received the consolamentum before your ordeal. Oh dearest sister, may your soul shine in light perpetual; I will miss you beyond measure and promise to care for your granddaughter as I have cared for mine.

Personal tragedy put aside, Mother Superior, Magadalena , sister of the very same Isobel, Geneviève called Grand-mere, rose from her bed and lighted a tallow candle to guide to the darkened cloister garden. The walls of her room and the weight of her duty pressed in. Walls, were walls no matter if physical or spiritual, they kept a soul confined. At least in the garden, under the willow, she could breathe freely as she reviewed the safe-guards put into place the year Geneviève was born. The birth of Bloodline children, especially girls, was duly monitored by both Cathar and Roman authority, one with joy and hope, the other with fear and hate. Therefore, the births of three Montsegur doves and the waif known as Virginie, had been carefully kept secret. Destined for greatness since their first breaths, the four had grown under the watchful eyes of Isobel and Magdalena . Giselle and Lisette, also bloodline, too had been secreted away as the Pope’s army burned its way across France. Their hiding places had been equally effective, one a guest of Les Gardiens of the Carmargue and the other, of the wandering Gitane.

DISSONANCE: Imagine That By Sam McManus

Word Count 500
Imagine That
By Sam McManus
Dr. Girard got caught cheating on his wife. Don’t ask me how I knew it. I wouldn’t sell Sheila out for any amount of money. But I have to say I took a skosh of pleasure in hearing the news, in imagining his normally smug face just after Janine confronted him. They say it happened in the unisex bathroom at their country club, right after a round of golf, him with his cronies, and she with the “stitch and bitch club.” I imagine she smacked enough crap out of him to require use of the facilities they were already standing in.
But, realistically, it was probably just the handing over of incriminating photos, a number being tossed out, and a lawyer’s card as the cherry on top. That’s how those high society types tend to do it, after all, or at least that’s how I imagine it’s done. I guess I prefer my way better, because, believe me, Dr. Stephen Girard deserved to get taken down a peg or three.
The way Sheila tells it, Stephen and I were the best of friends at Northwestern, as inseparable as Siamese twins, but her memory has a few gaps in it. Most notably, sophomore year, when he stole Jenny Hopkins from me. Oh, and junior year, when he “ended up with Melinda Prior” when I got the flu but somehow a rumor went around that I had gonorrhea. Not to forget senior year – what I lovingly call “the trifecta” – when Fae Jones wound up in his bed instead of mine after the party to end frat parties.
I forgave him all that, though, because we used to be tight. Yah. We used to be tight, yet somehow Sheila’s memory includes us reconciling, when my forgiveness never included forgetting, never involved becoming his all-time whipping boy. So when someone came to me with the news of Stephen Girard getting caught cheating on his wife, I thought it was a not so subtle hint for me to bury the hatchet, to say we were square and get him back into my life.
“Hell no,” I told her, shrugging on my jacket and turning off the lights. She stood there with the glow from the nightlight illuminating her heels, not budging a step.
“Look, you and Stephen need to get over yourselves,” Sheila said, but I looked away.
“Maybe he needs to get over himself,” I half-agreed. “Or stop pretending it’s still college and he has to jump on anything that moves.”
“What about you, Jason?” she challenged. “What about what you took from him that started all of this?”
“I didn’t take anything from him!” I said, wounded. It had never been me. It had always been him, all those times.
“What about me?” she asked, quietly, but loud enough to echo in the otherwise empty room, the dissonance of the syllables vibrating clean.
“What about you?” I said. And she slapped me across the face, leaving an imprint I would never have imagined.

DISSONANCE: The Bandwagon By Mike Cecconi

Word Count 500
The Bandwagon
By Mike Cecconi

“We could call the band The Cognitive Dissidents,” Ethan considered, “you know, like, a pun on the phrase Cognitive Dissonance?” “I know what cognitive dissonance is,” Julia acquiesced, “but don’t you think that’s too precious, too-clever-by-half?” “Yeah,” he agreed, “but it’s supposed to be pretentious, isn’t that the whole point?”

They’d both spent years buying music at Freakbeat on Ventura, suffered the slings and arrows of the elitist clerks there as part of the price of the privilege of their purchases. God forbid you buy Bob Seger’s greatest hits or some dance-pop for your niece’s birthday without a side glance and a mention of some too-cool-to-have-heard-of hipster band they worshipped. Even when you bought something by the newest hotness, they’d say “I liked them before they sold out, you should get their original EP on vinyl.”

So, they created The Cognitive Dissidents and started asking if they had any of their imaginary releases in stock. Their debut “Sensitive Love Songs” that only existed on cassettes hand-colored by the bassist’s boyfriend Stevenson. Their split-disc with the similarly fictional Filth Collins entitled “Don’t Quit Your Day Job”. Their magnum opus “Failure” that could only be bought from the trunk of Stevenson’s van after shows during the month of July. They were always playing near enough to be known but far enough to never have been, like Albuquerque or Santa Cruz or the time they were arrested in Anaheim for playing in Daisy Duck costumes they’d just stolen from Disneyland.

At first, the clerks not wanting to come off as uncool would just say that those records were too rare or expensive to stock there, check eBay but after a time, Ethan or Julia would hear the staff talk to other customers about The Dissidents too, talk to each other about them, they would brag about having been at the Daisy Duck show or how they used to own “Failure” on wax cylinder but their ex took it when they broke up and left the yappy dog instead. After a few months, they couldn’t go into any record store in L.A. without hearing a badly tattooed clerk at Amoeba or CD Trader chatting how when he was going through a rough patch, listening to “Sensitive Love Songs” saved his life. They even tried telling some of them, no, this was all a joke they’d made up to mess with jerks, but no one believed them. They were now as real as Santa Claus or God.

Eventually an actual band started touring under that name, as The Cognitive Dissidents, and built a career atop of that lie. They never got sustained radio play or a contract with one of the bigger labels, but it turned into a solid living for years. They weren’t friends of Julia or Ethan’s, just a band who’d heard the story third-hand and realized they could cash-in on someone else’s myth. Neither Julie nor Ethan ever saw one dime of it, but then again, that’s the music biz, isn’t it?

LIGHTNING: Lightning Nan Ressue

Word Count 468
Nan Ressue
“Come On! Come on! Hurry Up! They are going to be out and we won’t be ready. It’s been dark for a couple hours.”
“I’M really not sure I want to. They’re alive aren’t they? What’s going to happen after they been in the jar for a couple days? They are all going to be dead, aren’t they?”
“Oh knock it off. You’re such a chicken heart. There’s a million of them and we’re only trapping a few just to watch their lights flash.”
Well, O.K. but I’m only trapping three, said the little sister.
Her brother handed her a glass mason jar with one of those screw on lids.
“These are perfect traps Alice. They’re not heavy, have slippery sides so they don’t crawl out, and made of clear glass so we can see them flash their lights.” Come on Sis. Let’s start out in the back yard by those trees beside the garage.”
“OOOO! Look Buddy! How beautiful they are! Just like diamonds on a black velvet sky, winking on and off’” dreamed Alice.
Well, that’s pretty romantic. I’m taking mine to school to dissect for a science experiment.”
Do you think we should creep up [on them or run at them full speed?”
“You can creep. I’m running and off he went on a tear, holding his jar high with the opening facing the wind.
Alice took off her shoes, feeling the new soft grass between her bare toes, moving slowly toward a group of lights clustered in the side yard. She gently extended her arm toward them and moved the jar in a gentle arc.

“Perfect,” she praised herself. One, two, three, flashing their lights through the glass in the darkness…
Buddy, are you hurt?” whispered his little sister.
No” I’m OK but drat! I had a jar full before I tripped over the cat and smashed my jar.”
”Well’, as Grampa says, “Haste makes waste and you sure wasted yours.”
“Thanks a lot for all that sympathy. There’s a lot more and this time the cat goes in the house.”

Meanwhile, just five minutes previous, there was conference underway.
“Have any of you been thinking about how we could get out of here? asked the alpha fly Artie from the bottom of the glass jar. I sure can’t do any flashing under a pile of flies that just zoomed in here with no thought of where they were going.
“Has anybody got any bright ideas for escape? Silence…..Nobody?”
“OK let’s apply logic. We can’t fly out since the jar lid is screwed on. We can’t crawl out because the sides of the jar are slippery. Our only hope is for a trip, smash, and dump”
“Get ready boys cause here comes the cat. CRASH!
“See you around everybody. Better hit the off switch for a few minutes.”

LIGHTNING: Free Spirit By Sally Madison

Words: 490

Free Spirit
By Sally Madison

Linda braced herself as she reached for the handle of the shop’s glass door. ‘What was she going to tell her mother?’ she thought. ‘No, I don’t have to tell her, I just won’t show her, if I place it right.’

The smell escaping from the door hit her like a brick before she even took a step in. Motor oil, sweat, formaldehyde and a strange sweet smell blended, assaulting her innocent nose. As she looked around, she noticed there were no wall coverings that she had seen before. Every available space was covered, like a child’s room exalting his obsession, be it football or cowboys. Some were pretty; some were terrifying, black and whites, colors. It was an art class room gone wild. Big albums on dirty tables, next to filthy chairs and an operating table were the only furnishings.

“YEAH, WHAT DO YOU WANT?” was heard from a door leading to the back of the shop. A big burly giant came in, like he was looking for a fight. His dark greasy hair, so long it matted with his long beard, which matted with the hair on his shoulders and chest that stuck out from under his multi-stained undershirt with yellow armpits.

Linda’s resolve nearly melted, as she was taken aback, but then she smiled weakly, as she thought, ‘this is a personified Brutus of the Popeye cartoon series’.

“Sorry, little lady, you were not who I was expecting,” Brutus apologized. “What can I do for you?” His eyes looked her up and down from her painted red toe nails in jeweled flip-flops, to her long sun tanned legs, red short-shorts, glitter red halter top and her sun-bleached pony tail. Looking like the Cheshire cat of Alice in Wonderland, his mind was racing to what he would like to do with her.

“I’ve decided to do this,” she resounded, regaining her composure.

“Do you know what you want? Or you can look around,” replied Brutus.

“I had an idea, but now I’m not so sure.”

“I have a sketch pad, if you want to give me an idea.”

Linda took the book and started to sketch. “I’d like it in a script, but not too curly, with more of a racing car feel to it.” He took the book and drew an amazing image of what she wanted. “That’s it!” she exclaimed, “but I need it where I can hide it from my mother, maybe here,” as she pointed to her left shoulder blade.

An hour or so later, Brutus handed her a mirror and held another mirror over the inflamed shoulder. Brutus asked, “What’s your name anyway?”

“Linda” was the response, as she stood.”

“Oh,” said Brutus, “I get it, the ‘L’ is for Linda.

Heading for the door, Linda turned her head, “No, ‘L’ is for Lightning” she responded. As she pick up her motorcycle helmet, gave Brutus a playful wink and exited the shop.

LIGHTNING: Ridley Street Lights By: Sam McManus

Word Count 500
Ridley Street Lights
By: Sam McManus
They was brilliant even when they wasn’t, ‘cause they glory wudn’t linked to they freedom. Me and Ricardo would chase them down at twilight, when the shadows made them just visible enough to the naked eye, but not so bright they would try to hide. See, there was this patch of grass down Ridley Street, never got mowed. It was all bristly like one of them brushes that could never keep my hair from getting nappy. Ricardo’s mom said we was stupid for going down Ridley, ‘cause that’s where the hoes was at, and we didn’t wanna confuse them with no “fresh meat.”
We had no idea what a hoe was, and to me fresh meat meant we would eat that night. Ricardo’s mom would always shake her head at me when I tried to explain that.
“Y’all fittin’ ta get a rude awakenin’” she would say, slapping Ricardo upside the head and going back to her crack pipe. If that woman didn’t have that crack pipe in her hand I woudn’t a recognized her. But what she said ain’t matter when we was little kids, and it still ain’t matter when we was half growed up.
Ridley was five blocks down, but on summer nights we would haul ass down there, me and Ricardo, with the mayonnaise jar in hand. Sometimes it was his mayonnaise jar, and sometimes it was mine, but it didn’t matter. We was in it together. Wudn’t no mayonnaise in it no way. It was always clean like gram’s fake teeth in her water glass at night. We poked holes in the top ‘cause of what happened that first time when we didn’t.
When we got to Ridley we knew we was there ‘cause of those hoes Ricardo’s mom always warned us about. They was pretty brilliant theyselves, in my opinion, wearin’ all them fancy diamonds, them flash colors, and they hair was all puffy like I could lose myself in it. Ricardo liked “them miles of legs” that was always on display. He was all about them legs, for whatever reason. But they didn’t make me think of no fresh meat, not once. So I cussed out Ricardo’s mom for puttin’ the idea in my head in the first place. Every single time.
“Y’all young boys want to become men?” one of them asked that one time. She had smoky eyes and a deep voice like Darth Vader. I was not interested, even if my sole purpose in life was to become a man. For some reason I felt like following her wudn’t gonna accomplish that. We walked away, but Ricardo kept staring at her legs. Damn idiot.
Halfway down the block there was the patch of grass between these two houses, like the woods was coming up to reclaim the neighborhood. We took the top off the mayonnaise jar before we even saw them lightning bugs, but we knew they was there. They was waitin’ for us’ to give them they rude awakenin’.

LIGHTNING: Lake of Fire By Mike Cecconi

Word Count 500
Lake of Fire
By Mike Cecconi

If God’s like a genie in a lamp but you only get one wish, I certainly wasted mine early. It felt necessary at the time, but I was just a child, I didn’t know the life I’d have laid out for me, the things I would later need or need undone. I would’ve prevented my dad’s fatal heart attack, of course, I would’ve taken away my brother’s seizures, I would’ve overturned a certain election, I would’ve at least paid my student loans to make the phone calls stop. I was just a child, though, and if I’d thought about it at all, I would’ve assumed I was going to get at least three mulligans in this life, not only the one. But if I had just the one, I used it then.

My dad was a Boy Scout up until just before Eagle, until he discovered women and how much better they are to hold than badges. I was a Boy Scout for three or four months until I quit on the way back home from our first camping trip, in the middle of the car ride, I was done. I don’t hate the outdoors, I grew up scrabbling on the South Side hills looking for quartz, I’m a fan of a light hike, but at the end of the day, I like to sleep in a bed and poop in a toilet too goddamn much.

I don’t remember whose idea it was to take a bunch first-years on a three-night jaunt into the Adirondacks in the middle of July, in the middle of blackfly season, with the humidity around 135%, with no air in the air to breathe, just stickiness and biting things, with a fifteen-mile trek through a swamp to somewhere called Dexter Lake included but it won’t go down as one of their better ideas.

My dad was an assistant scoutmaster and damn if he didn’t basically carry me back to the main campsite from Dexter Lake, the last quarter of the way. Lying there in the tent after returning, a third of my body covered in welts, my legs burning with exhaustion, I prayed to God to get me out of two more nights of it. About an hour after that, the sky opened to thunder, lightning and torrential rain, they pulled up stakes as I laid there too tired to even move out of the rain. A few hours after that, I was quitting in the car as we drove home.

I liked tying knots and walking old ladies across the street but the rest of it, I guess I burned up my only get-out-of-jail free card to escape. I’m sorry to all the people I could have saved if I’d known I only got the one but damnation. Hell is the Adirondacks in blackfly season and thank God for the lightning, I escaped from hell that night. Who knows if someday I’m going back there but that one blessed night, my prayers were answered.