beyond the shadows – by Lucy Ahl

September 1989

Grant was experiencing the quiet solitude of the hiking trails off the Oregon Caves National Monument when the predatory urge hit him, rising up in his gut and making him break out in a cold sweat.   He had been a slave to this beastly appetite ever since childhood and the more he tried to ignore it the more intense and powerful it became. Since he never knew when it would hit him, his backpack was equipped with a variety of means. He was like a boy scout, always prepared.

The fog was beginning to roll in and it gave the appearance of a mystic rain forest. As he walked a little further up the trail, he could smell the pungent odor of a barbeque.  His stomach growled.  He heard faint voices echoing below the trail.  Creeping over to a large Myrtle wood tree, he pressed his body close to the trunk and peered around it.  He saw a young couple sitting across from each other at a small wooden table engaged in conversation. Unable to make out what they were talking about, he decided to bide his time in case anyone else was with them.  Wanting to catch them off guard, he waited for them to finish eating before grabbing his horn rimmed glasses out of his vest pocket and walking out of the trees, fumbling with his binoculars, acting lost.

Tripping down the embankment, the surprised couple watched as Grant got closer. Getting up from the table, the couple walked over to where Grant stopped just prior to their camp perimeter.

“Sorry to intrude. I think I’m lost.”

Licking his lips, Grant smiled showing no teeth. He pulled out his bandana wiping the sweat off his brow.

“I’ve been walking around for a while and going in circles.  I can’t find the trail.”

Grant nodded towards their hibachi. “My nose guided me here.”

The couple followed his gaze as he glanced up at the tree tops,

“Bird watching. Gets me lost every time. Think I’d learn my lesson and bring a compass.” Staring at the silent couple, he folded the bandana into a square, and pushed it back into his vest pocket with two fingers. “Can you direct me?”

“Depends. Where’re you headed?” said the man as he put his arm around the woman.

“Back to the parking lot, I suppose.”

“The trails up here can be difficult to follow. That’s been our experience anyway.  Better to show you than tell you.” The man stuck out his hand towards Grant, “Names David” Pointing towards the woman, “My wife Beth.” Grant shook both their hands.

“Let me grab my pack.”

Walking over to their tent, David bent down, opened the screen and went inside. He grabbed his backpack and decided to take his gun. Outside he could hear Grant and Beth making small talk.

“I go to Oregon State. Just out here taking pictures of birds. Nothing too exciting.”

“Me too, that’s where I met David. What’s your major?”

“Not sure yet, but leaning towards zoology or something along those lines.” Grant was good at making up stories. What’d he care? They’d both be dead within the hour.

“Hey Beth, can you come here for a minute”

“’cuse me”

As Beth went inside the tent, Grant thought it was the perfect time to dispose of them together, but in his mind, his dark passenger wanted more of challenge.  How easy it would be to just stab them right now, but what if he missed one or both of them?

Grant heard whispering so he moved closer to eavesdrop.

“Did you see his eyes? Shifty. What do you think I should do?”

“You told him you’d show him the way out. Just take him to the top and point. I’ll start packing so we can get the hell out of here.  I’m creeped out.”

“I put the gun in my pack.”

“Want me to go too?”

“No, no. If I’m not back in 30, hike out and call for help.”

“Shit, forget it, don’t go, just draw ‘em a map.”

David looked at Beth and shook his head, “If he was gonna do anything, he could do it right here, right now.  It’ll be fine, if he tries anything, I’ll just shoot ‘em”

Grant could hear every word. “Everything all right in there?” He backed away from the tent and when David and Beth emerged, he was facing the forest.

“Sorry, just discussing how long it will take to get you to the trail, Beth’s pretty anxious to get going.”

“Look, if it’s a problem, just draw me a map, I’m sure I can figure it out myself.”

“Nah, I know a short cut, shouldn’t take us long to get there. Need some water?”

David reached into the cooler and pulled out two bottles of water, throwing one to Grant.

“You ready? Let’s head up this way”

The fog had thickened and left dew on the leaves.  Every few steps, the men slipped and as the leaves were churned up, the musky scent of the dirt filled their nostrils. They passed a few gray, granite boulder outcroppings.

“Mind if I check these out?”

As Grant walked around the large rocks, he noticed an opening between two of them.  Taking out his flashlight, he peered inside.

The perfect place to hide a body or two.”  Looking over at David, he could tell by the man’s fidgeting he was anxious to get going.  He was shifting his feet from side to side, looking up towards the top of the small incline, and checking his watch.  The fog was getting thicker making the area seem gray and gloomy.

“I think it’s right up here, hard to tell with the fog.”  Coming to the top of the hill, both a little breathless from the climb, the well-used trail, though covered with wet leaves, was clearly visible.

“Just follow this trail, it comes out at the parking lot, take you 30 minutes or so.”

“Thanks much, man.  Appreciate the help.  I’ve read too many stories ‘bout people gettin lost in these here woods and not a trace of them to be found.  For a while there I thought I was going be one of them statistics.” Grant shook David’s hand.

“Well, good luck to ya.”

Putting two fingers up to his forehead as if saluting David, Grant clicked his tongue, “You saved my life. I owe you one. See ya around.”

David watched as Grant shuffled his feet along the leaves on the trail. Turning around to see where David was, Grant waved at him and shouted, “Bye.” When David thought Grant was at a safe distance from him, he turned to head back to camp.

Leaving the trail, Grant headed back towards the boulders, ducking behind trees as he went so he wouldn’t be seen. His dark passenger was getting antsy. The voices in his head kept shouting “hurry, hurry, hurry.”  Crouching down behind the largest of the three rocks, Grant pulled his pant leg up and pulled the 7” survivor blade out from its leather holster he had strapped to his ankle.  He waited.  He could hear his heart beating and his breathing became rapid.  The excitement building within him.  And then, there he was, David, whistling and shuffling his feet in the leaves, as if he hadn’t a care in the world.  Grant would never forget the look of surprise on his face as he jumped out at David. His eyes got as big as saucers. His mouth opened so wide, Grant thought he heard it crack.  Falling to the ground on his back, unable to reach his gun, David lay there helpless.  Straddling his chest, Grant placed the knife just under David’s left ear.

“Please don’t” was the only plea he could muster.  But all it did was fuel the beast.  Grant could hear his own blood pulsing in his ears and the voices chanting in his head, “Do it, do it” over and over again. Grant knew what he had to do in order to shut them up.  With the slightest bit of pressure, Grant guided the knife into David’s neck, slicing from left to right. Immediately, Grant could feel the warm liquid of David’s blood on his hand.  The excitement Grant felt as he watch David struggle to breath, to talk, was almost too much for him to bare.  Like a child experiencing his first Christmas, he watched in awe as David moved his mouth to speak and only sounds of gurgling could be heard.  The metallic smell of blood filled Grant’s nostrils.  Within seconds, David lost consciousness and within a minute, he was dead. A sense of euphoric relief flooded through him.  It was so intense, Grant felt lightheaded.  His penis became erect.  Reaching for his backpack, he unzipped the front pocket and took out a condom.  Unbuttoning his pants, he pulled out his member, unrolled the condom the full length of his penis, and began to jerk off.  He came within seconds.  His heart rate and breathing gradually slowed. Sliding off David’s limp body, he rested against the boulders with his eyes closed. Worried someone might walk by and see him, he carefully pulled the condom off and placed it in a plastic bag.  Dipping his finger into the blood on David’s chest, he wrote the number 89 on the bag and the letter “D”.  Carefully placing the bag on the ground, he rolled David’s body near the opening of the cave. The dead weight made it difficult to maneuver but with a little effort, he completed the task of hiding it.  The mulched leaves where David had fallen were covered with blood.  Using his hands, he rearranged the dirt and leaves so if anyone came by, they wouldn’t notice the blood, at least not right away. He wiped the knife blade clean with his bandanna and then placed the plastic bag with the used condom in his pack. He was proud of his trophy.  When he got home, he would place it with the others he had collected throughout the years. He poured the bottle of water David had given him on his hands to try and get rid of the blood stains, to no avail.

Looking at his watch, Grant couldn’t waste any more time getting back to Beth at the camp site.  Before placing David’s backpack in the cave with his body, Grant removed the gun shoving it in his waist band, and began running back towards their camp.  As he approached the camp, he paused behind a tree, wanting to be sure Beth was still there.

Seeing she was busy packing up the campsite, he ran down the hill towards her yelling her name.

“Where’s David?”

Gasping for breath, Grant tried to tell her David had had an accident.

“What?” “Where is he?”

“He fell. Not sure how … but his screams … I need your help … hurry.” Grant could tell she was in a quandary.  Remembering their conversation in the tent, he could see she was hesitant.  Grabbing her upper arm, coaxing her, “come on, he needs our help.” Beth pulled away from him, “I should call 911.”

“No time for that. Hurry, he needs you.”

Grant noticed Beth was staring at his hands. Without moving his head, he lifted his eyebrows and rolled his eyes up to see her expression. The color had drained from her face.  Her rosy cheeks were gone.  Her eyes had the look of disbelief. He could see her lips quivering.  Her hands were shaking violently.  Her breathing was shallow. Yes, he recognized that look. Fear. He could smell it too. She was paralyzed as he stared down at her. What was that pounding? Her heart or his? A smile crossed his lips.

“Come now Beth, don’t make this any harder than it has to be.  Let’s take a walk shall we?” As Grant reached for her arm, Beth bolted towards the forest screaming for David.

“Perfect” Grant thought, “She wants to play hard to get?”  Grant trotted behind Beth, not wanting to lose site of her, yet not wanting to catch her too quickly.  He enjoyed the hunt.  He was going to savor her death.  The smells of the forest and the heavy fog rolling in between the tree trunks heightened his senses. It was getting colder. “Beth, I promise I’ll make it quick, you won’t feel a thing, not like David did”. He started to laugh. “You should have seen the look on his face.  It was priceless.”

Walking faster now, he could hear Beth running further away from him.  He could see only a dark silhouette of her body through the fog.  He knew he could overtake her but he was enjoying himself. “Come out, come out, where ever you are.” His words echoing through the forest.  It was only a matter of time. She would get tired and try to hide.  Up ahead, Grant heard splashing.  “She found the creek” he thought.  As he got closer he would smell the stagnant water.  He could hear Beth swimming towards the other side of the shore. Straining his eyes, he could make out her white arms as they came up from the water.

“Shit” He knew he had no choice but to dive in. He would not let Beth get away.  The dark passenger began to rise as his anger cramped his stomach. Beth wasn’t cooperating and being on the verge of losing control would not benefit her in anyway. He refused to allow her to win.  Letting her live was not an option.  Diving into the creek, he felt the shock of the cold water rush over his body. As he came up for air, he smelled the mossy stench of the dead vegetation that rose up from the bottom as he moved his arms forward and back.  Strands of limp reeds clung to his arms. Looking across the water, he saw Beth struggling to get out of the creek, the water weighing heavy on her legs.  She disappeared into the tall, brown reeds.

Grant reached the shore line minutes behind Beth.  As he crawled out of the water, his clothes clung to his body, the cold air smacked him in the face and he began to shiver. “Got to keep moving, can’t let her get away.” Walking into the reeds, he stopped.  Moving his head from side to side, he tried to pick up any rustling sounds. The fog was heavier on this side of the creek. The crickets and frogs silenced their conversations. Listening, he took another step and stopped.  Nothing but the sound of his own heavy breathing and pounding heart.  Bending from the waist, he put his hands on his knees trying to slow down his breathing.  He could feel her watching him. She was near. It was only a matter of time before he found her and dragged her sorry ass back to the boulders to join her husband. His thoughts of her torture and eventual death, warmed his shivering body. And then he heard it. Snap. It didn’t matter if it was a tree branch or a dried up old reed, the sound drew him to Beth’s hiding place.

* * * * * * * *

Grant awoke with a start.  Brushing his hair away from his face, he felt the cool wetness on his forehead. His pajamas were soaked. Raising himself up on his elbows, he noticed all the bed covers were in a ball on the floor.  The room was cold. Looking over to his right, the other side of the bed was empty.



“She must’ve gone out for a run”

Getting out of bed, Grant stretched.  Picking up the bedcovers, several dried up brown grass reeds fell out onto the hardwood floor.

“What the …”

Noticing the red stains on his hands, he ran to the doorway of the bedroom  screaming his wife’s name …. “Beeeeetttthhh”

The End

Amazon: Literary Suicide or Genius of the Future


By Lucy Ahl

Like Walmart, Amazon is a global superstore.  It not only publishes books, it sells books, technology, videos, has its own literary magazine, and its own production studio. Amazon’s founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, a graduate of Princeton, also owns a major newspaper, The Washington Post. Amazon is turning or has turned the publishing industry upside down and they are feeling the effects.  Bowker reports that over one million (1,052,803) books were published in the U.S. in 2009, which is more than triple the number of books published four years earlier (2005) in the U.S. (April 14, 2010 Bowker Report). More than two thirds of these books are self-published books, reprints of public domain works, and other print-on-demand books, which is where most of the growth in recent years has taken place. Bezos told Charlie Rose on 60 Minutes, “Amazon is not happening to bookselling. The future is happening to bookselling.” (Packer 17).

One traditional publisher, Dennis Johnson, co-owner of Melville House out of Brooklyn and one of the few publishers willing to criticize Amazon publicly, says the mega giant has turned into the bully of the publishing world.  When Johnson’s distributor was approached by two Amazon employees, he described the dinner meeting “like dinner with the Godfather.” Refusing to budge on making a payment to Amazon for carrying their books, (in 1999, Amazon received $3,621,250 in co-op fees) Johnson contacted Publishers Weekly, who ran their story about the strong arm of Amazon.  The next day, the “buy” button on all their titles had been deleted.  Because Amazon accounted for eight percent of their sales, Melville House caved to the pressure and paid the ransom.  Though major publishing houses believe Amazon has monopolized the digital works of fiction and non-fiction genres by selling books for just a few dollars, unknown authors and readers who live hundreds of miles from any bookstores, disagree.

History of Amazon

In 1994, Amazon started off as a bookstore, an internet bookstore.  Jeff Bezo’s, a Princeton graduate, quit his job at a Manhattan hedge fund and moved to Seattle to cash in on the “exponential growth of the early commercial Internet” (Packer 2).  In Chicago in 1995 Bezos manned an Amazon booth “at the annual conclave of the publishing industry”, called BookExpo America with a sign that read “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore”.  When approached by Rainy Day Books owner, Doeren, he asked “where is this bookstore?” Bezos replied “cyberspace”.   When Bezos told Doeren his business plan, by gathering data on affluent, educated shoppers then selling books close to cost in order to increase sales volume, Doeren went back and told his business partner “I just met the world’s biggest snake-oil salesman.  It’s going to be really bad for books.” (Packer 3).

By 2010, Amazon controlled ninety per cent of the market in digital books (Packer 10).  One literary agent, Andrew Wylie, was worried Amazon had no competition.  E-Book prices were being slashed to a mere dollar ninety-nine or ninety nine cents and publishers feared it would not be long before they had to slash the cover prices of all their titles. Publishers wanted control back and along came Apple.  Apple wanted a deal with each of the big six publishing houses, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, Random House, and Simon and Schuster.  All but one, Random House, took the Apple deal and though the deal was worse from Apple than Amazon. “Apple’s terms included the provision that it could match the price of any rival” (Packer Cheap Words 12).  It gave publishers control over pricing and a way to challenge Amazon’s grip on the market.  However, in April of 2012, the U.S. Justice Department filed a complaint against Apple and the big publishers on conspiracy to fix prices after Attorney Steve Berman filed a class action suit.  Because Berman was an avid reader of e-Books, he discovered a number of different publishers had increased their book prices from $9.99 to $13.99.  After some investigation, Berman decided it was exactly what the publishers were trying to do, fix prices.  “The federal complaint was a shock and an embarrassment to the publishing community” (Gessen “The War of the Words” Vanity Fair 7).  Apple and the big publishers were trying to squash a monopolist-in-the-wings, Amazon, and the government stepped in and stopped them.  It was catastrophic for the publishers who had to pay out millions in damages to rid themselves of the class action suits (Gessen “The War of the Words” Vanity Fair 7).

Despite all this drama, behind the scenes, publishers were making money, just like Bezos said they would.  Print book sales may have been down, but e-Book sales were up.  With the e-Books there were no manufacturing costs, no warehousing costs, not shipping costs, no returns, and so even at a lower price, their profit margins were higher.  For instance, the retail price of a hardcover book of $27.99 would net profit to the publisher at $5.67, a profit margin of 41%.  An eBook selling for $14.99 retail will profit the publisher $7.87, a profit margin of 75%, therefore, publishers are making more money on e-Books than hardcover books due to the low cost of publishing.

In 2014, a war between Hachette, book publisher for writers such as James Patterson, Malcom Gladwell and Douglas Preston, and Amazon began.  The business dispute grew into a high stakes one, authors got involved because it was their bread and butter.  They organized a group called Authors United and circulated a petition that gathered more than 900 signature.  It called for Amazon to put an end to the sanctioning of books” (Gessen “The War of the Words” Vanity Fair 8).  In a nutshell, the Amazon-Hachette dispute mirrored a culture war which had been playing out since the 1960s in America.

Authors United was able to obtain 900 signatures to put an end to Amazon’s sanctioning of books. However, writers who had self-published with Amazon, some who had made a good living out of doing so, came to the defense of Amazon.  They were tired of New York publishing making the decisions of what stories people were allowed to read.  They were tired of the high prices of books, and they were tired of the little profits made on each book, with the majority of profits going to the publishers.  So they fought back.  They made it known that Amazon wasn’t the evil enterprise these authors purported Amazon to be.  They explained it was the natural and inevitable transition to online book sales.  They said the same transition happened to other forms of entertainment, they blamed the publishers for “resisting technology” (Gessen “The War of the Words” Vanity Fair 8).  These same publishers could have done the same thing that Amazon did, but they didn’t, they choose to fear the future and fight to protect the status quo (Gessen “The War of the Words” Vanity Fair 8).  Their petition on obtained more than 8,000 signatures.

The dispute with Amazon and Hachette ended in November of 2014 with both parties seemingly happy with the results.  The dispute was mainly over pricing and how much royalties an author could expect on sales of e-Books.  Hachette sent a letter out to its authors informing them their royalty payments would not decrease and they were given the right to decided how much to charge for their eBooks on Kindle.  Amazon in turn would provide incentives for Hachette to have lower e-Book prices, however the details of their deal remains unclear.  According to Sarah Kahn, an industry analyst at the market researcher IBISWorld, said the agreement shows that “large publishers have some kind of impact to negotiate with Amazon” (Stenovec 1).

Amazon’s self-contained publishing world has its advantages and disadvantages to the author who decides to publish with them.  First off, the majority of book sales, 20%, are through its e-Books, on the Kindle platform or on Kindle Direct.  The books are never seen in a book store, most won’t carry Amazon titles because they believe they are being undercut by Amazon and that they are out to destroy them (Shapiro 2).  Authors are also sacrificing the traditional New York based literary world as well as some amount of recognition in the world at large (Shapiro 2).  Amazon promotes the titles on its website and the Kindle, and uses one vendor, Amazon.  This is definitely not a path to riches for the author.  In fact, some find themselves working for almost nothing.  Aaron Shepard, an author of three “how to” books on Kindle publishing says he has told his readers to deliver the message, “The party’s over”.

One of the advantages of self-publishing with Amazon would be the low production costs, through their CreateSpace program.  With Kindle Direct, authors don’t pay any upfront cost to Amazon, they take a cut of 30 percent once the book starts making money.  This leaves a 70 percent royalty payment to the author much higher than the 10-15 percent from traditional publishers.  One self-publishing author has made upward of $450,000 a year.  According to an article in Forbes, a UK-based author, Mark Dawson, who writes thrillers and crime novels, has sold 300,000 copies of his thriller series about a British assassin named John Milton netting him a six figure total.

Future Issues

Around eighty percent of newly released books originate from self-publishing or small presses and this figure has been increasing yearly (Carolan & Evain 285). In order to establish the positioning of self-publishing’s future development, one must look at current industry practices. By profiling self-published authors, Carolan and Evain, who wrote a journal article “Self-Publishing: Opportunities and Threats in a New Age of Mass Culture” (2013), broke these profiles down into three categories: the big fish in the big pond, the big fish in the small pond, and the small fish in the big pond.  The author’s example they used for “the big fish in the big pond” was John Grisham.  Prior to becoming a bestselling author of legal thrillers, Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, was rejected by dozens of publishers and agents until a small New York publishing house, The Wynwood Press, decided to release an initial run of five thousand copies.  Because Grisham had been studying the market, he knew his book would not obtain the success he was looking due to the limited marketing potential of the small independent press.  He sold his law firm, purchased one thousand copies of his book and went on a three month book tour cross state.  He ultimately sold every copy.  He then set out to produce his second novel, The Firm, which attracted Hollywood into making a major film, and in turn was then adopted by a major publishing house.  Though Grisham is often mistaken as a self-published author, he remains heavily involved in the promotion of his work and yet is also engaged with traditional publishers.

“The big fish in a small pond” category corresponds to self-published authors who have managed to “establish their authority as author-entrepreneurs in niche markets” (Carolan & Evain 288).  This is the perfect example of author James Redfield and The Celestine Prophecy. Redfield sold almost one hundred thousand copies of his philosophical dissertation on new age spirituality before Warner Books picked him up.  Niche markets are successful as self-published books because “these specialty books do not appeal to large-scale publishers and it is far easier to market a book to a specific audience” (Yakawicz 2010).  He has since sold over a million copies and the book is translated in thirty-four different languages.  Another reason for his huge success was the timing of his book.  The author had a great deal of knowledge in both his subject and his readership and the small interconnected communities used word of mouth to help develop his product (Carolan & Evain 288).

“The small fish in the big pond” concept deals with the self-published books that are released through Print-On-Demand which sells about an average of seventy five copies of any given book (Carolan & Evain 288).  The competition in this market is fierce.  Most self-published authors keep a low profile so it is important for them to engage with their readers either electronically or physically.  It’s important in this day and age for the authors to let readers know why they should invest their time in getting to know them. Blogging and social media networking websites are ways for authors to build their online communities and interact with their readers.

Diversification of Publishing

With the e-Book renewing the love of reading for many people, it has also helped the book industry all the way around.  People are checking out books at the library and they are still buying hard copies via the internet.  With the diversity offered to the public, it seems the modern publishing environment has been able to co-exist and complement each other’s activities.  Gabriel Zaid explains it beautifully:

The technologies that lower the threshold for investment and the cost of the product respond to the need of a better educated population to read and express itself in an ongoing conversation in which diverse subjects and interests multiply.  By rooting themselves in this economic reality, some forms of conversation that actually favor diversity may thrive.  But those that impoverish conversation instead of enriching it will encounter difficulties inherent in the very nature of books.


More than two thirds of the over one million books published each year are self-published books, reprints of public domain works, or other print-on-demand books.  All of this growth has come in the name of Amazon, the global superstore.  And even though in the beginning, traditional publishers felt Amazon was monopolizing the digital works of fiction and non-fiction genres, the publisher’s profit margins increased from 41% to 75%.  With 80% of newly released books originating from self-publishing or small presses, it’s no wonder this is the way of the future.  It has opened up diversity in the market place and has allowed both the traditional publishers and the e-Book publishers to find a way to co-exist in the market.  After all, enriching people’s lives will help a society thrive in an ever changing market place.  Amazon opened the doors to the future, and the future is here to stay.

           Works Cited

Bowker Report. “Self-Publishing Movement Continues Strong Growth in U.S.” Tools and Resources. Thorpe-Bowker. A ProQuest Affiliate. 2010. Web.

Carolan, Simon. Evain, Christine. “Self-Publishing: Opportunities and Threats in a New Age of Mass Culture”. Springer Science+Business Media, New York. 12 Oct. 2013. ProQuest.

Gessen, Keith. “The War of the Words. How did Amazon End Up as Literary Enemy No. 1?” Vanity Fair. Dec. 2014. Web.

Packer, George. “Cheap Words. Amazon is good for customers. But is it good for books?” The New Yorker. 24 Feb. 2014. Web

Ronning, Helge. Slaatta, Tore. “Marketers, publishers, editors: Trends in International Publishing. Media, Culture & Society. Sage Publishing. Journal. 2011. ProQuest.

Shapiro, Nancy. “The Perks, Pitfalls, and Paradoxes of Amazon Publishing.” Seattle Weekly News. 4 Nov. 2014. Web

Stenovec, Timothy. “Amazon Probably Didn’t Get What It Wanted In the Hachette Deal” The Huffington Post. 14 Nov. 2014. Web.

Yakowicz, Susie. “Find Self-Publishing success with a Niche Market”. 2010. Web.

Zaid, Gabriel. “So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance. Sort of Books. 2010. Print.


By Lucy Ahl

As I drove up to the two story house, which seemed to loom over the single story homes on the same block, I noticed the windows were all covered with white sheets.  A red wagon was carelessly strewn across the green, tall grass on the front lawn.  It was an unusually hot day and I started to sweat as I walked up to the front door.  There was a swarm of flies buzzing in a circle around the entry way.  Ringing the bell, I noticed a gray haired man peering through the panes of glass.  He opened the door slowly. “Yes?” he asked in a whispered voice, holding the door only inches open where all I could see was his nose and one eye.

“Hi, I’m Lucy, the professional organizer.  Mr. Cano called and asked me to come by and give an estimate on decluttering his home”.  Reaching into my notebook, I flashed my card close to his nose.

“Oh, yes.  Thank you for coming.  We need to hurry though as my girlfriend will be home soon, and I don’t want her to know I have called someone”.

He opened the door slowly and a putrid odor that smelled like rotting chicken and dirty diapers hit my nose.  I had to force myself not to gag.  As I walked into the foyer, I could see the living room and dining room.  Every inch of space, from floor to ceiling, was filled with clothing, shoes, vacuums, irons, golf bags, and an assortment of dirty dishes.   There was a small area on the couch that was cleaned off and it looked as if this is where Mr. Cano sat as he watched TV.  The dining room table had clothing piled high on it and the kitchen counter was crawling with maggots and ants. Dirty dishes covered every inch of counter space.  Looking up, I saw another swarm of flies buzzing around in a circle.

“So, what is it you would like me to help you with today”, I said half joking, half serious.

He explained to me his girlfriend had a hoarding problem and he was tired of his house looking and smelling like a morgue.  “She goes out on trash day and dumpster dives other people’s trash.  Late at night, she drives around to the bins where people donate clothing and such and raids them.  I haven’t been able to use my garage for the past three years, yet alone, the rest of my home.  My kids won’t even come visit me because of this mess”.

As I looked around, I could image this place without all the clutter.  The honey colored hardwood floors underneath all the clothing, had started to turn black, probably from mold.  The fireplace in the living room had fancy drywall cuts in it to make a southwestern design.  The wall space that could be seen, was painted in a mauve shade and the trim, a light tan, the color of toast.  The high ceilings, without all the cobwebs, gave the place an open, airy feel.  But it was the kitchen, massive in size that held the most promise.  Surrounded by windows, if not covered up by white sheets, could emanated the natural light, giving it an outdoor feel.  The dark cherry wood cabinets complimented the golden mottled granite on the countertops.  The enormous island in the middle of the room housed the filthy stainless steel stove.  Looking closer, I saw a trail of black ants carrying away bits of rotten food.  I honestly did not know how much more I could take, I was getting nauseous from the putrid smell.  Mr. Cano opened up the freezer.  He proceeded to remove something that once resembled a gray squirrel, squashed from a car tire.

As I walked outside into the clean, fresh air, I took a deep breath.  I could feel my lungs expanding, thirsty for clean oxygen.  As I looked up, the swarm of flies, still there, flying around and around in a circle, just like Mr. Cano’s relationship.


This is  part of a screenplay I wrote in one of my creative writing classes.  It started out as a short story.  The screenplay class taught me about details and how important it is to put a picture into the readers head.  I hope I was able to accomplish this.  It is not a finished piece of work however, now I will be able to spend more time on it.

Fade in:


Somewhere in Montana in a small suburban setting, its Fall, trees turning colors as they

encompass the street

 A few white clouds in the sky

Radio is very loud a Country music song by Tim McGraw, Everywhere is playing              

TRENT is singing to the song. He brushes a tear from his cheek. Squinting, he puts on his sunglasses hanging off the visor of the car.  Making a right turn onto a tree lined street and pulls into a driveway of a large Log house.

….”Every highway just beyond the high-beams
Right beside me in all of my sweet dreams
No matter where you choose to be
In my heart I’ll always see you …”

Trent turns off the radio, grabs his briefcase, opens the door and gets out.  As he walks up the driveway, he turns slightly.  Presses the button on the key fob.  A LOUD chirp.  He puts his key in to the doorknob and walks inside.

                                INT.  FOYER OF A LOG HOUSE

TRENT (outloud)

                                                                I’m home….

Silence, no reply from any one.

Trent throws his keys on the half table in the foyer and heads to the kitchen.


 Opening the refrigerator, he pulls out a beer, twisting the cap off.  Putting the cap between his forefinger and thumb he aims for the trash can in the corner of the room.  PING… and misses.

Taking off his jacket and shoes, he rushes up the stairs pausing at a group of family pictures at the top of the staircase.  He picks one up.  It’s a picture of himself and his wife on their wedding day. 

TRENT (sighing)

God, I miss you so much

Trent continues to speak as if she is in the room with him.  He puts the photo down and walks into his bedroom.


TRENT (looking up in the air)

                                                                I have to force myself to go up to the cabin, KATE. 

                                                                I can’t put it off any longer.  It’s going on two years. I

                                                                Just have to suck it up and go.  I know we talked about this

                                                                Before you left.  I didn’t keep my promise.  I mean how could I?

                                                                Baby, we did everything together.  Its been tough on me.

Walking over to his desk, Trent picks up his iPhone and pulls up the weather. He reads the screen.  Chance of possible snow; full moon.



TRENT (shouting)

                                                                Now we’re talking!  Thanks Kate, for putting in a good

                                                                Word for me with the big guy.  First time up to the cabin

                                                                In two years, and I just may get me a bobcat.

Rubbing his hands together as he walks over to the staircase, he jogs down the stairs and heads to the garage to begin packing for his trip.


FADE IN.                                             





Trent puts his truck in 4 wheel drive mode.  Slowly he drives the truck up the pathway for a few miles until he comes to a clearing where ahead of him sits a long cabin with a wraparound porch and swing for two.                                             

TRENT (sighing)

                                                I forgot how pretty it was up here.

Trent glances over to the passenger side seat, shaking his head. 



TRENT and KATE, a young woman with long light brown hair, wearing white capris jeans and a denim, no sleeve shirt/vest, slip on canvas shoes, white teeth, red lipstick, smiling, camera strap around her neck, driving up the same pathway.  No weeds and the road isn’t eroded.  Conversation sounds like it’s in a tin can (inaudible) and then becomes audible.

                                                                                KATE (taking in a deep breath)

                                                                I can’t believe this is really ours.  Can you?

TRENT shakes his head, SMILING.

                                                                                KATE (CON’T)

                                                                Oh, come on honey, I can’t wait to get inside!

KATE jumps out of the truck and starts running towards the cabin.  She runs up the three stairs and puts the keys in the keyhole.  She opens the door of the cabin and squeals as she looks inside.

                                                                                KATE (CON’T)

                                                                Oh, it’s just like I remembered it.  Trent hurry up. I want to unpack

                                                                And walk the property. 

TRENT struggling with the luggage up the stairs sets the suitcases in the living room just inside the door.                                                                          

TRENT (breathing heavily, taking Kate’s hand)

                                                Just leave them, we can unpack later, lets walk around

                                                Before it gets too dark.

Walking along the wrap around deck hand in hand – DUSK

                                                                                KATE (pointing to a section of the deck that overlooks the lake)

                                                                This would be the perfect spot for a hanging swing for two.  What

                                                                Do you think?




TRENT drives up to the cabin, opens the back door of the truck and grabs the suitcases.  He opens the cabin door and immediately realizes something isn’t right. 


TRENT (walking into the living room of the cabin, sniffing the air)

Hello?  Is someone here?  Kate? Is that you?

As TRENT looks around the silent cabin, he runs his fingers along the furniture.  He picks up a potpourri bowl and takes a long sniff.  Putting the bowl down, TRENT shakes his head, picks up the suitcases and heads into the bedroom.


FADE IN: Three years before

                                                                                KATE (emptying a bag of lavender into a bowl)

                                Oh, come on honey, I love this smell, it will make the cabin seem more welcoming.

                                Come here, take a whiff, please?  See?

Showing the back of the bag to TRENT

                                                                                KATE (Con’t)

                                It even says so on the package.  Plus, when I’m not here with you, it will remind

                                You of me.

KATE walks over to TRENT and gives him a hug then kisses him on the lips.

                                                                TRENT (kissing her back and smiling)

                                Ok, I’m convinced.  Have at it, this is your cabin too. 





TRENT has a glass of scotch on ice in his hand as he is looking out towards the lake and the forest which surrounds the lake on three sides.  As he is looking out over the lake, he sees out of the corner of his eyes, a woman standing at the edge of the tree line.  She’s wearing a bright yellow sun dress and her hair is flowing around her face with the breeze. 

                                                                TRENT (standing up and walking to the edge of the deck)

                                                What the hell?

TRENT raises his hand in a waving gesture but the woman figure turns and walks into the forest.

Feminist/Psychoanalytical Criticism Analysis in the novel Ceremony

By Lucy Cafiero-Ahl

In Leslie Silko’s novel, Ceremony, there are many symbols that are connected to womanhood and seem to relate back to Ts’eh, the universal feminine principle of Creation. Although Ceremony is a tale about a man, Tayo, it is also a tale about two forces, the feminine life force of the Universe represented by the female figures of Ts’eh, Laura, Grandma, Aunt Thelma, and Corn Woman, as well as the death force of witchery.  By using Feminist criticism and Psychoanalytic meaning, I hope to show how females in Native American culture were symbolic and played an important part in shaping Tayo’s life, circumstances, and recovery.

In the novel, Ceremony, Silko writes of the trauma Tayo experiences throughout his life and how he triumphs at the end.  By delving into all the feminine forces throughout his life, Silko teaches us about the female powers which influence him.  Tayo’s mother, Laura, who fell victim between the Native American and white cultures.  Her alcoholism eventually leads to her death.  His Auntie has reluctantly taken over the care of Tayo.  She believes in her Christian faith rather than her Native American upbringing. His Grandma, the matriarch of the family is wiser than everyone believes and offers Tayo advice from time to time.  Te’sh, a symbol of Corn Mother, loves Tayo like he’s never been loved before. She teaches Tayo ritual offerings and the healing power of many plants. She is a key figure in helping kill the witchery in Tayo.

According to Tyson, “In some North American Indian cultures, gender variants played valued roles in the community, such as healers or performers of sacred ritual functions, because gender variance was associated , as it is in many cultures, with sacred power” (pg. 107).  Tyson goes on to say “…the ultimate goal of feminist criticism is to increase our understanding of women’s experience, both in the past and present, and promote our appreciation of women’s value in the world” (pg.114).

Before Europeans came to America, Native American women and men had specific tasks that were defined by gender.  While the duties were different, the work was equally valued and roles balanced (Waterman, 2013).  Men were responsible for hunting, warfare, and interacting with people from other tribes so they had a more public role whereas women managed the internal operations of the community and the household.  Women usually owned the family housing, all the household goods, gathered the food, and raised the children (Pearson).  In Silko’s novel, Laura, Auntie and Grandma represent the matrilineal inheritance of their clan. According to Buhle, “Mothers shape not only their children’s individual characters, but collectively the personality structure of their entire society” (pg.141).  “If a child does not have a sense of belonging it [becomes a weakness]…that weakness the child will have in later years, in times of great need and difficulty” (Anderson). Tayo was not only abandoned by his mother but by Auntie as well due to her attitude towards him.   Grandma seems to be one of the strong influences in Tayo’s life as well as in his recovery.

Grandma is a very wise old woman.  She has been around for a very long time and has seen the changes in the tribe throughout the years.  She is the representation of the old ways, holding a deep respect for traditional spiritual beliefs and practices that were handed down through her own family.  After Tayo has a dream about Josiah, he wakes up crying.  He is shaking and doesn’t think he is going to make it through.  He wants to tell Auntie that they need to take him back to the hospital.  Grandma, who has been sitting by the stove with her eyes closed, slowly gets up and shuffles over to where Tayo is lying in bed. She sits on the edge of the bed and holds his head in her lap.  She starts crying with him saying “A’moo’ho, a’moo’ohh over and over again” and then she says, “I’ve been thinking all this time, while I was sitting in my chair. Those white doctors haven’t helped you at all. Maybe we had better send for someone else” (Silko, pg. 33).

When Auntie returns home from grocery shopping, Grandma suggests they call the medicine man.  Auntie disapproves because she is afraid the gossip will start again and she doesn’t want to deal with it.  Grandma insists because she feels Tayo can be helped by going back to the old ways and doesn’t care if people will talk.  Grandmothers were considered teachers and their role was to not only protect but also to guide others with respect to their own responsibilities (Anderson).  Grandma does this by silencing Auntie when she protests, and the medicine man is called.

Native American cultures have long considered the female figure one of reverence and power.  In fact, male-dominated politics in First Nations communities are largely the result of the Indian Act of 1876, which crushed First Nations women’s official involvement in governance.  This was done by replacing men and women who participated in the diverse traditional systems with exclusively men as chiefs and councils (Anderson). However, the communities that fell outside of the Indian Act, were more apt to retain the older systems in which women continued to hold power (Anderson).

The medicine man seems to think Tayo needs to relive his memories and to perform a new ceremony to make him well.  According to Freud, “when the mind is confronted with an overwhelming experience, it tends to isolate the memories associated with this experience in specific areas of the brain that are inaccessible to conscious recall…” (Sprengnether).  This ceremony leads Tayo to Ts’eh, a powerful feminine force that ultimately cures him.

Ts’eh is mysterious and seems to come out of nowhere.  She comes into Tayo’s life suddenly and leaves just as fast.  She is a representative of Corn Mother, Thought Woman, and Spiderwoman all in one body.  They met by happenstance, or goes the story, but clearly, it was part of the ceremony of healing. The first night, as he sat eating chili, Ts’eh tells him the sky is clear and the stars are out.  He had been looking for the pattern of stars that Betonie had drew on the ground, and as he looked out up into the sky, the pattern was there.  That night, while making love, Tayo began to heal.  He was afraid he would get lost again, but that didn’t happen.  Tayo found comfort in her.

When he returned to her house, somehow the spotted cattle had come running down the mountain and into her trap.  Even his horse showed up at her place.  The subliminal message here is she has a magnetic powers, like Mother Earth.  Tayo saw this when she told him the cattlemen would not come to retrieve the cattle “she gave him a look that chilled him” (Silko, pg. 213).  When he said goodbye, she told him she would be seeing him and then she disappeared.

Tayo saw her in his dreams, held her, caressed her, his love for her was overwhelming. According to Tyson, “recurring dreams or recurring dream images are the most reliable indicators of our unconscious concerns” (pg. 20). Tayo went back to the ranch and when he walked into his room, “the terror of the dreaming he had done on this bed was gone, uprooted from his belly; and the woman had filled the hallow spaces with new dreams” (pg. 219).

When Ts’eh appears again to Tayo, she is wrapped in her blue shawl, the color being sacred and used to honor the gods.  She gathers plants, teaches Tayo about the gifts from Mother Earth, she is the sacred feminine.  She cares deeply for Tayo, and she gets involved in his life.  She sees every opportunity as one of transformation.  She is magical, almost like a figment of Tayo’s imagination, a ghost.  According to Helene Cixous, “She is more patriarchal and as the source of life, women are themselves the source of power, of energy” (Tyson, pg. 96).

Because Tayo was with a dysfunctional mother until he was four, and then raised by another dysfunctional aunt, he could be suffering momism.  Though the meaning of momism is an excessive attachment to one’s mother, the opposite could be true as well.  During his ceremony, Ts’eh becomes the most important aspect to his recovery.  She shows him the unconditional love of a mother, teaching him many things from sacred plants, to opening up his mind and releasing him from the witchery that consumed his identify.

Silko used many symbols in her book Ceremony to connect to the importance of women in Native American culture.  She uses the diversity of the women and shows the importance of each in shaping Tayo’s life, circumstances and eventual recovery from the witchery that overtook his identity, for “women are themselves the source of power…” (Tyson). In the end, “every evil which entangled him was cut to pieces” (Silko, pg.258).

Works Cited

Anderson, Kim. Life Stages and Native Women: Memory, Teachings and Story Medicine. Winnipeg. University of Manitoba Press. 2011. Print.

Buhle, Mari Jo. Feminism and its Discontents: A Century of Struggle with Psychoanalysis. Cambridge, Harvard University Press. 1998, Print.

Pearson, Ellen Holmes. “American Indian Women”. National History Education Clearinghouse. Website. 2013.

Silko, Leslie. Ceremony. New York: Penguin Books, 1977

Sprengnether, Madelon. “Feminist Criticism and Psychoanalysis.” A History of Feminist Literary Criticism. Eds. Gill Plain and Susan Sellers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Credo Reference. Web. 16 Oct 2015.

Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-friendly Guide. “Feminist criticism”. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015

Waterman, Stephanie and Lorinda Lindley. Cultural Strengths to Persevere: Native American Women in Higher Education. Naspa. 2013. Shapiro Library. 6 Nov. 2015.

Common Differences and Strategies among Genders

Communication is a large part of getting along with the opposite sex.  Communication can be either verbal or nonverbal.  Nonverbal communication, according to Dr. Susan Sherwood, (2010), “is more immediate but more ambiguous than verbal communication”.  Men and women differ significantly in their ability to use nonverbal communication, their skill in interpreting it and their means of signaling the meaning.  It is important to understand gender differences in nonverbal communication when dealing with the opposite sex.   According to John Gray, author of the best seller, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, “men and women communicate differently because men want to transmit information and solve specific problems, while women communicate to express feelings and achieve emotional intimacy” (pg. 2).  This essay will examine the types of communication, the common miscommunications among genders, and some effective strategies used to improve communications between men and women.

Women tend to use nonverbal communication more than men.  Women make more eye contact during communication than men.  They tend to use communication to establish an emotional connection with people, as well judge the sincerity of that person.  Women also rely more on facial expressions and hand gestures to convey their meaning or intensity of their feelings.   Since men associate touching with sexual intentions, and women associate touching as an expression of friendship or sympathy, heterosexual men abstain from touching other men during a conversation (Sherwood, 2010).

Young girls’ friendships focus on making a connection.  They share secrets, relate experiences, reveal problems; talk is essential.  Young boys, on the other hand, take a different approach to friendship.  Their buddy groups tend to be larger and focus more on activities rather than conversation.  These differences lead to a dissimilar communication styles in adulthood.  Women still communicate through dialogue and men remain action oriented, to achieve something (Sherwood, 2010).  Research indicates these are the general, even common, tendencies of men and women, though not absolute.  There are men who want to chat about their feelings and women who choose not to talk so much.

Nonverbal communication involves varying levels of body expression.  For women, animated faces, hands in motion and for men, more conservative facial movements and body contact.  However, when it comes to sitting styles, men are unreserved.  Sprawling, stretching, spreading out is usually their style, while women tend to draw in, keeping arms and legs close to their bodies (Sherwood, 2010).  Women are focused on providing attention and encouraging participation, whereas the goal for men, depends upon the task.  For instance, women will ask many questions to get their point across.  Their questions are designed to present opposition or gather data.  Men’s contribution to an argument is often simple and direct.  They are so straightforward, men might not realize that a conflict is occurring (Sherwood, 2010).  A sample dialogue regarding a place to eat:

Woman: “Why do we have to eat here?”

Man: “It’s convenient.”

Woman:  “Are there any quieter restaurants nearby?”

Man:  “Not close by.”

Woman: “I wonder if this place has been inspected lately.”

Man:  “Let’s go in.”

When their communication styles are disagreeing, the impact can be surprising.  Men are concerned with being right.  They dislike questions and are less concerned about anyone’s feelings.  Men will close down emotionally.  This lack of compassion upsets women.  They become increasingly suspicious and wary (Whitworth, 2007).

After the argument, one or both may apologize.  Apologies are handled differently between men and women.  Women use apologies to try to create or maintain connections.  Men are more concerned about what an apology might do:  lower them to a subordinate position (Sherwood, 2010).  If a man fears losing power and avoids an apology, a woman may consider this insensitive behavior and can prolong negative feelings.  And so once again, gender variations are making things difficult.

Men are more likely to volunteer evaluations instead of hand out compliments, whereas, women learn from an early age to give out compliments.  It is a way to offer affirmation and inclusion.  Men will not seek out compliments because they want to avoid being critiqued themselves (Tannen, 2010).  If a woman asks a question with the hope of being praised or flattered, a man may see it as a way to offer advice.  This automatically shifts them to a higher position, with the woman having a lower status (Tannen, 2010).

Problem solving among the genders is also different.  For instance, the car has died once again.  It’s time to buy a new car.  He wants to buy a slightly used car because they depreciate so quickly.  She wants to ask her friends how they like their cars.  He wants to look at car reviews on line.  She is worried about the car payment.  He offers to go right now to the dealership.  She goes into a story about how she bought her first car.  He decides he wants a hybrid (Tannen, 2010).  This is not problem solving at its best but is common.  Men and women approach analytical discussions differently.  Men tend to focus on the facts and seek immediate solutions (action oriented) whereas women tend to talk about the problem, share their feelings and find common experiences (Torppa, 2010).

Men and women have different ways of trying to get what they want, which may make it difficult to come to an agreement.  Women, again, typically are in conversation mode, they ask questions.  Men can interpret this approach as manipulation.  They make statements rather than suggestions.  They want their way directly and quickly.  If that doesn’t work, they exit the discussion, either angry or simply less passionate about the subject (Tannen, 2010).   Men then become resentful thinking women are trying to trick them.  If men don’t participate in the negotiations, women feel slighted, easily turning the discussion into an argument (Tannen, 2010).

Relationships bring out life’s greatest satisfaction, according to Ivy and Backlund, (2008).  Relationships bring people their highest highs and their lowest lows.  Relationship initiation is based on choice, choosing and being chosen.  Research shows people choose others of the opposite sex by attraction, physical appearance, the proximity to either where they live go to school or work.  How and where the initial contact takes place, what the first conversations are about, as well as flirting, all play a large part in courtships.  Once the relationship starts to blossom, women will self-disclose, talk about past relationships, their families, their friends, their likes and dislikes.  They are looking for someone who has similar interests, morals, and values.   The most basic of these would be familiarity (Ivy & Backlund, 2008).

There are three strategies people use to reduce uncertainty, all are based on information.  The first strategy is passive strategy.  This is where observing people without them knowing about it.  The second strategy is called active strategy.  This requires more action than observation and can involve a third party, such as a friend or family member, in order to gather information.  The third strategy is called interactive strategy.  This involves asking the perspective boyfriend or girlfriend direct questions or engaging them in a conversation.  This can be done one on one or in a group setting.  This method seems to be the best method of gathering information as it comes directly from the source (Ivy & Backlund, 2008).

Because this writer has not observed much in miscommunications among genders, she would like to use a movie, written by Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally (1989) and some of the famous scenes.  Harry and Sally are two people who met after graduation from college and drove 18 hours to New York together.  During the course of their relationship, they started out as acquaintances, moved to friendship and ultimately fell in love within a span of 12 years and 3 months.

This conversation was held on the drive to New York.  Harry came on to Sally even though he was dating her friend.  This communication tells the genders they cannot be friends because men will always want to have sex with their women friends.  Prior to this movie, men may have thought this but never vocalized it to their female friends.  This movie really got the genders thinking about their men and women friends.

Harry Burns: You realize of course that we could never be friends.

Sally Albright: Why not?

Harry Burns: What I’m saying is – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.

Sally Albright: That’s not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.

Harry Burns: No you don’t.

Sally Albright: Yes I do.

Harry Burns: No you don’t.

Sally Albright: Yes I do.

Harry Burns: You only think you do.

Sally Albright: You say I’m having sex with these men without my knowledge?

Harry Burns: No, what I’m saying is they all WANT to have sex with you.

Sally Albright: They do not.

Harry Burns: Do too.

Sally Albright: They do not.

Harry Burns: Do too.

Sally Albright: How do you know?

Harry Burns: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.

Sally Albright: So, you’re saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?

Harry Burns: No. You pretty much want to nail ’em too.

Sally Albright: What if THEY don’t want to have sex with YOU?

Harry Burns: Doesn’t matter because the sex thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.

Sally Albright: Well, I guess we’re not going to be friends then.

Harry Burns: I guess not.

Sally Albright: That’s too bad. You were the only person I knew in New York (imbd, 1989).

In this scene Harry is telling Sally that Ingrid Bergman in the movie Casablanca is a low maintenance woman and Sally wants to know which one Harry thinks she is.  Sally sees herself as low maintenance, but Harry sees her as high maintenance because she knows what she wants and lets people know she will not settle for anything less.

Harry Burns: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.

Sally Albright: Which one am I?

Harry Burns: You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.

Sally Albright: I don’t see that.

Harry Burns: You don’t see that? Waiter, I’ll begin with a house salad, but I don’t want the regular dressing. I’ll have the balsamic vinegar and oil, but on the side. And then the salmon with the mustard sauce, but I want the mustard sauce on the side. “On the side” is a very big thing for you.

Sally Albright: Well, I just want it the way I want it.

Harry Burns: I know; high maintenance.

Marie: All I’m saying is that somewhere out there is the man you are supposed to marry. And if you don’t get him first, somebody else will, and you’ll have to spend the rest of your life knowing that somebody else is married to your husband (imbd, 1989).

This is one of the many classic lines in the movie.  When Sally and her boyfriend breakup after spending five years in a relationship, she is telling her girlfriends she is over him.  Marie says she is now ready to start dating again.   What Marie is trying to communicate to Sally is that she should date any man out there that is available because her biological clock is ticking. If she doesn’t hurry up, someone else will get him.


Sally, wanting to be the strong, independent woman Harry sees her as has just heard from her old boyfriend Joe.  He tells her he is getting married.  Sally is distraught and calls Harry up to come and comfort her.  Harry tries to cheer Sally up because he is her friend and doesn’t want her to be upset.

Sally: He just met her… She’s supposed to be his transitional person, she’s not supposed to be the ONE. All this time I thought he didn’t want to get married. But, the truth is, he didn’t want to marry me. He didn’t love me.

Harry: If you could take him back now, would you?

Sally: No. But why didn’t he want to marry me? What’s the matter with me?

Harry: Nothing.

Sally: I’m difficult.

Harry: You’re challenging.

Sally: I’m too structured, I’m completely closed off.

Harry: But in a good way.

Sally: No, no, no, I drove him away. AND, I’m gonna be forty.

Harry: When?

Sally: Someday.

Harry: In eight years.

Sally: But it’s there. It’s just sitting there, like some big dead end. And it’s not the same for men. Charlie Chaplin had kids when he was 73.

Harry: Yeah, but he was too old to pick them up (imbd, 1989).

That evening Harry and Sally get together for the first time sexually.  Harry ends up treating Sally the exact same way he treats his casual dates.  Sally is hurt by this and they stop being friends.

Marie and her boyfriend are getting married.  Sally is the maid of honor for Marie and Harry is the best man.  Marie is trying on her wedding dress and Sally, wanting to know what is going on with Harry, asks her if he is bringing anyone to the wedding.

Sally Albright: Is Harry bringing anybody to the wedding?

Marie: I don’t think so.

Sally Albright: Is he seeing anybody?

Marie: He was seeing this anthropologist, but…

Sally Albright: What’s she look like?

Marie: Thin. Pretty. Big tits. Your basic nightmare.  (Imbd, 1989).

In all these scenarios the basic ineffective miscommunication tool used would be silence, ego, and unsympathetic, stereotypical responses from both men and women.

Communication between the genders can be verbal or nonverbal.  Women tend to read nonverbal signals better than men.  Women tend to use communication to establish an emotional connection with people, as well judge the sincerity of that person; whereas, men want to transmit information and solve specific problems.  When their communication styles are disagreeing, the women will ask questions and men will think they are being manipulative.  However the genders communicate, the end result of finding a lasting partner comes down to the simple fact, everyone is looking for someone who has similar interests and morals.


Booher, Diane. “Gender Negotiation Communication Style Differences: Women.”

Imbd, When Harry Met Sally, 1989.  Retrieved from:

Ivy, D.K., Backlund, P., (2008). GenderSpeak. Personal Effectiveness in Gender Communication, Fourth Edition Chapter 4: Choosing and Using Gendered Language

NOVA. “Dances with Bees.” December 1999.

Rosetti, Paolo. “Gender Differences in Email Communication.” The Internet TESL Journal. Vol. 4, No. 7. July 1998.

Roter, Debra, Hall, Judith H. & Aoki, Yutaki. “Physician Gender Effects in Medical Communication.” The Journal of the American Medical Association. Vol. 288, No. 6. August 14, 2002.

Sherwood, S. 2010. Discovery. Gender and Sexuality. 10 ways men and women communicate differently.  Retrieved from:

Tannen, Deborah. “That’s Not What I Meant.” Ballantine Books. 1986.

Tannen, Deborah. “The Power of Talk: Who Gets Heard and Why.” Harvard Business Review. September-October 1995.

Tannen, Deborah. “Who Does the Talking Here?” The Washington Post. Sunday, July 15, 2007.

Torppa, Cynthia Burggraf. “Gender Issues: Communication Differences in Interpersonal Relationships.” The Ohio State University Extension. 2010

Whitworth, Damian. “Why Men and Women Argue Differently.” The Times. October 30, 2007.

The Marijuana Controversy

Long before its debut into the United States, marijuana was widely used and popular among some of the world’s earliest civilizations.  Hemp was used to produce rope and woven for fabrics around 7000 BC in Central and South Asia (“The History of Marijuana: The Early Years,” 2011, para. 1).  Marijuana was referenced in Chinese manuscripts dating back 2700 BC and ancient Indian scriptures have attributed medicinal properties to marijuana.  Up until 1913, Cannabis Sativa, its scientific name, was used in all types of medicine in the United States.  Due to pharmaceutical reforms and regulatory structure on psychoactive ingredients in pharmaceutical medicines, cannabis was outlawed, along with cocaine and opiates.   Seemingly used for centuries throughout the world to aid in such maladies as migraines and joint pain, today people are claiming marijuana is a harmless herb that got caught up in the political and racial crossfire.   Voters in eighteen states, including the District of Columbia, have passed propositions legalizing cannabis for medicinal use and two states, Washington and Colorado, have taken it a step further; legalization for recreational use.  The people have spoken.  They are letting the government know, in a free society, adults must presumptively be allowed to decide what goes into their bodies (“On the Medicinal-Recreational Distinction in Cannabis Law,” 2012).

The Cannabis Sativa plant was in great demand back in the 17th century due to its long fibers which were used for making clothing, ropes, and sails.  In fact, The Assembly of Jamestown Colony, Virginia, passed legislation in 1619 making it compulsory for every farmer to grow the Indian hempseed;  ironically America’s first marijuana law. Other colonial states like Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania allowed hemp to be exchanged as legal tender and could even be used to pay taxes (“The History of Marijuana: The Early Years,” 2011, para. 5).  George Washington grew hemp as his primary crop and Thomas Jefferson as his secondary crop back in the 18th century.  Thomas Jefferson encouraged other farmers to grow hemp rather than tobacco due to hemp’s many industrial qualities.  Even Benjamin Franklin used cannabis as a raw material for his first printing mill.  Hemp flourished through the United States early years. In fact, hemp remained the largest cash crop until the advent of the 20th century (“The History of Marijuana: The Early Years,” 2011, para. 7). It was during the 19th century when modern medicine saw marijuana as a pain reliever.  Used in medications to ease migraine pain, nausea, labor pains, and rheumatism, scores of medical journals were published flaunting the cure abilities of cannabis (“The History of Marijuana: The Early Years,” 2011, para. 9).

It was during the early 1900s when the pharmaceutical companies decided to remove cannabis from all medications.  The country was also experiencing racial tensions with Mexican immigrants.  Mexican immigrants were bringing the dried flowers and leaves up from Mexico with them and they would smoke cannabis to relax after a hard day’s work.  In the 1930s, pop culture in the jazz age had Kemp Calloway writing about “reefer” and “reefer culture”.  From Harlem to the Deep South, jazz musicians were smoking marijuana and this made white America nervous and uneasy.  The government got the movie industry involved and made numerous movies to depict marijuana as a drug that would make people crazy, communistic, and blood thirsty.  The most famous movie was Reefer Madness.  Reefer Madness showed actors smoking marijuana and laughing crazy, eventually killing each other.  Reefer Madness, along with 20 or more movies, was made to scare the American public; it was successful, according to History Channel’s documentary entitled, “Marijuana: A Chronic History”.

It was in 1935 when J. Edgar Hoover hired Harry J. Anslinger to head up the FBI to get control over the marijuana issue. In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was initiated.  This act required farmers to have a special tax stamp to transfer their crop of hemp but the farmers had to bring their crop to Washington DC first to get that stamp, by doing so, they were breaking the law.  By 1940, millions of Americans feared marijuana and in the 1950s, the government was telling people it was an “agent of communism” and that anyone who smoked marijuana could probably take over the government.

In 1961 the American government had 160 countries sign an International Treaty and the anti marijuana laws spread to all corners of the world.  The 1960s had the younger generation rebelling against the government and marijuana prohibition.  The country would never be the same.  Marijuana was seen as a way to expand people’s thinking.  In 1971, when marijuana use was at an all time high, President Nixon started the “War on Drugs” campaign and he was determined to win.  He continued the old rhetoric that people who smoked marijuana were of communist mind set, but not everyone agreed with him.  The young people considered themselves part of a counter culture and said individual freedom was at stake and marijuana should be legalized.  During the Reagan Administration, Nancy Reagan, a recovering alcoholic and prescription drug addict, came up with the “Just Say No” campaign.  It was the first time in years marijuana usage decreased.  In the late 1980s, marijuana was harder to find so people turned to the Black Market and most of the marijuana supply was coming from Mexico.  As the demand grew, so did crime and violence among street gangs and the drug cartel.  According to the History Channel’s documentary: Marijuana: A Chronic History, by 1995 18 million Americans were regular users of marijuana, a 10% increase from 1985.

It wasn’t until the late 1990s researchers discovered it really did help patients with various chronic diseases.  According to Cohen (2010), “There is now considerable evidence in the peer reviewed scientific literature that smoked marijuana has legitimate therapeutic and palliative uses that are not accompanied by dangerous side effects. Several studies published after dissemination of the recommendations of four national scientific committees (NIH, AMA, NAS-IOM, ACP), have demonstrated that the drug is safe and effective in controlling nausea and other adverse effects of chemotherapy, relieving multiple sclerosis-induced spasticity, easing certain types of pain, and ameliorating weight loss accompanying AIDS.  These data summarize the results of five scientifically based studies (randomized, blinded, and placebo-controlled as appropriate) that have been published in peer-reviewed journals.” (pg. 654).

In 1996, California became the first state to legalize marijuana as medicine.  With the passing of Proposition 215, marijuana no longer was a criminal offense for patients who had a prescription from a doctor.  Marijuana has over 100 medical uses and is prescribed for people who have cancer, diabetes, HIV, glaucoma, chronic pain, PTSD, MS, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and migraines, just to name a few.  But even today, according to the government, marijuana has no medical use and they insist it is a gateway drug.  According to Melissa Ethridge, singer/songwriter and a breast cancer survivor who depended on marijuana during chemotherapy treatments, “Alcohol is the gateway drug, not marijuana.  Cannabis is far less dangerous and habit forming than tobacco.  If you legalize it, the criminal element will go away.”  Albert Einstein said, “The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced.  It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this.”   And President Jimmy Carter said, “Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself; and where they are, they should be changed.  Nowhere is this clearer than in the laws against possession of marihuana in private for personal use… Therefore, I support legislation amending Federal law to eliminate all Federal criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marihuana.”  According to Mikos (2012), “the federal government’s uncompromising stance against medical marijuana seemingly exposes the states’ vulnerability to the whims of the national political process, and it has inspired calls for the courts to step in and protect state experimentation …I suggest, however, that the true story of the battle over medical marijuana and its implications for the political safeguards of federalism is more nuanced and less gloomy than the standard account portrays….Indeed, it seems very little consideration was given to states’ rights when the ban was passed as part of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in 1970. And, ironically, the very forces that originally failed to prevent passage of the ban now preserve it against increasingly loud calls for reform. But since the emergence of the medical marijuana movement in California in the mid-1990s, the political process has worked to undermine the federal ban’s impact on medical use of the drug. The reality on the ground today is that the federal ban on marijuana is largely toothless. To be sure, it has bite in individual eases and it clearly shapes the way states regulate medical marijuana. But it hasn’t stopped the medical marijuana movement. More than 400,000 people already use the drug pursuant to state medical marijuana programs.”  Legal scholar, Carcieri (2012) spoke to his colleagues on his recently published book, Marijuana at the Crossroads, “The U.S. War on Drugs, especially the war on cannabis, has long raised serious questions of liberty, equality, justice, efficiency, federalism, and foreign policy. In the constitutional domain alone, this war implicates interests arising under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Tenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Twenty-first Amendments…”

By understanding the history of marijuana and the hand the government had in allowing marijuana and hemp to become an illegal substance, it is understandable why the people are taking a stand in legalizing it once again.   They want marijuana legalized so they can enjoy the benefits their ancestors did from the use of marijuana.   Marijuana is a legitimate medicine that helps with many debilitating maladies such a cancer, MS, and migraines. As the government continues to spend billions of taxpayers’ dollars on a war that will never be won the ones who will suffer will be the people.   For a those who live by the Constitution, it is only a matter of time before hemp and marijuana are once again legal in the United States.



Carter, Jimmy – Past President of the United States

Carcieri, M. (2012) Marijuana at the Crossroads –

On the Medicinal-Recreational Distinction in Cannabis Law (2012) Denver University Law Review89(4), 1011-1016.

Cohen, J. (2010, September).

Medical Marijuana: 2010: It’s Time to Fix the Regulatory Vacuum Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics, ().

Ethridge, Melissa – Singer/Songwriter

Einstein, Albert – Scientist

History Channel: Marijuana: A Chronic History, 2010

The History of Marijuana: The early years. (2011, March).

Cannabis Now, (), . Retrieved from

Mikos, R.(2012)

Medical Marijuana and the Political Safeguards of Federalism (2012) Denver University Law Review, 89(4), 997-1009

Fight for Life


Twelve years ago almost to the day I received a phone call and heard the three most devastating words a person could receive in their lifetime, “You have cancer”.  Shaking uncontrollably, tears rolling down my cheeks, I feel to my knees and sobbed.  All sorts of questions started popping up in my head like balloons bursting from a pin prick, “How long have I had it? Was that small lump I found 15 months ago in my right breast, cancer after all, even though the doctor said it was nothing? How long do I have to live? How do I tell my parents?”  Not one to sit on a pity pot for long, I started re-tracing the events that led up to this moment.

In December of 2001, while watching a commercial for a breast cancer walk, I realized I had not done a breast self-exam in a while.  That evening, I did a self-exam and found a small, pea size, hard lump on the side of my right breast.  Though I had had soft breast lumps in the past, this one felt different.  The next day I put in a call to my primary care physician and made an appointment.  During my exam, she felt the lump and asked if I had breast cancer in my family.  I went over the list of cancers that my relatives had been afflicted with: breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, thyroid cancer, all of whom died too young.  She scheduled a mammogram and ultrasound for the following day.

During my visit to the radiologist, she claimed she could not feel the lump both me and my primary care doctor had felt during my examination.  She asked me to put a lead BB on where I thought the lump was located.  She performed the ultrasound and still claimed she saw nothing.  When she did the mammogram, she was sure I did not have cancer.  She told me it would have shown up on the mammogram.  She patted me on the back and told me to return in one year for a follow-up.  I was relieved it wasn’t cancer.

The next ten months flew by.  I had made new friends in my apartment complex.  We sat at the pool every weekend working on our tans.  During the week though, my stress level was beyond what anyone should have to endure.  My commute to a job I hated was over two hours long each way.  Trying to rush home to get to school in the evenings was taking a toll on me   In other words, life was getting in my way.  I didn’t pay too much attention to the lump in my breast.  Every now and then I would feel for it but it didn’t seem to change in size.

It wasn’t until December of 2002 I realized the lump had grown to the size of a quarter. By April of 2003 the lump was now the size of a large lime.  With the rapid pace of the growth of the cyst, the skin around it became itchy, it felt like I had a hundred mosquito bites in one area.  My ignorance turned into educating myself.  There was definitely something amiss here, and it was time for me to find a different doctor.

Because my insurance was an HMO (horrible medical options), I had to see a doctor within my plan.  I called and requested to see a different doctor.  When the receptionist asked me what my medical issue was, I briefly told her about the small lump that wasn’t so small anymore.  They made the appointment for that day.

Sitting on the papered table with a paper blouse around my torso (opened in the front), the doctor walked in very nonchalant.  He introduced himself and asked me why I was there.  I explained my medical history from the previous year.  He opened my paper blouse and began giving me a clinical breast exam.  When he felt how big the lump was in my breast, he asked, “Do you have breast cancer in your family?” I replied, “Yes”. I went over my family’s medical history.  He then said, “Well, I think we may have something to be concerned about.  I want you to have a mammogram and an ultrasound immediately, today if possible.”

The mammogram showed nothing.  No matter how thorough the technician was, she could not find one sign of the lump in the picture.  The ultrasound showed something much different; a large, black mass with tentacles spreading all through the breast tissue.  A core needle biopsy was scheduled for the following Wednesday.  At this point, I still had not told anyone, not my mother, not any of my girlfriends of what I was going through, but I was very optimistic.  I was young and I had my whole life planned out.  There was no way I had cancer.

It took nine days to get the results of the biopsy.  The news wasn’t good, Invasive Lobular Carcinoma, which meant the cancer was in the lobes of my breast which is not detectable with a mammogram alone.   The phone call from my doctor rocked me to my core.  The initial shock lasted a few hours.  When the word got out, my house started filling up with friends and family and my anxiety seemed to ease a bit.  I wasn’t alone in this fight and several of my girlfriends started pulling information from the internet as to what I needed to do next.

My first step was to find a good, competent surgeon.  Dr. Lomis was a young guy with a wife and two girls.  After examining me, he told me he was going to take good care of me.  We talked about my options, either a total mastectomy or a lumpectomy.  After going over everything at length, my choice was to remove the entire breast (total mastectomy).  The surgery was scheduled for May 21, 2003.

The second step in all of this was to find a knowledgeable oncologist.  Dr. Reyes was a young woman who specialized in breast cancer treatment.  She had no children and referred to her patients are “her kids”.  She was dedicated to her profession and made me a priority.  She told me she was going to treat my cancer very aggressively.  Seventeen days after my first treatment, my hair started falling out.  I decided to shave my head.  I never wore a wig but I did wear beautifully made scarves and would match them to my outfits.  When my eyelashes fell out, I purchased false eyelashes, when my eyebrows went, I colored them in with a nice, brown filler.

The third step was to find a plastic surgeon who had experience with creating breasts from scratch.  Since I had opted for a complete mastectomy, which meant they took the entire breast off down to the chest wall, this surgeon had to be creative in forming a new one.  Dr. Smoot in La Jolla came highly recommended.  My first of four reconstructive surgeries was for them to put in expanders.  Expanders are saline filled sacs that are inserted into a pocket made in the muscle to see if the tissue can be expanded.  Mine would not expand.  The second surgery was to remove them.  The third surgery Dr. Smoot took my back muscle, tunneled it under my arm and created a breast, he inserted a silicone implant to round it all out.  It was during this third surgery when I asked him to remove my other breast.  This procedure is called a skin saving prophylactic mastectomy.  They opened up the breast, took all the tissue inside and replaced it with an implant. My fourth surgery was to create new nipples for both of my new breasts.

This entire experience took a year of my life.    But in that year I educated myself on everything I could about breast cancer.  Two years after my ordeal I was asked by a non-profit organization to be a speaker in high schools, to teach young girls about breast cancer, their risks, and how to be proactive in their health.  Out of these workshops, I wrote and published my book, “One in Eight – A Teens Guide to Understanding Breast Cancer”.  This book is currently being sold all around the world in many different languages.  Today, I am thriving in my survivorship.

Modern Day Slavery: Human Sex Trafficking Among Native American Women


I can remember as a young girl, I wanted to go to college and become a teacher.  However, I didn’t just want to teach in a regular school.  I wanted to live and teach on an Indian Reservation.  I don’t know where this came from but my empathy for the Native American has always been with me.  My mother, who is part Native American, was put in a home when she was only seven.  Her mother and father were both alcoholics as was her grandmother.  The three of them would get rip roaring drunk, leaving my mother and her three brothers to fend for themselves up in the hills of Altoona, PA.  They hunted squirrel for food, and often times did not have a warm coat to wear in the winter.  My grandfather worked deep in the bowels of the earth shoveling coal.  One bitter cold winter day he came home to find all four children out on the front porch of their tiny shack they called home.  My great grandmother and grandmother were entertaining men inside and the children had gotten in the way.  It was then he decided it was time to think of the kids and he put them in a Catholic charity home.

All four children were separated and it wasn’t until they became adults did they reconnect with each other.  Their life was extremely hard growing up in the Catholic orphanage.  The nuns were cruel and because they were half breeds, it entitled them to an even crueler lifestyle.  They were beaten on a regular basis, had their heads dipped in scalding hot water, and their bodies scrubbed down with stiff bristled scrub brushes.  They became slaves to the nuns, mopping floors, cleaning toilets with toothbrushes, and endless amounts of laundry.  There was no time to play or to even own toys, a doll for my mother or some toy trucks for her brothers.  Life was hard.  They lived in poverty and hopelessness.   My mother often wonders where her life would have gone if she had not been adopted out at the age of fifteen to her father’s sister.  It became quite evident shortly after moving into her new home the reason she was taken out of the Catholic orphanage.  She became their slave.  Not a sex slave but one who had to take care of the household, not just cleaning but cooking.  She went to school but when they told her she would have to earn money to wear a bra or to buy Kotex for herself, she dropped out of the ninth grade.  She got a job working at a local creamery, and this is where she met my father, a handsome Italian man who wore an Airforce uniform.  They knew each other two months when my father proposed, offering her a better life in New York.  She took it.

When I first came across an article about Native American women and sex trafficking, it wrenched my stomach. The more research I did on it, the more disturbed I became.  This problem has existed since the 1500s, when the Europeans came over and drove the American Indian off their lands.  They pillaged and raped.  They captured and enslaved.  They massacred.  I couldn’t believe it was still going on today in every aspect.  My bubble burst.  A friend of mine works with Dakota youth on an Indian reservation and I became involved in helping them raise money for their children and their schools.  However, I was shocked to learn the true statistics of what happens to their young children, especially young girls, in the 21st century.  This is when I met Lisa Brunner.

Lisa Brunner has been an active advocate in the sex trafficking of Native American women for many years.  She lives on a reservation in the Dakotas.  She is educated and wants to end the violence perpetrated against her sisters.  The young girls on her reservation look up to her and see her as a role model.  Traveling all over the world to meet with other advocates and government officials discussing ways to end the violence against Native American women, Lisa, along with her seventeen year old son, found themselves in Oslo, Norway at a summit hearing this past summer discussing the success of the Nordic Model. The Nordic Model, also known as the Sex Buyer Law, decriminalizes all those who are prostituted and makes buying people for sex a criminal offence.  The Nordic Model has been implemented by Sweden, Norway, Australia, Canada, and soon New Zealand.  “As a Native American woman, I normally do not feel safe traveling alone so I bring my seventeen year old son with me.  One day, after the summit talks, we decided to take in some sights in the city of Oslo.  We found ourselves in a little town square with cobblestone streets and many outdoor cafés.  Walking by one of the cafes, my son and I had noticed three large men sitting outside, two black men and one white man. As we approached, I could feel their eyes devouring every part of my body, making me very uncomfortable.  We decided to go to a different café across from where these men were sitting.  While enjoying our lunch, a young girl, from Nigeria I think, was walking with her mother and older sister. I could tell they were enjoying each other’s company as well as the beautiful weather.  They were all engaged in a conversation, laughing and smiling as they walked along the cobblestones.  It didn’t take long for one of the black men to get up from his seat and walk over to the young girl who looked to be around fourteen.  As he joined the three of them, his attention was on the young girl and I noticed he was rubbing his hand up and down her back.  Not only did my stomach churn while watching this brazen act, but I began to feel nauseous. Her body language clearly displaying she was not comfortable with this man touching her. I could see the fear in her facial expression.  I overhead him say to her, “Are you for sale?”  Pulling away from him, reaching for her mother, she vehemently told him she was not for sale, all three scurried as fast as they could out of the area.  Walking back to his friends, laughing, I overheard him telling them, I guess she’s not for sale.  I, myself, was visibly shaken by witnessing this encounter as was my son.  He told me then and there, I was not to go anywhere without him”.

According to Lisa, “More than 1 in 3 Native American women will be raped, more than 6 in 10 will be physically assaulted and Native women will be murdered at a rate of ten times more than the national average.”  Native Americans have the highest dropout rate from high school.  They have the highest homeless, runaway and thrown away youth in shelters than any other group nationwide as well as the highest percent of children involved in the welfare system.  Most of these young girls have been sexually assaulted/abused from someone in their family and the majority are either drug users or become drug addicted.  Many believe it is a “career choice” for them because their mother or grandmother were prostitutes.  And the biggest cause of all this, says Lisa, is poverty and history.

Native women in Duluth, Minnesota are extremely vulnerable to being lured into prostitution.  Generations of them have sold themselves to survive.  This story, in particular, from Indian Country Today by Mary Annette Pember is a powerful one about three generations of Native women who have sold themselves out to prostitution in order to survive.  Mary and her mother Ruth are just two Native American women who have survived the life of a “boat whore”. And yet, the citizens of Duluth, fearful if they talk about it and oftentimes feel it might infect them somehow if they do talk about it, sweep it under the carpet and say “boys will be boys”.  “The story of the boat whore has been like a queer kind of natural disaster that visits destruction on the powerless yet holds them responsible” (Pember 2012).

The story of Mary starts from her birth.  She was one of 21 children conceived through her mother’s liaisons with seamen.  Her exposure to the “life” was an accident.  She was 15, broke and homeless, standing on the street with a girlfriend when a Pakistani man approached them.  He invited the girls on board his boat, and thus began her life on the boats.  She would meet seamen in Duluth and accompany them back to their ships, where she would have sex with them and other crew members in exchange for food, money, drinks, and a place to stay.  Most times she stayed on the ships as they sailed from port to port.  “Life on the boats was a nonstop party”.  Mary claims the seamen treated her better than her white foster parents.  However, things changed after 9/11 and Mary found herself being pimped out by an older white woman and her husband who owned a bar.  She says she drank all the time and took care of the bar’s customers in exchange for food, lodging, child care, and alcohol.  She desperately wanted out of the life of prostitution and it wasn’t until she got very sick and was put into a nursing home that her time as a prostitute ended.

Mary is now 51 and lives in a small but comfortable house overlooking the bright, clear waters of Lake Superior.  Advocates say that Mary’s ability to normalize her life as a child prostitute is common among Native girls who have been frequently exposed to sexual abuse and violence. Research done in a report by Shattered Hearts found that “Native girls and women who exchange sex for food and shelter don’t consider the acts to be prostitution” (Shattered Hearts 22). They are simply doing what they have to do to stay alive, engaging in survival sex.  But Mary worries about her daughter, who at the age of 14 began her life with a pimp so she could have nice clothes to wear.  No matter what she tells her daughter, her answer is “look at you – you did the same thing!” Mary has gone from child prostitute, to survivor, to advocate.  Today, Mary focuses her time on spreading the word about the dangers of sex trafficking, she says, “You know, for a long time I didn’t care about anything, but now I’m getting my groove back”

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened to my mother if she had not met my father when she did.  Would she have turned to prostitution eventually?  According to the stats, it’s quite possible.  She could be considered a throw away youth, she endured years of physical and emotional abuse, she dropped out of school in ninth grade, and she lived in poverty.  When she was adopted, it was only to take care of an aging aunt and uncle.  For me, growing up and listening to the horrific details of my mother’s young life has caused me to empathize with Native American women.  After speaking with Lisa, it has lit a fire in my belly to educate everyone I can about this ever troubling problem.  Do I think the Nordic Model would work here?  I don’t know.  Like Sweden, much research will need to go into such a program before implementing it in the United States.  We may not be able to change history, but we can change the poverty status of all the Native American Indian reservations.

Works Cited

Brunner, Lisa. Personal interview. 13 Sept. 2016

Pember, Mary Annette. (2012). “Native Girls are being Exploited and Destroyed at an Alarming Rate”. Indian Country Today Media Network. 16 August 2012. Web.

 “The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of American Indian Women and Girls in Minnesota”. Shattered Hearts. Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center. August 2009.

Picture: Port of Duluth. Indian Country Today Media Network. 16 August 2012. Web.

Red Lipstick just ain’t my thing, and other oddities.


By Lucy Cafiero-Ahl

For years I didn’t understand what was happening to me.  Young women who had been brutally murdered appeared to me in my dreams.  It wasn’t until I finally accepted the fact that I could hear dead people talking to me, did they start appearing during my waking hours.

They invaded my head like the Americans did to the beaches of Normandy.  I couldn’t stop it no matter how hard I tried.

I would get really, really drunk and then just pass out; it would keep them at bay for a little while; but when I got high, well, that was a different story.  When I got high, they became louder.  They demanded my attention by placing images of their last moments, usually what went through their minds just before they took their last breath.

“I will never….” but they never got to finish the sentence. After all, once you’re dead, you’re dead.  Right? Nope. Fact is, we never die.  The body’s energy goes out into the universe, making us free.  Free to do whatever, without a mortal body, so there is no food, no cold, no hot; a different type of hell, but a hell just the same.

I’m not sure when it all began, I think it was in 1951, I was 7 at the time and we were living in Brooklyn, NY.  My mom was a stay at home mom, as were most of the mom’s back then, so I was rather surprised no one was home when I arrived from school one day.  The door was unlocked but my mom was nowhere to be found.

Our house was like a railroad flat, and my room was in the back.  I was facing the mirror of my dresser when I saw a man’s reflection by the front door.  He looked like Fred Astaire. He had opened the front door just a tad, enough to lean his head in.  He was in a black tux with a black top hat. Looking at me, he tipped the hat, just barely leaving his head, and smiled.  I thought I heard him say something like, “Ready to go?”  As I turned around, he was gone. The door was still ajar.

Walking slowly through the house towards the front door, my heart beating so fast, I thought I would faint.  Touching the doorknob, an electric shock coursed through my hand, up my arm as the hairs, long and black, stood straight up.

And then there was George.  He was my friend.  My best friend. We did everything together.  It didn’t matter that no one else could see him or hear him.  He was always dressed in funny looking green clothes and he had a funny green helmet which sometimes he wore and sometimes he carried under his arm, depending on what activity we were involved in.  He was around for a long time and then he wasn’t.

Did I tell you about the basement? Whoever was there, I didn’t have a good feeling about.  He lived behind the heater in the darkest corner of the basement.  He liked to scare me because he knew I knew.  I never did see his face and George wasn’t around any longer to protect me.  He was just a dark shadow with long spindly fingers.  He would use those fingers sometimes to trip me as I ran up the basement stairs.  I hate basements.

When I got older, the hissing in my ears was a clear indicator someone was trying to contact me.  At first it was only every once in a while. The quieter my house got, the louder the hissing.  So I always played music whenever I was alone or getting high and I never fell asleep without the TV on.  God forbid I acknowledged them.

The 1970s and 80s were the worst decades for me.  Many women were brutally killed.  Bundy, Berkowitz, Kemper, Bittaker, Norris, Bianchi, Buono, BTK, Gaskins.  I had no rest. Even those I couldn’t understand came to tell me…what…I don’t know…I just know I had little sleep and the hissing just got louder…

They always showed me eyes…the eyes of their killers…crazy, soul less, bottomless pits.  And THEIR lips…always red.  Lipstick? Blood? Didn’t matter, red became fear.  And now, it’s my turn.  Peace finally.  The hissing has stopped.  They came to help me.  My ending, red with fear.

Did I tell you I was dead?  Well, I am.  And I am writing this through someone else.  A believably sane individual who everyone knows and admires; a strong person; someone who just couldn’t make a story up like this if she tried.  She, too, inherited the hissing.