The words you are searching are inside this book. To get more targeted content, please make full-text search by clicking here.

Best short stories by the Winner, seven Shortlist Winner Nominees, and eighty-seven Finalists of the second annual Adelaide Literary Award Competition 2018 selected by Stevan V. Nikolic, editor-in-chief. THE WINNER - Toni Morgan; SHORTLIST WINNER NOMINEES - Lazar Trubman, Pam Munter, Susan Pollet, Esq., Jose Recio, Peter Freeman, Michael Washburn, Janet Mason; FINALISTS - Andrea Lorenzo, Brooke Reynolds, Heather Whited, Jack Coey, Darrell Case, Alexandra Lapointe Edward D. Hunt, M Cid D'Angelo, Richard Dokey, Michael Mohr, Scott Kauffman, Olga Pavlinova Olenich, James White, Thomas Larsen, Patty Somlo, Rita Baker, Janine Desvaux, Mark Albro, Skyler Nielsen, Rachel A.G. Gilman, Jim Zinaman, Carolyn L. Bell, Robert McKean, Royce Adams A. Elizabeth Herting, Tara Lynn Marta, John Wells, Heide Arbitter, Jeff Bakkensen, Jeffrey Ihlenfeldt, Bettina Rotenberg, Hina Ahmed, Peter Hoppock, Matthew Byerly, Tim Rodriguez Riley Bounds, Wayne Hall, Dennis Nau, Kathryn Merriam, Sam Gridley, Jonathan Maniscalco, Harold Barnes, Mattie Ward, Brenna Carroll, Barbara Bottner, Beth Mead, David Macpherson Judyth Emanuel, George Korolog, Peter Gelfan, Mary Ann Presman, Deborah Nedelman Rebekah Coxwell, Richard Klin, Ted Morrissey, Ben Rosenthal, Terry Sanville, Steve McBrearty Richard Key, Max Bayer, Amada Matei, Sydney Samone Wrigh, Ross Goldstein, Zia Marshall, Lisa Lopez Snyder, Peter K. Wehrli, Joshua Hren, Maureen Mangiardi, Carolini Cardozo Assmann D. Ruefman, Lynette Yu, Mandi N Jourdan, Masha Shukovich, Annina Lavee, Meg Paske, Emily Peña Murphey, Clay Anderson, Niikah Hatfield, Jose Sotolongo, Carl Scharwath, Kaleigh Longe Maryna Manzhola

Discover the best professional documents and content resources in AnyFlip Document Base.
Search
Published by istinadba, 2018-12-14 08:52:26

Adelaide Literary Award Anthology 2018: SHORT STORIES, Vol. One

Best short stories by the Winner, seven Shortlist Winner Nominees, and eighty-seven Finalists of the second annual Adelaide Literary Award Competition 2018 selected by Stevan V. Nikolic, editor-in-chief. THE WINNER - Toni Morgan; SHORTLIST WINNER NOMINEES - Lazar Trubman, Pam Munter, Susan Pollet, Esq., Jose Recio, Peter Freeman, Michael Washburn, Janet Mason; FINALISTS - Andrea Lorenzo, Brooke Reynolds, Heather Whited, Jack Coey, Darrell Case, Alexandra Lapointe Edward D. Hunt, M Cid D'Angelo, Richard Dokey, Michael Mohr, Scott Kauffman, Olga Pavlinova Olenich, James White, Thomas Larsen, Patty Somlo, Rita Baker, Janine Desvaux, Mark Albro, Skyler Nielsen, Rachel A.G. Gilman, Jim Zinaman, Carolyn L. Bell, Robert McKean, Royce Adams A. Elizabeth Herting, Tara Lynn Marta, John Wells, Heide Arbitter, Jeff Bakkensen, Jeffrey Ihlenfeldt, Bettina Rotenberg, Hina Ahmed, Peter Hoppock, Matthew Byerly, Tim Rodriguez Riley Bounds, Wayne Hall, Dennis Nau, Kathryn Merriam, Sam Gridley, Jonathan Maniscalco, Harold Barnes, Mattie Ward, Brenna Carroll, Barbara Bottner, Beth Mead, David Macpherson Judyth Emanuel, George Korolog, Peter Gelfan, Mary Ann Presman, Deborah Nedelman Rebekah Coxwell, Richard Klin, Ted Morrissey, Ben Rosenthal, Terry Sanville, Steve McBrearty Richard Key, Max Bayer, Amada Matei, Sydney Samone Wrigh, Ross Goldstein, Zia Marshall, Lisa Lopez Snyder, Peter K. Wehrli, Joshua Hren, Maureen Mangiardi, Carolini Cardozo Assmann D. Ruefman, Lynette Yu, Mandi N Jourdan, Masha Shukovich, Annina Lavee, Meg Paske, Emily Peña Murphey, Clay Anderson, Niikah Hatfield, Jose Sotolongo, Carl Scharwath, Kaleigh Longe Maryna Manzhola

Keywords: anthology,short stories,fiction

ADELAIDE LITERARY AWARD
ANTHOLOGY
2018

SHORT STORIES

Volume 1


ADELAIDE LITERARY AWARD

ANTHOLOGY
2018

SHORT STORIES

Volume One

Adelaide Books

New York/Lisbon

2018


ADELAIDE LITERARY AWARDS ANTHOLOGY 2018
SHORT STORIES
Volume 1

Special Issue of the Adelaide Literary Magazine
September 2018

ISBN-13: 978-1-949180-58-9
ISBN-10: 1-949180-58-1

Adelaide Literary Magazine is an independent international monthly publication,
based in New York and Lisbon. Founded by Stevan V. Nikolic and Adelaide Franco
Nikolic in 2015, the magazine’s aim is to publish quality poetry, fiction, nonfic-
tion, artwork, and photography, as well as interviews, articles, and book reviews,
written in English and Portuguese. We seek to publish outstanding literary fiction,
nonfiction, and poetry, and to promote the writers we publish, helping both new,
emerging, and established authors reach a wider literary audience. We publish print
and digital editions of our magazine twelve times a year. Online edition is updated
continuously. There are no charges for reading the magazine online.

(http://adelaidemagazine.org)

EDITOR IN CHIEF / EDITOR-CHEFE
Stevan V. Nikolic

editor@adelaidemagazine.org

MANAGING DIRECTOR
Adelaide Franco Nikolic

ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT
Patricia Dinis

GRAPHIC & WEB DESIGN
Joana Cardoso

Vesna Trpkovska

Published by: Adelaide Books LLC, New York
244 Fifth Avenue, Suite D27, New York, NY 10001

e-mail: info@adelaidebooks.org
phone: 917 477 8984

Copyright © 2018 by Adelaide Books LLC
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner
whatsoever without written permission from the Adelaide Books / Adelaide Liter-
ary Magazine Editor-in-chief, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in

critical articles and reviews.


Best short stories by the Winner,
seven Shortlist Nominees,

and eighty-seven Finalists of the second annual
Adelaide Literary Award Competition 2018
selected by
Stevan V. Nikolic
editor-in-chief


Content

THE WINNER
THE HOUSE ON EAST ORANGE STREET

by Toni Morgan  13

SHORTLIST WINNER NOMINEES
SCARS OF THE CENTURY
by Lazar Trubman  19
MADELYN, MOSTLY
by Pam Munter  31

MOVING FROM FEARFUL TO FEARLESS
by Susan Pollet, Esq.  41
AN OLD CEMETERY
by Jose Recio  49

IN THE WAITING ROOM
by Peter Freeman  61

IN GERONIMO’S SHADOW
by Michael Washburn  65

THE UNICORN, THE MYSTERY
by Janet Mason  73
7


Adelaide Literary Awards Anthology 2018

FINALISTS

THE ASSISTANT
by Andrea Lorenzo  85

KNICK KNACK WARS
by Brooke Reynolds   97

BIG DAY
by Heather Whited  99

DO US PART
by Jack Coey  107

A DOG FOR SIDNEY
by Darrell Case   117

THE INTRICACIES OF INTIMACY
by Alexandra Lapointe  131

HIT MEN HAVE FEELINGS TOO
by Edward D. Hunt  143

THE KING OF SIAM
by M Cid D’Angelo   153

THE IMPERSONATOR
by Richard Dokey   163

THE INTERNAL ROAD
by Michael Mohr   175

CAT DANCE
by Scott Kauffman  187

ANOTHER STORY
by Olga Pavlinova Olenich   199

BROWNWOOD TEXAS, 1927
by James White  203

8


SHORT STORIES

TRACER
by Thomas Larsen   207

THE RUG
by Patty Somlo  217

THE AFFAIR
by Rita Baker  227

YES, I CAN!
by Janine Desvaux   233
THE HALOGEN BURN

by Mark Albro  245
AMONGST BEETLES AND BEER CANS

by Skyler Nielsen  249
YOU AS WELL

by Rachel A.G. Gilman  255
GOING WITH THE VIBE

by Jim Zinaman   267
I CALL HER LUCKY
by Carolyn L. Bell  277
MRS. KATTLOVE’S CLERK
by Robert McKean   289
THE LAST TEQUILA RUN
by Royce Adams  303

THE DANCE
by A. Elizabeth Herting   317

ROOM 103
by Tara Lynn Marta  319

ANGER
by John Wells  327

9


Adelaide Literary Awards Anthology 2018
SANCTUARY

by Heide Arbitter   335
WINGS

by Jeff Bakkensen   339
IN THE COUNTRY OF THE BLIND

by Jeffrey Ihlenfeldt  353
ENTERTAINING MONSTERS

by Bettina Rotenberg   365
OXYGEN

by Hina Ahmed  377
THE HEARING AID
by Peter Hoppock  389

10


THE WINNER


The House on
East Orange Street

By Toni Morgan

Homer and Naomi lived in the house on East Orange Street fif-
ty-seven years, forty of them Homer going off to work at the San
Pedro docks each morning, a coffee-filled thermos in one hand and
a black metal lunchbox in the other, while Naomi stayed home
to bring up their three children, make curtains, bake bread and
volunteer for PTA until the children grew up and one-by-one left
and came home only at Thanksgiving or Christmas or the Fourth of
July or some other holiday, and Homer retired and he and Naomi
learned to fill their days with gardening or dusting or watching
Jeopardy on TV, and then one day Naomi died after an illness that
came quickly and left her cold body behind, and each morning after
that, when Homer woke and saw the empty space next to him, he
wondered where Naomi had got to, so he put on his brown trousers
that bagged in the seat and his red and black checked shirt one of
the grandchildren had given him for Christmas the year before and
he put on his rubber-soled blue canvas shoes and went to find her,
going first to the kitchen, thinking she might be fixing their break-
fast, and when she wasn’t there, he’d walk through all the empty
rooms calling out “Naomi” as he went, but when she didn’t answer
he would remember she had died and he would shuffle back to the
kitchen and pull out one of the chairs from the oak table she had
refinished, rubbing coat after coat of linseed oil and beeswax onto

13


Adelaide Literary Awards Anthology 2018
its surface until the old, golden wood gleamed, and he would ease
his body down and he would lower his head to his hands and he
would weep.



The real estate agent fitted a key into the lock and pushed the door
open. “It’s musty in here,” she said over her shoulder to the young
Vietnamese couple standing behind her on the porch. “The house
has stood empty for several months and needs a good airing. But I
think you’ll like the way the rooms flow. And the back yard would
be great for kids.” She smiled briefly to the dark-haired woman
whose basketball-shaped stomach pushed against the front of her
black cloth coat. “The old couple who used to live here – she died a
few years back and the old man was alone. You know how those
things go. Kids grow up. They move away.” She led the couple into
the kitchen and opened the back door to show them the lilac- and
fruit tree-filled yard. “The family thought he was getting along on
his own,” she said. “But when the oldest son came over from Tucson
and found the old man nearly starved to death, they put him in a
nursing home. The sons are the ones selling. So, what do you think?”

14


SHORT STORIES
Toni Morgan. Born in Alaska, raised in Oregon, where she studied
history at Portland State University, and married in Hawaii, Toni
Morgan has lived all over the United States, from California to
Washington, D.C., and the world, from Denmark to Japan. She
now makes her home in southwestern Idaho. She is the author of six
novels: TWO-HEARTED CROSSING, PATRIMONY, ECHOES
FROM A FALLING BRIDGE, HARVEST THE WIND, LOTUS
BLOSSOM UNFURLING, and QUEENIE’S PLACE. Toni’s articles
and short stories have been published in various newspapers, literary
magazines, and other publications (http://authortonimorgan.com)

15


SHORTLIST WINNER NOMINEES


Scars Of The Century

By Lazar Trubman

Months went by since I, barely alive, was liberated from the camp in
Northern Russia. Behind were dozens of medical appointments, dental
tortures, and scary talks with a bunch of cardiologists. I’ve got my so-so
bill of health and was waiting patiently for the slow-moving Soviet
bureaucratic machine to approve my visa. Once, as I was sipping coffee
at a small table outside of a restaurant in downtown Chisinau, some-
one’s hand touched my shoulder, and a man’s voice asked with a short
laugh: “What are you up to these days, Lazarus, what are you up to?”

I turned around and looked at the man. I really hadn’t recog-
nized Professor Oliescu when he suddenly stood there in front of
me. It wasn’t his voice, which changed to a point where it was almost
impossible to recognize, but his face; it wasn’t pale – it was utterly
different! All I knew was that I knew this face. Some of it could not
ever be changed. His laugh sounded familiar, but it could easily
belong to a different man.

He must have noticed my confusion.
“Don’t you remember me?” he asked with the same short
laugh. “Yes, yes! I’ve been through the mill! They can do this to
you - they and their newly invented mill! But you know that, too,
don’t you, Lazarus?”
I kept looking at his face, in silence. In reality, it was no longer
a face, but two cheek-bones with thin skin over them, sticking out
like miniature mountain peaks, and the muscles that formed an ex-
pression, an expression that reminded me of Professor Oliescu, were
so weak that they couldn’t hold his laugh for a long time, that’s why

19


Adelaide Literary Awards Anthology 2018
it was short and much too large; it distorted his face; it seemed huge
in relation to his eyes, which were set far back.

“Professor Oliescu!” I exclaimed and had to stop short not to add:
I was told that you were dead! Instead: “Well, well, and how are you?”

“I’m great, Lazarus, I’m great!” he put up another short laugh.
“It’s spring in Chisinau – what could be better, right?”

I tried to make out why he kept on laughing. I knew him as a
serious man, as Professor at the Chisinau State University, but every
time he opened his mouth it looked as though he were laughing. To
ask seemed impossible.

“Yes, yes,” he laughed, “I’m better now: those mill-stones
roughed me up a bit, but I got lucky.”

He paused, and I had a chance to take another close look at
him. Actually, he wasn’t laughing at all, any more than two cheek-
bones with thin skin over them is laughing; it just looked like it, and
now, at least five minutes later than I should’ve, I apologized for not
recognizing him at first.

“You’re not alone, Lazarus, I’ve gotten used to that.”
“I’m sorry,” I said again, “I feel embarrassed.” I wanted to leave
now, to tell him about the conference, the real reason for my trip to
Chisinau, but he began coughing suddenly and couldn’t stop, and
when he finally did, I saw two bloody spots percolating through his
handkerchief.
“Yes, yes, my friend,” he said, “but it’s not as scary as a couple
of other things I’m hiding nicely under my clothes.”
“We all have our scars to show, I guess,” I said.
“Don’t we, Lazarus? Scars of the century, aren’t they?”
His skin was like leather or clay, which could crack at any mo-
ment, and he had a belly that looked like a small party balloon held
up by his thin ribs. His eyes were the only thing unchanged since I
last saw him, lovely, but sunken.
I told him what happened to me, a short story of my survival,
and glanced at my wristwatch.
“Why are you suddenly in such a hurry, Lazarus?” he asked
with his short deceiving laugh. “How about a couple of drinks for
the occasion? I’m buying.”

20


SHORT STORIES
He was a colleague of mine back in the old days at the uni-
versity, I looked up to him and respected him more than any other
professor in the country, but I really had no time for a drink.
“My dear professor,” I said because he was holding me by the
arm, “I really have to go: my conference starts in less than twenty
minutes.”
“Then some other time, right?” he said, and I knew for sure
that this man was really already dead.
“Yes, I should like that,” I said paying for my coffee.
“You know where to find me, don’t you” he laughed. “They
gave me back my apartment, those imbeciles, so I can die under a
roof – instead of a starry sky.”
Maybe it was a laugh, I thought suddenly while checking
the street for a taxi, maybe he kept laughing all the time because
he was still alive, standing in front of me in downtown Chisinau,
despite the rumors that he had cancer of the stomach and died in
the camp.
As luck would have it, a taxi stopped next to me and a young
couple paid and got out. I occupied the back seat and lowered the
window.
“We shall meet again, my friend,” he said. “I have a lot to tell
you, and I hope you’re still a good listener.”
“I’m always up for a good story, professor,” I said, “always up
for a good story!”
I tried to distinguish the color of his eyes and couldn’t.
“In the meantime call me,” he said stepping back from the taxi.
“It is allowed now.”
I promised and gave the driver a sign to take off.
Spring in Chisinau, always surprising, always beautiful!
We’re damaged goods, I thought cranking up the window and
closing my eyes, but he was right, we survived, and it’s rubbish that
we are dying; we’re just getting awfully tired and more often than
not need bypasses, and transplants, and dentures and blood trans-
fusions. And when none of that helps, when we run out of the last
ounce of strength, we move aside. In silence.
See you soon, my dear professor!

21


Adelaide Literary Awards Anthology 2018

A Casual Chat About Nothing

My wife always thought that someday I’d be a big success. She had been
saying it since we got married, enthusiastically in the beginning, partic-
ularly when she became pregnant with our first daughter, less and less
later, after she got pregnant again and we decided to keep the baby. I
taught literature and linguistics at the State University of Beltsy, a mid-
size city in the Republic of Moldova, and held seminars on weekends
to make some extra money. She tried to help me as much as she could,
taking care of our two daughters and still keeping her job as a high
school history teacher. Then came the Seventies, strange Brezhnev’s
time in the Soviet Union, deadly like a marshland, when everybody
had to make a choice, and mine wasn’t the wisest one. Despite my
reputation as a recluse, I still held regular gatherings in my apartment
to entertain close friends and colleagues and was still their usual host.
The guests enjoyed slow dancing, wine and food and didn’t notice that
I, who was usually in the center of every discussion, was not talking
much. They still had a good time. Only my wife seemed unhappy. “You
used to be witty and cheerful, my love,” she said once. “Now you don’t
say a word, as though you’re afraid of your plain language.” I didn’t
deny it. Of course I could make an effort to be smart and funny; it’s just
I had the feeling I had said it all before and the things I really wanted
to discuss were dangerous and forbidden. Later, when everyone was
gone, I stood at the open window, hands in my pockets, silent. When
I at last turned around, my wife was already in bed.

I was in my late twenties then, young and still ambitious. I
had many duties, but all of them were boring. I hated my job, the
environment, the System. Time passed. I met plenty of people every
day, killers and those who ordered the killings; all sorts of things
happened around me, colleagues taken away in the middle of a lec-
ture, neighbors disappearing, friends stop answering their phones,
but as soon as I stepped onto the porch of my apartment I didn’t
feel like talking about it.

More than once I thanked God for television.
In the fall of 1980 I flew to Moscow and met with a few of my
colleagues from the state university. The meeting took place behind

22


SHORT STORIES
closed doors in a dacha some twenty miles from Russia’s capital. We
talked about dead friends and the ones that will die in the nearest
future; about the need of a printing shop somewhere in Moldavia or
Ukraine, preferably in Moldavia. That was dangerous, could’ve cost
me more than a job or advancement opportunities, but everything
went fine. No one knew about it, not even my close friends.

When some time later I was invited by the local KGB office for
a chat, it was a shock: KGB? I didn’t know what to think, but this
wasn’t an institution I could ignore. The representative introduced
himself as Major Anatoly Orlov, was a young, educated man in his
early thirties, polite and a good listener. He knew a lot about my
work, personal life, hobbies, but talked about it casually. Then Ana-
toly suggested lunch at the nearby café, and I couldn’t refuse. After
all, lunch is lunch, a harmless thing. I ordered a beef-stroganoff,
and for the next thirty minutes there was just a casual chat about
nothing. Then we shook hands. Sunny day as usual at this time of
the year, no rain, everybody in white shirts.

Anatoly called again a month later to wish me a happy birthday
and to request another meeting, this time in an apartment on Garden
Street at ten o’clock the next Tuesday. “Next Tuesday?” I asked as
if this was the only thing that could stop me from coming. “I need
to check my schedule.” “I’ve taken the liberty,” said Anatoly. “Your
first class doesn’t start until 11:45 a.m.”

… It was a nine-story apartment complex behind the very pop-
ular bookstore; it had two elevators; people went in and out all the
time, mostly professionals, once in a while some youngsters, prob-
ably students from nearby Pedagogical Institute. I opened the side
door and took the stairs. My hands were sweaty; I wiped them with
a handkerchief. As soon as I reached the sixth floor, I stopped. Re-
membered suddenly a quick exchange of words I had with Anatoly
during our lunch together. “The mill-stones of history never stop,”
he said. “That’s why it is very important not to get between them.”
“So, don’t push me.” “In your case it’s a bit too late: your hands were
already caught when I got you.” And I understood. That’s all they
needed, a hand, even a finger, then it was only a matter of time to get
my body and mind squeezed between the mill-stones to transform

23


Adelaide Literary Awards Anthology 2018
me into a flat, blind, obedient human being. Just one fucking finger!
Well, I thought, what’s meant to happen – can’t be escaped.

I pushed the red button.
The door was unlocked by a tall woman with a pair of clear
blue eyes and of an age which was impossible to guess. “Good
morning,” she said, holding the door open. “Comrade Lazarus
Trubman? Please, come in, you’re not lost.” She accompanied me
into the living-room, turned around, and walked away without ut-
tering another word.
Anatoly stood next to wall-to-wall bookshelves with an open
book in one hand and an unlit cigar in the other, said as though
reading my mind:
“Her name is Iraida Borisovna Borodina; her husband, Evgenii
Andreevich Borodin, a hero of the Soviet Union, died three years
ago of a heart attack during his annual vacation in a prestigious
sanatorium near Sochi. He was a very respected and knowledgeable
officer who spent his last fifteen years writing memoirs about the first
few days of the World War II…”
“What was the cause of his death again?”
“Please, sir down, Lazarus!” said Anatoly, ignoring my question.
And I understood: the casual time was over. We were almost the
same age, Anatoly just a few years older, with a typical – milky-but-
tery – Russian face. A graduate from Leningrad State University,
where he studied literature and Russian language, he was recruited
by the KGB as soon as he completed his first two years of education.
He possessed a practical mind, a good memory, and he loved to talk
about modern poetry and prose as long as the conversation didn’t
veer toward forbidden themes.
“A cigar?” he offered and adroitly cut off the end of the one he
had in his hand.
“I quit, believe it or not,” I said hurriedly. “About a year ago…”
“I’ll take it as a no, but don’t ever lie to me again!” interrupted
Anatoly. “The purpose of today’s meeting is to offer you a job, to
point out the advantages and explain the privileges…” At that mo-
ment, Iraida Borisovna came into the living-room with two cups of
steaming tea and a sponge cake on a silver tray, placed everything

24


SHORT STORIES
on the table and walked away. In silence. “Please, help yourself,”
said Anatoly. “It’s an herbal green tea from China – very healthy.”

“I took a sip of tea, asked: “Simply say: you’re offering me to
betray my own people?”

“I’m not reminding you about your trip to Moscow, am I?”
“Why don’t you just arrest me then, Comrade Major?”
“Have a piece of cake, Lazarus,” offered Anatoly, “and some
more of this wonderful tea – I’m sure you have never had anything
like it in your life. Now, let’s talk seriously: you’re not betraying any-
body, not necessarily; at least for now, you’re a Soviet citizen, aren’t
you? To defend the interests of your country was never considered
a betrayal. I’m not asking you to kill people…”
“Don’t see any difference!”
“…to poison them, to knock out their teeth. Your name will
never appear in any documents, never pronounced in the interro-
gation room. If it makes you feel better, you will never know what
happened to them, how they were punished or if they were punished
at all. As far as I see it, you’re a ghost, Lazarus, an invisible man.
Our organization is interested in people of certain qualities, and you
possess those qualities. We’re also very interested in a certain circle
of people with whom you have established a lasting relationship. The
information about their plans, thoughts, and the contents of letters
that might be channeled to them from around the world, especially
from United States and Israel, are just a few examples of what can
be used…”
“So, it’s a risk free job, isn’t it?”
“Nothing is completely risk free, professor, even this tasteful
herbal tea,” said Anatoly, “but let’s talk about the compensation and
the bright future for your family, especially your daughters. Our
system is not perfect, and the fact that a college professor doesn’t
make enough money to provide a decent life for his wife and kids…”
“I am actually a college lecturer…”
“Not for long… Any interest in advantages and privileges?”
“Not today, no.”
“Finish your tea, Lazarus.”
“Do I have a choice?”

25


Adelaide Literary Awards Anthology 2018
“To avoid punishment? Not even a slim one, but that would
be something to talk about in details at our next meeting on
Monday. Take your time please. For now I just want to remind you
that everything I’ve said is strictly confidential and not for public
discussion.”
“My family?”
“It’s for your own good, my friend, believe me.”
It still seemed like a game, sounded like one. I sat on the other
side of the table and looked straight into Anatoly’s eyes, trying to
understand why a young man of his abilities, very well educated,
would dedicate his one and only life to a system that is hated by
every civilized country? Is it the money or the power to manipulate
people’s lives? Or both?
“I’m a soldier under an order,” Anatoly interrupted my
thinking. “I can do a few things for you if you decide to consider our
offer. If not…well, let’s just say that your life and the lives of your
close ones will change forever - and not for the better.”
I left his remark unanswered.
“Until next Monday then?” he said shaking my hand. “Is it
Monday or Tuesday?”
“It’s Monday.”
“Very good then.”
I took the elevator this time; didn’t know why, but wanted to
meet somebody, a neighbor, a colleague… Out of the building, I
went to the nearby park and played a couple of timed chess games
before my first class of the week.
… The next Monday I awoke early and took a long shower. I
heard my wife talking to my daughters, their usual morning wrangle;
I shampooed my hair: to go or not to go? A door slammed: kids
were gone, so it was 7:45 a.m. I had a little over two hours to make
a decision, hopefully the right one. My wife knocked on the shower
door, and then her steps died in the distance. Is it possible to live a
new life without letting your family know about it? I dried myself,
brushed my teeth. Is it possible to keep it secret from my friends
and colleagues? Carefully as never before I shaved my face, combed
my hair. My breakfast took the usual half an hour. At 8:45 a.m.

26


SHORT STORIES
exactly I was ready. I stood in front of a mirror trying to find any
doubts in my tired blue eyes and couldn’t. It was my opportunity,
I told myself, to make something out of my miserable life. In a few
years no one will remember. Anatoly was right; the time itself, like
a miracle doctor, will erase from people’s memories the good deeds
and the bad ones. Anatoly was right: if it’s not I – then it’s someone
else, younger, more decisive, more ambitious and braver. Survival is
the name of the game.

I finally left the apartment. Cloudy sky as usual, freshness in
the air, magic of chlorophyll. I looked around: morning people ev-
erywhere, always in a hurry, their eyes down, their grayish faces
never smile – fear of the reality. I went on foot and soon was at the
bookstore. Once inside, I asked for a telephone.

“Please be quick, Comrade Trubman,” warned the young
freckled clerk.

“I will,” I assured her and dialed the number. After a few rings
Iraida Borisovna answered the line. Her flat voice discouraged me: I
wasn’t ready to talk to the wife of a war hero.

“Anatoly, please,” I asked nonetheless, glancing at the freckled
clerk.

Whispers on the other end; then: “I’m listening.”
“This is Lazarus Trubman, I’ve decided not to come.”
“You shouldn’t be calling from a bookstore.”
“I know… I’m sorry.”
“It’s very understandable.”
The freckled clerk began showing obvious signs of impatience.
Hopefully, we’ll have another lunch someday.” I didn’t know
how to end this conversation.
“I doubt it,” said Anatoly, and the line went dead.
I thanked the freckled clerk and left the bookstore. A huge
cloud above the nearby park finally gave birth to a light cool rain. I
inhaled deeply and began walking down the boulevard, an unknown
creature in a gray raincoat whose life had just changed forever.
In a small restaurant I occupied the stool at the counter and
asked for some coffee.
“In a minute, teacher!”

27


Adelaide Literary Awards Anthology 2018
I closed my eyes and imagined Anatoly’s face, hands, rare
anger. The restaurant was empty at this time of the day, just a young
couple at the distant table holding hands together.
“Your coffee, teacher,” said the barman placing the cup in front
of me.
“Thank you, Konstantin.”
“Is your family alright?”
“Everybody’s fine, thank you for asking.”
“Well, that’s good. Family is the most important thing in life,”
said Konstantin, now rinsing the glasses. “When my Stella died, I
thought my life was over, but then again…”
I nodded, sipped my coffee. Surprisingly enough, I felt pretty
calm, as though my sudden decision not to see Anatoly again was
the only one I could live with. Consequences? Of course! It would
be naïve to assume that Anatoly, having all this power and authority,
could simply forget about my trip to Moscow and the sudden re-
jection of his offer.
“Is it too early for a shot of cognac, Konstantin?” I asked.
“Well, it depends…”
“I’ll have one then.”
They were touching their tongues now, the young couple at the
distant table, slow, enjoying every moment of it, and I couldn’t take
my eyes off of them. Then they kissed: first the upper lips, then the
lower ones; then the upper ones again.
“Your drink, teacher.”
“I am very sorry about your wife, Konstantin,” I said. “Do you
have any kids?”
“All grown up and gone,” said the barman and splashed some
cognac in two glasses. “That’s to my Stella – let the ground be soft
to her.”
We touched glasses. The drink burned my throat.
“Some fresh coffee?” asked the barman.
“Unfortunately, I have to go, Konstantin,” I said feeling a little
headache suddenly and pulled my wallet out of the chest pocket.
“Please, teacher,” Konstantin forestalled my attempt to pay,
“it’s all on the house.”

28


SHORT STORIES
The rain had stopped while I was inside the restaurant, puddles in
the same places. I walked fast, feeling younger, lighter. The sun fought
its way through the clouds, brighter than ever. Ten minutes later I
stood on the steps in front of the college building, looking around:
cars, dirty buses; more people than before the rain: freshness pushed
them out of their disgusting apartments. Well, I thought, what was
done was done, and thank God I never discussed it with my family.
… A month passed. On Monday, as soon as we finished
watching the late night movie, my wife was ready to go to bed, and
I promised to join her after a quick cigarette.
“Are you alright, honey?” she asked.
“As alright as I can be.”
“I can make you feel better in a heartbeat,” she said touching
my hand.
“I’ve no doubts, baby…how about a rain-check?”
“A rain-check it is,” she began walking away, then said before
disappearing into the bedroom, “Don’t take too many though.”
On the balcony, with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of
young Feteasca Neagra in the other, I tried to understand why I felt
restless all of a sudden. It wasn’t the movie and it wasn’t the food.
What then?
I glanced at my wristwatch: almost midnight.
A black “Volga” attracted my attention because it appeared sud-
denly and stopped under a streetlight. Three men, tall, wide-shoul-
dered, in shiny leather raincoats, got out and walked briskly to the
entrance of my apartment building.
I finished my wine and put out the cigarette. A few minutes
later I heard the impatient ringing of the doorbell, followed by loud
knocks.
They came for me.



It’s all in the past, but not forgotten: arrest, interrogations, beatings;
my survival, long wait for the visas. On December 4th, we boarded
the shiny Boeing-747 bound for New York.

29


Adelaide Literary Awards Anthology 2018
“Welcome to America!” greeted a tall blonde stewardess.
“Thank you,” I said, openly amazed by her beauty.
“Keep walking, daddy,” whispered my older daughter. “You
don’t have a chance!”
“I know, honey,” I said, “I know, but it doesn’t matter!”
… And now, 28 years later, my dreams and hopes are fulfilled,
I am surrounded by a bunch of children and grandchildren, I’m
breathing the clear air of freedom.
My interrogators and torturers? I forgave them. God won’t.

Lazar Trubman. As a college professor from a small town in the
ancient land of Transylvania, who immigrated to the United States
as a political refugee, Lazar Trubman taught linguistics and Russian
literature at several colleges and universities in Europe and the USA.
In 2017 he retired from teaching and settled in North Carolina to
devote his time to writing. His stories, essays and memoirs were pub-
lished in Adelaide Magazine, BoomerLitMag, Heart and Humanity,
Scarlet Leaf Review and others.

30


Madelyn, Mostly

By Pam Munter

The trouble started on stage, as might be expected. Being good mat-
tered more than anything to her, even more as she got older. She
tried to figure out what was wrong, how she got off track this way.
Now it had gone on too long.

Madelyn always loved singing those sentimental old songs, the
ones that had words that meant something. As a performer, she was
best known for those melancholy ballads that would tear your heart
out. Even as a kid, she could weave her warm personality around
those lyrics and grab an audience. And sometimes, she would use
her musical language to relate to others. Words, after all, could be
tools of seduction. But in recent years they had become something
more - neurological inroads, ways to relate to herself and not always
in a good way.

My schemes are just like all my dreams,
Ending in the sky
The intrusion of random song lyrics had never been trouble-
some before but now they had become like refractive lasers into
her subsconscious mind, information she wasn’t always open to re-
ceiving. There was no warning, either, causing disruptions in her
concentration and well being.
She had never been this nervous before any performance, at
least not since she was 12. But this was something else. Riding in
the car with Helen, her personal assistant, Madelyn hoped it wasn’t
anything serious. After all, she wasn’t crazy.

31


Adelaide Literary Awards Anthology 2018

All your fears are foolish fancies, maybe
“What’s the address again, Mad?”
Madelyn reached down to smooth her skirt as the car pulled up
to the traffic light. It would have been better had there been more
time to get to the appointment but it takes time to get ready for any
appearance.
“It’s on little Santa Monica, just past Beverly Glen, I think,
10935. Wish we were going out to lunch or something.”
Madelyn reached for the mirror in her purse and checked her
face again. She never left the house unless everything was perfect
and, indeed, it was this day. The wig had just been freshly coiffed,
the double set of eyelashes firmly affixed, the blue eye shadow just so.
It took longer these days to create Madelyn Mercer, carefully filling
in the cracks and crevices of a long and sometimes dark life. You
never knew who you might run into, maybe even paparazzi or some
eager fans. The oversized sunglasses on her face would protect her
identity for now, though. There was too much else to think about.
She heard Helen’s voice, “You sure you want to go through
with this?” Helen had worked for her a long time and Madelyn
didn’t like her to see her like this, anxious and unsure of herself. She
had grown attached to this selfless woman who seldom complained,
even after those occasional outbursts of temper. It was easy to take
her for granted. Twenty years younger and dowdy in demeanor, she
was the perfect assistant.
“I don’t think there’s much choice. At the Bowl last week, I
forgot the lyrics in the middle of three different songs, even “Cab-
aret.” And there were those flashbacks again. Why is this happening
now, Helen? Jesus, you’d think at my age I’d be done with all that.
I don’t do drugs or drink that much. It was my husbands who were
the drunks.”
Madelyn looked out the windshield to see the freeway jammed
ahead and was glad Helen was driving, as she always did these days.
Maybe it was her encroaching age, but Madelyn had no patience
for much of anything now, least of all, any performance problems.
“Being a legend is hard work,” Helen teased. Madelyn knew
her joking was usually a habitual way to get her to relax. She appreci-

32


SHORT STORIES

ated Helen’s attempts. Today, though, the comment was lost in the
noise of the traffic. Madelyn was elsewhere, not feeling quick-witted
at all. What was she feeling? So much noise inside her head.

Then at the corner of Beverly Glen, Madelyn found herself
standing immediately offstage as she heard Johnny Carson come
back from commercial and begin her introduction. She had checked
her image in the mirrored green room, completed her vocal war-
mups and was feeling that wonderfully familiar flutter of excitement
before going on. Her final moments of preparation were interrupted
by a sharp pain in her upper right arm. She turned to see her first
husband Sam, an angry, almost crazed look on his face. Why had he
left the green room? Why hadn’t he just stayed home?

“You bitch. You think everybody loves you. I’m the only one
you love, though, right, bitch? Right? You’re not so wonderful. Not
everyone loves you. Don’t you forget it.”

He loosened his grip long enough for her to escape, through
the opening in the curtain into the bright lights of the set where
Johnny was waiting, smiling and applauding. She heard the band
play her intro, walked over to her marks, and comfortably eased into
her practiced show biz persona. The warm applause was an aphro-
disiac like no other. She started the verse to “Say It With Music,” a
song audiences expected to hear from her.

Music is a language lovers understand
Melody and romance wander hand in hand
The irony of the words did not escape her and she hoped the
chasm between the airy and romantic lyrics and the realities of her
brutal marriage did not show on her face. It was that night when
the pain of the illusion had almost interrupted her professional de-
meanor. Was it the awareness of the event nearly 40 years ago that
had traumatized her? Or could it have been one of the many others
where she had come home from a gig to find him drunk, lying in
wait for her? He had beaten her, torn up her arrangements, shredded
her life, really.
The traffic seemed to be moving again, jolting her back into
the present.

33


Adelaide Literary Awards Anthology 2018
“I probably should have done this long ago,” Madelyn said.
Helen kept her eyes on the road. “I’ve never been. Hard to
imagine you lying on a couch for very long.”
Madelyn laughed. Not that it was funny. As she peered
through the windows of the blue Honda next to her, she sucked in
her stomach as she could feel herself crushed under that guy who
had burst into her hotel room so many years ago. Where had that
been? Wenatchee? Salem? They never caught him. Why wouldn’t
these pictures go away? She didn’t cancel her show the next night,
though. She always went on, no matter what. That was her training
and that was her mantra.
For years, she had thought about seeing a psychologist or psy-
chiatrist, anyone who could help her ream out the crap in her head.
But Helen was right. Being a legend is hard work. A week here, a
night there, always on the road. Not a normal life. The only one she
had ever known. Perfection a daily requirement.
“It shouldn’t take long,” Madelyn said, reassuring herself. “I’ll
have time for just a couple of sessions before we fly up to San Fran-
cisco.”
She knew it wouldn’t be enough, not by a long shot. But she
had to unload some of it, just let it out somewhere safe. Helen was a
dear – as close to being a friend as she had for decades - but Madelyn
had secrets she hadn’t told anyone, least of all someone who worked
for her. She had come to rely on Helen more and more as the years
went by, as the riptide of age swept her out to sea her from time to
time. Helen could have been her daughter, if she’d taken the time
to have one.
“I’ll just do a little shopping while you’re in there. We passed
a mall a while back. You can call me when you’re ready.”
Madelyn’s stomach growled audibly as Helen pulled into the
parking lot and into the one remaining open space. Was this hunger
or the start of gastrointestinal panic? The two of them sat quietly for
a moment, the car engine purring in wait. Madelyn stared at the
dashboard. Now she was at the top of the long stairway center stage,
her tightly corseted figure dazzling in that long sparkling red dress.
The audience started its tumultuous applause. She looked down

34


SHORT STORIES

to see the waiters smiling and singing as they formed a line at the
bottom of the staircase.

Hello, Dolly.
Well, Hello, Dolly.
She surely knew how to marshal that luminescence. She loved
that moment. She felt so transcendent, above all the detritus of real
life. Sometimes it was comforting to have that ready-made inspira-
tion on tap, people she had portrayed, inhabited, become if only for
a few hours. It was like having a DVD playing inside her head with
all the characters on call, like multiple personality disorder without
the craziness. If she could only bring it under control.
“OK. I’ll see you later, Helen. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be
fine.”
She was ready now. Still, this wasn’t a performance with mem-
orized, internalized song lyrics – not a script with a role she had
under her belt. This was all ad lib, coming from a place completely
foreign to her. Her worst nightmare in a way, like going on stage
and not knowing her lines. Or like forgetting those song lyrics the
other night – and other nights.
The wall directory was easy to decipher, if only her eyes would
focus. “Deidre Collins, Ph.D. Suite 305.” After a preventative stop
at the restroom, she found the door and cautiously opened it.
Won’t someone hear my plea
And take a chance with me
The room was sparsely furnished with six Eames chair knock-
offs in various colors. There was a Danish modern coffee table with
magazines piled on top. Nondescript art decorated the walls. No one
was there. For a moment, she worried she had come at the wrong
time. She sat on the green Eames, pulled out her reading glasses,
picked up an old magazine and flipped through its pages without
comprehending any of it.
The inside door opened quietly, but it was enough to cause
Madelyn to drop her magazine to the floor. As she awkwardly
reached to pick it up, she heard a warm, almost lilting voice.

35


Adelaide Literary Awards Anthology 2018

“Hello. You must be Madelyn Mercer. I’m Dr. Deidre Col-
lins. Please come in.” They shook hands then Madelyn followed her
down the hall to a well-appointed office. She looked around for the
couch but there wasn’t one there. Well, at least, not the kind she had
seen in comic strips and in movies. This was more like a living room,
with a sofa, two comfortable upholstered chairs, a coffee table, better
art on the walls. Her eye caught the Kleenex box on the table and
she felt a grain of gratitude. Why was she so nervous? Her hands felt
clammy. She hoped the doctor hadn’t noticed that.

“What brings you here today?” Deidre’s manner was friendly,
if professional. Her face had non-judgmentalness written all over it,
a sort of expectant half-smile fixed in place. Her head was slightly
tilted to the left, in open anticipation of what Madelyn might say.

Madelyn looked up from her lap and at her dark brown, caring
eyes for the first time. For an instant, she was distracted by the beige
Chanel suit and the matching Manolo Blahnik shoes. The hair was
perfectly styled, not too much makeup, artfully done. It could have
been a younger version of herself, if she had gone to college.

“I’m a performer,” she began, not knowing how much to say.
“Mmm. Uh huh.”
“That’s what I do. That’s who I am.” She had to fight an urge
to launch into her opening song from her Kansas City show.
They go wild, simply wild over me
They go mad, just as made as they can be
She knew she had to unpack her trunk of tricks, like how to
hold people off, how to avoid any real intimacy, even with poor
eager-to-please Helen, her factotum for three decades. It could all
start here. Maybe.
“I’ve heard and seen your name, of course. But I’ve never seen
you perform.”
That felt like a sucker punch. She lived in a hermetic bubble
in which everyone in it agreed she was a legend, that everyone had
heard her voice or seen her on TV or on stage, that everyone thought
she was the best ever. She thrust her chin upward a bit to protect
against the inadvertent assault, the hurt.

36


SHORT STORIES

“I’ve been around a long time. Started when I was nine.”
“Why don’t you tell me why you are here. How can I help?”
Madelyn sat back, nestling herself into the soft cushions and
stumbled on to the darkened stage in her head.
“That’s the problem. All I do is perform. A lot has happened and…”
At each word, she reconsidered trusting her. It wasn’t about
the shrink, really. Madelyn didn’t trust anyone and for good reason.
The bus of betrayal seemed to stop at every corner.
“You’re always on stage, one way or another. Is that right?”
Why had she waited so long to do this? Did she dare hope for this?
Now, dearie, don’t be late
I want to be there when the band starts playin.’
The band was always playing. That was the problem. What
happens if it’s gone? Who would she be then?
“Yeah. I am. Always on.”
“Even here?”
Whoa.
“I don’t want to be…on stage here. I’ve been doing this long
enough.” She could feel a tear starting to well up in her right eye and
immediately grabbed for the welcome box of Kleenex.
Deidre nodded. “It’s easy to get caught up in what seems to be,
rather than what is. Yes?”
Madelyn shifted in her chair. “I don’t know what is. I mean, I
know what happened to me. Believe me, I know about all that. But
something different is happening now. Worse.”
“I want to hear about that when you’re ready to tell me. How
have you typically handled the crises in your life?”
Madelyn smiled at Deidre. “I’d cram it all into a performance.
Reviewers say I really get under the lyric. No kidding! And now,
there’s…I don’t how to describe it….interference when I’m on
stage. Sometimes even when I’m not.”
“What do you think will happen here – in this room?” Again,
that expectant look that was now inviting.
“I’m afraid I’ll lose my…what?...edge? Talent? My voice? My-
self.” She was stopped at hearing her last word. Lose herself? Is that
what’s happening?

37


Adelaide Literary Awards Anthology 2018
“Most people gain more in psychotherapy than they lose. It
can be scary sometimes, I know. But if you’re willing to work with
me, we’ll need to meet twice a week for a while. Change takes time.
Can you do that?”
A tsunami of disappointment swept over her. How could she
rearrange her life just like that? There were engagements, obliga-
tions…expectations. Fears.
Come Fly with Me
She knew what she needed to do. She was 82, not nearly ready
to retire, afraid to think about it. But if she took some time off, no-
body need know the reason for it. There was a gap after this LA gig.
At least, they could get started with this excavation, or whatever it
would turn out to be. There was something calming about Deidre’s
style and demeanor. This would be a bumpy road, she knew that, but
there was an implied promise of safety about the unknown, perhaps
for the first time in her life.
Someone to Watch Over Me

Pam Munter is the author of When Teens Were Keen: Freddie
Stewart and The Teen Agers of Monogram (Nicholas Lawrence Press,

38


SHORT STORIES
2005) and Almost Famous: In and Out of Show Biz (Westgate Press,
1986) and has been a contributor to many others. She’s a former clin-
ical psychologist, performer and film historian. Her first “publication”
was a monthly four-page, carbon-copied newspaper she published
about a local baseball team when she was nine. Since then, writing
has infused every era of her life.

She taught political science at California State University at
Northridge during the volatile and often violent 1960s. During her
tenure, the top floor of her office building was burned out, just a few
days before she watched Robert F. Kennedy deliver one of his final
speeches just yards from her office. After earning a Ph.D. in clinical
psychology, she served as an Associate Professor at Portland State
University (see “Walt”). It was a time for academic, research-based
writing. Concurrently, in private practice, she published a ground-
breaking quarterly newsletter for her clients.

When she retired from clinical psychology, it allowed the time
and opportunity to resume her lifelong passion for show biz. She
jumped at the chance to perform in major cities, singing with a jazz
trio (see “Romancing New York”). She also worked as an actor,
appeared in independent films and numerous commercials, and
hosted and produced an arts-based TV program. She recorded two
CDs, the last a tribute to her childhood hero, Doris Day, at Capitol
Records (see “Sinatra’s Mic”). She wrote all the shows and both
album liner notes. Her many lengthy retrospectives on the lives of
often-forgotten Hollywood performers and others have appeared in
both Classic Images and in Films of the Golden Age.

More recently, her essays and short stories have been published
in Adelaide, The Rumpus, Matador Review, The Manifest-Station,
Angels Flight—Literary West, The Coachella Review, The Creative
Truth, Quiet Letter, The Legendary, and dozens of others. She is the
nonfiction book reviewer for Fourth and Sycamore, a literary journal
in Ohio, and is a Pushcart Prize nominee.

But Hollywood has never been far away. She has published a
series of short stories with a historical Hollywood theme. Her play
Life Without was nominated by the Desert Theatre League for the
Bill Groves Award for Outstanding Original Writing, along with a

39


Adelaide Literary Awards Anthology 2018
nomination for Outstanding Play. That Screwy, Ballyhooey Holly-
wood, another dark comedy, is slated for production soon. She has
an MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts
from the University of California at Riverside in Palm Desert, her
sixth academic degree.

40


Moving From Fearful
To Fearless

By Susan Pollet, Esq.

My name is Esther Mahler. I have been a practicing psychiatrist for
over fifty years in New York City. I attended an Ivy League medical
school when there were few women admitted, and even fewer female
psychiatrists. It is no surprise that I had to be tougher, work harder,
and sacrifice more of my personal life than others. Over time, I
concentrated my private practice on helping women of all ages to
achieve their full potential. In all of the stories that I heard from my
patients, their fears and hopes were inextricably linked with a society
which disadvantages women on multiple levels. I had come to that
conclusion many years before the feminist movement grew in the
1970’s and the current #MeToo Movement. My family and friends
sometimes called me “bossy.” I like to think of that as a strength.
I have never tried to impose my feminism on my patients, but my
orientation toward making them strong, resilient and balanced is
borne from that point of view. Their struggles have defined my life,
much as I hope my treatment has improved theirs.

One patient’s difficulties comes to mind as illustrative of the
conflicts of women throughout the ages, on a more primal level.
Anxieties related to childbirth are common in women. Despite ad-
vances in medicine, some women still suffer from the fear of death
during delivery. This patient, whom I will refer to as Rhea, was
thirty-eight years old at the time that I first treated her. She came

41


Adelaide Literary Awards Anthology 2018
into my office in an agitated state. She had been referred by her
Obstetrician/Gynecologist for a consult. I eventually concluded
that Rhea suffered from tokophobia, also known as maieusiophobia
or parturiphobia, which is a pathological fear of pregnancy. It was
first described in the literature in 1897. Apparently, the prevalence
of tokophobia in Western countries is now over 20%. It had led
Rhea to avoid pregnancy, although she desperately wanted to have
a family. She was not only afraid of the pregnancy and birth experi-
ence, but she greatly feared that her child would be deformed.

On her first visit to my office, she sat down and immedi-
ately began to cry. She was an underweight, petite woman, who
was well groomed and stylishly dressed in the manner of well-to-do
Upper East Side women in Manhattan. She wore expensive jewelry,
and had a designer handbag and shoes. She appeared to be much
younger than her years because of her Botox injections and filler. I
handed her tissues, and she slowly regained her composure. I asked
her why she came to see me. She told me that she had been mar-
ried for five years to a successful cardiologist, and that they lived a
comfortable life in an expensive area of New York City. They did
not have a family support system as her family lived in California,
and his family lived in Michigan. They had some friends, but she
remained lonely much of the time.

She said that she stopped working about six months ago for
the express purpose of starting a family. She had been a buyer for
a major department store and the work involved a lot of travel and
stress. She stopped having sex with her husband since then because
she was afraid of pregnancy and childbirth. She was very trim and
athletic, she ran ten miles and exercised two hours each day. She
greatly feared what a pregnancy would do to her body. She said that
her husband married her in large measure because of her attractive-
ness, and she was afraid he would not love her anymore if her body
changed.

She believed that she would be unable to deliver a baby, and
that if she would go into labor, she would die. She said she would
never deliver vaginally, only by caesarean section, but she greatly
feared that surgery as well. She felt tortured because she had an over-

42


SHORT STORIES
whelming desire to be a mother. She said that being a mother was
more important to her than her career. Her husband was beginning
to lose patience with her, and she feared that her marriage was in
jeopardy as well. He wanted a large family, and she believed that
one of the major reasons he had married her is because he thought
she wanted that too.

I asked her when her fear of pregnancy began. She related
that her dread of childbirth began in adolescence after her maternal
Uncle had sexually abused her while he was visiting her family home
for the weekend one Christmas. He was a beloved Judge in a small
town. He came to her bedroom in the middle of the night and tried
to rape her, but she was able to escape. She never told anyone what
had happened. It was too shameful for her, and her mother was close
to him and probably would not have believed her, nor would anyone
else because of his stature in the community.

After that, she had a series of monogamous relationships with
different boyfriends until she met her now husband, and had en-
gaged in sex with each boyfriend beginning at age eighteen. She was
scrupulous in her use of contraceptives, and used several methods
including the pill and IUD. She required her partners to use con-
doms at all times in addition. She never had an accidental preg-
nancy. She continued to use the same contraceptive methods with
her husband, but had stopped using contraception six months ago.
That was when her depression and fears intensified, and she stopped
having sex with him.

I asked her what her symptoms felt like. She replied to me in
a monotonous tone.

“Since I stopped using contraception, Dr. Mahler, I have been
having symptoms similar to what I had when my Uncle tried to rape
me. That incident was so traumatic for me as I always thought he
was a beloved Uncle when I was a child. I have shortness of breath,
rapid breathing, my heartbeat becomes irregular, and I sweat and get
nauseous. When it gets really bad, I start shaking, and I cannot even
articulate a word or sentence. I guess it is like a panic attack. I also
have suffered from depression for many years due to that trauma, but
those feelings have intensified lately. I am sad, I feel guilty, I do not

43


Adelaide Literary Awards Anthology 2018
want to eat, I start crying uncontrollably, I cannot sleep well, and I
feel helpless, hopeless and worthless much of the time. I have even
considered suicide. Nobody in my family has a history of mental
illness, so I feel very alone in my feelings. I do not want to burden
my friends with these issues as they all have children and do not seem
to share my issues.”

I asked her if anything recently had triggered her feelings of
panic and depression, other than the fact that she stopped using
contraception.

“I turned thirty-eight years old six months ago. I became in-
creasingly concerned that if I waited any longer, I would not be able
to have any children. My husband has been putting pressure on me to
get pregnant since we got married. When I consulted my Obstetrician/
Gynecologist about getting pregnant, she ordered some tests, and told
me that I was underweight and might have trouble getting pregnant
unless I gained about ten pounds. I asked her about the complica-
tions of pregnancy. She told me about many complications, including
changes to my body, the potential for a deformed fetus, eclampsia,
premature delivery, infections, bleeding, embolism into the lungs, and
even death of the baby or mother. After that discussion my fears in-
tensified to a painful degree. It was at that point that I started to have
less interaction with my husband on every level, and I withdrew from
my family and friends. I did not feel like spending time with anyone,
and stayed in my apartment, alone and shaking much of the time.”

I asked her if there was anything else that happened which
triggered those feelings.

“Soon after I had the appointment with my Obstetrician/Gy-
necologist, I met a friend from work for lunch. She had just had her
third baby, and was on maternity leave. She told me in great detail
her experiences of pregnancy and childbirth with each child and
about her miscarriages. Her last birth experience was traumatic as
the cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck, and she had excessive
bleeding after the birth. I started to get dizzy, and almost fainted as
she was speaking. My mouth became dry, and I ran to the bathroom
and sat on the toilet for about ten minutes with my head between
my legs. The room was spinning.”

44


SHORT STORIES
I asked her why she thought she reacted that way.
“Dr. Mahler-I realized that I am in an impossible situation
with no way out. My marriage depends on my being attractive and
having children. I have terrible fears of losing control during my
pregnancy and the delivery. I have fear of pain. I always had a fear of
doctors, hospitals and needles. I have a fear of death from pregnancy.
My maternal great grandmother died in childbirth as did three of
her babies. Even though there have been advances in medicine, my
Obstetrician/Gynecologist told me that there is still a risk that these
things could happen to me. If I don’t have children, I will remain
unhappy forever and I will lose my husband. And yet, if I become
pregnant, I fear I will not be able to take it. There does not seem to
be a solution.”
I took Rhea on as a patient. I immediately started her on an-
tidepressant medications. After about two weeks there was no im-
provement. I increased the dosages of the medications over the next
month, and there was a reduction in her fear of pregnancy and her
symptoms of depression. She began to have sex with her husband
again. She did not suffer a recurrence of the symptoms while on the
medications. She remained my patient for several years. She came
to me for weekly counseling sessions.
Ironically, it turned out that she was unable to get pregnant for
several reasons. She suffered from chronic anovulation, a common
cause of infertility, due to her low body weight. In addition, her hus-
band’s sperm count was too low. She never gained the ten pounds
she needed to in order to get pregnant, and her husband would
not give up his three glasses of wine per day and his saunas at the
gym, which impacted on his sperm count. They ended up adopting
two children, and she stayed home to raise them. At that point she
stopped counseling treatment and seemed to be coping well.
Lest you believe that life is uncomplicated with what seemed
to be a solution to Rhea’s dilemma, when Rhea turned fifty, she
returned to me for treatment. Her husband had left her for a much
younger woman, he fought her over spousal and child support, and
child custody, and she was faced with living with five years of main-
tenance and no career to return to. Her ex-husband never paid his

45


Adelaide Literary Awards Anthology 2018
support on time, and she had to take him to Family Court on a
regular basis. At age sixty, he jumped off of the roof of the building
where he had his medical practice in Manhattan. His younger wife
had left him because he had medical issues which rendered him im-
potent, and he went into debt to pay for her credit card charges and
became insolvent. Rhea had moved to Queens, she went to school
and became a French teacher, and she raised the two children as a
single mother. She did not have the time to continue in counseling
treatment.

Some years after I had treated Rhea, I visited a cemetery in
New Zealand. As I was reading the tombstones, I was struck by how
many mothers and babies had died in childbirth in the 1800’s. I
thought about Rhea and her fears, and how susceptible some women
are to a fear of pregnancy and childbirth, even today. But what res-
onated more for me was what a difficult road many women have
whether they give birth or adopt, and how strong women must be
for themselves and their children.

Susan L. Pollet lives in New York City and has been a lawyer for
forty years, primarily in the area of family law. She has published
over sixty articles on varied legal topics, including family and crim-

46


SHORT STORIES
inal law. Her first book entitled “Lessons in Survival: All About
Amos,” will be published by Adelaide Books in 2019. She was Pres-
ident of the Westchester Women’s Bar Association, Vice President
of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York, Executive
Director of Pace Women’s Justice Center, Director of the New York
State Parent Education and Awareness Program, and a prosecutor.
She has a strong desire to provide the public with information about
interesting people’s lives that give us hope.

47


Click to View FlipBook Version
Previous Book
Al Qitaf Course Brochure
Next Book
WAVE Volume 5 Issue 9 on 12-14-18