Williamsburg Hill

Williamsburg Hill

Sunday, May 23, 2021

That Quote from Daniel's Esperanza

 “When you turn around, you’ll see something I bet you’ve never seen before. If it takes your breath away, then you’ll fit in nicely. If you don’t feel anything, then maybe you don’t belong here.” - Daniel's Esperanza, Veronica Randolph Batterson 



In 2014 my novel, Daniel’s Esperanza, was published and I never imagined a quote from the book would mean so much to so many people.  Someone somewhere used it, applied it to something inspirational, often in reference to the state of New Mexico, attached hashtags and it took off into the virtual world like wildfire. Thank you to all who give me credit for it, and for referencing the book.  I’ve posted about this previously, but I continue to be amazed at its relevance to so many people and that it came from this little book, which means so much to me. I’m grateful.

The setting for Daniel’s Esperanza is New Mexico, and I wrote it to draw attention to the plight of wild mustangs. After researching and visiting a wild horse sanctuary in northern New Mexico, the story evolved to include characters living in the west. The quote comes from dialogue between two characters, Frank and DanielFrank is referencing the band of wild horses that Daniel will see for the first time when he turns around.  The book continues to sell, is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle, and can be ordered from any bookstore or big box store that sells books (Target, Walmart, Costco, Meijer, grocery store chains). 

Below are snapshots of some of the places this quote resides. Again, thanks to all who give me the appropriate credit for it.  It’s appreciated.  

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Almost Thirteen...My Best Girl

Last week, I had to take my sweet dog to the emergency veterinary clinic. Ongoing issues mostly attributed to the fact she is in her senior years were the reasons, but as I was driving her there I worried it might be the end for her. Antibiotics, an anti-nausea injection, plus an IV helped her recover and 24 hours later she was resting comfortably at home by my side, as if nothing had happened. But it has been a little difficult to focus on much of anything else, as I worry about when the next episode will happen.

Lily will be thirteen on July 3. This sweet golden retriever has been my beautiful dog since she was about six or seven weeks old.  She has been such a relevant part of my life, being there while I completed and published all four of my books, and readily obliging me in being the canine subject model in many of my photographs. She cares very little about being photographed these days, but she used to be this pose-for-anything-supermodel. I've written about her here more than once in this nine year old blog; she's earned many nicknames as I've shared, but the one now is Best Girl, the companion. That's what we become in our older years, and that title is earned. 

Almost thirteen. My patriotic dog. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Inspiration and Influences



Shortly after the tragic supermarket events that occurred in Boulder, Colorado, I found it necessary to release some frustration, sadness and anger.  Sitting down in front of an easel, I painted.  It wasn’t the usual session, meaning that I lost track of time, painted without thinking about it, and blasted music from the speakers which were nearby.  Afterward, I felt better, and I suppose it’s the same feeling for others who would approach something difficult by choosing to work out or jog.  In that sense, it’s actually a release of pent-up energy which allows one to cope with things beyond her/his control.  For myself, being able to handle a situation while creating is a cathartic and healing experience.  It hasn’t changed the horrible events that unfolded, or what the families of the victims continue to face, but it was helpful to me.  Each person handles things differently. It was the events of that day that also influenced me to paint as I did.

As I’ve written many times during the nine years and counting that this blog has been going, I find the art of creating begins with inspiration and/or influence.  For myself, it’s a spark, a drop in my lap from the sky moment, or something I’ve planned for a while; it’s always initiated with something…music, reading, history, observing, nature, memories, travel, research, etc. I daydream.  It happens with something as simple as making dinner reservations, or going grocery shopping.  My imagination is easily stirred, and often takes off faster than I can keep up with it.  I always view it as therapeutic, too.  If a person has a story floating around in one’s head, the need to release 90,000+ words is pretty great.  Once those words escape, the intense feeling of accomplishment is unexplainable. However, authors, songwriters, and visual artists (all artists) understand the feeling.  Also, those who create are always influenced or inspired by something and/or someone, whether they admit it or not.

Reading posts that I’ve shared here over the years (and there is a lot of material), reflects the eclectic person that I am.  I shared several times how my book, Williamsburg Hill (published in 2018), came to be written with folklore playing the greatest role in its telling, even though historical fiction was the goal. I’ve written about visiting wild horse sanctuaries, among other research, to complete my novel, Daniel’s Esperanza (published in 2014).  Short stories were written about/around, and included lost love in Italy, and tossing coins in Trevi Fountain for wishes to come true (O Mio Babbino Caro, 7/29/2013); cowboys (multiple times, including Cowboy Ridge and Honor, 1/27/2016); witches  and a woman who was exiled (The Witch of County Down, 5/19/2016), ghosts (multiple times) and a woman trapped in time at a diner (The House at the End of the Road, 12/17/2020); a precipice (Precipice, 7/17/2019) which included a song by Taylor Swift (credit given) and was also not completely fiction; stardust (Stardust, 4/6/2017) and the backstory to a book that’s in the works about finding a lost love in Scotland; the history in short story form of Madame X (Madame X, 6/11/2015); a young man with disabilities being infatuated with a strange and selfish woman (Hang the Moon, Molly Byrd, 11/17/2014); ghosts and history regarding the Trail of Tears (Old Wauhatchie, 7/17/2014); a woman reflecting on her past and her grandmother (She Heard Her Heart, 3/17/2014); a dream sequence (Dance of the Blessed Spirits, 11/19/2013); a madwoman who was a former dancer (La Folie, 9/25/2013); a character encountering an historical figure through a time portal in London (Charing Cross, 4/9/2013); a new take on Jack the Ripper (Jack, 7/19/2012); a woman recovering from divorce (Boxed Life, 5/22/2012); a woman who was nothing but invisible her entire life (Invisible, 1/27/2014); and a man battling a storm and memories of his grandfather (Old Norse Gale, 3/1/2015), plus much more.

I’ve written about living in a haunted house, a wonderful amusement park of my childhood, fairytalesnostalgia, and dreams, soldiers going to warBoxing Day, the weddings of my daughters, my dogs, my grandmother, music and a radio station of my youth, and poetry. Whimsy and the imagery of antique perfume bottles bearing the scent of past users, a man called to serve in WWII leaving a beautiful note and piece of jewelry for his wife - all words mentioned in Just in Case Uncle Sam Should Take Me (11/26/2012).  A couple of posts that were very personal for me include Overcoming Obstacles (4/20/2018), and Gratitude (2/13/2020). 

Words, places, and characters' names throughout this blog and/or my books: Dorothy, Barbara, Evelyn and Frederic, sweet teavintageSt. LouisGrace, Daniel, antiques, historical fiction, fiction, short stories, New Mexico, Chicago, Jack, Cherokee Nation, Chief Wauhatchie, Native Americans, folk storiesfolklore, history, suffragists, 19th Amendment, photography, art, books, writing, pen pals, painting, cemeteries, travels, Ava, Gitta, Fiona, Ireland, Italy, John Singer Sargent, Paris, Molly Byrd, Harold Brown, angels, memories, Sophia, Penelope, collectibles, Billy and Junie, Sally, Rose and Robert, Edinburgh, snow, winter, Erastus, imaginationhockey, Dan Fogelberg, Eagles (band and birds), Gordon Lightfoot, bandits, Caledonia, William, sorceress, river, Wales, nomadic, horses, gypsies, Vikings, the Edmund Fitzgerald, old Irish cottageFlanders Fields, Alaska, Nat King Cole…etc., on and on and on.  Coming up for air now. 

Nine years plus is a lot of ground to cover, and a lot of material. In no way have I summed up the total in this post either; it’s simply what I’ve noticed as I skimmed through everything. In doing so, I’ve discovered that some of my characters share the same name.  It wasn’t intentional, but just as in real life people do share the same names so I’ll give myself a pass for it.  

One last thing. If a person has been influenced or inspired by something and/or someone in creating his/her art, it’s kindness in acknowledging it and rewarding it.  Especially so if that person has found great success.  Just think of all the struggling artists who would benefit from that shout-out.  As always, many thanks to the loyal readers, and to the ones who drop in every now and then. 


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

February...the Month of the Bald Eagle

 "I know he'd be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly."  ~  Rocky Mountain High (John Denver) 

Over the years, I've attempted taking photographs of bald eagles in the wild at various locations from Starved Rock State Park in Illinois, Credit Island in Iowa, along the Mississippi River in LeClaire, Iowa and in the mountains of Colorado. With little more at the end of the day than a need to thaw out, warm up and drink something hot to curb the chill, I'd determined that the only good photographs I would ever get were the ones I took in zoos and nature parks that housed rescued birds of prey. I should add that an exception is made for Sitka, Alaska. Viewing bald eagles in Sitka is comparable to seeing a robin anywhere else. They're prevalent and everywhere; yet the photos I took of them there weren't as good as I'd hoped. They ended up being part of Alaska's beautiful landscapes in all of the images.

This year proved different with better timing and a new camera lens. My second visit to Barr Lake State Park in Colorado was a day well spent and one that I'll always remember fondly. It was also my birthday. Seeing over a dozen eagles in the trees, flying and perched on lake ice was a beautiful gift of a day. Also a plus is that I got so many great photos, I've yet to go through all of them. With patience, we're rewarded in the smallest of ways. 

Below are screen shots of these images on my website www.veronica-batterson.pixels.com with the high resolution images viewable there. With the exception of a pair of juvenile eagles near our house in Westminster, all recently uploaded images are from my day at Barr Lake State Park. I continue to add more, so please visit often. As always, thanks for reading (and viewing) what I share here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Happy January

Work in Progress

We made it.  The year that started the pandemic in this country is behind us, in the rearview mirror and over our shoulder.  We don't have to look back or around, just forward we go with hope for better things and some kind of normalcy.  The new year doesn't mean, however, that we get careless. There are record numbers with the virus and it's important we still wear our masks, practice social distancing and stay at home as much as possible.  I look forward to getting the vaccine.

This month marks the 9th anniversary of this blog. Thank you to the readers who keep it going, who regularly visit the site and read what I share.  I'm amazed there's so much interest, and it's very encouraging for me to continue with it. If you read something here that you like, I would love to hear your thoughts on it.  Just reach out via the email address at the right on the home page.

I've updated a few links, too, deleted some old ones, and provided a list of the short stories and poetry links that are found here within the last nine years. Just scroll down on the home page until you see the list on the right. I think there are just under twenty short stories that I've published on this blog. 

Finally, book research and outlining continues, and I think I'm about ready to start the next one. I've also been painting a bit (acrylics on canvas). I'm sharing a photo of my latest work in progress.  I call her Emerging Face, but I think her official name will change once I'm finished.  Once again, I'll share my website if you're interested in looking at my work a little bit more:  www.veronicabatterson.com.

Thanks, again, and best wishes for a happy, and better new year!

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The House at the End of the Road

I started the following short story, The House at the End of the Road, two years ago with the intent of posting it in December of 2018.  It was to be a nice holiday story, but things started evolving as I wrote and I never finished it for some reason. It was forgotten last year as life changes were occurring over the holidays. It's complete now, and isn't in any way a nice or conventional holiday story.  The story took me in a certain direction, and I followed what it was saying to me.  That's how it usually goes.

Happy holidays and merry Christmas to all. Toast the end of 2020 with relief and happiness. Stay safe, wear your mask, and sacrifice just a little longer. As always, thank you for reading this short story, and copyright applies.  ©️Veronica Randolph Batterson 2018

The House at the End of the Road

By Veronica Randolph Batterson

The sign above the counter flickered and buzzed, its message of the season replaying while each letter glowed fluorescent green, one trailing after the other. The bulb highlighting the “E” was burned out, with a darkened space preceding the final “L”.  It didn’t matter though, as the meaning was clear without the second vowel.  She’d like to offer them credit for the creativity of letting it be, but it was more than likely due to someone being too lazy to fix it.  

N - O – Space – L – Flicker - Buzz - Repeat.  NO-L. 

If she watched long enough, it would be easy to get hypnotized so she forced herself to look away.  And waited.  Throughout the diner, she took in the skimpy decorations.  Silver garland roped around the bottom of a half dozen bar stools, and red bows anchored the base of a tabletop Christmas tree.  It held no ornaments but wore the remains of what was left of the garland.  A blow-mold Santa stood sentinel by the door while Brenda Lee’s voice proved the old jukebox in the corner still worked.  It was exactly the same as it had been her last Christmas here, just a little shabbier, a tad bit worn out and showing its age.  Sort of like herself.  It was two weeks into the new year, and she wondered if the decorations and music were now part of the d├ęcor and ambiance, what little there was of either one.  She was the only customer in the place.

Glancing out the window, she watched as the anticipated snow arrived.  Big heavy flakes coated the frozen layer of week-old snow that carpeted the ground, the steady fall signaling it was settling in and going nowhere quickly.  Two snow plows barreled down the main road, lights flashing and clearing a path, the tires spewing muddy slush in their wake.  An unfortunate car followed too closely; as a result, its windshield wipers swished on high with headlights barely visible from the wet muck it received.  The driver passed the entrance to the parking lot and crept out of her sight.  

“Watcha havin’?” the voice addressed her.

She looked at the woman standing before her, hand on right hip holding an order pad.  The other clicked the top of an ink pen impatiently.  Her hairstyle, a product of the 1980s, was teased as wide as it was high, and it held a pink tinge to match her uniform.  The nametag pinned at her shoulder read, “Barbara”.  

“Some coffee to start,” she replied to the woman.

“Got some brewin’ in the back. Hope you like the regular stuff.  We don’t carry that decaf crap,” the woman said, scribbling on her pad. 

“Regular is fine.  Cream, too, please,” she said.

“Milk?” the voice challenged; the woman’s eyes conveyed the same.

“Perfect,” she said.

“You obviously ain’t ever had our coffee.  Perfect won’t be the word that comes to mind when it hits your tongue,” the woman replied.  “You don’t remember me, do you?”

“I’m afraid I’m not very good with names,” she began, wishing to admit the woman was right but not wanting to offend her.

“That’s okay.  We didn’t exactly run with the same crowd,” came the response.  The woman suddenly sat down across from her.

Barbara slid the order pad and pen across the table then tented her fingers, revealing long nails that glimmered a shade of pink polish to match the rest of her.  Pepto Bismol came to mind.

“I remember that house best,” Barbara started, “the one you lived in on West Main.  The house at the end of the road.  We all wondered what it looked like inside.”

“Better than it probably does now,” she replied.  

“You got that right,” Barbara laughed.  A deep-throated cackle, that divulged too many years of nicotine indulgence.  “Haven’t seen it yet, huh?”

“Just got into town,” she answered.

The house was one reason she had returned.  It was up to her to take it on, or let it continue to rot and waste away as her aunt had allowed until the day she died.  Now it was hers again due to inheritance, and as being the only one left in the family to receive it.  It wasn’t something she had wanted, but she felt an obligation to it.  To her parents who had loved it until the day they passed, then the house went to her mother’s sister.  She had then left town freshman year of college and never returned.  Until now.

“It was always one of those fancy dazzlers,” Barbara said, interrupting her thoughts.  “Not proud of it, but we egged it once on Halloween.  Tried rolling it with toilet paper, too, but lights came on and a dog started barking.  We high-tailed it out of there then.”

“It saw its share of toilet paper, at least, when I was a kid,” she replied.  The big oak tree in front seemed to be a challenge to any teenager willing to try. The stronger the arm at just the right release could send a roll soaring over the branches.  If the paper caught on a limb at the right place, the remainder of the roll cascaded down to the ground, draping the tree in bathroom tissue ornamentation. She admitted it was a work of art to behold in the mornings, but it always fell on her to clean up the mess.  Even the tallest of ladders couldn’t reach the top branches where the white strips remained until rain and snow took care of it.  Her father, growing tired of seeing it, finally installed some motion detector lights which ended the onslaught.

“Well, that old tree was like a bull’s eye,” Barbara said, as if reading her mind, “every kid had to try it at least once. Bragging rights for the next week at school if they made the top of it.”  She cackled again at the memory.

“Who was ‘we’ that egged it?  You and who else?” she suddenly asked Barbara, thinking names might help her place the woman sitting across from her.

“Oh, so and so, you know?  Names escape me sometimes, but if I recall one of them might’ve been sweet on you,” Barbara replied vaguely, patting the back of her Aqua Net-stiffened hair.  

“Sweet on me and egged my house?” she laughed, wishing Barbara would check on that pot of coffee.

“What can I say? Boys. They’ll stick a frog down your back and declare true love,” was the answer, followed by another cackle, and adding, “Guessing you don’t remember him either.”

“Well, it was a long time ago, and as you said, names escape me. Faces do, too, apparently,” she said.  

“Funny how we miss things sometimes when we’re too busy not looking,” Barbara stated.  This time, no laugh but the gaze was direct as if there was meaning behind the words.

“I suppose so,” she replied, not knowing how else to respond.

“I know so,” the woman shot back.

The jukebox clicked again, restarting with the same Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree that had been playing when she got there. It must’ve been on its fourth or fifth turn, and she’d heard nothing else.  “Got it on repeat?” she asked, changing the subject.  She couldn’t help feeling a little unnerved and confused by the whole atmosphere, and the fact the server seemed more interested in talking than getting her that cup of coffee.  

“Nothin’ else on that old piece of junk that’ll play. Gotten a little used to it so that I don’t notice much nowadays,” Barbara replied.  “We don’t get many customers anymore, anyway,” she added.

“Business that slow?” she asked.  Making idle chit chat was getting more difficult without that jolt of caffeine she craved.

“Slower than a snail crossin’ a finish line,” again Barbara cackled.  “Say, how is it outside this place? In the world, I mean. I ain’t traveled much, certainly not like you. Where you livin’?”

“Seattle.  We get a lot of rain.  Basically, people are the same everywhere, just different environments.  Some good places, some not so good,” she answered.

“That’s too bad,” Barbara said, shaking her head.  “Guess I thought different places made different folks.”

“How did you know I traveled?” she asked suddenly.  She’d not kept any connections other than with her aunt, who was a recluse rarely leaving that old house she was left to deal with.

“Word gets around,” the woman offered, looking directly at her.

“Well, you couldn’t have gotten any words from my aunt because she talked to no one,” she suggested.

“Ain’t that the truth,” Barbara said, minus the cackle but with a shake of her head that sent that helmet head of hair nowhere.

“You’ve never had the urge to travel?” she asked.

“Oh, I had the urge alright, just ran out of time. Things happen,” the woman answered with a shrug.

Something about the way Barbara said those words made her take a good look at the woman’s face.  Really look.  She appeared no older than a teenager, or early twenties at best.  There wasn’t a line on her face.  It was said you could really tell a person’s age by the skin on the neck and hands.  Barbara’s were smooth and youthful, unlined and taut; they certainly didn’t reflect her own sagging neck, and the bent, swollen and arthritic hands that plagued her.  If Barbara knew her when they were younger, the years had been kind.  Too kind to be believable, and she was starting to doubt the woman’s claims.  Perhaps it was time to go. 

  “Any way I could get that coffee to go?” she asked, pointedly glancing at her wristwatch. “I should probably get on the road, weather and all.” 

“Oh, it’ll be ready soon, I guess.  Ain’t never been in any hurry,” she dismissed.  “Will you tell me something?”

“I’ll try,” she replied shortly, fighting the urge to just get up and leave while telling the woman to keep the blasted coffee.

“What was it like inside at Christmas?  Your house at the end of the road? I used to stand outside in the snow, watching the lights twinkle from across the street. It looked so warm inside, so welcoming. I’d see you sitting by the fireplace, you know the one by the front window? Your mama would bring you cookies on a plate, not out of a bag like I was used to getting.  A plate! There’d be a nice-looking fire blazing, and you’d be playing with that old, hound pup you had.  What was his name? Oh yeah, Rufus. Then Rufus would run around the biggest Christmas tree I’d ever seen in my life, all decked out in tinsel and lights. It was the prettiest thing in the world. I thought if I’d ever die and go to heaven, it would be just like that.  Heaven,” Barbara sighed, “I just loved that old house. Had dreams about it.”

“How do you know all of that? Is this some sort of joke?” she began, “You look young enough to be my daughter, so there’s no way you could’ve known me back then.  Do I know your parents?  Did they tell you about my dog? His name? And that scene at Christmas hasn’t been played out in decades; not since I lived there and not since the place passed to my aunt.  And I’m sorry, but I just can’t remember who you are.”  There.  She said it because her anger was taking over, hindered by worry about that damned house, lack of sleep and the need for caffeine.  It was clear she was being played a fool, why was anyone’s guess, but she’d had enough.

There was something about Barbara that nagged at her, and it could’ve been due to her inability to remember this woman from her past, but it seemed greater. Troubling, even.  Was it dislike?  Something to prove?  Resentment?  It was time to leave.

“Better check on that coffee,” Barbara mumbled, her eyes glazing over a bit as if she’d just checked out of the room, and from everything around her.  

“Never mind, it’s okay. I should get going,” she said, buttoning her coat.  The woman was still seated as she left the diner. 

The snow was accumulating quickly; weather forecasters had predicted over a foot of fresh powder by morning, she remembered.  Just as she reached her SUV, she realized her favorite scarf was still inside on the table.  Debating whether to leave it or not was quick; it held special significance because it was old and had belonged to her mother.  As she turned around to make her way back to the diner, she saw all lights in the place were off and wondered how Barbara had closed so quickly.  There were no other cars in the parking lot, but Barbara could’ve easily parked behind the building, out of sight.  The front door was already locked, so she knocked, hoping the woman would hear her, but not blaming her if she was ignored.  The shock of cold air had cooled her temper; she knew she’d been rude.  

As her pleas went unanswered, a pickup truck slowly pulled into the parking lot, carefully clearing a path through the snow with its headlights spotlighting her form at the door.  It crept around forming a semi-circle until the driver’s side was directly in front of her.  Once the window was lowered, a middle-aged man sitting behind the steering wheel was revealed to her.  He leaned out.

“Can I help you with something?” he asked.

“I just remembered I forgot my scarf inside.  Only want to retrieve it and be on my way,” she replied.

“When exactly did you forget it?” asked the man, with a perplexed look on his face.

“Well, now, of course. I was just in there,” she responded.  What a ridiculous question, she thought.

“If you were just in there, then you were trespassing,” shot the man. 

“What? It was open, I went inside for a cup of coffee, which I never got, by the way,” she exclaimed.  

“Look, I own the place.  Can you read?” he snapped, nodding his head toward a sign in the window by the door.

Her eyes settled on words that she swore hadn’t been there prior to the man’s arrival. “COMMERCIAL PROPERTY AUCTION” jumped from the metal behind the glass, with the dates and information below.  How could she have missed it?

“But, I don’t understand,” she stammered, “I promise you I just left this place, a woman named Barbara took my order.”  The words sounded weak even to her.

“I don’t know who you are, or what kind of cruel game you’re playing, but you need to leave.  Get the hell off my property before I call the cops,” he fumed.

“Go around back and see if there’s a car there. This woman was in there, talking to me, taking my order.  Christmas decorations and Brenda Lee on the jukebox,” she threw back.

The man eyed her, as if weighing what to do next.  “Barbara was my sister,” he began, a mixture of pain and anger reflected in his eyes.  “She passed decades ago right here in this parking lot.  Twenty years old and a diagnosis of lung cancer because she’d been a chain smoker since she was thirteen.  Couldn’t take the pain, and decided to end it herself,” he said.

“Somebody impersonating,” she mumbled, stunned at his words. 

“I don’t know what kind of crazy you are, but you couldn’t have been inside just now.  Couldn’t have just talked to Barbara, no Christmas decorations to see ‘cause none are up. I closed the place two months ago.  As for that old jukebox, it jammed up on that Brenda Lee song the night Barbara died.  Never fixed it.  It did nothing more from that point on but take up space.  Now, I stopped tonight on my way home because I saw you here, and wondered what was up.  I’d really like to get on home because I’m tired, hungry, and pretty irritable right now, but I’m not leaving before you do,” he nodded toward her SUV.

Slowly she began to cross the parking lot, wondering if she’d lost her mind.  Was it the stress of having to come back after all this time and face the dilapidated condition of her childhood home, or had she actually encountered someone inside?  What had made her stop at the place to begin with?  She remembered lights were on and the door was open, indicating it was open for business.  Was it some elaborate joke on her? Before reaching her vehicle, the man’s words stopped her.

“Wait a minute.  I remember you,” he accused.  “Heard you were coming into town to finally take care of that neighborhood blight.  About time.”

“Not a fancy dazzler anymore, then,” she said quietly.

He looked at her sharply.  “That’s what Barbara always called it.  And, no.”

“I’m sorry for taking up your time.  I’ll just get on back to the hotel,” she said, opening her car door.  Shivering, she realized she was coated with snow, the short ends of her hair wet and plastered to her cheeks.  The hat she wore did little in keeping her head warm in such weather.  

“You know, for whatever reason I remember Barbara worshipped you and your ilk.  She loved Christmas and daydreamed about that house you lived in.  Loved how it looked all decorated for the holidays.  She always talked about that house at the end of the road.  You didn’t even know who she was, but you sure enjoyed what our mama did for you.  Cleaned your toilets and scrubbed your floors, that’s what.  Bet you didn’t know that either,” he said, not noticing she was soaked, or not caring.

“I didn’t,” she admitted, ashamed.

“Mama would never take Barbara inside, thinking she’d get fired if caught.  Mama also tried to get her to understand that you still created the same mess that needed cleaning, regardless of where you lived.  Barbara never listened to that either.  She wouldn’t even listen the last night you were in town before heading off to college…the night you and your friends sat around in the diner, running up a huge check for hours then stiffed her.  All of you left, and no one paid.  No tip either.  Barbara’s boyfriend was a cook that night; he even had a crush on you.  None of it fazed her. Couldn’t understand it since I saw you and your lot for what you were.  Just a bunch of rich, entitled snobs.”

“I thought the bill that night,” she began but couldn’t finish.  She was certain someone was supposed to pick up the tab.  But it was so long ago.  Had she been so selfish and thoughtless?  Suddenly she recalled the words the woman had said, “one of them might’ve been sweet on you.”  Was that Barbara’s boyfriend that this man mentioned?

“You remember how to drive in this mess?” the man asked suddenly, deciding the conversation was over.

She nodded, brushing off the snow and sliding into her SUV, starting the engine.

“If you’re hungry, there are a couple of 24-hour restaurants about a half mile up. Nothing closes them down, menu might be limited though.  Weather should be clear by morning,” he called as she nodded once more and slammed the door.  She sat for a minute with the heater on high, aware he was waiting for her to leave, but she needed to thaw a little and clear her head. 

Deciding to simply go back to the hotel, she glanced down as she shifted into drive and noticed it.  There on the passenger seat lay her scarf.  It was folded neatly as if it hadn’t been worn at all, not carelessly tossed aside as she usually did after removing it from around her neck.  

Slowly she pulled out of the parking lot, the man behind her ensuring her departure.  She watched as he went in the opposite direction.  Driving past the hotel, she needed to first visit the reason she’d returned.  She was cold and shivering, the heater couldn’t work fast enough.  It wasn’t only due to the weather though. Something strange had happened, something odd and unexplainable that left her without warmth; the experience, or her past ways, or a little of both added to the unending chill.  

 Turning onto West Main, she inched her way through unplowed snow and between cars haphazardly parked along both sides of the street.  A few discarded Christmas trees were scattered along the curbs fronting driveways, ready for collection.  Uncertain as to what she needed or expected, she finally reached her destination.  The place of her youth.  

The house at the end of the road stood, and in its darkness a light somewhere within it switched on, revealing a big Christmas tree covered in tinsel.  There she could see her young self through the front window, sitting by a blazing fire in the fireplace, taking a cookie from a plate her mother offered to her.  Rufus sat at her feet. 


The End.


 ©️Veronica Randolph Batterson 2018

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Canceled - Mid-South Arts Against Hunger Food Drive

 Due to the pandemic, the Mid-South Arts Against Hunger Food Drive which benefits the Mid-South Food Bank in Memphis is canceled this year. If you're able, please consider a monetary donation to not only the food bank of your choice, but also any arts organization you frequent. The arts community and artists around the country are struggling a bit right now. Hopefully, we can see this resume again next year under more normal conditions.