FICTION: A Haunted Holiday

After abducting Cadet Streeter and leaving him for dead in the cold woods at West Point, Buck and Fred Crenshaw go home to celebrate Christmas.

Buck sat by the frosty upstairs  window at Grandmother Martha’s house in dread. The gash over his eye pulsed red and swollen. He fingered the soft scarf wrapped around the stitched-up mess of an incision on his neck, shivering as the snow changed to a mix of rain and sleet.

Tired horses slid the bright sleds carrying his frozen parents and siblings up the drive of the estate in Peetzburg, a small farming town a few miles away from his family home in Englewood. Buck listened, wrapped in a rough wool blanket, as his parents trudged up the path bickering. Graham’s voice rose and fell one last time before knocking at the door of his boyhood home.

“Doctor Crenshaw! So good to see you!” Betty, Martha Crenshaw’s housemaid, gushed.

“Betty, how very nice to see you.” Graham held out his hand.

Betty, pushing his hand away, gave the doctor a hug. “Oh, it’s been a lifetime—since the deaths of your brothers– that we’ve celebrated Christmas together!” she said, laughing and crying.

Seward Crenshaw, Graham’s stepfather, had freed his family’s slaves long ago, but they’d stayed on as hired help.

Betty pulled the doctor. “Come in out of the weather. What a nice surprise for us with poor Buck and Fred already here.”

Margaret ignored Betty and pushed past. Thankful lowered her head and followed her mother.

“Where are my two big boys? I want to see them!” Margaret called in her booming voice.

The door to the wood-paneled sitting room with its large, stone fireplace opened and the hall reflected the blaze from the flames in the hearth. Martha Crenshaw dressed, as usual, in a slate gray gown with her hair braided in a severe bun. She stepped out of Margaret’s way with an imperious glance toward her son Graham as he hung his wet things in the entrance way.

“Merry Christmas,” Graham mumbled to himself. “Same shit as ever.”

Margaret, with her massive skirts, sent loose things tumbling as she brushed against delicate tables in her race to find her two wronged sons. “Oh, dear boys, come to Mama and let me touch you to know you’re real and not a dream!”

Buck, who’d come down the back staircase stood thin and pale. The Crenshaw children carried themselves with dignity, and beauty ran in the blood. Buck’s present condition was an affront to how the family saw itself.

Margaret and Thankful embraced Buck with quick stiffness.

“Oh, my darling, Fred!” Margaret sobbed turning to the more robust of the twins.

Fred threw his cigar into the fire with a rakish grin and strode up to his mother, shoving Buck aside. He kissed Margaret. “Mama, you look like an angel.”

Martha’s eyes betrayed her lack of patience for Fred’s fawning. Graham shook his head in annoyed silence.

“I want to announce here and now to my loving family that neither Buck nor I had any role to play in the horrible trouble that has come upon the Negro cadet,” Fred said. “We are made scapegoats for the newspapers. It’s a disgrace how we’ve been treated, and I intend to fight all charges!”

“Of course you’ll fight any injustice heaped upon you, Freddie. And that’s what makes Mama proud.” Margaret pulled both of her boys close. “Aren’t we proud of our sons, Graham?”

“I’ll reserve judgment until I hear the full account. You say it will all come out in the papers?” Graham asked.

“Is that all you care about?” Margaret cried. “The papers? Look at poor Buck! His wound is an awful mess all because of some darkie. As a doctor you should be appalled at the sight of him—I am!”

“Maybe Buck looks so unwell because his conscience pricks him,” Graham replied.

“Just like you to believe the worst about us and on Christmas, too,” Fred said, tossing his head.

“Fred is right, Graham. Be fair,” Margaret urged.

Buck said nothing, but edged nearer to Thankful.

She pouted, but after one look into Buck’s violet eyes Thankful relented. “Were you cruel to that cadet?” she whispered.

“No more than to any other,” Buck croaked, his voice still recovering. “It’s just he’s a stupid nig–”

“What did you say?” Graham asked, turning around with his head cocked in anger.

Buck went paler still.

“Are you some ignorant piece of trash to bring that language home to your sister?” Graham ranted.

“I’m sorry, Father, but that’s what they call him,” Buck replied.

“Fred, is this true?”

“A spade’s a spade,” Fred said with a smirk.

“You think you’re very clever, Fred, but someday you’ll get yours,” Graham warned.

“How dare you wish ill fortune on our son!” Margaret cried, pulling Fred closer to smooth a stray curl at his temple.

“I don’t wish it. I dread it, but it will surely come,” Graham replied.

“At West Point, Father, there’s no room for sentimentality towards the colored race,” Fred said, with his usual smugness. “If they’re to make it, they must prove themselves equal and so far, in my opinion, they haven’t.”

“And why, Fred, is it your mission to interfere and set obstacles? Don’t you have studies?” Graham asked.

“Father, you must remember—even with all of your outside interests—that I rank second in my year.”

“Well, why not first?” Graham asked.

“Don’t be a humbug. First, second, it’s all the same really,” Fred said as he helped his mother to a seat near the fire.

“Yes, and we are off the subject. I’m disgusted by the brief report I’ve read about the two of you. I was under the impression that West Point was training you to be gentlemen,” Graham said. He grabbed a crystal decanter filled with scotch and poured a large tumbler.

“Yes. We’re taught to be white,” Fred said.

“Excuse me?” Graham held his drink mid-air.

“It’s cant, Father, slang,” Buck said. “To be a gentleman . . .”

“Graham, the military is turning our good boys into I don’t know what!” Margaret complained, smoothing her skirt.

“All of my sons served in the military,” Grandmother Martha said, “and if nothing else, they were gentlemen and humanitarians. They fought for equality even though the rest of Jersey were against it during the war!”

“Oh, come now, Grammy. Even the Massachusetts boys want nothing to do with the colored cadets—and their families were abolitionists of the worst sort!” Fred said.

“I was an abolitionist!” Martha reminded her grandson.

“And why do you still keep Betty? And why do we have Lucretia?” Fred asked.

“Lucretia and Betty are paid handsomely for their services and are free to leave and seek work elsewhere,” Graham replied.

“Handsomely? I know what they make—at least Lucretia—less than a private in the army and with no chance of promotion,” Fred said with a sneer.

“We pay above the going rate!” Graham said. “And I won’t allow you to compare Betty or Lucretia to slaves—are privates in the army slaves?”

“In the end, Father, I’d rather not turn the holidays into a trial. We’ll win our case in the new year if it comes to that. Not a single witness would dare come forward against me.”

“What are you saying?” Graham asked.

“I just mean to say that . . . that no one would dare present false testimony. Cadets pride themselves on honesty. As an upperclassman, I have done what’s best for the institution and Cadet Streeter,” Fred said. “He should have gone home long before getting drunk and almost killing himself walking the Palisades alone at night.”

“Must we only talk about ugly things when it’s Christmas? Let’s not ruin things for Martha. She must have plans of her own and looks worn out. Are you tired, dear?” Margaret asked.

“No, I’m not tired, Margaret. It’s more that I am disgusted by my grandchildren and their clear lack of remorse.”

“Everyone at the Point is against us because we’re not rich,” Fred contended.

“See, Graham, I told you they need more money!” Margaret scolded.

“Stop this nonsense—we give them all the money they’re permitted to have in their accounts!” Graham replied. “I don’t know why you boys came here and got your grandmother involved.”

“Fred figured you’d never come here for us since you’re huffed at Grammy,” Buck said.

Fred shot him a menacing look.

“I’d be happy enough if you all stayed away,” Martha said. “I hate to be reminded of my failures, but I suppose I have to put you all up for the night.”

“Oh, no-no-no, WE are leaving at once,” Margaret said.

“Don’t be a fool, Margaret. I’m not driving in this weather at night,” Graham said.

Fred rolled his eyes. “You’d never do as a soldier, Father.”

“Fred, you ignorant, obnoxious fool,” his grandmother said. “As smart as you think you are you should know that your mother will come down with an obscure ailment if she sits in the weather too long. Your father is using good judgment for a change.” Martha sent the grown children to bed upstairs in the rooms that once belonged to her sons.

“Land sakes, this room is a tundra!” Thankful whispered.

“Befitting the old ice witch, herself,” Buck grumbled with a weak laugh and cough.

Fred snored, peaceful as a kitten on the little cot next to the bed Buck lay upon. Thankful jumped from her cot and got in beside Buck for warmth. “Shove over, Buck and shh! Grammy will hear us laughing and give us the lash!”

Thankful teased him the way she used to, but Buck was grim. “Thankful, this time I really think I’m done in with Fred. I feel sort of bad about it.”

“Well, that’s new—you feeling bad,” Thankful laughed. “But not to worry—Fred never catches it.”

“That’s what I’m thinking about. Fred’s on a mission and now I’m tangled in it and I don’t think it’s good.”

Thankful giggled. “You look eight years old in that cap. Does it hurt? Your head I mean?”

“No. Well, yes it does. But don’t tell. It’s embarrassing. I wish I were eight again. I could just do things different.”

Thankful pat his shoulder dreamily. “The past is done. Good night.”

Buck sighed. “Thanks for those words of wisdom.” He closed his eyes, knowing he would not sleep. He hadn’t for months. Buck slid from bed and pulled out the chair tucked beneath his father’s childhood desk covered with rocks and bones. He shivered before the window and stared out at the frozen countryside.

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw and his misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

















**Featured Image: Giuseppe De Nittis – Winter Landscape [c.1880] Flickr.com



What would you do if you saw a person you knew as an acquaintance being taken away by two strange men?

John Price escaped from slavery in 1856 with few skills and in sorry health. When the residents of the utopian Christian town of Oberlin, Ohio took him in, they found Price odd jobs and had him stay at various homes realizing Price didn’t have the strength or skill set to make it further up the Underground Railroad.

As the leaves turned on a chilly fall day in 1858 an Oberlin teenager picked up Price who’d been gathering potatoes on a freedman’s farm at the edge of town, for Oberlin was fully integrated and strongly abolitionist. Oberlin had been established by two Presbyterians who believed that Christians needed to work out their salvation by living a truly righteous life–one that advocated freedom for slaves. Oberlin College was open to men of all races and their town had hidden many runaway slaves.

Let us stop to wonder about men who establish towns. From scratch.

Sometimes I fear I may offend a random visitor to my blog who hates Christians. This random visitor may see my favorite Bible quote , “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 and dismiss me as one of those people.

It’s obvious that I don’t have the moral courage to form a town based on my understanding of Christianity. I doubt I’d even have the courage to wear a t-shirt proclaiming my belief in the sanctity of all life (it helps ease my conscience that I look terrible in t-shirts, but still.). The men and women at Oberlin didn’t have to wear t-shirts. Their acts of courage and commitment were the greatest form of advertisement for the Good News of JC (I often cringe at saying Jesus Christ out loud).

My blog is a small one and I think it would be fair to admit that the likelihood of real harm coming to me for mentioning my Christian beliefs is relatively small and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but my ego is big. But enough about me.🙂

John Price, the runaway slave picking potatoes, rides along with the teenager from Oberlin. The teenager slows his horse as another carriage approaches with two strange men. The men are slave hunters. They capture Price quite easily since the teenager is an accomplice in the kidnapping. Further down the road two white students from Oberlin pass the carriage carrying Price back to slavery. Price calls out to them in their buggy, but they turn their eyes away.

Ansel Lyman, one of the students in the buggy runs through the town of Oberlin upon his return with news of Price’s kidnapping, and the town comes alive. As men and women race toward Wellington, some with guns, the crowd grows as news of the kidnapping spreads. No one sits at home watching TV or watching their fireplaces.

In Wellington the slave catchers and Price watch from their hotel as the crowds gather. The catchers are armed of course but they fear their fate will be the same as the building across the way which happened to burn down that morning. I imagine this was a bit more than the catchers bargained for. The Dred Scott decision had made it legal to catch slaves in free states.

The people of Oberlin considered the Scott decision unconstitutional and morally wrong as did many brave souls in the North. Here we must remember that abolitionists were painted as extremists. Most people chose peace over righteousness.  I wonder if I would have done the same. I like staying home before the fire.

400px-oberlinrescuersRumors spread that the army will be called in. A few good men with guns rescue Price. A freedman eventually gets Price to Canada, but the incident challenges the nation.

The Rescuers as the men who stormed the hotel and hid Price are now called are marched to stand trial before a jury and judge of the Democratic persuasion who hate abolitionists. Two men are tried and both are found guilty. All the others after the judge frees them on bail refuse to pay and spend time in the jail across the courtyard. The head of the jail happens to support abolition and opens the place to visitors. At first it’s just the families of the men but before long people from across the North journey to support the abolitionists. Black and white men and women flood the area united against immoral and corrupt government policies and actions.

The Democrats‘ worst nightmare comes true. War is just around the corner, but forgive them for not knowing it just yet.


**Featured image of John Mercer Langston, a lawyer and Oberlin’s town clerk, came from a family of abolitionists. His brother Charles and his brother-in-law O.S.B. Wall were among the town’s residents who rescued John Price from a slave-catcher.

Oberlin College Archives, Oberlin, Ohio




FICTION: Two Roads Diverge In The Snowy Woods

The road less traveled isn’t always a good one.

Buck’s parents stayed at the Hotel Thayer during his recovery. After a week Margaret had the look of a child kept in at recess.

“Graham, won’t he ever speak up again?” Margaret whispered. “He had such a manly voice like my brothers.”

Graham shook his head. “Buck, you’re up and alive much faster than anyone would have dreamed. For that we must be thankful.”

But Buck hadn’t a mind for gratitude. He returned to class with great fanfare. Sympathy poured out on him now that hadn’t dared express itself in summer. Buck shook it off like a rooster cleaning its feathers. Drill and artillery kept his attention, but not much else.

Fred, making use of the many plebes eager to bone popularity with upperclassmen, ordered them to find and deface anything of Streeter’s. They tripped him in line and spilled his food, but Streeter remained solid and nothing satisfied Fred quite enough. Streeter’s grades held slightly above average, and he conducted himself with a calm assuredness.

Exams now loomed right before the holidays. Fred, making a surprise visit to Buck’s room, found his brother, blouse untucked and face unshaven, staring at a piece of string on his desk.

“Buck, old fellow, have you finished your studies?”

Buck shifted in his seat. He opened his mouth, but Fred must strain to hear. “I was about to . . .” Buck crumpled a piece of stationary and threw it towards the wastebasket, missing.

“This room is a cesspool, Buck.”


Fred sighed. “Get dressed.”

Buck made no effort to move.

“Buck, there’s something I need you to do tonight. We should have done it long ago.”

Buck tried to speak, but hacked up phlegm and spit into a teacup.

Fred shook his head at the cup. “An officer has to be able to shout out orders, Buckie. Damn, this is a sorry state of affairs altogether. Get up now.”

Fred wrapped Buck’s neck with a scarf retrieved from the pile of clothes on his bed and flopped the soft hat Thankful had sent on Buck’s head.

Buck pulled on his coat and followed Fred to Streeter’s room.

“All you have to do is pretend, yet again, that you forgive him, Buck.”

“No!” Buck squeaked.

“Oh, don’t worry. Streeter will believe you. After all you’ve got a track record for such stupidity,” Fred said and slapped Buck’s shoulder.

Buck shoved his hands in his pockets.

“So, you’ll get him to come into the dark, and I’ll take it from there. This prank will surely make Streeter think twice about staying at the academy.”

“Will you be satisfied then?” Buck whispered.

“We will be more than satisfied,” Fred replied. “Now go make friends again and do it fast. I have plans for later.”


“Ha-ha. I’ve finished my studies days ago. I have my priorities straight, Buck Crenshaw—now go!”

Fred met with two plebes at the end of the hall and walked out into the night. Buck turned back to the closed door and knocked.

“Buck!” Streeter let him in. Through the window a carpet of shine covered the stone structures of the academy as snow fell.

“Streeter, I. . .”

“Buck, you know, I’ve only stayed on here in hopes that you would forgive me. I figured that if you could hold up maybe I would try as well.”

Buck considered escaping back to his room, but knew that he must stop being so drawn in by people. Buck was still trying to convince himself of this as they came out into the wintry landscape. Fred and his friends jumped Streeter, pulling a pillowcase over his head.

“Buck!” Streeter cried, but Fred said, “Remember how he abandoned you!”

They dragged Streeter along the steep little paths where the young ladies picked flowers in summer. Buck followed a few paces behind. So far nothing too terrible happened and Buck felt a small thrill seeing Streeter roughed up and frightened. He almost enjoyed being a part of something with his brother again.

After a long march, they came to a very secret place. No one spoke. One of the cadets, a pudgy and pathetic plebe, who couldn’t hold fast to even one friend, produced a rope and knife. They pulled Streeter’s boots off, throwing them into the soggy underbrush. Tying his ankles together, they nicked him with the knife when cutting the rope a few times.

“Fred,” Buck wheezed.

“Shut up, Buck!” Fred yelled as he yanked rope around Streeter’s wrists. He pulled out his own knife and again cut Streeter.

“Stop it!” Buck whispered and pulled Fred by the shoulder.

Fred shoved Buck back. The plebes dragged Streeter and kicked him a few times. Fred laughed. “Come now, Buck, be a man for once in your life! You’re so damned soft—like Father and Uncle Oliver, too! You’ll never get a girl now the way you look and think about your career—what he’s done to it! Be a man!”

Buck ran up and kicked Streeter’s body with everything he had in him, just once. He heard a rib crack, but Streeter didn’t cry out. Fred and the others laughed.

“Fred, this is wrong,” Buck said.

“You’re a caution, Buckie, after just breaking his bones!”

The plebes pulled Streeter up, only to knock him down again and the pillowcase slipped off exposing Streeter’s terrified expression.

“He won’t be making exams in the morning, I figure. Come on fellows. Let’s go for drinks at Benny Haven’s. Leave him. We’ll have him fetched after our tests,” Fred said.

“But it’s too cold,” Buck said.

“Stop being a mother hen. Streeter wants to be in the army so bad, let him see what it’s like in Dakota.” Fred walked off.

Buck followed, quietly protesting, but he glanced back as the two plebes rolled Streeter over the Palisades.

“Oh, God!” Buck ran to the ledge.

Streeter’s body lay precariously on a narrow bit of rock five yards below.

“He’s dead!” Fred exclaimed. “What the hell did you go and do that for, boys?”

Buck caught a satisfaction in Fred’s tone that shocked him. “We’re murderers!” Buck cried.

Fred slapped him hard. “No. It was an accident. He slipped. That’s all.” Fred scurried down the slick ridge to Streeter, untied him and threw the ropes as far off into the night as he could.

“But Fred, the boots and the cuts! And I was the last to be seen with him!”

“Speak up, you fool. I’m tired of this act! We’ll say that you and Streeter were drunk.”

“Drunk? Everyone will know it’s a lie!”

Fred shook Buck. “I can’t hear you when you whisper. Everyone will be happy—don’t you see that?”

“Fred, I don’t see it.”

“Then you are no cadet. It’s too late to change anything. We’ll say that Streeter must have lost his way in the woods.”

Streeter moaned. The plebes ran.

“God damn those idiots!” Fred complained. “Well, maybe we should send him over the edge and put him out of his misery.”

“We have to save him! This is too much!” Buck choked out.

Voices called from the woods.

“It’s the guard!” Fred threw his knife over the cliff and ran with Buck following.

It was long after midnight when Buck came back to his room. Carter was awake. By the light of a candle Buck pulled his boots off and wiped the mud and snow from them. His coat, scarf and hat, he kept on, but still he quaked in the cold.

“Buck,” Carter whispered, “is everything all right? Shall I make us tea?”

Buck threw his boots beneath his bed and climbed under the blankets. Carter slipped his feet into his old reveilles and came to sit beside Buck.

“Friend, where were you tonight?”
Buck’s insides roiled. “I was drinking.” His teeth chattered.

“Come now, how am I to believe it—with exams in a few hours,” Carter laughed.

“I was drinking—with Streeter—but he’s lost somehow—I don’t know how—or where,” Buck’s lips turned blue with terror. “The guard came, I guess. Well, we heard something or someone. Then I came home.”

His old friend surveyed him. “You’d never leave another cadet behind. Wait a minute; I see it clearly now. Bully for you—finally you’ve gotten Streeter back! So the guards will find him drunk, you say? Perfect! Well done, Buck. It took a while, but finally you got it right. I won’t say a word. Oh, so he’ll probably miss exams, too! Ha! This is just perfect.”

Buck turned to the wall.

“Oh, yes, you’re quite right, Buck; we must get our rest for tomorrow,” Carter said and walked to his side of the room. He turned back. “Buck, are you . . . feeling unwell? You’re not sick or anything?”

Buck waved him off in the half light.

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw and his misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”
















The Song Of The Lark

The Song of the Lark by Winslow Homer

“Quartering the topmost branches of one of the tall trees, an invisible bird was striving to make the day seem shorter, exploring with a long-drawn note the solitude that pressed it on every side, but it received at once so unanimous an answer, so powerful a repercussion of silence and of immobility, that one felt it had arrested for all eternity the moment which it had been trying to make pass more quickly.”  Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way



Testimony Farm

I shoot an envious glance towards this house every morning on the way to our foster girl’s school. The house has an elegant sign out front “Testimony Farm.” I can’t help but wonder about testimonies. The great thing about stories of calling or faith or redemption in public testimonies is that they have beginnings, middles and endings. Like this house everything appears tidy and finished. Of course it’s an illusion. Termites work, people die and houses crumble, but still . . . there is a longing for enduring testimonies that offer the assurance that one day we will be complete and all will be well with our souls.

Last night  our foster daughter (M) and I went on our bi-weekly sibling visit. M’s sisters were adopted only recently but we all knew it was coming and on this particular visit the sisters saw fit to make M feel how lucky they were and, by contrast, how sad they were for her. Kids do this to each other. One sibling emphasized the word “MOM” every time she spoke with her foster/new mom before turning to M to ask her if she was all right because it looked as though she might cry. M refused to be goaded.

As we sat in a quiet McDonald’s (because where else is there to take three young girls on a dark Monday night in Upstate New York) the girls repeatedly brought up their impending trip to Disney. “Wouldn’t you like to come with us, M?” one asked knowing it was impossible and seemed sort of gleeful about it. M let it slide.

As the adults chatted about watercolor paintings and anniversaries the girls laughed and joked. They sang made up songs to amuse each other until the youngest tugged her new mother’s sleeve and pulled her aside. “M said something inappropriate.”

I was pulled aside then. It seemed that M had made up a song about throwing babies in the trash. “Okay,” I said, “M often has a less than funny sense of humor and it’s usually related to anvil’s falling on people’s heads and car wrecks.”

The little girl peeked from behind her new mother. “M said she wanted to throw our new foster baby in the trash,” she whispered.

I didn’t believe her. Yeah, throwing a fictional baby in the trash isn’t a fantastic place to go with your jokes, but M spoke quite fondly of the new foster baby in her sisters’ family. I  went to M who sat watching the weather on the TV.

“Did you say you wanted to throw a baby in the trash?”

M said, “Yes. It was a joke in a song . . .” a look of panic flashed across her face as she glanced at her sister.

The sister’s new mom stepped in. “M, your sister says you wanted to put this baby in the trash . . .”

“No! She’s lying!”

The dinner ended abruptly, but as we walked to our cars the girls made sure to mention Disney one last time.

M stared after them as we pulled out of the parking lot and waved. They didn’t wave back. They didn’t see her.

I waited for M to say something. It came like a torrent. “Why do they get to go to Disney while we take care of stupid goats? I didn’t say I wanted to put a real baby in the trash and how come they look so pretty and I’m like trash? Everyone hates me at school and I try to be nice and they think I’m trash too. And my sisters hate my real mom and I love her even though she did bad things and why can’t you guys just adopt me already?” The talk went in long circles between sobs.

I said, “Well, M, I love you and don’t think you’re trash–it’s why I help you brush your hair in the morning.”

“Yeah, I know you love me, but no one else does!” More sobs. She settled down for a second. “But . . . when you get mad at me –when I do something–I think you might–you know–send me away and hate me–like trash.”

Trash was the word of the night.

We got home and M returned from her room after getting ready for bed. She was holding an mp3 player we bought her when she still lived at the group home. “I have this thing . . . and I’m afraid to tell you . . . but I recorded words I’m ashamed of and everyone’s gonna think I’m trash. The lady at the shelter said I should let out all my sexy thoughts–like what my mom did. I can’t get rid of the thoughts.”

“Wait, do you mean in your head or on the mp3 player?” I asked.

“Well, on the mp3 player which makes me think about it all.”

My husband sat reading about the CUBS. “Here, M, give me the player.” In about 2 seconds he figured out how to delete the offensive recordings. “All gone,” he said and tossed the thing back. ” Let’s just keep music on it from now on, okay?”

M nodded gratefully.

My husband of little words continued, “Oh, by the way. You do realize there’s no turning back. I spoke to your caseworker and the lawyer. The adoption is a done deal–just waiting for the paperwork.”

M covered her face and went to her room with her dog eagerly at her heels. We listened as she goofed around with the dog before falling asleep.

Today was M’s last visit with the psychiatrist. “I don’t see any reason for M to come anymore now that she’s off the meds. I see a bright future for her. One that I never would have forecast looking at her paperwork. I guess it was meant to be,” the doctor said. “Please let me know when the adoption goes through. M told me before you walked in that she loves you and your husband and that you love her so I’m done here.”

And there’s my testimony (for the moment).