In the next few months, we are sharing writing that happened during AWA’s marathon weekend of writing workshops, Write Around the World. This is one way we are celebrating the AWA-certified workshop leaders & writers who joined together to raise money in support of AWA. Thank you to those who shared their voices in each workshop and especially to those who have offered their words to be shared in this space. If you’re inspired by our work and would like to be part of the fundraiser, please donate!
Writing from Kathleen Olesky’s Workshop in Massachusetts:
Fish and Chips
From the kitchen table,
she watches her mother’s back,
stooped over the frying pan
Crisco sizzles and sputters
as it meets
sliced potatoes for chips,
fish in batter.
They eat Friday supper
to the accusing tick of the clock
He’ll be home very late.
They try to ignore
what they know she’s in for –
My parents bought a secondhand kitchen set. The table was gray faux marble Formica with a yellow trim and matching yellow vinyl chairs with gray metal legs. It was typical 50’s kitchen décor but we were now into the 60’s. My family was always a decade behind in their major purchases, witness the ’52 Chevy in the driveway. But the most mortifying aspect of this recent purchase was not that it was secondhand, or that it was last decade’s style but that my parents had bought it from Ronnie Fox’s parents.
Ronnie Fox was my eighth grade crush. He was as tall and dark and handsome as an eighth grader could be. And he was on the basketball team, so I became a fan at least for that year. But Ronnie Fox didn’t know I existed. He was part of the popular crowd and I was definitely on the fringe. I was only two years in the country trying by best to adapt and fit in to a new culture while dealing with the challenging emotions and physical changes of being thirteen. My parents were no help in either area as they were negotiating their own adjustments and marital issues.
For days after the purchase of the kitchen set, I waited in dread for Ronnie Fox to comment on the transaction. Worst case scenario: Him pointing at me in front of the basketball team and the cheerleaders saying, “She has our ugly old kitchen set. My parents were going to put it out in the trash but her parents offered them money. What a bunch of yokels.” Thankfully that never happened. There was no comment of any kind from Ronnie and he continued to be unaware of my existence.
Last month I attended my 50th high school reunion and lo and behold there was Ronnie Fox. He was still tall and slim but with a slight stoop. The dark hair was replaced by a bald pate fringed with gray. There were some dark hairs among the grizzle of his beard. He now wore glasses and his ears were large and stuck out quite widely, a detail that I didn’t recall from our eighth grade days. I approached him at the bar and introduced myself. We chatted about our current lives. I confessed to the crush and surprisingly, he threw his arms around be and embraced me with a hearty thank you. Emboldened, I relayed the kitchen set episode but he had no recollection or even knowledge of it. Maybe some things are better left unsaid.
The Back Door…
Somehow, as we towed the faded yellow back door across the lake to shore, the rope came untied. The old door floated on strong south winds toward the mouth of the stream. As we tried to retrieve it, the wind took it even further from the small aluminum boat.
We decided to let it go. We knew eventually it would beach itself and rot over time. Perhaps one of the local fishermen would find and recycle it.
Oh, the Island stories it could tell… of happy children running up the back steps into the big house, with joyful shouts of “Dad, Curt caught a fish and needs help taking it off the hook!”, or “Grandma taught me to paint off the back rock, with her watercolors”, the grind of the old ice cream maker as we took turns cranking the homemade ice cream for a fourth of July cookout, the slamming of the screen door as Grandpa Chase got up at 5:30 to go fishing, the sounds of laughter from the living room as the “oldies” played bridge… the sounds of great pines crashing to the ground during hurricanes, the frigid silence of winter, the beauty of the snow…. the sound of bats swooping at dusk, the call of the loons on a lovely, still night, the sounds of the last boat leaving in late fall.
It’s memories reflecting ours, of generations passing through this wonderful place!
Crossing to the Peaceful Wildness
I know you are in there. But I forget.
Alarms beep, phones ring, deadlines close in like the walls of a shrinking room. The swirling winds of distraction suck me in, spin me around and rip me from the calm that you promise.
You are the stillness; the shelter from storms.
And you beckon me to cross over the roaring rapids
To verdant fields, lush green trees, and peaceful wildness.
But the river, what is it, I ask you?
What dangers lurk beneath the surface? How do I survive the frigid waters? And if I stumble and fall, will I sink or swim?
You know all the parts of me – the exiled child, the fierce protectors, the frightened and aging woman who dreads a lonely life.
Can we all make the crossing or will some parts be washed away?
POINTS OF VIEW
Her luggage lined the porch
An end of day greeting
“why” he thought as he came closer
off-handed at first, his unease crept in
“your luggage is on the porch” he called to her
the open door ushered in his tempered tone
“yes” she replied
matter of fact — feeling flat
“you’re leaving?” he asked in fainter voice
“I’m leaving” she said, done deal clear though unspoken
she came through the door
fully dressed for her journey
“a conference?” he queried
faint hope laced with fear
“no you!” she replied
simple swift sever
their eyes met just briefly
silence thundered between them
“but what about me?” said he weakly
“that was my line” said she sadly
the cab rounded the corner