Present Tense

Here is a link to the video on Youtube. My daughter made the video when she was 10 yo. Thanks, Lil.


I am four years old.  They are fighting.  I don’t remember the words now, but they are yelling.  Fuzzy scenes, like cloudy dreams, blurring in and out of focus.  Down in the basement, in the laundry room, I hear hot voices and cold words.  I peek around the corner.  He pushes her down on the concrete floor.  She’s weak, flailing, grabbing with desperate hands.  She can’t resist.  She scrambles up when she sees that I’m there.  She stutters a lie through tears, “I’m okay.”  She says it certainly.  Forcefully almost.  But I see the truth in her eyes.  She’s scared and we both think she’s going to die.

My mother has long, dark hair.  She would look like a Native American mother warrior with her tan, lined face and downward-turned eyes/mouth except for her bangs.  She won’t wear her hair without bangs.  She fell out of a moving car when she was just five years old.

Her forehead is scarred from the accident.  It is a terrible mark.  It’s dull purple with blue and yellow streaks, permanently bruised somehow.  It has deep white ridges where the flesh comes together to hold back brains, blood and skull.  It looks as if the bone just under the skin is broken and could spill its contents from the slightest pressure.

I touch it as if it could bite me.  It is tough though, surprisingly and sufficiently.  It’s troubling, remarkable and totally unbelievable that someone could have such a scar and be walking around performing everyday tasks.

I’m staring up at her from the front seat of the car.  She’s seatbeltless.  Hair full of wind and eyes on the road.  Her fingers are wrapped around the thin metallic wheel.  Her forehead is rough, but her cheeks are feathery and thin, soft under my tiny hand.  When I trace her lips, she playfully snarls, bares her teeth and chomps at my fingers.  She has beautiful, somber eyes, full of pain and pensiveness.  She doesn’t often have a smile, but when she does, you know it’s for you and you know it’s for real.

She is five years old.  She is riding quietly in the backseat of the sedan.  She falls asleep.  Her hand, arm or knee gently releases the door latch.  Within a breath, she is inches from the road, ground rushing under her.  My grandmother, from the front seat, is holding her hand or arm so she won’t fall.  My grandfather is braking.  My mother will be crushed by the turning back tire unless Grandma lets go.

Grandma lets go.

Li’l Lil is taken to the hospital and that sickening cut at the top of her sadly-sweet baby face is her rippling flag of salvation.  Her never-ending experiment of bangs begins.  On some level, consciously or not, this must make her feel like a little girl for the rest of her life.  A scared, torn-up little girl who hides her secrets behind those bangs.  I know how she feels.

Dear Reader,

This is an excerpt from my book Present Tense.  It’s a very short, vignette-style memoir. Quick read with lots of imagery.  You can find the rest of my book Present Tense at amazon.com.  Here’s the link: Present Tense.  You can read for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Thanks for reading!


This was from Vol. 1. More of Vol. 2 later today!

Vol. 2

The plan was always to release a Vol. 2 of my book Present Tense. But, as with most things, I was unable to complete the final version. I have many stories to publish and I thought, “Life is too short to leave them unread.” So I’m publishing them here. One by one. They are just little snippets of childhood. Sometimes, difficult to read. But all real, all precious. Mainly because they show my heart and where it’s been.


This new house is where I will spend the rest of my adolescence and teenage years. This is the house of sunken tubs and cigarette stains. This is the house of deep divides and dark, fake paneling. This is the house where I decide to kill myself.
I am lying in bed, shaking. I can’t stop shaking. I am some age between 5 and 15. I am scared. For mom and me. My parents are only 10 feet from my bedroom door. The door is shut, but it is cheap and he is screaming.
She is crying. She begs him to leave her alone. He keeps verbally attacking her, calling her a pig, threatening to kill her. I can hear him pushing her down. I can hear her land hard on the sofa. I can hear him hitting her. Spitting words through teeth. Seething, growling, possessed and angry.
I can hear every agonizing detail and only until I am shaking violently do I realize I’m shaking at all. I can’t stand it. I resolve to defend my mother and end the encounter. I walk quickly into the room and I scream at my father to stop. I can’t remember anything that happens after that.

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.

Present Tense (Excerpt 1)

I am four years old.  They are fighting.  I don’t remember the words now, but they are yelling.  Fuzzy scenes, like cloudy dreams, blurring in and out of focus.  Down in the basement, in the laundry room, I hear hot voices and cold words.  I peek around the corner.  He pushes her down on the concrete floor.  She’s weak, flailing, grabbing with desperate hands.  She can’t resist.  She scrambles up when she sees that I’m there.  She stutters a lie through tears, “I’m okay.”  She says it certainly.  Forcefully almost.  But I see the truth in her eyes.  She’s scared and we both think she’s going to die.

My mother has long, dark hair.  She would look like a Native American mother warrior with her tan, lined face and downward-turned eyes/mouth except for her bangs.  She won’t wear her hair without bangs.  She fell out of a moving car when she was just five years old.

Her forehead is scarred from the accident.  It is a terrible mark.  It’s dull purple with blue and yellow streaks, permanently bruised somehow.  It has deep white ridges where the flesh comes together to hold back brains, blood and skull.  It looks as if the bone just under the skin is broken and could spill its contents from the slightest pressure.

I touch it as if it could bite me.  It is tough though, surprisingly and sufficiently.  It’s troubling, remarkable and totally unbelievable that someone could have such a scar and be walking around performing everyday tasks.

I’m staring up at her from the front seat of the car.  She’s seatbeltless.  Hair full of wind and eyes on the road.  Her fingers are wrapped around the thin metallic wheel.  Her forehead is rough, but her cheeks are feathery and thin, soft under my tiny hand.  When I trace her lips, she playfully snarls, bares her teeth and chomps at my fingers.  She has beautiful, somber eyes, full of pain and pensiveness.  She doesn’t often have a smile, but when she does, you know it’s for you and you know it’s for real.

She is five years old.  She is riding quietly in the backseat of the sedan.  She falls asleep.  Her hand, arm or knee gently releases the door latch.  Within a breath, she is inches from the road, ground rushing under her.  My grandmother, from the front seat, is holding her hand or arm so she won’t fall.  My grandfather is braking.  My mother will be crushed by the turning back tire unless Grandma lets go.

Grandma lets go.

Li’l Lil is taken to the hospital and that sickening cut at the top of her sadly-sweet baby face is her rippling flag of salvation.  Her never-ending experiment of bangs begins.  On some level, consciously or not, this must make her feel like a little girl for the rest of her life.  A scared, torn-up little girl who hides her secrets behind those bangs.  I know how she feels.

Dear Reader,

This is an excerpt from my book Present Tense.  It’s a very short, vignette-style memoir. Quick read with lots of imagery.  You can find the rest of my book Present Tense at amazon.com.  Here’s the link http://www.amazon.com/Present-Tense-1-Martha-Maggio-ebook/dp/B00N6R7R8C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1453328463&sr=8-1&keywords=present+tense+by+martha+maggio.  You can read for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Thanks for reading!

Martha Maggio