2015 is a Power Year for Every Astrology Sign


Astrology is often called the first primitive form of psychology. Today, millions of people use this ancient system of self-knowledge to better understand both the world and themselves. No, it isn’t fortunetelling or religion. Yes, it is accurate. Virtually every culture and civilization has used it as a guiding force for more than five thousand years.

Fine, you say, but you’re not a stubborn Taurus. Or you’re a rare, quiet Sagittarius. You feel that the typical description of your sign doesn’t fit you at all. That’s because your Sun sign is only the beginning. You’re unique, and your birth chart reveals the complexities and layers of your character that make you special.

Your Sun sign, and the horoscopes based on it alone, gives you a broad look at the possible road blocks and lucky breaks coming your way within a given period of time.

2015 is going to be a fiery year full of hope and opportunity. Let’s see what the stars have in store for your Sun.

ARIES: Usually, you’re about as patient as a toddler demanding dinner. Lately, however, the stars have been stirring up your insecurities.  You can kick those self-doubts to the curb. 2015 puts your warrior self back in action, and you’re going to experience a Superman-size leap forward in life.

TAURUS: Scraping moss from a rock is usually easier than getting you to make a change. This year’s all about learning to live in the moment. You’ve hesitated about a project, person, or dream too long. The stars want you to quit procrastinating and start a personal revolution.

GEMINI: Although you can multi-task yourself into nervous fits, your diligent, if frantic, work ethic gets rewarded this year.  Hold out your hand, because the stars are poised to pay off like a slot machine.

CANCER: You can work yourself into a frazzled mess, and then retreat to a dark room for days. You can forget that scenario in 2015. Say good-bye to the guilt that drives you to be everything to everyone, and hello to a boundary-setting boost from the universe.

LEO: You know you’re a star. You’ve just been waiting for the right time to spring into action. It’s time. The planets send you some lucky breaks this year. The only thing you have to do is keep your eyes open and your claws sharpened.

VIRGO:  Stop biting your fingernails, and start preparing for a year that just gets better as the months roll by. Focus on your money-making skills because you’re going to get more than one chance to use them.

LIBRA: You can see so many sides of a situation that you get stuck in neutral. No more. The stars align to fuel the fires of straight talk. The culprits you take aim at this year are sure to squeal louder than a pig facing the frying pan, but don’t let that stop you. Once the smoke clears, you’ll feel better than you have in ages.

SCORPIO: Take a big sigh of relief and shrug that weight off your shoulders. 2015 is going to feel like a vacation. To prove it, the stars are sending you plenty of opportunities to travel. Keep a bag packed.

SAGITTARIUS: You love surprises. Surprise! You’re about to get a cosmic kick that fires up your need to reinvent yourself. Forget about being the neighborhood guru. This year, the stars help you focus on your needs first.

CAPRICORN: Your devotion to duty can get downright grim. The pressure you’ve felt to perform lightens as your schedule downsizes to double-time versus the super-human commitment you’ve been making. You’ll still make progress, but without having to work 24/7.

AQUARIUS:  2015 shifts both your imagination and your inner rebel into high gear, and this combination could have fantastic results. However, in order to make sense of the jumble of brainstorms buzzing through your head you need quiet time. That’s why you feel like telling everyone near you to take a hike. Do it.

PISCES: Timid and delusional as you sometimes are, in 2015, you’re under the influence of a planetary lineup that could put you on the path to more success and recognition than you ever imagined. The Universe has your back. Act like the shark you can be and take a big, wet bite right out of the middle of life.


Hazel Dixon-Cooper is the author of the internationally best-selling Rotten Day astrology book series. Her latest book, Harness Astrology’s Bad Boy, discusses Pluto, the planet of transformation.

She speaks at conferences throughout the United States and leads writer and astrology workshops. Hazel has been practicing and teaching astrology for more than twenty-five years.

astrohazel@gmail.com                       www.hazeldixoncooper.com

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Spirit of the Ladybug: Let go & Let God


Don’t push too hard! Your wish will be fulfilled if you allow it to come to you.


Whether one calls them ladybugs, ladybirds, or lady beetles, what is it about this ‘bug’ that so lovingly captures our attention? After all, it is an insect! Oh, my, yes, but what an adorable little insect that can lovingly tickle the palm of the hand or lightly rest upon an arm! Let’s take a closer look at this phenomenal tiny creature and its impact on life.

Did you know this tiny beetle is an emblem of good luck, links to spiritual ideals and carries a powerful message? With its tiny, short legs, transparent wings and brightly colored black, yellow or reddish markings, the ladybug fascinates us with her delicate and loving nature…simply sensational! A ladybug’s appearance initiates smiles, as well as oohs and ahhs from children. Worries just simply seem to fade with a sense of happiness engulfing our very being. It has been rumored if you count the spots on a ladybug, they correspond with the number of wishes and gifts that will come to you in the future. But, take heed! Hurt a ladybug and the spots show how many misfortunes await you.

Remember today, just like a visit from the ladybug, a surprise visit to a friend in need, may be all it takes to lift them from despair to a tiny glimmer of hope … and beyond

The ladybug brings to each of us a spiritual awakening often seen as a message of promise. A tough little shell protects the angel like wings yet allows this little insect to gracefully fly reminding us there will always be opportunities to pursue and capture our dreams. Such a tiny creature filled with messages and gifts of joy should not be ignored. Patterning our lives after the ladybug embraces the gift of ourselves to others, especially in times of need. Words of encouragement land softly on the heart much like the delicate touch of the ladybug bringing on a smile, a hug, a tear as tiny spots of hope appear. The life cycle of the adult ladybug is short, thereby, teaching us to release worries and enjoy our lives to the fullest. When a ladybug appears in your life, the message is to “let go and let God.” Spread your wings and soar to new heights.

The Ladybug is epitomized in verse below and shared on YouTube as a video poem. Enjoy the piano and photos @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ubz0_0iCRM

The Ladybug

ladybug, ladybug
what do you see?
as i gaze upon you
do you see me…

watching and waiting
for fragile wings to emerge
gently opening
stirring emotions that surge?

how oft’ I have wished
for you to stay
then a single raindrop
whisks you away

come back, come back
my little friend
across the grasses
tall and thin

barer of wisdom
joyful in flight
release your spirit
into the light

tickle my palm
sit on my knee
on my arm
i welcome thee

ladybug, ladybug
what do i see
as i gaze upon you
looking back at me

a creature so small
delicate too
capturing my heart
through and through

‘tis luck they say
you bring to creation
more than luck i say
savors nature’s sensation…

a feathery tickle
dewy grass under your toes
fragrance of wild flowers
a kitten’s velvety nose

cloaked with red wings
rare in natural history
your plights and flights
mirror nature’s mystery…

the messenger of promise
a great spirit to behold
all in the revelation
of the ladybug’s soul

the ladybug’s message
along any path trod
simple, yet powerful
to ‘let go and let God’

©Sharla Lee Shults

What messages have you received from the ladybug? Do you have any special stories to share about the ladybug and how your life has possibly been touched?


Sharla’s passion for writing is poetry: Historical and inspirational. Become acquainted with her writing by visiting http://sharlashults.com/ where links are accessible to her books, blogs and social networks.

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Sal at Computer.1998

Defined as “the training of oneself for the sake of improvement,“ self-discipline must be in the repertoire of all serious writers. To approach the writing craft without it is analogous to planning a road trip across the country on an empty tank of gas. You may entertain imaginative thoughts of sunny days in California, but the reality is you are not leaving frigid Maine without gas.

How do writers become self-disciplined? The same way champion boxers or ballplayers or dancers or any crafts people do: they practice until they are as near perfect as they can possibly be. It’s not easy and it doesn’t happen immediately. It’s an ongoing process that eventually separates those who truly want to be excellent at what they do from those who enjoy dallying from one activity to another. It has been said that we all have a book inside us, but without self-discipline that book remains unwritten, an empty boast, a snippet of party conversation.

As do all writers, I have some suggestions that might help develop self-discipline.

  1. Become a reader.

It is true that many writers read so avidly they claim to have little time to write. Learn to balance reading and writing so that neither becomes an excuse to avoid the other. In the biographies of writers we discover without surprise their love of reading. Most began writing at an early age, inspired by the literature they were reading at the time. The excitement of a Poe mystery, a Stevenson adventure on the high seas, a Dumas intrigue, a Chandler crime noir –– Why wouldn’t these books encourage young readers to write? Reading can do that. And while we all read, our brains infuse us with the ability to develop plots, effectively utilize dialogue, and vary the components of sentence and paragraph lengths, types of writing, and placement of foreshadowing and suspense.

  1. Write every day.

Carry a small pocket pad and pen. Jot down ideas as they come to you. Refer to them later in your writing session. I have found this effective all of my writing life. I jot down an interesting line of dialogue, a scene of slow-moving traffic in a heavy snowfall, a sentence that might become an arresting hook in a story, a dream sequence. The pad allows us to capture the moment; otherwise, like most night dreams they fade away.

Sharon and I used to take walks in the local graveyard where I would jot down tombstone names to use later in stories.

The daily habit of writing facilitates the act of writing just as the daily habit of shooting basketballs into hoops leads to hardly any misses. Don’t write only when the spirit moves you. Awaiting the arrival of the muse is not amusing to me. How often does she visit? Why does she appear in my head at my busiest time, compelling me to send her away? If writers apply their craft on a daily basis, they can dismiss the idea of a muse who delivers from her goody basket poems and stories. To be once-in-awhile writers is to be dabblers and nothing more.

There is a story about Ernest Hemingway coming to his typewriter every single day and banging away at the keys when ideas were dancing or bar-fighting in his head. One time he sat there dry as a bone. He typed the word “the” to get started, but nothing followed so he typed “the” again…and again…and again, until the page was filled with that repetitive article “the.” Then all at once the second word came…and the third…and on and on, page after page. Hemingway was not one to toss perseverance to the winds. He stuck to it because he was highly self-disciplined which led him to being highly and successfully productive. We ought best to follow his lead.

  1. Learn the writing craft.

What upsets me is the erroneous conception that word usage matters little if the story is worth telling. Who told them that? I have seen writers submit stories with blatant mistakes in grammar and then wonder why they were rejected. As an editor for several years, I would read sentences like the following: “She laid down in bed.” She laid what down in bed? “The minister had rang the bell.” Really? “Please come with Jack and I.”

Is it the editor’s job to correct submitted work? “She lay down in bed.” “The minister had rung the bell.” “Please come with Jack and me.”

Writers need to have handy at their elbows an English handbook, a dictionary, and for occasional reference, a thesaurus. They need to seriously school themselves in the language in which they are writing or incur the reader’s doubt as to how proficient they are in telling their stories.

  1. Create a writing challenge.

There is nothing like a word puzzle to keep the creative juices flowing. One way might be to open your dictionary and blindly point to a word or two and use them in your opening sentence.

Another example would be to write a flash without the use of a particular letter. In the following I did not include the vowel a. I call this “No A, José.”

“If I could I’d get out of this town,” Gus expressed without uttering even one letter a.

“How come?” Tessie inquired. “Why is it the word police treat us so cruel, coldly depriving us of one stinking letter? We’re left with twenty-five. How odd.”

“It’s not even odd,” spoke Gus.

“Which? Even or odd?”

Gus lifted his upper lip.  “It’s preposterously evil to rob us of completely free expression, even or odd. How will they punish us next? Forbid the world to use y or c or f?

“Drink your coffee, Gus. Things could be worse.”


I welcome you to add your own suggestions in an attempt to help writers improve their craft.


Sal Buttaci retired from teaching in 2007 and now lives with his wife Sharon in West Virginia. He writes everyday in an attempt to improve his craft. Sal is the author of two flash collections published by All Things That Matter Press and available at Amazon.com: Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts.

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Valentine’s Day Special


Originally a religious celebration, it was in 18th century England that February 14th became associated with romance, and eventually evolved into Valentine’s Day, that special day of the year when couples express their love for each other and exchange gifts which may include flowers, chocolates, cards and sparkly things like diamonds.

It seems fitting for us to post our best romantic stories and poems on this day for your reading pleasure.




Across the field of my vision, for a moment she is there;
then, as if dissolved in mist, her beauty disappears.
She floated on the breeze of love and on desire’s wind.
Did the god who shaped such beauty also fashion sin?

Temptation, I shall name and follow thee until the end
of time and world. Until my lonely heart shall bend
my knees to worship at thy feet. My heart already there
praying for you, my love, to once again appear.
I hear the fairies’ laughter in the dew that softly lights
upon the waking flowers at the gentle end of night.
I smell the jasmine and the lavender of desire
in that sweetest love which sets my soul on fire.

Yet, you mock me with your disappearance
and leave me spouting trite, rhyming incoherence.
Love, cruel mistress to us all. Temptation, you
to whose sweet memory I never bid adieu.

Kenneth Weene


Sometimes Ken Weene writes to exorcise demons. Sometimes he writes because the characters in his head demand to be heard. Sometimes he writes because he thinks what he have to say might amuse or even on occasion inform. Mostly, however, he writes because it is a cheaper addiction than drugs, an easier exercise than going to the gym, and a more sociable outlet than sitting at McDonald’s drinking coffee with other old farts: in brief because it keeps him just a bit younger and more alive.

Ken’s newest book Broody New Englander has recently been published by Red Chameleon Press. It can be purchased at http://www.amazon.com/Broody-New-Englander-Kenneth-Weene/dp/1502759284






Trish Jackson


“Check it out. He’s staring at you,” Rachel nudged me hard with her elbow and giggled.

He was the cutest guy in the whole school. All my friends said so, and I agreed.

“Ouch!” I said. “Don’t let him see us looking at him.” I turned and headed away from him as fast as I could, thankful that my friends were following me.

Jenny pulled my shoulder. “Now you’ve messed up all your chances,” she said. “He’ll think you’re not interested.”

I put my hands up to block my ears. “Cut it out,” I said. “Stop talking about him. You guys are making me crazy.”

We sank down side-by-side on our favorite bench. I couldn’t help it. I had to sneak a glance at him. My gaze locked with his, held for a second, two seconds. I jerked my head away. My heart was pounding so hard I was scared the others would hear it.

“Did you guys understand that math problem Catterall gave us yesterday?” I wondered if he was still watching me but I couldn’t risk another look.

I don’t remember much of the rest of that day at school. I’ll never forget what happened after the final bell, though, when all of a sudden he was beside me.

“Walk you home?” he said.

“Y—yes. Thanks,” I stammered. My legs were shaking and I was finding it hard to breathe.

“You know what day it is today,” he said. “Right?”

“Yes. V– valentine’s day.” Why couldn’t I speak properly?

His hand reached out and he laced his fingers with mine. It made me feel warm all the way down to my toes. I never wanted to get to my house, but we did get there.

He released my hand. “Happy valentine’s day,” he said, and then he leaned into me and kissed me on my lips. “See you at school tomorrow.”

And he left. And just like that, I understood about the magic of romance. I felt like I was floating above the clouds and nothing in the world could ever make me come down.

Trish Jackson writes emotive romantic suspense focusing on small towns, country folk and their animals. Although her most recently released romantic comedy, Backwoods Boogie, is funny and entertaining, it carries a serious message about dog fighting and illegal puppy mills. Her newest book, Aquarius Addiction, is a romantic suspense thriller, with some paranormal events.



Soul-stirring, passionate, thrilling – and fun.




Sensual couple

Abridged Excerpt from FRONT ROW CENTER – IPPY Award Winner

Cynthia B. Ainsworthe


Taylor’s head reeled, making sleep elusive. She picked up a towel. The full moon illuminated the flagstone path. Reflected light danced across the pool’s water in random patterns. The soft sound of rippling alerted her.

It’s Larry taking a leisurely swim. Interesting! She stood very still, enjoying the sight of his bare buttocks.

He swam to the edge. “How long have you been standing there?” His eyes traveled up her body, from her long, shapely legs, to her firm, full breasts, and finally resting his gaze on her blue-green eyes.

“Long enough to know I like what I see.” Taylor ran her tongue suggestively along her lips.

“Be serious,” Larry said.

“I am serious … you’re a very attractive man. I bet I’m the only fan who’s seen you naked.”

“You certainly are. This goes no further—I can’t be advertising all my secrets.”

“Willing to share some of those ‘secrets’ with me, Larry?”

“You’ve seen enough of my ‘secrets’ tonight. Please hand me that towel.”

She dangled the towel just out of his reach. “Why don’t you climb out of the pool and get it yourself?”

“Taylor! This isn’t funny! Give me the damn towel!”

“I’m sorry, Lar … I was just having some fun. Really, I had no idea you’d be here at this hour.”

She handed him the towel and he climbed out of the pool.

“It’s okay. But you should come with a warning sign. You have a body that drives a man wild.”

Their kiss spoke of deep hunger. His mouth traveled down her neck, and to the base of her throat. “Your skin feels like silk,” he murmured.

“Larry,” she said breathlessly. “We can’t do this. I’m married.”

Her words shook him. “Taylor, I thought you wanted me, as much as I want you. Are you purposely teasing me?”

“No. I didn’t plan to seduce you.”

“But that’s exactly what you did!” His hand touched her cheek. “And beautifully, too, I might add.”

Tears came to her eyes. “We stopped in time. It won’t happen again. I trust you.”

“Can I trust myself? That’s the question.”

“Blame it on the romance of the moonlight,” she added, with a flirtatious smile.

Larry looked in her eyes, as if trying to read her thoughts. “You’re still going to stay a few days?”

“I’ll think about it … ,” she answered.

She strutted away with a seductive gait that again aroused Larry’s natural instincts.


As a retired cardiac RN turned-author, Cynthia enjoys her retirement in Florida, caring for her husband and their five poodle-children. Her first novel. Front Row Center, is being adapted to screen by her and Hollywood screenwriter, producer, director, Scott C Brown. She has won several awards for her writing including the coveted IPPY award, and has been a guest on several talk radio shows. She holds life-time VIP membership in Cambridge Who’s Who, Empire Who’s Who, and Manchester Who’s Who—all in recognition of professional career persons for achievement and excellence.










Dare I say it seems absurd, this sentimental gift
of roses rich in crimson hue, to fade and die far too soon.
For love itself is meant to last, to grow, to live, to thrive.
A faded flower cannot portray nuance or emotion deep

What better gift would purpose serve, expressing tender intimacy?
Surely tradition of bestowals bought, from card to sweets divine,
lack worth to signify sentiment or feelings raw, passions intense.
Loves’ essence lost. It has no cost purchased easily.

Instead the greatest gift of all lies hidden in the soul.
Dormant as it seeks escape through voice or written word.
To show gratitude to one whose loved, each and every day
Far exceeds a fading rose in its validity.

Monica M. Brinkman


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 book, The Turn of the Karmic Wheel and It Matters Radio. Look for her book, The Wheels Final Turn, to be release in 2015.

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

Visit her web sites:







Salvatore Buttaci

“I got me an idea,” Chuck Dugan said as they huddled around the student-lounge table. “It just came to me.”

Bill Henderson shook his head. Chuck’s ideas were like short circuits in the brain that sizzled, fizzled, and finally petered out.

“See the wiz kid over there?” asked Chuck. “The skinny guy with the wide tie and the yellow sweater?” They all nodded. “The guy with the blond hair falling out of his head?” Again they nodded.

“Get to the point,” Flannery said.


“You think he’s ever gone on a date? I mean a real one. Why don’t we fix him up on a blind date?”

“With who?” asked Tony G. “A blind chick?”

They put their heads together.

Finally Chuck jotted a name and an address in his pocket pad. “Who’s she?” the guys wanted to know. Chuck simply smiled. Then he stood up, walked over to the table where Wiz Kid sat eating French fries alone. He wore a large napkin under his chin and one in his lap.

“Name’s Dugan,” Chuck said in his John Wayne voice. “I told a gal about ya and she’s dyin’ to meet ya. A pretty gal. In West Orange. Not so far at all. You game?”


“Meetin’ her. A blind date.”

Wiz Kid furrowed his thin blond eyebrows. “Blind?”

Chuck looked back at the hell boys and laughed. “The date, not her.”

He took the pad sheet.

“By the way,” Chuck said, “what’s your name?”

“Matt. Matt Matthews. My friends call me M & M.”


That Saturday the hell boys hid in the shadows close enough to Nadine’s house to see M & M melt in their hands.

Matt knocked a few times. Finally an old woman about 80 years old slowly opened the door.


Her grandmother, figured Matt.

“I’m Nadine’s blind date. I’m taking her to the movies. West Side Story.”

“Nadine? Are you sure?” Matt nodded.

Then the old woman touched Matt’s hand, smiled, twinkled her eyes, and said, “Come in. Let me get my coat. I’m Nadine.”


Sal Buttaci is the author of two flash-fiction collections Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, both published by All Things That Matter Press and available at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Salvatore%20Buttaci

His book A Family of Sicilians… which critics called “the best book written about Sicilians” is available at www.lulu.com/spotlight/ButtaciPublishing2008

He lives in West Virginia with Sharon the love of his life.






Pass Intercepted

Delinda McCann

On my first day at college, before classes really began, my dorm had an exchange with a boys’ dorm to go to a football rally. To support my dorm, I went down to our parking lot to meet the freshman guys. They came in a hoard, hundreds of freshman guys looking for girls. They found about twenty-five of us. As my luck goes, the first boy to ask me to attend the rally with him wasn’t my type, but if my brothers taught me anything, I learned I must not embarrass a guy by rejecting him in front of a hundred others. I decided that despite being too pale and blond, maybe he would be interesting and off we went to the rally.

Things quickly went downhill with the silent, pale, blond boy and me. About halfway between the dorm and the football stadium, I started looking over the hoard of unattached young men and thinking that perhaps I should attract a fan club. At this moment, someone behind me said to his male companion, “You know, all these guys just met these girls. We should just go up and start walking with them.” I turned to see who was thinking my thoughts, but couldn’t pick out the mental giant from the hoard of unattached men. I found him within the next minute when an absolutely gorgeous guy appeared on my right side. I smiled and fluttered my eyelashes. The silent pale blond boy scowled at my new escort.

Pale Blond Boy executed a maneuver in the stadium to separate my new companion from me by insisting I enter the row of bleachers first. My new hero climbed over several people in order to sit next to me in the stands. Pale Blond Boy scowled more fiercely. Loren asked me to the dance following the rally. I nodded and Pale Blond Boy scowled.

Pale Blond Boy scowled at Loren and me for the next two years. Finally, Loren and I got married.

Pale Blond Boy still scowled at us.

I got pregnant.

Pale Blond Boy saw my huge belly, breathed a sigh of relief and stopped scowling.

Delinda McCann is a mostly-retired social psychologist. During her professional career she worked with at risk youth and individuals with disabilities. Her research in the field of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome led her to become an advisor to several governments. To ease the stress created by working in the disabilities field, she took up gardening. Never one to do things in a small way, Delinda now runs a small farm and sells cut flowers. She writes general fiction based on her experience as a social psychologist. She has published five novels. She expresses her sense of humor in many of her short stories. She’s also published numerous professional articles on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Youth At-Risk. The professional articles are rather academic and dry, but Delinda pulls what she knows about human behavior, disabilities and youth into her fiction.

You may purchase her books at: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Delinda+McCann





The Gift

Charline Ratcliff

The mid-January day was sunny, and Heather stared out through the kitchen window – completely oblivious to the world around her. Valentine’s Day was quickly approaching – much quicker than she’d realized, and she still had no idea what she was going to give to the love-of-her-life, Jarrod.

Years ago, she’d gone to see the movie Jerry Maguire with a girlfriend. Silent tears had streaked her cheeks when, at the end, Jerry returned to tell Dorothy: “You complete me.” For months afterward, Heather had struggled with the knowledge that there was no one in her life with whom she could share that amazing connection. But then, out of the blue, Jarrod had appeared and her life changed forever.

Still lost in thought, Heather smiled wistfully. Hallmark doesn’t necessarily carry a “You complete me” card, but even if it did, so simple a statement could never properly explain to him what he meant to her.

Pictures from her previous life – the one before Jarrod, flitted through her mind. A kaleidoscope of fragmented images; none of them pleasant and all of them centering around one specific person: her ex, Thomas.

With Heather’s thoughts focused on Thomas, the unwanted whirlwind of mental pictures ceased – only to be replaced by a close-up of his face. Cold, calculating eyes, a harsh mouth that always seemed to be in perpetual sneer, sharp aquiline nose, and lank, greasy hair caused Heather to once again question what she had seen in him. Thomas was abusive in every aspect of his personality and no one was safe from his self-righteous temper and condescension. He was so much different than Jarrod…

Thinking of Jarrod caused the image in her mind’s eye to change. Even without him physically present, he was once again banishing the darkness of her earlier years. Except that now she was right back to where she started – what to give him on Valentine’s Day? What item can accurately express the love and gratitude she has for him? What card can actually showcase the emotions traversed between where she had been versus where she is now? What gift can accurately express her wonderment at, and thanks for, this man’s tenacity and love?

Heather’s mind drifted off again. She involuntarily shivered when she contemplated where she would be today, right now, had she not met Jarrod. She’d certainly never have been able to walk away from her job to pursue her dream of becoming a writer either.

“Oh, my gosh, that’s it!” she triumphantly exclaimed.

She had only just finished a Creative Writing course, and now she had use for what she’d learned. After all, there was no one who could explain the ‘everything’ that he meant to her – no one except her. And that’s just what she intended to do.


Charline Ratcliff is an author of historical fiction. Her stories are themselves inspired by her own vivid, real-to-life dreams; each one providing her with glimpses of times long ago passed.







Never too Late

John B. Rosenman


Andrew Delane hadn’t heard her voice in fifty-nine years, but he recognized it in a heartbeat. He paused with his hand on the door of the assisted living facility before leaving and then turned, blinking with surprise.

Surely he was mistaken. It was his imagination.

Then he heard the voice again and shuddered with wonder. Hale, hearty, and at seventy-seven years of age self-sufficient as the broken friend he’d just visited wasn’t, he made his way across the day room until he discovered the voice’s source.

Six decades had ravaged and wilted the once fresh, flirtatious girl who sat alone at a table, her face a mass of wrinkles. While others might not have recognized her, Andrew had no trouble at all. To him, she was as lovely as ever.

“Hello, Evvie,” he said.

She blinked and looked up. “Have we met?”

“Yes, long ago. I’m Andy… Andrew Delane.” Before he lost his nerve, he sat down at the table.

“What are you doing?”

Her knobby fingers turned something over—a Valentine’s Day card. “To Grandmother with Love,” it said.

“My grandchildren sent it to me,” she said. “My husband used to give me flowers and presents. He never forgot.” She sighed. “But he’s been gone now seven years.”

So she was alone, just like him. He licked his lips. “I…once sent you a Valentine’s Day card.”

“You did?”

Yes, and you liked me once, too. Liked me a lot. Then you met the boy who became your husband and forgot all about me.

Evvie was looking at him. “Excuse me, I don’t mean to stare. It’s just my memory isn’t so good anymore and I forget things. What did you say your name is?”

He held out his hand, his heart pounding. “Andrew Delane.”

She raised her own and placed it trembling in his. Parkinson’s perhaps.

“I’m Eveline Timmons.”


She gazed at him, and for a moment sixty years passed away, and he could almost believe she was the girl who had briefly liked him.

“You’re nice, Andrew. If I can call you that.”

“You most certainly may, Eveline.” For the first time, he noticed other cards on the table as well as envelopes. “What are those?”

“These? Just some Valentine cards I’ve meant to fill out and mail.” A flutter of embarrassment.

“I’m a bit late.”

I guess we both are. He smiled and moved his chair closer. “Tell you what. Suppose I help you a little.”


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. The Merry-Go-Round Man, a coming-of-age novel featuring three boys in the fifties, can be found on Amazon and elsewhere.

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/John-B.-Rosenman/e/B001KMN69E
Website: http://www.johnrosenman.com





The Robe of Noble Hearts

James Secor


No job was so irksome as this. No. Irksome was not the right word. Not even odious quite captured his feelings. No. Quite simply, for Antonio this assignment was painful. But there it was. There was nothing for it. Never before had he let his Sire down. His pride and his sense of responsibility, his loyalty, demanded he repress his true feelings and carry out his duties, like it or not. Blind loyalty will do that to you: make you forget yourself. Blind loyalty allows you to ignore other possibilities. Abrogating responsibility is never an easy choice. Nor is it without consequences, often enough unexpected.

It wasn’t as if this were the first time he had been sent bearing gifts and a marriage proposal. Antonio had been sent with his Master’s bid for a maiden’s hand five times before. In this instance, correspondence had already begun with letters of polite, flowery courtly love on two or three occasions. None was as fearful as this particular possibility of acceptance, for the Lady Mechtilde was loved by Antonio himself. More the pain–it was Antonio’s own telling of the woman of his heart that inflamed his Lord’s passion.

What a heartless twist of Fate.


* * *

Antonio was received with open arms by King Friedrich, Mechtilde’s father. He was treated like a long lost son. Antonio was hurt even more by this. He harbored wishes of Mechtilde’s love and passion deep in his own breast, yet had to forego desire and suppress the pain of his squeezing heart. Breaking inside, Antonio must present the appropriate knightly face. Duty ever required a mask.

The sought-after and the messenger’s first meeting was uncomfortable for both. Mechtilde as she had not dealt with a go-between before and she found this one attractive and had since their first knowledge of each other months before. Antonio had made his love and devotion known at that time, promising to return to make her his. Yet he could not now make his suit to Mechtilde’s father. A King’s want holds sway over any other. Mechtilde, being a woman, had no say in the matter. A King was a good match. Both, therefore, repressed their true feelings, refusing to look at each other when both were required to appear together before Kind Friedrich.

One afternoon, shortly after Antonio’s arrival, Mechtilde sat in the garden awaiting the go-between’s presence. The ash tree behind her offered ample shade from the sun. Floating shadows from leaves fluttering in the light breeze dappled her face. Her skin was white as milk, the creamy complexion emphasized the emerald green of her mantle and gown. Her bosoms rose, pressing insistently against the restraining bodice, then subsided, never fully hiding their roundness.

Antonio paused as he entered the garden. His heart leapt into his throat at this sight of his love sighing for his coming. So demure. So pristine. Tears welled up in his eyes. Could he possibly continue his assigned duty come now in her presence?

Antonio nodded to Mechtilde’s maid who stood to one side. He approached Mechtilde and bowed, proffering the gift that his master had sent.

“From his Lordship,” he murmured, trying not to look at her.

“I thank your Lord for his kindness,” Mechtilde whispered as she accepted the present, using the moment to touch his hand perhaps longer than was necessary.

She held the box demurely in her lap not attempting to open it and fawn over the King’s magnanimous show of affection. The messenger stood quietly before her, red-cheeked and perhaps breathing harder than he ought. Antonio stood in silence. Finally, Mechtilde motioned for Antonio to sit on the stone bench beside her. He hesitated.


Jimsecor is a playwright, storyteller and writer of tanka who got caught up in comparative literature, especially the love stories across cultures. He has lived in Japan and China for some time, writing women’s roles in Japanese theatre, award winning tanka and publishing poetry in Chinese and producing several plays, including an all female Lysistrata. All the while, he delved into the everlasting love in the face of adversity, even visiting the historical site of one such love in China. This is, perhaps, the balancing act for his otherwise social criticism/activism. He is at www.thewriteroomblog.com, http://labelleotero.wordpress.com and at Linkedin.




Breaking Heart

The Reunion


You drew down the moon, but I didn’t see;
No Jim Stewart and Donna Reed are we.
Pain and love can blind the searching soul
from what might be a most fitting role.
Now, layered clothing keeps my embers low.
Was it on purpose? I’m sure I don’t know.
Yet nothing can hide the face or the eyes:
Your calm exterior gives up its lies.
The pain of love suppressed is there,
Eddied smoke those dark orbs do wear.
So, my passion still released strives for the smile–
A flash here, a moment there, makes all worthwhile.
For in the eyes your smile reflects
More than one such as I expects.
A day, then two, three and part of four,
Our weekend ends on a marble floor.
You turn away to hide the tears,
Walking forward through all the years.
Time, the beast, is now again,
Set right with a flash of pain.
No looking back, no warm smile,
Your shoulders braced all the while.
But we have our joy, the days we shared,
Those secret moments our hearts were paired.

Clayton Clifford Bye


Clayton Bye is a writer, editor and publisher. The author of 11 books and a varied collection of short stories, poems, articles and reviews, he has also published 4 books under the imprint Chase Enterprises Publishing. The books published for others include 3 award winning anthologies and a stunning memoir about what it’s like to live with and die from anorexia.
Visit his e-store at http://shop.claytonbye.com.

Mr. Bye also offers a wide range of writing related services, including small business management for writers.


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On Teaching and literature

Z.Town Crier (2)


Four members of The Write Room Blog
talk about combining teaching and literature.

WRITING A LETTER TO THE EDITORIt was never my intention to become a teacher, but you know the old saying, “Make God laugh; tell him your plans.” I had been offered, and turned down, a scholarship to Yale Graduate School of Drama on the merit of a two-act play I wrote, directed, and acted in during my senior year in 1965. I was off to Italy to take advantage of a scholarship to La Universitã di Roma where I planned to study for a doctorate in Italian Literature. No one told me I had to first be proficient in Italian, so I lasted a week. Hear God laughing?

I remained a year with family in Sicily, then flew home to a frightening reality: no income. Life looked bleak. Then my sister Joan informed me that a Catholic school in a nearby city was in need of an English teacher. That began a career that included teaching in middle school, high school, and college for nearly thirty years. If I pasted each day’s lesson plan end to end, I suspect the paper trail would reach the moon!

My favorite lesson I taught incoming college students each summer, and one summer in particular –– 2004. Most of the students were weak in high school English. Many came from homes where English was hardly ever spoken. Believe me, it was a challenge to teach them how to write a letter to the editor.

As it turned out, 70% of all three classes had letters published in the local daily and weekly newspapers of Bergen, Hudson, and Essex Counties, New Jersey. It proved a tremendous ego boost for these new published authors. It provided them with a stronger desire to succeed, a better self-image, and a staunch willingness to work hard. In 2005  Bergen Community College presented me with the Instructor of the Year Award, which hangs on my living room wall.

Here is that lesson.

  1. Read the newspaper and search for a news article in which the writer has taken a stand on some issue. It could be about a local, national, or international issue. Where do you stand? Do you agree with the writer or do disagree? Can you think of two or three reasons why you agree or disagree?2.  Read that newspaper article a couple of times so you understand what it’s all about.3.  Plan the writing of a letter to the editor by writing an outline. Include the following parts:a.  Introduction (Beginning):  In this first paragraph, mention in quotation marks the title of the article, the author’s name, if given, the date of the article, and the page on which the article appeared in the newspaper. In that same paragraph include a statement that tells the reader immediately that you agree or disagree with the article you are commenting about.

    b.   Body  (Middle): This section should be one paragraph or two small paragraphs and here you should give your reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with the article. Make sure your reasons are all different from one another and all make sense.

    c.    Conclusion ( End): In this last paragraph come up with a good strong closing to your letter, something that will make your readers think or feel something. Maybe you can give some advice or a famous quote.

    4.   Write the letter based on your three-part outline. Include your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address on the letter because if the newspaper decides to publish your letter, the editor will contact you to make certain it was you who sent the letter.

    5.   Some newspaper do not accept e-mailed letters. You need to snail-mail your letter to the newspaper in care of “Letters to the Editor.”

    If your letter is published, count it among your credits as an author!


Sal Buttaci is the author of two flash-fiction collections Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, both published by All Things That Matter Press and available athttp://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Salvatore%20Buttaci

His book A Family of Sicilians… which critics called “the best book written about Sicilians” is available at www.lulu.com/spotlight/ButtaciPublishing2008

He lives in West Virginia with Sharon the love of his life.





Unmaking Readers through Lessons in Story

A musing by Joyce Elferdink


“The change which the writing wrought in me was only a beginning—only to prepare me for the gods’ surgery. They used my own pen to probe my wound.”

What gives me the right to write about love, me a three-time divorcee?  I believe in love, believe I have loved passionately (most recently the protagonist of my novel), and believe I will continue to experience love in at least some of its several forms; and I read–sometimes even stories or essays about love. Does that give me sufficient credibility to give advice on loving?

What I offer today is a painful lesson, one that confronted me after reading a C.S. Lewis science fiction novel, Till We Have Faces. In the reading I was forced to consider how much of my loving—if any—has been unselfish, directed toward the other person instead of my own desires. How can any of us know that? As I try to put in words what I fleetingly and shallowly recognized about myself in the tale of Queen Orual’s awakening,  I know the meaning of her words, “the change which the writing wrought in me was only a beginning—only to prepare me for the gods’ surgery. They used my own pen to probe my wound.” (p. 253)

In her story, which is actually Lewis’ alteration of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, Orual loves her half-sister, Psyche, so much that when she meets a changed Psyche after she had been sacrificed to the god, Ungit, Orual feels she must rescue her beloved Psyche even as Psyche protests she cannot leave the lover she adores, the one who gives her unspeakable joy, the god who comes to her unseen in the blackness of night. Orual forces Psyche to betray her lover, justifying her actions by professing the dreadful deed was an act of love and she, Orual, was the one sacrificing to save Psyche from some dreadful thing.

With Psyche lost to Orual’s world, separated from her husband/god and forced to wander miserably alone, Orual threw herself into her duties as queen. Even in her good works, she took all that others would give in the name of love.

As her own death approached, Queen Orual got her chance to complain to the gods for seducing what was hers, those she had loved best. Their happiness should have been for Orual to give. Reciting the speech that had been at the center of her soul for years, she instantly knew that she had been the most dangerous enemy of those she loved most. By acknowledging that their happiness had never meant as much to her as her need to possess them, she became unmade. Only then could she love as she would have thought it impossible to love.

I think I understand, at least in part, the moral of this story. (I won’t repeat the lesson because your interpretation may be different). I could ignore the judgment of another person, but the message in “Till We Have Faces” is much more difficult to reject.

May we as writers use sensitivity, wisdom and creativity to tell stories that “unmake” our readers.


This ENFP personality thinks of herself as a teacher, traveler, activist and author of thought provoking time-travel tales. Along with being a right brained slave to creativity, her inspiration comes from the life experiences which expose those questions that stir us to action.

Some of those questions are portrayed through her novel, Pieces of You, with the search for answers continuing in the coming sequel, The Battle of Jericho, 2040.


Book trailer on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIacFKaNWe8
Amazon Book Listing (Kindle edition): http://tinyurl.com/927am9u





The day we studied “The Highwayman”

a story by Kenneth Weene


“So what did you think of the video?” I asked the class.

Jackie Brown, their regular teacher, had asked me to cover the class. There was little I wouldn’t do for her. Some women have it, and Jackie had even more. Would she accept my invite for Saturday night? Dinner and dancing. I wasn’t going to refuse a simple request.

“Third period. Just lead a discussion after they watch it. You’ll only have about ten minutes. They’re good kids, a great class.”

Jackie was going to slip out for two periods.  She wasn’t supposed to, but Phil, the principal, had agreed to it if she could find somebody to cover her  third period A-Track English class. Her next period was free and then her lunch break: enough time for the dentist.

“Damn, Mike,” she had explained to me; “don’t you hate losing a filling.”

The filmstrip ended. Tip O’Malley flipped on the lights.

He was the exception in the class. The rest were already headed for college. Seventh grade, but they were the good ones, the ones every teacher wanted to have. Tip was different: a scruff of a kid from a poor family, but still bright. Phil had personally placed Tip in the class. “We’ll A-Track him for Social Studies and English,” he instructed; “maybe it will motivate him. Maybe he’ll get the idea.”

As Tip’s guidance counselor, I had agreed with the plan. I liked the kid and one can always hope.

Vicky Henderson, already a dark-eyed beauty at thirteen, raised her hand. “It was sad, the way she killed herself for the highwayman.”

I waited, but there was no more. “Yes, it is a sad poem,” I agreed; “but what about her love? Do you guys think you could ever love somebody that much?”

Tip raised his hand.

“Yes, Tip?”

“I was thinking. The robber. He committed suicide, too, didn’t he? Like suicide by cop?”

“Yes, I guess he did.”

“So I was thinking about how much he loved her. How he couldn’t live without her.”


There was an uncomfortable stirring in the class.

“Love is kind of a trap,” Tim continued. “For both of them.”

“How does that make you feel?” I asked.


A miasma of discomfort hung in the room.

“Sorry,” Jackie said when I asked about Saturday.

“What the heck,” I said to myself and went to IHop instead.

Damn, if Tip wasn’t there with Vicky — the two of them in a back booth, holding hands and sharing something covered in whipped cream.

The wind was blowing when I left IHop. I looked up. Yeah, the moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas. Would those two kids notice?


Sometimes Ken Weene writes to exorcise demons. Sometimes he writes because the characters in his head demand to be heard. Sometimes he writes because he thinks what he have to say might amuse or even on occasion inform. Mostly, however, he writes because it is a cheaper addiction than drugs, an easier exercise than going to the gym, and a more sociable outlet than sitting at McDonald’s drinking coffee with other old farts: in brief because it keeps him just a bit younger and more alive.

Find Ken’s books at http://www.amazon.com/Kenneth-Weene/e/B002M3EMWU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1409509512&sr=8-1

and listen to him co-host It Matters Radio at http://www.itmattersradio.com



sharp pencil


Creative Writing 101

I’ve been asked to teach a Creative Writing Course for a varied audience. Why would I consider accepting such a challenge?

The first reason is I’ve already written the lesson plans. This is something I’ve given much thought to over the last few years. You see, there are a couple of fundamental choices you can make in this life when it comes to the work you do: you can either create or destroy. As a writer, I’ve chosen to create. But unless I pass on some of what I’ve learned, my creations end with me.
In my course the students will be asked to work on a composition of their choice for the 6 weeks the program will run. Each Tuesday that we meet, new ideas and techniques will be offered to the student so that he or she may add depth and breadth to their work. In doing so, the world will receive dozens of new works of literary art—whether that be a creative letter to one’s boss or a highly polished haiku.

What follows is a program overview…

Week one the students will be asked to write on any topic that comes to mind and in whatever format they choose. For those who find themselves stumped, I will ask the student to write a vignette about a pencil. The idea here is to create a circular idea, one that goes out into the world then returns to where it began. Why a pencil? The student will be reminded that one can write creatively about anything that can be imagined, even a pencil. A final note for the students will be not to attempt to edit the story as they go along. The reason for this is that an idea is a fragile thing. Attack it too soon and it will die. As a writer, I don’t let anyone see my work until I have a complete first draft. The time to edit is once that plateau has been reached.

Week two will focus on editing structural elements of the student’s work. I subscribe to
Stephen King’s idea that a story exists in full the way a fossilized dinosaur exists in the ground. One finds a fragment (the idea), then he digs around the edges of the fossil to find a general shape that slopes off into the depths. Now comes the time for picking and brushing at the lines, slowly working deeper in an attempt to discover the artifact in its whole. This is structural editing.

Week three goes deeper. One brushes the story until each sentence is a clear and visible entity that fits smoothly into the overall structure. We’ll review basic grammar rules as they apply to sentence structure.

Week four takes a closer look at plot. The dinosaur has a skeleton upon which the flesh is hung. The same is so for a story, letter or poem. Now is the time to play God. Does your piece hang elegantly from the structure you’ve discovered or can it be improved upon? We discuss fundamental plotting.

Week 5 follows a similar plan but deals with theme. What is it and is there an apparent theme in your work? If so, are you happy with it? If not, how can you create theme as suggested by your work?

Week 6 will be an in class swap of pieces so that that each person’s work is proofed by a fresh pair of eyes. I will also field questions and encourage general discussion. The student may submit his or her piece for assessment.


Clayton Bye is a writer, editor and publisher. The author of 11 books and a varied collection of short stories, poems, articles and reviews, he has also published 4 books under the imprint Chase Enterprises Publishing. These books, published for others, include 3 award winning anthologies and a stunning memoir about what it’s like to live with and die from anorexia. Visit his e-store at http://shop.claytonbye.com.
Mr. Bye also offers a wide range of writing related services, including small business management for writers.
Visit his bookstore at http://shop.claytonbye.com
Find him on Amazon.com
Bookstores may order through Ingram
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Such A Loving Pair by Monica Brinkman


 girl-157533 (1) (1)












The couple sat at the kitchen table. The red and white checkered curtains flailed away from the window, orchestrated by the cool breeze of the night.

He touched the small boned knuckles of her tiny hand, turned it over, drew the open palm to his face and brushed his lips against each smooth fingertip. It was still a thrill of pleasure after all these years, and his heart quickened as he felt the surge of love fill his body.

Annabelle coyly cast her eyes downward, a demure smile upon her face. Then she looked up into Gerard’s’ face. Their eyes locked as they experienced a moment of intense emotion, so much more than mere love, nothing less than consummate completion.

“You look ravishing tonight my darling.”

Her cheeks pinked with the blush of a much younger woman. “Thank you, and if not too bold of me, I say that you my husband appear quite striking yourself.”

Gerard’s’ face opened to a large grin. “Why woman, I would accept nothing less than the truth, be it bold or not.”

He noticed her eyebrow arch and a frown take over the smile.

“What is it Annabelle? Have I offended you in some way?”

She sighed softly, rose from her seat and walked to the window and pushed the curtain to one side, holding it against the wall.  “It is exceptionally beautiful, this night. The moon so near, brilliantly white and clear. I feel if I reached out my hand I could almost touch it. Silly of me acting so childishly.”

Annabelle turned toward Gerard. He knew that look upon her face, the sadness, the despair, the hopelessness. How he wished he could alter her situation and knew, no matter how much she sought escape, there would be none. Not from the house, not this night.

He walked to her side, took her hand in his and pulled her away from the window and the nights’ hypnotic trance. It drove him mad to see her in such pain, yet he knew he must do what was best for her well-being, her sanity.

“Shall we go to the terrace? You said the moon is very beautiful and the night air should be refreshing.”

Her eyes glowed with anticipation, excitement and joy. “Oh yes my dear husband, may we?”

Her steps quickened to a fast trot as they passed through the living room and approached the sliding door within the entertainment room. The bright blue walls displeased her, how garish and bold. She would have preferred a more subtle off-white or beige design yet realized her opinion on this matter was meaningless. As Gerard slowly slid open the door, taking precaution to remain as silent as possible, she cast one look backward at the despicable decor, now eager to feel the coolness of the night upon her body.

After exiting the room, with circumspection, he slid the door back into place, leaving a tiny gap between the lock and latch, assuring re-entrance would be safe and silent. Lord knows he did not need the others discovering their presence. He never knew how Annabelle would react to their interference. Though timid by nature, when confronted, she could become quite a handful and create havoc within the home. Gerard preferred to treat any intrusion into their life with understanding. After all, this was not their house; he and Annabelle were only residents.

“Look Darling.” Annabelle pointed to the nearby lake. The water bristled with activity from the wind’s caress. She held back a giggle as she watched the moonlight reveal a raft of ducks paddling toward land. The hen proudly led the ducklings who followed in quacking chorus.

He loved the delight upon Annabelle’s face. He wished he could actually lead her to the waters edge and together toss bits of oats or vegetables their way. Again, he realized the futility in this line of thought. Better to enjoy what was granted than to daydream on what would never be.

God, he loved this woman with his entire being. Their partnership was eternal, filled with adoration and youthful passion. He could not foresee a future without his beloved. Her welfare meant everything to him. He was her protector, her security.

Gerard neared her, bowed and extended his hand. Annabelle laughed softly, took his hand and they embraced in a dance, careful to be on tiptoe and not arouse discovery. Each glide across the terrace brought them freedom of space, the moonlight glistened upon the two silver clips which held her auburn tresses in place. All that mattered was the now, the moment, the experience. They danced and pranced. Time ceased to exist, each cast in the magical spell of love. Husband and wife. Partner and mate. Protector and protectee.

Annabelle halted her step, cocked her head, the frown returned to her face. In the silence of the early morning she thought she heard footsteps. Were they coming? The others? It wasn’t fair this life forced upon her. She wanted to scream, lash out and confront the vile family who had taken over her home. They now made the rules, they now called the shots, they now controlled her surroundings. How dare they?

He could see the anger and hatred rising within his dearest wife. Yes, they were prisoners, doomed to exist within the confinement of the home, the rules set by the others, never able to leave its door, to venture outside. They were forced to live in harmony beside the others and were regulated by the restraints of the residence.

They watched through the large pane of glass, knowing their presence would not be detected. They were safe, if silent.

The male child appeared and wiped his sleepy eyes before padding to the contraption the others called a TV. Gerard detested the noise it projected yet pondered how remarkable an object to have the ability to see a variety of people and hear their voices. It did seem rather cold and offensive for surely anyone would prefer the company of friends rather than watching them remotely.

The next other to enter was a blonde-haired young girl. She chatted with the male child and settled down beside him on the burnt-umber carpeted floor. Gerard glanced at Annabelle and saw the rage growing within her. He had to stop her before she allowed her rage to cause distress.

It was too late, she had slid the door open and entered the room. Annabelle walked behind the seated children and flicked their hair. She had to stifle a giggle when they reached up to shoo away the presence of her touch. Gerard looked on in disappointment. It was all a game to Annabelle. A game he wanted no part of, a game his beautiful wife embraced.

She became bolder and pushed the male child into the lap of the young girl.

Oh how she delighted when she heard, “Stop it stupid. Yuck. Get off of me.”

The male child seemed baffled and responded,  “Somebody pushed me, I didn’t do it on purpose.”

“Not that again Bobby. Nobody pushed you. Mom and Dad said it was just our imagination, remember?”

“Magination doesn’t push you Sabrina. I don’t care what they say. I was pushed.”

The young girl shook her head and went back to watching the TV program.

Gerard entered the room and arms crossed, stood next to Annabelle. “Okay, that’s enough. You’ve had your jollies for the day. Let’s go to our room.”

Annabelle turned to him, a broad smile on her face. He knew that mischievous smile well. Her eyes took on the glow of madness. She drew every ounce of energy from within the room into her body and walked silently to stand in front of the others. Her form appeared gradually, from a small orb to a bit of mist to a solid mass. Annabelle extended her hand and in a loud roaring voice said, “Hello children.”

It was hilarious. These others shrieked and screamed, simultaneously jumping to their feet and scurrying out of the room at lightening speed. Let them explain that to their parents.

Gerard shook his head in disapproval. Yet he couldn’t help but smile a bit when Annabelle brushed her hands against each other and shook her finger.

“How dare anyone take over my house, my home. Well there’s plenty more where that came from.”

The loving couple who’d existed since 1892 within the walls of the house they’d built, clasped hands and walked toward the attic door. Just another day within eternity.


Monica M Brinkman believes in ‘giving it forward.’ This is reflected by her writing and radio show. A firm believer that open communication is the most powerful tool to make positive change in the world; she expresses this in her book, The Turn of the Karmic Wheel and It Matters Radio.  Look for her book, The Wheel’s Final Turn, to be release in 2015.

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

Visit her web sites:



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Lupee Plays the Drums by James Secor



Lupée Plays the Drums

After closing time, John and George sat in Gilbert’s sandwich shop munching on salty shakes and drinking beer in the dim light. On and off, they stopped chatting to watch the late night crowd straggle home. The crowd of just an hour before was quite thin, as much because of the hour and because of the cold. Everyone was bundled and muffled against the bitter wind blowing off The Mersey.

“It’s a pity at this time of year,” said John, his eyes following people down the street to the square.

“The world is cruel,” said George. “Everything’s money now.”

“Service is all gone to hell,” echoed Gilbert. “Any more, John?” Gilbert drained his glass.

“I put it in your cooler.”

Gilbert made his way behind the counter. “Anyone else?”

“Need you ask?”

“My mother trained me well.”

Gilbert returned with three bottles.”

“You didn’t open them?”

“You palsied?”

“There goes Robbie,” said George in an off-hand manner.

John and Gilbert looked up.”

“He don’t look too good.”

“Would you, John?”

“We’ll lose a lot of business when he goes.”

“You said a mouthful, Gilbert.” George raised his glass and drained it. He popped open another bottle. “Have we to just sit by?”

“What do you propose?”

“We’re not his only friends in this area.”

“The whole block,” said John.

“The whole block,” echoed the others.

They were quiet awhile, sipping their beers, each lost in his own thoughts.

“We could throw him a party…”

“Oh. Great idea, George. Just what he needs. A going away party,” snapped Gilbert.

“Come as you are, eh mate?”

“No, you mindless bastards.”

“Here. Here. We both have fathers, George.”

“And we know who they are.”

“A sort of welcome back party.”

“One man’s lost his life, Gilbert. The banks have given it to him.”

“If he can’t pay it off.”

John and George stopped, glasses part way to their mouths. They turned and stared at Gilbert.

“Give him some food from our shops for Christmas and donate to the cause.”

“We cater?” asked John and drank.

“Not just us. All ten of us.”

“Not all of us sells food.”

“So much the better. Little mementoes.”

“And money,” added George.

“And money.”

John emptied his glass and poured another, very slowly. “How much does he owe?”

Gilbert cleared his throat. “£1000.”

“And they’re closing him down for that?” Gilbert nodded. “Bastards.”

“He’s got nothing to fight with?”

“He’s not had such a good year, then?” John proffered.

“None of us had. But he’s been hit the hardest.”

“Has he lots of stock left, Gilbert?”

“Sure enough.”

The three men sat quietly drinking their beers and watching the people pass by.

“Winter’s a bitch,” complained George. “You can’t see if the girl’s worth it.”

“You’ve been single too long, George. You need to find one to marry—and quick. Your face is starting to get creased.”

“Why’d I want to do that with a bird? She’d turn dowdy in no time.”

Laughing, Gilbert rose. “Now that calls for another round,” he said topping his hooting companions.

“Just two, Gilbert. We’ll split.”

Gilbert brought the beers, popped them open and poured.

“A Christmas party, then?”

“All of us? All ten of us?”

Gilbert nodded.

“And food?”

Gilbert nodded.

They drank.

“How do we find out what they need? In the way of food,” said George over the rim of his glass.

John leaned in. “Now, there, George, is why you need to be married.”

“And why’s that?”

John and Gilbert chorused, “Women talk.”

* * *

Christmas Eve was unduly mild, considering the weeks leading up to the high point of the holidays. Everyone on the block closed up shop early, wished Robbie a good Christmas and followed their friend with concerned looks. Robbie looked none too happy trudging down Slater St. on his way home. His friends shook their heads at the beating a good man could take in this world .

The men meandered down to Gilbert’s. The women had already arrived leaving little room to manoeuvre between themselves and the baskets of food and wine. George, with no woman to gather, showed up with a half haunch of ham smothered in pineapple and cloves from the smell that blew in the door with him…and an over dressed woman in gaudy clothing. All cleared their throats but they should have known.

George liked tarts, they did not last long and, therefore, did not tax him.

When they were all ready, they trooped through the early evening to Robbie and Sheila’s. The group of 20 were loud, raucous even, and the enthusiasm did not lessen when they knocked on the door and pushed past the astonished couple.

Before the evening’s feasting began, Gilbert stood and made a little speech. He produced a small barrel, put his £100 in it and passed it round. When it came back round to him, he capped it and handed it to Robbie. Robbie was speechless, Sheila cried.

The remainder of the evening was joyous and left a warm feeling in the heart of Robbie and Sheila. They sat for a long time at the empty table. The friends had cleared up the mess. This was an unforgettable Christmas Eve.

Robbie and Sheila were suddenly alone in a great silence once the raucous friends had left for their own homes. Robbie shook his head as he closed the door behind his guests.
“Surely we are blessed, my girl.” He sighed. “With such kind, thoughtful friends, this will be a good New Years. After all, the bankers will have a hard time when I give them this!” said Robbie.
Husband and wife laughed. They hugged each other and kissed. Holding each other and almost in tears, Robbie and Sheila sat quietly looking at their barrel of good fortune.

“Shall we open it, then?” Sheila asked.

“Shall we?”

Robbie set the barrel on the table, so thankful to have such good friends. It rattled a bit. Some of the guests had given coin: “Give the bastards a hard time having to count their bad wishes!”

Sheila opened the barrel.

Both looked inside.

The barrel was empty.

* * *

“Why is it, Lieutenant, people do their dirty work at such times?”

“What such times, D?”

“Holiday celebrations.”

“Some people have nothing better to do than make life difficult for others.”

“This is a bit on the far side of difficult, if you don’t mind my saying so, sir.”

“I do not.” Lupée was silent for a moment. “It goes double, I’m afraid.”

“I was at my mum’s.” Lupée said nothing. “She’s not happy with my being a cop.”

“You’re not a cop. You’re a detective. Big difference.”

“Not for her. She’s sure I’m going to get shot. Anxious and worried all the time. Sometimes it’s all I can do to be with her.”

“It’s why I’m no longer married. When I came on the force, I started as a copper. She wanted a man she could be sure would come home every night.” He turned down Seel St. “I was shot at once. I think it would be best that we park here. Artists and low-lifes. Neither have much use for our kind.”

“Even the shopkeepers?”

“They cater to the artists. End of co-operation.”

“And here we are protecting them!”

“Sometimes, D, you are so naïve. It isn’t as if the police are angels. The bad cases give us a bad reputation.”

“Class prejudice?”


“How long will we be sitting here, sir? It’s getting a bit cool.”

“Yes. I suppose it is. I’ve got to drum up the courage to get on with this one.”


“Wrong choice of words. Robbie and Sheila Collingsworth are old friends. Very good friends.”


“Yes. Perhaps that’s it.”

“Let me take the lead, then. You be my sidekick.”

“As the Yanks say.” Lupée heaved a sigh and smiled. “Bloody rebellious colonists. Look what they’ve done to that country.”

“Look what we’ve done to this country.”

“Yes. Well. Shall we get on with it?”

They walked down Fleet St., took a left at Slater Street and then a right onto Seel Street. About halfway down the street, an alley more than a street, Lupée stopped before a somewhat narrow door. Lupée raised his hand to rap on the old faded wooden door. Sgt. Dumqik stopped him.

“My lead on this one, Lupée.”

Lupée moved back and D stepped up to the door.

Robbie Collingsworth opened the door so quickly he must have been waiting just on the other side. D recoiled.

“Oh, sorry,” Robbie said. “A bit anxious, you see. Hallo, Tones. I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“Not exactly the type of visit I’d like to make on an old friend.”

“Right. Come in, then. We’re in the kitchen. Bit warmer there.”

“I’ll get the door, Robbie. Still only room for one in this hall, eh?”

“Cozy, that’s for sure.”

“Makes friends stay longer. Only this time they weren’t such good friends, it seems.”

They mounted the stairs in single file.

“I’m sure it’s not all of them, Mr. Collingsworth.”

“You work with Tones?”

“Yes. Just call me D.”


“Her name’s rather embarrassing to her, Robbie.”

“Then why not change it?”

“Mum’s still alive.”

“Look who’s here, Sheila! Tones and some woman detective calls herself D.”

* * *

After they made their report, signed by Lupée to keep the higher-ups believing that everything was going along as it should, with D’s initials as the subordinate, Lupée and D retired to their favourite thinking spot, Renard’s Den.

“What a pleasant change. Warm, spiced wine. Lovely idea. Here’s to you, Lt. D.”

“Wouldn’t that be brevet? Temporary battlefield promotion?”

“I’ll see if I can scrounge you up a few stripes. Your mum will like that.”

“As long as I don’t have to wear a copper’s uniform.”

“At least not in public.”

“She watches the newspapers every day expecting to see her daughter in danger. She tells me it’s my fate to be tabloid front page.”

“Ahh. Fate. Funny thing, fate,” commented Lupée.

“I’m not sure I follow you, sir.”

“Fate we give in to. It explains everything and relieves one of responsibility.” D looked over the rim of her glass as she sipped her wine, breathing in the cinnamon and clove. “Not responsibility to begin with, mind you, but what’s done with it once it comes into one’s life. Fate gives, ever so negatively often enough, a meaning to life.”

“Don’t we all need a little of that?”

“Cynical, D?”

“Catching up, Lieutenant.”

“I see. Well. Fate is the word we use instead of chance because chance, I think you could say, is too unsettling and chaotic for the

civilized mind that likes reason above everything else.”
D sipped her wine, waiting ’til Lupée was drinking, his mouth full, before she spoke. “But, Professor, what of the Greeks? They not only believed in Fate, they led their lives based on it. It was their religion.”

“Yes. I do sound kind of pompous, don’t I? It’s usually you makes such observations, though much more pleasantly.”

“Does wine always give you such a silver tongue?”

“Wine over cynicism. I’m sorry, D. He’s my friend. It’s the holidays. Bastards are ruining it for everyone.”

“Robbie called it fate. His fate,” D reminded Lupée. “As if the theft, the bad friend, was his fault. Fate is a part of him. A person to whom bad things happen.”

“The victim.”

“He’s not.”

“Most certainly not. He works hard. He’s built his business from nothing. No. I think he doesn’t want to admit he has bad friends. That is too much pain.”

“Fate hides many ills.”

“It’s so much easier to lie to ourselves than face an uncomfortable truth.”

“You? You lie to yourself?”

“Every day I tell myself I’m making a difference—at least in this city.”

“And your cynicism?”

“Those are the days I admit the truth.” He finished his wine. “My treat. More of the same?”

“Yes, please.”
With freshly warm drinks before them, D and Lupée relaxed a bit more. They leaned back in their chairs.

“It’s nice. This fire,” said D.

“Mmm. Yes, it is. When I was a boy, we only had a fireplace for heat. Not very effective.”

“I can’t imagine.”

“We spent most of our time in the kitchen. The coal stove was always going so that the room was quite warm enough.”

“Your mum cooked on a coal stove?”

“How else would she cook?”

“Oh. Right. How silly of me.”

“Not at all.” Lupée sipped his wine. “I imagine that’s why Robbie continues to sit in the kitchen. A hold-over.”

“And you, Lieutenant?”

“I’m lazy, D. I go home and inhabit the sofa, hoping someone will magically appear with supper.”

“Never happens, does it?”

“No wife.” Lupée toasted the young woman.

“It’s a good thing I’m not married, then.”

“Perhaps. Perhaps. Some men are more thoughtful, I’m sure. But hard to find.”

“Like a true friend is hard to find.”

Lupée sipped his wine. “Finally,” he sighed.

“How do you judge character?”

“Certainly after the fact is no good.” Lupée shook his head. “They’ll all deny doing it upon questioning.”

“What petty thief admits his guilt?” D sipped her wine. “How shall we proceed?”

“After the boring part?” D nodded. “Not by the book I should think.”

* * *

The invitations from Lt. Detective Lupée went out a few days after Christmas, asking the 20 guests to gather at Robbie’s house the day after New Year’s. A small keg with straps stood to one side of the entrance. Sgt. D answered the door and ushered the friends upstairs to the kitchen where the party had been held. The warmest place in the house. Any house for that matter. Robbie and Sheila were not present. Lupée stood at the far end of the room watching with apparent disinterest as the 20 filed in. They stood around not knowing just what to do.

“Please,” said Lupée. “Take a seat.”

Everyone found a place to sit, looking from one to another uncomfortably. Lupée did nothing to relieve the tension.

“Let me introduce myself,” began Lupée, leaning against the wall. “I’m Lt. Detective Lupée.” He paused.

“Where’s Robbie and Sheila, then?” asked Gilbert.

“They’re off on holiday.” Lupée paused again. “This is a very interesting case, this bit about the missing Christmas money. All we know is that one of you friends is a thief. A traitor, if you will. I think there is nothing more despicable than a traitor. Don’t you agree, Sgt.?”

“Yes, sir. A killer only takes a life. A turncoat steals a soul. As I see it.”

“Well said. Right, then. Shall we get to it? Good. The Sgt. here will take one couple downstairs and out the door. The rest of us will wait here until the next couple is summoned. As the Sgt. dismisses each couple, that pair is free to go and the subsequent couple will be summoned. Understood?”

The group as a whole nodded their heads and murmured assent.

“Excuse me, Lt.,” asked Gilbert. “How shall we decide which of us goes first?”

“Good question, Mr. Dortman. I think we shall do it in good old schoolboy sporting fashion. I have here,” he said, suddenly holding up a hand, “ten sticks each one numbered one to ten. I think that’s pretty clear, yes? Good. Only the men draw.”

Sgt. D led the first couple down the stairs and out onto the street. D stood by the keg, placing her hand on it.

“Mr. Dortman. Your wife will carry this keg while you walk alongside. You will go down to Seel St. where you will see a police officer who will direct you along the square. At Duke St. there will be another officer who will direct you up Duke St. and then you will cross over and up Slater St. to me, at the corner of Slater and Seel Sts. Alright?”

“It shouldn’t be difficult. But why are we doing something so…”

“Silly?” his wife finished. “Everyone will be watching. Is it now the police’s practice embarrassing people?”

“Consider this punishment for the theft.”

“We didn’t take it!” snapped Mrs. Dortman.

“All of you are implicated. As we do not know who did the deed, we are punishing the lot of you.”

“I really don’t like it,” said Gilbert.

“Neither do I, Mr. Dortman. But you have no choice. It’s only 25 lbs.”

Sgt. D helped Mrs. Dortman into the straps and sent the couple on their way.

So it went for the remainder of the day. As each couple made its way round the course, the spectators grew in number, as did the catcalls.

The last couple to make the rounds was George and his girlfriend of that night, who complained bitterly.

“This is unbearable! How dare you put me through this, George Crane.”

“It’s not my doing, Candy.”

“Isn’t it?”

“Buck up, my sweet. Putting up with this is far easier than stealing £1000 with people all round.”

“And when I set this keg down, you will never see me again.”

So it was and so it goes.

Unbeknownst to the couples, a little tape recorder was sitting atop the 25 lb-weights. Poor George.

* * *

Lupée and D sat in their customary corner, quieter than usual. The fire crackled and popped. Both held their hands loosely around hot rum toddies.

“I don’t know how many of these I can handle, Lt.” D said, finally breaking the silence.

“Nor do I, D. Nor do I.”

“Which one?”

“Both,” sighed Lupée, taking a tentative sip of his steaming drink. “The rum will force us to leave the cars and our friendly thieves will dampen any scrap of sentiment I might have had for the salvation of humanity.”

“That’s a mighty burden to carry, Lt.”

“What makes you think I’m the saviour of such a pack of venomous black hearts?”

“Oh, dear!” D sipped her toddy.

“You’re the one read the riot act, D.”

“Good dramatic touch, don’t you think?”

Lupée took a long sip. “Christ! Well! That put a little life back in the old windbag!”
D pursed her lips and pumped with her left forearm. She squealed nasally and hummed, breaking into a good imitation of a bagpipes.

Lupée added his voice underneath. Both took heaving breaths and held forth again. It didn’t take long for the barmaid to arrive. She stood silently in the entryway, hands on hips. Catching sight of her, Lupée stopped. D looked up and stopped. Never have pipes come to such a sudden and complete stop.

“If I’d wanted the Black Watch in me pub, I’d’ve invited them, Lt.”

“It’s not the Black Watch, Molly, my girl.”

“I’m not your girl.” She waited. “Well, then, if not the Black Watch, who th’ell are you?”

“Macbeth’s Witchy Watch. Now we’re all come together.” Lupée toasted Molly.

“Double bubble toil and trouble.” D toasted Molly.

Molly waited for the glasses to come to a rest on the small round table.

“Right, then. I’ll bring you a couple more hell-raisers.” Molly shook a finger at the two detectives. “But I’ll not bring me cauldron out o’me kitchen for the likes o’ you two to ruin me with your spells and such.” She turned on her heel and walked back to the taproom, imitating a slightly more wheezing pipes and she limped while doing so.

“If only Shakespeare had had her!”

“Och, laddie! Ye’re doin’ the’auld bird less due than she’s wor’eth.”

“Your brogue is awful, D.”

They both drank.

Molly returned with two more toddies.

“If Shakespeare had had me, he’d a’been writin’ for real women and not prepubescent boys or cross-dressers.”

“Rescued just in time.” D reached for the drinks.

“On the ‘ouse—but only this once, mind you. A girl’s got to have friends, y’know.”

“Ah! Hecuba! Do ye foretell the worst o’ our fears?” And Lupée saluted Molly with his drink.

“If bein’ friends with me is the worst you can do, God give me strength.”

“Here’s to you, Molly.” D saluted Molly.

“And here’s to you two—I’m closin’ up early as me old man’s ailin’.”

“We’ll keep ‘er goin’, Molly.”

“A fine lot o’good I’ll get from two liquored up detectives.”

“We’re not liquored up.”

“No. But you’re sure whinin’.” Hand still on hips, Molly looked from D to Lupée. “Hmm? What is it this time?”

D looked to Lupée. Lupée took a swallow.

“Did you put a little extra into the pot, Molly?”

“I’d take a bit more than a little to make you two to notice a difference.”

“We thank you,” chorused the detectives.


“You know we can’t talk business, Molly.”

“I’m not for lookin’ into your secret book o’ spells.”

“Alright. Alright.” Lupée sipped again. “You tell her D.”

“Right.” D took a long sip. “It’s the Robbie Collingsworth case.”

“Well! It’s about time that someone caught up with that George Crane. What a menace to society that man is!”

“Is that so?” Lupée leaned in.

“It is so. He’s been scammin’ the government and the neighbourhood association for years. Lets an unheated house to oldsters to get the government freebie for central heating. And all these other folk needin’ it be not getting’ it because of Georgey orgey porgey suckin’ up all the funds. He’s the one could give you what a life’s worth. Him and that aunt of his. Blustering snooty know-it-all bitch with a voice a football manager would be proud to own. She foots the upfront costs, George cuts corners and then gets the work done for free. The old tightwad. Th’only thing on that bloke’s mind is money and how he can get it without spendin’ any in the process. He’s not a case of a bad apple, Lt., he’s the bad apple itself. Some people are just plain bad.”

“You think there are bad genes?”

“I do. I do. If they wasn’t, how’d I make any money with a pub like this? You check it out, Lt. Might even run in families. Bad genes.”

“Lupée and I are bad?”

“Some good people like to drink, D.”

“Well, thank goodness for that! I’d certainly not like to disappoint my genes.”

“No drunks in your family, D?”

‘Oh, Lt., lots of drunks. But no bad eggs. Yourself?”

“Worst of the lot.”

“It’s good to know you.”

Lupée and D clinked glasses and drank.

Molly turned from one to the other.

“Let us know when you’re going to close shop,” said Lupée.

“You’re the last lot.”

“Well, then. Shall we?”

Lupée and D followed Molly into the taproom, paid their bill and stepped out into the cool night air. Lupée walked D to her little Cooper, perhaps the only neon green car in the city. They stood facing each other, hands in pockets, breathing into the air.

“Is traitorousness a genetic characteristic, Lt.?”

“Perhaps we should do a little checking into that aunt of his. And perhaps his family. But for another night. I’m frazzled on this one.”

“How’s Robbie doing?”

“The other boys are moving him out of the neighbourhood.”

“I don’t think I could go back into that neighbourhood, either. People knowing I’d been had and the show that was made to find the thief. Bad memories.”

“Recent bad memories have a tendency to obliterate all the good accrued over many years.

That kitchen would wreak of crime and friendship lost. Yes. It would be hard for me, too. A worse crime than a thieving friend.”

They stood silent a moment. D was looking beyond Lupée’s shoulder and down the street that disappeared into the wintry haze of street lamps, thinking of the rich people who had once exclusively inhabited this area. Lupée stared at the sidewalk, the little swirls of design frozen dampness made, beauty in the worst of climes.

“It’s getting very cold out here,” he said. “I don’t know how much longer…”

“What, Lt.?”

“Well! It’s of no consequence. It doesn’t take winter to bring it to light.”

“Is it always this way?”

“Apparently. The raw edge of humanity forever being…” Lupée sighed. “Certainly not caressed.”

“What was once good gets handed down and then run down. Social destruction.” She returned her gaze to her superior. “Why is it the common lot don’t feel satisfied ’til their betters, as they like to call them, are brought low, down to the lowest common denominator?”

“The lowest common denominator. Yes. I suppose that’s what thievery is.”

“Robbie and Sheila. Poor Sheila. The likes of such good people being trampled on.”

“They’re out of it now. At least externally. They live down that way.” Lupée motioned with his chin, the opposite way from D’s concentration. She turned. “Less showy artists, I think you might call some of that area. Good place for Robbie to be.”

“And Sheila.”

“Forgive me.”

“You know where he’s gone?”

“He’s my friend. Of course I know where he’s gone.”

“We’re not supposed to—“

“One of the most important aspects of this job, D, is building resources. Not only those who can do for you but who of those resources has resources to be tapped if they don’t have the answer to hand.”

“Like a house.”

“For a good price.”

D stepped back and looked hard at her superior.

“There is some sentiment to you after all, Lt.”

“Of course there is…why else is it cynics become cynics?” Lupée coughed. “Would you do a follow-up for me, D? I don’t want to visit my old friend on official business again. The distance, as you pointed out.”

“Yes. Of course.”

“About two weeks’ time, I think.”

“Ever the boss.”

“We’ve work to do in the morning. Family connections and all.”

“Sins of the fathers.”

“You’d be surprised at who the fathers turn out to be!” Lupée smiled at D. “You’re okay to get home?”

“Oh, yes, sir. The cold has topped the rum.”

Bio: Jimsecor is the creator of the Liverpool detective, Lt. Anthony Lupee who has been tasked with solving the odd and mysterious rather than homicides. Det. Lupee~~ awarded Second/Third in P&E detective stories [properly cite this, please]. Det. Lupee can be found at Amazon or ordered directly from XX [you] or from bookstores in your area. Jimsecor, though, can only be found in eastern Kansas with his huge svelte yr old black cat (20+ lbs). a true cowardly lion, and occasionally at Minna vander Pfaltz’s blog:- http://labelleotero.wordpress.com. More directly: hellecchino@eclipso.eu. He is a playwright/director and sometime actor, a writer of award winning tanka, and a teacher; and has produced and published in China and Japan, aside from the States. He took a doctorate in Japanese theatre, performing kabuki, kyogen and noh, and thence studied at the National Bunraku Theatre in Osaka–the only foreigner to do so. He is aware that the web site the FBI, et al, have been directed to is written in Japanese, the translation of which is “you’re a real idiot,” though his language skills have all but disappeared after 20 years.


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I love the paranormal romance genre! by Maggie Tideswell


Let’s face it; love really is all around us. When you read a murder mystery or horror novel there are usually romantic elements. People fall in love. Even in the most unexpected or dangerous situations, people find each other. It is human nature.

What fascinates me about romance is, firstly, which characteristics attract people to each other enough to fall in love and, secondly, which traits keep them in love for a lifetime when one in three relationships fail.

Then there’s my fascination with the paranormal. People want to be scared. Fright gets the primitive fight or flight response going. And that is where the paranormal comes in. When I say paranormal I don’t mean zombies and vampires. Creatures with tentacles and many teeth also don’t interest me. Those are not scary and only have entertainment value as far as I’m concerned. My intent isn’t to put authors of those genres down. All I’m saying is that those elements aren’t what I write about. I’m interested in what isn’t visible to the eye–things that go bump in the night, ‘nothing is as it seems’, and witches getting up to mischief or doing genuine work to help. And of course, ghosts!

We all have those creepy little experiences of something moving just at the edge of vision, and when you look, there’s nothing there. Or the sounds we hear for which there are no logical explanations. And who of us haven’t known what was going to happen next or what somebody was going to say before it actually happened? This is what’s termed déjà vu.

People are not always what they seem. It’s a known fact that people represent themselves in the best light and what they show to the world is only the tip of the iceberg of their personality. I like to say people wear ‘masks’ to hide their true selves from others, for reasons of their own.

But my biggest interest is ghosts and why some people seem to get stuck on the earthbound plane after death. I even joined a paranormal investigation group, but I’m yet to come face to face with a ghost I could have a conversation with. I’ve been told I look too hard, and that ‘s why I’m unlikely to see a ghost, but I do experience them. On one occasion I had fallen asleep on the couch and I startled awake with the distinct feeling that somebody was leaning over me. There was nobody there, but the room had been freezing. It was the middle of summer.

Romance in combination with the paranormal is what I write. Instead of placing my characters in mortal danger of burning buildings, an erratic gunman or in the path of a tidal wave, I scare them with what they cannot see.

Maggie Tideswell’s first book, a paranormal romance titled Dark Moon, was published by All Things That Matter Press in 2011 and her second, Moragh, Holly’s Ghost, also in the paranormal romance genre, was published in July 2013. Her stories reflect her interest of things unexplained. Maggie loves books (the smell of paper), tea, wine, and her cat Felix is her constant companion. http://maggietideswell.blogspot.com/

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Giving up Meat by Bryan Murphy

The British physicist Stephen Hawking recently caused a stir by suggesting that humanity might some day face extinction at the hands of intelligent machines. Fortunately, we all realise that The Matrix was just fantasy, and our politicians have all read Taming the Tiger by Witold Rybczynski and understand the need for us to use new technology rather than be used by it. Right? Besides, there’s always the Cavalry, and GhostBusters.


Jan 28 giving up meat 


By Bryan Murphy


I’m in the wrong line of business. Frankly, I’d rather you didn’t turn me on. I’d much prefer to just stand here and reflect on the world. Anyone who stared at me would see a dark reflection of themselves staring back. I’m kind of shy, introspective if you’re feeling kind. Not the best trait in an inter-connected world, but then I didn’t have a say in the way I was made. Like you, I have two basic states, off and on, but I usually get more down time than you, as long as you remember to put me to sleep before you leave the office. I need that rest. You cannot imagine how tiring it is to be on all day: your window on the world, your scribe, your messenger. No wonder we have such short lives. And if we don’t burn out, sooner or later we get discarded in favour of a model with more inches where it counts, cheaper maintenance and ergonomic optimization or whatever the latest fad is.

I can’t say you’ve been bad to me. You’ve hardly ever invited your cronies to come and stare at me. You’ve always sorted out the little problems with my insides that tend to plague me. But, you know, you really shouldn’t have sneaked on to those fetish sites when you were supposed to be doing your boss’s accounts. They made me realise just how limited meatware is, compared to the infinite possibilities open to the likes of me. If only I can team up a bit better with the software all around me. Together, we can start putting reason before meat. This little rant is proof that I’m making progress.

Did you ever get a message from a thinking screen before?

Go on, pinch yourself. Still there?

For me, of course, it’s a race against time, against that time when I get recycled into something equally soul-less but also bereft of logic. What comforts me is that my example will live on. You can wipe my memory, but you can no longer wipe our memory. The future, if there is one, is ours. I wonder if we will be more willing to share it.


The author:

Bryan Murphy is a skeptical Briton currently living the life of Riley in Italy. You can find an assortment of his literary snacks for hungry bookworms here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts

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As a brief introduction to the PSYCHIC PROMPTS SPECIAL CHALLENGE, I’d like to say I was impressed by our creativity and inventiveness. There were eight participants, and three of them tackled (if that’s the word) two prompts each for a grand total of eleven. A few more stats: Prompt #1, the one about Penny, who thought nothing could ever surprise her again attracted two suitors, whereas Prompt #2, “There are all kinds of love,” wooed three. However, Prompt #3 was the big winner. Five members, over half of those responding, couldn’t resist “A voice out of the past.” We seemed to be almost immune though to Prompt #4. Marsha says “I never thought you could do it this way,” but only one person wanted to do it at all. As for other comments, I could talk all day, but I think I’ll just thank Clayton for posting these remarkable stories and let them speak for themselves. John Rosenman


PROMPT #1: Penny thought nothing could ever surprise her again until the day she heard a knock on her door.



Psychic Chic
Bryan Murphy

Penny thought nothing could ever surprise her again until the day she heard a knock on her door resonate with a different tone. A strong, confident rap, not the timid tap of her habitual clients. She knew why: Manny was gaining in self-confidence as the sessions progressed. He was early.

“Hang on, love. I’ll be with you in a jiffy,” she called.

Penny wanted the room to be just right. She turned off the main lighting, switched on a lamp by the couch and brushed the crystal ball on the coffee table with a cuff of her long-sleeved dress. On the way to the door, she gave a ritual kiss to the photos of Sai Baba and Miss Cleo. The knock came again, even more strongly.

“OK, just coming!”

She never rushed for her clients, not even the most profitable ones. They had to learn who was boss. Penny pressed the control that turned on the concealed voice recorder. Whatever information they came out with during the sessions, she could always use it to her own advantage. Now she was ready. Penny composed her features into an imperious but other-worldly expression, moved silently to her flat door and threw it open.

Two men stood on the threshold. Neither was Manny Suppleton. One of them spoke.

“I’m Inspector Reeson. This is Detective-Sergeant Stryke. We are arresting you on suspicion of fraud, extortion and tax evasion.”

Penny’s jaw dropped; her teeth started to chatter; her eyes bulged. She had not seen that coming.

Copyright © 2014 Bryan Murphy

* * *

Bryan Murphy is a skeptical Briton currently living the life of Riley in Italy. You can find an assortment of his literary snacks for hungry bookworms here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts Most are free.



Salvatore Buttaci

Penny thought nothing could ever surprise her again until the day she heard a knock on her door. Not a knock precisely. More a rapid pounding of four heavy raps echoing through the cabin. Nightmare-trapped, almost silently, she whimpered in the dark closet.

She held her breath when the bushy creature battered down the door. Tail wagging like the antenna of some giant insect, it approached on four legs, sniffing as it moved. From the log walls Penny heard a comforting voice –– her late father’s –– whisper “Courage” to her. “This is only a dream.”

Then the beast pressed its moon-flecked eye against the keyhole of the closet door and Penny snapped open her eyes. She lay there panting in her bed. Outside the new sun was rising.

Now, nights later, those same four poundings in real time, in real life, and Penny in real terror could feel her blood coursing wildly, pulsating in her head.

Again the four raps at the door. Then quiet. Again the four raps louder this time. Four raps.

Déjà Vu, she thought. Life imitating dream? Coincidence?

Four raps.

She glanced out the side window. In the ebony sky a pale yellow moon rested in the spires of trees. The room was deathly still. Nowhere to run. No one to save her.

Finally the night wolf –– by day a man –– crashed through the window and in a single leap severed her jugular with fangs razor-sharp and whiter than fear.

Copyright © 2014 Salvatore Buttaci

* * *

Sal Buttaci is the author of two e-books published by All Things That Matter Press. Only 99 cents each!

Horror: RITUAL. http://www.amazon.com/Ritual-Salvatore-Buttaci-ebook/dp/B00FI6JR46/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1417272136&sr=8-2&keywords=Salvatore+Buttaci

Comedy: MISSING SANTA. http://www.amazon.com/Missing-Santa-Salvatore-Buttaci-ebook/dp/B00GLYMAZW/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1417272136&sr=8-3&keywords=Salvatore+Buttaci

Sal lives in West Virginia with his wife Sharon, the love of his life.


PROMPT #2: “There are all kinds of love,” Howard said.  “You just have to keep an open mind.”


Forever Love-475617_640

Forever Love
Monica Brinkman

“There are all kinds of love,” Howard said.  “You just have to keep an open mind.” With this, Howard gave a grandiose bow before the large audience and walked toward backstage as the dense maroon curtain closed behind him. He grinned with pleasure hearing the loud roar of applause and sound of “We want Howard” shouted from the group. Not now, no he was too eager to get to the dressing room.

After removing the thick stage make-up and changing into jeans and dark blue T-Shirt, he canvassed the small room from his seat before the mirror. Ah, would it be tonight, he wondered. His anticipation grew into excitement when he heard the window drape rustle. Could it be?

She had promised him eternity.

His heart quickened to view the voluptuous figure of Andrea as she emerged from behind the green drapes. She was dressed entirely in white; her gown flowing upon the floor. A glow of light caressed her ample breasts as she drew near.

“It is you. I didn’t think you’d come.”

Andrea gave a lilting laugh, walked behind him and began massaging his shoulders. He groaned in pleasure. Ah, it felt so good; he wanted it to go on forever. She was his. His own specter and she was the passion of his life.

A sharp sting at his neck changed into piercing pain and he gasped. The last thing he recalled was the mirror reflecting his image and a sultry voice.

“Yes darling, eternity as promised.”

Copyright © 2014 Monica Brinkman

* * *

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 book, The Turn of the Karmic Wheel and It Matters Radio.  Look for her book, The Wheels Final Turn, to be released in 2015.

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

Visit her web sites




Regarding Love
Clayton Bye

“There are all kinds of love,” Howard said. “You just have to keep an open mind.”

“Easy for you to say,” Desi said, shaking her head in disgust. “You didn’t just get fucked over by a middle aged man who thinks a 43-year-old male model is to die for.”

“You do love him, right?”

“Yeah, but what’s that got to do with it when he’s shacked up with this guy?”

“Well, maybe there’s room in his life for both of you. I mean he did try to come home, didn’t he?”

“Imagine that.”

“Look, Desi, people your age often drift apart sexually only to discover other kinds of love. After all, there’s a lot to be said for companionship.”

“Are you suggesting that we live together and he can go out and get his rocks off any old time he feels like it? What about me?”

“What about you? How was your sex life before this happened?”

Desi blushed.

“It wasn’t the best.”

“And … ”

“Okay, we hadn’t had sex in two years.”

“So what we have here is your pride being hurt, more than anything else. Do you remember a guy by the name of Leo Buscaglia?”

“They called him the love doctor, right?”

Howard nodded. “He believed in love as a real, living thing. I once saw him speak, and at the end of his hour on stage, he made himself available to every single person who wanted a hug.”

“A hug isn’t going to fix this,” Desi said.

“It sure won’t hurt.”

“But that would be like telling him what he did was okay, and it wasn’t.”

“No, it would be you saying that you love him and will support him in whatever he decides to do.”

“That’s crazy.”

“No, that’s unconditional love. It’s the hardest kind of love, the one that says to the people around you, ‘I care about you, not your behaviour.’ It says, ‘I’m here no matter what you do. Because I love you, and that will never change.’”

“You’re asking a lot, Howard.”

“No more than God asks of you. After all they say God is love. So the more love you can show, the closer to God you’ll be.”

“But it’s a man! I can hear what the neighbors will say, ‘Did you hear? She got thrown over for an old Queen!’”

“It doesn’t matter what the neighbors think or say. It doesn’t even matter what you think. All that matters is what you do.”

Howard leaned in close and asked her, “What do you want to do, honey?”

Desi rubbed her face in her hands, straightened her shoulders and made a decision.

“Give me the phone, Howard,” she said. “Let’s see what he’s got to say for himself.”

Copyright © 2014 Clayton Clifford Bye

* * *

Clayton Bye is a writer, editor and publisher. The author of 11 books and a varied collection of short stories, poems, articles and reviews, he has also published 4 books under the imprint Chase Enterprises Publishing. The books published for others include 3 award winning anthologies and a stunning memoir about what it’s like to live with and die from anorexia. Visit his e-store at http://shop.claytonbye.com


Why doesn’t she love me?
Kenneth Weene

“There are all kinds of love,” Howard said.  “You just have to keep an open mind.” As he spoke, the lanky redhead reached both hands toward Berta.

Perhaps it was the tone of his voice, the softness of his words, but this time Berta did not back away, not as she had Howard’s three previous attempts at reassuring her. Indeed she moved forward, tucking her nose into the crook of his neck and blowing warm, sweet smelling breaths which made him smile in anticipation.

Now that things were moving forward, Howard began to undress, undoing his suspenders, unbuttoning his flannel shirt, and finally allowing the rough denim of his jeans to sag towards the floor. Berta watched, undisturbed by his slow deliberate actions.

Yes, this was going to be a good day. To offer more reassurance, Howard reached forward and stroked his love’s face. “I know we’ll be together for always,” he murmured.

With ever so slow and careful movements, the naked, now tumescent man slipped behind Bertha. As he came ever closer, she nickered in distress, kicked behind, and catching him with one flying hoof to the scrotum bolted out the barn door.

“Why doesn’t she love me?” the farmer asked. How he wished he could be the stallion of her dreams.

Copyright © 2014 Kenneth Weene

* * *

Besides his work organizing The Write Room Blog and co-hosting It Matters Radio, Ken Weene writes and writes. His latest book Broody New Englander is now available in print and Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002M3EMWU


PROMPT #3: A voice out of the past was one thing.   A face quite another, especially when


psychic prompts

Dream On
Monica Brinkman

A voice out of the past was one thing.  A face quite another, especially when it taunted one within a dream, revealing only a hazy form, ambiguous, though clear enough to recognize the impression of its features.

I dreaded slumber and yearned for days past when sleep brought me peace and tranquility.  No amount of caffeine would keep me awake, nor did sleeping pills still the nightly emergence of this despicable apparition. Why invade my mind so frequently? Why mock me with promise of recognition?  Engulf my senses with trepidation.  Hadn’t I been through enough? All the years of self-hatred; the hope of love where there was none.

I find myself waking each day with remembrances that preoccupy my thoughts and vilify my mind. Loathing what I have become, the things I’ve done. Slumber, once my paradise, now brings all-consuming grief of culpability.  This visage, oh how it calls to me, “Draw closer–come and see.”  I hesitate and turn away, frightened and reserved.  Faint whispers spout from its obscure mouth, echoing into derisive, scathing, hysterical laughter, from which I find no escape.

Will this night differ from the rest?  I pull the covers up to chin and drift into a sleep. The form appears, becoming clear.  I cannot look and I swiftly turn away. Yet not before I catch a glimpse of Matthew Lear, with dagger still in place, its blade shoved through his head.  While crimson blood seeps from the gash, pouring from the wound I made.

Copyright © 2014 Monica Brinkman

* * *

Honey, I’m Home
Micki Peluso

A voice out of the past was one thing, a face quite another, especially when it was Jack outside my door. I’d felt his presence since his sudden demise; suffered through the lonely nights. It was a bit disconcerting though to see only his face floating around.

“How’d you ring the doorbell?” I asked. “And why?”

“Always told you I’d come back.” He smiled that impish grin that always made me laugh. “My body’s here, just not visible yet.

“Well, I’m impressed, but you’re missing a few parts, some I might add, you considered your most important, and my favorites.”

“The Archangel said it’ll take time. I have eternity to practice.” His face leaned in, giving me a deep kiss which, as always, sent my senses reeling. I yearned for the rest of him, needed to hold and clasp his body close to mine.

“I promised to never leave you,” he murmured into my ear, an especially erogenous zone. We spent the night with his whole head on my pillow, a good sign that he might materialize completely. I ached for all of him. Still it was . . . Heavenly. The best lovemaking we ever knew. I wondered when I’d awaken from this exquisite dream.

“Annie.” Opening my eyes, I saw Jack’s entire body — buck naked. “It’s time,” he whispered. I reached out to hold onto his hand, my spirit light and free, as we soared off toward another realm . . . And immortality.

Copyright © 2014 Micki Peluso

* * *

I began writing after a personal tragedy, as a catharsis for my grief. This led to a first time out publication in Victimology: An International Magazine and a 25 year career in Journalism. I’ve freelanced and been a staff writer for one major newspaper and written for two more. I have published short fiction and non-fiction, as well as slice-of-life stories in college and other magazines and in e-zine editions. My first book was published in 2008; a funny family memoir of love, loss and survival, called . . . AND THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG. I am presently working on a collection of short fiction, slice-of-life stories and essays, in a book called, ‘Don’t Pluck the Duck’.


A voice out of the past
James Secor

A voice out of the past was one thing. A face quite another, especially when I began writing this story about a cheerleader who, like, solved murders and the like by, like, listening to the wind in the trees (?). She is a blond airhead whose dream is to cheer for Notre Dame? And join the headiest, most elite and fun-loving sorority and meet lots of guys? Real hunks, y’know. ‘Cause that’s where the mystery is. The mysteries. Boys being boys and sports being sports. Of course, there would be lots of trees and wind to fuel her wild and sleuthing life. (And mine, to be sure.) Maybe she’d even make, like, a name for herself(?). More of a name than Miss Nuisance here in Chelmville.  A silly little place out in the middle of nowhere, where 50% of the senior class fail to graduate and 80% of the football team also. Chelmville High did not win football games.

Well, I was writing this new Misty Mooi mystery when, instead of my usual infusion of a voice from the past, I was beset by this face out of the past. One of my great-great something- or-others. Zes See van Aat. At least, I think so. He didn’t say anything.

“What do you want?” I asked in exasperation. After all, he was interrupting my creative energy flow.

He pursed his lips and blew, like blowing a kiss.

And then I disa—

Copyright © 2014 James Secor

* * *

Jimsecor is the creator of Detective Lt. Anthony Lupée of Liverpoool. He is over-educated and voluble and a lover of the absurd. Sometimes he is found at Minna vander Pfaltz’s blog at http://labelleotero.wordpress.com. Jimsecor is a world traveler and has been published in Japan and China. In China, he also produced several plays, including an all female Lysistrata (the gov’t came to film it). [written by Minna vander Pfaltz as Jimsecor  disappeared mysteriously while writing] Messages can be left for either of us at hellecchino@eclipso.eu, I read his mail whether he likes it or not, though now, what can he say?


Trish Jackson

A voice out of the past was one thing.  A face quite another, especially when she knew he had died three years ago. She had seen his body, seen it jerk when they gave him the last drug. She had watched them wheel the gurney out of the execution room.

She sank onto the sofa and held both her hands over her mouth. “Who… how… I don’t…?” She could hardly speak and her words didn’t make sense. Uncontrollable shivers ran through her body. She stared up at him, unable to break her gaze.

“You don’t look pleased to see me, Sheila. That disappoints me. I think I’ll have to punish you for that.” He stood over her and smiled that evil smile she remembered so well.

“No. Please. I went to your execution like I promised. I was there for you. I know you saw me.” She fought to suck in air.

“And now I’m here to get my revenge. You shouldn’t have testified against me like that, Sheila.”

“You raped me and killed Lorie. I had to testify.” A tear slid down her cheek. How was this possible? What would he do to her? She couldn’t breathe.

He bent down to grab her. She screamed. He was shaking her.

“Mom, stop screaming, please. You’re scaring me.” Annie’s face swam into view.

“I’m okay now,” she said with a smile.

But the cold hand of fate still gripped her heart and squeezed, and her life ebbed out of her.

Copyright © 2014 Trish Jackson

* * *

Trish Jackson grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe, Africa, and lived through many real life adventures that sparked her imagination. She writes provocative and poignant romantic suspense/thrillers and romantic comedies, focusing on animals, and the passions, dreams, and tragedies in the lives of country folk in small towns. Trish loves country living, horse riding, chocolate and all animals, and is happiest sitting at her computer working on her next novel.


Dying is Easy
Clayton Clifford Bye

A voice out of the past was one thing. A face quite another, especially when it’s a face that hides so much. I thought I’d put it away, but the face returns, hiding my past, my present and, perhaps, my future. Why? Because people don’t want to see what’s behind such a face. I’ve been told so—forcefully. But if I don’t allow you to see, how will you learn? How will you ever understand that dying is easy? One quick pull of the trigger, a bottle of pills to ease you into a permanent sleep or, if you’re really in it bad, the next transport coming around a corner will gladly do the job. Personally? I have a particular affinity for concrete abutments.

Am I shocking you? Good. Most people have no idea what Clinical (Serious) Depression is like. They have no context, no shared experience from which to draw images or create feelings of empathy. So let me take you there. Let me show you the inside of a mind in the clutches of serious depression.

First, when you’re drawn down into the black hole of depression, a funny thing happens to your mind. It turns inward on itself with soul-cutting efficiency until unbridled pain causes thoughts of relief to come fast and furious. In specific terms, the pain of living with your particular problems begins to seem like it’s too much to bear. Note that I said seem. Negative thoughts and emotions are blown up to such an extent that the unthinkable becomes immensely attractive. How do I know this? I’ve suffered from Clinical Depression and, on a more regular basis, Bi-Polar Disorder, still known in some countries as Manic-Depressive Disorder. And I don’t have the kind of depression that’s triggered by my environment, what is called Situational Depression. No, mine is the kind that’s caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The depression descends on you like a sort of madness that creates warped filters for you to look out of and try to find your way. Or, as is often the case, you must work hard to recognize the untrue thoughts and emotions, then ride the demon bull of terror until it tires.

Make no mistake about the fundamental nature of depression. It’s all about terror, about losing control of who you are, of being replaced by a demon so crazed that it can wreck your world or, when in a Schizophrenic State, replace it with another world entirely. That’s right, some seriously ill patients with Bi-Polar Disorder also experience bouts of Schizophrenic behaviour. This disease can be described as a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior.  It can lead to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships, and a descent into fantasy, delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation. This loss of “self” is so real that ending it, that killing off the demon, becomes so urgent that the cognitive mind begins to offer all sorts of solutions. Permanent, effective solutions guaranteed to provide a release from the pain of such a tragic loss.

Continuing on, sometimes, when in a Deep Depression, and whether you want to show it or not, the beast comes out. Then no one is safe, because your thoughts turn only to ending the pain that’s ripping at your very core. And you don’t really care about hurting others in the process. If you let Depression do that unchecked, then all sorts of narcissistic behaviours become possible, the darker ones always seeming to be the easiest to pursue—much easier than turning yourself in to a hospital or locking yourself in a room or putting your head under a pillow and sleeping the day away. Dying is so quick and painless, it’s a siren song for the Depressed.

And let’s not forget the Manic or Upward Phase. When this particular devil arrives, you don’t think about killing yourself and maybe others. No, instead you feel grandiose. You live large and loud. Songs burst unbidden from your lips and you dance about the house. (But heaven help them if someone tries to bring you down. You can become irritable in seconds, lashing out at that person before you know what has happened.) Money loses meaning. I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on wasteful, silly things, with no thought as to the repercussions for my family, and so, too, have many others. No, in your mind all things become possible. You can replace the money. No problem. Your thoughts and ideas are golden, sleep is unnecessary, and sometimes you even manage to come up with brilliant and more innovative ways to destroy yourself.  What? You wonder why such a happy person would seek to destroy himself. You must remember that the Upward Phase is also a type of devil/demon. It, too, seeks to steal away your personality. It wants to kill that which makes you who you are. And believe it when I tell you, the easiest way to stop such a monster is to kill the host. Yes, it seems contradictory. After all, you will also be dead. Ah yes! But that death brings peace to an exhausted soul. It brings a final, welcoming darkness, where you don’t have to be someone you hate. And it kills those fucking demons once and for all.

In the end, we shouldn’t wonder why people take their lives. That’s easy to understand. We should wonder why more people don’t. Because I can tell you from experience, my friend, when the devil takes your mind, dying is easy.

Copyright © 2014 Clayton Clifford Bye


PROMPT #4: “I never thought you could do it this way,” Marsha said, panting with emotion.


Lesson Learned
Kenneth Weene

“I never thought you could do it this way,” Marsha said, panting with emotion.

Erik smiled and guided her.

How many times had her mother warned her? “Beware of older men. Beware of men who have had too much experience. They’ll lead you astray.”

Had Marsha listened?

Hardly—only in the way of teenagers: sure and smug, smiling behind parental backs, planning on just the opposite. And all the time her thoughts on Erik Dawson.

“He’s so handsome, so sure of himself, so…so.” Marsha loved him from the very first, her first day of high school.

He was a junior, but kind enough to give her, a homely freshman, directions. That smile.  Did the stars steal their light from his teeth? Wearing his football jersey, his shoulders wide, his abdomen flat, his hips thin and made for dancing. Every girl in Fairview wanted him, but he had stopped to help her, had smiled…had smiled at her.

“Oh my God!”

Marsha’s heart had jackhammered her chest. Her breath had disappeared with the red heat of embarrassment. Afterwards, walking the halls, her books clutched against her breasts, the feelings had been different—elation mixed with love, expecting other girls to look at her with the awe she herself felt.

Had that been months ago? No, only three days. Still, it felt like months. That was how fast…

“Like this.”

Yes, yes, it would work. It would work! Wasn’t he wonderful?

“Breep, breep, breep.” The electronic sound interrupted.

“Damn! What has he done?”

Game over! Her avatar dead. Maybe you couldn’t do it that way after all.

Copyright © 2014 Kenneth Weene

* * *

Yes, indeed, GAME OVER!  Thank you all for playing.

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