The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 9:17 am Thursday, July 5, 2018

“Memories in Two-Part Harmony”

By Julie Terry Cartner

She sat, curled up in her wheelchair, shoulder-length gray hair brushed back from her face, as always, lost in her own world. I’d seen her countless times. Something about her caught my attention every time we went to the nursing home to dance. Despite the volume of the music, the clattering of trays from the adjacent kitchen, and the stomping of our feet as we moved in the rhythms of dance, she remained placid, disengaged from the activities around her. Until that one day. We had replaced our usual contemporary musical choices, instead, going back in time and choosing songs from the 1950s. Many members of our audience became engaged when the notes of “Lollipop” came through the speakers, and I saw smiles glimmering in their eyes. I was thrilled to hear people singing snatches from the songs, some even singing every word of every song. Music has its own special power, allowing special memories and emotions of years gone by to return, if only for a short visit, but never had I seen this power more clearly than on that day.

The one aforementioned lady, however, was the most intriguing to me. For the first time, I saw her engage with us, and the result was magical. First came a smile, a genuine, soft, gentle smile. I wondered what she was recalling, then I saw her arms reach out. And then, although restricted to a wheelchair, she began to dance, her feet tapping, her arms gently moving in time, and her body swaying to the beat of the music. And all the while, the smile remained and dark eyes glowed with remembered joy.

I imagined the smile came when, in her mind’s eye, she saw her beau begin walking across the dance floor towards her. As he moved closer, she demurely lowered her eyes, but then he offered her his hand, and she happily rose from her chair. When he tenderly took her in his arms, and they began to move to the beat of the music, she smiled into his eyes. The strains of “All I Have to do is Dream” swirled through the air as the couple moved gracefully across the floor. Oh, they were a lovely couple; he, darkly handsome and muscular in the prime of his youth, she, petite and lovely in her poodle skirt and saddle oxfords. They danced the night away in the school gym, decorated perfectly for the homecoming dance with balloons and streamers of orange and black. After dancing together all evening, finally the notes from “Mr. Sandman” came across the speakers, and they knew it would be the last dance of the night. The couple swayed slowly, his arms wrapped around her, her cheek lying tenderly on his chest. When the final notes echoed through the air, he led her back to her chair, and then, with a courtly bow, he kissed her gently on the cheek and bade her goodnight. With one last smile, she thanked him for a lovely evening.

With the room no longer filled with the ‘50s music, she once again closed her eyes, curled up in her wheelchair and returned to her own world. I tried to speak to her, but she only opened her eyes for a brief moment, then closed me out, or rather, cocooned herself back in her dreams and memories. I gently touched her hand and was rewarded with a fleeting smile, gone so quickly I had to wonder if I had seen it at all.

I had lost her once again, but for a few brief moments, I was given the opportunity to see this lovely lady in the glory of her youth. For a moment, I was able to see her young, charming, and in love. For a moment I was able to see her as she had been, standing at the threshold of adulthood. I left the nursing home that day, touched, realizing that I had received a treasure, a glimpse into the past, which had enriched my life.  The gift of music had been the bridge which, if only for a short while, had joined our worlds.

“Juliette’s Balcony”

By N.R. Tucker

Shakespeare’s story of Romeo and Juliet is my least favorite story by the bard. Even as a teenager, I thought the young lovers were less than intelligent. Verify your true love is actually dead before killing yourself in grief. That was my takeaway from the play as a teenager. I still consider it a valid takeaway. I have always felt that, had they lived and married, they would have driven each other crazy in no time as they both lacked common sense. Obviously, I’m not terribly romantic. That being said, for a few years we lived in the suburbs of Verona, the setting of Romeo and Juliette. Juliette’s Balcony is located at Via Cappello. This building, near Piazza Erbe, was once owned by the Dal Cappello (Capulet family).

The Dal Cappello building dates back to the 13th century. It has a brick façade and large windows. The small marble balcony, Juliette’s own, was a disappointment to me. Two thin people might be able to stand on it, but no more. The balcony is on the second floor, but if Romeo couldn’t climb up to Juliette, he was either very weak or his love wasn’t very strong. If the building credited with being the home of the Montagues is, in fact, their home, the Capulets and Montagues were neighbors, separated by a couple of blocks and a piazza. Although the Montagues home is one of the oldest buildings in Verona and has the original battlements intact, it is in a poor state of repair but worth seeing.

Overall, I felt there were many more interesting sites to see in Verona than the location of the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliette. I suspect those of a more romantic nature would disagree with me.

Even though I found it disappointing, Juliette’s balcony was one of our destinations whenever we had visitors, and it was a nice local stop after touring the city with friends and family. There is a photo of me sitting on a bench with a hot and tired two-year-old Michelle sleeping in my arms, while a throng of people pressed together to view the balcony. I only hope they enjoyed their visit more than I did. Judging by the expression on my face, I was not delighted to be there.


By Linda Barnette

On days like this, I think of our sweet Tipper

And how much she loved the warm air and gentle breezes of spring.

When she was young, I took her out and watched

Her run all over the yard and sniff and play,

Sometimes rubbing noses with the dogs next door.

In her last year or so I carried her out

Because her legs were weak.

I stood outside with her in my arms.

When the wind blew, she sniffed and wagged her tail.

Her ears perked up when the birds chirped.

I talked to her then and told her I loved her.

On days like today, I weep for her

And for times gone by,

For friends and family departed and for my sweet pets too.

Memories come unbidden

And goodbyes too soon.

“The Big Hurry”

By Mike Gowen

My grandkids recently asked me what my favorite memory growing up was? I was a little skeptical at first, thinking they were wanting me to lament about something along the lines of where I was when Lincoln was shot. So, after explaining to them I was in the back of the theatre on the lower level, since I couldn’t afford balcony seats, I took another stab at their question. Do you really want to know?  I felt the need to ask this question since they generally equate my childhood to be just short of a slow painful death.  Well, since you asked, my favorite childhood memory is the pace of life. “What’s that?” they asked. “What do you mean by the pace of life?”

Well, at the risk of quoting a line from the movie Shawshank Redemption, which they aren’t old enough to watch so they won’t know, “The world went and got itself in a big dang hurry.” Okay, the actual word wasn’t dang, but this is a family publication, and they are kids, so I paraphrased. They are looking at me with a, sorry we asked look. I’m on a roll however so I ignore the looks of disinterest and press on. When I was young, life moved much slower, that’s what I mean by pace. We didn’t need everything to happen right now. We lived thirty minutes from the closest grocery store. Mom made one trip a week to shop. If she didn’t buy it, we went without it until the next week. We didn’t have five televisions, we had one. It had three channels, and if my dad was awake he was in control of all of them.

There weren’t cell phones, home computers, and video games. We did have a telephone in the house, but it was a party line. No, that didn’t mean you used the phone to find out where the party was… it meant you shared your phone with several other families. If you picked up the phone and heard someone talking, you hung up and waited until they were finished. That’s why when I started getting old enough to want to talk to friends on the phone, my mom was adamant about the three-minute rule and backed it up with a sand egg timer. “That sounds awful, what did you do?” Well, if it wasn’t bad weather, I was outside, either playing with friends or by myself.  None of my friends lived close by, so it was mostly by myself. I had imaginary friends who played with me. We played baseball against a brick chimney using a rubber ball, and tennis against a cinderblock wall in the basement. I hit gravel out of our driveway using a wooden stick, and some days hit many a home run. When I got old enough to have a BB gun, I had shootouts that would have made the kid from A Christmas Story envious. I also traveled back in time to many historical events and places around the world by reading books.

I did something so many young people today don’t want to do, I used my imagination. At this point, my grandkids are seeing this as more lecture than informational, but I’m really hoping to make a point with them, and other kids who tend to get upset if they have to spend five minutes without an electronic device in their hands. Life is fleeting. It seems like a really long time when you are young, but it’s not. When I was growing up we spent time with family. We sat on porches and listened to stories, watching the occasional car go by waving whether we knew them or not. Fast food was a rare treat, not a daily expectation. We ate meals together, watched television together, went to church together, and prayed together. Today we use lack of time as an excuse to stop doing a lot of things we should be prioritizing. In that regard, I’m often guilty as well.