Saturday, April 15, 2017

Jonny and the Space Rock, a Children's Story

Jonny and the Space Rock
Debralynn Fein
            It’s our first day in our new home. The apartment is filled with boxes. The boxes are practically everywhere. In the kitchen, the boxes are almost piled to the ceiling!
            Jonny wanted to jump over some of the boxes.
            “Wee, see how high big boys can jump,” he said. “We can jump up to the sky!”
            I miss our old home.
            “Gosh,” said our Mama coming into the living room. “I have all these boxes to unpack. How am I going to get it all done? Caroline, maybe you and your brother can go outside to play?” she suggested.
            “Play?” I asked. “Play where?” I looked out the window. “All I can see are piles of dirt.”
            “Well you can take your brother outside. Let him run around a little.”
            “Yeah, I wanta play,” five- year- old Jonny said. “Let’s go Caroline, pl…ease!”
            I put my coat on.
            “Thank you Caroline. I can get some things done. Please make sure you take Jonny’s jacket with you,” she added, kissing me quickly on the cheek.
            I grab my brother’s plaid jacket lying on a box.
            “Yay, yay.”
            “Come here Jonny, and I’ll help you,” I said, bending down to hold his jacket out to him.
            Jonny stood in the room, with his shirt tails hanging out, his hair hanging over his eyes.
            “Where are we going, Caroline?” Jonny asked me.
            “I don’t know. We’re seeing what’s out there,” I said bravely, waving my free hand as we took the steps down from our new apartment hallway.
            “What are we going to see?” Jonny asked curiously.
            “I really don’t know. We’ll see when we get there,” I answered as we left the building. A small empty planter stood between the buildings.
            Then Jonny spotted something.
            “Look at this Caroline!” he said excitedly.
            I saw it too, a dark colored rock. It had holes all over it.
            “Wow,” I said. “It might be a rock from outer space! Last night, I was look out of our old window, and do you know what I saw?”
            “What?” Jonny asked.
            “I saw a light going fast across the sky. At first, I thought it was a shooting star. Maybe it wasn’t.”
            “What was it then?” Jonny asked, in wonder looking at the rock carefully.
            “Well, then I heard this sound. Boom! Like thunder.”
            “Like thunder?” Jonny asked, looking around scared.
            “It doesn’t mean it was thunder,” I replied. “And anyway you were sleeping.”
            “What could it be then?”
            “There are these things called meteors,” I answered, “and they come from out there.” I pointed to the sky.
            “A meat-eater?” Jonny asked.
            “Not a meat-eater, silly. A met-e-or.” I corrected him.
            “And this is one of them?”

            “I don’t know Jonny.” I admitted. “Maybe.”

Elizabeth's New Friend, a children's story

Elizabeth’s New Friend
Debralynn Fein
            Friday is the best day of the week. It’s Show and Tell day! Everyone in my class brings a special toy to share. I have something better though. My Grandma Isabel gave me my very own change purse. It has lots of tiny white pearly beads and it also has three big beads: a pink one, a yellow one, and a blue one. Grandma brought the purse over from Europe where she was born.
First, I sit down at the table to eat my cereal. I put my purse right next to me. I don’t want to forget it. The doorbell rings. As Mama opens the door for my big cousin, I take the napkin and rub the beads to make sure they shine.
            “See my new purse!” I say to cousin Babs who has funny brown curls and a plain black bag for her school books.
            “Oh wow, that is c...ool! And just look at you Elizabeth!  You’re dressed so grown up.
            “Why, it’s Show and Tell Day,” Mama says.
            “Oh!” Babs exclaims. “That is important. Let’s go then. You don’t want to be late for your big day.”
           Finally, we arrive at my school. Babs is the sixth- grade helper for my class. She helps us get in line.
           There’s Erica. She’s a showoff and copycat. She copies me all the time. One day, I brought the story of Leo the Late Bloomer to school. I can read it all by myself. What does Erica do? She brings in two books. She reads both by herself.  Another day, I brought a ball to school. The next day, Erica brought a bigger ball. Still another day, I brought my jump-rope. The next day, Erica brought her rainbow rope. She’s such a show-off!
           “So what do you have for Show and Tell?” Erica asks.
           “I have something great,” I answer her. “Wait till you see it!” I say as we walk down the hall with our class.
           The teacher walks into the room right after us.
           “Hi, Miss Forester,” Babs says as she gets ready to leave for her own class. My cousin comes over to my seat before she leaves the room. “Bye Lizzie, have a great Show and Tell day,” Babs says as she ruffles my hair.
           “I must take out my Show and Tell. I just have to see it. I look through my school bad, and find my lunch, my notebook and my pencil case. Oh no, where is my purse?” My new sweater has a pocket in it. I put my hand in, but all I pull out is a used tissue.
           My purse, my purse, where could it be? And it’s grandma’s special one from Europe! Could I have dropped it somewhere on the way to school? Tears fall from my eyes. Then I wipe them with the old tissue. I look all around my seat as Miss Forrester begins to call our names for the roll, but I don’t see my Show and Tell anywhere.  What am I going to do?
           “Brian Jones,” She calls.
           “Here,” He says softly.
           “Danny Dubinsky.”
           “Here,” a louder voice answers.
           “Elizabeth Kessler,” she calls.
           “,” I answer.
           “Elizabeth,” she says, coming over, “are you crying? What’s the matter?”

           “I can’t find my Show and Tell.  I’ve looked everywhere. In my schoolbag, my sweater pocket, around my seat, just ev...everywhere,” I say.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Birthday Gift

The Birthday Gift
Debralynn Fein
           It was my fortieth birthday. My mother, who had taken me out for lunch put a small gift wrapped package on my plate. We were at CafĂ© Italiano, our favorite, Mom’s and mine. The table was set beautifully with a linen tablecloth and napkins folded ever so carefully, especially for this time of day. Strangely, the table was set for three, even with just the two of us sitting there.
           “Are we expecting another guest, Mom?” I asked.
           “No,” she said smiling. “So happy to be able to celebrate your birthday with you, just the two of us.”
           I smiled at that too
           “Go on, open your present,” Mom said excitedly.
           “Don’t you think we should look at the menu first?” I asked. “I’d rather prolong the excitement.”
           “Leaving the best for last like when you and your brother were kids?” No, open it honey. I can’t wait to see your face.”
           I slowly unwrapped the small package ever so carefully so I could preserve the wrapping paper, a habit I had also acquired in childhood. Then, I opened the small jewelry box.
           “Your wedding band from Dad.” I breathed. It was a beautiful platinum ring set in diamonds in a most unusual pattern. I put the ring on my finger. “It’s beautiful Mom,” I said getting up to kiss her. My parents had been divorced and now my father had passed.
           I sat back down and distracted myself with the menu. As I did, I couldn’t help but wonder what this gift means. Is Mom throwing away her last vestige of life with Dad? Or what?”
           “Order anything you want,” Mom replied, “Let’s really celebrate.”

Monday, January 2, 2017

Wake-Up Call or the Story of the Middle Class in America
Wake-Up Call
          I didn’t know when my wake-up call was going to come. I’d been out of work for too long. Teaching was my profession, and getting a job in New Jersey is easier for a brain surgeon if a person is beyond their twenties or thirties at most. I’d done everything possible to find sub-fields related to education. I’d served as a substitute teacher, an online educator, written articles for NY Examiner, and tutored plenty.
          When was it going to change for me? I just kept hoping for an opportunity to break. I had an alliance with my children’s former high school Principal who still worked in the district. Nepotism abounded in our town. Don’t get my going about them. I’d asked just about everyone I knew who was teaching in the garden state. Nobody could help me.
          As a last ditch effort, I enroll in an online doctoral program. Hal, my husband, doesn’t even know about the amounts I take out on student loans. I figure that older people teach in colleges, so why not me? I have important insights to share. Hal doubts my success in this venture, my own therapist questions why I need the word doctor in front of my name. It certainly isn’t for any notion of grandiosity that I do this. In the courses, I am successful, at least until I got to dissertation proposal writing.
          The question abounds, when do I cut my losses? That is the wake-up call. What if Hal loses his job? My mother certainly can-not bail us out a second time. I need to take charge of this.

          Yet, as I apply to ads, I have some nibbles. A part-time adjunct opportunity opens up with Manhattanville College, a writing tutor position with Pearson. Berkeley College may be another opportunity?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Beach Beat

They'd just arrived at the beach. That was, she, her mother and son, Aaron. The sand stood before them, almost white as snow. The surf appeared in the distance, relatively calm, as gentle waves beat upon the shore. 

"Where do you think we should park the chairs?" her mothers asked, as they withdrew them from the trunk.

"As close to the water as possible. That way, we can spot Aaron easily," Kim responded. So they sat practically in the mud but that was okay because it was an excruciatingly hot day. Aaron immediately removed his little sandals and ran to the shore.  

Kim watched the water for a while as she sat on her striped beach chair. Something about the waves rolling in and out, the repeated motion, was so calming. "I can breathe here," Kim said.

"Well I can too," her mother answered, "but ever since we arrived, my nose has been running, and my eyes tearing. I don't know what's wrong with me," and she dabbed both areas with her white towel slung across the chair. "Tell me Kim, what are you going to do about this situation?" she asked changing the subject. "Your husband and children are depending on you."

"Yes, I know they're depending on me<" Kim answered, "but what can I do? Nobody wants to hire me."

"Now Kim, that kind of attitude doesn't get anybody anywhere. It's sure not going to put food on your table."

"Don't you think I know that? Kim asked her. "It's just one of those situations where I just do not want to do!" She watched Aaron out of the corner of her eye. He found a small group of playmates on the beach, boys who were about a year older than him. They were digging a giant hole in the mud surrounded by a sand castle. The boys ran back and forth dripping mud over the top. Aaron squealed with delight as they included him in their play. Despite the heat of the argument with her mother, Kim enjoyed watching him, seeing how easily he adapted to becoming acquainted with new comrades. A slow smile spread over her lips.

"What are you smiling about, Kim?" Mother asked. "We were just discussing something very serious here."

Well I needed to get back to reality, didn't I? Kim asked herself. Just yesterday, she'd spoken with her therapist, Sophia. She went on and on about her job situation or lack of one. Scooping nearby sand, she thought of how she'd told Sophia how much she wanted to remain in her chosen profession. Yet nobody wanted to hire her.

Sophia, a tall woman with soft blond ringlets surrounding her face explained, "You have to look beyond the box, Kim."

"Which box is that?" she asked.

"The one that says you can only work in a public school, " Sophia replied. "I know it's what you want but maybe it's just not possible right now."

Not wanting to accept what Sophia implied, Kim asked, "But what about tenure? And health benefits? Aren't those part of the bigger picture also? And what about the fact that I can't convince anyone to hire me? What does it mean about me?"

"They are important issues," Sophia admitted, leaning back in the soft leather recliner, "But I think you're jumping ahead of yourself. That too can be a box. You need to think about how you're going to get through this academic year, nothing else."

"Maybe that is what I need to think about, Kim mused. She turned to her mother then, tucking that annoying of blonde hair behind her ear. "Maybe there are other options, Mom."

"Well there are private schools and nursery schools," Kim answered.

"Do you really think that where your future lies? In a nursery school, with all your education?"

"Look, I've tried everything I can think of," Kim answered, not looking at her but at the ocean instead. She was watching The eaves breaking toward the shore, and back out again. "My therapist thinks that I should just focus on getting through this year. Maybe I'll actually like it," she laughed.

"I guess you have to do what you think best," her mother answered, obviously not having much faith in Kim's opinion.

Why can't my mother give me any support? Kim wondered, clutching at her stomach. That burning, sick feeling flooded her stomach. It hurts so much, she thought, not sure if she meant her stomach or emotional anguish. 

"I wish I were in a position to help you, financially I mean," her mother said, taking a compact out of her straw handbag and examining her eye, "but you know how the stock market has been."

"I didn't ask you to help me," Kim answered, looking once more at the waves. Suddenly she turned and Aaron was not playing with the boys any longer. She scanned the beach to see where she spotted him. He was not standing with the crowds at the edge of the surf, separated by the rope. The lifeguard was sitting in his stand, oblivious.

Kim jumped up, and called, "Aaron, Aaron, where are you? Mom, I don't see Aaron, do you?"

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Day in the Country

"Everyone all set for Mom's favorite hotel?" my stepfather asked from the building's intercom.
"Do you need help with your bags?" Mom chimed in.
"No, no, Aaron and I will be right down."
"Oy, they're here already," I told my son, "right at the crack of dawn. Let's go, hurry up before they buzz us again." I looked out the window of our fourth floor apartment, and saw they were parked right in front.
Aaron jumped up and down with excitement. "Are we going to the hotel now, Mommy?" he asked eagerly.
"Yes," I answered, reaching for the heavy suitcase. "We're going to take a l-o-n-g drive with Grandma and Poppie. Then we will be there."
"And I can go ice skating, and play miniature golfing? And I can go swimming and play shuffleboard?" Aaron asked, remembering our last trip to the hotel.
"Yes," I answered, admiring his enthusiasm.

We arrived at the car parked outside just in time. My mother was fiddling with her cell phone getting ready to call me again. "Oh here you are darling," she said to me. "Let me help you with your suitcase," she said getting out of the car and lifting its heavy contents into the trunk. Why was my stepfather allowing his wife to life a heavy suitcase, and why was I?
"Poppie, poppie," Aaron greeted his surrogate grandfather, "where's my toy?"
"Ha-ha-ha," Poppie laughed heartily. "That's my boy. Maybe this weekend we'll go the toy store and buy you something special."
:"I'd like that," Aaron answered, as we settled ourselves into the back seat.

I hated my stepfather's car. The leather upholstery reeked of cigarette smoke. Why can't my mother get him to stop smoking?  He had cancer in his family. Steven, my older son, talked to his 'granfather' many times about his smoking, but nobody could get him to stop.

"Well, we're off," my mother said sweetly. "I can hardly wait to smell that fresh mountain air, to taste those delicious blintzes, the herring, the lox ... the cheesecake! she exclaimed. "Oh heaven!"
All I can think of is seeing Steven on Sunday. It's been three weeks since he left for camp, and I can hardly wait to see him!

"Now go slow," my mother cautioned her husband. "Remember, we can't check in until lunch time."
"Well we can always use the facilities," Poppie answered her. "Don't you want to go out and play some tennis, work off the fat?" he teased.
"Look who's talking," my mother answered him dryly, as we entered the Palisades Parkway. The man must be going 65 mph, I think, adjusting Aaron's seat belt to make sure it was secure. That's past the legal limit. "Poppie," I said tentatively, "would you mind slowing down just a little?"
"Just keeping up with traffic!"
However, the rest of us are in luck. A full lane of the Palisades was sectioned off, causing traffic to slow down.
"Damn," Poppie exploded, "It's going to take us an extra hour at least to get there. I knew we should have taken Route 17! He turned to my mother, his face turning shades of scarlet. "Why did I let you talk me into taking the Palisades?" he asked her.
My mother didn't answer but I remembered hitting just as much traffic last year on Route 17.

I felt awkward, so I took Aaron's book of Little Toot from the small tote that I had in the car. "Would you like me to read to you? I asked my son, even though he easily read the book by himself.
"I wanta look at the pictures first," he answered.
Well that did a lot of good, I thought, looking out the window, watching tree after green tree pass by ever so slowly as we made our way up the Palisades. My father had driven just as aggressively as Poppie would like to on long car trips. Mom and I often had to hold onto the edges of our seats.

Finally, we reach Monroe, New York. Poppie needed to stop for gas and I jumped up like a woman possessed.
"I have to have some coffee!" I declared..
"Go right ahead," my mother answered smiling, "I'll stay here with Aaron."
I buy myself a large coffee with lots of milk and bring  it to the car with me.

"Oh good," Poppie said, drumming his beefy fingers on the steering wheel. "Now, we can get going!" he declared, just as I pulled back the lid on the coffee cup. He revved up the engine again, and immediately accelerated to it felt like 90 mph, as the tires screeched right out of the parking lot.
The hot liquid spilled right onto my white dress.It was like spoiling a virgin. Worse than that, It burned my leg.
"Mom," I screamed, "the coffee ... it burned me!" Poppie didn't even slow down.

"You see," my mother said to her husband,"you always have to be in such a hurry. Now look what happened."
"Hey, I didn't tell her to get coffee."
What a sport, I think. What the hell's the matter with him? "Please, for Aaron's sake, slow down," I pleaded.
"Do you want me to run back and get you some ice, sweetheart?" my mother asked me.
"No, no, I'll live," I replied. I did not want to forestall this trip any longer than I had to.