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Introducing Featured Author: RoseMary McDaniel

cprightc2.gif (205 bytes)1998 Rights to all materials remain the property of the author.

About the author:

Fascinated as a child by the fairy tales read by her father, RoseMary Sherwin  McDaniel felt an instinctive tie to her own Irish heritage.  From the age of five, she penned her own stories, but her serious adult efforts were concentrated in Indiana and Michigan historical writing that led to a newspaper column, "Climbing Your Family Tree."  Now she is discovering the joys of story telling with her own short stories.  Her latest stories and poems now appear in Fantasy Press.

You may contact her at retrospectpress@hotmail.com

Visit her other sites on the Web: Retrospect Press & Exploring Your Past Lives

Link to: Michiana History


August Heat - a short story by RoseMary McDaniel


Once upon a time, summer lasted forever.   By August, the pavement sweltered; the only relief was at the air-cooled theaters, and everybody survived the summer evenings on the front porch.  Everybody watched everybody else sweat, and nobody could do much about it.  When it finally cooled down, we'd all troop into the living room to watch black and white T.V.

When Gladys, my mother's cousin once removed, died in August of 1963, we used the insurance money she'd left to my mother to buy our first color T.V. She'd left it to my mother so her daughter, the Cowgirl, couldn't get her hands on it. Everybody called her half-baked daughter "the Cowgirl" mostly because she dressed in a pathetic paraody of a country western singer complete with suede boots and felt hat that she'd picked up from some second-hand store. She also changed her name weekly using some incomprehensible combination like Dale Autrell, instead of her real name Patsy. She probably realized that the Cline woman had already exploited that name to the hilt. Today, she would have been one of the band of pitiful homeless woman who drift from town to town.   Back then, she was just considered a "chippy" - whatever translation that might have in today's more politically correct society.

Gladys worked hard all her life doing laundry at the downtown hotel, and toward the end, my mother and our family were the only ones who ever took her anywhere or brought her over to the house for a meal.  It was worse in August, when the heat in that laundry room was over a hundred degrees, and Gladys said she would sweat more than that any of the horses that she and my mother shared memories of, from their childhood spend in the country.

Anyway, when I got older, I felt kind of bad that we hadn't used the money for a gravestone instead, since only grass marked the spot where they'd planted Gladys. Patsy was never inclined to dwell on such mundane things as a memorial for dear old Mum, whom she'd probably long since scuttled from her limited memory.  But heck, we sure enjoyed having technicolor right in our own living room.  It added a whole dimension to the T.V. watching process.  You'd really notice what color things were, after seeing then so long in black and shades of gray.  It was almost too bad once you got used to it, though.  It became the mundane, the everyday, and you stopped appreciating the new dimension it added to your life.

Gladys and my mother always said that some people never knew how good they had it: running water, indoor toilets, and cars instead of horse and buggies.   They never had to suffer through the "good old days" when modern conveniences didn't exist or were priced out of the reach of common folk.  Sometimes, I like to eat some food I like salted without salt, and I imagine that's how it is to do without something.  Wacky, maybe, but maybe you see the connection.

Sometimes, I'd speculate what Gladys had supposed my mother would do with the money anyway. I'd bet a color T.V. wasn't on her list, but getting nine hundred dollars all at once was the biggest windfall our little nuclear family had ever experienced, and a color T.V. was the first thing we thought about. I wasn't paying good enough attention to figure out who or what paid for the funeral; we certainly didn't, and I suppose no government type had an inkling that the policy had existed, after all, in the age before computers tracked our every move.

Someday maybe I'll look up the old girl's last resting place and see if the Cowgirl ever did the right thing and erected a memorial to the person who brought her into her miserable existence.  I doubt if she did.   Probably some day when I can't stand the guilt anymore, I'll buy one myself.    I think I'll wait till August, so that when the guy sweats over installing the stone, it'll be someone sweating because of Gladys.  I think she'd have liked that.


Go Home Again - a poem by RoseMary McDaniel


"I want to go home," my mother said,

Though she was there, and in her bed.

"Where's Dad and Mother, and Fred and Sue?

"Where have they gone - and who are You?"

I understood her plaintive plea,

and knew somehow just what she meant.

No matter where she found herself to be,

It wasn't the place sane people went.

September Retrospect - a short story by RoseMary McDaniel


A View from the 50’s

I want to wake up one mid-September morning and bing – it’s 1953; I’m not quite 12 years old; and all my major mistakes lie ahead of me. But there must be one caveat: at those times when a decision or action is crucial to the outcome of my future life, I want a crystal clear vision of what the results of that decision or action have become in my life today.

Too much to ask for, right? Who’s to say that the decision to not eat carrots on my thirteenth birthday or to take business math instead of algebra in the 10th grade affected my future one way or the other? On the other hand, some choices and their outcomes are obvious. Like deciding to never go out with Person A or marrying Person B. That’s a no-brainer.

But if I could have? – Would it have been different? What kind of thoughtful decisions does a twelve-year-old make that once made, cause a ripple in the tides of time that inevitably lead to happiness or despair? At that age, everything looms as an impending tragedy or triumph. And maybe, it really is. Maybe that’s the point that Life is trying to make to us. Maybe there is nothing, absolutely nothing that we do or choose that does not unalterably affect what our life is to become. Or, conversely, maybe there is not absolutely anything that we can do about it. A kind of post-teenage amnesia is perhaps Nature’s kindest gift. Although some of us agonized over the smallest choice, others seemed to drift from event to event with little concern or heed for the consequences. And a decision, once made, is rarely recalled as the defining moment that set us on the path to success or failure.

In our teens, we simply don’t have the experience to make the choices wisely, without guidance from someone or something outside of ourselves. And if that someone or something isn’t available, then we just muddle through. Life goes on.

In our twenties, there is the vague fear that we’re missing out on something, that we haven’t set our courses right; that we haven’t planned ahead; or that we haven’t had any fun. It all depends on our level of reasoning at that point. Some are dead set on the right career, while others don’t seem to care one way or another what tomorrow brings. But somewhere, way back in our reptilian brains, we’re thinking about it.

Ah, the thirties: years of striving, succeeding, failing. If we haven’t connected in our twenties with reality due to delayed adolescent or outright denial, Life usually finds a way of bringing it to our attention during this decade. The bittersweet realization that you have the freedom to stand on your own two feet and that you must stand on your own two feet can be exhilarating and enormously scary at the same time. Yet, the prevailing thought is that one is young with a lifetime of choices ahead. Surely we can change what we put in motion now, if we later change our minds.

The forties – once thought of as the time of maximum payback for those years of service to a loyal employer – now viewed as the doorway to a downward spiral. Suddenly, you aren’t one of them anymore: the young lions, surging ahead to greater achievements and satisfactions. The line goes past your door, instead of stopping out front. You develop those worry wrinkles that cream doesn’t help. You wonder whether you’re going to be better off in the future, or not.

The fifties – are you still around? The surprising thing is not that you’ve been downsized or downgraded by now, but that you might still be hanging around the edges of the still-gainfully-employed. A job – you say – that’s easy to get – the unemployment rate is low, and there is work for everyone. True, but after you’ve spent years in a high profile or high paying position, hamburger flipping and handing out shopping carts doesn’t seem like the ideal alternative. You might be able to keep the wolves from the door with the wages you can get in a lower-level job, but you may have to sell off the door hardware to keep up the mortgage payments that don’t stop just because you’ve become redundant.

Lord love a duck – sixty? I hesitate to think what will happen when the hordes of baby boomers go galloping over that mile marker. Change masters is what they’ve been through the years, but with the young lions nipping at their heels, it may be bloody slow going. They’re probably going to learn some of the hard lessons we swallowed without question back in the dark ages of the 1950’s – do without, buy what you can afford, and oh, yes – consider yourself lucky to have what you do have.

And beyond - I'm not ready to think about that - maybe next September.

In the meantime, maybe I’m not going to wake up back in the 50’s, but I think if I look at the rest of my life with the same eyes of that innocent twelve-year-old (who’s had a 40 year education in life) and determine to make the best of what I’ve got, I may just make it through. Nobody ever promised me an easy road back then; but everyone expected me to get on with my life. So, with a nostalgic sigh, I shall. At least the path downhill is easier on creaking joints. And the moments get more precious


September Song  - a  poem by RoseMary McDaniel


When you were a kid and summers were long; you drank your milk, and you were strong.

You did as told and never asked, to shirk a duty or neglect a task.

And when September rolled around, at your study desk, you could be found.


You didn't sass and you didn't whine. You loved your folks, and things were fine.

Most other kids did the same, and if not, they took the blame.

Themselves and not their environment, were responsible for what way they went.


Was it just that things were simpler then? Women were women, and men were men.

Less confusion and choices to make, work to live for suvival's sake.

Day and night; right and wrong - all part of our September song.


Were we happier than kids today? Did we learn more in a harder way?

Would we really want to go back again, when pace was slower, and times were thin?

Sometimes when September comes along, we yearn for the tune of that past song.


And in the middle of the night, when darkness dims the spirit's light,

We wonder if somewhere around the bend, when our days come to an end,

What kind of Hereafter will we find, yesterday's, or today's?  Cruel, or kind?

When Willis Walks - a short story by RoseMary McDaniel

Now that every footstep brings me closer, the madness of it still drives me on, in spite of the chill wind and the biting sleet.  Although it is but mid-afternoon, it feels like midnight.  Only the crunch of the snow beneath my feet breaks through the silence.  Here on this dull winter day of 1970, at last having found the courage to come this far, I cannot turn back until I have satisfied the morbid curiosity that has nagged at me for nearly fifty years.

The unexpected layover of my westbound train in this small Indiana town that was my boyhood home was the final impetus that sends me in furious pursuit of God himself knows what.  As I walk the lonely streets deserted by more prudent souls who have sought the warm refuge of their homes, I am amazed to find how little the town has changed.

My progress is slowed, hampered by the freezing slush, but restrained as well by the weight of the years that have changed me from a callow youth to a man, now nearly sixty years of age.

The obsession rooted in the last tragic year that I spent in this small rural community, though dimmed by time and distance, has never left me completely.   Now, as I near the edge of town and draw ever closer to that damned and deserted place, the primal scene marking all that came after, I feel the same fear and apprehension that was my near-constant companion when I was but a seven-year-old child.

That fateful year was 1920, and it changed my life.  Little did I dream that my twelve-years-older brother Davis, in devising his foolish scheme for us to steal a pumpkin from Neighbor Judson's field would have set us on a downward path that had no return.

Always the weaker one, always afraid, I had wanted no part of Davis and his daring plan.  But once again, Davis won the upper hand, and I followed him, shivering from both fear and the frigid wind that blew with unrelenting fervor across the dark frosty fields.

Our subsequent flight from the field, pumpkins in hand, with Mr. Judson close on our heels was what had led us into the tangled thicket that lay just outside the cemetery fence.  We had crouched in anxious concealment until Mr. Judson, brandishing his shotgun, had finally given up in disgust.

I probably would have waited there all night, fearing Mr. Judson's imminent return, but Davis, always more impatient, urged our return home.  Chilled to the bone, I was easily persuaded to follow.  As I got to my feet, Davis, with glee pointed out the damp piece of stone on which we had been kneeling.. The dull gray surface, cut with crude lettering was now visible in a patch of misty moonlight.

He traced his fingers again and again over the rough-carved single word, "WILLIS". He gave me an evil grin. "You know who this is, don't you, buried here in disgrace, outside the cemetery?" he asked.

I hopped up quickly as if burned.  "It's a grave?"

Davis laughed again with the dark lilt that I had noticed in his voice the last year or so.  "That's what it is, sissy!"

And I was out of that thicket like a shot!

I would probably have completely forgotten the incident, but for Davis and his incessant taunting of me: how scared I'd looked and what a baby I was. I'd certainly wanted to forget it--for I'd never heard of anyone named Willis--and I didn't want to think about him or wonder why his grave was there.  I knew, however, that it was not normal for someone to be buried outside the cemetery proper.  Mother's relentless shaping our of spiritual lives was always high-lighted with weekly Sunday church attendance.  The hell and brimstone preaching was lavishly peppered with references to sin and its consequences. 

While I was still a faithful adherent to the regimen, Davis found more and more excuses to attend less and less often. Mother's oft-expressed concerns fell on deaf ears as Davis became more interested in his town friends and activities and less willing to participate in our family routines.

It was not until a few weeks later, just before Christmas, that my curiosity had been piqued by a bit a information overheard when Aunt Hattie, Mother's sister, had visited us from out East.

I'd spend most of the cold, snowy evenings by the coal stove in the kitchen, pretending to do my schoolwork, while Aunt Hattie and Mother chatted over their chores.  They'd talked mostly about family news and some about Davis spending too much time away from the farm in "dubious" company.  I paid little attention to their conversations that mostly rehashed old stories that I'd heard many times.

But one night, a casual remark by my mother caused me to listen with renewed interest.  "Ach, Harry," Mother had said, her Germanic roots still poking about the edges of her speech as she spoke intimately to her beloved younger sister, "Old Mrs. Turner is finally gone; God rest her soul"

Aunt Hattie sniffed with disdain as she replied, "Died of a broken heart, that's for sure."

Mother stopped kneading a oaf of bread and shook her head sadly. "She held out 'till the very end, waiting, it seemed."

"The only one in Leesburg that still believed that boy innocent, no doubt," Aunt Hattie agreed.

"She knew her boy was not a murderer or a thief," Mother confirmed.  "For over a year, she didn't hear a word from him."

"But when they found him dead last fall..." Aunt Hattie's voice trailed off.

Mother had nodded.  "She refused to believe he had taken his own life, and she never got over it.  Why, she declared until the day she died, that Willis would somehow rise out of his grave, come back to her, and clear his name."

Just then, Mother must have realized how attentively I had been listening, and with a knowing look to Aunt Hattie, changed the subject.   But I'd thought about their comments, long after they'd gone on to talk of other things.

The little town of Leesburg wouldn't seem so far away now, but then my whole world encompassed only a few miles and I hadn't ever been there.  I'd never heard of a Mrs. Turner or her son Willis, but the emotion in my mother's voice and my frightening experience with Davis had made an impression on me that did not soon pass.

That night, after Davis had come home, and we'd gone to bed in our drafty attic room, I'd made the mistake of repeating to him what I'd overheard Mother saying to Aunt Hattie.

He'd laughed and gave me a wicked leer as he shucked off his thick wool pants, the legs stiff with frozen snow.  I'd turned my head to avoid his breath that smelled so strongly of spirits, but he'd not denied knowledge of Willis.

After that, it became his favorite subject for ridiculing me.   Whenever he was annoyed, which was often, he'd bring up Willis' name.  I'd cover my ears, but Davis would beat on me, until I gave up and took my hands away. Then he'd whisper, "When Willis walks..."

The holidays came and went, and Aunt Hattie returned home.  We had a brief January thaw, and the afternoon air turned balmy, almost spring-like. I was playing in the barn with one of the farm cats and her new litter of kittens.

The sun streaming in through the loose fitting wall boards cast beams of warmth on the hay.  I lay back in the scratchy softness and lazily watched the dust motes floating in the sunshine, felt the kittens romping up and down on top of me and heard the contented purr of their mother as she snuggled up against my arm.  I must have fallen asleep.  I woke up to the sound of digging in the ground in one of the stalls beneath me.

Carefully moving a bit of hay on the floor of the loft so that I could see through a wide space in the boards, I saw Davis almost directly below me, shoveling dirt from a corner of the empty stall.  After he stopped digging, he hunched over, and his back blocked my view of what he was doing.  A few minutes later, I heard the scattering sound of dirt being thrown, the clang of the shovel being set against the wall, and the creak of the closing barn door.

I remained quiet for a few more minutes.  Davis hadn't seen me, I was sure, and I'd been avoiding him as much as possible.  Finally, my curiosity got the better of me, and gently unburdening myself of the clutch of kittens and their mother, I hurried down the loft ladder.

The soil was soft and loosened now in the spot where he had been digging, and it didn't take me long to brush it away to reveal a small metal box.   "Leesburg Bank," was embossed on the front.  I rubbed my fingers over the now gritty letters.  Cautiously I opened the unsecured lid.  Inside was a stack of paper money and many coins.

A pang of fear went through me, and I quickly closed the box and carefully re-buried it, replacing the covering of earth.  I left the barn in a hurry; I was terrified.

Why was Davis hiding all that money?  From where had the box come?   From the Leesburg bank was the obvious answer, but the implications of that line of thinking were almost beyond my young comprehension.  I only knew that the connection between this box, Davis, and Leesburg caused an aching deep in my stomach that wouldn't go away.  I tried to put the thought out of my mind, but it would come, unbidden, whenever I let down  my conscious guard.

One morning before school as I ate my bowl of oatmeal, Davis came in, cold and out of sorts after doing the morning chores.  He didn't speak to me at first.  He just poured a mugful of the deep, dark-brewed coffee that only he and Father drank.  He warmed his hands around the mug and finally looked across the table at me.  I was aware of his scrutiny, but I didn't look up to me his eyes.

"There's the little sissy," he began. "Want to go out and look for Willis this afternoon?  Want to go out by the graveyard?"

I didn't reply, and Mother's arrival in the kitchen effectively ended the exchange. But late in the afternoon, when I had returned from school, Davis surprised me in the barnyard as I struggled to use a saw of Father's to cut a bit of wood for a carving project.  Startled, I broke a tooth out of the saw.

Davis pounced in triumph.   "Broke it, didn't you?   Well, I won't tell Father this time, if you'll come with me to visit Willis," he pronounced ominously.

For a moment I was frozen with indecision.  I couldn't decide if I was more afraid of incurring Father's wrath or going with Davis.  Finally, I chose what seemed to be the lesser of two evils, and I reluctantly dogged his heels.  But when we got to the edge of the fence row, I refused to enter the underbrush and clung defiantly to a post of the cemetery fence.

"I'll bring him out to you," Davis taunted me and laughed as he pushed back the branches and disappeared inside.  Then there was silence.  I waited for what seemed a long, long time.

Then I called to him in a harsh whisper, "Davis?  Davis, you in there?"

At last I got up enough courage to peer inside the tangled and shadowy thicket.  He was gone.  A sharp rush of anger and shame swept over me.  He must have slipped out the other side, leaving me alone to scare me.

Twilight was streaking purple across the late winter sky as I hurried off for home.  Then I went about my own chores, silently fuming inside about the way that Davis had tricked me.  I dreaded thinking how he'd laugh when I saw him, only I didn't see him again - ever.

Davis didn't return that afternoon. I didn't tell anyone where we had gone, although I did confess to father that I had broken his cherished tool.  But I received only a brief reprimand, because that minor event had been eclipsed by a larger worry.  by the time Davis was missed a newly fallen snow had covered all the tracks we had made, and there was no trace of our afternoon expedition.

Father was angry about Davis' absence, supposing that he'd gone into town with some of his friends who were not welcome on our farm.  And nobody thought to ask me.

But the next day, when Davis still had not returned, Father himself went to town, and learned that no one there had seen him lately.  With the help of men from the other farms, Father and the others had searched high and low for Davis, but they never found anything.

I kept my mouth shut about the rest: Davis's taunts, the events of that last afternoon, and the buried cash box in the barn.  When I was finally able to slip away to dig it up, I found that it, too, was missing.  The soil had refilled the vacated hole, and it was as if the box had never been there.

Life on our farm grew grimmer, as the realization of Davis's unexplained disappearance settled over our family. Father made little comment, and Mother seemed sadly resolved, but thoughts of Davis were never far from my mind.

They said Mother died of the influenza in the epidemic early the next spring, but I was sure it was the worry over Davis that really killed her.  I got the same sickness myself, and was so weak, that Aunt Hattie who had come to care for Mother, despaired of my recovery.  The doctor had said that I lost consciousness due to my high fever the day I fell ill, the day that Father brought to my room the new hired man who was to take over the work that Davis had done.

"Just call me Willis," the man had said in a strange voice when Father introduced him to me, and I fainted dead away.

Days later, when I was no longer delirious, they told me that Father had collapsed a few days after I had, but that he never recovered.  The new hired man had taken care of the chores for a few weeks; but one day he just announced to Aunt Hattie that he was leaving, and nobody ever saw him again.  The farm, of course, was sold, and just as quickly as things could be arranged, I went East to live with Aunt Hattie, with never a backward glance.

And all these years, I've just kept waiting and wondering if I'd ever hear from Davis again.  But now that nearly fifty years have passed, and I've finally gotten the chance and courage to return, I must find out the answer, although I fear I already know.  Yet, I must be certain, however much I dread the truth.

The sleet has softened now, into big fluffy flakes that fall gently to the ground, obscuring the landscape with a chilling whiteness.  The silence is deep, and even my footfalls are without sound.  I'm just outside the cemetery fence now, and holding my breath, I push aside the snow filled thicket of branches.

I kneel and brush away the light covering of snow.  The old square stone is beneath my fingers as I trace the rough, carved letters to spell out what I feared, yet knew it would: D A V I S...

No Spring Chicken - a short story by RoseMary McDaniel


Mattie sat quietly in her chair, her fingers working independently, surreptitiously, plucking the tied yarn knots from the quilt that covered her knees. Her fingernails were relentless as they plied apart the strands, that once loosened, were flicked aside to float gently to the floor. She had worked her way through nearly a third of the blanket, shards of yarn settling like bits of red dust, before someone came by to check up.

It was Miss Priss - which was Mattie's own name for the young aide who crept around tippy-toed on white crepe soled shoes and pursed her lips as if she smelled something nasty when she was displeased.   She was generally displeased with Mattie.

"Mattie, what on Earth are you doing?  You're simply ru-in-ing that spread," the aide exclaimed.

Mattie as usual, didn't reply, deep in whatever distant universe she was currently monitoring. 

Miss Priss made a clucking sound of disgust, pursed her lips, and bent to gather up the scattered yarn which she promptly chucked into the nearby wastebasket.    She turned the blanket around and flipped it over to the other side, hiding the yarn knots from Mattie's eager hands.

"That will be enough of that, Young Lady," the aide concluded, scolding Mattie as of she were a willful child.  Then, satisfied that order had been restored, she tiptoed off, the noise of her retreating soles scuffing against the carpet, music to Mattie's fading hearing.

But Mattie's eyes were eager and bright and constantly darted about the room.  She wasn't seeing this grim and falsely cheerful space.  Her eyes saw inward to a world of her own imagination.  She had peopled it with all those who had been a part of her past.  The mail carrier was there, and the iceman, and lots of relatives, the majority of them now dead. 

Mattie knew that, that she was alive, and they were dead, but it didn't matter.  In the dreamlike state where she spent most of her time, she could range far from this room, this time, this feeble body. She didn't care to make connections with what passed for reality today, where everyone was under thirty, and perpetually annoyed or clinically efficient with her. 

She could still speak perfectly well, but chose not to.  Her frame of reference and that of those who passed through her life now were so diverse that the chance that any of them could connect was as remote as Mattie addressing the U.S.Senate on Health Care Reform.  Not about to happen.

She'd tune in, occasionally, just to observe the natives who inhabited this region called Westbury Senior Center.  They generally spoke a foreign language, which they believed was English, but Mattie, having been an English teacher in a life so long ago that they'd long since torn down the school, knew the fundamentals of English speech, and she marveled at how little like English their conversations sounded - that is at those rare times she listened.

Miss Priss was her special adversary. Too professional by far for the likes of Westbury Center, the aide was nonetheless hanging on to her ideals of caregiving for dear life.  Mattie wondered what would happen when that fine young idealism turned to burn-out.  The thought of Miss Priss as a Wal-Mart greeter in a future career path amused Mattie's undiminished sense of humor.

Then there was Javon, the West Indian aide, whose dark face was highlighted with a wide smile showing white teeth offset by one gold tooth in front.   He teased and flirted with Mattie, though she didn't respond.  Every now and then, she couldn't help a tiny smile in response to his nonsense, and he'd wink at her, as if to say, "I know you can hear me."

And there was Lump.  That was what she ungraciously labeled her current roommate.  An old woman surely, but younger than Mattie herself - she'd overheard a conversation that confirmed it - who'd totally given up.  Mattie could have understood a desire to escape from pain, or as a protest against stupidity - but Lump just lay there.  It was the moaning at night that got to Mattie - and even the thought of a fellow human in such a depressive state, failed to force Mattie to be sympathetic. 

"It is good to persevere," Mattie's father had told her once, many centuries ago when she was just a little girl.  And Mattie had done so for - what was it now - nearly ninety years.  She stopped talking at eighty-seven, sick of answering inane questions.  It didn't really make any difference, anyway, they poked and prodded, and submitted her to all sorts of indignities, rather she consented or not.

For a while, it had been a staff-wide effort to pry Mattie from silence.   First the speech therapist showed up, then the Center's pet Doctor, and finally a visit from the local shrink.  But Mattie refused to give in and give them what they wanted: response.

She rather enjoyed being known famous for the last statement that she had uttered in the presence of witnesses:  "What do you expect?" she had said, "After all, I'm no Spring Chicken."  And that was Mattie's last word, and the rest, as far as Mattie was concerned was history. 

She knew that as long as some spark of electricity still connected the synapses of her memory, however weak, that she'd persevere.  Until the day that last shovelful of dirt dropped on top of her coffin - then maybe she'd close her eyes for a bit and let the dreams take over.  For now,she had a reputation to maintain, and all the attempts to mold her into the perfect patient were fruitless.

A smile appeared on Mattie's lips, and she folded her hands in an attitude of supplication.  In her mind's eye, a handsome young man appeared, carrying a wicker basket topped with a red checked cloth.  He was a much younger version of the old man of a couple in a frame that someone had placed on Mattie's wall to "help her remember."  But Mattie didn't want to remember him that way.  She had her own way, and he was calling to her.

"Come on, love," he called.  "Let's go on a picnic today.  No time to waste."

"I'm coming," Mattie called silently, and enjoyed the feel of the sun on her face, the cool of the breeze in her hair, and followed her young man down the path, feet skimming over the ground, knowing that the lithe figure that had first attracted him was still hers to command.

No Spring Chicken, indeed.


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