The Mysterious Shirt

I’m sitting here in a cast-off/picked-up shirt, and it reminded me of this story about another cast-off/picked-up shirt. This essay might have run in Strut! Magazine, I can’t remember. In any event, I’m sharing it again:

The Mysterious Shirt
My sister gave me this shirt. At the time, she was living in my basement. I told everyone the basement was finished because I didn’t want them thinking the room was dark and dank, my sister’s living quarters dirt-floored and unheated. If I’d had a different life, the basement might have sported a pool table and wet bar, but my sister was living there so it had a twin bed and homemade shelves holding her sweaters and other clothes.
So, anyway, she gives me this shirt. I was a lawyer at the time with a big, important legal practice, and I walked around town wearing this shirt. The town was a small place, even if it was the state capital. Everyone knew everyone; everyone knew everyone’s business. Most importantly, people paid attention to what other folks were wearing. Like I said, small town.
The shirt my sister gave me was very distinctive. Its silk swirled turquoise and orange; the fit was kind of flappy in an oversized way. It buttoned down the front. I wore it with a black skirt. I considered it very stylish, a definite choice; you didn’t wear such a shirt by accident.
Then my sister tells me that, actually, her boyfriend gave her the shirt. The boyfriend’s ex-wife had moved out of the house and left a pile of clothes. The boyfriend, cleaning up, had run across the shirt behind the bathroom door and given it to my sister.
Really, it wasn’t a house the ex-wife left. My sister’s boyfriend lived in a warehouse above a restaurant, and the ex-wife moved out of the warehouse. And it wasn’t really a restaurant, it was a honky-tonk. When people would walk into the place, they’d sniff and say, “This place smells funny.” The boyfriend would say, “What do you think – it’s a honky-tonk!” He lived in an apartment in the warehouse above the honky-tonk. The ex-wife moved out of the honky-tonk and left the shirt in a pile of clothes on the floor behind the bathroom door.
Hunh, I thought.
Someone else’s shirt. Kind of, in a way. Abandoned but then picked up and passed around until it came to me: a pick-me-up, hand-me-around kind of shirt.
Which I wore. Frequently. Publicly. Ostentatiously.
Who knows, I could’ve walked past the boyfriend’s ex-wife on one of my downtown strolls. The woman would’ve done a double-take, thinking, how’d that chick get my shirt? I would’ve strutted on by, oblivious.
Or she could have accosted me. As I understood it, the wife’s break-up with the boyfriend wasn’t pretty. So the ex-wife could’ve jerked me by the arm, pulled me to the side. She would’ve demanded to know where I got the shirt. Unawares, I would’ve told her it was a gift from my sister, and she’d have thought, Aha!
She might have said, “Give it to me” then yanked. Tried to take the shirt right off my back. I might’ve wound up with my picture in the newspaper wearing the shirt, half-on, half-flapped off, a startled look on my face.
It wouldn’t have mattered. Even after I became aware of the dangers presented by the shirt, I continued to wear it. I liked the idea of me, the important lawyer, strutting around town in a stolen shirt. Or at least an unauthorized shirt. It made me feel a little edgy. Like I wasn’t really a boring, follow-the-rules, nothing-interesting-ever-happens-to-you lawyer.
“Yes,” I would’ve said if anyone stopped me on the sidewalk. “I get my shirts off unknown bathroom floors.”
That’s the kind of woman I am.
One who wears mysterious shirts.

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The Dog Must Pee

Originally posted on Ellen Morris Prewitt's Blog:

So I went outside today for the first time in four days. I know it’s been four days because my husband said, “Do you realize I’ve been taking this dog out every time for four days?” The only reason I went outside today is because my husband’s comment led me to conclude that if I didn’t get my butt off the futon and take the dog out, she might be left with no choice but to pee on the apartment floor.

I’ve been sick. Under any circumstance, sickness is a nasty, unpleasant business. Yeah, my illness is “just” a sinus infection, but at various times I’ve thought I would choke, drown, or hack myself to death, not to mention suffocating beneath the pile of discarded kleenex. Plus, I’ve got the pink eye. Pink eye! A childhood affliction that I waited until my fifth decade to contract. Talk about your slow…

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When Do Fish Sleep?

My three-year-old grandson handed me a book to read. He found the book in the drawer of the beach house this past week (later, he would ask me, “What’s a beach house?). The title of the book was “When Do Fish Sleep?” Narrating our activity, as is my want, I said, “I hope this book isn’t rhetorical—I don’t want them asking these questions and not giving us answers.”

I always wonder: what does this child learn from me that I don’t know he’s learning? This week, I’m pretty sure he learned the concept of “surprise.” Another book we read (we are big book readers) had a band of pirates discovering a treasure trove. Their wide eyes and open mouths showed they were surprised, I told him. “I am surprised,” he repeated wide-eyed, trying it on for size.

He also, inexplicably, learned how to act like an egg in a nest. “Let’s make a nest!” he cried for days. We would build a pillow nest around him with a pillow roof. Hidden inside, he’d wait while I speculated when the egg might hatch. Then, at an unpredictable time, he would erupt from the nest, the egg cracking open, the baby bird born.

Was this game triggered by our reading “Horton Hatches an Egg”? Or because the pirate ship had a crow’s nest? Or because, seated on the steps beneath the house, I pointed to the ocean and told him about the mama sea turtle with the gigantic flippers who swam ashore then used her strong flippers to dig a hole in the sand and bury her eggs where they waited until it was time to be born when they erupted from the nest and scurried beneath the moon back into the ocean and swam away?

Given the number of times we played this game, each time with him bursting from the nest with a huge grin on his face, did he learn that there is no limit to delight?

Or did he learn that his Gogi might be a former hotshot lawyer and a current “award-winning writer,” but when it comes to the sheer number of times she is willing to repeat the same act, read the same book, respond to the same joke, she is sort of a simpleton?

Why, you might be asking yourself, am I willing to repeat these acts ad nauseam? (Okay, sometime I suggest new games like, “Why don’t we do the jigsaw puzzle?” only to realize I suck at jigsaw puzzles, and we move on to stickers—stickers I can do.) My daughter-in-law calls it patience, but patience implies a putting-up-with that I don’t feel. For some reason, I have a child’s extreme tolerance for repetition. I take delight in, and share, the moment of delight. But over and over and over again—what is kinda wrong with me?

I wish life wouldn’t ask these questions and not give us answers.

Oh—and I don’t know when fish sleep. The book was a bummer—lots of words, few pictures, wise-ass answers. I was not a fan.

Remember: You Cain’t Do Nothing with Love

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The King’s Lament

Don't Be Cruel

Don’t Be Cruel

It's Now or Never

It’s Now or Never


I Gotta Know

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

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Old Stories Found

Originally posted on Ellen Morris Prewitt's Blog:

After a long hiatus, I submitted a couple of short stories to literary magazines today.

I’ve been working on the new website, mulling over what stories I wanted to include. The website will have a “Photo Bio” featuring a sentence about my life that reflects a dominant themes in my work and a representative photo. Click on the photo and you can read (or listen) to work that engages the theme.

For example, under the “I grew up to be a lawyer and show clothes on the runway,” you will be able to click on a glamor shot and read The Dress, which appeared in Skirt! Magazine, or listen to “Show the Clothes.” where two models get into fisticuffs.

Given my recent proclivities, much of the fiction will be in audio form, but I also want to include PDFs folks can read. I knew I’d use “Held at…

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Picture Your Life

My first big writing gig was on 📻.

I wrote ✐ and read 👓 commentaries for the local NPR station.

One of the commentaries won an award 🎉 from NPR. 2nd place, but still an award 🏆.

Who could have foreseen 🔮 that this gig would lead me to record my short stories one day?

I have a 💿 of those commentaries somewhere.


(That’s a bathtub. It has nothing to do with anything. I just liked it)

My point being, you never know what constitutes a 🚪in your life.

It’s too random, really, to try to figure 📐out.

So just do what you love. 🏊 🎳 🚵 📖 👠

And do it before you run out of time ⏳

Now, if I can just figure out a way to make 💰 off of this.

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We Won!

Cain’t Do Nothing with Love won 1st Place in the Audio Book category of the 2014 CIPA EVVY Awards!!!

For those of you who know what’s what, you remember I was disturbed by my misplaced adjective. What should have been “a collection of award-winning short stories” became on my 14 intros “an award-winning short story collection.” I couldn’t afford to re-record ALL of the intros so I set out to remedy this error by winning an award.

I’m pleased to announce I was successful. I researched organizations granting awards to self-publishers/independent presses and submitted to two. Lo and behold, CDNWL won 1st place in one of them. Even better, they included recognition to my talented friend Preston Johnson who did the sound engineering.

I am so pleased.

I’m sure there’s a quote somewhere about never knowing what motivator will lead you down the path you need to go on. If not, there is now.

Remember: You Cain’t Do Nothing with Love


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