crown molding

The steady rhythm of hammering continues throughout the morning. Another joins in, syncopating the rhythm. Nails into wood, walls going up. There is sawdust and plaster strewn about the floor. 8 days, she scoffs to herself. 8 days. What a lie. The construction has been going on for at least two weeks. She can’t trust the estimates anymore, having to live in this workman’s area because staying at her mother’s fell through. So she lays upstairs on the air mattress she remembers buying for her ex-husband, puts her hand over her eyes in frustration, rejection of the day, and to block out the sun creeping in from under the shade. She will now have to make coffee for herself, and these men, as what turned into installation of crown molding turned into re-doing the entire house after structural foundation was determined to be inadequate and unsafe, pipes about to burst. The lead contractor told her whoever put this house together must’ve been on drugs. What luck that she had bought it.

Reluctantly, she gets dressed in joggers and oversized flannel and changes into sneakers. She would not duplicate the nail incident of last week. Shuffling down the stairs, she waves to the guys bringing in wooden boards, and hears the high-pitched whine of more cutting. They had set up a little workshop outside. You would think these men were rebuilding the pyramids. In the kitchen, every door and window is open, protective plastic is around all the furniture, tables and chairs. She prepares the coffee and watches it percolate. Each drop that falls, willing her to live on just one more day and endure this bullshit. The aroma of the completed pot is the only thing she has to live for. She pours herself a cup and then announces to the yard that the coffee’s ready and feel free to help yourselves. She finds a quiet spot on the porch where she oversees the work. Finishes around her her oversized flannel pocket and pulls out a lighter and a J. This has been her usual routine that started on day 9, after she realized this project would take a lot longer than she thought. Inhaling with a light cough –


Golf like church on Sundays. Puttering around the house, shuffling feet, and waiting for the TV to reel me in. Terrycloth bathrobe and slippers. Tissues stuffed in the front pockets. Hungover with a cold. Head like a balloon, hanging hesitantly but ultimately giving in to its insane weight. Regular black coffee sits undisturbed in the kitchen. Still hot. The smell is familiar, yet nauseating. There is a glance at a photo that hangs on the wall of a happy family. He cannot make eye contact. Sniffling, he resolves to continue that trek onwards to the kitchen and force himself to drink the stuff is father always told him would be one of the first steps in curing a hangover. His stomach rejects the notion, but he pours a cup anyway. It takes an insurmountable amount of strength. Defeated and with a moan, he abruptly puts the pot back, the coffee cup filled only a third of the way. The noise he makes as he lets go of the coffee pot back on the heated element is deafening and he almost gags on the spot at its intensity. But yet, in these miserable, pathetic moments, no thoughts ring out of “never again”. No self-criticizing remarks on stupidity or idiocy. He hears footsteps on the stairs and tenses up with fear for two reasons: First, he has no idea who it is coming down and begins scanning his brain for possibilities. Two: Simultaneously as this is happening, he is dreading them to reach the bottom step, for now he’ll have to assume a somewhat cordial sociality, even if he says nothing at all, which he just might end up resigning to, being that he cannot recall who it is what is making their way down. The footsteps are light, but still make the floorboards creak. A woman. He thinks to himself. But then – Did I come home with someone last night? Again, scanning his brain and recalling the nights with such speed that it hurts to just stand still. Parking the car in front of the bar. Drinks all night. Laughing. The baseball game. More shots poured. Food consumed. And as he continues this personal play-by-play, he realizes his memory stops at about the 5th shot of Jagermeister and then it resumes again with a pounding headache, waking up in darkness in a light, damp sweat. Was there someone in the bed when he woke up? He could not recall, and perhaps took this woman’s still shape for a pillow, or sheets bunched together. The bottom step is reached. And the footsteps come closer. It is a woman. And not just any woman. But as –


I am thinking of McDonald’s McGriddle breakfast sandwiches. That is the proof in the pudding of good marketing; To see a word and immediately associate it with a product without even trying. The definition of the word is no longer important as the product, which it describes. I have maybe had a McGriddle once in my lifetime, if that. While Happy Meals were a part of my childhood (and mainstays, for sure), McDonald’s breakfast was not as common. For whatever reason I remember getting breakfast at McDonald’s with my dad, perhaps around six-years-old. I’m not sure if it was his idea, or my young pestering and asking, but we ended up dining in at the Broad Street location. I recall eating subpar pancakes with gooey syrup in one of those disposable dipping cups (similar to the shape of the dipping sauces’ containers). Perhaps there was bacon or sausage, or biscuit. But it’s the pancakes and syrup I remember. They were so bland and doughy and white; No color to these pancakes. And I remember being sorely disappointed. And perhaps that’s why I’ve never gone back for McDonald’s breakfast since. I don’t even go to McDonald’s anymore. Coffee shops like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts are the closest I get to fast food, and even now that’s not even true. McDonald’s and other chains have a fat, salt, sugar formula to make their food more appealing and addictive. And as someone who cares about her health and well-being, McDonald’s just isn’t my brand like it used to be as a child. Sure, I’d allow for a rare indulgence. Why not? But it is never in my list of choices when I’m looking for a meal. Reflecting back on McDonald’s breakfast, the options I recall were so tasteless it’s a travesty that the items have so many calories. But the calling card of a good burger, that formula of sesame seed bun with ketchup, mustard, mayo, and pickles? Classic. I crave that concoction every time I have a burger. I remember the heavenly smell of grease and salt and fries when the bags would enter the car from the drive-thru window, going to Nonna’s house to eat it. Feeling giddy and impatient, and then disappointed and depressed when it was all gone. I remember how psyched I would get about the toys in the Happy Meal. Always wanting more fries than I was given. These were special times that I do hold dear as a child. Burger King and Wendy’s just didn’t hold as much promise at the end of the day.

wind chime

Five thin, cylindrical pipes of peace have been constructed as such that they are banded together and hanging from the backyard door, clanging together diatonic, pleasing, consonant notes, encouraging wind patterns and hell, even hurricanes. To be swooped up by gale force winds – what a ride, what a trip. Wind chimes make the birds chirp and increase the curiosity of squirrels as they paw the earth searching for spare bird seed and acorns come fall. Dreamcatchers of the wind. Whittled by hand and blessed by the tree from which their bark comes. So much significance in a living thing, so much significance in color. Dancing wind chimes, looking over a meager suburban kingdom.

When visited by spirits, sometimes wind chimes are known to move on their own, without wind as we know and see it. It has happened to me, and that experience will not be forgotten. Wind chimes as currency, navigating a brutal and unjust world with peaceful noise. Wind chime farm, all for sale, producing a cacophony of good will well wishes. Perhaps, sacred ground above where they hang. Slippery elm trees engraved on them, harkening back to their own Mother Earth. Their pipes twirl and hit into each other, some wooden, some metal, some plastic. Perhaps existing as an example and testament to say something along the lines of, “Let life have its way; We will go with the currents and still sing”. No more angry beating of drums and marching to old revolutionary fifes. No more defeated shuffling of feet, blistered and bruised. I long for a time of peace and meditation, overcoming with transcendence and non-engagement.


Brunette waves in curlers, she stands in front of her vanity, and gazing at her reflection goes to sit. It is early morning and the sun has barely made itself known. The twilight blue sky only just giving way to peaches and pinks, as the mid-purple gradient begins to evaporate back into space, back to the other half of the world where the clocks are all set differently than now. She is timing herself. Turning on the radio and sifting past static, she begins to read a magazine by her vanity light, licking her fingers every time she goes to turn a page. Today will be her 5th interview, and everyday she ignores the wolves of depression, invisible and always nipping at her heels, and wakes up early and goes through the beautification process. The only lesson her mother ever taught her. The only subject where these questions were ever answered. She is graying, and eyes herself suspiciously in the mirror. What happens to youth? Again, unanswered. Her mother now dead. Her timer dings and she begins to remove these tightly wrapped pink, plastic cylinders. Once they’re all out, she looks herself over and smiles. Now is time to open the shades and curtains, and apply lipstick. The radio spouts off the latest headlines before going into a buoyant jazz tune. She wants the music to take her away. Carefully outlining her lips she begins to lightly tap her foot. The house is very quiet everywhere else besides his corner. The sun starts its ascent and peep in through the window lighting up her bedroom. She had dreams once. And they never looked like this. Perfect, she thinks to herself as she completes her face. Standing up, she looks around and gathers what she needs before heading downstairs. Careful not to wake her husband, hungover and surely belligerent after a night of imbibing, she gently closes the door and turns off the radio in the bathroom. She saves her heels for the very last step, where she slips them on near the front door.