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Bedtime battles

Ann MorrowThe challenge of getting the kids to bed is comparable to putting a jigsaw puzzle together. With your tongue. It takes practice, patience and lots of drinks of water along the way.

There’s something in a child’s brain that releases endorphins upon hearing the word “Bedtime.” They would rather swing from the curtain rod and finger paint with the toothpaste than put on their pajamas and brush their teeth.

Every night, around 8, I announce that it’s time to get ready for bed. Which loosely translated, means “Let the whining begin.” It starts with, “Aww, Mom. Just 10 more minutes.” And for the third night in a row, I give in. But just this once. At 8:10, the announcement is made again, and the five-year-old will insist that she can’t sleep without a bedtime story. I suggest Goodnight Moon, but the kids insist on something more along the lines of Gone with the Wind. They settled for Snow White, but only if I did my impression of the wicked queen. Even after I declare “The End” and close the book, everyone is wide-awake. Everyone, but me. I’m red-eyed and grumpy and can do the wicked queen’s voice without even trying.

An hour later, a variety of unidentified sounds drifted from my sons’ room, followed by a chorus of giggles and snorts. As I stomped down the hall to investigate, I heard them diving into their beds, laughing uncontrollably. I did an about face and walked back to the living room. I’ve been playing the parenting game long enough to know that that if a 10-year-old boy thinks it’s funny, I don’t want to know about it.

Within 20 minutes, the kids will be in and out of bed at least 10 times, the cat will end up wearing doll clothes and at 9:45 a child will wander into the living room to announce, “My teacher wants me to bring cupcakes for our bake sale tomorrow.” I rolled my eyes and looked toward heaven. My son knew I wasn’t thanking God for the Wal-Mart bakery, and he sprinted from the room.

Just when I thought peace had settled over my home for the night, the youngest shouted, “Mommy, I’m thirsty. I need a drink of water.”

“No drinks at bedtime,” I shouted back.

“My throat is tickly and I need a drink real bad. Pleeeease!” After five minutes of whining, her siblings tired of the noise and a drink was delivered — via the big sister.

Finally. The house was quiet, and I collapsed into a chair with a book. I hoped to make it to the end of chapter one before nodding off. Halfway into page six, I was interrupted by a small voice. “Mommy? I think you should come downstairs and yell at Sissy.”

“Why would I yell at her? She’s asleep.”

“But she’s the one who gave me a drink after you said no. So it’s all her fault that I peed in my bed.”

By the time the sheets came out of the dryer, it was midnight and Betsy Wetsy was asleep on the couch. The dog was in my chair, surrounded by the chewed remains of my book. I was too tired to read, anyway, so I shut off the light and shuffled down the hall to put myself to bed.

As I drifted off, I felt a tickle in my throat. I opened my eyes and thought to myself, “I’m thirsty and I need a drink of water.”

— Ann Morrow

Ann Morrow is a writer and humorist from South Dakota. She has four children and is legal guardian to three dogs, two cats and one husband. Her work has appeared in five Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

One for the aged

Jerry ZezimaNow that I have reached 62, the age at which geezers such as yours truly are eligible to take Social Security payments, I have made an important discovery.

No, it’s not where I put my glasses, because I don’t wear them, though I do use glasses to drink red wine, which I consider over-the-counter heart medicine.

My discovery is that I am now being carded again. But not when I buy wine, which is not surprising since I am almost three times as old as the minimum drinking age of 21. If you invert those numbers, however, you will get my maturity level.

I am being carded for practically everything else because I am — according to the U.S. government, whose taxes often tax my heart, which is where red wine comes in handy — a senior citizen.

A dozen years ago, I became eligible to join AARP, which stands for the American Association of Retired Persons, even though I can only now start getting retirement benefits but can’t get full payments until I am 66.

At the rate I am being taxed, unfortunately, I will be working posthumously.

Still, I have been eligible for senior-citizen discounts since I was 55 (inverting those numbers does no good) and have often been given the benefit of lower prices without being carded, which makes me wonder if I look like a geezer to younger people, which these days is just about everybody else.

Last year, for example, I went to the aquarium with my daughter, my son-in-law and my granddaughter. After handing the young (of course) person at the register my debit card to cover the $22 charge, my daughter said, “You should have asked for a senior-citizen discount.”

The young (of course) person at the register looked up at me and said, “I already gave it to you.”

“Is it that obvious?” I asked.

She smiled and handed me a receipt for $20.

I guess it was a fair trade-off.

What I don’t understand, in addition to everything else, is how the U.S. government calculates who is eligible for what, at what age they have to be to get whatever it is they are eligible for, and — this is the most important part — if the people making these decisions were drunk when they did so.

Take half-years. They are very important to toddlers, who don’t say they are 3, the age my granddaughter will turn next month. Instead, they insist they are “thwee and a half.”

This stops at approximately age 5 and doesn’t become important again until that period of time halfway between ages 59 and 60, at which point, according to a bunch of government employees who obviously had been out on a three-day bender, you have to be 59 1/2 to take penalty-free withdrawals from any of your retirement accounts, even though you can’t retire until you are 62, 66 or somewhere in between. I am reasonably certain, however, that you cannot be dead, in which case you have to pay another tax.

Another important half-year is 70 1/2, when you’re required to begin taking money from your tax-advantaged retirement accounts, with the exception of a Roth IRA or your 401(k), if you’re still working.

Since my name isn’t Roth, there isn’t enough money in my 401(k) for me to live on for more than the equivalent of one baseball season, there is no account on earth in which taxes are an advantage, and I am still working, though not to the satisfaction of my employer, I guess this won’t do me much good.

I would jump off a bridge, but first, of course, I’d have to pay a toll.

In fact, this whole thing is taking a toll on me. The only solution is to use the not-entirely-feeble excuse that I am old and ought to be forgiven for not understanding what the hell all these rules and regulations mean.

In the meantime, I think I’ll have a glass of wine.

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows Best, Leave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is currently president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

The car was “intelligent”
and I wasn’t, darn it!

Colleen_LandryI read somewhere that when a man goes car shopping he should bring along his wife because she will ask about important details such as fuel economy, color and that lipstick mirror thingy. No kidding. My husband and I were at a car dealership recently and while he lovingly caressed the high-tech gadgets, I asked some pretty hard-hitting questions: How much does it cost to fill it? Does it come in mauve? As I’m getting into it, do these pants make my butt look big?

We bought our last car 13 years ago and it was fully loaded: It had roll-down windows, a cassette player and a steering wheel. Things sure have changed. The model we were considering had a park-assist camera, push-button start and landing gear. The dash looked like a Lite Brite game; the car was “intelligent” and I wasn’t, darn it! I suddenly longed for the simplicity of our weathered 2003 Corolla. My husband sensed my trepidation and said, “Sit down and play around with it.”

I slid into the driver’s seat and accidentally activated the heated, vibrating seats. Corolla who? My husband, meanwhile, was googly-eyed over the Voice-Activated Navigation system. “Check this out, honey,” he said. “You can ask it questions! Try it.” I gave it a shot and spoke into the air: “Do these pants make me look fat?” The nasally android replied, “Sorry. I didn’t understand the question. Please say something else.” I tried again, “Should I lose weight?” She countered, “Did you say you want to go to Kuwait?” Duh. Polite enough, but I certainly wouldn’t call it “intelligent.”

After the nine-hour tutorial during which I learned how to start the car, program my favorite radio station and flawlessly apply eye liner using the lipstick mirror thingy, it was time for a test drive. I suggested we take it down to the Hamptons for the weekend, but the saleswoman got all huffy so we went downtown instead. During lunch hour traffic, my gadget-crazed husband insisted I parallel park to test the park-assist camera. Apparently, the shrill, annoying beeping and flashing red light indicated I was ‘this close’ to taking out a fire hydrant. Now you tell me!

We arrived back at the dealership with nary a scratch and more importantly, my smoky cat-eye was unsmudged. We bought the car, obviously, because my husband couldn’t stop caressing the gadgets while proclaiming nothing had ever made him this happy. Whatever.

I admit it. I’ve forgotten all about that horse and buggy Corolla. I’ll have you know, I can now back into a parking spot, apply eye liner while driving and best of all: I’m losing weight from those vibrating seats. Who’s intelligent now?

— Colleen Landry

Colleen Landry has been writing since she was a beautiful and precocious child weaving tales of magic mushrooms turtles and princesses. Now a fully grown (ish) adult, her writing offers very little magic but lots of laughs. Colleen thinks laughing at others life’s stages is healing and infectious.  She has been published in Canadian Living magazine and the Globe and Mail, as well as various local newspapers. Colleen also teaches high school writing in an online environment where discipline is as simple as ‘Ctrl’ ‘Alt’ ‘Delete.’  She is married and has two teenage sons who eat even while asleep. Follow her on Twitter @LandryColleen and enjoy her blog, One Hot Flashin’ Mama.

I can’t help it;
I love my cats too much

I consider myself a forceful woman — not given to many crutches.

Allia Zobel NolanNo nightlight keeps vigil while I sleep; spiders don’t make me squeamish; and I know where the oil goes in my car. Still, I do have this one overwhelming Achilles heel (and it’s not from my Christian Louboutin’s). It’s because of my cats. I love them too much.

So, okay, I admit it: I’m cat codependent. It’s an addiction I’ve struggled with all my life. But happily, these days, I’m not alone. Women (and men) everywhere have caught on to what I’ve known for years. There’s no getting “enough” of cats, which is why an ailurophile like myself will spend hours on Facebook and YouTube pawing over cat videos. That is, when I’m not trolling the net for unusual cat paraphernalia. Just say “Cat,” and I’m online to buy “it,” whatever “it” is — clothing, jewelry, a tattoo and a coupon for a cat café. Why, I’m even contemplating plastic surgery to look more like my cat.

It wasn’t always like this.  In the days before Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub, most people thought I was a joke, the image of the infamous cat lady gone over the edge.

“Did you notice her upper lip?” one of my business associates cackled one day, “It looks like she’s sprouting whiskers.”

“Yeah, and her briefcase stinks of salmon” another answered. “It’s horribly unprofessional.”

“What about those earrings?” yet another associate chimed in. “She makes them from her cats’ fur. Disgusting. She needs an intervention,” the gossip continued, “and fast.”

Yeah, but what did those naysayers know? Back then, the general populace thought a cat was, well, just a cat. They had no idea. It’s only now that cats are getting the respect they deserve. It’s only recently that people have come to see them as the loyal, loving, entertaining — not to mention gloriously regal and handsome — creatures they are. It’s only today that the cat reclaims the honored place she had back when pharaohs wore snakes on their heads and people rode to work on chariots.

And talk about being in synch! I’ve never met any human that could ever match my cats. Oh, my husband comes close. But even he has his limitations. In all the years I’ve known him, he’s never once run down the stairs and rubbed up against my legs the minute I walk in from shopping. Then, too, when I’m in the tub, he doesn’t sit quietly alongside, grooming himself. And if I fall asleep on the couch after a hard day’s work, you won’t catch him perched on my stomach, purring and kneading me, like they do. Oh sure, he has his attributes. It’s just that my cats are infinitely more “simpatico.”

Even in this era of the cat, though, some people still snicker that I go overboard. They don’t realize I’m in recovery, and things take time. However, I am getting better. Litter by litter. Why only last week, I bought scoopable on sale instead of the designer brand I’ve imported in the past. I saved two bucks, but I felt like a cad. True to their self-sacrificing nature, the little darlings took it on the chin. They only did their business twice on the rug.

Truth is, the recession hit us all hard.  So I have had to cut back in other ways, too. And it almost broke my heart. It isn’t easy explaining to fur children who’re used to having the air-conditioning and HDTV on all day that they have to sweat and look out the window. And when Sineady Cat, the Fraidy Cat, whined for an iPad so she could play “Whack the Mousie,” I couldn’t  refuse. In the end, I took a second job.

But I no longer open up tin after tin of cat food to find one they like. I’ve set a limit of nine. And I’ve canceled the cats’ animal enrichment classes with Ulma. They were catty about this for a while.  Until I explained it’s just so we can pay off the second mortgage we took for the addition to their all-weather screened-in catio, and to pay for the robo vacuums they play bumper cars on.

Besides, I have put my foot down.  No cats are eating from our plates anymore. I bought them their own bone china. And I don’t jump up each time they want to leave the room. All the doors now have cat flaps.

So I’m making some progress. And the fact is, with so many other women (and men) coming out of the box (bag) about their cat codependency these days, I feel much better. I don’t feel so alone…so ostracized. (Wait, do you hear a “meow?”)

Meantime,  I’ll just finish massaging Nolan Nolan’s  temples — he gets those awful sinus headaches when he stays up late. Then, maybe I’ll surprise the kitties with a real treat. I mean how hard can it be to give a cat a French manicure?

— Allia Zobel Nolan

Allia Zobel Nolan is the author of nine cat humor books, including Cat Confessions: A Kitty-Come-Clean Tell All Book and her latest, Women Who Still Love Cats Too Much, with illustrations by “Sylvia” Cartoonist, Nicole Hollander.

Confessions of a former hoarder

EstellefinalI used to be a hoarder.

And by hoarder I mean someone who would surround herself with paper products. And by paper products I mean newspapers and magazines. And by magazines I mean any that featured cover lines like, “200 Fashion Tips for the Fashion Foolish,” “101 Great Canapes” or “The Sexless Marriage: You Decide.” All of which I was always this close to using in my writing and research as a journalist and magazine editor, which ultimately ended up being used. Not. At. All.

As a “perk” of my job, along with the seasonal makeup trend items from Chanel and Givenchy, I also received enormous comp piles of crap (thank you not-to-be-named manufacturer for the disposable “flushing” device, and cheers to the distributor who deemed me worthy of the health drinks made from the rarest of berries found in the rain forests of Costa Rica).

One time a guy I was dating came over for the first time to my meticulously clean home, and by clean I mean I tossed everything into my closet, even my dirty laundry that hadn’t been touched washed in months weeks days. As we were leaving to go out to dinner, I looked for my keys, and to my horror realized that I must have tossed them in the closet right when I was tossing everything else I own in there.

So, I opened the closet door and everything came tumbling out, bras, panties, blouses, socks, random ripped-out newspaper clippings, unopened boxes (I owe my doormen and the UPS man from 2002 many apologies — the packages WERE delivered), books and, of course, lots and lots of magazines.

Unperturbed I jumped into the pile, with the enthusiasm of a toddler throwing herself into a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, shifted around a few bras, packages, papers and magazines, and triumphantly held up the keys like I had won the lottery, shouting “I found them.” He looked at me as if I were holding up Lady Gaga from 2010’s Meat Dress and I knew he found me hot (or was it disgusting)? Or both. Because isn’t a Meat Dress both hot and disgusting?

Well, it took another boyfriend, he of the dour disposition coupled with the abilities of Mr. Fix It to avail me of my habit. As one day he forlornly watched me go through my piles of crap, his only sullen comment was, “Estelle, do you think you’d miss that?” in the tone of Henry Higgins trying to rein in an unruly Eliza Doolittle. My overly defensive response: “Yes, this 1995 Better Home and Gardens recipe for beef lasagna might be useful some day.”

Here is the gist of our conversation:

Him: You don’t cook, nor do you write about cooking, or edit a cooking magazine.
Me: I might one day.
Him: You never eat pasta.
Me: I might one day.
Him: Get rid of it.
Me: Um, ok.

And so it went.

Finally, my apartment was clean, about one year before I met my husband in 2003. And today, despite the presence of a very disorganized six-year-old, my home is clutter free.

And my subscriptions to magazines? They’ve all been cancelled. And by cancelled, I mean I read them, but at the manicure place. In fact I’m reading one now. And Lady Gaga is on the cover. But not in a Meat Dress. That would be messy.

— Estelle Erasmus

Estelle Erasmus is an award-winning journalist, writing coach, three-time BlogHer Voice of the Year award winner and former magazine editor. She writes the Practice in Parenting column for Find her writing on Salon, The Washington Post, Your Teen, Newsweek, Redbook and more. Follow her on twitter at @EstelleSErasmus and on Facebook. She shares publishing tips and tricks on her blog Musings on Motherhood & Midlife.

A mom’s prayer

Anjana AvinashThere are moments in life when we have no other recourse but prayer. I find this true especially in the case of moms.

Recently my 15-year-old daughter had exams while my 11-year-old was happily in a world sans examinations. I was reduced to an emotional wreck by their antics during this period, and this is the prayer that came straight from my heart:

 Dear Lord, please help me to hang on to what little shreds of sanity I’ve managed to retain in this very trying phase of life. Help me not to surrender to my baser instincts and howl like a banshee when I have a dire situation in hand, like the combination of a slightly stressed out teen, an impish 11-year-old in a world of her own and a spouse with mercurial mood shifts. Please cool my temper when I feel like clonking the spouse when he wildly swings from “Does our daughter have to study so much?” to “Why isn’t she studying?” Kindly help the poor man make up his mind as to what he wants her to do.

Let my children understand that there’s a four-year gap between them, and they have to behave accordingly. The 11-year-old acts like a 15-year-old and vice versa. Please, Lord, make the younger one understand that lazing around with a smirk in front of her sister and listening to music at a volume which can easily be heard in the next state is really not conducive to my peace of mind. Please make my teen aware that the time spent in conjuring elaborate schemes of revenge can be better utilized in studying.

I’m so thankful that my teen has created a timetable for her studies and is adhering to it. But you have to assist me here, in my efforts to pound it into her that it’s a timetable and not the Constitution. She can veer away from it once in a while to listen to my lectures. I’m a mother and I have the sacred right to deliver long monologues to my children. She needs to comprehend that “I’m studying !” is not sufficient reason to escape from my ramblings. Please help me gain some clarity on this issue.

Dear God, I wish to become a Tiger Mom, cracking the whip, barking instructions at my offspring, creating punishing schedules and frowning on rest and relaxation. Or maybe not, because I’m starting to scare myself!

Why does my teen think that during exams I become a fount of knowledge? The other day while I was peacefully crushing candies on my phone, my daughter approached me with a doubt. The sudden shift from the world of candies to the world of science was in itself a shock to my system. Then she asked me a question that had words like “evolution” and “generation shifts” in it. For a few seconds I gave a very creditable impression of a weak-headed goldfish — slack jaw, glazed eyes and an open mouth. Thankfully she quickly grasped the futility of the situation and quietly told me that she’d check with her grandmother, who’s an absolute whiz on such stuff. I couldn’t even send a plea your way, Lord, since my brain actually stopped functioning.

Dear Lord, is there a secret portal in washrooms that leads to an alternate universe? My teen’s visit to the washroom increases dramatically during exams. I have a sneaking suspicion that she’s just enjoying the peace and quiet in there with some of her favorite books for company.

Dear Lord, this is just the beginning of exams and already I’m a wreck. As the days progress, you’ll find me quite often on the hotline with you. Please bear with me.

Yours faithfully,

A Stressed-Out Mom

— Anjana Avinash

Blogger Anjana Avinash lives in Kerala, the southern-most tip of India otherwise known as “God’s own country.” She blogs at The Glass Bangle and The Greedy Reader. Another blog she started with her husband includes his photographs and her poetry.

Talk of the town

Isaac AlonyInstead of a keeping a food journal like fat people do, I decided to keep a speaking journal of my day. The words in parentheses are what I was thinking at the time.

Wake up:

7:30 “Ugh. Why am I so tired”? (Because I take like six different prescription medications that [a] don’t work, other than to kill my already subdued sex drive, and [b] don’t interact well with my self-medicating, overly excessive alcohol consumption.)

Morning Prayers:

8:00 “Eh, f*** it.” (Because I’m lazy and can rationalize my inaction in 70 different ways. Here’s a sampling: My religion teachers were douches/why do bad things happen to good people/I’m a badass/where was God when 6 million, blah blah blah. I’m lazy as hell and will likely be a full-fledged atheist in a year.)


9:15 “This must be the local.” (Trying to impress the ladies with my humor.)

9:16 “Why can’t they play normal music on elevators?” (Trying to impress the ladies with clever observation and strong opinion. In truth, I like this song.)


9:20 “So, looking forward to the weekend?” (I don’t have the confidence to speak my mind and feel safer using clichés.)

10:30 “It’s supposed to snow next week. So much for that global warming, huh?” (Safe weather comment and clever environmental analysis in one shot — trying to impress the ladies.)

10:36 “Did you catch the game last night?” (Trying to establish the macho, sports enthusiast side of me to show I’m a well-rounded individual despite being an Orthodox Jew.)


1:20 “Why don’t they just call the sizes small, large and medium?” (Clever rant against a big company merely trying to express its individuality.)

1:21  “I remember when a cup of coffee was 50 cents.” (Trying to impress the ladies with my life experience while indirectly referencing inflation, which makes me seem concerned about the economy.)

1:22 “Excuse me, but I don’t see a sign that limits the amount of sugar packets I can take.” (I paid three bucks for your crappy Red-Bull coffee that gives me raging panic attacks, yet which I continue to drink because change gives me panic attacks, so I’ll stuff my backpack with those sugar in the raw packs if I want.)

2:00 “Excuse me, but I don’t see a time limit for the bathroom posted anywhere.” (I would have finished quicker, but your frequent knocking made it difficult to focus on completing that Su Doku.)


6:25 “Hey, let ‘em off first.” (Trying to appear like a responsible individual concerned with the efficient running of our transit system.)

6:26 “Excuse me.” (f*** you)

6:26 “Excuse me.” (f*** you)

6:26 “Excuse me.” (f*** you)

6:37 “Well missy, I don’t think that touch constitutes unlawful sexual misconduct.” (It does.)

6:37 “So, call the cops. Am I supposed to be scared?” (I’m absolutely terrified.)


7:15 “That customer has more than five items. Why is he allowed in this express lane?” (I’m a whiny, impatient, craving-interaction-in-any-form ogre.)

7:16 “No, screw you a**hole. You have like nine things in your basket, and I’m not even counting your assorted apples improperly placed in a single bag as individual items.” (I think I can make up for being bullied as a child by being an aggressive, needlessly confrontational adult.)

7:24 “Credit.” (I think I qualify for Chase reward points this way.)

7:25 “Can you double bag those?” (See: Starbucks, sugar packets.)

7:27 “Thanks, have a good one.” (f*** you)


8:25 “It’s delicious, honey.” (It’s not.)

11:00 “The safeword is Rumpelteaser.” (Because I wasn’t breastfed properly.)

— Isaac Alony

Isaac Alony is a New York attorney and father of four who every day contemplates making a run for it. Every single  day.

Heartbreak hotel

Gianetta Palmer(Editor’s Note: This Valentine’s Day essay features the top 50 classic rock songs of all time. Author Gianetta Palmer has italicized the song titles. Instead of using the title Sultans of Swing, she used the band’s name — Dire Straits. Special thanks to Gina Barreca for the punch line.)

“Is that cocaine?” Officer Roxanne asked the quiet young man.

“I imagine so?” he replied.

“You’re fortunate, son, that I don’t arrest you now. What’s your name?” she asked.

Thomas Sawyer. But folks call me Tom.”

“Hmm. This photograph doesn’t look like you. Where you headed?” asked the officer.

He thought for a moment before answering, “I’m going to LA, woman!” he said sharply pounding his hands on the steering wheel.

“Calm down, son. LA? You better get on a rocket, man, because I’ve got more than a feeling that you aren’t headed for LA.”

“Haven’t you ever wanted to go your own way?” Tom asked.

All right now,” she said. I know school’s out for summer, but I wasn’t born to run around like you youngsters do these days. This job has a stranglehold on me. I know that I’m an African American woman and I carry a lot of sweet emotion around with me, but my heart got broke this morning. My son, that sweet child o’ mine told me point blank this morning that he wanted to move back to sweet home Alabama. Why would he want to do that?”

“Sometimes, you have to turn the page,” he said simply.

They were quiet for a moment, and Tom stroked the package lying on the front seat of the car. “What’s that?” asked the officer.

“It’s a Kashmir sweater for my girlfriend, Layla,” he said.

“Layla? Is that why you’re leaving La Grange? Is she in LA?”

“I think so. My home boys were back in town last week and said they saw her in some dive called Baba O’Riley’s singing after midnight. She was supposed to head home that day after her audition, but now I’m paranoid that’s she decided to stay,” Tom said.

Well, kid, don’t stop believing, you gotta live and let die and keep on like a rolling stone,” said Officer Roxanne.

That sounds like a day in the life of a rock star,” said the young man.

Nope. Just the daily crazy train I ride every day running after folks like you,” she said with a tight smile.

“I’m sorry, Officer. But, this Valentine’s Day sucks. Layla has me freefalling so hard that I feel I’m like smoke on the water. Just ready to float away…

They were quiet for a moment.

She’s a damn barracuda! I need some help,” he said with tears in his eyes.

“Is that why you had the cocaine?” she asked. “Were you going to sell it? Or get comfortably numb?”

“I was going to sell it,” he said. I figured everybody wants some.

“Sorry, son. You’re too young. Hell, you’re not even old enough to be back in black. You’ve got your whole life to rock and roll all night. Maybe you just need to forget about Layla?

“She was the first person to tell me I feel like makin’ love. She fills this space, oddly enough, that no one has been able to fill. I want you to want me is our favorite song. She liked Bohemian Rhapsody, but we heard it so often that it got on our nerves.”

“Now you’re rambling. Man, we have got to find you someone new. And closer.” She watched him yawn again for the hundredth time. “When was the last time you closed your blue eyes and let the black water of sleep flow over your troubled mind?”

“I don’t know,” said the young man.

“You’ve got to enter the Sandman,” she said. “And at my age, you can’t fear the reaper, either,” she said with a laugh.

“I’ve no place to go,” he said. “Can you give me shelter?

“You see up along the watchtower back by the prison gate?” she asked pointing to the far side of his car.

“No. Can you show me the way?” he asked looking in that direction.

“Are you sure, son? It is Valentine’s Day,” she said.

Realization began to sink in for the young man; he was in dire straits. He wouldn’t be rocking in the free world for a very long time. To hell with Layla, he knew he wasn’t going to the Hotel California. She definitely wasn’t the sunshine of his love.

“I’m ready, Officer. This is just what I needed. I’m sorry about your son.”

Officer Roxanne smiled at him as she placed the cuffs on him. “That’s okay, son. I think the both of us needed this conversation today. As a wise old friend told me, it might not be the Hotel California, but at least you tried, and didn’t end up in Heartbreak Hotel.”

— Gianetta Palmer

Gianetta Palmer is an author and blogger living in the North Georgia Mountains. She is the author of two collections of humorous essays and blogs regularly at her popular website Her upcoming novels introduce the reader to a fantasy adventure that offers the possibility for a do-over of the last 25 years. Jaguars, mood rings, cook books and horn-rimmed glasses are the key elements to new beginnings. But will they survive the journey? She can be reached at

Reflections of Erma