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Spring/Summer 2014 Edition of Magnets and Ladders

Active Voices of Writers with Disabilities
Spring/summer 2014

Editorial and Technical Staff

  • Coordinating Editor: Mary-Jo Lord
  • Fiction: Lisa Busch, Valerie Moreno, Marilyn Brandt Smith, Kate Chamberlin, and Abbie Johnson Taylor
  • Nonfiction: Valerie Moreno, Nancy Scott, John W. Smith, Kate Chamberlin, and Marilyn Brandt Smith
  • Poetry: Lisa Busch, Alice Massa, Valerie Moreno, Nancy Scott, and Marilyn Brandt Smith
  • Technical Assistants: Jayson Smith and John Weidlich
  • Internet Specialist: Julie Posey

Submission Guidelines

Disabled writers may submit up to three selections per issue. Deadlines are February 15 for the Spring/Summer issue, and August 15 for the Fall/winter issue. Writers must disclose their disability in their biography or in their work. Biographies may be up to 100 words in length, and should be written in third-person.

Poetry maximum length is 50 lines. Memoir, fiction, and nonfiction maximum length is 2500 words. In all instances, our preference is for shorter lengths than the maximum allowed. Please single-space all submissions, and use a blank line to separate paragraphs and stanzas. It is important to spell check and proofread all entries. Previously published material and simultaneous submissions are permitted provided you own the copyright to the work. Please cite previous publisher and/or notify if work is accepted elsewhere.

We do not feature advocacy, activist, “how-to,” or “what’s new” articles regarding disabilities. Innovative techniques for better writing as well as publication success stories are welcome. Content will include many genres, with limited attention to the disability theme. Announcements of writing contests with deadlines beyond April 1 and October 1 respectively are welcome.

Do you have a skill, service, or product valued by writers? For a minimum contribution of $25.00 we will announce it in the next two issues of Magnets and Ladders. All verifications of products or services provided are the responsibility of our readers. Book cover design? Copyediting? Critiques? Formatting for publication? Internet access or web design? Marketing assistance? Special equipment? Make your donation through PayPal (see or by check by March/September 1. 100-word promotional information is due by February/August 15. Not sure about something? Email All donations support Magnets and Ladders.

Please email all submissions to Paste your submission and bio into the body of your email or attach in Microsoft Word format. If submitting Word documents, please put your name and the name of your piece at or near the top of the document. Submissions will be acknowledged within two weeks. You will be notified if your piece is selected for publication.

Final author approval and review is necessary if changes are needed beyond punctuation, grammar, and sentence or paragraph structure. We will not change titles, beginnings, endings, dialog, poetic lines, the writer’s voice, or the general tone without writer collaboration. If your work is selected for inclusion in a future “Behind Our Eyes” project, you will be notified; your approval and final review will be required. To insure we can contact you regarding future projects, please keep us updated if your Email address changes.

About Behind Our Eyes

Behind Our Eyes, Inc. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization enhancing the opportunities for writers with disabilities. Our anthology published in 2007, “Behind Our Eyes: Stories, Poems, and Essays by Writers with Disabilities,” is available at Amazon and from other booksellers. It is available in recorded and Braille format from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

“Behind Our Eyes, a Second Look” is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other booksellers, and in E-book format on Amazon Kindle. See our book trailer on Youtube at

Several members of our group meet by moderated teleconference twice monthly to hear speakers; share work for critique; or receive tips on accessibility, publication, and suggested areas of interest.

Our mailing list is a low-traffic congenial place to share work in progress; learn about submission requests; and to ask and answer writing questions. For the conference phone number and PIN, join our mailing list by contacting Donna Grahmann at

Table of Contents

Editor’s Welcome

Hello. Spring and the Spring/Summer edition of Magnets and Ladders are finally here. As the polar vortex launched one attack after another on the United States and Canada, I had the pleasure of reading Magnets and Ladders submissions.

I would like to give a big thanks to all of the committee members and to Marilyn Brandt Smith, Jason Smith and John Weidlich for your hard work and support throughout the production process.

We had contests with cash prizes in fiction, nonfiction and poetry. It was a rewarding and challenging task for our editorial staff. I’d like to thank our anonymous donor for making the contests possible. Below are the names of our contest winners.


  • First place – “Anniversary” by Susan Muhlenbeck
  • Second place – “The Zimmerlick Issue” by Manny Colver
  • Honorable mention – “The Road to Mars” by Shawn Jacobson
  • Honorable mention – “Ratted Out” by Ellen Fritz


  • First Place – “Chocolate Pudding Spirit” By Valerie Moreno
  • Second place – “Wild Velvet” by Burns Taylor
  • Honorable mention – “Aunt Laura’s Love Story” by Kate Chamberlin
  • Honorable mention – “From the Little Spruce Tree” by Barbara Mattson


  • First place – “We” by Deon Lyons
  • Second place – “Almost No Accolades” by Terri Winaught
  • Honorable mention – “El Paso Outback” by Burns Taylor
  • Honorable mention – “From Your Former Feline Housemate” by Abbie Johnson Taylor

All of our prize winning stories and poems can be found throughout this issue. See “The Writers’ Climb” for details about our next contest, again with cash prizes.

Susan Muhlenbeck, our first place fiction winner starts off the magazine with “Anniversary,” and she wraps it up with a vacation memory that you won’t want to miss. We are also featuring work from our youngest new poet, along with stories and poems by authors from India and Norway. So pour yourself a tall glass of iced tea or your favorite beverage and get ready to enjoy the Spring/Summer edition of Magnets and Ladders.

I. At Work: What might happen when we Are there, or When We Try to Leave

Anniversary, fiction
by Susan Muhlenbeck

“What’s going on this weekend?” Tina asked one Friday afternoon in June.

“Well, George is picking me up after work to take me to my favorite restaurant,” Shelly said excitedly. “He told me when he dropped me off this morning that he won’t be late, so we’ll see. It’s our anniversary. Did you see the flowers he sent me?”

“Yes, they’re beautiful!” Tina exclaimed.

“Tomorrow we are going to this place called Cherry Stone Lodge up in the mountains. It’s a quaint little Bed and Breakfast.”

“How romantic,” Tina sighed. “Have fun. Let me know how it goes.”

The last hour and a half at work dragged by. At five minutes to five, Shelly started gathering her belongings together. George was meeting her outside at 5:15. She had fifteen minutes to get herself together-adjust her makeup, comb her hair, and dab on his favorite perfume. Her mouth watered as she thought of the thick juicy steak she would be devouring within the next hour.

Her phone rang. She opened her mouth to tell the caller, “Sorry, we’re closed.” For some inexplicable reason, she heard herself say, “Thank you for calling the Department of Taxation. How can I help you?”

“Yes, I’m calling to set up a payment arrangement for my taxes last year,” the caller said.

What are you doing? It’s after 5:00, she asked herself. “Certainly, I can help you with that,” she said. Her voice sounded strange to her own ears.

“Good night, everybody,” her coworkers were saying as they filed out of the office. “Have a good weekend.”

Shelly tried lifting her hands off the keyboard, but her hands seemed to have a mind of their own. They were typing information the caller was telling her, and she could not stop them from moving. She found herself setting up a payment arrangement with the caller and exiting his account.

Next she tried to lift herself from her seat, but she seemed to be glued to the chair. Her phone rang again.

“Good night, Shelly,” her supervisor said as she walked passed.

“Help me, Rachel!” she wanted to shout. What came out was, “Thank you for calling the tax department.”

“I’m calling about a tax lien you put on my paycheck,” a man shouted. “You took my whole check! I’m going to be out in the street.”

Shelly tried to shut down the computer without saying another word, but her hands would not push the right keys. She was starting to hyperventilate. The smell of roses her husband had sent her that day was suddenly overpowering. She tried putting her head down, but it would not move either. Against her will, she heard herself telling the caller the policy the tax department had with tax liens.

“I’m afraid we have to take your whole check until your fines are paid,” her voice said mechanically. “We gave you plenty of time to call and set up a payment arrangement, but you did not, so the lien has to stay in place.” The caller shouted a few obscenities before slamming the phone down.

The clock on her computer said 5:15. George was probably outside waiting for her. The cell phone on her desk rang. That’s probably George, wondering where I am, she thought, as she tryed to reach for the cell phone. She gave a cry of alarm as she looked down at her hands, which would not move off the keyboard. She could no longer see the tips of her fingers. They seemed to have melted into the keys.

The office phone rang again. “Thank you for calling the tax department. Can I help you?” Her voice no longer sounded even remotely familiar.

“Hello? Am I talking to a person?” the caller asked? “It sounds like I’m talking to a machine.”

“Yes, you are talking to a person,” Shelly’s robotic voice answered. “How can I help you?” I need your help! She was screaming in her mind.

Her cell phone rang again as she continued to talk to the caller in her flat, mechanical voice. She could no longer see her hands at all. This can’t be happening, she thought as her wrists seemed to dissolve into the keyboard. I’m having a nightmare. Either that or I’m going insane! Where was George? Why didn’t he come looking for her when she didn’t come outside?

“A portion of your taxes were withheld to pay some medical bills,” she was telling the caller. She watched in horror as the computer screen brought up new information without any prompting from her. She had to get out of here somehow, but she could no longer feel her feet. She looked down and saw nothing beyond the edge of the chair. She could, however, feel what was left of her body sinking into the chair.

Oh no! She thought desperately as she felt her chest constrict suddenly. I’m having a heart attack. I can’t breathe! Wow! That steak would be so good, was her last thought before the computer hard drive consumed her essence.

From inside the box, Shelly heard her cell phone ring incessantly. Then she saw a janitor walk into the office and start emptying trash cans. He frowned slightly as he got to her desk. “Somebody left their computer on,” he muttered. He hesitated for a moment, then pulled out his cell phone and made a call. “Yeah, somebody left their computer on. What should I do?” he asked. “Okay,” he said a moment later.

Shelly watched in horror as his finger moved toward the power button. “No!” she screamed as the lights went out. “Please don’t-“

“Excuse me, sir,” came a voice behind the janitor, making him jump. “My name is George. I’m looking for my wife. She was supposed to meet me outside a half hour ago. This is where she works. Have you seen her?”

“I have not, but I just turned her computer off. Maybe she’s in the bathroom.”

“Today is our anniversary,” George explained as they walked down the hall to the bathroom. “I told her I would take her to her favorite restaurant.”

“Hello? Is anybody in there?” the janitor asked, as he knocked loudly on the bathroom door. “Maybe I better take a look,” he said nervously. “She could be hurt.” The bathroom was deserted.

“I must have just missed her then,” George said with a sigh of relief. “She’s probably waiting for me outside.”

“But why would she forget to turn her computer off?” the janitor asked, puzzled.

“Who knows?” George shrugged. “She probably got tied up at work and was so excited to get out of here that it just slipped her mind.”

“Maybe,” the janitor said slowly, “but something doesn’t sound right. They returned to Shelly’s desk. “She also forgot her cell phone and purse and those flowers,” the janitor mused.

“That is very strange,” George agreed, scratching his head. “But if she’s not in the bathroom, where else could she have gone?”

“Beats me,” the janitor said absently. “I can’t begin to guess how women think,” he laughed.

“I’ll take her belongings with me,” George said, picking up the purse, cell phone, and flowers. “If she’s not outside…” His voice trailed off.

“If she’s not outside, we’ll search the building,” the janitor said reasonably.

“Right,” George said uncertainly, “but I’m sure she’s outside,” he added quickly.

The building was soon searched. “I don’t understand,” George said anxiously when their search turned up nothing. “She couldn’t have left the building without somebody seeing her. I checked her purse. There is nothing missing. Her driver’s license, keys, credit cards, and checkbook are all there. Guess I’ll start calling everybody she knows.”

George filed a missing person’s report after the required 24 hours was up. Of course the police never found any trace of Shelly. Her distraught parents were convinced that George did something to her and were determined to prove it. Her friends and coworkers thought she had been kidnapped.

A few weeks after the anniversary, the employees of the tax department met for a few drinks after work. They all agreed that the office just was not the same without their beloved coworker.

“Is it just me, or is something weird going on at work?” Nancy asked.

“Funny you should ask,” Tina mused. “It seems like somebody or something is helping me do my job.”

“Oh my God! I thought I was going crazy or something,” Amy exclaimed. “Lately it seems like whenever a customer calls, I know the answers to their questions without having to do any research. It’s wild!”

“Yeah, it seems like somebody is whispering the answers into my ear or something,” Molly agreed.

“It’s almost like having the answers in front of you while you’re taking the test,” Laura said slowly. “Today somebody called and wanted to know how much he owed within the last three years. I knew the answer without having to flip to all those screens. I checked to make sure after he hung up, and I was right!”

“Yeah, and somebody asked me if we put a lien on his house yet. I said we were going to in five days if he didn’t make arrangements to pay. I checked his account after we hung up, and sure enough, he has five days before the account goes into lien status.”

“I don’t even bother to check my answers anymore,” Paula laughed. “I have been right every single time since this whole thing started, so I just can’t be bothered to check anymore.”

“I don’t know what’s going on, but you won’t hear me complaining,” Lucy quipped. “It sure makes my job a lot easier.”

“Yeah, I sit there and daydream a lot,” Tracy grinned. “This entity, or whatever it is, is even helping me document my calls. I don’t have to think about how to phrase anything. It tells me exactly what to write.”

“I wonder what Shelly would have thought about the situation,” Ruth said wistfully. “I still think about her a lot. You don’t think she ran away, do you? Maybe she had a boyfriend on the side.”

“No way,” Tina shouted. “She would have told somebody, I think.”

“The police will find her,” Dianne said, a little tipsy. “The police will be relentless. Meanwhile, let’s order something to eat.”

“Okay, but let’s not tell anybody about the Tax Fairy,” Nancy said quickly. “We might scare it off if too many people find out. That would be terrible, wouldn’t it?”

“Yeah, let’s talk about something else,” Nicole agreed. “I saw George at the gas station the other day. I almost didn’t recognize him. The poor guy looked very worn out. He said something about thinking he would move out of the area.”

“Shelly is going to turn up,” Ruth insisted. “I feel it in my bones.”

“Let’s hope so,” Tina sighed. “Let’s drink a toast to her, to her safe return.”

Bio: Susan Muhlenbeck was born in Korea and spent her first five years there. She lost her sight at the age of two. She was raised in the Midwest and moved to Virginia as a teenager. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her interests include reading, swimming, and cats. Her books are available on Amazon.

The Zimmerlick Issue, fiction
by Manny Colver

“This wouldn’t be such an issue if it weren’t for the media,” Chip Blockman, Monger Bank’s IT wunderkind, says to the morning’s assemblage of the bank’s top brass. “That lawyer she’s got knows how to work the third estate: out there stirring the pot on cable TV for weeks and soon it’s all over the print media. We’ve even hit the tabloids,” he adds morosely as he holds up the latest copy of Naked Truth where a large picture of a kindly-looking old fellow shares the front page with big block letters that read, “Octogenarian Dies Trapped in Monger Bank’s Phone System.'”

Hampton Lloyd Prescott, Chairman and CEO of Monger Holdings, groans. “Look,” he says, “the poor guy had a heart attack while he happened to be on our customer service line. Can we help that?”

“I’m afraid it’s a bit more complicated than that, Ham. Turns out this Zimmerlick wasn’t on our customer service line. We think he got into our voice recognition test demo, the one we’ve set up for managers to call in and evaluate before the official rollout. We’re calling it the Chat-away System,” Chip says, brightening at the mere mention of his pet project. “And if I could toss out a brief update here, Ham, that particular program is progressing ahead of schedule and under budget. Once our banking clients go through a voice analysis and profiling process much like that on the test demo they’ll be talking directly with our computers about their accounts. No need for customer service reps. The human element will be completely eliminated.”

“Except for us,” someone jokes, and the room erupts in laughter.

“Fully automated world-class customer service at a fraction of our current cost,” Chip adds.

“I’m having issues with this, Chip,” Hampton says. “You’re saying this Zimmerlick fellow was in the test demo?”

“I’m afraid so,” Chip admits, grimacing.

“And how the hell did that happen?”

“We’re not sure yet how he got in, Ham. Probably the kind of guy who hates the automated operator. You know the type. They get frustrated. They want to talk to a live person. He probably got angry and just started punching keys on his phone. The more keys he pounded, the madder he got until … well, he must have hit the same sequence we sent to the managers as an access code.” Chip shrugs. “All of a sudden. Bingo! He’s in.”

“I’ve been in that test demo several times myself since this hit the news, Ham,” Harry Lawton, Monger’s top legal mind, interjects. “Just to see what this Zimmerlick fellow might have run into. I have to tell you, Ham: it’s a rough go. Pretty intimidating if you don’t understand what’s happening. You see, this synthetic voice, your Chat-away guide, starts right out badgering you with all kinds of invasive questions as it gets a feel for the qualities of your voice when you answer.”

“That’s how the computer gets to know your voice, Ham,” Chip explains. “We tried to make the demo fun and entertaining so word of mouth would get as many managers as possible to call in and try it out.” He chuckles. “Some of it’s darn funny, Ham.”

Harry demurs. “Yes, well, if the caller in question doesn’t know it’s supposed to be funny, well … just to give you an example: at one point your cheerful little Chat-away guide informs you the bank has lost all of your money.”

This revelation elicits dead silence. Even Chip, whose career depends on the success of the Chat-away System, falls silent. Heads lower around the table as if in prayer, while Hampton winces, Harry sighs a deep lawyerly sigh and the grinning image of Zimmerlick leers up from the tabletop like vengeance itself.

“Turn that thing over, will you, Chip?”

“Unfortunately, this uh … situation here has gotten even worse,” Harry continues. “This Mrs. Zimmerlick? The surviving spouse?”

“Surviving spouse?” someone quips. “You mean the old guy had another spouse that didn’t?”

This is followed by several sniggers, one guffaw and a loud snort, presumably of amusement.

“Let’s try to keep this on a serious note, shall we?” Hampton says. “Go on Harry.”

“Yes, well she and the lawyer she’s retained from Carbuncle, Itchner and Rash claim the old fellow had a fist full of stock sell orders when he keeled over. Turns out the market tanked the next day so they’re claiming $148 million in losses give or take.”

“A hundred and what?”

“Where did those two get that kind of money?”

“You don’t recognize the name, Chip?”

“Zimmerlick? No, not really. Should I?”

“Our first five-hundred-million-dollar Powerball Lottery winner. He didn’t even have to share it. Got the whole bundle. A real loose cannon too. At the press conference when they asked him what he planned to do with the money, he said he was going to buy a bomb from North Korea and blow this whole sorry-assed city right off the planet. Talk about a stunned silence. He let them hang for a moment too, then finally, after nearly everyone in the print media rushed out to call in the story, he put on this big grin and said he was only kidding.”

“Good grief!” says Chip. “And they still gave him the money?”

“Had too,” shrugged Harry. “No law against making a bad joke, even one as tasteless as that one. Sure, there are punishments doled out in such cases, but not under the law. You might lose your job, have your reputation damaged, your wife might leave you and so on, but legally? You haven’t violated any law.”

“Well that’s just great,” Hampton grumbles.

“Don’t want to be too downbeat here, Ham. We actually have a pretty strong case in a peripheral sense. I have no doubt we can win the PR battle. You see, it turns out the Zimmerlicks are registered sex offenders. The media hasn’t picked up on that yet. Too busy bashing us. Snoop Clobberton, head of our investigative unit, has prepared a rather detailed report on some of their activities. Let me tell you, Ham. It’s not for the easily offended.”

Harry opens a leather valise and produces a sheath of papers, which he rustles importantly. Then he clears his throat and launches into a lurid profile of the Zimmerlicks’ antics in a voice that even sounds tough on its words, each one filling the room like the crack of a whip.

“Both of them? I mean Mrs. Zimmerlick too?” Chip asks halfway through the account.

“Someone had to operate the camera,” Harry explains.


“Movies.” Harry shakes his head. “You know there was a time when photo labs would have caught this kind of filth but now … well, modern times.”

Everyone around the conference table nods gravely as if to mourn the transition from photographic film to magnetic tape and the rapid leap from there to digital selfies of questionable taste launched into space from ubiquitous cell phones.

“Yes, duly registered sex offenders,” Harry confirms. “That’s our ace in the hole here, Ham. I suggest we wait until this Mrs. Zimmerlick and her attorney get on the Erma Busthauser Show. Let them get all chummy with Erma and all comfy on Erma’s couch. Then we drop our bomb.” Harry pauses to shrug then adds, “Can’t say as I enjoy getting down there in the mud but … “

“Oh, come on, Harry,” Chip says, “You’re a lawyer.”

Those in attendance who never bothered with a law degree enjoy a hearty laugh. When order is restored, the meeting moves on secure in the knowledge that Monger Holdings will fend off yet another assault from its often angry, frequently distrustful, sometimes hostile and occasionally even heavily armed public. And since Monger Holdings is among those places where the only pursuit that matters is the pursuit of money, this is a happy ending.

Bio: Manny Colver was born with a rare eye condition that left him with 10% of normal vision, an extreme sensitivity to light, and a view of the world devoid of color. He holds an undergraduate degree in communications, and a master’s degree in business finance. He is author of an unproduced screenplay, an unpublished novel, and a darkly comic novella, also unpublished. He lives with his wife in Florida, where he reads and bowls as much as possible.

The Road to Mars, fiction
by Shawn Jacobson

Compared to crossing the Bay Bridge, getting to Mars was easy. Once you got to the spaceport, all you had to worry about was boarding the shuttle. Then the pilot would blast off, turn on the hyper-drive and it was off to Mars: no drunk drivers, no lane changers, no broken-down trucks, just space, lots of space. In space, no one has to sit behind your wreck.

The Bay Bridge, where any moron with a driver’s license could inflict his driving on the world, was different. Every time someone wrecked on the bridge the rest of us had to sit and wait for the mess to be cleaned up, as I was doing now.

“Do you see that skipjack?” asked the man next to me. “That’s a beautiful boat.”

“I don’t see that well,” I replied. I looked out the window and thought I saw a speck
of white that might be a sail on the darkening horizon.

“Hey,” I continued turning to my seatmate. “Did you hear what happened?”

“Just heard,” he replied. “Some trucker clipped the guardrail and dumped a load of spuds.”

“Spuds?” I asked. It didn’t sound as bad as the infamous jet fuel spill that closed the bridge for twelve hours, but this was bad enough.

“Yes, potatoes,” my neighbor replied. “All we need now is for someone to dump a load of hamburger and we could have the biggest shepherd’s pie in the history of Maryland.”

“If I miss the shuttle, my wife is going to blast me into space dust,” I grumbled in no mood for jokes, “especially since my phone won’t work.” Well, this was not precisely true. My phone would work; it just wouldn’t play nice with my program that translated print to speech.

The trouble had started that morning. I had been awakened by a robocall at 4:15 that announced a class 2 meteor warning. “Take all due precautions,” the message had said. Then I turned on my cell phone in hopes of catching up on work. The screen reader gibbered at me in an incomprehensible babble. After a futile effort to fix the problem at home and three calls from work to customer service centers, I found out that my phone had been automatically upgraded to Intergalactic Phonemaster 19 and it wasn’t compatible with my screen reader. What I didn’t find out was how to fix the problem. I finally slammed the phone on my desk in disgust and got a lecture from the boss about anger management. Well, a rotten end to a rotten day I thought, but I now realized that the “end” part was premature.

“Here, use my phone,” my traveling companion said amiably. “My wife insisted I get the unlimited ansible service package; the faster than light feature lets her give me instructions in real time. Costs a blue fortune, but I have no excuse not to call if I’m late, so she’s happy.”

“Thanks,” I replied, taking the phone and thinking about the dubious joy of being nagged in real time. “Do you need me to pay for the call?”

“Nah, as I said, it costs a blue fortune whether it’s used or not; go ahead.”

I whipped out my magnifier, looked at the keypad and dialed the Martian planetary code, then the number. The phone rang, rang again, rang some more. Finally I got “This is the Carter residence. I’m sorry, but no one is here to take your call. Please call back later.”

I snapped the phone shut; “No one’s home,” I said gruffly.

I was just handing the phone back when I said, “Can I try my wife’s cell on this?”

“Sure! Call as many people as you need.”

I tried the Martian planetary code again and my wife’s cell number; the phone let out a horrendous screech.

“Whoa! Ouch!” my seatmate said. “What was that?”

“Sorry, I forgot that the Martian cell code is different from the Martian planetary code.” I dialed again, got a wrong number. Cursing under my breath, I jammed the buttons as I attempted to dial again. At last, I got it right and waited for her to pick up.

“Hello,” my wife said from the other end. “Who is this?”

“It’s me, I’m on the way home from work and do I have a story….”

“Where have you been? I’ve been frantic worrying about you. Did you remember your phone? No, I see you forgot it; Damn. When will you become responsible?”

“My phone doesn’t work, remember?” I reminded her “and I’m in a traffic jam”.

“There’s no traffic in space to jam.”

“No, on the Bay Bridge. You know, the only way to the spaceport from work that’s less than 200 miles, legendary for its traffic jams. Someone dumped a load of potatoes and traffic is backed up for miles.”

I contemplated the idiocy of putting the confounded spaceport somewhere like the Delmarva Peninsula where you only had one way to get there. Whoever had concocted that plan bought into the sighted concept that you could just get in your car and go. I’ve learned that blind folk have to worry more about how to get places than other people.

“The kids haven’t heard from you either,” my wife continued bringing me back to the moment.

“Hey!” I replied. “I just tried to call a minute ago. No one answered.”

“Well,” replied my wife in a voice that sparked with exasperation. “You’re calling on another phone. The kids probably thought you were the Martian pervert. They had a big story about him on “True Mars Report” last night. I’ll call Billy and Jane to let them know your number’s safe. Call back in a couple of minutes. OK?”

“So why did you move to Mars?” my seat neighbor asked.

“Aliens” I explained. “My wife insisted on moving to Mars to get away from them; they give her the creeps.”

“So you moved to Mars to get away from aliens?” he asked with incredulity. “That just seems wrong, sacrilegious even. I mean, according to the classics, you’re supposed to go to Mars to find aliens, not run from them. Mars is a place to test the human spirit against the rigors of space, not a place to hide. It’s a place to explore the unknown, not deny it.”

“I guess she never read the classics,” I replied, wondering if this guy was some kind of nut.

I really didn’t mind the way the aliens looked, kind of like a cross between something from Lovecraft and something from Veggie tales, a vaguely pear-shaped body with a mess of tentacles, or something, sticking out of the narrow part. My wife thought the tentacles looked like writhing worms, something she really didn’t like, and the slurping way they moved really freaked her out. “Sometimes it’s not that bad to be blind,” she would tell me whenever they came on TV.

When the aliens had come eighteen years ago, they had shown no interest in Mars; it was just a cold worthless rock to them. However, if man wanted to colonize the red planet they would gladly give us the technology to develop the place in exchange for the right to build colonies on Earth. That was why Mars was the place to go to get away from aliens.

“Hey, look at that,” said my seatmate. “I’ve heard of back advertising, people letting companies run commercials on their backs, but this is the first time I’ve seen it.”

The back of the man in front of us was running a commercial for Universal Eye Clinics. It featured a snippet from an old 20th century rock tune featuring banal lyrics about looking for something that could only be seen by the eyes of the blind. Whenever I heard the jingle, it reminded me of the time when a coworker had left his stocking cap in one of the office’s meeting rooms. I had gone in and felt around the chairs. I’m sure I looked kind of dumb, but my technique had the virtue of efficacy. I found the cap.

“You’ve said that your eyes don’t work so well; have you tried these folks out? They say that they’re the eyes of the blind.”

“My wife had me go there. It turns out they’re not the eyes for my kind of blind.” I gave him points for not asking if the newcomers, the politically correct name for the aliens, could fix my eyes. You would be surprised how many otherwise intelligent people thought us blind folk should go for help to beings that probably didn’t know what an eye was.

“Can I borrow your phone again? My wife should have alerted the kids by now.”

“Sure,” said my seatmate, passing me the phone. “Give it another try.”

I dialed home. My son picked up saying, “Dad! We just had a meteor strike and the power is out. And there’s an air leak in the habitat. I tried calling mom, but she can’t get back here from the office. All of the pressure doors are sealed.”

“You know what to do son,” I replied. “Get in your spacesuit and wait for help.”

“But dad, the air leaked out of the oxygen tanks. You must not have screwed the caps on the tanks after filling them the other night. You know how mom always says you need to be more careful. Dad, it’s dark and I’m scared!”

So was I. This was not just domestic drama. This was, literally, deadly serious. Terraforming efforts had increased the Martian atmosphere somewhat, and one day you would be able to breathe outside, but it was still nothing that you could breathe for long.

“I wish mom were here.” Billy continued. “She’d know what to do. And I wish we’d never left Earth where there’s air.”

“Same with me son,” I replied. And what were we doing on Mars anyway? A woman who couldn’t handle aliens and a blind guy who couldn’t screw on oxygen tank caps just didn’t belong out there in the realm of astronauts and space heroes. My seatmate was right, it was sacrilege, or at least king cosmic stupid. It was all a stupid mess and my kids were going to die of our stupidity.

Then anger, born of a stubbornness I thought had been kicked out of me, pulled me out of my funk; I guess it was that bit about dying that did it. No one would die of my stupidity if I had any say in the matter, and the devil take the folks who thought everything I did was wrong and the king of devils take second guessing. I would make this work.

I just had to think. Think, I told myself. They have to fix a leak; OK, each habitat has leak sealing equipment just for these kinds of emergencies. And, well, it was dark; OK, I’d found a stocking cap without seeing it and you could hear an air leak. And as I thought it through, a plan came together.

“Do you know where the leak sealant gun is?” I asked as the air hissed in the background.

“I found it before the lights went out,” Billy replied.

“Good man.” I continued. “Now take the gun and head toward the sound of the leak.”

“Yes,” Then a little later, “Ouch!”

“What happened?”

“Just bumped my elbow against cabinets, or something,” he replied. “I’m not used to getting around in the dark like you are.” I wasn’t sure I’d be much better than he was, but this was not the time to say so.

“Can you extend the applicator wand out as far as it will go?” I asked in hopes of creating an impromptu cane.

“Yes, got it. Now what?”

“Put the end of the wand on the floor and tap in front of you. Move the end from side to side so that you can find things in your way.”

“OK,” he said. I heard a tap, tap, tapping sound over the phone. “OK” he continued. “Head for the leak?”

“Yes,” I said. “Just stay calm.”

The hissing got louder. “Why don’t you pick up your room?” my son asked.

“It’s your room,” Jane, my daughter replied. “You don’t know where you are, do you.”

“That’s all right,” I said feeling better for having some control. “With more experience, you both would know your way around the habitat with no problem.” I thought that we maybe should have blindness drills in case this happened again.

The hissing grew louder. “I think I’m where the leak is,” said my son. Then I heard a crash.

“What was that?”

“Billy just hit his shelves and his Captain Mars doll fell off,” Jane replied.

“Action figure!” corrected Billy. “It’s an action figure, not a doll.”

“Never mind,” I responded. “Now feel around where you hear air escaping; you should be close enough to feel it.” I waited then heard “Found it dad.”

“Great,” I replied. “Now seal it!”

“Got it,” he said. I heard a new sound, the sealing gun going off, and then the hissing of escaping air subsided. Then there was silence that seemed to last forever.

“Captain Mars doll saves the day,” my daughter teased. It was the sweetest sound I’d ever heard.

“Wow! We got it.” Billy exclaimed.

“Now, just wait there. The rescue crew will find you. You’ll be all right now.”

“Love you dad,” Billy said.

“Love you too,” I said handing the phone back to my seatmate. “Thanks a lot. You’ve been a lifesaver, really.” Then I felt movement. Finally, slowly, the traffic was beginning to move. Soon I would be home, and there would be calm and rest, at least until the next crisis. My wife might even think I was a hero. She might even forget that it was my carelessness that got us into this mess in the first place. No! That would never happen.

I saw the lights of the spaceport ahead; it looked like we would just make the last shuttle. I turned once more to my seatmate. “I forgot to ask; why did you move to Mars?”

“To see the real human spirit, the ability of man to survive and adapt to situations he was not made for.”

“Like space?” I asked.

“Or adapting to the cold when man left Africa, or adapting to the ocean when man built ships. The way I figure it,” my seatmate continued, “if we want to be spacefarers for real and not just on the newcomer’s charity, then we will really need to adapt.”

“Sounds inspiring,” I said. “Have you found it?”

“From time to time,” he replied. “I think I’ve seen it tonight,” he continued with laughter in his eyes. “Captain Mars.”

Bio: Shawn Jacobson was born totally blind and gained some eyesight through several eye operations. He attended the Iowa School for the blind, and received degrees in Political Science and Statistics from Iowa State University. Shawn lives with Cheryl, his wife of twenty-five years, and their children Zebe and Stephen in Olney Maryland. He has worked for the Federal Government for thirty years.

New Procedures For Writing Reports, fiction
by Elizabeth Fiorite

In a memo received last week from the State Council of Blind and Visually Impaired Persons (SCOBAVIP), the following procedures in writing reports were mandated, effective immediately, preferably yesterday:

  1. Client based language is to be used without exception. Emphasis is to be placed on what the client has accomplished, not on what the instructor has prepared or presented, no matter how brilliantly this was done.

  2. Active verbs, such as are found in Bloom’s Taxonomy of Verbs, are preferred.

  3. Outcomes are to be measured in quantifiable terms.

An example of an unacceptable report:

Mrs. X is a 67 year old widow who is living with her daughter, son-in-law, five grandchildren, and numerous pets. She is experiencing the beginning stages of Macular Degeneration.

In the Initial Interview, Mrs. X complained vociferously about her home situation, specifically about her son-in-law’s brutish manners.

I asked Mrs. X if she would like information about the Blind Association of Knitters and Weavers (BAKAW), or the Organization of Blind Gospel and Madrigal Singers (OBGAMS), but time ran out. These questions will have to be addressed later.

Revised Report:

In the Initial Interview, Mrs. X proclaimed that her Macular Degeneration and other health issues, e.g., Restless Leg Syndrome, Sleep Apnea, ingrown toenails, GERD, and itchy scalp, were due to the lack of discipline in the raising of her grandchildren, elucidating specifically the shortcomings of her son-in-law. She complained of not getting enough sleep at night, due to the squeaking wheel of the gerbil cage, located on a high table outside her bedroom. She expatiated that this is the only place her son-in-law will allow the cage to be kept, ever since the three year old twins witnessed the mother gerbil eating her newborn when the cage was formerly located in their bedroom.

Together, we deliberated over possible solutions to this situation. Mrs. X dismissed the notion of doing away with the remaining gerbils, though she did ask if I thought rat poison would kill them, and could that be purchased in the grocery store, and in what aisle. She pondered the possibility of having her daughter purchase rat poison for her, but murmured that her daughter would be suspicious of such a purchase. Mrs. X wondered aloud if rat poison would be harmful to an adult, who might accidentally have some in his coffee, for example. She threw her head back and chortled, imagining something that she chose not to share.

She listened distractedly as a suggestion of oiling the wheel was proffered. She evinced a lack of enthusiasm ruminating on this suggestion. As our time ended, Mrs. X bolted from her chair, mumbling something sounding like “…two birds with one stone”, as she dashed out the door.

In the course of this interview, Mrs. X’s attitude improved by 76.3 percent, as measured on the newly designed bracelet required of all clients, the Adjustment Gauge Measurement of Blind Students (AGMOBS).

Bio: Elizabeth Fiorite is a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa, Wisconsin. She has a master’s degree in education and has been a teacher and principal in Catholic elementary schools. She is recently retired as a social services counselor for the blind. She has been legally blind since 1990, due to Retinitis Pigmentosa
and optic nerve damage.

At Bath and Body Works, poetry
by Mary-Jo Lord

The exotic scent of
Caribbean Escape, That wafts from
oil warmers and Wallflowers
says, “welcome,” more effectively than the
greeters at Meijer or Wal-Mart.

The products almost sell themselves.
Old favorites like:
Japanese Cherry Blossom, Moon Light Path,
Twilight Woods, Paris Amour, Country Chic and
Coconut Lime Verbena
draw customers in again and
again; as Beautiful Day,
Carried Away, Mad About You and others
become new favorites.

I straighten the True Blue Spa display and
eye the customers:
the woman who sniffs product after product and
buys nothing, the one who darts from one display to
another peering at her coupons as if she were on a
scavenger hunt, the husband who would
rather be anywhere else and the one who
secretly sniffs candles and
pretends he doesn’t want to be here.

With the Daily Specials,
“buy 2 Get 1 Free,”
“5 for $20.”
The coupon queens want their products rung up in multiple orders.
“$10 off of $30.”
“20% off when you spend $50 or more.”
“Spend $15 and get a free item.”
My mind does Math that would put an
honors Algebra student to shame, as
customers Stock up on body washes and creams as if
scented everything will be
outlawed tomorrow.
I calculate their totals,
point out when for just
$2 more they could get a second candle or bubble bath.
Convince them that by spending more,
they are saving.
Feed their buying frenzy.
All in the name of
aroma and retail therapy

Bio: Mary-Jo Lord has a master’s degree in counseling from Oakland University, and has worked at Oakland Community College for Twenty-two years. She writes poetry, fiction, and memoirs. A section of her work is published in a Plain View Press anthology called Almost Touching. Her work can also be found in Behind Our Eyes, Behind Our Eyes a Second Look, and in past Issues of Magnets and Ladders. She lives with her husband and son in Rochester, Michigan. She has been blind since birth.

II. Patriotism and Pride

We, poetry
by Deon Lyons

We reached for the stars as we walked on the moon.
We stormed the beaches, and we fell on the dune.
We beat back our foes, and hailed at the news.
We crafted the rights to live and to choose.

We dared to tread where the others fell short.
We built the masts that set sail from port.
We rolled out the cars from the factory line.
We hauled out the coal from deep in the mine.

We tutored our young while we learned from the old.
We stacked up the wood to warm up the cold.
We learned how to fly, and to keep ourselves cool.
When we needed a way, we invented a tool.

We marched through the streets, and we hailed to the brave.
We held our heads high as Old Glory did wave.
We rocketed up through the atmosphere.
As they rounded third, we gave them a cheer.

We pictured a smile while we painted a frown.
We trolled through the waters and seeded the ground.
We stumbled upon rock and roll and the blues.
We built the steel rail after lighting the fuse.

We worked on the potions to help cure the sick.
We mortared the walls, one by one, brick by brick.
We formed the foundations; we paved a new way.
We lowered our heads while we kneeled down to pray.

We braved the swift waters to find a new land
We searched out the needy and lent them a hand.
We believe in the lady that’s guarded our shore–
Her beacon held high as She opens the door.

We proudly call ourselves America–
We, the People

Bio: Deon Lyons lives with his lovely wife of thirty-two years, in Central Maine. Upon losing vision in 2010, Deon learned touch typing, and with the help of assistive technology, embarked on a lifetime passion for writing. His works revolve mostly around fiction, personal essays and poetry. With inspiration from family, friends and the blind community, he hopes to continue writing for many years to come. His books, “Sully Street” and “Ready, Set, Poetry” are available at

Almost No Accolades, poetry
(A tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen)
by Terri Winaught

“I am from Tuskegee;
I fought in World War II.
I fought the fight bravely;
Was my duty to do.”

“I’m back home from fighting;
I hope some things have changed;
There’s much that needs righting;
So much to rearrange.”

“Once home in Tuskegee,
We all went out to eat;
and were received rudely
with, “You can’t get a seat”!”

“But we fought for this country,”
we said with voices proud.
“That don’t matter to me;
No Negroes are allowed!”

“We’re frustrated airmen;
upset with this nation,
we fought the war and then–
back to segregation!”

It took some six decades
for voices to be raised.
Finally! Accolades!
These airmen have been praised!

They were from Tuskegee;
They fought in World War II.
Airmen who fought bravely;
they’re now acknowledged, too!

Writer’s Note:
The U.S. Military was segregated until 1946 when then President Harry S. Truman issued an order to integrate the Armed Forces.

Terri is married and lives in Downtown Pittsburgh. She is a graduate of Duquesne University. Her B.S. is in secondary education, Social Studies, and her master’s is in education, with a specialization in counseling. In her spare time, Terri loves attending Pirates baseball games with her husband Jim, singing in her church choir, and going out with friends.

III. I Remember

Chocolate Pudding Spirit, nonfiction
by Valerie Moreno

I was ten when we met. It was my second year at summer camp for blind children, and I was dismayed to find that none of my friends from the previous year were going to be cabin mates.

That year had been filled with trauma: an intolerant school teacher, the death of my grandmother and a third move in two years. Finding I knew no one in Green cabin made me panic.

“Stop crying!” My mom pushed me on to the cabin porch where there were wooden benches and a picnic table. “Nobody else is crying, it’s always you.”

I felt my face flush and my stomach begin to hurt. “Cry baby!” someone teased. Two counselors and some girls stood silently nearby. No one said a word, and I felt my sneakers stick to the floor. I was alone, a feeling I’d come to know well.

Suddenly, a bench creaked and footsteps came toward me purposefully. I felt a small hand brush my arm. “Hi, I’m Linda,” a gentle voice said. “Please, let me show you my doll. Her name is Joanne. You can hold her all day. I don’t want you to be sad; Joanne doesn’t either.”

I took the soft bundle in my arms and hugged it, and then I hugged Linda. “How precious!” a counselor said and began to sob, but Linda and I were laughing.

For two weeks, I shared baby dolls and giggles with Lin, someone I truly liked and admired. She cared about everyone, always ready with a soft word or gentle pat if someone was angry or upset. She played something called an Auto Harp and sang softly as others talked and moved around her. She held her own in the midst of others overlooking her, her radio always tuned to a local rock station. Sometimes, she’d pretend she was a Spanish senorita complete with gestures and accent. Her laughter was sunshine and contagious.

One day in crafts, girls began joking about the silly names their moms had for them.

“My mom calls me Tulip or Buttercup,” one laughed.

“I’m honey bear!” another shared. We all laughed.

“What about you, Linda?” someone asked.

“Well, I’m Lin once in a while, but mine usually calls me Brat. Hey you, Brat! Isn’t that funny?” No one laughed in the stunned silence, but Linda did, laughing harder as she repeated “Brat! Brat! Brat!”

At lunch, I couldn’t eat. “Are you sick?” Linda touched my hand.

The rock in my stomach turned into hot tears. “No, I’m sad.”
“Sad? Why?”

“That you’re called Brat,” I answered.

Linda slid her chocolate pudding toward me. “Have my dessert,” she said. “Don’t worry. Only she calls me that.”

I understood courage and determination that summer from a whimsical, talented little girl who often forgot to comb her hair, searched for mice in our cabin and sang as sweetly as October wind.

When she died, my heart and mind were filled with the memory of a little girl holding out a doll, saying: “Hi, I’m Linda. Please, let me help.”
I know she always will.

To Linda, Rest in Peace. 12/1/13

Bio: Valerie Moreno, age 56, has been writing since she was twelve years old. Always inspired by music and fascinated by people around her, she’s written fiction, memoir, poetry and articles.

Wild Velvet, nonfiction
by Burns Taylor

Some may think it foolhardy; others may see it as high adventure. But confronting a wild animal in the open could be dangerous and even deadly–especially
If you’re a child, and if you’re totally blind.

Uncle Dave’s Red Corral ranch sprawled across a thousand acres in the gentle, rolling hills of Central Texas between Wimberley and Blanco. Our annual excursions there were like visits to a wildlife theme park. There were deer, possums, squirrels, turkeys and bobcats. There were domestic animals, too:
cattle (including bulls), horses, hounds and Poncho, Aunt Lillian’s talking parrot. A lively creek, spanned by a wooden bridge, rambled through the ranch. And there were swimming holes.

When we got to Uncle Dave’s ranch that day, my mom warned me to curb my excitement and be polite. I was to go into the house, say hello to Uncle Dave and Aunt Lillian, and be courteous before I hurried out to the pen to see about Spike. When I could stand their idle chatter no longer though, I interrupted.

“He’s just fine, son,” Uncle Dave drawled in his southern tone that had a faint metallic ring like Governor Jimmy Davis of Louisiana. “But he got too big for the pen.”

“Too big for the pen,” I said, “then where is he?” I was incredulous.

“He lives in the woods now with all the other deer,” Uncle Dave said.

I couldn’t believe what he was saying. Why would he let Spike get out of the pen and go off to the woods? Sensing my disappointment, Uncle Dave said, “Son, Spike still comes back to visit. Maybe I can fix it so you can see him this evening when he comes in to feed.”

Was that possible? Spike was grown now and living free. Would he still let me touch him? Would I be afraid?

After lunch, my sister, Gwen, came into the room where I was napping and said, “Let’s go swimming.” I almost forgot about Spike in my excitement.

We tumbled into the back of Uncle Dave’s dusty old pickup with springs that squeaked like a litter of whining puppies when we hit a bump. The metal of the truck bed was blistering hot from the afternoon August sun. Gwen gave me a running commentary on everything she saw as we moved along. I was blind; she was my eyes. We were a team.

We crossed the creek bridge on the winding dirt road, as we dipped and rolled along past pecan orchards, hay fields and the milking barns. Then the truck lumbered off the road and stopped with a lurch and a final high-pitched squeal of the springs, that hurt my ears.

The swimming pool was a large, round tank about 20 feet across. A nearby windmill pumped water from the tank down to the troughs where the cattle drank. The tank was made of rough finished concrete that chafed our bare skin. It stood about six feet above ground.

Uncle Dave lifted each of us up to the lip of the tank. We dived from the edges into the bottomless water and swam for what seemed like hours: the slap of our hands shattered the surface of the water into spray that tinkled like splintering crystal.

Then Gwen invented a game where she threw a rock into the middle of the pool and we dived to see who could find it first. My ears ached from the pressure as I scrubbed the bottom with my hands. I found the rock and sped to the surface with my hand raised high.

Next, we had a contest to see who could stay under water the longest. Then we raced across the pool doing the back stroke. After that we had to see who could swim the farthest under water.

Then Aunt Lillian said it was time to go back so she could start supper. We piled back into the pickup. The metal bed felt warm on my bare skin as we drove home. It was late August and the sun was beginning to fade in the west somewhere. Wherever that was.

As Gwen and I scrambled over the fenders and tailgate of the pickup at the ranch house, the ladies went in to prepare supper. Mother made Gwen go in with them. I was wrestling with Uncle Dave’s black-and-tan coon hounds when he came out the back door and thumped heavily down the weather cracked
wooden steps.

“Come here, son,” he said. He set what sounded like a heavy bucket on the ground. I walked over to him.

“You stand right here next to this milk bucket. Pretty soon old Spike will come in to feed on this cotton seed cake. Don’t be afraid,” he said,
“I’ll be watching you from inside,” and he left.

I stood there alone in the quietness of evening next to the bucket filled with cottonseed cake. The first, crisp aroma of grease heating in an iron skillet filled the air. Chicken would be frying soon in Aunt Lillian’s kitchen. Doves cooed softly in the distance. A sense of fear and exhilaration gripped me like those moments just before I went out on stage for the Christmas play at the school for the blind in Austin, where we lived.

When I first met Spike, he was only two feet tall. Uncle Dave, my grandfather’s brother, found him alone in the woods; a hunter had killed his mother. He put a bell around the fawn’s neck so I could locate him with my ears in the large pen out behind the ranch house, just to the left of where I stood waiting.

Spike would race around the pen and when he was sure I didn’t intend to harm him, he would stop and let me stroke his bony head and slender, arched neck. Then I would kneel down to hug his warm, plump little body. But that had been two years before. I was twelve, and now Spike was a full-grown white-tailed buck.

I swung my foot in an arc to measure my distance from the bucket as I waited. I wanted to be close to it but not in his way. How big would he be anyway? Up to my chest, my shoulder? Taller! I strained to hear something, anything in the muted silence.

Just then, a twig snapped nearby. Or was it a sycamore ball dropping into the dry leaves piled up beneath the trees? And suddenly, like an apparition,
he was there, munching the cottonseed cake in the bucket.

I tried to visualize his stance. I knew where his head was, but where were his shoulders? Where was his body? Which way should I reach to touch him? I spoke his name softly. Would he remember my voice, my scent?

I stretched my hand out shyly, expecting to touch his shoulder or the back of his neck. What I touched though, amazed me utterly. It felt like a cluster of fuzzy tree limbs. This was not the Spike that had let me chase him around the pen.

I grasped the tip of his velvet antler tightly in my hand, mystified by the danger and the glory of that transcendental moment. Something mystical
in him flowed into me and I felt as wild and free as he was. Then, as quietly and swiftly as he had come, Spike was gone with a puff of wind. And they called me in for supper.

I walked toward the house feeling triumphant and privileged. What other boy had ever stroked a wild deer in the open? But I was dying to know about those fuzzy antlers.

As we dined on Aunt Lillian’s fried chicken and home-grown collard greens, Uncle Dave explained that bucks came into velvet each year and that they
rubbed it off against bushes and trees because it itched them. He said that Spike was grown and ready to have a girlfriend.

But for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why Spike would give up the security of the pen and Uncle Dave’s friendship to go looking for a girlfriend. Uncle Dave said that was a lesson for another day. Soon after we finished eating, our visit was over and we left for home.

When we returned to the ranch the following year, I couldn’t wait to hear about Spike. But Uncle Dave just stood in the yard talking to my parents
and my sister. He went on and on about how dry it had been and how little he had gotten for his cattle at market.

I stood on one foot, then the other.

Sensing my impatience, Uncle Dave touched me once on the top of my head with his flat hand. There was a long pause. Then he said, “Son, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you about Spike.”

But I wasn’t ready to hear the bad news just then. Besides, I could guess what it must be, so I turned and found my way into the house. In the kitchen, Aunt Lillian gave me two pieces of salt water taffy. I chatted with Poncho, her talking parrot, not wanting to think about Spike. Poncho ran through his usual jumble of phrases and fragments, ending up by singing in a high, shrill falsetto.

“Darling I am growing older; silver threads have turned to gold.” When he started squawking, though, I went outside.

Uncle Dave’s two black-and-tan coon hounds loped slowly across the yard in the heat and bumped me with their big, wet noses. They were sleek and
fat and nameless. I hugged and petted them until I grew tired of their licking me with their wide juicy tongues.

I wandered over to the pen where Spike and I had played together–child and fawn. The gate dangled open, the hinge gone loose at the bottom. The ground bristled with stubble and patches of dry weeds that crackled beneath my shoe souls like potato chips. The pen was empty now and I was pretty sure Spike was gone forever.

Something in me had gone away with him too–that boyish part of me that had to do with innocence and trust. I could feel myself hardening against
the pain of loss I felt as I fought back the tears.

“Son?” Uncle Dave’s voice startled me. I hadn’t heard him come down the back steps. “Over here,” he called. I walked over to the gate.

“What happened to Spike?” I asked, ready now for the bad news.

“A deer hunter shot him last season,” he said, placing an arm across my shoulders gently.

Anger and sadness were battling for control of me. I tried to will the anger to victory, but I turned away just in case.

“Somebody mistook him for an ordinary deer, that’s all,” Uncle Dave said to my back.

I knew all about deer season. I had heard men brag about ten and twelve point bucks that dressed out at 100 pounds plus. My sister told me how people drove into Austin with deer slung across the fenders of their cars and pickups. I had even eaten venison chili myself and had enjoyed it.

“Why didn’t he stay here in the pen where he was safe?” I asked Uncle Dave, trying not to choke on my words.

“You can’t keep a wild animal caged up, forever,” he said. “They need to be free to run and play and have a family. But for a deer, bein’ free means takin’ a chance on… well… on gettin’ killed. Cummon, now,” he said, laying a big hand on my shoulder softly. And as I stifled my tears, he led me into the house.

At home that night, I lay awake late, thinking about Spike and me and his girlfriend. I decided it was Uncle Dave’s fault for letting him go back to the woods in the first place.

I wondered if the people who sat down to venison steaks one night last year knew that the buck they were eating had grown up with human beings, had once stood — unfettered, unafraid, in the half light of an August evening — and let a small, frail, blind boy stroke his velvet-covered antlers. But
how could they?

Wild Velvet: Winner of the Creative Nonfiction Essay Prize, sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind–2011

Bio: Burns Taylor is a blind freelance writer, motivational speaker and independent government contractor living in El Paso, Texas with his wife Valora. His poems and essays have won national and international competitions and have been widely published. Samples of his work are available at

From the Little Spruce Tree, nonfiction
by Barbara Mattson

As I rode home from the airport with my parents, my mood was as bleak as the dark of that night. I should have been glowing. After all, I had my first job. But my heart was back in Little Rock where I’d boarded a plane with tears in my eyes just a few hours earlier.

He’d said, “There will come a time when we’ll drift apart.” I hoped he was wrong.

We met at Arkansas Enterprises for the Blind when I went with some other trainees to see some cotton fields. He’d said, “I’m Barry, and I’m the volunteer who drives the van for the training center.”

The next week we went to the zoo. As we stood looking at a monkey in a cage, he said, “Zoos depress me.” That surprised me because I thought zoos were fun places. I soon understood when Barry added, “Keeping the animals shut up like that makes them neurotic.”

Within a week or two of being at the training center, I wanted to go out with Feridoon, but was too shy to ask for a date. After finally enjoying his company with others at a pizza restaurant, my infatuation turned to Dan. I didn’t dislike Feridoon. We just didn’t seem to have much in common.

I liked Dan’s philosophy. We went to a transactional analysis presentation where we discovered that each of us has an adult, parent, and child in us. Our discussion following that morphed into religion. He told me he went to a Christian Scientist church. Wanting to learn just what this church was like, I attended one of the services with him and another trainee.

By then, I had graduated from being a trainee (a student learning adjustment to blindness skills), and was beginning my training to teach other blind people how to read Braille, cook, etc. All was going well until one of the administration called me in. From behind his huge desk, Mr. C. proclaimed, “You must keep a professional distance between you and your students, so you can’t continue to see Dan or socialize with any of the trainees.”

I argued, “I think we are adults and can separate our social and professional relationships.”

It seemed that Mr. C. thought I shouldn’t have made friends with the trainees. If I’d known that, I might have remained distant. Though the staff might have seen me as a social introvert, I’d have been more conforming, and I might have been perceived as a potentially better teacher.

But I wasn’t the only professional who was pursuing a relationship with a trainee. One of Arkansas Enterprises’ own staff had just met a trainee who would be her husband only months later. If anything, Mr. C. caused me to draw closer to Dan. However, as with Feridoon, I drifted away from Dan when I started spending time with Barry.

Usually, he wasn’t busy during break, and was one of the few who could read the handwritten letters that I started receiving. They were sent in white envelopes lined in blue.

One morning I opened one of these mystery letters, unfolded it, and handed it to him. He read, “‘Dear Barbarella’.” I’d never had anyone call me Barbarella, but in all of these letters, that was my name. Barry continued, “‘May the Christmas spirit reach your warm little heart and touch your cold little hands with kind thoughts for all the little spruce trees in the world. May the grace of the Goddess Venus be offered to you always, and may the quickness of catastrophe never fall on your way to further success and fulfillment of all your dreams. The blessings of The Little Spruce Tree are on you always. Affectionately, The Little Spruce Tree’.”

I asked Barry, “I wonder who The Little Spruce Tree is?” Barry seemed as puzzled as I. Most of the people I knew were too blind to write handwritten letters, so that left staff and people who knew I was at the training center. But none of them would have written anything like that.

Eventually, Barry recorded stories he’d written onto tape. Unlike other books I’d listen to, I didn’t have to play Barry’s recordings faster than he’d recorded them because he read as fast as I could listen.

It was about this point in our relationship that if I’d been in high school, I’d have enjoyed wearing Barry’s jacket. The closest I came to that, though, was when I wore one of his shirts in a play Barry directed. In one scene, I had to rip the shirt off so that the buttons went flying across the stage. I still have some of those buttons.

One morning after it had snowed overnight, I woke to someone pounding on the stairs of my mini-apartment. As I dressed, I could tell that my stairs were being cleared. Finally I heard a knock. I opened the door and there stood Barry. I grabbed my coat and hanging onto Barry I half walked and half slid across the frozen street to the training center.

Before that morning, he’d visited me several times in my apartment. Every night I’d think, Now this is the night that when he leaves, he’ll kiss me.

But he would open the door, say, “Good night,” and shut the door.

I felt like I’d been slapped. Here was the first man who I ever wanted to hug and kiss, but he hadn’t even made a move to hold my hand.

One night Barry brought a Dean Martin album and we listened to it on my record player. Suddenly, as if on cue, both of us rose to dance. “You’re nobody ’til somebody loves you,” Dean Martin crooned. “You’re nobody ’til somebody cares.” This song was the first time in my romantic relationships that a song had become ‘our song.’ In true movie fashion, I’d like to think that one of the times we listened to the last note of that song, that I would have looked up toward Barry’s face and Barry would have planted a kiss right on my lips.

Besides listening to Dean Martin, we enjoyed several nights of playing casino and penny poker. One night Barry said, “Let’s play strip poker tomorrow night.” This seemed like a big step since I’d not even had my shoes off with Barry. On the other hand, I decided that if I didn’t have anything to hide, why should it matter? So I said, “OK.” But my earlier upbringing was still shouting at me that it was wrong.

So when we sat down to play at the appointed hour, I was already sweating with the kind of dread that came before I was going to perform a piece on the piano. Yes, I was walking out on a stage to act in a way that my conscience told me was wrong. I equated nudity with sex, and premarital sex was wrong. Yet I saw the advantage of testing sexual compatibility before marrying this dreamboat.

At the end of the game, sweat was still pouring off me. My only consolation as I sat nude, was that Barry had not stripped me. The rules of the game had done that. Now I was waiting for Barry to ask to have sex. Instead, he started to put on his clothes and I followed suit. Then, as usual, Barry left with not even a kiss.

As disappointed as I was, I was relieved that Barry had kept his sexual distance. I learned that sex doesn’t have to go with being nude, and gained a new respect for Barry that I hadn’t had with other men.

Only two weeks before I was due to go home, I got word that I had to move out of my mini-apartment into a house nearby so someone else could move into my place. Though someone else might have been moving in, the likely explanation was that Barry’s visits to my place might have looked bad to potential supporters of the training center. For the staff to ask Barry to stop seeing me wouldn’t have been diplomatic since he was a volunteer.

Because he wasn’t a teacher or a trainee, the administration couldn’t prevent me from seeing him either. So after I moved into the house, Barry took me to his trailer. That was a little risky, too, since he was renting from, and living next door to, one of the teachers at the training center.

Being at Barry’s was better, though, because we could cook meals together and that’s when I had my first experience of being embarrassed with him.

Compared to other infatuations, I never worried about what Barry thought of me. But with Feridoon, I was afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing so any time I was around him and trying to talk to him, I felt my face turning red. I wondered, what is he thinking about me? And, Does he like me?

With my heart racing, I was on a stage where I was trying to play my part perfectly, but I worried that Feridoon was going to get up and walk out before I’d finished the act.

But now, with Barry, he was the one showing interest in me so I didn’t have to wonder what he thought of me. That was until I stepped out on stage to cook. When the creamed corn started to spit, I said, “Looks like it’s already hot.” But it was hardly lukewarm. I felt like I’d failed to demonstrate adequate culinary skills. I explained that I wasn’t used to cooking with natural gas. His cooking skills were apparently no better because he was equally puzzled and we returned the corn to the burner.

On the day I left, Barry took me to the airport. While we were waiting, he said, “Here,” and handed me a white envelope like the ones that had ha,d the yellow letters from The Little Spruce Tree. I took it and opened it fully expecting to have to give it back to him to read, but instead, the envelope was full of plastic wrapped butterflies. I exclaimed, “My favorite animal!”

I still have those along with a lock of his hair and The Little Spruce Tree letters.

And on my living room shelf sits the other thing he gave me that day. It is a wooden triangle with golf tees in it. Pounded into the surface are tiny nails forming large Braille letters. It reads, “From The Little Spruce Tree.”

Bio: Barbara Mattson graduated from the SC School for the Blind in 1967. She attended college at Spartanburg Methodist College and Columbia College, where her poetry was published in the schools’ literary magazines. She also contributed to the books Behind Our Eyes: A Second Look, and Women, Their Names, & The Stories They Tell by Elizabeth P. Waugaman, Ph.D. Most of her writing has been published in periodicals such as Dialogue Magazine for the Blind. Barbara currently edits the Diabetics in Action newsletter.

Returning Home Might Not be Possible, creative nonfiction
by Ernest Jones

Editor’s Note
Ernest stated that the story about visiting his old home and his memories are true. He chose to tell his story from the view point of the old crow.

I flew into the crystal clear air as he, my friend and my guardian, slowly started up the hill. Knowing I’d reach the top long before he did, I drop down to land on an upper branch of a large fir tree. From this lofty viewpoint, I looked over my home. Well that is, it used to be my home, but almost 30 years earlier we had moved, turning our backs on a beautiful home. I loved this place. Oh the winters were bitter cold with deep snow, but he had made me a great warm nest box, and made sure I had plenty of food. I remember long icicles growing from the eves of our house, and how beautiful they were with a string of Christmas lights dancing from off them. Just looking across our front yard, the mercury vapor yard light glowing as the snow fell sometimes in gentle drafts, and other times so hard one could hardly see the county road presented a beautiful picture. I remember the hours he spent each winter clearing the driveway, deck and trails, of hearing him give a gasp as he ducked to walk under the fir tree, but failing to duck low enough. His head would brush the snow laden limb bent low, dumping snow that would gleefully melt to send streams of cold water running down his back. For some reason, it appeared he never really learned to duck enough, especially the mornings after the early snow fell. Of course I laughed at this but didn’t dare let him know.

The springs were beautiful with awakening life, as the frozen stream woke to once again bounce and tumble its way down the narrow canyon. Beautiful Mock Orange grew along the stream’s bank right off our front yard, and the lilacs he had planted, oh they were just so lovely.

The summers were about perfect with balmy days and warm nights, a great place for birds and small animals to bring new life into the world. Down in the valley it might be scorching in the strong summer sunshine, but up here in our valley it would be just comfortable. The autumns were gorgeous with the many shades of gold, yellow and red of the maple and aspen trees in the low valleys, while the hillsides were ablaze with the dark green of the firs and pines interspersed with the crimson reddish gold of the Tamarack tree. This tamarack tree was disguised as an evergreen tree all summer. In the autumn, after donning its majestic beauty it would soon be stripped to stand naked during the long cold winter, looking just like a dead fir tree.

Enduring the few months of winter were easy when one knew what came afterwards. My friend had spent countless hours restoring the old house and making a beautiful yard where his family and friends loved to gather and visit. Oh yes, he had put in countless hours on that old shack, for even I, just an old but wise crow thought of it as a shack. It had cracks so wide one could look through the outside walls, broken windows and filth, along with dirt and cobwebs. But he had kept his promise. In a few months, not only did he have a sound and friendly house but there was also a lovely yard to relax in.

He had added on a new front room plus an upstairs that could hold three rooms. He had then made the old front room into a beautiful kitchen and dining room, both with windows looking out over the front yard, stream and pasture land. What had been the old kitchen was made into a lovely bedroom. Though not a mansion, it was still a very comfortable and respectable house, a place I loved to call my home.

I longed to return, but looking closer I noted the change and I had to turn away from my dreams. Though the hillside and narrow valley looked almost the same, the house and yard were a mess with Canadian thistles in bloom covering all of what had been our garden, chicken pen and goat pasture with trash and other debris littering the once lovely front yard. Actually there was no front yard left but just dirt and rock. I didn’t care to look inside the house for the outside said it all. Of course my beautiful nest box was gone. “Those people have ruined my home,” I cawed softly. They had even built another addition on the house, completely blocking what had been a beautiful view from out of the kitchen window. “Oh why did we have to move?”

Giving a jump, I again took to the air and shortly was on my favorite pine tree as I waited for him to reach the top. The hillside was quite steep and covered with large evergreen trees along with bushes that wound around each other so to almost make an impenetrable passage. Fallen dead trees were strewn across the face of the hill, while huge rocks, some the size of large vans blocked passage. There was no trail to follow. I knew he would have to claw his way up and over some logs and crawl under other fallen trees. He never faltered but pressed on and upward. He was not in a hurry, so this climb was a joy, a refreshing trek, a time to remember.

“Caw, caw,” I looked around to find two crows zooming right to me. I knew them for this old crow doesn’t forget his friends. What a noisy cawing good time we had, while waiting for him to surface out of the trees.
I was growing a little concerned, for I had forgotten how long it usually took to make this climb, and I thought he should be with me already.

“Relax,” said one of my friends, “He knows the way and will be here soon. Has he ever got lost up here?”

I tried to relax, for I knew my friend was right and only minutes later, he shoved his way out of the underbrush and climbed up on top of my granite slab.

From up here, everything looked the same as it had forty years before, when we had first discovered this place. Even my pine tree really didn’t look much different, as it strained just to live. This poor pine tree had started in a tiny crack in this giant granite slab. It was a struggle just to thrive, as year by year, it slowly made the crack in the granite wider. But still, that little pine was no larger than a pine tree growing in better conditions would be in maybe eight years. It was alive though, and still growing. Though it only grew about three inches out and up a year, yet it was still growing.

He sat on the granite slab beside my tree and looked over the valley. Though the trees growing on the hillside’s slope had filled out more, still we could see the valley below and the small town nestled within it.

“There is the hospital,” he said as he pointed. But of course I had already seen it; I had also seen the new hospital that had sprung up right beside the old one.

“Old Crow,” said one of my friends, “don’t soar over the old place for the people who now live there don’t like us at all. There are only four of us crows left up here now. The others have been shot. So when you head back, stay in with the trees and near the bottom let him carry you. It was great seeing you again after all these years but we had best get home too. Don’t forget what I said,” and my friends left me. Then, as if to know what my friends had said was true, a gunshot blast shattered the afternoon’s calm. But my friends and I were safe.

As my friend started back down the hill, I remembered the warning and dropped to land on his shoulder, just before he climbed through the old rusting fence and crossed the ditch. We both took one last lingering look at our old home before getting in our car and heading back down the road. I knew this place would never be my home again.

As we headed back to our present home, I felt safe as I nestled in the cozy traveling nest box he had made just for me. We were going home.

Bio: Ernest Jones SR worked as a Registered Nurse until failing eyesight forced him to take early retirement. He has one book published, “Onesimus The Run Away Slave.” His monthly newspaper column, now in its 11th year of publication called “Different Views,” offers
Encouragement to other blind while helping the sighted folk realize blindness does not make one of less value. He has had several articles published in magazines including the large print Light and Lifeglow published by Christian Records in Lincoln, Nebraska. His hobbies include gardening, walking with his guide dog and writing. Contact him at

That Ring You’re Wearing, nonfiction
by Lillian Way

The spring of 1963 holds many good and bad memories for me. This particular situation takes place during a school week, at the Overbrook School for the Blind. Perhaps I should give you an inkling of the event about which I’m writing.

Every spring, our principal authorized a campaign, rather aggressively, I might add, against couples. This is an account of one such attack against yours truly.

“Please rise, turn your hymnals to number seventy-seven and sing it like you mean it,” Announced the tall, thin, white-haired man from the podium, as he gazed into the crowded auditorium.

The totally blind organist began playing the hymn’s introductory bars softly as the audience reached in front of them for their Braille song books and started flipping pages toward the back of the book to the entitled lyrics.

Students and teachers alike raised their voices and sang the short scripturally based chorus with every ounce of strength and conviction they could muster.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God: And renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence: And take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation: And uphold me with thy free Spirit.”

“Thank you, that was mighty fine singing. Please remain seated while I read today’s announcements,” said the principal. Everyone put away their hymnals in the wooden storage slots on the backs of the seats directly in front of each row. He read a list of extracurricular events scheduled for that afternoon following classes.

“The Girl Scout troop will meet in the basement below elementary Hall, and the Brownies will meet in the auditorium. Now, turning our minds to a different subject, you know it’s a lovely spring day; that’s why we have the side doors open. We can all smell the delightful scents of the flowers in the gardens across the cloisters from the auditorium. We also know this is the time for a young man’s fancies to turn his mind from studies to students,” he remarked, removing his glasses and wiping the lens on a handkerchief withdrawn from his suit jacket pocket.

The children laughed and nudged each other good naturedly with elbows and shoulders. They’d heard this speech before, and waited patiently for the expected pertinent announcement. They weren’t surprised or disappointed.

“My secretary will be interviewing those of you young girls with rings from any of our boys. Please make a difficult job easier for her, so she can return to doing her work assisting me at keeping this school running smoothly. You’re all dismissed. Thank you for your willing co-operation.”

Boys and girls began filing out the rear double doors of the auditorium onto the marble landing. Some headed up the long marble staircases on either side of the landing. Others ran down the wider, shorter flight of marble steps into the rotunda, off which either end ran long corridors. These lead to elementary and high school classrooms and offices. Above those were secondary halls leading to other high school classrooms and libraries.

I was one of the many young girls stopped by the principal’s secretary, while approaching my locker in the upper hall over the lower left-hand classroom corridor.

“Have you got a friendship ring?” asked the small, skinny child-sized woman with the long, dark ponytail.

“That would be none of your business. If I do, I’m not giving it to you to add to your collection. You’ve got no right taking them from any of us girls. If you really feel the need to have mine, ask Donald Murray for one of your own. Perhaps he’ll be willing to buy you one too,” I replied slamming the door of my locker open with a loud bang.

“Actually, I have every right to do my job. Weren’t you listening to what Mister Kaufman said?”

“I heard him. I just don’t happen to agree. I have no intention of giving mine up. If Kaufman wants it that badly, he’ll have to get it from me himself,” I retorted.

I was one angry teen, as I slid my hands along the spines of several Braille volumes, before pulling out the desired ones and shutting the locker door with another resounding clang.

“We’ll see about whether or not you part with the ring. You just might find yourself called down to his office to explain your rude behavior. Remember, you were admonished to co-operate with me willingly and obediently,” reminded the secretary.

“Give Kaufman a message for me, Mrs. Cautilli. Nobody takes anything from me without a fight. If he thinks I’m going to change my mind, he’s going to learn how stubborn and determined I can be.”

“You owe him respect.”

I stuck my tongue out as far as it would go, faced my tormenter, wagged it up and down, then quickly turned on my heel and rushed away down the hall. My history and geography books were tucked snugly under each arm. I entered the classroom at the far right side of the corridor, across from the last girls’ locker, where the conference room begins.

“You’re late, Lillian,” the teacher chided gently.

“I know, I’m sorry. It was unintentional. I got detained by the ring collector,” I answered, pulling out a chair and flopping into it.

“Turn to chapter two, Nebuchadnezzar’s statue. Would you read, first, Lillian?” the elderly woman asked, opening her own book of Ancient World History.

The telephone on the white-haired lady’s desk rang at that moment.

“Read to yourselves while I take this call,” the pale-skinned teacher told them.

The students tried concentrating on their history lesson, while wondering who the teacher was discussing with the person on the other line. A series of: “yes, mm-hmm, indeed, perhaps, maybe so and will see to it directly after the last class,” were overheard. Without mentioning that strange conversation, the dedicated woman went about the business of impressing on the minds of her class the importance and relevance of the monarch’s dream vision and its place in history. When the bell jangled ending that session, the teacher walked toward the door of her classroom.

“Lillian, you’ve been requested to see the principal at quarter of four this afternoon. Please make that a priority. Do you know what it’s about?”

“Probably. I’ll go to the office before I head over to gym class,” I promised.

This woman rated her own private phone because she’s the school board superintendent.

At the appointed hour, I went to the principal’s office, knocked at the closed double doors, then seated myself on the caned style bench in the waiting cubical outside his and the secretarial office. Shortly afterward, Mrs. Cautilli opened one of those doors and escorted me inside her boss’s office. She directed me to a comfortable armchair beside the principal’s huge desk.

“Thank you for coming. I understand you and Mrs. Cautilli had a misunderstanding this morning,” he said, seemingly to make light of the situation.

“There was no misunderstanding. I simply refused to give up what’s mine,” I answered, fidgeting with the buttons on my cardigan sweater.

“What makes you think you are so special that rules don’t apply to you?” he demanded, staring into my face with curiosity.

“I never said that. I just think it’s wrong to deprive kids of normal going steady especially when you preach to us about being like our sighted counterparts. Teenagers on the outside get to have more privileges than we do. They get to go on dates, have walks home with their latest flings. All we get is a walk to and from class, an occasional dance, and maybe a hug or kiss good-night if we’re lucky enough not to get caught at it and be punished for doing harmless, normal kid stuff,” I admitted, offering him a challenging glare.

“I see. Are you going to hand over the ring? You know we don’t permit girls to accept rings from boys,”

“No, I’m not. The ring’s on a chain around my neck and underneath my blouse and brazier. If you want it, you’ll have to try to take it away from me. I warn you, if you do, I’ll scream to Mrs. Ethel Arthur that you attacked me and put your filthy hands inside my underwear. That’s molestation. I could bring you up before the board and have you fired for attempting to touch me. So, if you value YOUR job, and want to stay until you retire in a few years, you’ll leave me alone and quit pestering me to relinquish my ring. By the way, I told the boyfriend to buy Mrs. Cautilli one like it. He laughed and said he thought that was funny, and offered to buy me another one if you did manage to get it from me. So, you can’t stop us from having rings and going steady,”

The old man’s pink skin first became red as a beet, then deep, dark purple with rage.

“How dare you speak to me like that,” he exclaimed

“How dare you tell us to behave like normal, sighted kids our age, and then try to spoil what little fun we have living here in this boarding school.”

“I can end your stay in this school by expelling you,” he said in a soft, menacing voice.

“You wouldn’t dare try doing that, because you know I’ll report you to my parents, the board, housemother, matron and even the assistant principal. You know I keep my word, and I’ll make good on my threat if you make any move toward me, or do anything to discredit me, or cheat me of my education. I’ll punish you and have you fired in retaliation, count on it,” I said, the color rising in my own cheeks, as my temper flared to match the crimson hue on both our faces.

“Get out! Get out of my office right this instant!”

“An adult administrating school affairs should always have his emotions under control,” I antagonized, getting to my feet and hurrying toward the door.

“You haven’t heard the last word from me,” he called after me, as I rushed from the room.

“Neither have you! Remember what I told you about keeping my promises!” I hollered back at him over my shoulder, as I raced diagonally across the rotunda and down the marble steps.

Bio: Lillian Way writes memoirs, poetry, short stories and is currently working on a novel series. Her other interests include listening to music, reading books of all genres and watching her favorite television programs. Some are these include auto racing, sitcoms, dramas and reality shows.

Teeter-totters, Bub’s Daddies, and Flip Top Desks, nonfiction
by Mary-Jo Lord

“Teddy bear, Teddy bear! Let me down!”

“What would you give me If I let you down?”

It’s a warm spring day and Donna and I are playing our favorite game on the Teeter-totter. Our old favorite was bumper, a game where the person or people sitting on the ground would give the person or people sitting in the air a bumpy crash to the ground. Last year, Kathy and three other people were playing bumper, and when Kathy’s side went up, she fell forward and broke her nose on the middle bar. Now nobody plays bumper, and Kathy doesn’t go on the Teeter-totters. Donna and I usually do because we like the Teeter-totters, and we aren’t fast enough to get a spot on the monkey bars or the merry-go-round.

Sometimes, we like to balance for as long as we can. But mostly, we play the Teddy Bear game. One person, Teddy Bear, is on the ground and the other person is in the air. The person in the air asks Teddy Bear to let her down. She has to offer things to Teddy Bear in order to be let down. Teddy Bear can say “yes,” and let the person down, or “no,” and the person has to keep offering something else. I am teddy Bear, and Donna has just offered me a friend to spend the night every weekend until school gets out. I’m tempted, but I say “no.”

“A whole year’s worth of Bub’s Daddies.”

I push off and let her down. Bub’s Daddies are my favorite bubble gum. Actually, they are my favorite of everything that the corner drug store sells. I have a lot of close seconds like: Razzles, Butterfingers, Kit Kats, M&M’s, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Clark Bars, Bazooka Bubble Gum, Sweet Tarts, Wax Lips, Zots, Candy Cigarettes and Peanut Butter Oompas. Bub’s Daddies come in six flavors and their flavor lasts longer than that of Razzles or Bazooka. They are like long, skinny, Bubble Gum Cigars. They fit in the pencil groove of our flip top desks where the teacher doesn’t find them. I can make a Bubs Daddy last for almost a week, or I can get the whole thing in my mouth at once. I don’t tell Donna, but I would have said “yes,” to a week’s worth of Bub’s Daddies.

Recess ends, and we go to science where we are going to watch a film about the future. The music at the beginning of the film and the purr of the projector almost cover up the crinkle of cellophane. Kathy hands me a piece of Bub’s Daddy, Watermelon, one of my favorites. Her desk shuts with a soft thud. The music ends, and a man starts talking. We chew carefully as he talks about the possibility of talking computers, telephones that let you see the person that you are talking to, cars that drive themselves and life on Mars.

Today, I live in that future depicted by that early 1970s film. Although the technological realities are very different from those mentioned in that film, some of those predicted possibilities have come to be. With screen readers and other text-to-speech software, our computers can talk to us. Skype and Facetime allow us to see who we are talking with on our cell phones. Google has the driverless car and scientists are still investigating the possibility of Mars’s ability to support life.

Because of safety regulations, teeter-totters, monkey bars and merry-go-rounds aren’t found on modern playgrounds. They’ve been replaced by plastic play structures. I imagine that flip top desks would be seen as unsafe today as well. Fingers did sometimes get slammed in them. Most schools use tables and chairs which are more practical.

Thankfully, most of my favorite candy from the past can still be bought from any store or most vending machines. Some of the others like Zots, Razzles, Wax Lips and Clark Bars can still be found in novelty stores and on line. Sadly, Oompas and Bub’s Daddy Bubble Gum are no longer available. The company that made Bub’s Daddy, Donruss is said to have used the same formula for another product, Super Bubble. It may still be available.

The kid in me is tempted to look it up and buy some. If I do, maybe I should use my talking computer to look up Kathy or Donna. Maybe we could go to a town with an old playground where nobody knows us. With a grocery bag full of our old favorites and the Bub’s Daddy taste alike, we could get drunk on sugar, the taste of almost forgotten memories and whatever is in those wax bottles of pop. With our mouths full of that unmistakably delicious bubble gum, we could get on the teeter-totter. With gum snapping, and colorful bubbles shooting out of our mouths. Maybe, for a few seconds, we could balance.

Watching My Dream Keeper On Late Night TV, nonfiction
by Valerie moreno

This is love, I thought as I jammed my right ear against the rough speaker of our giant TV. It was 1:00 Saturday morning, and my heart was racing like an out-of-control car.

“Oh my God, he’s gorgeous!” I whispered as I looked at the screen. Sometimes, partial vision was a blessing when it meant my nose was pressed against the glass and cameras zoomed in for lingering close-ups. The shaggy-haired man dressed in teal denim silk was strumming his guitar. His soft voice was barely audible as I listened, enchanted.

“Oooh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world, it’s hard to get by just upon a smile…”

He was so right and I wondered how this twenty-four-year-old troubadour could sing every dream and fear I held in my heart. Yes, he was delicious with intense dark eyes that raised my blood pressure, but his heart shown in his sweet, searching gaze that drew me in. My eyes were brimming.

No wonder Fransie called five times Friday night, shouting: “Cat! Cat Stevens! He’s on TV tonight in concert! Watch it!”

By the time he sang “Sad Lisa”, tears were streaming down my cheeks as I strained to hear him. The volume was almost off, because I had to sneak downstairs to watch him. My strict Italian parents hated rock music and never would approve of a curly-haired, bearded hippie on their aging Zenith.

“Sad Lisa” was a real person Cat had met in a convalescent hospital while recovering from TB. “She walks alone from wall to wall, lost in a hall, she can’t hear me, though I know she likes to be near me. Lisa, Lisa, sad Lisa, Lisa.”

“What a beautiful, sensitive guy,” I sighed, wiping my eyes.

“Who’s downstairs?” I nearly leaped in to the galaxy as my father’s sleepy voice shattered my dreamy reverence. “Valerie Jean, what are you doing down there?”

“I’m watching something,” I said through gritted teeth. How could he hear when I barely did? Damn that parent radar!

Cat was belting out “Miles From Nowhere,” another of my favorites from his “Tea for the Tillerman” album, jamming on piano. “I love everything, so don’t it make you feel sad…”

“Go to bed!”

“In a minute,” I screeched. Oh, please, please, don’t come downstairs!

“Now!” The word boomed down the stairs.

“It’s for school!”


I felt twelve instead of seventeen. One last look at Cat and I pushed the off button. “This isn’t goodnight,” I whispered as the picture faded in to a small white dot and disappeared.

I will see you in my dreams.

IV. The Writers’ Climb

Pronouncements About Pronouns, article
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

“Ouch! Ouch!” are my sentiments when I hear on a television or radio program an object pronoun used when a subject pronoun is needed. I have the same painful reaction when I hear a subject pronoun used when an object pronoun is correct. Yes, I have an allergic reaction to the poor use of pronouns. KA-CHOOse your pronouns wisely. With a little play-on-words, five PRONOUNcements will follow.

As you remember from your grade-school days, a pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun. We, as writers, realize that using pronouns is one simple way of adding variety to our writing. Clarity is of utmost importance to all writing. To be certain that each pronoun is clear, the antecedent of the pronoun must be perfectly clear. The “antecedent” is the noun to which the pronoun refers. To achieve perfect clarity, the antecedent must be the closest prior noun which agrees in both gender and number with the pronoun. Additionally, the pronoun must be the proper type. Your choices of pronouns are subject, object, possessive, and reflexive.

PRONOUNcement Number One: Watch ‘It’!

In my article “Checklist for a Better Writing Assignment” (posted on my blog on January26, 2013), the first and second points focus on the use of pronouns. Number one on my list and other such lists for writing courses is to be careful with the use of the pronoun “it.” While “it” can be a subject pronoun or an object pronoun, the problems usually stem from “it” used as a subject pronoun. When I was teaching essay writing at the college level for many years, I told my students that I was planning to have made a t-shirt with “IT” printed on the shirt in bold letters. Although to many people I would look as if I were working for the Department of Information Technology, I would actually be wearing the shirt to remind my students to consider carefully the use of each “it” in an essay or other piece of writing. I always advise the avoidance of beginning an essay, short story, novel, letter, or e-mail with the pronoun “it.” Using “It” as your first word can temporarily confuse, permanently confuse, or delay clarity for your reader. Certainly, “It” as your first word most often will not lead into a first sentence that will be attention-grabbing nor creative.

Example 1. It was the first day of summer. Zoe and I walked to the lakefront.
Revision 1. On the first day of summer after the Polar Vortex, Zoe and I finally walked to the lakefront.

PRONOUNcement Number Two: This and That

Secondly, check each use of “this” or “that” as a subject pronoun. Using these words as adjectives is not problematic, as the next two examples demonstrate.

Example 2. This book is available through the National Library Service.
Example 3. That guide dog is a golden retriever.

While the above sample sentences are correct, consider revising the following sentence when “This” or “That” may refer to the entire previous sentence, passage, or paragraph-rather than a noun.

Example 4. This will help us to achieve our goals.
Revision 4. Completing successfully these three steps will help us to achieve our goals.

PRONOUNcement Number Three: Subject to Subject and Object to Object

Third, may the “Logical Force” be with you: use a subject pronoun in the subject position, and use an object pronoun in the object position. In recent years, too many people are skipping this very easy rule. In a recent tournament on my favorite television program Jeopardy, one of the brilliant, young contestants told Alex Trebek and the massive audience: “Me and my brother went to Iceland.” (To protect the identity of this superb contestant, the latter part of the sentence has been changed.) Well, my immediate thought was: “Alex, press that button to open the funny trap door in the floor and zap the contestant right off the stage!” Of course, the subject pronoun should have been used; and the order of subjects should be arranged so that the first-person pronoun is listed last. (Putting the first-person pronoun last in a list is polite and appropriate-but not technically a rule.)

Revision 5. My brother and I went to Iceland.

To determine the subject of a sentence, place “Who” or “What” in front of the verb and the remainder of the sentence (the predicate). Your answer will be the subject. Who went to Iceland? My brother and I. Thus, in the compound subject, the subject pronoun “I” is correct.

SUBJECT PRONOUNS: I, you (singular), she, he, it, we, you (plural), they

OBJECT PRONOUNS: me, you (singular), her, him, it, us, you (plural), them

When you need a pronoun as a direct object, an indirect object, or an object of a preposition-use an object pronoun.

Example 6. The committee nominated Fred, Evelyn, and me.

To determine the direct object of a verb, place the word “whom” or “what” after the verb. The committee nominated whom? Fred, Evelyn, and me. Again, I used an example with a listing: in this case, the verb has three direct objects. The mistake of using the incorrect pronoun is more often made when the pronoun is part of a compound subject or compound object.

Example 7. The park ranger will give a map to us.
prepositional phrase: to us

In a prepositional phrase, place an object pronoun after a preposition. In third grade, Mrs. Lenderman encouraged my classmates and me to memorize the list of prepositions. I did as this wonderful teacher directed, and memorizing that list of prepositions has served me well ever since. If you do not memorize the following list of prepositions, become very familiar with this list and keep it at your writing area.

PREPOSITIONS: Aboard, about, above, according to, across, after, against, along, along with, among, apart from, around, as, as for, at, because of, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, besides, between, beyond, by, by means of, concerning, despite, down, during, except, except for, for, from, in, in addition to, in back of, in case of,
in favor of, in front of, in place of, inside, in spite of, instead of, into, like, near, of, off,
on, onto, on account of, on top of, out, out of, outside, over, past, regarding, since,
through, throughout, till, to, toward, under, underneath, unlike, until, unto, up, upon,
up to, with, within, without

PRONOUNcement Number Four: Place a Possessive Pronoun before a Gerund

Fourth, if you think you use possessive pronouns well, you probably do. My only advice for this group of pronouns is concerning their use with a gerund or gerund phrase. A gerund is one of three verbals in the English language. (Participles and infinitives are also verbals.) A gerund is a verb that is acting like a noun in a sentence. Although not all words that end with “ing” are gerunds, all gerunds do end with “ing.” Verbals add variety to our writing. If you need a pronoun before a gerund, be sure to use a possessive pronoun as in the next examples.

Example 7. Their completing the construction by August 31 is a stipulation of the contract.

complete subject and gerund phrase: Their completing the construction by August 31
gerund: completing
possessive pronoun: Their

Example 8. Her speaking with more expression will help maintain the attention of the audience.

complete subject and gerund phrase: Her speaking with more expression
gerund: speaking
possessive pronoun: Her

Example 9: The student’s writing skills will improve by his memorizing the list of prepositions.

PRONOUNcement Number Five: Relax with Your Use of Reflexive Pronouns

Fifth, in the past decade, more people are using reflexive pronouns incorrectly. A reflexive pronoun must be used in conjunction with the corresponding subject pronoun. The reflexive pronoun cannot replace a subject pronoun nor an object pronoun.

The reflexive pronoun “myself” must be used with the subject pronoun “I.”
The reflexive pronoun “yourself” must be used with the subject pronoun “you” (singular).
The reflexive pronoun “herself” must be used with the subject pronoun “she” or an appropriate noun.
The reflexive pronoun “himself” must be used with the subject pronoun “he” or an appropriate noun.
NOTE: “Hisself” is NOT a word.
The reflexive pronoun “itself” must be used with the subject pronoun “it” or an appropriate noun.
The reflexive pronoun “oneself” must be used with the subject pronoun “one.”

The reflexive pronoun “ourselves” must be used with the subject pronoun “we” or with an appropriate noun(s) and “I.”
The reflexive pronoun “yourselves” must be used with the subject pronoun “you” (plural).
The reflexive pronoun “themselves” must be used with the subject pronoun “they” or an appropriate noun(s).
NOTE: “Theirselves” is NOT a word.

Example 10: The child emphasized, “I want to read this book by myself.”
Example 11. He built the log cabin by himself.
Example 12. Mrs. McKendry herself planted the entire garden.

If you have read and studied this entire article, you are a connoisseur of pronouns! Congratulations! Go forth, and write well.

Bio: Alice Jane-Marie Massa has earned two master’s degrees and taught for 25 years. She recently retired from teaching writing and public speaking at a technical college. Alice invites you to visit her blog:, where she posts her poetry, essays, short stories, family recipes, or memoirs each Wednesday. Her writings on Wordwalk frequently focus on her guide dogs, her rural hometown, as well as grammar and punctuation. Away from her desk, Alice most enjoys long walks with her third Leader Dog (Zoe), container gardening, and the television program Jeopardy.

Literary Loom,
(Dedicated to my fellow writers of the Behind Our Eyes writers’ group)
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

On my literary loom,
I weave together the tiny pieces of truth
with the magic of imagination
to form the feathers of fiction,
the peonies of poetry,
a chandelier of short stories,
and the blessings of a book.

With my literary loom,
I meet other writers
and weave,
side by side,
with these generators of genres,
with these companions of critiques,
these fellow revelers of revision-
with those who
support and encourage
the ring of weavers.

At the literary loom,
I remember the room
filled with three huge looms,
in an adobe building
we found
while driving through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains,
somewhere near Taos de Kachina and Santa Fe.
In that room,
I imagine that we all are there-
weaving, writing, together
so that we,
working on our craft,
are not alone.

Contest Alert

We will be holding contests in the areas of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for the Fall/Winter issue of Magnets and Ladders. All submissions will be entered into the contest. Cash prizes of $30 and $20 will be awarded to the first and second place winners. Remember, the deadline for submissions is August 15, so be sure to get your entries in on time.

NFB Writers’ Division Critique Service

The NFB Writers’ Division has established a critique service. For $10, you will receive a written evaluation for any of the following:

  • Short story, max 3000 words
  • First chapter, or first 20 pages, of a novel
  • up to 3 poems, 39 lines or less per poem
  • Children’s story, max 3000 words
  • First chapter of a Memoir, or first 20 pages
  • Nonfiction article, 20 pages max

Submit as an email attachment using MS Word. Double space and email to:

Robert Leslie Newman, president, NFB Writers’ Division

Material may be submitted at any time. Critiques will be Emailed back within 30 days from receipt of reviewer.

Make checks out to NFB Writers’ Division, and send to:
Robert Leslie Newman
504 S 57th St.
Omaha, NE 68106

Sight and Insight, poetry
by Leonard Tuchyner

When young my eyes could see
every cross that crossed a t,
every dot that topped an i.
Sometimes though, I lost my way,
misled by Devil’s details.

My eyes have gone to haze.
Tiny things have faded.
So now I see with ears,
no time to stare at atoms.
Forced to flow on hasty tides,
glimpsing landmarks bustling by.

Compelled to touch just ebb and flow,
I now find to be most divine
the essences of story lines.
Today, details are distractions.

As words rush along the shore,
some stand out in bold relief.
They shout color, shape and size,
palisades and forest glades,
burly bears or dashing deer.
Such visions enfold the soul
of a writer’s heart and goal.

Bio: Leonard has had Stargardt’s disease, which was first noticed in his teenaged years. He is now seventy-three. He reads through the media of Braille, recordings, and electronic voices produced by Open Book and Zoom Text. He lives with his wife of thirty-three years and their two dogs. He is active in the local writing community, which includes attending a poetry critique group, a broad-genre critique group, and he facilitates a Writing
for Healing and Growth group at the Charlottesville Senior Center. His hobbies include Tai Chi and gardening. Leonard is semi-retired and still has a small counseling practice.

A New Opportunity

Have You Published a Novel? If you would like to have an excerpt of your novel published in an issue of Magnets and Ladders, please submit a chapter or section of your book to The word count for novel excerpt submissions should not exceed twenty-five hundred words. Please include information about where your book is available in an accessible format. We will publish up to one novel excerpt per issue. Below is our first featured novel sample from Donna W. Hill.

Excerpt from The Heart of Applebutter Hill, a novel
by Donna W. Hill

Carriage House Dreams

When things started coming to a head, a fourteen-year-old girl was living by herself in the stone carriage house behind Mrs. Plumkettle’s on Old Applebutter Hill Road. Thursday morning, after tending to her dog, Abigail Goongleheimer-Jones sat in her recliner and put her feet up. Her exams were over. She had all morning to relax.

She adjusted her headphones and selected an audio magazine from her digital book list. But, nothing knocked Abigail out like listening to someone else read. She snored through a long article on cosmic dust and another on robots. By the time an article on dinosaurs was half over, she was having a strange dream – the same dream she’d been having every week since moving into the carriage house.

As her fingers curled around a blue, heart-shaped stone, ethereal music filled the air. The stone, which she somehow knew was a sapphire, was the size of a paperweight. It was warm, and she liked the way it nested in her palm.

“Help us, Abigail,” said a bodiless voice, “the Heartstone of Arden-Goth must not fall into their hands.”

It was the same thing the voice always said. The problem was that, when Abigail awakened from these dreams, all she could remember was that she was supposed to help someone. But, how could she, of all people, help? She was a refugee from the Isle of Adiaphora. If Mrs. Plumkettle and the Mission hadn’t rescued her, she’d still be a vagabond. She probably wouldn’t even have Curly Connor.

She was also living on the fringes of two worlds. She wasn’t totally blind, and there was no way of knowing if or when she ever would be. Nevertheless, she couldn’t see normally. Her sight had become a wild animal – beautiful and dangerous. It was an unpredictable, ever-changing display of shadows and blurry glimpses, tunnels and glaring light. The only things she could say for sure were that she couldn’t see at night, and that her peripheral vision was … well, gone.

Abigail stirred in her recliner and stopped her magazine. She knew she’d had the dream again. Her eyes unfocused, she tried to remember. The details, however, were just out of reach. They seemed to be retreating into the carriage house itself.

The late morning sun was streaming in through the dormer windows. She examined its design on the carpet. It had been split into diagonal shafts by the balustrade framing the balcony, which extended from the loft above her to the front of the carriage house. She sighed in frustration.

“How am I supposed to help you,” she grumbled into the brightness, “if you won’t ever let me remember anything?”

Curly Connor was in his favorite spot near the piano. He had been resting his chin on his crossed paws, staring at Abigail, waiting for her to realize what a great idea it would be to go for a walk. At her words, he cocked his head, and his twinkling brown-eyed smile faltered.

Half Labrador and half Golden Retriever, Curly Connor had a gleaming black coat that arched over his body in thick waves. The fur on either side of his neck stood up in banana-curl ridges, big enough to hide a grown man’s hand. He also had a job. As a guide dog, it was his responsibility to escort Abigail wherever she wanted to go.

The Fluffer-Noodle, as she often called him, was over two years old and had long since developed specific ideas about how things should be. When something was not to his liking, Abigail and her best friend Baggy Brichaz would say that it had “offended his delicate sensibilities,” and the prospect of spending a splendid May afternoon indoors was threatening to do just that.

He was longing for Abigail to get up, shake his harness at him and allow him to take her for a walk to the park, or the cheese shop, or even the bank, for he knew how to find all of these places and many others. To him, every outing was a joyful adventure, and if it looked as though he were waiting patiently, well, looks can be deceiving.

As the clock on the mantel chimed eleven, Abigail twitched. Mrs. Plumkettle would be arriving at noon. Yawning, she rewound her magazine. She twisted her long blonde hair around her hand and tossed it over the back of the chair. She could probably finish several articles before lunch.

Curly Connor sighed. He would rather have Abigail do just about anything than read. He would not have been nearly as bored, for instance, if she had decided to play the guitar. He might have forgotten about going for a walk entirely, if she had gone to the kitchen for something to eat. But no, she was reading.

He lifted his head, shifting his gaze toward the window in response to the loud insolent caw of a crow. As two more crows and a cardinal joined the ruckus, he experienced the hope that the noise would distract her from her magazine. When it didn’t, he yawned and returned his head to his paws with a low rumbling groan.

If Abigail had been listening to the birds, she might have learned something about the mysteries unfolding around her. Throughout the town of Applebutter Hill, from the train station north on Darlington Avenue to Missing Creek south of the old school, every bird knew. But, she was absorbed in her magazine, and that was probably just as well.

The Fluffer-Noodle stretched his hind legs and rolled onto his side. His eyelids drooped and his lips fell away from his teeth, which looked uncharacteristically menacing – fully exposed as they were, in his almost entirely upside-down snout. His thoughts slid away from the sunny day and sank through the soft blue carpet.

From a deep distant place he began to hear a familiar voice, Abigail’s voice. He trotted toward the sound and was soon listening to her singing, and she was singing to him.

“Curly Connor, come with me,
We’ll go a walkin’, wait and see,
One more chance for us to be
Merry, merry every day.”

This was his song. She had written it over the holidays while they were walking in town.

“You be the guide dog and I’ll be the girl,
We’ll go a walkin’ all over this world,
I’ll stop and pet your pretty black curls,
Merry, merry every day.”

Soon, they were striding through the park and over a wooden footbridge. As they approached a restaurant, they were joined by Baggy Brichaz, whom Curly Connor believed to be the finest person on Earth.

Anyone who has ever seen a dog awaken from a deep sleep to a sudden, unexpected sound knows how comical it can be. The Fluffer-Noodle was under a table in a restaurant with his head on Baggy’s foot. While he was focusing his mental powers on causing a morsel of food to fall into his waiting mouth, the sharp tapping of knuckles on glass entered his dreams and evoked from him a soft, high-pitched “Boof”. This whisper of a bark grew in volume and ferociousness so quickly that it lifted the sleeping dog to his feet before he had returned to full consciousness.

When he finally did and found himself headed for the front door, a brief state of perplexity threatened to topple him. He shook off his astonishment, however, and proceeded as though his actions had been the result of a deliberate decision. His path intersected with Abigail’s near the fireplace by the door.

“It’s just me, dear.”

It was Mrs. Plumkettle. Abigail reached over the wiggling dog and removed her keys from a hook below the mantle.

“Hello, dear,” said Mrs. Plumkettle embracing her and extending a hand to pet the Fluffer-Noodle, “Yes, it’s good to see you too, Mr. Connor.”

Taller than Abigail, Nell Plumkettle was a slender, silver haired widow of ninety who carried herself with an air of stately grace. Her voice conveyed the calm delight of one who had reconciled herself to the inevitable ebb and flow of life’s joys and sorrows. She was Abigail’s guardian, and Abigail simply loved her.

Heading diagonally across the house, Mrs. Plumkettle deposited her canvas shopping bag on the sofa by the recliner and removed her wind breaker. After locking up, Abigail followed her. The Fluffer-Noodle bounded back and forth between them.

The entrance to the back of the house was just past the sofa. The two humans had stopped, but the Fluffer-Noodle pranced straight through, past the kitchen and bathroom, into the storage room, sneezing all over the back door before returning to them.

“Why don’t you have a seat, dear,” said Mrs. Plumkettle, producing from her bag two sandwiches of brie and French bread, two bottles of sparkling cider, straws and napkins, “I picked up lunch at the Cheese Shop.”

Abigail slipped across the wooden bench of a booth built into the tall window nearest the kitchen. Diving in after her, the Fluffer-Noodle settled himself against the wall and delicately placed his chin on her foot.

News, News & More News

“So, what did you do this morning?” asked Mrs. Plumkettle, setting her partially eaten sandwich on its wrapper.

“I was reading that science magazine,” said Abigail, who had no intention of telling her guardian about her recurring dream, “Did you know that there really is such a thing as Stardust? Well, they actually call it space dust or cosmic dust or something. Anyhow, a hundred tons of it falls to Earth every day. It said that’s at least one speck for every square yard. So, it’s bound to be landing right on us sometimes. And, some of ’em have got tiny bits of diamonds and sapphires in ’em.”

“I love sapphires,” Mrs. Plumkettle was finally able to interject, “So, they’re actually studying Stardust now, are they?”

“They used to collect it on these little flag thingies on highflying airplanes,” she continued, trying to remember everything she’d read, “Now they’ve got a space probe. They’ve even got a cosmic dust library.”

Abigail was almost as excited about recorded books as she was about having a guide dog. All of her life she had been made to read print. Even if the light was just right, the best she could do was to see a few letters at a time. Words appeared to dance around, and pieces of them would go missing between the page and her brain. In spite of the burning eyes and blistering headaches which ensued, she had always loved reading. To the chagrin of many of her teachers, however, she tended to restrict her efforts to things which truly interested her.

“Is there actually a cosmic dust librarian?” Mrs. Plumkettle asked, delighted with her enthusiasm.

“I think they call him a curator. It’s Mike something.”

“Well, imagine that,” she said dryly, “a man who sits around all day collecting dust.”

Abigail wasn’t sure that her guardian had intended to be funny. She stared at her briefly and then burst into a fit of giggles, almost spitting out a mouthful of sparkling cider.

Mrs. Plumkettle allowed herself a wry smile and continued, “I’ve had a phone call about you from Captain Sodpeg.”

Abigail’s pulse raced. Captain Sodpeg was Baggy’s guardian.

“He’s spoken with the Blusterbuffs, and they would be happy to have you stay with them while I’m away.”

Nell Plumkettle had been living alone in the stone Victorian on Old Applebutter Hill Road since her husband died eighteen years earlier. Damari Lorca, an art student who managed her book store, had the third floor apartment. In November, Abigail had been invited to move into the carriage house.

She knew that her guardian was leaving for a month to await the birth of her first great-grandchild. She also knew that she would not be allowed to stay on Old Applebutter Hill Road while she was gone. Baggy and Captain Sodpeg lived in the country, and the Blusterbuffs were their neighbors.

“So, how does that sound?”

“Great!” said Abigail, sure that Stardust had landed right on her.

“Good, then it’s settled,” she said pushing an envelope across the table, “Here are your tickets, and I’ve enclosed a check for Captain Sodpeg. He’ll be picking up some food for Mr. Connor. And, there’s some cash. I want you to get yourself a new top this afternoon-“

“I don’t really need anything.”

“There’s a sale at the World Boutique. I took a peek in there this morning and they have some things I think you’ll like.”

Abigail had never been clothes shopping alone, and she heartily wished that, if Mrs. Plumkettle had seen something, she would have just bought it and brought it home.

“The World Boutique is on the north side of Village Square. You can ask someone to show Mr. Connor how to find it.” Then, patting her hand she added, “You’ll be fine, dear. Just think of it as an adventure.”

Abigail was unaware that she was just days away from starting a series of adventures that were far scarier than shopping. Strangely enough, however, she would not approach any of them with such misgivings as she now had about going to the World Boutique.

Pennsylvania’s Donna W. Hill is a writer, speaker and recording artist. She was born legally blind from RP.

Her memoir, “Special Class: a journey in mainstreaming” appears in Behind Our Eyes: a second look, an anthology of work by writers with disabilities:

As an online journalist, she covered nature, health care, blindness, music, knitting and chocolate. Her essays appear in Richard Singer’s Now, Embracing the Present Moment (2010, O-Books), and Dawn Colclasure’s On the Wings of Pink Angels (2012).

Professionals in education, rehabilitation and the arts recommend her novel, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, as a classroom resource. The Heart of Applebutter Hill is available on Bookshare at It is also available from Smashwords in a variety of accessible formats at: The Heart of Applebutter Hill is also available in both print and Kindle format through Amazon.

V. How We Relate

Aunt Laura’s Love Story, nonfiction
by Kate Chamberlin

The strains of “Morning Has Broken” filled the quaint brick Presbyterian Church in Mendon, NY. Cousins and siblings hugged each other, vanquishing the lapses of time since they’d been together. Kinship was immediately restored.

The bride and groom strolled arm-in-arm down the aisle toward the minister. The beaming smiles on their faces and the bounce in their steps belied their septuagenarian ages. Laura wore a crepe navy suit, while Wally was elegant in a tailored grey suit.

Their story is a modern love story that began 50 years ago. They had dated each other as seniors in high school. They knew each other’s parents, siblings and had many mutual friends. They still had the numerous photos documenting their friendship.

When World War II broke out, they each joined the armed services. Laura’s choice was the Navy, and as often happens, they drifted apart.

After the war, they each married someone else; ironically, on the same date. The respective families each had three children, about the same ages.

Many years passed. The children grew up and had children of their own. Wally’s wife died. Laura’s husband died.

One summer, Laura joined her son and his family vacationing in a rented cottage in Maine. Once there, Laura realized that her college room-mate’s family summer house was nearby. She went to visit her friend. It was a joyous reunion and the gals started rehashing old times. Laura’s college friend was Wally’s sister-in-law. She mentioned that Wally was due up for a visit and, so, invited Laura to extend the reunion.

The day after their reunion, Wally wanted to see Laura again, but didn’t know where she was staying or how to get in contact with her. He only knew the general area of the rented cottage and that her car would have a New York license plate on it. He drove around for two and a half hours before he located Laura’s car.

During the next three years, they renewed their love for each other, met each other’s families and took lots of photos. These high school sweethearts were finally married on October 19, 1998.

They have already lived a full life and, as they embark on another full life, they can fully appreciate the covenant of the marriage vows “until death do us part”.

Kate Chamberlin, B.S., M.A, and her husband have raised 3 children plus 2 grandchildren. Her teaching career continues through her Study Buddy Tutoring
Service, Feely Cans and Sniffy Jars Program, and as a popular lecturer. She is a published children’s author, Anglican educator, free-lance writer/editor,
and proud grandmother.

Ratted Out, fiction
by Ellen Fritz

Gavin Farley picked through the selection of jewelry on his desk: a set of genuine diamond earrings, a ring with a smallish emerald, something that could be fake ruby studs and a single black pearl ear stud.

“Did I explain that earrings and studs come in pairs?” he asked the two rats that were sitting on the opposite edge of his desk.

“I got that one out,” replied the grey rat. “When I went back for the other one, it wasn’t there.”

Gavin gave her a dirty look.

“Excuses, Holly,” he sneered. “Just not good enough! Most of these pieces are costume jewelry. They’re absolutely useless to me!”

“Gav, we are rats,” said Twinky, a yellowish rat. “We don’t know real from fake or costume from genuine as you so cleverly put it. We get you the jewelry; you decide what to do with it.”

Gavin jerked nervously as a knock sounded at the door. He made a shooing motion with his hand and the two rats scampered off to their cage in the kitchen.

“Barney,” he greeted cheerfully when he opened the front door of his cottage. “Good to see you, man. I was just about to phone you now; have another little few treasures here for you.”

“Keep your damn treasures, Gav; we’re in a spot of trouble,” the obviously agitated visitor said and pushed his way past Gavin to precede him to the office.

“What!” Snapped Gavin turning his wheel chair to follow.

“I said,” Barney repeated when they reached the office, “we’re in trouble. That diamond ring you sold me last week happens to be an extremely valuable ring, stolen from the hotel room of a German tourist.”

“And how did they find-?”

“That ring was engraved with the tourist’s name,” Barney started angrily. “Are you going blind as well now? That’s the kind of thing you check for in our trade! How did you come by that one anyway?”

“Dealers,” Gavin replied without missing a beat. “All of us in the jewelry trade buy and sell via dealers – hell, we’re dealers ourselves. What did you do with the ring?”

“What any sane person would, I gave it to the cops of course! Now, you sneaky bastard, I want my money back or I’m sending the police here.”

Gavin swallowed. “Okay, okay I still have all that money, but …”

“But nothing!” Barney barked. “I’m never buying from you again. There’s something creepy about you. You’re almost a quadriplegic, hardly out of rehabilitation and you’re trading in thousands of dollars’ worth of gems all of a sudden. You were a stunt man for a movie company before your accident and a fitness coach before that; so, why the sudden switch to diamonds and emeralds and rubies?”

“Exactly!” Gavin interrupted vehemently, “I’m virtually a quadriplegic as you said. No stunt work or anything physical in my future. A man must make a living for God’s sake!”

“And the contacts, the dealers,” Barney continued as though Gavin hadn’t interrupted him, “where do they come from? No, Gavin, I’m sympathetic to your situation but something here isn’t right and I’m getting out before I get burnt.”

Before Gavin could reply there was another knock at the door.

“That may even be the police,” said Barney. “I’m out of here!”

“Did you rat on me?” Gavin asked Barney’s retreating back. His reply was the quiet click of the back door closing. He raked the latest pieces of pilfered jewelry into a desk drawer. They would find it even if he had time to lock it in the safe but it felt better not to have the stolen goods on his desk. Then he once again laboriously wheeled himself to the front door to open it for the cops and, most likely, his future in a jail cell.

“Detective Bailey,” the first of the two men at the door introduced himself. “This is Mr.-“

“I’m Roan Farley, Gavin. I’m your cousin from England and a member of the International Paranormal Investigations association. Somebody tipped the good detective here off that something unusual might be going on here and when they contacted us and I heard your surname, well, let’s say I know what runs in the Farley family.”

“Who says we’re even related!” Gavin said losing his temper. “There must be thousands of Farleys ..”

“Not so hasty, cousin,” Roan cut in. “True, but how many of them can speak to animals and understand what animals say? May we see your pets please.”

“I don’t have pets.” Gavin spat.

“Now, now, Mr. Farley,” the detective said, “we know about your fondness for pet rats. Your home has been under observation since we received our anonymous tip-off about your thriving jewelry trade. We can do this peacefully and that way you get to negotiate with these paranormal investigations people, or we can do it the hard way and handle this issue of theft through normal channels. Your choice.”

“I didn’t do anything,” Gavin said, going pale as Roan Farley brushed past his wheel chair to search the house. “You can’t prove a single thing!”

“Where then,” asked the detective, “did you get all the pretty gems?”

“They were heirlooms, from my parents and late wife. I worked in the movie industry, remember? That’s serious money. I invested some of it in jewelry.”

“Yet you told Barney Simmens that you bought from other dealers.”

“Oh, yeah, I told him that! Would you like to tell a jewelry dealer that you’re selling off your own heirlooms and investments to make a living? That’s the fastest way to make them think you’re desperate and desperate people get conned and taken advantage of.”

“Maybe so, but as soon as agent Farley has completed his chat with your rats, I’m sure we will have better answers.”

Holly, who had been eavesdropping, arrived back in the cage just before Roan entered the kitchen. Although she could only understand what Gavin and Roan had been saying, she knew that there was trouble over the jewels that she and Twinky had been gathering for Gavin.

“Pretend you can’t understand him,” Holly advised her friend.

“Can he also..?” Twinky started to ask.

“Yes, now shut up.”

“I wonder why this rat cage has an open door,” Roan Farley mused as he came to stand in front of the table. Holly twitched her nose at him and continued nibbling on the nut she was holding between her front paws. Twinky made a circuit of the cage and started running on the wheel as though a stranger in the kitchen was something to be ignored.

“I know Gavin can speak to you and that you can understand him,” Roan tried again. “I know that taking jewels from the homes and hotel rooms of people doesn’t constitute a crime in the eyes of rats, but, it is theft in the law books of men. If you confess, I’ll protect you and take you with me when Gavin goes to prison.”

“Not fair!” cried Holly. “We stole the jewels; why should Gavin go to jail?”

“Because he trained you to steal for him and sold the stolen goods. That is a crime.”

“Not true,” said Twinky who had joined Holly at the feed bowl. “We took the jewels and Gavin found them in our cage in the morning.”

“He misused his gift of talking to animals…” He was cut short by a squeak of protest from Holly.

“Will you two let me explain?” he asked with a sigh. Both rats twitched their whiskers at him and continued their nibbling.

“When Gavin nearly died from the trauma of his accident,” he continued, “his dormant gift for communicating with animals was unlocked. When he realised this, instead of using it for good, he trained and used the two of you to steal for him. That is wrong. We are given gifts and talents to use for good and not for evil or, in this case, selfish gain.”

“So now he goes to jail?” Holly asked in a small voice.

“You seem unhappy about this,” Roan said.

“Gavin might have been dishonest, but he was very good to us.” Said Twinky. “Holly and I were being raised as snake food in a really dirty little pet shop and Gavin bought us. Look at the food we have here! Fruit and nuts and even some corn. How can we help you put him in jail when he had been nothing but kind to us?”

“If he decides to join a paranormal investigations squad and use his gift for good, he’ll be excused and the International Paranormal Investigations Association will take the fallout for this mess.”

“What happens to us? Do we get to become International agents too?” Holly asked importantly.

“Of course,” Roan laughed, “That is if you can talk Gavin into confessing and giving up his crooked ways.”

Both rats dropped their juicy nuts and scurried out of the cage and down the hall to where Gavin and detective Bailey were having a silent stare down.

Roan arrived in time to see the rats perched, one on each shoulder, but he couldn’t make out a word of what they were whispering into Gavin’s ears. From behind Gavin’s wheel chair he gave the detective a thumbs up.

“Hmmm,” Gavin mused, “a paranormal investigations squad? The acronym of that is kind of, um, off putting!”

Roan and Bailey, who were trying to be serious, had trouble suppressing smiles.

“Gavin,” Roan started, “we’ll smooth this mess over for you. You will be traveling most of the time and you will receive a handsome salary. Your gift for talking to and understanding animals is extremely rare. So much can be accomplished in both paranormal situations as well as normal police cases. Ever heard of psychics helping the police?”

“Yeah, but I always thought it an elaborate myth until after my accident,” Gavin confessed.

“I suppose being able to communicate with animals after you wake up from a near death experience tends to change one’s perspective,” said Roan. “So, your choice, cousin?”

“Oh, yeah, like I really have a choice here! If I can bring my rats, my three dogs, my two cats and a tame crow – all of them in training of course – I’ll accept your offer.”

This time detective Bailey gave Roan Farley a thumbs up.

“He’s all yours, Mister Farley,” Bailey said as he turned to leave.

BIO: Ellen Fritz is visually impaired and lives near Johannesburg, South Africa with her musician husband, two friends and several pets. She works as a free lance animal trainer and does book reviews when she is not busy writing. Email:

The Green of Spring Leaves, fiction
by Ellen Fritz

“lorri,” Willy began. “I want you to move on when I’m gone. Get married, have a parcel of kids. That vet, Bryan Grant is it, is such a pleasant fellow and he’s been after you for years.”

“Willy, don’t?”
“Save it baby, we all know that I’m going to die. Hell, I’ll probably come back as an insect or a mouse in my next life for all the wrongs I’ve done; wrongs done to you in particular.”

Choking on her grief, Lorri looked through the window of Willy’s private hospital room. Outside, spring was evident in all its colorful glory. In the hospital gardens flowers were in different stages of opening and the trees were heavy with new leaves.

She looked into Willy’s eyes. Those eyes, the exact color of new spring leaves, that would soon be closed forever.

“Oh baby,” she said. “You’ve been so good to me. You were there in times when I had nobody else. You were never too busy to listen to me. Your name, William, means resolute guardian, and that, my love, is exactly what you’ve always been to me.”

“And yet,” he whispered, “I kept you waiting for me, unable to commit myself, drinking too much and doing things that I’m not proud of. I’m sorry; sorry that I wasted your best years.”

“I’ll never hold that against you, Willy, never. Not after all you’ve …” But the life had already gone out of those beloved spring leaf eyes.

Two years later, on a bright spring morning, lorri leaned on the stable door to watch as Bryan Grant helped ease a foal’s entry into this world. Despite the imminent birth, her heart was heavy. Today, two years ago, her resolute guardian had left her and, despite their erratic and often stormy relationship, she missed him and clung to his memory.

“Congratulations, Crystal has a filly,” Bryan announced. Lorri smiled knowing that Bryan would see the ever lurking nostalgia behind her smile. Lorri felt a little guilty. She knew that Bryan had adored her ever since they had met fourteen years ago. Unfortunately, William Lacy was the only man she had ever had feelings for. Even now, two years after his death she seemed utterly unable to let go; utterly unable to love another man.

“I came to tell you that the dog you left in your truck is getting restless,” she said.

“Oh damn, I was in such a hurry to get to Crystal, I completely forgot about him. Actually, lorri, I brought him for you. That is if you can take another dog. His owners had to move into an apartment where they can’t keep animals. Be a dear and let him out of the truck please?”

Lorri opened the passenger door. With a happy “yip” the muscular German Shepherd jumped out. He sat down in front of her and offered his paw.

As lorri bent to take the proffered paw, she met the dog’s eyes, his beautiful green eyes. Those eyes, the exact color of the first spring leaves, looked at her with more intelligence than she had ever seen in the eyes of any dog. Her mouth went dry. Could it be? Surely not.

“Oh, you’re a beautiful boy, aren’t you?” she said.

“His name is Wolf,” called Bryan from where he was washing his hands at the outdoor sink. “His registered name, however, is Resolute Guardian.”

“Willy,” lorri whispered very softly. Wolf gave his tail a lazy wag.

“Do you like him?” Bryan asked.

“He is gorgeous,” she replied trying to hide her consternation. “His eyes, they are so green. Isn’t that rather unusual?”

“Unusual for a German Shepherd yes, but some Australian Shepherds and chocolate colored dogs of other breeds sometimes have green eyes,” Bryan said.

lorri scratched behind Wolf’s ear. “I’ll take him, thank you,” she said. Then she smiled and continued. “Um, Bryan, that movie and dinner you mentioned yesterday, I’ll gladly go with you.”

Summer Love, poetry
by Ellen Fritz

Our dreams of last summer
the tender love we shared
became but memories
when autumn colors flared

memories of summer love
frozen by winter frost
passion forever lost
memories going to dust

let’s plant, this spring
on the grave of all we hold dear
in the soil of remembrance
watered by a nostalgic tear
new seeds of passion
in which another love can grow.

From Your Former Feline Housemate, poetry
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

I’m the one she put to sleep
when life’s pain was too great.
You told her you didn’t like me.
Maybe it was a guy thing,
but the feeling was mutual.

She insisted on calling me Wanda,
thought I could be a witch
so as far as you were concerned, I was.

I peed in your shoes at night
then stood by in the morning when you put them on.
The look on your face was priceless.
You swore and threatened to throw me twenty feet.
Believe me, if I could have,
I would have done the same to you,
right out the second story bedroom window,
then stood on the sill and watched you fall.

When you brought that big, red dog home,
I hated you even more.
I could no longer pee in your shoes
because the dog slept next to the bed
So I peed on your favorite love seat.
Imagine your shock
when you sat down with the latest issue of The New Yorker
to discover a wet cushion.

After many years,
we’re reunited in the hereafter,
you, her, me, and that big red dog.
Oh well, I’ll have to make the best of it.
Hmmm, I need to pee.

Bio: Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of a novel, We Shall Overcome, and a poetry collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. Her chapbook, That’s Life: New and Selected Poems, will be published by Finishing Line Press. Besides Magnets and Ladders, her work has appeared in Serendipity Poets Journal and Emerging Voices. She is visually impaired and lives in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, she cared for her late husband who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. Please visit her Website at

Saying Grace, fiction
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

The dinner table was laden with four place settings and platters of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, and rolls. “Dinner’s ready!” Alice shouted over the blare of music from the twins’ bedroom upstairs.

Her husband Bill poked his head through the dining room doorway. “I’ll run and get the girls.” A few minutes later Bill, Alice, and their 16-year-old twin girls, Jenna and Jocelyn, were seated around the table. “Who wants to say grace?” asked Bill.

After a brief hesitation, Jenna said, “I’ll do it.” Everyone bowed their heads and joined hands.

“Our heavenly Father, thank you for this meal. Bless the hands of our mother who prepared it, and please be with Uncle Jon tonight as he’s eating dinner alone in a jail cell. Help him see the error of his ways.”

Alice gasped, and everyone else said, “Amen.”

“Help him see the error of his ways?” Alice said, glaring at Jenna. “What’s that supposed to mean? Your uncle was nice enough to take you and your sister to that horrid singer’s concert, and this is the thanks he gets.”

Jenna looked as if she would wilt under her mother’s glare, but Jocelyn chimed in. “Mom, we really appreciate him taking us to see Mick Jarvis. But he didn’t have to go back stage and make a scene.”

“For years your aunt Jill made us believe your Uncle Jon was the father of your twin cousins Jack and Joan,” said Alice. “but you’re too young to understand how he feels.”

“Honey, the girls have a point,” Bill said.

“What point would that be?” Alice asked.

“I’d be upset if someone told me Jocelyn and Jenna weren’t mine, but if I found out Mick Jarvis was their father, I wouldn’t embarrass myself and my children by confronting him after one of his concerts and demanding years of back child support.”

“I don’t believe this,” said Alice.

“Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always liked your brother. It’s just that he became a changed man after he found out Jack and Joan weren’t his children. If making a scene after Mick Jarvis’s concert wasn’t bad enough, he altered photos to make them look like Jill and Mick and put them up on Facebook. Jarvis held that news conference to clear things up.”

“We saw that!” Jenna said. “We streamed it on our iPhones when you thought we were doing our homework.”

“Jack and Joan were so cute,” said Jocelyn. “Mick’s wife is a real knock-out. He said that he finally found his true love, and he also explained how he found out that Jack and Joan were his kids. After Jill died, the kids were placed in separate foster homes. Then they ran away after their foster parents sent them to the same summer camp where they were reunited. Once their photos were plastered all over the place, Mick realized Jack looked a lot like him and a friend of his found them. How lucky is that?”

“Now they’re one big happy family, and they all sang a song together,” said Jenna. “I thought that was sweet.”

“I find it hard to believe Mick found his true love,” said Alice. “From what I’ve heard, he had a habit of falling into bed with a different woman every night during his tours.”

“That was before he met Sara,” said Jocelyn. “He made it pretty clear that he had given up his old habits. I guess she and the kids will go with him on tour, and they’re going to make albums together.”

“I suppose he’s changing his band’s name from Hell’s Angels to The Jarvis Family Singers,” Alice said.

“What about the incident at the Social Security office where Sara works?” Jenna asked. “What if we’d been in there when Uncle Jon walked in and took that poor old man in the wheelchair hostage?”

“For one thing, we have no reason to go there because it’s for the elderly and disabled,” said Alice. “For another, if your Uncle Jon walked into any place while we were there, he wouldn’t have done what he did.”

“Then let’s look at it this way,” said Bill. “What if a strange man walked into the beauty shop where you have your hair done and took you hostage? Wouldn’t you want him to be put away for a long time?”

“Well, of course, but…”

“But nothing. Your brother took another person hostage. Period. He got what he deserved.”

“What about poor Jack and Joan?” said Jocelyn. “They were only four, two years ago when Jon found out they weren’t his, and he told Jill he didn’t want anything more to do with her or them. She told the kids their dad was dead and moved them to another neighborhood a mile away. Uncle Jon loved those kids. It shouldn’t have mattered whether or not he was the father, and he should have been able to raise them as his own.”

“But then they wouldn’t have run away, and Mick Jarvis might not have realized they were his,” said Jenna.

“I know,” said Jocelyn. “but what if Jill hadn’t died? Those kids would have grown up without a dad. Wouldn’t God have wanted Uncle Jon to love those kids even if they weren’t his?”

“Your uncle Jon and I aren’t Christians,” her mother said. “so you’ll have to ask your father.”

The twins looked at Bill. “The girls are right. Jon was punishing Jack and Joan because they weren’t his.”

“We babysat the twins last week,” Jenna said.

“You did what!” Alice said.

“We ran into them at the mall with Sara a couple of weeks ago,” said Jocelyn. “The twins remembered us. I gave Sara my cell phone number and told her we were free to babysit if she needed us. She called last Wednesday just as we were leaving school. Their nanny was sick and she asked if we could come right away. We told you we were staying after school to research our history papers at the library.”

“So… there were no history papers?” Alice asked.

“Yeah, there were… eventually,” said Jocelyn. “We wrote them later and turned them in today.”

“Look Mom, you can ground us, take away our cell phones, our car keys, whatever you want,” said Jenna. “but you’ll never change the way we feel about what Uncle Jon did.”

“You girls shouldn’t have lied to us about where you were last Wednesday,” Bill said. “but I’m just as guilty for not standing up to your mother and telling her exactly how I feel.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” said Alice.

“Honey, the girls and I love you and Jon, but we’re all just going to have to agree to disagree on this. If you want to support your brother, that’s fine. If I were in his shoes, I’d appreciate support from my sister… if I had one.”

“I was hoping the girls could testify at Jon’s trial as character witnesses,” Alice said. “He was always so good to them.”

“We will, Mom,” said Jenna. “if you won’t punish us for lying and you’ll let us babysit the twins whenever Sara needs us.”

“But we’ll make it very clear in court that what Uncle Jon did was wrong,” said Jocelyn.

Bill reached for Alice’s hand, but she jerked it away. Tears streaming down her face, she stood and hurried from the room.

After a long silence Bill said, “All we can do now is pray that your mother and uncle will come around.” Picking up the meatloaf platter, he said, “We may as well eat.”

Trouble Over Tuna, fiction
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

“This tuna steak is good, but I wish I ordered something else,” said Harold to his wife Elaine.

“You would,” said Elaine with a mouthful of tuna.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Oh, nothing,” she said, putting down her fork. “We usually don’t both order the same thing when we come here, but the tuna was on special, and it sounded so good. That’s all.”

“It’s funny, but the special is more expensive than any of the other items.”

“Ain’t that the truth?”

“Hey, what’s with you? You’re an English teacher. You don’t use ain’t.”

“How would you know? You haven’t been around much lately.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I’ve been busy at the office, but things are slacking off so I’m trying to make it up to you.”

“I suppose your way of making it up to me is to order tuna steak and complain about how we never order the same thing. I guess you should get an A for effort.”

“Are you going through the change?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, the change women go through at your age.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re irritable as hell. I figured you were going through — what do they call it? — menopause?”

“Just because I use aint, and I’m crabby doesn’t mean I’m going through menopause. What do you care, anyway?”

“Honey, what’s going on?” Harold asked, as he reached across the table to take Elaine’s hand.

“Leave me alone. Go hold Lydia’s hand!” she said, jerking her hand away from him. Her arm knocked over the water glass which spewed its contents onto the table and Elaine’s skirt before falling to the floor with a loud crash. “Oh god, now look what you made me do,” she said, bursting into tears.

Harold leaped to his feet and hurried around to her side of the table. He picked up a napkin and started to blot the water from her skirt, but she pushed his hand away and sobbed harder. He took her in his arms.

A waiter appeared carrying more napkins. As he began blotting the water from the tablecloth Harold said, “Could we please have the bill?”

“Sure thing,” the waiter answered.

After he left, Harold said, “I’m sorry. I am really sorry. I didn’t think you knew. It’s over now. Lydia’s a thing of the past. That’s why I’m trying to make it up to you. I promise this will never happen again.”

“You bastard!” Elaine said, as her fist slammed against Harold’s nose. The blow pushed him backward, and he hit the floor with a loud thud. Elaine looked down at him. Blood ran down his chin. The room fell silent, as she got to her feet.

“You’re just like my brother Greg. He had three affairs before Susan finally decided enough was enough. I don’t know why she stayed with him as long as she did. If this is your first, I’m not sticking around for your second and third.” She delivered a vicious kick to Harold’s ribs before picking up her purse and hurrying out of the restaurant.

Another Spin, fiction
by Donna Grahmann

Editor’s note: Last summer, The Behind Our Eyes writing group was given a writing exercise to write about a wedding where there was a problem or conflict. In the Fall/Winter Issue, we all enjoyed Deon Lyons’s story written from this prompt, and now here is Donna’s story, written from the same prompt.

He hadn’t even collected the money from the gorgeous wedding band he hoped to pawn, but in his mind, every dime had already been spent. Marcus felt Rachel’s ring in his tuxedo pocket as it taunted him with each step closer to Pickens Pawn Shop. His tongue traced his lips in eager anticipation of the victory cigar he lit in celebration after each win at the horse track, though he hadn’t experienced that celebration ritual in recent months. Feeling a twinge of remorse, Marcus stepped up to the jewelry counter to greet his long time acquaintance, Slim. It wasn’t the first time he had stolen something from his friend, Rachel, nor had she been his first mark.

He met Rachel during one of her Las Vegas magic shows at the MGM Grand. Marcus couldn’t resist her long black hair and turquoise eyes, as she made items disappear and reappear in different locations. He tried to watch her every move without blinking his hazel eyes, but he never figured out how Rachel performed her magic. Even after she started dating his best friend, Todd, she never revealed any clues.

“What you got, little penguin?” said Slim, which snapped Marcus back into focus. Slim’s oversized body leaned across the counter like a Polar Bear in search of its next meal.

“Easy, dude; it’s a top dollar ring,” replied Marcus as he reached into his pocket to retrieve the wedding band. A thunderous laughter rolled across the counter that made Marcus retreat a few steps back, as he stared at his lucky slug in his palm.

“Later, little penguin; come back when you got something to sell me,” said Slim as his laughter boomed throughout his shop.

Todd paced the floor of the changing room at the front of the chapel. He should have never entrusted his childhood friend and best man, Marcus, a recovering gambler, with Rachel’s ring last night at the rehearsal dinner. Todd recalled handing him the diamond studded, platinum ring, as Rachel’s smile faded into a grimace, while Marcus winked and slipped his hand down toward his right pocket.

“Don’t worry, you can trust me. I’ll be here on time with the ring,” Marcus stated.

The changing room door flew open as the disheveled Marcus bounded into the room and announced, “I’m so sorry. Someone picked my pocket and stole Rachel’s ring!”

Todd closed his eyes and shook his head in disbelief. His left palm stung from the right fisted punch, delivered to proclaim his disappointment, before resting his chin atop both fists in an effort to calm down.

“If I call Slim, is he going to have Rachel’s ring?” Todd said through clenched teeth.

“No, man, I didn’t pawn her ring. I swear! Well, I thought about it, but I didn’t do it,” pleaded Marcus, as his fingers tunneled through his thick brown hair.

The preacher tapped on the open door and handed Todd an envelope from Rachel.

In a Scottish brogue, the preacher stated, “I’ll see you two lads in a few minutes. The wedding is about to begin, tick-tock.”

Todd opened the envelope and began to read the note. Marcus straightened his clothing to make himself look presentable, but nothing could stop the continuous sweat as he mopped his forehead.

The note made Todd’s green eyes sparkle and his sun kissed face broke into a grin as he chuckled, “That’s my ever so clever girl.”

Marcus’s confused look made the grin on Todd’s face turn into a full belly laugh.

After catching his breath, he stepped forward, repositioned Marcus’s handkerchief, and then, clapped his best man’s shoulders and stated, “All is well. My magical bride awaits.”

The preacher asked for the bride’s ring as the wedding party stood at the front of the chapel. Todd turned toward Marcus and held out his hand for the ring.

Flushed with embarrassment, Marcus whispered, “I told you it was stolen.”

Todd cocked his right eyebrow and replied, “Hmmm, maybe you should check your handkerchief pocket.”

Marcus patted his pocket and felt something tucked between the handkerchief folds as his mouth fell open in astonishment. Todd slipped the diamond-studded platinum band on Rachel’s left ring finger, and then, gently raised her hand to his lips.

The next day, Marcus sat on his back porch and played fetch with Todd’s black Lab, Gunner, while Todd and Rachel honeymooned in Hawaii. Gunner dropped the ball at Marcus’s feet, trotted up the porch steps to pick up his stainless bowl, and then, clunked it down near the food bin.

“Okay, I get the message,” said Marcus as he scooped out some kibble for Gunner.

As Marcus tossed the speckled red campfire mug back into the bin, the sound of paper being crumpled drew his full attention. He reached in and pulled out a note that was addressed to him.

Dear Marcus, Here’s your first, last, and only clue. You missed your pocket after Todd handed you my wedding band, and the plush carpet muffled the sound when it bounced next to my foot. I kept the ring so that Slim wouldn’t need to call me about more of my stolen jewelry that you would have pawned off. The note I sent Todd after you came into the chapel, told him what you had done at the rehearsal, and also contained my ring, which he discretely tucked into the folds of your handkerchief when he repositioned it for you. As far as your slug is concerned, you must have left that in your pocket from an earlier misadventure. Maybe you have pocketed a lucky slug after all. We hope you get the help you need because you never know who may be watching!

Rachel and Todd.

Marcus felt his eyes well up with tears of remorse. He sighed and began to lower the note, which revealed piercing black eyes that stared back at him. Gunner dropped his slobbery yellow tennis ball on Marcus’s lap, as if all was forgiven.

Bio: Texas author, Donna Grahmann, lives in Magnolia with her husband, guide dog, and an ark full of other assorted four legged critters. Some of her poems and short stories appear in previous issues of Magnets and Ladders. Her short story, Dependable Pal: A Pony’s Tale, was a top ten finalist in the Pen 2 Paper writing contest. Donna is a contributing author in the 2013 anthology, Behind Our Eyes: A Second Look, available on

Crossing Over, fiction
by Linn Martinussen

He was tired, but with the news that his daughter had arrived, he knew he could soon go. He just needed to see her one more time. She had been sitting there yesterday, at his bedside, chattering on and telling his favourite jokes. He’d wanted to laugh, but his voice had disappeared. When she hadn’t been laughing, she had been serious. Holding back tears, he suspected. He admired her for wanting to be strong for him, but he wouldn’t have thought less of her strength if she’d cracked. “I’ll be back,” was the last thing she’d whispered in his ear before leaving him. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” She’d said he could let go, rest, and soon he would, but he wanted to see her again. His friend Jack had arrived unexpectedly from Singapore that morning and had read him cards from his previous colleagues. He liked Jack. He was fun and there had been no doubt in his mind, when he had become too ill to work, that it was Jack who should take over his job as the CEO of the International oil company he had built almost from scratch. Jack had told him funny anecdotes from their days working in Asia, Africa and South America as well as reading the cards. Again, he’d wanted to laugh, somehow show his appreciation to his friend and colleague. But smiling was an effort too and he hadn’t managed. He had been fully awake though which was strange, seeing as before, he had drifted in and out of consciousness. He wondered if this was a sign that the end was near.

“I’ll let you get some time with your daughter,” Jack said and got up from the chair next to his bed. “I’m so glad I got to see you though.” Jack’s voice trembled a little as he put a hand on his arm. “I’ll just be right outside.” Jack walked out the door. And he knew that was the last time he’d hear the rumbly Scottish voice.

He wasn’t alone for long before his daughter entered together with his sister. “Can I please get five minutes alone in here?” she asked and took the seat Jack had just vacated. “Of course,” his sister said, turned on her heel and walked out.

They were alone now and she took his hand. Her warm strong fingers squeezed around his and he wanted to squeeze them back so she could feel that he appreciated and registered her presence. He willed his brain to do it and he thought he might have managed when she gave a little laugh.

“Look at you, Mr. popular,” she said stroking his hair with her free hand. “Friends flying all the way from Singapore to give you a whole book with greetings from all your other friends.”

He looked up at her face, managing to focus his eyes entirely on her. He knew she couldn’t see him, but it didn’t matter. He took in her face, smiling and sad at the same time. He knew she would be okay sitting with him when he crossed over to the other side. He knew she would take from what he was about to do, a message he could not speak to her in words. Both because he couldn’t and, because of what he wanted to say to her was impossible to exactly define. He wanted to show her how strong he thought she was by being there and he wanted to show her that death wasn’t dangerous, something he’d become sure of in the past few days. After he’d stopped being afraid. Having let go of his fear had made him immortal in the sense that the dying itself wouldn’t do anything except alter his existence. It was important for him that she knew that. He didn’t have long. She had asked for five minutes. But he didn’t need long. He was so tired.

She had gone quiet now and was just sitting there holding his hand tightly. He allowed his labored breathing to slow down; still looking at her calm expression, he relaxed. Everything would soon be okay. His daughter would go on to do great things in life. He was not worried about his son either. As for himself and where he was going, he would know very soon, or maybe he wouldn’t. But if he wouldn’t then that would be okay too as it would mean peace. Either way, he would soon be with his dear wife, who had died from the same monstrous illness that was now claiming him. Maybe as spirits, maybe as aimless atoms, but they would soon be together.

“I think it’s time for you to join me now.” A voice he’d not heard other than in his dreams for years sounded so clear in his head that he was wondering if she’d somehow come into the hospital room. He smiled. “Yes, my darling,” he replied in his head, not sure if his mind was playing tricks on him. And then, he could see her… His wife standing at the edge of the bed as clearly as if she had been alive. But then, maybe she was alive somewhere else. “I’m waiting. I’ve come to take you to the other world,” she said, a soft smile on her lips. He felt as if he woke up and rose from the bed. He started making his way towards her. They stood next to each other looking over their shoulders. Their daughter was sitting there, clutching the hand of his now lifeless body. “She’ll be ok,” his wife said. “Of course she will,” he replied as he drifted out of the almost closed window following his wife into the unknown.

Bio: Linn Martinussen, born 1985 in Oslo, Norway, is a journalist and writer who take a lot of inspiration from London’s multi-cultural life in her fiction. She graduated with a BA in journalism from Edinburgh Napier University in 2007 and went on to work for the BBC in London. She is currently living in Oslo where she is completing an MPhil in media studies from the University of Oslo, works for radio Nova, which is Oslo’s student radio, and writes for the UK based magazine StyleAble. She is blind from birth due to a detached optic nerve.

The Break-up: Three Perspectives, fiction
by Linn Martinussen


“That’s two smoothies for you,” The smiling Irish waitress said and put the two glasses down on the table in front of me.. I smiled and thanked her, picking up my raspberry and mango one to take a sip. MMM, it was gorgeous. I leaned back and took in the scene around me. It was a Saturday morning in early June and the already hot London sun was caressing my bare shoulders. I was sitting at an outdoor table at my favourite cafe, and the sounds, sights and smells of the busy London life going by, kept me occupied. I drew in the smell of petrol mixed with spices and flowers. I giggled at two old ladies at the neighbouring table discussing whether youngsters nowadays used the word dishy to describe a good looking film star.

Life was great, except for one little detail. His name was Alex and we had been dating for four months. I could never, in a million years imagine myself with someone like him. I’d met him at the house party of one of my work colleagues. He was a friend of one of her flat mates and I’d taken a shine to his charismatic personality. He was, what he called self-employed, but when I asked him exactly what he was doing, he simply answered “I’m hustlin’ babe.” I’d let it go, because he was determined not to divulge anymore, plus, I suspected his self-employment could involve something a little shady that I’d rather know nothing about. I thought no more of it because he was exciting, intelligent and intellectual and could hold a good conversation. A few days ago however, I had discovered through my colleagues flat mate, that Alex had cheated on me with two girls and she even gave me their names. I had been furious. When I’d gone on his Facebook profile to check whether I could find out some more about the girls and a bit more of what had been going on, I found out that not only had he been cheating on me with two girls, who by the way were not on Facebook; He had been cheating on me with two other girls as well, because they were, rather childishly, having an argument open on his wall for all to see.

I had spent a few hours crying and drowning my sorrows in a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food, and then I had simply come to the conclusion that Alex was not worth it. Luckily, I hadn’t yet fallen properly in love with him, so even though it would be painful to end it, some shopping therapy and a few cocktails with the girls would probably cure me of him.

Now, I was waiting for Alex to arrive so I could do it, but he was late as always. A fly landed on the table in front of me and I covered my glass with my hand so it wouldn’t take the opportunity and have a swim in my delicious smoothie. Almost as if it sensed that my drink was forbidden territory, it lifted off and dived into Alex’s super berry smoothie instead. “You have a proper swim and enjoy yourself,” I giggled.

“Babes!” Alex put his arms around me from behind and planted a wet, sloppy kiss on my lips. “Sorry I’m late, but,”

“Never mind,” I interrupted and waved towards his smoothie, which the fly had vacated.

“Ah babes, you got my favourite,” he said as he sat down and picked it up.

I was wondering whether the fly had left some kind of fly taste in there, but probably not. “Right,” I said in my most businesslike manner. “I read this very interesting thread on your wall the other day, where two girls, Tanya and Rebecca, had it out with each other because they’d both,” I felt my voice waver, so I cleared my throat and continued. “I understand they’d both had the pleasure of spending some time with you. And the same goes for Lucy and Joann.”

His permanent grin which I’d loved, but now come to despise, vanished and a look of horror filled his eyes. “Babes, how do you know about Lucy and Joann?”

I stared at him, my mouth open. “So you’re not even gonna defend yourself; where’s the sweet talker?” I bit down on my straw to force my face into not crying.

“It’s not what you think it is babes,” he said in a low voice after what felt like an eternity.

I got up. “No, I said.” It’s probably much worse. But you know what? Why don’t you go screw them all, because I’m not gonna waste my time on a loser like you anymore.” I drained my smoothie and turned around, tears of anger and humiliation running down my face.

“Babes, no wait!” Alex got up and tried putting a hand on my shoulder, but I shrugged it off and continued walking. I turned my head once before I crossed the road to where my flat was. And I could see a fly; perhaps the same fly as I’d seen before, make its way towards my empty glass. Alex appeared not to have noticed, having pulled out his phone.


Alex sat at the table quite stunned after Elaine had disappeared. He’d had a feeling something wasn’t quite right when she’d called him the night before to suggest this brunch date. Something in her voice had sounded tense but he hadn’t thought more about it. He’d spent the night with Joann, whom he had been thinking of leaving Elaine for anyway, but hadn’t yet managed to do. Joann wasn’t smart like Elaine. She didn’t ask too many questions about what he did for a living, or constantly craved intellectual chatter. Nevertheless, Alex did have some good feelings for Elaine. She hadn’t been just talk. He wouldn’t have been with her if she had been just talk. He pressed the send button on the text he was writing and took another sip of his smoothie.

He was surprised to discover that he was feeling quite angry after what Elaine had just done. No girl had broken up with him before, and nobody had called him a loser. Couldn’t she understand that he was a man who had needs and the capacity to love a lot of women? He had suggested a couple of times that they have an open relationship, but she wouldn’t hear of it. “So that you can sleep around as you please and give me Chlamydia?” she’d said contemptuously. So instead of stirring up an argument, he’d figured that he could get what he wanted by simply doing his business in secret. He hadn’t counted on that stupid Facebook wall argument though and that Elaine could see it. He thought he’d changed his profile settings to the most private possible, but either he hadn’t managed, or they weren’t good enough. Now he’d lost both Tanya and Rebecca too. He sighed and took another sip. Elaine might think she was done with him, but later, he was going to her house to show her otherwise. Show the bitch that nobody needed anything with him without paying for it in one way or the other. He laughed to himself. At least, she’d paid for his smoothie; that was a start.

“Excuse me, May I sit here?” Alex looked up from his latest text. His mate TJ just informed him that they’d had a new delivery of crack by one of the big men who had taken over from his brother, their previous top dealer who had received an eight year prison sentence for burglary and drug dealing. Money had been tight since then, and although the news meant a night of selling in the Soho Night clubs, it also meant that he could get his faulty car fixed.

A young woman with two heavy looking shopping bags in each hand stood behind the empty chair across from him. She had long brown hair and a sparkling nose stud. Alex liked what he saw, and combined with the good news from TJ, he felt a broad smile come over his face. He nodded and the girl put down her bags and sat down.

“It’s such a gorgeous day,” she said. “And this was the only free outdoors chair in this cafe.”

“It is a nice day,” Alex said. “Perfect for the company of a beauty such as yourself.”

Bart, the fly

I saw her the second I flew in to the outside area of the small London cafe. She was sitting on one of the roses in the flower bed and looked quite contented with herself. She was the most beautiful female fly I’d ever seen and I wanted to impress her. Simply sitting down on the rose next to her and starting a clever conversation was out of the question. I’ve never been a fly who’s very good with words and earlier experience had taught me that I’d only mess things up if I tried verbal seduction. But, I was a master at playing tricks. No fly in the whole area could dive as elegantly, or spin as fast as me. So I started spinning through the air right in front of her. “You’re making me dizzy,” she complained and looked over at her friend who was sitting right next to her on the rose bud. I felt a little embarrassed, but I wasn’t gonna give up that easily.

I looked around and found a table relatively free of stuff where I could take some time out and make a new plan. A young woman was sitting alone at the table. She had long blond hair that looked soft. I wouldn’t mind resting there for a second, but she’d probably strike after me like all humans do when we try to have a rest on them. She had two drinks in front of her. One she was sipping and the other stood across from her. Maybe she was waiting for someone. I bounced down on Blondie’s table and felt the heat from the plastic surface against my small body. Ouch! I needed to cool down, fast! Noticing her covering her drink, I immediately flew up and jumped into the other one. It was cool and quite delicious to my taste buds. I floated aimlessly for a short while, whilst enjoying the array of sweet tastes surrounding me. But all of a sudden, I felt my legs growing heavy. Having learned that this was the first signs of drowning, something that had happened to my best mate Dylan, I dragged myself up from the glass and sank down onto the table which felt less hot after my sweet bath. And just in time too, as somebody came up behind Blondie and kissed her on the lips.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I startled at the voice next to me. The fly lady had come over and she was shaking her wings at me. I had been too busy watching Blondie and the man with his cap back to front. They seem to be arguing. Blondie was angry and the man grinning, then looking shocked, before he started grinning again. I didn’t like him. From now on, I’d call him Evil Grin. I looked at the beauty hovering over the table and didn’t know what to say, so I shook my wings and went to hover next to her. “That was a cool dive you did,” She said.

“Do you really think so?” I was pleased and started a little flying dance to Dizzie Rascal Dance with me which was streaming out from the speakers inside the cafe. She laughed and joined and soon we were flying in a two-fly formation. Pretty awesome if you ask me, but Blondie and Evil Grin did not seem to notice. In fact, Blondie was getting up and running away towards the main road. From what I could catch of the conversation, they were breaking up and Blondie seemed to be the one dumping him. Good on her, I thought. But still, he had upset her and I had been too into my lady to realize why. I may be only a little fly, but I am a very kind fly and I don’t like to see anybody hurt. Not even birds who sometimes eat flies. So I decided that I needed to take some kind of revenge on Blondie’s behalf.

“So,” the new lady of my life said, rubbing her wing against mine. “Shall you and I go somewhere and plan for future babies?”

I told her I wanted nothing more, but that I had some business to attend to first. “Wait for me on that rose,” I said. She obliged and flew to sit down.

As Blondie turned to look back at Evil Grin, who was busy texting on his phone, I slipped quietly down to Blondie’s empty glass. It was the perfect place to spend some time until I figured out what to do, because I could enjoy the sweet taste of the drink which was lingering on the inside of the glass without fear of drowning. But Evil grin only sat there texting for a long time and I, more preoccupied with soon becoming a dad than anything else, to tell you the truth, had no idea what to do.

Then, a girl came and asked if she could sit down. She was a pretty girl, something Evil Grin seemed to think as well, because he went from texting to grinning and urging her to sit down. It didn’t take him long to start flirting with her and I hated how she seemed to respond, by smiling back at him and winking. What provoked me was that, as the kind blond lady had left crying, Evil Grin was sitting there happily acquiring a new girl without a care in the world. I decided I needed to do something that would get her away from him. Because stupid as she was to fall for his charms, I didn’t like the thought of someone else crying because of him. So, as he leaned forward, probably to ask her out, judging from the conversation I’d heard inside the glass, I knew what to do. Quick as a flash, I flew up and into his nose. Moments later I was back out, flying towards my lady. He was looking embarrassed and she drew back in horror wiping drops from his sneeze off her face as she got up.

What Words Can Not Say, poetry
by Laura minning

I press my body against you,
and hold you in my arms,
oh so gently.

I close my eyes,
whilst tenderly grazing
my lips across yours.

And darkness begins to fall,
just let it fall
(all around us).

Hush my dear.
Be silent and still.

As another day
closes its eyes,
and lays its weary head
to sleep
beyond the horizon.

And tears of joy
stream with determination
from the windows of my soul,
with vulnerable ecstasy.

And when I open my eyes
to see your smiling face,
I say nothing.

But that is wrong of me.
For I should tell you
how much you still mean to me.
I should tell you so much,
yet I don’t know how.

You are my life,
my best friend,
and true love.

You’ve always been there for me
(both in the sunshine
and through the rain).

And for that
I thank you.
I will always thank you.

Bio: Laura Minning has traveled extensively throughout North America, Europe and Asia. She’s additionally had the opportunity to visit the Caribbean. Laura’s
also a published poet and author. She’s had 102 individual poems, six articles, two books and one short one-act play published both in hardcopy and online.
She strongly endorses the National Federation of the Blind. To learn more about Laura and her work, please feel free to log onto her web-site at

Footsteps, poetry
by Jyothsnaphanija.

Snakes welcomed flowers,
We kept in our palms,
In the melting evenings.
Whispered some known secrets.
You remember? How quick I was
In naming the footsteps,
Of the footprints you heard.
“it’s magical,” you said
Staring at me in surprise and
Love. I blushed
with the shades of sky.
Sharing the day’s brightness,
we scented flowers,
for more snakes.
You carefully scribed the names of those footsteps,
In so many papers.
More poetically, when I was dreaming
Of our mirror home,
Which speaks to me too.
Gifted letters
For a different recipient.

Bio: Jyothsnaphanija was born in a small village called Kaikalur in Andhra Pradesh, India. Now she resides in Hyderabad where she does her PhD research in English Literature at EFL University. She is visually challenged from birth. Her interests include music, traveling and learning new languages. Her poetry has appeared in Melusine, Muddy River Poetry Review, American Diversity Report, Luvah, Coldnoon, Kritya, and several others. Her short story has appeared in eFiction India, and research articles in Subalternspeak, eDhvani, Wizcraft, Barnolipi besides in several books. This 23 year old young writer aspires to publish her first poetry book soon.

Happy Social Security Day, poetry
by Leonard Tuchyner

Last Thursday I overheard my young wife
telling a friend she’d found some new delights,
those that in the past had just been a task,
simply being labor’s chores, nothing more.
Fall leaf-raking, grass-mowing, seed-sowing
weed-pulling, hedge-pruning, flower-grooming.
My reactions to these were confusing,
a bit of envy and a little pride.

Yard work had been my own sole dominion.
Ardor and endurance seemed without end.
Now, seniority has trimmed my wings
and, I might mention, a few other things.
My old truck has lost some pizzazz and zing.

This morning she complains of shoulder pain.
From whence it came she cannot rightly say.
But a suspicion surges in my gut.
After I ask some simple dumb questions,
my coy suspicion becomes conviction.

“What did you do that might have strained your arm?”
“Why, nothing at all. It was fine last night.
Uh, except for shaping the shrubbery.”

She winces through wide bellows arm motions
like a flying bird with a wounded wing.

“Mazeltov, you’ve earned your senior award.
May you use it with wisdom and constraint,
sing out rousing good cheer for Medicare.”

It’s seven years since I was sixty-five.
In those years I’ve earned a doctor’s degree
through the school of bodily aches and pains.
Now it’s her turn for running the gauntlet.

“You are really quite fortunate, my dear.
I’m ready to mentor and minister.
Just for you Love, it will be free of charge.”

VI. Mother’s Moments

An Unlikely Mother, nonfiction
by Valerie Moreno

I sat in the back seat clasping my hands in my lap as the driver stopped in front of St. Elizabeth’s Clinic.

“Here ya are,” he said cheerfully. I got out and paid the fare. I felt a knot of uncertainty tighten in my mind as I climbed the steps and pushed open the thick double doors. It was March 8th, 1980 and I was there to find out if I was pregnant. My body had convinced me I was, with subtle and unexpected changes, so this would be the “official” determination.

After signing in, I sat in the crowded waiting room. There were pregnant women in all stages of maternity and I wondered how they felt the first time coming here. Had they been excited, nervous, a little scared? I was all three as I rose when my name was called and maneuvered the long hallway with my white cane.

After explaining that I had some vision to the doctor, he examined me. Though I asked him to tell me each step he was about to do, he remained silent. This made me more nervous, which turned to raw fear as he finished and stepped back.

“Well?” I sat up shakily as I waited for an answer. Thick, pulsing seconds of silence had my heart thundering and a block of ice breaking apart in my bloodstream. Something had to be wrong, I realized as he said “Excuse me” and left the room.

Tears burned my eyes as I prayed for strength. “Lord, I have never been great with other people’s kids and I’m scared, but, if there is a baby, it’s part of You, Arnie and me and–“

I jumped as the door opened and doctor and a nurse came to the foot of the table.

“What’s going on?” I demanded.

The doctor’s face and voice was grave “You are pregnant,” he stated.

The joy that rushed through me broke across my face in a smile that made my cheeks hurt. “Oh, thank you, Lord!” I reached for the nurse and hugged her, then the doctor.

“You want to have a baby?” he asked, sounding surprised and confused.

“Of course! Can I use the phone? I’ve got to tell my husband!”

“I’ll show you out,” the nurse laughed as I straightened my clothes and grabbed my purse and cane.

“Thank you,” I said to the flustered doctor. Blind people can be terrific parents!”

Back in a cab, heading to Arnie’s vending location, I knew the road ahead would be challenging. Whatever awaited us, we would handle it together–mom, dad, baby and our faith. I felt so alive and aware of the new little life inside me. It was my official first mother’s day.

Pancakes and a Mother’s Love, nonfiction
by Terri Winaught

“She’s here.” The delivery room nurse announced my much too early arrival to my very exhausted mother. It was Friday, March 13, 1953, and I wasn’t due until early June. I was so tiny that I could fit in the palm of a person’s hand. Mom named me after Saint Theresa of the Little Flower.

Immediately after my birth, I was placed in Frankford Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit where the nurses weren’t hopeful that I would survive.

“I don’t know why Theresa’s mother brings us breast milk to give her,” one nurse shared.

“You’re right,” a second nurse agreed. “Theresa’s thriving so poorly that I’m glad we’re giving her mother’s milk to babies more deserving.”

“Well, I just hope her mother never finds out.”

“Oh, she won’t.”

But somehow Mom _did find out, and expressed her anger with the intensity of a booming thunderstorm.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Mom demanded. “Why are you giving _my _milk to other babies? I bring that only for _my daughter!”

“Well,” one nurse ventured timidly. “Uh, we just thought … well, you know, that other babies were thriving so much more …”

“I don’t care what you thought! From now on, my milk better go to my daughter only!” Mom insisted.

“All right, Mrs. Cwiklinski, just calm down,” a nurse encouraged.

Mom calmed down; I got her milk from then on, and was well enough to go home near my due date.

“I wouldn’t expect much from her,” were the discharging doctor’s parting words. “She’ll probably be blind, crippled, and retarded, and have nothing but a life of hardship and disability,” the physician concluded.

The house that was my first home was a modest, but well kept dwelling in one of Philadelphia’s Polish neighborhoods called Bridesberg. My family consisted of my parents and a sister, Rosemarie. At 5-and-a-half, Rosemarie was beautiful, with soft blond hair and green eyes. Those beautiful eyes didn’t often close in sleep, though at least, not at first. This was because I cried incessantly at night. Since I slept all day, I wanted to play and be entertained at night. I hated the silence that screamed loneliness in my head.

“Why don’t you put some whiskey in her bottle?” Dad finally asked in fatigued frustration.

“Stanley!” Mom scolded. “I can’t do that,” but Mom was also tired, so she finally did.

“Oh my God, Stanley, whiskey isn’t putting her to sleep! She likes it and wants more!”

That wasn’t the only thing different about me, though; it didn’t take long for people to notice that I didn’t respond when colorful toys and rattles were held out to me. Mom found out why on September 10, 1953.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Cwiklinski,” the eye doctor began gently, “but your daughter is blind. It’s a condition called RLF which is the result of having received too much oxygen in the incubator. I wish there was something we could do, but there just isn’t,” the doctor confirmed.

Though devastated and sometimes overprotective, Mom supported me as I strived to live a normal, productive life.

As I look back on my life from an adult perspective, there have been tears, triumphs, sorrows, and successes. I have also been blest with cherished memories, one of the happiest being the smell of my mother’s pancakes on Sunday mornings after Catholic Mass. While I sleepily watched cartoons, the smell of Mom’s pancakes wafted wonderfully through the house. To add special touches to those breakfast treats, Mom used vanilla for sweetness and baking powder for lightness.

My chances to delight in the world’s best pancakes ended however, on January 14, 1983. That’s when cancer stole Mom’s earthly life like a thief in the night steals prized possessions.

If there are griddles in Heaven, I’m sure that Mom is feeding the angels and archangels with light, fluffy pancakes. And if she could hear me ask, “Mom, are you still adding love to that batter?” I know she would say, “Oh, yeah! LOTS of love!”

Mama Never Told Me I Was Beautiful, poetry
by Elizabeth Fiorite

Mama never told me I was beautiful;
she never said she liked to hear me sing.
She never praised my good grades;
(It was the expected, unspoken thing.)

But Mama hummed when she combed my hair;
her soft kisses healed my cuts
and soothed my childish fears.
She could be quick to scold,
But quicker still to hug and hold.

Did she die, not knowing?
I don’t remember telling her,
How much I loved
her humming, her hugs, her kisses,
Or that I thought
that she was beautiful.

VII. Nature’s Wonders

El Paso Outback, poetry
by Burns Taylor

In the coyote distance before me,
beyond the mesquite and creosote bush,
way out there on the edge of my hearing
where the solitude of this world of practiced certainty
collides with the ceaseless rush of the freeway;
the constant drone of semis sets an iron boundary.

Overhead, the wispy ripple of a jet’s contrail
seems strangely out of place.

In the foreground, the two of them play at agates in the fading sunlight:
choosing shooters, scratching concentric circles into the vagrant dust.
Like schoolboys with boundless futures,
they bowl their crystal spheres across rabbit tracks and beetle trails,
etching their identities into this land’s long memory
of wagon trains and mountain lions’ paths and dinosaurs and sea beasts.

As if this ritual contest between these two savages
could alter the course of history somehow.
As if the outcome of this game
could derail the cosmos if it doesn’t come out right.

The sun pauses for a moment
to give life a chance to catch its breath,
to measure its reserves against the coming of another day,
then cascades over the mountaintop like molten lava,
sucking the hot darkness behind it like a shroud.

These two broken-hearted dreamers
chase errant marbles into the gathering shadows.
While into the silence of a desert sundown,
night creatures move cautiously out upon the sands.

And we, much older and wiser than schoolboys now,
scavenge for wood like Neanderthals:
to set a fire,
to warm our backs,
against the sudden chill of evening.

El Paso Outback:
Boundless Anthology, published by the Rio Grande International Poetry Festival–2010

Becoming Alone, poetry
by Nancy Scott

To extend the June evening,
we walk the flat path
at Louise Moore Park,
start on straight-line cement,
but you want gravel underfoot,
and wood chips
where the rhythm
of our steps matches,
pine-scented, my hand
on your arm.

You talk of New Mexico,
September’s red sand
that will shift
you west of the Delaware.
I listen for twilight robins
on this trail I already miss,
gathering level ground now
for later.

I do not say
this park will be beautiful
in Fall.

Bio: Nancy Scott, Easton PA, is an essayist and poet. Her over 550 bylines have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, and as audio commentaries. Recent work appears in Breath and Shadow, Contemporary Haibun Online, Thema, Whistling Fire, and Wordgathering. Her third chapbook, co-authored with artist Maryann Riker, is entitled “The Nature of Beyond.” Her essay “One Night at Godfrey’s” won First Prize in the 2009 International Onkyo Braille Essay Contest.

Tides of Summer, poetry
by Deon Lyons

The tides of summer bow and slowly lower themselves away.
Driftwood and scattered debris leave their mark on the shore, like sweeps of the hour hand slowly carving a moment in time.
Scarred buoys and frayed nylon rope lie still, falling back on their storied past.
Unknown chapters lie bound on the shores, gathering their phrases from nature’s pen.
So many tales to tell, so many lives touched, so full of the past, yet forgotten.
Shattered shells beg for forgiveness, scarred from the relentless rise.
Sanded glass and stone glisten wet under the eyes of the sea.
Crab shells and hollowed urchins cash in a sand dollar and pocket the change.
Rock ledges wrap around the point, lined with memories of yesterdays gone by.
The lowered tide turns the corner and starts its frantic pace back in through the cove.
Winds shifting to the east call out with a darker sky’s approach.
The scent of another coastal storm lines the rocky coast with updated woe.
Heavy hulls turn and dash for their safe haven homes.
The sea and the wind work in unison, trending their niche across open waters.
Tempered skies break through without thought for concern.
Lonely skiffs climb the rolling hills and valleys, plowing for home.
With lines cast, a comforting port warms the weary.
Empty traps lashed to the docks whisper out their call to the sea.
The cry of the gulls soothe the weathered watchman of the light.
The tested shores nestle to rest as another rising tide thunders home the night.

Haiku, poetry
by Terri Winaught

They dance on the sea
like happy little mermaids:
Silvery moonbeams.

Roial Anne, nonfiction
by Kate Chamberlin

Royal Anne was an amazing friend. Each Mother’s Day she honored me with her beauty. Sometimes she had only one early bloom while other years she managed
to hang onto the very last one. In full bloom, she was like an ocean of undulating popcorn balls bobbing on the warm, gentle breezes. The tiny, white blossoms
that made up each popcorn ball could be examined intimately from the dining room window of our home.

Her emerging light green leaves seemed to push the petals off, making a white flannel sheet cover the ground. Her saw-toothed edged leaves turned a mature,
dark green as the cherry pips began to swell. At this stage of her cycle, my children were not allowed to climb into her heights for fear of knocking off
the fruit. As her Mid-wife, I sprayed only organic solutions on her to protect her fruit.

Usually by the Fourth of July, the cherries are ready to pick. The children swarm up into her embrace with small, plastic buckets tied to their belts.
A plunk of one cherry into the bucket can be heard. Then, the tippy tap of a cleaned pit falling from leaf to leaf to the ground can be heard. During
the first week of picking, the children put as much into their stomachs as they do into their buckets. The second week, the freezer gets its due for future

The fruit left on the tree begins to ferment. The Robins can hold their wine but the drunken bees’ flight is quite erratic and loggie.

By late summer, Nature has composted the fruit, petals, and pits into the grass under the canopy. She patiently shades us as we lounge beneath her boughs
during the steamy, sultry dog days of August.

As summer cools into fall, her leaves turn yellow and red with brown tips. Soon the brown consumes the leaves. They become brittle and crunch together
when the north wind gusts. One evening she’ll go into the night wearing a well coiffured brown wig and wake up with only a snarled, tangled mass silhouetted
against the bleak, grey morning sky.

The fresh caps of snow along each branch and twig are beautiful winter sights. The quick, undulating flight of the Nut-hatch is easy to spot as it comes
in from the back hedge-row to her welcoming embrace. A little patch of snow is knocked off as he lands. The snow bomb narrowly misses the sparrow who
is waiting to go to the feeder a few feet away.

The Cherry red Cardinal happily chooses his favorite sun flower seeds at the base of the feeder poll until the raucous Blue Jay butts- in front of everyone.
Quickly the Cardinal flies into the safety of the Cherry tree until the Jay is gone. A fresh selection of seed is now scattered on the patio.

The snow at Royal Anne’s feet is covered with bird, rabbit, and children’s foot prints. When the snow begins to melt in the late winter, only the children’s
compacted foot prints are reminders of the many creatures who enjoyed the snow activities in her company.

She trembled down to the very bottom of her roots when her fate had been sealed. Her spot was needed for a new bedroom wing. The day she was cut down was
sad and not soon to be forgotten. As she quietly swooshed to the ground, her stump oozed crimson sap, as if she were bleeding profusely from the fatal

In time, she will become the newel post for the spiral staircase in the new wing of our home. My friend the Royal Anne cherry tree will still be an integral
part of my life.

NOTE: This first appeared in the weekly column Cornucopia by Kate Chamberlin, April 27 and May 04, 1995, Wayne County Star Newspaper.

Stand Like The Old Pear Tree, nonfiction
by Ernest Jones

The old pear tree shivered in the wild wind that tore at its trunk and branches. The wind was so violent, it seemed the poor elderly pear tree could not survive much longer. For years, this brave tree had struggled to hold on to life. It seldom failed to bear a heavy crop of late but delicious pears. Its trunk was massive. Its girth such that two grown men could not reach around it. The bark was rough and gouged by time. Over the years, one woodpecker after another would drill in deep holes. Slowly these holes broadened, allowing water to seep inside to slowly rot away vital life from the tree.

Still the pear tree lived on. Every winter/spring its owner had to cut away many four to five foot suckers that would grow like magic from any convenient spot. This was especially necessary where pruning had been done before.

The old pear tree took this all in stride, never flinching when the saw was brought out for it knew this pruning only made its fruit all the better. For all the old pear tree’s virtues, it was proud of its delicious fruit. It would dangle its fruit in the open for all to see, but for some reason, it always kept the largest, most luscious looking fruit on the top branches, where a ladder could not reach. There they would hang to tempt all, only to eventually fall with a splat on the hard ground to spoil and rot.

How could anyone understand the actions of the tree, for it appeared to enjoy giving its fruit away, but would still try to hang on to the best. True, it would only keep back a few of its many fruit but always the best.

But regardless of this, it was a grand old tree. In the summer its heavily covered limbs and branches were home to many birds singing their sweet songs to encourage even the downhearted. Babies were raised in its lofty tops to add more joy to the world. On hot summer days the sun shone in all its heat against the west end of the house. This great tree would spread its branches to shade the house, thus cooling its walls. Its cooling shade was a joy to walk through, dropping the summer’s heat several degrees.

Today that old pear tree stands like one alone against the world. It shudders in the strong wind and braces itself for the next violent blast. Still it stands firm. Its branches might be shaking like one with a case of the chills; they might sway like one with unsteady feet, but it remains standing when the storm passes. It might be old; it might be full of holes, and even have some rotten wood, but this tree stands firm when the storm runs out of energy to buffet any longer.

Though it seems there is nothing left for us to hold onto, we too shall stand. We can stand firm even with the tempests’ efforts to uproot us. Maybe we are pruned too much or diseases gouge holes in our armor. Still we can remain standing. Like this old pear tree, we can look up. First we plant our feet on solid ground and then look up for life. We too can stand.

VIII. A Potpourri of Poems and Stories

Signing, poetry
by Jyothsnaphanija.

How many words can a spinning hand hold?
,,Where fingerspellings capture,
Minimizing the language, sprawled wands,
Cacophony of the palms,
The movements, metaphors,
Painting the letters, the signs cape,
Which millions of fortunate people converse,
Fissuring the silence from speech.

The very first vowels, spluttered when no teacher taught,
The dancing words, cheremes of the infancy,
Still scattered in all the words of deafened emotions,.
Ambiguous, the unclear sounds,
For the ears sick of the silence,
Whirling, out of the shadow of the mother tongue,
Unblocking the words from that meaningless sentence spiral,
Adding more alphabets, chiseling more colours,
Only for the very own language mapping.

The outcry of the young mother’s obsession to hear some voice,
The misled conversations of those school boys,
But, fruitfully creative to words of one’s own, language of the very
own reflections.

The endless conversations, equally complex,
Fetching till the boundaries of the world,
Words voluntarily exploring the vernacular idioms and patterned rhyme schemes,
The signs reread, calling the speaking aliens
To challenge the Parnassian camera’s expressions.

by Jyothsnaphanija.

Hectically travelled Moon
Somewhere gibbous, somewhere fullest,
Bluest of Pecola’s eyes,
Picture clicking lakes reflex
Certifies my fantasy.
I gather my nerves
From scattered portions.
Stretch my fingers,
Catch the ashes
Of the diametrical horoscopes.
Hissing records inside my mind
I dictate.
He writes them in broken sentences.
Soon he forgets.
Pills, sleep,
Hanging wires, trays beside tables.
I laugh at the laughter in the mirror.

The Protagonist, poetry
by Laura minning

I am a beacon of hope,
on a wet and rainy day.

While forming a shelter
from heaven’s tears
and clouds subject to decay.

I am always on hand,
where ever droplets can be found,
so take me for granted
because I’ll always be around.

Picnic, poetry
by Susan Muhlenbeck

What a lousy picnic we had.
We forgot the sandwiches.
It started raining cats and dogs.
The bugs would not stop biting.

We forgot the sandwiches.
The potato salad was rotten.
The bugs would not stop biting.
The tables were covered with pollen.

The potato salad was rotten.
The wind blew everything away.
The tables were covered with pollen.
The ice had all melted.

The wind blew everything away.
It started raining cats and dogs
The ice had all melted.
What a lousy picnic we had.

Hard Shell Haiku, poetry
by Shawn Jacobson

Great evil lobsters
Took over our dorm’s kitchen.
Do they have crab’s legs?

The Dark Side, haibun poetry
by Shawn Jacobson

Walking in darkness,
I vainly seek out the light
that I saw before.

In the early morning, I walk suburban streets.
I traverse the valley where deer move unseen.
Sporadic traffics blinds with too bright beam.
and street lights shine with insufficient light
for contact tinted eyes designed for day.
I journey to the bus stop still in darkness.
and vainly seek the stolen light I saw before.

At this dark crime scene,
I truly name the culprit,
daylight stealing time.

I look then at my watch, it’s later than I feel.
What trick of time was this that from me day did steal?
Who took morning’s meager portion of the day
to glut evening’s abundant light?
Such folk must hate the morning and love the night.
And so I wait for day till high summer comes my way
to make my early morning once more bright.

One hour later
is not an hour longer.
Night must be repaid.

End of an Epic, poetry
by Aly Parsons

Full series in print.
Last child gone,
let go.

put away in a drawer

Friends claw up to the keyboard.
Desiring. Birthing an ancestry.
Endless prequels.

Bio: Aly Parsons is a graduate of the Odyssey Workshop for Writers of Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror. Publications include her short story, “Cold Hall” in the DAW anthology, Sword of Chaos, and the Afterword in Catherine Asaro’s collection, Aurora in Four Voices, ISFiC Press. Blind, she lives in Maryland.

These thoughts upon the carousel–
of horses sculpted to excel
in sliding down and up and up and down,
statues whirling round and round
to thrill the child and bring the smiles,
lap after lap, for miles and miles.

Forever tethered to each shining pole,
still destined to this solitary role–
the painted ponies know their world of grace,
know they’ll never leave this place.
How safe! How sweet! The music plays.
Protected from the rains and sunny rays,
too many enameled ponies forget
the fields, the prairies, the meadowlands,
spirit, freedom, hoofs on warm sand.

Blue ribbons for the trainer who trained you so well,
broken spirit of a pony-
but champion of the carousel!

Sandalwood Boulevard, poetry
by James R. Campbell.

It’s not just one place,
It could be anywhere.
This wrinkle in space,
Known as Sandalwood Boulevard.
Where the meditators gather,
Before the altars,
To make their petitions known.

As the odor of incense rises,
The bell ringer strikes the tone,
That tolls as the chant drones,
Rising upward and outward,
Reaching into the Universe.
They have come to Sandalwood Boulevard,
To offer prayers of gratitude,
And to pray for those in need.

For the sick, in the Midland retirement home,
And in other places.
For the missing daughters, and grieving loved ones,
For peace and prosperity, and good health,
For the wisdom they will need.

They have come to Sandalwood Boulevard, to make their wishes known.

Bio: James R. Campbell is blind and lives in Texas. His hobbies are: writing poetry and essays, studying reptiles, reading health and science books, and playing the harmonica.

Amelia, poetry
by Jodeci Flores

Angelic? Certainly not a way to describe someone like me.

My head swirled with smart comments and the ideas of pondering over
others creativeness; up in heads on shoulders taller than I.

Eventually I’ll get that high with my own creativeness and ideas and thoughts.

Little can I say though my sweet symphony is a friend to my aching
wants; can anyone hear me?

I do believe I make myself clear and maybe too clear in fact; some
call me blunt I like to say I’m just honest.

And someday someone will get me and not just me getting me; but
another being will get me.

Bio: Jodeci Flores was born in San Antonio Texas, on August 25th, 1996. Shortly after birth, she was diagnosed with Bilateral retinoblastoma. She was treated over a course of three years and four months. She lost her sight in her right eye at six months , and in her left eye at the age of four. She grew up coping with her disability and when she was thirteen she found her calling in poetry. Ever since then she’s been writing furiously and hopes to make it in the poets market. Jodeci is currently in remission from cancer, and is up to date with her health.

Pianos, poetry
by Burns Taylor

I’ve known celebrity pianos:
majestic instruments,
pampered with lace coverings and fine tunings,
with skin as hard and smooth as glass.
Commanding the center of attention:
ponderous, deep-throated pianos
that belched bass notes like thunder in your guts.
Concert grands that intimidated,
dared you to measure up to their high standards.

I’ve played pianos
that stood naked with broken hammers and twisted strings,
strangling in the heat of a dingy bar:
savaged by drunks,
with some keys that merely clicked when you struck them:
Out-of-tune pianos
that could, on any given night,
gather their meager resources
and sing like a tenor at the Met.

I’ve jammed on rickety old pianos
with loose action and missing ivories,
that filled me with peace and joy:
and brought me lovers,
and made me friends,
and strove to convince me that I was better than I was.

I’ve stroked pianos:
slutty pianos that posed like whores
in semi public places,
waiting for their next piano John to come along:
Where practice became performance
as strangers lingered at the door,
hesitated for a moment,
then smiled and moved on.

I’ve had quiet affairs with lonely pianos
in hidden rooms:
dusty and tuneless,
untouched for years,
aching for a chance to sing.
Pianos I turned to in desperation
that gave me back a song,
that mended my heart.

Pianos: Included in Hands Like Eyes, published this year and listed with

Gentle Beauty, poetry
by Larry Chambers

The flowers that bloom with
Have petals that gently
Their blossoms are smiles,
That show loving kindness.
The true essence of love.

Bio: Larry Chambers is sixty-one. He has had a hip replacement, diabetes and arthritis. He is currently pursuing his high school diploma, which he hopes to earn on May 15. He also attends all of the blind peer support meetings he can, and he recites his poems to the groups as well.

Perspective, poetry
by Larry Chambers

Is a new day,
Same book,
Different page.

Someday I’ll Meet John Lennon, fiction
by Nancy Lynn

It was late on the evening of December 8th, 1980. I was walking down 72nd Street in the heart of New York City heading home after an evening of celebrating a friend’s 21st birthday.

At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Walking right in front of me was one of my personal heroes. John Lennon had always been my favorite Beatle. We all had one that was created just for us. I admired John’s outspoken rebellion. I thought it must have taken great courage to say some of the things he said back then.

I caught up to him and called his name. “John!” He and Yoko stopped in their tracks. I had heard he was friendly and approachable. He was all that and more.

“John, I know you don’t know me, but I’ve been a lifelong fan of yours. You were always my favorite Beatle. You really stuck it to the establishment back then.”

“Well, thank you,” he said with that beautiful British accent I loved so much. “I’ve grown up a little since then. Now I want to be a good husband and father and make music simply for the fun of it. You know, just watching the wheels, as they say.”

I could see Yoko was getting a bit impatient.

“It’s getting late, so I won’t keep you any longer. I’m just so thrilled to meet you!”

I walked toward my apartment knowing I would carry that memory with me forever. wow! What a trip! I never thought I’d meet one of my very own heroes! That’s surely a once in a lifetime experience.

I couldn’t wait to get home to call my best friend and tell her all about it.

As I entered my building, I heard what must have been firecrackers in the distance.

Bio: Nancy Lynn was born on Halloween of 1952 in Philadelphia. She went to a Catholic day school for the blind before her family moved to New Jersey where she was mainstreamed. She has a Bachelor’s degree in sociology from Lycoming College. She had several jobs including over four years with AT&T in the relay center for the deaf. She has lived in several cities and now lives in St. Louis. She is an active member of her local chapter of Toast Masters. She plans to write a book of short stories with the theme of Someday wherein each person fulfills a lifelong dream of some kind.

Wilbur the Sleepy Groundhog, fiction
by Rhonda T. Spear

Early one February morning, Wilbur the groundhog leisurely woke up. He opened one eye then the other. Wilbur had been asleep for a long time. How warm and cozy it is here in my bed. It would be nice to sleep a little longer, he thought. How much longer will winter last, he wondered? It seems like forever since I came in my burrow.

Wilbur settled back down, ready to snooze once more. All he did was toss and turn so he gave up the idea of sleep. Yawning and lazily stretching, he realized he felt a bit hungry and decided to get some breakfast. Then he would go back to bed.

Wilbur went to the kitchen to see what there was to eat. His food supply was getting low. Before winter came, Wilbur had stored away quite a few nuts, berries and vegetables so he wouldn’t be hungry or need to leave his home. No need to go outside in all that cold and snow he’d decided.

Wilbur checked his cell phone to see if he had any text messages as he ate breakfast. He found several telling him to turn on the TV. Curious to see what the excitement was all about, he grabbed the remote and turned the TV on to find out what was happening outside in the big world. A large crowd appeared to be watching something. He couldn’t see what they were looking at. Wilbur saw a cage and someone reaching in it. His eyes grew wide with wonder. It looks like me, Wilbur thought as the small, plump animal with gray bristly fur slowly emerged. Wilbur realized it was a groundhog. It looked anxiously at the large crowd, eyes darting everywhere as if it were trying to see something. Wilbur noticed the sun was out wherever they were. He wondered what was going on.

Wilbur finished breakfast and decided to check his email. There wasn’t anything new. When he logged on to Facebook and Twitter there was lots of chatting going on. The buzz was about Phil, the famous Pennsylvania groundhog and whether or not he’d seen his shadow. What was so big about that, Wilbur asked himself? Groundhogs from all over the country were checking in and tweeting to say whether or not they’d seen their shadows. Some of them had even posted a selfie with their shadow.

Wilbur looked back at the TV and saw someone holding the groundhog up. The crowd waited with eager anticipation for him to see his shadow. I wonder if that’s Phil, thought Wilbur. This must be a big deal! Everyone is so curious about our shadow. Just then he heard the TV person say, “If the groundhog sees its shadow, winter will last six weeks longer. If not, spring would come early.” How interesting, thought Wilbur. He looked back online. There was more chatter from groundhogs about their shadows.

Wilbur decided to poke his head out and see if he saw his own shadow. All this talk about shadows made him curious. Wilbur crawled through the many winding and twisting tunnels of his den. When he got outside it was cold. Wilbur shivered as he waited to see if he saw his shadow. Soon a cloud shifted, revealing a bright sun, and there was his shadow to greet him. It’s still winter, Wilbur said to himself as he hurried back inside to get out of the cold. Wilbur posted his result on Facebook and tweeted to his followers, turned off the TV and computer and snuggled back down in his warm bed. I want to nap a little longer. Spring can wait a few more weeks, Wilbur thought as he drifted back to sleep.

Bio: Rhonda T. Spear is a native of Richmond, Virginia where she currently resides with her cat, Downey. Her education came from being mainstreamed in both public and small Catholic schools. She works as a receptionist, and in her free time she enjoys listening to country music, singing, playing guitar, watching sports on TV and collecting trivia. Rhonda has been completely blind her entire life, but that has not stopped her from living independently and pursuing her true passion, writing. She writes with hopes of sharing her work with a broader audience.

Breathless, nonfiction
by Susan Muhlenbeck

I took a whirlwind trip to Europe in March of 2008 with some family members. We visited Switzerland, France, Italy, Lichtenstein, Austria, and Germany in two weeks. The trip was fantastic. The most memorable day was going by cable car to the top of Mont Blanc.

“People with a cardiac or respiratory condition should stay below in Chamonix,” our tour guide Paula warned the group. Paula was born in London, lives in France, and has a German driver’s license.

My dad opted to stay below, so my uncle and I climbed in the cable car and waited for the ascent to begin.

“Mont Blanc is 15,781 feet high at its summit, the tallest mountain in the European Union, and ranked the 11th in the world in topographic prominence,” came a voice over the radio. We were going up to a height of 13,976 feet. I wished we were going up to the summit but changed my mind before we got out of the cable car. “Mont Blanc was first ascended in 1786 by Jacques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard. It is located in the Graian Alps between the regions of Aosta Valley in Italy and Haute-savoie in France.”

As we continued to ascend rapidly, I started to notice that I could no longer take a deep breath. “The summit is on the watershed line between the valleys of Ferret and Veny in Italy and the valleys of Montjoie Valley and Arve Valley in France.”

That is very interesting, I thought desperately, but I would rather hear some good advice about how to survive this thin atmosphere. My breaths continued to become shallower by the minute.

“We’re not even at the top yet,” I whispered to my uncle, “and I am having problems breathing.”

“You may also get a headache and feel dizzy,” he informed me. The altitude did not seem to bother him, but he has been all over the world and on several mountaintops before.

“Why didn’t they give us oxygen masks?” I asked as we climbed out of the cable car. It was a good thing we had been standing in the car. I don’t think I would have been able to stand up if I had been sitting. Okay, I told myself firmly, don’t panic. Everything will be all right if you just stay calm.

“You have to get used to it,” my uncle advised as we started walking in the snow.

“Slow down,” I panted. He had been walking at my normal speed. “I can’t walk that fast.” I tried to breathe in a lungful of air, but it was impossible. I hoped I would not pass out. I slowly took baby steps across the snow. It was below freezing on top of the mountain, but I did not feel the cold. I did not feel anything except the need to breathe. I heard voices and the sound of running feet all around me.

“There are a lot of skiers up here,” my uncle explained without being asked.

“How can they run around like that?” I asked incredulously. I still couldn’t walk at my normal speed. I longed to take just half a full breath, but it just would not happen.

“Practice,” he laughed.

“Can we go in the cafe for a few minutes? I would like to get some orange juice.” That little speech left me exhausted. What I really wanted was a cup of strong coffee, but I did not want to become any more dehydrated from the caffeine under the circumstances. I hoped he would understand the reason I would not be doing much conversing up here. It took too much energy to talk.

I had as much trouble breathing inside the building as I did outside. I knew we were going to spend an hour up here. This must be what they call altitude sickness, I thought as I sipped the juice gingerly. I did not experience dizziness or headache though. I hoped that was a good sign.

I recalled a story I had read when I was a child. Three children flew way above the earth on the back of a mythical creature. They had been given a special flower before their journey to breathe into so they could have enough air. They didn’t get as much air as they were used to, but it was enough. I wished I had such a flower at that moment.

To my surprise, by the time I finished my orange juice, I was not feeling as bad. I still could not breathe normally, but the breaths were not quite as shallow. I also felt like I needed to move around a little. We still had a half hour on top of the mountain.

“Can we go into the gift shop for a few minutes?” I asked.

“Good, you’re feeling a little better,” my uncle stated.

“Yes,” I agreed as I heaved myself to my feet. I still could not walk at my normal speed, but I could at least take regular steps instead of baby steps.

The gift shop was full of tourists. Several of them were talking and laughing like it was the most natural thing in the world to be almost fourteen thousand feet in the air. Maybe there is something wrong with my lungs, I thought as I examined a bunch of souvenirs on a shelf.

“I read that Mont Blanc is where Europe’s highest outhouses are,” a young man laughed. “They brought them up here by helicopter last year so the human waste won’t turn Mont Blanc into Mont Noir when the spring thaw spreads waste down the mountain face.”

“I did not care to hear that,” a middle aged lady scolded.

I laughed inwardly. I did not wish to spend the little energy I had laughing out loud. I concentrated on picking out the perfect trinkets for my family and friends. I loaded up on postcards, key chains, pens, and refrigerator magnets. I wish I had my cell phone with me. I thought about how cool it would be to call somebody, anybody, from the top of Mont Blanc. Then I thought that I must have brain freeze. There were no cell phone towers up here. Even if there were, I would not have been able to say much more than, “I’m on top of Mont Blanc” before I would have to hang up. Then I would have to call the person back when we came down to explain why I couldn’t chat up there.

By the time we left the gift shop, it was almost time to go down the mountain. I also could almost take a full breath and walk at almost my normal speed. Maybe if I stayed up here a few more hours, I can start running around like the skiers, I thought to myself, or maybe I was just feeling giddy from being oxygen deprived.

As we waited for the cable car, my uncle encountered a fellow Korean gentleman who was with another tour group. The two of them chatted in Korean for a few minutes. I did not understand what they were saying, but the tone was lighthearted. We climbed back into the cable car and started the descent. The voice over the radio started talking again.

“An observatory was built on the summit in 1893. The building fell in 1909, and only the tower could be saved.”

“Was that fun?” my uncle asked.

“It was great,” I said truthfully. I actually had mixed feelings about the adventure. The experience had been enjoyable despite my breathing problems, but it was also pretty nerve-racking. “I would do it again and again and again.” I was still feeling giddy. The cable car came to a halt, and we all filed out. I took long, deep breaths of the cool, crisp air and thought of the poor mountain climbers who risked their very lives climbing Mount Everest, which is about twice as tall as Mont Blanc. I would not even be able to make it to the Mount Everest base camp at 17,000 feet. The thought of being 3,000 feet higher than where we had been made me shudder. I would not even wish to go up that high in a cable car with oxygen tanks. If I had a hat, I would take it off to the mountain climbers.

“So how was it?” my dad asked a few minutes later.

“Breathless,” I said with a big grin.

This literary magazine is produced by Behind Our Eyes, Inc, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization of writers with disabilities.