Last Visit to the Ladies’ Room at Shorty’s Just Before It Closed Forever Five days before Shorty’s closed forever I made my final pilgrimage, pay my respects to Marge, retiring to Arizona after keeping the place open years past making money. Her pillowed arms warmed me, brought me beers. I sat on my regular stool, which was my dad’s before me, his generation in nursing homes or gone ahead. My generation and younger ones needing other kingdoms and preferring the TGI Friday’s by the interstate. After three drinks it was time to visit what I really came to see, walking past the shafts of sun slanting through the back windows, glinting off the neon Miller Lite sign, and into the ladies’ room, walls and stalls covered with memorabilia, a collaged chronicle: County fair posters featuring B-list recording artists, photos of 4-H Club contest winners with prize calves and pigs, ads promoting tractor pulls and garage sales, announcements for Knights of Columbus dances and church potlucks, defaced political bumper stickers, carved and magic-markered hearts and arrows claiming sweethearts forever, notices of free kittens, page of an Avon catalogue with Donna’s phone number, pictures of prom kings and queens, a battle of the bands postcard, program from the school play fifteen years ago, jokes from Reader’s Digest, laminated obituary of Shorty’s first owner Phil, autographed posters from musicians that played the back room stage. I snapped photos on my phone, knowing I would never again be enveloped by the life of my town. Then did my business and washed my hands, staring down at the grubby drain. The Four-Poster Bed My father leans against the pillows on the four-poster bed. I have something I haven’t told you, he said. Your mother came to me in a dream. I woke up and she was sitting right beside me. She said nothing, just looked at me and smiled, as young and beautiful as she ever was. He is old now, in this bed that has been with him his entire life. He was conceived on it in Dorrance, Kansas, where the KKK burned a cross in his yard after my grandfather the mayor welcomed a black family to live there. He could see it, huddled on the bed with his mama. Now there is a different light shining in my father’s eyes, the light of belief that my mother has visited him, reassuring him, inviting him. She has not been gone long and he will follow her soon, after his last night dreamless on the four-poster bed.
Kathryn Lorenzen is a singer-songwriter, poet, and career and creativity coach. With an earlier career in marketing and recruiting, she coaches freelance writers and artists seeking livelihood in support of their art. Kathryn co-leads Your Right Livelihood with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, and she serves on the Board of Transformative Language Arts Network.
Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam’s Well, a novel; and The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she is offers writing workshops, coaching, and collaborative projects YourRightLivelihood.com with Kathryn Lorenzen, Bravevoice.com with Kelley Hunt, and TheArtofFacilitation.net with Joy Roulier Sawyer. CarynMirriamGoldberg.com.