WINTER 2012 - 2013 FEATURE:
WW, INC., 2012 CONTEST WINNERS!
by Vickie Goodwin
I only left him alone for a couple of hours. Really, how much trouble could he get into in a couple of hours?
We were in Washington, DC. Veterans For Peace had just completed their annual convention and we were heading home the next day. I had an appointment to discuss a grant with the Environmental Support Center. He wanted to walk over to the Vietnam Memorial and touch the name of his friend on the wall. The plan was to meet at the Smithsonian Castle at five. From there we would go to a leisurely dinner on the riverfront.
The harried woman at the ESC listened politely to my pitch, told me there wasn’t much money available, and walked me to the door.
I welcomed the cool of the metro as the train rushed toward the National Mall. August in DC is hot and humid. I arrived about four-thirty and walked to the Castle. Being early meant there was time to explore some exhibits. Still, I stayed close to the entryway.
Five o’clock passed. It is a big city and he could have run into someone else from the convention. At five-thirty, I started to worry big time. At six, I struggled with whom to call. Had he been arrested? Beaten up? Had an accident? In 1997, cell phones were not in our vocabulary, much less something we owned.
At six-fifteen, I made my way to the information desk.
“Hi,” I said to the lady behind the desk. “I was wondering if someone might have called for me.” I gave my name.
“We have nothing here,” she said.
“Thank you.” I turned away, close to tears.
Then I saw him at the entry.
“Hope I didn’t worry you,” he said as he gave me a hug and a kiss. “I had the most amazing afternoon. Let’s head over to dinner and I’ll tell you.”
As my heartbeat slowed to a more normal pace, I realized I had been near panic. I had one of those moments. After I made sure he was okay, I was going to kill him. Not here, not in the middle of the Mall, but somewhere else, soon, I was going to kill him.
On the train, he finally told me his story.
“I found Leo’s name on the wall. Then I wanted to buy a couple of buttons from some of the venders around the memorial before they close them down.”
I remembered ‘they’, either the US Government or the City of DC, which are sometimes one and the same, were trying to close down the venders around the monument.
“A reporter for the Washington Post was there with a photographer trying to interview some of the venders, but no one would agree to be interviewed. So the reporter asked me what I thought about it. I told him that sometimes it does seem cluttered but explained that perhaps it was a free speech issue. I think the reporter was surprised that someone who dresses like me was so well informed. He asked if I would mind being interviewed about the way I dress. I said sure, I’d talk to him.”
I looked at this man I love, the man I had been married to for twenty-nine years. Sissy is intelligent and articulate. And he wears dresses. Well, technically, he wears skirts and blouses and frilly panties. He handed me a card - Lloyd Grove, Washington Post Staff Writer.
“They took me to lunch and I got to go to the Washington Post offices. I got to see where Woodward and Bernstein worked. He wants to get a photograph of us at supper tonight and talk to you. I hope you don’t mind,” Sissy said as he stopped for breath. He was so excited.
“Lloyd is going to call Governor Sullivan and some other people,” he continued.
I had practice dealing with the media. In general, my experience was positive but I had always worked to control the situation. I knew of many people who had been burned by a misspoken sound bite. But it was the Washington Post. Probably no one in Wyoming would see it.
The reporter and his photographer joined us briefly at dinner, took some pictures and asked me a few questions. He seemed pretty nice. He said the story would probably appear in the Thursday Style section. He told us to expect a phone call from the TV networks the day the story appeared.
The next day we flew home.
At six o’clock Thursday morning, the phone rang. I stumbled to the next room to answer. It was Good Morning America wanting to speak to Sissy. I growled that he was still asleep and he would call them later.
Fifteen minutes later, the phone rang again, NBC Dateline. Fifteen minutes after that it was another TV show. I got Sissy up and we looked up the story online.
The story was titled A Man Named Sissy. The subtitle was Proper Dress Required? We were pleased. Lloyd had not turned it into some sort of ‘see the monkey’ piece. I teased Sissy about his ‘quiet, aw shucks, Gary Cooper voice’. The article talked about his activism. Former Governor Mike Sullivan and the president of the Wyoming American Civil Liberties Union made very positive statements. Even I sounded okay.
“I want to help people who are like me. I want them to know they aren’t alone and that they aren’t crazy - the way I felt before Dr. Peterson and I did the research paper on cross-dressing,” he said referring to a study published in the Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling that Sissy and Dr. Robert Peterson authored titled “Psychological Impact of Abuse as It Relates to Transvestism”. We drank coffee and discussed the best way to tell his story.
“Good Morning America is a good show,” I said. “But Dateline is on primetime. More people would see it. Both are pretty reputable. I don’t think they would make it into a circus.”
We chose Dateline. Sissy called them back and I got the task of calling Good Morning America. Their contact was not happy because they had called first.
Remember I said nobody in Wyoming would read the story - I was wrong.
Our neighbor, a public health nurse, was a recipient of a mass email sent from one of Wyoming’s Senators wanting to know if anyone knew this ‘Sissy person’. My co-workers in our Sheridan office called to say that one of our members had called them about the story. Wyoming truly is a small town with really long streets. By Monday morning, most of our friends had called to comment about the story. Even my dental hygienist mentioned it as she cleaned my teeth.
NBC’s Dateline was coming to Wyoming and our next adventure was about to begin.
About the Author:
Vickie Goodwin is a Wyoming native and activist. She worked fifteen years as a community organizer. The citizens she worked with tackled the issues of landfill permitting, recycling, feedlots, gravel pits and mines, groundwater and air pollution, refinery clean up, and government accountability. Vickie has lobbied the Wyoming Legislature, written grants for local and national nonprofits, traveled to Iraq to help build clean drinking water systems, and served six years as the Democratic National Committee Woman from Wyoming. She served as chair of the Converse County Library Board and the Converse County Library Foundation. She lives in Douglas, Wyoming with her favorite husband and cat Smokey. She has two pretty good kids and two fantastic granddaughters.
Curse of the Blood Witch - Excerpt
by Kathy Bjornstad, Juvenile Fiction Winner
“You’ve got to be kidding me!”
The ghost turned reproachful blue eyes my way.
We stood before an ancient oak door in the cellars of an English castle (well, I stood—he kind of hovered). A crowbar dangled from my hand.
"I’m not a ghost,” he corrected.
I rolled my eyes. “Spirit, then.”
He held my gaze, the intensity radiating from his lean form making it hard to look away. Wheat-colored hair fell in shaggy waves to broad shoulders. He wore a white linen shirt with billowing sleeves and laces at the throat. Tight black trousers tucked into leather boots defined his well-muscled legs. At his waist hung a small knife and leather pouch. “Please, Sloan.”
I’d always been a sucker for long eyelashes and dimples—not to mention a square jaw and a mouth that . . .
Stop it, I told myself. He’s a ghost, no matter what he thinks. But only part of me believed that. If the story he’d told me was true, I had to help him, just in case I was wrong. And what harm could it do? At the worst, I’d get caught for trespassing in a tourist attraction after hours.
We’d been hiding for awhile in this off-limits section of the castle among discarded chests, broken chairs, and cracked mirrors, waiting for the last camera-laden gawker to clear out. “Oh, all right. Let’s get this over with.” I steeled myself against the radiant smile that transformed his face and added, “I guess at least some of your story must be true. You knew how to find the door to the tunnel.” (Of course, I’d had to do all the grunt work moving the armoire sitting in front of it.)
He reached out, a cold brush of insubstantial fingers against my cheek. “Thank you.”
I tried not to recoil but was still a bit freaked out that only I could see him, let alone feel the touch of his translucent skin.
I’d arrived in England six weeks earlier, angry and devastated by my mother’s drunk-driving death. I’d traveled across an ocean from America to reunite with a distant father I barely knew. My first weeks in the Yorkshire countryside should have been idyllic, not tainted with loss—and ghostly apparitions. A misty figure, passing outside the window . . . standing beneath the birch tree at the far end of the lane . . . gazing wistfully toward the village’s focal point, Moorland Castle, perched atop a distant hill. . . .
Then one day I went for a walk, and there he was, sitting on a stile. Our eyes met. I froze, all the blood draining from my face. Before that moment, I’d explained away my hallucinations as a reaction to grief and shock. But when he got up and walked over, held out his hand, and said, “My name is Lord Courtney of Moorland. And you are . . .?” I figured this delusion was something more.
I jumped back. “Crap!”
“Excuse me?” A mixture of shock, excitement, and wild hope lit his eyes.
“Why can I see you?”
His hand fell to his side. He looked like a character straight out of The Legend of King Arthur. Except no beard. And he was young. Maybe twenty? Only a year or two older than me.
A wary look stole over his face. “I don’t know why you can see me. It’s never happened before.”
“Are you a ghost?”
He shook his head vehemently.
“No offense, but you’re . . . see-through.”
“I’m a spirit.”
“Uh, okay.” I backpedaled one more step and ran a hand through my straight auburn hair.
Lord Courtney or whatever his name was held up a hand, palm toward me. “Wait. Please don’t go. I won’t harm you.” When I retreated two more steps, he followed me, begging. “Please.”
The desperation in his voice made me pause. “What do you want with me?”
Kathy Bjornestad won first place in the Wyoming Writers Juvenile Writing Contest during the summer of 2012. She holds down a day job as a K-12 school librarian and writes on the side. She is a wife and the mother of four children. Kathy has been writing ever since she can remember and completed her first book, a fantasy, in fifth grade. Since then she has experimented with poetry, nonfiction, young adult suspense and historical romance but has always gone back to fantasy/science fiction.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, bowling, soaking in the hot tub, and exploring the Black Hills with her younger boys. Currently she is searching for an agent to represent her various young adult manuscripts. She has been a finalist in the Colorado Gold Fiction Writing Contest and the Pikes Peak Writing Contest. She also received a Wyoming Creative Fiction Fellowship for 2011-12. She was recently published in Christian Science Monitor.
Our traditional poetry first-place winner was Cornelius F. Kelly from Pinedale:
by C. F. Kelly
September days grow short and shiver cold
and I begin to think of blowing snow
that drifts and piles and grasps in deathly hold
until I cry: I give, please let me go.
The fall is filled with gold and crimson leaves
and clouds that fly the bright blue skies as sheep
then disappear in darkness—errant thieves
who steal the day providing hours of sleep.
The morning bark of geese directs my eyes
to V-formations flying south once more
and I become aware of road mapped skies
through which these gallant birds must yearly soar.
I stay behind—accept my chilling fate
and thank the gods for giving me a mate.
About the Author:
Cornelius Farrell Kelly is a septuagenarian who has found fulfillment through the writing of poetry. It has allowed him to view the world around him through a creative lens. It has directed his focus, clarified his thought, and shaped his language. It makes the ordinary special. It gives beauty to the common. It elevates the soul. C.F. Kelly is a member of WyoPoets and Wyoming Writers, Inc.
Our first-place Free Verse winner was Diane Panozzo from Laramie:
Blueberries in Winter
by Diane Panozzo
It’s twenty five below zero this morning.
I stand by the window in the sun
looking south at Rocky Mountain peaks:
inverted icicles in blue.
In the kitchen sink blueberries roll
in water like lost marbles. I pop
a handful in my mouth thinking about
the workers who picked them.
Whose fields grow these bushes
nurtured in acidic sandy soil?
I know of Michigan berries in July.
Lake Michigan blueberries near the shore
where my mother lived and played and worked
as a child. Grand Haven, Nunica, Hesperia.
She rolled out the crusts and placed them
in her grandmother’s pie tins
like she was piecing together
lovely fabrics of the finest silk.
When it was time to spoon the berries on,
she sighed and laughed
as if her sister was stuffing plenty
in her mouth. I watched and watched
those purple-stained fingers remembering
her mother’s hands.
I remember hers.
The hands I didn’t hold while she lay
confused in the Goshen Hospital,
wondering where my father was,
needing him this time
more than he needed her.
Such a little thing to hold a hand.
Such a difficult thing to hold a hand
of a woman dying
A spent life waiting for a hand up--
a hand to hold,
a hand to gather her family.
I put my hand to my mouth.
Feel the fingers trace the outline of my lips.
Touch my teeth.
Intertwine my fingers, palm to palm,
knowing how much she needed my hand
against her cool cheek.
The sandy beach smells faintly
of fish and weeds. The blueberry pie
sizzles in the oven.
Diane Panozzo is an educator, poet and writer. She lives part time on the XX Ranch in Tie Siding and part time in Laramie where she teaches classes in the UW Honors English program. She, also, teaches an interdisciplinary class in the UW Art Museum, and an acting class for the UW Theatre Department. She has taught in Wyoming for over 30 years as English teacher, drama teacher and speech and debate teacher/coach.
Panozzo has won three literary awards from the Wyoming Arts Council; in 2003 she was awarded a literary prize in poetry; in 2011 she won honorable mention in nonfiction, and in 2012, she won honorable mention in fiction. She has taught creative writing at the high school level for over twenty-five years. She was the originator of the Words Worth Symposium, which ran for fifteen years bringing professional writers to Laramie County School District No. 1 to work with students on their writing. She presented the first poetry slams for kids in Cheyenne at Joe Pages Bookstore. She was nominated for the Governor’s Arts Awards in 2003 for her working with students’ writing. She is currently working on a series of short stories set on the Wind River Indian Reservation and she is working on a nonfiction book about a wildlife biologist’s relationship to the Red Desert of Wyoming.
Length of Days
by Louise Lenahan Wallace - Adult Fiction Winner
Sturdy cane clutched in gnarled fingers, shrunken shoulders hunched with effort, Matt Jamison trudged wearily up the gentle slope. Sweat tickled his forehead and slid his gold rimmed spectacles down his nose. Coarse plains grass snaked about his shoes and coiled around his ankles, threatening to throw him headlong. He paused frequently for breath, and once he thrust aside the soft white tangle that the gusting breeze had blown across his eyes. Once, he turned and looked back at the ranch below.
The house, vine covered and rambling, nestled in the shade of new-leaved cottonwoods and poplars reaching toward the century mark. Fresh white paint and forest green trim on the outbuildings added to the look of quiet prosperity. South lay the redtop clover and bluegrass fields—even at that distance, a kaleidoscope of heady scents and hues this early summer day. To the west, cattle grazed the fenced acreage, a far cry from the old open-range, let-’em-drift days. At the foot of the slope on which he stood, Willow Creek glinted as it twisted along its rocky bed. Over all drowsed the hush of early morning.
Matt turned, finally, to continue his climb. He reached the top of the low incline and dragged in a deep breath. Time was, he remembered ruefully, when he could run up this slope without even thinking about it. Ah, youth. Heedless, taken-for-granted youth.
His critical inspection traveled the picket fence that crowned the slope. White and trim, the wooden enclosure needed no care, the rich perfume of the cream and crimson roses bordering it wafting to him on the dawn breeze. The dozen graves the fence protected were also in good order, just as he had left them the last time. His glance slowly touched each one—Pa’s, and close beside it, Ma’s, and the tiny one of their baby, Elizabeth, who had lived only a few short hours. His gaze went then to the carved headstone of their other daughter, Eve, and rested a long moment on the words, “Beloved Wife,” before he opened the little gate and stepped inside.
With some difficulty he knelt, and carefully arranged a purple and white cluster of flowers on Eve’s grave. Sweetpeas—how she had favored them. He hoped that, Somewhere, she was enjoying the fragrance of the blooms he had brought her today. A shadow fell across the grave and Matt looked up to see a hawk beating skyward, rabbit-victim clutched in cruel talons. Full daylight had come now. It’s going to be another scorcher, sultry like it is and still early.
He sighed. Cattle might dismiss the heat with a casual tail flick, but he sure couldn’t take it like he used to. This whole past spring had been unusually warm. He slapped at—and missed—a gnat whining near his ear, and his hand trembled.
Impatience elbowed him. Old age. The betrayal of the heart by the body. He wasn’t old, he who, like Job, had seen his sons and daughters and their sons and daughters mature. Much like the magnificent winged hunter that was now a mere speck against the sapphire blue sky in the east, his still-young spirit would take off in soaring flight. Inexorably, he would be dragged back to earth by a weary body that could be neither forced nor cajoled into following.
He raised an arm to wipe sweat from his forehead and a whisper, an instant of memory snagged at the corner of his mind. That was one of the biggest saddle galls of old age. Out of a lifetime of remembrances one would come, fleeting so that he wouldn’t be able to capture it, but persistent, teasing him for hours. Well, this one isn’t going to plague me.
Resolutely he shifted his thoughts to the weather—a favorite topic, and no denying, of those who worked with the land. All the ranchers had been complaining of the heat. He chuckled. He could tell ’em a thing or two about hot weather! They think this present month is a scorcher. Why, it hasn’t gone above a hundred five degrees at any time. But that other summer with days on end of one hundred twenty in the shade—hard to believe that was over sixty years ago.
“For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”
Ben’s deep voice came so clearly Matt almost jumped out of his skin, and his eyes flicked toward the graves of the man and woman who had taken him in after his birth parents died in an Indian raid. No one was there, of course, and he willed his heart to stop pounding like a blacksmith’s hammer and using his chest for the anvil. Truth to tell, he’d stood his share of night watches in his time, and some of ’em had seemed like a thousand years. His attempt to joke himself out of the certainty he had heard Ben’s voice fell flapjack flat, and he shook his head sharply to dispel the worrisome notion. Down at the house, they fussed about him so. If they found out about this prime-grade foolishness, they’d think the loop in his lariat had slipped for sure.
In reality, he could tell plenty about those gut-wrenching days and nights if he chose. Some things one can never shut out sight or sound of. Some things stay in the memory so that even six decades later, it’s like they happened only yesterday.
Strange how he could picture those people now, not as blurred shadows but exactly as if they had stepped out of that long gone past. Barrel-chested Ben, in dusty, well-worn grange gear, was swinging down from his horse and striding from the corrals. Anne, apron fluttering, brown eyes bright with joy, was flying down the porch steps to meet him.
How many times did he witness that very scene during his growing up years? Plenty, was the only answer he could come up with.
With no memory at all of the young man and woman who had been everything to him for the first three years of his life, Ben and Anne, solidly real to him, had been Pa and Ma. Once more he heard them telling their children—both those of their blood and those of their hearts—to face life fearlessly, to accept full responsibility for their actions no matter what the cost, because it was the price of life, itself.
A warmth that had nothing to do with the heat of the sun spread through him when he saw the others were there, too. Catty, his birth sister, smiled up at her husband Aaron. Ben and Anne’s son Jason and his wife Becky stood next to them. Removed from the group, Luke, Jason’s younger brother, watched them furtively. Why has he come back now, six decades after he betrayed us all?
Surprised at the still-living surge of bitterness, Matt averted his gaze and spied Dan Mackley, half-hidden behind the others. The years rolled off his shoulders and Matt was twenty-five again. He and Dan were sitting their horses on drought-parched rangeland, and the grizzled older man was sticking out his work-hardened paw and shaking Matt’s hand for the first time. Neither of us guessed on that autumn morning that we were sealing a bond of friendship that would last a lifetime.
Peering into the shadows cast by the flight of eighty years, he smiled at the sight of the little girl toddling behind his own eight-year-old figure. Even though her baby steps couldn’t hope to keep pace with his surer stride, her scrunched up face mirrored furious determination. There was no mistaking the carrot-top curls that had plagued Eve well past her growing out of other real or imagined little-girl woes. As she tagged after him, she became all knees and elbows, freckles and wild, fly away mane of red hair, and his own young boy stature lengthened and filled out.
Before he could fully grasp the wonder of glimpsing those vanished children, Eve shed her cocoon of gangly coltishness for attractive young womanhood. Now, with copper-burnished hair and deep blue eyes, she was laughing up at him as, all unaware that their childhood’s rollicking companionship had become the man’s abiding love, she prepared breakfast for him on a bittersweet winter morning.
The young Matt he had been stood in the warm, fragrant kitchen with her. He had grown to adulthood in that house, in that family as Eve’s older brother. Not just in her eyes, but in everyone else’s, too, this assumption was so deeply ingrained, any other emotion would have violated all the moral codes Ben and Anne had instilled in him from his earliest days. Instead of admitting the truth and facing their shock and disgust—he had deliberately used that harsh word to himself, knowing it for a very real possibility—he had walked out on them. In his know-it-all ignorance he had been so certain, then, that the only way he could remain close to Eve was by going away. By the time he had scraped together enough common sense to heed Ben and Anne’s guidance and accept full responsibility for his actions, the cost had literally been life itself. Pa and Ma, dying in a robbery that Luke, their own son, had set into motion, had paid the price in full. The old regret that he hadn’t been there to help them when they needed him bit deep into Matt’s belly with venomous fangs. In a wicked twist of circumstance, Ben’s and Anne’s deaths had brought him and Eve together as they learned, very nearly too late, in the harshest of all schools to value what was important. Even the truth of Eve’s dose-of-reality assertion that if he had been with Pa and Ma she might have lost him too, did little to placate the soul-deep knowledge of just how wrong he had been.
Why is it, he wondered, that we can’t see? Why does it take tragedy—irrevocable loss—for us to appreciate what we’ve been given?
Again Pa’s voice came clearly. “For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.” The words resonated so familiarly, Ben might have been reading a nightly chapter from the Bible to the family gathered in the firelit sitting room, with all the years between not yet come.
He leaned on his cane, swaying a little, lost in the appearance of the healthy, vibrantly alive people who had come to him. From a great distance, the breeze bore to him the lowing of the cattle, and the scrap of memory tugged at him again. Cattle … and springtime … and the winds blowing over the wide green plains….
Suddenly unutterably weary, he eased down beside Eve’s grave. “Beloved wife,” he murmured. With the panorama of sky and ranch, of wind and grassland that he loved enfolding him in warmth like a tattered but cherished quilt, the earlier elusive memory rushed toward him. The landscape blurred. But the figures remained, clear and alive as he slipped with them back to the springtime of his youth, and the summer of his young manhood.
About the Author:
Louise Lenahan Wallace is the author of four novels. The Longing of the Day
and Day Star Rising
take place in Wyoming Territory in 1886-1887. Days of Eternity
and Day Unto Day
are set in Nebraska Territory and Ohio during and just after the Civil War. Her fifth novel, in progress, is Children of the Day
, in which one of the characters from Ohio travels to Wyoming Territory in 1871 and meets the folks from the first two novels in their earlier lives.
Louise has won numerous writing awards. Day Unto Day
was a finalist In Chanticleer Reviews 2012 Published Novel Competition
. Her non-fiction story Teacher of the Heart
placed second in the 2012 San Mateo County Fair
competition and is in the Anthology, Carry the Light
. She has been published in Grit Magazine
and in Chicken Soup for the Single’s Soul
. She lives in Port Angeles, Washington.
Remember to find Wyoming Writers, Inc., on Facebook:
and follow us on Twitter!