Ode to a spider

Old man chalk face with a walking cane
Your fangs caused you to die in vain
Stealing my blood was not wise
I saw right through your disguise
Your demise helped me through the pain.
© 2016 Zora Zebic

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Emerald rain

The clouds were swelling. She asked, “Tell me, did you ever see something like that?”

“See what? What are you looking at?” He asked. She turned to him and answered, “I’ve never seen green clouds!” “Naw, me neither.” He replied.

“Well maybe the sky will pick up a bunch of emeralds, and they’ll fall. We’ll gather them up and sell them to the jeweller.” Finishing her thought, she breathed in deeply then added, “I love the smell of rain.”

He looked away from examining a little critter he had pulled from the leaves of a cabbage plant. The suffering creature looked like a snail missing the shell.

“How would the sky pick up emeralds?” he asked. She smiled widely saying, “I saw it on television. The sky has dumped fish, real live fish, stones and other strange stuff.”

“You know you are nuts, but I like you. I like you a lot. But remember planes drop other colourful stuff.” He bellowed with laughter at his words raising his jacket over both of their heads just as the raindrops began to spatter. No emeralds fell from the sky, no fish, no stones, no nothin’ but rain.

He put his arm around her, protectively all the while thinking how she was so very like a snail without a protective exoskeleton. Pulling her close he started to sing a love song, one he had recalled while his heart had begun to feel as though it were physically swelling in his chest, and he asked, “Is this love?”

He questioned himself, dreading his words. A small wave of panic coursed through him. “Did I screw up? What if she thinks I only like her as a friend?”

Another thought pushed past his frantic thoughts, “What the hell am I thinking. I was her father’s hitman; why would she want to be more than a lover to me?”

“Why are you holding me so tight? Are you afraid of the rain?” She looked up at him, and he slowly eased his grip. He stopped ducking the inevitable and met her eyes.

Her expression of concern for him made that swelling feeling in his chest return. Instead of resting her head on his shoulder, she sat straight. Her eyes continued to scan the skies for the emerald rain she had envisioned.

The sky quickly darkened, and he saw the sky light up with a bolt of lightning. He started to count the seconds until he would hear thunder. His mother had taught him each second between the lightning and thunder meant how many miles away, the worst of the storm was.

An explosion of noise made the earth below him shake. “How weird,” he said to her, “On one spot of my thigh, I feel hot rain.” He looked at his thigh, and his chest tightened in horror. The warm liquid on his leg was blood that flowed from a gaping hole that obliterated most of her face.

He looked over at the hedges and saw her father standing there, the shotgun aimed at him. “Prick…” His final word, muted by the blast of the AR 15.

© 2016 Zora Zebic

My favourite dessert

I was at the Windsor International Writer’s Conference 2016. After the banquet, the deadline was called for one of the contests. The prize: free entry to Conference 2017. The competition: in 500 words or less I had to describe my favourite dessert and/or wine.
I was sure the panic was showing in my eyes. “How am I going to win this contest?” I asked my husband. “What contest?” He asked as he tapped his toes to the musical genius of Yale Strom and his klezmer band, Hot Pastrami. “The contest has already begun. It’s almost 9 pm, and I have to submit my entry by 10 pm.” “Entry to what?” Barry asked.
Suddenly the desserts were entering the room, and I watched the crowd flock to the table. “Oh no! They are going to eat all the desserts before I have a chance to try them.” “You don’t eat sweets.” Barry reminded me.
I swept up my cell phone from the table and opened the camera application. Nudging my way between and over the shoulders of the crowd around the table I snapped photos of the sweets. “I may not be able to sample them, but I can describe what I see!” I said to Nobody. Typically, Nobody responded to my comment.
I headed over to the wine table with yet another concern. I don’t drink wine! I had my trusty cell phone camera app, and the server very graciously interrupted his serving of the wine connoisseurs. I snapped photos of the two reds and two white wines as I listened to the throng inquire where the wines came from. He answered, “All from around here.”
If I drank wine, I’d choose the Pelee Island Winery Pinot Grigio 2014. I love the trips we’ve taken on the Jiimaan ferry. If you didn’t know Jiimaan is Native for “big canoe.” Pelee Island has a fascinating history, and for being such a small island, there are a lot of things to do there.
I’m diabetic so I can’t eat the desserts, but I do confess the strawberry that was being hugged by the half-eaten looking cookie was the most attractive dessert of all. I took a photo of the sliced strawberry so I would always have the memories of gazing lovingly at the dessert while listening to the music calling me to strut my stuff on the dance floor.
Update: I didn’t win, but I learned and earned a lot at the Windsor International Writer’s Conference!
© 2016 Zora Zebic

Fiction? page 1

A gorgeous Harley stood unattended at the nightclub door, and a man walked over to it. His hand reached out to touch the bike, and I cautioned him, “You had better not let whoever owns that bike catch you touching it!” “She’s got that right.” an angry voice behind me said as I reached into my vintage crystal clutch for my lighter.
I turned to see a face wearing an expression that matched the voice perfectly.  The biker initially looked dangerous, yet something told me, the man would not be a danger to me. He turned his gaze away from the other fellow and looked at me.
An enchanting smile lit up his face, and I found myself gazing into a pair of incredibly beautiful and captivating blue eyes. It never happened to me before, and as I felt my knees grow weak, I feared I was going to fall off my bronze coloured shoes. I was in my early 30’s and yet I’d never felt overwhelmed like that. It was as though he knew I was experiencing faint as he reached his hand out to steady me, catching my arm.
“Want to go for a ride?” he asked me. “I’m not exactly dressed for riding, and I’ve certainly never ridden a Harley wearing high heels!” I answered him as I tossed away my cigarette. “You’ve been with a biker?” he asked. “When I was younger, I dated a man who worked in a factory, and he owned a Harley full-dresser. I loved riding with him, but we didn’t end up in love.” I answered him. “You can pull your skirt up and sit behind me nobody’s going to see anything!” he said laughing.
I hadn’t been on a bike since 1977, and 13 years later the desire to feel the wind on my face again was too strong for me to refuse his offer. I hiked my skirt up past my knees and boarded the bike behind him.
“You can’t just go off on your own like that!” a voice called out behind us, but my biker ignored him and slid gracefully out of the driveway and into the road. We wheeled about for a good hour, and as he seemed to deliberately slow to catch each red light, he would look back at me. I saw a gentleness grow ever deeper on his face and thought, “I think I could fall very deeply in love with this man.”
At one red light, I grew confident enough to ask, “Who was that man that tried to stop us?” He laughed and said, “Don’t worry about him, he’s just one of my security team.” “Well,” I said, “you don’t look like a man that needs bodyguards!” He smiled at that but didn’t explain further.
Back at the nightclub, he rejoined his entourage, and I rejoined my waiting friends. The girls were giddier than usual and surrounded me demanding to know who my new friend was. I told them I hadn’t gotten his name, but I’d let them know if he was interested enough to ask for my phone number.
“Come on” one girl pleaded, “tell us, did you go somewhere and get it on?” I laughed and told her she had a filthy mind for a dental hygienist. She chuckled and said, “You were gone for hours!” I corrected her saying, “We were gone for one hour, and we rode around town. I can tell you he is a gentleman and I admit I do hope to get to know him better.”
Later that evening, he gave me his phone number and a ride home in a black limousine that had replaced his bike. “Are you going to invite me in for a nightcap?” he asked. “I don’t keep alcohol in the house, I have a child.” I’d answered him. He pulled me toward him and kissed me deeply. My kiss was equally intense. “I like you.” He said as I’d finally pulled away from his embrace.
© 2016 Zora Zebic

Root-to-leaves cooking

I am blessed to live with my husband on our three-quarters of an acre lot in Amherstburg, Ontario. We have lots of space to garden directly in the earth however we’ve grown to appreciate our new-to-us container gardening. At age 59 to be 60 this summer, I don’t fancy the kneepad-to-earth anymore!
My only complaint is Amherstburg Town Council won’t allow us to raise chickens or ducks and that sucks. Personal opinion but, the government needs to back off. They need to stop making it impossible for ordinary folks to feed themselves and their children. (If you start or have a petition going, please let me know so I can sign it and share it!)
My husband has taken to planting more trees to augment our space which he affectionately calls his “personal park.”

Root-to-stalk

I read the article above earlier this week and memories of a happy and fulfilling day – literally – appeared before me like a movie scene. The day was in May of 1975, and I was 18.
I was fortunate to finally have a roof over my head, paid in full for an entire month! I had been granted welfare and rented a second-floor apartment on Elliot Street West. After spending the rent, I’d rushed to a uniform store on Wyandotte Street East to purchase the treasured white kitchen dishwasher outfit I needed to secure a job.
The job was at The Green Man Restaurant on the corner of Elliot Street East and Ouellette Avenue. The ‘appeal’ of this restaurant was the bragging of an ancient old tree. While I worked there, I heard many customer complaints, e.g. this ever-repeated comment, “The ads made it seem like the tree was inside the restaurant. I wouldn’t have bothered to come here if I had known they just named it after a tree in front of the place. Boriiiing.”
I got fired after only two weeks on the job for eating leftover food coming into the kitchen. The manager called me a “pig.” The reality was the Ontario Student Wage provided only enough to keep my rent paid. Becoming employed had taken the away the right to another welfare cheque.
The Green Man Restaurant story will be another I’ll tell soon, and, you won’t’ want to miss the part of the cook tossing steaks on the floor so she could “tenderize the meat” by jumping up and down on them. You guessed it, I didn’t consume any of the leftover steaks!

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Photo by Ernest Barry Furlonger © 2013

I don’t have any photos of my sister Debbie at age 20. I have a few pictures I took at our family reunion in 2013. In this photo taken by my husband Barry, I stand behind two lovely ladies. My mom Edith right, now 92 years of age, and my big sister Debbie left, now deceased who would be age 62.
Back in 1975 Debbie, then 20, asked if I had anything to eat. I told her I did have a few potatoes and onion. It wasn’t much, but I was happy to share it with her. Debbie giggled and questioned me, “What are you going to make with potatoes and an onion?”
“I don’t know” I responded, “But I’ll think of something!”
I’d asked Debbie what, if anything, she might have, and she replied she did have a couple of Kraft cheese slices and two slices of cooked bacon.
Debbie told me the bacon was left over from a breakfast bought for her by a sympathetic friend the day before. Debbie sighed and lamented, “I wish I’d saved the toast. Soggy or not, I’d at least have a bacon and cheese sandwich to eat today.”
An image had flashed in front of my eyes, and I excitedly told Debbie to get her cheese and bacon and head back as a recipe had invented itself to me!
It is sad to remember how often my sister and I had gone without meals. We had never heard of foodbanks although they did exist. It wasn’t until after my son was born in 1976 that Debbie and I learned of a Salvation Army food bank on Wyandotte Street East near the Windsor Housing projects. I don’t have fond memories of the horrible woman who worked there, and, that too is another story for another day.
Debbie arrived back at my apartment to the lovely aroma of baking potatoes.
“Oh God” she’d said, “I didn’t know potatoes could smell so good!”
I’d opened the oven door to reveal the toasted potato skins with onion bits and said, “I’m going to crumble up the cheese and bacon and then melt them into the skins. I’ve got the insides of the potatoes in a pot staying warm on the stove with a bit of the onion cooked in. It ain’t high class, but I can guarantee it is going to be good!”
Debbie had looked at me with some doubt and asked, “Is it safe to eat the skin of the potato?”
I told her I didn’t honestly know, but I was hungry enough to take the risk. My sister decided she was hungry enough also and we ultimately had a fantastic, fulfilling meal.
Maybe I was the first to bake potato skins and perhaps not. It didn’t matter then, and it doesn’t matter now. The important thing is two young starving girls enjoyed a feast that day!
The experience was my introduction to frugal cooking which I practice to this day.
At my homeless shelter, Street Help Homeless Centre of Windsor, I try to instill this gift to every volunteer helping with the daily meals. I admit I am often met with looks of doubt and outright rejection to even sample the final dish! It is challenging for some folks to accept the unfamiliar.
I don’t ever peel my carrots, potatoes, beets, squash, zucchini, eggplant, etc. The leaves of the carrots, celery, beets, turnips, etcetera are also edible and fantastic tasting.
This past week I have shown volunteers how to prepare cauliflower. I slice away only the very least attractive part of the leaves (and save them in the fridge for my foster brother Emile to pick up for his wife Maryanne. They feed the fresh veggie scraps to their rabbits!) Waste not, want not!
My cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli stems are also cooked. It annoys me that people core these veggies and toss out the fantastic tasting core and leaves! Nooo!!!

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All of the veggies in this photo are from our garden. There is no way I am going to toss out any portion of these plants Barry and I have lovingly grown!
Try them. Dice those cores and leaves to smaller chunks than the rest of the veggie. Cook them all together, or, if that really is too much for you, toss them in a pot of soup!
You will be surprised at how far that head of cabbage can go.
Another way to use the veggie scraps, especially when you are preparing a meal for company, is to use a juicer. The juice is fantastic and the pulp, skins, leaves, seeds, etcetera can be added to soup or stew for extra fibre.
I’ve done the same with my blender to make a soup base.
The starvation I lived with during my teen years taught me the actual nutritional value of food scraps. I truly enjoy passing on these tips to my homeless clients and volunteers. Waste not want not thinking is indeed logical.
While I am not a ‘root-to-stalk chef’ most certainly I identify as an authentic root-to-stalk-and-every-other-edible-veggie-part-cook!
PS: You would have to eat a pound and a half to get sick from tomato leaves. Here’s the link:

http://www.thekitchn.com/are-tomato-leaves-actually-poisonous-222259

If you are in doubt of the edibility of any part of a veggie, please research (that is what I do!) Indeed, there is a wealth of information online!
© 2016 Zora Zebic

Smiles through the tears

A photo, above, of Carlos’ first mocassins. I couldn’t afford to have them bronzed, as most parents did in those days, but I have managed to save them anyway!
The following is the story of the birth of my son Carlos. It is also the story of how smiles can transcend generations and even generations of friends!

DayOfBirth

This photo was taken approximately 7 hours after Carlos’ birth. The lady who took the picture came to me to offer to do a retake as it was hospital policy to wait 24 hours. Seeing the image, I refused! My baby was wide awake and aware of his surroundings; it was a perfect photo!
On April 12, 1976, at 2:37 A.M. I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. 8 pounds 3 ounces and the picture of perfect health! To this day I love to call my son at 2:37 on the morning of his birthday to remind him, “Do you know I was in labour for 56 and ½ hours for you!”
I love to recount the part about the late Pearl Stanley. She owned, along with her husband Alex, Windsor’s first fully inclusive bar called Stanley’s Tavern.
PEARL AND ALEX STANLEY
The Stanley’s believed that all people were created equal and they were pioneers who demanded inclusiveness regardless of race, colour, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, disability, creed, age and other grounds. The Ontario’s Human Rights Code first written June 15, 1962, and it was their mantra!
I had lain in bed for some hours with the intermittent pains telling me my baby, in no uncertain terms, wanted out! I’d tried sitting on the sofa and found it too uncomfortable.
Neither position was offering me any comfort, so I chose instead to get up, get dressed and head to Stanley’s. I knew my sister Debbie would most likely be there with her boyfriend Kirk, and even if she weren’t there, I would find the company of others I knew.
Pearl, learning I was in labour, came over to my table and pleaded with me to leave. She was horrified I would have the baby there, and she didn’t want that to happen. I assured her I would most certainly go if the pains came closer together. Eventually, it was time for me to call a taxi; however, Pearl insisted the fare was her expense.
During my labour, a Roman Catholic Children’s Aid worker had shown up at my bedside demanding I sign the baby over to them. After all, she said, I was a single mother. I’d asked her what made her think I couldn’t raise my child and her answering question was dumbfounding, yet so typical CAS worker mentality, “We raised you didn’t we?”
Fortunately my family doctor, Alphonse Leblanc booted the CAS worker out of the hospital. I was very fortunate to have his support. I had worked hard throughout my pregnancy to ensure my baby would be healthy. I think my doctor had even been more than a little stressed as I was at his office so often! He and his staff were always kind though. Knowing I did not have guidance and support of parents and family, he and his team were exceptionally kind.
One full hour after Carlos’ birth a nurse finally came to place my baby in my arms. It had taken that long for them to tend to me and suture the rips to my uterus and vagina. The nurse told me they wanted to be sure I was physically able for them to leave the baby with me.
My family doctor would later tell me that although I had the external body of a girl age 19 internally, my reproductive organs were that of a girl 12 or 13.
That same nurse who brought my baby to me was offended and demanded to know why when I asked her to help me take off all the baby buntings and blankets. I showed her my hands and welcomed her to look at my misshapen left foot. His dad had been sure my disabilities and imperfections would be passed down to the child.
Carlos was perfect! His hands and feet were adorable! The nurse seemed to finally comprehend and smiling she helped me to wrap him back in the bunting. As she tucked in one of his tiny arms, I saw a baby bracelet on his arm. It was made of beaded letters and read, “Zebic”.
The nurse told me volunteers created the bracelet for each newborn and I treasured that lovely gift until 1990 when a fool stole it from me! That is another of my stories of a man who convinced himself I had borne him a child. Nonsense, I was gifted with my one and only child Carlos!

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Inside one of the moccasins, I was elated to find my hospital armband!
This morning I was blessed with the following conversation on Facebook. The post brought tears to my eyes, and a slide show of memories flowed through my spirit. I saw myself smiling as I held my baby for the first time, as I saw my baby smile back at me (the nurses tried to convince me the baby was “passing gas” but I didn’t believe them – glittering blue eyes always accompanied the smile!)
I saw my son learning to crawl, walk, spell his first words, graduate from primary school, display his first pay cheque, show me his ticket bound for his new life in Toronto, his business cards from places of employment and his graduation for his Master’s Degree in a new field of psychology – Drama Therapy.
The slideshow was a thing of pure beauty. A gift of smiles through the tears and wondrous time of reliving so many treasured moments!
Today, two days before Carlos’ actual birthday this Facebook Messenger conversation took place:

Alyssa&Lyla

Alyssa & Lyla

Alyssa to me – “Hi, Christine! It’s Alyssa; I’m an old friend of your darling son. (Although Carlos, I’m a YOUNGER old friend– you have me beat by 2.5 months ).
Christine, many years ago Carlos lovingly told me how, when he was a boy, every time his mom would look over at him and catch his eye, she’d always smile. Always.
I promised myself if I ever became a mom,
I’d be like Carlos’s Mom. Like you. That every time my child looked at me, I’d smile.
In January, I became a mom. I feel so blessed; she’s my little miracle. And now I finally have my chance to be like Carlos’s Mom. So every time my little darling looks at me, I smile. Now I realize, it’s hard not to!! Especially with such cute offspring as yours and mine.  I just wanted you to know, on your son’s milestone birthday, you inspired me, and now my daughter has you to thank as well for leaving such an imprint on me. And most importantly, your son!
Happy 40th (how did that happen to us?!) Carlos! Love you!
And HBD2U2, Ms. Wilson. Thank you for making him.
Love,Alyssa (and Lyla!) XOXOXOXO”

Carlos

Carlos’ 4oth birthday party

Carlos to Alyssa – “This was the single most beautiful, tear-jerking message that I’ve ever received!!! I’m a bit intoxicated right now, so I pray that my response does justice to how I feel reading this. Alyssa, the fact that you honoured the story of my beautiful, wonderful mom smiling at me with the story of how you relate to your own beautiful, wonderful child, makes me feel that everything is ok in this world and that love and kindness will prevail. We must celebrate how we pass on love and kindness and never be afraid to smile with all our hearts. I love you ladies XOXO.”
Alyssa to Carlos – “Love you, Carlos! You didn’t need to do it any justice. But thank you, that’s so lovely.
See, your mom did good! Hopefully, you can meet the little one soon. Xoxo
Here’s my attempt to do a photo shoot with Lyla on her 3rd month birthday which was on Thurs:”

Pink

Pretty in Pink – literally!

Alyssa to Carlos – “Next time I should leave it to the professionals… That was a cupcake as a bday prop, then Lyla managed to stick both her heels in it (I still ate it after. Ha!)”
Me to Alyssa – “Layla is beautiful just like her mama! Wow, talk about making me feel like I’m walking on a cloud and good thing it’s on a cloud and not on the road because tears are filling my eyes so I won’t have to worry about dodging traffic!
Can I include this conversation on my blog today? If both of you are okay with that? Please let me know. Thanks!”
Alyssa to me – “Aw! That’s so sweet, Christine. That’s fine with me.”
© 2016 Zora Zebic