Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Floyd! Why did she name him Floyd? A name with too many consonants, no hint of assonance or history. Who ever heard of anybody named Floyd? Floyd, the Conquerer? Floyd, the Good? Professor Floyd? King Floyd? Floyd, sex symbol for the 21st century? A name to aspire to, that's what she always said.
Maybe there was an ancient explorer...or plunderer--most explorers plundered--Viking Floyd? Floyd, the Fury? Floyd, the Terrible?
It was a name to be lived into, she said. Floyd the.... or Floyd who.....but too many "inappropriate" words began with F. He'd learned that lesson well before Junior High.
Not even a family name. No great uncle Floyd beaming at his namesake, not one of those grand old fashioned names spiraling up from the 19th century. She could have named him Henry or William, even Charles, names with truly great nicknames, Harry or Will or the always popular--and sweet--Charlie. Women loved men named Charlie. What do you shorten Floyd to? Don't ask. He knew and none of it was good or strong or manly, certainly not sweet.
She never told him why and now she was gone, dead, cremated, dust to dust, ashes to a cardboard box of ashes, the one on his kitchen table with her last will and testament, to be buried at sea, it said, from a certain beach. A specific seashore. All paid for, she said. Somewhere on the Oregon coast--odd because they'd never been to Oregon. He accepted the mystery--it was so like her to be mysterious and so like him, the good son, to do as instructed. 

So he was in Oregon now, slowing at the little motel perched--the only word to describe the ramshackle building under the sagging sign MOTEL--perched on a rock overlooking the Pacific. "Destination on your right," Siri said. He pulled off the road, parked, stood and gazed at the waves crashing on the sand far below. There was a path down, but her note also said Ask permission. You can't spread ashes just anywhere. Sign said OFFICE; he went in.
An old man stood behind the desk, an old man with a tangled rug of white hair, but no beard, clean shaven, eyes blue as the ocean.  An old man with posture so notable that he heard his mother say shoulders back like the man you are.
He cradled the box of ashes in his left hand, put out his right, "Hello," he said, "My name is Floyd and my mother...." What to say? He raised the box like an offering. She had scripted the journey, but not the arrival.     
      "I'm Floyd," he said again.
"Me too," the old man said. "The name is Floyd."

© 2016 Kathleen Coskran

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Happy Earth Day

"Happy Earth Day," he said.

She didn't respond. Not surprising. She was washing the coffee pot--excuse me!--the French Press Pot, so much more than a coffee pot. She was washing the French Press Pot, ramming every stray coffee ground--kernel? crumb? coffee bean shard?--whatever--through the mesh of the screen, the particles she couldn't lift out with the long nail on her little finger. She kept it long expressly for that purpose.
To clear a coffee pot?

A French Press Pot filter screen.

He didn't care, really didn't care, and more importantly didn't want to know the details of her manicure. She was intense--part of the attraction he had to admit, that gift she had for zeroing in, looking right at you, into you, through you. Nobody had ever looked at him like that. And with those eyes. What color were they? Brown? No, something more than brown. There was a light, a brilliance, in her eyes that warmed and pierced at the same time. He loved that, but now they were examining every millimeter of a fine mesh screen with as much interest, he had to admit, as she might turn to him.

"The earth looks good, don't you think?"

Eyes still on the filter screen.

"Today. Earth Day."

She was rinsing the screen, shaking it dry, lining up the cross plate, the filter, the spiral plate, screwing them back on the plunger, drying the pot, reassembling it. He knew she wouldn't speak until one job was done, completed, fini--and the shining pot back on the shelf, in its final resting place--no multi-tasker, that woman.

Then....he never knew what would come next....her cup to scrub or would she swivel to him now, with some comment or correction about the earth?

No, her hands were wet. She stared out the window as she dried each hand, finger by finger--perhaps her intensity did allow for two actions--looking out a window as she dried her hands. Then she folded the towel, hung it up, turned, those dark eyes glowing--more than usual? An extra flash? Hard to be sure.

"You are what looks good," she said, and came for him, only one thing on her mind.

© 2016 Kathleen Coskran

Thursday, April 21, 2016


         She was stuck. Wedged between the sofa and the damn end table that he insisted jamming into the corner of the room, where there wasn’t room. “The space is too small,” she’d said.

“I can make it fit,” he said. His attitude about everything. Making it fit. Making it work. Making do. So he’d pushed the table into the corner and then wedged the sofa, their new, just purchased, just delivered, after three months on Layaway, rose-colored sofa with tendrils of green laced around each pillow, wedged that exquisite new sofa into the table and caught the other side in the door frame.

“That baby’s not going anywhere now,” he had said and stepped back to admire his work.

She'd pointed out that the fit was so tight that one leg of the sofa floated an inch above the carpet. He said it would settle—which it did in only a month or so. Her weight alone wouldn’t “settle” it and, those first months, every time she sat down, she felt the slow lowering, like a tire going flat.

So, now, a year later, the sofa was in there, not going anywhere as he had said and, now, neither was she.

She’d sat there after her bath, to put her watch back on, the earrings and the bracelet. It was the bracelet, the gold chain bracelet, 24 carat gold, not 18, but 24!—that got away. She didn’t notice that she had missed the clasp entirely and when she moved her arm, it slid off, between the sofa and the end table.

Which caught it. When she stuck her finger down to pull up the bracelet, she made a hole in the seal between sofa and table that was just enough for the bracelet to slip through. Gone.

She should have looked under the table first, or tried to pull out the sofa or waited for him to come home. She did none of those things. She thrust her arm between sofa and table, thrust it like an arrow that flew true—she could feel the bracelet with her fingers which were now numb. Soon she wouldn’t feel anything.

    She'd spent a few futile moments trying to drag the arm out, but her elbow caught, and she was stuck. Really stuck. 

The minutes passed. She remembered the guy wedged in a Colorado canyon who hacked off his arm. “Well, I don’t have a knife,” she said. She tried to lie down with her head on the table and torso on the sofa. Couldn’t get comfortable.

That’s how he found her, hours later, sprawled between the sofa and the table, talking to herself, complaining, crying.

“What’s for dinner?” he said as he walked past her to the kitchen.

That’s when her thinking switched from how to extricate her arm to executing his slow, protracted, exquisite torture.

© 2016 Kathleen Coskran

Friday, April 8, 2016

Rain Garden

It was raining, really raining now, fat drops and enough wind to rustle the trees. If she closed her eyes, she would still know it was raining—drop, splat, rustle, rumble. The earth was doing what the earth does. No advice from her. No need.
The wind picked up and the song shifted—urgent now. The sound of water rushing out the gutters, down the sidewalk, into the street. Water wasted. She should have put in a rain garden. She knew that. Tomorrow.
Tomorrow when it's not raining, in the early morning before the sun is high in the sky. She’ll get a shovel and begin. 
Does she even have a shovel? 
Maybe he took the shovel—shovels. They had two. Maybe he took both shovels, thinking she’d never use them. Which she never had. But now. Well, now she’d use a shovel. She closed her eyes and imagined the weight of a shovel in her hand, heavy at one end. She could swing it and dig with it.
Swing it? She opened her eyes because she was thinking of swinging the shovel in the house, spinning around and around, hitting everything he didn’t take, everything he didn’t want, everything not good enough to take. She imagined herself in the middle of the house swinging a shovel that she might no longer own.
It was three days since she had come home from work and found him gone. Funny phrase. How can you find something that isn’t there? Discovered that he’d cleared out. All his clothes, half of everything else, sheets, towels, glasses. She now had service for 6. He’d insisted on Wedgwood; she hadn’t cared. But he took all the sharp knives, didn’t even leave a paring knife. You’re clumsy, he’d said a million times. I’ll do that. And take the knife from her hand.
But the shovel. She hadn’t checked the garden shed. It was still raining, still thundering, but she had to know. The shed was locked. She dashed back to the house, got the key, dashed across the yard, unlocked the door, ducked in. It was raining harder now. She let the door slam behind her. She fumbled for the string for the overhead light, pulled it on, blinked in the sudden illumination, held her breath. The shovels were there, both of them, and the rake, a hoe, a spade, the watering can, a spray attachment for the hose, tomato cages, the wheel barrel propped against the wall, exactly as they had been, unchanged, unravaged, intact, whole, the only space he didn’t empty.
The tears came quickly. She didn’t care. She took the shovel and went back to the yard. It was raining in earnest now, sharp drops that stung. She began digging where the rainspout gushed water, making a place for all that water to collect, water to feed the roots of the garden she’d plant as soon as the hole was dug and her mind was clear. Water, like tears, needed somewhere to go.

© 2016 Kathleen Coskran

Monday, March 28, 2016


He sent her poems. Not love poems—she should be so lucky—nature poems. Poems about trees and birds and the sun. Oh, the sun. He had a thing about the sun. And the poems didn’t even rhyme. Not a one of them, not even once, did one line rhyme with another.
            How could that be? A poem without a rhyme? He was trying to write, she knew that, wanted to be a writer, called himself a writer, but give her a break:

                        The fingers of wind
                        left the bare willow branches
                        of your hair, unmoved
                        but touching me just the same.

Okay, so maybe the latest poem he emailed was about her hair, meant to be complimentary, but her hair was nothing like a tree. It was long, straight, red this week. Oh! So a tree in autumn, perhaps, a September tree, but that would mean it would all fall out by October. Another example of the uselessness of poetry. She did not want to be bald by the end of October and, in fact, resented him thinking so, even as a remote, he’d say, very remote possibility.
            He could just keep his damn poems or learn to rhyme like a normal writer.

                        Take your poem

            Now that was a poem. She hit send and felt better for the rest of the day.

© 2016 Kathleen Coskran

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Happy Birthday

Spent my birthday in prison. Again. How many years? The same bars. Different guy in the next cot. At least this one isn’t crazy, sick, schizo. Said “Happy birthday” when I told him.

Rich kid. White collar crime. Has manners. Is polite. Reads some. Doesn’t talk. Well, yes, he talks, but what’s he going to say? Have a nice day. Looks like rain from our peep hole to the sky. What’s your position on Obamacare? All our health care needs are taken care of. That’s one thing about being in rather than out. Full service government health care plan. Food plan too if you are on a carbohydrate diet. Fry this. Fry that. Protein. Bologna and American cheese. All American cheese.

Cheez, no wonder he doesn’t have much to say. Glad he’s not a shouter.

I was a shouter once. Rattled the cage like a gorilla. Was so pissed. Scared. Lonely. Terrified. Yelled and cursed until they put me in the hole. Which shut me up. When was that? 20 birthdays ago? 30? Who’s counting? Well, I am, but nobody else. I’m 59 years old, a writer now, not a talker. Wrote my cellie a note. Today's my birthday.

He looked surprised. Real expression on his face and I would say a tear in his eye, but hard to say. The light isn’t that good, but he’s young—20 something. In here with an old guy celebrating his birthday. How sad is that? Would make me tear up if I still could. Which I can’t.

Which is good.

Is there any way to say Happy Birthday without saying happy?

Maybe glad you’re still here another year

 I am glad about that, not happy, but relieved. Yes, that’s it.

Relieved not to be dead. Dying in prison, the ultimate shame that keeps me knocking off the birthdays. Once I’m out, I can die in peace. 

That’s what I want for my birthday. To die a free man.

© 2016 Kathleen Coskran

Monday, March 14, 2016

Cooling the Planet

Ides of March, 80 degrees outside, sun on the horizon, chickadees trilling their two-note song, ran-dal, ran-dal, and he’s angry . . .again.
“It’s going to be a beautiful day,” she chirps. “Listen. The birds are calling to you. Ran-dal . . .Ran-dal.”
“It’s too goddamned warm for March.”
“You love summer.”
“Not in March.” He refuses to be happy about clear evidence that the planet is headed for destruction before their grandchildren turn 40.
“We don’t have grandchildren.” She has pointed this out more than once. She could also have said, we don’t have children, but that was a sore point with them both, one of those places rubbed so raw that to look at it or acknowledge it would pierce an artery, a flow that couldn't be stopped. So they talk about other disappointments and impending catastrophes.
“I agree with you,” she says. “You know I do, but . . . but . . .” She almost says there’s nothing we can do, but enjoy the beautiful day God gave us, but doesn’t.
“There is something we can do,” he says.
“We do a lot,” she says. “We recycle.”
“God,” he yells, “separating paper, bottles, plastics is not going to save the planet.”
Yes, she knows that, but what else could she do? 
A thought--they’re not contributing to the population. “When we die, there’ll be two less people,” she says. “That will help.”
“Yes,” he says, cheering slightly, “and one less car.”
“Fewer unrecyclable pizza boxes.”
“A house off the grid.” (His will stipulates that the house be razed upon their death and their city lot made into an urban forest—not park, forest.)
“Less water wasted,” she says.
“Less oxygen inhaled,” he says.
“Less dust in the air from all our walking,” she says.
“Less hot air from all our arguing about the atmosphere,” he says.
“Hot air that dooms the planet,” she says.
“Better stop talking,” he says.
And so they do.

© 2016 Kathleen Coskran