Lonely in a Crowd

I spent most of the past three days alone, and I made an interesting discovery. It’s not being alone that makes me feel alone and lonely. It’s being with too many other people that makes me feel alone and lonely. Every grief upsurge I’ve had recently has come after spending too much time with people who don’t enrich my life. (I don’t mean you, of course!) So often when I am with others, I sit and listen. I can’t contribute anything to the conversation because they talk about things that have nothing to do with me or my life, nothing to do with anything but their own insular and insight-less agendas. So I sit. And listen. And slowly disappear.

ReadingA friend invited me to have Thanksgiving dinner with  her five-generation family, which was very nice, and I was invited to dinner and a movie Friday evening, but the rest of the time, I was alone. (Didn’t even have to see or hear my strange roommate because he’s gone for the week.) Yesterday I did nothing but read. Just lolled around with a book in one hand and fruit in the other, which made it a doubly fruitful day. Today was a repeat of yesterday, though I added a hike in the desert to round out my solitary festivities.

And I never once disappeared. Never had a single pang of loneliness.

As it turns out, this isn’t such a great discovery, this realization that other people make me feel lonely, because there’s not much I can do about it. Obviously, I can’t spend my life alone. (People need people. Isn’t that the general thrust of life, love, and happiness?) I suppose I could make an effort to talk more when I am in a crowd, maybe even try to steer the conversation to make it more about me, but if I had anything to contribute, I would already be commenting. The sad truth is, I have nothing to say. (Which is why I so seldom blog any more. No insights, no interesting observations, no emotional highs or lows to ponder makes for mighty boring reading.) Admittedly, most people have no problem talking when they have nothing to say, but I have never quite mastered the art of talking to no purpose. Pointless conversation seems . . . pointless.

Anyway, this is not the week to worry about such things. My belly dance class will be performing a couple of numbers in a dance program at the local college this coming weekend. I’ll be with people most of the time — dance classes in the morning, rehearsals in the afternoon or performances in the evening, so I’ll set this conundrum aside for another time and simply enjoy being part of this special event.


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

The Truly Creative Mind

A couple of weeks ago, I was discussing my work-in-progress with a friend. This WIP is about a murder in the studio where we take dance classes, and my idea is that each of us should have an unconscious hand in the murder. Ideally, each of our flaws would become a fatal flaw. For example, if one person hadn’t been late, if another person hadn’t left something behind, if a third hadn’t picked up something by accident, the poor woman wouldn’t have died.

We discussed possible flaws to assign to our classmates, then my friend said, “You know what’s wrong with you, don’t you.” I gave a rueful smile because I knew what she was going to say even before she said it: “You’re too sensitive.” (I don’t know how to work sensitivity into the story equation, so for now, I’m thinking my character’s flaw will be disdain, which I have to confess I sometimes feel when people say things that are patently untrue.)

This seems to be the consensus nowadays, that I’m too sensitive. I take things to heart, am sensitive to slights, hurt terribly by unintended insults, feel unfairness no matter who it’s directed at, wounded by disloyalty, and being ignored or shot down when I speak silences me completely.

I’m not sure why my sensitivity bothers others, but there it is. It would be a lot more comfortable for all concerned, of course, if I were able to accept with insouciance what anyone said to me, and yet, sensitivity has always been part of me. Grief blew whatever defenses I’d built to smithereens, and now everything bothers me, partly because I think people should feel honored that I have deigned to spend time with them. (I’m joking, of course, though there is an uncomfortable kernel of truth to the matter.)

To be honest, I’m not sure what being less sensitive will gain me. Why would I want to feel less? To insulate myself from unpleasantness? To ignore nuances of voice (both complimentary and chastising)? To accept other people’s view of the situation as the only reality?

I read something when I was a very young girl that has stuck with me throughout the decades because it seemed to be about me. I found this quote in the forward of a Pearl S. Buck book. (I was a precocious reader, having read everything in the children’s library by the time I was in second grade and everything in the young adult library before the fourth grade).

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.” —Pearl S. Buck.

I’m not as hypersensitive as Pearl Buck, at least not anymore, but I was that sensitive as a child and a young woman, and apparently, I am heading once again in that direction. I have a hunch this sensitivity is something that being so connected to Jeff all those years protected me from, because I didn’t feel so abnormally sensitive when he was alive. His presence seemed to give me a safe place to “incubate,” to be myself without fretting about my difference from everyone else (because I was like him). Then later, his long illness dropped me into a period of dormancy, of numbness, of simply getting through the days, weeks, years.

And now? Without the cocoon of our relationship or the numbness of his dying, I am thrown once more into the world to deal with life however I can, to feel whatever I can. I seem to have fallen into a period of relative joylessness, but one day, the joy will return, and what will I have gained if I have learned to shut myself off from my sensitivities?

Of course, if people considered my feelings first, debates about my hypersensitivity would be moot. And since that will not happen, all I can do is deal with the fallout as best as I can with walks and tears and chocolate. And blogging.


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

Me? Cantankerous?

I have a hunch I am not going to be a sweet old lady when I become elderly, one of those geriatric dears everyone loves because . . . well, I don’t know why people like them. I just know I’m not going to be one of them. I’m going to be the crotchety old crank who won’t give an inch, and who has nothing but contempt for the fools who manage to find their way into her orbit.

Oh, wait. I am that crank now.

After class today (where I kept my mouth shut when our exercises were interrupted with a political harangue by a woman who didn’t know what the hell she was talking about), we went to a nearby restaurant for lunch. We all ordered the same thing, windexcept I added an extra condiment, which made my bill 80 cents more than everyone else’s. But I was charged almost $2.00 more. I pointed out the discrepancy, and the cashier told me they gave me the same discount they gave everyone else. I tried to explain that they gave me a 10% discount on one item, not the total bill. I should have just shut up and let the matter go, but the more the two young women ganged up on me, arguing that they were right, the more I dug in my heels. I can’t say it was the money that bothered me, can’t even say it was the principle of the thing. It was simply a matter of their rudeness and their refusal to concede they might be wrong. (The way I see it, the world would be a lot better off if people just listened to me. :-) )

And I was cranky.

After all that, I didn’t feel like eating, so I told them to give me my money back. They said they couldn’t do that — the manager would have to do a refund, but the manager wasn’t there. So I took the food home and gave it to my very strange roommate.

I apologized to my companions for making a scene. My dance teacher said I had to calm down, I’ve been too nervous lately. She asked if I were worried about our upcoming belly dance performance or my trip, and I said no, though the truth is, upon reflection, I find I am nervous about both things.

I enjoy our small performances, but the big productions we participate in at the college a couple times a year are not fun for me. It’s a huge commitment of time (for example, on dress rehearsal day we are there from about 1:30pm to 10:30pm, though we are on stage approximately 6 minutes total for our two dances.) There is a level of competence expected that I so often cannot meet and, for some reason, this year I have become self-conscious about how I look on stage. It didn’t bother me the first time we did a belly dance, mostly because for me it was about laying it all out there, saying “this is me.” But that was then, and this is now. I am two years older, no thinner, and I hear the echo of a friend telling me after our last performance that we looked ridiculous, us older folk among the energetic college kids. (A friend I’ve since dropped.)

And I am having second thoughts about taking a trip in winter in an El Nino year. It is frigid here in the desert, the winds have been fierce, and there seems to be more precipitation than normal, which makes me wonder what it will be like elsewhere. I worry about traveling in unsafe conditions, especially since drivers lately seem to have gone berserk. Three times today alone, drivers moved into my lane with apparently no sense I was there. Luckily, all three times, I was able to move into the next lane or slow down without incident.

So yes, I am a bit anxious, though not enough to be losing sleep over. Mostly, I’m just cantankerous.

Want to make something of it?


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

What Pain Are You Willing to Embrace?

When I was young, I thought it unfair that those who liked physical activity, who preferred sports and exercise and dancing to all other activity, should reap the rewards of beautiful bodies and glowing health. We bookworms might have reaped the rewards of a deeper empathy, but who cared about that? Though we had sluggish bodies with low energy reserves that were easily depleted, we were always urged into doing what didn’t come naturally, as if the athletic folk were somehow superior. And maybe they were, but they were only doing what came naturally, as did those of us who read.

wantIt still don’t think it fair that both groups do what comes naturally, but if we in the non-athletic group want to achieve better health or better muscle tone, we have to put ourselves through a regimen that is not only beyond our meager physical resources, but sometimes downright painful. I don’t believe the good things in life should be accompanied by pain, especially because if it’s a pain we cannot like, we will soon give up.

For a long time, I followed groups of women on Facebook who thru-hiked (or attempted to thru-hike) the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail, and so often it seemed that those who finished the hikes were those who loved the challenge of the trail and who enjoyed even the pain of it. (And apparently, there is a lot of pain to work through, which is why thru-hiking is as much a mental challenge as it is physical.)

This is National Novel Writing Month, where perhaps millions of “book athletes” are running their own sort of marathon, attempting to write 50,000 thousand words in a single month. Oddly, though I am a writer, such an effort is beyond my imaginational resources, and is even painful. There is no way I can dredge that many cohesive words out of the depths of my mind and there is no way I can focus on the story for so long. My untrained mind begins to wander. And so does my untrained body.

I recently read an article that claimed it is the pain we are willing to sustain, the pain we want in our life that determines our happiness. Those who love working out in the gym or running marathons or dancing until their feet bleed, will be rewarded with gorgeous bodies, good health, and grace. Those who love writing for hours on end will be rewarded with a finished book at the end of a month.

Me? I never liked pain of any kind, though I am willing to make an effort. I enjoy physical activity, such as dancing and walking, but when it gets to the point of pain, I lose interest. (Which is probably a good thing since so often pain means damage and sustained pain means irreparable damage.) I do write, but only what I like and when I like. (Even though I know the sort of books that would catapult me to the level of being able to support myself through writing, I can’t sustain the emptiness and pain that kind of writing would bring me. The people who get the rewards from writing those books are the ones who love it.) I had considered doing NaNoWriMo, but here it is, the second half of the month, and I pretty much forgot to do it. (That’s my problem. I forget. Once upon a time, I ran a mile every day, but then life took a different turn, and I simply forgot to get out in the morning and run. It took me years before I remembered, and by then it was too late.)

Luckily, with both walking and dancing, many of the rewards come from effort and dedication and concentration rather than sustained pain.

Still, I do accomplish some things while avoiding pain. I have written hundreds of thousands of words and walked thousands of miles. I’ve learned dances and even danced on stage.

My life is not pain free, of course. No matter how much I have tried to avoid pain and embrace comfort, pain came anyway. (After a certain age, aches are a given.) Oddly, because of it, I am now more wiling to do things that might be painful than I once was, but even so, pain is not something I value.

And anyway, maybe the point is not pain so much as energy, not what pain we are willing to sustain, but what sort of energy we have to spend. Some people simply do not have the energy resources for a physical life. Some simply do not have the energy resources for a mental life.

But somehow, we all muddle through, doing the best we can, doing what comes naturally, even doing a bit that doesn’t come naturally.


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

Anti-Loneliness Plan

I went walking in the desert yesterday, the first time since I left my father’s house. It was easy to get to the open space when I lived within walking distance, but now that I am ten miles away, it’s harder to find the motivation to drive to “my” part of the desert. I always thought it silly to drive to a place of exercise, but in this case, it’s not exercise I needed. Well, I did need it. Let’s just say I needed more than exercise, like a feeling of connection to the world.

I’ve been feeling my aloneness lately, more so than usual, been feeling disconnected, and I simply cannot let my gloom (as one friend called it) continue past the point where I can handle it. So I worked on my book a bit in the morning to get my mind off myself, which was sort of a silly plan because the book is mostly about me. (Apparently, I am becoming the main character since my character is the only one who is connected to all the other characters.) But writing did help. And it helped give me the energy I needed to get in the car and drive to the desert.

The desert worked its magic. (Well, except for the part where my knees were scraped from a slide down a loose gravelly slope and my shoulders ached from the use of the Pacerpoles. The poles help take the weight off the lower joints, but the weight has to go somewhere.) As I picked my way along the rocky trail, stopping periodically to feast my eyes on the hills, I realized what the problem has been. It’s been a year since my father died, and such anniversaries are always difficult. From the beginning I’ve had a harder time dealing with his death than I expected because we weren’t particularly close, but we did live together in relative peace for almost five years. And his death, like the death of my life mate/soul mate, catapulted me out of my status quo and into a different life.

That I am in a different life has been masked by various circumstances. I spent the first six month in his house, cleaning out his things and getting the house ready for sale. Three of the next months were spent with friends and three were spent housesitting, so now is the first time I am truly feeling the effects of my aloneness.

Oddly, this sort of profound aloneness is what I expected to feel on my trip, especially if/when I am camping by myself, but since I seldom can guess how I will feel ahead of time, I have a hunch the trip will make me feel connected. But what do I know? I’m just a woman tossed on the grief heap and left to make my way however I can.

A further complication leading to a feeling of disconnect is that I’m currently rationed when it comes to the internet (which has always been a place of refuge for me) because all I have is the data on my phone to get me through the lonely times. Consequently, those times seem to loom greater than they normally would. There is enough data for me to post to my blog, so maybe I should try to go back to blogging every day despite not having anything to say. When did having nothing to say ever stop me before? (Be forewarned!)

I also had another rather mundane revelation while out walking — I leave on my extended trip in just a month, so I better start figuring out what sort of food to bring! I’ll be staying with various people along the way, so I’m sure I won’t starve, but I also need to take the time to visit national parks and forests, to hike in various locales, to camp when I can or must, so having supplies will be important. Because I’ll be in my car, canned goods won’t be a problem, and I will have my backpacking stove if I need to cook something, so I’ll be able to bring anything, even a bit of fresh food. Might be an interesting experience. I’ve never bought food for a camping trip before.

So, here’s the plan — walk more, write, blog, stockpile food, and stop reading as much. (Yep, reading is something else that makes me feel disconnected, though reading was the only way I managed to get through my lonely childhood. Now, for some reason, reading depresses me, maybe because the characters get together, which makes me feel sad for myself, or they don’t get together, which makes me feel sad for them.)

None of this will erase the fact of my aloneness, but it will help me forget it.

I’ll let you know what happens.


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

Late Night Loneliness

I’ve hit a stage in my grief/life process that I truly do not know how to handle — my almost total aloneness. I have close friends, even one who introduces me to people as her adopted sister, but no one of my own, no one who connects me to life on a profound level. Most people seem to have someone to anchor them to life — a spouse or life companion, a son or daughter, a parent — but here I sit, alone with my tears — no one to smile at me, to touch me, to check up on me to make sure I’m okay. If I were to get sick or incapacitated, if there were some sort of emergency in the early morning hours, there’s no one I could call to come help.

chainThere are people in my life. Friends. A couple of siblings who contact me occasionally. And people all around the world care for me — in fact, I will soon be meeting some of those people — but they are either living with their “anchors” or are struggling with their own particular brand of aloneness.

How does one do this, this being so alone? I don’t know.

The funny thing is I never wanted to spend my life with anyone. I figured I’d always be alone, and I was comfortable with my aloneness and loneliness. Until one day I wasn’t. And there Jeff was. (I found out many years later that about that same time, Jeff was feeling lonely, wishing he had someone of his own, and suddenly there I was.)

Throughout all the years of grief, I told myself to just hang on, that eventually the pain would diminish, and I would be okay. Well, the pain did diminish, I’ve mostly gotten used to his being gone, and I am okay — no major traumas or exhausting dramas complicate my life. But oh, that late night loneliness is a killer.

I don’t even have a place — an apartment or home base of some kind — to anchor me. This is by choice because I know I would close in on myself if I were to settle into my aloneness. (People keep telling me that I wouldn’t, but the truth is, it’s happening now.) I’m sure this unsettledness is exacerbating my loneliness at the moment. Eventually, I hope to break out of this loneliness/aloneness and into a new world of experience (or do I mean a world of new experience?), but for now, all I can do is hold on and hope I don’t drift too far from any feeling of connectedness.


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

Life Lessons

Being cranky and impatient with the shenanigans of others as I currently am has a good side. At least for me. Being hyper aware of people’s shortcomings is like a having a mirror that shows me my own shortcomings, shows me what I need to work on.

The people who insist on making everything about them are reminding me the world does not revolve around a single person. We all revolve around each other, all have a place, even if it’s hard to concede another’s place, even if it’s hard to hold our own.

Those who refuse to take responsibility for their actions, including seemingly simple actions that affect others such as asking for more than is offered, are teaching me to be mindful of how everything affects everything else, and to accept the consequences of what I do.

Those who insist on always being right are teaching me that sometimes kindness and discretion are a greater right.

Those who insist on having the last word are teaching me to hold my tongue.

Those who insist on always doing their own thing even in a synchronized dance class are teaching me the importance of cooperating to get harmonious results.

Those who constantly one-up others, who have done more, been sicker or healthier, been more successful or more victimized, are teaching me that modesty has its place. (Actually, this is something I already know. But these poor folks remind me why I do not like to push myself forward.)

One of these days my hypersensitivity will pass, but these lessons will remain with me. I hope.

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)


What Goes Up Must Come Down

I find myself shying away from writing about what I am feeling now that many people I know in offline life read this blog. It was one thing telling my truth to strangers who were attracted to my words because they felt the way I did or who were curious to see what I wrote. It’s something completely different to worry those I encounter every day. Sometimes it takes more courage than I have to put myself out here in the blogosphere, especially if it shows me in a bad light, but not doing so hurts only me. For many years now, writing this blog has helped me find my way through the trials and trails of my life, and I need this now as much as I ever did. So here’s the truth, as far as I know.

20150903 120855 resizedWhen I was in Crescent City, wandering through the Redwood Forest and meandering along the beach, I couldn’t imagine ever being unhappy again. And yet, here I am, slowly sliding into . . . Grief? Sorrow? Loneliness? Emptiness? Depression? Not really sure. I do know I am prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder, where the closing in of the darkness makes me SAD. (Which is why I always celebrate the end of the creeping darkness.) And allergies affect my mood more than they affect my sinuses. (Never have figured that out. In fact, my severe allergy reactions have sometimes been mistaken for mono or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.) It’s also possible the balance of life is kicking in — what goes up must come down, and I was “up” when I was up north. And now I am down in the southern part of the state.

Even worse than feeling down, I am finding people’s shenanigans hard to tolerate. Find their constant prattle . . . dare I say it? . . . boring. But I also find my time alone empty. (Come to think of it, this could be just plain old fashioned grief. I miss Jeff, still and always.)

I have never particularly liked this town where I find myself. I did love being close to the desert, but ever since my father’s house was sold, I’ve been city-bound when I’m here, trapped not just by miles of surrounding houses and businesses, but by first the heat and currently the chill winds. Now that I have my car back, I could drive to the desert to walk, but the desert doesn’t speak to me as it once did. Still, I will have to do something to catapult myself out of this particular phase. (Those of you who have been in this sort of situation understand the vicious circle. You know you need to walk off the exhaustion and sadness, but you are too sad and exhausted to get out there to do it.)

I sound as if I’m whining, and maybe I am. I know I sound self-centered, and that I definitely am. (It’s hard not to sound self-centered when you are writing about yourself.) Still, I am keeping busy in the hopes that busyness will stave off some of the sadness. Tomorrow I have ballet class, then a visit to a home show, and finally a movie and birthday party.

And in less than five weeks I leave on an extended road/camping/hiking trip. I worry about heading out in winter, but I know if I don’t do something, I will slowly fold in on myself, and I can’t allow that to happen. Won’t allow it to happen.

And guess what? It’s only 38 days, 19 hours, and 18 minutes until the end of the creeping darkness!!!


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

Clean Out Your Refrigerator!

When I was in sixth grade, I got a job helping the old woman across the street. She’d just broken her arm, and needed someone to clean. Every time I went there, my stomach heaved. The jobs she gave me were all of a particularly disgusting nature. For example, she had me clean the hair catchers in her bathrooms, and I remember pulling up gobs and gobs of hair, gagging all the while. Just thinking about it now turns my stomach.

refrigeratorBut that wasn’t the worst of my ordeal at this woman’s house. The worst was the refrigerator. Rotten fruits and vegetables. Fuzzy green unidentified leftovers. Ancient bottles and jars that were long expired or would have been if they had expiration dates. (I think expiration dates on all packaged food came much later.) I got sick every single time I went over there and I wanted to quit, but one of my parents insisted I fulfill my obligation. The other parent, in a rare moment of sticking up for me, argued that I shouldn’t have to do something that made me ill. Odd that I can’t remember which parent wanted me to go and which took my side, but it no longer matters. It was so very long ago.

But what does matter is your refrigerator. Clean it out!!!

I have lived in several different places during the past six months, and one almost universal situation I found is a refrigerator clogged with expired condiments and food long past the stage of edibility. I itched to clean out the refrigerators, but I refrained. Maybe the owners were sentimental about that bottle of Hershey’s syrup that was so old it was as thick as treacle and tasted about the same. Or perhaps they liked the vision of wealth a full refrigerator imparts.

Well, now in this house of horrors, I complained to the owner of having not an inch of space in the refrigerator for any food I might purchase, and she gave me permission to clean the thing out. I didn’t intend to follow through. I’m paying rent so cleaning her part of the house is not my responsibilty. Besides, the refrigerator was so filthy, it looked like a biowarfare experiment gone bad, and I didn’t have the stomach for the task. But for some reason (can’t remember why, and that was only a few hours ago. If the biowarfare experiment was about killing brain cells, it succeeded) I decided to clear out a few expired bottles of . . . I know not what. Three hours later, I had a huge stack of trash bags full of expired and rotten food. (By expired, I mean well past expiration date. Ketchup from 2009, eggs from September 2015, string cheese packets that were as hard as masonite. It took a chisel and lots of hot water to clean the spilled food that had congealed beneath all that detritus. (That is not an exaggeration. I did have to use a chisel.)

I started to deal with the freezer, but lost heart when it took me more than a half an hour to remove a roast that had so much frost, it was spackled to the door shelf. Again that chisel and hot water came in handy.

In the interest of health — yours and mine — I am declaring this International Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day.

I am begging you, please, go clean out your refrigerator. I know you have things in there you have become so accustomed to seeing that you no longer notice them. Or you have bottles of exotic ingredients you have been promising yourself to use for the past ten years. We all have those condiments and rare elements we bought for a recipe, used the requisite one teaspoon, and never got around to making that dish again. If you’re still not convinced of the necessity of cleaning out your refrigerator, ask yourself if you really want some poor woman (maybe your mother or daughter or daughter-in-law, possibly a neighbor, perhaps even a son or husband) throwing up when/if they have clean up if you become sick or incapacitated in any way.

Please like and share this post so it goes to as many people as possible.

Thank you.


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

Bates Motel Anyone?

If I disappear for too long, be sure to tell the cops to look in the backyard of this house for my dismembered body parts. Not that I am in danger of anything but being creeped out, but still, the atmosphere here does give rise to such imaginings. I’ve always claimed I don’t have much of an imagination — and I don’t; I can only marvel at the macabre scenarios people come up with — but this is a case of no imagination necessary.

I’d been looking for a place to stay, and there was nothing even remotely appropriate (the best was a nice house in a nice neighborhood with a pit bull roommate — the canine kind). So when a friend (a now erstwhile friend) offered to rent me the master bedroom of her house that will soon be on the market, I jumped at the chance, especially since the deal came with the use of the garage.

I should have known this was not going to be the sinecure it seemed when my ex-friend’s mother (who had been living in the house until recently) came to give me the keys and the garage door opener, and the garage door opener didn’t work without a lot of fiddling and hand banging. Turns out the battery was so old and rusted and leaky, that it must never have been replaced. I cleaned it and replaced the battery, and now the opener works fine.

The room looked nice enough, but still, I kept my socks on the first night since I didn’t want to walk on the floor until I had a chance to clean it. Good thing. The floor turned out to be filthy. Dog hair galore. I had to throw away the socks. After a day spent scrubbing, the room is now clean and livable, with my own sheets, pillows, and comforters on the bed.

Luckily, the door of this master bedroom can be locked because here is where it gets immeasurably creepy. There are molting plants everywhere except my bedroom. Not genteel geraniums or a well-behaved rubber tree, but a forest of weeping plants, folliage drooping and cascading over tables, with tree-like plants by the fireplace and parked in corners, even a partcularly unattractive leaf-dropper in my bathroom.

Moving on to the kitchen. No. Let’s not. I stay away from there, though I am supposed to have kitchen privileges.There is not a single surface, table, chair, counter, shelf in the refrigerator or freezer or cabinet that is not completely packed with food, some of it open, most of it long expired.

Do you see that I am leading to the piece de resistance?

The house comes complete with its own resident ghoul. Actually, I am not being fair. The late-middle-aged fellow, who speaks not a word of English, has mental problems of an undisclosed nature. He talks to himself, has night and day inverted, and is somewhat of a recluse. He had been married, but she walked out on him. His best friend decamped, and after his sister kicked him out, my friend took him in. Supposedly he is harmless, but he is not at all affable, though he did wake me up at 6:00 one morning to offer me a piece of gum. I think that’s a good sign. At least, I hope it is. Besides, the dozens of cloying angels perched on every spare surface will look after me.

His room is on the opposite end of the house, so I don’t see him much. And I take comfort knowing there is a door on the shower rather than a curtain.

Best of all, this is good preparation for when I take off next month, heading into the inhospitable winter.

If I survive.


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

My newly restored beetle has nothing to do with this post, but I am using the image anyway because it is one of the few things that currently makes me smile.


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