Tick forward

Papa’s hands, so stiff and cold I could feel my guilt when I touched them.

I could not go with him beneath our Texas soil. Instead, I had to swallow the bitter taste of a life void of his teachings and wisdom.

Hands of a clock that have ticked forward four years.

Emil. Funny how knowing a man since childhood, before the development of my breasts or his facial hair, could lead us in a direction of … What is the word exactly? Love seems too strong yet Lust seems tawdry. What I do know is that Emil Eckhardt is slowing squeezing my heart and expanding it at the same time. Leaving him, even for three months, seems unfathomable to me. How do I go about asking him to help me?

Hands. My own forming into fists, as I figuratively spit on the transplanted shoes of the man who swindled his way into my family and tries to take Papa’s place.

A change of course is overdue.

Excerpt from Naked, She Lies, a novel by C. Dennis-Willingham


Lust- daily word prompt

Ashes to Ashes

It was Mother who told me about Gene dying. Dad had found out when he was in town but gave Mother the job of breaking the news to me.

“Cono,” she said, “I got some bad news fer ye.”

I thought that maybe we’d have to move away again, away from Ike. Or that Delma was sick again.

“Yer little friend Gene has died, gone to heaven.”

I remember staring at her for the longest time. I remember going to Uncle Joe’s funeral and hearing about Wort Reynolds going to heaven without a head. But this was different. This was MY friend. This was Gene Davis who was only a year older than me.

“He went to Roby to the hospital ‘cause he had a pain in his side.”

I saw Gene and me playing checkers, riding on his mare, making up stories.

“It was a bad appendix, burst before the doctors could git to it.”

I thought Dad was right about one thing. Doctors were good for nothing’s. Couldn’t fix Dad, couldn’t fix Gene.



“When Uncle Joe died, why’d they say ‘ashes to ashes’?”

“I ain’t real sure, Cono. I think it has te do with the fact that we were born nothin’ and go right on back te bein’ nothin’.”

“So now Gene’s jes’t nothin?” I asked, getting upset that the world was going to pretend he never existed.

“Nah, he’s somethin’ alright. He’s jes’t back to being part of the Texas Soil ’sall.”

“That ain’t so bad, is it?”

“Nothin’ wrong with that.”

“But I don’t get te see him again?”

“Afraid not, Cono. I’m sorry,” she said.

And I still am.

I go into my room and pull out my box of specials. There’s the old lace from a boxing glove, the time when Gene put together that fight for me; my first fight with real gloves.

At school and in front of everybody Mr. Green says, “Cono found out that he’s lost a good friend. His name was Gene Davis and he lived in Rotan. Cono, I just want to tell you how sorry we are.”

I nod my head and look down at my desk.

I don’t quite understand it, doesn’t make no sense whatsoever that Gene is dead. I want to see him again. I want to laugh with him. I want him to pull me behind his mare in the red wagon. I want to beat him at checkers.

Mr. Green has told me I can do anything I want. He says I can. He says he knows I can. So I decide to write Gene a letter, send it up to God Jesus to give to him.


daily prompt: Soil

A Poet’s Hands


Mine only hold this journal. Only the extremities of an invisible will turn the pages, a wind blowing each folio to the next, unaware of the marks of my pen.

Knowing this, frees me.


The apparition will lurk in the abyss, or stand on the Precipice, hovering close by yet not close enough to dissuade me from this writing. My right hand writes as my left holds the open book.

Hands. Hands of a father’s so calloused from farm work, yet so gentle, reassuring and kind. Hands that held me when I cried, hugged me in pride, sheltered me when anything bad happened.

Papa’s hands, so stiff and cold I could feel my guilt when I touched them.

I could not go with him beneath our Texas soil. Instead, I had to swallow the bitter taste of a life void of his teachings and wisdom.

Hands of a clock that have ticked forward four years.

Hands. My own forming into fists. A change of course is overdue.


Do your loved ones visit you after they’ve died?

None of you will question that as we live our lives – go to work, parties, travel, have relationships, etc., –  experiences combine and create how we view the world and ourselves. And grieving the death of loved ones is an experience we all share.

First, let me say that I do not call myself a “religious” sort. I consider myself more as spiritual and intuitive and I never considered the possibility that a deceased love one would contact me. Until it happened.

In the 1980’s, when I thought going through infertility would drive me over a cliff, I had an early morning phone call from my grandfather who had died in the 60’s. “Grandpa,” I said. “Why are you calling? You’re dead.”

“I’m calling to check on you.”

“I’m fine,” I lied.

My husband woke me to get up for work. I was furious and sad that my call had been abruptly ended. The “dream,” was not like a real dream made of scene or stories.  I only saw Grandpa’s face, and I felt him as real as the pillow my head rested upon.

Not long after, my deceased grandmother “called.” I said the same thing. “Grandma, you’re dead. Why are you calling?”

“I’m calling to check on you. How are you.”

“I’m fine.”

Then she asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Yes. Will you ask God to give me a baby?”

There was a long pause as if she were thinking. Then, she said, “I have to go now.”

(Today, I have two grown children, two grandchildren and another due in May.Who knows, right?)

Mom’s first contact with me was different. I had just left the cemetery when a song I’d never heard before came on NPR radio. To this day, I cannot find that song but its words were something like, “don’t worry, we’ll see each other in heaven.” The song made me smile.

Later, in a dream-vision, Mom had simply smiled at me, looked youthful and happy, and pain-free.

As my father lay dying, I asked, “will you check on me after you’re gone like Mom, Grandma and Grandpa did?”

He said, “I’ll always check on my babies.”

Wherever Dad is, he must be very busy since he has yet to “contact” me.  That’s okay, too. He’s probably teaching Mohammad Ali how to play checkers or dominoes.

Some people call these signs “Pennies from Heaven.”

Knowing my experiences, I recently ran across this article. Take a look. Perhaps it will apply to you as well. And please, let me know if it does.

Signs from Heaven … 9 Signs from Deceased Loved Ones



Why am I sad?

Because I fed her and the rest of her eager mates in water world every morning?

Because I was excited when Alex the Fish Man said yesterday she was bloated and may be ready to have babies?

Alex the Fish Man is on speed dial. I told him she was laying on her side, panting as she stared at me. He said she could have been bloated because of a something-something disease. The companions continued to swim by her, nudging her. “Get up. Get up!,” they said.

I turned up the oxygen level as told. Her panting slowed but she did not get up.

The others stared at me like saying, “aren’t you going to do anything?”

A brief visit to my computer, I went back to check. No movement. Nothing. Gone.

All I could do was say, “I’m sorry.” And to the others, I said the same.


As I often say, during the good or the bad, “There goes that Universe again.”


She was still alive in this photo. Posting her dead would have been callous.


Meta Kraus has a dark side

… and she keeps it hidden in her journal.

Note: Before Meta Duecker existed between the pages of The Last Bordello, she first came alive in a very different way — in my original unpublished novel entitled Naked, She Lies. Both are supreme pianists and well-read. But Meta Kraus? She’s a bit creepy.

Here is her first entry. Following entries tell the backstory. If you like it, I’ll post more.


Entry, March 13, 1910

The Casualty of life is Death

The breath, a last demise

Cessation of a merriment

The living, they despise

Oh how the spell is broken

A life once in repute

From what it is, from what it was

There is no substitute. – M.K.

Distance can be freedom, not a sacrifice. It allows honesty to persevere. Perhaps I feel a twinge of guilt when I wrote in my journal at home. Now, alone on the train, I am free and will write accordingly.

Killing him was easy.

Uncle Dirk always looked at Mama in a way that was inappropriate. Like a vulture waiting for it’s prey to weaken. We were in the kitchen. Having finished eating breakfast moments before. Mama and I were cleaning the dishes when he walked up behind her, his arm around her shoulder.

         “Regina, I don’t have much work to do today. Are you busy?”

         “I am always busy.” Mama kept on, holding the scouring pad between her two middle fingers and thumb while scrubbing the egg pan.

         “Mama,” I said. “You are scrubbing with your hand chicken.” She and I laughed while Uncle Dirk made some disgruntled noise and walked out the front door.

         “I’m calling Skippy in for the leftovers,” I said, also walking out the front door.

         Outside, I called for my devoted Collie. Instead of Skippy coming to me, it was Uncle Dirk.

         “Surely, you are not still thinking about that silly game. Such childish behavior.”

         “It was my…”

         “I know, your game with your Papa. It’s time to grow up, Meta. You are a young woman and, if you ever want to find a good husband, you need to forget about such nonsense.”

         My insides boiled. My hands shook.

         “Fine,” I said. “I will get rid of her once and for all.” I walked to the chopping block where the axe was imbedded for future use. I knelt down, my back to the tyrant. Pulling the axe out of the stump, I picked it up with my left hand, tucking my right arm where he could not see it. I slammed the axed down and screamed. A yell of pain as well as triumph.


         He ran to me then, saw my two hands still in tact and screamed back, “You are crazy, crazy!”

         I laughed then, my stunt appeasing the horrible sight of him killing my favorite chicken a month ago, cutting her head off in front of me on the very same chopping block.

         He went back into the house then, only to return shortly.

         “Where is Stepper?” Uncle “Dirk” asked.

         “In the barn, of course, why?”

         “I need to take her to the back acreage.”

         “She’s too old and hasn’t’ been feeling well. Leave her be.”

         He smiled at me.

         I watched as he walked to the barn, and then turned my attention back to Skippy, feeding her and gently combing the burrs from her fur.

         I heard the sound of a gunshot coming from the barn. My first thought was that it was over. The guilt of killing his wife, or at the very least, being responsible for it, had finally made him do the right thing.

         But it wasn’t so. In moments, Uncle Dirk came out of the barn, walking toward me, smiling

“Well, Meta, that horse of yours sure was sick. Made him better, I did. He’s up in heaven now with your Papa.”

         I ran from Skippy’s side to the cruel man, pounding my fists into his chest. Tears fell from my eyes.

That is when he started laughing.

         “You didn’t like my joke, did you, Meta. Well, I didn’t like yours either. That old horse doesn’t need a bullet to die. He’ll do it soon enough on his own.”

         No, he did not kill my horse, but the lather I felt was that of a rabid dog. Was he so cruel because he had seen Emil atop of me the night before?

         Later that afternoon, I told Emil my plan. Of course, he is my humble servant and would do anything for me.

         The day turning to dusk, the back acreage was where we found him. As planned, Emil approached my Uncle with the pretense of a discussion about the sell of our land.

            I pulled the butcher knife out from behind my back.

Letter to a dead friend

In the 1930’s, a sad seven-year old Cono writes a letter to his deceased friend.


Cono with his little sister

Dear Gene,

            I hate it that you’re dead and that those stupid doctors in Roby couldn’t fix you to save your life. We had more things to do, you and me. More wars to fight with the other boys in the neighborhood and more of our own fights to have just between the two of us, the ones that were so much fun but made us dog-tired and bruised afterward. Even though you were just a little older, but a lot littler, you always got the best of me. We never gave up. You’d just say, “Cono, ye tired yet?”

            “Yeah,” I’d say.

            “How bout’s you and me stop fightin’ for the day?”

            “OK,” I’d say.

            And that’s what we’d do. We’d get up, dust off our britches and stop for the day. But we’d never give up. Boys in Rotan, Texas never give up. That’s what you said.

         Don’t feel bad about being dead. I think some of us are dead, when we’re still alive anyway. Or maybe it’s just that some of us aren’t completely born yet, like we’re waiting for a little peace and quiet to show up so we can take our first real breath.

         I’m sorry I couldn’t make you better and I’m sorry that nobody could take me to visit you in the hospital. Maybe if you had been in there a little longer, I could have found a ride. I know you never gave up, so there must have been something else that caught your eye.

         Things are growing on me Gene and I’m not talking about inches or new hairs. Things are crawling under my skin. I’m feeling antsy and mad and even a little bit not like myself. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if someone were to holler, “Cono!” and I’d just keep going the other direction thinking my name was George or something. My hands clench more often than they used to. My teeth do too. Just the other day, I caught myself staring in the bathroom mirror. I was about to brush my teeth, but my jawbones were moving in and out and I realized I was clamping down so hard with my grinders that a tooth brush didn’t have a chance to get in to do its job.

         I’m writing to you Gene, Fishing all my words outta my truth bucket. And when I’m done? I’ll send this letter up to God Jesus, so he can read it to you. Better yet, maybe I’ll go someplace real quiet, where nobody else on this earth can hear. And I’ll talk real loud, so you can hear me all the way up in heaven. And if someone else up there happens to hear? It’s okay. I know they won’t tell anyone since they’re dead too. Besides, you’ll know it’s me. I’ll be the one flicking marbles with my pocket knife!  

            I sure wish you could tell me what it’s like up there. When I went to the revivals with the Allridge boys, they told me that Jesus has made a room for dead people and you’ll get to live there forever with Him. What does your room look like?

            I wanna know if you’ve made any friends and if Jesus lets you wrestle and fight with them like we used to do for fun. The revivalists say that we’ll get to meet our loved ones again when we die. But what if I die when I’m a hundred and I get there and you’re still only eleven years old. Are you gonna sit on my lap and tell me Jesus stories? Ha Ha. It’s good to know that you have a room up there in heaven, although I’m not sure I believe everything they tell me at those revivals.

         Gene, I want to kill my Dad. Send him right up there to heaven, where maybe you can teach him a few things, like how to be nice to me. But then, I guess it would be too late. Unless, he was Jesus and got alive again to came back to do something good. That’ll be the day.

         Anyhow, I sure hope you’re real happy up there. I hope you get to throw the football and play checkers and flick marbles. And say? If you see my Uncle Joe and our friend Wort Reynolds, tell them I say, “Hello.”

         Your friend,


         P.S. – Wort’s the one without the head.

(Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper)