What Did I Do Wrong? by Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

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All pleadings left unheard. Why? The air stinks of blood. Cheers and roars from the crowd pound my ears, and eat at my soul. One by one they leave only to be replaced by new faces—some I recognize—all doomed like me. Terror reigns in their eyes as the guards push them into cells filled with the sickening stench of human excrement mixed in the rotting hay piles. The poor fools try to drink the rust-laden water.

The guard approaches. Yellowing filthy teeth frame a sardonic smile accentuated by his foul breath from rotting teeth. No words needed. A long lust-laden gaze communicates his intent. “You don’t have to worry, Madame. Not as long as you are friendly. The friendly sorts remain a little longer.”

I swallow hard. My eyes fix on his. “Why am I here? I’ve done nothing wrong.”

His sinister chuckle chills me. “Nothing wrong? You’re friends with an aristocrat. That’s crime enough to sever your head. There will be no aristocrats left in France, nor those that are friends with them.”

“I was only an acquaintance of Madamoiselle Gaultier. I met her once at a party,” comes my plea. “My husband was a doctor. I’m a plain person as you.”

“Like me, you say? Not very well likely. You dressed in fine silks and satins.” He inches closer to the cell bars. “Did you not come by those clothes from being friendly with the male Royals your husband tended to? Like I said, do me some favors and you might keep your head a few days longer.”

His hand grazes the crotch of his breeches.

I give no reply.

The jailer turns with an air of triumph, clearly knowing he has the upper hand.

~~#~~

Night. A stream of silver colors my dank and dark surroundings. That small window is my only connection to the outside world. Wailings and moans fill the air.

A woman in the cell next to mine sidles to the bars separating us.

“Have you been here long?” she whispers. Her eyes are wild with fear. “Do you know when they will do it?”

“Some are chosen quickly.” No need to give her false hope. “Others have been here for over a week. I have no idea why. I pray this madness will end before I’m chosen.”

I look at her finely manicured nails and coiffed wig. “Why did they take you?”

“My lover was an aristocrat.” Tears fill her eyes. “They killed him last week.”

“Madame Guillotine took my husband seven days ago. I can still hear his pleadings for mercy in my ears. They might have met in the same wagon.” She looks so frightened. “You’re young and pretty. You might be spared. There’s always hope.”

“You mean, sleep with those filthy jailers?” Her gasp escapes. “I was a mistress because I loved him—not a common whore.”

“Adjust your morals.” She needs to understand the price of survival. “Letting a guard have his way is better than if you don’t.”

~~#~~

Heavy footsteps approach. Keys jangle. Is he coming for me? No, it’s night. Beheadings are during the day after the crowd gathers. Has he come for payment for sparing me one more day? My breath catches in my throat. I dare not move and pretend to sleep.

I peek through my eyelashes. The guard stands there, sizing up his victim–a man picking over the display on a fruit stand.

Please choose someone else.

His hand plunges into his pants encouraging his lust. The guard steps closer. Only the bars separate us until he makes his decision. He turns to the cell next to mine. Please, God, let it be her and not me! Metal on metal sounds from the key turning the lock. The creaking door screeches in my ears. His demonic laugh pierces my soul. I don’t move, still giving the illusion of sleep.

A screech comes from the next cell.

“Please, sir. Don’t!” the young girl cries out.

“What? I’m not good enough for you?” he bellows. “My manhood not adorned in Royal finery?”

“I might be with child,” she begs.

“What is that to me?” He unbuttons his breeches. “If you do well by me, and often. “You might keep your head. Small price for fifteen minutes work. Now, spread your legs.”

The jailer lunges after her, pushing her against the wall, and lifts her skirt. I turn my head in disgust. Her cries and sobs mingle with the others in this rat-infested hellhole. His grunts and moans grow faster. Soon, the young girl’s reprieve from this barbaric torture is at hand. Maybe, just maybe, he will favor her and her life will be spared. This reign of terror must come to an end.

Will I survive? Will she? How many more sunrises are in my future?

~~#~~

Morning.  Sunlight brightens the cell with hope. I begin every day with a vision of freedom.

The gathering crowd cheers for the killings to begin. Hawkers offer handfuls of hair cut from the once coiffed heads of well-known aristocrats.

Heavy, footsteps come closer. The bloodthirsty games have begun once more. I hold my breath. Is it today? Will I join my husband? Two guards swing open the door. A lump forms in my throat. Do they demand favors—or death?

A gruff jailer grabs at my upper arm, tearing my sleeve further. “Come along. You’re turn to go.”

“No!” I scream. “Not yet!!”

I struggle to pull away. His grip tightens. Another guard grabs under my armpit.

God, accept my soul into Your heavenly Kingdom.

A third jailer yanks the Rosary beads from my hands. They walk me out into the daylight, and up the steps to a wagon. I stand with others, who all share my fate—all sport the look of shock and disbelief.

Eager peasants yell with glee and run alongside as the wagon rattles on the uneven cobblestone street. The ride is swift. The abrupt stop echoes the abrupt end of our lives. Lives brought short by this insane mob.

I’m the first . A kind-eyed soldier extends his hand. He looks sympathetic, but is loyal to his orders.

“Please, Madame,” he offers. “Watch your step.”

Despite my tears, I smile knowing his kindness is the last I will ever experience. He leads me to the scaffold steps. Dripping blood, from the guillotine platform, puddles on the ground below. Hungry dogs lap up this treat. Two men stand there, waiting for me—one holds the rope that controls the blade. Another binds my hands with harsh rope. He cuts my long mane at my neck and offers it to the crowd with outstretched arm. “What will you give for this Royal hair?” Their jeers ring in my brain.

All too soon, he pushes me onto a plank. My head is roughly positioned on a jagged neck support. It is wet, cold, and sticky with blood. The crowd chants, “Off with her head! Kill the sow!” Another board secures my neck. I look at the faces eager for my death. All eyes look in the direction of the blade-keeper. The swift thug of mental to flesh sounds. Crushing, burning pain. Someone lifts my head by the hair. I see them laughing.  My eyes close. All is black. I am free.

©2014 Cynthia B Ainsworthe

Bastille Day, July 14, is celebrated by French nationals. The excesses of the ruling classes oppressed the common people to the point of abject starvation. This lead to mass hysteria during the Reign of Terror. Approximately 40,000 died. Of those, it is estimated that 80-85 percent were common citizens.

Author Bio

Born in Mahopac, NY, raised in Yorktown Heights, NY, Cynthia longed to become a writer. Life circumstances put her dream on hold for most of her life. Some eight years ago she ventured to write her first novel, Front Row Center, which won the IPPY (Independent Publisher) Award and is now being adapted to screen with a script is in development by she and Hollywood screenwriter, Scott C Brown. Since then Cynthia shares with other authors the Reader’s Favorite International Award for two short stories, When Midnight Comes, and Characters, she contributed to the horror anthology The Speed of Dark, by Clayton C Bye. It Ain’t Fittin’ earned her the Excellence in Writing Award by It Matters Radio. Cynthia enjoys her retirement from her profession as a registered cardiac nurse in Florida, caring for her husband and five poodle-children.

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and

http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=2165

 

 

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The Reality in the Fiction by Bryan Murphy

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 I’m working on a novel set in Portugal in the 1970s: the time of the country’s “Carnation Revolution” that put an end to a very nasty dictatorship.

I’d love to say I was there, but I wasn’t. I spent six months living and working in Oporto, in the north of Portugal, before the Revolution, was back in England when it took place, and returned to Portugal to try my luck some months after the event. As that luck would have it, I arrived in Lisbon on the day of an abortive counter-coup. I was overjoyed to join the revolutionaries who took to the streets that evening; the demo was a great introduction to the city, because all Lisbon’s major landmarks lay on its route.

That experience went into a poem, below, which appeared in The Pygmy Giant in April 2011.

The main character in the novel is very different from myself. He is a businessman, a man of action, affable, outgoing and down-to-earth. This forces me to look at the events of those years from a viewpoint that is not my own, a salutary experience, I think. He shares some of my experiences, but, in most cases, he does not see them or react to them as I did. One such experience, though, troubles him as it did me. It comes at the end of this poem: finding yourself part of a crowd braying for blood. It was exhilarating at the time, but is devastating when you look back on it.

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Marching

 

Lisbon! Grungy, unfresh from the train,

I arrive the evening a coup fails, eager

to grab the smudgy, press-hot leaflets

thrust out by enthusiastic scruffs –

revolutionaries for real.

 

I find my two friends – keys to a new life -

dump my shabby case of battered belongings,

sample wine, cheese, coffee: ready for action

in the warm September night.

 

Politics and sight-seeing: sensory nectar

for an eager-eyed anarchist. Better

than Aldermaston, as we flow

from the Bullring to the Edward VII Park

(statue of Marquis with lion)

 

then down the Avenida de Liberdade, yelling

undying devotion to freedom saved today,

into Trafalgar, no, Rossio Square,

our slogans failing to bring down Emperor Maximilian

(bought cheap from the Mexicans who’d shot the real thing,

re-baptised as a Portuguese king, erected too high

for hoi polloi to scrutinise his features),

 

through the commercial district, laid out in a grid

for the king’s men to navigate fast, not this red tide

of want-it-now millenarians plunging with victor’s joy

into the elegant waterside square, Terreiro do Paço,

where, by day, a river that seems a sea

reflects Lisbon’s unique light.

 

Above us, on our left, Alfama, the walled Arab town

(where storming 13th century crusaders,

blind to tolerance, murdered everyone,

Christian archbishop and all).

 

We turn right, follow the river mouthwards,

heaving with indignant, righteous, solid noise,

past a fascist monument to the Discoveries

of long-inhabited lands, past a tiny fortress

squatting on the water, past the delicate fluted columns

of Jerónimos’s closed cloisters

 

to our destination: the president’s palace at Belém,

cradle of the new-born, military-guided democracy,

where after-midnight campaign euphoria

gives vent to chanted blood-lust:

“Spínola, Osório, Galvão:

execução!”

 

Doubt, distaste flash among three friends,

then we rally our voices to the cause:

a mighty shared demand

that the revolution finally begin

to devour its children.

 

Happy endings.

I went back to Lisbon last year and met old friends I had not seen since those days. I mentioned my shame at the poem’s final incident, and one of those dear friends, who has become more Portuguese than the Portuguese themselves, put my mind to rest by assuring me that it had all been “só bocas” – just mouthing off.

The Revolution had a happy ending for Portugal. It got rid of fascism for good and brought the country into the free international community. Forty years on, people were taller, less poor, better-fed, better-housed, better-dressed and better-spoken; they no longer sacrificed their cities to the automobile; creativity had free reign. The Revolution was long past, but, perhaps because its worst face had been “só bocas”, no-one ever devoured its children.

 

Bio:

Bryan is currently working on a novel set in Portugal in the 1970s. He welcomes visitors at http://www.bryanmurphy.eu . You can find his e-books here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts and several of his poems and flash fiction pieces here:  http://thecamelsaloon.blogspot.it/search/label/Bryan%20Murphy .

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The Magical Healing Properties of Horses   By   Trish Jackson

child on horse

Whether you are a horse lover or not, you cannot help being in awe of the amazing healing power of horses. From the time of the ancient Greeks, people have recognized the magical curative capabilities of equine therapy, not only for physical disabilities, but also emotional, social, cognitive, and behavioral difficulties, and even to improve speech and educational skills for both adults and children.

Hippotherapy—from the Greek ‘hippo’ meaning horse, is based on the premise of a horse’s rhythmic, repetitive movements, which can help improve muscle tone, balance, posture, coordination, strength, flexibility and cognitive skills. On top of this, the movements also generate responses in the patient that are similar to, and essential for walking.

Therapeutic Horseback Riding, or Therapeutic Riding (TR), Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP), and Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) are other recognized types of horse therapy. In addition to horseback riding, participants groom and care for the horses and learn about trust and relationships, and responsibility. This is particularly beneficial for troubled youths, with problems like attention deficit disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, abuse issues, depression, anxiety, and relationship and communication problems. Their interaction with the horses helps reduce stress levels and anxiety, and encourages increased feelings of self-esteem and patience. Grooming and caring for horses can also help military personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder or other emotional challenges.

You might think this in itself is mind-boggling, but there are more benefits. Adjusting to and accommodating for the horse’s movements stimulates the inner ear, which controls all voluntary movement of the body, including speech, and also increases sensorimotor integration—the nervous system’s ability to create involuntary or automatic movement.

As just one example, autistic children prefer to turn left because they can use their most developed brain hemisphere, the right hemisphere. Right turns on the horse can actually help restart the development of the left brain.

Physical and developmental conditions most often treated are:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Developmental delay
  • Autism
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Spina bifida
  • Convulsive disorders
  • Amputation
  • Muscular dystrophy

Equine therapists must undergo special training and pass stringent exams. They address various therapeutic goals by having patients turn in circles, change direction repeatedly, or ride in different positions: sitting or lying forwards, backwards or sideways; standing in the stirrups; and riding without holding. In addition, patients may be asked to stretch, reach or play games — such as catch — while on the horse.

The horses used are hand-picked for their gentle nature, and are safe and well-trained.

I have personally witnessed a child who stopped speaking for two years after his father was murdered, who learned to speak again when he was taken for regular visits to a horse stable. It wasn’t a recognized therapy center and he didn’t even ride the horses. The simple pleasure of stroking and being around them was all he needed.

I am also about to follow the journey of my friend Anita’s autistic son, Kevin. He is 10 years old and although his parents have spent thousands of dollars on therapy, he has shown no improvement and remains locked inside his private world, a prisoner of his own mind. In desperation, Kevin’s parents are going to start him on equine therapy, even though as a family, they have never owned pets or animals, and Kevin has never touched a horse. I’ll be monitoring Kevin’s progress on my own blog, and I encourage anyone who has an autistic child or relative to join me.

I want to believe equine therapy will unlock Kevin’s mind, but only time will tell.

Equine therapy is still in its infancy in the US, and it seems to have no boundaries. I look forward to the discovery of more of the healing power of horses.

Trish Jackson writes emotive romantic suspense focusing on small towns, country folk and their animals. www.trishjax.com

Soul-stirring, passionate, thrilling – and fun. 

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An American Puppy in Havana By Eduardo Cervino

Eve garden

Eve garden

The puppy came from the United States in the winter of 1947. Carmen de Quesada, wife of a Cuban diplomat and my mother’s friend, brought him to me as a gift.

It was my first visit to the airport. I’d never seen an airplane up close before, and now I could see one and receive my first pet, all in the same day.

The trip to the air terminal filled me with such anticipation I had to visit the toilet several times that morning. Breakfast weighted my entrails like the ballast on a vessel.

My father carried me on his shoulders so I could see over the crowd. I had the best seat in the place, and saw in the cerulean-blue horizon the man-made silver bird get bigger and bigger.

The gracious curves of the Cubana de Aviacion Super G Constellation plane glided in front of me. The roar of the engines calmed the rattle of my nerves.

I took a mental photograph. It still hangs in the ethereal labyrinth inside my head.

Carmen, an aristocratic woman with a strange foreign accent, was as Cuban as the Morro Castle in the Bay of Havana. But she had lived in the USA on and off her entire life. Her way of speaking made me look at her lips with the impertinent curiosity of a child. We waited for her bags to arrive. I kept looking at her and the baggage cart.

My father placed me into her extended arms. She gave me a wet kiss.

“¿Donde esta mi perro?” I asked while pushing against her shoulder to better see the contents of the baggage cart.

My mother reprimanded me, but I couldn’t care less. Then I saw the wire basket with a puppy in it. An airline employee brought him to Carmen. An eternity later, the puppy was free and in my arms. The fluffy white ball of fur with round belly licked my face. His kisses were also wet, but I loved them. He was anxious, too, and a short stream of piss stained my blue shirt.

“His name is Happy,” Carmen said. I had no idea what she meant.

“It means feliz,” my mother said.

 

The rest of the day passed in a flash. Happy and I played in the car, on our house floor, and in our garden full of hibiscus, where he trampled a few of my mother’s red gladiolus. We chased each other on the back patio around the mango tree. My parents argued about letting him sleep in my bed. Father said yes, Mother said no.

Happy’s feeble whimpers by my ear woke me each morning.

Winter went by and summer came. Cubans do not bother with such minutia as the four seasons. If it rains, it’s winter; if it boils, it’s summer. It’s that simple.

Happy grew before my eyes like a balloon. Soon, he could place his front paws on my shoulder and lick my face. I still love the picture showing him doing so. It’s faded and creased in the corner, but the happiness it contains fills my heart just the same.

We ate together. He sat by my side and waited for the crumbs I tossed from my plate.

“Don’t give him chicken bones,” my grandmother warned me.

Her eyes reflected the wisdom of the ages. Her love for the dog and me made her smile a perennial feature of her face.

 

By the end of the next rainy season, October of 1948, my personal low eating table and small chair in the dining room had been put away. I was tall enough to sit at the round dining table with the rest of the family. We had chicken on the menu, and Happy sat under the table waiting for me. A couple of times, I felt his paw’s gentle reminder of our mutual understanding.

“I love you, you feed me, and life goes on happy as a clown.”

I had forgotten Grandma’s advice. When no one looked, I handed him a piece of the succulent chicken breast. After dinner, we retired to the living room and listened to my uncle reading from the book of the week. I can’t recall what he was reading that particular night. Nor can I remember what time they carried me to bed.

But I do remember Happy wasn’t in the bed with me when I woke up. I went looking for him. He favored the mango tree’s shade above any other place in the back garden. He lay there, breathing and immobile. Blood stained Happy’s rump. He moved his head, looked at me, and whimpered. I would never forget it. My mother came.

Father and Mother had divorced by then, but Father came home to go with us to the vet. They engaged in another polite argument in front of me.

“He should not be here,” she said.

“This is part of life, the type of lesson the boy needs. One only Mother Nature can teach him,” he said.

Grandma, the ultimate, loving arbiter of any family discussion, intervened.

“Jenny,” she said, referring to my mother, “in this case, I agree with him.”

We sat in the vet’s waiting room, and she held me between her legs.

“Happy is sick,” she told me. “The vet will explain what’s wrong with him, but we know he is going to go away. Papa God is calling him.”

I said nothing. Nor did I cry. The adults exchanged glances. The vet beckoned us. Father carried me, and we all entered an animal operating room. Happy lay on the shiny metal table moving his eyes inside the sockets, but not his head.

At first, they hesitated talking in front of me. The vet explained that the chicken breast bones were fragile. After Happy chewed and swallowed them, they had punctured his intestines in several places.

“We have to put him to sleep,” the vet said.

Operating on him was possible but did not guarantee recovery.

Everybody nodded. I reached to pet his soft fur. Happy whimpered once more.

It was difficult to see through the lens of tears. I did not notice the vet injecting him. He passed away.

My father had told me men don’t cry. I didn’t know yet how wrong he was. So I didn’t make a sound.

Back at the house, my father sat with me on the porch. His rocking chair swayed back and forth, back and forth.

The morning dew had become a mild drizzle. The gladiolus Happy had trampled his first day in the house had grown back, and rain pooled inside the blooms.

“Eddy,” my father said. “Do you understand death? This is the first time you have seen it close, but son, it won’t be the last.”

“I have seen it before, Dad.”

My father turned my face so he could look straight into my eyes. He said nothing and waited for me to continue.

“I remember the little white box with my baby sister’s body and all the white flowers around it. The candles and the people.”

Father squeezed me against his muscular chest. I hadn’t seen his handsome face so close since he left the house. “I’m so sorry, son. I can’t believe you remember your sister Miriam. You were only four years old. ”

“But I do remember, Dad. It is one of the things I can see in my head from when I was younger.”

Grandma had appeared on the porch carrying a tray with thick, black Cuban coffee. The aroma reached me. She had heard the last few sentences. She sat in another rocking chair. They sipped the aromatic nectar.

“Eddy,” she said, “death is part of life and not to be feared. What do you think, son?”

“Grandma, why does Papa God take away puppies?”

 

# # #

 

Eduardo Cerviño is a Cuban-American writer who often, but not always, bases his novels and short stories on those human encounters that left indelible imprints in his mind. The wide, intense panorama of his life spans his youth in Cuba and his adulthood in Latin America, Europe, and the USA. He resides in Arizona. Please visit his website to learn about his writing:  www.ecbrierfield.com.

 

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WHEN WORDS FAIL, MUSIC SPEAKS… by Roger Ellory

27 05 14 ROCK - ZERO NAVIGATOR

 The irony was not altogether lost on me.  Though irony – possibly – was not the right word.  Perhaps it was just another example of the way in which life can sometimes double-back, can turn suddenly and reflect itself every once in a while.  A variation of déjà vu.  An echo.

I sit in a darkened film-editing suite.  The room is thick with smoke.  I am watching a rough cut of a film by Olivier Dahan, Oscar-winning director of ‘La Vie En Rose’.  On the sound system is a previously unheard soundtrack written by Bob Dylan.  It is my first trip to Paris, and there I am – somewhere in an office within the shadow of the Eiffel Tower – discussing the possibility of writing a screenplay of my book, ‘A Quiet Belief In Angels’.   What happened as a result of that meeting, the three days I spent in Paris, the screenplay, the potential film…all of this is irrelevant to the story.  What was really interesting to me about that first meeting was Robert Johnson.  Forrest Whittaker as Robert Johnson, right there on the screen ahead of me.  The whole backstory of Johnson – how he met Lucifer at the crossroads and sold his soul for the Blues.  That story.

It was a story within the film that Dahan had just made, and it was a story I’d heard before.

Backwards more than thirty years.  A seven year-old child stands in the hallway of a strange house.  His mother has just died, and he has been sent to stay with a relative.  The relative, a great aunt – has a son.  The son is a teenager, a wild guy, a rocker, and he has a room painted black with posters all over the walls – Hendrix, Joplin, Canned Heat, Jim Morrison and The Doors.  He spends his time playing records, smoking cigarettes, drinking beer.

The seven year-old – lost, confused, alone now – finds some strange comfort in the company of this wild teenager.  The teenager tells him a story and plays him a record.  ‘Robert Johnson,’ the little boy is told.  ‘He went down to the crossroads and sold his soul to the Devil for the Blues…’  And the little boy listens, and he hears something in the music that stirs something inside of him, and he knows that no other music will ever sound the same.  Perhaps more accurately, he will never be able to listen to any other style of popular music and not hear the Blues somewhere hiding within it.

Because the Blues sits behind everything.  It is a rhythm, an atmosphere, a heartbeat, a pulse, a colour, a feeling.  It isn’t just a sound.  You hear sounds with your ears.  But this wasn’t just something you heard, it was something you could feel in your heart.

The fact that the seven year-old boy went on to write novels is also not part of that story.  Not directly.  The fact that the boy became a writer who was always trying to capture that feeling, that emotion, that sound with words, is perhaps more to the point.  Because they’re the same thing.  It’s the emotional connection.  The emotional impact.

I was that boy, and now I am that writer.  And I read to feel something.  I listen to Son House and Leadbelly and Muddy Waters and Charley Patton to feel something too.  The emotion comes first, the rhythm comes second, the dancing comes last.  Music is an outburst of the soul, Delius said.

My interest was sparked, like the small flame at the tail of the touchpaper, and at the end of that touchpaper was dynamite.  I moved on from there, found so many different stories that had all been woven from the same original strands.  It was an evolution, a progression – up through British rhythm and blues to The Yardbirds, The Animals, The Stones, and then the sound of the West Coast – The Elevators and Quicksilver, and West Texas variations like Doug Sahm, and out of the swamps came Dr. John and Professor Longhair, ‘Gris Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya’ and its strange, distorted reflection of the same things that the delta Bluesmen were saying.

All the same emotion.  All the same story, just told in very different ways.

My girl gone left me.  She left me alone.  You don’t know how it feels to have no home.  Got no money in my pocket, no shoes on my feet.  Got no food in my belly and my bed’s in the street.

It’s all humanity, the same things suffered a thousand different ways.

Music was the support, the way in which we survived our difficulties, our travails, our losses.  As Virgil Thomson said, ‘I’ve never known a musician who regretted being one.  Whatever deceptions life may have in store for you, music is not going to let you down.’

And even the whites had their own thing going.  They suffered the Depression, they suffered hardships, of course, and they sang and played their way through it.  European immigrants into the Maritime Provinces and the Southern Appalachian Mountains brought Old World instruments with them – the fiddle from Ireland, the banjo from West Africa, the guitar from Spain, the mandolin from Italy.  ‘Little Log Cabin in the Lane’, recorded by Fiddlin’ John Carson in the early 20s, Vernon Dalhart’s national hit, ‘Wreck of the Old ’97’, the flipside of which was something called – not surprisingly – ‘Lonesome Road Blues’, and artists like this were followed by the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers who managed to fuse hillbilly country with gospel, jazz, blues and folk music.

And without Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family the ‘The Golden Age of Country’ would never have happened.  No-one would have heard of the Grand Ole Opry.  Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jnr., Townes Van Zandt and Willie Nelson would have just been playing for drinks in some out-of-town juke joint or bowling alley.  And on the West Coast, had it not been for Bob Wills and Lefty Frizzell, we would never have discovered The Bakersfield Sound, and Merle Haggard and Buck Owens would have been packing groceries or fixing cars in a truckstop outside of Mendocino.

And from these strange unions came yet another illegitimate child – real rockabilly.  Without that unlikely collision of hillbilly country music and Delta Blues we would never have had Carl Perkins or Elvis or Johnny Burnette or Eddie Cochran, and without Eddie Cochran we would never have had Chuck Berry, and without Chuck Berry we would never have had The Rolling Stones.

And then the brash parents took a roadtrip, travelled further afield, and as they travelled they produced further offspring – artists like Gram Parsons, Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead, Neil Young, The Allman Brothers, Buffalo Springfield and The Eagles.  Country Rock was born.  Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Freebird’ and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, Canned Heat’s ‘On The Road Again’ – released in 1968, adapted by Alan Wilson from a song of the same name, recorded by Floyd Jones in 1953.  And Jones’ song, well that was an adaptation of a song called ‘Big Road Blues’, recorded in 1928 by Delta Bluesman, Tommy Johnson.  Did they know at Woodstock that they were listening to a song that was twice as old as most of the people there?  Maybe not, but it didn’t matter.  It said the same thing a different way.  It conveyed the same emotions, the same heart, and you either got it or you didn’t.

These were no accidents, no coincidences.  Serendipity perhaps, but not coincidence.  The emotion was always there, always present, always pre-eminent.  The emotion was what it was all about.  And it carried through every thread, and it walked down every road, and it passed from hand to hand, from heart to heart, from soul to soul.  It was a communication.  It was a message.  And those that heard it, really heard it, well they understood that it was not something that could be measured or quantified or given a value.  It was priceless.  The music was priceless.  It was a universal language, applicable to all, understandable by all, and as it evolved it encompassed more and more people, more and more variations on the same theme, and even those that didn’t know exactly what they were listening to still felt the rhythm inside of themselves and got up to dance.

And the seven year-old kid?  He grew up.  He grew up with music everywhere, and if there wasn’t music when he got wherever he was going, well he soon got some organised.  He even played music himself on and off, back and forth over the years – and nearly four decades later he’s still hammering away at the same chords, and singing some of the same tunes, and putting a band back on the road when all sense and sensibility says that such a thing should not be considered by an unfit man in his mid-forties.  But to hell with the rules and regulations, to hell with the conservative, the expected, the norm.  This is about life.  This is about being whoever you are.  This is about feeling something inside of yourself that you cannot exorcise without making a noise.  ‘Zero Navigator’ and ‘The Whiskey Poets’ will appear somewhere, sometime, and they will play riffs invented by Bo Diddley and Paul Burlison and Mike Bloomfield and Scotty Moore.  Why?  Because they are timeless.   People might age, but the emotion stays young for ever.

And now – even when I write my fiction – I am looking for the same rhythm, that same pace, the same tensions that I find in music.  I am working on the sentences and paragraphs like they’re bars of music.  I am losing a word here and there because the phrase has one too many syllables and it doesn’t feel right.  I know when it sounds right to my ear.  I know when it looks right to my eye.  It has a tempo, a timbre, an atmosphere, a colour.  And when I write lyrics my musical heritage is all the more evident.  The girl is still leaving.  I still ain’t got no money.  The train’s pulling out of the station and I’am sleeping in the street.  This is what we do.  This is what we have to say.  This is what we sing about.  Matters of the heart.  Matters of the soul.  The business of life.

Music has always been there, always something to look forward to, always there to return to.  It is both a destination and a home; it is both a familiar friend and a new acquaintance; it is both a parent and a child.  I look back at my life, and all the important events, all the things that mattered – marriage, fatherhood, new jobs, new places and people…well, all of them were somehow connected to music.  I can say in music what I will never be able to write.  I can write in words what I will never be able to communicate with music.  It has been said that a composer composes because he cannot say what he wants in words.  I believe the corollary also, that a writer writes because he cannot yet communicate his thoughts and feelings with sounds.

And I leave the last words to a writer, fittingly.  Not just a writer, but a writer for children who yet spoke to all generations.  Hans Christian Andersen said something so simple, and yet it encompassed all complexities, all truths, all fundamentals: ‘When words fail, music speaks.’

For me, in just five words, I think that says it all.

 

As if writing powerful crime novels were not enough, British writer Roger Ellory is also a musician. Indeed, making music may be the greater of his two loves. RJ is guitarist and vocalist with Zero Navigator.  To find RJ’s books in the US visit

http://www.amazon.com/R.J.-Ellory/e/B002IVGFJO/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1403962252&sr=8-1
In England use
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Roger-Jon-Ellory/e/B002IVGFJO/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1403962965&sr=1-1-catcorr

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STELLA HAUNTS ME!

 

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I’m lying in bed next to my wife when Stella McMasters lifts the covers and slips in beside me.  She taps my chin.

“When are you going to do it?” she asks.

I glance over to see if Stella has awakened Jane.  My wife usually takes a dim view of me sleeping with two women at the same time.  Fortunately, she’s snoring.

I turn back.  “Going to do what?” I ask.

She snuggles closer.  “Tell the rest of my story.”

I sigh, for she’s asked this before.  Stella’s the cyborg heroine I created in Beyond Those Distant Stars, a SF action-adventure romance published by Mundania Press (http://tinyurl.com/74a6zqp).  Twice I’ve tried to write a sequel, Star Warrior, but I’ve been stymied each time by my friends’ substantial and valid criticisms.

I try to brazen it out.  “Listen, honey, you’re my creation, and it’s up to me to continue your story or not.”

This doesn’t fly.  Stella’s face hardens, and she raises a fist.  Two-thirds of her body is synthetic, and she could crush me with a single blow.  “I rule an empire of a thousand worlds,” she says, “and I’ve got enemies who want to destroy me.  Hell, there’s enough for a whole boatload of books.  I can be an even bigger hero than Miles.”

That’s Miles Vorkosigan, the creation of the multiple prize-winning SF author Lois McMaster Bujold, whose name inspired Stella McMasters’ name.  “Look,” I say, “I tried twice to continue your saga, but my writers’ group found too many implausibilities.”

Stella gives me a chaste kiss, which is unlike the passionate ones she gave her unfaithful lover in Beyond Those Distant Stars.  “Screw the implausibilities.  Just write it.”  She smiles.  “I feel great adventures ahead of me.  New challenges, new men, new triumphs and revelations.  Sweetie, my saga is just getting started.”

My name isn’t Sweetie, but I don’t tell her that.  “I can’t do it,” I say.  “I tried twice—”

Her hand squeezes me below the covers, but not as a lover.  I moan in pain.

“Do it,” she orders.  Seeing Jane roll over beside me, she taps my chin again and disappears.

Jane sighs.  “Stella again?” she asks.

Great.  My wife heard.  “Yes.”

She moves closer.  “It was worse this time, wasn’t it?”

I don’t need to answer.  Jane kisses me gently.

“Honey,” she says, “why don’t you do what she says.  Only in the sequel . . .”

“Yes?”

She giggles.  “In it, you kill the bitch off.”

* * *

Being haunted by your own character is no fun.  If Stella wants sequels, why doesn’t she take charge and sweep me along plot-wise like other authors’ characters do?  Doesn’t she recognize writer’s block when she sees it?

Two days later, I enter the shower to find Stella waiting there for me.

“Look,” I say, “we have to stop meeting like this.”

Nude, she taps my chin.  “Then you know what to do.”

* * *

After I dry off, I sit down and start Star Warrior again.

 

John has published twenty books and three hundred short stories, most of them science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal romance.  He’s the former editor of Horror Magazine and Chairman of the Board of the Horror Writers Association.  Recently, he’s focused on his Inspector of the Cross series which features a 4000-year-old hero fighting to save the human race from seemingly invincible aliens.

Web site: http://www.johnrosenman.com

Blog site: http://www.johnrosenman.blogspot.com

FB page: https://www.facebook.com/JohnBRosenman?ref=hl

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THE ART OF LISTENING MARTA MERAJVER-KURLAT

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Conversation is defined as a verbal exchange between two or more people. It stands to reason that, for exchange to take place, participants are expected to listen to each other/one another and contribute to a coherent development of the subject under discussion. In our days, it would seem as if the listening factor has fallen into abeyance. In a large number of cases, speech has become dominant, following some kind of interior monologue that overflows the boundaries of sense. Thus, the dialogues found in Ionesco’s plays of the Absurd, for example, have entered the arena of everyday life. We used to laugh at Ollendorff’s method for learning foreign languages. You may remember dialogues like the following:

“Is your mother home?”

“No, but it’s raining in the garden.”

One should say in his defense that he created his system to teach dead languages, especially Latin, and that in those days repetition proved instrumental to remembering. The adaptation to a relatively quick mastery of modern languages through nonsense strings like the above responded to the belief that high-frequency structures and vocabulary items should be grouped together and iterated until they automatically made their way from the mind to the tongue.

Most of the people who nowadays rattle off in blissful ignorance of this long-discarded method must do so for a reason, or at least I’d like to believe so. Otherwise, they would earn epithets I’d rather not bring into this reflection.

In the best of cases, verbal diarrhea might be attributed to extreme anxiety or to a desperate need to cleanse an overcrowded mind. In the worst of cases, self-centeredness rules. Only what the speaker says matters. He thinks so highly of himself that the other/others involved must become a subservient audience allowed to put in interjections or phrases showing assent.

Suppose two equally blown egos engage in a travesty of conversation. Like boxers in a ring, each of them seeks his rival’s weak spots or fatal moments of distraction. In our case, one lurks in wait for the other to stop for breath in order to pour his monologue into deaf ears.

Not listening to others detracts from our bonds to our fellow-beings, turning us into barren isles. Lack of empathy amounts to spiritual isolation and intellectual poverty. Like everything else in life, it is a matter of choice. Definitely not my choice.

 

MARTA MERAJVER-KURLAT is an Argentinean writer, translator, and psychoanalyst publishing in Spanish and English with Jorge Pinto Books Inc., New York. You are welcome to learn more about her on her Amazon page http://www.amazon.com/Marta-Merajver-Kurlat/e/B009TC8C5A

Website http://www.martamerajver.com.ar/marta/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/martamerajverkurlat

and in The Blog Room archives.

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Estelle by Linda Hales

Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same that it ever was. There is absolute unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
by Henry Scott Holland

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Inscription: To Milton Dearest-With all my Love, Estelle

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Top to Bottom: Wedding-Estelle & Milt; 4 generations with 5 children; 6th child

She was Estelle, a talented artist and much loved and lauded heroine among her family and friends who profess to feel her nearness unto this very day. Born in 1923, she would survive her malnourished beginnings, the Great Depression and WW2, all of which prepared her for a far more difficult, but in many ways, purposeful future.

Nostalgia…

As I sit at Kresge’s snack bar* after work on a 60’s Friday evening, my mind wandered into her reality for a brief moment as I reflected on her powerful influence in our lives. I wondered whether I would ever achieve her strength of heart and character in my own lifetime. After all, ‘Stell’, as she was known to her many friends and family, transcended all female stereotypes of that day…those women who customarily enjoyed being stay at home mothers, had dinner on the table at six and packed lunches for their brood each night before settling in for some quality time with their husbands. Stell had been a working Mother since 1950 and that luxury of choice was denied to her, although she more than made it up to us on her annual two week vacation with quality time and affection. Yes, she would fall into the same category as the war widow, left to fend on her own with no government support to lighten her load.

I’m interrupted as she approaches with my stepfather, taking the stools on either side of me. Greetings were exchanged with weekly customers who had become friends of sorts and food and coffee orders were placed. I was in my teens and already working full-time and looked forward to spending this personal time with my Mother. In that day, paydays fell on a Friday and such meetups were the weekly custom before grocery shopping.

Little did I know that such nostalgia would invade my senses whenever I would attempt to write about that era.

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Kresge’s Lunch Counter: PHOTO BY: Doug Griffin, Toronto Star, June 26, 2012 Article
*Kresge’s and Woolworth’s were small departments stores that were famous for their snack counters back in the day.

Our family beginnings…

‘Stell’ and ‘Milt’ were married in 1941, she at the age of eighteen and he at twenty-two. Daddy was an aero mechanic at Trenton AFB until he got his discharge at the end of World War II and by that time, as the second child, I was about to be born. Looking back to my earliest memories in the mid-forties, I recall stealing baby number three’s bottle and hiding out in the closet pretending that I was the only one while in fact, we were both still in diapers, only eleven months apart. My older sister by two and a half years was the big girl in the house and Mommy’s little helper with the babies. Yes, my Mother had been the proverbial ‘barefoot and pregnant’ mate for my handsome father who worked long hours building his new car dealership business, a family tradition that still exists today. They purchased a house which needed some renovation. To this end, Daddy devoted every available moment when he wasn’t working the business. Babies kept coming until there were five and life was good.

Then tragedy of the worst kind struck and our lives changed forever. They were only beginning to enjoy the fruits of their labor when Stell’s young life fell apart. On Easter Eve in 1950, while travelling to the next town to buy Easter eggs for the children, a fatal car accident stole Milt from his family at barely thirty years of age. She became a widow
at the tender age of twenty-six with five small children ranging in age from eight months to seven years.

Stell was forced to sell the business but there was little left over after the investment debts were paid off. After all, Daddy had barely begun and still owed his creditors for mortgage and equipment purchases but I have heard it said that the lawyer(s) took the lion’s share, leaving her in dire straits and a firm resolve to raise her family well ‘come hell or high water’ and that’s just what she did! That was 1950 when single Mothers received no favor in the workforce, at least not the jobs that would support a large family. Even voting was a relatively recent concept for women in those days. She took a store clerk position in a small local department store and worked six days a week. We all lived for Sundays, her one full day off, when we would have her home with us all day to cook those wonderful old fashioned dinners with home baked pies. On week days, my older sister and I peeled the potatoes and set the table in an effort to lighten her load after she had walked the mile or so home from work about 6:30 p.m. The younger ones did small chores around the house to do their part. Did I mention that she had Wednesday mornings off? That was traditionally the day that a week’s worth of laundry would be done in the old wringer washer and hung outside to dry.
Many financial challenges would follow and she was never able to put any money aside to do house renovations that Daddy had only begun before he passed away. Consequently, the plumbing he started when the town transitioned from well water to the town system was never completed. We were forced to remain on well water while it broke her heart to see that new bathtub, sink and other fixtures go unused for many years. Daily habits such as bathing had to be done the old fashioned way. Even worse, was bearing up through extreme winters with no house insulation and single pane windows that built up ice on the inside for several months until Spring would arrive and melt it all away. We relied on wood stove heat for our two story clapboard home and when the fire went out in the night, the kids would carry their blankets to the bedroom above the stove below. Sleeping together sideways in one bed was the only solution that made sense, given the circumstances.

Mother’s trials were many and her breaks were few. She was never able to rest because of her strong commitment to raising her children well. Life had not been easy and indeed, she never found her way to pursuing a church commitment for herself although, she insisted that the children go to Sunday school each week and to participate in church activities such as the children’s choir, concerts and picnics. As a strong measure of her love, our Mother was instrumental in initiating the Girl Guides and Brownies in our town with the official opening ceremonies conducted by none other than the founder, Lady Baden-Powell, who offered personal encouragement to each girl as she affixed the traditional pin onto their uniform ties.

Working her magic…

Stell’s life was anything but easy financially yet she had a way of performing miracles when it came to providing the necessities of life and loving discipline. She always found a way to fill an extra plate on the table and to help others in need. Christmas was full of joy and each child received their favorite toy with fruit and candy in their stockings;
although, the naughty among us would invariably find a piece of coal or other appropriate reminder at the toe.

On more mornings than I care to remember, we would sneak peeks at her handwritten notes left on the kitchen table from the night before. Most often, these were ‘worry notes’ listing her bills and how she would juggle those responsibilities to keep a roof over our heads and food on our table. Occasionally, she would leave a note addressed to ‘the home for naughty children’ professing that she was at her wit’s end with one or more of her kids and could they please let him or her go to live with them until they learned to behave. That would put the fear of God into us and with no more effort than that that, her five little kids were the best behaved offspring on the block.

On payday, Mom would leave a special treat for us in the refrigerator. It might be half a dozen donuts…one for each kid in the family and one for herself. I recall sneaking into the kitchen one night in the dark, fully intending to help myself to more than my share. I opened the box only to be greeted with a large handwritten note that verily screamed, “Caught you! Now put it back!” Difficult times called for inventive measures and our Mother never came up short on the creative side.

As single parented children, we were highly protective. We were haunted by the fear of losing her and becoming orphans. Mom always reminded us that we were her greatest achievement and that it would break her heart if we let her down in public. Our behavior was a reflection of her parenting skills which proved that she could manage as a single parent, despite a few negative townsfolk who looked down on her because we were less well off financially and with no Father on the scene, a setup for failure in their opinion. We may have misbehaved at home but we always rose to the challenge in public. It was the best gift we ever could have given to her.

Looking back, I recognize that our Mother’s ingenious brand of psychology was the best discipline a child could ever receive. She played to our collective conscience to induce strong values and no one knew this better than my older sister who carried those lessons through to adulthood. She had made it her mission to live up to our Mother’s expectations, to guard her reputation fiercely, thereby setting a good example for the younger ones. It wasn’t always that easy for a couple of us but rest assured, we all came home to roost.

New beginnings…

Such was Stell’s life as a single mother. She was a beautiful young woman with no shortage of men trying to woo her. A couple of those even fell in love with her but five young children were a strong deterrent to pursuing a future together. She never wavered from her mantra, “Love me…love my children too.” After eight years without Daddy, our stepfather appeared on the scene. Yes, there were mixed feelings among the children, but the upside was that he loved our mother and embraced the children with open arms. She was thirty-four and he was forty-two, never before married and anxious to build a life with us. So one door closed and a new promising one opened. They married and moved to the city and within a year, brought our beautiful baby sister into the world, her sixth child and his first. She was a blessing then and still is today. Life was good.

Too good to last…

Quite suddenly and with no warning, tragedy struck again. In 1968, after a mere eleven years of marriage, Mother was diagnosed with bone and lung cancer. Even her doctors didn’t know which one was primary because it was discovered too late. The thought of losing her was devastating and for me, it meant a shattered connection that could never be healed. She left us in August, 1970 in her forty-seventh year and is still in our thoughts and hearts every day.

Mother’s Day…

It is Mother’s Day as I write this. I know that my brothers and sisters join with me to pay tribute and give thanks to this beautiful woman, a heroine in her day. She gave up her art for a far greater love and purpose. Perhaps she was saving her talent to paint on the walls of Heaven.

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© Linda Hales 2014
Linda Hales is retired and devotes her time to writing in various genres for both freelance and pleasure. Her greatest passion is writing motivational stories for young children. Linda has four self-published children’s books.

Book Awards
Sunshine and Her Big Blarney Smile! was awarded the 2014 Red Carpet Books Finalist Award for Children’s Books; and Andy-Roo was awarded the 2013 Kart Kids Book List award for Creative Storytelling.

Learn more about Linda and her titles at
http://www.linnieslittlebooks.com.
Available on Amazon at
http://www.amazon.com/Linda-Hales/e/B004YKW4QU/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_nu_I4tGrb51FD314

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The House Staff Quit!

No staff? No worries. With organization and pre-preparation, an opulent and elegant dinner can be presented with the greatest aplomb that Victorian homes of the past would envy. How do I know this? I’ve been celebrating Epiphany with all the trimmings of a French twelve to fourteen course feast for the past twenty-seven years. Though the Titanic served twenty-nine courses to the elite first-class customers, that is far beyond my scope.

Draw up your guest list and understand any dietary limitations or preferences involved for those individuals. Your friends will appreciate your concern and consideration to enhance their dinning experience. Next, the menu and budget. Not many have unlimited funds to serve Beluga caviar, even when it’s on sale. Good quality is found locally in your neighborhood grocery store. I prefer lumpfish caviar, as it is mild, not fishy, nor salty. And while you’re at it, a printed menu is always appreciated and demonstrates your care in both preparing the meal and its presentation. A nice elegant touch, if you will.

For all the courses, except the main one, serve very small portions. That is the key to enjoying such a long feast. Champagne goes delightfully well with the courses and eliminates the necessity of serving a different wine with each course.

Enjoyment of food begins with the presentation or platting. A carefully placed garnish enhances the experience and demonstrates your attention to detail and culinary artistry.

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Homemade fois gros, one decorated with 24kt edible goldleaf

Hors d’œuvres is the first course, served in the living room with wine or champagne. You might have as few as seven varieties or as many as twelve. If serving seven courses at the dining table, then ten varieties of hors d’œuvres would be appropriate. Allow one hour to ninety minutes for this sampling for tidbits and drink.

When I call people to the dining table by ringing a crystal dinner bell, an aperitif is in place at each setting. Either a Kir or a Kir Royal (small amount of Cassis with Champagne instead of white wine). With the beverage is a small tasty biscuit or very flavorful cracker. This is a nice opening for a second course.

Fruit mixture of some sort comprises the third course. This can be as simple as a fresh fruit salad. Stay away from the canned or jarred fruit mixtures. You want your guests to know your see them as special and are willing to put in the effort at every course for their enjoyment. Often I will serve a fruit salad from the hollowed out halves of the grapefruit used in the recipe.

A fourth course is soup. It can be as simple as cream of tomato garnished with minced fresh basil or as elaborate as vichyssoise. The choice is determined by skill and time. Remember, presentation can elevate any simple recipe.

Next is the fish course or shellfish. A simple creamed tuna is upgraded by the addition of a small amount of dry sherry. Never use any alcohol that you would not drink. Alcohol is a flavoring ingredient. The hot burner cooks off the alcohol

For a sixth course, a savory is served. It can be as elegant as poached marrow or a simple quiche. Instead of a savory, a poultry item could be substituted, or served as a separate course after the savory.

IMG_2Dinner guests waiting for the aperitif. Sixteen sat at this 13 ft table.

A palate cleanser is next up, or as the French call, the Entremède. Any sherbet or sorbet will fit the bill for this one. It is served in a small portion with a demitasse spoon. Ice cream is deemed an inappropriate substitution and always considered a dessert item.

The pièce de résistance could be beef, pork, or lamb. For my Epiphany celebrations, I serve Bœuf Bourguigonne. It’s a hearty beef stew cooked in burgundy wine with pearl onions and mushrooms and totally worth the effort. As an accompaniment, no fewer than four vegetables, all of different colors. If you have onions, mushrooms or other vegetables in your main course, then don’t serve a variation of the same as a side dish.

Cheese and fruit, if not served previously as an hors d’œvre, is the next course. I realize in Europe a light flavorful salad would be presented at this point. However, American tradition has regulated salad to a lunch course and served after soup for a simpler menu. I chose to omit this item in my listing of offerings. Whatever cheese you choose, there should be a choice of three: one sharp, another mild, and a third creamy. The tang of cheese sets the palate ready for the sweet contrast of dessert.

The tenth course is dessert! Ah the variety abounds. A simple peach melba to flaming cherries jubilee. I would avoid a heavy cheesecake in consideration of your guests’ full stomachs.

Next is the savior to that full feeling; the demitasse or known as expresso. If an expresso maker is not in your culinary arsenal, take heart. Instant expresso will fill the bill. Serve this black delicious drink from a lovely small coffee pot. Offer small sugar cubes, heavy cream, and lemon peel to guests as their taste dictates. Expresso can be found as a ground in full bodied or decaffeinated form for the drip coffeemaker.

Lastly, the liqueur course. I offer no less than three and up to seven to my guests. It’s a nice finish to a long, yet enjoyable meal. Besides, it aids digestion. The French call this Les Digestifs.

If you desire to serve more than twelve courses, add a poultry course, and a pretty layered savory verrine after the aperitif. Now you have fourteen delightful taste experiences.

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Husband Mitch with all of our 5 poodle children. They enjoy fine cuisine, too.

 

To spur your creative interest in the kitchen, below are two of my favorite go-to recipes.

Poulet Touraine

(Chicken Touraine)

Serve over tender rice or noodles.

Serves 4

2 whole chicken breasts (4 halves), boned and skinned

2 Tbs. butter

12 small white onions (boilers), coarsely sliced lengthwise

½ cup fresh or canned mushrooms, sliced

½ cup canned whole tomatoes, drained and crushed

½ cup sliced black olives, (or whole pitted, if preferred)

¾ cup dry white wine

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper

½ tsp. paprika

8 oz. sour cream

In large skillet, heat butter. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned on both sides. Add onions, and continue cooking until onions are well browned and impart their enticing sweetness. Add mushrooms, tomatoes, black olives, wine, salt, pepper and paprika. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, or until chicken is tender. Remove chicken to heated serving dish and keep warm. Add sour cream to pan and heat, stirring constantly, without allowing to boil. Pour over chicken. Serve hot.

 

Bœuf Bourguignonne

Serves 5-6, recipe may be cut in half, or doubled.

5-6 lbs stew beef
Butter
3 Tbs. brandy
1 lb. small white onions, peeled
1 lb. small fresh mushrooms
2½  Tbs. cornstarch
2½  tsps. meat extract paste (beefer-upper, or any substitute that’s not overly salty)
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1½  cups Burgundy
¾  cups dry sherry
¾  cups ruby port
1 10½ can beef consommé
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 large bay leaf
Chopped parsley

1.Wipe beef with paper towels. Slowly heat a 5 qt. (or larger, anything over 5 qts. works better) Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. In 2 Tbs. hot butter, over high heat, brown beef well all over—about a fourth at a time, enough to cover the bottom of Dutch oven.

2. Turn beef with tongs. Lift out as it browns. Continue until all beef is browned, adding more butter as needed (takes about ½ hour). Then return beef to Dutch oven. In small saucepan, heat 2 Tbs. brandy (the remaining brandy will be used later) just until vapor rises. Ignite; pour over beef.

3. As flame dies, remove beef cubes to another pan; set aside. Add 2 Tbs. butter to Dutch oven, heat slightly. Add onions; cook over low heat, covered, until onions brown slightly, stirring occasionally. Then add mushrooms; cook, stirring 3 minutes.

4. With slotted spoon, remove onions and mushrooms. Remove Dutch oven from heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir in cornstarch, meat-extract paste, and tomato paste until well blended. Stir in the Burgundy, sherry, port, and consommé. Preheat oven to 350F.

5. Bring wine mixture in Dutch oven just to boiling, stirring; remove from heat. Add beef, pepper, bay leaf, onions, mushrooms, and remaining 1 Tbs. brandy; mix well. Place a large sheet of waxed paper over top of Dutch oven; place lid on top of paper. Bake covered.

6. Stir occasionally; cook 1½ hours, or until beef is tender when pierced with fork. Pour off liquid collected on paper. Sprinkle with parsley. (This is better made the day before, refrigerated, and reheated gently. If necessary, add Burgundy wine to thin sauce.

Wine: Any full-bodied Burgundy or Bordeaux.

 

© 2014 Cynthia B Ainsworthe, Award-winning Author

Author Bio

Born in Mahopac, NY, raised in Yorktown Heights, NY, Cynthia has longed to become a writer. Life circumstances put her dream on hold for most of her life. Some eight years ago she ventured to write her first novel, Front Row Center, which won the IPPY (Independent Publisher) Award and is now being adapted to screen with a script is in development by she and Hollywood screenwriter, Scott C Brown. Since then Cynthia shares with other authors the Reader’s Favorite International Award for two short stories, When Midnight Comes, and Characters, she contributed to the horror anthology The Speed of Dark, by Clayton C Bye. It Ain’t Fittin’ earned her the Excellence in Writing Award by It Matters Radio. Cynthia enjoys her retirement from her profession as a registered cardiac nurse in Florida, caring for her husband and five poodle-children.

http://www.amazon.com/Front-Row-Center-Cynthia-Ainsworthe/dp/0980245907/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345825833&sr=1-1&keywords=cynthia+b+ainsworthe

and

http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?m=201310

 

Cynthia A xxoo
IPPY Award-Winning Author, Front Row Center
Reader’s Favorite International Award Winner, The Speed of Dark
Excellence in Writing Award, It Ain’t Fittin’, It Matters Radio
Words and Passion
www.wordsandpassion.com

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Pop! Goes the Weasel

Pop!Weasel

You are probably already scratching your collective heads out there in blog-post-reading-land. You are looking at this strange title and probably thinking–and correctly so–shouldn’t this post have something to do with Father’s Day? To that I give you the definitive, ‘well, yes and no’. Yes, it is June 14, the post before Father’s Day, so of course I want to tip my hat to all the awesome fathers out there…and I will. Hang on. But, no, it is not only about Father’s Day. It is also the Queen’s Birthday. I feel it merely polite to give HRH a birthday shout-out by tying some British into the post. I cannot forget “Gin Day”–the official day we celebrate everybody’s favorite juniper-based spirit, right? And finally, my publicist likes me to tie every blog piece back to the type of novels I pen. I write historical fiction. Overall, I think you might agree it makes for a tall and pretty-strange order. But I am crafty, so I will do just that:

“Half a pound of tuppeny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.”

 

Uh-oh, this probably does not sound to your ears like the same song we Americans learned as children. I mean what, on earth, is ‘treacle’? I had to look it up, myself; it’s molasses-like syrup used for cooking and sweetening. No, sorry, the ‘Pop’ doesn’t have anything to do with Father’s Day. In the Victorian Era, to ‘pop’ something meant to pawn it. Lastly, weasels were not the critter variety common to the USA—that would just be weird. A weasel was a “Sunday’s best” suit coat, which even the poorest of folks owned, off-and-on…

“Up and down the City road,
In and out the Eagle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.”

 

The most unfortunate of London men could barely feed their families with rice and sugar staples. This left little if any money to drown their sorrows in grog—or in today’s celebratory case, a G&T. A detour to ‘pop’ their coats at the local pawn shoppe was required of most men on their way to the Eagle Tavern. By Sunday, those men would need to find the money to buy back their suit coats in time for church services.

I think “Pop goes the weasel” sounds absurdly tame compared to “Pawn the suit coat so daddy can drink” —even like child’s play. I know that for a great many children, it simply isn’t so. This Father’s Day, I pray our fathers can pass by their personal taverns, choosing instead to enjoy spending time with their children, grandchildren and all the rest.   Happy Father’s Day!

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If you agree with Anne Sweazy-Kulju (and Anatole France) that history books that contain no lies are extremely dull, visit her website: www.Historical-Horse-Feathers.com, and read more of the author’s fun perversions of the past!

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