Author Archives: ramblingsfromtheleft

About ramblingsfromtheleft

I am unpublished and optimistically waiting for that one magic moment.

Flash forward …

Today, I give you a sentence prompt sent to me by Patti Yager Delagrange. I used her sentence to begin my flash.

I ask her indulgence and yours to imagine a willow tree that might grow in Brooklyn.


Jenny stared out the window at the rain drops spattering off the leaves of the willow tree, wondering how the hell her life had spun so out of control.

It was difficult to see through the mist. Was it the rain or was it tears that blurred her vision? The memories of him threatened to wash up, reverse inertia, a river running up stream like a salmon.

Behind her, the children played one of the hundreds of games children play to occupy their time until life stacked the deck and one of them might draw the Ace of Spades. She swiped the tears with the back of her hand, turning sideways to watch the little one.

She won’t be like me. No, she’ll be brave and strong. She’ll know who she is and she’ll never let life beat her down. I’ll see to that.

Jenny had been too long, too thin and too trusting. All these conspired to make her a target at seven, a tom boy and a second grade misfit.

sad girl


Little girl image

That’s when it all ended, ended before it had a chance to start. For too many years she had lived within herself, hiding from the life she so desperately wanted to live.

The little one shouted, “No, it’s my turn.”

The older one knew it wasn’t her turn, but he’d let her go again. It was his way. Separated by three years, Jenny saw he would grow to be the protector. Did Jenny expect her son to protect her, protect her from the memories of another older brother?

Someone told her to write it all down. “It was a long time ago and I might not get it straight.”

“Write the parts you remember,” they said. “The parts that were the most important.”

After much debate, she wrote her story; wrote it in her own words.

It began when she was seven. That’s how old she was when he told her. It ended six months from this day with a phone call.

She wrote about all the nights she sat at her bedroom window with her brother, listening to music on her radio. He would tell her who the singing groups were and teach her all the dances. They would play Go Fish or tell stupid jokes. He taught her about maps from the giant Atlas in the living room and gave her dozens of books to read. Alone and the only girl among six boys, her brother, six years older, became her best and only friend.

Fourteen years her senior, her older sister poked her. “Why don’t you go out and make real friends?”

“I hate boys and those two girls down the block are stuck up.”

For years he came in and out of her life. Adventure, as they say, was her brother’s middle name. He traveled the globe in search of new and exciting places, met dozens of new friends, learned to speak three languages, and twice each year, he blustered in the door, his arms filled with presents from his travels.

She’d get all happy and then he’d leave again. No one could talk to her during the times he was gone.

She turned her face from the children’s play to the window. Always a window.

In the first house she sat at her bedroom window, the one that faced the gray factories, the one where they had shared so many good times.

It was the week after her seventh birthday, the year she was to receive her First Holy Communion. He had been teaching her the questions the nuns would ask.

“I’ll forget and they’ll call me a dummy.”

“You won’t forget. Don’t worry so much.”

But it was at that same window, between their music and the new dances that he told her. They were bored and started counting the cars along the elevated highway. He leaned over and asked, “Hey baby, you think if I jump, I’ll bounce back like the Keystone cops?”

She hadn’t answered. There was a new sound in his voice, a sound that frightened her.

“That’s what I’m going to do some day.” He turned to her and laughed. “Some day I’ll jump. Jump out of the window and off this rotten world.”

In the next apartment she sat alone and looked out across the small backyards with their rows of fences, pigeon coops and neatly strung clothes line. He was off somewhere doing the bad things that older boys did at his age.

Her habit barely registered when she stood by the window in the next house. By then her older sister was married and he was gone most of the time. She sat a chair by the back window and listened to the music of a new generation, read more books, and watched the traffic and the daily routes of pedestrians along the avenue.

Her mother prodded, “Why don’t you go out with your friends?”

How could she tell her mother that her best friend was busy and that soon none of them would ever see him again? She waited, worried and sat alone.

After three more places, more music and new windows, Jenny took one road trip on her own. In this place, Jenny fixed the room for the children, planted a chair by the fire escape window, and joined the legions of lonely women who live encased in wood and glass.

Jenny knew people loved happy endings like the ones in fairy tales, like the tale of her older sister. Her life had been a fairy tale written by Grimm. First came love. Then came marriage. Then came Jenny with the baby carriage.

Christmas or Fourth of July, family gatherings came and her brother no longer blustered through the door with arms filled with presents. Weddings and children, nieces and nephews, deaths and births, all found him missing in action. He became a voice on the other end of a phone, lines that connected them in strange ways. She was hungry to touch his face. “You know Mom gets crazy when you don’t come home.”

“Don’t you miss me too?”

She lied. “No, I stopped missing you a long time ago.”

Then the phone call came. It was her older sister, the one who had been the model child, the one who bore the responsibility for letting the others know.

“The police found one of my letters in his wallet.”

Jenny didn’t ask and her sister became annoyed. “Don’t you want to know what happened?”

Her best friend, her worst enemy, her confidant and her adversary, had finally fulfilled his prophecy. “He jumped.”

“Don’t tell ma.”

“It’s too late, she already knows.”

Her brother made his last road trip in a box. A box they sent back to his mother, sealed, concealed, hiding the truth from nosy neighbors and family.

And today, like all the dead days that had followed the phone call, twenty years after the fact, Jenny sat and wondered what had happened to those two happy kids. Wondered how he could have known so long ago. She hated him for telling her, for making her the confidant in his deadly secret and still loved him and the new music she listened to alone at night.

The rain had stopped and a soft twilight bathed the room in shades of purple and pink, the soft colors of sunset, the time they could walk to the bay and watch the round ball descend into the bay.

The older one pulled her shirt. “Ma, it stopped raining. Can we go by the bay?”

The little one clapped. “And buy ice cream at the Carvel?”

Her best friend was gone and he’d never come back. She was a cute kid, that kid at seven watching traffic on the elevated highway. A cute kid with lots of love for the life she lived. But after that night, her innocence had never returned. Her life, her marriage and everything she touched spun out of control.

A little girl can live a lifetime in seven years. At twenty-seven she wondered if her life would start again without him.

At night, she’d hear his song and remember.


I originally planned to make this a sad love story … and  perhaps in my own strange way … I did just that.

Have you ever started a story with one clear intention and then for no reason you can find, it changes … like the words have a life of their own? Do your characters ever tell you what to do next, how they want the ending?

What happens when the words don’t cooperate and some unknown something takes over?


Tell me reader, does this story work with Patti’s sentence?

Do you think it is a love story

or just the tale of a sad little girl?

fOIS In The City

Note:  If this inspires you, and if you have not done so already, send me a sentence prompt.

LATE NEWS FLASH.  My good friend Patti Yager Delagrange has hooked an agent for her next book. CONGRATS again, girlfriend !!


Filed under Flash Fiction

Part Three-So long, it’s been good to know you …


Graphic credit

Pulling up stakes …

I introduced Part One by mentioning the major move Laura Drake took recently, pulling up stakes in SoCal and moving to Texas, the land of the Sweet Cowboy. Like my move to Southern Florida, Laura’s move was one of the benefits of retirement and thus it was welcomed and met with open arms.

What if you didn’t want to move away from the known into an unsure future?

Well, if you’re a kid, you have no choice. Someone packs up your marbles and moves the game across the borough, or to the burbs, into the hills or along one of our winding river banks. You go to sleep in one location and by night fall you are tucked into bed in another location.

Today we visit Antoinette and her friend, Michael the day their families are leaving Sunset Park. It is two weeks after they graduated from the eighth grade at St. Matthew’s Parochial School.

Michael will live in the burbs of Long Island, Antoinette in the posh neighborhood of Bay Ridge, accentuated by the Brooklyn Narrows and the Staten Island Ferry.

Moving day …

Antoinette and Michael sat on two milk crates from the old Olympia Diner, their heads moving like spectators at a tennis match between the two houses and the two trucks moving their families. Neither of the teens spoke. Antoinette was so quiet, Carmela rushed twice to the medicine cabinet to shake out her thermometer to take the girl’s temperature.

“She hasn’t spoken a word in hours. The only time that child is quiet is when she’s sick or she’s been into mischief. And since there is no mischief to make today, even for our Antoinette, I’m certain she’s coming down with a terrible cold.”

Andrew leaned out of Antoinette’s bedroom window and watched his sister raise her camera. “Will you pack this and stop worrying. She’s upset because you’re moving.”

Michael was the first to break the long silence. “I’m happy. That’s what I keep telling myself.” He shook his head slowly. “So how come I feel so rotten?”

Antoinette shrugged.

At one point she became agitated and marched to the back of the truck carrying the few possessions she was moving to the new house.

Michael followed her. “What’s  wrong?”

“If you were like a normal boy, and not the dough-head that you are,” she rolled her eyes, “I wouldn’t have to tell you. You’d know.”

He pulled at her arm. “You could humor the dough-head and tell me anyway.”

She started walking in a circle and held up one finger. “First of all, I don’t want to play hide and seek with boys all summer. Bobby will be chasing me all over and Tom Conti will be following suit. It drives me crazy when they act like that.”

She held up her other finger. “Second, I need to get used to the new place and some of the kids I’ll be going to school with.”

She held up the third finger and frowned. “And third, I feel like it.”

Two hours later the trucks were gone and on their way to their final destinations. Carmela rushed down the steps holding two shopping bags and a lamp shade. Andrew was behind her with two more shopping bags. “I don’t understand why you couldn’t pack this stuff and send it ahead.” He motioned to the lamp shade. “And why would you want to keep that hideous lamp shade?”

Carmela ignored her eldest and pointed to Michael and Antoinette. “Look at them. You’d think they were being sent to refugee camps.”

Andrew smiled. “It might have more to do with the fact that this is the first time since they were born, they’re not going to the same school and won’t be seeing each other every day.”

Angelina and John Russo came out of their front door as Carmela was putting the lamp shade on top of one of her shopping bags. One look and they both broke down.

Antoinette used the last of her third roll of film to capture the precious moment when the two women finally separated, the moment when the two men hugged and kissed each cheek as was their Italian custom.

Michael laughed. “At least we aren’t getting all wet and silly about it.”

Her head bobbed. “Sure, we’re not going to act like them.”

John Russo barked at his son to get into the car. It was time to say good-bye. Angelina reached out to her best friend for one more hug and the two teens watched as John Russo and Big Frank separated them.

Michael play punched Antoinette and said. “I have to go. You know how he gets.”

She gave him one back. “We can still see each other when you’re working with Andrew, or on weekends.”

He nodded. “Yeah, sure.”

“And we can always do stuff on school holidays, like the Music Hall.”

He nodded again. “Sure we can.”

Antoinette shook her head. “It’s a good thing you always had me to get you out of trouble, Michael Russo.”

He stepped back and smiled. “What does that mean?”

This time she wasn’t clicking on her camera. She reached over and touched his face with the palms of her hands, as though she wanted to memorize each curve, imprint his smile and hold this one single moment in her memory. She kissed him on both cheeks and told him in Italian. “Because you’re still the worst liar on the planet.”

Without another word she ran to her brother’s car and slipped in next to the shopping bags. Big Frank pushed Carmela into the backseat and motioned to Andrew. “Do it now.”

Andrew gunned the engine, jumped off the curb and made a U-turn to get onto Third Avenue, heading for Shore Road and his parents’ new house. Antoinette turned and got up on her knees, watching Michael climb into his father’s new Buick. She watched until her brother’s car made the turn on Third Avenue. Only then did she turn and sit.

Big Frank moved his body around in the front seat until he was facing his wife and daughter. He pulled a clean hanky from his back pocket and handed it to Antoinette. No one spoke during the fifteen minute ride to Bay Ridge.

When Andrew stopped the car in front of the new house, Antoinette turned to her mother. “Funny, isn’t it mom?”

Carmela sighed. “What’s funny, Antoinette?”

“It only took us fifteen minutes to move from one world to another.”


How about you reader, did your family pull up stakes,

and force you to leave behind a childhood friend?

And has that friend remained a part of your life?

fOIS In The City


Filed under Ramblings

Part Two-So long, it’s been good to know you …

What scares us to death does not make us stronger …

I once read a survey that said more Americans are afraid of spiders than they are of death.

Since I have an amazingly ridiculous and incurable phobia to arachnoids, and I equate moving with death, “ergo” (don’t you love any excuse to use that word?) … I think of moving as uncovering a nest of hairy things … then like the witch … being crushed under the weight of it.

moving chaos

Blog credit

Not much fun.

I did, however, think it was funny enough to write an entire rolling monologue that translated into one of my journals … The Mad Mother From Brooklyn.

We lived in a cramped one-bedroom apartment, the two kids in the bedroom and mom on the sofa in the living room. Have I ever told you the number of sofas, floor mats and other strange beddings I’ve slept on? No?


This apartment had a long front hall I quickly converted into a playroom for the kids and the dog. Soon after moving we also acquired a cat.

The living room was my bedroom and office, it was where we ate all our meals, where I played loud music, studied, and where I played games with dozens of urchins from the building. Emotionally, I am torn. I consider the five years we lived in this Bensonhurst, Brooklyn apartment to be the best years of my life.

However, the landlord, who lived on the fifth floor of the building, was not very generous with the steam heat. The radiators were cold most of the winter. The last and fifth winter, we were trapped during over 20 major snow storms and one record-breaking blizzard that paralyzed the entire north east of the country.

To give the landlord his due, I left in the middle of the night owing five months rent. To immortalize her, the night I escaped the deep freeze, I wrote on the ceiling: The Mad Mother from Brooklyn Lived Here in bright red crayon.

devil woman

Devil woman


The last traumatic move for me was the year I left Northern Manhattan and moved to South Florida.

I have learned to live with the culture shock since this area is better known as New York South. I have adjusted to the climate change, the lack of alternate side of the street parking, no busses on every street corner, and no subway rides downtown. In time I even began to enjoy the quiet. But I have never stopped missing Brooklyn.

Speaking of Brooklyn, I’d like to introduce you once again to Antoinette.

Antoinette is my alter-ego, soul mate, my legal middle name, and the main character in my Third Eye Mystery Trilogy. Before she grew up to be a photojournalist for The Associate Press, Antoinette “Toni” Gallucci was the central character is a young adult book I have played with for  six years. Her story, Sunset Park, spans fourteen years of her life from seven through her twenty-first birthday.

Another character from those stories is Michael Russo. Michael might be that kid I talk about occasionally. The only boy I didn’t hate and my trusted side-kick, Petie.

For the next two weeks it will be my pleasure to tell you the tale of Antoinette’s separation from her childhood friend, Michael Russo.


Introduction to Moving Day …

School was dismissed and the kids scattered. Some of them walked up the long hills adjacent to Sunset Park and were never heard from again. Many married young, birthing and raising a new generation.

It was a fresh start as the kids and their parents threw off the remnants of the yesterdays that defined them and embraced a vision of tomorrow they waited to realize.

For the kids who grew up in the areas surrounding Bay Ridge, the incredible vistas from bike path along Shore Parkway, adjacent to the Brooklyn Narrows, spanned these changing times.

It was in the ebb and flow of the waters, in the endless stream of people and traffic, the change began to define itself.

Dancing to another beat, both parents and children had yet to learn, eventually everything old is new again.


What change of scenery has caused

the most trauma or joy in your life?

fOIS In The City


Filed under Ramblings