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Short Stories

The Wishing Fountain

I’ve been taking a writing course for the past couple of months. My last assignment was a fun piece of writing peppered with a touch of magical realism. I thought I’d share it for this week’s blog. I think​ every writer has to create his/her own version of a mysterious encounter with a stranger. It’s called, “The Wishing Fountain.” Hope you enjoy it!


At the heart of California’s La Purisma Mission, there is a large stone wishing fountain tucked under the shade of the old trees watching over it. My love for this place goes far back into my childhood days.


Here, I am surrounded by the past, or at least, a re-creation of the past. Making my way to the fountain, I’ve passed adobe buildings, farm animals, and plants showcasing the vegetation of the 1800s.


I have my penny in hand ready to toss it into the Wishing Fountain. My problem? How can I pick just one wish? There is so much wrong with my life. I’ve been standing here for half an hour with my penny trying to decide what wish might change my luck.


“Are you having a tough time making your wish? Too many choices?” A voice calls out to me. I turn to see a beautiful woman standing by my side, smiling at me. I can’t help but laugh.


“Yeah, you could say that!” I answer. The laughter feels good. I feel better laughing at myself rather than sulking in my dark mood.


The woman captures my attention. She’s around my age and size, but I can tell she’s not from around here. She’s not a small town girl like me. Her colorful dress and high heel shoes are not practical. The designer hat seated with a fashionable tilt on her head has not been seen in our little Lompoc before. To top it off, she’s relishing her Pineapple Sundae as if each bite is to die for. I’m mesmerized. How can she eat that and stay small?


“I used to have the same problem making wishes,” the mystery woman shares before taking in another spoonful of ice cream. “Can I show you something? I think it might help.”


“Sure,” I say half listening, half dreaming of finishing off her Pineapple Sundae.


“This Wishing Fountain is filled with dreams and desires. Stare at it for a moment. Tell me what you see,” her voice cradles my ear and in an enchanted-like state I find myself watching the water, becoming the water.


I see Marianne, the woman I am most jealous of, and I feel the envy swell up inside me. She spins about the dance floor with golden hair cascading down her back. How many times have I seen her dance? She moves in ways my body can’t and makes it look easy. She attracts men like honey. Twenty years younger than me, she has the glow of youth. There are no wrinkles on her face. In her bright blue eyes, I see hope staring back at me. Her smile speaks of a carefree life. Her clothes tell me money is no object.


“What is this?” I break free from the trance and turn away from the fountain. I face the mystery woman again.


“Who are you? Why did you show this to me?” I ask. My hands have a slight tremble. I’m not sure if it’s from fear or lingering jealousy.


“I’ll tell you who I am later. As for why, well, it’s because you’re unhappy, love,” she answers and carefully crafts a scoop of ice cream that includes a touch of whip cream and pineapple.


“How do you know I’m unhappy?” I hear the anger in my voice echo off the trees.


“Because you can see me. Let me cut to the chase. This wish of yours is not for you. It won’t make you happy. If you give me that penny, then I will show you what you should wish for,” after making her bargain she extends her hand towards me with her palm open.


It’s only a penny I reason. What can it hurt? And yet, as I place the penny into her hand, it feels like I’m offering her something more, my trust. Is that wise?


“Look again,” she tells me.


This time the minute I look into the water I am emerged in its depths. I’m not looking at it, but living it. Or rather, it is living my life. In a flash flood of memories I feel the happy moments and sad ones that have inhabited my years. The places I’ve lived, jobs I’ve worked and friends that have come and gone. Trying times with my boys, along with the sweetest moments of being a mom.

 

As I come closer to the present, the images slow down and the feelings intensify. I watch myself struggling to learn how to dance. Seeing others catch on quicker. My face growing older in the mirror, one wrinkle here, another there. My husband leaving me for a younger woman. My hard work at the Junkyard filled with dirt, grease, and grumpy men. My early mornings and late nights spent at my computer writing my stories. Wondering if anyone will bother to read them.


“Is this some kind of sick joke?” I turn to the stranger. I feel the heat on my cheeks and the tears threatening to wet my face.


“Hmm, well, let me see,” she takes another spoonful of ice cream and touches the water lightly with her finger tips, like an artist’s brush stroke.


The story of my life is placed next to the beautiful dancing girl. There we are side by side films sharing the watery stage. The young beauty with her army of gorgeous men adoring her, while I struggle away working at the Junkyard.


“Look at that! I see you writing in your journal when your boss isn’t watching,” the mystery woman laughs. “You love to write, huh?


“Yeah, it’s true. I can’t help myself,” I answer. I laugh a little. It is funny how I try to sneak in bits of writing when no one’s watching.


“Tell me, which of these women would make a better storyteller?” I watch the two women again, but this time I see everything differently. The beautiful girl knows nothing of challenge, at least not yet. While that poor frazzled wreck I call myself has been to hell and back many times.


I turn towards the mystery woman to give my answer, but I lose my words. Her face has changed. I’m staring at myself.


“What are you?” I ask.


“This is me,” she says as she points her index finger towards my direction. Then after a short pause adds, “This is you,” as she points towards herself.


“You can see through the disguise, because you’re seeing clearly now. Who is the better storyteller?” she asks again.


“Me,” I answer.


“Why?”


“Because my life is so screwed up,” I’m about to continue on when she holds up her hand to quiet me.


“You’ve learned from making a lot of mistakes,” she replies.


“Yeah, that too,” I laugh.


She takes my hand, places the penny in my palm, and gently curves my fingers around it.


“Let someone else waste their time on wishes. Keeping living your own life, learning and sharing your stories. Real life is what connects us to one another. We all struggle. And do me a favor, finish this Pineapple Sundae. It’s your favorite. I can’t remember the last time you had one.”


I wander away from the Wishing Fountain, and the mystery woman disappears back into the nowhere she calls home. I enjoy my Pineapple Sundae, adjust my hat to keep the sun out of my eyes, and think about my next story.

The Blanket Maker's Granddaughter

February 14, 2019

The only blankets I knew as a little girl were handmade by my grandmother. She lived far away in Hawaii, but she made blankets for us. Not only for us, but for all her children, and her children’s children, and even in later years for my boys-her great grandsons.


The blankets were a beast to make. My mother recalls helping her mom in the evenings when she was young. Together, they would cut tiny strips of used clothing that the family had outgrown. Her mother would then sew these tiny fragments together to create a blanket like no other.


The blankets were larger than what you find in a department store, and when you cocooned yourself inside the warmth was amazing.


I remember studying her blankets many times when I was sick with a flu or stomach bug that kept me in bed. Wrapped up in a bundle of colors and unable to move much, I memorized the printed fabric.


I imagined the shirts or skirts that might donate such crazy prints with huge flowers, bright orange hues, and miniature cars. My grandmother lived in Hawaii where Aloha shirts are famous. I wondered. What the hell kind of shirts did my grandfather wear? The thought would cheer me up even with a high fever.


I tried to recreate one of her blankets when I was in my early twenties. It was painstakingly hard. I admit I abandoned it halfway done.


Trying to find the energy to cut and sew tiny pieces of fabric together after working, cleaning house, and taking care of my boys seemed like a cruel way to end the day. Buying a blanket was cheaper, faster, and saved my sanity. Why, oh why, did my grandmother do this?


At first, the blankets started out of utility. They were poor. I mean they were really poor. My grandparents lived on a Sugar Cane Plantation, my grandmother would pull roots to make soup, and the family had to use an outhouse. There would have been no extra money for blankets.


But later, when my grandfather became a mechanic she could have afforded to buy blankets. Why did she go on to make dozens more?

It wasn’t until I started writing my first novel that I stumbled upon a possible answer.


I think it was her one extravagance. In a world filled with dirty dishes, laundry that continually piles up, and meals that are cooked, eaten, and need to be cooked again-the blankets remained finished. Not only finished, but beautiful and one-of-a-kind. Something only she could make.


As she ran her hand along the bits of sewn cloth, perhaps she could see the lifetime of her family woven together by her own hand. 


When I write I gather pieces of myself and tuck them into the narrative. The fiction is peppered with a memory of my mother here, my sons there, and friends I’ve met along the way. Each fragment twisted to be unrecognizable to others, but obvious to my own eye whenever I reread my work.

 

My grandmother gave me more than her blankets. She handed down a need to create and remember.


In that way, even though I can’t sew worth a damn, I am a Blanket Maker’s Granddaughter. Thank you, Grandma.


This blog post is dedicated to my mother and grandmother. Both women are beyond amazing. My grandmother has already passed, but I know in my heart she keeps track of all of us.