Rock Bottom

Rock Bottom

Chapter 1 things are looking up

Recently my life has slowly circled the drain. I lost my job due to an illness; there is no workmen’s comp for a mysterious pain the doctors could not find. It took a long time to find the cause. It turns out I was littered with gall stones. By the time the doctors figured it out my insurance had lapsed my savings was spent on medical bills. I am driving an old Corvette. This car has seen better days, as I look down at the nonexistent floor panel I watch the pavement zoom by. I have to keep the heat on so it will not overheat. That is fine in the winter but summer not so much; this car drinks more water than I do.

Normally I wallow in self-pity and don’t drag myself out of bed until noon. Today is different I am to be at an attorney’s office for a reading of a will. It seems my aunt Millie decided to leave me her farm and her bank account; it took my breath away when I saw the balance. Somehow it does not seem real, I need to touch it, see it with my own eyes until then I will not believe it.

When I am cranky as I am today being up at the crack of dawn and driving to a destination that seems to be out in the middle of nowhere getting lost is not an option in this car or in this life. As I am doing the speed limit on the expressway people are passing me like I am standing still, what is truly infuriating is that those who are passing me seem to be disengaged from their driving because they are either talking to someone that is not there or talking to someone on their cell phones; it makes me want to roll my window down and  throw my beer at them.

I finally make it off the expressway and I pull into the first gas station and use the 20 dollars I took out of my new account, filled up my tank and ate a hot dog that looked much like my last boyfriend’s special guy.

I got directions from the girl with the grommets in her ears while she cashed me out. I hope I can trust someone who does not have the sense to just pierce their ears like a normal person.

The pavement ended and the washboard dirt road sent stones inside my car, I slowed to a snail’s pace to keep the dust from billowing inside and blur my view.  I vaguely remember my Aunt Millie’s farm. I went there during the summers; she had horses, mules, chickens and a swimming hole (that is what she called it).

The house was a weathered clapboard exterior; the inside had worn hardwood floors and linoleum. Any carpeting she had was of braided rugs she made by hand using old clothing and rags. During my visits, she showed me how to make them. I loved those rugs.

Finally, I pulled into the driveway; weeds had grown up hiding parts of the clapboard fencing. The large barn was the first thing I saw; it had a fresh coat of red paint on it. Memories washed over me I was running into the barn chasing a chicken or playing with Woof, Aunt Millie’s dog.

I finally stopped and stiffly climbed out of my car. The house had a coat of fresh olive drab paint, the window trim was brown, the windows looked scrubbed as did the porch. The front porch was 6 feet deep that extended corner to corner on the front of the house; from the swing which still hung from the rafters, you could see the two barns and corrals. I stood for a moment on the porch looking around taking stock in what was now my home and wondering what I will do out here all by myself. Loneliness crept into me briefly, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement, a mangy looking dog came into view, and he seemed to be leery. I called out “Hey Woof the second.”  He gave me a slight wag of his tail. I finally turned the key and opened the front door.

I went into the kitchen the refrigerator was running which surprised me normally if someone was not going to be home they emptied it and left the door propped open. I opened it and was glad to find beer, pop, bread; lunch meat, hot dogs, buns. I was starving and I know the mangy dog was also. I looked through the cupboards for a bowl to put water in and a dish for food. After filling the pot I found with water I cut up a couple of the hot dogs and placed them into the dish. I took this outside and placed it in the yard halfway between Woof2 and the house. I know he is skittish and I am hoping that I can lure him into my arms for a hug and a bath.



Her Essence

Her essence

There is a large white house on a hill a culdesac winds itself near its driveway. I love walking past it dreaming of sitting on the wrap around porch sipping sweet lemonade in the summer or in the fall covered with a homemade afghan enjoying the fall colors.

The white clapboard siding large windows are inviting yet hide a mystery of the life within. Large magnolia trees are in bloom on the north side of the house, the south side has an immense garden.

I dreamily walk by picturing myself with a wide brim straw hat picking fresh flowers for the large vase in the vestibule. A beautiful greeting for any visitor.

My last steps towards home I am still in a dreamy daze fantasizing about life in the large white house on the hill. As I drop my headset on the kitchen counter when my cell phone rang. My sister wanted me to go to garage sales and thrift store shopping. It sounded good to me, I told her I needed a half an hour to shower and then I would meet her in the driveway.

Susan picked me up and we were on our way to find some great  treasures. I needed a painting for above my mantel, it cannot be just any painting I want something ornate.

After the 5th garage sale, I figured I would go home empty handed. Susan suggested we go to a thrift store there was a new Salvation Army store in the next town. I first went through the clothes rack and found some tie-dyed t-shirts and a pair of worn cutoffs.

Susan called from the back of the store I ran over to her with a rush of expectation.  She was pointing at a print of a woman standing on a cliff, the waters below were angrily pushing up against the rocks as if trying to reach her and pull her in. Or was she contemplating giving into its beckoned call?

I told Susan it was too dark for me as I turned to walk away a frame caught my attention. The Frame was of wood and looked to be chiseled by hand, it was ornate and exquisite. I want that frame, as I looked at the detail I finally took a moment to look at what it framed. There was a woman peering down at me her eyes were sadly, happy as though she was coming out of a depression that nearly took her soul. Something mysteriously compelling about her, the photo was old and in some places cracked. The price was five dollars. I took it home and hung it above my mantel.

Every day I walk past this beautiful woman and wonder what had made her sad and just in an instant brought a slight smile to her eyes. Was it the photographer? Did he tell her how beautiful she is?

I decided I wanted to know more about the woman in the photograph so I called a local store in town that does framing and asked if they could take the frame off just far enough so I may find out when the photo was taken and maybe who it is in the photo.

Mr. Lutz greeted me when I walked in, I set the picture on the counter and he said: “I know who this is, it is Melisa she is the daughter of Mrs. Penelope Collins.”

I asked: “ Do you know where I could find Mrs. Collins?”

“Yes, she lives in the big white house on the hill.” He answered.

My heart raced as I walked to my car and drove to the house on the hill. I rang the doorbell and a young girl answered the door. I told her I wanted to see Mrs. Collins, she turned her head and yelled: “Grandma, someone here to see you.”

I smiled to myself thinking her grandmother just winced because of the way her granddaughter answered the door. A lean elegant woman soon came walking down the stairs with the same sadly happy eyes as the woman in the photo. I introduced myself and told her about the picture in my car. She asked if I would bring it in.

Mrs. Collins was sitting in a chair in what seemed to be a parlor. I held the picture so she could see it. She was quite but her granddaughter asked incessantly who the woman was in the photo. Her grandmother answered: “Your mother just before you were born we had a professional photographer take her portrait. Your grandfather wasn’t any too pleased he wanted her out of the house because she was not married and carried you. You know the rest of the story.”

She stopped short of telling me the rest of the story. I asked if she would want the picture, her granddaughter spoke up: “Yes please grandmother I want it for my room. I do not have any photos of my mom.”

Mrs. Collins said: “Yes, of course, Penny you may have it. How much do you want for it?”

I said: “Free if you take me on a tour of the house. I have always wanted to see the inside.”

Mrs. Collins said: “You can take a tour now and later in the week the house is going up for auction, I could not keep up the taxes because I spent every dime keeping the house in good repair and taking care of my granddaughter.”

I said: “How much is owed on the taxes?”

Mrs. Collins told me I called my boss who is an attorney it took more than a week to settle everything. I am now the proud owner of the house on the hill. I did not have the heart to ask Mrs. Collins to move I told her it would be an honor if she and her granddaughter stayed.  Mrs. Collin was glad to be able to stay in her home and even happier to have a new roommate who could help with the chores.


The Courtesy Basket

By Christine Swiderski website

I saved up my penny’s as did my girlfriends. We normally get together at the local pub. Girls night once a year just to blow out our frustrations. We each have our own nucleolus lives. Some were married, stay at home moms. Others professional women using either day care or family. We have a hold out within our clutch, a single professional woman.

Our pennies went for a lavish hotel with a concierge. We jokingly chose the bridal suite. To our delight, it came with a courtesy basket.

Champagne, chocolates, condoms, caviar, crackers, cheese. 2 dozen roses were set on a table. Of course, we all brought our alcohol of choice. First on the list is a nice meal. This hotel has a 5-star restaurant. We made reservations for our room and the restaurant. We each dressed to the nines. Moseyed down to the restaurant. We gave our waiter a hard time. Paul was sweet about it. We told him we wanted an accent. We laughed when he came back with broken Spanish. I was waiting for him to say “Drop the Chalupa.”

After dinner, we meandered through the shops off the lobby. Once back to the room we each crawled into our most comfortable garments and got down to the business of blowing off steam.

By the time we got to the condoms we were in rare form. The balcony off the bridal suite works well for water balloons, but we decided not to do it that way. Not wanting to get thrown out. Instead, we took them down one floor. Laid them down where we thought an unsuspecting patron would step on them. As we huddled down the hall out of sight, the one who got the short straw knocked on doors. Nearly all of them splat out corresponding with expletives. It was all we could do to get back to our room without being noticed.

Finally, we started to short out. Ever so slowly one by one we fell asleep dreaming of massages and chocolate covered strawberries.

The dream suddenly turned into a nightmare. I heard screams as I tried to leap out of bed a wet towel hit my backside. I turned to find a man laughing the towel coming in for another swat. I jumped out of the way screaming. While trying my escape I took what was left in my glass and threw it at the perpetrator. It landed dead center, leaving a cut. He yelped but kept coming. Next thing I saw were the backsides of 6 guys leaving our room. Just before the door closed one poked his head back in and said: “Next time you girls want to leave condom balloons out for people to step on let us know. We can fill them with dark red jello instead. The red seeps around the foot, leaving people thinking they stepped onto something dead.

With all the screaming and now uproarious laughter there was a knock at the door. We were asked to leave.

Groggily we packed our things, we were all saying it was worth it. Once we entered the lobby to exit the hotel, guys dressed in jeans and sweatshirts were leaving as well. As it turned out there was a bachelor party one floor down.

I walked up to the guy who came into my room. I asked him: “How did you get into our room?”

He answered: “The cleaning girl excepted a huge bribe. We each gave her $50.”

I said: “Whoa! At least we were not cheap.”

Walking out to the parking lot an agreement was struck we would all go to the nearest hotel that offers late night music and finish our respective outings.

I like how this courtesy basket is filling up handsomely with male companionship.

Joe Daugherty decided to cling onto me. He was amiable enough for a one-nighter. I wasn’t about to sleep with him even though he tried everything he could think of. I am glad he didn’t use the line “You have eyes like a lipid pool of water.” I would have barfed.

The following Monday at work I received roses from Joe. When I arrived home I received another dozen roses. Tuesday I received balloons at work. When I arrived home, another balloon bouquet. Gifts came that entire week. How he found out where I lived I wasn’t sure. The gifts came from one business. I stopped at the business and found that one of my co-workers gave out my address thinking this was a romantic thing to do. I will deal with that idiot on Monday.

I developed a plan in my head to get Joe off my back. I called all my single girlfriends that I could trust. I called Joe set a time and place to hook up.

We met for dinner and I suggested the hotel where we could spend the night together. We stopped at a liquor store. I knew from the night I met Joe he took drugs. I could not prove it that night but later found out his drug of choice was cocaine.

We arrived at the room I played along with the kissing and feeling up routine. Joe as I suspected, set out lines of cocaine and told me to give it a try. I said I never used others stash. I do not know or trust. I told him, he could do mine and his I brought my own. Mine was baking soda. Which I blew out into a tissue when he wasn’t looking. I added a mild sedative to his drink. Then I set the plan in motion. The next morning I woke Joe by crying out: “Oh my God Joe what did you do to her?”

He jumped up and yelled: “Who?”

I said: “ I think she is dead, the girl in the bathtub is dead.”

Joe ran into the bathroom, screamed. I ran in behind him shushing him. I told him not to make so much noise. We cannot be caught with a dead person. He started to panic. I did my best non-panic, holding it together act. He bought it. I told him I could get rid of the body. All he had to do is leave the hotel without being noticed. He did just that. To make it look good I had a friend bring a rolling laundry hamper. My friend Jill who played dead in the bathtub climbed in. I had all my stuff with me. We left the hotel through the service elevator.

A week later I learned from a mutual friend that Joe put himself into rehab.

I am sure he will never contact me again.

A day to myself

Today started like any other day. Coffee in hand I Stumble through the living room, bleary-eyed wondering if the coffee will kick in soon. Not wanting to go to work not really wanting to just stay home. Adventure is what I need.

As I sat drinking my coffee trying to determine who I was going to call to add to my adventure. I had considered my friend Rose but I remembered she had other plans. Then I decided it was time for me to strike out on my own. I called into work and left a message for my boss telling him that I was taking a vacation day. Next, I showered grabbed another coffee took my time dressing and doing my hair. I decided, this time, I would just get in the car and drive. Keys in hand, I’m out the door. My first stop is the gas station to top off the tank get a water. Next, I go north and just keep driving when something interesting pops up I will stop and hang out.

It took about an hour to get out of the familiar views. Soon everything changed as the trees sped by my window I let out a breath and realized this was a good decision.

It has been a long time since I’ve been North probably since I was a kid when my parents used to do this very thing we would just get in the car and drive. My mom would always pack a picnic or at least lunch and treats depending upon how long they had decided to drive.

For me, part of my adventure will be deciding where to stop for lunch. I pulled out my phone called work again letting them know I’m taking two days this is feeling way too good I have decided I will spend the night somewhere.

I took the next exit coming up in 1 mile. Here is a good place to get off. Pulling onto the exit ramp I needed to make a decision, go right or left. I chose right. This took me to Rose City. Now my stomach is telling me I should have had breakfast to go with my coffee. Up ahead Rose City is coming into view. I passed the Rose City Greenhouse. At the light in the center of town, I noticed a Randy’s Restaurant and Bakery that serves food. Small town feel, with alluring scents of cinnamon, fresh bread. If I stay here too long I will get fat.

After leaving this home away from home lure, I decided instead of north, I would backtrack and go West. It reminded me of a Toby Kieth song a parcel of the lyric is ‘go west young man.’ I figure since it is playing on my DVD player it could sound out my heart. ‘go west young woman’

Westward I went. Until I hit Saint Helen. No place to stay in the Inn, where to now? I stopped at a nature preserved fed the albino deer corn which was there for purchase. Sat and stared awhile, wondering what I was doing and where I was going.

I have been divorced for a year. The marriage did not end badly, amicable for the moment. I say for the moment because I left as soon as I felt safe to leave. Andrew, who somehow I still crave, was a relentless controlling, manipulative, abusive husband. I know many say ‘why do they stay’ and ‘those who stay must like it’ I stayed because I love. Or because my love is enabling. Or because. I have a Ph.D. and other alphabetical degrees. I stayed. Not because I am uneducated, nor because I am naive. Is it more complicated than that? I do not know. Who knows when you are in the midst of it. It is what it is. Yes, I can sit down and talk to a therapist and delve into my childhood. Did I love my mother? Did I like my father? But I say ask them that perpetrate the abuse. Ask the one who perpetrates the abuse. Ask them why!

Sorry to babble on like this. This road trip was needful. I need to regroup. Seems I have been part of the equation. The percentages say second marriages end in divorce because you will choose the same sort. What is scary about that is, not only will those who chose to be with those who abuse. It also suggests those who abuse tend to choose those who are likely not to resist the abuse?

All that is rattling around my head. Thus the reason to get away. I met someone. He is a Vietnam vet. My big door bell ring (this should tell me to run) he is PTSD certified. Is this not looking like failure or understanding?

I need to roll, think things through and analyze my options. It is getting late I need to decide where to stay for the night. I am not used to driving country roads. No street lights it is darker than dark. My headlights caught something fleeing my beam.

Roscommon county: Accident on county road 100

by Christine Swiderski

A car with an unidentified woman traveling late at night on August 31st crossed the center line in the path of oncoming traffic. The large truck hauling logs could not stop in time nor swerve to miss the Ford Taurus. The passenger was dead on the scene. More details will become available.

Website- more short stories and poems


Delicate beginnings

Blossoms scent fills the air

sweetly lingering

Each creature prepares

New arrivals springing forth

Mother doe readying

Her fawn will soon arrive.

Birds nestled

In a crook of a tree

Waiting for hatching to begin

All the while life is bursting

Some creatures are waiting

Others dancing with life

Buzzing can be heard

as insects enjoy the nectar

Humans hustle and bustle

wanting to enjoy life’s pleasures

While creation creates

Each moment that passes

cannot be recreated

Inhale each moment

rejoicing in the dance of life.

Notice the swirl and twirl

of each creature

great and small hear their call

Peace be still

stop in your place

just for a moment

Hear the whisper of life

take it with you to lessen

your strife

Delicate Beginnings

Quiet Solitude

Quiet Solitude

I came home to check on my parents. Both are in their 70’s. Neither wanting help. They would be the last to ask. There is a Hospice palliative team that comes regularly for my mom. She is suffering with cancer. My dad has Alzheimer. The palliative team does not stay 24/7. There is a private night nurse that comes to stay. Also volunteers from my parents church during the day.

I asked the nurse if I should move back home. My job is in another state. I work as a genetic engineer at a college in Iowa. The work we do is important. It is also dependent upon a grant and results. The nurse said I would know.

I am drawn by feelings of guilt not by necessity. My dad walks around in quiet solitude. Not remembering the harshness he pressed upon me as a child. Nor does he remember the fists that caused such carnage on my mom that she ended up in emergency. It does not seem fair to her or me. He should be the one to be dying of cancer not her. She deserves the quiet solitude in her last days. Not the ravaging torture of this disease. Hasn’t her body taken enough beatings?

My guilt is that I do not want to be near my dad. I want to take care of my mom. I finally voiced these issues with the nurse. She said I could place my dad in an Alzheimer facility. She gave me references. My dad is a bigot. I vetted the facility chose the one that if he had clarity at any given day he will be incensed. That is the only solace I will have.

I took a leave of absence to take care of my mom. While sitting holding her hand she quietly went to the sleep of the precious solitude. Her new body will glow with the angels.

Christine Swiderski’s Bookstore

Life in the fast lane

Life in the fast Lane

Looking back on my life I wonder how I managed to stay alive. I played hard and fast, did not discriminate who I slept with how much I drank. I never did the drugs, yet I still partied hard, went to work with a hangover still managed to do a good days work. Work was physical, which helped sweat out the alcohol, working construction will do that for you. Even in the winter when you are framing a house, the physical work kept you warm. Your extremities not so much, we built a fire with the scrap to warm our hands. Girls like construction workers, their muscles combined with knowing how to manually do things, they consider us a catch. Looking back at all the women I dated one stands out among all the rest. She was dark and exotic, high energy, spasmodically emotional, unpredictable, her name was Jazzile. I simply called her Jazzy; she hated it said it was too common for her. I used Jazzy when she went spazzy emotionally.

I loved having fights with her, I learned to duck, and run grab her lay her down and have great sex with her. It always turned her on and calmed her down. Damn that woman was wonderful, I would have married her if it were not for what happened at the lake.

I invited Jazzile to the lake; letting her know it is a fixer upper, 600 sq. foot one bedroom I plan on adding onto it making it a 1600 sq. foot ranch with 3 bedrooms.

January is a dead month for construction which is perfect time to work on the cabin. The place has a wood stove for heat, there is plumbing I had already redone the bathroom, the wall to extend the house been tore out the addition has been framed and dry walled, the kitchen consisted of a sink, small cube refrigerator microwave, I usually bring up a cooler full of beer and a cooler full of meat. Some can goods, potatoes, onions I placed in a box. Jazzile loved the idea of spending a month working alongside me fixing the place up. I told her she should bring her own car in case she hated the seclusion, she said she will love it no reason to bring up her car she will ride with me.

We set out early Friday morning it is a 4 hour drive, arriving just before lunch, I got the wood stove rocking and rolling, Jazzile had brought up a comforter, pillows blankets, curtain, towels thinking she would dress up the place.

When she seen the bed she said we should order a queen size wrought iron old fashioned bed. I loved the idea We made grilled cheese, heated up canned tomato soup for lunch. I gave Jazzile a quick how to load the wood stove and went to work, sanding the drywall getting it prepared for the primer.

Jazzile was on her phone surfing the web looking for a wrought iron queen size bed. Her scream startled me I ran to see if she was ok, thinking she may have burned herself on the stove, or worse set something on fire. It was neither she found the bed, ordered it from a company which is local they said they could deliver it by Wednesday of next week. I gave her a hug and kiss, which deposited dust all over her, raising her voice just to tell me she did not like the mess I made, which made me laugh and kiss her more, she pushed me away I pulled her closer, with her fists she started hammering on my shoulders till I pulled her hair making her head tip back, looking directly at her I said “Jazzy I am going to get more than dust on you.”

Our love making was crazy and passionate; the wrought iron bed will be sturdy enough to handle anything we throw at it.

Back at sanding the drywall Jazzile busied herself with making dinner, using a cast iron Dutch oven on top of the wood stove which she is incredibly good at running. The aroma of the roast, potatoes, onions, carrots drifted my way, turning to look at Jazzile placing a blanket on the floor with paper plates and plastic forks and knives, I knew I was in love with this crazy girl. She called to me telling me to shower no more white powder on the floor or her, laughing I said “Ok Jazzile my love.”