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Alyce Anders
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In April 2016, Papadopoulos emailed Sam Clovis, attempting to set up a Trump-Putin meeting by saying, “the advantage of being in London is that these governments tend to speak a bit more openly in ‘neutral’ cities.” Later that month, Papadopoulos flew…
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Emma Gonzalez, the magnificent young woman who spoke so eloquently at yesterday's March, recently appeared in Teen Vogue. A photo of her tearing up a target appeared in the article. As the March for Life was underway, a digitally altered photo started…
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This past Saturday, I spent the entire day glued to my television watching The March for Our Lives. I witnessed magnificent young people, some as young as eleven years old, demanding that something be done to stop about the gun violence that threatens…
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Jamie’s Birthday

Despite all of her concerns, Jamie found herself completely comfortable in her surroundings. She particularly liked the way men smiled in acceptance at her as she entered the room, and how they would react if she responded in kind.

The shier ones would divert their eyes, and she liked that. It gave her a feeling of power over them, as if she was in control. But the ones who interpreted her smile as an invitation for something more than she was prepared to offer – they made her feel uncomfortable. She wasn’t prepared for that eventuality, and didn’t know how to react their reaction. She would have to work on that.
There was only one vacant seat at the bar, wedged tightly between a gay man and an obnoxious lout who was hitting on every woman who passed him by. At least that’s how Jamie perceived them.

The hitter was sitting sideways, with his back to the empty seat, eyeballing every young girl that approached the bar. Jamie tried to slide her slender frame unnoticed into the narrow space, but she brushed up against him ever so gently, causing him to spin around to greet his prey.

“Hey, sweetie,” he said menacingly, rotating his chair one-eighty. A lecherous smile dominated his face, one which Jamie found creepy. Feeling somewhat threatened, she diverted her eyes downward, and prayed that the bartender would come over quickly and rescue her.

“I have a really big penis,” the hitter continued, at least that’s what Jamie thought he said.

“Excuse me?” she responded with equal parts of shock, anger and fear in her voice.

“I said,” he yelled above the din of the crowd, “I really dig peanuts.”

Looking up, she noticed that he was scooping up a handful of dry, roasted nuts from a bowl on the bar, and tossing them down his gullet like a forced-fed goose. “But they sure make you thirsty,” he winked, washing them down with a tall-neck bottle of Budweiser beer.

The gay man on her right tapped Jamie on her shoulder, and asked if she would mind switching seats with him. She jumped at the chance, and the gay man sat down next to the hitter, reaching into the nut bowl on the bar.

“Would you mind sharing your peanuts with me?” the gay man asked, with just the right blend of innocence and seduction. Now it was time for the hitter to divert his eyes, and after a few moments of uncomfortable chatter, the gay man reached over and gently caressed the hitter’s thigh. Unable to cope with such an overt act of affection, the predator turned prey, and as all cowards and bullies are want to do, he got up from his seat and ran away.
The gay man turned and smile at the grateful woman, and smiled pleasantly. “Thank you,” she mouthed, and returned his smile.

“My name is Michael,” he said, almost angelically.

“I’m Jamie,” she offered without hesitation, before realizing that she had never before used that name to introduce herself. “Today is my birthday,” she added as an afterthought.

“Happy birthday, Jamie. Are you French?” he inquired.

She giggled and shook her head no. “Why do you ask?”

“J’aime means to love someone in French,” he explained. “J’aime Jamie means I love Jamie.”

She blushed at the thought of a man saying that he loved her, even if it was only said in casual conversation. It was the first time she had ever heard those words addressed to her.

“Are you a virgin?” he continued. Jamie was more than a little disturbed by the question. Did she misread him? How do you even answer a question like that? It was none of his business, and even if she did decide to respond, would she tell him the truth, that she had never loved anyone before. That would be even more embarrassing than admitting to being a slut.

“Pardon me?” she stuttered, addressing and avoiding the question at the same time.

Immediately, Michael realized his faux pas and apologized. “That’s what the regulars call the new girls, the first-timers to the bar.” Michael always hated how they objective the women at the bar, and felt ashamed that he had stooped to their level.

“I’m sorry…”

She gently patted his hand, letting him know it was alright. And in that midst of that tender silence, Michael blurted out, “Well, are you?”

Jamie broke out laughing, and Michael quickly followed suit. “To be completely honest…” she answered playfully, “…in one way, yes. But in another way, no!”

In this case, the truth was not quite so absolute, it could best be described as somewhat fungible, and what it really came down to was a matter of interpretation and semantics. While it was true that Jamie had never been to Secrets before, James had briefly scouted the bar a few days earlier, and decided it would be a suitable place to introduce the world to Jamie.
Eventually, the bartender made his way over to the far end of the bar where Jamie and Michael were sitting. She ordered a Coors Light for herself, and offered to buy her new friend a round.

“No, I’m fine,” he said, nursing the watery remains of his vodka and lime. “I have to get going soon, I’m just waiting for someone.”

“A boyfriend?” she asked impulsively, regretting it as soon as her words escaped her lips.

“My wife,” he chuckled.

Now it was her turn to apologize for her faux pas, but he assured her that it was OK. “For some reason, people always make that assumption about me.”
Michael said goodbye and left the bar before the bartender returned with Jamie’s drink. Being curious, Jamie scanned the lounge to see if she could catch a glimpse of Michael’s wife, and saw him speaking to three, attractive young ladies sitting at a table on the other side of the room. At one point, Jamie thought she saw him motion towards her, and wondered if one of those girls was his wife. But their conversation was brief, less than a minute, and Michael continued towards the front door.

Jamie lost sight of him in the crowd, and never did get to see his wife. She watched as the girls at the table resumed socializing with each other, and wished that she was sitting at the table with them, laughing and telling stories, and just being one of the girls.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the bartender, who returned with a hideous pink and blue cocktail, served in an oversized martini glass filled with crushed ice.

“What’s this?” she asked. “I ordered a beer.”

“You’re a lady” he observed, “and ladies don’t drink bottles of beer at a bar. Try it. It’s on the house.”

Jamie took a sip through the petite straw, and was immediately repelled by the overly sweet, sugary taste. “What’s in this?” she demanded. He told her it was a shot of Bacardi rum, mixed with Blue Curacao and grenadine.

“Delicious?” he inquired, making it sound more like a statement of fact than a question.

“Sweeeet,” she replied, which brought a smile to the bartender’s face. “I knew you’d like it!” he beamed, totally missing the irony in her answer.

Jamie was in a no win situation. She didn’t want to drink the sickeningly sweet concoction, but she didn’t want to appear ungrateful either. So she manned up, and drank it one small sip at a time, hoping that the bartender wasn’t expecting her to order another when she finished.

As she forced down the drink, she considered her options. She could order a beer like she wanted, but she didn’t want to hurt the bartender’s feelings. She could order another pink and blue drink, but she could barely stomach this one. Or she could leave the bar, but that meant she would get a comp drink without paying for anything. That would look cheap. Finally, she decided she would leave the bar area, but leave a generous tip for the bartender who gave her a drink she didn’t want.

“Sometimes, I think too much,” she thought to herself.

Oblivious to her surroundings, she didn’t notice that someone sat down in the chair that Michael had vacated a few minutes earlier. “I’m back,” the man said, and Jamie smiled, expecting to find Michael sitting next to her.

“I went outside for a smoke,” the hitter explained. “Maybe next time you’ll join me, we could have some fun.”

Jamie recoiled at the sight of the crude man, and felt trapped. He positioned his chair in a way that blocked her access to the lounge area, and leaned in to her personal space. “If you don’t smoke cigarettes, I have some other stuff. Maybe you’d like to smoke a joint?”

Jamie looked around for help. Michael was nowhere to be seen, and the bartender was at the far end of the busy bar. There was a beautiful blonde walking towards the bar, maybe she would distract him long enough to allow her to escape.

“There you are, Jamie,” the blonde said, as if they were old friends. “We’ve been looking all over for you.”

At first, Jamie was baffled, but she wasn’t going to argue with her new, best friend that she had never even met. “Come sit with us, at our table,” she invited, taking Jamie by the hand and leading her away from the lurking danger.

It was the table that Michael had briefly visited, and the blonde quickly brought Jamie up to speed. “Michael asked us to keep an eye out for you, just in case Chester came back to bother you.”

“Chester? Do you know him?” Jamie wondered.

“We all know him,” the blonde answered, noting that Chester wasn’t really his name. “He’s always hitting on the new girls.”

“Is he dangerous?”

The blonde thought for a moment, then shook her head unconvincingly. “I don’t think so, but Michael seems to think that he might be involved in an incident that happened…”

She stopped in mid-sentence; she didn’t want to unduly alarm Jamie. “It’s just Michael looking out for us,” she explained, and made a point that there was no real evidence implicating Chester of any wrongdoings. “Sometimes, Michael gets these feelings…”

“And he’s usually right,” Jamie finished her thought.

Jamie was invited to join the girls at the table, and although she was in a totally new environment, with people she never before met, she immediately felt at home. Better, in the sense that this was a chance for her to reinvent herself, and not have to live up to the expectations of those who knew and once defined her. She was convinced that choosing to spend her birthday away from the familiar, neighborhood haunts was the correct thing to do.

As soon as Jamie took her place at the table, the bartender came over carrying the pink and blue drink that she had left at the bar. “You forgot your drink,” he scolded, and then rushed back to the busy bar.

When the other girls saw the concoction, they immediately burst into simultaneous laughter. “Oh, my God!” one girl exclaimed. “You didn’t actually order that, did you?”

“No, I ordered a beer,” she cried out, joining in the laughter.

“But ladies don’t drink beer,” another mocked, mimicking the bartender’s baritone voice.

“I wouldn’t know,” Jamie proclaimed. “I’m not really a lady!”

They laughed so hard that everyone around them felt compelled to gawk at the four, young ladies who were making such a commotion.

Jamie fit right in; she was accepting and accepted, judged solely on who she was and not how others defined her. No longer did she feel an outsider, nor did she feel the need to blend in and hide her existence in an invisible cloak of anonymity. She had shed her skin, and proclaimed herself to the world.
“I feel like Buffalo wings,” one of the girls cried out, beckoning the waitress with a wave of her bony wrist. “Anyone wanna split an order?”

Jamie asked if they were boneless, observing that the ones on the bone were too messy, and that she didn’t like picking them up with her fingers. The other girls teased her for being such a sissy, to which Jamie replied, “Am not!” with an exaggerated flick of the wrist.

The girls decided to order the large tray, twenty in all, so that they all share the hot and spicy appetizers. When they arrived at the table, the girl who originally suggested the wings stood up and presented the tray to Jamie.

“Wings for m’lady?” she offered, with a clumsily executed curtsy. Having consumed several drinks, she momentarily lost her balance, and several of the saucy wings slid off the tray into Jamie’s lap.

Jamie quickly jumped to her feet, revealing a red stain on her brand new, white pants. The girl put down the tray, and picked up a linen napkin which she dipped in a glass of ice water.

The third girl, the one they called Raven because of her jet-black hair, quipped, “Didn’t your mother teach you not to wear white during that time of the month?” She giggled, but no one else found her remark amusing.

When the girl approached Jamie to rub the stain, Jamie whispered, “Not here. Not in front of everybody.” The blonde suggested they go to the ladies room, which was on the far side of the lounge. Jamie walked sandwiched between her friends, successfully obstructing everyone’s view of the stain.

Time was of the essence, every second the stain set in to the fabric would make it harder to remove. One girl had a Tide-to-Go in her clutch for emergencies like this, but the others felt that the ice water brought from the table would work better.

Jamie stood with her back to the wall as the others furiously rubbed their wet, icy cold napkins on the stain. Jamie became aroused by the rubbing, and could not help but close her eyes and drift off to another place. She was quickly brought back to reality when one of the other girls screeched, “Oh, my God!”

Jamie looked down, and saw the tiny bulge in her tight, form-fitting pants; she had an erection. Her face blushed crimson, matching the stain on her white pants.

The girl who ordered the chicken wings stood frozen in situ, while Raven smiled impishly and said, “Let me see that!” The blonde, on the other hand, didn’t seem to pay it any mind; she just continued trying to rub the stain away.

“I have to go,” Jamie meekly protested, but she was trapped by the three girls.

“I’m almost done,” the blonde noted, although the remnants of the stain had set into the fabric, and no amount of further rubbing would have made any difference. Raven tried several times to playfully pull down her white pants, but Jamie fought valiantly to keep hidden what had already been revealed.

All the rubbing and all the attention proved too much for Jamie, who suddenly gave it up in an uncontrollable moment of embarrassing ecstasy. Raven laughed wickedly, as the blonde girl recoiled in horror. The third girl stood in disbelief, her mouth agape in a manner that suggested a crimson heart.
“I have to go,” she repeated, this time in a whisper that no one heard.
The shock of discovery allowed Jamie the opportunity to escape the ladies room, but she knew she would never escape the experience. But for the moment, all she wanted to do was disappear, and leave the club that she found so welcoming just moments before.

She was relieved to find an exit door in the back by the bathrooms; she felt far too ashamed to cross the crowded club to exit the front door. Wasting little time, she fixed herself up as best she could before opening the door to the rear of the club, returning to the world of faceless anonymity.

The smell of stale smoke and urine permeated the air, augmented by the musky smell of sex, masked by the odious aroma of rotting food emanating from the dark, green dumpsters on the far side of the lot. But the strident blend of offensive aromas went unnoticed by Jamie, who could only detect the lingering smell of unwanted discovery and humiliation oozing from her pores.

She was startled to hear a disembodied voice say, “You looking for someone, Doll?” The voice was vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t place it until she saw him emerge from the shadow. “I knew you couldn’t resist,” the obnoxious man from the bar boasted.

She said nothing, but instinctively tried to run around him like a tailback attempting to escape the line of scrimmage. He darted quickly to the left, proving to be more agile than his blubbery body suggested. He grabbed her just below her shoulders, flung her backwards against the wall of the Club, and used the bulk of his body to pin her against the building. All she could do to fight him off was bob and weave her head in a failing effort to avoid his slobbering kisses.

He could smell her fear, and it turned him on. It was different than before, more intense, more primal. It was the scent of danger. She was helpless; she was somebody’s prey.

Her body stiffened as his hand ran up her thigh. She had to do something, for now her discovery could result in violence or even death.

“Not that,” she said. “Not tonight.”

She motioned with her head as best as she could, a subtle glance downward towards her groin. His eyes followed hers, and he immediately noticed the red, hot-sauce stain on her pants.

“Didn’t your mother teach you never wear white during that time of the month?” he belittled her. “You got me all worked up…”

Jamie sensed his anger and frustration swell within. “There are other things I could do,” she offered, breaking free as he momentarily loosened his grip.

Fully aware of the danger she faced, Jamie unzipped his fly, and despite her revulsion, she dropped to her knees and accepted his vile appendage in her mouth. She did what had in order to survive. And it was in that moment of rebirth and baptism that James vanished forever, allowing Jamie to take complete control of her life.

#SaturdayScenes #shortstories
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Please check out my blog entry for Halloween:

"Naturally, you told everyone it was just a costume, but you knew that was a lie. You could get away with it the first year, and maybe the second, but suspicions were aroused after a decade of donning drag every October 31st."

https://alyce.blog/2017/10/27/dressing-up-for-halloween/
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An article about me, written by me...
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From our earliest moments of consciousness, we are taught to repress ourselves rather than to express ourselves.

Please check out my latest article on my new blog.

https://alyceanders.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/its-official-im-intersex/
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We were not rich, but we acted as though we members of a higher caste. Neither my mother or father graduated high school, but they adopted the refined vernacular of those with a college education. The use of street slang was discouraged, and any vulgarity was strictly forbidden in the house. 

Despite not having a high school diploma, my father was able to secure a middle management position on the Brooklyn waterfront, a job that usually required at least that level of education. He was a hard worker, and demonstrated a natural intelligence that impressed his bosses. His ability to solve problems, along with the refined manner he presented, made his rise through the ranks inevitable.
He didn’t make a lot of money, but he made enough. The illusion that enough was more was created by my mother, who turned frugality into an art form. 

The first rule was no credit cards. She understood that the whole idea of credit was to trick you into buying something you couldn’t afford. If you didn’t have the cash, you didn’t buy it. The only exceptions were two department store charge cards, Macy’s and the rival Abraham and Strauss. These were used only for convenience, usually around the holidays, so she wouldn’t have to carry a lot of cash in her pocketbook while shopping downtown. She always paid the balance in full, as soon as it arrived in the mail to avoid any finance charge.

We never had a lot of anything, but what we had was always top quality. I would get toys and books only on special occasions. Christmas was one big toy, and several smaller gifts like books, model ships, board games, and of course, clothes. Easter was clothes and candy, and my birthday was one gift, usually sports related. 

Every once and awhile, we’d get an unexpected treat. Mom would save enough S&H Green Stamps to qualify for a free item from the catalogue, and if there wasn’t anything she needed for the house, she would ask me if there something I wanted. One time, I chose a G.I. Joe action figure, but she told me that boys don’t play with dolls. I tried my best to explain that it wasn’t a doll, but she just shook her head and said, “I don’t think so.” In Mom-speak, that meant no, so I settled for a catcher’s mitt instead.

Sometimes Dad would surprise us with things he would bring home from the docks. If a crate broke open on a freighter, the inspector would reject it. Rather than spend the money to haul it back to its place of origin, it would often be written off as a loss, and discarded. As pier supervisor, my father would check to see if anything was salvageable, and then separate it from the flotsam and jetsam. He was not a greedy man by nature, so he would only take what he thought he could use, and leave the rest for the men to divvy up. The best thing he ever got was a miniaturized transistor radio from Japan that I carried on my person at all times.

We did not spend a lot on entertainment, we made do with a 19” black and white television and a portable record player. We only had about six or seven albums in our catalogue, and few singles, along with a record folder with some old, scratchy jazz 78s that my father collected throughout the years. My sister had exactly one 45, the Penguin’s Earth Angel. Our parents wouldn’t allow “Rock and Roll” in the house, so my sister kept it hidden and only played it when they weren’t around.

Going to the movies was a rarity, and dining out was reserved for special occasions. The only fast food we ate was an occasional pizza on a Friday, maybe once every four or five weeks on average. On the first warm Saturday of the year, we would make the twenty minute car ride to Coney Island for a hot dog at Nathan’s. Going to a restaurant was a social event, and my mother couldn’t justify spending money on a cheap, greasy hamburger when she could make a better one at home for a fraction of the price.

The money she didn’t spend went directly into the bank. A set amount was dedicated to a Christmas club, and whatever else remained was deposited into a savings account which was almost never touched. If an emergency did arise, Mom would tighten her already tight budget until the account was made whole. Smaller emergencies were handled by the cash hidden in an envelope under the unmentionables in her lingerie drawer, usually a crisp, new twenty dollar bill. Don’t ask me how I knew about that!

Clothing was an obsession in our family. My mother insisted that we always present ourselves according to our station; casual clothing like blue jeans, sneakers and tee-shirts were the uniform of the lower class, people who did manual labor. I wanted a pair of jeans and some tee-shirts like the other boys, but there was no convincing her. When I complained that it was difficult playing baseball in chinos and an oxford shirt, she would always counter my argument by saying, “You are what you wear.”

She never left the house without putting on her makeup, spraying her blue-gray hair with lacquer to keep it perfectly in place, and wearing a dress with matching shoes and purse. Every detail was meticulously thought out, even to the point that the color of her nails was exactly the same as her lipstick.

My father was equally fastidious about his appearance. His suits were always pressed, shirts ironed, shoes polished to a high gloss, mirror-like shine. No suit was complete without a matching vest; he did not find it proper business etiquette to be seen around the office in his shirt-sleeves, even though my mother always made sure that his button-down Van Heusen dress shirts were always properly ironed and wrinkle-free.

His ties were always tied with a perfectly formed Windsor knot, which he could make blindfolded in a matter of seconds, if for some reason such a need would arise. And no ensemble was complete without a matching fedora, cockily cocked to one side of his head.

Every Christmas, we would buy him a Swank cufflink set, the ones that come in the classy, blue boxes with the gold trim. The inside of the box was satin lined, with “Men Prefer Swank” written in elegant script. That was traditionally my gift to him, and when I was old enough, Mom allowed me pick out the style from the display case in Macy’s. Since he worked on the piers, any set with ships on them was a logical choice. The year we bought a new, used car, I chose cufflinks with a stately sedan on them. And any sports motif was a safe bet, especially baseball or golf. 

Every year, he would tell me that the new set were his favorites, and would wear them every day for the next few weeks before relegating them to the rotation. That was the only instance that he would wear the same ones for more than one day at a time; I think he wanted people to know that he had more than one or two pairs to choose from. Even though they were not very expensive, about $3.50 at the time, they were somewhat of a status symbol to him.

Telling me that each new set was his favorite was just the way my father lovingly showed his affection towards me. He knew just how much a child needs and craves acceptance from his parents. But as I matured, I figured out his gambit, and realized that his favorite set was the one with his name on it. Those were the cufflinks he wore on special occasions, and special occasions only. But it didn’t matter, in fact, it made me appreciate his sweet lies all the more. He wasn’t saying “I love these cufflinks.” He was actually saying, “I love you.”

I never saw my father wear casual clothes. The only difference in his home attire is that he would take off his suit jacket, vest and tie, and if it was a warm day, he might undo his collar and roll up his shirt sleeves. Even his beach attire was somewhat formal, typically consisting of a pastel colored, short-sleeve dress shirt tucked in to his khaki pants, and a pair of slip-on, canvas boat shoes. He never wore short pants, but his modest, knee-length swim trunks did look more like Bermuda shorts than a bathing suit.

He always stressed the importance of being well dressed and properly groomed. “Clothes make the man,” he would always tell me.
My parents spoke cliché fluently.
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December 3, 1956 – 3:15 pm

My first real memory is of an event that happened late on a Monday afternoon in 1956. True, I have earlier memories, but they’re so very much different than this. I remember my oldest sister’s wedding, how beautiful she was in her white gown, how she hugged me so lovingly…

But the truth is, I was only three years old, and deemed too young to attend the wedding or the reception. But the photographer did take a picture of my sister hugging me before she left for the church, and that’s what I really remember. Those memories are actually second-hand memories, forged from photographs and the recollections from the people who actually participated in the event. You hear their stories told so many times throughout the years, that you begin to believe that you were the one who was actually there.

Sixty years later, the events of that Monday are as vivid as the moment they unfolded on that day. I can’t remember what I ate for dinner last week, but I can recall every feeling, every emotion, every tear that ran down my mother’s cheek as she listened to the radio reports, wondering if she would ever see her husband, my father, again.

I had just arrived home from school when the reports first started coming in about a fire on the Luckenbach loading dock, not far from the pier where my father worked. Sparks from an oxyacetylene torch set a mountain of burlap bags containing 26,000 pounds of scrap foam rubber on fire. Smoke and flames shot up nearly 500 feet into the afternoon sky, and dockworkers valiantly rushed to keep the fire from spreading. However, their hand-held extinguishers proved inadequate to fight the inferno, and they were forced to retreat from the unbearable heat.

Firefighters arrived quickly on the scene, but had little success in containing the rapidly advancing fire. The dock was littered with scraps of highly flammable foam rubber, which acted like a fuse, leading the flames out towards 35th Street. Neither the firemen nor the dockworkers were aware that nearly 37,000 pounds of explosive Primacord was stored nearby.

At 3:41, an explosion rocked the pier, which could be heard as far as 35 miles from the blast site. Thousands of windows were shattered within a mile radius, while a large fragments of steel from the pier’s roof landed a half mile away at the Erie Basin. Buildings a quarter mile away suffered serious, structural damage, and the shock of the blast could be felt two miles away in downtown Manhattan.

Brooklyn resembled a war zone, and reliable information was hard to come by. Television was still in its infancy, and ill-equipped to adequately cover the breaking news with their bulky equipment. Reporters were barricaded from the area, and had to rely upon interviews with people outside the perimeter whose only knowledge was from what they had heard from others.

Yes, there were dead, that was for certain. But no one could fix a number on those departed souls. We were simply told to expect the worst.

Landline telephones went down, making outside communication impossible in this pre-cellular environment. Electrical power was cut off to most of the area, and dockworkers were cut off from the outside world by a wall of fire, with no means to contact their loved ones.

I asked if Daddy was going to be alright; my mother mournfully whispered, “I don’t know. Pray for him.”

And with the faith of a child, I dropped to my knees and prayed the way the nuns taught me to pray in school. “Our father, who art in Heaven…”

We listened to the radio and watched the scant coverage on television, all the while hoping that my father would come through the door at 6:15 like he always would. When he didn’t, my Mom said, “We have to eat,” and prepared a bowl of Muller’s elbow macaroni doused in Campbell’s tomato soup. It was a meal she sometimes served for lunch, or on a Friday if the fish man didn’t have fresh fillet of sole available. But on this day, it was a matter of indifference; she just didn’t have the heart to prepare a proper meal.

Seven o’clock came and went, and there was still no word. My mother, who always preached the gospel of perfect posture, slumped further into her chair with each passing, agonizing moment, reminding me of a deflating balloon the day after a child’s birthday party.

Eight o’clock came, and there was still no real news. Since this was my bedtime, I fully expected my mother to instruct me to brush my teeth and put on my pajamas, the blue flannel one with the cowboys. Bedtime was always strictly enforced, not even the Pope could grant dispensation, but on this evening, she made no effort to enforce the rule of law. She sat wilting in that chair, the one my father usually sat in, her attention focused on the parade of witnesses on the news, each one relating their personal experiences with flying debris and broken glass.

But no one could tell her what she needed to know.

Around half past eight, we heard the front door open, which caused my mother to sit straight up at attention. Perhaps it was just the Erwins, our elderly landlords who lived on the first floor, but when we heard the footsteps coming up the old, creaky, wooden stairs, I cried out, “It’s Daddy!”

Mom’s face brightened for just a fleeting moment, followed almost immediately by a look of grave concern. I couldn’t comprehend her sudden apprehension at the time, but now that I think back about it, I realize that she might have feared the unwanted arrival of dire news, news that she anxiously awaited all evening, but news that was now unwelcome in our home.

The hinges squeaked as the door to our apartment torturously swung open, almost as if it occurred in slow motion. And there, on the other side of that door, stood my father, his face covered in black soot, except for a white triangle from his cheekbones to the point of his chin.

He mouthed the words, “I’m home,” but no sound could emerge from his dry, irritated, parched throat. My mother leapt from her chair, and hugged him in a display of affection that I had never before witnessed, and have not witnessed since.

She did not mind the burnt ash that transferred from his clothing to her white blouse, nor did she seem to notice the acrid odor of smoke that emanated from him. Everything was perfect.
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