Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


If My Ears Could Talk . . .

women with finger in ear

For at least sixteen years, I’d been using the same medication for an allergy that made my ears itch like crazy. All I did was put a few drops on a cotton swab and run it around the outermost inside of my ear.

When I moved out of state, I had to see a new doctor before I could get a refill. After she checked my ears, our conversation went something like this:

DOCTOR: “Open your mouth wide and say, ‘Ahh’.”

ME: “Ahh.”

DOCTOR, after shining her light and depressing my tongue: “So how many drops do you put in each ear and how often?” She turned away to jot down some notes.

My mind curled into a ball of confusion. Drops? In each ear? For the first time—in SIXTEEN years—I thought about that bottle. It did have that tiny hole at the end of its long neck—just the right shape to put in my ear. I’d never noticed. I went dumb.

When the doctor turned around, she laughed. Not only had I not answered her question, but my mouth was still wide open.

DOCTOR, still laughing: “You’re funny.”

ME, pretending I was doing it on purpose: “Liked that, huh?”

DOCTOR: “So how many drops and how often?”

ME: “Well, depends on what you mean by drops. A couple. Maybe. Not that often. Sometimes. A month or two.” I did not answer well.

DOCTOR, looking at me suspiciously: “You’re not sticking anything smaller than your elbow in your ear, are you?”

ME: “No, if anything, I’m conscientious about warnings.” I just don’t read directions.

DOCTOR: “Good. Here’s your prescription.”

PS: Whaddya know? Putting drops in my ears allows me to use them less often.

Fast forward three years. I’m in my office downstairs in the middle of writing a scene. My ears start to itch, but my drops are all the way upstairs. I look around my desk. A shiny, metal paperclip looks like a promising medical instrument. I half-unfold it and carefully stick the smaller, rounded end into my ear and scratch. “Aaaah.” My itch is relieved and no one is the wiser.

I go to remove the clip, but it hooks on a part of my ear I can’t see. (I can’t see any part of my ear, but you get what I’m saying.) I try again, but fail. I twist, it catches. I reverse the twist, it pinches. I pull, it sticks me.

For a while I just sit there breathing quietly with the paper clip sticking straight out of my ear. If only I can get my ear to relax, I think, the clip will fall out. How do you relax an ear? Listen to Yanni?

The doctor’s words taunt me, “You’re not sticking anything smaller than your elbow in your ear, are you?” I make an ugly face at the memory of her.

I climb the stairs and prepare to humiliate myself in front of my husband—who would never do anything this stupid because he is an engineer who reads and follows all directions.

HUSBAND, when he sees my face: “What’s wrong?”

ME, now crying, not out of pain but embarrassment: “I haa a prclip stck in m er.”

HUSBAND: “What did you say?”


HUSBAND, sighing [pfft] like I do this kind of stuff all the time: “Come here. Let me see.” He performs the delicate surgical procedure and removes the offending object. Then he informs me that I pulled so hard I pierced the inside of my ear.

So, whaddya think? Earring or no earring?paper clib earring

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” ~ Isaiah 30:21 (NIV)

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. ~ 2Timothy 4:3-4 (NIV)


God Didn’t Make Me No Ballerina

3 Great Danes I dont know3How beautiful your sandaled feet, O prince’s daughter! Your graceful legs are like jewels, the work of an artist’s hands.~ Song of Solomon 7:1 (NIV)

Graceful. Not a word ever used to describe me. Don’t believe me? I can show you the bruises.

I used to believe my lack of athleticism and coordination could be reversed. One day it hit me. God didn’t make me no ballerina. I’m okay with that. Most of the time. Until I’m in the presence of graceful people—which I was while recently visiting in-laws.

My husband’s sister and her husband [I shall refer to them herewith as “Darleen” and “Peter.”] are gracious hosts and lovely people. (Well, Darleen is lovely, Peter is blessed—and he knows it.)

Now, Darleen and Peter are ballroom dancers. I think they’re the inspiration for the Lladro dancers collection. Okay, not really, but you get the picture.  

Darleen is thin and tall–just over 6 feet. Peter is thin and taller. My husband David is not as thin, but the tallest. I am short and chubby. When all three of them sit on the furniture their feet touch the floor at the same time. My legs stick out straight–unless I sit on the edge of my seat and pretend they’re telling an exciting story.

As a former model, Darleen has perfect posture and walks like she’s floating on wisps of air. No matter how soft I tried to tip-toe, every time I entered a room, the crystal in their cabinets jangled. When Darleen poses for pictures, she angles one leg in front of the other and it looks natural. I tried that once and fell over. Even the way she moves her hands is graceful. She could hand me a used tissue, and I would feel blessed.

So, you can see why I was mortified when this happened. The four of us returned home from lunch out, entering through their garage. I was first to the back door. (What I lack in grace, I attempt to make up in speed.) Unfortunately, I underestimated the height of the step and tripped. Falling in a heap, I landed with a thud on an area rug just inside the door.3 Great Danes I dont know4

It knocked the wind out of me, I tell ya. I couldn’t speak. But I could hear the tall ones conversing: “Where’d she go?” “She fell.” “Is she okay.” “What happened?” “Don’t know.” “I can’t reach her.” “Let me see.” Their mutual height had blocked their view. (I should have seen that as God’s grace at work, but missed it at the time.)

Embarrassed, I laughed it off and tried to get up. Instead, like a clumsy, chubby Pug, I pawed and scrabbled at the rug–which kept slipping and sliding beneath me atop the shiny wood floor.

Question. Is it possible to re-fall when you haven’t gotten up yet? If so—as the trio of sleek, graceful Great Danes looked down from above—I re-fell twice. [Sigh to the 3rd power.]

Has anything like this ever happened to you? Tell me about it. Make me feel better. Please.

PS: Darleen and Peter, thanks for a most memorable trip. 😉 Love you both.



Ego Deflate Gate

brush stuckWords not often used to describe me: Graceful and genius. Am I okay with it? I have to be. I’ve proved it o’er and o’er.

Years ago, while getting ready for a lunch date with some friends, I decided my style could use a boost. I planted myself in front of the bathroom mirror with my new electric styling brush, then grabbed a clump of hair.

At first, while trying to manipulate the brush, I blamed my awkwardness on being left-handed. But after I rolled my hair in the wrong direction, I realized my reflection was the problem—it was not cooperating with my brain.

In an effort to correct my error, I tried to unroll the brush. That was my second mistake. Or was it my third? In either case, now it was rolled so tight it was burning my scalp.  [Ah, some of you have done this, haven’t you?] After a Mississippi minute (on a mid-August day), I was smart enough to unplug it.

The styling tool of the century was stuck in my hair. Stuck good. I tried to untangle it for an hour—okay, maybe it just seemed like an hour—until the strength in my arms gave up.

Stalling for time I didn’t have, I stared at myself, pondering whether the curling brush was actually hanging on the left side of my head or the right. Did it really matter? Denial had set in.

I thought about letting it hang there as an accessory. No, too big. I thought about wearing a hat. Still too big. I thought about telling my friends the truth. Not a chance.

I reached for the scissors and cut.

My friends never said a word–even when I used one hand to eat and the other to hold my comb-over in place.

PS: Stayed tuned. I’ll tell you how I unintentionally pierced the inside of my ear with a paper clip.

“Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” ~ 1 Peter 2:11-12 (MSG)


Paying Your Respects

God brings death and God brings life, brings down to the grave and raises up. God brings poverty and God brings wealth; he lowers, he also lifts up. He puts poor people on their feet again; he rekindles burned-out lives with fresh hope, Restoring dignity and respect to their lives— a place in the sun!1 Sam 2:6-8 (MSG)


“Freddie White died,” my mother broke the news to my father as soon as he got home from work.

“Freddie White?” Dad sat heavy in his chair as the news sunk in. “How? When?”

“A few days ago, at age 48. The obituary didn’t say how. The wake’s tomorrow night.”

Dad bent to take off his concrete-encrusted work boots. “I should go. He didn’t have much family.”

Freddie White was one of my father’s “men.” That’s what he called his crew of irregular mason tenders and bricklayers, many of them recovering (or wannabe recovering) alcoholics and drug users. Dad had picked them up, here and there, during the decades of his own sobriety and membership in AA. Referring to them as “men” was a sign of respect.

Part of his personal sponsorship style included giving them work now and again. He often had more men than he had work. It had been a few years since Dad had seen Freddie. Perhaps that’s why he wondered aloud, “Maybe if I’d stayed in touch . . .”

The next night, on his way out to the funeral parlor, Dad said to Mom, “I might be a while. A lot of the old crew will be there. It’ll be good to see them . . . even under these circumstances.”

When my father came home from the wake, he had a story to tell. “I couldn’t believe it. The place was packed. The line to the casket was out the door.”

“You’re kidding?” Mom looked surprised. “Who all was there?”

“I didn’t see a familiar face,” Dad said. “This crowd was different.”

“No guys stuffed into borrowed sports jackets two sizes too small?

“Nope,” Dad said.

“How about men wearing neckties which stopped six inches above their belt buckle?”

“None,” Dad answered. “Another thing, I shook hands with a lot of people and didn’t find a bloodied knuckle in the bunch.”

“It sounds like Freddie had some fancy new friends,” Mom said.

“You might say that. While the line wound its way toward the casket, I overheard some of the others talking about Fred’s brand new forty-foot power boat and how sad it was that he never got to take it out.”

Mom shook her head to make sure she heard right. “A what?”

Dad continued. “All I could think was, ‘Wow. Freddie White died owning a forty-foot boat.’ By the time I reached the casket, I was in shock.”

“Why? Was it a fancy coffin?”

“No, I was in shock because the guy lying in it wasn’t Freddie!” My father started to laugh and couldn’t stop. “The man’s name was Frederick White. You got that part right, but he was 84, not 48. And he was a Mason as in Freemason, not a mason as in laborer.”

Mom’s hands flew to her face. “Oh, no! What did you do?”

“What could I do? I was only a few feet from the family. I couldn’t very well leave without paying my respects. I took his wife’s hand in mine, looked into her tear-filled eyes and said the only thing I could about her husband, “It’s a real shame about the boat.”

True story (even with some literary embellishment). And it has a moral: Don’t leave this earth without paying your respects to someone: the down-and-outers, the up-and-comers, the in-crowd, the outcasts, the young, the old, the hurting and the healthy. Before it’s too late.

It won’t kill you. I promise.

Note: In case you’re wondering, after Dad’s funeral parlor faux pas, he did connect with the real Freddie White. He was sober and doing well–although not well enough to buy a boat.



Twelve Words for a Thinker’s Vocabulary #6

Marsha-Thinking-Cap-200Many of the words I chose are from The Thinker’s Thesaurus by Peter E. Meltzer.

For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. ~ Proverbs 2:10-11 (NIV)

  1. alexia – a) automated procedure; b) written material;  c) respiratory condition; d) architectural detail
  2. clerestory – a) type of window; b) cleric’s quarters; c) talkative; d) clearing house
  3. echopraxia – a) practice of echocardiograms; b) uncontrollable mimicking; c) art of yodeling; d) military maneuver
  4. glaciate – a) freeze; b) sink; c) glad-handing; d) make wide at the bottom
  5. lentiginous – a) contentious; b) freckled or speckled; c) liable; d) originating in a certain region
  6. maculate – a) impure; b) manly; c) eye condition; d) sterile or clean
  7. nobby – a) light-hearted; b) boney; c) pimple-faced; d) fashionable
  8. osculate – a) rotate; b) kiss; c) debate; d) insert breathing tube
  9. potable — a) able to be transported; b) plants that grow best in pots; c) type of Irish potato; d) fit or suitable for drinking
  10. rip-rap – a) lower class; b) material used to protect a slope; c) type of sail; d) brand of of bubble wrap
  11. salariat – a) employees; b) a lasso expert; c) toastmaster; d) dental suction tool
  12. tuft-hunter – a) upholsterer; b) furrier; c) hanger-on; d) hound dog

    thinking capHave you chosen the correct definition? Can you use the words in a sentence? Scroll down to see how you did.

    The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction. Prudence is a fountain of life to the prudent, but folly brings punishment to fools. The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction. Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. ~ Proverbs 16:21-24 (NIV)

    Here are the correct answers.

    1. b) written material
    2. a) type of window
    3. b) uncontrollable mimicking
    4. a) freeze
    5. b) freckled or speckled
    6. a) impure
    7. d) fashionable
    8. b) kiss
    9. d) fit or suitable for drinking
    10. b) material used to protect a slope
    11. a) employees
    12. c) hanger-on

      Jumping for joy over your score?

      10-12  Did you spend your entire childhood alone in your room reading the Oxford English Dictionary?

      07-09  Many of your friends just pretend to know what you’re talking about.

      04-06  You’re a better guesser than most.

      00-03  You are monosyllabic like me.