Finding a Sanctuary for a Novel by Steve Lindahl

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I dedicated my latest novel, Hopatcong Vision Quest, to its setting, Lake Hopatcong, NJ. The story takes place at the same location, in two different eras: the present time and the early 17th century, when the area was inhabited by the Lenape Native Americans. My history with Hopatcong is important because it helps me understand the feel of riding a power boat across a crowded body of water, the serenity of paddling a canoe on smooth waters, the fun of searching for freshwater mussels in shallow water , and the thrill of competing with a best friend for the most skips of skimming stones. The lake has been a friend for most of my life.

I wonder how many others have a sanctuary near water: a different lake, a place by a river or a creek, or perhaps an ocean beach. If you’re one of those people, you understand the meditative pull of gentle water as well as the power of a storm or a flood.

My family bought the lake house in 1928. My grandfather wanted a country home, to get his family out of Brooklyn during the Polio season. He had a place in Connecticut for a time, but wasn’t happy there, so he relocated to an island on the largest lake in New Jersey. The family’s been there ever since.

Lake Hopatcong is where I spent summers when I was a child. I Learned to swim there, to sail, to explore the woodlands, to paddle a canoe, to drive a motorboat, and to take an outboard motor apart and put it back together. I grew up with my cousins and some of the best friends of my life, people I’m still close to today. When I grew a little older, it was at that lake where I met my wife.

In Hopatcong Vision Quest there is a scene where two nine year old children, a boy and a girl, go into a wooded area between a road and the shore of the lake. They are searching for an entrance hole to a muskrat burrow. This is an example of a section of the book that required research as well as a general knowledge of how it feels to approach a lake through a place where people seldom go.

The Lenape people of the late 16th, early 17th century felt a sense of respect and reverence for animals that lived both in and out of water. One of their clans was called the Turtle Clan, named after an animal that fits the description. In the book, the otter, another animal that fits, is the spirit guide of one of the main characters. So a muskrat, a third fit, was a logical animal to include in my story.

I remember, as a child, how I watched a muskrat swimming in front of our dock to a nearby shore, then disappearing into a hole in the ground. This happened many times and is an example of an experience that led to a plot choice. I never went looking for the animals with a flashlight to peer into their burrows, but I did go to the shore though the woods many times for other reasons.

I had to follow the decision to use muskrats with research. I used YouTube to be sure I understood how they swam and other sources to check on their eating habits and the time of the year when the kits are with their mother.

Hopatcong Vision Quest is a past life mystery, a story of two suspicious deaths and the use of past life regressions to discover clues. It’s about the past and present characters and their relationships: friendships, betrayals, and love. It is both a modern mystery and historical fiction, but it is also a tribute to a place for peaceful withdrawal from the troubles of the world, my own Walden Pond.

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Steve Lindahl’s first two novels, Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions, were published in 2009 and 2014 by All Things That Matter Press. His short fiction has appeared in Space and Time, The Alaska Quarterly, The Wisconsin Review, Eclipse, Ellipsis, and Red Wheelbarrow. He served for five years as an associate editor on the staff of The Crescent Review, a literary magazine he co-founded. He is currently the managing/fiction editor for Flying South, a literary magazine sponsored by Winston-Salem Writers and is also a board member of that organization.

His Theater Arts background has helped nurture a love for intricate characters in complex situations that is evident in his writing. Steve and his wife Toni live and work together outside of Greensboro, North Carolina. They have two adult children: Nicole and Erik. Hopatcong Vision Quest is Steve’s latest novel.

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BORGES REMEMBRANCE AND NOSTALGIA

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Thirty years ago no one used yet such terms as internet, e-mail, nor cell-phone in Latin America. The most advanced in technology available then for popular use was compact discs, which of course represented a luxurious expense for the great majority.

The night of June 14th, 1986, trapped inside the passionate DX mania, so strange and ancient nowadays, completely antediluvian and left behind in the last century for most of the young, I was listening to Radio Suiza Internacional, found by mere chance after playing with the dial, transmitting from Berna. The overwhelming news was: Borges, the great Jorge Luis Borges, who never received a Nobel Prize even though he deserved it much more than the great majority who had obtained it, has just died in Geneva.

That fact left a mark on us for all time to come, given that there would not be any talking of any other topic in the Special Literature subject. From the following day on, Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo would be, for all of us who represented the specialty of Social Sciences, the great torture or the great passion, according to the characteristics of each of those fifteen-year-old spirits who knew little to nothing about the author of El Aleph. Assignments, monographs, expos, research, essays, mandatory readings (and for that reason not so pleasant as those that arise from the feeding need of a bibliophile) left some of Borges in us: in the case of the author of these lines were his mark, his circling ruins that from time to time raise again to involve and enfold us in oneiric worlds from which no one ever knows how to emerge, or from which one emerges, as in La Flor de Coleridge, disturbed forever and carrying material evidence brought from those orbs, forever tempted to return and disappear in the magical forcefulness of their complacent idealism.

We were only a few, of course, very few, who remained so marked by the fact, that ever since then we would never abandon the Borgesian world, because we would even discover later, as enthused as the one who makes a discovery by his own even though others have already done it before: the Kafkaesque condition of Borges’ literature, and years later the Borgesian condition of Eco’s literature.

From him it was, top and paradigm of the writer, from whom we learned that books are extensions of the thinking and the mind of the human being. The book, the magazine, the newspaper, as extensions of the thinking, must so keep that condition of word and human ideas’ vehicle, must serve as means of broadcasting of those ideas among all cultures, for only so we will be able to move forward on this cosmic journey without losing track, without getting lost nor ending up buried under the uncontainable avalanche of data and images.

Thirty years since his death, the Argentinian tiger, the most universal gaucho, still rests in Geneva, though his work and his name are now more immortal than ever. To me, though Borges did not live to see it, the current world is full of his fiction. For example, if someone wants to meet/know the aleph, they can read and read again that Borgesian tale, but can also connect to the internet from a computer or a cell phone, and in that precise moment converge at a single spot, all the spots around the world.

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Remembranza y nostalgia de Borges
Por: Rodrigo Aguilar Orejuela

Hace treinta años nadie usaba aún en Latinoamérica los términos internet, correo electrónico ni teléfono celular. Lo más adelantado de la tecnología al servicio del consumo popular suntuoso era por entonces el disco compacto, que por supuesto resultaba aún demasiado oneroso para las grandes mayorías.

La noche del 14 de junio de 1986, atrapado por la manía apasionante del diexismo, hoy tan extraña y antiquísima, tan del siglo pasado y para la mayoría de los jóvenes completamente antediluviana, escuchaba por esas casualidades del dial Radio Suiza Internacional, que transmitía desde Berna. La noticia fue contundente: Borges, el gran Jorge Luis Borges, aquél que nunca recibió el Premio Nobel aunque lo merecía mucho más que la gran mayoría de quienes lo obtuvieron, acababa de fallecer en Ginebra.

El hecho nos marcó para siempre, pues no se hablaría de otro tema en la materia de Literatura Especial. A partir del día siguiente, Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo sería, para la gran mayoría de quienes conformábamos la especialidad de Ciencias Sociales, la gran tortura o la gran pasión, según las características de cada uno de esos espíritus quinceañeros que poco o nada sabían del autor de El Aleph. Trabajos, monografías, exposiciones, investigaciones, ensayos, lecturas obligadas (y por ese motivo no tan placenteras como aquellas surgidas de la propia necesidad alimenticia de un bibliófago) dejaron en nosotros algo de Borges: en el caso del autor de estas líneas fueron su marca, sus ruinas circulares que de cuando en cuando vuelven a erigirse para envolvernos e involucrarnos en mundos oníricos de los que nunca se sabe cómo emerger, o de los que se emerge, como en La Flor de Coleridge, para siempre turbados y portando pruebas materiales traídas desde aquellos orbes, para siempre tentados a retornar y desaparecer en la mágica contundencia de su idealismo complaciente.
Por supuesto que fuimos pocos, muy pocos, quienes quedamos tan marcados por el hecho, que desde entonces jamás abandonaríamos el mundo borgiano, porque además descubriríamos luego, con el entusiasmo de quien hace un descubrimiento por sí solo aunque ya otros lo hayan hecho antes: la condición kafkiana de la literatura de Borges, y años después la condición borgiana de la literatura de Eco.

Fue de él, cima y paradigma del escritor, de quien aprendimos que es el libro una extensión del pensamiento y la mente del ser humano. El libro, la revista, el diario, como extensiones del pensamiento, deben por ende mantener esa condición de vehículos de la palabra y las ideas humanas, deben servir de medios de difusión de aquellas ideas entre todas las culturas, pues solo así podremos avanzar en este viaje cósmico sin perder el rumbo, sin extraviarnos ni quedar sepultados bajo la avalancha incontenible de la información y las imágenes.

A treinta años de su deceso, el tigre argentino, el gaucho más universal, aún descansa en Ginebra, pero su obra y su nombre siguen más inmortales que nunca. Para mí, aunque Borges no vivió para verlo, el mundo actual está lleno de su ficción. Si alguien quiere conocer el aleph, por ejemplo, puede leer y releer ese relato borgiano, pero también puede conectarse desde una computadora o un teléfono celular a internet, y en ese mismo momento tener en un solo punto todos los puntos del mundo.

 

RODRIGO AGUILAR OREJUELA
Bio: (Ecuador – 1970) Writer, ghostwriter, journalist, editor, columnist, I have worked as a journalist of opinion and information for twenty five years at different press media institutions from Ecuador. In 2004 I was the absolute winner in the First National Essay Contest. My books: Colombia-Ecuador: an Example of Coexistence (2004), The Charm of Cuenca (editions in Spanish, English, French, and German, 2005), Market, Barrio and City: History of the Ninth (2009), The Hummingbird’s Flight (2011), Like a Thistle: spoken portrait of Eudoxia Estrella (2013), Monologue of a Castaway (2016).

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..AND WE THANK THEE by Micki Peluso


aSpicy, aromatic whiffs of pumpkin pie, plum pudding, and candied sweet potatoes mingle with and enhance the hearty, mouth-watering smell of roasted, stuffed turkeys. Thanksgiving, a harvest festival thanking the Creator for a bountiful year, has remained virtually unchanged since the pilgrims in Massachusetts shared that first feast with Chief Massoit and some of his braves.

On Staten Island, as in homes across the nation, people will gather in love and harmony to give thanks. Holiday fare on the Island will not differ greatly from traditional foods, except for the addition of ethnic dishes, such as home-made ravioli, succulent tomato sauce, crusty loaves of Italian bread, lasagne and delectable pastries indigenous to the New York area. In Italian homes, especially, a nine course meal is not unusual.

The turkey will dominate the day, whether served in homes, hospital rooms, soup kitchens for the needy, or meals on wheels for housebound senior citizens. Restaurants across the Island will also defer to the turkey, serving those who wish to celebrate, but hate to cook. Thanksgiving is a holiday that reminds people of the past, celebrates the present, and offers hope for the future; a day that gratifies body and soul.

Although Governor William Bradford, of the Plymouth Colony issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation in 1621, the concept of giving thanks is as old as the need for worship, and dates back to the time when humanity realized its dependence upon a Higher Power.The colonists of Plymouth observed three days of feasting,games and contests following their plentiful harvest in the autumn of 1621. The journal of Governor Bradford describes the preparations for that first Thanksgiving: “They began now to gather in the swell harvest they had, and to fit their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty… Besides waterfowl, there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc… Which made many afterward write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned, but true reports.”

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Staten Island, at that time, was a beautiful lush wilderness, sparsely inhabited by the Aqehonga Indians, who fished, hunted deer, raccoon, and fowl, and harvested corn, pumpkins, berries and fruit. Settlers arriving from England and Holland in 1630, added sausage, head cheese and pies to the abundant game and vegetation on the Island. Twenty years ago, it was common practice for butchers to hang plucked turkeys in store windows, while grocers displayed fresh produce and jugs of apple cider.

On October 31, 1777, the Continental Congress appointed Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee, and Daniel Roberdau, to draft a resolution “to set aside a day of thanksgiving for the signal success lately obtained over the enemies of the United States.” There solution was accepted on November 1, 1777.

George Washington issued a presidential proclamation appointing November 26, 1789, as a day of general thanksgiving for the adoption of the constitution. The first national Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1863, due to the unrelenting efforts of Mrs. Sarah J. Hale. While editor of The Ladies Magazine in Boston, she penned countless editorials urging the uniform observance throughout the United States, of one day dedicated to giving thanks for blessings received throughout the year. She mailed personal letters to the governors of all the states, and to President Lincoln, persuading many governors to set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving. Her editorial was titled,”Our National Thanksgiving”, and began with a biblical quote: “Then he said to them, go your way and eat the fat and drink the sweet wine and send persons unto them for whom nothing is prepared; For this day is holy unto the lord; neither be ye sorry, for the joy of the lord is your strength.” Nehemiah, VIII:10

President Lincoln, moved by Mrs. Hale’s editorial and letter, issued the first National Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1863, which reads in part: “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of almighty God.” Lincoln designated Thanksgiving as a day “to subdue the anger which has produced and so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion.” The northern states, in response to the proclamation, held services in churches of all denominations, and gave appropriate sermons.

President Roosevelt, on December 26, 1941, approved the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving, to be observed in every state and the District of Columbia.

The first international Thanksgiving was held in Washington, D.C. in 1909. It was the brain-child of Rev. Dr. William T. Russell, rector of St. Patrick’s Church of Washington. Dr. Russell called it a Pan American celebration, and it was attended by representatives of all the Latin American countries. The Catholic Church was chosen for the services, since Catholicism is the religion of the Latin American countries.

St. Patrick’s Church published an account of the celebration, noting that “it was the first time in the history of the Western World that all the republics were assembled for a religious function…When asked what prompted Dr. Russell in planning a Pan American Thanksgiving celebration, Dr. Russell said, “My purpose was to bring into closer relations the Republics of the Western World. As Christianity had first taught the brotherhood of man, it was appropriate that the celebration should take the form of a solemn mass.” The Pan American celebration continued from year to year.

Some Eastern cities adopted the old world custom of dressing children in the over-sized clothes of their elders, masking their faces, and having them march through the streets blowing tin horns. The children often carried baskets, and solicited fruits and vegetables from house to house to help celebrate the day. This tradition was adapted from an old Scotch wassail custom.
The warm, loving atmosphere of this holiday has been immortalized in song, literature, and poetry, such as the well-known poem by Lydia Maria Child: “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go…”

Thanksgiving signals the onset of the joyous holiday season which continues until New Year’s Day. The only sad note is the number of people killed on the highways each year, en route to their destinations. Thanksgiving also proclaims the arrival of Santa Claus, who assumes temporary residence at the Staten Island Mall, which will be ablaze with Christmas decorations. Those shoppers brave enough to venture out on “Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, can take advantage of Island sales.

Today, more than ever, Thanksgiving is intrinsic to our time. The need to give thanks is profoundly American. As a people, we have pursued idealism, struggled for individual freedoms, and enjoyed the fruits of capitalism. Like the starship “Enterprise” on Star Trek, Americans have “dared to go where no man has gone before.” The act of giving thanks acknowledges the greater force that inspires this nation, encouraging and demanding excellence. This Thanksgiving, when stomachs are bulging with savory, traditional food, and hearts are full with love for family and friends, it is fitting to give thanks.

Stand up on this Thanksgiving Day, stand
upon your feet. Believe in man. Soberly and
with clear eyes, believe in your own time and
place. There is not, and there never has
been a better time, or a better place to live.
Poem by -Phillip Brooks

Bio: Micki Peluso began writing after a personal tragedy.This led to a first time publication in Victimology: An International Magazine and a career in Journalism. She’s freelanced and been staff writer for one major newspaper, written for two more and has published short fiction and non-fiction, as well as slice of life stories in colleges, magazines and e-zine editions. Her first book was published in 2012; a funny family memoir of love, loss and survival, called, . . . And THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG which won the Nesta CBC Silver Award for writing that Builds Character, won third place in the Predators and Editors Contest and first place for People’s Choice Monthly Award. She has stories in ‘Women’s Memoirs’, ‘Tales2inspire’, and ‘Creature Features.’ Two of her short horror stories were recently published in an International Award winning anthology called ‘Speed of Dark.’ ‘The Cat Who Wanted a Dog’ is her first children’s book. Her collection of short fiction, and slice of life stories in a book collection called, ‘Don’t Pluck the Duck’, is due to be released in December, 2016.

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The Story Behind the Story Trish Jackson

 

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Every story starts with an idea—that one little spark of information that triggers a blaze of creativity.

A little while ago I was walking on the beach early in the morning and as I passed a man who was in conversation with two women I heard him say, “It all started at Melanie’s slumber party in 1978.” I immediately thought what a great first line for a story.

I’m still working on that one, but ‘Scorpio’s Sting’, my next romantic suspense thriller in the Zodiac Series is in the final editing process, and will be released by my publisher soon.

Here’s the story behind Scorpio’s Sting:

Several years ago when I lived in Young, Arizona, I was sitting at my desk in the real estate office, when my friend and co-worker received a phone call. I could tell immediately that this was something serious, and as soon as she hung up, she turned to me and said that her brother in Phoenix employed an illegal immigrant from Mexico. No biggy there. Lots of people in southern border states do that. This Mexican guy, let’s call him Juan, had paid a lot of money to have his wife safely escorted over the border (illegally) so she could join him and live with him in the United States.

The men whose ‘profession’ it is to get people across our southern borders without detection by Border Patrol are known as ‘coyotes’ and they are tough, ruthless people, often affiliated with the major drug cartels who also move drugs across our borders.

In this instance, the coyote had called Juan and demanded more money. He had Juan’s wife in a remote part of the Arizona desert and threatened to abandon her there without food or water unless he was paid another three thousand dollars.

As far as I remember, my friend and her brother were able to scrape up the money and help Juan out, but I wondered how many people can’t meet the coyote’s demands. I cannot start to imagine the terror of the victims and the helplessness of their family members.

In Scorpio’s Sting, Drew McBain has developed a system he calls a Virtual Mine Field, which will be installed along our borders, and will help to stop illegal border crossings as an alternative to building a wall. The major Mexican drug cartel in the area, La Serpiente Coral Cartel stands to lose millions of dollars in human trafficking and drug revenues. They mount a ruthless campaign to stop Drew from manufacturing the product, leaving him saddened, sickened, and driven by a desperate need for revenge.

ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officer Neelie Nelson has a history with the Cartel. Her Border Patrol husband was tortured and gruesomely murdered by its leader, Jose Marie Iglesias. Now cartel members are following her home every night, and she is terrified they may hurt her child.

In a strange twist of circumstances, Drew and Neelie end up having to work together with a group of undocumented (illegal) immigrants living in the sewers under the city of Los Angeles to take Iglesias and his cartel down.

I write romantic suspense, so you know they’re gonna fall in love sooner or later. Here’s the opening paragraph:

Drew McBain’s eyes opened wide, and before he could do anything to stop her, a smoking hot blonde filled his arms. “Watch it!” he said.

“Oh no, I’m so sorry,” she yelped.

“You should look where you’re going.” He held onto her. She smelled good, and he had just groped a delectable, firm breast. “I didn’t mean to—”

She ran her tongue over her lower lip, and for a moment their eyes met. “I’m sorry, again.” She held up the cell phone she had been checking. “My bad.  I’m late for work.”

He released his hold on her, and watched her ass until she disappeared into the darkness.

~*~

I’d love to hear where your ideas come from.

Trish Jackson writes romantic suspense thrillers and romantic comedy, and loves to

include fictional animals that are not limited to dogs in her stories.  http://www.trishjackson.com

 

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A Giant Story by James L. Secor

 

 

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Every weekend the story teller came to our neighborhood. And we all gathered, excited well beyond our little children’s bodies, to hear what new tale she had to tell. Her well of stories was so deep as to be bottomless. The water of her voice washed over us and carried us along through he shallows, along the lazy shores, bounding over the rapids and right over the falls that left us screaming and breathless and then splashed us into the deep, clear pool at the bottom–only to spill over into a new river. . .for net week’s carriage. How is it she could work such magic? And why is it she is gone? She and all of her kind. How much of life are we missing because of her passing? The weekends hold no magic for me–for anyone any more. Just another day; life is so boring. Today. I’m older. The world is older. But have we grown up? We are, to my way of thinking, bereft of what it is got us here: our culture, or life. For the stories of our history, the stories of our passage are lost to our sons and daughters. Even foreigners know more of our history and folk wisdom than we do. Shameful!

Out of all the stories that filled my life, the story of the giant remains. Bear with me as I recreate this long lost world that is, mysteriously, the going concern of the day, today. If you don’t know where you came from, if you don’t know what it is made you. . .who are you? Who are you, really?

How pedantic, you say. It is true, too, that I am. . .different from those others around me. I’m an odd ball. I live alone in an old house that takes up space and, truly, gives me more than the modern man possesses. It is my very own little yamen. I have nature about me and after-thought modernity to keep me up to date–though I must admit my solar water heater occasionally belies its name. . .I’m to suffer through cold showers. And, unlike every other home I’ve been in, my walls are books. Floor to ceiling. Some ask me if they might fall in on me. Some ask me if I’ve actually read all those books and, if yes, why I keep them around.

Well! It is at such times this story of the giant comes to mind and I tell it.

You know, sometimes the children in the neighborhood tease me, the oldest man in the world, to tell them a story. They laugh, of course, but their cynicism, their teasing turns into cheers and applause by the time I’ve finished by recitation. I wonder sometimes. . .does anyone talk, talk to these kids? Sometimes they ask for the giant story. Some of them over and over again. Well! In case it be lost with my passing, here it is; for I am interested in staying alive even after I’m gone. Though, in truth, it is the old, itinerant storyteller I am memorializing.

Disappearing tales
Like magicians’ sleight hands
Are here and then not
And we are left wondering
What has happened to the truth.

In a cave in the mountain there lived a giant. He was a big giant. He was so big that if you tried to look p to the top of him, you’d fall over–ad still never see the top of his head, only the clouds that gathered about. Oh, yeah! He was a real giant. There isn’t anyone left alive who’s as big as this giant. Why . . . he had hand so big he could hold three bags of rice and still close his fingers. He was slim waisted but, still, it would take 10 people stretched arm to arm to go round him. His shoulders were so wide it took an eagle a week to sail around him. And his legs were like oak trees–maybe even two or three oak trees lining the downtown street around. Oh, yeah–he was big! Each foot was as great as Xihu.

Oh, yeah. He was one big mother!

It was no wonder, then, that eh was proud of himself. Proud of being the biggest, tallest, strongest, most powerful thing around. However, no one came to worship or even wonder at his bigness and power and so he figured, in his pride and self-worship, that perhaps no one knew of him. Strange as that may seem, people being kind of drawn to great thing. Yet–there it was. But, you know, he lived way up a high mountain in a cave, so high a mountain that the atmosphere was too rarified for people and so no one came to visit and wonder at his greatness; though he could not understand why no one had herd of him. After all, a herd of mountain goats was but an afternoon snack for him. . .and stories, he knew, had a way of spreading wider than the greatest of lakes in their attempt to contain all of life. Indeed, stories had a way of growing the farther they travelled and the more tongues they tripped over. People ad a way with words, so much a way that if they bothered to measure their depth, this particular giant would be no more than a dwarf wandering in a field of weeds.

So, he figured it would be a good idea to go down the mountain and let people see him so they’d know how great he was. Otherwise, no one would continue to pay him no attention. And he was right. If there’s no one else around, if there’s no one to compare yourself to, who are you? What kind of identity do you have? Existence without others is no existence at all. It is no more than free falling. . .and wondering when the bottom’s going to come up to say hello in a kind of finale. No encore. Indeed, who are we without the other? No one, least of all a giant among men, can live alone, without relation to. That is, how did the giant know he was a giant among men if there were no men to acknowledge his giantness? Other people are a confirmation of self. Thus, it was necessary for him to descend from the heights to the earth below. So, of course, he did so. He was not, after all, stupid, despite his size.

So. . .

On the day he left for his journey amongst mankind, the giant looked in his mirror. His hair was pomaded. Is clothes were in order. This was a great full-length mirror, so it was no wonder that he said, upon beholding himself, “What a big man I am! I am the greatest! Look at how handsome I am! Ha-ha! Everyone will love me.”

Oh, yes! He was full of himself. Sop full of himself that no one else mattered. How could they possibly measure up to him? It didn’t matter that his experience of the world was limited, that the only thing he knew was himself and his cave-world, his mountain world. All he knew was his own praises, his own applause for himself. Just like Liu Ye who so loved himself he married himself.

Well, this egoism, this Narcissism–for he was in love with himself and, therefore, all he saw was himself–was a kind of short-sightedness, a short-sighted view of the world, to say the least. When you see the world centred upon yourself and the world in comparison to your great self as wanting, there is not much in the way of option: either other s are less than you, the giant, are for you will make them so. For there can be noting or no one greater than the giant that you are. In order to be the greatest, everyone else must be the least. It is a law of nature. And the giant believed it fervently, though he had no supporting evidence: the greatest survive.

And so it was in this posture that the giant, thick as a brick, strode down the mountainside to seek proof that he was great as he thought he was, proof he was sure he would find. Alas–because he was in love with himself, he was, despite his great size, short-s0ghted. That is, he couldn’t really see very well. But not being aware of his short-comings, he did not know better. No indeed. He couldn’t see beyond the tip of his nose and his nose was not exactly long or high. And it is true that the giant occasionally bumped into things. . .tables, chairs, walls, boulders. It was, of course, always their fault that they got in his way. Greatness being beyond compare.

Well, this fact, the giant’s short-sightedness, was to be particularly troublesome for humans who were, it must be admitted, difficult to see, being so small. Indeed, to the giant they were no more than dots, tiny little dots down around his ten league boots. And he was a high strider, so he really missed, like a harried taxi driver, the life around him. And so it is little wonder that he didn’t pay attention to much of what was around him once he was down off his mountain. The bright sunlight didn’t help his vision either, so used to cave life had he become.

As he strode down the mountain he heavy step loosened rocks and boulders that went careening down the mountainside, crashing and pounding and smashing the trees and bashing the houses of the horrified villages at the foot of the mountain. They wondered, as the common folk will do, what it was they did to so anger the mountain that their homes and livestock and fields would be flattened, as well as members of their families. Streets and lanes and alleys were filled with rubble, trouble and death. As the boulders came flying down upon them from the sky, some wondered if the sky were not indeed falling and set up a wailing and caterwauling to waken the dead. The giant, though, did not see this or hear this. He could not see his own feet and his ears were not so acutely tuned to such high frequencies as human voices.

When he got to the flatland, he paused and looked around him. Greens and browns everywhere mixed with stilted patches of blue and red. He smiled. This was more color than up on his mountain and it pleased him. His passing, however, did not please the people. His huge, heavy feet rumbled through the earth and opened up gaping chasms and defiles into which people and animals and homes fell precipitously. People ran around frenziedly shouting, “Earthquake! Earthquake!” What’s more, people and animals and houses were mercilessly crushed beneath the giant’s boots. They were so small and insignificant that he did not feel his destructiveness. Fences and walls crashed to the ground or were ground down under his boot heels. The roads were filled up with rubble, people and his massive footwear. Indeed, in the lowlands, his footprints created inland lakes so quickly and, as it were, out of thin air, that many people drowned, homes were flooded. Wells filled with rubble as they collapsed in on themselves or were trodden under foot. Fields of plenty became flattened, barren, empty deserts. Forests were crushed like toothpicks. But the giant knew none of this.

No. The giant was having a good time walking about in the open air, basking in the sunshine, breathing in the clean air. It was so good to be free! So liberating! He smiled and shouted his glee–only to cause further destruction as the wind from his lungs rushed through the countryside knocking over buildings and trees, blowing away fences and walls and carrying people away in great swirls to be haphazardly cast to the earth in crumpled heaps. And the giant, unaware of his own passing, continued on his merry way, leaving death and destruction in his wake. What a wonderful time he was having!

He came to a wide river, easy enough for him to step over but he was dry and dusty so he stepped into its channel and sloshed downstream. Great waves rose up and flooded the land either side and picked up and flung boats and fishermen before him on down to the mouth of the river, if they made it that far. Most people were drowned and then, as the giant passed by, their bodies smushed into the mud. To assuage his thirst, the giant bent down and scooped up a handful of water. Water and fish and fishermen all went down his throat. He smacked his lips at the fresh taste. He liked this new water so much, he took another drink. And another.

At the mouth of the river, a wide, marshy delta, the giant’s boots created crater lakes and spread the floodplain much, much farther afield, again drowning all life in its path. And then he was into the sea. His bulk caused the water level to rise and, once again, his passing flooded the land, creating a new coastline. There wasn’t much anyone could do. Not even the air force, for their flying machines were no more than irritating mosquitoes that the giant cleanly swatted away.

When he had has his fill of bathing and floating in the sea, the giant returned the way he had come. Of course, he saw nothing of what he’d caused to happen, so short-sighted was he, so high off the ground and so tiny were the victims of his passing. And he climbed back up the mountain to sit and reminisce about the wonders of the world he’d seen and his joy at being out in the open. His only regret was not finding any of his own kind. Well, you couldn’t have everything and, of course, he was sure there was nobody as wonderful as he, so it didn’t matter. Not really. And he thought that perhaps he would do this another day, going in a different direction, so full of his own passion was he. Maybe, one day, he would walk to the ends of the earth.

Being a giant, he knew it was well within his ability.

 

Bio:- There is an element of the absurd in this story, harking back to my adult beginnings in social activist theatre where absurdity ran free and easy, in the theatre and in the street. In one way or antoher, I’ve remained an activist but my writing is not always colored with the absurd. I think sometimes I am absurd. I have lived in Japan, China, Scotland, England and, for short periods of time, Russia and Malaysia; and now I live in the foreign country of Kansas where the idealogue of a governor has ruined the state and actually has given up his dream of running for President of the US to become Chancellor of Kansas State University, which he will run into the ground as he has the state. It just never ends, does it?

You can see more at https://talesofthefloatingworld.wordpress.com
Or find something edifying at https://branded.me/james-secor
Otherwise, you’re stuck with Linkedin

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THE NEIGHBORHOOD WARS by Sal Buttaci

 

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“Not anymore,” Giosif said. “Remember? It’s 2212. Nobody needs no permit to fire one of these.”

The old man shook his gray head as the boy tapped his thumb on the hammer of the gun.

“We gotta defend Dartmouth Street, Gramps. Ain’t no other way.”

“Don’t go out there. It ain’t safe,” he said, but even as he spoke the words, he knew warning him was a waste of time.

Great-grandpa Alowishis remembered when he was even younger than the boy. Porch-chair afternoons found his ears glued to the stories his own great-grandfather recounted of Old America when the national pastimes were baseball, football, hockey. It was a happy time when spectators in sweating shirts came in droves to cheer their teams.

Now the pastime was fear, a wave of quaking civilians cowering indoors behind their conviction that life was a brief candle. Still, the unwritten gang law of “Tutum Domi,” (safe at home) declared them untouchable. It was only a matter of time before home became a cell and death by escape seemed preferable to life by containment. A step outside meant leathered delinquents on the streets would snuff out that flickering flame.

He felt sorry for the twelve-year-old. The boy had lost his parents in the Neighborhood War. They had ventured from home onto Dartmouth Street, claiming some false sense of courage compelled them. The old man knew better; he called it reckless bravado, an agreed-upon pact to take that final walk.

Giosif’s father made light of the gunfire deafeningly flashing overhead. “We’ll pretend it’s a rainbow,” he joked. And Giosif’s surrogate-mother added, “Or an arch of flowers above us as we walk.” The two held hands but the old man could detect, even with fading eyesight, both their hands trembling.

They never came back.

Giosif and the old man. Prisoners in their stone house, nibbling rationed morsels unfit for rodents. How much longer? he wondered.

Suddenly, the stars and stripes of Old Glory waved proudly in the old man’s memory. He bit his lip to dispel it. He remembered placing his hand on his chest like school children of old who for so long recited allegiance to one nation, this nation, this home of the free and the brave and now the center of siege. Foreign oppressors he could have predicted, even in his youth. They stormed the skies, bombed the cities, planted their dark flags as they burned ours, but instead of freedom fighters banding together to save the nation, street gangs grew in numbers and strength. Their objective?  Retake the cities for themselves.

“Life’s different now,” Giosif said without looking up from the green Spetzer in his hand. Hypnotically he ran the chamois up and down the green triple barrel. “We gotta show them.” Show them what? the old man thought. That we could possibly put a stop to this? To these neighborhood terrorists? Even the Radical Armies are afraid to march down our streets!

“Ain’t a crime no more.

Then the boy walked towards the door, released the deadbolt, yanked down the chains, and stepped into the light of machinegun fire. He raised the shiny Spetzer, aimed it with a cool hand and fired at Clara somebody from Arbor Lane, Jacksonville Jack’s woman who co-led the Z-Ford bikers up and down city-block streets. Clara fell, her bike spinning where she lay.

“Stay your ass on K Street,” Giosif shouted at the dead woman.

Alowishis gasped and called to him. “Cold-blooded murder.” But the boy laughed, reloading for Jacksonville Jack. He’d take no chances. He vowed he would never make the mistake his close friend Daveed did. Turning his back on the street, heading back into his Dartmouth Street home, Daveed was shot dead by a survivor from a Harris Road family he was so sure he had wiped off the asphalt face of their street

Giosif walked backwards into the dark house. He shut the door, chained it, threw the deadbolt, and puffed his thin lips into a full-of-pride smile. Then someone knocked on the door. The only sound Giosif offered was the click of his Spetzer’s hammer.

“It’s me, Giosif. Your neighbor here on Dartmouth. Margie. Margie Pederson. You knew my dead husband Sam. Please let me in.”

His inner voice said No, let her die out there; that ain’t Sam’s widow, but tough boy with gun was still boy with a heart full of street honor. He unchained the door. Slid the deadbolt free. Expected Margie to dash inside quickly enough for him to slam the door behind her.

Instead, he saw Jack. Margie was gone. Armed with a Thompson-Abdul M9, Jack forced his way inside.

Straight off, he sprayed the peeling walls, then shot the boy. Giosef lay crumpled and bloody on the faded green living-room carpet, his unfired Spetzer clenched tightly in his hand, blue unblinking eyes locked open as though in rapt attention to what Jack had to say.

Alowishis furrowed his stubbled face into waves of wrinkled skin. Jack had set down his machinegun, then removed from his leather jacket a Ruger pistol, plunking the barrel hard against the old man’s temple

Giosif lay dead at his feet. Through the still-open door Alowishis could see the sun, so many years a stranger, sting his eyes. He shut them. Filled his mind with happier times. The Independence Day Parade up and down Dartmouth Street. The neighbors from every street and avenue marching proudly to patriotic tunes. Ice cream cones and blue cotton candy. Mayor Billy Quince shouting to visitors, “Welcome, neighbors! Welcome! Welcome!” Old Glory filled with the promise to wave forever.

The old man sighed at the volley of first fireworks.

Jack squeezed the trigger.

  * * *

Salvatore Buttaci is an obsessive-compulsive writer whose work has appeared widelyHe was the 2007 recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award.

His short-short fiction collections, published by All Things That Matter Press, are available at Amazon.com:

Flashing My Shortshttp://www.amazon.com/Flashing-My-Shorts-Salvatore-Buttaci/dp/0984259473

200 Shorts: http://www.amazon.com/200-Shorts-Salvatore-Buttaci/dp/0984639241/ref=sr_1_1?Ss=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1314991699&sr=1-1

A Family of Sicilians, his book portraying a true image of what it means to be Sicilian, is available at https://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?keyWords=A+FAMILY+OF+SICILIANS&type=

Sal Buttaci lives in Princeton, West Virginia, with his loving and much loved wife Sharon.

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The Gathering by Monica Brinkman

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The night was approaching and with it growing excitement for what was to come. Maurice had heard about the gatherings which took place on this very special day. His dream was to one day be part of the exclusive group. They only selected the most perfect to partake in the festivities, and here he found himself, amid the flawless beauty of the others.

He knew Sheila would be picked, with her round curves and broad smile. She was second to be chosen. He could see why with a face that lit up the night with its brightness and warm glow. He’d secretly had a crush on her, yet would never let on, for she had her heart set on Louis.

Suppose if you were to measure excellence in form and face, Louis would win by a landslide. Somehow the crooked leering grin and arched eyes drew the crowd. He’d come in first place with the judges who selected those who would be part of the celebration. Maurice was tiring of the relentless reminder of superiority Louis exuded. Still, it was worth putting up with his boastful nature to be within this exclusive assembly.

Darkness now engulfed the night, which only accentuated the glow emitted from the windows behind them. So proud were they, for they had been carefully chosen from hundreds, maybe even thousands to bring in the season. And now they sat on the porch, he on the bannister, Sheila on the stool and Louis on the front step.

Though he realized he did not have the firm, broad form of Louis, or the curvy elegance of Sheila, he had something special indeed. He was the tallest and leanest of them all and he wore a devilish grin, accented by the wink of an eye. It somehow captured the heart of the people, and he was delighted!

So, they did what only the winners of the gathering were meant to do. They shined their beauty upon the world, and people stopped and looked and laughed and smiled. It felt so good to bring such joy to others, especially the children, who delighted in their excellence.

The night grew longer and soon the people were far and few and a chill set in, forming ice spots on his lids and mouth. He noticed Louis and Sheila were experiencing the same discomfort. Wasn’t it time to go inside the house and warm their cold at the fire? Why wasn’t anyone coming for them?

The light from the windows disappeared and they were in total darkness, apart from the glow of the candles, which were melting at rapid speed. He could feel the flicks of melted soy against his skin. Now it was becoming unbearable. Icy cold around his form and extreme heat within his body. He heard Sheila gasp and Louis groan.

What was such glory, had now turned into the worst nightmare. Where were the judges? Why had they abandoned them? Winners should be protected.

Wait. He heard footsteps and the sound of rustling leaves. They had not forgotten them. Maurice sighed with relief, his spirit perked. Two young boys approached, one tiptoed onto the porch and seized Sheila, tossing her hat to the floor, while the other raised Louis off the step and lifted him high into the air, and, no, Maurice could not believe his eyes, the young man threw Louis to the ground with such force it broke his body into pieces. The once magnificent Louis lay crumbled and dying.

Maurice heard the thud and saw his once lovely Sheila split in two.

The last thing Maurice heard was the taller boy state, “What a mess this will be for old man Phillips when he wakes up tomorrow.”

As Maurice lay broken on the porch, his insides leaking out onto the tattered floorboards, he realized this was not a great reward to be chosen as the best of pumpkins. In fact, it was the ultimate punishment.

***

Monica M Brinkman believes in ‘giving it forward’; reflected by her writing and radio show. A firm believer open communication is the most powerful tool to make positive change in the world; she expresses this in her books, The Turn of the Karmic Wheel, The Wheels Final Turn and in her weekly broadcast of It Matters Radio.

An avid writer, who has been proclaimed a true storyteller, she has been published in several anthologies and wrote a weekly column for over two years at Authorsinfo. Her works can be found at various sites throughout the internet. Visit her blog @ http://itmattersradio.wix.com/on-the-brink

Monica resides in the Midwest with her husband, two dogs and five cats.

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Searching for More by Cynthia B Ainsworthe

Road to dead city

Carla ambled on the smooth black asphalt over to Richard, who sat on the gray concrete bench. Color had been absent in her life from birth. Not because of any hereditary defect, but due to the world she inhabited. She accepted this fact, as did the others. She had been taught not to question the leaders, and she knew Richard had the same upbringing. She gazed up at the gray towering buildings—the cityscape that made up her world.

He didn’t look up as she sat down. He kept his eyes straight ahead with a vacant stare. “In a couple of hours we’ll have to return to our quarters. I don’t want to be quarantined for missing curfew.”

“I know.” Carla sat down beside him. She studied the tattooed numbers on the inside of his arm. “I see you’re an odd. I’m an even.”

“Too bad.” Richard turned and looked at her. “We won’t be allowed to couple. They are strict about enforcing those things.”

“My roommate told me that when I first moved out of the children’s home.” She twirled a strand of her long brown hair. “Odds go with odds, and evens go with evens. I wonder if it was always this way—rules governing everything—even the way we’re supposed to think.”

He looked up at the blue sky. “There was a time, eons before us, before the Global Federation, when life was very different—full of plants, trees, flowers, people wearing colors for clothing instead of our gray protective suits. There was entertainment. People moved to music, known as dancing. Eating food that came from trees and the soil, and not the nutrient cakes with water we are served. They were allowed to choose their mates. There were places to which people could travel, too.”

“How do you know all these things?” I hope he’s not a subversive. If he is, I could be punished for talking with him. “Have you been snooping in the forbidden library vaults? You could be banished to the outland and never heard from again.”

“I have the elders’ trust.” A grimace thinned his lips. “I’m not about to start a revolution …. Have you ever wondered why we all look the same? Same color skin, eyes, hair, body type?”

“No. I just thought it was always the way it is now.” Her fingers lightly touched the top of Richard’s hand resting on his knee. “Don’t tell me more if it will get you into trouble.”

“From what I could tell from the archives, there were a series of massive wars between countries, all fighting for power and global control of resources as the population grew and food and water became more precious. Great scientific advances were made and would have benefited mankind if there wasn’t one last battle that ended most of life—plants, animals, and man. The few that survived were able to pull together and create what we have now.”

“Is what we have now really that terrible?” She lifted his chin to look into his almond eyes. “All you’re doing is creating a want inside yourself. That can’t be good. Certainly not good for the commune.”

“I’m thinking of how it might have turned out for us now if the actions of others, all those eons ago, were different.” He sighed, noticing the shadow elongate on the sidewalk from the setting sun. “I might have different features, skin color, or talent for something, instead of working at the same task every day.”

“What’s the use of thinking this way? I learned in school that the old leaders forced people of different races to mate until there was only one skin color—that was the goal—to stop prejudice.” What is he getting at? There’s no way to change things. “Remembering all those old history facts have nothing to do with us now. The elder leaders know what is best. We get a televised notice every morning in the common room.”

“But, we don’t know if that leader is real. All we see is an image on a screen. We never have the opportunity to ask questions—never allowed to ask questions.” He paused as his eyes roamed over her face. “Don’t you ever wonder what will happen to you when you can no longer breed? Wonder where you are shipped off to?”

“I believe what I’m told—a better place where I can relax and not worry about tasks.” Were the elders lying to us? “To have the freedom to talk with others as much as I want, instead of only a few hours each day.”

Richard sighed with a heaviness as if he held a deep dark secret and dare not reveal it for fear of an unknown retribution. “We’d better head to our quarters. We don’t want unnecessary punishment.” He offered his hand to Carla as he stood. “If you want to believe the others end up in a better place after they’re shipped out—go ahead. Nothing will change, unless …”

© 2016 Cynthia B Ainsworthe

Cynthia has longed to be a writer. Life’s circumstances put her dream on hold for most of her life. In 2006, she ventured to write her first novel, Front Row Center, which won the prestigious IPPY Award (Independent Publisher), as well as garnering numerous 5-star reviews, one from known Midwest Book Review. Front Row Center is the first book in the Forbidden Series.

This novel is now being adapted to screen. A script is in development by her and notable Hollywood screenwriter, producer, and director, Scott C. Brown. Remember?, and Forbidden Footsteps are books two and three in the Forbidden Series. She also contributed to the award-winning anthology, The Speed of Dark, compiled by Clayton C. Bye, published by Chase Enterprises Publishing. Cynthia enjoys retirement in Florida caring for her husband and their five poodle-children.

https://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-B.-Ainsworthe/e/B00KYRE1Q8

https://www.cynthiabainsworthe.com

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THE DISAPPEARING MAGICIAN Don’t Try this at Home By Hazel Dixon-Cooper

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Instead of astounding one of his Las Vegas audiences by making an elephant disappear, Penn Jillette amazed the country by losing 104 pounds in four months.

In 2014, weighing 322 pounds and on eight different medications for hypertension, Jillette ended up in the hospital with life-threatening, uncontrollable high blood pressure. A doctor told him that if he could lose 40 pounds, he might be able to significantly reduce both his blood pressure and the medication he took. The doctor suggested bariatric surgery. Realizing that he must lose weight and change his eating habits if he was going to live, Jillette shunned the surgery but agreed to lose weight.

The magician says he does not believe in moderation. Instead of beginning a sensible and healthy weight-loss program, he called his friend, Ray Cronise, a former NASA engineer-turned-weight-loss coach. Cronise’s program is not moderate.

For the first two weeks, Jillette ate nothing but potatoes. Nothing. He could eat russets, fingerlings, Yukon Gold, or any other type he craved. He could boil them, bake them, or eat them raw. He had to eat them plain—no salt, oil, or sour cream—and was allowed up to five per day. He lost 18 pounds. Corn was next on the menu. “It tasted like candy,” Jillette said. He added other vegetables, fruits, and unprocessed grains over the next few weeks until he was eating 1,000 calories a day.

In addition to the potatoes-only diet, the program consisted of intermittent fasting, cold showers, and lots of sleep to trigger a metabolic winter. According to Cronise, the idea was to jump-start Jillette’s body into feeding on itself to create rapid weight loss. It worked. Over the next three months, Jillette dropped another 72 pounds. Now he eats one meal a day, usually a huge salad, in the late afternoon and all the fruit he can stuff in his face.

Jillette says he hates to exercise, and didn’t while on the program. The truth is that it was forbidden. “Why would you want someone who is 100 pounds overweight to risk injury by exercising?” said Cronise.

What injury? Does he think his clients should jump into an extreme body-building routine? Maybe the near-starvation diet and rapid weight loss made Penn Jillette too weak to exercise.
Even if you have a hundred pounds to lose, as I did, walking is a safe way to stay mobile. At first, my feet and ankles hurt so badly that I couldn’t go farther than the end of the block. I was short of breath so I shuffled. As I grew stronger, I increased the distance until I was routinely walking three to four miles a day. Our bodies are made to move.

Jillette admits that he had a 90-percent blockage in an artery in his heart. That, with his weight and dangerously high blood pressure could have been the perfect storm for either a heart attack or stroke, especially with the added stress of even moderate exercise. He had surgery to unclog the artery two months before beginning the drastic diet.

Quickly losing a huge amount of weight looks dramatic, and it’s tempting to think that you could be five or six sizes smaller within a few months. The trouble with that and every quick-fix program is that you risk your health. Rapid weight loss can set the stage for gallstones and fatty liver disease. You can lose more water and lean muscle tissue than actual fat. This is especially true if you are not helping your atrophied muscles repair themselves by exercising while you are losing. Jillette says that he did begin a mild program including riding an adult tricycle several miles a day after he lost the weight.

Exercise or not, you would think that, after such an extreme weight loss, Penn Jillette would be the first to promote this plan to anyone within earshot. Not so. Instead, he told Dr. Oz, USA Today, and a slew of others that this diet is not for everyone. In fact, he’s adamant about it. So is a line-up of physicians, nutritionists, and weight-loss experts who all agree this has done nothing but set him up for failure. Although potatoes contain natural compounds that affect inflammation, hunger, insulin, sleep, and mood, they do not provide all the nutrition your body needs to maintain health.

Ray Cronise alludes to creating the potato diet and says that he chose the starchy vegetable because it is a good source of protein. However, the concept has been around since 1849. That plan promised fat men that they would become lean and required them to stay on the potatoes-only menu for three-to-five days. More than a hundred and sixty years later, the potato diet is still being recycled as another miracle cure for obesity.

Penn Jillette has kept his weight off for a year. He’s also promoting his new book, Presto, about his experience. Right now, he’s still motivated. However, the long-term odds are against his maintaining both his current weight and his health. Ninety-five percent of people who fall for any medical, commercial, or over-the-counter weight-loss fixes are going to fail.

No miracle cure, no fad, no draconian hard-ass way to lose weight will help you keep it off. The only way that works is getting rid of your carbohydrate and fat addictions, and that is a slow process. Drive by the drive-through. Pass up the pizza. Dump the processed food and nitrate-loaded meat products. You can start as I did by gradually making healthier choices. One skipped order of French fries, one refused dessert, one trade from fried chicken to grilled halibut will start to turn your life and your health in the right direction.

There is no presto in weight loss. Just like a magic act, the promises of near-instant results are only illusions.

Noted astrologer Hazel Dixon-Cooper is known and loved by fans and astrology buffs all over the world. You can find more about her at www.hazeldixoncooper.com and easily purchase her books at https://www.amazon.com/Hazel-Dixon-Cooper/e/B001H9RFEM

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THE STING by Bryan Murphy

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Photo by Awersowy – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5930841

Portugal in the 1970s. Ed Scripps, a young expatriate English businessman, has lost his wife, his business and his money. Now an evil cult, which calls itself Pangaia, has sucked his best friend, Mark, into its clutches in order to get its hands on Mark’s newly acquired wealth. Ed is determined to rescue Mark, and enlists the help of Mark’s wife Simone, and other friends, to try to do so.

Ed took a dark Sagres beer from the fridge for inspiration. He had acclimatised so thoroughly that he now drank his beer cold, even in winter: the chill at the back of his throat added to the impact of that first swig. With the night’s third bottle, inspiration started to arrive. By the time the fifth empty bottle clinked into the waste bin, he had a plan.

In the cold light of day, Ed still thought his plan was a good one. He summoned the group to a meeting that evening and laid it before them. They thought it risky, but feasible. They would do it.

The next morning, Simone went to the bank and wired a significant sum of money from a joint account to the bank’s branch in Vila Abade, for Mark to pick up in person. One of the group, Luís, then phoned Pangaia, declared himself to be a senior clerk from the bank, and asked to speak to Mark. They told him Mark was unavailable but he could leave a message. Luís explained the transfer and said that Mark could collect his money the following day.

Early the next morning, Ed, Simone and Gabriela drove up to Vila Abade in a hired car. They parked near the police station in the small town and walked towards the bank, hurrying to keep out the winter chill as well as to get in position before the bank opened. They took up their places, in sight of each other, but with only one of them visible to the guard outside the bank, should he care to look in that direction.

They were counting on Jorge being keen to get his hands on Mark’s money as fast as possible, and they were not disappointed. Minutes after the bank opened, Ed saw Mark approach it, accompanied by three heavies. Ed pulled his borrowed hat down and hurried towards the bank, taking care to disguise his limp. He was the first customer to enter the bank, and he engaged the sole clerk already on duty in a discussion of how he might open an account there, spinning out the misunderstandings by making his Portuguese more rudimentary than it had been for years. The Pangaia group came in after him and had to wait. If Mark recognised Ed, he did not show it.

A blast of cold air came in as the door opened. Gabriela strode in, looking flustered and anxious. She asked who was last in the queue and started complaining loudly about bank staff always being late for work. The guard raised his eyebrows and closed the door on them. Mark’s escorts glared daggers at the foreigner separating them from Mark’s money. When Ed could spin out his request no further, and gave it up with many thanks to the bored clerk, the Pangaia group moved forward to take his place, but Gabriela brushed past them to the counter.

“Excuse me, I’m sorry, I just can’t wait! Show a little gallantry, gentlemen!”

“Hey! Who do you think you are!”

“Get out of the way, bitch!”

“We’re next! Not you, you stupid cow!”

They did not notice Simone enter. Mark did. He rushed to embrace her. As he did so, Ed started to yell.

“Help! It’s a robbery! Help!!”

Gabriela began to scream. The clerk pressed the alarm button. The guard ran in, gun in hand, and saw the heaviest of Pangaia’s disciples with his thick arms around Mark’s neck. The guard felled him with a blow from the barrel of the gun, then pointed it at the other two heavies who scrambled to tend to their fallen companion.

“Stop where you are! You’re all under arrest!”

The above is an extract from Revolution Number One, the forthcoming novel by British author Bryan Murphy. Bryan welcomes visitors to his website at http://www.bryanmurphy.eu You can find a selection of his e-books here: viewAuthor.at/BryMu

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