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Original Short Story: "Beth’s Music"

Updated on October 23, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Short literary fiction is one of my areas of writing interests, so I dabble in composing short stories and flash fiction from time to time.

Couple Playing Music



The characters in this story are fictional and resemblance to any person living or dead is unintentional.

Reaching for the Peanut Butter

While Charlie drove to the city to pick up tickets to the LazerStrike concert, Beth went grocery shopping. Reaching for a jar of peanut butter that was clearly out of reach for her, suddenly a hand appeared and retrieved the peanut butter for her. She turned with a start, and there was Sid, handing her the jar.

"Oh, my goodness. Thank you, Sid! I usually just climb the shelves hoping they won’t topple over with me," Beth babbled nervously.

"Well, you know, shelf climbing is dangerous. These shelves are probably not Beth-worthy," said Sid, flashing her a wink, while grabbing her shoulders, as if to prevent a fall that was not in the offing.

"Well, thanks for giving the old girl an assist," Beth replied, hoping she could just escape any further conversation with Sid.

"Hey, Beth, why don’t you and Charlie drive up the Bluff and have dinner with me and Cindy this evening? We have some new footage of our family trip to Lake Sapphire," said Sid.

"Well, I’ll ask Charlie," said Beth. "He went to get the concert tickets today, and he’ll probably do some shopping while he’s in the city."

Sid’s eyes glazed over as they usually did when Beth said more than two words to him. And then he leaned in close to her and said, "You know, I don’t really give a rat’s ass what Charlie is doing. I’m more interested in what Beth is doing, how she does it, and if she might be interested in doing it with me."

Beth had no response to this revelation, so she just said, "I’ll see if we can come to dinner, and I’ll call Cindy later to let her know." She hurried to check out with her shopping about half finished.

Charlie returned with the tickets. Beth told him about the invitation from Sid for dinner.

"You saw Sid today?" Charlie asked.

"Yes, in Kroger. He saved me from climbing the shelves to retrieve a jar of peanut butter, and then he suggested we come to dinner," said Beth.

"Well, do you want to go?" asked Charlie.

"Not especially, but if you want to visit your brother, then I don’t mind," said Beth.

Charlie seemed conflicted. He had hoped for a quiet evening at home, nothing more than a simple dinner and few hours of mindless TV before hitting the hay early. He knew that Beth was always uncomfortable around his brother and his wife.

Sid and Cindy would bicker constantly regardless of the topic, regardless of who was in the room. Beth hated any kind of confrontation and so did Charlie. Sid and Cindy would try to pull Beth and Charlie into their battles.

Beth and Charlie decided that if they did not accept that dinner invitation, they would have to face a severe upbraiding from Sid, and likely he would bring their mother into the fray and then all hell would break loose.

Dinner went smoothly enough. Then Sid brought out the drinks, scotch and more scotch for him. Cindy clung to her Darjeeling. Beth and Charlie each accepted a beer, nursing their beers while Sid gulped shot after shot.

Cindy excused herself as soon as the daylight disappeared; she had volleyball practice the next morning, and she needed her rest. Beth and Charlie took this as their cue to leave, but Sid piped up and declared: "Hey, no need to rush off. Cindy can sleep through the roar of a freight train. Stick around. We'll bring out the guitars and heat up a few tunes."

Beth was all for the music. She has just written a couple of new songs, and Charlie was enthusiastic to hear them over Sid’s new sound system.

Beth picked up a guitar and began to pick and sing her new song, "Where You Are." Charlie listened closely and then said,"Wow, you know we need to get you a guitar like that. That old thing you’ve been playing just doesn’t do you justice."

"Well, Charl, maybe it’s more than the guitar that don’t do her justice," piped up Sid.

Charlie looked own at his feet, and Beth said, "Charlie’s right. My old guitar doesn’t have the tonal quality of this one, Sid. Charlie, tomorrow, we should go shopping for a better guitar. After all, I’m going to be playing at the my reunion in a few weeks, and a better guitar would make me sound so much better."

"Beth, you sound perfect! You can borrow that guitar until you get your new one," said Sid.

"Oh, I don’t know! Isn’t this your best guitar, Sid?" said Beth.

Carving Out a Space

"I have a whole room full of guitars. Come, pick out the one you’d like to use," Sid grabbed Beth’s hand, and he told Charlie to mix up some margaritas while he took Beth on a tour of his guitar room.

Charlie ambled to kitchen and started mixing up the margaritas.

Sid opened the door to his cherished music room, and it was pretty much filled with guitars.

"Beth, look at his one!" said Sid. It had signatures of Willy Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and George Strait.

"Are those real?" asked Beth. Sid moved close her and took her face in his hands and kissed her, with a passion she remembered only from her kiss with Carlie after they were declared "man and wife" at their wedding ceremony. And then Sid said, "They are as real as that kiss."

Beth tried to pull away, "What are you doing? Have you no shame? Let me out of here." She lurched for the door, but Sid stopped her. He pleaded, "Look, I have to talk to you. Don’t you realize how I feel about you? I’ve been in love with you for years, and I decided I had to act on it before it was too late. I don’t mean to hurt you, or Charlie, or Cindy. But I thought maybe you could understand. Maybe you felt that way too."

"Why would you think that?" asked Beth.

"Because we have so much in common. Our music. Out art. Our passion for living. Charlie and Cindy are great people. They are. But do they share our passion for creating art and music?"

"They appreciate art and music, and they have always supported us in our endeavors to live the creative life. But I don’t think they would understand us having a passion for each other. How can you think that would work?" asked Beth.

"I know. I know. But why do they have to know? It could be just something we have together. Don’t you think we are smart enough to carve out a space in which we could have each other without that special relationship interfering with them?" explained Sid.

"Oh, God! Do you think that is possible?" Beth found herself leaning into Sid, staring longingly into his eyes.

"Why not?" asked Sid.

Beth was beginning to let herself feel this heat between them. A heat she had denied for twenty-five years. In dreams she had envisioned herself and Sid dancing, singing together, making love. But she had always woken to a feeling of remorse.

Why should she feel such a strong attraction to her brother-in-law? She loved her husband more than life, but she could not deny that she felt an attraction to Sid, and her only refuge was the thought that Sid did not feel the same way she did.

Now that she knew he returned her passion, how could she escape? Was his suggestion of their having an affair that they could control and keep secret even a possibility?

"We’ve got to get back. Charlie will wonder what’s taking so long," said Beth.

Pulling her close to him, Sid said, "Promise me you’ll think about what I said. I want to know you better. Is that so wrong? I think you must possess a treasure trove from a world I can only imagine. Promise me you’ll think about what I’ve said."

"I’ll think about it, I promise, now let’s go," said Beth.

Charlie had mixed a pitcher of margaritas and was standing at the front window looking out on the lake that offered a fantastic view from Sid and Cindy’s house. Stars were gleaming along with the moon on the water.

Hearing his wife and brother return from the music room, Charlie stirs from his reverie.

"Hey, where’s the guitar?" asked Charlie.

"Oh, Charlie, Sid has so many guitars, I could not choose one," mumbled Beth. "I think you have the right idea. We’ll have to go shopping for me a new. Can we go tomorrow?"

"Sure, why not?" said Charlie, pouring the drinks.

"Let’s go sit out on the deck and talk to the stars," suggested Sid.

Around midnight, after the margaritas were consumed and conversation with the stars was completed, Charlie and Beth headed home.

For the next three weeks, Beth stayed home, trying to write some songs and just practicing her piano and getting used to her new guitar. She mused and stewed on what Sid had said to her that night in his music room. She had dreamed those passion filled dreams waking to feel even worse than before. Her guilt mounted that she would even consider the ludicrous suggestion Sid had made about their carving out a space for their illicit affair.

Beth knew there was no such space to be carved. She just wanted to forget that she had ever had those feelings. She believed that they came from a different lifetime, when she and Sid were perhaps lovers or even husband and wife. But that lifetime was gone, the only lifetime they had now was the here and now.

Still, she had to make a decision. She had tell Sid that she could not participate in such a carving out of space. She had to tell him. This infatuation had to end, but she knew that Sid was a strong willed character, and she dreaded his reaction to her decision.

It was Easter, and Sid and Cindy were throwing their yearly Easter bash with all their seven children and all their fifteen grandchildren coming together for food and fun. Beth had run through her mind every possible excuse for not attending this year’s bash. But nothing worked, and she knew that Charlie, even though he dreaded all the noise fostered by the reunion, would not consider missing the event.

What could possibly happen with Sid’s entire family present? Beth felt that perhaps all would be well.

Sid had the music stage ready. His three sons performed some Simon and Garfunkel and Everly Brothers tunes. Then his four daughters who had been performing as a quartet in the city did their rendition of several Dolly Parton tunes.

The grandchildren performed next. Every grandchild except Lester the youngest performed some music. Then Lester took the microphone and said he had an announcement.

"Family! I love you! I love you all! I just wanted to applaud all my illustrious siblings, aunts, and uncles on their musical talent. I seem to be to only one to have been blessed with a lack of that talent. I did bring some of my paintings to put on display, and I appreciate the enthusiastic responses from Aunt Beth and Uncle Charlie and all the others who’ve given me nod.

"But it’s not my painting that I want to talk about. I just wanted to tell everything while you are all in one place that I will be transitioning from the gender as a male to the gender I feel I should have been assigned at birth. By this time next year I will be called "Winnie" not Lester, and I will look like the woman I wish to be.

"Now, dear family, I do hope you all will support me in this effort. I love you all and pray that we all achieve all of our worthy goals."

With that, Lester/Winnie left the stage. And the Easter bash. Most of the family seemed to be of the opinion that what they thought really did not matter. Lester had always been non-attached to the rest of the family, and they just saw this as one more issue of that non-attachment.

Couple Playing Music


In Front of God and Everybody

After a brief lull in the party, Sid mounted the stage and announced that the music would continue. He picked up his guitar and then called for Beth to join him on stage. Beth questioningly glanced at Charlie, who motioned for her to go. She went.

Sid, pretending to adjust the microphone, whispered into Beth’s ear: "This is that space, dear Beth! Tonight we begin carving out that space right here in front of God and everybody. Get it?"

They sang. They flirted. They sang. They danced. They sipped the ambrosia of physical and spiritual wine. And they sang some more. Their performance enthralled the entire family. Even Lester/ Winnie had returned and stood amazed that his grandpa and grandaunt could sing and perform with such passion.

Beth and Charlie returned home and fell into bed tired but feeling good about the family reunion. Beth dreamed that night, but instead of the disgusting lust-filled dalliance, she dreamed of performing beautiful, original music with Sid. And she knew that if making music on stage before the entire family was the space Sid said they could carve out for their passion, she could live with that.

SRF Lake Shrine, Windmill Chapel


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.

Literary Studies

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.

Publishing History

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.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes


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