Help Needed Again Part Seven


I had a daughter once, well I guess I still do somewhere.
She was taken by social services. People stopped looking me in the eye, in the
face, stopped looking at me at all.

I have a husband, I know where he is, he is in the hospital
in the ward we don’t talk about. People gossip about him, about his truth,
about his lies.

I have a house, I live there alone, two bedrooms sparkling
clean. I don’t sleep in them, I don’t sleep at all. I sit in a sparklingly
clean house waiting for visitors. People don’t stop by, they act like they don’t
know I’m here.

I know what I did and didn’t do, I know what I am. Rumours
fly in the town, faster and faster creating momentum. I have to hold onto the
knowing, my knowing.

Rebecca was my daughter’s name. She wasn’t brought to the
funeral, I wonder if she was told. I hope one day she will come to my house and
see the sparkling bedrooms. I will tell her my truth. I will tell her the
truth. I hope she hears me. I hope she listens.

Dodie Foster, my next door neighbour comes in once a week,
dusting and polishing. When she comes in this room she shivers but she does not
look me in the eye, she does not see me.



I was at a loosely called book club get together. Loosely because half of us have read the book and forgotten and the other half forgot to read the book. Club because we are a band of women at a time in our lives when being married is no longer an aim but staying married is difficult. We laugh. We love.

At the last meeting, someone suggested we read that fifty shades book. The idea went around the room, it took form, people were concurring to read, two had already started and then the light fell on me.

The light suddenly became sharper, brighter, pointier, hotter. I was going to say I couldn’t read it. I was hoping no one would ask why. Thankfully the ladies pointed their anxieties to each other. Some of the people had no idea it was an SM book, so in light of all this new revelation they chose Mirror Mirror by a safe Irish  formulaic writer.

Great (stage aside – big sarcastic sigh), we were going to have bad prose just like 50 shades, a formula, just like 50 shades but no erotica.

Great, no one asked me why, my faith was assumed to be at the heart of the reason.

Great we would meet again next month, and the ex-sex worker could keep her past secret for another day/week/month/year/lifetime.



Fourteen and bolshie. What a combination for any teacher to deal with. That’s what me and my mates thought so we would hang out for most of the day in the top bogs, smoking.

Sometimes me and Milton would have enough of everyone else and we’d take ourselves off to our office. The bottom bogs had the cistern above the pan so to touch it you’d have to stand on the edges of the pan. Inside our office’s cistern was a bottle of vodka, me and Milt would take it in turns to swig.

Idyllic days and sweaty nights, that is how we spent our fifteenth year till Milt got pregnant, had an abortion and the whole world (entire town) blamed me.



It was the range of colours that struck me, and, the centre, the centre was white. Well not white it was skin coloured and he was white so I call it white but really it was a pale insipid grey. A child, dirty, in a vest and shorts, hot, it was June 2007 and unlike this year it was a warm summer. It changed in July but this was June it was hot and there were colours.

I visualise the colours so easily, they are etched on my brain, there was a mottled purple, like the delicate fritillaria, looking so frail each year they bloom, it is always a wonder how they manage it. The was an Indian inkiness to the black-blue portion, almost like a borstal tattoo done with biro ink, or the female prisoners who hide the ink capsules in their arms to get a few days in the hospital or die trying. The red, like slates on an Italian villa in the mountains, terra cotta, with tones of weathering, of moss, of trapped dirt, of mistrals, and leaves. A colour I had never seen before imbued these former colours, this colour had the depth of lapis lazuli, with flashes of inky darkness, flecks of cream risotto rice, it reminded me of squid ink risotto I’d had one  evening in Rome at Da Sergio’s, not the food but the colour of my mouth after it – black, white, blues and lumpy bits. Fluorescent yellow and green encircled the white centre.

Polymer chained crisp packets, if one were to recreate this as a piece of modern art, would have to be scrunched up and placed under the skin. It was bumpy, lumpy and looked so very sore. The child, ran away, thinking trouble was brewing, that it was his fault.

I turned to my life partner, the man who took full time care of our family while I worked away.

 “WTF is that? How did  he do it? What has he been up to?”

Very quietly, very carefully, the man I had built my adult life with, said,

“I keyed him”

That’s enough, isn’t it, that would wreck a person. Not in my life, that isn’t quite enough. I met with my eldest child, my head whirring, keyed, keyed, keyed. We met at the bus stop, it was raining, it had started raining in my heart with the word keyed.

I was meeting my son away from the house, away from the home I shared with my family, because I needed advice and was fast discovering I was not that strong independent woman I thought I was. I shared the story to my son, expecting him to say something calming, soothing, something I could work with. He said,

“Why  are you telling me this? I know this story. This is my life. He has been attacking me for five years.”

Now that is wrecked.



Twenty five roller-coaster years, how do we celebrate that, honey?”
“I dunno babe, maybe a trip, do we have any tokens?”

“Let me check. Wouldn’t you think we’d be above coupon clipping after all this time,” Jenny spoke as she rifled through the coupon drawer.

“Hey, don’t start with me! You know why I never took the promotions, I didn’t plan on any of the stuff that’s happened,” Phil countered becoming more defensive with each word.

“Honey, cool it, it was just a throw-away. I didn’t mean to hurt you. You’re right, and Philip Solomon, I would not change one thing about our life. Imagine if we wrote it down sometime?”

“Aha, that would be like ‘War and Peace’, there’s our two families for starters, then the kids. Nothing prepared us for having children with disabilities. We could write a book for each child and a three volume treatise on your mother!”

“Phil, don’t be mean, I have been healed of my past, I might still have the physical scars but the emotional ones are gone. What about a tv series like ‘Shameless’ for your siblings,”

“Ha, ha, ha, oh Jennifer Lynn Solomon you are going to be ticked some for that, C’m here!”

The two, should know betters, fooled around, jumping over the sofa and chairs, chasing each other whilst laughing at each other acting like newly weds instead of approaching fifty.



The noise, I hate the noise in subway trains, I hate the squealing of rusty brakes on rusty tracks. Since glasnost there are no workers to grease the tracks. I hate the noise of youth, no longer in the groups of my youth, now tribes determined by drug use, music preferences and orientation, not forgetting wealth. I hate the noise of wealth most, when we were all communists, we all had the same.

Yes some of us had more same than the others, but we all had important jobs to do. My job, I was in charge of an internment camp on the outskirts of Moscow, to the east, in a forest near the town of Balashikha. I lived there, in Balashikha with my wife. She was in charge of a factory there. We had more floor space than the neighbours because of our jobs.

And yet here I am in the middle of Moscow, freezing because the heating doesn’t work and when it does work it leaks, and every one has pets now and the noise of them is incredible. I’d kill the lot, like in the old days, a prisoner who couldn’t be kowtowed, we just dropped them off the roof, job done.

There is too much softness now, too much America, too much noise. At my camp, in the forest, it was peaceful, there was no noise, there was no ….. life.



…running, running away, running toward. He ran mile upon mile, his mind in turmoil. There was no wall, physical or mental that stopped him. He ran on. He had within him the one piece of information, the vital snippet that would unravel the banking system, that would bring down the government, that would start a war between the two biggest nations, that would stop this civilisation in its tracks, that would bring a wave of anarchy that would go around the world.

He had no plan except to run, whichever way his mind turned he could see only destruction, he could only see annihilation and so he ran. As he came towards the cliff path he suddenly had a plan, he could not keep the information within, it would eat him up and as he looked at the gathering sunset he ploughed on. Running always running, he ran off the edge and screamed the secret to the sea as he plummeted to his death. 

The banks opened the next day as they had every other day, the Government did its business and the earth continued turning on its axis. His heroic death went unnoticed. 



Living vicariously through her characters, she was content. The outside world was too painful to be in, so she sat in semi-darkness with the blinds almost closed, laptop on knee playing the same role playing game she had been playing for over a year.
She met people on line from all over the world and chatted to them in real-time whilst their characters either fought or quested together. She was dying but she didn’t want to focus on that. Of course if she got up and went out into the pinpricking world she wouldn’t be dying as much and could reverse the process. She couldn’t do that, all she could do was breathe in and breathe out, any movement more than that was too much. She had a catheter and a colostomy bag so she had no need to move. Once a day a carer came in and removed rubbish, replenished supplies, dusted around her, and changed the bags. Once a week a cleaner came in and vacuumed around her, opened the windows, lifted the blinds and cooked her a meal. Her body violently reacted to “real” food but she still ate it. The rest of the time her food was made up of aerosol cheese, corn chips, tortillas and dips, biscuits, crackers, gallons and gallons of soda. Cigarettes and wine finished each meal, each meal finished the previous meal, a vicious circle of eating, drinking, smoking, chatting and playing, it had no end.
Her heart did it’s best to keep a steady rhythm, her lungs did their best to inflate and deflate regularly. Her kidneys did their best to flush the bad bits out, her liver sat like a beached whale getting flabbier and less able to do it’s job. Each part of her intricately designed body craved oxygen, exercise, vitamins, minerals and everything needed to live. She lived vicariously through her characters as she bounded toward death.




One comment

  1. It would appear that I am either your biggest fan or your strongest critic. 🙂 It took quite a while for me to read through and think about the first part of your 38-piece "work for review and critique," but here are my opinions, as brief as I can make them –1. The first piece: I see it as complete. (In fact, several of the pieces I see as finished and able to stand alone, without anything added; but I’ll address this at the end.) Here, I particularly liked these two sentences — "People gossip about him, about his truth, about his lies." (‘Been there.) "I have to hold onto the knowing, my knowing."2. The "book club" piece: I see a paradox here — the speaker seems to WANT to tell the truth of why she doesn’t want the book to be the group’s choice, yet she seems angry at having to read "a safe, formulaic writer." She wants to tell the truth, yet she takes the safe route, keeping her secret. She’s really conflicted between WANTing to blurt out the truth and NEEDing to keep it secret. I see this piece as being able to stand alone, without further explanation.3. The "14 and bolshie" piece: Great introduction to a short story. I’m intrigued and would read it.4. The "colors" piece: I don’t know what "keyed" means, so I’m confused. It would, obviously, be better if I knew the meaning. Descriptive words are fantastic.5. The "25 roller-coaster years" piece: I don’t think this could be developed much more. It seems, as it is, to be a snippet of a description of two characters other than the main ones, inside a short story about something else. ‘Know what I mean?6. The "noise" piece: It could be a good introduction to a longer story. But, as with several of the others, it could stand alone. If it’s to be part of another, longer piece, it seems to be the best part. It says it all — I don’t WANT to know more.* You’re a master at these little "set pieces," like vignettes. They’re almost like poetry, self-contained, finished. (This is one of the things I was going to say at the end.)7. The "running" piece: ‘Sorry, but this is just too vague for me — it doesn’t "pull me in." My thinking was, "So what?" What did you want the reader to feel?8. The "lived vicariously through her characters" piece: I was confused. Is she really ill? You say she’s "content," but she’s obviously on a self-destructive path. She’s playing games — is she an online "gamer"? Did she know/plan the End Game? Was she going to "let" someone kill her in the online game room, or was she just not going to show up there one day? There seems to be no point in just not showing up; no one would know she really died. They’d think she just quit playing. Or maybe they’re the same thing.I like that many of your characters don’t have names, or have really quirky ones. We ties meanings/memories, etc. to people with certain names, and we might not like to see their names attached to strange, mad, depressed, angry, or damaged characters in pieces of writing. ‘Know what I mean? As I said, I like that sometimes your characters remain nameless.OK, Suzie, I’ll try to get started on the next set of writings, to read and think about them for a few hours. I was up until 1:30 a.m. last night, doing that — critiquing your work could become my late-night reading habit. Problem is, some of your writing stirs up thoughts I don’t want to take to bed with me! :)) But, for the most part, it’s very entertaining.I KNOW you always keep up the good work. But, I encourage you to keep asking for critiques. If we don’t take the risk of letting others read our writing, it just sets in drawers and boxes and computer files, unable to show its face, right? Ha! I’m a good one to talk! I had to write a book-length manuscript for my graduate thesis; I did it but never sent it off to be published and barely showed it to anyone beyond my advisors at university! I haven’t looked at it in 15 years, but I keep saying I’m going to edit/re-write it and start sending it out. My inspiration is the late Frank McCourt, whose first book wasn’t published until he was 66.All the best,Charlene

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