Cruising back into life…..

It was with great excitement that I departed the airplane and headed toward the waiting buses that would take me to the ship for a Canary Island cruise. It was my first cruise and for the next week, the ship would be my home.

There were 5 buses being loaded with our suitcases and baggage. The first ones were already bursting so I went on to the next, loaded my suitcase and carry-on, and then boarded the bus to find a seat.

The first rows were already occupied, but about the fifth row down, a young man sat all alone. I was also alone so I asked him if the seat was free, which he confirmed, so I sat down.

“Hm”, I thought, “much too young for me; more in my daughter’s age range”. He was slim and had reddish hair. I had never cared for red heads.

Soon the buses got on their way for the 40 minute ride to the harbor where the ship was anchored. Soon the travel agent stood up with her microphone to announce the procedures. “The cabins won’t be ready upon our arrival,” she announced, “because the guests from the previous crew are still on board. Your baggage will be collected from the buses and kept in the sign-in area and then they will be brought to your cabins as soon as the cabins are cleaned. For the sign-in, please have your vouchers and passports ready.”

“Oooops!” I said out loud to no one in particular, yet turning toward my neighbor. “My passport is in my carry-on and I put it in the baggage compartment of the bus!” I began to worry whether I would be able to retrieve it at the end of the ride.

The ice was broken and the two of us introduced ourselves. His name was Wolfgang and, I could hardly believe it, he was only 2 years younger than me!

“Maybe the bus driver will let me get my bag since it’s right at the front of the compartment”.

We continued to chat, then upon our arrival I went to the bus driver and yes, he’d let me get my bag. That was a relief!

We departed the buses and went to our respective sign-in counters. Since we were both traveling alone, we decided it would be more fun to explore the ship together then on our own, so that’s exactly what we did.

For the next week we enjoyed each other’s company. We went on bus tours together at the various islands we stopped at. We took our meals together, enjoying the conversation and getting to know each other. And in the evenings we would sit at one of the bars, enjoying the live music and occasionally taking a turn on the dance floor. Life was good! Life was once again fun again!

Other passengers took us for a married couple and didn’t believe we had only just met.

We had both embarked on the cruise alone. I was single, but had a boyfriend, John, back home who was unable, and unwilling, to join me on the cruise. Wolfgang was married, yet separated.

We marveled at the fact of our meeting…. how fate had brought two lonely souls, far from home, together. If either one of us had taken a different bus that day we may never have met each other. Yet we had met and too many factors like age and interests just seemed to fit into place.

I refused to let our relationship become deeper. Never again did I want to get involved with a married man, no matter how much he tried to convince me that he was as good as divorced. I was hurt and burned once with my long-term involvement with a married man and never again did I want to subject myself to that pain and hurt again.

On the fifth day of the cruise I needed time to myself. Too many thoughts went through my head that needed sorting. The emotional hurt that my relationship with John caused me, mixed with the elation of being able to enjoy life once again, to laugh and smile. It had nothing to do with any feelings I might have been developing for Wolfgang, but just the freedom of being myself again…. being able to let my personality shine once again. I couldn’t concentrate on the book I had brought to read or on anything else. In the process I broke down, drowning my thoughts in tears.

Later I was once again composed enough to meet Wolfgang for dinner. I had already confided in him about my situation and problems, and he was a good, understanding listener. He tried hard not to let the fact that he was falling in love with me make things more complicated…. but he wasn’t succeeding very well.

On our last day my flight left before his and he accompanied me to the ship’s check out, while he had to remain behind. We waved to each other, not knowing if or when we would ever meet again.

first written: January 2010



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Until this year, nothing notable had happened in the town of Madison since the year of its founding. 

This year was the year of the big 100th anniversary celebrations. This was to be the year of parades and parties lasting long into the late nights, ending with huge fireworks. After all, 100 years was a long time for such a small western town. Like its namesake, Madison, Wisconsin, the small town of Madison had been named after the 4th president of the USA, James Madison. Or that’s what the historians thought. But that’s where the resemblance ends. 

Nothing exciting ever happened in Madison. Except for the usual traffic accidents, occasional murder or other incidents, the town could almost be described as boring. 

Until 2007 and the arrival of Jason James. As a reporter and history enthusiast, Jason was sure the small town of Madison would have an interesting story to tell. His first stop was the local library, where he looked through the logs and ledgers, trying to find something worth noting. He had already surfed the internet, looking for some hint of a story waiting to be told. Was it really possible, that nothing notable had ever happened there?  

After spending hours in the library, Jason decided to walk the streets and talk to some of the people. He found the residents quite open and friendly, but no one thought it strange that the town had no particular tales to tell and they couldn’t offer anything. Then he met Maggie. 

Maggie sat in a rocking chair on her front porch, enjoying the last afternoon rays of sunshine. It was hard to determine her age, but Jason judged she was perhaps somewhere in her 80’s. He knocked on the picket fence to attract her attention. She looked up from her cup of tea and signaled for him to come and join her and soon they were conversing away like old friends. Jason took notes, but for him it was more fascinating to just listen to Maggie. It seemed like Maggie had been hungering to talk for some time, but no one had wanted to listen, no one had ever shown interest in her stories, until now. 

Jason was amazed to find out that Maggie was also 100 years old, as old as the founding of her home town. This fact alone was notable, but no one knew it until now. Indeed, her parents had been one of the first to settle there, long before the town was actually a town. Her parents had owned the very first general store and post office.  

In the days that followed, Jason and Maggie continued their little talks. Jason brought along a tape recorder so he could record the tales first hand. Maggie glowed while talking and soon more and more details of her growing up years came to light. She told about the little one-room school house, about all the men leaving for WWI, then later for WWII, some never to return, including her first fiancé and true love. Her eyes suddenly took on a sad expression as she talked for the first time in decades about Jeremy and the plans they had made for their wedding, which never came to pass.  

Soon after Jeremy had gone off to war, his young bride left to visit relatives, coming back a changed person. No one seemed to think it strange that she no longer socialized, that she showed no interest in a new relationship, considering her loss. She had many young men coming to call on her, but she turned them all away. The only time she left her home was to teach at the local school and do her shopping. Yet she seemed content. Soon no one paid any more attention to her. Until Jason arrived, and he sensed that there was something else, something she hadn’t shared yet.

The biggest celebrations in Madison were planned for the following weekend. Jason already had quite a selection of stories to present to his publisher. In fact, he was considering putting them together into a series or even a book. Again he went to visit Maggie, and as soon as he appeared, instead of sitting on the porch, she asked him inside her home for the first time. He followed her and, upon crossing the threshold, it was like entering another world. The furniture and wall hangings were from previous decades, her home almost like a museum. “What an interesting tourist attraction this would make”, Jason thought. He soon discarded the thought since it was Maggie’s home and shouldn’t be invaded by strangers. She led him over to an old chest which stood in the curved window seat.  

“Young man” she asked, “would you do me a favor and open the chest? The lock has been unused for so long, I can no longer open it.”  

“Of course”, he replied, reaching for the big rusty key. 

“Now, before you lift the lid, I must tell you one more thing,” she continued, as he halted in his efforts with the lock. “You see, no one has ever been interested in me before you arrived. Not only that, I feel a kinship to you that I haven’t felt since my Jeremy left me for the war, never to return. In this chest you will find mementoes and documents from my past. My time here is running out, and I know you will know what to do with them.”  

“I will not misuse your trust”, he replied, and opened the heavy chest. As Maggie had hinted, the chest was full of items from her past, including official documents. He removed the papers to the nearby table and continued studying each item still in the chest. There were a few photos, but not many. One was of a young couple, smiling happily into the camera lens, holding hands yet sitting “proper”. Jason turned to ask Maggie about the photo and found she had gone back outside to the porch. Carrying the photo with him, he went out to ask her if that was a photo of her and Jeremy.  

“Take a good look at the photo,“ she said. Jason did as she said, then noticed what she meant. It was indeed a picture of the young Maggie. In all the years, she had lost none of her natural beauty. Then he looked at the young man in the picture, Jeremy. Jason’s eyes grew bigger as he stared at the picture. He almost felt like he was looking in a mirror! 

“Now you see why I trust you with my mementoes,“ she replied. “Soon after Jeremy left for the war, I discovered I was pregnant. Now, back in those days there was just no way I could care for a child! So I left to visit my aunt who lived in Madison, Wisconsin. There I gave birth to the cutest little baby girl, Madeline. I had so wanted a son so that I could name him Jeremy. Madeline is almost like Madison, you know? She was brought up by my aunt until my aunt died, and then placed in a home or orphanage. I never did find out where she was and lost all contact.” Again her eyes appeared sad as she stared out in the distance.  

“You never did ask me about my last name,” she said, as she turned to look to him again. “The town was named after my family and not after the president as they claim. My real name was Maggie Madison. But no one remembers that. My daddy took on the name after leaving there on his trek to the west. That picture was actually my wedding picture, to Jeremy. We had one night together before he left. Most people didn’t even realize we had actually gotten married and thought I had just taken on his name in remembrance of him. You’ll find the wedding certificate among the papers you found. But if you’ll excuse me now, I must lay down. You may take the papers with you if you wish.”  

With the information at hand, Jason returned to the library where he began some extra research, using the internet as well as the town’s archives. Soon the whole truth about the history of Maggie Madison came to light. Jason sat staring at the information he uncovered, stunned. He grabbed up the papers and rushed over to Maggie’s home. She sat, as usual, in her rocking chair. She seemed more pale then normal, and much quieter. 

“No need to tell me what I already know, young man,” she replied, smiling.  

The news spread like wildfire, changing the course of the celebrations. Maggie Madison died that day and was buried at the old cemetery, next to the graves of her parents. And Jason was welcomed as the long lost son, which in fact he was. The feeling of familiarity Maggie had felt was easy to explain, since he was the great grandson of Maggie’s daughter Madeline.

This story I first wrote on Oktober 2007 for a writing competition in Journalspace. We were given the word „Madison“ to write about….. and this was my solution.


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Dance of the fireflies

“Do you want to?” John asked as he drove back toward the village where Sarah lived.
“Well, the weather looks promising,” she replied, knowing exactly what he meant.
It was a midsummer night and the weather was soft and warm, not hot, one of those lovely nights that invited romance.
Anyone who had observed them during their romantic dinner would have thought they were newlyweds. They had seemed oblivious to their surroundings, to the other customers of the well visited restaurant, to the trees of the nearby forest. Yet their relationship had already lasted over five years, five years of the usual ups and downs that life tends to throw at you. But they were like a unit, always knowing what the other was thinking. They almost didn’t need to speak words out loud.
Just before sunset they had decided to leave. Holding hands, they had climbed into John’s Toyota 4-Runner and driven off.
Not too distant was their favorite spot, a small clearance in a forest just east of the village. They had been there a few times, taking short walks or just gazing at the evening stars.
The parking lot was, as usual at this hour, empty. They parked and were just about to get out when they noticed them… one, two, three… there, another one! Fireflies! All around them the little points of light danced.
“There must be a nest somewhere!” John laughed.
They left the car and walked along a nearby path, watching the dancing fireflies, listening to the noises of the night.
John drew her closer to him, searching with his lips for her mouth. He loved her kisses, almost as much as she enjoyed his. His hand held her thigh, then slowly moved up toward the seam of her mini skirt. He wondered whether she had dared leave her panties off today, which she had sometimes done in the past. Yes, she had, and soon he was caressing her well formed, naked rear and he pressed her tighter toward him.
“We had better get back to the car”, he said, as he noticed the air getting cooler and the sweat of their bodies increasing. “I don’t want you catching a chill.”
They slowly walked back to the car. Everywhere the fireflies were still dancing, entertaining the two lovers as they stood next to the car and watched. The car was between them and the entrance of the parking lot. It was still empty of any other intruders, except for them and the fireflies.
Their kisses increased, getting more intensive, their hands exploring and caressing the others’ body. Sarah had her back against the car. John had already slipped down his jeans. Soon the heat was really up, not only weather wise. Their passion soared with each passing second, while the fireflies continued to dance around them. They were about to climax, about to reach the ecstasies of love.
Suddenly a light flashed. The headlights of a car appeared near by through the trees. Instead of turning off to a nearby road, the headlights beamed into the clearance. Sarah and John froze. The driver though seemed to notice the black Toyota. He immediately reversed and drove off in the direction he had come (how considerate), surely quite disappointed to find the parking lot already occupied.
“Damn!” said John, not knowing whether to be angry or start laughing. “Couldn’t they have arrived 30 seconds later?” he exclaimed, as he felt the moisture running down his legs. Still holding her tight, he took a deep sigh.
“Oh, well,” said Sarah, trying to keep back a laugh, “there will be a next time I’m sure. And perhaps again with those romantic dancing fireflies.” They got into the car and drove home.
It wasn’t until months later that they found time to visit the parking lot again. This time they didn’t find any fireflies, only another car sitting in the parking lot in the dark. It was their turn to spoil someone else’s fun!

The above story was first written in August 2006…..

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