God’s Goodness Shines

Posted November 29, 2015 by MJ Brewer
Categories: Short Stories

Tags: , ,

Preuss, A. Nov. 29, 2015, KABC, CNN

“Yeah, he called, but I’m not sure he’s my kind’a guy. You get what I –“

“Sh, did you hear that?” Jodi waves Rachel quiet with her finger in the air, cocking her head to one side and listening.

Rachel laughs. “You mean that cat in heat? I hear it alright.” Her brows furrow, hands on her hips. “And I wouldn’t want anyone getting into my business.”

“No, I think it’s a baby.”

“A baby?” Rachel asks, but Jodi has left the conversation. She’s got her fingers wrapped around the chain-link fence that lines both sides of the walkway where the two friends have been jogging just about every day for the past two years. This is the first time they’d stopped, other than for the occasional loose shoelace, and once Rachel got a fairly bad cramp.

It doesn’t take long for Rachel to join her friend and they both halt, listening.

Without another word, they fall to their knees at a pile of asphalt, stacked next to the fences foundation. Stacked loosely, the pieces are easily removed and they see a pink hospital blanket wrapped around a little body of a baby.

Gently removing the baby, whose eyes are barely open, Jodi holds the petite freezing body against her own for warmth.

The baby shushes, closing her eyes, and drifting to sleep. Her headful of thick dark curls framing her tiny facial features appear angelic against the thin receiving blanket cradling her small frame.

“Oh good Lord,” Rachel says, eyes wide in disbelief, “I wouldn’t have even stopped.”

Holding the newborn baby against her body, Jodi smiles. “God’s goodness shines on those deserving. This baby is special.” She bends her head to kiss the infant.

“Yes, yes she is, and so are you for being the person who stopped to listen.”

Based on a true CNN story.

The Road to Nowhere

Posted November 28, 2015 by MJ Brewer
Categories: Life (cereal) and Times (newspaper) of One Woman's Extraordinary Events, Short Stories

Tags: ,
The road to nowhere can lead anywhere

The road to nowhere can lead anywhere


At fifteen-years-old Jenna appears a full-grown woman in the physical respect. The reddish-brown thick hair spilling off her shoulders and trailing down her back tickles the skin below her cutoff shirt. Her shorts are so brief that bending over leaves nothing to anyone’s imagination. Regardless of first appearances, her slightly turned up nose and long-lashed blue eyes above her pleasantly curling lips betray the rest of her worldliness. And even more than that, the tiny fairy footprints trailing from one side of her face, across her nose to the other side, freckle her cheeks like an innocent child who’d lost her first tooth. When she speaks, sincere people lose sight of anything below her chin.

With the house clean and her homework complete, Jenna scoops up a book she’s been meaning to read. She flops lazily on the couch.

“Let’s go!” her father says. His red baseball cap covers his balding head that used to remind people of Elvis. The sleeves missing from his shirt reveal semi-flabby upper arms with black bear fur covering his forearms. For a man in his mid-forties, he moves around with a newfound energy since his wife’s disappearance. He even reinvented his nickname as Zed.

Curious about this, Jenna performed a search on her computer at school and discovered the name means, “The Lord is just.”

Jenna glances at the photo on the wall of the three of them. Her mother was beautiful. She has her eyes. “Do you think she’ll come back?”

Bends over his camera bag, shuffling things around and throwing a couple of bottles of water in, he hesitates. “Who?” He doesn’t, however, break his stride in preparation.


“Doubt it.”

“Do you think it was something I did?”

Zipping the bag closed, Zed places his hands on his hips, standing tall and towering over her. He shakes his head. “It was nothing you did. But you’ve got to let it go. It’s been over three years now. Trust me when I say she’s never coming back.”

“Will you please tell me what happened again?”

He frowns and his shoulders rise. “Why?”

“Just one more time. I promise I’ll never ask you again after this time.”

“Dammit Jenna. Reliving the past only keeps you from going anywhere. You may as well be on the road to nowhere, walking in crazy circles.” He grimaces as his fingers walk circles in the air. “She went out one night and never came home.” He claps. “End of story. Can we go now?”

The bag slides easily onto his shoulder. Without checking to ensure his daughter’s following him, he leaves.

With a whisk of her hand, Jenna catches her sunglasses off the hook by the door and throws them on her face, jogging out behind him.

The kids in the neighborhood walk their dogs, run through sprinklers, and dash up and down the street playing a game of tag. All of them are young—too young to do anything remotely fun for a teenager. Jenna’s forehead numbly bounces against the car window all the way to the park.

“Wow, looks like we hit rush hour traffic,” Jenna says, observing a group barbecuing. They have what her father refers to as “nigga shit” blaring while several people dance and about ten others watch, cheering them on.

Others relax on blankets or towels in swimwear, even though there isn’t a beach for several states away. They glisten in lotion and oil, inviting the kiss of cancer in exchange for the sake of beauty.

The car swings in and parks.

“This spot is looking pretty good.” Zed tucks the keys in his pocket, grabs the camera bag, and stands eying a twenty-something girl. She’s lying face down with her suit unfastened in the back. Her twisted blond hair in a makeshift bun clings fastened to her head.

Jenna slides out of the car and tugs at the bottoms of her shorts. She groans and tries to get a bit more length out of them. “Next time I think I’ll cut my own shorts off.”

“Whatever.” Zed stands with his back to her. He reaches a hand into the side pocket of his camera case and grabs a business card, displaying a fake company name and logo. Ignoring Jenna, he watches closely as the blond woman stretches for a bottle of water, just out of reach.

As if on cue, Zed prances over toward the blanket, the water, and the woman in need. “Let me get that for you.” His voice sings with compassion as he picks the bottle up and holds it out to her, a little too high. She strains to get it, still smiling, and reveals a tiny bit of what’s underneath.

“Perv.” Jenna leans against the car and surveys her father getting comfortable on the blanket next to his shapely target.

“Hey, wassup?” A couple of dark-skinned boys saunter up the sidewalk, smiling.

“Hi.” Jenna smiles back at them, and they pause in front of her.

“I ain’t never seen you here befo’.” His dark velvety skin contrasts his glistening white teeth, enhancing pitch black eyes. They’re both in jerseys and basketball shorts. One has a ball tucked under his arm.

“I’m with my dad.” She indicates her father hitting on the bikini-clad woman. “We go to different parks on the weekends so he can practice his photography. We’ve never been here before, though. I like it.” Jenna soaks in the trees and laughter, the joy this place brings to everyone. She sees the basketball court in the distance with a couple of kids shooting hoops.

They both peer toward her father, exchange grins and roll their eyes. They chuckle. “Practicing photography,” one says in a slow and deliberate manner.

“So what are you doing?” the other says, shrugging. “Wanna come watch us play?”

Jenna hesitates, wondering what her father might say.

“She likes ’em black, and you ain’t dark enough. Go tan,” Zed says, waving his arm around as if shooing flies from a fresh carcass.

Both of their faces cloud over and their brows draw down. Commencing their shuffle, without a word, they head toward the others with the blaring music and laughter.

“For twenty bucks, she’ll probably give you a two fer!” He continues hollering behind them before redirecting attention to her. “I’m gone for one second and you start picking up roaches like rotting food in the back alley,” Zed says angrily. “What’s the matter with you? You fishing for a jungle disease?”

Jenna peeks past her father’s shoulder at the celebrating people. “You’re judgmental and prejudice. Not everyone else is sick like you, you know.”

She may as well have physically slapped his face. He shudders. With his head hanging, he replaces his camera bag in the car and gets in.

Jenna glares at him through the window, waiting for him to say something, but he doesn’t even look. She reaches her hand out for the handle. A loud click sounds indicates activation of the locks. He waves.

The car jolts backward from the stall, spinning its tires and screeches to a halt. He guns the engine like a high school boy at a stoplight. Zed rolls his window down and shouts at her. “I ain’t no nigger lover. Go play with your new friends.” The car’s engine revs, burns rubber fishtailing, and disappears in a stench of churning gray smoke.

Standing in dismay, Jenna sighs and tilts her head to the sun, determining its position. They had driven for nearly an hour to get here, and her sense of direction was practically nonexistent. Be that as it may, her feet needed no coercion to begin the trek.

Jenna traipses across the driveway to the light at the corner of the park and waits for the traffic light to change. The tunes behind her blur along with the sun and she suddenly goes numb. She crumbles and her body melts into the lawn, spinning dizzy and confused.

The last time she saw her mother was the night her mom was going out with her friend from work, Chloe. Although her mother had been working at the office for nearly five years, and spoken of Chloe as if they were sisters, Jenna hadn’t seen her until that night when Chloe came over. Her father planned on driving and picking them up from the club. He said when he went to get her, she wasn’t there. The club owner said she’d never gone in.

Jenna’s mother had never gone out for a girls’ night before, and that night she was a queen, glowing with a new confidence. Chloe was radiant too, with silky cocoa skin and dark rows of hair. It was all Jenna could do not to reach out and touch her. Despite their differences, they were close friends.

Jenna’s mother never did come home. Her mind flashes back to the night when her father returned. He claimed his wife was on the road to nowhere. Jenna wondered where that road was and if she’d find it too.



Democrats, Republicans, or Americans

Posted November 20, 2015 by MJ Brewer
Categories: Short Stories

Tags: , , , , , ,

“That’s how many kids you’re inviting?” Anna’s mom asked, brushing the hair from her eyes and glancing at her daughter. They’d spent the better part of an hour comprising a list of children’s names from her fifth grade class to come to her party. But they still had one spot left to make it an even dozen.

“Yep, ten. But counting me, it’s eleven.”

“We’re paying for twelve at the pizza parlor. Are you sure you don’t want to invite anyone else?” Her mother thinks for a second, and when the light bulb goes off her finger shoots into the air. “I’ve got it. How about that girl Marti who was playing soccer with you that one day? Remember, the one who looks like she should be in seventh grade?”

“She’s supposed to be in eighth.” The anger brews in Anna’s cheeks and her teeth clench. “And she wasn’t playing soccer with me, she was kicking the ball away from me. She always does that because she’s a bully.”

Her mom gives her a squeeze and leans back examining her daughter. “Okay, you don’t need to have an even dozen. Maybe you’ll think of someone from church or from the playgroup. Hey, I know…”

Anna’s mouth twists up and her eyes roll toward the ceiling before she gives her blond shoulder-length hair a shake. “No one.”

“Well, you never can tell. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself and think of someone before the weekend.” With a pat on her backside, her mother says, “Let’s get you off to school. We’ve been so busy, I almost made you late.”

Throwing their jackets on, Anna snags her backpack and follows her mother into the garage, slamming the door behind her.


“Mommy, you’ll never guess what happened at school today!” Anna came barreling into the kitchen where her mother slouched over the computer at the table. A stack of envelopes to the side, made out with stamps on the corners. One lone invitation set apart from the others.

“What happened, my little munchkin?” She opens her arms and tugs her little girl up against her, planting a kiss on her forehead.

“I made a new friend today!”

“Really? Just like that?”

“Just like that.” Anna repeated. She set her backpack down on the floor and unzipped the opening, pulling out a picture she’d drawn and holding it up for her mother to take in. There were two little heads, one with yellow straight-lined hair and the other with brown loops for hair. The brown-headed one had big dark eyes contrasting with the blonde’s blue ones. Both of the faces had smiles and a big red heart hovered between their foreheads.

“Oh my goodness!” Her mother stretches her mouth and eyes wide open. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen such curly hair. Is this a kid in your class?”

“Yep!” Anna said with pride.

Her mother nods and adds, “Does your friend have a name?”


“Wow!” Her mother tilts her head, peering at her from the corner of her eye. “I’ve never heard of that name before. Is it a girl?”

“Yes, and she’s so smart.” Her eyes squint hard at her mother. “Doesn’t my picture look like a girl? That’s me.” She indicates the likeness with a jab of her finger and then turns the paper around to scrutinize it.

“I could tell that was you, but sometimes boys can have long hair.” She pulls the edge of the paper down, peeking over the top. “Oh, I didn’t see her eyelashes. Of course, now I can tell it’s a girl. I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay.” Her shoulders rise and fall as if preparing for a big announcement. “She sits next to me. And when Mrs. Coates was calling out our names to line up for lunch, she called Bana and then my name.” She giggles. “All the kids laughed at that, even Marti.”

“Why were the kids laughing?”

“Because Mrs. Coates said, ‘Bana, Anna,’ right after each other. That’s pretty funny, right? So we sort of knew right away we were meant to be friends.” The cozy assuredness on Anna’s face gleamed. “At first the other kids acted sort of weird around her, but I told them about all the great things I learned from her in one day. She’s very smart. I think she might be the president some day.”

Her mom laughs and strokes her daughter’s hair. Pressing her forehead against her daughter’s, she said, “Yeah, I think you’ve established you think she’s smart. Is that who you want to address your final invitation to?”

Anna’s head wobbled up and down like the bobble head in the front of her grandpa’s truck. “Yes, please.” She snatched the pen from the table and addressed the letter herself, writing slowly and methodically in ink and then reciting it aloud. “Bana.”

About a month later, Mrs. Coates had to leave the state to care for her sick mother. A substitute surprised Anna with a gruff introduction. She waited outside the classroom for the kids to enter, like Mrs. Coates always did, but she didn’t smile at all or speak. Her arms crossed in front of her, Anna thought she was copying the mean teachers from when her mom was a kid.

Anna sat tall in her chair and waited for Bana.

The bell rang and Bana wasn’t in her seat. But as soon as the substitute rubbed her name “Mrs. Evans” on the board, Bana popped through the door.

“Bana!” Anna called out, waving her arm in the air as if she hadn’t seen her for a week. “Hurry and come—“

“Excuse me,” the teacher interrupted saying. “The bell has rung. Class is in session, and all eyes should be on me.” Her glare shot out at Anna. “1-2-3, eyes on me. Have you heard that before?”

“1-2, eyes on you!” the class chimed in, and Anna sank into her chair. Bana slowly settled into her own seat. For a moment, Mrs. Evans smirked.

“Do you have an excuse for being tardy?” Mrs. Evans spit out the question.

“Yes, my dad had problems getting the car started this morning and—“

The teacher sighed heavily, exaggerating with slumped shoulders. “That isn’t what I meant,” she said, “Do you have a piece of paper from the office with a signed statement explaining why you’re interrupting the class?” The teacher’s corners of her mouth drooped even lower. “Even now you’re taking up twenty-two kids’ learning time by being tardy. Understand?”


“Mrs. Evans.” The teacher reminded her.

“Excuse me?”

“My name is Mrs. Evans. When you address an adult, you should say her name. ‘Yes, Mrs. Evans’.”

A peculiar silence sucked all the positive energy from the classroom. Anna could only hear her heart beating. Not a kid moved.

“Yes, Mrs. Evans. I’ll get a note from the office.” Bana’s head was down. Anna noticed her fingers twisted in front of her indicating discomfort.

Mrs. Evans playfully lunged at Bana, nearly causing her to fall back as she staggered into her desk. “Go then.” She whispered. “And hurry back. You have five minutes, but don’t run. No running allowed in the halls.”

Bana stole a glance at Anna over her shoulder before shuffling toward the door. “You’d better go faster than that. You only have four minutes left,” Mrs. Evans said, chuckling afterwards.

The door closed, and the classroom remained shocked while Mrs. Evans strolled to the board and picked up a yardstick lying across the top. With a whacking noise, she brought it down several times in the palm of her hand. “One thing I will make exceedingly clear to this classroom is that while your teacher—whatever her name is—is gone, everyone of you will follow my rules as if I was your original teacher.” Her eyes shift and land on Jaxyn, who scrunches down in his seat, eyes averted. “No exceptions. Is that clear?”

The entire class nodded their heads and a few voices muttered their approval. “Good. Let’s start then.” Her head craned up to the wall beside the door. “Uh oh, I believe we’ll have to make…”

The classroom door popped open and Bana rushes in, handing a slip of paper to the substitute teacher. The teacher pulls the note arm’s length away and squints her eyes to make out the words. “There’s no date on this note,” she said. “Where’s the date?”

Bewildered, the class watched in morbid silence as the teacher crumpled up the note and threw it into the garbage can stationed by the desk. “Never mind, I’ve wasted enough time trying to coerce you into cooperating. Go sit down.” Her long thin finger pointed at the lone chair to the side of the room, under the light switch, segregated from the rest of the class.

“But her chair is right here beside me.” Anna let the words spill before stopping herself, and her arm jolted out indicating the empty desk.

The teacher took long deliberate strides in front of the blond and bent down. She leaned over and whispered, her breath forced the blond locks lying against Anna’s jaw to bow in as she spoke. “Without implications, I believe I was quite clear with my demonstration in substantiating that I make the rules. I’m the queen of the classroom and you, my dear, are the serving drones who should consider themselves lucky. By the time your teacher returns, she won’t know what hit her.”

Pulling back and straightening up, she smiles a raw and treacherous grin, as if the earth of a graveyard were opening wide to swallow the headstones it had housed for so long. “Understand?” Her head swayed a bit as a punctuation mark at the end, but nobody moved an eyelash.

­­The lesson droned on as Mrs. Evans snapped the book shut, uncrossing her thin cricket-like legs and slid off the desk. Shifting the notebook toward her, she flipped it open to the roll. “Gabrielle, tell me what the author meant when he wrote about the sound of a scorpion.”

The class snickered. No one answered, even though her eyes pierced through Gabe’s face like a laser through a piece of tissue paper. “Don’t you know the answer? Weren’t you listening to a word I said?”

“Yes, ma’am.” His green eyes dulled and he shrinked in his chair.

“Then why don’t you answer me?” Mrs. Evans hovered over Gabe the way bad news hovers over an envelope from the IRS.

Frightened beyond words, Gabe whispers something inaudible.

“What did you say?”

“My name is Gabriel, but my friends call me Gabe.” He winces and his eyes shift away for a second. “Not Gabrielle, ma’am.”

Brock Turner leaps from his desk with his finger extended forward pointing at the front of Gabe’s pants. “He peed his pants. OMG, he freakin’ peed right there on the floor. Pathetic!”

The class bursts in mixed reactions, some of them sneer in revulsion while others cringe in angst, as if the situation happened to them. Mrs. Evans’ body straightens tall and she sniffs the air. With lowered glowering lids, her chin lifted and she said, “You, Gabriel, piddled your britches as a scorned puppy, refusing to be housebroken. I simply don’t know what to do with you.”

Gabe’s lower lip quivers and he ducks his head in shame.

“You need to leave him alone,” Bana said, rising from her desk and pounding it with her little fists. “You’re a bully and you’ve probably always been a bully, even in school. You probably have to be a substitute because no one else wants you.”

The entire class stared at Bana with their mouths hanging down to their chests in complete and utter awe. “Just who do you think you are?” The teacher spat at her, bending over to plant her hands firmly on the desk in front of Bana.

“My name is Bana Baz, and I come from a country where we were beaten and slain for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the right time. My mother and baby brother were shot in front of my father and me. I still remember everyone screaming and running away. Everyone but me. I knelt down beside my mother, her mouth opened, but no words came out. Still, I knew she pleading for me to save my brother, but he was dead too. I started to cry. My father scooped me into his arms and dived into a shelter, saving my life. That was before we came here to the Land of the Free. The land where everyone pulls together. Not just Republican or Democratic, but humanity as a whole. The country of God. The country of love.”

For a brief moment, Mrs. Evans stood in silence, gaining her composure and preparing for her own mass destruction. “So, you are a refugee? I should have known by the way you behave so defiantly. A troublemaker…”

A pencil flew across the room and bounced off the rude teacher’s shoulder. Before Anna could determine what was happening, the majority of the class scooted out of their seats approaching the front of the room like a junior mob.

The teacher took a couple of steps back. “Get in your seats right now,” she said, although the curtness was missing. There was a sense of uneasiness surrounding what she said as her fingers clawed the air, reaching behind her for the jacket draped on the back of her chair. Curling her fingers around the coat she gave it a yank, removing it easily, and staggered toward the door. “You are a group of ungrateful curs,” she said before Marti lunged at her, giving her a shove and slamming the door closed behind her.

Standing alone in the classroom amongst the chairs, Gabriel’s head hung low and tears dripped from his eyes. “Don’t worry. You can call your mom and have her bring you some clean pants,” Anna said to him, draping an arm around his shoulders and giving them a hearty squeeze.

“It’s not that as much as what my father said this morning at the breakfast table. He said the refugees coming into our country were going to ruin it.” His tear-stained cheeks reflected the fluorescent lights from above. “But Bana is a refugee, and I think she may help save the country by reminding us who we are.”

Bana stood with a smile and threw an arm around Anna’s shoulders. “With Bana-Anna in this country, we can do anything.”



Japetoneda, (Jan. 2, 2009) God Bless America – American Flag with M4A1 Rifle and Dollar sign, Flickr


The Three Worst Fears

Posted November 18, 2015 by MJ Brewer
Categories: Short Stories


About three decades ago, I had a discussion with my seventh grade friend Jane about the three worst things that could happen in our lives. I don’t recall what her’s were, but I remember mine. My first was the inability to have kids. As a flourishing Mormon, taught to “go forth and replenish the earth,” this was my number one goal. I wanted to have ten babies, as did the other girls in my class. Unfortunately, I found out early on in my life, according to three medical professionals, I would never carry full term. I had my first baby at age 36 and my second at age 40. The doctors were a bit delayed, but obviously wrong.

Second, despite the romantic movies on television about maidens in distress forgetting who they are before a handsome man jars her memory and they dash off to live happily ever after, I was petrified at the thought. But because of a family practitioner’s focus on experimenting with Prozac for the sake of a kickback, she convinced me I was depressed. The drug had an unfortunate side effects of retrograde and anterograde amnesia that literally took years to rebuild my mind into the powerful fortress it is today. The doctor who had prescribed the medication denied any responsibility and my faith in doctors dwindled to near obsolete.

Third, while still pregnant with my daughter, engaged to her father, a truck ran a red light and slammed me from the side, spinning the car to a stop. Panicked because the 7-month-old baby had ceased moving, I was relieved three hours later when the doctor (hmm-hm) announced she was fine. I was relieved. Afterwards, her head was a bit crooked and she craned her neck back like an eating baby bird each time she went to sleep. A chiropractor scared the hell out of me by grabbing her newborn head between his hands and popping her head on straight. No problems since. Oh, the reason I was at the chiropractor’s was because my back had two herniated and a ruptured disk. Took nearly a decade to heal because the funds won in court weren’t even enough for one of the three surgeries required to put me back together again. We lived off my savings, the settlement, and the 401k for three years, waiting for my back to heal. Since it took nearly ten, my third fear came to light. We were homeless.

But I’m a strong believer that all bad things must come to an end. After all, everyone dies. I’m kidding, sort of. This whole negative circumstance has come full around. Being poor like we are, we’ve come to appreciate each other, which is more than most families can say. My back has finally created enough scar tissue I no longer require a cane, and I no longer wet my pants in an effort to make it to the restroom. I’m fairly ecstatic about this as I had a deep seeded fear it was permanent. Sometimes it feels great to be wrong.

I received my BFA in creative writing on my 49th birthday, which is quite awesome. I got it before I was 50, after struggling several times in my efforts while rebuilding my brain and my personality, all the while sorting out the ones who cared from the ones who couldn’t. I have a new and healthier view on life. See, when you go without all the luxuries you’ve grown accustomed to, and even fond memories, you begin appreciate the tiny things that mean so much more. If you don’t believe me, watch the Tom Hank’s movie Castaway and you’ll see what I mean.

We’re poor now, as I search for suitable employment that will challenge me more than paying back the $1,200/month in student debt and giving us enough to eat more than spoonfuls of flour with a dash of salt. What we’ve all come to comprehend is how important every moment with each other is, every tooth that falls out while eating dumplings, every laugh that causes milk to shoot out our noses, and each time we finish playing a board game together. We have so much more than other people. We have memories we create together, and they aren’t the latest and greatest computer games, or even name brand jackets with matching hats. We’ve come to appreciate each and every memory coming our way.

Have a great holiday season this year and when you hug that special someone, hug them as tight as if you may never see them again. One day it will be true, unlike the three most horrible things that can happen to you. Unless the worst thing is the one aunt with the hairy mole that scratches your face, and her pickled breath makes your hair stand on end. That would definitely be much worse. Seriously, give your special person a hug.

Oh yeah, one last thing. Remember I told you about my seventh grade friend Jane? She wound up being one of the first female judges in the state of Utah. I should ask her what her fears were again. I wonder if she would remember them, or if she’d even pause to talk to someone like me.




Practice What You Preach

Posted February 2, 2015 by MJ Brewer
Categories: Short Stories

Naughty Nun

Naughty Nun

When I drive to the library each morning, I pass the hospital and see a conglomeration of healthcare workers polluting the air with cigarettes. Seeing this reminds me of what seeing a preacher attending a whorehouse would be like. Sort of a hypocritical thing to happen, don’t you think?

So, the Superbowl was yesterday and the chip and beer aisles at the store were vacant. Wives were vacuuming like crazy  trying to get the potato chip crumbs out of the carpet and blotting beer out of the couch. And I’d be willing to bet the office phone rang a bit with those too “sick” to come in after their turbulent day. Could you imagine what it would be like if this country went crazy like that about a golfing tournament or a curling match? Imagine polo shirts on sale with your favorite golfing athlete’s name on the left breast. Those funky hats with the straws poking out into beer cans lining the golfing green? This would definitely put a new spin on things, right? And just entertain your mind with the happenings of the curling event! Women don’t get obsessed with football the way men do. Some of them try, just so they can have something in common with their significant other. But that doesn’t mean the guy’s going to start watching Desperate Housewives. If he does already, he probably does the cooking too. Not that I wouldn’t want a guy that can cook!

Now I’m torn! Smoking isn’t my thing… but I wonder if they have this outfit in my size? (j/k)

The Locket

Posted December 19, 2013 by MJ Brewer
Categories: Short Stories

Tags: , , , , ,


The old woman is massaging a heart-shaped silver locket between her fingers as the nurse stands behind her combing her long silver mane with an antique brush. “And my Jasmine is every mother’s dream, you know?” the elder says in her soft voice. Pushing a small button on the side, she pops the locket open. A photo of a young woman with large blue eyes, lips curled up in a secretive smile, peers out.

            The nurse stops combing and places her hand on the older woman’s shoulder. “I remember how excited you were at Christmas, Beverly. I can recall the two of you like little girls, braiding each others hair and giggling.” Beverly separates it into three silky sections, overlaying one side across the other into a singular braid.

            “My Jazzy,” Beverly says, her eyes linger at the window pane watching what nature holds on the other side. “The only reason my hair isn’t short like most women my age is all because of my Jasmine you know.”

            “No, I didn’t know that.” She continues to braid to the end as she listens.

            “Oh yes.” The woman smiles, folding her hands in her lap before she continues, “I was older than most women when I had Jasmine. The doctors all said I’d never bear children, but they were wrong.” She shakes her finger in the air as if scolding a doctor now. “Yes sir, they were wrong. I got pregnant just before her daddy was called to war. Of course I didn’t find out until he was gone, and then it was too late. And being a single mother back then was hard, you know.”  

            Beverly shifts in her chair to capture her listener’s face before rotating back around, waiting for the final touches.

            The nurse finishes up the braid and wraps it around her head in a wreath, cinching it with a few bobby pins and spritzing it with spray. “You look lovely,” she says to her client.

            “Her father liked long hair, you know. He used to laugh and call me Rapunzel. I remember how he would wrap himself up in it before we went to sleep at night, like a little boy with his blankie.”

Beverly’s eyes fill with tears and the gold locket slides back and forth on the chain between her withered fingers, making a zing-zing sound. The thin smiling lips quiver and she emits a tiny choking gasp.

            The nurse pulls a folding metal chair around in front of the old woman and takes the aged hands into her own. The plain, unembellished silver wedding band loosely encircles her ring finger. She waited patiently for the next part to follow.

            “Every night I’d comb it and cry until one night I couldn’t stand it anymore and cut it off to here,” she said, indicating a length with her fingers, like scissors, just below her jaw. “I guess part of it was the mood swings from the pregnancy, but I never did grow it back, until…”

            The nurse takes the old woman’s wrinkled hands, “Go on, Beverly. Tell me all about your precious baby.”

            “When I saw the beautiful curly blond locks around her face, it seemed a shame to cut them off, maybe a sin of some kind, so I didn’t. It grew clear to her waist.” She giggles and covers her mouth to cough, reaching for a tissue the nurse hands to her. “Just like mine used to be. One day, I guess she was about ten, she asked me if I could grow mine out so we could be twins. It was the darn-hootinest thing you ever did see–her telling people we were twins.” Beverly pauses and catches her breath, whispering the rest. “Jazzy was such a lovely little girl and then she grew up!” Beverly chuckles again, punctuating it with a cough that continues until she is blue in the face, with the tissue pressing hard against her mouth.

            “Beverly, are you okay, hun?” the nurse asks. She stands to get a plastic cup of cold water from the cooler by the wall and holds it out to her.

            Beverly put the cup to her lips and swallows before she pulls it away again. “She’s about due now, isn’t she?”


            “Well, Jasmine of course,” Beverly smiles. “That is why you did my hair for me, remember?” Beverly straightens the locket and fixes her collar, giving it a pat. Her sad expression is replaced with a joyous adventure seeking face.

            “Of course I remember.” She holds her watch up to take a look. “She should be here anytime, I guess.”

            “Wonderful, just wonderful dear.” Beverly’s vision is not broken, nor her grin faltering. “Would you be a dear and direct her in here when she comes? I made some gingerbread and apple cider.”

            Stroking the old woman on the back with her hand, she reassures her. “I’ll do that Beverly.”

            “Thank you, dear.”

            The nurse stands and moves toward the doorway behind the woman where another nurse is entering and pushing her purse into a locker. “She’s talking about Jasmine coming to visit for Christmas again,” she tells the new nurse as she plucks her purse from inside another locker, slinging it over her shoulder.

            “The poor woman,” the new arrival says, “It’s getting to be more frequent.”

            “I’m glad I’m not the one to break her heart this time. It’s the worst part of my shift, watching her cry.” She steals a glance at Beverly as she watches out the window and then bows her head, leaving the room.

            “Beverly,” the new nurse taps the old woman gently on the shoulder.

            “Oh,” she says, startled a bit, “I thought you were my Jasmine. She’s every mother’s dream, you know.”

            “Yes, what a lovely girl.”

            “The only reason my hair is long is because Jasmine wants to be twins.  Will you help me fix it so when she comes I can look presentable?”

            “It’s already up, Beverly, and you look perfect.”

Beverly’s eyes open wide and her mouth moves as if she will speak, but then she closes it again. “Oh, so it is.” Her hands reach up and feel the braid wrapping around her head. “Jasmine likes it like this.”

            Beverly watches dreamily through the window. “I just love Christmas. Don’t you?” she says.

            “Yes,” the nurse says, “I think everyone loves Christmas.”

            Crossing the room, the nurse reaches up to close the blinds before Beverly sees the Fourth of July fireworks. When she turns back, the old woman is motionless, crumpled in her chair. The locket cradled delicately in her palm lying in her lap. Jasmine beams up from inside, smiling at her mother.

Feel Better

Posted November 22, 2013 by MJ Brewer
Categories: Life (cereal) and Times (newspaper) of One Woman's Extraordinary Events

Tags: ,
A hug is priceless

A hug is priceless

“I’ll be right back, I promise,” Holly says as she rubs his head with a soothing hand and closes the door. The store is so close it takes a mere two minutes to drive there, yet the light on the dashboard blinks so loud it is all she can do to keep her eyes on the road.

The lights in the store pierce the blackness outside even though they are the energy-saving version, a bit more dull than usual. The rain sprinkles her windshield in tiny droplets, tapping out a mournful tune of loneliness. Taking a deep breath, Holly throws the door open, grabbing her tattered purse, and sprints to the welcoming doors as they slide open for her, beckoning her to a place of comfort.

The bakery sits inside the door so customers can have a look at something to tantalize their families with after their meal. Holly sees the red and green crystal covered cookies cut in various Christmas shapes and she beams. She loves the smells of Christmas with the wreaths, gingerbread, and pumpkin pie filling the air. But there’s no time for relaxing now as she opens her eyes and continues to the back of the store.

The bottles line the shelves in various sizes and colors as she grabs a nameless brand of lemon-lime carbonated beverage from the top and heads to the soups. There are so many to choose from. Holly grabs a can of half-off chicken soup and hustles to the check stand.

The cashier smiles at her. “Hello, how are you? Did you find everything okay?” she asks.

“Yes, I’m fine, thank you.” But her eyes shift to the place where the numbers appear with the totals as she waits. “Oh no, I don’t have that much.”

“We didn’t add in your store card. You do have one, don’t you?”

Holly reaches into her purse, fumbling through the receipts, notes from her kids, and finds her card. Her hand is shaking as she hands it to the checker who swipes it through the machine and returns it to her. The cost drops considerably. “Now I’m much better than fine,” she says feeling the tears threatening to reveal themselves.

“See?” the clerk says. She accepts the check card and runs it through. “Is there anything else I can do for you today?”

Holly shakes her head. “Just have a good night yourself.”
The rain pummels at a diagonal as she makes a dash for her car. She laughs with tears of relief mixing with the rain as it streams down her cheeks.

The car stops in front of her house, the headlights halting on the front door. The wind pushes at the door, but she forces it open. Her son remains on the couch shivering. “I told you I’d be right back, didn’t I?” Holly watches her son who doesn’t stir, but remains resting in a sweat-saturated pillow. “I’ll always be here for you,” she says sitting in the chair across from him, watching and waiting for him to get better.

Her little girl comes around the corner. “Did you get me something?” she asks.

Holly motions her over and takes her in her arms. “I brought home fresh hugs, just for you.”

The Crossing Guard

Posted November 13, 2013 by MJ Brewer
Categories: Life (cereal) and Times (newspaper) of One Woman's Extraordinary Events, Short Stories

Tags: , ,

and she was cross.

and she was cross.

Every morning Veronica wakes up early and pours herself a cup of coffee. She makes twice as much this morning for her big day. For the past seven years, everything has been the same, everything but the depth of the wrinkles and the gray in her hair. She’s also a bit heavier, but everything else is unchanged.

Ryan bursts into the kitchen, his trumpet tucked under his arm. “You got my–?” he asks, but stops short when the waft of oatmeal reaches his nostrils and he pauses to inhale.

His little sister Liberty runs up behind him, giving him a nudge and grabbing her sugar toast from the table. Pulling the crust off and pushing it aside, she pushes her face in the center and takes a bite, leaving greasy sugar on the tip of her nose.

The kids pack their things in the car. Ryan clicks on the radio from the passenger seat. His imaginary drum set pops out and his arms and head are moving synchronously. “Tell him to turn it down,” Liberty says cupping her ears with a crinkled face. “It’s too loud.”

“We do this every day, you guys.” Veronica turns the radio down halfway and instructs Liberty to put her seatbelt on without looking. It’s off every day as they pull out of the driveway.

The kids each lean over to press a kiss on Veronica’s cheek before climbing out of the car, waving, and running up to the school.

When they’re safely inside, Veronica takes a deep breath and exhales, her hands gripping the wheel until her knuckles turn white. She checks the traffic to make sure the entry on the road is clear and pulls out. At the end of the block, orange cones are set up at the crosswalk. On the corner is her daily nemesis, the crossing guard.

This crossing guard isn’t an excited and happy one like the one on the other side of the block; this one is a life form that shouldn’t be out without a full moon. As if they share an epiphany, her head turns and her eyes narrow, piercing a direct ray through the windshield to Veronica’s eyes. Veronica squints under the pressure, but forces her eyes open even wider and glares back.

Time stands still, as if the women are at opposite ends of the street outside a gunslinger’s saloon. They size each other up, hands hovering over their weapons until one makes her move.

Veronica checks the street and then pulls up to turn. A fat hand clutching the handle of a stop sign shoots out in front of her car. A smirk crosses the guard’s pudgy face above her bright yellow vest. Dishwater blond hair dangles in a ragged mess over her collar. A boy walking toward the corner is still minutes away as the guard waddles to the middle of the street, eyeing Veronica’s car, daring her.

When Veronica guns the engine, frothing at the mouth, the child stops for a second and looks at her, in a quandary. But the driver smiles and motions with her hand to cross.

When the child is safe on the other side, the crossing guard yells at him to have a good day with her cigarette-choked voice. Her stop sign waves madly in the air. With a victorious grin, she pivots toward Veronica and remains between the white lines with the matching cone behind her, as if somehow in a bulletproof shelter.

Veronica slightly lifts off the clutch and punches her accelerator to the floor. The squeal of the tires accompany a plume of smoke behind the car. The vehicle lurches forward.

The horror on the crossing guards face is a carnival funhouse entrance. The car slides around the corner, missing her by the width of a gnat’s wing. The sign spins free, up in the air, while the guard stumbles falling to the other side of the road. Her thick body collapses over a fire hydrant like a lifebuoy in the middle of the ocean.

Veronica smiles and peers at her victim in the rearview mirror while she drives away. Today will be different.

Mr. President

Posted November 6, 2013 by MJ Brewer
Categories: Short Stories

Tags: , ,
Presidential parade of impressive people.

Presidential parade of impressive people.

The weather is unforgiving as Serena steps on the curb, dodging the spray of water from oncoming traffic. She opens her cherry flavored lip balm and swipes it across her chapped lips.

                An elderly man in a gray corduroy coat steps off the curb to the slick crosswalk. His feet fly out from under him, throwing him into the air with peril and dumping him to the wet asphalt. The grocery bag’s contents scatter across the street as he struggles to his knees.

                Dropping her lip balm, Serena makes a mad dash for him, despite the continuous stream of impatient vehicles with blaring horns. Dragging him to safety, she is unable to save his mutilated groceries as they rupture beneath the constant stream of cars.

                “You saved me,” the old man says between gasping breaths, “I must do something to repay your kindness. What do you need more than anything?”


                The townspeople gather in flocks chanting and cheering with upturned faces toward the flag hanging boldly behind the microphone. The president gives a final savior’s smile before a wave of his hand signals he’s finished. Approaching the front of the stage, he descends the stairs into the crowd of people waiting below. Mothers with babies, the elderly, and reporters alike stretch their hands out for their brush with greatness.

                The president reaches his hand out and claps it with an elderly man, his eyes locking with the man in the gray corduroy coat. The thin lips pressing hard below his hook-shaped nose and burrowing black eyes connect with the president. The other arm of the gray corduroy coat extends to the side clutching the hand of a beaten down woman with sad eyes. An electric current welds their four hands together in a single band before the woman shakes her head with surprising vigor.

                “Quite the handshake, sir,” she says, removing her hand and wiping it on her pathetic poncho before returning her stare confused. “Wait a second!”

                But the president and the man in the gray corduroy coat are nowhere in sight.

                The president shakes no more hands as he hurries to the black limousine waiting for him with the door hanging open, his chauffeur at the steed. “Mr. President,” the chauffeur says, addressing him as he closes the door and moves around to get into his own seat. The car speeds away with a frantic woman chasing it in the rearview mirror, her gingham poncho flailing with her arms.

                “Everything okay, Mr. President?” the chauffeur asks into the rearview mirror.

                “Everything is perfect,” the president says as he slides the divider up between them. His vice president rests his eyes on his comrade’s face with suspicion. The president smiles and pulls cherry flavored lip balm out of his pocket. Licking his lips, he rolls it over before rubbing them together. “I’m ready to finally do some good for this country.”




Remember Bloody Mary

Posted October 20, 2013 by MJ Brewer
Categories: Short Stories

Tags: , , , ,
Unless you plan on dying, don't call on Bloody Mary. She doesn't bake cookies.

Unless you plan on dying, don’t call on Bloody Mary. She doesn’t bake cookies.

“Too bad he changed his mind. You are sizzling, girl,” Whitney says to her friend, checking out her fairy costume. “His loss, right?” 

Taking a tissue from her friend, Veronica wipes her eyes and sinks back into the couch. “I gave up a killer babysitting job this weekend that would have paid $300 to go to that stupid party.”  

Veronica blows her nose and wads the tissue up in her hand, laughing hysterically. 

“What’s so damned funny?” Whitney asks. 

“I’m sorry, this is a sad moment and I should be crying, but it’s hard when the Queen of Darkness is playing pity-party for me. It isn’t natural, you know?” She giggles and Whitney joins in, giving her a hug and pulling her dark hood up. 

“You’re not natural. Okay, I’m cancelling my date with Justin and hanging with you,” Whitney says with an upbeat snap to her voice. “It’ll be more fun anyway.”  

Whitney tosses her hood back, calls her date and turns back to her friend, “Let’s play that game we used to play as kids. Remember ‘Bloody Mary’?” 

“Yeah, but I didn’t like it much.” 

“C’mon, it’ll be fun,” Whitney says rushing upstairs with her friend in tow to the bathroom. She closes the door. 

“Cool, you even have candles,” Whitney says as she collects them from the sides of the tub and pulls a lighter out of her purse. 

“Why do you have a lighter? You don’t smoke, do you?” But Veronica’s question meets with a let’s not get into that now expression. Instead, Whitney lights the candles. Holding one in front of her, she stares transfixed into the mirror hitting the lights. Veronica’s holding a candle of her own.

“Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary…,” they say in unison, growing louder, thirteen times before blowing out the candles and waiting. A piercing screech echoes and a blood-curdling scream reverberates off the porcelain and glass. Veronica flips the lights on. She is alone. A shuffling downstairs demands her attention.  

“Whitney?” she says, leaving the bathroom. “Whitney?” The fairy moves to the stairs with caution and sees a cloaked figure in the dim lights by the door. “Is that you?” 

Without a response, she descends the stairs. As she draws near, it isn’t Whitney at all, but Justin, her friend’s cancelled date. “Trick or treat, bitch,” he says, his voice cracking, as his hands whisk a hatchet from beneath his cape. 

“No,” she manages to say before the blade divides her eyes vertically in a spray of red across the wall. Her body convulses and crumples to the floor–a muddled mess of blood and mutilated brains. He shakes his head back and forth hard, confused. Prying his hatchet out of her head with a sharp jolt, he dashes out the door. 

“Why didn’t you look in the shower?” Whitney says, laughing as she emerges at the top of the stairs, her mangled friend lying askew at the bottom. “Bloody Mary. Oh my God!”