Original Short Story: "Friends in a Circle"
Scorpion Heart of Fire
"You pluck flower after flower—it is never the flower."
—D.H. Lawrence, The Fox
Maldiva Clay never considered herself capable of being a good friend to anyone for very long. Perhaps a good shrink could tell help her find out why, but because she had always found herself more interesting than anyone she had ever been acquainted with, she had never been motivated to try to nurture friendships.
That was, until she met Scorp Dennis. She was teaching a workshop in fiction writing at Basket Grove College in Himpsted, Kentucky, as unremarkable a place as you'd ever want to experience, she would always say, and Scorp Dennis enrolled in the workshop. This workshop lasted only five weeks, but Scorp and she became close enough that even after the workshop was over, and she had returned to her panhandle town of Luna Mesa, Florida, and her job at the Pigeon Chronicle, where she was a senior editor, they continued to write each other via snail as well as e-mail.
Scorp continued to prey on Maldiva for responses to his stories, and after the exchange grew into steamy letters of passion, they began meeting in Francis Town, Tennessee, for a weekend of merrymaking. This kind of communication went on for about three years; every month or so, they'd meet in little, nondescript towns somewhere between his Kentucky Himpsted and her Florida Luna Mesa. Scorp was about fifteen years her junior, but their romance seemed to proceed in what one might consider the usual way. With some glaring exceptions.
Letters Cooling Off
Sometime during the fourth year, Scorp's letters and e-mail cooled off considerably. He kept sending stories for critiquing but there was never any more mention of meeting for those hot weekends and immersion in fiction. It was right about this time that he sold his first story to Extatic, a story to whose revision Maldiva had heavily contributed.
Maldiva was so happy for Scorp's success that she didn't really think much about the fact that he had dedicated the story to Katrina. She had no idea who Katrina was, but she didn't give her much thought either. Maldiva had been seeing a lot of a man she had met in graduate school at the University of California; she knew the relationship was headed nowhere, but they had a few laughs, some hot times on the beach, and she needed that kind of thing from time to time.
Then Maldiva heard no more from Scorp for an entire year. She foolishly e-mailed him a few times, little chatty bits. But by the end of the year, she had given up and considered their little affair dead.
Then about three months into the next year, she got a message from Scorp, apologizing for not getting back to her or at least acknowledging her messages. He had been busy on a novel, and of course, you know how that is, how such huge projects just eat away at your time. He continued in this vein for about four months; then he told Maldiva that he and Katrina were getting married the next spring.
The Jamal Substitute
Jamal Shepherd was a copy-editor for the Luna Mesa CoastLine News. They met at a workshop at Luna Mesa Junior College. They had lunch from time to time, e-mailed a lot, and he began to show her his poetry. Maldiva enjoyed the relationship, maybe even fell in love with him a little, but he did not fill the gap left by Scorp.
Scorp sent Maldiva a message telling her that he and Katrina were coming to Luna Mesa for a weekend vacation on the Gulf, and he suggested that they get together, because Katrina was eager to meet the writer who had been influential in her fiancé's life. So Maldiva agreed. And they met. Katrina and Maldiva hit it off right away.
Katrina brought her stories and poems, and they had fun sharing and reworking them. Katrina seemed to enjoy Maldiva’s telling her about Scorp; Katrina would ask leading questions and watch Maldiva carefully as she answered. Their weekend vacation turned into two weeks, and then Scorp and Katrina began hopping down to Luna Mesa every other weekend.
Katrina always had poems and stories to try out on Maldiva; Scorp's novel needed constant responses, and they both became regulars in Maldiva’s Saturday evening creativity seminar; that is, as regular as they could, and still keep their teaching jobs in Kentucky. Scorp and Katrina were both working so furiously at their writing that they decided to put off their wedding until fall. And when school was out, they took an apartment in Luna Mesa in order to participate more fully in Maldiva’s seminar.
As much as Maldiva enjoyed her conversations with Katrina, when Scorp was present Maldiva felt that same old urge to be in his arms, to kiss those soft, honeyed lips, and be taken by him. And then Maldiva would be dragged out of her reverie by Katrina asking her another question. Over and over in her mind, Maldiva kept repeating, "In a few short weeks she will be his wife."
And Maldiva figured he must really care for Katrina a lot, enough to be so honest about his affairs. Especially because she was so jealous. And her jealousy showed; if Scorp and Maldiva left her out of the conversation for more than a few sentences, Katrina would pout, and pull on his arm, and beg them to change the subject. Katrina would never leave them alone, never take her eyes off Maldiva for more than a few seconds. Katrina seemed much more at ease when it was just she and Maldiva alone for lunch or shopping.
The Bitch Has to Go!
Maldiva decided that Katrina had to go. How she did not know. Not being a killer, she could not kill her. Not being rich enough, she could not hire a hit man. It occurred to Maldiva to introduce her to Jamal. Jamal needed someone to love, and Maldiva determined that someone could easily be Katrina. So Maldiva introduced them.
It was slow but Maldiva kept at it. The four of them met often for lunch, drinks, walks along the beach, poetry and fiction readings. They were quite a foursome, and Katrina remarked often that she felt so invigorated by her new “friends in a circle.” It seemed more like a rectangle to Maldiva, or a triangle out of whack with an extra corner, but what the hell! As long as she was near Scorp, at least she could look into his eyes, fantasize about his lips, and brush his hand once in a while, and she was just sure one day she would get him in bed again.
Actually, just once Scorp and Maldiva had managed to enjoy a passionate kiss one morning while Katrina was in the shower. But Katrina must have suspected, and she was extremely alert after that never to leave Scorp and Maldiva alone together.
Scorp's mother had to undergo a mastectomy, so he had to fly to Kentucky for a few weeks. Maldiva persuaded Katrina that she would have lots of time for concentration on her book of stories without Scorp. So Katrina stayed, and Maldiva made sure Katrina and Jamal had lots of time together.
Match Making Maldiva
Maldiva tried to be subtle, scheduling late suppers and then being called away, leaving them to finish without her. Maldiva even encouraged sleep overs—all three of them working late into the night on their respective projects, and then insisting it was much too late for either of them to go home. Jamal and Katrina could just nap for a few hours on a mattress on the floor or better still, they could go down by the beach and catch a few winks. They'd just drag some sleeping bags down.
Scorp called and said he'd have to stay a few days longer than he thought; his mom had some complications, and he had to be there for her. Things seemed to be going Maldiva’s way. Jamal was definitely falling for Katrina, and Katrina was definitely enjoying the attention Jamal was showering on her.
And it got so they paid less and less attention to Maldiva and more and more to each other. Then it finally happened. Maldiva had gone to the market for some items for dinner, and when she returned, she heard them in the loft: "Oh, Jamal, yes, yes, Oh, Oh, Oh, that's right, that's right. Oh God. Oh God." Oh, God, Maldiva thought, thank You; this is the way it should be; now we are making progress.
What Maldiva hoped to gain from this turn of events is still a mystery to her. She had long concluded that Scorp and she could have no future, and although she felt that she loved him, the idea of being married to him repulsed her. She reckoned she must have wanted that long distance affair to continue, hot messages, anticipation of meeting in obscure small towns like Himpsted, Kentucky. These romantic scenarios stimulated her as nothing else ever had. Why couldn't she have these with other men? She didn’t know, somehow it just wasn't the same.
Freshly Fucked Bodies
Hearing Katrina with Jamal, Maldiva walked quickly to the kitchenette, noisily set down the grocery bags. She wanted them to know she had heard, and her heart raced in anticipation of gazing on those two freshly fucked bodies. What will their eyes say, what will Katrina offer her to keep this news from Scorp? Soon they appeared in the kitchen. Jamal blushing his beautiful deep rosy cheeks; Katrina with her sheepish smile that Maldiva knew would be followed by a whine.
"Oh, Maldiva, you won't tell Scorp about this, will you? This was such a mistake. Jamal, tell her it was a mistake. I was weak, you were weak. Oh, Maldiva, you know how it is. You and Scorp made this same mistake. You know I would not want to hurt Scorp for anything in the world. Please, tell me you won't tell him."
"Wait a minute, here, calm down. Let's talk this over and make some sense of things," Maldiva said.
Making Sense of Things
And the sense Maldiva made of it was to convince Katrina that she had no choice but to tell Scorp; after all, look how honest Scorp had been with Katrina. He would understand, and their relationship would be stronger for it. Katrina brightened up and agreed. Of course, what was she thinking? Scorp would understand, why wouldn't he? What was she thinking?
For Maldiva, the next five years are a blur of work. She had a novel accepted for publication and a job offer at the Sands College in Southland, California. Jamal, luckily, got over Katrina, but not without a suicide attempt. Maldiva nursed him through it, staying by his side almost constantly except for work, and she has more or less adopted him; he will be moving to Southland with her. He needs her to mother him, even though he has procured for himself an assistant editorship of the Southland Downtowner.
Scorp went on to reach some publishing heights with three historical novels and a collection of short stories, and his name appears from time to time in the Himpsted Democrat, the newspaper Maldiva kept getting ever since she taught that fateful five-week workshop in that town. Last week she read that Scorp was offered the Prideworth Professorship of History at Basket Grove College, which also means Basket Grove has come a long way, now able to offer professorships with names.
Each of Scorp’s novels is dedicated to a different woman: Viola-Lee, Alcy, and Dorrie Fai. Maldiva doesn’t know what happened to Katrina. She never found out if Scorp and Katrina ever married; actually, Maldiva did once let her subscription lapse for a year or so right after Jamal’s suicide attempt, but she noticed today in the paper that Scorp has just married a writer from Quebec. The article says it's the first marriage for each. Maldiva reckons that is true. The Himpsted Democrat wouldn't lie.
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.
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.
© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes