Original Short Story: "Betty Sue’s Dream"
Betty Sue Martin and Martha Westland were friends all during high school, after they met as freshmen enrolled in the commercial curriculum track at Centerville High School. Betty resided on Main Street above the Medix Drug Store; her mother Sally worked as a waitress at the Big Boy drive-in restaurant about half-way between Centerville and Richmond.
Betty Sue's dad had vanished from Sally’s life when Betty Sue was only five. Sally's time was taken up mostly with her work, with bowling, and bars rounding out her days.
Martha was fascinated by Sally, who would lean back, laugh, and retort, "You girls better make sure you get yourselves a goddamed fine education, so you don't have to settle for waiting on sick dicks in cars. But still, Marti, don’t I bitch a lot, but I got me three B's to take care of, don’t I? My sweet Betty Sue, my kickass bowling, and those smoky, funass bars. I've had a damn good whale of a time for a dumb bitch that let her man scurry off. Damn Sam, I'm still partying hearty, ain't I?" And she'd light up her long Salem, lean back, and exhale the smoke as if she were on top of her game.
Martha was enthralled by Betty Sue's life with such a colorful, off-the -charts mother. Martha grew up on a farm just outside the city limits; her mother Harriet always maintained a perfect house, created perfect pies for her equally perfect husband Christopher and their four hard-working sons, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Martha, when saying her brothers names always reported, "Matt and John, Luke and Mark"; she used that ploy since the time her third grade class bursted out on laughter after she announced the usual Biblical order.
Strangely enough, Martha’s folks did not attend church regularly, nor were they especially religious, even though their names appeared among membership is the First Christian Church of Abington. Also they had burial plots bought in the cemetery next to the church, with special instructions for the pastor of that church.
Chris and Harriet had no interest in having a "good time"; they focused on the belief that life is filled with work and duty. When the Centerville High School administration adopted a new curriculum plan for the school, including six new courses of study, Chris and Harriet made sure that their sons would be enrolled in the Agriculture Track while their daughter would study in the Commercial Track. Boys and girls must be educated for their future roles in life, after all.
Harriet had learned some typing, shorthand, and bookkeeping at her high school in Hazard, Kentucky, and she always felt blessed that she had been advised to take those courses. They had proved so useful in her quest to serve as a proper wife to their county's most crucial farmer. Big agribusiness was waxing while the small farm was waning, and the Westlands were there to guide and take advantage of this state of affairs.
After acquiring her driver’s license and luckily after her best aunt gave her a car for her seventeenth birthday, Martha remained at home on the farm as little as she could. Nonetheless, she suffered the disapproval of Dad and Mom and the four gospels, but every time they scolded her about her obligation to the farm, she would just continue to remain out later and later.
Martha passed most of those late nights with Betty Sue because Betty Sue talked so vehemently about realizing a dream, and Martha was curious about how that dream would be realized.
Martha also had a vague dream. She just was not quite sure what it was. So she figured she would watch Betty Sue to see what would transpire. Here is what transpired:
Minnie Hazelaker was the proprietor of a little clothing store called "Minnie's Boutique." The top clique at Centerville High shopped there, and Betty Sue craved to be a part of that in-crowd. But on her slim funds, Betty Sue could not buy anything at Minnie’s Boutique. Minnie had been noticing how Betty Sue was coming and browsing a lot but never buying anything.
Then the C-ville Spring Sock Hop was fast approaching, and Betty Sue had had the good fortune to be invited to the dance by John Bluefield, a member of the male in-crowd. She could not believe how lucky she was. She kept whining to Martha that she had nothing decent to wear on such a momentous occasion.
She insisted that she had to acquire that light sea foam chiffon that dressed the mannequin in Minnie's display window. She had begged her mom to cough up a few bucks against her allowance, but Sally could let loose only a measly four dollars, meaning Betty Sue's total equally an inadequate 15 dollars. The dress sold for a whopping forty-seven ninety-nine!
Looking around at the shop about two weeks prior to the dance, Betty Sue stumbled upon a different dress that cost sixty-seven dollars. She took it off the rack, with the thought that this one might work better, even though it did not please as much as the one on the mannequin. Still it would undeniably be easier!
Betty Sue observes Minnie who is working at the cash register, two or three customers are looking at handkerchiefs and belts; and of course, someone is asking Minnie about some item.
Minnie is so well occupied that she will not notice that Betty Sue has dashed with the dress into the dressing room, put on the dress, tucked it into her pants, and made her getaway. Or that is what Betty Sue had thought would be the case. However, as her feet hit the sidewalk, she senses a rushing up to her from behind:
"Excuse me, miss, excuse me, dear, would you please step back into my shop with me a moment. I have an item that I believe is yours," Minnie explained.
"Oh, no, I didn’t leave anything in your store. I know I didn’t . . . I know I didn’t! " Betty Sue’s nerves were showing. She felt like running. But she had no reason to believe Minnie suspected her of anything.
Then she thought: "Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I did leave something; better to cooperate and not look suspicious." She then follows Minnie back into the shop. Inside the store, Minnie had Betty Sue wait for her by the cash register, on a stool right behind the counter.
Minnie walks over to the remaining browsing customers and asks them to leave. After the last one had departed the store, Minnie locks the door and pulls down the shades, and before she could think, Betty Sue finds that little old Minnie Hazelaker is unbuttoning her bSuese and her pants, leaving the purloined dress exposed. Minnie takes a step back and peers at Betty Sue and speaks:
"Now, now, my dear. What is this? What can we do to make this situation right?"
That was twenty-seven years ago. Betty Sue made the situation right by serving as Minnie’s employee. Betty Sue promised Minnie that she would work an entire year for free, if Minnie would not press charges against Betty Sue or reveal the theft to Sally.
Minnie had Betty Sue sign a contractual agreement stipulating that if Betty Sue skipped even a day’s work without a good cause, Minnie would both tell Sally and press charges. Betty Sue turned into such a fine employee that Minnie recorded it into her last will and testament that Betty Sue would become sole proprietor of the boutique after Minnie’s death.
After she had inherited the shop, Betty Sue revealed to her mother all the information about her shop-lifting attempt. Martha happened to be present as Betty Sue confessed her crime to her mother:
“Mom, you’ll never know how sorry I am for what I tried to do. I now know how wrong it was, but at that time it seemed like a good idea.” Sally reclined against the back of her blue easy chair, blew out smoke from her long Salem as if she was at the top of the world, and in her relaxed, rustic philosophy, expounded, “Well, who says crime doesn’t pay?So how did Martha pass those last twenty-seven years? Right after graduating from C-ville High, Martha became a cop. Since it was only after becoming the proud owner of Minnie’s Boutique that Betty Sue finally confessed her crime to her mom and to Martha, the statute of limitations had long expired on the petty theft.
But all in all, Betty Sue had more than redeemed herself in the eyes of Martha, her cop friend, and Sally, her colorful mother.
Windmill Chapel, SRF Lake Shrine
Life Sketch of Linda Sue Grimes
The following original poem captures the tranquility of my favorite meditation place in Los Angeles, California, the Windmill Chapel at Self-Realization Fellowship's Lake Shrine.
The Windmill Chapel
In the temple of silence
By the lake, we sit
In stillness, meditating
In divine Bliss.
Returning to our daily minds,
We walk out into the sunshine,
And the flowers greet us.
The Literary Life
Born Linda Sue Richardson on January 7, 1946, to Bert and Helen Richardson in Richmond, Indiana, Linda Sue grew up about eight miles south of Richmond in a rustic setting near the Ohio border.
After graduating from Centerville Senior High School in Centerville, Indiana, in 1964, Linda Sue Grimes completed her baccalaureate degree with a major in German at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, in 1967. She married Ronald Grimes on March 10, 1973.
As a writer, Grimes focuses on poetry, short fiction, politics, spirituality, and vegan/vegetarian cooking, which results in her original veggie recipes.
Although music was her first love, Grimes considers herself primarily a literary specialist as she creates her own poetry, studies the poetry and literary arts of classic writers, and writes commentaries about classic poems.
However, Grimes does continue to express her love of music by writing her own original songs, which she records, accompanying herself on guitar or keyboard. She shares her musical compositions at SOUNDCLOUD.
After completing the PhD degree in British, American, and World Literature with a cognate in Rhetoric/Composition at Ball State University in 1987, Grimes taught English composition in the English Department at BSU as a contractual assistant professor from 1987 until 1999.
Grimes has published poems in many literary journals, including Sonoma Mandala, Rattle, and The Bellingham Review. She has published three books of poems: Singing in the Silence, Command Performance, and Turtle Woman & Other Poems, and a book of fables titled Jiggery-Jee's Eden Valley Stories.
Grimes published her first cookbook in the spring of 2013, titled The Rustic Veggie-Table: 100 Vegan Recipes. She is working on a second cookbook and her fourth book of poems.
Currently, at Owlcation, Grimes (Maya Shedd Temple) posts her poetry commentaries. On LetterPile, she shares her creative writing of poems and short fiction, along with prose commentaries on each piece. She posts recipes resulting from her experimental cooking of vegan/vegetarian dishes. on Delishably. She posts her politically focused pieces at Soapboxie, and her commentaries focusing on music at Spinditty. Pieces on the writing process appear at Hobbylark.
Linda Sue Grimes has been a devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda and a member of his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship, since 1978. A Kriyaban since 1979, she has completed the four Kriya Initiations, and she continues to study the teachings and practice the yoga techniques as taught by the great spiritual leader, who is considered to be the "Father of Yoga in the West."
Grimes practices the chants taught by the guru accompanying herself on the harmonium. She serves at her local SRF Meditation Group as one of the chant leaders.
Online Literary Presence
In addition to the contributions of her literary works to Owlcation, LetterPile, and SOUNDCLOUD, Grimes also curates her original creative literary pieces at her literary home, Maya Shedd Temple, on Medium, where she features her creative writing without commentaries. Grimes also maintains an additional online presence on Facebook and Twitter.
My Spiritual Journey: Why I Am a Self-Realization Yogi
"By ignoble whips of pain, man is driven at last into the Infinite Presence, whose beauty alone should lure him." –a wandering sadhu, quoted in Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
Introduction: Salvation Is a Personal Responsibility
I am a Self-Realization Yogi because the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, who in 1920 founded Self-Realization Fellowship, make sense to me. Paramahansa Yogananda teaches that we are immortal souls, already connected to the Divine Reality, but we have to "realize" that divine connection. Knowing the Great Spirit (God) is not dependent upon merely claiming to believe in a divine personage, or even merely following the precepts of a religion such as the Ten Commandments.
Knowing the Creator is dependent upon "realizing" that the soul is united with that Creator. To achieve that realization we have to develop our physical, mental, and spiritual bodies through exercise, scientific techniques, and meditation. There are many good theorists who can help us understand why proper behavior is important for our lives and society, but Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings offer definite, scientific techniques that we practice in order to realize our oneness with the Divine Power or God. It makes sense to me that my salvation should be primarily my own responsibility.
No Religious Tradition
I did not grow up with a religious tradition. My mother was a Baptist, who claimed that at one time she felt she was saved, but then she backslid. I learned some hymns from my mother. But she never connected behavior with religion. My father was forced to attend church when he was young, and he complained that his church clothes were uncomfortable as was sitting on the hard pews.
My father disbelieved in the miracles of Jesus, and he poked fun at people who claimed to have seen Jesus "in the bean rows." My mother would not have doubted that a person might see Jesus, because she saw her father after he had died. My mother characterized my father as agnostic, and she lived like an agnostic, but deep down I think she was a believer after the Baptist faith.
Here’s a little story that demonstrates how ignorant about religion I was as a child: When I was in first or second grade, I had a friend named Caroline. At recess one day at the swings, Caroline wanted to confide something to me, and she wanted me to keep it secret. She said I probably wouldn't believe it, but she still wanted to tell me. I encouraged her to tell me; it seemed exciting to be getting some kind of secret information. So she whispered in my ear, "I am a Quaker."
I had no idea what that was. I thought she was saying she was magic like a fairy or an elf or something. So I said, "Well, do something to prove it." It was Caroline's turn to be confused then. She just looked very solemn. So I asked her to do something else to prove it. I can't remember the rest of this, but the point is that I was so ignorant about religion.
The Void in My Life and My First Trauma
Looking back on my life as a child, teenager, young adult, and adult up to the age of 32, I realize that the lack of a religious tradition left a great void in my life. Although my father was on the fence regarding religion, he would listen to Billy Graham preach on TV. I hated it whenever Billy Graham was preaching on TV. His message scared me. Something like the way I felt when my father's mother would come and visit us, and when my father would let out a "Goddam" or other such swear word, she would say he was going to hell for talking that way. I was afraid for my father. And Billy Graham made me afraid for myself and all of us because we did not attend church.
I never believed that things like swearing and masturbation could send a soul to hell. But then back then I had no concept of "soul" or "hell." I believed it was wrong to kill, steal, and to lie. But I'm not sure how these proscripts were taught to me. I guess by example. It seems that I had no real need for God and spirituality until I was around thirty years old.
My life went fairly smoothly except for two major traumas before age thirty. The first trauma was experiencing a broken heart at age eighteen and then undergoing a failed marriage, after which I thought I would never find a mate to love me. But I did meet a wonderful soulmate when I was 27.
Heretofore I had thought finding the proper marriage partner would solve all my problems, but I learned that my difficulties were very personal and at the level where we are all totally alone, despite any outward relationships.
The Second Trauma
A second trauma that added to my confusion was being fired twice from the same job at ages 22 and 27. At age 27 things started to make no sense. And it started to bother me intensely that things made no sense. I had always been a good student in grade school and high school, and I was fairly good in college, graduating from Miami University with a 3.0 average. That grade point average bothered me, because I thought I was better than that.
But then not being able to keep my teaching job and not being able to find another one after I had lost it very much confused me. It seemed that I had lost touch with the world. School had been my world, and my teachers and professors had expected great things from me. But there I was at age 27 and couldn't get connected to school again.
Feminism and Zen
I began reading feminist literature starting with Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, continuing with Ms. Magazine, and many others. The result of taking in the feminist creed led me to believe that I had someone to blame for my failure—men; men had caused the world to be arranged so that women cannot succeed outside the home. I began writing again, an endeavor I have sporadically engaged in most of my life from about age sixteen. I decided to apply for a graduate assistantship in English at Ball State University, feeling that I was ready to get out in the man’s world and show it what a woman could do. I felt confident that I could succeed now that I knew what the problem was. But that didn’t work out either. I finished the year without a master’s degree in English, and then there I was, confused again, and still searching for something that made sense.
I had heard about the Eastern philosophy known as "Zen" at Ball State, and I started reading a lot about that philosophy. Zen helped me realize that men were not the problem, attitude was. I kept on writing, accumulating many poems, some of which I still admire. And I kept reading Zen, especially Alan Watts, but after a while the same ideas just kept reappearing with no real resolution, that is, even though the Zen philosophy did help me understand the world better, it was not really enough. I got the sense that only I could control my life, but just how to control it was still pretty much a mystery.
Autobiography of a Yogi
Then in late 1977 on one of our book shopping trips, I spied a book, Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, and I recommended it to my husband, because he liked biographies. I purchased poetry books, and we purchased the autobiography for him. He did not get around to reading it right away, but I did, and I was totally amazed at what I read. It all made sense to me; it was such a scholarly book, clear and compelling. There was not one claim made in the entire 500 plus pages that made me scratch me hand and say "what?" or even feel an uncertainty that this writer knew exactly whereof he spoke.
Paramahansa Yogananda was speaking directly to me, at my level, where I was in my life, and he was connecting with my mind in a way that no writer had ever done. For example, the book offers copious notes, references, and scientific evidence that academics will recognize as thorough research. This period of time was before I had written a PhD dissertation, but all of my years of schooling had taught me that making claims and backing them up with explanation, analysis, evidence, and authoritative sources were necessary for competent, persuasive, and legitimate exposition.
Paramahansa Yogananda's autobiography contained all that could appeal to an academic and much more because of the topic he was addressing. As the great spiritual leader recounted his own journey to self-realization, he was able to elucidate the meanings of ancient texts whose ideas have remained misunderstood for many decades and even centuries.
The book contained a postcard that invited the reader to send for lessons that teach the techniques for becoming self-realized. I sent for them, studied them, and I have been practicing them since 1978. They do, indeed, hold the answer to every human problem.
I know it is difficult for most educated people to believe that all human problems can be solved, but that’s because they get stuck in the thought that they cannot. If you believe that you can never really know something, then you can’t, because if you believe that you can never really know something, you won’t try to know it.
Yogananda gives a map with directions to reaching God, and realizing that one’s soul is united with God brings about the end of all sorrow and the beginning of all joy. Just knowing the precepts intellectually does not cause this realization, but it goes a long way toward eliminating much suffering. The faith that we can overcome all suffering is a great comfort, even if we are not there yet. I realize that God is knowable, but most important is that I know I am the only one who can connect my soul to God—and that is the spiritual journey I am on.
© 2015 Linda Sue Grimes