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


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 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