in flight, chapter 1



Airport waiting area



“Where you headed?” he asked her.

Really? That’s the best opener he could come up with? Where you headed? Last I checked this plane was headed to Atlanta.

“Atlanta,” she told him and nothing more.

He laughed a bit and catching her tone, tried to recover with a boyish smile. “Yeah, well, I get that, but you could be catching another flight.”

“No. Staying in Atlanta,” she replied. She picked up the inflight magazine and went to the crossword puzzle, the easy one. She could sometimes finish the easy one without cheating, although she wasn’t opposed to cheating. She thought doing the puzzle made her look smart and occupied.

“Me too,” he said. “Business or pleasure?”

“Business,” she replied. Please, not now. She wasn’t quite ready to play the game.

He heard the tone again and opted out. “Well, hope you have a pleasant stay,” he said and pulled his business man’s back pack from under the seat, the fancy black leather kind, the kind older men buy to look like the younger men. She heard and felt him fumbling for something that never appeared.

She didn’t have to be so rude, but the morning had been so crazy, rushed, Mark flying out of the house ahead of her, she couldn’t find her hairspray, a second pair of glasses. He could have easily dropped her off at the airport but she refused and called for a cab.

She turned in her seat. “Thanks,” she said to the man, finally looking him in the eye and feeling something shift. Or maybe it was just the crossword puzzle sliding off her lap.




to be continued


photo credit:


to your health




I have not had a drink since 1990 or 1991, I can’t remember. I can look it up but don’t care to at this time. Considering what a drinking world we live it, not to mention that everyone I know drinks, it’s really quite remarkable. I haven’t had a drink in so long that I almost don’t remember what drinking feels like, perhaps a slippery slope right there, but I also don’t harbor any curiosity about drinking nor am I jealous of those who can. I did, however, recently tell someone that if I were to take a drink I would like to try bourbon, which I never drank, but just so I could feel that intense alcoholic burn down my throat. I’m not going to drink, family readers, nor romanticize drinking, but something about that burn is speaking to me. Is it a metaphor, a warning, a sign, a sadness?

I have an injured friend, two seriously ill friends, a friend recovering from surgery and one contemplating surgery. I love you all and I drink to your health.


photo credit:






YES!  DISASTER!  There was/is a bug in my site and I’m in the process of cleaning up. You may or may not see a compromised blog but hopefully all will be straightened out by this evening. Please bear with me, my lovely readers.


poetry and erotica and risk




The first entry that I made on this blog is a poem I wrote several years ago–What’s Love Got to Do With It?–a poem I wrote long before I started working on The near Transformation of Claire.  This poem found its way into Claire’s story, and in its broadest interpretation, the poem is about frustration, a place I frequented for a variety of reasons. But the poem or the reasons for my frustration are not the subject of this post: risk is the subject—why did I write Claire, why did I write a story that could be potentially damaging, what would my family think, why jeopardize my reputation, why erotic fiction? Well, for one, I thought my story was smart and relevant, an idea that I just couldn’t shake, a rebuttal almost to the fifty shades of whatever that was. My own little blockbuster, the sleeper story that was going to shorten the distance to my Puerto Rico condo. But I also came to believe that risk was my way out of frustration–my artistic, professional and personal frustration. I took the risk plunge to rid myself of discontent—I didn’t think there was any other way to alleviate my condition. I took the risk plunge knowing that I could come out on the other side a healthier and happier woman. Was risk the right way to go? It’s too early to say, my journey continues to unfold, but strength has shown up as a side-effect, and it is powering me through my choices.

The following excerpt is from The near Transformation of Claire, and again, the poem is part of the story.  When I wrote the poem I suspect it was at that same time that risk first revealed itself in my mind, both as an option and an adventure.


What’s Love Got to Do With It?


She had an affair not for love nor lust

nor obsession with her fading self.


Standing on the edge of old

she wanted to be startled at every turn.


Sixty—it was all about turning 60, right? Claire obviously understood that the poem spoke to sex and loneliness and vanity, but age was right up there on the list as well, right? Birthdays had not been important for some time, age an arbitrary number, a number not as important as the one on the scale. But 60 was different, a 20-year window in which to travel, to play, to shed the confines of a suburban lifestyle, to bloom perhaps one more time—60 was the edge of old. But regardless of inspiration or one’s interpretation, Claire knew that the poem was more than grappling with age and sexual frustration. Within her voice was a dreamlike suggestion, a whisper that Claire first mistook for a sigh—you deserve to be happy. Deserve was not a word Claire typically applied to herself, and although she tried to imagine herself happy, she really had no idea what it looked like. That’s disturbing, she thought.


photo credit and note: I have used this image several times and do not know its origin. I would love to acknowledge the artist and welcome any insight as to the source.



the risky writer




A lovely lady recently asked me about taking the risk in writing, how do you take the plunge, should I take the plunge, where does the impetus come from? And I went on and on about assessing the risk, the rewards, imagining the worst case scenario, blah, blah, blah, when all I wanted to say was, “Fuck risk, do it.” That’s my advice on risk. Below is the experience and advice from someone far more knowledgeable and far more eloquent.

From the article, The Risk-Taking Writer is the Successful Writer, by Susan Tepper

“I once began a story called Deer. It was about two young kids, a boy and girl, under driving age, who were driving recklessly in the boy’s father’s convertible. They were searching for deer along a winding reservoir road. It was something bored kids might do. This story is set during the Vietnam war years, a risky time in history. And because I write spontaneously, never plotting my work, I was typing along when suddenly a line shot out across the page. A line of dialogue that really threw me. I sat back in my chair thinking: I can’t possibly keep those words in, they’re too disgusting. Then I left them in the story. Because they were the character’s words, not mine. I was deep into these characters and this risky dialogue just came flying out.

The result of taking that risk speaks volumes for risk. The story was published in a top tier literary magazine. Nominated for the Pushcart Prize and for National Public Radio Selected Shorts series. It went on to be performed as a theatre piece at Inter/Act Theatre in Philadelphia. It has been anthologized several times. And it ultimately became the title story of my first collection Deer & Other Stories.

If I had chickened-out and pulled that line of dialogue, the story would have taken a different turn. By keeping it in, the story became violent in a way that mirrored the climate of our country during the Vietnam era. It quite literally broke the story loose.”


read the entire article at the review review

a quick note to lulu




Clarie to Lucy: (subject) the night

Hello sweet Lucy, It was wonderful to talk to you the other day. Seriously – perfect timing, perfect lift to my day, thank you for calling–you’re so good at that. I want you to know I’m feeling terrific. It’s a beautiful Virginia summer night, and you know I don’t like summer, but I do like summer when the sun goes down. Typical Claire. I love, love, to sit on the deck late at night and that’s where I am. The Deck After Dark I will call it, my own little after-hours-club-of-one. I can be the dominatrix or the doe. I love a good fantasy. It’s nice to pretend, good to pretend, I believe. I’m pretending I’m having a cigarette right now. I wore my nightgown to the club, thin, gauzy, perfect summer sexy.  And yes, I’m high and there’s a half moon and a few stars and there should be a refection on the creek in an hour so I’ll entertain myself until then. There are kids down at the marina and they want to come into the club but I don’t think I’ll let them. They’re too young and not so versed in after hours. Goodnight, darling. Kisses to all. xxx C


photo credit:


love and hate


The Cathedral of San Juan Batista is the second oldest building in San Juan.  The Roman Catholic church also contains the remains of famous explorer Ponce de Léon.  (Robert K. Hamilton/Baltimore Sun)


There has been a lot of discussion among my peers lately about when to retire and where to retire to. We are indeed the fortunate in that we’re in a position to imagine a where. I have known for a long time that I want to retire in an urban setting, in fact, it’s embarrassing that I’ve talked about it for so long but have made no moves in that direction. I love Old San Juan and would love to retire there, and I will say right up front that I have only stayed in Old San Juan twice, both visits totaling only a week. But I fell in love immediately. And I hear all the cautions of my friends loud and clear and I understand the need to investigate further, but for now, the heart wants what the heart wants.

Old San Juan is easy to get to, no passport required, and currency is the U.S. dollar. Everyone speaks English. It is gritty with grace, poor but not angry or dirty. On my last visit, I struggled to find a cigarette butt on either the sidewalk or the street. The vacant houses boasted painted and tidy facades, for sale signs were not covered with graffiti, in fact, I saw little to no graffiti at all. The population appears to be older, sedate, with not a lot of children nor restless twenty year olds. It is beautiful—beautiful architecture, flora, food, people, music. San Juan is on an island that touches both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, for cryin’ out loud. It is a historic walled city, the national park is magnificent, and it feels very romantic and very European.

And so, the hate part of my subject and title, and pardon me while I editorialize. I don’t like to do that but figured, hey, I’m the editor, it’s perfectly okay on occasion. While I do not want to pull a Kim Basinger and threaten to leave the country over political issues (as if anyone would care), I find myself disenchanted with America right now and Puerto Rico is an appealing compromise. I hate all the hate. I hate guns. I applaud the discussions over flags and race, but we cannot legislate hate. We can legislate guns, but short of a massacre on Capital Hill (God forbid), it certainly won’t happen in my lifetime. The price of freedom seems to be our children and innocent others. I’m on the edge of old and wouldn’t mind distancing myself a bit from the obsessive posturing and burying my head in the sand—in Puerto Rico—a U.S. territory—that feels like Europe.


photo credit: Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, the second oldest cathedral in the Americas


for my father



Alexander Naruta, Jr.


My father was my hero—for no heroic reason other than his fine character. He was a man cognizant of and humbled by his beginnings, yet propelled by possibility and a genuinely enthusiastic approach to life. He was a bleeding heart and a robust champion for the cause. He was a veteran, a highly regarded manpower specialist for the Department of Labor, and a public servant, serving on the local board of education and town council, both as councilman and deputy mayor. But he was a farmer at heart, and worked our 20 acres as if it were something grand—and I suppose to him it was. He planted and maintained a large vegetable garden, he grew, baled and sold hay, and sometime in the 60’s, he started raising Black Angus steer, 8 or 10 bulls a season, which he would grain feed, slaughter and sell. It was quite an undertaking, but it seemed to me both then and now, that he could pretty much take on anything. He was small and handsome, a compassionate and charismatic, mighty, little Russian.

He was an alcoholic, along with his father, his brother, one sister, and myself. When my grandfather would visit, the vodka bottle and two shot glasses were placed on the kitchen table, and my father and his father would polish off half a bottle, argue in Russian, make up, drink and argue some more. My father’s preferred liquor was scotch, however, and a gallon bottle was kept under the kitchen sink, easy to get to and as commonplace as dish detergent. He took a hit on his way to catch the bus every morning, and some over ice on his way to the garden every evening. But my father was not a miserable or combative drunk, and other than the squabbles with my grandfather, he was a happy man. If pain lived behind the alcohol he never showed it to me. We never talked about our shared demons, about our independent recoveries, we never really talked about feelings at all—it was a time when you just didn’t do such things—but our connection of blood, love, and liquor, ran very, very deep.

My father loved people and purpose. He loved poker, football, cigars, antique shops, but he especially loved Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I have a FDR souvenir on my bookshelf that my father picked up somewhere—a sweet, little, black statue of the president’s beloved dog, Fala. Many years after my father passed away, I wrote a story for a creative writing class where the Fala statue saves a woman from a physically abusive husband by tormenting and eventually killing the husband in a very eerie, evil puppet kind of way. I must say that I am not and never have been in an abusive relationship, and I do not think that Fala, the loving embodiment of my honorable father, is sitting on my bookshelf to save me from harm, real or imagined. But I do believe that my father’s memory, his deep and lasting spirit, is there to champion and inspire me. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I love you.


Photo: I sadly can’t tell you anything about this photo. I don’t know where or when it was taken, and I have no idea what my father was commissioner of. My guess is that it had to do with one of his civic commitments, of which there were many.



genesis by billy collins






It was late, of course,

just the two of us still at the table

working on a second bottle of wine


when you speculated that maybe Eve came first

and Adam began as a rib

that leaped out of her side one paradisal afternoon.


Maybe, I remember saying,

because much was possible back then,

and I mentioned the talking snake

and the giraffes sticking their necks out of the ark,

their noses up in the pouring Old Testament rain.


I like a man with a flexible mind, you said then,

lifting your candlelit glass to me

and I raised mine to you and began to wonder

what life would be like as one of your ribs–

to be with you all the time,

riding under your blouse and skin

caged under the soft weight of your breasts,


your favorite rib, I am assuming,

if you ever bothered to stop and count them


which is just what I did later that night

after you had fallen asleep

and we were fitted tightly back to front,

your long legs against the length of mine,

my fingers doing the crazy numbering game that comes of love. – billy collins



photo credit: art by meredith o’neal

thanks for asking




Yes, still cigarette free. Some days are better than others, 5 p.m.ish seems to be the hardest time, when I make that happy hour pot of coffee. But I like using the blog as a stop-smoking tool, along with the words of Pema Chodron, posted 5/27:

“If we’re committed to comfort at any cost, as soon as we come up against the least edge of pain, we’re going to run; we’ll never know what’s beyond that particular barrier or wall or fearful thing.”

And there are a ton of really cool smoking photos out there that I’m dying to use.


photo credit: