Freewrite Fiction

I go to a Freewrite group twice a month if I’m in town. Attendees bring in writing prompts on a rotating basis, but we can also write without the prompts. The goal is to simply write.
Last week, a woman brought lines from songs. I pulled out several but settled on a line from a Crosby, Stills and Nash song – Suite Judy Blue Eyes. The line was this: Fear is the lock, and laughter the key to your heart.
I pulled it out, thinking of writing about the need to laugh more, or how to quell fears. But the moment I put pen to paper, something completely different came out. What follows is what I wrote – a complete fictional account. Let me know what you think. And remember, I don’t write fiction.

He made her laugh, but not enough for the key to work. There was just enough fear to keep her heart locked.
She wasn’t quite sure what it was that caused the fear. The bit of swagger in his walk? Perhaps, but she hadn’t minded the swagger Bobby’d had each time he led her to the dance floor, or to the pier, or to his bed.
Was it that darkness in his eyes? Not the brownness, but the darkness that overlay everything else.
That must be it. The darkness. She’d seen that same darkness in the eyes of a man on trial for murder when she’d sat on the jury. And she’d convicted him, too. Partly because of his eyes.
Now, here were those eyes again, the eyes of a murderer. His laughter and his ability to make her laugh nudged the key, pushing into her heart, but then he’d look at her a certain way, and the lock was firm once again.
It was the way he kept his head, facing down, and turned slowly to the side and up to look at her. Each time it made her flinch.
But now what was she to do? She’d been crazy to let him know where she lived. How was it he’d got it out of her?
And now, there he was across the table from her. Turning his head to the side and up to look at her.
She got up from the table and excused herself, saying she was sorry but she wasn’t feeling well and had to go home.
When she got there, she double checked the doors to be sure they were locked and made sure all the windows were tightly closed.
He used a glass cutter to come in through the window in the den.


There has been too much death in my life recently.

In the past month, I have lost three friends and my Godmother,who was in her late 90’s, and in my sister’s family, her husband lost a sister and his mother.

I don’t even begin to understand how to grieve when so much comes so fast. I just keep feeling like I’m being knocked down. I start to get up again, and wham! It happens again.

My brother-in-law’s mother lived to be over 100. I had met her, but didn’t really know her. With such a long life – and it was a good one – I cannot feel too badly. His sister, well, that is something else. Again, I didn’t know her well, but the shock of an unexpected death of a healthy woman had a profound impact on my sister’s entire family. Then the mother died just a few weeks later.

Closer to home, my Godmother was my mother’s best childhood friend. Aunt Mart abandoned rural Pennsylvania for Chicago, and my mother followed soon after. Mart had been raised on a farm, and my mom was a townie. Somehow, they became quite close.

My mother (Emilie), Aunt Mart, and my maternal grandmother (also Emilie).

As recently as last year, the last time I saw Mart, she talked with animated detail about the day I was born and how she’d felt seeing me for the first time. She glowed like she’d been the one to give birth.

Mart moved to Las Vegas from Chicago when her son moved there, and lived in her own home. Her son took her shopping weekly.

Mart with her son, Chip, summer of 2009.

I visited her yearly. Not nearly enough, but what I could manage and afford. Each time I’d go, we’d have a celebratory dinner at Mimi’s Restaurant, a place she loved. Last time, I also introduced her to Joe’s Crab Shack, and she made me swear I’d take her back on my next visit. The next visit was scheduled for this winter. Mart – I send love and thoughts of crab your way.

My sister, Jean (best sister in the world), Aunt Mart, and me – after dining at Mimi’s in 2010.


Mart and me after dinner – at Mimi’s – in 2011.

The other three who died were all male. One I didn’t know well at all, but I know and like his wife. The other is a man I met the day I first visited Bisbee. I somehow ended up at a party he was throwing, and that’s what got me stuck in Bisbee overnight. It changed my life.

I’ve known this man for nearly forty years. I had recently reconnected with him and it was such a pleasure to get to know him again.

The other who died, also male, was someone I knew thirty-five years ago. We had a lot of fun times together long ago, and for the last year or so had been connected through Facebook. This modern technological marvel allowed us to stay in touch, see each other’s photos, and reconnect over a large distance.

There is really nothing more to say other than I am sick of all the death.

My friend Christina (author of Drive Me Wild: A Western Odyssey) says that every day past fifty is a gift. In years past, everyone my age would already be dead. Before penicillin, a bout of pneumonia or any kind of infection due to an injury could have been deadly. Cancer, for sure, killed people – if they lived long enough to get it. I know all of this is true, and most days I feel exceedingly grateful for another day in decent health.

But still, it is hard to lose a friend and to lose my Godmother. And to have so many deaths happen in such a short period of time sends me reeling.

A Tucson friend is always shocked that each time I see her I have lost a friend. I won’t even tell her of the number since I saw her about six weeks ago.

A Circular Event

It was hot in Tucson. Not scorching like it had been for the last four months, but hot. Low 90s.

I had slipped into Beyond Bread to cool off with an iced tea and use its wi-fi to check my email. I had a message from my friend Christina: she had a new posting on her blog (check it out at She described a labyrinth where she’d recently taken a walk.

Inspired, I logged onto to see what I might be close to. Bingo. There was one about four miles away, in the yard of a church.

It was a lovely church grounds, and I wandered a bit, finally noticing a patch of desert to the east with a sign that said Desert Sanctuary. Made perfect sense.

I walked down the path, and there it was. It was fairly large – maybe forty feet across, laid out simply with desert rock. Near the entrance was a ramada with shaded benches, and just to the side was a peace pole, a 6×6 post, set into the ground, and standing over six feet tall. On each side the word ‘peace’ was written in a variety of languages, maybe fourteen or fifteen in all. Simple, like the labyrinth.

Christina had walked her labyrinth barefooted and suggested it. Well, she is in Montana and was walking on wood chips. I am in Arizona in an area of many thorned shrubs like cholla, prickly pear, and even the mesquite and whitethorn. And the path was of pebbles. I kept my shoes on.

The labyrinth appeared to be perfectly aligned to the four directions with the entrance on the south. The north-south line extended from the center circle nearly to the outside edge, with just one pathway open at each pole. The east-west line did the same, with openings on the far east and west.

Entrance to the labyrinth from the shade of the ramada.

I walked it slowly, pausing at each cardinal point to say a little prayer of gratitude. When I reached the center, I first faced each direction and said another brief thanks and then also thanked Father Sky and Mother Earth, stretching first up tall and then squatting down to put my hands on the ground.

Center, facing south.

I stood there a few minutes, taking in the near silence. I was amazed it was so quiet as it stood a mere half block from a fairly busy road. But quiet it was, and I relished it.

Then I slowly made my way back out and took a seat under the ramada. The twenty or so minute walk under desert sun had left me quite hot and thirsty. But as I walked back out to the parking lot, I saw a path off to the south that I’d noticed on the way in.

Over a little bridge and onto a pathway that noodled around and completely circled the labyrinth. And each sixty paces or so, there was a bench and a station of the cross.

What? For some reason, I though walking the stations of the cross was a Catholic thing. Here I was at a Presbyterian church and there was a simple walk through the stations. With the labyrinth, it was quite an ecumenical event.

Eventually, the path circled back to its entrance, and I crossed the hot tarmac to my car, which I’d parked under a big, shady mesquite.

M-m-m. Cool water.

A Few of My Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens.
Yep, these things are pretty good. But more and more these days, my favorite things are in Bahia Kino.
First, of course, there is the sea. Always there. Where else could it go?

Sunset casts its glow on the water, too.

Shifting between blue and gray, from serene to angry. High tide slamming against the seawall or sometimes barely tickling it. But it is the sea that draws me here over and over again.
Then, food! I have a friend who has lived here for many years, and she has tired of the sameness of the food. There is not much real Mexican food other than seafoods prepared in Mexican styles.
Now, a part of me simply cannot imagine tiring of fresh seafood. Fresh as in right-off-the-boat seafood. A favorite memory is strolling the beach one morning, greeting a fisherman and asking about his catch. My friend and I were able to choose a fish and have it boned and filleted in front of us in a matter of minutes.
On the other hand, there are lots of foods I love that simply don’t exist here. Simple things like hearty wheat bread or cheddar cheese. Would I tire of the food if I were here full time? Yes, I imagine I would.
There’s also the estuary. It’s a ten- minute drive from my casita (that’s a fancy word for “old trailer in need of work.”) The estuary is filled with egrets, cormorants, and osprey in addition to pelicans, gulls and such. There is also, interestingly, a grounded police boat, though I’ve never been able to learn its story.

Yep, a police boat.

In early morning, right at the entrance to the estuary, fishermen shove their boats off, heading out to sea for a day’s work. There is a shrine to La Virgen, and recently a small open-air chapel has been added.

The new little outdoor chapel. Sweet.

Just a mile away from the estuary’s entrance is an oyster farm and an open-air restaurant sits on the shore. I don’t know its real name, but the first time I saw it I dubbed it the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, as that’s just about how it feels there.
We sit at long picnic-style tables and benches, gaze out on the estuary, and get fresh shucked oysters in a matter of moments. It’s incredibly cheap to eat there. On a good day there’s enough fresh crab to have a crab-draped tostada and still be able to buy a kilo of crabmeat to take home.
Then there are the people. Kino has its share of odd folks like any place, but it also has some of the kindest, warmest folks I’ve ever known.
Last May I was here and got incredibly sick. I actually didn’t mind too much – it forced me to stay here a few extra days. One woman friend brought me more water and Imodium. Another gave me fresh squeezed orange juice, and another provided the proverbial chicken soup. In a small trailer park like the one I’m in, there are always folks who can lend a hand, and I treasure that.
Some of the folks here are incredible, from the woman in the office who can handle anything, to the two young men who maintain the grounds and jump in to help should I need something done.
There are several men who have worked on the trailer and space, one of whom is even known as a legendary organizer in the 70s. I love when he works here since he’s always singing softly as he swings his hammer or lays block.

Then there is my friend the restaurateur. This man owns one of the many open-air restaurants. I stop for coffee there each morning when I go on a walk with women  friends. The day I met him – no, the moment I laid eyes on him – I simply adored him. He’s friendly, sweet, and a danged good cook. Now I shop up in “el Norte” for him. A sweater in winter. A pot big enough to hold three kilos of pinto beans. A large container of black pepper.
It’s funny. When I met this man, he was, immediately, a sort of father figure. Come to find out, I’m about a year older than he is. But knowing that somehow hasn’t changed that wonderful fatherly feeling I have for him.
There’s the woodcarver who drops by to try to sell his wares, but is just as glad for a glass of water and some conversation. As he leaves, it’s always, “Thanks, Mama.”
Oddly, I even enjoy finding dead fish and birds on the beach.
Last, or just about last anyway, is the moon. I never tire of seeing it rise over the sea and cast its silvery light across the water. The last two mornings, the moon has been just about full. My friend and I rose each day in time to sit outside with coffee, watching the moon turn to a shimmering gold, spilling its color across the sea. This morning was probably the most beautiful moonset I have ever witnessed.

Sunrises. Sunsets. Gazing at Isla Alcatraz. Now I sit inside, in the air-conditioned comfort of the trailer, snugged into the cushioned banco. I lift my eyes, just a bit to the left, and there’s the sea.
I can never tire of this.

Hot Kino Days

I used to think a swim would be great on a hot day. And I suppose it is. But today was hot and pretty muggy, and the idea of sitting outside for any length of time – even in the shade- was intimidating.

Mornings are delightful in September. People, locals as well a visitors, are out walking even before the sun is up. I sit watching the pre-dawn glimmer of light on the beach and can see dark shadows moving both directions. Walkers, getting in their daily constitutional before the heat of day. All along the beach, motors fire up and soon fishermen are headed out to deep water hoping for a good day’s catch.

Evenings, too, are wonderful. Some walk the beach while others just sit in the sand. The sea comes alive with swimmers and splashers. Children build castles, dig holes, and basically run rampant across the sand and into the waves.

Dogs loll nearby, praying for handouts or a dropped burrito. Adults pause in their swimming or chatter and turn to watch the sun sink behind the far western islands.

And after it is dark, the beach is still full. Swimmers still splash, lovers stroll. Music erupts from nearby cars or from boom boxes. The playa is alive at night as it never is on a hot summer day.

Although it was hot, we headed out around noon to Kino Nuevo for gas and perhaps some beach time. Then we got sidetracked in an area just outside of town where there are wonderful tidal pools, but the tide was in and there were no pools.

Still, we spent a short but lovely time dangling our feet in the water and watching a group of four young men launch their boat. One was so very, very pale skinned that when he pulled off his shirt, I shuddered at the burn he was sure to end up with.

The public beach has wonderful thatch-roofed palapas, but on weekends the beach is packed, even on hots days, by people from Hermosillo escaping even hotter weather.
We opted to skip the crowds and headed for Jorge’s, a place on the far end of Nuevo known for its views, especially of winter sunsets, and its broad patio facing the sea. When we got to Jorge’s, we were informed that the patio was not functioning.

Off to Casa Blanca, just a short way down the road. This restaurant/bar has a wonderful second story deck overlooking the water. When we got to Casa Blanca we were informed that the second floor was closed.

Off to La Palapa, near the public beach. We smiled as we thought about sitting in the shade sipping a chilada. When we got to La Palapa, the outside area once full of little palapas was gone, a new cement block building going up in its place.
OK. We took the hint. Get out of Nuevo and don’t even think about a chilada in the middle of the afternoon.

Back to Viejo, to La Hacienda, where we hoped to find Edgar and have an iced coffee, but with our current string of luck we figured Edgar would be off and they’d be out of ice. Or coffee. Or maybe the blender would be broken. But miracle of miracles, Hector was there, and there were coffee, ice, and a working blender. We were soon installed at a small table next to the 12′ by 12′ shallow pool.

Having been careful to avoid the beach crowds, it was ironic that this tiny pool was crammed with children and beach toys. About eight children zipped in and out of the water. Also in and out went a floating lounger, two little boats, several fancy inner tube-style water toys, and one inflatable shark. There wasn’t one square foot without a child or toy.

Screams, laughter, splashes – we got it all along with our iced coffees. And it was great. We enjoyed seeing the children having so much fun and were impressed by attentive fathers playing with their children.

We enjoyed the coffee, and got to see Edgar for a few minutes. We even stayed cool, thanks in large part to splashes of children jumping into the pool Then, back to La Casita to hang inside with the A/C on to wait for evening when it was cool enough to again be on the beach.