Maureen O’Donnell
and Christina Brockett

View Through The Geraniums

By Christina Brockett

Inspiration Piece


By Maureen O’Donnell

Response Piece


The dinghy rocks gently under his weight.  Jack nestles into the small cockpit, meant for one large person or two smaller, and no more.  He can feel the wind skating across the water: it carries the scent of brine and bracken, the smell of cut grass and the hint of exhaust – a powerboat long since departed.  No surprise.  Even in the slow ‘off-season’ some of the other lake cabins must be occupied.

There are lines, two of them, that tether him to the dock.  The stern line, near his elbow, is the easy one.  Jack gives one end of the rope a tug, releases it from the cleat, and tosses it onto the graying planks.  The bow line is harder; too late he realizes he should have done that one first.  A gust of wind, blowing away from the dock, pushes the small sail boat, pivots it stern-out around the remaining anchor point.

Without thinking he leans forward, but his legs are in the way.  The position is awkward and leaves him a few inches short of the rope.  He hesitates, then pushes himself out of the sling meant as a seat for the dinghy’s operator.  The shift in weight is too much for the centerboard and the boat pitches to one side, nearly dumping him in the water.  He thinks he still knows how to swim, but it’s April and the water is still cold.  He doesn’t want to test it.  He doesn’t want to be tossed between the dock and the boat.

Frustrated, he sits back and glares at the bowline.  The boat rocks more gently, counter to the violence beating in his chest.  Something as simple as a rope, and he can’t even manage that.

He wants to be out on the water.  Nothing is more important than releasing that dock line.


Early morning is her favorite time.  The sun rises, slow and lazy, over a world that looks washed-clean by night time.  Spring is no exception: although there’s still a cool bite, the wind promises a pleasant day.  She stands on her porch, a wraparound with a view of the lake, with her coffee mug in hand and sleep lingering in her eyes.  Her feet are bare.

It had seemed like a good idea, holing herself up in the lake cabin for the season, free of the distractions provided by family and well-meaning friends.  She wouldn’t offend anyone here.  Instead, she could focus on her manuscript, make meals far too large for one, or lay in bed all day crying.  Whatever she wanted.   The only person she had to worry about, alone on the lake, was Ella.

Six months and three hundred edited pages later, however, Ella has begun to fight Ella.

She has spent a half-year perfecting a novel that had been in the works since she was in college.  Immersed in a world of her own making, instead of the one that existed, now she’s forced to come up for air.  And without the friends, the family, or the novel, she has to think about the divorce.  His lawyer is supposed to call today, the call that will finally set her free.

Maybe she should rip out the phone.  Who needs a phone?

The wind ripples over the water, toys with a small, green-trimmed sail boat.  She watched the man inside struggle with the lines, twist awkwardly, like a fish left too long on deck.  She should help him.  He seems like a nice man, always with a determined look about him.  She couldn’t see his face now, but she could see the tension in the way he moved.  Ella sets the coffee cup down and starts down the steps.

Behind her, through the screen door, the phone jangles, harsh.  She stops, she hesitates: the lawyer, the important call.

She disappears inside.

Far Away

We hereby recognize the gallant and heroic actions of John Kelly, on the evening of July 13th and throughout his fifteen years of service, and present to him the Maryland Medal of Valor on this, the first day of January, 2010.  His dedication and service to cause and country will always be remembered.


Update Record: SSgt John Kelly, honorable discharge, February 2010.


To: Ella Carletti.

From: Mick Sheppard, Sheppard and Associates, PI

The findings of our report are enclosed, and include telephone records, photo surveillance, and witness statements regarding the relationship between Mark Carletti and A. Weymann.  Please contact us further regarding the settlement of final expenses, and if you have any additional questions.


Ms. Carletti, thank you for your submission.  Unfortunately, due to a high volume of submissions throughout the year, we have been unable to give your work a complete review.  We are unable to accept your manuscript.  Best of luck in your future endeavors.


The wind picks up, and he hears it snap across the bright green sail.  Jack gives the dock a shove and the boat rocks, tilts, wavers as if it’s not sure it truly wants to go out.  He tugs on the main sheet, threaded through a pully between his knees, and the sail finally stands up to the wind.  In a moment, the dinghy glides along the water with the grace of a dancer.

He tacks, and then tacks again, cutting angles across Lake Anna.  The dinghy corners like his first car, the shiny yellow mustang that drew doe-eyed girls and overzealous patrol officers like flies.  He doesn’t crash this one.  He flies, with the wind on his face and freedom rushing through his ears.

Too soon, the sun begins to sag behind the trees.  Reluctant, he turns toward home.

When she hangs up the phone, the sound is loud in the silence.  The relief she’d expected to feel, an exhale all the way from her bones, is absent.  This wasn’t the way things were supposed to happen: she’d reached the end of her rope and now she was free.  She was supposed to feel something.  She was supposed to be different.

She pinches her forearm.  It hurts.  She felt that.

Ella walks.  She walks out of the cabin, across the yard, and into the woods.  She walks to lose herself, to think, to find the person she is now supposed to be.  When she returns, the pier is empty.  She sits on the steps, hugs her knees to her chest, and waits.

Right Here

When he angles the boat toward the pier, he sees a woman walking onto the boards: a small woman with light eyes and dark hair, and a nose that plays a significant part of her face.  He’s not sure what she wants, but he wishes she would go away.  He wonders if she’s waiting for the powerboat, or maybe checking the lines of another, but she doesn’t.

She moves around the wheelchair, and holds out a hand.  When he doesn’t throw her the rope, she smiles.  “I’m Ella.”

“I can do it,” Jack says.

“I know you can.”

She says it simply, but leaves her hand outstretched.  The line, wet, slaps against her palm.  He looks different, this close.  There are lines around his mouth where he wants to smile.

“Jack.  You live there?”  He points to the wrong house.

“There.”  She lashes twists the bowline around the cleat, then points.  Waits until he’s secured the stern, then looks.  “We’re neighbors.”

“So we are.”

“For a few months now.”

“Is that right?”  He sits in the boat and she stands on the dock.  She steps back.

“You should come have dinner some time.”

“Sure,” he says, and he shakes his head, distracted, in the way that people do when they know they will not.

“Alright.  See you around.”  She turns and walks down the pier.  She climbs the path back toward her house, and when she reaches her porch, she looks back.  He is pulling himself up into his chair.  Once settled, he looks over his shoulder, in her direction, in a way that tells her eventually, he will come.

Ella picks up the coffee mug from the morning, and goes inside to wash cold coffee down the drain.

One Comment

  1. Posted September 14, 2010 at 4:06 am | #

    This was such a beautiful collaboration. I want to know more about Jack and Ella.