The Wonderful World of Fiction

When I was young I had a speech and learning disability. At that time, kids with difficulties such as mine were simply thrown into a lower reading group. There was high, medium, low – and then my group.

My fifth grade teacher, Mr. Marshall, saw that the children in the class would laugh at me and exclude me from many of the activities. So, he went out of his way to make me feel special. He chose me as Projector Monitor, which, in the fifth grade was a very prestigious honor. This helped raise my self – esteem and it also raised the respect my classmates had for me.

One day Mr. Marshall took me aside and said, “I know you’re very smart.” Those words meant so much coming from a man who I looked up to. Before then, I had never thought of myself as “smart.” After all, I was the lowest reading group.

My favorite time in class was story time where Mr. Marshall would read and we would sit quietly. I will always remember the day he read the story of a hawk. In the story, you were in the mind of the hawk. I was so intrigued by this, and inspired by the way Mr. Marshall read the words, that I ran to the Library and checked out that book. I used my finger to skim along the words and carefully I pronounced each one. It took me two months to get through it.

After that, I checked out the next book in that series, and it took me one month to read. By the time I finished the entire series, I was reading normally and my speech had greatly improved.

In college I began a tutoring service where I helped children with disabilities similar to my own. I became a professional tutor and even went on to get my M.B.A. and Ph.D.

Several years ago I wrote Mr. Marshall a letter saying, “I want to thank you for changing my life.”

Because of him, I have been ably to help other children, and, about six years ago, I started a Great Books Club where a group of adults gathers monthly to discuss literature. We have read over fifty-two works of fiction, most of which, like Ulysses, the Iliad, and the Odyssey, are classics.

My Earth Angel, Mr. Marshall, inspired me to find confidence within myself. This confidence, throughout the years, has enabled me to share my love of the written word by bringing others into the wonderful world of fiction.

 

By Michael Reiss

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Teachers and Lessons

As children, we don’t see our teachers as ordinary people. They seem larger than life. When we are older, we realize that they really were larger than life. The valuable gifts teachers give stay with us.

Like the wise old man on the mountaintop, our teachers seem all knowing and their words of wisdom can be powerful enough to last a lifetime. And, like our parents, they discipline, guide, protect, nurture, influence, and serve as role models. However, while parents are Earth Angels to their own children, teachers can be Earth Angels to hundreds. From nursery school to college, there are teachers who go above and beyond the curriculum. They have the ability to see past the textbooks and chalkboards and into the eyes of each of their students. This is the quality that makes them Earth Angels.

While searching for stories, it seemed that almost everyone had something to say about a teacher who had made a profound difference in their life, We even heard a story about a very strict teacher who gave a bad grade on a math test, Years later the former student wanted to thank his teacher for the bad grade. He said, “Because she gave me the grade that I deserved, I kept away from math and pursued my more creative side.”

A story you will read in this chapter, “Miss Vandermark,” shows how deeply a child can be affected by the advice of a teacher, Because of this woman and the care she gives her students, Gerardo, the storyteller, believes that she has prevented many of his classmates from joining gangs. Even though it is years since he has been in her class, she continues to meet ounce a week with him and his friends just to talk about life.

Though many of the lessons we learn while growing up are taught in the classroom, it is most often outside the classroom that we are educated about life. Some of the stories in this chapter illustrate that you don’t have to be a teacher to teach. All of us can be enlightened by the lesson of others.

 

By Michael Reiss

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A Brief Encounter

I am the president of a small community book club, and when I heard about Lorin and Jerry’s book, I invited them to speak to our group. In preparation for their visit, I called my mother, who is a writer and storyteller, knowing she would have a story for me to offer.

“Mom, you’re full of stories. You’ve been telling and writing stories all my life. Surely you have one about an Earth Angel”.:
“Let me think about this,” she replied. “Well, I’ve written seven-teen stories, but none of them are really about Earth Angels.”

After we concluded our conversation, it suddenly occurred to me that she is an Earth Angel. She was a welfare nurse for the British army during World War II, and the story of her life is the story of an Earth Angel.

I remembered a particular autobiographical piece she wrote called “A Brief Encounter.: It tells how my mother, Edith P. Reiss, took a few moments out of a hectic day to help a stranger. Here is her story…

It was 1962. I had been visiting family and friends in England for over two weeks, and the following mourning I was leaving from Hearthrow Airport on a plane to Miami. On this day, I was traveling onb an underground train in London. I looked at my watch – almost six o’clock; perhaps I would have time to stop on Oxford Street at Selfridges Department store to buy a small gif for my husband.

Climbing dowmn the stones steps that led to the street, I noticed that it was pouring outside. I put up my umbrella, but just as I got to the last step, there was heavy gush of wind and the tip of my umbrella hooked onto something. As I pulled, I noticed a tall man looking down on me from the top step. He was attempting to unhook my umbrella from the button of his overcoat. He looked at me with a stern face and two very blue eyes.

“I am so sorry,” I said and moved on down the steps.

I decided to forgo taking the bus. Because of the weather, I may have had to wait some time. I re-entered the London underground, bought another ticket, and waited for the train that would go directly to the Cumberland Hotel, where I would stay the night. Once on the train, I looked for a nonsmoking compartment.

I took a seat and a tall man sat opposite me. He was wearing a felt hat and Burberry-style overcoat, and he stared across at me with his blue eyes. Then I noticed that he was the man I had hooked with my umbrella. He stared at me and, it appeared, through me. He was deep in thought.

At the fourth station, I alighted from the train and entered the Cumberland Hotel. I was at the desk, asking the clerk if there were any messages for me, when I noticed the blue-eyed man standing to my left.

Later, at six-thirty in the evening, I decided to go too the ground floor and have dinner. There was a short line, but the cafeteria seating was somewhat full. I took my tray, and looking around, found a table for two. I proceeded to put down my dishes when I heard a voice say, “May I sit with you?” I looked up and, yes, it was the blue-eyed man.

As I ate, I noticed that he was pushing his food from one side of the plate to the other. I looked at him and commented on what a terrible day it was, with such bad weather.

He put down his knife and fork, pushed his plate away, and said, “Yes, for me it was a terrible day, perhaps the worst of my life.”

“What makes today so terrible for you?” I asked

“I feel my life is ended and I’ve nothing to life for,” he said.

“What happened?” I asked.

He sat silently, and then, looking across at me, said, “My son, our son, killed himself two weeks ago. He was only seventeen.”

Here I was. A complete stranger, and he had revealed this to me – it was like a bombshell. I instinctively knew that this man planned to take his own life and that I had to reach within myself to find the words he needed.

“My wife is blaming me for this tragedy,” he said.

He went on to tell me that eight months earlier his mother had died of cancer, and that his father had died of a heart attack three months later. Then, just tow months ago, his wife had lost her mother in an automobile accident.

Now his son, their child, was gone.

Since there were no other relatives, he and his wife were trying to cope with all these problems. And now, since his wife had put all the blame on him. He felt that he had nothing to live for.

He put his right hand on the table. I reached out and put my hand over his and gently said, “Let’s move to the lobby; it will be more comfortable.” WE found a corner area and sat down. People were smiling around, walking past us, and music was coming from another room. He looked around and motioned for us to move to another, quieter corner.

I wondered how I could possibly give comfort to this distraught man whom I did not know.

He told me he was an engineer and that his job required that he be out of town from time – to – time; his wife had been alone when their son died. I told him that he should immediately go to his wife, hold her tenderly, and tell her that he loved her, assure her and reassure her that he loved her, Both of them should go to their doctor, as neither had been eating or sleeping; he should take time off from his job; stay close to his wife; and try to get some counseling.

I asked if he or his wife were religious.

“No,” he told me.

I told him that sometimes a minster could give some comfort and strength at such a crucial time.

I asked him to try to understand that his wife had been angry about all that had happened, and that sometimes we lash out at the ones we love the most. It may have been here way of dealing with this tragedy. WE all react in different ways.

Realizing he hadn’t introduced himself, he told me that his name was Ernest. The he continued, “I never told my son that I loved him and now it’s too late.” His voice trembled.

“Perhaps whenever you visit your son’s grave, you can talk to him, talk out loud, and tell him that that you loved him. Also, tell your wife again and again that you love her. Together, you will pull through this.”

I looked at my watch. It was past nine o’clock and I had a very long journey – fourteen hours by prop plane from London to Miami. I realized that I had put a sticker on the handle of this one. We stood up and I noticed tears in his eyes. He bent down, kissed my forehead, and moved away.

That year, at Christmastime, I got many cards from England, and among them was a beautiful one with the words, “Eternally grateful.” It was signed Ernest. There was no sender’s name or address, just a postmark stamped Birmingham, England.

For the next thirty years, until five years ago, I received a lovely Christmas card, always with meaningful words, and sometimes singed Ernest or Ernie.

By Edith Reiss

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Mordecai Makes a Name

A fictional historical story of the Old Testament Book of Esther.

Description: The story of Esther describes the life in the Persian Empire. The King deposed his queen for refusing to obey his order. The King conducted a beauty contest and Esther was selected, thanks to a plan of her adopting father, Mordecai’s. As result Mordecai was promoted to be the Jewish leader in the King’s court. In order to protect the Queen from assassinations, Mordecai entrapped two disloyal guards.

Chapter 7

In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king’s gate, two of the king’s chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those that kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hands on the king Ahasuerus. Esther 2:21

Gdaliahu, the Jewish leader of all the Jews in the Persian Empire, was getting old. He was in constant pain, couldn’t sit for long periods, and could hardly walk. He called a meeting to announce his retirement.

When the Jewish leaders from the provinces of the Persian Empire assembled. The men were glad to meet one another and discuss. Colors of gold, blue, white, and red were moving on the shiny marble floor.

Gdaliahu slowly entered the room. Silence fell and everyone moved to find a place, watching the elder leader.

Gdaliahu sat on his golden chair, wait a minute to catch his breath, pointed at Mortdecai and asked him to come forward and kneel before him.

Gdaliahu put both hands on Mordecai’s head and in a wizened voice, croaked, “May the Lord bless you and guard you.”

“Amen,” replied the attendants.
“May the Lord show favor and be gracious to you,” he continued.
“Amen,” responded the attendants.
“May the Lord show you kindness and grant you success.”
“Amen, amen, amen,” chanted the attendants.

Mordecai kissed the hands of his elder-leader. “Thank you for this great honor, my esteemed teacher,” he said to Gdaliahu.

Then he stood and turned to the others. He looked into each of their faces, giving the individual an opportunity to make eye contact before moving on to the next person.

“I look forward to serving you all. Together, with love and support to others, we will prosper and thrive. In celebration, my first decree is that every community leader and merchant contributes for the construction of a Jewish center in their town. Such centers shall provide all the Jewish needs from birth to death: finding brides, celebrate marriage and birth, help the sick and attend burial, provide care for the sick, court, school and business chambers. Use a one year annual fee owed to me to cover the expenses.”

Since the Information Bureau was a tremendous economic success, most leaders competed with other leaders to beautify their community, and added additional funds for the construction effort.

Mordecai was visiting Gdaliahu as often as he could. Out of respect, Mordecai always removed his official ribbons and jewelry in the presence of the older leader. Sometimes, Mordecai asked for advice. The two argued their positions with passion. Both knew, “the good thing about an advice is that you do not have to take it.” And the old leader never checked.

Some time after the celebrations ended, Mordecai met Yavin in the back room of the peddler shop. They locked the door, moved down to the basement, entered another room and locked the door of that room too.

“We healed the King’s pride. His Queen is the goddess Ishtar. Now we must protect her. She is my daughter. We promised to keep her safe. Those Babylonian generals and guards might want to kill her, show she is not the goddess Ishtar, and bring back Queen Vashti from her house arrest,” said Mordecai.
“I will investigate her guards,” said Yavin.

“We must also protect the King, in order to protect Esther. He is a good King. The Jews love him because he allows us to finish the new Temple in Jerusalem” said Mordecai.

“I will watch for a plot,” said Yavin.
“Good luck,” said Mordecai.
“I can look around and join an assassination attempt against the King,” said Yavin.

“Better, but still impossible. Who will let you in?” asked Mordecai. “Yet, it is a good idea. This is the best gift one can give a King. If we save the life of the King, he will owe us.”

“We could irritate his guards. Some of them, lately, are neglecting their appearance. Really insulting our King. Strict grooming would anger some of the enslaved Babylon guards. Harvona can order it.”

“Excellent idea! This will remove bad guards and frighten the others. There are plenty of guards who trust me,” said Mordecai. “It should be easy enough to entrap them. Don’t explain the order to Harvona. It’ll be a good exercise for him as well.”
“But what if they report you? You could be killed!”

Mordecai flipped his hand in a dismissive gesture, “We have plenty of time. If things go wrong, Harvona will understand. We will still be rewarded.”
Harvona ordered the King’s guards to have their beards look identical, and their uniforms and weapons must shine. The King, recognizing the effort, promoted him to first ranked bodyguard. Soon after, Mordecai was told that Bigthan, a low-level eunuch door guard, showed signs of irritation. Bigthan was from one of the most prominent families of Babylon. He would have become a high-ranking minister or general, if he hadn’t been enslaved when Babylon was conquered.

Mordecai was watching Bigthan, and saw him meeting Teresh, another door guard, near the royal palace in a secluded area.

I have to move fast before someone else takes Bigthan under his wing and will really kill the King and Esther, thought Mordecai. Bigthan was walking in the main street with a sour face.

“God’s blessing on you, Bigthan,” Mordecai greeted him.

Bigthan stopped and looked at his feet, avoiding Mordecai’s eyes. “The gods are not with me, your honor. They closed their eyes when I was turned into a guard. I am just worthless dust of the ground. I wanted to be a gen… I want to be promoted out of my misery.” Mordecai’s face softened. “Things are that bad? What happened? Maybe I can help?”

“Since his promotion, Harvona is abusing us. He insulted my honor and claimed I was not properly shaved. Damn him!.”

“Is Harvona picking on anyone else?” asked Mordecai. “Are there others who feel like you?”
“Yes. Teresh feels the same. Harvona is always picking on us.”
“The three of us should meet later. I might be able to help you.”

The next day Mordecai met with Bigthan and Teresh in secret. Mordecai’s hands were shaking and his forehead was covered with sweat. They sat tightly together, their hairs touching one another.

“My master is trying to bring things to where they were before, the time of our glory. Will you join me?” whispered Mordecai. “Yes,” agreed Bigthan and Teresh together.

Mordecai relaxed and wiped the sweat from his forehead.

“What’s your master ready to give us?” asked Bigthan.“ Command. You’ll get command of five hundred soldiers and become his trusted officers,” said Mordecai.

“What do we need to do?” asked Bigthan.

Mordecai paused. Trusted officers. Ha. How dumb they are, he thought.
“I’ll supply you with a poisonous arrow. When the time comes, while the King is passing your door, shout ‘intruder!’ Point one hand to a faraway balcony and stab him with the other hand. Then act as if you’re shielding him and trying to pull the arrow out. My master will take care of the rest. In the meantime, follow Harvona’s grooming order to the letter. Don’t show fear or joy. Just be perfect guards. It might take some time. So wait for my instructions. Are you with me?”

“Yes, your honor,” both agreed. Teresh had tears in his eyes. “For years, I was waiting for such a meeting, I prayed and prayed the god Marduk will help me, and here your name is Mordecai,” said Teresh and Bigthan nodded. Bigthan’s mood changed. He was relaxed, and content. His appearance was exemplary and Harvona praised him.

Mordecai was confident the two rogue guards wouldn’t hurt the King on their own, as long as they didn’t have the poisoned arrow. Mordecai waited ten days.

“Yavin, did you hear anything from Harvona?” asked Mordecai.“Yes. He praised your advice. He told me that at the beginning he had some troubles, but he talked to the guards, and since then, like miracle, everything is wonderful. They all dressed perfectly and all are happy.”

“Very good,” said Mordecai. “They did not report me. They have no problem to appear properly. They disrespected the King even before I approached them. They are full of hate and anger. I must move before they will find another master.”
Mordecai contacted Hini, the Queen’s head-maiden, and told her to inform Esther that the honorable guards, Bigthan and Teresh, were related to Baanah and Rechab. Hini gave the message to Esther without understanding what the meaning of it was.

Esther smiled. Esther knew that those two generals, Baanah and Rechab, had assassinated their king, the heir of King Saul, in an attempt to please King David. Esther understood there is no need to rush to the King uninvited. Two weeks later, when Esther was invited to the King’s bed, she informed the King that she heard from Mordecai that Bightan and Teresh were conspiring to kill him.

The King turned to Harvona and said, “Handle it, and write Mordecai’s deed in my history book. We owe him.”

The guards were arrested and interrogated. Each one accused Mordecai and recounted his plan, but it didn’t help their cause, because it was Mordecai who had originally reported them and not the other way around.
The guards were quickly and discretely hanged, putting an end to the incident.
The next day, Mordecai called Harvona for a secret meeting. “Thank you for handling the two traitors so professionally.”

“Thank you, kindly,” said Harvona. “Do you know, people strongly believe the all-powerful all-knowing goddess Queen saved the life of our King! The King ordered me to write your deed in the History book. He declared he owes you.”
“Interesting,” Mordecai said. “But I’m afraid you’ve failed as the King’s head bodyguard. You disciplined Bigthan and you thought you succeeded in reforming him. Wrong! That’s when he started working for me on the plot. If I wanted to, I could have killed the King.”

Harvona stared at Mordecai with wide eyes and a twitch in his mouth.
Mordecai continued. “You can’t make such grave mistakes. Never give disgruntled guards a second chance. They must be immediately removed from the King’s vicinity—preferably killed! No explanations, no excuses. There can’t be a hint of dissatisfaction within their ranks or it could be all over for the King and most likely, for you!”

Mordecai knew he could speak to his friend in such a way and Harvona would understand the serious nature of the situation without becoming defensive or explosive.

Harvona dropped to one knee, held Mordecai’s palm, and brought the upper side of Mordecai’s palm to his forehead.

“Thank you for giving me a second chance,” said Harvona.
Mordecai smiled, raised him, and hugged his childhood friend. “I am giving you a new protocol to select and manage the King’s guards in order to avoid future mistakes.”

“Thank you for your help,” said Harvona.“Keep the story secret,” said Mordecai. “When you write my heroic deeds in the King’s history book, glorify my deed. Don’t give me anything. I want the King to owe me.”

Harvona nodded. “I’ll make sure it’s taken care of.”

By Ilan Sendowski

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It’s Winter, It’s Saturday – 1944

Prologue:
”We’ve been down to the river fishing lots of times. What could be the big deal if we went down in the winter”?

It is a wintery Saturday afternoon in Fargo; not a bad day for North Dakota in January; a few degrees above “0”, dry and still; didn’t really feel all that cold by Dakota standards.

Mom answers the phone, “Eddie, it’s your friend Donnie on the line”. At the ripe old age of 11, I didn’t get phone calls; kids just didn’t use the phone in the old days I guess. “Hi, Donnie, ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬your mom let you make a phone call?” Ignoring me he says, “Eddie, let’s go out and do something. I don’t know what but anything is better than sitting in the house playing jacks with my sister.” “Mom, Donnie wants to go out and do something, is it OK”? “As long as you take your brother Jerry along and you behave yourselves”, was her warning answer. ‘Behave ourselves? How on earth can anyone get in trouble with all that snow out there?

Mom finds wild Jerry; he’s only 8, and she takes on the job of getting us ready to ‘go-out-in-the-weather in a ‘Fargo winter’. This ‘getting ready’ is an always-the-same set of clothes that only mountain skiers would understand. Goulashes, over a set of warm socks and leather shoes, long johns, ‘padded’ pants, not the poofy girly pants but you know, – padded canvas, a warm sweat shirt or wool sweater. Our coats are long, down to the thighs, with fluffy white sheep wool on the inside and a waterproof canvas on the outside. All this with a wool cap and earmuffs, no goggles. After all mom’s fooling around, we are finally ready to go!
Donnie is already out in front of his house waiting for us and in that short time, he’s gotten one of his ideas, “Let’s go down to the river and see how frozen it is, OK?”
The river had always been a summer fishing place where us kids went lots of times but we never went down there in the winter. Without the folk’s permission, we decided to go. The “river” is the big Red River and it is just 4 long blocks down through the neighborhood. As you get closer you can see this block wide flood area that is kinda like a crumby park. It is usually quiet and empty; today it is a lonely place, lots of snow and still. We three kids are the only ones there. Somehow I’m feeling alone in this ‘deserted and noiseless’ place.
Nearing the river, Jerry is excited; he has never seen the river before, he is only 8. “Wow, look at that, you can walk half way across”, he yells as he sees the ice going out from the shoreline. I had been fishing at the river for the past two summers but young Jerry had never been allowed to go. I look out across this wide river and most of it is covered by ice. But shouting at us in this frozen silence of winter, the middle is open, rough, and roaring. The black water, running fast, is frightening/dangerous; not at all like it is in the summer. ”Hey Eddie, Jerry shouts running onto the ice, it’s really bumpy and there isn’t much snow on it, watch!” Jerry’s excitement will not slow down. “Eddie, why isn’t it smooth like the skating rink?” I ignore him, – shaking my head, – gonna be a looong day.

This is a new thing for us down at the river in winter and we are slowly learning things. ‘Things’ like the ice is frozen right to the ground at the shoreline. ‘Things’ like you can actually run on the river ice without fear of falling down. And one other ‘thing’, the ice gets thinner when you go near the middle. Why isn’t it the same thickness all the way across, I wondered?
Lots of times Donnie, he was 12, was the one who made the choices when he was with us; that’s who he was. Today, each of us is doing our own fun kid stuff. Donnie shouts out far away from shore, “Watch me, I can take big steps and bend the ice into big waves, kinda like walking on a giant piece of that red inner tube rubber we make rubber band guns with”. He is making BIG pouncing steps running ahead of Jerry and me. We are having a good time but no matter how I shout at Donnie, “Get closer to shore, that ice is really thin out there”, his happy-go-lucky reply is always, “Come-on out here with me you beg scardy-cats, this is really fun!”

He’s get’en crazier and crazier. He comes to a small tree sticking out of the ice but it right-a-way makes a turn so it is bent flat above him over the ice, – just about as high as he can reach. Without a blink he takes two big steps, jumps up, grabs the skinny tree and starts swinging. Everything is OK until ………….……………. he lets go. The thin ice cannot hold his weight when he drops back down ……… he crashes right through. Lucky, he spreads his arms in time to keep from going under and being pulled away by the fast rushing water below. Donnie is screaming at the top of his lungs, “Eddie, it’s trying to pull me under”! Jerry has run up the hill about 20 feet above the river; he too starts SCREAMING in TOTAL panic; his shouting bouncing off the frozen zone of silence! I’m there on solid ice and Donnie is out there some 40 feet away screaming, banging his arms and breaking the ice around him; almost right away he has a small pond of water around him; that water has to be freezing cold!

I run up the bank to the first tree in sight and brake off a low branch. I can’t break it loose! It is taking forever to break that dumb branch off. I twist it, I turn it! The darn bark just won’t let go! The branch does not want to leave the tree! FINALLY it comes loose and I tumble head over heels down the bank holding onto the branch for dear life. Whew! I’m back down at the river. Got to get out there on the ice and stretch this darn branch out in front of me. ”Donnie, stop waving your arms and grab this stick”, I shout. Donnie is really scared. He reaches for the end of the branch and breaks it off. “It’s too skinny” he screams, wildly pounding and breaking the ice in front of him. “Its all we’ve got, be more careful”, I scream back. Why or why did ever I hand him the skinny end of the stick? He takes the branch again, this time more carefully. “OK, hold the stick and start breaking the ice in front of you, DON”T LET GO OR BREAK THE STICK”, I scream. For what seems like a forever, Donnie finally gets to thicker ice and climbs out on top. He must weigh 150 pounds; it was not only that giant overcoat and the many-layers of wet clothing but his overshoes are filled to the brim. “No time for anything Donnie, we’ve got to get you home and quick or you’re gonna freeze”. Now safe, it was fun to be in charge of Donnie for a change.

With each 100 feet we stumble, Donnie’s clothes get stiffer and stiffer. By the end of the first block Donnie’s weak voice begs, “Eddie, I can’t feel my hands or my feet, let me take my overshoes off, they’re too heavy”. “Donnie, the water will keep your feet warm, we’ve got to hurry”, is my only reply. By the third block the only piece of him that could bend or move is his hip joints. White ice has formed over all his outer clothes; he is starting to look fake, like some kind of ‘ice man’ made for the movies. Beside his stiff arms and stiff legs, he can’t even move his head; touching his coat is like leaning against a tree trunk. “Eddie, I’m soooo cold, am I gonna die?” Donnie, just keep walking, we’re almost home”. Eddie, I can’t walk, my coat is too hard”. If it had been 5 instead of 4 blocks to his house I know he’d have fallen down and we’d of had to just drag him along over the snow like a tree log.

It takes forever but we finally get to his house. Knock, Knock; Donnie’s mother opens the front door. “We’re back, Donnie got a little wet I think,” are the only words that I dare speak. Total panic overtakes her face as she stares down at her son with real ice frozen on his skin. Maybe it isn’t so much panic as it is anger, I can’t tell. Her eyes are popped open, a completely stern look covers her face and her jaw shut tight, – she is really MAD! Her body and hands shake and she’s just staring down at him. Her very first and only words are, “Donnie, do you still have our Food Ration Stamp Book in your coat”? Donnie is too frozen to answer; Jerry and I turn and ran for home; I couldn’t believe that those dumb stamps could be all that important. We didn’t dare go near Donnie’s house for the next 2 weeks. He survived the cold water; I’m not too sure if he survived his mother’s anger.

P.S. Look back at the title. During WW II everything under the sun was rationed. Everything from tires to gas to food. Food was broken down into groups like the red stamp’s for ‘meat’, that included lard and butter. Others were for sugar and vegetables.
1657

by Edwin G. Roche

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Patty Brown is Going on Vacation

After 71/2 years in a Catholic Elementary school with the guys in beautiful downtown Fargo here I am in beautiful downtown Van Nuys, Calif. Girls? Well girls are something I cope with rather than BE with.

There are a number of kids near my age in my new neighborhood but without a doubt but I’m wrestling with the problems of being the new kid on the block. Summer comes and evening games are played in the street. I cautiously join in on ‘kick-the-can’, ‘hide-and-go-seek’ and the like. And ‘girls’ are mixed in.
Two sisters, 2 or 3 years older than I, are part of this pack of 12 and they, with a couple of guys, simply ‘disappear’ early-on during our evening playtime. Us younger out-to-lunch players are often waiting for the mysterious 4 to return.

Charlie is one of the more senior types in the group and I just have to ask, “Charlie, where do Charlotte and Rita go with those two guys every night when we’re out here”? He looks at me like I was someone just dumped off the turnip truck. “What would YOU do with either one of those two hot chicks out here in the dark”? This turnip truck 12 year old kid hasn’t the foggiest notion as to what I’d do with ‘those two hot chicks” even if we were in the middle of my folks living room. Charlie doesn’t wait for my non answer. “Eddie, those four go out there in the field in those tall weeds; they’ve got a regular bedroom built out there. They have a ball with those chicks.” I dare not ask what “a ball” could possibly mean but I have to guess it has nothing to do with game balls. This one-sided talking goes on for too long and I finally patch together that ‘German kissing’, maybe it was ‘French’, and something called hanky-panky is what happens to those teen-age girls.

Buried in the middle of all this confusion I get to know one of the other girls in the group, a Patty Brown. She is 2 years older than I; cute, quite tall, and, what did I call her, ‘interesting’? We are never alone together and talk is always safe; and oh ya, always most certainly at more than two arm’s length.
I find myself alone with Patty on her patio. Mysteriously, I’ve been maneuvered into this. It is late in the afternoon, I am aware that her folks are not home. The conversation is stop and start. I am oh so nervously aware that just the two of us are standing but 6 feet apart right here in the middle of an empty patio. Things are a whole lot closer than I could possibly feel comfortable about. And there’s not one other human being anywhere! There is no touching, there is no reaching out. Patty is standing there in her damn short shorts, relaxed, calmly shifting from one long leg to the other, chit-chatting about the pending family vacation, – all this in her low-cut peasant blouse.

On my part, it is a time of clammy hands, nervous oh-my-god-what’s-going-on-here, and what do I say next? The idle talk seems to be going on forever; she in her comfort zone and I’m sweating bullets. I’m so preoccupied with the situation I’m having trouble following what she’s talking about. Somewhere I’m hearing, “………and we’re going for 2 weeks, we’re leaving tomorrow.” All this is openly presented with a lusty, ‘and what do YOU want to do about that? Oh my, I guess it’s my turn to speak, – it comes out a hopeless mumble jumble. Her response is, “Aren’t you going to kiss me goodbye?” She may as well have asked me to jump in front of a fast moving truck. Shock! Absolute TERROR! I’d never kissed ANYONE on the mouth in my entire life, NOT ONCE, not even my mother.
Talk about a blur. The next two hours, or was it only 2 seconds, are frozen in PANIC!? All I can remember is that she solves the stop-camera-moment by stepping closer, …………….. kissing me on the cheek, and giving me my very first, long to be remembered, HUG.

Within this story you have just witnessed the beginning of the sex life of one Eddie Roche.
(But never with Patty Brown.)

by Edwin G. Roche

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Kenny’s Single Show

Description: After a lengthy marriage comes to a close, newly single Kenny Hunsucker finds himself in a completely new dating world and try’s his best to navigate life and online dating.

Chapter 1

The anger was palatable as Kenny Hunsucker pulled into Sushi Sumo, the latest in
a seemingly endless line of Chinese take out spots that occupied the corner spot in his favorite strip center. For Kenny the move was brought on by Sports Center’s early evening edition alerting the viewing public that former NFL QB and current Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh had met his wife in the take out line of a local PF Changs. While hardly on par with some of the ways John Daley had met his various wives it did present a way Kenny could kill two birds with one stone. Satisfy his hunger and possibly meet the next Mrs. Hunsucker. The subsequent call to the local PF Changs (in keeping with the events of Kenny’s recent life) was anything but successful and ended in an uncompleted order after a considerable hold time.

It was a classic Tuesday evening turning point and Kenny pondered some options to replace the date that had been broken a few hours earlier. Trivia, Blockbuster, a second trip to the gym or take out and NBA Playoffs. The later won and remembering that his dry cleaner had uttered high praise for the neighboring Sushi Sumo, Kenny decided to give it a try.

“Japanese, Thai and Chinese” the new sign exclaimed and even though Chinese was a foregone conclusion it did comfort the weary bachelor to know that so many delicacies could be found under one small roof.

The giddiness of the early afternoon seemed such a distant memory as he entered the quaint establishment, his first visit since the original Nan King closed its doors. When Kenny had made the reservation for Marlo and himself at Frank LoCatto’s Steak House he envisioned a triumphant return to relaxing dining with the opposite sex and had a hard time concealing his excitement. The date would have been there first and Kenny had a feeling (obviously unfounded) that this one had real promise. When he was delivering another quality custom dry erase board to Marlo’s bosses at Zen Masters Physical Therapists two Friday’s earlier the two had a nice conversation which turned to talk of dinner. Having forgotten the wise lessons Mr’s Vaughan and Favreau offered up i Swingers Kenny wasted approximately 3 hr’s and 34 minutes before texting a date request to Marlo. It was an unanswered text which was followed 2 hrs and 11 minutes later by a follow-up call (straight to voicemail) to inquire about a possible Sunday night
date. This too was unanswered and for a few brief moments Kenny considered erasing her fledgling entry from his phone.

General Tso’ and a pair of egg rolls did the trick and as Kenny waited the seven minutes for his food to be prepared, packaged, neatly-stacked and securely placed in a grocery bag he called his anger management sponsor Julian E. Julian was unavailable and Kenny not wanting to alarm him left him a brief and happy little message about the glory-filled day that it had been. Julian had only sponsored Kenny for a few short weeks but it has been a time of calmness, clarity and some mighty fine cigar smokin’. Kenny’s last outburst had been in private while driving down the road on Saturday and as Julian was off at a retreat for the weekend the details never quite made the transition from sponsee to sponsor.

Maybe it was the Marlo almost date, maybe it was the length of time Kenny had been without. Perhaps it was the industrious dating pixies from Yahoo who sprinkled $74.95 worth of magical elfin dating dust on Kenny’s bachelor pad. Having never been one to publicly mock those who chose the internet dating route, Kenny privately viewed them with a dose of sorrow and pity. For this was the same virile man who had been propositioned at Jiffy Lube, Kroger, Caribu and Starbucks coffee’s, jury duty pools and DMV lines and countless other orthodox and not-so-orthodox spots. Kenny always had believed that if he was ever unmarried that much like manna in the book of Exodus the good stuff would fall lazily from the heavens. Now that he was a single man; somehow every available single in the metro area had been debriefed and permitted to view all details of his life, the good but mostly the bad. They evidently were fed a substantial bit
of misinformation (this) while not certifiable this had become fairly obvious as the days passed. Kenny would get the occasional digits and the knowing glances, the “hey call me sometime” and the “let’s grab a coffee sometime”. His favorite had occurred on a recent business trip in which the very pleasant conversation with a very attractive young lady ended with her telling Kenny she was taken but he was “quite the catch” and would have “no trouble attracting the girls”. This as she rubbed his chest, shoulders and arms (ooohing and ahhing all along) and at one time pulling a girlfriend over to feel up the now very confident Kenny.

When Yahoo’s A-Team of elves finished there handy work all that was left was for one of Kenny’s Anger Management cohorts, Jed, to mention that Yahoo Personals was the closest thing to fishing from a barrel as he had ever experienced. Jed was 35 and had just finished his 3rd stint of incarceration. Kenny was pretty sure Jed had failed to mention this small, insignificant factoid on his profile. He was struck by the fact that (Jed) although recently freed and living with a roommate, holding a menial job and court mandated to several groups was such a success in the world of internet dating. Jed was the youngest son of one of the cities finest families with boyish good looks and a mischievous streak that girls fall over themselves for. If internet dating seemed cool to Jed well then it was certainly cool for Kenny.

The Visa ending in 5022 was unleashed and Kenny made the 6 month commitment
without a moment’s hesitation. Money had gotten a little tight lately but this was hardly the time to freeze up when such fragrant riches awaited. Kenny posted a fairly straight forward profile mentioning new found singleness, wonderful kids and a fun-loving laid back style that surely would have the ladies flocking. The picture would have to wait until Kenny could find something on his office computer that would suffice. It was quite thrilling to check a few criteria off much like ordering options on a car and then having
hundreds of desperately seeking women appear!

After sending a few “icebreakers” to the first few that caught his eye; Kenny decided to do the prudent thing and add a picture before attempting contact with anyone else. The few profiles he came across with no pictures caused instant suspicion and he sensed that would certainly hold true for his profile until the “right” photo could be added. The babes would just have to wait a little while longer. The def-tones concert in less than 10 days would surely not be another dateless evening with this amazing new weapon in the Kenny arsenal. He even toyed with the idea of dropping Cheno Moreno and the rest of the Deftones names in his profile to ensure that if there were some hot, rock and roll babes who did not have the hook-up to the show then he could provide that service as
well.

The next day Kenny found two suitable pictures. One taken two years prior by his ex while vacationing in Bermuda. It was a shot with sunglasses but Kenny felt it still captured the fun-loving, in shape persona he wished to parlay. The second photo was more recent and in fact was taken at the aforementioned business trip in which Kenny was felt up by his lustful “but taken” friends by one of the partygoers who later e-mailed it to him. It showed Kenny socially interacting with a varied group of party goers and probably because of the angle of the photo made him seem a little heavy. Nonetheless it was all he had to work with and it would have to do until a sexy glamour shot could be arranged. He submitted them both and was told by the backend tech wizards that Yahoo
would carefully review the photos and if nothing was falling out and everything in order that within 24 hours the fun could begin. By now Kenny had lost a little of the initial excitement but knew that Yahoo could not possibly risk an unfortunate Sears catalog underwear ad type moment and must protect unsuspecting eyes from any serial exposers.

Just a few more hours he told himself and folks shouldn’t bother with knocking cause the bed would be rockin’! The industrious censors completed there critical work in far less time than advertised and as Beetlejuice once exclaimed it was “Showtime!” Kenny immediately filled out criteria for a new search, careful not to be too selective and risk leaving hotties on the outside with no mechanism to get on the inside. He may have been new to this internet dating but by god it was not going to take him long to figure it all out. The search revealed several hundred possible matches. “What a great country”, Kenny thought as he feverishly alternated between the informal selected “icebreakers” and more formal e-mail greetings to the really deserving hopefuls. He stopped at a dozen or so rationalizing that any good fisherman first needs to be sure the bait is the right kind and is set correctly. Kenny was sure of two things as he laid his head down that night. First that most (if not all) of the girls he chose to contact would have replied by the following morning. Next that dozens if not hundreds will have sensed the Kenny Hunsucker presence in their dating universe and will have either contacted him (cause as Jed said “brother these women will jump on you quick”) or at least viewed his profile. A viewing is recorded by the dating pixies and one can then contact or ignore the curious possible enterluder. Sleep was sporadic and much like Christmas’ of yesteryear Kenny found himself wanting to leave the bedroom and see if special gifts had actually been deposited in his Yahoo stocking

by Acy Burnes Crawford

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JAILBAIT

I was not a rebel
Just a mature sixteen-year old
In love with the “boy” next door
Whose friend came by in his ’52 Ford
And picked me up
That summer’s day
Joe’s friend Irwin
Best friends since kindergarten
Me sixteen
A junior in high school
They twenty-five
Joe a doctor
Irwin in textiles
Joe introducing us
Implying I’m in college
Irwin calling me
Two hours later
For a date
Me who never went out
With a boy who had a car
Whose mother forbade it
Now convinced her
To let me go
Provided Phyllis
My up-the-street college friendAlso went.
Joe’s father Benny
My father’s friend
Trying to assess
How much I knew about
The birds and the bees
A little concerned
With me going out that night
With Irwin, Phyllis, and her blind-date
Driving to the Staten Island ferry
Crossing the Narrows for a nickel
Then returning home
Walking me to my front door
Never kissing me
But being gentle, kind
Taking me to the beach
The next Saturday
Reading Keats
From his worn anthology
Of English verse
As we sat on his Army blanket
Then together folding it up
At the end of the day
When I decide to tell him
I am only sixteen
He saying with astonishment
“Jailbait!”
Me asking
“What is that?”
Then embracing
Holding each other
On Brighton Beach
Embracing for eternity.

by Florence Ames

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OUR FIRST SUMMER

We met the summer of 1953
I a junior in high school
He a college graduate
We met that day I found a job in the city
The day I wore my mother’s dress
The day he saw me in front of
His friend’s house
Joe, my neighbor
Who introduced us
Implying I was in college
A lie we maintained
Even after I told him the truth
Following our second date
Something we never mentioned
To his newlywed friend
Phil, who we learned
Would be teaching English
That fall at my high school
Never said I was a student there
Even when we played Scrabble
And I would win
That summer we listened
To “Ebb Tide” on Phil’s radio
And I cleverly provided
A romantic scenario
Words describing our second date
To Brighton Beach, Brooklyn
Where I confessed to being sixteen
And he said with a grin, “Jailbait”
The word Phil would scream out to him
When he phoned to say
He saw me pass his classroom
That first day of school
Nervously exclaiming,
“Do you know what you are doing?”

by Florence Ames

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I WENT OUT WITH IRWIN AMES

I went out with Irwin Ames
Who was Joe’s best friend
Joe my secret love
Puppy love they said
For I was twelve
And he a medical student.

I loved him
The day I saw him cry
Sitting there on the curb
His puppy dead
Struck by a car.

The summer I was sixteen
I purposefully passed his house
Coming home from
My first day of work
When I wore my mother’s dress
And seemed so confident
Feeling bold to speak to Joe

Who was standing outside
On his front stoop
And I stopped to tell him
About my job
When Irwin pulled up
In his ’52 Ford.

We bantered
Joe made it seem
I was a college student
Irwin called that night
And we went out
On our first date
Sixty-four years ago.

by Florence Ames

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Florence Ames


Florence grew up in Brooklyn, NY.

She received a BA in English and an MA as a reading teacher.

She lived in New Jersey for 54 years and became interested in poetry when The Dodge Foundation offered free poetry workshops to New Jersey teachers. Her poetry has appeared in THE PATERSON LITERARY REVIEW, LIPS, REVELRY, and THE AMERICAN VOICE IN POETRY: The Legacy of Whitman, William, and Ginsberg.

She moved to Los Angeles three years ago and is enjoying being a member of The Writing Group in Woodland Hills.

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Car Accident

 Almost every day, for three months, my family has been around my hospital bed. Although I am in a coma I can hear what is being said.

“You know Rocky, we all love you. However, this hospital is costing a fortune. We are trying to decide if we should pull the plug” my wife says flippantly.

Are you nuts, I think.  If I can hear you I must be getting better!

Andrew my eldest son stands. “Dad, for what it is costing for this medical equipment keeping you on life support, all three of us children could go to college.”

Selfish ungrateful wrench, I think, Andrew you’re out of the will that’s for sure!

“Dad while you’ve been here, I’ve learned to drive you red and white 1952 Corvette. My middle son Danny says. If you die, please leave me the car! It’s a real chick magnet! Oh, I will miss you Dad!”

Who said I am going to die?  Who said you could drive my car? I think.

Doctor Smith comes into the room. “Well Mrs. Williams have you made up your mind If you are going to take him off life-support?”

“Well doctor not quite yet.”

What’s my best friend Joe doing here? I think, as he walks over and puts his hand on my wife’s shoulder. You know Linda, we have loved each other for years. It would be a blessing to let Rocky go!”

Christ, Linda and Joe have had an affair for years? Have I been that stupid? I think.

“Daddy, I don’t want you to die!” My Daughter Jill says. “I want you to walk me down the aisle, first!”

So, then I can die! Is that what you are saying little girl?

Doctor Smith walks to my bedside and looks in my eyes. “Heavens, I believe Mr. Williams can understand what we are saying, his eyes reflect his emotions as each of you speaks.”

“Now Rocky, Joe was only kidding about us loving each other for years. He loves both you and me, his’s your best friend. We both want you to get better.”

“Dad I only dreamed of driving your Corvette!  Honest! “Danny says.

Sure Danny, I think, what you don’t know is that I log the millage each time I drive my classic car. So, there will be hell to pay if you have really driven my beauty!

And now you Andrew, I think, you want them to pull the plug, so you can go to college “Not only are you out of my will!” Suddenly I hear my own words.  “You can get out of my house and get a job, as soon as I get out of hospital,”

“Rocky” my wife says and throws her arms around me, “You’re back!”

“Get away from me you adulteress hussy. Go off and marry Joe, you deserve each other!”

 “Thank you, Doctor Smith, I sure learned a lot while in the coma.”

By Alan Wills

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The Illustrated Woman

My life has been reduced to notes. Everyday I have a list to remind me of who to call and where my next errand will be. I have recently started a new note. Remember to look at your notes! I should become like the illustrated man who tattooed his entire body with important events so he wouldn’t forget them. Mine would look like this.

When I wake in the morning with a big yawn and my hand starts to cover my mouth I will see tattooed on it good morning, Ruth. You love coffee. So I will never forget my name and never forget that that I also like to drink coffee. I’ll stumble to the bathroom and as I turn my palm over to turn on the faucet I see tattooed on top of my hand two sugars one cream.

Perfect! When I go out to a restaurant or Starbucks I’ll just show then my hand.

Left and right will be tattooed across my toes so I’ll keep up in exercise class. No one will be yelling, “The other left, the other right.” I’ll keep up with my lefty righty toes. In case I lose my cell phone, no problem. Each finger will have an important phone number tattooed on it. I’ll have index fingers.

My left arm will have Book Club friends and close friends on it and lists of books I’ve read. My right arm will have dance friends and a list of all the ballroom and swing dances I’ve learned.

My family will be tattooed on my heart. I’ll have to do that one backwards though. It’s hard to read upside-down. Every morning I will look in the mirror and count my blessings; the names of one son, one daughter, their spouses and four grandkids.

I’ll have to stay the same weight though. If I get real skinny the words will shrink and I won’t be able to read them. And if I get too fat the words will fall into a fold or spread out and be blurry. It will be an eyestrain either way.

It’s a good thing I’m single now. When I was married my husband would get mad at me for so many insignificant things. It could be squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle and not the end or not putting my shoes in the closet and he’s tripped over them. I can’t tell you how many times he’s yelled at me, “If you do that one more time I’ll skin you alive!”

I mouth, “Read my lips,” and tattooed on the top of them is, I’m sorry.

By Ruth Lathrop

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Ruth Lathrop

My name is Ruth Lathrop. I have recently joined The California Writers Club. I am a retired third grade teacher who now had time to pursue writing. I am in the process of writing a children’s book. We were asked by a member of my book club to write a story about ourselves. I waited to the last minute and couldn’t think of any thing exciting about my life. I came across a note I’d written a long time ago. It said, my life has been reduced to notes. I was reminded of Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man. I sat down and started writing this story titled The Illustrated Woman. I hope you find it humorous and it puts a smile on your face. I think all of us after a certain age need to write a note or two.
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The Law of Grace

Synopsis:  In the future a Government supplies peace and prosperity in exchange for the loss of some freedoms. In the shadows the government has been using its people for enhancement and other experimentations. An act of violence, which has been all but extinct, threatens the security of the government and could lead to their secrets being brought to light as well as a revolution.

CHAPTER 1

Parker awoke early, enjoying the sun warming him as he strutted down the hallway towards the rear of the house. He stopped short of the milky glass door to the bedroom; it was ajar. He peered at his reflection with the sun shining in. If he’d had an opinion he’d likely think he was handsome. He pushed through and hopped onto the bed. His light footfalls didn’t wake Anne. Parker stepped on to Anne’s chest looking straight down upon her face, a light purr that rolled into a meow. His front paws alternated pressing down, contracting and relaxing his rounded black nails. His eyes narrowed to relaxed slits and then blinked, his sign of affection and trust that he’d shown to Anne every morning since she’d rescued him. As far as cats went, Parker was a dignified, although needy, gentleman.

A cool light breeze blew in through the open French doors of the bedroom. The early morning sea air combined with Parkers’ greeting woke Anne. She sat up and Parker put his feet up close to her shoulders driving the top of his head into her cheek, rubbing it back and forth. She said “Good morning to you too.” Anne thought that the sunrise, the breeze and Parkers’ morning ritual made her morning perfect.

Anne, dressed in a white silk sleeping gown, made her way from the bedroom to the living area. Parker trotted alongside. He purred and sauntered around her ankles in a figure eight, pressing his head into her legs and rubbing his cheeks against them. She paused, caressing his silky grey fur stroking him from his ears to the base of his tail. “Let’s get you some breakfast, shall we.” Anne filled and placed Parker’s silver dish down on the honey-colored bamboo flooring. She thought the colors were a gorgeous contrast against the dark grey fur of the cat, and she smiled at the simple beauty. She retreated back to her room for a few minutes, emerging again in simple khaki pocketless pants and a white t-shirt.

She headed out the side door towards the shared garden between the houses. Mrs. Kusta, the widow, as usual was at her dining room window that looked on this space. She was like clockwork, every morning sitting there alone with her old-fashioned white ceramic mug, taking in the view over the water. Anne liked the consistency that this neighbor had provided, as she herself was consistent, someone who ran on routine. Anne picked a handful of lavender, pulled a few weeds and watered the garden. Mrs. Kusta came outside.

“Anne,” she said with a smile “I can’t thank you enough for taking care of the little garden. I know you’re a busy woman but I can’t tell you how much I have appreciated all your help over the past few months since my Arland died.”
“It’s my pleasure.” Anne replied. “And it really hasn’t been a bother at all. If it weren’t for this little garden that you started we wouldn’t have our lavender, now would we?”

“Dearie, if it weren’t for you, this garden wouldn’t have survived, to say nothing of the odd jobs you’ve done for me either. Especially fixing the latch on my dining room window! I don’t know what I’d have done without you, and I just want to tell you how much I appreciate it.”

Anne smiled and stepped through the garden to give Mrs. Kusta a hug. The old woman smelled of a sweet perfume, something like jasmine.

Anne said; “Don’t forget to close that window this evening. It’s likely to be chilly.”

Anne leaned down and clipped a bit more lavender, handed it to Mrs. Kusta and bid her farewell with a warm smile. Mrs. Kusta then slowly shuffled back to her kitchen table calling out “Anne, dear, you take such good care of me.” Anne smiled and retreated inside her home. Mrs. Kusta lived a simple life, she was a quiet little old woman who minded her own business.

Inside, Anne tapped the control to the blinds that faced Mrs. Kustas’ home, then checked her holo-pad ensuring all the blinds were closed except those facing the water from her small dining table. She used the pad to unlock the front door as well, then sat and looked out over the water. She sat motionless, absorbing the view and the sounds of the gulls being carried on the breeze. The blue of the water, the small white gulls that flew above and the soft light of the morning helped to keep her relaxed, carefree and certain. After some time, noticing the clock, she stood and called for Parker. He came trotting to her, the bell on his collar jingling. It reminded her of the old-fashioned tricycle from her youth: whimsical, musical and pleasant. It made her smile. Alise gave her the little red collar with the bell. While Alise said she hated cats, Patrick would always sit on her lap when visiting. Alise never shooed him away.

She took Parker in her right arm, grabbed a few of his favorite cat treats and the catnip plant from the counter. Parker began swatting at them with his paw. She carefully placed the plant in the spare room on the bedside table, the treats on the bed and Parker next to them. She checked the attached bath, ensuring the litter box was clean and that the small water dispenser was flowing for him. On her way out of the room she stroked Parker and scratched under his chin. He purred loudly. She took the collar off; holding it in her hand, left the room and shut the door. Anne walked around her small but comfortable home, ensuring everything was as it should be. The rooms were neat and tidy, the few hand-written notebooks she’d set out upon her long marble Kitchen counter were open to specific pages, and documents that needed to be passed along were set out for the messenger, Molly, to scan and reproduce for work. She wanted to leave nothing unfinished. Her life’s work was here, or at least the copies she wanted to ensure were found today. The rest, well, it would be available soon enough.

As Anne walked back towards the kitchen and her view, she checked the plants to ensure they had enough water, straightened the mat in front of the glass doors to the rear deck, then went into the sitting room. She reached into a small antique wooden box, with the name “Montecristo” burned into its lid. This antique was one of her most treasured. The feel of the old wood and the aroma of lemon oil used to ensure its continued beauty, the old-fashioned metal hinges that creaked slightly when she lifted the lid. The lid had the Montecristo logo, a triangle of six swords surrounding a fleur-de-lis was worn, but recognizable. These little details made her feel alive, so different from the sterile and cold offices of the R&D lab where she spent her days with its holo-screens and grey uniforms. She grabbed some handmade paper and an ink pen from under the lid, as well as a small, but moderately weighted canvas bag. This, after all, was no job for the holo-terminal voice dictation program. This was an occasion for the old-fashioned written word. This was personal, and timing was important.

She sat at the small bistro style dining table, the marble countertop covered with her work. She took a moment to look over the items before her, contemplating their textures and the way the light was reflected or absorbed by each. She let the sunshine on her face, feeling its warmth, inhaling deeply to etch the odor of the salty ocean and decaying seaweed inside her lungs, then exhaled and felt peace. With two taps on the holo-pad the patio doors and blinds closed. Another tap and a single dim light shone over the table, an almost romantic light that cast a warm glow. Anne carefully uncapped the pen, its weight felt nice in her hand, not like the weightless instruments used on the holo-screens at work. The sensation of the paper with its ridges and imperfections of color delighted her fingers and eyes.

Anne wrote; “My name is not important, but what I have done is. When you proceed with the retinal scan you will find I am a registered citizen in good standing. What I do now, I can only hope will have a wide and deep impact upon my fellow citizens. In the time it takes you to enter my home, scan my retinas and begin the investigation, the damage to the Amerist Government and the hand that leads it will have begun. I ask only one thing: when Ms. Pearce arrives, please apologize to her for any inconvenience she suffers due to the time you detain her for questioning regarding my death.”

Once finished, Anne opened the canvas bag and pulled out the matching neuro-stim bolts. These were antiques, heavy in the hand and smooth except for the small ridges at the center of the rounded ends. The military had stopped using these years ago due to the fact that the needed effect was much less than these bolts were designed for. The bolts, once activated, would destroy the circuits in the brain where thought was processed. While the body could be kept alive, if necessary, there was never a chance of recovering any information. Even with the algorithms that Anne had created to read, decode it and translate electrical activity, once the neural pathways were destroyed there was nothing that could be read or retrieved.

Anne pressed the cold smooth bolts to her temples. The adhering compound worked; it was the one thing she’d worried about, as the compound was very old. She folded the canvas bag neatly in half, placed the newly inked paper on top, then the pen as the weight to keep it all together. She heard a small thud in the backroom, like a small weight hitting the bamboo floor, and Parkers bell jingling. She imagined Parker had found and gotten a hold of the catnip, and it made her smile. She gently touched the emergency alarm on the holo-pad.
“What assistance do you require?” the pleasant feminine voice chimed.

“This is Dr. Anne Augustine, please send a SOaC team to my home.” Her voice and hands were steady, as she pressed the disconnect button, cutting off the human voice that was just breaking into the holorecording. She then pulled up her messages that had not yet been sent out, each to a different contact but containing the same documents and research. She said slowly, in a quiet but strong voice, “Send all,” then lightly set the holo-pad on the table. She closed her eyes, exhaled, and simultaneously pushed in on the bolts attached to her temples. Her eyes turned crimson and her nose abruptly began to bleed, her jaw locked and a throaty deep momentary grunt arose. Her arms grew rigid as the electrical impulses batted around inside her head from one side of her skull to the other.

Once the electrical impulses had stopped, her head fell forward striking and cracking the glass top of the bistro table. The blood from her nose flowed slowly through the cracks in the glass, creating red channels that reflected the light above. Her arms fell to her sides, lifeless, and dangling. What remained were the faintest signals from her brain stem, short with long pauses between, causing the false appearance of breathing; they would call it “agonal breathing” on the incident report. Her body had only to wait a short time before the Social Operations and Control Officers arrived to begin the retinal scans. She greeted them with a deep chestnut lifeless gaze and the faint smell of the burned flesh at her temples.

End of Chapter 1

By Jennifer Schmidt

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Moon

Like to say forever
Maybe before that
Sun has had no rival
Double check the stat
Shines so bright
Flaunts its heat
Cooks the sand
Burns your feet
Then there’s mr moon
A cool and welcome light
Always so damn chill
Not spoilin for a fight
Rarely thought of daytime
Couldn’t give two fucks
Time to dip and slumber
The sounds of rooster clucks
But then they say that word got back
Mars and his big mouth
A peaceful planetary friendship
Was quickly headed south
Sun was boasting, not that strange
“Moon freak ain’t so hot”
“Whose a mighty, giant-ass flame
And whose a scrawny dot?”
“Burn his ass!” said Venus
“Stay cool, bro” from Mars
“Thanks so much dear planets,
I’m the king of stars”
Once the plot was planned out
Moonboy zipped it tight
21st of August comes
I will make things right”
Crowds began a forming
A hundred million, maybe more
Toe to toe and arm to arm
From Chuchtown to Port, OR
The day for Moonies sneak attack
Had dawned this day, alas!
The dark turned dark as night and then
Ol Moonboy zipped off fast
He headed home and tried to hide
Lay low till things cooled off
But Sun Kings heat, it hardly waned
Would Moony broil like broth?
But rest assured this all ends well
And cooler heads won out
The prankster made a solemn vow
To steer clear of Sun’s route
Now everything is normal
But one day that will change
And Moony will appear once more
To share the daytime stage

by Acy Burnes Crawford

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