• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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All Your Kisses Still Taste Sweet

A while back, we looked at titles and lots of people gave great feedback. I’m thinking it would be great to do the same for first sentences, if you are bold enough to present your first sentence here. Think about every time you pick up a book in a store or library and turn to the first page, the first sentence. The first sentence, in my opinion, is like a key. It turns the engine over or it doesn’t. You want in, or you don’t. It immediately sets the tone, announces its bearing, gives you a sense of the kind of language a writer uses, and often telegraphs everything that follows. Does your first sentence stack up?

If you feel like work-shopping your sentence, even anonymously, go for it. And I’ll subjectively pick the top two sentences and send you a FREE and SIGNED copy for The Forest for the Trees Updated and Revised for the 21st Century.

343 Responses

  1. Here’s mine:

    “Miss Bell wants you in her office, right now, Miss Carlisle.”

  2. Then I better not put this one: Called on the carpet, first thing Monday morning.

    I’ll use this one:
    She wished he would quit walking South.

  3. I’m diving into the deep end with my first (ever) comment here.

    First sentence:

    “A little brown hatchback with worn paint and a wide tan stripe along its side stopped in the middle of the street, close to Papa’s white Ford pick-up, which he always kept parked at the curb in front of our house.”

    • I’d strip that down, then re-insert anything I felt was necessary. A hatchback stopped in the middle of the street near Papa’s pickup, which he always parked in front of our house.

      I suspect you don’t need little -and- brown, and wide -and- tan, and white -and- Ford, at least not in the first sentence. I suspect you don’t need any of them yet.

  4. All I wanted was to love her.

  5. “The back of Judith’s neck prickled as the young man edged into the library.”

    Or

    “As the young man edged into the library, the back of Judith’s neck prickled.”

    I can’t decide which has more impact. . . . Anyone?

  6. An immense black and white billboard of a near-naked man hovers in the polluted haze of Hong Kong.

    • There’s nothing wrong with this (though I’m sold on ‘hovers’), but I wonder if less isn’t more. A black-and-white billboard of a naked man shimmers in the haze of Hong Kong.

    • I feel like I know it will be immense because it’s in Hong Kong and a billboard. So maybe it’s just too much info??

      In the high, polluted haze of Hong Kong, a near-naked man hovers on a black and white billboard.

      • thanks, all. maybe i should just quantify it’s a twenty-five story high billboard and let that info do the work instead of hovers, etc. etc.

  7. I knew all I needed to know about her when she served the pancakes dry; no maple syrup, no butter; no sweetness, no flavor.

  8. A genie billows up on the carbonated flatulence of a just-popped can of diet soda, saying “3 wishes, 3 wishes,” in the quick monotone of a second grader in a pageant.

  9. “Charles Bukowski sucks!”

  10. My mother tried to kill me before I was born–even then I disappointed her.

  11. Daddy shakes me awake, whispering, “Shirley, don’t you dare make a sound.”

    From memoir – Tell me what He Did.

  12. I lay face down in the weeds and someone was shouting at me.

    • I’d maybe break this into two sentences and give shouter something specific to say: I lay face down in the weeds. Someone was shouting my name.

    • I keep wanting to hear this in the present tense: I lay face down in the weeds. Someone is shouting.

    • I like this sentence. I think it’s a great opener. I definitely want to know why, on both counts.

      But . . . personally, the word ‘lay’ always bothers me, even when it’s used correctly (which you did, of course).

      I’m probably the only one, so please ignore me if this makes no sense . . . but to me ‘lay’ in this sentence sounds like present tense, as if your narrator just stretched out in those weeds. I’m not sure what else could be used, though, because it’s a tight sentence already.

      “I was face down in the weeds and someone was shouting at me.” ?

      Sorry. Ignore me.

    • All of these help me.

      How’s this?

      One minute I’m driving south on Highway 278, the next minute I’m face down in the weeds.

      (Skip the shouting, go right into action.)

      Thanks, gang.

      And Teri, good nudge. I’m changing the tense and the language flows much better.

  13. I have a few.

    1. The scary part was the landing. (First book, agented but never sold.)

    2. Sweat pouring down his face, lungs heaving for air in the dank, rubble strewn hallway, crouched underneath what looked like it used to be a desk, Tyson couldn’t help wondering just what he’d gotten himself into. (Sequel to first book, which never happened.)

    3. The VIP lounge was upstairs, set off to the side from the main floor, guarded by a thick-necked bouncer with a shaved head. (With the agent right now, waiting for editing before it goes to editors.)

    • Does ‘set off to the side from the main floor’ matter much? And I’m not sure about the passive voice. A thick-necked bouncer guarded the VIP lounge upstairs.

    • I like it better without the hallway altogether: Sweat pouring down his face, lungs heaving for air, Tyson wondered what he had gotten himself into. He can look around next for the room description from his point of view under the desk, not that he’ll be able to see much from down there.

  14. Doris stood on the dock feeling the girl she once was remind her of the speed with which she once ran, the great leap off the end, the sensation like no other of being extraordinary.

  15. “The day my father died, I lost my mind.”

    – Connie Petersen

  16. “Nobody knows what happened.”

    • feels like something should come at the end T-man. nobody knows what happened when __________. one specific thing to hang onto, you know?

  17. Why would any sane person drop 12 grand into the ground with no contract?

  18. “I am quiet and shy.”

    Maybe first sentences are keys, but writers start believing that they’re talismans. Five books I can reach from my chair:

    1) I shook his hand for the first time in the spring of 1967.

    2) The first time that Jean-Claude Pelletier read Benno von Archimboldi was Christmas 1980, in Paris, when he was nineteen years old and studying German literature.

    3) I never dreamed of becoming an editor.

    4) It was there when I woke up, I swear.

    5) Harriet Vane sat at her writing-table and stared out into Mecklenburg Square.

    “I am quiet and shy. I do not make trouble. I do not ask the waiter to refill my water glass, I say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to telemarketers. My face is round. My hair is mousy. Once a small boy with a handful of crayons said I looked like Mrs. Mole. I’m not shortsighted, but you think I am.”

    • I like this first paragraph a lot, it really hums with tension. The only thing that hit me wrong was the hair comment. That breaks the spell a little, gets closer to the “main character looks in the mirror and describes him/herself” cliche rather than how this person naturally thinks of herself.

    • Nice. I especially like the last sentence, with the implication of the narrator watching, unnoticed.

    • The only thing I’d change, for flow: “My face is round; my hair, mousy.”

      I especially like the switch at the end, speaking to the reader as “you.” I’ll keep reading because I can feel this buttoned-up person is about to explode. And I might have to look carefully for the explosion.

    • It’s the last sentence of this paragraph that does it for me. It’s suggestive—and I’d love to find out what it’s suggesting.

      (I’m also tickled that someone else has Gaudy Night within arm’s reach)

  19. The boat was still smoldering when Trooper Bob Anderson climbed on board and saw the bodies.

  20. First sentence. Novel set in 1968:

    Mother saiid there’d be days like this, and for once Jayne agreed with her.

  21. I am old, and on the whole, my life has been unhappy.

    • It seems like this line should be a downer, but the “on the whole” bit hints at humor. I’m sort of charmed by the prospect of what was so awful.

    • I feel like I need to feel that a shift will come. As is, I’m wondering how the story will be different. For example, if it started with, “I am old. My life has not been unhappy.” But that may not make sense for your story.

  22. “Let’s just choke her and take the car.”

    I had only known Andy for a brief time and never known him to be serious, but I was hoping this wasn’t my introduction to it.

  23.    A dusty beam of light shook loose from the winter sun and crept down the long, lonely hallway.

  24. Awesome. I used to comb through the fiction section of the library reading first sentences. I agree. So, sheepishly, expecting either ignorance or pain, I give you one of my first sentences: “Deguss was free now, there would be no more changing.”

  25. They weren’t in uniform but Grace MacRae could tell they were cops the minute they walked into her Constitutional Law class.

    • ‘Constitutional’ stops me. Not sure it wouldn’t be better as ‘the minute they walked into her law class.’

      • How about going with Con Law?

        Solves both problems. A law student wouldn’t refer to it as ‘my law class’ – she’d define it (and we didn’t reverently call it constitutional law either, but con law). Also, it’s snappier.

    • I’d strike “They weren’t in uniform but” and just kick it off with “Grace MacRae could tell they were cops the minute they walked into her Con Law class.” The word choice ( “could tell”) cues the reader the cops were in plainclothes. Great first sentence.

    • I think this is just fine. I imagine that I need to know that it is a Constitutional Law class because that is going to be the theme of this book. I don’t don’t think that is too much information. I don’t think you are trying to be poetic or “snappy”, no offense to anyone, I think you are try to write a Grishamish novel where the more mundane details you can throw into a sentence so we can get to the good stuff is crafty, actually. I bet John Grisham would agree with me. He is very, very rich, and very good crime writer. And if you are offended by my using his name to tell you that is a very fine sentence, always remember and never forget, there is nothing new under the sun, and there never has been. If that made sense. I stopped writing for a whole year because I started watching Gunsmoke reruns and figured I had nothin’ to say, at all. I got over it.

  26. The first thing I noticed about Jack Calabrese’s home was the scent: balsam and rain and damp cotton flannel, the illicit aroma of green marijuana and the wet-copper tang of his sweat, all of which formed an almost visible miasma that hung intimately around my body as though I were wearing his clothes—as though by entering Jack’s house uninvited, I had slipped beneath his skin.

    (Don’t ask me to diagram it.)

  27. The hopeful writers who make up her weekly screenplay-writing group all have day jobs, but they each take one night a week to resuscitate their little sparks of hope or talent. 

    • You might leave out the words ‘hopeful’ and ‘weekly’, since you’ve got those again near the end.

    • The words are right, but seem out of order. And I’d get rid of the word “hope” both times because I’m thinking that they’re all still hopeful is already inferred.

      Or ….. (to disagree with myself entirely: The hopefuls who make up her screenplay writing group have day jobs, all of them, but one night each week they escape their days and gather to resuscitate their real ________.

  28. “Would you like to marry me, Ben?”

  29. When I was a kid growing up on the south shore of Long Island, I worked for a man named Vito who kept a handgun holstered to his ankle in case anyone came into the deli with the wrong attitude.

  30. Is this some NaNoWriMo warm up bullshit?

  31. I already had one NaNoWriMo “discussion” today

    • “Who wants to start a Betsy Lerner groupie group on NaNoWriMo?” asked TP chirpily.

      Seriously. Anybody game? NaNo’s rules are “fiction only,” and Betsy doesn’t do fiction (that I can recall), but memoir is plenty fictional, so what the hell?

      • I don’t know what this would require but I’ve liked everything you’ve put out there so far so count me in.

      • You had me at “Betsy Lerner groupie group.” I don’t know what’s involved with the NaNoWriMo thing, but I’ll ride anyone’s coattails to get this first draft finished. Lead on, T.

      • Now I’ve stuck my foot in it. Okay, I’ll get back to you with info.

  32. Like a hummingbird, flit flittering from flower to flower, she leapt around the room, sailing through the air and landing again on calves as sturdy as the flank of a colt.

  33. This is so bizarre. I have no manuscript yet, just some notes, but I’ve been thinking about a first sentence for the past two days. This post forced me to come up with something definitive. Here goes:

    My mother bequeathed me a legacy of failure, but I didn’t notice the “hopeless” codicil until it was too late to contest.

    That’s for the mom memoir.

    For the stripper/spiritual memoir:

    I was born naked, and I never quite got the hang of covering up.

    I’m not totally convinced about these, but it’s a great exercise. Thanks, Betsy!

  34. My mother always starts with the pig’s head.

    From my memoir, Looking Up.

  35. When they first sent me out to steal, I was ten years old.

  36. Do you honestly have any idea what it’s like to finally arrive at your moment in the sun, to feel its calming rays and loving embrace, and then have it violently snatched away, and put on the shelf, just barely out of arm’s reach?

  37. I was raised in a Newfoundland family with deeply held traditions, guilt, panic, self-loathing, so becoming a psychiatrist was the path of least resistance.

    • you know i already love this book, but i’m having too much fun playing with these first lines:

      My Newfoundland family cherished its deeply held traditions of guilt, panic and self-loathing; as the family black sheep, my only career choice was psychiatry.

    • I like all the information, but I feel like it needs a new order? Or maybe just a different kind of sentence?

      When you’re born and raised in Newfoundland, in a family patterned in panic and self-loathing, becoming a psychiatrist …..

      (I don’t know how to finish it)

    • I like your voice, Bobbi. This fell naturally on my ear and I love how much you reveal about yourself in this one sentence.

    • you don’t want to use newfie or some such? it kinda seems like your forum voice–cripes, etc. etc.

  38. Life insisted that I pay attention.

    • for some reason, i wanted to put someone name in front of this:

      “George’s life insisted that I pay attention.”

      I’m sure this in no way works with the rest of your story, but I like the idea that it took someone else’s life for the narrator to notice.

      • Thanks. It’s from a memoir. Attention gets used in a variety of ways. I like adding a name, but it wouldn’t be accurate.

        Here’s the first line from the prologue:

        Three weeks later, I stare out at titanium skies, spindly trees rocked by angry winds.

  39. They were on their way to Sonny’s ex-wife’s house for what he called his mission with righteous purpose, his plan to steal his children and take them to Kentucky.

  40. “Most people are unable to determine which memory was their first.”

    Great exercise, Betsy.

  41. A world-famous photographer flew into our hotel to savour the native landscape.

  42. You don’t mind if I play again, do you?

    They asked me why I killed her but I couldn’t come up with an answer that seemed appropriate so I blinked and smiled and said very simply, “it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.”

  43. There’s either a cat or a ghost in this bed with me.

  44. In other skies, these colors made sense.

  45. In March 1664, the greatest Jesuit missionary in China opened his eyes to a fitful light coming from the eastern window.

  46. Though barely on the cusp of middle-age, one sticky June afternoon when he was forty-two, my step-father, Houston Webb, threw himself a funeral.

  47. Passion was underrated, Noa Chan decided, as the young pianist strained over the keys on stage.

    • Hi Artemis, I like the pretense, but it seems more like a sentence I’d find in the middle of a paragraph. Maybe you can pare it down to grab attention and then flesh it out in subsequent sentences? Noa Chan decided passion was underrated. I’d be hey, what? Wait a minute what’s this guy up to?

  48. When the paramedics pronounced me dead at the scene of the accident I was so surprised.

  49. Twig: population 189.

  50. “They were familiar with one another, old friends.”

    • It gives the impression of a quiet story, more thoughtful and relationship driven.

      • It does, doesn’t it. But the full paragraph makes it slightly different. It’s about two people being observed by a lonely stranger, who is miserably jealous of this glamourous couple she knows nothing about.

      • That is a change from what I was thinking, but the first sentence would have led me the next so I’d still be there to see it.

  51. When I was twelve, my mother disappeared.

  52. (today, the roll of chronic commenter will be played by amyg.)

    here’s mine:

    “Meri and Marla insisted I start this story.”

    • I think this needs something before it, like;
      “It was Meri and Marla’s fault. They insisted I start this story.”

      That’s assuming, of course, that it was, in fact, their fault.

    • When I read this sentence I expect an upfront, intimate narrative style. Kind of like pull up a chair and I’ll tell you about it. It also hints at a bit of humor.

  53. Albert wore a silver cross in is left ear that dangled like a hanged man.

    • I like the image, but it’s confusing. How can you wear a cross IN your ear? How about something like:

      A silver cross dangled like a hanged man from Albert’s left ear.

      (I’m not sure about that, either.)

      • A silver cross dangled from Albert’s ear like a hanged man. Though hanged men (almost wrote hung man but that’d be a different book) don’t dangle. I think you need a stronger verb like swung or swayed.

  54. Skinny jeans, jacket with a fur collar a shade darker than her platinum hair, enough perfume to strip bark from a tree.

  55. “I suppose the place to begin is at the end. I’m dying.”

  56. The onset of his illness erupted with synapse misfires and malfunctioning muscles.

    • I’m thinking “synapse” needs to go. It’s feels like it’s crowding out the other words. I’ve said this sentence out-loud a few times, Mike, and I’m totally into the “misfires and malfunctioning muscles.”

    • I like it Mike. It might read more smoothly if you ditch the first words? His illness erupted with synapse misfires and malfunctioning muscles.

      • Thank you, Deb; it does seem a bit redundant or unnecessary.

      • I actually love “synapse” but it feels too clunky up front. What if you saved it for the end of the first paragraph? Or further down the first page? Kind of like leading the reader down a path of clues and make them feel smart.

  57. Beth barely had time to get out.

    From Wilderness For Girls, my debut novel.
    Laline Paull

  58. Here’s the first sentence of the prologue to my w-i-p:

    People called her Fitch, at least to her face.

  59. I read this post last night and grabbed three books from my shelves (after deciding my first sentence didn’t hold up) to see how the masters did it (hoping a better first sentence would come while I slept…it didn’t)

    from No Country for Old Men – “I sent one boy to the gaschamber at Huntsville.”

    from As I Lay Dying – “Jewel and I come up from the field, following the path in single file.”

    and my all-time favorite from Angels by Denis Johnson – “In the Oakland Greyhound all the people were dwarfs, and they pushed and shoved to get on the bus, even cutting ahead of the two nuns, who were there first.”

    I’ve bought a lot of books based on the first sentence, including The Gathering, which started with “I would like to write down what happened in my grandmother’s house the summer I was eight or nine, but I am not sure if it really did happen.”

    here’s mine:

    “Shirley walked into the kitchen to put on coffee and saw snow, specks of white bouncing off the window.”

    • “It was the day my grandmother exploded” is another great one. From The Crow Road, by Iain Banks. It’s not a comedy, but there is a lot of black humour in it.

    • I’m partial to your opening sentence, my legal name is Shirley – but thank you for pointing out the first sentences of other books. I suspect if a good first sentence isn’t followed by a second good sentence, etc. it loses it’s power.

      Heather

  60. From my WIP:

    Winter was coming — I could smell it.

  61. Going home is like fiction, visiting people who exist more in my imagination than in real life. Still, every year, I go back.

  62. From the wip I’m working on today:

    “In the week before the funeral, I had asked a favor of his parents: would they be willing to let me have the tee shirt that he had been wearing that night?”

    I’m trying to decide if this is the opening sentence.

    The alternative:
    “I keep a bag stuffed in the flat, plastic box that I store under the bed I share with Rob.”

    • My personal preference is for a short, to the point grabber. I like the second. Or, maybe a paired down version of the first? Before the funeral I asked his parents for a favor. I wanted the tshirt he was wearing that night…

      • I’m with Deb.

        Like…

        The week before the funeral I asked his parents for the shirt he wore the night he died.

        It can be improved of course, but I think it still conveys the same thing you wanted to say. Or did I miss a nuance?

      • Thanks. I prefer the second one, too. In fact, it was the original opening line, and then I started playing with the first and wondered if it should come first. (and I like your versions better). So thanks!!

  63. From my WIP:

    When your dead great-grandmother sends you a letter on your twelfth birthday asking you to do something, you should probably do it.

  64. When her son was seven, Indica gave him the power to raise the dead.

  65. Helena was not my mother, I’m not even sure she liked me.

  66. She walked slowly through Lafayette Cemetery Number One, right across from Commander’s Palace on Washington Street, she always added, in case people didn’t know, on a finally cool September Sunday when the Saints were out of town and the city was quiet; past carved angels sitting on marble tombs , once white, now decaying shades of grey, remembering her lover, buried five years ago today, his bones dust while her own heart still beat warm and fast, and she spread a green paisley shawl down under the canopy of trees next to his crypt, opened a half bottle of sauterne, removed a chicken salad sandwich from its Ziploc bag, sat down on the ground and enjoyed a late lunch.

  67. The day my mother died I began taking halcion, it was October, 1936.

  68. My mother’s hands made everything she did look important.

  69. Robert Bohnert pushed an old chug-popping lawnmower he had stolen from the maintenance shed, mowing his way back and forth toward the entrance to the state hospital.

  70. The latest: “The blog post that briefly made me a national news item—the kind you might’ve heard about in Leno’s opening monologue, or Salon.com’s culture section—went up in May, mercifully close to the end of the school year but not quite close enough to save me.”

  71. “The American piloted his Mercedes through the soupy Egyptian night, gripped by an unreal trepidation.”

    -first sentence of THE CLEOPATRA AFFAIR

  72. It’s a thriller:

    First sentence: “Three days before being assassinated by the U.S. government, Gerard “Gerry” Schuster, 47, drove a rust-out 1984 Heritage coal truck down a blacktop freeway in southwestern Pennsylvania.”

    • This one feels a little fact-heavy. When I see a lot of dates and capital letters in a first sentence, I worry that reading the book will take a lot of work on my part. Maybe start with something simpler, and pepper the information in as you go:

      Three days before being assassinated, Gerry Schuster drove a rusted-out coal truck down a Pennsylvania freeway. . . .

      My version sucks, but I do think you want to ease the reader in somehow.

      • Works in the genre, I think, if it’s manly male type thriller, for men. We like our numbers. Though I’d probably pare it down to, “Three days before being assassinated by the U.S. government, Gerry Schuster drove a rust-out 1984 Heritage coal truck down a blacktop freeway in southwestern Pennsylvania.”

  73. “… the most fucked up part was that I kind of liked it,” the slender fingered woman finished.

  74. Dad always called me Fisheye.

  75. My mind was on the kill.

  76. The first man I ever haunted was my father, which, I suppose, makes perfect sense.

  77. Dominic drove. Dominic always drove.

  78. I’d tried to get a job at almost every vintage clothing boutique in greater Los Angeles—Evolution, Revolution, the Princess and the Pea, From Here to Eternity, Something’s Gotta Give—but nobody was hiring.

    (the first sentence from my novel-in-progress)

  79. The time it took to smoke a single cigarette.

  80. I’d tried to get a job at almost every vintage clothing boutique in greater Los Angeles—Evolution, Revolution, the Princess and the Pea, From Here to Eternity, Something’s Gotta Give—but nobody was hiring.

    (the first sentence from my novel-in-progress)

  81. Kathleen Mary O’Neill remembered this as the moment and the day when Fate and Destiny conspired to break her heart, end one life, and begin another that would fill her soul.

  82. “I’ve got an odd request…Depeche Mode Truffles?”

  83. “I suppose I shouldn’t have done what I did on the night before my 13th birthday, because it pretty much changed everything.”

  84. The first line of my memoir that I have yet to begin:

    My grandmother was a wicked woman who lived to be 103, producing in me the steadfast belief that, no matter how you slice it, God is one mean motherfucker.

  85. ‘Sometimes in life change comes at you like a train that’s lost its brakes; other times it sidles up from behind and wraps itself around you like the most marvelous coat.’

  86. “When I was five years old I had big plans.”

  87. “I love the smell of coffee; I also love its taste.”

  88. A day late, but my first sentence is:

    “We fell in love in the psych ward.”

  89. Hello Betsy!

    I want to enter the First Sentence/s Competition & win
    the updated “Forest for the Trees”…am I too late? Is THIS how to do it? I see no other place…(however THIS seems to be for “replies” – to others’ sentences – not for [my own] contest entry…) ????

    (These are all unpublished – hey, may as well send ’em all!)

    So, here goes:

    NOVEL # 1 (BIOMYTHOGRAPHY, actually) –

    Jammed into my economy seat, on the Red-Eye, I smile – my
    friends came through for me in crumpled fives, tens and twenties pressed in Sympathy Cards;

    NOVEL # 2 –

    Destiny was as crumpled as the makeup-streaked facecloth tossed in her sink.

    NOVEL # 3 –

    Tobin calls all of us kept rats, “bubs.” He says we need a “stigma-free” word because “rat” is a loaded gun, socially.

    or

    I’m whatcha call a PEW – not because I stink (not on your life – my kind are obsessive-compulsive, always washing our hands and faces)…PEW, you know – pink-eyed white.

    NON-FICTION BOOK (on a health topic) –

    You go to your doctor’s, state your problem, and get your Rx, or requisition, or referral – and you’re respected – after all, you’re the doc’s “bread and butter,” right?

    or

    You know how you go to a doctor, state your problem, get your Rx or your requisition or referral – and you are respected – certainly, you are not looked at skeptically, cross-examined, blood and urine extracted, lectured about “how much these pills cost on the street”?

    ESSAY # 1 –

    Corrupt and creepy it may be, but many of us, no matter our age, were read The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or The Roly-Poly Pudding when we were toddlers.

    ESSAY # 2 –

    “People are lazy, stupid, dumb, and misdirected; and cats are rapists,” C.H. said.

    ESSAY # 3 –

    “Across the wall of the room in which the man sat was a bold sign, reading:
    The White House

    Under the sign was a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, the features distorted to make the face look like that of a gangster.
    My eyes went to the top of the cartoon and I read:
    The only dream of a nigger is to be president and to sleep with white women! Americans, do we want this in our fair land?
    1
    Organize and save white womanhood!”

    When Barack Obama was sworn in as the forty-forth President of the United States of America, I happened to be reading an American Classic memoir – Black Boy by Richard Wright.

    ESSAY # 4 –

    I smile, close my eyes and position my back against the jet stream.

    or

    Tonight, I am alone – except for a sixty-ish couple, their arms around each other, in their own world, laughing and playing footsie at the other end of the baby pool.

    ESSAY # 5 –

    Today my friend Krysta told me about a miracle: she had found a dragonfly with a torn wing, cupped it in her hands, closed her eyes, and focused her energy as she whispered with conviction: “you
    will fly away…”

    ESSAY #6 –

    For fun, for my ninety-seventh birthday, my granddaughter had brought me to the animal shelter to pet some cats, but then…

    ESSAY # 7 –

    At her feet was a tiny white rat.

    ESSAY # 8 –

    The knock at my door jolts me awake; unsure for a bleary moment, I consider what to do…this isn’t a place where visitors come.

    ESSAY # 9 –

    Here I am at the tippy-tail-end of fertility; not in a stable relationship; hardly in the best of health; a financial mess;
    with no family support; and rife with bad habits…well, habits
    like staying up all night, sleeping by day – that aren’t conducive
    to baby-rearing.

    ESSAY # 10 –

    I always thought of Charles as “the cat who came back.”

    ESSAY # 11 –

    I am fond of the saying: “There are no coincidences – only
    miracles in which God chooses to remain anonymous.”

    ESSAY # 12 –

    The whole class is excited because this afternoon we are allowed to have a television brought to class to watch Man land
    on the moon! Only if we pay attention and do our work
    this morning will we get to see this Giant Step for Mankind.

    ESSAY # 13 –

    Stanley lived across the street from me, and was allowed to cross the road without permission. I was five years old, and this envied freedom made five-and-a-half year old
    Stanley very worldly.

    ESSAY # 14 –

    Every year, my friend Prasha and I come to Squamish, a little
    town and First Nation (Native “Indian” Reserve) in the mountains, not far from Vancouver, B.C. for a retreat with women for whom loss/suffering is our common denominator.

    ESSAY # 15 –

    Walking at two AM, alone, over the River Street bridge, tears tracking my cheeks…no destination in mind – maybe a park bench or a coffee shop – letting the winter wind whip dry my adolescent cheeks.

    ESSAY # 16 –

    Frail and ill in one’s eighties is not a good place to be, solo.

    ESSAY # 17 –

    Across from my window at The Montgomery Apartment-Hotel two naked exotic dancers kissed good morning.

    ESSAY # 18

    In the hand that is not typing, I am holding a dying wild rat –
    and I am not happy about it. In fact, I am having trouble seeing
    the screen for my tears.

    ESSAY # 19 –

    “The same as Superman’s injury – I mean, the actor who played him, Christopher Reeves…”
    Initially, this explanation felt more hopeful than telling people my
    sweetheart – whose name is also Christopher – had fractured his
    C-2/C-3 vertebrae.

    ESSAY # 20 –

    “Hello, Violet, this is Bob, Dr. Schur’s business manager. You missed your appointment this morning. Missing an appointment violates your Pain Management Agreement with us, so I’m afraid you’ll have to find a new doctor.” CLICK.

    ESSAY # 21 –

    There is an insane witch-hunt going on right now that’s pitting doctors against each other, and doctors against patients.

    ESSAY # 22 –

    It is hard not to limp when it seems all those there to help you,
    are waiting for your “other shoe to drop.”

    ESSAY # 23 –

    Most of us with chronic pain have typically experimented with everything from acupuncture to epidurals, spinal fusion surgery, booze, Voodoo head transplants to The Aliens’ infamous anal probe – anything if it might get rid of our back/neck/leg/ foot/tailbone/hip /entire body (et cetera) pain; some of these treatments helped, a little bit to quite a bit, but for us, never permanently – and much of it “put us in the poorhouse” (gruel, courtesy of VISA; burlap bedding, thanks to Master Card).

    ESSAY # 24 –

    I lay on the massage table, while the therapist kneaded a knot.
    I was telling her of my difficulties with a critical relative – she
    said: “Your neck feels like it’s made of brick. Think of something that relaxes you.”

    ESSAY # 25 –

    We walked passed the Salvation Army shelter just as they were putting out a tray of donuts for the homeless – when suddenly,
    a fat black Labrador came torpedoing across the street, ears flapping and spindly legs flailing…he had a torso like an
    overstuffed sausage.

    ESSAY # 26 –

    Not that long ago, marriage/intimate relations across skin colors was illegal; even less time ago, homosexuality was illegal – and their stories parallel chronic pain patients whose pain is managed by opioids.

    ESSAY # 27 –

    I believe that using an anonymous sperm donor in order to have a baby is cruel and self-centered in the extreme – but then, I have a very personal stake in being bothered by this ever-growing practice.

    SHORT STORY # 1 (Epistolary) –

    Ming, my dear friend:

    Christmas Day! And I just got to the cabin.
    That’s right – I said I.

    SHORT STORY # 2 –

    Sitting in Rocks restaurant on Davie Street in Vancouver on a rainy February evening, the only woman – the only completed woman – (calling myself the only woman-born-woman would ruffle feathers – and, honey, there were some big boas in the house tonight) – I sip my peppermint tea and listen to Barbie tales.

    SHORT STORY # 3 –

    When I was a itty-bitty gal, us kids dint have much in the
    way-a toys an’ such.

    SHORT STORY # 4 –

    She asked Ben one question, since he left her for Cat Woman: “Why?”

    SHORT STORY # 5 –

    Alex likes to guess what’s wrong with people; it’s a bad habit, he knows…it takes discipline not to judge, to see the negative.

    SHORT STORY # 6 –

    The Mercedes S.U.V. cruised unsteadily down a highway through The Canadian Shield.

    REVIEW # 1 –

    In our manic, panicked world of never-ending To Do lists; sifting through many methods of media for that “can’t miss” message; play-dates (if you have kids), date nights (if you’re married), speed-dating (if you’re single) and antidepressants,
    Red Bull, and Pink tequila that tastes like cream n’ strawberries, isn’t it a wonder we retain anything at all?

    REVIEW # 2 –

    A novel of astonishing breadth and depth, Saving Fish From Drowning fictionalizes the true story of a busload of American tourists who disappeared in the jungles of Burma (Myanmar); and the suspicious death just prior to the tour, of socialite and Asian art expert Bibi Chen, the tour’s organizer.

    REVIEW # 3 –

    My (then) 92-year-old grandmother, Blanche and I had a
    transformative bonding experience – due to a poem that
    appeared on public transit.

    REVIEW # 4 –

    I have been involved with poetry since I was a child reading
    The Golden Treasury Of Poetry as soon as I could read.

    All these first sentences are from as-yet unpublished work
    by:
    SheLa Evra Nefertiti Morrison
    2011

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