Mosquito by S. Faxon

The stairwell that led to the attic was unnerving even of itself. The seemingly innocuous items left along the side to the sides of the unfinished steps looked out of place in this space. To think that a victim to be recovered was somewhere behind that white door at the top of the stairs, chilled the hustling firefighter to the bone.  

The gear that he bore was not what was weighing down the young first responder. He was a Southern California kid; attics were things you only heard of in movies and usually, they were in thrillers. People only ever found ghouls, goblins and ax-murderers in the attic. It seemed ridiculous for these fears to be creeping into an adult’s mind, but given the circumstances for bringing him here, Michael found the goosebumps on his arms to be fitting. 

Shrugging away his childish thoughts, Michael opened the white door at the top of the attic stairs.

An oscillating fan was all that moved inside the room. A single, lone light from the spinning device shone down upon the scene. On the floor lay the woman in her night-gown who had made the frantic call to their dispatcher. Her eyes were wide, her gaze unfocused, but across every inch of her face was the touch of fear.

Michael fell to his knees and immediately rushed into the procedures given for addressing a downed victim. His own fears abated for the moment, he checked her pulse, he called out to her. 

No response.

Michael’s partner came to the top of the attic stairs and seeing his partner’s outstretched arms begin their attempt to rejuvenate life into this woman, he called on his radio for aid. The following ambulance was but moments away. He could already hear the sirens. 

The unprecedented levels of heat and humidity in town tonight made the confined space and the unrolling situation stifling. The fan did nothing to help. 

Why would she come up here?”  Michael’s partner wondered as he ran back down the steps to bring the gurney bearers to the location. “She oughta have known that heat rises.”

As the partner ran by a variety of religious artifacts nailed to the walls of the house, he failed to realize that they were skewed or upside down. In his haste to rush out to the ambulance, he did not see the strange shadows moving about the house. 

Sweat rained down from Michael upon the lifeless woman. The more compressions he did, singing, ‘Staying Alive’ to keep in rhythm, the more Michael began to realize that she was gone. The cracked-screen iPhone that was a few feet away from her outstretched hand had brought them here but in vain. And yet, Michael did not give up. He stared at the cross that dangled on a golden chain from this woman’s neck. It was tangled within her hair and the more he stared down at her, he began to realize the burn marks upon her neck. They looked to be in the shape of fingers. In the center of her forehead, Michael could see what looked like a welt – like a growing, inflamed mosquito bite.

Michael was suddenly re-galvanized with an intense desire to save this woman’s life. She had clearly endured an ungodly collection of hells to have run up here to this oven to find salvation.  He could not accept her demise.

He was getting light-headed from his efforts. He could not wait for his partner to return to help carry this woman out of this pit. 

The hum of the fan above began to change. The sounds devolved more and more into that of a buzz. 

With steady, heavy pulsations, Michael continued his locked armed attempts to restart this woman’s heart. However, the song he sang to keep him in rhythm began to fade as the buzzing increased. The sound was not that of any fly or insect that he had ever heard in San Diego before. Looking up and around, in the soft light of the fan, Michael could see no bugs immediately around. ‘Is there a hive up here?’ he looked back to the woman’s forehead where the inflamed bite upon her brow lay.  Her eyes were still empty of life yet wide with fright. ‘Was she stung? Was that what scared her so bad?’

No sooner had the thought passed, a swooping buzz flounced by Michael’s ear. The sound was so intense that he ducked to the side, half expecting a mosquito the size of a hawk to be after him. Wide-eyed himself, Michael looked all around. The buzz continued, but it was in the far corner of the attic where the light was void. 

The adrenaline pounding through Michael kept him vigilantly trying to revive the victim. “Where the hell are you, Tim?!” Michael shouted. 

No answer was returned. The rest of the house below was heavy, as if not merely empty but dead.

The horrible buzzing in the corner grew louder and more powerful as if feeding on his fear. But Michael knew that he had to keep at the CPR until his partner returned.

Though they had initially thought this woman to be on her own in this house, Michael’s heart and his head were quickly deducing that they were not alone. 

Again, the wretched swooping ripped forward from the darkness. Once more he ducked, assuming that this time he would see the swarm coming for him, but there was nothing. What he felt, however, was far more disturbing. Through the bulwark of his gear, Michael swore he felt the sting of jagged fingernails ripping across his skin.

With one more look to the cross on the victim’s neck, Michael knew as if it had been shouted to him by a sky full of angels that he had to get out. 

And he was not about to leave her soul in this trap.

In one herculean transfer of his fear to strength, Michael swept the woman from the floor, carrying her over his shoulders like a shepherd a lamb. With the effort of a hundred men, Michael ran out from that place, trumping down the steps of the attic, through the torn home and down the second flight of stairs. Every step felt like ripping his legs out from a mire of mud. The hellish buzzing chased him from the attic, down the stairs, and through the long haul to the front door. 

A lion-like shout pushed Michael out from that place, sending him diving across the porch to the sun-dried lawn. The second his ribs struck the hard ground, with the woman on his back, the buzzing halted.

Neither Michael nor the rushing ambulance responders would know if it was the efforts of Michael in the attic or the shock of the fall that filled the once motionless body of the woman with life. The woman was too quickly taken away to the tune of screaming sirens and a speeding ambulance to be questioned by Michael about anything.

Soaked through with sweat, Michael sat in silence as his partner asked him a litany of questions, the least of which, being, “What the hell happened?”

Seeing his partner unresponsive, the firefighter used his radio to call their dispatcher to alert them that they were also going to the hospital. 

In the moment that his partner turned away, Michael looked to the eye-shaped window atop the house where the attic glared down upon him. There was no face, no shadow, no silhouette that could be seen, but Michael knew that whatever infested that house was looking straight at him.

Crossing himself, Michael kneeled before that accursed house. The poisoned energies inside would not go home with him, but the memory of this night would remain with him for the rest of his days.


The Package


The Package by S. Faxon

Almost in sync, the alarms sounded on all of the house’s touch screen devices; “Someone is at the front door-bell.”

This had to be it.

Chase jumped up from the faux leather couch in his living room, simultaneously trying to pull up the image on his phone of who activated the chorus of security sirens, while trying not to step on his girlfriend’s cat.

“C’mon,” he demanded of his phone, but the walk to the door took less time than the live-video had to load. The package that Chase was waiting for required a signature and delivery vendors were not known to wait. But those pesky solicitors with their fliers and clipboards had been spotted outside earlier. The last thing Chase wanted was to be caught up in another conversation with one of them. His nerves were likely to burst if it came to that again. Though, the chance of this package not being left with him today outweighed the risks of having to shoo away solicitors.

Swinging open the door and holding his breath, all the hopes of this delivery arriving flooded his heart and head. However, in an instant, that hope came crashing down. Instead of a tiny envelope, the purple-sweatband wearing delivery person was holding a box that was far too large to be what he was expecting.

In Chase’s let-down, he barely noticed his girlfriend cutting him off to receive the organic, recycled-material cat litter whose arrival her smartphone had alerted to her, far before the alarms roused Chase.

Feeling defeated by this distraction, Chase slumped his way back to the couch where he plopped down. The faux-leather couch’s cushions deflated slowly, sinking like Chase. His girlfriend’s cat lept into his lap as if to assure him that the package would arrive before he and his human-mom would have to leave for their reservations. Or, the cat was simply expressing to him that he was hungry. Either way, Chase was feeling slightly less concerned.

It took but a minute to change that feeling of peace right back to panic. It had been custom made, flown halfway across the planet, it was perfect for her, and yet, it wasn’t here yet. If it didn’t arrive in time before they left for the restaurant, Chase didn’t know what he would do. He already had the box where it would live, the hand-carved, gold-filigreed box that her grandmother had passed on to her for reasons he could not presently remember, but he knew meant the world to her.

He pulled that lovely wooden box out from behind the pillow where he was hiding it and rested it atop the end-table beside him.

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It was lovely. Her mother had delivered it to him (in a timely fashion) a few days before. Maybe it would suffice as a buffer gift, given its significance, but what good would it really be without something to put in it? Sure, he could recommend her to store her bracelets or earrings in it, but it was not what he had originally planned.

His knee began to bounce up and down so quickly from his nerves, that the hungry cat deemed it best to heckle the other human instead, leaping away from the man with an annoyed swing to his hips. Chase watched the cat bound upstairs to return to his mama who was probably just about finished getting ready for their special evening out.

“She doesn’t expect it. There’s was no way,” Chase reasoned with himself, his knee bouncing furiously now.

He stared at the landing from the stairs where she would be coming down any minute, heals in hand, but otherwise primed and ready to go.

Chase pulled the app up on his phone for the twelfth time in the last hour. It still read, “Two stops away.” How far away could those stops be?

“Have you ordered the car yet?” his girlfriend shouted from upstairs.

Chase’s heart dropped. He snatched the wooden box and shoved it behind him for fear of her running downstairs. If she was already asking about the car, he was done for.

“Not yet!” he hollered back, his bouncing leg was doomed to knock a hole through the floor. “Are you ready?”

Her lack of response told him that she was brushing her teeth. All that would be left was lipstick and grabbing those shoes.

And then, it happened.

“PING,” sang from his phone.

Whipping the screen to his face, he held his breath.

“Unfamiliar face at the front door,” the screen read, a second before…


“Someone is at the front-door bell.”

The sirens sang once more.

This time, Chase did not bother with checking who it was. Solicitors be damned! He would stand out on that porch and wait for that package to come until his girlfriend dragged him to the restaurant to meet their reservation. Let those folks with their fliers come at him, he was ready for the fight.

Opening the door for the third time today to see a stranger’s face, Chase thought he’d never felt more relieved, certainly never before from seeing a medium-sized envelope.

“Chase Hamilton?” the delivery guy asked.

“Yeah. Yeah, yeah, that’s me,” Chase’s voice quivered. He would later wonder how crazed he appeared to this delivery guy, standing in a nice jacket, with sweat beading on his forehead, and his hands shaking.

“I just need your signature, sir,” the delivery person extended to him his phone and Chase hurriedly scribbled the messiest signature he’d yet signed in his life.  The delivery person didn’t mind – Chase was hardly the oddest person he’d delivered to today.

Then, in a smooth, quick motion that Chase would remember involving angels singing and heavenly clouds appearing, the envelope was finally in his hands. Chase breathed again for the first time in what felt like hours. Looking squarely to the man whose face he would never forget, he said, “You saved my life tonight, man.”

“No worries, man,” the delivery person said with a shrug. “Have a good one!” He hopped down the stairs and headed back to his car.

Chase did not waste a minute. He spun back into the house, shut the door, ripped open the vessel, grabbed its contents and flung the envelope into the living room, where his girlfriend would miss it, at least for now.

He ran back to the couch and in a ninja-like fashion, retrieved the special box from the couch and shoved it into his jacket’s pocket.

His girlfriend was now coming down the stairs.

He did not have a second to peek inside the newly delivered item, but he stowed that small, black box into his pocket with the confidence that now, everything was going to be alright.

“Who was that?” his girlfriend asked, sitting on the bottom step in her elegant blue gown to dawn her high heels. “And why are you so sweaty?”

Chase took a moment to let her take his breath away before answering, “It was just another one of those stupid solicitors. Are you ready yet?”

“Yeah, I’m ready. Did you order the car like I asked?” she stood gracefully and pulled her own phone from her purse. “Why don’t you go dab your face a bit and I’ll get the car. You smell really good, by the way.”

While his girlfriend pulled up the app to order their lift to the restaurant, Chase walked away to grab a napkin. He knew he wouldn’t be sweating any more tonight. With the newly acquired ring and her grandmother’s jewelry box in his pockets, he was completely at peace to ask her to be his wife.


A tremendous thanks to my friends Jennifer G. and Kitty C., respectively, for the photos and the inspirations for this story that they provided! Thank you, Ladies!

-S. Faxon

The Prize

A short, mostly fictional tale…

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The Prize

A short by S. Faxon

It was there for the taking. One yellow balloon at the top, right corner of the wall. It was hers.

Aiming the arrow to shoot at the balloon would have been much easier were it not for the substantial amounts of wine consumed earlier in the day, but it was the fair after all, and she had only recently left an unlimited wine festival. The fact that she could hold the bow and arrow properly alone was enough of a victory. She was fairing much better than her friends who were giggling uncontrollably behind her while trying to sit still on their haystacks. Their delight and laughter were not unwarranted, for not so long ago, they too had had their eyes on a very different prize…

The glass called to them from across the room. They had been feasting and laughing and drinking in a hall full of strangers for some time with endless cups of wine, but still, those glasses on the shelf remained in their minds. When they had signed up for the fair’s wine festival weeks ago, they had been told that they would receive a souvenir wine glass to take home for their collections. The plastic sippy cups that they had been given did nothing to flatter the otherwise incredible event or give them something to boast. No. They wanted the cup they had been promised, enticed with since the very first commercial for this event that they had seen. There were certainly enough of those coveted glasses, imprinted with the year and the name of the festival upon them sitting there on that emerald green table cloth just waiting to be taken. What’s more, the glasses were out in the open, it would be only too easy to claim that which was rightfully theirs.

And so, as the other hundred bodies began to shuffle out, they made their plans and they kept their eyes on the prize.

However, the security guard had her eye on them.

They stood on the platform where the glasses were behind them, holding the elevator for countless strangers waiting to board, letting everyone take a spot before them. After three loads of this, the security guard’s brow began to raise.

Seeing that they had caught her eye, they decided to change up their strategy…

They descended the stairs beside the landing where the sacred goblet stood upon the table, hoping to throw off the security guard, but she did not budge.

They ascended the stairs beside the landing, pretending not to care or to notice, but the security guard stared almost unblinking, right into their plot. This chore stretched their prowess to the limit, but the guard simply would not falter.

It wasn’t until they received a stern, “why are you still trying to do this?” look from the guard that they decided it best to give up their quest.

Heads hung low, the pair jumped back in the elevator to join their other friend who had abandoned them in their crusade over at the archery range.

The elevator ride down was slow, elongated in their misery for failing in their task. The elevator operator thought it strange that two people emerging from an unlimited wine festival would be so quiet, but he decided to respect their red-wine induced reveries.

The elevator counted out its last floor and their destination with a loud ping. The gilded, art-deco doors parted, releasing the two to the bustling, tent-city world of the fairgrounds.

The archery range was not far, but it did require looking up and out from their sorrows to navigate to said plain. And what happened when their eyes raised?

There they were.

Two abandoned glasses, the very prizes that they thought they had been denied, right there on the pathway’s wall, waiting to be claimed. Sweet, merciful fate had heard their pleas and whether out of pity or worth, there they were. Abandoned, left behind by undeserving souls, waiting for their true owners to arrive.

Looking left over her shoulder and then right, with her open backpack strapped over her chest, in three magnificent movements, the prizes were their’s at last!

How suavely they walked away. That mean ol’ security guard four floors above was none the wiser and the fair, none the worse.

It had been a risky move, but persistence left them victorious.


The yellow balloon met its end by the point of their friends’ arrow moments after they rejoined her side. Their laughter and hoots and hollers of rejoice filled the archery range. It had become a day of unexpected delight for the bunch, but it was just another day at their county’s summer fair.

Cielito Lindo

It’s the rainy season in El Paso.

Thunder and lightning roar and rattle across the skies this time of year in a beautiful, powerful spectacle. The rain is a sacred relief to the dessert and the people who call the town around the mountain their home. To my family, the showers, the downpours were a reminder that our wonderful Matron was still watching out for us, providing for us even though we could no longer see her at our sides.

A few short months ago, I posted about my great grandmother, Consuelo Herrera, and the incredible life she enjoyed in 103 years. Every moment with her, every smile, and every song shared was one filled with love, a remarkable gift she shared with everyone right to the end. Love was the constant theme of her services. My cousins and family members who spoke, told of the power of her love, her faith, and of her unfaltering loyalty to her family. While she has moved on to the next adventure, she will forever continue to be our guardian angel.

One of the many incredible aspects of my great grandmother’s legacy was the sweet blessings she would give all of us whenever travels were ahead. She’d sign the cross over your head and heart and say her prayers. It always felt like the most sacred ceremony, like her words were truly forming a shield around me that would guard and guide my every footstep. As we were departing from El Paso this morning, my sister posted about how strange it feels to not have received that blessing and yet, both she, my mother and I encountered an unusual occurrence as we were departing: as my sister boarded the plane, the movie announced for the passengers’ in-flight enjoyment was Coco. As my mom and I plugged in my phone in our rental for the first time, to Google-Map our way to the airport, my phone immediately began to play songs from Coco, a dozen songs of probably a thousand that are in my playlists.

After shedding a tear or two, we all knew why this was happening – this was great grandma’s way of giving us her blessing. She was letting us know that even though she is no longer with us, “our love for each other will live on forever,” as the writers of Coco so beautifully said, “in every beat of our proud corazons.”

I am so proud and blessed to have known and to have been loved by great grandma. Her legacy is her love and she will continue to live on through us, so long as we live as she did – with her optimism, her faith, and the unconditional love that she shared with all.

God bless you great grandma. We will continue to sing, as you taught us all to do, and we will never hear Cielito Lindo, without belting it out in memory and in honor of you.



Consuelo Herrera


One Fair Day

A short story based on this year’s Del Mar Fair, where a particular band of adventurers found the incredible speak easy, but if you’ve been there, shhhhhh! It’s true location remains to be a secret.

One Fair Day

Amid the thousands of daily visitors to the fair, only a select special few would be capable to unwind the secrets of the speakeasy.

The news had announced the second annual hidden watering hole, a remarkable tease to entice the adventurers to meet the challenge to find their liquid treasure. The news casters performed their duties of informing the public of this hidden trove, but they honored the tradition keeping its location quiet. There were clues scattered throughout the extensive grounds of the ocean-side fair. It was an incredible, laughter filled journey, following the unwritten map that lead to the shepherd that would guide them the rest of the way:

The Pineapple Express.


It was an unrefined, but elated lot that stood in near silence from anticipation as their flight attendant announced that the pilot-less plane had arrived. She asked for their tickets and the password that was the true key to their departure. Armed with this knowledge from the clues they pursued, the first flight took off without hitch!

The first ten passengers listened to their flight attendant as she guided them through the turbulent fair toward their destination. The tall, young woman had no idea that applying for a summer job at the fair would spiral into this role of leading treasure seekers on their flights to booty. With hand in the air, she guided the group and chased away those who tried to sneak aboard. Through the throngs and to the elevator, they all ascended to the heavens to meet their well earned triumph, the  speakeasy, the Coco Cabana.


Like eagles they had soared above the fairgrounds, like kings they sipped the beverages and soaked in their glories. Real or not, the magic and prestige of the fair did not disappoint.


Did any of you fair goers find any speakeasies this summer? Or have you found any other sweet spots you’d like to share with this reading lot? Feel free to comment or to share on my Instagram any other troves you think would help your fellow adventurers to find some peace or at least, a brief escape.

Until next time!

Your humble author,

S. Faxon

P.S. – Looking for in-between escapes? Instagram’s a great way to catch a laugh with the daily shenanigans of this writer and her cats and it’s just one click away: s_faxon 


Here’s a little short for you to enjoy!



The tempo of the evening had slowed dramatically. The euphoric feeling brought about by his fourth rum and coke would have to be savored and not pounded like the previous cocktails he’d enjoyed tonight. His buddies had adjourned already and he was the last one here. This little hall had been their favorite pub. They had come here religiously, several times a week over the last three years. It was their home away from home, their Cheers, but would they still come after tomorrow?


Tomorrow he and a couple thousand others would cross the stage and achieve the dream their parents had sought for them longer than most of them had been alive.


After tomorrow, there would be no more all nighters, no cafeteria-blues, no more security text messages from campus cops, but there would also be no more late night talks with his friends in the dorm common rooms. No more studying abroad on scholarship, no more school sponsored trips to the apple orchards, or the incredible student events that happened so often.

The story of his life was about to make a dramatic shift and instead of being excited, the opposite was filling his soul. He was terrified. He knew that the paradise of college life had designed him to be a real adult and while he had a real adult beverage in hand, the obscene reality was that a stone wall stood between him and what was really out there. He had no idea how to start paying his loans. He did not know how to get an apartment. ‘Do you do that through Craigslist? Isn’t that sketchy?’

He did not really understand how to apply for a job beyond the grounds of his campus. When he really thought on it, the most he had learned in the last four years was how to turn in papers on time and how to make it appear like he had poured ounces of effort into them, when in fact they were started, completed and printed merely minutes before being due. His parents had always done everything for him. Even now his mother was likely pressing the red college gown and it’s black hood in preparation for him to wear tomorrow.

A sick feeling filled his gut.

Would he have to start pressing his own clothes after tomorrow? He had seen his mother do it a thousand times, surely that task couldn’t be that hard.

The plain road of adulthood beyond the safe and comfortable confines of campus seemed wildly intimidating, but one thing was true. Come what may, he would meet it head on. Surely there were YouTube videos on how to do everything and anything he would ever need beyond the marks of his degree. And if not there, Google had yet to let him down.

The moment of panic passed and he adjusted comfortably on his barstool. He motioned to his friend and bartender for his final check.

Taking the last sip of his adult drink, the graduate swore that he would be ready. Ready to meet the world and be a real adult.

It was getting late and tomorrow was his big day.


Happy graduation everyone! May there nothing but fair winds and following seas ahead for you! Don’t let the impending demands of adulthood unravel you, dear graduates. It’s going to be ok. Honestly, mostly everything you don’t know can likely be found in the circle of those you trust, your parents, your siblings your friends, but most especially on YouTube.

Your humble author,

S. Faxon

Entirely Hers


It was the weekend at last.

Her nine-to-five had taken her through the ringer and back, only to meet further agitation from her family and friends. But this was her weekend. There would be no happy hour, no brunches, no spontaneous trips out to the local spots. She had one plan or this weekend and she was determined to see it through.

She crossed the threshold into her living room and kicked off her pointed toed shoes, immediately feeling relaxed and unbound.

The phone was silenced and placed on the coffee table screen down. There would be no tweets, buzzing, blinking or ringing to disturb her tonight.

With ginger beer in hand, she collapsed onto the couch and released a tremendous sigh. “This is where I will make camp,” she declared to her cat, curled on the pillow beside her. The lovely calico took little care. Her mama was there beside her, which meant that pets were soon to come.

Pulling up YouTube on her smart tv, she indulged in videos of piglets, sloths and petting zoo fails. She knew that this was a complete waste of time. She knew that she could be laughing at happy hour with her friends, or out at a movie, writing one of her books, working on projects around her pad, or she could be out trying to save the world, but tonight was hers.

With the couch as her throne and her loyal cat-subject deep in a nap beside her, in this moment, she felt utterly and peace.

Your humble author,

S. Faxon

Looking for entertaining escapes in-between the weekly reads? Follow the adventures of my cat children and me on Instagram at s_faxon

Life – the End, the Beginning

It’s been a while…to review or to see where this started, here’s a look back at where this journey started with the girls:  A Tribute for Betty White


Part 5 In our Golden Girls Series: Life – the End, the Beginning

“Picture it, Sicily, 1910…” – Sophia Petrillo

Words of wisdom or words of abject ridiculousness were bound to follow whenever Estelle Getty’s character Sophia Petrillo, breathed the words, “Picture it; Siciliy, 1910…” Some of Sophia’s stories rivaled Rose’s with their nonsense and hilarity, but many of Sophia’s tales did possess of a ring of wisdom, especially the ones we the viewers see her live.

Sophia’s character, if you are not familiar, is that of a Sicilian immigrant who moved to Brooklyn with her mother, married another Sicilian immigrant and had two children, Dorothy and Phil. There could not have been greater physical differences between Dorothy and Sophia. For starters, Estelle maybe stood five-foot-1, whereas Bea Arthur was near to six feet, so their height differences alone set the stage for amazing comedy. Side note, one of my favorite moments in the Girls is when Sophia goes to make one of her classic hard-punch one liners, Dorothy slaps her hand right over Sophia’s mouth and to dismiss the moment says to the others, “I just love my mommy so much!” Pretty sure I cried laughing the first few times I saw that.

Anyway, there’s a remarkable amount of depth to Sophia’s character. Indeed, there are times when Sophia’s gruff exterior make us cringe, but at the end of the day, her heart is one of gold. Sophia volunteers and does not tell her girls about the sweet, selfless acts she does in a day. She stands up for the little guys and she is motherly, in her own way, to her girls. But most importantly, Sophia’s character gave voice to a generation that was disappearing in silence. A generation that was suffering with few in their corner. Society’s forgotten were and are our own grandparents and great-grandparents fading in the dark, but Sophia Petrillo brought them back to our attention.

There are quite a few episodes of the Girls that humbled their audiences to tears. There have been countless movies and shows that demonstrate grandparents and great grandparents deteriorating from the perspective of their loved ones, but few from the perspective of the elder themselves. Perhaps it is because people are afraid of the unknown “end” and would rather write about it from a disconnected perspective rather than throw themselves in those shoes. But the Golden Girls went there, and they went there in quite a few episodes.

In the episode, “Not Another Monday”, Sophia’s good friend Martha and her go to the funeral of another good friend, Lydia. Martha is deeply rattled by the funeral. Her family is gone. Her best friend just died. She has arthritis, angina, pills beyond imagining, and so she decides that she doesn’t want to go out in pain the way her friend had.

Martha invites Sophia out to a lavish dinner and appears to have a new attitude on life until the following conversation, which begins with Martha saying to Sophia, “I want you to come over to my place tomorrow night.”

Sophia asks, “What is it your birthday?”

“Sophia,” Martha says solemnly, “There aren’t going to be any more birthdays.”

Eventually the conversation goes on for Martha to tell Sophia, “I want you to be there when I kill myself.”

The scene breaks with Sophia and the audience in shock. Martha tells Sophia that she wanted to decide when it was her turn to go, to which Sophia replies, “I always thought somebody named God did that.” Martha continues to tell her that she doesn’t want to die in pain or alone, so she wants her friend to be there to hold her hand.

Sophia is deeply troubled by this. She understands that her friend is terrified to have seen her friend go out slowly and in pain. To be fair, we all fear that sort of demise.

Sophia keeps having nightmares of being there when her friend ends it. She consults with her girls and of course Dorothy fears for what the situation will do to her mother, but Sophia decides that she is going to be there for her friend and so she goes. Her friend gives her an amazing diamond and they begin to reflect on the good times. Martha has her pills at the ready on the table in front of her and once she realizes that she has everything prepared, she says to Sophia, “I’m so glad I don’t have to go alone.”

Sophia stands from the couch where they are sitting in Martha’s home and says, “Do you remember how we met?”

Perking up significantly, Martha says, “Yes, about 8 years ago we shared a room in a hospital. You had the heart scare, I had the gull-bladder.”

“They gave you my sponge bath by mistake.”

“You ate my jello. It was a horrible little room. We couldn’t wait to get out of it.”

“Because we wanted to live,” Sophia quickly reminds.

“Yes, I remember.”

“Remember better! Remember life!” Sophia desperately pleas.

Shaking her head, Martha replies, “I don’t have much of one. I’m not like you. You live with friends and family. Holidays and warmth. I hear the silence.”

Sitting back on the couch with Martha, Sophia says, “We’ll talk. We’ll talk all the time. You can come over Thanksgiving, Christmas. Every Friday night, I may not always be there, but you can always talk to Rose.”

“No, I want to go. Lydia looked so peaceful.” Martha grabs her hand full of pills, but Sophia grabs them from her.

“We’re not in this life for peace.”

“You’re crying.”

“No I’m not, I don’t cry!” Sophia protests.

“I can see your tears!”

“And I can see yours and you know what that tells me?”


“You’re not as ready to die as you think you are. You still want to live, kid.”

“Some kid. I don’t know what to do.”

“That’s the point. If you’re not sure, you can’t change your mind tomorrow. You wanted me to be here for your death, how about letting me be here for your life?

“Like a friend?”

“Like a best friend.”

This may be one of the most powerful dialogues in the entire seven years of the show.  Yes, death is imminent and often times it can be premised with great pain, but it is the love of our friends and family that must keep us strong.  Life is not easy and sometimes we are presented with great challenges that make us question everything, but every morning, the sun rises. Hope is reborn. We just have to hold on to those bursts of light, even on cloud stricken days. This lesson of appreciating every moment, every smile, every friend is something that Sophia teaches us in this and many other episodes. Her wisdom of strength through love is beautiful and one that we would all do well to abide. Fear of the unknown weakens us and makes us so susceptible to terrible decisions and isolation, creating an ever-downward spiral. Sophia’s remedy is simple and so easy to abide; love. Open your heart to the world around you and you will find beauty, you will find reprieve and peace of mind, even if you are suffering. It is friendship and laughter that frees us from our chains. My own grandmother, Nelva Faye, was very sick towards the end of her life, but she was surrounded by her loved ones and I remember her laughing, singing, even when in what she and we all knew to be her last few days in this plain with us. She did not die alone and she lives on through us, her family and her friends.

If you have a loved one who is getting on in years, please don’t let them be forgotten. Do everything in your power to prevent that fate. They have contributed more to this world than we yet have, so let them know that they are loved and appreciated. Invite them out to tea, for wine tasting, for beach combing, whatever they or you deem worth, just don’t let them fade. If you are in your later years, fill your life with laughter. Don’t let yourself become isolated – go sailing, go walking, join clubs, go on cruises. There is so much life out there – live it to the last, dear readers. You only get one shot at this, so make it good.

Many people have said that it’s the things that we overcome, the mountains that we climb, that we remember most, but I want to add it’s the loved ones who were with us as we met those challenges that we should hold most dearly in our hearts. This is the lesson that Sophia Petrillo teaches us. The “end” only comes if we allow ourselves to loose sight of the truly important and dear things in life: love, laughter, friendship. Surround yourself with these blessings, my dear Readers. Endure, smile, explore. Even if you are in your golden years and especially if you are in a rut. You are not alone. Trust me, I know at times the road is rough, but keep Sophia’s words in your heart; “We’re not in it for the peace” and “keep your seat belts on, there’s a lot of twists and turns.” You never know what the road will bring.

That concludes our mini-series with Sophia, Dorothy, Blanche and Rose. Let me know if you’ve enjoyed this journey in the comment section below and feel free to share it too!

I’ll see you next time, dear readers!

Your humble author,

S. Faxon

It’s Not Normal, But It’s Ours

Part 4 In our Golden Girls Series: It’s Not Normal, But It’s Ours.

Just tuning in? Here’s a look back at where this journey started with the girls:  A Tribute for Betty White

Photo courtesy of Closer Weekly’s Collectors Edition The Golden Girls magazine, from spring of 2017.

“You’re a furry little gnome and we feed you too much.” – Dorothy Zbornak to her mother.

Family is one of the most complicated subjects that we are confronted with in life and one that has puzzled people, authors, philosophers throughout the ages. Shakespeare demonstrated the heavy struggles of family loyalty and duty in Romeo and Juliet. Leave It To Beaver demonstrated the squeaky-clean, “American” ideal image of family, one that has been stuck to our conscious as though applied with glue.

We’ve been conditioned to think of the ideal family as a mom, dad, a couple of tots and perhaps a dog. I often think of the show Growing Pains where there was the working dad, the stay at home mom (for many years and yes, eventually she returned to work), two brothers and two sisters. Yes, the family was not without our typical every day issues, but there was a level of societal perfection to it that so many of us do not boast. And guess what: it’s ok.

So what if your family does not have the a-typical 4 Bedroom, 2.5 bath house with (Mom + Dad = pre-determined amount of babies)…that feels way too much like an algebra problem and not real life. Real life is better shown in shows like today’s Modern Family, but of course, we’re here to talk about the Golden Girls.

Each one of the girls have their own demonstrations that family is not always the ideal Leave It To Beaver structure we’ve been taught to believe in; Blanche is nearly disowned from her family because of her pride when she refuses to go to her father’s funeral. Rose has a sister who is wickedly manipulative to the point where she attempts to ostracize her from her friends. Sophia was not married to the most handsome, clever, or smart man in the village, but her late-husband Sal loved her with all of his heart and that was all she needed. Then there’s Dorothy’s brother Phil. Oh, Phil. Where to begin?

Let’s start with Dorothy, or more formally, Dorothea Petrillo, daughter of immigrants Salvatore and Sophia Petrillo, mother of Michael and Kate, sister of Phil, and former wife of Stanley Zbornak, “first class yutz.” Her family demonstrates the a-typical American family, and no, not the televised American family, the REAL American family. Maybe not your own, but I can almost guarantee that among your friends, your relatives, neighbors or colleagues, there’s more than a few like this one. Each member of Dorothy’s family could compose an entire chapter on the ins-and-outs representing American life, Stan could be a book to himself, but we’re going to focus on her little brother Phil and we’ll start with his death.

At the beginning of the episode, we learn that the girls are preparing for Phil’s funeral. The girls are obviously in mourning, but we are almost instantly reminded of a lifestyle preference of Phil’s that had been mentioned on numerous occasions about the character throughout the show, though we never actually get to meet Phil: he passed away from a heart attack while trying on evening gowns.

Sophia comes out into the living room and in her mourning clothes, asks of the girls:

“Dorothy, I never understood why your brother liked to wear women’s clothes, unless he was queer.”

Blanche respectfully replies, “Sophia, people don’t say queer any more, they say gay.”

To which Sophia corrects, “They say gay if a guy can sing the entire score of GiGi. But a six-foot-three, two hundred pound married man with kids who likes to dress up like Dorothy Lamore, I think you have to go with queer.”

Phil is an extraordinarily unique character within the show. It’s easy to assume that a man who wears women’s clothes and watches Gladiator movies has a penchant to be gay, BUT, we are lead to believe that he wasn’t. Blanche ends up having a gay brother, but Dorothy’s brother is simply different from what society expects and the whole conversation of Phil throughout the series sheds light on the fact that it’s ok to be different and to have a family member who is different. Regardless if the members of our family are different or the perceived “normal,” we love them anyway because they’re family and that’s what you do.

This question though of why someone is different and how they came to their choices is difficult for some to accept. Sophia demonstrates the questioning of “what did I do wrong” a parent may feel if their child doesn’t meet that ideal image that they create for their babe. Parents imagine this ideal image of what their baby’s life should be and when their child’s reality is different from their parents’ dreams, that can be a difficult concept to accept. Most parents do and that is wonderful, but some resent the fact that their child’s dreams are different from their own. We see this later point with Sophia. She goes DECADES without stepping foot in her son’s home because she alleges to resent Phil’s wife, Sally, when in reality she is resentful to the fact that her baby boy’s lifestyle was drastically different from her ideal image and she fears that people blame her his choices. Dorothy goes to wit’s end trying to play peace-builder to her mother and sister-in-law and in the process she realizes that she loved her brother unconditionally regardless of his life choices. He was her brother and that was all that mattered. Eventually, Rose becomes moderator between the clashing Titans, Phil’s surviving wife and Sophia.

Rose asks Sophia why she is so upset at Sally. Sophia replies, “The dress thing, why didn’t she stop the dress thing?” 

Sally defends herself that Phil’s cross dressing didn’t start with her and Sophia immediately responds, “Oh, so it was my fault?”

Rose asks, “Are you worried that people will think it’s your fault, Sophia?” In a backwards way, Sophia admits that yes, she was concerned by this. Rose establishes that Phil was a good provider, a good human being. Rose then proceeds to go into a St. Olaf story, most of which I’ll spare you from, but she ends with, “It was shame that kept Aunt Katrina from loving slow Ingmar and it ruined her life. So what if he was different? It’s ok that you loved him.”

Realizing her folly, Sophia says, “I did love him. He was my son. My little boy. But every time I saw him I always wondered what I did, what I said, when was the day that I did whatever I did to make him the way he was.”

Sally stands and says, “What he was, Sophia, was a good man.”

Falling apart, strong Sophia cries, “My baby is gone.”

It’s an intense scene; a mother realizing that she didn’t show her boy all of her love because she was ashamed and scared that she would be judged for his decisions. In an earlier scene, Dorothy gives the eulogy at her brother’s funeral and the dialogue is worth reading because it demonstrates the importance the absolute importance of loving and appreciating every moment we have with our loved ones because we don’t know when they will be taken away:

“Seems like I’m always mad at my brother Phil. I was mad the day my parents brought him back from the hospital; I thought he’d take their love away from me, and instead their love expanded and we felt ore like a family. I was mad at him when I was ten and he was four and we moved to a new neighborhood; I was mad because he always made new friends more easily than I did. And I’m mad today because I never wanted to give the eulogy at my kid brother’s funeral. I’m mad because he died he didn’t have the wisdom to know that family members shouldn’t allow themselves to grow apart because when this day comes they can no longer tell each other how they care. If he had that wisdom he could have shared that with me and I would have of just the two of us eating ice cream on the stoop of our building, going through the drawers of grandma’s house, or dressing up like the Bronte sisters. How those memories fill me with joy. Why didn’t you have that wisdom Phil? Why didn’t you give us a chance to tell you how much we loved you?”

Love takes so little effort and yet it seems that we are so much quicker to hate. It doesn’t make sense. Don’t let society, stereotypes, misguided ignorance or assumptions determine the love that you share. If your child is happy, loving, gracious, humble and successful, is that not something to be proud of? If their dreams are different than yours, have you not created a strong, independent individual? If your sibling’s life is different from your own, hey, at least you won’t have to compete over the same victories, however large or small.

Family is crazy, family can be a mess. It can be stability. It can be our biggest frustration. It can be our peace. Regardless of what you find it to be, it’s likely not “normal,” it’s not what we grew up believing in it to be, but it’s ours and it’s something to hold and to treasure, especially if it’s not perfect. It’s helped to influence who you are today.

My workplace has this odd family connection, where we are dysfunctional, mostly crazy, and we are certainly not without our inner conflict, but at the end of the day, we are all under the same colors and we do for each other, as we do for our own blood. The Golden Girls show us that blood is not the only thing that makes “family.” Love, friendship, loyalty, pride, and faith are what binds us as family. And I’m extraordinarily grateful for all of mine.

We’ll see you next week for the conclusion of our Golden Girls series!

Your humble author,

S. Faxon

PS – I did not make it to my storage last week to collect my DVD player, nor have I subscribed to Hulu to watch Golden Girls while I work on these. I did see a new magazine though regarding the Girls at my local grocery store. Somehow I missed picking it up, but have any of you seen it?

Post Post Script – this chapter is dedicated in honor of my friends, one who recently lost his father, and my other friends who recently lost their mother. Their love will never leave you and they will live on forever in your hearts. 

Rose by Another Name

A personalized photo I received from Betty White a few years ago after I wrote her a letter describing how watching the Golden Girls makes me feel like I’m home again. This photo has hung on the wall of every living space I’ve occupied since receiving it and yes, currently it lives next to a rubber chicken. Why? It just felt right.

“Back in St. Olaf…” -Rose

When preparing to find the actress for the character of Rose Nylund, writer and producer Susan Harris told the then auditioning Betty White, “Rose is so naive. She’s totally naive; she never gets the double meaning of anything, no sarcasm.” And on the spot, Betty White created one of the most beloved and confounding characters in television history. Originally, Betty had been auditioned as the vamp Blanche Deveraux, but because Rue McLanahan knew that Blanche was the role she was born to play, the girls switched and magic was what followed. If you have seen a single episode of The Golden Girls, you know that Betty hit the role of the dim-witted, innocent Rose right on the nose, and yes, at times, it did hurt a little. There were many instances where it seemed likely that Blanche, Dorothy or Sophia were about ready to murder Rose just to shut her up. In one episode Sophia made an attempt with a cleverly disguised story and a stove-pot, but much to her disappointment, she was interrupted by Blanche.

From her rambling and confusing “back in St. Olaf” stories to believing that she was the daughter of Bob Hope, Rose makes for one brilliantly entertaining, odd duck character. Her childlike innocence and scattered brained tales of impossibly out-there situations may make her seem like a rather dull knife with little to contribute, but that is not the case. I will admit that when I originally started drafting my ideas for this project, I felt a bit like Dorothy when she was telling her boyfriend about the lessons the girls had taught her; Blanch had taught Dorothy to be comfortable as a woman, her mother had passed on the wisdom of life, but when she came to Rose, she concentrated intently and gave up after a considerable span of time to move on to a different topic, but mid-sentence she realized that Rose had indeed taught her something; “A square knot.”

Funny as that may be, Rose was not a mere square in the plots. Indeed, it is time that we look at Rose in a very different light than the mere comic relief in a comedy. Leaving the countless charities in which she was involved aside, some of the most dramatic issues that occurred within the series happen to Rose. She was addicted to pain killers. She was nearly taken advantage of in a case of false identity. She struggled with finding work after being laid off at a grief counseling center. She was tormented by the paranoia of being robbed after a break-in at her home. She was groped by her dentist. Worst of all, sweet, innocent Rose was confronted with one of the scariest diseases of modern times: AIDs. Yes, the child-like character goes seventy-two hours with the dark shadow hanging over her. But how? Now, you may be thinking that we know generally how HIV spreads, we learn that in our ninth grade science classes, but there was another way the disease was spreading and it was brought up TWICE in the Golden Girls. Any ideas? If you guessed via transfusions, then you are correct. If you thought Rose Nylund was needle-sharing, then in the words of Sophia Petrillo, you botchagalloop! Go back to Golden Girls 101 and review your character notes.

That’s right, transfusions. How could that be? Don’t hospitals screen blood donors and test the samples before they put blood from one person into another? Well, the answer for today is yes, but the reason did not seem necessary until the AIDs pandemic that left the world in shock. For my Millennial readers and back, we may not remember the fear and the hatred, the lies and the misinformed stereotypes that spun out from the early days of AIDs in the 1980s. Today, we know that it is spread by unsafe sex, the exchange of blood, plasma, or other bodily fluids, and from needle sharing. But in the early ‘80s when AIDs was the new terror on the scene, it was shamefully referred to as “Gay-Related Immune Deficiency.” Why? because the first several cases of patients being admitted with symptoms of HIV in the US were homosexual men. After a short while, scientists and the health community began to realize that this was not a disease that was limited to the gay-male community, but who were these other victims? Some were users, but, as the years went on, quite a few were hemophiliacs, people whose lives depended on blood transfusions, as well as people who needed any sort of transfusions. The main focus on television (news media especially) was not on those victims, save for the Golden Girls, who again, did so twice.

In the first episode, Sophia brings a boy in a hospital a nectarine. His name is Sam. He can’t be more than twelve years old and he is living in the hospital, wheel chair bound. Sophia visits with him, but the boy is sad because, “no one’s ever beat it before.” It’s a short scene, but important. For those who were paying attention as they watched in the ‘80s, this little boy gave a new face to a seriously misunderstood virus. The general public failed to realize the amount of children AIDS patients in the 1980s. Between the mid-80s and the early 1990s, there were almost 7,500 cases of children being diagnosed with AIDS, of them, 601 through transfusions, the rest, from their mothers (CDC). All of these victims were the silent victims. They experienced cruelty and terror that no human deserves, deemed by the general public as enemies to be feared and ostracized.

Every other year or so it seems that there’s a new virus that is blown-out of proportion on the media to be the next walking dead bringing Apocalypse. Between 2000 and 2017 alone, we’ve had Mad Cow, Bird Flu, Swine Flu, Ebola, Zika, Hepatitis, and the good ol’ regular flu. Now, this is not to downplay the serious and absolutely devastating effects these abhorrent afflictions have plagued the human race. This is instead to point out that historically, our focus on these diseases do not center around prevention, treatment, or information. Instead, we focus on the deaths and the carriers of the diseases. Granted, our streets are not filled with panic stricken folk running about madly, but things are substantially different today than they were thirty years ago. For starters, we have far greater access to information via any electronic device we posses. This wasn’t the case in the eighties. People relied on the papers and the TV to tell them what was going on. The information from doctors, scientists, researchers was not as accessible to the general public as it is today, so fear of this new plague, AIDs, was tremendous. People, even scientists of the day, just did not know what was going on. Unfortunately, fear quite often fills the void that lack of knowledge leaves behind.

The producers and the writing team of Golden Girls knew that they had the attention of the globe; they had been in the top ten spot since their first year and in their 5th season, they had upheld their desire to portray real family and real people problems with humor and with the episode “72 Hours,” that’s exactly what they did. They did not have the answers to the AIDs pandemic, but they knew two things: AIDs was not a “bad persons” disease and no one could get through the process, whether they be waiting to be diagnosed or pushing through, without the support of their loved ones. Unfortunately, for far too many AIDs victims, they were forced to suffer and die alone.

For Blanche, Dorothy, and Sophia, they knew that no matter the outcome of Rose’s test, she would not be alone. There were quite a few stereotypes within the episode that the Girls addressed: Sophia doesn’t want to use the same bathroom as Rose for fear of catching AIDs, which Dorothy helps her mother to debunk. Sophia labels cups with Rs to keep herself from using Rose’s under the same fear of AIDs being spread via sharing dishes, which is debunked by Dorothy and Blanche. There are a few instances in the episode where Rose expresses her fear of becoming isolated as no one would want her around if she is diagnosed as people back then had a difficult time finding work or maintaining their jobs due to the stereotypes that existed, but solidarity and the tight bonds of their friendship help prove to Rose that no matter what, her girls would be there for her.

Rose is eventually declared clear, but over 100,000 American people from 1981 to 1990 were not so fortunate and fell to the subsequent degenerations of the virus. Today, we do know substantially more about AIDs, but still, people are being diagnosed. Approximately 40,000 were diagnosed in 2014, but this is a significant decrease from previous decades.

It is our duty as informed citizens to not let information about AIDs slip. Parents need to talk about safe sex with their children. We cannot depend on the school system to tell our children about the real dangers that are out there. Even Dorothy makes this point to her mother during the episode, after which Sophia proudly says that she has come a long way from telling her daughter to not let boys touch her “you know w-h-e-r-e” (yes, she spelled out where), and proves it by giving to Dorothy a bag of condoms. That may indeed be a bit of an extreme example of talking safe sex, but it makes a good point.

TV is highly influential in our lives and the writers of Golden Girls knew this. For better or for worse, we learn a LOT from our TVs. Using innocent Rose as a banner for people who are scared and possibly very sick remains to be one of the most brilliant episodes of the Golden Girls, if not television history, in this author’s humble opinion. It showed how misinformed minds become subject so quickly to fear and to panic. In 2016, look at how drastic the measures were to prevent Ebola from entering our country. Look at the words used by the media about the victims. Would it not make more sense to inform and instruct people about an extremely serious disease, rather than make those suffering out to be the enemies? The next time our zombie-making disease arises, think of Rose Nylund, an adult woman who had a teddy bear named Fernando. Think about her when you hear about the victims who need love and support, not condemnation and neglect. Learn what you can about the disease itself and the preventative action that you may take. Learn from the Golden Girls, who sought nothing else than to show us how compassion and friendship can make the world, even a sick world, right.

We’ll see you next week when we take a peak at family from the perspective of Dorothy Zborknak, a divorced substitute school teacher who still lives with her mother, and hey, as someone who still lives at home with her mom, let me tell you now, it’s perfectly normal…even if at times, our family drives us nuts.

Your humble author,

S. Faxon

PS – As I’m editing these, I’m realizing that my DVD player is in storage and it seems sacrilegious to be writing these without the Girls on in the background! Will I brave my storage unit to find my DVD player? Will I be lazy and subscribe to Hulu and stream them from that instead? Follow this blog and find out next week!