“Artists are people who are not at all interested in the facts—only in the truth. You get the facts from outside. The truth you get from inside.” --Ursula K. LeGuin

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

First Kiss--share with us--Excerpt 2 from Your Story Matters





A reader commented that her favorite part of last weeks excerpt was when I shared the story of my first kiss. Then, she shared hers...

From TH:

"Oh Jo, I loved your sweet little first kiss mention. My favorite part! 

"My first kiss was from a neighbor boy a few years older than myself, who felt sorry for me having never been kissed and decided to rectify what he termed “my problem”. I guess that’s about as unromantic as you can get!"

However, later she commented that the first kiss from the love of her life, made her knees buckle. and she found out what she'd been missing.

I love it.!

Now, how about sharing yours, and say yes, if I have permission to print it. I will post your stories weekly.



Continued from last week::


Before meeting my father, I carried with me remembrances of him. I remembered his "Can House," a workshop he built in our backyard. The cans weren't little soup cans. They were drums with a gallon or two capacities he had carried home from the shoe factory where he worked. He filled them with cement, so if anyone wants to remove that house, they might have to blow it up.

We lived in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, with my grandmother—my mother, my father, my little dog Tiny, and me. Besides liking to draw, my dad was an amateur taxidermist; thus, he needed a workshop. Luckily, I didn't have to build my office out of cans.

I only saw stuffed squirrels and birds in his workshop.  Mom, however, wasn't happy to see animal parts in the refrigerator.

The only time I know of that my dad captured a live animal was when he tried to chloroform a little owl. I don't know how he got it. He put the owl in a coffee can with a cotton ball filled with chloroform and closed the lid. A few minutes later, he opened the lid. The owl poked his head out, looking a little hung over. My father tried again with a fresh cotton ball and closed the lid.

Upon opening the lid, the owl looked as perky as ever, so Dad released the owl, who then went home reeking of chloroform and with his wife berating him. "What in the world have you been up to?"

Mom, Dad, and I went to a circus where I dropped peanuts into an elephant's awaiting trunk. I thought the elephant ate them with her trunk. I ate peanuts, too, and awakened at night, yelling, "Momma, there's something in my bed!" I had thrown up in the night. 

Dad bought me a Tweety bird at the circus. It was a Paper Mache' bird on a string attached to a stick. When I whirled the stick, the bird flew and tweeted. Dad wanted to know what made the bird tweet, so he performed abdominal surgery and took out its Twitter. He put the bird back together, but it never tweeted again.

One time, Mom was so mad at Dad that she threw whatever was handy—a precious item, my Bambi comic book. Bambi was the first movie I saw, and I loved the characters—the fawn Bambi, Thumper the bunny, and Flower, the skunk. ("You can call me Flower if you want to.”) However, killing Bambi's mother and watching that little fawn Bambi wandering around calling M-O-T-H-E-R impacted me such that if I see the beginning credits of that movie, I start to cry.

Dad put the comic book back together then, on stiff paper, drew Bambi as a grown-up stag and his mother a little dewy-eyed doe. He colored them and cut them out like paper dolls with little tabs at their feet so they would stand up. I wish I had them. 

 I vaguely remember sitting at the kitchen table drawing with him. 

I had a Whooping Cough. I don't remember being sick, but I would cough until I threw up. So, when I began coughing, I would fly across the room—carried by some adult—and placed in front of a container. Once, not getting there fast enough, my dad caught the vomit in his hands. I marveled that he would do that and considered it a loving gesture.

Grandmother made a cough syrup for me that helped the whooping. First, she soaked a raw egg in vinegar overnight. In the morning, the shell had dissolved into the vinegar, leaving behind a round egg encased in its membrane. She added honey to the concoction, and it tasted good—it was a little scratchy going down through.

 Around Halloween, I excitedly ran to greet my dad, who was coming in the front door. However, he was wearing a mask they had given him at the grocery store. I screamed bloody murder, and to this day, I do not like masks. I don't scream bloody murder when I see one, though. And then at Christmas time, store Santa Claus' wore masks. We called them false faces, so I knew that man was not the real Santa.

I heard that when I was a baby, my father would come home from work and wash my face with a washcloth, for he wanted me awake when he was home.

Often, I heard stories of the mentally challenged boy next door who liked my dad and loved it when Mom and Dad had a water fight. On hot summer days, they would throw a bucket into our open well, collect the water, and toss it on whoever they could catch. I do remember Mom squealing and running and Dad chasing her. The boy would egg Dad on, "Glenn, I'll draw the water, I'll draw the water." 

One day, after we had been away for the afternoon, we came home to find that the boy had drained the well.

 My dad was thin and had stomach problems, so he got a nanny goat because he had heard that goat's milk was good for what ailed him. He would fashion a chain on the goat's collar and lock the chain to a stake. That way, he could move the goat around the neighborhood to graze.

However, no matter how strongly he drove in the stake, that kid could pull it up and drive the goat. She got so nervous that Dad gave her to someone who could give her some peace.

In Chicago, I called every Glenn Metcalf I could find in the phone book on Saturday and Sunday with no connection. On Sunday morning, I visited Johnny Colman's church. Coleman was a minister I had heard at Terry Cole Whittiker's Science of the Mind Church in San Diego. Coleman was a powerful speaker, booming out, "If you go into work one day and the boss says, 'You're fired!' You say,' Okay Great Master, you have something better in store for me.'"

 "God gave you the first kidney, if you need a new one, say, 'Okay Great Master, I need a new kidney.'" As a young woman, Coleman had been cured of some disease said to be incurable and emerged a firm believer in the power of healing.

 Monday morning, My father answered the phone. 

 "Hi, this is Joyce. I used to call you Daddy a long time ago."

 "Where are you?!" he exclaimed and invited Neil and me to his house. He greeted me with a big hug, and his wife, Vi, was most gracious. 

 Upon entering his house, I was shocked to see a little stack of photos of me of various ages on his mantel. How did he get them? When he pulled out a picture of my young mother, I was doubly shocked, "Wasn't she beautiful?" he asked.

 For 3 days, we spent the evenings at Dad's and Vi's house. We would bring in takeouts, fish, and chips, and such. I took Dad to the Conference Center to show Neil's Optical instrument. At lunch, I learned that he couldn't taste. He had had a head injury where he worked that took away his taste for most foods. He could taste beer, so he would have a little glass of beer in the evenings and slowly sip it. 

The Conference Center had a photo booth in its lobby. I reminded him that we had a picture of us taken in one of those booths 38 years ago, so we climbed in and had our photo taken together again.

 I wrote to him, and he didn't respond at first until I sent him a letter with check boxes: 

  • I died.
  • I don't remember this one. 
  • I'm an ornery old cuss.

 He checked that last one, and we continued our communications—sometimes he attached money—and he followed the little pamphlet I was writing at the time titled The Frog's Song. There came a time when i didn't hear from him, and I learned that he had passed away.

 After I wrote this chapter, I was tempted to go back and clean up the typos I invariably made, the wrong words I invariably used, and the missing poetry because I stink at it. Instead, I looked into the pink dogwood and typed as I was taught in high school. (Do not look at the keyboard!)

(More later on, about how I heard murmurings at the kitchen table, and that my father volunteered for service in WWII when he knew he would be drafted because he wanted to chose his field s service. He wanted the Navy, but they found he was color blind, so he was in the army, And then he disappeared for 38 years...)