Original Short Story: "Me & Iris"
Tracing Orphans in Your Ancestry
This story is fiction. It does not depict any person living or dead. Any resemblance to any person is unintentional.
A Woods Colt
I can’t recall how old me and Iris was, I just remember that we was younguns living there with a bunch of other kids. We all seemed happy enough, I guess. We didn’t have much, but didn’t know any better for it. We just never thought in those terms of having stuff or not having it. We just took every day as it come at us. I recall that Iris loved talking about her momma and daddy and how they all lived in a big house together and they was always laughing and loving each other.
Iris would tell me about how she would help her momma cook and clean that big house, and how they would bake sugar cookies almost every afternoon. Her neighbor friends would come around to play and she would hand out them cookies saying the Lord loves a happy child or some such. I never took no stock in praying myself, it never did me any good. I prayed hardest when I knew Sister Jean Little Flower of Jesus was going to tan me for something. No matter how hard I prayed, she’d come around that evening and dust me good.
Anyway, my sweet Iris just loved to tell me about how her momma would tuck her in with a kiss and a hug every night and then a little later her daddy would stick his head in to check on her. She had a cat named Friday, she called it Friday because it was black, that never made much sense to me, but I never said nothing. That cat would curl up in a ball and not move all night as Iris slept, kind of like a watch dog, I guess.
Her eyes would just shine as she told me those stories. That big old grin she had with just one tooth hanging on for dear life as she laughed and giggled made me laugh and giggle right back at her. She was so good at telling me about it, my mouth would water just thinking about those sugar cookies and those Sunday dinners.
I never said nothing, I just kept my trap shut as she told me them stories. She knew, and I knew, none of it was true. She ain’t never lived nowhere except here at the orphanage. Sister Jean said once, just to be mean, called Iris a woods colt. I didn’t know exactly what it meant back then, but later on I learned the meaning, and I hate Sister Jean for it even to this day. Iris didn’t know neither, but I could tell it cut her deep.
That Story I Started
I started to write that story some twenty years ago. Don't know why I didn't finish it then. Maybe I just ran out things to say. Anyway, I think I had big dreams of becoming a writer back then, but then since I just became waitress instead, I didn't write anymore until now.
I started taking some classes at the Big Rapids State Community College after I saved up some money. I also found out that if I had graduated from high school, I could take two years of community college free. The governor of the state had promised some such program to get elected and it worked and it kept his promise.
Not much ever come of my college education. After the two years, I got a thing called an associates degree which ain't worth much without the other years getting me bachelors degree, but I never had enough money keep going to school. So I'm still in the waitress business.
Back to Iris
I don't know why I even bothered to write that stuff about me going to junior college. All I really wanted to do was finish the story about poor little old Iris. So here goes. After we turned 18, we were turned out the orphanage. Iris was invited to live with a cousin of hers that the orphanage had contacted. They couldn't find any of my relatives, so they arranged it so I could live temporarily with Iris and her cousin's family.
I could only live there until I found my own place. I was a lucky enough to find a place to work, The Glass House Diner, and it had an empty apartment in the back of it. So I got the job at the diner and a place to live.
Iris and me stayed friends, and she'd come stay with me at my apartment when she got tired of her cousin. I tried to get Iris a job at the diner but for some reason the manager kept putting off hiring her. She finally got a job at the Buy-Rite supermarket as a cashier.
We were both doing ok for two ignorant little orphan girls. We'd eat at the other diner in town, the Made-Rite. And we'd get to talking about the orphanage and then we'd talk about the future. Iris got it in her head that she'd like to get married and have kids that didn't have to live in an orphanage.
"LuAnn, a new guy started working at the store yesterday, and he's a real dreamboat. I think I'll marry him," Iris popped out with this bombshell one day.
"Have you even talked to him yet?" I asked Iris.
"Yeah, he's from somewhere up north, and he's taking some classes at Big Rapids. After that he's going to Alabama State U. He's going to major in business. He wants to own his own grocery store in a few years," explained Iris.
"So, y'all been on a date yet?" I asked, getting rather nosey.
"No, but I think he's going to ask me soon," said Iris.
To make a long story short, much to my shock, it happened Iris and that guy, Willie Martin, did start going out and they got engaged. So not to make the story too much shorter, I'll tell you a little about the engagement.
Willie gave Iris a ring, took her home to his parents, the whole nine yards. She was out of her mind happy. Willie's folks were what to Iris and me would be consider filthy rich, and turns out they were none to happy that Willie wanted to marry an ignorant little orphan girl.
Iris went on planning the wedding, even though Willie kept telling her they would have to elope. Willie told Iris his parents would disown him if he married Iris. But she kept up the charade as long as she could, acting like they were going to have big beautiful wedding.
Then all hell broke loose! Iris came into the diner as I was serving a family its Sunday dinner. She had been crying and she said she had to talk to me. She sat by the door waiting for me to get a break.
"Willie dumped me, LuAnn!" she stuck out her hand and said, "See, he took back the ring and everything. He took back all the gifts he gave me, the stereo, the charm bracelet, the electric coffee pot. He said he really loved me but he couldn't be poor and if his parents disowned him he'd be poor. LuAnn, I think I'm going to die. I love him so much. I can't live without him."
"Iris, of course, you can live without him. You lived without him until you met him, didn't you?" I said to Iris.
Iris just looked stunned, didn't say anything, and my break was over. So I told her to come to my apartment after work so we could talk some more about this. She said she would.
Ten Years Ago: The Philosophy of "Something Better"
Can you believe it? Iris' engagement was ten years ago. For some reason I didn't finish the story back then, and I just ran across this story, and thought hey, there's not that much to tell to finish this story. So I might as will finish it.
Anyway, I told Iris that day after I finished work that because Willie was dumping her just meant somebody better was coming along for her. I had a funny way of thinking that not most folks would cotton to. But I thought that way. It had always happened to me like that. I lost a kitten once, and then found two kittens. I lost a set of earrings once, and then saw a better pair in the jewelry store window, and the store owner gave them to me because she liked the way I kept her coffee warm at the diner.
I had a boyfriend once a little while after I started to diner waitressing job, and I didn't really like having a boyfriend and was stewing over how to break up with him. But I didn't have to break up with him; he moved to Florida to be with his kids. Funny thing is, he asked me to go with him, but I said I just couldn't leave my job and I didn't care much for Florida.
Even how I ended up being an orphan shows that this "something better" deal works. My parents were drug dealers and even though I don't remember it, Sister Mary Grace had told me about how I came to live at the orphanage. And it was because my parents had put me in danger, yeah, they were arrested, charged with child endangerment, and they went to prison and I went to St. Bartholomew's Home for Abandoned Children.
I keep thinking I should look them up, but then I'm a little afraid them being ex-cons and all they might not take too well if I showed up for a visit. Anyway, that's why I always think that when you lose something, it's because something better is coming along. It always worked for me, and I made Iris believe that it would work for her.
And it did. After Iris was dumped by Willie, she found out that she had an aunt and uncle living up north, and they were looking for her. OK, to shorten the story again. After Iris and her aunt and uncle united, they helped her get into the University of Alabama. She majored in Spanish and became teacher at big high school in Montgomery. She met another Spanish teacher and they got married and lived happily ever after.
Well, that sounds little too much like a fairy tale ending but it's close to the truth. Since I lived not far from where Iris lived and taught, we've stayed friends and we talk about every day. I went to her wedding which was the big beautiful one she had always dreamed of. She had three kids and they turned out to be great kids in every way.
My waitressing turned me into a business woman and even though I never finished any business degree, I did end up part owner of several diners in my little town and Montgomery. I have not married yet, and likely never will. I just like being alone, thinking about stuff, and now writing about stuff.
If I never end up being a writer that's ok. Because I know I have been a good worker in the hospitality industry and I have been a good friend to Iris. We were just two little ignorant orphan girls who made it good. Iris is living a fairy tale life, and I'm happy with mine, and will stay that way until something better comes along.
Favorite Short Story
My favorite short story is
Linda Sue Grimes, SRF Windmill Chapel
Life Sketch of Linda Sue Grimes
The following original poem captures the tranquility of my favorite meditation place in Los Angeles, California, the Windmill Chapel at Self-Realization Fellowship's Lake Shrine.
The Windmill Chapel
In the temple of silence
By the lake, we sit
In stillness, meditating
In divine Bliss.
Returning to our daily minds,
We walk out into the sunshine,
And the flowers greet us.
The Literary Life
Born Linda Sue Richardson on January 7, 1946, to Bert and Helen Richardson in Richmond, Indiana, Linda Sue grew up about eight miles south of Richmond in a rustic setting near the Ohio border.
After graduating from Centerville Senior High School in Centerville, Indiana, in 1964, Linda Sue Grimes completed her baccalaureate degree with a major in German at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, in 1967. She married Ronald Grimes on March 10, 1973.
As a writer, Grimes focuses on poetry, short fiction, politics, spirituality, and vegan/vegetarian cooking, which results in her original veggie recipes.
Although music was her first love, Grimes considers herself primarily a literary specialist as she creates her own poetry, studies the poetry and literary arts of classic writers, and writes commentaries about classic poems.
However, Grimes does continue to express her love of music by writing her own original songs, which she records, accompanying herself on guitar or keyboard. She shares her musical compositions at SOUNDCLOUD.
After completing the PhD degree in British, American, and World Literature with a cognate in Rhetoric/Composition at Ball State University in 1987, Grimes taught English composition in the English Department at BSU as a contractual assistant professor from 1987 until 1999.
Grimes has published poems in many literary journals, including Sonoma Mandala, Rattle, and The Bellingham Review. She has published three books of poems: Singing in the Silence, Command Performance, and Turtle Woman & Other Poems, and a book of fables titled Jiggery-Jee's Eden Valley Stories.
Grimes published her first cookbook in the spring of 2013, titled The Rustic Veggie-Table: 100 Vegan Recipes. She is working on a second cookbook and her fourth book of poems.
Currently, at Owlcation, Grimes (Maya Shedd Temple) posts her poetry commentaries. On LetterPile, she shares her creative writing of poems and short fiction, along with prose commentaries on each piece. She posts recipes resulting from her experimental cooking of vegan/vegetarian dishes. on Delishably. She posts her politically focused pieces at Soapboxie, and her commentaries focusing on music at Spinditty. Pieces on the writing process appear at Hobbylark.
Linda Sue Grimes has been a devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda and a member of his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship, since 1978. A Kriyaban since 1979, she has completed the four Kriya Initiations, and she continues to study the teachings and practice the yoga techniques as taught by the great spiritual leader, who is considered to be the "Father of Yoga in the West."
Grimes practices the chants taught by the guru accompanying herself on the harmonium. She serves at her local SRF Meditation Group as one of the chant leaders.
Online Literary Presence
In addition to the contributions of her literary works to Owlcation, LetterPile, and SOUNDCLOUD, Grimes also curates her original creative literary pieces at her literary home, Maya Shedd Temple, on Medium, where she features her creative writing without commentaries. Grimes also maintains an additional online presence on Facebook and Twitter.
My Spiritual Journey: Why I Am a Self-Realization Yogi
"By ignoble whips of pain, man is driven at last into the Infinite Presence, whose beauty alone should lure him." –a wandering sadhu, quoted in Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
Introduction: Salvation Is a Personal Responsibility
I am a Self-Realization Yogi because the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, who in 1920 founded Self-Realization Fellowship, make sense to me. Paramahansa Yogananda teaches that we are immortal souls, already connected to the Divine Reality, but we have to "realize" that divine connection. Knowing the Great Spirit (God) is not dependent upon merely claiming to believe in a divine personage, or even merely following the precepts of a religion such as the Ten Commandments.
Knowing the Creator is dependent upon "realizing" that the soul is united with that Creator. To achieve that realization we have to develop our physical, mental, and spiritual bodies through exercise, scientific techniques, and meditation. There are many good theorists who can help us understand why proper behavior is important for our lives and society, but Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings offer definite, scientific techniques that we practice in order to realize our oneness with the Divine Power or God. It makes sense to me that my salvation should be primarily my own responsibility.
No Religious Tradition
I did not grow up with a religious tradition. My mother was a Baptist, who claimed that at one time she felt she was saved, but then she backslid. I learned some hymns from my mother. But she never connected behavior with religion. My father was forced to attend church when he was young, and he complained that his church clothes were uncomfortable as was sitting on the hard pews.
My father disbelieved in the miracles of Jesus, and he poked fun at people who claimed to have seen Jesus "in the bean rows." My mother would not have doubted that a person might see Jesus, because she saw her father after he had died. My mother characterized my father as agnostic, and she lived like an agnostic, but deep down I think she was a believer after the Baptist faith.
Here’s a little story that demonstrates how ignorant about religion I was as a child: When I was in first or second grade, I had a friend named Caroline. At recess one day at the swings, Caroline wanted to confide something to me, and she wanted me to keep it secret. She said I probably wouldn't believe it, but she still wanted to tell me. I encouraged her to tell me; it seemed exciting to be getting some kind of secret information. So she whispered in my ear, "I am a Quaker."
I had no idea what that was. I thought she was saying she was magic like a fairy or an elf or something. So I said, "Well, do something to prove it." It was Caroline's turn to be confused then. She just looked very solemn. So I asked her to do something else to prove it. I can't remember the rest of this, but the point is that I was so ignorant about religion.
The Void in My Life and My First Trauma
Looking back on my life as a child, teenager, young adult, and adult up to the age of 32, I realize that the lack of a religious tradition left a great void in my life. Although my father was on the fence regarding religion, he would listen to Billy Graham preach on TV. I hated it whenever Billy Graham was preaching on TV. His message scared me. Something like the way I felt when my father's mother would come and visit us, and when my father would let out a "Goddam" or other such swear word, she would say he was going to hell for talking that way. I was afraid for my father. And Billy Graham made me afraid for myself and all of us because we did not attend church.
I never believed that things like swearing and masturbation could send a soul to hell. But then back then I had no concept of "soul" or "hell." I believed it was wrong to kill, steal, and to lie. But I'm not sure how these proscripts were taught to me. I guess by example. It seems that I had no real need for God and spirituality until I was around thirty years old.
My life went fairly smoothly except for two major traumas before age thirty. The first trauma was experiencing a broken heart at age eighteen and then undergoing a failed marriage, after which I thought I would never find a mate to love me. But I did meet a wonderful soulmate when I was 27.
Heretofore I had thought finding the proper marriage partner would solve all my problems, but I learned that my difficulties were very personal and at the level where we are all totally alone, despite any outward relationships.
The Second Trauma
A second trauma that added to my confusion was being fired twice from the same job at ages 22 and 27. At age 27 things started to make no sense. And it started to bother me intensely that things made no sense. I had always been a good student in grade school and high school, and I was fairly good in college, graduating from Miami University with a 3.0 average. That grade point average bothered me, because I thought I was better than that.
But then not being able to keep my teaching job and not being able to find another one after I had lost it very much confused me. It seemed that I had lost touch with the world. School had been my world, and my teachers and professors had expected great things from me. But there I was at age 27 and couldn't get connected to school again.
Feminism and Zen
I began reading feminist literature starting with Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, continuing with Ms. Magazine, and many others. The result of taking in the feminist creed led me to believe that I had someone to blame for my failure—men; men had caused the world to be arranged so that women cannot succeed outside the home. I began writing again, an endeavor I have sporadically engaged in most of my life from about age sixteen. I decided to apply for a graduate assistantship in English at Ball State University, feeling that I was ready to get out in the man’s world and show it what a woman could do. I felt confident that I could succeed now that I knew what the problem was. But that didn’t work out either. I finished the year without a master’s degree in English, and then there I was, confused again, and still searching for something that made sense.
I had heard about the Eastern philosophy known as "Zen" at Ball State, and I started reading a lot about that philosophy. Zen helped me realize that men were not the problem, attitude was. I kept on writing, accumulating many poems, some of which I still admire. And I kept reading Zen, especially Alan Watts, but after a while the same ideas just kept reappearing with no real resolution, that is, even though the Zen philosophy did help me understand the world better, it was not really enough. I got the sense that only I could control my life, but just how to control it was still pretty much a mystery.
Autobiography of a Yogi
Then in late 1977 on one of our book shopping trips, I spied a book, Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, and I recommended it to my husband, because he liked biographies. I purchased poetry books, and we purchased the autobiography for him. He did not get around to reading it right away, but I did, and I was totally amazed at what I read. It all made sense to me; it was such a scholarly book, clear and compelling. There was not one claim made in the entire 500 plus pages that made me scratch me hand and say "what?" or even feel an uncertainty that this writer knew exactly whereof he spoke.
Paramahansa Yogananda was speaking directly to me, at my level, where I was in my life, and he was connecting with my mind in a way that no writer had ever done. For example, the book offers copious notes, references, and scientific evidence that academics will recognize as thorough research. This period of time was before I had written a PhD dissertation, but all of my years of schooling had taught me that making claims and backing them up with explanation, analysis, evidence, and authoritative sources were necessary for competent, persuasive, and legitimate exposition.
Paramahansa Yogananda's autobiography contained all that could appeal to an academic and much more because of the topic he was addressing. As the great spiritual leader recounted his own journey to self-realization, he was able to elucidate the meanings of ancient texts whose ideas have remained misunderstood for many decades and even centuries.
The book contained a postcard that invited the reader to send for lessons that teach the techniques for becoming self-realized. I sent for them, studied them, and I have been practicing them since 1978. They do, indeed, hold the answer to every human problem.
I know it is difficult for most educated people to believe that all human problems can be solved, but that’s because they get stuck in the thought that they cannot. If you believe that you can never really know something, then you can’t, because if you believe that you can never really know something, you won’t try to know it.
Yogananda gives a map with directions to reaching God, and realizing that one’s soul is united with God brings about the end of all sorrow and the beginning of all joy. Just knowing the precepts intellectually does not cause this realization, but it goes a long way toward eliminating much suffering. The faith that we can overcome all suffering is a great comfort, even if we are not there yet. I realize that God is knowable, but most important is that I know I am the only one who can connect my soul to God—and that is the spiritual journey I am on.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes