the other side

The House next to the Gorge


My name is Hec Thompson and I am from this side. For my entire life, I have been taught by my father to dislike, distrust, and generally think ill of my neighbors, the Nanleys. Dad always said that Nanleys were loathsome low down cusses. You needed to keep a close eye on them. Don’t ever trust a Nanley.

For years, I thought as I was taught. I looked down my nose at them when I couldn’t avoid them entirely. Then I actually got to know Old Man Nanley’s girl, Becca. She was cute as a button and had the prettiest green eyes and long curly brown hair. When I started at the county high school, she was in one of my classes. Prior to that, we had never met because we attended different schools.

Before you know it, We were talking at lunch and seeing each other at dances. It took me a whole two months to work up the courage to ask her out to see a movie. Not that I was afraid that she would turn me down. More because I was afraid of what my father would do when he found out.

Becca and I were steady for two years before dad discovered that I was courting her. He threw up a real stink. Grounded me, gave me extra chores, and generally made my life miserable.

When Becca and I eventually got married, my father refused to attend the wedding. Mom and my little brother, Henry were there, but dad washed his hands of the whole thing. Dad never visited our home for the first two years of our marriage. It wasn’t until our boy was born that dad walked through my front door. I know mom forced him to go. It wasn’t like dad to ever swallow his pride.

As he was leaving, I asked him what he had against the Nanleys. What terrible thing did they ever do to him? As far as I knew he never really knew them. That’s when he told me.

You see, although we were neighbors, the Nanleys were from over on that side. Not this side. In my dad’s mind, the chasm between our two families was too wide for him to bridge. God had put that big ditch there for a reason and that was good enough for him.

Becca and I have now been married for 22 years and I have got to tell you. Once you get to know the people on that side, you quickly learn that they are an awful lot like the people on this side.


the golden sea

Lanier Sunrise


I dreamed that I sailed across a golden sea until I found an island floating in the morning light. The island drifted on the wind, following the sun as it slowly journeyed westward. The island’s shadow reflection shimmered on the small ripples that trailed in the island’s wake. The entire scene flowed by me in complete silence and I could see no sign of life. Not a bird, fish, nor human met my gaze.  

Gil’eal the wee guardian spirit spoke to me. Do not step foot on the land that wanders or you will become lost. 

In my dream, I knew that I would not walk under the trees of those floating worlds. I saw that I would return with the new moon, an auspicious omen. 

This morning, as I sighted the island of my dreams, a shiver ran down my spine none-the-less.




You remember that old bird that owned that haberdashery over on east 43rd? His name was Murray. I ran into his son, Joey, down at The Strand. Said his dad finally retired, sold the place, and moved to Florida. Man, that's the way I want to go…flush in Florida.


fiction friday – mr. jean

The Portfolio


Pa called him Jean in the French way and he did indeed speak with a strange French accent. The man came to visit us every year to hunt and wander the woods looking for birds. We all liked it when Pa announced that Mr. Jean was coming for a visit, even though that meant he would take the big bed and we would be relegated to the trundle or even worse, the floor.

Mr. Jean would bring birds home for us to eat, but some of the birds, he would prop up next to a tree or in some grass and then get out his big book and get to work making likenesses of the birds in charcoal and paint. When Mr. Jean was working in this way, we could watch, but we could not speak or otherwise disturb the man. Pa saw to that with the threat of a switch.

When we were supping, Mr. Jean and Papa would tell stories of their old times, traveling in far off places up and down the Mississippi river way south of here.  Mr. Jean would speak of Haiti, Paris, and London as though he were intimate with the places and people that lived there. My imagination always got the best of me and I would dream of seeing those places.

Mr. Jean would tease me with stories of made up animals like the éléphant which he said was as big as a barn, had trees for legs, sails for ears, and a nose like a snake.

Imagine my surprise when, years later, I travelled far and wide as well and saw an elephant in true flesh and blood in Mr. Barnum's circus. The animal was just as Mr. Jean had said it was, only he had forgotten to tell that it also had the tail of an ass and the rumble of distant thunder.

Also, Imagine my surprise to find that my father’s friend, our Mr. Jean was famous and those silly portraits of birds were known to the King of England himself.

friday fiction – six month’s same as cash

6 Months Same As Cash


I see this sign everyday as the nurse pushes me onto the patio for some "fresh air". Some days she forgets me and I get two or three hours in the sunshine. Most days, I like the time to myself. I take the opportunity to let my mind wander and to remember the old days. Often I get a good chuckle as my memory brings back some of the better moments. Like the day I met Lilly at the state fair over in Columbus. Boy, she was a looker and full of piss and vinegar. In all her life, she never changed.

Then again, on some days, the weather is cold or rainy and I would rather stroll through the years in the comfort of my room.

Today, the words on the side of the building got me wondering. Would I pay cash for some extra time? Another six months spent in this chair or in that bed. More time with a catheter, tubes, pills, and the beeping machines? Money for six more monthly visits from my niece and her pretty girls? Twelve more calls from my boy and his girl down south someplace? When did my life become just a game of numbers? Small sums and figures? the money? It's all planned out. Except for the college money for the girls, my boy will get what is left. He's earned it, he's a good kid turned fine man.

Would I go for the extra time? No, I don't suppose I would. I'll let God have his way. I'm not ready, but I'm not gonna fight it either.

Six months same as cash. I don't think they are the same and it doesn't seem like a bargain no matter how you look at it.


fiction friday – leaving art behind

Living with Art


Damn you.

I hate you.

Married for twenty two years and I can’t stand the sight of you. All you do is sit there day in and day out. You just sit there and look at that god damned painting. I hate you and I hate that painting just as much.

When was the last time you looked at me? When have you ever touched me like that damned painting touches you? You caress it with your eyes. I see you longing for it when you’re not home.

I swear Artie, you can go to hell. I’m leaving you. Screw you Artie and screw your painting. I hope you two are happy together.


friday fiction – singing softly




Mama sings while she quilts. Not very loud, but I can hear it and so can the cat. Her voice is soft and sweet. I could listen to her sing and quilt all day.

Mostly, Mama sings hymns and the songs she sang when she was little. I know that Mama sings for herself, to pass the time or for comfort. I can tell what Mama is thinking by the song she is singing.

When she switches to singing nursery rhymes, I know she is singing for me. Mama knows that I like the nonsense songs. I’m too old for nursery rhymes, but when Mama sings them, they are a special thought. Mama’s songs are like a hug when I need one.

Mama is telling me that she loves me, even if I did drop the eggs on the way in from the hen house this morning and Papa had to eat leftover corn bread with his coffee instead of eggs. Mama is like that. She knows how I am feeling and she knows when I need a song.


fiction friday – scowl




Cuetzpalli was not what you would call a happy person on a good day. Today, he was downright pissed at the world in general and at Tlazhotzin in particular. The girl had defied his wishes yet again. After he had specifically ordered her to stay away from that boy, he catches the two of them together.

“But, oh Daddy, I love him! He’s dreamy.”

Being a king didn’t help at home. He would punish the child severely, but his wife, Coaxoch would hear nothing of it. He’d like to personally tear the boy’s heart from his chest and place it on the alter on the next solstice, but that would not go over well at home.

What is a king to do? What is a father to do?



fiction friday – sit here, beside me

Sit here, next to Me


Sit here beside me. In this chair. Talk to me. Tell me that things will get better than they are now. I am so tired and I need to become lost in dreams.

Tell me about the ocean. Is it true that you can see for miles and not see anything but water? Can we sail across the ocean and visit foreign places? I want to hear French and Italian. I want to eat with fancy forks and taste fancy food.

Tell me about our children. What will we name them? How many will we have? I want our girls to look just like you, but I want them to have grandma’s red hair. Those girls will be pistols.

I am tired, so sit and talk to me. Hold my hand and we can dream together.