Courage is Required

An excerpt from Volume 2 of my book, Present Tense. I haven’t published Vol. 2 yet, but here’s a taste. Find Volume 1 here this week for free!


We move into a small, cold, temporary house just in time to celebrate my Christmas #5. Christmas includes new nightgowns, an Easy Bake Oven for my sister and a “courage” (carriage/baby buggy) for me.

I can’t say carriage. I also can’t say commercial or spaghetti. Mah-ker-shull and pa-sketti.

This is the house my mother wallpapered for my grandmother. This is house where I pooped on the floor. This is the house of smoke and blood. This is the house of clawfoot-tub swimming.

There are Tarzan cartoons, Peanuts TV Specials, Hee-haw overalls, jingling reindeer hooves on the roof, cold winter mornings, mattresses on the living room floor. There is laughing/choking at late-night dinners. There are ABC-TV special presentation family movie nights of Deliverance, urine-stained pillows that I fall asleep on, cradling parents who tuck children who fall asleep on wet pillows in bed. And there is falling out of the top bunk at night.


At some point, my grandmother bought this home as a second, third or fourth property to build her empire of real estate. She buys many properties and rents or sells them for profit. She also runs a coin-operated laundry mat and washes people’s clothes for money. She is a woman who works hard and seldom rests. She does not tolerate humor or fuss. She is a force of will.

Grandma’s hair is yellowish white, faded from stress, time and negativity. She keeps it tight in a bun and hairnet. Her face is just as faded. Her beauty quickly spent on marriage, children and hard times. She always wears a dress. Not a fancy frock, but a well-worn print. The only days she didn’t wear a dress, were those spent in a factory during the war.

She has a large, round nose and large, droopy Buddha-like lobes. Those earlobes were made for clip earrings, but she never wears them.

Hard, metallic eyes that saw her father’s mistreatment of her mother. Grandma saw his fortune taken away as well. She saw her comfortable childhood home revoked and replaced by a dirt-floor shed.

She marries, only to quickly lose her husband’s farm to the tax collector. She rears 3 children through the depression, Dust Bowl and WWII. She raises and kills chickens, she milks cows, she sews, she cleans (not well), she cooks.

She hardens; she resolves. She is determined to forbid fate from having its destructive way again.

She works hard because she doesn’t know anything else. She works hard because she learned that you can’t rely on anyone except God and yourself.  She works hard because that is her pathway to happiness.

If I stop moving, I’ll die.

These are her lonely, driven thoughts. She is an ever-swimming, scarred-up shark who’s tired of the frenzy and bloodbath.


Grandma lets us live in the house on 15th Street while we wait to move to the country.  Our home near the lake has sold and the new house is not ready yet.

We lose our cat during the move. We drive for the last time from the lake to town with all our things. Grandma is holding the cat in the station wagon. Shark holding a lion. We arrive at the new place: the car door opens, cat scratches, takes off for parts unknown.

Never seen again. Tiger is gone.

Lucky cat.

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Present Tense (Excerpt 3)

Work-Around (Chapter 1)

This is the house of my first through fourth Christmases, shark-jumping Fonzie, corn-eating contests, black vinyl swivel chair spinning, lipstick wall drawings, measles and melee.  This is the house where I ironed my fingers, melting the baby flesh from my tiny knuckles, forever scarring my left hand.  This is the house that leaves many wounds and scars.  This is the house where I came into being, came to my conscious mind, came to the realization that I was in danger from the people who loved me.

I like to hide.  I hide in an accordion trunk.  I hide in the dryer.  I hide in a closet.  I hide in a hole in the yard by the basement window, dug by my mother.  Because it’s there.  I hide inside a plate of food and I eat all my peas because it makes their voices stop.

If I eat enough, deep down inside, I can’t hear their voices anymore.  I feel peaceful.  It’s quiet.  I’m happy.  The pathway to perceived happiness gets laid by the chemicals in my brain and I am helpless to stop it.  I’m not even aware of the biological processes that are creating a life-long addiction.  It has formed and that path will be worn over and over and over again.  Food equals love.  To survive this chaos, I have found my work-around.  I will survive this.  But just barely.


Read the rest of the book here. If you’re a member of Kindle Unlimited it’s free! It is free for everyone from time to time, I’ll let you know when it is. Or if you’re an impoverished author like me, email me at martha.maggio@sbcglobal.net for your free copy. But you have to share your story with me as payment. 😉

Last Day for Free Stuff!

Remember, free download of my book ENDS today! Thanks. 🙂

Crafty Beaver

My book, Present Tense, is available on Amazon tomorrow for free. February 9-13! Normally $2.99. Check it out. It’s a quick read; probably finish in one go. Or if you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free anytime. It’s a vignette-style memoir with a glance at PTSD and how it starts. It does not answer the question of recovery, but it gives an emotional starting place.

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Paranormal Revenge Fantasy (1-5!)

*MATURE CONTENT* Chapters 1-4, with new Chapter 5! for easier reading or just to catch up.


1. Time To Wake Up

The room is white. White, sheer panels over the windows. White sheets on the bed. White carpet, white furniture, white trim. The only bit of color is a tan, overweight man sleeping peacefully on his stomach in a twist of wrinkled cotton ridges.
And…
There is a dark figure sitting on top of a dresser in the corner. Its legs are folded underneath. It is motionless and silent. The white panels ripple in the breeze and rising sun. The shadowy form flaps in and out of focus behind the curtains as they fly. The almost stillness hangs on for several moments.
The black figure leaps.
“WAKE. THE FUCK. UP!”
John was immediately awake. Barely able to inhale, John struggled for his breath, partly from the terror running through his body, partly from the pressure of something very large on top of him. John could not move. Only the figure’s sick-red lips and milky chin emerged from the dark hood surrounding its face. It whispered wetly in John’s ear.
“Rough night? I know you’re awake now, right? I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, John. I’m going to enjoy this.”
There was a long pause. John was terrified. He didn’t bother to ask the question of who the figure was. He understood. This was a person that he had wronged. His lifestyle and work placed him next to dangerous people. He ran a successful car service. Most of the people in Miami who used his company were powerful men who played terrifying games. Drugs, sex, crime. He had arrangements, entanglements, loans with these men. His success had come at a great price, his freedom. It wasn’t a surprise to have someone threatening him, but an invasion of his home was new.
The voice on top of him sang sweet like a woman, but the body was very large and heavy. Even if he had wanted to ask some question, he was not able to speak. He had just enough air to keep from losing consciousness. His mind seized as well. He could simply listen and wait for the next moment.
“I know you didn’t expect to see me. I know you thought you would never have to think about what happened again. Oh, you thought about me for a couple of days. But you didn’t worry about how I felt. You only shuddered occasionally thinking I would show up at your door. But how could I? I only had your number and you took care of that. But you didn’t need to unplug the phone, I only called that one time.”
John’s mind immediately flooded with memories of many girls from the past. He tried to place the arousing lilt and scratch of this voice, but it vibrated with echoes and harmonies. He thought of how many times he had unplugged his phone. Avoided the calls of those girls he wanted, slept with and couldn’t bear to see again. John always looked for girls. Women.
He couldn’t help it. It was a habit. Like chewing gum or biting fingernails. He didn’t sweat over it. He did it unconsciously. Involuntarily. Like bleeding.
“I’m Hy.” She placed her elbow in John’s back as she steadied herself to stand. John yelped and squirmed in pain. “Sorry, John.”

2. Let’s Party

Hy slogged across the room. The pieces of fabric tied to her coat jumped up and down, they danced like wooden wind chimes clacking together on the breeze. Dark hair oozed out of her hood and swished around like ink on marble. When she passed the window, he noticed that she was just as tall. She had to be almost 7 feet. Her legs were long enough to step onto the dresser, turn and squat with her black boots tucked under her, supporting her body.
John realized as she sat that he was free and scrambled on all fours through the sheets to the cell phone on his night stand. It was off. He pressed the power button and nothing happened. He slammed the phone down and called for someone, “Deana??! Are you still here??!” No answer.
He got up off the bed and walked quickly to the door. Before he could reach the hall, Hy silently flicked her finger and slammed the windows and doors shut without even looking up from her task. John stopped. He turned to Hy with his fists formed, not angry, scared. Hy swiped her finger across the small screen of a handheld device.
“This Deana? I’m looking at your Facebook, Johnny. She’s cute. Professional cheerleader, huh? And what else does she do? Professionally, of course. On the side? She’s pretty. How long before she cheated on ya, Jaybird?”
Hy vacantly blinks and smiles for a few moments at John. He has no response. He walks slowly towards the dresser and pulls out a black pair of shorts, unsure if she will allow this.
“I’m at least going to put on some clothes.”
“Oh, yeah, please do. I don’t wanna see that. Can I even see it??” Hy giggled. “You know, that always was a lot like your height and personality. Always coming up short.” Big smile.
John sits down on the foot of the bed to face Hy. She turns her face back toward the screen in her lap as she stretches out one leg and sits on the other. She shifts; gets comfortable. “Yeah, Deana won’t be back.”
“Why, what did you do?” He was angry.
“Oh, I didn’t do anything. It’s what you did. When she walked out of here last night, it was for the last time.” Back to the screen. “Looks like you have a successful company. How much do you owe to the banks? Or this guy?” Hy showed a picture of El Rey, known in Miami as a big-league businessman with ties to the drug cartels, a money launderer. No doubt he washed some of the money in John’s cars.
“Oh, here’s a fun picture. The sweaty, beer-stained collar of your shirt really catches the light in this one.” She laughs. “It’s starting to catch up with you, John.” She continues to swipe the screen, flipping through pictures and pages.
“I can’t see how old you are, Jooooohn. No birthday? By my calculations, you are, let’s see, 45 right?” Hy closes her eyes and then pops them open with the answer. “No! My bad. 46. I missed your birthday this year. Sorry ‘bout that. Happy birthday.” Hy is sitting on the dresser, kicking her dangling leg with absolutely no trace of a smile.
“What do you want?” John asked.
“Yay! I finally get to kick you in the proverbial balls. Here’s the real gut-punch, John.” Hy rose into the air. She floated above the dresser with her arms stretched wide. She was done playing around with her mouse. Her voice consumed most of the air in the room and John’s lungs.
“I am righteous anger. I am vengeance. I am every single girl, woman, person you ever violated. I am the pooling blood of the innocent. I am violence. I am justice. I am the voice of the girl you raped and killed. I am the dark angel formed by all the pain and suffering you have left in your life. I’m here for that life, John.”
“I never raped anyone! I never killed anyone!” John gasped.
Hy raised her hands and pushed an invisible force toward John. He was thrown against the wall, pinned by his wrists to the white suede headboard. She seethed and spit through teeth. “You had sex with a drunk, unconscious woman. Remember Rachel? Maybe you don’t remember her name? Maybe you never knew it. That was rape. Your friend took pictures of you having sex with her. He shared the pictures of you raping her with everyone.” Hy clicked her tongue, “Real sloppy, John.”
John was ashamed, afraid, confused and in pain. He started to cry. His chin dropped to his chest along with small streams of tears.
“Rachel saw those pictures being passed around at school. She was taunted by your friends. But you wouldn’t know that. You never went to college. You simply hung around at the parties, preying on girls. You didn’t know that Rachel was mentally ill. She’d have to be mentally ill to sleep with you, honey. Believe me, we all were.
“You also never knew that she stopped taking her medicine because she ran out. She was too afraid and embarrassed to even walk to the pharmacy to refill her prescription or ask for help.”
Hy swooped down and raised John’s head. She whispered the rest into John’s face, her eyes darting back and forth between his, searching for any sign of recognition or remorse.
“She stopped going to class. She stopped eating food. Rachel killed herself because of what you did. Do you remember Rachel now? She sliced her wrists open in the dorm bathroom while her roommates were at a party. You were even at that party. Her
blood is on your hands.”
She removed the force from his hands and his palms landed limply on the bed. She glided to a stand at the edge of the bed. John could not speak or move. He was motionless with fear and shame. Hy stared into John’s eyes for a moment and then returned to a chair near the window. She sat and folded her arms and crossed her legs.
“You didn’t know that did you? You never called her or spoke to her again. You never picked up a newspaper or watched TV. You were too busy fucking someone else to notice.”

3. The Apology

“I’m–sorry.” A few more tears. John was weak.

“Did you just say ‘sorry’?” Hy was angry.

“I AM sorry. I’m so terribly sorry.” John pleaded.

Hy sat still for a moment. She stared at John. She saw past the surface. She saw past the watery eyes. She saw past the terror and despair. She looked into his heart and saw nothing. “You’re pathetic.”

John groveled. “What should I say? I regret doing that. I was young. I was stupid and drunk. I want to take that back.”

“You can’t take it back! She’s gone and I’m what’s left.”

“I don’t want to die. I don’t want this. I’ll do whatever you want, just please don’t kill me.” John whimpered, “I’ll make amends.”

Hy sighed. “You want to make amends. You have no idea what that even means. What that entails? You cannot make amends. You do not want to make amends. You can’t lie to me. You can’t charm me.”

John shouted, “I’ll do whatever it takes!”

Hy moved so quickly to John’s side that her body blurred behind. She was close to his ear within a second. As sweet as you please, “You know what we’re going to do, don’t you?”


4. Back to the Beginning

John panicked. He was terrified by his own words spoken back to him. Those words are the ones he always whispered to women the moment before he kissed them for the first time. His mind flipped back through time, through each woman, flashing through pictures, rapidly increasing in speed. Then everything came to a bright, white halt.

He landed on the one picture he didn’t expect to see. His own mother. The image in his mind began to play like a home movie, soft and dull at first. Her dress and hair faded into vividly bright spots of swimming color. Her face comes close to his. Her face is distorted. She whispers, “You know what were going to do, don’t you?”

John shuddered and dropped the image like a boiling pan. He shut his eyes tightly and went blank. He tried to dampen the overwhelming feelings that struck like lightning bolts.

Hy sneered. “You’ll do whatever it takes, huh?”

“I get it,” John whimpered.

Hy reassured John. “You don’t get the half of it. That’s only the beginning.”


5. Behind Closed Doors

Hy walked slowly to the door and it opened. John watched Hy as she turned to look back at him. For just a moment, a second before she disappeared, her face melted into something different. She started to shrink and wither. She was gone.

John closed his eyes tight for a few seconds and gathered himself. Trying to understand what he had just been through and seen, he heard soft cries of a small girl from the next room.

What is THAT?

The soft, wet breaths increased. A few gasps. The sounds intensified. Weakly, “No.”

She repeated the simple word until John stood. The noise immediately broke, but his mind accelerated. He was afraid to go into the next room.

Even though the noise had stopped, he could still feel things happening down the hall. Light. Warmth. An energy. His chest ached and dragged. He walked slowly to the door.

He looked and listened down the hallway for the now-silent voice. Everything was still for several seconds. He heard a small noise. Not a voice, but a body shift or a paper move. Someone was in the next room.

The hallway was dark. The hallway was usually bright with sunlight reflected in mirrors, artwork glass and light-colored tile. It was never dark. Even at night, the moon and stars found their way down the hall. The house was different. The tile was replaced with dirty, matted olive-green carpet. There was a smell: stale, heavy, metallic.

He took small steps and strained to make out cigarette butts, crumpled plastic cups, crushed beer cans and torn pieces of paper littering the floor.

As he approached the end of the exaggerated hall, he saw a sliver of silver highlighting the edges of a closed door. Whatever was happening was just beyond. The light bounced, dark to bright, when something bumped the door from the other side. He couldn’t breathe or swallow. His chest was burning. He stretched out his hand to turn the knob.

Paranormal Revenge Fantasy (Cont.)

4. Back to the Beginning

John panicked. He was terrified by his own words spoken back to him. Those words are the ones he always whispered to women the moment before he kissed them for the first time. His mind flipped back through time, through each woman, flashing through pictures, rapidly increasing in speed. Then everything came to a bright, white halt.

He landed on the one picture he didn’t expect to see. His own mother. The image in his mind began to play like a home movie, soft and dull at first. Her dress and hair faded into vividly bright spots of swimming color. Her face comes close to his. Her face is distorted. She whispers, “You know what were going to do, don’t you?”

John shuddered and dropped the image like a boiling pan. He shut his eyes tightly and went blank. He tried to dampen the overwhelming feelings that struck like lightning bolts.

Hy sneered. “You’ll do whatever it takes, huh?”

“I get it,” John whimpered.

Hy reassured John. “You don’t get the half of it. That’s only the beginning.”

Paranormal Revenge Fantasy (Cont.)

3. The Apology

“I’m–sorry.” A few more tears. John was weak.

“Did you just say ‘sorry’?” Hy was angry.

“I AM sorry. I’m so terribly sorry.” John pleaded.

Hy sat still for a moment. She stared at John. She saw past the surface. She saw past the watery eyes. She saw past the terror and despair. She looked into his heart and saw nothing. “You’re pathetic.”

John groveled. “What should I say? I regret doing that. I was young. I was stupid and drunk. I want to take that back.”

“You can’t take it back! She’s gone and I’m what’s left.”

“I don’t want to die. I don’t want this. I’ll do whatever you want, just please don’t kill me.” John whimpered, “I’ll make amends.”

Hy sighed. “You want to make amends. You have no idea what that even means. What that entails? You cannot make amends. You do not want to make amends. You can’t lie to me. You can’t charm me.”

John shouted, “I’ll do whatever it takes!”

Hy moved so quickly to John’s side that her body blurred behind. She was close to his ear within a second. As sweet as you please, “You know what we’re going to do, don’t you?”

Present Tense

My book, Present Tense, is available on Amazon tomorrow for free. February 9-13! Normally $2.99. Check it out. It’s a quick read; probably finish in one go. Or if you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free anytime. It’s a vignette-style memoir with a glance at PTSD and how it starts. It does not answer the question of recovery, but it gives an emotional starting place.