Written by J. Van Allan / Artwork by Lee Kuruganti
The Weeping Willow
Her body stretched across the toilet
seat, shoulder blades propped against
the porcelain tank, head resting on
the lid. Her jeans and underwear
sagged around her ankles like cloth
shackles, revealing legs pale and bare.


I stepped into the dim, dirty
bathroom, shuffled across the grainy
linoleum and gently nudged her
shoulder. Her head and torso jerked
up, her arms flailing wildly, and she
lunged forward head first toward the
opposite wall. I couldn’t stop her from
toppling, but managed to guide her
down on top of me in a sort of
controlled descent to the floor. I
twisted and struggled out from under
her and sat up on my knees.

“Callie,” she mumbled.

“Yeah, Mom,” I said. “It’s me.”

I’d have left her there in the floor, but
my brother and sister used the
bathroom to get ready for school and
they didn’t need to see their mom like
that. Neither did their seventeen-year-
old sister, but not looking wasn’t an
option in my case.

I pulled up her pants and underwear, then took her by the arms and dragged her across the hallway into her room.
I got as far as the bed. I pulled a pillow off the bed and stuck it under her head, then stood fists-on-hips staring
down at the person who used to be my mother. Every now and then her eyes fluttered open, but closed quickly.

Had she silently told us good morning or good night before she wandered into the bathroom and passed out? I
wanted to think the answer was “yes” to both even though that was probably pure fantasy. She hadn’t been
“aware” of us in years, and that morning was no different. I yanked the covers down over the top of her and left
the room, shutting the door behind me.

~ * ~

That afternoon, a fire alarm sent a couple thousand kids spewing out the doors of my high school into the streets
earlier than usual. Instead of waiting around like we were told, I just kept walking and met up with my brother and
sister, Matthew and Emma, a couple blocks away already on their way home.

It was springtime, and the air felt jumpy like it might storm. We lived in the Tornado Alley part of Texas, but I’d
never seen one. Maybe today, I thought, the storm sirens would wail, and our apartment and everything in it would
be destroyed. All of us would miraculously survive in the bathtub, and maybe get a fresh start in a new place.

A vehicle turned onto the street, and slowly moved toward us. From a distance it looked like a station wagon, but
as it neared I could see it was a long, light blue hearse. The driver’s arm hung out the open window, a cigarette
dangling from long, thin fingers. I shivered. Corpse caddies always gave me the creeps.

We made it home, and Matthew and Emma flipped on the television and started their homework. I sat on the floor
separating clothes into piles of clean, mostly clean, and totally unwearable, wondering whether I’d cook mac and
cheese or hot dogs for supper.

A siren wailed in the distance, but not because of a storm. The ambulance or whatever screamed closer, whelping
loud enough as it past to rattle my brains. I covered my ears, and for some reason peered down the hall at Mom’s
darkened bedroom door. I got up, ventured into the shadows, and knocked softly.


No response. I turned the handle, and pushed open the door a crack. On the floor lay the covers I’d pulled down,
one of Mom’s bare feet sticking out. At least, I thought it was her foot. It looked dark, no longer flesh tone. I
pushed the door open further, and saw she hadn’t moved from where I’d left her.

Head flopped to the side, mouth wide open, one of her eyes completely closed, the other not quite. She didn’t
move. I turned on the bedroom light, and closed the door behind me. My heart thumped so hard my T-shirt
quivered with each beat. I pulled back the covers, breathing like I’d just run up the three flights of stairs to the
apartment. Mom, on the other hand, wasn’t breathing at all.

I froze, covers in hand. I thought of calling out for help, but Matthew and Emma were the last people I wanted in
that room. My school lunch churned in my stomach, and I felt dizzy. I knelt down, but lost my balance and placed a
hand on Mom’s shoulder to steady myself. Her entire body lifted up a little, stiff as a mannequin. I yanked my hand
away, and her body fell back in place. I scrambled away from her, gagging and coughing.

I leaned my head against the wall, feeling everything—scared, grossed out, angry—all at the same time. My head
swirled with raw emotion and half-thoughts, but it was mostly fear that pulled me off that floor. I didn’t know what
I was afraid of exactly. A dead body? My own death? Nonexistence? Hell if I knew.

I laid the covers over Mom’s vacant, lifeless face, then snuck out of the room and shut the door. I went to the
bathroom, and tossed tepid water on my face. I once had the idea I could get Mom to go to one of those drug
rehab places, but I’d waited too long. I told myself it wasn’t my fault, that I wasn’t to blame for her drug addiction.
I took care of the kids, cooked and cleaned, whatever I could do to help reduce Mom’s stress. Had I done too
much? Not enough? Vague unease slithered into my mind, a hollow, emptiness replacing nausea.

“Callie, you okay?” Emma stood at the door.

“Yeah, just a little sick at my stomach.”

“Is Mom home?”

Adrenalin shot through me. Emma couldn’t see Mom like that.

“She’s asleep, Emmy,” I said, my voice shaking. “Don’t bother her.”

“Would you read me a story?”

I leaned over the sink, stomach tight, lungs empty. When I couldn’t stand it any longer, I sucked in a deep breath.

“I got a better idea,” I said. “How ‘bout we go down to the creek?”

It was unseasonably warm and humid, and I worked up a sweat hiking to the little creek that ran through our
neighborhood. The clear water mostly ran shallow and fast over white limestone rock, but crept along deep and
slow in other places. Emma hopped from rock-to-rock, while Matthew hunted lizards or looked for crawdads.

The creek gully was deep enough to muffle the constant, dull roar of the city, and it was easy to pretend we were
exploring out in the country. I inhaled the scent of mud, oaks, sycamores and sweetgum trees. Together they
smelled like rain on a dry, dusty day. I wished it could be that way all the time, no worries, no responsibilities.

A little ways down, an unusual pale glow spread from one side of the darkened creek to the other like the sun had
come out from behind clouds in that one spot. Leaving Matthew and Emma, I sloshed along to a place where the
water flowed dark and deep, and long, thin leaves spun in slow, lazy swirls. Yellow-green branches drooped down
over the creek, waving like the broken strands of a spider’s web. I traced them high back to an enormous weeping
willow tree growing in a clearing.

Its trunk, silhouetted black against the pale light, split off in two directions from a point just above the ground. One
branch grew more horizontal up and across the creek, the other more vertical over thick, deep green grass so
smooth it looked like moss. Tall as an oak with dangling, rope-like branches probably forty feet long, I’d never seen
a willow so big.

I didn’t remember that tree or the clearing from past trips, but the creek wound and twisted through lots of
territory I’d never explored. Still, its presence seemed strange, out of place like a bright, new convenience store in
the midst of a dirty, run-down neighborhood. I crawled up on shore, sat down and leaned back against its trunk. I
gazed up into a patch of light blue sky, the breeze gentle against my face.

A weeping willow tree grew in the back of a rental house where we once lived. It overlooked a pond, and I used to
love to go down there and sit leaning against its rough bark trunk watching the ducks and turtles. Sometimes I’d
think about stuff, like what my dad would think of me, what he’d say if he were alive. The last time Mom baked or
cooked anything, played with us, or read stories to us was when we lived in that house. A summer storm knocked
down the tree, and later we moved away.

My thoughts returned to the present, and anger swelled within me. How could Mom have let that happen to her?
How could she leave us all alone? My anger built to the level of rage. How could she have left me alone to take care
of all of us?

“Goddammit Mom!” I said to the air, the tree, whoever would listen.

I’m no cry baby, but a wave of grief washed over me, my chest tightened, and I gave in to the tears. Great silent
sobs racked my upper body until I felt crushed and empty. I gasped for air, then moaned, tears running down my
face and dropping onto the ground under the willow. Something like steam rose from where my teardrops fell, the
air thickened, and clouds of fog rolled in around the tree. The creek darkened, and seemed to recede into the heavy

I felt hollow again, but loneliness quickly filled the empty places. I scrambled to my feet, and groped my way back
down the soft embankment into the cool water. I waded back the way I’d come until the fog cleared. I listened for
Matthew and Emma, but heard only the static of buzzing cicadas. Matthew and Emma were all I had left, and fear of
losing them infected all my thoughts. I called out but it was like yelling into a wall, my voice had no carry. I was
fighting back panic when the two of them just sort of appeared sitting together on a rock a little further down.

I heaved a sigh of relief. “Where were you guys?”

“Right here,” Matthew said. “Where were

“Just right down…” I turned and stared behind me, but there was no trace of the clearing.

“That’s weird,” I said.

“What?” Emma asked.

“Oh, nothing. Let’s get home.”

I dreaded the task ahead, and a lump formed in my throat that grew larger the closer we got to the apartment.
Once in the parking lot, I noticed the light blue hearse I’d seen earlier parked near the back by a trash dumpster.
The driver, dressed in a white tux, leaned against the vehicle, staring at us. Probably just another stalker-pervert in
the neighborhood to worry about.

That night, I scrounged around and found a can of ravioli buried at the back of the pantry. The expiration date was
like two years ago, but it tasted fine. Afterwards, Matthew sat on the couch rebuilding his Lego spaceship while
Emma colored, both oblivious to the grim reality facing us all. I needed to tell them about Mom, but it could wait
until morning. I wanted to give them one more night believing they had a mom.

We’d need to be packed when I eventually called the authorities, so I got a plastic trash bag, went to our bedroom,
and started cramming clothes inside. Something bumped the wall at the back of our closet. We had rats, so I
figured it was some of them clawing and digging around. Then a terrible thought occurred. What if the rats were
eating Mom? I forced the thought from my mind and decided I could pack later.

We pulled our mattress into the living room, and watched television. Emma curled up next to me and fell asleep,
while Matthew snored away on the couch. I closed my eyes, but my mind would not shut off and my muscles
twitched around like they had a life of their own.

“Guys,” I said. “You still awake?”
Silence. I hated being the last one to fall asleep. It always felt like I’d somehow been left behind. I sighed, and
closed my eyes. They opened a few moments later when the bumps and knocks resumed down the hall. They
stopped abruptly, then I heard a click. Electricity shot over my scalp, down my back all the way to my toes. My
mother’s bedroom door had opened.

I’d shut it good, I knew I did. Doors don’t just pop open by themselves. A scratching sound came from the
hallway, like something dragging across the carpet. Rats? No, something else. Frozen, holding my breath I waited in
silence. The something else bumped in the darkness, then slid along the wall.

My heart seemed to explode with each beat, blood surging in my neck, my eardrums pounding. I wanted to scream,
get up and turn on the lights, but I clung to the desperate hope that whatever it was would leave us alone if it
thought we were asleep.

It appeared first as a formless black vapor, but it quickly took on the form of a person. It paused at the kitchen,
then turned toward us in the living room.

At that moment, someone pounded on the apartment door nearly sending the skin flying off my bones. The
shadow vaporized, and a moment later Mom’s bedroom door clicked shut.

Knocking, more like tapping this time, came from the front door. I summoned enough angry energy to move,
tossed off the covers, and tip-toed to the door. Peeking through the fisheye peep hole, I saw a dark-skinned
person dressed oddly in a white tux staring back at me. In the dim breezeway, I really couldn’t tell if it was a man or

I wasn’t a hand-wringer, but Geez what a dilemma. If I ignored the person at the door, I had no doubt the dark
thing from Mom’s bedroom would return. If I opened the door—.

“Callie,” a voice said from the other side of the door. “We need to talk.”

Okay, how did they know my name?

“Who is it?” I whispered as loud as I could.

“You can talk as loud as you like,” the voice said. “Matthew and Emma won’t wake up.”

Those words sank in, and concern blossomed into an urgent need to check on my brother and sister. I strode over
to where they slept, and found them doing exactly that. Sleeping. Their chests rising, and falling in regular rhythm.

Behind me, from the black depths of the hall, Mom’s door creaked again. I hopped back to the front door, slipped
the chain lock off, and undid both deadbolts. As I did so, Mom’s door clicked shut.

Anger swelled, and I yanked open the door to face the stranger who knew all our names. The person I’d initially
thought was a guy, turned out to be a tall, older woman. She frowned, her expression grave.

“What do you want?”

“I’m afraid you’ve rather opened a can of worms,” she said, her voice brusque like she’d been smoking those
cigarettes for centuries.

“What are you talking about?”

“A rather unusual tree, that willow. It has certain sensitivities to human emotion, particularly to tears. Once the salt
of a person’s anguish seeps into its roots, the willow responds…earnestly, passionately.”

“Lady, I haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about.”

“Hmm, I think you do.”

She peered over my shoulder, and straight down the hall. I glanced that way half expecting to see the creepy
shadow thing right behind me.

“In its blind response to your grief, the willow affected your reality.”

“What reality is that?”

“That within your abode, your mother lies in a state of decay. And now, because of your encounter with the willow,
a part of her, a certain essence, has returned. Unfortunately, her body is no longer capable of holding and
sustaining that part of her.”

“What do you mean by essence?”

“Some refer to it as a spirit, others by the term soul.”

“You mean like a ghost?”

She all but rolled her eyes. “Spare me from the ignorance of the living.” Composing herself, she folded her hands
neatly in front of her. It was then I noticed she didn’t have a bottom half, or at least not consistently. A pair of legs
faded in and out kind of like a hologram, frequently leaving head, arms, and torso hovering in thin air. I thought I
was seeing things or I guess not seeing them, and blinked a few times.

“The willow’s actions were incomplete, but I can still set things right without too much trouble ensuing.”

“What? How…?” I stammered, staring down at the bare concrete where her feet should have been.

“I’m a Guide, Callie. No more, no less. Assisting souls in transition is my only responsibility. But in some
circumstances, I have the leeway to intervene. What I’m asking you is this? Which direction do you want me to
nudge reality? The way things once were or the way things should be?”

“I really…don’t understand what you’re saying.”

“I’m asking, do you want your mother alive but existing in the same state as prior to her untimely demise or do you
want both her body and essence exorcised from your living area?”

The weight of her words gradually filtered through.

“That’s my choice? Just those two things? There’s no option C or D?”
“I’m afraid not. That’s all I can do.”

“Wow…Just wow. I don’t think I can make that choice.”

“A choice will be made nonetheless. This situation cannot be allowed to continue thusly.”

“Geez, can I have some time to think about it at least?”

“Certainly,” she said. “You have five minutes.”

“Five minutes! Are you nuts?”

“As I said, you don’t have to make the choice. I only offer it as a consolation of sorts.”

I bumped my head against the sheetrock wall a couple of times. If Mom came back to life, she could OD the next
day. If I said I preferred her dead and gone…God, how could I say that though? That was my mom down there.
Right then, I had the power to give her life or death. How could I not choose life for her?

“I choose life then.”

She nodded. “As you wish.” She turned to leave.

“That willow’s some sort of wishing well thing, isn’t it?”

She paused. “The willow is a living creature existing in multiple dimensions alternately, sometimes simultaneously,
and manifesting itself in different ways. Something in your past must have conjured it in the form you encountered.”

I often thought of the willow tree at our old house, so it wasn’t hard to figure out why it had taken that form.

“Changing the world around it comes as naturally as breathing does to you. However, the consequences of its
actions often cannot be foreseen, even by me, and therefore I must warn you not to seek out the willow again.”

“I didn’t exactly seek it out the first time.”

The Guide gazed at me as if waiting for me to come to some great realization. Eventually, she turned away, a set of
legs materializing as she floated smoothly, silently down the steps and out of sight. I went to the railing and looked
down at the sea of darkness that was the parking lot, but the Guide was nowhere to be seen. Somewhere below
me a car engine roared to life, red taillights glowed, and pale headlights appeared at the opposite end of a long,
invisible vehicle. Moving slowly, the lights vanished before exiting the lot.

I returned to the apartment, and closed the door. Down the hall, Mom’s bedroom door creaked open. God, not
again. I thought that wasn’t supposed to happen anymore? A moment later, the bathroom door closed, the light
popped on, and I heard tinkling in the commode. I doubted essences or spirits or whatever needed to pee, so I
ventured a little closer. The toilet flushed, water ran in the sink, then shut off. The door opened, the bathroom light
illuminating the face of my living and breathing mother.

I wanted to hug her, but felt afraid. I mean, she’d been a rat-gnawed corpse moments earlier and I kinda didn’t
want to touch her just yet. Plus, I was still angry with her for dying, even though she hadn’t…sort of. Unaware of
my presence, she turned off the light and a moment later her bedroom door clicked shut in the darkness hopefully
for the last time that night.

First thing Saturday morning, I checked and found Mom in her bed, head tilted back, mouth wide open, eyes shut,
her chest rising and falling normally. I let her sleep while I carted Matthew and Emma down to the library to read or,
in Matthew’s case, get on the computer. Meanwhile, I sat in the little kids’ section thinking about the willow creature-

Despite the Guide’s warning, I couldn’t help but wonder what the willow could do for my family. If I dribbled enough
tears over its roots, maybe it could heal Mom of her addiction, and I’d return from the creek to find her working
somewhere steady and us maybe living in a decent house. Maybe, just maybe, Dad would have made it back alive
from Afghanistan, and he’d be home working on the car. Maybe he’d even ask me to help.

Matthew was old-enough he could keep tabs on Emma, so I told him I needed to run an errand and headed to the
creek bed. The Guide thought I’d sought out the willow, but I hadn’t. Now when I was actively seeking the thing, I
had no idea how to do it. I wished everything could be simple, less complicated. With that thought in my head, a
little ways down, a section of the creek brightened and the string-like, yellow-green branches of the willow swayed
over the creek.

I crept onto the soft, mossy grass, strolled over to the massive willow and sat down. With such high hopes, it was
hard to conjure thoughts that would bring tears. I pictured my mother, happy and innocent, an unbridled smile
consuming her entire face. Then I visualized her grotesque death mask and her wood-stiff body, and felt the
tragedy of knowing she would never again experience joy. My eyes brimmed with tears, and I turned on my
stomach to let them fall freely at the foot of the willow. Seems I could be a real cry-baby when it suited me.

Steam again rose from my teardrops, and dense clouds of mist surrounded me leaving only faint gray outlines of
the willow branches swaying like lost souls in a silent, foggy shroud. I rose and groped my way back to the creek,
invisible leaves caressing my face. The water seemed further away than I remembered, but I found my way
eventually and returned to the library.

I looked everywhere for my brother and sister, including the bathrooms. I asked every staff person I ran into, but
in the end Matthew and Emma were nowhere to be found. Concluding they’d left without me, I headed back to the

Walking through the parking lot, nothing seemed to have changed. But when I got to the third floor landing, I
found an unfamiliar red bicycle propped against the siding outside our apartment and several pairs of kids’ shoes I
did not recognize neatly arranged on our doormat. I got out my keys, but no matter how I tried they would not fit
in the locks. Finally, I knocked, calling out my brother and sister’s names.

The door opened, and a young Hispanic woman stood before me. She looked this way and that, cursed in Spanish,
then abruptly shut the door in my face like I wasn’t even there. In the brief time the door had been open though, I
looked past her and saw that nothing in the apartment looked the same. Different furniture, different wall
coverings…different kids. Clearly, my family did not live there anymore.

I eased down the concrete steps thinking my second trip to the willow had done the trick, and maybe we actually
did live in a nice house now. I shuffled across the parking lot, kicking loose rocks and wondering how I would find
my family. The air chilled, and the hearse, its tires barely, if at all, touching the dark asphalt, quietly floated up
beside me.

“Get in,” the Guide said. “There’s something you need to see.”

I got in, and started to buckle up.

“There’s really no need for that,” she deadpanned. “Traffic’s pretty light.”

Fog rolled in around the hearse, but quickly cleared leaving us parked in front of a house. It was a nice place, in a
decent neighborhood with manicured lawns, new cars, and kids playing in the yards. The screen door opened, and
Emma hopped out on the front porch. Matthew soon followed, a football in hand. Then out stepped Mom, happy
and healthy-looking. Emma spoke, and Mom smiled at her in delight. Mission accomplished, or so I thought until I
tried to get out of the hearse and found the handle wouldn’t budge.

“It won’t open, my dear.”

“Why not?”

“Because this scene is for display purposes only, not to touch.”

“But that’s my family. They’ll be wondering where I’m at.”

“No, dear. They won’t.”


She sighed. “This will be hard for you to accept, but as far as they know…you never existed.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I warned you the consequences of the willow’s actions are often unpredictable.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Wrongs have been righted, corrections made.”

I frowned, and shook my head.

“When you returned to the tree, what did you cry about?”

“My mother, her lost hopes and dreams.”

The Guide nodded. “Apparently, her hopes and dreams could not be realized with you in the world.”

“Wha, what do you mean?”

A broad-shouldered man, dark haired with a buzz cut stepped outside and into the yard. I recognized him from
pictures as my dad. He smiled at Matthew, and clapped his hands for the ball.

“Dad,” I said, my voice a whisper.

“My dear, your real father was a faceless, nameless individual your mother had the misfortune of encountering at a
high school party. You were conceived against her will.”

“No, that’s impossible. Don’t say that. That’s my dad there in the yard.”

“That man there in the yard met your mother when she was expecting, and was kind enough to marry her and act
in the role of father to you. He joined the military to provide a better life for all of you. Before you came along, he
dreamed of going to college. As with your mother, your arrival short-circuited those dreams.”

My face felt hot, my head swirled. I gazed out the window at the little family in the yard. Nightmarish guilt stabbed
me under the ribcage, while inside me a voice wailed in grief.

“Callie, the willow gave you what you cried for.”

“This can’t be happening.”

“I did warn you.”

“I’m here,” I declared, anger swelling. “How can I be here if I’d never been born?”

“The hard truth is, you’re nowhere.”

I stared at Dad putting his arm around my brother, the two of them heading back in the house.

“I’ll prove you wrong,” I said, jiggling the door handle. “Let me out of here.”

I finally got the door open and ran from the hearse across the sidewalk and into the yard just as a thick fog settled
over the yard reducing my family to gray outlines on a white background. I lost sight of them, but heard the screen
door slam shut.

“Wait,” I said, extending my arm. “Don’t go.”

I stepped onto the porch, yanked open the door, and entered the house where the smell of baked goods greeted
me full in the face.

“Mom?” I called. “I’m home.”

I could hear them talking and laughing as I moved from room-to-room. At one point I heard the voice of my little
sister, and opened a door on a bedroom decorated in purple and pink. A stuffed unicorn lay on the bed, but my
sister was nowhere to be found. In the kitchen, no baked goods sat cooling, and only empty chairs surrounded the
dining table. Pale light from window revealed faint outlines of a boy playing with a Lego spaceship, a little girl
coloring, a woman cooking, a broad-shouldered man reading. Mere ghosts, barely seen and unaware of my
presence no matter how loud I yelled and screamed.

~ * ~

I wandered through the fog for what seemed like hours, wishing I would wake up from this nightmare, wishing I’d
never found the wretched willow. Eventually, invisible ropey branches stroked my hair and soft leaves caressed my
face. Knocking them away, I ran toward the shadowy figure of the weeping willow and kicked its trunk over and

“You…let…me…wish…my…self…out of…existence.”

When my foot hurt and I was out of breath, I staggered backward, hands balled up, wiping my nose.

“If only I had an axe…” I screamed, then broke down sobbing.

The willow cried out from somewhere high up in its limbs, moaning like a winter wind, mournful and lonely. Strands
of yellow-green leaves spread across my shoulders.

“If that’s supposed to be an apology, it’s a damn pathetic one.”

I dropped to my knees in front of the tree, my eyes drowning in liquid sadness, the image of my family fading away
like a dream fresh and raw. I shut my eyes tight, squeezing all my tears out on the ground.

~ * ~

I sat alone in tall, rough weeds on the bank of the creek. How exactly did I get here? We’d taken a walk, I
remembered that much. But the rest was kinda fuzzy, like I’d awakened from a dream or something. I felt relieved
for some reason, though I didn’t know why. I mean, I still had a big problem to deal with back at the apartment.

I got up, brushed off my jeans, and waded into the creek. It was unseasonably warm and humid, and the cool
water felt good on my feet and ankles. I came to a bend in the creek when a rock skipped across the water in front
of me. I looked over and saw Matthew standing on the opposite shore.

“Hey,” he said.

Staring at him, I felt this really odd sense of joy. I don’t know why. I mean, I’d just seen him a few minutes ago. I
waded over, a strange anticipation growing, and before I knew it I’d grabbed him in a bear hug, completely freaking
him out.

“Stop! Why ‘ya being so weird?”

“Where’s Emma?”

“Present,” she said, wandering over. I pulled her into our family body mass.

Together, we walked along the sidewalk headed back to the gloomy apartment and the darkness at the end of the
hallway. We faced a struggle ahead, probably end up in foster care, but at least we’d be there for each other. I’d
been their parent for years, and I’d continue to do so as long as they needed me.

“Guys,” I said. “There’s something I need to tell you about Mom.”

On the street, a light blue blur slowed long enough for the driver to make eye contact. Dressed in a white tux,
cigarette dangling from one hand, she nodded once then vanished into the glaring late afternoon sun.
John VanAllan is a house-call-making child psychologist,
living in the Great State of Contradictions, that is,

I enjoy writing mostly realistic fiction at Panera or
Starbucks on my days off and any other time I can steal
from my loved ones.  When I'm not writing, I'm cooking,
learning to use some new piece of photographic
equipment, or learning Japanese, or doing something