A Taste of Heaven

When I was growing up, summer was synonymous with blackberry season. I monitored the thorny vines from the first appearance of the delicate white blossoms, through the ripening stage—impatiently eating more than a few of the hard, red, sour berries—to when they were gloriously plump and black and juicy. A little taste of heaven.

Barefoot and wearing shorts, my brother, sister, and I roamed the fence rows and overgrown fields in our search for the most succulent berries, which in many cases were just out of reach. When that happened, we had to go in. There was no passing by those perfect specimens just because of a few thorns.
We learned how to avoid getting scratched and poked, how to gingerly grasp each spiny vine between thumb and forefinger, ease it to the side and slide forward through the tangled mess, over and over, until we had worked our way to the prize. Then we had to work our way back out. Despite our best efforts, many times we didn’t emerge completely unscathed; instead, occasionally we sported battle wounds of bloody scratches on arms and legs. But those luscious berries were worth it. And the inevitable chigger bites were worth it as well.

Mama picked the berries too, but not for herself as did her greedy kids. She canned them in quart jars, and they joined our substantial larder to be made into blackberry cobblers in the winter months. And as long as the vines produced, we had cobblers during the summer too. When us kids could control ourselves, not eat everything we picked, all we had to do was take a pail of berries to Mama, and she’d make a cobbler.

Lord knows how many years it’s been since I’ve tasted blackberries as sweet and juicy as those wild ones of my childhood. My son cultivates the thornless variety, but just like any other plant that scientists have fiddled with, they aren’t on quite the same par as the original. Yes, they’re good, but in my opinion, a bit of flavor has been sacrificed along with the thorns. And they aren’t as juicy; when making a cobbler, one has to squish them a bit before baking to get an adequate amount of juice.

Or perhaps does the blame for the loss of flavor rest with my aging taste buds?

Or the viewing of my childhood through rose colored glasses, where everything appears better and grander?

The only way to know for sure would be to travel back in time and conduct a taste test, pop a few blackberries in my mouth and see if they are as special as I remember. Only thing with that is I might never come back, and mess up the whole space-time continuum. I don’t think the government would let me do that.

Damn government!

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabayhttp://www.pixabay.com

The Faded Woman

Martha was a ghost of a woman. She disappeared into her surroundings, blending in as if she were no more than a sheet of wallpaper, sporting bras, hose, and socks, pasted behind the pegs of merchandise she stocked. Like a chameleon, her form merged with her environment.

Day after day, her soft, pasty body trudged up and down the lingerie aisles of the superstore, pushing a shopping cart bristling with a flashy array of leopard-print panties, bright red teddies, and other exotic intimate apparel; but unlike the garments she put out for sale, Martha was anything but colorful.

Thin, straight hair the shade of week-old coffee hung dull and lifeless to her shoulders. Stringy tendrils obscured her downturned face. Pale and rounded and malleable, she was kneaded dough, punched down and waiting for a rise that never happened. When she spoke to a customer—and she only did that when forced to—Martha’s eyes stayed on the wood-laminated floor. Even her “May I help you?” and “Have a nice day.” were smothered things spoken barely above a whisper on good days, and on bad days, a tired, almost-inaudible sigh of sound.

And there were plenty of bad days, days when her head felt as if it were a ball of unmitigated pain that had been created for no other purpose than to punisher her because she wasn’t a good enough daughter, a good enough wife, but most of all, a good enough mother. Martha endured the frequent migraines without complaint, a firm believer that her suffering was atonement for past mistakes, and when God thought she had paid enough, the attacks would cease. And though she told none of her coworkers when she was in the throes of a migraine, a glimpse of her features told the tale—red-rimmed eyes sunk into dark hollows on an otherwise skim milk face.

But regardless of how she felt, Martha plodded through the days, doing her job and doing it well so that at the end of the week she could collect her meager paycheck. Not for herself, but for her two grown daughters and their children. She was determined that her daughters would never do without as she had. Yes, she would always be there for them, paying their rent, buying their groceries, providing whatever their respective husbands didn’t for as long as she had a breath left in her body.

Martha’s children and grandchildren were her life. Only in their presence did her eyes sparkle, her lips curve in a smile, her round shoulders square. Other employees took note of Martha’s transformation when her daughters came into the store; it was like seeing her for the first time. One worker said, “You know, I never realized it before, but Martha’s kind of pretty.” And another remarked on the lovely green shade of her eyes.

Then her family would leave, and Martha would fade away once more, becoming as translucent as the pantyhose tucked inside the packages she placed neatly on shelves. A see-through woman. Barely there at all.

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Forever Isn’t Forever

friends walk away
pass you by
many times
you don’t know why

what did you do
what did you say
is it your fault
they act this way

never drop by
never call
not there to catch you
if you stumble and fall

ones who loved you
turn their backs
don’t care to see you
take it as fact

they promised forever
to be your friend
but that didn’t happen
time to stamp “the end”

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Death Becomes Her

death becomes her…
smoothed the seams
that lined a tired face
erased the hurt
from eyes of green flint
hushed the blush
that colored angry cheeks
purged the pain
of a life, empty and spent

death becomes her…
hollow hope packed
its overstuffed bags
romantic ruminations
stepped out the door
borrowed tomorrows
went on vacation
and now sleeps serenely
beneath sandy shores

© 2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

June Bug

buzzing June bug
of iridescent green
whispers softly
“come fly with me”
over rolling hills
and deep valleys
over canting barns
and garden patches
over grazing cattle
and pecking chickens
to a time and place
that slumbers gently
in my mind
of
endless summer days
and long dusty roads
cool shaded woods
and gurgling rocky streams
possum-grape vines
and blackberry thickets
an old weathered house
perched on the hill
of my distant childhood
so fondly remembered
viewed through
rose-colored lenses
of kindly Time

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Self-Publishing—my experience

A few years ago, I decided to try my hand at self-publishing. Starting out, I used Amazon exclusively, but when I didn’t get good results, branched out into Smashwords. Both were a disappointment. The whole experience was a disappointment. As to why, there were several reasons.

First off, I didn’t get the sales I expected. Mind you, I didn’t have any illusions, thinking I would be an overnight sensation; I would have been happy selling an occasional e-book with hopes of modestly growing my readership over time, enough so that I could make a little money doing what I loved. That didn’t happen. Friends and family shelled out to purchase my e-books—I published a total of four—but other than a few exceptions, the only time I sold my work was when I ran deals and hawked them on my website/blog.

And that comes to number two: I hated, absolutely hated, self-promotion. To me, it was akin to begging everyone to please, please, please buy my book. For now, I’m moving on, but will come back to self-promotion later on.

Number three comes from a personal experience that was the tipping point. A blogger friend who had self-published for a number of years asked me to contribute to a science fiction themed anthology she was putting together, and I happily accepted. When the e-book was published on Amazon, I purchased a copy and started reading. And cringed. The stories were not that good, and many needed editing. Only one stood out as being both interesting and well-told. (I’m not referencing my own story here; it’s hard to be impartial regarding one’s own work as we writers can overestimate or underestimate our abilities, so I’m leaving it out of my critique of the anthology.) And I realized I should have read some of my friend’s work before I agreed to participate. My only excuse for not doing so was that she wrote in a genre that didn’t remotely interest me. I didn’t do my homework, and now my name was linked to what I considered a subpar book.

That experience opened my eyes to the world of self-publishing. After extensive research and a lot of reading, I realized that for every self-published gem out there, there were hundreds of duds. Some actually tell a good story, but sink under the combined weight of bad grammar and typos. When reading such a book, I would think, Why didn’t someone tell them they needed to hire an editor? Or in the case when everything was bad, Why didn’t a friend or family member tell them their writing sucks?

And I had an “ah” moment: No one spoke up because they didn’t want to hurt the budding writer’s feelings. I should have known because I had also been guilty of keeping silent.

That awareness caused me to take stock of my own abilities and marketability. And that was when I pulled my books off Amazon and Smashwords, and vowed that if I were to be published, it would be by traditional means: submitting my work to publishers who had no qualms about hurting my feelings.

Now back to my hatred of self-promotion—
Getting traditionally published is now a whole different ballgame than it was in the past. Authors are expected not only to write a good book, but to vigorously market it as well. They are expected to have a website, Twitter account, and Facebook page, all with a healthy following before their book even hits the shelves. And did I mention self-promoting, how one has to get out there like the hucksters of old, waving their book and shouting “Buy my book! Please!”?

All this led me to the realization that I am not cut out to succeed in today’s publishing environment. I don’t have the drive, the utter belief in my talent, to keep banging my head against a brick wall with the hope I’ll somehow, someway, knock it down. And if by some miracle I do, spend as much time branding myself as writing.

So I decided to write not for accolades or money, but for my own enjoyment, my own need. When the mood hits, I send out short stories and poetry, and have placed a few. It’s a sideline, though, nothing serious. But this blog (and previous ones) is metaphorically my garden where I plant what germinates, sprouts, and bears fruit in my mind. Sometimes my garden flourishes and the writing flows, and sometimes it hits a dry spell and the words wither on the vine. I just take it as it grows…er…flows. And when it flows, most of the time I share it here for others to read or not, whichever they choose. And I don’t have to yell, “Buy me, buy me, buy me, please!”

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Norma the Bitch

Norma was a bitch no matter how you looked at it. A god-awful, razor-tongued, snooty-nosed bitch.

Of course, Squinch Campbell hadn’t known that when he married her. Like everyone else in town, he had thought he was one lucky son-of-a-gun to be getting such a fine, upstanding woman for a wife. How could he have known that behind her angel face hid the daughter of the devil himself?

God almighty, the woman was downright mean. She was gonna drive him to an early grave, most likely planted right beside them other three husbands of hers.

If he didn’t get rid of her first.

Squinch had never contemplated murder before marrying Norma Bindie; why he couldn’t even so much as squash a bug. But he’d never had anyone pick and peck at him constantly, criticize every single thing he did and didn’t do, all the while looking at him like he was a pile of dog shit they had stepped in. Continue reading “Norma the Bitch”

A Plethora of Books

How many books on writing do you own?

If you’re like me, more than you wish to admit, especially considering the money spent on them; and if we are to be honest here, most gathering dust on the shelf, floor, chair, desk, wherever.

Years ago, I routinely checked my thesaurus, dictionary, grammar handbook, and more. All were kept within easy reach. But over time, the internet has pretty much made reference books obsolete. Why turn to a book when with the click of a mouse you can have your answer, which is up to date, not five or ten years old?

To go with the reference books, I have shelves—yes, shelves, as in plural—of books telling me how to write and sell my novel, how to create conflict and suspense, writing the paranormal, etcetera, etcetera. And though I seldom crack one open, I can’t seem to part with them. Just the thought of it hurts my heart.

Digital is rapidly replacing the printed form, and though I embrace new technology, there’s a sterileness to it. A Kindle doesn’t feel like a real book in your hands. A smartphone doesn’t have that ink-and-paper aroma. Curling up with an iPad on a rainy day doesn’t quite satisfy. Occasionally, I have to have that fix, so about every third or fourth novel, I dive into a real book.

But almost all my writing research is now done on the internet. My dictionary and thesaurus are apps on my phone. Questions are answered by a Google search. How-tos are explored through YouTube videos and web sites.

I am a modern writer.

But on occasion, I long for a simpler time…flipping through books and articles, taking copious notes on yellow legal pads, trips to the local library. This is not to say that I don’t ever use paper and pen, don’t ever read physical books, just less and less as time goes by.

I see a future where books will only be published in digital form. I know it’s better for the environment if we use less paper—save a tree and all that—but to me, that will be a sad day. I wonder what books will think when they live only as ones and zeros, having no physical form. I wonder if they will miss the feel of human hands. And I wonder if they will be lonely.

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Little Girls and Old Ladies

Taught to honor and obey
Little girls can’t find their way
Lips zipped against food and speech
Gotta stay skinny, gotta stay meek
Or lasting love won’t come their way
Submerging self, the price they pay
Striving to be who he wants her to be
She loses her and becomes his she

Put Prince Charming on lofty pedestal
Feed the ego of immature male
Make him feel like a mighty king
No matter the fact you’ll never be queen
For him, queens are the porn-star pack
Perfect dolls all waxed, maxed, and stacked
Standing by, always ready, willing, and able
Not real women…just juvenile fables

Poor little girls become old women
Before they realize there is no winning
For the enlightened, this epiphany brings joy
No more worries about pleasing a boy
Just march to the beat of your own crazy drummer
Pick white daisies in your own field of summer
Dance in the rain while the devil beats his wife
And lest it be you, carry a big suspicious knife

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Myra’s Funeral

So this is how it all ends, Myra Dunbar thought. My whole life laid bare for the entire world to see.

Well, not quite the entire world; just her family, friends, and a good portion of Welbly, Louisiana, the town she had lived in her entire life.

It was a good turnout, and it pleased her that so many cared enough to come see her off. But it was embarrassing too. After all, who in their right mind wouldn’t turn a bright red to hear their worst transgressions read aloud.

She was glad that John had already passed. He wasn’t sitting here now on the pew in front of her and the current speaker, their daughter Lily, while Lily recounted the time Myra had gotten high and let the five-year-old cook her own dinner, resulting in a nasty burn.

But Myra got through that and a few other mortifying tales without squirming too much in her seat. And Lily moved on to more mundane memories that characterized what an exemplary mother Myra had been.

She was doubly glad John was gone when the last speaker, Marshal Whitacre, the town recorder, took the podium. As was custom, he recited her list of sins first, starting with the time in third grade she had called Milly Simpson a soulless ginger, making the redhead cry, to her third affair that had ended shortly after John’s passing. Myra had learned at John’s funeral that he’d had four flings, sort of evened them out, she supposed, but was still glad he had gone on not knowing.

Then Marshal moved on to her list of deeds.

Head held high and shoulders squared, Myra’s lips curved in a small, modest smile as he recounted her acts of kindness, and exalted her public service, respect for authority, party loyalty, and small carbon footprint.

Ending with her work history, Marshall said, “As most of you know, Myra Dunbar devoted most of her adult life to the upkeep of our library, overseeing the uploading of countless books and their distribution over the internet. And just as importantly, she tracked down and deleted books banned by the Party, even going so far as to erase all mention of them on rogue servers. Furthermore, she was a front-runner in the Party’s initiative to ferret out and destroy false narratives, from history to science that pervades the internet, poisoning our children’s minds.”

Beaming, he turned to Myra. “And so on this day, March 25, 2031, we owe her our thanks for a life well lived, and a job well done.”

The mourners clapped. Myra demurely lowered her eyes, as was expected when one was praised.

When the applause died down, Marshall continued. “Today Myra Tyson Dunbar turns seventy-five, and as is custom, she passes from us. But she will live forever in our hearts.”

Applause again broke out.

Marshal took Myra’s hand. “Come,” he said.

She stood and looked up into the smiling, middle-aged face of her son-in-law.

“Are you ready?” he whispered, tucking her arm through his.

“Yes…yes, I am,” Myra said, though now that the time was here she wasn’t so sure. But she knew she had to put on a brave front, if not for her own pride, then for that of her family. It didn’t sit well on one’s permanent record if a family member behaved badly, even at their passing.

All stood as Myra walked with Marshal down the center aisle toward the back of the room where two soldiers waited on either side of the double doors.

Among the applause and smiling goodbyes, Myra heard a woman whisper, “Can you believe that young people used to have to fight the wars? Imagine squandering productive life that way. Barbaric…”

Then white-haired, stoop-shouldered, Myra Dunbar passed through the double doors and into the Army.

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay