Step Away from the Ledge


What are you doing way up there?

Are you trying to branch out? Expand your horizons? Or deaden them?

How many ladders do you need? Are two not enough?

Really, you don’t need ladders.

Get down off that ledge. It won’t solve anything and, besides, it makes me nervous.

Perhaps you could climb the shadows instead. Climb them until their dark is gone. Climb them until all you see are those useless ladders. The ones you don’t need in order to arrive safely at the place you want to be.

Don’t be afraid. The ground will support you.

And it’s amazing how high you can jump if you try.


photo by C. Dennis-Willingham

via Branch

Fearful trickles of a memory

Thank God for women like them. Unlike her own mother, the Disastrous woman she had lived with for seventeen years, Miss Fannie and Miss Reba were the mothers she always longed for, And then there was her father, the man who walked out and never returned when she was only a few years old.

The feather comforter provided her warmth. Sofie was safe. But then, why was she so cold? Too cold?

Her heart pounded, gaining in intensity. Moist palms. A forehead collecting beads of sweat.  How can I be cold and hot at the same time? Sofie wanted to yell for Miss Fannie or Miss Reba but her lips wouldn’t move. The only movement came from the image that darted through her mind almost too fast to catch. But she grabbed part of it.

A knock on her front door in Seguin. A girl of fourteen standing behind her mother at the front door. Another scruffy stranger from her past. “Go back to your school work, Sofie. Keep practicing, Sofie.” It was her mother’s voice.

Sofie pulled the covers over her head. Erase the thoughts, Sofie. Erase them! But they entered without permission, without regard. Just like the stranger had.

Excerpt from Naked, She Lies by CD-W


Disastrous – daily word prompt

Afraid of differences


I was four when I learned of my deformity. Before that, my left hand, different from my right, was still mine. It was part of me until, later, it defined me.

Mom had taken me to the playground. A Sunny day, the air filled with the happy squeals of children playing on the merry-go-round and zooming down slides, or swinging high enough to grab birds by their wings.

Bucket in hand, I chose the sandbox as my first stop. I knew the two girls already playing there were older. I liked playing with older girls. As an only child, my conversations with others were more advanced than my age.

“Want to share my shovel?” I asked the girl with the cinnamon colored hair.

“Okay.” Then, she stared at my left hand. She whispered something to her friend. Both stared.

The pig-tailed girl crinkled her nose. Red hair laughed and held her nose. “Let’s go before that happens to us.”

I looked at Mom sitting on the bench along side the sandbox. She had tears in eyes.

“Why don’t they like me, Mom?”

“Because they’re superficial. They only look at the surface of a person without getting to know them.”


“See how, on your right hand, all fingers can spread apart?”

“I know.”

“Now look at your left hand.”

“I know.” I spread the fingers I could but my middle and ring fingers are melded together as if one large digit.

“Well, both hands belong to my beautiful Gracie. Your left hand is one of the many things that make you different and special. Everybody’s different one way or the other. But we all have similarities, too.

“They don’t like me because I only have four fingers on this hand,” I say, holding it up.

Mom shrugs. “Some people are afraid of differences. But true friends, people who love you won’t even think about the difference in your left hand. Like Sissy.”

My cousin Sissy has known me her whole life. She held my left hand all the time and didn’t care.

Back then, on that playground, Mom made me feel even more loved, differences and all.

But at age four, even after the pep talk, I didn’t know I’d have to endure the stares, the gasps and ugly comments.




Miss Primrose rings the dismissal bell but catches me on my way out. “Emmy June? Your mother’s been gone how long now?”

“Almost three weeks.”

“Well, I was wondering if Theo, you and your daddy, would like me to come over. I’ll cook for you.”

“Thank you, Miss Primrose. I’ll be sure to let you know.”

She smiles like she’s won a battle. But she doesn’t know the Crawford Alamo is heavily fortified, and Santa Ana Primrose won’t stand a chance getting inside.

Outside, Scooter and Frank are waiting for me.

“Where’s Carla?” I say.

“Getting peepers,” Scoot says, and it makes me smile thinking that, after her eye appointment, Carla might finally see through to her good senses.

“Oh boy,” Scoot says and shuffles backwards, his eyes like large pecans instead of almonds.

Frank and I turn to see what he’s looking at.

Doubt Frank’s as scared as I am.

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket



The Lone Wolf Trembles

Carla falls into my arms. Her pale face is scratched up and whiter than usual. Her dress is ripped at the bottom. When I hold her, she feels like a stranger.

Remembering how Daddy helped me the night I ran home from Frank’s house, I steer her to the kitchen, plunk her on a chair, and hand her a wet rag. She won’t stop crying.

“You going to tell me?” I say.

“Oh, oh, Emma. It was … was just awful …. He.. he…”


Carla blows her nose and looks at me like she remembers us being good friends. “He pinned me down. Said I wanted it. Said I’d been asking for it a long time. But I wasn’t, Emmy. I never asked for that! Never!”

She blows her nose again. Her tears are real, like when we were little girls and Stevie told her she looked like a possum.

“When did this happen?”

“Right after school.” She squeezes my arm. “Sometimes? I feel so lonely without you that I think kissing a boy would take my mind off not being around you and Scooter.”

She’s blaming me for acting like a tart?

“We used to have so much fun. But my parents made me stay away from you.”

I’ll ask her about that later. Right now, I think about jelly-mixing. “What did he do to you? He didn’t, you know …”

She shakes her head and cries again. I count to three. “Then what?” I say.

“He almost did. He pulled up my dress. He, he saw my panties, Emmy, my panties! He would have done more but, but we heard Rachael yelling out for me. She didn’t know I’d gone with him behind the schoolhouse. Anyway, he clamped a hand over my mouth, told me to shut up.” She’s stopped crying, but now she’s shaking like a tornado through a house.


Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket



When Scooter’s enthusiasm waned

Emma June has known Scooter her whole eleven years. She remembers when he was scared of the dark. Now, the day is closing and Scooter is missing.

Scoot had been excited about the campout all day, so I didn’t tell him I was spooked. I looked up through the gaps in the trees and watched the clouds as they moved across the half moon like blankets trying to cover a small bed. Then it got darker. The owl hooted and we both saw its eyes, yellow and mean. Scooter said it first. “Campout over.” Then he got up and walked inside with the sleeping bag over his head.

I’m not afraid of the dark anymore. I’m not afraid of untold secrets, either.

“I’m afraid for Scooter,” I tell Frank.

“Me too.

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket


Staring at Fear


Madam Fannie Porter stares at fear. (From The Last Bordello)


I reminded my fingers to turn the knob slowly, quietly. I crept through the kitchen’s side door and held my breath.

A voice in the parlor. Not one of my girls. I tiptoed into my bedroom and made my way to the far wall. Wiped my sweaty, shaky hands on my dress. Removed the painting.

Only Reba and I knew about the coin-sized peephole Constructed long ago for keeping an eye on questionable customers. Exactly my eye level, as intended.

The voices would be clearer now. I inched the cork from the hole. Fighting for breath, I peered through the hole and into the parlor.