1966 by Bryan Murphy

 

1966

I recently returned to my home town, where I took my better half to see a local park in which I’d kicked a soccer ball around as a teenager. It took me a while to recognise the place–it is so much better now: the local authorities and teams of volunteers have managed both to conserve a stretch of wild countryside in an urban environment and to make it a civic amenity. This is truly shocking. We all know that things are supposed to get worse, that nothing can possibly be as good as it was when we were young, healthy and hopeful.

Fortunately, soccer exists to console the ageing English fan. On 30 July 1966, England won the World Cup by beating West Germany at Wembley Stadium, London.  Half a century later, England was humiliated at the European championships by Iceland. Since I was lucky enough to witness the former event at first hand, please join me for a little wallow in nostalgia.

1966

I have to fight to get time free
from a summer job at the Castle Hotel,
washing, cleaning and clerking
to be up here in London,

a provincial doing the Wembley walk:
cigarillo in mouth, rosette on jacket,
hand clutching the entry voucher
to a sliver of history.

Though the Cup has been won an hour,
only pigeons fill Trafalgar Square.
News travels slowly, ecstasy
has yet to light the English party spirit.

I ride the train home to a town dormant
between its shopping and its pubs,
flee, five years after, to the World
that gives the Cup its name.

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

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The One That Got Away A Novel by Bryan Murphy Part One

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The telephone buzzed.

Teased out of his dream, Amos stretched out an arm and lifted the receiver. He placed the plastic implement on the table, then turned his body to the warmth of his wife, who was stirring under the sheets.

An hour later, the alarm clock crowed. Without thinking, Amos thumbed the snooze button. When the clock crowed again, he sat up in bed, turned it off and slipped the phone’s receiver back into its cradle. At once, it buzzed. This time Amos picked up the receiver and waited. His free hand caressed the indentation his wife’s head had left in her pillow.

A once-familiar voice slipped into his ear.

“Laxenby?”

“Amos, Inspector. Or should I call you Jack now?”

“Please do. It’s been a while.”

“I’m sure I’ll recognise your voice just as easily in another three years’ time.”

“Amos, I regret having to say this, but we need you. Amos? Did you read those files I sent?”

“I read them but I didn’t enjoy them. I prefer fiction these days.”

“Amos, a case like this … frankly, it’s beyond us. It may be beyond you, too, but you’re our best chance of stopping a repeat of what happened. You can name your own terms for this one, Amos.”

“Jack, don’t ring me again. I’m going on a fishing trip. You won’t find me.”

Amos left the phone off the hook and embraced the new day.

Part Two

With the help of the old man who looked after it for him, Amos pushed the boat into the calm water. He heaved himself over the gunwale, stowed his fishing tackle more carefully, set the oars, and rowed out into the lagoon.

When his muscles told him that they had woken up, he stopped to cream his exposed skin ready for the rising sun. As he rinsed his hands, his mobile phone vibrated against his thigh. He pulled it out of his shorts pocket and accepted the call.

“Amos Laxenby, my name is Vincent Thannington. I work for Her Majesty’s Government. You remember the files Jack sent you, I’m sure. Well, there have been further developments in the case. Most unwelcome developments.”

“And you need my help.”

“We are counting on you.”

“Sorry. No can do. I’m fishing.”

“Mr Laxenby, you don’t seem to appreciate the urgency of the matter.”

“Why are you talking to me, not to someone from Jack’s crowd?”

“We believe there may be an international angle to the case. You have more contacts, longer experience and deeper knowledge.”

“Sorry. As I said, I’ve retired.”

“Mr Laxenby, your country needs you.”

“Mr Government, my family needs me more. And I need peace and quiet.”

Amos closed the phone and bowled it like a googly into the lagoon. He heard its light splash and watched its ripple weaken. The sky was still unlit. He turned his attention to starting the boat’s small outboard motor.

###

Epilogue

I walked into his house. There was no need to knock. I’d sent his wife out shopping earlier. The house was clean but it felt lived in. I rummaged through his music collection for a CD I could bear to listen to.

When Amos walked in, Django’s guitar work was nodding my head. I smiled at Amos’s expression but my fingers gripped the glass of his bourbon more firmly.

“Who the hell are you?”

“I’m Bryan Murphy.”

“Let me guess. New York City Chief of Police?”

I shook my head.

“An IRA enforcer?”

I forced a laugh.

“No, Amos. I’m your author.”

“Oh, I see. Getting heavy, now, are we?”

“Not at all. Just tell me, please, why you’re not cooperating.”

“Like I told those chaps, I’ve retired.”

“That’s what you told them. But me? Why aren’t you cooperating with me?”

“Look, I’ve become an ageing family man who likes nothing better than pottering about on boats. That’s just how I like things.”

“Amos, really? I can give you a posher house, a bigger boat, a younger wife. Don’t look at me like that. I’ve always looked after you, haven’t I?”

“Bloody hell, you’ve put me through some rough times.”

“But I’ve got you out of every scrape, haven’t I?”

“In your own twisted way, I suppose you have.”

Amos limped to the sideboard and poured himself a tumbler of Bushmills. No ice.

“I don’t have to do that, Amos. I can always have you flayed alive, roasted, or forced to watch while your grandchildren – ”

“But you wouldn’t, would you?”

“I probably would not. However, I certainly could. Your life is in my hands.”

“In your head, not your hands. And since I’m no longer cooperating, it’s going to stay there. Suits me.”

We stared at each other, neither of us blinking.

 

The author

Bryan Murphy did his share of fishing in Portugal and Angola. Nowadays, he is more of an indoor guy. He welcomes visitors to his website at www.bryanmurphy.eu and you can find more of his fiction at viewAuthor.at/BryMu His second novel will be out this year. It is full length.

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Award Winning Strangely Different Short Stories

First there was Writers on the Wrong Side of the Road. These are strangely different MediumFrontCover.jpgmodern/literary stories meant to break the boundaries of the genre. Edited by Sassy Brit and C.C. Bye, it placed 4th in the P&E Readers Poll for anthologies in 2012

Then there wThe Speed of Dark Front Cover Beta Versionas The Speed of Dark. This is a collection of strangely different horror stories. It picked up eight awards, including an honourable mention in the 84th Annual Wrtiers’ Digest Writing Competition.

Today we are releasing a fine collection of strangely different, genre busting, western stories. The anthology, The Nettle Tree,  includes some of the authors from The Write Room Blog, as well as some fine talent from Canada, the U.S. and the UK. You can order your copy through Amazon or directlly from Chase Enterprises Publishing.

Front Cover

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The Big, Not so Bad Wolf By Trish Jackson

wolves
I recently saw a post on Facebook bemoaning the fact that more gray wolves are being re-introduced to the federal forest lands in Arizona and New Mexico. The article went on to say that the Boy Scout groups would now have to re-think their camping operations in those areas for fear of wolves attacking the children. Really? They don’t mind the mountain lions (known to attack humans) or bears (known to attack humans), but are afraid of wolves. While wolves have attacked humans in the US, they are definitely not the only danger, and I can only think the fears are because humans are conditioned from the time they are very young to be afraid of the big bad wolf.

If anyone took the time to educate themselves about wolves, they would be surprised to find out what structured, intelligent and fascinating creatures they are. A pack is usually made up of 10 or fewer members. Every member within the pack has a specific title and rank, and somehow they all know their designated tasks and how the hierarchy is supposed to work.

Rank order is established and maintained through a series of ritualized fights and posturing, and by psychological means. High-ranking status is more often than not determined more on personality and attitude than on size or physical strength. At the top is the alpha female, and then her mate—collectively the alpha pair—who are usually monogamous except when they are closely related to one another, in which case the female may choose to mate with a lower ranked male instead. The alphas have the most freedom, and are the most likely to breed, but are not always the only ones.

Second in charge is a beta wolf, or wolves, whose duty is to protect the alphas, and they are often more aggressive and larger in size or stronger than the others below them. Others in the pack range in age. The females help take care of the cubs, while the males hunt. The Omega wolf is the lowest ranked, and may be designated as ‘nanny’ to the youngest cubs.

Wolves are social animals and a lone wolf is one that has most likely been exiled from a pack and is in search of a new pack.

Wolves, like dogs, communicate through a variety of specialized sounds, howls, growls, grunts, whines and barks, and body language like standing tall with the tail up or hunching down and pulling the tail between their legs. They use eye-contact and facial expressions to show emotions—baring teeth, pointing ears forward showing dominance, and closed mouths, slit eyes and pulled back ears indicating submission.

Howling is not unique to the wolf, but the wolf howl can be heard up to six miles away, and anyone who has ever heard it knows what a distinctive and haunting sound it is. Alpha wolves usually have a lower pitched howl, and it seems there is no one particular reason for howling.

Here’s the most interesting fact for me. Wolves have played an incredible part in the environment in areas where they have been re-introduced, particularly Yellowstone Park, where they were introduced in 1995 after 70 years of absence. They hunt together as a pack, and as such, are a formidable opponent and are able to take down large animals like elk. Researchers believe that wolves may help mitigate the impact of climate change, and have documented how they have actually caused the rivers in Yellowstone to stabilize and become healthier. This is partially because they keep grazing animals like elk on the move, which has allowed certain plants to recover and not be totally destroyed, thus curbing erosion. This video on youtube explains how they have changed the rivers in Yellowstone and benefited coyotes, bald eagles, golden eagles, black bears, ravens, magpies, red foxes and more than 20 other species. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysa5OBhXz-Q

wolfNeedless to say, the wolf’s greatest enemy is man, and will continue to be until humans are educated about them. Please share this article to help spread the word.

Trish Jackson writes romantic suspense thrillers and romantic comedy, and loves to include fictional animals that are not limited to dogs in her stories. http://www.trishjackson.com

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Down From Oz by John B. Rosenman

John down2

[I’ve always loved used bookstores. How about you? I love their towering stacks, their musty shadows, the constant hope of discovering a treasure in some hidden nook. Here’s a tale about a writer facing discouragement and endless rejections (remind you of anyone?) and his visit to a used bookstore where he finds a treasure unlike any other.]

 

DOWN FROM OZ*

That did it: yesterday’s rejection was the last straw!  Halting on the sidewalk, Jason Creed raised the sheets of paper he’d clutched almost constantly since the day before and read them again.

“Dear Mr. Creed:

Thank you for allowing us to see your novel, Down From Oz. Now, allow me to share with you my thoughts. I have never seen such a hopeless, poorly conceived plot in all my life. Cliches, inconsistencies, and clumsy dialogue abound, and if there’s a guiding purpose, I am unable to see it.”

The letter went on for two full, single-spaced pages, taking up specific scenes and passages only to rip them apart. Like a masochistic lamb to the slaughter, he let himself be led down its sentences to the final, killing blow: a suggestion that he find something more suitable to his talents.

Clenching his teeth, Jason squeezed the sheets into a tight ball and thrust them in his pocket.

          That’s it! I finally, at long last, get the point! I have no talent as a writer and I’m never going to write again!

Breathing deeply, he struggled for calm, but the heartbreak he had endured since receiving the letter yesterday let him climb no higher than a dull despair. God, it hurt!  Of all the rejections, cruel and otherwise, which he had received down through the years, this was the absolute worst. It was the critical coup de grace, the death knell of all his hopes.

Jesus, he thought, I even think in third-rate purple prose. I must stop feeling sorry for myself and find something else to do with my life!

The trouble was, there was absolutely nothing else he wanted to do as much as write. His job at the post office was a paycheck, and except for reading he had no hobbies, unless he counted writing, which he had always considered his life.

What could he do that was meaningful to fill the endless void ahead of him? Go fishing? Watch sports?

He shook his head and continued along the street, then paused when he saw a yellow brick building with ornate letters stenciled on a window: Book World.

Oh yes. His wife, knowing he was addicted to old bookstores, had mentioned there was a new one on their street. He sighed, remembering how she had tried to comfort him when she learned about the rejection letter, only to have him shut her out.

Hunching his shoulders, he walked past, determined to make things up with his wife and to have nothing to do with books and writing ever again. But after only a few steps, his pace slowed. He turned back and studied the shop.

What the hell?

Above Book World‘s door, an elaborate wood sign displayed a globe whose continents were pages filled with fancy cursive writing. Quills, suspended above the globe, dripped ink into its oceans.

God, it’s pretentious. Just another crummy hole-in-the-wall. But he found himself going back anyway, eyes fastened on the sign.

A bell tinkled quaintly as he entered. He closed the door behind him, inhaling the beloved dusty smell of old books and old wood floors. A stack of ancient tomes with moldy leather covers sat on the floor nearby, waiting for shelving. On top of them stood an imposing hourglass like the one the witch had used in The Wizard of Oz.

Well, he thought, the name might be pompous, but this place is real. It isn’t Barnes & Noble, and there ain’t a Kindle or e-book in sight.

A bald, slender man in his mid-thirties puttered behind the counter to his right, looking as used and obsolete as the wares he handled. Jason gave him a nod and headed toward the back, passing an old-style sewing press used for binding books.

He found the familiar, nicked and dented wood shelves holding tattered books packed cheek by jowl, some piled high overhead in towers that threatened to topple. Moving around a small platform ladder customers could use to reach loftier treasures, he peered at handwritten labels on the shelves. Mystery. Science Fiction. Biology. Occult.

He himself was a fantasy writer, with three unsold novels. Fantasy—it was appropriate, wasn’t it? What else was his whole life but fantasy? As a writer he was a brainless scarecrow, and the earthly Oz he had created was no more than a cheap, uninspired ripoff. He deserved that editor’s contempt for presuming to think he was anything else but a hack!

Suddenly, as he reached the back, a weird, ghostly green light flashed on. Blinded, he shielded his eyes. What the hell—?

The light faded. Lowering his hand, he blinked spots and after-glare away. Where had that damned light come from? He peered about, but could see only a cabinet before him.

It was a nice cabinet too, the kind with old, rich, polished wood and handsome, glass-paneled doors you opened with a key, though there didn’t seem to be one. He stepped close and squinted at the books displayed. On the middle shelf he saw Twain and Walter de la Mare, a copy of Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man. The leather-bound volumes all looked costly and impressive. First editions, perhaps?

He checked the shelf above it, and saw other beautiful volumes. Edgar Allan Poe. Harlan Ellison. Albert Finney . . .

Looking still higher, he scrutinized the top shelf. Ah. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin. And what was that almost folio-sized one in the center? He leaned close. Let’s see. Jason Creed’s Down From . . .

He blinked, rubbed his eyes. Looked again.

Jason Creed’s Down From Oz.

He stepped back. Was he dreaming? Having an hallucination?  Surely, it couldn’t . .

He leaned closer. Down From Oz by Jason Creed. Yes, that’s what it said all right. It WAS Down From Oz, which a haughty New York editor had just crapped on at close range. He choked off a laugh, then gasped as he saw the title beside it. The Master of Marisol by Jason Creed. Christ, that was his first book, the vacuous, relentlessly spurned piece of garbage he had once foolishly thought might one day rival Lord of the Rings. And beside it, Oh Jesus, Oh My God, was The Time Merchants, his one foray into soft science fiction which fifty-two publishers, including the smallest of small presses, had unanimously used for toilet paper.

They—all three—stood right there before him, occupying the same shelf as the works of masters.

I’d better sit down, he thought. All this depression—it must have unhinged me. But that weird, blinding light . . .

Footsteps, coming his way. Dazed and confused, he peered into the gloom between the tall bookcases, half-expecting to see a row of Munchkins appear.

A crown of pure white hair materialized, accompanied by an equally white mustache. Both seemed suspended in air, but as they moved directly toward him between the stacks of books, Jason saw that they belonged to a man in a black cloak.

The man stopped a few feet away. His narrow face smiled, and he nodded at the cabinet. “Are you surprised, Mr. Creed?”

“What . . .” Jason stopped. “How do you know my name?”

The old man chuckled. “They’re your books, Mr. Creed, some of the classics that the whole world will one day read. Just a few of the things that are to come.”

Jason felt as if he had been hit by a cyclone. That weird ghostly light . . . this strange old man who spoke such impossible words and seemed to know him. He rubbed his eyes, hoping it would make the stranger vanish, but he remained right where he was.

“What are you talking about?” Jason finally managed to bring out. “Do you have a crystal ball, or have I gone mad?”

“I assure you, you’re completely sane, and what I’ve said is perfectly true,” the man said. “That’s why you must not even think of giving up writing. It would be a tragic loss to posterity.”

Jason’s head spun. Could this creature read his mind? His confused thoughts fixed on one word. “Posterity? How could you know what’s going to happen?”

“Because I come from the future!” The old man glided forward, turning Jason gently toward the cabinet. “Consider me a fan who, uh, just hasn’t been born yet. A lover of your work who doesn’t want it lost.”

Jason gazed at two large, exquisitely-bound volumes he hadn’t noticed before. Dreamfarer and The Eagle and the Sun, both by Jason Creed. Oh Christ, he thought, I haven’t even written them yet!

“T-Time travel,” he whispered. “You expect me to believe . . .”

“Do you mind if I call you Jason, Mr. Creed?” the old man interrupted. “I assure you, it would be a great honor!”

He blinked. “M-Mind? No. But . . .”

“Fine! Now . . . Jason, is time travel so hard to believe? After all,

Dreamfarer explores that very possibility. You are a master of the realms of fantasy and magical realism, not to mention some truly cosmic, mind-stretching concepts.”

“But it’s fiction. I made it up.”

“Are you sure, Jason? Remember how you felt when you wrote The Master of Marisol? The words just poured out of you and you felt like all your readers will one day—alive and filled with magic! Don’t tell me it’s just make-believe, that it’s only fiction. You have actually lived it in your mind! You have actually breathed the fragrant and magical air of Marisol, walked its myriad, labyrinthine streets!”

How does this man know that? How does he know what I’m feeling when I write? Unless—Oh my God, could it be true?

But just as he felt hope stir, Jason remembered the vicious rejection letter he had received, the letter which had been the latest of so many.

He stepped back to get some space, and as he did, his head cleared a little. He heard the floor creak, smelled the faint bite of Lysol. And the dim, looming shelves of books, however haunting, did not belong in a fantasy. They were real, he could touch them. Just as he could touch that damned letter.

He reached in his pocket, brought it out. “Look,” he said hoarsely, “I don’t know what this is all about, whether I’m confused or you are.”  He unfolded the crumpled sheets. “Whoever you are, though, you’ve got the wrong guy. This witch of an editor says—”

“I know what she says, Jason,” the man said. He raised a slender finger and smoothed his white mustache. “Your readers, those who are to come, are intimately familiar with it.”

Jason gaped. “They are?”

“Yes, because you will take care to preserve that letter. You will publish it someday as an inspiration to other writers never to give up!

Suddenly, his black cloak swirling, the man moved forward and seized Jason’s forearm in a powerful grip. “Don’t you realize it was just a slush reader, a witch on a broomstick who read Down From Oz and wrote that piece of garbage? It wasn’t the editor, just an underpaid, semi-literate fool jealous of your genius and vision. Check her letter again, Jason.”

Jason obeyed, squinting at the signature as his mind babbled that he wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Yes, the man was right. He had forgotten about that. Still . . .

“What difference does it make?” he said. “I’ve had plenty of real editors trash my work. Hell, I could wallpaper my room with rejection slips. They can’t all be wrong, can they?”

The man leaned closer. “Yes, they can. They can be just as wrong as they’ve been about so many other geniuses. Don’t you know that Dune, one of science fiction’s supreme masterpieces, was rejected over twenty times before it was accepted? That John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces was endlessly turned down before he took his life, and then it won the Pulitzer Prize? Hell, man, don’t let them beat you!  Don’t give up!”

“But . . . Herbert and Toole were great writers.”

“So are you!” The man was right in his face now, his breath hot, his expression fanatical. “In times to come, you will be recognized by many as the greatest fantasist and stylist of your age! The author of dozens of books, most of them masterpieces!” He gripped Jason’s arm harder. “Listen to me! I consider it a great, great honor for me to meet you! Your works have inspired and delighted me, and I assure you they will do the same for generations of readers. Why, the streets and towers of your Marisol chronicles alone will be as familiar to readers as those of their own neighborhoods. Marisol’s geography and terrain will be mapped and charted and labeled in separate best sellers just as the realms of Tolkien and McCaffrey are in your own time! You cannot— you must not— stop writing!”

Jason trembled in the blasts of the man’s passion. Was it possible . . . could it be?  He lurched away and found himself staring again at the books he hadn’t even written yet. Dreamfarer. The Eagle and the Sun.

“Could . . . could I look at them?” he whispered, pointing through the glass door.

The man sighed. “I’m afraid I can’t let you do that. If you read even a little of these works, it could affect the whole course of your career. It’s even possible that you might become so confused that some of these treasures might never be published.”

“Well, what about those books I’ve already written, like Down From Oz?”

The old man shook his head. “No, Jason, you will extensively revise those too. I’m sorry, but we simply cannot take the chance.”

“But . . . ” Jason moaned, filled by intense yearning. “Could I at least hold one of them in my hands?  Feel it?”

“I’m sorry. Even that would entail a risk.”

Swallowing, Jason ran his fingers along the cool glass of the cabinet. He wanted to smash it, reach in and seize his books, experience the wonder of actually reading his own words in such luxurious volumes. The need to feel their pages, smell their scent rose till his whole body trembled with it. Then he felt the stranger press his arm and reluctantly turned away.

“Listen,” Jason said, “I have to know. This isn’t an illusion?  It’s all actually going to come true? I’m not like Dorothy who knocked her head and only dreamed she wore magic slippers? I—I’m actually a good writer?”

The man stroked his white mustache. “Trust me, Jason Creed, and have courage. You are the best, the King of the Forest. Now, why don’t you go and start revising your old books and writing new ones so that one day, we can all read them?”

Jason straightened, the man’s words filling him like fire. His heart began pounding with excitement. Suddenly he wanted to dance, sing, but most important, write all the books this man had praised. Never before had he felt so wonderful, so inspired, so truly and completely alive! Dreamfarer, he thought, already making plans. Yes, I know exactly what I’ll do with that!

“Thank you!” he said, seizing the man’s hand and shaking it in both of his. “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Laughing, shouting for joy, Jason Creed left the bookstore and ran all the way home, bursting with the need to shape new worlds.

# # #

The next day Angela Creed entered the store, beaming at her old friend.

“Isaac, can I talk to you?”

The owner glanced at browsing customers, then led her to the storeroom in back. There, Angela clapped her hands. “Isaac, it worked!”

“It did? Jason still believes? Man, for a failed actor, I did all right. I thought I was waaay over the top!”

“Well, those blank books you bound must have convinced him. Isaac, he’s never been so happy! He came home and started a new novel. And this morning he went off to work whistling! He didn’t mention you, but you must have been a wizard.”

“In a way I was. Turn ’round and close your eyes.”

When she did, he busied himself behind a curtain. “Okay,” he said.

Turning, she stared. “Isaac, is that you?”

He swirled his cloak, patted his white hair, twisted his mustache. “The Wizard of Oz, at your service!”

*Originally published in Brutarian, 1998.

 

A retired English professor from Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Va., John has published three hundred stories in The Speed of Dark, Weird Tales, Whitley Strieber’s Aliens, Galaxy, The Age of Wonders, and elsewhere. He is the author of The Turtan Trilogy, the first three novels of his Scifi-Adventure series, available at lrd.to/Turtan-Trilogy/

Website: http://www.johnrosenman.com

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

 

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CONFESSIONS OF A WORD FLASHER by Sal Buttaci

a (7)

 

When I was a boy, caught in my mischief, my father would sit me down and ad-lib a story with a not-so-subtle moral attached. The protagonist had a different name, a different appearance, sometimes committed even a different infraction. The antagonist never changed. He was the one who lured Pete or Billy or Nicky off the path where the honest and self-respecting walked, heads high, posture straight, conscience specklessly clean.

Papa pitted one against the other as if to say, “Sal, I know why you took that pencil sharpener, but look at what you need to do now to make things right.” Then he’d touch my shoulder or wink at me. I had disappointed him, but that touch, that wink, were reminders that Papa still loved me no matter what. “Pete’s a good boy,” Papa would say, “but he’s got lessons to learn so he can become a very good boy.” Or “Billy loves his sister and didn’t mean to hurt her. He claims he’s sorry, but words are cheap if Billy can’t back them up by not hurting Maria again.”

I learned much about writing stories from my father. Though unschooled in the craft, he had an innate ability to weave characters in and out of conflicts. He knew how to cleverly move the action, give believable voices in dialogue, create suspense, and effectively resolve the conflict with a powerful last sentence or two that remained with me long after the telling. He orally fabricated those stories without hesitation, without an uh-uh pause filler, without unnecessary words. To this day I carry those writing lessons and life lessons Papa taught me.

My mother likewise unwittingly taught me how to tell a story in as few words as possible. Before we closed down the day, the last of evening before sleep, Mama would tell us Bible bedtime stories from the Old and New Testaments. Brought up in Sicily, she had never learned about Sleeping Beauty or any of the fairy-tale characters that so delight American children. I did not know about nursery rhymes either. Jack Horner? Miss Muffet? And just what was that tuffet she was sitting on anyway? Curds and Whey? Whatever they were, no way would I ever eat them!

In 2007 I retired after nearly thirty years of teaching English from 6th grade elementary to senior college classes. What I enjoyed most during those years was helping students improve their writing skills and encouraging them to submit their work for publication. It seemed the logical progression: create it and share it. An essential by-product of seeing one’s words in print was a bolstering self-confidence that riveted young writers to the literary track beyond school years. I am pleased to say many of my former students since 1966 continue to write, a good number of whom have become English teachers.

Writing poetry and fiction, especially the flashy shorts, is the love of my life, second only to my wonderful wife Sharon. I try not to let the sun go down on a day without writing, even if all I write are see-you-later notes in my pad or a poetic line to build upon or a sentence I suspect could and often does serve as the opener, the hook, for the rest of the story.

As a child I dreamed of becoming Batman’s new sidekick in the event Robin lost interest in fighting crime. Then I envisioned myself in the cockpit of fighter planes. At fifteen I learned how to box for the Police Athletic League, I saw myself as Kid Tuff, champion in the ring and future Lothario in the field, but in my second fight a better boxer knocked me out. Goodbye, Kid Tuff.

One day I told Papa I wanted to be a comedian. He punched my arm and said, “Don’t make me laugh!” He wanted a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer for his son. I became a teacher, but I never stopped writing. Did I dream of becoming a bestselling author like my literary heroes? I just wanted to write. After all these years, my first and foremost dream remains: to continue typing out of me those frisky pre-poems, those hopping hyper flashes driving me to the keyboard or the pen.

Philip Harris, the publisher of All Things That Matter Press, took a chance on my first flash collection, Flashing My Shorts. After that he took another chance and published my second: 200 Shorts. For his faith in me I will always be indebted and to all who have read and reviewed both books, finding neither one a flash in the pan.

I also wrote a book in 1998 called A Family of Sicilians: Stories and Poems, which I self-published and personally sold nearly all of a 1,000-copy first run. I wrote it to show readers the true image of Sicilians and Sicilian Americans in response to the gangster portrayal of the biased media. In 2008 I made it available at Lulu.com and copies continue to sell.

A Family of Sicilians…        http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/ButtaciPublishing2008

Flashing My Shorts     http://www.freado.com/book/6562/flashing-my-shorts

200 Shorts                   https://www.amazon.com/200-Shorts-Salvatore-         Buttaci/dp/0984639241?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

 

 

BIO

Sal Buttaci has been writing since childhood. His first published work, an essay entitled “Presidential Timber,” appeared in the Sunday New York News when he was sixteen. Since then his poems, articles, letters, flash and short stories have been widely published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Writer, Cats Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, and numerous others here and abroad. In 2007 he was the recipient of the $500.00 Cyber-wit Poetry Award. He lives in West Virginia with his wife Sharon, the love of his life and his work’s inspiration.

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An Introduction to What I Found in the Dark by Clayton Clifford Bye

These 12 poems are the first of 50 thematic poems that can be found in my collection called What I Found in the Dark. Available on Amazon, through most stores and at http://shop.claytonbye.com

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1. The dark between this life and the next, between past and future or between mind and matter haunts all of us at one time or another. Yet… there is beauty in what we can’t see and must imagine.

Headpins

Headpins
at contiguous depths
send blue lightning
across clouded voids
to be caught
by red-laced fingers
that recreate
the perfect sound
of a drop of water
splashing on skin.

 

  1. Too often we look inward where shadowed rooms filled with sideshow mirrors bend the “I” to fit what we expect and want to see. Thus, it is the rare person who can state “this is who and where I am.”

Grace

Happenstance is but a way of words,
the stumbling path of fools;
yet a trail met in the wooded night
cares not for weathered rules.

Deaf and dumb goes the traveler
toward the outer shape;
glancing not beneath the rock and leaf,
a sketch of the human ape.

But in vapid searching one still learns
to scratch the inner vein.
Eyes roll and bangles burn in that light,
the answers seem insane…

For piercing the learning dark we see
new visions clear and clean,
struggling with our ever-cluttered minds
to grasp what they might mean:

I can’t speak for you my passing friend—
what beauty lies inside;
my own journey is answered below
but still seems a fair ride…

A white-winged horse and a graceful moon
seek form in mountain fire,
while I, the fool, not too simple yet
of ornaments do tire.

 

  1. The excitement of a child stumbling upon one of the miracles we adults have become too jaded to enjoy and often too blind to see emphasizes the veil—darkness between one generation and the next, between past and present, and between each and every one of us.

A Hole in the Clouds

radiant beams
a hole in the clouds
gossamer strands
speak out loud
warmed heart
a child’s eyes aglow
soul is livened
I drive slow

 

  1. It’s said we realize the extent of a loss only after the thing has gone into the dark, and even though we might wish with all of our being to go back, it just doesn’t seem possible.

Loss

A crystal passage from here to there
but no light with which to see.
“So what?” he asks with bitterness,
that door is closed to me.

 

  1. I was playing with words when I was given a brief look at how my thoughts could touch another, one who had traveled through the dark and found me after a quarter of a century.

Found

Secret longings, mind-burnt,
now loosed from my soul,
are sweet knives outward slicing,
host-bound on the wind;

Diamond ice, time-picked clean,
will melt asunder,
a heart met in morning hours,
her dark eyes of joy.

 

  1. Sometimes the veil wraps around a life, keeping all who would see out, and leaving you to walk alone in the metaphoric dark.

The Town of Me

My days have been
the passing of dreams,
not quite real clouds
built of smoke and dust,
marking each pained
but gritty footstep
with rasping laughter
to steal away
the life-blood of
this aging ghost town,
while colourless
thoughts raised without form
walk through my halls,
echoes of silence.

 

  1. When love is brought to an empty, monotone life it may, at first, be difficult to see the changes wrought.

An Awakening

The heart loomed
royal purple
in a life of faded hues.
“What manner of beast is this?”
asked the startled soul,
ripped from living death;
fresh blood dripping from flat eyes
to colour white, wrinkled skin:
illustrating
new growth to come.

 

  1. An old farm has slipped into the dark, yet the golden glow of life in a child resurrects it—if only for a little while…

The Farm

Down to the chicken coop,
played inside,
ghost birds chuckle
as white eggs gleam
between shadow and sun.

The silver of rooftop tin
beckons me
to gray barn boards,
twisted, bent, proud—
old scents of animal hay.

Swing do I on hand coiled hemp,
bright new wings
challenge horse flies
over watching
Calico cat named Queenie.

Heavy drops of summer rain
chase me quick
to dusty tomes,
attic-hidden
above Grandad’s model-A.

Space Operas call my name;
I visit:
Tycho on moon;
fight for my life
in airless dust;
Saved! by alien contact.

Gram’s voice floats high in the wind,
brings me back
through cedar smells:
shavings, raw wood,
to bubbling tang
of strawberry-rhubarb pie.

 

  1. Love is a powerful thing: it can shine light where naught but dark has reigned for an eternity, and it can crack open the black casket of a broken heart.

Mind Places

Arriving:
soft steps,
veritas upon dark soil
alive with
light moves;
pale, warm breath undulating
catches fire
within
branches, perse and ardent trees.

I look up:
ripped wings
wind-sung in endless heaven,
virescent
in sun,
an abeyant but hungered
watching soul—
marking the path before me.

She calls me,
hard fought,
sweet pains of life taken in
without charge:
transposed;
now to shine upon my heart,
rescinding
a sentence once self-bestowed.

Unburdened,
factious
beasts of emotion vie for
a warm place
in light;
moors of heather bleeding a
desire seeks
to found a knoll of power.

Home at last:
secret
flesh opened to spoken love,
beating hard,
flutters,
butterfly wings God-given;
all tinges
hinting of wondrous eras to come.

 

  1. I was lost, yet unknown to me, she had already traveled the same dark road, following a light I didn’t believe existed.

Remembrance

Her darkness beckons to me
from the distance of a winter night,
to walk upon ancient and unknown shores
without the use of seeing eyes.

Her grace is cast on the moon,
black hair glistens in the light,
and with the cold, harsh wind
a teardrop falls into my dream.

Ease by rock so wet and black,
taste the salt upon her lips;
keep those hard-found treasures:
the ice-cold stone becomes so thin.

Oh, I can see the beauty,
and find warmth beneath the darkened land,
but will I ever know from what still pool
came that pure water in her hand?

 

  1. I’ve found that what we perceive as darkness can actually contain the most brilliant of lights: love.

I’m loved

There is a deepness,
not dark,
an inner universe
starlit,
emotional suns
of brilliant blue;

these freely given
soul orbs
keep alive my dreaming
life wish:
the two hearts I have—
oh, such wonder.

 

  1. If a heart closes, whatever good is hidden there doesn’t die: it waits in the dark, sometimes quietly, other times raging for release. The lucky ones are found, their hearts cracked like chestnuts, to reveal that which has been saved for all time.

God Smiled

God smiled upon me yesterday:
a voice from the past
was sweet water
on a dry and dusty evening;

the voice of a resurrected
angel with dark hair
came soft and warm
from across the digital heavens;

reciting stories of sunsets,
salty ocean air,
halibut steaks,
The Barra MacNeils and clams to dig.

And love, true, pure, glistening, free;
polished by the years,
honed with worry,
then set loose with faith and dignity.

I take it in with gratitude,
open my locked heart,

speak the words there
and hope what’s revealed can make things right.

 

Clayton Bye is a specialist writer. And while he has written many of hisclay own books, stories and reviews he now focuses on his work as a ghostwriter (40 books and counting) who listens carefully to the customer and then skillfully draws out the story they want to get on paper. Contact him directly to
discuss the book you want to write and to inquire about rates: ccbye@shaw.ca

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Reflections on life—a grouping of poems by Kenneth Weene

Early Breakfast

The worm – half eaten – burrows deeper
The robin’s beak is even fleeter.
Regrets the worm that he must eat her;
the apple makes her that much sweeter.

 

Antique

With a sneeze of nostalgia
I go antiquing.
I like things made of bronze, brass, copper –
Shiny memories that whir and clang.
I don’t want to buy –
Only to look.
I create new memories –
Reminiscences never lived.
It terrifies me when I find
My childhood in a shop,
Reminding my mortality
That I am getting old.
Wheezing with historic dust
I go antiquing
Only to see me in a mirror
Abandoned on a musty shelf.

 

Barbie

Sprung full boobed
Ready role model
For a generation
Willing to die
Of self-starvation
For flatter stomachs
For thinner thighs.

 

in time

the sweet mary and joseph flow of life
lost itself
as she wandering from man to man
sitting in the parlors of wheelchairs
touching each upon the head
in sweet caress
was lost

 

afeared

crossing herself with nervousness
wearing away the bodice nap
of the off-purple robe
that the angel of death
seeing such proof
might pass her by

stopping to preen her close-cropped gray
gazing in a mirror of empty air
and then again
the rounds renew
at once the sinner and the saint
without the bit
to pay her freight
across the river of her doom

 

I wouldn’t want to anthropomorphize

I wouldn’t want to anthropomorphize –
Not about penguins at the Chicago aquarium.
I wouldn’t want to over-identify
With the Rockhopper
Trapped on the highest ledge –
Marching un-surefooted back and forth
Not quite learning the narrow passage
Or perhaps inhibited by the Magelenites
Playing house and talking about the weather,
Which they could no longer remember
Never changes when one lives in glass cages.
I wouldn’t want to over-interpret
Her trapped marching back and forth,
Unaware of the desperation
A lesser species – such as man –
Might feel in her place.

 

While Love Sleeps

You stir in the dark, and I waken.
Strands of light poking through the blinds
outline your body curled beneath the covers.
Controlling my urge to reach into your dreams,
I watch – counting your breaths –
until sleep again descends.
In our sleep we breathe as one.

 

Ken Weene observes, “Every now and again I find poetry rather than prose expresses my mood and vision.”  Ken’s poetry, essays, and prose often reflect on the irony of life. Still he celebrates the humor and the intimacy that we can salvage from the only experience of which we can be sure, our earthly existence. You can find more of Ken’s work and view at http://www.kennethweene.com

Kenneth Weene
http://www.kennethweene.com

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Who I Am, and What I Do by John B. Rosenman

2nd photo for john

In 1952, when I was eleven, I sat in a theater watching “The War of the Worlds.” When the scene came where three men were left alone with a smoldering meteor that started to unscrew, I got scared to death. What was in that meteor? What would it look like and do? It took all my courage to stay in my seat and not run.

Originally I wanted (implausibly) to be an opera star, but I think that movie, plus others like “Them!” and “The Thing,” influenced me to follow a more gruesome path. Also, I became addicted to horror comics such as “Tales From The Crypt.” Around this time, a friend introduced me to Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson, and I quickly Biographydevoured  “The Martian Chronicles,” “The Illustrated Man,” “I Am Legend,” and “The Shrinking Man.” These science-fiction books lived inside me, fired my imagination. I’ll never forget the episode in “Chronicles” in which Earthmen discover a town on Mars with all their dead loved ones WAITING FOR THEM.

Besides enjoying such movies, comics, and books, I received Poe’s collected works from a family friend. Even better was a birthday gift–-a year’s subscription to the SF magazine “Amazing”!

Looking back, I find it’s not easy to determine just when my psychic twig received its first weird bent. Much earlier, when I was seven, I loved to turn the lights out, go to bed early, and listen to “The Shadow” and other programs on the radio. In the dark, my imagination swept me along in ways that even later TV shows like “Thriller” couldn’t match. Who knows, perhaps my original ‘warping’ took place listening to such eerie tales, or even earlier-–in the womb! Oddly, while I liked creepy books, I went through stages when I read primarily other genres. First it was mysteries, especially those by Ellery Queen. Then in my early teens, I read enough westerns to die of lead poisoning. It’s not always easy to look back and trace a clear path to the present, perhaps because there isn’t one.

But one thing I always did like to do was write. As a little kid, I scribbled stories and drew cartoon panels in crayon rather than go out to play. Later, I crafted a never-ending novel with a fistfight every ten pages. Nope, The Twisted Years wasn’t about a space pirate or psychopath but a gunslinger with a tough childhood. I still remember that masterful first sentence: “Jeff Stancher didn’t pay any attention to the Abilene stage as it bumped and rattled into town.”

While I liked to write, I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a living. My father, a lawyer, insisted I be practical. Yes, he thought I had a knack for writing, but one didn’t count on making a living that way. As a student, I was lazy and lousy. Somehow, my father got me into Hiram College where I belatedly learned to take notes and study. I majored in Political Science with a vague idea of becoming a lawyer, and graduated in three years. After that I attended Western Reserve Law School. Soon, bored by classes, I stayed away, writing stories and reading things like Mill’s “On Liberty.” Then one day I sold all my law books and hopped a bus to New Orleans, a “romantic” destination where I wrote bad stories in a cheap, $8 a week room and slung hamburgers for a buck an hour.

Cut to the future. I returned to Hiram, took some English courses, then received an M.A. and a Ph.D. from Kent State in English, my dissertation being written on William Faulkner. What a background for a speculative-fiction writer, right?

After teaching in Canada for three years, I found myself out of work. I landed a job at a Southern black college where, at the age of thirty-nine, I completed my first novel, Down From Oz in 1980. It reveals how our educational system, which is a long way down from beautiful Oz, fails minority students, and it ultimately cost me two jobs and rattled away like the skeleton it was in my closet for years. Though it won McPherson & Company’s First Book Award, the publisher wanted a different title because he thought “Down” was a downer. So we settled on “The Best Laugh Last,” which ain’t as good.

In 1982 I was hired by Norfolk State University and moved to Virginia with my wife Jane and two kids. And here, my life changed forever, for I discovered SPWAO and the small press. For two decades I’d collected umpteen rejection slips by submitting stuff to blueblood magazines like The New Yorker and The Sewanee Review. Now I learned there were other, spikier magazines whose editors actually gave you feedback. If you were unendingly persistent (and I was!), you could serve an apprenticeship and polish your craft.

Soon, I finally began to see what my true direction was, and in years to come, I sold H/SF/F/Paranormal fiction (and a little poetry) to over 150 magazines, including Iniquities, Weird Tales, The Horror Show, Aboriginal SF, Cemetery Dance, Terminal Fright, The Blood Review, New Blood, Starshore, Galaxy, Offworld, Figment, Nova SF, and Yankee. My fiction can also be found in such places as “Hot Blood,” #’s 6 and 8 (erotic horror), Whitley Strieber’s “Aliens” (where a high roller in Las Vegas takes an unplanned galactic journey), A Horror Story A Day: 365 Scary Stories, and Treachery and Treason.  Plus many more. My imagination just seems to be strange or askew. Even a space-opera novel which I published with Mundania Press, Beyond Those Distant Stars, contains a sinister, godlike menace. I suppose it’s not surprising that one of my stories killed five magazines that accepted it.

     Ask me why some of the fiction I write is horror/dark fantasy, and I’ll say I do it because life itself is horror. Health and happiness are anomalies. Either nature or circumstance is always trying to kill or maim you, as when my wife developed breast cancer. (She’s fine now, thank you.)  I love all kinds of horror, from splatterpunk to erotic to psychological to Lovecraftian supernatural. In general, I think subtle, suggestive horror that is ambiguous and open to interpretation is the best. But hey, I’m not proud, and will be glad to gross you out if necessary. I do like to write about religion. “The Last Snowman,” for example, appeared in Iniquities and features a young boy who fights Satan in order to save the world.

            In recent years, I’ve published several novels, including my Inspector of the Cross science fiction-adventure series (now in its fourth and fifth books) and the YA novel The Merry-Go-Round Man, which is drawn from my childhood. I’ve tried to range afield in other ways, too. For example, when I went to Rome, I was so awed by the Sistine Chapel, I wrote ”A Spark from God’s Finger,” a story about an American art teacher in Rome who has a vision that he’s the reincarnation of Michelangelo. I’ve also published stories that take place in 19th and 25th century Nigeria (part of a novel, A Senseless Act of Beauty published by Crossroad Press); in the New Hebrides in 1946; and in Nauru, sometime in the past. Who knows? Perhaps it will be Russia next, or I’ll cook up my own dark country

 

Going Away by John B. Rosenman

photo for john

            “I don’t love you anymore,” Marvin said. “I’m leaving.”

Agnes had heard her husband say the same thing three or four times before in her thirty-year marriage. She had always shrugged and ignored it. After all, she knew she was a good wife and had done her duty to Marvin. She had borne him three children and kept a nice home. What more could he want?

So she did just what she had on those other occasions. She advised him to take a warm coat and enough money.

This time it was different, though. He did not blow up and tell her how cold and selfish she was and how sorry she’d be. Nor did he storm out, slamming the door behind him. He simply sighed, turned around, and left the room.

She picked up her knitting, sighed in return, and forgot the matter.

An hour later she smiled as she looked out the window, remembering the other times Marvin had acted like a child and threatened to leave her. Each time, she had just waited calmly, and he had soon returned.

Agnes’s smile faded when she noticed Marvin’s Toyota parked in the driveway. In the past, when he’d left, hadn’t he always taken his car?

Puzzled, she poked about the house, searching for Marvin. She finally located him in the spare bedroom. He was lying in bed, the cover raised to his chin.

“I thought you were leaving,” she said.

He looked at her. “I have left.”

“But you’re still here.”

He turned his head to the wall, ignoring her.

Mid-age tantrum, that’s what it was, she decided. Marvin was just being difficult, probably because she insisted on being sensible and wouldn’t give in to his pleas to buy a new car.

At lunchtime she made his favorite, chili and cheese sandwiches, and called upstairs. “MARVIN!”

No answer. She tried again with the same results.

Finally, she went back upstairs. He was lying in the exact same position, his head turned to the wall.

“Marvin, lunch is ready.”

No answer.

She started to speak again, when she noticed that Marvin seemed smaller, more distant somehow. It was as if he were ten feet away even though she was standing right by the bed. She blinked and tried again.

“Marvin, it’s your favorite. Chili and cheese sandwiches.”

Still no response. Marvin stared silently at the blank white wall.

She sighed audibly and left. Downstairs she did some washing, then decided to go shopping. Leave Marvin alone for a while and let him see how foolish he was being. Maybe then he’d appreciate her better and come back to her like always with that same hangdog look. She smiled in anticipation. As usual, she’d play with him a little just to teach him a lesson, and wouldn’t forgive him for days.

Why, though, had Marvin seemed so small and distant? She shook her head. It must be the lighting in that room, she thought. Or perhaps she needed to have her eyes examined.

She returned with a trunk full of groceries. After she put them away, she stood listening to the house. It felt empty. Before it had always been easy when Marvin left, because she knew he was elsewhere and would soon return. But this time Marvin hadn’t left. He was still here, and she knew just where to find him. And yet there was no sound of him moving around, perhaps writing one of those silly stories which he always insisted she read. For all it mattered, he had left her, just as he said he would.

Nervously, she went upstairs. Marvin was just as she’d left him. And yet he wasn’t. Though she could touch the bed, the walls at his end of the room seemed to be retreating and fading off into space, becoming less distinct. Marvin himself now appeared to be at least twenty feet away. She swallowed, troubled by a strange thought. If she moved closer and reached out to touch him, would she be able to?

Her fingers twitched. She started to move toward him, then turned and fled the room.

Downstairs, she had three cups of her favorite herb tea. What was happening?  Marvin was here and yet, he was leaving. Or had already left. He just kept getting smaller and smaller, more and more distant. Could she be losing her mind?

During the following week, Marvin drew farther and farther away. When his boss called, she made excuses. Marvin had the flu. He had tried to call in, but their phone had been on the blink. Yes, he should be returning to work soon.

Going upstairs, she stopped just outside the bedroom. Please let Marvin come back, she thought. When I go inside, let me find him the way he always is, full-sized and eager to go to work. She decided that this time, if he returned to her, she wouldn’t act coy but would forgive him at once.

Taking a deep breath, Agnes entered the bedroom.

It was even worse than before. His end of the bedroom appeared to have faded and retreated even more, acquiring an ethereal quality that belonged to another realm. That was ridiculous, of course. She knew Marvin was still in this bedroom. Still, he did seem immeasurably distant. His tiny form now floated surrounded by stars, as if he were in deep space.

“Marvin?” she cried.

Silence. He lay with his head turned to a wall that was perhaps a hundred light-years away.

“Marvin,” she pleaded, “you haven’t eaten a thing all week. Aren’t you getting hungry?”

A shooting star fell across his face. She made a strangled sound and ran from the room.

Downstairs she choked on her tea and broke into tears for the first time since she was a little girl. Oh Lord, what was happening? How could Marvin do this to her? She thought of going to the police, but imagined how it would sound. “Marvin’s left me. He just lies up there in that room and gets smaller and smaller, farther and farther away. This morning I saw a comet shoot across his face.”

She lowered her head to the kitchen table and let self-pity claim her. She’d been such a good wife. How could Marvin treat her like this?

After a while, a thought rose. Was it possible the fault was hers? That she was to blame for Marvin’s leaving?  She scoffed at the idea but started to recall things she’d said to him.

You’ll just have to cancel your hunting trip, Marvin. We’re going to my cousin’s wedding.

She raised her head. Had she said that?

Marvin, forget those golf clubs. We can’t afford them.

After a while, such occasions cascaded in her memory. Time after time after time she’d said such things! In fact, now that she thought of it, she had even overruled him by insisting that they go to Niagra Falls on their honeymoon. She frowned, trying to remember where Marvin had wanted to go.

Finally she rose and went to the phone. She cancelled their newspaper subscription, saying she was going away, then turned down the thermostat.

Next, she mailed out house, insurance, and other payments, and made sure all the windows and doors were locked.

Then, slowly, she marched upstairs.

In the bed, Marvin was a mere speck, located someplace beyond the Milky Way. Yet, though he had traveled perhaps ten billion light-years, she could still see him. In a way he hadn’t moved an inch.

“Marvin,” she said, “won’t you come back?”

His tiny, distant figure didn’t stir. He lay staring at the wall as always.

“Marvin.” She hesitated, then leaned toward him. “I’m sorry.”

Still no response. It was as if she hadn’t spoken. Even worse, he had gotten so small that for the first time, she couldn’t see him clearly.

Agnes sobbed, realizing that soon she would lose him completely. “Marvin,” she said. “I’m sorry for the way I’ve treated you. Won’t you come back and give me another chance?”

She waited, but as she’d expected when she’d come up here, he wouldn’t respond. This time, Marvin had been serious. He had left for good, entering a whole different realm that she knew was immeasurably remote from her own.

Wiping away her tears, she climbed onto the bed. She hesitated a moment, shivering in the distant cold. Then, ever so slowly, she began to crawl after him.

(Previously published in Space and Time, Spring 2007).

 

Author BIO:


A retired English professor from Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Va., John has published three hundred stories in The Speed of Dark, Weird Tales, Whitley Strieber’s Aliens, Galaxy, The Age of Wonders, and elsewhere. He is the author of The Turtan Trilogy, the first three novels of his Scifi-Adventure series, available at lrd.to/Turtan-Trilogy/

Website: http://www.johnrosenman.com

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

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History, and his story by Jon Magee

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Is it an accident that history is made of letters that remind us of “his story”? There is much within history, but we learn lessons when we see the people in the midst

As we reflect through the ages there are some things that will strike us for differing reasons. In the UK the 2nd of June will be remembered for the coronation of the Queen in 1953. Following the death of her father Queen Elizabeth II was formally crowned as The Queen with hundreds of millions listening on radio and for the first time people watched the coronation proceedings on live television. After the coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey, millions of rain-drenched spectators cheered the 27-year-old queen born in 1926 and her husband, the 30-year-old duke of Edinburgh, as they passed along a five-mile procession route in a gilded horse-drawn carriage. I wonder if it was part of cementing the connection of my family in history that I have a family photo taken whilst in Singapore, dated on the back was the 2nd June 1953. My own father-in-law, a soldier with the Black Watch regiment, was flown back from his service in Korea to take part in the procession and celebrations in London. Once again, it was a personal role in history and a part of history in “his story”.

The same date will also be remembered for the Surveyor 1 moon landing on the 2nd June 1966. This was the first US space probe to land on the moon as “Surveyor 1” had a soft landing on Moon. Though the Russians had landed earlier, the newspapers headlines, internationally, were full of the event. I lived in Aden, Yemen, at the time during the military conflict and terrorism at the end of the British presence. We listened as the news came on the radio. It was a time of celebration as man reached to the stars, yet down the road from where we listened to the radio could be heard the sound of explosions and gun fire.

In my previous post, you will have noted the 2nd June was also the date on which my wife Joan and I were married. It was a landmark day for us as a couple, whatever may be happening in the history of the world. I recall talking with Joan, noting that my youth had been lived in the military hot spots of the world. However, things will be different now, I said. Our 1st posting together would be in a romantic Mediterranean island, with all the stories of Aphrodite. Is there any better way to start married life, it must be like an extended honeymoon? That was 1973, however, we were there a year and there was a military coup and the Turkish invasion.

Life does not always develop how we intend it to do. We look back and reflect, seeking to learn the lessons of history. We look forward and make our plans, even if we do not know what surprises or shocks will appear on the way. Life inevitably is full of lessons to learn and steps of faith, even if we do not consider ourselves to be people of faith, not knowing what the future will gift to us.

There are times when we personally have known the tragedy of death, and the joy of new life. I do not know how you plan to face the unknown, but for us it has been one where the faith in the God of life has been the source of enabling as we reached the turning points of history, both in the cradle of the world as well as our family life. My writings have been demonstrations of life in tough times, yet they have sought to find ways of showing the possibility of hopefulness, even when life may seem hopeless. My hope is that the reader will also discover hope, wherever you may be in history or reaching to the future.

Bio

Jon Magee is the author of 2 books, “From Barren Rocks to Living Stones” and “Paradise Island, heavenly Journey”. The books come with the experience of life lived in a variety of countries throughout the world, often in the midst of military conflict and terrorism, which was the heart of his life from an early age. He is the wife of Joan, the father of 3 daughters, 2 sons and the grandfather of 7 children.

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