Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Breaking the Synapse

I have spent all day thinking of what to post to tell the world I am still here, still in the world's cacophony, since it has been almost a week since I posted. And even though I make daily to do lists, weekly to do lists, and  goals for the year, I'm never sure where the time goes.

I tried to collect my thoughts and focus on one thing, but everything gets away from me. I sit and stare at a blank screen thinking about politics, about Donald Trump, about North Korea, about the people in Puerto Rico, about the what it means to be a patriot, about the book I just finished,  about last night's episode of American Horror Story,  about the novel I'm going to write for Nanowrimo, about the story I want to work on, about the Christmas poem I want to write, about the dreams I have been having that make me feel disoriented for the rest of the day.  So no, my thoughts just aren't there.  They are everywhere.

Sometimes, I feel like pissing off people on Facebook. Sometimes, I wish I could quit playing Candy Crush. Sometimes, I wish I wasn't so hard on myself. Sometimes, I wish I could get something published instead of the endless barrage of rejection letters. 

Sometimes.... you just sit in front of the computer and explode. And look I probably wrote 300 words.  Not that I feel any better or less cluttered. Perhaps, I am seeking a few moments of quiet where my thoughts nag someone else. And there is nothing up there but quiet.

Maybe we all need quiet, silence from the world that keeps drilling and breaking the synapses. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mandatory Year

Cat waited on the pale green examination table in the white room for the nurse practitioner. She came in a few minutes later, her small mouth drawn in a slight smile.

“Catherine, I’m Jody. I’m doing your exam today.”

She went over to the computer and pulled up Cat’s file.

“The last time you were here was 17 years ago?”

Seventeen years ago, Cat found herself pregnant at 16. Her mother, Sharon, took her to the Women’s Health Center for confirmation so they could get medical assistance. Although Sharon worked two jobs to provide for her and her daughter, Sharon’s employers didn’t offer insurance. Sharon made too much money to qualify unless of course someone was pregnant. Her mother was disappointed when Cat told her about the pregnancy but not surprised. Instead of yelling at Cat, Sharon resolved to help Cat and her child.

Cat nodded at the question. Her heart pounded in her chest.

Jody put up the stir-ups and helped Cat lay back. Then she slid her slender hands into the blue latex gloves.

“Okay, I’m going to do the breast exam first. You’ve been experiencing pain for a while?”

That was an understatement. She knew what it was. She felt the lumps and the pain now for almost a year. She was never sure is what she felt was right or not. Cat scoured the web and already knew that whatever was in her breast wasn’t natural. At times, the pain would become great and she would sneak a few of her mother’s pain pills, which only minimally helped. Gracelyn made the appointment for her at the Women’s Health Center. Cat promised to go. Even if that meant calling off of work, something she never did. They always needed the money. Especially since Sharon had an accident at work, which destroyed her back and now was in a wheel chair. Because of many years of smoking, Sharon was dependent on oxygen.

Cat found her voice and it was hoarse and diminished, “I don’t know what I am looking for.”

“It’s okay honey, relax.”

Jody placed her hands on Cat’s bare breasts and began to push the flesh. Cat screamed and flinched. Jody frowned and felt in the arm pits closest to the breast. Cat flinched and winced.

“Let’s get your pap done, then I’ll get you a referral for a mammo.”

“I don’t have insurance,” Cat muttered.

“It’s free but you have to go to Daleburg,” Jody said and started the vaginal exam.

***

“The hospital says I qualify for $15,000 in aid. That will cover most of the lumpectomy,” Cat said as she sat down at the small wooden table with a small cup of water. Sharon, her mother, sat across from her in wheelchair sucking on oxygen.

“What about medical assistance? They reject you again?”

And what a nightmare that was. Cat believed, just like when she was pregnant, that she could tell the welfare office she had cancer, she would get insurance and not have to worry about finding money for the treatment. However, cancer is not something they seem to care too much about. They said she made too much money. Between three jobs, one full time and two part time, Cat only made $26,000- $27,000 a year, which provided enough money for the small, handicapped accessible ranch house Cat rented every month, utilities, food, cable, internet, and cell phones. Sharon’s disability payment was meager and helped pay for Cat’s car insurance. Cat always believed it was enough. She enjoyed each of her jobs and the people she worked with. Sure, she didn’t have much of a life outside her jobs, but she didn’t need it. She felt content with her life. She had Grace who was smart, beautiful and was already accepted into college with a scholarship.

“Mama, you know I make too much. I would have to quit Arthur’s and maybe I would get it.”

She met Arthur Langley at her other job, Old Glory. Old Glory is a landmark that has served as the town’s local watering hole since the 1800's. Cat worked as a bartender on the weekends and was always called in when the other bartender called off. Arthur Langley had started an internet business where he made custom decals, shirts, and other screen printed products. Cat and Arthur hit it off like brother and sister. She had a good thing with Arthur and his business. He wished he could offer health insurance, but couldn’t afford it since it was only he, his partner and Cat. He could afford to pay her ten dollars an hour.

“I got everyone on Facebook praying for a miracle. I got 500 prayer warriors,” Sharon said.

“You did not just say that. Prayer doesn’t mean shit.”

“Don’t say that. God works in mysterious ways.”

She wished her mother would quit with the God shit. Cat supposed old habits die hard. It seemed to give Sharon some kind of hope. Cat needed hope and it came in the form of health insurance, not God. They looked at each and frowned.

“Gracelyn said she raised about $2,000 from people on the internet,” Sharon said and took the oxygen tube out her nose.

Since Cat told Gracie about the cancer, Gracie has been relentless in finding ways to help pay for the treatments. She started one of those Go Fund Me accounts and took random snapshots of Cat to post online. She put up donation jars around town. Cat told Gracie to quit; she was wasting her time. No one was going to give money to someone like Cat. But Gracie didn’t listen.

“What I need is insurance. I told Grace to quit with the fundraising.”

“Why should she? You’re her mother.”

Sharon lit a cigarette. She coughed once. Then inhaled again, “It’s not fair. You work hard and not in trouble. But Lord, you go to jail, they do everything for you,” Sharon said.

“What did you say?”

“What?”

“About jail,” Cat said.

“Hell Cat, they treat the god-damned trouble makers better than regular people. I saw on TV about how much the state spends on health care for inmates. What they could do is let the criminals suffer and get healthcare for regular people.”

Cat tuned out her mother’s rambling about how criminals are garbage and the government is crooked. What if there’s something to that?

“I should go to jail,” Cat sais interrupting Sharon.

“Why the hell would you want to go and do a thing like that?” Sharon said and smashed her half-consumed smoke in the overflowing ash tray.

“I don’t want to die.”

***

Cat lay on her bed after the surgery. The doctor told her she had to start chemo and radiation soon. Her twin bead squeaked under her weight. Arthur had brought her family several meals that all they had to do was heat and serve. Arthur was also raising money through his business. Her room had some flowers that various friends had sent her. She needed to get out of bed and move around.
The TV was on in the living room. The studio audience cheered as Oprah gave away something.

Swinging her legs to the hardwood floor, Cat found strength and made her way to the kitchen. The dishes were starting to pile up. The coffee pot was still on, holding burnt coffee. Cat grabbed a cup. Sharon paid no attention.

Either way, dead or in jail, how will they get along without me? Cat wondered. Gracie came from the other hallway and started at her mother sitting at the table. Cat found her eyes and stared back.

“Mama, are you serious?” Grace whispered and sat beside her.

“About what baby girl?”

“Going to jail for treatment?”

“Why?”

“I know someone who wants to help.”

“Grace,” Cat said and shook her head.

“No listen. This guy has a batch of skunk. It’s no good...”

“And?”

“It’s enough to get you one year minimum. That’s enough for your treatment.”

“Who are you hanging out with? You have, unlike me, a future. You start hanging out with people like that they will bring you down,” Cat said.

“And you willingly want to be a felon. What is the difference? I can get rid of strangers. I can’t get rid of my mother.”

“I don’t want you involved; you’re going to college.”

“This guy is not a friend. He goes with Selena. I met him at a party and I may . . . ”

“Grace, why?”

“You’re my mom, and I don’t want you to die. You want a sure thing? Call him,” Grace stood up and gave her an ATM receipt with a scrawled phone number. Grace glided back toward her room.

Cat looked at the number. Grace said it was a mandatory minimum year. Could she make it in jail for a year? She has known people who have gone to jail. Mostly for drunk driving, or assault, or not paying child support. Cat never discussed their time in the clinker in detail. For the most part, everyone seemed normal coming out.

They had raised enough money for the radiation and a little to start the chemo. If she got arrested soon enough, she would go to jail. But, she wouldn’t be at Gracie’s high school graduation. Gracie would be the first one in her family to graduate high school. If Cat did nothing, she might make it to high school graduation.

Gracie was the first to go to college. Which was more important? Gracie’s high school graduation or Gracie’s college graduation? What if she didn’t graduate college? Then Cat would miss out on the high school graduation. So what if Gracie didn’t finish college? She would probably get married and have kids. Or skip marriage and have kids. Cat would love to be a grandma. The future was more important. And Gracie knew, if Cat took this step, Cat wouldn’t be at graduation. Gracie accepted that fact because she wanted a future with her mother in it.

***
Gracie was at her job at the dollar store. Sharon was in her room on Facebook playing poker or one of her favorite farming games. Cat had just come from the cleaning job. Tonight, she had off from Old Glory. She planned on a nice hot shower, a cup of soup and a long nap. She didn’t know how much longer she could keep working three jobs. She had reduced her hours at Old Glory and only worked Thursday through Saturday night, giving her Sunday as a day of rest. She had just got out of the shower, wrapped her hair in a towel and slipped on a giant bathroom, when someone knocked on the door.

Opening the door, she saw a guy in his twenties. He dressed like a frat boy with a nice pair of pants (or was it slacks?) and a polo shirt.

“Are you Cat?”

“Who are you?”

He gave her a box wrapped in brown paper.

“Your delivery,” he said and walked down the ramp to his black car parked behind hers.

Two days ago, Cat called that guy that Grace knew. The guy said the package would be delivered within three days. Cat’s heart raced. She closed the door and took the package to her room.
She closed her door and sat on the bed and unwrapped the brown paper. There was a cardboard box and a small note.

Cat- You’re better off to package like dime bags. If you do happen to sell any before getting busted, the money is yours. Good Luck

Cat took the box, the wrapping and the note and took it out to her car. It was dark on the street and everyone was inside their nice little homes, in their nice little neighborhood. She opened the trunk and put the stuff in the spare tire well. Now what?

On Sunday, she got up early and left before either Grace or Sharon would wake, leaving a note saying that she was called into clean an office after a party. It was a lie. Grace would know what was really going on. Cat couldn’t decide if Sharon would see through it. In fact, Cat said nothing more about wanting to go jail and let Sharon believe she dropped the whole jail thing.

She went to Wal-Mart and bought a digital scale. Then she went to two different hardware stores to buy the plastic bags.

Cat drove to the north end of town by Old Glory to La Petite Nuit, a dump of a motel just blocks from Old Glory. She paid for her room with cash. Cash that she borrowed from the cable bill. The old Indian, who barely spoke English gave her a room at the end, furthest away from the reception. He had to own the place. She remembered him when she was last here.

It was a couple of years ago, when she met Rick or was it Rich at Old Glory. He was in town because his friend was getting married. She didn’t know who the friend was. Rick or Rich was older than her by ten years. He had some gray sprinkled in his hair. As the drinks flowed, he hit on Cat. Told her she was pretty. She knew he was drunk, but for Cat, it had been long time. She had an on and off relationship with Gracie’s dad but that ended when Grace was ten. He packed up, moved away, and stopped paying child support. Cat was glad when he was finally gone. Between Gracie’s dad and Rick or Rich, there have only been two other men. Both of which were older and divorced. They dated for a short time and then the relationship would fizzle.

Rick or Rich could have been married. Cat didn’t ask nor did she see a ring. She didn’t care. He waited around until closing and came out asked if she would fuck him. He waited for her in the parking lot. He drove his rental to the dumpy motel. She wondered where he was staying. It didn’t matter as his hand kept moving up her thigh.

They spent the night fucking and fucking some more. And for once, Cat didn’t feel like a daughter or a mother, but a woman. Rick or Rich was generous and relentless in his lovemaking. He passed out sometime around six in the morning. Cat put her clothes on and slipped out the door. She never saw him again.

Cat opened the door to her room. She was in room seven with Rick or Rich. She smiled at the memory. It would be nice if he came around again she thought and switched on the light.
The room had one double bed against the wall. There was a clunky TV sitting on the fake wood dresser. The bathroom was in the back, and there was a small table by the window. She turned on the AC and closed the window.

After laying her equipment out, she ripped the brown wrapping paper and the note up into little pieces and burned them in the large glass ashtray in the room. Once she burned the papers, she flushed the ash down the toilet.

Cat turned on the TV and started packaging four pounds of weed.

***
She spent two hours in the park each night with her backpack full of dime bags. She asked teens and adults who looked like they would want weed. She was turned down. How hard was it to sell weed? How hard was it to get arrested for that matter? Cat studied various shows and movies in her room about drug dealing, while her inventory remained untouched in the trunk of her car.

Cat decided to put an ad on Craig’s List. She was due for another round for treatment. The hospital has agreed to bill her for whatever she didn’t have. The bills were already becoming high but she would keep paying with tip money she earned every weekend. She waited by her phone, when she got a message. A buyer. She agreed to meet them at La Petite Nuit parking for the deal. She was excited. At least selling it would provide a little extra for the treatment.

The man said he would be driving blue Dodge. She found easily enough. Now what? Is there a secret code word? Does she get out? Does he get out? Do they open the windows and make the trade between cars? Cat had no idea. What if? What if he wasn’t looking to buy drugs, but to take her once he found out she was a woman? The last thing she was thinking of was the man she was meeting was an undercover cop.

She got out of her car and walked over to the driver side. She felt like a hooker sauntering over. She had her bag slung across her shoulder.

“You got it?” he asked.

“Yeah. Twenty bucks for one and thirty for two.”

“Good deal,” he said and reached into his inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out a bank envelope. “I want four.”

She opened her bag, counted out four bags and gave them to him. He gave her the money.

What to say? Was there anything to say? “Hope to do business with you again,” she said and turned away from him. Wow, maybe she should just deal all the weed and get more. This was easy.

“This is a dangerous business for a woman like you,” he called after her.

She ignored him. As soon she opened her car door, another man said, “Put your hands up and step away from the vehicle.”

This was it. She was getting arrested. She hoped and even prayed for this moment. She dropped the bag to the ground and raised her arms.

The police came and searched her. Took her bag. Searched her car then put the handcuffs on her.
The man she sold the weed to, recited her rights then asked, “Why?”

Cat shook her head and got inside the back of the cruiser.

***
“I can’t believe you, Cat. Why the hell would you do something like this?” Sharon screamed at her just before the arraignment. She was more mad now then she was when Cat told her she was pregnant. “A common criminal.”

“Mom.”

“Don’t you Mom me. I can’t believe this.”

“Grammy, calm down you’re making a scene,” Grace said. “It will be okay, Mom. Everything will be okay. Just do what you need to do and be strong.”

Cat squeezed her hand. Grace smiled.

Arthur came over to Cat and said, “When you get out, there will always be a job for you with us.”

Everyone wanted to know why. And while it wasn’t a lie, it wasn’t the full truth either, Cat answered, “I need money for my cancer treatment.”

This made her look pathetic and the judge was sympathetic and sentenced her to the mandatory year with a chance of parole afterward. Her mother was there at every hearing but made her opinion known about her daughter the drug dealer. Cat wondered if it was for show because she seemed over dramatic about the whole thing.

***
Since her mother couldn’t drive and Gracie had gone to college, Arthur came by and picked Cat up from the prison. Her hair started to grow back in and she looked like she had a buzz cut. She was still frail and pale but color began to reappear on her face.

“And the prognosis?” He asked as he opened the door for her.

“Cancer free.”

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Educate Me- Birth Control

What is about birth control that gets people riled up? You would think women who control when they want children is a good thing.

Recently, the president rolled back a rule that required employers' insurance to cover birth control. Just birth control. Now any company can opt out of that coverage for their employees  because of a moral or religious issue. Google Hobby Lobby.

A common comment on any news article is "Pay for your own birth control."

This is where I am confused. We are talking about employers' health insurance coverage.

As I understand, insurance works as a pool of money. You and your employer pay the health insurance company and they pay for certain medical care. It's a not a pool based on your employer but everyone enrolled in particular health insurance company. So really, just because the employer has some kind of asinine objection, everyone still pays into the pool where some woman is getting birth control.

How about an example:

XY Corp offers health insurance through Blue Cross Blue Shield. We all know how big Blue Cross is. But XY Corp has a moral objection to birth control and opts out of coverage. Yet, down the road AB Corp doesn't and also offers Blue Cross Blue Shield to its employees. In reality, XY Corp is still paying money into a pool of money that help's pay for birth control.  The whole "religious" or "moral" objection doesn't really stand.

Another thing, I see a lot of why people have these objections, God's will.

So it's God's will for pregnancies but it's not God's will for:

-erectile dysfucntion
-cancer
-depression
-PTSD
-Black lung
-high blood pressure
-etc.

Tell me how this makes sense? Why is it okay to go  against "God" and take medicine for other issues? But not okay to take "The Pill?" If someone uses that reason, then the only health insurance one needs is God.

Last thought....

If you have insurance chances are you paying for someone's birth control. She is paying for your Viagra. You are paying for someone's poor life choices or for someone's run of bad luck. That's how insurance works.

Till next time...

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Into the Garden: Acrostic Poetry Collection by JM Scott Free Until October 11, 2017

Hey all, One of my first poetry collections, Into the Garden, is FREE in all Kindle markets through October 11, 2017. '

The acrostic form is one I still use because the I constraint of a specific letter starting each line encourages me to come up with a new way of saying something or to express something differently. Of course, that is not always the case.

I hope you grab a copy and leave a review.

Here is a sample from the book, enjoy....


Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Ballad of Sheridan McCoy

I was 16 workin at the Dollar General
And he was 24 workin down at the mine
His name was Jay Hatfield
and for one night, I was his.

Romance ‘round these parts
isn’t like some dopey Jennifer
Aniston movie, it isn’t a lot of
laughs and wrong moves,
it really only takes a twelve pack
of cheap beer, bonfire at the Strippins
and you got be hornier than a goat.

I ain’t a skank but it’s the
company you keep that gives
you a reputation. My cousins
are skanks and they got
the notches to prove it and
they’ll show you with big
ol smiles.

And that night, it didn’t
take beer, I’ve known Jay
all my short life and when
I diddled myself, I always
imagined it was him.

Don’t know why he
said those things that night,
cause  he wasn’t all that
drunk, I could still smell
his Wal-Mart special cologne.
And I don’t spread my legs for anyone,
they had to be special.
Maybe I was special ‘cause
I was no skank.

I knew I was pregnant
three months later, when I was late
and my clothes were getting tight.
two  pink lines and it was true.

Around these parts
there are three types of girls
there is the type of  girl who
gets knocked up, gets child support
gets welfare then keeps shoving
kids out until some doctor gets in her
head that her tubes should be tied or
she winds up on Jerry or Maury

there is the type of girl
who can leave the mountains
of West Virginia and never look back
and if she does come back
she is a professional woman
or one of those perfect moms
with perfect kids with perfect clothes

there is the type of girl
who doesn’t see anything
past Wet Virginia, who work
as waitresses, or at Wal-Mart
or some other shithole store
and the best they can hope for
is management or a husband in
the mines and no welfare.

I drove my beat up truck
to Wheeling and the abortion
would cost 500, which I didn’t have
but I made the appointment anyway
I could work extra hours.
They told me I can get help
they told me I can get  support

I never went back
and the baby grew.
No one really noticed
no one really cared.

Eight months after
Jay Hatfield made love to me
I gave birth to our son
in the cardboard camper
I was living in

The baby cried
I cleaned him best I could
wrapped him in a bunch
of moth eaten blankets
and put him in small box.

The nurses at the hospital
asked too many questions.
They told me to get checked out.
in my mind I named him Jack.

I made manager
and I should have
had a doctor look at
my coochie ‘cause I really can’t
seem to have another baby
miscarried three times
since Jack ripped through into this world.
I think about Jack a lot.

Jay Hatfield is married
to his high school sweetheart and
they got a bunch of kids, one the same
age as Jack would be. He comes in
and winks at me. He lost a leg
a couple of years ago in that
big mine accident. If he asked-
I would still screw him

I used to dream about
telling Jay about baby Jack
we would find him and then
bring him home. Me and Jay
would get married
and sit on rocking chairs on the porch
as the grandchildren play. But that
shit is for the movies or for girls
who see past the mountains
and coal mines of West Virginia.

And just the other day,
this beautiful blonde woman came
in wearing fancy clothes
and perfume  found in
worn issues of Cosmo
with a boy-
I looked at his face
and he looked at mine
and I saw myself.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tuesday in October

Did someone forget to tell nature that it is October? The days feel like summer and the nights like September. Though, we had our first frost yesterday morning.

Lately, I haven't been myself. I'm in a fog, where I keep bumbling around, running into walls and forget why I was there in the first place. And the dreams aren't helping. I wake up disturbed every morning, remembering only fragments of all the dreams from the night before. This fog carries over into the daylight. I may or may not fall asleep and if I do, the dreams are there and I wake not knowing if I am in the real world or in another dream land.

For those who pray.... aren't you sick of your prayers not being answered? That is if you are praying for Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas. Sure maybe it is perception or I just don't get the whole praying thing, but isn't there something more we could be doing- instead of praying, throwing money at victims. Not a lot can be done for natural disasters because they will always happen. I hope the smart people this country has can think of cost effective ways to build again to be better prepared.

I want to do something. What? I don't know. I feel like I need to do something. I need to be part of something- a solution.

Well whatever, I don't see anything changing, but keep those prayers coming because they are doing a stellar  job.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Naturae Alitura 2018 Poetry Calendar by JM Scott

This is my pride and joy, Naturae Alitura, a poetry and photography calendar. It is now available through Lulu for $24.99 plus shipping. If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you know I love poetry. And one thing, I don't see a lot of are poetry calendars,  and I thought I should make one

Maybe it's a little conceited, but I am proud of the finished product. I gave it  to someone I know;  she said it was beautiful. Even if you don't like poetry, the photography is not too bad for someone who is not a professional photographer. I took all the pictures that are featured the calendar. Some are from my home in Pennsylvania, some are from Cumberland, Maryland, some are from Hampton Beach, New Hampshire,  and  some are from other places on the east coast. 

If you are looking for a calendar that is both functional and beautiful, unique and makes a great gift (teachers, English majors, poetry lovers, English teachers, etc.) then consider Naturae Alitura. 

Here's a page from the calendar, enjoy.