All posts by jlspeck

About jlspeck

Took a Creative Writing class at College of Marin taught by Dr. Jamie Tipton. Found out folks enjoyed what I wrote. That is addictive. Started this blog to keep me going. Posting a lot of stories written a while back.

Minnie Meets Rev. Gilbey


Rain pelts her legs and the wind tears at her umbrella as she waits for her daughter outside the Cathedral. She can hear music drifting out from the massive building, blending with the noise of the wind and traffic and cable car bells. Even though the day is cold, she is hot. She loosens her scarf and collar to let some personal steam escape. Turning 50 isn’t for sissies. Her mother referred to this condition as a “personal weather system”. Once again, Mom was right on the money.

She wants to shriek and tear off her coat. Instead she clatters inside the church, drops her umbrella and purse,  unzips her coat and lets it drop to the floor. Leaning back against the cool concrete wall she fans her flushed face with a brochure she picked up from a nearby table. A boys choir is rehearsing somewhere nearby down the hall. Her phone rings and she snatches up her purse to rummage through the mess inside looking for the phone before it stops ringing. It’s her daughter. She is always late.

“Beth, where are you? Minnie says, a bit more loudly then she intended. “I’ve been waiting outside for 15 minutes! Are you OK?”

A man with a white collar pokes his head around the corner. He starts towards her.

“Beth, Beth, hold on. Just hold on.”

“Hello”, says the man, who is very good looking in his all black minister shirt and black slacks. Under a crop of curly brown hair his blue eyes hold her own in a steady friendly gaze. Minnie realizes how she must look; her purse, umbrella and coat flung on the floor, her hair wet and wind blown.

“Is there something I can do to help?” he smiles.

“Beth, please hold on just another minute.”

“Hi”, says Minnie, holding her hand over the mouthpiece of her phone. “Thank you no, I’m just fine. Just waiting for my daughter, and I got caught in the rain.” His face is sweet, and so young. 

“Would you like a cup of hot tea? My office is just down the hall. ” Minnie gapes into this good Samaritan’s deep blue eyes and finds herself nodding her head, even though she is still warm.

“Beth! Did you say you haven’t left the house yet?” Minnie watches as her saviour gathers up her umbrella and coat, and motions for her to follow him.

“OK, Beth. You drive carefully, and I will wait for you here at the Cathedral. Just call me when you get here.”

Minnie folds her phone, and trails after her helpful God-send.



Inside his office are two walls lined with books. A large double-sided desk that looks old with two chairs each facing the other sits in the middle of the room, and against one wall are a couple of upholstered well-worn wing chairs. Behind the desk rain beats on the window looking out to California Street, and cold wet people hurry past, bent into the wind. Her coat and umbrella are hanging on a hook by the door, and he is pouring steaming hot water from an electric kettle into a dark blue ceramic mug.

“I hope Irish Breakfast is OK?” he asks, motioning her into the desk chair facing the window. He sets the steaming mug on the desk in front of the chair. Minnie takes a seat, and the very nice minister walks around the desk to sit opposite her. He picks up a mug that must have been there before he came out to the hall to find her.

“Bloody awful day out.” He says, in what she recognizes as a British accent.

“Yes. If I could have I would have stayed home.” says Minnie. “But my daughter is getting married in a month, and we have lots to do.”

“Oh, well, what a happy occasion to get drenched for. By the way, I am James Gilbey.” He reaches across the desk to offer his hand, partially rising from his chair to reach Minnie’s hand. Her hand is enveloped by his, and he briefly places his other hand over hers. “Your hand is quite warm!” he says.

“Minnie Calloway,” she said, thinking of her favorite beverage and taking her hand back. “Thank you so much for the tea and warmth. I am sorry I disturbed you from whatever you were doing.”

“No need to apologize! I was in between tasks and having a bit of a tea break of my own.”

“What do you do here at the Cathedral?” Minnie asks.

“Oh, a little bit of everything. The occasional Memorial, and one or two regular services during the week. I assist at Sunday Mass. But then, we all do that.”

Minnie cups the hot mug in her hands, warming up, and breathes in the steamy vapors. Just five minutes ago she was much too hot to consider tea, but thankfully that wave has passed.

“But my pet project here at Grace is organizing the Food Pantry and Free Hot Lunch program. In fact, I need to head on over to the kitchen soon to see how everyone is getting along with today’s lunch.” Minnie starts to rise from her chair.

“No, no, finish your tea. I have a few minutes. Perhaps you’d like to come with me to see what we do?”

“Oh.” Minnie checks her watch. “I don’t know.”

“It’s not at all far. I won’t take but five minutes of your time.”

“All right then, I would like to see what you are doing here. It sounds wonderful. But I’ll need to run when my daughter calls.”

“Good.” James beams at her and sips his tea.

Minnie smiles back at him and settles into the chair, relaxing in this gentle man’s company, saying a little prayer of thanksgiving.






Just yesterday she’d said to herself: “Never again!”

And now look what happened. She swore under her breath.

Minnie sat herself down on the john and put her face in her hands, while the room spun around her. It was late. Danny had gone to bed more than an hour ago while Minnie sat up pouring “just one more”, blearily watching TV. Somehow she would have to straighten this drinking thing out. Get squared away. Find some inner strength, some self-control. She held the wall while standing up, and the dinner she’d consumed hours ago surged up into her throat. She spun around and bent over just in time.

That didn’t take long, she thought, after she gargled and brushed her teeth. Drink for hours and loose it and your dinner in a minute. Her head was clearer anyway.

Linus, her cat, settled himself on her chest as he did every night when she got into bed, until he bolted, launching himself with a big push just as she was falling asleep, the suddenness practically giving her heart failure. Before the launch he purred, kneaded her throat, and tried to get her to sing to him, but since Danny was asleep Minnie kept quiet. She drifted off. Linus bolted.

 In the morning she didn’t feel too bad. The good side of loosing your cookies she thought. Her hand shook slightly while she drank her tea. Minnie contemplated calling Ralph at rehab, but the last time she met with the group he threatened to send her to Drunk Person Day Camp so she stopped going. There was no time for day camp. What was he thinking? She needed to work, after all.

“What time did you get to bed last night?” Danny asked, walking into the dining room carrying his laptop and a cup of coffee. “I see you polished off another bottle.” He sat down opposite Minnie, opened up his computer and started to type, after slurping some coffee. Minnie wished she’d remembered to throw away the empty.

“Maybe around two. I was finishing a movie.”

Danny rattled away at the keyboard, working on another screenplay, his brow creased, his eyes focused on the monitor. He paused for a swallow of coffee, leaned back in his chair and contemplated Minnie.

“Going to work today?” he asked. “Or are you going to call in sick again?” Minnie had taken a sick day yesterday because she was hung over from her binge the previous night.

“No. I’m going. I’m fine.”

“You don’t look fine. You look gray and wasted.”

“Thanks a bunch.”

“I worry about you Minnie. You’re drinking way too much. Again.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m working on it.”


“Look. I’d better get ready for work, don’t you think? I don’t have time to talk right now.” Minnie stood up, collected her mug and cereal bowl, and headed for the kitchen. Danny watched her walk away, then went back to his work.

Her Closet

When they were children, Minnie and her brother and sisters spent many happy days in their Grandmother’s house on Carleton Street. Years later, Minnie wrote about one of her memories from that time.

Her Closet

Her closet smells like perfume and powder.

We huddle between coats and dresses, my sister and I.

One coat’s collar is made from a seal and

We bury our small fingers in the butter soft fur.

Pumps, high heels, tennis shoes, slippers,

Green, brown, black, white, red, and tan, stand in neat rows

On the carpeted floor, under hanging clothes.

Purses, sweaters, and hats stack up high to the ceiling.

Our voices are muffled in the long narrow space.

Daylight filters between two walls of coats, skirts, blouses and dresses.

I brush through them to reach the small window in the far wall where

I can see far over her neighbor’s roof to other roofs.

Our days are long and quiet on Carleton Street.

We sit in her closet, off and on, as we

wait for her to come home from work, or

until Grandma Mae calls us to supper.

Minnie’s Mom

Inching her way through her mother’s living room, Minnie squeezes between the south wall, where the fireplace used to be, and one of the massive piles of stuff that has built up to shoulder height over a period of time. Technically, the fireplace is still there, but Minnie hasn’t set eyes on it for years. Her mother long ago used the brick cave that was designed to hold a fire for a repository of old bank statements, tax returns, newspapers and magazines. Stacks of stuff now engulf the hearth and continue precariously up to cover the mantel and the wall above the mantel.

Turning sideways to make the going easier, she continues down the “goat path”, occasionally catching a glimpse of the carpeted floor below. She knows her mother is home because the old Buick is parked in the driveway.

“Mother?” she calls.

Minnie’s voice is muffled in the densely packed room. She edges past one of the pianos that can still be played, if you don’t mind standing up to play and leaning over the cardboard boxes full of clothing and purses and gloves that are stacked on the piano bench. The top and legs of the piano are invisible, hidden behind and under more stacks of sheets and towels, clothes needing folding, and books. Lots of books.

The room is dimly lit. All of the windows are obliterated by stuff and the afternoon sunshine only shines through an occasional chink. From the street the house looks unoccupied, even at night, unless Gloria remembers to turn on the porch light. ‘Good thing they bought a house with skylights’, Minnie muses to herself, looking up. There is so much leaf debris on the skylights that they don’t do much good. It’s been five years since she last visited her mom, and not much has changed. Except that there are now several large plastic storage units lined up on the driveway, taking up the space of a second car. Gloria told her about those last year. “I need a bigger house,” she had said.

The opening to the kitchen is a few paces ahead and to the right. The door is half blocked leaving space enough for only one person to squeeze through. The kitchen used to be the center of their family life when Minnie was a child. Minnie caught a whiff of a very bad odor when she was out in the front room. Now she can barely stand it. In front of her is the kitchen table, which is piled high with a mountain of papers, books, magazines and mail. One corner – about the size of a dinner plate – of the yellow Formica tabletop is visible. Fruit flies hover over a wooden bowl full of decomposing oranges.

Daylight leaks in through the plants outside the window over the kitchen sink, which is piled high with dirty dishes. There is just enough floor space in the kitchen to move from table to sink to stove to refrigerator. The kitchen door to the yard out back is completely blocked by empty grocery bags stuffed with plastic bags, empty cans and wine bottles, and trash. Minnie edges around the table, past the sink to the refrigerator. The door hangs ajar, and she cannot push it shut because of the overflow of food. The meat drawer and vegetable drawer won’t close, and each shelf is crammed with food.            

“Mom!” she yells, turning away, her stomach lurching from the stench, tears pricking her eyes.


March 13, 2011

Minnie and the Man in the Top Hat

Minnie left the house at 4:30 on her way to meet Danny at the Christmas tree lot. She pulled the front door shut and cut across the front lawn to the corner, kicking the dry leaves fallen from the giant sycamore. She had a smile on her face. The weeks before Christmas always made her happy. Minnie took a deep breath, relaxing into the cool autumn southern California evening, while she waited for the ‘walk’ signal. Tall palm trees lining the boulevard detracted a bit from her holiday mood, but the long red and white candy canes she fingered in her pocket brought the good old yuletide feeling back.

As she crossed the wide roadway Minnie smiled at the sight of Christmas trees on the tops of cars and wreaths with red bows on front grills.

Minnie arrived at the tree lot before Danny, so she sat down to wait on a bus stop bench, watching the traffic and the sunset. Presently a bus came along and disgorged some passengers. The last person to swing down from the back door was a man wearing a black top hat, a red muffler, green tennis shoes and nothing else. Minnie drew in her breath.

The bus pulled away. Top Hat stood looking up and down the street, not more than six feet from Minnie, as if deciding which way to go. He was very thin, tall, and hairy. Minnie started to rise and back away, but found her path blocked by a trash receptacle. Drivers in passing cars began to slow to a stop. Some of them honked their horns, some of them whistled. The naked man took no notice, but turned on his heel and looked right at Minnie. Her heart sank. She tried to make herself smaller, thinking the man would pass right by. She was the only other person around except for people in their cars.

He started to sing Jingle Bells as he approached the bench, in a high-pitched child-like voice. Minnie looked around, hoping to see Danny, or someone else who could help her. The man sat down next to her, on the probably very cold bench, and grabbed her left wrist in both of his hands. He leaned over to plant a kiss on the back of her hand. Minnie let out a yelp, and tried to jerk her hand back.

“Let go!” she yelled, and swung her right fist, smashing her candy canes into his face, knocking his hat off. “Help!” she screamed.

A siren blared across the street, and a voice coming over a loud speaker commanded: “Don’t move anyone, stay right where you are.” Minnie saw an officer running in between stopped cars heading her way. Shaking, Minnie pulled and twisted her arm, but to no avail. Now, singing “Oh Holy Night”, Top Hat held on to Minnie’s wrist with one hand, and was reaching for his top hat with the other, when the cop cuffed him.

Startled, the naked guy released Minnie. She slumped to the sidewalk, rubbing her abused wrist, tears streaming down her cheeks. Another cop helped her to her feet. Top Hat was escorted to the patrol car singing Frosty the Snowman, while his top hat blew down the street. Danny arrived just then, took in the scene, and wrapped his warm arms around Minnie.



Notes before my second post

I started this blog for myself, as a tool to prompt me to work on my stories. It seems to be working! I asked WordPress to send me a reminder once a week. I got my first reminder yesterday. “Time to post”. Very friendly.

I have not explored all the bells and whistles of WordPress. I spent more time playing around with cool themes and fonts and uploading photographs than I did posting my first post. The appearance of my blog will undoubtedly change over time, until I finally settle. Bear with me.

If anybody happens to stumble upon this blog in the great Sea of Billions of Blogs, please feel welcome. I hope you enjoy reading about Minnie and her adventures. My writing group likes her a lot.

Cheers! And, happy February!! Visualize Rain!images

Minnie the Moocher

Minnie was named Minerva Rae, after her great great grandmother on her mother’s side. Minnie and all her siblings were named after long gone ancestors with ancient names. Minerva was a goddess, Minnie knew that much. Her older sister, Winifred Alice, was nicknamed Pooh, after Winnie, and Minnie thought that was stupid. The girl’s older brother, Douglas Hamilton, made sure no one called him Dougie anymore. If you forgot and called him Dougie he’d punch you. Following along a couple years after Minnie was Charlotte Grace, who everyone called Charlie.

When she was a girl one of their Father’s uncles teased Minnie incessantly about her name, calling her “Minnie the Moocher” after a song he heard a long time ago. Minnie sometimes complained to her mother about Uncle Bill and his teasing, but her Mom told her just to ignore him and he would stop. Instead, the next time she saw Uncle Bill, at Christmas, when he started singing Minnie the Moocher, Minnie poured her milk all over his head. She got into hot water over that, and was sent to her room with no dessert, which was a great disappointment since it was ice cream snowballs.

Much later on, long after Uncle Bill was dead, Minnie met Danny in the corner bar, and got a great kick out of the fact that his last name was Calloway. Cab Calloway was the man who wrote Minnie the Moocher, and Minnie had since come to love it. Minnie laughed out loud when Danny told her his last name. He grinned and stared into her eyes with his great big brown eyes and said, “What’s so funny?” Minnie told him all about Uncle Bill, invited him home, played him the song and then she took him to bed. Danny Calloway moved in pretty soon after that.

July 7, 2009