Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cindy Brookshire Writes of Our Origins

Write by the Rails

Okra’s is a corner hub of yellow brick
and wrought iron café tables
with paper napkins wrapped in mardi gras beads
one block from the train depot.

I walk into the sanctuary of a side room
To meet with other placemakers
Fillers of landscapes
Breathers of life

We put on name tags
gulp down Purple Haze and Cajun Burgers
Exchange genres and rejections
Threaten editor effigies with voodoo pins
Pluck words as from a cornucopia
Laughing until we snort
A camera phone
Marks the moment for a Facebook page
As if a year from now
We might look back
And grasp the significance
Of this restaurant
These writers
This launching point.

If you believe that all places
have a guardian spirit that engenders life
Then Okra’s just gave birth tonight
To us
Fillers of landscapes
Breathers of life

Cindy Brookshire
August 2011

Write by the Rails was born August 8, 2011 when a group of writers, organized by community advocate, Prince William Arts Council member and writer Cindy Brookshire, met to brainstorm ways to get Prince William County/Manassas/Manassas Park writers more exposure.  The first official networking meeting was held later in August at Okra's.  

For more than 30 years, Cindy has been telling the story of  the people and life of Manassas, Virginia.  Her feature articles have appeared in the Prince William Journal newspaper, and Community Connections, Prince William Living and Prince William Business magazines.  She produced the City’s Utility Connection, Public Works and Town Hall newsletters, and currently writes a neighborhood blog for  Cindy is a Charter Founding Member of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce, a 2010 graduate of Leadership Prince William, and a member of the Board of Directors for Manassas Midwifery and Women’s Health Center.  As a volunteer, Cindy directs Unity in the Community’s Prince William Study Circles — a project that brings together diverse people to get to know each other, talk about common issues and increase their engagement in the community. She is a remarried widow, the mother of two adult children and a parishioner at Trinity Episcopal Church, Manassas.

At the 2012 Arts Alive! arts festival, Cindy was presented with the  Kathleen K. Seefeldt Pioneer Award for launching Write by the Rails. The Pioneer award is given only when a new, innovative artistic group or project comes to life.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Remembering Summer Friendships

We hope you enjoy the rich writing from this excerpt from Memory Lake: The Forever Friendships of Summer, by WbtR member Nancy S. Kyme.


My daughter shifted from me and placed a finger where I had pointed, saying to her friends in the back seat, “This is where we are going.”

My eyes returned to the road and I scowled at the map’s limitations. A bunch of geographic lines and bold colors could never depict the shoreline’s simple beauty. Not even a well-crafted painting, a photograph, or an eloquent poem would do. One had to see it in person. I surmised that even the most flamboyant personality, confident from worldly travels, would turn speechless and introspective at the sight of Lake Michigan’s endless fresh water, blustery skies, and shifting brown sands. Surely, frequent visitors and permanent residents never grew immune. And I, who had spent five youthful summers along that chart of blue and brown, wanted my companions to understand how profoundly it had impacted my life. As a confused teen on a downward spiral, it was there I had learned to soar beyond limitations, to formulate dreams for the future, and to find the strength to carry them out. As a result, thirty years hence, amid new fears and anxieties, I struck cross-country like a lost soul seeking the light.

Same as then, ripples of change invaded my complacent life, forcing me to grow. I sensed time running parallel to a distant place of memory where the echo of feminine voices haunted a stretch of beach and outlined my youthful struggle. I had resisted back then until the ripples formed a towering waterspout, very real and defined, to gain my attention and force my direction. Now I faced the future from a precipice of fear and grief, feeling empty and rudderless. Somehow, I believed this trip would get me around it, through it, or over it, by showing me what I had lost.

I could never say this aloud. I risked complete adult alienation too early in our journey. So, I held quiet, remaining grateful to have my daughter and her friends along. They emboldened me, giving me the courage to fulfill this desire made especially strong after my mom’s passing.

This entry was previously posted in Indie Gem, Women's Fiction and tagged Michigan, Nancy Kyme, women by bookluvin.

Nancy S. Kyme is the CFO of a small corporation in Northern Virginia, is a Certified Public Accountant and holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration. Also a mother of two grown children and a military wife, she credits camp for her success as an adult and has written for decades to entertain friends and family.   

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Two WbtR Authors to Hold Book Signing Saturday

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt and Marvin Josaitis, PhD, are autographing their recently published books at the 2nd & Charles bookstore located in Woodbridge's Shoppers Best Way, 2904 Prince William Parkway, this Saturday, June 30, from 1-4 p.m.

Katherine's acclaimed first novel, Approaching Felonias Park, is a fast paced and gritty read, exploring intimately the lives of the needy in a world of predatory lending. A gifted writer, Katherine also will have available her outstanding Poems from the Battlefield as well as Furbily-Furld Takes on the World, a charming and magical children's book. Sales of Katherine's works will benefit local food pantries.

Marvin's two non-fiction books have each won recognition in two prestigious international book festivals. Pennies From a Heav'n (The Joy of Making Family) - a very creative autobiography - won honorable mention in the May, 2012, Paris Book Festival and Breaking Grand Silence (A Former Catholic Priest Speaks Out) won honorable mention in the June, 2012, New York Book Festival.

These two Prince William County authors each grew up in working class families in different parts of the country. Their writings carefully craft passion with purpose and meaning. Their insights address and challenge the reader's whetted appetite for current concerns and issues within contemporary society.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Good Advice from June Kilpatrick: Help

Just Leave Nature Alone
by June Kilpatrick

My husband and I used to live in Reston in a house with a few linear feet of lake frontage. The lake could accommodate canoes, kayaks, small sailboats, and pontoon boats, known around the neighborhood as party boats.

In the water, sometimes visible from, say, your canoe, were fish, turtles, and skinny snakes that occasionally surfaced and skittered for several feet in a series of esses before swimming back into the murky depths. On sunny days, turtles climbed out of the water to sunbathe, arranging themselves haphazardly on logs at the water's edge. But if you paddled in too close they would roll off in a series of splashes and disappear. Occasionally a blue heron would pose regally on the overhead frame of our party boat and poop a majestic whitewash splash across the awning.

In this setting, a turtle appeared one afternoon, not at the lake but out front in the street. I was coming home from my walk, and there in the cul-de-sac was the biggest turtle I'd ever seen, sporting a shell the size of a soup tureen. He was working his way slowly across the pavement, heading purposefully toward Glade Drive at a pace that would put him directly under someone's wheels just about dinner time when rush-hour traffic peaked--if, indeed, he made it out of the cul-de-sac without a mishap. Fortunately, I had arrived just in time to intervene. My plan was simple: I would carry him down to the lake, which, I assumed, was his home.

I bent over, grasped the creature by its edges and tried to lift it. Admittedly, my only prior experience with turtles involved placid woodland tortoises, small and easily deterred from danger. I had stopped my car numerous times to pluck a tortoise out of the road and set it safely in the grass at the other side. This fellow was considerably heavier, but I was the only human at hand to save him from his folly, and save him I would. I had not yet absorbed my husband's motto: Just leave nature alone. This incident would help that lesson sink in.

As I said, I picked him up by his edges and suddenly he began bucking like a wild pony, thrusting out his head on a lengthening neck, baring his teeth perilously close to my hand, and thrashing with all four scaly legs, claws extended. Carefully but expeditiously, I set him down. Clearly, this was no woodland tortoise. His itinerary was set, and he would brook no interference. What to do?

Women of my generation generally call for their husbands in such cases, but mine, although conveniently retired, was, as usual, whenever a household emergency arose, safely positioned on the seventh tee at a golf course in Front Royal. Or thereabouts.

A shovel. That's what I needed. I would transport the turtle with a shovel. With an ear cocked for cars, I stepped quickly into our garage where a review of all the hanging implements disclosed no such tool. The shovel, like the husband, was missing. However, I was a woman with a mission, and I would save this turtle.

Our front door was one of a half-dozen facing the cul-de-sac. I chose one and banged urgently. A young man in shorts and a ragged tee shirt, home from college for the summer, answered. He was wearing flip-flops and holding an open beer can. Breathless with the urgency of my errand and the imminent danger to my turtle, namely, of being crushed by a car in the cul-de-sac, I explained my problem, doing my best to recruit the young man to my cause. He yielded, reluctantly, only because I was older and he had nineteen years' experience in obeying Older. He didn't yet realize that he now had a choice. He followed me out the door, beer can in hand.

There on the pavement my turtle had once again pointed his bill toward Glade Drive and was making slow but steady progress. "No, you don't," I said, "You're going to get yourself killed." The young man eyed the turtle, shook his head, and tossed down a swig to fortify himself. Clearly, he considered me a lunatic. "Ma'am," he ventured, "that is a snapping turtle. He can take your hand off."

A moment's hesitation. But, no, I was committed. "What we need," I replied, a light bulb coming on at last, "is a wheelbarrow. Watch him while I go get one." I headed back toward our garage.

And amazingly, when I returned a moment later with the wheelbarrow, my reluctant accomplice was still there, keeping watch. "We'll load him up and roll him down to the lake," I announced. Together, somehow, we hoisted the bucking turtle safely into the wheelbarrow, facing him forward. But with a sudden scraping of claws on metal, the creature executed a decisive about-face, challenging me again with teeth bared and head lashing. "Just settle down," I told him. "You'll be lots better off in the lake." Down the hill we rolled, the unwilling beneficiary thrashing and snarling all the way, my young accomplice warming to the project and preventing a hasty exit from the wheelbarrow with a firm hand on the shell--well behind the thrashing head. The welcoming waters of Lake Audubon waited.

At the edge of the lake I had a belated epiphany. Could it be, after all this, that my turtle was not a swimmer? I could not arbitrarily dump him into the lake; he might drown. So I tipped the wheelbarrow and left the choice to him. Land or water? Again the scraping of claws on metal as he made another lumbering about-face and chose--water. Water offered salvation from the land-bound lunatic who had hijacked his journey. Water it was. He swam gracefully away.

When I told the story at supper, smugly, I confess, my beloved had no compliments to offer. Instead, he chided me. "That poor turtle," he said, "probably had important business in the creek on the other side of Glade. Most likely he spent three days and three nights crawling up that hill, and you wiped out his entire effort in thirty minutes. I've told you before, dear: Just leave nature alone."

But it's so hard not to help.

WbtR Member June Kilpatrick is author of  Wasps in the Bedroom, Butter in the Well: Growing Up During the Great Depression.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Considering the Possibilities

by Leigh Giza

I can't hear anything
Only the air sighing
Perhaps I am dying
This could be the ending
Of all and everything
I can't feel anything
That's not shocking
I don't think endings
Are distinct from beginnings
We live in a state of constant moving
Away from our shadows chasing
Us and disavow our feelings
As if they were failings
I can't hear anything
But my heart sighing
Perhaps I am dreaming
Perhaps I am lying


WbtR member Leigh Giza lives in Gainesville with her husband, John. She writes poetry, blog posts, humor, and the occasional Roving I column for Bristow Beat. You can check out her blog at

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Poetry of the Empty Nest

by Dan Verner

The children are years gone
From this empty nest
Married, moved away, departed,
I no longer know when spring comes.

There are no more swim meets to chauffeur
No anxious awaiting of college acceptances
Or rejections
No proms to plan for
And as the months slide on
No graduations
Or weddings
Or end of school giddiness.

Spring is much like summer
Without these markers
And I am suspended, timeless
And yet somehow growing older
Wondering where the months
And where the children have gone.


Dan Verner is a retired English teacher who blogs each weekday on Biscuit City, writes a column for the Observer newspapers and is a proud member of Write by the Rails. Dan is also on the staff of Nacho, the cat who owns Dan's house.

Friday, June 22, 2012

What can possibly happen in 185 seconds?

185 Seconds
by Carole Bellacera

May 18, 1992, 6:00 P.M.


Chad couldn't decide what to order. There were so many foods he liked. At first he'd thought about going with fried chicken, but then, it wouldn't be his mother's, would it? Instead, he'd opted for a peperoni pizza, a thin one, New York style, with lots of drippy cheese and tangy sauce.

He was thirty-three years old. How many peperoni pizzas had he put away in all that time? Hard to believe this one would be his last.

So, that was what it was going to be. A peperoni pizza and a giant-sized Big Gulp from Seven-Eleven. And for dessert? A bag of chocolate-covered peanuts.

Not some off-the-wall brand, but Brach's.

After all, the state was paying for it. A vision of Christ and the Last Supper flashed through his mind. He looked at the clock on the gray wall of the holding cell.

Five hours to live.

Leslie and Russell

"They're gonna kill that Chad Donovan tonight," Russell said through a mouthful of mashed potatoes. "Eleven o'clock. Gonna zap him in the electric chair."

With a trembling arthritic hand, Leslie lifted a cup of coffee to her lips and took a slurping sip. "Now, which ones did he kill? The people in the fast food restaurant?"

"Naw, this is the one who burst into that office building and took out three or four people. Electric chair is too good for him, I say. They should put him in a room with the families of the victims and let them have at it."

"Russ, don't get yourself in a tizzy. You know what it does to your blood pressure."

The gray-haired man rolled up the newspaper and tossed it to the floor. "You're right. He ain't worth it. Pass the salt, Mama."

"Dear, you know salt isn't good for you."

But she passed it anyway.


The microwave bell dinged just as Heather finished setting the table.

"Steve! Can you get Brad in his highchair? Dinner's ready!"

She was like a ballet dancer as she whirled through the kitchen, pouring the fruit juice, arranging the salad on the table, grabbing the Lean Cuisine dinners from the microwave.

The under-the-counter TV was the accompaniment to her Dance of the Dinner Preparation. "Barring any last-minute stays from the governor, convicted murderer Chad Donovan will be executed tonight at eleven o'clock. Donovan has been on death row for the last seven years....

Steve entered the dining room with two-year-old Brad on his hip. "I can't believe you're going to the health club tonight. Three years ago, you would've been down at the prison with the other protesters."

Heather grabbed the salad dressing bottles from the refrigerator, closing the door with her foot. "Three years ago I had a different life. I don't have time to get involved in causes these days. Even if I do believe in them. I still think capital punishment is barbaric, but a bunch of candle-holding hymn-singing activists isn't going to change anything. So why waste my time?"

She snapped off the TV. The dance had ended.


"Eat your broccoli, Sammy."

The four-year-old boy's lower lip trembled. His stomach muscles tightened. He knew what was coming. But he just couldn't eat that green stuff. It made him feel sick.

"Did you hear me, boy?

He looked up at his father. "I don't like it, Daddy. It tastes funny."

His mother pushed back from the table. "How about if I heat up some peas for you? You like, peas, don't you, hon?"

"Sit down, Rachel. The boy has to learn to eat what's on his plate."

Sammy felt his father's hard eyes eating into him. For a horrible moment, he thought he was going to throw up. That would be the worst thing to do. Daddy would think he'd done it on purpose.

"You will eat every bite of that broccoli on your plate... if you know what's good for you, pal."

Sammy stared down at his plate and willed it to disappear. But he knew it wouldn't. Nothing ever disappeared. Not even when the hitting started.
May 18, 9:00 P.M.


There was nothing to do now but wait. He'd asked for and received a television to pass the last few hours until the scheduled time of his execution. "Murphy Brown" came on and he got caught up in it. Even laughed a couple of times. But at nine-thirty he felt a coldness settle inside him. It was a two-parter. He wouldn't be around to see the second episode next week. A news brief flashed on the screen. He saw his face looking back at him. "Details at eleven," the pretty anchorwoman said.

A flicker of fear ate through him.

The day before he'd read a newspaper article about his upcoming execution; 185 seconds, it said. That's how long it would take to kill him. First 1,825 volts of electricity at 7.5 amps for 30 seconds, followed by 24 volts at 1.5 amps for 60 seconds. A five-second pause would be followed by a repeat of the 90-second cycle ... just to make sure he was dead.

Leslee and Russell

They were watching a movie on HBO, a violent saga starring Mickey Rourke as a desperate man holding a family hostage. Russell winced with every foul word that came out of the actors' mouths. When a nude scene came on, Leslie stood up.

"Want some ice cream, hon?"

"Yeah," Russell grunted. "Some of that Tin Roof Sundae."

When Leslie returned with two bowls of ice cream, the nude scene was over.


Sweat beaded and rolled down Heather's lithe body as she jogged along with the rhythm of a Paula Abdul song. She smiled as her muscles came alive. This was her reward after a long day at the office. Twice a week she treated herself to a couple of hours at the health club. Not only did it keep her body in shape, it had one added benefit.

It made her horny.

Steve loved Monday and Wednesday nights.


Sammy lay on his stomach in his bunk bed and tried to go to sleep. His buttocks and thighs stung where the belt had struck him. He smiled grimly into his pillow. His father had lost the battle. The broccoli had been tossed down the garbage disposal.

His stomach growled. Not only had the broccoli been thrown away, so had the fried chicken. He liked fried chicken, but he hadn't been permitted to eat any until the broccoli was gone.

The door to the bedroom opened. It was his mother. She walked across the room quietly. Sammy knew it was because she didn't want his father to know.

"I brought you a piece of chocolate cake and some milk," she whispered. "Eat it quickly."

He did.

May 18, 11:00 P.M.

Leslie and Russell

The movie had gone off at ten o'clock. They'd turned the channel to the Ten O'Clock News where they watched a clip about Chad Donovan and his last hours on death row.

Leslie sighed. "Can you imagine? With all the tasty foods in the world, he orders peperoni pizza and chocolate.covered peanuts for his last meal. Probably never had a lick of home cooking in his life, poor man."

"Good riddance, I say," Russell snorted. "The world's a better place without him." The news moved on to Washington where a group lobbied for a handgun bill. "Look at those stupid do-gooders," he went on. "Now they want to take away our right to defend ourselves in our own homes!"

Leslie squeezed his arm affectionately. "Oh, hon... you know the N.R.A. won't let them get away with that."

"'You're right, Mama. Thank the good Lerd we've got somebody watching out for us ordinary citizens." He put an arm around his wife. "Let's go to bed, Pretty Lady. Tomorrow's another day."


Brad cried out once while Heather and Steve were making love. They tensed and waited a moment. Silence. They continued in what they were doing.


The door to his bedroom burst open.

"'What the hell are you whispering about?"

The light came on. Sammy cowered in the corner of the bed, staring up at his father's furious face.

"Oh, Jesus Christ! You've wet the bed again, haven't you? What am I going to have to do to break you of this nasty habit?"

Sammy shrank back as his father approached. There was no escape. His cruel grip fastened upon the boy's skinny arms. Trembling, Sammy stared up into his cold eyes. It would begin now. As always, he prayed for his mother to rescue him, but he knew it wouldn't happen.

The only thing he could do was disappear into himself, all the time wishing it was his father who would disappear... forever.


They'd shaved his head and right calf. Chad felt as if he'd already been electrocuted as they strapped him into the chair and covered his face with a restraining belt with holes cut out for his nose. Why? For breathing? But they wanted him to stop breathing! An electrode was placed onto his shaved calf. He was numb. On the other side of a window, the press was seated in three rows of benches. They were waiting to witness the execution. The clock on the wall, the one that would record the moment of his death, read ten-fifty-eight.

The metal helmet, lined with a brine-soaked sponge, was placed onto his head and buckled beneath his chin. It bit into his skin. He grimaced. For a moment, panic washed over him. He didn't like pain. And in a matter of seconds, a massive jolt of electricity would kill him. A sudden memory flashed in his mind. A hot summer day in 1971. He, a sturdy twelve-year-old, washing the family car. His favorite song, "Maggie May," had come on the radio he'd plugged into the outlet just inside the garage. Bare-footed and standing in a puddle of water, he'd thoughtlessly reached for the volume diai and received a jolting shock that vibrated through his fingers and down to his toes for a good two seconds. For days afterwards his arm had been numb.

That had been a little shock. Now... in a matter of moments ... he would experience the big one. He thought back to the day that had brought him here. It was the receptionist's fault. If she'd only put him through to her boss. Ross Jackson was an old friend. He would've found a place for him at the firm. But the receptionist refused to put him on the phone. How many times had he called only to be told Ross was out or on another line or in a meeting. Always after he'd told her his name, of course. It was obvious she'd been screening Jackson's calls... and his had been one that wasn't allowed through. It took him a while to realize Ross had been refusing his calls. But they'd both paid for their arrogance, hadn't they? The others had just got in the way.

It was time. Chad waited for the ring of the red phone on the wall. That was the line where the call would come in----the one that would stay the execution. It would happen, wouldn't it? It always did in the movies. The clock's hand was straight up---eleven o'clock.

The executioner walked to the control panel, his eyes studiously avoiding Chad's. Panic overcame Chad. The stay wasn't going to happen. They were going to kill him. He bucked at the restraints, but of course he couldn't move. There was no escape, no reprieve. He squeezed his eyes shut, willing this to be a horrible nightmare, all of it, the beatings he'd taken from his father, the aimless wandering from job to job, the failure of every relationship he'd attempted, the petty thefts, the drunken brawls, the murders, the years on death row, and now... this. His entire life had been one long nightmare.

Nothing was happening. His eyes opened as a tiny peephole of hope entered his brain. Then he heard the low hum. His body stiffened. He tried to look out at his audience, to tell them, "Hey, you see what they're doing to me? Can't you stop it? They're killing me, They're really doing it."

"This is it...', screamed his brain in its final moments.

Leslie and Russell had another day. Heather went to work at the office. Sammy nursed his wounds of the night before. Twelve years later the four of them would meet in a shopping mall.

Sammy would have a gun.

"185 Seconds" won WbtR member Carole Bellacera the 1st place Prose Award in Columbia Pacific University's CPU Review in 1993.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Drama in the ER

I have a theory that the only reason married men stay alive is because their wives force them to eat healthy, exercise and visit the doctor when something appears to be wrong. A perfect example is my husband Bob, who last year was experiencing difficulty breathing. For two days he walked around complaining that he couldn’t draw a full breath of air. I suggested several times that he call our doctor and try to get an appointment. The problem is Bob hates going to the doctor so he kept saying, “let’s wait and see if it goes away.”

On the third day he realized that it wasn’t going away. He still couldn’t breathe properly. So of course he got dressed, took public transportation to work in downtown Washington DC and THEN decided to call the doctors office. At around 10 am he calls me on my cell phone, catching me just as I’m walking into a meeting.

“I called the doctor,” said Bob.


“The nurse said I need to go straight to the emergency room because I may be having a heart attack.”

“Oh my God!” I exclaimed. “You cannot go to the emergency room in DC, you’ll die for sure and I will never be able to find you.”

“I know,” said Bob. “And I’m afraid to ride home on the metro because last week someone died on the orange line and he rode around for eight hours before someone figured out he was dead.”

“What are we going to do?” I asked.

“Jim drove into the office today, so he’s going to take me home. Can you meet me there in about an hour? Then we’ll go to the emergency room together.”

This was Bob’s secret way of saying that there was no way in hell he was going to a hospital without me there to protect him. So I agreed to meet him at home in an hour. With that out of the way I walked into my meeting and told them I had a hard stop in 30 minutes. In retrospect, I may have been having a little trouble balancing my priorities.

One hour later I pulled into the driveway as Bob was walking into the house. “Let’s go,” I announced. “If you’re having a heart attack I think you need to be at the emergency room now.”

“Just wait a minute,” he replied. “I want to see what our deductible is for emergency room visits.”

“Really Bob? Really?”

“Well, maybe I can figure that out later. But I’m going to change into sweat pants. You always have to wait in the emergency room so I want to be comfortable.”

Well, he had a point there. Having raised three boys I have spent the equivalent of three years waiting in emergency rooms. We both changed into sweats and then grabbed a couple magazines and a book in case the wait was really, really long. As is pretty obvious by now, neither Bob nor I were too concerned about this whole heart attack thing. Quite frankly, he seemed to be perfectly fine except for the whole breathing issue. About 20 minutes later I drove us over to the hospital and we strolled into the emergency room.

“How can I help you?” asked the check-in nurse.

“Well, I’m having trouble taking a deep breath and my doctor said I should come to the emergency room in case I’m having a heart attack,” Bob said very calmly. Meanwhile, I’m looking around the room, counting people and trying to calculate how long we’ll have to wait. When I turned back to the nurse, she was gone. Just like that – poof! she had disappeared. Bob and I were staring at each other, quite bemused when the nurse, accompanied by two other orderlies came running through the automatic doorway and grabbed Bob. Throwing him into a wheel chair the nurse started barking orders and using the word “STAT” a lot. Bob looked at me from over his shoulder, wild-eyed with shock. I started running after the chair as they wheeled him into the emergency room. They looked like a blob of people with arms popping out every so often and Bob’s head poking up and down like a panicky turtle.

BAM! The orderlies grabbed Bob and slammed him on a gurney. SWISH! The curtain was pulled around us. CRACKLE! The nurse started tearing open plastic sealed tubing and needles. RRRIIIIPPP! Another nurse strapped on a blood pressure cuff to Bob’s arm.

I don’t think we’d actually been in the ER more than 4 minutes at this point. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“Your husband may be having a heart attack,” said the nurse. “We need to take his vital signs now!”

Apparently they did not like what they saw. Bob’s blood pressure was through the roof and his heart was pounding against his chest. Next came the needle nurse to start an IV. Bob and I were staring at each other in shock. Until that moment, I don’t think it had occurred to us that he might actually be having a heart attack. Monitors were wheeled in and little sticky nodes were attached to his chest. Just like in the movies, the screen began to show us the rhythm of Bob’s beating heart. And it was beating pretty fast.

A doctor came in to talk to us both. Thankfully, he was pretty calm about the whole thing. Sort of like Bob and I were BEFORE we came into the emergency room. He suspected that Bob’s blood pressure and rapid heartbeat had more to do with the drama of being in the emergency room than an actual heart attack. So he wanted to know how Bob felt about hospitals.

“I don’t like hospitals,” replied Bob.

“He hates hospitals,” I added.

“Well, I think that he may have pulled a muscle, which is why he can’t draw a deep breath,” said Dr. Wonderful. “And then he may have had a mild panic attack when he came to the hospital. But I want to monitor him for a little while just to be sure.”

I was so thankful that Bob wasn’t going to die that I got weak in the knees. “We’ll stay as long as you need us to stay,” I replied. “I brought books.”

Bob and I settled in to wait out his heart monitor. Slowly his blood pressure began to go down. Slowly his heart started to beat more normally. We had both completely forgotten about his inability to breathe deeply. He’d done enough deep breathing during the panic attack to confirm that was no longer an issue.

“Come over here,” asked Bob. He’d been staring at the monitor by his bed, watching the beats of his heart on the screen. “I need you to stand by the edge of the bed.”

So I walked over to the edge of the bed. “Do you need another pillow or something?” I asked.

“Nope,” replied Bob. And then he reached up and grabbed my breasts, one in each hand, all the while keeping his eyes glued to the heart monitor.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!” I whispered hysterically. “HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND!”

“Be quiet, Kelly,” said Bob. “I want to see what happens.”

And there I stood, in the emergency room, with my husband grasping my breasts while he watched the monitor. Clearly all heart attack concerns were well past us both. “You’re an idiot,” I said. “I can’t believe that with everything that has happened in the last two hours, all you are worried about is my boobs.”

“Men aren’t complicated, Kelly. You know that.”

And I do know that – they are not that complicated at all. Despite everything we’d just gone through, all Bob wanted to do was play with a new electronic toy and grab some boob. And for the record, the monitor did perk up. It’s nice to know that after 22 years together, we’ve still got a spark. But really, there has to be a better way to test it in the future.

--Copyright 2012, Kelly Harman, Member, Write by the Rails


What Kelly Says About Herself

I’m still trying to figure out what I’m all about. It seems to change every few years. I love technology, marketing, reading, writing, going to spas with my girlfriends, spending time with my family and grandchildren and owning lots of gadgets. I love gadgets. In fact, you could probably call me a gadget slut.

I also own a lot of infomercial products. Unfortunately I suffer from insomnia and the only thing to watch on TV at 3:00 am are porn movies or infomercials. I now own the “set it and forget it” rotisserie grill, the entire Windsor Pilates series, Bare Minerals makeup, the sweeper, three kinds of miracle cleaning product, the Kimora girdle (guaranteed to suck in five pounds), four Time Life music series, the chopper, the Foreman grill, the NuWave oven, the Bullet, the Yoshi ceramic knife, the P90-X series, the HSN Aero-Pilates machine, the pedi-Egg, the ab-roller, and a box of Mighty-Putty. I’m seriously considering switching to porn, it has to be cheaper.

I work at a tech company where I’m responsible for marketing and public relations.

I’m in my late 40′s, delightfully married to Bob, (the saint that puts up with me) and I can be contacted at

P.S. The stories in my blog are 87% true. The other 13% should be attributed to the fact that I am of Irish descent.