Life As I See It:  By Golden-Fang Rat-Slayer  (aka Dandelion)

cat with pen and pad

Readers,

Mommy had a mangy piece for you to read about how toxins cause birth defects and brain damage.  She’s always talking about that stuff, but I deleted it.

Because I’ve reached the age of sixteen, I’ve taken up my pen to write my memoirs.  I will share with you my wisdom.

I’ve learned many things over the years.  For example:  Not all dogs are dangerous, but if you have a hissy fit when you see the ones that live in your house, you get your own room in the house and Mommy feeds you gooshy-food. Then, Mommy and Daddy yell at the dogs to stay out of your room and leave you alone—that’s fun.

I let Mommy and Daddy sleep on the big bed in my room.  They are my family so we sleep together.  The bed has space for all of us if they remember to sleep close to the edge and not encroach on the pillows.

We used to have a waterbed and I could play all day chasing the waves until I got the covers and pillows pulled back and could kill the bed with my sharp fangs.  I killed three waterbeds before Mommy and Daddy got a bed that isn’t alive.  It isn’t near as much fun except when I barf on the bed and Mommy has hysterics that I’ll “ruin the mattress.”

My favorite food is hind-quarter of rat.  We live near the forest so I’ve had a steady supply of rats.  It is important to plan for the future, so in the winter, I keep a family of rats under the nice warm house so I have a fresh supply of my favorite delicacy whenever I choose to catch one.  I like gooshy-food too, and it is much easier to have Mommy and Daddy bring me a serving than it is to catch rats.

I have worked hard to train my humans and even if I say so myself I’ve had some degree of success.  Mommy was fairly easy to train except for one annoying behavior that I will discuss later.  Daddy is nearly impossible to train.  Sometimes, I can get him to bring me gooshy-food and at bedtime he might stroke me, but he never scratches me under the chin like Mommy does.  He never cleans up after me when I barf and is generally slothful about meeting my demands for attention or solitude.  He has never learned to let me in and out.  He seems to think I should use the little door they built special for me.  How undignified to open my own door!

I do have one serious problem.  Mommy and Daddy have a horrid behavior that I have never been able to break them of.  They put their best clothes in boxes with wheels and handles and leave home for days.  A couple times they’ve been gone for three weeks!  I hope I’ve broken them of these long absences, but I don’t trust them to stay home everyday and wait on me.

I’ve tried everything I know to break this behavior.  I tried sitting in their boxes-with-wheels, but they just take me out and don’t get the message that they are not supposed to leave.  Next, I tried peeing on the boxes-with-wheels to tell them that those boxes belong to me, and they can’t have them—didn’t work.  I’ve barfed repeatedly on the boxes, but Mommy just cleans it up, and they leave.  Of course, there must be consequences for bad behavior so I go next door and stay with the old couple there until long after Mommy and Daddy get home.

Next door, I sleep in the old people’s patches of sunlight and eat their mice and rats.  The old people pet me sometimes, but they also scold me for eating their birds.   However, they never give me gooshy-food.  What am I supposed to eat? I have stayed there for over a week after Mommy and Daddy got home, but I don’t think my minions have learned not to leave.

I hope that my readers might have suggestions on how to break Mommy and Daddy from this terrible behavior.  The fact that Melissa comes and feeds me gooshy-food doesn’t make the behavior any less horrid.

Finally, I want my readers to know that getting along with others is easy if you stay cool and don’t hiss at everybody you see.  When I was young, I made friends will all the cats in the neighborhood, and they let me eat their food if I chose.  I don’t really like dry food, but as a courtesy to my friends, I would eat a bowl of it while they stood and watched.  I knew I could always barf the disgusting stuff back up on the bed in my room. It is very important to be polite to your friends and eat what they serve.

I used to visit my friends daily, but all of them have passed on, so I now lie on my bed and remember the past when I made my daily rounds of the neighboring houses and ate the offerings they gave me and slept in the best patches of sunlight.  Now, I appreciate the sunlight on my own bed.

Delinda McCann

Delinda McCann is a mostly retired social psychologist with specialties in at-risk youth and adverse effects of toxins on children.  She has written four novels based on her career experiences and has the fifth novel, Power and Circumstance, to be released soon.  She is also an avid organic gardener and amateur musician.

 

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You Don’t Beat the River by Kenneth Weene

Ken Weene PastedGraphic-1

 It was a good day for being on the river—warm, bright, a few clouds to make the sky interesting. It would have been better if the two river guides had been there for fun or even if they were doing a normal tour group, what the company called a float. It’s a great run—that section of the Colorado; just not when you’re looking for a dead man.

“Find him,” Ray, the rafting company manager, had instructed. “Take your time, stay in contact, and find that sucker.”

“Yeah, sure. Like the river is going to give him back.” Mike groused to his partner Jackie. “What was he thinking anyway? Get these high-end tourists, thinking they know better than us guides.”

The smartass remarks always burned the guides’ sensibilities. Full of I know it all:

“I don’t need a lifejacket.”

“Don’t worry, I’ve climbed mountains all over the world.”

“That’s why I go to the gym.”

“Hey, I’m paying you guys.”

Usually, they didn’t die, drown, or disappear. But this guy Floyd Murchison, Dr. Floyd Murchison, “You can call me Doc.” World-class neurosurgeon. Traveling with his wife Bernice—herself a college professor, political science it said on the forms.

One of the trip guides had asked him, maybe she’d even told him not to. He shucked the vest anyway and climbed up onto the rock.

“Just want a few minutes of peace and quiet. This is a break, isn’t it?”

“Okay.” She turned back. “Just, be careful, Doc.”

“Don’t worry. I know what I’m doing.”

He hadn’t. Ten, fifteen minutes later, Butch, the trip leader, yells, “Let’s saddle up. Another ten miles before lunch.”

Everybody’s grabbing paddles. Bernice is hollering, “Floyd!” “Floyd!” But there is no Floyd. He’s disappeared.

He must have slipped, gone into the water. Even if Floyd Murchison had been wearing his life vest, who knows if someone in the group would have spotted him? But they hadn’t. More than likely he drowned dashed against a rock, dragged under by the current, food for the fish.

Butch radioed in first chance he got a clear channel. Lot of good that did. Couple of runs with a copter. Again, maybe if Murchison was wearing that orange vest. Anyway, he wasn’t. Not a sign.

Ray, the office manager, said, “Mike, Jackie, you two run the river. Real slow. You look everywhere. Find him. Take your time, stay in contact, and find that sucker.”

Jackie’s sitting in the front of the two-seater. Mike in the back. Enough gear for four nights—extra for Murchison just in case—and of course a first aid kit.

The two guides look up at the pocka-pocka sound of the search helicopters heading back to their base in Vegas.

“I guess they didn’t find him.”

“I guess. Now it’s up to us,” Mike said.

As they pushed off, Ray said, “Mike, you find him. Call in. We’ll get a chopper in first thing. Even if he says he’s okay, we get that chopper in. Got it?”

“Sure, Ray.” He couldn’t hold it back. “Hey, Ray, you don’t think—”

“Not a chance in hell. It may not be brain surgery, but you don’t beat the river.”

He laughed like his little joke was real smart. That was Ray, always thinking he was funny.

“Glad I’m not working that float,” Jackie said.

“Yeah, pass me the water.” Mike took a swig, passed the bottle forward to his colleague, and they dug into the river. It would be miles before Thorny Bend; that was where Murchison had gone in; that was where the search would begin.

“You watch the south bank. I’ll take the north.” There were still a couple hours of daylight. No sense wasting it.

“Sure. Sure.” Jackie bites off her words even shorter than usual. Sounds more like she’s saying “Sh Sh”

“Hey, I’m not telling you what to do.”

“Maybe she’s thinking about last night.” He smiles to himself. Mike figures the search is useless but hopes the nights won’t be wasted.

Jackie nods and shifts her head to left and right, ignoring Mike’s plan. What the hell, he does the same. At least it makes the scenery more interesting. No matter how many times he paddles the canyon, he still loves it. The subtle variations of rock. The desperate vegetation rooting into every crevice. The river, alive, sometimes placid, at others roiling. The sky so far overhead. The occasional coyote, or elk, or bobcat. All kinds of life. In the sky, too. Especially the hawks and the eagles.

Mike still loves the river three days later when they pull out. The truck is there to meet them. Good thing about radios; they make it easier to plan.

“Nah,” Mike says before Ray can ask. “Not a sign.”

Jackie doesn’t say anything. There’s no reason.

The two guides allow their hands to touch for a moment.

*****

 For weeks the dead man weighs heavily on the guides. It is a silent weight marked only by the occasional blurted word.

“At least she’s rich.” Terri, one of the guides is reading a newspaper.

“Who?”

“The widow. You know that guy got killed?”

“In June?” Another guide asks like there was more than one.

“Yeah, that guy, the doctor.”

“What about him?”

“Her. His wife. She got the insurance. He had a ten million dollar policy. I guess that’s not so surprising him being a famous doctor and all. Twice that if they decide it was an accident.”

“That’s good,” It is said with no enthusiasm.

Butch, who hasn’t said much since that fated day, slams the door on his way out of the break room.

“There’s more. Seems like his own brain was going.” Terri turns another page of the paper.

“What do you mean?”

“Parkinson’s. Early stages. Least that’s what the story says.” Terri points at a something in the newspaper. “Says he couldn’t practice anymore.”

“That must of sucked,” Mike comments.

“Fer sure,” Jackie adds. She’s holding Mike’s hand. Jackie’s been doing that a lot lately.

The guides are hanging, waiting for Ray. An organizational meeting he calls it. Usually, that means he’s going to yell: mostly about obvious stuff like those life jackets. Like the guides don’t know. Like the customers will listen.

“You don’t think he—” The question hangs in the air.

Who knows? A guy gets depressed—even a famous neurosurgeon.

“Sure, sure,” Jackie says, biting her words short.

“Mike! Mike!” Ray’s voice shakes the young man out of wherever his mind has wandered.

*****

 He was shaky: the expected results of fatigue, hypothermia, hunger, and thirst. The Indian should have packed in more water, food, and a better blanket. At least the camouflage worked; he hadn’t been spotted that first day, when the helicopters were overhead and he’d hunkered down and waited for them to head back to the northwest.

The Indian’s trail markings had been hard to follow, but here he was. Now if the damned Indian didn’t forget, didn’t get drunk, didn’t just decide to leave him in the wilderness. He hated having to rely on other people, especially someone untrained, somebody like Charley Chained Horse.

“Due north from river.” The Indian had pointed in a random direction. “Follow trail I leave sign.” He dropped four stones, the first three the vertices of a triangle and one more stone next to one of the three. “Follow fourth stone. Easy hike. No take more than day, but wait them stop search. I meet when safe.”

“Easy hike indeed? What did he think I am, an aborigine like him?” Floyd was frothing his anger as Charley Chained Horse trotted across the rough landscape towards him.

Charley held out his hand in greeting. Reluctantly, Floyd took it. He wanted to carp, complain, and shout. If it was back at Denver General, if they were in the operating room; but Floyd still needed the squat Indian with his pocked complexion and straggled hair. “Took you long enough,” was the best he could muster.

“Raft company send guides look. Not safe before. Now we go.”

“Did you bring something to drink? Eat?”

Charley was already gathering the remains of Floyd’s campsite. “No trace. Hikers come and see.”

All the while, the White man was changing into hiking clothes. He slipped his feet into well-broken-in boots, laced them tightly, and tied the knot with special relish. “I always loved tying knots,” he observed to no one.

Floyd had planned it for months. “Not so hard,” he thought, “not like brain surgery.”

As he and the Indian walked south, back towards the river and their fording place, Floyd sucked two bottles of water dry and ate the candy bars Charley had brought. Much as it offended his fastidiousness, Floyd wiped the chocolate from his fingers onto his kakis and rubbed his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt. Soon enough he would be out of this damned place and on his way to a new life.

“We hike down river few miles, cross there.” The Indian pointed downstream. “I leave horses, more food, water. Stay night. Catch helicopter out in morning.”

“I’ve been thinking about that, Charley. I’m not sure about that helicopter. Somebody might recognize me.”

“What you want do?”

“I figured we could ride out, up to the parking lot.”

“Cost more.”

“That’s fine. What, another fifty.”

“Two hundred.”

“Come on. Be reasonable.”

“Two hundred reasonable. Ride trail in dark. Dangerous. Ride down more danger. Two hundred.”

Floyd laughed to himself. He had worried the Indian might demand thousands. The gun in the old Dodge’s trunk would have been the solution if Charley got too greedy, too untrustworthy. Two hundred he could live with. Two hundred and he could let the Indian live, too.

Floyd had to admit it. Charley Chained Horse had followed his instructions, done his job, and kept his mouth shut. That was the most important thing—secrecy. “What the hell does he care?” Floyd asked himself. “He just wants money. Can’t blame him for that. How the hell can he earn a living down there anyway?”

“Let’s do it.” Floyd walked in the direction the Indian pointed. Without a word, Charley followed.

The shadow of a hawk passed over. Automatically, both men looked up and watched the bird float easily against the blue of the sky.

“Long way,” Charley grunted.

It wasn’t an easy hike. Riding raw-boned and uneven gaited nag had been harder. By the time they arrived at the parking lot the sun was setting.

“You make it down alright?” Floyd asked as he pocketed the keys to the battered Dodge.

“Horses know way, Mr. Jones.”

Floyd gave a quick wave in response as the Indian headed over the cliff’s edge and down into the Canyon.

Floyd wondered if all Indians were this laconic. Certainly it had seemed so when he’d made that first visit. “Herb Jones,” he’d introduced himself—an easy alias to remember. “I need a guide, somebody with a couple of horses and willing to do some hard riding for some good money.”

That had been in the little tribal store. “As good a place as any,” he thought. And he had been right; the plump storeowner’s cousin was just the man. Now Floyd figured everyone in Supai were cousins. Not that it mattered, just as long as this one kept his mouth shut.

It took three more trips to work out the details. “A consultation,” he explained to his colleagues at the hospital on two of the occasions—not elaborating, not needing to. “Just getting away with Bernice” was the reason he used the other times. Each time, he had shown just a bit more tremor, a bit more hesitancy of gait, a bit more involuntary movement of thumb and forefinger. As careful planning as ever went into an operation. After all, this was his life, and Floyd was determined that the patient should survive.

 *****

 Ironic, much as he hated the hospital administrators, Floyd wanted to thank Earl, the chief operations officer.

“Great pictures,” he’d commented two years earlier when Earl and his wife had returned from their trip. Just an automated response; he didn’t mean it. Dr. Floyd Murchison had no interest in nature, camping, or especially white water rafting.

But it had been Earl’s pictures, stuck in the back of his mind that gave Floyd the idea.

“Remember that trip you and Francine took? To the Canyon wasn’t it?”

“Yeah. What about it?”

“You still got the pictures?”

“Of course. Why?”

“Bernice and I were thinking. You know, I’m thinking of retiring. Well, we figured we’d do some traveling. She remembered my mentioning your photos and suggested. … If you don’t mind.”

“No, of course. I’ll make you a copy.”

“No, no. Why don’t you guys come for dinner, bring them with you, and you can tell us all the details.”

Details: good planning required details. A doctor didn’t cut into somebody’s head until he had planned every move. He wasn’t going to have a phony death until he had just the right method. Not until the new life policy was fully vested—eighteen months before the double indemnity for accidental death clause took effect. Two years before suicide would be covered.

So many details to be arranged: Fake passports and papers, booking the tour, finding the right Indian—knowledgeable of the terrain, willing to do what was needed for a reasonable price, able to provide the horses—buying the old car and putting it in Charley Chained Horse’s name, having the Indian drive it.

“Look like Indian car,” Charley said when they bought the green junk heap in Flagstaff.

That was true enough. Nobody would notice the junk-heap sitting in the middle of the tribal lot high above the Canyon. It would be waiting for its owner to come up from the rez. For what—a monthly trip to the supermarkets or maybe a visit to a family member who had moved out of the Canyon.

“You want me get tickets?” Charley asked, incredulous at the next instruction.

“Don’t worry. I’ll pay the fines. Nothing big. Speeding. Couple of parking violations in Flagstaff or Prescott, enough to show it’s your car.

The trip had to be booked. Then calling Charley with the dates. That was one of the most difficult tasks.

“Not much service on rez,” Charley explained.

“Charley.”

“Yes, Mr. Jones.”

“Do me a favor. Go up and check the car. Make sure it’s ready to go. I have a long trip.”

“Where go?”

“Don’t worry about that. Just make sure the tires are good, the battery, that there’s gas.”

“Sure. You pay; you boss. Fifty dollars.”

“Fine. Another fifty—it didn’t matter?

Floyd made one last quick trip to drop a suitcase and carryall in the car’s trunk. His cover this time, an appointment with a neurologist in Phoenix. Bernice, following instructions, let that tidbit slip at her bridge club.

The plan was ready to go operational.

 *****

 “Suicide? Absolutely not!” Bernice Murchison said. “Parkinson’s or no, Floyd and I had a good life ahead of us.”

Even if the insurance company rejected the accidental death claim, there would be ten million to add to the millions already safely in her name. And, with double indemnity, make that twenty million.

Floyd had a plan. He always had a plan, seldom one that involved what she wanted. Rio? What about her life, her career, her thinking about running for office? No matter to Floyd.

Still, Bernice had to admit it: Floyd’s plan was excellent. Planning was one of his great strengths. Once he decided it was time to get out of medicine, he had created a game plan worthy of a five star general.

“It used to be fun,” he complained. “I loved the O.R., but now? Now, it’s all paperwork and dealing with administrators. Who do they think saves people—somebody with a clipboard or me with my knife.”

She wasn’t sure if she believed him. It didn’t matter. Bernice always made believe she bought Floyd’s lies. Why not? Their marriage had been built on lies for years. The great man: she knew better. Bernice knew it all, from the cheating in medical school to the tax evasion, to the nurses he balled in the recovery room.

Would his colleagues believe it? Maybe. But the insurance company? Too obvious; there would be questions. No, better to develop symptoms. Easy enough for a doctor. Getting his friend in Phoenix to write the prescriptions. Just dump the pills and order more.

“Where will you get a passport?” Bernice asked.

Floyd laughed. “Didn’t I save Stankovitch’s kid? Why save the goddamned kid of a Russian Mafia don if you don’t get something in return.

Two weeks later, Floyd waved the documents in front of her. “Meet Morris James Finklestein.

“You’ll retire right off, soon as the semester ends. The grieving widow,” Floyd reviewed the plan. “Of course you’ll take a couple of trips…you know, to forget. Places on our list. Then you meet a man in Rio. A whirlwind romance, and you’ll be Mrs. Morris Finklestein.”

“Sure,” Bernice said, her tone flat.

Floyd kissed Bernice quickly on the lips. That was all she ever got, a quick kiss. At least Sammy gave her more than that.

Sammy only met Floyd once; that had been enough. He, too, could not imagine the great doctor sitting around on the Copacabana Beach, each morning walking the promenade, sipping coffee and watching the endless waves of the Atlantic. “Well, you’d know better than me, Love, but I think you’re right. He isn’t a man for retirement.”

“No, but he is a man for getting what he wants. Whatever the hell that might be.”

They both chuckled.

Sammy put down his beer and rested his left hand on her right knee. “It’ll work out.”

Sammy was the great consolation in Bernice’s life. First her graduate assistant, then her colleague. At some point their liking had become friendship and then slipped into an affair—not love but a liaison that had lasted twenty-seven years.

“Why don’t you find somebody?” she asked more than once.

“I’m waiting for the right woman.”

“How are you going to find her if you don’t look?”

And Sammy’s inevitable reply. “I already found her. Now, I’m waiting for her to dump her husband and come away with me.”

“Away, where?” Bernice would ask as she kissed his ears and neck.

“To the South of France.”

Bernice would laugh and ask if he liked topless beaches.

“Only with the right bottom,” he would answer.

It was their routine. Nothing would come of it. Just one of those little dances couples do.

“Copacabana? Brazil? What the hell am I supposed to do?” Sammy seldom showed irritation. He was willing to wait and wait some more. Twenty-seven years and more to come. But for Bernice to leave—to go off with Floyd: that he could not accept.

“I wish I could ask Floyd; he’d figure it out.” Bernice was sorry as soon as the words left her mouth. Making light of it. What was she thinking? Giving up Sammy would be one of the hardest things.

 *****

 Floyd sold the old car—no questions asked—in Juarez, took a bus to airport; and traveling under the name Brian Louis York was soon in Mexico City. “What the hell, another twenty grand for a set of throwaway documents,” he had thought when Stankovitch suggested it.

“Always a good idea, Doc, just in case somebody spots you. Then that guy disappears. Easy.”

Brian York, Saint Louis businessman, took a cab to a decent hotel, where he spent the night—but not really.

Later that evening, all according to plan, Morris James Finklestein boarded his flight for Rio. Everything executed with operating room precision.

Even though he knew it would take months for the insurance to come through. Floyd, unable to restrict his lifestyle, had almost run out of his available money by the time Bernice was due to join him in Rio. Only twenty thousand American left in the carryall he had brought with him. It bothered him that he hadn’t left himself more cash.

That was the first inkling Floyd had that things might go wrong. The second was the phone call he made to Bernice’s office at the university.

“What do you mean she no longer works there?” The term was not yet over. Why would she draw attention by leaving early? Had something gone terribly wrong?

Bernice had no problems at all. Now officially a widow, the newlywed and her Sammy were on their honeymoon. The Mediterranean was beautiful that time of year.

“There is nothing like a good plan,” she said as Sammy ogled the topless women on the beach in Cannes.

 

Lover of life’s ironies, Ken Weene also loves white water rafting and Arizona. His novels including the soon to be released “Broody New Englander,” are published by All Things That Matter Press. In addition to writing, Ken co-hosts It Matters Radio ( http://www.itmattersradio.com ) You can find Ken’s books at http://www.amazon.com/Kenneth-Weene/e/B002M3EMWU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1406397310&sr=1-1

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TWO THEORIES OF HISTORY by BryanMurphy

conspiracy

 Have you read Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine? If you are in the USA, you may have seen the Public Service TV series called Commanding Heights, which was based on it. It’s a marvellous book, I’ve just finished it, one that shows you things that were in front of your eyes but you had not noticed, or had noticed but not paid due attention to. It is about the rise of market fundamentalism and the disasters which that has unleashed upon the world since 1973, the date of the violent overthrow of democracy in Chile, which, by coincidence, is also the year in which my novel-in-progress opens.

When I lived in Africa in the 1980s, the crimes of the international financial institutions on that continent were no secret: basically forcing countries in debt to sacrifice their children by denying them health and education so that bankers could sleep easily at night secure in the knowledge that the bad loans they had made would be repaid at any cost. That, it seemed to me, was in the nature of bankers; what seemed more scandalous was how little anyone outside Africa was bothered. People in Europe would care very deeply when famine hit Africa, and fork out enormous sums to alleviate the suffering it caused, but were oblivious to the suffering meted out by human institutions. Well, as you know, what went round came round, and since 2008, when many of the less rich countries in Western Europe got into trouble over their finances, international financial institutions have been forcing market fundamentalism on them in return for debt relief. And guess what? The people in those countries do not like it.

Now, I live in one of the affected countries, and boy, do people moan. About the loss of their jobs, their children’s future, decaying public services, you name it. Quite right, too. But they do not actually do very much, here in Italy. Klein’s book was published in 2007, before “disaster capitalism” turned its attention to Western Europe, but she would accurately have predicted people’s initial reaction here: they were shocked into inactivity. Klein details how, in Latin America, it took over 20 years before governments started to stop taking the medicine that was killing them. People in Europe, with more hindsight available to them, may swallow less before they say “We’re not going to take it!” I hope I live to see that day.

balls-up

One useful way of seeing history is that it offers us two main theories for why things go awry (Murphy’s Law, no relation): the balls-up theory and the conspiracy theory. The latter says that things go wrong because tightly-knit groups of politically or economically motivated men cause them to do so for their own ends. The former says that people would like things to work to everyone’s benefit, but we are just too incompetent to make that happen. Klein is clearly in the conspiracy camp; I’ve always been in the balls-up camp, which is a hard place to be in Italy, where mafias and politicians traditionally feed off each other out of public sight. I had thought that Italy was exceptional, in this as in so many other ways. Maybe it is not.

It is irresistible for a science fiction writer to imagine where market fundamentalism will lead us, if it manages to continue its current dominance unchecked. Unfortunately, I think we have already seen the answer, in the cult classic film Zardoz, in which the rich live a genteel life inside a high-tech bubble which physically excludes the poor, whom the rich continually urge to renounce sex and kill each other. It is the ultimate gated community, although in the real thing the bubble will have to be opaque, because transparency helps people to see not just into fundamentalism, but through it.

 

Bryan Murphy is a British writer who lives in Turin, Italy. He is currently working on the second draft of a novel set in Portugal in the 1970s. You can find his e-books here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts. His individual blog is at: http://bit.ly/1cq1yus . Bryan also welcomes visitors at http://www.bryanmurphy.eu .

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Owls, harbingers of death or symbols of wisdom? by Maggie Tideswell

 

Owl 1

I have written ghosts in the past, but they aren’t all I am interested in. Owls are another passion of mine and are repeatedly used in my novels. My owls always act in unusual ways, for instance they fly together in a swarm, which they never do in real life; they attack humans, which is highly unlikely; and they guard or protect a human being, which is also not in their nature. That is the fun part of being a novelist. To serve the purpose of my story, owls may behave in any way I want them to, although I mostly stick to the known facts.

We all knowBarn Owl the basics of owls. They are birds known for their distinctive call, they are nocturnal and their flight is silent, and deadly if you are a tiny creature. Owls are right up there with bats and spiders as the most popular creatures of Halloween.

Owls are classified into two categories: barn owls have a heart shaped face, and true owls have a round face. In each category there are of course several species; 16 Barn Owl species and 190 True Owl species, to be exact. Owls don’t build nests, but make their home using anything that is convenient, from a nest built in the ground by other birds or burrowing animals, to a nook in a tree, to old abandoned buildings.

 Owls are carnivorous and will eat rodents, small mammals, nocturnal insects, fish and even other birds. After digesting their food, owls regurgitate hard pellets of compressed bones, fur, teeth, feathers and other materials they couldn’t digest. A barn owl can eat up to 1,000 mice each year, and farmers try to attract barn owls to help control rodent populations in agricultural fields.

Most people will know that owls’ eyes are fixed in their sockets, so that they have to turn their whole head to find their prey. You might have heard the tall tale that, because of their fixed eyes, should you circle an owl, it will wring its own neck watching you. As the owl can only turn its head 260 degrees, this claim is impossible. Because their eyes are fixed, they have binocular vision, a necessity for hunting in the dark. An owl has three eyelids: one for blinking, one for sleeping and one for keeping the eye clean and lubricated.

Owls have asymmetrical ears that are different sizes and different heights on their heads. This gives the birds superior hearing and the ability to pinpoint where the prey is even before they can see it. The flattened facial disk of an owl funnels sound to the bird’s ears and magnifies it as much as ten times to help the bird hear noises humans can’t detect.

Some owhorned owll species have “ear” tufts on their heads but they aren’t ears at all. These tufts of feathers may indicate the bird’s mood and help keep it camouflaged.

Owls have zygodactyl feet, which means they have two toes pointing forward and two toes pointing backward. This gives them a stronger, more powerful grip on their prey. Their feathers have been especially adapted to muffle the sounds of flying. Their broad wingspan and light bodies helps to make them nearly silent in flight. Handy for stalking prey.

For most owl species, females are larger, heavier and more aggressive than the males and she is also the most colorful.

Owls don’t only hoot, but are capable of a wide range of sounds, such as screeches, whistles, barks and hisses. During the nesting season, an owl’s calls can often be heard up to a mile away. And they sing duets with their breeding partner, whom they mate with for life.

Did you know that a group of owls is called a parliament?

Owls have been found in the fossil record up to 58 million years ago. The largest recorded owl fossil, Orinmegalonyx oteroi, stood about three feet tall. Owl images have been found in cave paintings in France, in Egyptian hieroglyphics and even in Mayan art. Most cultures focused on the dark aspect of the owl, mainly because of man’s inherent fear of the dark. Because the owl is nocturnal, and the medical fact that most deaths occur at night, the owl became associated with death.

The biggest modern threats to owls are habitat loss, pesticides that poison the birds and their food supplies, and human persecution because of negative superstitions.

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Unfortunately for the owl, they have been much maligned by folklore and superstition. In ancient Greek mythology, Athena, goddess of the Underworld and Wisdom, had a companion owl on her shoulder, which revealed unseen truths to her. The Japanese believe the owl warns them of impending danger. In Celtic folklore the owl was sacred and endowed with magical powers. To the Welsh, the owl symbolized death, renewal and wisdom. Today, owl superstitions still associate the birds with bad luck, death and stealing souls in many cultures.

In paganism, the owl is associated with the goddess, wisdom, Underworld deities and prophecy. Owl symbolism used in meditation and ritual can help you interpret dreams, unmask those who would deceive you and find hidden spiritual truths.

For me personally, hearing an owl hoot at night means something good is about to happen.

 

Bio: Maggie Tideswell’s specialty is supernatural romance. Her novels are set in her homeland of South Africa. learn more at  https://www.amazon.com/author/maggietideswell

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Views from a Hospital Room by Micki Peluso

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Personality traits differ significantly among hospital patients, Physicians and caretakers, which can include: sympathy/aloofness, empathy/impatience, caring/apathy, patience and intolerance. Mistakes and miracles occur almost on an equal basis; patients, who should live, die and those who should have died live. Hospitals are buzzing hives of contradictions.

My bed is one of four in a well-lit room with large windows displaying the dull gray tones of a broad flat roof from the floor below. It’s a Cardiac Care Center (CCU), so all of us are hooked up to monitors, which I find comforting. This is not my first time here, yet I note changes since my last visit. Maybe my “rate our performance” opinion letters were actually read.

The nurses are exceptionally pleasant, insisting that we ring the buzzer if we need them — that is not usually the case. The Personal Care Attendants (PCA) are surprisingly young with as many men as women. They smile, ask about our lives, our comfort and show genuine warmth and caring.” Ryan,” a very young handsome man works tirelessly as a nurse’s assistant. His wide smile can’t help but make patients smile back — a beatific smile. He offers to help bathe us, but I pass. He’s about the age of my grandsons and I really can’t handle that, preferring the female PCAs who are no less enthusiastic in doing their jobs. Ryan will soon graduate as a nurse.

Another PCA, working years to support his family, decides it’s time to make a career move into nursing. He’s a no-nonsense guy in his late 30′s, and while he doesn’t radiate joy in his work, his caring is deeply sincere and conscientious. One young man, looking like a teenage football player, sits patiently feeding pureed food to a demented old woman for a solid hour, until her tray is empty. He never sighs with impatience or abruptness, but handles her as a mother would tend her young child. The woman, who can only live in the moment, won’t remember this selfless act but can, in the now, as it unfolds. I think to myself that this young man is a true angel.

Judith, once a high–income professional, upon retiring, grew bored and chose to give herself to others in the lowly occupation of hospital cleanliness maintenance. A beautiful woman, she literally races from room to room, scrubbing, mopping, and disinfecting, all the while singing cheerful songs. Her face beams with happiness while disbursing gems of wisdom and optimism to all of us. I give her a signed copy of my book and she treasures it like gold. I feel my own discomfort receding just being in her presence.

One of my roommates is discharged late at night and I am annoyed when a maintenance man comes in, turning on all the bright lights, to clean and prepare the bed for an incoming patient. Then as I watch him diligently scrub every section of the last patient’s area, humming while he works, I realized that he likes his job and we talk as he works.

Once while speaking to one of my nurses, she tells me how she lost her husband and then her home and possessions during Super Storm Sandy the year before. We were discussing my book, which I always keep on my nightstand. I ask her how she could be so happy and smiling all the time.” Life is full of losses,” she says.” I’ve learned to accept that and move forward with my life.” Her attitude inspires me to rethink my own attitudes toward loss, pain and suffering.

Hospitals are far from perfect. The downside for me is a botched simple pacemaker battery change, which leads to five more surgeries and six months in and out of the hospital. A boy scout with a manual could have done a better job. Statistics report that approximately 400,000 deaths occur each year in hospitals, due to Doctor/nurse error or negligence, and three of every 25 patients contact a potentially, deadly infections. I hold the dubious honor of contracting both a UTI (urinary tract infection) and a VRE (Vancomycin Resistant Enterititus) intestinal infection. It is a humiliating experience as the “Swab Team” burst into my room in Haz-med uniforms, whisking me off to isolation. I did not have the infection but colonized it, being contagious only to a small percentage of patients with a gene defect.

There are also times when I have to tell a new and experienced nurse that he needs more practice putting in IV needles. Another time, one has to be reminded to use gloves before touching me. One day after getting no sleep from the pain, I take a late morning nap. My new roommate is suddenly surrounded by doctors as her monitors bleep and flash in alarm. The nurses assumed she is sleeping when in fact she stopped breathing and nearly dies. Since her heart rate is monitored that should not have happened. Mere coincidence causes her doctor to be visiting at that exact moment. Her life is saved.

There is much more to tell but to sum it up, while hospitality has improved dramatically, there is still much to be done for the protection of patients from errors in hospital-contracted diseases. Don’t even ask about hospital food. Being on a cardiac, salt free diet, I have the kitchen manager bought to me to discuss the salt content of his meals, which is far above my allowance; and still have to have my meals made and brought in from home. One food server tells me that no matter what I mark on my menu, all patients get the same thing. I believe him. There’s a possibility I might not be allowed back to this institution. My last opinion poll on hospital overall performance might ensure that. And that’s okay with me.

 

Bio: 

Micki Peluso is the author of the widely acclaimed memoir …And The Whippoorwill Sang. She also writes humor and  occasional pieces about life. You can find her book at http://www.amazon.com/Whippoorwill-Sang-Micki-Peluso/dp/1466497076/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347680072&sr=1-1&keywords=Micki+Peluso and join her on Goodreads at http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/811377-micki-peluso?utm_medium=email&utm_source=follower

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How To Decide What To Read? A Reviewer’s Point of View by Fran Lewis

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As a reviewer I receive numerous requests each week from many different authors to review their titles. However, I do not always agree to review every title that I receive. Panning a book or giving a negative review is not my style. Constructive criticism to a point is valid. Rating books becomes a difficult task at times as everyone wants Five Stars but not every title warrants it. Trying to find some common ground at times is not easy but presenting the author with a fair, honest and straightforward review is my goal. My reviews tend to be detailed but never have any spoilers.

Everyone wants to think that they have the next number one New York Times Best selling novel. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone succeeded! But, let’s be realistic most books are not best sellers but there are some debut authors and less seasoned ones that I can definitely say are on their way. Not every book on the Times best seller list gets five stars from me. Not every storyline is fast paced, cohesive and keeps me glued to the printed page. Not every book peeks my interest and sometimes grammar and spelling errors get in the way of the plot and the flow of the story. In cases where the book does not warrant at least three stars I provide the author with a summary or synopsis of the book and will not post it on Amazon or any site that requires a rating.

Choosing which books to review first was easy at first but became more difficult at the amount of books received increased. At first I would review the titles with the least amount of pages in order to complete them first. That made sense. But, there are few if any titles that have fewer than 300 pages and those that do the font are often small making it harder for me to read. So, I had to resort to a better way of choosing the ones that I felt I wanted to focus on first. Everyone is different and each reviewer has his or her own style of presenting a review and their own turn around time. I love murder mysteries, memoirs, and historical fiction, fiction and have course biographies. I tend to toss aside self-help books, inspirational books and books that are sent to me by publishers that I call surprises or books that show up at my door unexpected and can wait until I get to them. I love reviewing books and there are so many talented authors that have gone unnoticed and whose titles I feel are equal to those on the many bestseller lists.

Reviewing takes commitment, a passion for reading and in my case a private oath that I have taken to present a review that will spotlight every author’s work that I read in a fair, honest and straightforward way. What do I read? What ever I am fortunate to receive? Deciding which to review is often my biggest problem but if I commit to a blog tour, cover reveal of specific site that needs a review within a specific time frame those titles come first because deadlines have to be met and I always meet them. If someone sends me a book in large print it moves to the top of my list. Of course if you are Mark Rubinstein, Ken Weene, Steve Berry or John Lescroart you must might more to the top of my list even faster. But, for those who are not familiar with Mark Sasse you might want to read The Reach of the Banyan Tree. Others who are not familiar with Larry Thompson, Insanity Plea or Jon Land’s Caitlin Strong Series. But, what about authors like Fran Orenstein whose YA titles are first rate or even Christoph Fischer and Time To Let Go! There are so many new authors that have gone unnoticed and authors like Daniel Palmer who should move to the top. No matter what you read or how you choose what you read authors appreciate an honest review. Remember: Not everyone will get Five Stars but that does not mean that your title is not good or that you should stop writing. A mean and negative review is wrong. Reading just a few pages and not completing the novel and reviewing it is not fair to the author. So, how do you choose what you read? What are your favorite books to review? Who are your favorite authors? Success to everyone: Fran

A good challenge is something that I would never shy away from. My sister, MJ or Marcia Joyce dared me to review a cookbook. Now, you have to understand that I don’t cook and have no idea what the knobs on a stove are used for or why they are even there. I am serious. No kidding! My sister thought it was really cool when Martha Cheves suggested that I review her book Stir Laugh and Repeat. I thought it was going to be my first and last attempt at writing a review. But, after reading her book, checking out the cook recipes and then the personal stories she relates about each one, I knew I was up for the challenge. Not only did Martha love my review, but she appreciated my sense of humor when referring myself as a non cook who could just about figure out maybe one of her recipes but the personal stories were priceless. It seems that one review received quite a bit of acclaim and my sister thought after reading and editing my work, which was one of her favorite pastimes, that I just might have a career in this non-paying job and I would make a real name for myself. Not sure if that happened but I have reviewed so many books that I have lost count of the number. My sister then decided to take things one-step further when I told her that I was offered a guest host spot on Red River Writers. Little did I know that I was going to be the host of Book Discussion and Chat Time. With MJ’s guidance and her distinct ability to map out what I should say and how I should say it I managed to get through show one and I guess I must have done something right because I am still a reviewer and still hosting radio shows.

I am dedicating this short piece to MJ’s memory and the fact that it is with her encouragement that I have succeeded today. In her memory I have created MJ magazine for readers, writers and authors and I love interviewing authors on Chat Time on Red River Writers and Book Discussion on The World Of Ink.

 

Bio

Fran Lewis: Fran worked in the NYC Public Schools as the Reading and Writing Staff Developer for over 36 years. She has three masters Degrees and a PD in Supervision and Administration. Currently, she is a member of Who’s Who of America’s Teachers and Who’s Who of America’s Executives from Cambridge. In addition, she is the author of three children’s books and a fourth that has just been published on Alzheimer’s disease in order to honor her mom and help create more awareness for a cure. The title of her new Alzheimer’s book is Memories are Precious: Alzheimer’s Journey; Ruth’s story and Sharp as a Tack and Scrambled Eggs Which Describes Your Brain? Fran is the author of 11 titles.

Some of Fran’s reviews can be read at Ezine.com and Lunch.com. Her Internet radio show is on Blogtalk.

To find Fran Lewis’s books: http://www.amazon.com/Fran-Lewis/e/B002F8Z87U

To sample her reviews, visit http://tillie49.wordpress.com/

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HORROR IN ROOM 323 By Rosemary “Mamie”Adkins

HORROR IN ROOM 323

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By

Rosemary “Mamie”Adkins

  At first, Jeannette found the vacation weekend to be as beautiful as they’d hoped.  The sun shone, and the hotel sparkled like diamonds with fresh flowers that lined the lobby and fine furniture arranged in a clustered style for visitors to rest and visit with one another.  She and Earl just knew this weekend would be heaven sent and filled with memories of them celebrating Mother’s Day and Earl’s birthday! For added memories they had taken with them the small Service Dog they had rescued from the Humane Society and which was still in training.  They hoped Maggie would enjoy her first exposure to a motel and the beach.

Their room was warm and inviting, decorated with pristine linens and spread with large downy pillows. The mood was set with special lighting and a bay window, allowing them to view the beaches while admiring the clear blue-green waters and watching the moon set in the evenings or the sun rise each morning. The vanity even came with a large picture frame mirror that magnified images on one side.

Everything was perfect!

Before enjoying dinner, they savored their first walk that evening on the beach strolling hand in hand, sharing an embrace and watching Maggie romp in the sand.  She even dove into the waves as they crashed upon the beach, and they all found such peace and restfulness.  They were tired from the long travel so they returned to their room for the evening and had dinner served there.  A special meal was even prepared for Maggie.  After watching the sunset they decided to retire early so the next day would be fun-filled, enjoying what they loved most, playing at the beach and teaching their new dog how grand life could be together. They found the bed to be just perfect so they fell asleep almost immediately.

However, the night was not as restful as they had expected.  Jeannette woke with itchy red spots that resembled mosquito bites and she wondered which of them had left the window open.

next night, the same thing happened to both of them.  Even though Jeannette double checked to make sure the window was closed, both she and Earl tossed and turned and woke with itchy red spots over half their bodies.  They were only mosquito bites they told themselves.

They bought insect lotion and poured it liberally on the bites, sighing at the partial relief it gave them.  Then they checked out early and went home, grateful their dream vacation had been only partly marred and expecting the bites, itching, and the inconvenience to disappear when they returned home to friendlier and more familiar surroundings.

* * * *

That night, Jeannette basked in the comfort of her cozy and intimate bedroom.  She watched Earl turn down the white, down-filled comforter and move around the bed to embrace her.  They shared a long, warm kiss, and she leaned her head against his broad shoulder.

“Home again,” he said, his voice deep and reassuring.

“Yes,” she said.  “Safe again, and now we can relax completely.”

He smiled.  “Here it’s better than any vacation.”

He turned out the lights, and they slipped into bed beneath the covers.  For a long time he held her close, stroking her temples as he always did in order for Jeannette to sleep.  She felt safe, blissfully at peace and reassured by his manly embrace and eventually by his gentle snores.  Home.  Yes.  Home and safe again!

Why she woke she couldn’t say.  She imagined something moving up her leg.  Then biting her arm.  A foolish dream.  Silly, she wasn’t in the hotel anymore.  Ah, another bite!image2-small-18

Jeannette found herself standing in her bedroom near the magnifying side of the mirror.  A flash of light lit one area of the glass, and to her horror she saw an ugly black and brown bug streak across its surface and drop to the floor.

She tried to see where it went, but it disappeared too fast.  Refusing to believe what she’d seen, she decided to return to bed, but something made her grab her flashlight before she slid beneath the covers.  It was probably just her imagination, but oh God, something couldnt have followed them home from the hotel, could it?  Though it was impossible, she would keep watch so none of the mosquitoes—or whatever they were—would harm her, Earl or Maggie ever again.

Eventually, being so tired, she drifted to sleep.

Later, she felt something bite her on the hand.

“Oh, my God, Earl,” she gasped.  “Wake up…there’s something in bed with us.  And it just bit me again!”

She felt something crawl on her foot beneath the blanket and what felt like tiny teeth.  “There’s something crawling on my skin…it must have long nails—God, it hurts so bad!”

Maggie, being a Service Dog, growled, trying to warn them something was gravely wrong.  Then she barked as though to say, “Get up!”

Jeannette leaped from the bed, blood streaking down her arms.  She stumbled to the mirror in fiery pain and there, in the side partition which magnified, she saw an image of what appeared to be a hairy, six-legged monster with its two antennae sniffing for its next bite.  She turned her head to see that this creature or one like it had already bitten and suckedimage3-small-20 the blood from her face.  Feeling faint, Jeannette struggled not to pass out in fear and disgust.

“It’s happening again in our own home,”she cried.  “Only worse!  Earl, what are these things?”

In her terror, she turned and saw that Earl was still sleeping, peacefully unaware of the crisis in their own bedroom involving these new invaders.  Maggie, though, was another matter.  Jeannette could hear their pet cry and whine in her crate.  She looked miserable.

Oh Christ.  Here we go again!  “E….Earl,”she whispered in a panic, “wake up!”  Then she shouted.  “Damn it, Earl, wake up!” image4-small-22

She took a deep breath as Earl finally opened his eyes and sat up in bed.

“Listen,”she said.  “Maggie is crying and squirming in her crate and we have to get her out.  She looks so sick.  They must have bitten her too.”

Earl rubbed his eyes.  His hair stuck up in tufts, the way it often did when he slept.

“What do you mean…‘They’ bit her?”

“The mosquitoes,” she said. “Only theyimage5-small-24’re not mosquitoes. They’re something worse.  They’re monsters, Earl, and they have come home with us.  I think whatever it is hitchhiked on our clothes or suitcases.”

Suddenly she saw blood from yet another bite running down her neck.  How had she missed it?  “This can’t be happening,”she said, barely suppressing a scream as she felt a stab of searing pain.  They were all under attack, only this time in their own home where it had always been safe.  Now safety was a thing of the past.

Earl rose and came to her.  “Oh honey, you’re bleeding,”he said, lightly touching her skin.  “And look, here’s another bite on your leg.”  He held her close and glanced around.  “What in the hell did this to you?”

“I’m not sure.  I saw one on the mirror.”  She did know she had been attacked from head to toe with puncture wounds, two to each bite.

All she could see in her mind were the cold eyes piercing into hers.  She knew the repulsive creature wanted only one thing: their blood.  There must be so many of them, and they were here for only one reason.

But what were these things?  The pain they caused was so intense.  It felt like red hot pokers burning through her skin and setting fire to her bones!

Then the loathsome visitors started to appear, to attack from all directions in the room.

At one point, Jeannette stood frozen in fear with Earl, unable to respond.  She knew they had to fight back, to beat these monsters as they came at them from everywhere.  All she and her husband could think about was surviving the night.

As Earl stamped and stamped and struck these invaders and Jeannette kept swinging her flashlight, she was all too aware that Maggie had no real way to fight and defend herself.  They both kept checking her to make sure she was safe.image5-small-24

The night seemed never to end.  Finally, with daylight the monsters began to melt away into their hiding places.  If only they could find the tiny elusive things, maybe someone would know what they were.

Home!  Suddenly, it did not feel so safe, and there was nowhere else they could go.

Trapped, Jeannette knew they had to find someone to look at Earl’s, Maggie’s, and her own bites, which covered much of their bodies. But Jeannette’s doctor was away, and she had image6-small-26wait ten days.  That felt like an eternity, so instead they went to Urgent Care where she was told she had Shingles and to take pain meds until the sores stopped hurting.  She did not have to be a genius to know the diagnosis was wrong.

Finally, when she got in to see her regular doctor, he told her he had no idea what the bites were…he only knew they were bites—not Shingles as he could clearly see two puncture wounds at each site.  He prescribed enough medicine to avoid further infection for the three of them.

image7-small-28Two days later Jeannette phoned her doctor and reported her condition had worsened.  Now she was swollen as if she’d become allergic from so many bites and was badly bruised as well.image8-small-30

Her doctor advised her it had become critical to identify these bites as her health was in jeopardy.  He referred her to a Dermatologist, and another week passed while all three of them continued to be attacked.

Even after several weeks the scars from the bites remained.  They proved to be tenacious, refusing to disappear.

Finally they were seen by the dermatologist, and his immediate remarks were: “No, this is NOT Shingles; No, these are NOT mosquitoes.” Jeannette asked him,

“Then what is this?”

He peered through his glasses at her.  “Have you stayed in a motel in the last month?”

Jeannette remembered their vacation.  “Why, yes.”

He followed by asking if the problem had started there. Again, she answered yes.

The dermatologist sighed.  “I’m sorry to tell you this, but these are Bedbug bites, and you are highly allergic to them.”

At first, Jeannette was shocked, unable to react.  Then she cried like a baby.  She remembered being told that bedbugs happened to dirty housekeepers, and she was a fanatic about her home.  The dermatologist assured her that these pests hitchhiked in luggage or on your body, so they were likely in the car too. Sobbing all the way back to the car, Jeannette told Earl they were not even safe in the car!  After she informed him of the diagnosis, he pulled her close and kissed her cheek.

“We won’t let them beat us,”he said, and then he used his cell phone to call Orkin.

Within two days the pest company inspected their home and discovered they indeed did have bedbugs, but it was an early infestation of only about four to six weeks.  This was the exact time since they had taken that special weekend vacation to the coast, splurging to stay at the grandest hotel there, the Bates Hotel (not the real name).

Jeannette had always thought bedbugs were a bit funny until she heard the dermatologist’s diagnosis.  The jocular line “Don’t let the bedbugs bite,”would never make her smile again.image10-small-34

Jeannette and Earl were informed by the pest company that whenever anyone sleeps, the bedbugs are attracted to the carbon dioxide one exhales.  They only mate after feeding and mate quickly, spreading in every room and traveling through electrical outlets from one room to another.  They hide under dresser drawers, splits in the headboard, crevices in the mattress, drapes, tight, snug places along the walls, folds of fabric and about anywhere else one would never think to look.

That night after fighting sleep as long as possible, the three of them fell fast asleep  only to awaken with the bedbugs covering every inch of their bodies, sucking the blood from their flesh and leaving them sick and weak.  It broke Jeannette’s heart to hear Maggie whimper in her crate, and she went to pick the bugs from her body as best she could.

But until their home could be treated, their suffering would continue.  Each night it kept happening, and they fought the hairy, six-legged monsters.  The way they were bitten was so vile and unfair.  As for the bites, first, the bugs injected them with an anesthetic—as if that would make them hurt any less.  Then they stuck them with another sharp pointer and drew out their blood, leaving them with wounds and blood-soaked night clothes and sheets.

Laundry waiting to be processed

Getting their home reaimage12-small-38dy did not happen quickly either, as their work involved a long list of
preparations if they were to stand a chance to get rid of their most unwanted guests.  Working one full week, day and night, they were finally able to schedule the treatment to kill these mangy pests that had destroyed their lives by creating wounds, sleepless nights, a crying puppy, a need for exhaustive medical treatment, and, last, nightmares that would linger for months or even years to come.

They had nowhere now to hide or ever feel safe.

THE HORROR OF BEDBUGS RAISING THEIR HEADS to bite them in their own home was a major shock, and suddenly the possibility of being safe anywhere in this world seemed gone forever.image11-small-36

Look around your home, Jeannette wanted to tell everyone she saw.  Every shoe, drape, linen, dresser drawer and closet had to be taken out of the house and bagged; shoes were frozen for 24 hours, woolens dry cleaned or frozen; fabric and clothes—if clean already—had to be dried at high temperatures with a light load for 45 minutes and then re-bagged in contractor heavyweight bags and taken elsewhere to be stored until everything had been processed and then home treated before returning any of their belongings.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Shoes waiting to be frozen

Jeannette had to dry and iron 800 yards of her expensive quilting fabric. image13-small-40

\Get the idea?  Not to mention, almost 200 hand-knit imported woolens from Ireland had to be all dry-cleaned before selling them (which was an Import business for Jeannette and Earl). Yes, for Jeannette, Earl, and Maggie, life had changed. No more walks, playing with a new puppy or anything else but trying to stay alive for weeks and months to follow.

Even after the treatment, when returning home six hours later to air out the toxins so they could breathe, Jeannette and Earl had to strip their clothing outside—that is, strip down to birthday suits, folks, and then change into safe treated clothing and shoes only to try to put the house somewhat back to order.  BUTwait!  Toxins were everywhere.  Now, every dish, piece of silverware, counter, pot and pan had to be rewashed and floors scrubbed before the home was safe for them to be in.  Look around again, in your kitchen! Can you imagine how long it would take to do that much washing?  Oh, did she tell you that she and Earl have also completed over sixty loads of laundry and have another eighty-eight loads to finish before they ever see the clothes or shoes again or begin to put their home back together?

Below is a bedbug full from a good feeding of blood.  The picture clearly shows the six legs.

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Now, imagine it crawling over your body every night.

Are you wondering what the response from the hotel was? The hotel’s response: they want to blame it on the Service Dog, Maggie, but if anything, she should be awarded a claim for her suffering.  As they were informed, she is not old enough to have traveled to other hotels to bring home bedbugs…just the ones that came from their hotel!  They did send an investigator out, and one of their requests was to photograph the pets in their home.

So, here is what is suspect in the eyes of the hotel:

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Maggie                                           …                                       Sara, Parakeet

Want an exercise in shock therapy? 

Check out this link!

http://www.bedbugreports.com

  I wish to thank two special people for their help with my story.  I have never written a horror story, so I consulted and was mentored by John Rosenman, who writes on this subject extremely well.  I’m sure he must have grown tired from so many endless hours of support, but he did so in order for me to learn and for you to have this story to read. We would also like to pay homage to his late dog, Tempest for being the same type of dog as Maggie. Most of you know Clayton Bye, publisher of this blog but perhaps do not realize the work he does for so many of us.  His kind support and dedication go beyond what most publishers would consider the end of their day.  He is always there to advise, support, and guide you should you need the help. Thank you, John and Clayton. Don’t forget to visit their web sites and read the horror that exist behind the pages of their books.

Thank you for joining The Write Room Blog and reading my story.

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Rosemary “Mamie”Adkins

http://www.Reflections-of-Mamie.com

http://www.ExtraordinaryIreland.com

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The Wedding

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Old man S’TO was a curmudgeon, or at least his sons thought so.  Rue and Hau wanted to move to the city and work in the factories where they would make real money.

“And then you’ll just spend the money paying for a room to live in and food to eat.  Here you live in a house that belongs to you and to your grandfathers before you.  You have food to eat and extra to take to market.  You mark my words,” the old man would shake his finger at his sons. “Here you are rich.  The S’TO’s are important men in this valley.  In the city you will be a poor nobody.”

The sons continued to grumble.  Other young men from the valley had gone to the city to work in the factories.  They’d bragged about how rich they would be and Old Man S’TO’s sons wanted to be rich too.

The old man took to watching his sons with narrow eyes and snarling, “And you don’t see those boys coming home with money bags full of gold do you?  They’re no better than slaves.”

One day the boys saw their father in the yard walking a circuit around house.  He stopped to look at the house then he’d continue his circuit.  He made ten full circuits of the house before he announced to his sons. “The house don’t look right.  I want you to gather up all the sticks in the fields and build a fence around the house.”

The boys built the fence according to their father’s directions.  They agreed that planting would be easier when they wouldn’t have to clean the sticks from the field at planting time.  They could hear their father crashing around inside the house.  Occasionally he’d carry armloads of stuff out and toss it on the ground in front of the house.

By the time the fence was half finished every possession the small family owned littered the ground in front of the house.  The old man spent the next few days sorting out old animal skins from those that could be used.  He emptied jars of grain and took a particularly rancid-smelling earth pot out behind the house and buried it.

By the time the fence was finished, the young men had become certain an evil spirit had bitten their father and driven him crazy.  Now, they were afraid to try to run away to the city because they didn’t know what would happen to the old man.

Well, next, the old man made them sweep every inch of their house inside and out then he made a mixture of water, white clay and mashed turu root and they spread this on the house, inside and out.  The turu root smelled horrible, but the house looked fresh and clean when they were done and the smell went away when the house was dry.

The next day the old man sent Rue into the fields to dig up some plants with blue flowers and put them in holes around the house while he took Hau up on the mountain to dig up the white flowers that grew there.  He dug up a small tree and carried it down to the house.  Now it was the son’s turn to look at their father with narrowed eyes and wonder what he was up to.

“You see.  Our house is beautiful.  True.  And, it is ours.  You will never be this rich anywhere else.  Now, in the morning, before light I’m leaving for the day.  I’ll be back just after dark. I want you to have dinner waiting for me, air out all the sleeping palettes and put fresh straw in the goat shed.

“We don’t have goats Papa.”

“You do what I tell you.”

Rue and Hau assumed that when Papa walked away in the early morning with a bag of beans over each shoulder that he intended to return with a goat—maybe two.  They cleaned and repaired the goat shed.  In the afternoon they went fishing then traded the fish they caught for some bean cakes baked by the widow S’PU.

As the moon rose over the mountains in the east, Rue saw three people coming up the path beside the creek.  “Hau, we have company.  Better fetch some fresh water.”

By the time Rue and Hau had set out a gourd of fresh water, they recognized their father as he led two young women up the path to their house.  He brought the women inside and announced.  “These women are to be your wives.  Treat them with gentleness and respect.  They shall have command over everything inside the fence.  You may sort it out between yourselves as to which one you want.”

The old man turned, left the hut and made his way to the goat shed leaving two giggling young women and two stunned sons to sort out who would have whom.

 

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Delinda McCann is a semi-retired social psychologist who has taken up writing novels based on her experience in the world of social psychologist and an advisor to several governments.  You may see her novels on her web site.  http://delindalmccann.weebly.com/index.html
 
She plans to write more short pieces about the S’TO family so watch her blog for more stories like this and her other slice of life writing.  http://delindalmccann.weebly.com/blog.html
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Big Trout Lake Blues (a Mike Money short)

 Beech King Air

Mike Money wasn’t enjoying this at all. It was one of a few recurring tasks that he, as the “town cop,” couldn’t ignore. There was too much of an opportunity for trouble to arise.

Why these young pilots couldn’t manage to keep it in their pants, when they had been warned, he never understood. Yes, many of the young First Nations women were stunning, and they were almost always willing partners, something the white boys were completely unprepared for. Which is why they were warned. Sleep with a local girl and you faced a BCR, a Band Council Ruling, ordering you off the reservation.

The owners of the airlines (Big Trout Air and Bearskin Air) had no choice but to fire any employee who received a BCR and ship them south. If they didn’t they would find themselves unwelcome on the rez.

And the girls? Well for the most part it was boredom that had led to the formation of the game. It was a simple one—seduce a pilot and then let the chips fall where they may. The council was always there, just in case.

It was too much for some girls to resist. They were often as curious about the white boys as the boys were about them. And there probably wasn’t a girl on the reserve who really expected a BCR. After all, that would mean all sorts of trouble for them, parents being parents. But it did happen. Yes, it did.

Mike knocked on the door of the pilot’s shack. He soon heard someone shuffling toward the door.

It opened on a blond-haired, good looking kid. It was hard to believe this was a pilot with hundreds of hours under his belt. Bush piloting was definitely a young man’s game.

“Morning, John,” the policeman said.

The kid nodded his head and looked confused.

“Can I come in, John?” Mike queried.

“Yah, lemme get a shirt on,” he said, heading for one of the 3 bedrooms that opened onto the main room—living room and kitchen as one. It was a beautiful building, really, an all log construction that was meant to create a sense of home for the young men who flew all over this part of the country, from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Thunder Bay, Ontario and as far up as Moosonee, Ontario, on James Bay. Mike had once flown a twin engine Seneca to Winnipeg, with a friend. There was nothing but bush and water all the way there.

“What is it, Mike?”

Mike turned his attention back to the friendly man who now stood fully clothed in the middle of the great room.

“I’ve got some shitty news, John, and I don’t know how to deal with it except straight up.” He walked over to John and put his hand on the pilot’s shoulder. “You’ve been BCRed, John.”

“What the fuck?”

“I know it’s a bad deal. But you know as well as I do that it’s a risk anyone sleeping with the girls must face. Whatever’s going on between you  and Josie is done.”

“I get to talk with her?”

“No. this thing is all done for but the crying. In fact, there’s a plane headed for Sioux Lookout in about 15. That’s how much time you have to pack, then I’ve got to escort you up to the runway.”

“This isn’t fair Mike.”

“I never said it was, son. It’s political mostly, with some racism thrown in.”

“Don’t suppose the fact that I love her makes any difference?”

“No, it might even make things worse. You’ve got to clear things with the elders when relationships get serious. It’s not so different from the way things are down south, except for the fact that the southern parents have no real power of influence in a bad situation and the band council does.”

The young man stopped asking questions and began packing. You could tell he had some guts, considering how busted up inside he must be.

* * *

Next on Mike’s list was another contentious duty: the dog shoot. The guys were heading back from the air strip when he put John on the Beech King Air.

Dogs on the rez ran free. Some were mutts that had been starved at home or had been abused. Whatever the reason, they were homeless and slowly reverted to a feral state—which pissed Mike off to no end. Once they reached such a state the dogs were ruined and had to be shot. He found the process barbaric, as it was not the dogs’ fault. They had once been loving creatures with an emotional age of a 5 year-old child. No one would ever put a child on the street, would they?

But now… The wild dogs would think nothing of cornering and pulling down a child. This reserve had been lucky in recent years and only had  a few maimings on its record. Not like other places where there had been deaths. Hell, he remembered the day when the crazy French man who lived in the village had flown over to Osnaburgh for some reason or another. Mike was on the same flight. And when it came time to go—no French man. Mike had to go looking for him. The guy had gotten himself cornered by a pack of about 10 dogs with a ringleader that was this small poodle-type mutt. Its constant yapping had built up animosity in the other dogs until they began to close in. The only thing that had saved the French man was his walking stick. With the man swinging the stick like a wild man Mike booted a number of the dogs, catching them by surprise and breaking up the ring. He was able to rescue the French man, but the dogs—unafraid—sat off a ways and just watched, sullen and hungry.

This time, Big Trout Lake had a pack just like Osnaburgh’s, and the band was going to do what they always did. Two shooters would stand up in the back of a truck, rifles steadied on the roof of the cab while another fellow drove around looking for the pack. Sometimes, there would be someone in the front passenger seat with a loaded weapon and two extra shooters sitting in the back of the truck on low chairs. Mike’s job, even though he understood the necessity, was to stop them. He couldn’t condone the use of firearms within the limits of their little village. The shoot had been advertised heavily, so everyone would stay indoors for the next few hours. But that just didn’t cut it. One stray bullet and someone could end up dead.

But stopping the hunt wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Everyone carried firearms in their trucks. Usually on homemade window racks. Others just threw them in the back of their vehicle or along the runner of their snow machine or under a heavy fur on a dog sled.

“Hey, Ben,” Mike said to the tall fellow in the back of the truck.

The first nations man gave a nod that was almost imperceptible. It was the white man’s way to say hello and goodbye, not those of the first  nations.

“You seen the dogs?

“They were over on the mainland early this morning,” Mike said.

“They got Mary Land’s dog last night. Killed it bad.”

Mike shook his head.

“You guys the hunting party?”

No answer, and no guns in site. They might be a decoy. Hard to tell, as he hadn’t heard any gunshots yet.

They banged on the roof of the truck, hollered directions at the driver and drove off.

It was about an hour later that Mike found the men at the garbage dump. He had been on the mainland when he heard the shooting. There were about 15 carcasses and no guns in site. Not even in the window rack.  Mike sighed in relief. Out here there was no way anyone could get hurt by accident. He nodded to Calvin Skead, took a deep breath and walked away. The landfill was set up in such a way that the pack had been pushed up against a hill of garbage. There was nowhere for them to go. And even though the shooting had seemed to go on forever, the job must have been done in mere minutes.

Mike was so upset he didn’t even comment when the driver put the truck in reverse and drove away. What was a dump for anyway?

* * *

Mike went home for lunch. Marion had a rich and creamy potato soup on the stove. She met him at the door with a big hug. These shoots always left Mike in a terrible state. They talked about it after Mike had finished up the deeply warming soup.

“How many this time?”

“Fifteen.”

“Are you okay?”

“Not really. I didn’t catch them in the act.”

He sat silently for a few moments.

“If the people would just think before getting an animal. Most of the families barely squeak by. It doesn’t take very long before they realize how expensive a pet can be, just in food costs alone. Then they just boot the dogs out, leaving them to fend for themselves. It’s no wonder they pack. Think of a bunch of 5 year-old kids thrown out on the street. How long would it take them to go feral? Either that or die.”

Mike shook his head in disgust.

“There are times I really hate this job”

“Can’t the dogs be reintegrated into the community?”

“Not once they’ve gone wild. You could never really trust them again, and they wouldn’t really trust you. Sooner or later someone or a dog would be hurt. And we both know what the solution to that is. No, these guys did the right thing, even though the law doesn’t agree.”

Marion changed the subject.

“How did the eviction go?”

“Eviction? Oh, the pilot. He was a nice kid. Deer in the headlights though. He didn’t know what hit him. It probably didn’t begin to sink in until they were in the air and headed down to Sioux Lookout.”

“Girls will be girls, hmm?”

“Something like that. Can’t say he wasn’t warned.”

Mike rubbed his face with his hands.

“What people don’t understand is that they’re submerged in another culture. They would take great care not to offend if they went to Japan or just about anyplace foreign. It’s like this in Quebec too. A whole different culture most of us know nothing about.”

Marion got up and massaged his shoulders.

“Strangers in a Strange Land?”

“That’s about it, honey.”

She kissed him softly and deeply.

“What was that for?”

“Something to look forward to at the end of the day.”

Mike smiled and said, “I love you a lot, honey.”

With that, he got up, put on his Jacket and stepped out into the bright sun. It was a beautiful spring day, with the snow sparkling like diamonds and the air so clean and cold it almost hurt to breath. He thought for a moment and made the decision to go ice fishing later in the day. For some reason this end of the lake made for poor ice sport, but it would be a nice way to relax.

However, he had one more unpleasant job to do. But it was necessary, to say the least. One of the elders wanted to talk to him about his grandson. He was pretty sure he was sniffing, and he thought Mike might talk to the boy. They both wanted to find out who had the supply of glue that had recently appeared on the reserve. Maybe he could get the boy thinking straight and maybe he would talk. One never knew.

Another problem of heartbreaking proportions.

***

Mike, drove silently, thinking hard about his decision to become the first stationed policeman at Big Trout Lake. It used to be the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) had a regular rotation of visits and were always on call in Sioux Lookout, some 250 miles south. Now, here he was, an OPP officer by training, but a band cop in principal. After all, they funded his paycheck.

Things were strange here. Mike was native. Ojibway, mostly. But this was a Cree reservation. He was almost as much an outsider as the whites who lived and worked on the rez. The young people were highly suspicious of him, the elders tolerated him (It was their decision that had led to this pilot program) and the old ladies loved to poke fun at him. Their last joke was to send him a plate full of Elk strips. They had been delicious when fried like bacon, but Mike knew darn well he would never want to know how the meat was cured. He still shuddered at the thought of the moose meat Old man Beardy had offered him. The gutted moose was lying, hide on and all, in the middle of the warm kitchen. It appeared to have been there for some time, the old man just lifted a flap of hide—showing that about a third of the moose was gone—and sliced off a nice sized roast. Mike knew he couldn’t refuse the meat.

He never remembered such behaviour when he was growing up. A moose was hung in a cool room for 3-5 days, depending on how warm the weather was, then it was butchered. And the meat was damned fine. As good as the Beardy roast he had forced himself to eat. The dogs? He had seen plenty of dogs kicked in the ribs, but he had never heard of one being abandoned. The girls? If they wanted a white man, they had to move off the reserve. Mike supposed it was a form of BCR, but at least the couples were allowed to stay together.

No, Big Trout Lake was different. About the only thing he approved of was that it was a dry reserve. Natives just can’t hold their liquor. There must be some sort of missing gene, because it was a fact that held true throughout all the Indian Nations. And it wasn’t any different with glue or paint or gasoline. These things were easy highs for those willing to risk the substances, and they were most definitely habit forming.

Mike stopped in front of the Elder’s home. The boy, Martin Redsky, was at home and waiting for him. Mike accepted tea and passed some time talking with the senior Redsky. The man was in his 70’s but he looked a lot older. The rawness of a life lived in the outdoors had taken its toll on his skin. Eventually they came to the problem at hand.

“How long have you been sniffing, Martin?”

“Didn’t say I have.”

“Your grandfather seems to think it’s true.”

“He’s old. His mind runs off with him.”

“Maybe, but I notice you’ve got a bad case of the slurs.”

“So what.”

“I can get you into a program that will help you get sober.”

“Don’t want to.”

“Do you respect your grandfather?”

“When his mind is working right.”

“Then don’t you think you owe it to him to try and kick this thing.”

“Ain’t got a thing.”

“Do you mind if I check your room.”

“You gotta have a warrant Five-oh.”

“Not if you say it’s okay.”

“Not gonna do it.”

Mike looked at the elder and shrugged. “I can’t help if he doesn’t want help.”

The old man nodded and swung his palm low and flat.

They were done here.

Mike left without saying goodbye. He was that much of a native, anyway. Then he thought of his wife, waiting for him at home and he decided fishing could wait. There was nothing better than a little lovin’ to cure the Big Trout Lake Blues.

 

Copyright © 2014 Clayton Clifford Bye

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Lughnasadh is Near by R.L. Cherry

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Some readers may wonder, “What the heck is a lughnasadh?”  Is it some rodent from the Arabian peninsula?  Is it a balm for wounds used in ancient Persia?  Although there was a movie titled “Dancing at Lughnasa” with Meryl Streep and Michael Gambon that won an Irish Film and Television Award, it was not exactly a blockbuster and not that many watched it in America.  The award gives away that Lughnasadh (also spelled Lughnansa) is an Irish word, the name of one of the four ancient fire festivals in Gaelic (Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man) lands that were celebrated each year.  The other three are Samhain, Imbolc and Beltaine, with Samhain (New Year’s eve), or its modern manifestation of Halloween, being the one observed worldwide with many carry-over traditions from the original form.  But what is Lughnasadh?

Roughly halfway between summer solstice and the autumn equinox, it is traditionally celebrated on July 31st and continuing into the early morning of August 1st.  The name is derived from combining the name of a Celtic god Lugh, who was sort of a jack-of-all trades god, and nasad, which means an assembly.  In Irish myth, it all began when Lugh held a funerary feast and games after the death of his mother.  The Irish are known for having rip-roaring wakes (remember Finnegan) and Lugh threw the grand-daddy of them all.  The ancient Irish kept it as a tradition, eventually celebrating the “first fruits” harvest with a big bash on Lugh’s day, or night.

While the ancient Irish are said to have had games, ceremonies and the sacrifice of a bull along with their feasting, it changed after Christianity came to Ireland from St. Patrick and other missionaries.  Often called Lammas or Lammastide (an Anglo-Saxon term from “loaf-mass”), a loaf of bread would be brought into church and laid on the altar as a symbolic offering of the first fruits of harvest to God rather than a bull sacrificed to Lugh.   Pilgrimages to holy sites became popular as well.  But baptizing Lughnasadh did not ruin the fun part.  It became a traditional time of matchmaking and festival, with feasting and dancing.  Horse trading also became popular, no doubt linked to matchmaking.

Although Lugnasadh waned a bit in popularity in the mid-twentieth century, it has since had a resurgence.  Lughnasadh Fairs, sometimes anglicized to Lammas Fairs, are held all over Ireland.  The one at Ballycastle, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, is called the Ould Lammas Fair, claims to be one of the oldest, more than three centuries, and draws thousands of attenders each year.  Their publicity warns visitors to come early to avoid the long traffic jams.  They have over 400 stalls offering all kinds of crafts, artwork, clothing, jewelry, farm produce and junk.  Well, they call the junk “bric-a-brac.”  There are street performers of all types, pony rides and traditional music as well.  Plus lots of food and drink.  They say not to miss their famous “Yellow Man,” a candy made from honeycomb and “dulse,” a dried seaweed that is also used for medicinal purposes.  That last one sounds yummy.

Ballycastle’s Ould Lammas Fair even has its own theme song, written by John Henry “The Carver” MacAuley, who owned the Bog Oak Shop.  He made his living carving oak recovered from bogs into everything from pipestands to animals, selling many at the fair.  Although crippled as a boy, he was a fine fiddler.  He died in 1937, but his song lives on.

 

Ould Lammas Fair

by John Henry MacAuley

 

At the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle long ago

I met a pretty colleen who set me heart a-glow

She was smiling at her daddy buying lambs from Paddy Roe

At the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle-O!

Sure I seen her home that night

When the moon was shining bright

From the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle-O!

 

Chorus:

At the Ould Lammas Fair boys were you ever there

Were you ever at the Fair In Ballycastle-O?

Did you treat your Mary Ann

To some Dulse and Yellow Man

At the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle-O!

 

In Flander’s fields afar while resting from the War

We drank Bon Sante to the Flemish lassies O!

But the scene that haunts my memory is kissing Mary Ann

Her pouting lips all sticky from eating Yellow Man

As we passed the silver Margy and we strolled along the strand

From the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle-O!

(Chorus)

 

There’s a neat little cabin on the slopes of fair Knocklayde

It’s lit by love and sunshine where the heather honey’s made

With the bees ever humming and the children’s joyous call

Resounds across the valley as the shadows fall

Sure I take my fiddle down and my Mary smiling there

Brings back a happy mem’ry of the Lammas Fair.

(Chorus)

R.L. Cherry is a long-term columnist about classic cars and hot rods for The Union newspaper in Grass Valley, CA, and his short stories have appeared in several eZines.  He has published two books, a female-detective mystery titled Christmas Cracker and a noirish suspense titled Foul Shot, both available in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.com.  For more about him and his writing, go to http://www.rlcherry.com

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