Elizabeth Stelling and Michael Baca










Inspiration piece by Michael Baca
Response piece by Elizabeth Akin Stelling

Damn the heat!
August was like that in Texas.
Cryer Creek is a hell hole in summer
the sheriff would say
bad weather brings on bad things
always does
but nothing ever stops town activity
as upstanding town folk would say

men went about business
wiping their brow
women bustled along
step after step
dragging child, packages, and skirts
as wind and dust
pushed back, two steps

Erin usually ran alone
today her feet moved with tormented rush
school chums weren’t far behind
and yelling obscenities
“Fat. Fat. Juicy as a Rat!”
bullied children have longing
that longed to be granted
to find a place
a safe place for quivering girls

somewhere dark and quiet
reading space
for those precious books bundled in small arms

five six seven steps
finally at the top she looked back
ahhhhh came heavy breath
without realizing
a small frame tumbling tumbling down
arms reaching out
but too late
all things went black

no one bothered with her
or even noticed
she lay face down in sweat and dust
time passed, very slowly
as her eyes
tolerantly opened
it was hideous for even the best of them
but more so by the noise below
old looking wood slates
the store’s freshly laid porch
there they were
scurrying field mice
pursued by a slithery snake
its rattle striking out fear

splinters penetrated her hands and knees as she rose
then of course
there was the taunting crowd
reaching for a sleeve, a skirt, or kindness
she blew her nose, no tears, into found fabric
and loudly
it was the tip of Doctor Sweet’s lab coat
a white cotton piece
proudly displayed about his fat belly

he pulled it back with a jerk
introducing himself to each. by reaching out his hands
but his voice rose at the strange men off to the side
down below them on the street
for their inconsideration

she hadn’t noticed in her pursuits
the two men unloading a wagon
both of them oddly dressed
for such rouged west
bright blue silk vests, gray stripped trousers, round funny hats
black bowlers sitting rather high upon their skinny long heads
strands of scraggly red hair
sticking out
must be brothers
some curls, some straight
average height and weight, but one was rather slim
his long leg
had slipped ungracefully out

everyone just stared
as twenty burlap bags, once again
quickly began their train
back and forth
forth and across over Erin’s head
everyone else ducked as they passed
each one being stacked neatly
in rows
on a mysterious storeroom floor

colorful words had been freshly painted
above her head
painted good news- Confectionery Dreams
her attention quickly misdirected
“What am I to do with spilt sugar?”
Doctor Sweets announced
her hair clip has caught an edge
she glistened in the afternoon sun
but her heart sank
a shadow loomed where her father’s face soon appeared
surely he would be cross
burdened by a daughter
her new dress covered in dirt
mingled with red eyes
scuffed shoes and torn book pages

Oh the sugar children
Such sweet grains!
demanded eulogy

bending in close
Doctor Sweets arms moved out
toward a bunch of mercenary looking children
fingers rolling
index to pinky
over and over
pulling them in in in
“Wouldn’t you all make a great big fat jar full of delights!?!”
he shrieked
as quick as they drew around in wonder
each one in turn
ran ran ran
as if none had ever been in sight

a most ingenious plan on Erin’s part
was proposed
each day after school
at a quarter till two
she would sweep, dust shelves, and wipe down those endless jars
Candy! her mind delighted in thinking
and that sweet back room
where quiet surely roamed
shoulders shrugged and bent forward
on an as need basis
she smiled
till a debt was repaid

Doctor Sweet nodded amiably
this job began immediately
unpacking boxes, shoeing children from doors and windows
beautifully shined wooden floors
but those two funny men
tracked in and out
back and forth

however, a new distraction was provided
and caught this girls eye
they were unpacking a fresh new load
pristine wooden crates
possibly pine from up north
most things had been forgotten from her earlier life
before this god forsaken place
her mother had adored life back east
Jersey finest
Often representing death
and a mother’s memory

to her puzzlement
Doctor Sweet reluctantly replied
“We have a new neighbor next door”
he stopped and leaned into the counter
with a funny smile
under his funny mustache
his hand reached over and scooped out chocolates
sprinkled stars popped right in his mouth
and continued with smacking sound
“Ms. Plume has rented space- she is
a Papier

It’s plum ridiculous!”
he then offered Erin a sweet treat
but as quickly as his hand reached out
he dropped it back neatly
into its compact jar

she thought
who has money for such frills
the time had come for her release
she began hatching a plan
each following day
when it had been promised
again, sometimes slowly
she would sweep, mop, and wipe
no matter how much anticipation and mystery dominate
there were intention of helping
poor Ms. Plume
alleviate and open at least one
those finely crafted
and smelly boxes

a few rock candies
made their way into her pocket
with a day’s dust and lent
to soften her father’s blow
and on that night
giving him no troubles with chores, dinner, and homework
and bed
finding sleep would be easy
it meant rising to begin anew
which Erin found hardest
bones and muscles throughout the body were taking on life of their own
oh how they ached and moaned!

the minute Erin’s face hit the pillow
while her father’s mid-night oil glows
dreams pressed on

in the confectionery store room
where mice and men play
copper vats are shined and fitted
fires begin to burn
night owls screech outside
as small limbs are cleaned
made ready for tomorrows creations
they do not notice
in the crates stored over a few feet
letting light in
as eyes look out


Doctor Sweets
and poor Ms. Plume
were not as they seemed.