Tag Archives: Great Read

That Thing with Feathers that Perches in the Soul by James L. Secor

 bridge strut

In my wandering, I came across a land that I shall call, for want of a better name, the Land of Waiting. It was, in truth, a fine day when I stumbled upon this country. However, I found that the weather was very changeable, for within no time the climate worsened and my way became clogged with expectation.

My road took me through a low-lying area that I could see had once been marshy. A flood plain had been shored up. I saw fine, tall green grass and strips of cultivated land. Still, I could hear the encroachment of the great river as it sloshed and slapped against the dike.

The road followed the river wall. As with all roads, I knew I’d come upon a collection of houses or even a village and, sure enough, around a particularly wide  bend in the river I saw a huddled mass of people. They were gathered at the edge of the road, gabbling amongst themselves and gesticulating at the flood plain. Something was bothering them. Upon drawing nearer, I could see the ground between the road and the dike glistening and undulating. When I drew nigh the crowd, I could see the river had breached the wall and was once again running onto the flood plain. The grass was now reeds and the crops were drowned or drowning. The hole in the retaining wall was not very large, though the passage of water was wearing it into a larger fissure. But the people weren’t doing anything. That is, nothing other than pointing and complaining. Each time the river water encroached on the road, the gaggle of people jumped back amid screams and hubbub, as if getting their feet wet was akin to courting death.

I stood off to one side and listened to the undulating voices, watched the retreat and recovery of the rabble. Then I stepped closer and spoke to an old woman on the fringe who was not quite so vocal as the others.

“What’s going on?” I asked, as if it weren’t obvious.

“The river’s breaking through the weir,” she answered without looking at me.

“Why is nobody doing anything?”

“What can they do?”

“Is it not possible to repair it?”

The woman turned and looked at me. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

“No. I’m just passing through.”

“Best keep on going then. River’s rising.”

“I was hoping to find a place for the night.”

“Oh, I don’t think that’s possible.”


“Not that we’re not friendly, you understand. We’re just a little pre-occupied at the moment.”

“Yes. I see.”

“Yes. We’re being flooded out.”

It was true the roadway was becoming a tad muddied along its riverside border but there was no evidence of a flood.

“It’s inevitable,” she continued. “Like life and death.”

“But can’t you be rescued?”

“Nope. We’re done for.”

“The water’s not very deep. The hole can’t be that big.”

“Just one basket of earth shy,” she said with finality.

“Well, that could be remedied–”

“No it can’t.” And she looked at me again, full in the face. “Like I said, you’re not from these parts.”

“How could things come to such a pass!”

“Don’t go getting upset at what you don’t understand, young man.” She patted me absently on the shoulder. “Let me tell you how it is in these parts. Sense is hard to come by but mayhap you’ll understand anyway.” She didn’t say anything for a long time. Just as I began to fidget, she began her story. “We had to stop building. We ran out of dirt. One basket shy of a full load and there you have it. End of job. End of story. There’s nothing to be done about it.”

I looked around. “Seems like there’s enough dirt here,” I said.

“Seems like it, yes. But it isn’t so. It wasn’t requisitioned. Only that much,” she pointed with her chin, “was requisitioned and so that’s all there is.”

“Seems somebody made a mistake.”


“I guess you could fix it, couldn’t you?”

“Like I said, you’re not from around here.”

I waited for more. When it didn’t come, I nudged her along. “Yes?”

“It’s fate, son. Fate. Destiny.” She chewed her gums a moment. “Pre-destination. Everything’s laid out according to plan, even people’s mistakes. It’d be the greatest pridefulness to think that you could do fate one better.” She chewed her gums some more. “Some things you just can’t change. Life is life. It’s inevitable.”

I stood silently watching the encroaching river water and the ruinization of crops and road and, perhaps, village. I looked at these people, gesticulating, gabbling and groveling before life, waiting helplessly for . . . for the end. The end for them being, of course, the end of all things. Fate.

I looked up at the darkening sky and thought I’d better be on my way. I couldn’t wait forever for food and lodging and there was a copse of trees up ahead. I could rest the night there. Yes. The inevitability of it all.

They had drawn a line in the sand and just waited for it to be crossed, at which time their world would end. There was nothing to be done. If I fixed the leak with rocks and sand and whatever was at hand, I’d be damned. Maybe even stoned to death. What would they have done with such a reprieve anyway–torn away their saving grace? Sad as it may be, I had to leave them to face their problem. Their fate.

You just can’t mend a sinking boat in the middle of a river.

A couple days later, just after passing the mouth of the river where it emptied peacefully into the ocean, I ran into another time marker. There were no retaining walls in this part of the country. The horizon was far and wide and the sky broad, albeit rather cloudy. There was not much wind, though, so the rags that hung helter-skelter on the near-skeleton lying on the side of the road remained limp and unmoving. Yellowed grass, dry and desiccated, grew around him–I could see it was a him. No insects or birds sang, though on and off crows would settle to ground and strut around inspecting the spectacle. Skin draped itself over pointy bones that threatened to poke through. Rubber boot-clad feet lay tilted, both to the same side. Fingernails were long and grimy. Hair hung tangled and dusty about a wizened face with jutting cheekbones, long sun-bleached teeth, lips pulled back in a grin or a grimace and protruding eyes.

I slowed my pace.

The big bulging white eyes with their pinpoint pupils followed me.

I stopped and held my breath.

“Hi,” croaked the near-carcass.

“Hi.” What else could I say?

“Betcha wonder why I’m here,” he rattled on.

I couldn’t see him breathe. The barely flesh-covered ribs that poked out from the remains of a shirt did not move.

“Do you need help?”

“No. No. I’m fine.”

“Well. That’s . . . good.”

“Yeah. Yeah. It is.”

I didn’t know what to do, so I stood there looking down at this replica of a man before the breath of life was blown into him.

“Yeah. I kinda look like death warmed over, right?” I did not feel I could say anything. “That’s ’cause I am.”

“Could I get you some water?”

“No. No. That’d defeat the purpose of living.”

“But you’re dying!”

“Yep. That’s true.”

Neither of us spoke for awhile. His eyes rolled around in his sockets like lopsided marbles.

“I’m here because I’m a fisherman,” he wheezed.

I looked out over the sea. It rose and fell and gently slapped the shore. There were no boats out there. There was no dock.

“Hey. I’m over here.” I turned back to him. “I caught a fish once. Big fish. I ran back here with it. House is all gone now. I was so happy. I caught this marvelous fish. I deserved my title. Fisherman. A time of celebration. Let the good times roll. It ended all too soon. Like everything in life. And so you see me here.”

“Why is that?”

“I forgot my fishing gear. So I lost my chance. Now it’s just the inevitable.”

“Couldn’t you get some more?”

I looked back the way I came. What was wrong with these people?

“Only one chance. I blew it. So long.” He let his eyes roll off to one side.

I did not move. I could not move. This poor man . . . lying there . . .

“Go on. I’m finished. Shoo. Shoo.”

So, I shuffled on down the road, befuddled at such behavior, behavior that defied reason. Was everybody in this country just sitting around waiting? Couldn’t anybody do anything? I felt sorry for them. I hurt for them. So wasteful.

I stopped in the middle of nowhere and looked back the way I’d come. I looked the other way. I had done this before, of course, wondering what was going on around me. Always at a cross-roads. Always coming and going at the same time. And what was my journey for? What was I looking to find? Even with all this travelling, I wondered whether, in fact, I, too, was just waiting for something to happen.

As I approached the northern border, I came upon a great river. There was no bridge over it that I could see but there was a sign that named it: The Great Divide River. It was quite broad and, though the water along the shore pooled and eddied playfully, out in the middle the water streamed by, occasionally splashing dirty sudsy-looking water over submerged rocks. On the far side of The Great Divide there was a group of people with placards. “CRISIS” and “HELP” and “SAVE OUR SOULS” and “DEATH STALKS US” and “SURCEASE PLEASE” and “BUDDY CAN YOU SPARE A DIME.” They were shouting and chanting but no one on my side of the river could hear over the rush of river water and distance. It was maybe a kilometer across. On this side of the river there was only me and a man in a hair shirt type of robe. A washed-out saffron sash sagged over one shoulder and wound its way around his body. He was bald. His arms were folded over his knees but every once in awhile he raised a hand and waved at the people on the other side. A gold ring glistened in the diffuse sun light.

“Hey!” I shouted. “What’s going on?”

The becassocked man stood up and turned toward me. He was wearing thick leather sandals. They looked new. Hanging from his neck was a large round medallion on what looked like a spun-gold brocade ribbon. Perched on his small button nose sat a pair of enormous glasses, encasing eyebrows, eyes and cheeks. He was smiling, a kind of benign, meant-generally-for-everybody smile. He waved at me–or at least, he raised his hand on high, revealing a gold watch on his fat wrist. From the way his gown hung, he was well-fed. What was he doing out here in the rocky wasteland of the northern border?

“They got problems!” he shouted back.

So I surmised.

“Are you doing anything about it?”

He cupped a hand around a large ear and cocked his head to one side. I obliged him by clambering over and around the rock-strewn riverside until I stood at the base of his stone pedestal. He smiled down at me, a silver tooth with a diamond in it gleaming. His glasses were Armani and his watch Rolex. He held out a well-manicured hand, pink and soft in my grip.

“I’m the Great Doylee the Lame.” I looked down at his clean feet. “It’s just a title. Don’t worry about it. What was that you said?”

“I just asked if you were helping in any way.”

“Well, yes. Of course I am. What do you think I’m doing out here?”

I looked over at the crowd across the way and back to him. Here he was, one man across a great expanse of hustling water–what is it he could do? One man and so very far removed from the action.

“Ah. I see. Have a seat, I’ll explain everything to you. I’ve got all day.”

The great gold-bedecked Doylee the Lame squatted on his haunches. I sat on the edge of the smooth boulder. It was warm despite the overcast, grey sky. It looked like rain.

Doylee the Lame raised both hands to the throng on the other side of The Great Divide and then crossed his arms over his knees.

“It’s a sad thing over there in West Rising Branch of Life. They are fighting for their lives, for their sovereign right to life. Everyone has a right to life, even a life filled with illusions and attachment.”

“Is their problem an illusory one?” I knew that people did get upset over perceived wrongs, striking out haphazardly in their delusion. Could it be that these people were, basically, protesting nothing?

“Oh, no. Their brutal domination is real enough,” he answered.

“Surely they did not bring it upon themselves.”

“No. No. For a fact I know, no. Though it is true that people can bring down the wrath of the gods on their heads seemingly out of nowhere but in reality due to their own dirty souls though they are unaware of their sin, maybe.” He spoke in a soft, compassionate, sing-song counter-tenor. “Maybe there are some there clinging to illusion but in general not.”

“You certainly know a lot about those people.”

“Yes. Yes. I do. They are my people. I know they are kind, decent, obedient, respectful people who know their place. Their place in the great scheme of things. They are good people, my people. Though, of course, there are always a few bad apples. No one knows where evil comes from but anyway it is an illusion as so much of life is, you know. My people are trained to look deep into themselves to see their weaknesses and attachments, their faults, for if there were no faults in them they would have no problems in the world.”

“Why do you call them my people?”

“Because that is what they are. My people. I am their leader.”

“But you are here and they are there!”

“Yes. So it seems. But you see I escaped the evil empire. Those who in their mad illusion spread lies and deceit and mete out death as if they were emissaries of the gods. I escaped. They helped me to run away so that I could continue to lead them and be an inspiration from a distance. A dead leader is no leader at all.”

“You can’t kill a martyr,” I countered.

“Seeking after martyrdom is earthly attachment. That kind of renown and hubris is a passing fancy, an illusion. To die by the sword runs counter to the doctrine of peace.”

“You believe in peace.”

“Why, yes. I have a medal to prove it.” He held up his gold heraldic device.

He placed the heavy ornament in my hand. It was a mighty chevron with a man-cameo and bend sinister and around the edge was engraved Pris de noblesse oblige de pièce de résistance. I turned it over. Emblème carte blanche was beveled into the gold.

“You must be proud,” I said, handing it back to him.

“Quite the contrary. I am humbled by the honor.”

“I have heard of this honor before. It comes with a bequest, does it not?”

“Yes indeed it does. I dedicate the money to the life of peace.”

“You are truly amazing.”

“Thank you. Glad you enjoy me.”

I looked over at the horde on the other side of The Great Divide River. They were becoming more animated, jerking their signs up and down. Still, they could not be heard.

“What are you doing for them?”

“I told them to protest non-violently but of course they didn’t.”

“Why not?”

The Great Doylee the Lame shrugged his shoulders. “You know people.”

“I cannot believe that you believe you are helping them–your people–sitting over here on a rock waving at them.”

“I’m not waving at them. I’m blessing them. The more blessing the better. And I am giving them moral support.”


“Yes. Moral support. The bulwark of the hope of the people.” He sighed. “And. . .I sent a statue of the Great God of Mercy, Abera Khardomumma Shaktiputakaka to them.”

“That will help?”

“Worshiping his likeness will bring the miracle of mercy, peace to the people.”

“How did you send it to them?” No one was powerful enough to throw anything one kilometre.

“I threw the clay idol into the river to let the water of life carry it to them.”

Just then there was a hullabaloo on the road. We turned. A large ox-cart with a roof and red interior stood in the middle of the road. Three men in robes were shouting at us.

“Ah. There is my ride. I must leave you now.”

And off he went. I followed him to the roadside. He mounted the cart and sat in the plush velvet interior and waved good-bye to me, the ever-present dazzling benign smile still on his face.

“Peace be with you.”

He did not offer me a ride. I was left, instead, to continue on my way in his dusty wake. More than once I choked and had to stop for coughing. It irked me that, to get out of the Country of Waiting I had to follow in the tracks of a self-proclaimed hero and leader of people.

Finally, I could take no more and stopped, moving off the road and onto the golden sands of the riverbank. The water rippled over rapids here, filling the air with a cool mist and peace settled around me.


Jimsecor spent much of his life traipsing all over the world. Rarely as a tourist. He was, too, a wandering scholar. All those cultures and histories inhabit his writing. So, too, does his social activism, born during the avant garde American theatre days. The absurdism of his theatre and the times have only deepened, colored by his travels. He has led many lives. He has published in three countries and three languages but to no financial success. But what else is there to do? Write, write, write. He writes by hand with an ink pen, a real fountain pen. He has many, many, many. And some “forever ink.” He can be found at Linkedin, at http://labelleotero.wordpress.com (named after and/or to honor me, Minna vander Pfaltz) and can be cursed or praised as you wish at hellecchino@eclipso.eu.  Jimsecor is also a Chicago Editing Specialist, though, actually, it was his teaching that kept him (us) afloat. For awhile.

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.


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

Somewhere in the Middle of China By Bonnie Hearn Hill


 I was in my twenty-fourth year as a writer and my ninth year as a newspaper editor when I began teaching an adult school writing class. In that class, on one of those clear fall California evenings in 1992, I met Pat Snider. All I remember about that first night is the smell of rain through the open window of the classroom and the faces blurring before me as I gripped the podium. I was new to teaching and terrified. Once I began to speak, the trembling within me subsided, and the magic began to take over, an almost palpable energy that passed between the students and me.

We were as unlikely a group as one could imagine. Walter, the African-American retired military man, had been the first black teacher in a conservative district. He was finding words to express what, to paraphrase James Baldwin, was the realization that, in a world of Gary Coopers, he was an Indian. Anita, a retired bookkeeper, experimented with confession stories. Bob, a bearded computer geek, was a card-carrying member of the NRA and the writer of essays just a shade to the right of where most of us were politically comfortable. Maria, a feisty forensic nurse relocated from Brooklyn, wrote biting articles on prison reform.

The intensity increased throughout our weeks together. Anita sold the story she had reworked countless times. Bob became a guest columnist for our newspaper. Although Pat Snider never spoke and didn’t read in class, she did turn in a poem. It was rough, as I recall, and I tried to combine encouragement with honest criticism. Yet I was too new to teaching to know that the ones who sit in the back row and never speak are often the ones who need the most attention.

The class ended before Christmas, and to my surprise, I received a card from Pat. It contained a poem, “Ode to a Teacher.” She spoke of a fear that is common to all of us who dare to be writers—a fear of starting too late, of not being good enough. She wrote, too, of a teacher who guided her, who, as she put it, “…takes my hand and tells me I can fly.”

It felt like undeserved praise. In my reply, I said, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears,” and I encouraged her to continue writing. The following March, I received a handwritten note from her, saying that her husband’s job had ended, and they would have to “move on.”

“My question is, may I keep in contact by mail?” she asked. “Never having written before, I now can’t seem to stop, to whatever end. As my dear George would say in the idiom of his beloved West Virginia, ‘Think someone done left the door open.’”

I told her to keep in touch but received only a Christmas card from her that year. By that time, I was caught up in the demands of the next session. In a world of rejection, doubt, and the smug sanity only non-writers enjoy, my students and I became the ultimate support group for each other.

On the last day of that year, we met at a local café to celebrate the selection of Maria, the nurse, from almost two hundred applicants, to replace Bob as guest columnist for our newspaper. Maria often said that Bob was so far to the political right and she so far to the left, that, “We meet somewhere in the middle of China.”

Her statement resonated, perhaps because it reflected the essence of the class.  Our differences in politics, philosophy, and the workings of the world were little compared to the real obstacles we shared as writers—the challenge of that blank page, the isolation, the inevitable rejection, the fear.

Bob was the last to arrive at the restaurant that day.  He walked up to our table, grinning, as he held up a tiny flashlight.


“I’m passing on the torch,” he said, and then he handed the flashlight to Maria.

Sitting next to Walter, I watched the unlikely couple at the head of the table.  The youthful, bearded conservative and the white-haired Amnesty International advocate talked quietly, their heads close, the tiny light flickering between them.

“Only in our group,” Walter said, his voice catching.

As I reviewed my lecture notes several weeks later, the phone rang. The voice of the woman on the other end was unfamiliar and strangely disturbing.

“I’m Pat Snider’s daughter,” she began. “I found your number with some of her poems.”  She sounded far away, tired.

My mouth went dry. I didn’t want whatever I was going to hear next.

“Is Pat all right?”

“Cancer. The hospice worker just left.” She began to cry softly.  “I don’t even know why I’m dragging you into all of this. You meant so much to her that I thought maybe if you two could just talk…”

“Of course,” I said, and wondered what I could say to a dying woman I had barely known.

“I’ll call you back once she wakes up. It’s going to mean so much to her.”

Instead, Pat’s husband, phoned to say she hadn’t wakened at all.

Anita, the confession writer, moved to another state that summer. Bob began working nights but kept in touch. Maria left the class as her involvement in prison reform demanded more time, and she later co-authored a book for the families of prisoners. Walter remained, “a lifer,” he said, blending with each new group of students.

Over years of teaching others like Pat, the quiet ones, it occurs to me that had I been lucky enough to find a class when I was starting out, I would also have been that almost invisible student in the back row.

Regardless of how Pat found my classroom, she got exactly what she needed there, as many of us did. In that room, somewhere in the middle of China perhaps, she too found kinship, validation, and a reason to believe. It is the most any of us who write, regardless of when we begin or how much time we have left, can ask.


California author Bonnie Hearn Hill’s fourteenth novel, IF ANYTHING SHOULD HAPPEN, will publish in the UK in March, 2015 and in the United States four months later. It will be followed in 2016 by GOODBYE FOREVER, the second in that series. A conference speaker and mentor to writers, she writes suspense that deals with social justice and women’s issues. A film based on one of her books is currently in pre-production.

Link to INTERN





Once upon a time, I went to writers’ cons, and I noticed that writers on panels tended to be of two kinds.  There were those who outlined their novels and stories in advance, and those who were pantsers who made it up as they went along.  Oh, there was a continuum all right, and some writers fell in between, but the polar types squared off like Yin and Yang with guns drawn, and in general, the opposites did not attract.

Some extreme planners prepared outlines hundreds of pages long in minute detail with elaborate sketches for virtually every character, however minor.  Little was left to chance, and I didn’t see how their novels and stories could possibly breathe.

Others, an equally rare breed, sat down before their typewriters and yellow legal pads and let fly with little or nothing in their noggins but a desire to create.  And to this community I have tended to belong more and more as my hair has thinned and my skin has wrinkled.  Sometimes over the years, seeking inspiration and wild, unpredictable new directions, I have visited a nearby Barnes & Noble.  I wander through it, letting my eyes and mind wander too about the titles and walls, and occasionally part or the whole of a story will leap out of nowhere into my head.  One day I saw a book titled The Pain Technique, and a title for a short story sprang into my mind.  “The Death Technique.”  All I had was a title, but darned if I didn’t like it.   

A second passed, and a concept rose.  What if a man discovers he has the ability to will the signs of decay and dissolution that signify death?  His body dissolves, liquefies, and drips on the floor.  From this beginning I wrote a horror story that I later sold.  Though I polished and edited the story as I do all my writing, the story itself came out of virtually nothing and was written with no clear end in sight until I was halfway through it.  It was originally a story without an idea, only a book title I saw at Barnes & Noble.

I’ve gone through this process many times, often with even less than a book title to inspire me.  Perhaps it’s been just a touch of wind, or a glance of sunshine.  I’ve done it with both short stories and novels.  Fellow scribblers, I’m not a wild, raving mystic.  Creative writing and composition instructors, of which I was one, often use a similar method in freewriting exercises, encouraging spontaneity while trying to make students forget their inner censor.  Freewriting helps to overcome writers’ block and to tap into resources individuals don’t know they have.  The point of my words is that sometimes, if you relax a little and open the door to inspiration, maybe, just maybe, you will be surprised and delighted by what you can do.

In that spirit, here is an essay with the same title (slightly revised) I wrote on this subject nearly thirty years ago.

John 3


A writer I know said that “Ideas for stories just seem to come to me.”  Fascinating.  But I thought readers might be interested in a phenomenon that’s happened to me more and more in the past few years: “Stories come to me without ideas.”

Let me explain.  A year ago I was lying innocently in bed, not bothering anyone, least of all the Muse, when a sentence materialized out of nowhere and whopped me over the head: “I’m sitting in hell listening to Barry Manilow records when the call comes.”  I sat up thinking “Wow!” and promptly grabbed a legal pad and began an 8,000 word novelette, “Survival of the Fittest,” which will appear in Supernova.  The sentence itself served as a catalyst or springboard into a narrative, got me started even though I had no idea where the hell I was going.  But I was intrigued by my feeling that Barry Manilow’s music was a fit ingredient of the nether regions, and in some nebulous way, it inspired a story of man’s first contact with an alien race.

What’s the point of this?  Simply that for some writers, beginning stories without (or almost without) ideas may be a viable and productive approach, and it may be folly to wait until something more solid develops.  True, you must have something, but it may only need to be an interesting phrase or word, a potential title or a vague question or sentiment.  Here are some other examples from my own experience.

  • I remember reading once, somewhere, that the most frightening and horrifying thing of all is when a rose sings because something so beautiful doesn’t need enhancement.  This quote rattled around in my mental teapot for years till I finally wrote “When A Rose Sings,” which appeared recently in 2 AM Magazine.  When I started writing, all I had was the dimly remembered quote, but it metamorphosed into a story about a divinely lovely rose perverted by hard rock music into a flower that mesmerizes its victims by singing.  Happens all the time, right?
  • A month ago I saw a word that knocked my socks off: “Dreamfarer.”  I started writing, and the result is a 12,000 word story, “Dreamfarer,” about a future where people are maintained by dream machines.  All their deepest desires are fulfilled in computer fantasies, and everything’s hunky-dory unless you wake up and discover the truth . . .  [Shades of The Matrix!]
  • Even more recently, another potential title whomped me: “Two Moons East of Tomorrow.”  No way I was gonna let that stunner pass.  After a false start, the title’s seed burgeoned into a tale about an alien being who can recapture the past by using people who lived it.
  • One last example: A year ago, I took my seven-year-old son David out on Halloween, and as he ran up a curved path to a house, he disappeared briefly behind a trellis.  A question briefly nudged me in a way that scribblers as opposed to normal people train themselves not to ignore: What if that did happen, and the father could never find his son?  The result is my multiple-published “Daniel, My Son,” one of my best short stories ever.

“Where do you get your ideas?”  I believe the answer to this question is endless because the creative process may be a mystery to the writer himself, submerged in a subconscious realm he can’t fathom.  But to me, that’s part of the fun, the fascination, and the glory, for to bring something out of nothing is as godlike as any of us mortals are likely to get.  So, fellow writers, pay heed to those unorthodox, sometimes barely perceptible nudges and flashes—it just may be a story knocking!

  • For further information on John Rosenman’s strange, make-it-up-as-he-goes-along views, read “I’m a Pantser, Not a Plotter.” It’s a post on his website at http://johnrosenman.com/?p=1312/ John, a retired English professor from Norfolk State University, has published over 300 stories and 20   His work includes science fiction, speculative fiction, paranormal romance, and dark erotic fiction. The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes” won the 2011 annual readers’ poll on Preditors and Editors. In 2013, Musa Publishing awarded his time travel story “Killers” one of their Top Picks.  He is the former Chairman of the Board of the Horror Writers Association and the previous editor of Horror Magazine.

Two links:



Can Even The Dead See This and Forget to Weep? by James L. Secor

noh grief

She came into the room, the scars on her arm too numerous to count. She had her old polishing rag in one hand. The polish was in the other. The room was an unimportant room. It was too ordinary. Everything in its place. Clean, tidy, a room to be proud of. Pristine clean.

Along the east wall was a window. Below the window was a large buffet. Atop the buffet were overlapped doilies, on each a gold-framed picture. She stood at the buffet. She sprayed her wax on the open top already high-glossed, high-lighting the wood grain of blacks and browns, ground for the gold frame. Wiping it down took some time. Her swirls shone in the sunlight from the window until they disappeared into the wood so the buffet top sparkled.

Out of a drawer she withdrew a feather whisk.

Reverenced, she raised the frame, dusting the memento. Then she set it down. Raising some trinkets before the first photograph, she fingered them daintily. Army regalia. With each piece, great care was taken shining them to reflect the day light their wearers no longer appreciated.

And she said, “You were my husband. I loved you. You were mine. I cooked for you. I cleaned for you. I made babies for you. I loved you. But that was taken from me. They killed you and gave me these. That I might better remember you, they said. I should be proud and I should have something great to live for. Your honor,” they said. “Your honor to look upon forever, they said.”

She put them back before the picture.

She dusted off the next picture. She set the duster down. She picked up the medals in front of this frame. They slipped through her fingers into her other hand. She did this over and again.

She said, “You were my first born. The apple of my eye. Such a tiger you were. I loved you with every ounce of my soul. I helped you grow up. All by myself. I watched you excel in sports. And school. Here, take this, they said. I have lived with these remains. My memory.”

And she put the memorabilia down before the picture, gently.

She took up the duster and dusted the last picture. She put it down and reached for the mementos before it. She held them tightly in her hands.

She said, “You were my baby. I spoiled you so. I raised you well. Remember when you would go down to the road and throw yourself against the cars? You bounced off. You bounded away, running and laughing. I would scold you. But when you grew to manhood, your luck did not hold out. You came home stretchered. Then they gave me these. Take these, they said. In remembrance of him. My heart.”

She put the keepsakes down.

She squatted down and began polishing Army boots. There were five of them lined up below the buffet, awaiting wearers. She made each shiny black, two by two by one.

She picked up her rag and her spray can, moving to the end table. It did not receive any sunlight at all. She sprayed the surface. She was careful not to get the doilie wet. There was a picture on it. With care she dusted it with the feathers. She held it up. She looked at it for some time. Then she kissed it, set it back down.

She moved to the drop-leaf table against the west wall. There was a large doilie on the table with two pictures on it. She polished the table. She dusted the pictures. She picked them up and looked at them awhile. She hugged them to her breasts. She squeezed them to her. She put them back in their places.

She returned to the kitchen. She came back with a bucket. She set it down before the centre table. She took one of the long objects from the pile on the table. Kneeling down on the floor, between her knees she placed the bucket. She held the Army-green object before her. And the bayonet unsheathed. She quickly sliced her arm open, blood coursing down her arm, collecting in her hand at the bottom of the pail between her spread legs.

She said, “Take and drink this. I want you to remember me. I died for you. I died for you. Ooo-wuwu!” Like a dog with no master she whined.

She howled, “There is nothing but this for me. There is only my blood. Take and drink of this.” And she spat, “May you choke on it! May you be accursed till I die–and I will never die. Cannot die. Always to suffer. My loss, my blood, all that is left me! Tell me the reason you have cut off my legs and arms, cut out my heart! Tell me the reason!” she cried out. “Tell me why! I would know why you snuffed out the joy of my life thoughtless. I want the spear out of my side!” Like a dog she yelped. “Ah-ooo-wawoo!”

She rent herself again to watch the blood well up and spill over the eviscerated flesh, unsalved.

She snarled, “I tell you the wound will not heal. It suppurates while you give me trinkets to staunch it. I do not want your pieces of the true flame. Your medals. I want my men. When will you hear me? There are no heroes. There are only carried burdens. I carry the burden of mankind in my soul. Can you not see? I am called Earth and you do nothing but rape me! Woo-wowo-wooo!” A beaten dog’s yelping.

killed mother mask

She came into the room, the scars on her arm too numerous to count. She had her old polishing rag in one hand. The polish was in the other. The room was an unimportant room…



Jimsecor thought he would advance his career by giving up 11 years of live theatre production to get a PhD. Little did he know! He worked with the Lifers at KS State Penn and did summer vaudeville and somehow got the doctorate, publication in a volume devoted to Japanese ghosts and demons and wrote a ground-breaking, though not academically enchanting, dissertation on women and morals in theatre. Then he studied at the National Puppet Theatre of Japan while writing award winning tanka. Illness forced a return to the States where he worked in disability. Seven years in China followed with multiple productions, including an all-female Lysistrata, TV commercials, a documentary and the publication of poems in Chinese in a major journal. He was also commissioned for a film and a play: the play was not liked and the film was deemed unable to pass the censors, so they never saw the light of day. Via Liverpool, he returned to the US and publication in The Speed of Dark and his own book of mysteries, Det. Lupée: The Impossible Cases. He can be found on Linkedin and at http://labelleotero.wordpress.com along with Minna vander Pfaltz, while his essays are sprinkled all over the internet. Jimsecor’s email is hellecchino@eclipso.eu. Lord, lord, lord–what does Helleccino mean?

Do Words Change Our Responses to Violence and Injustice?   By Joyce F. Elferdink

Doublespeak_From a book cover on Doublespeak by Matthew Feldman                                      cover

Scene 1; Take I

 Awakened by my alarm set for WHYD 89.9 FM, the station that usually bore me gently back to the living, instead shocked me into a fully awake state today with this news flash:

A bomb exploded last night in Our Savior Catholic Church, killing at least 220 persons. Most of the dead are high school students who were practicing for a fundraising concert to continue Mother Teresa’s work in Calcutta. No group has yet taken credit for this heinous act, although evidence points to an anti-gay group. Our Savior’s priest who allowed the church to sponsor meetings of Until Love is Equal is among the dead. Most of the families of the dead teens were already reeling from the announcement last week by Heinz Distillers NA that positions for 700 of the 1476 currently employed locally will be abolished by month end and the lines moved overseas. With unemployment in the area already at a twenty hear high, the surviving family members will become poor overnight. The company’s CEO, Nicholas Nastii, defended the firings as necessary to remain competitive. He was quoted as saying, “Our wage expenses were too high, especially when the jobs required a level of expertise unavailable. We’ve contracted with Employment Services to help those being downsized find more suitable jobs.”


Scene 1; Take II

Awakened by my alarm set for WHYD 89.9 FM, I brushed my teeth as I half listened to the announcer discuss last night’s news. Something about an incident that occurred somewhere in the area…

Student workers—as many as 220–have been reclassified as collateral damage. The youth were practicing for a concert in a faith-based facility when the mishap occurred. This comes at a very bad time for most of the families. Many of the teens and their parents were employed by Heinz Distillers NA. The company, the region’s major employer, just last week announced plans to outsource fifty percent of its bottling unit to the U.S., a very large end user and said to have cheaper immigrant labor. Surveys of families affected by the mishap and downsizing indicate the majority will be forced  into the ranks of the economically disadvantaged.  Heinz CEO says that is not so. “These people only need to revise their employment expectations. Those who are willing to work will be able to afford all necessities.”

How differently did your mind and heart respond when the news reporter used the following terms instead of plain English: Collateral damage  instead of  death and property destruction; downsizing instead firing; economically disadvantaged instead of poor; mishap instead of catastrophe. There’s also outsourced and faith-based, which some would label doublespeak.

This is my attempt at doublespeak, a term that combines George Orwell’s ‘doublethink’ and ‘newspeak’ that he originated for his political novel 1984.” As he saw it: “Political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” (George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946)

In 1974, the National Council of Teachers of English established a Doublespeak Award, given annually to “public speakers who have perpetuated language that is grossly deceptive, evasive, euphemistic, confusing, or self-centered.” Recipients have included the CIA, Exxon Corporation, the U.S. Department of Defense (three times), Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Glenn Beck.
[Retrieved from http://grammar.about.com/od/words/a/Doublespeak-Soft_Language-Gobbledygook.htm]

What person or organization would you nominate for the Doublespeak Award, whether public speakers, writers, or  other “taxpayers”—oops, are all citizens taxpayers? And please explain the criteria for your selection.


Joyce Elferdink’s Bio:

This author thinks of herself as a teacher, apprentice, traveler and activist. Her inspiration comes from life experiences and an overactive imagination (nothing new to authors) and by the diverse novels she reads (but primarily science fiction). This summer she was stunned to receive an Excellence in Teaching award from her employer, Davenport University. Now if she could only get one of those equally prestigious awards for her novel, Pieces of You or the one just begun, The Battle of Jericho, 2035. Actually, her primary purpose for writing is to make readers think about questions we all may be asking.






For TR Sept 24 banshee-public-domain

  My great uncle had just celebrated his eighty-second birthday but he was dressed in his old police uniform, resting in the kitchen of his house on Chicago’s south side.  Until my sister lifted me, all I could see was a fair allowance of flowers and his nose sticking up past the rim of his coffin.  I recall thinking that old people sure had a lot of hair in their noses. It was that night, at his wake, after the grown-ups offered fifty-thee “Hail Mary’s” and more than a few toasts from some bottles of Jameson’s, that I first heard the word “banshee”.   The deceased was from the Walsh side of the family, a common surname indicating that some ancestor had once emigrated from Wales to Ireland.

The Walsh brothers, and one sister, my grandmother, traveled one by one from Ballylongford in County Kerry to Chicago, the lads each joining the Windy City’s constabulary soon after stepping off the train from New York.  The last to arrive, in 1889, was little Mary Ellen.  Twenty-three years later, that girl with the black pin curls and Irish brogue became my mother’s mother after marrying Edward Conners, an Episcopalian member of the Ó Conchobhair clan. She liked to say that she had rescued him from several generations of Orangemen who had so “miserably butchered” the family name.  According to my aunts, Catholicism was Grandma’s gift to Edward and the O’Conchobhair (O’Connor) banshee was his gift to her. Grandpa could be forgiven for saying there was too much superstition among the Catholics.  Too often, that was true. Being devout was not the same as being well instructed. On the other hand, it was his family that claimed to have a banshee.

Given the times and the Troubles, my grandparents seem to have done a remarkable job of removing bigotry, resentment, and prejudice from their lives.  Edward, a bridge tender for the railroad, admired the dedication that his wife’s Catholic brothers put into keeping the peace.  When Prohibition arrived, they all had enough rank to make sure you could still even have a drink in peace. They may have been guilty of accepting some “gratuities” but they weren’t afraid to put their lives on the line. One of them died in the line of duty trying to rescue a young girl who was being attacked in an alley.  Grandma shared her husband’s religious tolerance.  She admired the pioneering spirit of Grandpa’s family and would at least allow that the outhouses in England probably didn’t smell any worse than the ones in Ireland.

Grandma was not altogether unfamiliar with Protestants even in a Catholic village as small as Ballylongford.  She grew up only a few doors away from the childhood home of Horatio Herbert Kitchener, First Earl of Khartoum, and Great Britain’s Secretary of State for War. While city folk might dismiss Ballylongford as merely a wide spot on a road that followed the estuary of the River Shannon, our family knew it was home to Earl Kitchener, home to the former Jesuit writer Malachi Martin, and home to Grandmother Mary Ellen Walsh Conners.   It was also the first village in Ireland to have a refrigerator for their pub.  Nobody from Cork or Dublin or Derry could claim any of that!

Some of this might have been part of the conversation the night of my great uncle’s wake.  I only remember bits and pieces, scenes frozen forever in my mind, snippets of conversation.  I was a child, and had the scene not seemed so very peculiar to me, I might have forgotten it entirely.  Perhaps the only reason I remember any of it was that I was quite sure we never ever kept a dead guy in the kitchen at our house.

“Did he hear the banshee?” my mother asked.  No doubt, some of the retired cops in the room smiled, perhaps even smirked at the question.  I don’t recall.  What I do remember is my Aunt Harriet saying, “She means was he prepared.”   At the time I couldn’t begin to imagine how one prepares to recline and remain motionless in a wooden box while dozens of folks cry, laugh, pray and talk about you.

The Walsh brothers may have scoffed at the notion, but to my mother, the banshee was very real, a family spirit that came to help you prepare for death.  Apparently there is no Walsh family banshee, but the tradition of the O’Conchobhair Banshee has been passed on for centuries.  The O’Briens, the O’Neills and the O’Gradys each had their family banshee.  The Fitzgeralds, I was told, were not allowed to have one.  I don’t know if that was a blessing or a curse. Often in literature and film, a banshee is a terrifying creature. To some Irish families, a banshee is a fairy-like being. To others it is a frightful female spirit that sounds like the mournful keeners at an Irish funeral.  Our family banshee was always portrayed as an angelic spirit who came with a beautiful song to remind you to repent, to forgive, and to let go of earthly attachments.  My grandmother claimed to hear the banshee shortly before she died.

The tradition of the banshee goes well past the shores of Ireland.  It can be found in Scotland and Wales and some Vikings even carried tales of the banshees back to Norway.  Once out of Ireland, banshees appear to no longer tie themselves to clans or families.

According to my mother, Grandma Conners attended Mass every Sunday before praying the rosary.  After that, it was her tradition to sing as she prepared Sunday brunch for her husband, son, and five daughters.  The song she sang was always the same, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”.  “I never heard that song in Ireland,” she would say, “but I think it’s so beautiful.  If ever I hear the banshee, I pray she will sing something beautiful like that.”

I don’t know if Grandma really heard a banshee.  I don’t know if they are the stuff of fairy tales or actual manifestations of heavenly spirits.  What I suspect is that in a society where we tend to avoid thinking or discussing preparation for death, the song of the O’Conchobhair banshee might just be worth hearing.  The simple fact is that sooner or later we all die. I suspect that no matter what we believe, or even if we believe in nothing at all, we would probably have a better death if first we forgive others and let go of our resentments and earthly attachments.  Like it or not, the day of the banshee is seldom as distant as we want to believe.  My own hope is that some spirit will remind me of all that before I get stuffed into a wooden box, be it in a Chicago kitchen or elsewhere.

T.R. Heinan is the author of L’immortalité: Madam Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen, a reflection on justice and compassion set in the historical context of a haunting 19th century New Orleans legend.http://www.amazon.com/LImmortalite-Madame-Lalaurie-Voodoo-Queen/dp/0615634710


ZZ1.Remington Typewriter


When I had my first writing published in the New York Sunday News in 1957, my parents thought it justified buying me a Remington typewriter. I loved that machine! I kept it in the corner of our kitchen, safe in its dark brown case, and after homework, I would carry it to the kitchen table, remove it from its case, and sit there thinking of what to write.

Sometimes not a single idea would come, but my father would remind me that success one day would depend on my own willingness to persevere. He encouraged me to learn the writing craft and to practice it daily. So when I would sit there staring at my Remington, my sisters occasionally poking fun at me, my parents would scold them. “Sal’s thinking up a story,” Papa would say. “Go watch television!”

And there were nights when poem or story ideas came late and I’d be banging away at the keys while Mama and Papa slept in the very next room. I’d typed a poem, a story, a dance of words that at the time I doubted was anything to sing about, but I so loved my parents! How could I give it all up? Find a new hobby when they believed so strongly in me? How? When they loved what I wrote, regardless of how amateurish it was? When they read everything I wrote? I kept writing. I have not stopped since.

From an early age I realized that if I shared my writing with family and friends, it encouraged me to write more often. It provided me with a reason to study hard and earn A’s in English. Metaphorically to me, the act of writing was a bird that could grow wings only if I shared it with others.

A favorite college professor of mine, Dr. Shahani, an author and friend of T. S. Eliot, once told our creative writing class, “A true poet is not one who pens his words in a garret, alienated from others, but one who shares his talent and his poems so others might learn to love poetry and want to become poets too.”

Writing is a craft we learn and practice day by day. If writers claim they love the craft but do not indulge in it daily, the question is, Why not?  They should try to write at least a poem a day or work on a short story –– something!  They should also become avid readers of books, including those on the writing craft. By writing a lot, they will always have new material to submit for possible publication.

Writing is like finding a treasure too precious to keep hidden. As an English teacher in middle school and high school, as well as a writing instructor in college, I did my best to teach my students to love writing. Once they were caught up in my own enthusiasm for the written word, they too wanted to write. Achieving that, I knew they’d be more inclined to learn grammar and composition, improve their writing, and finally be anxious to submit for publication their poems, stories, and letters to the editor.

Once published, they were encouraged to keep writing and what fueled them was a stronger self-esteem, one prerequisite for success in any endeavor. They learned not to fear letters or notes of rejection, but to enjoy them because they came with the writer’s territory. There would be less of them as they improved.

I told them the story of my rejection wall in the basement where I would paste those rejections from editors and publishers. I explained that rejection was a necessary and natural condition because no one is a perfect writer and no writer can please all editors.  I have been writing for over 60 years. Each week I submit my work: some earn acceptance, some, rejection. I edit the rejected, if necessary, and submit it elsewhere.

I never allow the market to scare me away. Last year I had two letters in the National Enquirer, one in February and one in March.  I was paid $25 for each letter of 50 words!  Now this periodical with over 8 million readers should have scared me away, but I tell myself: What do I have to lose?

I never loved anything more than writing since age nine.  Stickball and poker may have come in second and third but never first. I consider my ability to write a gift from God Who loves us enough to give each of us some kind of gift. To thank Him, I write daily, I submit my work to publications so that my work can be read by others, but I never regard writing as my ticket to fame and fortune. I am just one more writer among a billion out there. I do enjoy being read. I love it when folks buy and like my books Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts. I too would like to be recognized as a great writer, but what is more important to me is that I can continue writing every single day. My satisfaction is derived in the act of writing. That’s why I keep doing it!

I believe God gave me the writing gift because He knew the kind of boy I was and the man I would become: easily discouraged, not tough enough to accept life’s negatives,  weak in faith, unsure of myself –– all these things to which I answer daily with poetry and fiction. It is my way of confronting life, saving in my work those I love who passed from this Earth, accepting the harshness of life’s bad things and remaining hopeful they will be followed by good things, and loving God more each day for loving me more than I deserve. So no matter what, I write because it’s the way I fight my demons and remain on the right road to where my soul dreams one day to be.


Parents and teachers, be on the lookout for talents in your children and then  encourage their development. Without your help, children usually never realize they have any talents and consequently lose them.

As a boy I was fortunate to have had perceptive parents who made my writing appear to be a good way for me to please them. How they beamed when I would read my new poem or story! I also had several teachers in my youth who also encouraged my writing. So, now as parents and teachers, you must do the same.


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.



HORROR IN ROOM 323 By Rosemary “Mamie”Adkins




Rosemary “Mamie”Adkins

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

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

Everything was perfect!

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eventually, being so tired, she drifted to sleep.

Later, she felt something bite her on the hand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you mean…‘They’ bit her?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then what is this?”

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

Jeannette remembered their vacation.  “Why, yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laundry waiting to be processed

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

They had nowhere now to hide or ever feel safe.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Now, imagine it crawling over your body every night.

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

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

                         image15-small-44                       image16-small-46

Maggie                                           …                                       Sara, Parakeet

Want an exercise in shock therapy? 

Check out this link!


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

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


Rosemary “Mamie”Adkins



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