By... Lea Anne Stoughton
The Easter grass on my Christmas tree skirt
The itchy tag on my favorite t-shirt
The spot on my back that didn’t get sunscreen
The mosquito bite on the back of my knee
The white cat hairs on my little black dress
The pimple right in the crack of my ass
The fly that I thought had already been swatted
The nick from leg shaving that I thought had clotted
The smoke alarm’s “Oh my god! Low battery!” beep
The thing rolling around underneath my car seat
The tee pee I didn’t know was stuck to my shoe…
And in spite of all this, I’ll always love you
By...Lea Anne Stoughton
Bodies, skin, blessing, sin
Do you love the skin you’re in?
We shave and pluck, nip and tuck
Sweat and gasp and bust our ass
Eat this, not that. Bad hair? A hat!
Don’t you think my thighs look fat?
Do you use the skin you’re in?
Bodies are made to be broken in.
They play and hug and kiss and fuck
But never, ever often enough.
Time and use will leave their marks
On every one of us, dear heart,
No matter how hard you try to stay
As flawless as a newborn babe.
Worrying is such a waste
When death is staring in our face.
Instead, let’s use the skin we’ve got
To flesh out life’s simplistic plot.
By Nicole Cater
I’m 26 and all is right with the world. I just got married. I love my job at a local bank. I’ve grown from teller to lead teller, to receptionist to commercial loan assistant. I have a hand in making multi-million dollar deals happen and at the same time, making small-time dreams come true for basic consumers. I’ve won a Service Person of the Year award. Well, co-won, the other winner was my best friend. No one in the company doubted we deserved it. I was an up and comer, a Jill of all Trades. Any questions that needed to be answered, just ask Nicole.
Eight years in, I knew this business and my place in it like a well-oiled machine. And that machine was about to get an upgrade. I was in training for project analyst, one step below loan officer. I was doing all this, enjoying my honeymoon, and putting myself through college. The one and only complaint I had was an ever-present pain in my back that would sometimes hinder my movements or shoot burning pains down my leg. I was in physical therapy for what doctors guessed to be arthritis, but it didn’t help much. I was put through so many blood tests, I felt like a pincushion.
And so it was another ordinary day when I went to the doctor to get and update and a refill of the medication that was giving me an ulcer. Instead of those routine issues, lightning struck. I learned that one of the many blood tests finally told the doctors something. They found HLA-B27 and antigen on chromosome 6 that causes your immune system to attack your spine, causing vast amounts of arthritis that can never be cured. My new friend had a name - Ankylosing Spondylitis.
I grieved. I grieved for the life that would never be. I grieved for the person I was that I would never be again. I fell into a deep depression.
Doctors, not knowing what to do, and lacking a Bi-Polar Disorder diagnosis, put me on anti-depressants. They didn’t work. I snapped. I lost my job. I lost my husband. I lost my house. I even lost my dog. Another two jobs, another two freak outs. It turns out, lightning struck again. Not that it is ever pleasant; but this time I was prepared. There would be doctors. There would be pills. I would suffer and adjustment period. But I also knew I would survive.
After all, the first strike didn’t kill me; change the course of my life...absolutely. But I’m still here, and I'm still fighting.
By Nicole Cater
What’s in a name?
What does the word conjure?
Zoosiana: both wild and timid animals, delight and rapture.
Enclosures built to resemble all of nature.
Care is taken to use wisely every acre.
Alligator feeding time is the most popular,
Keepers trot out chickens that couldn’t be deader.
Louisiana is hot, and Lafayette even more so.
Few of the animals feel like putting on a show.
Friendly otters in their fake river ignore the heat.
They draw crowds who “ooh” and “aah” over every feat.
But danger lurks in this innocent childhood joy land.
Not every creature is nice, beware where you stick your hand,
Ah, the petting zoo, harmless little creatures, hoping for some love.
For a quarter, you can feed them pellets and watch them shove.
But a monster lurks amidst this false Utopia, hidden in plain sight.
We’re talking about Llamas, and it’s time people saw the light.
Truly, is a petting zoo filled with children the place for a Llama?
Berserk Llama Syndrome is real, it’s dangerous, and it’s full on drama.
You may not believe me; you may scoff at my dire warnings.
But in Zoosiana, a llama has tasted blood, my blood, and now he has cravings.
I don’t know what to do with you.
You invade my thoughts, my personal space, and at moments, my heart.
I feverishly push you aside because I know how easily I can fall.
I think I can keep you on deck; in the batters cage, waiting to have a turn.
Yet, when I give you a turn I want you to stay there. I want you to be more.
I’m selfish with the time I get to spend with you, thinking of no one but myself and my own needs.
You fill those voids with your words, your touch, and your tongue. You quiet my endless chattering by pulling me close and all I can do is surrender. It’s your touch, the way your hands feel, the taste of you on my lips … they all combine together and it becomes overwhelming.
As we depart from one another I leave with a high. Are you my drug of choice right now? When will I get my next fix? How do I not become addicted to you?
I take a moment to gather my thoughts and not so gently remind myself that I’m the boss of what we do. I don’t need you, I want you. I could have many just like you. You just happened to come along at a time I was looking. You won’t be staying for long and that’s by my choice. Lust is a powerful drug but the shelf life is short and your expiration date is quickly approaching.
By...Lea Anne Stoughton
I’m sitting in the family room watching TV.
I hear the garage door open and someone walks in.
It’s Mom. She looks like she’s been shopping.
“You’re dead,” I say, and crush her to me.
She holds me as I weep. “It’s okay,” she says.
As I cling to her, she starts to fade.
I can feel her going.
in my kitchen,
By Nicole Cater
I’m done with the pain.
I’m tired of proving to you what an asset I could be to you.
I’d rather die a death of a thousand cuts then bare the constant rejection I receive from you every day. And it is every day.
You don’t want me, because we’re friends. But that ship has sailed. You are not my friend.
Friends don’t insist on spending the night together to cuddle.
Friends don’t tell people that when the time is right, you will marry them.
Friends don’t make plans first thing in the morning so I can show up and find you in bed with another woman.
I may be lonely.
But I’m better than you.
I am true… to others… to myself… to my heart.
When I say something, I mean it.
You lie, and you hurt, you use, you manipulate.
I’m saddened and ashamed that it took me so long to figure out the truth. But there it is.
You are a horrible person who cares only for yourself and – perhaps - your flavor of the week.
I am an honorable person. I love deeply and don’t apologize for it.
I would do anything for those I love. I would do anything for those in need.
And though I loved you, yes, deeply, I will certainly leave you.
The pain will be excruciating.
But only in the beginning.
And I am strong. I will make it through the worst part.
I feel foolish for wanting you in the first place. But I am only human. And humans want company.
I thought that could be you.
I hate the idea of being alone. But I hate the idea of being with you more.
And I hope when you think of me, you will always remember not just the woman who got away, but the woman who ran away.
Maybe it’s aging, perhaps maturity? No, it can’t be either of those since I’m not getting older and I will never mature.
This body of mine blows my mind. The strength, energy, and ability of my body have become a source of awe to me. The way my waist curves in, the muscles in my shoulders, the strength in my thighs. The curve of my neck that leads into the determined jawline that tightens when I am concentrating.
This body of mine walks with such confidence that it borderlines on cockiness. I don’t just walk, I move with fluid confidence and I feel like I have finally come to own everything about myself. Some see flaws, I see battle scars. Some see less than perfection, I see brilliant progress. Some see a 40-something year old woman. I see her as well, and she is fucking amazing, beautiful, insightful, confident, and strong. I will never pull her down again, never put her down again, and will always be her biggest fan.
By Nicole Cater
Look at me.
What do you see?
Do you see the blue eyes?
Do you notice the short, pink hair?
Did you notice the four earrings in the left ear where only two reside in the right?
Backing away from my face, surely you can’t miss that I’m a woman. Even if I wanted to bind my breasts, I think the only benefit would be a constant state of dizziness from lack of oxygen.
Look at my stomach, smaller then some, larger than others, prone to shape shift depending on medication.
Look at my hips. Wide-set, child-bearing hips that will never issue forth life.
And my legs, well proportioned. My shapely calves lead to slim ankles. All this supported by ridiculous elfin feet. It’s hard to look cool in footwear that has Barbie or Hello Kitty plastered all over it.
But look at me.
Do you see the slight limp on a good day. It’s impossible to miss on a bad day.
Look at me while I sit at any event. Have you ever seen someone fidget so much? Do you say to yourself “Why doesn’t she stop fidgeting?”
Look at me.
Do you see me walking in front of you? Do you feel satisfied with yourself because you didn’t pass me when I offered to let you? Do you regret that decision now that you realize I can’t move any faster than I already was?
Look at me.
Sitting on the floor of a Big Box Store because I just can’t move anymore. I’ve run out of stamina. I’m even too tired for your dirty looks.
Look at me.
Do you see a happy-go-lucky woman enjoying her life?
Because that might not be true.
I am filled with agony, depression, anxiety. But these attributes are forbidden in this world. So I take a pill. And if it doesn’t work, I take another pill. And then I put on my mask.
So look closely.
Do you see what I see?
Do you see the limp, the exhaustion, the constant movement that denotes a comfortable position is not to be found?
Look at me.
Do you see the mask?
Then I’ve done my job well.
By Nicole Cater
I’m 38 years old. I’ve never had children. Ideally, looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I would have had them young. I would have been able to keep up with them. Even when I was married, I still would have been able to keep up, mostly. But my husband made the decision for both of us that I would not be having children. I divorced him. I wanted children. I looked with great hope to my future romance. There would be children.
But as the years crept past, as my next relationship went nowhere, I gave up. I would not be a mom. At 35, I made peace with this. Besides, my genetic material is hardly worth passing on. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. To give up one dream when so many have been taken from you involuntarily is hard. Once again, I was shedding tears for what would never be, the life that wasn’t. But this time it was my own doing. I could blame age. I could blame my illnesses. But I know, ultimately, if I wanted the dream to come true, I could have made it happen. Instead, I killed it. My dream did not have to die. I murdered it.
But then J came along. His wife had passed away after a lifelong illness and he offered me the same unconditional love that he gave to her - I grabbed it with both hands. After all hopes had been dashed, long after all dreams had died, here came a new one. True love, at long last. True love is such a cliché; I hesitate to use it. But I use it in a different way. It was not the falling instantly head over heels that we all think of. It was the giddy infatuation that led to a slow burn. The building of a friendship first, love creeping in softly, overcoming my senses with passion.
Did you think I was speaking of J? Oh no, certainly not. It is S who has captured my heart and hasn’t let go. And though I’m not his stepmom, it doesn’t matter to him. I am mom. My bouncing baby boy came into my life at 14. Now at 15, his love for me is as complete as mine for him. We talk about everything and nothing. I dispense advice on topics from homework to bullies to girls. He brings his problems to me. Because I am Mom. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
This is our showcase page, containing various submissions from various Authors. Please look for snippets about the Authors following their pieces.