Cerebral Squalls

I remember the days, after I was done with my chemo-therapy treatments — the first time round, 36 years ago. I recall the times when these dark storm clouds would roll over my mind and everything looked so hopeless. Some chemo treatments are largely hormonal, so they mess yours up so bad.
Blogger Stacey LePage describes these times so effectively in her poem and has kindly permitted me to share it with you.


In The Corner

They come and blow your mind away
They make mountains of your thoughts
They will gather strong in billowed clouds
You will find yourself distraught

The sky can blacken all around
Will cause your heart to race
You fear the wrath the clouds may bring
As you quicken up your pace

Then as quickly as it came
It moves along the sky
And out of view the squall does pass
To leave you high and dry

You feel the warmth upon your face
It melts and thaws your mind
You stop and pause and close your eyes
To leave the past behind

The moment seems to slow right down
Life stops and takes a breath
Living in the here and now
Gives minute of brain refresh


There is it, yet once again
The storm is suddenly nigh
You’ve seen it once, you’ll see it again
And know it will…

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When You Get to Know a Fellow

by Edgar A. Guest

When you get to know a fellow, know his joys and know his cares,
when you’ve come to understand him and the burdens that he bears,
when you’ve learned the fight he’s making and the troubles in his way,
then you find that he is different than you thought him yesterday.
You find his faults are trivial and there’s not so much to blame
in the brother that you jeered at when you only knew his name.

You are quick to see the blemish in the distant neighbor’s style;
you can point to all his errors and may sneer at him the while,
and your prejudices fatten and your hates more violent grow
as you talk about the failures of the man you do not know.
But when drawn a little closer and your hands and shoulders touch,
you find the traits you hated really don’t amount to much.

When you get to know a fellow, know his every mood and whim,
you begin to find the texture of the splendid side of him;
you begin to understand him and you cease to scoff and sneer,
for with understanding always prejudices disappear.
You begin to find his virtues and his faults you cease to tell,
for you seldom hate a fellow when you know him very well.

When next you start in sneering and your phrases turn to blame,
know more of him you censure than his business and his name;
for it’s likely that acquaintance would your prejudice dispel
and you’d really come to like him if you knew him very well.
When you get to know a fellow and you understand his ways,
then his faults won’t really matter, for you’ll find a lot to praise.

from his book A Heap O’ Livin’
© 1916 by the Reilly & Britton Co

Here Girl, Take This Doll!

Christmas Shopping– 1934 Version

Oh, how Mabel hated those dolls! In January, as she and her fellow salesgirls packed the unsold ones away, the staff was so glad to see the end of them.

She remembered the day they unpacked the new Shirley Temple dolls. Clerks from other departments all stopped to look, all the ladies ooo-ing & aww-ing over how cute they were. And the variety of outfits they came with! Toy department workers joked about buying one for themselves and playing with it on the sly. Some of the ladies were saving their money to buy one for a daughter or niece.

By the end of November miniature Shirley Temples were lined up in neat rows on the toy shelves, waiting for Christmas gift-buyers. They looked so appealing, but were pricey for the times; Mabel knew folks on Relief would never be able to afford one. She never dreamed she’d see this sad reality played out day after day for weeks.

Child actress Shirley Temple came along in the 1930?s, in the midst of the Great Depression. She was an instant hit with her sweet voice, big hazel eyes and bouncing golden ringlets; reviewers were saying she symbolized hope to Depression-weary people. She looked like “the good old days”: she wasn’t pale; her cheeks weren’t hollow; her arms and legs weren’t just sticks. She had the spunk to sing and tap dance her way into people’s hearts.

Someone in Hollywood decided a good way to market their child star was to put out replica dolls in time for Christmas sales. And Eaton’s, a big Canadian department store where Mabel worked, stocked these dolls just like a lot of others. Thus began a month of torture for the salesgirls who worked there.

Little girls started coming as soon as the staff put the dolls on display. All children, rich or poor, made the rounds of the huge Eaton’s toy display just to ogle, but the little girls would wander back to the doll shelves. there they’d stand and stare – sometimes for an hour – at those beautiful dolls.

Mabel wondered if every girl in the city was coming in. Some of them really tore at your heart, too. She’d see a little waif straggle by in a much-patched coat, wearing rubbers borrowed from someone they actually fitted. The next day some other girl – probably a sister or a cousin – would be standing there in that same shabby coat, wearing those same floppy rubbers. Relief payments covered food and housing, but recipients were given nothing for “extras” like clothing. A lot of these girls weren’t in school because they hadn’t shoes or clothes of their own fit to wear. But they could still dream.

Maybe some of them are Maria’s sisters, she thought sadly. How many of these girls are the daughters of immigrants, surviving on whatever they can scrounge?

Mabel and Maria became school friends soon after Maria’s family arrived in Winnipeg. Maria’s father had accepted a job in the city back in the early ‘20s when city was welcoming immigrants. The economy was booming and Canada needed more workers, so the Canadian government had streamlined the immigration process for many Europeans.

Maria’s father had worked hard to get ahead. They were saving to buy a house when the Stock Market crashed. When jobs started dying up immigrants were the first laid off and he got the axe, too. Then when those same immigrants applied for relief, they were handed a form to sign…

“I’m sure glad my brother Joe went with him,” Maria told her later. “Dad can’t read English well enough to understand it all. He didn’t know he’d be agreeing to have us all sent back to Poland. We don’t want to go back! This is our home now.

“He refused to sign, but then he was told if he didn’t, he couldn’t get any Relief. Dad came home and just sat down and cried. Joe said they hadn’t had food in the house for two days before Dad was desperate enough to apply – and then he was turned down!”

Maria was married by then; she and her husband were on Relief themselves and couldn’t help much. But her Canadian-born father-in-law – bless his heart– faced the ridicule of his neighbors and allowed her family to live in his basement rent-free. Still, Mabel wondered how a family could survive on nothing.

By the first week in December every time Mabel walked down that aisle she saw the wistful eyes of a dozen little girls looking up at her. Girls who badly needed food but dreamed instead of a beautiful doll for Christmas. To see those thin little girls standing in front of the display day after day, with eyes so full of longing – dreaming an impossible dream – finally broke her heart.

One day she snapped. She managed to hold on long enough to make it to the staff room before she burst into tears. “ I can’t stand it!” she shrieked. “I just can’t do this anymore. Get rid of those dolls – every last one! I can’t bear to see them one more day.”

Pearl, one of the other sales girls calmed her down. “Most of us feel that way. But Christmas will soon be past; try and hang on just two more weeks.”

Vera was in the staff room, too. “I may have a break-down, too,” she told them. “I’m so tempted…one of these days I’m just going to start grabbing dolls off the shelves and handing them out to every little ragamuffin I see. When the police come and arrest me, I’ll plead insanity.”

“Oh, I’d love to see that,” Pearl said with a laugh. “But you need your job. We all need our jobs to make it through these times. Maybe next year things will start to look up.”

“Yeah, maybe next Christmas there’ll be jobs for dads and presents for children again,” Vera replied, without enthusiasm.

How much longer could this Depression last?


Historical note:
I’ve invented Mabel and her thoughts, but the setting was very real. According to one Eaton’s sales girl, they had all they could handle watching those starving girls wander in every day and just stare at those dolls. She’s the “Vera” in this tale.

I sis a search for when Shirley Temple dolls first came on the market; they seem to have made their appearance for the 1934 Christmas season. Whether they were introduced in western Canada that Christmas or the next I’m not sure.

To our national shame, when things got tough in Canada immigrants with odd-sounding names or strange accents were usually denied Relief. Many were whisked away on trains to Halifax, put on boats and shipped back with no legalities, not even allowed a phone call.

As to Maria’s father-in-law, I’ll quote one Manitoba politician of the time:
“When those foreigners from across the tracks apply for Relief, we just show them a blank application for voluntary deportation. Believe me, they don’t come back. It’s simple, but it has saved the city a lot of money.”

Word Press Daily prompt: Tempted

Learning From A Loss


by Edgar Guest

We who have wept together
know what it means to love,
we who have suffered sorrow,
strewn roses a mound above,
and knelt on the ground together
to whisper a common prayer
with trembling lips and hearts aching
know what it means to share.

Time was we danced together
and laughed as the days went by.
Month after month we romped through
with never a tear in her eye.
We fancied we loved each other,
but little of life we knew
and I was a jesting comrade
with only my work to do

Then suddenly sorrow found us.
Out there by a tiny grave
we learned what it means to be tender
and just what it means to be brave.
We learned that love deepens and strengthens
by hurts it is asked to bear,
and out of our common heartache
we learned what it means to share.


From the book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest
Copyright 1934 by Contemporary Books, Inc.
Chicago, IL, USA

The Bumps & Bruises Doctor

by Edgar Guest

I’m the bumps and bruises doctor;
I’m the expert that they seek
when their rough and tumble playing
leaves a scar on leg or cheek.
I’m the rapid, certain curer
for the wounds of every fall;
I’m the pain eradicator;
I can always heal them all.

Bumps on little people’s foreheads
I can quickly smooth away;
I take splinters out of fingers
without very much delay.
Little sorrows I can banish
with the magic of my touch’
I can fix a bruise that’s dreadful
so it isn’t hurting much.

I’m the bumps and bruises doctor
and I answer every call,
and my fee is very simple,
just a kiss and that is all.
And I’m sitting here and wishing:
in the years that are to be,
when they face life’s real troubles,
that they’ll bring them all to me.

Taken from the book
© 1916 by The Reilly & Britton Co.

A Liminal Flicker

Once upon a time there was an old man and an old woman who lived in an old mobile home right next to the woods. This old couple had reached that liminal phase of life so aptly expressed by the poet:
“Those difficult days have come and lit:
too tired to work; too poor to quit.”

One afternoon the old woman, ready for a nice nap, plopped her weary self into her recliner and closed her eyes. A few minutes later she heard a curious sound:

Scritch … Scritch … Scritch

Now this woman, in addition to being old and tired, was also hard of hearing. In this case her handicap made it difficult to judge where the sound was coming from. It seemed to filter in from some liminal place — a hard-shelled bug tapping on the window, perhaps, or a bird hopping on the roof?


Now it could be a student shut in one of the trailer’s liminal rooms, half-heartedly pecking away on a manual typewriter. It would take him years to get an essay done at that rate.

But the old woman remembered she was hard of hearing. Was the source of the sound a lot closer than she first thought? Had some brave mouse ventured out to nibble at the cat food sitting on the dining room floor? Her eyes popped open and she looked toward the cat food dish in the dining area. No mouse.

Now all was silent, so she reclined and shut her eyes. Such a tiny sound she could ignore. Zzz…


The old woman jumped from her chair. This sounded like a chainsaw chewing its way rapid-fire through a drain pipe. She hurried through the trailer, checking every room, but saw nothing spinning or vibrating that could produce a sound like that.

Some madman must be chainsawing his way through the trailer wall! What else could make such a racket? She rushed outside to let this fellow know he dare not mess with her. (A bit of fiction added to embellish the tale.)

She saw no one, no reason for this awful noise. The only living thing she saw was a northern flicker on the roof peering down at her curiously. He was sitting on the…


The flicker, deciding she was a wingless, harmless creature, went back to his task of drilling a hole in the steel disc protecting their chimney.


Word Press Daily prompt: Liminal