Green Hills Literary Lantern

 

 

 

Maybe Just Once 

 

 

When Lelah awoke in the back seat of the old Plymouth that August morning in 1971, her husband had gone. He’d said nothing about leaving. He’d left no note. But Ed Means had gone, slipped away in the darkest hour. He’d deserted her before, but this time it hurt more and frightened her more. They’d only recently buried their eight-year-old son, Bobby. And now Lelah found herself abandoned in a Minnesota roadside rest area with the boy’s little sister, Karlene.

Married at sixteen, still only twenty-five, Lelah felt old. And she looked old. Her dishwater-blonde hair sprouted in all directions. Her sunken brown eyes broadcast suspicion of all about her. Emaciated, she wore a hand-me-down skirt and a tired Goodwill blouse. A safety pin substituted for a missing button. Lelah’s fingernails needed cleaning. Protruding from battered sandals, so did her toenails. A West Virginia miner’s daughter, she’d been left out, left behind, and left over. Marriage to Ed, then a carnival roust-about, had delivered neither solace nor material well-being.

That Ed had left no money did not surprise her. Lelah checked her tattered billfold; six dollars. She emptied the coin pocket into her palm; eighty cents. She guzzled a swig of water from a plastic bottle and wiped her lips with the back of her hand. She experienced a rippling surge of despair; she wanted to cry but couldn’t. I ain’t smart, she thought. I ain’t good at figuring things out. Oh, dear God, what am I going to do now? She’d always depended on Ed. He might be mean. He might be shifty. But he could decide things. He knew what to do next. Lelah had always lacked the courage to go out in the world on her own. But, with Ed’s departure, she had no choice. The prospect petrified her.

She didn’t know how long they’d been on the road. But it seemed like forever since Ed lost his job in the meat-packing plant and they set out along those Midwestern highways, living out of the car. They were down and outers, no doubt about it. They panhandled, did odd jobs, stayed in shelters, and sometime helped themselves to unguarded things that called out for appropriation, things like sandwiches and bottled drinks in roadside shops.

It had been in one of those stops that Ed came up with a way of generating “fast money.” Simply stated, he used their boy as a shill. As a driver pulled in for gas, Bobby would flop down next to the car, claiming to have been hit. Ed would scurry to the scene, allege an injury, and declare the matter could be settled for cash. “Needs to see a doctor.  Ain’t no need to wait for the insurance. But I can get a lawyer, if need be.” He depended on the conscience-stricken driver, fearful of legal action, to settle on the spot. Some did, for fifty, even one hundred, dollars. If he thought the car occupants had ferreted out the scam, Ed and the family made a speedy departure.

Ed convinced Bobby that it was all a game. Lelah did not see it as a game. She recognized the inherent danger and pleaded with Ed not to use Bobby this way. He, in turn, claimed she exaggerated the possibility of an accident. She lacked the resolve to challenge him, but she was right, and Ed was wrong. At a Nebraska truck stop, Bobby slipped and dropped under the wheels of a still-moving vehicle. With charity payments amassed by a local car dealer, they’d buried the boy in weedy small-town cemetery.

As they drove away from the gravesite, Ed seemed awash in contrition. He pledged to find work with a Colorado relative, locate a better place to bury Bobby, settle down, and raise Karlene. Yet, they had been driving for only a few hours when Ed suggested that maybe Karlene, too, could play the game, “just once,” to help get gas money for travel to Colorado. This time, Lelah summoned up sufficient gumption to resist. Ed glowered and assumed a stony silence. Now, a week later, like an evaporating shadow, he’d vanished to who knew where. Bitter and confused, Lelah wondered, now what?

Lelah studied her sleeping daughter’s face and closed the child’s open mouth. Didn’t want no bugs to fly in. Then, she eased out of the car and crossed the parking area to use the restroom. Returning ten minutes later, she muttered to herself, they at least ought to have toilet paper in there. What did they expect folks to do?

Karlene stirred and came awake when her mother leaned in and said, “Let’s be getting up there, princess. Gotta wash your face in something besides sunshine.”

The girl rubbed her watery, blue eyes with pudgy fingers. “Where’s Bobby?” she said. She made no mention of her father.

“Bobby ain’t with us no more, Lelah said. “Don’t you recall we had to leave him behind for a while.”

Outfitted in ragged bib-overalls and well-ventilated tennis shoes procured at the Goodwill, Karlene was big for a seven-years-old. Her overall appearance was that of a tangle-haired rag-a-muffin. She rarely smiled. Her mother admitted she was “not real quick.” Ed had declared she was “stupid as a post.” He’d said things like that a lot, about both the child and her mother.

“I’m hungry,” the girl said.

“You just go over there and use them facilities,” Lelah said. “I’ll get you a nice Hershey bar for breakfast.” Ed had mentioned a service plaza up ahead.

Mother and daughter soon got into the car, and Lelah opened a window. She tugged down a pair of green fabric dice dangling from the rearview mirror and tossed them out. Ed loved them. She hated them. That done, she started the engine and pulled out of the rest stop. She did so uncertain of her destination. But the notion of driving south to Ed’s cousin’s Colorado farm soon took root in her mind. She’d met the cousin, Eunice, and her family on a visit to their place years earlier. They seemed nice, at least nicer than Ed. Not certain what she’d say to them. Perhaps they could help her for a time. After all, Karlene shared their blood. How far was it? She really didn’t know. But, like a distant beacon, the farm lured her on.

The morning sun cast a shimmering glare onto the highway. That and the fact she was an inexperienced driver with an expired license wrapped Lelah in worry.“Got to watch out for one of them state policemen,” she said.

“Why, Mama?”

“They’re always on the lookout for folks like us. Figure we don’t belong.”

“Why,” the child repeated.

“Just because. That’s all. Why don’t you just look at that comic book? I’ve got to drive.”

Lelah flipped on the radio. A Buttermilk Biscuits commercial ended, and Hank Williams wailed I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. She shared the song’s sentiment and, for the first time that morning, tears trickled down Lelah’s sunburnt cheeks. She experienced an overwhelming sense of loneliness and isolation.

A half hour later, she pulled into a Mobil plaza, its large Flying Red Horse sign visible well before they arrived. They used the facilities and then went into the plaza shop.

“I’m hungry,” the girl said. She inspected an array of hot and cold sandwiches.

“How about one of them Hershey bars? Just like Mama promised,” Lelah said.“Only costs a dime. You’ll feel a whole lot better.”

“I want breakfast.”

“That Hershey bar is your breakfast.”Lelah looked about, suffused with resentment. Gathered like birds at a feeder, why did all them people at the buffet look so well off?

But she did not resist when a middle-aged woman standing at the register overheard her and said to Karlene, “Pick out a sandwich, honey, and I’ll put it on my bill.” Lelah felt embarrassed, then irritated when the woman did not make her the same offer.

“What’s this world coming to?” the woman said as she went out. “Child needs more than a candy bar.”

Lelah and her daughter drifted outside to a cluster of picnic tables scattered under a stand of oak trees. It was already hot. Lelah wished the car had one of them air conditioners Ed always talked about.

“Your sandwich looks mighty big,” Lelah said to the girl. “Maybe you ought to share it with Mama. You know how I like that chicken salad.” She reached over and confiscated half the girl’s sandwich. “Need to have strength for driving,” she said.

Lelah monitored the flow of travelers; perhaps she could try to pick up some cash. She went to the car, while Karlene lingered at the table.

When she returned, Lelah propped up a sign Ed had scratched out on a piece of cardboard. No job. Need Help. God Bless. She felt uncertain. Ed always took the initiative on things like this; said he could always spot the marks. Lelah positioned Karlene next to the sign, just like Ed would do.

A rotund man at an adjacent table read the sign, glared at them, and moved away. But a family member headed for a camper handed the girl a five-dollar bill. A motorcyclist pulled out another five. Lelah felt a reassuring trickle of relief when two more people contributed a total of eight dollars.

But that relief was short-lived.A balding man, wearing a short-sleeved shirt and a bow tie confronted her. “I’m the manager here. We don’t allow panhandling. Guess you didn’t see the sign. You’ve got five minutes to take the kid and leave. Or I’m calling the cops.”

“Sorry, mister. We’ll be going right now.

As she pulled out on the highway, Lelah thought, at least, I got to keep the money.

 

* * *

 

Later at another rest area, while Karlene entertained herself on a swing, Lelah retrieved a map from the glove box. She studied it with difficulty; it seemed like a mass of lines and colored squiggles. Repeated folding had left torn spots and reading the place names proved daunting. She was in southern Minnesota. Ed’s cousin lived near Alamosa, Colorado. She traced a route with her finger and wondered if her sputtering car and its worn tires would survive the trip. When she’d stopped for gas – just five gallons – the attendant looked at the car and shook his head.

She shared a bag of chips with Karlene before they resumed their journey. Storm clouds darkened the sky and jagged yellow-blue lines of lightning unsettled Lelah’s confidence. Soon the sky blackened, and torrents of rain washed over the car, defeating the tired wipers. Unable to push on, Lelah drove into a church parking lot on the outskirts of a small town just across the Iowa line. A janitor, an old fellow with droopy gray whiskers, allowed them in to use the bathroom and to fill their water bottles.

The plight of the mother and child was obvious. “Would you like me to phone the minister?” the man said. “I’m sure he’d be willing to help you out.”

She wanted to say yes. But Ed had always done the talking. Moreover, with an expired license and no car registration, Lelah worried. What if the church people got in touch with some authorities?

“Thank you kindly,” she said. “But I have relatives just a few miles up ahead.”

“You sure about that?”

She nodded.

“Well, then I guess you’ll be on your way.” He fished out his billfold and handed her a five-dollar bill. “Wish it could be more,” he said. “But maybe you can buy yourself and the girl a couple of ice creams. Anyhow, good luck.”

Ed called people like him do-gooders and made fun of them.

As they maneuvered onto the highway, Lelah said, “There’s still some good-hearted folks out there, no matter what your pa says.”

The line of storms passed, and Lelah gained confidence behind the wheel. Corn, corn, corn. In every direction, all they could see was corn. “Who eats all that corn?” Karlene asked.

“I ain’t sure,” her mother said. “I think its cows and pigs—not people.”

As the late afternoon sun drained from the sky, Lelah pulled into a “Country Boy” drive-in restaurant. She counted out cash for two burgers (with all the toppings she could pile on) and an order of fries. They would spend the night there, in a corner of the parking lot. She noticed a couple of other cars and a panel truck also parked there.

In the morning, puddles still glistened in low places. Karlene tugged on her mother’s arm. “Wake up. It’s morning. You was snoring.”

Slumped in the back seat, Lelah opened and shut her eyes.“Honey, would you take a look in the ash tray. See if there’s any butts in there. I sure could use a smoke.”

“Ain’t none.”

“That’s okay.” Maybe she could bum one. A cigarette would help her meet the day.

“Where do clouds go?” the child said.

“How do I know? Right now, we’ve got to wash up, get something to eat, and be on our way.” Lelah slid out of the car. “You sure there wasn’t any butts?”

As if preordained, a man stepped out of the truck and came across the parking lot. He was a big man, wide-shouldered, and tough-looking. He wore jeans, a dark blue tee-shirt, and a white painter’s hat. Lelah liked what she saw. But what caught her notice was a cigarette pack nestled in a rolled-up sleeve.

“Any chance for a smoke?” she said. “I guess I ran out.”

“Why sure. Here you go.” He possessed a deep and friendly voice. He smiled. “Bet you need a light, too.”

“Much obliged,” she said when he lit her cigarette. “I’m Lelah.” She hoped he would stop. She needed to talk to somebody other than Karlene, to an adult.

But all he said was, “Name’s Jake. Well, I’m gonna grab me a donut and a cup a coffee. Then, I’ve got to be getting along. Job waiting for me in Des Moines.”

Lelah watched him disappear into the restaurant. She was encouraged. “People ain’t so bad as I used to think,” she told Karlene. And maybe she wasn’t so bad off without Ed as she’d thought. She took a satisfied drag on her cigarette.

A woman’s voice startled her. “That is one sweet-looking child.”

Lelah pivoted and encountered a man and a woman, both perhaps in their forties. In Lelah’s eyes, they were snappy dressers. The woman wore stylish slacks, an expensive-looking blouse, and sandals like ones you saw in magazine ads. Lelah envied the piled-up blond hair, eye shadow, and deep red lipstick. The woman sure looked classy. The man fit right in. Gray slacks, hard-toed shoes, a button-down shirt, and a sport coat. His tan face, confident look, and little mustache made her certain they didn’t worry about their next meal. And they drove what Ed would call a spiffy Pontiac, with whitewall tires.

“We came by for some breakfast and saw your girl out here in the parking lot,” the man said. Yes sir, smile sweet as clover.”

“You mean Karlene? She don’t smile a whole lot.”

“Oh, is that her name? Karlene?” the woman said. “Can I talk to her?”

“Sure. But she don’t say much.”

“Hi, Karlene. My name is Sally. This is my husband, Richard. I brought these crayons out from the restaurant. Would you like to have them?”

Karlene lifted her eyes to her mother for approval. Lelah nodded.

“She reminds us of our own grandchild,” Richard said. “Isn’t that right, Sally?”

“Hope you don’t think we’re presuming too much. But you look like you’re on your own. We wondered if you might need a helping hand. We’ve got a souvenir shop near Ames. You could work part time for a week or two, longer if you wanted. There’s an apartment in back, and you could keep your daughter with you. Maybe get your car serviced. Move on whenever you’re ready.”

“That’s mighty kind, but I ain’t got no experience, and . . .”

“Like I said, you look somebody that needs a little help,” Richard said.

“We’ve certainly been there ourselves,” Sally added. “Fifty dollars a week and the room.” She smiled a gleaming smile, her teeth so white.

“It’s mighty tempting,” Lelah said. “But I have to think on it.”Again, she wondered what Ed would do. Well, he wasn’t there.

Karlene had wandered off to an outdoor seating area and was busy coloring on a sheet of paper she’d retrieved from a trash can.

Before she could answer, Lelah experienced an urgent need to use the restroom. Embarrassed, she blurted out, “Excuse me. Got to step away for minute.” She walked briskly into the restaurant.

 

* * *

 

Something bad was going on. As Lelah pushed out through the restaurant’s door, she heard her child’s frightened voice. And she heard a woman’s voice. “Get in there. You, get in there.”

Sally had Karlene by the arm, trying to force her into the couple’s car. The husband sat inside with the engine running.

“No. No.” The girl thrashed about trying to break free.

“Somebody, help. They’re stealing my girl,” Lelah cried out and raced toward the struggle. But Jake got there first. He seized Sally by the shoulder and pushed her aside. He jerked the girl away and turned to challenge the would-be-kidnappers. But, as he did so, Sally slithered into the car. The door half-open and tires screeching, the Pontiac sped out onto the highway and disappeared.

While Lelah embraced her child, Jake said, “I’d stopped to have a smoke. I saw you come in and head for the bathroom. I’d been watching those two out the window. I just had a feeling they weren’t up to any good.”

“Thank you. Thank you.” Lelah could muster no other words. She clutched Karlene’s hand.

By now, the manager had appeared. He was a young man, with horn-rimmed glasses and a crew-cut. “Did anybody get a license number? I’m going to call the police.”

“Don’t do that,” Lelah said. “It was just a kind of a mix-up.”

Both Jake and the manager looked at her with surprise.

“A mix-up? You sure about that?” the manager asked.

Jake sensed her anxiety. “No need to call the police,” he said.

“Okay,” the manager said. “If that’s the way you people want it. We don’t need any bad publicity.” He shook his head and went back inside.

Moments later, an apron-clad waitress approached them and spoke to Lelah. “The boss says you and the kid can come in for the breakfast buffet. On the house. Says he didn’t like what happened out here.”

“Well, like I said,” Jake said. “I’ve got to skedaddle. Good luck with getting to wherever you’re headed.”He handed her an almost full pack of Marlboros. Then, he climbed into his truck, waved, and drove away. Later, when Lelah pulled out a cigarette, she discovered a twenty-dollar bill tucked inside the package.

“He was nice,” Karlene said.

“Sure was,” her mother replied. “Now, how’d you like to have a real big breakfast?” Decent men still existed out there. They weren’t all like Ed Means.

“Mama, I don’t have a nice dress to sit in one of them booths.”

“It don’t matter. Anyway, it’s on the house.”

Eyes alive with happiness, the child dove into her food.

Turned out okay, Lelah thought to herself. Okay. She ignored the disapproving looks of a couple at an adjacent table and doused a stack of pancakes with syrup and melted butter.

 

* * *

 

It was already another hot one. Perspiration coursed down Lelah’s forehead and into her eyes. She missed the turn for Omaha and had to double back. “Never was no good at maps,” she said to an unininterested Karlene.

In Nebraska, Karlene talked less about corn and more about herds of cattle that grazed on the flat land along the road. Near Grand Island they passed a feed lot where thousands of cattle awaited transition to supermarket beef. As they did so, an overwhelmingly foul odor, like no other, poured in through windows they hurriedly shut. Once clear of the place, they rushed to reopen the windows, seeking relief from the heat. Bored with grazing cattle and fields of wheat and hay, Karlene soon snored softy in the back seat.

From time to time, images of Bobby asserted themselves in Lelah’s mind. She struggled with convulsions of guilt. She should have stood up to Ed when he used the boy the way he did. She tried to tell herself she could mourn later. Right now, she had to think of Karlene.

Images of Ed Means came to her as well. He’d always bossed her; told her what to do. Well, she was showing him. On her own. Getting by pretty damn well. Even if he came crawling back, she’d set him straight. Send him packing. Near North Platte, she stopped the car, slipped off her ring, and pitched it out the window. He’d only got it at a dime store, anyway. Lots of daydreaming and fantasizing as the miles rolled by across Nebraska, and the day eclipsed the one before. She was making it on her own.

Her spirits soared as the “Welcome to Colorado” sign flashed by at Julesburg. She’d come this far. Now, she intended to call from a pay phone in Fort Morgan and tell the cousin she was coming. But the fact she didn’t know the cousin’s married name confounded her. Once kept in the glove box, the scrap of paper with the phone number eluded her.

She pulled into a scenic overlook and launched a frantic search. The interior of the car was the realm of the stained, the smudged, and the smelly. She burrowed under tattered blankets and malodorous towels, tossed out paper cups, felt around under the seats, peered into an old knapsack, retrieved an unmatched pair of socks, emptied a bag of dirty clothes, discovered a screwdriver and a hammer, got sticky fingers from a candy wrapper, and located some missing work gloves. But no address. The trunk offered nothing either. A spare tire, a jack, some cans of oil, a couple of jackets, and random fishing gear.

Her spirits flagged. What to do? She leaned against the car, only to recoil from its hot surface. As she paced about, she realized there could be no phone call. Absent another choice, she would simply show up. She knew she could recognize the farm road that led to the cousin’s place. Lelah called out to her daughter, who was throwing stones at the side of the pullover. “Let’s go, Karlene.”

She drove on, sliding around Denver and aiming south for Alamosa. She kept the radio on and hummed along with Kris Kristofferson’s "Me and Bobby McGee." She loved the song; it was an on-the-road song. But it wasn’t a song about her life; no Bobby McGee there. The air got thinner and cooler as the elevation increased. The car’s engine labored. With the gas gauge hovering near empty, she coasted into a Phillips station just north of Colorado Springs. She bought ten gallons of gas at thirty-six cents a gallon and asked the attendant to add some of the oil she had in the trunk.

She’d managed only a few miles when the right rear tire went flat. Lelah struggled to manhandle the car to the shoulder. Once stopped, she clambered out and stared at the off-kilter vehicle. She’d never changed a tire and had no idea of how to go about it. Karlene began to cry, and Lelah fought to hold back her own tears. She’d managed to come so far.

She waved at three or four cars that sped by. The drivers averted their eyes. Then, as she tried to decide what to do, a pickup truck sailed by, came to a sliding stop, and backed up.

The driver, a thick-set, gray haired woman, climbed out of the cab. She wore jeans, a flannel shirt, and a baseball cap.

“Looks like you’ve got yourself a little problem here,” she said. Her voice was warm and communicated confidence. “Name’s Mavis Kinkaid. What can I do for you?”

Lelah just looked at her. “Flat tire, and I don’t . . .”

“Know how to fix it.” The woman finished the sentence. “Well, Mavis is here, and, if there’s anything I’m good at, it’s fixing flats. Easier than pie. You have a jack?”

Lelah opened the trunk and retrieved the jack.

“Have to get these lug nuts off. You have a wrench?

Lelah shook her head.

“Well never you mind. I’ll fetch one from the pickup.” Declaring the spare looked okay, Mavis went to work, jacked up the car, and soon had replaced the flat.

“Guess this must be your girl,” she said when she finished.

“Her name is Karlene,” Lelah said. “I’m Lelah.”

“Glad to meet you. Don’t know what brings you here, but expect you want to be on your way.”

“We’re going to visit relatives near Alamosa.”

“Well, I’m running late. But my sister and I have a ranch up in the San Luis Valley. Double K. Maybe sometime Karlene would like to come up and ride one of our ponies. Got an apple orchard, too.”

The girl nodded vigorously.

“Can’t thank you enough,” Lelah said.

“Nothing to it. We always try to help folks out. Way we do things around here.” Mavis said. “Got to run. Adios.” She climbed back in her truck and drove off.

“Let’s go. It’s getting late,” Lelah said.

“Do you really think she has a ranch? With cows and horses?”

“I expect she does.”

At Walsenburg, Lelah headed west toward Alamosa. “Be there in no time,” she said. “Tonight, you can probably sleep on a big, soft bed, with sheets and everything.”

After fifteen minutes, she sighted a familiar landmark – a billboard for Beech Nut Chewing Tobacco. She turned and followed a farm road for another mile. She soon spotted the gate to the cousin’s place, turned again, and crunched up a gravel drive.

Mountains loomed in every direction, and an eagle drifted high above the farm. The place looked much as she remembered it: a two-story clapboard house, a faded red barn and several smaller outbuildings. A windmill rose to one side. But when she got closer, Lelah realized the once-white house had gone to gray, and some of the shingles over the porch had fallen off. The weathervane rooster tipped to one side.

“Is this it, mama?”

“Yeah. This is it.” Lelah underwent a rush of nerves. Aside from a derelict hay cutter, she saw no wheeled vehicles. No cars. No trucks. And low-lying woody chico brush dominated the fields where lettuce, wheat, barley, and alfalfa once prospered. A few pathetic-looking cottonwood trees sheltered behind the house.

“Don’t look like anybody’s home.”

“Well, they’re probably out working or gone to town shopping,” Lelah said. “I expect somebody is inside. Let’s go say hello.”

Lelah’s unease mounted. A board on the front step was broken. And, when they went up on the porch, she discovered the front door nailed shut. Boards covered the windows. A guttering place, an abandoned place. Like a living thing, a rising wind hissed and complained among the deserted structures. Dust surged across the drive.

Lelah plunked herself down on the step. Immersed in disappointment, she began to sob. Karlene joined her. As she cried, Lelah tried to puzzle a way out. She could think of none. She’d pinned her hopes on this place. And now those hopes had gone a-glimmering. Her mind a jumble of fragmented thoughts, she found no hope.

Once more, they spent the night in the car. They couldn’t even get the pump in the yard to work. There was nothing for them there. Nothing.

In the morning, as she steered toward the highway, Lelah’s distress spiraled into desperation. What now? The engine might die at any moment. She had no money. No job possibilities occurred to her. Her earlier optimism had been squashed flat. Uninvited, an idea born of that desperation asserted itself. She rejected it, but it came again. And again.

Lelah glanced at Karlene in the rear-view mirror. The girl pored over the pages of the same Disney comic for the umpteenth time.

Staring straight ahead, Lelah said, “You remember that game we used to play with Bobby?”

The girl lifted her eyes. “Kind of.”

“It was a fun game. You fool people in their cars. They think it’s so funny they give you money. Maybe we can play it again.”

“I don’t know how to fool them.”

“Don’t worry. It’s easy. I’ll teach you. Bobby was good at it.”

“But Bobby got hurt. I’ll be scared.”

“You’ll even do it better than him. Ain’t no reason to be scared.”

But Lelah, too, was scared, too. She turned onto the highway and headed north. Maybe just once, she thought. Maybe just once. Her stomach churned at the prospect of what she had in mind.

Wracked with indecision, Lelah pulled over to the side of the road. What to do? She did not want to place Karlene in jeopardy. Yet, she knew Ed had a lot of success with the gas station ploy. He’d assured her over and over that the accident with their son had been a one in a thousand event. Maybe they could play the game just once or twice, enough to get by. At the same time, she recalled what the ranch lady had said when she stopped to help. She seemed nice. Maybe she could help them. Did they have enough gas? Would the car hold up? Could she even find the Double K ranch?

Lelah wanted to cry. She sobbed, but no tears came.

“Mama, I’m hungry.”

Lelah closed her eyes.

 

 

 

Lawrence F. Farrar is a former Foreign Service officer, with multiple postings in Japan, Europe, and Washington, DC. In addition to earlier appearances in Green Hills Literary Lantern, Farrar’s stories have appeared seventy times or so in literary magazines. Recent examples include: Blood Orange, The Write Launch, Blue Lake Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Smoky Blue, Verdad, and Bryant Literary Review. Farrar’s work often involves a protagonist encountering the customs and values of a foreign society.