Category Archives: creative nonfiction

True stories written with a creative flair.

Setters vs. Pointers?

I stood before the two doors, entrances to the restrooms at a small café known as The White Dog and felt like I was watching a tennis match.

I looked at the left door. Then the right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left.

How in the hell was I supposed to know which one was the men’s room?

Both had a painting of a dog.

To my left, a big white dog with brown spots. Pointers, it said. Pointers? That’s probably for the men, right?

The other side a mostly white dog, similar enough to the other that I really couldn’t be sure. Setters, it said. Setters? That’s close enough to sitters, right? And women sit on the toilet no matter what…so…

I had no idea what to do. I could go with my gut since a peeing guy  would definitely be considered a pointer. But what if I was wrong? And not only did I go in there, use the bathroom, spot whatever sort of feminine stuff was usually in a bathroom and then as I attempt to discreetly leave find a woman waiting to use it? I’d be so busted!

I checked the lower half of the paintings, hoping for some sort of doggie parts that might answer my question. No luck. I would have to take a chance.

I opened the pointers door and relaxed as I saw that the seat was not down.

Success.

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When a Tree Falls in My Yard My Heart Makes a Sound

As I look out my kitchen window, a vast emptiness consumes the view. The tree is gone.

I love my small property in suburban Philadelphia more than I can explain. Sure, I can’t stand the neighbors, the cramped street, the parking, but my house is another story entirely. I have (or should say had) four trees which shaded my house beautifully in the summer, keeping the heat at bay and my electric bills down.

And then there were three.

Storms claimed my lovely tree, an elm that has slowly deteriorated over the years. My neighbors were afraid it would fall on their homes, and during the last ice storm even I became concerned when the branches that fell at 5AM were so big that the sound rattled my whole house. So I gave in and the tree had to go.

I promised Mother Nature, myself, my close friends, my girlfriend and family, everyone really, that I would plant another. Nobody seems too concerned about it, but this tree, every tree means the world to me. So for now, as the ground is still frozen, I wait until the moment when I can finally plant another. And for now, when I look out any window facing the alley, I can feel that emptiness of the view, the lack of something, and even though I can see the beautiful blue sky that is out there today, I miss the branches, the leaves, the drooping arms of what was once a beautiful elm.

Sigh.

Peace and Love

“Peace and love!” I said loudly to my class when the clock struck noon. What can I say, I’m a huge Ringo fan!

“What are you doing?” someone asked.

“Ringo asked all of his fans to say that at noon, so I did. It’s his birthday.”

“You like Ringo Starr?” someone else asked.

“Of course! I have a bunch of his records.”

“Records? Like real records?”

“Yup. Plus I saw him last weekend in Atlantic City.”

Nobody responded. Finally, after a moment of silence longer than the one in before the pledge of allegiance, someone said, “Wow…I’m jealous.” Many people nodded.

I was surprised. I expected to be teased. Nope.

“Did he sing Beatles songs?”

“Yup.”

“No No Song?”

“Sadly, no. That was the one I wanted to hear the most.”

I had no idea so many people were fans!

“What was he like?”

“Well, he was quite lively, dancing around, really having fun up there, considering he’s seventy.”

“He’s seventy?!?” a few asked.

“Yup. Today is his 70th.”

A bunch of people start typing on their computers.

“Trust me guys, I’m right. I would know.”

Turns out they were Googling No No Song. Nice.

Happy Birthday, Ringo.

Turn Right, Ahead

“The GPS says to turn here!”

Sure enough, as I scoured the tree-lined side of the road for the turn this robot voice was now telling us about, I could not imagine why we would turn into the woods.

Suddenly as if out of nowhere, a small, wooden bridge appeared in the brush. It looked sturdy enough, but before I could reply either way she turned the wheel and we were on it.

“Um…this isn’t even a road!” Ahead lay nothing but dirt.

“The GPS says it is!”

“I know…but once on Office it told Michael to turn and he read it wrong and ended up driving into a lake.”

She looked at me.

“And I can’t swim.”

I looked up and noticed a rickety sign that said “Road Closed” and under that saw something about the word lake and freaked.

“It said lake, it said lake!”

“Relax!” she said laughing. To be honest, I was laughing too. How could a GPS even know this dirt road existed, let alone that it was closed? We were laughing too hard to even watch where we were going.

“Turn around!” I yelled between laughs.

“Where?” All of a sudden we were driving past a brand new house with a small clearing across from it.

“Really, here?” I asked. Why would anyone choose this spot to build a house?

She laughed more as she turned into the clearing to make a three-point turn. I had my camera out.

“I hope someone comes out!”

“Don’t you dare take a picture of people if they come out! Nobody even knows we’re here!”

“Come on. A house that nice, they’ll probably offer us fresh squeezed lemonade.”

“Do you see any lemon trees around here?”

She had a point, but still.

We laughed hysterically until we came back to the bridge, and all of a sudden the GPS righted itself and the robotic voice said, “Turn right, ahead.”

1,253 Steps

They huffed and panted, each leaning against the railing of the walkway from sheer exhaustion.

“Man, this is really tough.”

“I know!” she agreed.

He looked over the picturesque mountainside, rocky terrain covering both the cliffs and the path they’d just climbed.

“So, don’t know if you noticed the sign, but this path has something like 1,253 steps, and that’s just the steps. Doesn’t include the regular hiking.”

“Wow,” she said between pants.

“Yeah,” he replied, sitting down on a nearby rock. He sighed from relief.

“Good idea.” She walked up beside him, plopped down on the rock, and then held his hand. He squeezed back.

“This is nice.”

“What, watching me sweat my ass off?”

She smiled.  “What a beautiful place.”

He leaned back and she rested her head on his chest as the constant sound of the rushing water of the falls soundtracked the moment. He reached into his messenger bag and pulled out half a bottle of water, opened it, and offered it to her first.

“Thanks,” she said, taking a swig and then handing it back. He wiped the lip of the bottle off on his shirt.

“Hey!” She shoved him a bit and he laughed and drank a large gulp of water. A family started making their way up the path towards them and he nudged her.

“Better get moving if we want to keep enjoying the peace and quiet.”

She nodded and stood up, reaching out her hand to assist him.

“How out of shape do you think I am?” he joked as she helped him to his feet. He turned and made his way to the next case of old boards that passed for steps at this particular park.

They stood at the bottom of the steepest set of least one hundred steps and looked up at them with despair.

He smiled and said, “Race you to the top.” She took off before he could even finish the sentence, and he bolted after her.

The steepst steps after the climb.Bushkill Falls, Poconos, Pennsylvania

and he asked her out through a mix tape…

Christmas Memories (My First Nonfiction Post)

It’s Christmas, 1982, ’83, ’84, ’85, pick a year, any year.

Santa came and went, church is finally taken care of, the celebration with my mom’s side of the family is over, and we are now at my Pop-pop’s house, anxiously awaiting presents from Aunt Mary and Uncle Mike, two notorious over-spenders when it comes to us and holidays.

“Looks like Santa left something here for Dennis,” my Pop-pop would say.  “I wonder why he would leave it here.”   The first year, and possibly the second, it was pretty new and exciting.  After that, it became as predictable as the end of Mickey’s Christmas Carol, which was another part of our annual Christmas tradition.  But the first year, it was exciting to hear.  I could not help but think of how envious my sisters must have been.  I mean, come on, Santa had given me an extra present.

Pop-pop handed over the gift, and I looked at my parents with excitement.  I tore it open and lifted the lid to find…potatoes.

“Uh oh.  Looks like someone was bad this year!  Santa brought you potatoes!” my grandfather said.

That first year I was confused as hell.  Why would Santa bring me all those presents at home only to leave me something odd like potatoes at my grandparents’ house?  And if I knew anything about Christmas from all the movies and television specials, it was that bad kids got coal, not potatoes!  That was when I realized Pop-pop was laughing, and it was contagious.  Everyone started laughing.  And then I got it.  I was the victim of one of my Pop-pop’s pranks.  And I loved it.

So it became a part of Christmas.  Every year, I got potatoes.  And for some reason, even though we all expected it, every year we all laughed and laughed.  But the thing was, I did not even get to keep the potatoes.  He would say that they were his lunch for tomorrow.