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Yosemite Sam by Paul Beckman

April 1, 2012

Lilly, still wearing her homemade blue and green housecoat took down her Ouija board from the top of the refrigerator and opened the cabinet that held the drinking glasses. With the Ouija board on the counter she selected eight glasses and put them on the board. Not being able to bear an open door she quickly closed the glasses door before picking up her board, tray like, and moved around the apartment.

Yosemite Sam and Tinker Bell were placed on the sash top of the kitchen window. In the dining room went Tweety and a Yarzeit glass, while The Roadrunner, Sylvester, the three little pigs and a chipped jelly glass with a grinning Mickey Mouse went on the two windows in the living room.

Lilly placed the Ouija board on the kitchen table and dragged a chair over to the door and propped the chair back under the doorknob. She did the same with her front door. Now that her alarm was set for the night, Lilly turned on the teapot and took a deck of cards out of the drawer and dealt herself a hand of solitaire. She played two games before the water boiled and she got up, made a cup of instant coffee, put the cards away and took out two milk crackers and sat down at the Ouija board to complete her nightly pre-bed ritual. The board was well worn from being used as not only a Ouija board and as a tray for her evening glass ritual but also as a tray to bring the kids food when they were sick in bed. She never asked Ouija if it liked being used as a tray—the thought never entered her mind.

As the steam rose from the teacup Lily put her fingers on the planchette lightly and being a person of habit asked silently the first of the three mandatory questions. “Will I ever marry again?” And then “Did Bernie ever love me?” And lastly “Am I ever going to know happiness again?”

Lily’s planchette had a space for a pencil where the answers could be written on paper, but she preferred to use it as a wedge and let it lead her to yes or no answers. As always, all three questions pointed her to NO. The planchette only moved slightly but the tip pointed cross board at NO and that was enough for Lilly. She put the board away and took her tea into the living room, turned on the radio softly so as not to wake the children, and lit up a cigarette. She pulled the coupon from beneath the cellophane of the now empty pack and added it to her collection in the end table drawer, where the Raleigh catalogue was also kept. Lilly wasn’t sure what she was saving up for but knew she had over a thousand coupons elastic banded in packs of a hundred. Not for a minute did she think of the health aspects of a thousand coupons; but every once in a while she would add up the cost of buying that many packs or cartons of cigarettes and think about what she could be doing with the money.

Lilly fantasized about walking into the Raleigh Coupon store, ignoring the cases and shelves filled with shinny new household appliances, knick knacks and the like and saw herself standing in line at the cashier’s window. “Here,” she said when her turn came. “I’d like to exchange these coupons for the money I spent.” She pushed the coupons towards the cashier who pulled down the iron bar window gate blocking the coupons path and said, “Sorry. I’m closing for my break. You’ll have to come back another time.” This fantasy scene never changed and Lilly never ever got to imagine what it would be like to have a few hundred dollars at her disposal. She couldn’t even allow herself the luxury of having a good fantasy.

In the morning, before her boys woke, Lilly put the chairs and glasses away, checking to see with her practiced eye if anything had been moved during the night, which meant a potential burglar. Lilly felt a chill after noticing that Yosemite Sam was out of place. She knew there was no way she would have put him on the same side of the window lock as Tinker Bell.

At breakfast she interrogated her three boys, Nathan twelve, Rueven ten and Samuel five. It wasn’t much of an interrogation, Reuven said he came downstairs to get a drink of water and grabbed Yosemite, took his drink and put Yosemite back. Lilly, angry beyond reason, yelled at him for touching her alarm and offered several different scenarios of what burglars do to children when they break into a house. Reuven, instead of apologizing or sitting mutely as the others did or would, told his Mother that Yosemite was his glass and he was thirsty and the only other glasses in the cupboard were Yarzeit glasses and he wasn’t about to drink out of one of them. He then picked up Yosemite and took sip of his milk.

Lilly walked into the kitchen, opened Reuven’s lunch bag and took out the oatmeal raisin cookie—his favorite and refolded the bag and said nothing more about the alarm as she sent her boys off to school.


Paul Beckman specializes in the short story and flash fiction. His work has been published in England, Canada, New Zealand & Germany and several stories have been turned into plays. He’s had two collections of stories published in print, “Come! Meet My Family & other stories” and “Maybe I Ought To Go Sit In a Dark Room For a While” and a novella “Lovers & Other Mean People” published on line by Parting Gifts. Additionally he’s had two chapbooks published; one with Web Del Sol and the other with Silkworm Ink. He earned an MFA from Bennington College in 1999.

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