Short Story

Boots

A short story by George Beavis.

From the author:

I have been trying, emphasis on trying, to write about my experiences in Vietnam in a way that I hoped would be more understandable to other people. I think, or hope, I have learned some ways to do that. 

If I have it has only been the result of each of my classmates and the way they have approached each of the tasks and the creativity each has shown plus the encouragement of Michael January, Samuel and the other CM people.

Without their encouragement I would have just left it hanging and not put the effort into it.  It is by no means a work of art, but I feel good that I rewrote it, reworked it and the ideas. The encouragement helped me to keep going on it and I feel very good about that. Who cares about the story. Not me. I do care that I was encouraged and “finished” it!!!!

Boots 

by George Beavis

Watching the news and the camera panned over a dead body covered by a tarp. A foot with a brand new boot sticking out. 

I remember my laces were being pulled tight and wrapped around my ankle twice and knotted. 

After that, we knocked about for a while and then went for a walk. I got pretty wet and muddy. By night time we were back where we started. I was taken off the foot and set on the ground. That didn’t always happen. Sometimes we were so tired we were never taken off and set on the floor. 

Days marched by like that in an endless line until one day when we were out walking and a big explosion knocked us down. 

I woke up in a dark closet. When the door was left open I could look around. My partner, who I considered “Left” wasn’t near me. It got dark again and I was scared. After a while, my eyes began to adjust to the dark in the closet. I looked around and saw other boots lined up. Some singles. Some pairs. 

I just sat there all day for maybe months, so I was able to study the other boots even in the darkish light in the closet. Some were brand new and never really got a chance to even have their soles broken in. Some were badly worn, their toes all scuffed and scared, with their soles worn thin. 

A few boots away was a pair that were all spit-shined and regulation-like. Probably never worked a day in his life, you know the type. I bet he was fragged. 

Mostly we just sat in here and no one paid any attention to us like we had outlived our usefulness. One time someone came and got one of the singles, threw it in the trash then slammed the door. 

** 

I hated that locker. It gave me the willies. If I saw a boot belonging to someone I knew had died, I would throw it out. I didn’t throw out pairs ‘cause it seemed a shame when there was still life in them. When I got ready to rotate back to the states I snagged a pair that looked pretty new and stuffed them in my bag. 

I didn’t try them on until I got back home. I thought they might be good for camping or hiking. I wasn’t trying to be a poser or anything. When I put them on I knew I had made a bad mistake. All the lumps and bumps of the original owner’s feet were still there on the inside. Just walking around in them they reminded me with every step that they weren’t mine. I took them off and set them in the garage for a few years. Every time I saw them they would remind me of that bloody closet and all the dead boots. I eventually threw them out. They were just like an albatross hung around a sailor’s neck to punish.

Short Story · Writing

Secrets

A Short Story by George Beavis, PWA Participant Artist & Veteran

Truth and Lies are both secrets.

The heat makes the black sticky stuff in the streets into little bubbles that I can pop with my finger. Sometimes the black stuff sticks to my finger. I wipe it on the grass or my pants. I was helpin’ my daddy fix our car. 

Daddy says it is a “Model A.” I like watching him work on our car. I know what a letter “A” looks like, but the car doesn’t look like that. It is black like the sticky stuff. 

I know my colors now.

It has a crank in front just like in the cartoons. 

Our car is the only one on my block that has a crank. Daddy says we don’t need the crank anymore because he added a battery. Not sure what that is, but Daddy showed it to me. It is under some boards by the front seat. Daddy lets me lift up the boards when we are drivin’ so I can watch the road go by. It is fun to kneel on the floor in front of the seat an look at the road. In the cartoons, people stick their feet down the hole to make the car stop, but their feet smoke an burn up. Daddy said never to do that. 

He showed me once how he could start it usin’ the crank, but he said he was afraid it would break his arm. I am really lucky because nobody else has a car like that or a Daddy that can do that.

I like to ride with Daddy in the car. He lets me stand on the seat next to him. If we have to stop suddenly, he reaches out with his arm to keep me from fallin’. I like that. 

He is all warm and smells like dirt an pipe tobacco. He smells good.

When we work on the car, Daddy lets me hold our hammer and other tools. He works on our car a lot when he is home. I can see the engine. Daddy tells me the names of all the parts. 

The “fuel filter” is the most fun to look at. It is glass an has liquid in it. Daddy said it was “gas.” If I climb up, I can see it. It is yellow, sort’a. 

I like to sit next to Daddy on the floor in the kitchen too. He smears black stuff on his boots an rubs it with a cloth until it is shiny. He spits on his shoe! I am not allowed to spit! But Daddy can. He said it was for work so his boots will be shiny.

While we were sittin’ on the floor, I could see a pretty red bottle. Daddy took one of his pencils out of his pocket an drew a very tiny line on the bottle an said “secret,” puttin’ his finger to his lips. It made me feel like a special big kid ‘cause Daddy told me a secret. 

Daddy had never told me a secret before.

I was sittin’ on the kitchen floor the next day when Mommy was gettin’ the red bottle out. I said “secret” an pointed to the line on the bottle. I was so proud to know a secret. I had never known a secret before. Mommy an Daddy talked about secrets sometimes but I never knew one.

Mommy laughed an said, “So your father thinks he is clever.” She filled the bottle with water so it was back even with the line. Mom laughs about a lot of things I don’t understand. They weren’t funny like in the cartoons.

It made me feel funny. I don’t know if Mommy is laughin’ at me or Daddy or what? 

*

We have a game where there is a plastic pot on a swivel. Daddy told me about swivels and showed me how they work. Daddy told me the idea is for each person to put a bean in the pot until the pot was full. The pot is black like our car.

Each bean I added makes the pot want to tip over an dump everythin’ out. I liked playin’ the game with Daddy, but Mommy never has time to play, even durin’ the day. 

Daddy helped me know where I could put my bean so that I wouldn’t make the pot tip over an dump everythin’ out. My hands were small an shaky, so it was hard for me. 

When the pot tips over you yell “you spilled the beans.” “Spilling the beans” means you lost the game. 

Most of the time Daddy has to go to work an isn’t home. I can walk up to the mailbox to meet Daddy when he is comin’ home… if Mommy says it is ok. 

The mailbox is across from my daddy’s bus stop. I can’t leave the block or cross the big street to the bus stop because I am too small,  but I can go to the mailbox. When I start school, I can walk by myself off the block to go school, but right now I can’t.

When Daddy walks to the store I go with him an he lets me cross the big street if I hold his hand. I always like to hold Daddy’s hand even though I am sort’a a big boy. I like it. His hands are big an nice.

Tom comes by my house durin’ the day. He doesn’t like to play any games like Daddy does. He likes to talk with Mommy. 

Sometimes Mommy gives me “workbooks” an a fat pencil to “keep me busy.” Mommy said I can’t have a pencil like Daddy’s skinny pencil until I am older, but I don’t know when that will be. 

I like the ones in the workbook where you are a mouse, an you try to find the cheese without crossin’ the lines. It is called a “puzzle.” Mommy likes for me to do a lot of work in the books. I sit on the floor where Daddy an I sit when we are makin’ his boots shiny. They have dot-to-dot things too, but I don’t always know the next right order to connect them. 

Tom drives a yellow truck for work. It has all kinds of doors on it. I like to open all the doors an see what is inside. Some have wires of different colors. Some have other things that I don’t know yet. I liked to look through them just to see. Some wires are black. Some are green. Red wires too. It is excitin’ to see all the things in the truck cupboards. The truck is brand new an doesn’t have a crank at all.

Tom told me if I was a good boy that I could go outside an spend as much time as I wanted lookin’ at the things behind the doors in the back of his truck. The doors each had a lock on it, but Tom unlocked them all before he went inside my house.

Tom came over to my house almost every day while Daddy was at work an I could play in his truck. Sometimes if I tried to go back into the house, the door was locked. 

One time Tom forgot to open all the little doors, so I went back into the house. The front door wasn’t locked that time, so I went in. I couldn’t find them until I went in Mommy’s room.

Mommy got really upset and yelled at me. She said to go outside. Tom left with his truck.

I don’t remember what I had said to Daddy. 

Daddy an Mommy started yellin’. It seemed like I had done somethin’ wrong. Daddy left the house an drove away.

Mommy said I had “spilled the beans,” she is very upset with me an yellin’ at me an cryin’. I hadn’t been playin’ that game so I couldn’t see how that could be. I thought maybe she wanted to play it, so I ran an got it out an set it up. Mommy kicked the game!

Mommy just kept cryin’ an repeatin’ somethin’ about “spilling the beans” an it bein’ my fault Daddy had left.

The next thing I remember was starin’ at the game. I was very confused.

I piled beans up until they dumped over. I said, “I spilled the beans.”

I piled beans up again part way an dumped them over, sayin’, “I spilled the beans.” 

Again I piled beans up an dumped them over, sayin’, “I spilled the beans.” 

I did that again an again. All I could see was the game. I knew I had done somethin’ very very wrong to do with the game an Mommy an Daddy. I couldn’t see anything except the game or hear anything except Mommy saying, “It’s your fault. You spilled the beans.”

I kept doin’ it anyway still sayin’, “I spilled the beans” over and over.

Mommy is layin’ on the bed cryin’, kickin’ her feet, and yellin’ at me to shut up. I just kept heapin’ the beans up until they spilled an sayin’, “I spilled the beans.” 

Maybe she is angry because I lost the game, but no one is even playin’ with me.

Mommy came in an’ grabbed the game and threw it in the trash. 

I don’t understand.

Mommy is really mad at me. She says it is all my fault, but I don’t know what is my fault.

Mommy said Daddy left. An’ Mommy says that I have to go find him. She screams not to come home until I find him. The last thing I remember before leavin’ the house was Mommy layin’ face down on the bed an cryin’.

I walk up an’ down the block but didn’t see Daddy. I’m not allowed to go past the corner by myself. Daddy says I am too young an not in school yet like the big boys. I keep goin’ anyway because Mom said. 

I walk to the grocery store. I have walked there with Mom before, an up to the liquor store. I have walked there with Mom before too. I think I know which way Daddy’s bus goes to work, so I start that way. I don’t know what Daddy’s work looks like. 

I don’t know where I am or how to get home anymore. I have never been this far by myself. I would feel like a big boy, but I can’t stop cryin’, and I don’t know how to find Daddy. I wish I could go home, but I don’t know where home is, an Mom said not to come home until I found Daddy.

I stand still cryin’. A stranger tries to talk to me, but Daddy said never talk to strangers, so I run.

I don’t know which way to go because I don’t know where I am. 

I don’t know where the grocery store is anymore, or the liquor store, or even the mailbox. 

I start walkin’, but I don’t know where I am goin’.

Short Story · Writing

Yard Car

by James Thiele

I was walking through my neighborhood on a fine spring day and what I saw through a gap in some bushes made me stop in my tracks. Sitting in the yard was the unmistakable boxy shape of a classic Land Rover, star of many National Geographic TV specials from my youth. But instead of trekking through the Sahara or African jungle it was now parked on the grass in a residential neighborhood of Seattle. It was still covered in colored leaves from the previous fall. It had become something else I remembered from my younger days — a yard car.

As a teenager growing up in a farming region of Indiana, it seemed that every house in the countryside had a car sitting on blocks in the front yard. Not to pick on Indiana though — people from rural areas all across America talk about this. “Yard car” is a generic term for any non-working vehicle sitting in the yard. This includes pickup trucks, tractors, RVs and other more unusual specimens. Once in Washington state I saw a lifeboat from a World War 2 cargo ship in someone’s yard. It was pretty big and rather far from the ocean so it wasn’t there by accident.

No car starts out wanting to be yard car. Every car comes out of the factory shiny and new with a possibly bright future ahead of it. But one day the future yard car won’t start. If another working vehicle is available this one gets left home. Assuming it can’t be fixed quickly and affordably it will be pushed off of the driveway and onto the yard. For awhile the owners will glance at it and mutter “I really ought to get around to fixing that.” But as time passes it inevitably starts getting stripped for parts. Somebody needs a new battery or radio or whatever and the one in the car in the yard will fit. Eventually the tires get removed the car goes up on blocks.

The Land Rover was not the only yard car in my neighborhood. A Ford Mustang from the 1960s was surrounded by weeds which had grown to half the height of the tires. The Mustang’s body looked good and made me wonder why it was sitting in the overgrown grass.

Both the Land Rover and Mustang were out of their respective yards before I moved out of the neighborhood. I’m sure the Mustang sooner or later will make it into the hands of a car enthusiast who will buff it up and show it off on weekends. The Land Rover probably won’t make it back to the Sahara (if it was ever there) but may regain some self esteem four wheeling through the Pacific Northwest backcountry.

But the true yard cars, sitting on blocks in rural front yards, aren’t going anywhere soon. Maybe someday it will get sold for parts or the owner may simply get tired of looking at it and pay to have it hauled away.


I got the idea for this in a writing class at Sound Mental Health (Hi LT).  I wrote it in a Path With Artwriting class (Hi Scott) and recited it at a PWA Showcase (Hi Nikki). It was later published in a small local literary journal.

Short Story · Writing

The Odyssey Experience

IMG_0004_2

The Odyssey Experience
by Lynette Douglas

It was mid-November 2016 when I first read about the theatrical class offered at the Ballard Senior Center. This is all part of The Seattle Repertory’s Public Works Program. Someone from the Seattle Repertory Theater was teaching a class on the theater. WOW!!  

This was a difficult time for me. I was facing a serious eye surgery and didn’t know what would happen to my sight. I was born with a form of cerebral palsy, which settled on the right side of my face.

Although I have successfully traveled to Australia, on the other side of the universe…

IMG_0007_2I was there for some volunteer work, for a Landmark Worldwide Team Management and Leadership Program,  did this as my final assignment. I made all the traveling and housing arrangements and with the help of some travel wise friends and actually stayed there, for three and 1/2 weeks, on my own. I still was very self conscious of my facial palsy and the disabilities accompanying it.   

I was faced with a cataract surgery that could leave me blind. My palsy affected the nerves and muscles of my face and eyes. I could not move my eyes and certainly could not focus. The surgery would be a serious and my sight was at risk! It was indeed a scary time for me.  

This class was something I have always dreamed of doing and it was the expectation of an actual class in the theatrical arts that got me through the surgery. I came through the surgery and came to my first class the following February . I instantly fell in love with the theater and it was this class that carried me through a difficult recovery. 

A year and a half before I had presented a booklet of six memoirs to my Fiftieth Year High School Class Reunion, and promised them a revised book of Memoirs within a year of our reunion. For obvious reasons, my promise went as broken. This theatrical class would lead to the opportunity to be on stage in a Seattle Repertory Production. This was appropriate for keeping a promise. Through out the next few months, my courage and unstoppabiliy to actual act on a live stage, took everything I had. My high school classmates and friends were very excited for me AND I delivered my promise in an accomplishment , far exceeding my expectations.  

My eyes were weak, affecting my balance and my singing voice cracked some of the time. There was a few times when I almost gave it up….and there was my promise of producing something! 

Maybe this was too much for me. Matt, Paul, Simone , Katrina Ann Marya’s support and enthusiasm kept me coming to the classes and were a vital part of my competing my role as a siren and Ithacan woman in The Odyssey! 

I had so much resistance to fulfilling my roles in the play. There were obstacles to hurdle and it was often a real struggle to keep going. 

A few days after I accepted the parts in the cast, I had news that someone, whom I had served a restraint order on, found my whereabouts. I was scared of him showing up and causing trouble. If I said something about I might be discouraged from going through with the play, so I went to the police and saught  the support of my priest, therapist and close friends. 

According to reliable sources, he was too physically ill and brain damaged from the chemical abuse, he could not even take care of himself, much less, travel outside of his Arizona home town! My determination and unstoppability, led me on. I had no problems and this obstacle disappeared . 

The most significant obstacle I had to hurdle was my disability and fear of what people would think. Maya’s  assignment for us was to make up our own individual character or for those with speaking parts, to study the script and put ones self in their own perception of this person, they portrayed. This was my saving grace. 

My personal life was outwardly happy and successful, while I struggled, inside. I worked very diligently on my characters and my personal journey was adaptive to the Ithacan woman, Adelina who was coming to terms with her old age and the diabolical that came with it. I had non speaking roles and I was coping with my physical disabilities and that lively spirit that wanted to share in the struggles of her fellow Ithicans. 

The three songs we sang and danced to, were mine, not only in the play, but this reality for me! 

How far would you sail was a question I asked myself, every day. My physical limitations and the irony of our commander in chief coincided. Singing this song over and over instilled in my mind, the importance of sailing HOME. I bonded with the other cast and got the importance of being a part of a township and actually being a part of a play. We needed each other to make our story complete. As well, we needed each other to fulfill our dream of being on stage. I was unstoppable! 

I dealt with stiff joints from dancing, for the first time in years and my inability to see my place on stage. We get by with a little help from our friends! 

The turning point for me came with the first time, we did the whole play. It was the beginning of the most crucial part of our rehearsals. We were NOT to miss any rehearsals, from here on out. My body and head resisted this promise, but my heart and soul won out. 

Somehow, I came to rehearsal an hour before I actually was expected. Seeing the play for the first time instilled the passion I had for being a part of this wonderful play. It was one of the final sets that brought home to me who I really am!

Odysseus has returned home. He conceals himself as a beggar and has won the arrow shooting competition. Penelope held for the selection of a new king. He shoots the arrow and makes the mark. The towns people knows then, who he is.

I was standing behind him as he declared his loyalty for his people. I was playing the part of Althea. The words “I will fight for you, my people!” were strong and I heard another voice, within me saying, “Lynette, you will keep living on, because you are… are… ARE the woman you already are!” In spite of the onset of cellulitis on the final performance day, the stage was my long-wanted opportunity to be the unstoppable and spirited woman I always have been and this time I totally GOT who I am!!

Today, two years later, I am preparing my audition for “As You Like It.” This is will be my second play for The Seattle Repertory Theater and now I feel an excitement I’ve never dreamt I would feel. Life has been good to me! My surgery was successful and my life is not the same. I’m living my dream and am indeed, unstopped by any obstacle that gets in my way. I am, after all, UNSTOPPABLE!!!

Short Story

The Muffin Lady

A childhood story from
Lynette Jenjen Douglass

THE MUFFIN LADY

The years between four and seven were some of my favorite years of growing up!

We lived in a neighborhood of middle-aged and elderly people. I had another pair of grandparents, Grandma and Grandpa Hoppie, and there was another aunt, my favorite person in all the world, Aunt Lizzie!

I really liked Lizzie because she not only made the most delicious muffins, and she had a black and white cat named Buster. She also let me help her do things, like make muffins and work in her backyard.

There was one day that I spent with her that is never to forget. Summer had just begun and all the flowers were beginning to bloom. There were daffodils. purple crocuses and tulips, alongside a bunch of weeds. This was the day I learned what weeds looked like and why my dad pulled them up and threw them in the garbage! These were ugly looking and from that day on, I was more than eager to help in Lizzie’s as well as our home garden!

Most importantly, I discovered the joy of being needed and able to actually do something constructive. I felt really important that day and proud to be able to do something that needed to be done!

After we pulled most of the weeds in Lizzie’s backyard, she rewarded me with a plate of her yummiest muffins, applesauce and pecans. They tasted so good with a glass of cold milk and it was definitely time for a nap!

I lay on her soft couch and she put a blanket over me! Her soft and perry black cat crawled beside me and I will forever treasure the fresh scent of green grass, the wonderful smell of fresh flowers, the taste of Lizzie’s applesauce muffins, and the warmth and purring of a loving black cat!

Community · Short Story

Becky and Baby

Baby the Goat

This is Baby. I came to meet him in a very unusual way. His owner’s sister called me for help. It seems the owner, a fifties-ish woman, was fleeing a domestic violence abuser. They had been sharing an inoperable RV on an urban farm. She’d had enough, so she had the RV towed to a place in Seattle both strange to her and uncertain as to safety.

I found her and within minutes I’d been introduced to Baby, who was sharing the RV with the woman, whom we can call Becky. Other than the oddity of Baby the Goat, Becky had lived a rather full life with a developmental disability serious enough that even she reported to being at about 3rd grade level on reading and comprehension.

Becky managed well in most other ways such as upkeep of the RV, fixing her meals, and so on. But the RV’s engine was a quagmire. It needed this, it needed that, and mostly these were guesses. Not so unusual in the world of vehicle residency where too many engines either stop working or never worked.

I took on sharing some of the many tasks with her that faced her. She needed the Benefits Law Center to straighten out how badly Social Security had messed up her status, such that they kept shrinking her allotment. For that connection we’d been helped by Mary’s Place. Becky wanted to get a battery and we had to drive 20 miles for the right size. She was still dedicated to getting this RV running. On the way back I made use of a colleague at Solid Ground to do intake of Becky into the Homeless Management Information System and to do an assessment.

Our Scofflaw Mitigation Team (SMT) partnership with St. Vincent de Paul provided Becky with one of their case managers. While all this was progressing, it was clear Becky’s abuser had learned where the RV was. She had it towed about 5 miles away to an old neighborhood of hers. Not exactly fooling the abuser who had his friend’s keep looking for her and once they did, to keep an eye on her. For our part we engaged the Sheriff’s Deputies. But she had to get out of the RV. It was never going to run. And it wasn’t safe.

My reaching out to Catholic Community Services enabled her to gain shelter, now being offered in a local hotel. On one of our drives to/from gaining her some supplies, I asked where she wanted to end up. “I just want a place where I can live and Baby can be there with me.” I asked, “what would you like to do once there?” She said, “I’d like to sew.”Bill Kirlin-Hackett

In each of us there is a wish, a dream, a vision, and it issues as fulfilling our deepest desire of what peace looks like. Our SMT knows that the homelessness system will not deliver that vision to Becky. So we’re putting out an “ad” through faith communities for some willing congregational-member family with some land on the fringe of town with an accessory unit on the property to house Becky and Baby, and then some interior space for a sewing machine.

It is an incomplete story, as most stories are. For now, they are both safe.

Bill Kirlin-Hackett
service organization partner and
member of the Program Advisory Board, Path with Art