Shaved Legs and All: LGBT Pogrom

Runaway - By Mizeta Moon 

Lindy Albright was tired and cold. She hadn’t thought the consequences of running away from home through, and now she was confused, hungry, and without a penny to her name. She spent the last of her babysitting money on a bus ticket and a sandwich from the bus depot vending machine. Coming from a small town near Spokane she’d never had to fend for herself in a big city and had no idea how challenging it would be. Blind flight into unknown territory turned out to be a poor decision. After stepping into a strange new world the night before, she huddled in a doorway in downtown Portland but couldn’t sleep. She quickly discovered how vulnerable a young girl alone could be. She fought off a crazy homeless man who kept touching her and rejected the advances of a smooth-talking man who promised to make her a star if she were willing to do dirty things with strangers. All she wanted when she ran away was escape from overbearing parents who beat her for not saying her prayers properly and skipping church. She didn’t know a lot but knew she didn’t want to be like them. Their desire to have her marry one of the church elders disgusted her. She wanted to be free but now realized she should have waited and planned instead of acting on emotional impulses. When a woman in a gray KIA pulled to the curb in front of where she sat, then waved at her, she waved back. 

“Hi, honey. You look cold.” The woman said after exiting the car. “Been out here all night? Bet you’re hungry. I know I would be.” 

Lindy sniffed, and a tear crept out of her eye though she didn’t want it to. The woman seemed friendly and had a great smile, but did she stop? “Yeah. But why should you care? I’m nobody.” 

The woman smiled warmly. “I care because you’re in trouble and I can help. What say we go somewhere warm and get you some grub? My treat.” 

“What makes you think I’m in trouble?” Lindy asked, without the defiance in her voice she intended. 

“Because I’ve been there, honey. I know someone hurt you and you’re alone in a strange place. Come on. Hop in. I know a great place for breakfast. Later, we can shop for a warmer coat. Is that all you brought with you?” The woman asked, pointing at a small tote and Lindy’s denim purse sitting on the sidewalk. 

Seconds later, another human fell into the web of deceit, to become a pawn in a centuries old game of usury and exploitation. It was warm in the car. Breakfast was the best thing she’d tasted in a long time. By nightfall, the woman had her in a holding cell in Rockwood, awaiting transport to Bogota and slavery to a cocaine magnate who ordered such freshness. 

What happened to Lindy? 

Part two of Runaway 

As Lindy woke to blackness, her mother paced the kitchen of her home. Where did she go wrong? Not enough love at the right time? Trying to shape Lindy into a copy of herself? Or had she tried hard and wasn’t guilty of neglect? All she could do was pray that God would guide her daughter home. It was too late for that as Lindy was tied in the hold of a ship riding heavy seas near Nicaragua. Hurricane warnings crackled through radio static as the crew battened the hatches and stowed loose gear. Lindy wound up lying in a pool of vomit as they lurched and plowed through monstrous waves. 

Surviving the storm, the ship docked at a seldom used pier near a rundown warehouse in Cartagena. When freed from the dark hold and drug on deck, the light was blinding. Two muscular shirtless men stripped her reeking clothes from her starving body, then hosed her down and scrubbed her with a brush. When they were done, a well-dressed Hispanic woman came from the forecastle and eyed her nakedness with disdain. 

“You’re a sorry sight. We’ll have to clean you up before we take you to meet Chato.” 

“Why are you doing this to me?” Lindy blubbered, trembling with fear and exhaustion. 

“Money. Stark naked profit. Pretty young girls are worth a lot to powerful men. If you come peacefully, you won’t be hurt again. Resist and I’ll have you whipped before being tied in the trunk of my car. I’d rather get you into a pretty dress than drop you off covered in welts.” There was no choice but to comply. She had no idea where she was and lacked the strength to run. 

“Could I have some water please?” 

“Sure. There’s food at my house if you behave.” 

Hours later, Lindy was full and warm for the first time in days. She was experiencing the onset of Stockholm Syndrome, grateful for the woman’s kindness. For the moment, the horror of her situation slipped into the background. 

“Will I ever go home again?” 

“No. You belong to Chato now. How your life proceeds depends on your behavior. He kills anyone who displeases him. Let’s not talk about the future. Enjoy tonight. Tomorrow will bring what it brings.” 

She cried herself to sleep after contemplating escape, but realized she’d easily be captured and punished. Her only hope lie in finding out where she was, then looking for a way out. 

The next morning she found fresh clothing laid out and decided it would be best to put it on and do as told to avoid being tied and dragged to her new master. Her body ached and her mind was tired and confused. Who was this person who purchased her? What kind of monster preyed on teenage captives? Was he hideous and couldn’t lure a girlfriend, or was it a game of power and manipulation? She wasn’t a virgin but the thought of being defiled by a stranger made her cry again. When the woman stepped into the room, she tried to compose herself, but failed. Instead of handing her a tissue or comforting her, the woman slapped her hard. 

“Okay, Chica. Time to quit crying and put a smile on that face. Chato’s lack of patience is well known. If we’re late he might shoot both of us and I’m not ready to die.” 

Meanwhile, her mother genuflected in front of a rhinestone covered plastic cross she bought at the bible store. “Are you listening? I need your help. Why don’t you speak to me? My daughter needs help and I don’t know what to do. I’m probably a bad mom but don’t kill her to punish me.” 

No one answered.          

Rejection 

Part three of Runaway 

She was forced to kneel in front of a hawk-faced man with cruel dark eyes. He sat like an emperor on a throne, in charge of everything and everyone. The ground was hard and bit into her flesh as she quaked with fear. 

“Too fat.” The man declared angrily. “I said I wanted skinny. Give her to the crew. They’ll have fun with her.” 

Chato’s edict spelled danger for his procurer. Not pleasing him could lead to her death. “I’ll starve her again,” she said. “I let her eat so she wouldn’t die. I’m sorry you’re unhappy with my choice.” 

“I said I don’t want her. Don’t make me punish you. Find someone else.” 

Unknown to Chato, his greatest rival was watching this interaction through binoculars from a nearby hill. His soldados were poised and ready to attack. 

Lindy rose when a rifle was placed in her back. She meekly preceded a brutish-looking man with knife scars on his face to an enclosure surrounded by barbed wire. Tears streamed as she realized she was about to be gang raped or worse. Had she curried the big man’s favor she might have bought time to plan an escape. 

As the man shoved her into the enclosure, gunfire erupted. Diego Suarez and his men swarmed into Chato’s enclave like locusts. Blood spilled as bodies fell in every direction. Lindy hugged the ground and put her arms around her head. She had no idea whether rescue or death was imminent. All she knew was that she’d placed herself in harm’s way and wished she’d made better choices. The bus depot in Spokane seemed a million miles away and a lifetime ago. 

While Lindy waited for death to come calling, her parents were receiving visitors expressing sympathy for their loss of a wayward daughter. The consensus was that they’d offered their child the comfort of Jesus and she chose to be a heathen. Everyone brought food and prayed for their offerings to be blessed. 

Meanwhile, Lindy found an opening in the barbed wire and started running. She had no destination and no idea where safety lie. Unfortunately, bullets were flying in every direction and one of them tore through her thigh. She fell and writhed in pain. 

A man with broken teeth soon stood over her grinning. Was he there to save her? Her blood flowed freely and without aid she would exsanguinate. In fiction stories heroes rise and come to the rescue in the nick of time. In real life, heroes are few and far between. In the heat of battle the man could only address his carnal desires. As Lindy took her last breaths, the man lowered his pants and delivered the final humiliation. As she died, her parents thanked everyone for coming and swore to bravely carry on.   

     

 

Sitting - By Mizeta Moon 

The path led to a creek quietly wandering through a stand of old growth conifers. Birds chirped and warbled as they flitted through filtered light and shadows, filling the air with their symphony. A stump on the bank invited me to sit and watch the water tumble over a pile of rocks and become a pool before continuing on its way to the river. A hummingbird hovered near the waterfall where a sunbeam turned its feathers into an iridescent display of natural beauty. By staying quiet and becoming one with the forest I was treated to a variety of creatures stopping by for a drink. 

All care slipped away and my insides calmed while I sat. The outside world never touches such magical places. The more I looked, the more I saw. The textures of moss and lichen. Flowers peeking from behind fallen branches and rocks. Grass waving in the hint of breeze. A snail inching its way to an unknown destination. A raccoon digging for grubs in an old half-rotted log. Ants marching in both directions from a piece of fruit dropped by a previous visitor. 

I didn’t want to leave but knew I had to. Appointments and responsibilities were unavoidable. Back to life in the big city and its noisy progression. Before rising, I breathed in deeply and inhaled every bit of serenity I could. I stretched my arms in an all-encompassing gesture, then drew them towards my body to scoop beauty into my soul. As I stood to leave, I walked to the bank before kneeling and touching my lips to the water. A gentle kiss like I’d seen the hummingbird do. I splashed some on my face and shivered from its coldness. It was ice before sunlight caressed the glacier’s face. 

As I slowly walked back to the trailhead, I adsorbed every detail so the memories would go deep in my memory bank and be there for viewing should the world and its woes threaten my peace. I wanted the joy I felt to be transmitted into the air around me so everyone could share my wealth. I was rich with understanding at that moment. Understanding how tiny we are in a universe with billions of stars. How trivial our issues are juxtaposed to wonder and glory. How every breath we take shouldn’t be taken for granted. Understanding the passage of time and its effect on every living thing. Though my body won’t survive that finite journey, my soul will. One last look back down the path, then wave goodbye to the trees. 

            

Trail's End - By Mizeta Moon 

The two men had seen better times. In the 1950’s, their television show was watched by millions, their images were on all manner of merchandise, and they were adored by the American public. But now their money was just about gone, they lived in the foothills outside of town in a ramshackle squatters hut, and the humiliation of it all had taken its toll. They were nobodies and they knew it. 

“I just checked on Silver,” the once daring and resourceful masked rider said to his faithful Indian companion. “I figure he’s got about one more ride in him and then it’s curtains for the big fellow, Tonto!” 

“Mmmm, Kemosabe,” was the answer from his taciturn companion. ”A fiery horse with the speed of light. Too bad. Me like Silver.” 

“Your eloquence is, well, impressive, trusted scout. Must be the firewater. Which reminds me, we’re down to our last bottle and the food’s almost gone, too. You know what that means, faithful friend?” the masked man queried. “If we’re to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear, we’re going to have to do something with this place to make some money!” Then, looking excitedly at Tonto, he asked, “Do you think you can stay out of trouble long enough for us to make this into a cute little B and B?” 

“Mmmm, trouble find Tonto even when him not look for it, Kemosabe.” 

“Yeah, like you and that young cowgirl at the Tuscosa County Fair back in ‘87.” 

“Hmm, Tonto remember, Kemosabe. Him not make same mistake again.” 

“Good, good. Now, what do you think of my idea of a B and B right here in this box canyon, Tonto? We could fix it up and I think folks would flock to it? You know, retro, and all that.” 

“Hmm,” Tonto thought, “Tonto never use bed or eat breakfast.” 

Taken aback, the Lone Ranger mulled over that last comment, “You’re right! We’ve never slept in beds, eaten breakfast, or even changed our outfits! Not once during all our episodes or since!” Sitting down dejectedly, the masked rider asked himself, “How could I have possibly imagined we’d know how to run a B and B, faithful companion?” 

“What we do now, Kemosabe? Tonto has needs.” 

“Right. Well, we’ve got the stimulus checks, a few bucks in the bank, the horses, and this place. Can you think of anything else we have that might be worth something, trusty scout? Anything at all?” 

“Hmmm, Tonto remember something.” 

“Good. What is it?” 

“Silver bullets.” 

The Lone Ranger stood up suddenly as he, too, remembered about the bullets. “Yes, Tonto, the silver bullets! I had them made not as weapons, but as symbols. Symbols of justice to remind me and others that life, like silver, has value and is not to be wasted!” He quickly ran to his secret hiding place where he found them just where he’d hidden them years before. “We’re rich, Tonto, rich! There must be tens of thousands of dollars in silver here, my old friend. We can live out our lives in security and luxury!” 

As the Lone Ranger counted out his silver bullets, his taciturn companion took the opportunity to make a point,  “Tonto like Absolut, masked man, not that rotgut you get in town. And Tonto want go back to Tuscosa. Tonto has needs.” 

“Sure, sure, old friend. But first, I’m thinking maybe we buy a couple of beds, some new duds, and a toaster. Oh, and a new headband for you and maybe some fancy masks for me. Whatya  say, companion? You ready for some changes around here?” his masked friend wondered. 

Tonto just grunted. 

End 

 

Spontaneity - By Mizeta Moon 

The scruffy man stood on the corner in the rain. Shirtless, shoeless, dancing around–seemingly unmindful of the cold. I’d seen him hundreds of times on my way to the store or the bar. Sometimes he had a coat on, sometimes not. I was afraid of him so I never engaged him in conversation though we often passed close in parking lots. I knew he had mental health issues and his outbursts made me think he could be violent. He never had a begging sign and didn’t seem to collect refundable bottles and cans so I wondered how he supported himself. 

That day I was on my way to Goodwill to donate some clothing that was too big for me after shedding some pounds. With the sky pouring the way it was I could barely see him but something tugged at my heart and I pulled to the curb. I reached over the seat and rifled through one of the bags until I found the coat I was looking for. I didn’t have shoes but thought maybe he went barefoot on purpose. I’d noticed that several of the homeless in the area did the same. Anyway, I rolled the window down and waved him over after locking the doors. At first, he ignored me and I almost pulled away to keep my seat from getting soaked. I beckoned again and he peered at me like someone looking down a hole. As he shuffled toward me, I put the car in gear and planted my foot on the brake. At that point I was wondering why I’d stopped. 

When he got close, I held the coat out and asked him if he wanted it. His toothless grin made me so frightened I almost dropped it and sped away. The deranged look in his eyes chilled me to the bone but I managed to stay put. Cackling and rubbing his hands together, he closed the gap, then reached for the coat. As soon as he touched it, I released my grip, lifted my foot off the brake and stomped on the gas pedal. Rolling up the window I noticed my hands were shaking and my sleeve was sopping wet. The phrase “No good deed goes unpunished” ran through my mind as I pulled into line at the Goodwill donation station. I wondered if he might pester me in the future now that he’d seen me in my car. 

After dropping off the clothing, I went to Pastimes and ordered a double shot of whiskey because my hands were still shaking. As my nerves responded to the whiskey, I realized my attempt at kindness was misdirected. He hadn’t asked for my help and donating to charities serves the same purpose. Offering him an umbrella would have been better than giving him something that would be soaked in minutes. Since I don’t like to drink and drive, I figured it would be wise to order one of Pastimes’ excellent pizzas and a glass of water, then sit for a while before leaving. You’ve probably guessed by now that on my way home I passed him again. The rain had slackened but a cold wind was blasting. Typical weather for the mouth of the gorge. There he danced, shirtless still, my coat lying on the sidewalk, sodden and bloated. It made me sad to think that someone might have appreciated its warmth if I’d left it in the bag. 

Since then, I see him everywhere but he hasn’t bothered me and my fear has abated. I’ll always be happy that my heart has the ability to share and care but now I understand that spontaneity can be a good thing in certain situations but not in others. Reaching to pet the wrong dog can get you bit.                 

The Crying Bartender - By Mizeta Moon 

It was a quiet night. Just me at the bar. She had tears in her eyes and I asked her what was wrong. “Aren’t you supposed to tell me your troubles?” She asked. “I don’t want to burden you with mine.” 

“I’m all ears,” I replied. She poured me another drink, then propped her elbows on the bar and cupped her chin with her hands. 

“Do you know what it feels like to be lonely?” She asked. “To watch people holding hands all around you and have no one want to hold yours. To see them kiss and be reminded that yours haven’t tasted passion for years. To go to bed alone every night wishing someone in the world wanted to be with you. Feeling ugly, rejected, and unworthy. To beg the universe for crumbs while watching those who have someone disregard their good fortune and throw love in the gutter. Have you ever cried yourself to sleep at night, wishing someone would hold you?” 

“No,” I replied. “I’m lucky. I have someone who cares about me.” 

She nodded, grabbed a napkin, and wiped her eyes. “Hopefully, you appreciate them and give them your all. I have so much love to give, but no one wants it. My fingers ache to stroke someone. My skin cries out for contact. I spend every waking hour hoping someone will kiss me and make me their own. At the end of the day there’s just me and my aching desire, trying to stay happy despite striking out again. I ask why no one can love me but have no answers. Everyone tells me I’m a good person. Funny, friendly, all that stuff, but the only hugs I get are friendship ones. No one hits me with surges of heat spawned by their desire. Loneliness is a dark deep pit where your pleas for companionship echo but find no resonance. I don’t want to die without the taste of love on my mouth.” 

“Wow. I had no idea. You’re such a vibrant person. You hide your misery well.” 

She noted that my drink needed refilling, then took care of it. No one else came in so we were destined to be fellow voyagers this night. I could leave but felt she had more to say and it might help if I heard her out. 

“It’s not about sex. It’s about having someone to share the journey. Someone who likes being with you. Who enjoys your company. Who doesn’t care that you have flaws and make mistakes. Someone who’ll be there when things go bad and you need support. Someone who’ll give from the heart and allow you to do the same. I’ve quit making my bed since no one wants to sleep in it. I’ve stopped having dreams because they never come true. I just get up each day and do my job, smiling at customers who get drunk and go home and argue. Even that would be better than emptiness. At least I would feel alive. As it is, I’m growing dead inside. Not suicidal, not depressed and unwilling to go forward. Dead in the sense that hope doesn’t bring resolution. There’s just routine. Eating, sleeping, existing without the spark and excitement romance brings. The thrill of knowing someone holds you dear to their heart and thinks of you as special.” 

By then, tears were flowing down her face and I felt awkward. What could I do or say? As if sensing my discomfort, she wiped her eyes again and worked at regaining her professional demeanor. Pouring me another, she said “this one’s on the house.” 

Before I could say anything, the door opened and a couple walked in. They were in the midst of an argument and broadcasted tension. The bartender looked at me with an unspoken “see what I mean,” and greeted them with a smile. When I got home that night, I kissed my lover deeply and held tight for a long moment. We’d weathered storms together and might face many more. But those going it alone had nothing and no one to cling to but their own inner strength. Loneliness in a crowded world was an abyss they had to navigate without knowing how long they’d be mired there. Desperately reaching for a hand to hold.         

 

War zone - By Mizeta Moon 

The shoeless one-eyed man sat in the dirt, leaning against the wall of a bombed-out building. His wife lie dead inside and his children were being eaten by vultures on what was once a beautiful patio. He knew he was close to death but wanted to hold on long enough to spit on one of the invaders. He knew they would come. They always did. They looted what wealth remained, then burned what their bombs left unsullied. Their desire to desecrate and eliminate was an unquenchable thirst. They hungered for supremacy. Submission and surrender were impossible when their juggernaut thrust into the lives of those targeted for extinction. 

He was a farmer who’d tilled the soil for a meager existence. Tending a small flock of sheep for wool, milk, and meat when a lamb could be spared. A simple man who loved his family and greeted each day with reverence, thankful for every moment given. A man who gazed at stars in wonder. Who stood in rain and marveled at its ability to replenish the land and allow life to spring forth. A man who felt malice towards no man and coveted not their bounty. 

He could hear the clank of metal treads approaching but was also aware of his ragged breathing. Too weak to stand, he could only wait for a face to look into his as they certified his termination. He was thankful his wife wouldn’t be raped and degraded like many wives had been. Death saved her from humiliation. His children wouldn’t be sent to toil in camps where beatings and starvation would precede their expiration. Death came to them suddenly from the sky. Their souls were no longer in residence while their flesh was consumed. 

Footsteps crunching through sand became the dominant sound as the enemy drew near. His mouth was so dry he struggled to produce enough spittle to properly display his contempt. Expiring without a moment of defiance wasn’t an acceptable end for someone whose only crime was being in the way of greed. A pawn in a power struggle he’d never participated in or understood. When a shadow loomed over him, he used the remainder of his energy to eject all that he’d been into the face of the enemy. 

“This one’s a goner. Not much left of the house. Looks like they were pretty poor. Maybe the next town has more to offer.” 

“Roger that. Good hunting,” 

      

Time warp - By Mizeta Moon 

The park was deserted, just as she’d hoped. Solitude was what she needed at the moment instead of company. She would burst into tears if someone asked what was wrong. The death of her mother left her hurting and depressed, adrift in an ocean of self-pity. They’d been more than parent and child, they were friends. Now the house was lonely and cold without laughter and joy they’d shared. Taking a walk in the park they’d frequented over the years probably wasn’t good therapy, but it beat having the walls close in as she packed donation boxes and sorted what she wanted to keep. Most people kept too much and burdened themselves with sentimentality. She wanted to cherish her mother’s memory but understood that a few significant items were better than closets full of things left unused or visited for decades. 

Her reverie was so intense that without realizing it she wandered into a section of the park she’d never visited. When she finally became cognizant of her surroundings, she was lost. Looking around, she saw several paths going in different directions. Which way had she come? If she did an about face could she find her way back to her starting point? After a bout of indecision she chose one of the paths and hoped for the best. After only a few yards, she took a wrong turn, but rather than cause her to suffer, the path turned into a cure for her despondency, though she didn’t know that at the time. Fearful now, her anxiety mounted with each step. 

The path led through a stand of trees and emerged into a sunlit meadow where hundreds of people milled around, laughing, smiling, and romping about with abandon. A bandstand stood on one side of the grassy expanse and a series of tents sporting brightly colored flags fluttering on the breeze occupied the other. People with long hair wearing beads and feathers beckoned her to join them. The smell of patchouli oil and marijuana dominated as she drew near. To her, it looked like the type of gathering her mother would have attended in the sixties. She’d seen pictures of her mother dressed like this, smoking a joint at a concert in the photo albums she’d inherited. She knew her mother once sang for a rock and roll band such as the one currently mounting the stage. Dazed and confused, she moved through the crowd without feeling connected. It was as if the people were ether and she was the only solid object there. 

As she neared the stage, she saw a woman pick up a microphone and begin to sing lyrics to a classic song from days gone by. It was one of her mother’s favorites. Sly and the Family Stone’s Everyday People. She knew the words by heart since they’d played the album Stand hundreds of times. Its timeless message still relevant decades later. Taking a closer look, she was amazed to see that the woman singing was her mother. Face rapturous, transmitting love and happiness, centered in the moment. It suddenly struck her that everyone had their moment in the sun and she was being afforded a glimpse into one experienced by someone she loved. Tears of joy poured from her eyes as her sadness was replaced by the understanding that though all things must pass, each was significant in the fabric of time. 

Moments later, the scene dissolved and she found herself standing in the parking lot next to her car. Reaching into her purse for her keys, she knew it was time for her to choose her own destinations for the rest of her life. Sadness and sorrow would only lead into darkness. She needed to pick up the microphone and sing her own favorite song.     

Afternoon Stroll - By Mizeta Moon 

The sun finally made an appearance after a two week absence. By then, cabin fever raged in my entire being, and I had to get out of the house or go mad. After bundling up, I hopped on my bike and rode to Blue Lake. During the winter it’s generally quiet, save a few dogs dragging their owners around on a leash. No one was using the playground equipment so I chained my bike to a pole and started walking. It felt wonderful to breathe fresh air and bask in the warming rays of the sun. I had a chocolate bar in my pocket that I unwrapped and munched on while surveying the starkness of deciduous trees combing the breeze with their barren branches. Across the lake a boat bobbed at the end of a pier that belonged to one of the private homes. Seeing it made me want to come back in the summer for a cruise in one of the rentable paddle boats. A few yards later, a flotilla of ducks started quacking at me from the water but I hadn’t anything to share. A gaggle of geese moved across the grass with their heads down, avidly searching for sustenance. Their honking grew louder as I neared so I made sure to give them room. Engrossed in my thoughts and the scenery, I hadn’t noticed the woman who’d quietly walked up behind me. When she spoke, I nearly jumped out of my skin. 

“Mind if I walk with you?” 

Looking her over as I recovered my wits, I was pleased to see a slender young lady wearing sneakers and sweats with a brightly-colored knit scarf loosely draped around her neck. She held a violin and a bow in her left hand. Her smile seemed genuine and her demeanor wasn’t threatening. Before I could answer, she spoke again. “Sorry for startling you. I thought you’d seen me while you were locking your bike.” 

“Um . . . that’s okay. Sure, you can walk with me. Are you from around here?” 

“Yeah, I live in Wood Village. I come here to play to the ducks since they don’t care that I’m still learning. My family doesn’t appreciate sour notes. My name’s Carla, by the way.” 

Shaking the hand she held out, I said, “Mine’s Louise. Nice to meet you.” 

We walked and chatted for a while, then sat on a bench to visit and get to know each other better. I was enjoying her company and didn’t mind my stroll being interrupted. After a few minutes I asked if she would play for me. At first, she said no, due to fear of embarrassment, but relented when I assured her that I wouldn’t critique her performance. 

The first few notes proved she was gifted. As she worked her way through several songs, she did hit a bad note every so often but her verve and passion for playing shone through. I was quite impressed and thoroughly enjoyed the private concert while watching wispy clouds cross bands of blue and purple in the sky. I noticed that the ducks were all facing us while quietly bobbing on gentle breeze-driven waves, making a statement about their enjoyment of her visits. 

As evening grew near, there was a chill in the air and I needed to move my limbs or sit shivering. When I stood, she stopped playing and jumped to her feet as well. No words were needed as we resumed our stroll. She knew I’d liked our time together. As the light faded, we prepared to part ways. I unlocked my bike and offered to give her a lift but she said, “It’s uphill all the way. I would be a burden. I’ll call my mom and she’ll come get me. Don’t worry, I do this all the time.” She’d obviously noted my look of concern. 

I went to the lake several times after that but never saw her again. The songs she played still echo in my mind and that magical afternoon is a memory I will cherish forever. Knowing that the ducks are music lovers created a new pastime for me. I bring a bag of frozen peas and my Boombox, then sit on that same bench, tossing them peas and sharing some tunes. People walking past often look at me like I’m crazy, but what do they know?       

        

Hello, Friend - By Mizeta Moon 

We’re different. That’s okay. I’m not texting you to assign blame for anything going on in the world, or to be absolved from it. I’m reaching out to show I care. You’re part of me–therefore I love you because I love myself. I, nor you, can’t escape being cojoined. We are one organism with billions of facets. Is it possible our desire to survive can convert from carnage to cohabitation? I entertain such a notion. 

If everything were the same shape or color, what would we see? A blank screen? Squiggly lines? A void swallowed by a bigger void? Sounds boring to me. Texture, variety, and tactile interaction make life interesting. We soar to heights and plummet to depths. Such is corporeal existence. I can go on and on about lofty, esoteric things. But! What about you and me? Can we remain friends despite our points of view? Can we share the world? Accept and understand that everyone has a hungry mouth to feed? Can we work to provide instead of deny? 

Recent events have shown me that there are people who spew hatred regardless of what the issue is. I often wonder if such vitriolic postings are their true feelings or if they are inspired by others. I’ve read postings by people who chose to be my Facebook friend that are unsettling at times but I can honestly say I’ve never unfriended anyone for their point of view. I seldom comment because fighting word wars would consume too much of my time. Writing my stories and living a good life are my daily concern. Enjoying the beauty of the world for as long as I’m granted such privilege. Something I look forward to is seeing the smiling faces of my friends when we are able to freely interact again. I may be foolish to hope that the weapons and rhetoric can be muzzled while we work to erase the common enemies of poverty, divisiveness, and sickness, but I’ll continue to send love into the world towards such an end. 

Song lyric: If you smile at me, I will understand. That is something everybody everywhere does in the same language. 

At the moment I can only see your eyes because of your mask. When they light up, so do mine.     

Christmas on the Corner - By Mizeta Moon 

I’d been sleeping on the streets of San Francisco for about a year. The injury that caused my inability to work was healing but I still had a way to go. Like most of the other homeless, I pushed a shopping cart around and scrounged for cans and bottles to provide the most basic needs. At that time there weren’t big groups camping together like you see today. Two or three was common as there are few open areas in that city other than parks. Camping in them was a big no no, and patrols enforced that rule nightly. I wasn’t out there by choice and wasn’t suffering any type of mental health or addiction issue. It was always my intention to heal my body and get back to work as soon as possible. I stayed by myself, didn’t associate, didn’t panhandle with a begging sign, or steal. Most days I sat quietly reading a book when I wasn’t pawing through garbage cans for recyclables. I stood in line for meals from the soup kitchens and said please and thank you for what was given. The money I earned went toward showers at a local spa, beer, of course, keeping my clothes neat and clean, and toiletries. I wasn’t going to let the street beat me down. 

My standoffishness led to problems with a bunch of old drunks who clustered on Haight Street and panhandled for beer money. I liked going to Haight because someone would usually be passing a joint around and I could get a toke. Anyway, they would harass me, claiming it was their turf. Since I usually wandered the avenues and avoided the homeless haunts it wasn’t that big a deal. On Christmas eve I was sitting on the steps of a bank and the generosity of the residents led to people just walking up and handing me food, money, toothpaste, etc. People were often kind to me spontaneously since I didn’t ask for anything and they could tell I didn’t belong out there. It was Christmas morning that one of the funniest moments of that time in my life occurred. 

I hit Haight street just after dawn, as I knew the drunks would be sprawled on the sidewalk sleeping it off. They were prone to keep banker’s hours. Anyway, about fifty feet away from them I saw a huge pile of beer and wine boxes and garbage bags stacked on the sidewalk. Hustling over, I planned to grab all the bottles and scoot. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be the leftovers from a huge party. I scooped up nearly a hundred full beers, about twenty five bottles of wine, some champagne and one bottle of whiskey. There was a lot of unopened food as well. Constantly looking to see that none of the assholes were stirring, I loaded my cart with it all and quietly rolled away. It was so heavy that I knew I hadn’t the strength to go very far, so I crossed over to the opposite side and made for Golden Gate park, happy that part of the street is flat. For the rest of the day I couldn’t stop breaking out laughing at having plundered a treasure those guys would have found had they woke before me. I sat at the entrance to the park all day, handing out beer and wine to passersby. It was a jolly Christmas to say the least. I saved enough for myself to eat well and drink for a couple days, then went back to my regular routine. 

I eventually healed enough to work at the recycling center instead of being a client. From there my life moved along and led me to where I am today. The reason I’m sharing this story is to show that even in the bleakest times one can set goals, maintain their dignity, and constantly strive to do better. This year has been hard on everyone, but I stayed focused, upbeat, and shared the love in every way I could. As a result of that focus I published my eighth book just before Thanksgiving and have been the recipient of a lot of love in return. I sincerely thank all of you for your comments and support. None of what I’ve accomplished would be possible without a lot of wonderful people in my life. I hope you are all warm and well and haven’t let the darkness shroud your light. This time will pass and everyone will have a remember-when story.